Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Girls & Family Holiday Getaway to Orlando

A holiday getaway to Orlando has become a family tradition for the past three years.  My nieces and nephews start asking about our upcoming adventure in August, so there is quite a bit of pressure on “Aunt Casey” to deliver a stellar and unforgettable Christmas vacation. 

This year, the ‘moms’ in the family opted to change things up a bit with our own (and childless) Girls Getaway to Orlando before the rest of the family arrived.  With two Scorpio birthdays and two Sagittarius birthdays, we decided this adventure would be our own birthday celebration and Merry Christmas to us.

My mom, Jeri, as well as sister-in-laws Merideth and Carly plus Ann (Carly’s mom), all set out for a
full night away at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando.  We checked in around noon, enjoyed lunch at Wreckers Sports Bar (with vino) and then headed to our afternoon of pampering at Relache Spa, which is located inside the hotel.  I opted for the Botanical Body + Scalp Massage and the Signature Botanical Facial.  The massage was great, but the facial, by Sarah, was the best I have ever had.  My skin is still glowing and my husband even noticed the day after.  After our rest and relaxation in the spa, I did some Christmas shopping in the spa gift shop and returned to our room to get ready for dinner.

We had reservations at Old Hickory Steakhouse located just below our rooms.  We started with a few
bottles of Meiomi wine, a favorite of all of ours.  We followed that with some incredible steaks, salads and soups, as well as the amazing sides the restaurant offers for the table to share. After our servers presented us with a special dessert to commemorate our birthday celebrations, we returned to our rooms to rest for our big holiday shopping extravaganza the next day.

After fueling up at the Gaylord’s coffee shop, The Cocoa Bean, we caravanned to the Mall at Millenia where we spent the next six hours power shopping for Christmas.  After getting most of what we needed, we traveled home to unload our goods and get the family ready for the rest of our holiday getaway.

Just a few days later we returned to Orlando with five adults and six kids under the age of six.  Yes,
we were outnumbered, but we felt as though we had a good handle on the situation with this being our 3rd annual holiday trip as a family.  We arrived at the Renaissance Orlando Sea World, which is conveniently located just across the parking lot from the park entrance.  We unloaded our vehicles, packed up our warm clothes and drove to the Gaylord Palms for our annual visit to ICE!, which is going on until Jan, 4, 2015.

After a quick dinner at Wreckers Sports Bar (we are now regulars), we bundled everyone up, got our 
blue ICE! coats on, and stepped into the 9 degree winter wonderland known as ICE!  This year’s theme is The Nutcracker as Clara and her Nutcracker Prince experience a magical adventure in more than TWO MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and four fun slides. Visitors can relive favorite scenes from the classic ballet, accompanied by the original Tchaikovsky score.  This indoor winter wonderland also  features: six individual rooms depicting the story of The Nutcracker and The Frostbite Factor, which is a live carving zone you can watch the carvers in action.  The final room is a breath-taking nativity scene carved from crystal clear ice.  New this year is the snow tubing, which our older kids enjoyed. Also new is On the Blocks ICE! Bar where visitors 21 + can 'chill out' at On The Blocks—the exclusive bar inside ICE!. Adults 21 and over can upgrade their ICE! experience to enjoy a adult beverages. We kept it kid friendly this trip, and headed back to our hotel with an exhausted bunch.

On Saturday, the kids woke up excited about our adventure to SeaWorld.  The park transforms to a
wintery wonderland itself and offers special holiday activities such as Santa’s Fireside Feast, Shamu® Christmas Miracles, O Wondrous Night, Winter Wonderland on Ice and THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience.  We enjoyed the dolphin show, petted stingrays, visited the shark encounter, as well as the penguins where Yale and Miles (both 1 year old) got to ride side-by-side in their first amusement park ride.  We also watched the sea lion movie and got to see a lot of marine life up close and personal.  After afternoon naps, the kids enjoyed decorating cookies in the lobby of the Renaissance.  They had fun and, of course, ate them right away.  We returned to SeaWorld for Santa’s Fireside Feast, and all of the kids got to tell Santa what they wanted to Christmas. 

We could not have asked for a better holiday getaway to Orlando.  The staff at the Renaissance was extremely accommodating and helpful.  The wait staff in the hotel’s Tradewinds Restaurant was warm and friendly and tolerated our rowdy bunch both Saturday and Sunday mornings. On our final morning, Ana brought all of the kids souvenir stuffed dolphins to take home.  Tommy named his Finny!

Our third year of holiday memories has been completed.  My brothers and I with their wives are so
happy this is something our kids will grow up doing and remembering together each year.  

Many thanks to the Gaylord Palms and the Renaissance Orlando SeaWorld for helping us create lasting memories.  We thank you so much!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fantastic Finds from Fairmont

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts continues to highlight some of the brand’s best offers across North America through “Fantastic Finds.” Available until December 31, 2014, these deals cater to every type of traveler to offer a collection of unforgettable getaways with spectacular savings. Guests booking the “Fantastic Finds” at any of the following properties will receive 20% off the best available rate and a complimentary room upgrade upon check-in. 

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu welcomes guests to experience the delicious flavors, spectacular views and the abundance of activities available in the picturesque region of Charlevoix, Quebec. Hit the slopes of nearby Mont Grand-Fonds or Le Massif de Charlevoix, or spend the afternoon relaxing and unwinding at the full-service Amerispa.

Conveniently located on the shore of the Ottawa River half-way between Montreal and Ottawa, the world's largest log castle represents the 'True Canadian Experience'. The resort distinguishes itself by the myriad of activities available on site, including cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, and tubing. 

Set in an affluent enclave and part of the Mayakoba resort community, Fairmont Mayakoba—an exclusive, AAA 5-Diamond Award and Rainforest Alliance Verified resort— offers many one-of-a-kind activities, including on-property boat tours, watersports, freshwater pools, beach, kids & teens clubs, spa, golf and world-class restaurants.

Enjoy a round at the Turtle Hill Golf Club – home of the Grey Goose World Par 3 Event – or relax at the Willow Stream Spa. With 9 dining options, impossibly pink sand beaches, and holiday activities abound, Fairmont Southampton is the perfect retreat close to home.

Located just steps from Navy Pier, The Magnificent Mile, the Theater District and world renowned museums, Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is the perfect place to call home. Dine in the award-winning Aria Restaurant, savor the sensation of wine, cheese, and chocolate at Eno Wine Room or indulge in a luxury spa experience at mySpa. 

It’s always summer at the Fairmont Newport Beach! Located just minutes from shopping, beaches, theme parks and more, discover the warm Southern California hospitality and sunny climate year round. Relax at the hotel’s sky-deck pool, tennis courts, fitness center and spa.

At Swissôtel, guests enjoy a view of Chicago that is second to none. Luxurious accommodations overlook the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, and the hotel’s convenient downtown location allows guests to explore The Magnificent Mile and Navy Pier, ice skate in Millennium Park and visit world-class museums. *Swissôtel Chicago is part of the Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts collection of hotels - a sister brand of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.