Vacation in Asheboro, North Carolina

Besides the Asheboro Zoo, the town of Asheboro, just like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect. I mean, when you have Charlotte 1 1/2 hours away and Raleigh 2 hours away, Asheboro usually isn’t given a 2nd thought to the traveler.

However, in the past few years, dollars and sense have poured into Asheboro’s scoffers and a cool, shiny new downtown has emerged. Oddly enough, where this confluence of wealth sits is on Sunset. Restaurants, bars, a theater and a park all make this part of Asheboro sparkle.

Need a drink?

Tucked away on Sunset right next to the railroad tracks is a fine little Asheboro wine bar called Lumina. Until a few years ago, you would never expect to see a wine bar anywhere in NC, let alone in a small downtown location like Asheboro. They have a cool little patio and live music. If wine, ain’t your thing, then head over to the Coffee X Change for some java to calm those cravings.

What about dinner?

Sunset has several options to tempt you like Hops BBQ or Tuscany’s  but I settled for the aptly named Flying Pig Restaurant in downtown Asheboro where the pizza is gooey , the beer free flowing, and there is something surprising found in each bathroom (hint: it is pig related).

What about some entertainment?

Well, directly across the street from the Flying Pig is an enormous 2-story antique mall that can easily absorb an  hour of anyone’s time. There are some amazing finds like gramophones, WWII military uniforms, b&w photos of someone else’s family, and technology of x-mas past (think VCR and remote for $15). If ‘antique-ing’ is not your thing, then stroll down to the Sunset Theater where you can catch a play or movie or bask in this restored theater straight out of another time.

Asheboro may be small and somewhat overlooked, but with the strides they are making in their downtown scence, it deserves another look.

-=-

Megan Riley is a full fledged travel junkie with a day job in technology. When she gets to leave the cubicle, she writes a travel blog called www.thebigfatworld.com. Come join her on her around the world trip this Summer.


2009 PhocusWright Travel Innovation Summit

Needless to say, if there is any one industry that has been impacted by the struggling economies around the world this year, that industry would be travel. When finances hit bottom, travel is usually the first thing to go. If you’re a leisure traveler, then you’re probably traveling much less this year or staying closer to home. If you’re a business owner, you’re tightening the reins on your company’s travel expenses. And if you’re a travel company, then you’re trying desperately to find innovative ways to make money. Despite the difficult economic times this year, the travel industry hasn’t hit rock bottom yet and many travel companies have even found ways to grow and increase their business this year. To celebrate innovations in travel, PhocusWright, which is one of leading travel industry research companies in the world, is hosting their 2009 Travel Innovation Summit next week. Many in the travel industry are gearing up for this exciting event to see who is leading the world in travel.

 

No matter how you look at it, the travel industry has been hit hard in the last year. Many airlines, hotel brands and others in the travel industry have gone bankrupt or been bought out due to financial pressures. Despite this, many travel companies have overcome this by tapping into new technological advances and innovative products. The 2009 PhocusWright Innovation Summit seeks to highlight and celebrate the achievements of travel businesses that have overcome the economy by producing results. Major travel brands that will be in attendance include Uptake, Marriott, Priceline, Bing, Trip Advisor and many other major names.

 

If you can only make one travel industry conference this year, then this is the one to be at. You’ll be hearing from the best and brightest minds in travel, most of which are owners or presidents of the leading brands in search, travel planning, journalism and more. The conference is a time to celebrate some of the accomplishments in travel over the last year, while also learning and debating about how to capitalize on current travel trends. From the conference, travel executives should leave with new strategies and ideas on how to effectively lead and monetize from travel over the next year. The travel conference hits off on November 17th and ends on November 19th.

 

If you can’t be at the conference itself, you can grab one of the online tickets, which gives you on-demand access via streaming audio and video. You can also find many in the travel industry who will certainly be posting up-to-the-minute news, ideas and updates on Twitter. You may consider following Uptake’s Elliot Ng on Twitter, who often features live tweets at the conferences he attends.

 

There are many questions that loom large in the travel industry and the PhocusWright 2009 Conference is sure to shed light on some of these questions. 2009 has sure been a roller coaster year for the travel industry, but the PhocusWright Travel Conference hopes to create momentum as we end the 2009 travel season and gear up for 2010.

 

Roadtrip to Alabama Gulf Coast Oil Spill

A few years ago I took a trip to Africa, where I lived in South Africa for a summer. It was one of the single most defining moments of my life, changing the lens through which I view the world. Although it’s not to an overseas country like South Africa, I’m taking a trip next week that I believe could have similar effects on me: the Gulf Coast. This would typically be just another trip for me, but April’s oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill has the Gulf Coast reeling.

My trip to Mobile, Alabama has been in the works for a couple months. Originally it was just to visit the Courtyard Marriott at Spanish Fort and spend time with friends. And then I got an email last week saying that the hotel had become somewhat of a basecamp for environmental agencies, volunteer organizations and government officials. This was simply an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I know what you might be thinking: “you’re just another journalist trying to capitalize off this tragedy”. This is NOT about money. What articles I have lined up for this trip will be lucky to make me break even. This is about living costs. Like many people, I’ve sat bewildered as I’ve watched the reports daily come in and wondered what, if anything, I could do. Yes this has financially hurt the U.S. economy. And yes it’s devastated the typically bustling tourist economy of the Gulf Coast. But what about the living costs? Can you put a price tag on the oil spill’s effect on humans and animals? Boats go out early each morning to find and try to rescue oil-covered animals. Fishers who have lost their jobs due to the BP oil spill are now running crews for BP, just so they can put food on the table.

Next Friday afternoon I’ll find myself in somewhat of a conundrum: filling up my gas tank to go where my dependence on it has resulted in a travesty that we still don’t know the full effects of. I don’t know what I’ll find. I’m going because I want to know what’s going on. I want to know the environmental and human costs. Strapped with my digital camera, HD Camcorder, Blackberry and rubber gloves, I’m going to talk to residents, business owners and volunteers to find out what the price tag really is on a life. In doing so, I’ll be posting photos, videos and commentary via Twitter. For live updates Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you can follow me on Twitter at @spencerspellman. I’m going to do everything that I can to upload as quickly as possible tweets that include quotes from people I talk with, interviews and photos. Follow the hashtag #gulfa on Twitter for live updates. At the end of each day I’ll do a recap here on what I find.

So what is the price tag of a life, whether animal or human? I go down to the Gulf Coast hoping to find out, knowing that my question is probably fleeting. What is it that you want to know about what’s going on in the Gulf? Are there questions you have for residents and volunteers that you would like answered?

Hampton Inn Downtown Greenville, South Carolina

If you’re a local of the upstate of South Carolina, then you know that the area is quickly growing as both a popular economic destination for new business ventures, but also as a popular vacation destination. The area is booming with thriving companies, including BMW, Michelin and is adding many new large corporations. Additionally, Greenville is situating itself as one of the premier medium-sized cities in the Southeast. One of the major hotspots is RiverPlace, which is in downtown Greenville, featuring hotels, restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Most of the city’s outdoor festivals and summer events take place in the Riverplace area, and there’s no greater place to experience it then at the Hampton Inn RiverPlace Hotel in downtown Greenville.

This hotel is one of the more sleek hotels in Greenville, though there are more hotels being added to the downtown area, including a Marriott, which is opening just down the street in the spring. I really recognized the attraction of the RiverPlace Hampton when having dinner beside it at the Lazy Goat, which is one of the sleekest restaurants in Greenville, reminding visitors of what they might experience at a New York City tapas bar. Located at the culture hub of Greenville, the hotel is within close proxmity of art galleries, chic restaurants and outdoor events. Guests with a balcony may enjoy watching a spring concert on the lawn at Larkins on the River.

Hampton Inn is often known as the budget brand of Hilton, yet this hotel in Greenville, South Carolina is far from budget accommodations. The Greenville hotel features plush beds with spacious sitting areas, which often include a sofa, coffee table and a couple chairs. However, to get the best experience, I highly recommend one of the rooms that overlook the Reedy River. Other amenities include a complimentary hot breakfast, free high-speed Internet access, coffee and tea service, a fitness center and the usual.

In all honesty, this downtown Greenville hotel isn’t your typical Hampton Inn hotel and certainly isn’t your typical Greenville hotel. You’re going to get a few things here, that you just aren’t always going to get at many hotels in Greenville. You’re getting what’s probably the best balcony view in Greenville (Few Greenville hotels even have a balcony, let alone a view) and you’re getting a spacious room with comfortable bedding. Most hotels don’t just sell their mattresses, usually because they are hotel mattresses and let’s be honest, they can often leave much to be desired. However, Hampton Inn features Serta beds that are available for purchase. Don’t think that’s something your highway hotel does is it?

Photo from the Hampton Inn and Suites RiverPlace Hotel in Greenville.

Charleston Harbor Welcomes New Aircraft

Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum recently just welcomed the largest aircraft to its famed USS Yorktown. Located just outside of Historic Downtown Charleston in Mount Pleasant, the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum is one of the best attractions in Charleston, highlighted by the USS Yorktown, which was one of the first aircraft carriers to serve for the USS Navy. The Yorktown was commissioned in 1943, serving in the Pacific during World War II until the end of the war in 1945. The history of the the famous U.S. aircraft carrier goes much further than World War II, as it served multiple purposes throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Most notably, it recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule. It was decommissioned in 1970. It now sits in the harbor as one of Charleston’s best attractions for travelers to the area.

The newest addition to the USS Yorktown is the Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior. For years it was the largest aircraft operable from a carrier. Introduced in 1956, the aircraft was most known as a bomber during the Vietnam War and later as a surveillance plane during the Cold War. The aircraft was retired in 1991, and this particular model of the Skywarrior will now call Charleston Harbor home.

Arriving in Charleston by barge and placed on the USS Yorktown by crane, the Douglas EA-3B Skywarrior is now one of many aircrafts that can be viewed on-board the USS Yorktown. The aircraft joins an astounding 26 other aircraft on the Yorktown. Favorites upon the battleship include the Douglas AD-4N Skyraider and the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Patriots Point is open daily with tickets ranging from $11 to $18. Other notable attractions of Charleston’s Patriots Point include a Cold War Submarine Memorial, the Balao class submarine Clamagore, war planes, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the official Medal of Honor Museum.

Photo courtesy of Patriots Point.

Vacation in Asheboro, North Carolina

Besides the Asheboro Zoo, the town of Asheboro, just like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect. I mean, when you have Charlotte 1 1/2 hours away and Raleigh 2 hours away, Asheboro usually isn’t given a 2nd thought to the traveler.

However, in the past few years, dollars and sense have poured into Asheboro’s scoffers and a cool, shiny new downtown has emerged. Oddly enough, where this confluence of wealth sits is on Sunset. Restaurants, bars, a theater and a park all make this part of Asheboro sparkle.

Need a drink?

Tucked away on Sunset right next to the railroad tracks is a fine little Asheboro wine bar called Lumina. Until a few years ago, you would never expect to see a wine bar anywhere in NC, let alone in a small downtown location like Asheboro. They have a cool little patio and live music. If wine, ain’t your thing, then head over to the Coffee X Change for some java to calm those cravings.

What about dinner?

Sunset has several options to tempt you like Hops BBQ or Tuscany’s  but I settled for the aptly named Flying Pig Restaurant in downtown Asheboro where the pizza is gooey , the beer free flowing, and there is something surprising found in each bathroom (hint: it is pig related).

What about some entertainment?

Well, directly across the street from the Flying Pig is an enormous 2-story antique mall that can easily absorb an  hour of anyone’s time. There are some amazing finds like gramophones, WWII military uniforms, b&w photos of someone else’s family, and technology of x-mas past (think VCR and remote for $15). If ‘antique-ing’ is not your thing, then stroll down to the Sunset Theater where you can catch a play or movie or bask in this restored theater straight out of another time.

Asheboro may be small and somewhat overlooked, but with the strides they are making in their downtown scence, it deserves another look.

-=-

Megan Riley is a full fledged travel junkie with a day job in technology. When she gets to leave the cubicle, she writes a travel blog called www.thebigfatworld.com. Come join her on her around the world trip this Summer.


Charleston Cruise Vacations

I’m told that I’m a picky eater, and if my eating habits have anything to do
with my travel habits, then I’m a picky traveler as well. When I’m planning
a trip, I often have an idea of what I want, but don’t need to spend a lot
of time looking at it, so that means travel packages and vacations should be
easily accessible and I shouldn’t have to filter through pages and pages of
web results. I recently visited an online travel agency that jumped out at
me, giving me all the information I need from a travel website, but often
don’t get.

The website is called Liberty Travel and they are vacation experts that
specialize in caribbean cruises. If you’re considering taking a cruise from Charleston, then include Liberty Travel in your tool bag of travel
resources. When you go Liberty Travel’s homepage, you’ll notice a plethora
of cruise vacation options, featuring several choices regarding days, port
location and price. I love this, because I don’t have to filter results or
go through several web pages before I find the actual price of the cruise.
What’s even better is the cruise rates. For a measly $169, you can be taking
your first cruise. Good luck finding one night at a resort hotel for that. If you’re interested in a complete cruise vacation, where you’re cruising for several days, you’ll probably want to at least book a 5-day cruise, which start at $399.

If this is your first time cruising, then Liberty Travel can help you
throughout the planning and preparation stage. As you’re browsing through
available cruises and packages, you can also read their tips and guidelines
about things such as gratuity, packing and travel insurance. At a price like
$169, you’re probably wondering what exactly you get. Well surprisingly, you
get much more than you would expect at such a price. This isn’t like a
hotel, where the price you pay includes the basics of your room, but
everything else costs extra.

The cruise cost includes meals, snacks, onboard activities and
entertainment. Most drinks are typically included in the price, however,
you’ll have to pay for alcoholic beverages and other drinks purchased at the
bar. These and other extra cruise services can simply be billed to your
room.

This was a sponsored post.

Magnolias Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina

I recently wrote a post that I got a lot of various discussion about regarding my take on the best seafood restaurants in Charleston. I listed what some called some questionable choices as Charleston’s best seafood restaurants. One that I left off the list was Magnolias, which I left off not because it’s not one of Charleston’s best restaurants, but simply because although it serves seafood, it’s not known exclusively for its seafood, but rather its American cuisine with southern flair.

If you’re one of those that is weary of solely trusting a review from a independent travel writer, then you won’t have to look far to find plenty of support for Magnolias as one of the best restaurants in Charleston. The restaurant was named last year by Southern Living readers as one of the best southern restaurants. Magnolias has over 400 reviews on Open Table with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars and was named an Open Table Diner’s Choice Award.

Some may call Magnolias a Charleston landmark, since it was opened in 1990 by renowned chef Donald Barickman, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Although boasting a strong southern flavor, you’ll find a little bit of everything. Although they do lunch and brunch, let’s be serious; this is Charleston and you’ve got to go big or go home. However, whether for lunch or dinner, may I definitely recommend some Low Country favorites, like Fried Green Tomatoes, but let me highly recommend the homemade potato chips. Yes I said potato chips. Served with crumbled blue cheese and scallions, you’ve never had anything as good as these. It’ll give new meaning to: “you can’t just have one”. The iceberg wedge is good for the “health-conscious” eater. If you’re not in the mood for seafood, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast is a good all-american choice, coming with the southern staples like collard greens, cream style corn, biscuits and sausage herb gravy. For the seafood junkie, I always go for the Shrimp and Scallops because rarely can you get these things as one entree. Another unique entree is the Shellfish Over Grits, which is shrimp, scallops and lobster over grits.

The smaller dinner plates start at $15, but you can expect to pay $20 to $25 per entree. Save room for dessert though, because the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding or the Cream Cheese Pecan Brownie has your name on it. After all that, you’ll see why this is one of the best restaurants in Charleston.

Cruise in Charleston with Discount Cruises

Though the layers of pollen on the ground in South Carolina means that allergies are running rampant, it also means that spring and summer are on our doorstep and it’s time to start planning those summer vacations. As the economy continues to show instability, many people still aren’t sure whether they can really afford to do any type of vacation other than pitching a tent in their backyard. However, if you’ve never thought about it, then well it’s time to start thinking about taking a cruise. I know you’re already timid because you assume the prices are steep for cruises, however, it’s never been a better time to find discount cruises from Charleston.

I recently came across another site that like so many before it, is another online travel agent for travelers scouring the web for the best travel discounts. The website is Discount Cruises and it offers cruise deals from Charleston and other ports around the world. With all the online travel discount sites, it can be difficult to find the right one. Our very own Carolina Nomad contributor Megan Riley recently discussed what she called the Travel Site Wars on her website. I liked Discount Cruises for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s niche travel site, unlike many of the travel sites that are very general and don’t focus on one area of travel. Secondly, I was hooked by features at the top of the home page like “80% off cruise deals” and “4-night cruise packages for as low as $169″. You’re going to be hard pressed to find a hotel room in the Bahamas for such a price for even one night.

Since we’re talking about the Carolinas, Discount Cruises offers many cruise deals from Charleston on Carnival. The search functionality is easy, letting users quickly search by cruise line, length of cruise and departure date. I did a couple different searches and found several different cruise packages that started at $199. If you still feel a little weary, you may find some comfort in the fact that Discount Cruises is a member Cruise Line International Association, which is the largest cruise association. So as you’re cutting down your list of budget vacations you can take this summer, add a cruise from Charleston to the list.

This was a sponsored post.

Ed Boudreaux’s BBQ in Asheville

When talking about the best restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina, depending on the person you’re talking with, you may or may not here the name of Ed Boudreaux’s tossed in the mix. The Asheville barbecue restaurant, known as much for its lively atmosphere as its barbecue, is sometimes a sore spot for barbecue connoisseurs, yet many tourists on vacation in Asheville love it. When on vacation in Asheville or born and bred in the Western North Carolina town, there’s no arguing, Ed Boudreaux’s marches to its own beat, featuring an atmosphere unlike any North Carolina barbecue restaurant you’ve probably ever been to.

If you’re from anywhere but North Carolina, then chances are that you’re probably going to enjoy the barbecue at this restaurant in downtown Asheville. The restaurant features what they call a “sauce bar” and bayou barbecue, which strays from the typical North Carolina barbecue style that people in the south are so accustomed to. With an extensive list of barbecue sauces and styles of pork, Ed Boudreaux’s offers a unique taste that you just won’t find at your standard barbecue restaurant. However, frequenters of North Carolina barbecue restaurants don’t always have the same appreciation for it. What may seem like great barbecue to vacationers, is low on the totem pole among the North Carolina barbecue giants. If barbecue isn’t your food of choice, then don’t worry, there’s plenty of other great southern and bayou entrees to choose from and an extensive beer list with many local microbrews.

No matter what side of the fence you fall on with this barbecue restaurant in downtown Asheville, everyone agrees that Ed Boudreaux’s offers an upbeat ambiance and nightlife that gives any place in Asheville a run for its money. To be blunt, barbecue restaurants, especially in North Carolina, simply aren’t known for their ambiance. You’re lucky if you go to a North Carolina barbecue restaurant after 8 p.m. and it’s not closed. However, things are just getting lively at Ed Boudreaux’s come 8 p.m.

If you’re walking through downtown Asheville on a weekend night, you usually just have to follow the sound of beating drums and strumming guitars to find your way to Ed Boudreaux’s. Most weekend nights feature different local bands. If you’re looking for something more low-key, the Asheville restaurant has you covered, with singer/songwriter nights on Thursdays. With 100s of beers and lively entertainment, this isn’t your typical barbecue restaurant, yet Asheville isn’t your typical town.

Photo from dockaos on Flickr.