Photo Highlights: Walking Tour of New York City’s Holiday Lights Wonderland

Skating at Rockefeller Center beneath the Christmas tree © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

The famous Christmas tree is alight at Rockefeller Center. Saks Fifth Avenue has its sound-and-light show and decorated windows. Macy’s anchors the Miracle on 34th Street, and Bergdorf Goodman once again stuns with its decorated windows. People flock into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stop to hear a choral concert at St. Thomas. Cartier and Tiffany’s come gift wrapped. Fifth Avenue is decked out for the holiday. The Rockettes dazzle at Radio City. It’s Christmas time in the city.

Rockefeller Center decked out for Christmas © Karen Rubin/

New York City is a wonderland of holiday lightings, festive performances, winter exhibitions, special attractions and happenings. The most fun is just walking around and taking it all in – along with a million other people, as many as there are lights.

Follow my route, up 34th Street to to the Winter Village at Bryant Park, up Fifth Avenue to Saks and Rockefeller Center, up to 57th Street, cross over to 6th Avenue passed Radio City Music Hall. Here are photo highlights:

34th Street © Karen Rubin/
Macy’s interactive holiday windows © Karen Rubin/
Macy’s interactive holiday windows © Karen Rubin/
Macy’s 34th Street © Karen Rubin/
Winter Village at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/
Sound & light show at Saks Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Sound & light show at Saks Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Saks Fifth Avenue windows © Karen Rubin/
Rockefeller Center decked out for Christmas © Karen Rubin/
Rockefeller Center decked out for Christmas © Karen Rubin/
Festive Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Festive Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Bergdorf Goodman’s show-stopping holiday windows © Karen Rubin/
Dior on Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Festive Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/
Radio City Music Hall once again presents the Rockettes and the iconic Christmas Spectacular © Karen Rubin/
Sixth Avenue decorated for the holidays © Karen Rubin/
Sixth Avenue decorated for the holidays © Karen Rubin/

For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit

See also:



© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

‘Billy Joel-My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey’ Exhibit is Must-See at Long Island Music Hall of Fame

Billy Joel at the preview of the first exhibit devoted to his life and career, Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame: “This is quite an honor. I didn’t expect it to be that extensive. I’ve had a life.” © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

After nearly a year of planningthe Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) opened the first-ever exhibit dedicated exclusively to LIMEHOF Inductee and Long Island’s own music legend Billy Joel, at its Stony Brook museum location .

Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey, created with Joel’s support and chock-full of his personal items, is this incredible showcase that brings you into his decades long career. It includes some of Billy Joel’s most cherished items, rare memorabilia, behind-the-scenes videos, awards, rare audio and video recordings, vintage instruments and historic photos, many donated by Billy Joel and never seen before in public.

This exhibit, the second since the museum opened in November of 2022, is a precious opportunity to experience Billy Joel’s life-spanning career from his roots in Levittown through his record albums, tours, inspirations, and personal experiences. You follow his life from his early days in bands like the Lost Souls, the Hassles and Attila through his solo career from his 1971 “Cold Spring Harbor” debut album, his monumental concert series with Elton John, his historic concert in the Soviet Union, at Shea Stadium, as Madison Square Garden’s artist in residence, to the present.

While Billy Joel has shunned such attention in the past, his incentive for cooperating on this exhibit was his desire to boost Long Island. “Historically Billy Joel has never done an exhibition. He doesn’t like to blow his own horn because he’s kind of a humble guy next door,” said Kevin O’Callaghan, LIMEHOF board member and Creative Director, who designed the exhibit. “When I said to Billy, ‘I think Long Island really needs this,’ he gave me the thumbs up. It was a home run.”

That humility – and his commitment to Long Island – was on view at a preview of the exhibit on November 21, just before its official opening.

Billy Joel at the preview the exhibit “Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” at LIMEHOF, “This is a little overwhelming. Did you ever find yourself surrounded by you? I guess I lived. I always wondered, did I pick this life or did it pick me? ‘Cause I really didn’t think I had much of a choice. I was going to do this no matter what because I love music.” © Karen Rubin/

“Where did they get all this junk? I didn’t know where they were storing all these things,” Joel joked. “This is quite an honor. I didn’t expect it to be that extensive. I’ve had a life.”

“This is a little overwhelming. Did you ever find yourself surrounded by you? I guess I lived,” Joel reflected, surveying the room. “I always wondered, did I pick this life or did it pick me? ‘Cause I really didn’t think I had much of a choice. I was going to do this no matter what because I love music.”

Joel also declared that even though he’s currently selling his Centre Island home, he’s not leaving Long Island.

“This is my home and it will always be my home,” said Joel. “We will come visit this place a lot.”

Bob Buchmann, who had been a DJ at WBAB for 20 years (he’s now director of music programming for Sirius XM) came from Los Angeles to be at the exhibit preview, noting that Joel named his charity, Charity Begins at Home. “That tells you where his head is. Few people know the commitment Billy Joel has to Long Island.” © Karen Rubin/

Bob Buchmann, who had been a DJ at WBAB for 20 years (he’s now director of music programming for Sirius XM) came from Los Angeles to be at the event. He reflected that he began working with Billy Joel 29 years ago on his charity that Joel named Charity Begins at Home. “That tells you where his head is. Few people know the commitment Billy Joel has to Long Island.” He started working with Joel after “The Stranger.” “He was already a big deal. Then he became a bigger deal.” (For his accomplishments as a musician and humanitarian, Joel was honored as the 2002 MusiCares Person of The Year by the MusiCares Foundation and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.)

To construct the biography that fills the notes in the panels, O’Callaghan “did deep research. I interviewed 100, contacted other musicians. The funny thing is that on Long Island, everyone has a Billy Joel story, met him, spoke to him.”

Kevin O’Callaghan, LIMEHOF’s Creative Director who designed the Billy Joel exhibit, said “I did deep research. I interviewed 100, contacted other musicians. The funny thing is that on Long Island, everyone has a Billy Joel story, met him, spoke to him.” © Karen Rubin/

Were there any revelations in the course of his research? “The amount of success he had after “Piano Man.” Every record he did had 2,3,4 hits, a nonstop train, then he stopped recording and went into touring.” Billy Joel produced 13 studio albums, the last one more than 20 years ago.

“It has been a thrill and an honor to work with Billy in creating this extraordinary testament to his life and music,” O’Callaghan remarked.  “It is one of the highlights of my long career and I’m sure visitors will be thrilled with the result.” O’Callaghan, who also designed LIMEHOF’s first exhibition, and Canadeo presented the exhibit plans and designs to Billy Joel several times during the past year and incorporated his input.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a grand piano Billy Joel used on his “Face to Face Tour” with Elton John which spins on a 16-foot revolving turntable © Karen Rubin/

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a grand piano Joel used on his “Face to Face Tour” with Elton John that sits on a 16-foot revolving turntable with a wall-sized backdrop of live concert clips of him playing the piano with audio – including performing with Paul McCartney. On top of the piano is Joel’s harmonica and neck brace that O’Callaghan said he found inside the piano. “This is like holy grail stuff.”

The grand piano Billy Joel used on his “Face to Face Tour” with Elton John features has a wall-sized backdrop playing live concert videos© Karen Rubin/

The Rocket Man and The Piano Man came together in July 1994 and began what is considered the longest-running, most successful collaboration in pop music history. They played in stadiums across the globe from 1994-2010.

Other highlights: in 1987, Billy Joel brought his band and his family to the USSR for six concerts in Moscow and Leningrad, making history when they played at Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Moscow as the first Western artist to perform behind the Iron Curtain. “Billy thought himself a diplomatic musician. ‘I was very proud of that trip, and I think we helped kick the door in a little bit to open it up to democratic stuff’.”

Billy Joel played the last concerts before Shea Stadium was torn down and played the first concerts at Citifield © Karen Rubin/

Shea Stadium was opened in 1965 with a concert by The Beatles, and Billy Joel headlined the final act before it closed in 2008. “The Last Play at the Shea” had epic performances including Tony Bennett singing “New York State of Mind”, but then Paul McCartney surprised him, running onstage to perform “I Saw Her Standing There,” and “Let it Be,” ending the circle The Beatles began in 1965. The two played together again to open Citifield.

The most remarkable relationship, though, is Billy Joel’s 45 year relationship with Madison Square Garden, beginning in 1978. In 2013, he became MSG’s first-ever music franchise, starting a residency in January 2014 with a line up of one show per month “as long as the demand continues.” By 2018, he had hit 100 performances; a banner in the exhibit lists 125, and he is expected to hit 150 before the residency finally ends next year.

The exhibit celebrates Billy Joel’s 45 year relationship with Madison Square Garden © Karen Rubin/

Throughout the exhibit, there are these incredibly personal insights into his music.

Of the items of which O’Callaghan was most proud to display are the music instruments that his band, The Hassles, would have used, including the keyboard and a rare scroll bass and a piano (the drum with The Hassles name is original, but the musicians would not part with their actual instruments).

Of the items of which O’Callaghan was most proud to display are the music instruments that Billy Joel’s band, The Hassles, would have used when he was 17 © Karen Rubin/

“The Hassles. That was the beginning, his first success. One hit record – he got a taste of what it was like to be a star. It was pivotal to make contact with them, it was fun.”

In a panel titled “Billy the Kid,” Joel is quoted as saying, “I could make my piano talk for me. The piano spoke what I was feeling.”

It’s because the exhibit is so personal, so intimate that it is so inspiring. You see Billy Joel’s house in Levittown, considered the birthplace of America’s Suburbia (he changed the name to Allentown for the song), where his parents moved from the Bronx soon after he was born in 1949. There is actually a program for his first recital at age 11, and a photo of him playing in a high school band.

“Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” traces the music icon’s life and career from his childhood in Levittown, Long Island © Karen Rubin/

His father was a virtuoso concert pianist as well as a businessman who was born in was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Jewish family who emigrated to the US by way of Cuba (because of US quotas) to escape Nazi Germany. His mother, born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who emigrated from England, was the one who insisted on Billy taking music lessons.

“Beginning lessons at the tender age of four, he was precocious,” we learn from one of the panels. “‘I love this, I thought. There was wizardry to it, a kind of sorcery to the manipulation of sound. And it enchanted people.’ High school wasn’t a concern for Billy – music was. At 14 he would regularly miss class due to playing in bands all night. One day, Hicksville High School music teacher Chuck Arnold caught Billy playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and nurtured the talented teen, encouraging him to pursue music professionally.”

“Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame traces the music icon’s life and career © Karen Rubin/

Billy dropped out of Hicksville High to focus on his music. But in 1992, after submitting essays to the school board in lieu of the missed exam, he finally was awarded his diploma at Hicksville High’s graduation ceremony 25 years after leaving. He returned 25 years after that, in 2017, to give the commencement address. Meanwhile, he has earned honorary doctorates from Fairfield University (1991), Berklee College of Music (1993), Hofstra University (1997), Southampton College, Syracuse University (2006), Manhattan School of Music (2008) and Stony Brook University (2015).

Another panel describes his influences. In addition to Gershwin and Beethoven, we learn that “In the late 50s, Billy was fascinated by Elvis Presley, impersonating him during a ‘Hound Dog’ performance in third grade. The Beatles heavily influenced Billy’s life, confirming his determination to become a professional musician.” His tastes widened to embrace 60s rock and roll, soul and blues, with influences like Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Chuck Berry, jazz greats Art Tatum, Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson. The Beach Boys were also important to him: he opened for the Beach Boys early on in his career, and later performed “Don’t Worry Baby” at a Brian Wilson tribute concert in 2010.

We are brought back in time to Billy Joel’s early band: The Hassles were “a blue-eyed soul band” formed in 1964 on Long Island, most notable for recording the first release featuring Billy Joel (he was 17 when he joined). The Hassles earned $250 a week as the house band for My House, a club run by Danny Mazur. “The band often played 20-hour days in clubs throughout Long Island and Manhattan, sneaking into shows like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull during their free time. The Long Island band served as an educational experience for Billy, signing with United Artists and getting his first taste of success.” (If you saw LIMEHOF’s first exhibition, you would appreciate the impact that Long Island’s many music venues had on birthing the talent that now fills its Hall of Fame.)

“Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame traces the music icon’s life and career © Karen Rubin/

We learn that “The Piano Man” (1973), Joel’s second album and first with Columbia, “is what really went on when I was a piano man in this piano bar,” Billy Joel said in 2017. “All the characters have the same name. There was John at the bar, the bartender, Davy was in the Navy, a guy named Paul, who was a real estate agent and was trying to write the great American novel, and the waitress, who was my girlfriend at the time and then became my wife.”

There are stations where you can listen to albums like “The Stranger” (1977), Joel’s first critical and commercial breakthrough album, which sold over 10 million copies and spawned hit singles including “Just the Way You Are,” “Movin’ Out,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “She’s Always a Woman” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” which is notably one of Joel’s favorites of his own songs. You can also listen to “52nd Street” (1978), his first album to peak at No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart, among others.

You can listen to Billy Joel’s albums at the LIMEHOF exhibit “Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” © Karen Rubin/

He has gone on to sell 160 million records, making  him one of the world’s top-selling music artists; had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972, winning six.

He has gone on to sell 160 million records, making  him one of the world’s top-selling music artists; had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972, winning six. He has won the Grammy Legend Award (1990), was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). He’s won the Johnny Mercer Award (2001)Diamond Award from the Recording Industry Association of America for albums that sold over 10 million copies; got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (2004), and received The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (2014).

What such a retrospective shows is that Billy Joel’s songs are less the typical love sought or love lost that are typical of pop, but more ballads that “meant something during the time in which I lived … and transcended that time” – like “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Indeed, he was presented with the Kennedy Center Honor (December 2013), given for influencing American culture.

Billy Joel has remained true to his Long Island roots © Karen Rubin/

Joel has remained true to his Long Island roots. His first solo album was named for the hamlet, Cold Spring Harbor. He recorded Live from Long Island, his first video special, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale on December 30, 1982. When he premiered his new song “Christmas in Fallujah”. on December 1, 2007, it was performed by Cass Dillon, a new Long Island based musician. (The track was dedicated to servicemen based in Iraq. Joel wrote it in September 2007 after reading numerous letters sent to him from American soldiers in Iraq. “Christmas in Fallujah” is only the second pop/rock song released by Joel since 1993’s River of Dreams; proceeds benefited the Homes For Our Troops foundation).

On December 12, 2012, Joel performed at the Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden in support of victims. In October, 2013, Joel held a surprise concert at The Paramount in Huntington to benefit Long Island Cares. His August 4, 2015 concert at Nassau Coliseum was the final concert before prior to the arena’s $261 million renovation and he returned to on April 5, 2017 to play the first concert at the newly renovated venue.And in 2010, Joel opened a shop in Oyster Bay to manufacture custom-made, retro-styled motorcycles and accessories. One of his motorcycles is on exhibit at LIMEHOF.

One of Billy Joel’s motorcycles in the LIMEHOF exhibit “Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” © Karen Rubin/

“We are thrilled and honored to present the Billy Joel exhibit everyone has been waiting for,” said Ernie Canadeo, LIMEHOF Chairman. “Billy has been very cordial and involved in the planning, and it is appropriate the exhibit is on Long Island, where he has long been identified, written so many songs and lived most of his life. It is a fitting tribute to Long Island’s most successful entertainer and is guaranteed to thrill his legions of fans.”

The LIMEHOF Billy Joel exhibit is supported and sponsored by Catholic Health, The Joel Foundation, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel, The Haugland Group, M&T Bank, The EGC Group and Lessing’s Hospitality.

“Catholic Health is very proud to be the presenting sponsor of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame and this particular exhibit really captures what it’s all about,” said Joe Carofano, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Chief Marketing Officer of Catholic Health. “Billy Joel, The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame and Catholic Health all share a common love of Long Island; its spirit, its heritage and its unique character. Our roots are intertwined; bringing us together to celebrate the joy of life that Long Island inspires in all of us.”

“Billy Joel – My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame traces the music icon’s life and career © Karen Rubin/

Timed entry tickets are available at and at LIMEHOF (VIP “any time” tickets good for the duration of the exhibit, are also available). The exhibit is open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday (11 am-6 pm); and Friday and Saturday (11 am-7 pm). The exhibit is expected to run at least through August 2024.

Founded in 2004, the Long Island Music Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the idea that Long Island’s musical and entertainment heritage is an important resource to be celebrated and preserved for future generations. The organization, which encompasses New York State’s Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, and Kings (Brooklyn) Counties, was created as a place of community that inspires and explores Long Island music and entertainment in all its forms. In 2022, LIMEHOF opened its first Hall of Fame building location in Stony Brook, New York. To date, the organization has inducted more than 120 musicians and music industry executives, and offers education programs, scholarships, and awards to Long Island students and educators.

For more information about LIMEHOF visit


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

Beyond Van Gogh, Beyond Monet Immersive Experiences Offer New Way to Appreciate Masters and Their Masterpieces

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

What the leading edge technology of Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience does is to turn a static, albeit emotional, experience of appreciating a painting, into an active, dynamic, cinematic one.

On view at Samanea New York Mall, Westbury, Long Island only until January 2, in the course of 40-minutes, you see some 300 of Van Gogh’s paintings surrounding you, projected on all four walls and the floor in a 30,000 sq. ft. space the size of a basketball court. The paintings fill the entire wall, large enough to walk into, become animated, turning stills into images that grow, change, emerge, ripple, wave, flow and blossom over you – in essence, animating the movement that Van Gogh so powerfully created with his paint strokes.

It is as if you see the painting develop from Van Gogh’s perspective, his mind’s eye and hand.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

And I have to say, it is more stirring to see his works this way, than when I have seen “Starry Night Over the Rhone” which attracted the biggest crowds in a room in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, or “Sunflowers” at the Museum of Modern Art, or his famous self-portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Is it blasphemous to say that these manifestations are more emotionally captivating than the original? Or is it enough to say, the paintings presented this way are as emotionally captivating but in a different way that adds cinematic drama.

The other benefit is that you see in this incredible 40-minute presentation some 300 of Van Gogh’s paintings – and not just zipping in front of your eyes, but well paced, magnificently and respectfully presented, each scene staying long enough to absorb what you are seeing all around you, to music perfectly curated to convey mood and emotion, before changing again.

It begs for active engagement in the sense of walking around, changing your visual perspective, even as the scene changes. There is a sense of immediacy as well as immersion.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

Timed tickets, the vast openness of the space and enormous scale of the paintings almost insure you will have enough space to feel yourself a part of the paintings, large enough as if you could walk into any scene.

The music that provides the backdrop for the different scenes and themes of the works presented are equally well curated.

You are in tune with Vincent, as well, because the paintings seem to originate as if from his own hand – the basis are these sensitive quotes that mostly come from the letters between Vincent and his loving brother Theo, which document how he came to his artistic expression.

the heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths, it has its pearls too,” he wrote Theo from Isleworth in 1876.

“…in all of nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul, as it were,” Vincent writes Theo in 1882.

“I don’t know if you’ll understand that one can speak poetry just by arranging colours well, just as one can say comforting things in music,” he writes his sister Willemien from Arles, in 1888.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

Van Gogh’s biography is very much abbreviated – the focus is on his art and creativity. But there are these important nuggets that provide a context for better appreciating the paintings, that come from revealing quotes from the letters between Vincent and his loving, supportive brother Theo, which document how he came to his artistic expression and what art, color, light, nature meant to him.  I had no idea he came so late to being an artist, beginning when he was 27, in fact, the vast majority of his 1000 canvases, painted in only a decade, were painted in the last three years of his life, or that he became an art dealer like his brother, Theo, then, briefly studied to become a preacher, before devoting himself to his art.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

But it is intensely personal – throughout the exhibit, you see and hear snippets of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, Theo, that provide such insights into Van Gogh’s essence, and burst the monotone myth of a man in a constant state of anguish: “the heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths, it has its pearls too,” he wrote Theo from Isleworth in 1876.

 “In life and in painting too,” he writes Theo in 1888 from Arles, “I can easily do without the dear Lord, but I can’t, suffering as I do, do without something greater than myself, which is my life, the power to create.”

Paintings emerge like brush strokes, or like ripples of hot air, or like waves that wash over the canvas, splashing across the floor.

Sometimes the paintings themselves are made to animate, like the smoke that rises from the pipe he smokes in a self-portrait; and a windmill’s fans actually turn (a game for the viewer, a device to engage).

The scenes unfold, linger long enough to be appreciated, then another scene emerges.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

It is stunning to see his famous “Starry Night Over the Rhone” (1888) take over the walls and splash over the floor, the reflections of light in the water not at all static but shimmering, glittering and rippling.

 “..the sight of the stars always makes me dream…” Vincent writes Theo from Arles in 1888.

In another scene, trees grow up with springtime blossoms multiply,  blow in the wind, gathering more and more, becoming a storm of petals. You hear the wind.

Another display imagines a score of canvases stacked up against the wall – then transmute to stilllifes.

A roomful of the portraits he painted is profound – going beyond their surface image to create these characters.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

When a whole roomful of his self-portraits unfold, you are struck by the honesty. “It is difficult to know oneself, but it isn’t easy to paint oneself either,” he writes from Saint-Remy in 1889

Van Gogh didn’t sell any of his art during his lifetime. He suffered from clinical depression that in those days, had no medical treatment. But he seemed to have a desperate desire and even an inclination that his works would survive him, as when he refers to his subjects as becoming “ghosts” visiting future viewers.

An artist who today is considered one of the greatest of all time was considered a failure (as an artist). In this, Van Gogh gives hope and inspiration to every other failed, un- and under-appreciated artist.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

The show, brilliantly, sensitively, imaginatively done, is itself a work of art – multi-media, performance art – because it takes all of these works and creates something new, a new way to experience the paintings, that will engage young people being introduced to art as well as devotees, artists and academics.

“I came to recognize and appreciate that the world was witnessing the cusp of a new art form- a reinterpretation of the fascinating narrative between master and masterpiece,” writes Gilles Paquin, Founder, Chairman, Executive Producer of Paquin Entertainment Group, Inc., in the forward to the show’s publication. “Combining fine art and artifacts with music and cinema, curated, staged and presented in a way that can be enjoyed by an audience so diverse it transcends the confines of age, gender and cultural demographics.”

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

“At the start of this creation, we searched for a refreshing perspective of Van Gogh’s vision of the world,” writes Mathieu St-Arnaud, Creative Director & Art Direction, Normal Studio. “What we found was unexpected and captivating: we were met with Vincent, a human being like all of us, an artist devoted to his craft, yearning for beauty and moved by purpose. It became a personal journey for us, one that we wanted to extend to audience members around the world: to go beyond the myth that is Van Gogh and instead meet Vincent, the man behind the vision. Wielding colour and light, Vincent transformed hardship and darkness into light and joy, infusing his work with a contagious sense of hope that it still exudes today. Amidst the challenges of today, there’s something truly inspiring in Vincent’s will to focus on the wonders of the world and his determination to both capture and share them with all of us. In more ways than one. Vincent is the artist we need right now.”

The end of the loop is a series of Vincent’s famous signature that emerge from scores of his paintings – we learn that he only signed “Vincent” because he feared his surname would be too difficult to pronounce. “yours very truly, Vincent.”

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

This scene is like Van Gogh’s final word as if to say, “This is me. This is what I created. This is what I have left to the world.”

Vincent Van Gogh left this world in 1890, 37 years old, just as his work was gaining critical recognition. “to succeed, to have lasting prosperity, one must have temperament different from mine,” he writes Theo in 1889. “I make a point of telling myself, yes I am something, I can do something.”

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a multi-media, performance art showpiece that inspires new ways to appreciate Vincent Van Gogh’s genius © Karen Rubin/

Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience

Long Islanders are lucky because Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience which was brought back after a hugely successful run through the holidays, alternates days with Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience.

Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience gives guests a glimpse into the emotions and perspectives of the leading figure of Impressionism: Claude Monet, with some 400 of his works. Taking inspiration from Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the designated home of Monet’s masterpieces, guests can freely roam the Infinity Room to absorb the artist’s bright and colorful paintings. Monet’s stunning imagery encompasses every surface of the room, transporting guests inside the paintings themselves. It is a haven for awakening the senses as the ebb and flow of the artwork is accompanied by the rhythm of an original score.

“When you stand inside Beyond Monet, you truly feel like you are part of Monet’s passionate quest for the effervescent beauty of the world,” Beyond Monet Art Historian Fanny Curtat said. “Experiences like these create fresh and original perspectives, allowing us to form new relationships with notable masterpieces in dynamic and fascinating ways.”

Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience © Karen Rubin/

“Through cutting edge technology, Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience is redefining what art means to people,” stated Paquin Entertainment Group’s President of Exhibitions and Theatrical, Justin Paquin “It has elevated artwork to the next level, allowing us to form new relationships with notable masterpieces that were just not possible in previous years.”

Ideal for enjoying through the holidays (both Beyond Van Gogh and Beyond Monet end the Long Island presentation on January 3), but there are other cities where the exhibitions are on view or will be).

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has sold over 6 million tickets worldwide and may be seen in San Diego and Tulsa and will be coming to Baltimore, Dayton, Grand Forks, Tallahassee, Tucson, Ventura, Washington DC, West Palm Beach.

See schedule and purchase timed tickets to Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience in advance at (on Wednesdays and Fridays) alternating with alternating with Beyond Monet The Immersive Experience at (on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays), at Samanea New York, 1500 Old Country Road, Westbury, NY.


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

Cheeriest Driveable Destinations for Celebrating Winter Holidays

With scores of dazzling light displays, holiday markets, festive shows and seasonal attractions like the light show on City Hall, the holidays are a magical time in Philadelphia © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

Let the spirit of the holiday season enwrap you and carry you on a scintillating getaway to these cheeriest of driveable destinations:

Philadelphia Offers Potpourri of Holiday Festivities

With scores of dazzling light displays, holiday markets, festive shows and seasonal attractions, the holidays are an especially magical time in Philadelphia.

This year’s new holiday attractions include Yuletide at Devon, while staple, beloved Philadelphia attractions like Christmas Village and LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo are also back to delight.

Those enjoying the holiday sights and festivities can easily stay the night with the Visit Philly Overnight Package, scoring great perks like free hotel parking (valued up to $100) and tickets to must-see attractions including The Franklin Institute or the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Looking to make a weekend out of it? With the Visit Philly 3-Day Stay package, stay two nights and get a third for free.

New Holiday Attractions for 2023

Yuletide at Devon (Devon Horse Show and Country Fairgrounds, 23 Dorset Road, Devon, select dates thru Dec.31: A European Christmas market, a live music festival, a community carnival and a gourmet farm-to-table dining experience. Experience free fair rides (including a 65-foot Ferris wheel), lots of live music, craft drinks (hot chocolate, cocktails and more), locally sourced eats, and over 35 high-end holiday fair vendors.

Tinseltown Holiday Spectacular in FDR Park (South Broad Street, select dates thru Jan. 1, 2024: Take in the sights as you skate along a winding ice trail or glide down a 160-foot-long ice slide, pop into the Mistletoe Marketplace, grab a bite and adult beverage inside the Union Forge Lodge. Timed tickets are required, with optional add-ons available for the Ice Trail and Independence Blue Cross ice slide.

2023 Philly Holiday Experience (Multiple locations and events, dates vary):  This annual tradition features more than 35 holiday attractions and events, including the annual tree-lighting celebration at City Hall, a multicultural holiday parade on Market Street. New for 2023: Free Museum Day series (December 1-28), when some of Philly’s top museums, attractions and cultural institutions open their doors for free (or pay-what-you-wish).

Must-See Philadelphia Attractions

A Philadelphia iconic holiday experience: Macy’s Christmas Light Show ” © Karen Rubin/

Macy’s Christmas Light Show and Dickens Christmas Village (Macy’s, 1300 Market Street, thru Dec. 31): The Grand Court in the National Historic Landmark Wanamaker Building has hosted the iconic Christmas Light Show since 1956. This quintessential holiday tradition continues in 2023 with daily displays featuring thousands of twinkling lights in the shapes of snowflakes, candy canes and dancing snowmen accompanied by seasonal sounds from the famed Wanamaker Organ. Five free shows, Mondays-Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m.; three shows on Sundays at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Wanamaker Organ is played live during the noon and 6 p.m. showings (except Sundays); recorded music accompanies all other shows. Families can also book a visit to see Philly’s vintage retelling of A Christmas Carol in the Dickens Christmas Village and snap pics with Santa.

Winter at Dilworth Park (1 S. 15th Street, next to City Hall; dates vary by attraction) Free events and cool attractions include:

  • The Wintergarden: This open-air wonderland brings a festive touch of greenery, featuring holiday lights, reindeer topiaries, rustic woodland décor and an on-site Chaddsford Winery kiosk selling warm mulled wine (thru March 17, 2024);
  • Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market: Shop local and support more than 40 small businesses selling handmade crafts, jewelry, artwork, treats and so much more (thru Jan. 1, 2024).
  • Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink thru February 25, 2024 (tickets required).
  • Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin: seasonal dishes, cocktails, beer; outdoor terrace with cozy fire pits (thru Feb. 25, 2024).

Christmas Village in Philadelphia (LOVE Park, 15th & Arch streets, select dates thru Dec. 24,): free-to-explore, pay-as-you-go annual open-air European-style marketplace with 100 vendors in wooden huts offering local and international gifts.

LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo (Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Avenue, select dates thru Dec. 31): This immersive display transforms the Philadelphia Zoo into a nighttime multimedia spectacle with 1 million holiday lights in 16 distinct zones, seasonal snacks, live performances, hot chocolate and adult beverages. Timed tickets are required.

Holiday Garden Railway and Nighttime Express at Morris Arboretum & Gardens (Morris Arboretum & Gardens, 100 E. Northwestern Avenue, select dates thru Dec. 30): One of the country’s largest outdoor model train displays. Mini locomotives wind their way through a 1/3 mile of loops, tunnels, bridges and Philly landmark replicas, all built with natural materials and beneath a canopy of sparkly lights. Included with admission to Morris Arboretum. Want more bells and whistles? See it at night – illuminated trees and all – by purchasing tickets to the Nighttime Express.

Independence Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest (Independence Blue Cross RiverRink, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard): Glide around an enormous ice skating rink, snap a photo by the festive holiday tree, play games on the boardwalk and warm up with pay-as-you-go seasonal treats next to a fire pit (or inside a cozy cabin). Entry is free, tickets  required to ice skate, and cabins and fire pits must be reserved in advance.

American Heritage Credit Union Grand Illumination (2060 Red Lion Road, thru Dec. 31): The regal campus of the American Heritage Credit Union in Northeast Philadelphia shines brightly each holiday season with two 40-foot Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths and more than 400,000 twinkling lights. The lights flick on at dusk each night when visitors are invited to stroll the campus for free and take in the lights at their leisure.

Winter in Franklin Square (Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th Street, thru Feb. 25, 2024, dates vary by attraction), including Chilly Philly Mini Golf (thru Jan. 28, 2024, tickets required); Electrical Spectacle Light Show presented by PECO, free nightly shows – inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s kite and key electricity experiment – every half hour (thru Feb. 25, 2024); Street Curling (thru Feb. 25, 2024, rent in advance).

New Year’s Eve in Philadelphia (Penn’s Landing, 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard), with two fireworks displays over the Delaware River at 6 p.m. and midnight.

Mummers Parade (Monday, January 1, 2024): One of Philly’s most famous traditions, when more than 10,000 costumed marchers — many of whom practice all year for this one-day celebration — strut their stuff on the streets of Philadelphia.

Can’t-Miss Holiday Shows

The No Name POPS: A Very Philly Christmas at the Kimmel Center, Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street, select dates Dec. 1-23.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music, Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street, select dates Dec. 8-30:

The Philadelphia Orchestra Presents: The Glorious Sounds of Christmas at the Kimmel Center, Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 S. Broad Street, December 14-16, 2023

Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad Street, December 17, 2023

The Philadelphia Orchestra Presents: Elf in Concert at the Kimmel Center, Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 S. Broad Street, December 22-23, 2023

Disney on Ice Presents Magic in the Stars at the Wells Fargo Center, Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad Street, December 24, 2023 – January 1, 2024

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Miller Theater, Miller Theater, 250 S. Broad Street, December 26-31, 2023

Visit Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website,, to explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.

A Capital Christmas in Washington DC

An unforgettable winter experience in Washington DC: Skating on the National Mall in front of the National Archives © Karen Rubin/

From sparkling sights like the National Christmas Tree to festive local shopping, classic performances and enticing hotel deals, ‘tis the season to make memories in DC. Discover more at

Dazzling Displays

National Christmas Tree (thru Jan. 1) free to enter, enters its second century on the White House Ellipse, surrounded by trees decorated with handmade ornaments from 58 U.S. states and territories.

National Menorah  (on view Dec. 7-15): world’s largest menorah on the White House Ellipse.

CityCenterDC’s Holiday Tree, thru Jan. 8: a jaw-dropping 75-foot tree with over 155,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments, as well as gorgeous décor along Palmer Alley.

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, thru Jan. 1: A 53-year tradition on the West Lawn, this year’s tree comes from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

ZooLights, thru Dec. 30: Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform Smithsonian’s National Zoo into a winter wonderland. ($6 admission is required this year, supporting animal care and conservation science.

Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden (thru Jan. 1): Tour America’s magnificent landscapes recreated in plants.

Enchant (thru Dec. 31), one-of-a-kind installation at Nationals Park.

Georgetown Glow (thru Jan. 7): Set against the historic backdrop of DC’s oldest neighborhood, works by international artists on display for this free outdoor public light art experience.

Tudor Lights (Dec. 2-15): Stroll through Tudor Place Historic House and Garden, decked out with holiday lights, plus guided candlelit tours, holiday teas and a holiday wreath-making workshop.

Holiday Events and Performances

A Winter’s Tale (thru Dec. 17): A tribute to the magic of storytelling at the Folger Theatre, Shakespeare’s romance presents a rich tapestry of love, strife, hope, human folly, and resurrection.

A Christmas Carol (thru Dec. 31) Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future as they lead Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation for Charles Dickens classic at Ford’s Theatre.

The Washington Ballet’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 2-30) at the Warner Theatre: The reimagined ballet is set amidst the charming streets of Georgetown and cherry blossom trees.

Winter Activities, Holiday Shopping

Public Ice skating rinks around the city including the National Gallery of ArtWashington HarbourThe Wharf and Canal Park at Capitol Riverfront.

Downtown Holiday Market stretches across two blocks in Penn Quarter. Scope out eclectic crafts from 70 pop-up tents, including minority-owned businesses, with light bites and live music, thru Dec. 23.

The Holly Days: An Eastern Market Main Street tradition celebrating its 150th anniversary, enjoy shopping, dining and window displays (thru Dec. 31).

Festive and Historic Hotels

Steeped in history: The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, where Abraham Lincoln stayed after completing an arduous ten-day journey, before his inauguration, and which gave us the term “lobbyist.” © Karen Rubin/ 

Stay in History: Befitting the nation’s capital’s important history and heritage, there are a multitude of Historic Hotels of America members to provide a special ambiance to your visit, include The Willard InterContinental (famously transforms into a magical holiday wonderland, complete with nightly caroling), The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection; The Morrison-Clark Inn; Riggs Washington DC (boasts a bejeweled tree by a celebrated designer), Georgetown Inn, Hotel Lombardy, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square, Phoenix Park Hotel, The Capital Hilton, The Churchill Hotel Near Embassy Row, The Graham Georgetown (see

Sampling of Seasonal Hotel Deals

Whoville Hideout – The Hotel Washington offers Grinch-themed rooms with holiday amenities, valet parking and holiday DVDs and books, valid thru Dec. 31

Grand Opening – Receive 10,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points per stay at the rebranded Westin Washington, DC Downtown. Valid thru Jan. 4.

Royal Debut – Be among the first to experience the new Royal Sonesta Washington, DC Capitol Hill with 50 percent off the third night when booking a two-night stay.

Sakura Club – When you book two nights in an exclusive Sakura Club room at the Conrad DC, you’ll receive the third night free. Valid thru Dec. 31; The Conrad Washington DC’s decorations include an Instagram-worthy mistletoe arch.

Find more and book at and more visitor information at

Christmas in Wilmington & the Brandywine Valley

The beloved holiday experience, “Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens” © Karen Rubin/

Enjoy the grandest holiday festivities at the top attractions that make Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, Delaware, so special:

Yuletide at Winterthur (5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735, thru Jan. 7, 2024): Experience a celebration of American elegance in holiday style, inspired by Ann Lowe: American Couturier. This year’s Yuletide features custom fashion by local designers Shawn Pinckney and Asata Maisé Beeks, whose creations reflect the history of Winterthur and the design sensibilities of H. F. du Pont and Ann Lowe. Explore the house decorated with signature traditions, including the show-stopping Dried-Flower Tree, artistic Christmas trees inspired by Ann Lowe gowns and spectacular table set for Christmas dinner. Special holiday programs will take place throughout the season. Included with admission. Open New Year’s Day. Closed Christmas Day. (

Holidays at Hagley (298 Buck Road, Wilmington, DE 19807, thru Jan. 1, 2024) Themed “Treasures and Traditions,” features Holiday Home and Garden Tours, the 6th-annual Gingerbread House Competition, Santa Days, Holiday Nights Tours; included with regular admission (

The Brandywine Railroad (1 Hoffman’s Mill Rd., US Rt. 1, Chadds Ford, PA 19317, thru Jan. 7, 2024), a holiday favorite since 1972, features trains running on 2,000 feet of track and contains more than 1,000 pieces, including locomotives, passenger and freight trains, and trolleys that pass through a small village, a farm, factories, a drive-in movie theater and even a carnival. Dazzling array of toy and scale model trains chugging through the varied scenery include Lionel, Williams, Atlas, Mike’s Train House and K-line, plus interactive components.

Holidays at Nemours Estate: Alfred I. duPont built “America’s Versailles” for his wife on a 3,000-acre plot in Wilmington in the early 20th century and they started opening their home at Christmas from the year they moved in. Today, the estate celebrates the holiday season with a blend of original decorations – including 19th-century German crèche – and modern design, with 17 Christmas trees, 19 wreaths, and garland throughout.

A Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens (Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, November 17, 2023 – January 7, 2024): “A Very Retro Christmas,” turns back the clocks for this retro celebration of holiday seasons gone by at Longwood Gardens. The horticultural haven lights up with hundreds of trees trimmed in throwback fashion. Think classic baubles, tons of tinsel and iconic childhood toys. Adding to the festive feel, the botanical garden’s illuminated fountains dance to the sounds of the season. Timed tickets are required.

See mo

Gilded Age Christmas in Newport, R.I.

Sparkling Lights at the Breakers (photo by Dave Hansen)

Each year since 1971, December 1 has marked the kick off of Christmas in Newport, a month-long celebration complete with festive events and happenings to honor the season and give back to charities throughout the community. Experience events for nearly each day throughout December as part of the celebration (

Holiday Sparkle Returns to the Newport Mansions:The opulence of Newport’s Gilded Age mansions meets the sparkle and magic of Christmas during the return of Holidays at the Newport Mansions through January 1, 2024. Holidays at the Newport Mansions brings a festive holiday atmosphere to the interiors of The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms. These National Historic Landmarks come alive with beautiful seasonal decorations, themed Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, and fresh floral arrangements. Mannequins dressed in elegant Gilded Age fashions match the décor in Gertrude Vanderbilt’s bedroom at The Breakers, Alva Vanderbilt’s bedroom at Marble House, and the conservatory at The Elms. The mannequins have been created by Karen Corinha of Corinha Design.

For the fourth straight year, “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers” casts a warm glow over the 13-acre landscape of this iconic Gilded Age landmark on select dates thru Dec. 30.  Walk though dazzling tunnels of light and marvel at the illuminated displays and sparkling surprises along the way, including a striking, 50-foot long, 26-foot-tall light display on the back lawn in the outline of a train from the Vanderbilts’ New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. Admission requires a special ticket with specific date and entry time (but you can stay as long as you wish until closing), and includes interior access to The Breakers during the same visit. Tour times are 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The gates close at 6:30 p.m. and the house and grounds close at 8 p.m.

Located on the back lawn of Marble House and perched above the historic Cliff Walk, the Chinese Tea House provides an unmatched setting for a three-course holiday brunch © Karen Rubin/

Holiday Brunch Offered at Chinese Tea House: Located on the back lawn of Marble House and perched above the historic Cliff Walk, the Chinese Tea House provides an unmatched setting for a three-course holiday brunch by Stoneacre Brasserie. (Saturday and Sundays in December and Christmas Week, December 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31; Seatings at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; $55/adult, $35/child 2-12). Make reservations at

Details at

Experience the holiday traditions and winter caretaking practices at Rough Point Museum, Doris Duke’s mansion home-turned museum, during the coziest and merriest days of the year, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, 10 am-4 pm (excluding December 24).

See full list of holiday happenings in Newport,


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

Give the Gift of Travel to Spark that Wanderlust, Check Off that Bucket List, Have a Life-Enhancing Experience and Memory to Last Lifetime

Looking through the giant clock at Musée d’Orsay to Montmartre. A great gift for a traveler headed to Paris: the Paris Pass (, which bundles admissions to this extraordinary city’s major attractions including the Musée d’Orsay, an Eiffel Tower tour, a scenic cruise down the Seine, at up to 50 percent savings, and you skip the walk-up ticket line © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin,Travel Features Syndicate,

What could be a better gift than giving a part of the world, some memorable, life-enhancing, life-changing experience, something from their bucket-list, perhaps? Give the gift of travel.

The gift of travel can be everything from the trip itself (even create a registry so that lots of friends and family can contribute), to pre-arranging some experience or activity to enhance a trip: a dining experience; a spa visit; admission to a museum, attraction or cultural event; a cooking, baking or jewelry making class; a hot-air balloon ride; rock-climbing adventure; walking tour; bike rental, to purchasing a gift-card or gift certificate that can be applied to the bigger-ticket items and give flexibility for when. And what trip doesn’t require some special gear? And if you time it right, you might also be able to benefit from holiday savings, even on the more open-ended gift cards or certificates.

Gift cards can open up doors to travel, or take the sting out of the pinch to a traveler’s, couple’s or family’s wallet. Gift cards can be that extra spark that gets your loved one to finally depart on their bucket-list experience. And more and more travel companies – hotels and accommodations, cruises, tours, theme parks, sightseeing, spa visits, restaurants and dining, and even transportation companies from airlines to Amtrak to Uber to a Maine Windjammer Cruise – now offer gift cards. The beauty is you can give the amount that works best for you and the recipient can choose the date. (And check if you can apply Black Friday/Cyber Monday discounts.)

Here are some examples:

Globus family of brands Gift Certificates, redeemable for tours and cruises, come in denominations of $50, $200 & $500. Gift Certificates may be used in conjunction with any promotion offered at time of booking and they are transferable (

Tauck Tours eGift Cards, available in any amount, are valid for any Tauck land journey, river or small ship cruise and Tauck Bridges family adventures. They can be redeemed by phone or online at

Contiki’s gift card can be used on any Contiki trip; the voucher certificates include a personalized message, can be sent electronically or printed, and do not expire. 866-266 8454.

Historic Hotels of Europe, an exclusive collection of independent and unique hotels, castles, palaces, country houses and other properties handpicked for historic importance, quality and unique story, throughout Europe, offers a gift voucher, valid for five years, in amounts from 50-1500 Euros ([email protected],

Rarely do you find a historic hotel that played such an integral role in a nation’s history as the Sofitel Legend Grand Hotel Amsterdam, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide © Karen Rubin/

You can purchase gift cards for stays or amenities at Historic Hotels of America, Historic Hotels Worldwide, Beyond Green and Preferred Hotels & Resorts (all brands of Preferred Hotels & Resorts), through the Gift Cards can be used for services, experiences, and stays at participating hotels and resorts in hundreds of destinations around the world. Gift cards do not expire. Purchase online at

Noble House Hotels & Resorts gift cards may be used at its collection of hotels, resorts, spas, restaurants, marinas and adventures across North America, among them, the Jekyll Island Club Resort, Jekyll Island, Georgia. (

Jekyll Island Club, Jekyll Island, Georgia, one of the Noble House Hotels & Resorts © Karen Rubin/

Small Luxury Hotels, with over 500 hotels in more than 90 countries, makes it simple to send an SLH Gift Card – just choose the occasion, select the amount, and finish with a personalized message.

New England Inns & Resorts Association gift cards can be redeemed at 300 lodging properties all over New England and can be purchased in any amount you choose. The cards never expire. Make a reservation directly with the property of your choice and let them know you will be using a New England Inns & Resort Gift Card.  Present the card at check-in.

Independent Collection Hotels & Resorts, a division of HHM which manages 240 properties across North America, offers gift cards for its portfolio of independent Luxury and Lifestyle, Resorts, Premium Branded and Branded Select. Among them: The Rittenhouse, Whiteface Lodge in lake Placid, MacArthur Place, Sonoma,

With a Gift Card from Historic Inns of Savannah, choose from six award-winning boutique hotels in Savannah’s famed historic district

Loved my stay at the Hotel Hannong, ideally situated walking distance to everything in Strasbourg, France, booked on © Karen Rubin/ (an Expedia company) gift cards unlock hundreds of thousands of places to stay worldwide, including major hotel chains. The gift cards are available in denominations from $10 to $2,000 and there are no expiration dates or fees. Also, also has a secure gift registry where friends and family can contribute toward a eGift Card – great for honeymoons, babymoons, graduation, or any other group-gifting occasion. Here’s fine print: Usable up to balance only for new hotel bookings at Only one gift card can be redeemed per online booking, but multiple gift cards may be combined into one gift card with a maximum value of $2000 by visiting the balance transfer tab found at Not redeemable at hotel locations or if you choose the Pay at Hotel option online. Not redeemable toward existing bookings or Packages. (For balance or information, visit or call US Toll Free 1-888-999-4468.)

Use a NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gift card to book a campsite at Watkins Glen State Park © Karen Rubin/

New York State’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gift card is usable at 8,500 campsites, 850 cabins, 135 cottages and 18 golf courses throughout the state. Use for fees associated with camping walk-ups, golf reservations and greens fees, camping supplies, boat rentals provided by NYS Parks (not for vehicle entrance fee, concessionaires, or Department of Environmental Conservation facilities). Purchase online at for any dollar amount and have no expiration date. They can be used with the NYS camping reservation system (Reserve America),, 800-456-2267.

Cruiselines also make it easy to purchase gift cards, and even gift registries so that family and friends can contribute to purchasing the cruise:

Major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean make it easy to purchase gift cards © Karen Rubin/

The Royal Caribbean pre-paid gift card is similar to a gift certificate. These digital funds can be used for Royal Caribbean International or Celebrity Cruises cruise bookings and redeemed by booking online. The gift card will be sent to the recipient via email on the delivery date you choose. For same-day delivery, most gift cards are sent within an hour of your purchase. Royal Caribbean (, 866-562-7625)

Norwegian Cruise Line makes it possible to gift onboard credit, wine, gourmet treats, spa visits, or create a registry so that bunches of family and friends can contribute toward a cruise (

Also: Disney Cruise Lines (; Carnival Cruise Lines (; Princess Cruises (; Holland America (

Maine Windjammer Association provides e-gift certificates that will be honored by any member of the fleet © Karen Rubin/

Maine Windjammer Association provides e-gift certificates that can be ordered in any denomination, and will be honored by any vessel in its fleet. The gift certificates never expire and can be customized with a special message. Order online. You can have your e-certificate sent immediately or schedule it for a future day. ([email protected],800-807-9463

Gift of Experience

Give experiences that turn a trip into a wonder that lasts a lifetime.

See more of Prague with the Prague Cool Pass © Karen Rubin/

You can pre-purchase a city-sightseeing pass that provides admissions to the most popular sights in cities like Prague (; Amsterdam; Berlin; Dresden; Paris (; New York City; Philadelphia. Wilmington, Delaware & the Brandywine Valley’s 2024 Brandywine Treasure Trail Passport provides access to 12 of Greater Wilmington’s top cultural attractions. Check out Go City, which sells passes in over 30 destinations from major metropolises like London and New York to oceanfront oases like Sydney and Oahu – 1,500 attractions, tours, and activities worldwide, saving money over purchasing individual tickets, connected on your smart phone (, 800 887 9103).

Gift certificates from can be redeemed for tickets to any Broadway or Off-Broadway show currently playing in New York City (

Drive an exotic car, learn to fly, rock climb, skydive, bungee jump, take a hot-air balloon ride. Virgin Experience lists some 5000 different experiences in 122 regions from 600 “best in class” partners that their gift card can be applied to: Go to Food & Wine Gifts, Adventures Experiences and other listings. Easy return, no expiration, free exchange (, (for Black Friday, use GIFT20 for 20% off).

Context offers walking tours with experts of dozens of destinations including Athens © Karen Rubin/

Context Travel offers personal walking tours with experts in 60 cities across 6 continents. Skip the line and off-hours access to popular sites in the world’s cultural and historical capitals. Tours range from half-day to 7-days plus. Context Travel also offers the “gift of learning” – virtual and in-person sessions with top experts– you can explore the Colosseum with an archaeologist, uncover masterpieces of the Louvre with an art historian, or explore the palaces of Istanbul with an architect — from home, or in person. Gift cards are redeemable for 100s of tours and experiences in any city, can be e-delivered immediately or at a future date and can be personalized with your message (

Spafinder, a compendium of resorts, wellness centers and day spas, makes it easy to purchase giftcards.  Take 25% off $200+ with promo code VIP25; get $20 off $80,

Theme parks can be a very, very pricey vacation for families. Gift cards can put the vacation in reach or enhance the experience. Disney’s gift cards can be purchased in denominations of $25 to $500 and used for “practically” all things Disney – theme park tickets, resort stays, merchandise, dining and experiences at Disney destinations. Redeemable at, Disney Store locations in the U.S., participating locations at Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida, Disneyland® Resort in California, Disney Cruise Line®, and Adventures by Disney®.

Also consider gifting some of the really special experiences, like Zookeeper for a Day at Busch Gardens (, or sleepover “Night in the Museum” experiences at places like National Air and Space Museum, International Spy Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Cincinnati Museum Center, California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

A great gift is purchasing admission to a major attraction like Harry Potter: The Exhibition, now on view in New York City © Karen Rubin/

Also think about pre-purchasing tickets to museums and attractions, like Harry Potter™: The Exhibition (50 W. 34th St.,; The Museum of Broadway(145 West 45th St.,, “Billy Joel- My Life, A Piano Man’s Journey” exhibit at Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (97 Main Street, Stony Brook,

For the skier/snowboarder, consider purchasing lift tickets, lessons, rentals, perhaps even a multi-day, regional or local pass (,,, Get Ski Tickets is an online marketplace to purchase date-specific discounted lift tickets, lessons, rentals, group lift tickets and season passes (, 970-233-7040, [email protected]) and gift certificates (

Fantasy Camp!

There are any number of fantasy camps to satisfy, well, every fantasy. If you can fantasize it, there is likely a fantasy camp to realize it.

Want to play baseball like a major leaguer? There are baseball fantasy camps with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Atlanta Braves ( Basketball: 76ers Fantasy Camp is the inaugural NBA fantasy camp,

Hockey goal, Jim Craig’s goalie stick and equipment from the 1980 Olympic gold-winning ‘Miracle on Ice’ on display at the Olympic Museum in Lake Placid, NY. In the Miracle On Ice Fantasy Camp, join players from the gold medal winning 1980 USA Hockey Team and skate and compete in the 1980 Rink © Karen Rubin/

Join players from the gold medal winning 1980 USA Hockey Team for this annual Miracle On Ice Fantasy Camp, in magnificent Lake Placid, NY – host city of the historic 1980 Winter Olympic Games. Skate and compete in the 1980 Rink – Herb Brooks Arena where USA conquered the Russians and shocked the sports and political world. (

Space Camp, an educational camp on the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, provides residential and educational programs for children and adults on themes such as space exploration, aviation and robotics (, [email protected], 800-637-7223).

Also: Broadway theater (Broadway Fantasy Camp,, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, an interactive musical event that takes place in various locations worldwide involving various Rock Stars on various dates.(; gift cards available, (

For many, being able to participate in important science research is also a fantasy. Earthwatch makes it possible to support research that responds to global challenges – from climate change to human-wildlife coexistence to sustainability – while engaging local communities, and offers more than 40 field research expeditions around the world, with opportunities for teens and adults and no prior experience needed (, [email protected]).

Getting There or Coming Here

Several airlines, such as Southwest Airlines, have gift certificate programs © Karen Rubin/

You can purchase gift cards on many airlines: the Delta Gift Card is redeemable for any Delta Air Lines flight worldwide and for any Delta Vacations package that includes airfare, no expiration date ( and Southwest Airlines (no expiration date, fully transferrable,usable for passenger travel,

Prefer riding the rails to boarding flights? Amtrak gift cards are available in an amount up to $500. No fees. Never expires. Have it emailed or sent through the mail. Redeem for travel online, in the app, by phone or in staffed stations. (May not be used for onboard purchases)

Memberships Have Benefits

Gifting family memberships in a favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits – from special access to events and openings, discounts and promotions, magazines.

Think about gifting membership in such stellar institutions as the American Museum of Natural History that transport near and far, back in time and into the future, and ignite a love of travel © Karen Rubin/

Support important institutions – and find unique gifts – from the American Museum of Natural History (members enjoy free admission, special access and previews of new exhibitions, and discounts on purchases with member ID (get $20 off membership with code MEM22); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago Museum of Art, any and every important museum, hall of fame, attraction, zoo such as the Wildlife Conservation Society which operates the Bronx Zoo among others (

Smithsonian Institution, not only has an excellent store and catalog of excellent expeditionary trips (, but I treasure the Smithsonian Magazine, which also provides membership benefits, access to gifts; subscribe to the magazine and get gift subscriptions to share with someone else,

Also check out the memberships and gift possibilities at: Sierra Club (produces an excellent catalog of trips,; Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such,, Parks & Trails NY  (which hosts the annual Cycle the Erie 8-day, 400-mile camping/biking trip,; Audubon Society; Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation; World Wildlife Federation).

Not able to visit? Many of the great museums, iconic institutions and organizations offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their mission by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials, discounts). It can be the way you bring home a real NASA astronaut’s outfit from Kennedy Space Center (

Travel Gear

Also appreciated: the gear, special clothing, photo equipment that a trip (expedition, voyage, journey) entails, but may feel guilty about purchasing or simply tapped out.

Our favorite go-to places (especially when you catch holiday deals, sales and closeouts): REI (top trending gifts, gifts by activity, by price,, 800-426-4840) LL Bean, 888-610-2326,; Sun & Ski,, 866-786-3869 (gift cards available); Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367,; Tennis Express (gift guide online,, Bass Pro Shops,; Patagonia (; Paragon Sports ( And of course, luggage – one great site (Save 15%, 888-958-4424).

A bucket-list, once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos is all the more memorable with the gift of a waterproof camera © Karen Rubin/

What trip doesn’t involve photos! B&H consistently has best inventory, prices and holiday specials, efficient delivery, excellent customer service, delivery and return policies,, 800.606.6969212.444.6615).

Great stocking stuffers so appreciated by travelers are socks for hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle: Bombas (get 20% off, and Darn Tough (

A subscription to a travel magazine like Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler ( is also a great gift to inspire and inform. National Geographic; there is also a National Geo Kids edition. (

See also:




© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

It’s the Magical Time of Year! Holiday Festivities Get Underway in NYC

Santa Claus comes to town! The 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the official kick-off to New York City’s season of holiday festivities and happenings. © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

New York City’s holiday season officially kick off with the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 23. From November to January, the city is a wonderland of holiday lightings, festive performances, winter exhibitions, special attractions and happenings across all five boroughs that surprise and delight the seven million travelers expected between Thanksgiving and New Years.


Radio City Rockettes performing their iconic Wooden Soldiers routine is always a highlight of the Christmas Spectacular © Karen Rubin/

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Nov.17-Jan. 1. Revel in the timeless and beloved holiday tradition as it once again graces the stage of Radio City Music Hall. With a history spanning nearly a century, this musical extravaganza features dazzling costumes, joyful songs, synchronized high kicks, innovative acts, and multiple daily shows.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, Nov. 24-Dec. 31 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, Nov. 29-Dec. 31 isa cherished tradition at New York City Center, now in its 65th annual winter season. This season features world premieres like CENTURY by Amy Hall Garner and Me, Myself and You by Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, along with Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit.

Twas the Night Before… by Cirque du Soleil at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Dec. 7-28.  Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever holiday production is sure to become a new NYC holiday tradition.

The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Metropolitan Opera, Dec. 8-30. The Met Opera  presents an abridged, English-language adaptation of Mozart’s magical fairy tale, ideal for all ages, delivering a captivating narrative and delightful melodies. Guided by conductors Patrick Furrer and Gareth Morrell, a standout cast takes the stage in Julie Taymor’s imaginative production.

Holidays with the New York Philharmonic, Dec. 12-17. NYPhil is teaming up with the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, conducted by baroque expert Fabio Biondi for a performance of Handel’s beloved masterpiece, Messiah. Additionally, the annual Holiday Brass tradition is back.

Candlelight Holiday Concert Series, Brooklyn Heights. Select dates from December 13-21. Enchanting Candlelight live, multi-sensory musical performances take place at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, the Church of Heavenly Rest and The Williamsburg Hotel.

The magnificent new performance venue at Perelman Arts Center in Lower Manhattan is featuring a holiday concert series © Karen Rubin/

Circle Songs: A Holiday Concert Series at Perelman Arts Center (PAC NYC), Lower Manhattan, Dec. 20-23. During PAC NYC’s inaugural season, experience a four-evening holiday concert series featuring world-class artists, including countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo with The Knights, Toshi Reagon’s circle of sonic experiences, Time for Three’s innovative transformation of Western music, and the dynamic Broadway duo; Orfeh and Andy Karl

The Best Christmas of All with Norm Lewis at Carnegie Hall, Dec. 22-23. The New York Pops’ annual holiday tradition returns for a merry night of classic carols, contemporary favorites, and a few surprises with Broadway baritone and Tony Award nominee Norm Lewis.

Holiday Programming at the Apollo Theater, Dec. 9 and 30, Harlem. The world-famous Apollo Theater is presenting several special events this season, including the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on Dec. 30, led by choreographer Abdel Salaam and Forces of Nature Dance Theatre, Apollo Amateur Night Holiday Special December 9 highlights accomplished alumni, echoing stars who began at the Apollo like Ella Fitzgerald and H.E.R. The theater also welcomes families for festive activities, Santa photos and performances, hosted by the Apollo Theater’s Tour Director and Ambassador, Billy Mitchell.

The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Theatre, Flatbush Brooklyn, Dec. 16, offers a fresh take on the cherished holiday favorite. Brilliantly weaving in the tapestry of Brooklyn’s varied traditions and dynamic culture, the show pays homage to the historical Dutch influence and the iconic Flatbush Avenue through its innovative and skillful performance.

O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi at Queens County Farm, Glen Oaks, Queens, Dec. 16. Join Queens County Farm Museum for a free, outdoor reading of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi by acclaimed actor Kevin R. Free. The program takes place in the farm’s three-acre pasture, where Free will recount the heartwarming tale of selfless love and Christmas spirit, with its everlasting significance since its publication in 1905.

Works & Process Rotunda Holiday Concert at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dec. 17. Charles Turner & Uptown Swing, joined by the accomplished Asian drag artist and Juilliard-trained tenor Jasmine Rice LaBeija, will fill the museum’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda with the joyous sounds of holiday music as part of an annual tradition beloved by all.

The Christmas Show at St. George Theatre, Staten Island. Dec. 8-10, celebrates its 20th anniversary of its beloved Christmas Show.


Saks Fifth Avenue always excites with its decorated windows and light show © Karen Rubin/

Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Displays & Second Annual Open Streets Program, Midtown Manhattan. throughout the holiday season, at iconic shopping venues including Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman. This season marks the return of the popular Open Streets program, where Fifth Avenue will close to all vehicular traffic and also open the sidewalks to a variety of food vendors and musical performers from local choirs and instrumental ensembles.

Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Metropolitan Museum, Fifth Avenue, Nov.  21-Jan. 7. An NYC tradition, The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche display features a beautifully decorated tree with a nativity scene encircling its base. This ensemble originates from an assemblage of 18th-century Neapolitan figures generously contributed by American artist and collector Loretta Hines Howard back in 1964. Hurry to see the “Manet/Degas” show before it ends, Jan. 7 (You must join the virtual exhibition queue via QR code once inside the Museum. No advance or timed tickets required. Access is first come, first served and subject to capacity limitations. The virtual queue closes daily when capacity is reached.) There is also a superb special show, Vertigo of Color: Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism, thru Jan. 21, 2024. (New Yorkers pay what you want admission;

The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche display features a beautifully decorated tree with a nativity scene encircling its base © Karen Rubin/

A Christmas Carol: The Manuscript at The Morgan Library & Museum, Murray Hill, Manhattan, Nov. 21-Jan. 7. Every holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. Bound in red goatskin leather, the manuscript was gifted to Dickens’ solicitor, Thomas Mitton, and later came into the possession of Pierpont Morgan in the 1890s. This season, the manuscript will be turned to page seven.

Be sure to visit the “Invisible World” at the Gilder Center The American Museum of Natural History © Karen Rubin/ 

The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, Nov. 22 throughout holiday season. Showcasing more than 1,000 hand-crafted models, the delightfully decorated Origami Holiday Tree, the theme of this year’s 13-foot tree is Elephants, featuring models inspired by the museum’s new exhibition The Secret World of Elephants, debuting November 13. Be sure to spend time exploring the Gilder Center, especially “Invisible World.”

Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection at New-York Historical Society, Nov. 24-Feb. 4. New-York Historical Society’s annual wintertime favorite, the Jerni Collection, displaying handcrafted and hand-painted toy trains spanning the years 1850 to 1940. Alongside these, an assortment of toy train stations illustrates the design evolution from the early 20th century to the era of World War II.

This way to the Holiday Express at the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/

Seaport Celebrations, Lower Manhattan.  Embrace the holiday season as the historic cobblestone streets of The Seaport and Pier 17 transform into a festive haven. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s latest culinary delight, the Tin Building, is located just steps away, ready to welcome visitors for the holidays.

Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden, Bedford Park, The Bronx, Nov. 17-Jan. 15.
For over three decades, the beloved Holiday Train Show has captivated holiday-goers with model trains zipping through a magical exhibition featuring over 190 replicas of iconic NYC landmarks. These charming creations are meticulously crafted from materials like birch bark, lotus pods, and cinnamon sticks, which will be presented on an all-new outdoor train display this year.

Holiday Wreath Workshop at Wave Hill, Riverdale, The Bronx,  Dec. 1-3. Take part in wreath making workshops with professionals and learn simple techniques for designing one-of-a-kind decorations, as well as strolling through an artisan market on site.

Christmas in Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island, Dec. 9-10. Experience the magic of the holiday season as Historic Richmond Town undergoes a charming Dickens-style makeover. From engaging living history demonstrations, unique gift shopping, crafting and exploring the tinsmith, carpenter and general store, to encounters with Santa, delectable local cuisine and many more joyful attractions, this two-day event promises a jolly ambience for all ages to enjoy.


Saks Fifth Avenue always transfixes with its decorated windows and light show © Karen Rubin/

Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Nov. 17-Jan. 1, returns to Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a longer illuminated trail, more works of art from around the world, and new, immersive experiences. Dozens of monumental light sculptures, a million lights, curated music playlist create a winter wonderland along a one-mile outdoor trail.

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, Nov. 17-Jan. 7. With more than 390 lanterns representing nearly 100 animal and plant species, the Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music, the Holiday Train, new interactive experiences, and other festive entertainment.

NYBG GLOW, Bedford Park, The Bronx, Nov. 17-Jan. 13. Discover the beauty of the New York Botanical Garden’s landscape and historic buildings, breathtakingly illuminated. Returning for its fourth year with special evening events, the Garden’s iconic sights and architecture, including the Haupt Conservatory and the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building, become dramatic, glittering canvases.

Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour with On Location Tours, Manhattan, Nov. 25-Jan. 2. Explore the holiday charm of New York City with On Location Tours, visiting iconic landmarks and hidden gems while discovering filming locations from popular holiday movies like Elf, Home Alone 2, Scrooged and more. Starting at Columbus Circle and Central Park West, the tour includes stops at Bloomingdale’s, Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park’s famous ice-skating rink. 

Rockefeller Center is decked for the holidays © Karen Rubin/

Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, throughout the holiday season. Presented by Wells Fargo, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards will once again mesmerize the neighborhood with  2 million twinkling lights, 725 adorned evergreen trees, 115 miles of string lights and impressive 16-foot illuminated hot air balloon structures positioned throughout the Public Square and Gardens.

Astra Lumina at Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing, Queens,  Nov. 24-Dec. 31. This one-mile-long night walk with captivating projections, dazzling lights and celestial tunes.

NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm at Queens County Farm Museum, Glen Oaks. Queens, Nov. 17-Jan. 7. Enter the whimsical world of NYC Lantern Festival lighting up the holiday season with unique light displays throughout six acres of historic farmland. This stunning array of artisanal lanterns creates an unforgettable immersive experience featuring a dazzling display of lights and illuminated Chinese lanterns, all handmade by artisans with decades of dedication to their craft.

The Original Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights with A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Brooklyn, December, takes visitors through Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights area, famous for its extravagant Christmas decorations. Led by locals who know the homeowners and their decoration stories, this 3½-hour tour starts in Manhattan, includes festive music and showcases spectacular holiday homes in Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. The tour offers both on- and off-bus views of dazzling lights, features vintage Christmas TV specials and provides a commemorative souvenir fridge magnet at the end.


Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park is an entire entertainment complex offering the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall and carousel © Karen Rubin/

The Rink at Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan (behind the 42nd Street Library), Through early March. Returning for its 22nd season, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is an entire entertainment complex offering the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall and carousel.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan, through March. The world-famous ice-skating rink is back for the holidays, offering the classic NYC experience of skating under the iconic Christmas tree. Santa joins skaters on the ice in December.

Rockefeller Center offers the classic NYC experience of skating under the iconic Christmas tree © Karen Rubin/

Wollman Rink, Central Park, through March 15. Enjoy skating in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background. Wollman Rink is continuing its partnership with Culture Pass.

The Rink at Manhattan West, Midtown Manhattan, throughout the holiday season, offers daily public skating and upscale ice skating programs hosted by Olympians Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. Located a block away from Madison Square Garden, this 60×80 rink provides a skating experience amidst skyscrapers in Manhattan West’s expansive public plaza, steps away from Moynihan Train Hall.

Sky Skate at Hudson Yards, throughout the holiday season. New York City’s highest skating rink take in New York’s sights while gliding on a 1,024 square foot Glice® rink, a zero-energy ecological and synthetic ice rink positioned in the indoor portion of Edge’s sky deck.

Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn Heights, Nov. 15–March 1. Skate beneath the historic Brooklyn Bridge while taking in the stunning Manhattan skyline views at Glide. After enjoying the city’s newest ice rink, savor a diverse selection of café and beverage options.

Classic Harbor Line Holiday-Themed Cruises,  throughout the holiday season. Themed cruises include four-course holiday brunches, Cocoa and Carols, and Holidays Jazz. Set sail across the East and Hudson Rivers, treating yourself to captivating views of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

City Cruises Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan,  throughout the holiday season. Delight in the festive decorations, delectable meals and breathtaking city views from the comfort of the glass-enclosed deck as the cruise glides across the East and Hudson Rivers.  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s dining cruises.

Enjoy festive shopping at Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park, offering a holiday market comprising nearly 200 merchants. rinkside bar, food hall, carousel and the City’s largest free-admission skating rink, © Karen Rubin/

Festive shopping at New York City’s Holiday Markets, Manhattan & Brooklyn. Throughout the holiday season. The biggest holiday markets are:  Holiday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park; Columbus Circle Holiday Market; Grand Central Holiday Fair

Also: Brooklyn Flea (Sundays, Nov.–Dec.); Chelsea Flea (weekends only, year-round); Grand Holiday Bazaar (Sundays, year-round); Brooklyn Borough Hall Holiday Market (Nov.–Dec.).

The Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue decorated for the holidays © Karen Rubin/

NYC Hotel Week: Give the Gift of an NYC Hotel Stay this Winter: NYC Hotel WeekSM returns as part of NYC Winter OutingSM. Give the gift of New York City with a 24% discount on hotel stays at more than 100 hotels. Reservations open November 14; valid for stays over January 3–February 4, 2024.

For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

It’s the Best Time of Year – for Snatching Savings on Vacation Travel in 2024

Kinderdijk, Netherlands. Discovery Bicycle Tours is offering a $500 pp savings for bookings on its Bruges-Amsterdam boat-bike tour through Dec. 15 © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

Lock in your 2024 vacation and turn travel dreams into actual dates at incredible discounts by taking advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday deals and perks from scores of travel companies. Here’s just a sampling of what is available:

Cruise Deals

Holland America Line’s passengers can take advantage of its Black Friday Sale, Nov. 17-Dec. 1 on more than 800 departures, from December 2023 through select 2025 cruises. Value of gratuities ranges from $112 for a seven-day cruise to $688 for a 43-day sailing, per person. Reduced cruise fares of up to 30% off are available on itineraries spanning Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, South America and Antarctica. The reduced fare also applies to the cruise portion of an Alaska Cruisetour, combining an Alaska cruise with an overland tour to Denali and the Yukon. Guests who book the Have It All premium fare receive even more amenities included in their booking. (

Other major cruise lines offering Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals include: MSCCarnivalNorwegian and Royal Caribbean. Also check luxury, river, and expedition cruise lines for their incentives. See more deals at is now also booking cruises on 30 lines and 10,000 routes with a 110% best price guarantee, and is offering Black Friday savings on several lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises. You can get up to $100, $200, $500 up to $2000 to spend at sea by booking a cruise before Nov. 30.

Quark Expeditions, a leaders in polar cruising,  is offering up to 50% off select Antarctic 2023/24 departures; 40% off select Arctic 2024 voyages; free cabin upgrades on select Antarctic 2024/25 bookings; an additional 10% off all Arctic 2024 and Antarctic 2024/25 voyages when paid in full at time of booking and as much as 30% on all other seasons for Black Friday sale bookings Nov. 13-27 (limited cabins available). [email protected], 833-435-1900,

European Waterways is offering a Black Friday Special of 25% off on whole boat charters on two of its popular hotel barge cruises in France © Karen Rubin/

European Waterways is offering a Black Friday Special of 25% off on whole boat charters on two of its popular hotel barge cruises in France. Book Nov. 24-Dec. 1 for the April 7, 2024 departure of the 12-passenger La Belle Epoque in Burgundy and the March 31, 2024 departure of the eight-passenger Enchanté on the Canal du Midi. With the Black Friday Special, the charter price for La Belle Epoque is $54,375, a saving of $18,125 off the original $72,500 price. The charter price for Enchanté is $42,375, a saving of $14,125 off the original price of $56,500. Barge cruises are all-inclusive and include gastronomic meals with wine pairing, luxury accommodations, and wine tasting excursions. visit

Piloting Le Boat on a canal in France, getting ready to go through a lock. Le Boat, a leader in self-piloted boat rental experiences in Europe and its newest destination, Canada, is offering “Let’s Go Boating in 2024” deals © Karen Rubin/

Le Boat, a leader in self-piloted boat rental experiences in Europe and its newest destination, Canada, is offering “Let’s Go Boating in 2024” deals. Valid for new bookings made Nov. 16-28, 2023 for rentals for 7 or more nights for travel in 2024, get savings of 20-25% depending on boat type, duration of travel and destination: in France, save 25% on select budget and comfort boats; save 20% in Canada on the Rideau Canal and Trent-Severn Waterway boat rentals on Horizon 3, 4 and 5.  Call 1-800-734-5491 or visit

Erie Canal Adventures has a fleet of 11 self-piloted canalboats (easy to pilot, like an RV on the water), based out of Erie Macedon Landing to explore New York State’s magnificent Erie Canal on your own. Take advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday savings of 10% off the boat rental. Besides saving up to $550, booking early gives you your pick of dates and boat layouts before they sell out. Use Promo Code ERIENOW10 when booking, 315-986-3011, info@eriecanaladventures,

Eric Canal Adventures is offering up to $550savings  on self-piloted canalboat on the Erie Canal in upstate New York  © Karen Rubin/

Save on Tours

CIE Tours is offering savings of up to $600 this Black Friday on more than 20 popular guided vacations to Ireland, Britain, Iceland, and Italy. Book Nov. 19- 25 for all 2024 departures with no blackout dates. Examples: Jewels of IrelandIcelandic ExplorerHighlights of BritainTuscan Treasures with Cinque Terre. Book here:  For Cyber Week bookings online, Nov. 26-Dec. 2, save up to 15% per couple for travel from June 1 through August 31, 2024. . Book here:

Rome at night. Perillo Tours is offering $250 off per person for new bookings made Nov. 20 -27 for tours in Italy, Hawaii, Spain, and Greece © Karen Rubin/

Perillo Tours is offering $250 off per person for new bookings made Nov. 20 -27 for tours in Italy, Hawaii, Spain, and Greece. Book online at Additionally, travelers booking Italy Custom Trips can receive $150 off per person with the promo code BFITALY23.

Discovery Bicycle Tours is offering $500 off per person on bookings of two of its stellar cycling holidays booked by Dec. 15: Bike & Barge Bruges to Amsterdam (, a delightful trip that maximizes relaxation with sensational, scenic cycling; and E-bike New Zealand Trails, mostly off-road, car-free cycling through the spectacular scenery on the South Island ( Mention “Holiday Sale 2023” in your online reservation comments, or when you call 800-257-2226.

Escape Adventures is offering a Black Friday discount of 25% off $1099 regular price ($824) on this 4-day White Rim Mountain Biking Tour in Utah. Book at, with code WR25.

Ride & Seek is offering $1,000 off its France cycling tour from the culinary capital of Lyon to the wine mecca of Bordeaux as a Black Friday special. The price of the 20-day tour before the discount is $10,471.

Resort Stays

Club Med, a pioneer of the all-inclusive resort holiday, is offering 50% off plus up to $500 Instant Credit when booking a getaway to favorites like the 5-star eco-chic Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, and the Club Med Québec, its only North American mountain resort for an all-inclusive ski holiday. PLUS: kids under 4 stay free and no single supplement. Book Nov. 16-29, 2023, for travel Dec. 2, 2023-June 28, 2024.

Club is offering 50% off plus up to $500 Instant Credit when booking a getaway to one Club Med’s all-inclusive favorites like the 5-star eco-chic Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda.

Saint Lucia resorts are going all out for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, with every offer on the island listed on a dedicated page at (click Specials), and at Two dozen properties, from family resorts to ultra luxe boutique hotels, are taking up to 76% off, and adding perks. Among the top deals: BodyHoliday (up to 40% off this wellness mecca); Caille Blanc Villa & Hotel (up to 40% off plus $150 dining credit), Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa (save 65% on this family favorite), East Winds Resort (a charming waterfront resort 30% off) SoCo House Saint Lucia ($400 all-inclusive rate for two guests at one of Saint Lucia’s newest hotels), Stonefield Villa Resort (20% off a locally-owned upscale hidden gem), Ti Kaye Resort and Spa (up to 45% off, plus perks like 30% off massages, a best-kept luxury secret) and Zoetry Marigot Bay, St. Lucia (up to 76% off this newly launched luxury all-inclusive resort).

Fairmont Banff Springsis offering a 15% off bookings made Nov. 13-27, 2023 for stays through June 30, 2024 © Karen Rubin/

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is offering up to 30% off stays through June 30,2024 booked by Nov. 27, 2023 to unlock savings of up to 30% off your stays through June 30, 2024 at participating properties. Fairmont is part of ALL Accor Live Limitless, Accor’s loyalty program. Join and enjoy an additional discount up to 10% with the Members’ Rate, among other perks & benefits. Book:

Velas Resorts in Mexico is offering discounts and perks for stays through 2024 for bookings made Nov. 22-26: Save up to 20% on nightly rates, complimentary stays for kids, 50% off for teens, airport transfers, unlimited access to the spa’s hydrotherapy, suite upgrades. The new Grand Velas Boutique Los Cabos, opening in December, sweetens the deal with a $100 credit for romantic experiences. Mar del Cabo by Velas Resorts includes daily breakfast and 2-for-1 offers on select Cabo Adventure activities. Visit or call 1-877-418-3059.

Canopy by Hilton Cancun La Isla, Cancun, Mexico. Book Nov. 23-27 for special room rate of $190 including breakfast for two (20% off) for travel from Dec. 1, 2023-June 30,2024 (blackout dates apply)

Atlantis Paradise Island is offering a Cyber Week Sale, Nov. 22-Dec. 1 in The Coral, The Royal, The Cove, and The Reef Towers. For stays from Jan. 2 through April 30, 2024, get the 5th night free PLUS a $500+ in Resort Credit. For stays from May 1 through Nov. 30, 2024, get the 4th night free PLUS a $400+ in Resort Credit. For every $100 purchased in Beverage Marine Adventure Experience Credits, $20 is added. Book with flexible payment options and cancellation policies by visiting or calling 1-800-ATLANTIS.

SB Winemaker’s House & Spa Suites in Mendoza, Argentina is offering 30% off its new Nature, Wine & Art Experience (starts at $4,235 pp/double before discount), when booked Nov. 23-27, 2023 for travel in January 2024. Guests at this boutique estate from Argentina’s first female winemaker start enjoy a 50-minute in-suite massage upon arrival and in-room spa amenities and nightly in-suite aromatherapy and private garden; Chef’s Table dinner at La Vida restaurant featuring bold Argentinian cuisine paired with Susana Balbo’s wines; immersive winery tour and private lunch overlooking vineyards at the foot of the Andes. Art enthusiasts can craft their own ceramic pieces at a local studio before a dinner at renowned artist Sergio Roggerone home. A day in Potrerillos offers water activities and glamping. Visit or call: +54 9 261 417 1144

Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which manages more than 25 hotels and resorts on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island is offering 20% off for bookings Nov. 21-28, 2023 for travel Nov. 21, 2023-Dec. 20, 2024. Enjoy condo-style properties with resort amenities at Aston Kaanapali Shores, Aston Waikiki Beach Tower, and Aston at the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach.  Book at using Promo Code CCYBERSALE..

The Meritage Collection is offering 30% off best available rate and a $30 daily resort credit for bookings made through Nov 30, 2023, for travel through Nov. 30, 2024 (blackout dates apply) at its properties: Koʻa Kea Resort on Poʻipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii’s closest hotel accommodations to the waterfront, with views of Poʻipu Beach, intimate guestrooms, and renowned Red Salt restaurant led by Kauai native and Executive Chef Noelani Planas. Paséa Hotel & Spa, Huntington Beach, California,  in a vibrant coastal community, with 250 rooms and suites (most are ocean-facing),iconic Ninth Island Pool perched over the Pacific Ocean, Balinese-inspired Aarna Spa and 1,100 square-foot Paw-séa Pup Play Park. Book at or using promo code PROCYB.

The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Waikiki, offers a quintessential Hawaii experience, lounging in vintage-inspired rooms with mid-century aesthetic and the swoon worthy “Wish You Were Here” pool. Indulge in award-wining cuisine at the onsite Mahina & Sun’s. Deal: 21% savings off 1-Room Bungalow, 1-Room Bedroom, & 2-Room Bedroom; Book Nov 17-30 for travel Nov 17, 2023-Dec. 31, 2024 (subject to blackouts). Book at and use code CYBER2023 

ADERO Scottsdale Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona,a modern desert sanctuary located in one of 60 Dark Sky Communities in the world, is known for exceptional stargazing, hiking and biking trails and wellness amenities including on-site spa and pickleball Save 25% in addition to $50 resort credit (rates start at $179/night before discount); book thru Dec. 10 for travel through Jan. 21, 2024. Book:

The Virginian Lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming provides easy access to
Grand Teton National Park © Karen Rubin/

The Virginian Lodge, Jackson Hole, WY is offering up to 30% off the best available rate for bookings made now through Dec. 1, 2023 for travel now through September 2024 (72 hr-7 day cancellation policy applies). The dog-friendly property features two hot tubs, seven built-in fire pits, an all-season pool, the iconic Virginian Saloon, and over 4,000 square feet of event space. The Virginian Lodge is the ideal base camp for access to world-class national parks (Grand Teton, Yellowstone), wildlife refuges, museums, hot springs, local distilleries and wineries, and authentic dude ranches. Book:  

Limelight Hotels in Aspen, Snowmass and Denver, CO and Ketchum, ID is offering up to 30% off best available retail rate booked Nov. 24-29, 2023 for stays through March 31, 2024 (blackout dates apply):  he Mountain Town Getaway Deal offers up to 25% off on a four-night stay at any mountain destination properties – Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado or Ketchum, Idaho, subject to availability for deluxe rooms and higher. Limelight’s newest property, Limelight Hotel Denver is offering up to 30% off BAR). Book: using code CYBER23.

Outbound Mammoth, Mammoth Lakes, CA is offering up to 30% off the best available retail rate for bookings made now through Dec. 1, 2023, for stays now through September 2024 (48 hr cancellation; blackout dates apply). Outbound Mammoth is a six-acre respite with convenient access to the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Mammoth Lakes Hiking Trails, and the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park. Outbound Hotels has reimagined this Mammoth Lakes icon with fully renovated rooms and chalets plus 10 new cabins and 20 villas, a new pool area, on-site restaurant, steam room, dry sauna, fire pits and offerings for pets. In the winter, the snow-covered slopes call to ski and snowboarding enthusiasts; in the summer, Mammoth Lake beckons with fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, hot springs and boating. Book: 

Brewery Gulch Inn, a charming, luxurious inn in Mendocino California is offering 30 percent savings for Black Friday/Cyber Monday © Karen Rubin/

Brewery Gulch Inn, a charming, luxurious inn on cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Mendocino California, is offering 30% off new bookings made Nov. 24-27, for travel through May 24, 2024; and 35% off reservations Dec.1-21 (minimum two nights, blackout dates include holidays).

Southernmost Beach Resort in Key West, Florida is offering 50% off bookings made Nov. 24- Dec. 1 for stays through Dec. 31, 2024. Boasting three palm-fringed pools with private cabanas, a signature restaurant, and three bars, full-service spa, group fitness classes, live entertainment, and unique programming including cocktail tastings and painting classes,  this oceanfront oasis sets the tone for a tranquil stay in Key West’s Historic District. Book:

Watching the sunset is always a highlight of travel to the Florida Keys © Karen Rubin/

Hawks Cay Resort, the Florida Keys, offers fishing excursions, dolphin encounters, and snorkel trips on-site. The new Pilar Bar hosts rum tastings and cigar pairings inspired by longtime Keys resident Ernest Hemingway.  Deal: up to 45% off accommodations and $50 resort credit, plus daily breakfast for two during stays booked Nov 14-29 with code CYBERW, for a 2-night minimum stay at the hotel and a 3-night minimum stay at its villas (subject to availability, blackout dates apply).   

Caribe Royale Orlando, Orlando, FL, an all-suite resort catering a stones throw from DisneyWorld and other top theme parks, just underwent a $140 million renovation. It offers 1,215 one-bedroom suites (sleep up to5) and 120 two-bedroom villas (sleep up to 6), seven on-site culinary venues, family friendly activities including outdoor pool with 75 foot waterslide, catch-and-release fishing, kiddie splashpool and playground, and outdoor movie program. Deal: 30% off with $25 nightly F&B credit when booking direct for 2 consecutive nights or more, booked Nov. 16-29 for travel Nov. 16, 2023-Dec. 31, 2024. Book at

Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, Hollywood, Florida  a family-friendly tropical escape with 369-rooms, eight bar and restaurant concepts, two pools, FlowRider surfing simulator, year-round live entertainment, the St. Somewhere Spa, kid’s club, paddle boarding and kayaking. Deal: Save up to 20% when booking Nov. 20-28, 2023 for stays Nov. 21, 20223-June 30, 2024.

Sanderling Resort, Duck, NC is offering up to 40% off the best available retail rate for bookings made Nov. 9-29, 2023 for travel Nov. 9, 2023-August 31, 2024 (blackout dates apply. The AAA Four-Diamond full-service resort on North Carolina’s Outer Banks spans 13 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and serene Currituck Sound. Enjoy three pools, oversized fire pits, dining at the Lifesaving Station and the on-site Spa at Sanderling with award-winning services. Book:

The Art of Living Retreat Center, Boone, North Carolina, a wellness experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is offering 25% off Signature Retreats (Happiness, Stepping Into Silence, Meditation) and R+R Retreats, booked Nov. 17-27 for stays from Dec. 2023-March 2024. To book: with code BLACKFRIDAY2023.

Rock Springs Retreat Center, located 45 minutes from Nashville, Tennessee, offers transformative retreats focused on holistic wellness, combining fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle to help individuals achieve sustainable, long-term results. Deal: From Nov. 20 – Dec. 1, book one week and get the second week at 60% off the weekly rate for stays through Feb. 29, 2024 (based on availability and blackout dates apply). To book: call Rock Springs Retreat Center at 615-437-6524.

Makeready Hotels, a Dallas based experience-driven hospitality company, operates an independent and diverse collection of  restaurant, retail and hotel brands across the US such as Dallas, Nashville, Charleston, Denver, Savannah GA, Charleston SC, Cape Neddick ME, Nashville TN, Columbus OH.  Deal: This collection wide Cyber Sale, Nov. 17-29, offers guests up to 24% off guest rooms, $24 dining credit and 24% off retail. Book: Visit the offers webpage of any Makeready Hotel, the full list of properties can be found at

Three Charlestown Hotels properties in Charleston, S.C. are offering deals of 23 to 25% off on bookings made Nov. 28-Dec. 3 for travel by Dec. 31, 2024:  

HarbourView InnCharleston’s intimate, 52-room waterfront retreat in the heart of the Historic District From customized gourmet artisanal breakfast delivered in-room to complimentary afternoon wine and cheese hour on the hotel’s private rooftop (the only remaining in downtown Charleston) the hotel emulates warm Southern hospitality. (Rates start at $289/night before discount). To Book:

The Spectator Hotel, Charleston, is offering 23% off stays. With 41 residential-style rooms, this Holy City high-design, Art Deco boutique property is the only hotel in Charleston with personal butler service for coordinating anything from developing itineraries and making hard-to-get reservations to dream restaurants to drawing candlelit rose petal baths and delivering handcrafted cocktails from The Bar, the hotel’s Prohibition-era themed cocktail lounge (rates start at $299/night before discount). Book at

French Quarter Inn, a 50-room luxury boutique hotel (Charleston’s most awarded hotel), showcases the southern charm the city is known for with a comfortable upscale design, famous locally sourced artisanal breakfast and refined turndown service complete with complimentary port wine, freshly baked cookies with milk, locally handcrafted chocolates or “sleepy tea” and curated pillow menu (seven options for all types of sleepers). (Rates start at $289/night before discount). Book at

The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, Manchester, VT  is offering up to 40% off best available rate for bookings made now through Nov. 29, 2023 for travel now through August 31, 2024 (blackout dates apply). Nestled in the Green Mountain National Forest in historic Manchester, VT, The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa has welcomed guests for over 250 years, including four U.S.  presidents. The expansive resort features over 195 guestrooms with several suite categories; a full-service spa, 75-foot indoor pool and fitness classes; five dining outlets, including the fabled Marsh Tavern (a destination since 1769) and an award-winning par-71, 18-hole championship golf course. The Equinox Resort is a year-round playground for lovers of the outdoors with something for everyone, delicious dining, history, four seasons of adventure & of course spectacular skiing with easy access to Bromley & Stratton mountains. Book:

The Wentworth, in Jackson, NH, is offering 30% off the Dinner and Breakfast Package which includes accommodations, breakfast, and a four-course meal in the 1869 Room for 2024 bookings made Nov. 23-29 using the code BLACKFRIDAY (full payment required, non-refundable, blackout dates apply). (   

The Menhaden in Greenport, NY offers 25% savings and a bottle of local red wine for new bookings made Nov. 24-Dec. 1. Travelers enjoy a special discount of 25% off and a hand-selected bottle of local red wine, for stays Nov. 24, 2023-Feb. 1, 2024. Use code CYBER to book at

Campspot, a camping and outdoor adventures platform, has Black Friday/Cyber Monday Camping Deals for up to 50% off* on some of the top campgrounds. Here’s a sampling: Broad River Campground (Mooresboro, NC)- 40% off: escape winter in your own heated cabin or dome with an outdoor fire pit at this pet-friendly campground, which offers various activities and nearby hiking, biking, and horse trails. Wild Fox Cabins & Campground (Lakeville, ME)- 40% off: Snuggle up in a cozy cabin and enjoy the spectacular woodland and lake surroundings at this campground perched along the legendary ‘chain of lakes. Lake Hemet Campground (Mountain Center, CA)- 30% off: This award-winning campground offers stunning mountain views and is a top spot for camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Riverbend RV Park & Cabins (Montrose, CO)- 20% off: Enjoy riverfront living at this campground, which offers cabins and RV sites perfect for floating and fly fishing adventures. is inviting subscribers to get notices of deals worth 30% or more off stays in their inbox, for booking between Nov. 16-29, 2023 for stays anytime until Dec. 31, 2024 (free cancellation and flexible payment options). is offering 20% off $150 gift cards purchased through Nov. 30 (use promo code HOLIDAY23).

See also:


Coming up: Gift of Travel


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

Travel Companies’ Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Travel Tuesday Deals Put Bucket List Destinations, Experiences Within Reach

Death Valley National Park. Being able to stay within the park lets you take advantage of amazing sunsets and sunrises. Xanterra is offering discount at the luxury Oasis and family-friendly Ranch © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

Travel companies – airlines, cruiselines, hotels and resorts, tour companies – are going big for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, putting bucket list destinations and experiences within reach. We’ve gathered some of the deals to provide a snapshot of what you can expect – it can be a discount on the package price, upgrade, or special features added on. But if you don’t see a travel company you are interested in, search for the website and “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday” deals to find offers and get any necessary code. Here’s a taste of the goodies to snatch:

Xanterra Travel Collection® “Thankful for Travel Sale” 

From Nov. 21-Dec. 1, 2023, save up to 30% on national park stays, luxury, yacht-style cruises, a historic train ride to the Grand Canyon, walking and biking tours in Europe, and legendary resorts. Xanterra owns or operates the lodges in Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Glacier National Park, and Grand Canyon, South Rim; Windstar Cruises, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, The Oasis at Death Valley, Holiday Vacations, Country Walkers and VBT Bicycling Vacations.  The affiliated legendary Five-Star, Five-Diamond Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and the longest-running Five-Star award-winning Sea Island resort in Georgia are also participating in the sale. (Visit Highlights include:
National Parks

View of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim at sunset. Xanterra’s ”Thankful for Travel” sale includes special offers on National Park stays, including Grand Canyon’s South Rim hotels © Karen Rubin/
  • The Oasis at Death Valley – Save 30% on hotel stays at the beautifully renovated and historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and the newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley, including new, cozy cottages, spring fed pools and the lowest elevation golf course. Valid for select overnight stays between Dec 2023 and Feb 2024. 
  • Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – Save 30% on roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey in fully restored historic train cars to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Thankful for Travel package for select travel dates January-March 7, 2024.
  • Grand Canyon South Rim – Save 30% on in-park lodging at Maswik Lodge, Kachina Lodge, and Bright Angel Lodge and 20% at the historic El Tovar Hotel for stays between December 2, 2023, and March 7, 2024. All lodges are in the Historic Grand Canyon Village within walking distance of the rim of the Grand Canyon, Lookout Studio and Hopi House. Take advantage of the secret season at Grand Canyon, South Rim and enjoy the park without the crowds. 
  • The Grand Hotel – Save 30% at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates Dec 2, 2023- March 7, 2024. 
  • Zion National Park – Save 30% on overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Dec 2023 and Feb 2024. 
  • Cedar Creek Lodge, at the gateway to Glacier National Park – Save 30% on rooms for select dates between Dec 2023 and April 2024.
  • Yellowstone – Save 30% on select room types at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel from Dec 15 –21, 2023  and Jan 2 – Mar 3, 2024, and at Old Faithful Snow Lodge from Dec 16 –22, 2023, and Jan 2 – Mar 2, 2024. Save this spring at Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel on stays between April 26 – May 9, 2024, and save at Lake Yellowstone Hotel May 10 – 22, 2024.
The Grand Prismatic, Yellowstone National Park. Take advantage of Xanterra Travel Collection’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday national park hotel sales to put your family in the picture © Karen Rubin/

Luxury Hotels

  • Sea Island – Book between November 24-November 28, 2023, to receive: up to 25% off standard rate at the Cloister or The Lodge  for stay s Jan-Mar, Sept-Dec 21, 2024; 15% off for stays Apr-Aug; 10% off stays at Cottages Jan-Dec 21, 2024; $250 resort credit per stay at The Cloister and The Lodge and $100 resort credit per Cottage stay.
  • The Broadmoor – 15% off all-inclusive Wilderness Experience stays for select dates in the 2024 season (April-October); Broadmoor exclusive of $269 nightly rates & suites available at 25% off of published rates valid for select dates in January through April 2024. Book between Nov 14 – Dec 1, 2023. More details and booking information here.
    • Situated at the gateway to the Colorado Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor and its Wilderness Experience properties – The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Cloud Camp and the Orvis-endorsed Fly Fishing Camp – encompass 5,000 acres. The resort campus has 784 rooms, suites and cottages. It includes two championship golf courses, an award-winning spa and fitness center, a nationally recognized tennis staff and program, 20 retail boutiques, plus 20 diverse restaurants, cafes and lounges. Other activities include falconry, mountain biking, hiking, rock-climbing tours, fly-fishing, Wild West Experiences and more.
    • The Broadmoor Wilderness Experience properties are three all-inclusive boutique facilities that highlight an authentic Colorado experience while offering mountain rustic luxury along with The Broadmoor’s legendary service: an upscale dude ranch, a fly fishing mecca, and  a relaxing and glamorous Western mountaintop camp. Open May-October.
The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, grand, historic resort

Guided Travel/Tours

  • Bicycling Tours (VBT) – Book any 2024 departure of a Guided Biking tour to France with an Air Package and save $250.
  • Walking Adventures (Country Walkers)– Book any 2024 departure of a Guided Walking tour to Italy with an Air Package and save $250.
  • Holiday Vacations – Join a Hawaii Three Island Holiday tour on either Feb 24 or March 2, 2024 to save $300 pp


  • Windstar Cruises – Pick Your Perk! Select one: free pre- or post-cruise hotel nights, up to $1,000 onboard credit, OR premium suite guests may select a free upgrade to an All-Inclusive Fare featuring Wi-Fi; unlimited beer, wine & cocktails; and all gratuities. PLUS reduced deposits of just 5%.  

Tour Operator Specials

EF Go Ahead Tours, a premier provider of education-based group travel experiences, has been offering a month of deals, that climax with Black Friday/Cyber Monday. The sales, which include select discounts of up to 20% and lightning deals of up to $1,000 off per traveler, coincide with a record increase in consumer demand for immersive travel beyond  historically-favorite destinations. Week 4: Nov. 17-22: Save up to $600/$1,200 per couple on Bucket List destinations (Africa, Asia, Latin America, like Bali & Java: Culture & Landscapes of Indonesia, priced from $3,039). Black Friday: major savings on all destinations plus an extra $100 off on all tours and special Lightning deals and extras such as free excursions. Cyber Monday: Buy more, save more & get an extra $50 off when booking online.  Flexible Travel Policies. Book & Rebook with Confidence. AutoPay financial planning with $99 down and interest-free payment plans.  Visit

Biking through Custer State Park, South Dakota, where the buffalo roam, on Wilderness Voyageurs’ Badlands and Black Hills inn-to-inn bike tour © Karen Rubin/

Wilderness Voyageurs, which operates fully supported, inn-to-inn bicycle tours across the United States, is offering savings of $75 off 3-day tours, $100 pp off 4-day tours, $125 off 5-day tours and $150 off 6-day tours for any bike tour booked by Dec. 14. (800-272-4141,

G Adventures’ Cyber Sale, through November 30, provides 30% off per person on guaranteed departures of small-group tours, for select dates departing before April 30, 2024. To book:

Resorts Around the World

Club Med, a pioneer of the all-inclusive resort, offers deals, discounts, specials all year long. Check out the all-inclusive deals to ski resorts and beach destinations (photo from Club Med).

Club Med: Book by Jan. 8, 2024 for travel by June 28, 2024 to get an extra 10% off all-inclusive beach and mountain getaways. Get up to 40% off plus: Up to $200 additional instant credit per person; Kids under 4 stay FREE; Bundle with air & save 10% extra. For solo travelers, the Single Supplement is waived on select dates. Visit:

Borgo San Vincenzo, Montepulciano, Italy: Tuscany’s newest luxury boutique hotel, , is a reimagined 18th-century borgo named for the patron saint of winemaking, offering sophisticated wine-driven experiences inviting guests to immerse in the region’s vibrant culture, breathtaking views, historic wine scene and culinary excellence. Located in the heart of Montepulciano, Italy, in the Vino Nobile vineyards, Borgo San Vincenzo offers 21 luxury studios and suites and personalized experiences like tours of the region by foot, horse, e-bike, Vespa, or hot air balloon, cooking classes in a winery, truffle hunting and olive oil tasting, among others. Borgo San Vincenzo’s Escape to Tuscany specials from  Nov. 23-27  include  20% off on all suites in any season (4-night minimum stay), daily breakfast for two, complimentary e-bike rental for two days and €100 euros ($106) food & beverage credit. The hotel can also be booked for exclusive use €30,000 euros ($31,857) for a 4-night stay (excluding May-September) including 1 night of exclusive use of the Il Ciuchino restaurant $2,654 value). Direct bookings only, mention Black Friday Specials/Escape to Tuscany. Book at

Cayo Espanto, Belize

Cayo Espanto, Belize,  located three miles off the coast of San Pedro, Belize, is home to seven villas, helipad, private yacht, and endless opportunities to enjoy a barefoot luxury escape in a naturally beautiful setting.  The private island resort is offering guests a free airfare credit (up to $750 per person) with the booking of a 4-7 night stay this Black Friday through Cyber Monday. Travelers looking to take advantage of this offer must complete their reservation online at  Nov 24 – 27. Use the codes for FREEAIR outlined in the booking calendar when making a reservation. Blackout dates apply.

Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten, St. Maarten  is a duo of stunning oceanfront, all-inclusive resorts in the Dutch Caribbean, comprised of the family-friendly Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa and five-star, adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa is a 420-room fun-for-all ages resort, while Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is a spectacular adults-only 130 suite “resort within a resort” featuring all-access to the adjacent all-ages Maho Beach Resort. From Black Friday, Nov. 24 through Cyber Monday, Nov. 27, take 50% off standard room rate for future stays between Dec. 1, 2023-Dec. 21, 2024 (three-night minimum; blackout dates) when booking with code BLACKFRIDAY online at

Ocean Club Resorts, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, two all-suite resorts located along the pristine Grace Bay Beach, provide spacious accommodations, full kitchen or kitchenette, screened-in patio, and onsite activities including complimentary bikes, tennis, kayaks, SUP boards, beach/pool loungers.  Book a six-night stay at Ocean Club Resorts (East or West location) this Black Friday through Cyber Monday and receive the seventh night free for stays April 1 – 30, 2024. Valid on accommodations ranging from Studio to One-Bedroom Suites. Reservations are based on availability, blackout dates apply. The promotional offer must be booked here online, use promo code BFCM. Offer cannot be combined with any other promotion.

Andaz Mexico City Condesa, in Mexico City’s trendy Condesa neighborhood, has emerged as a chic urban enclave since opening in January 2023. Book Nov. 16-29, 2023 to get 25% off on all stays from November 16, 2023 to August 31, 2024. The city’s newest lifestyle hotel boasts 213 distinctly designed rooms and suites, the neighborhood’s tallest rooftop pool on the 17th floor, three distinct dining venues, including signature restaurant Cabuya Rooftop and pet-friendly Wooftop Beer Garden & Canine Club with its brand new Bulldog Sports Bar,as well as Pasana Spa and Wellness that offers relaxing massage services and beauty treatments. 

Fairmont Mayakoba, nestled in the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, is a newly renovated, 401-room AAA Five Diamond resort set on 45 acres within a private luxury community. Surrounded by a lush mangrove forest intersected by water canals, the property offers 46,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, an energizing Fairmont Spa and El Camaleón Golf Course. Now through March 29, 2024, take 20% off stays through April 30, 2024  booking directly on Fairmont Mayakoba’s website, HERE.  

Casa Kimberly, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico,  once the love nest of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, is a luxurious nine-suite boutique hotel in the heart of Puerto Vallarta with stunning views of Banderas Bay and the red clay rooftops that dot the Sierra Madre Mountains. Originally Burton’s gift to Taylor for her 32nd birthday, the hotel consists of two gorgeous casitas, connected by the Bridge of Love, where the star-crossed Hollywood icons could escape the paparazzi in the streets below. Today the carefully preserved hotel consists of a fine dining restaurant and tequila bar, original azure-tiled pool and elaborate, individually designed suites with expansive terraces with outdoor private Jacuzzis. Lovers are welcome to ignite their passion while draped in the historic luxury of old Hollywood.  Book Nov. 24-27 to save 50% off suites for stays between December 1, 2023, and May 31, 2024 (blackout dates apply).  Use code CYBERCK to reserve at the discounted rate. Visit here to book. 

Curacao Marriott Beach Resort

The renovated Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort occupies six-acres of beachfront property in the historic capital of Willemstad. Located outside of the hurricane belt, the island is safe from the tropical storms and delivers 300 days of sun per year. Curacao is now more popular and accessible than ever as a result of new and additional nonstop flights from New York, Miami, Charlotte and Atlanta (coming soon). The resort presents an ideal combination of active adventure and luxurious relaxation, with direct beach access, two pools, four dining concepts, meetings and events spaces and recently opened an on-site dive shop, Goby Divers, where guests can learn to scuba and earn PADI certification or dive based on their experience level. Deal: Save up to 30% off for 4 nights or 35% off for 7 nights (rates start at $234/night before discount). Book Nov. 24-27, 2023 for travel Jan. 2-Oct. 31, 2024 (blackout dates apply).  Book Via Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort’s page on Marriott.comExpedia, or during the booking window.

Botánika Osa Peninsula, Curio Collection by Hilton, Costa Rica is a newly opened eco-resort offering luxurious accommodations and world-class excursions and wildlife adventures in the rainforests of the Osa, led by certified guides. Deal: Four-night getaway for two in one bedroom suite, complimentary breakfast, welcome cocktails and spa credit (rates start at $184/night before the discount), minimum 4-night length of stay; children under 12 stay free; Additional nights can be booked for $199+ tax and fees). Book Nov. 20-27, 2023 for travel Nov. 20, 2023 to May 31, 2024. To book: visit

Vakkaru Maldives, located in the heart of Baa Atoll on a secluded reef island with idyllic ocean views, powder-soft white sand and marine biodiversity, is a timeless resort sanctuary. Deal: Book direct Nov. 15-Dec. 6 for stays from Nov. 15, 2023 to May 15, 2024 (black out dates Dec. 23, 2023-Jan. 10, 2024, Mar 23-Apr 7, 2024) to get resort credit of $100 per villa or $200 per residence; 30% off Merana Spa treatments; 40% off on Ayurveda treatments and packages;  20% off on selected watersports including Jetski, Seabob & Jetboard;  Sunset champagne and Canapés on the beach for two. To book: here or email [email protected],use offer code BLACK

Sun Siyam Resorts’Siyam World (  and Olhuveli Resorts ( in the Maldives are offering up to 40% savings, plus discounts on activities, diving, 50% off room upgrade charges, and stay a minimum of five nights for a one-way complimentary airport transfer for two.


Coming: Gift of Travel


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

NYC Village Halloween Parade Marks 50 Years with ‘Upside Down’: Photo Highlights

The Village Halloween Parade in New York City is celebrating 50 years with this year’s theme, UPSIDE/DOWN © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate,

The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years since it began as a small neighborhood “promenade” and has become one of the largest Halloween events in the world, was themed UPSIDE/DOWN, reflecting the tumult of the last few years, and inviting self-reflection.  

“The Halloween Parade has always been a night of transformation, but this topsy turvy year feels even more-so in terms of realizing a dream, being who you are most authentically in your imagination,” said Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director.

The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/

Hundreds of thousands of spectators packed the streets along the mile-long parade route from Canal Street to 16th Street along Sixth Avenue,  to thrill at hundreds of puppets, 50 bands representing music from around the world, dancers, artists, and thousands of other New Yorkers in costumes of their own creation in the nation’s most wildly creative public participatory event in the greatest city in the world – the biggest crowds since 2019.

“I’m astonished by how many people are here,” said a justifiably proud and delighted Fleming. “We invite people to come out and they did!”

Village Halloween Parade Director Jeanne Fleming was delighted with a huge turnout of  costumed parade goers and spectators © Karen Rubin/

Spectators thrilled at seeing hundreds of puppets, 50 bands and dancers representing music from around the world and New York’s melting pot, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers in costumes of their own creation, in the nation’s most wildly creative public participatory event in the greatest city in the world.

The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/

Started by Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee in 1973, the Parade began as a walk from house to house in his neighborhood for his children and their friends.

After the second year of this local promenade, Theater for the New City stepped in and produced the event on a larger scale as part of their City in the Streets program.

Fogo Azul NYC, an all-women Brazilian drumline, is one of about 50 bands joining the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/

Today the Parade is the largest celebration of its kind in the world and has been picked by Festivals International as “The Best Event in the World” for October 31.

Now, 50 years later, the Parade draws more than 70,000 costumed participants and some 2 million spectators, including television-viewing audience, live on NY1 beginning at 8 pm.

Parade marchers really interact with the spectators, to everyone’s delight © Karen Rubin/

In 1994, the Mayor of the City of New York issued a Proclamation honoring the Village Halloween Parade for 20 years of bringing everyone in the City together in a joyful and creative way and being a boon to the economic life of the City. “New York is the world’s capital of creativity and entertainment. The Village Halloween Parade presents the single greatest opportunity for all New Yorkers to exhibit their creativity in an event that is one-of-a-kind, unique and memorable every year. New Yorkers of all ages love Halloween, and this delightful event enables them to enjoy it every year and join in with their own special contributions. The Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is a true cultural treasure.”

The irony is that while Halloween is about taking on a completely different persona, at the Village Halloween Parade, we see New Yorkers’ true selves.

And that’s true to the Upside/Down-Inside/Out theme.

Here are more photo highlights:

The Village Halloween Parade in New York City marks 50 years © Karen Rubin/
Giant puppets are a hallmark of the New York City’s Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
Giant puppets are a hallmark of the New York City’s Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
Parade marchers really interact with the spectators, to everyone’s delight © Karen Rubin/
Village Halloween Parade marchers enjoy interacting with spectators much to their delight © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
All you need to march in the Village Halloween Parade – the people’s parade – is a costume © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade in New York City marks 50 years © Karen Rubin/ 
Village Halloween Parade showcases the many cultures of New York’s melting pot © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade in New York City marks 50 years © Karen Rubin/ 
Grand Marshal of the Village Halloween Parade Laurie Anderson © Karen Rubin/
 Fogo Azul NYC, an all-women Brazilian drumline, is one of about 50 bands joining the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
L Train Brass Band brings its joyful music to the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
All you need to march in the Village Halloween Parade – the people’s parade – is a costume © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
Thriller at the Village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
Village Halloween Parade features some of the best bands in New York City© Karen Rubin/
Village Halloween Parade features some of the best bands in New York City© Karen Rubin/
Music is in the air at the village Halloween Parade © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade, celebrating 50 years, gives New Yorkers an opportunity to show off their creativity, artistry and humor © Karen Rubin/
Costumed Village Halloween Parade enjoy interacting with spectators much to their delight © Karen Rubin/
Costumed Village Halloween Parade enjoy interacting with spectators much to their delight © Karen Rubin/
Costumed Village Halloween Parade enjoy interacting with spectators much to their delight © Karen Rubin/
The Village Halloween Parade in New York City is celebrating 50 years with the theme, UPSIDE/DOWN © Karen Rubin/


© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

New Brunswick Roadtrip: Exploring French Acadia’s Culture, Heritage by Bike!

Biking the beautiful boardwalk in Shippagan, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, with Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate,

Our New Brunswick roadtrip that has so enthralled us with the natural wonders of the Bay of Fundy, now takes us to the Acadien Peninsula, where its French heritage is most pronounced and you really feel you are in another country. We are also excited to explore a portion of a marvelous new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne, which opened in 2019, consisting of 14 cycling circuits, totaling 379 miles, that go through 14 coastal French fishing villages and communities. 

Because the Veloroute is so new, it seems, it is not well set up for a supported, self-guided multi-day trip, so we stitch together our own, with the help of Neil Hodge at New Brunswick Tourism. Neil arranges a multi-day bike rental for us from the Villegiature Deux Rivieres Resort (more geared for day rental), and an itinerary that follows the C15 circuit. Fortunately, Laini prefers to spend the day painting, so volunteers to drive the car to the next stop and then take my bike for a shorter ride with Dave at the end of the day. And we have to ferry the bike back to the rental shop (not really difficult, it is less than one hour’s drive back to Tracadie, and we’ve prepared by taking our bike rack). It is exciting to feel like we are pioneering a new biking destination.

This is an opportunity to take advantage of what is best about cycling (and clearly, this is an extremely popular activity throughout New Brunswick and Quebec): you ride at a perfect pace through local communities, small villages, see where and how people live. And there is such freedom during the day, to stop and explore, and really be immersed in a place.

Biking the New Brunswick’s new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne,  from Tracadie to Shippagan © Karen Rubin/

This first day, we bike on the trail 22 miles from Tracadie at one end of the circuit, to Shippagan, riding mainly through woods and then along marshes, arriving at Shippagan at about 2:30. We have a delightful late-lunch in a Mediterranean-style restaurant, Chez Aicha (197 Bd J. D. Gauthier, +1 506-336-8989), then Dave and I continue exploring Shippagan, picturesquely set between Saint-Simon Bay and the Chaleur Bay inlet that goes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, stopping at its most popular beach, Le Goulet.

Shippagan, New Brunswick’s beautiful boardwalk © Karen Rubin/

We discover the boardwalk along Shippagan’s waterfront, and that we can bike all the way to Point Brule, the road that leads us to the cottage Laini has booked for two nights on Airbnb. We calculate we cycled 40 miles for the day.

Our charming Airbnb cottage on Point Brule, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/

Dave and I are giddy with delight when we see the sweet, cozy aquamarine-colored cottage and how it is poised on the tip of Point Brule, perched on a ridge with our own ladder to the beach into the bay.

Who can resist? We quickly change and play in the water (surprisingly not too cold), then set out to watch the sunset on Miscou Island, which sits between the Bay of Chaleur and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at its magnificent historic lighthouse.

The picturesque Miscou Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/

We reach the Miscou Island Lighthouse on the northeastern tip of the island, just before sunset. The lighthouse was built in 1856 and designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974.

The picturesque Miscou Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/

It is surprising how long (how far) Miscou Island actually is (24 km long by 16 km wide – small for an island but a good distance by bike), because this is the route we are supposed to bike tomorrow. Even on our itinerary, the route is 26 miles each way, hilly, on a two-lane, windy road. But Miscou is fabulous to explore – for birds and wildlife (we see a family of foxes), peat bogs, and not to be missed.

Steve of the popular Terasse a Steve restaurant on Miscou Island © Karen Rubin/

Our plan is to have dinner at Terasse à Steve a fun, rustic place so beautifully set overlooking the Miscou wharf that is legendary in the community, but when we pull up, we discover Steve has closed early (for mosquitoes!).

That means we have to race back to Shippagan before the restaurants close (at 8:30 pm). We’ve called ahead to Pinokkio’s who tell us to just get there by 9 pm. We race back, arriving at 9 pm on the dot, and sure enough, they seat us. The wood-fired pizzas (fungi pizza, margarita), with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients, are fantastic. ((Pinokkio Pizzeria Resto-Bar, 121 16e rue, Shippagan, 506-336-0051,

Sunset from our cottage on Point Brule, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/

Instead of biking back to Miscou Island (Veloroute map shows the Miscou route as 41 km just on the island), Dave and I decide to explore Lameque Island, which is in between Shippagan and Miscou (so glad we toured by car).

We set out again from the cottage on the road that leads to the entrance to the beautiful wooden boardwalk and connects to our biking routes, winding passed the colorful marina, then over the bridge to Lameque.

Biking around Lameque, on the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

We first find a lovely bike trail in the woods that parallels the busy Route 113, cross another small bridge, and then find a beautiful, if short, trail along the water. But when that ends, we ride on the shoulder of Route 113, which serves as a bike path. We come upon an eco-park on Lameque, and explore that before continuing our cycling,

Enjoying a meal at Steve’s Terrasse on Miscou © Karen Rubin/

We are determined to dine at Steve’s Terrasse on Miscou, which is just on the other side of the (high) bridge from Lameque. Laini pulls away from her painting and meets us there for a late lunch – a sensational meal of lobster with spaghetti, pesto and parmesan; steamed clams; and a whole lobster (9650 route 113, Miscou, +1 506-344-7000)

Biking around Lameque, on the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

Biking back to Lameque (back again over the steep bridge!), we follow a route that takes us along the eastern side of the island along the road (with ups and downs, unlike the bikeway) – it is marked in purple on the map – that give us some lovely views of the water as we ride through neighborhoods. (Amazingly, we don’t find actual stores or restaurants, absolutely nothing for the people to do except for some churches).

Each day, our ride begins and ends on the Shippagan boardwalk, my favorite part of the ride.

Enjoying a second dinner in a row at Pinokkio, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/

By the time Dave and I get back to our cottage in Shippagan, we calculate we’ve biked 45 miles. But now we have to race back into town to find a restaurant. The recommended places we call are all booked solid (it’s graduation day), so we (happily) call again to Pinokkio, and sure enough, they are booked too, but make room for us. The mushroom risotto is sensational. (Pinokkio Pizzeria Resto-Bar, serving up wood-fired pizzeria, appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, steak, international cuisine, wine list, selection of domestic and imported beers, and decadent desserts, 121 16e rue, Shippagan, 506-336-0051,

Biking Shippagan, New Brunswick’s beautiful boardwalk © Karen Rubin/

We really have to pull ourselves away from Shippagan (regrettably we don’t have time to visit the Aquarium which we keep passing on the boardwalk, 100 Aquarium St., Shippagan, 506-336-3013, [email protected],

(Shippagan,, 506.336.3900).


Biking the new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne, along New Brunswick, Canada’’s Acadian Peninsula, from Shippagan © Karen Rubin/

Today’s ride takes us back onto the delightful Veloroute to Caraquet, 20 miles on the trail. Basically we back track from Shippagan 10 miles to a fork in the trail and then back up 10 miles to Caraquet, most of it in the trees (so refreshing).

We find our way to a charming waterfront village of cute shops, a small artist’s collective, eateries and a picturesque wharf and marina, where we have lunch.

An artisan village within Caraquet © Karen Rubin/

We consider biking back the 20 miles from Caraquet to Tracadie to return the bikes, but realize we would be doubling back 20 miles on the trail we had already taken, and prefer instead to spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the trail, 7 miles further along Caraquet Bay to where it ends at Bertrand.

Biking along the shore from Caraquet © Karen Rubin/

It is the best choice! This part of the trail is particularly scenic, hugging the coast along Caraquet Bay (an inlet of Chaleur Bay), passing some gorgeous houses and views of the water, adding about 14 miles to our total for the day. We then drive the bikes back Tracadie, racing to get to the rental shop by closing time.

(Veloroute de la Peninsule acadienne, 506-336-4116, [email protected],

Caraquet is an extremely nice place to live, and clearly, very popular for tourists, judging by the string of hotels along the main street.

My hotel is the Super 8 By Wyndham (9 Avenue du Carrefour, 506-727-0888), is ideally located right in the waterfront village, alongside the coastal trail.

Returning the bikes the afternoon before works out superbly for me, because it gives me time to visit Caraquet’s major, not-to-be missed attraction, the Historic Acadian Village, which proves such a highlight of our New Brunswick roadtrip.

“Leave the 21st Century behind at Historic Acadien Village”

“Leave the 21st Century behind at Historic Acadien Village” a highlight of our visit to New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

Historic Acadien Village is an open air living history museum with costumed (fully bilingual) interpreters who recreate the roles of real people. What makes this place so extraordinary, though, is that you walk a 2.2 km circuit through 200 years of history – the 40 buildings represent a different time, the oldest from 1773 up to 1895, then, you walk through a covered bridge built in 1900 into the 20th century village where the buildings date from 1905 to 1949.

As you walk about, you literally feel yourself stepping across the threshold back in time.

Walking through this idyllic village, looking at the goats, the sheep, the cows which supply the milk, meat, fiber for clothes, the fields and streams for fish, you would imagine they had everything they needed, life was tranquil, sustainable. But I soon learn from my conversation with the interpreter in the 1852 Cyr house that it was a daily struggle for survival.

An idyllic Acadien village masks how hard life would have been like for the Acadiens Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

This arises when I watch her sewing and she says she baked 25 loaves yesterday, enough that would have lasted her family of 8 including grandparent and a farmhand, a week (but actually supplies the village restaurants which serve menus appropriate to the time). I suggest that must be a lot of work. She tells me that her children help. Don’t they go to school? “The children don’t go to school, they are needed at home. It’s a question of surviving. We would have been too isolated to go to school in winter, and they are needed in summer.” Homeschool? “We cannot read; we depend on the priest to read any letter that might come.”

On the stove, she is preparing a pie with pork, onion, turnip, potato. “The pot is on legs so it doesn’t burn; we put wood chips on top so the food cooks from the top and bottom.”

This house came from Saint-Basile, New Brunswick, near the St. John River near Maine/Quebec. I observe that it seems quite large. “We’re not rich, but there was enough wood to build.”

What she tells me next seems to explain why the French Acadiens are so fiercely French (and why, as we travel, we see many flags of French Acadia but few of New Brunswick or Canada):

It was during the French and Indian War, when Britain battled France for control of the New World colonies. “In 1755, the British took the French men in one boat and women and children in another – they didn’t want families together. They felt there were too many Acadiens in same place and would be able to fight British. They made the Acadiens sign a contract to be British, not French, and those who refused were sent away. The boat took them far away – they didn’t know where they were going- some were sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to Louisiana.”

Seeing how life would have been like over 200 years at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, with France giving Great Britain its colonial possessions in North America, except the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland (which remain French colonies even today). In 1764, the British allowed Acadians to return in small isolated groups, but by then as many as 18,000 had been forcibly removed and thousands more killed. (See:

Seeing how life would have been like over 200 years at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

She says that when the French colonists were kicked out of Nova Scotia, they would send word to each other to come “a Cadia” (“to Cadia”), a name derived from an Indian word meaning “the place.”

Indeed, all these buildings were collected from other places in New Brunswick during the mid-1970s, creating a what appears to me to be an idyllic “Pleasantville” community.

I continue my walk through these fascinating homesteads. You also get to visit the chapel (1831), post office, general store (1889), tavern (1880), blacksmith’s shop and forge (1874), all with interpreters demonstrating their crafts.

The 1867 printing office at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

My personal favorite: the newspaper/printing office (1867), which had been owned by Israel Londry who had five employees putting out 2000 copies of a four-page weekly paper (delivered to the post office), that would cost $1 for a six-month subscription. There are copies you can read.

There is also a one-room schoolhouse (1869), where the teacher tells me that on any day, she might have 20 students or 2, depending upon whether they were needed at home. “Before 1941, there were no mandates to attend school – children stayed home as free labor. It was a matter of survival.”

The one-room schoolhouse where the teacher could have 2 or 20 children a day depending if they were needed on the farm © Karen Rubin/

I love seeing the machinery of the 1895 grist mill. Originally it would have milled flour, sawed wood, made cedar shingles, serving a 50-mile radius. The miller would keep 10% of the flour, which he would trade for something else. “There was not much currency,” the miller tells me.. But in 1918, the miller closed the flour mill over a dispute of $125 from a bill for repair parts that went back to 1890, when new repairs were needed in 1914, and the $125 was again added to the bill, he shut it down, but kept the saw mill, carting machine and cedar shingles.

Cross the Kissing Bridge into the 20th century to visit the Irving Gas Station at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

Then you walk across the covered bridge (1900), called “the Kissing Bridge,” and you are in a 20th century town. There is an Irving Gas Station with antique cars; a saw mill (1949), general store (1924), tinsmith’s shop (1905) where you can buy a stove, cobbler’s shop (1945), a railroad station (1930). The Thomas Cooperage that dated from 1937 actually made barrels until 1980, employing 60 people who made 200 a day, until plastic barrels made the wood ones obsolete.

The Irving Gas Station at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/

You not only visit but can actually book a room to stay at the Hotel Chateau Albert (1910). Albert opened hotel in 1870 but had financial problems from the beginning and was put out of business by Canadian Pacific railroad.. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1955, and restored using the original plans. It now offers 14 rooms (with bathrooms) that you actually can book to stay overnight. (, 506-726-2600).

You can stay over in the Village Historique Acadien, at the Hotel Chateau Albert © Karen Rubin/

There is a really nice café in the (modern) visitor center before you go back in time, plus a restaurant in the historic village serving a menu appropriate to the period.

Plan on staying at least three hours. Open June through mid-September.

Historique Acadien Village, 5 rue du Pont, Bertrand, NB, 1-0877-721-2200, [email protected],  

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick,

See also:







© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit,, and Blogging at and Visit and Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at 

Because travel is a life-enhancing, relationship building, world-changing experience