Along The Travel Scene

Sunday, April 27, 2014 - by Diane Siskin

Information is gathered from interviews, visits and releases.

In celebration of this month’s Earth Day here are some suggestions for places to visit that offer great outdoor vistas and things to do

Here’s Help to “Power Down” –For a Short While!

All of us spend too much time and energy on our electronic gadgets, be they social media, work or just for entertainment.

The folks at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., know something about just getting away and enjoying the natural environment and spending time outdoors.

The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, in the heart of middle Georgia, invites you to take a digital detox and reconnect face-to-face (without Facebook) this summer.

The hotel is in the Appalachian foothills just 80 miles southwest of Atlanta.

The “Power Down” program encourages guests to take the break from their gadgets and enjoy a connection with good ‘ole fashion people and the outdoors!

As an “unplugged guest you can enjoy a picnic for two packed with decadent bites like Sweet Tea Marinated Chicken Breast Sandwiches and Black Eyed Pea Hummus on a keepsake blanket.

Offered from May through August, the Power Down package includes Lodge-style deluxe accommodations, that old-fashioned picnic and a peaceful walk through the lush gardens.

The gardens themselves offer a great variety of activities to choose from, including The Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, one of North America’s largest glass-enclosed tropical butterfly conservatories, the Virginia Hand Discovery Center, the Birds of Prey show, Cason’s Vegetable Gardens, Robin Lake Beach and the John A. Sibley Horticultural Center.

And while the focus of Callaway Gardens is nature, the 150-room hotel is home to extensive meeting spaces, an award-winning spa, the Piedmont Grille and Ironwood Lounge as well as activities and attractions fit for meetings and families.

The Power Down package includes overnight accommodations, admission to Callaway Gardens, a picnic for two and the keepsake blanket for $199 per night.

For more information or to reserve the Power Down package at The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens, call (866) 750-3980 or visit

Costa Rica Is Home to 28 National Parks

This small country, with 800 miles of coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, only takes up .03 percent of the earth’s surface holds five percent of the world’s biodiversity.

“Pura vida’’ is the national saying of the country which means “pure life,” a feel good expression used as a greeting, goodbye or if someone asks how you are doing.

But more importantly this beautiful country is home to 28 national parks which makes it a great destination for ecotourism, adventure travel, family travel even destination weddings.

Beach lovers, surfers, divers and anglers quickly feel right at home along the coasts’ while couples and those in search of a relaxing retreat are captivated and pampered by the country’s natural beauty and diverse spas and retreats.

Thrill seekers have met their match further inland as they explore Costa Rica’s volcanoes, rainforests, cloud forests and rivers primed for white-water adventures.

For more information:

Outdoor Adventure in Sedona, Az.

Sedona, Az. is another place with a landscape built for adventure and a natural playground.

Angular formations, high mesas and rocky cliffs define the multi-terraced skyline of this western United States area.

Forests are carved by a network of trails and ringed by feisty streams. So whatever thrill you seek-by water, land or air-you’ll find it here.

Outside the town mountain bikers zoom along the curves of single-track. Jeeps bounce into the back-country and kayakers paddle through fast moving currents while anglers work the pools for elusive trout.

Hot air balloons lift off early each morning to greet the rising dawn and helicopters swoop in and out of high-walled canyons.

One of the signature adventures of Sedona is a visit to Slide Rock State Park, where the bony banks of Oak Creek squeeze the stream into a frothy channel. Visitors go careening through the natural water slide.

There definitely is something about this area that invites exploration and activity. Smithsonian Magazine ranked Sedona number eight in “The Top 20 Small Towns to Visit in 2014.”  They said, “Approaching Sedona, you feel your jaw drop as pinnacles, hoodoos and buttes rise-crimson, carmine, burnt sienna, depending on the slant of the sun. The effect makes you want to paint a Sistine Chapel even if you can’t draw a straight line.”

On May 17-18, you can Ride the Vortex, Arizona’s premier cycling event. This event is a fund-raiser for MS and offers route options for every level of cyclist, ranging from 30-150 miles. For more info about this event check out

For more information about Sedona, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau is offering it’s 2014/15 Experience Sedona Guide (ESG), which contains stunning photos, comprehensive maps, captivating stories and insider tips so you can plan your perfect Sedona experience.

View it online for free or order a copy, at

Trinidad & Tobago, True Caribbean Beauty

While this idyllic Caribbean paradise is well-known for being the home of the world famous Carnival which boasts a sensual nightlife, delicious cuisines and an eclectic mix of music and culture, it is also home to eco-adventure.

Tobago has the oldest protected forest reserve in the Western Hemisphere and the largest brain coral in the world. This island offers the quintessential Caribbean island with secluded beaches, quaint villages and award winning eco-attractions.

So visit here not only because it is the birthplace of the steel pan, the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century, but because of the islands’ nation eco-tourism vibes.

For more info:

Here Is One Way to Follow Your Dream of Outdoor Adventure

Whether you are looking to trek the mountains of Peru to the ancient city of Machu Picchu, bike the country side of Spain, dive coral reefs of Belize or craft your own custom vacation, Austin Adventures of Billings, Montana has a trip for you … your dream trip.

The company is recognized for great guides, small group sizes, wonderful personal service and providing signature “wow” moments.

The company offers Top Ten National Park Family Adventures for 2014. And their motto is the “The toughest part is going home.”

Carol and Don Austin have spent more than 30 years perfecting the formula, they say, for family travel. They themselves are parents of now two adult children.

In 2012 their company was awarded Number 1 winner in family travel by Travel&Leisure Magazine..

“Whether trekking across a glacier in Alberta, tackling Wyoming’s finest whitewater, or savoring s’mores around a bonfire in Alaska, we believe wholeheartedly there’s no better place to create lifelong memories than on the trail with your children,” said Dan Austin.

“Our family trips include no more than 18 guests and include extra guides and special equipment, which means more individualized attention,” said Carol Austin.   

For more information: or Or you can just call (800) 575-1540.

Diane Siskin

TVRM’s Historic Steam Locomotive #4501 Is Ready For Tennessee Valley Railfest

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) on Wednesday announced the return of its iconic Steam Locomotive 4501 to operation. TVRM has been restoring Locomotive 4501 over the past three  years and she will make her public debut at Tennessee Valley Railfest on Sept. 6 and 7.  The locomotive last ran in 1998 and has patiently waited for a complete overhaul.  ... (click for more)

Rock Out Labor Day And Beyond In Tennessee

 If there’s one place travelers can get a music smorgasbord, it’s Tennessee. In each corner of the state and areas in between, music rooted in bluegrass, rock, soul, country, and gospel can be heard from porches in small towns to concert stadiums in burgeoning cities. From the nation’s biggest Labor Day celebration in Knoxville to celebrating local and national talent in Nashville ... (click for more)

Greg Beck Asking County Commission Chairmanship; Others Seeking Post Behind The Scenes

Long time County Commissioner Greg Beck is seeking the chairmanship of the Hamilton County Commission, he said. Several other commissioners are working behind the scenes to try to get the top commission post. The job opened up after the unexpected defeat of Commission Chairman Fred Skillern in the August primary election. Larry Henry, who has held the chairmanship several ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)