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Five Reasons Why: Australia

July 31, 2019
Every country has its own unique qualities, of course, but there is no place in the world quite like Australia. The extremes are breathtaking; the island nation has some of the most desolate land in the world, alongside cosmopolitan big cities like Sydney. It is mostly a desert, but parts in the winter see snow -- and there are even ski resorts in the southeastern corner of the country. It’s a land of natural beauty, of architecture (the Sydney Opera House has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site) and of friendly people.

Want to offer a trip to the land down under at your fundraising auction? Here are five – of many – reasons why your donors should want to bid on a travel package to Australia.

The Reef: What can be said about one of the world’s greatest natural wonders? The Great Barrier Reef is a coral reef system that’s large enough to be seen from space. It’s a bucket-list item for many travelers, both experienced and novice. And, due to weather conditions and other problems, it’s in danger of being lost forever. That being said, tourists can still visit, snorkel and dive there, as long as they’re responsible: Don’t destroy anything that comes in contact and wear the appropriate sunscreen for diving (some sunscreens are toxic to the coral).

The Views: Ever seen a pink lake? Australia’s got that. The Twelve Apostles are a series of limestone towers found on the beach, right off of Great Ocean Road; it’s a great stop along the scenic road-trip favorite. Australia’s wildlands are some of the most beautiful, interesting, and untouched by people on the planet. Your donors will see things here that they’ll never see elsewhere.

The Serenity: Because of its isolation from the population centers of the world, Australia never feels too crowded. In 2018, the country welcomed 9.2 million visitors; for context, the United Kingdom saw 39.2 million tourists arrive on its shores. Take a trip to one of the island nation’s natural beauties, like King’s Canyon (essentially Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon), and you’ll be amazed at how few tourists line the perimeter.

The Animals: A quick trip to Kangaroo Island will make any kid (or “adult kid”) happy. Forget zoos; Kangaroo Island is practically a habitat; with so few predators there, it’s possible to see kangaroos (hence the name), koalas, and others here, in the wild. And for those “adult kids,” Kangaroo Island is also the home of 12 different wineries, many of which specialize in Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Harbour: Cliché? Maybe. It’s possible that your donors could trace the outline of the Sydney Harbour skyline from memory, just from seeing it on television, in movies or in photos online. But to be there, in person, and to look upon the Sydney Opera House at sunset? It’s one of the most beautiful tableaus in the world.

Follow in Their Footsteps

July 24, 2019
There are plenty of ways to create an itinerary while travel. You can follow in the footsteps of the travel journalists who have been there before, seeking out the newest and the most interesting. You can follow in the footsteps of the crowds, seeing the major monuments and tourist areas (they’re usually popular for a reason).

Instead … how about following in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh?

There are some cities that are so synonymous with a local celebrity that the entire town becomes a living shrine. Pubs, cafes and even streets are named after native sons and daughters. Childhood homes are preserved. For the more recent deified, there are photos behind bars or counters of fan interactions.

If you want to see a destination through the eyes of the city’s favorite son or daughter, we’ve got tours built into several of our non-profit fundraising auction travel packages that allow you to do exactly that.

Barcelona has quite a few different locals worthy of acclaim, be it artists, musicians, or even soccer players (trust that there will someday be a tour called “Lionel Messi’s Barcelona,” based on the local team’s world-class striker). But touring the life of Antoni Gaudi also means getting to see the works of the architect. The biggest proponent of what was known as Catalan Modernism (think gothic revival mixed with medieval styles), Gaudi has seven works that have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Barcelona is ground zero for his buildings.

While Gaudi is very closely associated with Barcelona, Van Gogh counted plenty of cities as home during his life and career. But one has a tremendous walking tour that we’ve included as a part of a travel package. Amsterdam is the home of the Van Gogh museum, and a guided tour following in his footsteps also can take your donors to Nuenen, a town very important to his early career.

There’s one destination, however, that’s built around its most famous resident at any given moment. The Vatican is the home of the Catholic Church, which makes it a living monument to the current Pope and those that came before him. Tours of the Vatican invariably teach visitors not just about the space itself, but its former occupants. Going back to the official creation of the Vatican in 1929, Catholic history has been inexorably tied to this parcel of land, less than 125 acres in size.

Summer Beach Reading

July 17, 2019
There are plenty of ways to relax on the beach, whether it’s jumping into the ocean, getting in a game of beach volleyball, or simply walking along the tide line. But at least since The New York Times published a “Vacation Reading List” in 1976, the act of reading on the beach has become not just popular, but commercially important. Publishers up and down Manhattan work to make sure they’ve got splashy beach reads timed for release either during the summer or in the near runup to it.

But beach reads, just like films or music, can also inspire. So not only can your donors head to the beach with great entertainment, but certain books can also inspire them to want to travel, based on gorgeous word pictures and descriptions of a locale’s energy.

Here are some of our favorite beach reads in 2019, each one set in one of our favorite destinations.

“The Last Resort,” by Marissa Stapley: Picked by O magazine as one of its “28 Best Beach Reads of 2019,” Stapley’s follow-up to the well-reviewed “Things to Do When It’s Raining” takes place in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera (think Cancun), at a resort for couples trying to save their marriages. It’s a story of secrets, of storms and of a Mexican paradise.

“Park Avenue Summer,” by Renee Rosen: Another book from Oprah’s 2019 list (what can we say – she has good taste!), it’s a semi-fictional version of Helen Gurley Brown’s term as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Essentially, think of the New York of “Sex in the City,” then turn back the clock and make it even more glamorous. It’ll make you feel like New York is a city of unending possibility.

Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain: It’s been mentioned by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the top summer reads of 2019, and it will make you book a flight to Paris immediately. A group of four near-strangers share a bottle of wine, and the next morning wake up in 1954 with the chance to explore the Paris of Piaf, Brassai, and some of the best jazz bars to ever exist.

“The Golden Hour,” Beatriz Williams: Head to the Bahamas of 1941 with Williams for a tale of a journalist covering the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during World War II. It’s a Good Housekeeping summer book pick, and it’s received good reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Bloomberg.

“Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes: No, it’s not new. But if you’re going to go to Tuscany, there may not be a better appetizer than this story of renovation and rejuvenation in the Italian countryside. And those who might have been spoiled by the movie, know that the film goes a whole different direction than the book.

Nature in the City

July 10, 2019
Central Park in New York City is technically not the oldest urban park in America; that honor goes to Boston Common, which was established in 1634. But Manhattan’s 800-plus acre oasis is likely the first that comes to mind when thinking about travelworthy city green space.

But while there’s a lot to do within Central Park, it’s not the only urban park that should be going on your donors’ itineraries. In fact, several of our favorite non-profit fundraising auction travel package involve destinations with wonderful open spaces that are attractions on their own. If your supporters want to find a trip where there’s a temporary escape from the concrete jungle, they should consider one of these cities.

The most famous open space in Washington D.C. is likely the National Mall. But while the city is not large geographically, it still features Rock Creek Park, which runs through the center of town and is twice the size of Central Park. It’s the home of the National Zoo, the city’s planetarium, a concert venue, tennis courts that host the Citi Open (previous winners have included Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, among other superstars) and a variety of hiking trails.

The car-centric culture of Los Angeles would make many assume that every inch of the city is paved over for roads. But then there’s Griffith Park, with its 4,000 acres – much of which are wildlands. A hike through the park can make your donors feel like they’re far away from civilization, until they come across one of Griffith’s attractions; it’s the home of the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Theatre and the Autry Museum of the American West. One of the most interesting attractions, though, isn’t even open for business, per se: The Griffith Park Zoo closed in 1966, but its ruins remain, and it’s become a favorite picnicking spot for Angelenos.

A drive north from L.A., San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is only a quarter of the size of Griffith Park, but it makes up for its smaller stature with a tremendous number of attractions, like the Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Museum, the city’s botanical garden, a bison paddock, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It’s also home to one of the country’s biggest yearly music festivals, Outside Lands, which traditionally takes place in August.

In New Orleans, the city’s aptly named City Park is also home to a travelworthy music event: the yearly New Orleans Jazz Festival at the end of April and the beginning of May. But City Park isn’t alive just for two weekends in the spring. It’s got options for golfers (two full courses and even 36 holes of mini-putt – one of which features a giant pot of gumbo!), art fans (the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden), and plenty for kids, like the Carousal Gardens Amusement Park.

Finally, Vancouver also gets in the act with Stanley Park, which has plenty of natural features. The seawall is the longest uninterrupted waterfront walkway in the world, while hiking trails are abundant. The park has been preserved in its wild state as much as possible throughout the years, so it’s perfect for donors who might prefer interacting with nature as much as possible when escaping city life.

The Great American Burger

July 03, 2019
The hamburger may not technically be an American invention – it’s lineage is disputed thanks to a lack of detailed historical accounts, and its name very likely has some connection to Hamburg, Germany – but every July 4th, it certainly feels like it’s perfected by the good ol’ US of A.

Foodie supporters will go a long way for a Michelin-starred meal, or a celebrity chef. But they’re also as likely to want to travel for a good brewery, the best slice of pizza, or, yes, the best hamburger they’ve ever had. If you’ve got donors who love to travel for great food, these burger-friendly cities could be memory-making destinations.

New York: When foodie website The Daily Meal ranked the best 101 burgers in America last year, the Big Apple placed three in the top 10 and five in the top 15. And that doesn’t count the legendary burger at Raoul’s: Only 12 are made per night, and if you’re not there when the kitchen fires up for dinner, you’re probably not getting one. It almost feels like cheating to say that New York has some of the top burgers in the country, considering that there are so many options, but the proof is in the patty.

Chicago: Like any other major metro area, the Second City has its share of hamburgers with interesting ingredients, secret recipes, and the highest of high-end meat. But Chi-Town also has some of the great diner burgers of the country. This includes the one at Billy Goat Tavern; the restaurant was the inspiration for the classic Saturday Night Live “Cheeseburger” sketch.

New Orleans: The Crescent City is another place where the burgers don’t have to be fancy to be tasty. Neighborhood joints like GB’s Patio Bar & Grill are mentioned in the same breath as fancier establishments. But The Company Burger has been one of the talks of the town since the eatery opened almost a decade ago. It’s mix of Angus beef and homemade buns elevated what looks like a simple diner burger into what food website Serious Eats called a “game-changing cheeseburger.”

Los Angeles: When chefs started to re-examine the burger in the late 1990s, refocusing their efforts on making the best version possible, L.A. and New York were at the forefront. In Los Angeles, chef Sang Yoon’s Office Burger, served from his restaurant/bar Father’s Office, was one of the first “great” burgers to get national press, and it is still beloved today (just don’t ask for modifications – none are allowed). Of course, both before and after the burger renaissance, Southern California is also the home of In-N-Out Burger, which is so popular with visitors that one of the store’s busiest locations is just blocks from Los Angeles International Airport.