Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer activities in Plymouth, MA

Plymouth has a great location on Cape Cod Bay and has plenty of beach area along with great historical things to visit. Plymouth is a very family friendly destination and in the summer, the long days allow for even more time to do all the things that are available. Summer activities in Plymouth, Mass. offer excitement for every member of the family.

Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation is a reconstructed village that is a living history museum. In the village, the year is 1627 and you get a chance to see how the colonists survived. The houses can be visited and there are costumed role players who have taken on the identity of the colonists who populated the village. You will learn about their thoughts, opinions, and life. There are gardens for vegetables but also for flowers. They go about their lives and you basically walk into their lives. They stay in character and especially encourage children to learn and interact with them.

Also at Plimoth Plantation, is an Indian homesite. The Wampanoag were the original residents of this area and in the early days, were very helpful to the Pilgrims. While the home site is traditional, the people who are on this site are real Native Americans and are not in character, they will discuss the Native American experience from a modern day perspective.

There is a lot more to do at Plimoth Plantation, you can spend the whole day here.

 Mayflower II

Berthed in Plymouth Harbor is the Mayflower II. Walking onboard and seeing the conditions and the small space where the Pilgrims spent their days on the journey to America is an eye opener for children and adults alike. Crew members onboard are happy to answer questions and as a matter of fact, really appreciate the interaction. This is enjoyable for the entire family.

White Horse Beach

With its great location on Cape Cod Bay, you would expect Plymouth to have great beaches, and they do. White Horse Beach is a public beach. There are some cons of this beach, it is far from the parking lot and there are no bathrooms, but on the upside, on a hot day, if you are not staying at a beachfront hotel, this is a great way to cool off and also to enjoy a picnic lunch


Plymouth Harbor Cruise

Summer is the perfect time to take a cruise of Plymouth Harbor. The Pilgrim Belle is a paddle wheeler which offers daily cruises in the summer months. You can also choose to take a brunch or dinner cruise.

Harbor Activities

The end of August is the time for the Waterfront Festival. It offers a craft fair, car show, food trucks and vendors and a whole lot more. Check out their website for a full list of events and activities.

With this many things to do, you will probably want to stay overnight in town. The Pilgrim Sands Motel is a resort located right on the beach and The John Carver Inn has a convenient downtown location and a pool that children will really enjoy, it is a big attraction.

Plymouth offers visitors a wide variety of summer activities, these are just a few of them. Of course, it goes without saying, you will also want to take a look at Plymouth Rock.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Amazing Forest Park in St Louis, Mo.

Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. It is 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City, just to put it in perspective. It was created in 1874 and at the dedication ceremony, Chauncey Shultz described it this way "I present to you, the people of St Louis, this large and beautiful "Forest Park" for the enjoyment of yourselves, your children and your children's children forever...the rich, the poor, the merchant and mechanic, the professional and the day laborer, each with his family and lunch basket, can come and enjoy his own, all without stint to hindrance and there will be no notice "Keep off the Grass". I am delighted to say that his vision is very much alive today.

Forest Park has been the site of some wonderful history. In 1904, the St Louis World’s Fair took place on the grounds of the park. This was one of the most amazing events in the history of St Louis with over twenty million people coming to see all the exhibits. This was the largest World's Fair ever and it changed the park into a magical world of entertainment and exhibition. When it was all over, the park was returned to its original park like setting.
Around the same time, it was decided that St Louis could use a municipal golf course and it was also constructed in Forest Park. It is still around today, having been upgraded and updated many times over the years. The great pleasure it brings to St Louis residents has never diminished.

Forest Park is surrounded by museums among them are the St Louis Museum of Art, the Missouri Museum of History and the St. Louis Science Center. The St Louis Zoo is also located in Forest Park. This park really does have something for everyone.
Forest Park St LLouis is open to all people, there were several large family groups with their tables, chairs, volleyball nets and grills enjoying the grass and shade within the park when we were there. Joggers, skaters, and walkers were active everywhere even though it was in the high 90's.

Paddle boats were for rent in one of the ponds and some of the most beautiful fountains I have ever seen. This is what a park should be, free, open and accessible to everyone. It is also very confusing to drive through which is how we got to see so much of it while traveling between museums.  I highly recommend Forest Park if you plan to be in the St. Louis area.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Garden Rockford, Illinois

Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Ill. is designed to look as if it were in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, it is one of the few houses of Swiss style still in existence in the United States. Robert Tinker became enamored with the design style on a trip to Switzerland and decided to create one in of all places, Rockford. In his own words, "I only wanted to build a home that would give Rockford a name." The location of the gardens is historic, it belonged to one of the founders of the city of Rockford, Germanicus Kent. The house itself is located on a bluff overlooking Kent Creek. 

Robert is an interesting man. He was born in Hawaii, his parents were missionaries and he came to Rockford to work for the company that John Manny had built in Rockford. He married Mary Door Manny, the rich widow of John, 8 years his senior. She had a mansion that had belonged to her first husband but he wanted to have a place that he created. The Tinkers had no children of their own but they raised Mrs. Tinker's two nieces. After Mrs. Tinker and one of the nieces died, Robert married the other niece, Jessie, and together they adopted a child. He became a father at the ripe old age of 72. 

The 20 room cottage was donated by the second Mrs. Tinker to the Rockford Park District. It opened as a museum in 1943. It is a time capsule of the Victorian age. The Tinkers were the only people to ever live in the house (75 years) and it is filled with original furnishings, portraits, and diaries. It almost feels as if the family is out for the day and will be back at any moment.

The house must be visited on a guided tour. All tours begin in the barn. The first room you enter into is the conservatory. It was the last addition that the Tinkers made to the home. Of particular interest is the library with its soaring ceiling. A railing running around the second level is created from carved wood. A gorgeous wood staircase connects the library to the second-floor balcony. Surprisingly, there are very few books in the library but the Tinker book collection does contain some rare first additions.

On most days, there would not be two busloads of people visiting but that was the reality the day that we visited. It did affect our ability to move from room to room and also to get our guide to answer questions. In spite of that, it was an amazing experience.

Many special details around the house are special including painted ceilings and wonderful fireplaces. Look for the portrait of Robert Tinker in the formal parlor. 

You can visit two levels of Swiss Cottage and also the gardens. The museum is open every day except Monday. Check the website for hours and prices. A variety of special events take place at the museum seasonally as well as exhibits.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Late summer getaway to the Hudson River Valley

We live in Connecticut, the Hudson River Valley is an easy drive and makes an ideal destination for a late summer getaway for a week or a weekend. You just go out Interstate 84 and then take Route 9 North once you get to Fishkill. Within minutes, you are in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. 

We began our weekend on Friday by having lunch at the Culinary Institute of America. This is something that you have to plan well in advance, actually, months is not a bad idea. Dining here is very popular and if you don't plan ahead you may not get the restaurant of your choice. Before you decide which one you want to dine at, be sure to check the dress code, yes, some of the restaurants have a dress code.

It was August when we were there and we wanted to be able to wear casual clothes so we chose to dine at American Bounty Restaurant. It was one of the highlights of the weekend and I highly recommend that if you are going to be in Hyde Park you plan to dine here.

The Hudson River Valley offers many places to visit. We had to limit ourselves to just a few since we didn't have that much time. Several historic mansions are perfect for a visit. We chose the Vanderbilt Mansion and the Italianate Gardens. The Mansion has a beautiful location on the Hudson River and it is quite interesting to see how the other half lived. It was very hot inside the mansion however so I would recommend a visit in the fall when heat isn't such an issue. The gardens in August were gorgeous.

On Sunday we also visited the Samuel Morse home which was quite interesting as well. Several important homes in the area that we didn't get to include Springwood, FDR's home, and Eleanor Roosevelt's home Val-Kil. We opted to go to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome since one of our friends is more of airplane enthusiasts than a historic homes person. The aerodrome is a great place for the whole family. Not only are there a lot of airplanes on the ground but your ticket gets you a seat at the air show.


If you enjoy shopping, downtown Rhinebeck is lots of fun, there are plenty of small shops to poke around in. On the way home, we also stopped at the Millbrook Vineyard and took a tour through their operation. You get to sample some of their very fine wines as well as learning about the production and bottling of wine.

On this particular trip, the "Inn" I chose was not at all what we were expecting. I would not recommend it however, we have stayed at the Hyatt House in Fishkill and it is a step above most hotels and we just loved the old fashioned charm of the Roosevelt Inn in Hyde Park. 

The Hudson River Valley has a lot to offer any visitor in just about any season. Located just an hour north of New York City it is a little piece of heaven that several famous people obviously recognized.

Monday, July 31, 2017

SpringHill Suites Mooresville, NC

I loved the location of this SpringHill Suites at first sight. It is just a mile off I-77 but is located in a quiet area of small stores and restaurants. It is easy to get in and out of and has been recently renovated. The lobby is very welcoming with a very large breakfast area with a bar where evening drinks can be purchased. A small but well-stocked store is located next to the front desk.

The pool area is very nice. The pool is small and is only 4 feet at the deepest but it is clean. We particularly enjoyed the hot tub which was just the right temperature. One of the benefits of arriving around 3 p.m. is that we were the only ones in the pool area. A small gym is located near the pool area and also a business center.

We reserved a king suite. It is a nice sized room. Actually, it is two rooms. The living room area has a large sofa which is also a sofa bed. There is also a desk where you can work using their free WiFi. On the opposite side of the room are a bar with a Keurig coffee pot, a fridge, sink and a microwave. My only complaint was that there were only two K-cups one regular and one decaf. I asked the desk staff for another one of each so that we could both have a cup of coffee tonight and tomorrow.

The bedroom has the king sized bed and not much else other than night stands and the closet. The bed was very comfortable but even though there were plenty of pillows I was very disappointed that none of them was feather or down. At the price I paid to stay here I expected at least one or two to be down or feather.

The bathroom has the split design with the sink in the hallway outside of the actual bathroom. Nothing special about that just the usual tub shower combo. Good pressure in the shower and it was quite a spacious room.

The TV is located on a dresser which is between the bedroom and the living room and it can swivel so that it can be watched in either room.

Breakfast is included in the rate here. It is substantial. The usual cooked scrambled eggs and sausage with the addition of grits. Ham and two types of cheese were offered as well as yogurt, boiled eggs, fresh strawberries, apples, and bananas. They also had oatmeal with all the fixings and cold cereal. Two types of toast, English muffins, croissant, two types of bagels, poppy cake and another type of coffeecake. Three flavors of juice and coffee round out the offerings.

Several dining options are available within walking distance. We opted for Jeffrey’s and it was excellent.

If you are passing through this area I highly recommend Spring Hill Suites as a stop, it is quiet, clean, comfortable and convenient. What more could you ask?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why staying with family on vacation is a great idea

Vacations are important. They are family times and they also help us to recharge. Hotel rooms can be very expensive especially in the summer. There are times when it would not be possible if it was not for the option to stay with family on vacation. Staying with family on vacation has some really great advantages.

Saving money

The primary one, of course, is that it is very cost effective. With a week at a hotel running anywhere from $700 to well over $2,000, it is extremely cost effective to stay with family. Families also tend to provide most meals, with of course some financial donations from guests and this can be another great saving. You will, of course, want to take your hosts out for a meal and bring a nice thank you gift but still, the savings will be substantial.

Being a good guest is also important. Don’t cause a lot of extra work or expect to be waited on as if you were at a resort. Respect your host’s home and privacy and fit your schedule to theirs. They may not be on vacation and if they have to go to work don’t try to keep them up all hours of the night.

Local expert

The great thing is that your family lives in this area. They will know all the best things to see and do and it is wise to engage them in helping you plan your days. If you are lucky, they will have the time to be able to show you around themselves. Talk to them about what you have planned each day just in case they have made some plans that include you.

Catching up

Vacationing with family is a great chance to catch up. You may not get to see family except at funerals and weddings and this a great opportunity to catch up on all the latest family news and to reminisce about things from the past. This can help forge new family bonds for another generation, especially if you have children of a similar age.

We have been staying in my mother's family home for as long as I can remember. It was my aunt's house in Canada for most of that time and now it belongs to my cousin who welcomes us anytime we want to visit. 


We always consider our home in Florida an open house to any family or friends who want to visit. 

Travel companions

If you are a single traveler, staying with family is not only safe it gives you someone to go out adventuring with. It can be a cousin, your nieces, and nephews or your grandparents or parents. It might be the perfect time to develop a great relationship with your sister or brother in law.

Staying with family can offer many advantages. One thing to keep in mind is the famous quote from Ben Franklin “ Fish and guests stink after 3 days”. Make your visits short and sweet, be a welcome guest who doesn’t inconvenience your hosts and chances are you will be invited back year after year.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Visiting charming Salisbury, NC

The area around Salisbury, N.C. has been populated for hundreds of years. Before the white man arrived, the Native Americans of the Guatari and Sapona Tribes migrated around the area and were discovered here as early as the 16th century by Spanish missionaries. Settlers from other colonies coming north from South Carolina and south from Virginia arrived in the mid-18th century. They were Germans, Scotch/Irish, Welsh, and English. Salisbury itself grew up around the courthouse that was built there, in reverse of the usual process of placing a courthouse in a developed city.

Salisbury has a great history and to learn more about it, the best place to begin any visit is to head to the Rowan Museum. This is a hard museum to pigeonhole, it has a little bit of everything including being in a very historic building. The building that houses the museum is the courthouse. Not the original that lead to the building of the town, but the one from 1854 and a magnificent building it is with beautiful columns and a balcony that offers great views of the town. The fact that the building survived the Civil War is a testament to the citizens of the city of Salisbury. Plan to spend an hour or more touring through the vast number of items housed here.

There are three houses in Salisbury that are worthy of a visit. Two are operated by the Rowan Museum and one is owned by the Historic Salisbury Foundation. 


·         The Old Stone House is located out of town and is a much older house. It was built by a German farmer Michael Braun. It is in amazing condition and the craftsmanship that went into the building is evident to this day. This is the only colonial house still in existence in Rowan County. There is some period furniture in the house and it is amazing how the thick stone walls insulate this home. The family cemetery is a short walk away if you are interested.
·         The Utzman Chambers House is located in the downtown area and dates from the early 19th century. It is vastly different from the Stone House. It is furnished with period furniture and has had a very interesting life which your guide will explain to you. It has had several incarnations and been owned by a number of families. A piece of furniture owned by Daniel Boone is one of the treasures in this house.
·         The Josephus Hall House is very different from the other two homes and costumed docents will show you around. This house looks exactly what you would think an antebellum southern mansion should look like. It is furnished with period furniture and has the feel of a family home.

Salisbury Historic National Cemetery and Military Prison Site
In order to enjoy this part of the history of Salisbury to the fullest, stop by the visitor center and get one of the driving tours. There is a $5 charge for the tour but it is the perfect accompaniment to the drive around. While you are at the visitor center you can pick up brochures and information about other historic sites in the city and check opening times etc. The staff is very helpful and will make sure that you have whatever you need.

In 1861 the Confederate Government purchased land in Salisbury that included an abandoned cotton factory. This would become the base for the prisoner of war camp. In the early days of the war, prisoners could get passes and were often seen around town and it was all very friendly. Later in the war when financial hardship made feeding the troops an issue, the prison became a death camp and it was a place of deprivation and harsh conditions.

A prison that was intended to hold 2,500 was forced to keep up to 10,000 with no supplies and little food. Over the history of the camp about 15,000 men were housed here and it is thought that about one-third of them died here. The prison was burned in April 1865 and no photos remained, but there were sketches and descriptions that exist.

The area where the prison was located is a residential neighborhood today so driving through is just to get a feel for the scope and size of the prison. The real stop will be at the cemetery where the bodies of the men who died in the camp were buried in trenches. It is a poignant place and worth getting out and walking around. There are many state monuments erected to honor the fallen.


North Carolina Transportation Museum
While the transportation museum is in the next town, Spencer, it is so close that it is best added to any article about Salisbury. For train lovers, this is a must and it is a good idea to pre-book your train ride as that is very popular.


Salisbury, N.C. is one of those surprising cities which are so much more interesting when you get there than you ever expected, no matter how much research you have done. The Main Street has great restaurants and shops and there is plenty of antique shopping and a historic rail station. The local visitor center will be happy to provide you with all the information you need for a great vacation.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Best medieval churches in London

The Medieval Period in English history is defined as between the year 800 A.D. and 1500 A.D. The Roman Catholic Church was very active in England during this time and many churches were built during this time period. If you had visited during this period, there would have been perhaps 100 parish churches scattered throughout the city.

Unfortunately, the Great Fire destroyed many of them and some were replaced by lovely church designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Luckily for those who love old original churches, there were a few that survived the Great Fire.

The greatest of these is the magnificent Westminster Abbey. The current building was begun by that great builder King Henry III It was built to house the shrine of Saint Edward, the great Anglo-Saxon King. This abbey is a must visit site not only for those who are religious but for those who want to get close to the history of England. Some of the most important people in English history are either actually buried in the cathedral or memorialized here. Among those actually buried here are the great English poet Geoffrey Chaucer and the equally great Queen Elizabeth I. It is also the final resting place of the Merry Monarch Charles II and Charles Darwin author of The Origins of the Species.


St. Etheldreda Church is one of only two buildings in London that exist from the reign of King Edward I, the son of King Henry III who was the builder of Westminster Abbey. The church was built in 1290 as a chapel for the Bishop of Ely. St Etheldreda is a Roman Catholic Church and as such is the oldest Catholic church in England.

If you are visiting St. Ethelreda’s be sure to look for the memorial stained glass window which commemorates the martyrs who refused to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the church in England, they are three Carthusian monks and two priests. The monks had their charter house nearby on the land that was part of the Bishop of Ely’s land and palace. The church has been beautifully restored and is the site of a priceless relic, the hand of Saint Etheldreda.

The Temple Church is one of the most unusual of the medieval churches that survive in London. It is the church that is located right in the midst of the courts.  The round church is of particular interest having been built in 1185 by the Knights Templar.  Graves with effigies of the knights can still be seen in this church today.  The church was built in the round to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

A visit to these three churches will give you a good taste of what the medieval churches in London were like. They are all very different and give a glimpse into a time and place long past.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A trip through the North Carolina Mountains

Driving through the mountains from Saluda to Tryon, North Carolina is breathtaking. It is downhill and we were reminded strongly of our trip to Alsace and Switzerland of last year. Antique shopping was excellent in this area. We plowed through stores full of all the usual things and a few special things. I even found one piece of my rare, antique china at a very reasonable price. I was a little apprehensive about being viewed as a Yankee, especially in the small towns, but everyone was charming and wanted to know where we were from. Our answer of Connecticut brought on talk of UCONN women's basketball team. Sports, it seems, has bridged the gap between the blue and the gray.

We began our visit with a stop at the Tryon Visitor Center. We were able to get information on local stores, restaurants and even brochures on Biltmore. They had information on not only Tryon but also Landrum and Saluda. 

Biltmore takes the better part of a day to explore. You can tour not only the house but the gardens and vineyard. After you leave the estate, you can shop until you drop in Biltmore Village where the former workers home have been converted into an exciting selection of restaurants, store,s and galleries.


Hendersonville has one of the prettiest main streets I have ever seen. You will feel as if you have stepped back into the 1950s. You can visit the general store, antique malls, gift shops, and a nice selection of pubs, cafes, and restaurants. Plenty of on-street parking is available.

With only 2 days, we had to make some very serious choices. Since the weather was bad on our second day, we opted not to visit Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Another possibility that we passed on was Pearson Falls. What we did was visit the Frog and Hound, a very nice consignment shop located on two floors and a barn in Tryon. I bought a great wicker doll chair that is only slightly used. We then headed for Landrum and spent the morning visiting all the wonderful small shops that line East Rutherford Street. I did some early Christmas shopping so I wouldn’t feel so guilty about spending. One shop had some great airplanes and helicopters made from soda or beer cans.


The highway skirts outside most of these towns. It’s never too far away, and yet you can travel for hours and never have to see it. We took Highway 26 north to Biltmore, which took about 40 minutes. You need a car to travel here. I never saw any form of public transportation. The nearest airport is Greenville, South Carolina. Traveling the back roads has a charm all its own. We never felt rushed and I think we may even have meandered once or twice.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Holiday Inn Express Pittsburgh Airport

When you are flying into or out of the Pittsburgh International Airport there are many hotel choices. The prices can range from the extravagant to the bargain. Somewhere in between, you will find the Holiday Inn Express Pittsburgh Airport. This chain is geared toward business travelers but is actually good for the leisure traveler on the weekends. Your visit here will get off to a good start when you realize that you are not going to have to pay for parking, it's free and there is plenty of it. You can also park and fly from here since they have a shuttle to take you to the airport and then pick you up when you return. It is very easy to find right off the airport access road.

In looks it is your typical Holiday Inn Express, it looks like what it is a chain hotel. Rooms are accessed from interior corridors. The lobby is welcoming with couches and even a fireplace. The staff is helpful and professional and before you know it you will be walking to one of the two elevators. These are located quite a distance from the front desk, more than in any hotel I have ever been to before, but there are two of them. 

The rooms are very nice sized and come with either two queen beds or a king bed. There are also suites that have two rooms with a sofa bed. Club level rooms have a fridge and a microwave and all rooms have a very large work area with chair and free WiFi. You can relax in the comfortable club chair with its own pole lamp. There is a huge closet with mirrored doors that holds the luggage rack as well as an iron and ironing board. There is a coffee pot with several pouches of both regular and decaf coffee.

The bathroom is spacious but has a fiberglass tub. The walls and floor, however, are ceramic tiles. Outside the bathroom, there is a granite vanity with plenty of amenities. The shower has good pressure and there are plenty of towels.

The whole room is done in a very neutral color with a green throw across the beds. The cable TV has lots of channels and movies. On the first floor,  there are vending machines if you need a drink or a snack. Coffee is available in the dining room 24/7.

Included in your room rate is the buffet breakfast. It isn't the best breakfast in the world but there are two flavors of bagels, plain and cinnamon raisin, toast, muffins, coffee, tea, cold cereal, their signature cinnamon buns, scrambled eggs, a pre-made omelet, sausage gravy and biscuits, yogurt and oatmeal you make yourself. You won't go away hungry.

A business center is located in an open space right off the breakfast room that has several computers, a fireplace, and comfortable sofas. It also makes a nice gathering space.

The hotel has an outdoor seasonal pool in the interior courtyard and a health club. It is the perfect hotel for a good stay, close to the airport with a free breakfast. You may not be impressed but you won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Head to McHenry County Illinois

Crystal-clear water, spacious sandy beaches and islands are only 
a few of the special features at Three Oaks Recreation Area.
Go Jump in the Lakes!
of McHenry County, Illinois

McHenry County, Ill. -- Looking for easy and inexpensive ways to have fun with your family this summer? Go jump in a lake!

Nothing does the trick like a day at the beach and luckily, you'll find some of Chicagoland's best sand beaches just a short drive northwest in McHenry County. Check out these ideas! Click on attraction names for more info and driving directions.

Three Oaks Recreation Area, Crystal Lake: This reclaimed quarry has pristine water and a beautiful soft sand beach with certified lifeguards, splash pad with spray jets and buckets of water poured from overhead, playground with memory foam decking, scuba diving, hiking and biking trails, pavilion rentals and picnic area with grills.

The 4,400 sq. ft. Lake House has changing rooms with coin-operated lockers, showers, toilets, first-aid center, free wi-fi, and an overhead pergola where parents can relax and view kids playing on the beach. The Lake House also has a on-site Culver's restaurant providing concessions, but you're welcome to bring in your own food, too.

While personal watercraft are not allowed on the lake, the marina rents row boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, paddle pontoons and sailboats. The marina also sells fishing licenses, night-crawlers and fishing tackle. Open Daily 10 a.m. to sunset though Labor Day. www.crystallake.org/residents/three-oaks-recreation-area

A wakeboarder enjoys a spin around the Quarry Cable Park.

The Quarry Cable Park, Crystal Lake: Quarry Cable Park is a perfect complement to Crystal Lake's Three Oaks Recreation Area, which began life as a gravel pit more than 60 years ago. Now you can enjoy wakeboarding at
this next-generation cable wake park. Cable wakeboarding is similar to wakeboarding behind a boat, but without a boat, riders are pulled along a cable system suspended in the air by a series of towers around the sparkling clear lake dotted with jumps and other features.
After boarding, there's a fire pit, live music, sand volleyball, bean bag toss and open-air yoga to enjoy. New this year is Duke's On the Water. Downtown Crystal Lake's Duke's Alehouse  is proud to announce its partnership with The Quarry Cable Park, serving burgers, sandwiches, salads and comfort foods with indoor and outdoor seating. Open daily 10 a.m. to sunset through Oct. 5. www.thequarrycablepark.com

Crystal Lake Park District Beaches, Crystal Lake: There are two public beaches on crystal-clear Crystal Lake: Main Beach and West Beach. Both have large swimming areas, certified lifeguards, concessions (full service
available at Main Beach), picnic areas, showers, lockers, changing rooms, bike lockups and wheelchairs. Main Beach is open Daily 9 a.m. to sunset through Aug. 11, then weekends 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. though Labor Day. West Beach is open daily 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Aug.11, then weekends 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day. www.crystallakeparks.org/beaches 

Petersen Park Beach, McHenry: Sit back in beach chairs and loungers on this sandy beach on the shores of McCullum Lake. Certified lifeguards secure the swimming area. Beach amenities include two inflatable WiBit tracks on the lake (Wiggle Bridge & Hurdle), sand volleyball courts, sand toys, plus rowboat, paddleboat, canoe, kayak and barracuda bike rentals. Open Daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Aug. 13. www.ci.mchenry.il.us/petersen_park

These two sand beaches on Woods Creek Lake have restrooms, showers, changing rooms, picnic tables, volleyball and grilling in parking lots. Indian Trail Beach has a picnic shelter for rental, too. Open daily sunrise to sunset through Labor Day. www.lith.org/parksrec/page/indian-trail-butch-hagele-beaches

GET AWAY TO McHENRY COUNTY


McHenry County is just a 60-minute drive northwest of Chicago, bordered on the north by Wisconsin, and on the south by I-90. The Fox River winds down from the Chain of Lakes through the towns on the eastern side of the county, while country roads meander the western side. For visitor info, lodging and dining options throughout McHenry County, go to VisitMcHenryCounty.com, e-mail info@VisitMcHenryCounty.com, or phone 815-893-6280. Follow on Instagram and Facebook @visitmchenrycounty. For a free digital McHenry County 2017/2018 Insiders Guide, click here:  VisitMcHenryCounty.com/Request-Information.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Summer in Charlottesville and Albemarle County

CHARLOTTESVILLE & ALBEMARLE COUNTY CELEBRATES THE SUMMER SEASON WITH A VARIETY OF FUN FESTIVALS AND CELEBRATIONS 

Summer is all about the arts and agriculture with events such as the Heritage Theater Festival, Charlottesville Opera, the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival, the Albemarle County Fair and more Charlottesville, VA  – The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau (CACVB) invites visitors and locals alike to take part in an array of fun festivals and events this summer. 

Theater lovers are in for another treat this summer as the 43rd edition of the Heritage Theater Festival (HTF) kicks off for an exciting six-show season, with performances taking place from late June through early August. Since 1974, the HTF has been in residence during the summer months as the University of Virginia’s professional theater. This season features a mix of fan-favorites, including Middletown, Woody Guthrie’s American Song, Chapatti, Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery, Company, and a special performance of Barry Lubin as “Grandma.” A full performance schedule and ticket options can be found at http://heritagetheatre.virginia.edu/. 

Another popular event taking place this summer is an old favorite, operating under a new name. The Charlottesville Opera (previously the Ash Lawn Opera) will celebrate its 40th season this summer and treat music lovers to the melodic sounds of Rigoletto and Oklahoma! at the historic Paramount Theater on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall throughout the month of July into early August. Rigoletto shares the tragic story of a father whose attempts to protect his daughter from the dangers of the world ultimately cause her ruin, while Oklahoma! is a charming musical that portrays the rivalry between a small town’s farmers and cowboys. Featuring a cast of nationally-acclaimed performers, the 40th season of the Charlottesville Opera is sure to delight music aficionados far and wide. For a complete list of the schedule, complete with dates and times, visit https://www.charlottesvilleopera.org/. 

The Albemarle County Fair will be held August 3 - 5 on the beautiful historic site of James Monroe’s Highland. A fun and festive “Old-Time Country Fair,” the 2017 Albemarle County Fair will be a three-day agricultural celebration, complete with farm animals, exhibits, baked goods, crafts, family entertainment, 4-H events, livestock, and grand old-time country fun! The programs strive to provide wholesome entertainment and activities that emphasize the deep human, natural, and agricultural resources of Central Virginia. Visit http://www.albemarlecountyfair.com/ for more information about this year’s event.

Beer lovers can expect to sample a wide variety of carbonated concoctions at the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, taking place at IX Art Park in downtown Charlottesville on August 19. This event will be hosted by Three Notch’d Brewing Company and is the only sanctioned event of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. More than 100 breweries from all across Virginia will be on hand to serve tastings from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. This is a family-friendly festival, with designated driver ticket options to make sure all guests are able to enjoy their experience. In addition to plenty of bubbly brews, attendees can also expect delicious culinary options from many of the area’s best food trucks. To find out more information about the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, visit http://vacraftbrewersfest.com/.

Several popular music events will continue through the summer months. The ever-popular and family-friendly event Fridays After Five will feature local bands each and every Friday afternoon through early September at the Sprint Pavilion located on the east end of the Downtown Mall. This event is free and open to the public. Visitors and locals alike can also continue to enjoy Tuesday Tunes, a five-part series of sunset concerts that takes place on select Tuesday evenings at Highland, the former home of President James Monroe. More information about the Tuesday Tunes schedule and ticket prices can be found at http://highland.org/events/. Music lovers can also enjoy the Thursday Evening Sunset Series which takes place every Thursday evening at Carter Mountain Orchard through late September. Attendees can partake in live music, plus food, wine, and hard cider options are available for purchase. More details about this summer concert series can be found at http://chilesfamilyorchards.com/carter-mountain-orchard/visit/thursday-evening-sunsetseries/. 

Additionally, Charlottesville & Albemarle County will host several events to celebrate our nation’s independence for the 4th of July holiday. Popular events include the 55th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the Patriotism in the Park fireworks show at McIntire Park in Charlottesville, plus the Crozet Independence Day Parade & Celebration complete with fireworks in Albemarle County. Scottsville will also be hosting 4th of July festivities including a parade in the morning, followed by fireworks over the James River in the evening. For travel information, packages and hotel room reservations, and a complete calendar of events, please visit the official destination website for Charlottesville and Albemarle County www.visitcharlottesville.org  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Websites to help plan your Rhode Island vacation

Rhode Island may be the smallest of the states but it is certainly not short on interesting things to see and do. When you are planning to visit the Ocean State you will want to use the Internet to find the best Rhode Island travel websites. Here are a few of the best.


Visit Rhode Island



Visit Rhode Island is the official travel website of the state of Rhode Island. It is a straight forward site with one picture but no slide show. The right center of the home page is filled with links to things that are going on in the immediate future in the arts. To the far right, is a calendar where you can plug in the dates that you will be visiting and it will tell you what will be going on. It covers the arts but also sports and just about anything that you might want to see, hear or do.

The left half of the center of the home page is Discovery. It includes heritage trails, nature trails, start pedaling and get natural. By clicking on the links you can go to new pages with lots of additional options. Heritage trails offer 16 additional trails for you to travel around Rhode Island. Number 16 trail is Farm Trail and is a great page filled with information about farms in the state. Beyond just the farm information there are sections called Off the Trail, Trail Mix and Learning Curve. These offer some additional information of a very fascinating nature.

Back on the home page to the far left are links to Stay, Do, See, Eat and Plan. By clicking on any of them you will go on to a new page. By choosing plan, you get access to the Trip Planner that will allow you to put all your favorites into the planner as well as telling you what will be going on during your trip. You do need to register to use the travel planner but this way you can save everything that interests you.

Overall this is a very good website that can give you all the information you need to plan the perfect trip to Rhode Island.


South County Rhode Island



The South County Rhode Island website is brought to you by the South County Tourism Council. South County has over 100 miles of beaches and includes among others the towns of Charlestown, Westerly, East Greenwich and Narragansett. It is an area of great natural beauty and lots of historical significance.

The home page of this website offers four picture slideshows and also upcoming events. There are also links to What to do, Where to Stay, Weddings, Packages, Group Tours and a photo tour. If you click on What to Do, you get access to another page where just about anything you would want to know about South will be offered as a link. There are in total twelve additional links to things such as restaurants, family fun and arts and culture. The Family Fun section has a huge list of places of interests to families.

This is a very good website with a comprehensive selection of information about South County, Rhode Island.


Visit Rhode Island-state



Visit Rhode Island is part of the larger site Visit New England. It has the usual slide show of pictures which includes the gondolas on the river in Providence. Like all the other sections of the website it has links to things to do in Rhode Island, in this case, 60 things. It is divided into six areas of the state, Blackstone Valley, Block Island, Providence/Warwick, East Bay, Newport and South County.

Clicking on any of these links will bring up a list of things to do. This is a really fun part of this website. The things that are suggested go beyond just the obvious to the more interesting.

This is a very easy website to use and if you are planning a trip to New England and other states besides Rhode Island you have one travel website that can literally do it all.



When you are planning a trip to Rhode Island, the best travel websites will help you to find all the information that you need and also help you to create a travel planner to make you trip the perfect one for you.