Spring Travel: Tips for Your Trips

These travel suggestions will put some spring in 2011.

As the weather begins to warm, weekend vacations will be on the horizon. While New Orleans has so much to offer, we forget that there are plenty of exciting destinations only a few hours away. From what to pack to where to go, these travel tips will help you plan your perfect getaway.

For women, travel fashion is an essential part of planning a vacation. You will want to look great but also pack as light as possible – a combination that can be tough to achieve for the fashion-conscious. Bora Bora ((985) 951-8454, 2 St. Ann Drive No. 1, Mandeville) carries several lines of vacation-wear that are multi-purpose, such as tunics that double as swimsuit cover-ups as well as stylish tops to be paired with boots, says Toni Adams. “We have hats that roll up that you can put in your suitcase,” she says. “We have ‘tank-inis’ that you can wear as a top with a skirt. A lot of the skirted bottoms could also be used as a tennis skirt.” For cooler weather, Bora Bora carries tunic sweaters that pair nicely with jeans or “jeggings” (jean-leggings), Adams says. As for the latest vacation styles, she says that ruffles are big for 2011, as is “lots of color, especially lots of pink.”

Ocean Springs, Miss. (CVB: (228) 875-4424), also known as “The City of Discovery,” provides not only a relaxing and beautiful vacation, but also a destination steeped in history and artistic influence. The city, founded in 1699 by Pierre LeMoyne Sieur d’Iberville, boasts more than 300 Ocean Springs Art Association artists, 150 art galleries and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.

Ocean Springs’ proximity to Biloxi’s “casino row” provides an even greater range of activities. The city claims to have the largest locally owned shopping district on the Gulf Coast, not to mention miles of beach and nature trails. Upcoming festivals include the Herb & Garden Festival in March, the 1699 Weekend of Discovery in April and two exciting festivals in May: the Taste of Ocean Springs Food & Wine Festival and the Music, Food & Art Festival.

The Alluvian Hotel and Spa ((662) 453-2114),in Greenwood, Miss., provides an escape away from stress and the mundane. Condé Nast Traveler named The Alluvian one of the top 100 hotels in the United States in both 2009 and ’10 after being named one of the top 100 new hotels in 2004.

The hotel’s amenities include a luxurious spa, a 24-hour fitness center and, one of its most unique features, a Viking Cooking School. The cooking school offers classes in a variety of culinary fields, plus special “culinary weekends,” which highlight renowned regional chefs, including James Beard Award winning chef Chris Hastings (on the weekend of February 25) and New Orleans Magazine’s 2008 Chef of the Year, Sue Zemanick of Gautreau’s (on the weekend of April 1).

Spring is a season for festivals in Natchez, Miss. (CVB: (601) 446-6345), including the sometimes star-studded Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration from February 24–27. The festival highlights and features southern authors and filmmakers, including the presentation of the Horton Foote Award to honorees such as Billy Bob Thornton. This year’s honoree is Robert Duvall for his role in The Apostle. The theme for this year’s festival is “Fields of Dreams: Sports in the South.”

Other events in Natchez include the Spring Pilgrimage, a daily home tour of 25 to 30 local historical houses; the Bluff Blues Festival in April; the Natchez Symphony of Garden Tours; and the Natchez Festival of Music in May, a weeklong showcase of plantation recitals, piano and quartet recitals and a staged opera.

Heading east to Alabama is an award-winning destination: the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort Hotel & Spa ((251) 928-9201) in Point Clear, Ala. Travel+Leisure recently named the resort one of the top 500 hotels in the world, along with such heavy hitters as the Plaza Hotel in New York and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The Grand Hotel also scored higher than any other hotel in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and more, making it a coveted destination. Travel+Leisure also named The Grand Hotel one of the “World’s Best” resorts in the continental United States and Canada in 2010.

Popular features of the resort include its golf club and course, its seven restaurants and its spa, which is part of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Spa Trail and features warm stone massages and caviar facials. “The Grand Hotel spa remains the top-ranked Marriott spa in the world and is a big hit with New Orleanians,” says Bill Lang of the Grand Hotel. “So are the two golf courses and the new pool and tennis complex.” The 20,000 square-foot spa also features what it calls its most unusual service, an Ashiatsu barefoot massage.

Continuing the journey East through the Gulf Coast, another destination is Alys Beach in Florida’s Emerald Coast. Alys Beach is known not only for sugar-white beaches, but also a community philosophy called “Smart Grown and New Urbanism,” which encourages living life “in the slow lane” and promoting community involvement while minimizing urban sprawl. Most destinations are within walking distance, including restaurants, shops and coffee houses.

A vacation at Alys Beach is actually a relaxing and rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of a big city. Popular activities include exploring the wetlands, visiting local parks, utilizing the many fitness centers and boating on adjacent Lake Marilyn.

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