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USATourist News Magazine

February 2006

In this issue:

Welcome to the February edition of the News Magazine. In this issue we have upcoming events in New Orleans, information about the volcanoes that sit in the northwest United States and some famous filming locations you may enjoy visiting.

New Orleans' upcoming events

Carnival or Mardi Gras is this month, February 28, and New Orleans is anxious to get back in the groove. Hotels are reopening, more than 700 restaurants are serving great Creole and Cajun food, and the shops along Royal and Magazine Streets are welcoming visitors. More than 30 parades will roll down the street February 18-28, so don't miss the fun! Don't forget to try a slice or King Cake while you're there.

In addition to Mardi Gras week other events are scheduled for 2006:
March 29-April 2, 2006 is the Tennessee Williams Festival held in the French Quarter.
April 21-23, 2006 is the French Quarter Festival.
April 27-30, 20 is the Zurich Classic (Professional Golf Association Tour) at the English Turn Golf & Country Club.
April 28-May 7, 2006 is the Jazz and Heritage Festival.
July 19-23, 2006 is the Southern Comfort Cocktail Tour.

St. Patrick's Day is next month

It's that time again: March 17th is St. Patrick's Day. Don't forget to wear some green, or you might get pinched. Pinching is actually something that the children do on St. Patrick's Day to those who forget to wear green. However, you will still see adults wearing green shirts or buttons with the phrase, "Can't pinch me!" on them. Tradition also says if you pinch someone wearing green, you may be the target for a "double pinch," even if you are dressed in green.

Although this is considered an "Irish Holiday" anyone and everyone is invited to celebrate on this day. If you have never experienced St. Patrick's Day in the United States you will find bars and pubs have drink specials and green tap beer. Through out the month many restaurants serve corned beef and cabbage.

This is also a popular holiday for parades. Many of the parades are scheduled for the weekend before St. Patrick's Day which is on a Friday this year. The Chicago parade is one of the most famous of the St. Patrick's Day parades. It is scheduled for Saturday March 11 at noon. The tradition that goes along with the parade is the dying of the Chicago River, which will be dyed at 10:45 am that morning. The best view to see the green river is from the either of the upper level bridges at Michigan Ave or Columbus Drive.

Other parades scheduled for March 11th are:
Atlantic City Saint Patrick's Day Parade – 1 p.m. on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.
San Diego Saint Patrick's Day Parade
Houston Saint Patrick's Day Parade – 2 p.m. Downtown Houston
Denver Saint Patrick's Day Parade – 10 a.m. 27th/Blake St. Downtown

If the parade you are looking for is not listed above, here is a list of many other St. Patrick's Day parades in the United States and internationally:

Hotel (Chain) of the Month – Choice Hotels

While you are trying to decide where to stay on your next visit you will want to consider Choice Hotels. I have stayed in dozens of Choice Hotels over the years and have always had a pleasant experience. The staff is always kind and the rooms are very clean. Many of the locations have free continental or hot breakfasts.

Choice Hotels have many special offers and programs. If you are age fifty or over, ask for their Mature Travelers rate and you will receive 10% off. Also, be sure to check their Hot Deal page. There are currently several offers.

Right now one of their specials is a "Packer Hall of Fame package" at the Comfort Inn in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For $139.99 you get two nights' lodging and two adult admission tickets to the Packer Hall of Fame. The hotel also has free a hot breakfast and all rooms have coffee makers, computer hook-ups, free wireless high-speed Internet access and free local calls.

This deal is good through May 31, 2006. You'll find a great selection of special rate programs that offer real discounts at Choice Hotels!

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington (airport code: SEA) is found in the far northwestern corner of the United States. It is 147 miles (237 km) north of Portland, Oregon and 684 miles (1102 km) north of San Francisco, California. The land is hilly and looks over the Puget Sound Harbor and to the south sits Mount Rainer. Seattle is known to many as the "rainy city" and while it does have quite a bit of cloud coverage, statistics show it may rain/sprinkle only 50% of the year. June, July and August are the driest months of the year with temperatures averaging 75 degrees, although heat spells sometimes cause the temperatures to creep up to the 90's (32.22 C). Seattle just broke the record for the second most consecutive days of rain in the city’s written history. That’s 27 wet days!

The last time I was in Seattle it was early summer and the weather was beautiful. It was extremely comfortable during the day and in the evening I needed a sweater or light jacket. The sun was out and the flowers were vibrant. This really is a lush and alluring part of the United States.

As you may know, Seattle is also known for its music scene and coffee. It is after all the birthplace of grunge music (think Nirvana and Peal Jam) and Starbucks coffee as well as Seattle's Best Coffee. You will find both coffee shops in airports and street corners across the U.S. There are also many points of interest in Seattle. Pioneer Square is the place to go if you're looking for a good nightlife scene. The area has numerous pubs, bars and nightclubs. During the daytime hours you can roam through the many galleries of Pioneer Square. Plus the area has over twenty city blocks of historic buildings.

It isn't a trip to Seattle unless you spend some time at Pike Place Market. Vendors sell fresh fish, produce, and fruit. This is where you will find the Pike Place fishmongers tossing fish in the air and bantering with the onlookers. If you're interested in seeing other Seattle attractions the Seattle GOCard is the most affordable way to see Seattle's highlights. See below for their latest special.

For more on this spectacular city visit our Seattle page:

Seattle GoCard Special

USATourist is having a special $5 savings offer for the one-day Seattle GoCard.

With the Go Seattle card you will be able to visit Seattle's highlights while saving money. You will get unlimited free admission to over 30 attractions and tours for one low price.

Highlights include FREE admission to:
  • Space Needle
  • EMP (Experience Music Project)
  • Argosy Cruises Harbor Cruise
  • Argosy Cruises Lake Cruise
  • Museum of Flight
  • Museum of Glass
  • Museum of History and Industry
  • Safeco Field Tour
  • Qwest Field Tour
  • Tacoma Art Museum
  • Henry Art Gallery
  • Burke Museum
  • Hydroplane Museum
  • Odyssey Maritime Museum
  • Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
  • Pioneer Square Historical Audio Tour
  • Blake Island Adventure Cruise

Northwest Volcanoes

You can't miss the beauty and enormity of the stunning snowcapped mountains as you fly from cities such as Seattle (SEA) and Portland (PDX) to San Francisco (SFO) or other California cities. Sometimes you will get the sensation that you can reach out and touch them. But these mountains aren't just beautiful scenery; they are potentially active volcanoes with histories that date back thousands of years.

The region itself is known as the Cascade Range and stretches from British Columbia to northern California. The tallest of the 27 volcanoes are known as the High Cascades. The most prominent of the Cascade Range are Lassen Peak, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainer and Mount Baker. Some of these volcanoes haven't been active in thousands of years while Mount Saint Helens is currently active. The Cascades are included in what's known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is an arc of volcanoes that sit along the Pacific Ocean and begin in New Zealand up to the eastern edge of Asia, to Alaska, down to the western edges of North and South America. These areas are also known for their earthquake activity.

California has three volcanoes. Lassen Peak is found at the southern end of the Cascade Mountains in Northeastern California, about 50 miles (80.47 km) east of Redding, California. In 1916 the area became a national park in response to the significant volcanic activity in 1915. The activity from then on was mostly minor and continued until 1921. Mount Shasta is also located in Northern California and is one of the highest peaks of the cascades, with an elevation of 14,163 feet (4,317 meters). Its last activity was recorded in 1786. Medicine Lake is found on the upper edge of Northern California. This is called a "shield volcano." A shield volcano is wide with low sides. Medicine Lake reaches to only 7,913 feet (2,412 meters) and is considered special due to its many small magma chambers (rather than one large one). Medicine Lake hasn't had any volcanic activity in 1,000 years.

Of the six volcanoes found in Oregon, Mount McLoughlin is found in the most southern part of the state. It reaches to 9,495 ft (2,894 meters) and is know for its symmetry. If viewed from the north or east you can see the proof that glaciers removed the entire north side. Mount Mazama, also known as Crater Lake, has an elevation of 8,159 feet (2,487 meters). Scientist say it previously reached an elevation between 11,000 (3,352.80 meters) and 12,000 feet (3,657.60 meters) but a huge eruption destroyed the summit and left a 7 mile wide caldera, which after filling with rain and melting sown is now referred to as Crater Lake. Newberry Volcano is a large shield volcano 20 miles (30 km) in diameter and reaches 7,985 ft (2,434 m). Paulina Lake and East Lake sit within its caldera. Next in line are the Three Sisters, three volcanoes sit in a row. The South Sister, Middle Sister and North Sister range from 10,047 feet (3,062 meters) to 10,358 feet (3,157) meters. There are five volcanoes in the area and although there hasn't been any activity from the Three Sisters for a couple of thousand years, recent studies show an uplift near the South Sister. This may mean she is awaking. However, there is also the chance the magma that is causing the changes will cool, postponing any activity for many years. Mount Jefferson reaches to 10,495 feet (3,199 meters) and is assumed to be an extinct volcano with its last activity suspected in 450 AD. Mount Hood is located about 60 miles (100 km) east of the Portland. It reaches 11,240 feet (3,426 meters) and has a more current date of activity, 1866.

Crossing the border it to Washington you will find the most famous and only active volcano on the Continental United States, Mount St. Helens. It is located 53 miles (85 km) northeast of Portland and 96 miles (154 km) south of Seattle. May 18, 1980 is the day that made headlines. Mount St. Helens erupted causing severe destruction and the death of 57 people. The eruption reduced Mount St. Helens summit's elevation from 9,677 feet (2,950 m) to 8,364 feet (2,550 m) and left a mile-wide (1.5 km-wide) horseshoe-shaped crater. When you visit the area you will find that many of the local residents who experienced this act of nature have fascinating stories to tell. I met a man who told me his car vanished, or so he thought. It was completely covered with ash. Scientist continued to monitor the volcano and say the new lava dome continues to grow along with releases of light steam and volcanic gases, and minor production of ash.

Mount Adams sits about 36 miles (56 km) east of Mount Saint Helens and has an elevation of 12,281 ft (3,743 meters). Its last eruption is said to have been in before 500 B.C. Mount Rainer is next and the tallest of all of the northwest volcanoes with an elevation of 14,410 feet (4,392 meters). It towers at least 8,000 feet (2,500 meters) above any of the surrounding mountains and is the most heavily glaciered volcano of the northwest. Mount Rainer is located 85 miles (140 km) southeast of Seattle Washington. The year 1854 was its last eruption. Glacier Peak is said to have had many eruptions, some as recent as 1700. It has an elevation of 10,541 feet (3,213 meters). Mount Baker is the most northern volcano of the 48 contiguous states and is the next heaviest glaciered volcano of the Cascade Volcanoes. It has an elevation of 10,777 feet (3,285 meters) and its most recent eruption was in 1880.

Outdoor recreation is popular on and around the Cascade region. Summertime is nice for backpacking, climbing, and camping and the winter months are great for snowmobiling, skiing, and other winter sports.

If you'd like to go on an adventure and experience this glorious part of the United States you might want to try renting a road vehicle for a couple of days or a couple of months. Take your time and bring lots of film or memory cards for your digital camera.

If you'd like to read a more detailed description about Mount Rainer National Park, Mike has written an interesting piece that you can find here:

Augustine Volcano

In mid-January of this year, scientists and residents of Alaska were anxiously watching Augustine Volcano (about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska) to see if a catastrophic eruption was likely. Despite the six recorded eruptions (as of this writing) scientists have come to the conclusion that the surges of ash and steam may continue for days or weeks, but it's unlikely an enormous eruption will occur.

For the most recent Alaskan volcano news:

Tomatoes are in the red

Recently I was doing my weekly grocery shopping. When I approached the tomatoes I couldn't believe the price of tomatoes. Normally, the Roma tomatoes at my local market are 99 cents/pound but I found them to be $1.50/pound. Why the jump in price? It ends up the hurricane season really hurt the tomato growers. You may find while eating out here in the United States many dishes that normally include tomatoes are now being served with out them. Wendy's, the fast food chain, is one such place leaving tomatoes off their hamburgers until prices drop.

Universal Studios and Disney-MGM Studios

If you have ever wanted a behind-the-scenes peak of where and how movies are made or just want to experience the world of make believe, Universal Studios has two locations in the United States: Orlando, Florida and Hollywood, California. The parks are full of action and offer an array of attractions such as Hollywood rides "Jurassic Park - The Ride" and "Back to the Future - The Ride." And some of the sets visitors get to see include "War of the Worlds," "Jurassic Park: The Lost World," "Psycho," and "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Orlando has "Twister – Ride it Out," a recreation of what it’s like to be a storm chaser and encountering a tornado, the infamous "Jaws" as well as "Earthquake," King Kong," and "Flash Flood."

Universal's competition is Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando. MGM Studios is one of the four theme parks found at Walt Disney World. The basis is the same at the Universal theme parks, but the differences are the featured films. While Universal focuses on the movies previously mentioned, MGM features the "Twilight Zone Tower of Tower of Terror," "Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage," "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith," and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - Play It!"

Universal Studios:

Disney MGM Studios:

Visiting Orlando? ALL STAR Vacation Homes has some great deals

ALL STAR Vacation Homes offers a luxurious selection of vacation home rentals ranging from 2-3 bedroom condos up to 7 bedroom private pool homes in the Orlando area. You can choose from more than 120 homes within 4 miles of Walt Disney World, with features such as a game room, home theatre, private pool, spa, gourmet kitchen, multiple master bedrooms and more.

Receive free pool heat and a free rental car with any seven night reservation in low, mid or high season in a private pool home! Free Disney ticket upgrades are available with any reservation!

Famous filming locations

The Shining

60 miles (96.56 km) northwest of Denver, Colorado and 7,522 feet (2,292.71 meters) above sea level sits the rustic mountain town Estes Park. One of the main attractions of this town, besides its views and wildlife is the Stanley Hotel. Open since 1909 this charming hotel has had its share of visitors, many hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghosts that supposedly roam the halls. Stephen King's horror book "The Shining" was inspired by the Stanley Hotel. Room 217 is where King wrote part of the book that later was turned into a movie staring Jack Nicholson. The hotel wasn't used in the 1980 movie (the movie was filmed at Elstree Studios near London) but it was the setting for ABC miniseries that first aired in 1997. A small museum in the hotel has pictures and memorabilia of the miniseries filming, including photos of Stephen King himself. The Stanley Hotel was also filmed as "The Danbury Hotel" in the movie "Dumb and Dumber."


If you were a regular watcher of the 1980's TV series "Dallas" then you will want to visit the "Ewing Mansion" on your next visit to Dallas, Texas. Southfork is where it all happened. Year round guided tours are available and the "Dallas Legends" exhibit is where you can catch a glimpse of the gun that shot J.R. Also on display are Lucy's Wedding Dress, the Dallas Family Tree, and Jock's Lincoln Continental. You can eat at Miss Ellie's Deli and buy souvenirs at the two "Dallas" themed gift shops. Southfork is located north of Dallas in Plano, about half an hour from downtown. General admission is $8.95 and senior/child discounts are available.

Field of Dreams

210 miles (337.96 km) northwest of Chicago sits a baseball field cut out of a cornfield. The location is Dyersville, Iowa, a place some say is as close to heaven as you will get here on earth. The field was made famous by the movie, "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner. The phrase, "If You Build It...They Will Come." is true to more than just the film. April through November the baseball field comes to life as visitors with bats and balls in hand.

St. Valentine's Day is this month

This is just a little reminder to make those reservations now if you plan to enjoy an evening out on St. Valentine's Day which is Tuesday, February 14th. Some of the nicer restaurants are booked up weeks and even months in advance. Many hotels also have special dinners that require reservations.

Thank you for reading this issue of USATourist. Please continue to write and let me know how your trips to the United States are. I love hearing about your adventures and the people and places you encounter. Until next month, Happy Travels!

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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