Category Archives: United States

Ultimate mountain retreats


Taking a vacation in the mountains has a cathartic effect – you can breathe clean air, enjoy fabulous views, benefit from exercise outdoors, and maybe spot some local wildlife if you’re lucky. There are wonderful locations all over the world, and the US has no shortage of options. Here are a few very special, ultimate mountain retreats.


 Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee has 9,200 acres of pastoral land in the Great Smoky Mountains and is an intimate, luxury hotel. Steeped in Native American history, the early settlers were Cherokee and then Appalachian, who cultivated the land and foraged for food to sustain their families. Those same principles are followed today, and the farmstead serves up food grown on site and is also home to a culinary program for interested guests.

The local woods teem with wild mushrooms and ramp, a sort of wild leek. Later in the season, there is an abundance of persimmons, pawpaws, crabapples, and huckleberries. You can have a real outdoors adventure and try hiking, cycling, and paddle sports. You can also fish in the river or go canoeing or kayaking. With an atmosphere of calm and peacefulness, the wellness center and spa also beckons.


The Club at Big Bear Village is in the mountains of Southern California at Big Bear Lake. This is one of the acclaimed Bluegreen resorts and so the location is idyllic and remote, and the amenities are superb. There are spacious villas with a whirlpool bath in guest bathrooms to ensure you are totally relaxed. The fireplace will keep you cozy in the evenings, plus there is an outdoor heated pool.

You can stay active, depending on the time of year, with zip lining, skiing, wakeboarding, and horse riding options. You can rent a pontoon boat or take a guided helicopter tour to see the terrain from a bird’s-eye point of view. The San Bernardino National Forest surrounds Big Bear Lake and has five wilderness areas, where there are trails for hiking enthusiasts.


 The Salish Lodge & Spa is not only enclosed by forests and mountains, but it also overlooks the Snoqualmie Falls, so the views are breathtaking. Located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, you can see the granite crags climbing high above you while the canyon is dotted with pine and fir trees. Wildlife in the area includes black-tailed deer and eagles, and rainbow trout are abundant.

In spring, summer, and fall, you can try your hand at mountain biking, kayaking, fly fishing, and river rafting, as well as hiking. There’s a local golfing range, and in the winter, you can snowshoe or ski at Snoqualmie Pass. Guestrooms and amenities here are superb, and you can enjoy fine dining and a great spa experience.

North CarolinaNorth Carolina

The Inn on the Biltmore Estate is one of those very special places, as once you arrive at the estate, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been magically relocated to a French château circa 1895. Poised under the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Inn is surrounded by carefully tended lawns and includes a superb winery and a specialist shop. Visitors have remarked that Biltmore could easily be an aristocratic property straight from British TV series Downton Abbey.

You can arrange to go horse riding across the rolling countryside from the Equestrian Center, and there are plenty of tours, including a self-guided visit to Biltmore House. There are Land Rover lessons and trails to follow, plus trips to visit local wineries.

Make your choice

 With such a variety of destinations, types of property, and local amenities from which to choose, the hardest part about organizing your ultimate mountain retreat may well be choosing it.




Ways to Make Your Trip to Houston A Success

Houston Skyline

It’s understandable that Houston, Texas might have not been your first choice when selecting a vacation destination. However, your boss just called to inform you that the company is moving forward in a big way. He wants you to be his representative at a merger meeting in Texas next week. If things go well and the company is able to secure this new holding, he wants you to be the one to run it! No pressure.

The only problem is, you have never been to Texas. You try to convince your family that this is a massive opportunity, but they are less than enthralled. You find yourself in a bind. The promotion is sizable. You know that this business prospect isn’t likely rear its head again. The opportunity must be seized. How are you going to convince your family that Houston is a great place to be?Houston City HallMake A Vacation Out Of It

When business comes calling and big changes are in store, don’t stress out; make a vacation out of it. Plan to arrive at your destination a couple of days before or after your business meeting and schedule some time to see the sights. Every city has those things that make it unique. Do a little research before take off to ensure that your time is spent as efficiently as possible, and allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the time spent with your family.

Pack As Early As Possible

Planning a last minute vacation can definitely be wearisome. To ensure minimum stress, pack everything you need as early as possible. You should leave out the items you’ll need last, like toiletries, in an obvious place you can’t miss. It will really help you out to make a list of things you need to do or grab. That way, you can look over your list and check off the last minute things before you head out the door.

Houston_nightMake Yourself At Home

At this point, we can hopefully assume that your trip has gone extremely well. Your company has merged and your boss has offered you the position of supervisor. All that’s left to do now is make this place home. There will be plenty of time to really settle in and establish your new found life. For the time being, take your family out and celebrate. They say, “Home is where your family is”. Take a moment to ground yourself and look at what you’ve been blessed with. Sure traveling is grueling and exhausting, but when you take advantage of opportunities presented to you, and you act responsibly in the realm of preparation, there’s nothing you can’t make a success.

How Traveling in the USA Has Changed Since 9/11

Airport Terminal

Once upon a time, people would go to an airport gate, show their passport and board a plane. This isn’t the case anymore. Since the 9/11 attacks, the world of travel has changed tremendously, and particularly in the USA, where the impact has been both practical and psychological. While both domestic and international travel has recovered since the attacks all those years ago, the travel industry itself has actually changed completely.

How Has 9/11 Affected Travelers?

A lot of things have changed since that faithful day and travelers are affected by this. Changes include:

  • Tighter airport security.
  • Restricted access to airports.
  • Long lines in terminals.
  • Having to arrive at the airport earlier.
  • Extensive hand luggage checks.
  • The inability to carry liquids on board.
  • Fully body scans.
  • More frequent random screening.
  • Having formal identification even for local and domestic flights.

How 9/11 Has Affected Planes

Airports are not the only areas that have changed since 9/11. Airplanes themselves have changed too. All larger US passenger aircrafts now have cockpit doors that were hardened. Additionally, almost every flight has an undercover federal air marshal on board. This may seem over the top, but one passenger on a plane was recently shot by a marshal after they were found to be carrying a bomb.airport security

What about Psychological Issues?

It is a known fact that Americans like to travel, but they have made significant changes. No longer do many Americans travel to Asia or the Middle East. Pakistan and India are almost fully avoided now. The most important thing, however, is that people try to be more informed about their destination. They want to know where they are going, what the local culture is, whether it is politically stable and more.

What about Insurance

Finally, there have been significant changes to the insurance industry as well. Once upon a time, insurance policies would only cover people against terror attacks if they were committed abroad. Now, however, people want to be covered nationally as well. This has caused a surge in premiums and people are often scrutinizing their policies to make sure they are actually covered against every eventuality.

Has it Spelled the End of Travel?

So have the 9/11 attacks effectively ruined traveling? Absolutely not! It has made us more careful, and it has made our governments more suspicious. Sure, traveling now takes a little bit longer, but most of us are happy to give up that time for our own collective safety, even if many of us also believe it is like Orwell’s 1984. People simply love to travel. They love to explore the world and get to know new destinations. provides the best rates on Tauck Tours, for instance, and they have seen an increase in the number of people who are booking on tours since 9/11. Yes, there was a short term dip in popularity, but it seems that people are once again feeling confident about traveling the world and enjoying their time off.

Fascinating Facts About Jackson Hole Most People Don’t Know


There are certain things people know about Jackson Hole, Wyoming. For example, it’s a great place to ski in the winter and engage in a number of outdoor activities in the summer. However, the area is associated to a range of fascinating facts.

Did you know Yellowstone was the world’s first national park? And, did you know it was declared so even before Wyoming became a state? Continue reading to learn a number of things most people don’t know about Jackson Hole and the surrounding area.


  • Another national park, Grand Teton, was established in 1929 and expanded in 1950 thanks to John D. Rockefeller. He donated 30,000 acres.
  • The National Elk Refuge resides close to the town and is the largest of its kind in North America. Over 7,000 elk spend the winter on the refuge. Visitors take sleigh rides there from December up until April. The world’s only public auction of elk antlers takes place at Jackson Town Square, near Jackson Hole lodging, each year in May. Local Boy Scouts collect the antlers, which are shed at the refuge.
  • Almost all of Teton County’s 2.6 million acres are federally owned or state managed. Only 3% of the land there is privately owned.
  • The town of Jackson elected the first all-women city council in 1920. Another first involves the New York Philharmonic that held the first summer residency in Jackson Hole in July of 1989. Also, Wyoming’s first ski area, Snow King, was opened in 1939.
  • Are you a movie fan? John Wayne’s first speaking role was in The Big Trail, which was filmed in Jackson Hole in 1929. It’s also theorized to be the first time that he rode a horse. Over fifteen films have been made in Jackson Hole including Rocky IV and Django Unchained.
  • The Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has one of the lowest base elevations of ski areas in the Rocky Mountains. Most ski resorts in the area are between 7,000 and 9,500 feet, but Jackson Hole’s is just over 6,300.
  • The Yellowstone area hosts over 60 species of mammals, more than 100 species of birds, and a half dozen game fish. Rare species include the bald eagle, osprey, and the mountain whitefish.
  • Yellowstone National Park has 10,000 active thermal features. Old Faithful erupts every seventy-seven minutes.
  • The first ascent of Grand Teton, the highest peak at Grand Teton National Park, is up for debate. William Owen, Bishop Spalding, John Shive, and Frank Petersen claimed the first climb in 1898. Though Nathaniel Langford and John Stevenson did it before in 1872 during the Hayden Expedition.
  • Jackson Hole was originally called Jackson’s Hole, named after David E. Jackson, a beaver trapper. The area was his favorite trapping ground, and his partner, Bill, referred to it as Jackson’s hole.
  • The fur trade era ended at Green River. The beaver supply was exhausted by two major companies, The American Fur Company and the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Beaver felt hats were replaced by silk hats.


Now you can impress your friends with your extensive collection of rare and interesting Jackson Hole facts!


Patricia May has worked in the travel industry as a consultant for many years. she enjoys the opportunity to share her insights and experiences online. Her thoughts can be found on a number of travel-related websites.

Autumn Activities: Leaf Peeping in Park City, Utah

Park City Utah

If you’re lucky enough to visit Park City during the fall, you’ll have no problem filling your time with a range of activities, whether you’re in town alone, with a mate, or the entire family. Take note of the following fall activities to make the most of your short or prolonged stay.


Bikers place Park City on their must-see list, and since the fall weather is more bearable than summer for intense exercise, you’ll want to take advantage of the 400 miles of trails reserved for biking and hiking. Of course, it’s more fun going down than trudging uphill, so if you want to conserve your energy, head toward the resorts that provide lift services during the fall season. Check individual resort calendars for hours of lift operation.

24-7 and Bob’s Basin is on the locals’ lists. From Park City lodging, take I-80 north to Frontage Road. Turn right, and take a left about a quarter of a mile down at the trailhead near a trail kiosk and outdoor bathroom.

Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s markets are great destinations for kids. The Park Silly Sunday Market is packed with food, fun, and activities for kids, including face painting and games. Along with seasonally fresh produce, find works by local and national artists. The market is open on Sundays from 10am to 5pm from June 7 until September 20th. It’s an open-air market held on Park City’s Main Street.

If you’re searching for more farmer’s market destinations, check out the one held at Canyon’s Resort every Wednesday, which runs through the end of October. The market is open from noon until 6pm and features fresh foods, Christmas gifts, and a variety of family-oriented musical acts.

Ghost Tours

A team of teachers and paranormal professionals have collected ghost stories associated with the area and beyond. Starting at 415 Main Street, take a ghost tour as you listen to tales told by those having studied Park City’s ghoulish history. However, the stories are not just related to Park City; the historians have selected the scariest stories from all over the west!

Scenic Drives, UtahScenic Drives

The entire state is cherished for its wondrous opportunities for sightseeing. There are more than a few destinations to see from your car window, such as Guardsman Pass. The site resides about 14 miles outside of Park City. Take SR-224 to Deer Valley Drive and go east. Exit on Marsac Avenue and continue up Ontario Canyon to Guardsman Pass. See forests and valleys replete with a wildflower viewing area.


Homestead Resort hosts the Crater Springs Golf Course. Take GPS-equipped carts through the par 72 course that measures over 7,000 yards. Rated a 73 from the back tees, the course is open from April 1st through October 31st. Be challenged by its manicured greens while enjoying its babbling brooks, ponds, and re-aligned trees. Locals revere it as one of the more picturesque courses in the state. If you don’t feel like playing a full round, come for the putting green, driving range, or practice your chipping game. The on-site shop offers attire for adults and kids. It’s located at 700 North Homestead Drive in Midway, Utah.


Angie Harris is an experienced travel consultant. She likes to provide tips and insights online. You can find a number of different posts written by Angie on various different websites.