Things to do at America’s favorite Ballparks

ImageEvery summer tens of thousands make their way to their favorite ballpark every day to take in a few hours of America’s pastime. Whether you’re a season-ticket holder or just a tourist visiting for the weekend, the game itself often turns out to be just a good excuse to find some fun things to do for the day. So with that in mind, here’s a list of some of the most popular ballparks in Major League Baseball, and what to do before, during, or after the game.

 

 

Wrigley Field- Chicago Cubs

Located in ‘The Windy City’, the beloved Cubs of Chicago have been searching for that elusive World Series visit since the 1945 “Curse of Billy the Goat”. Fans of the Cubs annually pack ivy-covered Wrigley Field to cheer on their “Cubbies”. Many visitors to theImage area head to Michigan Avenue to do a little shopping at what seems to be every imaginable retail store, as well as take in the numerous restaurants and taverns. For those looking for some culture, a stop at the Field Museum of Natural History or the nearby Art Institute is a must. Both are considered as one of the best in the country. If you’re looking for breath-taking views, a trip to the 462-foot high Tribune Tower or the cloud-shattering 1,451-foot Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) are sure to offer the perfect cityscape views. Of course no visit to Chicago is complete without a deep-dish pizza at the original Pizza Uno restaurant located on Chicago’s North side.

Yankee Stadium- New York Yankees

Located in the Bronx of New York City, the 27-time World Series champion Yankees are not only a fan favorite in every city they visit Imageduring the season, but they more or less own “The Big Apple” when it comes to baseball. Fans visiting the new Yankee Stadium have a variety of things to do in the area. Within minutes of the stadium is the famous Bronx Zoo. This 250-plus acre animal sanctuary contains a variety of birds, monkeys, and other wildlife. Many say that there is so much to do at the Bronx Zoo that it can’t be seen in just one day. The New York Botanical Garden is also located in the Bronx. Like the zoo, the Botanical Garden is also situated on 250 acres of lush NY real estate. Included on the floral site are 50 unique gardens, an ornamental Victorian-style greenhouse, and several family-friendly activities and events. If you’re looking for a place to grab a bite to eat or pre-game beer, look no further than Stan’s Sports Bar or The Dugout located within steps of the stadium for some traditional ballpark grub. Leaning a little toward the Italian side? Be sure to visit Giovanni’s for great pizza and Italian food. A restaurant known as The Feeding is where foodies head to for that Caribbean-vibe cuisine. Becoming more and more popular on a daily basis, The Feeding is the new “It” place around the ballpark. Inside the new Yankee Stadium sits a variety of restaurants and food courts offering a selection of food including BBQ, cheese steaks, and of course classic Nathan’s hotdogs and Carvel ice cream treats.

AT&T Park- San Francisco Giants

Out on the west coast sits San Francisco, California. For years this northern California city has long been known as a favorite place to travel to, as well as for its faithful sports fans. Built in the year 2000, replacing the former classic confines known as Candlestick Park,Image AT&T Park served as a breath of fresh air to the Bay Area. The Giants paid  tribute to some of its great former players by building the stadium on Willie Mays Plaza, and along the waterfront now referred to as McCovey Cove, in honor of long-time team favorite Willie McCovey. AT&T Park is located in what is known as the South Beach area of San Francisco. Being situated on the San Francisco Bay, though the days can be beautiful and warm, the nights quite often will get down-right chilly, so be sure to bring a jacket or sweatshirt to any evening game. Across from the ballpark is a fan-favorite hotspot called MoMo’s. Fans seem like to make it a pre-game and post-game stop. In fact some have been known for stopping there for pre-game fun, and never making it to the game itself! While at AT&T Park everyone insists that you don’t pass up the garlic fries or tomato mozzarella sticks. Being sold throughout the park, these fries and cheese sticks have become a stadium staple because of their deliciousness. Some fans making their way to and from the game along Market Street will often stop off at the SF landmark, Red’s Java House for a burger and beverage. Along Market Street and around the China Basin marina sit many charming stores selling everything “San Francisco”. Of course getting around this Pacific Coast city can be an experience in itself. Whether you take the public transportation known as the BART, hop a trolley car, or hail a cab, getting around San Francisco is a breeze.

Citizens Bank Park- Philadelphia Phillies

ImageThe “City of Brotherly Love” is known for its significance in American history, being home to the famous movie-underdog Rocky Balboa, and also its no-holds-barred sports fans.  Through the beginning of this new century the baseball team in Philadelphia known as the Phillies has seen tremendous success on and off the field. In 2012 the team was ranked #1 in all of MLB, with attendance numbers well over 3 million. While the stadium offers up Philadelphia food favorites such as cheesesteaks and hoagies, the area around CBP is as diversified as the population. In Philly the baseball stadium is located in a complex with other stadiums like Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL- Eagles) and the Wells Fargo Center (home of the NBA- Sixers and NHL- Flyers). All of these are located in the heart of the city with parks, museums, and shopping galore seemingly surrounding the perimeter. Of course a trip to historic Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Liberty Bell, Freedom Hall, and Congress Hall. Located within the Independence National Historical Park area of the city sits nearly 20 blocks of historic neighborhoods, buildings, and monuments commemorating the historical significance of Philadelphia. Along the waterfront is the Tweeter Center and Navy Yard. The Tweeter Center on the Waterfront is an outdoor concert venue seating over 20,000 during the warm months of the baseball season. Down at the city’s Navy Yard progress meets history as newly renovated factories and businesses intermingle with quaint shops, restaurants, and parks through beautifully landscaped streets.

Busch Stadium- St. Louis Cardinals

Like the St. Louis Gateway Arch welcomes travelers into the Midwest, the new Busch Stadium welcomes baseball fans of all ages to the Home of the Cardinals. Built in 2006, Busch Stadium has played host to two World Series championship titles since its openingImage (2006 & 2011). Like most modern U.S. cities, St. Louis offers some incredible eating experiences. There is a section of the city known as “The Hill” that serves up some of finest Italian food in St. Louis. Another famous snack landmark in the city is Ted Drewes, which is where thousands swear you’ll find the finest frozen custard anywhere. Around Busch Stadium, Cardinal fans can find friendly pubs and city-famous thin crust pizza parlors. For visitors looking to experience the cool neighborhood, urban-vibe of St. Louis, a day at the Delmar Loop will offer up cool boutique shops, hip restaurants and cafes, and even a St. Louis celebrity themed Walk of Fame. There is fun for all ages that can be found in and around the city, ranging from the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park and St. Louis Zoo for the kids to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour and nightlife excitement found at the 42-acre Westport Plaza. Not only do the Cardinals have a winning tradition, but the city of St. Louis proves it knows how to do “fun” right.

Fenway Park- Boston Redsox

For many years, actually many generations, fans of the Boston Redsox baseball club had wondered if they too had been cursed, like the Chicago Cubs. Year after year the spring would offer hope, only to find the autumn cold bring expected misery to the faithful fans Imageof the Redsox. However in 2004 the “Curse of the Bambino” was broken with Boston’s first World Series victory in 86 years. Through all of the ups and downs of the Redsox drama, one thing had always been true- Redsox fans are arguably the most loyal in all of baseball. Getting from historic Quincy Market to the city’s Little Italy called The North End, or from the shopping district of Copley Square to the Home of the Redsox along Yawkey Way, traveling around Boston is easy with the use of the public transportation system known as the “T”. When at Fenway Park, baseball memorabilia shops, restaurants, and bars surround the 101 year old ballpark. Fan favorite watering holes include GameOn, the Boston Beerworks, and the Cask n’ Flagon. All three, and many more, are within a ground-rule double of Fenway Park. If you feel the need to get even closer than that then perhaps the Redsox version of tailgating is more your fancy. Every game day a section of street is blocked off along Yawkey Way. It is here that vendors serve up cold beer, hot pretzels and everything that makes you a Redsox fan for a day. Inside the relic of a stadium fans will see the famous Pesky’s Pole down the right field line and the Green Monster situated in left field. Not so widely known is a place built into the Green Monster known as the Bleacher Bar. Visitors to the Bleacher Bar will experience a ground-level view of the playing field from left field with a glass window that allows them to see out without players being able to see in.

Camden Yards- Baltimore Orioles

Though it’s been many years since the glory days of the 1970s Baltimore Orioles, the fan base for this mid-Atlantic region baseball club is as strong as ever. In 1992 the Baltimore Orioles moved out of their dated Memorial Park and into their new home. With that the team and the park rejuvenated the entire City of Baltimore. Located a couple blocks from Baltimore’s tourist-jewel known as the InnerImage Harbor, the stadium draws hoards of people into this revitalized section of the city. It is here that most visitors to Baltimore gravitate to. With dozens of restaurants and taverns, a variety of stores, and more entertainment than one could handle in a week, the Inner Harbor is really the only place you may need to visit around the ballpark. Max’s, Sliders, and Pickle’s Pub are just three hot spots for those looking for a fun pre-game meal. All three are located right around the stadium. Though Babe Ruth’s childhood home is no longer in its original spot (which is where left field of Camden Yards is now), a stop by the Babe Ruth Museum on Emory Street is definitely encouraged. Just follow the 60 baseballs painted on the sidewalk from the ballpark to the museum. Just a few blocks from Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor are a couple other cool areas known as Fell’s Point and Federal Hill. Both neighborhoods are lined with good food and fun libations.

Comerica Park- Detroit Tigers

Like so many of the new ballparks around the country, Comerica Park too has been the beacon to shed a new, fresh light on what Imagewas a dying urban area. In the year 2000 Tiger fans were shown that there can be so much more to do than just watch a game when you head to the ballpark. A ferris wheel that has you riding in baseballs and a merry-go-round that has replaced the decorated horses with yes, you guessed it, ‘Tigers’ are just two things that welcome visitors to Comerica Park. The state-of-the-art baseball stadium blends the modern conveniences of today with the yesteryear feel of decades ago. Located outside the Comerica Park area tourists should be sure to swing by the Henry Ford Museum to see where the American automobile began, the Renaissance Center which is full of shopping and restaurants, and the Hart Plaza to take in unique works of art as well as live entertainment.

Progressive Field- Cleveland Indians

For what used to be referred to as “The Mistake by the Lake”, the City of Cleveland has certainly reversed its fortunes in a way like no other city has ever done before. Since 1992 Progressive Field has been the home field for the Indians’ baseball club. Attendance to games has steadily risen, tourists frequent all that Cleveland has to offer, and with that, Cleveland continues to offer more. For thoseImage taking in a game with “The Tribe” for an afternoon or evening there are several establishments around Progressive Field that fans should consider. One of these spots is The Winking Lizard Tavern. Located just a block from the stadium, “The Lizard” is famous for its burgers and wings, and of course ice cold beer. Irish stew, fish n’ chips, and Guinness on tap are the order of the day at Flannery’s Irish Pub. Only a couple blocks from the ballpark, this classic Irish pub is a perfect stop anytime, game or no game. Three blocks from Progressive Field fans can enjoy the taste of Mexico at the Zocolo Mexican Grill. Cold Coronas, tangy burritos, and fish tacos can be enjoyed before or after any game. An area known as “The Avenue” is located right near the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Public Square district of Cleveland. The Avenue is a selection of shopping experiences, restaurants, hotels and movies all in one location. And yes, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame is where everyone that comes to Cleveland must visit at least once. This museum of hits and superstars is full of musical memories that seem to offer up something new every time a person visits.

Dodger Stadium- Los Angeles Dodgers

In Southern California’s City of Angels, the LA Dodgers have easily been the most-admired and recognized west coast team since they relocated there from Brooklyn in the 1958. They play in Dodger Stadium which is located in an area of Los Angeles referred to Imageas Chavez Ravine. It is in this part of the world that the sun seems to shine every day, the palm trees sway in the Santa Anna breezes, and the Dodger faithful come out every summer and cheer on their team. Though getting around LA may not be as easy as the larger, older, east coast cities, it isn’t too bad if you have a plan. Located about a half-mile away from the stadium sits the world-famous Chinatown. With authentic shops and restaurants, LA’s Chinatown has a little something for everyone. Within a mile of Dodger Stadium is the beautiful Olvera Street. Set up in the mid-1900s as a tribute LA’s Mexican heritage, Olvera Street serves as an oasis in the middle of a bustling city with Mexican restaurants and shops. Finally, sitting just off Sunset Blvd. is Elysian Park. With over 600 acres of picnic grounds and hiking trails, visitors to Dodger Stadium can find a way to get away from it all after a tough home team loss. Around the ballpark are several restaurants and sports bars that fans regularly visit. Some favorites include Two Boots, where east coasters gather to reminisce about life along the Atlantic, and The Park, which is known for its dishes like wild salmon or grilled polenta. Dodger Stadium itself is a microcosm of the diversity that exists in the LA area. Food at the stadium ranges from sushi to hot dogs, and cold beer to mixed drinks and wine.

I’m quite sure there will be some that wished I had mentioned their favorite team and ballpark, but in all honesty it was nearly Imageimpossible to come up with the ten I’ve highlighted. Ask another writer to come up with their ten, and they would likely end up listing five or six different places than mine. The bottom line is simple. Get out to a major League Baseball city this summer and experience not only the game, but the energy around the area. Chances are that each subsequent city you visit will become your ‘new favorite’ to check out America’s pastime.

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Wine-ing Your Way Through the Finger Lakes

ImageFor centuries some of the world’s best wines have been found throughout Europe and Australia. And for the last hundred years the United States’ wine mecca has been considered to be California’s Napa Valley. But tucked away in the middle of New York State is a series of lakes dating back to the Ice Age. Located about two hours northwest from New York City and three hours southeast from Toronto, Canada sits the magnificent Finger Lakes. With their warmImage summers and cool falls, these lakes are prime locations for the wine-making business. Cayuga Lake, Seneca Lake, and Keuka Lake are three of the most popular and successful of the Finger Lakes when it comes to wine tasting fun.

The easternmost of the Finger Lakes is Cayuga Lake. Stretching from the city of Seneca Falls to the north and Ithaca to the south, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail is packed with numerous and unique wineries, restaurants, and accommodations. One of my favorite places when I visit the area wineries is ironically the Amish-run Sauter’s Market in Seneca Falls. It’s what I refer to Imageas an “Amish WalMart”. From freshly baked pies to newly constructed storage sheds and gazebos, about everything Amish can be found at Sauter’s. Seneca Falls is also the location of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Located in the center of town, it is here that nearly 100 women gathered in 1848 for the First Women’s Rights Convention. The city of Ithaca is the quintessential “College Town” with the two prestigious schools of Ithaca College and Cornell University. And with colleges comes college students; and with college students comes great restaurants, bars and “extra curricular fun”! The area’s most popular location is a gathering place known as the Ithaca Commons. This two-block by three-block renovated area, located in the center of the city has dozens of restaurants and taverns for locals and visitors to frequent. The city was recognized when Bon Appetite magazine named Ithaca “one of the best ‘foodiest’ cities in America” (with populations under 250,000). A couple of my “must visit” places when I visit Ithaca is Collegetown Bagels and the Ithaca Bakery. CTB (Collegetown Bagels) is a sandwich shop thatImage has a very hip, cool college vibe. With a few locations throughout in the city, my favorite is located at the entrance of Cornell University. (ps: I recommend their club sandwich on a wheat bagel). When it comes to wineries, some of the most popular are located on the west side of Cayuga Lake. Sister wineries Goose Watch and Swedish Hill are found on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail off Route 89. Other wineries on the trail with industry awards and acclaim are Hosmer, Sheldrake Point, Lucas, Knapp and Thirsty Owl. Several of the wineries offer lunch and dinner options throughout the year. With regards to lodging, accommodations can be found from quaint Bed & Breakfast inns to corporate hotel chains.

To the west of Cayuga Lake sits the next Finger Lake known as Seneca Lake. Two of my favorite wineries are found along the east side of the lake. Three Brothers and Hazlitt are wineries that not only make great tasting and good-selling wines, but they also have the new millenium marketing techniques down pretty well too. Catering to potential long-time customers, both Three Brothers and Hazlitt try their best to make your visit to their wineries a memorable experience. At Three Brothers, guests will find three wineries and a Imagebrewery located on the vino compound. Each of the wineries aim to please the various tastes of its customers. Whether you visit the Stoney Lonesome, Passion Feet, or Bagg Dare winery, fun, relaxation, and award-winning wines await you. Also located at Three Brothers is the War Horse Brewing Company. Famous for its industry-first Riesling Ale, this brewery has several ales and lagers, including the best tasting root beer I’ve ever had! Over at the Hazlitt 1852 Winery they have taken the stuffy stereotype of wine and have mainstreamed it to make it more fun and accessible. From the Red Cat wine chant to jello shots and slushies, turns out a visit to Hazlitt is more than just swirling and sipping wine. With Seneca Lake running from the city of Geneva at the north end of the lake to Watkins Glen nestled at the southern end, touring between Cayuga and Seneca is filled with dozens of wineries, many with restaurants.

Along the western shore of Seneca Lake, up and down the scenic Route 14, sit some of finest wineries, restaurants and overnight accommodations found throughout the Finger Lakes. One of the nicest locations on the Seneca Lake Wine Tour is the Glenora Wine Cellars, the Inn at Glenora, and the award-winning Veraisons Restaurant. Located aboutImage two-thirds the way down the western side of the lake, Glenora has all the bases covered! (I actually spent several minutes trying to come up with a wine or grape association to that sentence, but “all the bases covered” was the best I could do). Anyways, the Inn at Glenora offers several style of rooms; from the Vitner’s Guestrooms all of which face east and overlook the vineyards and Seneca Lake to the Vineyard Cottage which has two bedrooms placed within the vineyards below the the Inn. Not only do all rooms at Glenora contain a spectacular view, but they also have world- famous Stickley furniture adorning all of the rooms. Veraisons Restaurant has seasonal seating on its spacious deck and seating for over one-hundred inside with its stunning woodwork and awe-inspiring stone fireplace. Chef Orlando is on hand in the kitchen preparing memorable meals like NY Rohan Duck to Pan Roasted Faroe Island Salmon. Guests to the Inn are presented with a bottle of wine from their winery, along with guest tasting passes tat can be used during their stay. With just one stay at Glenora it’s no wonder that most sum up their experience as “Spectacular”.

When it comes to tasting the wine, other recommended stops along Route 14 include the Fox Run, Fulkerson, Anthony Road, Torrey Ridge, Billsboro, and Belhurst wineries. Each location has their own specialty, theme, and unique taste. From Fulkerson’s spacious and warm tasting area to Anthony Road’s vino experts, like Mike & Margo to make your visit an enjoyable one, each winery along Seneca Lake’s western side will surely appeal to any level of wine lover.

The third of the wine-filled Finger Lakes is Keuka Lake. Boasting a Baker’s Dozen of wineries from Hammondsport to PennYan, Keuka Lake is the smallest and quietest of the three “wine lakes”. But don’t let that fool you. The region is extremely resourceful at planning fImageun seasonal events throughout the year. With cottage rentals, privately-run restaurants, and antique stores situated around the lake, Keuka Lake has something for everyone in a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. When it comes to the wineries of Keuka Lake, the Bully Hill, Dr. Konstantin Frank, Heron Hill, Keuka Spring, and Ravines wineries are some of that your your place on your “trail” list.

So whether you’re looking for a breath of fresh air on your next getaway or the newest Riesling or a fun seasonal wine for the holidays, consider New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country. The lakes of Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka, and the variety of communities around them, offer up some of the best-tasting wines, provide some unique and elegant accommodations, and provide wide-ranging cuisines and seasonal events for visitors from everywhere. For more information or travel planning throughout the Finger Lakes check out http://www.VisitFingerLakes.com.

Winter Wonderland: Lake Placid

ImageAs much of the country settles into another autumn, and the ability to enjoy the outdoors for activities becomes slimmer (unless of course you’re willing to fly south), travelers look for places that embrace the cooler temperatures. So with that in mind, let me introduce you to a spectacular place situated in the northern part of New York State known as the charming and history-filled village of Lake Placid. This jewel of a town is the perfect location for a weekend getaway orImage a longer vacation destination.

Regardless the season, Lake Placid has something for just about everyone. A visit to the Lake Placid shopping district is a must. This mile long strip in the quaint little town offers great restaurants, unique gift shops, and even outlet stores like the Gap, Bass, and Izod. I have found that starting my shopping days with my wife, Rachel; always seems easier by visiting the Goose Watch & Swedish Hill wineries first. A sample here and there pleasantly takes the chill off of the winter air and the price tags seem a little less damaging.

ImageIf skiing is for you, Lake Placid is perhaps the place to be east of the Rockies. Just a few minutes from town sits the world-famous Whiteface Mountain. Complete with dozens of trails, Whiteface has trails to fit every level of skier. For those looking for something different, maybe a visit to the Olympic Ice Stadium, where the USA hockey team made history in the 1980 Olympics with the “Miracle on Ice”, or a stop at the U.S. National Ski Jump and Bobsled courses can be added to your itinerary.

Throughout the holiday months of November, December and January a wide variety of fairs and sporting events, as well as visual & performing arts dot the weekly calendar in Lake Placid. November begins with the Shakespeare classic ‘Othello’ at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts (LPCA). During the first week of November the village takes on an international flair when it hosts the Four Nations Women’s Hockey Tournament, with the American team welcoming teams from Sweden, Finland, and Canada. During Thanksgiving Week, The Big Little Art Show kicks off in Lake Placid at the Center for the Arts. The last weekend of November has former Saturday Night Live regular Julia Sweeney and Jill Sobules starring in the highly acclaimed ‘Jill & Julia Show’, filled with hilarious monologues and skits, while the National Theater of Great Britain also brings its ‘National Theater Live: 50 years’ presentation to the LPCA as well.

In December, the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Olympic combined bobsled, luge and skeleton track plays host to the North American CupImage Championship for bobsled and skeleton racing during the first week of the month. For first-time visitors to the sport, the 21 high-speed curves of the world class layout will surely thrill and mesmerize. Rounding out the first week of December is the annual Holiday Village Stroll. This year running from December 6-8th, the ‘Holiday Stroll’ consists of the Jingle Bell run/walk around Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake, free holiday movies at the LPCA, ‘Main Street Tastings’ food fest from the area’s favorite restaurants, the Nutcracker Ballet performance, visits from Santa Claus throughout the weekend, all capped off with the Christmas tree and yule log lighting on Saturday evening. A free matinee showing of The Polar Express at the historic Palace Theater and the always-popular Christmas candy-house making activity at the Generations Restaurant round out the weekend on Sunday afternoon. Throughout the holiday season, carolers will be heard up and down Main Street, while public skating will be available at the Olympic Center’s 1932 rink. During the middle of the month adults will get enjoy the ‘Santaland Diaries’ which promises to spread holiday cheer at the LPCA.

ImageTo round out the holidays Lake Placid rings in the New Year beginning on New Year’s Eve with the annual family-friendly event ‘Skating in the New Year’ at the Olympic Oval. Dinner specials and a variety of parties are also held at various resorts and restaurants in and around Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain. Of course perhaps a trip to the Lake Placid region wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Santa’s Workshop located at the base of Whiteface Mountain.

From the immaculate Whiteface Lodge to the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid’s accommodations are as varied as the December weather can be. When I stay in Lake Placid it is usually at The Whiteface Lodge. At first The Whiteface Lodge’s idea of elegance and rustic charm seem to be contradictory, but within minutes of checking in it’s easy to realize that The Whiteface Lodge is truly a unique experience. From itsImage superb restaurant, to its indoor/outdoor heated pool, The Whiteface Lodge seems to have every detail covered. This log-cabin style resort has many comfortable sitting areas and bars situated throughout its main area. The resort’s fun is seemingly limitless, with its own movie theatre and ice cream parlor operating three-times daily, a two-lane bowling alley, and a beautiful game room, that includes shuffle board, billiards, and darts. Outside, the year-round ice skating rink is breath-taking, as it sits in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain. Cross-country skiing is also available upon request.

Regardless of where or how long you decide to stay, a getaway to Lake Placid is truly a Winter Wonderland experience during the holidays. From tasty cuisine and beverages to warm your insides, to the seemingly limitless winter activities of the area, the region of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain will definitely become one of your favorite winter getaways for years to come.

Ya mon, It’s Jamaica!

ImagePerhaps Christopher Columbus really did know what he was doing in 1494 when he discovered the island of Jamaica in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba, Jamaica is about the size of the state of Connecticut, but with much nicer weather all year round. With an average annual high temperature of around 85 degrees, and overnight lows at about 70, it is a welcome retreat anytime of the year.

Accessible by air or sea, thousands upon thousands visit Jamaica and its many cities and towns every year. When flying into this paradise, most land at the Montego Bay. With miles of breath-taking beaches and a snorkeler’s dream rich coral reef, it’s no wonder that Jamaica’s second largest city is one of it’s hottest vacation spots. Known as the “Hip Strip”, Montego Bay’s Gloucester Avenue is where tourists will find local clubs, restaurants, and shops. While much of the coastline has been taken up by resorts, there still are three public beaches in Montego Bay. Whether you want to swim with dolphins at Dolphin Cove, ziplinemontegobay through the lush rainforest, or take on the Great River in a tube, Montego Bay has endless things to do for fun in the sun.

Also on the island is the little town of Lucea. Best known for its all-inclusive resort, the Grand Palladium Resort & Spa, Lucea boasts awe-inspiring sunrises. Rich with historic buildings such as the Lucea luceaParish Church and Fort Charlotte, visitors can enjoy the laid back atmosphere of this coastal island town. Located on the outskirts of Lucea sits the Grand Palladium Resort & Spa. Situated on its own private white-sand beach, this all-inclusive resort is highly praised by nearly all of its visitors. From relaxing spa treatments, to water activities including snorkeling and kayaking, the Grand Palladium is never lacking for things to do. Whether you’re staying for a few days or a couple weeks, the seemingly endless food and drink, along with the award-winning accommodations and staff of the Grand Palladium, will surely make your Jamaican vacation one to remember.

The city of Negril is home to many of the island’s resorts. Including two of the most famous all-inclusives, Sandals and Hedonism, Negril’s beach region is where tourists will find interesting restaurants mixed throughout native markets and shops. Visitors to Negril can view the famous cliff-diving from heights reaching nearly forty-feet. It’s at the bottom of these cliffs that many venture out into the sparkling green-blue waters for swimming, scubaRicks_Negril_Jamaica_Photo_D_Ramey_Logan diving, and snorkeling. Compared to Jamaica’s other major cities, Negril is still somewhat undeveloped, which creates a special charm all its own.

Jamaica’s capital city is Kingston. With nearly a million people, Kingston truly has a big-city feel unlike any other location on the island. Being the home to reggae legend, Bob Marley, Kingston prides itself on good music, good people, and good times. From the city’s shore, up into what is known as the ‘Cross Roads’, most of its hotels, shopping, and restaurants can be found along this strip. Located kingstonwithin Kingston is Hope Gardens, also referred to as the Royal Botanical Gardens. Beside this garden sits the Hope Gardens Zoo, which is host to thousands of visitors a year. For those looking for a taste of culture and good treats in one, guests to Kingston should stop by the famous Devon House Historical Mansion for a trip back into 18th century Kingston, while ordering up some ice cream from the island’s leading maker of the creamy dessert.

Finally, Jamaican visitors should also look to visit Ocho Rios. Being the port-of-call for many cruise ships, the town of Ocho Rios happily caters to thousands of cruising-tourists weekly. It is here that vacationers will find chain restaurants, duty-free stores, and touristy activities while docked on the island. Ocho Rios is also home to Jamaica’s national treasure, known as Dunn’s River Falls. With itsdunnsriverfalls combination of spectacular waterfalls and thermal springs, this natural wonder of the Caribbean is a ‘must-see’ whenever on a sightseeing tour of Jamaica. Open seven days a week, guests can experience the thrill of ascending nearly 600-feet up the Dunn’s River Falls, led of course by a trained local guide.

All across the island of Jamaica opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, and mixing with the locals is abundant. For those in need of a golf fix, there are nearly a dozen courses scattered throughout the Jamaica-Island-Beachisland, with the Manchester Country Club being the oldest and most popular. If it’s beaches and water activities that visitors are looking for Jamaica has that too. With miles of beaches, continuous warm sunshine blending with tropical breezes, great music in the air, and everyone’s favorite rum beverages or Red Stripe beer constantly flowing, it’s no wonder that a vacation in Jamaica is called a ‘trip of a lifetime’.

Livin’ on Tybee Island Time

asiseeit_fayette_headshot1Let’s begin with full disclosure. When the fine folks at Abshire Public Relations contacted me earlier this year to come and experience Tybee Island, my immediate answer was “Yes!” And as I got off the phone with Allison from Abshire PR, that answer was immediately followed by the question to myself, “Where the heck is Tybee Island?” Google maps here I come. Ahh, Tybee Island is in the state of Georgia, about thirty minutes east of Savannah, and sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Hilton Head Island, SC.

So in the early summer, my wife, Rachel, and I flew into the absolutely beautiful Savannah International airport, rented a car, and headed through the historic streets of Old Savannah. From the airport to Tybee Island it took about 45 minutes. The time didn’t seem that long though, as we enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of a region that we had never been to before. I was in my glory driving through the streets of Old Savannah, where so much American history had taken place. (Cue the ‘nerd’ guy in me).IMG_1884

Once off Bay St. and through Savannah we took the Islands Parkway (StRt.80) east to Tybee Island. With the Savannah River to our north and the Tybee Inlet to our south, we quickly felt the vibe of our surroundings slow down and relax. Turning onto Tybee Island’s main strip, Butler Avenue, it was easy to see that we were in a beach town. From the smell of the ocean breeze to the sand whisping through the streets, Tybee Island was screaming, in a whispering sort of way, “Come and relax.”

IMG_1728Abshire PR set me up to stay at Tybee Island’s #1 beachfront hotel, The DeSoto Beach Hotel, at 212 Butler Ave.  From check-in to check-out, the staff at The DeSoto was friendly, helpful, and always accommodating with any questions or requests I had. Parking at The DeSoto was complimentary, with about half of the parking spots covered. Our ocean-view room was clean and sported a decor of bygone days on the island. The balcony overlooked the hotel’s pool, and then beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean. A nice feature of The DeSoto is that they offer complimentary lounge chairs and umbrellas oceanside. A quick call to the front desk and your slice of ultimate relaxation awaits you.

The miles of beach along Tybee Island are spectacular. From the north beach at Fort Screven, past the Tybee Island Pavilion & Pier located off Tybrisa St., to the more private southernmost beach at the end of Butler Ave., the sand is pure, the wind is typically brisk, and air smells of salt water.

The Tybee Island Pavilion & Pier is located towards the southern end of Tybee Island. The pavilion offers up seaside snacks and beverages, while the pier extends out into the Atlantic inviting sightseeing and fishing for locals and tourists alike. Located around this area are beach-themed restaurants, your typical souvenir stores, and fun beach bars including perhaps my new favorite, Wet Willie’s. This beachside oasis offers up what I refer to as “A Wall of Fun”. Set next to each other along Wet Willie’s back wall are nearly twenty frozen drink machines waiting for your mixing and matching. Think of it like a Jelly Belly box for adults. IMG_1842

Rachel and I started each morning at the DeSoto Hotel’s beach, taking in the sunshine as it rose up over the Atlantic. Within a couple hours of absorbing the rays and  a few mouthfuls of saltwater from the waves, we took to some local sightseeing and shopping. And yes, our daily visit to Wet Willie’s. Located at the northern end of Tybee Island sits the Tybee Island Light Station & Museum and Fort Screven. IMG_1778Known as Georgia’s tallest and oldest lighthouse, the Tybee Island Light Station sits majestically above a compound of buildings making up the lighthouse and museum grounds. The view from the top is spectacular as you are able to take in a 360-degree view of the island and the Atlantic. I should warn you however that the view from 145-feet above can only be obtained by climbing the 178 winding steps to the top. But with a couple stops along the way, and incredible views from each level, the climb is worth the ultimate view from a top this 18th century lighthouse.

IMG_1741Just off Tybee Island’s main strip is Tybee Road. Along here visitors will find cool shops  like The Gallery By The Sea and Fish Art, filled with antiques, collectibles, and unique souvenirs. Also just off Tybee Rd. is a neat restaurant called Huc-A-Poo’s. This open-air restaurant is a laid back hang out offering up local seafood, hand-crafted pizzas, wraps, and salads. While the food is that of what you could find at many vacation-area restaurants, it’s the hundreds of antique signs and pictures that make Huc-A-Poo’s so memorable.

IMG_1815AJ’s Dockside Restaurant is a favorite of those that call Tybee Island home. Known as having the “Best sunset north of Mallory Square (Key West)”, AJ’s atmosphere is laid back and relaxed with indoor or waterside dining. The menu at AJ’s Dockside includes such seafood delights as oysters, scallops, and shrimp to Po Boy sandwiches made with mahi mahi, shrimp, and oysters. Their daily Happy Hour and weekend entertainment make AJ’s a must-stop when on Tybee Island.

The Crab Shack, also located just off Tybee Road, is a unique restaurant. The long drive off the main road gives visitors a feeling of driving deep into swampland, Cajun country. Built alongside the Tybee Inlet, The Crab Shack has indoor and outdoor dining, and “oh-by-the-way” dozens of alligators to view tableside. The fun, casual, “come as you are” atmosphere and decor is just one of the reasons that The Crab Shack has been voted the best seafood restaurant on Tybee Island since 1998. As their slogan says, “It’s where the elite eat in their bare feet!” IMG_1854

During my 4-day stay on Tybee Island I grew to love the pure relaxation that the sand and surf offered. I also realized that I was extremely fortunate to have been invited by the Tybee Island Tourism Board and Abshire PR to visit what is known as “Savannah’s Beach”. From not even knowing how to spell “Tybee” a few months earlier to now realizing that it is truly a hidden gem of an island town waiting to be discovered, IMG_1729Tybee Island is one of those vacation locations that can very easily hook a first-timer like me to coming back on an annual basis or someday maybe even calling it home.

VisitTybee.com and TybeeBreeze.com are two great websites to visit to find more about making your next vacation destination be on Tybee Island, Georgia.

Ten Honeymoon Destinations for 2013

ImageThere is no doubt that the rings, flowers, dress and reception are important parts of any wedding, however quite often it’s the honeymoon that packs the most memories for a newly married couple. Though honeymoons in Paris, Australia, and other exotic locations are fantastic options, there are many spectacular opportunities within North America. Here are ten honeymoon destinations that future brides and grooms may want to consider for their upcoming wedding.

 

  1. South Florida and the Keys– Whether it’s Miami’s South Beach, Sanibel Island, or the Florida Keys, the South Florida region is growing in popularity among newly marriedImage couples. Miami’s art deco feel, eclectic restaurants, and variety of clubs are perfect for those looking for 24/7 partying. Those couples looking for a little quieter week away may want to travel up the Gulf coast to Sanibel Island. Known for its sunsets, beaches, and shell collecting, Sanibel would be the answer for lazy days and romantic nights. And for those looking for a little bit of everything, maybe a honeymoon in Key West is in order. With its beaches along the Atlantic, bars next to bars next to bars along Duval Street, and a variety of water recreation and snorkeling, Key West is guaranteed to provide non-stop fun.
  2. Napa Valley– California’s wine country has started attracting honeymooners at an impressive pace over the past decade. Couples now have a large variety of accommodations to choose from. Hotels & spas offer guests luxury and pampering, while staying at a Bed & breakfast provide a simple, low key experience. Most stays offer wine tours through the Napa and Sonoma wine country, train rides through the valleys, and opportunities for hot air balloon rides over the miles of vineyards.
  3. Niagara Falls– Known as America’s first honeymoon destination, Niagara Falls still attracts newlyweds from all over the world. Though the U.S. side of Niagara Falls offers amazing views and impressive casinos, it’s a no-brainier to flash your passport at the  Imageborder and take in the fun and excitement of the Canadian side of the Falls. Clifton Hillhas a huge variety of attractions, restaurants and shopping. Several casinos line the parkway, with upscale restaurants and fun nightlife. And of course, don’t forget the falls.Rides on the Maid of the Mist will take visitors closer to the falls than they would ever thought you would be. Nightly light shows and weekly fireworks at the Falls also offer opportunities for spectacular memories.
  4. Hawaii– Choose an island, any island. Chances are wherever a couple chooses to stay when visiting the Hawaiian Islands they are in for a once in a lifetime experience. From the spectacular beaches to the wonderful nightlife, the choices of Hawaii are endless. One of the more popular experiences when visiting Hawaii is something called “Island Hopping”. Helicopter rides offer daily tours of the islands, while even an entire vacation can be designed to be spent a few days on each of the islands. Volcano tours, water sports, and snorkeling are just a few of the many things to do when visiting Hawaii.
  5. Cancun– Since the 1980s Cancun, Mexico’s popularity has seen a steady growth. With the creation of all-inclusive resorts, posh hotels and spas, and a variety of restaurants and entertainment, Cancun is quickly becoming a popular honeymoon destination. Temperatures throughout the year are warm in this tropical paradise, which makes it a popular destination any time of the year. Taking in the Mexican culture through guided tours is always recommended when visiting a location for the first time. Many local traditions would include visiting an actual bullfight held at Plaza deToros. Whether parasailing over the Gulf or lounging by the pools of your resort, sun and fun is in store when honeymooning in Cancun.
  6. Atlantis in the Bahamas– Located on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas, the resort of Atlantis is truly remarkable. Quickly becoming one of the most popular locations forImage destination weddings and honeymoons, Atlantis has it all. With six different locations to choose from, eleven unique pools, a world-renown waterpark, brilliant beaches, spectacular restaurants, and a complimentary shuttle to all locations on the island, it’s no wonder that couples by the hundreds are selecting Atlantis as their honeymoon destination.
  7. Disney World– Since 1971 thousands of little girls have imagined getting married in the shadows of Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida. Over the last twenty years Disney has made hundreds of those dreams come true. But not only has Disney made their destination wedding experience one of the most popular anywhere in the world, their honeymoon packages have seemingly grown exponentially. The resorts and spas found at Disney World are as unique as Goody and Mickey. The four amusement parks and two waterparks are full of fun and wonder, offering “Extended Magic Hours” to all Disney resort guests, which means getting into the parks earlier or staying later than those not staying on the grounds for better access to the rides and attractions. Not only do the parks and resorts have tremendous restaurants, the newly renovated Downtown Disney and Boardwalk areas also provide great dining, dancing, and shopping experiences.
  8. Cape Cod– For decades Cape Cod, Massachusetts has been a favorite summertime Imagechoice for honeymooners. Whether staying in the quaint eclectic town of Provincetown,the spectacular Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster, or venturing out to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, the Cape Cod experience is filled with romance. Sightseeing from Hyannis to Edgartown, taking in the shops and eateries of the area, and enjoying the summer sun along the Atlantic will surely provide memories for years to come when visiting Cape Cod.
  9. New York City– What can be said about NYC, that hasn’t been said dozens of times before? From Broadway to Yankee Stadium, SoHo to the Upper East Side, or Times Square to Central Park, New York, New York has everything for a newlywed couple. Hotels, restaurants, and shopping are literally around every corner (and ‘on’ every corner for that matter). Getting around Gotham is easier than ever, with taxis, subways, and Multi-day “Hop On, Hop Off” tour passes. Whether a newly married couple is looking for a romantic carriage ride through Central Park, taking in a dinner cruise on the Hudson, or enjoying a stroll through  the Museum of Sex (appropriately referred to as the “MoSex”), the attractions of the Big Apple are endless. Shopping on Canal Street, having a draft at George Washington’s favorite hang out- Fraunces Tavern, or taking in a solemn moment at the 9/11 Memorial are just a few of the hundreds of things to do in the City That Never Sleeps.
  10. Cruises- If a couple wants to experience a variety of places, while indulging in endless food, drink, and entertainment, perhaps a cruise is what the Love Doctor has ordered.Image Departing from several ports along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, cruises allow newlyweds to experience many different locations, for various lengths of stay, while sticking to their newlywed budget. Ports of call in the Atlantic include Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Caribbean. When cruising through the Gulf of Mexico, couples can enjoy stays in Key West, the Caribbean, and Cancun. Pacific cruises can head north to Alaska, or south to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

We would love to hear from you, or readers, and have you tell us what you think of our Top Ten, and locations that you would add to the list. Drop us a line from our website or follow us on Twitter: @EdFayette, and attach pictures from your honeymoon.

Sun and Fun along Florida’s Southwest Coast

Most likely when you think of vacationing in Florida you think of the hot spots of Miami, the Keys, Ft. Lauderdale, or the tourist mecca known as Orlando. For several years I have enjoyed traveling to the Southwest region of Florida to take in the charm of the area and the warmth of the sun.  I have visited up and down the Gulf Coast, from Sarasota to Sanibel, and Naples to Key West, and the draw for me is that each area has its own cool vibe that keeps me coming back for more.

Flying into Southwest Florida International (RSW) always gets my vacation off on the right foot. Perhaps one of the cleanest and most enjoyable airports in America, RSW sets the tone of rest and relaxation from the moment one lands. With a dedicated area on the ground level of the airport, getting a rental car is as easy as renting a car can be; and I’m off on vacation!

A stay at the Hyatt Regency – Coconut Point is always my hotel of choice when in Southwest Florida. Located between Ft. Myers and Naples, just off the Tamiami Trail, Coconut is centrally located for loads of shopping, dining, and fun activities.  A stay at the Hyatt Coconut Point wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Hyatt’s private island, Big Hickory Island, across Estero Bay.  A free water taxi takes guests from the resort’s dock to the island every 30-minutes. While on your way you are likely to see dolphins and rays swimming alongside the boat. Once at the island, a two-minute walk to the other side brings you to the Gulf of Mexico in all her glory. (Wait, see the sunbeams shine down and hear the angels sing from above.) Privacy and more relaxation is the order of the day when spending time at this beach. With complimentary lounge chairs, umbrellas, and ice-filled coolers for your favorite beverages and snacks, a day at Big Hickory Island beach is perfect for saltwater swimming, sunbathing, and seashell collecting; and will surely spoil you for future excursions.

When in the Bonita Springs area visitors must visit the amazing Coconut Point shopping destination. This outdoor shopping and eating experience is rivaled by few. With condos above the stores, known as The Residences, to designer shops such as Coach and Aldo, and chain stores like Target and Champs, Coconut Point has shopping covered. The complex also has great restaurants such as The Grape, Stir Crazy, Tony Sacco’s, and California Pizza Kitchen. With hundreds of famous name stores, dozens of restaurants, and luxury living accommodations, the community of Coconut Point is a modern twist on an early 1900′s city.

The Gulf Coast offers an array of fun options for all interests.  The city of Naples is about 15 miles south of Coconut, and their pristine beaches, unique shopping, and outdoor restaurants make this a must-stop every time I’m in the area. Whether shopping along Naples’ historic Fifth Avenue, enjoying an afternoon bite to eat at the Bayside Restaurant overlooking Venetian Bay, or soaking in the sand and sun at one of its public beaches, luxury can be found in every corner of this Gulf coast city.

The famous Fort Myers Beach area is always ready to offer up fun til the early morning hours. Picking shells on the beaches, taking in the sunsets at the pier, and great food and drink at the famous Yukatan is a typical afternoon and evening at FMB. Branching out from its hub, known as Times Square and The Pier, Fort Myers Beach is home to many stores, restaurants, and nightspots to keep your vacation in high gear when not at the beach. With its many beachside hotels, FMB reminds me of the days of Gidget, Elvis, and Frankie & Annette at the beach. Fun times!

Across the bridge from Fort Myers sits the quiet little island community of Sanibel Island. Know worldwide for its seashell collecting and glorious beaches, Sanibel is one of the best places I know to get away from it all. Though there are plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities to be found on this island, the tone and pace of Sanibel is much more laid back and easy-going. With several public beaches scattered around the perimeter of the island, taking in the warmth of the sun and searching for that elusive perfect seashell are all in a day’s pleasure on Sanibel Island.

If you’re looking for rest and relaxation in a peaceful, luxurious setting, Florida’s Southwest region may be beckoning you. With incredible weather year-round, true southern hospitality, and a slow-paced way of life, the Gulf Coast region is one of my favorite places to get away to. Whether its Naples to the south, Fort Myers to the north, or Sanibel on an island of its own, Southwest Florida is truly a slice of paradise.