Archive for March, 2012

Just because your bracket is totally shot, doesn’t mean you can’t get in on some Final Four fun this weekend. If you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans, but not quite lucky enough to actually have tickets to the semifinals, fear not! You still have the opportunity to see the teams in real life, inside the Superdome, and for free!

Final Four

From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. today, drop by the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to watch the Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky and Kansas players practice for the last time before facing off in the semifinals. The best part? You’ll also have the chance to win tickets to the games. Add in local entertainment and interviews with all 4 head coaches and you’ve got yourself a seriously awesome Final Four Friday.

If you can’t quite get enough basketball, stick around to watch the Reese’s College All-Star Game. The best collegiate senior student-athletes in the country, hand-picked and split up onto 2 teams, will face off at 4:30 p.m. READ MORE

DC Cherry Blossoms

Few spring scenes inspire instant happiness like the cherry blossoms in full bloom on a sunny day on the National Mall. You’ve got to see them. A stroll around the Tidal Basin (despite the number of tourists) is absolutely necessary if you’re in DC over the next few weeks. Those pinky-white blooms scream “spring is here!” like nothing else. This year is particularly special because it’s the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States.

If you’re in DC this weekend, you’ll find a surprising number of free events that coincide with the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and will feature Grammy-nominated singer Sara Bareilles, plus other local and Japanese performers. While the event is free, you still need to register online for a ticket. READ MORE

by Jimmy Im

It’s not all about tacos and margaritas anymore.

Last week in Cancun, spring-break revelers flooded the bars and clubs for a Mexican-style St. Patrick’s Day, while Jersey Shore‘s Snooki and JWoww filmed scenes for a new show at Beach Palace Resort. But while nightlife remains an iconic fixture of the destination, Cancun has been luring a new type of traveler: foodies. From March 15 to 18, hundreds of visitors participated in the inauguration of the region’s first food and wine festival, a boon for Cancun’s growing culinary scene.

Cancun Food

The Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival proved that Mexican gastronomy is no joke — in fact, traditional Mexican cuisine has been named to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list — as almost 30 world-renowned chefs from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the US brought their culinary flair to the region to celebrate the local cuisine and introduce their own techniques to an emerging culinary destination.

Headlining the event was Ferran Adria from the highly touted elBulli restaurant, universally known as the world’s best restaurant for several years. (It closed in 2009.) While the festival honored Ferran at a gala reception and dinner, more than 30 culinary events were also open to the public.

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by Troy Petenbrink

Philadelphia has long been known as the City of Brotherly Love, but if the city’s tourism officials have their way, it may start being known as the City of Art. A new $2 million, 2-year marketing campaign was launched this month to try to position Philadelphia among the world’s great art destinations.

Philadelphia: The Next Art Destination

So can Philly hold its own against the likes of Berlin, Florence and New York City? Travel Channel takes a fun look at the numbers to help you decide:

1805: The year that the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts was founded, making it the first art school in the United States. Philadelphia is actually home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of art schools, many of which operate galleries and hold annual art shows. This might be your chance to discover the next Picasso.

3,000-plus: The number of murals produced by the Philadelphia Murals Arts Programs over the past 25 years. Originally begun as an anti-graffiti effort, this public arts program not only produces beautiful and moving murals across the city, it helps thousands of Philadelphia’s at-risk children, youth and adults find their artistic voice. In addition to the murals, Philadelphia boasts more outdoor sculptures than any other city in the country. And the best thing — all this public art is free to visit.

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Aspiring travelers flocked to the Convention Center in Washington, DC, for the Travel & Adventure Show this weekend, and today is the last day to catch Travel Channel host Sam Brown chat about her travel mishaps. Former Taste of America host, Mark DeCarlo, will be signing his new book, “A Fork on the Road,” and hosting an Interactive Cooking Class on the Culinary Stage.

Adventure and Travel Expo

The annual event has dozens of booths to inspire travelers to visit specific destinations and to tap into their sense of adventure by offering people with an opportunity to experience diving in a Scuba Dive Pool, experience the rock climbing wall, strap up for a zip-lining adventure and feel the motors revving with a NASCAR video game. A few tour companies are on hand to help you plan your wildlife safari, whitewater rafting trip and more.

And there’s not a shortage of destinations to plan your next fun-filled getaway. The Show has reps from popular destinations, both near and far, including Fiji, Maryland, Tibet, Spain, US Virgin Islands, Australia, Orlando, Belize, South Africa, Hawaii, West Virginia, Singapore, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

So plan your next water park trip now, and don’t miss the last day of the Travel & Adventure Show in DC or check it out in a city near you.

There’s no better place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than Boston (well, OK, besides Ireland).  Boston has one of the highest concentrations of Irish pubs (and people of Irish descent) in the US, and St. Paddy’s Day celebrations date back to the days before the American Revolution. But if you’re not interested in fighting through the throngs of people day-drinking along the parade route in “Southie,” put on all the green clothes you can find and head to Faneuil Hall for some family fun.

Irish step dancers

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Faneuil Hall will feature free live entertainment on the West End Stage. Performers will include bagpipers, Irish step dancers and other Irish musical groups. We know you’ve been practicing your jig for just this occasion! READ MORE

by Jimmy Im

Sure, it’s not uncommon for a Caribbean island resort to make groundbreaking announcements about its property. But in Turks and Caicos, it’s incidentally quite rare. Just consider the Turks and Caicos island of Providenciales: A handful of fine resorts perched along its sandy 12-mile stretch of beach known as Grace Bay seldom blare any headline-making news. Perhaps it’s because they’ve already exceeded expectations with their high volume of return visitors. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?

Regent Palms in Turks and Caicos

Maybe not …

These days, one Turks and Caicos island resort is bucking the no-announcements trend.

Recently, Regent Palms decided it was time to give their much-loved resort a facelift to further enhance its guests’ resort experience. Repeat and new visitors will not only find touch-ups in guestrooms, and a major revamp in the spa, but soon enough a brand-new oceanfront restaurant-bar, and more.

This past weekend, Regent Palms celebrated its new look with a private event in its revamped 25,000-square-foot spa. Both ex-pat locals and visitors alike sampled the new spa menu concept (East-meets-West philosophy: Caribbean influences merge with Asian foundations — fitting given the Regent brand is based out of Taiwan). The new spa will now be a “destination spa,” one of the first in Turks and Caicos, where guests don’t ever have to leave the spa to enjoy additional perks … like food. The spa now serves healthy lunch menu items by Michelin-rated chef Eric Vernice.

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by Jimmy Im

It’s not all about free meals and a salsa class anymore.

All-inclusive hotels and resorts are hot right now. In fact, they’re so popular, Starwood opened its first all-inclusive resort, Westin Playa Conchal in Costa Rica last May and, more recently, Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort in Panama in October. According to Trip Barrett, Vice President, Brand Management Latin America: “The opening of the 2 Starwood all-inclusive properties was in large part a response to demand for more vacation packages from our customers.”

Enrique Iglesias

All-inclusive resorts are generally booked for their tremendous savings and hassle-free vacations. But with the recession and various sites offering deep-discount deals on hotels with value-added packages, travelers want their money’s worth — and, well, they’re getting it.

This Saturday, Palace Resorts in Cancun is offering guests free tickets to see Enrique Iglesias, who’s actually performing on their property (blame it on the success of Palace Resorts’ first in-house concert last year with Shakira). Guests have priority to see Enrique live; discounted tickets are offered for all guests but those staying 7 nights receive complimentary passes (average ticket costs $300). Similarly, Grand Oasis Resort, another all-inclusive property in Cancun, is having a Dance U Festival. From Feb. 28 to March 31, the hotel has been bringing together a series of acts and parties from famous artists in electronic music, hip hop and dance, with a lineup that includes Kelly Rowland (March 23) and Pitbull (March 30). This is inclusive for all guests no matter how many nights they stay.

Other great all-inclusive perks that are even better than “premium liquor?”

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Looking for a travel app after you purchase that new iPad? We’ve got something that might strike your fancy. Travel Channel launched the all-new Layover app so you can travel like Anthony Bourdain, the host of No Reservations and The Layover. Tony Bourdain has more than 10 years of travel experience; so, he’s the travel authority on traveling abroad and at home.

Travel Channel's Layover Guide with Anthony Bourdain

The new app –currently for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch– provides you with Tony’s favorite places to stay, eat and drink in 10 major cities around the world, including Hong Kong, Rome, LA, NYC and Montreal. Explore each destination using Anthony Bourdain’s travel tips and picks for must-see sights and must-do activities. It’s all provided on this brand-new app. But wait, there’s more! You have to see a cool video of the app in action –after the jump.

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New York City is home to some of the top hotels in the world. Travel Channel may need to add The OUT NYC to that list soon. The city’s first gay boutique hotel is open for business. It’s located in Hell’s Kitchen, on West 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenue. The OUT was planned and built with the gay consumer in mind, including the hotel’s design, living spaces, music and rooms where closets are replaced with shelves.

The OUT Hotel

The rooms –rates start around $200– include wireless, high-speed Internet, flat screen TVs, MP3 docking stations and mini-bars. If you’re looking for a cheaper rate, the hotel has 8 hostel-style rooms that sleep 4 for $99 per person.  These rooms have 4 full-sized beds, personal TVs, a bathroom and privacy curtains.

Looking for places in the hotel to relax and unwind? Spend some time in one of the hotel’s three courtyards; workout in the gym; or dance ‘til you sweat in the XL Nightclub, a 14,000-square-foot gay dance club. A new full-service restaurant, Kitchin, is set to open in May.  And fear not, the hotel isn’t just for gay patrons, hotel owners say the 105-room resort is straight-friendly.

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