6 Reasons You Should Visit Paros This Summer

Paros, one of the many Greek Islands, is often neglected outside of Greece and the average tourism agency does not push it as hard as other destinations, though it is certainly worth a look. Even if it’s less well-known, this beautiful island and the luxurious villas are worth visiting, either on their own or as More »

California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

It’s time to make a journey and the destination this time is called Orlando, a space full of fun that attracts millions of people during the whole year due to it’s famous parks, places like Disney World, Universal Studio or the Cabo Discovery will keep you busy all day long. Start by looking for a More »

Tag Archives: seasonal travel

Thousands flock to Aria for glitzy unveiling

Visitors by the thousand streamed into the newest casino-resort on the Las Vegas strip early Thursday, an influx that casino officials hope will help yank Sin City from its two-year economic funk.

Fireworks and fanfare inaugurated the official launch of the Aria Resort Casino, the 4,000-room, 61-story centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter complex. Crowds began swarming through the doors around midnight, welcomed with cheers and dozens of photographers snapping pictures. Models stood at aisleways and casino executives greeted guests, and hundreds got a preview of an Elvis-themed Cirque du Soleil show to debut in February.

“It’s beautiful,” said 73-year-old retiree Bernard Bouley of Saint Jerome, Canada, about 30 miles from Montreal.

Bouley waited for the opening with a friend in a small park outside the Crystals mall, peering inside the doors to Aria’s lobby and glancing at the colorful fountains outside the resort’s main valet.

MGM Mirage CEO Jim Murren said that while many experts thought CityCenter would never open, its employees drove the company to make sure it carried through on grand design.

“It was because of (the employees) that we got here, and the promise of 12,000 people that wanted to work hard to provide for their families,” Murren told The Associated Press. “It was that promise — that we didn’t want to let them down — that got us here.”

About 5,000 VIPs began entering Aria after 6 p.m. for a gala, greeted by smiling cocktail servers with trays of Dom Perignon champagne and displays of hors d’oeuvres of caviar, seafood and other savory treats.

“This is really 21st century Las Vegas,” said architect Cesar Pelli, whose team designed Aria. “This is really setting up very high standards that will be very hard to match — but I hope they will try.”

Earlier Wednesday, CityCenter owners MGM Mirage and Dubai World thanked architects, employees and each other at a morning ceremony.

Murren, flanked by executives and employees of the Las Vegas-based company, then rang a bell used for prizefights at the MGM Grand to remotely close the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of MGM Mirage were unchanged at $10.35 Wednesday.

A Nevada gambling regulator last month likened CityCenter’s development to a 12-round boxing match, with the opening signifying its midpoint.

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“I think clearly that that was the seventh-round bell. Our foe is weakening,” Murren told the AP after hammering the bell 56 times. “Our foe — the economy, the recession, the financial crisis — our opponent is now the one that’s close to its knees, and we’re just gaining momentum and gaining strength.”

As CityCenter begins operating, it’s now up to its 12,000 employees to deliver an entertaining, exciting environment that makes guest want to keep coming back, Murren said.

Aria’s rooms, along with those at CityCenter’s Mandarin Oriental and Vdara hotels, increase room capacity on the Las Vegas Strip by 8.5 percent, UBS Investment Research analyst Robin Farley said.

Murren said investors have wondered whether CityCenter would finish, and now they want to know whether it can be successful in this economy without cannibalizing its other resorts.

Like many other businesses, the Las Vegas gambling industry has been hit by the economic downturn. Casino officials are hoping the Aria with its size and glamour can help put customers back in the game.

Video: Aria brings CityCenter to life

MGM Mirage owns the most casinos on the Strip, but Murren believes CityCenter will help, not hurt, the company’s other resorts.

The room increase has competitors worried, as visitation to Las Vegas has decreased in the past two years as consumers spent less time and money traveling and gambling.

On Tuesday, a representative of the venerable Sahara hotel-casino less than three miles from CityCenter said it would shutter two of its towers until demand improves. A day earlier, Binion’s Gambling Hall Hotel in downtown Las Vegas closed its 365 guest rooms and cut 100 jobs to cut costs.

Competitors worry that CityCenter brings immediate pressure to lower room rates to keep hotels filled. But Murren and other MGM Mirage officials predict CityCenter will help Las Vegas as a whole, spurring visitation and bringing a catalyst for long-term prosperity.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Small resorts go after big-time competitors

Courtesy Taos Ski Valley

Unlike many of its bigger competitors in Colorado and elsewhere around the West, Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico has plenty of snow.

With bleak snowfall at Colorado’s biggest ski resorts, the nation’s smaller ski areas are moving in for the kill — and tourist dollars.

Big Sky Resort in Montana has offered free skiing to anyone who bought an Epic Ski Pass good for Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts. And Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico has offered discounted lift tickets to Vail season pass holders as well.

“We kept hearing how dismal the snow in Colorado was so we said, ‘Let’s share the love and let’s get people up here,’ ” said Chad Jones, spokesman for Big Sky Resorts, which has 3,000 acres of skiing open, a healthy 52-inch base and an average of 2,000 skiers a day. The ski area introduced the offer to Epic Ski Pass holders on Tuesday.

The same day, executives at Taos Ski Valley offered $15 off $75 adult lift tickets to Colorado season pass holders. When California skiers grumbled about it on Facebook, the ski area offered the deal to any ski pass holders from anywhere in the country.

This year, 103 inches of snow has fallen at Taos, providing a solid 62-inch base at the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, Vail Mountain, the world’s largest ski area, has a dismal 18-inch base and for the first time in 30 years, the resort has not been able to open its back bowls.

“This is a good time to show people how great the mountain is,” said Adriana Blake, Taos Ski Valley marketing director and a third-generation family owner of the ski area.  “We think once they come down here, we’ll hook them.”

Call it snow equity, said Ralf Garrison, director and senior industry analyst at the Mountain Travel Research Program in Colorado. Snow has become a strategic part of resort marketing. Smaller resorts want to get on the map, positioning themselves as an alternative to major ski areas.


Take a visual tour of some of the most popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America — and beyond.

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“The goal is not just to attract pass holders but impressing someone in New York who is booking a week-long vacation,” Garrison said. “That is the pot of gold.”

Expect even more offers as the season progresses: Snowfall is not expected to improve dramatically for much of the West anytime soon, according to AccuWeather.com.

By this time last year, 90 percent of Western ski areas had achieved higher-than average snowfall, said Ken Clark, senior meteorologist for AccuWeather. This year that same percent of ski areas is well below normal levels.

“The difference is like night and day,” Clark said. “There is really no chance of having any kind of more normal conditions in the foreseeable future.”

The new snow marketing by smaller ski areas does not ruffle Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, which owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts in Colorado and Heavenly Ski Area and Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada.

Katz retweeted the Big Sky Resort offer to his 2,737 Twitter followers because he thinks the ski-free deal makes the Epic Ski Pass even more valuable. “If everyone offered free-ski days I would be thrilled,” he said.

Katz says destination travelers still want something more than just deep snow. They want shopping, restaurants, ice skating, tubing and festivals found at larger resorts. Despite the conditions, lift ticket and ski school revenue are both up this ski season over last year for Vail Resorts, he said.

“Is the snow worse this year than last year? Of course,” said Katz. “There is no question that it hurts but it’s not total doom and gloom.”

Liu Jin / AFP – Getty Images

Winter has arrived in the Northern hemisphere. Take in the sights from North America, Europe and Asia.

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9 odd New Year’s Eve ball drops

Courtesy of Walleye Madness at Midnight

The town of Port Clinton, Ohio, celebrates New Year’s Eve with a 20-foot, 600-pound walleye.

When it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve with the kids, family-friendly events may be a little difficult to come by during a celebration that seems to revolve around champagne. Boston led the way for First Night celebrations with the very first First Night held in 1976. The New Year’s Eve event banned alcohol, ensuring the countdown to midnight was family friendly. By 2006, more than a million attended the city’s First Night Celebration. Today, First Night in Boston features fireworks at midnight over Boston Harbor, among citywide attractions. Other notable First Night cities include historic Old Town Alexandria, Va., Pittsburgh, Pa., Providence, R.I., and Bethlehem, Pa.

Still, there are other ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve: finding the most unusual ball drop possible. Forget Times Square’s ball drop, we have PEEPs, acorns, peaches, conch shells and kisses! Take a look at these, shall we say, more interesting, New Year’s Eve ball drops:

Peach Drop

For Georgia Peaches and anyone else looking to enjoy New Year’s Eve in the South, Atlanta‘s Peach Drop is the party to attend. The 800-pound peach is dropped annually in Atlanta’s Underground, after a full day’s fun. The Family Fun Budding Peach Stage provides carnival-style rides, face painting, musical performances and more from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All day and night, live music is performed in Kenny’s Alley, with big screen TVs playing the Chick-Fil-A-Bowl before the evening festivities. This year, the band Kansas is the headliner of the night.


Bethlehem, Pa., may better be known as Christmas City USA, but it’s also the home of Just Born Inc., the makers of PEEPS, those sugar-marshmallow concoctions that make their way to stores at Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Bethlehem’s New Year’s Eve celebration incorporates the famous treat maker’s PEEPS with its New Year’s Eve 25-pound fiberglass PEEP Drop. Families can enjoy PEEPS Fest from noon to 5 p.m. with live music, arts and crafts, S’mores, photos with the PEEPS Chick, movies and more. Bethlehem also offers a Family New Year’s Eve Party from 1 to 3 p.m. at Musikfest Cafe with a kid-friendly DJ, crafts, face painting and bounce house.

Kiss Drop

Hershey, Pa., home of Hershey Chocolate, celebrates New Year’s Eve with a giant Hershey Kiss drop at midnight. The free event takes place 9 p.m. to midnight at the Square in Hershey, with family-friendly musical performances (a Nickelodeon star will be performing this year) leading up to the drop. Once the giant kiss drops, fireworks top off the celebration. The event is non-alcoholic, and vendors will be on hand all night with snack options.

Beachball Drop

Life’s always a beach on the Florida Panhandle‘s Panama City Beach. What else do you drop on a New Year’s Eve but a giant beachball? The event takes place at Pier Park and features an 800-pound beach ball made of Waterford Crystal. The fourth annual drop features a family celebration from 5:30 to 8 p.m. with family performance and ending with an inflated beach ball drop and fireworks. For those old enough to stay out later, more music, fireworks and the official beachball drop occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Acorn Drop

In Raleigh, N.C., forget the ball drop, it’s a 1,200-pound copper acorn that welcomes in the New Year! The New Year’s Eve festivities begins at 2 p.m. with children’s celebration, followed by the People’s Procession of costumed people with puppets marching down Fayetteville Street at 6 p.m. Knowing little ones can’t stay awake until midnight, the town drops the acorn at 7 p.m. for an early children’s countdown, and then again at midnight for the purists.

Crab Drop

Maryland is known for crabs and in Easton, Md., the end of the year is celebrated with a giant crab. The event is part of First Night Talbot (County) and includes a family drop at 9 p.m., reminding families that 9 p.m. is actually midnight in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and Easton is located in the mid-Atlantic. (Get it?) A second drop occurs at midnight, with the papier mache, steel-reinforced crab meant to look like the area’s famed blue crabs.

Pickle Drop

Way back during World War II, bombardiers claimed to be so accurate that they could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel. This gave the Mt. Olive Pickle Company the brilliant idea of hosting a New Year’s Eve Pickle Drop. The lighted green pickle is dropped at 7 p.m., which is midnight Greenwich Mean Time, so it’s perfect for families who can make their way to Mount Olive, N.C., for the event.

Bologna Drop

Lebanon’s bologna may not have a famous first name, but the Pennsylvania city has been making bologna for generations. As home to Weaver’s Bologna, since 1885 Lebanon celebrates New Year’s Eve with an annual bologna drop. The 12-foot-long, 150-pound bologna is actually the real deal it’s literally bologna! Located just two hours from Philadelphia, the Lebanon event runs 10:30 a.m. to midnight with a number of events and entertainment to entertain the family.

Fish Drop

The small town of Port Clinton, Ohio, has landed in the public eye for its New Year’s Eve celebration featuring a 20-foot, 600-pound walleye fish. The entire town goes gaga for walleye with restaurants serving up special dishes and a local winery creating a Walleye White. Events begin at 6 p.m. with a kids drop in the Family Fun Center, followed by games, music and a huge rock-paper-scissors contest! Even after 10 p.m., musicians are family-friendly, and after “Wylie” the Walleye fish is dropped, fireworks end the party.

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World’s most traditional holiday foods

Jun Belen / Getty Images

In the Philippines, bibingka is a Christmas breakfast pastry of rice flour and coconut milk that’s baked in banana leaf–lined terracotta pots, topped with kesong puti (local white cheese), grated coconut and sometimes even salted duck egg.

Long before you sit down to Christmas dinner in Ethiopia, preparations are under way. Farmers buy lambs early to fatten them up for yebeg wot, the thick, buttery berbere-spiced stew that locals know and expect.

Slideshow: See what’s eaten where for the holidays

After all, holiday meals are judged by a different set of standards than any other kind. You may like your dish dry because that’s what pleased you as a child. Memory is the juicier thing. Such sentimentality is a shared global matter, but food traditions are decidedly local — and reveal much about a destination.

The same old, same old won’t necessarily be available abroad, so if you’re leaving home for the holidays, embrace the opportunity to savor the season as celebrated in another part of the world. Every place has specialties, prepared with love and idiosyncrasies similar to your own.

In Quebec, the thing is tourtière, a meat pie. Maybe the crust on the one you’ll eat will be slightly burned to pay homage to the baker’s favorite uncle. There should be quirks. If you’re eating Jansson’s temptation in Sweden, perhaps it’s a version of the casserole with extra cream because one year, way back, some kid knocked the whole bottle in and, hell, it worked.

In Japan, it just wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without eating a plate of stretchy buckwheat noodles to bring prosperity and ensure a long life. The longer the noodles, the better. Visitors can join in this age-old ritual at Tokyo’s Washoku En, among countless options.

The urge, just about everywhere on Earth, is to eat what you’ve always eaten for the holidays and just as you’ve always eaten it. The quality of a dish is never measured in objective terms. Technique? Taste? Presentation? It hardly matters. The question, globally, is how does the food make you feel?

Fortunate is probably the optimal answer. To come back to the same table and appreciate the same flavors with the same people — whether it’s curry devil on Boxing Day in Singapore, or that thing that’s been in your family since long before you have — is the benchmark of the season. Repetition, this time of year, is exactly the point.

But if you’re away from your own traditions, we bet the local ones, wherever you are, will make you feel just as sated — and may even inspire you to introduce a new dish back at home.

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7 cool Santa sightings for kids

Courtesy of Spencer County Visitors Bureau

In the town of Santa Claus, Ind., the Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2-mile stretch of enjoyment located inside Lake Rudolph Campground RV Resort.

Don’t worry about missing Santa if you’re traveling over the holidays. St. Nick is making extra efforts this year to reach his pint-sized admirers by showing up on skis, trains, boats and more. These unusual Santa meet-and-greet experiences offer more than just the chance to report good behavior and make special gift requests!

1. Santa’s Workshop, Colorado

This North Pole is actually at the foot of Pikes Peak in Cascade, Colo., and it’s where you’ll find Santa’s Workshop, a Christmas-themed family amusement park with more than two dozen rides, games, shows, shops, eateries, a petting zoo and an arcade. At the village center you can touch the ice-covered North Pole. You might catch Santa riding the miniature train, antique carousel or aerial tram, but a visit is guaranteed in Santa’s House. A fire pit for roasting marshmallows was recently installed, and Santa has been known to stop by there as well.

2. North Pole Experience, Arizona

In the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, you can help elves build toys in Santa’s workshop. During the North Pole Experience in Greer, Ariz., visitors begin with dinner at Molly Butlers Ski Lodge, then travel through a magic portal aboard the Candy Cane Express trolley to reach the workshop. After attending Elf University and seeing Santa’s Toy Invention Hall of Fame, kids sit in on story time with Mrs. Claus and then meet her hubby. Lodge packages are available to make it an overnight stay.

3. Santa Claus, Indiana

You can find Santa’s spirit throughout the town named for him: Santa Claus, Ind. You’ll find Claus at his usual haunts, including the Santa Claus Christmas Store and Santa’s Candy Castle. You can also have dinner with him and the missus at Santa’s Lodge. After dark, families enjoy driving through the 1.2-mile Land of Lights “Family Christmas Light Adventure” to learn the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. At the top of every hour, “Santa’s Great Big LED Tree of Lights” illuminates Kringle Place Shopping Center. While you’re there, send your mail from the local post office for the official Santa Claus postmark.

4. The Polar Express

You can ride The Polar Express on several railways this season. The evening excursion typically includes storytelling, carols and refreshments before stopping to meet Santa at the North Pole. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad departs from Bryson City, N.C.; Grand Canyon Railway runs from the Williams Depot in Ariz.; the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad rolls out from Durango, Colo.; and the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers departures from both Akron and Independence, Ohio.

5. Skiing the Slopes

No stranger to snow, Santa can be found skiing the slopes at several resorts this season. A Claus crowd cuts up Canyon Resort in Park City, Utah on Dec. 17, when it’s “Santa Skis Free Day” and the first 50 guests in costume get a free lift ticket. At the Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington, Santa shows up on the beginner and intermediate runs on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, passing out candy and taking runs with families. On Christmas Day, he’ll also ski with guests at the Moonlight Basin resort in Big Sky, Mont., and at Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, Mich.

6. In and Around Atlanta

“SCUBA Claus” gets suited up at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, then plunges into the world’s largest aquatic habitat, Ocean Voyager, to swim with whale sharks and manta rays. Following these daily shows, Santa meets kids in Holiday Bay. At Stone Mountain Park, the annual Christmas celebration includes a nightly parade with Santa as well as the Snow Angel, who flies over the crowd before the fireworks finale. Visitors to historic Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., can meet Santa in the Christmas Village every day through Dec. 24; then enjoy the “Fantasy in Lights” show with eight million lights.

7. Stylish Arrivals

In Asheville, N.C., Santa will rappel down the 315-ft Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park on Dec. 10. Families are invited to watch Santa’s daring climb and go to the top themselves to check out the 75-mile panoramic views. In the Florida Keys, Santa floats by in the lighted boat parades in Largo’s Blackwater Sound and Key West Harbor on Dec. 10 and in Key Colony Beach in Marathon on Dec. 11. Santa sails into Waikiki, Hawaii, in an outrigger canoe on Dec. 10, greeted by children performing hula. Afterward, he’ll take pictures with his fans in the lobby of the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach hotel.

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