Altamonte Springs Restaurant Review: Maison & Jardin Restaurant and Lounge

┬áLet’s forget for a moment that we are in Florida. Maison & Jardin will take you to an enchanted place of neoclassical architecture and European cuisine. The ambience is only surpassed by their food. They have been in business since 1958 and offer appetizers, soups, desserts and entrees.

Maison & Jardin offers a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They have a full wine list. They also specialize in desserts to include cheesecake and ice cream. As for their entrees, they have beef, prime rib, seafood, chicken and pork loin. My favorite is their seafood dish. Obviously they have something for almost every taste.

Maison & Jardin is perfect for corporate functions or holiday parties. There is plenty of room to seat groups of many sizes. Even wedding receptions have been held there. They offer online reservations which makes coordinating these functions a breeze.

The staff is friendly and fast. We never had a problem with our drinks running low or our needs not being met. They were very courteous and treated us with care. It is obvious that the staff is well trained in what they do.

One drawback is the price. It is a bit pricey. However, the food and service doesn’t disappoint and it is realistically what you would expect to pay for such quality. I also believe that for as long as they have been in business they are definitely doing something right and it shows.

If you are in the mood to dress to impress then this is the place you want to take your date. Beautiful decor, great food and an attentive staff. A first date or an anniversary dinner, Maison & Jardin will not disappoint.

Maison & Jardin Restaurant and Lounge

430 Wymore Rd

Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

(407) 862-4410

Fun Things to Do in St. Louis

When one thinks of St. Louis, MO. you automatically think of the Gateway Arch. It is quite a neat piece of architecture. For a fee you can take a ride all the way to the top. If you get claustrophobic you may want to re think going up. It is a pretty tight space so I have been told. I didn’t go up when I was there pretty much for that reason. If heights and tight spaces don’t bother you then you will probably love it! It is definitely a Kodak moment though when you see it.

It is always fun to catch a Cardinals game when you are in St. Louis. Even if the Cardinals aren’t your favorite team it is still a fun experience for the whole family. Their field is pretty new and very nice.

Another fun option for the baseball fan in your family is the Sluggers Museum. That is a cool place! You get to see how bats are made and they have life size statues of players and announcers and even a small scale field. They even have batting cages. They have nice gift shop and you can purchase personalized bats while you are there.

Other fun activities for the kids (and adults too) is their laser tag and miniature golf center. St. Louis has a Six Flags and a water park. They have a beautiful botanical garden a fun science center too. St. Louis has a wonderful zoo as well. We went there on vacation a few years ago and we were not disappointed. The best part is the zoo is absolutely FREE!

The World Aquarium is definitely a must see when you are in St. Louis. You can see sharks, stingrays and all sorts of reptiles and fish from all around the world. The World Aquarium is a little bit pricey but worth it if you love sea creatures and marine life.

While you are in St. Louis you can visit the theater, lots of choices of different museums and even a symphony orchestra. There will never be a dull moment when you vacation in St. Louis! For a FREE visitor’s guide click HERE

St. Louis is a great vacation spot to take the kids. There is so much to see and so many things your kids will want to do. The best part is there is many things you can do for absolutely free! Who can beat that! As I mentioned earlier the zoo is free, but so is the Science Center, The St. Louis Art Museum, The Missouri History Museum, The new Citygarden, a place of pretty fountains and wading pools. The kids will love this place! The Municipal Opera also is free as is the World Bird Sanctuary. You better plan about a week long vacation to get it all covered!

A place you will not want to miss is Grant Farms. This is another FREE attraction, BUT parking will set you back around $11.00. You will see tons of great animals from all over the world. You will find the beautiful Clydesdale horses here.

So what are you waiting for? Get to planning your fun St. Louis vacation today!

Where to Stay in Hana, Hawaii

Travaasa Hana is one of the most popular places to stay after having taking on the challenge of driving on the famous road to Hana. Located at 5031 Hana Highway, the Travaasa Hana is an ideal base camp for the traveler or adventurer looking for unique accommodations off the beaten path.

Travaasa Hana located on the island of Maui is situated just 2 miles from beautiful Hamoa Beach and offers guests an island view of Hawaiian life, hospitality and cuisine. Guests feasts on regional fresh fish, produce, fruits, vegetables and exquisitely prepared beef. Several island specialties such as breadfruit and coconut milk are also incorporated in the daily meals at Travaasa Hana, prepared by the on-site chef who was raised in Hana.

Technically Travaasa Hana is your home away from home while visiting Hana. The property features laundry facilities, hot tubs, spa services provided by local skilled therapists, and access to an assortment of local activities such as horseback riding, bike riding and water sports. Many of the suites are situated more like private homes providing a real insiders experience of island life in Hana.

Located off the beaten path the Travaasa Hana is approximately 3 hours from the airport and is an ideal choice for the person looking for beach life in an extended stay location. Where this is not a beachfront property, Travaasa Hana overlooks the ocean and is set perched on beautiful Hawaiian cliffs.

Travaasa Hana is an ideal place for the person truly looking to get away from it all including the rat race, and is an ideal place for a health and wellness retreat. You won’t find the scene normally seen at beach front chain hotels, in fact there are no malls, clocks, telephones, televisions or anything of the like, though the Hasegawa General Store is nearby to provide all of the rations you might need while living off the grid.

Travelers to Hana, Hawaii and the Travaasa Hana can reach the property by flying directly into the Maui Kahului Airport and either rent a car or take car service to the hotel.

www.travaasa.com

St. Augustine Motel Review: The Vilano Beach Motel

The Vilano Beach Motel brings value to a vacation in St. Augustine. Located on Vilano Beach, the Vilano Beach Motel offers a clean, comfortable place to stay for a reasonable price.

If you are looking for a place to basically sleep and shower the Vilano Beach Motel will suit your needs nicely. It is not the newest lodging place in St. Augustine, but they do keep it well maintained. The rooms are equipped with kitchens which are fully loaded except of course for food. There were plenty of towels, shampoo and soap. Anything we needed was a simple phone call away to the front desk.

Sometimes it isn’t the luxurious amenities of a place, it’s the people who make it special. Such is the case at the Vilano Beach Motel. The staff was very friendly. In fact, striking up a conversation with them came as natural as talking to an old friend.

The location is perfect as it is located very close to the beach. If sand and salt water isn’t your thing then they have a pool that is well maintained and open all the time. My daughter was so excited to be able to swim in the pool in the evening after a day at the beach.

The Vilano Beach Motel is ideal for any type of visitor. Families will enjoy staying here, as well as couples and singles. Pets are even welcome.

Depending on your needs, there may be a few things that may or may not matter. For example, it is an old building and there is no breakfast in the lobby. However, the price you pay is lower based probably in part because of the age of the building.

There are a few restaurants nearby and a convenience store which is great for anything you may need.

I would recommend staying at the Vilano Beach Motel if you are looking for inexpensive lodging with adequate facilities and more of a small business feel. However, if you require the free continental breakfast, newer building and amenities then you would probably feel better staying at a higher priced hotel.

Vilano Beach Motel

50 Vilano Road

Saint Augustine, FL 32095

Weekend Getaway Guide for Downtown San Diego

Whether you’re in San Diego for a conference during the day or vacationing, spending a week or just a weekend in San Diego offers individuals and families a huge selection of entertainment, culture, and delicious foods. When I travel to San Diego, I enjoy staying downtown. Beyond the typical amusement parks, beaches, museums, and historical sites of the city, here are a few hidden gems nestled in the downtown area that you don’t want to miss on your next trip.

Where to Stay

The US Grant
326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
619-232-3121

This Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel is unique inside and out in the heart of downtown San Diego. The standard rooms are small but quaint with old world charm. Just walking up to the hotel in the evening makes one feel that they are in for a special treat without the snobbery. The exterior gives one a sense of royalty as the architecture is highlighted with a golden hue. The staff was knowledgeable as well as detail-oriented and approachable.

The US Grant is conveniently located within walking distance to the Westfield Horton Plaza. This hotel has the basic amenities, but you’ll want to venture out to enjoy the wonderful cultural delicacies nearby the Plaza and the NBC Building at 225 Broadway, located in the Horton Plaza district.

Where to Shop, Dine and Work Out

Westfield Horton Plaza
324 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
619-239-8180

This is an interesting mall; some might call it an eclectic use of architecture and design. If you only have a few days in San Diego or a week for a convention, you’ll never need to go further than the Westfield Horton Plaza to meet all of your needs. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry, as the maze of escalators and levels may leave you dumbfounded. I saw this as part of its charm.

The Westfield has many options for your pleasure. Fast food or fine dining, over a hundred stores to shop on multi levels, exercise at 24 Hour Fitness Sport, movies at the Cinema Times, space to hold special events, and my favorite find, the San Diego Repertory Theater.

Unique Local Entertainment in Downtown San Diego

San Diego Repertory Theatre
79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
619-544-1000

One of my greatest finds during my travels was this little theater at the main entrance to the Westfield Horton Plaza. The Rep is known for its small town theater with Broadway-quality productions. I was interesting in attending a Broadway production a few miles from my hotel. However, after looking at the cost of tickets and cab fair, I thought I would see the local production, and I was not disappointed.

I found that the Rep box office sold discount tickets for the same day production at a huge bargain. Tickets usually range from $29 to $53 with discounts for active military and seniors – call or ask at the box office. Students are only $18. I believe for the same day and the particular show I saw I was able to get the student rate. I won’t entice you to see the show that I saw because it doesn’t seem to be in production anymore. However, with the caliber of talent that was exhibited that night, I will return to see whatever is being performed on my next trip.

A Trip to Florida’s Space Coast

Along the Florida coast, the Atlantic’s rolling waves caress the mind. On a clear night, launches from the Kennedy Space Center illuminate the heavens.

A Saturn V rocket, among the biggest launch vehicles in history, is housed in a walk-through warehouse exhibit at the Space Center. Visitors find the sheer mass and complexity of the rocket daunting. The tangled mess of fuel hoses and pipes is the end result of decades of guidance research. Years of trial and error led to the design, including rockets that either crashed unsuccessfully or blew up on the launch pad. The American research began with the Army in the later 1940’s and early 1950’s in the American Southwest. An early milestone was the 71-mile altitude mark.

The Rocket Garden is a collection of smaller rockets. Visitors can walk though the garden, inspect the rockets, take a look at an actual rocket capsule, and sit in a space capsule facsimile.

Try to avoid spies and have fun. Don’t get to know any Eastern European-types who speak with accents and wear drab clothing and a Cold War-grimace.

Don’t miss the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which includes a well-done Imax Theater. Kids and amateurs will learn much from the exhibits. Many of the early astronauts are chronicled in the museum. One video is an interview with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut who believed he saw an Unidentified Flying Object while in space. Such reports don’t usually emanate from such credible sources.

Another exhibit shows the Apollo 13 Mission. Millions of television viewers prayed for the safe return of the astronauts after a disaster left the vessel incapable of a lunar landing. The three astronauts returned miraculously in a truly memorable mission.

The Space Center is located at Exit 215 on I-95. Take SR 50 East to SR 405 East to the Center. Hours are 9am to 6pm. Astronaut Hall of Fame hours are 12pm to 6pm. Admission for the Center and the Hall of Fame is $43. Admission for the Hall of Fame only is $20.

Summer Weekend Travel Suggestion – Cedar Point in Ohio

A family-fun destination for more than 110 years, Cedar Point located in Sandusky, Ohio is preparing to open for yet another fun-filled summer season. The self-described Roller Coaster Capital of the World has big plans for its 2011 season, including plans to open yet another thrill ride. Here are some highlights of the coming season and guides to plan your visit.

The historic amusement park is packed into a natural peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie. The general flow takes a visitor into themed areas, each highlighted by roller coasters and thrill rides. Cedar Point boasts the world’s largest collection of roller coasters, including coasters for all ages and risk tolerances. In 2011, there are 75 rides for family fun.

Cedar Point opens for the season on May 14, 2011. During May, the park operates with abbreviated hours during the week, opening at 10 am and closing at 8 pm. On Fridays and weekends, the park is open 10-10 and after June 2, the park moves to the 10-10 schedule daily. July through mid-August, the park has an 11 pm closing time on Saturday nights and special hours on July 3 for the holiday. As the school year approaches, the park’s hours again shorten and after Labor Day, the park is open on Fridays and weekends only through October. Go here for a complete schedule and see below for information about extended admission times for guests of the hotel properties.

Cedar Point can be manageable within a day if you plan properly. First, early arrival is necessary (see below for early admission options for those staying in the hotel properties). Second, plan for all weather conditions. The park is located almost within the lake. Weather can be cool and breezy at times and can change rapidly. It is not unusual for the lake area to be up to 10 degrees cooler than inland cities like Columbus. Early in May and June, the lake is also quite cool keeping the air moving across the lake cooled. Third, plan to stay as late as possible at the park. Many visitors are day-visitors meaning they drive in and out on the same day. They tend to arrive later and leave earlier than those staying at nearby hotels or in the hotel properties. If you come as a family including young children who will want to ride the kiddie rides, it will take away time from the thrill rides, so do not be disappointed that in your case, the park is probably too much for a single day. Finally, if you are a die-hard thrill ride enthusiast, be prepared to wait in lines. Drink a lot of water, avoid the alcohol, and be prepared to be in the sun and heat for extended periods. Sunscreen is also a must and reapply frequently. Many underestimate the nearby lake’s influence on the sun you will receive while moving about the park.

Cedar Point dates to 1870 when local businessman Louis Zistel answered the community’s need for amusement activities along the peninsula’s shoreline. He opened a beer garden, bathhouse, and dance floor, setting the stage for 140 years of fun at Lake Erie. In 1892, Switchback Railway was opened. The 25 foot high, 10 mph train was the park’s first roller coaster. This set the stage for what would become a destination for thrill seekers for the next 110+ years! Today, Cedar Point is owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company owns 11 amusement parks and 6 water parks throughout the US and Canada.

In 2010, Cedar Point unveiled Shoot the Rapids, its third water ride. It is located on Frontier Trail. In 2011, the amusement park is scheduled to open WindSeeker, a 30-story tall swing ride. The 2-person swings provide riders a spectacular view of the park area, the lake and its shoreline and the beach area.

There are also high-energy music shows, encounters with characters from the classic Peanuts comic strip, and the Hot Summer Nights family nighttime show. Many of the shows will help shield you from the daytime sun and will provide shade or air conditioning. Visit here for more information and be sure to get a daily schedule of events as you enter the park.

The park also provides a number of food choices from its well-known restaurants to themed sports spots to a one-price buffet. There are also picnic options. Visit here for more information.

Cedar Point has sister-parks located adjacent to the amusement park. Soak City is an 18-acre water park requiring separate admission. There are 14 body, raft, and tube rides and a wave pool with a half million gallons of water. Perfect for a hot afternoon. Challenge Park provides four additional activities. There is mini golf, Skyscraper, Skycoaster, and Challenge Racing. Challenge Park also has separate fees depending on the activity you select.

Cedar Point is accessed via daily admission tickets that can be purchased at the gate or online in advance. Travel agencies and agents like AAA are also ticket sellers and may offer discounts. Daily admission is $46.99 for individuals 48″ or taller. Junior and Senior rates are $21.00 applicable to admissions of persons under 48″ tall or 62 years of age or older. There are military discounts. The onsite purchase price is $36.99 with proper ID. A number of nearby companies use a day at Cedar Point as a fun activity for its employees and their families. There are group ticket rates. In addition, there are online promotions offered periodically and special pre-season and post-season deals and events. Season passes are also available. For more admission information, go here.

Staying at one of the affiliated hotel properties will get you admission discounts and additional admission privileges, such as early entry – an opportunity to get ahead of the long lines for the most popular roller coasters. The hotels include the historic Hotel Breakers opened in 1905, Sandcastle Suites, Lighthouse Point, Camper Village, Breakers Express, and Castaway Bay. The variety of hotel options gives families a number of price points in order to make your visit to Cedar Point a weekend getaway opportunity. And a visit to Cedar Point can be easily combined with a second day at Soak City and/or Challenge Park as well as a visit to the nearby Lake Erie shoreline and the nearby islands. Each hotel is located within minutes of Cedar Point. Visit here for more information about the Cedar Point hotel properties.

Cedar Point is located on the shores of Lake Erie. The park is located on a peninsula and is about 60 miles west of Cleveland, 62 miles east of Toledo and about 115 miles from Detroit and 120 miles from Columbus. Access can be gained via the Ohio Turnpike, flights into Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Greyhound bus or by train. Visit here for more travel information and directions.

The historic Cedar Point remains a family fun destination on the shores of Lake Erie. The amusement park opens soon for the summer season. Make your plans to visit the Roller Coaster Capital of the World.

What to See in Eureka Springs Arkansas

If you plan to visit Eureka Springs, Arkansas, you shouldn’t miss Historic Downtown and the Ghost Tour at the Crescent Hotel.

Take good walking shoes for your tour of Historic Downtown, included in the National Register of Historic Places, because you’ll want to see everything. There are over 20 art galleries, a wide variety of gift shops (one with bunnies on staff!), and plenty of restaurants to stop in when you need to rest and refuel, all in an exquisitely preserved Victorian setting.

The galleries and shops offer a stunning variety — original paintings, framed and unframed prints, sculpture, pottery, handmade jewelry — something to fit every taste and budget. Even better, the owners are friendly and knowledgeable. After an initial greeting and offer of help, they will leave you to browse in peace, but are happy to answer questions and chat about the artists, the artwork, and Eureka Springs in general if you like.

All that shopping may make you hungry. If the weather is nice, consider lunch at the Balcony Bar and Restaurant at the Basin Park Hotel. The Balcony overlooks Spring Street, so you can continue to observe the downtown hustle and bustle and perhaps decide which shops to visit next.

Another excellent choice would be DeVito’s on Center Street. Featured in Bon Appetit, Southern Living, and the New York Times, DeVito’s serves Italian dishes made fresh from family recipes and trout dishes made with fish from the family’s nearby trout farm.

After lunch, you’ll probably have plenty left to see downtown, but if your feet are getting tired, save time to relax and recharge a bit for the evening. After dinner, get thee to the Crescent Hotel for the Ghost Tour. And don’t forget your camera! Featured on Sci-Fi Channel’s series Ghost Hunters, this is the real deal. During the tour, you’ll learn the haunted history of the hotel, see the video clip from Ghost Hunters, and get advice on where and when to take pictures for the best chance of having a few surprises show up.

The Crescent acquired its first ghost, Michael, during the building’s construction. The young man fell to his death into what is now room 218. Many of the other ghosts seem to date from the Crescent’s years a cancer hospital. Norman Baker, who presented himself as a doctor despite no medical training whatsoever, claimed to be able to cure cancer. Unfortunately his patients found ineffective treatment, horrible experiments, and painful deaths.

Many people have reported seeing nurses in the Crescent, sometimes pushing a patient on a gurney.In addition to sightings, guest frequently report happenings such as trouble opening the door to their room or possessions being moved.

Tour Guides recommend not deleting any of the pictures you take during the tour until you’ve looked at them on your computer screen. Look carefully for orbs and faces, particularly in mirrors.

Enjoy your time in Eureka Springs, and don’t forget those walking shoes.

Review of HoteLumiere in Saint Louis Missouri

On a recent visit to Saint Louis, Missouri we stayed at HoteLumiere in downtown St. Louis. The hotel is an all suites hotel adjacent that also offers a casino, plenty of dining options, and nightlife.

The hotel itself is a very nice hotel but it does have its downsides. We had never visited St. Louis before and were quite shocked at what we discovered. To us St. Louis, or at least the part of St. Louis we were in, seemed very run down. There were homeless and panhandlers everywhere you turned, and you definitely had the feeling that you were in the most dangerous city in America. Due to this we decided to take advantage of the hotel’s valet service, which is available for $20 per night. If you do not use valet service you are automatically charged a $10 per night self-parking fee.

The lobby of the hotel is gorgeous, with a huge waterfall, lounge area, and bar in the center of it. The hotel’s pool is also located in the main lobby. The rooms are nice in size, and each room offers a separate sitting area and sleeping area. What I disliked about the hotel rooms were you could tell they were in need of a serious cleaning. We actually had to be moved to a second room in the middle of the first night due to an issue with our air conditioner so we were able to see two separate rooms and both rooms had the same issues. There was only one garbage can in the entire room and it was located in the bathroom, without a trash bag in it. Both rooms were dusty, and just really needed cleaning. For the cost of the rooms my expectations were much higher.

In the pool area there are no chairs or places to sit if you are not in the pool. The pool water is very cold. You must have a wristband from the hotel and these are limited to four per room. There is a pool attendant on duty while the pool is open to enforce this.

Before visiting the hotel I had encountered several reviews that stated the hotel staff was very unfriendly. I must disagree here. During our visit the hotel staff did treat us with respect, and did go out of their way to help us with any concerns, or needs we had. In this area they did a superb job.

So here are my thoughts on the hotel. If you are visiting Saint Louis HoteLumiere is a nice hotel to stay at, it’s conveniently located to downtown, and does have several good amenities to offer. I do think the hotel staff does need to focus more on the details when cleaning the guest rooms, and should definitely consider investing in some comfortable furniture in the pool area because not everyone will always wants to be in the pool.

You can learn more about HoteLumiere by visiting their website.

Hotels in Brunswick Georgia that Allow Pets

Many difficulties can arise when traveling with a pet. From airline regulations to rental car policies, pet owners face many challenges when planning a vacation. While many hotels have a no-pet policy, there are several hotels in the Brunswick, Georgia area that are more than willing to accommodate pet owners and their pets. When traveling to any hotel, be sure to call and check the hotel’s pet policy before traveling to make sure there have not been any changes.

Jameson Inn accepts cats and dogs under 20 pounds for a fee of $15 per night, per pet. Guests staying in the hotel can enjoy a complimentary breakfast, swimming pool and fitness center. The rooms at the Jameson Inn are also all equipped with free wireless internet.

Jameson Inn

661 Scranton Road

Brunswick, GA 31520

800-526-3766

jamesoninn.com

The Red Roof Inn in Brunswick allows pet owners to check in one pet per room. There are no additional fees or charges, but pet owners are responsible for any damages that happen during their stay. The Red Roof Inn also states that pet owners must not leave their pets in the room unattended, as a courtesy to other guests and hotel staff. To make guests feel right at home, the Red Roof Inn offers fresh baked cookies in the lobby every night between six and eight.

Red Roof Inn and Suites

25 Tourist Drive

Brunswick, GA 31520

912-264-4720

redroof-brunswick.com

The Brunswick Knights Inn allows pets with just a $5 per day charge. The hotel also offers free continental breakfast and an outdoor pool. Guests can take advantage of the grassy lawn to walk their pets (on a leash) during their stay. The hotel is located right off of Interstate-95 and is within walking distance of several restaurants in the area.

Brunswick Knights Inn

450 Warren Mason Blvd.

Brunswick, GA 31520

912-267-6500

knightsinn.com

La Quinta Inn accepts pets with no additional fees or deposits. Cats and dogs under 50 pounds are accepted in all guest rooms, as long as the hotel is made aware of the pets ahead of time. If the hotel guests want housekeeping services, they must remove their pets from the room during the day or secure them in a crate.

La Quinta Inn

165 Warren Mason Blvd.

Brunswick, GA 31520

912-265-7725