Travel & Tourism
Magic Waters Waterpark Re-Opens Due to Heat PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Laura Gibbs Green   
Thursday, 29 August 2013 15:27

The thrill is back, because the heat is on! Magic Waters Waterpark is going to re-open this Labor Day weekend due to the hot weather.  The waterpark was closed for the season, but is opening back up Saturday, August 31, 2013, Sunday, September 1, 2013, and Monday, September 2, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Our citizens asked that we extend the season due to the unprecedented heat, and we listened! We value what our guests have to say, and with the summer season being cut short due to Mother Nature providing some days filled with rain or colder temperatures, our guests deserve a little extra time to have some fun in the sun,” said Magic Waters and Aquatics Director Zack McIntyre.

Please see the attached news release for more information about which attractions will be open for guests to enjoy including Tsunami Bay which is Illinois' largest wavepool and the most popular attraction at Magic Waters located in Rockford!

 
Hotel Hunt: Get the Right Room at the Right Price PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 29 August 2013 08:17
By: Alisa Abecassis, Founder of ExploreAll50.com

If you’re like me and RVs are not an option, then hotels are where you’ll be staying over the course of your trip.  Choosing a hotel can be a scary process if you have no knowledge of the area and are working with a limited budget, but using my helpful tips can take out some of the guesswork in finding acceptable hotels.

1. Chain hotels are usually a safe bet (and you could get breakfast for free!). What’s the budget for your trip? If you can stay in top-notch hotels with connecting rooms—fantastic. Although I was lucky enough to be able afford that luxury, I purposely chose not to. I wanted my kids to experience “roughing it” a bit so that they would be more appreciative of the luxuries they had at home.  Our go-to spots are moderate-level hotels such as Best Western, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and the like. Large chains tend to have a uniform standard of style and cleanliness. An additional perk is that most of these moderate-priced hotels include breakfast. Again, nothing fancy—cold cereals, some breads and pastries, coffee, and fruit.  Sometimes you might get lucky and they’ll have a hot buffet.  Everyone loves the make-your-own waffle machine! It’s a great way to get something in everyone’s stomachs to start the day and you save on the expense of breakfast.  Plus you can grab a muffin or piece of fruit for the road!

2. Do your homework: read ratings, reviews, and phone a friend. With any level of hotel, research is key. I check out websites such as Hotel.com, Expedia, Orbitz, and TripAdvisor, typing in the city to find all the hotels where I’ll be stopping so I can compare prices and look at pictures. TripAdvisor is a fantastic resource because you can see reviews and pictures from hotel guests. You’d be surprised at the discrepancy between a hotel’s photos and the photos by people who actually stayed there. Some places that look fabulous on the hotel website could actually turn out to be pretty gross in real life!

Before you choose a hotel, look at the location. Do research on the various neighborhoods so that you know ahead of time that you’re sleeping in a safe place.  Do you have friends who live in, or have visited, the area? Enlist them! When I was planning a trip to Detroit, I had no idea where to stay (given that almost every hotel had reviews of thefts and other nastiness), so I called an acquaintance who happened to live in a suburb of Detroit and asked his advice. He told me that Dearborn was a nice, safe place for my family. He was right—it was great!  Sometimes friends can tell you what the Internet won’t. However, if I don’t have any contacts in the area, and there’s not much posted online, then my general rule of thumb is that if it’s near a popular activity and it’s a well-known chain, then it can’t be that bad.

3. Make sure your hotel choices are also bed bug free. Another important step in researching hotels is making sure the place you’ve chosen has not been infested with bedbugs.  Before making a reservation at any hotel, always check the Bed Bug Registry at www.bedbugregistry.com. It is an invaluable resource.  You can look up any hotel in any city and see if there have been reports of bed bugs.  Also, in the event that you encounter bed bugs anywhere you go, please be a good citizen and help out your fellow travelers by reporting it on the site.

4. Let’s book it! Once you’ve done all your research, you’re ready to make the reservation. Some hotels and travel sites offer discounts if you pay up front. This option can save you money, but keep in mind that if something comes up last minute, you will not be refunded (even if you have a sob story). However, if you make a reservation and secure it with a credit card, you can usually cancel up to 24 hours in advance without a charge.

I highly discourage you from booking directly through the hotel website or 1-800 number. Compare prices online and call the front desk at the actual hotel. On numerous occasions there was a special promotion going on that wasn’t listed online, and I never would have known if I didn’t call ahead. Also, the clerk on site can tell you what kind of rooms they have and notate any special requests.

Also to note: it pays to be a AAA member. A membership card can get you valuable discounts on hotels, car rentals, activities, and even at some restaurants.

Another way to get discounts is to join loyalty programs. Enrolling in a loyalty program can be a great way to rack up points if you go narrow and deep with a particular hotel brand.  You can get their credit card and earn points on all your purchases, in addition to your stays, which over time will result in some free stays.  Definitely worth checking out.   Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards are a couple just to name a few.

5. Print and file. Once you’ve made your reservation, print out the confirmation and put it in your trip bible for safekeeping.

6. Be ready to think on the fly-sometimes even the best-laid plans can fall apart. Sometimes, even with the best research, you can end up driving to a hotel that is way below your expectations and “just doesn’t feel right.” As a single mom, when this happens to me, I call the hotel to cancel. I would rather face a cancellation fee than stay in a place where I feel unsafe. Of course, there are ways around the fees, too. Often times a clerk will cancel the reservation just like that.  Other times I’ve had to get a little creative to avoid the one night charge. Sometimes it might involve a story about my car being stalled or a flight delay, but sometimes the truth works as well.  No one argues with me when I say I am a single mom and I don’t feel safe—again, the story you give is up to you.

On our last night in Nashville we booked a very inexpensive hotel near the airport.  It looked fine from the outside but when we drove around back toward our room there were a bunch of drunk guys hanging off the balcony who started whistling and making suggestive comments when I got out of the car.  That was enough for me to go right to the hotel office and cancel immediately.  The clerk totally understood and recommended a few other places for me to check out.

When a hotel just isn’t what you expected, the best thing to do is drive around a bit and find where the newer hotels are grouped closed to a few restaurants.  Your GPS can be very helpful with this.  You may have to run in to a few to check prices and availability, but peace of mind is totally worth it.  Always trust your gut—be safe instead of sorry.

Using my helpful tips with take a lot of the guesswork out of finding safe and comfortable places to stay on your trip.  It’s not foolproof, but as long as you’ve done your research, and can redirect on the fly if need be, you will be fine when it comes to booking your stays.  Safe travels!

About Alisa Abecassis

Alisa Abecassis is the proud mother of three children – Lilia, 17; Isaac, 15; and Joel, 14.
After her marriage ended, she decided it was time to strengthen her family’s bonds and personal history by traveling and gaining a better appreciation all 50 United States.
Abecassis is a blogger and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA. Connect with her on Twitter @ExploreAll50.

 
September Proclaimed “Drive the Great River Road Month” PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Kate Hagen   
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 15:28
Celebratory month part of the national scenic byway’s 75th anniversary

MADISON, Wis. (August 20, 2013) – The Mississippi River Parkway Commission is proclaiming September as “Drive the Great River Road Month” all across the nation.

The proclamation is part of a year-long celebration of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway’s 75th anniversary in 2013. “Drive the Great River Road Month” is an open invitation to plan a fun and memorable road trip along the nearly 3,000 mile byway that runs through ten states, from Minnesota to Louisiana. It is one of the oldest, longest and most unique scenic byways in North America, offering a gateway to the Mississippi river valley’s great history, the blending of cultures and a host of recreational options to all who journey it for three quarters of a century and counting.

The long list of must-see attractions and exciting family-friendly events is certainly a big draw for visitors along the Great River Road. There are magnificent natural wonders, captivating historical sites and unique cultures to experience. Many travelers are also taking interest in the river valley’s agriculture, exploring the area’s delightful orchards, cheese factories, nurseries, tree farms, wineries and farmers markets.

In celebration of “Drive the Great River Road Month,” there will also be a sweepstakes going on during the month of September. The “Drive the Great River Road Sweepstakes” kicks off September 1 and will award fans who like the Great River Road on Facebook a chance to win a $750, so they can experience this amazing byway for themselves. More information can be found on experiencemississippiriver.com and facebook.com/GreatRiverRoad.

Plan a day’s drive or a month-long excursion along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway with the help of experiencemississippiriver.com. Here you’ll find information on all the states’ interpretive centers (museums and historic sites showcasing the historic stories of the Mississippi), upcoming events and must-see attractions, along with suggested itineraries and maps to help plan a trip that’s just right for you.

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Governor Quinn Signs New Speed Limit Law for Rural Highways PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 12:31

New Law Increases Speed Limit to 70 mph on Rural Four-Lane Highways, Lowers Excessive Speed Limit to Promote Safety

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to increase the speed limit from 65 to 70 miles-per-hour (mph) on rural four-lane highways, and to lower the limit by five mph for excessive speeding. The law will bring Illinois’ speed limit in line with 36 other states that have speed limits of 70 mph or higher on some portion of their roadways, including other large states such as California, Florida, Texas and Ohio, and neighboring states such as Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan. The bill passed with significant bipartisan support in both chambers.

“This limited five miles-per-hour increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America, while preventing an increase in excessive speeding,” Governor Quinn said. “I encourage all motorists to continue to respect our traffic laws, avoid distractions and exercise common sense behind the wheel to protect the safety of themselves and others.”

Sponsored by State Senator Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove) and State Representative Jerry Costello Jr. (D-Smithton), Senate Bill 2356 increases the maximum speed limit from 65 to 70 mph on four-lane divided highways outside of urban areas. The law allows Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair and Will Counties to opt-out by adopting an ordinance that sets a lower maximum speed limit, empowering counties to make adjustments based on their own local needs.

The new law also includes an additional safety provision, which lowers the limit by five mph at which drivers may be charged by law enforcement with excessive speeding. Currently, the threshold for penalties is 31 mph over the limit. The new law lowers that threshold to 26 mph over the limit to increase safety on Illinois roads.

The law is effective January 1, 2014.

Illinois joins 36 other states with speed limits of 70 mph or higher, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

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Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB - Grape Stomp, Wine Tasting & Artists PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Travel & Tourism
Written by Celestino Ruffini   
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 12:10

Galena Cellars hosts 4th annual Fall Harvest & Art Festival on September 28

GALENA, Ill. – Purple feet. Paint brushes. Horses. Music. Food. Geodes. Spa treatments. And wine. It’s quite a combination, and promises to be a fun fall adventure.

Celebrating the fruits of their labor, Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery and the Galena Cultural Arts Alliance are busy preparing for their upcoming Fall Harvest & Art Festival. The fourth annual event will take place at Galena Cellars Vineyard, 4746 N. Ford Rd., Galena on Saturday, September 28, with a full schedule of family friendly activities - a grape stomp (2 p.m.), live music by Jordan Danielson, horse-drawn wagon rides, geode cracking and amazing food - spanning from noon until 6 p.m. Area artists will be at the vineyard on Saturday, September 28 and also Sunday, September 29.

Admission to the general event is free. Vineyard tours are $5 each and include a wine appreciation overview. Galena Cellars will also be offering wine tasting and a keepsake glass for an added fee. For more information, visit www.galenacellars.com/art-festival or call 815.777.3235.

Galena Cellars, a Lawlor family winery, offers more than forty varietals of wine produced in Galena, Illinois. Many Galena Cellars wine utilize Illinois-grown grapes from the recently appointed Upper Mississippi River Valley Area Viticulture Area, the largest designated AVA in the world. Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery is proud to offer three tasting room locations: 515 S. Main St. and at the Vineyard at 4746 N. Ford Rd. in Galena, and in 477 S. Third St., Dodson Place in Geneva, Illinois.

Additional area offerings and visitor information may be found at the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.galena.org or by calling 877.464.2536. While in town, visit the CVB’s Old Train Depot Visitor Information Center at 101 Bouthillier St. (corner of Park Avenue) for on-site assistance and countywide information.

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