USA Tourists 2012 Hotel and Car Rental Discounts

USATourist News Magazine

February 2004

In this issue:

February News That You Can Use

The ice storm that hit the northeast and southeast in January sparked a bit of reader email asking about winter travel in the USA. Most chain hotels do have their own generators in the event of a power outage. Travel Insurance is always a good idea but it's a necessity if a cancelled flight or other problem alters your plans.

And February second was Groundhog Day. This year the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter weather. Here's where I remind you that the USA covers 3,537,441 square miles. We sprawl over four times zones not including Alaska and Hawaii.

We have a lot of groundhogs. The famous one predicted bad weather for his neighborhood, but the one nearest to me in the southeast said I'd see spring soon.

The USA has a range of climatic conditions that covers eleven different plant hardiness zones. What that means is that no matter when you choose to travel you can find a part of the USA where the climate will suit you.

If you don't want to drive during wintry weather --- or prefer the train any season

Check out Rail Pass USA: discounted Amtrak rail passes for train travel in United States through MacAmerica the experts in assisting international travelers with train travel. They offer purchase ahead rail passes providing excellent value for travel in the Northeast and Canada --- they are the best way to get to Niagara Falls without a worry about road conditions.

If you want to travel through New England during the fall "leaf-peeping" season MacAmerica is your best bet. You'll find that the train routes pass through prettier scenery than the huge highways.

If rail travel is part of your plans keep in mind that Amtrak does not sell the reduced price passes directly to customers. Purchase them through MacAmerica or pay a higher price in point-to-point fares. You cannot purchase the pass if you have a USA or Canadian passport.

February 14th is Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day doesn't belong to the USA, but we get really excited over holidays. The way we celebrate all our holidays adds to the fun of a USA visit. A few tips for travels will help you have a sweeter Valentine's Day.

If you plan on a fine dining restaurant on February 14th, you should book ahead. Check with the restaurant to see if they take advance bookings. Many of our nicer restaurants run Valentine's Day specials and are often booked well in advance.

If you are a bargain conscious candy lover go into any drug store or discount store the day after Valentine's Day. On February 15th you'll find enormous piles of marked-down candy.

Valentine's Day is the perfect time to plan a romantic treat and what better way to say, "I love you" than booking a really romantic getaway. USA based travelers should snap this offer up now and international visitors should plan ahead for a stay in one of our most scenic spots. You can find deluxe cabins, chalets, and condos in the Smoky Mountains and right now there's a Spring Fest Special. Stay 2 nights get the 3rd night. This offer is good through the end of May.

Dollywood (Dolly Parton's own exciting theme park) opens for the 2004 season in April, the nice folks at Patriot Getaways can pre-book tickets to Dollywood for you so you won't have to wait in line. They can also arrange white water rafting or other activities.

If you get engaged to be married this Valentine's Day --- and many couples do! You can easily arrange a romantic wedding in the mountains.

Daytona Beach, Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the USA

Daytona offers beautiful expanses of white sand beach, interesting Native American heritage sites, exciting nightlife and lots of attractions for families with children. It's a moderately priced resort area where you'll find lots of reasonably priced hotel rooms.

But during February race fans converge on the seaside resort for two weeks of racing, partying, and more partying. If your goal is a relaxing time in the sun you'd best visit another time. If you are interested in NASCAR Racing Daytona is the place to be this month.

New York City is one of our most popular destinations

If you're in New York on March 17th you'll have a chance to enjoy the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Continuing a tradition that stretches back to 1766 the parade is a marching parade --- no floats or cars or commercial displays are allowed. Over 150,000 marchers from all over the world playing everything from bagpipes through every instrument in an orchestra are part of the parade. The parade starts at 10 AM and runs until 4 PM. The parade travels Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 86th Street.

If you want up-to-the-minute information on events in New York City. New York's Tourist Information hot line at 800.261.2799 is a free call from anywhere in the USA.

This month in San Francisco you're in for a treat!

The San Francisco Crab Festival is a month long event extending until February 29th. Every day from November through June huge heaps of crabs are unloaded at San Francisco's famed Fisherman's Wharf. And 2004 is touted as the best year for the delicacy since 1988.

California's crabbing history goes back to the Gold Rush Days. And Dungeness crab, known for its sweet and succulent meat is indeed a treasure. Gourmets swear that it's infinitely superior to its Alaskan and Atlantic cousins.

The best way to eat it is freshly cracked and right out of the shell. Purists insist on a loaf of sourdough French bread and Chardonnay to complete the meal.

The Crab Festival consists of events at Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach; special crab feeds on the bay, and Dungeness dining at restaurants all over San Francisco. The grand finale of the festival is the Crab and Wine Marketplace on Saturday - February 28, 11 am-7pm and Sunday the February 29, 11am-6pm. It's held at the Festival and Herbst pavilions, Fort Mason Center. The event features food preparation demonstrations on the Sunset Cooking & Entertaining Stage, musical entertainment, crab cracking demos, wine tastings and seminars. The "Kids Crab Cove" has children's events. Adult admission includes a commemorative wine glass, three wine tasting tickets and an event gift bag. Adult admission is for visitors who are 21 and over. It costs $20.00. Children from 5 to 20 are admitted for $5.00; children under five get in free.

Downtown San Francisco Hotels are the best bet for travelers. Many sights are within walking distance of the area and cable car access is easy.

American Cooking can be confusing

Well, not the cooking so much as the menus. So, this month I'm skipping my restaurant review to give a bit of all-purpose information about dining out in the USA.

  • In most restaurants except for fast food you'll get free refills on coffee and iced tea. Mineral water is often unavailable. The iced water served with your meal is tap water. It's free and perfectly safe to drink.
  • We don't make a distinction between shrimp and prawns. They're all called shrimp. We don't serve Marie Rose sauce. Hot sauce is usually served with a shrimp (prawn) cocktail.
  • In most restaurants entrees are served with some side dishes included in the price, either a salad and potato or a choice of vegetables. Ala Carte ordering is usually only in fine dining restaurants.
  • New England clam chowder is a thick, creamy milk-based chowder. Manhattan clam chowder is a tomato-based chowder. Chowder is a thick hearty soup.
  • Vegetarian restaurants are not that common. Most restaurants do have some vegetarian options. If push comes to shove you can ask that a salad be prepared without meat or chicken.
  • Bar-b-que is an American favorite whether we are eating it or arguing about it! Bar-b-que sauce can have either a mustard base or a tomato base. Usually this varies by region. But, bar-be-que regions are so tiny that the bar-b-que in one part of a state can be different from the bar-b-que across the state. When in doubt, ask.
  • Even rather small towns usually have at least one twenty-four hour restaurant.
  • Many bars do not serve food other than packaged snack food. The drinking age throughout the USA is 21. You cannot order beer, wine, or alcohol beneath that age. If you are under 30 it is best to have identification with you if you are going to order an alcoholic drink.
  • In New Mexico and other parts of the southwest chilies are consumed on everything from eggs to hamburgers. If you are asked whether you want red or green that refers to the chilies. Unless you like really hot spicy food, proceed with caution.
  • Fine dining establishments almost never have children's menus. Most moderately priced restaurants do have children's menus.
  • Posting menus is not common throughout the USA. You will find posted menus in some cities and resort areas.
  • On Friday and Saturday nights waiting up to an hour for seating at a restaurant is fairly standard.

And a little hotel advice

Most hotels in the USA do not include breakfast in the cost of the room. Many budget hotels do not have a restaurant at all. When you use our hotel booking service check the information about the property to see if it has what you want.

It's also a good idea to check our booking service for Internet specials; you'll often find a lower price that you can get from contacting the hotel directly.

If you prefer a liquid soap, bring your own from home. Hotel soap in the USA is almost always a cake of soap.

Many hotel rooms are equipped with a coffee pot and coffee. If you're a tea drinker you may need to bring your own.

Hotels are taking their non-smoking rooms very seriously. If you smoke in a non-smoking room you may have to pay a rather substantial fine.

Good-bye until next month!

Next month I'll be giving you a bit of information about some of the USA's glorious gardens and other springtime travel tips. In the meantime, I love hearing from you. Please feel free to e-mail me at MsTravel (email address no longer active) with travel questions and comments. I'd really like to know what your favorite places in the USA are!

Diane Goldberg

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