March into Spring with Flowers, Feathers, and Fun

Good news! Grand Isle, a part of southeast Louisiana that bore the brunt of Hurricane Ida’s impact last summer, is making great strides toward recovery. The famed Grand Isle State Park remains closed, but beaches and trails around the island are open, as is the shuttle boat that takes visitors to Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge. This is all wonderful news not only for the residents of this little island but also for fans of ecotourism.

Grand Isle is a haven for birdwatchers, who gather here each spring to welcome the hundreds of species of birds that touch down here after their long flights over the Gulf of Mexico to fuel up before continuing their migration north. The island residents have worked hard over the past few months to ensure that human visitors have places to stay (cabins and homes are available to rent, plus there are plenty of RV sites on the island) and great food to eat (the seafood in this area can’t be beat!).

Swooping Into Spring

From Alabama to Louisiana, myriad coastal destinations welcome flocks of both birds and human visitors for the spring migration season. Though birds stop along these areas in both the spring and fall, this is the more impressive migration time because thousands of species come to rest and recharge at around the same time as they all make their way north. If the timing is right – like when there are strong storms associated with a front – conditions are prime for what birders call a “fallout,” which occurs when thousands of birds drop from the sky at the same time to escape severe weather and refuel.

They gather in trees and shrubs, adorning them in a fashion that can be compared to looking at thousands of ornaments on colorful Christmas trees. This is a birder’s dream come true because you can see many species in a short amount of time, and spring is the best time for witnessing this spectacular event. To get an inside look at the best places to see migrating species this spring, click here 

Flower Power

If you find yourself in the Mid-Atlantic or along the Gulf Coast this spring, we’re sharing two can’t-miss floral experiences for your itinerary (or future bucket list)! In Greater Wilmington & The Brandywine Valley, five spectacular properties await exploration in this season of renewal. Among them, Hagley Museum and Library, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Center, Nemours Estate, and Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

In Mobile, where blooms burst year-round, a special reason to visit each March is to see just how Mobile earned the nickname “Azalea City.” Two prime locations to experience the bounty of azalea blooms are Mobile Botanical Gardens and Bellingrath Gardens & Home. For a more in-depth look at spring offerings at these gardens and estates, click here 

Doggone Egg Hunt in Mountain Maryland

Courtesy of Farrell Photography

Has Easter gone to the dogs? Seems that way consider that on April 9, Rocky Gap State Park in Allegany CountyThe Mountain Side of Maryland, is hosting its annual Doggone Egg Hunt. The state park is accessible to all members of the family — four-legged ones included. Visitors can bring their pups (costumes encouraged and welcome) for their own free Easter egg hunt. Eggs will contain prizes ranging from dog treats to toys and supplies. The ulti-mutt prize for all attendees includes getting to meet the Easter bunny! The two-legged members of the family will have the opportunity to meet with local vets and dog trainers and sample local food trucks. It’s promised to be a paws-itively good time for both dogs and humans.

Spring Theme Park Festivals in Missouri and Tennessee

Starting in April, springtime festivals burst into the season at Dollywood and Silver Dollar City. Street Fest at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is likened to a colorful street carnival with performers, stilt-walkers, live musical performances and menus featuring unique food items from around the world. Beginning April 14 and continuing through May 1, the Living Garden’s new aerialists, statue illusionists and giant moving topiaries all come to life on the streets of The City. Check out a sneak peek of the park’s annual calendar of events here.

Meanwhile, in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival has become a beloved springtime tradition. From April 22 to June 5, visitors to the park are sure to be delighted by the displays made up of thousands of brilliant flowers.

Returning guest favorites include the butterfly umbrella and Dolly’s mother sewing together the Coat of Many Colors. The “Food” part of the festival is also a showstopper, with a full menu of items inspired by spring in the Smokies. A roundup of Dollywood’s seasonal celebrations can be found here. .

Back in Bloom Special at The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown

The season of spring brings a breath of fresh air and a feeling of “new.” Flowers bloom, grass grows and baby animals start to make their appearances. The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, New York, follows suit with a new spring special designed to encourage guests to take in the natural beauty of Cooperstown and breathe new life into their upcoming getaways. 

The Otesaga’s Back in Bloom Special offers guests their choice of tickets for either the Fenimore Art Museum or The Farmers’ Museum when they book a midweek (Sunday – Thursday) stay from April 3 through May 26, 2022. Rates start at $243, based on availability*. Both museums, which are closed during the winter months, will reopen on Friday, April 1 and this special launches just two days later. To get more details on this refreshing special, click here.

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.