Category Archives: Travel

Lumberjacks, Moonshine and Mountains

by Trish Utter

Lumberjacks,-Moonshine,-MountainsAre you longing to see the autumn colors, cool brisk air and the smell of the Holidays?

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are set high in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The drive into this area is breathtaking with mountains, log cabins and lots of wildlife.

This is a destination for great family gatherings as it has something for everyone, from the glitzy tourist attractions to the untamed beauty of nature. Hotels and log cabin rentals are all around. On one side of the Smokies is Gatlinburg and on the other is Pigeon Forge. You can easily travel between both towns, however, there is so much to do that you may want to plan several trips. I traveled there with my two teens, Colt and Brooke and found that even my hard-to-please teens were enjoying themselves.

Lumberjacks,-Moonshine,-Mountains2Pigeon Forge Lumberjack Feud:
This dinner show is top notch….…pun intended! One of the best dinner shows we have ever seen. Real lumberjack athletes from ESPN showcase their skills…..and believe me the girls in the audience noticed their every move. The show captures the history of logging in the area before the Smokies was declared a National Park. We marveled at the shear strength of the Lumberjacks as they climbed to the top of large logs chopping the tops off, stood on floating timbers and wielded their chain-saws. There is also singing and dancing. We all adored the Timberdogs. These specially trained dogs compete worldwide and here you get a close up view of how talented they are. Leaping into water and racing back with decoys. The show even has horses on stage! Oh, and the food! Guests enjoy a half roast chicken meal, enough for any hungry lumberjack! Great value, great show and top on our list. Check out their Holiday Show. www.lumberjackfeud.com

Gatlinburg A Walk in the Woods:
This was a highlight of my trip to Gatlinburg. A true vision of what this area is all about. We were lead on a trail that starts right in the middle of Gatlinburg’s busiest tourist area. I could not understand why our guide, Erik Plakanis was meeting us at such a touristy place. We followed him across a busy street and then into…….. a forest! Erik took us for a leisurely stroll down by a wide picturesque river. The scenery looked as if it was from a story book. Beautiful round boulders dotted the water. He stopped and pointed out leaves and their medicinal use and showed us mushrooms that were edible. Our guide even had leaves and things for us to taste. One leaf tasted just like spearmint chewing gum. We came across a pile of small white glittering rocks that was quartz. There are many trails that you can go on, some are good for small children, others for those that are more adventurous and they even have a pet friendly trail. Without our guide we would have walked right past all the amazing natural things and we certainly would never have thought that there would have been a wilderness trail right in downtown Gatlinburg. www.AWalkInTheWoods.com 865-436-8283

GatliLumberjacks,-Moonshine,-Mountains3nburg Sky Lift: You cannot enjoy the beauty and scale of the Great Smokey Mountains without a trip to the top of them in the Sky Lift. Grab a cup of coffee and relax as you ascend and make sure you take lots of breathtaking photos. Sunsets from here are spectacular. At the top is a gift and snack shop with picnic tables. After dark you will see Gatlinburg ablaze with twinkling lights. www. gatlinburgskylift.com

Hollywood Star Cars Museum: This is a large collection of cars that are mainly the creation of George Barris, who made these vehicles for TV shows and movies. Knight Rider, General Lee, the DeLorean from Back to the Future and my favorite, the Batmobile. www.StarCarsTN.com

Circus Golf in Blacklight 3D: I am not a putt-putt kinda girl but we had fun in this place. The 18 hole course is beautifully painted with a circus theme, clean and inexpensive. My teens had a blast and we all laughed our heads off. 865-436- 4415

A Brit of Magic: It was good to sit down and put our feet up for a laugh with British magician and comedian, Keith Fields. His tongue-in -cheek humor is suitable for everyone. This small venue gives you a close up personal show. My son, Colt, was called up to the stage to help with one of the many magic tricks. www.KeithFields. com 888-482-3330

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies: In Florida we see a lot of marine life…but not like this! Many say it is the best aquarium they have ever seen and tourists from all over the world descend on this special place. Large exhibits are done in natural settings. The gigantic shark Lagoon is so vast that you stand on a moving walkway while sharks and stingrays glide overhead. www.Ripleys.com/Gatlinburg.com 865-436-5096

Lumberjacks,-Moonshine,-Mountains4Pancake Pantry: You know it’s good when the locals eat there. It’s been open since 1960. Meals are very large and good for splitting with family. They specialize in exotic style pancakes such as Orange-Walnut, Red-Raspberry Crepes and Apricot-Lemon Delight to gourmet sandwiches like the Dutch Diplomat and homemade soups. We had so much food that we could not even see one bit of the table. Get there early as lines are long and bring cash as that is the only form of payment they accept. www.PancakePantry.com

We are excited to let you know that the owners of the Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs, FL, will be opening a huge resort in Gatlinburg in 2017 called, Anakeesta(TM). Anakeesta is a Cherokee word that translates to ‘place of the balsams’ or ‘place of high ground’. It is also a recognizable geographic feature found throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This ambitious project will feature a 105 room hotel, restaurants, shopping, zip lining and craft stores. There will also be a Chondola. This aerial lift is comprised of both quad chairs and gondola cabins. The resort has a website that you can visit now. www.Anakeesta.com

www.Gatlinburg.com 800-588-1817 www.MyPigeonForge.com 888-402-2390

New Orleans and All That Jazz

by Trish Utter

Hilton Riverside Hotel.

Hilton Riverside Hotel.

I drove up on Poydras Street and checked in at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. This cobble street around the hotel was bustling with street cars, cabs and bicycle taxis. The tall building seemed to go up forever. I had heard how alive this city was and could not wait to explore.

Located right by the front door of the Hilton is the trolley car that’s inexpensive and clean and runs every five minutes. The location of this hotel is unbeatable. You are right on the Mississippi River, next to an outlet mall and across the street from Harrah’s Casino. Within a short walk you are at the French Quarter and Bourbon Street is a few blocks down.

The service at the Hilton was superb and the views from the floor to ceiling windows are show stoppers. It was the perfect place to call home for a few days in New Orleans.

Sight Seeing New Orleans, Hop On- Hop Off. clever-photography-new-orleans-for-webThis is the first thing we did and I highly recommend that you do this first as it gives you a great understanding of the layout of this beautiful city. The open topped bus goes through neighborhoods and the well trained guides give you the history and tips on where to go and what to do. We found Magazine Street thanks to this tour and heard about all the great things that Brat Pitt and Angelina Jolie have done for New Orleans. The famous couple have a house near Bourbon Street and locals love them. We were also able to stop at one of the famous cemeteries and saw the Voodoo Queens Tomb. You can hop off at designated stops.
800 362 1811 www.CitySeeingNewOrleans.com


Cafe Du Monde.

Caf? Du Monde. The caf? is famous for its Beignets which are a French square doughnut that is covered in powdered sugar and their dark roasted Coffee and Chicory. If you don’t stop here you haven’t seen New Orleans. There are several locations. One of the best souvenirs to bring home is their beignet mix and coffee.
800 772 292 www.cafedumonde.com









The Best of the Beach

by Trish Utter

Siesta Key, Sarasota FL

Banana Bay Club


Banana Bay Club

This is a wonderful property for a romantic weekend or for families as every little cottage has its own kitchen and lots of
room. At the same time it is intimate, quiet and spotlessly clean. Owned by a British couple that never wanted to leave their vacation spot this destination hideaway is a bit of paradise. It is located within a few steps from a private beach and tropical warm water. The yellow and blue cottages nestle around a large pool and palm trees. A local free taxi service that works on tips will pick you up and take you into town. 888 622 6229 www.BananaBayClub.com

Boca Raton Resort & Club

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My daughter Brooke and I were excited to visit the Boca Raton Resort & Club, part of the Waldorf Astoria collection. We had heard many good things about this hotel but we were not prepared for the jaw dropping, immaculate, vast property.


I made a sharp right turn onto a palm lined driveway and there in front of us was a pink…… Boca Pink, gatehouse and behind that a large fountain and topiary trees. “We are expecting you Ms. Utter, enjoy your stay” said the guard. I drove down the drive slowly to take in the beautifully manicured gardens and pulled up to the main entrance. One bellman opened my door and another opened the passenger door for Brooke. We had arrived!

Mall of America – The Ultimate Shopping Destination

by Trish Utter

Crave_WEB Christmas shopping can be stressful, chaotic and bewildering. In saying all this I tried a new approach by taking the kids to the one and only Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The mall is within a few minutes from Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport.

Roller-Coaster-Wide_WEBUsually on trips to the mall my son, Colt age 14 is begging me to stay at home but this trip he was actually looking forward to and so was his sister, Brooke age 12, as they had heard that there was an indoor roller coaster in the center of this mall. Turned out that it was a full size amusement park called Nickelodeon Universe with 25 rides and attractions all decorated in slime green and located right in the center of the mall under a massive, landscaped glass dome that is kept at a comfortable 70 degrees all year long.

Nick-Universe_WEBWe got onto every ride without any lines! Colt’s favorite rides were Avatar Air Bender as it gently throws riders 70 feet in the air and spins you around. Tak Attack was Colt’s second best as he loved the way it spun you upside down and pulls you through gravity to the sky and Brooke loved the Log Chute and…shopping, shopping, shopping!

While at Nickelodeon Universe are we came across Butterfly Bay that houses nearly 750 different varieties of butterflies and is an Eco Friendly exhibit. We also caught a glimpse of Lego Imagination Center; this is heaven for the Lego enthusiast as it is four stories high with over 90 models and tons to play with.

Living the GOOD LIFE at the Beach

By Trish Utter

Beach_WEBI walked out of my hotel room for a moonlight walk on the beach and found a wildlife area within a short distance. No lights, no buildings, no cars. I saw some turtle nests and birds. The beach was lit up by the moon with just the sound of the waves and the shimmering lights from downtown Sarasota were sparkling in the distance. I felt as if I was on a deserted island.

Located in Sarasota at Lido Key on miles of private white, soft, sand and brimming with Old Florida charm sits the Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel. A huge salt water fish tank located in the lobby immediately puts you in a tropical state of mind. Rooms are large and comfortable and have cable TV, safe, coffee maker, free Wi-Fi and refrigerator and the balconies overlook the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Lobby_WEBAs soon as you are on the beach you are greeted by a member of staff that whisks out beach chairs for you. I must say that the staff is extremely attentive, even the room service staff seemed to know what we needed before we did.

Guests are able to rent umbrellas, bicycles, Aqua Cycles, Hobie Cats , and Kayaks. The water on the Gulf is warm and usually calm making it a safe place for families with young children.

The hotel has good old fashioned family fun with Ping Pong, Shuffleboard, gym and Volleyball. The Pool bar offers cocktails and snacks. There is a gift shop and two heated pools, one of which is huge with tons of chairs, umbrellas and tables. The Candlelight Restaurant specializes in steak and seafood. Breakfast and lunch is served at Sandcastle Coffee Shop. I tested the restaurant out by ordering a fish sandwich…it was delicious. The food reasonably priced just like the rooms.

Trish-on-a-board_WEBSt. Armands Circle is just minutes away where you will find restaurants and ritzy boutiques that are open late …don’t forget an ice cream at Kilwins!

Something I always wanted to do but was a bit nervous about was Paddle Boarding…….yes if I did it you can too! ‘I Kayak Sarasota’ will teach you in seconds how to stand up and paddle. It is a great way to exercise and see the wild life. The boards are like oversized surf boards that you stand on and paddle, it was easy and a ton of fun.

Give yourself a break and enjoy, The Good Life!

Helmsley Sandcastle Hotel

I Kayak Sarasota

Williamsburg – Celebrate the Holidays Colonial Style

by Trish Utter

DSCF9681_WEBThe sound of horse’s hooves, the odd gunshot and speeches that shaped this country into being the United States of America are all part of the fabric of the 18th- century, colonial village of Williamsburg, Virginia.

C.W., as it is fondly named is located a few hours south of Washington D.C. in what’s called ‘Americas Historic Triangle’ which is comprised of Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center.

Williamsburg was brought back to its heyday in 1926 so that the way of Colonial life would be preserved for all generations to see. This is a fully working town where visitors get an interactive experience with the daily lives of the first generation of Americans.

The Capital

The Capital

Children often shudder at the thought of looking at a museum but in C.W. you will find it hard to drag them away. You will hear the laughter of children as you enter The Powell House as kids get to feed the chickens, make the beds, see a Holiday meal being made and take part in an 18th century dance in the front parlor.

Watch and listen to actors as they debate the virtues of being an independent nation at The Revolutionary City and visit The Capitol and hear about the issues that were discussed during the times around the American Revolution to get a real sense of what life was like over 225 years ago. It all centers along The Duke of Gloucester Street which is lined with 18th century style stores filled with handmade items. Shop for a pewter tea pot, old fashioned candy at Wythe Candy store, 18th century toys at the Toymaker of Williamsburg, fashions of the day and even a wig to top off your new look!

My Top Picks for Las Vegas

by Trish Utter

Vegas-Strip_WEBThis was the first time we had visited Las Vegas and we had a blast. The airport is right next to the city making the trip to the ‘Strip’ stress free and easy. As you come in for a landing you immediately see the oasis of landmark hotels surrounded by the natural beauty and wilderness of the land.

Pink Jeep Tours

Pink-Jeep-Tours_WEBWhen I arrive in a new place I like to get my bearings by going on a tour. Pink Jeep Tours pick guests up right from their hotel. These pink Jeeps are high up off the ground. Passengers sit in luxury as the tour guide comments on the sights. The first trip we did with them was their Las Vegas City Tour.

The Strip sparkled with lights as we passed all the amazing hotels. We stopped at the famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign and visited the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop from the TV show ‘Pawn Stars’ and had a light dinner nearby. Then we got to spend time on Fremont Street that has thousands of lights strung across it making you feel as if you are in a glittering tunnel. Here we watched street performers and had our pictures taken with show girls and impersonators. I was surprised at how clean and orderly Vegas is. I could not believe we had seen so much in only our first day.