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You’ll Dream of Chocolate

  • By
  • November 12, 2018
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Chocolate Hershey Bar

HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA

Melding Chocolate Culture with History

 

Milton S. Hershey School
The Milton Hershey School, a private, cost-free residential school was founded by Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine, for children from lower-income families. The lobby mural brings to life the iconic entrepreneur and philanthropist, Milton S. Hershey.  Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Most of us love a story with a happy ending.

We’ve all heard of extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs and we can’t help but wonder how they rose above the day-to-day challenges associated with running a business. Milton S. Hershey is an individual we can admire for his dream and vision but he wasn’t an instant success.

Where can you learn more about Milton S. Hershey and his legacy?

At the Hershey Story Museum, The Hershey Company’s most recent building endeavor.

The Hershey Story Museum
Learn how Milton S. Hershey rose from rags to riches. Plan a visit to the Hershey Story Museum. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

The Hershey museum opened in January 2009 in the heart of downtown Hershey, a magical town where the streetlights are modeled after Hershey Kisses and the aroma within each building is a reminder of why chocolate is a good as gold. More than 160,000 people visit the museum every year.

The story goes that around the turn of the century, chocolate was a booming business and Milton Hershey was so inspired, he sold his caramel business and broke ground for a new chocolate factory in nearby Derry Township, his hometown. For as long as I can remember, the Hershey bar has been a symbol of chocolatey sweetness and the iconic chocolate-colored wrapper that has evolved over the years is also a reminder of days gone by. But it’s more than the chocolate that’s represented in the museum. It’s Milton Hershey’s rag to riches’ story. Walk into a grocery store or anywhere that food is sold and you’ll likely find a product manufactured by the Hershey Company. More than a century after Hershey built his factory, Hershey products are manufactured and savored around the world.

Milton S. Hershey legacy
Buttons. dials and story-board exhibits teach children about Milton S. Hershey and his legacy. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

My recent media trip to Hershey was a fascinating mix of chocolate culture. The Hershey Story Museum, 63 West Chocolate Ave., Hershey, Pennsylvania, helps to tie together the entire Hershey experience with a mix of exhibits and archives that will ignite your curiosity about the art of chocolate making and demystify the man who started the company from scratch. Where are the ingredients sourced? Where does Hershey find such large quantities of cocoa beans to mass produce chocolate? Where do the sugar and dairy that are key ingredients in many of products originate? The exhibits answer those questions through visuals and hands-on experimentation that every child and adult should experience at least once.

The Hershey Museum Cuba Exhibit
What was Milton Hershey’s relationship with Cuba? Find out at the exhibit happening at The Hershey Story Museum, Hershey, PA. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui
Milton S. Hershey Cuba Award
Discover why Milton S. Hershey’s was awarded
the “Grand Cross of the National Order of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes” by Cuba’s president in 1933. Image courtesy of The Hershey Story Museum.

The “Failures to Fortunes” exhibit is one that particularly illustrates how determination can result in ultimate success. Milton S. Hershey found success while at the Lancaster Caramel Company and grew his company from there into a booming chocolate business. Each piece in the exhibits is presented so they appeal to adults and children. 

Don’t leave the museum without stopping at The Pantry Cafe for coffee, sweets and confections, a smoothie, breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads and other treats to round out your museum experience.

Come to the museum as a family or plan a school field or scout trip to the museum. Winter can be long and boring. Check out the calendar of events here and beat the January and February blues at The Hershey Story Museum.

Chocolate World
What do you love most about chocolate? The taste, smooth texture, or the creaminess that melts in your mouth, or all of the above? I’d love to know your answer. Please leave a comment on the form below and share your thoughts on Instagram at #ChocolateWorld.

Hershey Chocolate World

The Hershey Story Museum is only a few Hershey Kiss miles away (nine minutes) from Hershey’s Chocolate World, another extraordinarily popular attraction. This one is free. You can board the chocolate making tour and find and smell the outrageous chocolate aroma throughout your tour.  Hershey’s famous characters tell the story of chocolate making that begins with cocoa beans and ends with the wrapping process.

Chocolate Hershey Bar
The M.S. Hershey timeline helps keep the evolution of Milton Hershey’s cherished business in perspective. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui
chocolate tours
Hershey’s famous characters greet you around each bend and help describe the chocolate-making process. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui

Find your seat on the indoor tour tram. Tours run continuously throughout the day every 30 minutes (during business hours) and it’s WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE. After you’ve learned everything you should know about chocolate making, head to the 3D Chocolate Mystery Show and by that time, oh, you’ll be ready to create your own candy bar. The fun continues with the Hershey Trolley Tour, a seasonal way to view the incredible array of attractions Hershey offers its visitors. Book your tickets in advance online for the Holly Jolly Trolley that’ll delight your children. Or stop at the Central Ticketing office to purchase tickets. Caroling, stories, and a visit from a special guest will keep you entertained and set you in a holiday mode.

I visited Hershey in late summer and early fall and arrived to find flowers in bloom and meticulously manicured grounds and a flurry of activity.  Each season brings something new in this old-fashioned town. Put down your electronic devices so you can appreciate the farmlands and rolling hills that lead to Hershey. Play a game about what you see, or count the number of cows along the way to prepare your family for the attractions that will greet them at Hershey.

For more information about Hershey and Harrisburg attractions, visit www.VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org.

My trip was hosted and comped by Visit Hershey & Harrisburg but my opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences. 

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Pat Boone: The Boy on Roanoke Road

  • By
  • March 26, 2018
Pat Boone Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Pat Boone iconic pop star bio
Pat Boone’s career has evolved for more than 50 years. From iconic pop star to an outspoken spokesman, Pat’s Christian values are deeply rooted. All photos courtesy of patboone.com. 

God, Family, Career, and Israel

An Exclusive Interview with Pat Boone

Singer, actor, TV host, producer, songwriter, author, motivational speaker, TV pitchman, radio personality, record company head, TV station and sports team owner, family man, and humanitarian are all titles attached to the legendary and iconic Pat Boone whose career has spanned more than five decades.

Pat Boone was the first child born to Archie Boone, a building contractor, and his wife, Margaret, in Jacksonville, FL on June 1, 1934. He described his life growing up in Nashville with his parents and siblings – a brother and two sisters, as “wonderful” and “idyllic.”

Although no one in his family was a musician by trade, his mother played some ukelele and taught Pat and his brother to play some chords. Pat became known as “the Boy on Roanoke Rd” – “the kid who knows all the pop songs of the day and will come to sing for you with no strings attached.”

“We entertained our family at all our gatherings as we were headed toward our teen years.   So in the midst of my athletics and school and other activities, I became an amateur singer, a little dreaming that might lead to a career.” ~Pat Boone (via an email interview)

Indeed, a professional career followed – one that has endured more than 50 years. Pat is 83-years-old with a long list of accolades and recordings to his name; a record company, “The Gold Label” that’s dedicated to legendary and accomplished artists, (who incidentally, all come with million-selling gold records to their credit);  and he is regarded as the #10 all-time top recording artist, according to music industry magazine, “Billboard.” His career has spanned more than five decades. Read a full list of his accomplishments at patboone.com.

Pat Boone Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Entertainer Pat Boone on Stage

As much as music has been an integral part of his life from an early age, Pat says reading the Bible and attending church services are the backbone of his life, then and now.

I learned that the whole Bible from the first words in Genesis, “In the beginning…” to the last words from the book of Revelation in the New Testament…all the Bible was written by Jews about Jews and for Jews, and focused on Israel and God’s chosen people.

While attending a Christian high school in Nashville, he met his wife, Shirley, whom he lovingly refers to as his high school sweetheart. They were married when Pat was nineteen and by the time he had graduated from Columbia University (Magna Cum Laude), Pat quips, he had four girls, only three-and-a-half years apart.

I should have been neutered or perhaps jailed – but my wife did become a great mother as well as a wonderful wife and having those responsibilities kept my feet on the ground when my career took off like a whirlwind, luckily 11 months ahead of Elvis and “Heartbreak Hotel”.   

Pat Boone Iconic Legendary Singer Songwriter
Pat Boone, family man and devout Christian shown with his four daughters and wife, Shirley, his high school sweetheart

 

His affinity for music continued through his teens and adulthood. In late 1959, a love affair with the Ernest Gold melody to the movie Exodus and the theme song led Pat to put his faith and songwriting skills to work when he subsequently wrote the words “This Land is Mine,” the lyrics behind the esteemed show tune.  The song is referred to by many as “the second Jewish national anthem.” 

How do his Christian beliefs tie in with his connection with Israel?

He explained, “We knew then, and I know now, that we Gentiles get in on this exquisite and unique relationship with God through our acceptance of Jesus the Jewish Messiah, the one who fulfilled all the prophesies of Isaiah about the One who would come to lead his people out of captivity and bless them more then all the people in the world.”

He further explained Christianity, properly understood is a direct outgrowth of historic Judaism and it’s clear that God wants every believer to understand our “Jewishness” as well as our Christianity and the word. Christ, he noted, is a Greek translation of the word “Messiah” or God’s anointed one.

“When I’ve spoken to groups of Rabbis in the past, I tell them I’m representing the 4th branch of Judaism; there is Orthodox, Reformed, Conservative and Messianic.  Everything we believers in Jesus hold sacred and true is a direct outgrowth of the Bible which deals ‘explicitly with Jews and God’s promises to the people of Israel.”

 

 

 

 

Pat Boone Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Tour departs New York May 9 2018
Pat has been a long-time friend to Israel.

According to Pat, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime friend, has said on many occasions, “Evangelical Christians are Israel’s best friends in the world – we know that.” He and the Israel Prime Minister got to know one another during an Israeli water function at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“He (Benjamin Netanyahu) became of fan of mine when he was at M.I.T. in his college days, and loved my record of ‘Speedy Gonzales.’  We’ve been good friends ever since,” Pat remarked. 

Although the prime minister was not able to attend Pat’s Tel Aviv concert three years ago for security reasons, Pat met with him privately, “just the two of us at his request, the night before in his office in Jerusalem,”  he says. When Pat walked into his office they shook hands and Netanyahu said, “Hello Speedy, come on in!”

“And the beaming smile on his face made some of my Israeli friends jealous.  Our friendship is real, deep, and based on our understanding of God’s expressed intentions for his chosen people…,” says Pat. 

 

 

 

HISTORIC PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND PLANNED

Pat has joined forces with Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, an Israeli American Rabbi, and the founder and current president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headquartered in Chicago and Jerusalem, as they host a most memorable “Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” a 10-day journey that will depart North America on May 9, 2018.  In addition to sightseeing opportunities at some of Israel’s most cherished sites, the tour coincides with the actual 70th birthday of the modern state of Israel and the dedication of the U.S. Embassy on May 14. As part of the celebration, Pat will film a TV special in the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea for national and international distribution. 

Pat Boone Roman amphitheater in Caesarea
Pat will film a TV special in the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea for national and international distribution during the “Historic Pilgrimage to the Holy Land” scheduled to depart from North America on May 9, 2018

He referred to the tour as “a loving seminar in the things that we hold in common, much more than things that might divide us in understandings or beliefs.” The trip is a historic pilgrimage designed for Christians and Jews, with sites selected that are of particular interest to the Fellowship of Christians and Jews and “we” the believers in Jesus as the Messiah.

“We believe that everyone who comes back from this tour, whether invited by Rabbi Eckstein or me or a couple of other co-hosts, will have a lasting and permanent sense of identification to Israel, the Jews, the one God of the Bible and the sense of destiny that unites us.”  

Together,  he and Rabbi Eckstein’s collaborations have helped to fulfill God’s prophecy by paving the way for tens of thousands of poor and persecuted Jews from all over the world to return to and settle permanently in the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their efforts, particularly a television special Rabbi Eckstein and Pat co-hosted, prompted the Christian community to donate tens of millions of dollars to relocate and care for the displaced Jews in modern Israel.

Pat said, “I’m proud of that.”

From his days as a budding entertainer on Roanoke Rd. to his humanitarian work in Israel, Pat believes God will continue to bless his efforts if they’re good and ensure the happiest life he could possibly live.

“I’m convinced God won’t let horrible things happen to me. If all young people today could have that kind of assurance we would have a better society.  And most psychiatrists would be out of work.” ~Pat Boone

 

 

 

For details about the historic pilgrimage, visit http://patbooneisraeltour.com. Registration is limited to 200 to 300 tour members.

 

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8 hotel packages with sun-drenched activities to discover in OAHU

  • By
  • January 25, 2018
8 reasons to visit an Oahu Beach
Reasons to visit an Oahu Beach Vacation
Beach lovers rejoice this Oahu beach. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Explore OAHU!

 

Find out what’s happening in Oahu from January to March 2018. 
(INFORMATION PROVIDED COURTESY OF www.visit-oahu.com

 

OAHU – The Island of Oahu, known as the Heart of Hawaii, sets the rhythm of the islands with exciting, new improvements, changes and additions on an ongoing basis. Below is a glimpse of new and dynamic updates with Oahu’s hotels & resorts, activities & entertainment, restaurants and cuisine, shopping, and festivals and events.

Hotels & Resorts

The Island of Oahu caters to travelers of all ages and budgets. A variety of hotels and resorts offer a multitude of packages to make any trip unforgettable.

Find the perfect deal and escape to Oahu.

  • The former Pacific Beach Hotel recently debuted as the all-new Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach following an extensive $115 million transformation. As Oahu’s sophisticated, new resort in the heart of Waikiki, Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach will offer a stylish new way to stay and play in Waikiki, which is transforming with new cultural, culinary and shopping offerings. The resort will feature star-studded collaborations with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, acclaimed New York architecture and design firm Rockwell Group, which designed the resort’s lobby, restaurant, pool deck, guestrooms and suites; and architectural firms WATG and Pacific Asia Design Group. The 839-room modern resort will feature five new culinary concepts and a destination pool deck, along with authentic design touches inspired by Oahu’s lush landscape and rich cultural heritage. AlohilaniResort.com
  • As one of Hawaii’s largest hotel management companies, Aqua-Aston Hospitality is proud to offer guests some of the best value in the islands. For new bookings arriving Jan. 1, 2018, Aqua-Aston is pleased to announce the expansion of its guest amenity program. Varied by hotel, the new amenity program will include valuable additions, such as exclusive discounts for Aqua-Aston guests at select Oahu eateries and attractions; discounted or free entry for Aqua-Aston guests to Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, and Waikiki Aquarium; improvements to our popular Waikiki-to-Ala Moana shuttle service; a curated roster of live, onsite entertainment; and newly-added Hawaiian cultural programs. Aqua-Aston.com
  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is re-defining the luxury spa experience with the debut of Naupaka Spa & Wellness Centre. The island’s newest spa haven combines innovative health and wellness practices with traditional Hawaiian healing. On five floors, Naupaka features fourteen indoor treatment rooms, indoor hot and cold plunge pools, steam room, sauna, needle shower, two Himalayan salt chambers, relaxation areas and change rooms, and the resort’s fifth pool – a private sanctuary featuring an outdoor lap pool and whirlpool surrounded by foliage and swaying palms, overlooking the hotel’s porte cochère. A barbershop (serving local craft beer) and a feng shui-inspired Billy Yamaguchi Salon complement spa offerings. Outdoor treatments are offered in tranquil muliwai massage hales overlooking the Pacific and the resort’s lush gardens. FourSeasons.com/Oahu
  • Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach continues Hilton’s “Another Day in Paradise” into 2018. Guests can book five nights and get the fifth night free, opening the way for visitors to experience the stylish and modern amenities of the largest Hilton Garden Inn in the world. HGIWaikikiBeach.com
  • The new Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach now features a full garden of kalo (taro) plants that line the full length of the pool deck. Once a month, a Hawaiian cultural advisor will give a hands-on lesson on how to harvest kalo while sharing the history and importance of this staple to the Native Hawaiian culture. After harvesting their own kalo, participants will prepare their own lau lau (steamed pork and/or fish wrapped in taro or luau leaves) for cooking and tasting. The kalo is a “living exhibit” at Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach allowing guests to nurture this plant through its normal life cycle. HyattCentricWaikikiBeach.com
  • In addition to the recent Hawaiian Music & Dance Hall of Fame Historical Exhibit, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach will launch a special walking tour centered around the cultural history of the area. This tour, “E hoala e” (Revive, Renew, Restore), will be held once a week to provide guests an in-depth look at the history and culture of the island, culminating in a visit to the onsite Historical Exhibit. In the warm spirit of Hawaiian hospitality, Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach will be offering a special group offer for select dates in 2018. Groups can have easy access to entertainment, shopping, dining, spa, and cultural immersion, with rooms starting at just $215 per night. The reservation must include a minimum of 10 paid rooms to take advantage of this limited time offer. Waikiki.Regency.Hyatt.com
  • For families visiting Oahu, the Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head provides an assortment of goodies for children of all age groups. Infants receive a new Infant Amenity Package complete with infant-safe sunscreen, fragrance-free, all-natural baby bath products, and a squeezable baby whale. Children ages 12 and under receive a complimentary box of crayons and cultural activity book of fun and educational activities celebrating all things Hawaii. Once the book is completed, children can exchange it for a souvenir gift. The property also offers complimentary souvenir boxes decorated with the child’s choice of anthurium flowers or Hawaiian fish. Onsite or at the beach, kids can choose from a selection of grab-and-go inflatable fish toys, beach balls and slippers for water play, and complimentary beach bags with a pair of children’s sunglasses. LotusHonoluluHotel.com
  • Waikiki Parc is offering an extensive Valentine’s Day package entitled LOVE at the Parc. The limited-time offer includes one two-hour surf lesson for two, a romantic chef’s special dinner for two at Leahi Concept Kitchen, a romantic Dive-In movie, complimentary parking and access to the Valentine’s Day Weekly Mingle, a special holiday-themed gathering with mini red velvet cupcakes, cheese and fruit platters, champagne with strawberries, and the hotel’s private-label Parc Chic wines. WaikikiParc.com

 

Activities & Entertainment

The Island of Oahu is brimming with fun-filled activities for everyone to enjoy. Visitors can explore Hawaii’s special culture and iconic history, or choose from a wide variety of outdoor and indoor activities to energize the spirit.

  • In partnership with Honolulu’s newest transportation system Biki by Bikeshare Hawaii, Aqua-Aston Hospitality now offers the “Discover Oahu” package to guests who book direct. The package is inclusive of two Biki Free Spirit bike rentals (featuring multiple trips up to 300 min.). With 100 convenient Biki bike stops from Downtown to Diamond Head, guests staying at an Aqua-Aston-managed property will be able to use Biki to discover Oahu’s varied eateries, shops and activities at their own pace and in a sustainable way. Aqua-Aston.com
  • Guests can marvel at Hawaii’s amazing humpback whales aboard Atlantis Cruises’ Majestic. With its sleek, modern design, the Majestic hosts three different levels for guests’ viewing pleasure. Its top level, open air deck offers 360-degree views, ideal for spotting exciting whale activity and other marine life. AtlantisAdventures.com
  • The “Holo Moana: Generations of Voyaging” exhibition at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum celebrates the resurgence of the centuries-old, ancestral practice of long-distance ocean voyaging. Closely following the Hawaiian sailing canoe, Hokulea, and its return to Hawaiian waters, the exhibit is based on a collaboration between Bishop Museum and the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and is on display in the J. M. Long Gallery through June 24, 2018. Cultural objects from Hokulea’s voyages are on display along with a variety of interactive stations. Visitors can step into a wind-based immersive experience that uses digital sensors and electronics to bring to life the winds used by voyagers and told of in Hawaiian cultural stories. Visitors can also enter a full-dome projection theater with audio narrated by PVS president Nainoa Thompson, master of the traditional Polynesian art of non-instrument navigation. BishopMuseum.org
  • Live entertainment is featured on Saturdays at Haleiwa Store Lots in the Kamehamalu Courtyard from 2-4 p.m. Visitors can enjoy performances from local artists at the plantation-style gathering place in the heart of Haleiwa town. HaleiwaStoreLots.com
  • Hawaiian Ocean Adventures (HOA) will begin operating a second location on the windward side of Oahu beginning January 2018. Activities will include adventures onboard a Hawaiian sailing canoe, kayak and SUP adventures. HOA is a locally-owned and operated family eco-tour business offering true authentic ocean activities out of Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. HawaiianOceanAdventures.com
  • Pacific Historic Parks is happy to announce several new tours in 2018 including a 2018 USS Arizona Memorial Tours, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Tours, Pearl Harbor Virtual Reality Tours, Diamond Head State Monument tours, as well as a tour of the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park that includes lunch. Group, military and travel agent discounts are available. In addition, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor has added a new F-16A Fighting Falcon to its extensive collection of modern jet fighters. A new “B-17E Swamp Ghost Tour” has been added and can be booked at the front desk upon arrival. PacificHistoricParks.org or PacificAviationMuseum.org or Bowfin.org
  • Paradise Helicopters, a leading Hawaii helicopter tour company, is launching an adventure-packed tour of Oahu’s most historic WWII sites and iconic movie settings. In the Kualoa Expedition Tour, guests depart from Kalaeloa Airport near the Ko Olina resort area. After flying over some of Oahu’s most iconic locations, guests touch down at Kualoa Ranch where they have the option of three ground adventures: A horseback tour, ATV tour, or Kaaawa Valley zipline tour. The Kualoa Expedition Tour starts at $719 per person for an experience of up to 6.5 hours, including luxury ground transportation back to Kalaeloa Airport. The zipline experience is an additional $30 per person. ParadiseCopters.com
  • Roberts Hawai‘i and Hawaiian Crown have joined forces to offer a convenient new pineapple delivery service – available exclusively for domestic travelers using Roberts Hawaii’s Airport Shuttle Service on Oahu. Guests can now preorder boxes of locally grown Hawaiian Crown and Sweet Gold pineapple – picked to order, pre-inspected, packed, sealed and delivered to the airport in time for departing domestic travelers to pick up and take home. AirportShuttleHawaii.com/SweetGold
  • Several new events are included in the line-up at Our Kakaako for 2018. Scheduled the third Friday and Saturday of the month, Paakai Marketplace showcases unique local products and Hawaiian culture at SALT at Our Kakaako. The monthly event, held in in collaboration with PAI Foundation features live music and is a free, family and pet-friendly event starting at 5 p.m. In addition, the popular SALT Bar Crawl occurs on the third Saturday of every month starting at 5 p.m. Village Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, Moku Kitchen, and Bevy Bar at SALT at Our Kakaako feature different breweries each month. SaltAtKakaako.com
  • The Star of Honolulu is splashing into humpback whale season with daily whale watching cruises. From Dec. 23, 2017-April 5, 2018, kids ages three-11 can cruise aboard the Premier Whale Watch cruise for free with each paying adult. StarofHonolulu.com
  • Twogood Kayak’s Hawaii has announced the launch of a new kayak tour created specifically for those who enjoy being outdoors in Oahu’s exotic and tropical ocean environment. For this excursion, guests will have the option to choose the tour area from a list of options that offer the best of kayaking on Oahu. TwoGoodKayaks.com

 

Restaurants, Cuisine & Chefs

Oahu is known for its diverse culture, which is exhibited by the assortment of cuisine found throughout the island. With wonderful choices and an array of culinary options, there’s a restaurant fit for everyone.

  • Baku, Waikiki’s modern robatayaki restaurant, has introduced weekday lunch pairing specials. Each special features one of Baku’s robata-inspired or signature lunch dishes paired with a signature cocktail, craft draught beer, sake tasting flight, artisanal shochu, or wine from the restaurant’s extensive list of imported beverages, all for less than $20. Options include the robata-grilled Baku Burger, a sushi combination lunch, robata skewer platter, and more. baku-waikiki.com 
  • After 29 years of featuring set menus, Chef Mavro has divided the restaurant into two venues and now offers a small plates menu in the main dining room and his famous Grand Tasting Menu in the upper tier. The iconic restaurant will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2018. ChefMavro.com
  • Located in Aqua Ohia Waikiki’s newly refreshed lobby is the local’s favorite tiki bar and lounge, Da Big Kahuna Waikiki – an ideal venue to grab a bite in-between daytime excursions or to sip a drink before heading out for evening adventures. In a casual restaurant setting, sample a tasty menu of contemporary Hawaiian and American plates. Da Big Kahuna’s menu includes juicy burgers, pub-style appetizers, and salads. Known for its iconic Fish Bowl Cocktails, Da Big Kahuna features a full bar and now offers food and beverage room service up to Aqua Ohia Waikiki’s 12th floor where guests can imbibe on their lanai (balcony) gazing out to the energizing city below. Da Big Kahuna Waikiki is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. OhiaHotel.com
  • Known throughout Oahu for his Poke Stop restaurants, Maui-born Chef Elmer Guzman brings his specialty to the Luana Waikiki Hotel & Suites with his latest concept, Fish Hook Café. Serving breakfast and lunch, Fish Hook Café offers an assortment of locally and sustainably-sourced grab-and-go items including salads, sandwiches, pastries, and gourmet coffee, as well as Chef Guzman’s delicacy: poke bowls, built-to-order. With the opening of Fish Hook Café guests have an additional dining option called Fish Bowl, the property’s breakfast buffet, where Chef Guzman also selects the rotating Hawaiian-style staples such as meats, cereals, pastries, and Oahu-grown fruits. Fish Hook Café is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. while Fish Bowl’s buffet is served daily from 7 to 11 a.m. FishHook.Cafe
  • Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina is thrilled to announce a new partnership with award-winning chef and restauranteur Michael Mina. Fish House, the resort’s signature line-to-table restaurant will become Mina’s Fish House. Some architectural and décor changes are planned for Four Seasons’ iconic beachside dining experience, including an outdoor bread oven and private dining room. Guests can expect an exciting new menu featuring locally-caught fish and locally-sourced produce for a unique dining experience. FourSeasons.com/Oahu
  • The world’s largest open-air shopping center recently unveiled a new foodie destination. Lanai @ Ala Moana Center now features local favorites and eateries new to Hawaii, including Ahi & Vegetable, BRUG, Mahaloha Burger and Sobaya. The remaining eateries, including Agave & Vine, Da Spot, HiTEA Café, Ike’s Love & Sandwiches, Musubi Cafe Iyasume, Teppanyaki Farmer and Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha are opening soon.  Lanai @ Ala Moana Center is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. The contemporary food hall offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and grab-and-go options, and features indoor and outdoor seating for up to 450 customers. AlaMoanaCenter.com
  • Locals and visitors will now be able to catch some poolside rays with a mimosa in-hand at Mahina Brunch, the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club’s new musically-inclined Sunday dining experience. Centered around celebrated chef Ed Kenney’s elevated home-cooking style using locally sourced foods, Mahina & Sun’s executive chef Erik Leong incorporates seasonal ingredients into the new Mahina Brunch menu available poolside or inside the restaurant, every Sunday from 6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Diners can also groove to rotating sets curated by Aloha Got Soul. MahinaandSuns.com

 Shopping

Oahu is home to hundreds of high-end designer stores, as well as local boutiques carrying locally-made products.

  • Ala Moana Center recently unveiled Hula With Aloha, an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience where kamaaina (locals) and visitors can network, practice and learn the art of hula from award winning kumu hula (hula teachers). Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Hula With Aloha is located on Level 3, Ewa Wing in the Bloomingdale’s Court and features beginning, intermediate and advanced hula classes, lei making and more. AlaMoanaCenter.com
  • Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort recently expanded its retail offerings within the 22-acre resort. Among the most notable openings is the return of DFS to Hilton Hawaiian Village. The luxury retailer, known for its duty free airport shops and destination luxury galleries, will open an approximately 2,000-square-foot space at the resort in December 2017. Among the expanded options is the resort’s logo shop, Anuenue, which sells curated items of the cherished Rainbow Mural, Hilton Hawaiian Village logo memorabilia, and the resort’s own exclusive coconut papaya skin and hair care line. HiltonHawaiianVillage.com
  • Located in the heart of Waikiki, International Market Place is Oahu’s premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination. Guests can ring in Chinese New Year with festivities throughout February, enjoy “O Na Lani Sunset Stories,” the center’s free daily hula and storytelling performance, and snap a selfie with legendary Hawaii musician Don Ho’s one-of-a-kind bronze statue in the Banyan Court. Visitors can then finish the day at one of eight chef-driven restaurants on the Grand Lanai. ShopInternationalMarketPlace.com

 

Festivals & Events

Oahu is home to the largest number of festivals and events throughout Hawaii. Visitors can connect with the local community and experience renowned events showcasing the island’s rich arts and culture, the world’s top amateur and professional sporting competitions, and the many ethnic celebrations exclusive to Oahu.

  • Jan. 8 – 14, 2018, the Sony Open in Hawaii kicks off the PGA Tour by bringing 144 of the world’s best professional golfers to Oahu’s exclusive Waialae Country Club. Past participants include notable golfers including 2017 winner, Justin Thomas. Thomas also became the first to open the year with back-to-back wins in Hawaii since Ernie Els in 2003. The seven-day event is one of the largest charity events in the state of Hawaii. SonyOpenInHawaii.com
  • The Volcom Pipe Pro, a World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) 3,000-rated event, returns Jan. 29 – Feb. 7, 2018 to cap Hawaii’s winter season of surf at one of the most iconic waves in the world, the Banzai Pipeline. The Volcom Pipe Pro’s track record of epic, barreling surf draws major talent year after year, making it a true mix of aspiring professionals and the sport’s greatest names, including 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater and Hawaii’s own John John Florence. The event is free and open to the public and also produces a world-class broadcast that is available to stream via WorldSurfLeague.com and the WSL app. WorldSurfLeague.com
  • The 10th Annual Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii will be stringing together a day of exciting events in celebration of Hawaii’s most beloved instrument. The festivities are being held at the Kakaako Gateway Park on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018 with performances by famous musicians from Hawaii and Japan, vendor booths, or you might take the opportunity to study professional Ukulele players’ techniques! All events and entertainment are free and open to the public. UkulelePicnicInHawaii.org/en/
  • Feb. 10 – 17, 2018, local and global artists will showcase their work in Honolulu during a widespread beautification and education of street art during POW! WOW! Hawaii. The event will include gallery shows, live panel discussions, mural projects, concerts, live art installations and more. PowWowHawaii.com
  • Taking place on Feb. 19, 2018, the Great Aloha Run is an 8.15-mile foot race that starts at Aloha Tower in Honolulu and ends at Aloha Stadium in Halawa. A three-day sports, health and fitness expo occurs during the weekend of the race and includes an array of exhibition booths offering unique products and services, entertainment, workshops and more. GreatAlohaRun.com
  • Wanderlust, the producers of the largest yoga lifestyle events in the world, is returning to Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s fabled North Shore in 2018 for Wanderlust Oahu that will unfold over Mar. 1 – 4, 2018. This beach yoga and wellness retreat at Turtle Bay Resort will kick off Wanderlust’s 2018 festival season and offer awe-inspiring experiences and settings for yoga enthusiasts, music lovers, foodies, surfers and seekers. TurtleBayResort.com 
  • The 24th Annual Honolulu Festival is one of Hawaii’s premier cultural events, promoting understanding, economic cooperation and ethnic harmony between the people of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim region. Taking place Mar. 9 – 11, 2018 the festival draws thousands of new and returning spectators. Through educational programs and activities, the festival continues to successfully share the rich and vibrant blend of Asia, Pacific and Hawaiian cultures with the rest of the world. HonoluluFestival.com
  • The Prince Kuhio Festival is a series of events, ceremonies and activities organized by The Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs to celebrate the birthday of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole who founded the first Hawaiian Civic Club on Dec. 7, 1918. These celebrations began in the early 1970s and have grown to include month-long activities including a commemorative parade, choral concert, “Hoolaulea” or “Hoikeike” (celebration), and more. This year’s festival will take place on Mar. 25, 2018.

 

 

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The Lodge at Woodloch

  • By
  • December 4, 2017

The Lodge at Woodloch

 

Chakra Bowls in the entrance at The Lodge at Woodloch. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui.

Destination: Bliss

Calm your mind, awaken your soul

 

Spending a day at The Lodge at Woodloch is synonymous with a day in heaven.

 

The Lodge at Woodloch is a family-owned, one-stop spa destination located in the Lakes Region of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Individuals who want to experience a complete overhaul will find a phenomenal setting for total mind and body rejuvenation.

You’ll need to tailor your stay at this award-winning resort and allow time to savor every class, activity, and meal you choose. Depending on the length of your stay, I suggest you select one or two indoor spa services and one or two classes or activities and plan to venture outdoors. Use your time to tap into the adventure in your soul.

I arrived there eager for my massage session but immediately picked up a schedule of events and classes at the registration desk before heading to my room to change. A complete list of classes is available at the front desk and in each of the guest rooms, but if narrowing the selection is a bit daunting, a personal concierge can assist you with scheduling. You can view a current schedule of activities here.

Venture Outdoors

 

Even if the thought of being out-of-doors in the cold Pocono Mountain air sends chills up your spine, bundle up and take a walk. The property is so picturesque throughout the year, with scenic hiking and bike trails that are a favorite among nature-lovers.

The dock at The Lodge at Woodloch is a vantage point for observing waterfowl and other wildlife.  Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui.

Refresh

 

Your comfort is a number one priority to the management and staff at The Lodge at Woodloch. Feel free to drop in at the coffee and tea kiosk for a glass of fruit infused water, high-end herbal tea with locally-produced honey or artisan coffee. Lucious treats are available throughout the day. Hydration is important after a day of activity and guests receive a complimentary refillable water bottle and shopping bag branded with The Lodge at Woodloch name and logo. Filtered water is available in each guest room, so guests can refill their water bottles as needed.

Refresh with orange infused water or herbal tea with organic honey.

Find Time to Socialize

 

If you’re traveling alone, ask to dine with other solo guests. The main dining room and bar area are warm and friendly and a popular spot for great conversation.

Unleash Your Spirit

 

If exercise isn’t your bag, try a gentle chakra yoga session to free the creative flow you’ll need for a cooking demonstration or a watercolor painting class. Daytime and evening events are available.

You don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga. To the contrary, yoga has far-reaching health benefits from improved posture and overall health to a more flexible you.

Learn New Skills

 

Flyfishing? Betterment is often the result of branching out and learning a new hobby. Join the knowledgeable team at the lodge and allow them to introduce you to the joys of fly fishing.

Adam Nidoh, fly fishing instructor, teaches fly fishing 101 to Kathy Marsh, a guest from California.

Stick with the familiar or try something new when you join in on an organized fly-fishing class designed for aspiring fly anglers who yearn to be on the water. Full and half-day guided fishing trips on the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers can be arranged with advanced notice.

 

Art Abounds

 

On your way through the lobby, take note of the art that hangs on the walls in the corridors. The Lodge at Woodloch has created a venue for regional artists to display their wares, which is indicative of the management’s commitment to the arts. The paintings displayed during my visit provided a visual appeal and warmth that original art evokes.

Art at The Lodge at Woodloch. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui.

 

Signature Dining

 

Dining at TREE, The Lodge at Woodloch restaurant, is an experience you’ll relish. The naturally-raised meats, fish, seafood; organic, locally grown vegetables and wholesome grains are combined and presented with an artistic flair.

A few of the entrees from a sample menu are Oven Dried Tomato & Charred Broccoli Flatbread – Basil Pesto, Homemade Ricotta, Calkin’s Creamery Vampire Slayer, Balsamic Reduction (veg) Shrimp Pad Thai – Shaved Root Vegetables, Local Cabbage, Scrambled Farm Egg, Pistachio, Hoisin Sauce (gf) Eggplant Cutlet Parmesan – Smoked Mozzarella, Oven Dried Tomato & Olive Tapenade, Arugula and Roasted Pepper Aioli (veg). Samples menus are available here.

Romantic soft lighting The Lodge
Many of the selections are plant and vegetable-based and bursting with flavor and texture that’s sure to please. Feel free to begin your lunch at the Buffet Station Salad Bar & Seasonal Condiments that’s brimming with a Chef Inspired Daily Soup and energy and protein-packed selections for vegan and vegetarians. There’s no guesswork as you’re helping yourself at the stations or ordering from the menu. Vegan and vegetarians are clearly marked.

REdiscover Lunch

 

If you need a getaway, visit The Lodge at Woodloch’s website where you’ll find a package to suit your needs. All packages include accommodations in one of 57 extravagant guest rooms, three gourmet meals per night of stay, speakers and workshops, creative arts, scheduled group fitness classes throughout the day, lectures, chef’s cooking and baking demonstrations, guided group adventure outings, a personal spa concierge, pools with hydro massage waterfalls, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis®, steam rooms, saunas, and a 3,000 square foot state-of-the-art cardio weight studio.

Accommodations at The Lodge at Woodloch. Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui.

 

KUDOS!

 

The Lodge at Woodloch WILL exceed your expectations. The resort has consistently received a wide array of awards over the years from the prestigious AAA Four Diamond Award to the Travelers’ Choice Award by TripAdvisor.

For more information, visit thelodgeatwoodloch.com. You can view special seasonal offers here.

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Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites

  • By
  • October 31, 2017
Travel Review Dunes Manor
The prize for spectacular views goes to The Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites, Ocean City, MD.  All rooms offer a beachfront balcony, a vibrant sunrise, and a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. All photos by Joan Matsui Travel Writer and Photographer

DUNES MANOR HOTEL & SUITES 

A Perfect Balance

Fun and Sun

 

You’ll find your idea of fun at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites, Ocean City, MD. Building on a dream vacation is exactly what the management at the Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites has done since April Fool’s Day, 1987.

Milton and Thelma Conner dreamt of owning a full-service hotel on an inherited vacant oceanfront block of land. Tenacity is what kept Mrs. Conner from selling the Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites after her husband’s death.

To carry on the tradition, the Dunes Manor creates year-round opportunities for guests to interact and mingle or find plenty of activities both on-site and in and around Ocean City.

The Dunes Manor is a landmark property along that popular stretch of Maryland beach. Before I give you a rundown of the new fall activities in the works, you should understand you won’t EVER be bored during your visit. In fact, the variety of weekly activities for guests of all ages is what has kept couples and families coming back year after year. There’s so much to see and do from the moment you arrive. The mood is family-oriented but there were also couples traveling alone and in small groups. I refer to those as a “mini-reunion” and the Dunes is an ideal location to meet and spend time with friends.

Wave Goodbye to Boredom

 

What’s Happening at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites?

Guests who want to integrate fitness, frolic and fantasy into a beach getaway can participate in these fall activities free of charge. Schedules vary from season-to-season but organized events and classes are planned if you want to join the fun.

Adults
  • Monday Night Football – featuring door prizes, football bingo, big screen viewing of the games, and food/drink specials.  (Mondays, beginning at 8 p.m.)
  • Girls Night Out – featuring rotating activities through the month that will be led by local artisans, including paint n’ sip, makeovers/stylings, cupcake decorating, jewelry making, and crafting.  (Thursdays, 6 – 8 p.m.)
  • Mind & Body Class – featuring weekly rotating themes of Hatha and Vinyasa yoga, barre workouts, and Bootcamp workouts.  (Saturdays, 8  – 9 a.m.)
  • The Craft Cafe – featuring locally inspired crafts (pumpkin stenciling, chalkboard painting, embroidery), freshly baked desserts, and coffee/tea.  (Saturdays, 1 – 3 p.m.)
Families
  • Swim-In Movie Night – featuring screenings of popular movies at the hotel’s indoor pool, complimentary candy and popcorn, and food/drink specials.  (Fridays, 7 – 9 p.m.)
  • Beach Treasure & Scavenger Hunt – featuring puzzles, trivia, and searches for trinkets at local arcades and retailers.  All participants will receive souvenirs and hotel swag.  The grand prize winner will receive a free hotel stay.  (Sundays, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
  • Beach Photo Op – featuring free 5” x 7” or telescope photos taken on the beach.  (Sundays, 4 – 5 p.m.)

Whether you prefer to spend your day sprawled on a beach blanket or you’re an itinerant explorer yearning to visit each and every attraction, it’s time to book your fall ocean getaway or plan your 2018 summer family vacation.

A Lasting Impression

 

If you envision crowded Ocean City beaches where you’re elbow-to-elbow with fellow beach-goers, you should know the boardwalk’s shops, arcades and amusement areas absorb a significant amount of traffic. We visited during one of the busiest times of the year and found the crowd evenly dispersed along the three-mile boardwalk. My kids had ample space to create sandcastles and forts in the sand.

Keep in mind we arrived in Ocean City during a tropical storm warning. Driving rain, powerful wind gusts that were strong enough to knock me off my feet and some rather extreme waves greeted us. As with any vacation, travelers should keep in mind inclement weather is always a possibility and have a “Plan B” set in case sun-bathing and riding the waves are not options.

Stormy skies upon our arrival in Ocean City

Fortunately, the weather continued to improve and the next morning we awakened to a clearing sky and partial sunshine.

As a tropical storm moved away from Ocean City, MD and the sky continued to clear, Kento Matsui watched passers-by arrive at the beach.

I enjoyed my time at the hotel very much. It was wonderful to be able to see the beach from my room and wake up to the smell of sea air. I left the door open at night to let the air in. The beds were very comfortable and I slept well that night. We had our own kitchen where we were able to cook or we were near the boardwalk restaurants if we didn’t want to. We were also oceanfront, so I could walk out onto the beach whenever I wanted. ~ Kento Matsui

As I prepared breakfast in our newly-renovated one-bedroom suite, we planned our day to include a few hours on the beach followed by activities the hotel offers.

There’s no need to toss left-over meals in the trash. Reheat or prepare a quick meal in your guest room.

Don’t forget to take time to relax

 

Any time is “naptime,” whether you’ve been immersed in activities all day or you need a quick recharge. The decor is soothing and relaxed, even for a teenager with boundless energy. 

Newly-decorated rooms are dressed in colors and patterns that are best described as inviting and calming. The pink headboards in our suite remind me of pinkish sand and seashells you’ll find on the Ocean City, MD beaches.


Signature Afternoon Tea, a Photo Op (on the beach), Morning Yoga, and the much celebrated “Pirate” Scavenger Hunt are four of the most popular planned activities at Dunes Manor.

A Tradition of Afternoon Tea

 

Afternoon Tea Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites
Mrs. Conner’s welcomed guests each afternoon for tea. The tradition continues decades later. The staff keeps the tea and silver cookie trays well-stocked. 

One of Mrs. Conner’s signature events that have endured for years is Afternoon Signature Tea. Her goal was to mingle with and also encourage interaction among her guests. Wherever you roam during your stay, be sure to set your alarm for 3 p.m. and make your way back to Dunes Manor for tea time.

Afternoon Tea at Dunes Manor
Even after the crowd has thinned, the staff at Dunes Manor keep the tea and coffee piping hot as they diligently restock the silver trays with chewy, delicious cookies.

Afternoon Photo Op?

 

Family Photo Op Dunes Manor
Preserve family memories in a photo you’ll cherish forever.

Chances are you are the photographer in charge of capturing your family vacations. Is someone in your family left out of a prized vacation photo? What if you could preserve those precious memories with the entire family present? Dunes Manor has a professional photographer available for a family photo or couples’ photo op. Inquire about the date and time when you book your stay at the hotel.

Dunes Manor Summer Photo Op
A professional photographer is at your disposal during the summer afternoon photo op.

The hotel offers a one-hour window for families to meet on the beach and the most current package includes a free 5″ x 7″ or telescope photos with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.

Imagine years from now when you find this photo.

“Be” a MORNING person at the beach

 

Sunrise Ocean City beache
Why waste a glorious morning? Set your alarm so you’ll awaken before the sun begins to rise. Roll out of bed and come to the beach for a morning walk and experience why a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean is a spectacular event. 

Good Morning, Beach

 

Dunes Manor Review Joan Matsui
Shown after sunrise, Yoshi Matsui was ready for a walk on the beach. He discovered his “peace and quiet” before heading back to the hotel for breakfast.

Dunes Manor was exciting. When I was there (in August), I wanted to go to the beach every day. The waves were big, (because of a tropical storm) so it was fun to mess around in the water. I also liked the boardwalk because of the varieties of shops and restaurants. The room was fantastic and we had a great view (of the ocean) from our balcony. I also enjoyed the Saltwater Taffy. ~ Yoshihiko Matsui

Usher in your day with “Morning Yoga”

 

 

Morning Yoga Dunes Manor
Do you find yoga invigorating AND relaxing? Dunes Manor offers an opportunity for guests to wake up their senses with free “Morning Yoga.”

Make Yoga a part of your day. Even if you’re not a yogi, a gentle morning stretch can work wonders for a variety of health ailments and prepare you for a day that might include walking along the boardwalk, shopping, or visiting one of the local attractions. Inquire about the yoga and fitness schedule at the registration desk when you check in.

beach yoga
I didn’t need any coaxing to join the morning Yoga class. My gaze was fixed on the waves as I moved through a gentle morning Vinyasa routine.

PIRATE Scavenger Hunt

You never know where you’ll meet a “PIRATE”

 

Quick! Take cover when you meet a Pirate face-to-face in a Dunes Manor corridor.

 

Pirate Scavenger Hunt Dunes Manor
Both young and older scoundrels comb the halls in search of much-coveted treasures.   

The Pirate Scavenger Hunt gets underway in the foyer of the lobby at Dunes Manor. After a quick introduction, kids embark on a mission to uncover treasure hidden throughout the hotel. Parents tag along for support so it’s a safe, fun-filled event. The aim is to meet the pirate character at the last stop of the hunt and collect prizes.

Dunes Manor Travel Information
This young forager selects his prize from a treasure box. 
The “pirate” awaits the children at the last stop of the scavenger hunt. I didn’t participate in the hunt, but I had a chance to watch the children race to the finish line and redeem a prize. And of course, I couldn’t pass on a photo op with the pirate. 

Accolades and Information

 

Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites is rated by TripAdvisor as #6 out of 104 hotels in Ocean City, MD.

Activities are free for hotel guests and local residents are also invited to participate for a nominal fee. No registration or RSVP is required. For more information, contact Tracy Rice (trice@dunesmanor.com, 410.289.1100).

Explore Ocean City

 


My assignment at Dunes Manor Hotel & Suites was comped but my opinions are my own.

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Shawnee Inn Holiday Traditions

  • By
  • December 21, 2016

Celebrate Christmas along the scenic Delaware River  

Shawnee Inn holiday traditions

Breakfast with Santa

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

I have fond memories of my children’s eyes opening wide as they watched Santa make his entrance at a Breakfast with Santa we attended for years. Now that my children are older, I long for those days.

Throughout December, children of all ages had an opportunity to share in a long-established Shawnee Inn holiday tradition. On Sat., Dec. 3, at the first breakfast with Santa held this year, I had the pleasure to watch a group of children anticipating Santa’s arrival. As he entered the River Room Gastropub, all eyes were on the man dressed in red.

Breakfast with Santa is one of the many events held at Shawnee Inn, Shawnee on Delaware, PA during the month of December.

Shawnee Inn holiday traditions
Santa visited Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort throughout December.

Sharing Holiday Spirit

Shawnee staff and management shared their holiday spirit and thoughts with me. Kaitlyn O’Connor joined the staff as marketing coordinator more than a year ago.

On a cold, (windy) late fall day, Jeromy Wo, Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort marketing director, ventured outside with me onto the Shawnee Inn lawn, overlooking the scenic Delaware River, where we talked about some of his most coveted Shawnee Inn holiday traditions.

You can watch the video here.

Dining in the River Room Gastropub

There’s an ambiance in the River Room Gastropub that’s synonymous with leisurely dining. The River Room is one of three on-site restaurants available to guests and travelers. I began my meal with a piping hot, savory French Onion Soup that really could have been a meal in itself, but I knew I couldn’t pass on an opportunity to have a juicy and tender portion of salmon filet that was quite extraordinary and artfully presented. And sure, why worry about extra calories, so I also ordered a side of crispy steak fries.

While I dined, a pianist played a mix of holiday music in the lobby amidst the Nutcrackers, Poinsettia, tinsel and twinkling lights. Sometimes, as in this case, I’ll shoot an impromptu video even when the lighting isn’t perfect. Here’s a segment featuring Chris Cinterella.

Celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah at Shawnee Inn

Christmas & Hanukkah Holiday Buffet

Are you looking for a festive buffet? Make your holiday memorable with friends and family as you gather together in the Worthington Ballroom on Sun., Dec. 25. The buffet will feature a carving station, with plenty of food prepared by Shawnee’s culinary team. Among the offerings at additional stations will be soup; fruit, cheese and salad; sides; chilled seafood; chef attended crepe; entrees; youth; festive bread assortment; coffee and tea; and dessert.

Reservations can be made by calling 800-742-9633. Prices: Adults /$34.95; Seniors (65+)/$29.95; Youth (12-16) $24.00 and Children/$1.00/each year.
(example 7 years old=$7.00)

New Year’s Eve Shawnee style

Celebrate the final hours of 2016 at Shawnee Inn on Sat., Dec. 31, 6 – 10 p.m. in the River Room Gastropub 

Buffet | $35 per adult
$25 Youth (12 – 16)
$1 for every year Children (2-11)
   ie. a 10 year old pays $10
plus 6% tax, gratuity not included

View the entire menu

 

Shawnee Inn photo gallery – photos by Joan Mead-Matsui

More information regarding Shawnee Inn’s rich history is provided in this video courtesy of Jeromy Wo. Find your spiritual nourishment while exploring the outdoors on a guided hike led by one of Shawnee’s knowledgeable guides or register for an off-site hike on one of the scenic trails at the nearby Delaware Water Gap recreation area.

Coming soon…a story and photos from my Shawnee guided hike at the Delaware Water Gap recreation area.


Many thanks to Rob Howel, Jeromy Wo and Kaitlyn O’Connor for their hospitality during my sponsored stay. Rest assured, my opinions are my own.  

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A much-needed date night: Mount Airy Casino Resort

  • By
  • December 15, 2016

 

A perfectly crafted date night

Mount Airy Casino Resort

 

Are you longing for a much-needed date night?

A quiet dining experience at a table for two? A concert? Or both? Date nights don’t happen often enough and setting aside a night out can be a daunting task.

More than two years ago, Vincent Jordan, Vice President of Marketing & Player Development at Mount Airy Casino Resort, introduced me to the first-class accommodations at Mount Airy during a weekend travel assignment. Recently, my husband and I returned as dinner guests and were treated to a full-course, candlelit meal at Bistecca by IL MULINO, followed by a concert featuring jazz saxophonist legend, Kenny G, and a “meet and greet.”

If you crave shellfish, Bistecca’s Market Oysters are a spectacular beginning to your meal.

Date night began at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening at a candlelit table for two. If you’ve never been to Mount Airy, Bistecca is located on the second floor and only steps away from the casino and several other dining options. The location is particularly convenient for guests and visitors who plan to try their skills (and luck) at the gaming tables and slot machines or get their taste of nightlife in Gypsies Lounge, one of Mount Airy’s busiest entertainment venues.

Bistecca is the perfect setting to reminisce over a meal that’s expertly prepared and served in a relaxed, casual setting. Celebrate your night together with a cocktail or a selection from an extensive wine selection from around the world.

A succulent appetizer – Octopus with white beans and tomatoes.

Are you wondering about the type of fare you’ll find at Bistecca? The cuisine is a combination of Abruzzo-style and a modern steakhouse. Meats are hand-cut by the executive chef, the pasta is handcrafted, and the seafood and produce are extremely fresh.

The kale salad featured apples, almonds, shaved parmesan cheese and a delightfully light, flavorful dressing.

Most of our meal selections came from the main menu. We selected ORGANIC ROASTED BEETS goat cheese and tomatoes, GRILLED OCTOPUS white beans and tomato, WHOLE GRILLED BRANZINO fennel, arugula, orange, COLORADO LAMB CHOPS, MARKET OYSTERS, TRUFFLE FRIES  and STEAKHOUSE FRIES from the menu. There was more than enough food for two people to share. I wish I could say I favored one dish. They were all seasoned and cooked to perfection. Guaranteed, if you go to Bistecca, you will find something for even the most finicky palette. Before you go, you can view the entire menu here

Colorado Lamb Chop

Reservations are recommended.  Guests who haven’t made a reservation will definitely wait in line for a table on the weekends. Plan to arrive for dinner by 5:30 or 6 p.m. to allow plenty of time to relish every bite.

 

Whole Grilled Branzino with fennel, arugula and orange. I typically order fish when I’m on assignment and I wasn’t disappointed with the Branzino’s citrus aroma and lightly salted skin. 

Concert time

The clock was ticking as we finished our meal. After more than 90 minutes of culinary bliss, we were eager to pick up our Kenny G concert tickets at the box office.

Jazz saxophonist legend, Kenny G is one of the recent headliners to perform at Mount Airy Casino Resort. We met Kenny at a photo op and “meet and greet” held after his concert.

Whether you want to be dazzled by top-name entertainers, dance the night away or laugh until your sides ache, after your meal at Bistecca, your night out isn’t over yet. Stroll across the casino floor after your meal and experience big-name talents on stage at Gypsies lounge. After you’ve nourished your taste buds, it’s time to celebrate the performing arts at one of Mount Airy’s shows.

Book your meal, entertainment and lodging online at mountairycasino.comYou’ll find Mount Airy is always jumping with activity, so why not spend the night.

Here’s a preview of upcoming events at Mount Airy. A complete list can be found mountairycasino.com/play/entertainment/headliners. You must be 21 years or older to enter the nightclub.

 

LOVERBOY

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*Event is for guests 21 years & older.

SATURDAY, APRIL 29 • 8PM • DOORS AT 7PM • GYPSIES
TICKETS $65 / $55

GET TICKETS

EDDIE MONEY

eddiemoney_584x294-web-header

FRIDAY, MAY 19 • 8PM • GYPSIES
TICKETS $65 / $55

GET TICKETS

THE COMMODORES

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SATURDAY, MAY 27, 2017 • 8PM • GYPSIES
TICKETS $65 / $55

GET TICKETS

CRAIG ROBINSON

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SATURDAY, JUNE 3 • 8PM • GYPSIES
TICKETS $65 / $55

GET TICKETS


Mount Airy Casino Resort, 312 Woodland Road, Mount Pocono, is the only full-service casino in Pennsylvania with an AAA Four Diamond Award. This swanky destination getaway is located approximately 90 minutes from New York City on more than 1,000 scenic acres in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Mount Airy Casino Resort

Mount Airy Casino Resort Photo by Joan Mead-Matsui, freelance travel writer and photographer.

Mount Airy Casino Resort, 44 Woodland Rd., Mount Pocono

 

 

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Piper Kerman speaks audience in Scranton, PA

Piper Kerman
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Greenfield from Marie Claire

Piper Kerman at the Scranton Cultural Center

by Elyse Notarianni 

Piper Kerman, author of “Orange is the New Black,” spoke to a sold-out audience at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple July 19 as a part of the Lackawanna County Library Guest Speaker Series. Her memoir and hit Netflix series detail her experience as an inmate at a minimum security women’s federal correctional facility in Connecticut.

Piper Kerman shares her story

Shortly after her college graduation, Piper Kerman found herself involved in a relationship with an international drug smuggler, Nora Jansen. Upon Jansen’s request, she carried a suitcase of money from Chicago to Brussels in 1993. Officials arrested Kerman in 1998 on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking.  She pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, a sentence she did not serve until 2004.

Piper Kerman
Elyse Notarianni holds up her ticket as Kerman speaks about her time in Danbury Prison

In her speech, Kerman pulled attention to the incarceration rate in the United States, one of the highest in the world. Incarceration rates for women alone have increased by 650 percent over the past 30 to 40 years.

“If we are going to have the biggest prison system in the world,” Kerman said, “then I think more Americans should think about that and talk about it.”

Orange is the New Black encourages Americans to do just that. As a nation, we see crime as one entity, and we ignore the individuals involved. While the Netflix series is meant to entertain, it reminds its audience that the depictions on the screen represent reality.

On stage, Piper Kerman is a blonde, upper-middle class white woman in a blue floral dress. When you visualize this woman in an orange jumpsuit or humiliated by a strip search, understanding hits. These issues are real and they are standing right in front of you.

This is the kind of realization the Kerman wants to inspire. Kerman works to educate people who have the power to incite change by speaking to audiences across the country. She talks about inequalities in the justice system based on race, sex, power, and socio-economic status.

Reforming an ineffective system

In the end, Kerman sends a powerful message about reforming an ineffective system. She got to know women whose lives were negatively affected by the nation’s drug trade. Through them, she now understands her part in in the problem. However, she says that instead of serving time in prison, she could have worked directly with these women through service. This would have not only helped her understand the effects of her actions, but would have allowed her to work to correct her mistakes.

To lock up a woman in federal prison costs the government $30,000 a year, whereas rehabilitation programs may cost as low as $18,000 and offers a lower likelihood of the women repeating that offense. Kerman strives to inform people that alternative methods not only exist, but are an improvement over our current system. 

Kerman ended her time in Scranton, Pennsylvania by encouraging her audience to learn about the criminal justice system. She wants people to find ways to get involved— even if that just means donating books to their local prison.

Elyse Notarianni
Elyse Notarianni is a student at American University and a guest blogger at joanmatsuitravelwriter.com.
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Fernwood Resort: Four seasons of family fun

  • By
  • July 15, 2016

Fernwood Resort: creating year-round family experiences

Gina Bertucci: Focus is on family at Fernwood

Activities=Quality Family Time 

 

 

Family fun…Have you taken the time to create lasting memories with your family?

Creating an experience that’s all-encompassing for families and guests of all ages is one of the challenges Gina Bertucci, Fernwood Resort co-owner, embraces.

Gina Bertucci
Gina Bertucci, co-owner, Fernwood Resort

With more than 18,000 member families, Fernwood Resort and the Villas at Tree Tops & Fairway®, 2157 River Rd, East Stroudsburg, PA, is part of RCI and is one of the largest vacation ownership properties in the Mid-Atlantic region with 650 beautifully-appointed villas.

“We have both timeshares and rentals so we’re a mixed-use property,” Bertucci explained.

Lodging options range from one-to-four bedrooms with accommodations for every taste, with a home-like feeling and amenities from simple and economical to deluxe and spacious.

When you’re ready to venture out onto the property, you’ll also see why Fernwood has received awards for being green.

According to Bertucci, “As a business, when we were looking at how to develop these pieces of property, what did we do?”

The Pocono TreeVentures and zipline courses are examples of the extraordinary measures Bertucci and her partners have taken to preserve the beauty and nature on the property.

 

family
The Matsui family receives instruction before beginning the Pocono TreeVentures course. Photo submitted by Fernwood Resort.

 

“We looked at ways to preserve this property. There’s a stream that goes through it, but really when you’re up in the trees, you really do appreciate the nature and the beauty of this region.”


Everywhere you turn at Fernwood, there’s something for everyone. A few of the free on-site activities are swimming and weekly pool parties, summer family movie nights, picnics and BBQ nights. At an additional cost, try horseback riding at Bushkill Stables, Pocono TreeVentures Ropes and Zipline courses, Blue and White Lightning Tubing and Paintball. Visit Fernwood Resort’s website for prices and hours of operation.

 

family
Kento Matsui enjoys an afternoon of swimming at Fernwood Resort’s outdoor pool.

 


 

Family
Discover the countryside surrounding Fernwood Resort. You can explore on foot or by horseback at Bushkill Riding Stables. Reserve your horse and saddle by clicking here

Approximately 15 years ago, Bertucci and other businesses affiliated with the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau got together to answer the question, how can we continue to showcase the Poconos as a region to explore and enjoy, and at the same time, preserve its natural beauty?

The Fernwood partners, for example, utilized approximately 10 acres of gorgeous farmland for the TreeVentures and Zip Line courses.

“It’s beautiful and challenging and when you’re finished, you think I just did something and it’s great exercise. It’s about authenticity,” commented Bertucci. “And not everyone has had a chance to try horseback riding? For other people, it’s shopping at the Crossings (Premium Outlets), canoeing on the Delaware River, bike riding, seeing nearby Bushkill Falls or following a lovely natural walking path at the 77,000-acre at the Delaware Water Gap National Historic site.”

 

What’s our recommendation for off-site family engagement? 

Don’t leave the Poconos without a stop at Bushkill Falls, known as “The Niagara of Pennsylvania.” With each season the landscape changes, providing a unique experience each time you visit. We suggest you reserve a half-day for your adventure.

 

family
Preservation of our natural scenic wonders is top-priority for Gina Bertucci, Fernwood Resort, representatives from other businesses and resorts and members of the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau. Visit Bushkill Falls but please follow the rules as shown above. Observe and appreciate but hands-off plants and wildlife.

family
Bushkill Falls is host to many family adventures, schools and group tours, weddings and is a fantastic photo op. I guarantee you will get your workout while on your trek up and down the steps leading to and from the basin. Grab a bite to eat at the snack bar and then stock-up on keepsakes and souvenirs at the gift shop.

 

 

family
When you need to cool off on a warm summer day, you will appreciate the cool mist of water from the cascading falls and the shady areas provided along the trail leading to the basin.

 Bushkill Falls is the “Niagara of Pennsylvania”


Why should you plan a trip to the Pocono Mountains’ region?

As the nights turn chillier and the leaves that adorn the trees of the Pocono Mountains fall to the ground and create a gentle blanket of vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange, celebrate fall by tuning into the sounds of freshly fallen leaves underfoot. Celebrate the four seasons in the Pocono Mountains.

“There’s something for everyone in the Pocono Mountains. It’s all here and that’s fortunate for us. Family time is part of the fabric of our lives. You remember those moments together.” Gina Bertucci, Fernwood Resort.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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