Even if your summer vacation is behind you, the fall is an ideal time to travel through Louisiana and the Southeast U.S. Permanent attractions, special events and festivals abound throughout the area, from the white sandy beaches of Florida, to the small towns, to the historical wonder of old plantations, the Southeastern U.S. offers some of the finest travel destinations in the country. This fall, even with higher gasoline prices and busy schedules, area residents are still likely to take advantage of some of the most inviting destinations in the U.S. Here are some of the best of the best:

    Since it is never too early to start thinking about the holidays, the Junior League of Jackson, Miss. will host Mistletoe Marketplace 2007, Nov.7-10. This is the 27th year the Junior League has hosted this huge holiday market with special events. It is one of the top events in the Southeast and is the primary fundraiser for the Junior League of Jackson, Miss. One of the biggest attractions at this year’s event is as critically-acclaimed chef/restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author and television personality Bobby Flay. “Bobby Flay Heats Up the South, a Healthy Holiday Spectacular” fits in nicely with the event’s emphasis on healthy cooking.

    In addition to Flay’s appearance, this year’s Mistletoe Marketplace will also include an opening night, black-tie optional gala. Another event, “Blues, Brew & Barbeque”, will be hosted by Anheuser Busch and Southern Brewmasters. AT&T will host the “Marketplace Brunch” and Cellular South will present “Mistletoe Morning”.

    But for many attendees, the main event is always the shopping. This year in addition to a stellar selection of original artwork and fine jewelry, the live auction will feature a 2008 Cadillac SRX Crossover vehicle. Over 35,000 shoppers from across the Southeast enjoy more than 165 merchants from across the U.S., offering unique gifts and holiday trends in a festive, family-friendly atmosphere. Proceeds from Mistletoe Marketplace support the Junior League’s many community projects.

The main sponsor of this year’s event is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi.
Find out more about this year’s Mistletoe Marketplace at www.mistletoemarketplace.com, or visit the Junior League of Jackson www.jljackson.org or call (888) 324-0027.

The Good Life in Florida
Located in Destin, Fla. on 80 acres along Choctawhatchee Bay, is Turnberry Harbour, the newest creation of Turnberry, Ltd., one of the nation’s leading luxury real estate developers. Set within the award-winning Regatta Bay Golf Course, the upscale master-planned residential development will include several residential buildings, a 34,500-square-foot clubhouse, luxurious spa and fitness center, tennis club and both casual and fine dining restaurants.

Sales recently began for Turnberry Harbour’s 19-story condominium tower and two, four-story maisonette buildings.  Residences will be constructed of the finest materials and an unparalleled attention to detail. Standard amenities include marble bathroom flooring and walls, luxuriously appointed kitchens and expansive private balconies (many with summer kitchens).  

Tower features include an elegant two-story lobby with 24-hour valet service, front desk attendant and security personnel and lushly landscaped pool deck overlooking Choctawhatchee Bay.

Centrally located on the Florida Panhandle’s Emerald Coast, a 100-mile stretch of beach extending from Pensacola to Panama City, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area has experienced a tremendous visitor growth rate during the past five years. Its white sand beaches, world-class fishing, golfing and array of upscale shopping and dining options have established Destin as one of the most exclusive destinations in the Southeastern U.S.

For more information on Turnberry Harbour, call (850) 650-4500 or visit www.turnberryharbour.com.

As the reflection of the sun sparkles like diamonds on the emerald green water and cool breezes blow off the gulf, beach goers are reminded that fall has arrived. Only a short four and one-half hour drive from New Orleans, the 14 eclectic beach communities of Beaches of South Walton along the Florida Panhandle offer the perfect opportunity for a romantic getaway or just a long weekend.

Fall is a quieter, more sophisticated season in Beaches of South Walton. Cooler temperatures, warm water, fewer children, shorter lines and the natural fall beauty of the area provide a greater sense of tranquility than is typically experienced during the spring and summer months.

Accommodations offer great values this time of year, sometimes up to 60 percent off peak season rates. Whether staying at the luxurious WaterColor Inn, a quaint cottage in Seaside, a carriage house in Rosemary Beach, Sandestin’s enchanting Village of Baytowne Wharf or a peaceful beach rental in Grayton Beach, comfortable, elegantly appointed accommodations are plentiful and provide the perfect home base to rest after exploring the area.

The Autumn Tides season of unforgettable fall festivals kicks off in September and features some of the best culinary, cultural and family events in the region. For more information or to plan a vacation to Beaches of South Walton, visit www.beachesofsouthwalton.com or call (800) 822-6877.

Eden Condominium, a landmark on the Gulf Coast, provides the unique combination of architecture and style found on the French Riviera with peaceful solitude found only on Perdido Key, Fla. You can lose yourself in exotic landscaping that surrounds pools and refreshing waterfalls. Standard features include range and self-cleaning oven, side-by-side refrigerator, freezer with icemaker, dishwasher, microwave, whirlpool tub, wet bar and spacious balconies with Gulf views. The property features lighted tennis courts, a health club, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a private 24-slip boat dock and fully-equipped conference facilities. Relax and pamper yourself with a session at the Spa at Eden Salon. Check out the Web site, www.edencondominiums.com for information on rentals, as well as units available for sale. For additional information, call (800) 523-8141.

Fall is one of the most beautiful times on the coast. The still warm weather and less crowded beaches make a trip to the shores a wonderful retreat. Southern Resorts is the perfect destination for your family getaway, golf outing, girlfriends weekend, corporate retreat, business meeting, wedding or family reunion. With accommodations of all sizes and in several beautiful beach communities in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, the Beaches of South Walton and Port St. Joe, Fla., Southern Resorts has the perfect venue for your occasion. Stay in a variety of beach homes, cottages and condos along the Coast each with myriad unique amenities.

Whether you seek to tap into your staff’s ingenuity in a place like no other, relive childhood memories at the coast, celebrate an unforgettable time or simply relax and unwind, Southern Resorts is your place to stay. With the beautiful beach and surrounding communities as your backdrop and Southern Resorts as your destination-your experience is sure to be a success.

Learn more by visiting Southern Resorts’ virtual tours, interactive vacation guide, satellite maps, on-line reservations and more at www.SouthernResorts.com, or call (800) 737-BEACH (2322).

Meyer Real Estate provides a wide variety of beach vacation choices with over 2,000 beach homes and coastal condominiums. Vacationers can chose getaways in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or many other locations along 50 miles of beautiful beaches from Dauphin Island to Perdido Key. There are upscale luxury condos on the Gulf-front, as well as mid-range priced condos and value priced properties often desired by families.

With over 300 beach houses and 1,700+ condominiums in 180 buildings, the selection for travelers is abundant. The Alabama and Florida gulf coast is superb in fall with warm weather and fewer crowds. Since all vacation rental properties are individually owned, there are a wide variety of floor plans and decors from which to choose. For more information, to preview the interiors and exteriors of available properties and to reserve your fall getaway, visit www.MeyerRE.com, or call (866) 269-6927.

A truly unique vacation rental property is The Purple Parrot Village Resort in Perdido Key. Villas are spacious and fully equipped in this gated resort. With two story colorful villas surrounding the 5,000-square-foot outdoor swimming pool, waterfall cave and bridge-access Jacuzzi, The Purple Parrot Village Resort is a different experience than a high rise condo building. Within the complex you can enjoy the ambiance surrounding the pool from a lounge chair underneath the tiki hut or soaking up the warm sun. Enjoy the option of an indoor heated pool and Jacuzzi, complete with saunas, changing rooms, showers and fitness center. Best of all, it is all just minutes from the beach, restaurants, marinas, sub adventures, fishing charters, legendary golf courses and lively entertainment.

The Purple Parrot Village Resort, managed by Perdido Key Resort Management provides the perfect avenues for a dream island resort getaway. Shelling, fishing, tanning, snorkeling, golfing, biking, gaming, historical museum tours and most importantly, relaxation, are all waiting for you at the resort. Villas include washers and dryers and are fully furnished from top to bottom. Each boasts extended cable, Internet access and many have screened–in balconies.

 For more information, visit www.perdidokeyresortmanagement, or call (866) 760-7576.
   
The Allure of Alabama
    Some of the best-kept secrets of the southeastern U.S. are Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Brett Robinson Vacations offers miles of luxury condominiums in this area. At the many Phoenix properties, guests enjoy Gulf front views and direct beach access, or the quiet back bay, which opens to the Gulf of Mexico. Best of all, the Brett Robinson Phoenixes are located within a three hour drive from the city of New Orleans.

Some locations feature boat slips and boat launches. Brett Robinson recently hosted a huge “topping out” party for their 18th condo development, the 27-story, Gulf-front Phoenix West in Orange Beach, scheduled to open in late 2008.

Brett Robinson properties include outdoor and indoor pools, hot tubs and saunas, lighted tennis courts, racquet ball courts and barbeque grills. Also available are free wireless access and putting greens. Consider a leisurely ride down Phoenix by the Bay’s lazy river or a fast whirl down the water slide.

Find out more and start planning your personal getaway by calling for a free vacation guide, at (877) 701-7316 or visit www.tourorangebeach.com.

Also in Orange Beach, Caribe The Resort offers superbly designed, full Jacuzzi brand master suites and gourmet kitchens, including stainless steel appliances and granite countertops set in European-style cabinetry. Luxurious two– and three–bedroom condominiums, in four different floor plans, with between 1,400-2,400 heated and cooled square feet. Each unit comes complete with 20-inch porcelain tile flooring, 9-11 foot ceilings and tinted, floor-to-ceiling full-view windows and glass doors for the oversized, curvilinear balconies. This exclusive oasis includes two– and three– tiered outdoor swimming pools, large indoor pools with Jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, state-of-the-art fitness centers, tennis courts, boat slips and a 10,000-square-foot Tiff Eagle putting green. There is also a new video game room open for kids and teens and soon a new movie theatre and restaurant will open on the property. Families love the waterslide and 980-foot-long lazy river. Caribe also features state-of-the-art meeting space, ideal for conventions, receptions and the ultimate destination wedding. For more information, visit www.cariberesort.com or call (251) 980-9000.

Turquoise Place is a world-class resort, under construction. Turquoise Place is building its Phase I and Phase II at the same time, due to such high demand from the public. Phase I opens in the Summer of 2008 and Phase II will open one year later. The 13.75-acre property will provide 90-foot-wide corridors to the public beach. Three-and four-bedroom units will provide luxurious living with incomparable views. Fishers and golfers will find everything they want close by and tennis courts will be included on property. Each unit will feature Sub Zero stainless steel appliances, gas fireplaces and each balcony has a Jacuzzi hot tub and outdoor kitchen. Turquoise Place will also have a lazy river and a full service spa.  Turquoise Place promises to be the condominium for people who want everything. For more information, visit www.turquoiseplace.com.

Relaxing Getaways
Just 45 minutes from downtown New Orleans, the quaint Northshore towns and relaxing green spaces of St. Tammany Parish make for a great getaway.

Tour the brewery in Abita Springs, have an elegant dinner at Chef John Besh’s La Provence in Lacombe or take a leisurely bike ride on the 31-mile Tammany Trace. Louisiana’s only rails-to-trails conversion, the Trace meanders through woodlands and over streams to connect Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville (traversing Fontainebleau State Park), Lacombe and Slidell.

Visit a working vineyard at Pontchartrain Vineyards and sample its wines at the Old World tasting room. Explore the Abita Mystery House at the UCM Museum in Abita or head for Folsom and the exciting Global Wildlife Center, where a slow-moving tram allows up-close interaction with giraffes, camels, llamas, bison and other exotic animals.

Observe alligators in their natural habitat on a tour of Honey Island Swamp, then learn about, even touch, the reptiles at the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery.

Madisonville’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum, which hosts the Wooden Boat Festival each fall, highlights the area’s nautical and cultural history.

You can shop the many galleries and boutiques of downtown Covington all day, then head to Mandeville’s mile-long public lakefront, where you can stroll along the seawall and watch the sunset as the boats sail in for the evening.

These are just a few of the many attractions right across the lake, in beautiful St. Tammany Parish. Request a visitor guide and free discount card by visiting www.LouisianaNorthshore.com or call (800) 634-9443.

    Dunleith Plantation is a beautiful Southern home that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. The best part is that once you’ve toured the house, you can hang your hat and stay for a while. Dunleith is a bed and breakfast inn in lovely Natchez, Miss., with elegant suites, well appointed meeting rooms and singularly exquisite facilities for memorable weddings. Right on the property, in a fully restored 1790s carriage house, is the Castle Restaurant and Pub featuring nouveau cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Brad Seyfarth serves authentic Southern cuisine, including such items as pan-seared duck breast topped with roasted apple compote – and for dessert, bread pudding with whiskey sauce of course.  Also on the premises is Bowie’s Tavern, open weekends only for great grilled items and a perfect place to catch a game on TV. For full details on room availability, rates, catering facilities and a weekend in the old South, visit www.DunleithPlantation.com or call (800) 433-2445. Ask about the “Enhancement Package,” with flowers, champagne and more. 

Located in Louisiana’s famed French Acadiana, HOUMA, presents every visitor with sprawling plantations, a vibrant historic downtown, thriving fishing villages and lively views of some of the most beautiful wetlands around. Visiting Houma offers an experience blended with rich history, breathtaking scenery and a thriving culture. Explore the wetlands with one of Houma’s colorful guides, “get hooked” on world-class fishing, uncover age-old traditions at one of Houma’s museums and cultural centers, travel the scenic routes along the bayou, and pass a good time at one of Houma’s many fairs and festivals, including Mardi Gras, the Voice of the Wetlands Festival and the Grand Bois Inter-Tribal Pow Wow. Visit www.houmatravel.com.

Mark you calendar: the Voice of the Wetlands Festival, will be held on October 12-14th. The three-day festival will once again take place at the beautiful Southdown Museum Grounds in Houma. Once again this year, the festival will host some of the areas most exciting talent, and Louisiana cuisine, along with national touring acts and Wetlands exhibitors. “VOW at Night” is an event where the organization takes over the downtown venues and for a “pay one price cover” the fun continues after festival parties along with some great live entertainment. Visit www.voiceofthewetlands.com for full information.

    What better way could there be to learn about the history and culture of New Orleans than through its legendary restaurants? New Orleans Culinary Tours explains the history behind the food in describing how this unique city developed the country’s only true regional cuisine. Discover why New Orleans still ranks as a major destination for serious food lovers everywhere.

    The Culinary History Tasting tour is a walking and tasting tour of the French Quarter that will immerse you in the history of New Orleans and how its unique cuisine evolved. Tour select historic restaurants and discuss their culinary contributions – including the two oldest (Antoine’s and Tujague’s, established in 1840 and ‘56, respectively). The tour also makes a stop at the Hermann-Grima house’s 19th century working kitchen. Visitors will learn to appreciate the differences between Creole and Cajun cuisine and will hear of the varied ethnic influences that contribute to New Orleans cuisine.

    The tasting tour is offered at 2p.m. Mon., Tues., Fri. and Sat. This is a great activity for locals or visitors. Book your tour on-line at www.noculinarytours.com or call (504) 427-9595. Tickets can also be purchased by calling Zerve Ticket Center at (504) 875-6570.

Vacation Planning
    Sometimes, getting away from it all on a relaxing luxury vacation can be just what the doctor ordered. It can change you from a stressed out and burned out individual into a more lively, fun-loving and productive person. The Cruise & Vacation Shoppe is a “luxury vacation store” designed to do just that. Serving the New Orleans area for more than 25 years, Cruise & Vacation Shoppe features quality vacations at surprisingly affordable prices.

    The Cruise & Vacation Shoppe gives clients a little more than what’s expected, including first-hand advice on how to make the most of your vacation dreams. From sending you to the best beaches and most sought out restaurants in the trendiest destinations, to finding you an unspoiled paradise that few people know about, the company’s experience shows. Start by checking out the Web site – www.cruiseandvacation.com, call and speak to a vacation specialist at (504) 833-1984 or stop by the store at 115 Metairie Rd. Metairie. When you stop in, you’ll also get a chance to check out the nautical gift shop the “Admiral’s Attic” or visit it on-line at www.admiralsattic.com.

    For more than 30 years, area residents have relied on Town and Country Travel to create memorable excursions throughout the world. Town and Country Travel, a locally owned and operated travel agency handles everything from airline tickets to custom European and worldwide vacations. The agency specializes in destination weddings, with a focus on Caribbean destinations.  Having been in business for so long, Town and Country Travel has all the best connections with resorts and properties suitable for romantic weddings and celebrations. The agency also sells all of the cruise lines, and notes that cruising out of New Orleans has picked up considerably in recent months. Town and Country Travel is located at 723 Aurora Ave., Metairie. Visit www.townandcountrytravel.mycaribbeantravel.com for more details or call 838-8702. The office is open Mon.–Fri., 10a.m.–2p.m., and by appointment.