I love fireworks for any holiday, and I am incredibly excited how Colonial Williamsburg has packed an entire day with music, tradition, and fireworks in the unique way only this iconic American city can do. Join me in Colonial Williamsburg to enjoy the holiday festivities of Grand Illumination on Sunday, Dec. 3. After a morning of the town’s special activities and an afternoon of music, the events will conclude with “A Festival of Light and Thunder,” a free fireworks demonstration. Trust me, it’s going to be epic.
First, what is an illumination? In the 18th century, illuminations involved the firing of guns and lighting of fireworks. These guns and fireworks announced major events such as the birthday of a reigning sovereign, military victories, or the arrival of a new colonial governor.
Grand Illumination festivities begin at 4 p.m. when a town crier (of course Colonial Williamsburg begins the festivities with a town crier) officially opens the holiday season from the Courthouse steps. I’ve listed the highlights of the city's December 3rd events below. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com for tickets and even more details.
Until 6:30 p.m., themed musical performances will be showcased on four Historic Area stages:
At the same time, the William & Mary a Capella group the Gentlemen of the College will sing on the new porch of the Raleigh Tavern.
Fireworks and Parade
The celebration culminates in “A Festival of Light and Thunder” at 7 p.m. with simultaneous free fireworks demonstrations above the Capitol, the Magazine and the Governor’s Palace, followed by a torch-lit procession of the Fifes & Drums down Duke of Gloucester Street. Visit colonialwilliamsburg.com for complete programming details.
The day’s dining highlights include:
Guest parking is available at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center.
Daytime programs included with Colonial Williamsburg admission
Good Neighbor Passes to the Governor’s Palace
Also on Dec. 3, Colonial Williamsburg is offering a single-site ticket to the iconic Governor’s Palace, available in limited quantities exclusively via the Colonial Williamsburg Explorer mobile app for $15. The ticket will only be available on Dec. 3. For just $10, residents of Williamsburg, James City County and the Bruton District of York County can visit the Governor’s Palace and other sites daily and enjoy other benefits with a Good Neighbor Annual Pass. For additional information and to purchase a Good Neighbor Annual Pass visit colonialwilliamsburg.com/good-neighbor.
Tickets and program information are available by visiting colonialwilliamsburg.com. Tickets, reservations and information are available by calling 855-296-6627, toll-free. Information, dining reservations and same-day program tickets are available via the free Colonial Williamsburg Explorer app, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Information is also available by following Colonial Williamsburg on Facebook and @colonialwmsburg on Twitter and Instagram.
Knoxville Market Square is just about the perfect sliver of American civic and community life I’ve ever experienced. Located in the center of downtown, the square covers over one acre, with storefronts lining the east and west. The site became popular in the early 1800s, when farmers gathered to sell their produce. Now, you can still visit the local farmers’ market as well as people watch, see street performers, shop in unique boutiques, and eat at some of the best food trucks and restaurants in the area. For ideas for your next visit, check out my top-ten list below!
Experience the 30th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival, Norfolk’s famous wine festival, this October. Wine Enthusiast Magazine has called Virginia one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world! According to Norfolk FestEvents, this year’s fall wine festival will showcase more than 30 wineries with over 200 of Virginia’s best wine varieties.
Stroll along the Elizabeth River, sampling and purchasing premier wine vintages. Enjoy live musical performances, along with gourmet foods and specialty wares.
October 21-22, 2017
Town Point Park, Downtown Norfolk Waterfront, Virginia
Saturday: 11am - 6pm
Sunday: 11am - 6pm
General admission tickets (which don’t include tasting privileges nor souvenir glass) are $25 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Tasting tickets (which include souvenir glass and tasting privileges) are $35 in advance on Saturday; $30 in advance on Sunday.
While you’re exploring the Downtown Norfolk Waterfront, consider taking the ferry as part of your weekend adventure. The ferry service is also operated by Hampton Roads Transit and offers a great view of the harbor. The ferry only has one route, which travels between Downtown Norfolk at The Waterside, and North Landing and High Street in Portsmouth. For more information, visit Paddlewheel Ferry .
What will the weather be like? Because of its temperate mid-Atlantic climate, Norfolk is a year-round destination. October in Norfolk has ideal warmth, with an average high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and low of 54 degrees. Pack clothes that layer well, such as a fleece vest if you want to explore the waterfront in the mornings.
For more information about transportation, weather, and my recommendations on restaurants and places to stay, check out our inexpensive Norfolk itinerary.
I love island life.
The last week of August, I spent a week with my family on Hilton Head Island and, well, fell in love with a lifestyle.
Not just any old island will do. You must pick the RIGHT island for you. As with true love, the sensation of falling head-over-heals in love comes out of nowhere; but once you feel it, you can't live without it.
I love Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
Despite the frequent traveling I do, I honestly don't think I understood what “island life” meant until this trip. And I had not been to this part of the country since we shot videos here in 2008. To see the series, you can watch them on the Hilton Head page of my site.
Securing a vacation rental was the best fit for our family. We stayed at Palmetto Dunes at Inverness Village. I loved this community. The white, sandy beach was a five-minute’s bike ride away. Within Inverness Village, I had all the comforts and amenities of a luxury resort. The sand is HOT in August. An hour at the beach every day was enough for my family. Having a private pool off the deck was perfect; my children and I swam every day.
Because of the vacation rental, we could be as active as we were capable. Wherever we went on the island (or off), it was clean. I appreciated not having to pay attention to every step I took.
I decided to rent bikes for the family on the first day.
It was the BEST vacation decision I've made in a long time.
Island life revolves around biking...even when you don't do it in your everyday life. I chose to rent bikes from Pedals. They delivered the bikes to the house and picked them up free of charge. Easy.
I really am not a "sit around the beach and do nothing" sort of guy. I crave things to do. On this trip, I golfed, played tennis, jet-skied, mini-golfed and ate my way through the week.
Speaking of food, Hilton Head has more options than you'll have time to get to. Skull Creek Boathouse was a stand out as were all the restaurants I listed in my downloadable itinerary for Hilton Head Island.
Look for more on this subject in the future as I fully intend to return to Hilton Head and other iconic beach destinations in the future.
Let me know if you have a favorite island in the comments below.
I wrote an article for Hashtag West Virginia highlighting the State Fair of West Virginia a couple of weeks ago which reminded me of the many charms of the state fairs.
For budget-conscious families, state fairs offer affordable dining and fun close to home, and the fall is one of the best times to visit the state fair. The crisp air carries the scents of fresh-picked, farm-fresh food and the chance of sunburn decreases as you watch the horse, dog, and demolition displays from the grand stands.
Munch on funnel cake and giant cinnamon rolls as you browse the crafts, stained-glass, and needlework of the state’s residents. Take your sweetheart on a ride around the Ferris wheel for a bird’s eye view of the activity and try to win larger-than-life stuffed animal prize at the ring toss.
Give your kids a taste of old-fashioned pleasures such as fiddling, square dancing, and hay rides. And state fairs can be one of the best (and one of the most affordable) places to hear the biggest names in country music.
This Labor Day weekend and fall, make time to go to the fair. All over America, the good times are rolling.
State Fairs - Fall 2017
New York State Fair
August 23 – September 4, 2017
Alaska State Fair
August 24 - September 4, 2017
Maryland State Fair
August 24 - September 4, 2017
Minnesota State Fair
August 24 - September 4, 2017
Nebraska State Fair
August 25 - September 4, 2017
Oregon State Fair
August 25 - September 4, 2017
Colorado State Fair
August 25 - September 4, 2017
New Hampshire State Fair
September 1 - 4, 2017
Washington State Fair
September 1 - September 24, 2017
New Mexico State Fair
September 7 - 17, 2017
Kansas State Fair
September 8 - 17, 2017
Oklahoma State Fair
September 14 - 24, 2017
Massachusetts State Fair
September 15 – October 1, 2017
Virginia State Fair
September 29 - October 8, 2017
Arizona State Fair
October 6 -29, 2017.
Arkansas State Fair
October 12 - 22, 2017
Georgia National Fair
October 5 - 15, 2017
South Carolina State Fair
October 11 - 22, 2017
North Carolina State Fair
October 12 - 24, 2017
Louisiana State Fair
October 26 - November 5, 2017
Alabama National Fair
October 27 - November 5, 2017
Many people who travel overseas are looking for relaxation—to sunbathe on the gorgeous Jamaican beaches, to lounge at a Mexican resort. These are generally safe destinations, right? While I love soaking up the beauty of the Caribbean, I was alarmed to see a popular hotel chain in Mexico had reportedly several incidents with guests involving tainted alcohol.
Considering the recently uncovered information about tainted alcohol by suppliers being sold to resorts in Cancun the Riviera Maya, I cannot recommend traveling to this part of the world now.
State Department Issued Travel Warning
The U.S. State Department has cautioned travelers in Mexico about allegedly tainted alcohol, and many are wondering if it’s safe to have a margarita or even travel south of the border at all. According to an August 15 article in Time, authorities cracked down on 31 resorts, restaurants and nightclubs in Cancun and Playa del Carmen. They discovered these tourist hot spots were receiving unsanitary alcohol from an illicit manufacturer.
Are the resorts culpable? It sounds to me like they purchased alcohol they believed to be perfectly safe. Should resorts do more testing? Yes, it sounds like they should. After all, they are ultimately the ones responsible for the alcohol being served by to their guests. It also does not appear as though individual resort employees were responsible. While I am not here to blame, I believe the responsibility is with Mexican authorities who need to do more to protect resorts by enforcing alcohol manufacturing and distribution laws.
A Sobering Reminder
The warning came after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation about a U.S. citizen who died on a family vacation in a resort’s pool. Other tourists reported blacking out after drinking at other resorts in Mexico.
Details are still unfolding, but the warning highlights the need for travelers to drink in moderation, especially when outside the country, and to look out for others.
In the meantime, head to the Caribbean or take a cruise. If you must travel to Mexico, here are a few tips to help keep you safe.
Safety Tips for Your Mexican Resort Vacation
Knowing what you can do to be alert and safe can help you have a good vacation.
Erik the Travel Guy
The Journal Sentinal published a story about an ongoing investigation of a 20 year old American tourist who died at an all inclusive resort in Mexico. The family believes she (and her brother) were targeted and drugged by the resort staff in an attempt to extort money from them. The family's attorney asserted that perhaps the resort was mixing brand name liquor with grain alcohol or other additives that can be toxic, harmful and fatal. The story was well written and well researched. I applaud the Journal Sentinal for quality journalism. The story itself is heartbreaking and it troubles me.
You can read the story here.
I'm not one to overreact. If anything, I am here to remind you that millions of Americans will visit all inclusive resorts (where your alcohol is included) this year. And with minor exception, they come home happy and extremely satisfied with their trip. The biggest danger being dehydration and too much exposure to the sun.
This horrific incident took place at a reputable resort owned and managed by an excellent company. If the allegations are true (which would be very hard to prove) that employees are mixing alcohols in an attempt to extort money from tourists, then this is a problem. However, the likelihood of proving that is pretty slim.
So what can you to protect yourself? Nothing...really. This is a numbers a game and the odds of being targeted by rogue employees for nefarious reasons is pretty slim.
On another note, this is HUGE story for resort owners. Pay close attention to this story, launch meaningful and private internal investigations and insure this ISN'T happening right under your nose at your properties. The last thing Americans need to hear is their free booze may kill them in Mexico. If that's the story that is heard, then they will simply go somewhere else.
On the 22nd of June, 2017, Ritz-Carlton announced it was getting into the luxury cruise business. Sometime in Q4 of 2019, three new ships will debut each featuring 149 suites to accommodate 298 guests. So the question I have is, will this be a brand branching too far out from its core business or will this be hailed as a wild success. Time will tell, but I think their is enough water in the ocean for luxurious competition. First, it's not as though we are in uncharted waters here. The commercial business is huge in this country and has come a long way since the first days of Carnival. And certainly there are other luxury yacht, small and mid ship cruises on the market, but Ritz has the cache and the mailing list to have a leg up on the competition. But I can say this, if anybody can get it to work it's Ritz Carlton and its parent company Marriott International.
You can read the official release here and get more information about RC Yachts here.
So I say we make our reservations in May of 2018 for a seven or ten day itinerary and then get ready to have a fantastic cruise.
I have some troubling news to report today, but don't panic. It's going to be okay. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was released the other day, and the key finding was that half of Americans will NOT be taking a vacation this Summer.
The survey, conducted in May of this year, said 43 percent of Americans won't be taking a summer vacation. The top reason for skipping a trip was the cost, cited by 49 percent of non-vacationers. Another 11 percent said they can't take the time off from work, while 3 percent said they don't like to be away from work. You can read the full study here (after you're finished reading my blog post).
Folks, now I am begging. Please do not underestimate the power of a few days off away from the pressures of your workplace. Expedia commissioned a study a few years ago and found some pretty compelling reasons to travel including lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. More reading from Expedia.
However, I do understand a financial constraint or a time constraint are real factors. Earlier this year we decided to embark on production of a Summer Video Series focused on one geographic area. Almost every place we planned to visit is within a six hour drive from another destination in the series. Primarily we wanted to draw the conclusion that your "backyard" is larger and more diverse than you may think. Never the less, it's a good idea to think about a mini-vacation close to home. Get out a map and draw a five hour concentric circle around your town and then pick one of the places within the zone. Anybody can do five hours in the car without going stir crazy! As far as the money goes, avoid spending more than you can afford. Stay in a clean local B&B or Inn and remember to pack snacks from home. It goes a long way in the vacation savings!
These are just a few tips I can share with you. But I say, less reading and more ACTUAL trip planning is in order for you. Now get out there and take that vacation!
Top ten travel tips is not my favorite subject because as far as I can tell, it matters to WHOM the top ten list is intended.
Travel is an odds game with so many factors working (or not working) at the same time, it’s impossible to have an end-all list. The ideas here are not hard and fast RULES, just my top ten suggestions that I follow when planning and taking a trip.
Go someplace you want to go
I love to explore new places, but don’t plan a trip (or agree to go on one with someone else) just because you find a cheap fare or a great hotel. Be sure to travel to places you personally think you would find interesting, stimulating or fulfilling. At the same time, manage your expectations and the expectations of others on your trip. Destinations always look better in print or online. No matter what, the place you’re traveling to will, in fact, be a little rough around the edges.
An ounce of planning goes a long way. That means, when you’re shopping for travel, look at travel websites, ask your friends, read the newspaper and listen to The Travel Show (of course). But, to the best of your ability, get educated about your destination selections and then narrow them down.
Make a “Leaving Home” checklist
On a recent trip overseas, I packed all my broadcast equipment and no microphone. This could have been avoided if I had made a list. Now, I have a packing list and an “on the ranch” checklist. Items like “stop newspaper delivery” are on the list.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to only pack only what you can carry by yourself. Also, be aware of weight restrictions of the airline in which you are flying. Also, you may want to bring home souvenirs, so leave room in your checked luggage. I never pack valuables in my checked luggage and I always have bag tags on the outside and business cards with the phrase written on the back: “if this bag is found, please call the number on this business card”.
Arrive at the airport EARLY
I follow the general rule of arriving at least 90 minutes for domestic flights 2 and ½ hours for international departures. I know it seems excessive, but missing your flight or stressing through the entire airport process can really do a number on your mood. Al so be sure to have all of your documents…passport, frequent flier number etc. Also, use the automated kiosks (if possible). Once you’re all checked in, you can wade through the security procedure with ease.
At the gate, ask for your preferred seats
If you are not happy with your seat or think you have a better chance of getting a different one (window…isle…exit row etc) then ask when you arrive at the gate.
Buy a bottle of water after security-trail mix-mints or gum
Staying hydrated is very important on airplanes. I always buy a small bottle of water (in the terminal (after security), some almonds and some gum. This way, I am prepared for whatever PANG hits me while confined to my cramped coach seat.
Plan to have something go wrong and set your positive mind set in advance
With more planes in the sky, antiquated air traffic control equipment, more people flying, the high cost of fuel and the weather, something is bound to get all fouled up on your next airport experience.
Don’t plan a set schedule on your air travel days
Because there are so many things that can go wrong, it’s a good idea to not schedule appointments on your travel days. Always try for the earliest flight of the day and then leave it nice and (fluid) upon your arrival.
Vacation is a time to spend an extra couple of dollars guilt-free. I’m not suggesting you go into bankruptcy, but you’ve earned the privilege of ordering the steak instead of the chopped steak. One caution, don’t “charge” your vacation. Any good financial analyst will tell you no vacation is worth digging yourself into a larger hole. Be sure you can afford the trip and then, have a great time!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission.