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New Year’s Bucket List Resolutions for the Young at Heart – New Orleans

New Year’s Bucket List Resolutions for the Young at Heart – New Orleans

Last week, we introduced our Kentucky Derby bus trip as part one of our New Year’s Bucket List Resolutions for the Young at Heart. This week’s tour destination is “The Big Easy” – New Orleans!

Your October vacation will begin on the road to one of the world’s most exciting cities well known for its nightlife, vibrant live-music scene, and spicy, signature cuisine that reflects its melting pot history of French, Creole, and Cajun cultures. This destination is sure to be unlike any city you’ve ever encountered with its beautifully unique architecture (from Shotgun Houses to Creole Cottages and Raised Center Hall Villas), fascinating history of a city founded by pirates, famous jazz music, and captivating personality. It is nearly impossible to walk down any street in the French Quarter without hearing live music being played either on the street by talented performers, or billowing out of their many bars and jazz clubs. Come fall in love with the character and passion of this lovely city!

Your hotel is conveniently located right in the French Quarter, a walkable series of streets filled with restaurants, music clubs, art galleries, unique shops, and plenty to see and do. On your first full day in The Big Easy, you’ll enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the fascinating French Quarter, and the beautiful Garden District filled with stately mansions, some of which belong to famous movie stars! Of course, no trip to New Orleans is complete without experiencing some of the mardi gras magic for which the city is famous. Your vacation includes a visit to Mardi Gras World where you’ll learn all about this festive tradition, see former floats and decorations and get a sneak peek at the studio where the floats for the next Mardi Gras are being created. Photo opportunities abound! This evening, the New Orleans fun and tradition continues with a special dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez! Experience the lively sounds of one of New Orleans’ best (Grammy-nominated) live jazz bands while enjoying a lavish buffet as the sweet Mississippi River breezes and the city skyline slips by. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture breathtaking views of the city from the water and be sure to visit their museum quality engine room.

Steamboat Natchez, Photo by Bald Eagle Bluff, Flickr

The following morning you’ll enjoy a live jazz brunch in the French Quarter courtyard of the award-winning The Court of Two Sisters. Once you’re all fueled up and ready to go, you’ll pay a visit to the National World War II Museum, a top-rated New Orleans attraction and the #1 thing to do in New Orleans according to TripAdvisor.com. “Offering a compelling blend of sweeping narrative and poignant personal detail, The National WWII Museum features immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and an expansive collection of artifacts and first-person oral histories, taking visitors inside the story of the war that changed the world.” The rest of your day is on own to explore all that the city has to offer.

Cajun Pride Swamp Tour

On your final day in New Orleans, you’ll leave the city for an epic adventure into a privately owned wildlife refuge for an authentic Louisiana swamp eco-tour where you’ll learn about the early days of Louisiana bayou and swamp explorations and have plenty of opportunities to view the unique flora and fauna as well as the abundant wildlife, including the American Alligator! You don’t want to forget your camera for this one! Your native Cajun Captain is chock full of knowledge and humor, making this excursion a wonderful, outside-the-norm, experience. Upon our return to land, we’ll head out to Oak Alley Plantation. View the beautiful canopy of giant oak trees lining the impressive avenue leading to the classic Greek-revival style antebellum home. Later, you’ll visit the New Orleans School of Cooking to learn about the wonderful food and rich culture of New Orleans and Louisiana from Creole and Cajun experts who teach New Orleans’ specialty dishes and season them with history, trivia, and folklore.

Oak Alley Plantation

As you make your way home on a comfortable Starr bus, you’ll be reflecting on all of the fantastic sights and experiences you’re taking with you – memories to truly last a lifetime!

So, join us in October for this truly remarkable vacation!

New Year’s Bucket List Resolutions for the Young at Heart – Kentucky Derby

New Year’s Bucket List Resolutions for the Young at Heart – Kentucky Derby

Instead of resolving to deprive yourself in order to meet your goals this year, why not focus on improving your life through achievements? A New Year’s Bucket List takes the idea of resolutions and turns them into more concrete goals to focus on and check off, for example resolution: “travel more” vs. bucket list: “see the annual Run for the Roses.”  Throughout the month of January, we’ll be offering a destination a week on our blog with New Year’s Bucket List Resolution destinations that can help you check off items on your Bucket List in 2018!

This May, we’re “off to the races” at our annual bus trip to Kentucky Derby in Louisville, KY! Not only will we be super close to “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” but our Kentucky vacation is packed with a plethora of activities and attractions to get us into the racing spirit.

Once we arrive in Kentucky the fun starts with a fanciful Kentucky evening with a bountiful Bar-B-Que Dinner featuring live music at Jeptha Creed Distillery, a new distillery doing things the old fashioned way. In addition to dinner, our evening will include dancing, a tour of the family-owned distillery, and a bourbon tasting!

Hermitage Farm

Day three brings a fascinating visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum, another item on some Bucket Lists. Even if you’re not a huge baseball fan, the museum’s exhibits, fun stories, and fascinating machinery tell the story of a big piece of American history and culture that connects generations so you’re sure to find something here that resonates with you. Next, we’re off to Hermitage Farm, a world-class equine operation where champion thoroughbreds are born and nursed. The foals we observe here could be the winners of future derbies! After we’ve worked up an appetite strolling around the farm, we’ll head over to Claudia Sanders Dinner House for a delicious lunch at the first restaurant owned by Mrs. Sanders and the famous Colonel. In addition to lunch, enjoy a derby hat boutique with a wide selection of hats and accessories to help you get ready for race day! After lunch, we’ll visit Undulata Farm, a private residence and horse training facility. We saw the foals playing in the fields this morning, this afternoon we’ll observe and learn about their training. This evening we’ll enjoy a special “Off to the Races” dinner event featuring a “Taste of Kentucky” with a meal of Kentucky favorites including Derby Pie along with entertainment and Derby racing fun to get you warmed up for the big event!

Photo by 2017 Starr passenger, K. Miller

Derby Day has arrived on day four! After donning our Derby hats and sporty outfits we’ll head over to the Ohio River for an informative and exhilarating riverboat ride on the Mary M. Miller or the Belle of Louisville. As we make our way down the river, we will be treated to insider tips from the experts on the Derby Race as well as a seminar on how to place a bet at Churchill Downs. At the end of the seminar, the two boats will turn downstream for an exciting race back to Louisville. After we disembark our riverboat it is finally time for the main event! We’ll stroll through the twin spires of Churchill Downs and take our 1st Floor Grandstand Seats on the home stretch so we can spend the rest of Derby Day crowd-watching, sipping mint juleps, and placing bets. Take in all of the excitement and wonder as we experience the world’s greatest and most celebrated sporting event!

This bus tour is guaranteed to give memories to last a lifetime and is a fantastic addition to anyone’s Bucket List. Join us this year and make 2018 a year to remember!

Give the Gift of Travel – Vacation Gift Guide

Why worry about the perfect color, fit, or style this year? Give something that will always be in season, never goes out of style, and keeps on giving for years to come – give the gift of travel! We’ve already covered how travel experiences enrich life, here are a few suggestions for the perfect vacation, no matter your price range.

For Day Trips by bus under $100:

Atlantic City Air Show – for just under $55 you can send your loved one on a comfortable bus to the Jersey shore for the high-flying excitement of the Atlantic City Air Show and even a little casino fun! They’ll be treated to a casino package with $25 Slot Play and a $10 Food Voucher, along with the intense thrill of the famed military and civilian pilots flying acrobatic maneuvers above their heads!

Coney Island
Credit Daniel Fleming

Coney Island Express – Brooklyn’s famed boardwalk destination is less than $55. Imagine giving them a day at the beach with all of the history and unique flair of Coney Island. They can try one of Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, explore the New York Aquarium, ride the Wonder Wheel, catch a thrill on the Cyclone, relax on the beach, and more! It’s a perfect day away from the daily grind.

National Zoo, Washington, DC – for just under $70, your loved one can enjoy a day at one of the oldest zoos in the nation! Over 2000 animals call this 163-acre park home including Giant Pandas from China, exotic birds, reptiles, rain forest creatures, and more.

Cars, Collectibles, and Yuengling – new for 2018 is a tour just under $100 that offers an afternoon of history and nostalgia as they visit America’s first brewery and revisit the ’50s! At Jerry’s Classic Cars & Collectibles Museum, they will take a journey back in time to the 1950s and leave with an unforgettable experience.

 

For Broadway Show Packages by bus under $200:

The Lion King – Disney’s classic movie takes center stage in an amazing production of artful puppetry and incredible music.

Carousel – “One of the most hallowed works of the American stage” (The New York Times) returns to Broadway for the first time in more than two decades. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s timeless musical Carousel comes to life in a new production. Elevated to an epic scale with a sweeping musical score and incandescent ballet sequences, this story of passion, loss and redemption introduced Broadway to a new manner of musical drama – one that “set the standard for the 20th century musical” (Time Magazine) and would captivate theatergoers for generations to come.

The Phantom of the Opera – this timeless tale of seduction and despair is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterwork and has been running on Broadway for 30 years. The unforgettable score, heart wrenching story, and captivating set make this a must-see show.

Hello, Dolly! – Bernadette Peters takes center stage in one of the most cherished musicals in theater history. Featuring music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart, “Hello, Dolly!” tells the story of an outspoken matchmaker and her attempts to marry “half-a-millionaire” Horace Vandergelder.

 

Multi-Day Vacations by bus under $500:

Boston, Massachusetts – The famed and bustling New England city has never been so easy to visit! Your loved one will be treated to a comprehensive city tour by one of Boston’s most knowledgeable guides and enjoy plenty of free time to experience all of the wonders of “Beantown.”

Cooperstown: National Baseball Hall of Fame – perfect for the baseball fanatic in your life. This tour includes a one year membership to the National Baseball Hall of Fame including a subscription to Memories and Dreams magazine, Hall of Fame Yearbook, complimentary admission to the Hall of Fame for one year, and other perks. Combine this with the fun shopping and dining found in Cooperstown and your gift will hit a home run!

Niagara Falls, USA – No passport required! Our newest option for a Niagara vacation makes this wonder of the natural world even more accessible! They’ll enjoy a boat ride into the horseshoe of the falls on Maid of the Mist as well as a tour of the area and accommodations in Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino. What a lucky gift!

Pittsburgh
Credit Derek Cashman

Pittsburgh, PA: The Golden Triangle – the intriguing “Steel City” awaits on this tour to western Pennsylvania. Truly a unique destination, Pittsburgh is home to a fascinating mix of historical landmarks, captivating architecture, compelling characters, and more! They’ll tour the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, be treated to an in-depth tour of the city, and more!

Foxwoods & Mohegan Sun Casinos – this tour is every casino lovers dream! Featuring two of Connecticut’s greatest casinos this tour includes a casino package at each and ample time to try their luck at a plethora of table games, slot machines, Poker rooms, and more! They’ll be saying “Jackpot!” when they open this present!

 

One size rarely fits all and with Starr, you don’t have to settle for the generic! In addition to our immense lineup of incredible bus tours, we also offer gift cards. Our gift cards come in any denomination, and never expire! Whether you purchase a gift card so they can choose their own adventure or surprise them with a vacation you know they’ll love, you can rest assured that when you give the gift of travel, you’re giving a gift that will keep on giving for many years to come!

 

The Birth of a Birthday Bash

Our 70th Birthday Bash was such a success (4 sold out buses!) that I had to figure out what to do for next year. I wanted to think of a destination we hadn’t toured in a while that people would get excited about traveling to. I looked back in the archives and discovered that we hadn’t visited Myrtle Beach in a few years. Since I knew two people in the office who LOVED vacationing in Myrtle Beach (Tour Director, Karen Coate, and Charter Representative, Jeanette Gilmore), I decided to dig in to this vacation destination. Having never been to Myrtle Beach myself, I knew I had a lot to learn.

Myrtle Beach Skyline

First, I logged onto Tripadvisor, a resource I frequently use to assist in tour planning. I look for the most popular things to do in the area and then I read the reviews. In this case I needed to look at Myrtle Beach as well as North Myrtle Beach.  North Myrtle was created in 1968 from four existing municipalities north of Myrtle Beach, and serves as one of the primary tourist towns along the Grand Strand. I put myself in my tour guest’s “seat” and imagine if they would like to do the things that are top attractions in the area. After I make a list of these attractions, I move on to hotels.

Myrtle Beach

Since Starr attends the American Bus Association convention each January, we meet with Destination Marketing Organizations, hoteliers, attractions, and restaurant contacts. We save all of our information for times like these where we need info to build a bus tour. Now I go through and mine this information for hotels that fit the needs of our tour guests. In Myrtle Beach there are so many beachfront properties that we have lots to choose from BUT we have to be careful to choose a property that is group friendly, clean, and updated.

Next, it’s time to select a date for our trip. This year we traveled to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in September so I know I want to travel to Myrtle Beach in the fall. The hotels can’t even open up to groups in the summer as they are too busy. September can still be hot so I opt for October. This is when I can use the newest buses in our inventory since we are not as busy with other tours.

With 4 buses and the possibility for more, I have to find a hotel large enough to host us in Myrtle Beach and I also need to find properties en route to/from Myrtle Beach since we can’t travel there in 1 day. This is a large undertaking. Once I find the hotels, I need to make sure they all have availability to host us and that they will be able to handle the large number of guests. It’s important to me that our guests don’t feel like a “herd of cattle” so I will most likely split the en route properties up and have no more than 2 buses in each property.

Pirates Voyage Dinner Show
ONE the Show

Since shows are so popular in Myrtle Beach, I pick my top 4-6 favorites and review their schedules and prices. Then I start to piece together the schedule. This is not an easy task and is very much like a puzzle.

One of the resources I have been talking with is Sandy Haines at Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sandy suggested I do a “site inspection” of the area. A good idea – I always like to check out an area before we do a new tour there. Even though the summer is my busiest time of year in the office (as we prepare for busy fall outbound and build tours for the following year), I carve a 3-day trip into my calendar. A tourism friend offers to host me at her home which is a great way for me to get the local flavor of the area and learn some background info that I may not have learned! I rented a car and set up my appointments to meet with tourism partners, tour hotels, and sample the shows. My three days were jam packed with appointments, meetings, tours, food, and fabulous performances! I asked a lot of questions, and took lots of notes to help me remember all that I saw. Southern Hospitality was certainly displayed during my whirlwind trip to Myrtle Beach! Below are some pictures of my many stops. You can see how busy I was!

As I boarded my plane home, ideas raced around in my head so once I was seated (in a middle seat, of course!), I opened my computer and put together the final itinerary. Now it’s time to make the reservations, sign the contracts, and start promoting this wonderful trip. I am so excited to go back and bring 200 (or more!) of my closest friends! I hope you can join me!

Click here to view this tour on our website for more information and to reserve your seat!

Sandy Borowsky
Vice President, Tours

Giant Crab – Waterfront Private Dining Room

 

Brookgreen Gardens

 

Pirates Voyage Dinner show

 

Barefoot Princess II Paddlewheeler

 

Carolina Opry

Top 10 Reasons I Loved Starr’s 70th Birthday Bash

Last week, we celebrated Starr’s 70th Birthday with 4 bus loads of passengers from all over the tri-state area. This fabulous 6 day vacation to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee was filled with great shows, unique attractions, lots of food and many fond memories.

Here are my Top 10 Reasons why I loved Starr’s 70th Birthday Bash:

10. I got to meet 200 Starr bus tour travelers-some new and some seasoned Starr travelers. I learned what they loved about Starr and what we can improve on. I heard about so many experiences and wonderful memories. Our travelers were so incredibly thankful and kind and my heart was full hearing so many stories.

9. I got to see 4 wonderful Starr Drivers and Tour Directors in action and I learned why they are so beloved by Starr travelers.

8. I got to work with and get to know 3 wonderful tourism partners who planned and executed this wonderful trip. Thanks to Pete and Andrew of Smoky Mountain Resorts and Pamela from Fee-Hedrick Entertainment!

7. I was introduced to a wonderful city, Pigeon Forge, that I am certain I would not have visited if it wasn’t for Starr.

6. I saw 6 amazing shows from comedy to Broadway-style, from Circus-style to variety. They were all different and all terrific. Who knew Pigeon Forge offered such world-class entertainment!

5. I crossed another National Park off my bucket list. Great Smoky Mountains National Park was gorgeous and offered lots of history.

4. I ate and ate and ate! OK, it was mostly chicken but who doesn’t like fried chicken – and calories eaten on “vacation” don’t count!

3. We asked our travel partners across the USA to donate items that we could raffle off as part of our birthday celebration. We collected over 25 terrific giveaways including a fit-bit and a beautiful hand-made bowl from Corning Museum of Glass. These gifts, along with Starr gift cards that we supplemented, made this a fun event with lots of happy winners!

2. I learned best practices as we prepare for our 71st Birthday Bash in Myrtle Beach next October.

And my #1 reason…
I was able to experience this with my parents, the co-owners of Starr and the people behind the scenes who have kept this company going strong for the last 45 years!

For more photos, check out our Facebook page!

Stay tuned for next week when I share a behind the scenes look at what goes into planning a Birthday Bash tour! I can’t wait for our 71st Birthday Bash in Myrtle Beach next year – come join me!

Happy travels,
Sandy Borowsky
Vice President and 3rd Generation Starr Owner