Tuesday, November 20, 2007

IAAPA was great!

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida last week was wonderful!

This showcase brings so many different vendors under one roof that it makes your head spin. Special effects, inflatables, hot dog carts, rides, animatronics, scenery, vending, ticketing, maintainance, popcorn machines, software, 3-D theaters and even dinner in the sky.

The sights, sounds and smells were amazing!
One of my favorite displays was from Scarefactory. This animatronic headless horseman reared up on it's hind legs while the horseman swung his sword...very cool.

The Expo can be overwhelming in it's size and complexity. Preplanning helps but so many things grab your attention once inside. This is the place to find amusement and attraction vendors and see the latest in the industry. IAAPA will be returning next fall to Orlando and non-members are usually invited on the last day. I'll see you there!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Being all things to all people

Aesop once said, "Please all and you will please none."

Trying to please everyone is a tempting trap but doomed to failure. Chuck McKay at Fishing for Customers has a great post about the benefits of specialization. He makes the point that specialists are more successful than generalists but everyone is afraid of leaving potential customers behind. Chuck argues that it doesn't work that way. He makes a good case for rethinking your strategy and defining yourself more precisely.

This applies to hotels, restaurants, tours, attractions, museums, people and every aspect of the tourism business. What is your brand really? What are you known for?

Even cities have a certain quality, a distinct personality that sets them apart. Boston isn't the same as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami or Washington, D.C.; the list goes on and on. They don't even try to be. But there is something I see more and more in my travels. The homogenization of many aspects of these cities. The loss of local flavor and personality. Starbucks is a classic and overused example. So is Walmart. But it exists on a smaller scale too. How many times can you visit similar sites, tours, eateries and experiences everywhere you go before it doesn't matter where you go. It's all the same.

Travelers today seem to want familiar and unusual. Variety and sameness. The opportunity lies in specialization whether for yourself or your tourism related business. Don't try to be like everyone else. Don't say "me too!" anymore. Decide who you are and be it with all your might.

Will you "miss" some customers at the end of the day...yes. The upside is developing a true identity in the marketplace and creating loyal, even rabid, fans.

Who are you and why should I give you my money? Better decide before it's too late.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spy secrets revealed

When you tour Washington D.C. you have to visit the very popular International Spy Museum. This one-of-a-kind museum has hosted over 3 Million visitors since it opened in 2002. Here's a nice video of the concept from VOA. Here are some good photos at Flickr, too! Fun example of taking an interesting subject like spying secrets and turning it into a tourist attraction. What's your interesting idea?

Monday, November 05, 2007


Air Force Brigadier General Paul Tibbets just died. He was 92 years old and requested that no funeral be held and no marker be placed on his grave. He was concerned that these memorials might draw protest. Protest for what he and his crew flying the Enola Gay did on August 6, 1945. They dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. It's estimated that over 200,000 people lost their lives as a result of these two explosions. Six days later World War II ended with the surrender of Japan.

My Uncle Harry was one of almost a million U.S. soldiers staged in the Philippines at that time...waiting to see if the bombs ended the war. If they did not, an invasion was planned.

I learned this weekend about a program called Honor Flight dedicated to bringing the remaining World War II veterans to Washington D.C. at no cost to tour the WWII Memorial in their honor. They estimate that 1200 of these veterans are passing away each day. I saw a man in the street that wore a t-shirt saying "Freedom isn't really free." The Sky and Sea Spectacular took place in Jacksonville, Florida this weekend featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. It all reminded me of my mother and my father and a visit I made earlier this year to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It all made me pause and reflect.

During these challenging times, I think it's important to take the long view. Now is an excellent time to look back on American history and see where we came from and where we are going. Here are a few spots to get you started.

Tour Boston and walk the Freedom Trail. Visit Paul Revere's house and tour Old Ironsides. Stand in the Old South Meeting House and visit Fanueil Hall.

Tour Washington D.C. and see where laws are made. Tour Mount Vernon and Ford's theater. Stand at the Wall and visit all the monuments to our Nation and it's citizens.

Tour Philadelphia and see the Liberty Bell. Be moved at the National Constitution Center and visit Independence Hall. Experience where it all began.

There are thousands of stories and places and people but time is running out for some. Spend a little time with the Greatest Generation before they are all gone. Thank them for their sacrifices and humble service to America. Travel and tour the places where history was made. Do it now. Thanks, Mom and Dad...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We're Expanding

A spirited discussion at Theme Park Insider about ride seats not being big enough for many guests. It seems that adults and children are getting bigger since many of the attraction rides and vehicles were first designed. This debate extends to the travel industry also. It's a sensitive subject for many and the leading tourism, travel and hospitality industries are rethinking and redesigning for today's larger guests. A good time to look around your vehicles and facilities to see if you are keeping up with current trends.

From my perspective, guests are getting larger in general. School groups now have ten year olds as tall as their teachers. This is a trend that is not going to decline. So, how do we accommodate this trend? As you'll see from the discussions, some believe we shouldn't at all. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghosts and Gravestones for all

The Night of all nights is here!... they all scream.
Samhain...Walpurgisnacht...All Hallows Eve.
The shadows lengthen as the moon soars up high.
Witches and goblins and ghosts will fly by.
Tonight is the night to enjoy Ghosts and Gravestones.
Legends and stories. Headstones and fake bones.
The Trolley of the Doomed will soon take you there.
Twisting and turning...stopping to stare.
It's all in good fun. It's all meant to please.
Join us right now... your fears we will tease.
Some characters you'll see to give you a fright.
Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night...
Join us in Boston, Savannah and St. Augustine year round for Ghosts and Gravestones...if you dare!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I love Disney

I love Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida because of the details. The extraordinary details of every experience within those walls. Yes, I understand that it is a created world. Yes, I will still visit Europe even though I've been to Epcot and yes, I get the part about the crowds, prices and merchandising. Still, I love it.

For example, I was there for the weekend and wanted to ride Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Got there early and headed for "Asia" to get my fastpass (sweet). Imagine my surprise when I crossed the bridge, looked to my right and there was "Everest" rising up above the river. Everyone stopped to look and snap photos. No, it was not even close to the size and grandeur of the real Mount Everest but that's not what it's intended to be. I love Disney because I take it for what it is. A themed experience. A recreated wonderland of sights and sounds. An appetizer and a dessert and sometimes the main dish. Now that I saw the mountain, I couldn't wait to ride the ride and wasn't disappointed. From the fantastic Tibetan queue line scenery to the exciting runaway train premise that pushed us back in our seats to avoid the Yeti, this coaster experience delivered.

So many attractions and tourist offerings fall short for me because the details are missing. They just go part of the way with just a little theming or a mediocre program. Lackluster staff or dirty grounds. You can tell when effort is made and that's one of the ways Disney stands out for me. They make the effort every day.

My highlights for this trip included Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, Tower of Terror at MGM, Test Track at Epcot and of course, the Food and Wine Festival. This is my third year at the festival and I enjoy it every time. Started with pomegranate kirs and escargot in France and finished with sushi and Kirin Ichiban's in Japan. It's fun to speak to the staff from the native countries represented but I was baffled by Oklahoma this year. The whole staff was from Michigan! Go figure. Even Disney can miss the details once in awhile. More photos of my Disney adventure at Flickr.

Another great visit to Walt Disney World because I paced myself and took the time to explore. Hope you get a chance to visit the Food and Wine Festival before it ends. I can't recommend the lamb chops but I can suggest the 12th anniversary Sam Adams Lager. Good stuff. See you in Orlando.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

San Diego Zoo animals are safe

The Disney Blog reports that animals at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park are safe but some of the grounds were damaged. Employees are on hand to help with fire control and care for the animals. Hang in there.

San Diego Fires

Our best thoughts are with our extraordinary team at Old Town Trolley in San Diego, California. Battling the fires with the dry conditions and high winds is a tall order. Losing your home in the blink of an eye is devastating. Stay safe and let us know how we can all help.
To see how difficult this situation is go to Flickr photos here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shuttle Discovery you are go for launch

Shuttle Discovery launched from the Kennedy Space Center complex at 11:38 and was a sight to behold! Up, up, up into the burning blue. A beautiful white trail with a little fire at the end and she was out of sight.

Don't forget that the Shuttle is soon to retire. Get it while it's hot. I got an email from KSC last week saying they still had a few viewing spaces available for today's launch, just a week out. That's good news if you want to see one of these modern marvels of technology before it's too late. Here's the latest from NASA

One small step...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trusted Tours Halloween Roundup

I have always loved Halloween...

It was my first experience at becoming another character, assuming another identity for just a little while. No, I didn't just put on a costume. I became that character. My early memories are vague and fuzzy. A hobo, a devil, a clown. As I got older the costumes became more sophisticated...more realistic. Now, I portray historical characters year round but Halloween holds a special place in my heart. Walpurgisnacht...All Hallows Eve...Samhain. Here is a roundup in one convenient location of our haunted tours and attractions at Trusted Tours. Enjoy!

Atlanta Segway Ghosts and Legends Tour

Boston Ghosts and Gravestones

Salem Witch Museum

Plymouth Historic Cemetery Tour

Plymouth Twilight Ghost Tour

Charleston Ghost and Legends

Charleston Historic Homes Tour

Chicago Colombian Exposition Tour (the White City)

Key West Ghost Tour

Key West Ghosts and Legends

Key West Ripley's Museum

Key West Harry S. Truman Little White House

Key West Ernest Hemingway Home

Key West Shipwreck Historeum

Las Vegas Hoover Dam Jeep Tour

Las Vegas Eldorado Canyon and Gold Mine Tour

Las Vegas Madam Tussuad's Wax Museum

Hollywood Behind the Scenes Tour

Los Angeles Go Card (Queen Mary. Really creepy)

Memphis Haunted Pub Crawl (Many Spirits)

Memphis Ghost Tour

Miami Go Card (Coral Castle, Vizcaya, Deering Estate)

New Orleans Voodoo Tour

New Orleans Vampire Tour (nice)

New Orleans Ghost Tour

New Orleans Cemetery Tour

New Orleans Cemetery and Gris Gris Tour

New Orleans Ghost and Spirits Tour

New Orleans Bayou and Swamp Adventure

New Orleans Garden District Ghosts and Legends

New York Madame Tussuad's Wax Museum (I think it's creepy. Good haunted trail here,too!)

New York City Pass

Niagara Falls Tour

Orlando Go Card (Ripley's Odditorium, Haunted Grimm House)

Philadelphia City Pass

San Diego Haunted Ghost Tour

San Diego Haunted Old Town

San Diego USS Midway

San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf Wax Museum

San Francisco Alcatraz Cruise

San Francisco Muir Woods/Sausalito

Savannah Ghosts and Gravestones

Savannah Owens Thomas House

Savannah Sorrel-Weed House

Savannah Telfair Academy

Savannah Ghosts Tour

Savannah Sorrel-Weed Candlelight Tour

Savannah Historic Homes Tour

St. Augustine Ghosts and Gravestones

St Augustine Old Jail

St. Augustine Lightner Museum

Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight

Washington DC Madam Tussuad's Wax Museum

Washington DC Georgetown Ghost Tour

Washington DC Segway Night Tour

Washington DC Mount Vernon Tour

Happy Halloween. See you in the Cemetery...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Respecting each other

(Image by way of Seth Godin and Purple Cow. One of my favorite books.)

Nice post at communityguy.com by Jake McKee about respecting your customers. Turns out that when he worked at Lego sometimes folks there thought that passionate customers who bought huge quantities of Lego's were odd. His point is that all of us are odd and we should respect those differences.

I work with Creatives every day and think this analogy extends internally as well as externally for people in the tourism business. You should never have disdain for your guests or customers since we all have our parlor tricks and don't be so quick to dismiss your co-workers as "weird", "strange" or "odd" either.

I remember my 8th grade yearbook filled with comments about me like, "you're not like anyone else I know" or "you're the strangest person I have ever met". At the time, I wasn't sure how to take these remarks but now I get it. Of course, I was different. These critical differences have led to my success today. I managed to nuture my interesting qualities and navigate the real world at the same time. (I thank my family and friends for encouraging that process!)

I often think of the creatives I work with as the Island of Misfit Toys and born out of that stew of different viewpoints, backgrounds and approaches comes massive creativity. I'm often surprised, astonished and delighted at the ideas, fresh approaches and unattainable visions that come from these sessions which lead to real, measurable, outstanding tours, performances and presentations. Most days it's like herding cats. That scares some people.

Where would we be if everyone looked, thought and acted the same way? Pretty boring! We spend so much time with people in this business that it is easy to get jaded and look for the worst. So the next time you are quick to judge someone who isn't like you, take a moment and be thankful. What a wonderful world we live in filled with interesting people. Vive la difference...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Ghosting in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is a town I enjoy. History, architecture and creepiness combine with creative, eccentric folks living there for a singular experience. Of course, it rained non-stop.
I was doing a ride-along on our Ghosts and Gravestones in Savannah, which starts at the riverfront and goes to the Sorrel Weed House for the big finish. As always, I had a blast.
The ghost stories are well told and the atmosphere of the Sorrel Weed House is spooky. (Major kudos to Danica for the excellent design and art work of the Voodoo Room.) Everyone contributes so much here and SCAD is a great resource.
Both Savannah and St. Augustine have a natural creepiness similar to New Orleans in my opinion. Maybe it's the spanish moss? Just seems to be a thickness, a heaviness that lingers over them and makes the shadows longer. One of my favorite things is to walk in these towns when they are quiet and dark. Listening, looking and remembering. See you in Savannah.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ghosting in St. Augustine

Had the pleasure of a ride-along on our Ghosts and Gravestones in St. Augustine, Florida and was blown away by the Ghost Characters again. Part of my job with Historic Tours of America is reviewing our offerings for quality assurance and I'm usually delighted. Tonight was no exception.
We are graced here with excellent actors from both Flagler College and Pedro Menendez High School. When our ghost host revealed that he was a high school senior I was floored! A very seasoned performance.
Going into The Spanish Military Hospital, The Old Drug Store and the finale at The Old Jail was just spine-tingling. Every character we met in these places was outstanding. Great storytelling.
You never feel alone in this town, even when the streets are empty. Four Hundred and Forty-two years of conflict, high emotion and unfinished business have left their lingering impressions in St. Augustine. As we approach Halloween, the air becomes a little thicker and the unseen voices a little louder. See you at the cemetery...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Perfect Crab Cake

Get this. I'm trying a new restaurant called the Shellfish Grille in St. Augustine, Florida near my house when the waiter introduces himself and announces the specials. Mussels, Pasta, Fish of the day and then...crab cakes. He said "Crab cakes" just like that. I fixed his gaze on mine and said as I have hundreds of times before, "I'm from Maryland...are they really good?"
Now most servers given this information would begin to backpedal. Knowing I'm a Marylander, born on the Chesapeake with Old Bay seasoning in my veins they would say something like, "Well, many people order them" or "they're popular around here" to quietly steer me away from a mediocre cake.
Our waiter did no such thing. In fact he leaned into me just a bit with a slight smile and said, "They're really, really good." Piffle, I thought. The gauntlet is thrown. Bring on the alleged Crab Cakes!
I sat rehearsing my reaction when he would bring the so-called crab cakes out from the kitchen. So confident...so cocky. As I had so many times before, I would take a small bite, roll my eyes and in a voice loud enough for all to hear announce, "These are okay, but not as good as the ones in Maryland." Triumph! I couldn't wait to put them in their place.
To me the perfect crab cake is loaded with fresh lump meat and light seasoning. Just enough binder to hold it together and heated golden brown. Many of the ones I've tried over the years are like deep fried, crab-flavored turkey stuffing and filled with onions and peppers. Awful.
You must know this about me. I'm a foodie. Not a food snob. I love fresh food prepared with care. Whether it's creme brulee or vanilla pudding. Filet mignon or hamburgers. Make it right. Care about what you do. I have driven two hours out of my way and passed 100 restaurants to get to that one place that makes great BBQ. I know...
The moment of truth quickly arrived at the Shellfish Grille and the plate was set before me. True, the cakes looked good. Golden brown, lump crab meat. I took a generous bite and dropped my fork. Images flooded my mind from long ago. On the pier lifting the crab traps... sitting with my mother at Timbuktu's... at the Narrows Restaurant on the Eastern Shore...Captain Billy's laugh at Pope's Creek.
I quickly wiped a tear from my cheek as the waiter asked again. "How are they?" I wanted to run to the kitchen and kiss the chef. All I managed was to squeak out, "These are the best Crab Cakes I've eaten in Florida." And they were.
I've returned to eat the crab cakes at the Shellfish Grille again and again. Like a father checking on his newborn child, I have to look just one more time. Now I've joined the Cult of the Crab Cake there. The members exchange knowing glances across the crowded dining room and share stories of other, lesser cakes from the past. We all now live in a secret Crab Cake paradise in St. Augustine, Florida. I am content...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Disney 2008 Dream Catalog

Here it is: Disney's 2008 Dream Catalog. The new, extended Year of a Million Dreams includes "dreams money can't buy." These special events will be given away to lucky recipients visiting Disney Parks.
How about attending the premier of High School Musical 3 or being the guest of honor at the largest character breakfast...ever? Sounds fantastic.
I'll be in Orlando, Florida soon for the International Food and Wine Festival but now I need to read my catalog and Dream...

Blogorlando a hit!

Three cheers for Josh Hallett and his friends. Blogorlando was spectacular! Well, as spectacular as an "unconference" on blogging should be.
We gathered at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida to learn, share and participate with some of the sharpest minds available. Many don't see the opportunity but every tourism related business would benefit from joining the conversation here.
Social media, networking and web presence were discussed and debated throughout the day. One highlight was Shel Israel, author of Naked Conversations who kicked off the events and added great insight. He was generous with his time and his knowledge. So were all of the speakers there, really. Great group of people.
You can learn more about Blogorlando here. Time to start talking with people who care.
Giddy up...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Theme Parks Sold

Theme Park Insider brings us the update from Orlando, Florida about the auction for Cypress Gardens and Wild Adventures Theme Parks I posted about earlier. I wish them well.

Restistance is futile

We resist Change. Change is inevitable. What now?

The buggy whip company and the iceman lose their market. I once read: "How many great railroad companies from the 1800's became great airline companies in the 1900's? Zero. They were too busy trying to promote the railroad at the time."
Surely the airplane is a passing fad?
Change is inevitable.
Great post at Passport to Dreams Old and New about changing at Disney. Sometimes the attractions we love or remember fondly go away and something new takes their place. This is a successful strategy for Disney and others. It keeps things fresh for the guests and allows them to return over and over. It's a blend and a balance of the old and the new. I suspect that the Haunted Mansion will never go away but elements will be refurbished, renewed and improved.
Fear of Loss is much more powerful than Desire for Gain. That is why change is difficult.
Is it time to change something in your world? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Most Haunted Live. Mark your calenders.

Clear your schedule, pack a cooler and strap yourself in on October 19th at 9pm when the Travel Channel presents Most Haunted Live at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, just south of San Francisco.

A Seven (yes, I said seven) Hour marathon of paranormal investigation and things that go bump in the night. I'm exhausted already. How will they maintain such an event before the channel changes? I do not know. Guess we'll have to watch and see...er...wait a minute. No doubt, it's gonna be a hootenanny.

The Winchester Mystery House was creepy when I visited during the day. I can only imagine how it will be at night. Interestingly you can interact with the investigation team online offering suggestions for room searches, etc. Great way to lead up to Halloween my Friends. Just don't call me for seven hours on October 19th. (Whew!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Red Bull Air Race in San Diego

Our SEAL Tour crew at Old Town Trolley in San Diego, California is all a twitter about the Red Bull Air Races this past weekend. Here is a great Youtube video from Between Random Planets showing an earlier practice takeoff from the USS Midway which is now a tourist attraction in San Diego.
The interesting thing for me is how events are becoming more like attractions in some places. The draw is often excellent and folks follow these types of events like concerts by their favorite band. It's an interesting, reborn model for tourism.
My first question would be, does it help the local economy?
Experience from the Superbowl would suggest that not every type of business benefits from big draw events in their community.
Can local repetitive events compete with standing tourist attractions? Are they an enhancement or a distraction?
With so many activities competing for our limited time and attention, perhaps these types of events are the wave of the future for some tourism businesses. Museums have great success with traveling exhibits like Tutankhamun. Then again, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the traveling circus and eventually developed permanent locations. Now they are sending out traveling shows again!
We sure need to be flexible these days don't we? I guess everything old is new again. See you in San Diego.

Space Shuttle Discovery Prepares

Space Shuttle Discovery has begun it's journey for a scheduled October 23rd launch at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Check out the process at Spaceflightnow. (Great photos too!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Legoland: Still playing with Legos

Legoland in Carlsbad, California near San Diego, California has won the prestigious 2007 Golden Ticket Award for Best Children's Park.
I loved Legos growing up and spent hours playing with them. Now my daughter is amazed to see the complex sculptures that are made out of them at places like Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. Some things never grow old.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wowing your guests

Great article by way of Brand Autopsy from Jeffrey Summers at Building Better Restaurants about removing Host stands at restaurants. Makes a good case against them. But what takes it's place? How do you meet and greet your guests?

This of course applies to many tourist venues, not just restaurants. My best meet and greet experience happened in Baltimore, Maryland years ago. I went to a restaurant in "Little Italy" and could not believe how they handled me. I was warmly greeted at the door which was held open so I could see the next greeter at the bottom of the stairs who led us up to the next greeter at the top of the stairs who introduced us to our waiter who then sat us at our special table! Each of them was introduced by name and all the while they chatted with us and made us feel like family. Big smiles, great eye contact and what I call the "Verbal Embrace".

Nothing annoys me more than being greeted by someone who wishes they were someplace else. No enthusiasm, no interest. They just don't seem to care. By the time I reached my table in Baltimore they could have served me anything and I would have enjoyed it!

That's the power of good first impressions and sincere human connections. Of course, many tourism businesses rely on quality interactions with their guests. Is it time to spruce up your daily guest contacts? These moments should be like a dog wagging it's tail with joy when it sees you. Otherwise, I could just stay home.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Halloween is just around the corner and one of my favorite Holidays. As a kid, it was the candy. Now, it's the fantasy. I love seeing people dress up and become other characters. (You can tell a lot about people by the characters they choose). Pirates, Pop stars or witches the spectacle is endless.

The photo is from our Ghosts & Gravestones tour in Boston, MA. We also have them in Savannah, GA and St. Augustine, FL. All of them are different and each of them is a blast.
I'm involved with ghosts and storytelling year round but the height of the season is that day of days, October 31st. What are you doing this year? Countdown begins!

If you need some inspiration visit Bucky's Boneyard or the Monster List of Halloween Projects.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pirate Soul

Just came across a Historic Tours of America team visit pic from Pat Croce's Pirate Soul Museum in Key West, Florida. We were previewing it when it first opened and I have been back many times. It sort of combines acting and storytelling like our Shipwreck Historeum and the treasures of Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum with an enhanced, rollicking pirate theme.

Of course, the Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean, clone helps and snappy technologies imagineered inside are great but what I like best is the storytelling and authentic artifacts like the flag in the photo. This is one of only two, known, surviving Jolly Roger pirate flags in the world! In a fairly small space they have an astonishing collection of rare and interesting pirate regalia.

This just might be the museum attraction of the future combining authentic objects with recent technology, good storytelling and solid performance. It really strikes all of the senses. The debate rages on. It is important to preserve our past but I favor showcasing it in the most interesting way possible. (The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia are good examples.)

I predict with shrinking audiences and increasingly short attention spans that this trend will blossom and morph. "Don't bore me!" is the battle cry from today's guest.

What can you do to be more interesting? Let me know.

After Midnight in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia is like an old friend to me. The fact that it was founded in 1733 would be enough but I've also met wonderful people, eaten great food and been creeped out a time or two. My company operates Old Town Trolley tours and Ghosts and Gravestones here so I am fortunate to work with SCAD students and creatives all over town. (I even wrote a book about hauntings there called Ghost and Gravestones of Savannah, Georgia.) The charms of Savannah are endless and enticing. But time marches on.

Many years have passed since John Berendt's best selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published and made into a wonderful movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Fewer and fewer folks are as interested or familiar with the story.
So what now? What do you do when the big thing that spurs tourism in your area begins to fade? You reinvent yourself. Yes, it is possible to continue promoting your attraction, area or service after things change.
Now Savannah is hailing itself as "The Creative Coast" and attracting talented artists of all kinds and the people who want to see them. Riffing off the successes of the Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) and cooking celebrities like Paula Dean, Savannah is forging a bright new future. The reality is that things change and we need to be willing to change too. Focusing that effort in a useful way is the key. Change for the sake of change is "confusing motion with action" as Hemingway once said. Developing solid strategy and bold innovation wins the day. See you in Savannah.

Shuttle launches dwindling

Just got reminded that the Kennedy Space Center Complex in Florida has only 14 more shuttles scheduled to launch before retiring in 2010. Better see one while you still can! The next one is scheduled for October 23rd.
Also got word about some very cool military aeriel demonstrations scheduled there in November. They are part of the 50 year celebration of space by the World Space Expo. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute teams will be there along with demo's of other great aircaft.

Baby Elephant's First Birthday

The Wild Animal Park , which is part of the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California just celebrated the one year Birthday of this Baby Elephant, Khosi. (More pics here courtesy of NBC San Diego) They made the cake out of vegetables and ice with a carrot for a candle! Something about baby elephants just cracks me up. They look like old men in suits. Khosi now weighs in at 850 pounds. Enjoy...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We will always remember...

I was in a staff meeting at 8:46am when the world changed on this date in 2001. When I visited Ground Zero in New York City earlier this year it was unreal. The scope of this tragedy is hard to comprehend. Where this will lead in the future I cannot say. I do know that we will always remember this day. Travel well and be safe.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Got $17.4 Million?

The Disney Blog has a good story about the impending auction for two theme parks: Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia and Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. I really thought they were great regional theme parks but cash flow can be cruel. Got $17.4 Million?

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Going to BlogOrlando to learn, share and meet with other bloggers. Can't wait.

Epcot 25th Anniversary Celebration announced

The Disney Blog has a nice announcement about Epcot's 25th Anniversary Celebration in Orlando, Florida. I really enjoy Epcot and look forward to attending the International Food & Wine Festival in October!

Theme Park Fire

Sad story from Theme Park Insider this morning.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Celebration Success!

The 442nd Birthday Celebration for St. Augustine, Florida went off beautifully thanks to the efforts of John Fraser, Michelle Reyna and the rest of the gang at the Fountain of Youth. (You can see a few more pics of the event at Flickr.) A good time was had by all and I participated in the Historic Timeline as British Merchant and notorious scalliwag, Jesse Fish, along with the two esteemed gentlemen in the photo. The arrival of Don Pedro Menendez at the Mission of Nombre de Dios was met with great fanfare and cannon firings. There was a "first thanksgiving foods" cooking contest, cutting of the cake at the Colonial Spanish Quarter and a "Jollification" at the end of the night. We ended up at the Taberna del Gallo listening to my favorite group, The Bilge Rats, singing sea shanty's. There is no finer Shantyman then Brad Taylor-Hicks. All in all, a wonderful 442nd birthday celebration for the Nation's Oldest City.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Nice to see Historic Attractions doing well

Here's an update about Jamestown's 400th year celebration. I'm a big fan but "Living History" has taken it's lumps lately so it's nice to see them do well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Open Wide and say aaaaaaaaahhhhhh

Are you kidding me? At least he wore a latex glove for protection...
This is my buddy Jim doing what he does best. Defying Death. He is so attuned to the hundreds of gators here that it's eerie. I'll pass on the hand feeding of 12 foot gators, thank you very much. I'm brave... but really.
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida is a sheer delight. One of the finest animal sites I have ever visited. They hold the rare distinction of exhibiting every known species of the 23 crocodilians in existence. They even have white albino alligators and the ferocious saltwater crocodile, Maximo weighing in at 1250 pounds and stretching to over 15 feet.
Of course, my favorite shows are the feedings but they also have fantastic birds including a great vulture display and a world famous rookery where you can take photographs of nesting birds only inches away. Giant Galapagos tortoises, monkeys and emus. The list goes on and on. I appreciate that they continuously upgrade and improve this already wonderful place. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is one of my favorite stops in St. Augustine. This is a can't miss in Florida.

Scenic boat cruises of St. Augustine

The Scenic Cruise aboard the Victory III in St. Augustine, Florida is a nice way to see the City from the water. The Usina Family has been providing this narrated service for four generations. During the trip around the Matanzas Bay you see the the Castillo de San Marcos, Mission of Nombre de Dios Cross, The Lighthouse and the Bridge of Lions restoration project in full swing. Snacks and drinks are available on board and the ship is stable and stays in the intercoastal waters for about 90 minutes. Make sure to talk to the Captain who is always one of the Usina Family. A nice tradition in the Oldest City.

We miss you Otto C. Lightner

Yes, he is actually buried right out in front of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. Otto C. Lightner was a collector of collections and left behind a wonderful legacy inside these walls. Housed in this historic building, built in 1887, are three floors of splendors from America's Gilded Age. Cut Glass, Art Glass and Stained Glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Paintings, sculptures and furniture. Victoriana, musical instruments and oddities.
I love the music room filled with self-playing instruments from a bygone era. Don't miss the sauna rooms preserved from when this building was Henry Flagler's Alcazar Hotel at the turn of the 19th Century. Another favorite is the area where the worlds largest indoor swimming pool existed at the back of the building. Now it houses antique shops and a wonderful lunch spot called the Cafe Alcazar featuring the masterful guitar playing of Richard Kuncicky. The Lightner Museum is a wonderful glimpse into America's past. Make sure to pay your respects to Mr. Lightner, too.

Old St. Augustine

I live and work in St. Augustine, Florida. The oldest, continuously occupied, European-settled City in the United States. (whew!) The town was founded by the Spanish in 1565 and the local joke is that by the time the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, St. Augustine was already up for urban renewal. It's a little, big town with lots of charm.

We're celebrating our 442nd birthday (Sept. 8th)this week with lots of festivities, including recreations of the landing of Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to establish the town, the first thanksgiving feast, 16th century entertainment, arts, crafts and the "changing of the guard". Should be lots of fun. (I even get to dress up in period clothing!)

I've lived in St. Augustine over ten years now and always enjoy the festivities, activities and interesting people in our town. You never get bored here! I'm lucky to work for Historic Tours of America and participate in Old Town Trolley Tours, The Old Jail, The Florida Heritage Museum and Ghosts & Gravestones on their behalf. Through Trusted Tours and Attractions, I get to visit great attractions and sites here and elsewhere. St. Augustine is certainly worth a visit if you enjoy unique history, great beaches and eclectic, talented people. See you soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Rock

Say "Alcatraz" and most people know what you mean. This prison in the bay of San Francisco, California is well-known. Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and the Birdman were guests. They say no one ever escaped. I was lucky enough to take the evening tour.
The boat was eager with anticipation as we approached The Rock. After debarking, we took a narrated walk with a Ranger to the top of the island to explore.
The audio headset tour was excellent and included the sights and sounds of this historic prison. We had plenty of time to explore and the evening light made it even more creepy. This place is filled with history and atmosphere. A visit to Alcatraz is exciting and thankfully you can escape at the end.


I love to eat and drink. It is a passion with me. Taking the Local Tastes of North Beach Tour in San Francisco, California was a must. I was impressed.
North Beach is the "Little Italy" of the City. On this walking tour we tasted espresso that was freshly roasted and bread right out of the oven, after visiting the kitchen to watch them make it. Next were fresh deli meats, olive oil and cheeses from local artisans followed by chocolate from one of the top ten chocolatiers in America. We visited the church where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married and the Purple Onion café where Bill Cosby and Phyllis Diller got their start.
The journey was wonderful and filled with San Francisco insider information. You felt like a native on this tour. Tom was very helpful and friendly, offering sightseeing and restaurant suggestions throughout the tour. Eating your way through North Beach is fantastic and he also does a Chinatown tour. Mmmmmmmmmm. Feed me.

Among Giants

I'm told that larger trees exist. Hard to imagine.
I didn't know what to expect as we traveled by bus on the Muir Woods- Sausalito tour in San Francisco, California. We arrived at a plain parking lot with a simple entrance to the Muir Woods National Monument. The driver told us to return in about 90 minutes for the trip to Sausalito. I almost missed the bus.
Once you walk down the path and leave the crowds behind you are transported to a primitive world of light and shadow. The Redwoods jut up out of the black soil and compete with each other for sunlight. Every now and then, a human, standing and staring at the majesty of this forest. Massive, splendid and rare.
A small creek dances down the middle of the paths and plays background music for us. Lush ferns carpet the ground while chipmunks scamper in and out. Light filters through thick branches to show the way. I almost missed the bus.
All the way to Sausalito my mind kept returning to Muir Woods. I couldn't stop thinking about it. That night I dreamed of sacred places and spiritual journeys. That night I slept in Muir Woods.

Mr. Toad

It’s fun when the owner/operator does the tour. I’m sure I just got lucky, but I really enjoyed the local perspective of a third generation San Franciscan. That is what Mr. Toads Tours offers in San Francisco, California. Local knowledge.
The reproduction 1918 Packard vehicle seats about 8 people and is very fun to ride in as we honked at passersby! They have a small fleet of these vintage cars that run on propane. A big part of the charm is that we could see areas that larger vehicles couldn't explore. We went behind Coit tower, up into Russian Hill and really explored the neighborhoods. It's great for small groups. It was personal and geared to the audience’s interests instead of a canned presentation on a pre-planned route. It’s the type of tour you can take more than once. I really enjoyed it. Ribbit...

Blue and Gold forever

Blue and Gold were my high school colors so naturally I noticed the Blue and Gold Fleet sightseeing cruise in San Francisco, California.
I was surprised when the professional narration on this comfortable ship turned out to be a themed show featuring Captain Nemo. It was well done and not too much.
Not only do you get a great view of the City from the water but you go under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. The crew was friendly and efficient and there was plenty of good seating. A really nice way to get on the water is the Blue and Gold Fleet. Go team!


The S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien is a “Liberty” Ship memorial is docked at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California and served as a Merchant marine Cargo vessel during WWII. These smaller, faster ships were often sunk trying to deliver there goods and the Jeremiah O’Brien is in great shape. Merchant Marine volunteers are posted around the ship to answer question on this self-guided tour. They do offer guided tours for groups of ten of more.

She is still sea worthy and takes occasional cruises in the Bay. On the 50th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion she sailed back to France for the ceremonies and is one of only two Liberty ships still in existence. Hundreds of volunteers keep her ship shape. It’s worth the effort to seek out this ship and remember the stories of WWII.

Pier 39 is fine

Pier 39 is a two-level, themed, waterfront entertainment complex is a major attraction near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It includes 14 restaurants, 110 shops, the Aquarium, an Arcade, live performances of music and buskers, a permanent musical, a beautiful carousel, a Turbo thrill ride and a sea lion viewing area.
While I was there it was packed with people. A great blues singer sat at the entrance while a permanent stage featured an excellent juggler at the back. The Sea lion viewing area was filled and the place was hopping.
You could spend a day just exploring this area. Lots of activity, variety and fun. Pier 39 is a ball.

Hop on, Hop off

Pier 39 and the Fisherman’s Wharf area in San Francisco, California are very popular so it’s nice to have a hop on/off trolley here. The one hour narrated tour has three stops -Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square and Union Square.
The trolleys are neat and well-maintained with lots of shiny brass. Our driver/guide was friendly and interesting and threw in some personal observations from a local’s perspective.
Many people seemed to use this trolley for transportation and it offers a good familiarization of the city and its main points of interest. Sure beats walking up some of those steep hills!

The Wine Country

The locals say that the Central Coast of California near Monterey and Paso Robles is the next big thing in wine but for now Napa and Sonoma dominate the market. The Wine Country Tour from San Francisco, California is a full day overview of wine making in both places.
We visited three wineries by bus after stopping first at the Napa visitor’s center. Kirkland Ranch, Madonna and Viansa wineries were on the list with lunch on our own in downtown Sonoma. We tasted at each winery and toured at Madonna to learn the wine making process. They allowed for a good amount of free time and lunch in Sonoma was excellent at the Swiss Hotel restaurant (a suggestion from the driver). This was a light, fun day in the wine country and offers a great introduction to the process.

A Deluxe City Tour

I went on the Grayline Deluxe City tour to get an overview of San Francisco, California. I'm glad I did. We were on a large bus and navigated the narrow streets downtown before venturing out to stops at Twin Peaks, the Golden Gate Bridge and the park near the Bridge.
The narration was funny and interesting. We learned that City Hall was on a roller system to stabilize it during earthquakes. On that subject our driver said that folks who live here just get used to the idea of earthquakes.
The views were terrific and the stops were just long enough to give us a break from the bus. A good way to become acquainted with the city and see the sites. Dwayne our driver was a hoot.

Segway Johnny

This tour is a blast! The Electric Tour Company in San Francisco, California does it right.
I had never ridden a Segway before, along with most of the people in our group. A 45 minute training session fixed that and we were off. The tour starts near Fisherman’s wharf and travels toward the Golden Gate Bridge along the bay. There is lots of riding with some narration, which worked out well.

The staff at Electric tours is fantastic! They are funny, articulate and genuine. You feel welcomed and reassured no matter what your skills. The equipment is in great shape and the route is safe. The pre-tour safety session includes a short film and personal instruction until everyone feels comfortable. We then eased into the tour with lots of practice. Several stops included a nice café where you can grab a drink or snack. The experience is about three hours including 45 minutes of training. They also do a Sausalito tour and a Night tour. A great way to tour.

If you're going to San Francisco

It's my first visit to San Francisco, California and I'm already stoked. This town has an energy to it. They combine retro and modern in interesting ways. Old cable cars and streetcars beside the Trans America Pyramid Building. Very Cool.
The food is amazing! Fresh, fresh, fresh. They have also maintained their neighborhoods. Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, everywhere local culture is preserved.
Lots to explore here I can tell. So, I'll just dig right in.