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Christmastime in New York 2019

On Saturday, December 21, 2019, I traveled into New York City as a tour guest on Starr Bus #207 with  skilled Bus Driver, Andrzej Prawica. Our itinerary provided us with the magnificent Christmas Spectacular featuring the world famous Radio City Rockettes sandwiched between a generous five hours to explore the dazzling displays and holiday magic that only New York City can provide this time of year. Being that the temperature was below freezing, I decided to spend my entire day in the Rockefeller Center vicinity; 5th and 6th Avenues between 49th and 51st Streets.

Radio City and NBC Studios are the cornerstones of Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center was named after billionaire John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who leased the space from Columbia University in 1928 and developed it beginning in 1930. Since the Great Depression hit America in 1929, and money was difficult to come by, Rockefeller had the choice to abandon development of this property or finance the entire project himself. He choose the latter. Between loans from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and profits and sale of company stocks from his oil business, Rockefeller was able to supply the $250 million price tag in 1930 to commence construction. The buildings were completed and opened in 1939. The entire project employed over 40,000 workers.

I first walked to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Adorned with over 50,000 colored LED lights stretching some five miles in length, this magnificent Norway Spruce from the city of Florida, New York, stood tall and proud, especially with its brilliant Swarovski Star planted at the top. People were everywhere snapping pictures and taking selfies. Ice skaters were giving their best efforts on the famous Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink below. The City was alive with people from all over the world as many languages and accents could clearly be heard.

It was a bucket list item of mine fulfilled twenty years ago to ice skate under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. While watching the skaters from above, many fond memories from that day came roaring back. Being a decent ice skater, I remembered skating with Santa Claus and dodging novice skaters as they slipped and fell. My exhilaration came from feeling the cold air against my face and staring up into the beautifully lit Christmas Tree and gold statue of Prometheus just beneath it. Today, you can wait on line and pay general admission to skate for 90 minutes on this prime New York real estate for $38 per person during the holiday season. Skate rentals are an additional fee. However, I learned that you could enter the ice from the very special VIP entrance, located in the basement of NBC Studios, for a mere $175 for 90 minutes (skate rentals included and no line to wait on). I also learned the VIP admission comes with free hot chocolate.

Last year, FAO Schwartz reopened their infamous toy store in Rockefeller Center. At 10:30 in the morning, there was already a fifteen minute wait outside to get into the store. I decided to wait and soon entered FAO Schwartz. At first glance, I was faced with giant stuffed giraffes and pandas lurking above me on platforms. Salespeople were demonstrating items from magical colorful drawing boards to flying objects that soar in the air. The stuffed animals placed strategically around the store are FAO Schwartz’s trademark and prime sellers. Three floors of toys including a section for Legos and a Build A Bear Workshop provide children from ages “one to ninety-two” with smiles, dreams, and memories. It was a fun experience for me.

I was feeling a bit hungry so I walked into the NBC Studios Building for lunch. I learned there were many fast-serve restaurants one level down in the basement. But first, the NBC Studio Gift Shop was directly in front of me on street level, so I decided to walk in. There was much excitement going on today at NBC. This evening, Eddie Murphy was scheduled to host SNL (Saturday Night Live) with special musical guest, Lizzo. I learned that NBC creates a Tee Shirt commemorating each SNL show with the date, host, and musical guest printed on it. However, tonight’s shirt had been sold out within minutes of being placed on the floor. The staff was putting an additional number of shirts out for sale at 7:00 PM tonight, but I knew I’d be leaving New York at 5:00 PM. I would have loved to have purchased this one of a kind shirt (despite its $40 price tag) but couldn’t. I had a very good lunch consisting of chicken noodle soup and a half sandwich for under $10 (not bad for New York and Rockefeller Center). By the time I finished lunch, Radio City had opened its doors letting people into the 1:30 PM matinee.

Radio City is arguably the most iconic Music Hall in the world and is the largest indoor theater with a seating capacity of 6,000. Radio City was built with funds supplied from both John D. Rockefeller and the Radio Corporation of America’s (RCA) and was opened in 1932. The Art Deco Masterpiece was designed by Donald Deskey. The magnificent stage is 100 feet in length and 60 feet in width and still features the original hydraulic-powered elevators that allow for all the spectacular special effects used in staging their performances. In 1999, Radio City underwent a seven month, $70 million dollar restoration.

The Radio City Rockettes, as you would expect, were the highlight of the Christmas Spectacular. The first Christmas Show featuring the Rockettes occurred in 1933. At that time, a first- run movie was featured at Radio City followed by a 30 minute live stage performance featuring the Rockettes. In 1979, Radio City removed the movie and created the format, a 90-minute live stage show, that still exists today. The high-kicking, exact precision, and perfectly choreographed dance steps define the Rockettes. Adding brilliant costumes and creative scenarios, one sits in awe and amazement whenever this talented group of ladies perform. A well deserved standing ovation at the show’s conclusion was eagerly provided by the audience. I was pleased to see that the Rockettes “March of the Wooden Soldiers” segment continues to be performed year after year and is, for me, the highlight of the show.

Following the Radio City Spectacular, I meandered around 49th Street to 51st Street taking in the larger crowds around the Christmas Tree. Tourists from all over the world were dancing in the streets (since the streets were closed to vehicular traffic) to the sounds of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” I walked towards the majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the beautifully decorated windows of Saks Fifth Avenue. It was there I saw and heard motor-cyclers dressed in Santa Claus outfits roaring down 5th Avenue. After stopping into a few stores, it was time to return to the Starr Bus for our relaxing bus ride home.

It was a magnificent Christmastime visit into New York City, one that encompassed all the senses and brought back magical Christmas memories from years past. I highly recommend traveling into New York City during the Holiday Season, and especially with Starr. Starr offers lots of different bus trips to New York City. Creating new memories at Christmas is magical for children of ALL AGES.

The Hamilton Effect at Starr

The Hamilton Effect at Starr

The other night I experienced the smash-hit Broadway musical, Hamilton (for the third time). The 2016 Tony Award winner who took home a massive 11 trophies is still going strong with sold out theaters eight times a week and now in five cities, including Philadelphia where I was lucky to see the show last night. I know many of you are thinking that I am lucky or even spoiled to have seen this show even once! Each time has been its own experience and every time left me yearning for more. How many musicals have you seen where you can say you would want to see it over and over and over again? 

Much has been said about why the show has become a phenomenon that draws these kinds of crowds. It’s certainly a scene! There’s a crowd outside the theater when you arrive, there are long lines for merchandise and the bar and the bathroom. And after the show ends, don’t expect to be out the door in less than 15 minutes – which is fine as you need that time to let the show sink in once the company has taken their final bows. And since I walked out the door and drove the 45 minutes home, I thought about how the broad effect this show has had on so many people. And then I started thinking about the effect this show has had on my bus tour company. 

 

550 PEOPLE were lucky enough to see this show through the efforts of Starr. We first ordered our tickets in March! When the first buses sold out, we ordered more in July and another batch in September. All in all, we sent seven busloads full of people of all ages from Central Jersey, Bucks County, and Philadelphia. So many tour guests have sent us their thanks and praised us to be able to offer this tour package and we are thankful to have made so many people happy! We also sent three busloads of 10th graders from a local high school studying a civics curriculum to Hamilton with stops at Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution as well as the National Constitution Center prior to seeing the show. Talk about experiential learning! WOW! Those were some lucky 15 and 16 year olds – of which my son was one of them. Lucky kid! Every Starr guest was dropped off and picked up right in front of the Forrest Theatre! VIP Service for sure!

 

Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti is the restaurant we brought our tour guests to for a wonderful dinner before the show. Thanks to the show coming to Philadelphia, Positano Coast fed 400 additional hungry theatre-goers who had a choice of Salmon Scampi, Chicken Marsala, and Penne Primavera all served with Ciabatta Bread, Mixed Green Salad, Dessert and Beverage Service. Yum! And the restaurant was founded and started by immigrants – just like Alexander Hamilton. 

 

22 ELATED STARR STAFF were able to see the show in Philly. 7 Tour Directors got to see it for free since they escorted each of the 7 buses. And 15 additional staffers used our generous employee discount to see the show! Many brought friends and family! One of the many great perks of working for Starr!

 

A NEW TOUR DEVELOPED AROUND HAMILTON: In 2017, our Tour Development team developed a tour program called Alexander Hamilton’s Footsteps.  Three busloads of tour guests were lucky enough to experience the following destinations in Elizabeth, NJ and learned about their relationships to Hamilton:

Liberty Hall, a mansion that welcomed many distinguished guests, such as Alexander Hamilton, George and Martha Washington, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, and George Herbert Walker Bush.

Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown, one of the oldest and most historic sites in New Jersey. The Old Academy School was attended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Burr attended the school several years before Hamilton. However, Burr spent time in Elizabethtown during 1773 while Hamilton was a student here, so it is possible, but uncertain, that they may have met at that time. 

Boxwood Hall where Hamilton was a frequent visitor and developed a friendship with the Boudinots that would last his lifetime.

 

 

 

 

NO CONNECTION HERE: Starr’s Headquarters is located in Hamilton, NJ – but alas, this relates to John Hamilton, who served as acting governor of the Province of New Jersey from 1736–1738 and from 1746–1747. No connection to Alexander here! 

 

There is no doubt that this musically told story of an impoverished immigrant who went on to shape the very nature of this country will win your heart and mind like it did mine! So how do you relate to Hamilton? Do you have a rapper grandfather? What stories do you know that blend music and history?

Washington, DC: Our Nation’s Capital

Earlier this month, Tour Director Gene Gray and Driver Mike Smith led 48 Starr travelers through our nation’s capital over a 3-day weekend. On each of our trips, the Starr Tour Director is responsible for submitting a summary of the tour in day-by-day fashion. Gene takes this responsibility to the next level and provides a beautifully written report that makes you feel like you were actually on the tour! We invite you to read Gene’s report below:

Tour Name:  Washington DC: Our Nation’s Capital

Date:     October 4 – 6, 2019

Driver:  Michael Smith


Day 1: Friday, October 4, 2019

Michael and I welcomed our 48 tour guests onto our comfortable bus as we traveled south and made sure everyone (along with their luggage) was safely aboard. On this Friday morning, traffic flowed freely into DC and we made good time. While on the bus, I reviewed the Starr Welcome Letter and showed the Safety Video. I then reviewed the pages of the information packet I made for our tour guests.  The packet included maps, dinner suggestions, and a detailed itinerary for each day of our vacation.

We have a fascinating group of tour guests for this trip to our nation’s capital. We have several people in their upper 80s, one who was 95 years young, and one teenager who is currently a freshman in high school. For the first time in my four year Starr tenure, we had tour guests representing each of the Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Using my music library and the bus’ sound system, I enthusiastically played the “Armed Forces Medley” honoring our Veterans which resulted in resounding applause upon completion. One tour guest, Ed, spent 14 months in Vietnam in 1968-69 and was wounded. This was his first visit ever to Washington, DC and he was looking forward to finally seeing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Our tour bus pulled up to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts a little after noon. Upon entering the building at the Foyer Level, you are struck with a long corridor with a 30 foot high arched ceiling containing flags from countries around the world as far as the eyes can see. The area is so vast and spacious, you hear echoes all around you. We took the elevator up to the 15th floor called “The Terrace” for lunch at KC Café. The cafeteria had just opened and we were the only customers buying lunch. The Café was stocked with fruit, soup, sandwiches, and had a grill with people preparing burgers, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs, along with a variety of drinks. Everyone enjoyed their lunch. I had a chance to touch base with all of my tour guests and answer their questions.

After lunch, many people went outside on the terrace for magnificent 360° views of Washington DC. The skies were clear with patchy cumulus clouds and you could see the 555 foot Washington Monument towering to the left as well as the Lincoln Memorial to the right. The terrace provided magnificent photo opportunities to say the least.

We took the elevator to Level A, one level below the Foyer, to the Gift Shop and the Tour Desk. We were to meet our tour guide at the desk at 2:00 PM for our Guided Tour of the Kennedy Center. Since we were all ready to begin our tour by 1:15, the guides were more than willing to begin immediately and divided us into two groups of 25. Each group went off in different directions to begin their tour.

The Kennedy Center has four large theaters including the largest, the Opera Theater, seating more than 3000 people, from which they hold the “Kennedy Center Honors” awards show each year. We were shown the President’s Box that includes a bathroom, concessions, and very comfortable chairs. The Box seats eight people and is heavily guarded by secret service whenever the President is in attendance. We were shown magnificent artwork hanging on the massive walls, beautiful one ton chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and a 3000 pound bronze bust of John F. Kennedy. Since the Arts Center was the original idea of President Eisenhower, our 34th President has a theater named in his honor. The Eisenhower Theater is the second largest theater in the Kennedy Center and has a seating capacity of just under 3000. It is adorned with a bust and photograph of Eisenhower at the theater’s entrance. Our tour concluded at the colorful and delicate chandelier created by artist Dale Chihuly.

Mike delivered our luggage to the Hyatt Centric Hotel in Arlington while we were inside the Kennedy Center and when we arrived at the hotel, the manager was ready with our keys. We now had three hours of “down time” to relax and enjoy a good dinner before our Twilight Riding Tour of DC beginning at 7:00 PM.

Mike and I planned a 90-minute tour for our guests. Although this was supposed to be a riding tour, we made stops at the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial as well as the Lincoln, Korean, and Vietnam Memorials. The tour guests disembarked and walked to see the great statues lit up at night. We then did a drive by of the WWII Memorial and the White House before returning to the hotel for the night.

It was a long and fruitful first day of our Washington, DC adventure.


Day 2: Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Hyatt Centric Hotel was extremely accommodating with very comfortable rooms and our guests gave me positive feedback about the staff and the location. Breakfast was a full buffet with choices of cereal, eggs, bacon, pancakes, fruit, juices, and coffees. The person in charge was constantly replenishing the buffet and everyone enjoyed it.

I met our Washington DC “Step-On” Guide, Michelle Heller, at the hotel and we reviewed her plans for our 4-hour tour. (Local guides that come on to our bus for local touring are aptly called “Step on Guides.”) Michele gave us a thorough tour of DC’s seven memorials plus she showed the future location of the Persian Gulf Memorial for which funds are currently being raised. She was a most remarkable and knowledgeable guide of our nation’s capital.

We did a drive-by of the Jefferson Memorial since it is a longer walk from where the bus has to park to reach the steps and statue. Franklin D. Roosevelt led the way for the building of the Jefferson Memorial and purposely placed the memorial in a straight line from the White House so he could always view Jefferson from his White House window.

We disembarked at the FDR Memorial and Michelle brilliantly spoke about its every aspect. While facing a statue of FDR in a wheelchair at the entrance, Michelle explained this was the newest addition to the memorial to honor people who are disabled. Roosevelt created his own wheelchair out of his most comfortable kitchen chair by having wheels put on it. He always worked to hide his handicap to the public due to public perception concerns. The FDR Memorial is divided into four distinct sections, one for each of his four terms in office. Of course, since he passed away only 80 days into his fourth term, the final section is a touching memorial to this great President. Eleanor Roosevelt is also featured in this fourth section; she is the only First Lady to have a statue in her honor in Washington, DC.

The Martin Luther King Memorial was just as enlightening. Michelle continued to feed us the most fascinating facts. Symbolism abounds all over Washington. The powerful MLK Memorial depicts the face and chest of MLK within a a marble structure that symbolizes a mountain. Since MLK never made it to the mountaintop, his body is purposely left unfinished. His face points in the direction of the Jefferson Memorial since Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “All Men are Created Equal,” and his eyes are staring directly at the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt who strongly led the charge that “Racism Destroys Democracy.” Brilliant words from Dr. King are printed on surrounding walls, but his famous “I Have A Dream Speech” is nowhere to be found because the creators wanted people to learn lesser known speeches at this memorial. Dr. King had a formula for each of his speeches and would include four topics in each; Justice, Democracy, Hope, and Love. This memorial is powerful, emotional, and a must see.

The Korean Memorial is all about the number 38. The 38th parallel divided Korea into North and South. Since Korea was divided in half, the creators erected 19 bronze statues (half of 38) all within a heavily vegetated area to symbolize the difficult terrain of Korea. The flagpole sits at the circular Pool of Remembrance exactly at the 38° angle of the circle. The words “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE” are printed on a wall decorated with flowers.

Michelle continued the tour with great facts about the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. She gave us free time to walk up the 87 (four score and seven) steps to the Lincoln Memorial and time to examine the Vietnam Memorial in detail. I accompanied our Starr tour guest who was the 14 year Veteran of the Vietnam War,  and his wife to the Vietnam Memorial. I was surprised and emotional at his first reaction to the memorial when he cried out, “This war was a disgrace. We never should have been involved in it in the first place. The reason for the war was for economic gains of the wealthy in both countries.” He continued, “None of these names should have needed to be inscribed here.” He was emotional, angry, and visibly upset. Both his wife and I felt his anguish and became quite emotional as well.

Michelle gave us a tour to remember for a lifetime. She brought Washington, DC to life for all of us and provided a perspective of the city that everyone should experience.

At 12:15 PM, our bus dropped us off at the Smithsonian Castle for four hours of exploration on our own in our choice of museum(s) within the Smithsonian Institution. Many  visited the Air and Space Museum and others walked across to the Mall to the National Museum of American History. A few spent much time in the American Museum of Natural History. Two walked to the National Museum of African American History & Culture and were able to get in without tickets. Although they waited in long lines, they were pleased with what they saw. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their time at the Smithsonian.

After returning to our hotel to freshen up a bit, 32 of our 48 tour guests chose to travel into Old Town Alexandria for dinner, shopping, and sightseeing. From the bus drop off spot at 301 King Street to the Potomac River three blocks away down a small decline, the tour guests had 10 restaurants to choose from and a plethora of shops to step into. Restaurants included seafood, Italian, Thai, Mexican, American, and Japanese. Everyone enjoyed their dinner and time in Old Town Alexandria.

Today was a day filled with nationalism, learning, and fun; the perfect combination to feed the soul.


Day 3: Sunday, October 6, 2019

Breakfast today was as good as yesterday. Per my instruction, every tour guest had their luggage outside their door for pickup by 7:00 AM. Most were down to breakfast at 7:00 AM. We departed from the hotel promptly at 8:00 AM to maximize our time at Arlington National Cemetery.

We were the first bus to park at Arlington and I was first at the ticket booth to get our tickets and brochures. After being first through Security, we all left on the first tram of the day. GREAT TIMING!!!

Many Starr guests got off the tram at the John F. Kennedy Gravesite. Others continued on to catch the 9:00 AM Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At the Kennedy Gravesite, the first thing to catch your eye as you approach the graves is the Eternal Flame rising into the cool morning air. In front of the flame lie JFK and Jackie side by side. Six feet to both sides lie their two children who passed while very young. The grave area is filled in with cobblestones rather than grass. A waist-high wall at the entrance is inscribed with famous words spoken by President Kennedy throughout his presidency. One section quotes his “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech. As you walk down the the pathway, you see the grave of Robert Kennedy that is represented by a white cross. Another white cross represents the grave of Edward (Teddy) Kennedy. Older brother Joseph Kennedy who died in WWII was moved here and lies near Edward. The entire memorial is beautifully done and a fitting tribute to this magnificent American First Family.

The next tram stop was the Amphitheater. Behind the amphitheater sits The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Sal, a Starr tour guest and Vietnam Veteran, proudly wore his Vietnam Veterans baseball cap all weekend. He and I climbed a few marble steps to take a peek inside the circular amphitheater. Once inside, we noticed about 60 teenagers seated and being lectured to by their teacher. Once the teacher saw Sal wearing his hat, he hollered, “You, sir, in the green shirt, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!” All 60 students turned and gave him rousing applause. We both broke down emotionally. The teacher proudly continued speaking to his students, “I knew we would meet a Vietnam Vet. I’m so glad he was here for you so you could see what I’ve been telling you.”

The word “Discipline” defines the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Members of Army Regiment 3 watch over the Tomb day and night, 365 days a year. You see two immaculately dressed soldiers emerge from beneath the Tomb; one higher ranking member and one Guard who will replace the Guard currently on duty. They take one slow disciplined step after another and approach the current Guard on duty. Upon hearing the piercing command, “HALT,” the Guard on duty stops immediately. The higher ranking officer then tediously examines the rifle of the newcomer, inspects his uniform, and only after he is totally satisfied with the cleanliness of his weapon and tidiness of his uniform does he continue with the ceremony. He then turns, faces us, and barks, “YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD. EVERYONE MUST REMAIN ABSOLUTELY SILENT. EVERYONE MUST STAND AT ATTENTION. THANK YOU!!!” He then proceeds with the ceremony, every aspect with strict discipline. At the conclusion, as the former Guard and high ranking official disappear beneath the Tomb, everyone wonders whether it’s alright to talk or, for that matter, breathe again. Someone in the crowd takes the lead and soon people begin to slowly leave the viewing area. Everyone must experience this magnificent ceremony firsthand at least once in their lifetime.

Both the gravesite of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in American History, and the Space Shuttle Disasters Memorial are located adjacent to the amphitheater. Many of us walked to both of these and took pictures.  Boxer Joe Lewis is also interred here next to the amphitheater. We then hopped on the next tram and continued with our guided tour around Arlington Cemetery. We passed the gravesite of Howard Taft, the only other President, besides JFK, buried in Arlington Cemetery. The tour guide also pointed out the grave of Abner Doubleday, a Civil War Veteran and probable inventor of baseball. We returned to the starting point and disembarked the tram. Many stopped into the Gift Shop prior to walking to our bus.

Many of our tour guests had enough time to see all of the Kennedy Gravesites, the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, AND take the 10 minute walk to the US Marine Corp War Memorial (aka Iwo Jima Marines Memorial) that borders Arlington National Cemetery. It was fabulous to be the first to arrive and provide extra time for our tour guests to explore Arlington on their own.

We drove to the Air Force Memorial featuring three stainless steel spires soaring into the sky at heights between 210 and 270 feet. They symbolize three airplanes flying in unison with the fourth missing to symbolize those killed in action.  The tour guests enjoyed this short stop that overlooks the Pentagon and views of Washington, DC.

Our lunch stop was at the Pentagon City Mall. There are many restaurants to choose from including a full food court on the lower level. There was something for everyone. Back on the bus and heading home, I gave out the Starr Surveys, Starr Catalogs, and showed the film “To Hell and Back,” the 1949 film about the life of Audie Murphy. Audie Murphy starred in the film as well and plays himself. After a short rest stop at the newly designed Chesapeake House, all tour guests were dropped off without incident and in a timely manner.

This was a powerful weekend filled with emotional moments, strong feelings of pride towards our country, and much information and learning about our Nation’s Capital. Everyone had a wonderful experience, including me.

Post Script:  Starr offers many trips (day trips and multi-day trips) to Washington, DC. 2020 Tours are still being loaded but click here at any time to see what’s being offered.

Read some of Gene’s previous tour reports:
Starr’s 2019 Alaska Cruise Experience
Cross Country Adventures by Bus 2019 – Westbound – Part 1 of 2 
Cross Country Adventures by Bus 2019 – Eastbound – Part 2 of 2
Cross Country Adventures by Bus 2018 – Westbound – Part 1 of 2
Cross Country Adventures by Bus 2018 – Eastbound – Part 2 of 2

Fall’s Beautiful Foliage

Fall’s Beautiful Foliage

When you spend every day thinking about travel, and your entire family is involved in the business (my husband became Starr’s President back in November of 2017), you get a bit caught up in the jargon of the industry. So I guess it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise when, while chatting with a 20-something young woman the other day, she gave me a bit of a blank stare when I mentioned the phrase “fall foliage trips.” During our conversation I had mentioned that our bus tour business is very busy during September and October because lots of people want to take trips to see the fall foliage. By the look on her face, I was reminded that not everyone is as ingrained in the business as most of the people I encounter on a daily basis.  I reviewed the definition of “foliage” in order to better explain myself and shared that many people travel during the fall in order to catch views of the changing season.

Hues of red, orange and yellow enhance already picturesque sights in the fall and people travel across the continent, and certainly the world, to see the beautiful views these hues create. People of all ages can appreciate the change of season from summer to fall as they watch the colors of the leaves change before they descend to the ground. The season starts and ends at different times based on the geographic location and predicting peak foliage season is hard to do as each year it varies based on the weather, but we aim to schedule our fall getaways at the optimal time of the months based on past history. Although, let’s be honest, even the beginning of the changing of the leaves can be breathtaking, no matter where you are!  (If you’ve ever wondered about The Science Behind Fall Foliage, check out our blog post!)

 

Quechee Gorge in Vermont

 

New England’s dramatic explosion of color each autumn starts in the northern New England states of Maine and New Hampshire typically in late September and moves down to the southern New England states – Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – around late October.  There are quite a few fall foliage forecast maps out there these days that help predict when the leaves will be at their peak, but since we are often reserving our trips a year in advance, we rely on history to steer us in the right direction. Thankfully, we tend to have a decent track record!

Check out this link for a State-by-State Guide to Fall Colors.

 

Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts – Photo by Kevin Sprague

 

Starr’s tour development team has been building itineraries revolving around “fall foliage season” since as long as any of us can remember. Below is a list of the most popular destinations Starr travelers choose to visit in the fall:

Maine
New Hampshire & The Indian Head Resort
Railroads of New Hampshire
Ithaca, NY
Vermont
Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts
Lake George & Lake Placid, NY
The Poconos in Pennsylvania
And so many more!

We are almost ready to publish our 2020 fall foliage trips on our website but not quite yet. Click this link after November 15th to see our offerings for next fall.

Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon – Photo by Scotty Wong

 

I hope you will join us this year or next on a Starr bus trip designed to highlight our country’s beautiful fall colors.

Here’s an afterthought: No one ever talks about what a pain it is to rake these leaves however!  I guess the beauty is worth the misery of an aching back!

Starr’s 72nd Birthday Bash – A blast!

What a trip! Our 72nd Birthday Bash Bus Trip was a resounding success! I think I can honestly say that everyone on the trip had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Me included!

I put together this list of highlights for you with a special treat at the end…

Sandy’s highlights – In no particular order:

Birthday dinner and private concert with the Lennon/Cathcart trio and a SURPRISE performance from Janet Lennon of The Lennon Sisters! As one of the most acclaimed, admired and longest performing female vocal groups in popular music, The Lennon Sisters are entertainment icons who have captivated audiences with their legendary harmonies throughout a dazzling 60 year career! Janet was nice enough to meet and greet with Starr tour guests after the show.

 

Lamberts Café, Home of the Throwed Rolls was not to be believed. Yes, they actually threw rolls at you when you asked for them. And the rolls were hot and delicious! The food was ridiculously plentiful. Did you try the Sorghum? This lunch stop was an unexpected surprise for sure!

 

 

 

 

Dogwood Canyon! So much to say about this beautiful place that I can guarantee you none of us would have known about if it wasn’t for our fabulous itinerary planners at Starr! Four terrific guides took us on trams that traveled throughout the park and even into Arkansas!! Cross another state off our bucket list! The animals were beautiful and we got to see them close up. What a special attraction in the heart of our country! Thank you Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, for this lovely experience!

 

Our last and final show, Clay Cooper’s Country Express was super! This is a wonderful extended family of performers that knocked our socks off. And our private talk back after the show was the icing on the cake. (Okay, icing on the cupcake as it were, since we were served cupcakes after the show!) Clay and Tina Cooper were most gracious hosts and they presented me with a special plaque commemorating this special visit to Branson.

 

 

Starr’s fabulous Tour Directors and Drivers were also a highlight! At least that’s the feedback I received from most everyone on the trip. Christine, Angie, and Karen were a great team and Malek, John, and Kenny did a fabulous job keeping everyone safe on our journey. We couldn’t have done this without them. Truly!

 

I can’t close without mentioning some of the other highlights of this trip like seeing the St. Louis Arch, experiencing a replica of the Titanic, having fun at The #1 Hits of the 60’s Show, seeing the Presley’s Country Jubilee Show and cruising Tablerock Lake while enjoying the Showboat Branson Belle. Wasn’t that comedian hilarious?!

In addition to my highlights, I want to share with you a video I made using some great photos from the trip! Were these your highlights too? Let me know.

We really had so much fun on this trip and we were so lucky to be able to experience so many special things offered to us only because Starr planned it! Thank you for putting your trust in us to plan such a fun and memorable bus trip!

Next year we’re staying close by but don’t think this bus trip won’t be any less fun! Lancaster and Hershey have so much to offer and we promise that you’ll see and do things you’ve never done or seen before! Click here to learn more about our 73rd Birthday Bash bus tour!

Thanks for traveling with Starr and sharing your memories with us!

Sandy Borowsky
3rd Generation Owner
Starr Bus Charter & Tours