Restoration of diplomatic relations good news for travelers.
The Obama Administration’s long-overdue removal of Cuba from America’s terrorist list is great news for travelers. The nation at our doorstep, with which the US severed ties more than half a century ago at the apex of anti-Communist fever, is a wonderful vibrant place to visit. Do so now. Both countries’ embassies will open on July 20, so get those travel plans going.
Independent travel is possible, but for convenience, check out these tour operators that include Cuba programs:
Cuba Elite. Luxury hotels and upmarket private villas, apartments and residences. Who says it’s a hard-line Communist country.
Cuba Travel Network. Booking service for hotels and resorts, rental cars, excursions and more geared to Canadians and European who have not been restricted as have US citizens.
Cuba Travel Services. It has been dedicated to reuniting families, but with the normalization of relations, it’s format might change.
Friendly Planet. Tour operator with long-time presence in Cuba. running fully escorted Cuba tours.
Globus. Three Cuba programs are on this major international tour company’s roster.
I traveled there with smarTours a couple of months ago, not on their 11-day program but for four days in Havana. IsramWorld’s new weekend getaway is essentially the same program — one night in Miami, three nights in Havana, Cuban visa, guided sightseeing, medical insurance and so on.
This seems to be my summer for country rock and related concerts — first Ricky Skaggs and Gordon Lightfoot in Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium, and yesterday afternoon in the lovely mountain setting on La Veta Pass, where Mark Chestnutt headlined. The rustic venue is accessible only by Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Even the musicians travel by train — no truck, no tour bus in sight.
Vintage cars leave Alamosa’s historic downtown depot and travel through the pancake-flat San Luis Valley past farms, potato warehouses and historic Fort Garland en route to the soaring Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There, at 9,400 feet, the railroad built the Fir Summit Amphitheater, a wind- and solar-powered site in the cusp of a mountain meadow. The audience sits on benches or on folding chairs (their own or rented). Barbecue, beer and soft drinks are for sale. And yes, so are T-shirts, ball caps and artists’ CDs.
Yesterday Colorado’s mellow Chuck Pyle opened for Texan Matt Chestnutt’s honky-tonk-flavored performance. The sky was blue, the clouds fluffy and non-threatening. A second performance is scheduled today — part of the Mountain Rails Live 13-concert series over the summer.
The vintage standard-gauge cars come in four classes of service with food and beverage services on board, and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad also runs a Sunset Dinner Train (five courses) in the valley to Antonito as well as an Excursion Train over the pass to the hamlet of La Veta. Coming up from September 16 to October 10 there are also trains for leaf-peepers and an Oktoberfest trip on October 3. FoMoInfo: 877-726-7245.
Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver’s neat seasonal package.
The Grand Hyatt Denver’s family-oriented new Zoo Safari Package coincides with the opening of the Denver Zoo’s brand new Giraffe . Two platforms at different heights enable visitors to hand-feed lettuce leaves to the zoo’s four giraffes — the tallest of which is named Dikembe after the Denver Nuggets’ former star player, Dikembe Motumbo. Zookeepers on-site answer questions and provide tidbits of information about giraffes.
The package (from $229 per room) includes an overnight stay in a newly refreshed, spacious accommodation, two adult admission tickets to the zoo (regularly $17 each) and free valet parking in the in the hotel garage in the heart of the Mile High City — not a trivial savings. A kids’ scavenger hunt challenges them to find favorite animals and then rewards them with a prize from the hotel’s treasure chest. And when families return to the hotel, a dip in the indoor pool awaits. The seasonal package (through September 30) is only available online or by calling 800-233-1234.
Audio-guides to five great parks in one scenic state.
The Society of American Travel Writers is holding its 2015 convention in downtown Las Vegas — nostalgic and de-glitzified compared with The Strip. Having grown up in Connecticut, long road trips don’t come easily to me, but still my husband and I thought we’d take a leisurely road trip to Las Vegas, visiting some or most of Utah’s five national parks coming and/or going.
I’ve now learned of something we’ll need to take along: “Driving Among Utah’s ‘Mighty Five’ National Parks”, a new GPS-prompted mobile app/audio tour guide from Just Ahead Guides that cover Arches, Canyonlands Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. We’ve been to Moab and its two nearby parks (Arches, Canyonlands) any number of times, summer and winter. Still, more insights are always welcome. But neither one of us has more than driven through Zion or Bryce, and neither of us has been to Capitol Reef.
The good part is that Just Ahead guides work without an Internet connection or cell phone service. Drivers or passengers simply download the app, turn it on and enjoy what the company calls “a richly narrated tour.” Just Ahead utilizes GPS technology to identify exactly where drivers are on the road in order to deliver stories and maps relevant to the exact location. Each app points out not-to-miss features as well as helpful driving directions.
The Just Ahead app is a free download available either through the Apple App Store (iPhone) or via Google Play (Android), and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase. Guides range from $4.99 to $9.99 and include a free trial and free guide updates.
Allegiant passengers forced onto aircraft wing upon landing in Boise.
Who ever expects that an airline ticket will include unbreathable cabin “air”? Some passengers on Allegiant Air that landed in Boise the other day, who ended up standing on the aircraft wing, found out that it could happen. According to a report in the Idaho Statesman, “Passengers were forced to escape onto the wing of an Allegiant Air plane after fumes leaked into the cabin on landing. The worrying incident happened after Flight 330 had landed at Boise Airport in Idaho, U.S. from Los Angeles.”
Passengers reported smoke and a smell of fuel in the cabin the plane taxied to the gate in Boise. Some of the 163 passengers escaped onto the wing after fumes leaked into the cabin upon landing. Even after the emergency evacuation, some were dismayed at the way the airline dealt with the situation. “Passengers Criticize Allegiant Air’s Handling of the Evacuation.”
This follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport. Four passengers and one flight attendant reportedly sustained injuries that time.
According to a press released issued by BerlinRosen Public Affairs on behalf of a client that I can’t seem to identify, “Allegiant pilots have been raising concerns about the airline’s bare-minimum approach that’s infused all aspect of its operation. Earlier this year, Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition (TAMC) released a report that shows the airline experiences a high rate of air returns and diversions due to mechanical issues. Between January and March of 2015 alone, there were 38 new instances of fixable mechanical issues such as engines failing, pressurization problems, smoke in the cockpit, radar being inoperable and anti-ice devices on windshields failing.”T
his follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida, just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport in Clearwater. Four passengers and one flight attendant sustained injuries. This is a result of what I think of as the Walmartization of America, turning us into a nation of bottom-feeders. Cut costs to the bone, no matter what the possible consequences. It is fortunate that there were only survivable injuries in the Clearwater incident and none reported in Boise, where BTW, Allegiant reportedly gave each affected passenger a $50 certificate. I wonder how many people will actually use it. I wouldn’t.
Tesla and other electric cars can “fuel up” at guest ranch.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, known for minimizing its carbon footprint and a commitment to other eco-friendly practices to provide sustainably focused vacation, recreation, spa and dining experiences, is adding two Tesla and one universal electric car charging stations, free to overnight guests and also to day visitors if available.
The Tesla chargers, which the car company provided, take approximately four hours to fully charge a car. A fully charged Tesla gets an average of 300 miles before it needs to be plugged in again. The Universal Charger, which is being provided by the State of Colorado, is expected to be available later in June and will be able to accommodate Chevrolet, Honda and other electric vehicles. It takes approximately four to eight hours to fully charge a car. Both are offered free-of-charge to overnight guests and guests on a space-available basis to day guests.
Dave Houston, the ranch’s director of facilities says, “While still a small segment of car owners, we want to remain as accessible to the traveling public as possible and that includes offering alternate energy resources for them to use.” Applause to this Tabernash, Colorado, ranch resort for being so forward-thinking.
The 14-story hotel with 519 guest rooms will serve both business and leisure travelers and locals when the 82,000- square-foot open-air public plaza is completed. It is expected to become Denver’s newest venue for entertainment and will create a community connection between the airport and downtown Denver. When airport rail service begins, reaching it will be swift and easy.
A couple of months ago, I took a fascinating hardhat tour of the architecturally inventive hotel. It is designed with walls of towering, shimmering glass offering view of DIA flight paths and both the mountains and the plains. Building upon imagery of flight and aviation, the sleek hotel resembles a bird with its wings extended as it hovers above the public plaza, framing and accenting the signature tents of the Jeppesen Terminal roof.
My most recent post was about Rocky Mountain National Park’s centennial. Today, we took two visitors — one from Switzerland, one from Malaysia — to see the newly plowed Trail Ridge Road. As always shortly after the road opens for the season, vehicles travel between high snow walls on parts of the road and on other parts with jaw-dropping views of snow-covered peaks. Today provided an exceptional wildlife experience too: elk, bighorn sheep, a marmot and even an owl.
Trail Ridge Road just opened for the park’s centennial summer.
Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park between Estes Park on the east and Grand Lake on the west is one of the country’s iconic drives. Cresting at an elevation of 12,183 feet, the road is usually plowed out by Memorial Day. But not this year — the park’s centennial — when high road opened today but with probably night-time closures for a while. The snows have been coming, and the plows and shovelers are still at it.
The park’s centennial celebrations kicked off in low gear last fall, were confined largely to historic exhibits, workshops, presentations and such that lent themselves to indoor venues. An RMNP exhibit will continue for some indefinite time at the History Colorado Center in Denver, the state’s wonderful historic museum.
With the approach of summer, summer events are coming into view. A group of Model T enthusiasts plans to car-camp in August with old-style canvas tents; the Colorado Mountain Club is organizing a series of hikes, climbs and wildflower walks, and the Rocky Mountain Conservancy has a passel of commemorative activities planned too, including a John Denver tribute concert by local musician Brad Fitch in Estes Park on July 25 and in Grand Lake on August 1.
Click here FoMoInfo on Centennial celebrations, which conclude with a rededication of the park at Glacier Basin Campground on September 4, the Friday before Labor Day. I plan to be there. You too?
Large ranch added to Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust achievements.
One of Colorado’s claims to fame is as the birthplace of three major American rivers: the Colorado, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande. The latter generally makes news in the context of US-Mexico border issues, but few people realize that its headwaters are deep in the Colorado Rockies. The Rio Grande Land Trust has been quietly assembling acreage to protect this precious area.
The Del Norte-based Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) has announced the conservation of 1,080 acres of the iconic 4UR Ranch, bringing RiGHT’s Rio Grande Initiative to the original goal of protecting 25,000 acres of private lands along the Rio Grande and its tributaries.
As with all such never-easy conservation projects, many players participated. So here’s a shout-out to those that RiGHT has thanked: “the generosity of the Leavell and Brown families, who donated a substantial portion of the value. Phase II of the 4UR Ranch conservation project received funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), CPW’s San Luis Valley Habitat Partnership Program, and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. RiGHT especially appreciates the help of the staff of these funding agencies and the Boards who chose to support this effort, all of whom made this exceptional conservation project possible.”
This is not of direct and specific touristic interest, but the conservation of open land, traditional uses and wonderful views or ranchland and mountains is part of the big picture that makes Colorado the beautiful and visit-worthy state that it is.
Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.