Adventures by Disney Adds Programs in Tuscany and Spain

December 18, 2014 on 2:15 pm | In Adventure Travel, California, Florida, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Theme Parks Zoos Aquariums | Comments Off

Disney’s family tour operator Adventures by Disney added new programs in Tuscany and Spain designed in the Adventures by Disney model of escorted tours that feature storytelling in a family setting, with activities for children, parents and grandparents, sometimes together, sometimes separately.

The Tuscany program, entitled Tuscany Culinary Adventure, targets foodie families. The schedule includes hands-on cooking lessons for learning how to prepare Italian pizza and bruschetta; special dining experiences; observing how cheese is made and visiting a winery, with adults learning about wine blending, while the G-rated participants learning about olive oil infusion in biscotti making.

In Spain, Adventures by Disney focuses on adventure, culture, art and history. Participants will learn about the making of paella; get a Flamenco dancing lesson in Seville; see a Rumba performance in Barcelona; spend two nights at a Mediterranean beach resort; learn about mixing sangria; and visit major historical and cultural sites such as the Gaudi-designed church in Barcelona, the Prado museum and Royal Palace in Madrid and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba.

Adventures by Disney was launched in 2005. The brand now offers more than 30 itineraries in Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America, Europe and North America.

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Latour Offers Cuba Programs for Jewish, LGBT Markets

December 18, 2014 on 2:14 pm | In Adventure Travel, Beachbooker, Caribbean, Cuba | Comments Off

Goddess Swimwear from Today ShowLatour, Isramworld’s Latin America division unveiled three new Cuba itineraries, including specialty trips targeting niche markets not covered by most other operators.

Latour is re-offering its basic Cuba program Hello Cuba for general interest groups, which includes visits with locals, the Museum of the Revolution, Ernest Hemingway’s winter home and encounters with the arts at Benny More School of the Arts, the Experimental Graphic Arts Workshop and Havana Compras Dance company. Beyond Havana, the tour visits the town of Cienfuegos, and the oceanside community of Trinidad.

But Latour is also offering two specialty programs: one for travelers who want to focus on the Jewish history of Cuba, and one who want to experience Cuba from the LGBT perspective.

Shalom Cuba provides a look at Jewish culture and history in Cuba. It includes meetings with Jewish Cubans and visits to synagogues, a kosher butcher, El Patronato Jewish Community Center and Temple Sheve Achim, Cuba’s first synagogue, as well as mainstream points of interest such as Hemingway’s home and the Teatro de La Caridad.

LGBT Cuba focuses on the life of the gay and lesbian community of Cuba. It includes opportunities to meet with gay Cubans at the Muraleando art project, and visits to Los Mejunje, a center of disco and drag scenes; CENESEX, the National Center for sex education and research; and the National Union of Jurists to meet with members of the Association of Family Law and Civil Rights.

The programs are all nine-day/eight-night trips with prices starting from $4,299 per person.

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Archaeologists Unveil Restored Statue of Egyptian Pharaoh

December 18, 2014 on 2:03 pm | In Adventure Travel, Africa, Egypt | Comments Off

In news that should further entice historically minded travelers back to Egypt, a 50-ton, 13-meter statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III was unveiled in the ancient Egypt city of Luxor on Sunday.

According to Agence France-Presse, the statue was restored by a team of Egyptian and German archaeologists after being toppled in an earthquake roughly 3,000 years ago.

This month’s reveal comes less than a year after two other Amenhotep III restoration projects were completed in March. The team behind all three is led by noted German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian.

“These are up to now the highest standing effigies of an Egyptian king in striding attitude,” said Sourouzian.

The World Monument Fund notes that the original temple of Amenhotep III was erected sometime between 1390 and 1353 B.C. and was 100 meters wide and 600 meters long.

Only the lower sections of the ancient structure remain, but tourists can get a closer look at the restored statues at the funerary temple of Amenhotep III.

Situated along the Nile River, Luxor is located roughly 370 miles from the Egyptian capital of Cairo and has a ton to offer visitors in terms of ancient temples and monuments. 2014′s completed restoration projects couldn’t come at a better time either, as the country’s tourism department looks to bounce back from the extended slump brought on by political instability.

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Louis Cruises Launches New Brand, Celestyal Cruises

December 18, 2014 on 11:39 am | In Adventure Travel, Cruise Boats, Greece | Comments Off

Luggage ProsLouis Cruises is pleased to introduce the world to its new brand: Celestyal Cruises with the launch of the cruiseline’s new website, unveiling of the Celestyal Cruises logo and livery for the Celestyal Crystal and Celestyal Olympia, and the release of the brand’s 2015 brochures and itineraries.

“The new Celestyal Cruises is the only home porting cruise line in Greece. It also enjoys a time-honored history of success via Louis Cruises as one of Europe’s most beloved cruise providers, with nearly six million satisfied passengers as of the close of the 2014 cruise season,” said Kyriakos Anastassiadis, CEO of Celestyal Cruises and Louis Cruises. “We are thrilled and enthusiastic to introduce this exciting new brand to the world.”

Continued Anastassiadis, “Our cruises are a promise …We promise to take our passengers to the places they’ve dreamt of, iconic harbors and idyllic islands. We promise to spoil them with our legendary hospitality and our stellar Greek food and wines…to give them the best of Greece with spectacular excursions and special themed events. With the introduction of the new brand, we are giving a name to our promise…Celestyal Cruises.”

Launch of

Louis Cruises today announced the launch of, the official website for the company’s new cruise brand. Artfully designed to inspire travelers with easy-to-use navigation and tools to help travel professionals plan and book travel for their clients online, the new website boasts functionality and features to make the user experience the very best it can be. enables travel agents and travelers to access valuable information and book an exciting range of cruises throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. The new site is also available in many languages including English, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, German, and Portuguese. On the interactive site, users have access to:

– New 2015 calendar with Early Booking Discounts:

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Belmond Has Surprises on Track for 2015

December 18, 2014 on 11:32 am | In Adventure Travel, Rail Tours | Comments Off

Luggage ProsSince it opened in 1976 under its former name of Orient Express, Belmond has been ahead of the pack in marketing a style of travel that for many travelers is appealing as the destinations being traveled to. Unlike most luxury companies, which trend toward product complacency, Belmond is perpetually reviving and redefining its product line.

In 2015 Belmond is once again revitalizing its offer of hotels as well as luxury rail and river cruising experiences. In 2014, Belmond introduced the Belmond Orcaella on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River where the Belmond Road to Mandalay has been cruising since 1995. Earlier this year, Belmond announced the coming of the Belmond Grand Hibernian, a luxury rail product for Ireland due in 2016.

In 2015, Belmond’s trains will be headed down some unusual tracks in two separate parts of the globe. The Eastern & Oriental Express will operate the five-night “Fables of the Peninsula” from Singapore to Bangkok on March 29 and the two-night “The Ancient Temples of Lanna” (Bangkok to Chiang Mai) departs on its inaugural journey on Oct. 15 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Over on the European continent the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is returning to Scandinavia in 2015 for the first time since 2013 on the new “Nordic Adventures” on June 1 (Venice to Stockholm) and June 6 (Stockholm to Venice).

The Ancient Kingdom of Lanna is an overnight journey departing from Bangkok for Chiang Mai. The Lanna kingdom was a small kingdom located between the two powerhouse kingdoms of Siam and Burma. Its capital Chiang Mai now finds itself as a gateway between Thailand and the emerging destination of Myanmar, where the Belmond Road to Mandalay will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an impressive list of photography, wildlife and military history experts (prices start from £1,640 for a three-night cruise). The Belmond Orcaella will also cruise the temple-studded Chindwin River.

The Ancient Kingdom package also visits Lampang for a tour in horse-drawn carriages, originally imported from England for use by Thai nobility. The guided Chiang Mai tour includes explorations of thoroughfares and side streets as well as Thai cooking demonstrations; shopping in markets for arts and crafts that represent Chiang Mai’s Lanna heritage such as decorative mulberry-paper parasols; and a visit to the Dhara Dhevi Tea House.

eBags Packing Cubes + OnSite OfferThe Fables of The Peninsula “land-cruise” starts with an overnight at Raffles Singapore followed by a journey through Malaysia and Thailand. The train’s observation car gives passengers a rich visual experience of Southeast Asia. Daily excursions to stops in such destinations as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Huay Yang and the Cameron Highlands, with a night at the Cameron Highlands Resort located on a tea plantation. The journey also offers some beach time and a beach BBQ at Koh Chaan before heading on to Bangkok.

The Eastern & Oriental Express has en-suite accommodation for up to 132 guests; three dining carriages serving European and Asian cuisine and a Bar Car with nightly entertainment. Prices start from £1,580 for the Ancient Kingdom of Lanna journey per person double sharing a Pullman cabin and including all table d’hote meals. Prices start from £4,800 per person double for the Fables of The Peninsula experience. That includes all beverages and table d’hote meals.

Venice, Copenhagen and Stockholm are at the center of Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’ four-night, five-day Scandinavia journeys. The packages are from £4,500 per person double. The route moves through Italy, Austria and Germany with two nights’ in Copenhagen at the Marriott before arriving in Stockholm. The journey includes two days and one night travelling on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. In Copenhagen, the program includes sightseeing and a gala dinner at an exclusive venue before re-joining the train for an overnight journey to Stockholm.

Recently Belmond became a Silver Member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. Last week, Belmond launched a microsite on its website for LGBT travelers looking to experience the full product line from the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera to the luxury rail cruise aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman. The new microsite is a one-stop portal where LGBT travelers can explore the collection’s holiday, celebration, honeymoon and group offerings. Regularly updated, the new microsite is broken down into different sections such as “Celebrations” and “Groups.”

Belmond’s collection includes 45 hotels as well as rail and river cruise experiences. The hotels include Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg; Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya; and Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara.

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New Packages to Ring in the New Year

December 18, 2014 on 11:12 am | In Adventure Travel | Comments Off

eBags Packing Cubes + OnSite OfferGisborne New Zealand claims to be the first city in the world to see the sun rise each new day, which puts them in a very interesting position every New Year’s Eve. This year they’re celebrating with Rhythm and Vines (RNV), the party that will ring in the first of many celebrations that pops corks and shrieks through noise makers the world around as midnight goes skipping time zone by time zone.

Even now, while people are still shopping for the gifts they’ll give during the holiday season, forward thinkers are already putting out their celebratory plans and packages for New Year’s Eve.

In Malta, they’ll be partying on New Year’s Eve and waking up in 2015 for treatments at the Athenaeum Spa to completely exfoliate 2014 away at the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa. The hotel’s New Year’s package, priced from €95 ($118.85) per night, comes with a New Year’s Day breakfast. The Hotel’s Villa Corinthia restaurant will recreate that high kicking voulez-vous feel with dancing and entertainment. It includes a welcome reception, which includes themed canapés and cocktails, followed by a six-course meal with free-flowing wine and other drinks.

Goddess Swimwear from Today ShowSpa is also a major component of a New Year’s package from Sri Panwa, an all-villa luxury estate in Phuket, Thailand. The four-night Extraordinary New Year’s Package, priced from THB 288,888 ($8,818) for two includes excursions throughout the Phuket archipelago and into the historic Old Town for a private tour as well as spa treatments and cooking lessons. The resort’s Cool Spa houses a five-sense experience in four treatment rooms, a private salon and a floating yoga deck.

The package is available for stays between Dec 15 and Jan. 31 and includes four nights and five days in a private villa; daily champagne breakfast; private speedboat daytrip to neighboring islands including Racha Island, Phi Phi Island, Krabi, Phang-nga and Koh Khai; Thai Cooking class; private in-villa BBQ; a Caviar Peals Cool-Facial; two-hour Cool Spa package; private Yoga class and more.

The package is also available for four from THB 488,888 ($14,928) for four people in a two-bedroom private Luxury Pool Villa or THB 888,888 ($27,133) for eight people in a Luxury Four-bedroom Ocean View Residence Villa. All prices are subject to an 18.7 percent service charge and government taxes.

In Munich, the Charles Hotel and the Swiss jeweler Bucherer are offering partiers a chance to do their New Year’s Eve swinging above the city’s rooftops with the hotel’s Private Night of the Diamond in the 2000+ square foot Monforte Presidential Suite. Those booking the suite over New Year’s Eve, at a cost of $25,317, can host their party with a private eight-course menu for 12 served in the suite; a midnight champagne toast on the suite terrace overlooking fireworks; live in-suite/ private entertainment with a jazz pianist; breakfast; limo transfers; and an unpacking service.

The highlight comes when diamonds are dropped in all of the guest’s glass. Just one will be genuine and worth $3,165. A specialist jeweler will circulate throughout the night (between eight dinner courses at Davvero restaurant), examining the jewels until the winner is revealed.

Luggage ProsIn Florence, the Lungarno Collection is offering a two-night package in Arno river view rooms or suites in both of their hotels: the Hotel Lungarno and the Portrait Firenze as well as a New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner at the Lungarno’s Borgo San Jacopo, with an exclusive menu by Executive Chef Peter Brunel. The package also includes buffet breakfast, free room upgrade upon availability, VIP treatment upon arrival, late check-out when available, entry to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and the New Year’s dinner.

Several Oetker Collection properties are celebrating the New Year: L’Apogée Courchevel in the French Alps will host an affair with a specialized menu starting at $1,000 per guest. The evening will commence with cocktails and dinner accompanied by a French jazz band. After dinner comes the dancing with G-star and his five-musician band.

Baden Baden’s Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa will lead a stroll of the Black Forest on Dec. 30, stopping at the Scherrhof Woodland Inn, before returning to the property. The following day on New Year’s Eve the hotel will host a Gala Dinner Dance. Priced at $485, attendees are invited for dinner and dancing at the hotel’s Orangerie to the sounds of the band “French Acoustic,” magical tricks by Stephan Kirschbaum and a firework display as the clock strikes midnight.

On New Year’s Eve aboard the Belmond British Pullman (pictured at left courtesy of Belmond British Pullman), they’ll be serving dinner with champagne and fine wine. Shortly before midnight, passengers disembark from London’s Victoria Station to welcome in the New Year with a traditional Scottish piper. Priced from $660 per person, the journey includes roundtrip on the train, a magician entertaining guests on board, a five-course dinner, Champagne and half a bottle of wine per person. This dinner could highlight a fabulous New Year in London as the city’s annual fireworks show in front of the London Eye grows more popular with each passing year. Since the fireworks were first staged at the London Eye in 2003, the number of people wanting to see them have grown from an estimated 100,000 in the first year to 400,000 in 2012 and 500,000 in 2013.

For those preferring to stay closer to home, Pullman Rail Journeys is offering a one-time holiday itinerary from Chicago to Miami for a New Year’s celebration. The journey departs Chicago’s Union Station in restored Pullman cars the evening of Dec. 27, arriving at its southernmost stop of Miami the evening of Dec. 29. The return journey departs for Chicago from South Florida beginning the morning of Jan. 2. Luxury hotel packages at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, the Chesterfield Palm Beach and The Biltmore Hotel in Miami are available as well as a rail-only option. A round-trip rail-only package begins at $2,408 per person double.

A package with Orlando’s Grand Floridian begins at $4,198 per person double and includes three-day Park Hopper pass, Grand Floridian Garden View Room, three meals and two snacks per person per night and a Magic Your Way Platinum Package including unlimited use of select recreation including golf, Cirque du Soleil LaNouba admission, fireworks cruise and reserved seating at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Fantasmic, a select spa treatment as well as round-trip transfers between the train station to the hotel.

The Chesterfield Palm Beach package begins at $2,497 per person and includes New Year Champagne and Dreams Package with a five-course New Year’s Eve Gala dinner for two in the Leopard Lounge, champagne toast at midnight and New Year’s Eve Day brunch. Daily breakfast and round-trip town car transfer between the hotel and train station are included. The package at the Biltmore in Coral Gables begins at $2,737 per person and includes the New Year’s Gala and dinner along with daily breakfast and round-trip sedan transfers between the hotel and train station.

The Rhythm and Vines party in Gisborne New Zealand is offering a three-day pass from NZD$240 ($186) with packages available as well. Some 30,000 local and international fans will watch such acts as Bastille, Netsky Live, Chet Faker, Danny Brown, MØ and others. There is beach front camping beach-side and even some “glamping” in a tepee village.

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Travel Deals Making the Yuletide Bright

December 18, 2014 on 11:06 am | In Adventure Travel | Comments Off

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Two iconic companies are offering deals good for stuffing even the silkiest of stockings: Islands in the Sun and Belmond. It was 50 years ago that Ted Cook showed up on a Tahitian beach wearing a suit and carrying a brief case. He dropped the case in the sand and rolled up his trousers for a walk in the surf that lasted until he passed away. The company he founded, Islands in the Sun, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with an exclusive offer for both the travel trade and other travelers.

Customers will receive $500 off their bill when they book any seven-night Tahiti or Fiji vacation with flights at any of several participating resorts. The booking must be made by Dec. 31, 2014.

Participating Tahiti resorts include: Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa, InterContinental Moorea Resort and Spa, Moorea Pearl Resort and Spa, Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, St. Regis Bora Bora, Bora Bora Pearl Resort and Spa, Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa, InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa, and the InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort.

Participating Fiji Hotels included: Tokoriki Island Resort, Koro Sun Fiji Resort, Namale Fiji Resort and Spa, InterContinental Fiji Resort and Spa, Matangi Private Island Resort, Fiji Beach Resort managed by Hilton, and Mana Island Resort.

A new offer from Belmond is available across the company’s portfolio, with discounts of at least 20 percent for all journeys booked between now and March 2015. The Discover Belmond deals include 25 percent all charters on Belmond Afloat in France (book to travel by May 10). On the Belmond British Pullman and Belmond Northern Belle three paying guests entitles the fourth to travel free (book by March 25 and travel by March 31).

eBags Packing Cubes + OnSite OfferTravelers on the Belmond Orcaella and the Belmond Road to Mandalay will receive a complimentary night at Belmond Governor’s Residence and 20 percent discount on any journey (book by March 25, travel by March 31). Passengers who book the Eastern & Oriental Express departing from Singapore will see their companion get a 50 percent discount (must depart in March, April or May) and there will be a 25 percent discount for the second or companion traveler on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express on journeys departing in March, April or May.

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Five Things to Love About Travel Impressions’ Dedicated Vacation Flights

December 18, 2014 on 11:04 am | In Adventure Travel | Comments Off

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In creating Dedicated Vacation Flights (DVF), Travel Impressions set out to create a product that would please agents and their clients, alike. With more offerings and greater convenience, there are plenty of reasons to love DVF.

1. Fly the friendly skies (where and when you want). Travel Impressions’ Dedicated Vacation Flights offer a host of nonstop flights on such carriers as Aeromexico, Southwest/AirTran, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Sun Country Airlines and Alaska Airlines to popular vacation destinations throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. And, when you book onboard amenities such as stretch seating or in-flight entertainment, your client’s vacation is sure to get off on the right foot.

Flights depart from more than 20 U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City (JFK) and regional airports such as Austin, Lansing (Mich.) and Rockford (Ill.), so getting to a destination has never been easier.

Not only do Travel Impressions’ Dedicated Vacation Flights offer routes that might not be available elsewhere, but they offer better flight times. We all know that when it comes to vacation, every second counts so Dedicated Vacation Flight packages offer morning departures to ensure your clients can be suited up and on the beach before lunch; afternoon and evening returns mean vacation-goers can soak up every last bit of sun.

2. Dedication to Value. Dedicated Vacation Flights promise exceptional value across the board, thanks to competitively priced land and air packages. Other budget-friendly features include: Checked baggage fees included in most flights; relaxed change and cancellation fee policies in the event your client’s plans change; lower deposits of only $150 per person (when the itinerary is applicable for a deposit payment); and compatibility with Cancel for Any Reason Waiver and Travel Protection, meaning no matter what happens up until the day prior to departure, your clients are covered.

3. We’re Easy to Love. For the travel planner in all of us, Dedicated Vacation Flights let you book up to 330 days in advance, months before scheduled air is released and in plenty of time to take advantage of early booking specials. (Departure times are good-faith estimates based on the current year’s schedule and flight patterns.) Booking a group? You’re in luck as group space inventory is available on most flights.

4. Service With a Smile. When you book a Dedicated Vacation Flight package, you’ll be dealing with a Travel Impressions representative throughout the entire booking process. And, they’ll work with you to ensure that your client’s airline reward points on Sun Country, JetBlue, Frontier and AirTran can still be earned … and used.

5. Money. Money. Money. Agents now earn 5 percent commission on Dedicated Vacation Flights charter and group booking packages to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica. Previously, agents earned commission only on the land portion of these vacations.

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Do The Time Warp With Shebby Lee Tours

December 18, 2014 on 11:02 am | In Adventure Travel, Plains States, Rockies, The South | Comments Off

Oakley - Free Shipping - Shop OnlineShebby Lee Tours of Rapid City, S.D., is not one of the most well known tour operators, but is one of the most creative packagers of themed tours of the U.S. Shebby Lee offers an ongoing series of tours that focus on various regions of the country viewed through the lens of specific historical themes.

Shebby Lee Tours is the brainchild and personal project of Shebby Lee, who is enamored with American history and loves to share her passion with others.

Shebby Lee’s business model is a little different than most tour operators. She does not seek to create products that can be repeated as often as possible to appeal to a mass market and create an ongoing revenue stream. Rather it’s as if she runs a school or a lecture series that keeps offering new material and changing her offerings for her audience. These tours are not for everyone.

The company offers an ongoing series of Civil War tours that take place at different points of historical importance of the conflict. Next Sept. 11, the company is offering a program called Civil War – the Early Years. The program will survey battlefields of Manassas, Antietam and Gettysburg guided by historians as well as actors who bring scenes to life. This tour was chosen by National Geographic Traveler as one of its Tours of a Lifetime in 2011.

In October, the company will conduct another Civil War tour called Fields of Valor, which will visit Gettysburg and other Civil War sites in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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Shebby Lee offers a series of Vanishing Trails Expeditions that explore various aspects of American history, including Lewis and Clark Trail, Arizona Indian Nations, Bleeding Kansas, Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Teddy Roosevelt’s Dakota, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tour.

Next Sept. 12-15 (2015) Shebby Lee is offering a tour that sounds likely to be a big hit:

The Great Gatsby Getaway. It will be everyone’s chance to spend a few days at parties designed to emulate those of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character Jay Gatsby.

The tour group will headquarter for three nights at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich. with ballroom parties every night.

From the ferry to the hotel, the guests will travel in horse-drawn carriages.

The tour is structured with a lot of free time and many optional activities that can be put into the free-time schedule, such as Charleston dance lessons, hikes on the island, carriage tours, a vintage baseball game or a showing of the original “The Great Gatsby” movie.

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Northern California’s Gold Country Offers Snow Many Options

December 17, 2014 on 3:20 pm | In Adventure Travel, California, San Francisco, Skiing Snowboarding | Comments Off Winter Clearance, CA—California’s Gold Country, where gold was originally discovered in 1848 to set off the gold rush of ’49, is still a gold miner’s dream, with the six pound “Butte Nugget” unearthed just last summer. But the area’s reputation for all things outdoorsy and adventurous, no matter what time of year, is a more common find. As ski resorts begin to open, Northern Californians can get all that winter has to offer in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range (called the High Sierra by locals) beginning two hours east of San Francisco. The 400-mile long range runs north to south along the eastern part of California. Downhill, cross country skiing, and snowboarding options are joined by new adventures, such as snow biking, dog sledding, snowshoeing under the canopy of Giant Sequoias, and finding rarified air with a snow kite. At the end of the day, more than 100 wineries await, many with no-fee tasting rooms. Here are some winter sports suggestions in the Gold Country:

North – El Dorado and Nevada Counties

El Dorado County

El Dorado County, northeast of Sacramento on Highway 50, is the heart of the Gold Country. The 1848 discovery of gold here touched off the largest Gold Rush in history.

Snow skiers and boarders have access to three world-class resorts in this South Lake Tahoe region. Heavenly Ski Resort is home to some of the steepest, deepest and most scenic ski runs in the west. Lake Valley State Recreation Area and Sugar Pine Point State Park both offer cross country skiing in the High Sierras. Another way to experience Lake Tahoe in winter is to snowshoe right on the water’s edge at the iconic Camp Richardson.

Home General 160 600Many argue that winetasting is a year-round sport; the Gold Country concurs. El Dorado wineries are renowned for making vibrantly flavorful, distinctly delicious wines that are grown in the dramatic elevations of the Sierra Nevada. For many of the vineyards at the higher elevations, winter marks the beginning of the winemaking season, where vintners get their first glimpse of the quality of the vintage. The region is uniquely situated above the fog and below the snowline. Weather is mild and the tasting rooms are uncrowded, allowing even more opportunities to talk one-on-one with the winemakers who pour their heart into their craft.

A noteworthy seasonal event is held annually at Miraflores Winery. The Wild Thing VIII (this year on Dec. 13) is a gastronomic experience pairing wild game with their wines. Past offerings include kangaroo, elk, wild mushrooms and turtle soup.

Nevada County

Nevada County, above El Dorado County and stretching east to the California border, is the home of Donner Summit, with some of the deepest snow in the continental U.S. and a range of winter options at each resort.

Boreal Mountain Resort is celebrating its 50th year of operations with significant renovations including the addition of a surface life and expanded learning terrain, three major events to mark the golden anniversary, and the opening of Neff Land, a pirate-themed terrain park with 30 ridable features. Night skiing is also available at Boreal Mountain, with lifts operating until 9 p.m. daily The Take 3, Ride Free encourages improving ski techniques and abilities – the season pass lift ticket is free with the completion of three lessons.

Woodward Tahoe, located steps from the slopes, is Tahoe’s only action sport training facility with indoor trampolines, foam pits, skate parks, ramps and more.

Free Shipping Over $50* at!Planet Town at Soda Springs Resort has a wide viewing area that puts proud parents into the perfect spot to film their children’s first turns on skis or snowboards. Toddlers may start at 2 years old to age 8. Soda Springs rents pint-sized snowmobiles for kids ages 6 to 12 (under 100 pounds). The adventures take place on a circular track – no worries of heading off down the slope – and helmets are provided.

Donner Ski Ranch, another family friendly ski and snowboarding slope has a tubing hill that requires no experience or special equipment other than energy and gumption.

Cross country skiers have unlimited access at Royal Gorge, North America’s largest cross country resort on 200km (134 miles)of groomed trails across 7,500 acres of pristine terrain that crosses Nevada and Placer Counties. Winter enthusiasts can also enjoy snowshoeing, or snow biking on Surly Bikes equipped with overly-exaggerated “fat” tires for a great workout on a scenic loop. Snowkiting, winter’s new darling sport, harnesses the wind. World champion snowkiter Tyler Brown offers lessons, tips and techniques at California’s first established snowkiting school.

Nevada County is also the home to the Sierra Vintners wine region, known for their blue ribbon wines, hospitable vintners and tasting room experts. Many offer tasting and events at their vineyards like Pilot Peak, Sierra Knolls and Double Oak; while others are showcased in one of the many tasting rooms located in Historic Downtown Grass Valley or Nevada City.

Central – Sacramento, Amador and Calaveras Counties

Folsom, Sacramento County COUPON 10% OFF all ordersThe city of Folsom, in Sacramento County, is a natural home base for winter activities throughout Northern California’s Gold Country.

Take a stroll down Historic Sutter Street and visit unique shops, quaint dining and historic bars. Lace up ice skates at Folsom’s Ice Skating Rink, located around the historic railroad turn table. This family favorite activity is open daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., through Jan. 19. The traditional Historic Folsom Tree Lighting and Arts and Crafts Fair returns Dec. 5 and 6 to kick off the holidays.

World class productions, including the national tour of Disney’s” Beauty and the Beast” and “An Irish Christmas”, are performing on stage at the Harris Center Performing Arts Venue in November and December.

Visitors who book the Folsom Shopping Getaway package, available at six hotels, receive a $25 gift card to the Palladio at Broadstone Lifestyle Shopping Center along with a complimentary bottle of local wine, shopping and theatre discounts.

Amador County

Located 45 miles southeast of Sacramento and 125 miles from San Francisco, Amador County is in the middle of Gold Country California, with Highways 49 and 88, providing north-south and east-west access.

Kirkwood Mountain resort’s unique location atop the Sierra Crest, 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, with elevations ranging from 7,800 to 9,800 feet, receives some of the lightest, driest, and most plentiful snowfall in the Lake Tahoe region. More than 2,300 acres of terrain, from calm beginner runs to hair-raising cornices and cliffs, including three unique terrain parks ranked by skill level, the “Wood” as locals call it, serves all ski enthusiasts. For more adventure, skiers can enjoy Expedition: Kirkwood for a more intimate experience, with private guides and backcountry offerings.

100% GuaranteeWhile everyone else is above ground, Amador County’s dazzling Black Chasm Cavern in Volcano, offers a below-ground wintery view of stalactites, draperies and helictites, and a beautiful turquoise lake. The Kennedy Mine, famous for being one of the deepest gold mines in the world, gives visitors an understanding of life in the Gold Rush era and how the precious gem changed lives. Tours are available, by reservation, year round. For hands-on gold panning, March through September, visit the Roaring Camp Mining Company in Pine Grove to see a gold mine in operation and join in to pan, sluice, dredge and dry wash – and keep the nuggets. (Members of the Dirt of the Month Club can receive bags of dirt from mining, with possible gold remnants, on the first of each month.)

Amador County’s fifty-five wineries offer every possible range of taste. One way to navigate the options is to end a winter sports week with the annual Behind the Cellar Door, by the Amador Vintners Association, on March 7 and 8, 2015, which offers educational seminars, including Bray Vineyard’s “Hone your Sensory Skills”, Drytown Cellar’s “Exploring the Link Between Wine & Spirits” and Sera Fina Cellar’s “Winemaker Want-to-Be’s Rhone varietal blending.

Sutter Creek’s Parade of Lights strolls down Main Street on the evening of Dec. 13. Mail trucks, dogs, horses, baton twirlers and marching bands, adorned in lights, move along the historic Gold Rush street past local businesses, open for wine tasting and holiday shopping.

Calaveras County

Calaveras County sits in the midst of California’s historic Gold Country with a history of inspiration for gold rush hopefuls in 1848 and later, Mark Twain and his story:” The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” It is located in the Sierra Foothills appellation featuring spectacular winter scenery at high elevations.

 The Ultimate Online Ski Shop With 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! | Shop Now >Bear Valley Mountain Resort is a friendly and relaxing High Sierra ski resort in the beautiful Central Sierra Mountains. Located just off Ebbetts Pass National Scenic Byway (Highway 4), this destination offers everything from relaxation to extreme adventure. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and sledding.

This area includes the only wilderness trail system in California with snowmobiles for rent from Bear Valley Snowmobile. World class cross country skiing with snowshoeing, sledding and tubing options are available through Bear Valley Cross County which maintains 38 groomed trails, 4 trailside huts and the trailside Meadow Café. Visitors with their own equipment may head to two U.S. Forest Service winter recreational snow play areas; Lake Alpine Sno-Park and Spicer Reservoir Sno-Park.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, featuring spectacular Giant Sequoia trees is a magical place to visit in the winter on a pair of snowshoes. Loaners are available free of charge from park rangers while supply lasts, but it’s best to bring a set and plan to take the Saturday guided tour (1 p.m. throughout winter.) A lovely and welcome amenity is a warming hut with hot chocolate and cider. The Annual Winter Wonderland Carnival in December features horse-drawn carriage rides and live music.

Two dates worth noting: the quaint town of Murphys’ Holiday Open House and Festival of Wines, Dec. 4 and Santa’s rappelling descent to the bottom of Moaning Cavern, Dec. 13. Multiple lodging options are available in the Arnold, Dorrington and Bear Valley areas including the Arnold Black Bear Inn and multiple cabin vacation rentals.

South – Yosemite Gateway Counties of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera, including Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne County

Oakley - Free Shipping - Shop OnlineAn easy two-and-a-half-hour drive east of San Francisco, Tuolumne County features beautiful terrain from near sea level to high elevations over 10,000 feet well and the closest entrance to Yosemite National Park from the Bay Area.

Dodge Ridge Winter Sports is a perfect family snow destination with a Family Lodge catering to the needs of children. Intro to Snow – Kinder Ski and Ride programs are offered along with adaptive lessons for all ages.

The iconic area of Pinecrest, at approximately 5,600 feet elevation, offers snowshoeing around the lake. Generations of families visit the year-round resorts. A must on the schedule is a visit to the Steam Donkey, an Alpine steakhouse at Pinecrest Lake Resort (named for the equipment which hauled logs to the railroad cars.)

Long Barn Ice Skating Arena, another multi-generational tradition, located in the town of Long Barn off Highway 108, offers skating every weekend from November through April, and daily during holidays and school breaks.

A winter highlight is being in the still, snow-blanketed forest with only the sound of wind in high branches and the thump-crunch of snowshoes. The Stanislaus National Forest, located between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, offers a full range of year-round recreation opportunities. A network of forest roads and trails encourages the discovery of nature for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

This year, the popular Polar Express train ride, created after the book and movie, will roll through Tuolumne County, at Railtown – 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown. The chocolate pajama ride runs Fridays through Sundays during December. A range of accommodations, from affordable cabins, historic hotels, motels, bed & breakfast inns and hotel casino action, is available at the Tuolumne County website.

Mariposa County

Mariposa County, home of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove, features world-class natural wonders along with charming, authentic Gold Rush-era towns and lush pine forests close to its western and southern border.

Mariposa County offers breathtaking beauty of Yosemite Valley, more than 20 miles of cross-country skiing on a groomed trail to the some of the most sublime views in the world, and snowshoeing in the majestic Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

When the snows gather around Half Dome’s iconic north face, it’s time for a visit to Badger Pass Ski Area, the most affordable ski resort in California. At Badger Pass, parents can watch from the warmth of the sundecks as their kids hit the slopes. Badger Pass features 10 runs, many that are ideal for beginning skiers and snow boarders, plus a few that are reserved for the more advanced. Stay and Ski packages make it easy to experience the luxury of The Ahwahnee Hotel or the family-friendly Curry Village. Ski lift tickets are included with a two-night stay.

Visitors looking for an easy trip to the Yosemite Valley Floor might consider staying in the towns of Mariposa or Midpines, and let YARTS, the regional bus system do the driving. This is a no-hassle (and chain-free) ride that delivers visitors to the heart of Yosemite Valley, for walks around the valley trails, views of icy Yosemite Falls, the cozy fireplace at The Ahwahnee Hotel, or ice-skating at Curry Village, a seasonal tradition. Mariposa offers a range of great dining options, plus wine-tasting and breweries, and is home to the Pioneer History Museum, the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, and antique shopping in the Old Town district.

Outside the park entrance at Fish Camp, winter sports include daily horse-drawn sleigh rides, s’mores around a campfire, ice skating or spa treatments, at Tenaya Lodge.

Madera County

Madera County, located in the San Joaquin Valley 60 miles north of Fresno, is known as “California’s Gateway to Yosemite” offering some of the most iconic spots along the way.

Dotting the landscape are a variety of restaurants featuring locally grown ingredients, award-winning wineries along the Madera Wine Trail, art galleries and museums that create the desire to slow down and linger a while. The Madera Wine Trail has 12 distinctive, hospitable wineries spanning from Madera to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Explore the beauty and quiet of the Sierra National Forest on Whisky Snowmobile Trail, a 35-mile route through the forest following logging roads. Goat Meadow Winter Sports Area is a popular stop in a picture-postcard setting and is perfect for impromptu hill sledding on tubes, sleds and anything an active imagination can conjure up.

Winetasting is also a winter sport here. Explore the Madera Wine Trail’s February Wine and Chocolate Weekend, Feb. 14 and 15, for local wines, chocolate pairings, live music and foods.

Bass Lake, named by Sunset Magazine as one of the “West’s Best Lakes”, offers year round fishing, with lakeside cabins and boats for rent.

Before you go:

Up-to-the-minute snow information is available at with listings of each ski resort’s snow base and lift availability. The site also offers a “powder alert” and notification of which resorts have received more than 8 inches of snow in the past 14 hours. Each county’s noted website provides lodging options, many dog-friendly, and activities information. For more information, go to


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