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Events to Travel For

For many, Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, regardless of the traditionalists and their radical “position of the sun” theory. Consider the finer points of the holiday: warm weather, barbecues, patriotic celebrations, and for most, the elusive three-day weekend. While Christmas or Independence Day might fall in the middle of the week, good old Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday in May, meaning it’s a lock for a minimum three days of no work, school, or hot dog-free living.

Of course, there is a rather serious side to the holiday as well. Long before the mega sales, beach trips, and the Indianapolis 500 became part of our traditions, Memorial Day was created as a day of remembrance for U.S. soldiers who died while serving in the military. When making plans for this extended weekend, it’s important to set aside some time to pay tribute to those who sacrificed everything in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy today.

With a holiday as significant as this one, you’ll find celebrations taking place in every town, big or small across the country. It’s the perfect time to get away and do something amazing, especially for those of you planning on padding your three-day weekend with some extra time off. When it comes to selecting a destination for your ultimate Memorial Day weekend getaway, take a cue from these two cities, both of which have easily accessible airports (important with this being one of the busiest travel weekends of the year) as well as a wide variety of entertainment and Memorial Day service options.

East Coast Getaway – Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capitol is arguably the perfect Memorial Day destination for American history enthusiasts. With so many monuments dedicated to those who served our country, you could easily fill up an entire week trying to visit them all. The most poignant of these memorials is the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, built in honor of American service members who died without their remains being identified.

On the evening before Memorial Day, one of the most popular events in the D.C. area is an outdoor concert held on the Capitol’s west lawn, sponsored by PBS. The concert is free to attend, and features celebrity hosts, the national symphony orchestra, and a series of powerful tributes to America’s fallen heroes. The following day is marked with even grander celebrations, such as the ceremonies held at the U.S. Navy, World War II, and Vietnam Veterans memorials. Without a doubt though, the biggest of them all is the annual Memorial Day Parade, which carves a path from the National Mall to the White House, offering spectators over 200 separate elements, including active military units, veterans, floats, music, and celebrities.

West Coast Getaway – Seattle, WA

Memorial Day in Seattle comes with a fun twist, in that the anchor event for the entire weekend is the annual NW Folklife Festival, one of the largest folklife celebrations in the world. Featuring over 7,000 participants in more than 1,000 performances on 27 indoor and outdoor stages, this 4-day event has been a Seattle institution since 1972. You’ll experience the rich cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest through performances, workshops, exhibits, films, crafts, food, and an overarching theme of encouraging others to celebrate, share, and sustain the vitality of traditional folk arts for present and future generations.

On Memorial Day, head over to the annual Memorial Day Service at Evergreen-Washelli Memorial Park, to witness as they honor America’s fallen and salute the flags on the “Avenue of Colors”. There are also commemorative performances by several artists, such as the Pacific University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Drum Corps. Directly after the service is a moving and informative guided tour of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, which is done around a narrative delivered by David Bloch, son of Orville Emil Bloch, Medal of Honor recipient.

Jay Ferris is a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, but this year’s biggest celebration of love may very well be April 29. For those of you who haven’t made your travel plans yet, that’s the date of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. According to Huffington Post, London’s hotel rooms are all but booked solid and apartment rentals are going fast. As of writing this post, FlipKey still has over 200 London vacation rentals available the week of the wedding, so royalty buffs still have the chance to bask in the atmosphere of the big event. Beyond the wedding itself, the city expects to play host to street parties and other unofficial celebrations – love will literally be in the air.

In other vacation rental news, the booking season is warming up. It’s time to start thinking about spring and summer vacations. Here are some items to help you prepare:

I’m not going to make it to Paris this weekend, but I have been thinking that a trip to Quebec for winter carnival would make a pretty awesome Valentine’s Day retreat. I could practice my French and possibly even catch a glimpse of royalty!

Still haven’t found the perfect spot to say “I do”? Whether you are looking to have a destination wedding or to celebrate close to home, consider the increasingly popular trend of using a vacation rental as the venue for your dream wedding. Not only does it provide greater flexibility and a more intimate setting for your marriage ceremony, but using a vacation home is also very affordable. Here are some tips on what to look for in a home that you are considering for your special day:

Cottage WeddingPre-Wedding: In the days leading up to the wedding, family members who would otherwise be spread out across multiple states, countries, or even continents, are finally all together for the first time, anxiously awaiting the big day. Take advantage of this rare opportunity and allow both families to spend some quality time together in one vacation rental or split among several in the same area. Rock away on the front porch, gather around the living room fireplace, or cook up a storm in the kitchen all while sharing old memories and creating new ones.

“Most of our wedding party stayed in the house with us, and it was the central location of all festivities. Everyone else stayed within the Sunset Properties community and it was great. Everyone was within walking distance and the team at Sunset [was] amazing.”-Amy H from Atlanta, GA reviewing East Meets West

The Ceremony: Even if you don’t know the exact address of your wedding venue yet, you probably have a pretty clear picture of what this place should look like. Make your fantasies a reality –take the time to shop around until you finally find your magical mountaintop destination, your picturesque sculpture garden, or your fairytale castle. Make sure to ask home owners for more information about the size of their property, as this will help you gauge whether there is sufficient space for all of your guests to be a part of the momentous celebration.
Beach Wedding
“Once we arrived at the estate it was nothing but enchantment. With breath taking views, serene landscape and the tranquil sounds from the pool and ponds, it was nothing but relaxing from the minute we took out first breath. There is nowhere else in the world I would have rather had our wedding, than where we did” –Happily Mauied from Orange county, CA reviewing Luxury Ocean Front Estate Haiku Maui

The Reception: If you are considering having both the ceremony and the reception in the same place, do some research on wedding service providers in the surrounding area. At the very least you will need a florist, a caterer, and a DJ or band. Ensure that the house itself can handle all these services working and running their equipment at the same time –big kitchens to support the caterer and large patios or expansive landscapes on which to dance the night away are ideal!

“The backyard was big enough to comfortably accommodate for 100+ people with a tent, tables, chairs, dance floor, and buffet style eating. This house and it’s property helped make my wedding PERFECT!” –
MrsJames2 from Myrtle Beach, SC reviewing Pharr House

Pool Reception

The After Party: See what the local nightlife has to offer for guests looking to party late into the night. For those ready to hit the hay, a vacation home with many bedrooms, especially those with multiple and larger sized beds, is perfect for accommodating your closest family and friends. There will undoubtedly be some overflow so find out whether there are enough hotels and inns in the area to lodge any remaining guests hoping to spend the night. Most importantly, don’t forget to reserve a romantic couples suite for the newly weds –homes offering a private guest cottage are perfect for you and your partner to spend the special night together!

“We were married here in July 2009 and had about 30 relatives and friends to stay for the week, as well as 70 others staying elsewhere nearby, it was the most warm and friendly experience we could ever have wished for, with great flexibility and a feeling that the chateau was ‘yours’ for the week.” -Sophmatt from London reviewing Chateau LaGorce

Begin exploring the endless possibilities –from waterfront to cliff side, vacation rentals can be found in locations all around the world and are available year-round! Get started by checking out the villas, beach houses, chalets, and mansions in these popular destination wedding locations:

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Chianti, Italy
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Hilton Head, South Carolina
North Tahoe, California

If you’re still not sure what to do at midnight on January 1, you might think that you dropped the ball on your New Years plans. Fortunately, you’re not the only one looking to have some first night fun. All across America, New Years revelers will be kicking off 2010 by carrying on the tradition of dropping objects from high places during the final seconds of 2009.

Ball drops get the most attention of New Years drops, thanks to the Times Square festivities in New York City. The New York Times has dropped the ball almost every year since 1907, and the celebration regularly draws nearly 1 million live spectators, not to mention the millions who watch the spectacle on TV. For those who prefer to avoid the crush of the Big Apple, balls are dropped in more relaxing settings nationwide. For example, Gatlinburg, TN will drop a ball, launch fireworks, and host live performances. Buffalo, NY has traditionally hosted one of the largest ball drops in the country, but the celebration is at risk of being skipped this year due to budget cuts.

With the holiday season in full swing and 2009 quickly retiring, it’s time to start planning your New Year’s celebrations.  We’ve highlighted cities around the world that greet 2010 with a bang. So get your party hat, grab your kissing partner and book your vacation rental and get ready to head to one of these most sizzling celebrations!
Sydney, Australia– Australians bring in the New Year like no one else. The fireworks display over Syndey Harbor is the most watched fireworks spectacle in the world with 1.5 million people gathering to see the fierce pyrotechnics that dance across the dark skies. This year’s theme is “Awaken the Spirit” with the Syndey Harbour Bridge adorned with a large S (for Sydney) and crowds showing up wearing blue to represent Sydney.

Miami, Florida– This saucy city certainly knows how to celebrate.  With clubs along Miami Beach offering fiestas that go till the early morning, the night time sizzles, especially on New Year’s Eve.  Places like Mansion Nightclub and SOBE Live offer open bars and tunes to dance your heart out to.  Or if you’re looking for a more relaxed evening, head to Ocean Drive, dig your feet in the sand and watch the fireworks show over the ocean.

New York City, New York– The city that never sleeps shows you how it’s done.  With over a million people gathering in Times Square to watch the glittering ball drop, mark the end of one year and the beginning of another.  As the ball drops, take in the tunes of big name artists like Taylor Swift and Lionel Ritchie. With festivities like these, there’s no doubt that the next year will start off right.

Edinburgh, Scotland Hogmanay (New Years) in Edinburgh dates back to pagan times when people celebrated mid-winter with fire and light festivals.  Today the festivities are spread across several days with a torchlight procession on the 29th that weaves through the streets of the city planting seeds of excitement and ending in the burning of aViking Long boat. On the 31st people gather in the streets with the Edinburgh Castle standing guard over the city as fireworks blaze in the background.  Stages are set up throughout the city with music and dancing and at midnight after the kisses and hugs have quieted, people join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, a song which has been sung for centuries.

Las Vegas, Nevada Las Vegas is dazzling 364 days out of the year, but on New Year’s Eve it is a full blown spectacle. With people dancing in the streets under the flashing lights and sparkling fireworks glimmering in the sky, there is no shortage of energy. If you’re well connected with the Hollywood type, get your tickets to one of the several parties hosted by the likes of 50 Cent, Eva Longoria, Nicole Ritchie and the Black Eyed Peas.

Traveling is one of the best ways to experience new traditions, to get lost in another culture and encounter new things.  But experiencing a new culture doesn’t mean you have to hop a plane and fly across the ocean. Many times our neighbors in nearby states have their own quirks and distinct cultures that make a visit well worth the trip.  Traveling to festivals provides the perfect opportunity to not only kick back and have fun, but to also experience, first hand, the spirit of a different community, right here in your own country.

Here are some winter festivals to help heat up the upcoming long, chilly, winter months ahead:

Festival Name: New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Where: New York City

When: December 31st, 3 p.m.

While New Year’s Eve is  celebrated throughout the world, New York City hosts one of the largest parties to ring in the new calendar loud and proud. Roughly one million visitors gather for New Years Eve in Times Square every year, where they listen to live music, watch the ball drop at midnight and give kisses to loved ones while a ton (literally) of confetti flutters about.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square began in 1904 when the New York Times moved to Times Square and wanted to celebrate the completion of the Times Tower.  With fireworks blazing and excitement buzzing, the first New Year’s Eve was a wild success.  In 1907 the fireworks were banned, thus the birth of the brightly lit ball that drops from 1 Times Square at 11:59 every December 31st. Recently the ball was replaced with a Waterford Crystal ball that is twice the size and creates 16 different colors, turning the building into a colorful, glowing kaleidoscope.

With stations like MTV and ABC airing the festivities, people from around the world tune into to celebrate the ball drop.  Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve show has been a staple in this American celebration.  Since 1972 he has hosted live coverage of the party in Times Square, with various musicians helping him rock in the New Year.  In recent years Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Fergie and Lenny Kravitz have been featured on Clark’s show, performing their music and giving commentary.  Even past presidents turn out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with Bill and Hilary Clinton hitting the button to drop the ball at the 2009 celebration. The festivities are so elaborate that it’s hard not to get excited about the things to come and say goodbye to things past.

What: Sundance Film Festival

Where: Park City, Utah

When: January 21-31

The Sundance Film Festival has become one of the most prestigious film events in the world.  With major celebrities attending the festival ranging from Spike Lee to Uma Thurman and Paris Hilton to Russel Simmons, it’s possible you’ll rub shoulders with the best and the brightest of Hollywood.

In fact, it is the largest independent cinema festival in the U.S., allowing smaller yet talented filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work. The Sundance Film Festival was born in 1978 when Robert Redford, a Utah resident, decided to shed a national light on the importance of independent American films while allowing filmmakers to compete. The festival has been a wild success ever since with many films and directors ricocheting into mass appeal due to the festival.  Movies such as Garden State, Motorcycle Diaries, sex, lies, and videtape, Donnie Darko, and Clerks have all gained cult following while directors such as Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch have gone on to direct major box office hits.

Tickets to this season’s Sundance Film Festival are hot, but starting today you can have a chance to score one of the remaining tickets by heading here where you can purchase a festival pass or individual movie tickets.  No doubt the after parties will be hopping too, but you’ll have to cozy up to Uma to get the invite.