Kalin’s Chronicles: Dancing Destinations

I’m a huge fan of Dancing with the Stars and often fantasize about being on the show and winning first place.  Dance was my first love, and at one time I thought I’d be a Broadway dancer like Liza Minnelli or Debbie Allen.  Though journalism eventually stole my heart, I still love to dance.

In fact, many of my travels have included dance lessons:  I learned to tango in Buenos Aires, meringue in the Dominican Republic, Raggae in Jamaica, and belly dance right here in Atlanta.  If you love dance as much as I do, you may want to try out a “dance vacation.” (Photo: Betty & David, Salsa Retreat)

Dance vacations are becoming popular all over the world through special tours, resorts, and cruises.  Here are a select few to check out:

  • You can literally dance with the stars on the new Cruising With The Stars,  a dance-focused fan cruise that launches in June from Los Angeles, for a 7-day excursion to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruise Lines.
  • Dance Fun Cruises has salsa cruises headed for the Mediterranean and Mexican Riviera in October.
  • Becka Tango Tours offers customized tours with daily tango lessons at your hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Salsa Retreat offers salsa vacations and workshops in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Move to the rhythms of the drum at One World Dance & Drum’s African Dance and Drum Retreat near Seattle in May.  Or visit the African Drum and Dance Festival in San Francisco in November.
  • And finally, bring your sexy back at X Burlesque University, where burlesque choreography is taught by the women featured in “X” Burlesque at the Flamingo Las Vegas.

So gather your girlfriends – or your sweetheart – and dance your cares away on a dance vacation.  It’s great for your mind, body and spirit.  I’m adding Cruising With the Stars and X Burlesque University to my Bucket List!  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain.

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

Kalin’s Chronicles: Saying “I Do” — Again

Many women at 40 and beyond are getting married for both the first and second time.   Second weddings can be smaller and more intimate, so smaller hotels are a perfect setting.  If you’re planning a spring or summer wedding and looking for a smaller setting, here’s a location to consider. In Jacksonville, Florida; the 23-room Casa Marina Hotel and Restaurant is a popular choice for an intimate and romantic wedding, right on the beach. (photo: Just Married, The Casa Marina – Kalin Thomas)

The Casa Marina  is a member of the exclusive Historic Hotels of America, and is the only historic hotel in Florida that sits right on the beach.  It opened in 1924 during Florida’s first land boom, when Hollywood royalty lounged on Jacksonville Beach.

Today, the restored hotel is extremely popular for beach weddings because of its great location, and the supreme personal service of its wedding staff.   If you’re planning a wedding here, you can rest easy that the staff will take care of everything from the ceremony to the reception meal.

The beautiful beach makes for a wonderful romantic setting, especially at sunset.  Casa Marina is also a great place to stay for your honeymoon.  Enjoy the delicious Sunday Brunch in the hotel’s restaurant.  Or enjoy live music and cocktails in the rooftop Penthouse Lounge, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’d like to go off property, it’s just a three-minute walk to the Pier Restaurant and Sandbar , for a romantic dinner on the beach.  Just a short drive away, you can stroll the shops and restaurants at Jacksonville Landing ; or take a romantic horseback ride along nearby Ameila Island.

This is a good time to visit the Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant during its “Fall in Love Package,” which includes chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne, along with a standard deluxe room for $99, or a two-room parlor suite for $129.   For more information, contact Catering Director Rebekah Blakely at 904-270-0025, or visit www.casamarinahotel.com.

And here’s an extra tip:  Check out this book for inspiration from women who married after age 40: Getting Married After 40: Advice & Inspiration from 100 Women Who Found Good Men & Happy Marriages

And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

Kalin’s Chronicles: Vacation Rentals – A Home Away from Home

Though there are countless hotel and B&B options for travelers, many are choosing to rent vacation homes.  I’ve had wonderful experiences renting vacation homes as part of girlfriend getaways on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and on St. Simons Island, Georgia.  According to TripAdvisor, the Southeastern and Northeastern United States are the top two destinations for vacation rentals.  And 88 percent of travelers say they would choose a vacation rental over a hotel if it was a better value.

Some of the advantages of renting a vacation home include:  more bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen, more economical for parties of 3 or more, more privacy than a hotel, and most have all the comforts of home — and then some.

I recently celebrated my birthday with girlfriends at a St. Simons Island vacation rental and had a great time.  The four-bedroom, 4 ½ -bath home  was yards from the beach; had its own pool; provided four bicycles and an electric car; had a large and well-stocked kitchen with digital appliances, where we had a wonderful time bonding while preparing meals;  had a screened-in back porch and a wraparound front porch with rocking chairs.  The owner even welcomed us with two bottles of wine.  It was fabulous!  I plan to rent that house again, and am now open to renting homes more often.

Here are a few sites that specialize in vacation rentals:

So as you plan your travels for 2012, consider booking a vacation rental.  You might find it’s the perfect option for a girlfriend getaway, a romantic weekend, or even a family reunion.  It’s also a great way to celebrate turning 40!  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain (Photo: Washington DC Vacation Home Rental)

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

Kalin’s Chronicles: New Year’s Eve — In Every Time Zone!

One of the things on my bucket list is to celebrate at least one New Year’s Eve at New York’s Times Square – preferably from a balcony.  The closest I’ll get to that this year will be catching the new movie “New Year’s Eve“.  In the meantime, here’s a sampling of hotel deals to help you plan your New Year’s Celebrations — no matter what U.S. time zone you’re in.

New York (Eastern Time)

Celebrate at Ground Zero in New York’s Times Square for a $600 package that includes hotel accommodations, free admission to the Empire State Building Observation Deck , water taxi around the Statue of Liberty,  and shopping discounts at Macy’s and Bloomy’s.

New Orleans (Central Time)

This home of Mardis Gras knows how to party.  So for one of the best locations for French Quarter partying and a rooftop view of the fireworks, stay at the Omni Royal Orleans hotel.  Currently room rates are $299 per night for a New Year’s weekend stay.  For more information on New Orleans New Year’s fun, click here.

Phoenix (Mountain Time)

At the Hyatt Regency, $189 per night let’s you enjoy a New Year’s Eve party with free champagne, and a breakfast buffet the next morning.  And if you’re just getting back to your room at 5am, no worries – you get a 2pm late checkout.

Las Vegas (Pacific Time)

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  So get your party on at the MGM Grand, where you can celebrate New Years on The Strip.  Various packages include a $1400 New Years Wedding Package, Cirque du Soliel at Ka Theatre for $69 to $180, and a dance party at Studio 54 for $150.

And if you wake up with a hangover the next morning, you may wonder  how in the world this outrageous celebration got started.  Check out this site for the history of the holiday, and all things Times Square.  I’d love to hear about your favorite New Year’s Eve destination.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

Kalin’s Chronicles: Travel for the Physically Challenged

A former CNN colleague is wheelchair-bound, but doesn’t let that stop her from traveling.  In fact, she even went tandem sky diving – something I am still trying to get the nerve to do.  So as we celebrate National Disabilities Awareness month, let’s look at how the travel industry has been changing to accommodate the physically challenged since the 1990 passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

One of the most accessible destinations in the United States is the capital — Washington, D.C.  The pedestrian-friendly city has very well-established and well-maintained curb cuts for wheelchairs throughout the tourist areas, a very accessible subway system, and the Smithsonian Museum complex has sign interpreters for the hearing impaired.

Even theme parks like Walt Disney World are becoming more and more accessible to travelers with disabilities.  Last year, the first theme park designed specifically for travelers with disabilities opened in San Antonio, Texas.  Morgan’s Wonderland caters to mental and physically challenged tourists, but has rides and attractions for people of all ability levels.  It even has swings that accommodate wheelchairs. Continue reading Kalin’s Chronicles: Travel for the Physically Challenged