8 Great “Destination Wedding” Venues in the US

asiseeit_fayette_headshotMany couples tying the knot these days are not only looking for different kinds of ceremonies and receptions, but unique and memorable locations as well. More and more weddings are veering away from the traditional ceremony and reception, and instead heading toward what is known as the “Destination Wedding”. Typically these types of weddings result in smaller numbers of people attending, but allow for couples’ friends and families to experience an unbelievable day to remember.

Here are some of the most popular “Destination Wedding” ideas happening around the U.S.:

Central Park- NY, NY

The Wedding of Evan and CherylNew York City is arguably the most iconic city in America, so why not select a weekend afternoon in the ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ to exchange wedding vows? Though the venues in NYC are seemingly endless, perhaps Central Park is the most ideal location for a wedding. Nestled between the busy city avenues and skyscrapers, sits the tranquil beauty of this green-filled park. With nearly a dozen locations available throughout the park, the Conservatory Garden, the Pond, and the Boathouse are three annual favorites for weddings. It should also be noted that the famous Tavern on the Green is currently under renovation and inquiries about its expected time of re-opening should be checked on a regular basis. It’s important to know that there are fees, applications, and certain restrictions that go along with having a wedding in Central Park; for example No alcohol, amplified music, or tents are permitted in the park. For more information and to download an application visit the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation’s website at www.nycgovparks.org/.

Mall of America- Minneapolis, Minnesota

moaGetting married in a mall? Yes, believe it or not, America’s largest mall plays host to hundreds of weddings a year, having had more than 5,000 performed since its opening. With over 4-million square feet of building area, 520+ stores, and a twenty-five ride and attraction amusement park built inside, it’s no wonder that more than 40-million people visit the MOA every year. But a wedding, really? The fact is the Mall of America has several venues to accommodate just about any style and budget. The MOA even has… (Move over Elvis…) The Chapel of Love! Catering to those who can’t get enough of ‘retail America’, the chapel has photographers, hairstyling, dresses and tuxes, and more all at your disposal. And they of course take all major credit cards. Find out how to book your nuptials by visiting www.MallOfAmerica.com .

Grand Canyon

grandcanyonFor a more rustic approach to tying the knot many couples are venturing to one of the country’s great natural wonders, the Grand Canyon. Some of the more popular ways to celebrate the big day in that area is to be helicoptered in and dropped off onto the peak of a mesa, or ride the historic Grand Canyon Railway from Williams, Arizona that winds through the magnificent canyon with all its colors and beauty. The helicopter rides range in price as well as duration. Bridal parties can view the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas from high above, as well as take in remarkable sunsets as they come and go from the majestic Grand Canyon. Staying more down to earth, the Grand Canyon Railway excursions offer a slower pace, yet still a memorable wedding day. Bridal parties can reserve their own 1923 rail car or mingle in with other passengers. Full-service wedding packages are available and an outdoor wedding permit is required by the National Park Service by calling (928) 638-7841.

Monterey and Carmel, California

MontereyDotted along the Pacific coast sits some absolutely incredible venues for a one-of-a-kind wedding. Carmel and Monterey, California offer breathtaking backdrops for a bride and groom’s magical day. From Monterey’s rocky cliffs to Carmel’s soft sandy beaches, this region gives couples a variety of spectacular venues to choose from. From Stewart’s Cove to Carmel Beach, and Cypress Point at Pebble Beach to the Monterey Stone Chapel in the Redwoods, this area of the Pacific Coast region is home to hundreds of “I Do’s” each year. Booking reservations at a specific area requires timely planning and flexibility of venues and dates, so couples are encouraged to make their plans as soon as possible. www.MontereyWeddings.com is a great place to view all that is offered for weddings in the region.

Rocky Mountains- Colorado region

rockiesIt’s widely known that for skiing enthusiasts there perhaps is no better place to be from mid-autumn to late-spring than the ski trails of Colorado. So it only seems natural that for those who happen to be planning a wedding and enjoy fresh Rocky Mountain powder Colorado is a perfect destination for them. Of course the summer months in the Rockies are also ideal for a memorable wedding. Perhaps the most popular location in the region is Aspen. With an array of hotels, restaurants and activities, Aspen is built for special events. Other Rocky Mountain venues that are perfect for weddings are Golden, Denver, Breckenridge, and Vail, Colorado. Whether winter, spring, summer, or fall, the Rockies offer fun, adventure, and endless memories for brides, grooms, and their families and friends. Finding a location and time of year to suit the soon-to-be-newlyweds in the Rocky Mountain region will take some research and maybe even a couple “fieldtrips”. A great online resource to get your magical day planned is appropriately titled www.RockyMountainBride.com .

Atlantis- Paradise Island, Bahamas

atlantisLike Muhammad Ali knew boxing, the Beatles knew rock n’ roll, and Michael Jordan knows sneakers; with fifteen locations situated around Paradise Island, Atlantis knows weddings. Whether it’s a sunrise or sunset ceremony, a flower-filled or sandy beach backdrop, or a reception for twelve or five hundred, Atlantis at Paradise Island has it covered. From barefoot casual to over-the-top elegant the possibilities are endless for one’s storybook wedding. With the serenity of the Caribbean rippling in the background couples can exchange vows at the secluded Cove Beach. For those looking for a little more ‘wow-factor’ in their ceremony and reception a reservation at Ripples may be just the ticket. Surrounded by a Mayan-style décor and breathtaking water features, a wedding at Ripples will have guests talking about it for years to come. A complete guide to weddings on Paradise Island can be found at www.Atlantis.com . Here visitors will be reminded of what to ask and what to expect when planning a destination wedding in the Bahamas. And remember, U.S. citizens are required to have a passport in order to return to the U.S. (which when you think of it, may be a great place to get stuck for awhile).

Epcot- Disney World, Florida

epcotFor generations Disney World in Central Florida has been thought as a childhood destination. But today the land of Mickey is playing host to nearly two-thousand Cinderella-like weddings each year. Though Disney offers dozens of places to hold a ceremony and reception, I think the most unique venues can be found at a place that may not come to mind right of the bat– the Epcot amusement park. Epcot’s World Showcase takes visitors on a trip around the world, with an incredible attention to detail paid to each country’s highlights. It is here that a bride and groom can choose to be married alongside an English countryside, next to a cascading Canadian waterfall, or with a replica of Rome’s Trevi fountain set as their backdrop. From flowers to cakes, and ceremony to fireworks-filled reception, the wedding planners at Epcot will be there to assist the happy couple every step of the way. Wedding venues at Epcot’s World Showcase can be found within the countries of Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, China, Germany, Japan, and Morocco. To start making plans for your Epcot destination wedding visit www.disneyweddings.com .

Fenway Park- Boston, Massachusetts

kimberly + blake | fenway park wedding | boston, massThere are sports fans across the country that would go to the ends of the earth for their favorite team or player. Perhaps there is no place in America where this is truer than in the city of Boston, where fans do just about anything for their beloved baseball Redsox. Having been crowned World Series champions three-times over the past decade, there is no hotter ticket in sports today than that with the Boston Redsox logo attached to it. With all of that in mind, many fanatic couples try to make the Redsox part of their wedding day in any way possible. Whether they decorate their reception hall with red and blue flowers, or have their bridal party decked out in home and away uniforms, some fans just want their favorite team part of their big day. On the other hand, more and more couples are taking their fanaticism to a whole new level; “upper deck level” that is.  The Boston Redsox, like many other sports franchises across the country, are now catering to their over-the-top fans by opening sections of the stadium for wedding ceremonies and receptions before, during, and after the game. Fenway Park’s history and charm can now be captured on sunny afternoon or starlit night during a Redsox home-stand or even while the stadium is vacant. Brides can say their vows from the famed Green Monster, or overlooking homeplate from the EMC Club, which seats up to 300 guests. So warm up your vocal chords for a rousing rendition of “Sweet Caroline” and contact the management of Fenway Park at www.Redsox.com  to book your upcoming wedding.

So from a ballpark to a mall, or an island to a mountain top, the U.S. has some amazing venues for those couples looking to create a once-in-a-lifetime wedding memory. Where will your dream wedding be?

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Changes coming to Disneyworld in 2012

Though Disneyworld in Florida still consists of its staple attractions like Cinderella’s Castle, the Indiana Jones stunt show, and It’s a Small World, big changes are heading to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2012. From a complete new world at the Magic Kingdom to a widespread overhaul of Downtown Disney, the coming year is bound to bring pleasant surprises.

At the Magic Kingdom, look for the Fall of 2012 to debut the new Fantasyland. Complete with the Beast’s castle, Ariel’s grotto, and a three-ring circus, the new attractions of Fantasyland will be found at the back of the park, near the existing carousel and teacups. New restaurants and quick service food stops will dot the landscape of Fantasyland, including one sit-down restaurant inside the Beast’s castle. Also in the new world look for a water attraction that wraps itself around The Little Mermaid theme. But perhaps the biggest attraction coming to the new Fantasyland is the 3-ring circus called Storybook Circus. However, unlike most circuses, this one will be permanent. Dumbo’s flying elephants, Goofy’s cannonballs, and character meet & greets will be just a few of the colorful, larger-than-life additions to the Magic Kingdom.

Meanwhile, over at Disney’s EPCOT look for the newly refurbished Universe of Energy building to feature an updated attraction with Ellen DeGeneres. This, along with the recently re-introduced ‘Captain EO’ 4D show, featuring Michael Jackson, will give EPCOT a positive shot in the arm.

Perhaps 2012’s largest changes will be seen at Downtown Disney. All three sections of DD are currently going through changes. At the Marketplace LittleMissMatched for girls has already opened, as has the new Pollo Campero quick service restaurant. Surprisingly, Pollo Campero sits in the same square footage where the longtime American icon McDonalds once did business.

In the Pleasure Island section of Downtown Disney changes can already be seen. Gone are the dance clubs of the 90’s, and instead you’ll now find family-friendly restaurants with an around-the-world flair. Street performers play for visitors of the area, and new shops like Apricot Lane and Sammy Duval’s Curl draw shoppers in. Mixed into the new Pleasure Island is the new Irish restaurant Ragland Road and Paradiso 37, which serves up a cuisine from Central and South America.

In the West End section of Downtown Disney the storefronts are changing faster than you can say “Bippity-Boppity-Boo”. No longer exists the classic Magnetron store. Where am I supposed to buy my gift magnets now? Also gone is the Masters of Magic store. I always felt like most of us stopped in the store just to see a free magic show, and never had any intentions of buying a $29.95 magic kit. In their places look to see a Sunglass Icon store and clothing chain Wet Seal’s – Blink store to open up in early 2012.

The most exciting news to me is the creation of the Downtown Disney attraction called Splitsville; a 31-lane bowling alley that will double as a restaurant, bar, and dance club. As a sign says outside the current construction zone- “This isn’t your grandfather’s bowling alley”. Located in the old Virgin record store building, things are already underway for a Fall 2012 opening.

In a recent visit to Disneyworld, I asked a business owner about things happening at Downtown Disney. In our conversation she told me that the DD that we know today will look like something totally different by the year 2014. And if the fast-moving changes of 2011 and aggressive plans for 2012 are any indication, the entire Disneyworld experience that we grew up with will be something completely new in the very near future.

Disney’s Best-Kept Secret

Imagine strolling along Main Street USA one day, followed the next day by a Kilimanjaro safari. On your third day you could be rocketing into space on the Space Shuttle in the morning, then soaring through the Napa Valley on a hang glider at sunset. To top everything off, picture yourself taking a 4-day cruise to a private Caribbean island. And doing all of this with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. Sounds like a wild dream, or the aftermath of one of your college weekends? Nope; it’s not. It’s a possible week using the power of the Disney Vacation Club.

The Disney Vacation Club offers its members the luxury of guaranteed, quality vacations each year, at the finest resorts on the planet. Quite often, depending on membership, vacationers can enjoy vacations and weekend getaways many times throughout a year. The DVC allows its members to visit the Disney resorts or choose from nearly six hundred other locations around the world when planning their next vacation.

The beauty of the DVC is that the one-time membership is good for fifty years, and can be passed on in a will, or even sold at a later date. When I became a Vacation Club member in 2004 I selected the 200 points a year membership. My membership coordinator, Maribella Quinones, guided me through the process with clear explanations and sample planning years. And though memberships start at 150 points per year, to fully take advantage of the membership I moved up to the 200 point level. Of course greater memberships are available, but I was comfortable where I was. My tour of the Saratoga Resort & Spa at Disney World grounds and facilities was breath-taking. Rooms range from studios to three-bedroom villas. The three-bedroom is actually a two-story home! Many of the rooms at Saratoga overlook Downtown Disney or the Lake Buena Vista championship golf course. Just a five minute walk to Downtown Disney, everything else that Disney World has to offer is within minutes of the Saratoga Resort using their incomparable transit system. However, while at the Saratoga you may never want to leave their grounds. With beautiful pools and hot tubs, a state-of-the-art fitness center, world-class spa, general store, and two restaurants everything that would make a memorable vacation is at your fingertips. Since joining DVC has added the new Animal Kingdom Villas and Bay Lake Villas at the Contemporary as Disney’s latest Vacation Club resorts.

An example of how I could use my membership might go something like this. In January I could choose a studio room at the Disney Wilderness Villas with my wife for a 4-day, 3-night weekend stay for around 50 points. Then in July I could take the family for a 7-day vacation at the Saratoga Resort for around 150 points. Having used up my allotment for the year, I could then “borrow” from next year’s points and enjoy a 3-night weekend getaway in September at the Disney Boardwalk for around 50 points. The following year I could plan to take a week-long cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Cruise Line by using my points and borrowing from the next year’s allotment if necessary. Keep in mind that additional points can always be purchased and added to a membership. If a cruise isn’t for you, how about five days in the Bahamas, a weekend at Boston Harbor, or wine-tasting in Tuscany, Italy? You name it, the DVC can likely make your dreams come true….it’s a ‘Disney thing’. From California to Hilton Head, Disney World to Vero Beach, the Disney Vacation Club has the map covered with incredible places to stay. One of the nicest aspects of a Disney vacation is that when I arrive at Orlando International airport I am greeted by Disney Express employees who load me on a shuttle and take me directly to my resort. My baggage is collected for me and delivered to my room a couple hours later. To me, that’s a vacation! No baggage claims, no rental car, …no hassles. Once I’m checked in at the Saratoga Resort & Spa I can play 18-holes of golf at one of Disney’s five premiere golf courses, take in Happy Hour at the pool, enjoy a magnificent dining experience, and enjoy the nightlife of Pleasure Island, all within five minutes of my room!

The Disney Vacation Club may seem similar to time-shares that you have seen, but it is truly so much more. It is an opportunity to vacation throughout the world, while at the same time knowing that Disney quality is a guarantee everywhere you go. Known as ‘Disney’s Best Kept Secret’, the DVC is quickly becoming Disney’s ‘best vacation value’. For more information regarding the Disney Vacation Club, or to order your own informational DVD, call Maribella Quinones at  1-800-341-4074  and mention this AS I SEE IT column.