Luxury rides offered to N.O. Mardi Gras

Advocate file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The Sophie B. Wright marching band marches in last year's Zulu parade. The Foundation for Historical Louisiana is organizing a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans again this year.

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana is heading to New Orleans again this year for Mardi Gras, March 4. Guests will travel by luxury motor coach to the city to watch the Rex, Zulu and truck parades from reserved parade route seats. The group will have access to Le Pavillion Hotel, where a Creole lunch buffet will be … Continue reading →

Camellias bloom at Lacombe site for open house

Photo provided by DAVID STOUGHTONVisitors take a tour of the camellia gardens at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Complex headquarters in Lacombe.

Visitors can see more than 400 cultivars of camellias at Saturday’s 5th Annual Camellia Gardens Open House at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Complex headquarters in Lacombe. The free event runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is presented in partnership with the Northshore Camellia Society and the Camellia Club of New Orleans. The … Continue reading →

Train station spruced up

Photo by SHANE K. BERNARD -- New benches and planters are part of a recent improvement project at the train station in New Iberia.

New Iberia’s century-old train station got a little sprucing-up recently thanks to the efforts of local historian Shane K Bernard. Bernard helped secure a $1,250 grant from the BNSF Railway Foundation to buy new benches, potted plants and trash receptacles. Volunteers installed the benches and planters. Amtrak will erect a new station sign and Amtrak kiosk, Bernard … Continue reading →

Battle of N.O. anniversary events set

Photo provided by the National Park ServiceRe-enactors portraying American civilians talk to visitors at a past event marking the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette Battlefield.

Lasting less than two hours, the Battle of New Orleans was nonetheless one of the most significant battles in American history. One hundred ninety-nine years later, the last important land battle of the War of 1812 will be marked with anniversary events Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at the site of the battle, Chalmette Battlefield, 8606 W. St. … Continue reading →

Tour pachyderms’ new home at Audubon Zoo home

Photo provided by Audubon Images -- Panya and Jean, the Audubon Zoo's two Asian elephants, have new living quarters and the zoo is offering special, up-close tours.

Meet a pair of pachyderms and see their new digs at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Visitors can now tour Panya and Jean’s state-of-the-art living quarters, talk to the elephants’ keeper and meet the two female Asian elephants face-to-face. The Elephant Barn Tour lasts about a hour. Guests will learn about elephants and … Continue reading →

Escape to Christmas Past with trip to Franklin

Photo by CARROLL S. GREVEMBERG/Grevy Photography --Guests gather at the recent fundraising dinner at the Grevemberg House.

If Christmas Present is stressing you out, think Christmas Past. Steeped in history, the Grevemberg House Museum in Franklin is one of many possible day-trip options to escape to over the holidays. Get a quick history lesson from tour guide Craig Landry, who’ll explain that the historic home, located in Franklin’s City Park, was once … Continue reading →

Museum tells blind visitors: Please touch!

Associated Press photo by JACQUELINE LARMA -- Angel Ayala, left, Tatyana Allen, center and Katie Maunder touch a page of reproduced hieroglyphics near a quartzite likeness of Ramesses II during a special tour at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia.

— Angel Ayala has never been a big fan of museums. Blind since birth, the high school student says the exhibits are so sight-dependent that he can’t enjoy them. But he’s making an exception for the Penn Museum, an archaeology and anthropology center that offers touch tours for the blind and visually impaired. … Continue reading →

Even in peak ski season, Aspen has some freebies

Associated Press photo -- Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular activities in and around Aspen, Colo.. There are more than 60 miles  of groomed cross-country and snowshoe trails around Aspen and Snowmass, open to all comers.

— A trip to Aspen during peak ski season is going to set you back some cash. But even those who can afford the posh Colorado mountain town will enjoy checking out what’s free, from high-altitude adventures to creature comforts. The Aspen Art Museum hosts a steady rotation … Continue reading →

St. Augustine attraction zips over alligators

Associated Press photo by Brendan Farrington --  Ava Martin zip lines over an alligator lagoon at The St. Augustine Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Fla.

— I was slowly crossing a swinging log bridge when I paused, sensing the alligator 12 feet below was staring at me. The water around the 8-foot gator’s enormous body began rippling rapidly. A second later, Big Al let out a deep bellow, as if to say, “If you fall, you’re my … Continue reading →

Small-batch

Associated Press photo by Bruce Schreiner -- A worker puts the finishing touches on the bottom of a five-story-high replica of a bourbon bottle thats the signature feature of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, a tourism attraction in downtown Louisville, Ky.

The maker of Evan Williams bourbon has uncorked a new attraction, opening a craft distillery just steps from where the whiskey pioneer who inspired the brand fired up his own commercial stills two centuries ago. The distillery and “bourbon experience” — complete with tours and tasting rooms … Continue reading →

One last chance to see Chimp Haven for year

Associated Press file photoMeet Brent and other chimpanzees at Chimp Haven's next Discovery Day.

The public has one more chance this year to visit Chimp Haven, the chimpanzee retirement sanctuary in Keithville, near Shreveport. The final Chimpanzee Discovery Day for 2013 is 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The family-friendly event allows visitors inside the facility to safely see the chimps up-close, including recently acquired animals from the New Iberia Research … Continue reading →

San Diego more than surf, sand

Associated Press photo by Lenny Ignelzi --  Fallen Star, a small cottage by artist Do Hi Suh, sits atop Jacobs Hall, a seven story structure that houses the engineering school on the campus of the University of California-San Diego in San Diego. The piece of art is part of the Stuart Collection, which uses the the entire UCSD campus as a site for commissioned sculpture.

The home of SeaWorld and a world-famous zoo offers plenty of cash-burning attractions, but San Diego also has awe-inspiring sites that are as free as the sea breeze and go beyond just sunbathing at the beach. The nation’s eighth-largest city has matured from its “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” surf days. … Continue reading →

Take a dip in Arkansas

Associated Press photo by Jeannie Nuss -- The Big Orange in Little Rock, Ark., is one of a number of places in Arkansas that serve cheese dip.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Memphis and Texas have barbecue. Mississippi has fried chicken. Louisiana has, gosh, what doesn’t Louisiana have when it comes to food? But Arkansas, surrounded by these Southern foodie hot spots, has long been overshadowed by its neighbors. So, in an assertion of culinary pride, the state has tried … Continue reading →

Hikers point out best trails in La.

Advocate photo by Cathy Joyce -- Sandra Roerig climbs one of the many hills on the Backbone Trail in the Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area.

Take a hike, Louisiana. The Bayou State is full of interesting places to hike, but five trails have been singled out as the best by members of the Bayou Chapter of the Ozark Society and the Louisiana Hiking Club . 1. Backbone Trail: The Kisatchie Hills Wilderness Area, northwest of Alexandria, is the state’s only designated wilderness area and … Continue reading →

Presidential home hosts light festival

Photo provided by Beauvoir -- Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home & Presidential Library in Biloxi, Miss., will be open for the holidays beginning Nov. 7.

BILOXI, Miss. — Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home & Presidential Library, will host the Festival of Light for the holiday season, beginning Nov. 7 and running through Jan. 5. Visitors can experience a true Victorian Christmas, including a tour of the decorated mansion, visits and photography with Father Klaus; a peek inside Father Klaus’ workshop and model … Continue reading →

Plenty to do, see in Va.’s capital — for free

Associated Press photo by STEVE HELBER -- Richmond, Va.'s, Hollywood Cemetery, named for plentiful holly trees, opened in 1849 and has grown to more than 80,000 graves, including Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler, as well as Confederate President Jefferson Davis and numerous Virginia governors.

— With terrain varying from the mountains to the coast, Virginia offers an array of fall colors for leaf-peepers. But before or after your drive along one of the state’s many scenic byways, consider a fix of Southern city living with a visit to the state capital, Richmond. Located along Interstate … Continue reading →

Mount Fuji’s Heritage status worries some

Associated Press photo by DAVID GUTTENFELDER -- Hikers climb one of the trails on Mount Fuji. The recent recognition of the 12,388-foot peak as a UNESCO World Heritage Site has many worried that more people will tackle the mountain, adding to the wear and tear on the environment.

— They trudge up well-trod cinder paths by the thousands, headlamps glowing in the dark, and then settle in, shivering, to await and cheer the sun’s blazing ascent over the horizon. Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan’s most iconic landmark, is a group activity: Seldom is it climbed in solitude. … Continue reading →

Iceland’s wild scenery, tax breaks luring Hollywood

Photo provided by Truenorth Productions -- Clint Eastwood, center, and crew members film in the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland, for the 2006 film 'Flags of Our Fathers.'

— It has doubled as an alien planet, a Himalayan peak and even the snow-filled fantasy world of the “Game of Thrones.” Still recovering from financial collapse, Iceland can perhaps be forgiven for seeking alternate identities. And Hollywood is providing the remote North Atlantic island much needed revenue and jobs — as … Continue reading →

Louisiana Travels

Photo provided by Webster Parish Convention and Visitors CommissionThe Great Lakes Timber Show features master lumberjacks entertaining audiences with chainsaw carving, axe throwing, antiques logging tools, modified chain sawing, and log rolling.

The Great Lakes Timber Show will be part of the 30th Lumberjack Festival Friday-Saturday in Springhill. Events at Frank-Anthony Park on Church Street will begin at noon on Friday and continue through Saturday. The master lumberjacks performing in the show have been seen on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” ESPN, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and NBC’s … Continue reading →

Airport tries therapy dogs to ease anxiety

— Henry James weaves between legs and roller bags at Mineta San Jose International Airport, but he’s in no rush. Around him, people scurry to their gates, but for the 4 1/2-year-old golden retriever, being calm is his job. “Do you want to see him?” his owner Kyra Hubis asked two … Continue reading →

Fall season prime paddling time in Louisiana

Photo provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service --Cane Bayou offers canoeists a leisurely paddle. Organized trips are being offered three Saturdays in October.

Fall is a great time to take a leisurely canoe trip. “Paddling Through Time: People & Louisiana’s Wetlands,” presented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will offer participants a guided paddle on Cane Bayou, located within the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge centered in Lacombe. Paddlers will learn about the natural and cultural history of the … Continue reading →

Mt. Fuji’s heritage status troubling for many climbers

Associated Press photo by David Guttenfelder -- Japanese hikers climb one of the trails on Mount Fuji last month. The recent recognition of the 12,388-foot peak as a UNESCO World Heritage site has many here worried that will draw still more people, adding to the wear and tear on the environment from the more than 300,000 who already climb the mountain each year.

They trudge up well-trod cinder paths by the thousands, headlamps glowing in the dark, and then settle in, shivering, to await and cheer the sun’s blazing ascent over the horizon. Climbing Mount Fuji, Japan’s most iconic landmark, is a group activity: Seldom is it climbed in solitude. The recent recognition … Continue reading →

In Ireland, history, beauty at every bend in road

Photos by Lashlee Warner -- Shopping in the coast town of Kinsale, an especially pleasant stopping place; fine restaurants, coast views.

We swayed back and forth as the small van traveled a remote lane on one of the Aran Islands, massive green hills to our left, a misty stretch of the Atlantic to the right. Bertie Mullin, a gregarious native of this western sliver of Ireland, our guide for a few hours, talked incessantly as he drove, mixing cultural … Continue reading →

Tour Saint-Jacques gives new view of Paris skyline

The sculpture called the angel of the evangelist Saint Matthew is seen on the top of the Tour Saint-Jacques overlooking Paris with the river Seine below,  Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013.  The Tour Saint-Jacques, a gothic bell tower in central Paris, opened to the public last month for the first time since it was built in the early 16th century. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — It’s a view of Paris that only a handful of people have seen in 500 years. The Tour Saint-Jacques, a gothic bell tower in central Paris, opened to the public last month for the first time since it was built in the early 16th century. Only a limited number of lucky Parisians and … Continue reading →

Space shuttle Atlantis ‘go’ for public viewing

Associated Press photo by JOHN RAOUX -- An astronaut is mounted overhead in the space shuttle Atlantis attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The 900,000-square-foot facility centering around the last shuttle to go into orbit  opened to the public June 29.

The last space shuttle to soar made its museum debut June 29, and it’s the belle of NASA’s retirement ball. The Atlantis exhibit opened to the public at Kennedy Space Center, the centerpiece of a $100 million attraction dedicated to the entire 30-year shuttle program. … Continue reading →

Take in new N.O. history bus tour, Aquarium after dark

Photo provided by New Orleans BusVision -- 'The Essence of Identity' tour features African-American history spots throughout the French Quarter.

Visitors to the Essence Festival can wrap up their trip to New Orleans with a new African-American tour. Organized by BusVision specifically for the festival, “The Essence of Identity” tour is set to become a regular part of the company’s walking tour offerings. Going beyond the well-known African-American neighborhood of Treme, the tour extends to the … Continue reading →

Legoland Florida expands with World of Chima

This June 30 photo provided by Legoland Florida shows families at the theme parks new interactive water ride, The Quest for Chi, part of the parks new World of Chima, which also includes a splash zone and play area. The attractions were inspired by a Lego product line called Chima that also led to a Cartoon Network show. The World of Chima opens to the public at Legoland Florida in Winter Haven, Fla., on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Merlin Entertainments Group, LEGOLAND Florida, Chip Litherland Photography)

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) - The world's largest Lego theme park is expanding again, this time with a water ride, a splash zone and an interactive play area - all welcome activities for vacationing families in the Florida heat. The World of Chima opens Wednesday at Legoland Florida. … Continue reading →

Statue of Liberty reopens to visitors on July 4th

Associated Press file photo by Richard Drew -- Parts of the brick walkway of Liberty Island that were damaged in Superstorm Sandy are shown during a tour of New Yorks Liberty Island. The Statue of Liberty, which has been closed to visitors since Superstorm Sandy, is scheduled to reopen for tours on July 4th.

NEW YORK — The Statue of Liberty is scheduled to reopen to visitors on July 4th for the first time since Superstorm Sandy. But for those who just want a photo op with the statue, there are many other vantage points, from Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Governors Island, to a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. … Continue reading →

Times Square TKTS booth turns 40

Associated Press photo by MARK KENNEDYMichael Buffer, TKTS patron services manager, talks to customers in line at the discount ticket booth in Times Square in New York.

Hundreds of tourists and New Yorkers show up each day at the famed TKTS booth in the heart of Times Square with questions about Broadway shows. Often they’re very interesting questions. Like: “Can I get a ticket to see the Superman musical”? Or, “Are there seats available for … Continue reading →

Andalusia: A fusion of Christianity and Islam

Associated Press photo -- Roses bloom in the garden of a mosque in the Albaicin neighborhood in Granada, in Andalusia, Spain, framing the Alhambra, the city's medieval Islamic palace complex. Andalusia offers a fusion of Christian and Islamic cultures, found in architectural masterpieces and in everyday life.

For the third time in a week, I’m touring the Alhambra, one of the most popular sites in the world’s fourth most-visited country, and finally I have it all for myself. Not a pushy guide but a bullfrog in one of the fountains is the loudest sound on a late May … Continue reading →

Louisiana Travels for June 23

Photo provided by RICHARD FREDETTECarencro resident Richard Fredette will drive this 1932 Ford Boattail Speedster he built last year in The Great Race. Fredette won that race in 2009.

Carencro resident Richard Fredette took off from St. Paul, Minn., in his 1932 Fort Boattail Speedster Saturday. He’s sharing the country’s backroads for the next week with 94 other drivers in The Great Race, a road rally for vintage and antique vehicles covering 19 cities and 10 states. The race ends Sunday, June 30, in Mobile, … Continue reading →

Mackinac Island: Victorian charm in modern era

Associated Press photoThe ferry to Mackinac Island, Mich., passes the Round Island Lighthouse, which dates to the 1890s but is no longer a functioning lighthouse. The picturesque lighthouse once marked the channel between Round Island and Mackinac. The ferry brings visitors to Mackinac, a vacation destination known for Victorian charm in modern times.

Producers of the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time didn’t need to build elaborate sets to depict the tale of a playwright who travels back to 1912 to find romance. They simply filmed on Mackinac Island, a Great Lakes enclave that retains its Victorian-era charm thanks to its ban on … Continue reading →

Once dying, Birmingham, Ala., is suddenly a hot address

Associated Press photoPeople sit on a hillside during a performance by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in Railroad Park in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — It feels like Birmingham finally is emerging from the shadows cast by the ugly racial violence of 1963. Long haunted by black-and-white newsreel footage of the fire hoses and police dogs city leaders turned on blacks demonstrating for civil rights, the city has a new vibe that’s generating buzz all its own 50 … Continue reading →

No joke: Jester wanted at Austrian hotel

Wanted: A jester. Wallflowers need not apply. It’s no joke. An Austrian hotel is advertising for a modern-day court fool, who is communicative, extroverted, musical, creative and imaginative. Applicants are asked to bring — and play — their musical instrument during the job interview. Also welcome: creative costumes. The successful candidate … Continue reading →

Crescent City   Cruising

Advocate photo by CYNTHIA V. CAMPBELLPassengers gather on the pool deck to view downtown New Orleans as the Navigator of the Seas prepares for departure.

Cruise into New Orleans. Cruise out down the Mississippi and into the wide expanse of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s easy and it’s blissful. Three major lines, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, offer cruises out of New Orleans. All provide vacations that are good value for your money. With a little planning, we chose … Continue reading →

Louisiana Travels for May 12

Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLANDCub Scout members Landon Lavergne, left, and Randall Mitchell help place flags adjacent to Port Hudson National Cemetery's 12,000 headstones in honor of Memorial Day in 2012. The state historic site recently changed its operating hours.

The 5th annual Cruisin’ Cajun Country Cruise, featuring classic and muscle cars, will roll through Iberia Parish Thursday-Saturday, May 16-18. Participants can take in New Iberia’s Main Street historic district, food and live music, while spectators can enjoy free car shows and entertainment. Registration will open at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Super 8 Hotel … Continue reading →

Disney’s oldest cruise ship Magic getting a makeover

Associated Press photo -- This undated image provided by Disney Cruise Line shows a rendering of how the Disney Magic ship will look when a new three-story water slide is added to the ship's exterior. Disney Magic, launched in 1998, is the oldest in Disney Cruise Line's fleet of four ships. It will get a makeover this fall when it is drydocked for a month in Spain, with changes in decor, technology and themes throughout the ship, including a new kids' area themed on Marvel Comics superheroes.

Disney Cruise Line’s oldest ship, the Magic, is getting a makeover, including the addition of a children’s area themed on Marvel Comics superheroes and a three-story water slide, the company announced April 26. The Magic launched in 1998. Other updates when the ship goes into drydock in Spain for a month … Continue reading →

New Mexico: Native pueblos to Georgia O’Keeffe

Associated Press photo by Beth Harpaz -- This October 2012 photo shows the Santuario de Chimayo, a picture-perfect adobe church with wooden gates. This 200-year-old National Historic Landmark attracts 200,000 visitors a year, many of whom seek cures and miracles from a well of holy dirt called el pocito.

Striped balloons dot a bright blue sky. Red rocks silhouette a lone dead tree. A white ladder leans on a brown adobe dwelling. On a road trip around New Mexico, this mix of motifs and cultures seems to echo across the centuries and turn up at every stop, whether you’re visiting … Continue reading →

Travelers give Hawaii dogs second chance on mainland

Associated Press photo -- Martin Sprouse with 'Grady', an Airedale Terrier-Irish Wolfhound mix, April 18, in Oakland, Calif. After his owner brought the dog to the Kauai Humane Society because he was moving, the dog with the big brown eyes languished for four months, said shelter operations manager Brandy Varvel. But now Grady is living in a spacious California loft with a new owner who is admittedly smitten thanks to an arrangement the Kauai Humane Society has with the East Bay SPCA in Oakland.

The lanky, charcoal-gray dog with a distinctive, wiry hairdo would stand out in most other animal shelters, but no one gave him a second look on Hawaii’s island of Kauai. But thanks to a tourist willing to take him across the Pacific, an Airedale Terrier-Irish Wolfhound mix named Grady now enjoys a spacious California loft with … Continue reading →