Just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. is a little area on the Potomac called National Harbor, Maryland. Many times confused with Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, strictly due to the word ‘Harbor’ it is actually not even really that close to the Baltimore area.
Four years ago I was introduced to the head of the tourism board for National Harbor, Josh Winston, at the Las Vegas Travel Forum hosted by the Travel Show Marketing Group. During our short 6 minute round table introduction, Josh told us all about the area and I was sold in those 6 minutes. The area in Maryland is actually only about 4 hours from our agency headquarters in New Jersey so it was a very attractive selling point when considering putting together a group for Starstuff Travel to head down there at Christmas time. He put me in touch with the group department at the famous Marriott property Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center and the rest is history for our agencies annual Holiday Magic Experience in National Harbor, Maryland.
This year the agency hosted our third annual group trip to the beautiful area of Maryland. It is truly nothing short of spectacular during the holiday season. It reminds me of something out of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Besides all the great shopping and dining experiences available, the harbor has a great big Christmas tree right in the middle of town that offers a light show every 30 minutes and on select Saturday nights even has fireworks and snow! They also have a large movie screen in the same area of the Christmas tree where they feature holiday movies throughout the holiday season. A short walk down the pier and you can ride the Capitol Wheel which is listed as one of the ten largest Ferris wheels in the country offering magnificent views of the Potomac.
Although there are many great accommodations in the area, our group has been staying at the Gaylord National the past three years. One of my favorite parts of this trip is the ease of being able to park your car for the weekend and not needing to use it again until you are ready to head home. Everything in town is within walking distance and if you want to head to the nearby MGM Casino for a night out of gambling or the Tanger outlets for shopping they have a complimentary shuttle for those staying in any of the local hotels. Each year the Gaylord is home to ICE which is an event showcasing millions of pounds of sculpted ice that changes every year. This years theme was my favorite, the Grinch that Stole Christmas. The Gaylord also offers character breakfast that showcases whatever the theme of ICE is for that year along with Santa and Mrs. Claus meet and greets, ice skating, ice tubing, Build a Bear Workshop and many more holiday themed activities. You can see why the area would be such a draw for families looking to jump start the holiday season.
The Tourism Board of National Harbor has been absolutely fantastic to work with. They are all about growing the awareness of their area and all that it has to offer. Not only during the holidays but all year long. In fact, I have been advising clients it is a great destination during times like the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. They have a ferry that will bring you over to the Wharf area of DC as well as Alexandria, VA so it would be a great alternative for those looking to attend the festival during the day but also have some awesome nightlife with the amazing dining options that the Harbor area is known for.
For those not within driving distance, the National Harbor can also be reached by flying into BWI or Dulles airport and renting a car. Both airports are about forty five minutes from the area. So you can see just by reading this how 4 years ago I was sold within those 6 minutes hearing about what the Harbor had to offer me and our clients, now all that is left for you to do is actually book your next getaway or vacation to National Harbor, Maryland!
To book your next National Harbor vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!
The idea of going to Disney during Jersey Week was well....the thing of nightmares. I knew better after all I am surrounded by travel agents. So, when the idea of making the trip presented itself as a last minute idea...I was totally against it, but it was Disney. Eventually I caved to family pressure and we hit the open road. Flying was out of our budget for this time around.
What follows is my trip journal and the best Disney trip we have had. NO FastPass+, NO Dining Plans, NO Autograph Books just living in the moment knowing there would be lines, crowds and GREAT TIMES!
To book your next Jersey Week adventure, road trip, or family getaway, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
Traveling together as a mom and daughter duo can enhance your relationship when it is stuck in a rut. It can put you both in unique situations where you have the ability to possibly spark once-in-a-lifetime conversations that you do not have on an everyday basis. The pictures and stories you’ll share will be with you forever and will be heart warming to look back on. This past month I was lucky enough to have traveled to Las Vegas with my teenage daughter where we enjoyed the spa, shopping, shows and dining together for a few days. Then the following week I headed down to National Harbor, Maryland with my own mother for a Christmas holiday tradition at the Gaylord National Resort. I typically attend the ICE event here with my own children, but this year I was the daughter part of the mother/daughter trip. Below you will find the four most important reasons I believe Mother/Daughter trips are so important!
1. You can learn things you never knew about each other
As the daughter part of this traveling duo, you have surpassed those horrible teenage years where most of your conversations are just arguments about your choice in friends, your body piercings, or your lack of judgement when it comes to boys. At this point your closer to being peers and have way more in common to chit chat about. As the mother portion of the trip you are building a stronger bond with your daughter and setting the foundation of a lifelong friendship together. You will have more time to spend spoiling her without the other kids getting jealous.
2. You will create lifelong memories to look back on
It is not always easy to think about the unknown and how tomorrow is never promised, but tomorrow is really never promised. You will never regret the time you spend traveling together. It gives us the chance to create those memories, grow our scrap book with photos and take lots of video to watch down the road in future, maybe even to share with those new future bundles of joy that are later welcomed into the family.
3. You will make great travel companions
As the daughter, you most likely learned everything you knew about traveling from doing so with your mom when you were little. As the mother, you can share your love of travel with your daughter. The great thing about traveling together is there is never a need to be anything but yourself and it should be easy to figure out a comfortable balance between the two of you while away. Chances are you have more of the same likes than dislikes when it comes to things like food and hotel amenities.
4. Mother/Daughter trips can boost your health
It is a known fact that working on your relationships can help relieve stress that can otherwise adversely affect your physical and emotional health. Spending the alone time together during travel you are less likely to fight while you are away from home. It is a time you can also use to bury the hatchet if there is one.
Getting to enjoy both sides as a mother one week and a daughter the next gave me great insight into why traveling together is so important. I loved learning new things about my daughter but I also loved hearing old stories from my mom. I look forward to making these types of trips a tradition in our house for years to come!
When you are ready to book your Mother/Daughter travel reach out to one of our Starstuff Travel Planners by visiting here!
Don’t miss your chance to make history as we proudly present the first ever Epic Character Race weekend with a 5K Saturday February 1, 2020 through Universal Studios Florida. Take home brag-worthy swag as you join your favorite characters from Illumination’s Minions, Jurassic World, DreamWorks Animation's Shrek, Transformers and more. After the race, relax and refresh at your hotel and then hit the parks to enjoy all your favorite rides and attractions.
Universal Orlando’s 5K Epic Character Race takes place February 1, 2020. Travel period must include this date in order to enjoy all package inclusions. Package payment is required in full at time of booking and is non-refundable.
For more information on booking the race, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!
Norwegian Encore is the fourth and final ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway Plus Class, joining it's sister ships the Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Bliss. With a capacity to hold almost 4,000 passengers and so much to do on board, it is basically like a floating destination. We were lucky enough to enjoy two nights on the NCL Encore Inaugural event held at Pier 90 in Manhattan and were very impressed by what this ship offers those traveling with children.
This ship is a perfect choice for families traveling with children as well as teens since the list of groundbreaking entertainment and attractions is very long. The NCL Encore Speedway is the largest race track at sea and is only offered on select Norwegian ships. You are able to zoom around high-speed curves suspended 13 feet off the side of the ship with over 1100 feet of action perfect for your little dare devils. There are height requirements and both this and the laser tag are additional fees to participate.
They also offer a really neat laser tag area that is enjoyable for the whole family. It is themed after Atlantis ruins with a monstrous sea creature you must fight to get passed. With long lost treasures that virtually come to life with cutting-edge technology, this is an epic battle for the whole family to enjoy. There is no age restriction or height requirement at this time, you just need to be able to hold the equipment.
The Galaxy Pavilion is a virtual reality world that offers immersive VR experiences and thrilling simulator rides. You can work on solving the puzzles of an escape room, drive in a NASCAR race, shoot a laser gun at onscreen zombies running a muck on a mini movie theater screen, ride a jeep through scenery similar to Jurassic Park, and so much more! Like Laser Tag and the Speedway, this also does have an extra cost.
Norwegian Encore is home to two multistory waterslides on board, as well as an Aqua Racer tandem water slide. With the option of whooshing over the side of the ship on Ocean Loops or being able to enjoy a lazy day by the pool with a frozen beverage, this is the perfect activity for both parents and children alike on a warm sunny day at sea!
The NCL Guppies program is a nursery for children 6 months to under 3 years old that does require a fee to be paid. The Guppies Nursery requires registration and reservations are available throughout the sailing. The program is attended by certified Nursery Attendants and offers babies and toddlers a wide range of activities. This area also offers the River Rose Reading Room by Kelly Clarkson (who is also the godmother of this ship). This is a darling room that requires parent participation where you can read books with your child inspired by Kelly Clarkson.
From theme night activities to cool parties, the NCL youth staff is fully trained to create some really amazing times for your children. The Splash Academy youth program is split into three groups according to age. The Turtles are ages 3 to 5 years old, the Seals are 6 to 9 years old, and the Dolphins are 10 to 12 years old. Splash Academy is typically open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., (though timing varies based on itinerary). On sea days, it closes for lunch and dinner, but on port days, it remains open (though fees apply for parents who want youth staff to supervise their kids during mealtimes). Splash Academy also hosts the Late Night Fun Zone until 1:30 a.m. Hourly fees apply for enrolling kids in this after-hours group babysitting program. Just make sure to always check upon boarding since info. is subject to change.
As you can see there is no shortage of fun on this ship for everyone to enjoy. We did not even mention all there is for the adults to do while the kiddos are taken care of. With the spa, nightly shows, the casino, fine dining and more you will be just as well taken care of as your children will be. Vacationing should be fun for everyone and on the NCL Encore it will be!
To book your next sailing reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is a historic landmark located right in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, a block away from the famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, California. It opened on May 15, 1927, and is the oldest continually operating hotel in Los Angeles, which is why I have been totally obsessed about staying here for many years!
The hotel is jam packed with Hollywood history from the very start. The first Academy Awards ceremony that lasted only ten minutes was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929, inside the Blossom Ballroom. The Blossom Ballroom was recently restored to it's original grandeur. The pool at the Roosevelt Hotel actually has it's own history as well. It was featured in a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy when the Ricardos and Mertzes came to Hollywood. Marilyn Monroe also posed for her first commercial photography shoot by that same pool. In 1988, famed British painter David Hockney completed a multi-million dollar mural on the bottom of the Tropicana Pool. Both the hotel and the pool have been designated Historic-Cultural Monuments by the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission..It is quite eerie to walk thru these areas and know such amazing things happened.
There are many notable residents and guests that have walked in and out of the doors of this historic hotel. Marilyn Monroe had lived in the hotel for two years early in her career, Montgomery Clift stayed in the hotel for about three months in 1952 during the filming of From Here To Eternity (and is said to still roam the halls today), Errol Flynn is said to have created his bootleg gin here, and even I Love Lucy's Mrs. Trumbull, Elizabeth Patterson, lived in the hotel during her 35 year long film and television career. One of my personal favorite stories is the Shirley Temple one. This is the hotel that she learned her famous stairstep dance routine on the hotels beautiful staircase for her movie “The Little Colonel” (1935) in which she stared with Mr. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. The picture does not even do this staircase justice. It is truly a beautiful work of art. I was so excited to walk on these very stairs myself!
The Hollywood Roosevelt has some very fun dining and cocktail options too. With an exclusive cocktail lounge, a game parlor with vintage bowling lanes, a 24-hour burger joint, an Italian steakhouse coming in Spring 2020, the Tropicana Pool Cafe and in-room dining, there is something here for everyone. No matter where you are in this hotel you never lose that old Hollywood charm either. If you are not interested in staying in the hotel for dinner there are some really great formal dining as well as casual dining options within a walk-able distance as well because of the great location of the hotel.
When selecting our room category when booking the reservation it was important to me to stay within that classic vibe so we went with the Cabana Balcony Room. The 350 square foot balcony room overlooks the David Hockney pool at the Tropicana Pool & Cafe. These rooms give you that vintage 1950's feel most people coming here are looking for (Marilyn Monroe actually lived in one of these Cabana rooms). If your looking for something more modern you will want to book a room in the tower part of the hotel. The hotels’ tower, built in 1927, has undergone a $25 million dollar renovation with rooms designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the firm that also worked on the Four Seasons Toronto and Park Hyatt New York, which both have been awarded Forbes Five Star status.
The hotel offers massage services right in their tranquil outside garden. The Massage Garden is open from 9:00am to 9:00pm by appointment only, and may I tell you the surroundings are absolutely breathtaking and perfect for a peaceful experience.
Simply put, my stay at this hotel was nothing short of spectacular. The hotel oozes a tremendous amount of Hollywood history. The building is allegedly haunted by Monroe, Montgomery Clift, and Errol Flynn which makes it that more interesting to visit! Today, the hotel still hosts many different celebrities, but it’s just as well known for countless bars, an epic nightlife scene, and unbeatable pool parties. This is a bucket list stay for all of you classic Hollywood buffs or those interested in the paranormal (luckily I did not experience anything out of the norm during my time here).
To book your adventure out to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
Aloha: is the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy, that is commonly used as a simple greeting but has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance to native Hawaiians. This week I truly found out the meaning to Aloha while visiting Kaua'i. Nicknamed "the Garden Isle", Kaua'i is covered by rainforest on much of its island. Many Hollywood films have been shot near the Na Pali Coast, while the island also offers amazing hiking for nature lovers. Visiting Kaua'i is truly an experience that is life changing.
There are four major geographic areas in Kaua'i that I have listed below. Each area just as beautiful as the next with so much to offer when you visit:
South Shore- including Koloa, Lawai, and Poipu
North Shore- including Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea
East Coast- including Kapaa, Wailua and Lihue
West Side- including the towns of Waimea and Hanapepe
During my time on this fascinating island I was lucky enough to take part in many amazing activities. The first one took place in Lihue doing mountain tubing with Kaua'i Backcountry Adventures. During the adventure we were in a tube for about an hour as we floated down the open canals, through several amazing tunnels and flumes engineered and hand dug back in 1870. During our time in each tunnel, we would turn our headlamps on (I would not recommend this for claustrophobic peeps). At the end of the adventure, we were guided to a nearby picnic area lunch and if we wanted to take a dip in their natural swimming hole we were more than welcome to. This is something that is suitable for all ages to take part in.
While I had the choice of either zip lining or kayaking, I went with selecting the Lydgate Farms Chocolate tour. Lydgate is in the area of Kapa'a. Our three-hour guided tour began with a stroll through their gardens, where we sampled some of their honey, and all different tropical types of fruit (many I have never even heard of). We learned all about Cacao and tasted it’s ripe fruit, as well as learning the secrets of turning raw cacao seeds into finished chocolate.
Our tour finished with an extensive chocolate tasting where we tried about 9 different types and had a small fun quiz of what we were tasting. Although the portions were small, we had so much chocolate I actually felt a little sick for the rest of the day. The guide was full of energy and was extremely knowledgeable. Another great spot for kids and adults of any age.
Another bucket list adventure I was lucky to take part of was the Deluxe Waterfall Safari helicopter tour with Safari Helicopters (also in the Lihue area). To say I was nervous would be an understatement, however the pilot had such a calmness about him, within moments I felt completely safe. The tour lasted 60 minutes and we were blessed to view the Na Pali Coast, Waimea Canyon, and so much more from a birds eye perspective all while listening to a beautiful soundtrack while the pilot gave us incredible information about each area we flew by.
Some really fun stops along the way during our days in Kaua'i were stopping at the rum tasting room at the Koloa Rum Company before enjoying the Luau Kalamaku, lunch at the Living Food Market that served local and organic bites, taking part in the Taro Farm Flood Recovery Ecotour, and the Spouting Horn.
A must do while in Kaua'i is the Napali sunset cruise with Holo Holo Charters. This is the perfect cruise for those who want to see the Napali coast and enjoy the possibility of catching the views of a whale or some dolphins but not looking to snorkel. They also serve a wine, beer, and mixed drinks along with dinner and a champagne toast at sunset. This is a 3 hour tour that is seriously the best cruise/catamaran I have ever been on. Sadly, I did not take motion sickness medication because I had never gotten ill on a boat ride and unfortunately was extremely ill half way into this trip. I highly recommend taking some Dramamine out of caution because it is not a memory you will want to miss! There were about four rainbows we witnessed and I know I would have enjoyed it much more if I was not worried about getting sick if I moved my head. That being said the crew was so attentive and made sure I always had anything I needed (which included a bag of ice for my head).
On the last day of our stay we did a downhill Waimea Canyon bike tour with Outfitters Kaua'i. We started at an elevation of 3,600 feet and biked down to sea level going about 25 miles an hour. We made frequent stops to witness the dramatic canyon cliffs, learn about the area, and look out over the majestic Pacific Ocean. The guides were amazing, and although it was quite petrifying at moments with oncoming traffic, the guides always made sure we were safe.
There was a song I learned while I was on the island of Kaua'i called "These Islands" by Danny Couch. The song asks "Have you seen these islands? Have you seen the beauty of the land? Do you know it's people, brothers sisters, walking hand in hand" and eventually goes into the chorus of "This is aloha, This is aloha, This is aloha, This land of Hawaii" and when I left Kaua'i, I can truly say that I felt I knew the genuine meaning of aloha in my heart.
Please enjoy these two video tours of resorts I stayed at while visiting Kaua'i.
To book your adventure in Kaua'i reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!
It took me a few weeks after our cruise to work on this blog, and after revisiting our photos once again, I am completed overwhelmed by the beauty of Alaska, Holland America Cruise Line, and the memories we created during our trip.
For many reasons we decided to go with Holland America for our very first cruise to Alaska. I had done some recent training and research and knew the destination was what we needed to be focused on, not exactly the ship per say. Holland America is known for getting closest to the ports in Alaska, having the most permits in Glacier Bay, and for having ships that can do a full 360 degree turn at Hubbard Glacier so everyone on the ship has access to great viewing no matter where they are. You can learn all you desire by doing online training, however when you travel first hand, it is a completely different story.
We flew into Seattle the day before our cruise to ensure we made it to the port on time. The Port of Seattle was convenient to get to and was so easy to navigate inside the terminal. Honestly, I could probably say was the smoothest embarkation we have ever had to date. We opted for an ocean-view verandah cabin, which is a must when you are cruising to Alaska. It is all about the scenery right?
Our first official visit was to Juneau, the capitol of Alaska. We had booked a gold panning/salmon bake excursion ahead of time which was wonderful. Afterwards we made a pit stop into the Red Dog Saloon for the infamous Duck Farts shot that became famous on the television show Deadliest Catch before heading back to the ship. Next time we cruise here we will skip all excursions and enjoy walking all around the area. Everywhere the ship docks on this specific itinerary is full of sightseeing things to enjoy without having to book anything in advance.
One of my favorite days sailing was the one we visited the Hubbard Glacier. We had ordered a specialty hot coffee with Baileys and Kahlua the very first day on board that was delivered to our cabin as we were pulling up to the glacier. We enjoyed viewing from our private balcony with our hot coffee before we headed up for viewing on a higher deck. Watching the calving of the glaciers was truly spectacular. Calving is when chunks of ice break off at the terminus, or end, of a glacier.
Our next stop was Sitka, Alaska. Sitka was extremely unique. It was purchased by the USA for 0.02 cents an acre from Russia. Before Juneau was the states capitol, Sitka was the capitol. It is also the area Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock visited in the movie The Proposal, although most of it was not even really filmed here. My favorite spot in Sitka is St. Michael's Cathedral, built in the nineteenth century while Russia was still in control. There was an accidental fire that destroyed the cathedral in 1966 but many original items were saved by generous people and it was rebuilt. Sitka is a very small area rich with history and the people are full of pride
Our last stop in Alaska was in Ketchikan which faces the inside passage.This was one of our favorite stops. After visiting Saxman Totem Pole Park (which was phenomenal) we enjoyed walking around Creek Street. When we take this cruise again we are going to focus more on getting off of the ship and just using our time to wander. It is such a great place to walk around, shop and dine!
Before heading back to Seattle to conclude the cruise, our last stop was Victoria, British Columbia. This stop was such a pleasant surprise. Truth be told we did not expect much from this area. We felt it was just a filler on the way back home but we were so very wrong. We loved the area so much that we want to return and do a land only stay at some point next year.
Victoria, is the capitol of British Columbia and sits on the southern end of Vancouver island. It has the perfect growing climate and is known internationally as the City of Gardens. We enjoyed a food and wine tour with a knowledgeable tour guide from the area who took us to all of the best local spots. After having a delicious crab cake dinner (and trying one of the local wines) we headed over to try the areas most talked about snack, Poutine. Then headed over the enjoy the best ice cream we ever had at a new hot spot for dessert called Perverted! With a stop at the Empress and the marina we barely had time for all there is to do here.
We have not even touched on all there is to do on the actual ship or the amazing customer service the crew provided! But that means you will have to find out for yourself. We have a group cruise available to our Starstuff Travel clients for next summer 2020 for the same exact itinerary on the same exact ship. We loved it so much and can't wait to go back again! If you are interested head over to our event page on Facebook by clicking here.
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There are so many reasons we love sending our clients to Universal Orlando Resorts but we wanted to stick to the five largest reasons they have our heart.
1. ON PROPERTY HOTELS:
Universal Orlando Resorts is partnered with the highly esteemed Loews Hotel brand which is a luxury hospitality company that holds very high standards. Each and every onsite Universal Orlando Resorts hotel is run by Loews. This means even the least expensive value property exceeds many of the areas competitor hotels. UOR also makes it extremely convenient when you stay on property to get around. Many of their hotels are within walking distance to the parks, offer complimentary water taxis, and/or clean shuttle buses. Unlike it's competitors, we never waited more than five minutes for a bus to show up on our recent stay. For our fellow Starbucks lovers, there is a Starbucks Cafe in every single one of their hotels! They also have free delivery service for any packages you purchase while visiting the parks as long as you are not checking out the very next day.
2. UNLIMITED EXPRESS PASS:
When you stay at a deluxe hotel you will always get this amazing benefit complimentary as long as you have UOR park tickets. If you decide not to stay at a deluxe resort you can also pay to add the Unlimited Express Pass option to your theme park admission. When you do this, you actually get to skip the regular lines at most of the rides and attractions. Not only can you fit way more into your day by utilizing this service but it eliminates most of the advance planning you need to do from home so you can just show up, be spontaneous and actually enjoy your vacation. In our opinion that feature is priceless!
It's no secret that UOR is known for their amazing dining options, especially over at City Walk. That being said, there is something for everyone. From quick service, to character dining, to formal experiences, there are so many options you would need to take many vacations to even dine at half of what UOR offers. They also have two flexible dining plans, the Dining Plan which offers one table service meal (entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage); one counter service meal (entree and non-alcoholic beverage); plus one snack and drink from select locations as well as the Quick Service Dining Plan which offers one quick service meal (entree and non-alcoholic beverage) one snack and one non-alcoholic beverage from select locations. One of our favorite things about the UOR dining plans is how very flexible they make it for our clients. It is not a cookie cutter plan, so unlike their competitors, not every guest on the reservation need to have it. If you have a little one that is a picky eater or does not eat much, you can keep him/her off the plan and just get it for the rest of the family. You also do not need to have it for the whole length of time of your vacation either. We also love the fun options they offer at some of their dining establishments like the S'mores over at Big Fire or the milkshakes over at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen!
4. HARRY POTTER:
When you visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you can select a wand from Ollivanders, venture into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and go crazy exploring the shop-lined streets of Diagon Alley. If you have a Park to Park ticket (which we always recommend) you can board the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade! Even take an epic ride through the underground bank vaults at Gringotts on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride. The theming is by far some of the best in a park we have ever come across. Even someone who is not a HP fan can not deny the magnificence of the area. You actually feel like you are there! If you are staying on property you can enter the area an hour before the general public and you can also utilize your Unlimited Express Pass on every Harry Potter attraction except for the new Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
One of the many perks of staying at a Universal Orlando on-site hotel is the chance to enjoy any and all of the pools at each and every one of the resorts, no matter whether they fall in the category of being premier, preferred, or prime value. Each pool offers lounge chairs (many with umbrellas), towels, complimentary pool noodles, sunscreen, swim diapers, and ice water. One of our favorite pool functions is the underwater music played at The Hard Rock Hotel and the Endless Summer Surfside pool. We also love the lazy river over at the Cabana Bay pool and the zero entry feature at the Beach Pool over at Portifino Bay. Unlike UOR competitors, they welcome pool hopping! This makes for a great day or two of relaxation from the parks and it also offers a change of scenery.
When you're ready to visit Universal Orlando Resort, make sure to reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner!
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One of my favorite parts of Busch Garden Williamsburg is visiting all of the European countries. It is home to six countries, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy spread out across 383 acres. Busch Gardens has been voted the world’s “Most Beautiful Park” for 20 consecutive years by the National Amusement Park Historical Association and it is no wonder, they have some absolutely breathtaking grounds.
While visiting the New France area (French Canada) I saw a sign that caught my eye for a Canadian Ice Wine Tasting. After purchasing the Ice Wine Tasting I decided to upgrade to the Wine Tasting Trio. By doing this, it provided an extra three tastings at any of the four locations through out the park for an upgraded price of $29.99 (this was in addition to the $19.99 I had originally paid for the Ice Wine Tasting). This price includes four tastings at each stop and a collectible Busch Gardens wine glass that you are able to bring back for discounts on future tastings! They gave me a wristband with three hang tags that were ripped off at each location. I started in New France with the Ice Wine tasting (which was my favorite of all of them) where I sampled a Reisling, and three Ice Wines. My favorite one being Heinz Eifel Eiswein from Germany which they explained was a slow harvest with cold nights in November, allowing the mature grapes on the vine to freeze overnight. The frozen grapes are then pressed before they thaw, yielding the sweetest juice from the fruit due to its low freezing point. I found it extremely interesting to listen to all the facts and learn about wine I had never heard of. This specific wine was so sweet and smooth it was almost like drinking juice.
Our next stop was over in Germany where we had more amazing wine I had not tasted before. Along with more Riesling and some Pinot Noir (which is typically my wine of choice), I tried Gerstacker Nurnberger Gluhwein. This is a type of mulled wine that tastes of Christmas in a bottle. A delicious combination of red wine, sugar and selected spices, Gluhwein can be served over ice or heated with a cinnamon stick in the winter. I was told this will consume your home with delightful scents! I enjoyed mine room temperature.
After two great experiences we headed over to Italy. Here we tasted more dessert type, light bodied sparkling wines a little lower in alcohol. My favorite from this specific tasting was the Annalisa Moscato from Piedmont, Italy. This was an easy drinking white wine with tastes of peaches, nectarines, and apples. I am usually a red wine enthusiast so this was a great day of learning about whites that I did enjoy.
During the course of the day I made sure to drink a ton of water. Although the tastings are small, there were four samples at each destination, and we did visit four countries. During the summer in the heat, it is very easy to get dehydrated.
Our last and final stop during our day at Busch Gardens was France. I was most excited about visiting here because I was positive it would be where I would taste my favorite wines of the day. I was completely blindsided when I found out it was my least favorite stop. Here we tried a french sparkling wine, Ros a Merlot and a sparkling white Vouvray. Although I usually love red wines, this specific Merlot was so heavy I could not take more than one sip. I was told there were many others who felt the same about this particular wine during the course of the day. I had never tried a Merlot I did not like, so this was a first.
The day was a success and I really enjoyed the wine tasting. I loved learning all about the wines, how they were made, where they came from and of course most of all tasting them! Each of the Busch Gardens cast members were very knowledgeable about the destination we were visiting and the wines they were representing. I would highly recommend it if you visit the area and enjoy wine. If wine is not your thing, you can head over to the Brauhaus Craft Bier Room for a flight of their craft beers.
For more information on the tasting or to book your Busch Gardens Williamsburg vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today!
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