Livin it up in Louisville

asiseeit_fayette_headshotOn the first Saturday of May the horse racing world converges on Louisville, Kentucky for the running of the Kentucky Derby. Though the race only lasts a little more than two minutes on that Saturday, tens of thousands call Louisville home for weeks leading up to Derby Day. Here are some events and places to visit if you plan on visiting this horse racing mecca.

Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon:
Held at the Waterfront Park along the Ohio River, this festival has a little bit of everything. From beer gardens to rows of food vendors, helicopter rides to free concerts, Fest-a-Ville and Chow Wagon continue to grow in popularity each year. This year’s highlight of Waterfront Jam is a Friday, May 2nd concert featuring country artists Scotty McCreery with special guest Cassadee Pope. Horse race? Did someone say something about a horse CaliforniaChromerace?

The Pegasus Parade:
Held in downtown Louisville since 1956, this family-oriented event is filled with marching bands, inflatable characters, and of course “horses”! Running along Broadway between Campbell and Ninth Streets in the heart of Louisville, the Pegasus Parade is the longest running Kentucky Derby Week event. This year’s parade is on Thursday, May 1st.

The Kentucky Oaks:
Traditionally held the day before the Kentucky Derby, “The Oaks” celebrates the finest three-year fillies in the thoroughbred world. Lilies and the color pink highlight this prestigious race to honor and celebrate women and breast cancer awareness. Tickets for this day long event can be obtained in advance from the Kentucky Derby website or the day of the race at Churchill Downs.

ChurchillDownsThe Kentucky Derby:
“The Run for the Roses” will take place on Saturday, May 2nd this year. Gates will open at 8am with tickets available online ahead of time or at the gates the day of the race. From dedicated horse race enthusiasts to well-known celebrities, the stands, infield, and rail of Churchill Downs will be packed with mint julep-sipping fans excited to be part of “the most exciting two minutes in sports”. With thousands women wearing stunning (and outlandish) hats, the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, and the garland of roses for the winning horse and jockey, the Kentucky Derby is filled with tradition and pageantry.

Churchill Downs:
Though it is known as the Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs is also the location of the Kentucky Derby Museum. Often referred to as “the next best thing to being at the Derby”, the Kentucky Derby Museum is filled with memorabilia and artifacts from years gone by. And not only does Churchill Downs celebrate its past, but it is excited with nearly 75,000 square feet of new and renovated grandstand space along with a new $12 million outdoor, state-of-the-art video board.

 

The Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum:
This iconic factory has turned into more than just baseball bat making facility. From the moment your walk up to the front of the building, the six-story high, 68,000 pound bat welcomes you to what will surely be a memorable experience. This hands-on museum contains baseball memorabilia galore and artifacts from the sports such as Babe Ruth’s bat the he hit his last homerun with as a Yankee. Visitors can even have their own personal bat made for them during their stay. The factory and museum is open seven days a week with admission only $12 for adults and $7 for kids 6-12 years old (Under 5 yrs old are free).

Louisville Slugger Field:
Keeping with the baseball theme, Louisville Slugger Field is home to the minor league baseball team named——-wait for it——- “The Louisville Bats”. Even if you’re not a big baseball fan, there is fun to be had at all home games, especiallyLouisvilleSluggerMuseumFactory Thursday home games which feature $1 beers and live music throughout the game. This Triple AAA farm team of the Cincinnati Reds plays in front of nearly 14,000 fans each home game.

The Louisville Zoo:
Open all year round, the Louisville Zoo is so much more than a place to go and see the animals. Featuring Sky Ropes and Sky Tykes for kids, this series of rope trails take participants over the zoo visitors below. 5K run/walks, concerts, and kid camps are also offered throughout the year at this community zoo. With dozens of exhibits located inside and outside, animals like polar bears, tigers, penguins, and gorillas all call the Louisville Zoo home.

Louisville Mega Caverns:
What can only be described as ‘Magnificent’, the Louisville Mega Caverns are one of Louisville’s must-see attractions. Located just off Interstate 264, whoever knew you could have a day full of fun 100 feet underground? The MegaTram is an hour long tour through the nearly seventeen miles of cavern trails steeped in history, education, and fun. MegaZips is a different kind of tour through the caverns. It is a 2-hour long tour using zip lines and a registered guide. MegaQuest is an aerial rope course that takes visitors to places throughout the cavern they won’t believe. The Louisville Mega Caverns are capable of hosting birthdays, team-building, and other events up to 200 people.

Old Louisville:
The historic area of Louisville known as Old Louisville is filled with rich architecture and history dating back to the late 1800s. Located north of downtown Louisville, this area has streets lined with classic victorian homes and neighborhood louisvilleskylinesquares like St. James Court. Being located between downtown and the University of Louisville has made Old Louisville a favorable place for relocation in the area.

The Muhammad Ali Center:
The museum’s Mission Statement just about says it all: “The mission of the Muhammad Ali Center is to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope, and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be.” This breath-taking facility was created to share with the world the life of the great boxer and humanitarian, Muhammad Ali. This interactive museum also hosts seminars, special community events, and educational programming. Many of the photos and memorabilia held in the Muhammad Ali Center are priceless, one-of-a-kind artifacts from “The Greatest”.

Fourth Street Live:
When you are done sightseeing for the day, why not join a few thousand of your closest friends in the heart of Louisville? Fourth Street Live is conveniently located just a few blocks from the Ohio River in the middle of historic Louisville. Billed as your “one-stop destination for dining, entertainment, and shopping”, Fourth Street Live is packed with sports bars and night clubs, 4th Street livefamous restaurants and name-brand stores, as well as live entertainment. Country stars Big and Rich will be performing on Thursday, May 1st, and Fall Out Boy will be in concert on Friday, May 2nd as part of Fourth Street Live’s Derby Week. The concerts are free for those in the area before 7pm, with a $5 cover for those arriving after seven o’clock.

Whether you’re planning to be on the rail for the big race or just heading to Louisville for all the festivities, the town is ready for you. From zip lining through 100 foot deep caverns to taking a selfie next to a 60 foot baseball bat, the City of Louisville has events and attractions to keep you entertained before, during, and after the Kentucky Derby.

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8 Great St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Cities in the U.S.

asiseeit_fayette_headshotWhen the middle of March arrives two things are a near certainty in the U.S.; one, winter is nearly over for most of the hearty souls living throughout the country; and two, everyone 
becomes Irish for a day (or in some cases, a week) for endless St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. To help you “Get Your Irish On” here are eight of the hottest, craziest, tradition-filled cities and what they have planned for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Boston, Massachusetts
The St. Patrick’s Day parade takes place in South Boston on Sunday, March 16th this year,
beginning at 1:00pm. With nearly three-quarters of a million people expected to attend, visitors are urged to take the “T” (Boston’s public transportation) into the city and maneuver from there. In Boston, think of the parade serving as this year’s ‘halftime show’ of the St. Patrick’s Day 
holiday. There will be plenty of celebrating on Friday night and Saturday throughout the historic pubs of Beantown, including severalStPats-Boston Pub Crawls and parties. Of course the celebration will 
continue in Boston, as in most cities on Monday; the actual St. Patrick’s Day, with plenty of “Wearin’ o’ the Green” and the tasting of green beer. So whether you celebrate with the ‘Southies’ or party it up near Quincy Market, Boston will surely welcome everyone Irish,
if even for the day.

Cleveland, Ohio
With its huge immigrant population, Cleveland has traditionally played host to a St. Patrick’s Day celebration to rival many cities even several times its size. Since 1867 Cleveland Cleveland_Ohio_St._Patrick's_Day_Downtown_2012has hosted a parade, and this year promises to be no different, as nearly 10,000 participants will march through downtown Cleveland on Monday the 17th. Those who can’t wait to get their holiday started can head to one of two historic Cleveland watering holes known as Flannery’s Pub or Pickwick & Frolic for some breakfast and a pint. After the parade, those celebrating the “The Luck of the Irish” can stay in downtown and stop by Moriarty’s or the Flat Iron Cafe for tasty beer and great tasting corned beef and cabbage. Various types of Irish music will heard throughout the city of Cleveland through the weekend, as area pubs will provide entertainment ranging from traditional Irish folk music to rock.

San Francisco, California
Though the west coast may not have the same history as its neighbors to the east, don’t be fooled; SanFran knows how to throw a St. Patty’s Day bash! Featuring its annual Irish Festival, localStPats_IrishDancers_SF Pub Crawls, downtown Block Parties, and parade, San Franciscans have wrapped their Irish arms around this holiday. With U2 cover band, ‘Zoo Station’, playingSF-GuinessGirl-StPats nearly all of U2’s 
popular songs in a concert at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall and the ‘Emerald Across the Bay 12k run’ being featured across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco promises something for everyone this and every St. Patrick’s Day.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
People at the St. Patrick's Day Celebration in Myrtle Beach, SCFrom 11am to midnight on Saturday, March 15th the touristy town of North Myrtle Beach will transform itself into something just this side of Dublin, Ireland, (well, kind of) as it kicks off its

annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Authentic food and beer will be available from dozens of vendors, along with a Family (alcohol free) Fun Zone for kids of all
ages. Perhaps the best part of the festival is that all the music and activities are free. By the way, when viewing the parade, be sure to check out one of the more popular parts of it, as locals show off their decorated and suped-up golf carts cruisin’ down Ocean Blvd. Yeah, that’s what I said, golf carts. And I haven’t any beer yet.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Since 1771 the City of Brotherly Love has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with its annual
parade. And this year, in following with tradition, the parade is scheduled to be on Sunday, March 16th at 1:00pm. Beginning on Friday, March 14th revelers can begin a New York City Holds Annual St. Patrick's Day Paradeweekend of bar crawls, with several to choose from each day. One of the nice parts about these crawls is the free shuttle service called ‘The Erin Express’, which is runs all day through the City of Philly. Several concerts (some free) will be held throughout the city during the weekend along with neighborhood festivals and Irish dancers.

Savannah, Georgia
What is now considered the second largest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the United States will kick things off on March 7th with what is known as the “Greening of the Fountain”. Locals gets things going a week early when the famous Forsyth Fountain is filled with green water. One of the most popular festivities in Savannah is the ‘St. Patrick St.Pats-Forsyth_Fountain-SavOn the River Festival’ along the banks of the Savannah River. Continuous entertainment on multiple stages along River Street and
fantastic Irish food and beverage vendors throughout the city make this one of the hottest
festivals in the country. Nearby Tybee Island (known as “Savannah’s Beach”) has its own
St.Patrick’s Day parade scheduled to take place on Saturday, while Savannah’s parade is scheduled for Monday, March 17th. From the sandy beach of Tybee Island to the historic squares of Savannah, the hospitality of the South is on full display during its St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Chicago, Illinois
You know Chicago takes its St. Patrick’s Day seriously when nearly a half-million people line the banks of the Chicago River and watch as the river turns into a vibrant green for the nearly five hours in the afternoon of Saturday, March 15th. A parade of floats, bands, and bagpipes
continue the afternoon of fun as revelers march up Columbus Drive. Those visitors to Chicago staying in ‘The Loop’ will be close to some of the best pubs Chi-town has to offer. ????????????????????????????????????????Fun-filled pub crawls are found throughout the city and many establishments will feature lively entertainment. From Irish-step dancers to sight-seeing cruises along the Chicago River, guests to Chicago will non-stop fun during St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

New York, New York
The 253rd St. Patrick’s Day parade will take place on the holiday itself. For nearly 2 miles down Fifth Avenue, over 150,000 march in the annual parade. That’s right, 150,000 “marching” Irish! Local community groups, the NYPD & FDNY, along with special guests entertain millions along their path. After the parade, those wishing to continue celebrating the Irish will be able to gather at nearly any bar, on any street, in any borough of NYC. Many like to honor our Founding 
Fathers on this day with a trip to the historic Fraunces Tavern located down in the southern
mcsorleys-NYC_oldest bar in NYCsection of Manhattan. It is at Fraunces where legend has it that George Washington would often frequent for food and libations, and where he also gave his historic farewell to troops. Many
St. Patty’s Day partiers also feel a sense of, ummm, “responsibility” to visit NYC’s oldest bar on this celebration of everything-beer-holiday, and McSorley’s is the stop in the East Village.
Note- that when and if you get into McSorley’s be ready to drink many beers, and fast. If the workers don’t feel you are up to their expectations, you will be asked to leave. (No joke.) Throughout the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, area neighborhoods will feature Irish festivals with the smells and sounds of authentic Irish food and music floating throughout the city.

So there you have eight of the country’s most popular destinations for the St. Patrick’s DayTippHill_SYR-StPats
holiday. But make no mistake about it, these United States have town after town celebrating the Irish in their own unique way. From Dublin (Ohio) to the Home of the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame University, people love St. Patrick’s Day. Whether a town paints the largest shamrock in the U.S. on a nearby Interstate and serves green eggs and ham for breakfast around town, like those in O’Neill, Nebraska, or a neighborhood that receives special permission from the Department of Transportation to permanently ‘flip’ a traffic light along a popular Irish street, so that the “green light is always on top” like those on Syracuse, NY’s Tipperary Hill, American’s love their Irish heritage like no other ethnic background. Of course if every ethnic group would include beer in their celebrations, think of how much fun we could have almost every weekend of the year!

Things to do in & around NYC during Super Bowl Week 2014

asiseeit_fayette_headshotOn Sunday, February 2nd the sports and entertainment world will be focused on the city of New York, as it plays host to Super Bowl XLVIII. Though the game will actually be played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, NJ (home of the NY Giants & NY Jets) much of the pre-game hoopla will occur on and around the island of Manhattan. Though activities and events began during the first week of January, most of the high-profile companies as well as the Super Bowl Committee itself will open their venues during the week leading up to the big game.

The nice thing about “Super Bowl Week” is that even those who don’t have a coveted ticket to the big game can enjoy many of the free activities positioned around the city. And leave it to The Big Apple to haveNFLSB48 events galore scheduled leading up to the game. From shutting down Times Square to creating what will be known as the “Taste of the NFL”, NYC has entertainment covered for young and old alike. Here are some things to put into your planner if you are making your way to New York City during the last week of January and first weekend of February.

Cruise ship Norwegian Getaway leaves building dockThe folks at Budweiser in recent years have taken over a resort or large hotel in the Super Bowl host city and declared it the Bud Light Hotel, as it threw a week-long party for contest winners and various guests. This year Bud Light has upped the ante and gone big, real big! Instead of taking over a hotel, the beer king will be bringing in a cruise ship and calling the USS Intrepid aircraft carrier home from January 30- February 3. Located at the west end of 47th St., along the Hudson River, the Norwegian state-of-the-art cruise ship “Getaway” and US Navy icon will be the venues of meet and greets, concerts from top name artists, and over-the-top parties. Those looking to be guests in the “Super Bowl hotel” can take their chance at winning by downloading the FanZone app and taking it from there.

Jersey City will host “Football Fashion Week” with established and rising stars in the fashion industry. Former NY Giant great Carl Banks will actually be on hand to feature some of his latest designs from his company, Gillfootball-fashion-week-logo Sports. Several former NFL players and entertainers will be walking the runway in this event running from January 23-25.

For video game aficionados, The Museum of Moving Image will be the location in Astoria (Queens), as EA Sports presents an exhibition called “Madden NFL Football: 25 years and Running!” Visitors will be able to take in this interactive exhibit and see the evolution of one of the most popular sports video games of all time. 

TasteOfSB48Foodies Unite! The “Taste of the NFL” comes to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal Pier 12 on Saturday, February 1st. This “foodfest” event will feature a chef from each NFL city serving their signature dish, alongside a current NFL player or legend.  So bring your hungry tastebuds and a camera for this unique celebration of sport and food. Visit http://www.TasteOfTheNFL.com for more information and get tickets.

The Prudential Center in Newark, NJ will host the Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day on Tuesday, January 28th. Tickets must be purchased prior to the day of the event at SuperBowl.com, and the event will begin at 10:30am with seats reserved.

At Chelsea Piers- Pier 60, The NFL-Celebrity Bowling Classic will take place on Saturday, February 1st. Amateur bowlers will be teamed with NFL players, members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and America’s Wounded Warriors Project in a fun for all bowling event.  Each bowler will  receive a limited edition Super Bowl XLVIII  commemorative bowling ball, pin and shirt. Participants as well as guests/spectators will be entitled to a “NY/NJ Neighborhood of Foods” buffet, soft drinks and auction. Entry fees for this event start at $200.

Starting on January 29th the “Crossroads of the World”, aka Times Square, closes down! That’s right, from 34th St. up to 47th St. on Broadway, “The Great White Way” will be transformed into “Super Bowl Boulevard”.super11n-1-web Beginning at Herald Square on 34th St. venues like the ‘Super Bowl Theater’ and the ‘NFL Rush Zone’ kick off the 13-block sports fan nirvana. On 40th St. from Noon to 5pm daily, the Autograph Stage will offer free autographs from NFL stars. Then at 8pm, the Concert Stage comes alive with some of the best talent New York has to offer. Throw on an extra layer, embrace the cold, and enjoy the show! Though photo ops will be around nearly every corner of NYC during Super Bowl Week, perhaps no one block will better serve as a perfect backdrop than that located between 43rd & 44th Streets on Broadway. 20-foot high lampposts with the Roman numerals of the previous forty-seven Super Bowls will be the perfect place to snap that picture for the photo album. The Vince Lombardi trophy will also be on display in the same area for fans to capture that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the trophy. At the northern end of Super Bowl Boulevard fans will get the chance to kick a field goal through actual NFL goalposts near the Fox Broadcast set. Other media outlets will have booths scattered through the area like CNN and the NFL Network. Every block of the Broadway tribute to the NFL will be sponsored by companies such as McDonalds, M&Ms, XBoxOne, and more.

super-bowl-boulevard-new-york Other events during Super Bowl Week will include:
-The Waldorf Astoria hosting the Super Bowl Friars Club Roast of Boomer Esiason on Thursday, January 30th.
-The world-famous Apollo Theater celebrating Black History Month and Super Bowl Week with a two-night musical tribute event on Thursday the 30th and Friday the 31st.
-Knicks and Nets NBA home games and Rangers, Islanders, Devils NHL home games throughout the week.

And oh yeah, don’t forget that the actual Super Bowl game kicks off on Sunday evening (around 6 EST), February 2nd.

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.