Southern Towns You Will Love

August 14th, 2008 by Mariah

Have a hankering for some sweet tea and southern hospitality? You should. As September hangs on the horizon, a jaunt south is the perfect way to win some extra summer days, and these member-recommended Mayberrys are the best places to savor them.

Lawrenceville, Virginia
Just over the North Carolina border, little Lawrenceville has the surprising distinction of being the site of “some of the best diving on the east coast,” says vampirefan , who, along with her husband, headed to Lawrenceville on a tip from her local dive shop. In addition to world-class diving at Lake Rawlings Dive Park, the happy couple discovered a down-home B&B they highly recommend: the Brunswick Mineral Springs B&B, a tobacco plantation and then a health spa in previous lives. It’s now a bed-and-breakfast owned by Nan and Dave Spears, “two of the most wonderful people in the world.”

Mount Airy North Carolina
The Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame, “Mount Airy is not a hot destination, but you have to visit anyway,” says MCJ graduate, because “it is a quirky town with much to celebrate.” In addition to mad Mayberry memorabilia—and full-blown Mayberry Days this September 25-27—Mount Airy offers Pilot Mountain State Park, bluegrass jam sessions, a picturesque Main St., and, of course, what JF150 calls “that feeling of stepping back in time to those good old days.”

Madison, Georgia
Different visitors are drawn to Madison’s pillars and squares for different reasons, but they all leave wanting to return. For John Hollinger’s wife, it was historic Heritage Hall—but only because “John, being an antebellum-house buff, just had to see it.” Mrs. Hollinger ended up enjoying the town too, as well as nearby Social Circle, Georgia, and a meal at the famous all-you-can-eat Blue Willow Inn. Looking for a place to stay? Robvn Cook recommends the “gracious” and “luxurious” James Madison Inn, particularly for its breakfast. Rest assured you will not go hungry in Georgia.

Bell Buckle, Tennessee
An old railroad town, tiny Bell Buckle impressed Taylor Shelby right off the bat. She found that the words of the woman who’d sent her—“it’s just the cutest li’l town you ever saw”—rang true, as “the once-abandoned downtown is now thriving with antique shops, artists, unique stores, and one fantastic restaurant.” And Bell Buckle native Tideone adds that with so many “antique dealers and arts and crafts folks, it seems like there is always some kind of celebration taking place.”

Cullman, Alabama
Perhaps a testament to the town’s universal appeal, two IgoUgo members have opposite takes on Cullman, but both tout is as a great getaway spot. Because of its covered bridges, battle sites, and antique stores, Library Dragon says, “When travelers think of Alabama, they often envision towns such as Cullman.” NiteOWLTX, on the other hand, says that Cullman’s German heritage, grottos, and shrines make it a regional anomaly full of “some of the most obscure things you will ever see.” Cullman, it seems, is wonderful no matter what you make of it.

Oxford, Mississippi
When Ole Miss is in session and football fans are in town, Oxford isn’t exactly tiny, but it does infuse its academic inclinations with small-town charm. Fittingly, the home of William Faulkner and John Grisham offers the famous Square Books independent booksellers. And while you have your wallet in hand, Steve S. recommends heading to Neilson’s Department Store, the oldest shop in the South. He also raves about the many fine-dining opportunities around: “You’re probably thinking, ‘fine restaurants in a town of 10,000 in Mississippi?’, but yes, Oxford has its share of excellent eateries.”

Beaufort, South Carolina
North Carolinian vanpirefan has nothing but nice things to say about her neighbor to the south: “Beaufort has a long and rich history that can be seen everywhere you look.” She reports that the Low Country town is “a breeze” to walk around, but that buggy tours are equally enjoyable if your feet tire. Her compliments continue: “While Beaufort is not as big as Savannah or Charleston, she is nonetheless equally as beautiful and impressive.” And Beaufort has a leg up on even those two cities when it comes to eating: “This is the place to enjoy delicious seafood!” says ashlorene84 of Beaufort’s laid-back restaurants.

Morgantown, West Virginia
“Waterfront bike trails with dappled sunlight, riverfront jazz in the sun, and nights of theater magic, all in designated landmark settings” create, kjlougn says, “a formula for perfect days.” Another college town—the West Virginia University Mountaineers call it home—Morgantown delights IgoUgo members like drhough with its mix of art and nature. “Quaint yet cosmopolitan, Morgantown is my favorite weekend destination for original dining and compelling theater,” the regular visitor says. On another trip, he focused on the outdoors, saying, “I thought I knew Morgantown and was surprised to discover the recreational community it has been hiding along its riverbank.”

Seaside, Florida
With its ice cream parlors, pedestrian-only lanes, and white picket fences, the planned Gulf community of Seaside (you may have seen it in The Truman Show) looks like it stepped straight out of a storybook to become a respite from the spring-break madness of nearby Panama City and Destin. Nora Katz describes the town as a tiny community that “stands out among the snow-white dunes with its pastel-colored Victorian cottages topped with tin roofs that shimmer in the midday sun.” If your ideal Sunshine State experience is more verandahs and hammocks than roller coasters and parades, you’ll love Seaside.

Find more great places to visit at TheInnkeeper.com Bed and Breakfast Guide

Travel Wikis – Online Communities

August 14th, 2008 by Mariah

As travelers become more Internet-savvy, they’re turning increasingly to travel wikis and online travel communities such as TheInnkeeper.com Bed and Breakfast Guide for the most up-to-date, reliable information available. The appeal of a wiki is that it’s constantly updated and provides varying points of view.

It used to be that travelers looking for the hippest getaway, the coziest hotel, or the best restaurant had to rely solely on travel guidebooks, which were often out of date by the time they were published.

The Web, however, has spawned a new destination for those seeking travel information: travel wikis and online communities.

Created by travelers, for travelers, these sites offer travel stories, tips, observations and reviews, as well as networking opportunities for those who share a love of the open road.

All Things Wiki and Wonderful

One of the leading travel wikis is Wikitravel.org Featuring information on more than 19,000 destinations, in 16 different languages, Wikitravel is a comprehensive wiki devoted to all things travel.

“Based on the belief that the best travel information is gained from other travelers rather than printed guidebooks that are only updated occasionally, Wikitravel is the ideal source for objective, up-to-the-minute travel information about locations around the world contributed by travelers who are currently there or have just been there,” Joe Ewaskiw, public relations manager for Internet Brands, which acquired Wikitravel in 2006, told LinuxInsider. “With the explosion in popularity of smartphones and other portable devices, accessing Wikitravel on the go is easier than ever before.”

The site has been garnering its fair share of awards, including a 2007 Webby Award for Best Travel Web site. It was also named one of Time Magazine’s 50 Best Web sites of 2008.

Like other wikis, Wikitravel relies on its community of contributors to monitor and edit the site for accuracy, and there are community managers who oversee the site as a whole.

“We have community managers that monitor the site, but they really don’t have to do a lot of policing because the community takes care of it,” Ewaskiw told LinuxInsider.

While Wikitravel focuses on objective, factual, encyclopedic information about travel destinations, another travel site owned by Internet Brands, World66.com, offers opportunities for travelers to post reviews and more subjective observations about the places they go and the things they see.

“World66 is an outlet for travelers to share their opinions on travel destinations. Users contribute personal travel anecdotes, thoughts on accommodations, and share recommended travel routes and must-see sights,” Ewaskiw told LinuxInsider. “A five-star rating system provides an instant summary of users’ opinions on hotels and restaurants.”

I Go, You Go, We All Go

Online, interactive travel communities — different from wikis in that users cannot edit each other’s posts — are also becoming increasingly popular. Founded in 2000 and a part of Travelocity Latest News about Travelocity since 2006, IgoUgo.com is one of these communities where travelers go to learn about more than 8,000 destinations, read stories, see photos, and get to know their fellow travelers. The site currently has more than 500,000 registered members, and 2.5 million unique visitors come to the site each month.

“IgoUgo is an online travel community enabling passionate travelers to share their experiences and plan their trips,” Michelle Doucette, IgoUgo’s Content Manager, told LinuxInsider. “For eight years, IgoUgo has inspired passionate, opinionated, and truthful reviews from savvy travelers — in short, our high-quality content is the real deal.”

Both armchair travelers and those planning an imminent trip — and everyone in between — can find something of interest on IgoUgo.com.

“Even if you land on the site and read just a handful of IgoUgo travel journals or reviews — or see just a few of the photos in our galleries — it’s hard not to come away inspired to go somewhere or do something,” Doucette told LinuxInsider. “This passion for travel, coupled with practical tips and reviews, is why IgoUgo remains such a popular and fun resource for trip planning and sharing.”

IgoUgo travelers can journal about their entire trip, including information about itineraries, reviews, photos, other details. And those readers wondering about the veracity of this content can rest assured that the site’s editorial team is on the job, weeding out inaccurate, plagiarized, or other problematic information.

“In an online space that can be rife with marketing material, plagiarized content, and general junk reviews, IgoUgo reviews are trustworthy,” Doucette told LinuxInsider. “Every piece of content submitted is reviewed and rated by an editorial team to ensure its integrity and to signal to trip planners which reviews are most useful.”

Hybrid Travel Sites

Some sites, like Travellerspoint.com combine wiki and online community elements. Founded in 2002 as a place where travelers could track down old friends and travel mates, it has now grown into a more robust travel information site, attracting about 25,000 visitors each day.

“[It has ] become a full-fledged travel community, where travelers from every corner of the globe can share their experiences, photos and advice with other people that love to travel,” Eric Daams, one of the founders of Travellerspoint, told LinuxInsider.

In addition to a travel community, where people can post information, observations, photos, and blogs, Travellerspoint also offers a travel wiki, which is a more encyclopedic travel reference for visitors. The site’s wiki has a core group of 15 to 25 users who post regularly, and they monitor and edit the wiki’s content.

“Because the travel wiki is part of our community, it’s easier to find out more about the people writing the information,” Daams told LinuxInsider. “In a way, the community provides accountability, so the information is more reliable.”

Daams credits the popularity of sites like his to the fact that they offer free, up-to-date, and personal information about travel.

“Online travel guides in general, and wikis in particular, have the potential to be much more up-to-date than guide books,” Daams told LinuxInsider. “It’s a huge ordeal to update a guidebook; it’s a pretty simple affair, on the other hand, to go online, click edit, and update any incorrect information. At their best, wikis are incredible sources of information from people who have been there and done that.”

An Idea for Your Next Cruise

August 9th, 2008 by Mariah

As the cost of vacationing increases, cruising is becoming more and more popular because of its affordability. Often overlooked though, are the cities where the cruise vacations begin and end. Many of these cities have enough history and culture that would rival many of the ports of call that major cruise lines offer. So whether you need a couple relaxing days before your cruise, or you just don’t want the party to end, here’s a list of a few of our favorites.

1. Florida - One of the most popular ports for cruises to disembark, Miami offers something for everyone. With a club scene that attracts the hottest of celebrities, there’s never a dull moment in this town.

2. Port Canaveral, Florida – This city is home of the Kennedy space center, something that can be enjoyed by all ages. Also within driving distance is Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida’s theme park headquarters. Both cities offer great deals on hotel accommodations, no matter how big your group is. Don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Mickey Mouse.

3. Florida Miami Area -25 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is another extremely popular port of departure for major cruise lines. Fort Lauderdale Beach is a two-mile strip of beautiful beach featuring the recently renovated Promenade, which offers all sorts of bars, restaurants and shops.

4. San Juan, Puerto Rico – For those who like the southern Caribbean cruise route, San Juan is the starting point for most 7+ day exotic destination cruises. One of the largest islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the landscape there encompasses mountains, underground caves, coral reefs, white-sand beaches and an incredibly massive rain forest.

5. TexasGalveston Island is Texas’ top historic destination. When you find a town that offers relaxing beaches, great seafood, tropical scenery, superb restaurants, marvelous downtown shopping, breathtaking Victorian architecture, numerous antique stores, and incredible art galleries, there is certain to be something for everyone.

Brought to you by TheInnkeeper.com Bed and Breakfast Guide