Tips for Booking an Arctic Circle Cruise from AdventureSmith Explorations

Todd Smith, small ship cruise expert and founder of AdventureSmith Explorations, discusses the variables of itineraries and small ships cruising the Arctic Circle.
Todd Smith, small ship cruise expert and founder of AdventureSmith Explorations, discusses the variables of itineraries and small ships cruising the Arctic Circle.

TAHOE CITY, CA – The Arctic is on many bucket lists thanks to polar bears and Northern Lights. But what else may travelers anticipate on a cruise in the Arctic Circle? And what questions should they ask when booking a cruise on the Arctic Ocean, the world’s smallest and shallowest ocean that is fringed by eight countries?

Todd Smith, small ship cruise expert and founder of AdventureSmith Explorations, (http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/) discusses the variables of itineraries and small ships plying this region, home to four million people living in the shadow of Viking conquests and explorers. His sage advice, “How to Choose Your Arctic Cruise”, shares what he calls “an incredible range of conditions” in the May through September Arctic summer. These conditions help to determine itineraries and therefore passenger experiences.

For example, early season (late May through early July) polar bears on ice floes are prevalent. In July and August ice is more disbursed, allowing land access and explorations of nutrient-rich waters favored by whales. September nights bring the magnificent aurora borealis.

The experiences guests seek may also determine the ship they choose. AdventureSmith Explorations‘ fleet of expedition ships cruising to the Arctic carry 78 to 148 guests and are specially outfitted to travel in polar waters. They are all fairly similar in terms of ice class and amenities. For more intimate explorations, this company also recommends a fleet of vessels carrying just 16 to 20 guests that offer the same close-up exploration as larger expedition ships but also provide access to shallow harbors and small islands.

The length of a cruise and the price also come into play, said Smith. Following is a handful of specials for 2016 Arctic cruises.

The 11-day Home of Vikings cruise is aboard the 116-guest Sea Spirit. The per person double rate is from $4,995; however for bookings on a May 20, 2016, departure two guests sharing the same cabin may travel for the price of one. This specific tour through fjords in the High Arctic begins in Iceland and explores South and West Greenland in search of whales and other arctic wildlife. Guests explore the town of Nanortalik at the mouth of beautiful Tasermiut Fjord surrounded by steep mountains that flank an intricate fjord system. They soak in geothermal waters watching the icebergs pass by in Uunartoq. And they visit the enchanting West Greenlandic tiny settlements of Qaqortoq, Hvalsey Qassiarsuk. Paamiut, Nuuk, Itteliq and Sisimiut to discover Viking history and witness urban arctic living amongst the colorful homes. Sea kayaking along this rugged coastline is a favorite pastime on this adventure. See: https://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/home-of-vikings-greenland-iceland-arctic-small-ship-expedition

Polar guests will save up to 25 percent with an Early Booking Discount for designated Arctic cruises in 2016; up to 25 percent on premium cabins and 15 percent on non-premium cabins aboard select Sea Adventurer and Ocean Nova 2016 departures booked by April 15, 2016. Triple and Quad cabins are excluded. This discount cannot be combined with other offers and is subject to availability. Excluded are the following departures: June 12 Spitsbergen Explorer, July 4 Spitsbergen Circumnavigation and August 15 Three Arctic Islands. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/special-offers?dest=1187

Guests save 15 percent on AdventureSmith’s Realm of the Polar Bear on departures between June 13 and Aug. 10, 2016 if booked by March 1, 2016. See: http://www.adventuresmithexplorations.com/realm-of-the-polar-bear

For information on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises, itineraries, availability and 2016-2017 reservations, Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or visit www.adventuresmithexplorations.com.

 

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Granddaughter of Byrd Expedition’s Chief Engineer Joins ExploringCircle’s Cruise to Antarctica to Follow his Footsteps

Marjorie Adams plans to join ExploringCircle’s cruise to Antarctica so she can follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, Walter Kerr Queen, who served as Chief Engineer on one of Admiral Byrd's two ships that explored the frozen continent.
Marjorie Adams plans to join ExploringCircle’s cruise to Antarctica so she can follow in the footsteps of her grandfather, Walter Kerr Queen, who served as Chief Engineer on one of Admiral Byrd’s two ships that explored the frozen continent.

SEATTLE, WA – The lure of the Poles is legendary. Especially the South Pole. Consider Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s third expedition between 1914 and 1916 that left his ship, Endurance, crushed by ice and his men reduced to tossing about in lifeboats on a stormy sea. Consider Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, Jr., who visited the Arctic and Antarctica. Most recently Henry Worsley, a well-connected Brit on a solo land crossing of Antarctica died in this pursuit in January.

But in stark contrast to the arduous challenges and dangers of those early explorations, today’s expedition ships that probe the allure of Antarctica are appointed for cruise travelers and offer organized on-and off-ship activities.  And on one Antarctica cruise in 2016, a granddaughter of the Chief Engineer of the SS Jacob Ruppert, one of Byrd’s two ships from the 1933-1934 expedition, will visit the frozen continent. She will be traveling with Seattle-based environmental crusader ExploringCircle, a new company that combines a long adventure travel legacy with a strong sense of purpose.

“I feel that by doing this it can give my grandfather, Walter Kerr Queen, a voice,” says Marjorie Adams. “He was in the company of much better-known names. But he is the person who made sure this steamship’s engine didn’t break down.”

antarctica-explorcircle-QueenQueen had made his mark and money by designing improved expansion joints for industrial steam systems, a venture begun in his garage in Needham, MA. Eventually his work was known to Byrd who personally called upon Queen to accompany his second expedition to Antarctica. Queen, who was a Lieutenant Commander in the US Naval Reserve in World War I, was assigned to SS Jacob Ruppert, a steel vessel. The other, USS Bear, a wooden vessel, would over-winter. The premise was that if disaster struck, the wooden ship might not sink but most certainly the steel vessel would. Now available in paperback through Amazon is Discovery: The story of the Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition (Admiral Byrd Classics).

“The family story is that my grandfather wanted to travel as far north as he did south, after returning in 1934,” adds Adams. In 1937 her grandfather traveled on a Hudson Bay Company supply ship, SS Nascopie, into the eastern Arctic. She took a similar trip in 2009, traveling with a niece north to Elsmere Island.

“My niece and I were chatting about where we might like to go on vacation. My niece turned Grandpa’s words around: ‘I’d like to go as far south as I’ve been north.’”

So Adams and her niece are booked on Antarctica Peninsula: Last Discovered Continent, a 12-day adventure that begins and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina after coming and going through Drake Passage to reach the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula and the Antarctic Continent.

Guests tour the region through the icebergs by Zodiak and kayak and have the option also to camp. They are on M/V Sea Spirit, a classic luxury expedition ship that boasts spacious suites, two restaurants, an open-bridge policy and an elevator. The Sea Spirit’s stabilizer fins will help to make the crossing comfortable. This journey is available from November through February at a per person double rate starting at $5,995. For more information on this trip please see http://www.exploringcircle.com/antarctica-peninsula-1

With decades of experience leading Antarctica travel and helping adventurers realize their polar dreams, ExploringCircle specializes in helping clients arrange the Antarctica cruise that is the right fit for each client. Details on other cruises of this region are available at http://www.exploringcircle.com/antarctica-travel. Some of these cruises offer savings of up to $4,000 on select cabin bookings on specified itineraries.

Before they travel, Adams and her niece, as with all of ExploringCircle guests, will be invited to examine ExploringCircle’s six related environmental causes, choosing one to which to pledge their support. This conversation is vital to the company’s mission. By talking about, for example, plastic detritus in oceans, young and old alike while on a cruise can wrap their minds around threats to ocean waters and to marine and wildlife. ExploringCircle in turn Pays-it-Forward by donating up to five percent of client fee to the environmental cause chosen.

“We listen to our guests and use decades of experience to help them realize their travel dreams. In doing so, we fund hope,” says Kristy Royce, founder.  “Leave No Trace Behind is no longer enough.”

Founded in August 2015 but with a legacy that spans over two decades, ExploringCircle (http://www.exploringcircle.com/) is a new company with a diverse adventure travel history and a strong sense of purpose. ExploringCircle sends travelers on journeys of discovery and adventure and then donates up to 5 percent of the trip’s cost to organizations working to make Earth a better place. ExploringCircle combines the joy of travel with a social consciousness built upon three primary principles: To send people on amazing trips / To engage people around important environmental and social issues / To direct funds to groups actively working on those causes.

Water, the Elixir of Life, is ExploringCircle’s first Pay it Forward theme. Issues include clean water and sanitation, plastics in water, vanishing ice and sea level rise. These causes will lead ExploringCircle guests to Alaska, Amazon, Antarctica, Arctic, Baja, Galapagos Islands, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Islands, Peru and Central America.

For reservations and information visit www.exploringcircle.com, email kristyr@exploringcicle.com or call 800.201.8074. Follow ExploringCircle on Social Media:  www.facebook.com/ExploringCircle and www.pinterest.com/exploringcircle.

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Holiday River Expeditions Celebrates 50 Years by Honoring Late Founder’s Legacy

Holiday River Expeditions is marking its 50th anniversary by honoring the legacy of founder Dee Holladay.
Holiday River Expeditions is marking its 50th anniversary by honoring the legacy of founder Dee Holladay.

SALT LAKE CITY, UT– The late Dee Holladay was an adventurer, entrepreneur, family man and rafting visionary. The company he founded in 1966 with his wife Sue, Holiday River Expeditions, has stood the test of time and in 2016 will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Observances surrounding this milestone year will include reunion weekends and commemorative t-shirts but the main focus will be to honor Dee Holladay’s legacy as a rafting pioneer and staunch environmentalist who helped shape today’s river rafting industry.

Holladay died of natural causes on Father’s Day, June 21, 2015, surrounded by family at the age 78. Today his children and grandchildren remain committed to his vision and principles and look to guide the company into the future.

Holladay-SueMember of the River Runners Hall of Fame, Holladay was a fourth-generation Utahn whose ancestor John Daniel Holladay was the founder of the city (southeast of Salt Lake City) that still bears the family name. A visionary for western river preservation and resource education, Dee was also an inspirational river guide for scores of people, young and old. “His pulpit was an inflatable raft and his voice was quiet and smooth, yet his stories commanded the attention of tens of thousands of people from every walk of life, whether it was on one of his trips for Holiday River Expeditions, or in his relaxing backyard,” shared Utah Rivers Council.

“Dee and his guides formed a magneto of positive energy that if you loved being outside and had any appreciation at all for wild and free things you just couldn’t resist being near it. By his presence and aura, Dee quite simply changed more lives than anyone I have ever known,” said son-in-law John Wood, Co-Owner and President of Holiday River Expeditions.

Wood believes, as did Holladay, that “to effect change, find a release and experience renewal, you must choose to do things differently. Holiday River Expeditions is different.”  When other river outfitters found that adding motors to rafts would increase guest capacity and enable more trips, shorter in duration, Holiday River Expeditions has remained committed to only using muscle-powered oar boats, paddle rafts and inflatable kayaks.

Holladay believed that without the speed and noise of motors, the smaller human-powered rafts bring guests close enough to the experience to become a part of it. He also made sure his rafts and gear were custom-designed, made with comfort and safety in mind.

Maintaining the family connection that includes long-term staff, and the selection and training of exceptional guides who enhance the guest’s understanding but don’t get in the way of nature and the raw experience are top priorities for the future according to John Wood.  To sustain this integrity, Holiday plans not to expand, but rather focus inwards, investing in the quality of their operations.

“Dee went beyond just conservation and preservation. He got to the heart of the interconnection of all things and rivers,” said Lauren Wood, Holladay’s granddaughter. This is the legacy that Holiday River Expeditions hopes to honor and continue. Holladay’s concerns were always twofold: People should be safe while having fun on the river; and their presence in the natural world would not be a deterrent if they understood how special wilderness is.

River Runners Hall of Fame director Tim Glenn said Holladay earned the honor for pioneering “many whitewater safety techniques, camping techniques (he introduced fire pans and portable toilets to his programs) and wilderness ethics adopted in management plans by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.” As an innovator, many of his raft designs are still used today.

As the company enters its 50th year a number of observances are being planned. One activity is a River Guides Rendezvous that will bring past and present Holiday boatmen and guides onto the Green River for a weekend reunion that includes fun competitions and storytelling. Also, repeat guests who travel with the company in 2016 will receive a custom-designed anniversary T-shirt. Items will also be available for purchase through Holiday’s online store.

For more information, availability, reservations or a copy of the 2016 catalog call 800-624-6323, Email: Holiday@BikeRaft.com or log on www.bikeraft.com.

 

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World Spree Travel Offers Air-Inclusive Trip featuring India’s Colorful Holi Festival

World Spree Travel's 12-day Incredible India tour includes the colorful Holi Festival (photo courtesy of World Spree Travel).
World Spree Travel’s 12-day Incredible India tour includes the colorful Holi Festival (photo courtesy of World Spree Travel).

Bellevue, WA— Spring brings India’s famous Holi Festival, the most colorful celebration imaginable and World Spree Travel has organized a trip to take in the festival on a 12-day tour that visits India’s Golden Triangle: the capital, Delhi; the city of the Taj Mahal, Agra; and the famous “pink city,” Jaipur, plus two days and two overnights in Ranthambhore National Park to see the elusive royal Bengal tiger. The tour, including air fare from San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, departs March 5, 2017.

For good reason, Holi is also called the Festival of Colors.  Friends, family and even strangers paint the town and its inhabitants, rubbing colored powder on each other’s faces. Some celebrants get really carried away and throw the powder and colored water at each other in a true explosion of color.  Though it is a Hindu religious festival, it is also a Technicolor feast for  photographers.

Based on ancient Hindu legends, the festival starts with huge bonfires that symbolize the victory of good over evil (and also burn away the remains of winter). The following day begins with the throwing of colors, then singing and dancing, eating and drinking and exchanging gifts in a great joyous spectacle.    The celebration on the streets even bridges the usual social barriers and rich and poor, high and low, everyone tosses colors, hugs and wishes the other “Happy Holi.”

World Spree Travel’s India Holi trip, departing March 5, 2017, starts at $1,999 and includes round-trip flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Houston, luxury hotels, daily buffet breakfast, six other meals, sightseeing with entrance fees, wonderful guides and baggage handling.  The 12-day tour visits India’s Golden Triangle: the capital, Delhi; the city of the Taj Mahal, Agra; and the famous “pink city,” Jaipur, plus two days and two overnights in Ranthambhore National Park to see the elusive royal Bengal tiger. Joining in Jaipur’s Holi Festival, World Spree tour participants are given special white clothing to face the riot of colors, while they enjoy special drinks, snacks and local performers who sing, dance and make merry.

For more information about World Spree’s Incredible India Holi tour, visit www.worldspree.com and click “Tour Packages” and then “India,”  or call 866-652-5656.

 

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Rail-Trails Conservancy Taking Registrations for 3 Remaining Sojourn Bike Tours

Riders on Rail-Trails Conservancy's Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage pass through the Eastern Continental Divide. This year, RTC has expanded the Sojourn series to four hosted bike tours (photo courtesy of Rail-Trails Conservancy).
Riders on Rail-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage pass through the Eastern Continental Divide. This year, RTC has expanded the Sojourn series to four hosted bike tours (photo courtesy of Rail-Trails Conservancy).

For the first time in the 14 years of hosting a Sojourn bike tour showcasing a rail-trail, the Rail-Trails Conservancy has expanded the series to four rides: the first, in Florida, was held in February. The next, on the popular Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, is scheduled May 6-8, the third is a four-day/three-night North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg, West Virginia (June 19-22 and the last is four-days/three nights from Cleveland to Columbus on the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, Ohio in September (date to be announced). 

“The Sojourn Series is much more than just a bike ride. It’s a trail building tool for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and allows us to pull advocacy into participants’ trail use experience.”

The sojourn rides are crafted to weave experiences that go beyond simply riding from point A to point B. Each sojourn aims to transform trail users into advocates and create the economic case for trail networks nationwide.

For example, the West Virginia Sojourn is being held on the North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg WV. It is an incredible trail but does not yet connect to the two communities on either end, Parkersburg and Clarksburg. This ride serves to bring attention to those gaps and advocate for their completion. The corridor is also part of a much larger trail development effort being undertaken by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition.

“The West Virginia ride will allow you to get on a new trail and take part in some of the advocacy that our organization is known for.”

The May ride is on a 120-mile section of the Great Allegheny Passage, to allow for a short, three-day excursion (a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend). from Meyersdale to Pittsburgh.

The ride features gorgeous mountain vistas and relaxing river scenes, historic bridges and tunnels that showcase the GAP’s railway heritage. Highlights include Historic Pump House (Homestead), Salisbury Viaduct, Casselman River Valley, and Great Allegheny Passage Trail towns: Meyersdale, West Newton, Confluence and Ohiopyle

Repurposed from a rail line, the Great Allegheny Passage is one of the most popular trails, and was the first inductee in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Rail-Trail “Hall of Fame.”

Since 2001, more than 3,000 riders have joined RTC’s sojourns—many of them on the GAP. These rides not only highlight incredible trails, but they also help empower communities to complete trail networks that will benefit the entire region.

Equally importantly, they highlight the economic benefit to communities, particularly those who have seen older industries shut down, along with the rail lines.

RTC’s 2015 Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn brought visitors from 35 states and had an economic impact of more than $245,000 – something significant for a town like Dunbar, Pennsylvania, which once depended upon mining.

The rail-trail could be an engine for a new economy fueled by lodging, restaurants and gear shops. In fact, RTC estimates that the trail would generate more than $40 million in direct spending from trail users annually.

“The Sojourn Series is a real-world example that show how trails can provide an economic boon to local economies,” says Liz Thorstensen, vice president of trail development for RTC. “By providing these rides, we’re creating more opportunities for people to experience and advocate for these trail networks.”

For more information about the rides and to register, visit railstotrails.org/sojourn.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 160,000 members and supporters, is the nation’s largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.railstotrails.org.

 

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Chasing Epic, a New Adventure Tour Company, Reinvents Mountain Bike Vacations

Chasing Epic adventure travel company aims to raise the bar and set new standards in the mountain biking world.
Chasing Epic adventure travel company aims to raise the bar and set new standards in the mountain biking world.

BOULDER, CO – Steve Mokan is looking to change the way mountain bikers experience the best trails in the Western US.  The result is the recent launch of his new mountain bike tour company, Chasing Epic, which aims to raise the bar and set new standards in the mountain biking world. The focus is to offer intermediate and experienced riders fully all-inclusive, locally guided mountain bike trips where those in-the-know most want to bike — the American West – and when everybody has the time – over long weekends. Guests just need to be reasonably experienced and pack a helmet, shoes and appetite for epic single track adventure.
Mokan, a long-time Colorado mountain biker and a veteran of the adventure sports world, has worked with adventure travel companies, outdoor gear manufacturers, and ski resorts across the West as a professional photographer with his other venture, Switchback Photography.  Over a 10-year commercial journey he saw a glaring hole in the present mountain bike adventure travel industry.

“Participants on most mountain biking adventures today are being asked to bring too much to the table before the fun even begins,” he says. “Without proper guidance and advice it can be daunting in busy professional and family schedules to follow a checklist of pre-trip preparation, specialized gear and shipment of your own bike (or choosing from a fleet of rentals) before getting on a trail.”

He says Chasing Epic fills that gap and provides a better overall experience for people who love to ride “by anticipating guest needs then partnering with the biggest names in the bike industry to put together the most all-inclusive and rewarding mountain bike vacations in today’s marketplace.  With our trips, we take care of absolutely everything- all you have to do is show up and ride!”

Chasing Epic’s adventures include inn and hotel lodging (never camping), hearty meals, high-end demo bikes (an all-carbon demo bike fleet includes Ibis Mojo HD3s, Ibis Ripley LS 29ers, and Niner Jet 9 29ers), local guides conversant with the terrain, customized eight-week pre-trip training programs, best-in-class ride nutrition, shuttles and lift tickets, gratuities and a dedicated on-site trip leader to help control gear mashers and share the stories and laughs with a group of like-minded riders.

The destinations for these adventures are, in Colorado; Crested Butte, Durango, Fruita and Telluride, in Arizona; Sedona, and in Utah; Park City and St. George.

Unlike traditional point-A-to-point-B mountain bike tour companies, Chasing Epic stays in a single town in each destination and dedicates itineraries to daily rides that cover a variety of the most epic singletrack trails (known and unknown) in each area.

“This is possible by working with local guides who have been riding and building trails in these destinations for decades.  Each itinerary is unique, you’ll never ride the same set of trails twice with us. We also make sure we’re hitting these locations at the best time of the year: the Desert Southwest in the spring, Crested Butte and Park City in July (wildflowers), and the mountain towns in the fall for the changing aspens,” he underscores.

On pre-set scheduled trips the per person rates are $950 for three days and $1,250 for four days, regardless of location. For private, exclusive customized trips the per person rate is $1,150 for three days and $1,450 for four days based on a group of six or more.

On the premise that “the less you suffer on the climbs, the more you’ll enjoy the descents,” Mokan has engaged coaching platform companies Training Peaks and Through the Wall Training to customize individualized training programs (valued at up to $400) for eight weeks prior to departure.

He emphasizes that these trips aren’t for touring and sightseeing. “At Chasing Epic, we pride ourselves on putting together itineraries of only the best trail systems in each location, and we don’t waste time with sightseeing rides. You’ll be on singletrack from start to finish.”

Contact Chasing Epic at http://chasingepicmtb.com/ or email steve@chasingepicmtb.com or telephone 303.949.3933.

 

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Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium, April 8 – 10 in Death Valley National Park

The Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium is hosted by the SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Astrobiology Institute, National Park Service and Death Valley Natural History Association. Visitors of all ages are invited to attend (photo by Robert Fulton).
The Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium is hosted by the SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Astrobiology Institute, National Park Service and Death Valley Natural History Association. Visitors of all ages are invited to attend (photo by Robert Fulton).

DEATH VALLEY –For decades, the remarkable terrain of Death Valley has been one of scientists’ favorite stand-ins for Mars due to its arid climate and unique geology: Death Valley. Now the public has a chance to explore the region’s alien-like landscape and experience what life on Mars might be like with the Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium 2016, a three-day, free public festival that will be held April 8-10, 2016 in Death Valley National Park.

The Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium is a night sky and space festival that brings together educators, scientists, the public and National Park enthusiasts looking to learn more about Earth, Mars and the rest of the solar system. Participants will enjoy guided field trips to Death Valley’s rugged, otherworldly terrain that serves as researching and testing sites for places on Mars, such as Mars Hill, the Ubehebe Crater, and Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Other weekend events include panel discussions and lectures about current research and exploration; a Day Time Expo for visitors to experience what is happening in the cosmos; a Night Time Expo complete with telescopes to view the universe and beyond; a campfire program and stargazing event; and numerous family-friendly, hands-on events and activities.

The Celestial Centennial and MarsFest Symposium is hosted by the SETI Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Astrobiology Institute, National Park Service and Death Valley Natural History Association. Visitors of all ages are invited to attend, with more information, a schedule of events, and details on how to register available at www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/celestial-centennial.htm.

With Celestial Centennial and MarsFest events centered around Furnace Creek, the ideal place to stay is the oasis at Furnace Creek Resort, including the family-friendly Ranch at Furnace Creek, with its towering palm trees and true oasis atmosphere situated on the desert floor, and the more sophisticated and refined Inn at Furnace Creek. Fed by natural spring waters, The Ranch boasts a large pool, golf course (the lowest on Earth), post office, general store, casual dining restaurants, horseback riding and 224 rooms.  The romantic, historic AAA Four Diamond, Inn at Furnace Creek, nestled into the mountainside where the spring bubbles forth, was built in the late 1920s by the Borax Company and features 66 elegant rooms, fine dining, verandas with sweeping views of Death Valley, opulent gardens, a stunning spring-fed pool, tennis courts and pool-side massages.

Rates begin at $239 for The Ranch and $449 for The Inn, are subject to availability and do not include taxes and resort fees.

Furnace Creek Resort is two hours west of Las Vegas by car and a four-hour drive from Los Angeles.

For additional information, call 800-236-7916 or visit www.furnacecreekresort.com.

 

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Backroads Offers Selection of Spring Break Family Adventures, from Florida to Costa Rica to Hawaii

Visiting the Butterfly Sanctuary in Key West. Backroads is offering a series of family adventures to places from the Florida Keys and Everglades, to Costa Rica, to Hawaii © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Visiting the Butterfly Sanctuary in Key West. Backroads is offering a series of family adventures to places from the Florida Keys and Everglades, to Costa Rica, to Hawaii © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

BERKELEY, CA –Backroads, a leading active travel company, has just introduced a slew of spring break trips for the whole family, ranging from Florida’s Key West and the Everglades to Hawaii’s Big Island, Costa Rica, Palm Springs and beyond. The all-inclusive family adventures offer a perfect blend of activity choices for all ages including biking, hiking, kayaking, cultural exploration, great food and unlimited opportunities for adventure.

Backroads makes traveling easy for families by handling all of the planning and logistics and making booking a breeze. Families traveling with Backroads find it easier to engage with the destination, with everything taken care of, there is less family tension and as kids unplug from their electronics opportunities for interaction abound. Each itinerary balances quality time together and apart, with welcome opportunities for everyone to take a break and recharge—usually impossible on a family vacation.

“Spring break is an ideal time to embark on a family adventure. Many of our destinations are not as crowded as in the summer and the school break is a welcome respite for busy kids and their parents,” said Backroads Founder and President, Tom Hale. “Because we take care of all the details, families can fully relax and enjoy their time together, and even book last minute knowing we have reservations at the popular hotspots.”

Some of the most popular family trips planned for spring break 2016 include:

California’s Palm Springs & Joshua Tree Bike Tour (new in 2016), March 28-31:
Bike on quiet roads amid gravity-defying rock formations and Joshua trees, rock climbing, pool time at luxury hotels, bird watching, hiking and more.

Everglades to Key West Family Multisport Adventure Tour (March 6-11, March 20-25, March 27 – April 1): Winter sunshine in America’s Caribbean – biking, walking & hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, glass-bottom boat rides, history, culture and relaxation

Hawaii’s Big Island Family Multisport Adventure Tour (March 13-18, March 20-25, March 27-April 1, April 3-8): Big-Time Fun on the Big Island from Coast to Crater

Costa Rica Family Multisport Adventure Tour (Family Breakaway and Family departures), April 4-8: From Arenal Volcano to the Pristine Pacific Coast

Santa Barbara & Ojai Valley Family Bike Tour (April 4-8): Rolling Waves and Rolling Hills on California’s Coast

Ecuador: Galapagos & Andes Multisport Adventure Tour (March 20-27):Ancient Culture & Wondrous Wildlife in Ecuador’s Islands & Highlands

Caribbean Family Adventure Multisport Tour (new in 2016), March 21-26 and April 4-9: Beaches, Rain Forest and Volcanoes on Nevis & St. Kitts

Argentina’s Lake District Family Multisport Adventure Tour (new in 2016), March 20-27: National Parks & Epicurean Delights in Patagonia

Belize and Guatemala Family Multisport Adventure Tour (March 13-19, March 20-26, March 27- April 2): Jungles, Maya Temples & The Barrier Reef

More information about Backroads’ family adventures is at www.backroads.com/award-winning-tours/family.

Backroads was founded in 1979 by Tom Hale and has been in business for more than 37 years. The company hosts thousands of guests, 80% of whom are repeat guests or referrals from past guests, in hundreds of locations across the globe. Backroads was named one of the top 100 places to work by Outside magazine in 2015, and is a founding member of the Adventure Collection. For more information, visit www.backroads.com or call 800-462-2848.

 

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3 Berkshires Hotels Offer Value-added Art Appreciation Packages This Winter

The historic Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA, immortalized in Norman Rockwell's painting © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The historic Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA, immortalized in Norman Rockwell’s painting © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

STOCKBRIDGE, MA  – Widely recognized as a Northeast hub for culture and music, the Berkshires are enticing travelers to find artistic inspiration this winter during Art Appreciation Season. Three renowned properties under the Main Street Hospitality Group umbrella, Porches at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Hotel on North in Pittsfield and the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, have banded together to offer visitors value-added stays and access to the region’s  leading museums.

“Art has a year-round home in the Berkshires with more than 30 museums and several renowned theater companies in the region. We’ve coined this Art Appreciation Season to help visitors find creative ways to enjoy the quieter winter months in the Berkshires,” says Janet Eason, vice president of marketing at Main Street Hospitality Group. “Each of the three properties are conveniently located with an array of cultural events and inventive regional cuisine nearby for guests to enjoy.”

While seasonal favorites like Tanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow “take five” for the winter, visitors can tour numerous indoor galleries at places like the Clark Art Institute and Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown or MASS MoCA, one of the country’s largest contemporary art museums, in North Adams. and the Norman Rockwell Museum (9 Route 183 Stockbridge , MA 01262, www.nrm.org). In Pittsfield, the 10×10 Upstreet Festival draws a crowd each February with ten 10-minute plays by 10 playwrights at the Barrington Stage Company and “10 Days of Play” at the Berkshire Museum.

Main Street Hospitality Group welcomes Art Appreciation Season with three value-added packages, including:

“Museum Mania!” at Porches Inn at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA

Located across from MASS MoCA in North Adams, Porches Inn offers guests overnight accommodations with the “Museum Mania!” package. Also included are breakfast and two passes for two to MASS MoCA and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Rates start at $219 on weekdays and $275 on weekends, per night. Offer valid now through May 19, 2016, based on availability. Blackout dates may apply. For more information, call 413-664-0400 or visit http://www.porches.com/.

“Museum Break” at Hotel on North in Pittsfield, MA

In celebration of the fifth annual 10×10 Upstreet Festival, Hotel on North invites guests to make winter break a true work of art with the “Museum Break” package, available from February 12 through 21, 2016. The package includes overnight accommodations and two adult passes to the Berkshire Museum. Children’s tickets can be purchased at the hotel’s front desk. Kids also eat for free when ordering from designated kids menu and receive a special Lego toy upon check-in (10 years and under). Prices start at $270 per night, based on double occupancy. Blackout dates may apply. For more information, call 413-358-4741 or visit http://hotelonnorth.com/ 

“The Norman Rockwell Experience” at Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA

A living museum in its own right, Stockbridge’s Red Lion Inn offers guests overnight accommodations, breakfast for two and two passes to the treasured Norman Rockwell Museum. Rates begin at $235 on weekdays and $305 on weekends, per night, inclusive of taxes and meal gratuities. Offer valid for booking now through May 26, 2016, based on availability. Blackout dates may apply. The Red Lion, made famous in Norman Rockwell’s painting, is a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, call 413-298-5545 or visit http://www.redlioninn.com/.

For more information on Art Appreciation Season, visit the dedicated landing page here.

Formed in 2013, Main Street Hospitality Group is a hotel management company founded originally at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with a long tradition of excellence in preservation, innovation, sustainability and operations. As owners and operators of some of the most distinctive hotels in the Berkshires, the company’s mission is to deliver unparalleled experiences for guests, employees and owners through an authentic approach to hospitality, service, and management. Main Street’s management hotel portfolio includes The Red Lion Inn, The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA, The Williams Inn, Williamstown, MA, and Hotel on North, Pittsfield, MA.  For more information, visit www.mainstreethospitalitygroup.com or call 413-298-1610.

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Obama Designates 3 New National Monuments in California Desert

Sand to Snow National Monument (National Forest Service)
Sand to Snow National Monument (National Forest Service)

President Obama has designated three new national monuments in the California desert, encompassing nearly 1.8 million acres of America’s public lands. Building on the Administration’s commitment to protect our land and water for future generations, today’s designations will nearly double the number of acres of public lands previously protected as national monuments by President Obama–– demonstrating the Administration’s strong commitment to aggressive action to protect the environment for future generations.

In addition to permanently protecting incredible natural resources, wildlife habitat and unique historic and cultural sites, and providing recreational opportunities for a burgeoning region, the monuments will support climate resiliency in the region and further advance the President’s unprecedented work to address climate change. The new monuments link already protected lands, including Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve, and 15 congressionally-designated Wilderness areas, permanently protecting key wildlife corridors and providing plants and animals with the space and elevation range that they will need in order to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined members of Congress, state and local officials, and local business and community leaders in applauding the President’s designation of the Sand to Snow National Monument, Mojave Trails National Monument, and Castle Mountains National Monument in southern California.

The new monuments, located in San Bernardino and Riverside counties about one hour from the Los Angeles metropolitan area and one hour from the Las Vegas metropolitan area, protect approximately 1.8 million acres of spectacular landscapes, fragile wildlife habitat, unique historic resources, and important cultural sites. The three designations connect Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, San Bernardino National Forest, and fifteen wilderness areas previously designated by Congress, creating a series of protected lands stretching hundreds of miles. The monuments protect current uses of the land, including military training operations, off-highway vehicle recreation, transportation, utility corridors, and existing mining operations.

The monuments announced today are the result of nearly two decades of leadership by U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein to craft legislation to protect the special places of the California desert. In October, senior Administration officials visited Palm Springs, California, at the Senator’s invitation to hear from the community about its vision for conservation in the California desert. Supporters of protecting these areas include local counties and cities, area business groups, tribes, hunters, anglers, faith-based organizations, recreationists, local land trusts and conservation groups, and students from local schools.

“The California desert is a cherished and irreplaceable resource for the people of southern California,” said Secretary Jewell. “It is an oasis of nature’s quiet beauty just outside two of our nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Its historic and cultural resources tell the stories of armies, travelers, ranchers, and miners, and of the original caretakers of this land. Today’s designation by the President furthers the longstanding work of public land managers and local communities to ensure these areas will remain preserved and accessible to the public for future generations.”

“Sand to Snow’s peaks and valleys have long provided physical and spiritual sustenance to native people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today, they are also an inspiration and recreational beacon to millions. We are honored to ensure the permanent protection of these cherished places.”

The national monuments, comprised exclusively of existing federal lands, will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service and by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The proclamations direct the agencies to engage the public in comprehensive planning for the management of these areas, building upon the provisions outlined in the proclamations. The three designations all honor valid existing rights, and provide for continued use for training activities of the U.S. military.

The Sand to Snow National Monument encompasses approximately 154,000 acres of federal lands, including just over 100,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, east of Los Angeles, California, and will be managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Rising from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to San Gorgonio Peak, the tallest in southern California, the monument includes lush desert oases, significant archeological sites, and thirty miles of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail. The area is a favorite for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, wildlife viewing, and even skiing. The area is renowned for its rich diversity of rare and fragile wildlife and is one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California.

The Mojave Trails National Monument spans 1.6 million acres of federal lands, including more than 350,000 acres of already Congressionally-designated wilderness, managed by the Bureau of Land Management between Barstow and Needles, California. It is a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. The monument contains the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of Route 66 and some of the best preserved sites from the World War II-era Desert Training Center. Connecting the Mojave National Preserve with Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave Trails National Monument ensures the biological connectivity of this landscape while preserving traditional uses such hunting and off-highway vehicle recreation.

The Castle Mountains National Monument consists of approximately 21,000 acres of federal land surrounded by the existing Mojave National Preserve and will be managed by the National Park Service. An integral piece of the Mojave Desert, the area has important flora, fauna, water, and historic resources, and its designation as a national monument helps to preserve related resources set aside for protection in the Preserve. The monument has some of the finest Joshua tree forest and native desert grassland in the Mojave Desert and contains important cultural resources including Native American archeological sites and vestiges of mining, ranching, and the railroad from the period of western expansion.

Today’s announcement brings to twenty-two the number of national monuments established by President Obama under the Antiquities Act, an authority exercised by sixteen presidents starting with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and used to protect treasures such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients. Altogether, President Obama has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – and has preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people and extraordinary events in American history.

Following decades of local input and leadership from Senator Dianne Feinstein, today’s designation’s will enhance the region’s economic activity by attracting visitors, increasing tourism, and ensuring public access for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing and other outdoor recreation activities for generations to come. Permanent protection for the three new national monuments is strongly supported by local governments, tribes, business groups, elected officials, community leaders, and a variety of stakeholders including faith leaders, sportsmen, historians, conservationists and others. Additionally, the designations complement an ongoing planning process for renewable energy development on public lands in the California desert and furthers the longstanding work with public land managers and local communities to protect these lands for future generations.

Every Kid in a Park

In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history – more than 265 million acres – the President has sought to ensure that all Americans and future generations have the opportunity to experience the natural and cultural richness of our national parks, monuments, forests and other public lands. Nearly a year ago, the President announced the launch of the Every Kid in a Park program to give every 4th grader in America free access to visit the country’s unparalleled public lands, and over the course of the next year, the Administration will continue to encourage all Americans to “find your park” and experience firsthand the wonder of America’s great outdoors.  Moreover, the Administration is working to galvanize public and private support to achieve the goals of Every Kid in a Park and boost additional efforts to connect more underserved youth with nature.

Inspired by the Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and by the President’s trip to Alaska last summer, IslandWood, the Sierra Club, the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders, and action sports retailer Zumiez are today announcing a new project called “Fresh Tracks.”  Their independent project will provide two dozen youth from underserved Los Angeles and Alaska Native communities with opportunities to travel together to both areas and explore diverse cultures and outdoors over a three-week period in August.  Their project is particularly focused on working with communities responding to the My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, a call to action by President Obama for cities, Tribal Nations, towns, and counties to build and execute robust cradle-to-college-and-career plans to ensure that all young people—no matter who they are or where they come from—can achieve their full potential.  The President’s actions today are protecting important public lands, and efforts like Fresh Tracks and Every Kid in a Park will work to ensure that our country’s youth are able to visit and enjoy these types of cultural and natural areas.