Kalin’s Chronicles: 5 Shopping Destinations You Won’t Want To Miss

With Black Friday starting even before you finish your second helping of turkey and stuffing, I figure this is the perfect time to talk about shopping.  Personally, I don’t do Black Friday – too much commotion, not to mention the idea of getting up before the crack of dawn to stand in long lines.  Not my idea of fun.  However, I do love shopping and believe a vacation isn’t complete without it.   According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, shopping is the number one tourist activity in the United States.  So here are my Top Five Favorite U.S. Shopping Destinations…

  • New York – Bergdorf’s, Barney’s, Tiffany’s, and my favorite for “orgasmic” deals, Century 21.  Let’s face it:  New York is the CAPITAL of shopping.   You have to make a pilgrimage at least once!
  • Chicago – Michigan Avenue. Sadly historic Marshall Fields – which had a wonderful shopper’s tour — is gone, but there’s still plenty of shopping to be had on Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile”.
  • Minneapolis – The 520-store Mall of America.  This place blew me away! It’s like Disney for shoppers!  You can even get married at the mall!
  • Los Angeles – Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.   Where the stars shop!  But one of my best shopping finds is It’s a Wrap in Burbank,  a thrift shop that exclusively sells clothes worn by TV and film stars.  The tags even have the name of the celebrity who wore the couture, or the TV show/film where the wardrobe was worn!
  • Sunrise, Florida – When I visit Fort Lauderdale I make a stop by the  country’s largest outlet, value retail and entertainment center, Sawgrass Mills.  It’s one of several shopping destinations that plan to open 10pm today and stay open for 24 hours.

If you’re looking for a fun way to get your holiday shopping done, check out Shopping America Tours http://www.shopamericatours.com/ for shopping, dining and cultural tours in 40 U.S. cities.  It makes for a great girlfriend getaway or 40th birthday trip.  To find out what’s new in shopping tourism, travel to the One Travel Conference in Orlando, January 15-17.

Finally for those of you who plan to go straight from dinner to discounts – check out this site for the latest Black Friday deals. What you save on prices,  I’ll be saving in sleep time! Shop ‘til you drop and tell me about your favorite shopping destinations!

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

Kalin’s Chronicles: Florida Beyond Theme Parks

I love visiting Orlando, Florida.  It’s the capital of theme parks in the United States with Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Gatorland, and more.  But there’s a lot more to see in the Orlando area than theme parks.  About 30 minutes north , along I-4, is Sanford, Seminole County; where tourists can enjoy outdoor adventures by land, air, and sea…

Start out at the Historic Sanford Welcome Center for a one-hour Historic Downtown Walking Tour, to learn about the history of the city.  For a more extensive workout, take a walk along the 14-mile Seminole Wekiva Trail which will take you through parks, recreation, and retail areas.

To get a bird’s eye view of Sanford’s wildlife, head over to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens and zip through the trees on Zoom Air, with 100 tree-top challenges and zip lines for the whole family.

All of that action will work up a healthy appetite for lunch; and Shula’s 347 Grill has just the ticket.   Named for the coach with the most wins in NFL history, the restaurant is known for its steaks, seafood and desserts.  Don’t leave without ordering the Key Lime pie. Continue reading Kalin’s Chronicles: Florida Beyond Theme Parks

Kalin’s Chronicles: Summer’s Last Hurrah

Labor Day weekend is considered the last hurrah for summer vacations – especially for families, because the kids have to go back to school.  But it doesn’t have to be the end of beach season.  The travel industry’s name for the time after Labor Day but before Thanksgiving is called “Shoulder Season,” and it’s one of the best times to get deals to the beach.

Travelers can find deals as low as $50 per night at destinations like Myrtle Beach, which was named #1 Best U.S. Beach by Trip Advisor.   South Carolina’s most popular beach gets about 14-million visitors a year.  It’s also known as the golf capital of the U.S., with 102 golf courses and 32 miniature golf courses.  Myrtle Beach has hundreds of hotels, but I suggest staying a few miles north along Highway 17, at the less congested North Myrtle Beach.

One popular spot here is the Embassy Suites at Kingston Plantation.  Every suite has its own balcony with a view of the beach. Start getting into relaxation mode with a yoga session on the beach.  The hotel offers this for free on Friday mornings.  Then enjoy a complimentary breakfast buffet, including omelets and waffles.

Throw on your bathing suit and straw hat and head back to the beach for sun and fun, or hit the links at the Arcadian Shores Golf Course.  At the Splash! Pool Complex, enjoy live music or participate in games like “TV Theme Songs Trivia.”  Have a lunch at Splash Cafe. Continue reading Kalin’s Chronicles: Summer’s Last Hurrah

Kalin’s Chronicles: Literary Tours

eatprayloveReading is one of my favorite things to do. And I find that if a book is turned into a movie it usually can’t live up to the way I imagined the characters in the book. However, I find it very exciting to visit a city where a book is based. And tourism boards are banking on that trend with “literary tours” that highlight the sites of popular books and movies.

One of my favorite literary tours is Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil in Savannah, Georgia. I took the tour in the 90’s a few years after the non-fiction book came out. The bus drove us by Mercer House were the real-life murder happened, to restaurants where the characters hung out, and to Club One where real-life character, The Lady Chablis, entertained us with her drag show. I even got her and other real-life characters to sign my book.

Continue reading Kalin’s Chronicles: Literary Tours