Best Kept Secret in Florida – Amelia Island

Lobby Staircase with watermark 300x224 Best Kept Secret in Florida   Amelia Island

Lobby of the Hampton Inn and Suites.

Before we traveled to lovely and historic Amelia Island on the Atlantic coast of Florida, I had never even heard of it. Amelia Island is one of the Sea Islands, a chain of barrier islands that reaches along the east coast of the United States all the way from South Carolina to Florida. It’s only about 13 miles long and 4 miles wide but it’s such a charming place full of beautiful Victorian mansions, you are going to love it.

It’s the only location in the United States to have proudly flown eight different flags and, of course, it has the requisite pirate history of most barrier islands. This place comes by that claim quite rightly as the island is located just a short sail from Savannah so it was quite easy to get rid of all those contraband goods in the big city.

There is no long bridge or causeway to get to Amelia Island; you are just driving along and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of the pretty little historic downtown area of Fernandina Beach, complete with shops and restaurants, many of which look like they have been there for a hundred years. And some of them have. Considering how small and walkable the downtown area is, they have managed to cram a large number of fabulous places to get your shopping fix. We spent a couple of afternoons browsing through the shops and can recommend Twisted Sisters, a fabulous little shop with clothes, décor, gifts and great jewelry. We bought bags full of extremely reasonably priced jewelry, especially some with an ocean theme which we love.

Read the rest of this article on Travel Generation HERE.

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Lovely Turf Valley

Maryland Lovely Turf ValleyHosted Accommodations

 

 

We didn’t really know what to expect from Maryland.

Our route to Rhode Island and our Islands of New England cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures went through Maryland and, because we like to travel leisurely when we are on car trips and because like to stop at lovely, interesting, local hotels and resorts, we decided to stop at Turf Valley.

We are so glad we did.

Because it made us realize that Maryland is perfectly wonderful.

Turf Valley is owned and run by the Mangione family – literally the entire family. During our visit, the Nick Mangione Italian Classic golf tournament was being held as the resort has two of the most beautiful golf courses in Maryland and we were introduced to several generations of the Mangione family, from the youngest to the oldest who work in everything from the kitchen to public relations for the resort.

Turf Valley was originally a thoroughbred horse farm and we really felt at home since the area strongly resembles the blue grass country of our home in Lexington, Kentucky. The Mangione family purchased Turf Valley in 1978 when it was just a quiet golf country club and proceeded to expand it into the luxury resort it has become. Spread out over 1,000 acres, the resort features two championship 18 hole golf courses, two swimming pools, three tennis courts, a fabulous spa, and more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space. It’s a very popular spot for all kinds of events of all sizes, including weddings.

The resort is very close to both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.(in fact, the area is technically considered part of the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area) and we were really tempted to take a day at one of these locations but we just too busy at Turf Valley and nearby, charming Ellicott City.

When we pulled into Turf Valley, we were immediately impressed. A pond with two lovely swans graces the entrance and provides the perfect introduction to this idyllic location.

Turf Valley Lovely Turf Valley

Our first view of Turf Valley.

DSC 3193 2014 07 16 at 10 05 49 Lovely Turf Valley

Swans coming to greet us.

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The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Montana

imagesLCS5FTOL The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Montana

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We had never traveled out West until we spent a couple of weeks exploring the astonishingly beautiful state of Arizona recently. This part of the country could not possibly be more different from our home state of Kentucky but we loved everything about it and determined that we must visit the other Western states, in particular the big sky country of Montana.

Combine our love of the outdoors and an appreciation for sublime luxury accommodations and we can’t imagine staying anywhere else when we plan that Montana trip but the Ranch at Rock Creek, which received the Forbes 5-star Travel Guide Award. Kate Bosworth even had her wedding here! We have stayed in numerous luxury resorts but few have been all-inclusive and few have had the amazing landscapes offered at this all-inclusive luxury ranch resort in Philipsburg, Montana. Covering more than 6,600 acres of rolling ranch land, high ridges, and pristine alpine lakes, the ranch is located at the base of the John Long Mountains and includes four miles along lovely Rock Creek. The ranch also borders the Deer Lodge National Forest which provides some of the most amazing views.

All rates at the ranch include a full breakfast, lunch and dinner along with all wines and drinks from the ranch wine list during meals or in the Silver Dollar Saloon. These are not your average meals as Executive Chef Josh Drage creates world-class but regionally inspired cuisine which features Montana-raised beef, lamb, chicken, and dairy products as well as locally sourced produce.

Although I love the outdoors and hiking is one of my favorite activities, I am just going to admit that I am not a fan of camping. My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service, but I am intrigued by the whole idea of

glamping at rock creek 300x180 The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Montana

What a fabulous place to stay!

“glamping” – basically, glamour camping. I am all about the glamour so the idea of staying in one of the luxury canvas cabins at the Ranch at Rock Creek sounds amazing. They were one of the first locations to come up with the “glamping” idea and each of the canvas cabins has a private bath, comfortable bed with luxurious bedding, a gas fireplace, screened-in porch and a deck facing Rock Creek. This is my idea of roughing it!

If you want even more luxurious accommodations, you can choose one of the beautiful log homes or even a guest room in the Granite Lodge, where the dining room, bar, spa, and an outdoor pool with a patio and jacuzzi are located.

Spending time in the fresh air is encouraged at the ranch and I was pleased to see that they provide every guest with a mountain bike upon arrival. But mountain biking is not the only option for activities at this truly unique location. Horseback riding, fly-fishing in Montana’s world famous creeks, hiking, archery, stagecoach rides, and even the Little Grizzlies Kids Club for kids ages 4 – 12 to learn all about the area.

Grayling Canvas Cabin 300x180 The Ranch at Rock Creek: Philipsburg, Montana

“Glamping” – how fabulous is that?

Don’t think this is a one-season location because in the winter, there are even more activities and the ranch turns into a winter wonderland. Skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, sleigh rides – all in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

And once you have participated in some of the extensive activities offered at the ranch, it’s time for some quiet relaxation at the Granite Spa. As far as I am concerned, it’s not a true luxury destination without a complete spa and the Ranch at Rock Creek does not disappoint.

Massages, body treatments, facials, and nail care along with a cedar sauna are all available to guests of the ranch.

I can’t imagine a more perfect destination to expand our knowledge of the western part of the United States. An all-inclusive luxury ranch which offers every single activity you can possibly imagine, along with astonishingly beautiful country, fabulous food and an amazing spa?

I’m making my plans to visit at this very moment.

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Here’s Your Key to a Great Getaway – Sarasota/Siesta Key

Florida Heres Your Key to a Great Getaway   Sarasota/Siesta KeyThe Sarasota area of Florida has a lot to offer travelers including the fact that it is below the frost line so has lovely, warm weather in the winter, but it’s the sand that is the most appealing. Although every beach in Florida has sand, it’s not like this sand. Formed of crushed quartz, the sand in Sarasota is always cool even on the hottest day and has a soft, baby-powder like texture that you won’t find on any other beach.

Because a beach house or condo is always a nice option on a trip, the Crescent Royal Condos on Siesta Key make a great choice for your Sarasota getaway. If condo #7a is available, this is one of the best choices in the entire complex. With over 2,000 square feet including four bedrooms, two of which are master bedrooms, a huge, fully equipped kitchen, large living room, and an amazing glassed in porch with a view of the gulf, it’s a perfect location. There are one, two, three or four bedroom units, all with a view of the Gulf of Mexico, and all with a porch, the perfect place to watch the spectacular Florida sunsets.

Read the rest of this article in Living Well 50+ Magazine HERE.

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The Tall Ships Challenge in Savanah, Georgia

tall ship The Tall Ships Challenge in Savanah, GeorgiaI glanced up at the masts of the Tall Ship berthed in the Savannah harbor for the Tall Ships Challenge, soaring up into the clear blue sky and appearing to pierce the puffy white clouds. The sounds of the people crowding onto River Street to see the ships fade away as I stood there, imagining the same scene two hundred years ago.

Behind me, the shops, restaurants and hotels transformed into cotton warehouses and offices where cotton was bartered and sold in a town where cotton was king, huge mansions filled the live oak lined streets and the War of 1812 was looming on the horizon. The ballast stones under my feet being tossed out of the hold of a ship to make room to load the precious cotton but don’t go to waste as the colonists build streets and walls from the stones.

Then, a sweet brown sugar smell jolted me back to the present as someone opened the door to the Savannah’s Candy Kitchen and the smell of freshly made pralines rolled out.

Read the rest of this article on Travelhoppers HERE.

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Eating Your Way Around the Emerald Coast

There are a lot of things I love about the Emerald Coast. The stunningly beautiful beaches, amazing shopping, fabulous spas, and enjoying time with friends and family.

Well. Look.

Beach Eating Your Way Around the Emerald Coast

Yes, the sand is just that white.

imagesWGHRYQUD Eating Your Way Around the Emerald CoastBut truly one of the things I love most is the wonderfully diverse number of restaurants. Casual, fancy, fresh seafood, delicious burgers and pizza, right on the beach with a gorgeous view of the sparkling white sand or tucked away in a quiet shopping area – restaurants in this location are everywhere.

And I am here to tell you that I have tried quite a number of them and enjoyed every single one. The great thing is that I can go to each one again and again, order something new, and enjoy it just as much as the first time. The even greater thing is that there are many, many restaurants I have not tried yet.

The very thought is exhilarating.

Why, yes. Some people might get exhilarated at climbing the tallest mountain but I get exhilarated at the thought of eating. What is your point exactly?

So, here you go. My pick of some of the best restaurants you can find in the area, keeping in mind that I might just find the most perfect one on my next visit. I will just have to eat out as much as humanly possible.

It’s the only way to be sure.

1. Best Restaurant for Family Fun:  Uncle Bucks Fishbowl and Grill. I’m going to be honest, I only tried the appetizers at this location but that was enough to persuade me that I need to return and order a great deal more food, possibly everything on the menu. The appetizers were not your typical, heat-something-from-the-freezer appetizers but honest to God made from scratch deliciousness. Not only is the food amazing, the locale will quite literally knock your socks off or, at the very least, your shoes because you are going to want to lace up some bowling shoes at this astonishing place. The murals and amazing decorations will make you feel like you have stepped into the middle of an aquarium. Even the bowling balls are caught by eye-catching creatures!

Bowling Alley Lanes Eating Your Way Around the Emerald Coast

Yep. Amazing.

Not only can you bowl a few games under the sea, Uncle Buck’s is located in Destin Commons, one of the truly undiscovered treasures in Destin. This beautiful shopping area is pedestrian friendly, has fountains and play areas for the kids, and plenty of truly wonderful shops.

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Photo Friday: Flowers in Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island was one of our favorite places and Tom got this great shot of some flowers on the Cliff Walk.

Flowers in Newport Photo Friday: Flowers in Newport, Rhode Island

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Great Food in Door County – The Cookery

images236SVFGX 300x118 Great Food in Door County   The CookeryHosted Meal

 

 
biglink Great Food in Door County   The Cookery

When you travel to lovely little Door County, Wisconsin, you are going to have a lot of choices for places to eat.

Whitefish freshly caught in Lake Michigan along with fried cheese curds are the ubiquitous and delicious local specialties and you will find them everywhere.

But if you want to have a true gourmet dining experience, there is only one place you should add to the top of your list of dining choices.

The Cookery.

Located in the charming coastal town of Fish Creek, one of many delightful villages which dot the Cape Cod-like peninsula of Door County, The Cookery is not only a fabulous gourmet dining experience but the family owned and family run restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced products.

In 1977, Dick and Carol Skare honeymooned in Door County and found quiet and quaint Fish Creek to be one of the friendliest places they had ever visited – so friendly, in fact that when Hazel Elliot, a local shopkeeper, found out they were interested in starting a restaurant, she arranged for them to visit a small restaurant in downtown Fish Creek. Two months later, they opened the door of The Cookery for their first customers. Determined to create a welcoming, casual environment where customers could enjoy American fare with a creative twist all prepared from start to finish in the restaurant kitchen, they have succeeded admirably.

Family Photo Great Food in Door County   The Cookery

The Skare family. Photo courtesy of The Cookery.

In 2008, The Cookery became a Travel Green Wisconsin certified business. Travel Green Wisconsin is a voluntary program that reviews, certifies and recognizes tourism businesses and organizations that have made a commitment to reducing their environmental impact.

Travel Green Logo 300x300 Great Food in Door County   The Cookery

Over the years, the restaurant expanded and included lodging and a full line of custom-made jams and sauces. The Skares began a new chapter in their restaurant career when a tragic fire in 2008 caused the restaurant to close its door for the season. Working diligently with the help of their daughter, Courtney who had moved back to Fish Creek with her husband to help with the restaurant, they managed to reopen the restaurant in June, 2009. Expanded to include a second floor with a lovely water view and a wine bar, the Skares were happy to welcome back their youngest daughter Karen to also help with the business, especially in the kitchen and bakery. The wine bar offers a variety of wines, small plates and desserts and even has live music! Their goal is to incorporate fresh ingredients focusing on local products from Door County and to bring delicious, homemade food to their customers.

I am here to tell you that their food is indeed fresh, delicious and homemade. On a recent visit to Door County, we stopped at The Cookery for dinner and agreed that it was definitely the best meal we had during our entire stay.

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Kid Heaven – Blue Harbor Resort

illustration Kid Heaven   Blue Harbor ResortHosted Accommodations

 

 

I could write a lot of different stories about the fabulous Blue Harbor Resort.

About the astonishingly beautiful resort itself, about the amazing locale, about the wonderful food and the perfectly beautiful accommodations, about the totally relaxing spa.

But this story is about him. This boy. This wonderful, sweet boy.

Our perfect grandson.

Wes with stuffed animal Kid Heaven   Blue Harbor Resort

Showing off his newly stuffed animal.

The reason for our trip and the one who appreciated this place more than any other. I was along on the trip, as was my daughter, but this place was all about him.

And who can blame him?

This place is amazing.

Take an astonishingly beautiful replica of a New England inn, plunk it down in the most unlikely place on the planet – Sheboygan, Wisconsin – add in a the fact that is it right on the shores of gorgeous Lake Michigan and you have me intrigued. Also add in the fact that the place has a complete indoor, 43,000 square foot water park and well.

How could you not go there with your grandson?

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Photo Friday: Sailboat School in Rhode Island

The first day of our Blount cruise to the Islands of New England, Tom got this photo of some kids in a sailboat school.

Sailboat School in New England Photo Friday: Sailboat School in Rhode Island

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