Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic - Santa Rosa, California
If you’re ‘of a certain age’ as I’ll confess to being, your first exposure to hot air ballooning was likely the classic movie The Wizard of Oz. Prior to that, the only objects I was aware of in the sky were the airplanes that flew frequently over our home in the San Fernando Valley. In the movie, the wizard arrives to rescue Dorothy via a balloon, and though things don’t go quite as planned, that incredible vision of flames shooting up into a huge, colorful ball, a wicker basket rocking back and forth below it, never left me.
It was many years later when I finally saw a hot air balloon in real life. I’d moved to Sonoma County, California and discovered, to my delight, that hot air balloons were fairly common in the area I was living in. There were several companies which offered flights over the spectacular vineyards, orchards, and rural landscape I now called home, and their occasional appearance on the horizon was like seeing a rainbow: ephemeral, almost surrealistic.
Several years into living here I was fortunate to be taken to a hot air balloon festival in the county. It was dawn-thirty in the morning when we got there, but like my first exposure via that iconic movie, the whole experience left a lasting impression on me. The colors of the dozens of balloons: being able to see inside them, and see the flames shoot up into them up close, the way they were lit up before the sun came up. I even was lucky enough to ride in one during the event, and though I’d always considered myself having a fear of heights, it not only felt safe, it was magical.
Fast forward to today and I find myself as the event coordinator for the very balloon festival I went to all those years ago. I now know that was one of the earliest years of the event, as I’m writing this to tell you about the 30th annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic.
After a two-year hiatus, due to the pandemic, the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic will finally get to have its 30th anniversary on June 4th and 5th, and we’re hoping to make it a very special celebration.
The big news for the Classic is the venue change. For the previous twenty-nine festivals, it was held in Windsor, in most recent years in a large park. But attendance grew so much that parking became an issue and it seemed apparent they needed a new location. This year the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, California will be the new home, and with it comes a world of possibilities for growth and spaciousness, not to mention ample parking for cars and RVs. It’s right off the freeway, easy to find, and fully dialed in for an event like this.
So what is an event like this? First of all, brace yourself for the fact the gates open at 4am. That’s not a typo. I know you retirees out there might not be in the habit of getting up before the birds have been chirping for an hour or two, but you should consider making an exception on this occasion. Why would anything start at such a sleep-shattering hour? Reason one: Because it’s calm. Wind is not the best friend of the hot air balloonist. The more peaceful the air, the more maneuverable the balloon, and dawn is the peak launching time.
Reason two; the visual experience has no match. Before the main launch, which happens as the sun’s coming up, there’s what’s called the “Dawn Patrol.” While it’s still dark, the balloons are lit, creating a magical glow which, especially up close, is awe inspiring. The launch itself is equally gasp-worthy, when as many as three dozen balloons go up in unison, including colorful and clever specialty-shaped balloons, with characters from cartoons, the movies, and other realms. The whole event could very well be compared to a fireworks display.
Attendees get to talk to balloon pilots, get up-close to experience tethered balloons, and see first-hand what it takes to inflate and launch them. Tethered ride tickets will also be for sale so visitors can experience a hot air balloon ride without leaving the ground.
A few lucky people will have the opportunity to make an Instant Sponsorship which allows them a full ride on a hot air balloon during the event. They’ll be able to wave to the crowd on the ground as they lift off with the pilot on a 30-45 minute ride through the skies with dozens of other hot air balloons.
There’ll be lots of family activities, unique gifts and goodies, and we guarantee plenty of delicious food, coffees, beers, champagne and mimosas.
This is a 501c3 non-profit event, with the focus of educating and keeping the sport of hot air ballooning alive. Hot air ballooning goes back to the late 1700’s and has a remarkable history in the world of air travel. Events like these are scarce in our country and almost non-existent elsewhere in the world.
This is an ideal family festival. Kids are fascinated by hot air balloons, especially in this day and age of computers and special effects. The science behind them is ancient and the magic eternal.
Not only is this festival a great reason to travel to Northern California in early June, it’s the perfect opportunity to get a full day or weekend of the unmatched beauty and deliciousness of Sonoma County. By attending so early in the morning you’ll have the rest of the day free to explore the stunning landscape from mountains to the ocean, shop, wine taste, eat out, and do all the things you’d like to fit into a vacation day, but often don’t get up early enough to do.
June 4th and 5th, 2022 4am-10am each day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds: 1350 Bennett Valley Rd in Santa Rosa California. https://www.schabc.org/ for more information. See you there!
Visiting Martha’s Vineyard on a budget? Yes it’s possible
Martha’s Vineyard is a beautiful place that happily welcomes and accommodates visitors from all walks of life. While it is known as a destination for the affluent and has a reputation as being a pricey place to visit, it is home to a diverse population and it can definitely be enjoyed on a tight budget. Like any popular destination there are endless choices to pick from so knowing the most affordable options is the best way to plan a budget friendly trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s our top tips for enjoying your time on Martha’s Vineyard without having to break the bank. Getting here and getting aroundThe cheapest way to travel on to the Island is to take the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry which departs from Woods Hole in Falmouth multiple times a day. It’s the residents’ year-round lifeline to ‘America’ and it’s $19 for a roundtrip passenger ticket which includes a free shuttle bus ride in Falmouth from the SSA’s designated parking lots. There is a cost for parking which ranges from $10-20/day depending on the seasons, rates available here.Once you arrive on the Island the most cost efficient way to get around is via the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus line which travels through all six Martha’s Vineyard towns daily. A one day pass is only $10 and the bus makes frequent stops including in the busy downtowns of Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Oak Bluffs, as well as the popular fishing village Menemsha and the iconic, and majestic Aquinnah Cliffs. Plan to spend the day exploring Martha’s Vineyard’s most popular points of interest and attractions, most of which can be seen for free, including many of our beautiful beaches! Kids love to stop off at the ‘JAWS’ bridge in Edgartown to take a leap into the water, another popular stop along the VTA bus. Another affordable way to get around the Island is to bring your bike over on the ferry (an extra $8 fee round trip) and take advantage of the more than 35 miles of paved bike paths on Martha’s Vineyard. You can also rent a bike once you arrive, as there are several bike rental locations within walking distance from the ferry terminals in both Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. Staying hereThe most cost efficient way to experience Martha’s Vineyard is to enjoy a day trip and avoid the cost of lodging, but it if you want to stay longer (which we always recommend!) there are some very reasonable options available. One of the most affordable is the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, located just one and a half miles from the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority ferry terminal and easily accessible via a VTA bus. The Campground offers spacious wooded sites, complete with picnic tables, fireplaces, and hookups to accommodate tents or RVs. They also offer a number of new camping cabin rentals, as well as restrooms showers, laundromat, store, recreation hall and playground. The Campground is open seasonally May to October and rates begin at $59/night. Another reasonably priced option is the HI Martha’s Vineyard Hostel located in West Tisbury and also easily accessible via the VTA bus. The hostel boasts free Wi-Fi; free continental breakfast; a fully equipped, shared guest kitchen; easy access to public transit and bike trails; and a large lawn with sand volleyball, grill, tables and chairs. The hostel is open seasonally from May to October with rates starting at just $38/night.Martha’s Vineyard is also home to dozens of hotels, inns, and beds & breakfast, many of which offer discounted rates in the fall, winter and spring. You can browse our list of accommodations here, and find last minute lodging specials here. Many homeowners also rent their homes with local real estate companies and on online marketplaces that specialize in home rentals. Where to eatThere’s no shortage of restaurants on Martha’s Vineyard but many of them can get pricey if you’re not careful. For starters we’d recommend packing your own reusable bottle of water and granola bars, fruit, or snacks to keep you fueled throughout the day so you don’t find yourself having to spending more in a pinch.Morning coffee is a must for many of us and the cheapest coffee on the go you’ll get is at Cumberland Farms, 99 cents for the biggest size they have, hot or iced. It’s one of the few chain businesses on Martha’s Vineyard and is located within walking distance to the Vineyard Haven SSA ferry terminal, and directly across the street from the Chamber of Commerce offices – where you can stock up on free maps and info on getting around and making the most of your stay.When your morning hunger strikes head to Black Dog Bakery in Vineyard Haven for a reasonably priced breakfast sandwich, Linda Jean’s in Oak Bluffs or Dock Street Diner in Edgartown for some of the lowest cost breakfast plates around. Each of them offer a casual, local vibe, and are the type of ‘hidden gems’ we all long to discover on vacation wherever we may go.Lunch can easily be skipped given the portions you’ll get at the spots above but if you get hungry midday from all of your exploring you can still dine on a dime, or close to it. The Barn, Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs often offers a $9.99 lunch special most days of the week, plus if you’re up for a game of bowling they also offer affordable bowling packages too. If you’re hungry for a burger, Giordano's in Oak Bluffs offers a buy one, get one half off special. You can also score discounted deals on Asian inspired lunch specials, including Chinese and Japanese cuisine at Copper Wok in Vineyard Haven or Thai food at Bangkok Thailand in Oak Bluffs.Alternatively, the cheapest option may be grabbing a salad or sandwich at a local market like Tony’s or Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, or Stop n’ Shop (conveniently located in Vineyard Haven or Edgartown) and enjoying it outside in the park or on the beach.Dinner is often the priciest meal of the day so be careful where you sit down. Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs and Edgartown is a local tex-mex favorite known for its big portions and reasonable prices, not to mention their delicious nachos! If you’re looking for an authentic Martha’s Vineyard dining experience you’ll want to try our seafood and Coop de Ville on the Oak Bluffs waterfront has a fantastic view, as well as regular seafood specials including their Tuesday night Lobster Fest. For additional nightly dinner specials browse other options here and be sure to check out local menus before opting to sit down so you know what kind of prices you can expect. So there you have it! Martha’s Vineyard is not made for millionaires, and there’s ample options for the budget-conscious traveler. Good luck discovering the Island and challenge yourself to stay within whatever cost parameters you may have, after all the landscape of the Island is the best feature we have and looking around is absolutely free. CARD WIDGET HERESponsored by Martha's Vineyard
Discover USA: Colorado
Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, the beautiful state of Colorado. Colorado is known for unparalleled adventure and recreational pursuits, a thriving arts scene, a rich cultural heritage, flavorful cuisine and 28 renowned ski areas and resorts. Explore the Outdoors Nearly 40 percent of Colorado is federal public land, including four National Parks and eight National Monuments, 42 state parks, as well as hundreds of regional parks and open spaces. Public land is part of what makes the state’s landscape so breathtaking and lifestyle so rich, offering outdoor recreation, wildlife habitats, clean air and water. As the colder weather sets in, Colorado continues to provide exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities and in a much quieter landscape. Cross-Country Ski at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers incredible groomed cross-country skiing trails including the South Rim Drive, which swishes Nordic skiers and snowshoers to staggering views of Gunnison’s snow-dusted “black” rock walls. Winter Hike in Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks: With the appropriate hiking gear, winter can be a wonderful time to experience many of the 155 miles of trails Boulder offers. Enchanted Mesa provides a variety of trails winding among ponderosa pine forests and small meadows, while providing stunning views of the Flatirons. The trail is relatively flat and free from slippery ice, but take strap-on boot traction, like Yak-tracks or Micro-spikes, just in case. Ice Fish at Eleven Mile State Park: Spend quality time with friends near Lake George in a homey ice fishing hut while reeling in fleshy kokanee, trout and pike. Out-of-towners or newbies can visit 11 Mile Marina for equipment rentals or guided trips. Watch Eagles at Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area: Among Fort Collins’ greatest outdoor treasures are its 50+ Natural Areas. Every Friday and Saturday beginning Dec. 17, take part in an Eagle Watch from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area. Bald eagles from the north make Fort Collins their winter home. Volunteer Naturalists are stationed at the viewing pier and explain the eagles’ natural history and help visitors view them through spotting scopes and binoculars. Nordic Ski on the Grand Mesa: The Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat-top mountain, rises east of Grand Junction and is considered some of the best cross-country skiing terrain in the country. The professionally groomed cross-country ski trails, a network that both novice and expert skiers can enjoy, are maintained by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. See Frozen Falls Near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: When many people think of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, they think of a desert-like landscape. After all, the park boasts a whopping 30 square miles of sand dunes reaching heights up to 750 feet. The vastness feels even more visceral in winter with the treasurable quietness that a fresh blanket of snow affords. But a real treat is when the famous Zapata Falls, just 11 miles outside of the park, freezes into a 25-foot icy monument. See the Snow Goose Migration at John Martin Reservoir State Park: Every winter, particularly in January and February, the snow goose northern migration begins on the Great High Prairie. In a typical year, 80,000 to 100,000 snow geese returning from their wintering grounds and heading to their breeding grounds, stop at John Martin Reservoir State Park, just west of Lamar to rest and feed on leftover grain in nearby fields. Golf at Lathrop State Park: Spanish Peaks Country in southern Colorado is home to Lathrop State Park—Colorado’s very first state park. Proud to have Colorado’s only “state park golf course,” Lathrop attracts visitors year-round who want to get in a game on those warm, winter days. The Walsenburg Golf Course in Lathrop State Park is open daily as long as temperatures are above 32 degrees. Sled at Mueller State Park: Mueller State Park, 40 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, offers sledding, plenty of snowshoe and cross-country skiing trails and cozy winter cabins with modern amenities for those who prefer to celebrate winter by snuggling up next to a fire with a good book. Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park: Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the best ranger-led snowshoe programs in the state. Two-hour excursions begin at both the west (Grand Lake) and east (Estes Park) entrances January through March. Yurt Overnight at Ridgway State Park: Ridgway State Park's three yurts are found on the park's Dakota Terraces, where mountain views are indescribable and the potential for coziness abounds. The round, tent-like structures can be rented for two nights at a time and are warmed by a propane heater/gas log stove. Watch Wildlife in State Forest State Park: The winter landscape grants some of the best opportunities to watch mammals in their natural habitat. State Forest State Park, just east of Walden, is home to more than 600 moose that roam the park’s enormous 71,000 acres. Horseback Ride in the Wet Mountain Valley: On a bluebird day, with the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the Wet Mountains to the east, there’s hardly anything as magical as exploring the Wet Mountain Valley landscape in south central Colorado from horseback. Take a winter ride through a large, unpopulated Colorado valley with Music Meadows Ranch or Bear Basin Ranch. Arts and Culture Denver Meow Wolf - courtesy colorado.com Meow Wolf Denver: The immersive arts and entertainment company, Meow Wolf, opened “Convergence Station,” their third permanent installation and most ambitious project yet in Denver on Sept. 17. Created by 110 collaborating artists and over 300 creatives, this 4-story exhibition is home to 70-plus installations, including cavernous spaces 30 feet high. Akin to an everlasting gobstopper, guests discover psychedelic, mind-bending art, and an underlying rich narrative, taking them on a journey of discovery into a surreal, science-fictional epic. The Denver Art Museum's Martin Building Undergoes $150 Million Renovation: The Denver Art Museum’s Martin Building (formerly North Building), is undergoing an extensive, multi-year renovation including the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center, two new dining spaces, the Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center and updated galleries. The entire building is scheduled to reopen to the public on Oct. 24, 2021, in celebration of its 50th anniversary at the end of 2021. Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA): The DCPA recently announced the return of the Broadway, Theatre Company, Cabaret and Off-Center seasons featuring 30 shows, which kicks off in November with the Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol in the newly renovated Wolf Theatre. Broadway shows will also return, starting with Disney’s The Lion King, Hamilton is set to follow with a tentative February 2022 premiere, among several others. The Beer Spa, a modern-day wellness space that combines a day spa with a craft beer bar, opened recently in Denver. Enjoy beer-inspired spa services while sipping on a locally sourced craft beverage. The Culture Museum is a new immersive, multi-room art installation in Denver dedicated to celebrating iconic moments in Black pop culture. The museum, which recently opened in the RiNo Art District in Five Points, explores an array of Black culture expressions with themed rooms ranging from ‘90s sitcoms and iconic films, to hip hop music, to the barbershop and family reunions. The featured artists are Sarah Iverson, Jeremiah Black, Regine Cotton, Zaida, Decay Renew, Freedom Waves, and Chance. Courtesy of rockymountaineer.com Rocky Mountaineer: Rockies to the Red Rocks Route- Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train operator, will run its first full season in the Southwest United States in 2022. The Rockies to the Red Rocks route is a two-day rail journey between Denver and Moab with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs. The company works with local tourism organizations, hotels and tour operators to curate custom packages that feature tours, activities and stays, so guests can experience even more of the region. Aspen Herbert Bayer Center: With a soft opening in December 2021 and grand opening in June 2022, the new Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies will focus on preserving and honoring the art of Bayer, who designed the Institute’s historic campus, influenced the foundations of modern Aspen, and whose work is an iconic expression of the Bauhaus movement in America. Naturita CampV: a reimagined historic mining camp, welcomes travelers with restored cabins, glamping tents, curated airstreams and camp spots as well as immersive arts experiences. Grand Junction Courtesy of museumofwesternco.com The Dinosaur Journey Museum near Grand Junction is a regional paleontological and geological museum that tells the story of the history of life in western Colorado and surrounding areas. The hands-on, interactive museum includes over 15,000 fossil specimens in its collections, exhibits and displays featuring discoveries from the region, a viewable paleontology laboratory where dinosaur bones are prepared for display, an earthquake simulator and a “quarry site” where kids can uncover actual Jurassic dinosaur bones. Golden Located near Golden, the legendary Red Rocks Historic Park & Amphitheatre, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is more than just a beautiful place to see a concert. It encompasses 738 total acres of deer, dinosaurs, pines and prairie, geological wonders and spectacular vistas. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon — the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Boulder The Colorado Chautauqua in Boulder is considered the western representation of the “Chautauqua movement” that swept the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is the only Chautauqua west of the Mississippi that has continuously operated with its original structures intact. Located at the base of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, the Colorado Chautauqua offers outstanding musical, arts and educational programs, charming accommodations in historic cottages and lodges, fine dining at the historic Dining Hall, and direct access to 40 miles of trails and thousands of acres of open space. Culinary Breckenridge Breckenridge Distillery Debuts Interactive Spirits Lab: The Breckenridge Distillery’s new interactive spirits lab allows guests to not only taste award-winning spirits, but the opportunity to delve behind the scenes of spirit production and aging while thieving directly from barrels, blending their own bottles and sampling paired bites from the award-winning kitchen and producer partners. Denver Deviation Distilling Opens in Denver’s Dairy Block in Fall 2021: Deviation Distilling transformed an 1800s firehouse into a lively patio, intimate lounge and event space in the heart of Dairy Block’s mixed-used alley in Downtown Denver. Distilling, known for its use of unique global ingredients, will be releasing a new cocktail menu and Dairy-block exclusive spirits as well as offering light, sharable bites. Courtesy of Tocabe Tocabe Launches Indigenous Marketplace in Denver: Popular fast-casual Denver restaurant Tocabe has helped elevate Native American food culture and made Native grown and produced foods more widely available, all the while strengthening Indigenous food-supply chains in the U.S. This summer Tocabe expanded operations to launch the Tocabe Indigenous Marketplace. The virtual pantry offers staples and ingredients from Native and Indigenous producers, farmers, ranchers and suppliers throughout the contiguous United States, and delivered directly to people’s doors. America’s First Full-Service, Alcohol-Free Bar, Awake Opens in Denver: Awake, an inclusive alcohol-free spirit store, bar, and coffee shop opened in Denver this past spring with a charitable mission. Awake is Colorado's first alcohol-free bar with America's most comprehensive, carefully curated selection of alcohol-free beer, wine, spirits and mocktail elixirs. Grand Junction - Grand Junction is home to James Beard award semi finalist Josh Nierenberg and his restaurants Bin707 and Taco Party, which is undergoing a major expansion in spring of 2022. Nierenberg has recently partnered with Ramblebine Brewery on a custom menu of perfectly paired bites under the new BlockParty GJ brand and collaborated with local winemaker, Carlson Vineyards, to create the custom High Desert Wine Lab label, which is the house red and white wine for Bin707 and Taco Party. Boulder On Saturdays in Boulder, visitors and locals gather at the Boulder Farmers Market. This outdoor market has been a hub for local food and community for nearly 30 years. Unlike many markets, everything is strictly local — grown or raised in Colorado. CARD WIDGET HERE
Panama City Beach courtesy visitpanamacitybeach.com Panama City Beach is a dream escape for couples seeking a romantic weekend getaway this Valentine’s Day. Luxury spas, award-winning restaurants and miles of beautiful beaches and clear, emerald-green waters offer an enchanting, laid-back atmosphere for an unforgettable vacation with your special someone. Whether you prefer exotic adventures like scuba diving, fishing or hiking through state parks, or serene beach days spent with your toes in the sand, Panama City Beach is the perfect spot to explore with your special someone. Adventurous couples can hike or bird watch on the picturesque shores of the Gulf of Mexico at St. Andrews State Park, or get out on the water and try to spot wildlife on a dolphin tour, kayak or paddle board rental. In the evening, enjoy dinner with a side of gorgeous gulf views at Runaway Island Beach Bar and Grill then dance the night away to live music. Low-key lovebirds looking to relax can spend the day lounging under the Florida sunshine or treat themselves to a spa day with special Valentine’s spa offers for 2 at Serenity Spa at Sheraton. Conclude the day with a sunset stroll along the destination’s pristine, white-sand beaches before an intimate fine dining experience at Firefly. Seattle - Hot Tub Boat courtesy hottubboats.com If you are in the Seattle area for Valentines or really anytime - have a unique adventure in a Hot Tub Boat. Built entirely in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, the boat can carry 2500lbs of water and 6 grown adults while maintaining stability. Enjoy the ease of the joystick navigation while cruising around and the continuous, adjustable heating. Each boat comes with plenty of dry storage that can handle anything you bring along. Hollywood, Florida courtesy Diplomat Beach Resort The Diplomat Beach Resort is featuring a “Suite Affection” special for couples and besties looking to escape the cold climate this Valentine’s Day weekend. Located in Hollywood, the seaside resort is the perfect destination for those looking for a charming beachfront retreat with easy access to Miami and Fort Lauderdale’s attractions. Now through February 25th get a 20% discount on the cost of any suite room booked for two or more nights, plus two complimentary glasses of champagne or wine upon check in. The package also includes 10% off on cabana rentals, plus complimentary bicycle rentals, and beach lounge chairs. The resort has a variety of amenities, including five culinary concepts ranging from grab-n-go options to alfresco dining: Diplomat Prime, a luxury boutique steakhouse; Playa, a poolside, beachfront Nuevo Latino cuisine with a rum and tequila bar and fresh juice drinks; the breakfast spot Counter Point; the onsite convenience store The Canteen; and the vibrant lobby Hotel Bar. Guests can immerse themselves in the refreshing waters of beachfront pools or the infinity pool terrace and have drinks and food delivered to their private Trina Turk-styled cabanas or upper-deck casitas. New York City - Rom Com Movie Tour samfotograf - I Stock On Location Tours is launching the Private NYC Rom Com Movie Tour in a classic Hollywood car featuring swoon-worthy locations from various romantic comedies shot in New York City! Whether it's a couples trip, girlfriends getaway, or plain old Saturday afternoon, fans can get that warm and fuzzy nostalgic feeling as their tour guide, a local actress, fills them in on charming behind-the-scenes fun facts about picturesque sites featured in the films. On this tour, passengers will stop at Cafe Lalo for a coffee break, where Kathleen Kelly got stood up by her date in You've Got Mail; snag some freshly baked goods at Zabar's, featured in Manhattan; put their starry-eyed opera glasses on at world-famous Lincoln Center, as seen in Moonstruck; recreate the scene where Harry and Sally picked up their Christmas tree every year, and more! The classic car is available for parties up to three. If there are more than three in a party, the vehicle will be upgraded to a Mercedes Sprinter or Sedan. While it's launching in time for Valentine's Day, it will be available after Valentine's Day as well. On Location Tours is partnering with three hotels in Manhattan: Shelburne Hotel & Suites, Gardens Suites Hotel, and Fifty Hotel & Suites to create an NYC combo package: Two tickets to the NYC Rom Com Tour, a bottle of champagne, and a one-night stay at any of the hotels this month.
Discover USA: Athens, Georgia
Join Budget Travel as we continue our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what Athens, Georgia has to offer. Athens is known for its eclectic mix of Southern traditions, modern attractions, and a vibrant arts scene, which includes incredible live music. The vibe and energy that gave birth to R.E.M., the B-52s and Widespread Panic is alive and well today through a variety of events and attractions. Culinary Athens Beer Trail Akademia Brewing - courtesy visitathensga.com The Athens Beer Trail is the newest beer getaway and adventure in the south. Visit all six local breweries to discover their individual approach to craft beer. Along the way, we guarantee you'll find new flavors, new friends, and enjoy the Athens creative vibe. It's not every day you get prizes for drinking beer. But luckily for you, that’s how the Athens Beer Trail rolls. Athens Beer Trail launched in October 2021 as a collaboration between Visit Athens GA and all local breweries. Condor Chocolates Condor Chocolate, birthed by Athens natives and brothers Nick and Peter Dale, is a bean-to-bar chocolate shop that starts every creation with cacao from Ecuador, their mother's native country. After thriving in Athens’ Five Points neighborhood, a second location opened in Downtown Athens on November 24, 2021. The new shop and café features large windows allowing guests to watch small batch chocolate production in action. It also introduces Condor's own coffee, called Peña. The coffee is named after the Choco Toucan, which lives in Ecuador’s coffee-growing regions and is named after the Chocó forest, not after chocolate. Coffee connoisseurs will appreciate the state-of-the-art Decent Espresso machines which will be the first of this kind in Athens. Cafe Racer Coffee + Donuts Sugar Daddie at Cafe Racer - courtesy of caferacer78.com Cafe Racer Coffee + Donuts is located on Highway 78— located 10 minutes east of Athens, Georgia. This drive thru only, is known for not only their coffee but their amazing potato donuts and big ole biscuits. Try the Sugar Daddie a classic potato donut stuffed with classic creme patissiere + topped & torched classic crème brûlée style offered only on Saturday and Sunday. Or if big ole biscuits are your thing see if you can handle the BB King a double stacked mustard fried sausage patties with sharp cheddar cheese + spicy pickle chips + drenched in Racer Sauce ™️ or the TaterBoi , Jalapeño cream cheese, fried hash brown patty, racer sauce, scrambled egg, cheddar cheese. Add some hot sauce if you've got the courage. If 10 minutes is too far for you dont despair Cafe Racer will be opening a Cafe Racer 2 right in Athens on West Broad Street in Spring/Summer 2022. Arts and Culture Athens Music Walk of Fame courtesy visitathensga.com / Jason Thrasher Athens may be best known on the world stage as the birthplace of some of America’s best-loved bands, including R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic and Drive-by Truckers. The Athens Music Walk of Fame debuted in 2020 and passes by several renowned music venues like the Georgia Theatre, 40 Watt Club, and Morton Theatre. Inductees will be added each year. A free app uses proximity beacons to share sights and sounds. The Walk of Fame is a must-see attraction for all music fans and is a perfect daytime activity before heading to listen to live music in the evening. Porcelain & Decorative Arts Museum The newest part of the state’s official 313-acre garden, the Porcelain & Decorative Arts Museum features eight different gallery spaces that blend conservation, botanicals, art, beauty and curiosity. The Museum is a must-see for all art, history, garden and nature enthusiasts. Free, timed tours of the museum can be scheduled. Adjacent to the building is the Garden of Discovery and Inspiration where visitors can connect to the living botanical collection that is represented on so much of the porcelain pieces in the museum. After a soft opening during Covid, the dedication of the museum and surrounding Center for Art and Nature will be in April 2022. Bulldog Statues Around Athens courtesy visitathensga.com Dozens of larger-than-life bulldog statues stand guard throughout Athens, a public art display that is fun for all ages. Whether you are a fan of public art, a die-hard UGA Bulldog, a kid or a kid at heart, you'll enjoy seeking out these statues while you are there. These bulldog statues are the original Selfie Spots in Athens! Athens' Mural Alley Sandy Creek Park surrounds Lake Chapman and features a variety of activities and facilities. Athens Mural Alley is a public art project to beautify the alleyway that connects Clayton Street (by Classic City Cycling) and Washington St. The project is a collaboration among the Athens Area Arts Council, Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, Athens Downtown Development Authority and Lyndon House Arts Center. To find additional murals throughout Athens checkout this list of 29 murals. Explore the Outdoors Sandy Creek Park Sandy Creek Park surrounds Lake Chapman and features a variety of activities and facilities. Swim at the only beach in Athens-Clarke County. More than 28.000 square feet of sand and more than a half-acre of water. Hikers, walk or even horeseback ride on over 16 miles of trails that are over easy to moderate terrain. There are also playgrounds, fishing, dog parks, a disc golf course, sports areas, and rental pavillion facilities. Sandy Creek Nature Center Five minutes down the road from Sandy Creek Park is 225 acres of woodlands and wetlands at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. Here is your gateway to outdoor exploration. Twelve trails, an Education and Visitor Center that includes live reptiles, amphibians, marine and freshwater aquariums and interactive natural history exhibits, a 1815 Log House and several wildlife observation areas. You can also explore their small planetarium and newly-expanded exhibit hall with interactive learning centers that feature the wetlands, coastal, woodlands, agricultural and urban environments of Northeast Georgia. Alice H. Richards Children's Garden courtesy visitathensga.com The Alice H. Richards Children's Garden is an exploration and a journey, not something you just walk through. Everything is designed with attention to detail and an interactive, educational component. The 2.5-acre garden contains a variety of fun, immersive locations, including a chestnut tree house, fossil wall, giant water-misting mushrooms, vegetable garden, a replica of a North Georgia cave, and more — all designed to be learned from, crawled through and touched. Children can water plants, dig for dinosaur bones, see underneath the soil for how plants grow, and frolic in a forest treehouse. There are gigantic ladybugs to crawl over, water features, fun sculptures, and much, much more. CARD WIDGET HERE