Holidays in NYC in Photos: Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Holidays in New York City: Saks windows (c) Karen Rubin

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take  a winter holiday stroll through mid-town Manhattan. There are many changes this year – mostly the absence of thick crowds, circles delineating social distancing for queues into shops, outdoor dining constructions bathed in warm light. The animated shop windows New York is so famous for – Macy’s, Saks (masks on the figures), Bergdorf Goodman– are more low key this year, themed around thanking all those who are getting us through this darkness and cheering on New Yorkers. Bergdorf Goodman, for many years in a row, getting my award for best, wins again this year with its stunning windows with dramatic messages of  Love, Hope, Goodness, Joy and Gratitude. And there are clever innovations to spread cheer: New York’s iconic symbols illuminated on the sidewalks, like a yellow cab. Saks still has its marvelous sound-and-light show illuminating its entire façade, just across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree, but it is pared down to just a few minutes so people don’t stand around too long. And there are security controls to minimize crowding and direct people to the entrance for ice skating or tree viewing. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask.

Come, walk with me:

Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Macy’s famous windows with a simple universal message, “Thank You” (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Sound and light show at Saks (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City. Even Atlas, the mighty ancient Greek Titan holding the heavens on his shoulders, is wearing a mask. (The bronze statue, the largest at Rockefeller Center, was created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan and installed in 1937. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in NYC: Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

WHERE TO GO FOR HOLIDAY CHEER: NOTHING STOPS NYC’S TRADITIONS, ICONIC EVENTS

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New York’s Adirondacks: Driveable Winter Olympic Playground

Skiing Whiteface, Lake Placid, NY and feeling like an Olympian © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Three of the best ski areas in New York are actually owned by New York State and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority – Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills. (Among the improvements ORDA has made is  new RFID technology for direct-to-lift access and online purchasing so you can go directly from your car to the slopes; the ticket can be renewed online.)

Whiteface

Top of the list for ski areas with a world-class reputation is Whiteface, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, where in addition to skiing, you can visit Olympic venues and even participate (biathalon, anyone? skate on the Olympic Oval, drive a coaster down the bobsled track).

Whiteface offers the greatest vertical, 3430 ft. from the summit at 4867 ft, of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. This is a serious mountain – actually three mountains, Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft. – with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail) in the East. It offers 300 skiable acres: 89 runs (24% beginner, 44% intermediate, 33% advanced) and 53 acres of glades and 5 terrain parks, serviced by 13 lifts, including the gorgeous Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride that cuts an aerial path through the Adirondack Mountains on its way to the peak of Little Whiteface.

Skating on the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whiteface is my favorite ski destination in New York, largely because of Lake Placid, the ambiance and the extraordinary activities.

Experience the thrill of what it was like to be an Olympic Bobsledder during the 1980 Winter Games on the new Cliffside Mountain Coaster at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, which boasts being the longest year-round mountain coaster in the USA. You control the ride – you have the ability to go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Race your family & friends alongside the 1980 bobsled track to the bottom. During the scenic ride to the top of the Cliffside Coaster you learn about the inspiring Olympic history of the Lake Placid Sliding Center.

Other attractions and recent upgrades to the Olympic Sites include the new Sky Flyer Zipline at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex, the new SkyRide Experience, an 8-person gondola that brings guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, a new glass-enclosed elevator ride to the top of the ski jumps for a panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!), new Nordic trails at Mt. Van Hovenberg (where you can try your hand at the biathalon).

In Lake Placid village, visit the Olympic Center, skate at the Herb Brooks Arena and on the Olympic oval, and visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa and Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).

Also High Peaks Resort which offers three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated in March 2020); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Amenities available to all guests include the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully-equipped fitness center, and a full-service restaurant, Dancing Bears, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of skates, along with admission to Lake Placid’s full-service Nordic Center, Cascade Ski Center, with more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (complimentary use of showshoes).  Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. (High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-4411, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com

The newest additions are The Lake Placid Inn (opened July 2020) and the Saranac Waterfront Lodge, an eco-luxe independent boutique hotel that opened Nov. 1, 2020.

Whiteface, Lake Placid, 800-462-6236, 518-946-2223; Olympic Center, 518-523-1655; vacation planning assistance at  whitefacenewyork.comlakeplacid.com, whiteface.com.

Gore Mountain

As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.

Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort with. 439 skiable acres, it spans four mountains, including Gore, Bear Mountain, Burnt Ridge Mountain and Little Gore Mountain, a vertical drop of 2,537 feet from the summit at 3,600 ft,  121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails (longest is 4.4 miles), with 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, all serviced by 14 lifts.

Skiing Gore Mountain, in the Adirondacks © Laini Miranda/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This season, Gore is unveiling two new lifts: a new quad replaces the High Peaks chair to deliver skiers toGore’s true summit, opening up fresh access to all four peaks and the entire Straight Brook Valley; and the Sunway Chair has been upgraded to a quad. The Cutoff trail in the Northwoods Area has been lengthened and redesigned to become an easier-rated trail. “Pete’s Paradise” now is an additional beginner option. There is also a significant increase in snowmaking capacity.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but there is the delightful Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com/) in nearby North Creek which we enjoyed one Christmas; for a grand, luxurious stay, The Sagamore, in Bolton Landing on Lake George is 45 minutes away (www.thesagamore.com).

Gore Mountain, 793 Peaceful Valley Road, North Creek, NY 12853, Snow Phone: 518-251-5026, info 518-251-2411, info@goremountain.com,  goremountain.com.

More Winter Adirondack Activities

In addition to skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the cold in the Adirondacks: hiking (including five fire tower trails in Hamilton County that travelers can visit and climb even in the winter!), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, pond hockey, ice skating and ice fishing. 

Winter hike through Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mirror Lake has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on the ice, including skating, cross country skiing, toboggan rides, dog sledding and skating on the Olympic Oval, just as the Olympians did. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake transforms into a winter playground once the snow hits – Winter Wild Walk, a learn-to ice-fish program, snowshoeing, and some other outdoor winter programming and activities. Oak Mountain (about 2 hours from Lake Placid) is a small family-friendly ski resort ideal for avoiding crowds and offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing along with disc golf and free snowshoeing. Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, offers winter tours of frozen waterfalls and spectacular sights, less than an hour from Lake Placid. And at the end of the day, Main Street Lake Placid has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to welcome visitors in from the cold.

The Adirondack Wayfinder, a new virtual service that showcases the park through thematic road trip itineraries, takes the guesswork out of planning where to go by allowing users to search through a variety of curated itineraries that appeal to different interests, from outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and family-friendly itineraries to dining, brewery tours, and more. (www.adirondackwayfinder.com)

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Driveable Winter Destinations: Ski New York’s Catskill Mountains

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State is not only home to the most ski areas of any state (50), but also some of the best, which makes them particularly desirable this year when being outdoors – skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing –are some of the most healthful activities you can do, are driving distance accessible, and because you are staying within New York State, you don’t have to quarantine for 14 days on returning.

New York has been intense about COVID-19 protections, and has instituted regulations governing reduced capacity to afford social-distancing, mask-wearing (except for actively skiing or eating), instituting such things as cashless transactions, rules for riding the lifts, and limiting time in lodges and restaurants, and in some instances advance ticketing and reservations. But it also has meant pleasant modifications – more outdoor dining with heat, for example, plus cashless transactions.

But with the great demand for New York skiing, Scott Brandi, president of the NY Ski Areas Association recommends “Know before you go.” Check the sites in advance to check conditions and availability and book lift tickets and rental equipment in advance – for example, most holidays and weekends as well as season passes are sold out for ORDA areas but there may be availability for midweek visits (ISkiNY.com).

In just a few hours, downstate New Yorkers can be on the slopes in the Catskill Mountains, where three of the state’s most popular ski resorts are located:

Windham Mountain

Windham Mountain Resort, which began as a private club and preserves much of that same feeling, is a year-round destination in the Great Northern Catskills of Greene County, NY, less than three hours north of New York City, and now is part of Alterra Mountain’s IKON Pass program, which means passholders get priority in reservations during this period of on-mountain capacity restrictions.

Windham offers 1,600 vertical feet from a summit of 3,100 feet. Its 54 trails and six terrain parks provide 285 skiable acres, accessed by 12 lifts including a new high speed six-passenger detachable lift and two high-speed quads. Windham also offers night skiing on six trails (45 acres). In the last 3 years, the resort has spent $12 million to improve the guest experience and offers beginner packages, lodging, dining options, an Adventure Park, and full-service Alpine Spa.

Ski Windham Mountain in the Catskills, NY © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the improvements this season:

  • Lift capacity out of the base area continues to increase at Windham. C Lift, a fixed grip triple chair serving beginner and intermediate terrain on the lower half of the West Peak has been upgraded with the relocation of the high speed quad.
  • A portion of Wildcat, a trail in the Wilderness Bowl area added in 2015, has been widened.
  • Improved snowmaking and grooming
  • new European-inspired “Umbrella Bar” with room for 125 guests in enclosed, heated comfort is the centerpiece of a reenergized patio area.
  • A new a ski and snowboard simulator that offers guests the chance to ski or ride downhill race venues from around the world virtually while supporting the Adaptive Sports Foundation. This building will also house a new equipment valet and quick tune up station.
  • An upgraded booking system with new software that will allow guests to bundle lodging stays with lift tickets, lessons and rentals in one easy transaction.
  • An expanded Guest Services department and on-site call center.

Accommodations are plentiful in the area: Windham has renovated rooms at The Winwood Inna quaint lodging property in the village of Windham owned and operated by the mountain. The restaurant, Tavern 23, has also been “renovated and reinvented” and features classic American comfort food.

New: Whisper Creek condominiums, high-end ski-in/ski-out lodging located steps away from Whisper Run on Windham Mountain. Building amenities include heated pool and hot tubs, club room and fitness center, ski locker-room with boot dryers and heated parking. Units comfortably accommodate 8 – 10 people and are perfect for extended family gatherings, wedding parties and special events. Whisper Creek is a short stroll away from the Alpine Spa and the Windham Mountain base lodge and within walking distance of the Mountain Bike Park and Scenic Skyride in the summer.  (518-734-3000)

Also, the historic Thompson House, literally around the corner, where we enjoyed our stay, has the charm of an inn with amenities of a resort (The Thompson House, 19 Route 296, Windham NY 12496, 518-734-4510, info@ThompsonHouse, www.ThompsonHouse.com).

Windham Mountain, 19 Resort Drive, Windham, NY 12496, 800-754-9463; to check conditions, call the Snow Report Hoteline 800-729-4766, info@windhammountain.comwindhammountain.com.

Hunter Mountain

Now part of Vail Resorts, Hunter Mountain, a legendary New York State ski resort and the closest major full-service resort to New York City, is also part of the EPIC pass, and among the COVID-19 precautions and protocols that limit capacity on the mountain, EPIC Pass holders get priority in making reservations.

Four separate mountain faces encompass a wide variety of terrain which caters to skiers and riders of all ability levels.

Fairlawn Inn bed-and-breakfast, Hunter, NY, the Catskills (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hunter rises from 1600 ft base to 3200 summit, a 1600-ft vertical drop, 320 skiable acres (expanded from 240), 67 runs (up from 59; 25% beginner, 30% intermediate, 30% advanced and 15% expert) ) serviced by 13 lifts (increased from 12). It offers 4 gladed areas, 4 terrain parks.

Hunter also has a 1000-ft long tubing hill, one of the longest in NY, with its own Magic Carpet surface lift.

In response to COVID-19, Hunter has “reimagined” the resort experience, consistent with the policies and programs across the Vail Resorts brand.

Skiers are encouraged to use their own vehicles as their personal base lodge, since capacity is restricted. Transactions will be cashless; face coverings required at all times except when actively eating (EpicMix app makes it easier to manage Time to Dine). On-mountain restaurants are open but not bars. The equipment rental process has been streamlined, with seamless online booking, complimentary delivery service (so you skip the rental shop altogether).

On-mountain accommodations include The Kaatskill Mountain Club at Hunter Mountain (condos) and Liftside and Pinnacle condos in the village. There are many nearby bnbs, inns, lodges.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Fairlawn Inn, just a quarter-mile away from Hunter’s entrance. The historic, Victorian inn has been restored with modern amenities while keeping the charm and character of the original property. It is operating now with strict COVID-19 safety protocols. (7872 Main St (Hwy 23A), Hunter NY 12442, 518-263-5025, fairlawninn.com).

Hunter Mountain, Hunter, NY, 800-486-8376, huinfo@vailresorts.com, www.huntermtn.com

Belleayre Mountain

About three-hours drive from New York City, Belleayre Mountain is the nearest of three ski areas owned and operated by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, and included on ORDA’s pass programs. The ski area has been dramatically improved, turned into a four-season mountain destination. Among the improvements, the first gondola in the Catskills.

Catskill Thunder Gondola at Belleayre.

What I love best about Belleayre is its natural separation of beginners (from the mid-mountain to the base, with long beginner trails) and more advanced skiers. It affords a 1404 ft vertical drop from a 3429 ft summit, 51 runs on 175 skiable acres (longest is 2.2 miles; 22% beginner, 58% intermediate, 10% advanced, 10% expert), serviced by 8 lifts. Intermediates will enjoy Deer Run, which meanders through a beautiful part of the mountain. The ski resort also features five glades, one terrain park, one progression park and one X-course. Cross-country skiers can enjoy 9.2 kilometers of ungroomed, unpatrolled trails.

There is no on-mountain lodging, but quaint inns and lodges nearby in Fleischmann’s, Pine Hill, Big Indian, Phoenicia, Shandaken and Margaretville (see www.belleayre.com/plan-your-visit/lodging/)

(Belleayre, Highmount, NY 12441, 800-942-6904, 845-254,5600, www.belleayre.com).

See:  

A BLUEBIRD DAY OF SPRING SKIING AT WINDHAM MOUNTAIN

3-DAY FALL GETAWAY IN THE CATSKILLS: FAIRLAWN INN IS SUPERB HUB FOR EXPLORING THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Surging Demand, Limited Capacity Encourages Skiers to Discover New York’s Lesser Known Areas (There are 50)

Family enjoys expanded outdoor dining at Greek Peak. The strong desire for outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, coupled with capacity restrictions, is encouraging visitors to discover more of New York State’s 50 ski areas. Areas have found innovative, pleasurable ways to adapt to the state’s COVID-19 requirements (photo provided by Greek Peak).

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the brisk fresh air of greater outdoors will be salvation to get through this dark winter of isolation. Fortunately, New York State, with 50 ski areas (more than any other state), is gearing up, putting in the protocols to keep everyone safe and healthy, doing what will be the safest and healthiest way to be active this winter. Just being outdoors will be a tonic for body and soul.

ISkiNY.com (Ski Areas of New York) is a sort of one-stop online place to learn about the various mountain resorts and ski areas and overall New York State policies to address (and contain) COVID-19. All areas are under capacity constraints (50% of their busiest day last season) and visitors must follow rules for wearing masks (an actual mask, not a gaiter) at all times except when actively skiing or eating. Most require or strongly recommend purchasing tickets online in advance (and are selling out because of limits) – even season pass holders, who have priority, may be required to make advance reservations. Also, areas are limiting time that can be spent indoors in the lodges (recommending using your own vehicle as a kind of base lodge), and with limited après-ski opportunities, are promoting day-trips to ski areas within driving distance. Fortunately, with 50 areas throughout the state, just about everyone lives within 2 ½ hours of a ski area and staying in-state means that New Yorkers won’t have to quarantine after returning from a long-haul ski trip. (See more at ISkiNY.com).

Because of reduced capacity and super-charged demand the best known, most popular full-service resorts like Whiteface (Lake Placid), Gore Mountain, Belleayre, Hunter (now part of Vail, on the Epic pass) and Windham (part of IKON pass), may well be at capacity especially for the holidays and weekends. So this will certainly be the season to explore some new ski destinations – areas, often that have been operating for decades, that are wildly popular with locals.  

And with this incredible blizzard that dumped a huge base of snow, just about everywhere in the state has great conditions, in time for opening day.

All but the three ski resorts that are owned by New York State’s Olympic Regional Development Authority (Whiteface, Gore, Belleayre) and Hunter (now owned by Vail Resorts) are independently owned, many going back decades, and offer their own particular personality, character and sense of community. Most are ski areas, not full-service resorts, but that may be just the ticket this year, for a quick day’s getaway on the slopes, no need to hang around for après-ski.

All have made accommodations to keep as much outside as possible – ticketing (many are cashless, and require advance reservations), setting up outside warmers, limiting time inside for dining, encouraging people to use their own vehicles as their base lodge. But all of the areas have made marvelous accommodations and innovations to bring more activities outdoors, continue to offer ski school, snow tubing, added firepits and grab n’go food, to preserve the spirit and joy of schussing down the slopes.

“While our number one goal is to run a safe operation this season, it is also our goal to ensure that our guests do not incur any additional stress or inconvenience when they visit West Mountain”, said Spencer Montgomery, Co-Owner and Managing Member of West Mountain in Queensbury.

“Sure, things will be a little different operationally this year, but our staff is here to provide an enjoyable and stress-free environment. People have already been through so much this year; skiing and riding is a chance to simply enjoy being outdoors with friends and family.”

“We are looking forward to welcoming our guests this winter to enjoy the outdoors”, said Sara Montgomery, General Manager of West Mountain. “With so many families at home doing virtual learning this year, getting on the mountain and getting exercise will be a much-needed activity and escape!”

“Know before you go,” Scott Brandi, President Ski Areas of New York, recommends. Check ahead for conditions and availability.

Here are just a few of the ski resorts and areas to explore:

Greek Peak

Greek Peak’s night skiing. The resort has a 6,000 sq. ft. deck off its Trax Pub & Grill for outdoor dining (photo by Drew Broderick, Greek Peak)

The Greek Peak Ski Resort is a full-service, four-season resort and the largest ski area in Central New York. It has a 952 ft. vertical drop from a 2100 ft summit. It’s varied terrain (220 skiable acres) offers 56 runs (35% beginner, 29% intermediate, 27% advanced, 9% double-black diamond, 4 terrain parks and half pipe), serviced by six chair lifts and two carpet lifts; the longest run is 1.5 miles, plus night skiing.  There’s also 8 km of Nordic terrain (natural, so depends on conditions) and snowshoeing.

The Adventure Center has a mountain coaster, guided zipline tours even in winter (by reservation), snowtubing (10-12 lanes).

Located in the Finger Lakes, Greek Peak offers an Adirondack-style lodge, Hope Lake Lodge (151 rooms, sleeping 4-10 people) as well as log home (sleeps 14, across from slopes), outdoor heated pool,  indoor water park with wave pool (water slides and hot tubs are currently closed under COVID-19 regulations).

Open, all year, Greek Peak is already compliant with COVID-19 restrictions and made the adaptations.

Dining inside is limited to 50% capacity. Children’s programs are exclusively outside (no nursery); there are new family lessons

“We are already seeing new people, who want to get outside and want to learn to ski,” says Drew Broderick, VP of sales & marketing.

They’ve added food and beverage service outside, “fresh tracks” which is a ski  in/out grab n go, adding menu items to the waffle shack and may add food carts.

Since being acquired in 2015 by John and Christine Meier, the resort has made more than $1.5 million improvements including adding a high-speed detachable quad, new groomers, snowmaking (78 guns added this year), the “Big Bear Activity Zone” at Cascades Indoor Waterpark, a 41,000 sq. ft. park with 500 ft. of slides, wavepool and hot tubs, open year round.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort, 2000 NYS Rte 392, Cortland, NY 13045, 800-955-2754, greekpeak.net

Plattekill Mountain

Privately owned and operated by the Vajtay family, Plattekill Mountain in the northwestern Catskills, with 38 trails and terrain, offers “authentic mountain experience.” Powder Magazine (Dec. 2018), described Plattekill as “The Alta of the Catskills.” It offers wide variety for skiers and snowboarders: 38 runs ranging from 2-mile long beginner cruisers to steep double black diamonds with 1100’ vertical from its 3500 ft. high summit, accessed by 4 lifts (20% easier, 40% intermediate, 20% black, 20% double black), a “natural terrain park” nestled in the woods between the Lower Face and Shredded Mozzarella trails.  “Big mountain terrain, small mountain charm.”

New this season: widening, clearing beginner and intermediate trails; installation of new snowmaking pump to improve snowmaking; new wireless technology; new “Platty Shack” with outdoor deck for quick grab and go items; new ‘order online’ option in cafeteria; new online shopping for tickets and rentals eliminating lines at rental shop.

Plattekill Mountain, 469 Plattekill Road, Roxbury, NY 12474, 607-326-3500, info@plattekill.com, plattekill.com

Catamount Mountain Resort

Catamount Mountain Resort is a four-season resort straddling the NY/Massachusetts border just about 2 hours from NYC. “With its sister resort, Berkshire East, Catamount is one fun mountain with some of the best steeps in southern New England and some of the best beginner and intermediate terrain.” Catamount has undergone a stunning transformation since the summer of 2018: new lift, new lodge, hundreds of new snow guns, four snow making ponds, miles of pipe, and countless other upgrades which make Catamount one of the best small ski areas on the East coast. 

It has a 1,000 ft vertical from the 2000 ft summit, 38 runs on 133 skiable acres (40% beginner, 35% intermediate, 15% advanced, 10% expert); longest run is 2 miles, and intermediates get to ski 1.25 miles from summit to base on turnpike Upper and Lower Sidewinder; for advanced, the double black Catapult is the steepest trail in the Berkshires and  its Upper/Lower Glade to Off Stage provides a half-mile of moguls; night skiing on 15 trails (more than 4 miles worth)

Catamount also boasts North America’s longest zip line, one of the largest aerial adventure parks on the East Coast. 

Tickets must be purchased in advance.

Catamount, Hillsdale, NY, 518-325-3200, info@catamountski.com, https://catamountski.com/

West Mountain

Nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, conveniently accessed just off I-87,  West Mountain towers over Glens Falls in Albany’s backyard, and with night skiing, is popular with people getting in a few runs after work.

Family-owned and operated, West Mountain continues to evolve to meet the needs of families as well as skiing and riding loyalists and year-round outdoor enthusiasts.

West Mountain offers a 1010 vertical drop from the 1470 ft. summit, 31 trails on 124 skiable acres (36% beginner, 55% intermediate, 9% advanced, one terrain park), accessed by four lifts, with night skiing on 105 acres. Also a tubing park with 10 lanes of tubing for all ages and abilities. 6-packs are for sale now that provide 6 tubing tickets, lift tickets or aerial treetop adventure tickets for the price of 5.  

The mountain staff has been focused on creating new, safe and innovative operations and programs to run this season including: a new Freestyle Development Program; a new Alpine Racing Academy for U12+ athletes; Learn to Ski and Snowboard packages for youth and adult first-time beginners. During non-holiday periods, West Mountain will offer popular ticket promotions such as Monday and Tuesday 4-hour ticket specials and breakfast or lunch plus lift ticket specials.

West Mountain has introduced new programs this year including freestyle skiing (photo by FreesrideMedia for West Mountain)

The resort has been open throughout COVID-19 pandemic offering safe, outdoor and socially distanced activities. For this season, there are additional outdoor eating and seating areas, warming tents, grab-n-go food and beverage windows, additional outdoor restrooms and controlled capacity at the two separate base-lodge areas (Main Base Lodge and Northwest Base Lodge).

West Mountain, 59 West Mountain Road, Queensbury, NY 12804, 518.636.3699, WestMountain.com

Mount Peter

Mount Peter, set in picturesque Warwick Valley, is the oldest operating ski area in New York State, and one of only a few remaining family-operated ski areas in America. For more than 80 years, Mount Peter has been a wintertime destination for skiing or snowboarding on 14 expertly groomed trails, 600-foot tubing run (separate Little Tikes tubing for kids under 42”), and night skiing.

Booking online is highly recommended.

Mount Peter, 51 Old Mt. Peter Road, Warwick, NY 10990T: (845) 986-4940, info@mtpeter.com, mtpeter.com

Bristol Mountain

Bristol Mountain, in Canandaigua, opened for their 56th season of operation. Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, it offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads. The terrain accommodates all ages and ability levels with 32% reserved for beginner, 50% intermediate and 18% advanced, including 97% lighted for night skiing terrain and 97% snowmaking coverage; the longest run is 2 miles.

Bristol Mountain has a top notch learning center, as well as two terrain parks that cater to all ability levels and 3 km of Nordic trails.

Bristol Mountain’s North Star Village Townhouses offer affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging with built in deals with their Ski & Stay programs.

Located in the Western Finger Lakes Region, Bristol Mountain offers 38 trails on 138 acres of skiable terrain and a 1200’ vertical drop from a 2200 ft. summit, accessed by six lifts including two high-speed quads (photo provided by Bristol Mountain)

Capacity at the mountain will be monitored and limited on busy days or when the mountain has limited terrain (i.e. early season). Reservations will be required for card products and lift ticket sales but currently will not be required for season pass products that allow direct- to-lift access (picture passes).

Lodge capacity will be limited this winter. Guests are asked to limit their time in the lodges to 15-30 minutes to warm up and use the restrooms. The mountain requests that guests arrive prepared and use their vehicle as their base lodge.                                                     

Bristol Mountain, 5662 Route 64, Canandaigua, NY 14424, 585-374-6000, fun@bristolmt.com, bristolmt.com.

Thunder Ridge Ski Area

Thunder Ridge Ski Area, located in Patterson, NY, may be the closest and easiest ski areas to reach from NYC, just 60 minutes drive from and accessible on Metro North (shuttle from Patterson train station). Thunder Ridge offers 100 percent snowmaking coverage on its 22 trails on 100 acres (40% beginner, 40% intermediate, 20% advanced, the longest run is 0.4 miles). A gentle mountain, it has a 500 ft drop from the summit at 1270 ft. Night skiing.

Thunder Ridge, 12563 Patterson, NY, 845-878-4100, thunderridge@cyburban.com. https://thunderridgeski.com/

Holiday Valley

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails and features a mountain coaster (photo provided by Holiday Valley).

Holiday Valley, Ellicottville, NY (50 miles south of Buffalo) is Western New York’s largest year ‘round resort featuring 60 slopes and trails, 13 lifts, 3 base lodges, slope side lodging and dining, conference facilities, a tree top aerial adventure park and a mountain coaster, and 18 hole golf course. 

Holiday Valley is in compliance with New York State’s COVID restrictions on operating the ski terrain and indoor services. Masks are required at all times except when skiing down the slope or while seated to eat or drink. Reduced capacity in the lodges and eating areas, as well as spacing in the lift lines and on the chairlifts will allow for proper social distancing. Advanced purchase of lift tickets online is encouraged, especially on holidays and busy weekends. Cleaning and sanitizing practices have been stepped up in the lodges, in the food service areas and in the restrooms. Guests are encouraged to limit their time spent indoors.

Holiday Valley, 6557 Holiday Valley Road, Route 219, Ellicottville, NY 14731, 716-699-2345, www.holidayvalley.com

Holimont Ski Area

Holimont, nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, is a private ski area with member families from the United States and Canada. Non-members may use the facilities on non-holiday weekdays, and new members are welcome. It offers a 700 ft. drop from 2260 ft. summit, 55 trails on 135 skiable acres (25% beginner, 31% intermediate, 44% advanced, ), 3 terrain parks, longest run is 1.5 miles,  (100% snowmaking)

Holimont, Ellicottville NY 14731, 716-699-2320, info@holimont.com, holimont.com

Hunt Hollow Ski Club

Located near Naples, New York (near Rochester), Hunt Hollow Ski Club offers 400 acres of accessible winter recreation space. With an 825-foot vertical drop from a 2030 ft. summit, it offers 19 trails over 400 skiable acres (32% beginner, 21% intermediate, 37% advanced, 11% expert), accessed by a triple-chair, double-chair, T-bar and a surface lift service (100% snowmaking). There is night skiing. Also, 2.5 miles of Nordic trails and a terrain park.

Hunt Hollow Ski Club, 7532 County Road 36, Naples NY 14512, 585-374-5428, info@hunthollow.com, hunthollow.com.

An excellent source: https://www.onthesnow.com/new-york/ski-resorts.html.

For more information, contact ISkiNY.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Where Holiday Lights Shine Brightest this Season

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, offering five lantern safaris, entertainment and more, takes place over select dates through January 10 (photo by Julie Larsen Maher, WCS).

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is special emphasis on bringing light, warmth and cheer this holiday season. Destinations that have offered lighting displays and holiday events have taken special care to adapt them to meet health protocols. Here is a sampling:

Holiday Lights Safaris at The Bronx Zoo

Bronx, NY – The Bronx Zoo has officially flipped the switch on Holiday Lights 2020 which runs on select dates through January 10, bringing New Yorkers much-needed joy for the winter season. Tickets for Holiday Lights must be purchased in advance and are now available online.

This year’s experience encompasses a larger area of the zoo and be organized to accommodate social distancing. With dozens more animal lanterns than last year, the zoo has created five geographically representative lantern safaris that include species from different regions of the world.

In addition to the wildlife lantern safaris and sprawling holiday illuminations, the new Luminous Garden features larger-than-life plants and animals unlike any other garden in New York including flowers, mushrooms, butterflies and other insects.

Entertainment includes ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats. Of course, s’mores have been so popular, there are 12 fire pits where people can make their own s’mores or try one of the contest winners.

While celebrating the holiday season, all events and activities have been modified to meet all safety guidelines as directed by the State of New York. All guests over 3 years old are required to socially distance and wear face coverings, and all tickets are date-specific and must be purchased in advance online. For a full list of COVID-19 protocols, visit the zoo’s Know Before You Go page.

Visit the website for information, tickets and the full schedule of activities.

Palm Beach Zoo Lights is ‘Wild’ Holiday Celebration

Zoo Lights presented by FPL SolarNow, illuminates Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society with more than one-million eco-friendly LED lights this holiday season (photo courtesy Palm Beach Zoo)

West Palm Beach, Fla. – Zoo Lights presented by FPL SolarNow, illuminates Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society with more than one-million eco-friendly LED lights this holiday season. Starting November 27, the Zoo is open after regular hours on select nights from 6- 9 PM for a WILD holiday celebration featuring family fun, Santa, decadent treats, music and holiday charm.

“We can all use some holiday magic to shine through this season,” said Margo McKnight, president and CEO of Palm Beach Zoo. “The premiere of Zoo Lights last year was a huge holiday hit with our community. This year it is even more important to offer visitors a safe celebration where families can be outside in nature, enjoy great weather and embrace the spirit of the holidays.”

Zoo Lights visitors can expect to have a safe, socially distanced and enjoyable experience including photos with Santa, a DJ playing holiday tunes, sweet treats and more including:

  • An evening stroll through the Zoo surrounded by one-million holiday lights and lighted displays.
  • A unique theme for each area of the Zoo. New for 2020, the Asia section will dazzle in golden hues as lighted animals sparkle, adding more square footage to the vast event.
  • The Florida Wetlands section features traditional holiday cheer and Santa’s workshop. Families can have their portraits made with Santa, and children can share their holiday wishes through December 23.
  • The Fountain Plaza transforms into a North Pole dance floor where a DJ spins family-friendly holiday hits each evening.
  • While the jaguars sleep, the Mayan Plaza shines with blue lights and dripping icicles.
  • The Tropics Cafe features festive holiday fare, and food stations around the Zoo offer seasonal treats, beverages and cocktails, as well as a s’mores fire pit.
  • The gift shop offers lighted merchandise sure to be your children’s favorite.

For the second consecutive year, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is sponsoring Zoo Lights with its FPL SolarNow program. “It’s fitting for Florida Power & Light Company to illuminate the holiday season in this special way, with energy-efficient LED lights that brightens the Zoo’s pathways and gives families a safe place to celebrate,” said Matt Valle, vice president, FPL Development at NextEra Energy, Inc. and Zoo board member. “Having the ability to bring your family to a world-class destination that represents conservation is a benefit that many parents, such as myself, find invaluable now more than ever.”

Tickets for Zoo Lights are $14.95 for adults and $12.95 for children. Palm Beach Zoo Annual Members receive special pricing. Pre-sale tickets are available at www.palmbeachzoo.org/zoolights

This year, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society is the official non-profit community partner of Sandi and the City of West Palm Beach Holidays in Paradise annual downtown campaign. In addition to taking part in Zoo Lights, plan on visiting Sandi and her flamingo friend Hope as Sandi Brings Hope to West Palm Beach. Learn more at wpb.org/events 

For more than 50 years, Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society has provided visitors with up-close and personal animal encounters that connect people to wildlife. Palm Beach Zoo guests explore a WILD ecosystem thriving on 23 lush, tropical acres while discovering hundreds of exotic animals. Visitors enjoy interactive animal experiences, nature and water play, and a lakeside cafe. Palm Beach Zoo participates in AZA Species Survival Plan® programs, ensuring healthy animal populations for rare and endangered species. The impact of a visit to Palm Beach Zoo extends beyond the gates, inspiring people to take action and save wildlife in wild places. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.

Have a Colonial Christmas in Williamsburg, Virginia

Christmas in Busch Gardens-Williamsburg has been adapted for 2020.

Williamsburg, VA – In Colonial Williamsburg, in addition to Grand Illumination, enjoy special holiday events throughout December include caroling at the Courthouse, walking tours highlighting colonial Christmas decorations and the galleries of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, visits with Father Christmas, ice skating at the Liberty Ice Pavilion, the community Christmas Tree lighting with special readings of “The Night Before Christmas,” the Lighting of the Cressets on historic Duke of Gloucester Street with strolling musicians and tidings of good cheer Dec. 17 – 24, holiday feasts and meals, and opportunities to shop for colonial gifts such as wreaths and centerpieces. The living history attraction remains open for daily holiday programs with special health protocols in place.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area is fully decorated and holiday-themed programming is being presented daily ― mostly outdoors ― through New Year’s Day, along with a range of new exhibitions, seasonal programming and the famous Folk Art Christmas Tree at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, which this year completed a $41.7-million donor-funded expansion.

In Merchants Square, a variety of shopping and dining options await, along with Liberty Ice Pavilion, now open daily on Duke of Gloucester Street. A new Christmas Market opens Fridays through Sundays, Dec. 4-19, at the corner of South Boundary Street and Francis Street, hosted in partnership with the City and CultureFixVA.

Event schedules and admission information is available at colonialwilliamsburg.org/holidays. Details on Colonial Williamsburg Resorts getaways, plus tavern and contemporary dining information are available at colonialwilliamsburghotels.com.

The Busch Gardens Christmas Celebration runs on select dates through Jan. 3, featuring new village entertainment, fifteen coasters and rides, a Gingerbread Scavenger Hunt, festive holiday shopping, sweet culinary offerings, and meeting Santa in his Workshop.

In Yorktown, catch the Yorktown Christmas Tree Lighting, a community tradition that goes back to 1945, on Dec. 4. The Christmas Market on Main Street, Dec. 5-6, features 60 vendors for holiday gift shopping along with holiday music, The Fifes and Drums of Yorktown, festive food and drink, and an appearance by Santa on York County’s first fire truck. On Dec. 6, enjoy Cookies with Santa at the Gallery at York Hall and learn about ancient Norse influences on modern Christmas culture at the Viking Yuletide Celebration at the Watermen’s Museum. Shop for holiday gifts while enjoying chowders, soups, baked goods and other treats at the Mistletoe Market at Riverwalk Landing, Dec. 12, also featuring a live ice carving demonstration and a Toyland Parade. From Dec. 19-31, Christmastide in Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown recalls 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions through special interpretive programs and musical entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and glimpse holiday preparations on a Revolution-era farm. A Jamestown Settlement, compare and contrast English Christmas customs of the period with how the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown colony. 

At Berkeley Plantation, enjoy Centuries of Christmas, Dec. 5 – Jan. 1, when the elegant 1726 mansion will be beautifully decorated with fresh greenery from Berkley’s gardens. Highlights include costumed guides sharing four centuries of stories, tours, workshops, teas and other special events.

Holidays in the Brandywine Valley

Christmas at Longwood Gardens (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley is one of the most picturesque and historic places especially during the holiday season. Here are highlights:

Longwood Christmas at Longwood Gardens, one of America’s most lauded holidays light displays shines brightly in the Brandywine Valley through Jan. 10, with more than 500,000 sparkling lights, dancing fountains, an illuminated light show set to yuletide music and the 100-foot tunnel of light that pulses with changing colors.  spreading holiday cheer throughout the gardens every night. Walk through this winter wonderland, stop into the conservatory for a dazzling display of holiday colors in every corner. Time your visit to sing along with Christmas carols as they’re played on the 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, the largest ever constructed in a residential setting. To make a reservation and for more details, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.

Decking the halls is a full-time job for whoever decorates Henry Francis du Pont’s 175-room home for Yuletide at Winterthur. This premier museum of the American decorative arts, each room on the Yuletide Tour tells a story of how Americans have celebrated the holidays, starting back in the days when our nation was still young. There are sparkling trees, magical dollhouses, visits from Dickens and a number of holiday events (like the Yuletide Brunch with Santa) that tend to sell out early.

Holiday Magic at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, through Jan. 10, is highlighted by the Brandywine Railroad O-gauge model train that travels nearly 2,000 feet of track, passing through factories, a farm, a small town, and even a carnival setting. Kids programs run all month long, including the Polar Express Read-Aloud Pajama Night and sensory-friendly mornings with the trains. Exciting new additions this season are two model train sets once owned by Nicky and Jamie Wyeth, the sons of the renowned American artist Andrew Wyeth.

Visit https://www.visitwilmingtonde.com/plan/ to find all the events, plan a stay and learn about COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

Cape May MAC’s 47th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour Goes Virtual But Holiday Tours of Physick Estate Continue

Cape May’s Candlelight House Tour will be virtual this year, but other traditional tours and events go on (photo courtesy Cape May MAC)

Cape May, NJ –Cape May MAC (Museums+Arts+Culture) announces its 2020 Cape May Christmas Candlelight House Tour is available for purchase to experience virtually this year, but other Cape May traditional holiday programs, focused around the historic Emlen Physick Estate, with health protocols firmly in place, continue over the six weeks of the season.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols this year, Cape May MAC made the difficult decision that these annual holiday tours, usually offered on three nights in December, must be cancelled in 2020. Cape May’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours have been a beloved annual tradition for nearly half a century. Cape May MAC launched this tour in 1973 and ever since it has been a highlight of the Christmas season in Cape May, America’s only National Historic Landmark City. Thousands of people on three nights in December travel to more than a dozen homes, inns, B&Bs, churches and hotels, stepping across the thresholds to take in interiors beautifully decorated for the holidays. It is one of Cape May MAC’s largest fund-raisers.

“This year, it was decided to create a video that will bring the joy and excitement of these Cape May Christmas tours directly into people’s homes, to continue this tradition unbroken. With enthusiastic participation from Cape May innkeepers, B&B owners and homeowners, planning began this summer and production is nearly complete.”

“Of course, we look forward to when we can offer these self-guided tours in person once again, but we could not have Christmas in Cape May without them in 2020,” said Cape May MAC Director and CEO Jody Alessandrine.

For the first time, the tour will be entirely virtual, via a video available for purchase through Vimeo On Demand ($30). Featured are 10 Cape May homes, B&Bs and inns decorated for the holidays including interviews with owners and innkeepers. Participating properties include: The John B. McCreary House (“The Abbey”), Angel of the Sea Bed & Breakfast, The Bedford Inn, The Cherry House, The Emlen Physick Estate, Franklin at 721, The Henry Sawyer Inn, The Mainstay Inn, The Mason Cottage and The Mission Inn.

(Watch the Trailer, https://vimeo.com/ondemand/capemaychristmastour. The video can be purchased to watch after its release on Monday, Dec. 21 at 9 a.m.)

This presentation is sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank and Brown & Brown Insurance. Proceeds benefit Cape May MAC, a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the preservation, interpretation and cultural enrichment of the Cape May region for its residents and visitors since 1970. Cape May MAC membership is open to all. Visit capemaymac.org/support/membership to learn more.

While the candlelight tour is virtual, the rest of Cape May’s traditional holiday tours are taking place daily:

The Emlen Physick Estate is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) for holiday tours. Designed by American architect Frank Furness, the Physick House is Cape May’s Victorian House Museum. Its restoration began Cape May’s 50-year renaissance that continues to this day.

New in 2020! Winter Wonderwalk this season at the Physick Estate.

Open-air trolley tours are offered throughout this holiday season in Cape May. Bring a blanket!

Vintage restaurant is open during the holidays with heated, outdoor dining under the patio tent on the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate, for both brunch and dinner.

An Old-fashioned Christmas Exhibit features a huge indoor Christmas Tree and Dept. 56 Dickens Village collection. Free admission to this popular annual display.

For information about Cape May MAC’s year-round schedule of tours, festivals and special events, visit capemaymac.org. For information about historic accommodations, contact Cape May Historic Accommodations at capemaylodging.com. For information about restaurants, accommodations and shopping, call the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May at 609-884-5508. For information on the city’s COVID-19 response, visit capemaystrong.org.

Drive-Through Holiday Lights Display at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island

Holiday lights at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island , from years ago, continues this year as Magic of Lights (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Long Island, NY – The Magic of Lights 2.5-mile long drive-through holiday display at Jones Beach State Park, presented by New York Community Bank, takes place through Jan. 2. It features themed light displays using the latest LED technology and digital animations, including the drive-through Blizzard Tunnel as well as other returning favorites including 12 Days of Christmas, Winter Wonderland and The Night Before Christmas. The popular Toyota Mega Tree Spectacular also returns this season, featuring favorite holiday programming displayed across 240 feet of LED Christmas trees.

Magic of Lights is open daily day from dusk and run through 10pm Sunday through Thursday and until 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

Limited early bird tickets are available for a reduced price of $20 with a code while supplies last at www.Ticketmaster.com. Admission is $25 per vehicle in advance and $30 at the gate on Monday through Thursday and $35 Friday through Sunday. Buy tickets in advance for a contactless experience on-site. Receive $3 off weekday admission when you bring at least two non-perishable food items benefiting Long Island food banks.

Some of the evenings are designated as charity nights. Last year Magic of Lights’ philanthropy made a meaningful impact in local communities by raising more than $150,000 for local organizations in addition to collecting non-perishable food items, toys, books, coats and more for those who need it most.

For more information and a complete schedule visit www.magicoflights.com.

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

With Innovative Classes, Workshops Long Island’s Gold Coast Arts Center Illuminates Dark Winter With Art, Music, Theater, Film

Ellen Schiff, Director of School for the Arts, brought her art class outdoors during summer; the Gold Coast Arts Center has found ways to continue to offer in-person and virtual art classes this winter © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is no better antidote to the cold dark winter that is upon us than filling the season and one’s soul with art, music, theater, film. People are turning COVID-19 isolation into an opportunity to broaden skills, discovering new talents and exploring new interests. And the Gold Coast Arts Center, a regional nonprofit multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach, is adapting its programs to the new reality, which in an interesting twist, has enabled the center to expand its reach well beyond the Long Island community.

Winter 2021 School registration is starting next week (Dec. 10) for classes starting in January. The arts organization has been able to continue to offer about two-thirds of its catalog by adapting programs – some virtual, some still in-person in the arts center’s studios.

“Our focus for Winter 2021 as it relates to school is FLEXIBILITY,” says Julie Wostenholme, Marketing & Development Director, for the arts center. “During these difficult times of Covid and with a second wave looming, our school team has proven itself to be a highly trusted resource and a dedicated concierge service to students and families.  We’ve evolved with the times by offering more options.”

These include innovative programs such as:

·         Virtual, Hybrid & In-Person classes.

·         Multi-session classes, One-Day workshops, Pop-Up classes & Create Your Own classes.

·         Host a Holiday Art, Dance or Chess Party with Family & Friends

·         Private lessons in all disciplines.

·         Film / Art Combo Series – first session is a film on Claude Monet, paired with a Monet themed painting class (this series is sponsored by HSBC in Great Neck).

·         A new focus on adult classes, workshops. 

Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck, Long Island, is finding new ways to deliver classes, workshops and programs during the COVID-19 crisis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of the adaptations is that instead of offering programs that extend from winter into spring, because people are not comfortable committing to longer  programs, most of the courses are divided into eight-session segments, but for specific classes, when you sign up for the winter session, you will be sent a promotional discount for signing up for spring session at same time.

Even its renowned film festival and year-round cinema series, which were reintroduced last May, is in high gear, continuing to bring the best of independent new films with its at-home screenings. The series continues to offer two to three new films a month, partnering with film distributors (a 50-50 split in the ticket price). You click to buy a virtual ticket ($10-12 per film) and have 48-72 hours to watch once you purchase. And you still have access to the hallmark of the center’s film festivals: special Q&As with directors and people connected with the film, as well as the ability to link to film reviews and critiques. (Tickets can be purchased for individual films, rather than a whole series.)

The Gold Coast Arts Center’s cinema series is renowned for bringing in important people connected with the film. Dr. Ruth Westheimer participated in a Q&A after the 2019 screening of the documentary, “Ask Dr. Ruth.” This year, the center is adapting the cinema series to present Q&As with directors and film “kits” to enhance at-home screenings of specially curated films  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The center’s cinema series films are now accompanied by “film kits,” so that in addition to seeing movies that have been specially curated, movie-goers can also enjoy a GCIFF Film Team Selection Review as well as Director Statements, Q&As and any other specialized collateral materials made especially for the arts center. “This is a highly competitive market so we are trying to make the film experience with us a very well-rounded one,” Wostenholme says.

On view now: Ric Burns’ documentary “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life”; “Conviction” a French courtroom thriller based on a true story (French with subtitles); and “Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band,” a musical documentary about finding purpose and meaning in life at any age, the transcendent power of music, and the importance of speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry, featuring an exclusive Q&A with director Tod Lending.

Gold Coast Arts Center Dance Festival. The arts center has found a way to continue to teach dance (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Virtual, Hybrid & In-Person classes are offered spanning age groups, from 4 years old to teens and adults as well as family programs, and across a huge array of “the arts” – art, dance, music, theater, even robotics two virtual classes: for beginners, an intro to robotics, and programming, physics of robotics targeted to intermediate & advanced) and chess – a program that the center has offered for years, but with the “Queens Gambit” craze, now offers two new virtual chess classes. “People called to create their own chess class.”

“We have kept up a robust program. We’re not offering everything, but we continue to offer the most successful, innovative and popular programs, well thought out to accommodate the times.”

Indeed, one of the innovations is to “create your own pod” – customized class. People can propose a class to Ellen Schiff, Director of School for the Arts, and the arts center will arrange a teacher. The class can be customized and personalized for time, interest and competency level.

Another innovation are one-day adult workshops, which do not require a commitment beyond signing up in advance.  One of these new workshops is a “film & art” series –combining two disciplines: participants see a documentary of an artist’s exhibition and life on screen, which is  then linked to a one-day painting class at the arts center (the elements can be purchased separately or as a combo).

The January 7, “Adult Painting & Film” immersive workshop is focused on the life of Claude Monet and his most beloved paintings. “Watch how his art developed as the film, Exhibition on Screen: I, Claude Monet features his gardens at Giverny, and the series of paintings they inspired. Students will recreate their own rendition of The Bridge with the lively strokes that Monet used in this live in-person workshop.” No experience is required and the supplies are provided (sessions limited to 8).

The center is hoping to offer one of these Adult Painting & Film workshops per month.

For programs that are offered in the arts center’s own building on Middle Neck Road in Great Neck, strict guidelines and protocols are maintained for anyone coming into the center to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of students, teachers, staff –  socially distancing; only the students and program participants are allowed in; grids mark off six-feet separation; masks must be worn at all times, the center has a filtration system and keeps windows open where appropriate.

Even virtual classes, taught online, are organized so the supplies are provided – people drive to the arts center and pick them up curbside.

For example, an Adult Virtual Pastel Art Workshop is a 90-minute-session with an instructor, offered on January 24 (no experience necessary; supplies are included and can be picked up at the arts center; limited to 8 students).

Instructors like Jude Amsel who teaches ceramics, solar printing and curates the Gold Coast Art Center’s gallery exhibits, have found innovative ways of presenting classes and workshops © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The arts center is also offering “pop-up classes” – one day workshops, for example in ceramics (artist Jude Amsel is offering a holiday ceramics workshop); and “create your own” classes, where people make a request and the arts center puts together an instructor.

You can also host a customized holiday art, dance or chess party with family and friends to learn, say, cartooning.

The arts center is also offering private lessons in all disciplines. – 45-60 minute sessions that are virtual, interactive, personalized to your learning style and experience, with the instructor providing feedback (people have signed on from Colorado and Chicago).

All of these programs are prime for gifts and the Arts Center offers the opportunity to give the gift of art or membership. “How great to gift your parents or grandparents with an amazing class or workshop – they may discover some hidden talent or unexplored interest.”

Purchases on Amazon can also support the arts center, which is a beneficiary on the Amazon Smile program.(Shop, then choose Gold Coast Arts in the Pick a Charitable Organization tab).

The arts center remade the website, goldcoastarts.org, with user-friendly menu and easy access to all class registrations).

Gold Coast Arts is a 501(c)(3) multi-arts organization dedicated to promoting the arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. For a quarter-century, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of people throughout the Long Island region. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages and abilities; a free public art gallery; a concert and lecture series; film screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival; and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities, including artist residencies, after-school programs, school assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold Coast Arts Center’s programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Gold Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts “Partners in Education” program and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.goldcoastarts.org.

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Where to Go for Holiday Cheer: Nothing Stops NYC’s Traditions, Iconic Events

The iconic Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nothing can stop the holiday magic so iconic to New York, and though this holiday season will be different, the spirit and cheer shines through with traditions and iconic events that have delighted generations continuing, albeit with some innovations and modifications. This guide was compiled by NYC & Co.:

“New Yorkers and visitors are invited to mask up and safely enjoy this festive, holiday season in New York City, with less crowds, significant savings, and more outdoor activities than ever before,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. “From ice skating rinks and igloos to colorful light displays, cultural exhibitions and holiday shopping, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. By taking advantage of our All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways offers including the Mastercard $100 rebate, you will also be supporting local businesses and hospitality industry jobs. We’re also encouraging those from afar to give the gift of NYC this year by shopping iconic NYC merchants online, gifting museum memberships and buying gift cards for future travel.”

New Yorkers and visitors alike can show support for NYC by masking up and taking an NYC-cation, staying overnight at one of the City’s welcoming hotels. NYC & Company’s most ambitious savings program ever—All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways—offers nearly 300 deals across accommodations, attractions, dining, retail, tours and more, available at nycgo.com/neighborhoodgetaways. Those who register their Mastercard for the All In NYC: Neighborhood Getaways program—now including new offers through a unique holiday collection—can receive up to $100 total in statement credit when spending $100 or more at hotels and $20 or more at all other businesses.

Those unable to visit are encouraged to Shop NYC this year, through purchases at nycgo.com/shopinnyc, including a roundup of e-commerce/gift cards, distinctive apparel and accessories, signature hotel items, museum gifts and memberships, food and gift baskets, souvenirs, books, music, games and more.

Additionally, Virtual NYC experiences are available online for those from afar to enjoy NYC this festive season, including live stream presentations from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Carnegie Hall, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Lincoln Center and more, available at nycgo.com/virtualnyc, along with a special holiday collection.

Here are a selection of holiday-themed events, attractions, markets, hotel offers, gifts and more, available this holiday season in NYC. For more information, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

Holiday Light Displays and Light Shows

  • Holiday Lights at Bronx Zoo
    November 20 through January 10, 2021 | The Bronx
    During this festive celebration, visitors can enjoy five animal lantern safaris, as well as holiday-themed music, ice-carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
  • Harlem Holiday Lights
    November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Each holiday season, Harlem’s 125th Street is illuminated with more than 10,000 festive LED lights across nine blocks, from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. The annual Turn On the Lights event will be live streamed this year, enabling all to watch the iconic thoroughfare light up with festive light and window displays, as well as a caravan of decorated floats traveling around Harlem to safely greet participating buildings and businesses. 
  • Shine Bright at Hudson Yards
    November 22 through December 31 | Manhattan 
    NYC’s newest neighborhood will introduce new holiday decor, , that will illuminate the Public Square and Gardens, The Shops at Hudson Yards, Vessel and Edge with white lights set against evergreen trees and one-of-a-kind set pieces. By downloading this app, guests will be transported through augmented reality to the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop where they will be able to walk through mounds of snow, along candy cane lanes, pose for pictures alongside animated polar bears, elves, penguins, and Rudolph, and video chat with Santa Claus.
  • Luminaries at Brookfield Place
    November 27 through January 8, 2021 | Manhattan
    Lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place will feature a canopy of colorful lights emanating from hundreds of lanterns suspended among the shopping center’s palm trees. Touchless, motion-activated stations allow visitors to make a wish and prompt a magical display of lights and colors.
  • GLOW at New York Botanical Garden
    Select Nights, November 27 through January 9, 2021 | The Bronx
  • New York Botanical Garden will present a gorgeous outdoor light show, illuminating its landmark gardens and the Haupt Conservatory on 14 select nights. As part of the experience, visitors will also be able to enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers and more outdoor fun.
  • LuminoCity Festival
    November 27 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan
    A spectacular light show which debuted for the first time last year on Randall’s Island, LuminoCity will feature several acres of new light art installations and sculptures inspired by nature, history and magic.
  • Holiday Lights at Arthur Avenue
    November 30 onwards | The Bronx
    Come walk the Bronx’s “Little Italy” and take in the bright lights strung along Arthur Avenue, as well as the area’s holiday windows. A neighborhood Christmas tree at Ciccarone Park will be festively lit, beginning November 30.
  • Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn
    December 10–17 | Brooklyn
    The annual lighting of Brooklyn’s largest Menorah at Grand Army Plaza will take place each night of Chanukah, kicking off with a socially distanced celebration on December 10.
  • Holiday Light Show Featuring Carrie Underwood’s “Hallelujah” with John Legend at the Empire State Building
    December 19–25 | Manhattan
    The Empire State Building’s annual music-to-light show will kick off on December 19, with Carrie Underwood’s new song “Hallelujah” with John Legend being synced to the iconic building’s dazzling holiday lights. In conjunction with the release of Underwood’s new Christmas album My Gift, at 8pm each night the song will be broadcast on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM, and the light show will also be streamed live via Earthcam.

Cultural Events

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC continues its Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp tradition (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden
    Now through January 31, 2021 | The Bronx
    Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of famous NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and other favorites, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, acorns and cinnamon sticks. Due to limited capacity and tickets this year, the Train Show can only be viewed by a Member, Patron, Corporate Member, or Bronx Community Partner.
  • UrbanSparkle at UrbanGlass
    Now through January 15, 2021 | Brooklyn
    UrbanGlass presents UrbanSparkle, an annual holiday exhibition which features artists exploring the material of glass as decoration. Works selected for this installation feature five artists using a variety of techniques, offering one-of-a-kind gifts to holiday shoppers.
  • The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
    November 25 through January 10, 2021 | Manhattan
    An annual tradition for more than 40 years, the Origami Tree is a beloved New York City holiday offering. This year’s tree features 1,000 colored origami cranes, representing peace and good wishes as the City continues to be challenged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp at The Met Museum
    November 27 through January 6, 2021 | Manhattan
    The Met continues a longstanding holiday tradition with the presentation of its Christmas tree, a magnificently lit, twenty-foot blue spruce that looms over a vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene, enshrined in an abundant array of lifelike figures with silk-robed angels hovering above. Recorded Christmas music adds to the enjoyment of the holiday display.
    The Met will also have a spectacular silver Hanukkah lamp on display, generously on loan from the Moldovan Family Collection. Both beautiful and functional, this remarkable lamp was created in 1866 through 1872 in Lemberg (Lviv), Eastern Europe. Its rich history connects the lamp to centuries of Hanukkah celebrations across Jewish communities throughout the world.
  • Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection at the New-York Historical Society
    November 27 through February 21, 2021 | Manhattan
    A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of this holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, Holiday Express transports guests to a long-gone era at the New-York Historical Society.
  • “Broadway at the Drive-in” Radial Park at Halletts Point
    November 27 through December 19 | Queens
    Head to Astoria to experience the Christmas Show, featuring new and classic Christmas flicks, live performances, a holiday-themed installation, games, raffles and secret Santa fun all in a socially distant manner with views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.
  • Candlelight Tours at Historic Richmond Town
    Saturdays, November 28 through December 19 | Staten Island
    Visitors are invited to experience intimate, small-group tours of select, decorated historic buildings illuminated by candlelight, at this historic village and museum complex. In-costume interpreters will demonstrate period customs from the 18th and 19th centuries, including games, songs, and traditional treats and beverages. Prepaid reservations are required and tickets can be purchased now.
  • Sing for Hope at Hudson Yards
    December 1—31 | Manhattan
    One baby grand and seven upright pianos painted by artists inspired by Hudson Yards will be displayed throughout The Shops. The pianos will be played by Broadway artists and Juilliard students. In early January, all pianos will be delivered and donated to communities, homes and others who will benefit from the healing power of the arts.
  • Winter Activities at Queens Botanical Garden
    December 5—6 | Queens
    Celebrate the holidays with a slate of winter activities at the garden: wreath-making workshops, winter trees tours, beeswax candle making, and a holiday sale at the gift shop.
  • Holiday Wreath Workshops and Winter Solstice Garden Walk at Wave Hill
    December 5 & 6, December 20 | The Bronx
    On December 5 and 6, join local florist Hanako Shimamoto in Wave Hill’s grand and historic Armor Hall for a holiday wreath workshop. Beginning with a balsam wreath base, design a one-of-a-kind wreath accented with natural materials, accessories and fresh greens harvested from the gardens.
    On December 20, join a garden interpreter for a peaceful guided stroll on the eve of the Winter Solstice. The leafless trees provide spectacular views of the Hudson River and cliffs of the Palisades, to enjoy the serenity of the season and the promise of brighter days to come.
  • Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at The Morgan Library & Museum
    December 7, 2020 through January 11, 2021 | Manhattan
    Each holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. The Morgan now advances the Christmas Carol manuscript by one page each season, and this year, the manuscript is open to Scrooge’s vituperative remarks about Christmas. Explore A Christmas Carol online and view other related highlights from the collection, and share in the festivities with a copy of A Christmas Carol available from the Morgan Shop.
  • The Nutcracker on the Lawn at Alice Austen House Museum
    December 12 | Staten Island
    In partnership with Spotlight Repertory Theatre, the Alice Austen House Museum will present a rendition of The Nutcracker, a play, on the front lawn. Limited tickets will be sold for $25 at spotlighttkts.com.
  • Chanukah Family Experience at the Jewish Children’s Museum
    December 13-17 | Brooklyn
    Enjoy an experiential Chanukah celebration with the family by creating various art projects – from designing a dreidel-shaped pillow and helping to create a Chanukah mural on a Menorah, to decorating a mouth-watering holiday donut or discovering the art of olive oil making.

Iconic NYC Traditions

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, NYC ushers in the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
    November 26 | Manhattan
    This beloved holiday tradition of larger-than-life balloons and dazzling floats has been transformed into a television-only experience that will be aired on NBC and Telemundo from 9am–12pm, in all time zones, for all to enjoy safely from the comfort of home.  The 94th annual parade will feature Broadway performances by HamiltonMean Girls, Jagged Little Pill, and Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.
  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
    December 2 | Manhattan
    Bringing joy and Christmas spirit to the City, the 88th annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting has taken place. Visitors can see will take place on December 2 from 7—10pm with no public access, however,  all are invited to view the live national broadcast “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” from home on NBC. the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce from Oneonta, NY, arrived at Rockefeller Center this past weekend.
  • New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop
    December 2020 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan
    Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from NYC and around the globe, and this year, for the first time ever, the event will be televised only with the traditional ball drop, live performances and special guests to be announced.
    Additional annual activities include the Wishing Wall activation (month of December), Numeral Arrival of “2” and “1’ for 2021 (December 21), Numeral Installation atop One Times Square (December 26), Crystal Installation (December 27), Good Riddance Day (December 28), Confetti Test (December 29) and Ball Test and Balloon Preparation (December 30).

Ice Skating Rinks

Skating at The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park
    Now through March 7, 2021 | Manhattan
    Enjoy the City’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink in Midtown at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Advanced ticket purchases are required.
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place
    November 16 onwards | Manhattan
    The Rink at Brookfield Place provides skaters of all levels a spot to take lessons or skate on their own while enjoying views of the Hudson River and surrounding cityscape.
  • Vale Rink at The William Vale
    November 27 onwards | Brooklyn
    Skate on the eco-friendly, synthetic rooftop rink of The William Vale in Williamsburg, with views of the NYC skyline. Guests will also be able to warm up in private, socially distanced tiny houses.
  • Wollman Rink at Central Park
    Now through March 2021 | Manhattan
    Situated in the heart of Manhattan at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, the iconic Wollman Rink offers spectacular views of the NYC skyline and programs that cater to the entire family—ideal for visitors and local skating enthusiasts.
  • Rink at Rockefeller Center
    November 21, 2020 through January 17, 2021 | Manhattan
    The world-famous ice skating rink will open for the holiday season, with advanced tickets available for purchase at www.skatingatrockcenter.com. Skaters also have the option of purchasing VIP packages in partnership with City Winery.

How’s this for a novel way to engage in the holidays: Bike New York is organizing a series of “Holiday Lights & Sights” rides in the boroughs, starting with Brooklyn (Dec. 12), Manhattan (Dec. 13,);  Bronx (Dec. 18). You need to preregister ($10; free for members). https://www.bike.nyc/events/local-rides/.

Holiday Markets, Retail Displays and Shopping

Holiday Under the Stars at the Shops at Columbus at Time Warner Center (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Virtual Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal
    Now through December 24 | Manhattan
    This holiday attraction will be online only this year, featuring handmade home goods, toys, art, accessories, jewelry, bath and body products, and men’s, women’s and children’s apparel.
  • Holiday Under the Stars at The Shops at Columbus Circle
    Now through December 24 | Manhattan
    Spend time shopping for that perfect gift and dine under the stars, daily, from 4—7pm at 14-foot stars hang from the ceiling and illuminate to the beat of holiday music in the Great Room overlooking Central Park.
  • Open Storefronts Program
    Now through December 31 | Citywide
    This holiday season, there is no better gift to give than shopping local and supporting small businesses. The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor, storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis to sell merchandise through the holiday season.
  • The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
    Now through March 2021 | Manhattan
    In addition to one of the most popular ice skating rinks in NYC, the Winter Village provides must-buy gifts and winter activities at the Holiday Shops. For a festive cocktail or bite to eat, check out The Lodge Deck by Urbanspace.
  • Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop at Nordstrom NYC
    Now onwards | Manhattan
    The Nordstrom flagship store on Broadway will unveil its annual holiday decorations on November 27, and Santa and his elves will participate in a daily Santa Snow Show at 2pm and 6pm through December 24. A Make Merry Holiday 2020 Shop, curated by the buyers at Nordstrom, will assist with this year’s shopping needs.
  • Empire Outlets
    December 3 onwards | Staten Island
    Located steps away from the free Staten Island Ferry, Empire Outlets is NYC’s only outdoor outlets shopping destination with views of Lower Manhattan. This holiday season will mark the launch of Empire Outlet’s food and beverage deck including MRKTPL artisanal food hall, Bake Culture, Clinton Hall beer garden, and Wasabi Steak & Sushi. The outlets will be transformed into a winter wonderland, with a festive socially-distant tree lighting ceremony to kick off the season on December 3.
  • Window Displays at Macy’s Herald Square & Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn
    November 19 through January 1, 2021 | Manhattan & Brooklyn
    Thank you, GraciasMerci, all multilingual expressions of gratitude, will be the centerpiece of Macy’s flagship world-famous windows, taking the form of a thank you letter to first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality and New Yorkers who showed their grit and hopeful spirit during a difficult year. Macy’s Downtown Brooklyn will also host a celebratory “Thank You” to the City beginning November 27.
    This year, Macy’s is also bringing Santa Claus to every home through Santaland, where children of all ages can take an interactive online journey through the North Pole and NYC, and take a virtual selfie with Santa himself November 27 through December 24.
  • Window Displays & Saks Lights Up Fifth Avenue at Saks Fifth Avenue 
    November 23 through December 23 | Manhattan
    Saks’ theme for the holiday season, This is How We Celebrate, shines a light on the importance of spending time with loved ones and the different ways people and places celebrate. The theme comes to life in their holiday window display, which brings a different quintessential New York moment to life in each scene. The iconic holiday windows and 10-story-tall theatrical light show will be revealed with a reimagined, one-of-a-kind event concept titled, Saks Lights Up Fifth AvenueIn lieu of closing down Fifth Avenue for a single, large-scale performance, Saks will host several intimate ceremonies with prominent members of the fashion and entertainment communities, as well as NYC notables, lighting up the Saks New York flagship each night.
  • “Give Happy” Holiday Campaign at Bloomingdales
    November 23 through December 31 | Manhattan
    The reinvented “Give Happy” holiday campaign will come to life through an exclusive Virtual Holiday Benefit on November 23 featuring singer and songwriter Andra Day, innovative activations with charitable components, digital experiences, new services, and holiday window displays.
  • The 34th Annual Miracle on Madison Avenue
    December 5| Manhattan
    The 34th annual Miracle on Madison Avenue will be held from 10am to 5pm, and 20% of sales at participating stores will be donated to pediatric initiatives of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Madison Avenue’s holiday decor and lights will be on display a bit longer this year to spread extra cheer, from late November through early February.
  • Shop NYC’s Independent Bookstores
    Ongoing | Citywide
    This year, give the gift of literature and unique goods, while supporting NYC’s independent bookstores across the City by shopping local, including Books are Magic, Greenlight Bookstore, McNally Jackson and more.
See the light show on Saks Fifth Avenue facade (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Outdoor Igloo and Winter Rooftop Experiences

  • City Winery at Rockefeller Center
    Now through December 31 | Manhattan
    Enjoy a glass of locally-crafted wine and a bite to eat in a warm, private winter dome at City Winery, or in the Outdoor Wine Garden, offering views of the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Reservations can be made through Resy.
  • The Greens at Seaport District NYC
    Now onwards | Manhattan
    The City’s premier open-air rooftop venue at Pier 17 will bring seasonal charm as it converts the Seaport’s socially distant summer dining concept, The Greens, into winterized rooftop cabins, each including comfy seating, an air purifier, a spacious and heated floor plan, a virtual fireplace, floor-to-ceiling views of NYC and more.
  • Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth
    Now through May 2021 | Manhattan
    Experience a winter oasis at one of the 17 igloos offered at 230 Fifth. Igloos can accommodate up to 10 guests and cannot be shared with other parties this year; advanced bookings are recommended.
  • The Runway Chalet at the TWA Hotel
    Now onwards | Queens  
    This sixties-era après ski experience is now open, along with the heated infinity pool on the roof of the TWA Hotel. The vintage electric fireplace crackles as enjoy cocktails like the Altitude Adjustment (spiced rum and hot cider with a cinnamon stick).
  • Winter Experiences at The William Vale
    Early December onwards | Brooklyn
    Village at Westlight comprises of festive, enclosed chalets for small parties to enjoy food and beverage alongside the Vale Rink on the hotel’s 23rd floor rooftop, while Winter Spa treatments are being offered on the hotel’s 4th floor terrace in partnership with Terra Glamping tents.
  • Winter Dining at The Hoxton, Williamsburg
    Now Open | Brooklyn
    Enjoy a selection of natural wines, classic cocktails and a rustic menu served in front of the fireplace at Klein’s Wine Cellar, or warm up on the heated Winterly rooftop of this beautiful boutique property. The enclosed rooftop is open from 4—10pm on weekdays and noon—10pm on weekends. 

Hotel Offers

Holiday Lights in New York (c) Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Festive on Fifth Suites at The Langham, New York, Fifth Avenue
    Now through December 26 | Manhattan
    The Langham’s Festive on Fifth Suites package includes individualized Christmas decor for a personal family holiday celebration, with the hotel giving guests a gift as a souvenir of a fabulous holiday spent on Fifth Avenue.
  • Holiday Staycations at The Beekman
    Now through December 31 | Manhattan
    This holiday season, guests checking into The Beekman can save up to 25 percent on rooms and 40 percent on suites, while enjoying complimentary late checkout. This beautiful Lower Manhattan hotel is also offering festive 3-course dining menus on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Holiday Cheer at Shelburne Hotel & Suites by Affinia
    November 16 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Enjoy a cozy stay in one of the hotel’s spacious guestrooms or suites, complete with holiday movies, hot chocolate, and cookie decorating. Those who book directly with the hotel can enjoy late checkout and receive free cancellations.
  • Christmas Tree Sip and See and Letters to Santa at Lotte New York Palace
    November 18 through December 25 | Manhattan
    From November 18 on, enjoy hot beverages and admire the Lotte New York Palace’s beloved Christmas tree in the hotel’s Madison Avenue courtyard. Staying from November 30 through Christmas Day? Make sure to fill out the postcard given to all guests and send it to Santa via the convenient North Pole Mailbox in the hotel lobby.
  • New Holiday Traditions at AKA Central Park, AKA Times Square and
    AKA Sutton Place

    November 20 through January 3, 2021 | Manhattan
    Conveniently located close to all the action, AKA’s New York City hotels are offering a special holiday deal which includes 10 percent off when booking two or more suites of any kind for a week or longer, special holiday amenities including gourmet hot cocoa and a bottle of wine upon check-in, private access to a cinema (at select locations), a sweet treat upon departure, and more.
  • The Penthouse Holiday Spectacular at The Mark Hotel
    December 1 onwards | Manhattan
    Luxurious holiday offerings for guests of The Mark Hotel include a private skating rink on the hotel penthouse’s terrace, a private performance of The Nutcracker ballet, after-hours private shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, in-suite spa experiences, personal fitness classes, airport transfers by helicopter, and more.
  • The Gift of Travel with the InterContinental New York Barclay
    Purchase by December 24; Offer valid from May 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022 | Manhattan
    Give the gift of a future carefree stay at the InterContinental New York Barclay. For $500, this gift certificate – pre-packaged in a festive gift box! – includes a three-night stay in Executive Accommodations, daily breakfast for two during the stay, and a Barclay Momento Welcome Amenity. Email barclaygs@ihg.com to purchase.
  • Hotline to the North Pole at Conrad New York Downtown
    December 24 | Manhattan
    Conrad New York Downtown will have a “Hotline to the North Pole” for the first time this year, offering current and past guests, as well as the children’s ward at a large NYC hospital, the opportunity to video conference with Santa Claus on December 24 from 4-6pm. Guests utilizing the Hotline to the North Pole while at the hotel will receive complimentary milk and cookies to enjoy while talking to Santa.
  • Home for the Holidays at Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel
    December 24–26 | Manhattan
    Guests checking into Crosby Street Hotel and The Whitby Hotel can experience festively decorated suites complete with their own Christmas tree, and enjoy private dining on Christmas Day followed by a holiday film screening in the hotel’s cinema.
  • Fireplace Package at Royalton New York
    Ongoing | Manhattan
    For colder days during the winter season, enjoy a cozy stay at the only hotel in New York City with wood-burning fireplaces in select guestrooms.
  • Shopping Package at SIXTY SoHo
    Ongoing | Manhattan
    Guests can take advantage of this promotion to receive a welcome bag with gifts from neighborhood stores and access to discounts at neighborhood retailers, for all your holiday gifting needs.

Sightseeing Tours

  • Tour Your Own City by the Guides Association of New York City
    Ongoing | Citywide
    This online resource spotlights tours in all five boroughs, making it easier than ever for residents and regional visitors to safely enjoy all that the City has to offer, led by professional, licensed tour guides.
  • Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour by On Location Tours
    November 25 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Experience scenes from iconic movies filmed in NYC as well as famous holiday displays on this 2.5-hour bus tour around Manhattan.
  • Festive Holiday Cruises by Classic Harbor Line
    November 21 through December 31 | Manhattan
    Guests can enjoy festive 90-minute sightseeing cruises on 1920s-style yachts this holiday season, complete with hot chocolate, holiday decor and unobstructed views of New York City’s iconic skyline, and new health and safety protocols in place.
  • Private Holiday Shopping Tour by Inside Out Tours
    Thursdays through Saturdays in December | Manhattan
    Enjoy a private holiday shopping experience, featuring some of the top holiday markets and retail around the city. Additionally, Inside Out is offering a Holiday Dessert Virtual Cooking Class that will showcase NYC through the lens of food and multiculturalism by having participants create and taste foods including: Mini sweet potato pies, mulled apple cider, and double fudge holiday cupcakes.

Give the Gift of New York City

  • Shop NYC
    Those who can’t go in person, can always shop some of their favorite retailers, hotels and cultural institutions online, with gift cards, e-commerce and other offerings. Discover distinctive apparel and accessories; signature hotel items like linens, robes and spa products; food and gift baskets; souvenirs, books, music, games and more. NYC & Company’s Shop NYC resource has something for every person on your shopping list.
  • Museum Gift Shops, Cultural Memberships and Subscriptions
    Consider gifting a cultural membership/subscription or purchasing your holiday gifts from one of New York City’s many world-class museums’ online gift shops, to support these beloved institutions while planning ahead for a future visit.
  • Junior’s Cheesecake
    One of the most iconic desserts in New York City, a cheesecake from makes a great holiday gift. You can send that lucky person on your shopping list a holiday themed cheesecake like their Holiday Little Fellas Sampler or their Strawberry Swirl Designer Christmas Cheesecake. There is surely something for everyone.
  • Levain Bakery
    Grab a gift card, merchandise or a gift box of Levain Bakery’s enormous and delicious cookies. Signature cookie assortments allow your friends and family to sample all four of the beloved NYC brand’s original cookie flavors.
  • Li-Lac Chocolates
    Manhattan’s oldest chocolate house, ships all over the world. Check out their holiday themed molds and goodies, as well as their NYC gifts like a chocolate Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, taxi or “Big Apple.”
  • Russ & Daughters
    A New York City staple for more than 100 years, offers some of the most delicious bagels, lox, appetizers and baked goods. Ship that homesick friend a holiday brunch basket with bagels, babka, lox and more.
  • Zabar’s
    Send a luscious gift basket filled with meats, smoked fish and pastries from

NYC & Company is the official destination marketing organization and convention and visitors bureau for the City of New York. For all there is to do and see in New York City, visit nycgo.com.

Novel Ways to Give the Gift of Travel, Satisfy Unrequited Wanderlust this Holiday Season

Fez, Morocco: Several travel companies including Road Scholar, The Travel Corporation and Butterfield & Robinson are have created a virtual bazaar to access the arts and crafts of the world and sustain the artisans when travel has been cut off to the marketplaces © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is a holiday season like no other, and with the routes for travel cut off for many, there are still ways to satisfy unrequited wanderlust and instill the hope and joyful spirit for a future when the thrill and enrichment of discovery will return.

If you can’t get to places, some popular destinations known for their distinctive artisans and boutiques, can bring themselves to you: 

Not-for-profit Road Scholar, renowned as one of the world’s largest and most innovative creators of experiential learning opportunities for adults has partnered with NOVICA, which works directly with artisans in Asia, Africa and Latin America, to create a “virtual” world bazaar (https://worldbazaar.roadscholar.org/).

“An important part of every history and culture that we learn about is recorded in the arts, crafts and traditions of its people. While travel is limited now, we have created a way for you to continue your discovery of the cultural creations found in the places we explore on Road Scholar learning adventures through our new World Bazaar.”

Similarly, The Travel Corporation (ttc.com), a family of 40 travel and hospitality companies, through its charitable foundation, TreadRight, is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world hard-hit by the collapse of international travel (https://www.treadright.org/holiday-gifts-that-give-back/).

Butterfield & Robinson also has a foundation that supports conservation and cultural projects as well as an B&R Artisan Marketplace promotes the small businesses and independent artists that you would otherwise encounter on trips (https://www.butterfield.com/br-artisan-marketplace/)

Fez, Morocco: Several travel companies including Road Scholar, The Travel Corporation and Butterfield & Robinson are have created a virtual bazaar to access the arts and crafts of the world and sustain the artisans when travel has been cut off to the marketplaces © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comez, Morocco © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this season when we think about good will, doing good and making a difference, use your gift-giving to support important institutions, destinations, organizations either with direct donations or actual purchases of subscriptions and items:

Get unique gifts and support favorite iconic museums and institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, by buying from their online stores © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many of the great museums and iconic institutions of the world offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their endeavor by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials): the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), the American Museum of Natural History (www.amnh.org,  https://shop.amnh.org/featured/holiday-gift-ideas);  Smithsonian (Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonianstore.com;  you can also get a membership & subscription to the fantastic Smithsonian Magazine with two gift subscriptions, so 3 subscriptions for $34, Smithsonianmag.com).

Also (but you can insert your own):

World Wildlife Fund (https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/)
National Wildlife Fund (www.shopnwf.org/collections/Shop-Home-and-Garden-Garden-for-Wildlife).

Zoos, aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has eco-friendly items. There are also Adopt-an-Animal programs. The Bronx Zoo has similar programs and an online store (www.bronxzoostore.com). And you don’t have to visit the Kennedy Space Center, to get space-related items (www.thespaceshop.com), though visiting offers incomparable experiences. Indeed, you might also consider gifting special experiences, like Zookeeper for a Day or an Overnight Campout at a Museum.

Zoos, aquariums and special attractions are fantastic to shop at, especially for kids: The Palm Beach Zoo (www.palmbeachzoo.org), for example, has eco-friendly items © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Another gift idea is to purchase family memberships in your favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction, which gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits including discounts, like the Smithsonian Institution, Sierra Club (they produce a catalog of trips), Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such, railstotrails.org) Parks & Trails NY (ptny.org), National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). The National Park Foundation’s Board of Directors is matching all gifts, dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $500,000, through Dec. 31 (https://give.nationalparks.org/site/Donation2)

Among the distinctive historic places for the holidays recommended by National Trust for Historic Preservation is Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., Dedicated in 1763, Touro is the oldest synagogue building in the United States. “A structure of exquisite beauty and design, steeped in history and ideals, the synagogue is considered one of the ten most architecturally distinguished buildings of 18th century America and the most historically significant Jewish building in the United States.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Membership has benefits for National Trust for Historic Preservation (savingplaces.org) and its sister organization Historic Hotels of America (www.historichotels.org), National Trust for Historic Preservation offers Great Experiences & Tours, (nationaltrusttours.com) and a new program to make history fun for families: Distinctive Destinations. From grand homes to artists’ studios to working farms, these places across America can add memorable moments to your off-the-beaten-path road trip, create new opportunities for your next vacation, or even be your new favorite gift shop (https://savingplaces.org/distinctive-destinations). They even have created an online list of holiday experiences at its collection of historic holiday sites (https://savingplaces.org/collections/distinctive-destinations-historic-holidays). Members, donors, and supporters of the National Trust for Historic Preservation save up to 30% off best available rates at more than 200 participating Historic Hotels of America with offer code NHP when booking at www.HistoricHotels.org.

These days, with capacity restrictions and advance-purchase ticketing requirements at major museums and attractions, even ski areas, think about gifting pre-purchased tickets or better yet, memberships.

Stocking Stuffers, Gift Cards, Travel Gear

Resorts and hotels, tour companies, cruiselines offer gift certificates and gift cards (ideal stocking stuffers) that can be used toward accommodations but also dining, shopping, activities, experiences.

SpaFinder has gift certificates for resorts, hotels, wellness centers and day spas (www.spafinder.com/best-of/resorts-and-hotel-spas), as well as Gift Cards can be used to buy Gift Sets at its new shop offering skincare products from Sothy’s, Jurlique, Circadia, clothes, beauty products and has sales all the time (spafinder.com).

The world-class spa at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, Palm Beach, is geared for indulgent pampering and relaxation. Spafinders.com is a source for gift certificates for resort stays, spa visits and spa items © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And for stocking stuffers, there’s no better than actual socks, so crucial for walking tours, hiking, biking, skiing, and packing.

Darn Tough: Made in America socks for just about every purpose, that comes with a lifetime guarantee and the benefits of Merino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm). Socks tailored to hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle. Founded by Ric Cabot in 2004, a third-generation sock maker, the company operates out of Cabot Hosiery Mills, in the Sock Capital of the World, Northfield, Vermont. Colorful, a great stocking stuffer. (www.darntough.com).

Darn Tough socks make a darn great stocking stuffer © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And my kids loved the Bombas socks I sent them last year – Merino wool all-season, everyday socks; hiking, skiing socks. Bombas socks come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, and now, a specially designed donation clothing item for every Bombas clothing item purchased (so far over 30 million items donated). (Get 20% Off by entering email for a code, https://bombas.com/).

Then you get into clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff.

Eyeware is a fantastic gift. Smith Optics, rooted in Sun Valley, Idaho, produces high-fashion and active sunglass styles featuring their proprietary ChromaPop technology. The company was founded in 1965 with the invention of the first snow goggles with a sealed thermal lens and breathable vent foam. It has grown into an industry leader that pioneered advancements in eyewear and helmets. Smith’s Eastbank line ofround sunglasses are designed with lightweight, bio-based frames:  ChromaPop™ lenses to enhance contrast and natural color to make the details pop, 100% UV protection, Megol nose pads provide nonslip grip so glasses stay put, Evolve™ bio-based frame material is lightweight and durable and autoLock hinges hold frames open for easy one-hand on and off. Check the gift guide (www.smithoptics.com).

HydraPak‘s brand new line of sustainable outdoor water bottles for every purpose (hiking, biking, skiing, running) are made with 50% recycled content in both the bottle-and-cap. RECON was born out of the collective belief that great gear for the trail can and should be lower impact on the environment. It utilizes Eastman Tritan™ Renew technology to transform plastic waste, from a variety of sources with a primary source being PET single-use bottles, x9 bottles to be exact, into upcycled outdoor water bottles. (HydraPak.com)

Ecco Outdoors creates ergonomic footwear that have their own version of natural motion, unique to each foot. The company owns its own tanneries and produces innovative leathers for performance, lifestyle and fashion brands, combining form and function, craftsmanship and technology. Developed by ECCO over three decades, FLUIDFORM™ is a technology to create ergonomically advanced soles. By injecting a resilient, shock-absorbent material directly into the shoe mould, the sole is bonded to the upper instantly and seamlessly, without the compromises common with glued or stitched assemblies. The result is a reliable and durable union between the upper and the sole unit, which offers a finely-tuned balance of cushioning and rebound. The shoes are produced in factories in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Portugal and sold in 90 countries from over 2,200 ECCO shops and more than 14,000 sales points. (www.eccousa.com).

Kuju is premium coffee you travel with – designed to be exceptionally easy. All you need is hot water – it has its own packet, filter in a single-serving. Kuju Coffee. The Pocket PourOver is pre-filled with specialty-grade coffee so you can make a really good cup of coffee from anywhere (small kitchen, while traveling, in the office, when you’re the only one who wants a cup, etc.) Two collections are notable – an Ethically Sourced collection with light, medium and dark roast coffees sourced from a farm that employs former victims of sex-trafficking as well as a Premium Single Origin collection with coffees from Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. During this summer’s camping trip in New York’s Letchworth State Park we thoroughly enjoyed the single-serve Kuju Coffee packets: just pour hot water over the cleverly engineered packets, and voila, we were transported to civilization. www.kujucoffee.com/pages/holiday-gift-guide

A new twist on chocolate that’s so good for you: Fx Chocolate is made with nutritional supplements, gluten-free, with 1/20 the calories from sugar. Some are made with Adaptogens -a class of herbs, mushrooms and minerals that work on a cellular level, acting like a “stress vaccine,” increasing cells’ ability to respond to stress;  Reishi mushrooms are adaptogens that are masters of immune support, energy and cellular protection; using every part of the mushroom enables max potency for a slow, steady & balanced energy reign. Some are made with CBD (also known as cannabidiol), a natural compound found in the hemp plant, that interacts with endocannabinoid system- which plays a role functions, including mood and sleep cycles, but is non-intoxicating (Fx Chocolate won’t get you high). (https://fxchocolate.com/)

DUER, based in Vancouver, creates apparel ideal for travel by fusing performance and style, fashion, function comfort and versatility. Jeans are designed as a hybrid across active lifestyles – five times more stretch and 30% lighter and stronger than traditional denim. “You can take a plane ride, wear to dinner; anti-microbial, you can wear every day.” The brand has now expanded to men’s and women’s pants, jeans, and shirts, all with proprietary fabrics that offer power stretch, moisture-wicking, breathability and durability, with the look and feel of premium streetwear. The company is debuting its Weatherproof Denim and fleece-lined denim for men, as well as denim and pants to launch its DUER Women’s collection (www.shopduer.com).

Lowa Boots, a Connecticut based company that is in partnership with a German company founded in 1923, is famous for four-season specialized outdoor footwear for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering and walking, as well as everyday use. The backpack boots are made in Germany; mountaineering in Italy; lighter weight boot in Slovakia. They are made with care – direct-attach polyurethane midsole, one for shock absorption and comfort, one for stability; invisible foot technology with Gortex; a backpack boot with lacing and rivets under tab so it flexes for mobility. “Everything for different level of outdoor fit, comfort and performance.” Available at Paragon, REI, Zappos and 450 independent specialty stores as well as online (www.lowaboots.com).

Camping gear like our tent from REI is much appreciated with the boom in outdoor travel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among our favorite specialty retailers (especially when you catch sales and closeouts): REI (www.rei.com/s/gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840); Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com;  LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, 866-786-3869, sunandski.com; Tennis Express, TennisExpress.com, Bass Pro Shops, www.basspro.com. And of course, luggage (I love my Olympia USA 22 inch 8-Pocket Rolling Duffel for $25 purchased through homedepot.com of all places which I have taken around-the-world; another great site is Luggageonline.com, 888-958-4424).

Photography & Camera Gear

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones, but they don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife, etc. (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts).

Cameras and photography gear are big on the list for travelers, with size and functionality among the key criteria. Some of the new smaller, mirrorless cameras have as much functionality as the larger, heavier digital SLRs and use interchangeable lenses but tend to be fairly costly (over $1000 range). But I was able to take advantage of a sale to purchase the Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel.

The Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless Digital with 18-150 mm lens for $449, is light and compact enough to use for hiking and travel © Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For something like a safari, you would need a good DSLR with decent zoom lenses to cover the various focal lengths (I use the Nikon D500 with Nikkor 28-300), but for, say, a biking or hiking trip ( that is, what I can wear around my neck, shoot with one hand while riding a bicycle that gives excellent quality images, image stabilization, decent zoom lens, auto focus, is fast and responsive on/off/shoot, and is reasonably priced), I have found my Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS70 and ZS50 to be ideal for this kind of travel; thinking of weather and more rugged hikes and photo environments, my latest acquisition is the waterproof, shockproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera, with 4x zoom lens (25-100mm, with an amazing macro feature for nature photography), on sale at $100 off at $349). B&H consistently has best inventory, prices, and holiday specials, plus excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800.606.6969212.444.6615).

There are endless opportunities on a photographer’s wishlist, from memory cards and external hard drives, to backpacks to lenses, lighting, etc.

More travel-inspired gifts:

Shou Sugi Ban House, a Hamptons wellness retreat and destination spa, recently launched an e-commerce site includinga line of signature ceramics made exclusively for Shou Sugi Ban House by New York-based ceramicist Stephanie Charlene. The collection includes bowls, dinner plates and tumblers made from a groggy white stoneware and finished with a sandy white glaze. Prices start at $30 available online at www.ssbhouse.myshopify.com or at their onsite shop in Water Mill, NY.

For the fashionistaWilbert Das, the former creative director of Diesel and owner of UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, designed limited-edition sunglasses with local Trancoso, Brazil craftsmen. They are handcrafted from three different varieties of reclaimed wood as well as sustainably-sourced buffalo bonewith lenses by German supplier, Zeis. Each of the 150 pairs comes with an individually carved leather case by Artist in Casa Mark Inglis, an Irish designer who splits his time between Trancoso, Italy, Bali, and Tulum. Retail price is $360, and it is available via email to atelier@uxua.com, through www.uxuacasa.com or at Zerezes retail outlets in Rio de Janeiro.

For the next Bond, James Bond: Chris Blackwell – the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and owner of Ian Fleming’s former residence, GoldenEye – is celebrating the release of the 25th Bond film, No Time To Die, witha special 007 Limited Edition release of his Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum.A mainstay spirit at each Island Outpost resort, Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum is inspired by Chris Blackwell’s time-honored recipe as his family has been involved in distilling Jamaican rum since the 17th century. Available starting in November, the 750 ml bottle will retail for $35 and can be purchased online at www.blackwellrum.com/shop.

For the coffee connoisseur: When Nayara Springs launched its espresso bar, Mi Cafecito, they wanted to showcase the best of Costa Rica. They worked withlocal coffee farmers to plant organic beans which they roast on propertyto create super local and fresh coffee. Until the next trip is booked, the coffee is now available to purchase and have shipped home. A half-pound bag of coffee starts at $8 (www.navarasprings.com).

For the ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere’ enthusiast: Napa Valley Distillery was the first distillery to open its doors in the city of Napa since Prohibition. Cocktail aficionados will love an old school gift set of spirits, bitters, syrups and shrubs – from a Bloody Mary kit to a box of Rum n’ Kola. Or for someone extra special, gift a yearlong membership to The Distinguished Bar Club and they will receive a quarterly box of goodies in the mail, including limited release whiskies, rums, and brandies (www.napadistillery.com)

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs which ship the orders, for example, Imagery Wine, which we visited recently © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t get to the wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa? You can still join their wine clubs which ship the orders. For example, Imagery Winery, which we visited recently (877-550-4278, www.imagerywinery.com/store) and its sister winery Benziger (benziger.com),  Find more on sonomawine.com and napavintners.com.

Being here: the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid where we have enjoyed spending a Christmas holiday (shuttle to Whiteface for skiing and close to Olympic venues and sites), is promoting and facilitating shopping at its local shops and restaurants with resort dollars ($20 for every night you stay) that can be used in town (see site for COVID-19 safety precautions).  (888-974-6053, 844-209-8080, golden-arrow.com)

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals Bring Bucket-List Travel Experiences Within Reach

Staying at one of the Xanterra hotels on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park lets you step outside to capture the fleeting drama of sunset. Xanterra, which operates resorts at many national parks, has its biggest sale of the year, Nov. 24-Dec. 1. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Now more than ever, we’re all dreaming of destinations we long to go. We dream of wide-open spaces and journeys that stir your soul,” says Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks which have proved such a respite this year. Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals put bucket-list travel experiences within reach this season, and hearten those with wanderlust, pent up with the ongoing health concerns. The offers come with flexibility and assurances to accommodate appropriate concerns, but are filled with hope and optimism to brighten the holidays.

Xanterra, which operates resorts in national parks including Grand Canyon and Death Valley, has its biggest sale of the year, Nov. 24-Dec. 1, with savings up to 40%. Generous cancellation policies mean you can save now and travel when you’re ready, and you can be confident measures are in place to create a safe and healthy environment for your visit (we know this first hand from our recent stay at the Ranch at the Oasis, Death Valley):

National Parks

●      Grand Canyon South Rim – 40% off in-park lodging at Kachina Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge and 20% off the crown jewel, El Tovar, during select dates Dec. 2020 to March 2021 (Jan. 2021 to March 2021 for Bright Angel Lodge).  Discover the “secret season” at the Grand Canyon with fewer crowds. The lodges are either in or within walking distance to the Historic District and rim of the Grand Canyon which includes Lookout Studio and Hopi House.

●      Historic Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.

The famous, historic El Tovar hotel and the historic Grand Canyon Railway. Xanterra is offering 50% off roundtrip train tickets on an entertaining journey to the Grand Canyon’s fabled South Rim when booking a two-night Getaway Package over select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

●      The Grand Hotel – 30% off at the only AAA Three-Diamond hotel near the Grand Canyon in Tusayan (just one mile from the South Rim entrance) on select dates between Dec. 2020 and March 2021.

●      The Oasis at Death Valley – 33% off hotel stays at the beautifully renovated historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Death Valley and newly revitalized, family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley. Valid for select overnight stays between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021.

●      Zion National Park – 30% off overnight stays inside the park at Zion National Park Lodge on select dates between Dec. 2020 and Feb. 2021. 

●      Cedar Creek Lodge, at the gateway to Glacier National Park – 40% off room rates on select dates from Dec. 2020 through April 2021.

●      Yellowstone – Enjoy summer savings at Yellowstone National Park. Receive 25% off best available daily rates on new reservations for Superior Lodge Rooms at Canyon Lodge and Cabins on select dates from June to Sept. 2021.

Staying at the Oasis at Death Valley (a literal oasis in the midst of a desert) inside the national park let’s you capture the rich colors cast by the fast-rising sun at Zabriskie Point, just minutes away © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Luxury Hotels

●      The Broadmoor – Rates as low as $200 per night for select dates, up to 20% off Wilderness Properties (The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Cloud Camp), and 10% off for select stays at Fly Fishing Camp.

●      Sea Island – To celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Lodge at Sea Island, book a three-night stay and get the third night for $20. The Cloister is also celebrating little brother’s anniversary.

Guided Travel/Tours

●      Bicycling Tours – Take $150 off any VBT Guided Bicycling Vacation in North America departing between Jan. 2021 and Aug. 2021.

●      Walking Adventures – Receive $150 off any Country Walkers Guided-Flex or Guided-Full North America tour departing between Jan. 2021and Aug. 2021.

●      Holiday Vacations – Save $400 per person on select award-winning Alaska itineraries in 2021.

Cruising

●      Windstar Cruises – Save on 2021 yacht-style cruises with fewer than 350 guests starting from $1,299.

For a complete list and to take advantage of Xanterra and its affiliates’ Book Your Bucket List offers, visit Xanterra.com/BucketListSale (www.xanterra.com/book-your-bucket-list-sale)

More Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals

Available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday only, Perillo Tours is offering $500 gift cards for the price of $250. Gifts cards can be redeemed for future Perillo Tours to Italy, Hawaii or Spain and valid for travel through December 2023. This gift card promotion is available by phone purchase only on November 27 or November 30 (800-431-1515,www.perillotours.com/giftcard).

Take advantage of Quark Expeditions 2 for 1 Black Friday Sale on select Antarctic and Arctic voyages. These select voyages offer you the chance to cruise past icebergs in a Zodiac while visiting the 7th Continent, be amazed at stunning views of dramatic Arctic fjords while flying in a helicopter, and experience new innovative itineraries such as Greenland Adventure and Essential Patagonia. Plus, experience the inaugural season of the game-changing polar vessel Ultramarine on select voyages. Offers expire Nov. 30 (quarkexpeditions.com, 833-435-1900).

At the five-star Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, no detail is overlooked © Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Grand Residences Riviera Cancun’s  “All-in Grand offer” provides 46% off on stays through Jan. 14, 2022. The all-suite resort located along a private beach in the secluded town of Puerto Morelos, half an hour outside Cancun, is extending the offer through Dec. 7,. Available for all-inclusive stays or room only bookings (new bookings only with no minimum stay requirements). Complimentary airport transfer included on all bookings and children under the age of 12 stay free. Blackout dates apply and reservations are subject to availability. Book the promotional offer online or call reservations, 855-381-4340; use promo code ZW-20-17

Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and one of Mexico’s most renowned boutique luxury hotels, is offering 50% off on bookings made Nov. 27-30for stays from December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021. Use the code CYBERCK to reserve at the discounted rates. Link to sale information.

Imagine staying at Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and one of Mexico’s most renowned boutique luxury hotels.

Escape to the tropical paradise of Riviera Maya, Mexico, and enjoy every consecutive 3rd night free breakfast for two at Fairmont Mayakoba, a 401-room AAA Five Diamond resort set on 45 acres within a private, luxury community. Book Nov. 25-27 and upgrade to the next category: Book here: https://www.fairmont-mayakoba.com/offers/resort-offers/black-friday/. Fairmont Mayakoba has been welcoming back U.S. travelers since June 15, 2020. For additional information on Fairmont Mayakoba’s and Accor’s commitment to helping its community stay safe and stay well, visit ALLStayWell.com.

Set in the middle of Meads Bay, one of Anguilla’s most renowned beaches, Frangipani Beach Resort, features 19 rooms and suites and an impressive 5,000 square foot beachfront villa.  The Take All the Credit Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer allows travelers to purchase resort credits at a 20% discount in denominations ranging from $1,000 up to $12,500.  Credits can be used at any time including the Festive Season, up until August 2024, and can be used in conjunction with existing specials.  Direct bookings, Nov. 23-30, can be made via email info@frangipaniresort.com or by phone at +1 264 497 6442; reference the Black Friday offer. 

Casa Chameleon Hotels, which operates properties in Las Catalinas, Nosara, Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, from jungle villas and ocean-view suites, to a private clifftop estate is offering 50% off standard rates for five nights or more, booked Nov. 27-30 for travel through Dec. 20, 2021. Accommodations feature coastal views, eco-friendly designs and infinity plunge pools. Book here and use booking code THANKYOU.

Located three miles off the coast of Belize, Cayo Espanto offers private island luxury. Recognizing that travelers are looking for a way to escape to nature and focus on taking a break from it all, the resort is offering a special “Choose Wellness” package where guests can experience the unique tranquility offered by a private island at a special all-inclusive starting rate of $3,995 per couple, a savings of over $3,000. Offer includes an all-inclusive three-night stay in Casa Ventanas, the Over-the-Water Bungalow (pricing available for other villas and longer stays) along with a series of customizable options such as private yoga classes from the comfort of your villa, menus crafted to fit a health-conscious focus, a private excursion to snorkel the Great Blue Hole or explore the Belizean jungle (excursions off-island are priced separately). Book online at aprivateisland.com or call 888-666-4282 Nov. 27 through Dec. 4 for travel now through Dec. 15, 2021.

Get 50% off standard rates for two nights or more at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad, Aruba on bookings Nov. 27-Nov. 30 for travel through the end of 2021.Renaissance Aruba offers two experiences, the adult-exclusive Renaissance Marina Hotel and the Renaissance Ocean Suites. The resort is the only property on Aruba to operate its own private island, a 40-acre atoll exclusive to guests. Book here and use booking code: BOG.

Pacifica Hotels’ “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” enables guests to book their collection of more than 30 boutique, independent, design-inspired hotels along the California coast, at 45% off.  This offer is bookable from November 27-30 on stays through March 31, 2021. Sale link will be live on the 27th.  

Hawks Cay Resort is offering guests the ultimate Florida Keys vacation experience with onsite amenities like fishing excursions, dolphin encounters, snorkel trips and more.  The resort is offering an extended booking window this year, so travelers have a full week to save big on a getaway to Hawks Cay! From Nov. 23-30, receive 40 percent discount on two nights or more with promo code BLKFRI. Reservations are valid on stays through October 31, 2121.  Visit www.hawkscay.com for more information or to book. 

Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

Ocean Club Resorts “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” offer makes every third night booked complimentary, for stays March 1 – December 18, 2021. This offer includes a new cancellation policy implemented by the resorts where guests can receive a full refund up to 10 days prior to their stay dates between March 1 – April 11 and a full refund within 24 hours of their travel dates from April 12 through Dec. 18. Blackout dates apply and reservations are based on availability. The promotional offer must be booked online, use promo code BFCM.

Kingsmill Resort, the only AAA Four Diamond golf condominium resort in historic Williamsburg, Virginia, offers one-to three-bedroom condominiums, with kitchens and spacious living areas.  Book by Nov. 27 to buy 2 nights, get 1 free on all room types, plus a $100 per reservation food and beverage credit for stays Dec. 1, 2020 – Feb. 17, 2021.

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin’s Cyber/Black Friday Travel deal: stay Sunday-Thursday for $159/night, weekend from $179, with a $100 resort credit to use toward skiing, dining, spa services. Book by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27 (flexible change policy).

Timber Ridge Lodge, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is bundling four NOW! Waterpark passes, pizza and $10 arcade credit in its Cyber Deal with weekday rates starting at $109, weekend at $149. Reserve by Nov. 30 for travel through May 27, 2021 (flexible date change policy). 

Aspen Meadows Resort, Aspen, Colorado is offering up to 40% off accommodations this ski season for bookings between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30, for stays through April 18, 2021. Tucked away on 40 acres in Aspen’s quiet West End neighborhood, this low-key resort surrounded by mountain views is still close enough to be on the slopes of Aspen/Snowmass within minutes.

Main Street Hospitality: With the new Hammetts Hotel in Newport, RI and four properties throughout the Berkshires, Main Street Hospitality’s Cyber Weekend special – buy one night, get the second night free – goes live at 7 am on Friday, Nov. 27 and ends at midnight on Tuesday, Dec.1. Also The Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, MA (Bonus option: pre-buy a $100 dining credit to use during a stay and the Red Lion Inn will add $50); Porches Inn at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA;Briarcliff Motel, Great Barrington, MA;Seven Hills Inn, Lenox, MA

Imagine a wedding or a sleepover at The Breakers, one of the Preservation Society of Newport County’s most famous legendary Gilded Age mansions. The Preservation Society is hosting an online Exclusive Experiences Holiday Auction from Nov. 22 through Dec. 6 with proceeds supporting the society’s preservation efforts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Preservation Society of Newport County is hosting an online Exclusive Experiences Holiday Auction from Nov.22 through Dec. 6 consisting of 19 unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that allow people to explore the Newport Mansions in new ways (one is a wedding at The Breakers! Another is a sleepover for up to 8 kids and 4 chaperones in the Great Hall), All proceeds support the preservation work of the Preservation Society of Newport County (www.newportmansions.org)

If you can’t get to places, some popular tourist places, known for their clever boutiques, can bring themselves to you: 

The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce has created a virtual store, offering goods and gift cards from members, nantucketchamber.org/marketspace. Purchase proceeds go directly to each small business.  Also, Nantucket is encouraging shopping with a “red ticket” program which becomes a lottery for prizes (https://www.nantucketchamber.org/red-tickets).

If you can’t get to places, some popular tourist places, known for their clever boutiques, can bring themselves to you. The Nantucket Island Chamber of Commerce has created a virtual store, offering goods and gift cards from members, nantucketchamber.org/marketspace © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can purchase Lift Certificates, gift certificates for discounts at the most interesting local lodging, restaurants, artists and boutiques on Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth on Cape Cod. Shoppers have access to exclusive discounts not offered elsewhere. The site is powered by Martha’s Vineyard Bank (at no cost to merchants) https://lift.mvbank.com. Also, Martha’s Vineyard’s chamber is building a Vineyard Holidays web page.

See also:

Black Friday, Cyber Monday Bring Bucket-List Gift of Travel Within Reach

More Gift of Travel Ideas to come

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Black Friday, Cyber Monday Bring Bucket-List Gift of Travel Within Reach

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals put travel to such bucket-list destinations as Iceland within reach. This holiday season, travel companies are finding novel ways to bring destinations, cultures and travel experiences to you, from virtual encounters to links to local artisans © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There can be nothing more full of hope and promise for the future in this holiday season for a traveler than a gift that speaks to that wanderlust.  The holiday spirit is manifesting differently this year, but nonetheless splendorous.

And travel companies offer Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals which can make that bucket list that much less costly but still as valuable. There are so many that you should just check the websites of travel companies, tour operators, hospitality companies you are interested in, but here are some examples:

&Beyond is offering 20% discount on its series of ‘7 Wonders in 7 Days’ itineraries designed to offer a longer stay in one destination with less travel time for travel dates through Dec. 15, 2021. Each itinerary includes conservation and community experiences as a way to do good while travelling. The discount will apply to a selection of itineraries across Africa and South Americaon inquiries made on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) only. https://www.andbeyond.com/cyber-monday/ 

G Adventures is offering up to 21% off select worldwide tours (like Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru), $1 upfront deposits and 21% off My Own Room (gaadventures.com, 800-280-5214).

REI (which I love for clothing and specialized equipment, especially when they offer sales) is also an adventure travel company, and is offering 10 percent off 2021 private departures booked by Nov. 23. For groups of four or more, the cost per person is actually the same as our regular trips. Call for an estimate: 877-326-0470, travel@rei.com.

Hurtigruten’s Black Friday sale offers savings up to 50% off pp, and book with discounted deposit of $500 pp. Hurtigruten operates premium expedition cruises on small, purpose-built, hybrid ships designed specifically to sail in remote waters and reduce carbon footprint to Alaska, Antarctica, the Caribbean & Central America, Greenland, Iceland, North America, the Northwest Passage, Norway, South America, and Svalbard (Hurtigruten.com, 888-412-2590)

The White Elephant Resorts portfolio, including Jared Coffin House, The Cottages, The Wauwinet, White Elephant, and the Boat Basin in Nantucket, and newly opened White Elephant Palm Beach in Florida (debuted November 4), will offer 20% off the best available rate on bookings made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday for travel through Dec. 31, 2121. (www.whiteelephantresorts.com/ Booking code: Cyber)

Island Outpost properties in Jamaica, Strawberry Hill and The Caves, is offering 30% off bookings (minimum two nights) made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (for travel January 4-December 19, 2021, with holiday blackouts).

The Setting Inn, Napa Valley will offer 30% off all three-night bookings made from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, including $100 credit at Bottega Napa Valley restaurant and $100 transportation credit with Beau Wine Tours for travel Nov. 27, 2020-March 31, 2021.

The Meritage Resort & Spa and Vista Collina Resort & Spa will offer 21% off all two-night bookings made from Black Friday through December 1, 2020 for travel through April 30, 2021. The Meritage Collection will also donate $21 per stay to the First Responders Children’s Foundation to support the families of first responders. https://meritagecollection.com/specials/black-friday-offer

Gift the gift of genealogy: start tracing roots for a future trip to discover heritage. Ancestry.com is offering 20% discount on gift memberships (through Nov. 25). Then, trace your family story on genealogy tours, created in collaboration with Ancestry, where each trip includes an AncestryDNA® kit and pre-trip family history review and a genealogist from AncestryProGenealogists® accompanies your tour group to answer questions about your heritage. (https://www.goaheadtours.com/travel-styles/heritage-tours, 800-590-1161; check Black Friday deals).

Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland, is offering a new genealogy package for families looking to trace their Irish roots.

Heritage tours are a whole genre. Here’s another: Dromoland Castle, a 16th century castle-turned-hotel set in the countryside of County Clare, Ireland is offering a new genealogy package for families looking to trace their Irish rootsAfter filling out their family history, the in-house genealogist, Lorna Maloney, will host a private 45-minute Zoom call  to give a genealogy review, then prepares the full results along with next steps on familial connections or travel suggestions. This can take place over Zoom or, ideally, at the Castle over tea and scones. The genealogy package starts at £220 for the Zoom conference, and nightly rates at the hotel start at $367 per night, double occupancy. (dromoland.ie)

Travel Gifts That Don’t Require Travel

Context Travel (contexttravel.com), known for erudite cultural walking tours, is featuring online cooking classes: Italian Cooking with Gina Tringali, Cooking with Clementine Haxby. Other seminars feature music and art. You can give the gift of learning with a Context gift card (https://conversations.contexttravel.com/products/context-conversations-gift-card)

The South Africa-based adventure, ecotourism and safari company, &beyond, is offering a slew of travel gifts that don’t require travel, including virtual experiences such as three-hour safaris; private, one-on-one sessions with conservation and marine experts; a virtual, interactive birding masterclass with leading birding specialists; virtual cooking masterclasses; a safari-themed children’s party; virtual session with certified nature and forest meditation therapy guide; yoga sessions; a virtual tango lesson; authentic African handicrafts and luxury accessories; or give a voucher for future travel (www.andbeyond.com/magazine/10-gifts-that-dont-require-travel/, andbeyondsafarishopping.com/)

Travel Gifts that Give Back

Many major travel companies that adhere to the principles of sustainability and responsible travel also are deliberate about giving back to communities and conserving heritage and resources. Among them Pure Adventures, Overseas Adventure Travel (Grand Circle Foundation, www.oattravel.com/oat-difference/grand-circle-foundation), Butterfield & Robinson,  Austin Adventures (Wheels of Change) and Wildland Adventures (just acquired by Austin Adventures, which has Travelers Conservation Trust, www.tct.global) and The Travel Corporation (ttc.com), which is a family of 40 travel and hospitality companies.

Brett Tollman, chief executive officer of The Travel Corporation, commits the company and its 40 brands, and the TreadRight Foundation to “Make Travel Matter” for the planet, people and wildlife. TreadRight is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world – projects hit hard by the collapse of international travel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

TTC’s charitable foundation, TreadRight, is using holiday gift giving to benefit its project partners and sustainable initiatives around the world – artisans and conservation projects hard-hit by the collapse of international travel. TreadRight is bringing these artisans to you:

Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti is a TreadRight project partner in Italy which works to preserve the ancient weaving tradition of the Perugia region, while empowering local women through employment. Shop woven goods including runners, bags & clothing (www.brozzetti.com/en/shop/

Clean & Proud, based in Malawi, collects plastic waste and recycles it into practical and beautiful goods. Shop pouches, wallets, totes & other goods made from recycled plastic (https://cleanandproud-recycling.com/shop/

Proyecto Titi is a TreadRight project partner in Colombia working to protect the critically endangered cotton-top tamarin. Shop totes, ornaments & novelty items (www.proyectotiti.com/en-us/Shop

Centro de Textiles Tradicionales del Cusco is a TreadRight project partner in Peru which works to preserve the ancient weaving tradition of the Cusco region, while empowering local women through employment. Shop woven goods including runners, bags & clothing (www.textilescusco.org/shop-categories

Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School is a TreadRight project partner in Canada which empowers Indigenous elders, artisans, and youth by teaching the traditional Canadian Indigenous art. Shop mukluks, moccasins, dreamcatchers, jewelry & more (www.manitobah.ca/collections/storyboots#storyboot-section

Ock Pop Tok Village Weavers is a TreadRight project partner in Laos which supports local artisans and preserves the cultural heritage. Shop woven goods including clothing, bags, jewelry & home goods (www.ockpoptok.com/shop-online/)

 You can also make donations on behalf of someone: 

Support local water projects in developing countries with a donation to Walkers4Water, a 2020 Tread the Pledge Fund recipient which provides accessible clean water for communities worldwide (www.charitywater.org/walkers4water-1/walk4water-2020) . 

 A donation to the National Kiwi Hatchery, a TreadRight project partner in New Zealand, will support the protection and conservation of the endangered national kiwi bird.  (www.nationalkiwihatchery.org.nz/donate/)

Support the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured elephants with a donation to TreadRight project partner Wildlife SOS in India.  (https://give.wildlifesos.org/page/16138/donate/1)

Your donation to Wilderness Foundation Africa, TreadRight project partner, will fund anti-poaching and rhino conservation efforts.  (www.wildernessfoundation.co.za/support)

Adopt a turtle through the Sea Turtle Conservancy, a former TreadRight project partner working to protect the endangered species in Central America and the Caribbean.  (https://conserveturtles.org/support-stc-join-stc-and-adopt-a-turtle/)

Butterfield & Robinson also has a foundation that supports conservation and cultural projects (https://www.butterfield.com/about/we-give-back/) as well as an B&R Artisan Marketplace promotes the small businesses and independent artists that you would otherwise encounter on trips (https://www.butterfield.com/br-artisan-marketplace/)

Give the Gift That Keeps Giving

Travel is a gift that keeps giving, living inside with memories and life-enhancing, life-changing experiences, with developing a global citizen value system, and forging bonds among family and friends. A way to immortalize those memorable travel experiences and family events is to create a photo book (the entire process online). MilkBooks.com, a New Zealand-based company, produces superb quality photo books and albums, offering great value, excellent customer service with online chats or by phone, and timely delivery (you need about 2-3 weeks), and offers discounts for first-timers.

Coming up: More Gift of Travel Ideas

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© 2020 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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

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