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Fall in Love with Great Escapes

A great fall getaway is easy, with exciting new places to explore, lots of fun festivals, and great places to stay. Here’s a sampling of some of the greatest places to go and things to do for a trip this autumn, whether you stay closer to home or pick an exotic vacation.

Fun is just around the corner with these easy trips
Fall is a great time to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast. Pleasant temperatures coupled with numerous outdoor activities make Gulf Shores and Orange Beach the place to be. With 32 miles of soft, white sand, lots of activities and delicious restaurants, guests can relax and get away from it all or have an adventure. Band a winged traveler at the Fall Bird Banding (Oct. 4-17) or savor some fresh seafood at the Annual National Shrimp Festival (Oct. 9-13). Or get into the swing of things at one of the area’s nine signature courses. Families can check out a few stars at The Little Zoo That Could, play a round of miniature golf or take a ride at The Track or Waterville. Or, they can enjoy reconnecting through eco-tourism activities like fishing, dolphin cruises or beach nature walks. Lodging rates drop just in time for the fall season, and many properties offer specials. The Gulf coast offers over 15,000 rooms to choose from and deals can be found on the hot deals and packages page at www.gulfshores.com/packages-deals. Or, for more information about the Gulf Coast visit www.gulfshores.com or www.orangebeach.com

With mild weather and incredible deals, fall is a good time to get away to “North America’s First European Settlement,” the Pensacola Bay Area. Visitors can experience miles of uncrowded beaches, a unique downtown dining and shopping scene, along with adventure and history. Throughout autumn, enjoy one of the area’s lively festivals that celebrate everything from the area’s 450th anniversary to seafood, the arts, baklava and the Blue Angels. A songwriter’s festival attracts more than 300 of Nashville’s hottest writers. The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival and Gallery Night show off hundreds of regional artists. The annual film festival shows some of the country’s best independent films. Plus, the Blue Angels have their homecoming air show, flying high in the skies only 18 inches apart, each November. There are lots of free activities to keep visitors entertained. Walk the Pensacola Colonial Archaeological Trail, go bird watching at Project Green Shores or browse works from more than 200 local artists at Quayside Gallery in downtown Pensacola, the largest co-op gallery in the Southeast. Beyond the beach and back again, there’s sure to be something for everyone. For more information about the Pensacola Bay Area, or to request a visitor guide, call the Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 874-1234 or (850) 434-1234 or visit www.VisitPensacola.com.

Mississippi’s West Coast, Hancock County offers serious sophistication in a rural setting, world-class casino resorts, the NASA space center, cultural arts and an inspiring environment for the sporting enthusiasts and nature lovers. Come for friendly people and fabulous food. Mississippi’s West Coast, Hancock County boasts a mixture of ethnicity and revels in its French, Spanish and Choctaw roots. Experience the embarrassment of riches that the area offers for travelers of every stripe from beaches to boutiques, down-home diners to four-star cuisine. As temperatures cool this fall, Hancock County hosts a variety of events, including the Labor Day Fishing Rodeo in Waveland, the Second Saturday Art Walk Street Festival in Bay St. Louis, the Diamondhead Arts and Crafts Fair, Wave Fest in Waveland, the Arts Alive Studio tours and so much more. Come for a girls’ getaway or visit in October for four days of classic cars, and music from the 1950s and ’60s. Get all the information you need to experience the best Mississippi’s West Coast has to offer at the Visitor Center located in the Historic Bay Saint Louis Train Depot, 1928 Depot Way. Visit www.mswestcoast.org or call (800) 466-9048.

Get away without going far away. The Isle, in Biloxi, Miss., offers the best of all possible worlds, all in one convenient location. Overlooking the majestic Gulf of Mexico, guests enjoy panoramic views all year long. Inside, the action hums 24/7 with over 1,300 of the latest slots and 31 table games, plus a live action poker room offering exciting tournaments and promotions. Become an IsleOne® club member and earn rewards just by using the card every time you play. Membership is free and all it takes is a few moments to sign-up at the IsleOne Club. Visit our Web site anytime for all the latest news on upcoming events, entertainment and IsleOne club information. The Isle offers 700 beautiful guest rooms including 200 suites. Choose from a variety of restaurants, from casual bites at Tradewinds Marketplace to sit-down elegance at Farraddays’ Restaurant. Take part in an all-you-can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at Calypso’s® Buffet. Starbuck’s Coffee® features aromatic, freshly ground coffee and soothing natural teas. And when you want to spice up your night, there’s LAVA Bar, where you can mix, mingle and dance the night away. Or pamper yourself with one of many relaxing treatments at the Spa. It’s all at the Isle Biloxi. Your Everyday Getaway. For more information about promotions and offers, visit theislebiloxi.com.

For some fun on fall weekends, look no further than Houma, where festivals and events keep visitors eating, dancing, singing and shopping. Jump aboard a swamp tour for an educational view of Louisiana’s wetlands. Tour the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum or come face to face with 12-foot alligators, snapping turtles, wild deer, peacocks and exotic birds at the one-of-a-kind Wildlife Gardens. Take the family out for a day of fishing on bountiful waters. Or go back in time with a visit to Southdown Plantation House. Once a working sugarcane plantation and home of the Terrebonne Museum, the house, built in 1859, features displays of the local Native American culture, Mardi Gras, the sugarcane industry and area history. Visit Southdown on Nov. 1, for its biannual arts and crafts festival with more than 300 local and national vendors. Or check out Live After 5. Held through November on the last Friday of every month, the event features local bands, artisans and crafters at Houma’s Historic Downtown Courthouse Square. There’s also Art After Dark, Grand Bois Intertribal Pow Wow, SLECA Farmer’s Market and Arts and Crafts Festival, Voice of the Wetlands Festival, Grand Bois Cajun/Swamp Pop/Zydeco Music Festival and many more. In other words, there’s something for everyone! For more information visit www.houmatravel.com.

It’s all fun and games this fall at L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort. Just a few hours from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, L’Auberge offers all of the amenities of a Las Vegas resort casino conveniently located in Louisiana. Sixty-two table games, over 1,600 slot machines, a championship Tom Fazio golf course, the full service Spa du Lac, resort pools and lazy river and unique retail shopping ensure that there’s always something to do. The staff at L’Auberge offers unparalleled customer service to provide unforgettable memories to guests. Families, couples or friends can tailor their trip to suit their needs. L’Auberge offers eight innovative dining options including the 400-seat Le Beaucoup Buffet, fine dining at Snake River Grill, Le Café, Asia, desserts and more. In the evenings, visit the Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill for Jack After Dark, when the restaurant turns into a nightclub with nationally-recognized DJs. Guests can stay at the 26-story casually elegant hotel with 1,000 rooms, suites and villas featuring big name entertainment. This fall, L’Auberge brings Chicago to its stage in September; country crooner Lee Ann Rimes will perform in October. It’s located at Interstate 210 at Nelson Road/Exit No. 4. Visit www.ldlcasino.com for a full schedule of events, entertainment and ticket information, or call (866) 580-7444.

This fall is also the perfect time to visit New Orleans Plantation Country. Picturesque day tours of the historic plantations will escort you back to an era when powerful Creole families thrived in lavish homes along the Mississippi River. See priceless heirloom antiques, ancient avenues of oaks and gracious verandas overlooking sugarcane fields. Just beyond these stately mansions you can take a thrilling swamp tour. Glide through cypress-filled waters as a native guide quietly approaches wild animals that call the swamps home. In New Orleans Plantation Country, you’ll also find one-of-a-kind dining experiences. Indulge in foods as unique as the chefs that prepare them. Authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine is served with Southern charm and hospitality in a relaxed atmosphere. Exciting events fill the calendar this fall in New Orleans Plantation Country. Sept. 26-28: Alligator Festival; Sept. 28: St. James Historical Society Heritage Day; Oct. 1-Nov. 2: St. Joseph Plantation “Mourning Tour;” Oct. 2: “Battle For The Paddle;” Oct. 4-5: St. Michael Church Fall Festival; Oct. 17-19: Andouille Festival; Oct. 18-19: Oak Alley Plantation Fall Arts & Crafts Festival; Nov. 6: St. James Parish Veterans Day Celebration; Nov. 8-9: Destrehan Plantation Fall Festival. For more information about New Orleans Plantation Country’s attractions, events and accommodations, call (866) 204-7782 or visit www.NewOrleansPlantationCountry.com.

Small town ambiance, rich history and lots of shopping and food are all to be found in Ponchatoula, the “Strawberry Capital of the World” and “America’s Antique City.” Children love to visit “Ole Hardhide,” Ponchatoula’s resident alligator housed in the center of downtown, or to watch the trains that run through the town center. Visitors of all ages can learn at the Collinswood Museum, relax in the many green spaces ans dine in the area restaurants. Ponchatoula also offers festivals every fall. Trash or treasure? Find out at Appraisal Fair, Ponchatoula’s mini version of Antiques Roadshow. For a nominal fee, appraisers will be on hand to give you the value of your treasures. Oct. 11 will be a quilter’s delight at the Berrypatch Quilt & Art Expo, with fun events like the Fat Quarter Stroll and a fashion show. Oct. 18 is Ponchatoula’s Party in the Pits. Come watch over 20 IBCA professionals and local teams as they cook some great barbecue and compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes. Fall also brings the Ponchatoula Antique Trade Days & Craft Fair, Nov. 1-2, and a free outdoor art exhibit featuring well-known Ponchatoula artists. For more information visit www.ponchatoulachamber.com or call (800) 617-4502.

Go to Jackson, Miss., this fall and contribute while you relax. Nov. 6-8 join the Junior League of Jackson as they raise money for charitable endeavors at Mistletoe Marketplace 2008. The three-day marketplace includes an array of special events, dining opportunities, live entertainment and cooking demonstrations from the Junior League’s nationally recognized cookbooks. The event is expected to attract over 35,000 shoppers from across the Southeast who can shop for unique gifts from more than 165 merchants from across the U.S. All the proceeds from Mistletoe Marketplace support the Junior League’s many community projects, including charitable outreach in arts and education, social and health services. Last year, the Junior League raised over $1 million dollars at Mistletoe Marketplace and the 2008 event is expected to be even bigger and better. Come watch chefs go head to head at a live cooking competition or bring the kids to the Marketplace’s pizza party. It’s a great way to get holiday shopping done while doing good. After all, The Greatest Gifts – Faith, Hope & Charity, are the hallmark of the holiday season. For more information about Mistletoe Marketplace visit www.mistletoemarketplace.com. Tickets for the event go on sale Sept. 1.

Where to stay while away? Rent a house or a condo on the beach, or be pampered with a hotel’s luxury amenities. Here are some options
With great locations that are easy to find in the charming city of New Orleans, the Hilton Garden Inns offer a place to stay for business travelers and families alike. The Hilton Garden Inn/New Orleans Convention Center and the Hilton Garden Inn CBD/French Quarter offer fresh, spacious guest rooms that have mini-fridges, free wireless, great outdoor swimming pools and are just a cab ride away from the French Quarter experience. From exuberant staff, to cook to order omelets, to the highest in speedy technology, to the custom Garden Sleep System bedding, the Hilton Garden Inn promises guests they’ll have everything right where they need it. This fall, take advantage of the Hilton Garden Inn’s Seasonal packages, including:
• Papa Noel
This holiday season why not stay and shop in the Crescent City for those uniquely New Orleans holiday gifts? The offer is valid from Nov. 13-Dec. 30, 2008. Rates from $69 per night, based on double occupancy. Ask for Code P1.
• Park Your Sleigh!
Enjoy a spacious and cozy guestroom and parking for one standard sized vehicle/per night. Offer valid from Nov. 13-Dec. 30, 2008. Rates from $79 per night, based on double occupancy. Ask for Code P6. (Packages are based upon availability and not available during special events.)
For more information, call (877) 782-9444. Or visit www.hgi.com, www.neworleansconventioncenter.hgi.com or www.neworleansfrenchquartercbd.hgi.com.

This fall, take a trip to Natchez, Miss. for one of the blend of southern hospitality and great entertainment. And while in Natchez, stay at Dunleith, a historic southern home that serves as a bed and breakfast. The inn at Dunleith presents a stately white colonnade surrounded by 40 acres of landscaped gardens and wooded bayous, and is the perfect place for a weekend get-away, a meeting of friends or business associates or a dream wedding. Dunleith’s luxury suites and rooms are furnished with antiques and reproductions for a period look. A professional staff provides services of every kind with meticulous care. Throughout the season, Dunleith is a great spot for taking in the action. In September, tour the property during the Fall Pilgrimage. Or grab a cocktail in Bowie’s Tavern at Dunleith and watch hot air balloons overhead during the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race in October. Throughout the fall, grab a bite at the Castle Restaurant, which will feature guest chefs like Bingo Starr and will host a delicious Thanksgiving brunch. Dunleith offers a number of packages to entice visitors. Check out the weekend and weekday Escape Package and the special Corporate Retreat packages. For more information about Dunleith visit www.dunleith.com or call (800) 433-2445 for reservations.

Sandestin® Golf and Beach Resort is an award-winning resort that features seven miles of sugar-white beach and pristine bayfront on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Choctawhatchee Bay. Only a short drive from New Orleans and just eight miles east of Destin, Fla., Sandestin is perfect for a weekend trip or a long family vacation. Sandestin guests can enjoy a wide variety of amenities, including four championship golf courses; a putting course; a 98-slip marina with water sports, 15 tennis courts, a fitness center and day spa; children’s programs; complimentary use of bicycles; one-hour free rental of canoes, kayaks, boogie boards, property-wide tram and water shuttle service; and more. The Market Shops at Sandestin and The Village of Baytowne Wharf provide a variety of unique shops, fine and casual dining and exciting nightlife. At Sandestin, guests can choose from 1,700 accommodations and vacation rentals, featuring one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom condominiums, villas, town homes and hotel rooms. This fall, Sandestin offers a variety of great getaways: Vettes at the Village, Women’s Wellness Weekend, Ultimate Airdog Show Southeastern Championships, Sandestin Craft Beer Festival, and 1st and 10 at the Beach. Specials are available for all event weekends. For more information about planning a trip to Sandestin visit www.sandestin.com or call (866) 544-1026.

Still warm enough for plenty of sun and sand, Meyer Real Estate fall vacation prices are 40 percent lower than summer rates. Guests can save money by preparing meals in the fully-equipped kitchens. And many properties come with extra amenities like swimming pools, indoor hot tubs, exercise rooms and more. With over 2,000 choices across a range of budgets, Meyer Real Estate represents the largest selection of properties in Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach (Ala.) and Perdido Key (Fla.), so families, couples and friends can find the perfect fall getaway. The company’s STAR Treatment guarantees that customers will receive Service, Trust, Accessibility and Results. Once at the beach, guests can enjoy shopping at Tanger Outlets, entertainment at the Amphitheater at The Wharf with concerts by groups like the Allman Brothers Band and 3 Doors Down or can cast a line for world-class fishing. The Shrimp Festival, Oct. 9-12, is great excuse for a trip and Meyer Real Estate is offering a third night free in condominiums and a fourth night free in beach houses during the Festival. Other specials include $100 off reservation in Perdido Key. Mid-week specials continue throughout fall as well. For more information about properties and deals visit www.meyerre.com.

Located on the pristine beaches of Perdido Key, just two miles east of the Alabama/Florida state line, Eden Condominium offers luxurious residence with excellent service. Breathtaking views abound at Eden, as each unit has a balcony that directly overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. Guests can play all day on the property’s two tennis courts or take advantage of the 176-foot outdoor pool with three waterfalls, the indoor heated pool, children’s wading pool, indoor and outdoor hot tubs and fitness center. The Spa at Eden Salon offers an array of salon services including hair care, nail care and hair removal. Licensed therapists and aestheticians provide facial and body care in a serene setting. Take a walk through the beautiful gardens and along the boardwalk with easy beach access over the dunes. Eden also has its own boat dock and launch. On-site management and staff assist guests with personal customer service and strive to set Eden apart from “cookie-cutter” condominiums. Eden offers wedding and conference services as well. Eden Condominium offers specials for fall. Mention “NOM” when booking and receive 15 percent discount until Dec. 28, 2008. Visit www.edencondominiums.com to learn more.

Providing a great family atmosphere or a space for a romantic getaway, Brett/Robinson Vacations offers a wide selection of rental properties along the Gulf Coast for a fall escape. A family-owned company that’s still run by its founders, Brett/Robinson Vacations offers quality vacation rentals for a few days or a longer stay. Come experience miles of sugar-white sand on one their Gulf Front properties or choose one of their many properties with pool access. All properties come with fully-equipped kitchens and many other comfort amenities. Make the trip for the Labor Day  Tournament or Mobile’s Bayfest, Oct. 3-5, or enjoy the National Shrimp Festival, Oct. 12, or the Fall Bird Banding Session, Oct. 17. The beach is also a great way to spend the Thanksgiving holidays and get a jump on holiday shopping at the Foley Outlet Mall. No matter when you come, visitors can experience the fun and relaxation of the Emerald Coast. Play on the beach or enjoy one of the area restaurants. Many packages are available and specials include four nights for the price of three in the fall and winter seasons. For more information and to see a listing of available properties, visit www.brett-robinson.com.

Take a weekend to explore the Mississippi Delta country and, while there, stay in beautiful Greenwood, Miss., at the Alluvian Hotel. The Alluvian Hotel is a cosmopolitan boutique hotel in the heart of the Mississippi Delta that features 45 luxurious rooms and five spacious suites, along with amenities like Mario Russo bath and body products; complimentary Southern Buffet breakfast; access to the hotel business and fitness centers; a Southern Library including literature, music and films; wireless access; guest transportation to local attractions; and more. Dine at Giardina’s, the on-site restaurant, for delicious food and a unique blend of sophistication and warmth. Book time at the Alluvian Spa for a massage, facial or body treatment, or take a rejuvenating yoga class at the spa’s Studio A. The Alluvian also offers guests the chance to get in touch with the senses at the Viking Cooking School. With classes for adults, teens and families, the Viking Cooking School at The Alluvian provides hands-on instruction in the gustatory arts. In September, come for a culinary weekend with Chef Mike Lata or plan ahead for a holiday class. The Alluvian offers a variety of specials during the fall months, which can be viewed by visiting www.thealluvian.com and clicking on “Specials and Packages.”

Really need a vacation? The following companies can help plan the dream escape, from cruises to cross-continental excursions
Want to get away from it all? Since 1975, Town and Country Travel has provided experienced travel agents who can help in planning a dream escape. From reservations and a ticket to planning a complete itinerary, recommending locations and assisting in the preparation of visas and other travel documents, using a travel agent can streamline the process and make planning a trip to paradise stress free. Town and Country’s agents offer personalized attention and will help plan a weekend getaway or a more extended journey. This fall, get away to paradise. Town and Country Travel hosts a Sandals/Caribbean Night in their off on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. A representative will be on hand to answer questions and a booking discount will be available. Enjoy up to a 45 percent discount at Beaches resorts in September and October or plan your winter ski vacation. For more information about Town and Country Travel’s services, visit their offices at 723 Aurora Ave. in Metairie, call 504-838-8702, or visitwww.townandcountrytravel.mycaribbeantravel.com.

Established in 1984, Cruise & Vacation Shoppe specializes in unique, luxury travel world wide, including cruises, tours, resorts, yacht charters and villa rentals. Cruise & Vacation Shoppe owner Chuck Brown says that now is the time to book for next winter and spring. Cruise & Vacation can help plan a great adventure, including the hottest new destinations in Europe, like the Dalmatian Coast, and Italy’s Cinque Terre region. Although they can book many different types of luxury vacations, Brown says that cruising offers the best value for the dollar with many, many ships and itineraries to choose from. Beginning in early 2009, Cruise & Vacation will offer four-day charters to the Virgin Islands with three-day land stops at resorts, villas and luxury hotels. The charters offer a perfect balance of time on land and sea, and give travelers the chance to explore the archipelagoes of Caribbean waters. Cruise & Vacation Shoppe is located at 115 Metairie Road, in Metairie. To book a vacation call (504) 833-1984 or (866) 424-5262, or visit www.cruiseandvacation.com.

With today’s fluctuating airfares, savvy travelers know that planning ahead can result in better deals and fewer headaches. Now is the time to plan a trip for fall or to get started on plans for winter vacations and spring breaks. The trained staff at Freedom Tours, LLC brings over 15 years of experience to planning the perfect trip away. Freedom Tours offers custom-designed travel arrangements that begin with personal consultations and result in individualized itineraries. At Freedom Tours, they know that traveling is fun but it’s often not easy. They make recommendations to minimize the pitfalls that tend to plague the traveler. Working within a budget to get the most for the money, those at Freedom Tours say they consistently seek to make vacation dreams come true.
This fall Freedom Tours offers customized trips or great package deals, including:
• Oct. 23-27 – Saints in London – a great package for those with tickets to the Saints vs. San Diego Chargers on Oct. 26.
• Nov. 9-20 – Journey to Morocco to tickle the senses and to find spice markets and a of labyrinth streets. Among other things, the trip includes a camel ride to the overnight desert camp.
Visit the Web site www.freedom-toursllc.com to see other upcoming trips or call (504) 606-4712.

Travel Central, An American Express Representative is a full service travel agency offering cruises, escorted tours and independently tailored vacations to travelers mostly in the New Orleans area. Since 1988, Travel Central has been helping people plan great vacations. Travel Central’s team of eight professional travel agents work with clients to find out their needs, research the best values and offer specials and exclusives to people traveling throughout the world. Travel Central is also an American Express Representative and has access to hundreds of specials negotiated by American Express. With an extensive library of vacation guides, videos and brochures, Travel Central gives trip planners access to information about dream destinations. This fall, book a trip to New England, the Canadian Maritimes or French Canada to see the season in its glory. Or consider a cruise, a trip to Costa Rica or an exploration of England. From families to couples and getaways for the girls, Travel Central can help plan any size vacation for a variety of budgets. For more information about their services visit www.travelcentralvacations.com or call (504) 834-7000. n

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