Canberra’s ultimate top 10 for first-time visitors

When you visit Canberra, prepare to experience one good thing after another. Because whether it’s world-class wining and dining, iconic national treasures or breathtaking outdoor adventures, everything you’re after is just moments away.

To help out our first-time visitors, VisitCanberra has created the ultimate top 10 – a list of things everyone must see, experience and savour as part of the perfect weekend in Australia’s capital.

Centenary Trail 102879 Australian War Memorial 101556 Namadgi National Park 106044

Sage Restn 102472-3Patissez

150412: Picture by Belinda Pratten. Visit Canberra ACT Lonsdale Street ORI building shopping art craft designer fashion The Hamlet Food cafes local produce

  1. Visit the icons: Make sure you visit all the world-class national attractions that call Canberra home at least once, including the National Museum of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the Australian War Memorial. Entry to most of the city’s major attractions is free.
  2. Soar above the capital: For the best view of Canberra, take a scenic hot air balloon flight over the nation’s capital. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular in March offers the chance to view a stunning array of hot air balloons drifting slowly over the capital, with amazing views from on the ground and in the air.
  3. Conquer the Freakshake: Tempt your tastebuds with the Freakshakes creating worldwide intrigue and envy at Patissez Cafe  in Manuka and Civic. These monster milkshakes will make you want to share them with everyone on social media before you indulge.
  4. Make it to the markets: Spend your Saturday morning shopping up at storm at the Capital Region Farmers Markets, where you can buy fresh produce direct from the growers and enjoy a delicious local breakfast or brunch. Take part in a Canberra Sunday tradition by visiting the Old Bus Depot Markets. Pick up some tasty treats, a bunch of flowers, some fashion gems or a local artwork.
  5. Wander through wineries: Canberra’s three cool-climate wine regions offer a spectacular range of experiences, from wine-tasting and fine dining to truffle hunting. Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varieties thrive in the capital region, with 140 vineyards and 33 cellar doors – most of which are within 30 minutes’ drive of the city.
  6. Explore the lake: Located at the heart of Canberra, Lake Burley Griffin is surrounded by galleries and museums as well as parks, open spaces and walking and cycling paths. Do as the locals do and spend an hour walking the ‘bridge to bridge’ path around the lake or if you’re feeling adventurous, hire a paddleboard or take a segway tour.
  7. Take the ultimate selfie: In the centre of Parliament House’s roof flies an Australian flag roughly the size of a double-decker bus. Visitors can take the lift to the roof, walk beneath the massive flag mast and pose for the perfect holiday selfie.
  8. Wine and dine: Indulge at some of the capital’s top-rated restaurants for incredible culinary experiences. Wander through foodie precincts like BraddonNewActon and the Kingston Foreshore for an eclectic mix of cafes, restaurants, bars, pop-up stores, galleries and people watching.
  9. Walk among a million blooms: Visit one of Australia’s best known festivals, Floriade, and see why it attracts record-breaking crowds year after year. Stop and smell the tulips, take part in a horticultural workshop and get your photo taken in front of the stunning garden beds. After dark, explore the illuminated wonderland that is Floriade NightFest, ride the Ferris wheel, see a comedy show and admire the flowers beds all lit up. Floriade returns to Canberra for the 29th year from Saturday 17 September until Sunday 16 October 2016.
  10. Discover your wild side: Set yourself the challenge on a visit to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve to spot five famous native Australian animals that call the area home: a koala, a platypus, a kangaroo, an emu and a wombat. Then embark on the ultimate animal encounter at the National Zoo & Aquarium’s new luxury accommodation, Jamala Wildlife Lodge, where you can take part in behind-the-scenes tours and share a jungle bungalow with lions, tigers and bears for neighbours.
    • Canberra is an eight-hour flight away from Singapore. From September 20, Singapore Airlines will commence direct flights between Canberra and Singapore four times a week. Contact your travel agent for more detail or visit www.singaporeair.com. For more information about Canberra, www.visitcanberra.com.au

 

MYSTICAL MYAMAR

From temple-dotted plains to golden stupas, floating gardens to colonial gems, Myanmar has so much to see and experience. Yet there is no denying the country is changing. Asia travel specialists Insider Journeys’ advice is simple – now is the time to go.

Here are five of Myanmar’s myriad sights that should not be missed:

Shwedagon Pagoda

No journey to Myanmar is complete without a visit to the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Thought to have been built by the Mon people during the 6th century, this is one of the most impressive Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia and a true religious wonder of the world. Besides the beauty of the temple itself, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a fantastic spot for people-watching, with devotees making offerings, worshiping and meditating before the golden stupas.

565967_num1160745

Inle Lake

Cruising the waters of this peaceful lake, flanked by floating gardens and wooden stilt-houses, is an unmissable experience. The antics of its famous leg-rowing fisherman, whose distinctive method can be observed nowhere else in the world, is a major draw for visitors to this tranquil oasis in the Shan Hills. When compared to the bustle of Yangon, Inle Lake is a place to relax, unwind, and observe communities and customs little-changed for thousands of years.

IMG_0044

Colonial architecture

As a result of British rule between 1824 and 1948, and its relative isolation in the years that followed, Myanmar is home to some of the finest colonial architecture in the world. As the country has been opening up to tourists, development has been inevitable; Yangon is changing at a rapid pace so our advice to travellers who want to see Yangon’s unique heritage buildings is they should visit now.

The temples of Bagan

Where else on earth can you watch the sun set over more than two thousand temples? The temples of Bagan are truly unique. For a truly spectacular view, the temples should be seen from above – in the luxury of a hot air balloon.

Due to demand, it’s really important to book the hot air balloon before travelling to Myanmar, at the same time as booking into a small group journey or making private travel arrangements.

565967_num1160748

Ngapali Beach

Having explored temples and colonial wonders in Yangon, cruised Inle Lake and watched the sun go down over Bagan’s mesmerising plains, travellers deserve some time to unwind at the beach. Few people realise Myanmar shares the same incredible stretch of coastline as its better-known neighbour Thailand, with white sand and the famed azure waters of the Andaman Sea. This tranquil coastline and its quaint smattering of fishing villages is the perfect way to end a visit to Myanmar.

Insider Journeys offers five Myanmar small group journey itineraries, starting from a 6 day Taste of Burma option from $2395 pp/twin share.

For details, visit: http://www.insiderjourneys.com.au/small-group-tours/burma-myanmar

Walking safaris with Maasai naturalists at Angama Mara

A solitary elephant melts into the forest as you walk through the Great Rift Valley with your personal Maasai naturalist. Ancient customs are told in the traditional story telling way as you live and breathe the life of the Maasai whilst discovering the Oloololo Escarpment.

Walking safaris at Angama Mara are tailor-made for every guest, and every fitness-level is taken into consideration. Depending on the time of day, and the length of walk, they can include picnic baskets, blankets, or even a lift back to the lodge. From a gentle 2-hour stroll to a full day’s walk, guests can choose exactly how they would like to discover Africa on foot.

Five facts you will learn from the Maasai when you travel to Angama Mara are:

1. The Maasai greet friends by spitting on one another and when a child is born the Masai will spit on it as a blessing. When greeting elders a Maasai warrior will spit in his hand before offering it to be shaken as a sign of respect.

2. The language of the Maasai is a spoken language called Maa. As they have such a strong oral tradition they usually do not write anything down.

3. There are over 1 million Maasai with most recent records showing 841,622 of them in Kenya and 430,000 in Tanzania

4. Cows are king. They are the most important aspect of the Maasai’s lives. A good herd of cattle is an equivalent sign of wealth to a Ferrari.

5. The Maasai are semi nomadic. They move themselves and their livestock to the tune of a communal land management system based on season rotation.

938471d0-a0f6-42aa-8518-048add8d1e90

Angama Mara will unlock the secrets of the Maasai and their land on safari from $AUD1100 per night per person. Rates include all safaris into the Mara Triangle, walking safaris on the escarpment, all meals and drinks (except French Champagne), baby sitting, laundry service, emergency medical evacuation insurance.

More information www.angama.com or your favourite African specialist.

THE TOP TEN THINGS TO DO IN GUAM

Guam is a wonderful place to visit with beautiful beaches and great weather all year long. But there’s much more to do than just bask in the sun, though that’s high on the list. Let us share the top ten exciting adventures to experience during your visit to the island where America’s day begins!

Let’s start with Guam’s tropical waters, where there is so much more to do than just splash around! From snorkeling to parasailing, dolphin watching to walking on the sea floor with a breathing helmet, plus jet skiing, banana boat rides, kayaking and so much more. The water activities available for visitors in Guam are as vast as the ocean vistas.

562886_num1157368guam

The second thing to do is learn about Guam’s unique culture. The 4,000-year-old Chamorro culture is the oldest in the Pacific. Visit the Latte Stone Park in Hagåtña to see the foundations the Chamorros once placed their huts upon. The Park is part of the Heritage Walking Trail, a series of well-marked cultural and historical sites in Guam’s capital, all within walking distance of each other, that includes the Guam Museum.

Gef Pa’go Chamorro Cultural Village in the southern village of Inarajan is another great place to visit. This village features different types of huts built by Guam’s Chamorro people. Each hut also features a different skill, like weaving, salt making, coconut husking, and rope making. Experience the warmth of Guam’s hospitality as the people share their history, culture and traditions with you.

Guam’s rich culture and history makes sightseeing a natural for number three. A trip around the island should include stops to Fort Santa Agueda with its panoramic view of Northern Guam, the Plaza de España, and the Guam Museum in Hagåtña. In Southern Guam, Fort Soledad offers an astounding view of the Philippine Sea and the Umatac Bay, where many believe Magellan first landed on Guam in 1521. Taleyfak Bridge in Agat, known by locals as the Old Spanish Bridge, marks a portion of the old El Camino Trail which once connected the south with the north. There are many more scenic sites of interest all well marked from the north to the south promising you stunning vista views.

The Wednesday Night Market at the Y SengSong Chamorro Village in Hagåtña is a great place to shop, enjoy local food, live entertainment and meet people. Located in in the heart of Guam’s capital village, where the island recently hosted the 2016 Festival of the Pacific Arts, a visit to the Night Market is the fourth thing all visitors should do while in Guam. It’s a wonderful place to find one of a kind souvenirs, unique artwork, and opportunities to buy fresh produce, ride a carabao (water buffalo) and have a great time with local residents.

Shopping comes in at number five and is a popular activity for everyone. Guam’s duty free status means visitors can purchase luxury goods at very reasonable prices. The island has several shopping centers, high-end boutiques, American brand name stores and an outlet mall. There are several shopping trolleys that make regular stops at most hotels and resorts and the major shopping centers.

The sixth thing to do also takes place in the ocean, but beneath. Guam is a great place to dive, whether your experienced or a beginner. Guam has a multitude of professional dive shops equipped to teach novices or offer tours for the more experienced. The island is home to one of the world’s most unique dive spots, the double shipwrecks of the German SMS Cormoran scuttled in 1917 and Japanese Tokai Maru, which mark the only place where divers can simultaneously touch vessels from two different World Wars.

Guam boasts seven golf courses, some designed by golf legends like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and others. Golfing is number seven. Enthusiasts appreciate that there is rarely a wait to get on the course and fees are reasonable, like with many other destinations. Guam courses have luxury clubhouses with all the amenities including restaurants, club and cart rentals, and more.

The eighth thing to do while on Guam is eat, eat, and eat some more. Guam has an amazing variety of restaurants featuring international cuisine from Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Filipino, Caribbean, Brazilian, and so much more. Of course, visitors must try our famous Chamorro cuisine while they’re here. There is nothing quite like Guam’s authentic local food and there are many restaurants that offer Chamorro food or a fusion that is unforgettable. You must try finadenne’, a local dipping sauce made with soy sauce, onions, lemon, and a local pepper called donne’ that spices up every meal, especially meats, chicken, and rice.

After a good meal, the night beckons and Guam’s entertainment options are exciting. At number nine, there are night clubs, pubs, and bars for an after dinner drink. Or you can combine the two at a dinner show where there is also a variety to choose from, including those with Chamorro cultural performances, cruises on the ocean, magic shows, and even a Las Vegas show with acrobats, show girls, and tigers.

Rounding out the list at number ten are Guam’s annual signature events which range in nature from athletic like the Guam Ko’ko’ Run Half Marathon & Ekiden Relay, Guam International Marathon, Konqer Guam, and Tour of Guam Cycling to music concerts like the Guam Live International Music Festival and Electric Light Festival. Guam also hosts events that showcase our delicious food like the annual BBQ Block Party or celebrate the different cultures of the people who make up our multi-cultural community, like the Japan Autumn Festival. Also a signature event is the Shop Guam Festival.

There is never a shortage of activities or things to do and this list serves as a mere starting point for your adventures in Guam. The question most guests to Guam ask while here is not what should we do, but rather, will we have enough time to do it all? For more information about Guam or advices and suggestions to plan the perfect trip, go to www.visitguam.org.

For More Information:

GUAM VISITORS BUREAU

Office: (671) 646-5278

info@visitguam.org | http://www.visitguam.com

ESCAPE THE WINTER BLUES WITH MSC CRUISES

There is no better way to travel than with an MSC Cruises’ Fly, Land & Cruise package. Known for its amazing value and flexible return flights, guests will be able to truly explore some of the world’s most beautiful destinations with ease. MSC Cruises’ 2017 Fly, Land & Cruise packages are offering guests the most unique cruising experiences as they discover some of the world’s most beautiful treasures.

561676_num1156175msc

European Bucket List:

Discover all Europe has to offer with an amazing 17 night cruise on board MSC Fantasia. Departing Australia 16 April 2017, after leaving the beautiful city of Genoa, let the vibrant energy and iconic architecture of Barcelona inspire you as you visit some of Spain’s most famous landmarks such as the Sagrada Familia Church and Casa Batllo. Valencia, home to the famous rice dish of paella, will not disappoint with its charming characteristics and contemporary buildings like no other. Unlock a world of history in the handsome city of Lisbon before discovering the winding Spanish town of Vigo. As you cruise through the Atlantic sea into Northern Europe, guests will be charmed with Southampton’s old town and medieval history before exploring the winding streets of Zeebrugge, Belgium. There is so much to discover in Kiel with its prime location on the shore of the Baltic Sea’s while Copenhagen’s rich cultural can be found in its museums, art galleries and performing arts events. The next port of call is Stockholm, built on no fewer than 14 islands, its combination of futuristic skyscrapers and old town cobbled streets is a sight that will take your breath away. As you come to the end of a magical journey, embrace Tallinn’s romantic history before visiting the “Venice of the North”, the stunning St Petersburg before concluding in Kiel, Germany. Starting from $5,999 (AUD)/ $6,245 (NZD) per person, this amazing adventure will leave you with memories that are truly priceless.

Iceland Escapade:

MSC Preziosa’s unique 28 night adventure will showcase some of the world’s greatest treasures as you depart from Hamburg. Get lost in the wildly romantic highland landscapes of Invergordon in the UK, before cruising to Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, where the ship remains overnight so you can explore. The stunning scenery and natural attractions that the fishing port of Isafjordur has to offer is a great Iceland city contrast for this unique island. Kirkwall is the next port of call with its sandstone cathedral a must see before berthing in the elegant Hamburg. Guests will have the best of both worlds in Norway as they discover the colourful waterfront buildings of Bergen, followed by the tranquil artic town of Tromso. Experience travelling to the world’s most northerly town as you reach Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, before enjoying Norway’s midnight sun at Honningsvag. Embrace the mountain tops and glaciers of Hellesylt/ Geiranger before arriving at your final port of call, Flaam a remote town filled with natural beauty. As you depart in Hamburg you will come away with many stories to tell. This once in a lifetime holiday departs Australia 27 May 2017 from just $8,499 (AUD)/ $9,759 (NZD) per person.

With 30 Fly, Land & Cruise packages to choose from, there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. Let the holiday begin from the moment you book with flights, transfers and accommodations all organised with just one call. The hardest part of the whole experience will be deciding which Fly, Land & Cruise package to choose!

To view all our Fly, Land & Cruise packages visit: http://www.msccruises.com.au/au_en/MSC/Fly-Land-Cruise-Packages.aspx

A&K Announces Iceland’s Northern Lights

Luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent has launched an exclusive hosted journey to the cool climes of northern Europe where one of the world’s most stunning visual experiences awaits – the Northern Lights. Subject to weather conditions there are myriad opportunities on the trip of seeing this incredible phenomenon outside of Reyjkavik.

Not only do the Northern Lights create great drama but so too the country’s incredible landscapes. Iceland’s southwest is the focus with its dramatic fjords, geothermal lakes, mountains, volcanic craters, geysers and waterfalls. There’s a visit to the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon, a glacial ice tunnel hike and super jeep adventure. Guests stay in intimate boutique properties which range from log cabin style lodge to sophisticated Art Deco city hotel and more. There’s also time to explore the compact and stylish capital, Reykjavik and an A&K host to accompany the journey from start to finish.

Tour dates: 12–20 October 2017; 16–24 November 2017
Twin share per person: $9,595
Single supplement: $1,995
Maximum 18 guests

 

To book your A&K itinerary today or to enquire further please contact Abercrombie & Kent on 1300 590 317 or visit www.abercrombiekent.com.au

DISCOVER KOREA

Korea Tourism Organization in association with the Visit Korea Committee (Visit Korea Year’s 2016-2018) and Incheon International Airport Corporation will host their travel industry roadshow event in Sydney on 7 June and Auckland on 10 June, 2016.

The delegation from Korea are visiting Australia and New Zealand to educate the industry about the events and attractions of VKY2016-2018 and the transfers and stopover tours available from Incheon International Airport, Seoul’s major hub in north east Asia.

560210_num1154686

During the VKY2016-2018 period there are many discounts and benefits available for overseas visitors to Korea. Many events have been planned and the largest event to attract the world’s attention will be the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. It is expected to focus attention on Korea as a ski and winter destination and grow visitors to Korea’s ski fields and winter attractions.

Popular Korean actor Lee Min-ho is the poster boy for VKY2016-2018 and also features in the latest Korea Tourism promotional film – Korea, Let your Story Begin.

The Sydney event will be hosted at Sydney’s newest five star Primus Hotel with its stunning art deco refit of the former Sydney Water Board Headquarters. Executive Chef Ryan Hong will prepare a Korean fusion menu and there will be a live Korean bulgogi (BBQ) cooking station.

There will be twelve industry tables at the Sydney event including tour operators promoting their Korean tour products to retail agents as well as Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Both airlines have generously offered return economy air tickets from Sydney to Seoul for two major prize winners on the night.

The Visit Korea Committee will offer two K-Travel Bus passes for two persons (choice of six routes, valued at US$145-$175 to the major prize winners of the air tickets.

The Auckland event will be held at the luxurious Rendezvous Hotel and a full buffet dinner will be provided for guests following a mini trade mart with six tour operators and Korean Air who will provide the major prize of the evening, an air ticket to Korea for one lucky winner.

Visit Korea Year’s 2016-2018: http://www.vkc.or.kr/en/

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics: www.pyeongchang2018.com

Incheon International Airport: www.airport.kr

How to Book a Long Summer Weekend Away on a Budget

Smart travel planning means more money to spend while on holiday. This may seem like common sense, but it’s not always easy to know how best to save when planning. To help Hong Kong travellers plan a weekend getaway this summer, the travel experts at KAYAK.com.hk have done the research for you – revealing the best days to book and the best time to travel; as well as how to save on hotels and the average prices for top destinations. With this information, Hong Kong travellers can splurge on cocktails at a breathtaking rooftop hotel bar in Bangkok, or buy knick-knacks and curios from the gorgeous boutiques around Taipei, all guilt-free.

Top 5 Most Popular Destinations from HK this summer

Destination
Hotel recommendation
Avg price for Return flights
1
Tokyo
Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Ikebukuro
HK$ 2,574

Tokyo 2
2
Taipei
Taipei Garden Hotel
HK$ 1,425

Taipei copylow
3
Seoul
Fraser Place Central Seoul
HK$ 2,248

Seoul copy
4
Osaka
Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka
HK$ 2,736

Osaka copy
5
Bangkok
Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square
HK$ 1,742

Bangkok copy

Booking in advance – it works
Spontaneity is liberating, but for travellers who are pinching their pennies – or those who’d just like to save a bit of money for treats during the holiday itself – timing is key and it pays to plan ahead. KAYAK.com.hk’s data reveals that Hong Kongers, seeking the lowest airfares to most destinations around the world, should book two to two-and-a-half months in advance. However, for a long summer weekend away in Asia, Hong Kongers can book one to three months ahead for the best price for flights.

What day of the week is best to fly?
Summer can be an expensive time to fly, but choosing the right days for a long weekend can lead to significant savings. According to the data, travellers, flying from Hong Kong to the top five destinations within Asia, can save up to 17% by departing on a Friday and returning on the following Monday. With HKSAR Establishment Day falling on a Friday this year, travellers should take advantage of the long weekend and fly out on July 1st, enjoy a 4-day weekend and return on the Monday, maximising precious leave and saving money.

Sleep easy with hotel savings
If Hong Kongers are looking to stay in a hotel over a long weekend, it turns out it is more than worth it, accommodation-wise. Travellers who stay three nights pay around 9% less on average per night, than those staying only two nights during the weekend.

Debby Soo, KAYAK Vice President APAC comments, “We’re happy to be able to share these tips to help Hong Kong travellers be more savvy with travel planning, so they have more budget to enjoy their holiday. KAYAK.com.hk also has great travel tools for the planning process, like our Price Trend Forecast feature that tells you whether to buy now or wait for a better deal, and Price Alerts, which send updates on top pricing for flights and hotels that you’re interested in.”

 

Website: http://www.kayak.com.hk
Blog: https://www.kayak.com.hk/news/
Social Media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KAYAK.HongKong
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kayak
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/kayak_hk

I LOVE NEW YORK Encourages Travellers To Discover What Is New Throughout New York State For Spring And Summer 2016

A sense of awakening and freshness fills the air as spring takes hold of the Empire State. It’s a great time to explore some of the exciting new things to do and see across New York.

To help chart the way, I LOVE NEW YORK has checked in with all 11 vacation regions and compiled a sampling of some of the Empire State’s newest ways for locals, and visitors, to play, stay and have fun, from curated cider tastings to the highly-interactive and nostalgic Toy Halls of Fame.

NEW THINGS TO DO AND NEW PLACES TO GO

The Adirondacks:

Mountain bikers will find a number of new trails for all levels of expertise, thanks to volunteer organisations including Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), a project of the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. In Wilmington, one of BETA’s ongoing projects is the Flume Trail Network, located on the West Branch of the Ausable River, offering smooth single tracks and technical climbs. A half hour drive from Wilmington, the Ausable Chasm Mountain Bike Center offers 15 miles of mountain bike trails, including beginner cruising and intermediate loops with double-track and single track trails. The advanced loop features steeper hills and narrower paths through miles of unspoiled forest. For more expert riding, the Wickham Marsh State Trails are connected to Ausable’s trails, leading riders through the marsh, downhill to Lake Champlain. Learn more at: visitadirondacks.com.

557832_num1152005NY

Capital/Saratoga:

Albany will soon have more than 38,000 square feet of new meeting space in two venues. Slated for an early 2017 opening, the $66.5 million Albany Capital Center will be a versatile multipurpose space for between 10 and 5,000 people. The venue will include 22,500 square feet of ballroom/exhibit space, six meeting rooms and 13,500 square feet of pre-function space. Also on track for early 2017, the 17,000-seat Times Union Center is undergoing a $15.7 million renovation to enclose its atrium and create 2,800 square feet of additional meeting space. For details, visit: www.albanycapitalcenter.com or www.timesunioncenter-albany.com.

The Catskills:

Windham Mountain Resort, host of the annual Union Cycliste Internationale Mountain Bike World Cup for four of the past five years, has opened a Lift-Serviced Mountain Bike Park with downhill trails catering to pro- and intermediate- level riders along with a skills park and a pump track. The bike park, developed in partnership with Gravity Logic, the creator of Bike Park at Whistler – Blackcomb in Canada,features two expert downhill trails, the UCI World Cup Downhill and Citizens Downhill, and two intermediate jump trails. Other recent improvements to the resort include a new entry and access road, the Alpine Spa at Windham Mountain Resort, the Windham Country Club public/private golf course, new condominiums and additional renovations at Winwood Inn and the Adventure Park. Learn more at: www.windhammountain.com.

The 19th-century painter Thomas Cole built an art studio in Catskill with gingerbread woodwork and Hudson River views. Although the original studio was torn down in the early 1970s, his nearby house, known as Cedar Grove, has been preserved as the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. This summer, contractors are finishing a reproduction of Cole’s studio on its original foundation, basing it on vintage photos, sketches and paintings. It is clad in buff clapboards and trimmed along the roofline in mahogany acorn pendants. Cole’s foundation stones have been recycled for its base. Its interior, with ceilings 19 feet high, will be used for exhibitions and programs focused on the artist and his influence on America’s cultural landscape. Learn more at: www.thomascole.org.

A new travel experience in the Catskills, the Kaaterskill Clove Experience is a series of self-guided treks into the wilderness to explore the region’s historic sites, hiking trails and cultural attractions. Hikes include the Adventure Itinerary that winds along the Escarpment Trail, a hiking route that connects to the Long Path, which offers challenging terrain and some of the most breathtaking views in New York State. Learn more at: www.greatnortherncatskills.com/kaaterskill-clove.

557832_num1152007NY

Central New York:

Schoharie County’s Beverage Trail is a new state-certified culinary trail dedicated to creating distilled, brewed and fermented beverages from locally grown ingredients. The trail makes it easy for visitors to enjoy samplings of beverages produced by local distilleries, wineries, meaderies and breweries, and to shop and dine at local businesses. Visit www.schohariecountybeveragetrail.com to learn more.

Finger Lakes:

A new $4 million high-tech Toy Halls of Fame opened at the Strong National Museum of Play in fall of 2015. The new exhibit features enticing displays that guests can interact with in humorous ways. For example, visitors can step up to a 20-foot bubble tower to create virtual bubbles that can be moved and popped by motion-capture technology, orchestrate a music and light show with a Crayon Piano, use cranks, pulleys and cords to interact with a 20-foot-tall kinetic toy sculpture made of building blocks and a toy car race track, or pose in front of an oversized Etch a Sketch for a virtual portrait that can be shared with friends and family. Visit: www.museumofplay.org.

557832_num1152009NY

Syracuse has a new performing arts space. The Lakeview Amphitheater on Onondaga Lake, designed by Westlake Reed Leskosky, who also designed Bethel Woods Perform Arts Center in Bethel, opened this year. The amphitheatre offers both covered and lawn seating, affording lovely views of the water and downtown Syracuse, and an event space with a deck overlooking the lake for private events. Rather than concession stands, the park surrounding the theater is lined with concrete concession pads to accommodate food trucks and other vendors. The lakefront site also includes recreational biking and hiking trails. A 2016 concert schedule is available online: www.ongovconcerts.com.

Hudson Valley:

Kirby Hill Farm in Pawling, a modern equestrian centre situated on 247 acres of rolling Dutchess County countryside, opened this year. The 5-star equestrian facility provides horse enthusiasts with premium boarding, training and recreational options for nearly every discipline and skill level and offers boarders top level equestrian care that includes 85 stalls and more than 30 paddocks. The centre offers two indoor riding arenas, three outdoor rings including dressage court, jumping arena and an all-purpose ring. There is also a competition level cross country course, hacking throughout Kirby Hill’s hundreds of acres, numerous turn outs and paddocks, and a hot-walker for horse conditioning. Riding arenas, engineered to provide horses with excellent footing, are cushioned yet firm and raked every morning to assure both horse and rider of uniform going. Instruction is open to children and adults of all ages, from beginner through advanced levels and is available in hunter/jumper, equitation, dressage, cross-country, trails and polo. To learn more visit: www.kirbyhillfarm.com.

Long Island:

The Long Island Rail Road makes it easy to explore Long Island from New York City without a car, thanks to a variety of escorted and independent packages. An ever-growing number of options include golf and tennis outings, escorted tours of Montauk and independent trips to the Resorts World Casino. For details, visit: http://web.mta.info/lirr/getaways/longisland.

1000 Islands/Seaway:

Mountain Bikers will find miles of great terrain for all abilities at High Flats State Forest/Seven Springs Trails in Colton, one of four areas in the Adirondack Seaway Region maintained by the St. Lawrence County Mountain Bike Association. To learn more visit: www.northcountryguide.com/pages/cyclemountain-bike.

NEW PLACES TO STAY

Capital Saratoga:

Now accepting bookings for summer 2016, the new $40 million Saratoga Casino Hotel at Saratoga Casino and Raceway will offer 117 rooms and 3,000-plus square feet of space. To learn more, visit: www.saratogacasino.com.

Embassy Suites by Hilton Saratoga Springs, which opened in 2015, offers 149 suites and 6,000 square feet meeting space. The hotel offers an indoor pool, fitness centre, free breakfast and evening receptions. For more information, visit http://embassysuites3.hilton.com/en/hotels/new-york/embassy-suites-by-hilton-saratoga-springs-ALBESES/index.html.

The Renaissance Albany, an upscale 204-room hotel on State Street in downtown Albany, opened in early October following a $48 million renovation. It is located on the site of the historic DeWittt Clinton Hotel and the renovation utilized many of the original wood paneling and marble floors. The hotel’s Wellington Restaurant and Lounge features small plate, high end American fare and mixology inspired beverage options. The hotel will eventually be connected to the Albany Capital Center, the new convention centre being planned for downtown Albany. To learn more, visit: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/albbr-renaissance-albany-hotel/

The Catskills:

The five-room North Branch Inn in North Branch opened in November 2015. Set in an early 1900s home, its unusual features include a two-lane wood bowling alley and a small movie theatre with seats from Radio City Music Hall. Its restaurant, the Bar Room, features dishes built on Catskills and New York State ingredients. Additional rooms are planned in neighboring buildings. The owners also run Arnold House, a 10-room property in the town of Livingston Manor, just 15 minutes away. To learn more visit: www.northbranchinn.com

Two new hotels are under construction in the town of Ulster – a 92-room Marriott Residence Inn and a 102-room Holiday Inn Express.

The Spruceton Inn in West Kill offers “bed and bar” and a hip take on classic mountain design. Set amid acres of meandering meadows, the inn provides hammocks, barbecues, lawn games and a bar serving beer, wine and whiskey. Rooms start at $75 a night. Visit:www.sprucetoninn.com.

Owned and operated by a French expat, Harvey House is a boutique four-suite inn in Catskill on the banks of Catskill Creek. The inn offers stylish, eclectic accommodations that feature original artwork by Catskills artists. Guests can also enjoy and purchase the original artwork around the inn. Room rates start at $75 per night. Visit: www.harveyhouseny.com.

The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson was sold to HNA Group for $13.8 million in November. The new owner, a China-based international company with 440 hotels worldwide, plans to upgrade the former Borscht Belt resort, which opened in the late 1950s as the Granit Resort. The 400-plus acre property, nestled into the Shawangunk Mountains, has an 18-hole golf course, two gourmet restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a full-service European health spa. Visit: www.hudsonvalleyresort.com.

557832_num1152010NY

Central New York:

A new Fairfield Inn & Suites recently opened in Utica. The hotel features free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and pool and fitness centre. The hotel is located next to SUNY Polytechnic Institute, three miles from Nano Utica and the Quad C facilities. For details, visit: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ucafi-fairfield-inn-and-suites-utica.

Greater Niagara:

A 124-room Hyatt Place Hotel, the first Hyatt Place in Niagara Falls, is slated to open next year on Rainbow Boulevard. Across the street, on the site of the former Rainbow Centre Mall, is a proposed development called Wonder Falls Resort. Plans include a 300-room hotel with a new 15-story tower, an indoor splash park and a series of sports bars and restaurants along with other family-friendly attractions.

NEW PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

Finger Lakes:

Embark Craft Ciderworks in Williamson recently opened its taproom and released its first hard cider varietals, which use apples sourced from Lagoner Farms and other local growers. The taproom features Embark’s ciders in a tasting flight as well as a farm-to-table menu featuring ingredients from local farms. Menu options include cheese and charcuterie boards as well as lunch and dinner options that complement Embark’s hard ciders. Several of its varieties have already won awards. To learn more, visit: www.facebook.com/embarkcraftciderworks.

EXPANSIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS

The Catskills:

There’s a lot happening in the Catskills, thanks to a series of actions to improve and promote tourism in the The Catskills region announced by Governor Cuomo on October 23, 2015. These include hosting the first annual Catskill Challenge in summer 2016. Governor Cuomo also unveiled a $7.3 million plan to modernise the gateway to Minnewaska State Park Preserve and better accommodate the growing number of visitors to the stunning Shawangunk destination. In addition, New York State will launch a $5 million Catskills region tourism ad campaign to draw visitors from around the world. The Governor made these announcements while on a “Ride the Catskills” Motorcycle Tour launching The Ride the Catskills website and theme-based itineraries were developed in partnership with Catskill Association for Tourism Services. To learn more, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/102119.html.

Central New York:

Central New York recently launched a new website highlighting their Brew Central and CNY Fresh initiatives as well as Outdoor Adventure. The region has more than 560 farms, agri-businesses and attractions as well as locavore restaurants, family agri-fun and sweet treat and craft brew trails. Visitors can choose from 63 farmers markets, 46 U-picks, 84 specialty shops and 65 breweries, hard cideries, spirits, craft pubs and wineries. To learn more, visit: www.visitcentralnewyork.com.

New York City

The $5 million renovation of LaGuardia Plaza Hotel in Queens has just been completed and now offers guests who are traveling for business or leisure a first-class experience at an affordable price just three minutes from La Guardia Airport. This project included renovations for many of the guest rooms and 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space as well as a redesign of the hotel’s lounge and new amenities. The property also features a heated indoor pool and Jacuzzi, health and fitness centre, and two onsite restaurants. The Pavilion Grille serves a variety of healthy and seasonal breakfast options daily, and the new Elements Lounge features wholesome American cuisine and cocktails for lunch and dinner. To learn more, visit www.laguardiaplazahotel.com.

About New York State

New York State features 11 beautiful vacation regions. New York’s attractions span from landmarks such as Niagara Falls to the wine trails of Hudson Valley and treasures like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Whether it’s wide-ranging outdoor activities for the whole family like hiking, culinary wonders and farm-to-table fresh foods, or exploring the rich history and culture of one of the 13 original colonies, New York State offers diverse activities for all travelers. For more information, visit www.iloveny.com. Media can find press releases and more at http://www.iloveny.com/thebeat.

Royal Caribbean Announces Six More Cruises for Ovation of the Seas

Due to unprecedented popular demand, Royal Caribbean International has today confirmed Australia’s very first new-build cruise ship, the ground-breaking US$1 billion Ovation of the Seas, will extend her second Australian season by six extra cruises, spending a further five weeks home ported in Sydney during the summer of 2017/18.

New cruises in 2018 include an eight-night South Pacific sailing departing 18 February priced from $1,449 per person, a five-night Tasmanian cruise departing 8 March from $1,049 per person, two 10-night New Zealand cruises departing 13 and 26 March starting from $1,819 per person and a three-night sampler departing 23 March priced from $669 per person; all roundtrip from Sydney. As well, she will add a 14-night repositioning cruise from Sydney to Singapore, departing 26 March 2018, which stars from $2,069 per person.

Royal Caribbean only recently confirmed the biggest, newest and most technological advanced ship ever to be deployed to Australia would return to local waters for a second season in the 2017/18 summer.

“Such is the excitement and anticipation of Ovation of the Seas’ arrival that we’re extending her second season before she has even commenced her first in Australia,” said Adam Armstrong, managing director for Royal Caribbean in Australia and New Zealand.

“The really special thing about Ovation of the Seas is that she’s appealing to an incredibly wide range of travellers. Existing cruisers are excited about the new amenities she offers, but she’s also fascinating Australians who have never cruised before. She is redefining the concept of cruising and we are delivering an entirely new way to holiday,” Armstrong continued.

When she debuted in April, Ovation of the Seas became the equal fourth largest cruise ship in the world – eclipsed only by Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. She will become the biggest, newest and most technologically advanced cruise ship ever based in Australia.

“There is no denying that Ovation of the Seas is big; at around 6,400 passengers and crew, she’s the size of a small Australian town. But with that size comes more choice, space, variety and options. Choose to do it all, or nothing at all – this is what makes a ship like Ovation of the Seas so exciting,” concluded Armstrong.

Ovation of the Seas is the third ship in the ground-breaking Quantum Class and delivers first-at-sea experiences to Australia like Ripcord by iFLY, a heart-pounding skydiving experience; the North Star glass viewing pod, a stunning new way to see the world from 90 metres above sea level; cutting-edge venues that change from day to night, including SeaPlex, the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea with bumper cars, a circus school and more, and Two70 an immersive, multimedia entertainment venue complete with dancing Roboscreens; and the robotic Bionic Bar, where robots stir and shake your drinks.

Ovation has reimagined dining with 18 unique restaurant concepts, including Jamie’s Italian, Michael’s Genuine Pub, the enchanting Wonderland and Royal Caribbean favourites like Chops Grille steakhouse and Izumi Japanese.

Technology has been amped up with high speed internet offering the fastest bandwidth at sea so guests can connect and stream as quickly as they would onshore, while the Royal iQ app makes keeping track of your onboard schedule simple with all bookings and cruise details stored and updated automatically.

Ovation of the Seas launched in April, sailing from Southampton for a short sojourn in Europe before repositioning via Dubai and Singapore on her 52-day Global Odyssey to arrive in Beijing (Tianjin) for her inaugural China season commencing 24 June 2016. On 30 November 2016, she will set sail on a 15-night Singapore to Sydney voyage via Fremantle, Adelaide and Hobart, repositioning to her new home down under for her maiden Australian season in December.

For further information, visit www.ovationoftheseas.com.au, phone 1800 754 500 or see your local travel agent. Media can find more details, images and videos at www.RoyalCaribbeanPressCenter.com/Ovation.