Nine Reasons Not to Miss Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

Various Scenes from Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Last week Mindy Bianca @mindybiancapr.com introduced her newest employee, an elf named Jolly Jinglebutton who, I have to admit, had some great holiday travel destination. Well, it turns out the elf is back and, as he puts it, excited as a reindeer in a carrot patch because “I get to tell you all about one of my favorite places on the entire planet … Dollywood!”

File this under “who would have thought” but it seems Dolly Parton, owner of Dollywood, is an elf favorite, having recently been voted as their Very Favorite Human Ever. I wonder how Santa and Mrs. Claus feel about that as they’re humans too—I think. But anyway, everyone loves Dolly Parton and they’ll probably love her a lot more when they find out about all the special fun things going on at Dollywood from now until January 1st. By the way, in case you didn’t know, Dollywood has been awarded the title of Best Theme Park Christmas Event a whopping 14 times,  

Various Scenes from Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Here are nine reasons not to miss Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.

Lights!

Six million of them, to be exact … spread across 160 acres. I’m not very math-y, but I’m here to tell you that it equates to A LOT of lights. They introduced a million new lights this year, so a park that already glistened and gleamed now also shimmers and shines. Hooray! There’s something bright and festive around every corner, which means that a walk around Dollywood will make you as giddy as a double espresso with a chocolate chip chaser. Every themed area of the park gets its own look and feel, so it’s kind of like you’re taking a stroll through a series of magical winter wonderlands.

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Fireworks!

As if the lights all over the park – in every tree and on every surface – weren’t enough, on Friday and Saturday nights, they put a bunch of lights up in the sky … in the form of the “Merry and Bright!” fireworks show. The colorful display is set to upbeat, contemporary holiday hits and it’s quite a way to end a weekend night in the park. It warms my little heart to see kids try to make it to the end of the day so they can be awake for the whole show. I guess it gives them good practice for trying to stay up late to see Santa, but we all know how that works out …

Trees!

There are hundreds of trees throughout the park – and they decorated even more this year, just to literally up the voltage – but I have two favorites. One is the 50-foot giant evergreen in Glacier Ridge. This magical tree does a whole synchronized music and light show that ends with – wait for it – snow falling! I didn’t think anything could get better than that, but this year they really decked out the part of the park called Adventures in Imagination. The lights here are pink, platinum and gold – VERY Dolly – and they introduced a new 20-foot tree in an area they’re calling “Dolly’s Christmas.” Guess what else you’ll find there? About 60 LED butterflies! What reindeer are to Santa, butterflies are to Dolly. They’re her spirit animal.

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Santa!

Speaking of Santa, I don’t think it’ll surprise you to know that he and Dolly are pals. They’re so close, in fact, that she talked him into getting himself a little Smoky Mountain cabin so they can be neighbors! His cabin magically appears inside Dollywood throughout the month of November and right until Christmas Day.(After that, as you can imagine, Santa gets to take a little vacation.) You can get a sneak peek inside the cabin to watch Santa at work and – bonus – if you look closely enough, you can actually see if YOUR name is on his Naughty or Nice List! I have personally witnessed kids turn from grumpy to grand in a matter of seconds so they can be assured that they’ll show up on the correct list!

Music!

Various Scenes from DollywoodÕs Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Let’s face it: Dolly Parton isn’t going to have a theme park with lousy entertainment, is she? Dollywood is legendary in the amusement industry for having some of the best performances and performers. There are so many shows here, in fact, that the park uses both indoor and outdoor venues. The headliner is called “Christmas in the Smokies,” and it’s a show that has been featured here every Christmas since 1990. Music is an incredibly important part of life here in the Smokies – and obviously something that Dolly loves – so get ready to tap your toes as part of your visit. MY toes are clad in special little booties with bells on the end, so you’ll know when I’m in the audience near you!

Various Scenes from DollywoodÕs Smoky Mountain Christmas Presented by Humana on December 17, 2021 in Pigeon Forge, TN © Curtis Hilbun/Dollywood

Food!

We elves may be small, but we have big appetites … and I’m here to tell you that Dollywood puts out quite a spread. Let’s see if I can make your mouth water by mentioning some of my favorite hyphenated foods: herb-roasted turkey breast and citrus-glazed carved ham. Or how about chicken pot pie in a bread cone? Yeah, I said it … BREAD CONE! I love to carb load before a long night of delivering gifts, and I can promise you that I’m taking this recipe back to Mrs. Claus. There are also eggnog cupcakes and gingerbread-dusted funnel cakes, and I think I’ve convinced my favorite North Pole barista, Spazzy Sparkleshots, to start serving those at her café.

Rides!

Let’s not forget that this is a theme park, and most of the rides operate even in these cooler months. That means you can race through the night sky while millions of lights twinkle below. And you know what? I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a lot like how Santa feels when he takes his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve!

Opening of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Glacier Ridge held on November 9, 2019, at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood

Gifts!

Some people love Christmas shopping, others dread it. I’m an elf, so we don’t shop … we MAKE gifts. And so do the craftsmen at Dollywood, who – if they weren’t so tall and didn’t enjoy life in the Smokies so much – could probably be recruited for Santa’s Workshop. Everything they create would make a perfect gift, and they’re also preserving some of the greatest arts of these mountains. Sometimes they even let YOU do the creating, like when the glassblower coaches you in how to make your very own glass Christmas ornament!

Stay!

If you’re thinking there’s a lot to do at Dollywood and you’ll need more than a day here to take it all in, you’re absolutely right. So, it’s kind of perfect that in addition to this award-winning theme park, there’s also a beautiful resort. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa offers families plenty of food, entertainment and décor during the holiday season. I love the two-story Christmas tree that greets you as you enter the resort. It’s very sparkly … just like me!

Whew! That was a lot to share, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface.

Remember … this Christmas, keep it holly, keep it jolly, keep it Dolly!

Holiday Cheers,

Jolly

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Four Great Christmas Destinations for the Holiday Season

My friend Mindy Bianca of Mindy Bianca Public Relations (MBPR) introduced me to hr newest employee, Jolly Jinglebutton (I don’t know where Mindy meets these characters), an elf who seems in the know for all things Christmas. And here, in his words, are some great holiday destinations.

Photo courtesy of Branson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

Branson, Missouri

            In this Ozark Mountain town, moms and dads put the kids to bed on Halloween night, sneak some candy to get a little sugar rush, and then scurry around to transform Branson from fall to festive in a matter of hours. Poof! By the morning of November 1, Branson looks like the North Pole … minus the snow! Actually, this year they’re upping their game and transforming the historic downtown into a massive “winter wonderland” display – including hundreds of snowflakes suspended from the lampposts – so maybe it WILL look just like my home!

There are more than 1,500 beautifully decorated trees all around town, including a giant Community Tree whose themed décor changes each year. This year that tree is titled “We All SHINE ON!” and it will feature more than 200 super-sparkly LED stars in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. The Community Tree display, which will stand nearly four stories tall, will be part of Branson’s holiday scene from November 1 through January 7. It’ll be positioned right next to the Branson Ferris Wheel, which itself is beautifully decorated with lights that “dance” to favorite Christmas tunes during multiple shows each night.

Photo courtesy of Branson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau

Though all the attractions around Branson get into the holiday spirit, the highest concentration of lights and décor can be found at Silver Dollar City, a legendary theme park that annually celebrates “An Old Time Christmas.” The park installs more than 6.5 million lights – that’s 680 miles of stringed bulbs! – as well as 1,000 decorated trees, 600 giant wreaths, 3 miles of garland, and 15,000 yards of ribbon. (Fun fact: That’s about 15,000 elves’ worth of ribbon, if we all laid head to toe.)

And perfect for a holiday visit: At the World’s Largest Toy Museum, you’ll find more than 1 million toys that represent pretty much everything that kids have been putting on their Christmas lists for the past 100 years. This museum sure makes me glad that Santa invested in all the new-fangled technology that relieves us elves from some of the most difficult toy-making tasks. (Don’t even talk about sewing on teddy bears’ noses. Ouch!)

Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

            We elves took a recent poll, and our very favorite human – ever – is Dolly Parton. There really isn’t anything she can’t do. She writes and sings songs, she acts (check out her Christmas movie on NBC later this year!), she helps finance COVID vaccines, she promotes literacy, and she owns a theme park in the middle of the Smoky Mountains so that visitors far and wide can learn about and fall in love with her Tennessee Mountain Home.

In fact, Dolly is so amazing that I’m not saying she’s an elf, but I’m not NOT saying she is one, either. Think about it: Some of the best elves I know are named Polly (last name: Peppermintstripe), Molly (Mistletoe), Holly (Hugsomuch), Folly (Funsmith) and Golly (Gumdrop). And then, of course, there’s me … Jolly. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Dolly’s name just SOUNDS elf-y?

Anyway, back to that incredible theme park, Dollywood, which has a tendency – like me – to go a little Christmas-crazy. Starting on the first Saturday of November, the park is completely transformed into a winter wonderland, coming aglow as more than 5 million gleaming lights sparkle across the property. (They have a team of humans here called “Lighting Bugs” who start stringing in the summertime! They started early this year so Dolly could film her Christmas movie last month!) A highlight of the décor is a 50-foot-tall, animated Christmas tree that comes to life via a synchronized light show throughout the evening.

And this is a theme park, so there are plenty of rides to enjoy, too! You get to race through the night sky while millions of lights twinkle below. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it’s a lot like how Santa feels when he takes his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve.

Frostburg, Maryland

            Photographer: Hassan Rasheed

Take a look at this tiny town’s name. You just know people here are going to make a fuss about all wintery stuff, right? Fun fact: Frostburg is not named for Jack Frost – which is okay with me, because I’ve always thought that guy was kind of cold. Instead, it was named for a family that was among the first settlers here on what they call “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” way back when this area was pure wilderness.

But that bristly Jack Frost does show up once a year, on the first Saturday of December (this year that’s December 3), for the town’s “Storybook Holiday” celebration. Old Jack pushes his way right to the front of the parade and tries to make it all about him. So typical.

Photographer: Janelle Muletz

But you know who it’s really about? The students from Frostburg University, who work with members of the community to raise money for the university’s Children’s Literature Centre. They all come together to celebrate books, reading and literacy. Kids show up to hear Christmas stories, meet authors, write letters to Santa, watch the parade and sip “Cocoa with the Po-Po,” which is hosted by Frostburg’s police department.

But the very, very best part is – wait for it – when the college kids compete in the Elf Olympics. Events include all the things I’ve spent my life perfecting: cookie tossing, package wrapping, tree decorating, toy creating and even song serenading. It’s so much fun to watch! I asked Santa if I can recruit the best participants for our North Pole team, but he said they probably exceed our maximum height limit.

Something else I love about Frostburg is that it gives me plenty of chances to support small, local businesses, including an independent bookstore, a shop that sells vinyl records, an old-fashioned theater that shows classic Christmas movies, and a café that serves an eggnog latte that I wish Spazzy Sparkleshots, my favorite barista back in the North Pole, could learn how to make.

Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore, Alabama (near Mobile)

            I think a lot of people equate Christmas with colder weather and forget that there are plenty of warmer places that really get into the holiday spirit, too. MBPR represents several destinations that prove you don’t have to freeze your jingle bells off to enjoy the holidays. So, I want to tell you about Christmas at Bellingrath Gardens & Home, which is near Mobile, Alabama. The place is named for Walter Bellingrath, who made his fortune owning the region’s Coca-Cola bottling franchise, and O, Christmas tree … do they go all-out when it comes to decorating his 65-acre garden estate!

            During the Magic Christmas in Lights event, which this year runs November 25 through January 4, the gardens are adorned with more than 1,200 handmade set pieces, 3 million glittering lights and 16 custom scenes that can be enjoyed on your own or via a guided group walking tour. And guess what? Everything is designed, welded, painted and lamped on site by three members of the gardens’ staff.

In December, this area boasts an average daytime high of 63 degrees and a nighttime low of 45, so it’s possible to experience the lights in a comfortable climate but also enjoy a little bundling up … and perhaps a sip or bite of something warm along the way.

In addition to the light displays, the garden hosts live choral performances nearly every night. I love to sing-sing-sing, so I go every night to show my support … and tap my toes in my little curlicued shoes.

Also – news flash! – there ARE flowers that bloom at this time of year. Bellingrath is home to one of the South’s most amazing collections of Alabama’s state flower, the camellia. That was Mr. Bellingrath’s very favorite flower … and it happens to be Mrs. Claus’s fave, too! The team here always lets me pick a few camellias and send them home with Santa, who presents them to Mrs. Claus as part of the elves’ Christmas gift to her.

NEW! SLEEP IN A GLASS IGLOO FROZEN INTO A GLACIAL LAGOON ON A PRIVATE HOLIDAY IN ICELAND

“Glacier Lagoon Adventure Program” Offers Distinctive Way to View the Northern Lights on Your Own Private Tour of the Glacial Area

 Available for booking now for dates from mid-January through March 2023, two new glass igloos frozen into a secluded lagoon will open to guests for their first winter offering the chance to sleep next to a glacier in Iceland. Part of an exclusive, private tour from  Northern Lights specialists Off the Map Travel,  the “igloo boats” are accessible only by boat or all-terrain vehicles and float during the summer months and freeze into the ice as the temperatures fall.

The new fully guided five-night/six-day Private Glacier Lagoon Adventure  program allows guests to overnight on the lagoon by the Vatnajokull glacier for the first time and has been designed to optimize the possibility of experiencing the Northern Lights. This program is an exclusive one, designed for the utmost in luxury and adventure, with a guide at your disposal at all times for recommendations and excursions including a private glacier hike and sightseeing.

From a hidden (and dark) part of the Fjallsarlon glacial lagoon on the southern coast of Iceland, the transparent igloos sit in a position where watching the stars and Icelandic Northern Lights becomes the focus of the evening. The new experience takes full advantage of this dark setting as there is no light pollution and the igloos have panoramic glass walls for uninterrupted views north.

Isolated from tourists in an uninhabited corner of Iceland, the new igloos encourage connection with nature and the stunning snow-covered wilderness. The igloos measure nine square meters and come equipped with a cozy and generous double bed, bathroom, panoramic windows, Wi-Fi and hot drinks. The igloos are warmed by central heating, ensuring comfortable night sky viewing.

“This is a magical way to experience the Northern Lights and the quiet beauty of the Scandinavian winter wilderness,” says Alex Minnis, Chief Operations Officer of Off the Map Travel. “It’s pretty amazing to sleep secluded in an igloo that’s been frozen into a lagoon of glacial meltwater. You get a true feeling of the imposing glacier framed by the vast star-filled arctic sky. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll see the dancing Aurora Borealis.”

Itinerary

The new five-night, six-day Private Glacier Lagoon Adventure includes a night in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, followed by a guided road trip with driver to Myrdalsjokull with breath-taking views of the southern coastline. Guests will then enjoy a privately guided scenic tour and dinner at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon before spending a night beneath the sky in a private glass igloo overlooking the stunning Vatnajokull glacier. 

During the day, guests can choose to marvel at the glacier up close or visit nearby Diamond Beach with its black sand and scattering of sparkling shards of ice.

Northern lights Hotel Rangá

After the igloo night on the lagoon, guests will continue along the coast to Hotel Ranga for the final night of the program.

The private five-night, six-day Glacier Lagoon Adventure trip is priced at $8799 USD per person at the time of this writing, based on two people traveling. This includes all accommodations, a private boat tour to an island with Champagne and lunch, a guided trip to a special location to be determined by weather and seasonal conditions, a private guide and driver for the duration of the itinerary, and daily breakfast. For more information visit https://www.offthemap.travel/glacier-lagoon-adventure/

Detailed itinerary – Private Glacial Lagoon Adventure

Day 1

Arrive into Reykjavik and meet your driver for your at the Hotel Borg in the city center and tour. With the guidance and recommendations of your guide, spend the evening at leisure exploring the city’s museums, restaurants and more. 

Day 2

Join your driver once again for a scenic journey to Myrdalsjokull (approx 2.5 hours) along the southern coastline. The glacier in the south of the Icelandic highlands is the country’s fourth largest ice cap, covering nearly 232 square miles, with a highest peak of 1500 meters. It sits atop the notorious and explosive volcano Katla. After, head to Hotel Katla for the evening and overnight.

Day 3

In the morning you will join your guide once again for a tour to explore the most accessible location on the day — perhaps Hekla Volcano or Landmannalaugar. Upon returning back from your day trip, you will then journey to the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon where you can check-in and have an early dinner before heading to Fjallsarlon for a unique overnight adventure staying in your “igloo boat” overlooking the stunning Vatnajokull glacier.

Day 4 

This day is all about glaciers. The day begins with a drive to your private glacier hike along Skaftafell. This outlet glacier extends from Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe.

Day 5 

Travel back along the coastal road stopping at the various viewpoints and natural wonders on the way to Hotel Ranga (approx 3 hours). Relax at the hotel before dinner in the restaurant. 

Day 6

Your driver will return you to Reykjavik Airport (approx 2 hours) for your return flight home. Option to extend your stay if you wish.

OFF THE MAP TRAVEL

The team at Off the Map Travel works with experiences and destinations that allow people to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure OTMT creates tailor-made holiday itineraries offering authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies.  For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call 1-646-701-0041; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or Pinterest

St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

This November, the St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are hosting  SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival is an annual celebration of authors, books, and ideas during early November, with additional author events year-round. The range of author topics is vast: business, cooking, economics, family, fiction, history, music, religion, sports, and more.

Now in its 44th year, the Festival is nationally recognized for both its excellence and its size – it is one of the largest in the country with more than 10,000 audience members annually. People from all backgrounds and religions come to Festival events to hear premier speakers, share their thoughts, and ask questions.

Bookend Event: Saturday, November 5

7:30pm: Phil Rosenthal, Somebody Feed Phil the Book

Keynote Author: Sunday, November 6

7pm: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Lessons from the Edge

Monday, November 7

1pm: Historical Fiction Panel: Lisa Barr & Rachel Barenbaum

7pm: Charles Bosworth & Joel Schwartz, Bone Deep: Untangling the Betsy Faria Murder Case

Tuesday, November 8

10:30am: Julian E. Zelizer, Abraham Joshua Heschel

1pm: Jen Maxfield, More After the Break

7pm: Cookbook Panel: Cathy Barrow & Molly Yeh

Wednesday, November 9

10:30am: Romance Fiction Panel: Amanda Elliot & Lynda Cohen Loigman

7pm: Kristallnacht Program: Scott Lenga, The Watchmakers

Thursday, November 10

10:30am: Wellness Panel: Rina Raphael & Jason Levin

1pm: Gregory Zuckerman, A Shot to Save the World

7pm: Women’s Night with Julia Haart, Brazen (Boutique Bazaar opens at 5pm)

Friday, November 11

10:30am: Andy Dunn, Burn Rate

1pm: Barry Nalebuff, Split the Pie

Saturday, November 12

7pm: Paul Ford, Lord Knows, at Least I was There, Working with Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, November 13

1pm: Rabbi Benjamin Spratt, Awakenings

7pm: Sports Night: Dan Grunfeld & Barry Weinberg

Bookend Event: Wednesday, November 16

7pm: Missouri’s Own Authors


SLCL Authors @ The J

St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are pleased to announce SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival thanks the Novel Neighbor for providing books by our presenting authors. The festival receives a percentage of sales for every book sold. Please support the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival and the Novel Neighbor by purchasing your books at the festival.

How to Purchase Books at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

  1. In-person during the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. Call 314-442-3299 for more info.
  2. In-person or online at the Novel Neighbor.

Six Great Cocktails for Fall

Celebrate Halloween and beyond with   Q MixersWaterloo Sparkling Water and Dos Equis. For those looking for creative and fun cocktails, they have you covered with seasonal cocktails you and your guests will die for 😉! Grab your candy corn, tune into Hocus Pocus and get your cocktail shaker out!

Q Mixers is sharing (3) must-try libations perfect for party batches that instantly takes your Halloween bash from boring to boo-licious. 

Waterloo Sparkling Water has (2) ALL-NEW cocktail recipes featuring their limited time only flavor, Cranberry. Perfect for a fall night by the fire.

Dos Equis has a recipe that brings a spicy twist to the classic fall apple cider.

Jekyll & Hydeball

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tequila
  • 1 oz Pineapple Juice
  • 1 small dash Tabasco
  • 5 oz Q Sparkling Grapefruit

Method:

Build in highball glass filled with ice and top with Q Sparkling Grapefruit. Garnish with the tops of two chili peppers to create devil horns.

Frankenlime Collins

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Gin
  • 0.25 oz Midori
  • 0.5 oz Lime Juice
  • 5 oz Q Spectacular Tonic
  • 1 Lime Peel

Method:

Shake all ingredients except the Q Spectacular Tonic and strain into a large glass mug. Top with chilled Q Spectacular Tonic Water and garnish with a lime peel.

Eyeball Highball

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz Bourbon
  • ½ oz Lychee Juice
  • 4 oz Q Ginger Ale
  • 1 Lychee Eyeball

Method:

Build drink in highball glass and garnish with lychee eyeball. To make the lychee eyeball garnish, drain a can of lychees (reserve lychee juice for the recipe) and insert a blueberry into the hollowed out lychee.

Loo-ner Eclipse

Ingredients:

Method:

In a mixing tin, add apple cider, lemon juice, and cinnamon syrup. Then add ice and shake well. Strain over fresh ice and top with Waterloo Cranberry. Garnish with fresh cranberries, grated cinnamon, and cinnamon stick.

Chai By Night

Ingredients:

Method:

In a mixing tin add chai tea and almond milk. Add ice and give it a quick shake to produce a light foam. Strain over fresh ice and top with Waterloo Cranberry. Garnish with shaved milk chocolate.

Apple Cider Habanero

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. Dos Equis® Ambar
  • 3 oz. apple cider (habanero infused)
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. tequila reposado (100% agave)
  • 3 large ice cubes
  • Apple slice

Method:

Make habanero infused apple cider by soaking 100g of habanero peppers in 1 gallon of apple cider for two hours room temperature (or longer to taste). Pour cider, lime juice and tequila over ice and stir. Top with Dos Equis® Ambar. Garnish with apple slices.

Celebrate all things autumn at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia

Fall lingers a bit longer in Virginia giving us more time to enjoy the beauty of the season. And those looking for the great escape certainly linger longer at Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Maybe it’s because the resort is on 2,900 acres (that’s a lot of fall foliage) of land, or that it’s the only resort in Williamsburg on the fabled James River with sweeping views of the water, or the championship golf, million-dollar spa and massive indoor heated swimming pool.  Of course, there’s seemingly endless bike and walking trails, tennis courts and dining options.

Fall also means special value-added savings, packages and programming celebrating harvests, culture, Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

The AAA Four Diamond Kingsmill Resort  is also well known for having “living room,” as in many of the accommodations feature one, two and three bedrooms and two baths with a living room, kitchen, dining area and even a washer and dryer.  It’s ideal for families, couples and friends get-away.

And while many guests are content to stay within the resort, just outside its gates are all the attractions and experiences Williamsburg is famous for such as the scenic drives on the Colonial Parkway to Jamestown Island, or hiking/walking on the short trails of the coastal estuary at York River State Park.

On Saturday through December 18, guests can enjoy the Williamsburg Farmers Market and sample the regions famous farm products, produce, baked goods and even pick up some arts and crafts.

On Water: Rent a pontoon, paddle board, kayak or jet ski at Kingsmill’s marina to see the magnificent colors along the James River. 

There is nothing more “fall” than pumpkins.  And in Williamsburg, guests will discover Pumpkinville where one can choose one from a family farm or shop for seasonal specialties such as gourds, winter squash, and fall flowers and decorations. There’s even a corn maze for those that like to wander.

In a land as ancient as this (by US standards) there are certain to be super-natural experiences.  Haunted houses, ghost walks and spooky carriage rides abound.  You can be truly pushed to your scared limits at Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream or just be mildly spooked on a one-hour candlelit tour of old Williamsburg.

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The country’s first documented Thanksgiving was here as well, at Berkley Plantation to be exact (two years before the Pilgrims event in Massachusetts).  The first settlers celebrated “a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God,” and ate after fasting. Each year, you can celebrate the event with a living history program, tribal Native American dancers, arts and crafts, and choral music. Kingsmill Resort also offers a major Thanksgiving dinner (go to http://www.kingsmill.com for details).

For more information on Kingsmill Resort check into www.kingsmill.com

Three Great Destinations for Fall Colors and Fun

Hikes, fly fishing, falconry, all-inclusive wilderness retreats, and a view from the top of America’s mountain, no one does Western fall wonder and adventure like The Broadmoor. Here are a variety of different ways (water, air and on top of a mountain) to enjoy those autumn golden aspens that everyone is talking about.

Fall fun by water: Get your boots wet with some Colorado fly fishing.

The Broadmoor’s all-inclusive Wilderness Properties such as Fly Fishing Camp are where fall colors and adventure combine.

For more water wonder, stay at The Broadmoor and take advantage of an autumn hike at Seven Falls.

For more water wonder, stay at The Broadmoor and take advantage of an autumn hike at Seven Falls.

The Broadmoor’s Soaring AdventuresEnjoy the tree tops and fresh autumn air with a zip lining experience in the mountains. For more reasons to look up, take advantage of The Broadmoor’s falconry experience which allows the unique opportunity for an up-close encounter with the resort’s majestic birds of prey plus the opportunity to watch them in flight.

A view from the top of the land: The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

What’s better than a view from the top? America’s highest railway reaching a height of 14,115 feet offers stunning Colorado mountain views and some of the country’s best fall foliage landscapes. 

Cape May, NJ is one of the most underrated beach towns in America.

This charming seaside getaway offers the perfect beach town trip any time of year. Fall is a great time to beat the crowds and enjoy the award-winning beaches, cozy fireplaces, exquisite farm to table dining, and amazing small-town amenities including exploring this Victorian town by foot or bike and enjoying family-friendly fun and shopping. Plus families will also enjoy visiting Beach Plum Farm during harvest season to enjoy a mix of summer and a preview to fall.

Set on 62 acres less than two miles away from the center of Cape May, Beach Plum Farm is a family favorite and provides ingredients to several local restaurants, including the award-winning Ebbitt Room. The farm provides many of the seasonal ingredients used in the delicious food served at Congress Hall, its restaurants and sister properties! Kids love feeding the chickens and exploring the acres of gardens and fields. Cape May is also home to Congress Hall, America’s oldest seaside resort. Check out caperesorts.com

 Sag Harbor & Shelter Island (Hamptons / Eastern Long Island)

Grab a classic novel and head to Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor, NY. Rich in literary history (the hotel was a favorite of John Steinbeck), this classic all-American hotel sits in one of the best spots in Sag overlooking the harbor making its porch and pool the perfect spot to curl up with a book and enjoy the autumn harbor breezes. Bonus: enjoy some of the East End’s freshest dock to dish dining. Baron’s Cove’s culinary team works closely with local farmers, purveyors, and fishing boats and can name the captain and boat that the restaurant’s daily fish came off of that morning. Baron’s Cove is also one of the few places in town that offers live music every night during the summer and Wednesday through Sunday in the fall.  

Over on Shelter Island, NY, Baron’s Cove’s sister property, The Pridwin Hotel & Cottages, recently reopened its doors after a two-year renovation (recently as in, the ribbon cutting took place mid-July!) Another waterfront property, The Pridwin offers travelers the best of both worlds: the vibes of a luxury lake/adult summer camp getaway with the thrill of the beach (it has its own private beach steps from the hotel). Guests may also take advantage of water sports activities, sunset sailing, private luxury yacht experiences and also the resort’s very own kayaking and paddle boarding. Guests also have the extra perk of fishing off of the resort’s dock.

Heading into the cooler weather, The Pridwin will continue to offer several family friendly programming throughout the fall including lawn games, arts & crafts, live music, kids cooking classes, nature walks, hiking in Mashomack; farm tours with local Sylvester Manor Farm; plus yoga on the lawn programming for children.

The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway

Trendy Bloomington Indiana is the ultimate fall destination

Bloomington, Indiana is bursting with autumn adventures, fall flavors, and some of the best ways to enjoy fall foliage. Here’s how to enjoy autumn adventure by water, land, and even air.

Though it might be hard to convince some people of this, Bloomington in the fall when the leaves turn jewel shades of garnet, tangerine quartz, and tourmaline (or red, orange, and yellow) is more than  college football. Here in this college town where Indiana University’s campus melds into the historic downtown, there are seasonal festivals and flavors, cool, crisp weather, wineries, distilleries, and breweries as well as an amazing selection of ethnic restaurants including not one but two Tibetan eateries. In all, Bloomington, Indiana is a one stop shop for all the fall feels.

Here’s how:

On the water: Monroe County boasts three lakes, and each takes on a magical, majestic air and outdoor adventures during autumn. The rolling hills filled with orange, red, and yellow-leaved trees reflecting in the water is a breathtaking experience every visitor should check out during the fall season. Seasonal activities include boat rentals allowing visitors to cruise for the best fall foliage view. There’s also seasonal biking, fishing, hiking, campgrounds and more.

In the air: Nothing beats a fall foliage view from the top. While Bloomington is one of the Midwest’s top birding locations, nothing beats a bird eye’s view of the beautiful earth below. Bloomington is home to three popular hot air balloon companies including SkyVista Ballooning which offers a unique and customizable hot air balloon ride experience for everyone embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. For those who prefer to use their feet for a view from the top can climb the 133-step Hickory Ridge Fire Tower and snap a photo of the fall-toned tree tops. An autumnal view of Monroe County like no other. Nature lovers and avid hikers will be amazed by the Hoosier National Forest during fall.

Speaking of balloons, Bloomington is home to several seasonal festivals including the 10th annual Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest; Lotus World Music & Arts Festival; Hilly Hundred Bicycle Tour, and more.

On land: Indiana University, one of the most stunning college campuses in the country, shows off its colors in the fall (on the football field and campus). Be sure to attend a fall football game and/or take a trip to the campus.

Fall foodies enjoy all the season’s best flavors throughout town such as Apple Pie Wine at Oliver Winery, Oktoberfest at Upland Brewing Co, pumpkin pancakes at Village Deli, a Jack-O-Lantern Latte (made with local Dillman Farms pumpkin butter) over at Hopscotch Coffee, and so much more (there are over 350+ restaurants in Bloomington!).

And because fall season is also spooky season, for those interested in the other kind of “spirits” Bloomington is a great destination for Halloween vibes. Graduate Bloomington Hotel, a pet friendly place to stay, has a room dedicated to the hit Netflix show Stranger Things and if that’s not creepy enough, Bloomington offers cemetery hikes and tours with more Halloween activities to be announced soon. Mystery lovers will enjoy Indiana University’s Lilly Library Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects exhibit on display now through December 16.

Grand Geneva Resort: Fall fun, frights, and culinary delights

More than a year-round destination for adventure, fun, and relaxation, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin should also be on every serious foodies list as well. That’s because, under the direction of Food & Beverage Director, Nelly Buleje and new Executive Chef Dustin Urbanik, this popular resort is dishing up exceptional seasonal flavors on their new fall menus.

From the resort’s popular elevated Saturday brunch which are focusing on such autumn delights as pumpkin pancakes and fall flavored mimosas to in-house made desserts like apple crumble to seasonal soups and sides such as lobster bisque with Maine lobster sherry, tarragon, lobster brodo, sourdough crisp and caviar; truffle creamed spinach with black truffle, mornay, and farmstead cheese; and rainbow carrots and parsnips with bourbon and maple glaze, the resort and its collection of restaurants are bursting with fall flavors.

There’s also an impressive new fall cocktail menu with selections like Wisconsin Apple Old Fashioned; Smoked Maple Mile; a White Pumpkin cocktail; Espresso S’MORES-tini; and more (check out the fun visuals here). By popular demand, the resort’s seafood boil and Midwestern prime rib roasts will run every Friday and Saturday through November 12.

In addition to the new fall flavors, here are some new autumn offerings and programming guests and families can expect:

  • Seasonal outdoor adventures including hiking, biking, an indoor pool and waterpark, horseback riding, championship golf, skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and more.
  • One of the best ways to get around and explore the 1,300 acre-campus and beautiful Lake Geneva as well as Wisconsin’s scenic backroads is by the resort’s scooters and new this year, e-bikes. Rent one for a few hours or take a guided tour around the area with. The perfect way to spend an autumn afternoon with family or a group of friends (must be 18+, check out rules here).
  • Hayrides and waterslides! The resort campus is also home to Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark. Both Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge offer guests on-site haunted hayrides, haunted barns, apple picking opportunities and seasonal packages. Check out Grand Geneva’s packages here; Timber Ridge packages can be found here.
  • Families will also enjoy new programming such as pumpkin painting; DIY caramel apples; excursions to Pearce’s Farm (local farm with fresh produce, kid’s activities and corn maze); and a Grand Escape – the resort’s very own pop up escape room.

Keep an eye on the Wisconsin Fall Color Report for optimal leaf-looking opportunities. 

Photos courtesy of Grand Geneva Resort.

The Perfect Fall Getaway: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Summer is officially in our rearview mirror, but that’s not stopping the twin-city destinations of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabamafrom looking at the open stretch of beach ahead! While these Gulf Coast destinations are synonymous with summer vacation for many travelers, today we’re sharing why a visit during the “off” season – specifically autumn – should be put on the map!

Autumnal Highlights

Mild temperatures, special rates and fewer crowds are just a handful of reasons why a trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is special in the fall.

The Beach Within Reach: After peak summer season, the temperature isn’t the only thing coming down. Average daily rates for lodging also drop in the fall. A list of seasonal vacation packages, deals and special offers can be found at GulfShores.com.

Uncrowded Beaches & Restaurants: With its colorful sunsets, fall is an amazing time to enjoy 32 miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and the clear – still warm – waters of the Gulf of Mexico without the heavy summer crowds. Food is this destination’s love language and there’s no shortage of dining options. Many restaurants here have outdoor dining well into the fall season and the wait times are much shorter at this time of year.

@Andrew Der

Fishing: Though fishing is a year-round sport along the shores of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are unique opportunities to reel in seasonal catches. The 2022 amberjack season remains open until November 1, and recreational harvest of gray triggerfish will be open until December 31. Check out the Fishing Seasons page for a full list of the best time to catch different species.

Mild Temperatures: After the country recorded its second hottest season on record, a break in the heat may be a welcome change. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located in the southern subtropical area of the country, where mild temperatures – like an average monthly temperature of 71.2 degrees in October – greet visitors.

Fall Migration: At this time of year, birds and butterflies – including the endangered monarch – count Gulf Shores and Orange Beach as part of their migratory route. The destination offers such spectacular birding locations as Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf State Park, and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on nearby Dauphin Island.

Festivals & Events: There’s always something to do, see, and experience on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival takes place November 3-10 this year, and it will draw more than 200 songwriters from around the country and the world. The festival is named for Frank Brown, the former night watchman at the famed Flora-Bama roadhouse, and it serves as a fundraiser to provide healthcare for musicians, who are typically self-employed.


Accommodations Spotlight

From tiny homes to RV resorts to beachfront condos and resorts, there’s a place for everyone in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals: Offering the largest selection of beachfront and bayfront condos and hotels on the Alabama Gulf Coast, Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals’ “Outstanding October” promotion features 15% off bookings now through October 31, with additional savings available the longer you stay.

Perdido Beach Resort: This family-friendly resort, which underwent a complete renovation in 2021, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach. The “Fall into Savings” offer includes a savings of 30% off when booking three or more nights. The offer is valid through December 31.

Sugar Sands RV Resort: For those who take their “home away from home,” this RV resort features 82 spacious sites with full hook-ups and five “tiny homes.” Sugar Sands is offering end-of-season specials through October.

Dining Spotlight

Here’s a look at some new and beloved dining opportunities and experiences in the destination.

NEW! The Oyster Experience: Murder Point Oyster Company is debuting “The Oyster Experience” on Saturday, November 19. This one-day oyster festival will feature local and East Coast oyster farmers and restaurants. Tickets can be purchased on Murder Point’s website.

Fisher’s: Chef Bill Briand, a five-time James Beard Semifinalist, leads the culinary charge at one of the best restaurants in town.  Fisher’s Dockside is the downstairs, more casual restaurant, while its sister restaurant, Fisher’s Upstairs, offers a fine-dining experience. Open-air seating at both restaurants overlooks more than 150 yachts docked at Orange Beach Marina.

Fresh of the Boat: Enjoy waterfront casual dining at SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach with an upscale bar and live music daily.

Picnic Beach: The menu at this indoor/outdoor, picnic-themed restaurant focuses on fresh, clean ingredients, from premium smoked BBQ to healthy green drinks. You can even take your picnic to go and head to the beach!

Opening Soon!  The owners of the beloved Jesse’s Restaurant in Magnolia Springs are opening a second location on Fort Morgan. Offering casual fine dining, Jesse’s is known for its steaks, fresh local seafood and signature entrees. This new restaurant is expected to open in late October.