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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Eighth Annual Hotel Week in Manhattan January 4-14, 2019

If you want to visit New York at a discount, then head to the city during their Eighth Annual Hotel Week in early January. The Refinery Hotel, Library Hotel, High Line Hotel, and Archer New York are just a handful of top-tier properties that will cut their rates considerably during this time. For example, Hotel Edison in Times Square will only be $100 a night, more than 50% off their usual rate. Hotel Week NYC™ was created by PR maven Nancy J. Friedman in 2010 to address the occupancy dip most hotels experience after the holiday season. It's a perfect time to visit Manhattan without the crowds, see the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Whitney and Network, featuring Bryan Cranston, on Broadway. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Madeira, a Great Active Winter Getaway

I recently attended an event sponsored by Belmond Resorts in Boston and was intrigued by their property on the island of Madeira, Belmond Reid's Palace. While we book many vacations to Portugal and the Azores, Madeira is still off the radar for most Americans. Closer to North Africa than Europe, (540 miles from Lisbon, but only 360 miles from Morocco), the average temperatures in January are in the high 60s, ideal for active travelers. Perhaps best known for its wine and as the birthplace of soccer legend Christian Ronaldo, the volcanic island is also home to jagged peaks and lush valleys that are laced with hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Summer is the high season, when many cruise ships visit the island, with their thousands of passengers. But head to Madeira now and you have the place to yourself, much like the Azores this time of year. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

If you love Christmas lights, then you'll be dazzled by Gardens Aglow held at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor. Not that you need any excuse to visit CMBG, one of my favorite stops on the Maine coast. More than 650,000 LED lights are woven through 14 acres, illuminating the trails and creating winter-themed exhibits. Visitors begin their journey by passing through an ethereal corridor of dancing lights evoking the aurora borealis before immersing themselves in the festive wonderland. Gardens Aglow runs through Dec. 31 on Thursday through Sunday evenings from 4-9 p.m. (closed on Christmas Eve). Tickets are timed for three separate arrivals each night at 4 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7:30 pm. 

I'm off to Nashville and Kansas City to see friends, hear live music, and catch 2 NFL games. I'll be back next Wednesday. Have a great week! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/05/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

New in New Hampshire Skiing

Like Vermont, New Hampshire has also received a good amount of early season snow, over 3 feet in some ski areas. Loon Mountain and Mount Sunapee is now under new ownership. Loon was purchased by Boyne Resorts while Mount Sunapee is now owned by Vail Resorts. Over at Bretton Woods, they're busy building the first 8-person gondola in the state. Waterville Valley has added a 12,000 square foot expansion to the Base Lodge, which will allow for better views and more elbow room this season. Also at Waterville Valley, the expansion at Green Peak is now complete, with a total of 10 new trails, including Wayne Wong Way, which features the steepest pitch at the resort. Lastly, as reported here before, the new Glen House Hotel opened in the Fall of 2018 and now provides trailside lodging at Great Glen Trails. So get out there and carve that perfect turn! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/04/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 03, 2018

What’s New at Vermont’s Ski Resorts

Vermont has been blessed with a deluge of late fall snow, creating excellent early ski season conditions. For example, Jay Peak already has a depth of 44 inches with all of their ski trails open already. And at Killington, Stowe, and Sugarbush, more than half of the trails are already open, so don't hesitate to hit the trails now. The big news out of Vermont this off-season was Tim and Diane Mueller's sale of Okemo to Vail Resorts, so Okemo is now part of the Epic Pass. They join Stowe in Vermont, which this season will introduce on-mountain "Kids Adventure Zones." These well-signed areas will give kids the opportunity to easily access gentle freestyle terrain. Mount Snow will be debuting its brand new $22M Carinthia Base Lodge, located right at the base of Carinthia Terrain Park. Lastly, Sugarbush will be celebrating its 60th anniversary this ski season with fun events planned throughout the year. If you need help with lodging and restaurant selections and exciting off-mountain activities, we're here to help at ActiveTravels!


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/03/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, November 30, 2018

Dining in Bloomington, Indiana

After my visit to Kentucky Bourbon Country, I drove 3 hours from Lexington to Bloomington, Indiana for the Dad's Sorority Weekend with my daughter, Melanie, at Indiana University. First stop was Mother Bear's, the classic pizza joint in town that I've been visiting regularly since Mel's first visit to campus. That night, Mel and her friends brought me to a new Mexican restaurant on North College Avenue called Social Cantina, which features a great taco selection, washed down with potent margaritas. The place was hopping and it's a great space, with a long bar serving a vast selection of tequilas. The same owner also has plans to open a nearby barbecue and bourbon joint called Smoke Works. We always end our weekend at Mel's favorite brunch spot, Uptown Café, for omelets, fresh baked bread, and good coffee. There's usually a wait on Sundays but the line moves fast and it's worth the wait. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dinner at Honeywood in Lexington

On our last night in Kentucky Bourbon Country, we started with Old Fashioned's (made with Buffalo Trace bourbon) at Middle Fork in the Lexington Distillery District. Then it was on to an upscale section of town to have dinner at the recommended Honeywood. We started with Tokyo Spice Chicken, wings with a nice jalapeno bite, and their signature dish, sweet potato beignets. Then moved on to tender grouper and a dish of pork roast. Afterwards, we wandered over to one of the best ice cream joints in town, Crank & Boom, for a dish of blackberry and buttermilk ice cream. Across the way, we stumbled into a cozy bar, Whiskey Bear, and met the owner Daniel, who has assembled an impressive roster of top-shelf bourbon and whiskey. A great place for a nightcap or to watch a sporting event on the large-screen TVs when in Lexington. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/29/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Stop at the Stave on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

We left our tour of the Wild Turkey distillery and drove on backcountry roads past the rolling hills of bluegrass and horse farms of rural Kentucky to reach The Stave, a new stylish roadhouse restaurant and bar recommended to me by a friend in nearby Lexington. The owner, Rebecca, has designed many restaurants in the region. One step inside the cozy interior and it's hard not be charmed by both the look and the folks working here. The Stave made its debut in September just down the road from the Woodford Reserve distillery, a National Historic Landmark, and the impressive circa-1887 Castle & Key distillery that just reopened this year making vodka, gin, and eventually bourbon. Rebecca has hired a skilled chef at the helm, Jon Sanning. Start with warm black-eyed pea fritters with tangy sweet onion relish and cucumber salad, or the deviled eggs dusted with paprika and served on pickled greens. Then get ready for their version of the Louisville Hot Brown, this time served on corn bread instead of the typical white bread. Delicious! Wash it all down with sweet ice tea or an impressive roster of bourbons to sample. A fun stop for authentic Kentucky cooking in bourbon country. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/28/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Meeting the Buddha of Bourbon at Wild Turkey Distillery

We toured 5 distilleries during our time in Kentucky Bourbon Country. We really enjoyed our visit to Bardstown Bourbon Company, the tasting at Heaven Hill (where we purchased coveted Old Fitzgerald 14-year-old bottles to bring home) and doing the hard hat tour at the 1930s industrial complex still in use at Buffalo Trace. Yet, it was hard to top our visit to Wild Turkey in the serene bluegrass country outside Lawrenceburg. One look at those rickhouses blackened on the outside from evaporation and you can sense the history. In fact, a distillery has been operating at this same site since 1869. We had a wonderful guide, Edwina, who showed us the whole process of making bourbon, from seeing the mash bills and fermentation tanks to walking inside one of those old rickhouses and eyeing all those barrels stacked to the ceiling. Wild Turkey currently has 7 to 8 million barrels aging, forming the largest distillery on one site in Kentucky. Outside, the rolling hills led to a bridge over the Kentucky River and the countryside was aflame in late fall foliage. 

Then we were back at the newly revamped Visitors Center tasting the wares and meeting the Buddha of Bourbon, 84-year-old Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, who's been working at Wild Turkey the past 64 years. "When I started here, bourbon was a southern gentlemen's drink. Now just as many women are buying a bottle as men," says Jimmy. He also notes that Wild Turkey is the top selling bourbon in Japan and Australia, helping to create the current surge in popularity. We talked for another 15 minutes before getting Jimmy to sign a bottle of Russell's Reserve 10 year. Definitely a highlight of our trip. If you want to try and catch Jimmy, head to the Visitors Center on Sunday afternoons after he and his wife go to church. He just might be sitting at that table at the entrance. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/27/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, November 26, 2018

A Visit to Bardstown, the Heart of Kentucky Bourbon Country

Drive south of Louisville and within 45 minutes, you'll pass the Jim Beam distillery, a signal that you made it to Kentucky Bourbon Country. More than 1 million visitors stopped at Kentucky bourbon distilleries in 2017, a number that has risen exponentially in the past 2 to 3 years thanks to the surging popularity of bourbon around the world. And perhaps no place is more emblematic of the current love of bourbon than my first stop, the Bardstown Bourbon Company. Friends in Louisville had recommended the recently opened restaurant, Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar, and they were right, the sweet potato gnocchi, shrimp and grits, and brisket sandwich were all mouth-watering delicious. But one lunch with David Mandell, CEO of Bardstown Bourbon Company, and I realized this facility is a whole lot more than a restaurant. Mandell had made his money in vodka before having a vision in 2013 to create one of the largest bourbon distilleries in the state. Opened in September 2016, he now collaborates with 22 renowned brands to craft custom bourbon and whiskey in his production facility, already filled to capacity over the next 5 years. Mandell didn't stop there. He created a Culinary Institute of America-like environment where student from around the world can return home and become ambassadors of bourbon. Then he debuted Bottle & Bond Kitchen, the first restaurant at a distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, featuring more than 400 vintage American whiskeys at their Whiskey Library (curated by acclaimed whiskey writer Fred Minnick). Mandell's still not finished. He's hoping to build a first-class hotel, a luxury property needed to attract international visitors to this sleepy town. It's wonderful to witness a dream come to fruition on such a mega-scale. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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