www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers Take a trip to Cleveland where WV 'Polka King' takes center stage http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160131/GZ05/160139991 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160131/GZ05/160139991 Sun, 31 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail Center stage on Lake Erie, about 250 miles north of Charleston, the city of Cleveland will be forever linked to one of popular music's most vibrant genres: Slovenian-style polka.

The Polka Hall of Fame (full name: National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum) is just east of the city in Euclid, "in close proximity to the Collinwood neighborhood where leading polka musicians lived such as Frankie Yankovic, Johnny Vadnal, Johnny Pecon and Eddie Habat."

No relation to Weird Al, Frankie Yankovic was born July 28, 1915, in Davis, West Virginia. Davis's population - at the time about 2,500 and now 650 or so - was swelled a century ago by Slovenes, an ethnic group from what was then Yugoslavia. Frankie's father, a blacksmith, and his mother, a cook, met in a lumber camp.

In tribute to "America's Polka King," the intersection of Waterloo Road and East 152nd Street in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, once favored both by Slovenes and Croats (another Yugoslavian ethnic group), was named Frankie Yankovic Square in 2007.

Today Collinwood is a hipster neighborhood, "the epicenter of Rust Belt chic," branded the Waterloo Arts and Entertainment District. The first Friday of every month, you can Walk All Over Waterloo, stopping by art studios and galleries and browsing vintage clothing and vinyl. In 2000, the former Croatian Liberty Home became Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, welcoming the White Stripes a few weeks later.

You don't hear "Who Stole the Keeshka?" very often at Beachland. As it turns out, there's another genre with Cleveland roots: rock and roll. But these collisions of ethnic heritage and youthful creativity - respectful, rebellious or both - are what give the city its character and make it well worth a visit. (Please note: 50,000 additional Republicans are expected to arrive in July.)

No offense to its Euclidean counterpart, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, downhill from downtown and right on the lake, is spectacular inside and out. A few of its treasures:

n Howlin' Wolf's electric guitar, porkpie hat and money case (a beat-up valise that never left his side)

n Elvis's custom motorcycle (actually a tricycle, with a cushy seat)

n The Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl Super Classic Model drum set Ringo played at the Return to Shea concert in 1966 (he stills owns it)

n The original lyrics to the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man" (on a sheet of three-hole-punch lined paper)

n The awning from CBGB's, the punk mecca in New York's East Village (a gift from the founder's grandson)

n The rhinestone-encrusted glove MJ wore when he performed "Billie Jean" on his Dangerous tour (rotating in a cylindrical vitrine).

In addition to the cases of memorabilia, arrayed on the hall's seven levels are digital jukeboxes; theaters (one screening "American Bandstand" clips); a frightening "Pink Floyd The Wall" exhibit with a 28-foot "teacher"; and a radio studio named for disc jockey Alan Freed, coiner of the term "rock and roll" and organizer of the first rock concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball, in 1952 in Cleveland.

Among the costumes on display are outfits worn by James Brown, the Supremes, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and the man who, in 1972, introduced Ziggy Stardust to America at the Cleveland Public Auditorium: the late David Bowie, inducted in 1996.

This year's induction ceremony - at which Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and N.W.A. will be honored - will take place April 8 in Brooklyn's Barclays Center. The ceremony returns to Cleveland every three years, next in 2018.

Also jutting out into Lake Erie are Steamship William G. Mather (seasonally open to the public), the Great Lakes Science Center and FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. (About an hour south of downtown Cleveland - you'll pass it on the way - is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton.)

Two of the city's inland entertainment hubs are on Euclid Avenue, once known as Millionaires' Row. Close in is Playhouse Square, a performing arts center comprising five beautifully restored and renovated theaters from the 1920s. About five miles farther out is University Circle (the university being Case Western Reserve). On or near the circle are such major institutions as the recently expanded Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the nation's best; the Museum of Contemporary Art, in a striking, 3-year-old building; the Cleveland Orchestra's art-deco masterpiece, Severance Hall; the Western Reserve Historical Society, with well over 100 antique automobiles; the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where "The Power of Poison" opens Feb. 27; and the Cleveland Botanical Garden, featuring "Orchid Mania" through March 6.

While in the University Circle area, check out Happy Dog at Euclid Tavern, a reborn Cleveland classic, where SEC investigator turned social entrepreneur Sean Watterson has installed a branch of his high-concept hot-dog-and-tater operation in a legendary rock venue. (Cleveland has several legendary clubs, including the Agora, which helped launch the Boss, though at an earlier location.)

The city's mix of eras and styles, beloved by its citizens, can be addictive to visitors. Sometimes it is encountered in a single dish, such as beef-cheek pierogi with wild mushrooms and horseradish crème fraiche, served at Michael Symon's Lola Bistro on pedestrianized East 4th Street. Other times it makes itself felt as a sort of neighborhood triple play, such as the following:

Venture across the Cuyahoga River to Ohio City (annexed by Cleveland in 1854). Gaze at the specialties at 104-year-old West Side Market. Sample the sophisticated suds at Ohio's first craft brewery, Great Lakes. Then, before you leave town, make a DIY souvenir - some wind chimes, maybe - at the Glass Bubble Project.

Ask for Mike, a wizard with molten glass. Oh, and be sure to say hi to Morty, the studio's "lap chicken."

Terry Robe is a freelance writer who covers travel and the arts. Email Robe at terryrobe1@gmail.com.

WV Travel Team: Stop and feel the moment at Sanibel Island http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160124/GZ05/160129869 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160124/GZ05/160129869 Sun, 24 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 By Lauren Townsend WV Travel Team By By Lauren Townsend WV Travel Team They tell me to stop and feel the moment when I'm on Sanibel, a tiny barrier island in Southwest Florida, near Fort Myers. So as I cross the causeway onto the isle, I breathe in deep and exhale. I leave behind the to-do lists, and welcome the scent of the warm ocean and the promise of a slower pace.

I step onto the white sand of Sanibel Island, known for its pristine beaches, with a plan for walking, thinking some exercise will do me good.

But before I know it, I'm distracted by the shells and what appears to be football fields of them, all different and each with special names like Tulip, Alphabet Cone and Olive. They are like nothing I've ever seen before. I can't help wanting to take the prettiest with me. But with only the palm of my hand to carry them, I was faced with the dilemma of which beautiful piece of nature to keep and which to leave behind to the next shell seeker. Next time, I'll be prepared.

The gentle ocean breeze keeps the warmth of the day's heat at bay. As I stroll along the water's edge, I notice the ocean is a distinctive blue-green tone, and there's a sandbar in the distance. This moment, this breeze, those dolphins, the crashing waves — this is the moment they talked about.

Sanibel is an interesting dichotomy. It's known as one of the top shelling spots in the world, but perhaps equally special are the experiences on-island. One of Sanibel's secret charms is the wildlife that co-exists. Yes, there are alligators to observe, but the closer eye finds different bird species and other types of wildlife all around.

I ride my bike along one of the many miles of paved bike paths and spot a gopher tortoise who just safely crossed the road. They are large, slow moving turtles that can live to be up to 80 years old (or so the informational sign tells me at the gazebo resting spot just off the path). I can't help but think, who doesn't love an island that proudly posts Tortoise Crossing signs?

For a deeper look at the Sanibel wildlife, explore J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve, or learn from experts at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). On the island, there are bobcats, pelicans and various bird species including Sanibel's protected osprey. These birds of prey are spotted throughout the island nesting on tall platforms. With two-thirds of Sanibel's land preserved as wildlife sanctuary, it's a nature lover's paradise.

After a few days, I walk my final morning on the beach to gather my thoughts and prepare for my return to “life” back home. I breathe in that fresh air. I close my eyes and feel the breeze. I let the ocean waves crash at my feet, and my toes sink into the sand. I stand there and just feel the moment. I open my eyes and watch the other beach goers, simply wondering, do they get it? I sure hope they do.

AAA tips | Don't miss

• Doc Ford's Restaurant for their Yucatan Shrimp. Named after the main character in the best-selling Randy Wayne White novels, you just might have an author sighting there, but you won't care if you don't once you try their fantastic shrimp.

• Breakfast at the Over Easy off of Periwinkle Way. The coffee, bacon and eggs, French toast and pancakes are exactly what you need to get your day off to a good start.

• Splurge at the intimate Il Tesoro off Tarpon Bay Road, featuring Northern Italian cuisine. Pop into the fine art cooperative next door, Tower Gallery, to walk off your meal.

AAA Facts | What you need to know

• Sanibel is a sleepy Florida island with a population of around 7,000.

• Sanibel has a $6 toll for cars to get onto the island. Ask your rental car if you can get an electronic toll pass, or SunPass, to skip the lines.

• Fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), 45 minutes away.

• If you like biking, this is the place to do it! One of the many bike rental shops will get you outfitted quickly But don't forget your sunscreen and helmet.

Start planning

For personalized assistance in planning your trip to Florida, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals — Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing — at 304-925-1136.



After $3 million restoration, 1835 plantation home stands empty, boarded http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160118/GZ05/160119518 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160118/GZ05/160119518 Mon, 18 Jan 2016 15:46:23 -0500 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer GREEN BOTTOM - When plans were announced in 2008 to restore the 1835-vintage Albert Gallatin Jenkins plantation house, located on a gentle rise overlooking the Ohio River near the Cabell-Mason County line, then-Rep. Nick Rahall told a crowd gathered for a ceremony on the grounds of the two-story brick structure that preserving the site to tell its stories about plantation life, slavery and the Civil War "is all about who we are as West Virginians. A society that loses touch with its history is akin to a rudderless ship on the ocean."

In 2012, after four years and nearly $3 million worth of planning and painstaking restoration work, the building was finished, but its role in interpreting the state's history remains adrift. Since then, "No Trespassing: U.S. Government Property" signs have been posted on the building and on the barrier blocking the driveway leading to it. The plantation house's doors and English-made, period-appropriate blown glass windows are covered with sheets of weatherbeaten plywood.

"From our perspective, we hate to see it boarded up and just sitting there empty," said Aaron Smith, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Huntington District, which owns the plantation house and the grounds surrounding it. While the Corps of Engineers has the authority to preserve historic buildings on the lands it manages, "we have no mission or authority to operate historic sites," he said. "We negotiate leases at various levels at properties across the country, and we've been proactive in advertising this property."

But so far, Smith said, there have been no takers.

Prior to the announcement of the renovation project, the state Division of Culture and History operated a small museum interpreting the history of the plantation inside the Jenkins house. The Corps suspended the lease in 2008 in order to begin stabilizing and restoring the building.

That work included removing all exterior paint and re-pointing all brickwork and stone foundations with lime-based mortar identical to that used in the mid 1850s; replacing the roof with period-appropriate composite shingles resembling the original wood; re-attaching separated rafters and joists; rebuilding chimneys; replacing doors using period-appropriate hardware and windows with panes of English blown glass; adding humidity control, security alarms and HVAC; and adding floor supports to bring the building up to international load capacity standards for museums.

"All the work had to be done according to the very strict guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act," adding to the cost of the renovations, Smith said.

As that work proceeded, Corps officials were handed the additional task of reconstructing plantation outbuildings, traces of which were uncovered in a 2002 archaeological survey of the plantation house lawn. A cellar, the base of a building believed to have served as a freestanding kitchen, remnants of a brick privy with a herringbone-patterned brick walkway leading to it and a nearby building believed to have served as Albert Jenkins' law office were uncovered during the dig.

But so far, the Corps failed to receive the appropriations needed to pay for reconstruction of the outbuildings, Smith said, and Culture and History "doesn't want to invest in opening a new museum there until that mission is accomplished."

Meanwhile, it remains unknown when, or even whether, money to fund the reconstruction of the outbuildings will be allocated.

The plan to reopen a museum in the Jenkins House "is dead in the water, since they've run out of funds to rebuild the other buildings," said Ned Jones of the Green Bottom Society, a Huntington-area civic group that has worked to preserve the Jenkins house and use it as an interpretive center since the Corps acquired the property.

"At one time," said Jones, a former state senator from Cabell County, "Culture and History had designed a reception center to display and interpret four aspects of the site: the Jenkins family's plantation life and Civil War history, their use of slavery, the wildlife (in the surrounding Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area) and the prehistoric Clover Village - one of the best Fort Ancient culture sites in this part of the country. If you could put all that together in one place, it would be a magnet that would draw a lot of visitors."

The Corps of Engineers' involvement with the Jenkins Plantation house dates back to 1986, when Congress authorized the addition of a new navigational lock to the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam on the Ohio River near Apple Grove in Mason County. Inland excavation needed to carve out the new lock chamber destroyed a wetland area, and to mitigate the loss of that habitat, the Corps bought a 120-acre chunk of Green Bottom, the former Jenkins Plantation, about 10 miles downstream. The plantation house was a part of the purchase.

The Corps of Engineers created some wetland habitat to add to the existing Lesage Swamp located on the property and leased the land to the state Department of Natural Resources to operate as a wildlife management area. The Corps and the state Historic Preservation Office signed a memorandum of agreement stating that the Corps would make the repairs necessary "to get the Jenkins house open to the public and then turn the property over to the State of West Virginia," Smith said.

While initial plans called for transferring ownership of both the wildlife management area and the plantation house to the State of West Virginia, wording in the 1998 Water Resources Development Act "precluded us from transferring the property, but we were allowed to lease it to the state," Smith said.

Culture and History operated a museum in the home until 2008, "when there was a recognition that in order to ensure preservation into the future," Smith said. "We needed to take on a greater effort than we had been making." The lease for the house was terminated to accommodate the four years of renovations that would follow.

Archaeological surveys have shown that people have been living on the flat, rich terrace along the Ohio that makes up the Green Bottom Wildlife Management Area for 9,000 years. A large village occupied from about 1550 to the verge of European contact by members of the Fort Ancient culture was unearthed on land adjacent to the plantation house.

In 1812, two years before he was elected governor of Virginia, Wilson Cary Nicholas bought the land and established an overseer slave plantation on the site. About 1820, William H. Cabell, another former Virginia governor and the namesake of Cabell County, bought the plantation, but sold it in 1825 to Capt. William Jenkins, a War of 1812 veteran and businessman from the Richmond area.

Like Green Bottom's previous owners, Jenkins used slave labor to improve agricultural production at the 4,400-acre plantation, a narrow bench of bottom land stretching along six miles of what was then the Virginia shore of the Ohio. Jenkins' slaves grew corn, wheat, hogs and cattle, most of which were shipped downriver to markets in the Cincinnati area. While the 1820 census listed 53 slaves at the plantation, as many as 100 slaves may have toiled over the land by the start of the Civil War, according to some historians.

Jenkins' son, Albert Gallatin Jenkins, was born on the plantation and went on to study at Marshall Academy in Huntington, Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School. After practicing law for several years in Cabell and surrounding counties, Jenkins was elected to represent western Virginia in the U.S. Congress, where he served from 1857 to 1861, when he declined to run for a third term and, instead, recruited troops for a Confederate unit called the Border Rangers, which later became part of the 8th Virginia Cavalry.

In July 1861, Jenkins and his troops were instrumental in driving back a southbound Union force during the Battle of Scary Creek in Putnam County, and he was promoted to the rank of colonel. The following year, Jenkins was elected to serve in the Confederate Congress, but he left that body after receiving an appointment as brigadier general, going on to command a battalion of cavalry during the Battle of Gettysburg, during which he was wounded. In May of 1864, Jenkins was severely wounded and captured during the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain. Union surgeons amputated an arm, but Jenkins succumbed to his wounds 12 days after his capture.

The plantation remained in Jenkins family hands until the 1930s, when it went into foreclosure proceedings.

"It's a shame it's still boarded up after all these years," said Jones. The Green Bottom Society, he said, "is still trying to see if the situation can't get turned around. It's going slow, but we're not giving up."

A half-hour video on the plantation, "The Ghosts of Green Bottom," directed by Daniel Boyd and written by Billy Joe Peyton of West Virginia State University, is available online at www.archaeologychannel.org. Click on "video" and "video guide list" to find the film.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

WV Travel Team: Master show-stopping stunts at these 11 terrain parks http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160117/GZ05/160119665 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160117/GZ05/160119665 Sun, 17 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team For the Gazette-Mail By Compiled by the GoToWV Team For the Gazette-Mail If zipping downhill on the bunny slopes seems too tame, try tricking on the terrain parks!

Lucky for you, each of West Virginia's ski resorts has a terrain park for skiers and snowboarders of any skill level. So suit up, fasten your helmet and get ready to catch some air!

1. Timberline Four Seasons Resort

Two terrain parks in Davis

One of the top four glade skiing areas in the East, Timberline's high elevation and varied terrain make it a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. They have two terrain parks to choose from, including a new 750-foot park for the 2016 season. Freestyle fanatics will be impressed with the new addition, which boasts big jumps and lot of room for flow.

If you're up for a lengthy journey after hitting the 30-, 40- and 50-foot jumps, ride the resort's 2-mile long Salamander Run, the longest trail in the Southeast.

2. Oglebay Resort

One terrain park in Wheeling

Looking to get your toes wet and catch some modest air? Oglebay is the perfect place to define your freestyle form. Small but mighty, Oglebay's terrain park offers rails and box features of varying sizes, perfect for an eager beginner. Plus, exciting snow-made jumps for intermediate-to-advanced riders.

3. Snowshoe Mountain Resort

Five terrain parks in Snowshoe

If you have Olympic ambitions or maybe just a daredevil spirit, the new Evolution Park at Snowshoe Mountain Resort is the spot for you this season. Highly anticipated for its length and flow, this world-class park lets freestylers hone their tricks, spins, posture, speed and smoothness.

Snowshoe also has Progression Session Park, which has small and medium features that are friendly for both novice and intermediate riders. Their Silver Creek area boasts 3 more terrain parks, including the Mountaineer, where you can take your turn on a rail and showcase your skills to onlookers.

Put your trickin' to the test during the Progression Session Jams: noncompetitive, jam-style sessions that link you up with coaches to help take your skills to the next level.

4. Winterplace Ski Resort

Two terrain parks in Ghent

Low risk and big thrills are the name of the game at Winterplace Ski Resort's two terrain parks, which specialize in beginner or intermediate features. The resort was named "Best place to learn" by Blue Ridge Outdoors, so if you're hoping to spice up your time on the slopes, try private terrain park lessons.

If you're already confident in your skills, the jumps and rails create the perfect combination, or hit the 6-foot T-box.

5. Canaan Valley Resort

One terrain park in Davis

The terrain park at Canaan Valley Resort is right in the heart of the action. The park's box and rail inventory get switched up throughout the season to stay fresh. Interchanging features include a C-box, flat box, 25-foot flat rail, 20-foot step-down jumps and more.

Canaan's Rail Jam Series throughout the season gives freestyle competitors a chance to flaunt their flow. Keep an eye on the event calendar for upcoming dates!

If you're nervous about your first terrain park trick, you can get private freestyle lessons at all of the ski resorts.

Don't forget your helmet, a good attitude, and most importantly: have fun!

For more information, call 800-CALL WVA or visit GoToWV.com. Share your Real. West Virginia stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #GoToWV and #RealWV.

Amtrak launches business class service for Cardinal passengers http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160113/GZ01/160119754 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160113/GZ01/160119754 Wed, 13 Jan 2016 17:52:04 -0500 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer More spacious seating, complimentary Wi-Fi and soft drinks and other perks will be available to travelers using Amtrak's Cardinal route, linking Charleston to New York, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago and other cities along the line, with the inauguration of business-class service starting Jan. 20.

The new service, announced Monday, makes it possible to reserve seating in a business-class car equipped with spacious leather seats, free Wi-Fi access and unlimited online access to the digital editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Business-class travelers also will receive free nonalcoholic beverages, complimentary access to the Metropolitan Lounge at Chicago's Union Station, and an access pass for Philadelphia's ClubAcela lounge for $20 per day.

In addition to providing upgraded service to Charleston passengers, Amtrak's addition of business-class cars to its Cardinal trains "means they're not going to take Amtrak out of here," said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones. Congress has eyed the Cardinal route for possible cutbacks, and even closure, several times over the years.

The Cardinal travels between Chicago and New York three times a week, with the route's eastbound Train 50 scheduled to arrive in Charleston at 8:21 a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Westbound Train 51 is scheduled to arrive in Charleston at 8:29 p.m. on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Other West Virginia cities served by the Cardinal include Huntington, Montgomery, Thurmond, Prince, Hinton, Alderson and White Sulphur Springs.

Reservations for business-class service, as well as existing coach service, are available now at www.amtrak.com, or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169, or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

'Most Fun Small Town' Delray Beach emerges as dining destination http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/GZ05/160119988 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160110/GZ05/160119988 Sun, 10 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 By Martin W.G. King Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Martin W.G. King Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Charleston's dining denizens - people who pack places like Laury's, or who appreciate the innovative, farm-to-table cuisine of Bridge Road Bistro or the South Hills Market and Café - might well enjoy a foodie jaunt to Florida, to Delray Beach, in particular. What better way to enjoy some winter sunshine than at a place that's not only warm and sunny, but the hottest new foodie destination in the South?

Delray, as it's known by locals, seems to be the newest "it" destination on the winter vacation scene. Not content with being named America's Most Fun Small Town (USA Today and Rand McNally, 2012), or placing third in Coastal Living's 2015 Happiest Seaside Town awards, or being one of the country's most politically active communities (it's reported to be the focus of an upcoming Kevin Spacey-produced TV show on local politics), the City of Delray Beach recently held a public workshop on making itself even more "lovable."

That's about par for the course for the city of 65,000, which calls itself the Village by the Sea and sits on prime oceanfront real estate between Palm Beach (15 miles north) and Fort Lauderdale (25 miles south) along South Florida's east coast. (Delray Beach is 946 miles from Charleston, or about 16 hours, including three hours of breaks, according to the website distancesonline.com. American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta fly to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport with fares in early January starting at $302 roundtrip on American and United, according to searches in mid-December on Expedia.com and CheapOAir.com. Flights to Miami International Airport, about an hour's drive from Delray, cost about the same, although there is a much better range of departure times.)

That Delray is "fun" is beyond dispute. Super-sized, on-demand (and free) golf carts ferry passengers up and down tree-lined Atlantic Avenue, which stretches east-west through Delray's jewel of a tropical downtown and ends at the city's magnificent public beach. Atlantic Avenue is lined with trendy boutiques and art galleries, but it's the dozens of open-fronted restaurants and bars along the avenue and its adjacent side streets that are putting Delray on the map as the top new foodie destination between Miami and that other Charleston, 550 miles up the Atlantic Coast in South Carolina.

According to Jason Binder, chef de cuisine at Brule Bistro Bar and Kitchen, who hails from The Fountain Room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, the huge number of winter visitors who come from Northeastern cities like New York and Philadelphia and who know good food have helped make Brule (and other Delray Beach restaurants like it) successful.

"We've never advertised," he says. "People know us only by word of mouth. We get people who expect good food here." Binder also cites Brule's location in the Pineapple Grove artists' enclave, several blocks from Atlantic Avenue, for the restaurant's success.

"This is a more edgy, creative neighborhood. The energy makes us more creative, too," he says. Also critical, he adds, have been the owners, Reny Houden and Suzanne Perrotto, "whose mission since the beginning has been to make the restaurant a cool, elegant place."

Whenever possible, Binder incorporates local ingredients, visiting nearby farms and suppliers to make his selections. What he finds guides him in writing the restaurant's menu, which features modern American cuisine with French accents.

Binder, trained as a saucier, also makes the point that while visitors might find Florida balmy all year, locals can feel chilly when nighttime temperatures dip into the 60s, so he introduces new dishes each season, just as he did in Philadelphia. Right now, he's adding "heartier" dishes, among them slow-cooked lamb shoulder pappardelle and spiced Moroccan crusted pork rib eye, to his winter menus.

"We're a scratch kitchen," he adds. "Everything is done here, from making our own pastas to making our own desserts. We're just having a blast cooking up creative food. We put our heart and soul into it. It's all about art; we just want people to enjoy." And, judging by the sound of clicking glasses and the cacophony of conversation that spills from the glowing dining room onto the sidewalk outside, he's succeeding.

It's fitting, given Delray's affair with creative cuisine, that one of its best restaurants is Mexican, not a style of cooking, in its U.S. incarnation, given to sophistication or finesse.

But Josh Perfit, general manager of the immensely popular El Camino Soul Food and Tequila Bar - there's often a long wait to get in just for happy hour - says it's once-sleepy Delray's civic honors that have brought in a clientele that expects good things.

"People here appreciate good food, uniquely prepared from scratch," he says over the lunchtime din. "Our craft kitchen produces virtually everything we use. Nothing is prepared outside. We make everything fresh every day. We braise our own meats for eight to 12 hours. We make our own infusions; our own tinctures; our own bitters for our margaritas." The menu lists everything from cranberry, beet and fig margaritas to watermelon jalapeño and chile guava.

Local critics credit one of El Camino's sister restaurants, Cut 432, a steakhouse, for prompting Delray's gastronomic revolution. El Camino was a logical extension for Cut 432's owners, the Modern Restaurant Group, which had already opened a second restaurant, the bustling and equally popular Park Tavern, which serves American classics. However, they weren't sure if the space  they had in mind for El Camino, just 2,200 square feet in a former mechanic's shop off Atlantic Avenue, would be large enough to turn a sufficient profit to warrant their investment. (Large spaces in downtown Delray are at a premium.)

After a year of construction - El Camino features a bar built with old railroad ties, industrial lighting, and snazzy green leather booths - it quickly earned its own top honors, recently being named one of the country's top 100 restaurants by Open Table,  the online dining reservation site.  Perfit hints that the owners may have yet another restaurant in the works, but won't divulge details pending signing of a contract.

Not all of Delray Beach's new restaurants are glitzy places where the patrons whip out platinum credit cards to settle up. The Delray restaurant frenzy is also attracting new entrepreneurs, people like Lindsay Lipovich, who, with help from her co-owner father, Joe Lipovich, launched Lilo's All-American Café last year in a delightful, if minuscule, tree-shaded courtyard.

Lilo's Kitchen Manager and Chef Tom Read credits fresh ingredients and low prices for the restaurant's success.

"We don't have the space for a lot of storage, so we shop almost every day" he says. Read says Lilo's isn't attempting to compete with Delray's larger and more expensive establishments; rather, he says, Lilo's "is a cute, friendly little place for excellent food at inexpensive prices" - often as little as $3 or $4 for a freshly made-to-order sandwich. One sandwich in particular is popular, he says: The Billy Goat, made with goat cheese, fig jam and arugula on a ciabatta roll ($3, $4.50 with bacon). Two- and three-dollar tacos are also crowd pleasers, as are evening fish entrees - mahi-mahi is a staple.

Delray's dining scene has become such an attraction that one company, Savor Our City Culinary Tours, (800-979-3370), offers customized group tours of the city's dining establishments with an opportunity to meet kitchen artisans and, of course, taste samples from their menus.

But eating in Delray isn't confined to restaurants; the city, home to a never-ending schedule of festivals and cultural events throughout the year, features several events dedicated solely to eating.

Among them: Garlic Fest (www.dbgarlicfest.com), billed as "The Best Stinkin' Party in Town," sprawls over a dozen downtown blocks each year and offers everything from garlic ice cream to Argentinean garlic barbecue and garlic cocktails. The 2016 event, January 29-31, will include a chef's competition, 180 exhibitors and musical acts at the Delray Center for the Arts.

WV Travel Team: Taking it slow in gold rush town Dahlonega, Georgia http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160103/GZ05/160109986 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160103/GZ05/160109986 Sun, 3 Jan 2016 00:01:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team 'Dahlonega' is a Cherokee word for gold, which the Indians began mining in the 1540s. The Spanish joined in mining the precious metal 200 years later. But it took a Georgian deer hunter to begin America's first gold rush when he happened on gold rocks in 1828.

A decade later, so much gold was taken from the north Georgia mountains that one of the first three federal branch mints was located in Dahlonega. The purity of Dahlonega gold was legendary, among the highest in the world.

Tragedy is also part of the gold rush story. The Cherokee were ultimately pushed off their land, which was turned into 35,000 gold lots. The tribes were forcibly relocated west in 1838 with thousands of Cherokee dying along the Trail of Tears.

One thing is for certain: all the best Dahlonega stories, even today, come from gold.

Three years ago, local citizens unveiled a peerless oddity enshrined in a pavilion just a block off the historic square. The world's oldest remaining diving bell, designed to mine gold, had been lost in the Chestatee River when the barge on which it was mounted sank under mysterious circumstances less than a year after its launch in 1875. Pulled from its watery grave more than a century later, it took another couple decades and some restoration before it was recognized as a one-of-kind artifact and turned into a downtown attraction.

No matter how alluring the history of a place is, travelers want to know what's happening now. The answer in Dahlonega? A lot is happening.

The Public Square, marked out as such when the town was formed during the gold rush, captures the heart of anyone with even the slightest romantic urge, especially in December and January when all the two-story buildings on the Square are extravagantly lit. Streets of the square surround the oldest courthouse in Georgia, home to the Gold Museum since 1965. More than 40 distinctive shops, galleries, eateries, wine tasting rooms and lodging places fill up the four blocks around the museum turning a 10-minute stroll into a day-long adventure.

It took just a few steps for us to eat, sleep and shop on our visit.

North Georgia University, still accredited as a military college with a nod to its late 19th century history, is a short walk off the square. It provides one of the most distinctive auditory memories of any stay, with reveille played daily at sunrise and taps at dusk, the sound wafting through the town and setting the rhythm for the day.

With dozens of restaurants from which to choose, no one starves in Dahlonega. We chose traditional Southern comfort food for lunch at Smokin' Gold BBQ. The meat sandwiches were substantial, the three special sauces tasty and the side of corn casserole so delicious I wanted to send everything else back and simply eat the whole baking pan of it. You know a place is serious about eating when they place a roll of paper towels sitting upright on a stainless steel holder on each table.

That evening we had a meal less traditional for the Georgia mountains. Back Porch Oyster Bar has a fanatic commitment to serving fresh seafood to visitors not expecting it, one reason for its back-to-back wins of Wine Spectator's prestigious award. It flies its raw material in daily including white tuna from Hawaii for ceviche.

Although we feasted on crab cakes and crab dip and crab soup, it was the Thai Chili Calamari that had us fighting over the last scrap. We had no hunger left to do more than wonder about the list of seafood dinners, each "with secret sauce."

For traditional family-style dining that has been a magnet for more than 50 years, we chose Smith House Inn, which comes with a legend that proved true. The rumored gold mine underneath the structure was discovered to be fact during renovation. Smith House is also a charming historic hotel.

Although exploring town is almost a full-time occupation, there are other wonders to see and experience. More than 60 acres are planted in vines among a collection of five wineries. The varied vintages have garnered so many awards in the past 20 years that the Dahlonega Plateau is on track for being rated a wine region on a par with Sonoma and Napa. Each of the wineries has tastings, and there are four additional tasting rooms downtown. If you want to drink like a knowledgeable local, try the merlot.

The outdoors is as popular as the quaint town. The Appalachian Trail begins nearby, and there are more than 20 other mountain hiking trails. Two rivers provide both white and flat water. Nearly two dozen trout streams are open year round.

One of the most appealing outdoor attractions is more than 30 waterfalls including Amicalola Falls. We took the short walkway to the falls, which is easy on the feet, having been made from recycled shredded tires.

Among the nearly 20 special events and festivals staged in the Dahlonega area is the famed Six Gap Century Bicycle Ride that draws 2,400 riders from around the world annually. Other festivals range from Bear on the Square in April to Gold Rush Days in October. Appalachian Jam Saturdays on the square from April through October are centerpieces of a lively local music scene.

Travelers with children should mark two wildlife centers as must-do activities. Chestatee Wildlife Zoo is open daily. Exotic and native species including white Siberian tigers, leopards, alligators and water buffalo, are housed on a 25-acre park with natural pathways. Private encounters can be arranged. The North Georgia Zoo and Farm has a large variety of miniature and rare breed farm animals. It offers wildlife walks and camel encounters.

Let's come back to gold and its presence today. Once there were 250 working deep mines including Consolidated, the biggest gold plant east of the Mississippi with its 500-foot tunnel. Today there are only two, Consolidated and Crisson, and both are open for tours as well as gold and gemstone panning. And yes, Mark Twain's famous line that is title of this story came from his hearing about the Dahlonega gold rush.

Dahlonega is about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta on US 19 making it an ideal stop for West Virginians traveling back and forth to Florida. Contact www.dahlonega.org for more information.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," considered a must-have guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta recently released the second printing of the coffee table photo book "West Virginia Beauty: Familiar & Rare." Both are available in bookstores throughout the state and from wvbook co.com. See more at: http://www.wv gazettemail.com/article/20150201/GZ05/150209998#sthash.NOlhrxBO.dpuf

WV Travel Team: A merry Christmastime trip to our nation's capital http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151227/GZ05/151229728 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151227/GZ05/151229728 Sun, 27 Dec 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team By By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team On December 10, I left with a group of five other women from National Travel to embark on a familiarization trip (FAM trip in the industry) to Washington, D.C.

Our mission: to immerse ourselves in the D.C. experience in order to best advise our travelers. This November and December, National Travel conducted several similar experiential FAM trips to destinations around the globe including: Chicago, London, Toronto and Munich. In the words of Ira Gershwin, "It's nice work if you can get it!"

We left after work to catch a 7:27 p.m. flight on United Airlines at Yeager Airport.

Yeager was an absolute joy to fly into and out of, with no wait to see desk agents to check our bags and no wait for security. We carpooled from the office, but parking is also very reasonable at Yeager, at only $9 per day for garage parking.

Yeager continues to grow and look for new services to offer travelers, explained Mike Plante, Yeager's Public Information Officer, during a recent meeting we had in Charleston.

Our United Airlines flight left on time and got into Dulles early, with a flight time of only 50 minutes. Our luggage was easily retrieved, and we headed to the Silver Line Express, a bus service that connects Dulles Airport to the Metrorail system. Signs in the airport were easy to understand to find our way.

After a short bus ride, we got to the Metrorail. At the Metrorail, we admittedly had a few problems! The automated ticketing machines were a little difficult for us to understand, but a guard rapidly approached and helped all six of us purchase our tickets. As new Metrorail pros, we got to Arlington, where we had the pleasure of staying at the Hyatt Arlington hotel.

Hotels within D.C. city limits can be extremely costly, but most travelers don't think to extend outside of the city. The Hyatt Arlington is located less than a half block from the Metrorail Rosslyn station; you can even take an elevator directly from the hotel lobby down to the station surface. We loved the convenient location, which provided us access into and out of the National Mall area on three different trains which came every few minutes.

With rates as low as $76 a night, this beautiful hotel cannot be beaten for convenience, comfort and elegance. Customer service at the hotel was superior and we were given a full site tour by our gracious host Jerome on Friday morning. The Hyatt offers breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Cityhouse restaurant, cocktails and bar fare at Key Bridge Terrace, an on-site Starbucks and room service.

The Hyatt is located only about four blocks from the Marine Corps Memorial (often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial) and Arlington National Cemetery. We headed there first, and opted to take the optional hop-on hop-off bus tour of the cemetery. At $12 a person, the ticket is well worth the price, as the tour conductors provide rich narrative and make certain you get to the sites you most wish to see.

As we were walking to the Visitor's Center, VIP Travel Specialist Kristin Bailey recalled reading an article about the Wreaths Across America wreath laying ceremony at Arlington. En route, she discovered that the ceremony was in fact meant to happen the following day on Dec. 12 (even travel agents use smartphones). We agreed that we wanted to return to see the cemetery after the wreath laying, and were saddened that our time did not permit participation in the event.

Arlington National Cemetery is a powerful, moving place to visit, and, as our tour guide appropriately called it, "some of America's most sacred soil."

Bailey recounts visiting Arlington Cemetery and seeing the changing of the guard as a very humbling experience. Not only because of the sheer number of graves (240,000 I think we found out), but just thinking about the sacrifices made to defend our country. I'm glad we were able to visit again after the laying of the wreaths and see those who served being honored in this way.

After our cemetery tour, we returned to the area of our hotel. In this area of Arlington there are plenty of shops and restaurants. We visited a small outdoor Christmas fair and grabbed some quick lunch before getting changed to head into D.C.

Brittany Burns, U.S. Courts Manager, had been advised by one of her frequent travelers who lives in D.C. that the best time to visit the monuments is at night. We were happy to take her advice, and the monuments lit up were certainly spectacular. Having been to D.C. many times personally, it was a new way to view these iconic sites. We all did agree, however, that the Vietnam Memorial and Korean Memorial are better visited in the day.

The National Mall area was very safe, and even as we approached 10 p.m., still full of tourists and locals alike. The Christmas decorations everywhere were breathtaking, and we all enjoyed seeing the National Christmas Tree. Security around the White House seemed to have been heightened, but we were still able to enjoy great views.

We had late dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a D.C. fixture since 1856 just by the White House. We were all quite sure we saw several senators.

The following day we returned to the National Mall Area and first visited the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. A long-time favorite of mine, I still have child-like awe in the Gems and Minerals Gallery. The Hope Diamond! After that museum, some went on to visit the Art Museum and the Holocaust Museum, and others, due to the gorgeous weather, to simply walk and enjoy the cityscape.

All of the National Museums have free admission. It definitely put us in the Christmas mood to watch families ice skating in the National Sculpture Garden ($8 for adults, $6 for children), even though many of them were wearing T-shirts due to the unseasonable warmth.

We were slightly disappointed to see the Capitol with its dome covered in scaffolding for restorations (our dome in West Virginia looks better, we noted). As we strolled through the wide, Romanesque promenades of the mall, I was once again struck by the Supreme Court and the staggering history of courts in our country. Ultimately, I think every one of us on the FAM trip had at least one moment of solemnity and respect.

After a long day sightseeing, we returned to our hotel to rest and change for an exceptional event: We went to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra perform along with special guests, the von Trapps (great-grandchildren of the famed Maria and Georg von Trapp of "The Sound of Music") and Stephanie Block (winner of multiple Tony Awards and Grammy Nominations).

As the daughter of a professional musician who played with the orchestra, it was especially meaningful to me. And those of us who are "The Sound of Music" fanatics were able to get autographs from the von Trapps! It was an honor to be in the Kennedy Center where our nation's finest performers have been showcased. Tickets for our show began as low as $20 per person. We all also enjoyed snapping pictures at the Watergate Complex next door.

After a long weekend and with a flight home the next morning, our FAM trip party parted ways to pursue our last hours in D.C. separately. In the morning, another quick Metrorail trip took us back to the airport for our short flight home.

We had a great trip, but were definitely exhausted. We suggest that families traveling with young children plan to make plenty of stops for resting. Also, buying a Metrorail day pass ($14, kids ride free) allows you to hop on and off, eliminating the long walks between monuments and museums. We also all agreed we need to return in the spring when the trees and flowers will be in bloom and, we predict, spectacular.

For more information or to speak with a certified specialist, call 304-357-0801 or email


Ariadne Moore is the Director of Quality Assurance at National Travel, a frequent contributor to the Life and Style section, published fiction and poetry author, and world traveler. She may be reached with questions regarding this article at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

High temps, cheap gas combine for big holiday road traffic http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151223/GZ01/151229793 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151223/GZ01/151229793 Wed, 23 Dec 2015 19:33:26 -0500 Daniel Desrochers By Daniel Desrochers It might take a little longer to get to those Christmas presents this year.

Experts at the West Virginia Parkways Authority are projecting that holiday travel will be up 4 percent to 6 percent this season.

Today should be one of the lighter traffic days of the weekend, and the traffic is projected to be at its peak on Saturday and Sunday, with 1,600 to 2,400 vehicles on the Turnpike between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The increase in traffic is based, in part, on the high temperatures and low gas prices.

The National Weather Service is predicting temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s, although there is a chance of rain through most of the weekend, which could slow things down.

But gas is cheap.

"Good heavens, gas is down below two bucks," said Greg Barr, director of the Parkways Authority.

Thanksgiving is the busiest traffic day in the year, and this past year, traffic was up 6 percent. Since then, the gas prices have only continued to drop.

"The gas prices are probably the biggest factor of any this holiday season," said Crissy Gray, district office supervisor for AAA.

West Virginia has seen the ninth-largest decrease in gas prices in the past month, according to a report by AAA.

Only gas prices in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota have dropped lower than the 15-cent decrease seen in the Mountain State.

Right now, West Virginia is hovering a cent under the national averages for gas prices, which is going to be good for gas stations in the state during peak travel.

"More people traveling through the state are going to wait until they get into the state to get gas," Gray said.

This time last year, gas prices in West Virginia were hovering around $2.55 per gallon.

The low gas prices mean people might opt for driving to their relatives, instead of flying.

"Air traffic is down right now, and I would say 80 percent of the people will be traveling by car this season," Gray said.

The period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3 is projected to contain the biggest travel weekends on record. AAA estimates that there will be more than 100 million holiday travelers across the country who are going more than 50 miles from home.

Reach Daniel Desrochers at dan.desrochers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @drdesrochers on Twitter.

St. Petersburg offers options for Marshall fans http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151223/GZ01/151229795 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151223/GZ01/151229795 Wed, 23 Dec 2015 18:21:55 -0500 Samuel Speciale By Samuel Speciale Thundering Herd fans traveling this Christmas to see Marshall University's football team compete in Saturday's St. Petersburg Bowl can expect warm weather and plenty of weekend attractions.

Temperatures in St. Petersburg, Florida, will be in the 80s all week, and skies will be mostly clear, which is perfect for a walk up and down one of the city's many beaches, said Charlie Indingaro, a volunteer at the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

"There's just so much to do out here on the beach," he said. "It's just a matter of finding what you like."

For Indingaro, that's dinner at the Blue Parrot, which has plenty of seafood options and live music.

But Indingaro said the city has something for everyone.

"If you come to the beach, you just have to be here and walk up and down the ocean," he said. "You'll find something."

Whether that is visiting a Salvador Dali museum, the Sunken Gardens, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or any of the other cultural and sporting attractions, the city can entertain anyone in the family, Indingaro said.

"Downtown has really just come alive," he said. "There's great restaurants and great entertainment."

Indingaro and several other Chamber of Commerce workers said visitors can stop by their office on 2nd Avenue to get information about the city's top attractions. Indingaro said offices will be open today.

For fans who like to tailgate, St. Petersburg offers several local craft beers. With 18 breweries around the city, including 3 Daughters Brewing, 7venth Sun Brewery and Barley Mow Brewing Co., beer lovers are sure to find a brew that suits their tastes.

Fans hoping to stay in the area have several hotels to choose from.

More information about St. Petersburg and nearby Clearwater restaurants, attractions and lodging can be found at www.visitstpeterclearwater .com.

The 9-3 Thundering Herd will play the 6-6 University of Connecticut Huskies at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Reach Samuel Speciale at sam.speciale@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-7939 or follow @samueljspeciale on Twitter.

The WV-made holiday shopping guide http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151220/GZ05/151229976 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151220/GZ05/151229976 Sun, 20 Dec 2015 00:01:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team

If West Virginians are known for one thing, it's our enormous state pride. This holiday season, spread the Christmas cheer for local artists and businesses by stuffing stockings with local goodies.

You'll be putting money back into our tight-knit communities AND putting a smile on your loved ones' faces.

Because it's not really feasible to wrap up a beautifully crispy Mary B, try the next best thing for the Tudor's Biscuit World lover in your life: a biscuit-themed tee! Brand Yourself, in Huntington's Heritage Station, allows you to display the line of unique biscuits proudly for all the world to see!

In between the mountains of West Virginia, a tiny kitchen churns out authentic Swiss chocolates. Holl's Chocolate shops, in Vienna and Charleston, still offer the same authentic chocolates Fritz Holl whipped up in the '50s when he immigrated here from Switzerland, in response to an ad placed by Broughton's dairy company for a Swiss-trained chocolatier.

Holl's is happy to do custom orders, and they ship, too (taking extra care that those delicious chocolates don't melt until they hit your mouth)!

DeFluri's, in Martinsburg, also crafts fine artisan sweets, including award-winning wine chocolates and fresh cream truffles.

Fiesta ware, made in Newell, provides the perfect palette for turning dinner into an artistic endeavor. Their vibrant line has made them the most collected dinnerware in history. Add a burst of sunshine to anyone's kitchen with a set of poppy mugs, a peacock canister, a tangerine casserole dish or a lemongrass teapot.

You can find Fiesta ware at their shops in Flatwoods and Newell, as well as many major department stores and online.

An adorably packaged jar of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works is the perfect stocking stuffer. Their "brilliantly clean" artisanal salt is harvested by the hands of a seventh generation salt-making family. It's 100 percent local, too, coming from right underneath the Appalachian Mountains in the Kanawha Valley.

Wild Mountain Soap Company hand crafts bath and body products using all natural ingredients. Your body will be clean, refreshed and moisturized after lathering up with their beautiful soaps (see: "Cashmere" it's tie-dyed!) And if there's a rugged man in your life, the "Rugged Man Beard Balm" is a must try.

From sweatshirts flaunting the glistening State Capitol building to "West by God" toboggans, Kin Ship Goods in Charleston has an array of Mountain State-themed goodies. The owners, Dan and Hillary, print their apparel right there in house, alongside their one-eyed, four-legged beagle buddy, Lazy Hazy.

Their online shop has gained nationwide attention- even Mindy Kaling was spotted wearing one of Kin Ship's snuggly sweatshirts on her hit show, "The Mindy Project."

This one-of-a-kind gift is memorable and unforgettable. Cabin Creek Quilts are 100 percent handcrafted by quiltmakers in the hills and hollows of West Virginia. When you buy one of these works of art, you're supporting artists who work in their homes to keep the longstanding tradition of quilt-making alive. Bright, bold fabrics separate Cabin Creek Quilts from the rest, landing their work in prestigious private collections, including the White House.

For the flavor lover in your life, how about a sampler of the Mountain State's best spirits? Throw together a sampler six-pack. Don't forget the uniquely West Virginia Mothman Black IPA from Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company and an Almost Heaven Amber Ale from Mountain State Brewing Company. Add in a bottle of Kirkwood Winery's Ginseng Wine. A bottle of Pinchgut Hollow Distillery Apple Pie Shine couldn't hurt, either.

Blue Smoke Salsa's homemade, kettle-cooked salsas come in 6 varieties, starting at mild and stretching to "triple-x hot." Their variety gift box allows you to try a little of each of them. If you're aiming to go all out, their deluxe gift basket features two bags of their famous guacamole chips, four Blue Smoke Salsas, pepper mustard, coal cookies, chocolates, White House Apple Butter, pumpkin butter, soup and honey.

WV Travel Team: Now is the time to plan your Orlando escape http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151220/GZ05/151229996 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151220/GZ05/151229996 Sun, 20 Dec 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team By By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team You've been going non-stop since Thanksgiving - shopping for Christmas gifts, decorating your home, sending cards, cooking for your family and guests. It's time to think about a vacation.

But don't wait too long - especially if you plan to go to Orlando. January is the busiest time for booking flights and reserving hotel rooms.

Maybe your family has been to Orlando before. But if it's been a while, your next visit can seem like a whole new experience. That's because every year new attractions, new rides and even new resorts make their debut in the vacation capital of the United States.

It can be a daunting process. Where to go? What to see and do? How to get the best deals? Not to worry, though. The Travel Adviser team at AAA have all the information you need. You can meet the Disney Expert and get a full update on "what's new" with Disney and current Disney offerings at these special presentations:

n Jan. 6, 6:15 p.m. in Bluefield

n Jan. 7, 6:15 p.m. in Beckley

n Jan. 7, 2 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. in Russell

n Jan. 7, noon and 2 p.m. in Charleston.

Here are some highlights to get you started:

Now at Walt Disney World Resort, you can experience the wonderful world of color at Colortopia, presented by Glidden - a brand new exhibit in Innoventions at Epcot. At Colortopia, you can explore three interactive zones - the Color Lab, Color Our World Studio and Power of Color Theater - for a fun, informative take on the numerous ways color affects our lives. From creating custom hues and digital painting to understanding how different shades can impact moods, you will learn how every color tells a story.

Plus, the Colortopia mobile app allows you to take your masterpiece home, colorize photos and play with a range of vivid palettes.

Pandora - The World of "Avatar" will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na'vi River Journey. The adventure begins as you set out in canoes and venture down a mysterious, sacred river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest. The full beauty of Pandora reveals itself as the canoes pass by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures. The journey culminates in an encounter with a Na'vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music.

Guests visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios now also have the opportunity to experience "Star Wars" in the park in an all-new way, bringing that galaxy far, far away, a little bit closer.

"Star Wars" Launch Bay will take guests into the "Star Wars" saga and the film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," with special exhibits and peeks behind the scenes, special merchandise and opportunities to encounter Chewbacca and Darth Vader.

"Star Tours - The Adventures Continue" is home to a brand new adventure inspired by the film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." During the opening months, Disney will make sure that everyone who rides Star Tours will experience the new adventure. After that, it will be up to the will of the Force.

Disney also has new information about "Star Wars: Path of the Jedi." It will feature scenes from the complete "Star Wars" saga, also giving anyone new to the "Star Wars" galaxy an opportunity to get acquainted with the films.

Last, but certainly not least, is Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, which opened in early December. This re-imagined Jedi Training experience will take younglings to the secret site of an ancient Jedi temple where they will face Darth Vader along with the Seventh Sister - a new villain from the Disney XD series "Star Wars Rebels."

And work begins next year on the 14-acre "Star Wars"-themed land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Soon the Force will be with Disney's Hollywood Studios every day.

With "Star Wars" Launch Bay, the new Jedi Training experience, "Star Wars: Path of the Jedi," and a new destination in the Star Tours attraction that just opened this month, you'll be able to step into the "Star Wars" saga every time you visit Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Club Disney, the premier engagement at the new Sunset Showcase event venue, opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios early in December. But there's more. Beginning Jan. 16, 2016, the mysterious Dr. Facilier welcomes guests into Club Villain, his parlor of mystical mishaps, for a spellbinding evening. This special-ticket event, offered only on select evenings, will feature musical numbers with the help of a DJ, as well as appearances by the divas of evil - Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Cruella De Vil, and the Evil Queen. Throughout the evening, you can enjoy fiendish concoctions from the Potions Bar and savor culinary delights from New Orleans while mingling with the villains and dancing the night away.

Advance reservations are recommended and can be made up by calling 407-WDW-DINE or online at Disneyworld.com/Dine. A separate ticket admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios is required.

In 2016, Downtown Disney will transform into Disney Springs and include the opening of new dining and shopping locations. The transformation, the largest in Downtown Disney's history, will more than double the number of shopping, dining and entertainment venues from the current 70 to more than 150. New venues include APEX by Sunglass Hut, Art of Shaving, Chapel Hats, Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC, Havaianas, Sanuk Sound Lion, Erin McKenna Bakery NYC, Erwin Pearl and Dockside Margaritas.

Four new distinct areas will be included in the expansion, with The Landing opening first. Now open is the new The Boathouse restaurant overlooking the water with nautical-themed rooms, two private dining rooms for special events, three bars and a large raw bar.

The Boathouse is adjacent to the new 40-foot Italian Water Taxi and Amphicar rides that launch from land, enter the water and take guests on a 20-minute tour of the current Downtown Disney. The rides are unique - an audience greets you at departure and return.

Three additional restaurants in Downtown Disney have recently opened: Jock Lindseys Hangar Bar, an aviation-themed lounge; Morimoto Asia, the brainchild of "Iron Chef America" chef Masaharu Morimoto, a pan-Asian restaurant; and STK, an upscale modern steakhouse with a disc jockey playing eclectic music nightly.

Epcot announced plans to open a new "Frozen" ride in early 2016, called "Frozen Ever After." The Maelstrom ride, located in the Norway pavilion of the World Showcase, will be renovated into this new attraction based on Disney's popular animated film. The ride will take guests to Arendelle during the kingdom's Winter Festival, featuring favorite characters and music from the film, all with cutting-edge technology.

The new excitement in Orlando isn't limited to Disney, though.

Universal Orlando announced a new groundbreaking attraction opening in summer 2016 at Universal's Islands of Adventure. "Skull Island: Reign of King Kong" will honor one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong. Guests will board large vehicles and explore ancient temple structures while encountering hostile natives and fending off unspeakable terrors. What's not to love about that?

As you journey deep into a mysterious island, your 1930s expedition is swarmed by enormous prehistoric predators. Your only hope is the most colossal ape ever to walk the earth. As the gargantuan beasts fight for dominance, you will just fight to survive. Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional new ride for your life.

Busch Gardens Tampa introduces a new family thrill ride called Cobra's Curse, opening in 2016. This spin coaster will be the only one of its kind in the world, featuring a vertical lift and taking riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations. Key features of the ride will include an 80-foot snake icon, a trek over the park's Serengeti Plain and the mysteries of an Egyptian archaeological excavation.

Universal Orlando Resort and Loews Hotels & Resorts are working on the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. It will be the fifth onsite hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towering waterfall. The resort is expected to open in the summer of 2016.

A multi-purpose soccer stadium began construction in fall 2014 and is scheduled to open in the summer of 2016. The stadium will be located in downtown Orlando in a developing entertainment center a block away from the Amway Center. The privately financed stadium will seat between up to 28,000 fans and serve as home to the Orlando City Lions soccer team.

In the heart of Orlando's tourism corridor, International Drive has seen significant development in 2015 with the addition of several retail, dining and entertainment venues.

The Orlando Eye is a 400-foot-tall observation wheel providing breathtaking views of Central Florida in all directions within fully enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules. Madame Tussauds, the world's most famous celebrity wax attraction, offers visitors the ultimate fame experience with its signature red carpet treatment. Sea Life Orlando delivers a new wave of underwater adventures with beautiful displays of colorful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more that turn the traditional aquarium observation on its head. The Yardhouse, Tin Roof and other retail, restaurant and entertainment destinations yet to be announced will add to the experience.

Orlando welcomes one of South Beach's hottest dance clubs with the addition of Mangos Tropical Café. With 55,000 square feet of entertainment space, the Orlando location is a massive restaurant and nightlife destination offering high-energy entertainment for a wide variety of tastes. Guests will enjoy salsa, bachatta, reggae and pop performances with Floribbean Cuisine and tropical cocktails.

Escapology Orlando brings a new kind of entertainment to Orlando with its first U.S. location. The attraction challenges guests to be their own heroes in a thrilling game of adventure and mystery. Teams of up to six players are locked in a themed room with just 60 minutes to combine clues, solve puzzles and discover the key to escape.

The list of dining and entertainment options unique to Orlando continues to grow with the addition of the The Whiskey, welcoming lovers of gourmet burgers, craft cocktails and rock 'n' roll fun. With over 100 brands of whiskey for the thirsty connoisseur, the venue will also host live entertainment, from musical guests to head-to-head "food fights," where local chefs will pit recipe against recipe.

Legoland Florida Resort will open a new land called Heartlake City, set to welcome guests next summer. The expansion will include a horse-themed disc coaster called "Mia's Riding Adventure" and an interactive show titled "Friends to the Rescue."

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia. For personalized assistance in planning your trip to Orlando, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

WV Travel Team: Nashville offers a seasonal reason to sing http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151206/GZ05/151209729 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151206/GZ05/151209729 Sun, 6 Dec 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Terry Robe For the Sunday Gazette-Mail Little Jimmy Dickens really was little - four feet, 11 inches tall - but he was a big star, the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. That is, until he died last January at age 94.

Born in Bolt, West Virginia, on Dec. 19, 1920, James Cecil Dickens joined the Opry in 1948.

Hank Williams gave him the nickname Tater after Little Jimmy's hit, "Take an Old Cold Tater (and Wait)." He was the first Opry member to wear a suit made by Nudie Cohn, who sewed rhinestones onto Little Jimmy's suits later on, becoming known as the Rodeo Tailor.

Short men singing songs about taters aren't everyone's glass of sweet tea (or whiskey). But Nashville and the surrounding Tennessee countryside, roughly 400 miles southwest of Charleston, offer a unique brand of holiday-season entertainment: the Bible Belt with rhinestones, if you will.

The Grand Ole Opry started in 1925 as a radio show on WSM ("We Shield Millions," the slogan of its insurance-company owner). The Opry's home as a live show from 1943 to 1974 was the Ryman Auditorium on 5th Avenue. Today its current base is at Opryland, about 10 miles away, off Briley Parkway, the star in a family of area entertainment facilities including the Wildhorse Saloon on 2nd Avenue; the General Jackson Showboat, moored at Opryland; and the 3,000-room Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, all owned by Ryman Hospitality Properties, formerly Gaylord Broadcasting of Oklahoma City.

National Life & Accident relocated the Opry from the decaying Ryman to Opryland, its new hotel and amusement-park complex (the amusement park was eventually replaced by a mall, Opry Mills). Gaylord, which took over in 1983, expanded the Opryland facilities and, in the 1990s, reopened the Ryman, also investing in Nashville's down-at-the-heels downtown.

The Opry now returns annually in December and January to the Ryman, which is also presenting Amy Grant and Vince Gill in a "Christmas at the Ryman" show through Dec. 23.

Meanwhile, two million lights twinkle at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where rooms look out on nine acres of glass-enclosed gardens, water shows, shops, restaurants and a half-mile "riverboat" ride. This month, the resort is staging a Christmas dinner show with the Gatlin Brothers and Dr. Seuss' "How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical." Visitors can also walk through a Nutcracker-themed "indoor winter wonderland" called "ICE!"

Downtown Nashville has come back in a big way, thanks to tourism and a new generation of hipsters. Country-and-western music and style have a younger, larger fan base than ever. In every bar and boot store along Broadway, you'll see these folks who are more familiar with another West Virginian, Brad Paisley, born in Glen Dale, than with Little Jimmy (who sometimes appeared in Brad's music videos).

Little Jimmy was inducted into the Country Museum Hall of Fame in 1983. Since expanded, the Hall of Fame and Museum, a pilgrimage site and international attraction, manages to be both scholarly and entertaining, even moving at times. A special exhibition, "Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City," tells how Bob Dylan came to Nashville in 1966 to record "Blonde on Blonde," then explores his influential work with local session musicians - the "Nashville Cats" of the title - and his friendship with Johnny Cash.

The Man in Black is a true icon in these parts. An artifact-packed Johnny Cash Museum, with listening stations, mini-theater, café and shop, opened on 3rd Avenue in 2013. (Consult your dentist before visiting the Goo Goo Shop across the street.) One section of the museum focuses on Cash's former home on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville.

A reservoir, Old Hickory Lake is actually a dammed portion of the Cumberland River, which rises in the Appalachians and winds its way to and through Nashville. East of Music City, the 14-county Upper Cumberland region holds numerous options for a rewarding excursion.

Route 70 leads 30 miles east to Lebanon and its historic town square, an antiquing center. From Lebanon, a 50-mile stretch on Route 70N brings you to Cookeville, the home of Tennessee Tech University and its satellite campus, the Appalachian Center for Craft.

The seat of Putnam County, with a population of about 30,000, Cookeville calls itself Tennessee's largest "micropolitan area." Its Main Street is varied and walkable, with an art-deco movie house, the Palace, reborn in 2001 as a music and theater venue, and appetizing local landmarks like Ralph's Donut Shop and Cream City Ice Cream.

The Upper Cumberland is known for its waterfalls, found in well-maintained state parks. Several parks, including Standing Stone, north of Cookeville, and Cumberland Mountain, south of Crossville, have pleasant furnished cabins for overnight stays.

In Crossville (pop. 11,000), 35 miles farther east, the 50-year-old Cumberland County Playhouse is presenting "Scrooge" through Dec. 19 and "A Sanders Family Christmas" through Dec. 22. The sequel to the long-running bluegrass and gospel musical "Smoke on the Mountain," "A Sanders Family Christmas" takes place on Christmas Eve 1941, with Dennis Sanders of the Sanders Family Singers heading off to fight in World War II.

Also in Crossville is Stonehaus Winery, which sells cheese, fudge and gift items in addition to wines such as Muscadine ("God's gift to the sunny south"), Raspberry Mist and, a tribute to the University of Tennessee, Orange Squeeze. Tastings are free. Visitors may even get to meet the Grandfather of Tennessee Wine, Stonehaus founder Fay Wheeler, 83. Born the same year as Johnny Cash and stationed in the same Air Force unit in Landsberg, Germany, during the Korean War, Wheeler is unafraid to reveal the secret of Stonehaus's success: "We try to make wine that people like."

Terry Robe is a freelance writer who covers travel and the arts. Email Robe at terryrobe1@gmail.com.

$1 sale: Century-old Lewisburg train depot http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151204/GZ01/151209749 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151204/GZ01/151209749 Fri, 4 Dec 2015 18:55:53 -0500 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer For that hard-to-please history buff or rail fan on your Christmas shopping list, the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission is offering what might be the perfect gift: a 105-year-old railroad depot, available at a well-below Black Friday price.

For an individual interested in moving and restoring the historic depot, "we would probably take $1 for it, once liability issues are taken care of," said Skip Deegans, of the Lewisburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

The one caveat is that the building must be moved, or disassembled and reassembled, soon. A vote on whether to allow the demolition to proceed is scheduled for Dec. 14.

The Historic Landmarks Commission hopes for the depot to be restored, preferably somewhere in Lewisburg.

"The depot would make a super office, guest house, workshop or home for your model railroad," Deegans said.

The new depot owner might be entitled to some financial assistance and state tax credits for restoring the structure, located on Echols Drive in the Lewisburg Historic District, he said.

"It's being used as a residence now, and its owners want to build a new home in the same location," Deegans said.

Plans to demolish the building came to light during an October meeting of the commission. The homeowner agreed to give the commission two months to find an organization or individual willing to move and restore the structure.

"We contacted every nonprofit we could think of, but none of them had the funds or enough time to do the fundraising needed" to pay for moving and restoring the building, Deegans said. "This is kind of a last-ditch effort to save the depot."

Built in 1910, the building served as the first Lewisburg passenger and freight depot for the now long-defunct Lewisburg & Ronceverte Railroad.

"The L&R was founded in 1905 to connect Fairlea and Lewisburg to the C&O mainline at Ronceverte," Deegans said.

Steam-powered Shay locomotives operated on the line for several years, until it was electrified in 1913. The rail link continued to operate until 1931.

The 18-by-40-foot structure is one of the last remaining vestiges of the railroad's presence. A small section of its former railbed has been converted into a walking and biking trail that passes through a residential section of Lewisburg. Plans are underway to extend it six additional miles, to connect Lewisburg with Ronceverte.

The railroad apparently acquired plans for the depot from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, based on C&O's Standard Combination Station No. 1, the first of which was built about 1892. The design featured gingerbread decorations in the gables at each end. The L&R station is believed to have had waiting rooms on each side of an office, with an extension added to handle mail and baggage.

According to Tom Dixon, president of the C&O Historical Society, the L&R depot is the only surviving example of what appears to be a nearly exact C&O Standard No. 1 station.

"It deserves to be preserved as an important artifact of the American railway experience, and a reminder of how Lewisburg attempted to compensate for its not being located on a major railway," Dixon wrote in a letter to Deegans.

Deegans said the building could be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

For additional information, interested parties may contact Deegans at 304-646-8475.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

WV Travel Team: Holiday cruises create joy in not-so-white Christmas http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151129/GZ05/151129620 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151129/GZ05/151129620 Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team By By Mitzi Harrison WV Travel Team Here are some little known secrets about the winter holidays: Santa Claus is just as jolly in tropical weather, Hanukkah candles are just as lovely in a state room and pumpkin pie tastes just as good - if not better - on the ocean.

As snow and frigid air prepare to settle over Charleston, it's not too late to plan a special holiday cruise for Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year's Eve. Trade your mittens and scarves for swimsuits and beach towels. "Home for the holidays" has a strong appeal, but so does "Caribbean for the holidays."

The first thing to know is that most cruise lines do not offer special price breaks for cruises that include Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year's Eve. Those dates are almost always in high demand. But if you are willing to be flexible, you can find some good deals by booking before Thanksgiving or between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You'll save money and still get to enjoy seasonal decor and special holiday-themed events.

You can also save by driving to Boston, New York City or even Florida to board your cruise ship. Gas prices are so low that the savings on air fare make the added travel time worth considering.

The reasons for cruising at this time of year are many. First, think of the birds: What do they know that we don't? They go south for the winter. Even if you go for just a few days, wouldn't you prefer lying on a beach to shoveling snow? Besides, chances are there will be plenty more opportunities to shovel when you return. Take a few days to soak up the sun and play while you can.

Second, while few things are as enjoyable as Mom's roast turkey, that's sometimes not the case for Mom. If she takes a cruise, someone else will do the cooking - and your choice of menu will be infinitely broader. And no one in the family will have to do all the cleaning after meals.

Third, cruise ships offer so many recreational activities that, no matter how large your family, no one will be bored - or feel the need to "entertain" guests.

Finally, a cruise will take you to places where people celebrate Christmas in ways you never imagined. Take a fishing trip on a ship festooned in holiday lights.

The biggest problem you might face is having too many choices. If warmth and sunshine are your top priorities, you have the Caribbean, Hawaii and South America. If weather isn't your chief concern, consider a cruise to Europe. Cruising there in winter is off-season, with opportunities for bargains. Or perhaps you want a cruise on a more intimate scale - a river cruise in Europe, with all the Old World charm of the holidays.

One choice you won't have to make is who to leave behind. Multi-generational cruises are increasing in popularity, enabling children, parents and grandparents to spend the holidays in a way they'll never forget. Multi-generational cruising is such a large part of the cruise industry that cruise lines have started offering connecting rooms and customized packages.

For just a start, where but on a cruise ship can you find bingo, movies, scavenger hunts, swimming, bridge tournaments, pottery classes and yoga all in one place?

Cruises offer plenty of family-friendly entertainment, including concerts, comedy acts, teen clubs and supervised activities for children. Your family doesn't have to do everything together. Each person can explore his or her own interests and gather at the evening meal to share what they did or learned.

You can also arrange a private excursion on shore, instead of participating in activities with other passengers. Perhaps your family wants to tour local art galleries or historical sites on their own or explore off-beat parts of an island.

The last thing you'll need to worry about is making sure everyone can find food they like. Some family members will want to enjoy at least one meal in the formal dining room, while young children will enjoy the casual restaurants and kids' menus. Each cruise has a range of options in between. If you want to have a meal for an extended family, be sure to make reservations as soon as possible.

Consider reserving cabins at the back of the ship, on the highest floor. Because it's the least visited deck, you can make it your own family deck, whether you're meeting for coffee in the morning or for cocktails when the kids have gone to bed.

When the day of relaxation, activities and parties is done, no one has to drive home. Just go to your cabins and do it again in the morning.

And don't forget to get a family portrait. On many cruise lines, photographers set up for dinner, when many are all "decked out." (Where did you think the phrase came from?) But if someone forgets to smile, don't worry. You aren't obliged to buy the photos; and there will be more opportunities as the cruise proceeds.

Most major cruise lines welcome families, each with different packages.

Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas have 3-D theaters, ice-skating rinks and zip lines. Solariums, for adults only, give parents and grandparents a chance to relax while the kids wear themselves out. The Royal Tots and Royal Babies programs provide classes and activities for children from 6 months to 3 years old accompanied by a parent, as well as drop-off babysitting services.

In-cabin babysitting is available for children who are at least 1 year old. Aquanauts (kids 3 to 5 years old), Explorers (ages 6 to 8) and Voyagers (9 to 11 years old) have different special activities. Kids ages 12 to 14 can do karaoke, and teens 15 to 17 years old have toga parties and sports competitions.

Families enjoy Johnny Rockets, the 1950s-style luncheonette; but dining options include more than two dozen choices, including a hot dog joint and a variety of upscale restaurants.

Disney Cruise Line's Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Magic specialize in cruises for families with children ages 4 to 11. The Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab provide programming separated in two- and three-year intervals for children from 3 to 12 years old. The Oceaneer Club features themed play areas such as Andy's Room (from Toy Story). Fantasy and Dream has the Laugh Floor from Monsters, Inc. The Oceaneer Lab has a mini sound studio and an animator's studio. Kids ages 11 to 14 enjoy a special club of their own, with karaoke, computers and video games. Vibe, a club for teens ages 14 to 17, has a coffee shop ambiance. Disney's cruise ships have three pools - Mickey's Pool, for the youngest kids; Donald's Pool, for people of all ages; and a pool for adults only. You could have guessed that the facilities include Walt Disney Theatre, which features shows and movies - and you would be right. Don't miss Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island.

Princess Cruises has four ships designed for families: Crown Princess, Royal Princess, Ruby Princess and Emerald Princess. Princess Pelicans, for children ages 3 to 7, has arts and crafts, dance parties air and a variety of games. Shockwaves lets kids ages 8 to 12 enjoy scavenger hunts and science programs - for example, learning about coral reefs. Remix, for teens 13 to 17 years old, features dance lessons, foosball, onboard Olympics and karaoke. The Adventures Ashore tour program features shore excursions for families. Princess Cruises offers passengers the choice of traditional cruise dining or dining anytime from 5:30 to 10 p.m. A poolside cinema has kid-friendly matinées. An array of arts-and-crafts projects include weaving friendship bracelets, making lanyards and creating storybooks.

For a unique holiday tour, spend time visiting the magical Christmas markets of Europe. The holiday has been part of that world far longer than in the New World, and many American holiday traditions have their roots in Europe.

Manchester, England, is regarded as the Christmas capital of the United Kingdom, and with good reason. The city's Christmas markets are the largest and most festive in the country.

In Lille, France, nearly 100 chalets spread holiday cheer with an array of decorations, Nativity figurines and regional delicacies. You can even find arts and crafts from Russia and Poland there.

Vienna's Christmas markets date to the late 13th century. Today more than 20 officially sanctioned Advent markets specialize in seasonal gifts and luscious treats.

Aachen, Germany, is home to the annual Christmas City, with the cathedral and town hall transformed in lights and colors, holiday sounds and enticing aromas.

Brussels is home to Winter Wonders, including a Christmas parade, skating rink, Ferris wheel, carousels and amazing gift selections.

Strasbourg, France, has hosted a Christmas market since the late 16th century.

Prague is all the more romantic during Advent and Christmas, when outdoor concerts make shopping all the more enjoyable.

Nuremberg, Germany, is home to the renowned Christkindlesmarkt, with roasted almonds, mulled wine, gingerbread and bratwurst taking over the city beginning the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent.

In Cologne, millions of visitors from around the world flock to the quaint huts selling one-of-a-kind gifts.

Dresden, Germany, actually has 11 unique Christmas markets, some in medieval themes.

Even if you're headed for sunny climes, your first day at sea will be chilly - you're on a winter cruise, after all - so don't forget your jacket. This is true even if you depart from southern Florida. The cruise will be cool on the day you depart and the day you return.

If the stars line up correctly and you have lucky timing, you can sometimes find a good deal by booking at the last minute. The secret again is to avoid the holidays and cruise between them.

Don't be afraid to go your separate ways for a few hours. Cruises allow people to enjoy their favorite pastimes on board and ashore. You needn't spend every moment of every day together. Enjoying different activities will mean a more interesting conversation at dinnertime.

Larger cruise ships usually have more options for multi-generational groups, especially children.

When booking a cruise, be sure to ask about perks for groups, which can include deals on drinks, private parties and special meals.

Mitzi Harrison manages AAA Travel for the Charleston area and divides her time between Cincinnati and West Virginia.

For personalized assistance in planning your holiday cruise, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing - at 304-925-1136.

WV Travel Team: Take a WV culinary tour this Thanksgiving http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151122/GZ05/151129871 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151122/GZ05/151129871 Sun, 22 Nov 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Johanna Miesner WV Travel Team By By Johanna Miesner WV Travel Team If the thought of cooking and carving a 10-plus pound bird is terrifying to you - not to mention all of that clean-up - West Virginia's chefs can help make your holidays a little easier (and tastier).

Chefs around the state are fine-tuning their mountain flavor to create lavish Thanksgiving buffets, lunches and dinners. Don't let the stress of holiday cooking overwhelm you. Instead, enjoy an easy, world-class mountain meal with those you are thankful for.

Here's a list of just a few of your tasty options:

Nov. 26, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Blennerhassett Hotel buffet offers traditional Thanksgiving fare as well as specialties like a seafood station and extensive salad bar. The annual feast is a regional favorite, so you'll probably want to make a reservation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building's European-style decor and a storied past make it a quaint spot to share your family time. After your meal, take a drive through the picturesque Julia-Ann Square Historic District and take in some of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the state.

Thanksgiving Day Feast: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thanksgiving Gobbler Gala: 6 to 10 p.m.

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Allegheny Mountains, the sprawling grounds of The Greenbrier resort offer a Thanksgiving holiday full of Southern hospitality and enough activities to work off all that stuffing. In addition to the traditional feast, enjoy events like the Golden Feather Fetch Family Scavenger Hunt, Gobbler Gala Dinner Party, Black Friday shopping and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Reservations are required.

Order by Monday.

If you'd like to enjoy your meal from your own dining table (or in front of the football game), Tamarack offers Thanksgiving To Go. Famed Greenbrier-trained chefs will prepare a meal for up to 10 people. Dinners include a 12-14-lb. turkey, cornbread stuffing, fresh cranberry relish, pies and more! When you pick up your feast, be sure to take a stroll around the building. The Tamarack's wide selection of West Virginia artisan-made products makes it the perfect place to get a head start on your holiday shopping!

Nov. 26, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Celebrate the season at Stonewall Resort's Adirondack-style lodge in the charming Stillwaters restaurant. The menu includes a seafood raw bar, farm table bounty and a plethora of salads. Dine to the sounds of The Jenny Wilson Jazz Duo in the ballroom. And just like home, Thanksgiving leftovers will be served at TJ Muskies beginning at 9:30 p.m. For larger groups, private dining rooms are available. Reservations required.

Nov. 26, noon, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Visit for the day or take advantage of the Thanksgiving Package at Glade Springs Resort. Enjoy a Thanksgiving Day buffet of all your favorites, including roast turkey, prime rib and a host of traditional dishes and desserts. Choose from three seating times (noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.) in the beautiful Bright Ballroom. The Thanksgiving Package includes 3-day, 2-night accommodations and daily breakfast, as well as the buffet. Reservations required.

Nov. 26, noon to 7 p.m.

The Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown is well known for its world-class service and old-world elegance. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal from a scenic bluff overlooking the Potomac River. Specializing in an extensive menu of German and American dishes, the Bavarian Inn cuts no corners when it comes to Thanksgiving. Try unique entrées like Schweinebraten, Wild Boar Goulash, and Bavarian Sauerbraten alongside traditional Thanksgiving fare.

Nov. 26, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the 1863 Grill in Elkins, where locals love the savory entrées and warm service. Chardonnay-roasted turkey with gravy, cherry-glazed ham, smoked salmon canapes and a wide variety of seasonal desserts are just a sample of the feast that awaits. Spend the night at the neighboring Isaac Jackson Hotel and indulge in the Grill's famous cinnamon rolls for a post-Thanksgiving treat!

Nov. 26, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Reserve a table at the Waterfront Hotel in Morgantown for a Thankcgiving buffet sure to please the whole family! The kids can eat easy at the children's buffet, while you pile up a plate of traditional tastes from the carving station, plus a chef's selection of seasonal dishes, cheeses, seafood and more. Reservations required.

Taste more West Virginia flavor: gotowv.com/101-guide-listings.

Real. Excitement * Real. Family Time * Real. Mountain Flavor * Real. Adventure * Real. Fun * Real. Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. You can find it here. Call 800-CALL WVA or visit GoToWV.com. Share your Real. West Virginia stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #GoToWV and #RealWV.

WV Travel Team: Planning a Mexico trip that's fun for all generations http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151115/GZ05/151119826 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151115/GZ05/151119826 Sun, 15 Nov 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team By By Ariadne T. Moore WV Travel Team Brittany Burns knows the travel industry. She manages National Travel's US Courts Travel department and regularly sends clients around the world. So when she decided to take a family trip to Mexico, she knew exactly what she wanted.

Planning the trip was no easy matter, as Brittany was taking her mother and her two-year-old son. Everything needed to be accessible and child-friendly, so ultimately it made the most sense to stay at an all-inclusive resort. Brittany chose the Cantalonia Riviera Maya Resort and Spa, which is located in an exclusive area of Puerto Aventuras on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

The multigenerational family trip is a leading trend in the travel industry, with many of the heaviest hitters marketing directly to this niche. In fact, now 36 percent of all family vacations will be multigenerational. From safaris to cruises to resorts, everyone in the market is looking to serve the global need for the new "family friendly" vacation.

So why has the multigenerational vacation become so popular? Experts agree that in our increasingly busy lives, families have a growing sense that it is important to take time out of the year to relax together. Also, in changing economies, grandparents often figure an important role in raising children as both parents may work outside of the home.

The cost of global travel has decreased, and is now accessible to a larger economic bracket, so many multigenerational trips focus on giving an experience to a grandchild (or grandparent) who may not have had the opportunity in past years.

In the end, Brittany says, her family trip was amazing and that they already plan on doing another next year.

One of the highlights of the trip was being able to swim with dolphins and manatees at Dolphin Discovery ($159 for adults and $89 for children includes a briefing, one-hour swim and buffet meal). Brantley, her son, particularly liked the baby manatee.

They also enjoyed visiting the town of Tulum and the Tulum Mayan ruins. The ruins at Tulum are a 13th century walled site which is one of the last cities inhabited by Mayans prior to the Spanish invasion of the 15th century.

Brittany said that the locals were friendly and hospitable, and the food was fantastic everywhere they ate during the trip. She recommends the region for multigenerational trips because there are plenty of activities that appeal to everyone, as well as the option to simply relax on the beach when little ones get tired.

If you are interested in planning a multigenerational trip, there are some key factors to consider:

n Have reasonable expectations.

It is critical to choose a location that makes sense for every age group that will be on the trip. While visiting Paris might sound perfect to mom and teenager, small children may be less than intrigued, and older family members might not be up to extensive walking tours. Similarly, choosing activities that everyone can enjoy is important to the success of the trip. Over-scheduling vacation days will lead to disappointment, so it is best to choose a location and activities that allow for flexibility.

n Set a budget in advance that everyone will adhere to.

It's not fair, particularly to young children, when certain people in their group get to do activities they do not. Be thoughtful of everyone's financial capabilities in advance, or be willing to foot the bill.

n Let someone else help you plan.

While you and your family may already have a favorite destination in mind, travel agents are constantly educating themselves on new offers and opportunities. Even if you ultimately choose to book a vacation yourself, consulting with an agent could open your eyes to options you never considered.

n Look beyond hotels.

For larger family groups traveling, looking beyond hotels can not only save money but also offer some unparalleled opportunities. With the accessibility of the Internet, it is possible to rent entire villas for less money than booking three hotel rooms.

These rentals often offer the comforts of home, local culture and beautiful vistas. Many rentals are also equipped with budget-saving amenities, such as full kitchens, private pools and separate bedrooms.

n Consider a cruise or an all-inclusive vacation.

Cruises and all-inclusive vacations are other popular options for family trips, especially since many cruise lines offer deals that allow kids to sail for free or at a discounted rate. Cruises also excel at offering plenty of on- and off-board variety to a wide range of age groups. With all the food and entertainment options, everyone in your group is sure to find something that suits their needs.

If you and your clan would rather stay on land, hotels and resorts offer kids-stay-free promotions throughout the year, which can significantly reduce your vacation expenses.

n Research your travel insurance options.

Travel insurance is worth considering since it can offer protection if a trip doesn't go as planned, with coverage available for trip cancellation and emergency medical care.

With the right planning and appropriate expectations, a multigenerational vacation can be a worth a lifetime of memories. Speak with your travel adviser and plan in advance to make the most of your time and budget.

Safe travels,


For more information or to speak with a certified specialist, call 304-357-0801 or email vacationplanner@nationaltravel.com.

Ariadne Moore is the Director of Quality Assurance at National Travel, a frequent contributor to the Life and Style section, published fiction and poetry author, and world traveler. She may be reached with questions regarding this article at ariadnem@nationaltravel.com.

Dia de los Muertos: Adventure and reflection in the heart of Mexico http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151115/GZ05/151119827 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151115/GZ05/151119827 Sun, 15 Nov 2015 00:01:00 -0500 Rachel Molenda By Rachel Molenda I woke up in Mexico City around 6:30 in the morning, stirred by our too-chilly hotel air conditioning. I could only remember Celsius versus Fahrenheit based on what our flight crew had told us the night before as we came into DF airport with an unnerving but welcome landing. I struggled to make the adjustment before eventually turning the fan off altogether. I needed to see the city. Our lengthy journey - from 9 a.m. Eastern time to 9 p.m. central time -brought us to the city in pitch darkness, the only light sparkling from the houses and streets below. The Earth looked like constellations as we flew above.

When you see a city for the first time at night, you're only seeing its pieces, the ones brightly lit as you speed by in the Uber that costs you half of what the taxis charge. The supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers. All important but lacking the context of what surrounds them, what hugs their boundaries. For Mexico City, that's mountains.

From our hotel I can see part of town - one of the largest in the world - and in the distance, big purple silhouetted peaks draped in golden sunrise and soft fog. I tried to wake my fiance to show him the magnificence, but he sleepily told me, "I don't want to look, because if I see it I won't go back to sleep." Smart.

I don't think I closed my eyes again until late that night. The purpose of our trip was two-fold: visit my brother, climb a mountain. Aaron, my brother, is a Peace Corps volunteer in Tlaxcala, the capital city of the Mexican state of the same name. It's "the land of bread and tortillas," and it's also known for pulque, a tangy and opaque drink that's said to have medicinal properties. It's made from the fermented sap of the maguey, a plant related to the agave. With the promise of aiding digestion and boosting immune systems, I chose to house a few glasses one rainy afternoon at a pulqueria in the Tlaxcala centro.

I'd been nursing a cold (read: I'd been continuously defeated by my serious cold) that cut short our hike up La Malinche, one of several mountains in the region that reaches 14,000 feet. Aaron turned to me at about 12,000 feet to say, "It's about to get real."

If the climb we'd been making wasn't real, surely, I thought, I will need to be carried off the mountain. We descended. While Pamela and Madda, Aaron's girlfriend and colleague, scrunched their noses in disdain from talk of pulque one night, he and Jeff (my fiance) seemed to think it was great earlier that afternoon. We ordered two pitchers and they got to work.

"It's a taste you can't really explain. You can only really feel," Aaron said, as I rolled my eyes at him.

Jeff, who was partial to the guyava flavor, said, "I would get this as a drink all the time."

Me, I loved the natural flavor. It's yeasty, tangy and kind of stinky - all things I love about certain foods and drinks.

I wasn't sure what to expect from our time with Aaron. The options were vast, but we'd found little online about Tlaxcala. We were left to rely on Aaron, a fun but potentially introverted tour guide.

We could measure our days by what we drank. Water in the morning. Pulque in the afternoon. Coffee at night. Aaron and Pamela took us to cafés all over the area throughout the week, and while we had espresso, chocolate and tea during those late hours, we never wanted for sleep.

We were in this spiritual place during a spiritual time, as people were preparing for Dia de los Muertos. This is a time of reflection, when families come together to celebrate their loved ones who have died. Altars are made to the departed and offerings of their favorite food, drink, candies are given.

"It's a serious, very emotional time," Pamela told us over coffee one evening. Fields of orange bobble-headed flowers line the road from Tlaxcala to Puebla and further. These flowers are cempasuchil (we know them as marigolds) and they're most prominent in October and November as families prepare for the holiday. Standing atop Tlachihualtepetl - what would have been the largest pyramid in the world had it survived Spanish colonization - and the church there (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios), I could see patches of these holy flowers making up the quilted landscape. Aaron told me living in Mexico has become more normal than living in the U.S.

As we wandered this new place, I realized my once introverted brother has changed. Still quiet, he's becoming more fluent in Spanish. He's making friends. He is beginning a new relationship. He's confidently navigating the fabric of his new home. Jeff and I came to Tlaxcala to climb a mountain, but what we were a party to was my brother's ascent.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5102 or follow @rachelmolenda on Twitter.

WV Travel Team: A museum trail through the Northern Shenandoah http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151108/GZ05/151109563 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151108/GZ05/151109563 Sun, 8 Nov 2015 00:01:00 -0500 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia - famous in song, story and heritage - is a lush green region some 200 miles long and 25 to 40 miles wide. Tucked between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the first range of Appalachians to the west, the valley's northern boundary is the Potomac River.

Regional geology includes limestone, sandstone and a line of thermal springs. Heritage spans the centuries from being America's first frontier through bloody battles of the Civil War and the industrial development of the railroads to the still thriving 18th century towns and cities that dominate the area.

The natural thoroughfare north/south through the Valley is rooted in prehistoric times, evolving from the Great Indian Trail to the Great Wagon Road. When it became the Antebellum Valley Road, it was paved with macadam. Along the same route, today's Interstate 81 strings together a quartet of museums in the northern Shenandoah - two in West Virginia and two in Virginia.

New Market Battlefield Museum

Civil War history is a powerful presence throughout the Valley. In New Market, Virginia, it is focused on both the intact buildings in town as well as the New Market Battlefield Museum on the western side of the Interstate.

The museum's Hall of Valor commemorates one of the war's most heroic actions when 257 Virginia Military Institute cadets marched from their classrooms in Lexington north through the Valley to fight - and win - in the 1864 Battle of New Market. It was the first and last time American cadets fought in a pitched battle. Ten cadets died in the pastoral scene of rolling fields with towering Mount Jackson in the background.

An impressive and busy two-story museum owned and operated by VMI marks the entry to the battlefield traversed by an accessible mile-long trail complete with views of the Shenandoah River and the antebellum Bushong Farmhouse used by both sides as a hospital during the battle and now the visitor center for the 300-acre park. Along with well-designed exhibit halls, and its distinctive metal rotunda, the museum has a notable wall-sized stained glass window depicting war in the Shenandoah.

The Museum and Battlefield park are open daily 9am to 5pm.

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley

Largest of the institutions we're exploring, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley has a list of superlatives to its credit. Located on the 214-acre Glen Burnie estate, the museum is the largest green space and only working farm within the city limits of Winchester, Virginia.

The custom built 50,000- square-foot structure has seven display galleries including one devoted to special changing exhibits.

The current traveling exhibit is Cut! Costumes and the Cinema, featuring 43 period costumes worn in 25 movies including both Academy Award nominees and winners. It stays at the museum through February 28. The extravagant costume exhibit is the 25th special display since the museum opened with topics focusing on fine arts, pop culture and regional themes including Patsy Cline, quilts, photographs, Civil War and safes.

A common response to the museum from travelers who stop on the way through the Valley is amazement at how much it has to offer. The History of the Valley collection ranges from John Brown's Raid in Harpers Ferry to the major pottery industry of the 18th & 19th centuries. Touch and video screens are tech support for interpretation.

Unexpected, and among the most amazing of the 11,000 items in the collection, is the permanent miniature gallery. It's hard to think of the elaborate structures as dollhouses especially when the multiple rooms are filled with tiny detailed antique furniture and working chandeliers. The miniatures are the personal collection of the late R. Lee Taylor, partner of the estate owner, Julian Wood Glass. A descendant of James Wood, founder of Winchester, Glass established the museum's foundation to house his many collections. An art sampling worthy of the finest gallery, the current founder's exhibit has work by noted 18th and 19th century portrait painters including Gilbert Stuart and Sir Joshua Reynolds. One of Rembrandt Peale's George Washington portraits is also on display.

There are more than traditional exhibits showcased in the Shenandoah Valley Museum. The building interior is impressive especially its ceilings. The Glen Burnie house, ancestral home of founder Glass, and its 12 formal gardens are open April through October. More than 150 public programs are held a year including popular gardening workshops and gallery talks. Current plans for the museum's next decade focus on developing the land, making it the Central Park of Winchester. A system of trails on the working farm will allow visitors to walk among the cows. A silo is to be transformed into observation and art space.

The museum is open daily except Tuesdays from 10am to 4pm. Thanks to the sponsorship of Howard Shockey Inc, admission is free to everyone on Wednesdays.

Kids by George

The well-designed and innovative Childrens Museum that is a product of the Washington Heritage Trail in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle provides hands-on experiences. Its 6,000 square feet of exhibits and activities exist on four levels of the part new, part historic Caperton Train Station in downtown Martinsburg. Trackside is the oldest part of the building, the Old Berkeley Hotel and original train station waiting area. The old ticket counter is dominated by a Lego construction of historic downtown streets created by local children. Sharing the room is the Working on the Railroad exhibit displaying artifacts and hands-on activities connected with railroad jobs from Pullman porter to station agent as well as mechanics and other jobs that still exist today.

Next level up is a series of galleries built around housing types of particular eras. Children can pass from room to room through crawl space tunnels moving from a Native American wigwam to a 19th century shop. The final gallery has the 3-D video bicycle ride along the three-county scenic byway pedal-powered by stationary bikes - a great idea hindered by the clumsy and often ineffective 3-D glasses.

The entry level is dominated by a young George Washington in a canoe suspended overhead and the exciting map table video.

The top level is the Pedestrian Bridge that allows views of the 13-acre historic Roundhouse structures and property. More railroad activity is featured on the closed bridge where kids can slap large magnets on blank train cars depicting various products transported ranging from coal to passengers. No matter how alluring the exhibits, nothing can match the excitement shown by the kids as they rush to the Pedestrian Bridge windows to see and hear a real train - freights passing through on the working CSX tracks or passenger trains of Amtrak stopping at the Martinsburg station as they have since the trains first arrived in 1842.

Kids by George draws family and school visits to Martinsburg promising to keep the kids occupied for a couple hours. The museum is open 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Museum of the Berkeley Springs

Smallest by far of the museums we're visiting, the Museum of the Berkeley Springs is satisfying in its expression of the story of the area. As the country's first spa, Berkeley Springs has a story that far exceeds its size - and this tiny museum manages to capture and interpret that story effectively.

The natural magic of the warm mineral water is the reason for all the exhibits, both heritage and geological. Water shows up everywhere. The determinant natural history of the area shares display space with heritage and the prize artifact in the choice collection is an 800-pound, silica crystal taken from the nearby mountainside. Geologic mysteries of the water are explored but not answered - where does the water come from? and why is it warm? A multi-billion year timeline targets the birth of the springs to 250 million years ago. Other engaging artifacts on display are historic bathing suits and period photos, the traditional steam cabinet used in the baths, maps and vivid photos explaining the fires of town, a rare fossil collection and more. George Washington's footsteps are everywhere in his favorite resort town from his exploring youth to his will that assigned value to his lots in the town.

There are occasional special lectures and events. The free museum is open daily in summer; weekends from March to December.

The old Roman Bath House celebrates 200 years in 2015. Roman baths of the famed mineral waters are available to the public daily. year 'round on the ground floor of the building; the museum is on the second floor.

Like the real life trains that bring energy to the Kids by George museum, the working baths and 24 / 7 open display of spring pools and channels make reenacting the rich history of Berkeley Springs as easy as going down the stairs.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," a guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta have released the second printing of "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both books are available around West Virginia and from WVBookCo.com.

13 Spooky Places That'll Make Your Spine Tingle http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151025/GZ05/151029679 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20151025/GZ05/151029679 Sun, 25 Oct 2015 00:01:00 -0500 Compiled by the GoToWV Team By Compiled by the GoToWV Team The Mountain State harbors its share of ghostly entities, from Civil War soldiers to extraterrestrial beings to murder victims seeking justice. Here are just a few spooky places to visit that will set your spine tingling and your heart thumping. Before you set off on your explorations, don’t forget to pack your flashlight, voice recorder and an electromagnetic fields meter, for detecting ghosts!

In the late 1700s in what is known today as Mercer County, a bloody skirmish took place between white settler Mitchell Clay and the local Shawnee Indian tribe, resulting in the deaths of three of Clay’s children and several Shawnee warriors. In the 1920s, a local businessman purchased the land and turned it into an amusement park. But some say the land is cursed: Over the next few decades several people died at the park, which was finally abandoned in 1966.

Weeds choke the rusted-out remains of the Ferris wheel and swings, where visitors have reported seeing the ghosts of a man and a little girl in a pink dress. In a field near the park, an archaeological dig has uncovered Native American bones and a marker memorializes the place where two of Clay’s children died. Is the land cursed? You be the judge. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is open for paranormal tours and the park also hosts a Dark Carnival in October.

The Gothic stone structure of the old Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum just looks haunted, so it’s no surprise there are ghost stories associated with this Civil War-era hospital in Weston. Construction began on the asylum in 1858 but was disrupted for a few years when the grounds were used as a camp for Union soldiers. Originally built to house 250 patients and at one time known as Weston State Hospital, the facility reached its peak in the 1950s with 2,400 patients jammed into overcrowded and poor conditions. The hospital closed permanently to patients in 1994 but eventually was reopened as a tourist destination. Witnesses have reported doors slamming, shadowy figures and bloodcurdling screams from within the building’s walls. The asylum offers ghost tours and history tours throughout the year as well as a haunted house and other events for Halloween.

The historic Blennerhassett Hotel in Parkersburg is said to be haunted by the ghost of William Chancellor, the man who built this Queen Anne-style hotel in the late 1800s. Guests have also reported run-ins with ghostly children playing tag in the hallways and a man in a tuxedo who appears in the hotel’s mirrors. Mysterious noises have been reported as well, including knocking on doors and music coming from the empty ballroom late at night. The Haunted Parkersburg ghost tour begins in the lobby of the Blennerhassett Hotel and the hotel also offers a special “Haunted Parkersburg” overnight package.

Home to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, the Eastern Panhandle town of Harpers Ferry is said to house a number of restless spirits dating back hundreds of years. Ghost Tours of Harpers Ferry guides visitors on an evening walking tour of some of the town’s most haunted sites. Ghost sightings have included that of a woman clad in 18th century fashion peering from the window of Harper House, while at St. Peter’s Catholic Church — which served as a hospital during the Civil War — visitors have spotted the ghost of a wounded soldier and an old priest. While on your tour, if you hear the distant strains of fife and drum, don’t worry. That’s just the phantom army performing one of its marching drills.

Opened in 1875, the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville is said to be one of the most haunted prisons in the United States. It’s no wonder, as the prison was the setting for riots, fires, and nearly 100 executions during its time in operation. Today visitors can tour the lockup areas and prison yard and view the electric chair dubbed “Old Sparky.” For the bravest souls, overnight sessions are offered in which participants may bring their own flashlights and ghost-hunting equipment to explore the prison after dark. Visitors have reported sightings of phantom inmates and a “shadow man” wandering the premises, as well as unexplained noises, voices and cold spots. In addition to regular tours offered year round, the prison stages a haunted house every October.

Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders traversing the 72-mile-long North Bend Rail Trail in Ritchie County might want to proceed with caution around Tunnel No. 19, also known as the Silver Run Tunnel. It was here on a foggy evening in 1910 that an engineer spied a young woman in a flowing white dress standing on the tracks. He brought his train to a screeching halt but when he went to look for the woman she had vanished. His predecessors also spotted the same woman on the tracks, and each time she vanished. No one knows the origin of the mystery woman, although some bones were said to have been found under a house near the tunnel. She is still spotted on occasion to this day. Those who wish to explore the tunnel are advised to bring a flashlight, even during the day. The curved, damp tunnel is 1,376 feet long — beyond sunlight’s reach.

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County commemorates the site of West Virginia’s last significant Civil War battle. On Nov. 6, 1963, when a crushing advance by Brigadier General William Averell’s Union troops drove Brigadier General John Echols’s Confederate troops south into present-day Virginia. The battlefield site was established as a state park in 1929 as a memorial to the casualties in the battle. A wooden observation tower, hiking trails and picnic tables mark the grounds where Civil War soldiers fought, died – and some say, still remain. Visitors have reported sounds of galloping horses and sightings of the ghosts of a headless Confederate soldier and another soldier lying asleep against a tree.

Known in Civil War times as the “wickedest city along the Ohio River,” Parkersburg now houses a colorful collection of haunts. Learn more about these spirits during Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, which meet at the historic Blennerhassett Hotel. Famous ghosts of Parkersburg include Margaret Blennerhassett, who is said to walk the rooms of her beloved mansion on Blennerhassett Island, while at Riverview Cemetery the ghost of a sea captain has been sighted on several occasions. On Quincy Hill, where a hospital tent was located during the Civil War, you might encounter the ghosts of Confederate soldiers.

In 1952, three boys in Flatwoods spotted a glowing object cross the night sky and come to rest on a neighbor’s farmland. They ran to the UFO landing site, where they were met by a pulsating ball of fire and a pungent mist that made their eyes burn. It was then that they saw a creature at least 7 feet tall with glowing eyes. It emitted a shrill hissing noise and the witnesses fled in terror. The next day the county sheriff and a reporter from the Braxton Democrat newspaper visited the site but found no trace of the encounter other than the odd smell. Several other residents have reported seeing the Braxton County Monster, also known as the Flatwoods Monster or the Green Monster — but no one has been able to identify exactly what it was or where it came from. Today visitors can get their photo made sitting in one of several oversized Braxton County Monster chairs that have been installed throughout the county.

West Virginia’s coal mining heritage is a rich and sometimes tragic one. Whipple Company Store, in Fayette County pays tribute to the stories, legends and lore that made up this hardworking way of life. This unique architectural structure once served as the center of coal camp life, selling everything from candy to caskets. During October Whipple Company Store offers a special, after-dark, flashlight tour of the creepiest areas of the 100-year-old building, including the elevator shaft, ballroom, walk-in safe, hidden floor, embalming room and basement. The unexplainable sights and sounds reported have made the old store a popular destination for ghost hunters.

Lewisburg Ghost Tours guides guests on a candlelit walk through Lewisburg Historic District, a hotbed of paranormal activity, some say. Late at night you might hear the cries and moans of injured soldiers coming from the Old Stone Church, which served as a hospital during the Civil War. Meanwhile, at the historic General Lewis Inn, guests have reported encounters with as many as three mischievous spirits. The area also is home to arguably the state’s most famous entity – the Greenbrier Ghost, also known as Zona Heaster Shue – the murdered woman whose ghostly appearance helped convict her killer husband. A historical marker commemorating the famous ghost is located on U.S. 60 in Sam Black Church near the I-64 entrance ramp.

In 1966, residents of Point Pleasant first reported seeing a tall, winged creature with glowing red eyes. As with the case of the Braxton County Monster, it was believed that this creature — dubbed Mothman — was an extraterrestrial being. The appearance of mysterious men in black around the same time further solidified the belief that government agents were in town investigating UFO sightings. Others sought to link the creature to the tragedy of the Silver Bridge, which collapsed on December 15, 1967, resulting in the deaths of 46 people. Today, Mothman has become a pop culture icon in Point Pleasant, where a 12-foot-tall metallic statue bears his likeness and the town hosts a Mothman Festival every September. At the Mothman Museum, visitors can study newspaper clippings and other exhibits or book a bus tour of the TNT area — the old World War II munitions plant outside of town where Mothman was first sighted.

During the prohibition years Logan resident Mamie Thurman lived the life of a carefree flapper. On June 21, 1932, her murdered body was found along remote 22 Mine Road. A handyman was charged with her murder, but many suspect it was his employer — a prominent banker with whom Mamie was said to be having an affair — who actually killed her. Adding to the mystery is that her body seems to have disappeared and no record of her interment has been found. Today Mamie’s restless spirit is said to haunt the area seeking justice and a place of rest. It’s rumored that if you drive your car to the place where Mamie’s body was found and put it in neutral the vehicle will roll uphill.

Real. Excitement * Real. Family Time * Real. Mountain Flavor * Real. Adventure * Real. Fun * Real. Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. You can find it here. Call 800-CALL WVA or visit GoToWV.com. Share your Real. West Virginia stories on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #GoToWV and #RealWV.