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The Gaylord Opryland hotel has re-opened after flooding in Nashville, Tennessee, forced the landmark’s closure this spring.
And its grand re-opening festivities happened during the season that the Gaylord Opryland does best – Christmas! I stopped by the Gaylord Opryland on a drive through Nashville recently and checked out some of the Christmas decorations that adorn the hotel’s atriums. There are hundreds of poinsettias, and millions of lights.
The resort calls its holiday events “A Country Christmas.” This season, the celebration continues until Jan. 2, 2011. It includes:
ICE! – A walk-through exhibit in a building chilled to 9 degrees. ICE! is an environment carved completely out of 2 million pounds of ice by artisans from Harbin, China. This year’s ICE! pays homage to the Christmas TV special “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”
SNOW! – New this year, SNOW! is an outdoor winter wonderland made out of – you guessed it – snow. There’s a snowman building area, a place to make snow angels and a snowball throwing range. You can make s’mores and even see some live reindeer.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular – This show straight from New York City features the famous Radio City Rockettes. It is performed in the Grand Ole Opry House and features classic Rockettes holiday numbers such as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”
Louise Mandrell’s “The Gift” Christmas dinner and show – This show features Louise Mandrell and her band doing Christmas music, choreography and comedy, along with a dinner of Christmas favorites. I grew up watching the Mandrell sisters on TV and pretending to be them with my two sisters. I was always Louise.
Breakfast with Kris Kringle – Meet Kris Kringle and Topper from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” during these special breakfasts in Solario restaurant at the Gaylord Opryland.
It’s not too late to plan a holiday getaway to Nashville. You can still get tickets to these events, and there are package deals that include A Country Christmas events and a stay at the Gaylord Opryland.
If you are looking for a tropical getaway with the family, the Mayan Riviera is a wonderful option. It is located on the east coast of Mexico and spans an area moving south from Cancun. The resorts are generally quite large with multiple dining options, entertainment, miles of white sandy beaches, a number of pools and many activities to keep your family occupied.
Many families opt to book a vacation with a resort that is geared towards families, like Beaches Resorts, Breezes and Club Med. These are great options and include lots of activities for kids, babysitting services and day care. We stayed at Azul Beach Hotel on our last trip and were thoroughly impressed with what they had to offer, including 24-hour room service, beach butlers and gourmet cuisine.
It is worth it when you stay on the Mayan Riviera to experience some of the amazing Mayan ruins. Depending on where you are there are many locations that accept visitors. Remember to consider the weather (heat) and amount of walking involved when you visit the ruins. Bring a baby carrier for infants and note that most places are not stroller accessible. Make sure to pack lots of water and snacks and leave early in the morning.
A wonderful park to explore with the kids on the Mayan cost is Xcaret Park. It is an ecological park where you can not only see the ruins, but they have shows, demonstrations, a lazy river, hammocks, snorkelling, and swimming with the dolphins. It’s a great park for families and helps you get away from the resort for a change.
Playa del Carmen is a beach city with lots of shopping. If you are in the need to get away from the resort, this is a nice place to visit. Over the years the shopping has become rather expensive there, but the food and beach is still exquisite. There are also many shopping options in Cancun. You can have the hotel concierge arrange a taxi to take you into town to some of the many outlet shopping malls. Adults can enjoy the night life there as well.
When planning a trip to a tropical location with the family, it is important to ensure you keep your child’s schedule similar to what it is at home. Plan your day according to when your child normally takes naps. Head to the pool or beach for the morning and then take a mid-day break after lunch. This will ensure that dinner time goes smoothly.
Here are some of my parent tips for surviving a resort vacation with kids.
• If you have a picky eater, try asking for substitutions on the menu at restaurants. Most places will accommodate kids.
• Ask what the resort offers for children like strollers, cribs, foot stools, etc.
• Find out ahead of time what activities or sports the resort has for children.
• Use gate check-in for your stroller at the airport and ask about bulk seats on the plane so you can have more room with the kids.
• Take along pool and beach toys.
• Consider bringing a portable DVD player with your kids’ favourite movies for a family movie night at the resort.
Rachna Clavero lives in Canada and is a busy mom of three boys. She writes about fun family ideas including vacations, local attractions, toys, games, crafts and more on her blog The Fun Family Site.
You may be traveling this holiday season – or you may have relatives traveling to your home this year. At TravelingMamas.com we’ve been putting together our personal holiday travel tips to help make your holiday travel easy and stress free.
If mailing or carrying on your holiday gifts, be sure to check and see which items need batteries as their power source. Nothing is worse than giving a battery operated gift without the batteries included, especially when gifting to little ones.
Rayovac recently polled moms and found out that 65% have forgotten to purchase batteries to go along with their gifts. To help these moms, and also ease your last minute holiday gift purchase stress, Rayovac has put together this handy batttery shopping list of some of the most popular battery powered toys this holiday season:
If you’d like the direct link to the Rayovac Battery Guide for Top Holiday Toys, be sure to check out the Rayovac official website. Also, the Rayovac Facebook Page offers coupons to help you save money on these already value packed batteries.
This post is sponsored by Rayovac.
Surveys are a great way to guage what readers are interested in and how to make content for a site more relevant. We recently did our own travel survey here at TravelingMamas.com and had fun reading all the results. Many of our loyal readers (you) send us emails requesting particular post topics or answers to your travel questions. However, we also get a good majority of readers who discover the site while using search engines. We took a look at all the information compiled by other travel sites to see just what’s popular among the travel masses and what destinations we’re all dreaming of for 2011.
Top Destinations in Europe
Tripadvisor revealed that 69% of those that took part in their recent travel trends survey admitted they are planning international trips in 2011, with Europe being the most popular international destination. So which cities in Europe are top on their list? Paris, London, and Rome.
Where will travelers rest their heads in 2011? The Tripadvisor Travel Trends Forecast suggests that vacation home rentals are on the rise, with 47% of travelers considering a stay in a vacation home, which is an increase of 8% over last year’s numbers. At TravelingMamas.com we keep our ears to the ground, listening for clues in what people are chatting about in travel, both online and offline. It seems that travel budgets and the potential for saving a few bucks on a vacation, plus the added space are the key reasons travelers are seeking vacation home rentals.
What US destinations are the most popular for 2011? I could base this information solely on TripAdvisor’s survey results, but wanted to look further than one press release. I began searching around on other sites, reading press releases, consulting with a few travel booking agents around the US, checking popular search terms (on this site and with the search engines), and talking to friends around the US who are planning trips. This reasearch has helped me to guesstimate the top destinations for 2011. Please keep in mind, this is a prediction of the destinations where I believe people are planning to travel in the new year and they are listed in no particular order.
Las Vegas, NV – Sin City is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest conference destination in the US. There is the perception of Las Vegas being the place to act wild. Fortunately, the stereotype of Vegas is slowly changing and has become a destination for luxury and decadence. Sure, you can still find the deals, free things to do in Vegas, and budget lodging, but Las Vegas is now a culinary and entertainment destination offering more than just chance games and 99 cent shrimp cocktails.
New York City, NY – The concrete jungle of New York City is always a popular destination. It’s consistently the top place for Thanksgiving holiday travel. It’s a city of style and has become a shopping pilgrimage for women from all over the US, thanks to that Sex in the City show and all those blockbuster movies.
The Florida Keys – Travelers looking for that island state of mind are traveling to Key West and the Florida Keys for a taste of the relaxing lifestyle this destination is known for. There are plenty of family attractions in the Florida Keys to keep everyone entertained and couples can escape at one of the many romantic resorts in the Florida Keys.
Maui, Hawaii – Maui has been a top honeymoon spot, but is growing as a family destination. This island isn’t all about beaches. Maui’s Upcountry offers magical views, a lavender farm, winery, and goat cheese farm.
Asheville, NC – The beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains makes Asheville a popular, growing destination. It doesn’t hurt that this artsy city is booming with culinary offerings, attractions, and of course, the Biltmore Estate with winery and spa. It’s a city with rustic elegance and offers indoor and outdoor adventure.
Austin, TX – I have some really cool friends in Austin and can see why this music city is gaining in popularity with the no-children crowd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun for families, but I’m seeing an increase in travelers looking for a place to party in a cool, laid back way.
Orlando, FL – You can thank that mouse for making Orlando one of the top destinations in THE WORLD. I’m noticing an increase of families booking trips to Orlando and companies holding conferences in the area so the business trip can double as a family vacation. With the decrease in personal travel budgets and a lack of time off from work, it’s no wonder this trend is becoming popular. Orlando was also made the previous list of top summer destinations.
Branson, MO – Family travelers are realizing that Branson isn’t just for senior citizens and offers activities for all ages. I’ve even heard of a few people planning a Branson honeymoon. The Ozarks are beautiful to behold. Branson isn’t a wild town and is a wholesome destination for families.
San Francisco – TripAdvisor says it’s a popular destination for 2011, but I’m just not feeling it.
Unfortunately, I really wanted to add one of my favorite cities – New Orleans, LA. It’s not only so close to me that everyone seems to think I live there, but it’s also dear to my heart. Sadly, because of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and hyped up stories in the media, travelers have this perception that New Orleans is covered in oil and do not have plans to visit in 2011. Prove me wrong, people! Visit Louisiana. If you are interested in statistics, in August Travelocity polled Americans and released some disheartening information about tourism along the Gulf Coast.
Did we leave out a destination that you think will be one of the top destinations for 2011? Where are you planning to travel?
The Final Season of Oprah is closing with the ultimate adventure – Ms. Winfrey surprised an entire audience with a trip to accompany Ms. Winfrey on her first trip to Australia. The group landed in Oz and broke off to experience different adventures across the country. I’m so excited to see others get a chance to have an amazing and unbelievable adventure trip like this and hope they all have a wonderful, lasting travel experience.
Oprah landed in the country to meet up with the tour group. She and her best friend Gayle King (and entourage) spent some time at Hamilton Island Wildlife Park and The Great Barrier Reef. The friends enjoyed a barbecue on Whitehaven Beach prepared by Australian chef Curtis Stone. Now this is beginning to sound like one of the best getaways ever!
Stops for the various audience members (broken into smaller groups) include some of the following:
A helitour of Uluru and Kata Tjuta
Lodging at Longitude 131 – I’ve had this luxury camping resort on my list of places to experience. You have to go glamping at least once! It’s near Ayers Rock (Uluru) and looks absolutely fabulous.
Surfing Lessons at Byron Bay
A Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Hunter Valley
Be sure to watch the entire coverage of Oprah’s Ultimate Australia Adventure which will air on two episodes. I can’t wait to watch and start planning my own ultimate Australia adventure and to follow along Oprah Winfrey as she takes her next path on her life journey with the upcoming launch of OWN the Oprah Winfrey Network which premiers January 1, 2011. Tonight I’ll be settling in to watch the Barbara Walter’s special about Oprah on ABC.