Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Girls Getaway to Sarasota - A 'Taste' Of the Circus

Later the next morning, we traveled to the 20-acre John and Mable Ringling Musem of Art, for the Forks & Corks Grand Tasting presented by The Sarasota –Manatee Fresh Originals.  The Grand Tasting featured signature dishes from the area’s top chefs, along with a vast array of wines and beers presented by guest vintners and breweries. More than 100 wineries—and about 75 individual winemakers—participated this year.

Some of my top food picks were the Pork Belly with Sweet Soy Drizzle and Edamame Fried Rice presented by Madfish Grill, Tommy K’s Minced Chicken & Lettuce Cups presented by PattiGeorge’s, the Gnocchi Bolognese presented by 15 South Ristorante, and the Pickled Oyster Shooter with Jalapeno-Horseradish Infused Vodka and House Prepared Sangrita presented by Sietsa Key Oyster Bar.   

During the four-hour tasting, we explored the museums grounds, visited the Circus Museum and Ca d’Zan (Home of John Ringling) and the impressive galleries of priceless art all donated to the state by John Ringling.  The Circus Museum was my favorite as they have artifacts from the actual Ringling Brothers circus, as well as a room where you can try out your own circus skills such as tightrope walking, fitting into a clown car and acrobatics on top a horse....all of which I had to try out. 

The Circus Museum celebrates the American circus, its history, and unique relationship to Sarasota. Established in 1948, the museum was the first in the country to document the rich history of the circus. View colossal parade and baggage wagons, sequined costumes, and a sideshow banner line that document the circus of the past and of today. The cornerstone of the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center is the world's largest miniature circus, The Howard Bros. Circus Model. The model is a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938.  It was created over a period of more than 50-years by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals.

Also impressive and interesting is the Ringlings' dazzling palatial mansion, which is a tribute to the American Dream and reflects the splendor and romance of Italy. Described as “the last of the Gilded Age mansions” to be built in America, Ca' d’Zan has 56 rooms filled with art and original furnishings. In 1924, construction began on Ca' d’Zan, which means “House of John” in Venetian dialect. The house was completed just in December 1925, at a cost of $1.5 million.  In April 2002, comprehensive restoration and conservation was completed on Ca' d'Zan that spanned six years and $15 million.

Just before a food coma set in, it was time to leave Ringling, the Forks & Corks Festival and Sarasota.  I was impressed, and will be back once again.  Thank you to VISIT Sarasota and the Ritz Carlton Sarasota for a fantastic visit in your lovely city. "May all your days be circus days!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Girls Getaway to Sarasota - Who Is Jack Dusty?

It was hard to believe it was time to eat again, but we were all excited to dine at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota’s new restaurant, Jack Dusty.  Who is Jack Dusty, you ask? The restaurant’s name harkens back to nautical lore and was an 18th century short-hand term for the naval store clerk. “Jack” referred to the additional national flags flown at the bow of a ship and later became a general term for sailor (Cracker Jack). “Dusty” comes from “Jack of the Dust” who was once the Purser’s steward working in the bread room, handling the flour. The Jack Dusty, under the “Purser” was responsible for doling out the daily lot of rum, or “grog” to sailors on board ship. In later years, the Jack Dusty was assigned the task of meticulously maintaining the inventory of the ship’s rum and food stores. Today, Jack Dusty is a symbol of camaraderie and community; festively gathering together to enjoy a good meal and drink. 

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Jack Dusty was recently re-designed to be a restaurant the locals would love to visit that just happens to be at the Ritz Carlton address.  It’s upbeat and trendy atmosphere lends itself well to the various clientele, from local hipsters to hotel guest and families. 

First, I was blown away by the restaurant’s Naval Brown Bread.  I usually don’t eat bread at restaurants, but the delightful aroma and clever presentation lured me in.  Three slices later, I took a photo of the recipe on the cutting board in hopes that I can re-create this at home.   For appetizers, our table shared the Crab & Fried Green Tomatoes, Fried Gator Tots, Crab Cakes and Fried Calamari.  For dinner, I had the Bigeye Sashimi Tuna and Tomata and Burrata Salad.  It was all impeccable, and I was hoping to have room for even more food. 

Just when I thought I could not eat another bite, dessert was served that included Fried Doughnut Holes, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Cake Jar, Build Your Own Ice Cream Sandwich and an assortment of fresh sorbets.  Our overall dining experience was amazing, and I cannot wait to introduce more people to the delightful Jack Dusty :).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Girls Getaway to Sarasota - Berries, Dairies & Vino

The next morning was an early one as we traveled to the Sarasota Farmers Market to stroll through the stands of locally farmed produce and crafts.  We all loaded up on some fresh coffee and grabbed a bite to eat to get our day started.  We found there is something for everyone as this market is a weekend ritual for locals and visitors alike.  

We then visited O’Brien Family Farms, a diversified company that engages in both the retail and wholesale agricultural operations that has been in the agriculture business since 1946.  They grow yellow
squash, Florida sweet onions, golden zucchini, zucchini, melons, cucumbers, sunflowers, eggplant, tomatoes and specialty peppers such as cubanelles, poblanos, jalapenos, banana peppers, strawberries, blueberries and more. They hand-pick the crops daily and sell them in the on-site retail location.  They provided a tour of this family-owned operation,  a sample some of their strawberry shortcake and an opportunity to pick some fresh berries.

Our next stop, during our argitourism tour, was Dakin Dairy Farm.  As a multigenerational Florida dairy farming family, the Dakins produce superior quality, wholesome, farm fresh dairy products from healthy cows using environmentally sustainable practices and state-of-the- art methods.  They also offer farm tours that provide a unique experience and memories that will last a lifetime. Visitors learn "Where Milk Comes From," get to watch milk travel from the cow to the bottle, and taste fresh Dakin milk.  Kids love the hay ride, corn maze, petting zoo area, picnic/playground, fossil dig and pig races the Dakins have on site. 

After our morning spent on the farm, it was time for lunch to savor some of the agricultural products we had seen.  The Forks & Corks University Wine Luncheon took place at Michael’s on East where four courses were designed and prepared by local, independently-owned restaurants and paired with wine from around the world.  Our palette was tantalized by the Root Beer Braised Short Ribs served over Cheesy Stone Ground Grits presented by Crow’s Nest, the Seared Scallop with Chipotle Slaw finished with Grilled Pineapple Relish presented by Bijou Cafe, the Mini Crab Fritter and Cactus Salad with Queso Blanco presented by Savory Street and Tres Leches presented by Ceviche as the Grand Finale!    

Following lunch, we attended the afternoon educational session sampling and learning about the "BIG Reds” from the most popular growing regions of the globe for the “Big, Red & Beautiful” panel discussion and tasting.

After a lot of wine, Amber, Megan and I wanted to visit Siesta Key Beach.  Famous for its white sandy beaches, clear warm waters and authentic beach town feel, the 8-mile, barrier island of Siesta Key attracts visitors as a favorite place for barefoot sunsets.  We just had to put our toes in the sand of what Dr. Beach named the #1 Best Beach for 2011.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Girls Getaway to Sarasota - Ritz & Ceviche

As a native Floridian, I had been to Sarasota, but had not spent much leisure time there.  So when an opportunity came up for me to experience a Girls Getaway to Sarasota, I took that chance. I arrived in Downtown Sarasota for lunch with my friend Heather at Patrick’s 1481 that is located on Main Street.  The Downtown area has something for everyone....from upscale and luxurious to hip and trendy, fining dining to casual al fresco dining, and some of the best people watching anywhere.  Downtown’s Main Street offers a quaint a charming small town vibe.   We had a lovely outdoor lunch at Patrick’s, then it was offer for a few hours of beauty at Diane K Salon & Spa just a few blocks down the street. 

After I got my “hair did,” it was time to check in at the Ritz Carlton – Sarasota.  The Ritz served as our host for the weekend.  Always ready to impress, the Ritz provided a waterview room and their Signature massage that completed my day of R&R.  Many thanks to Norma for 50 minutes of pure bliss!

After some down time, I was ready to get my drink on at the Exclusive Winemaker Dinner at Ceviche, which is located in the historic Times building, originally constructed in 1925. The 4-floor restaurant features an incredible roof-top bar with views of the water and unforgettable happy hour sunsets. Our five-course meal, which was paired perfectly with winemaker-chose wines, included paella, ceviche, tuna, stuffed quail, tabla mixta, beef tenderloin and flan.  WOW...what a  meal!  This Winemaker Dinner was the kick off event for the Annual Forks & Corks Food & Wine Festival that takes place in Sarasota each year.  The event is sponsored by the Sarasota-Manatee Fresh Originals, which is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 2003, of more than 50 locally owned, independent restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Member restaurateurs are dedicated to preserving the culinary heritage of the Suncoast.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Romantic Travel Ideas With A Twist For This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day usually means chocolates, red roses and a dinner for two, but travelers might want to think outside the candy box this February. Often described as “trips of a lifetime”, who better to do a volunteer vacation with than the one you love? Here are some volunteer travel ideas in some of the most exotic and romantic destinations around the world.

Romance on the River in the Amazon: The vast Amazonian forests of northeastern Peru harbor an incredible diversity of wildlife. Pink river dolphins and caimans still swim these waters, while extraordinary birds fly through the canopy. Uakari monkeys abound along the Yavari River and manatees swim in the lakes of Samiria. Help to conduct a survey of the area’s biodiversity to develop sustainable conservation strategies for the region. Illegal timber companies, pet traders, and hunters have decimated wildlife in other areas of the Amazon, lending urgency to the conservation of these nearly pristine reserves. Prices start at $2775 USD / $2737 CAD / $2133 EUR for 8 days including accommodation, food and program activities.

TLC in Trinidad and Tobago: This tropical island off the coast of Venezuela is known for its vibrant ethnic diversity and rich cultural events. It is also the site of one of the most important nesting beaches for endangered leatherback turtles, enormous reptiles that can weigh a ton and dive deeper than many whales. Each night under swaying palms and bright tropical stars, volunteers patrol the beach with the staff of Nature Seekers. Volunteers will tag, measure, and weigh these turtles, which can grow as long as 2 meters/6.5 feet and weigh up to 900 kilograms/2000 lbs. Prices start at $2825 USD / $2786 CAD / $2171 EUR for 12 days including accommodation, food and program activities.

Art Allure in Italy: Volunteers stay at an 18th century Roman Hunting Lodge as they explore the Puglia regions of Southern Italy. Helping to restore ancient frescos and sculptures, volunteers will have a hand-on experience in a place entrenched in history and culture. Prices start at $2889 USD / $2850 CAD / $2200 EUR for a 3-week sojourn including accommodation, activities and meals, running June 13 – 30 and July 4 – 21, 2013.

Meet the Gods of Greece: Based in the charming Greek village of Vonitsa on the Amvrakikos Gulf, volunteers help researchers conduct daily surveys on the area's bottlenose dolphins. Dolphins have permeated the Greek culture since ancient times. Countless artwork and several myths celebrate their strong and intimate bond with humans. In recent times, however, dolphins have almost fallen into oblivion. Volunteer teams will search for dolphins and record information on their numbers, group composition, behaviour, movement patterns and interactions. Prices start at $2575 USD / $2540 CAD / $1979 EUR for 8 days including accommodation, food and program activities.

The Love Boat of Africa: There must be something in the water at Mercy Ships as over 150 of their volunteers have hooked up, with a few weddings being performed at sea too. Mercy Ships was founded in 1978 and is the world’s leading non-governmental, ship-based charity. Working with Mercy Ships, volunteers will be part of a mission to bring hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor through delivering medical care and developmental programs with integrity and compassion. Prices start at $263 USD / $260 CAD /  $202 EUR for 14 days including room and board.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hangover Cures from Around the World - Daytime TV Show

Whether you over-celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras, New Years Eve or your very own birthday, chances are you will suffer from a hangover at some point during 2013.

For common cures from around the world, watch this Daytime TV Show segment with advice from The Getaway Girl, Casey Wohl.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter Travel Deals

Now that the holidays are over, are you ready for a real vacation?  Whether you want to enjoy sun or snow, nature or adventure, The Getaway Girl® Casey Wohl shares her top Winter Travel Deals for 2013.
Bahamas....for $65/night + $300 airfare credit
The Caribbean in January? No better time to escape the cold weather!  Atlantis, Paradise Island will be kicking off the New Year with a winter 2013 offer with rates as low as $65/person/night. Perks will include a Kids Eat Free (ages 6 and younger) promotion & up to a $300 air credit!
Book by February 4; travel through June 19 (some blackout dates apply).  Atlantis offers amazing experiences for the entire family at any age.

Crested Butte, CO....Fly, Ski & Stay for $699

Book your visit to "Colorado's Last Great Ski Town" by Feb. 1st and save big!  Now you can fly into the conveniently located Gunnison/Crested Butte airport on American Airlines, ski three days on the legendary slopes of Crested Butte Mountain Resort and stay four nights at the most popular lodging option in Crested Butte, The Grand Lodge (200 yards from slopes), starting at $699 per person, which is a 36% savings.  Upgrades are available to other lodging properties.  Call Crested Butte Vacations to make a reservation 800-600-2803.

Amsterdam....Winter Luxury Package 20% Savings
It’s no secret that the best way to see Amsterdam is by canal. This winter, The Dylan Amsterdam offers travelers a new way to experience the historic channels, on ice skates. In 2013, the Dutch capital celebrates the 400 year anniversary of its canals and to help kick-off the festivities, the 40-room luxury boutique hotel introduces the “Winter in Amsterdam” package inviting guests to explore a winter wonderland of rich Dutch history and culture. Available through February 3 and rates start at approximately $1,000, based on double occupancy, the package includes:
  • Two nights in a luxurious double room
  • Daily buffet breakfast
  • A glass of Glühwein, a warm European winter cocktail
  • “Lunch Plate” for two in the new Brasserie OCCO
Use of ice-skates
  • Amsterdam City Pass for two allowing free admission to must see museums and free public transport throughout the city for 24 hours.
Crystal River, FL...Swim With Manatees, Save $100+
Swim with the Manatees on Crystal River, the only location in North America where you can legally swim and interact in the wild with up to 350 endangered West Indian Manatees.  Manatee tours are offered year-round, but in the winter time guests are guaranteed to see these gentle giants in year round 72 degree water of Florida’s largest spring system. This winter, the newly-renovated Plantation on Crystal River is offering a chance to swim with the manatees, and fully experience the resort, with prices starting at just $224 for two people. This special manatee package includes:
•One-night stay in a renovated garden view room
•Welcome bag with plush manatee toy, fun facts and manatee interaction guidelines
•Manatee snorkeling tour for two
•Breakfast for two at West 82⁰ Bar & Grill
• All equipment needed (mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuit)
•Hot Chocolate and Coffee on boat

New Hampshire...Learn to Drive Your Own Dog Sled for Less Than $200
What could be more fun (and worth every penny) than learning to drive your own team of sled dogs?  Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel is in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest and home to over 100 rescue and second chance sled dogs.  In order to generate the revenue required to provide the level of care these dogs deserve, the kennel offers year round dog sledding adventures. Winter dog sledding experiences range from 2-50 miles and include workshops where guests can try their own hand at mushing starting at $185 per person.

This half day experience provides guests with a crash course in dog sledding and then lets them put the #1 rule in dog sledding to good use "Never Let Go!" Participants will spend time meeting and greeting rescue and second chance sled dogs, learning how to harness and hitch a team and of course driving! Guests will traverse snow covered trails and experience the Narnia like beauty of the woods - all at adrenaline inducing speeds.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Top Travel Spots of 2013 - Daytime TV Show

Looking for the top travel spots of this year?

Watch this Daytime TV Show segment to find out where the trendiest, most central and most economical places to visit are in 2013.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Congratulations to the 12 Days til Christmas Winners

Congratulations to winners of the Girls Getaway Guide's Sixth Annual '12 Days til Christmas' Getaway Giveaway! 

Dec. 3    Value: $250
Girls Getaway to Lake Havasu, AZ
Three day/two-night stay includes breakfast each morning and one dinner for two
Donated by: Quality Inn & Suites Lake Havasu
Winner: April M. of Edgewater, FL

Dec. 4    Value: $300
Girls Getaway to Arizona
Two-night stay for two adults in your choice of either Sedona or Scottsdale (winner’s choice)
Donated by: Arizona Tourism Center
Winner: Jennifer B. of Lake Placid, FL

Dec. 5    Value: $350
Girls Getaway to Asheville, NC
One night stay at the historic Grove Park Inn with breakfast
Donated by: Grove Park Inn    
Winner: Charlene E. of Nashville, TN

Dec. 6    Value: $375
Girls Getaway to Vero Beach, FL
One-night stay with $50 dinner credit and spa treatment
Donated by: Costa d’Este Beach Resort
Winner: Nita K. of Aloha, OR

Dec. 7    Value: $500
Girls Getaway to the U.S. Virgin Islands
Enjoy three nights deluxe hotel accommodation for double occupancy at Hotel Caravelle that sits on the waters edge in St. Croix.
Donated by: Hotel Caravelle  
Winner: Jane P. of Ottumwa, IA

Dec. 8    Value: $500
Girls Getaway to The Bahamas
Relax at this two-night weekend stay with accommodations at Bimini Sands Resort & Marina for two people in a marina-view, one-bedroom villa.
Donated by: Bimini Sands Resort & Marina 
Winner: Elaine M. of Bokeelia, FL

Dec. 9    Value: $550
Girls Getaway to Orlando & Shopping Spree
Two-night stay at Drury Inn & Suites with breakfast, plus a VIP Shopping Spree from Orlando Premium Outlets that includes a $250 gift card, VIP coupon book, VIP Platinum Passport & Chic Shopping Bag
Donated by: Orlando Premium Outlets
Winner: Jaqueline B. of Ypsilanti, MI

Dec. 10    Value: $600
Girls Getaway to Idaho
Two nights lodging in a deluxe one-bedroom suite for 2-4 adults plus cross country skiing
Donated by: Teton Springs Lodge & Spa
Winner: Carmen P. of Orlando, FL

Dec. 11    Value: $850
Girls Getaway to Orlando & Spa
One night stay in a luxury deluxe guest room at Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek and two 50-minute spa treatments
Donated by: Rosen Shingle Creek
Winner: Dawn R.  of Pittsburgh, PA

Dec. 12    Value: $850
Girls Getaway to Orlando & Spa
Enjoy a one-night luxury deluxe guest room at Orlando’s Rosen Centre and two 50-minute spa treatments.
Donated by: Orlando Rosen Centre   
Winner: Abigail E. of Longwood, FL

Dec. 13    Value: $1,000
Girls Getaway to Orlando & Christmas Package
“Christmassy DreamWorks Experience” package that includes: two night room accommodations, unlimited visits to ICE!, Shrekfast and interactive character meal, character Meet & Greets
Donated by: Gaylord Palms Resort  
Winner: Ivette A. of Sebring, FL

Dec. 14    Value: $1,250
Girls Getaway to the Turks & Caicos
Two-night stay in a two-bedroom deluxe suite for 4-6 guests at Ocean Club Resorts
Donated by: Ocean Club Resorts
Winner: Jamie H. of Sebring, FL

Dec. 15 Value: $1,300
Girls Getaway to Hawaii
Experience two nights of paradise at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa on famed Ka’anapali Beach. In addition to splashing fun at the aquatic playground, the winner will enjoy one fitness class per person at the Mind & Body Studio. Maximum 2 people.
Donated by: The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka’anapali Beach
Winner: Sydney L. of Diamond Bar, CA

Dec. 16    Value: $1,475
Girls Getaway to Longboat Key, FL
Enjoy a 5-night stay in a one or two bedroom unit, plus a $50 gift certificate from Chiles Group’s waterfront restaurants.
Donated by: Cedars Tennis Resort & Chiles Group
Winner: Lorrie B. of Longwood, FL

Dec. 17    Value: $1,500
Girls Getaway to Clearwater Beach, FL
Two-night stay in a one-bedroom suite for 4-6 guests
Donated by: Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa
Winner: Gail B. of Lake Placid, FL

Dec. 18    Value: $2,368
GRAND PRIZE: Girls Getaway to Cancun, Mexico
Spend four nights for two adults at the all-inclusive Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort that offers the exhilaration of enjoying whatever you want, whenever you want it – fine dining, premium wines and spirits, water sports, nightly entertainment.
Donated by: Palace Resorts   
Winner: Kate B. of Metairie, LA

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top Travel Destinations of 2013

Happy New Year!  As we start 2013, we reveal some of the best places to travel this year and why.  So start your planning...
Most On-Trend Destination: Turkey
With the popular new James Bond movie, Skyfall, it’s no surprise that Istanbul is on the list of top destinations for 2013.  Celebrated as the cultural heart of Turkey and distinguished as the only city located on two continents, Istanbul served as the backdrop and second lead in the latest Bond flick—elevating the city to star-status by highlighting its rich culture and heritage alongside the iconic James Bond.  The souq is the most famous and one of the largest covered markets in the world, with a labyrinth of 61 streets and over 3,000 shops, so you’re in for an ultimate shopping experience here. Take in the splendor of the Bosphorus, tour the city’s hip restaurants, bars and galleries, stand in awe in front of its mosques, have a whiff of a narghile in Tophane or a sip of Turkish coffee at a sidewalk café.

Look beyond Istanbul and the coastal resorts and take advantage of new low-fare airlines to see points beyond. New low-cost airlines are opening up the southeast of Turkey, and excellent bus services make getting around easy. Explore the historic old towns of Mardin and Midyat, feast on fantastic food in Gaziantep and see the recently uncovered ruins of Göbekli Tepe near Sanliurfa. Experience the Turkish section of the recently inaugurated Abraham’s Path walking trail, where accommodation is in simple Kurdish homestays, a long way from the tourist buzz of the coast or Istanbul’s Old Town.

Turkey saw 31.5 million visitors in 2011, an increase of almost 10% compared to 2010 and the UN World Travel Organization named it as the world’s 6th most popular tourist destination in 2011.
The country’s tourist infrastructure has grown as well, increasing by 67 percent in the last ten years. By 2015 Turkey’s hotels will offer 370,000 rooms for a wide variety of budgets.
Turkey’s cost of living continues to remain low—50-60% below the cost of living in the UK!
Istanbul has also been applauded for its role on the international art scene—in 2011 the city launched two multimillion-dollar contemporary art spaces.

Get There Before the Crowds: Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in the southern hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova, balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. Some of the most famous landmarks in addition to the beaches include the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer ("Cristo Redentor") atop Corcovado mountain, named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World; Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) with its cable car; the Sambódromo, a permanent grandstand-lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival; and Maracanã Stadium, one of the world's largest football stadiums.

Not an inexpensive destination, but if you’re thinking about a visit, 2013 is the time to go before the city gets completely out of your economic reach for a couple of years with the arrival of major sporting events such as the football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.  Rio de Janeiro will also host World Youth Day in 2013.  For a traveler, this means the city is under rapid transformation to unfold some of the best services to visitors, but once the goal is accomplished prices will go up.

Best Centrally-Located Domestic Destination: Put-in-Bay, Ohio
Put-in-Bay, albeit an unlikely destination for many, is starting to gain a lot of traction amongst tourists looking for a closer-to-home Caribbean.   The highlight for the 2013 season celebrates 200 years since the victory over the British with the Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial Re-Creation. 

Put-in-Bay, a village nestled in the north side of South Bass Island on the freshwater of Lake Erie, is legendary amongst many midwesterners.  The Lake Erie Shores and Islands region also has the perfect weather for growing grapes, which makes it ideal for wineries. Not Napa Valley, not France, but right here on the north shore of Ohio. Heineman’s Winery and been in operation since 1888 and the Put-in-Bay Winery is no slouch either. 

And last but not least, perhaps what this village is most famous for. Taverns. And lots of them. Most notably, the Roundhouse Bar. This establishment has been serving up libations since 1875 and continues to do so every year with an enthusiastic vigor. Whether it’s dressing up the entire building as a pumpkin for Halloween or kicking off the beginning of the season by turning on the small Whiskey light that sits perched above the entrance, these islanders always find a reason to celebrate. Other perks:
  • Within driving distance of major cities including Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia, among others.
  • Caribbean style, laid back atmosphere without breaking your budget.  Has been referred to as the "Key West of the Midwest."
  • Minutes away from the world renowned family destination, Cedar Point amusement park. America's roller coaster capital.
  • Excellent dining with an eclectic mix of shops and outdoor activities such as parasailing, kayaking, cave tours, biplane rides and helicopter tours.
  • The Bicentennial Battle of Lake Erie Reenactment in late August through September 10th includes Tall Ship fleet tours, national speakers, marching bands, fireworks, concerts and other historical activities.
  • Christmas in July at the Bay sees the entire island decorated to the hilt in Christmas garb for the island's largest summer celebration.  Live music, costume contests & lots of adult refreshments.
  • August 13th brings in the annual Bartender Olympics.  Visitors and locals alike line the streets to watch their favorite servers take part in a float parade and compete in Olympic style events.
  • On June 28th Pyrates invade the island for a four-day family festival of pyrates, folklore and fun for the 5th annual Put-in-Bay Pyrate Fest.
  • New Years at the Bay on September 14th transforms the entire downtown into a casino complete with parlor games and a countdown to midnight.
  • The Island Wine Festival on October 5th lets visitors sample over 350 island and domestic wines on a relaxing day of good food and great wines.
  • October 12th brings an Oktoberfest celebration, island style.  German food and live polka music give island visitors a taste of the German culture.
Best Value Destination: Sri Lanka
Battered tragically by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and wracked by civil war from 1983 to 2009, many areas of the country have remained off limits to even the most intrepid traveller. Now the bitter conflict is over, investment is fueling the tourism industry, and visitor numbers are steadily increasing. Prices are affordable, and with low-cost flights from the convenient travel hub of Bangkok, Sri Lanka is emerging as one of the planet’s best-value destinations.

An island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of South Asia.  Sri Lanka is Southeast of India and northeast to the Maldives.  It has been called The tear drop of India because of its shape and location and is known as "The Pearl of the Indian Ocean" because of it's natural beauty. It is also known as "The nation of smiling people." The island contains tropical forests and diverse landscapes with high biodiversity.