Re-discover Your Inner Child Along Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Though I missed Be a Kid Again Day on July 8th–and you may have too, it’s never too late to connect with our inner child. And don’t we all need that considering not only our own busy lives but also what’s going on in the world. Sigh! It’s enough to make you want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. But here’s another suggestion.

Why not head to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, two twin beach towns along the Gulf Coast known for their miles and miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and myriad water and land activities as well as great seafood and lots of you-can-only-find-it-here fun. Want examples?

Think prehistoric creatures that go beyond the big screen this summer. That’s right. It’s Jurassic Golf. But don’t worry. You don’t have to run from these creatures. Your only concern at this indoor, glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course is whether you can get finally get a hole-in-one,

Or further your education. That’s right. But this isn’t calculus. Instead it’s Sand Castle University, a program teaching “students” the very best ways to build sand castles. Yes, soon you’ll be the beach equivalent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, maybe not. But you’ll certainly have some Instagramable moments.

Those covers aren’t looking like such a great option anymore, are they?

Well, let’s do some more convincing. Building sandcastles and playing miniature golf with prehistoric relics calls for sustenance. And since calories don’t count on vacation (honest, trust me on this) check out The Yard Milkshake Bar for their creative mind-bending dessert concoctions served in jars. 

The options at City Donut include their unique, made-from-scratch donuts with toppings like Nerds or Fruity Pebbles, or you can just go glazed–all are yummy.

Now that we’ve gotten dessert out of the way, sit down for dinner at LuLu’s, a family-friendly restaurant which not only has great coastal cuisine (including allergy-friendly dishes) but also features ropes courses (including the Mountain of Youth, a three-story climbing structure), an arcade, a seasonal caricature artist and live music. Oh and views of the water. Last time I was there I saw a dolphin pop up but he didn’t stop to say hi.

Fortified, stop at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo which offers up-close and personal animal encounters with kangaroos, lemurs and sloths. For kangaroos and lemurs, kids must be at least 3 years old to attend, but sloths will hang with guests of any age.

Thye’re definitely not hands-on or good for close encounters but the zoo recently brought in three new African lions (Daniel, Chadwick and Regina from the Pittsburgh Zoo) to assist in lion conservation efforts. Guests will be able to spot them as they’re introduced to the zoo’s resident lion, Nandi.

Nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating than getting out in the fresh, coastal air. Hop on a bike at Gulf State Park and enjoy the 28 peaceful miles of the Backcountry Trail. The park offers a free bike-share program, so visitors can explore the nine different ecosystems that make up the park. Bikes in the park are designed for adults and bigger kids; if you have younger children, several local bike shops rent kids’ and tandem bikes. And if biking seems like too much effort, that’s okay. The park also offers more than three miles of public beach to the visitors who prefer to just sit on the sand and listen to the sound of crashing waves.

Looking for a day trip from the Gulf Shores? Consider Magnolia Springs, a true step back in time.

Convinced? Then begin planning your trip at https://www.gulfshores.com

Road Trips & Recipes: Follow the magic to Dublin, Ohio

Special guest blogger Kathy Witt is back with another great road trip.

Legend holds that fairy doors are magical portals and, while humans can’t travel into this realm, they can at least find the tiny doors if they know where to look.

That place is Dublin, Ohio, home to the very first Irish Fairy Door Trail in the United States and a land of enchantment itself, from its picturesque historic downtown, where cheery gift, toy and sweet shops line bricked-paved streets, to the bustling blocks of Bridge Park – an entertainment wonderland with fun, games and gastronomy.

Dublin embraces its Irish through this experience and others, including the Celtic Cocktail Trail, a 19-stop libation celebration with an Irish twist. And it brings a touch of Brigadoon with its many waterfalls and water features, including Indian Run Falls, located minutes from downtown.

Play:

Boho 72 lets Irish fairy door finders know to come here to check off one of the 11 resident fairies on Dublin, OH’s Irish Fairy Door Trail. Photo: Kathy Witt

Following the Irish Fairy Door Trail (www.visitdublinohio.com/things-to-do/fairy-door-trail) is something-for-everyone fun and the perfect way to get acquainted with downtown Dublin. From high-energy North Market Bridge packed with local merchants, including a 75-year-old confectionery, to the quieter historic district with its locally owned shops, the trail meanders across the S-shaped suspension bridge spanning the Scioto River, past architecture both contemporary and centuries old and into the happy-go-lucky vibe of this community.

Decisions . . . Decisions . . . Winans Chocolates & Coffees presents a challenge to those on the Irish Fairy Door Trail. Photo: Kathy Witt

No purchase is necessary at any of the 11 trail stops, but you’ll want to bring your mad money anyway. Irresistible goodies await at Winans Chocolates & Coffees; Our Cupcakery and Johnson’s Real Ice Cream.

Candy Chef Carolyn Gasiorek hand-dips apples at Kilwin’s, a stop on the Irish Fairy Door Trail in Dublin, OH. Photo: Kathy Witt

Make sure to stop at Kilwin’s – where you can watch Candy Chef Carolyn Gasiorek hand-dip apples or shake sprinkles onto handmade chocolates; the Cheesecake Girl (a bonus trail stop); and Dublin Toy Emporium, where mom and former educator Enas Lanham has created a world of pure joy and imagination with plush puppets, science kits, books, puzzles, arts and crafts kits and more.

Find all 11 doors on the Dublin, OH Irish Fairy Door Trail and earn an official t-shirt from the Dublin Visitors Center. Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio,
Enas Lanham, owner of Dublin Toy Emporium, rings up purchases by two Irish Fairy Door Trailblazers. Photo: Kathy Witt

Find the tiny fairy doors hidden among French macarons, boxes of chocolates and candles, clothing and tea towels, make note of the name of the resident fairy on your passport, available at the Dublin Visitor and Information Center (www.visitdublinohio.com), and earn an Irish Fairy Doors of Dublin t-shirt.

Stay:

With its separate bed, seating and workspace areas as well as mini-refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott (www.visitdublinohio.com/hotels) is ideal for multigenerational family stays. Plus, it’s well located in the Bridge Park area with easy access to the Irish Fairy Door Trail and Celtic Cocktail Trail and the shops, restaurants and waterfalls of the surrounding area.

Reservations include complimentary buffet breakfast and free Wi-Fi and parking, among other amenities.

Can you find the Irish fairy door among all the merch at Extravagifts in Dublin, OH?
Photo: Kathy Witt

Eat:

Dublin revels in its Irish attitude through official “Irish Approved Businesses” that include numerous eateries, like the come-as-you-are Dublin Village Tavern (www.thedublinvillagetavern.com). This neighborhood pub is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its congenial atmosphere, friendly waitstaff and full-on Irish dishes.

Begin with Hooley Eggs, a deep-fried delicacy featuring a hard-boiled egg wrapped in Irish sausage, then move onto braised beef shepherd’s pie, slow-cooked in Guinness and loaded with veggies piping hot beneath a mashed potato crust. The full bar stocks dozens of Irish whiskeys, plus Guinness and other Irish imports and craft beers on tap, wine, Irish coffee and specialty cocktails.

Treat:

Find all 11 doors on the Dublin, OH Irish Fairy Door Trail and earn an official t-shirt from the Dublin Visitors Center. Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio

Finding fairy doors is hard work but Dublin has just the place to chill after checking off all the stops: Zoombezi Bay Waterpark (www.zoombezibay.columbuszoo.org). From thrill-ride slides to Tiny Tides – a heated-water playground for little ones – Mexican-style street tacos and ice cream to margarita and daiquiri bar, an afternoon here can be as crazy or lazy as you like. Adding appeal are shaded cabana rentals, furnished with chaise lounges and dining tables/chairs.

Event:

The Dublin Irish Festival (www.dublinirishfestival.org) takes place August 5-7, 2022, in the city’s Coffman Park. It is the largest three-day Irish festival in the world and features seven stages of entertainment with Irish musicians and dancers; storytelling, folklore, music and hands-on workshops; 100 vendors selling everything from kilts to jewelry to handmade instruments; and a menu of foodie options from traditional Irish fish and chips to festival faves to food trucks, pizza and more.

RECIPE

Tuck in for a true Irish experience at the neighborhood Dublin Village Tavern, a must-visit Irish pub dishing up shepherd’s pie, Irish egg rolls and an Irish Kettle Dinner.
Photo: Visit Dublin, Ohio
 

Shepherd’s Pie

Dublin Irish Tavern (www.thedublinvillagetavern.com)

This dish was concocted in the late 1700s/early 1800s by creative and frugal Irish housewives intent of finding a delicious way to use up their leftovers.

  • 2 lbs. chuck road, cubed
  • 4 carrots, medium dice
  • 3 medium yellow onions, medium dice
  • 4 ribs celery, medium dice
  • 1 C peas
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 TBSP fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 1/3 C Guinness beer
  • 1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/4 C beef stock
  • Prepared mashed potatoes
  • 2 TBSP panko bread crumbs
  • 2 TBSP grated parmesan

Place a large frying pan over high heat and add a thin layer of olive oil. Season the meat with salt and pepper and fry, stirring, in two or three batches, until nicely browned. Once cooked, place meat in colander to drain off the fat.

Place pan back over medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. When hot, fry the onion, celery, garlic and thyme, for 8-10 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the browned meat, peas and carrots. Stir constantly for 4-5 minutes.

Add the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce and boil until the liquid has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and return to boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, by which time the mixture should thicken. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes if it doesn’t seem quite thick enough. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spoon mixture into casserole dish. Spread mashed potato on top of meat. Top with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

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!

Traveling Through Time: Down the Danube Narrows to Weltenburg Abbey

Weltenburg Abbey was more than four centuries old before the monks first began brewing ale—or at least ale worth noting–in 1050. Now vying for the title of the oldest monastic brewery in the world (Weihenstephan Abbey also claims the honor), they set their claim on maintaining the original brewing process. Like the beer, much is as it was remains at the Abbey, the somewhat plain exterior of the cathedral opens onto an elaborately ornate and gilded interior. Services are still held regularly, and monks still live and work on the premises. And just as abbeys were places for gatherings for a millennium and more, Weltenburg also remains a destination. Located 25 miles west of the charming Bavarian city of Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage City and just three miles from Kelheim, it is accessible by car. But I totally like immersing myself in history and my goal today is to replicate—as much as I can—the 1050 experience.

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Long Wall and St. Nepomuk

On the ferry from Kelheim, I watch as the boat’s wake cuts through waters reflecting the dark greens of dense woods and whites of limestone rocks of the Fränkische Alb mountains, some rising 300-feet high. Winds, water and time have carved caves and nooks in the limestone and in one of these crannies on an expansive stretch of stone called the Long Wall someone has tucked a statue of St. Nepomuk, the patron saint of water and bridges who was drowned when he refused to reveal the confessions made to him by the Queen of Bavaria. Her husband must have really wanted to know what she was up to.

The Danube Narrows

Today it will take 40 minutes to travel the Danube Narrows, an ancient waterway to and from Weltenburg Abbey or if you want to be really German about it, Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, a sprawling complex of Baroque stone buildings surrounded by the lush rural beauty of Southern Bavaria.

There are times when the river is a lively place with small boats passing by and bicyclists and hikers making their way along the riverbank. Then suddenly, navigating a bend, it’s all calm waters and quiet.  I imagine this is how it was when pilgrims and tradesmen (and hopefully tradeswomen as well) came to the abbey to retreat from the world, rest or conduct business. It was a time when travel was mainly by water as roads barely existed and their trip would have taken much longer without our gas powered engines. But the sight they saw when making the final curve is much the same as today—Weltenburg’s blue tower roof and the washed pink walls.

Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei

The abbey sits on a bend of the river and in front is a small sandy beach and shallow waters where people play. It’s hot today—a heat wave is moving across Europe—and I envy them as the water looks cool and refreshing. But history calls and instead I move up the walk leading from the dock to the entrance already awed by the size and beauty of the place.

There are always hard choices and today I need to decide whether to tour first (there are self-guided and guided tours available) or take a seat in the sun at the biergarten, It appears that most people have chosen the latter and rather than wait for a table or sit inside the restaurant, I enter the church.

St. Georg Church

We’re talking seriously rococo inside, an overdrive of theatrical flourishes mixed with more Gothic elements. Paintings date back to the 1300s, a statue of the church’s namesake St. George or St. Georg as its spelled here, sculpted in smooth, sleek marble, rides his horse most likely on his way to slay the dragon. The main room, its ceiling 65-feet high, has alcoves off to the sides, each one just as ornate. It’s hard to take in everything at once, the artistry, pageantry and craftsmanship are so amazing.  Standing near a group tour, I hear phrases like “eight ionic columns, Weltenburg marble and gold fresco” and hurriedly write the words down as it helps sort out this wonderment of riches.

Bavarian Fare

Back outside, I spot an empty table and grab it. Addicted to German fare (yes, really), I order pigs’ knuckle known as schweinshaxe, schnitzel and even though I’m in Bavarian and not the Black Forest (hey, it’s nearby) the famous cake from that region. Of course, I need a glass of their Kloster Barock Dunkel—an almost black in color ale which is still made on site in a rock cave and then sent by pipeline to the monastery taps. Also available—to drink or take home, there is a gift store of course–are other brews and such medicinal spirits as their Weltenburg monastery bitters and liqueurs. And if you want to go full abbey, there’s their klosterkas and monastery sausage both based on ancient Weltenburg recipes.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that last schnitzel and definitely not the cake. To assuage my conscience, I climb the mountain path as it winds past the Stations of the Cross. It’s steep but the gaps in the woods offer commanding views of the valley, abbey and gorge below. I briefly contemplate spending the night at the St. Georg Guest House to be able to walk the abbey grounds late at night when all the visitors are gone but I don’t have a reservation. Next time for sure.

The Oldest Wheat Beer Brewery in Bavaria

          Returning to Kelheim isn’t exactly like entering the 21st century. In the old town I wander the narrow streets snapping photos of perfectly maintained Medieval-era buildings just a short walk from the docks and on the way to where I parked my car, I let my friends talk me into stopping at Weisses Bauhaus Kelheim.

It’s a beautiful place, all wood, vaulted ceilings and archways leading from room to room. Outside we sit in, yes another beer garden, this one next to a small stream, and order a round of their wheat beer. Really, I had to since they’ve been brewing beer here since 1607, making the Weisses Brauhaus the oldest wheat beer brewery in Bavaria.

 

I’m not typically a beer lover but both the Kloster Barock Dunkel at the abbey and the TAP7 here, made from the original 1872 recipe, are robust and flavorful without bitterness or an overly hoppy taste. I’m driving so instead of more beer, I listen to the live music, enjoy the myriad of colorful blooms cascading from window boxes, baskets and containers and contemplate how I’ve spent the day moving through history and only now have reached the 17th century.

Road Trippers Now Have Many Options for Taking Their Four-Legged Friends Along

Bertram, TX in the beautiful Hill Country.

Whether we’re on vacation with family, friends, or by ourselves, it’s great to take our pets along. No matter what type of trip we’re embarking (excuse the pun) on, Fido can be a wonderful companion. After all, until we learn how to translate barks to words, we don’t have to deal with countless “how long until we get there?” Or squabbles in the back seat about such inane things as whose milk shake has the most ice cream in it.

Bonair Winery and Vineyards, Zillah, WA

If the love of traveling with pets describes you, you’re not alone. Pets are family members and it’s not just them missing us when we’re on the road. We miss them particularly after two years of working from home. Many of us, particularly Millennials, don’t want to leave our pets behind.

Harvest Hosts

According to a survey conducted by Harvest Hosts, a membership club for RVers offering unique overnight stays at over 6,000 locations throughout North America, 52% of all travelers say they base their travel plans with their pets in mind. For Millennials, the number rises to 56% who want to plan a trip including their pets.  

For some, it’s not just a consideration. It’s an imperative. More than one-third of travelers (37%) deemed pet-friendly accommodations a “must-have.” Millennials are most likely to bring their pets on vacation, with 39% saying pet-friendly accommodations are a “must-have.” Gen Zers are slightly less tied to their furry friends, with about one-third saying pet-friendly accommodations are “nice to have, but not necessary.” While Boomers are not traveling with pets as much, and 34% say pet-friendly accommodations are “not necessary.”

Taking Our Pets Along

Fortunately, you don’t have to leave Fido behind. About 75 percent of hotels now allow pets, according to a survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.


For Harvest Hosts that number is even higher. Over 90% of our Hosts are pet friendly and they’ve now have a filter for “Pets” in their search function allowing trip planners to show only the Hosts that welcome our four legged friends. Harvest House offers eclectic overnight accommodations including more than 3,200 farms, wineries, breweries, distilleries, golf courses, churches, museums, and other scenic small businesses in addition to 2,900 Boondockers Welcome community host locations.

The company’s mission is to help millions of people live happier lives through road travel, while supporting wonderful small businesses and communities along the way. Their redesigned mobile app letts members view hosts’ information, photos, reviews and availability – quickly requesting stays and communicating with hosts through in-app messaging. To learn more, visit: www.harvesthosts.com or download the Harvest Hosts app on iOS here and Android here

Chicago Spring & Summer: Neighborhood Attractions, Tours & Developments

Art on the MART is queuing up four new projections for 2022 that will spotlight Chicago dance and the dancers, choreographers and visual artists that bring the medium to its full potential.  

  • The first projection Floe, created by choreographer and Chicago native Carrie Hanson with her dance company, The Seldoms, is a piece that spotlights climate change, extreme weather, vanishing ice, denialism, bodies of water and, ultimately, bodies. Hanson teamed with several long-time collaborators for this project. A stellar team of visual artists (Bob Faust, Liviu Pasare and Andrew Glatt) assembled a dynamic, emotional projection by weaving dance, word and image. Mikhail Fiksel crafted a soundscape that includes field recordings of icebergs, water and rain; Maria Pinto created architectural garments in an array of watery blues; Seth Bockley provided text that moves from irreverent to elegiac. Performers include Sarah Gonsiorowski, Damon Green and Maggie Vannucci.   Floe will be on-view from May 6 to June 29, 2022.  

Chicago Fine Arts Building

Chicago’s Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Avenue) launched its new look and a website with centralized ticketing and rental platforms that encompass all of the landmark building’s spaces: artists’ studios, offices, rehearsal halls and two theaters—the historic Studebaker Theater and Carriage Hall, a contemporary multidisciplinary performance and event space that is being built in the former Playhouse Theater space.

  • Property owner Berger Realty Group began major renovations of Studebaker Theater and Carriage Hall earlier this year, to enhance the experiences of theatergoers and producing companies at both venues. Renovations to the historic Studebaker will be completed in May 2022, including all-new seating, enhancements and modernization of the theater’s AV and grid systems, a state-of-the-art technical booth, updated lobbies and a newly designed VIP lounge on the third floor. The new Carriage Hall venue will open in late 2022, with more details to be announced in the coming months.

Chicago Mahogany Tours

Chicago Mahogany Tours, led by Chicago’s rising sensation Urban Historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, are a must when visiting Chicago. He takes visitors on a bus tour of Chicago’s historic south side neighborhoods – Pullman, Bronzeville, Roseland, Bridgeport and Stockyard – while sharing unique facts about Chicago Black history.

Obama Presidential Center

The Obama Presidential Center broke ground this fall in Jackson Park; this amazing world-class museum will bring a spectacular new campus to Chicago’s South Side and provide a fabulous new gathering space for the Hyde Park community and residents. Upon completion, it will feature a museum, library, park and activity center, women’s garden and so much more.

Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the Lincoln Park Zoo

The Pepper Family Wildlife Center, a new state-of-the-art habitat for lions and big cats, recently opened at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Center’s Lion House features a Great Hall that can host dinners for 400 guests or receptions for up to 500. The Lion House also features a conference room, which can seat 80 guests, or 100 for a standing reception. Both the Great Hall and the conference room feature windows overlooking the inside of the exciting lion exhibit.

Shedd Aquarium

In preparation for the organization’s 100th anniversary in 2030, the Shedd Aquarium has unveiled a new, comprehensive strategic vision, a multi-faceted, 8-year, $500 million dollar Centennial Commitment which will include deeper community investments and partnerships, a modernized aquarium experience through the transformation and restoration of the historic galleries and dynamic new exhibits, new educational and experiential programs created with equity and inclusion at the center, compelling digital engagements, advancement in exemplary animal care and welfare and accelerated aquatic and scientific research.

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower

Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower has reopened after completing an extensive redevelopment encompassing the attraction’s lower level, delivering an interactive experience that celebrates the unique personality, history, neighborhoods and sites of Chicago. This immersive, new Chicago-themed museum features modern physical and visual displays, educating guests of all ages on Chicago history, culture, cuisine and architecture through interactive and informative experiences.

  • The complete transformation on the 103rd-floor observation deck includes fresh design features and interactive monitors, providing a space to inspire guest poses and allow visitors to upload and display their Ledge social media photos. Along with the stunning views, guests can indulge in informational videos about the city’s growth, travel patterns, cultural attractions and the making and history of The Ledge. Guests are invited to leave a mark on the city by creating drawings or messages on the interactive sequin wall. Screens also feature the impressive eastside views from the 103rd floor, allowing visitors to discover more about local sights, no matter the weather.   

Country Fair: Nostalgic Blue Ribbon Recipes From America’s Small Towns

        There was a time when I would visit several county fairs each summer, taking in the delights of fair food, visiting the Home Economics buildings where pies, cakes, cookies, and all manner of sweets were on display along with jars filled with pickled veggies, fruits, and even meats, and freshly picked fruits and vegetables. It was in short, entire rooms filled with the cooking and farming traditions that date back centuries.

The county fair tradition is woven into the fabric of nearly every American community across every small town. However, the all-American state and county fair tradition is not all carnies, corn dogs, cotton candy, and apple pie. The fair is a place for communities to come together and share some of the most meaningful moments in life that can evoke affection and nostalgia.

Best-selling author and winner of the Gourmand Cookbook Award (2018), Liza Gershman captures this long held tradition in her newest book — County Fair: Nostalgic Blue Ribbon Recipes from America’s Small Towns  Listed as one of the Top Ten Best Books About Food in 2021 by Smithsonian Magazine, Gershman’s book is a visual feast that is jam-packed with the images, stories, and voices of the folks in the tightly knit communities who celebrate this unique slice of Americana each year.

In partnership with Images Publishing, Gershman beautifully illustrates the county fairs throughout the book with stunning color photographs of food, vintage, and retro ephemera. Highlighted here are close to 80 Blue Ribbon–winning recipes from across America’s heartland as well as interviews, from tastemakers behind each region.

From homemade pies and cakes to jams, jellies, pickles, preserves, sweets, to the classic apple pie, chip chocolate chipper, lemon meringue to unique snickerdoodles and chokecherry jelly, Gershman brings us prize-winning regional specialties from all 50 states, as well as ample 4H and FFA livestock events — secret tips for stocking your pantry, and recipes that embodies the legacy of an American institution.

“Fairs have always been a passion, and imagery of carnival games and Americana decorate my mind,” says Gershman. “The cacophony of the Big Top and the midway –packed full with myriad colorfully themed games, amusement rides, and food booths–entice visitors; the scents from the farm overwhelm; the sweetest pink cotton candy aromas wafting through the air. Certainly, I’ve fallen in love at the fair, been amazed and awestruck by crafts, and delicacies, and community coming together as one.

 “This book was made with love during the pandemic. It took a village, as best projects do, and I was so fortunate to have the help of many friends and family lending a hand to this book. Pages include my mother’s watercolors, award-winning recipes from loved ones, and portraits of many of my wonderful growing fairy-godchildren.”

Let County Fair be your travel guide, state by state, sharing the most-loved recipe from each region. This book is not only recipes though; the photographs capture the energy of the carnival games and rides we all know and love.

About the author

Best-selling author and Winner of the Gourmand Cookbook Award (2018), with a master’s degree in English & American Literature and a photography degree, Liza has nearly two decades of industry experience working in all facets of commercial and editorial photography and writing. Liza’s 19 published books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine stories have enhanced her storytelling abilities in her extensive professional background, which includes Creative Direction, Art Direction, Producing, Event Production, Wardrobe, Prop and Set Styling. 

A storyteller in all mediums, Liza specializes in Lifestyle, Food, and Travel. Her passion for people, culture, and cuisine has taken her to more than 55 countries and 47 U.S. states during her career. Liza’s 12th book, Cuban Flavor, garnered numerous accolades, and has been touted on CBS and in National Geographic, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, NPR, and many additional local and national publications and radio shows. Liza was honored to speak for Talks At Google, and on the prestigious campuses of Twitter, Oracle, and Disney, among others.

As a photographer and art director, Liza teaches, writes, and presents for such celebrated companies as Creative Live and Canon USA. She was honored to be selected to nationally launch the 6D for Canon, and the T6. Prior to that, she worked as the in-house Senior Digital Photographer for Williams-Sonoma and continues to freelance for clients such as Goldman Sachs, Hyatt Hotels, Restoration Hardware, Safeway, Party City, Getty Images, Airbnb, and Visa. In 2010, Liza was Governor Jerry Brown’s campaign photographer, and in 2014 was a photographer for the RedBull Youth America’s Cup.

Lisa was a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle Travel Section, writing tips on top destinations for a monthly column called “5 Places” She continues to write about travel, food, and culture in articles and book form. Many of Liza’s notable clients include celebrity chefs, restaurants, wineries, beverage brands, fashion brands, spas, and hotels.

Recipes

The following recipes are courtesy of Liza Gershman’s County Fair.

Whiskey Sour Cocktail Jelly

Terry Sennett, Blue Ribbon Prize

Duchess County Fair, New York State

  • 6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons bottled lime juice
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 4 to 6 ounce package boiled liquid fruit pectin
  • 5 five maraschino cherries with stems
  • 5 fresh orange slices

In a heavy pot stir together the juices, sugar, and bourbon. Cook over high heat until the mixture comes to full rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Quickly stir in the pectin. Return to a full rolling boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon. Place one cherry and one orange slice into each hot sterilized jar.

 Ladle hot jelly into jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe jars and rims, adjust lids, and screw bands. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for five minutes.

Buttery Peach Toffee Pie

Inspired by Emily Sibthorpe-Trittschler, Blue Ribbon Pie

Michigan State Fair

  • Graham cracker crust see recipe below
  • 5 cups sliced Peaches
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
  • 1tablespoon butter flavor
  • 16 toffee candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling combine peaches, sugar, flour, tapioca, and butter flavor.

Grind the candies thoroughly in a food processor until crumbs. Stir crumbed crumbled candy into peach mixture.

Line the bottom pie crust with mixture. Add top pie crust and seal. Cut vents and top crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Graham cracker crust

Simply double this recipe for a double pie crust

  • 1 3/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup on salted butter, melted

Mix ingredients together until mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Press into a 9 inch pie dish or tart pan, using the back of a flat measuring cup or drinking glass to ensure a flat and even bottom. Bake at 375 degrees for seven minutes before filling.

Zucchini Cream Pie

From Suzanne Heiser’s mother’s recipe box via Norma Malaby, a favorite cousin from Kokomo Indiana.

Indiana State Fair Indiana

  • Graham cracker crust (see recipe above)
  • 1 cup cooked zucchinis
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter  
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon or nutmeg to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Puree zucchini and continue with other ingredients except sprinkle spices. Poor in an unbaked pie shell and sprinkle top with cinnamon or nutmeg. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees then reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake until done and the filling is set.

Apple Cake

inspired by Kathy McInnis, Blackwood New Jersey.

County 4H Fair New Jersey

  • 3 cups flour, unsifted
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup orange or pineapple juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 to 4 apples, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon divided in half
  • 8 teaspoons sugar divided in half

Place flour sugar oil eggs juice vanilla and baking powder into a bowl in order given, beat until smooth.

Place half the batter into a well-greased pan. Arrange some apple slices on top of batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and additional sugar. Pour in the rest of the batter and repeat apple slices and cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for about 90 minutes. Cool in pan.

Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp Opens at the San Diego Zoo

 New at the San Diego Zoo is their Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, a 3.2-acre state-of-the-art, multi-ecosystem experience designed to provide guests of all ages with an up-close look at nature while offering a fresh, high-tech interactive opportunities designed to nurture empathy for wildlife and encourage future caretakers of the planet.

Inside Basecamp, Zoo guests will visit with a variety of fascinating species and engage on a deeper level by utilizing full sensory and multifaceted elements, including “parallel play” opportunities from climbing and crawling around a massive tree house, to exploring through amazing water play elements; experiencing interactive touch screen games, using microscopes to reveal natural wonders, and specialized animation that utilizes artificial-intelligence (AI), dynamic lighting and whole-room scented environments.

  “Wildlife Explorers Basecamp speaks to the budding conservationist within us all and shows us the marvels of the natural world,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “Through these gates millions of world changers will begin their journey with nature, and demonstrate the power of empathy and compassion as they join us to become allies for wildlife”.

Wildlife Explorers Basecamp encompasses eight buildings and habitats dispersed throughout four zones, featuring wildlife that live in these ecosystems: Rainforest, Wild Woods, Marsh Meadows and Desert Dunes.

Rainforest Zone

The Rainforest zone is centered around the 10,000-square-foot McKinney Family Spineless Marvels building, where guests will experience invertebrates—including crustaceans, arachnids and insects—such as leafcutter ants, spiders, scorpions, stick insects and more. Inside, there is a pollinator experience with giant beeswax-fragrant honeycombs and an observation pane that gives guests the chance to see the workings of a real-life beehive. The projected migration flyover encounter showcases various insects, including migrating monarch butterflies, grasshoppers and dragonflies as part of a large meadow scene that curves along walls and encompasses a domed ceiling.

Wild Woods, Prebys Foundation Discovery Bridge and Tree of Dreams

The Wild Woods area offers guests the chance to visit with unusual wildlife species, such as coatis and squirrel monkeys, which are both native to Central and South America. The space features the striking Prebys Foundation Discovery Bridge and a 20-foot-tall Tree of Dreams—a tree house designed as an ancient oak. This dynamic and detailed nature-play tree provides multiple points of access for guests—from a suspension bridge and net tunnel to a spiral staircase—and a parallel play experience to the squirrel monkeys that live in the adjacent habitat. Water play is another focus of this woodland-themed zone, which includes a waterfall that flows into a gentle meandering stream, an exhilarating splash pad, unpredictable water jets, and a bluff area with a boulder scramble made to encourage exploration.

Marsh Meadows

Marsh Meadows aims to evoke a sense of visiting marsh-like habitats, including swamps and estuaries. The pathway through this area was designed to help convey a sense that guests are inhabiting the marsh along with frogs, fish and other wildlife that lives there. The central hub of Marsh Meadows is the Art and Danielle Engel-funded Jake’s Cool Critters building—a two-story herpetology and ichthyology structure with more than 7,000 square feet of immersive environments, digital media, learning opportunities and educational classroom spaces, created to engage wildlife explorers of all ages. The wildlife here includes snakes, amphibians, crocodilians, turtles and lizards, including endangered Fijian iguanas.

At the nearby Rady Ambassadors Headquarters, guests will meet wildlife from all over the planet, including a two-toed sloth and a prehensile-tailed porcupine, and learn more about how everyone can help conserve them in their native habitats.

Desert Dunes

Finally, Desert Dunes, a dry desert wash-themed area, offers fun boulder play prospects for climbing, scrambling, hopping and more. Reptile sculptures and petroglyphs can be found among the rocks, while cool caves provide shaded areas where guests can beat the heat, like their desert wildlife counterparts—including the fennec fox, prairie dog and burrowing owl.

Sustainability and Conservation

Conservation is at the forefront in the design of Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, as builders worked to incorporate advanced sustainable materials throughout. A portion of the Spineless Marvels building was made with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE)—a fluorine-based plastic that is created to be more resistant to corrosion. The system is 100% recyclable, and consists of a series of custom-sized Teflon multilayered “air pillows”—which, when filled with air, provide solar insulation while also reducing the need for artificial lighting. The Zoo’s talented horticulture team worked to identify more than 100 trees from the previous habitat to preserve and replant within Basecamp.  

For more information about Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, its many features, the wildlife that lives there and how you can help San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance conserve wildlife and build a world where all live thrives, visit the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp webpage. Wildlife Explorers Basecamp is included with admission to the San Diego Zoo.

About San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and creating a world where all life thrives. The Alliance empowers people from around the globe to support their mission to conserve wildlife through innovation and partnerships. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance supports cutting-edge conservation and brings the stories of their work back to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park—giving millions of guests, in person and virtually, the opportunity to experience conservation in action.

The work of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance extends from San Diego to strategic and regional conservation “hubs” across the globe, where their strengths—including the renowned Wildlife Biodiversity Bank—are able to effectively align with hundreds of regional partners to improve outcomes for wildlife in more coordinated efforts. By leveraging these tools in wildlife care and conservation science, and through collaboration with hundreds of partners, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has reintroduced more than 44 endangered species to native habitats.

Covering the Globe

Each year, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work reaches over 1 billion people in 150 countries via news media, social media, their websites, educational resources and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers television programming, which is in children’s hospitals in 13 countries. Success is made possible by the support of members, donors and guests to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, who are Wildlife Allies committed to ensuring all life thrives. 

2021 Travel Trends: The Most of Up-to-Date Stats Show the Top Travel Destinations, Trip Costs, and More

Younger generations more likely to take micro-cations while older generations spend more per trip.

My friend Paige, who works for Seven Corners, a leading travel insurance and specialty benefits company, always has the latest. This time she shared the most up to date data available about travel trends in 2021. For those who want to know, it’s fascinating to delve into what last year revealed in terms of travelers’ purchasing habits, how their age influences behavior, average trip cost, and top travel destinations. Recently Seven Corners gathered all the relevant information needed to show the following key trends for 2021.

Buying patterns for travel insurance vary according to the age of the purchaser. Travelers who buy direct from the website, as opposed to using a licensed travel insurance agent, tend to skew almost eight years older, with the average age of a website purchaser at 42 and the average age of consumers who use an insurance agent at 50. This preference for older consumers to seek assistance for a travel insurance purchase is the highest for 66 and older, with this age group representing almost 20% of plans sold by insurance agents. 

Additionally, older consumers typically spend more for trips, with the average trip cost increasing for each generation starting with millennials. Younger baby boomers spend an average of 45% more than millennials. The over 66 age group spends even more, averaging 76% more on trip expenses than millennials. The average trip cost for millennials is $1,843, and the average trip cost for those 66 and older is $3,243.

Micro-cations have increased in popularity

Based on policies sold by Seven Corners, micro-cations grew in popularity in 2021, with a 74% increase compared to 2019 and a 66% increase compared to 2020. A micro-cation is defined as a vacation of less than five nights. These short trips are especially popular with millennials, with 30% of their insured trips being five days or less in length. Generation X and Generation Z follow next with micro-cations representing 20% and 19% of their vacations, respectively. This trend with baby boomers is drastically different, with micro-cations representing only 12% of their insured vacations.

Destinations for micro-cations have changed, mainly due to the influence of COVID-19 and resulting travel restrictions. In 2021, Turks and Caicos was the No. 1 micro-cation destination, and it was the most popular option for all generations except travelers 66 and older, who favored Mexico as their first choice for travel. Millennials preferred Turks and Caicos, choosing it for 61% of their international micro-cations. Turks and Caicos was not in the top 30 most popular destinations pre-pandemic; this change represents a significant shift for travelers.

Mexico was the second most popular travel destination in 2021, falling from No. 1 in 2019. Costa Rica was the third most popular location in 2021, jumping from 15th place in 2019. Micro-destinations that lost favoritism include Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland and the United Kingdom, which all fell from the top 10 spots, most likely due to the restrictions resulting from COVID-19.

 Introduction to Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR)

From 2019 to 2020, the travel insurance industry saw a large increase in consumer preference for Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR), as travelers learned it is the only option to cancel a trip due to fear of travel. While this helps travelers before they depart on a trip, it does not address a similar need that could arise while traveling.

 To provide a similar option to consumers for unexpected events that can occur during a trip, Seven Corners added a new benefit, Interruption for Any Reason (IFAR), to their trip protection product line in early 2021. To date, the adoption rate is strong, with a little more than 17% of direct consumers choosing to add it to their purchase.

 Generationally, Seven Corners sees that IFAR is most popular with millennials and Generation X, each having adoption rates of 26% and 28%, respectively. The addition is least popular with baby boomers, who have an adoption rate of only 12%.

For more detailed information on purchasing travel insurance to cover COVID-19, Seven Corners has information on the coverage provided by their RoundTrip products related to potential quarantine considerations. To learn more about how Seven Corners’ travel medical and trip protection products address the continuing impacts of the pandemic, visit their specific Coronavirus page.

About Seven Corners

Founded in 1993, Seven Corners, Inc. is an innovative and service-focused travel insurance and specialty benefit management company that serves a global market. Based in Carmel, Ind., the company offers a variety of customized travel insurance solutions to domestic and international travelers. Seven Corners also administers benefits for U.S. government programs.

Northern Exposure: Soft Adventure Under the Aurora

It’s time to go adventuring with Off the Map Travel’s Reconnect under the Aurora—the ultimate soft adventure Arctic Northern Lights glamping experience for families and friends.

Designed for one group traveling together to ensure safety and social distancing, the Reconnect under the Aurora experience in Sweden is a bucket list adventure taking place in the land of the Northern Lights.  

 Created for families with children four years and older, the luxury four-night program starts with a flight into Lulea Airport and then transferring for a snowmobile safari through the majestic countryside and across a frozen river to Aurora Safari Camp. Here the luxurious accommodations begin with a stay in a new aurora lavvu, a traditional tepee used by the nomadic Sami people. Each 325-square-foot lavvu has room for up to four guests and is winterized with a large “aurora window” which delivers awe-inspiring views of the Northern Lights. The lavvu also features wood and automatic fuel burners to keep guests cozy during their stay. 

“The newly upgraded lavvu accommodations are not only warm, inviting and beautifully furnished, but they also all face north to get the best views of the Northern Lights,” says Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel, the designer and exclusive provider of the experience.  “The large, clear Northern Lights panel in the side of the lavvu brings an immersive connection with the wilderness and the Arctic culture meaning you’ll never miss a second when searching for the Aurora.”

The second part of the experience features a stay in a log cabin at Arctic Retreat deep in the sub-Arctic woods. Other Instagram worth parts of the holiday include interacting with reindeer, dog sledding, a sled ride, a sauna experience frozen into the lake and more snowmobiling.  

Children aged 4-eleven are entertained by an expert Sami guide who teaches traditional survival skills such as how to make Gáhkko bread over a campfire. Older children have the opportunity to learn how to ice fish as well as how to stay safe and dry in the Arctic winter climate. 

Reconnect Under the Aurora is a chance to unwind, be together as a family in a totally immersive experience unlike any other.

The five- day, four-night, “Reconnect under the Aurora” package is available until March 2022 and is offered exclusively by Off the Map Travel. Priced from $9145 per person and based on six people with total exclusivity for all activities. The package includes all meals, transfers, two nights in an Aurora lavvu, two nights in a luxurious private cabin at the Arctic Retreat, and more. Flights are additional.  

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.