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For the Trail Traveler

March 29, 2017
The best views aren’t always the easiest to find. Being in the midst of the concrete jungles of modern life often makes it more difficult to see the beauty all around; sometimes, it’s elevation that’s needed. Thankfully, there are hiking trails near many of our favorite destinations that can give your donors not just the outdoors experience or the exercise that they desire, but also postcard-worthy views that inspire awe and makes a traveler want to plan return trips.

Some of our favorite non-profit fundraising travel auction packages with nearby hiking adventures include:

Philadelphia:
The City of Brotherly Love’s renaissance over the last decade has done wonders for its status as a tourist destination, but one aspect that’s always been strong in Philadelphia has been its abundance of hiking opportunities. There’s the Schuylkill River Trail, a marathon-length route that starts near the city’s Museum of Art and runs along the waterfront (and close enough to the historic Manayunk Bridge, reopened in 2015, that a side trip may be in order). Ridley Creek State Park, just outside of Philadelphia proper, is more than 2,500 acres of trails, fly fishing and horse riding. And for the “urban hikers,” the city also has more outdoor sculptures and murals than most cities in the country.

Los Angeles: Hollywood? Sure. Beaches? Of course. But very few would associate Los Angeles with hiking. However, the city has not only a tremendous network of trails (the Backbone Trail, which runs 70 miles through the Santa Monica Mountains, starts in neighboring Malibu), but many that are accessible for those staying in urban areas: Griffith Park is the one of the country’s largest urban parks, with trails heading in every direction, while the Runyon Canyon hike is a beginner-level stroll that attracts people from all walks of life. Many of the city’s iconic views come from a trail; the Hollywood sign is best seen either from Griffith Park or the Mt. Hollywood Trail, while the trails at Ernest E. Debs Regional Park have some of the best views of the downtown skyline.

Telluride: Of course, one might have more of an expectation of outdoor beauty in this Colorado favorite. But until your donors are standing at the summit of Ajax Peak, or overlooking the mountain village from Beak Creek Falls, it can be hard to sum up just how breath-taking views from a simple hiking trail can be. During the warmer months, the Bridal Veil Falls (the largest in the state of Colorado) attract visitors from everywhere, and both snowshoeing and cross-country are very popular on some of the trails in the winter. For the experienced hikers, a journey on the Sneffels Highline will take the visitor deeper into the mountain backcountry.


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Peak Vegas

March 22, 2017
There are a number of ways to enjoy a Las Vegas vacation at any time of year. The city’s restaurant portfolio has exploded in the last decade, with celebrity chefs cooking everything from haute cuisine to pizza. There’s a surprising amount of art on display in the city, be it the whimsical signs of yesteryear of the Neon Boneyard or the touring exhibits stopping by the Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio.

But to get the full Vegas experience, it may be whom you see it with that is more important than what you see; it’s beneficial to see the city in a crowd. Las Vegas comes alive when people from around the world descend on Sin City. Our non-profit auction travel packages can take your donors to Las Vegas at nearly any time of year, but here are a few times on the calendar that give the city its reputation as “America’s Playground.”

The only state in the U.S. that has fully adopted sports gaming is Nevada, which makes Las Vegas a very popular place to be during sporting events. Sunday afternoons during NFL season are almost as popular as Saturday nights. But the most interesting time to be in town may be during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, or “March Madness” as it’s colloquially known. It’s the perfect intersection of big crowds and good weather; March tends to be when high temperatures start their upward trajectory and the big pools begin to open up after the windy desert winter. And if the sports don’t interest you, that just means you can get better poolside seats by going early in the day.

Some of the biggest draws to the city combines work and play in a very specific way. Almost six million delegates visit Las Vegas for more than 20,000 conventions each year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Some of the biggest, including January’s International Consumer Electronics Show and April’s National Association of Broadcasters show, brings tens of thousands of people to town, each of whom are splitting time between the button-up corporate world and the more relaxed nightlife of the city. The energy when surrounded by people letting loose after work and set free into the neon nights can be infectious.

But not every crowd in Las Vegas needs a specific occasion. For those who want to see the city in its most natural state, just pick a three-day weekend. With a built-in chance for recovery, a vacation to Las Vegas can go from the hurried pace of a 48-hour turnaround to a more leisurely, stop-and-stare-at-the-neon affair. If Monday is the extra day off, the vibe in Vegas on that Sunday night can be hard to beat; the over-the-top revelry is out of everyone’s system, and the city’s fine restaurants and cocktail lounges often become the focus.


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One Pint for the Road

March 15, 2017
In the overall picture of beer sales in America, craft breweries are still only a small portion. According to the Brewers Association, microbreweries and other craft enterprises had just a 12 percent market share in 2015, and 20 percent or so of beer sales. However, in a year where total beer sales declined by .2 percent, craft sales went up by 12.2 percent.

That’s a lot of beer sales numbers for a travel blog, we know. But here’s the reason why their important: No one is going to travel for Budweiser. But if any of your donors are beer connoisseurs, they will want to hit the road to find their favorite small brewery, to try the latest trend in the craft world or just to spend a few days, much like wine fans, hopping from taproom to taproom. With Mitch-Stuart’s non-profit fundraising auction travel packages, we can help.

When it comes to destinations where beer springs to mind immediately (especially two days before St. Patrick’s Day!), it’s hard to outdo Dublin, Ireland, home of Guinness. A brewery so old and storied it has its own attached seven-story museum, the St. James’s Gate Brewery offers tours, tastings, and one of the best views of Dublin from its “Gravity Bar.” But Dublin is a great city for the beer-oriented tourist in addition to the famous brewhouse; Irish Red Ales and other craft libations are flourishing, with 50 different labels across the country.

Closer to home, the craft beer scene in Portland has earned its reputation as America’s best. The city has a tremendous variety of smaller-batch porters, lagers and ales available, with more than 60 breweries in operation. But what may set the Oregon city apart from the competition is its loyalty to the home team (or home beer, in this case): According to a CNN report, more than 50 percent of the draft pints served in the state were brewed there, and the share of supermarket sales for local beers hovered around 40 percent. And restaurants as varied as Apizza Scholls (which The Oregonian called “the best pizza in Portland” in 2015) and the old-school steakhouse RingSide Grill delight in their ability to serve up local pints to pair with their entrees.

Finally, any list of American beer cities that doesn’t start with Portland will almost invariably lead off with San Diego. The sunny southern sibling of Portland offers craft breweries in almost every neighborhood, including ones that tourists are likely already visiting (La Jolla and the Gaslamp District are each home to multiple microbrew options). Many of the local taprooms and alehouses also love throwing food-and-beer events; the San Diego Brewers Guild’s events page lists soirees like “Brew-n-Donut Pairing” and “Cupcake and Beer Pairing.” Combine all of that with the natural charms of the Southern California town and San Diego becomes an incredibly attractive destination.


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Alternative Sun

March 08, 2017
For every vision of a beachside paradise, there’s someone who imagines trying to get the sand out of a bathing suit. For every cold drink, there’s a sunburn. And for every relaxing waterside read, there’s the specter of corralling the kids for the drive to the shore.

One of the reasons that Mitch-Stuart offers such a wide range of non-profit fundraising auction travel packages is because one size – or one destination – does not fit all. While many are drawn to our selection of beachside escapes, with trips to the Caribbean, Southern California and Hawaii, there are some who still want to get some sun without having to deal with the beach’s drawbacks. For those sand-averse donors and potential bidders, here are some alternative pathways to Vitamin D.

Why would one go into the ocean when one can float above it? Cruises combine the sun and relaxation of a beachside vacation with the creature comforts not always accessible along the surf.  Whether it’s sailing between islands in the Caribbean or navigating the Mediterranean Sea, riding a modern ship gives donors access to the best sunbathing, while also allowing for gourmet meals. And if a small taste of beach time is desired, there’s always a chance to get some sand in one’s shoes when disembarking at one of the ports of call.

Neon isn’t the only light that can be found in Las Vegas, and visitors get to soak up that Vitamin D in multiple ways. The resorts of the city have a tremendous network of pools, each catering to a different taste; some of them are non-stop party scenes (“daylife” as it’s called in Sin City), while others are more relaxing and meditative. But what doesn’t get as much attention is the number of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts within a small drive of the Strip. Hiking through Red Rock Canyon is a favorite pastime of the sporty Vegas resident, and Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are each comfortable day trips. The best part: After a day outside, your donors can soak their feet and get a massage at one of the city’s many spas.

Finally, if there’s anything more relaxing than sitting by the pool, taking in the sun, it’s receiving a massage at the same time. Many luxury resorts offer poolside spa services, allowing visitors to get outside and find their bliss simultaneously; the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, for instance, has an adults-only pool and group exercise activities in the natural light of the resort’s atrium, along with a spa-only menu of healthy cuisine served poolside. Combining Vitamin D therapy with wellness programs gives guests a stress-free glow – maybe the best souvenir to bring back to the real world.


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Eye-Catching Hotels

March 01, 2017
It can be easy, when thinking about beaches in far-flung places and tickets to glitzy events, to remember that the first question any of your donors will be asked about their fundraising auction travel package will be, “where are you staying?” Even in the most attraction-filled destination, travelers spend a plurality of their time in the hotel – much of it asleep, sure, but it’s also the respite from the craziness that travel can bring. And sometimes, that home-away-from-home carries as big a name as the nicest restaurant or most exotic location.

Whether it’s the tickets to the big game or the transfer to or from the airport, Mitch-Stuart gives attention to every detail of its non-profit fundraising auction travel packages. That’s especially true of where your supporters will be staying at the destination, and it’s why we deal with some of the highest-rated hotels in the world. But there are three names in particular from our catalog that stand out even to the less-experienced traveler, iconic hotels that have the type of reputations you can use to help drive up bids.

It’s hard to visit Los Angeles and not set foot somewhere that’s been used as a location for a film, of course, but the Beverly Wilshire is iconic for its place in silver screen lore. “Pretty Woman,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and even the television show “Entourage” have called the hotel home, and after the cameras have stopped, stars like Elvis Presley and Warren Beatty have lived in between its walls for extended periods. And along with its stature, the hotel is home to a top-of-the-line spa (a recent recipient of the Forbes Five Star award, in fact) and a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, along with being a short walk from the shops of Rodeo Drive.

In London, the first-ever luxury hotel still may be the best. The Savoy Hotel opened in 1889, with of-the-time extravagances like electricity and hot and cold water in each room. Needless to say, the industry standard has upped a bit, but The Savoy has more than kept up; a renovation estimated at more than $300 million took place between 2007 and 2010. The result, according to most who have been, is old world elegance and service, but with the amenities the modern traveler requires. Of special notice: Afternoon tea in the hotel’s Thames Foyer is a must-do (and included in our “Stay at the Most Iconic London Hotel – The Savoy” package).

But ask anyone on the street for the name of a famous luxury hotel, and the first response is most likely to be The Plaza. The New York landmark has 110 years of history, including being namedropped in iconic literature like “The Great Gatsby” and appearing in “Annie Hall.” It also may be one of the most accidentally-photographed hotels in the world; its address makes it a dramatic backdrop for the beauty of neighboring Central Park. It even became the name of a major international treaty: the Plaza Accord, which dealt with currency rates, was signed there in 1985.


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