Monday, December 31, 2012

Cruise into the New Year

As 2012 comes to an end and we usher in a new year, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your 2013 vacation plans.

Harmony Travel has an exclusive sale with Holland America beginning today and running through January 13.

During this period, you can book just about any upcoming Holland America sailing and not only get the lowest fares, but you'll also pay a reduced deposit (as low as $100 per person), and you'll receive a special on-board value booklet with more than $350 in savings.

Whether you'd like to visit Alaska, cruise the Caribbean or tour the Mediterranean, now is a great time to make those plans for the new year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sandals Royal Plantation

This was my first visit to a Sandals property, long regarded as a leader in luxury, all-inclusive vacations.

The Royal Plantation, located in Ocho Rios, was originally built in the 1950s but maintains an aura of excellence and modern sophistication.

It's an all-butler resort. Upon check-in, every guest receives a cell phone with which to call their butler at any time during the stay. If you're uncomfortable having him or her unpack your underwear, you could just ring when you accidentally forget your sunscreen in your room.

The Royal Plantation is located on a bluff overlooking beautiful blue waters. There are 74 oceanfront suites and a private three-bedroom villa that sleeps six. All Sandals properties are adults only and feature only king beds.

The Royal Plantation has two bars and three restaurants, however, it is located next to the Sandals Grande, and guest enjoy full exchange privilegees, which adds another 15 dining options.

All meals at the Royal Plantation are served a la carte, and high tea is served every day at 4:00.

Another difference that sets Sandals apart from other all-inclusives is the quantity and quality of what's included. Sandals stocks premium liquors, and where other all-inclusives include "non-motorized" watersports, Sandals also includes scuba diving and a glass bottom boat. The Royal Plantation also includes greens fees and transfers to a nearby par-71 course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Couples Tower Isle

The Couples Tower Isle near Ocho Rios was one of the first all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean when it was built in 1948.

Needless to say this high-end, luxury resort has undergone many renovations and is very modern and comfortable.

As the name implies, Couples resorts are for adults only. The 226 rooms feature only king-size beds.

Couples is an ideal location for weddings or honeymoons. The resort includes a complimentary wedding for guest who stay six or more nights. Honeymooners enjoy a complimentary bottle of champagne as well as a half-hour couples massage.

Complimentary amenities include a shopping tour, golf (transfer and greens fees) and watersports (including scuba diving and water skiing).

One other item that set this resort apart - the resort doesn't offer guests bottled water. Instead each room has two refillable bottles. Guests can use those bottles throughout their stay by refilling them with filtered water from fountains located on each floor.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mystic Ridge Resort

Mystic Ridge is located on a hill overlooking the resort town and bay of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

With only 38 one- and two-bedroom suites, it's a quiet escape in paradise. The room rates include breakfast, and lunch and dinner can be added for $25 per person.

The resort is 5-10 minutes from a variety of attractions, including the beach, shopping and Mystic Mountain. A free shuttle departs for the beach at 10 and noon, and returns at 4.

The resort has the same ownership as Mystic Mountain, an adventure park featuring a zipline, bobsled experience, rainforest, butterfly garden and hummingbird garden.

A three-night stay at Mystic Ridge includes entry to Mystic Mountain, and a seven-night stay includes the bobsled experience.

The rooms are comfortable, ranging from 400 sq. feet for the standard rooms to 1,800 sq. feet for the two-story, two-bedroom suites. The one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites include fully equipped kitchens.

Mystic Ridge is also wheelchair accessible. Three suites feature ramps and accessible bathrooms.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hermosa Cove Villas

This stop wasn't on the itinerary during my brief five-day tour of resorts in Jamaica, but it's a hidden gem that I'm thankful our host chose to show us.

Hermosa Cove features nine quiet villas in Ocho Rios. There are three 3-bedroom villas and six 1-bedroom villas.

Each villas features a private pool and a kitchen, and they are just 100 steps from the beach. The bedrooms are upstairs and feature large baths. The three-bedroom villas have two baths upstairs and one downstairs.

A lighthouse at the water's edge features a restaurant and bar on the main level, and a spa upstairs.

Construction on Hermosa Cove was started in 2004, and the villas opened in 2012.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jewel Dunn's River

Located close to Ocho Rios and just minutes from Dunn's River Falls, the Jewel Dunn's River is a beautiful, adults-only resort.

The 250 rooms are divided into seven categories that go up to butler service and concierge level. All rooms have refrigerators stocked with water, juice and soda. Higher category rooms include beer and wine in the rooms.

There are six restaurants on site with only the Japanese restaurant requiring reservations. One tip: Every Friday guests can dine under the stars on the pier. No reservations are required for the five-course meal.

The food is outstanding. My tour included samples of stuffed mushrooms in the Italian restaurant and sushi in the Japanese restaurant before a wonderful lunch.

There are several tennis courts, a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course, and a fitness center (which interestingly is in a covered outdoor area, so it's not affected by inclement weather, but there's no A/C).

A large spa features two couples rooms.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Secrets Wild Orchid & St. James

For couples getting married, going on a honeymoon or just looking to get away, the two Secrets resorts in Montego Bay are the perfect choice.

Brand new properties that were built in 2010, the adjoining resorts each feature 250 oceanview junior suites. And it's adults only, so there won't be any kids around.

Secrets takes all-inclusive to a level beyond the mass market, introductory level resorts. There are no wristbands to wear; the restaurants are all al a carte; and there's premium brand liquor.

The Wild Orchid, which is closer to the restaurants, and the St. James, which is closer to the spa, feature eight restaurants and nine bars. Guests receive a champagne welcome while checking in.

Guests can also upgrade to a "preferred" room which includes a private lounge, free Wifi and more.

My top choice - the swim-up rooms at the Wild Orchid.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Milbrooks Resort

Stunning. That was the first word that came to mind when I saw the Milbrooks Resort.

Driving up in the hills near Montego Bay, we stopped outside what looked to be a mansion. It turned out to be the luxurious and inviting Milbrooks Resort.

With 10 rooms, this private villa can accommodate 28 people - perfect for a destination wedding or a family trip. Your stay includes the services of a butler, chef and maid and will truly be worry-free. The attentive staff will take care of all of your needs, including nearby activities such as the beach, golf or horseback riding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jewel Runaway Bay

There are two Jewel resorts near Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Runaway Bay is west of Ocho Rios, about 1:20 from the airport in Montego Bay.

The Runaway Bay resort is a family-friendly resort with 266 rooms, including some one-bedroom suites that include butler service and a plunge pool. (Check out suite 1039 on the corner of the top floor, offering a plunge pool on the corner of the balcony with unbelievable views of the ocean).

The resort two tennis courts, a basketball court and a badminton court. What sets it apart from most others is complimentary glass bottom boat tours and complimentary greens fees at the private 18-hole, PGA-quality Runaway Bay Golf Club ($20 caddie fee is extra).

The Kids Jungle features a tree house and a mini zip line.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunset Beach Resort & Spa, Montego Bay

Kids will love the waterpark at Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay. The park features two 35-foot high, 250-feet long waterslides as well as a pirate ship and a lazy river.

Alas, I didn't get to try them out in my short visit to the resort, but if I return I'd be tempted to stay in a Waterpark room for close access. The bunk beds would surely be a hit with my kids.

Located just west of Montego Bay, the Sunset Beach is clean, comfortable and a good value for families. The 430 rooms range from eight spacious Junior Suites to Oceanfront to Garden View.

Three a la carte restaurants supplement the buffet offerings.

Check out the video to see it firsthand.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Half Moon Resort

Looking for a five-star resort with privacy and pampering? The Half Moon in Rose Hall, Jamaica is the place for you.

Spread over 400 acres (200 on the beach side and 200 on the golf course side), Half Moon features 197 guest rooms and 32 five-, six- and seven-bedroom villas.

The accommodations are truly impressive. Even the lead-in category, which is a Deluxe Suite, features a separate living room and bedroom.

I was fortunate enough to tour some suites in the Royal Court as well as a villa. The suites feature large sitting areas with two couches and a chair, large bathrooms and a balcony. The suites also have kitchenettes.

Villa rentals come with three dedicated staff (butler, maid, chef) and two golf carts.

You'll need a golf cart to get around the expansive property. You can rent one for the duration of your stay, or the bellmen are happy to cart you around.

The Half Moon is located on two miles of beach. Activities available include horseback riding, a fitness center, 13 tennis courts, a teen center, Olympic-size pool, spa and much more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hilton Rose Hall

Hilton acquired the former Wyndham property in Rose Hall three years ago and has invested $50 million in upgrading the rooms and grounds.

The result is an attractive resort just 15 minutes from the airport in Montego Bay, easy access to the Montego Bay Convention Center as well as golf.

There are 488 rooms at the Hilton in two buildings that form an 'H'. Included in those rooms are 15 Caribbean Suites that feature a parlor area, double balcony and two bathrooms. All rooms are non-smoking.

In 2011, the Hilton became an all-inclusive property, meaning drinks and meals are included with the room rate.

The hotel has five restaurants, including one buffet restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Two of the restaurants require reservations.

There is a private beach, six tennis courts and a kids club. The Soothe Spa features six treatment rooms, including one His & Hers room.

This is a nice resort for families, golfers and business travelers.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Riu Montego Bay

I stayed at the Riu Montego Bay in early October. Just minutes from the airport, I was in my oceanview room before noon after leaving Chicago at 5:30 (via a very tight connection in Miami).

The Riu is a very competitively priced all-inclusive resort that is perfect for people looking to party and have a good time.

The property includes a large pool area with a swim-up bar, volleyball net and more. There's is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy yourself.

The beach includes complimentary non-motorized watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling. The water was very murky when I was there, so snorkeling didn't work out too well, but they do offer a short boat trip to better snorkeling locations on certain days of the week.

There are six categories of rooms spread throughout the six buildings, including 32 suites that feature a jacuzzi tub and extended balcony. My double room was quite spacious, featuring a stocked bar that was replenished every two days and a nice balcony looking out over the water.

Since the Riu has European ownership, most rooms feature two double beds pushed together to form one large bed.

Overall, the food was average. Most of the meals are buffet style, but there are several a la carte restaurants for dinners (although I was not that impressed with the steak house). I do give high marks to the breakfast buffet. In addition to the large selection, there was an omelette station for made-to-order omelettes.

My lunch recommendation - head down to the jerk chicken grill on the beach and get a plate full of chicken and sausages.

The Riu also has a 24-hour sports bar that includes a slot casino that is open from 10 am - 2 am.

The entertainment was impressive on the night that I went to see it - a show titled "Around The World" - although there was a lot of smoking, which came as a surprise to me and many of my counterparts from the U.S. where smokefree laws have eliminated smoking in a lot of venues. A band started playing at 7, and the main show started at 9:30. The disco opened at 11 and stayed open until 2.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Riu and would recommend it for people who are budget-conscious, not concerned about having gourmet food and who like to party. There are four Riu properties to choose from in Jamiaca.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Natural Bridges National Monument

Our visit to Utah continued to Natural Bridges National Monument about two hours southwest of Moab. We arrived from the south after driving through Monument Valley on Highway 163.
Just past the town of Mexican Hat - named because of a curious rock formation outside of town that looks like a Mexican hat - we took a left on Highway 261 for the 40-mile drive to Natural Bridges.

The road is restricted to passenger vehicles without trailers because of a 3-mile section called the Moki Dugway. It's a gravel stretch of switchbacks that climbs precariously at a 10% grade. Guard rails - I don't think so.

There are three good reasons to visit Natural Bridges.

1. A nine-mile loop road takes you to three natural bridges.
2. View ruins of the Anastazi people from 1-1300 AD
3. Some of the darkest skies in the United States

The Bridges

We saw plenty of arches on our trip, and we saw these three bridges. The difference - bridges are formed by water rushing through the rocks and eroding them. Arches don't span water.

The loop drive takes you first to Sipapu bridge, the tallest and longest of the bridges. It's 220 feet tall and spans 268 feet. Each of the bridges features an overlook just a short walk from the parking area or the opportunity to hike down to the canyon and see the bridge up close and personal.

If you're up for some real adventure, you can hike to all three. It's about 8.6 miles to do that.

We opted to do just one hike, selecting the second bridge, Kachina, which is 210 feet high and spans 204 feet. The sign advertised a strenuous hike, and it wasn't lying.

 We descended 400 feet on a 3/4-mile trail that included steep stretches of switchbacks, slickrock, steps and a wooden ladder. But we made it to the bottom and had a fun time exploring the base of the bridge and the canyon floor.

Anastazi Ruins

Anastazi is a name given to native people who lived in the area between 1-1300 AD. Some ruins are viewable via a 1/3-mile trail to an overlook. Those are viewed from a distance, but other ruins are nearby. Ask a park ranger, and they may tip you off on how to see additional ruins up close.

Dark Night Skies

Natural Bridges is located in the middle of nowhere. Not even small towns are nearby to offer up any light pollution. As a result the park was the first to be designated an International Dark Sky Park. As such, the park offers a ranger led astronomy program on Wednesday and Thursday nights from the spring through the fall.

We visited on a Thursday specifically to take part in that program. As city dwellers, I wanted my kids to get the opportunity to see thousands more stars than they normally would.

As luck would have it, our visit came two days after a full moon, so star gazing was as optimal as it might have been, but it was still spectacular. We couldn't see the Milky Way, but we did see a lot of stars and several planets before the moon came up over the horizon.

The ranger's powerful telescope was trained on Saturn, and it offered a picture-perfect view of the planet. The rings were crystal clear, and we could even count four of Saturn's five moons.

Natural Bridges is a bit out of the way, but it is well worth the visit.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Airline Baggage Disclosure Rules

Travel Weekly reports that U.S. regulators ruled that two new federal airline regulations related to the disclosure of baggage allowances and fees will take effect on July 24 without further delay. The rules require carriers to disclose (in e-ticket confirmations and online receipts) any fees and allowances for carry-on bags and first and second checked bags and to apply those allowances and fees to all parts of any multi-segment tickets to, from, or within the U.S.A. (including codeshares and multi-carrier itineraries).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Four Corners National Monument / Monument Valley

Call us a glutton for punishment, but our next day of vacation included between eight and nine hours in the car. We got it accomplished in 2-3 hour increments, so it wasn’t that bad. Things in the West are definitely spread out.

From our base in Moab, Utah, Four Corners National Monument was about a three-hour drive. We made a stop about halfway to visit a dinosaur museum in Blanding. It had a few actual fossils and quite a few replicas. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was very inexpensive to get in, so it was worth it.

The Four Corners monument is a “national” monument, but the nation referred to is the Navajo Nation and not the US National Park Service. The monument marks the only place in the United States where the boundaries of four states meet.

This makes for some interesting photos, especially for kids who can have appendages in four states at one time (a leg in Arizona, a leg in New Mexico, a hand in Colorado, a hand in Utah for example). We also took a family photo with each of us standing in a different state.

I was very pleased to see that visitors to the attraction made a nice orderly line so that everyone could get their picture taken at the intersection of the states.

Admission was $3 per person. There are a host of Native American vendors at the site selling native crafts. There are also a couple of booths to purchase Fry Bread Tacos.

Four Corners is in the middle of nowhere, but it was appealing to our kids.

From Four Corners, we drove west on Highway 160 to Kayenta, Ariz. There we turned north on Highway 163 and headed through Monument Valley. We didn’t make any stops for hikes, but simply drove through to marvel at the scenery.

It took us 2-3 hours to get to Natural Bridges National Monument, which you’ll read about in our next post.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Canyonlands National Park

There simply aren’t enough words to describe the beauty of Canyonlands National Park. Divided into three sections with separate entrances, it’s a marvel of canyons, buttes, arches, spires, etc., etc., etc.

The closest park entrance to Moab is about 30 miles away and provides access to the Islands in the Sky section, which is the most accessible part of the park. The Needles section and the Maze are more primitive and require mostly 4-wheel drive vehicles.

We stopped at the Visitor Center first to get a better feel for the park and what we should see.

A few miles from the Visitor Center, our first stop was Mesa Arch. Even though we saw a number of arches the day before, this one was special. Mesa Arch is located at the edge of a cliff, and the view of the canyons behind it is spectacular. The trail to Mesa Arch is only ¼ mile.

We followed the main road to its end at Grand View Point, where on a clear day, you can see more than 130 miles. There’s an overlook or an option to do a 1-mile trail along the rim.

Close to Grand View Point is a picnic area with covered picnic tables. We made that our next stop to refuel.

We then made the drive to Whale Rock. The trail is 1/3 of a mile and is fairly steep at places as you climb to the top of an enormous rock. Generally, it’s a fairly easy hike, and kids are encouraged to climb all over the rock. We made it to the top in about 20 minutes, and it was well worth it.

At the top of the rock, you are afforded an unbelievable 360-degree view of the amazing landscape.

We spent a little more than 4 hours in Canyonlands National Park. Like Arches, the entrance fee is $10 and is valid for seven days.

To view more pictures of Canyonlands National Park, visit our Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Arches National Park

Some of the greatest scenery and untamed wilderness in the United States is found in southern Utah.

Arches National Park is located just 6 miles north of Moab. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so if you want to see sunrises, sunsets, or anything in between you can do so.

Visiting in summer isn’t necessarily the best time of year as temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees (but it’s a DRY heat!), but let’s face it, most of us have more opportunity to use our vacation in the summer.

We rose early our first day in Moab and were in the park by 7:45 a.m. when the temperature was still in the low 80s. Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park, gracing the state’s license plates and pretty much every pictorial you will ever see about the park.

We bypassed the Visitor Center and drove about 12 miles to the trailhead. The hike to Delicate Arch is 1.5 miles each way with a 480-foot elevation change. The first 30-40 minutes are fairly easy, but then you hit a stretch of slickrock that’s out in the open sun, and that’s the most grueling stretch. Make sure you have lots of water, a hat and sunscreen. It’s part of the adventure, and a story to pass on for years. (I did it with my 20-month old daughter on my back in a backpack.)

The arch of course is spectacular. You can photograph it from a distance, and you can walk right to its base.

By the time we got back to our car, 2 ½ hours had passed and the temperature was in the low 90s.

We took it easy for a while, touring the park by car. We drove past the Fiery Furnace (where guided hikes are required and must be reserved well in advance), and past several other arches visible from the road.

We headed up to Devil’s Garden where there’s a picnic area and a place to refill water bottles with desert spring water. We refilled our bottles, drank, refilled again, ate lunch and refilled again.

With our energy restored, we drove over to the Windows area where four arches are easily accessible. The North and South Windows and the Turret Arch can all be accessed via one trail.

A separate trail from the same parking lot leads to Double Arch. Those hikes are about 15-20 minutes one way.

We ended our 4-5 hours in the park with a stop at the Visitor Center on the way out.

Entrance to the park is $10, but it’s valid for multiple entries over seven days. We took advantage of that fact by returning two more times. The first time we picked up a Junior Ranger workbook for the boys to complete. The second time we returned so they could pick up their badges. We also drove to Balanced Rock for a short hike. We could have done much more in the park. Landscape Arch is also very well known, but alas, we didn't make it there.

See more photos of Arches National Park on our Facebook Page.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Antelope Island State Park

Our 2012 summer vacation started with a direct flight from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City. Although our final destination was Moab, we didn’t want to follow a three-hour flight with a four-hour drive, so we decided to spend one day in Salt Lake City.

Famous for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, that sort of thing wasn’t high on our list, especially with three young children, so we opted to spend some time outdoors.

Antelope Island State Park is about 30 minutes north of the airport and is accessible via a seven-mile long causeway built up with the Great Salt Lake on both sides. Because of its salinity, the Great Salt Lake is home only to small organisms, including tiny shrimp. This attracts a variety of water fowl, including gulls, pelicans and pipers. The birds dot the shoreline as you make the drive along the causeway to the island.

The entrance fee is $9 per vehicle. Make a stop at the visitor center for a complete listing of trails and a history of the area. Bison were introduced to the island and now number close to 600. We hiked up to Bison Overlook, which offers great views of the lake and of the island, but the closest we came to any bison was seeing large clumps of dung.
We did spot a few mule deer, and overall our 2-3 hours at the park was well worth it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New Bicycle Tours In Israel

Travelers and sport enthusiasts traveling to Israel can now experience the Christian holy sites in the Galilee and Jerusalem by riding one of the new "Biking the Path of Jesus" tours.
The 12-mile biking routes are available in two-day or week-long tours and depart from destinations in northern Israel, including Nazareth, the town of Jesus' birth, and travel through Mt. Carmel, Mt. Gilboa and Mt. Tabor to the rolling hills and olive groves surrounding Kibbutz Lavi. The two-day tour will leave from Kibbutz Lavi and travel through the Horns of Hattin fort to the Druze pilgrimage sight of Nebi Swe'be, and onto the Arbel Valley, Sea of Galilee and Capernaum. And for advanced cyclists, the week-long tour travels from Mt. Hermon in the north to Mt. Carmel near Haifa and through Caesarea, Jerusalem and Masada.

"The new bike tours around the Galilee are a new and innovative way to experience Christian holy sites in Israel," said Haim Gutin, Israel Commissioner for Tourism, North and South America, "and will provide some additional excitement for travelers arriving in the Holy Land this year."

The tours are available for beginner to mid-level riders and suitable for children, ages 13 and above.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Israel kicks off summer ad campaign

The Israel Ministry of Tourism is mounting an advertising campaign directed at North American Christians this summer, as part of its ongoing effort to increase the number of visitors to the land that is uniquely both "The Holy Land" as well as "The Jewish State."

The $1.5 million campaign will include print, radio and Internet messages in a variety of media reaching specific niche markets that include Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics. Separate advertising messages will be directed to Hispanic audiences. 

Evangelical ads

Tourism to Israel is breaking all records, with 2009, 2010 and 2011 the best years ever for travel to Israel, and with 2012 projected to show an additional 5% increase.

It is estimated that some 40% of American tourists to Israel are Christian travelers touring the Holy Land. The advertising messages will underscore the Ministry of Tourism's campaign theme "Visit Israel. You'll never be the same."

Tell us if you've seen some of the ads.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Not just another history museum

I made my first visit to downtown Indianapolis's Indiana Historical Society recently. While I do find history interesting, I wouldn't say I have a passion for it.

But this was anything but a typical "stale" history musuem. At the Indiana Historical Society, history really does come alive.

Several of the exhibits feature period actors who give a "firsthand" telling of history as it is happening.

My main reason for visiting was to see the "Kennedy Speaks" exhibit about Robert Kennedy's visit to Indianapolis the night that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. A friend of mine had been in the crowd that night and told me about "holograms" and actors portraying characters. It had me intrigued.

I most certainly was not disappointed. As you enter the Kennedy Speaks exhibit, the empty bed of a pickup truck stands 15 feet in front of you. Two live "characters" are in the room, welcoming you, asking you if you've heard the news about King, things like that. They do a great job of recreating the atmosphere.

Suddenly a veil of smoke pours down over the bed of the pickup truck and out of nowhere, realistic 3D images of Kennedy and three others appear on the back of the truck. Kennedy then gives his brief speech, confirming the news that King has been shot and making an appeal for peace. For someone like me, who was born after the event happened (and for my young boys), it was a great way to get immersed in history and to get a sense of what it was really like.

Other exhibits we saw with period characters included Cole Porter singing in a lounge, a Prohibition exhibit that included one of Indy's first female police officers, a detainee and a woman from the Christian Temperance Society. There was also a 1950s exhibit featuring one of the first displaced Jewish families to arrive in the city following WWII.

Kids will enjoy a History Lab and some other hands-on exhibits on the second floor.

There's also a theater that runs a series of 3-4 minute movies about nine Indiana.

The fourth floor features an Indiana sports exhibit. Comprised mostly of photos from the archives of the Indianapolis Star, the exhibit covers auto racing, high school and professional basketball, football and more.

The Historical Society also features one of the premier libraries and archives of Indiana history, as well as a cafe.

It sits along the canal at the corner of New York and West streets and is easy to get to.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Super Bowl Comes To Indy

In case you live under a rock, the Super Bowl is Indianapolis. And it's not just a game, it's a two-week party for all ages.

I took my family downtown to the NFL Experience and Super Bowl Village over the weekend, and we had a great time.

NFL Experience: This is a huge exhibit that took over the entire convention center. We hit the kids area first, which featured hands-on activities like kicking field goals, long snapping, throwing passes, running an obstacle course, face painting, green screen photos and more. Colts WR Reggie Wayne also led a Q&A session.

All of these activities were included with the admission price: $25 for adults and $20 for kids.

Next we hit the adult area, which featured many of the same activities only on a bigger, real-life scale. There was punt, pass and kick; kick a field goal (I looked pretty bad on my 20-yard attempt), throwing and more.

There was also a "You Make The Call" area where you could call up any play from any game of the 2011 season and review it. A replay booth and more.

Wilson had an area where they showed how footballs are made. There was display of game balls from previous Super Bowls, a display of championship rings, and of course the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The kids signed up for a free 45-minute on-field clinic that included two Colts players. The kids were divided into four groups and got to practice pass catching, taking handoffs as a running back, defensive drills and more. They also played two flag football games.

Vendors such as Doritos and Pepsi had separate booths. There was an autograph area, memorabilia show and more.

I could go on and on, but needless to say, we spent about 6 hours there and had a great time.

We exited the Experience and walked through the Super Bowl Village, which has two stages with live bands, bars and other entertainment. We made our way to Monument Circle were IndyCars decaled with all 32 NFL teams are lined up in front of giant X-L-V-I numerals.

It's exciting for Indianapolis to host such a great event. If you live nearby, take advantage of what might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and go experience some of the offerings. - Oh, I forgot to mention the 4 ziplines that run down Capitol Avenue. Wow. That looked like fun.

I have photos posted on the Facebook page ( and a video on YouTube (

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Free Entrance to National Parks on Select Days

Once again, the National Park Service is waiving entry fees to more than 100 National Parks on select days.

In 2012, you can visit all National Parks free of charge on the following dates:

January 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend)
April 21-29 (National Park Week)
June 9
Sept. 29
Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend)

I've already made my summer vacation plans to visit Arches NP and Canyonlands NP in Utah. I can't wait.