Once there was a radio program that began by asking, "Tired of the everyday grind? . . . Want to get away from it all? We offer you . . . ESCAPE!" That show may be long gone but the desire to escape remains, and nowadays you can escape both the daily grind and the same tired vacation activities. Here is a small menu of some unusual ways to get away from it all:
Head for a galaxy far away. A new "Star Wars" package is available at three downtown Philadelphia Marriott hotels in conjunction with the new "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit now through May 4 at the Franklin Institute. The package, called "May the Force Be With You in Philadelphia," features deluxe accommodations at your choice of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, or Residence Inn Philadelphia Center City, plus two VIP tickets to the exhibit. The tickets are untimed and undated so guests can go when they want. They also get front-of-the-line access to the exhibit through a separate VIP entrance. Rates range from $199 to $319 depending upon the hotel and date selected and are valid through May 3.
Visit marriott.com, click on Deals, then type "Philadelphia" and select "Pennsylvania" under Find Hotel Deals, or call 888-236-2427 and mention code EWS.
Dine by the fire - on skis. In Colorado, the Crested Butte Nordic Council's annual Progressive Bonfire Dinner offers participants a four-course, four-fire meal, with snowshoes and Nordic skis as the mode of transportation. Beginning at 5 p.m. on March 22, skiers will be greeted at the first fire at the Town Ranch trailhead with a cup of hot wine or cocoa to sip while sitting on bales of straw. Skiers then leisurely follow a path of luminaria along 4 kilometers of Nordic trails in the historic mining town of Crested Butte and have an appetizer, soup, entree, and dessert at bonfires along the way. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for children under age 12.
Call 970-349-1707. For information on Crested Butte vacation packages, call 800-814-8893 or visit gunnisoncrestedbutte.com.
Go way, way back. The Huntsville, Ala., Botanical Garden is presenting a Dinosaur UpRoar, March 15-July 15. The exhibit will have more than 20 life-size dinosaur models throughout the garden. In all, the exhibit will consist of more than 30 pieces, including genuine fossilized plants and bones, a 30-foot-tall allosaurus, a 20-foot astrodon, a 4-foot-long arthropleura (a giant centipede), and a 30-foot-long parasaurolophus. The exhibit is included with regular admission, which is $10 for adults, $8 for military and seniors, and $5 for ages 3-18.
Let a boat be your house at Lake Powell in Arizona. The highest water level in years is expected, meaning that Castle Rock Cut should be open, saving boaters 12 miles of travel and providing an opportunity to explore more canyons and find more beaches for anchoring their houseboats. Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas offers houseboat and powerboat rentals, lodging, and tours. Depending upon the size of the houseboat and the month, rentals begin at $49-$164 per person per day. There is even a guarantee involving the Castle Rock Cut.
Visit lakepowell.com or call 888-486-4665.
Listen to the honk. In colorful Key West, Fla., the 46th annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 8, on the Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, Zero Duval St. The conch (pronounced "konk") is a hardy sea mollusk whose shell can make memorable noises when you blow into it. As many as 60 people from several states typically compete in front of standing-room-only audiences. Winners are chosen for the quality, duration, loudness, and novelty of the sounds they produce. Spectating is free.
Harbinger of spring
The Highland Lake Inn in East Andover, N.H., has a March Maple Syrup Package starting at $215 per night, and including a room for two, a home-style breakfast with maple syrup as the featured ingredient, dinner, and a tour of the Tucker Mountain Maple Co-op. Guests who visit on March 1 will be able to attend the annual ChocolateFest in nearby New London.
Call 603-735-6426. For inn information, visit highlandlakeinn.com.
Winvian, a luxury resort in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills, invites you to bring your horse, and they will do the rest . . . almost. For $1,900 a night (with a two-night minimum), up to two guests and horse receive full room and board and care. Two-footed guests enjoy private cottage accommodations, all meals, and one spa treatment per person. The horse gets full board at the nearby Far Meadow Farm and is groomed and tacked prior to riding. Owner and horse participate in a one-hour private training session in hunter, jumper, equitation, or pleasure riding and can ride trails at the farm. Additional equine pampering includes bathing in a heated wash stall; trimming of muzzle, bridle path (the one cut behind the ears, not trod underfoot), and fetlocks; mane and tail shampooing and deep conditioning; and mane pulling.
Visit winvian.com or call 860-567-9600.
The delights of Japan
Pacific Delight Tours is featuring a seven-day Tokyo & Kyoto Super Value tour and a 12-day Japan In-Depth package, highlighting the two cities as well as Hakone, Hiroshima, Okayama, and Kurashiki. The programs include trans-Pacific flights, stays in superior first-class and deluxe hotels, transportation between Tokyo and Kyoto on the bullet train, and local guides. Fares range from $2,378-$2,698 per person for the Tokyo & Kyoto package and $4,238-$4,558 for Japan In-Depth. A two-night stay at Kyoto's Gion Yoshi-ima, a traditional ryokan (inn), can be added at rates from $378 with dinner and breakfast.
Visit pacificdelighttours.com or call 800-221-7179.
You mushroom lovers heading to New Zealand through April 30, note that Otahuna Lodge on the South Island has a two-night Great Mushroom Hunt culinary package that includes a foraging expedition led by executive chef Jimmy McIntyre. Any edible mushrooms that guests find will work their way onto that evening's five-course degustation dinner, alongside other produce from the Otahuna estate. There will also be a cooking class and a second five-course dinner, complete with wine pairings. The price for the package at the seven-suite luxury lodge is about $2,400-$3,320.
Call 011-64-3-329-6333. For details on the lodge, visit otahuna.co.nz.
The Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., has a two-night Ready for the Paparazzi Package, with offers from José Eber Atelier and Saks 5th Avenue, among others. The hotel, which lays claim to being the only one on this famed shopping street, recommends the package for girl-friends, mothers, and daughters, as well as destination bridal shower vacations. Included are two nights' accommodations, a welcome amenity, a complimentary glass of wine or cup of cappuccino in Bar 360, dinner for two in Café Rodeo, four passes to Sports Club/LA-Beverly Hills, a personal hair consultation with celebrity hairstylist José Eber (valued at $275), an appointment with a personal shopper, and a makeup application at Saks. Rates start at $379 a night, April-December.
Visit luxehotelrodeodrive.com or call 866-LUXE-411.
Gaypedia.com is a new user-generated travel information website that helps gays and lesbians to search for venues and events. Visitors who sign up can also add content, upload photos and videos, and diarize events and vacations. "The gay world changes so quickly that we were finding information in travel guides to be constantly out-of-date or inaccurate," said Ryan Haynes, marketing manager of the website.
CheapTickets.com says Tuesday is the best day to find discounts and travel tips on its site, and accordingly is launching a Day of Deals program, highlighted by a weekly video and blog that offers both sales and travel tips, a Cheap of the Week deal that requires no promotion codes, and a redesigned Last Minute Trips tab. Each Tuesday brings a new blog and offers.
YellowPages.travel searches the top 12 travel websites with one click, as opposed to having to open 12 browser windows. In keeping with the multiplicity theme, the site says it will donate 15 percent of its net proceeds to multiple charitable organizations. Users can recommend a charity.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.