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  • Bienville Square and Park in Downtown Mobile Alabama USA
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    Mobile,

    Alabama

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    Mobile ( moh-BEEL, French: [mɔbil] (listen)) is the county seat of Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 as of the 2010 United States Census, making it the third-most-populous city in Alabama, and the most populous in Mobile County. Alabama's only saltwater port, Mobile is located on the Mobile River at the head of the Mobile Bay and the north-central Gulf Coast. The Port of Mobile has always played a key role in the economic health of the city, beginning with the settlement as an important trading center between the French colonists and Native Americans, down to its current role as the 12th-largest port in the United States.Mobile is the principal municipality of the Mobile metropolitan area. This region of 412,992 residents is composed solely of Mobile County; it is the third-largest metropolitan statistical area in the state. Mobile is the largest city in the Mobile-Daphne−Fairhope CSA, with a total population of 604,726, the second largest in the state. As of 2011, the population within a 60-mile (100 km) radius of Mobile is 1,262,907.Mobile was founded in 1702 by the French as the first capital of Louisiana. During its first 100 years, Mobile was a colony of France, then Britain, and lastly Spain. Mobile became a part of the United States in 1813, with the annexation by President James Madison of West Florida from Spain. The city surrendered to Federal forces on April 12, 1865, after Union victories at two forts protecting the city. This, along with the news of Johnston's surrender negotiations with Sherman, led Taylor to seek a meeting with his Union counterpart, Maj. Gen. Edward R. S. Canby. The two generals met several miles north of Mobile on May 2. After agreeing to a 48-hour truce, the generals enjoyed an al fresco luncheon of food, drink, and lively music. Canby offered Taylor the same terms agreed upon between Lee and Grant. Taylor accepted the terms and surrendered his command on May 4 at Citronelle, Alabama.Considered one of the Gulf Coast's cultural centers, Mobile has several art museums, a symphony orchestra, professional opera, professional ballet company, and a large concentration of historic architecture. Mobile is known for having the oldest organized Carnival or Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. Its French Catholic colonial settlers celebrated this festival from the first decade of the 18th century. Beginning in 1830, Mobile was host to the first formally organized Carnival mystic society to celebrate with a parade in the United States. (In New Orleans, such a group is called a krewe.)
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    Inspiration

    Celebrate Mardi Gras By Mail Ordering A King Cake

    There are bakeries across the American South that ship their creations of this oval-shaped and tri-hued dessert across most of the U.S. Often many of them maintain the traditional king cake recipe of a brioche base adorned with white icing and gold, green and purple colored sugaring. Others have experimented with more contemporary versions and fill them with cream cheese or fruit flavors and go all out with toppings. And most bakeries can process mail orders to send a king cake right to your doorstep. Louisiana Of course, Louisiana is synonymous with Mardi Gras and has many bakeries that ship king cakes. New Orleans In New Orleans, Gracious Bakery + Café’s King Cake Mix is available for purchase online. The artisan bakery has boxed up what’s needed for making a king cake in your kitchen; you just need to add in the wet ingredients. Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell sells out quickly on its king cake shipping orders. Upon seeing their webpage, you’ll know the reason why. Theirs range from traditional to ones filled with cream cheese or topped with pecans. Brennan's in New Orleans is famous for its bananas foster but for 2022 Mardi Gras the fine dining restaurant is shipping three special king cake varieties. They are traditional, a Chocolate “Black & Gold”, “Pink Parade” Strawberry Cream Cheese and Banana Foster. courtesy of Brennan’s Gambino’s Bakery, a NOLA longtimer, has king cake specialty packs with Mardi Gras attire to don while dining on this dessert, among other choices. Cannata’s Market in Houma has a RougaGooey King Cake adorned with Louisiana roasted pecans and cane sugar, white chocolate, and gooey butter along with Mardi Gras beads. Another reason to buy this cake: a donation from its sale goes to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Among its king cakes, Cajun Pecan House in Cutoff has a popular cinnamon-pecan flavored king cake. Or splurge on king cake carnival packs, having the King Cake story, Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and a porcelain mask. NOLA’s Haydel’s Bakery broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest king cake in 2010, by creating two giant rings that wrapped around the Superdome. Haydel’s king cakes include traditional or filled with cream cheese, German chocolate and other choices. Also in NOLA, Adrian’s Bakery sends out king cake choices including Bavarian cream, lemon, pineapple and praline. Lake Charles Delicious Donuts & Bakery in Lake Charles takes mail orders by phone. Their king cakes choices involve their pecan and praline along with fruit or cream fillings with choices including cream cheese, apple, blueberry, cherry, and strawberry. Baton Rouge In Baton Rouge, The Ambrosia Bakery sells mini, small, and large versions of its traditional king cake along with a Zulu King Cake with a coconut, cream cheese and chocolate morsel filling. Lafayette Crystal Weddings in Lafayette has an alphabet of king cake flavor options, from almond amaretto to strawberry cream cheese. Also in Lafayette, Poupart Bakery ships both a traditional French king cake--a round puff pastry with almond filling--and the Mardi Gras king cake. Alabama courtesy of Lighthouse Bakery Mobile, Alabama also celebrates this pre-Lenten festival. The Lighthouse Bakery in Dauphin Island, Ala. ships their baby king cakes by mail but requires orders to be placed over the phone during business hours. Texas Galveston has both the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas and the third largest one in the nation behind New Orleans and Mobile. Both the Maceo Spice and Import Company and Gypsy Joynt take orders over the phone for shipping king cakes. In Houston, which also honors Mardi Gras, Rao’s Bakery ships king cakes with traditional cinnamon or strawberry, blueberry and raspberry fillings; mini king cakes are also available.

    InspirationDestinations

    Unique New Years Eve Drops

    Everyone knows that New York City is famous for its New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, but for those looking for something a little more unique and symbolic to ring in 2022, these towns are hosting slightly weird yet totally “on-brand” drops on December 31. MoonPie Drop , Mobile, Alabama Photo by Joseph Brooke / Flickr Creative Commons Mobile’s mantra is “Born to Celebrate,” which makes New Year’s Eve a pretty exciting time around here. At midnight, you can witness a 600-pound electric MoonPie drop from the sky, complete with fireworks and a laser light show. Mobile’s big claim to fame is that it’s home to America’s original Mardi Gras. In the mid-1900s, locals started tossing sticky-sweet (but still-wrapped!) MoonPies from their Mardi Gras floats. Spectators went crazy for them and today an estimated half-million pies get tossed during an average Carnival season. Since Mobile loves a good party – and consumes more MoonPies per capita than anywhere else (including the pies’ hometown of Chattanooga) – its citizens decided to create the world’s largest electric MoonPie to help them usher in each new year. Mushroom Drop, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Brandywine Valley, is known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World” because more than 60% of all the mushrooms in the United States are grown here. Celebrate their nickname – and their favorite crop -- by dropping a 700-pound lighted mushroom on New Year’s Eve during the annual Midnight in the Square event. The mushroom will be raised right before 9 p.m. and the drop will be live-streamed across social media at midnight. Marlin Drop, Orange Beach, Alabama Gulf Shores Reelin' in the New Year at The Wharf The Wharf, a popular dining, shopping and entertainment district in the town of Orange Beach, is hosting Reelin’ in The New Year from 5 p.m. to midnight on December 31. The highlight of this event is the Marlin Drop, a fishy nod to one of the many outdoor activities that draw visitors here year round. It’s free admission for the drop, and the whole family can come and ring in the new year Gulf Coast-style. Apple Drop, Winchester, Virginia To celebrate the arrival of the new year, a 400-pound apple is dropped more than 100 feet during the First Night Winchester event. First Night Winchester has been a tradition in the Northern Shenandoah Valley since 1987. Winchester is known as the “Apple Capital” because it’s the largest apple-producing area in all of Virginia and home to countless apple orchards. Giant Acorn Drop, Raleigh, N.C. Courtesy firstnightraleigh.com Each December 31 a giant copper acorn, the official monument commemorating the bicentennial of “the City of Oaks,” is transported from Raleigh’s Moore Square to the roof of the Civic Center where it’s dropped to celebrate the New Year - First Night Raleigh. Clam Drop, Yarmouth, Maine On December 31, Yarmouth's First Universalist Church lowers a giant clam named Steamer 25 feet from the bell tower. The Clam Drop includes music, cookies and cocoa to stay warm. Giant Potato Drop, Boise, Idaho Courtesy mrfood.com This year will be the 9th annual Idaho Potato Drop in Boise, Idaho. From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., ring in the new year with food trucks, a beer garden, fireworks, and of course, the potato drop in front of the Idaho State Capitol.

    Theme Parks

    Disney announces Disney Genie: a reimagined guest experience

    Coming this fall to Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Genie is a complimentary and convenient new digital service designed to create your best Disney day. Disney has been listening to your feedback—you want planning to be easier, you want more flexibility and you want better tools to help you make the most of your visit—and that’s exactly what Disney Genie is here to do. They have made significant investments in this cool new technology, which guides you through Disney theme parks with tips that can help you reduce time in lines, discover magic around every corner and take the guesswork out of “what’s next.” Built as a new digital service in the My Disney Experience app, Disney Genie service will maximize your park time, so you can have more fun. It includes a personalized itinerary feature that will quickly and seamlessly map out an entire day. From specific attractions, foodie experiences and entertainment, to general interests like Disney princesses, villains, Pixar, Star Wars, thrill rides and more—just tell Disney Genie what you want to do and it will do the planning for you. Here are a few more features: Get Itinerary Updates from Morning to Night: Disney Genie will continue to update your itinerary throughout your day, so you can be more spontaneous and go with the flow. Find Your Favorites at a Glance: Create your very own personal tip board to instantly see your favorites. It will display current AND forecasted future wait times, helping you predict when you might experience quicker entry to attractions. Enjoy More Flexibility and Fun: Disney Genie brings existing planning features together in one place. Join a virtual queue at certain attractions, make dining and experience reservations, mobile order food at many locations, get help from a virtual assistant and more. For even more convenience and flexibility, there are 2 other options for enjoying Disney theme parks, through a queue Disney is introducing called the Lightning Lane entrance that also saves you time in line: Disney Genie+ Service (Available for Purchase): For the price of $15 per day, per ticket at Walt Disney World Resort and $20 per day, per ticket at Disneyland Resort, choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. You can make one selection at a time, throughout the day—from classics like Haunted Mansion to thrill rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and newer favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (attractions subject to limited availability). This convenient option is the next evolution of the fan-favorite Disney MaxPass service from Disneyland Resort. Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories—augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort. Individual Attraction Selections (Available for Purchase): Schedule a time to arrive at up to 2 highly demanded attractions each day using the Lightning Lane entrance—like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom park (subject to limited availability; attractions not included with Disney Genie+). Pricing for this option will vary by date, attraction and park and will be announced closer to launch. Lightning Lane selections will be made on the same day of your visit and can be used across multiple theme parks, great for those who love the Park Hopper option. Attractions continue to offer a traditional standby queue, or a virtual queue at certain attractions like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance—to maximize flexibility. While the FASTPASS, FastPass+ and Disney MaxPass services will be retired, Disney is incredibly excited about the flexibility and choices Disney Genie service provides. You can choose from all of the new options, a mix of them or none at all, and continue to have a great experience no matter how you decide to plan your best Disney park day. Disney is also making some enhancements to the Disability Access Service (DAS) program, including new options to enroll in the program pre-arrival and for DAS participants to select attractions directly in the app. These options will be available in addition to the existing, in-person DAS program. Guests with concerns regarding these changes and their previously-purchased tickets may contact (407) 939-4357 to discuss their options. View information about Disney Genie services at the Disneyland Resort.

    News

    Smithsonian museums in DC to reopen starting in May

    The Smithsonian will reopen eight of its facilities to the public in May, starting with the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, Wednesday, May 5. Additional museums and the National Zoo will open Friday, May 14, and Friday, May 21. All locations will reopen with added health and safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors will need to reserve free timed-entry passes for all locations. All other Smithsonian museums will remain temporarily closed to the public. Reopening Schedule Wednesday, May 5 Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Friday, May 14 National Museum of African American History and Culture National Portrait Gallery Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery Friday, May 21 National Museum of American History National Museum of the American Indian (Washington, D.C., location) National Zoo Safety Measures To protect the health of visitors and staff, safety measures based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources will include: Requesting that all visitors who are sick or do not feel well stay home. Requiring visitors ages 2 and older to wear face coverings during their visit. Closely monitoring and limiting the number of people in each location. Visitors will need to obtain a free timed-entry pass in advance of their visit. Implementing safe social distancing, including one-way paths and directional guidance where appropriate. Providing hand-sanitizing stations for visitors and conducting enhanced cleaning throughout all facilities. Museum cafes will not be open at this time. Restaurants and food trucks at the National Zoo will be open. All on-site public tours and events are temporarily suspended. Some exhibits, galleries, interactives, theaters, retail shops or indoor spaces may be closed or operating at limited capacity. Detailed information for visitors is available on the museum websites. Museum Hours and Information Some locations will open with reduced hours of operation. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: open daily 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. National Museum of African American History and Culture: open Wednesday to Sunday 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both located at Eighth and G streets N.W.: open Wednesday to Sunday 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Visitors will use the G Street entrance. Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, near the White House: open Wednesday to Sunday 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. National Museum of American History: open Friday to Tuesday 11 a.m.–4 p.m. National Museum of the American Indian: open Wednesday to Sunday 11 a.m.­–4 p.m. National Zoo: open daily 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Timed-Entry Passes Visitors will need to obtain a free timed-entry pass for each location. Beginning today, April 23, visitors can reserve passes for the Udvar-Hazy Center. Passes for other locations will become available starting a week before their scheduled openings. Visitors driving to the Zoo who wish to park must purchase parking in advance as well. Visitors can reserve passes online at si.edu/visit or by phone at 1-800-514-3849, ext. 1. An individual will be able to reserve up to six passes per day for a specific location. Each visitor must have a pass, regardless of age. Visitors can choose to print timed-entry passes at home or show a digital timed-entry pass on their mobile device. For the safety of visitors and staff, groups larger than six are strictly prohibited, and at least one adult chaperone is required to accompany up to five children under the age of 18. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center May 5 also marks the 60th anniversary of the first U.S. human spaceflight by Alan Shepard. His Mercury capsule, Freedom 7, will be on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, its first time there, for the anniversary and through most of this spring and summer. Visitors can pay for parking as they depart. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo Viewing of the Zoo’s newest panda cub, Xiao Qi Ji, will be limited for social distancing purposes and will require a separate free timed-entry pass. Visitors can obtain a free pass for Asia Trail / Giant Pandas when they arrive at the Zoo. Passes will be released throughout the day. As a reminder for the public, Xiao Qi Ji is still young and sleeps a lot during the day. Xiao Qi Ji along with his parents can be viewed on the Zoo’s live panda cams. Reopening the Smithsonian The Smithsonian closed its museums in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between July and October 2020, the Smithsonian opened eight of its facilities before closing to the public again Nov. 23. The reopening of these eight locations is the beginning of a phased reopening process for the Institution. All other Smithsonian museums remain temporarily closed to the public, and the Institution is not announcing additional reopening dates at this time. Updates and information about the museums open to the public are available at si.edu/visit. 

    Road Trips

    How to make your car road-trip ready

    This content is sponsored byAre you ready? Not so fast. More than 60 percent of American families hit the road on vacation, and an estimated four out of 10 drivers are unprepared for emergency breakdowns The top reasons for roadside emergencies are fairly predictable: Are you one of the two-thirds of American drivers who don’t test their car batteries? Are you the one in five who has no idea how to change a tire? Are you one of the four in 10 who don’t carry an emergency kit onboard? Here’s how to ensure your next road trip goes off without a hitch. 1. Give your car a checkup You know the drill: Schedule a maintenance checkup in advance of your trip. Check the oil, fluid levels, battery, and tires. Make sure you have air in your spare tire. Sure, this seems obvious, but chances are you haven't done it yet, right? Keep a basic car care kit in your automobile © Getty Images 2. Carry an emergency kit Auto science is not rocket science: Pack a mobile phone and charger that can plug into your car, a flashlight (with fresh batteries and backups), a first-aid kit, a basic tool kit (including tire-pressure gauge and adjustable wrench), windshield wiper fluid, jumper cables, emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and snacks for both humans and pets. Assembling an emergency kit may seem like a hassle. You know what’s an even bigger hassle? Being stuck on the side of the road without any of the things on this list. Set good habits to keep your keys where you need them © Getty Images 3. Don’t get locked out Carry extra car keys, take a moment to grab your keys before exiting the car, and check the batteries on keyless-entry remotes and smart keys and keep them protected from water and other hazards. Some drivers find establishing consistent car-key habits (you might even call them rituals) helps them keep track of their keys. For instance: Always store keys in the same place, say the word ‘keys’ out loud before leaving your vehicle, and change batteries on remotes at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. Make sure your car insurance is up to date © Getty Images 4. Audit your insurance Double check your car insurance to make sure you have a printed copy of your policy and you are up to date on payments. Nobody wants to get in an accident far from home without the proper insurance. You could save 15 percent or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO. SPONSORED BY Carefully crafted collaboratively between GEICO, Lonely Planet, and Budget Travel. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

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    Inspiration

    Cruise Along These Holiday Lights Drive-Throughs Across The U.S.

    As the current pandemic is changing how we celebrate the 2020 holiday season, the tradition of seeing public holiday lights displays at night can now be done from the safety of your car. From readapted walking tours to first-time happenings or continuing events, here are holiday lights drive-throughs around the U.S. to take a ride-along. Check their websites for tickets and health and safety protocols before attending. New England Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has reimagined its annual Gardens Aglow as a drive-through event happening now through Jan. 2. The gardens will still dazzle with over 650,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights depicting trees, animals, flowers, and other delights. Plus, they’ve all been designed by the gardens’ staff. Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. is hosting its first Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular now through Jan. 10. The inaugural spectacular features festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights. Now through Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. is presenting the latest LED technology and digital animations in this holiday experience. Now through Jan. 3, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Concord is holding the “Gift of Lights,” a 2.5-milelong drive-through show with 3.5 million lights, a new 150-foot RGB Tunnel of Lights, and characters from popular children’s books. There are also fan-favorite displays, including the 12 Days of Christmas scene. Hershey Sweet Lights, presented by T-Mobile. Mid-Atlantic “Wegmans Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, N.Y. is happening now through Jan. 10, and is a two-mile route featuring towering holiday displays, a larger-than-life land of Oz, twinkling fantasy forest, Victorian villages and a variety of animated scenes. Located down the road from Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, ”Hershey Sweet Lights presented by T-Mobile” is happening now through Jan. 3 and consists of two miles of fields and wooded trails decorated with nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays created from about two million LED lights. Through Jan. 3, “Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach” is Virginia Beach Boardwalk’s festive nautical holiday lights display featuring festive fish, musical crabs, and elves join a surfing Santa and a new 40-foot dancing Christmas tree. Southeast At Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., “Speedway Christmas” is happening now through Jan. 17 and has more than four million LED lights in displays along a 3.75-mile stretch. This event also has holiday movies shown on a large HDTV screen Thursdays through Sundays. For an additional fee, attendees can skate on a 5,400-square-foot ice rink; mask-wearing is required. In Columbia, S.C., the South Carolina State Fair is putting on “Carolina Lights” at Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds now through Dec. 27. More than 100 individual LED light displays along a mile-plus stretch including a nativity scene and a 25-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman. In Savannah, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ “December Nights & Holiday Lights” has been turned into a drive-through event, on now through Christmas Eve. Now through Jan. 2, “Jax Illuminations” will feature two mega trees, a 300-foot tunnel of lights and custom Christmas scenes at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville, Fla. Through Jan. 2, the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee spread across a four-mile route illuminated by more than 2 million lights among 250 displays. In Nashville, at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, the Jingle Beat is designed by the same artists and local creatives that behind some of the music industries biggest tours. This light show is helping to support the local music industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a three-mile driving tour full of a lot of twinkling lights, happening now through New Year’s Eve. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Photo by Eric Scire. Mid-West Billed as Central Ohio’s largest drive-through Christmas light show, Wonderlight's Christmas at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron is now through Jan. 3. It has over one million LED lights synchronized to traditional and contemporary Christmas music played through your own car stereo. “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in the (fittingly called) Santa Claus, Ind. happens now through Dec. 27. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is depicted through lighted displays and storyboards. Now through Jan. 3, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Ill. has guests remaining in their cars and tuning to a synced musical soundtrack while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s trees. The Wisconsin Christmas of Carnival Lights in Caledonia, 20 minutes south of Milwaukee at Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort, features over two million twinkling lights on an over 1.6-mile path. Now through New Year’s Eve, the show allows attendees to experience lights on all sides, with displays ranging from forest friends and reindeer to Santa and his elves. South-West “Lights of Joy” in Branson, Mo. is located off of the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and contains more than 300 displays with over one million twinkling LED lights throughout this 1.2-mile drive. The Automobile Alley Art Light Display in Oklahoma City has colorful LED lights covering buildings on eight blocks of North Broadway and district side streets. Various shops and restaurants will also feature window displays. The event is part of Downtown in December and runs now through Jan. 31. “Gift of Lights” at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway now through Jan. 3 is made up of over one million twinkling lights that people can see from their own cars. Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg West “Christmas in Color” at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. is having drivers cruising along more than 1.5 million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music heard through your car radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen and more now through January 3. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Glittering Lights” features more than five million LED lights intertwining throughout a 2.5-mile course through the speedway, through Jan. 10. The Phoenix Zoo’s Cruise ZooLights can be seen from your car now through Jan. 31, with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling animal sculptures from the comfort of your vehicle. Now through Jan. 2, “Holidays in Your Car” is taking place both at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and Ventura County Fairgrounds, with more than 1 million LED lights and some fixtures standing at 40 feet tall.

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    DESTINATION IN Florida

    Pensacola

    Pensacola () is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida. As of 2019, the population was estimated to be 52,975. Pensacola is the principal city of the Pensacola Metropolitan Area, which had an estimated 502,629 residents as of 2019. Pensacola is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Gulf Coast region.Pensacola is the site of the first Spanish settlement within the borders of the continental United States in 1559, predating the establishment of St. Augustine by 6 years, although the settlement was abandoned due to a hurricane and not re-established until 1698. Pensacola is a seaport on Pensacola Bay, which is protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa and connects to the Gulf of Mexico. A large United States Naval Air Station, the first in the United States, is located southwest of Pensacola near Warrington; it is the base of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and the National Naval Aviation Museum. The main campus of the University of West Florida is situated north of the city center. The area was originally inhabited by Muskogean-speaking peoples. The Pensacola people lived there at the time of European contact, and Creek people frequently visited and traded from present-day southern Alabama and Mississippi and southeast of Louisiana. Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna founded a short-lived settlement in 1559. In 1698 the Spanish established a presidio in the area, from which the modern city gradually developed. The area changed hands several times as European powers competed in North America. During Florida's British rule (1763–1781), fortifications were strengthened. It is nicknamed "The City of Five Flags", due to the five governments that have ruled it during its history: the flags of Spain (Castile), France, Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Other nicknames include "World's Whitest Beaches" (due to the white sand of Florida panhandle beaches), "Cradle of Naval Aviation", "Western Gate to the Sunshine State", "America's First Settlement", "Emerald Coast", "Red Snapper Capital of the World", and "P-Cola".