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 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 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...