Where to Spend New Year's Eve

December 30 2008 by Julie Drossos
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newyears2009.jpgEarlier this month the daily question was, "have you finished your Christmas shopping?" I've always found this question to be quite annoying but it seems to be the standard early-December conversation starter or "small talk" standby. As Christmas passes and we approach year-end, another equally (if not more) annoying question seems to come up - "what are you guys doing for new years?"

Personally, New Year's Eve has never been a huge deal to me. I've happily spent many a low-key New Year's Eve at home with my husband, a bottle of champagne and Dick Clark (or is it Ryan Seacrest now?!). Despite my non-excitement over New Year's Eve, I do have a lot of friends who are HUGE New Year's people. These people live for this momentous occasion. They start researching potential plans months in advance and approach December 31 with high hopes of an unforgettable, over-the-top night of celebration. And so, after a quick survey of these friends - these full-on New Year's Eve buffs - I can recommend four New Year's Eve experiences that sound like a guaranteed good time.

Orlando, Florida - Universal Studio's City Walk
I last visited Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida at the young age of 8... and boy, have things changed since then. Now "Universal Resort", this shrine of amusement and action movies has exploded into much more than a theme park. Universal City Walk is a Mecca of dining and entertainment. City walk spans 30-acres full of live music, dancing, shopping, movies and excellent dining options that will appeal to all ages and budgets. For New Year's Eve, they're "takin the party to the streets" - with live performances by the Doobie Brothers, entertainment in all of their clubs including Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville (for all your Parrotheads), Bob Marley - A Tribute to Freedom, Latin Quarter and the Red Coconut Club (to name just a few). Included in the ticket price of $119.99 is all-you-can-eat gourmet food, a champagne toast, party hats and noisemakers. This event will be fun for all ages and a great way to take in a lot of action in one location. With varying entertainers and dining options at your fingertips there will be something to keep everyone entertained.

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Adventures that Require Zero Vacation Days

December 29 2008 by Neal Mueller
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NoVacationDays.jpgAs the adventure columnist for Best Western it's basically my "job" to encourage you all to live your dreams and be as adventuresome as possible. That is all well and good, but some of you have shared some practical matters with me, like a lack of vacation. You've told me that you it's just not a practical reality for you to take 4 weeks vacation and go trekking in Tibet or cycling in France.

Here are five adventures that will help you free your adventuresome spirit within the practical constraints of your jobby job.

#1 The Athletic Adventure: Swim to Alcatraz and back by 9 am (San Francisco residents only).

The Southend Rowing Club hosts a roundtrip swim to Alcatraz every Tuesday morning at 6 am. It's for conditioned swimmers only who are also members, but in my experience it doesn't take more than a few months of conditioning for most swimmers to get to this point. Participants finish in time for 9 am meetings. What a way to start off the day! And best yet, this adventure this takes zero vacation.

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My Favorite Boston Experiences

December 26 2008 by Karla Henriquez
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CityScape.jpgThere is so much to do in Boston! I've been there a few times, so friends and family often ask me what to do when they visit this historic city. I decided I'd create a list of my favorite experiences to share with them, and then ask them to add to the list if they discover something new! Here's my list:

1. I never thought I'd recommend a line on the sidewalk as a must-do, but one of the coolest things I've ever done is to follow such a line from Boston Common to Bunker Hill. This two-and-a-half mile path is Boston's Freedom Trail, and it's worth going to Boston just to experience it, which is why it's at the top of my list (the rest of the list is not in rank order). Here's a sample of what lies along the trail:

  • Park Street Church, where the song "America" was sung in public for the first time

  • The final resting places of Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams

  • The site of the first public school

  • Old South Meetinghouse, where Samuel Adams gave the signal that it was time to dump the tea into the harbor

  • The birthplace of Ben Franklin at 17 Milk Street

  • Boston Harbor, where rebellious colonials hosted what is probably the most famous tea party in history

  • Quincy Market, where you still go to buy food, although these days its take-out restaurant food

  • The Oyster House, where Daniel Webster regularly sat down to eat about three-dozen oysters, washed down by six glasses of brandy

  • Italian restaurants and bakeries in the North End

  • Paul Revere's home and Old North church, where his lanterns shone to warn that the British were coming by sea

  • The site of a molasses flood

  • The U.S.S. Constitution, also known as "Old Ironsides"

  • Bunker Hill, the site of the first real battle of the Revolutionary War

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Perfect Timing

December 24 2008 by Chris McGinnis

PerfectTime.jpgThey say timing is everything, and that's especially true when it comes to saving money on business travel. Granted, many business travelers have little control over the timing of their trips. When clients (or your boss) call, you go. Period.

However, there are times when you can plan ahead. And if you travel during the following slower periods, you'll save big bucks over the coming year. So get out your 2009 calendar and consider hitting the road during the following slow periods:

January: After the holiday rush, demand for travel falls precipitously and so do prices. In the travel business, the two to three weeks after New Years are called "dead weeks," and you'll find deep discounts nearly everywhere. Warning: This is a time when many hotels schedule repairs and renovations, so be sure to ask for a room away from such activity when you check in.

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Next Destination: Killington, Vermont

December 22 2008 by Karla Henriquez
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killingtonvermont.jpgI was rummaging in a closet last night when I saw my ski jacket, helmet, goggles, and mittens. I only used them one winter--it was the last one I spent in Utah, when I finally decided to pay for ski lessons and find out what all the fuss was about. I loved it and was looking forward to getting a season pass to my local ski resort again the next winter. I was also determined to become a proficient enough skier to keep up with my husband for a few runs--he's been skiing almost as long as he's been walking.

Then we moved to the Northeast and I haven't skied again. The first year we were here, I was holding out for a trip back west so I could practice on familiar snow--the trip happened, but the skiing didn't. Then last winter, I was in the third trimester of pregnancy...so downhill skiing was not really an option.

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Destination Marathons

December 19 2008 by Neal Mueller
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DesitinationMarathons.jpgThere is a whole wave of people who are using marathons as launch pads for mini vacations. They sign-up for a race in a city they want to visit and invite their friends and family to join them and cheer them on. Bada Bing, a group vacation with a purpose!

Here's are some destination marathons to get your imagination running...

Las Vegas - Vegas Marathon
New York - New York Marathon
Orlando - Disney Marathon
Los Angeles - LA Marathon
San Francisco - Nike Women's Marathon
Boston - Boston Marathon
China - Great Wall of China Marathon
Nepal - Mount Everest Marathon
Berlin - Berlin Marathon

Got another destination marathon in mind? Please share your additions in the comments!

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It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas - Festivals to Put You in the Holiday Mood

December 18 2008 by Julie Drossos

HolidayFestivals.jpgBranson, Missouri: Christmas Festival at Silver Dollar City
You may not have heard of Branson, but it's a gem of a town located in Missouri, and at this time of year, it plays host to "An Old Time Christmas" at Silver Dollar City, a spectacular holiday light show which was named one of the world's Top Holiday Destinations by CNN.com.

A very family-oriented festival, one of the main highlights is their five-story Christmas tree. There's a tree lighting celebration every night at 5:30 pm. No ordinary tree, this one twinkles and dances along with over a million lights throughout the city's square. There's also the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade which travels through the streets twice each evening.

If you're in the mood for some holiday theatre, you can take in an original musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This is the grandest production ever showcased at Silver Dollar City, and features 14 talented actors and a live band.

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Pointing to the Positive

December 17 2008 by Chris McGinnis
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positive_smile.jpgI've had it with all the doom and gloom. It's the holidays. This should be a happy time. So with that in mind, let's focus on the silver lining surrounding all those dark economic clouds...

First off, if you are reading this blog, it's likely you are still employed and still have a travel budget. That's great news considering the current flurry of pink slips seems heavier than the season's first snow flurries.

Have you noticed that nearly everyone in the travel space seems to be in a better mood these days? I think this is because the pressure is off--- the decline in traveler volume means that everyone can sit back, take a breath, and remember that its not all about the number of heads in beds or butts in seats, but it's about customer service.

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Hall of, err, Fame?

December 15 2008 by Mike Mason

HallofFame.jpgAlmost everyone has heard of Cooperstown, Canton, and Cleveland as primo Hall of Fame destinations, but what about the Trap Shooting Hall of Fame in Vandalia, Ohio?

Honestly, I don't even know what trap shooting is exactly, but they've got 150 people who were pretty good at it featured in the museum. Here is a salute to other Hall of Fames, less known perhaps, but just as, er..famed?

Cowgirl Hall of Fame, Fort Worth Texas
Yeehaa! I'm not much country, but this seems pretty cool and I can bet sure as shootin', that my little girls would love to visit this place. Inductees include Sacajawea, Laura Ingles Wilder, Patsy Cline, and Prairie Rose Henderson (let's face it, if your name is Prairie Rose, you probably have a slight advantage getting in).

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Swimming Adventures

December 12 2008 by Neal Mueller

SwimmingAdventures.jpgThere is a whole movement of people who are discovering that swimming in nature's water beats swimming in chlorinated pool water. I recently got into open water swimming, and have spent a lot of my recent vacation time traveling to various places to swim in bays, lakes, channels and rivers.

Swimming is the only fitness activity that invokes every muscle in your body--the only full body workout. It's also a very efficient and joint-friendly way to get fit. Water is 900 times denser than air, and to me this makes the act of swimming feel like I am overcoming something tangibly difficult. It's addictive in a wonderfully healthy way.
Here's a list of audacious swims to jump into, starting with the Everest of swims:

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An Innsider's Look at Charleston, South Carolina

December 11 2008 by BW Innsider

William Richards, III, CHA, General Manager, Best Western Sweetgrass Inn

SouthCarolinaCharleston.jpgCharleston is a beautiful city that is frequented regularly by some and considered a hidden gem by others. A combination of history, southern culture, shopping, beaches, and restaurants make Charleston a perfect destination to relax and escape. For those located in the east and southeast parts of the US, Charleston also makes an ideal weekend getaway destination. Here's the Innsider scoop from Best Western - Sweetgrass Inn when paying a visit to Charleston:

Touch History
The city of Charleston offers a unique look into the Revolutionary and Civil War eras, offering locations tied to both historical events. Touch a bit of history and spend your day touring historic homes, shopping along King Street, strolling through the historic Market District or take one of the many tours available including harbor tours with a stop at Fort Sumter.

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Who Knows?

December 10 2008 by Chris McGinnis
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whoknows.jpgEvery year at about this time, pundits and prognosticators produce their annual outlooks for the coming year. And since blogging is the newest form of punditry and prognostication, here's what your favorite business travel blogger is seeing in his crystal ball for 2009.

Lower prices: Declines in demand along with tanking jet fuel prices will result in some of the lowest airfares we have seen since 9/11. If you've got business trips scheduled for January, typically one of the slowest months of the year for travel, you'll enjoy astonishingly low airfares, hotel and rental car rates. If you're driving, gas prices will almost certainly stay below $2 per gallon until we see a light at the end of the tunnel for the economy.

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Niagara Falls - Winter Festival of Lights

December 9 2008 by Julie Drossos
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FestivalofLights.jpgHaving spent some of my college years in Eastern Canada (I attended McGill in Montreal, Quebec) I have a lot of friends who have settled down out East, most of them in Toronto. For some time now I've been contemplating taking a trip out to pay them a visit and so I've been researching "things to do" while I'm there.

One might question why on earth I'd choose to visit the harsh climates of Eastern Canada and leave Vancouver's mild winter during the colder months; and well, I don't really have an answer other than that I hate to leave Vancouver during the summer, when the weather is absolutely perfect!

A good friend of mine who lives in Toronto has suggested that my husband and I come out and join her and her husband for a weekend trip to Niagara Falls.... "WHAT?!!?" was my reaction, to be precise. I mean, I hear it is beautiful and all, but why on earth would I want to go to a raging mass of cold water at this time of year? Furthermore, I've been married for a number of years now and we've had our honeymoon - so why would we want to visit what has often been referred to as "The Honeymoon Capital of the World"? My friend laughed at me and my ignorance, and proceeded to lecture me on everything I didn't know about Niagara Falls.

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Ich bin ein Berliner

December 8 2008 by Mike Mason

Berlin.jpgBerlin is a city rich in history, art, and unique attractions. I have a thing for history and Berlin offers more to see and do than you can reasonably fit into one trip. If you are traveling through the city, here are a few of my favorite things (to quote a famous fictional German film character) to put on your list.

Brandenburg Gate
This area has served as the front porch to lots of world events. Two U.S. presidents famously spoke here during the Cold War era, and the Gate marked a prominent dividing line between East and West Germany. The square by the Gate usually has a fair amount of other activity going on from rallies to street performers. A short walk from the Brandenburg Gate you can visit the Reichstag (German Parliament building). Visitors are allowed to visit the large spiral glass dome on top of the building and get a breathtaking view of the city. It plays to every child's (and adult's) need to climb to the top of things and see what's going on.

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Climbing Adventures

December 5 2008 by Neal Mueller
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Neal Climbing.jpgYou know how it is. You go to work Monday through Friday, on the weekend you go out on the town and eat too much and drink too much with friends. Then you rinse and repeat. There's gotta be more to life. Well, in 2001 my buddy Chris and I decided we wanted a change. We bought a guide book on New Hampshire mountains and traveled up north in Chris' old Explorer. In New Hampshire we climbed Mount Monadnock from bottom to top. It was our first mountain climb. We felt like kings. The feeling of tangible accomplishment was exhilarating and it hooked us completely. After that we went on to climb dozens of mountains together. Climbing mountains is an exhilarating privilege. And sitting at the summit is a rare opportunity to sit on what I call God's front porch.
In the mood for a climbing adventure? Why not start small and dream big. Below is a whole list of climbing adventures. Some people spend their entire lives working to achieve just one of them. Bergheil!

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Zoo Zoom

December 4 2008 by Karla Henriquez
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ZooZoom.jpg"Someone told me it's all happening at the zoo." - Paul Simon

A few years ago, while in Orlando for a conference, I decided to check out Disney's Animal Kingdom. I hadn't been to a zoo since I was a kid and was a little worried the experience wouldn't be as wonderful for the adult me as it had always been for the child me. As it turns out, there was no need to worry - I spent at least thirty minutes just watching the hippos leap and twirl underwater and found out that the zoo is delightful no matter how old you are.

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Do Not Disturb

December 2 2008 by Chris McGinnis
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Do Not Disturb.jpgThe combined effect of the recent "fall-back" to standard time, dusk at 5 p.m. and two cross-country trips in the last month is forcing me to sharpen my sleeping skills. Over the years I've battled with bouts of insomnia that either come on or are exacerbated by my frequent traveling lifestyle. I know I'm not alone...if you talk to any group of road warriors long enough, you can easily elicit enough bleary-eyed tales to keep you awake for hours. Here are some of the ways I've learned to cope.

Your Own Alarm Clock: Pack a portable alarm clock or use the one on your mobile phone or PDA. Why? First, relying on a wake-up call from the hotel can add a layer of unnecessary stress. Second, you won't have to worry about whether or not you've correctly set those notoriously confusing and unfamiliar hotel room alarm clocks. (Note to self: Always be sure the alarm clock is set to "off," so it does not go off in the middle of the night. Can't figure out how to do that? Just unplug it.)

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Sweet "Golf" Home, Alabama--Confessions of a Golf Widow

December 1 2008 by Julie Drossos

golfwidow1.jpgHi, my name is Julie and I am what is often referred to as a "golf widow". Just how much does golf mean to my husband? Well, in the summer, spring and early fall months it's customary for him to be golfing on both weekend days (and many a summer night). After golf, he will retire for a beer with his golf buddies and discuss their game, the condition of the course and other "exciting" golfspeak. On a normal day I'll arrive home from work and he'll be standing in the living room practicing his swing or testing his putting skills. And, if we're going anywhere with a decent golf course for a vacation, the golf clubs are undoubtedly accompanying us on the trip! If you're reading this thinking, "what's the big deal?! The man likes golf!", allow me to share more... the ultimate proof that he lives and breathes for golf?? Look no further than our wedding day, 2 years ago...

When it came to the blessed day where we exchanged our vows in front of 150 friends, we did so at his beloved golf course, after he pulled up in a golf cart driven by the club pro, pockets full of golf tees and golf club in hand. Later, after reviewing footage from our wedding DVD, I discovered that he was practicing his swing in the Pro Shop just minutes before walking down the aisle. And last but not least, the morning after our wedding, he scurried out of our honeymoon suite to meet "the boys" for a round of golf! Now this sort of golf-obsessed behavior would make many wives a little bitter, but for me, all this really has meant is that my husband is in a better mood (unless he plays poorly) and I get lots of "me" time to do the things I love. It all works out in the end.

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