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Five Reasons Why: Orlando

June 26, 2019
Orlando is known for one big attraction, and with pretty good reason: Disney World welcomes more than 50 million visitors per year, thought to be the biggest average yearly draw in the world.

But to reduce the city to just its mouse-based adventures is to miss out on several other reasons that Orlando is a worthwhile destination. We’ve got five of them here – offer a trip to this Florida jewel, and your donors can do all of this and more.

The Amusement Parks:
Yes, that’s plural. While the city is maybe best known for Disney World, and you could certainly spend a week exploring it and all of its sister parks (Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and more), there’s also Universal Orlando Resort (which hosts The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort. It’s a perfect place for both children and adults’ “inner children.”

The Golf: There’s a plethora of courses available for everyone from the golf-obsessed to the golf-curious. The highlight is the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, the host course of the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational (depending on which of our travel packages you offer, your donors can either play the course or watch the Invitational). But Orlando and the nearby suburbs have so many courses available that the dedicated hacker can fill a week with tee times. It’s especially popular for golfers over the winter months; the average high temperature in January, the city’s coldest month, is 71 degrees, which is balmy for a donor looking to escape the snow.

The Food:
Donors better travel to Orlando hungry; the city is consistently considered one of the best spots for foodies in the country. This year alone, Southern Living magazine named it the best in the South, while it consistently finishes high in WalletHub’s best foodie city rankings (including topping the list in 2016).

The Nature: Ziplining through forests, swimming in natural springs, hang-gliding and even airboat rides all add up to an itinerary-filling lineup of outdoor activities. Take an airboat to the Florida Everglades, starting in Kissimmee (a short drive from Disney World). Or start in downtown Orlando and take a hike on the Cady Way Trail, which is both fun and family friendly.

The Center of It All: Going to Orlando makes many of the state’s best attractions only a short drive away. The Space Coast is an hour east by car, as is spring break favorite Daytona Beach. Tampa is about 90 minutes to the west. The Everglades and Miami are each less than a morning’s drive. This can be especially useful for donors who want to go to Orlando during baseball’s Spring Training; draw a line of best fit from Cape Canaveral to Tampa and there will be seven stadiums along the path.

The Longest Day

June 19, 2019
The summer solstice is upon us, and with it comes a little more of something most travelers love – sunshine. It’s the longest day of the year and the technical beginning of what might be America’s favorite season for travel.

In some of our favorite Destinations of Excellence, the solstice is also an attraction all on its own. With the night sky only making a cameo appearance – if at all! – those looking for a Vitamin D-heavy trip can seek out daylong sun to celebrate the summer.

One of the most northern destinations in our catalog is Anchorage, and it really shines in the summer. It shines, in fact, nearly all day; 2019 estimates are that the biggest city in the 49th state will get 19 hours and 21 minutes of light.  With dawn and dusk included, that number jumps up to 24 hours – there’s literally no “night sky.” Go ahead and make those 11 p.m. tee times – you’ll still be able to get in eighteen holes. Just make sure to pack an eye mask for sleep.

For the destination in our catalog that has the longest day, though, your donors will have to head over the Atlantic Ocean to Reykjavik, Iceland. The island capital gets more than 21 hours of direct sunlight and, combined with dawn and dusk, zero darkness. It and Alaska both experience what is called “midnight sun,” where the sun can be spotted at the literal end of the day.

Some countries in the northern parts of Europe might not get midnight sun, but they certainly get their share of light. In Dublin, Ireland, the day lasts 17 hours, while Amsterdam falls just 12 minutes short.

Nothing in the continental U.S. can match those numbers, but Seattle is a place to go for those chasing sunlight. At just a minute less than 16 hours, the view from the Space Needle will extend from the coast to Mount Rainier that much longer. And just up the coast in Canada, Vancouver gets 15 more minutes of sunshine.

Finally, there’s New York and Las Vegas. Do they have particularly long days? Not really – although more than 15 hours and 14 hours, respectively, is nothing to sneeze at. But if days are measured by when people go to bed, both cities have 24-hour days all year – and when spending time in a casino or a Broadway theater, your donors won’t be thinking about that blazing orb in the sky.

See the Coast by Car

June 12, 2019
Starting with the traffic-jammed Memorial Day, the summer season is a favorite for many to go on road trips. There’s something about the windows down and wide-open road that calls to Americans to get out on the highways.

We’re big fans of road trips ourselves, with a twist: We love sending donors to places where driving is a sight-filled treasure. Someone in Chicago might not want to drive all the way to California for a view, but give them the chance to win a travel package at your non-profit fundraising auction to Los Angeles or San Francisco, and they can rent a car and take an oceanside route without any hassle. Some of the best coastal road trips in America can easily be accessed by setting up a supporter with one of our trips.

The state of California alone represents more than 800 miles of coastline, and the Pacific Coast Highway takes drivers near some of the most beautiful seaside views. Your donors can start anywhere from San Francisco to Santa Monica and get on the PCH and see state beaches, rolling countryside and dramatic cliffs. To the north, Carmel-By-The-Sea and Monterey are definitely stops worth taking, while those coming from Los Angeles might find the trip along the coast to Santa Barbara and its wineries to be a perfect day.

On the southern end of the east coast, meanwhile, it’s hard to get more “by the sea” than the Overseas Highway, which runs through the Florida Keys. Long after hurricanes and other storms washed away parts of the railroad that ran the route, the state would take the rail’s right-of-way and turn it into a two-lane (and now, in some parts, four-lane) freeway to connect to the mainland. It’s a favorite journey of visitors to the Keys and South Florida, including Miami.

“Long road trips” probably don’t spring to mind when you think about Hawaii, but there’s a path on the island of Maui of more than 50 miles that has made it to bucket lists for many travelers. The Road to Hana has it all: windy roads, cliff views of the ocean and even a waterfall or two. It can take longer than one thinks, thanks to Hawaii’s famous “relaxed” culture, which translates to slower drivers, but it’s worth a full day of stopping and sightseeing along the way.

The northeast has some travel-worthy drives, as well. First among equals might be the road that runs through Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Route One is an adventure that alternates between sea-side views and travel-worthy oddities; look for the massive orange dinosaur at the Route 1 Miniature Golf and Dairy Castle, or stop in at Kowloon, sometimes described as the country’s largest pan-Asian food court, under the neon triangle in Saugus.

A Summer of Seafood

June 05, 2019
According to a 2016 story in trade publication Travel Weekly, nearly 70 percent of tourists are “food and cuisine driven travelers.” And a near-unanimous 95 percent of travelers want to have some sort of unique food experience when they hit the road. And with millennials (who are slightly more likely to pick a trip based on its cuisine) spending more on travel each year, this is not a trend as much as a way of the business.

One of those “unique food experiences,” especially for those who don’t live on a coast, can be the freshest of fish, found in harbor towns up and down each coast. With different local emphases and cooking traditions, seafood dishes in one community may look nothing like those in another.

If a few of your donors are sea-crazy when it comes to the dining room table, here are a few suggestions of destinations from our catalog that have different takes on, but the upmost respect for, fish, shrimp, oysters and everything else seafood-related.

The most famous tourist attraction in Seattle is the Space Needle, of course. But second place is likely Pike Place Market, where fish are literally tossed around to customers, and a bevy of eateries serve the freshest of the sea to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (the outdoor rooftop views from Place Pigalle is a favorite). This is a city that’s in love with its fish, but it’s also one of the country’s favorite homes for oysters; the state of Washington is, according to SeattleMet magazine, maybe one of the only places in the world that’s home to all five edible oyster varieties.

On the southern edge of the Pacific Coast, there’s San Diego and its greatest contribution to cuisine: the fish taco. It’s a staple of fast casual restaurants in the border city, and it’s the subject of several foodie tours. The fish taco began just south in Baja California, but it made its way up the coast; local eatery Las Olas claims to have “pioneered” the favorite, but its lineage in the States is still up in the air.

Where the mighty Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico meet, your donors will find another seafood haven – even if the city is best known for its drinks than its food. New Orleans is not only a great place for fresh fish, but when seafood is combined with Cajun cooking, your supporters will get a culinary experience that can’t be duplicated. Look for gumbo, crawfish etouffee and shrimp po’ boys to get that Crescent City flavor.

The northeast is not to be ignored when it comes to seafood options, as well. While coastal towns in Maine (lobster!) and elsewhere may be the sources for much of the daily catch, Boston is where those fish and crustaceans find their ways into a wide selection of dishes. It’s the place, unsurprisingly, for New England Clam Chowder, but make sure your donors grab a Lobster Roll (or several!) before skipping town.