Fall for Steamboat Springs


Steamboat Springs

As the snow melts, an outdoorsman’s paradise awakens. So grab your bike, kayak or fishing gear and set out into nature. You won’t be disappointed.

Steamboat Springs is best known as a winter sports town, home to the Steamboat Ski Resort and dozens of winter Olympians. Yet at an elevation of 6,700 feet, Steamboat is equally lively in summer and fall, when its dry-as-ranch-dust snow is replaced with a sunny, cool mountain climate that’s idyllic for an outdoorsy getaway. In a single weekend, you can fly-fish mountain streams, horseback-ride across rolling ranchlands, hike through wildflower meadows and aspen glades, mountain bike on a growing network of single-track, browse a downtown lined with boxy Western storefronts, and finish it off with a soothing soak in one of the town’s steaming natural hot springs.

COWBOY CULTURE
Long before it was a sports town, Steamboat Springs was a ranch town. Along with multimillion-dollar vacation homes, working ranches occupy much of the Yampa Valley—thousands of acres dotted with beef cattle and bus-sized hay bales. The cattle dogs you’ll see in the back of muddy pickups really do herd, and the cowboy hats worn in town—some of them, anyway—are the real deal, too.

The 10-block-long downtown still reflects Steamboat’s cowboy roots. Ranch supply stores sit alongside bike shops, boutiques and wine bars on the main artery, Lincoln Avenue. Foremost among them is F.M. Light and Sons, a century-old dry goods store where shoppers can browse the 2,000 pairs of cowboy boots, stop by the Hat Services counter and pick up a handbag with a built-in gun holster.

To sample cowboy culture yourself, take a horseback ride at Del’s Triangle Three Ranch, in the Elk River Valley a half hour north of Steamboat Springs. Guides lead half- and full-day rides over sage-covered slopes and through the hills, keeping an eye out for the elk herds that often gather on the property. Come fall, blooming fields of yarrow and mule’s ear daisy give way to blazing yellow aspens. At this time of year, the elk put on their own show, as the males bugle loudly for female attention.

TAKE TO THE TRAILS
For those who want to hoof it in hiking boots, trails abound. Four miles from town, an easy quarter-mile route leads to Fish Creek Falls, descending 283 feet into a deep rocky seam. Paths continue to Upper Fish Creek Falls and 5 miles south to Lost Lake. Also near town, the Spring Creek Trail climbs gently for 5 miles through a broad canyon glowing gold with ferns and aspens. The surrounding Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest offers a dizzying array of options for long day hikes.

On a mountain bike you can cover even more terrain. Locals flock to the trails on Emerald Mountain, which rises up from the southwest side of downtown, and the 50 miles of trails at the Steamboat ski area, accessible with leg power or by gondola. Explore the ski area’s trail network or leave its boundary to connect with a web of national forest trails.

STEAMING SPRINGS
A cloud of fog and the tang of sulfur hang over Lincoln Park at the edge of downtown, where several of the region’s natural hot springs gurgle out of rock fissures and ponds. When early trappers came upon a nearby spring on the Yampa River’s western bank, they thought that the funny chugging sound it made resembled a steamboat whistle—which is how this landlocked town got its unlikely name. (Alas, construction of the railroad silenced the spring years ago.)

After a day on the trails, a visit to one of Steamboat’s hot springs provides the perfect remedy for weary muscles. You’ll find two decidedly different options for a public soak. The Old Town Hot Springs right downtown and open year-round offers 8 man-made swimming pools fed by hot mineral springs. Also part of the facility: waterslides and a fitness center with a range of exercise classes.

On the more rustic end of the scale, Strawberry Park Hot Springs lies in the woods, 8 miles from town (including 3 miles on a rutted dirt road). Steamy 147-degree water trickles down a hillside into a series of stone masonry pools, where it’s cooled with creek water to about 105 degrees. For the complete experience, take at least one plunge into the cold-water creek. Though it’s not the freewheeling flower-child scene found at many hot springs, Strawberry Park is clothing optional and adults only after dark.

CAST AWAY
Hot springs may be Steamboat’s identity, but the Yampa River feels like its lifeblood. Starting from modest streams high in the Flat Tops Wilderness, the Yampa grows into a broad river that flows right through town, just a block south of Lincoln Avenue. The 7-mile Yampa River Core Trail weaves along its banks, busy with runners, bicycling kids and stroller-pushing moms. Kayakers play in its waves, while inner tubers float past waterfront restaurants. Anglers enjoy several miles of public access, casting for rainbow and brown trout.

Outfitters like Steamboat Flyfisher can offer even more, accompanying you to private stretches of river that run through ranchland south of town. Here the Yampa instantly feels wild, framed by red dogwoods and golden willows, flowing cold and clear the color of single-malt scotch.

Casting a fly rod here is an utterly peaceful way to spend a morning. You’re serenaded by the sounds of the water, the trill of blackbirds and the distant mutters and moos of ranch animals. You mend your line just so and watch it unfurl downstream, mesmerized, as you wait for the almost imperceptible tug of a rainbow.

 

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The Snows of Summit County: Breckenridge


Breckenridge

As soon as you head west of Denver on Interstate 70, the scenery transforms. Steel and concrete morph into pine and granite, and the front range of the Rockies fills the windshield. WATCH FOR WILDLIFE, cautions a yellow sign; bighorn sheep, pushed from the peaks by heavy snows, casually gaze through a curlicue of horn at the cars streaming by.

By the time you reach Dillon 60 miles later, you’ve nearly climbed to the roof of the Rockies. Summit County sidles up against the Continental Divide, spiked with peaks and elevations that range from 8,000 to 14,000 feet. Its ample dry snows, top-notch ski areas and picturesque resort towns—all linked by the free Summit Stage bus system—make this region a no-brainer for winter sports fans.

Fifteen miles southwest of Keystone, Breckenridge seems to have been plucked from a snow globe. Flakes drift down on a Main Street lined with brightly painted cabins and steep-pitched Victorians, now filled with restaurants, shops and galleries. The Blue River gurgles under pedestrian bridges and a snowy massif, etched with ski runs, rises right from town.

Prospectors flowed into this 9,600-foot-high outpost in the mid-1800s, bushwhacking their way up river drainages as they panned for gold. They hit pay dirt, including the largest gold nugget ever found in Colorado. “Tom’s Baby” weighed more than 13 pounds; the miner swaddled it in blankets like an infant on the way into town.

Of course, it was snow, not gold, that turned out to be this town’s greatest fortune. Today Breckenridge anchors the nation’s second most-visited ski resort (after Vail). The resort stretches across 4 peaks and seems to expand every year. Its south end, Peak 10, skirts the town; the north end, Peaks 7 and 8, sits higher, linked to town by the free BreckConnect gondola.

Some call Breckenridge “the gentle giant” for its gradual slopes; indeed, many will find the intermediate runs here quite tame. But advanced skiers and riders will find plenty of pitch in the bowls accessed from the nation’s highest chairlift on Peak 8, which tops out at 12,998 feet. Breck’s renowned terrain parks and pipes—considered some of the best in the country—ramp up the challenge, with an array of boxes, rails, kickers and other features that seem to go on forever. And everyone can enjoy Breck’s stunning serrated scenery, looking across to the Continental Divide scraping at the sky.

Even if you never intend to get on a chairlift, Breckenridge dishes up plenty of entertainment, which makes it the best base for a Summit County vacation. Take a thrill ride on the Gold Runner Coaster, where two-person sleds on rails twist wildly downhill. At the Breckenridge Nordic Center below Peak 8, some 30 kilometers of trails wind through old-growth pines, across meadows and to overlooks with postcard views of the Ten Mile Range.

In town, there’s great dining at every turn, from reliable stalwarts like the South Ridge Seafood Grill to newcomers like Ember and Twist. The Arts District is home to a growing number of galleries and art classes. Sign on with the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance for a walking tour—the town has more than 250 historic structures—or a snowshoe tour of gold-mining sites.

And be sure to check out the Breckenridge Welcome Center. Its great little history museum reveals Breckenridge “firsts,” including the nation’s first half-pipe and the first ski resort in the world to allow snowboarding. Clearly, Breckenridge recognizes a gold mine.

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Enjoyments in Myrtle Beach


Myrtle Beach

There's so much happening at once in this popular Southern vacation spot, you'll feel like you're tackling yet another of its popular humongous buffets.

From toddler to tween to retiree, there’s a fun park or miniature golf haven in Myrtle Beach to suit everyone. Rollercoaster fans hit Freestyle Music Park while aquatic types tackle the slides at Wild Water & Wheels. Engine hounds race carts at Nascar Speedpark and miniature golfers take swings at Mutiny Bay. For old-school versions of all the above, try the nearly half-century-old Family Kingdom.

At the southernmost end of the new boardwalk, rent fishing poles and tackle from the 2nd Avenue Pier, a family-owned joint. The best biking is around the Market Common or Myrtle Beach State Park. Joggers, walkers and beachcombers avoid the summertime crowds when they hit the shore between sunrise and breakfast.

Serious golfers do well at any of the area’s courses, but the ones that regularly snag accolades are Barefoot Resort’s Dye, Love and Fazio courses, Dunes, Tidewater, and TPC of Myrtle Beach. While those courses can cost $100-plus a round, the well-loved Heritage Club, 40 minutes south on Pawleys Island, can run half as much.

Spa goers rave about the getaway in the North Beach Plantation community—Cinzia, The Spa at North Beach Plantation. With a saltwater whirlpool and internationally themed massages, it’s the region’s crown jewel.

And for a blast from the (distant) past, visit Medieval Times’ Myrtle Beach Castle to watch swordplay, falconry and a jousting tournament over a roast-chicken feast.

SHOP
Find the best of the worst cheap T-shirts and snow globes at Wings or Eagles, or visit the grandfather of them all—the gargantuan, 6-decade-old Gay Dolphin Gift Cove on the boardwalk. The area’s bounty of outlet malls keeps bargain hunters busy. The 2 Tanger Outlet malls alone include the likes of Banana Republic, Coach, Nine West and more. And the Coastal Grand Mall, with more than 170 shops, is one of the state’s largest.

Anglers revel in the Bass Pro Shop. For a traditional Southern souvenir, check out the hand-tied hammocks at the Original Pawleys Island Rope Hammock.

EAT (LOTS!)
Myrtle Beach has a crazy number of huge buffets, most offering more than 150 different dishes. These massive dining rooms can easily handle the busloads of hungry visitors who descend on them before heading off to nearby attractions. Places like The Original Benjamin’s  and the Great American Steak & Buffet Co. offer local flavors like Calabash-style fried seafood and “chicken bog,” a Low Country dish of rice, chicken and sausage. The buffets are good value, but you might miss out on the nuances of Southern hospitality and home cooking.

DOWNHOME SOUTHERN
Barbecue joints like Big D’s Bar-B-Que Barn or Little Pigs Bar-B-Q lack frills but serve up perfect pork platters, hushpuppies and barbecue and slaw sandwiches. For a more traditional Southern supper, dine on crab casserole at one of the few waterfront dining spots on the beach: the more than 80-year-old Sea Captain’s House.

Just south of Myrtle Beach is Murrells Inlet, lined with restaurants, bars and a marina. Visitors stroll the marshwalk, carrying their drinks as they move from one spot to another to catch live music and enjoy straight-from-the-water appetizers. Sports lovers head to the Market Common’s upscale King Street Grille, while club goers check out the evening scene at Broadway at the Beach.

Epicureans no longer get short shrift on the Grand Strand. The best options are the mod SeaBlue for small plates that start at $10; Greg Norman’s Australian Grille for surf and turf; and Pawleys Island’s High Hammock for nouveau renditions of Southern seaside favorites like shrimp and grits and crab cakes. The Cypress Room at the Island Vista serves upscale versions of downhome food and fresh catches; Divine Prime is the place for dressy steaks.

MUST-TRIES
If you have access to a kitchen, visit the Mr. Fish seafood market for fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. The Crab Cake Lady sells handpicked, hand-shaped crab cakes. Go to a Piggly Wiggly to stock up on grits, ham hocks and peanuts for boiling. The farmers market sells fresh produce on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Finally, don’t miss the Sunday gospel brunch at perhaps the coolest joint in town—the House of Blues.

 

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Myrtle Beach Bliss


Myrtle Beach

Have fun in the sun, chow down in full Southern style, or even get abducted by aliens in this primo resort town.

The crews who dug the Intracoastal Waterway in the 1930s probably didn’t have a clue about what would spring up in their wake. But when they connected inland rivers at the northeastern tip of South Carolina and continued some 60 miles southward, they birthed one crown jewel of an island.

The area that eventually became Myrtle Beach—at the time known by only a few, for its pristine white beaches—was sparsely dotted with vacation homes and a few resorts. But by the 1940s, thanks to its new Air Force base, dance clubs that gave rise to the Carolina Shag and a motel-lined strip, it had been duly discovered. Nearly 80 years later, Myrtle Beach (named for the wax myrtles that sprout in maritime forests and edge up onto the dunes) welcomes almost 14 million visitors annually. Here’s what’s fresh in this long-beloved destination.

PLAY HARD
Myrtle Beach’s famed Ocean Boulevard has always been the place to cruise in the Palmetto State. But since 2010, when the city’s Boardwalk opened, the attention has been shifting from the automobile to the pedestrian. The 1.2-mile walk stretches from 2nd to 14th Avenues and includes countless benches, canopies, parks, souvenir shops and arcades.

You won’t run out of amusements on the Grand Strand, but two must-sees sit within a few blocks of each other on Ocean Boulevard. First, the beachfront SkyWheel, a nearly 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel sporting 42 glass-enclosed air gondolas and a million LEDs that dance in a stunning light show. A ride on this marvel, which opened in 2011, offers views of as far as 20 miles in every direction; try it at dusk to take in the sunset and the strip’s neon artistry.

Just south of the wheel, Family Kingdom has reigned as Ocean Boulevard’s amusement park for decades. While it’s known for its old-school wooden roller coaster, 2013 brought the Twist ’n’ Shout steel roller coaster and a 2-person flying-gondola ride. You can stroll the amusement park grounds free of charge; you pay only to ride.

Farther afield in nearby Murrells Inlet, Pirate Adventures awaits pint-size landlubbers looking for seafaring action. After donning swashbuckling clothes and dabbing on pirate makeup, kids (and their chaperones) climb aboard an old wooden ship to sail in search of treasure. Spoiler alert: Rogue sailors attack along the way.

Myrtle Beach

GEEK OUT
How long would you have lasted in the cold waters that claimed the victims of the Titanic disaster? Stick your hand in an icy tank and find out. Think you can use your mind to move objects? Strap on a sensor-laden headband and give it a go at WonderWorks, where you’ll find hands-on experiments galore. Until Labor Day, Encounters: U.F.O. Experience displays 200-plus artifacts centered on purported run-ins with aliens.

TEE UP
Golf Digest has ranked the Grand Strand, with its 102 greenways, among its top 10 best buddy golfing destinations for years. And now, the area’s pick-of-the-litter course is easier to access. Instead of booking through your resort to score a reservation at the semiprivate Dunes Golf & Beach Club, you can book at myrtlebeachgolf.com.

SHOPPING BREAK
Myrtle Beach’s onetime Air Force base is now home to Market Common, a walkable live/work-shop complex with A-list stores. Noteworthy recent additions include City Mac, a chic Apple shop where you can get the latest phone or troubleshoot laptop snafus; the Kangaroo Pouch, which has the hippest baby gear and wear; Devo Olive Oil Co., selling some 60 types of pressed oil; and the Coastal Wine Boutique, where you can taste and buy

EAT YOUR HEART OUT
Find the Crab Cake Lady’s hand-made crab cakes at Harrelson’s Seafood Market, in Murrells Inlet. And hunt down Mr. Fish at its newly opened location, north of the old (closed) spot; the lines for fried platters and chocolate pie still run out the door.

For down-home food, head to Lulu’s Café (their eggs Benedict is a take on biscuits and gravy, and cheese fries come with pimento cheese). Kudzu Bakery offers cakes, while Coccadotts gets wacky with cupcakes (try the maple and bacon).

A casual lunch of Nacho Hippo’s tacos stuffed to the limits can’t be beat. And a great date night destination is tiny Sobaya Japanese Bistro, where Korean and Japanese dishes are made to order. On the other end of the evening-out spectrum, drive to North Myrtle Beach for 21 Main at North Beach’s country-club-meets-steak-house fare. Chef Lou Petrozzi’s steaks are perfectly rendered; his seafood dishes, like seared scallops, are impeccable.

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Photo Tips: Portrait Pointers


How to capture your travel companions in their best light.

A good portrait is more than a snapshot—it’s a picture that captures the personality of the subject in a special way. Even better is a portrait of a loved one on vacation, when the subject is relaxed and the setting reminds you of happy times. Here are some techniques to make sure you come home with at least one frameworthy (or Facebook-worthy) shot.

START WITH THE LIGHT

People just don’t look good in harsh light, such as you find outside on a sunny day. So get your subject into some flattering shade before you shoot. Or, if there’s no cover to be had, have him or her face away from the sun. This will eliminate squinting and heavy shadows.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Look for plain backgrounds that let your subject stand out. If the busy background is necessary to the composition (say, to show off a resort’s jungle setting), find a place in the frame where the subject fits without objects like trees that seem to be growing out from behind his or her head. Pros sometimes soften a distracting background by opening up the lens to its widest setting (i.e., the lowest number f/stop) to limit the depth of focus and direct attention to the subject. (This technique works better with digital SLRs than with point-and-shoots.)

GESTURE AND MOMENT

Keep talking once you start to shoot, offering posing instructions and encouraging words that will make your sitter feel comfortable. And try to keep the camera at your eye level, so when you tell your killer joke and your subject responds with a great smile, you’re ready to shoot. Or set the camera on a tripod and use a remote to trip the shutter. That lets you maintain eye contact with the subject, allowing for easier interaction. The whole point is to be ready for that split second when the subject lets down his or her guard and the personality shines through.

THE EYES HAVE IT

A lot of things can be soft and out of focus in a portrait, but not the eyes. If your camera has a moveable autofocus target, make sure it falls right at the subject’s eye level. Try not to compose your portrait with the subject’s eyes in the middle of the frame (where your autofocus target usually rests), as it makes for a very static composition. And remember to fill the frame, even with a headshot.

SHOOT AWAY

Finally, don’t be stingy with the shutter. In the digital age, shooting more costs nothing extra. The sound of shutter clicks will reassure your subject, helping you both to arrive at that one magic moment—and the perfect portrait.

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Travel the world – in just one weekend.


Every year, late November – I take the vacation of a lifetime (literally).

My world tour (as I like to call it) takes place in the comfort of my very own home as I excitedly put up my Christmas tree. A “vacation” tradition that started by accident – has turned into my favorite weekend of the year.

It began decades ago. Without actually ever planning it, I discovered that I was suddenly scouring every vacation destination I visited for the perfect Christmas ornament. I sought out “special” ornaments – the ones that you could only find at tiny local gift shops. They were often hand painted by a local artist – and in some cases, more expensive than my airfare to get there.

To some, my souvenir shopping has turned into a full blown obsession. On occasion, I have been known to alter activities and arrive late for reservations – all in pursuit of the perfect ornament. I may or may not have also fallen victim to an utter state of frenzy due to a “lack” of ornament options in certain destinations (which I have also made a mental note of a great business opportunity). I now refer to myself as a “collector” as it seems to negate just a little bit of the crazy and serves as a better explanation for why it is physically impossible for me to board a departing flight without my coveted ornament safely nestled in my carry on.

My countdown has begun – in just a few short weeks I will be breathless in front of a Botticelli at the Louvre, island hopping through the Caribbean, river rafting in the Grand Canyon, wine tasting in Napa Valley and searching for my knight in shining armor in London.

I challenge anyone to plan a better trip than that.

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Plan a great cruise getaway during World’s Largest Cruise Sale!


Catherine SOne of the great things about cruising is that it provides the opportunity to visit so many different destinations.  Whether you enjoy lying on a beach or have always wanted to see a glacier, cruises offer options for almost everyone. 

My favorite cruise vacation toured the Western Caribbean, with stops in Key West, Guatemala, Belize & Mexico.  We toured Mayan ruins, ate lunch beside the gorgeous Lake of the Seven Colors, and visited the polydactyl cats at Hemingway’s Home – and we only had to unpack once!

This is a great time to plan a cruise vacation.  October is National Cruise Vacation Month, and from October 20, 2013 through October 27, 2013, the “World’s Largest Cruise Sale” is taking place.  From discounted sailings to onboard credits, there are lots of ways to save. 

If you’re curious about the offers available during this sale, click here or call 877-RCI-BOAT, where one of our RCI® Cruise Guides will be happy to help you book your cruise vacation!

Come back to the RCI Blog this week for more photos and stories from RCI subscribing members and their cruise adventures!

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35th Anniversary


My husband and I wanted a vacation to celebrate our anniversary and we wanted something close to home. We chose Christmas Mountain Village in Wisconsin Dells. We used our resort as a base and took several day trips over the course of our week. Wonderful vineyards that offered wine tasting just a couple of hours away. We visited House on the Rock in Spring Green and spent time at the resort. We had a fireplace in our cottage and made great use of it during the chilly October evenings! What could be better than a warm fire on a cold night with my husband of 35 years? What a relaxing and fantastic trip.

-Lynn C. from Oconomowoc, WI

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Destination: China’s Seaside Escape


When visiting China, be sure to visit the luxurious island of Hainan, home to great surfing, beautiful palm trees, and breathtaking beaches.  This article from Endless Vacation® magazine has tons of interesting information that can help any tourist plan their next trip!

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A Dream Trip to Hainan


Jenny U.As a child, I pictured Hainan as a mysterious and remote island waiting for courageous visitors to reveal its nature. It was not until many years later that my parents planned a spontaneous family trip which uncovered a fascinating and mind-soothing journey in my memory.

We took a ferry to Haikou, the northern point of Hainan. On arrival our family headed directly to a local seafood restaurant where I had steamed red crab meat, juicy shrimps and tender large yellow croaker. Never had I tasted seafood as sweet and luscious. It is said that the pristine south seawater has gifted Hainan with the most delicious seafood. The next morning, we drove alongside the East Coast national road to Sanya Bay. For miles along the road, there were people riding bicycles passing high-reaching coconut trees, cycad and palm trees swaying along the sea breeze.  Behind us, the clear blue sky stretched far to meet the edge of the dazzling seawater.

We arrived at one luxurious resort in Sanya Bay and spent half the day sitting among the sublime tropical plants and vibrant flowers. As far as I could see, I was able to spot two islands amongst thin mist and motorboats sailing around them. People can go angling, a type of fishing, on one island where the best angling club of Sanya rests.  In the afternoon, I took a walk along the bay and touched the warm sea water while fishermen were trawling (another type of fishing) and singing in the distance. People can join in and take trawling lessons, then take their self-caught fish home. Our short stay came to the end as the sun settled below the sea, leaving a golden lining in the sky.

This week on the RCI Blog we’ll be sharing a lot of great information about China. I hope this will help you plan your next vacation to China!

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Relaxation or Adventure? Key West is great for both!


Emily SA few months ago, my boyfriend Blake and I planned a trip down to Key West. After a lot of research (on my part!), we arranged for our accommodations, booked our flights, and began our trip.

We flew into Miami and, at the urging of many articles and reviews, we opted to rent a car to drive to our resort in Key West instead of hopping on another plane – wow, were those authors and reviewers right! The 3+ hour drive on Highway 1 from the Florida mainland to Key West, while lengthy, was incredible! The views of the water were incredible, especially when we went over the Seven Mile Bridge.

After arriving at our resort in Key West, we headed over to a restaurant for dinner and then over to Mallory Square – an open area on the water with all kinds of street performers and vendors – to see an amazing sunset. If you want a front row view, get there early because it gets very crowded!

Our next few days were filled with catching some sun at the resort’s pool, seeing the action on Duval Street and exploring the town. We rented bicycles on two of the days to help us get around quickly to all of the Key West must-do’s: Southernmost Point, the Ernest Hemingway Home, the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum. Another Key West must-do, in my book, is breakfast at Blue Heaven on Thomas Street – great setting and even better food.

Key West is a wonderful vacation destination. Whether you want to just relax by a pool and watch beautiful sunsets or take small adventures exploring the town – or a combination of both – Key West has it all! Come back to the RCI Blog this week to read stories and see photos from RCI Subscribing members who vacationed in the Florida Keys.

 

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Kauai – a great vacation no matter what side of the island you are on!


Elizabeth D

Hawaii’s island of Kauai easily ranks as one of the most beautiful and tranquil places on earth.  For outdoor enthusiasts, both the North and the South sides of Kauai offer awesome activities.  Having stayed on both the North and the South sides, it's really difficult to say which is nicer as they each have a unique appeal.  Typically people shy away from the North side of the island in the winter because it tends to be rainier.  Nonetheless, it boasts lush, green vegetation, beautiful beaches, panoramic golf courses overlooking the ocean and awesome views of the island's many waterfalls. 

The North side of Kauai is home to the start of the incredible Na Pali Coast that attracts people from around the world to hike its rigorous 17-mile trail overlooking the coastline.  Another North side favorite destination is the Kilauea Lighthouse.  It too has breathtaking and is incredible for bird watching as it is located on a wildlife preserve. 

The South side is about an hour drive from the North side of the island. The South side tends to be less rainy and slightly warmer than the North side and is a perfect destination any time of the year.  The South side is home to magnificent beaches such as the beautiful Poipu Beach Park which is known for its excellent snorkeling.  In addition, it’s common place to see monk seals and sea turtles at this beach.  Families find it a great beach to spend the day at as it not only offers calm swimming conditions, but it is also home to convenient picnic facilities.

Evenings are equally tranquil in Kauai as the island offers spectacular sunsets.  In fact, there is no better way to end the day on Kauai than to take in a sunset from one of Kauai’s many beaches!

If you’d like to read more about Kauai and see some spectacular photos of the area, come back to the RCI Blog. We’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to this amazing island all week long!

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“Work hard. Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people."


Becky ABecky A., Director, Christel House Indianapolis

A few weeks ago, I attended the very first graduation for our Christel House Drop Out Recovery School (DORS) here in Indianapolis. It is a program where adults, age 18 and older, can earn their high school diplomas (not a GED) and college credit at a local community college at the same time. We launched the program in August 2012, and in our first year, have approximately 175 students ranging in age from 18 – 53.

Our first graduating class consisted of 5 students, four women and a man. They ranged in age from 19 to 34 and had 9 children between them.  All of them have struggled to make ends meet on minimum wage pay and were searching for better lives for themselves and their families. Life is tough, but even more so when you don’t have a high school diploma. The average high school graduate earns $8,000 more a year than a person without a diploma. That extra $8,000 a year means the ability to put food on the table, buy diapers for babies, put gas in the car and pay the electric bill each month. It also translates into an extra $300,000 in earnings over a lifetime. It has a significant impact on a family’s quality of life and on a person’s own self-worth.

Each of our graduates had a dream to earn their high school diploma. As I watched them march in to “Pomp and Circumstance,” wearing their caps and gowns, I thought about how much courage it must take to return to school after not having a positive experience the first time. All of them juggle jobs, families and school work. It has been an uphill battle, but they didn’t give up. They were not looking for handouts. They were willing to put in the work to improve their lives.  They just needed a place to do that. That place is Christel House.

As I congratulated them, each one told me how hard they worked to achieve this milestone in their lives. The young man told me there were days he just wanted to give up and would think about blowing off class, but his classmates would text him and tell him he needed to come to school. One of the young women told me that she was deeply grateful to our principal, Emily, who was both tough on her and her biggest champion. She gained the self-confidence she needed to understand that she can do anything she sets her mind to do.  That young woman is going on to study at our local community college now.

The commencement speech was delivered by Christel DeHaan, the founder of Christel House and co-founder of RCI.  She shared with the graduates her thoughts on how to live a successful life. Work hard.  Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people. Good advice coming from anyone, but most poignant because of who was speaking.

I’ve heard Christel DeHaan give that same advice many times before and I’ve seen her live it.  My first job out of college was at RCI and I am fortunate to work with her at Christel House.   You may not know this, but RCI was started in her living room nearly 40 years ago. She set goals, worked hard and surrounded herself with good people. What started as a home-based, fledgling business is now a leader in the vacation ownership industry and a multi-national company that sends millions of people on vacation around the world each year. 

“Work hard. Believe in yourself. Set goals. Surround yourself with good people.” It works. I hope our graduates carry that advice with them throughout their lives.

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The views of Sedona, Arizona


Catherine SI took my first trip to Sedona with my family ten years ago.  From the moment we arrived, I was absolutely in love, and it remains one of my favorite places to visit (and where I hope to someday retire!).

The red rocks are the main attraction in Sedona. There, we took a Jeep tour, which is a fun (and bumpy) way to see the sites up close.  The tour allowed us to get to areas that are off limits for hikers and gave us the opportunity to experience breathtaking views.

Another great place we found in Sedona was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which sits nestled among the red rocks.  From its perch, it gives a great opportunity to see some of the other well-known formations, including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.

Sedona also offers amazing artwork and jewelry from artisans who flock to the area.  I always find something new and unique to bring home when I visit, and need to leave room in my suitcase for my finds!

So until my retirement, when I hope to take up permanent residence, Sedona will remain at the top of my list of vacation destinations, and the place I personally believe to be the most beautiful in the country.

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Colorado: A Great Surprise!


Jenny DBefore my parents-in-law moved to Colorado, I had never visited the state, and believed that the only thing people did there was ski. So when my husband and I planned our first trip to visit his parents a few years ago, I was not very enthusiastic (seeing as my favorite vacation spot is the beach!). Since that first visit, we’ve been back to Colorado many times, and each time there is something new and so very different from my home-state of NJ, that I now very much look forward to our visits.

Once, we visited a little amusement park called Santa’s Workshop, built into the slopes of the Pikes Peak mountain range (that was certainly a first for me).  And don’t be fooled by the name! It is a Christmas-themed amusement park and open from mid-May until December 24. On another visit, we spent time at the Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center, an amazing up-close encounter with rescued wolves of all types and sizes, who even treat you to a serenade at the end of your walking tour! And although I’d never imagined standing next to a rock the height of a skyscraper, I was amazed at the beauty of the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center. The stunning views were like something I’d only seen on the National Geographic channel!

All in all, Colorado has now become a favorite place to visit, and I always leave having seen or learned something interesting and new – and very different from my East Coast roots.

This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have traveled to Colorado. Come back and take a look!

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Our Mexican Memory


For our anniversary many years ago we decided to fly away without our girls and have some special time with just the two of us.

What a grand idea that turned out to be. The resort we stayed at in Cancun offered everything we wanted and needed for the two of us to renew our relationship, in every way.

We relaxed together, we enjoyed the beautiful beach with the soft white sand and clear waters and the fabulous views from our suite, and had delicious food in all of the on-site restaurants! One day we even had our dinner served to us, out on the terrace of our room, while the sun was setting.

All the reasons we married 10 years earlier were remembered and we came home with a renewed commitment to each other and our girls! This year we begin our 30th year together, and vacations are still important to us. Time to relax and renew.

-Donna H. from Wernersville, PA

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Cancun and the Riviera Maya: I dare you to get bored!


When planning your vacation, you first have to ask yourself: what kind of experience am I (are we) looking for? Honeymoon, anniversary, shopping, family-focused, adventure, history, theme parks, good for teenagers, health, relaxation? There are so many kinds. But wouldn’t it be great to have it all in one vacation? Believe me, you will when you visit Cancun and the Riviera Maya!

In Cancun you can stay at a resort surrounded by beautiful turquoise water and soft white sands, combined with the warmth and kindness that Mexicans can offer to their guests. Looking for all day activities? You can swim with dolphins, rent a boat to go fishing, or even sail on a yacht! You can do some shopping at the malls, where you will find major international brands. You can also have lunch or dinner on Kukulcan Boulevard – where you will find restaurants with regional, national, and international cuisine. And if you are looking for a night out on the town, Cancun is home to some of the most unique night clubs in the world!

If you love to have close contact with nature and history, you can stay at a resort in the Riviera Maya or Playa del Carmen, only about 40-50 minutes away from Cancun International Airport. There are so many activities, you are sure to find something that appeals to you and those you are traveling with: snorkeling near the beautiful coral reefs, swimming in underground rivers, or golfing on courses designed by world-famous golfers. You can also visit Xel Ha, an aquatic theme park, great for kids and adults! And don’t forget to visit the famous theme park, Xcaret, and archaeological park where you can enjoy swimming at amazing cenotes, see animals and learn about the Mayan history. You can also travel to Tulum to see ancient ruins –  personally, I don’t think there is any other place in the world where the moonlight reflects brighter off the sea than it does in Tulum. If you are looking for more history, head to the “magical” Chichen Itzá (NOT “chicken and pizza”!), a popular tourist destination where you can see a breathtaking Mayan pyramid. Finally, to end a perfect day, walk through the Fifth Ave. strip where international cultures mix to offer an array of food, wine, shopping, and music.

There’s no place in the world where you can enjoy all this and much more! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have visited Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and some of the attractions I told you about above. Come back to the RCI Blog to hear about their trips!

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Las Vegas – A place for everyone!


When people say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” I bet they didn’t think about the fun filled memories they take back with them and never forget.

The place that people once called an adult playground has turned into a vacation spot almost everyone can enjoy! Of course, the main attractions will always be the exciting shows you can see and the card games and lucky slot machines you play, but Las Vegas is the kind of destination that no matter what you, your family, or your friends like to do, there will be something for everyone

Got kids? Las Vegas has taken care of the it’s-too-hot-to go-there-in-the-summertime “blues” with the new water park, Wet’n’Wild Las Vegas, scheduled to open Memorial Day Weekend 2013. This looks like it will be a great place for those looking for an exciting way to cool off.

Looking for more than a t-shirt souvenir to take home with you? There are plenty of malls, shops, and outlet centers for you to visit while there so you can shop for clothing, accessories, and gifts.

So the next time you are planning your vacation and want to try somewhere new, place your bets on Las Vegas and I can almost guarantee it will be a winner!

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Why visit Mazatlán? The food and charm, of course!


We hope you enjoyed reading the stories and seeing the photos of Mazatlan on the RCI Blog the last couple of weeks! And now, to end the week, I’ll leave you with one more story:

The food and the classic charm of Mexico are two great reasons to visit Mazatlán.  Another great reason is the year round great weather and endless beaches.

Let’s start with the food.  Mazatlán’s shrimp is excellent and while visiting the city, there are countless ways to get this local delicacy.  In addition, a big part of the agriculture in Mazatlán is tomatoes.  Finally, Mazatlán is also home of Pacifico Beer.  With these industries all close by, you know you’ll be getting the freshest shrimp, salsa and beer when in Mazatlán!

During the daytime there are many water activities like relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, or taking a boat to Deer Island, the largest of Mazatlán’s three uninhabited islands.  Sport fishing is also a popular activity.

Great evening activities include visiting one of Mazatlán’s great restaurants, going to the Malecón to have fun at one of the many night clubs, or even taking in a baseball game.  Mazatlán’s baseball team, the Vanados, are comparable to any triple A baseball team in the U.S.

Whether you plan to eat, relax, or spend some time on the Malecón, Mazatlán is a great choice for a vacation.

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Mazatlan


I don't know what I would do without my vacation in Mazatlan every fall. My business is very stressful and yet the minute I get off the airplane in Mexico I feel as if a big load has been lifted off my shoulders. The smiling warm friendly people in Mazatlan make me feel like I'm home. The food is wonderful ("shrimp capital" of Mexico). I always come back from there relaxed, happy and can't wait to go next time.

- Dianne from San Diego, CA

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