Today we are introducing a new face for our Travel Team. Mitzi Harrison has been with AAA Travel for 34 years and now manages the Charleston area, dividing her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia. She replaces Travel Team member Christina Rollyson, who is leaving West Virginia to pursue another career opportunity in North Carolina.
Mitzi’s favorite travel spot? Impossible to name just one! For food — Italy. For R&R — “A cruise to anywhere my cellphone doesn’t work.” For beauty — Switzerland, Lucerne in particular. “I love relaxing and taking it all in, walking around any city and mingling with the locals,” she says.
In her debut article for the WV Travel Team, Mitzi highlights places to see and explore that won’t cost an arm and a leg to get to!
By Mitzi Harrison
WV Travel Team
The Memorial Day holiday kicked off the start of the summer vacation season.
Although the standard one-week vacation trip has never lost its popularity, many of us also look forward to those quick three-day road trips.
I went to the AAA road warrior experts, Auto Travel Counselors, and asked for their favorite picks to get the best advice about long-weekend getaways. Here are their most-loved destinations for a girlfriend shopping getaway, a family “camping” experience and a couples-only retreat.
Destination: The Homer Laughlin China Retail Outlet, 800 Fiesta Drive, Newell; 220 miles from Charleston; approximate driving time: three hours 40 minutes. Comfortable shoes required.
If you’re a fan of the colorful dishes and consider shopping a competitive sport, this might be your ultimate game. Twice a year, the Fiesta outlet, in Newell, holds a tent sale where shoppers can purchase a wide array of Fiesta Ware products for a fraction of the retail price. Many of the items are seconds and would not be suitable for the serious collector, but they are perfect for those who just want to set a pretty table.
This sale requires a serious shopping game plan and there are strict rules which are rigorously enforced.
For a complete list of rules visit: http://www.fiestafactorydirect.com/t-storelocation.aspx.
Here are some inside tips from experienced shoppers:
n The 2014 summer sale is June 12-14 — one of the best shopping days is Thursday.
n Tickets to enter the sale are given out each morning at 7. To win the best place in line with the first wave of shoppers, bring your lawn chairs and arrive no later than 3:30 a.m.
n As soon as you get your ticket (and hopefully your ticket wins you a spot with the first 50 shoppers), head back to the hotel for breakfast. Shoppers should return to the outlet by 8 a.m., where they will be placed in line, in order of their ticket numbers.
n You must bring your own dolly; the best choice is a four-wheeled cart that allows you to stack your allotment of four plastic crates, provided by the outlet to place the dishes in.
n For anyone seeking specific products or colors, team shopping is the best approach, using a cellphone to notify team members about sought-after items. If possible, start in the middle of the tent and work your way out. If you see something you like, grab it immediately — if you wait and go back, it will likely be gone.
n Bring along several pairs of socks you can slide over your hand to wipe dusty dishes to ensure there are no cracks.
Where to stay: Holiday Inn Express, 1181 Washington St., Newell; phone 304-740-2300.
Where to eat: Di Carlo’s Pizza, 118 Washington St., Newell; phone 304-387-2017. For dinner, call in your pizza order and take it back to the hotel to enjoy poolside while planning your strategy for the tent sale.
Side trip: Strip District, Pittsburgh, approximately one hour from Newell.
Now that you have all those pretty new dishes, it’s time to hunt for special ingredients to create Fiesta-worthy culinary delights. After the intense shopping workout, head over to the Strip District in Pittsburgh. The first stop is lunch at the famous Primanti Bros., 46 18th St., for a sandwich loaded with their award-winning fresh cut fries — guaranteed to re-energize shoppers for round two.
Pittsburgh’s Strip District is a half-mile square area known for its expansive selection of ethnic food and wholesale produce shops where you can pick up everything from apples to zucchinis, as well as more exotic and hard-to-find spices and oils.
AAA Travel Favorite pick: Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. for all things Italian, including an amazing selection of imported food items. Macaroni’s is at 2010-12 Penn Ave., just a short walk from Primanti Bros.
Destination: Salt Fork State Park, 14755 Cadiz Road, Lore City, Ohio; 145 miles from Charleston; approximate driving time: two hours.
If the idyllic notion of a family camping trip is appealing, but the reality of sleeping on the ground in a tent is not, we found the perfect family “camping” trip for you.
Although the words “camping” and “luxury” aren’t often normally associated with each other, you can experience both in a luxurious cabin on the beautiful Salt Fork Lake, one of Ohio’s largest state parks.
Salt Fork State Park offers upscale amenities that include lakeside cabins with hot tubs, full-service dining room with cocktail lounge, indoor and outdoor pools, as well as an 18-hole championship golf course rated four stars by Golf Digest magazine.
The “stuff to do” list is so impressive, we’re betting parents will never hear, “I’m bored; there’s nothing to do”:
n 14 miles of mapped hiking trails
n Two marinas with boat rentals
n Sailing and canoeing
n Movie rentals and board games
n Rock climbing
n Outdoor children’s playground
n Sandy beach
n Naturalist programs
n Game room including pool tables, air hockey and numerous video and interactive games
n Family/children’s programs (children’s recreation available most Saturdays and daily in summer)
n Geocaching, including hand-held GPS units for rent
n Paintball (two courses) — equipment rental available; paintballs sold through the lodge
Cabins include full kitchens, as well as an outdoor grill.
Families can bring along all the supplies for a cookout, complete with S’mores, or call the restaurant and order a pizza to go.
Side trip: The Wilds, 14000 International Road, Cumberland, Ohio; phone 740-638-5030; 35 miles from Salt Fork State Park; approximate driving time: 45 minutes.
Take the kids for a walk on the wild side to meet creatures of all shapes and sizes.
Park residents include amphibians, birds, invertebrates and mammals. Families can tour by climate-controlled Safari Transport vehicle with large windows, or choose something more adventurous like the Zipline Safari Tour or the Horseback Safari Tour.
The special adventure tours have age and size restrictions. Visit The Wilds’ website to learn more: http://www.thewilds.org/default.aspx.
Destination: Ohio’s Amish Country in Holmes County; approximately 190 miles from Charleston; driving time about three hours.
Relax and rekindle your romance in Ohio’s Amish Country, where time moves at a slower, gentler pace.
Two-lane roads poised on lush, green, rolling hills provide unobstructed views of a simpler, quieter kind of life that offers freedom from the connected world.
Visitors to Holmes County learn about why and how the “Plain” people settled in central Ohio, observe a chosen lifestyle that is far different than most Americans’ and enjoy simple home-style cooking at its best.
What to see:
n Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center, 5798 County Road 77, Berlin, Ohio; phone 330-893-3192.
The best place to begin your journey to learn about the largest Amish settlement in the world is the Sistine Chapel of the Amish and Mennonites at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. The cyclorama portrays the history of the people from their Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525 to the present.
n Yoder’s Amish Home, 6050 Ohio Route 515, Millersburg, Ohio; phone 330-893-2541.
Take a guided tour through the 116-acre Amish farm where the history and customs of the Amish faith will be explained.
Guides show visitors two houses and a barn full of farm animals. While you’re in the barn, be sure to check out the unique architecture, including beams and pegs.
Take a ride around a hayfield in an authentic Amish buggy to learn what it’s like to travel like the Amish. The drivers are all members of the Amish church and enjoy talking with the visitors.
Before you leave Yoder’s, follow your nose to the bakery for homemade breads and cinnamon rolls made by Amish bakers.
Where to stay: Oakridge Inn, a AAA three-diamond bed and Breakfast, offers eight rooms with unique room décor that spans from Shaker to modern Victorian. The Presidential Suite is a corner room with a two-sided view of the scenic Amish countryside.
Where to eat: Berlin Farmstead, 4757 Township Road 366, Millersburg, Ohio; phone 330-893-4600.
Built in 2003, this relative newcomer has quickly become a favorite. Using time-honored recipes and farm-fresh ingredients, hungry visitors can sample Amish kitchen cooking at its finest.
The food is prepared home-style with the same care and attention that Amanda Yoder would use in her own home. This is not a restaurant where you want to skip dessert, and our AAA expert recommends the date nut pudding.
Side trip: Lehman’s Hardware, 4779 Kidron Road, Dalton, Ohio; phone 888-438-5346.
Lehman’s Hardware is best known for nonelectric appliances made especially for the Amish.
However, in the late 1990s, Lehman’s gained the attention of those outside Holmes County during the Y2K scare and business with the non-Amish boomed.
It’s fun to look around at the things not normally seen on a shopping trip, like gas-powered ice cream makers and butter churns. Stop by the candy store to pick up old-fashioned favorites like root beer barrels and Black Jack Taffy.
For more information on these and other destinations, stop by the AAA Charleston office and pick up a copy of the 2014 Amish Country Visitors Guide, or call one of their travel professionals — Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing — at 304-925-1136.