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Archive for April, 2008

Shopping in Orlando

April 30th, 2008

As a repatriated foreign national, I am often ‘lucky’ enough to have both the near and extended family come stay with me for their summer holidays - a season we are on the very brink of now.

Aside from host, tour guide, butler, chef, chamber maid and free lodging, one of the main duties I fulfill is personal shopper, a role that my fiancée is far suited too, but I have picked up a few tips along the way….

Apparently one of the main shopping outlets in Orlando is the 4th largest tourist attraction in the State of Florida, a little scary, but not as scary as your average ‘door buster’ sale at your local Walmart…

So, for those not familiar with where to shop in Orlando, or even that there was such a prominent non-Theme Park pastime, here are some of the basics.

Bargains, and name brands.

No question, hands down winner is the Premium Factory Outlets in Lake Buena Vista. Very prominently located next to Interstate 4 and just off of Hwy 535, it’s easy to find and well worth the visit. You’ll find here all of the main brands that you would like to see, some obvious (Timberland, Nike, Reebok etc etc), but some not so obvious, Juicy Couture, Lacoste, Burburry and the like.

A couple of caveats; it’s BUSY! You’ll need a little patience for parking, especially at the weekends.

There’s a reason it’s cheap – most of the stores feature factory seconds, imperfect goods. Try anything you’re interested in on before you buy (did you know you are entitled to 30 days to return items with a receipt?).

Not everything is cheaper. Yes, if you are from almost anywhere overseas (thanks Mr. Bush), inevitably it will be cheaper than your home shopping venues due to the incredibly weak Dollar, BUT, just because it says ‘factory store’ doesn’t mean it is cheaper than a regular store (Bose for example, same price, less warranty).

Next up, the massively re-vamped Prime 1 Outlets at International Drive. Formerly known as Belz Factory outlet, up and coming and worth a look. Make sure to check ‘Neiman Marcus Last Call’ and ‘Saks Off Fifth’.

Still going strong;

Florida Mall is still a contender, it is home to some strong anchors such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s plus has a good variation from high end to unusual to cheap and cheerful. If you’re travelling with young kids, then the Build-A-Bear Workshop I think is a sure hit where the kids choose and build their own themed Teddy Bear!

Located on Sand Lake road, everyone knows where it is.

A little more up market.

Mall at Millennia. Near World Class shopping, including the Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus department stores. This Mall is a little nicer than many with some excellent spots for a glass of your favorite refreshment or a spot of lunch (Cheescake Factory is great).

While you’re there, don’t miss the periphery stores, apparently they didn’t build it big enough – there are a ton of great stores and eateries sprouting all around it.

Located on Conroy Road, easy to access via Interstate 4, and is just a couple of miles from the main entrance of Universal Studios.

pkitching Tips, Travel, Travel Guide , , ,

Visiting Orlando Florida This Summer? Read This

April 29th, 2008

Orlando Florida is home to some of the best attractions and theme parks in the world and the water parks are no exception! The following is a complete review with tips for the top water parks for Summer 2008.

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is a truly unique water park! Here, you’ll enjoy an entire day up close and personal with aquatic wildlife and birds. Main attractions include:

  • Aviary
  • Ray Lagoon
  • Coral reef
  • Starfish Cabana
  • Sea Horse Cabana
  • Sand Dollar Cabana
  • Tropical River
  • Resort Pool
  • Dolphin Lagoon

Discovery Cove Packages

You can purchase an All-Inclusive pass during the day and enjoy every attraction Discovery Cove has to offer. New for 2008 is the Evening Experience which offers a more intimate experience with only 150 guests allowed into the park per session. You get the same access to the park as the all-inclusive package with less people plus a night full of dining and dancing. Perfect for animal lovers, check out the Become a Trainer for a Day package to get a close look at what it is like to be a trainer. Discovery Cove also does group and family events, even special occasions.

Here is a review from WatchMojo.com where you can see guests interacting with the animals:

Tips for Getting the Most out of your visit

  • There are only 1,000 guests allowed in the park at one time during the day hours (9:00am - 3:00pm) so a reservation is required. Plan to visit this park at least a few weeks in advance.
  • The all-inclusive ticket will run you about $259. There is a cheaper all-inclusive package that includes everything except for the dolphin encounter for $100 less.
  • If you are visiting the park as a group and want to be in the same group for the dolphin encounter keep in mind that the groups are 6 to 8 guests at a time so figure out your dolphin encounter groups ahead of time.
  • If you are planning on taking home a picture or a video of your dolphin swim experience be sure to bring some extra cash with you as these souvenirs tend to be a bit pricey.
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks are included in the admission price and are pretty tasty
  • For the Adventurous type: The dolphin encounter is a must. Explore shipwrecks and swim with thousands of tropical fish, stingrays, sharks and barracudas in the Coral Reef! There is a protective glass wall that separates you from the sharks and barracudas so no worries. Also make sure you get a chance to wade in the shallow waters of Ray Lagoon which is inhabited with tons of stingrays up to 4 feet in diameter.
  • For relaxation: Float along the Topical River, take a walk through the Aviary to see over 30 species of birds that you can feed and interact with, or take a dip in the Resort Pool which has a comfortable temperature of 80 degrees.

Blizzard Beach

Disney’s Blizzard Beach is a one of a kind and the world’s only ski resort themed water park. The entire water park looks like a winter wonderland with exciting water slides and a relaxing creek. Main attractions are broken down into categories and include:

  • Summit Plummet
  • Toboggan Racers
  • Slush Gusher
  • Downhill Double Dipper
  • Runoff Rapids
  • Ski Patrol Training Camp - Leisure Pool, Fahrenheit Drops, Freezin’ Pipe Springs, Cool Runners
  • Snow Stormers
  • Teamboat Springs
  • Tike’s Peak
  • Chairlift
  • Cross Country Creek
  • Melt-Away Bay

Dining

  • Avalunch - light entrees, snacks and beverages
  • Lottawatta Lodge - complete entrees (pizza, burgers, salads and sandwiches, desserts and beverages)
  • Warming Hut - lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts
  • Cooling Hut - snacks and beverages
  • Sled Dogger - deserts and beverages
  • Frostbite Freddie’s - bar
  • Polar Pub - bar

Shopping

  • North Pearl - Jewelry store specializing in pearls
  • Snowless Joe’s - locker and towel rentals; complimentary life jackets
  • The Beach Haus - souvenirs, swim wear, footwear and more

Blizzard Beach Packages

The price per day decreases the more days you purchase tickets for. There are three “Magic Your Way Tickets” options available the Park Hopper, Water Park Fun & More and the No Expiration. Here’s the break down:

  • Park Hopper - Visit multiple theme parks with one ticket. For an added bonus if you stay at a Disney Resort Hotel you can stay at the parks for an additional 4 hours to enjoy the Extra Magic Hours.
  • Water Park Fun & More - Choose from Typhon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex and Downtown Disney Pleasure Island.
  • No Expiration - Pre-purchase 14 days of admissions which becomes active from their first time of use. The days do not expire so you can use the unused days another time.

Tips for getting the most out of your visit

  • Know which rides are for you. I have broken down the rides by Blizzard Beach’s categories to illustrate the intensity of each ride below.

Big Thrills: Summit Plummet, Toboggan Racers, Slush Gusher, Downhill Double Dipper.

Watch the video below for a virtual ride down the Summit Plummet

Mild But Wild Thrills: Runoff Rapids, Ski Patrol Training Camp, Snow Stormers, Teamboat Springs

Fun For Little Ones: Tike’s Peak

Other Attractions: Chairlift - Takes you up to Mount Gushmore (the fifth highest point in Florida according to Wikipedia) where you can navigate your way through the park. Cross Country Creek - lazy river that flows around the perimeter of the park. Melt-Away Bay - 1 acre wave pool.

  • During peak season Blizzard Beach can reach capacity quickly, to avoid getting turned away, try to get to the park early. In the summer the park tends to be less crowded in the late afternoons.
  • You can rent a locker for the day ($5 for a small locker and $7 for a large locker per day - there is an additional $2 key deposit required for both sized lockers).
  • Complimentary life jackets are available for free with a personal ID and a $25 refundable deposit.
  • If you forget your own towel you can rent one for $1 per day
  • 1 special guest can open the park but they have to be willing to go down Summit Plummet. This guest is usually chosen with a family and by providing the cast member with humorous banter.
  • For those of you who want to soak up some sun, try to get into the park early to get some lounge chairs. When setting up your lounge chairs note that shaded areas in the morning will be sunny in the afternoon. The sun goes from the front of Mount Gushmore in the morning to the back of Mount Gushmore in the afternoon.
  • To avoid long lines, do the big slides early.

SeaWorld’s Aquatica

Aquatica, the brand new water park by SeaWorld, is located right across the street from SeaWorld. This park combines an up close and personal encounters with marine life with extreme water rides. Main attractions include:

  • Big Surf Shores
  • Cutback Cove
  • Kata’s Kookaburra Cove
  • Roa’s Rapids
  • Taumata Racer
  • Walhalla Wave
  • Walkabout Waters
  • HooRoo Run
  • Whanau Way
  • Dolphin Plunge
  • Loggerhead Lane
  • Tassie’s Twisters
  • Commerson’s Dolphin Exhibit
  • Fish Grotto

The clip below was taken on the park’s opening day March 1st, 2008:

Aquatica Packages

There are 4 different packages you can purchase:

1 Park Package: Aquatica $38.95 (Adult) $32.95 (Child)

2 Park Package: Aquatica and Sea World $89.95 (Adult) $79.95 (Child)

3 Park Package: Aquatica, Sea World and Busch Gardens $134.95 (Adult) $124.95 (Child)

Discovery Cove Package: Aquatica and Discovery Cove plus Sea World or Busch Gardens (choose one) Prices Start at ($242.00)

Discovery Cove Ultimate Package: Aquatica, Discovery Cove, Sea World and Busch Gardens pirces start at $287.00

Orlando Flex Ticket Package: Aquatica, Sea World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Wet N Wild $234.95 (Adult) $194.95 (Child)

Orlando Flex Ticket Plus: Aquatica, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Wet N Wild

Tips for Getting the Most out of your visit

  • We will follow up in a few months with some tips

Typhoon Lagoon

The Disney “legend” behind Typhoon Lagoon is a typhoon wreaked havoc on a pristine tropical paradise. This park features water slides, a shark reef and the world’s largest wave pool. Main attractions include:

  • Crush ‘n’ Gusher
  • Humunga Kowabunga
  • Ketchakiddee Creek
  • Gank Plank Falls
  • Kellhaul Falls
  • Mayday Falls
  • Shark Reef
  • Storm Slides
  • Surf Lessons
  • Surf Pool

Typhoon Lagoon Dining

  • Leaning Palms - lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts
  • Typhoon Tilly’s - lunch and dinner
  • Happy Landings Ice Cream - desserts
  • Lowtide Lou’s - snacks and beverages
  • Let’s Go Slurpin’ - bar featuring frozen drink specials and spirits
  • Surf Doggies - hot dogs and turkey legs

Typhoon Lagoon Shopping

  • Singapore Sal’s - shop for swim wear, sunscreen, t-shirts, hats, beach chairs, sunglasses, sundries and photo pick-up.

Typhoon Lagoon Packages

Same as Blizzard Beach, the price per day decreases the more days you purchase tickets for. There are three “Magic Your Way Tickets” options available the Park Hopper, Water Park Fun & More and the No Expiration. Here’s the break down:

  • Park Hopper - Visit multiple theme parks with one ticket. For an added bonus if you stay at a Disney Resort Hotel you can stay at the parks for an additional 4 hours to enjoy the Extra Magic Hours.
  • Water Park Fun & More - Choose from Typhon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex and Downtown Disney Pleasure Island.
  • No Expiration - Pre-purchase 14 days of admissions which becomes active from their first time of use. The days do not expire so you can use the unused days another time.

Tips for Getting the Most out of your visit

  • Lockers are available for rent $6 for a small and $8 for a large with a $2 refund or souvenir mug when you return the key to the locker
  • If you forget to bring a towel you can rent one for $2 per towel per day
  • If you want to surf in the Surf Pool group size is limited to 8 to 20 surfers per reservation and is done before and after general park hours. Below is a video of some guests surfing in the Surf Pool:

  • If you don’t know how to surf and want to take lessons, they are available at the Surfing School at Typhoon Lagoon and cost $125. 12 students per class so space is limited. Classes take place every Tuesday.
  • Some guests recommend that you wear water shoes in the wave pool to avoid scraping your feet on the no slip floor and avoid sitting on the floor of the pool, even in the shallow end to avoid scrapes and potential bruises. Waves in the wave pool can reach a height of 6 feet tall. This is not really an attraction for smaller children, Ketchakiddee Creek is a better choice for them.

Check out our Orlando Florida Package Deals and Orlando Florida destination page on LastMinuteTravel.com. Stay tuned for more coverage of the Orlando Theme Parks.

Erica Fischer Tips, Travel, Travel Guide , , , ,

Atlantic City vs Las Vegas

April 28th, 2008

In a recent article published by TravelMole Atlantic City was said to be rated higher by consumers than Las Vegas. Here are the highlights:

Atlantic City vs Las Vegas

  • Market Metrix’s latest hospitality study reported that Atlantic City was rated higher by consumers for price, sophistication and pampering.
  • A recent survey published in Hotel & Motel Management magazine said that Atlantic City beat out Las Vegas when it came to the hotel and casino experience.
  • San Rafael from Market Metrix conducted a survey asking guests if they would recommend the resort they stayed at to others; 78% of Atlantic City guests said that they were very likely to recommend the resort while only 59% of Las Vegas guests said that they were very likely to recommend the resort.

Here are the top 10 attractions in Atlantic City:

1. Harrah’s Atlantic City Casino

2. The Pier at Caesars

3. Central Pier

4. Wild Wild West Casino

5. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

6. Casino at the Tropicana Resort

7. Atlantic City Historical Museum

8. Garden Pier

9. The Quarter at Tropicana

10. Caesars Atlantic City Casino

For the best value on a vacation to Atlantic City, check out LastMinuteTravel.com’s Package Deals.

Erica Fischer Destinations, News, Tips, Travel, Travel Guide , ,

Cedar Pointe

April 25th, 2008

Cedar Pointe is a seasonal park located in Sandusky, Ohio that is open May through September. If you live close by, it’s an easy drive from Toledo or Cleveland, a little further from the Detriot area, but still doable as a day trip. For 2008 a one day pass will only cost you $42.95 per person. For everyone else, I recommend making a weekend out of it and getting a two day pass for only $71.95 which will give you admission to both Cedar Pointe and Soak City. Soak City is an amazing water park with great slides and relaxing lazy river.

Rides

If you are a roller coaster enthusiast Cedar Pointe is the park for you! Personally, my favorite roller coaster is the Raptor, here’s why:

The number one rated roller coaster at Cedar Point is the Millenium Force roller coaster. Be careful with this one on a cloudy day, they will actually shut down the ride when the clouds cover the top of the first hill which is 310 feet high! Don’t forget to check out the HUGE, Giant Ferris Wheel.

Food

Cedar Pointe is famous for salt water taffy and homestyle fries with vinegar. There are also many great restaurants to choose from.

Fun for the whole Family

Cedar Pointe features a great kiddie area with just as many rides for them as the adults, shows and carnival style games.

Tips

  • Make it a long weekend and take the ferry across Lake Erie to Put-in-Bay. This island has a waterfront park, unique shops, eateries and historical attractions.
  • If you are traveling with a pet they offer PetChek for $15.00 per day per pet.
  • Lockers are available if you need one
  • Bring lots of sunscreen, the park is right on the coast of Lake Erie and the sun can be doubly harsh.

andreawhite Destinations, Tips, Travel, Travel Guide , , ,

Potosi

April 24th, 2008

Potosi

A minimun of three days are needed to get to know the place. Potosi in an intricate marvelous laberrynth of narrow streets, an endless pattern of railways going up and down covered by wires hanging from building with wooden colonial balconies, silent witnesses of what it once was: one of the biggest and richest cities of the world and certainly the most populated in the americann continent. It is an exhausting but captivating city at the same time. The city was founded in 1545 just a mining town, spread over the slopes of the cerro Rico, its reason for being, the 4.800 metre mount dominating the horizon. Its decadence started in the last decades of the siglo 18, when the mining industry was in a state of stagnation as a consequence of the exhustiion of the richest veins and the old technologies used. Nowadays, after 500 years of explotations, its scarce useful lie will be totally exhastued after waht is left of tin and cinc in the hill is extracted. Some of the more tahn 300 mines may be visited by means of excursions, quite impresive for many. “If GOD is in heaven, then we are the Devil’s dominions”, the miners explained!!! They offered Alcohol, cigarrettes and coca to obtain protection and permission to take the metal from the depth of the earth.

marianol Destinations, Travel, Travel Guide

More reasons to visit Sanremo, Italy……

April 22nd, 2008

Spring’s lush colors on the Italian Riviera are worth a visit to literally smell the roses. This Casino town is the heart of the Riviera dei Fiori, flowering coast. Brilliant magenta bougainvilleas cascades down rocky slopes, barely stopping for spiny cactus, as trumpets of morning glories clamber through oleander bushes dense with blossoms.

Sanremo, Italy

On Tuesday and Saturday morning is very famous the central Market hall in Sanremo’s old quarter – full of narrow streets with open shops. This is time for you to fill in your basket with soft and fragrant olive oil, tasty pesto and Sanremo’s Baci (cookies)

At noon, the cathedral’s bell announced “pranzo” pause for lunch and all menus are posted on the street. You can not leave Sanremo without stopping for a meal at “Ristorante Le Quattro Stagioni”. Tiny ravioli filled with borage in an herb sauce, a typical Lugurian marriage of herbs, fresh greens and pasta…..just delicious, tender, perfect. You can sipped a soft red wine with your meal, the local Rossese di Dolceaqua recommended by the restaurant owner. Wines served at the restaurant are supplied by “Per Bacco” , his wine bar next door where they sell more then 400 wine labels.

On the door announcing musicians lined up for the spring and summer evenings. Live music, good wine, more summer flavors to explore….more reasons to visit Sanremo.

vivianan Dining Reviews, Travel, Travel Guide ,

Chicago - The windy city in a day

April 21st, 2008

Chicago - the windy city

Recently my girlfriend and I made a trip to Chicago. Basically it was a Chicago in a day trip starting downtown and culminating at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play (a can’t miss). So we started at Sears Tower, the tallest building in the US. Now a normal tourist would pay to go to the top of the tower, usually about $10 bucks a person, but I knew better. More on that later

Next we made our way over to Millennium Park, with great botanical gardens and the Buckingham Fountain as seen from such shows as “Married with Children” . I live to see things like the fountain from married with children!

Moving on from the Park there are a few directions to go. You can get back on the street, go to the museums or walk around on the coast of lake Michigan. Much of Chicago’s coast is park thanks in most part to Montgomery Ward who pushed a law prohibiting building on the lake.

I chose Michigan Avenue. Keep going down Michigan Avenue and you are in shopping heaven. The “Miracle Mile” boasts some of the greatest shopping anywhere. From Marshall Fields to Burberry, and Niketown, there is certainly something for everyone, but don’t miss out on the architecture. Along the way you will see the Wrigley Building. Look closer at the Wrigley building and you will see that they built in pieces form places all around the world into it. Pieces from the Taj Majal, London Bridges just to name a couple endear the outer part of the building. Chicago is full of hidden treasures like this. Right near the Wrigley building you can take an architecture tour and learn more about the buildings that line the street and just as interesting, th people who built and inhabited them.

This is a great time to take a little break and appreciate the city. Lucky us we are at the Hancock Building, a similar looking building to the sears Tower but right in the magnificent mile. Go to the top of the 95th floor of the Hancock and you can experience the best view of Chicago and the reason I didn’t go to the top of the Sears Tower. At the top of the Hancock you can pay about $8 for a beer and enjoy the views for free instead of the $10-$12 it costs to get to the top of the Sears.

By then I am a little tired so its time to head to Wrigley for some pregame food. There is no parking lot around Wrigley Field. It is literally built in the middle of the neighborhood. Restaurant and bars line the streets and on game day, so do the people that make Chicago special.

What a great trip and best of all - Cubs win!

timspiker Destinations, Travel, Travel Guide ,

Caesarea Israel - Remains and Future

April 18th, 2008

Caesarea Israel Harods Palace

(Remains of Harod’s Palace)

It seems to be a common picture, but very few people know that the wrecked wall has been there for two thousand years. It witnessed the up and down of an ancient city, Caesarea, and reminds visitors of the history of human beings: built, destroyed and rebuilt.

Caesarea Theatre

(Caesarea Theatre)

Existing people are the main power to adjust the direction of our history. There are still so many wars/riots/conflicts throughout the world. I wish they would go to Caesarea to listen to the history and think about the future, like the peaceful birds in the picture sitting on the wreck.

Caesarea Harbor

(Remains of the Caesarea harbor)

Brista Destinations, Travel, Travel Guide ,

Travel Tip: How to Save Money if Your Checked Luggage is Overweight

April 17th, 2008

 

Luggage Weight

Recently when I was packing for my two week trip to Israel I forgot to weigh my luggage before I got to the airport. My luggage weight was 7 pounds over and it was going to end up costing me about $100 by the end of the trip. The $100 did not even include the weight of my souvenirs!

Luckily, my co-workers who were traveling with me knew that you can purchase a small duffel bag from the airline and it only cost me $30. The bag was a decent sized bag and not only saved me money but allowed me to go shopping while I was there and not have to worry about it. :-)

Erica Fischer Asides, Tips, Travel

Amora Jamison Hotel, Sydney - Australia

April 16th, 2008

Amora Jamison Hotel

The Amora Jamison Hotel is fabulous! Right in the middle of Sydney city, close to Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, shopping, entertainment, transport and so much more. Lovely hotel, great service!

Sydney is perfect at this time of year (March), warm without being too hot, sunny days just perfect for wandering around. One of the highlights is to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge - you can do this during the day, or in the evening, both views are sensational. When looking for a great restaurant, try the Darling Harbour area, great range of restaurants of all cuisines.

Lynne

lynnejackson Hotels, Travel ,