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    Cocoa is a city in Brevard County, Florida. The population was 17,140 at the 2010 United States Census. It is part of the Palm Bay–Melbourne–Titusville Metropolitan Statistical Area.
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    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.

    Budget Travel Lists

    24 Socially Distant Getaways and Staycations You Can Do This Winter

    While many are staying home because of the pandemic, U.S. hotels and destinations have continued to carefully reopen, with contactless check-in and other cleanliness and hygiene protocols in place to help keep visitors and employees safe. A recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo found that U.S. travelers are seeking more private, rural getaways with the family, with lots of short last-minute trips being planned — 44% to warm places by the beach and 24% to winter-weather destinations. The study also showed a 594% increase in searches for rentals near the Smoky Mountains compared to last year, indicating a preference for escapes to remote locations in the great outdoors this season. Whether you’re craving some quiet time in nature or an urban staycation closer to home, there are still plenty of options for those willing to travel safely — that means wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and adhering to local health and safety regulations. Here’s a look at 24 socially distant trips you can book this winter, all for under $250 per night. Maine In Camden, Hartstone Inn & Hideaway’s two-night package includes a tasting menu for two, daily breakfast and your choice of winter amenities — snowshoe rental, tickets to Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a personalized Hartstone Inn cookbook or half-day lift tickets to nearby Camden Snow Bowl — from $199 per person. Use promo code Winter and book by March 31, 2021. New Hampshire The Sailmaker’s House in Portsmouth is offering a Skate & Stay deal now through February 28, with rates from $119 per night and two adult ice skating passes to nearby Puddle Duck pond available as a package add-on for $25. Vermont Stoweflake Mountain Resort’s Sensational Snowshoe Adventure package gives you complimentary parking, Wi-Fi and access to the Sports Club, one-day snowshoe and Nordic pole rentals for two and vouchers for breakfast or dinner at Charlie B’s. Rates from $224 per night based on double occupancy; book by April 14, 2021. Save 20% on accommodations, onsite dining or spa treatments at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa, in Burlington when you book by March 31, 2021. You’ll also receive hot chocolate and fireside s’mores each night of your stay. Note that you must charge dining at The Tavern or Junction, cooking classes at Cook Academy or spa treatments to the room in order to receive the 20% discount. Rates from $119 per night. Want to stay longer? Weekly rates are available from $109 per night for stays of at least seven nights through August 20, 2021. Connecticut The Inn at Middletown’s Sensational Family Winter Escape package includes a $40 room upgrade to a boutique one-bedroom suite, free Wi-Fi, one complimentary rollaway per room (based on availability) and snow tubing passes at Powder Ridge when you book and stay by April 30, 2021. Rates from $156 per night. New York The Rose and Thistle Bed and Breakfast in Cooperstown has a two-night package that includes two country breakfasts and a bottle of wine for $200 when you stay Sunday thru Saturday by March 31, 2021. Just mention the package when booking. Also in Cooperstown, The Curl Up and Unwind package at The Otesaga includes daily breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi and parking and a signature hot cocoa mix kit created by the property’s culinary specialists. Book by March 31, 2021, to access rates from $149 per night. The Lake George Winterfest is happening every weekend in February and you can save 15% on area hotels by buying a $30 adult Winterfest Wristband for activities like axe throwing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding or fat tire biking (kids’ tickets cost $15 each), bringing most area hotel rates below $200 per night. Washington, D.C. Thompson Washington D.C.’s Popcorn & Pints package treats you to one in-room movie, two bottles of Atlas District Commons beer and one bag of Capitol Kettle Corn, as well as perks like late 1 p.m. checkout and free parking. Rates from $199 per night when you book by March 31 for stays through April 4, 2021. Maryland The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, Maryland, is offering a 15% discount on rates and daily breakfast for two as part of its Getaway Winter special. Use promo code GET19A to unlock rates from $144 per night when you book by February 28 for stays thru April 3, 2021. Virginia Get your cabin-in-the-woods escape with a stay at James Riverfront Cabin, a cozy spot by the James River that’s within driving distance of the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway and some of the area’s best breweries and wineries. Rates from $159 per night, with enough room for up to seven people. At The Cabin on Back Creek — where rates start at $175 per night with a minimum two-night stay required — you’ll have two rooms to stretch out in and the chance to see or even help the owners make maple syrup. It’s nice and remote, too, about a three-hour drive from Richmond and 2.5 hours from Roanoke. ATV fans should check out The Real McCoy Cabins, a luxury campground located near the Pocahontas and Hatfield McCoy ATV trails, with rates from $139 per night. Train lovers can stay in a refurbished 1926 C&O Caboose, complete with Wi-Fi, access to streaming services and everything else you’ll need for a comfortable stay in the Virginia wilderness. Rates from $195 per night. Florida For a South Florida beach getaway, book now through February 12 to save 21% on rates all year long at SLS Brickell, SLS LUX Brickell, Hyde Midtown Miami and SLS South Beach during SBE Hotels’ winter sale. In Central Florida, Margaritaville Resort Orlando is offering rates from $149 per night through its Stay in Paradise package, which includes a one-time $50 resort credit and daily breakfast for two when you book at least two nights. Illinois The historic Drake Hotel in Chicago is celebrating its 100th year anniversary by offering 100 days of $100 rates when you book and stay by April 10, 2021. Nearby, The Drake Oak Brook offers an ideal wintertime escape, with more than 10 acres of gardens perfect for snowman-building and a cozy spot to warm up as you sip cocktails and play vintage board games by the fire. Rates from $158 per night. Want to take your beloved fur baby along for the ride? Hotel Zachary at Gallagher Way’s Bark & Park package comes with food and water bowls, a dog bed, a branded welcome amenity just for your pup, waived pet fees and free parking. Rates from $154 per night when you use promo code ZJ5 and book by November 24, 2021. Ohio The Mohicans Treehouse Resort & Wedding Venue, located about 90 minutes from Cleveland or Columbus, is offering special discounts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday treehouse stays now through March 16, 2021, when you use promo code BUDGET2021. With the discount, rates for the Moonlight, White Oak, Little Red, Old Pine and The Nest treehouses start at $200 per night, while rates for the Tin Shed, Silver Bullet, The View and El Castillo start at $250 a night. Tennessee If you’re in desperate need of a girlfriend getaway this winter, the Margaritaville Hotel Nashville’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun package comes with complimentary margaritas from Fins Bar, an in-room party pack, a $25 resort credit and late check-out when you book at least two nights. Rates from $174 per night. Wisconsin Give snowshoeing a try at Nine Mile Forest in Wasau or High Cliff State Park, about 45 minutes south of Green Bay. Lake Winnebago makes the perfect place for ice fishing, while the Dane Co CamRock Trail outside Madison and WinMan Trails at the North Lakeland Discovery Center are ideal for fat tire biking. Check out the ice caves near Lake Superior or along the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, or even take on the waves in Lake Michigan — there’s a reason this area is known as the Malibu of the Midwest. Whatever you do this winter, base yourself at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, with rates from $161 a night that include access to its onsite 54,000-square-foot indoor waterpark. Colorado If you’ve always wanted to try winter trail running, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, head to Estes Park, a lovely town 90 minutes from Denver that’s smackdab in the middle of Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest. Stay at the YMCA of the Rockies, which rents out budget-friendly cabins and double rooms from $109 a night. Wyoming Head to Cheyenne to try your hand at wintertime activities like ice boating and ice fishing at Curt Gowdy State Park; snow tubing, sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Pole Mountain; and ATVing at Terry Bison Ranch. Little America Hotel & Resort Cheyenne is close to all the action, with cozy Western-style rooms from $96 per night for up to four people.

    Inspiration

    19 Romantic Staycation Ideas for Valentine's Day Weekend

    As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, hotels and destinations around the U.S. have been doing their best to reopen safely, initiating strict health and safety protocols and updates like contactless check-in to help restore confidence in travel among visitors and keep employees safe. Valentine’s Day is happening during a long weekend this year, making it a great time to escape with your beloved to a remote cabin in the woods or try a romantic staycation closer to home. According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, U.S. travelers are booking Valentine’s Day weekend vacations 48% more than they did last year, prioritizing trips to remote cabins and rural destinations over busy cities. Searches have increased the most for rentals in the Adirondack Mountains and Windham in New York, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Banner Elk in North Carolina, Captiva Island and Anna Maria Island in Florida, Aspen and Colorado Springs in Colorado, Big Sky in Montana and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, with travelers requesting whirlpools, Wi-Fi and pet-friendly perks as top amenities. For those willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow the rules in the places they visit, there are plenty of affordable romantic packages to be had. Here’s a look at 19 of our favorites, all available for under $220 a night. Maine In South Berwick, The Stage House Inn’s romance package includes a $100 credit at its onsite restaurant Dufour, a bottle of prosecco and homemade truffles to enjoy during your stay. Rates from $199 a night when you book by calling (207) 704-0516 and stay between February 11 and March 13, 2021. Rhode Island Hotel Viking in Newport wants you to celebrate the good times with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and breakfast for two at One Bellevue Restaurant. Rates start at $199 a night when you book through this link. Virginia Just 20 minutes from Washington, D.C, Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria’s Valentine’s Day package comes with locally made treats like a cocoa mask kit for two and two Bailey’s chocolate mousse cheesecakes from the Alexandria Makers Market. Rates start at $179 a night and include late 2 p.m. check-out. Northern Virginia is also a great place for day trips to local wineries, with most sporting socially distanced seating with heaters and fire pits for you and your beloved to cozy up next to as you sip locally made wine. Stop by Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg, Cave Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Mount Jackson, Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, Potomac Point Winery & Vineyard in Stafford, Montifalco Vineyard in Ruckersville, Valley Road Vineyards in Afton or King Family Vineyard in Crozet — all within a 2.5-hour drive of Washington D.C. North Carolina Calling all Nicholas Sparks fans: Get ready to geek out in Beaufort — where two of his novels, A Walk to Remember and The Choice were set — with Beaufort Hotel’s A Ride to Remember package. In addition to a one-night stay, you’ll get a special keepsake and two tickets to the Ride to Remember guided bike tour of Beaufort. Use promo code PRIDE to unlock rates from $169 a night. Florida Celebrate Valentine’s Day all month long at Plunge Beach Resort, located in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea about 45 minutes north of Miami. As part of the romance package, you’ll get a free bottle of Champagne and a $30 breakfast credit to use at one of the resort’s onsite restaurants, with rates from $179 a night in February. Tennessee Bode’s Valentine’s Day promotion includes a 14% discount and a complimentary bottle of prosecco when you book a night at either of its two Tennessee properties now thru February 15, 2021. Rates start at $171 a night at Bode Nashville and $111 a night at Bode Chattanooga with promo code BEMINE. Texas In Austin, Lone Star Court’s retro-style Valentine package comes with complimentary Wi-Fi and parking, a bottle of bubbly and a special kit so you can create your own s’mores by one of the onsite fire pits. Rates from $144 per night. With rates from $149 a night, Hyatt Regency Houston’s romance package treats guests to a bottle of Champagne and chocolates upon arrival, complimentary parking and late 2 p.m. check-out. Call (713) 654-1234 or choose the romance package offer when booking this deal online. Le Meridien Houston Downtown’s Better Together package is bookable for Friday and Saturday stays only, making it the perfect excuse to plan a romantic night in. You’ll get a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, late check-out, VIP access to the rooftop bar, Z on 23, and two house cocktails, with rates from $204 per night. The Westin Stonebriar in Frisco, about a 30-minute drive from Dallas, treats guests to sparkling wine and gourmet chocolates, late check-out and a romantic four-course dinner for two at its restaurant, Herd & Hearth, as part of its Retreat to Romance package. Rates from $209 per night for stays February 12-14, 2021. About 90 minutes from Dallas, head to East Texas for a romantic and socially distanced stroll at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, home to 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes sporting over 500 varieties of roses. Afterward, drive 40 minutes south to Jacksonville for a romantic retreat at Hotel Ritual and Wellness Center, with rates from $150 a night and all-inclusive amenities like complimentary cocktails, daily gourmet breakfast, spa pools (treatments are extra), sauna access and free snacks, coffee and tea all day long. New Mexico Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a complimentary bottle of bubbly at El Rey Court in Santa Fe when you stay between February 11-15, 2021. Use promo code HEART to unlock rates from $150 per night. Missouri St. Louis is the place to be Valentine’s Day weekend, with a socially distanced jazz extravaganza at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups on February 13 (tickets from $20) and a special Valentine’s dinner at Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn February 11–13. Spend a romantic — and potentially haunted — night at the Inn, with rates from $150 a night Sunday thru Thursday and from $205 a night Friday and Saturday. Wisconsin If a romantic cabin in the woods is more your style, the following are all located within a 90-minute drive of Madison, with a two-night minimum stay required. In Platteville, Walnut Ridge is home to two luxury log cabins, each with a perfectly placed whirlpool spa by the fire and rates from $150 to $170 per night. Rustic Ridge Log Cabins in Merrimac offers five upscale and spacious log cabins with Wi-Fi, fireplaces and in some, Jacuzzis so the two of you can spend some much-needed alone time in Wisconsin wilderness. Seasonal rates from $219 a night thru March 2, then from $199 a night thru May 4. In Oxford, escape to A Secret Cottage for a romantic stay in the country with a private lake, whirlpool tub, fireplace, spacious front porch, fully stocked kitchen and a skylight upstairs so you can snuggle under the stars. Rates on Friday, Saturday and holidays start at $155 a night, while they’re from $150 a night for Sunday through Thursday stays. Nebraska You really can’t get more romantic than celebrating Valentine’s Day in an actual town called Valentine. If you’re up for a drive, Heartland Elk Ranch — located about five hours from Omaha in the north-central part of the state — is home to four beautifully furnished cabins close to hiking trails and stocked fishing ponds, as well as a herd of 50-75 elk that roams the area freely. Enjoy views of the Niobrara National Scenic River, with rates from $155 a night Monday thru Thursday and from $165 a night Friday thru Sunday and on holidays. In Omaha, celebrate your love at the same hotel John and Jackie Kennedy once visited for their 5th year anniversary, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, formerly known as the Blackstone Hotel. Its Love is All Around Us package gives guests a special amenity, valet parking, two tickets to redeem for free wine or tea at the Fontenelle Room and a complimentary yoga class in the Gold Coast Ballroom if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

    Inspiration

    How rum is making at comeback at these 6 distilleries

    Quick: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions rum? Chances are you think about sticky-sweet, umbrella-garnished beach drinks, fraternity parties, or Coke. But in 2020, this historic spirit is more diverse, sophisticated and, most importantly, funner than ever before, as American small distilleries produce a variety of styles – both classic and creative. Their spirits can hold their own against time-tested legacy brands. Like any craft spirit, rum is arguably best enjoyed at the source, where you can talk to distillers and see how it’s made. Here are a few to check out around the US and Caribbean when you’re passing by. 1. Lassiter Distilling Company: Knightdale, North Carolina Yes, the Caribbean is the heartbeat of the rum industry and rum was a cornerstone of Colonial New England’s economy, but here’s a little lesser known fact: before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, rum was drunk all along North Carolina’s coast. The region was a hub for the sugar trade, after all. That’s one of the nuggets of info you’ll learn when you visit Lassiter Distilling Company, a rum-focused distillery in Knightdale, a charming town just off Route 64, which connects Raleigh to the beach. Among the many independent businesses that have sprung up here in the past few years is Lassiter, which is located in a gorgeous old railroad depot. Drop in on a Saturday for a distillery tour or schedule a visit for another day in advance. The husband and wife distiller/owners turn out a silver (unaged) rum, one that’s aged in classic American white oak and a clever Rum au Café that's infused with Raleigh Coffee Company coffee beans, each of which you can sample as part of the free tour. Got time? Stick around for a rum drink at their small yet elaborately designed tiki bar, which is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Potted plants dot the tasting room of Lyon Distilling Co. © courtesy Lyon Distilling Co.2. Lyon Distilling Co.: Saint Michaels, Maryland When Lyon Distilling launched in 2013, it completed a drinking trifecta. Now travelers can visit a brewery, a winery and a distillery, all within Saint Michaels, a one-square-mile town on the Chesapeake Bay’s picturesque eastern shore. Located 45 minutes from Annapolis and 90 minutes from Washington and Baltimore, the town attracts makers of all sorts, like boat-builders and brewers. That, along with the fact that the bywaters of the Chesapeake were a rum-running hub during Prohibition, convinced co-founder Jaime Windon that this was an ideal spot to open a distillery and make maritime spirits. “The proper shore is 90 minutes from us. With all the sailors coming through there, making rum feels right on Bay,” Windon says. Situated in a former flour mill, Lyon turns out dark and unaged rums, over-proof expressions, and several special products, like limited-edition holiday releases and coffee rum, a rich, enchanting spirit flavored with fresh ground coffee from a local roaster and cocoa shells from a DC chocolatier. Free tours with tastings are offered every day at 2PM. 3. Hye Rum: Stonewall, Texas Tourists have long traveled to Texas Hill Country, birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson, to visit his ranch. This region, which extends to parts of Central and Southeast Texas, is covered with rocky soil, the kind that lends itself to fine vintages in Europe. Accordingly, it’s long been a draw for winemakers, and there are presently more than 65 wineries along the 25-mile strip of Interstate 290 that connects Fredericksburg to Johnson City. But that’s not why we’re here. Hye – population: 100-plus – sits along that stretch and in addition the nearly dozen wineries you can visit there, you’ll find Garrison Brothers, a whiskey distillery, and Hye Rum, a distillery that opened in 2017. It’s set in a quaint house that co-owner Stephanie Houston describes as “slightly larger than a tiny house.” They produce five different French-island-inspired rums with molasses from Louisiana. Visit for a tour with the distiller then settle in at the low-key bar with a flight of rums, each of which delivers bold flavors befitting of the Lone Star State. A souvenir tasting glass is part of the package. Cocktail classes are also on offer. 4. Havana Club: Havana, Cuba Since the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, Americans have headed posthaste to this tropical island to ogle at its colorful architecture, abundant vintage cars, and so much else. The food, of course, is a big draw for many, but for some, the most compelling lure is the preferred spirit of one of Cuba’s most legendary residents, Ernest Hemingway, who penned seven books just outside Havana. The historic and massive Havana Club distillery, which sits in the nation state’s capital, is not open to the public, but you can learn about the rum-making process – from sugar farming to barrel aging – and its history in great detail at the Havana Club Museum of Rum. Located in a colonial townhouse built in the 18th-century, the museum’s exhibits provide a closeup view of the many crafts involved in rum production, from building stills and constructing barrels to distillation. And, of course, you can experience the consumption part for yourself in the 1930s-era tasting room. A bottle of Montanya on the taproom bar © courtesy Montanya / Nathan Bilow 5. Montanya Distillers: Crested Butte, Colorado Situated in the West Elks, a little mountain range in the Rockies, Crested Butte is an incredible Colorado ski town and the wildflower capital of the United States. It’s also a mountain biking mecca and home of Montanya Distillers, a destination not only for its lively bar and restaurant, complete with live music, but for the in-depth lesson you can get on a tour about the quirks and beauty of making rum at 8800ft. Montanya’s staff, from founder and owner Karen Hoskin to the distillers to the bottling line, is 64% women, which is unique among the many producers in the world. Their special release, Valentina, highlights this, as every step in the process involved women. Whether or not you tour the distillery, a flight of Montanya rums, which are made with molasses from Louisiana-grown sugar cane, is complimentary. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail. Come for the samples, stay for dinner and a cocktail and live music. The cozy wood- and brick-heavy tasting room/eatery is a lively local hangout. 6. MISCellaneous Distillery: Mount Airy, Maryland Meg McNeill, co-owner of MISCellaneous Distillery in rural Maryland, an hour north of Washington DC, describes her Popi’s Finest Rum as “rum that thinks it’s whiskey.” Like bourbon, it’s aged in new American oak barrels, which imbues Popi’s with its oaky flavors. See for yourself on one of the tours they offer every weekend. Tours are free, but a $5 recommended donation is passed on to a local charity. Go to learn about the distillation and aging process, stay to create your own cocktail with a variety of made-in-DC mixers like Element Shrubb’s inventive vinegar-based drinks (honeydew-jalapeno, anyone?) and natural syrups from Pratt Standard Cocktail Company. In addition to aged and silver rums, the distillery produces whiskey from grains harvested from the surrounding rural property, as well as vodka, gin, and bourbon. They all meet the approval, by the way, of husband-and-wife owners’ pup Jaimee, a friendly Bernese mountain dog. Got one of your own? Feel free to bring him along for a play session.

    Travel Tips

    Everything You Need to Know to See The Northern Lights This Year

    Winter is coming, and it’s bringing with it the magnificent aurora borealis. More commonly known as the northern lights, the cosmic phenomenon is among nature’s most mesmerizing light shows. The visuals are mysterious and bewildering, and sometimes planning a trip to see them can feel the same way. But trekking to the far north in winter doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive if you know what to expect and plan accordingly. Here are a few of the key elements to remember when building an Arctic adventure of your own. 1. When to go Winter is prime northern lights season because the sky is at its darkest and days stay darker longer, especially near and in the Arctic Circle. Generally, the aurora borealis (which translates from Latin as “northern dawn”) is visible September through April, with the strongest lights glowing from November through February. Of course, no one can predict the weather, and cloudy skies are a big reason spectators may miss the lights. The other big variable involves the sun, where the lights originate. The simple scientific backstory goes like this: the sun releases electrically charged particles that are carried across the galaxy via solar winds. When those particles reach earth’s atmosphere (really, its magnetosphere), they collide with oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases to form lights that appear to our eyes as gray, green, purple, red, and other colors. They’re strongest around the North and South poles, though some say that the northern lights have been seen as far south as Florida. So the vital part of any aurora viewing vacation is to plan ample time in a destination to account for cloudy nights and times when the sun is less flared up. Most agree to a minimum of five days, but eight might be wiser. 2. Where to go A trip north in winter can be surprisingly affordable thanks to lower hotel demand and cheaper airfares. Just aim for a smaller town or park with minimal light pollution. In North America, start your search in cities with nearby airports, tour operators, and lodging options. Along the Arctic Circle, consider Fairbanks, Alaska; Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon; and Churchill in northern Manitoba (where Hudson Bay can yield some great watery reflections). Dark-sky delights also await in Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta; Torngat Mountains National Park in Newfoundland; and Nunavik Parks in Quebec’s Arctic region. If you’re game to travel farther, consider the lovely small city of Tromso in Arctic Norway, which is more affordable thanks to Norwegian Air’s budget-friendly airfares, and a weaker Norwegian kroner exchange rate. The island nation of Iceland is another wallet-wise destination thanks to Icelandair deals. Plus both Norway and Iceland have infrastructure for winter tourism that makes it easier to find the right hotel and tour company. Tip: Buy your ticket around two or three months out to lock in the best airfares. 3. Where to stay Lodging in remote locales is easier than you may think, especially if you’re fine with a no-frills hotel that offers comfy beds and powerful heaters. Just aim to book six to eight weeks out (or longer) for the best rates, and remember that hostels may yield irresistible bargains. If you’re seeking more memorable accommodations, check into an igloo or panoramic dome with sky views, like the ones offered by Fairbanks’s Borealis Basecamp. Or try the glass-fronted chalets at Whitehorse’s Northern Lights Resort & Spa. 4. What to pack Upon planning a subzero January trip to the Arctic, I once asked a Norwegian for packing advice. His reply: “Bring a sweater.” I second that wisdom – especially for a hearty wool sweater – and also recommend investing in some serious thermal baselayers that you can wear every single day of your trip. (Tip: Uniqlo makes great lightweight, affordable long underwear.) Other winter travel essentials include: wool or thermal socks, heavy gloves or mittens, insulated hats (that won’t blow off in the wind), a thick scarf or buff, and waterproof boots for high snow and powerful winds. Goggles or sports glasses are smart too, to help protect your eyes from blustery snow and wind. And it goes without saying that a waterproof, heavily insulated coat is mandatory if you want to be outdoors longer than 15 minutes. Winter in the Arctic is no joke, so plan for the most intensely cold temperatures of your life. 5. Photography forethought For many, capturing the northern lights on camera is a core part of the experience – and the ultimate souvenir. The best photos require a DSLR or smaller camera with manual settings, because to capture the aurora you’ll need a wide-open aperture and super-slow shutter speed (my best shots took about 30 seconds each to snap). Manual focus, adjustable ISO and f-stop, a shutter timer, and high-resolution image settings also are key. Plus you’ll need a sturdy tripod. But more than anything, always dress as warmly as possible for outdoor aurora photography, because you can spend hours pursuing the perfect shot, and it only takes a few minutes below zero to start losing finger sensation. Tip: Set your camera up in advance with recommended northern lights–shooting settings, so you don’t have to fumble around with them on the spot (where it’s usually pitch dark and freezing). 6. Rely on local experts The most successful northern lights adventures come with the help of expert local guides. So building on tip No. 2, consider destinations where seasoned tour operators know how best to predict the locations and timing for awesome light shows. On the bright side, since most of the best aurora views are from small cities, you won’t have to comb through tons of listings to find good local guides. Upon booking, look for companies that offer multi-night tours (in case no lights are seen on the first night or two), and ones that will drive safari-style to more than one location, since cloud cover could limit views in different spots. You might also double check that the tour will travel to areas far from urban light pollution, like parks and remote hilltops. Some may even offer basecamp-style huts or lodges with skylights, so you can stay warm indoors, perhaps with a mulled wine or cocoa, while gazing skyward.

    Budget Travel Lists

    20 Best Bang-for-Your-Buck Vacation Rental Destinations

    Here at Budget Travel, we appreciate a deal as much as the next frugal traveler, but for our purposes, budget doesn’t necessarily translate as cheap. To do the mental math on what, exactly, qualifies as a good-value proposition, we take into account tangible factors like location, weather, and experiences to have along the way. But we also think about the intangibles—less quantifiable, more subjective elements like uniqueness and Instagrammability. It’s a complicated equation, but home-share rental site Vrbo (vrbo.com) is attempting to simplify things a bit, courtesy of its first-ever Bang for Your Buck Index. The company recently released a list of domestic and international destinations that provide travelers with the best value, based on last year’s booking data. Factoring in considerations like proximity to the beach, diversity of dining options, and the array of activities on offer, here's where you'll get the most for your money—all for $250 per night or less. Top 10 Domestic Destinations for Rental Value With an abundance of beaches—not to mention its collection of theme parks—it’s no wonder Florida claims five of the 10 spots on Vrbo’s domestic list. Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Cape Canaveral offer prime opportunities to work on that tan, while Orlando is the gateway to Disney World and Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. For a break from the ocean, book a trip to Lakeland, east of Tampa, to explore the city’s eponymous lakes, or venture out of state and head west instead: Tucson and Prescott, Arizona, both cracked the top 10, as did Moab, Utah, in the heart of canyon country. Looking for something a little less expected? Branson, Missouri, receives surprisingly high marks, while family favorite Myrtle Beach rounds out the list. Overseas Bargains If, in your mind, it doesn’t count as vacation unless you've stepped off a plane onto foreign soil, not to fear—there’s plenty of value to be had in Europe, Asia, Canada, and the Caribbean, as long as you know where to look. For a truly economical experience, forgo hotspots like London, Paris, and Rome in favor of the Iberian peninsula: Porto, Lisbon, Madrid, and Seville all provide warm weather, great food, and arts and culture galore, minus the sticker shock of their higher-profile European peers. (On the continent, Prague and Berlin are also good bets.) Chasing those sunny days? You can’t go wrong with Puerto Rico, and Carolina is Vrbo’s pick for the island’s best-value destination. Up north, Calgary and Halifax offer boundless natural splendor and cultural institutions in profusion, plus a favorable exchange rate to boot. And on the other side of the world, Tokyo is an unexpectedly budget-friendly gem.

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    DESTINATION IN Florida

    Orlando

    Orlando () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and is the county seat of Orange County. In Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in July 2017, making it the 23rd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida behind Miami and Tampa. Orlando had a population of 307,573 in the 2020 census, making it the 67th-largest city in the United States, the fourth-largest city in Florida, and the state's largest inland city. The City of Orlando is nicknamed "the City Beautiful", and its symbol is the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, commonly referred to as simply the "Lake Eola fountain" at Lake Eola Park. The Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the 13th-busiest airport in the United States and the 29th-busiest in the world.Orlando is one of the most-visited cities in the world primarily due to tourism, major events, and convention traffic; in 2018, the city drew more than 75 million visitors. The two largest and most internationally renowned tourist attractions in the Orlando area are the Walt Disney World Resort, opened by the Walt Disney Company in 1971, and located about 21 miles (34 km) southwest of downtown Orlando in Bay Lake, and the Universal Orlando Resort, opened in 1990 as a major expansion of Universal Studios Florida and the only theme park inside Orlando city limits. With the exception of the theme parks, most major cultural sites like the Orlando Museum of Art and Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and world-renowned nightlife, bars and clubs are located in Downtown Orlando while most attractions are located along International Drive like the Wheel at ICON Park Orlando. The city is also one of the busiest American cities for conferences and conventions; the Orange County Convention Center is the second-largest convention facility in the United States. Like other major cities in the Sun Belt, Orlando grew rapidly from the 1970s into the first decade of the 21st century. Orlando is home to the University of Central Florida, which is the largest university campus in the United States in terms of enrollment as of 2015. In 2010, Orlando was listed as a "Gamma +" level global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.