You Must Be This Tall to Scare
October 26, 2016
The Halloween season has returned, bringing with it ghouls, ghosts and zombies. Houses in the neighborhood are decorated, pumpkins are carved and faces are painted. But the holiday is not often considered a chance for travel; kids usually have school activities tied to Halloween and anyone older might not remember the magic of the day fondly enough to set aside time for a road trip.
However, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays at America’s theme parks. With an entire cast of characters in the spirit of the day, and plenty of resources available to transform spaces into truly frightening playpens of the macabre, there may be no better place to take in the atmosphere of the season than one of these amusement parks – each one a part of a fundraising auction travel package available through Mitch-Stuart.
In Southern California, Disneyland is putting costumes on costumes for the month of October, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others, wandering the park in their own Halloween outfits. Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and Sally from “A Nightmare Before Christmas” also wander the premises. But the big attraction of 2016 is actually a closing, rather than an opening: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is on its way out, giving way to a “Guardians of the Galaxy”-themed ride next summer. This is the last year to ride the elevator drop while listening to the spookily-soothing voice of Rod Serling.
On the other side of the country, meanwhile Disney World Orlando has a different take on the holiday, with some of the traditional villains of Halloween recast. Zombies find their voices with the Cadaver Dans, a barbershop quartet of the undead. The Sanderson sisters of Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” mix potions, shadows and some of their evil friends to create the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular show. And the fireworks show, a traditional favorite of a visit to Disney World, gets a makeover during the season, becoming HalloWishes and incorporating more of Disney’s catalog of antagonists.
But no amusement park may make a bigger commitment to All Hallow’s Eve than Knott’s Berry Farm. The Anaheim-adjacent theme park transforms each year into “Knott’s Scary Farm,” with mazes and monsters at every turn. “Scare zones” act as themed immersive atmospheres; this year’s include “Carnevil” and “The Hollow.” Mazes and rides also take on a creepy feel, and even dining gets a Halloween theme, with a “boo-fet” available each night before Knott’s opens (the scares are the roaming monsters, not any mystery meats). The park has even put together a less-intense experience, Knott’s Spooky Farm, for families with younger kids; it’s open during the daytime on weekends.
Happy Centennial, NPS!
April 20, 2016
Happy Earth Day!
In 2016, the National Park Service turns 100 years young. Formed in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, the agency has had the mission, as the president said at the time, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” That’s a big task, but for a century the NPS has done exactly that, preserving some of America’s most scenic lands and making sure that people can enjoy them without harming the surrounding environment.
At Mitch-Stuart, we’re appreciative of everything the National Park Service has done for travel and travelers in America every day, but especially so during National Park Week, which in 2016 stretches from April 16-23. During this time, entrance to the parks is free, and there are different programs throughout the country, both educational and fun. If you’ve got a national park near you, you’ve got a couple more days to go for free, and if you’ve got donors who love the outdoors, you’ve got a big selection of trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog that can pique their interest.
The serene setting and outdoor beauty is a major reason that Jackson Hole has been an in-demand destination for decades. Part of that beauty comes from the surrounding national parks: Grand Teton is the closest, with its mountaineering and fishing opportunities, in the shadow of the mountain range of the same name, and Yellowstone, the wilderness that many consider to be the cornerstone of the national park system. Photo opportunities about here, of course, be it Old Faithful Geyser, Snake River or any of the hundreds of species of animals that can be spotted by a patient (and quiet) observer. Our “Premier Retreat in the Great American West” package can take your donors to two of the jewels of this country’s outdoors.
Not all national parks are far off in the wilderness, though. The National Parks of New York Harbor is the group name to 22 different monuments and ten parks in New York City and the surrounding area. The most famous of these sights is the Statue of Liberty, but the list also includes the Federal Hall National Memorial (home to the first Congress and Supreme Court), Governors Island National Monument and the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the concrete jungle gets to be overwhelming, the Gateway National Recreation Area offers beaches, lighthouses and even archery ranges.
One of the most underrated getaways in the national park circuit, however, comes in the country’s northeastern corner. Acadia National Park goes from mountains to beaches, all within a short distance from Bar Harbor. Visitors can check out the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S., go biking or hiking on a myriad of trails, and even take a horse out on 45 miles of carriage roads. Our “East Coast Escape to Mount Desert Island” travel package can set your donors up with all the outdoor adventure and gorgeous vistas they could want.
Traveling the Earth, On Its Day
April 13, 2016
Happy Earth Day!
April 22 is not the Earth’s birthday, of course. But it is the day we’ve set aside to celebrate the rounded pebble on which we float through space, the home that provides water to drink, food to eat and gravity to keep us stuck to the ground. It’s also a day to think about the planet’s challenges, the areas that need the most help and support in offsetting human influence, be it deforestation, pollution or other ruination of natural resources.
Mitch-Stuart has non-profit fundraising auction travel packages to some of the most beautiful corners of the world, of course, but some of those Destinations of Excellence are also the most fragile areas. On this Earth Day, we spotlight some of those places where preservationists are hard at work – and places that could use tourism dollars to aid in conservation efforts.
While the Brazilian rainforests may be the most well-known, there are plenty of other stunning examples a little closer to home. In Costa Rica, for instance, Corcovado National Park has gorgeous views of the last remaining tropical lowland rainforests in the country, while the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve contains more than 2,500 plant species, many of which are visible from one of the reserve’s hiking trails or ziplines. Belize is another Central American country where rainforests remain; one of the largest remaining populations of the jaguar can be found there along with the howler monkey. And the Reef Bay Trail on the tiny Caribbean island of St. John is one of the most popular attractions there, incorporating both the beauty of the bio-diversity and the history of the island in the form of abandoned sugar estates and the remains of the last plantation.
One doesn’t have to leave America to find a bio-diverse environment, of course. In fact, one of the world’s habitats with the most varied collection of native species is the Florida Everglades. Stretching from just south of the Orlando area all the way to outside of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, the marshland is home to more than 350 types of birds, including endangered species such as the wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Plant life thrives in the humid conditions, as well, and it’s also home of the Florida panther, of which only an estimated 80 remain, according to the National Wildlife Federation. With all of the parks throughout the wetlands, including Everglades National Park, there are plenty of ways to interact with the area while being respectful of the preservation efforts in place.
If you’ve got donors interested in a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor experience, though, send them to the coral reefs off the coast of Bali. The island is a part of the “Coral Triangle,” which has been called the “Amazon of the Ocean” because of its biodiversity; 76 percent of all coral species in the world are within the triangle, along with 37 percent of the world’s reef fish species. It’s been the subject of a high-level conservation effort for almost a decade now, called the Coral Triangle Initiative, and that work is partially supported by the $12 billion nature-tourism industry there. Exploring the region from the sea, whether it’s on boat or scuba diving in the ocean itself, is a must-do for the nature-obsessed.
Rock and … Travel?
April 06, 2016
In a few days, the attention of the music world will focus on tiny Indio, California. The desert community just outside of Palm Springs will host one of the country’s biggest gatherings of rock, indie, hip-hop and youth culture. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (named after the valley that is home to Indio, Palm Springs and other neighboring cities) draws nearly 200,000 people to inland California over the course of two weekends, all to watch some of the largest names in music. Festivalgoers travel from around the world to camp outside of the Empire Polo Grounds, the host of the concert, or book hotel rooms across the valley.
Like a food festival, a particular sporting event or even a season change (like fall in New England or spring among the cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C.) music can be a great motivator for a traveler. Thankfully, Mitch-Stuart’s catalog of fundraising auction travel packages can absolutely be used to send a music aficionado on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving some of the great names and places in music history.
For music fans, there are few cities more accommodating than New Orleans. Beyond every café and bar in the French Quarter with a jazz combo playing in the back corner, the city is home to some of the country’s best music festivals. The New Orleans Jazz Festival brings in some of the world’s brightest lights in its titular genre, along with soul, R&B and even rock acts (Pearl Jam and Stevie Wonder are headlining in 2016). The Essence Festival, traditionally held during the summer, may be America’s biggest celebration of African-American culture, including music headliners, guest speakers and others. And Voodoo Music and Arts Experience combines great tunes with interactive art in a way that draws fans of both.
For those who prefer music of a different era, a trip to visit one of the country’s museums dedicated to the art may be a great bidding motivator. Whether it’s the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland or even a smaller tribute (the Stax Museum in Memphis, for instance, dedicated to the classic soul label), a trip with a built-in musical attraction like one of these destinations can turn heads at a fundraising auction. These excursions can be bonus features to an already-existing package (a country fan bidding on our “CMA Awards, Country Music's Biggest Night!” item, for instance) or reasons to utilize one of Mitch-Stuart’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” packages, making them versatile selling points.
And if your supporters want to combine the energy of music with the star power of awards shows, we’ve got trips to two different nights filled with statuettes, live performances and surprises galore. As mentioned before, the “CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night!” takes donors to Nashville this November to watch the 50th annual Country Music Awards. And while the show itself is the centerpiece, fans will find plenty to do during the rest of the time; there’s a reason Nashville earned the nickname “Music City,” after all. And no city does glitz and glamor quite like Los Angeles, meaning that the 2016 American Music Awards, also held in November, attracts a who’s-who of the pop charts. The 2015 edition featured Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, One Direction and Coldplay – and the 2016 show could feature your supporters (in the audience, at least) with the “Rock On at the American Music Awards!” package.
April Foolish Travel
March 30, 2016
April Fools’ Day is Friday. Do not believe anything.
There may be no holiday more custom-built for the Internet than April Fools’ Day. Between joke articles on websites, the yearly Google “product announcement” video and the constant silliness of social media, the web goes all out for April Fools’ Day like Boston does for St. Patrick’s Day.
If you’ve got donors who go all-in on April 1, who push for your charity to send out fake fundraising letters or posts faux sonograms on their social media feeds, they may also be the type of person who would love to travel to one of comedy’s meccas, one of the cities responsible for the development and production of humor. There are several Mitch-Stuart fundraising auction travel packages that can put your supporters within a stone’s throw of comedy history.
Despite its reputation for being teeming with tear-jerking dramas, Broadway has shown its ability to be fall-down funny over the past 15 years in particular. Shows like “The Book of Mormon,” “Spamalot” and “Avenue Q” combine stage theatrics with big laughs, whether it’s social satire or pure silliness. “Mormon” is still on Broadway to this day, while “Avenue Q” has moved to an off-Broadway house. Of course, the rest of the city has deep roots in comedy, as well; Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club are two of the most famous stand-up stages in the country, and incubators like The Pit NYC and Upright Citizens Brigade feature the next generation of funny people first.
For those interested in the recent history of comedy, Chicago is an interesting choice for a vacation. It was here that Second City, the improv troupe and school that gave the world everyone from Alan Arkin and Fred Willard to Tina Fey and Chris Farley. Stretching back to the 1950s, when the comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May were seen on stage at a Second City predecessor, the city of Chicago gave talented funny people room to create comic personas without the glare of Hollywood or New York’s bright lights. It’s also the home city of two classic comedies of the 1980s, “The Blues Brothers” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
For the best in comedy today, though, Los Angeles may be the destination. Improv theaters like The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade have been the primary farm systems for “Saturday Night Live” cast members for decades now, and everywhere from the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard to the Whole Foods in Pasadena (no, really!) now hosts stand-ups. One of our favorites is the Largo at the Coronet, a 280-seat theater near the Beverly Center shopping mall that hosts the best in alternative comics – stars like Patton Oswalt and Sarah Silverman are regulars there – in an artist-friendly environment (no cell phones and no talking in the theater). Bonus: It’s next door to one of the best cocktail lounges in the city, the Roger Room, making for a quintessentially L.A. one-two punch.
Break for Spring
March 23, 2016
Maybe schools have it right, after all.
After a winter of tough weather, indoor activities and heavy coats, people are ready to get outside and run around at the first sight of the sun. Schools have long accepted this fact, giving kids a week off to go and burn off that pent-up energy. Starting with the Colgate swimming team heading south to Florida in 1935, the modern Spring Break is often wrapped up in parties, alcohol and an ever-increasing amount of corporate sponsorship (see: Most Florida beaches throughout the month of March).
But just because one leaves academia behind doesn’t mean that a Spring Break becomes unnecessary. After a full winter of going from home to car to office building and then back, getting into the outdoors for a few days can do wonders for the spirit. At Mitch-Stuart, we offer fundraising auction travel packages for all times of year, but many of our trips can help melt away the winter doldrums and serve as a spring break for the post-graduation set. Want some ideas for adventures to offer for auction at a spring-flavored gala? How about…
On the Links:
Months off due to weather can leave a golf swing pretty rusty. And one way to get that Vitamin D infusion is by walking 18 pristine holes somewhere in the southern half of the country. Resort towns like Hilton Head, South Carolina and Scottsdale, Arizona feature numerous course options for the semi-pro player all the way down to the weekend hacker. Meanwhile, desert towns like Palm Springs and Indian Wells are still temperate enough in the spring to play all day; those triple-digit mid-day temps don’t start showing up consistently until June.
Hit the Beach:
Yes, plenty of college kids will be heading to cities in Florida, Texas or Southern California to celebrate the season (and we can send your donors to those places as well, if they want to join the revelry). But for those who prefer their beverages in containers other than red Solo cups, the Caribbean makes for a great getaway. Whether it’s five days in Aruba, Bermuda or Jamaica, there’s no place to get reacquainted with sunshine than on a beach chair, listening to the waves roll in. And for those with a limited vacation window, the Caribbean is a closer journey than you might think; take off from Manhattan in the morning, and you’ll be in Aruba in time for happy hour, for instance.
Head to the Islands:
For students, hopping a flight to Hawaii usually is out of the question; between the travel time and the expense, the 50th state does not attract the kind of collegiate crowd one would expect based on its stunning beaches and warm climate. But for those who are just looking to miss that last cold snap at home and defrost under the springtime sun, there may be no more scenic place in America to do it than Hawaii. And with ten different trips to the islands, encompassing stays on four different islands, all the views of the state are available.
The Romantic’s Valentine’s Day Gift
February 10, 2016
Chocolate? Meh. Flowers? They’ll be dead in a week. Jewelry? Sure, but do people really need more “stuff”? We may be biased, but there may be no more romantic gift than the gift of travel.
Mitch-Stuart can set up your donors with fundraising auction travel packages for any time of the year and for any occasion, of course, but there’s something special about sending two lovebirds out into the world together, to explore and make wonderful memories. Whether you’ve got supporters looking for a honeymoon excursion, a babymoon last hurrah, or just an adventure with the love of his or her life, setting them up with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a Destination of Excellence® will plant you in their mind every time they reflect on that romantic getaway.
What makes travel so romantic? Some ideas:
Two people enter a relationship with lifetimes worth of experiences in their past. That extends to cities visited, which means that if one-half of a couple is a regular in, say, Las Vegas, the other half may feel more like a tourist following a guide than an equal partner. But when two people explore a new destination together, it can be a bonding experience. Want to give your donors the chance to make a destination feel like a shared romantic getaway? Offer one of our packages to a far-flung locale, perhaps like Bali, where your supporters can relax on beaches, get couples massages and explore an island while making it “theirs.”
Going on an adventure together can also push you and your partner out of your comfort zone. Whether you feel stuck in a rut or just would like to infuse your romance with a little spice, the adrenaline triggered by trying something new can be a great way to jump start emotions, as well. This could mean, for instance, heading for Africa with our “Explore Kenya’s Breathtaking Landscape & Wildlife” package, which includes a gift card that can be used for game drives, bush walks and other safari experiences.
Finally, while the act of traveling is romantic on its own, the destination often has its own enchanting activities. We touched on that idea last year around this time, but it bears repeating: Booking the right itinerary once on the ground can make any place seductive. Exploring New York as a couple may mean a walk through Central Park at sunset or a date night at the Plaza. Any Southern California or Caribbean trip means walks along the beach. Skiing adventures in Aspen means après-ski cuddles by the fire. No matter the trip, there’s something waiting at the destination for couples.
Mardi Gras Around the World
February 03, 2016
It’s a funny reason for a Christian holiday: The night before the purging season of Lent, Mardi Gras celebrates binging, preparing for the relative austerity of the weeks pre-Easter by over-indulging for one night. For some, that means plenty of adult beverages, while for others it’s fatty and sugary foods. No matter the gluttony of choice, Mardi Gras is best observed by consuming too much of something that will put the celebrant in confession the next day. Of course, like other holidays, Fat Tuesday (as it’s known in some parts of the world) is only partially about religion anymore, as it has been adapted as a secular celebration for revelers of all (or no) faiths.
While New Orleans may be considered the holiday’s epicenter, Mardi Gras parties aren’t the sole domain of the Crescent City. In fact, with our fundraising auction travel packages, Mitch-Stuart can send one of your supporters to a celebration in any one of the great travel destinations around the world. Want to enjoy the day without a trip down Bourbon Street? You – and your donors – have options.
While New Orleans may be the city most associated with the holiday today, its origins are in French Catholic traditions. It should be no surprise, then, that France has nationwide celebrations of Carnival and Mardi Gras to this day. Parades in Nice, Paris and other cities mark the occasion, with large floats, ornate masks and confetti being the coins of the realm. Nice, in particular, is a special celebration; it attracts more than a million visitors to the city.
In Italy, Carnival is tied closely to Mardi Gras, as well; “Fat Tuesday” is the final day of the celebration that involves fireworks, special dinners and parties, and art. In 2016, the Venice festival is featuring almost 150 separate events, leading up to a “best mask of Carnival” contest, a closing ceremony and fireworks at the Arsenal of Venice.
Your donors don’t have to leave the country to celebrate Mardi Gras, either. Universal Studios in Orlando celebrates the holiday on select dates between February and April, with parades and concerts in a family-friendly environment. Music is a major part of the fun here; 2016 features traditional New Orleans Zydeco bands in the French Quarter Courtyard and big name touring acts like Adam Lambert and Diana Ross on the Music Plaza stage.
And while New Orleans will always be the gold standard of Mardi Gras celebrations in America, most major cities in the country mark the day with some sort of event. In New York, the 2nd Avenue Mardi Gras Stroll enters its 19th year of libation-fueled fun, while the Mardi Gras Ball in Boston is into its third decade of existence. Mid-sized communities get into the act, as well; In North Carolina, Asheville has its own parade on the weekend preceding Fat Tuesday, and Snowmass, just miles outside of Aspen, kicks off the day itself with the “Mother of All Ascensions,” an uphill snowshoe race.
Trip of the Month: St. Thomas
April 01, 2015
Mitch-Stuart, Inc., is the industry leader in non-profit auction travel packages, with a world’s worth of options from which to choose – from Boston to Bali, from Las Vegas to London and from Palm Springs to Paris. With such a massive catalog, choosing a trip to offer to your donors at your gala fundraising auction can seem overwhelming, so each month we’re going to highlight a top-selling adventure available through Mitch-Stuart, including its accommodations, its draws and ways that we can even sweeten the deal.
All-Inclusive Fun Under the Sun – Island Style!
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
After a tough winter across much of the country, anything with a beach view is going to get the attention of a prospective bidder/donor. And there are few places that scream “beach view” quite like the Caribbean.
The all-inclusive resort Bolongo Bay Beach Resort caters to almost every whim of its guests. A regular fixture on “best beachfront hotels” lists, Bolongo Bay offers gratis meals and drinks – yes, unlimited cocktails – to those staying on the property. This means everything from eggs and OJ in the morning to lobster and wine in the evening is pre-paid. There are no pockets for your wallet in those swimming trunks anyway.
Lounging on the beach all day while sipping colorful frozen drinks is one way to do a trip to the Caribbean. But another is to get active – and this package includes an introductory SCUBA lesson in the Bolongo Bay pool, along with a half-day snorkeling trip for an up-close-and-personal encounter with the local turtle population.
St. Thomas is known to be the most cosmopolitan of the Virgin Islands, and there’s as much to do here as any other part of the Caribbean. The Mahogany Run Golf Course features a three-hole run called the “Devil’s Triangle,” which awards a certificate to any player who can simply get through them without taking a penalty stroke. After 18 holes, it might be time to get a massage; there are day spas all over the island for relaxation. And though the resort dining is spectacular, those looking to head off into the island for different fare can look up Old Stone Farmhouse, where diners meet with the chef before the meal to prepare their own, personal menu.
Want to find out more about this trip? Want to get the rundown on the rest of our catalog of once-in-a-lifetime travel packages to offer your donors? Reach out to a Mitch-Stuart Travel Expert today.
Destination Spotlight: Costa Rica
March 03, 2015
When one thinks about vacations south of the border, Mexico is often the first destination that pops to mind. For others, a cruise around the Caribbean may be in order. But the travel experts, those whose passports are running out of room for new entry stamps, know that Costa Rica, even with its upswing in “ecotourism” over the past couple of decades, is the hidden jewel of the equatorial Americas.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc. has non-profit fundraising travel packages ready for destinations all over the world. But while cities like London and Paris attract a lot of attention, Costa Rica is sometime overlooked. This is great for the knowledgeable traveler: It means fewer tourists and more space to explore all the country has to offer! In fact, Costa Rica has something for every type of vacationer.
For the beach-comber: With coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the nation has almost 300 beaches, with more than a handful sure to suit the personality of any sun worshipper. The Papapgayo Gulf is a favorite for those visiting the resorts of Guanacaste, while the isolation of Uvita makes it a perfect place to hide out from the world. The youth and culture surrounding Montezuma make it the equivalent of a Southern California coastal community, and it’s impossible to take a photo of the white sands of Nosara that is less than postcard worthy. With such a diversity of experiences, one could spend a whole week in swim gear.
For the jungle explorer: Around 25 percent of the land in Costa Rica is in either a national park or other protected area, but the best to explore might be Corcovado National Park. Once called the “most biologically intense place on Earth” by National Geographic, Corcovado contains endangered species like the Baird’s tapir, a sort of pig-hippopotamus hybrid, and the Central American squirrel monkey. The stars of the show, though, are the two- and three-toed sloths. Other smaller parks and rainforests are scattered throughout the country, and tour operators take visitors sightseeing using everything from cars to zip lines.
For the luxury lounger: While the outdoors are attention-grabbing, there’s plenty of beauty to be found indoors as well. The view of the ocean from the room balconies at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort and Spa is tremendous, and the on-site spa includes saunas, pools and even palapas, or thatched-roof huts, to mix clean air with a massage. In San Jose, the Cala Luna Boutique Hotel and Villas features a poolside dining experience unrivaled, with local flavors and farm-to-table foods. Visiting the city is no excuse to skip finer living, either: The Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose is a converted Victorian mansion, with a secluded rooftop Jacuzzi terrace that has to be experienced to be believed.
Beach, jungle and luxury – Costa Rica has it all! Let your donors bid on a once-in-a-lifetime trip at your next gala auction. Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. Travel Expert today to get started!
Destination Spotlight: Augusta
February 04, 2015
There are a lot of signs of spring beyond longer and warmer days. For some, it’s the first day of baseball season. For others, it’s the return of music festivals, or maybe the first barbecue invite. But one of our favorite rites of the season is The Masters, one of golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournaments. Each year, the planet’s best golfers descend upon Augusta, Georgia for four days that could make or break a professional player’s career.
But while the biggest action may take place at the Augusta National Golf Club, the city and surrounding area has attractions for both golf aficionados and everyday travelers alike. At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we pride ourselves on creating once-in-a-lifetime travel packages for non-profit fundraising auctions, so our trips to Augusta features day badges to either one or two days of The Masters. But those hours on the golf course aren’t the only reasons to head to the city.
Thanks in part to Augusta’s age, there are plenty of fascinating architectural elements to explore. The Lamar Building, in the city’s Downtown Historic District, was built a century ago, but its rooftop glass enclosure was designed in the 1970s by famed architect I.M. Pei (he designed the pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris). The entire district, in fact, is on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its diversity of building styles; everything from Art Deco pieces to Craftsman homes can be found by discerning eyes.
That type of range can also be seen in local cuisine, where southern comfort food can be found steps away from white-cloth, upscale restaurants. High-end eateries like Le Maison are in major demand during The Masters; reservations are often made months in advance and credit cards are used to hold spots. But down-home diners like Ruth’s Family Restaurant have an appeal all their own, as well, with locals gossiping over biscuits and gravy during the breakfast rush.
But one of the best-kept secrets about the Augusta area is its natural beauty. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors (and maybe work up the appetite for those biscuits and gravy!) at local parks and other sights. Take a stroll along the Augusta Riverwalk, for instance, and stop and smell the flowers at its various gardens, along the Savannah River. Or rent a bike (or, for the more adventurous, a canoe) and explore the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area. Keep an eye on the boat tour schedule, too; the canal’s Music Cruises are popular ways to both experience the scenery and local culture, with bluegrass and beauty in equal measure.
The 2015 Masters start April 9 – and we’ve still got time to help you send a donor there! Contact a Mitch-Stuart, Inc. travel expert today.
Destination Spotlight: Hilton Head
January 06, 2015
Certain destinations are synonymous with their biggest attractions. It’s nearly impossible to think about Orlando without conjuring images of Disney World. A visit to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower is unimaginable. And when one thinks about Hilton Head Island, the resort community in South Carolina, golf is the first word to spring to mind. In the past, we’ve written about the amazing opportunities for golfers at Hilton Head
. The town has one of the highest concentrations of course available in the world, with difficulty ranging from professional-level to links appropriate for amateur hackers.
But Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s charity auction travel packages to Hilton Head are about more than just putters and drivers. The city has plenty for the non-golfer, whether it’s natural beauty, culture or fine dining. Whether it’s waiting for a family member to finish up a round, or looking for a refueling stop after 18 holes, Hilton Head Island has a lot to offer.
For instance, not all sand in Hilton Head belongs to a formidable golf course hazard. Coligny Beach is a lovely oceanside walk, with public access and nearby shopping and dining, while the Mitchellville Freedom Park features hiking and a look at the interesting history of Hilton Head Island. There’s a beach for every type of vacationer on the island, and they each can make for a great post-golf relaxation spot, an easy way to forget about that hooked drive or terrible three-putt.
In addition, Hilton Head has a lively arts scene, especially for a city of less than 40,000 residents (according to the last Census report). Touring Broadway musicals come to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina; shows like “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash” and “Gypsy” are on their way to the ACC in the first half of 2015. The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is also highly rated, and features Maestro John Morris Russell, a Conductor Designate of the world-renowned Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. For a less-formal cultural experience, the annual Hilton Head Island Arts Festival and Craft Marketplace allows visitors to both see beautiful works and take home a memento of the trip.
After a day on the golf course, frolicking on the beach or checking out the local art scene, travelers can have their pick of the island’s restaurants, spanning the world of cuisine. An eatery like A Lowcounty Backyard Restaurant replicates family cookouts convincingly, while Alexander’s Seafood is a white tablecloth experience with a wine list in the triple digits and a surf-and-turf-inspired menu. And throughout the year, Hilton Head plays host to a tremendous number of food festivals, like the Seafood Festival (held March 1-7 this year), the Wine and Food Festival (March 9 through 14) and the Beer, Bacon and Music Festival in May.
Ready to send a lucky auction winner to Hilton Head? Reach out to one of our representatives today!
December 17, 2014
For some, going on a cruise represents the chance to smell the ocean air and lounge in the beautiful weather of the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. For others, it’s the chance to visit either multiple islands at once or see wilderness only described in adventure novels (like the wilds of Alaska). Many enjoy the family bonding available on a cruise; the ships are great places for the entire family, with plenty of diversions for kids.
Still others, though, are there for the food.
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we put together charity auction travel packages for every type of traveler. We’ve got several great trips to explore the cuisine of big cities like New York City and smaller towns like Asheville, North Carolina. But some of the best food available to a traveler can be found aboard cruise ships, which combine a number of influences to provide a wide range of tastes and dishes to their clientele.
On each ship, the main room dining options are vast and the elegance is astounding – especially for an experience whose price is already “baked in” the price. The main dining rooms on the ships of Royal Caribbean deliver tremendous menus and great wine selection, all in an atmosphere that is upscale without feeling intimidating (as in, bring the kids!). As for the ships of Celebrity Cruises, the dining rooms of the Solstice and the Equinox were recognized by Travel + Leisure in 2009 as the “Best Cruise Ship Dining Rooms,” thanks to beautiful two-story wine towers and dishes like roasted California quail.
Main dining areas are only a few of the places where a cruise ship traveler can sate his or her hunger. Specialty restaurants serve fun takes on Italian, Mexican and seafood-based cuisine aboard most ships. And despite having to cater to a wide variety of tastes, ship cuisine can have some idiosyncratic fun, as well. At the Lawn Club Grill on Celebrity Cruises’ Silhouette and Reflection ships, diners get in on the action by grilling their own steaks. Each party gets to pick a “Grill Master,” who gets a lesson in open-flame cooking by helping one of the boat’s chef in preparing the main course. The Lawn Club Grill also offers classes on both grilling and pizza-making for those who would rather separate learning from dining.
But the newest highlight of the open water may be upping the bar for dining options. Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas features offerings from superstar chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz amid an 18-restaurant “menu.” Whether it’s top-notch bar food, Japanese small plates or even what RCI has taken to billing as “the first-ever food truck at sea,” the SeaPlex Dog House, every culinary itch can be scratched on board.
Destination Spotlight: Chicago
December 10, 2014
At Mitch-Stuart, Inc., we love working with non-profits to provide charity auction travel packages as fundraising tools. One of our favorite destinations is the Windy City, the one that gave the world the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Bill Murray and numerous politicians, athletes and influential figures. More than 30 million people visit Chicago as tourists each year, and with our travel packages, some of your donors can stay and play there, too.
Why send a supporter to Chicago?
Chicago has a lively culinary scene, with fascinating new restaurants opening on a weekly basis. But even with the diversity of options available, the city will likely always be known as the home of deep-dish pizza, the pie-like creation of Pizzeria Uno. Stuffed with cheese and overflowing with toppings, the pizza is popular enough with Midwesterners that it’s comparing it to New York-style pizza is a nationwide debate on the level of “Pepsi versus Coke.” Tours of area pizzerias (like the one offered with our “Leave a Pizza Your Heart in Chicago” – read it aloud – package) take on the feel of a Napa winery expedition, with different varieties of not only the famous deep-dish, but also “tavern-style” and the more familiar Neapolitan styles.
For those seeking a vibrant downtown center, Chicago provides urban travelers a cityscape filled with cultural monuments. Take an architectural tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, for instance, or explore the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. After taking in works of art all day, indulge in purchasing a work of art for your home (or your body!) on Magnificent Mile, the city’s premiere shopping destination with more than 3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and hotels.
But if one asks 100 people on the street to name a Chicago landmark, it’s quite possible that Wrigley Field may be the top answer. The home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, Wrigley was built in 1914 and has hosted All-Star Games, World Series (though never a championship for the Cubbies) and other major events. While the Cubs aren’t much of a threat to bring home a title any time soon, checking out a game either from inside the park or, as one Mitch-Stuart travel package offers, VIP rooftop seats across the street is a wonderful way to pass a summer afternoon.
Destination Spotlight: Colorado
November 11, 2014
The northeast is known for its foliage during the fall. Southern California and the Florida coast is known for sunny summer days and boardwalks. Washington D.C. is known for its springtime cherry blossoms (and government bustle). But when the snow starts to come down in earnest, Colorado gets its chance to shine.
Mitch-Stuart, Inc.’s charity auction travel packages can take donors all around the world, but there are few destinations that group luxury, natural beauty and outdoor activities quite like the Rocky Mountain State. Take a look at the options that are available to the traveler:
Skiing: Almost 20 percent of U.S. ski resort visits happen in the state of Colorado (more than the second- and third-place states combined), at one of the more than 20 resorts that belong to Colorado Ski Country USA, the non-profit organization that represents the state’s skiing community. It is big business for the state – it’s estimated that skiers and snowboarders contribute nearly $3 billion annually to the local economy – so it’s not a surprise that so many mountain towns are based in large part around resorts. And when it comes to skiing in Colorado, downhill may be king but cross-country skiers have almost as many options, both at resorts and at specialized Nordic centers in places like Aspen and Crested Butte.
Hiking and Mountain Biking: One doesn’t have to strap wood to one’s feet in order to enjoy those peaks, however. Many of the state’s 30,000 acres of skiable land, when not covered in snow, are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Beyond that, though, there are a staggering 58 mountain peaks in the state that break the 14,000-foot elevation barrier. There are hikes for the novice and the expert, whether it’s the short ascent to Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs or longer, more challenging climbs, like the 500-mile Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango. There are even mountain biking trails that ride along the Continental Divide (Monarch Crest) and to the top of mountain passes (Kenosha Pass).
Food and Drink Adventures: While the mountain communities have a long way to go before matching, say, Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, the microdistillery scene is alive and well in Colorado, stretching from Stranahan’s in Denver over to Woody Creek Distillers in the mountains outside of Aspen (the only distillery in America with control over every step of the vodka creation process). Microbreweries also dot the landscape, starting with the famed New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins (with an outlet in Snowmass, outside of Aspen).
Thinking of sending donors to the Mile High State? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart rep to find out how to offer a consignment, charity auction package sure to add the “WOW factor” to your gala!
Destination Spotlight: Bali
October 14, 2014
Many of the trips in the Mitch-Stuart catalog take donors on “dream vacations,” to the types of destinations that occupy the covers of travel magazines and the forefront of our travel thoughts. Sending contributors to New York City, Las Vegas or even Europe can fulfill wishes while also bringing in sizeable donations.
For some travelers, though, the “expected” may not be enough. Maybe they are seasoned travelers who have been all over the country. Perhaps they’re looking for a trip that can set them apart, one that’ll get the attention of everyone to whom the bidder tells the story. Or maybe the donor is shopping for a younger family member, one who may be more interested in a trip that doubles as an adventure.
If that’s the case, it may be time to talk about Bali.
An island in Indonesia, Bali has become a hot destination for travelers over the last few years. Prestigious travel magazine Travel and Leisure gave Bali its “Best Island” award in 2010, and it is regularly singled out for its stunning beaches in different guides. Being used as a setting in 2010’s “Eat Pray Love” film adaptation certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation, either.
Of course, as someone taking advantage of one of Mitch-Stuart’s charity auction travel packages, though, it’s about the “wow” factor. So what is it about Bali that can get an audience to gasp?
The culture: Art galleries like the Agung Rai Museum of Art in Ubud and the more abstract art-minded Randelli Gallery in Seminyak feature tremendous collections of both local and international works, and Balinese music has an interesting diversity, from traditional gong compositions to jegog, played on large bamboo instruments. But a cultural tour of Bali has to include checking out a barong dance performance. A traditional, sacred ritual, the dance centers on the mythical Barong, a lion-like beast and represents all that is good, in battle against the evil Rangda.
The outdoors: Snorkeling and diving? Check out Pulau Menjangan, a neighboring island accessible from Bali that features a nearly-unparalleled (in the region) coral reef. Hiking? Get to the village of Munduk, where waterfalls and lakes are only a short walk (or long walk, if you’d like) away. Want to run away from lava in slow motion like in an action movie? Don’t do that! But you can climb to the top of one of the island’s volcanos and pretend. There are plenty of ways for visitors to interact with nature in fun, active manners.
It’s beauty: It’s easy to describe almost anywhere in the world as “beautiful”; if one searches a country long enough, the land is sure to yield a stunning vista or two. But just look at the photos to the side, here. Between the lush green grasslands and the aqua blue Pacific Ocean drifting up on shore, postcard-worthy views are everywhere.
Want to hear more? Reach out to your Mitch-Stuart, Inc. representative today!
Destination Spotlight: The Caribbean
September 10, 2014
The average high temperature in Aruba peaks at 91 degrees in September, and falls all the way to … 80 degrees in January. In Bermuda, the highs run from 70 in the winter to 86 in the summer. Consistency is the norm for Caribbean weather, where any time of year is beach time.
No matter what style of vacation your donors seek, though, they can find it in the Caribbean. A consistent favorite for both travelers and auction organizers, travel packages for non-profit auctions that involve islands like the Bahamas, St. Croix and St. Thomas can fetch big money and really impress gala attendees. When a potential auction bidder sees the words “Caribbean vacation” on display, he or she may be thinking about several different types of trips.
Postcards sent home from Caribbean sojourns, of course, tend to emphasize beautiful beaches – and with good reason. The sands of Aruba, the Bahamas, St. Thomas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others, are all welcoming to beachgoers of all ages and stripes. For those who want to interact with the environment rather than pull up a chair and relax, there’s plenty of opportunities for everything from swimming with the dolphins to sailing or paddleboarding across the tops of the waves.
There’s more to island life than beaches, though. Head to Bermuda, for instance, for an adventure that includes art galleries and horseback rides. Tour the Cruzan Rum factory on St. Croix, or hike through the island’s rain forest. Pull out the credit card on St. Thomas for what many describe as the “duty-free shopping capital of the world.” Hit the hot spots of Aruba, with restaurants and bars in the resorts that line the beach. Not every Caribbean expedition requires sunscreen and bathing suits.
For the island-goers interested in sampling the entire region, the Caribbean Sea has, at any individual moment, one of the highest concentrations of cruise ships in the world. Make stops at all of the above islands and more, with excursions for beach lounging, shopping and exploring. Along the way, enjoy the luxuries of cruise travel, from expansive staterooms to all-you-can-eat meals and on-board entertainment. It’s like a Whitman’s Sampler of some of the most gorgeous travel destinations on the globe.
Fore Father’s Day…
June 10, 2014
When a charity auction trip aligns with a desire from a bidder, it means a satisfied donor and a big check to a worthy cause. This time of year, a top priority for plenty of shoppers is finding a gift for Father’s Day, and hopefully one that does not involve another necktie or barbecue grill gadget. One of the most common types of Father’s Day gifts is golf paraphernalia, be it a new oversized driver or a set of golf ball cufflinks. There’s an entire industry dedicated to creating golf-nut knick-knacks, and Father’s Day is that sector’s equivalent of Christmas.
It may be too late for Father’s Day 2014, but Mitch-Stuart offers several charity auction travel packages that make perfect gifts for fathers, whether it’s a son or daughter buying for a dad or a father buying himself a vacation. Give your donors the chance to take care of a gift occasion by offering (on consignment, as always) a trip to one of these destinations at auction:
Hilton Head: In terms of sheer density of golf courses, it may be difficult to beat Hilton Head, SC. There are more than 20 courses on the island itself, with another dozen-plus more in neighboring cities. Add in the possibility of year-round play, and it’s little wonder that the area is one of the country’s premier golf destinations. Each of Mitch-Stuart’s auction travel packages to the island include rounds at three different courses, and with our concierge service, extra outings can be arraigned with a single phone call.
Orlando: Every year, around the beginning of spring, the Arnold Palmer Invitational takes place at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge near Orlando, FL. Mitch-Stuart can’t get your donors on the course that weekend, but during the rest of the calendar year the winners of the “Bay Hill Brings You the Best of the Best” trip can play twice on the 18 holes used as a run-up to the Masters. Another package also comes with a one-hour private lesson with a golf academy instructor and a nine-hole “playing lesson” for those whose golf game is a little less Tiger and a little more Kitten.
St. Andrews: While golf is the world’s game, it can only have one true home. And that birthplace is in St. Andrews, a small town on the eastern coast of Scotland. It was here that the sport was first played, in the 1400s, and it also is the home town of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, one of two organizations in the world that sets the rules of the game. Bidders who win Mitch-Stuart’s “Home of Golf” package get a $900 gift card to be used at the Torrance or Kittocks courses at the five-star Fairmont of St. Andrews. In addition, while staying at the Fairmont, experienced travelers can enter the local lottery for a chance to play the Old Course, the world famous 18 that hosts The Open Championship every five years.
Travel with a Ticket
February 04, 2014
On February 6, the pitchers and catchers of the Arizona Diamondbacks will report to training camp in Scottsdale, AZ. They’ll be the first players to open pre-season workouts, and the first athletes to send the thoughts of sports fans racing to the spring months. But the return of baseball is far from the only sporting event to think about when the snow starts to melt and the days get longer; the calendar is loaded in the months of March, April and May with major events and championships in several sports that your donors might care about. Why not couple a charity auction travel opportunity with a ticket to a major spring sporting event? Mitch-Stuart has you covered, with trips revolving around everything from one of America’s oldest sporting events to one of the country’s most prestigious golf tournaments.
Since 1934, the Masters Tournament has held a special place in the hearts of golf fans. Traditionally the first of the PGA Tour’s four “major” tournaments each year, it takes place in Augusta, GA. every April, a time of year when the temperature averages in the 70s and there is little precipitation. It’s a perfect setting for a vacation, too, with Hickory Knob Resort State Park and the cities of Savannah and Atlanta all within reasonable driving distance.
Not every sports fan craves the tranquility of the links, though. For those who like their competition to be a bit louder, consider heading to the capital of Indiana for the Indianapolis 500. More than 250,000 fans cram into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over Memorial Day weekend to see their favorite drivers race while enjoying experiences ranging from infield tailgating to, as Mitch-Stuart has arraigned for charity auction winners, seats in the Penthouse Tower. It’s a holiday weekend away at one of the most prestigious race events in the world.
Cars at the Indy 500 can boast of more than 600 horsepower, but in Kentucky, the most important race is between combatants that don’t need engines at all. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and is not just a sporting event, but a way of life for residents and expatriates of the Bluegrass State. The Mitch-Stuart travel package takes winners to both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks race on the day prior, while even taking care of souvenirs. Bring your own big hats, though.