Travel South Showcase
I just returned from a very exciting Travel South Showcase where the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia join forces to apprise tour operators and journalists with “what’s happening” in their states for the coming year.
For three days these southern belles strut their stuff, tantalizing travel buyers with their jammed-packed roster of festivals and events which highlight their rich culture, unique history, romantic antebellum architecture, rocking music scene and scrumptious food, plus the added bonus of ideal year-round temperatures.
Stay tuned for more updates on what our southern sisters (bless their lil’ hearts) have up their sleeves, but here’s just a few tidbits to whet your appetite: Memphis is gearing up for Graceland’s 70th anniversary, West Virginia has a new brochure “101 Best Places to Eat” which should help you put on a few pounds, Kentucky is hosting The World Equestrian Games in 2010, (which is like the Olympics for horses- BIGTIME!), Louisiana will be adding about another 25 sites to their African American Heritage Trail, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a day where one of the southern states isn’t offering an indigenous food festival. There’s an old saying in the south, “Sleep till you’re hungry and eat till you sleep” which still seems to be their mantra.
Gaylord Palm’s Resort and Convention Center
The showcase was held this year at Gaylord Palm’s Resort and Convention Center, with 1,400 rooms, which I was expecting to be like every other cookie-cutter convention hotel. However, I was completely blown away the second I entered the 4.5 acre glass- domed atrium and was transported to a magical mini- Florida. Instead of staid hotel seating areas and commonplace stores, I was encircled by a 60 ft. schooner bobbing in a Key West lagoon, across from a replica of Castillo de San Marcos, a historic Spanish fort in the St Augustine area. There was even a warm mist blowing as I wandered through the enchanting Everglade-style swamps, filled with koi ponds, Florida turtles and live alligators.
The dining opportunities include a rustic steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, a sushi bar, and a restaurant styled like a Mediterranean market. We decided to test the waters with a progressive dinner one night where we started with pristine sushi, moving on to a perfectly cooked rack of lamb at the steakhouse, and then polished off an excellent variety of handcrafted cheeses and delectable sweets. No complaints heard from our group.
Thankfully the resort is home to The Canyon Ranch SpaClub, with 25 spa treatment rooms, a salon, and a 4,000-square-foot fitness center, where I managed to work off at least my sushi calories. Don’t miss either the Yoga or Pilates class taught by Lenny Barrett–excellent instructor.
As for the room, all I can say is that my suite was bigger than my apartment! Elegant furnishings, luxe bedding, complimentary bottled water and local phone use, but the best part was the new Gaylord iConnect® In-Room computing systems — one click access to a host of hotel services and complimentary Internet access. When I tested them by emailing housekeeping that I needed a razor, my doorbell rang five minutes later, and I was graciously handed two razors and a can of shaving cream.
No wonder their alligators look so content.
For more info go to their website.