Dolly Parton’s Retired Tour Bus Now Premium Lodging at Dollywood

For those who want a glimpse into the life of a legend, Dollywood is introducing the “Suite 1986” Tour Bus Experience. Today, guests can begin booking stays on the Prevost tour bus that was Dolly Parton’s favorite home away from home for 15 years. The bus was recently acquired by Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa and has been transformed into the property’s ultimate suite, now situated on a permanent parking pad just behind the hotel.

Guests of Suite 1986 will not only have the most interesting accommodations in Dollywood’s history, but they’ll also get the opportunity to enjoy some special amenities. The suite features dedicated concierge service for the entire length of stay, the chance to sample one-of-a-kind food offerings created by the resort’s award-winning culinary team, and customized keepsakes to take home as souvenirs. The tour bus sleeps two guests, but each reservation also includes a room at DreamMore Resort, which can accommodate up to four additional guests.

There’s a two-night minimum stay for Suite 1986 and a starting rate of $10,000. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Dollywood Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dolly’s enterprises. In part, it funds Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which gifts free books to children from birth to age 5 as part of an ongoing effort to instill in everyone a passion for reading. So far, more than 2 million children have benefitted from the program.

Dolly herself loves to read, and she’s a writer at heart. In fact, she wrote her “Backwoods Barbie” album as well as “9 to 5 the Musical” in the comfort of the bus, plus some books and scripts for television shows and movies.

Though Dolly is a free-spirted traveler, she doesn’t enjoy flying and much prefers to have her own space, food and belongings rather than staying in a hotel. Her tour bus served as a rolling sanctuary that was customized to ensure that she and her companions traveled in comfort and ease no matter how far the journey. And it was specially adapted and upgraded so Dolly could do two of her favorite things – writing and cooking – from any locale.

She enjoyed making meals in the kitchenette and sharing them with her best friend and personal assistant, Judy Ogle, who traveled with her most of the time, and driver Tim Dunlap, who was responsible for the vehicle and its passengers during its length of service. To install a full-size refrigerator in place of the smaller size that comes standard in most vehicles of this type, the bus’s windshield had to be removed and then replaced.

Those who are curious about Dolly’s incredible wardrobe may be interested to learn that three of the bus’s six standard bunk beds were removed and replaced with a special closet that could accommodate all the glitter and rhinestones. When Dolly has welcomed visitors onto the bus, she’s taken great delight in showing off her wig cabinet, which probably isn’t something you’d find on any other tour bus. It’s a truly “Dolly” touch.

Guests may not need the wig closet, but they might appreciate the custom bathtub and electric doors that were added to the vehicle to transform it into a luxury suite on wheels. “I have homes all over the United States,” Dolly once said. “But my favorite place is the bus because that way I can just feel those wheels rolling.”

In addition to providing a unique glimpse into the icon’s life, the bus affords its guests beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains, where Dolly grew up. It also provides easy access to Dollywood, the theme park she established here in 1986 (hence, the bus’s new name) to provide both a source of employment for residents and a spark of joy and inspiration for the millions of visitors who are drawn to the region.

For more information about this once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, please visit www.Dollywood.com/Suite1986.

Looking to the future of lodging in the area, Dolly was in Pigeon Forge this morning to visit the construction site of Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, her second hotel in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. The 302-room property is slated to open in late 2023.

Tucked away in a beautiful cove in the rolling foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort will welcome the outdoors in with high ceilings, exposed beams and natural layered textures. The resort will offer lodging options for multi-generational families and couples, including spacious family suites and bunk rooms that will feature touches inspired by the beauty of the Smokies. Many of the rooms will include balconies that provide sweeping views of the vast resort property.

For more information about anything connected to “Destination Dollywood,” please visit Dollywood.com.

Great Lakes Lighthouses and Keepers’ Manitou Windjammer Cruise

One of the most unique hands-on Pure Michigan experiences is to spend several days sailing the freshwaters aboard a dual-masted tall ship. You’re invited to board one of the largest sailing vessels in the Great Lakes during one of these autumn windjammer cruises aboard the Tall Ship Manitou with the Traverse Tall Ship Company. Coming up September 13-17 is a four-day excursion focused on the hundreds of historic lighthouses throughout the Great Lakes region with best-selling author and freelance travel writer, Dianna Stampfler.

“We introduced this themed cruise last year and it was a sell-out success,” notes Stampfler, who has been researching and writing about Michigan’s nearly 130 lighthouses and their heroic keepers for close to 25 years. “There was something really special about projecting images on a canopy aboard the tall ship after dark and sharing spooky stories from my first book, Michigan’s Haunted Lighthouses. This year, I’m excited to also add tales from my newly released title Death and Lighthouses on the Great Lakes. A third presentation, “Ladies of the Lights” will focus on the many female keepers who served in the state.”

Each passenger will receive an autographed copy of one of Stampfler’s books (with an option to purchase additional copies). The tour also includes a special tour of the 1852 Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport, inside Leelanau State Park at the end of the Leelanau Peninsula.

“Last year it was great to just sit around and share stories about Michigan with all the passengers,” says Stampfler. “Today, we all seem so busy running around that we don’t often find the time to relax and just get to know people in a casual and serene environment — the Manitou provides the perfect opportunity. The backdrop of Grand Traverse Bay is also inspiring for would-be writers and I welcome guests to bring their projects with them. If there is interest, I’ll offer guidance on how to get things moving along for those who aspire to become authors or published writers.”

Chuck and Brenda Marshall – creators of the lifestyle blog Life in Michigan – posted a detailed account of their experience (along with dozens of photos) after the 2021 Lighthouse Cruise: https://www.lifeinmichigan.com/tall-ship-manitou-life-in-michigans-sailing-adventure/.

“Each evening, I’ll be presenting for about an hour on the deck of the Manitou, sharing stories from my two books as well as the fascinating tales of our female keepers here in Michigan,” said Stampfler. “The setting really is unparalleled…as the sun sets around 7:45 (and I present around 8pm, so it is twilight). It is something special to be on the tall ship after having sailed all day – from Traverse City up to Suttons Bay and Northport. It’s also a little challenging as when we aren’t docked and hooked up to power, we’re drawing from the battery for an hour to run my laptop and the projector! It definitely is the most unique venue I’ve ever presented in. Not only do we get a chance to tour Grand Traverse Lighthouse, but we get within camera view of Old Mission Point Lighthouse. I think several people were planning to visit that light on their way home, or to travel down the coastline to Point Betsie near Frankfort.”

Guided by the passionate, skilled and entertaining crew, this voyage sets sail out of Grand Traverse Bay aboard a replication of an 1800s “coasting” cargo schooner. A traditional two-masted, gaff rigged, topsail schooner, Manitou measures 114 feet in length with more than 3,000 square feet of sail. Passengers are free to leave the sailing to the experienced crew, but it’s much more fun to lend a hand and learn the arts of the sailor.

“It’s also pretty cool to see people lounging around the boat during the day reading your book while sipping on a cold beverage,” said Stampfler.

The exact course of the trip cannot be determined in advance, as the captain and crew rely on the winds to guide the path of the ship. Yet, no matter what the route, the sights, sounds and stories meld together for a truly one-of-a-kind experience. There is plenty of space for sitting and moving around Manitou’s deck while under sail on the freshwaters of Michigan’s inland seas.

This trip is limited to 22 individuals, with accommodations provided in 11 double-bunk cabins. Fare includes lodging, all meals and sailing activities. Boarding takes place on the first day between 6-8pm, with a return in mid-afternoon on the final day. To make reservations, call 800-678-0383 or order tickets online at www.TallShipSailing. Gift certificates are also available.

Traverse Tall Ship Company is located at 13258 S.W. Bay Shore Drive (M22) in Traverse City.

Making the Case for Macon

Macon, Georgia, which is just 90 minutes from Atlanta and 3.5 hours from both Birmingham and Chattanooga and four hours from Charleston and Jacksonville, is often an overlooked destination.  Located in the center to Georgia–or should we say the very heart and soul of the state–Macon is a fun-filled destination with both a fascinating history, an exciting present, and a bright future. Still need convincing? Here are four reasons among many to put Macon on your bucket list.

  • Makin’ Fun: Macon is the home of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, so sports-aholics can get their fix of every sport at every level of play. But for some what’s best about Macon’s athletic scene is that it’s home to the best-named baseball team in the whole game: the Macon Baco. Yes, really. That alone should prove that Macon is a fun place. As for the Macon Bacons, it’s part of a wood-bat collegiate summer league whose roster teams (pardon the pun) with top players from schools around the country. Not only does the team have a delicious name, but it also has a mascot that really sizzles: Kevin, a seven-foot-tall slice of bacon. Get it … Kevin Bacon? Our pal Kevin Bacon loves to dance particularly it’s one of the songs from the movie “Footloose.” A dancing strip of bacon imakes sense. After all Macon is a city that’s all about music. As an aside, the Bacons’ archrivals are the Savannah Bananas. We love that name but really, if it’s a contest between bacon and bananas, we’d choose bacon every time.
  • Makin’ Movies: The baseball team plays at historic Luther Williams Field, built in 1929 and recently refurbished. Even if you haven’t been to a game (yet), the field might look familiar to you because it’s starred on the screen in “The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings,” a 1976 movie starring Billy Dee Williams; “The Trouble with the Curve,” a 2012 film featuring Clint Eastwood; “42,” the 2013 biopic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson; and the Hank Azaria TV comedy “Brockmire.” Macon is the site of plenty of movie-making, most recently welcoming an all-star cast that was in town filming the remake of “The Color Purple,” which is set for release in 2023. The film is being produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones. (As an aside, if our mention of Kevin Bacon above has you playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” you might be interested in knowing that each of those producers has a Bacon Number of 2. The actor, we mean. Not the baseball mascot. The version wearing a frying pan as a cap is probably separated by a few additional degrees.)
  • Makin’ Music: This new version of “The Color Purple” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, so Macon was the perfect location. This is a city with deep musical roots (fun fact: this is where the kazoo was invented, by a formerly enslaved man named Alabama Vest all the way back in 1840), and it lives up to its tagline, “Where Soul Lives.” It’s the hometown of Otis Redding, Little Richard and The Allman Brothers, all of whom left indelible marks on the place and its people. Today, visitors can learn more about Macon’s musical history by checking out live performances at an array of venues, visiting the Otis Redding Foundation Museum or the Allman Brothers Museum at the Big House, or taking a public or private Rock Candy Tour, which could focus on music alone or the delightful combo of music and food.
  • Makin’ Dinner: Macon has an incredible food scene, and some its top restaurants have ties to music. The Downtown Grill a fancy English steakhouse, is where Greg Allman proposed to Cher, but it’s H&H Soul Food where the band spent even more time … and then took its former owner, Mama Louise, on the road with them so they could have their favorite meals on the tour bus. Today you’ll find everything from upscale to down-home offerings, plus plenty of liquid refreshment to accompany all the amazing tastes.

Pro tip: For a great lunch option, hit The Rookery and order pretty much any sandwich or burger … and a milkshake chaser. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that many menu items feature bacon in a starring role. Because, as we know, it always comes back to bacon.

And there you have it … in just three degrees of separation from baseball to burger, Makin’ it in Macon is all about fun, food, sports, history, and so much more.

For more information or to begin planning a trip, start here

Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions from the TikTok Grandma

              Barbara Costello didn’t do social media when she first helped her daughter by posting a cooking video on TikTok.

              “I thought TikTok was all about dancing,” says Costello, the mother of four and grandmother of eight, who is known as Grandma Babs. Her first post was in April 2020 during the pandemic. Nine months later she had 200,000 followers. Now it’s closing in on two million.

              “By the time we hang up, you’ll probably have 20,000 more followers,” I tell Costello who is in the car with her daughter, Liz Ariola, on their way to a book signing.

              I’m only half joking.

Soaring Numbers

              Besides TikTok followers on her Brunch with Babs site, Costello also has 660,000 followers on Instagram. In comparison, I have 1989. Not that I’m jealous.

              Costello, who is 73, is considered a granfluencer—a growing trend of older people who are kicking it on social media. And now she has a cookbook, “Celebrate with Babs: Holiday Recipes & Family Traditions” featuring one hundred of her tried and true handwritten recipes that she pulled from her wood recipe box.

              “I started collecting recipes before the internet,” she says. “You used to go over to someone’s house for dinner and leave with recipe cards of what was served that night.”

              The book is divided by holidays and celebrations which are a big deal in the Costello family.

              “We’re Italian and we like big noisy get-togethers,” she says. “My mom was one of nine and I have 21 first cousins. Even after Bill and I got married there were so many of us that we still sat at the children’s table when everyone got together.”

              Originally from the Chicago area, Costello taught middle school in Schaumburg before the family moved, ending up in Connecticut where they’ve lived for decades. Costello opened her own pre-school (they called them nursery schools back then) in the basement of her house. She thinks the skills she learned as a teacher and administrator are part of what connects her to her audience. And she is all about connections.

              “I still get invited to the weddings of my preschoolers,” she says. “And many of them have remained friends with their pre-school classmates and they’re at the weddings. I think that’s wonderful after all those years.”

              Costello describes herself as having gone from zero to 60 miles-per-hour.

              “I never expected this,” she says. “People ask me if I have a business plan and I say what’s that? I’m making it up along the way.”

              It was Ariola who got her mom in the business. Social media savvy, Ariola writes the popular mom blog Mrs. Nipple blog (get it—aureole/ariola) and asked her mom for help during her pregnancy. Despite morning sickness, Ariola was trying to launch a TikTok channel and got her mom to agree to film three videos while her two grandchildren were napping.

              The first video showing Costello making her grandmother’s Greek chicken recipe garnered 100,000 views. Somewhere along the line, one of her viewers was a cookbook editor. The rest, as they say, is history.

              Even though the book is divided into holidays, each section with a special memory or anecdote, Costello says they recipes are good for everyday as well.

              “Recipes are recipes,” she says. In other words, you don’t have to wait until Easter to make marinated leg of lamb, apricot glazed ham, or Grandma’s Easter Bread.

Bonding Over Meals

              Even though she was a working mom, Costello always made family meals.

              “People didn’t do fast food like they do now,” she says. “And I think it’s very important for families to eat together.”

              Indeed, one of her hopes for her cookbook and her social media popularity is that it will encourage people to cook more and enjoy dinner together. In the meantime, she’s going to keep cooking.

              “My mom is always over the top when it comes to celebrations,” says Ariola, noting her mother’s tendency to make way too much food.

              “Being raised in an Italian family,” says Costello, “ I learned that the worst thing that could happen is that there wasn’t enough food to feed everyone.”

              That certainly won’t happen on her watch.

Smash Cake

“I always look forward to our grandkids’ first birthdays,” writes Costello. “My daughter loves showering her sons with smash cakes when they have that special birthday. She strips them down and lets them go at the cake. It’s a ton of fun to see how their little personalities shine in this moment. This is not only the favorite of my one-year-old grandson Scooter, but also a hit with my toddler-aged grandkids, too. Even I love it! I’ve made this recipe as just a loaf when not celebrating a special one-year-old in the family. The cream cheese frosting and the cake are the perfect combo.”

prep time

15 minutes, plus 2 hours to cool

cook time

50 minutes

yield

1 smash cake plus 1 loaf (serves about 9)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 (4 oz containers unsweetened applesauce
  • 1¾ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of fine kosher salt

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 oz  cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Natural food coloring (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 2 (4-inch) ramekins or cake pans, and 1 (9 x 5-inch) loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the maple syrup and applesauce. Beat until well combined.

3. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into the wet mixture. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins until three-fourths full. Pour the rest of the batter into the loaf pan.

4. Bake the smash cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake the loaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy, scraping the side of the bowl once or twice during mixing. If desired, beat in a few drops of natural food coloring of your choice.

6. To assemble the smash cake, place the bottom half on a serving plate. Spoon frosting over. Add the remaining layer. Spread frosting over the top and side of the cake. Add decorations of your choice. To serve the loaf, spread the top and sides with frosting, and cut into slices to serve.

Broccoli Salad (from the Summer Barbecue chapter)

This easy, crisp, classic vegetable salad is a must at any summer barbecue, picnic, or pool party. This is an old recipe I’ve been making for over forty years. The flavors meld beautifully, and the fresh crispness of the veggies, the creaminess of the dressing, and the ease of making it ahead, make this recipe a winner in all categories.

prep time

15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

cook time

none

serves

8–10

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of raw broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets (about 8 cups)
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. crisp, crumbled bacon
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup golden or brown raisins
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix the broccoli, onion, bacon, nuts, and raisins.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
  3. Toss the dressing with the broccoli mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

The Guardian: Restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests

The Guardian: The farmers restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests that once fed an island | Hawaii. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/17/hawaii-traditional-farming-methods-ancient-food-forests

Our community has been using their skills and creativity to pivot, fill food system gaps, and serve Hawaiʻi’s nutritional needs during this unprecedented time.

Through thoughtful interviews and photographic portraiture, we spotlight the necessity of a collective commitment needed to sustain our emerging system of resiliency, of a self-sufficient Hawaiʻi. From Feeding Hawai’i.

The Last of Howard Johnson’s

The loss of an American iconic restaurant and motel chain.:

HoJo’s no mo’: The last remnant of ‘the oranging of America’ has closed https://flip.it/l2.5Rk

It’s the End of an Era

Courtesy of New York Public Library.

With its signature orange roof, glistening pool with both high and low dives, restaurant with signature clam strips and 28 flavors of ice cream when nationwide chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla were typically all that was offered, Howard Johnson’s had it all.

Learn more about it in the book A History of Howard Johnson’s: How a Massachusetts Soda Fountain Became an American Icon (American Palate).

Trip Stack Trend: Charming small Midwest towns make great summer destinations

Bloomington, Indiana. Photo courtesy of Visit Bloomington.

With many eager to use those unused vacation days and ready to travel again, travelers are turning towards trip stacking: booking several trips and experiences over a set of vacation days. And one of the best ways to do this? With a classic American road trip, of course.

Photo courtesy of Visit Indiana.

With major cities such as Indianapolis and Chicago topping the lists of places to visit in the Midwest, there are several other stop-worthy, under-the-radar cities and destinations that pack a full punch of culture, arts, outdoor experiences, and culinary offerings. Among them, Bloomington, Indiana (3.5 hours from Chicago & 1 hour from Indianapolis) and and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, WI (1.5 hours from Chicago & 45 minutes from Milwaukee).

Photo courtesy Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

While the city of Bloomington and a stop at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, WI are perfect side trips on any Midwest trip, they also warrant their own getaway. But for those trip stacking and making stops, here are a few of the many reasons to add these destinations to your Midwest road trip itinerary:

WHY BLOOMINGTON?

That Lake Life. 

Photo courtesy of Visit Bloomington.

For those looking for a lake vacation, Bloomington is home to the 10,750-acre Monroe Lake, Indiana’s largest land-bound body of water. Monroe Lake offers visitors everything from boating, beaching, biking, fishing, hiking, campgrounds, and more. It’s one of the Midwest’s best kept secrets for lake getaways.

Bloomington is a foodie-destination worth getting in the car for. This small Midwest city has a global dining scene and is home to over 350+ restaurants. Check out Bloomington’s most iconic restaurants here.

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And during the summer, one of the best ways to experience Bloomington’s eclectic atmosphere is dining al fresco on the patio of a local restaurant. With over 100 eateries offering outdoor dining during the warmer months, there are an abundance of choices.

Photo courtesy of Visit Bloomington.

Some of the Midwest’s best art & cultural attractions can be found in Bloomington. From renowned museums, A-list comedy clubs, to historic artwork and artifacts, Bloomington is rich in culture. Check out some of the top attractions here.

For fireworks: Bloomington is one of the best Midwest spots for fireworks and Fourth of July festivities. The city offers several free, public firework displays.

Photo courtesy of Visit Bloomington

Bloomington has a nightlife scene. The bars and restaurants stay open later in Bloomington than most Midwest cities! Check out underground vibes such as The Root Cellar Lounge, one of Bloomington’s best hidden gems, located in the basement of FARMbloomington. 

FARMbloomington

Under the radar wine destination

In addition to being a cool foodie town it’s great for winos as well. It’s home to the award-winning Oliver Winery, Indiana’s largest and oldest winery, which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. 

Bloomington is also home to five breweries, all of which are located in the downtown area. Grab a beer at Function Brewing, The Tap, Switchyard Brewing, Upland Brewpub, or Bloomington Brewing Company (BBC) — for your own beer tasting experience, The Tap, Function, and BBC are all located within a five-block stretch of one-another.

WHY GRAND GENEVA?

Get Outside

Situated on 1,300 acres in the woodlands of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Grand Geneva is an award-winning AAA Four-Diamond resort located 90 minutes from Chicago and 50 minutes from Milwaukee. The hotel has been welcoming guests for more than 25 years, offering some of the finest facilities, accommodations, and dining experiences in the Midwest. The iconic resort has always offered dynamic recreation for guests looking for an escape (or the perfect pit stop), including outdoor adventures such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and scooter excursions — in addition to the resort’s two championship 18-hole golf courses, tennis courts, and indoor and outdoor pools. Guests also enjoy the resort’s acclaimed restaurants, award-winning Well Spa + Salon, and expansive fitness center.

For fireworks.

 Every Sunday through Labor Day weekend, resort guests enjoy a dazzling Sunday fireworks display. But for those looking to celebrate July 4, Grand Geneva also offers one of the grandest fireworks shows. Guests who stay in a Lake View room can enjoy the fireworks show from their private balcony or patio, while all resort guests can view the show from the resort’s hillside.

Get golfing

This Lake Geneva golf destination is especially known for its two championship golf courses. At over 7,000 yards featuring massive sand traps and prominent water features, the magnificent Brute course is one of the most challenging layouts in the Midwest is considered one of Wisconsin’s best golf courses. 

The Highlands is a Scottish-inspired, links-style course, complete with a beautiful landscape of scenic hills, wide open fairways, trickling creeks and lush foliage. This Lake Geneva golf course was originally designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus and transformed in 1996 by Bob Cupp. Need to brush up on skills? The resort launched new weekly clinics this year.

Privacy with the perks of a hotel.

For guests seeking a more private getaway, The Villas at Grand Geneva offer luxury vacation rentals with spacious living areas, separate bedrooms, and kitchens. Guests have access to additional resort amenities, including a pool and an outdoor fire pit area reserved for the exclusive use of Villa guests.

A culinary hotspot

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa is home to several award-winning restaurants and cafes. Guests enjoy several different dining experiences including Wisconsin steak dinners, seafood boils, over the top brunches, and more. 

And there’s a waterpark

Nestled within the sprawling resort campus, is Grand Geneva’s sister-property, Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark – an all-suite family resort featuring one of the Midwest’s top waterparks. 

While in Lake Geneva

Grand Geneva’s concierge can help arrange some of the city’s best experiences such as Lake Geneva Cruise Line, Lake Geneva Balloon CompanyLake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures and more. The resort also offers discounts for guests on select local attractions.

Visit Lake Geneva

9 things you didn’t know about Pioneer Playhouse

By Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt.

In 1950, Kentucky’s legendary Pioneer Playhouse in charming Danville, KY, debuted its first season, opening at the Darnell State Hospital, now Northpoint Prison. On June 10, 2022, Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theater – also one of the oldest in the country – opened its 73rd season with “Dracula Bites,” a kooky spin on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Theater History

More than seven decades of history have been written on the page and the stage of this Kentucky Historic Landmark, a time capsule of 1950s summer stock theater that was the dream of its visionary founder, Col. Eben Henson, who wanted to bring Broadway to the Bluegrass. And boy, did he ever!

At Pioneer Playhouse, an evening of theater under the stars begins with the ringing of the Old Danville Firehouse Bell to announce dinner – a Kentucky farm-fresh menu that is served on a covered patio and accompanied by live music. It is followed by outstanding professional theater and a chance to explore moments and memorabilia on the Playhouse’s timeline as well as browse the gift shop.

Here are nine things you may not know about the Pioneer Playhouse:

  • The actor best known for his roles in “Pulp Fiction,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Grease” got his start at Pioneer Playhouse. John Travolta was a 15-year-old kid from New Jersey when he made his theatre debut here in 1969. The show was “The Ephraim McDowell Story,” an original play about a nineteenth-century Kentucky surgeon. (Visitors to Danville can tour the former home and office of this pioneering surgeon, considered “The Father of Abdominal Surgery,” at the McDowell House Museum and Apothecary.
  • After serving in WWII, founder Eben Henson studied acting in New York City on the GI Bill with such promising up-and-comers as Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis and Bea Arthur.
  • You know him as the “Six Million Dollar Man,” but back in the day, he was Harvey Yeary – a name he changed immediately to Lee Majors upon his arrival in Hollywood direct from the Playhouse. His first show? The TV western, “The Big Valley,” starring Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Eben’s wife, Charlotte Henson, has been singing for Playhouse dinner guests for over 50 years. The great Kentucky composer and collector of ballads, John Jacob Niles, called Charlotte’s voice one of the purest he had ever heard. Want to hear for yourself? Buy a CD of Charlotte’s record from the early 1970s at the Playhouse gift shop.
  • The Pioneer Playhouse box office is the original train station from the 1957 MGM classic, “Raintree County,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Eben Henson moved the train station to its current location and used it as an anchor for the Playhouse complex, which includes the theater, Antiques Alley, gift shop, patio dining, indoor exhibits and campground. 
  • Charlotte and Eben Henson raised four children on Playhouse grounds, with the kids helping out behind the scenes and sometimes acting. The late Holly Henson was a nationally known stand-up comedian. Robby Henson has made acclaimed movies with such stars as Kris Kristofferson, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Billy Bob Thornton. Eben Henson has a successful sign and design company and is also a drummer for many local bands. Heather Henson is a nationally recognized, award-winning author of children’s books.
July 18, 2017, Pioneer Playhouse, Danville, KY “Guarded” – July 11-22, 2017
  • Speaking of books, Heather’s most recent book is a novel for teens called Wrecked, a contemporary reimagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set in Kentucky against the gritty backdrop of the opioid crisis. Her most well-known book is That Book Woman, which celebrates the work of the Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky and has become a classic of children’s literature. It is published in many countries around the world and is part of the fifth grade curriculum in South Korea. Heather’s books are available in the Playhouse gift shop.
  • Holly Henson was artistic director for many years following the death of Eben Henson in 2004. She lost her battle with breast cancer in 2012. Robby and Heather returned from Los Aneles and NYC respectively to help keep Pioneer Playhouse going after Holly’s untimely death, and Charlotte, at 91, remains the backbone of the theatre – and still sings for dinner guests.

Pioneer Playhouse has been managing a NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)-funded, life-changing outreach program for 12 years called “Voices Inside at Northpoint Prison,” so in a sense they’ve come full circle. Playhouse Artistic Director Robby Henson teaches playwriting to inmates and works with a New York City theatre to bring inmate-authored plays to NYC each year. Several participants of the program have won the PEN Award for Best Inmate Play in America.

Celebrating Almost Three-Quarters of a Century

The Pioneer Playhouse’s 73rd season runs now through August 6 with these shows: “Dracula Bites,” “Southern Fried Nuptials” and “Cockeyed.” On Aug. 12 and 13, the Playhouse presents “Elvis and Patsy Cline Together Under the Stars!” and on Aug. 19, Music Weekend complete with food trucks and bar. See show details here. Performances are nightly, Tuesday through Saturday. Dinner and Show: 7 p.m.; show only: 8:30 p.m.

Plan a Danville theater getaway: Book an overnight with the Hampton Inn Danville or Holiday Inn Express & Suites and receive a discount when you mention “Pioneer Playhouse.”

Tickets may be purchased online at www.pioneerplayhouse.csstix.com. For more information, visit www.pioneerplayhouse.com or call 859-236-2747.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of Pioneer Playhouse

Kathy Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer who writes a monthly syndicated travel column for Tribune News Service, is a regular contributor to Kentucky Living, Georgia and Travel Goods magazines and RealFoodTraveler.com as well as other outlets like County. She is the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger (Fall 2022) Secret Cincinnati and The Secret of the Belles, and is working on another travel-themed book for Fall 2023 release. Kathy is a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Kathy has a new interactive Cincinnati-themed book arriving summer 2022!

Follow Kathy on Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin.

Celebrate World Tapas Day this June 16

Tapas, those wonderful small plates of food served throughout Spain, have their own international holiday this June 16th. According to the Tourism Office of Spain, World Tapas Day is taking place in cities and destinations throughout Spain as a tribute to one of the most delicious culinary customs in the country: tapas. 

We love tapas and are reminded of the ones we had at the Castilla Termal Valbuena, a wonderful resort in the Colonial village of San Bernardo, one of the charming villages on the fabulous Ruta del Vine (wine trail) Ribera del Duero.

#WorldTapasDay

#DíaMundialdelaTapa

#MTJATapas

“Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits: 85 Personal Favorites from the Red Rocker”

Looking for a last minute Father’s Day gift? Consider this.

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and #1 New York Times bestselling author Sammy Hagar recently released his first cocktail book – and it’s everything needed for a home bar. Sammy knows that some of life’s greatest memories are made over cocktails, and “Sammy Hagar’s Cocktail Hits: 85 Personal Favorites from the Red Rocker” chronicles Sammy’s storied life with drinks inspired by that journey – from the laidback beaches of Cabo and Hawaii to the dazzle of Hollywood and Las Vegas. Priced at $29.99 for hardcover and $19.99 on Kindle, this book covers everything from tools of the trade and glassware to bases and purees. And it has a forward written by Guy Fieri. For recipes from the book, see below.

The cocktails are made with Sammy’s award-winning spirits, Santo Tequila ReposadoSanto Tequila BlancoSanto Mezquila and Beach Bar Rum, which are available for purchase on each website or at local retailers – you can check each site for more info about where to buy each spirit.

Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co.

Hagar, who is not only a legendary rocker but also a spirits entrepreneur also has introduced Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. with a line of ready-to-drink (RTD) top-shelf sparkling rum cocktails in a can. 

Hagar’s award-winning Puerto Rico-made Beach Bar Rum steeps island flavor into the cocktails, which come in four playful twists on classic flavors: Tangerine Dream, Pineapple Splash, Island Pop and Cherry Kola Chill. Made with all-natural ingredients and sweetened with agave, each flavor is under 130 calories and five grams of sugar per can. 

The four flavor profiles with Sammy’s descriptions are:

  • Tangerine Dream – A refreshing blend of tangerine and vanilla cream; the classic Creamsicle.
    • “There’s nothing better than a Creamsicle.” 
  • Pineapple Splash – The slight sweetness of pineapple, followed by the kick of jalapeño.
    • “I like it sweet, with some Jalapeño heat!” 
  • Island Pop – The fruity flavors of cherry, pineapple, and citrus, pack a Hawaiian punch.
    • “That classic Hawaiian style punch!”
  • Cherry Kola Chill – That classic soda fountain flavor of cherry cola with a hint of spice.
    • “My take on that classic Cherry Cola vibe.” 

A celebration of beach life, Sammy’s Beach Bar Cocktail Co. supports charities behind beach and ocean clean-up initiatives.

Sammy Hagar LIVE:  Check Sammy’s tour dates here – if your dad’s a mega fan you can give him tickets to any one of shows, all held in outdoor amphitheaters through the end of summer, and you can even ship him a four-pack of top-shelf sparking rum cocktails to take with him in a cooler. 

Buy online at http://sbbcco.com/ and at major retailers, grocers, big box stores, restaurants and bars in California, Nevada and Texas now; Florida in June; and additional states coming soon.  

Recipes

Santo Sunrise (featuring Santo Mezquila)

  • 1½ ounces Santo Mezquila
  • 4 ounces fresh orange juice
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Splash of Blue Curacao
  • Garnish: Half wheel orange slice

In a tall glass filled with ice, add the mezquila, orange juice, grenadine, and Blue Curaçao. Stir well and garnish with a fresh halved orange wheel.

Guava Martini (featuring Santo Blanco Tequila)

  • 1½ ounces Santo Blanco Tequila
  • 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce guava juice
  • Garnish: Fresh lime wheel, dusted in Tajín

In a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and add the tequila, pineapple juice, and guava juice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wheel dusted in Tajín.

Kir Royale (featuring Sammy’s Red Head Rum)

  • 1 ounce Sammy’s Red Head Rum, divided
  • 4 ounces chilled champagne
  • Garnish: Fresh lemon twist

Add half the rum to a chilled champagne flute. Slowly add the chilled champagne until ½-inch from the top. Top with the remaining rum. Garnish with a fresh lemon twist.

Da Kari (featuring Sammy’s Beach Bar Platinum Rum)

  • 1 large piece fresh pineapple, rind removed
  • 2 ounces Sammy’s Beach Bar Platinum Rum
  • ½ fresh lime, squeezed
  • 1 ounce Simple Syrup
  • Rim: Lime and cane sugar
  • Garnish: Fresh lime wedge

Run a fresh lime wedge around the rim of a chilled martini glass. Then roll the moistened rim in cane sugar and set the glass aside. In a cocktail shaker, add the pineapple. Using a muddler, gently (yet firmly) muddle the pineapple. Then add the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into the prepared martini glass. Garnish with a fresh lime wedge.

Specifications:

  • Sold in four-packs
  • 12 oz/355 ml
  • 5.5% ABV
  • A QR code on every can reveals a special video message from Hagar, himself.