Disney World has long been recognized for its animated Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Sea World its legendary killer whale Shamu, but while theme park animals have long been a part of Orlando’s identity, few travelers may be aware that encounters with wild animals are also a popular option on your Orlando vacation. If you want authentic face to face time with some of Florida’s real live creatures, the Orlando area has plenty of opportunities to satisfy your wishes. From gentle manatees, to playful dolphins and mysterious alligators, Florida’s waters will bring you up close and personal to some of nature’s most intriguing wild creatures.
Few animals are as compelling as the docile Florida Manatee. Your family will love the chance to interact with these alluring denizens of Florida’s waters, on a swim where the manatees live. This unique opportunity begins in Homosassa State Park, where a boat ride up the Crystal River will deliver you to the underwater home of the endangered manatees. From there you will don snorkel gear and jump into the water to share the underwater world with the manatees as they glide gracefully through the water. This interactive experience is sure to be a highlight of your Orlando vacation.
Another animal that captures our hearts is the dolphin. For an intimate visit with wild dolphins, the Dolphin Encounter Tour takes you into the Gulf of Mexico for close encounters of the underwater kind. Watch dolphins swim and surface in their natural environment as you enjoy these gorgeous creatures in the open waters of the Gulf. You are sure to enjoy these curious and intelligent marine mammals while exploring their ocean home.
Finally, for a more sinister wildlife encounter, try the one hour Night Airboat Tour in alligator populated swamplands. Glide through the night on a boat with a lighted miner’s hat guiding the way as you peer into the shadows for the telltale glowing eyes of American alligators in their native habitat. Listen for the ominous bellowing of bull alligators and watch for these reptilian giants as they cruise about in the swampy waters. Sorry, no swimming on this encounter, but you can enjoy viewing the menacing looking gators and other nocturnal wildlife from the airboat on this mysterious foray into the dark swamp.
From the waters of a moonlit swamp to the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, you can encounter Florida’s wild animals on three tours designed with the nature lover in mind. Away from the crowds that throng to Orlando’s theme parks, you can find a slice of nature in every direction as you enjoy wildlife encounter tours in the Orlando area. Make your reservations and come have a wild time in Orlando, Florida!
If you are an aspiring artist or just interested in looking at art, you won’t want to miss ArtWalk in San Diego on April 25th and 26th. This annual event, held in the Little Italy District of San Diego draws tens of thousands of visitors to view painting, sculpture, photography, architecture and design. Displays feature both prominent artists and budding artists hoping to become established. In addition to visual art, live performers will entertain you on the city street corners and on small stages set up around the area. This year’s festival will even include a mile long art mural, part of a collaborative project to bring artists from around the world together. This year’s featured artists will be the Artes de Mexico group, a number of outstanding artists from Mexico. The festival will span 16 city blocks of the Little Italy District and it will only take place over a single weekend. There will also be a special kids’ area for children to participate in fun and creative hands-on art projects of their own.
When visiting San Diego for the ArtWalk, you may also want to see the many other exciting attractions in the San Diego area. The best way to travel to as many places as you like is to obtain a Go San Diego Card. With the Go San Diego Card you can enjoy free admission to premier attractions like the world renowned San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, LEGOLAND California, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and more! The card also entitles you to free San Diego Harbor excursions, whale watching tours and even a tour of Tijuana, Mexico if you choose to head south of the border. In addition, the card entitles you to significant discounts at many wonderful area restaurants including El Fandango, Tent City Restaurant, Indigo Grill, The Prado Restaurant and more! With a San Diego Go Card to complement your visit to the ArtWalk, you can’t go wrong with this spring vacation!
The 23rd annual Filmfest DC, Washington DC’s International Film Festival comes to the nation’s capital for eleven days from April 16th to April 26th. Here you can watch films from around the world. Filmmakers this year come from such diverse countries as Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Egypt, Pakistan, Israel, Hong Kong and many more countries. View dozens of fresh films that introduce you to filmmaking from around the world. Filmfest DC will carry you to cinema from five continents and display movies from multiple cultures as you watch independent filmmaking at its best.
While you are in Washington for the Filmfest DC, you may want to take a city tour. The DC in a Day Tour takes you to the city’s main attractions in the course of just nine hours. Included among your stops are visits to the American History Museum, the World War II Memorial, Ford’s Theatre, the U.S. Capitol, and the White House Visitors Center. From the bus you will also be able to view the FBI Building, the Washington Monument, the FDR & Jefferson Memorials, the Supreme Court Building and the Library of Congress. This tour packs in the city’s premier attractions all in one spectacular day of travel across the nation’s capital city.
When you come to Filmfest DC you may need a place to eat. Why not try the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington DC where you can enjoy main courses like savory New York strip steak, hickory smoked bar-b-que ribs or grilled wild Alaskan sockeye salmon. Your meal will be served in a festive rock and roll atmosphere, and the cafe’s memorabilia will introduce you to snippets of history. Learn about the Washington connections of musical artists like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye. Your family will love the cuisine and the memorabilia collections at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Live music has made Tennessee famous. Nashville is the country music capital of the world and Memphis is renowned for both Elvis Presley and the Memphis Blues. But when you think of Tennessee music don’t forget about the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area. With great live music shows featuring country, bluegrass, gospel and more, Gatlinburg comes alive every year with the sounds of great music. Music fans should consider attending these music shows in the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area in 2009.
For a great musical variety show that combines side-splitting humor with quality country music, Country Tonite is the answer. This show is loaded with a variety of talented performers who will entertain you with dancing, jokes and an array of songs from country classics to contemporary country and from patriotic anthems to gospel melodies. The entertainers for this show span across all ages and travel to perform from around the country. Come enjoy the singing, the dancing and the energy at Country Tonite.
Exalt A Christian Music Concert Spectacular!
For the best in Christian music, you have to experience Exalt: A Christian Music Concert Spectacular! This show will bring you the best in inspirational music from great Christian artists like Amy Grant, Cris Tomlin, Mercy Me, Bill Gaither, Third Day and many more. In addition the show will feature dramatic sketches and humorous interludes to keep you entertained throughout. Performed at the Miracle Theatre, Exalt: A Christian Music Concert Spectacular, is family friendly music that can be enjoyed by all ages.
Smith Family Show
For more family music, the Smith Family Show will delight you and your children as well. Charlie, Jim, and Charlie Bob Smith will bring you the best in country, bluegrass, gospel and oldies music, interspersed with impersonations and hilarious comedy. Don’t miss them performing in perfect harmony and with light hearted humor. They have become Smoky Mountain legends and have performed in the area for over twenty years now!
Finally, on select dates in 2009, the legendary country star TG Sheppard will be performing at the Smith Family Theatre. Hear him perform some of his hits like Devil in the Bottle, Tryin’ to Beat the Morning Home, Motels and Memories, Show Me A Man, When Can We Do This Again, Last Cheater’s Waltz, I’ll Be Coming Back For More, Do You Want to Go to Heaven, I Loved ‘Em Everyone, and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to see a country great in the intimate setting of the Smith Family Theatre.
With all the great musical shows on the horizon, a vacation to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area sounds better than ever. Get ready for musical variety mixed with doses of comedy as you plan your next family vacation to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area, nestled beneath the majestic Great Smoky Mountains. Don’t delay – make your reservations today!
Please Note: The Grand Ole Opry does not release final lineups until the Wednesday prior to each performance. This list will be updated weekly as new performers are confirmed and added to the lineup.
Jim Ed Brown
Del McCoury Band
7:00 pm performance
Jimmy C. Newman
Del McCoury Band
Love & Theft
Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
Opry Square Dancers
Jim Ed Brown
9:30 pm performance
Jimmy C. Newman
Del McCoury Band
Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys
Love & Theft
Opry Square Dancers
Jim Ed Brown
Surrounding the glitz and glamour of the city of Las Vegas are some of the most spectacular and beautiful wild lands in North America. With the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley all in the vicinity, Las Vegas offers great photography tours for travelers to enjoy. Bring your camera to Las Vegas and set out on one of the area’s many fine photo tours on your Vegas vacation.
For amazing scenery, few places can compete with the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon South Rim Photo Tour gives you a chance to view the canyon from several scenic vantage points. You can spend three hours on the rim and take the gorgeous walk from Mather Point to Bright Angel Point, sometimes referred to as the “most beautiful walk in the world”. During the trip you will learn about the Grand Canyon and the American Southwest from your knowledgeable tour guide. You will also make a photo stop at the Route 66 Train Museum.
The Hoover Dam stands as a testament to man’s ability to harness the power of nature. This remarkable structure has formed the world’s largest man made lake, Lake Mead. You can see the impressive 700 foot tall dam and view the surrounding scenery. This tour also gives you a chance to travel off road to the picturesque Rainbow Canyon, where you can experience a colorful and awe-inspiring landscape. Here you may also get an opportunity to view and photograph the rare desert bighorn sheep that inhabit the area.
Despite the macabre name, Death Valley is also a very beautiful area where you can take unlimited photos of amazing scenery. From the mile high Dante’s View to the depths of Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level, you can see Death Valley from both high and low. Witness the expansive deserts, volcanic craters, deep canyons, craggy peaks and ornate colors of Death Valley on this beautiful tour.
With so many incredible sights, you can’t buy enough film to capture all the images of beauty you are likely to come across on your Las Vegas photo tour vacation.
May 1st through May 3rd is time for the Beale Street Music Festival, an opportunity to see dozens of top name acts from around the country perform. Memphis has a long tradition of musical greatness with Elvis and blues artists like BB King putting Memphis on the musical map. That tradition continues every year with the Beale Street Music Festival. This years blockbuster lineup features great artists from every genre from hip hop to funk to country to hard rock and everything in between. Some of this year’s performers include James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Jr., Snoop Dog, Hinder, Three 6 Mafia, Saving Abel, Korn, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. With dozens of nationally known artists performing this is clearly one of the best musical festivals in the country.
During your visit to the Beale Street Music Festival you may want to tour some of the musical sites around Memphis. A trip to Sun Studios will give you a chance to see where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others blazed musical trails. Sun Studio has rare memorabilia like the microphone through which Elvis Presley recorded his first song in 1954. See the heritage, and walk where it all began with a tour of Sun Studios.
Another stop you won’t want to miss is the Gibson Guitar Factory. Watch luthiers fashion these special guitars through each stage of production from binding and neck-fitting to painting, buffing and finally tuning. Gibson guitars have been played by musical legends like Elvis, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, Pete Townsend, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, Carlos Santana and others. Come see the Gibson Guitar Factory and travel in the shadow of rock legends.
With the Beale Street Music festival drawing in thousands of visitors, May is a great time to come to Memphis. Enjoy the madness, the magic, the melodies and the musicians as you make your way to Memphis in May. The sights and sounds of Memphis are calling. Make your room reservations and make your way to the Beale Street Musical Festival!
Let Chicago come alive by catching a live show. Whether it’s a party of ten or just a romantic night for two, Chicago is bustling with variety and entertainment for all ages to enjoy. Shows that you can enjoy this spring include The Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, and as always the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament.
The Jersey Boys
The Jersey Boys is a musical based on the true life stories of Franki Valli and The Four Seasons, four rough and tumble blue-collar boys from the “wrong side of the tracks” who became pop rock sensations and sold over 175 million records before turning thirty. This musical will take you through New Jersey in the 1950s and the crime, drugs, and loan sharking that were part of the environment the Jersey Boys grew up in. This will be not only a compelling story, but also a great musical as it is set to the backdrop of many classic rock tunes. The show is sure to be energetic and inspiring.
You won’t want to miss the live production of Mary Poppins at the Cadillac Theatre in Chicago. The national tour of this show opens in Chicago so you will be among the first to witness this theatrical masterpiece. See this amazing show and tap along to your favorite Mary Poppins songs like A Spoonful of Sugar and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Finally, you can always come to the Chicago area to enjoy the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Marvel at the skillful displays of swashbuckling and horsemanship, put on by six knights as they compete in a medieval tournament. Cheer on your favorite knight as you gorge yourself on a four course meal served the medieval way- without silverware. The past will come to life as you enjoy the chivalry, the pageantry and the gallantry of medieval knights battling before you.
The Windy City will not leave you wanting for entertainment. With several outstanding shows to choose from, you will not be bored in Chicago. So bring your lover, your best friend, or your whole family and come vacation in Chicago!
Williamsburg is well known for its historic significance and traveler’s come from across the country to see the historic attractions of the area. However, Williamsburg is more than a living history museum. It is also a great place for water recreation. Whether it’s cascading down a water slide, sailing on the Atlantic or visiting a Mariner’s Museum, Williamsburg is a great place to visit if you enjoy water.
Water Country USA is the largest family water park in the mid-Atlantic. Here you can raft, tube, flume, slide or surf for hours of splashing, sliding, swimming fun! With over 35 wet and wild rides and slides, you can frolic in the water all day long! If the rides get to be too much after a while, Water Country USA also has over 1,500 chairs for lounging around and sun tanning. Enjoy exciting rides like the Aquazoid, Big Daddy Falls, and Rampage, and play in the Surfer’s Bay wave pool with daunting four foot waves. There is so much water to enjoy at Water Country USA.
If you want to ride some real waves, climb aboard the Schooner Alliance to hit the high seas on an unforgettable sailing cruise. Here you can sail in the ocean and along the banks of the York River, passing major landmarks like the Victory Monument and the Yorktown battlefield. Experience the history of the area while enjoying the unique thrill of sailing.
Mariners’ Museum – Newport News, VA
For a look at nautical history, the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia is the place to visit. With over 35,000 nautical objects and collections, the Mariner’s Museum covers a wide range of history, chronicling sea exploration, shipbuilding and marine warfare. Visitors can enjoy viewing ship models, paintings and an extensive photography collection. The museum also includes an impressive 18,000 square foot exhibit highlighting the epic battle between two Civil War warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The interior replicas, artifacts and multimedia displays will help you learn more about this historic battle.
On May 1, Chattanooga will be hosting the 23rd annual Taste of Chattanooga at its new location, Finley Stadium, for a lively look into the culinary delights of the area. Numerous restaurants throughout Chattanooga will be featuring both new dishes and local favorites, with the majority of samples either costing $1 dollar or being offered complimentary. Along with food, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks will be available to sample as well. Best of all, the money raised from the event will be given to The Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area to help support their educational and patient financial assistant programs.
Those wanting a completely immersive vacation in Chattanooga can add the natural sights of the area to the list of experiences of their visit with the Chattanooga Nature Center. The Chattanooga Nature Center is a wildlife sanctuary featuring 30 species native to the region roaming through forests and past creeks with Lookout Mountain in the background. From mighty red wolves and hawks to possums, turtles and a wide variety of flora, you’ll find a comprehensive look into the natural ecology of Chattanooga with the Chattanooga Nature Center.
And to complete your sensory experience of Chattanooga, Elwood Smooch’s Choo Choo Cha Boogie Show will present a family-friendly time of comedy and music indigenous to the region. Country and gospel tunes will be presented in fast-paced fashion throughout the performance with hilarious comedic interludes by none other than Elwood Smooch himself helping to add variety to the entertainment. Certainly, combined with Taste of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Nature Center, Elwood Smooch’s Choo Choo Cha Boogie Show can help to present the tastes, sights and sounds of Chattanooga in fun and family friendly fashion