The old bromide “The grass is always greener on the other side…” is never truer than when the winter blahs set in. If you are struggling to survive a bone-chilling winter back home, chances are you are daydreaming about lounging on the beach in some far off tropical island, umbrella drink in hand and palm trees swaying gently overhead. And while you are longing for relief from the bitter cold, you can bet someone somewhere is complaining about the stifling heat and wishing they could snap on the skis and hit the slopes in search of a brief respite from rising temperatures.
So Black Meetings & Tourism is offering a half dozen winter getaway possibilities, three for folks looking for fun in the sun, and three for travelers yearning for that perfect cold weather retreat.
If diversity were a place, it would be Birmingham. People who visit here get a taste of that variety — in entertainment, cuisine, the arts, nightlife, the great outdoors—that brings them back time and again.
The city is perhaps best known for its prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and boasts a wealth of Black history and culture in its many attractions and historic point of interest. The three most prominent of these are the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Kelly Ingram Park.
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church often served as a meeting and rallying place for leaders and participants in the Movement. On a Sunday morning September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the church, killing four little girls preparing for morning worship. Today, the church is thriving and continues its historic role as an open-door church welcoming visitors, cultural, education and civic activities.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is a “living institution” which views the lessons of the past as a positive way to chart new direction for the future. Through film clips, and a series of galleries, the institute contrasts the lives of blacks and whites from the late 1800s to the present.
During the 1960s Kelly Ingram Park was a place for uniting forces of grassroots resistance to racism and organizing marches, including ones in which police dogs and fire hoses were turned on the marchers. Sculptures in the park recollect attacks on the demonstrators, children jailed for their involvement in the protests, and the clergy’s important role in the Movement. In sharp contrast to the scenes of the ’60s, paths along the Freedom Walk converge at a peaceful, reflective fountain, a life spring of hope.
Birmingham’s weather is generously comfortable, which is one smart reason golfers come here from around the world. The other reason is the lure of handsome and challenging public golf courses. With the development of the state’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama became the Godfather of Great Golf. Birmingham has two courses along the trail, one of which is the third longest course in the world.
Because Birmingham as such mild, year round temperatures, outdoor entertainment is the dominant part of Birmingham’s character. Park projects currently underway will give the city more green space per capita than any other city in the country, so outdoor recreation is easily accessible. Hiking and mountain biking are virtually year-round sports, along with fishing in what is acknowledged as the “Bass Capital of the World”. For more information call (800) 458-8085 or (205) 458-8000.
# # #
Set foot on Barbados you’ll discover a vibrant culture passionate in spirit and full of life. A place where refined luxury and exceptional culinary delights dance and mingle among lush tropical greenery, limpid blue waters and warm golden sunlight. Spend a day on a white sandy beach. Try some flying fish. Enjoy a rum punch. Learn to trade the rush, rush for the slow and easy. Just give them a few days and you won't remember the old you. They will definitely teach you how to truly live.
A tropical locale is only as desirable as its coastline. And in this regard, Barbados never disappoints. Graciously endowed with more than 70 miles of sun-saturated, palm-adorned beaches, translucent azure waters and a year-round climate considered nothing less than perfect, the island is generous in giving Bajans and visitors alike a tropical respite unlike any in the world.
The island's shores are as varied and unique as Barbados itself. The west coast offers calm waters and dusty white beaches on which you can unwind with a rum punch in hand. Along the eastern shoreline, impressive coral sculptures carved by incessant Atlantic trade winds and thunderous waves decorate an area long heralded as one of the best surfing spots in the world. To the south, flawless sands and reef-protected waters set the perfect scene for a day of snorkeling or swimming. While the southeast coast entices those who seek adventure in its windsurfing playgrounds, and seduces couples with an alluring backdrop of sheer cliffs and fine pink sand.
Though the caressing warmth of Barbadian sunshine, hypnotic resonance of ocean waves along the shore and the enchanting sweetness of a rum punch can do wonders for one’s ability to unwind, it is by no means all that Barbados has to offer. Why not discover a side to Barbados most people don't get to see by enjoying guided hikes to some of the most beautiful and otherwise inaccessible parts of the island. Just join the Barbados National Trust www.thebarbadosnationaltrust.com
excursions, which holds fun walks every Sunday. The three-hour, 9-12 mile hikes are free but donations are welcome, and are offered for morning, afternoon and moonlight participation.
After all that walking it’s time for a little R&R. Fortunately, Barbados offers a wealth of decadent and desirable spa destinations to help to pamper your every whim and revitalize your senses. If you prefer, many qualified massage therapists and experienced beauticians reside on island and can come directly to your hotel, villa or even beachfront setting. For more information call (800) 744-6244 or visit www.visitbarbados.org
# # #
With roots that are unmistakably Southern and a forward-thinking and dynamic pulse, there are a multitude of reasons why Columbia, SC is known to be "Famously Hot." Easy to access by three major interstates (I-77, I-26, and I-20), Columbia is situated in the center of the state of South Carolina at the convergence of three rippling rivers lined by a shady riverwalk perfect for jogging and walking. Several entertainment districts with outdoor cafes, coffee shops, art galleries and shops present year-round opportunities for socializing and enjoying the outdoors. Historic homes and antebellum mansions nod to a bygone era while high-tech start-up companies and arts enthusiasts thrive in the urban revitalization occurring in the downtown area. Columbia may be known for its "hot spots", but opens the eyes of visitors and residents daily to a "surprisingly cool" lifestyle and culture.
Columbia may be Famously Hot, but the forecast is predictable; mostly sunny the majority of the time! Nighttime brings light breezes and comfortable temperatures. Columbia stays above frigid temps and snow is a rare sighting. Though Columbia does not boast a tropical or even sub-tropical climate, outdoor enthusiasts will nevertheless enjoy winter temperatures here. Average daily highs and lows are 67º and 41º in November, 58º and 35º in December, 57º and 34º in January, and 60º and 36º in February.
Columbia area attractions are easy to find lying at the confluence of three rivers just downstream from a 50,000-acre recreational lake. Enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine per year, visitors can expect Columbia and the surrounding communities to offer an exciting variety of year-round attractions to explore. You'll find fascinating historical and cultural attractions, a world-class zoo, outdoor recreation, festivals, parks and sporting events.
Golfers will have a field day in Columbia. Not only can travelers get assistance from the Columbia Convention & Visitors Bureau in helping them choose the right course to strut their golf chops, but they can also contact the Midlands Golf Course Owners Association. This proud group of owners and operators have opened their doors to business and leisure travelers and will help find you the right course to play with the amenities, outstanding service and great greens and fairways to fit your game.
For more information call (800) 264-4884 or (803) 545-0000 or visit columbiacvb.com
# # #
In the popular imagination Buffalo is synonymous with snow. And while this may or may not be justified, the fact remains that Western New York offers visitors a wealth of winter fun. Pond hockey, tubing, sledding, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and ice fishing are among the many outdoor activities to be found in our corner of the Great White North.
Hit the slopes at Kissing Bridge in nearby Colden and at Holiday Valley in the charming village of Ellicottville. Both receive prodigious amounts of snow each winter courtesy of the lake effect bands blowing off Lake Erie. If you're looking for snow covered slopes, they’ve got ‘em.
The Buffalo Niagara region also has a wealth of great places to both cross country ski and snowshoe, including the Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, Tifft Nature Preserve on the Buffalo waterfront, and Sprague Brook Park in Colden. A stand out among these appealing choices is Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java (a relatively easy 45-minute drive from Buffalo). The Buffalo Audubon Society has operated this 324-acre nature preserve for more than 50 years. It offers public access to an 8-mile network of trails that feature a variety of beautiful landscapes and scenic views.
Of course, no trip to the area would be complete without a visit to the legendary Niagara Falls. Even in the dead of winter they are a beautiful and awesome sight to behold. Millions of tourists from around the world continue to come by plane, train and automobile to experience the grandeur of Niagara Falls.
World-class attractions like the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds await the visitor who makes the short 20-minute drive from downtown Buffalo to Niagara Falls. You’ll savor the spectacular views, the thundering roar, the delicate mists and shimmering rainbows of this true national treasure.
Take a family photo overlooking the Falls at Terrapin Point in Frederick Law Olmsted’s lush, beautiful and natural Niagara Falls State Park. Amid the distractions and developments of modern life, the Park still provides a glimpse of the original splendor that awaited the first visitors to the region. This is the Falls at its best.
When you’ve had your fill of the Falls (if that’s possible), Buffalo offers an array of tours to match any interest, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Darwin Martin House, to the Underground Railroad experience, to Forest Lawn Cemetery, to the magnificent legacy of Buffalo’s stained glass church windows. For more information call (800) BUFFALO or visit visitbuffaloniagara.com
# # #
Our neighbor to the north is one of the most diverse and dynamic cities on the planet. Toronto is heralded as one of the most multicultural cities in the world and is ranked as the safest large metropolitan area in North America by Places Rated Almanac. Over 140 languages and dialects are spoken here, and just over 30 per cent of Toronto residents speak a language other than English or French at home.
If you think all you’ll find in Toronto are frozen tundra and ice sickles, you are grossly misinformed. For instance, did you know that Toronto has a thriving arts and culture community that takes back seat to none? In fact, Toronto has more museums than you can imagine – everything from shoes to sugar and ceramic art to textiles and television.
Want more? There are 125 museums and public archives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Nine of these are Toronto City museums. There are over 50 ballet and dance companies, six opera companies and two symphony orchestras. Two hundred pieces of public art and monuments add to Toronto's landscape in addition to the over 2,000 moveable works of fine art on display in public buildings such as City Hall and the civic centers. Toronto has the largest number of art schools of any North American city. Toronto is home to Canada's only college diploma program in comedy. Shtick is a compulsory subject. Millions attend Toronto's three biggest annual parades: Gay Pride, Caribana and Santa Claus parades. More than one million visitors sample the Greek cuisine of Danforth Avenue every year at the Taste of the Danforth festival. There are more than 1,000 festivals and events in Toronto year round. Toronto is recognized as the third-largest theatre centre in the English-speaking world, after New York and London with over 90 venues in the Greater Toronto Area.
Toronto’s diversity manifests itself in its colorful neighborhoods and regions, creating a rich mosaic of cultures and lifestyles. With more than 100 cultures celebrated in Greater Toronto, visitors can enjoy art, ideas and cuisine from around the world, all within easy reach of each other.
In addition to art and culture, recreational opportunities abound, everything from shopping sprees at Toronto’s hip shops, and green adventure at year round area gardens and outdoor venues, to family fun at the Ontario Science Centre and nightlife in the city’s Entertainment District, you’ll never be at a loss for things to do during your winter getaway. For more information call (800) 499-2514 or visit www.seetorontonow.com
# # #
Boston is a wonderful blend of stylish sophistication and historic New England charm. You can easily uncover the city’s past while enjoying its distinctively modern edge. Year round Boston's calendar is brimming with exceptional musical and theatrical productions and annual performances, new exhibitions and timeless favorites, walking tours or trolley tours, ethnic festivals and festivals of Food & Wine.
A walk through the Public Garden is simply delightful – whether winter or springtime. Boston Harbor offers a multitude of activities from harbor cruises at high noon to romantic sails at sunset, from whale watches out on the ocean to people-watching along the new HarborWalk. Boston shops and galleries are inviting any time of year whether you’re a serious and seasoned shopper, a bona-fide bargain hunter or a whimsical window shopper. You can browse glass-enclosed arcades, meander open-air marketplaces and stroll among independent brownstone boutiques.
Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest settlements in the country. And no other city has preserved its past as well as Boston. There's 18th-century churches, redbrick meeting houses, and even the nation's oldest continuously-operated watering hole, the Bell in Hand.
You know the stories, from the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere to the “Shot heard 'round the world”. They're still alive here – a walk along the Boston's Freedom Trail tells all the tales. And the city's many historic museums detail every significant period in the country's history, as well as the history of the world. History lovers visiting Boston should start their journeys to the past by walking the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail, which allows you to really get a sense of the struggles of this country and that of the Abolitionist Movement.
If you like to ice skate, sharpen your skates or rent them and head off to these outdoor locations in Boston and Cambridge: the Boston Common Frog Pond Skating located on the Boston Common in the heart of the city, the Rink at the Charles Hotel, located in Harvard Square in Cambridge, or Kendall Square Community Skating, located in East Cambridge. Follow your outing with a steaming hot chocolate!
Also for the sports minded, Wachusett Mountain Ski Area is one hour away and offers skiers and snowboarders the most accessible big mountain skiing in southern New England. A commuter rail from Boston’s North Station to nearby Fitchburg on Saturdays and Sundays is offered in the ski season. The Weston Ski Track, a cross county ski and snowshoeing center, features 15 km of trails groomed, lighted trails during the winter months. Fore more information, call (888) SEE-BOSTON or visit www.bostonusa.com