Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Plan a weekend of culture and fun: Get cheap flights to Washington D.C.

It's our nation's capital, home to myriad federal agencies, embassies and historic monuments. But Washington, D.C., is a lot more than just a city of government; it has a thriving arts scene that can compete with that of any other big city in the country.

So if you're looking for a great place to spend a long weekend, consider checking out Washington, D.C. Frequently cheap flights are available into one of the metro area's three major airports - just keep an eye on the prices online to score the best deal.

When Washingtonians decide what to do on a weekend, they've got a lot of choices. From music to theater to museums, here's a look at some of the best the city has to offer:

The National Symphony Orchestra, which is based at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts during the winter, moves outside in the summer for a series of concerts at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Virginia. They also play some special concerts on the West Lawn of the U. S. Capitol on several holiday weekends. With a program of both pop and classical concerts throughout the summer, there are plenty of opportunities to hear this internationally renowned orchestra.

How about planning your weekend around some of the great theater in Washington? If you save money on cheap airline tickets, you'll have something left over for theater tickets. Check out the schedules at a few of the local stages, many of which have national reputations:

The Shakespeare Theater Company is one of the leading venues for classic theater in the U.S. with a mission to present classical theater in an imaginative and accessible way. For the big shows, the National Theater is the place to go. One of America's oldest continually operating theaters, it features touring productions of Broadway hits. For something more offbeat, try the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Known for its productions of innovative new plays, it has been called Washington's "most daring theatre company."

And not to be overlooked is the Kennedy Center, which is not only home to the National Symphony Orchestra, but also hosts popular and classic theater, as well as ballet and opera productions throughout the year.

Everyone knows about the big museums on the National Mall, but how about some of Washington's lesser-known gems? Visit the Philips Collection, America's first museum of modern art, for the opportunity to view modern masterpieces by such artists as Renoir, Rothko and O'Keefe in an intimate setting. To see an extensive collection of American art, as well as a fine collection of European masterworks, visit the Corcoran Gallery, located just down the street from the White House.

Jump online and snap up some cheap flights now so you can start planning your adventure in the capital city.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Use a smartphone to organize your summer fun

(ARA) - With summer around the corner, you might be thinking about a vacation or what to do to keep the kids busy. Luckily, you've come a long way from the days of guidebooks and day planners. Today, you have smartphones to help plan summer activities with ease.

Packed with features like e-mail, calendars, task lists and access to a wide variety of informational and entertaining mobile apps, a smartphone can serve as your all-in-one source for summer fun. Close to one in five U.S. adult mobile phone subscribers uses a smartphone, according to a Forrester survey conducted near the end of 2009, but are they taking advantage of all the perks? Here are some ideas for how you can stay organized, connected and entertained this summer:

On vacation:

* Explore new places with a GPS-enabled smartphone, like the BlackBerry Pearl. Map a route that hits key attractions and gets you to your hotel without getting lost. Not sure where to stop next? You can search a local guide and get turn-by-turn directions. You can also take GPS beyond the car with outdoor mapping apps that help you navigate hikes and walks.

* Don't risk losing small pieces of paper when you can store everything on your smartphone. Use the memo pad to save packing lists, important hotel information and confirmation numbers.

* Avoid hearing "are we there yet?" on your next road trip by loading your smartphone with music, videos and games for the kids before you go.

* With apps like Facebook for BlackBerry, you can keep your friends and family up to date on your latest vacation adventure by uploading pictures directly from your smartphone.

* Pack light by making the most of all the features your smartphone has to offer. Why carry a camera and media player when most smartphones have both built in?

Around town:

* Use your smartphone's calendar to juggle schedules anywhere, and set reminders so you don't miss anything. If you need more help keeping track of what's on your plate, use the task manager to organize activities.

* Not sure whether to bring the SPF 15 or SPF 45 when heading for a swim? Download a weather app to check the UV index. If clouds start rolling in while the kids are swimming, grab your BlackBerry smartphone to see if the weather app is flashing a thunderstorm warning. If so, come up with plan B - check the local movie schedule on your smartphone's web browser.

* Use instant messaging applications to quickly get in touch from anywhere. Effortlessly organize a group play date by adding all your child's friends' parents to a BlackBerry Messenger group - this will let you communicate with everyone at once.

* Plan a great staycation with guides like buzzd and Poynt, which can help you discover fun new destinations in your area.

Thinking of upgrading to a smartphone? Look for one with a long battery life, so you can be on the go longer.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Delta Expands Commitment to Africa with New Liberia Service

PRNewswire-- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today announced new service between Atlanta and Monrovia, Liberia, expanding the airline's position as the leading U.S. carrier operating flights to Africa.

The new service, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 4, will connect Delta's hub at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Roberts International Airport in Monrovia with a stop in Accra, Ghana. The flight will be operated on 215-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, equipped with 34 BusinessElite seats and 181 seats in Economy.

Delta has received approval from the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority, and preliminary approval from the U.S. government, to sell seats for the new flight for the planned launch in September. Final U.S. government approvals are expected before the flight begins.

"As the No. 1 U.S. carrier serving Africa, Delta remains committed to expanding our presence into fast-growing African markets," said Perry Cantarutti, Delta's senior vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. "Our new service between our Atlanta hub and Monrovia will provide convenient connections between Liberia and cities across the United States."

Delta had previously intended to begin service to Monrovia in June 2009, but was delayed while Roberts International Airport implemented measures to ensure its compliance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Delta has worked closely with the United States and Liberian governments while the airport facilities in Monrovia were properly equipped and prepared for the new service.

"The government is enthusiastic about the prospect of Delta providing a direct flight between Monrovia and the United States, which would be the first such service in many years," said Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. "The government is working earnestly to ensure that all the necessary requirements are met so that the flights will commence as scheduled."

Added U.S. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security: "I have been pleased to work with Delta and the Office of Global Strategies at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that security continues to be a priority on all international aviation partnerships. As Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I support TSA's international aviation security programs. Facilitating commerce without compromising security remains a reasonable approach. Today, we are one step closer to offering direct service flights from the United States to Liberia - strengthening our partnership with Africa."

Delta, which has operated in Africa since 2006, has announced its intention to serve up to 10 African destinations from the United States, with aircraft ready to begin service pending U.S. and foreign government approvals.

Delta's service between Atlanta and Monrovia via Accra will operate once weekly as follows:

Flight Departs              Arrives          Effective     Frequency
                           Monrovia at 2:25
  134    Atlanta at 7 p.m.    p.m. (next day)  Sept. 4, 2010 Once weekly
                           Atlanta at 5:30 a.m.
  135    Monrovia at 5:30 p.m. (next day)      Sept. 5, 2010 Once weekly

Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, which owns significant development projects in Liberia, said: "A few years ago while attending the Clinton Global Initiative and after hearing President Sirleaf appeal to the American private sector for support, I made a commitment to mobilize $30 million for Liberia. In June 2009, we opened the RLJ Kendeja Resort & Villas, a 78-room villa style hotel. I applaud Delta Air Lines for making the commitment to provide direct air service to Liberia which will provide economic growth opportunities to Liberia from a variety of business sectors around the world."

Delta also is preparing to begin new year-round service between Atlanta and Accra. This service, announced in 2009, will begin on June 1 with three weekly flights, expanding to four weekly flights on June 14, and complement existing five-times weekly service between New York-JFK and Accra.

On June 2, Delta will also begin nonstop seasonal service between New York-JFK and Abjua, Nigeria, and in June and July will add two additional weekly nonstop flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg to support travel to and from the 2010 World Cup.

This summer, Delta will operate flights to seven African destinations. In addition to Monrovia, Delta will offer service to Accra, Ghana; Abuja, Nigeria; Cairo, Egypt; Dakar, Senegal; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Lagos, Nigeria. Delta also intends to serve Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Nairobi, Kenya; and Luanda, Angola once government approvals are received.

As the first carrier serving Africa nonstop from the United States, Delta has grown from 22 weekly departures to and from Africa in July 2007 to nearly 80 planned for July 2010, saving customers a significant amount of time on flights. Customers traveling between Atlanta and Johannesburg, for example, save an average of six hours each direction compared with connecting in Europe.

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Grant Will Fund Recreational, Educational Features at Ohoopee Dunes

Listed by noted nature columnist Charles Seabrook as No. 10 on the list of Georgia natural wonders to see before you die, the Ohoopee Dunes Natural Area in Emanuel County has long been considered a biodiversity hotspot by biologists. Now, a new grant will help others see it the same way.

Announced at the Pine Tree Festival in Swainsboro earlier this month, the $150,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program and a match by project partners will provide for habitat restoration, low-impact trails, educational signage and better accessibility to terrestrial and aquatic features at the natural area.

“The funny thing is all this came about because of a complaint,” said Mincy Moffett, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “People were asking, ‘Why isn’t the state managing the place better?’ assuming it was a state park. But it’s not a state park. It is a natural area, designed to protect a very special and rare geologic and ecologic feature.

“Hopefully, this grant and the educational signage we put up will show people the kind of treasure they have right in their backyards.”

Part of the project, which is scheduled to begin later this year, will include adding a small parking lot to improve access to the area known as the McLeod Bridge Tract. Educational signs posted on a 1.8-mile interpretative loop trail will tell about the area’s natural history, ecological significance and related restoration efforts. Plans also include an observation deck overlooking a sandhill pond.

Another area slated for work is the Hall’s Bridge Tract, where a primitive boat ramp will be rebuilt to allow for larger watercraft and a small parking lot will be improved. The hope is this put-in/takeout point will become part of the existing network of blue trails in Georgia.

“Imagine if you could put in a canoe here in the Little Ohoopee River and paddle all the way down the Altamaha River,” Moffett said. “Now that would be a great adventure.”

Bill Rogers Jr., president of the Swainsboro Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is “very excited to have played a small part in this announcement.”

“The observation deck, interpretive trail and primitive boat ramp should give naturalists and tourists a definitive reason to visit Swainsboro and Emanuel County,” Rogers said. “Those dollars generated in our community by visitors to the Ohoopee Dunes should benefit us in a number of ways. I would also like to thank Rep. Butch Parrish and Sen. Jack Hill for their interest and assistance in the project.”

Ohoopee Dunes is one of Georgia’s most significant natural communities and floristic areas. The natural area comprises three tracts in southwestern Emanuel County. The DNR also cooperates in managing an adjacent tract owned by The Nature Conservancy and another nearby tract owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Together, these five conservation lands, arranged in an archipelago-like fashion along the eastern boundary of the upper Little Ohoopee River, encompass nearly 3,000 acres.

The central topographic feature of the tracts is a spine or ridge of ancient Kershaw sand dunes known as riverine sandhills. The natural area has several natural communities, ranging from dry (xeric) dunes and longleaf pine forests to moist hardwood hammocks and river floodplains. Altogether, this area contains nine legally protected plant/animal species, and more than 10 others of conservation-concern. More than a dozen other rare and protected species are known to occur nearby within Emanuel.

Georgians can help conserve unique places like Ohoopee Dunes and other nongame wildlife, native plants and natural habitats through buying a wildlife license plate featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird. They can also donate to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund directly or through the state income tax checkoff. These programs are vital to the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state funds for its mission to help conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in Georgia.

For more information, visit or call Nongame Conservation Section offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Number of Memorial Day Holiday Travelers Expected to Increase 5.4 Percent, AAA Forecast Says

/PRNewswire/ -- AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling on vacation this Memorial Day holiday weekend will increase 5.4 percent from 2009 with approximately 32.1 million travelers taking a trip away from home. Last year, 30.5 million Americans traveled during the same period.

"While the economy continues to be rocked by waves of occasional uncertainty, improved economic performance from one year ago should cause more Americans to take vacations this Memorial Day holiday weekend," said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. "AAA travel agents are reporting double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced bookings for tours and cruises, hotel bookings via are increasing and AAA's many travel industry partners have reported improved business conditions this spring."

MacDonell cautioned, "Increased travel can also mean reduced availability, especially in markets like central Florida where the opening of exciting new attractions are expected to make the area one the summer's most popular destinations." MacDonell's best advice is to "talk to a travel agent to find the best package deals and be sure to jump on a bargain if you find one."

AAA's projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2010 Memorial Day holiday forecast can be found at

Air and car trips to increase

Trips by auto are expected to increase in popularity with 87 percent or 28.0 million people reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 5.8 percent from last Memorial Day when 26.4 million travelers went by motor vehicle. This Memorial Day weekend AAA does not expect the price of gasoline to average more than $3.00 per gallon. Leisure air travel also is expected to grow slightly with 2.15 million holiday flyers expected. This would be an increase of 2.4 percent from one year ago when 2.1 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, buses and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by 6 percent of all travelers.

Average spending will top $800 and average distance traveled will be 626 miles

The average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day holiday weekend is forecast to be approximately the same as one year ago, 626 miles vs. 620 in 2009, AAA reported. Median spending is estimated to be $809 this Memorial Day*. This is a sizeable reduction from one year ago, when Americans reported average spending plans of $1,052. Sixty-one percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday.

Airfares will be unchanged, hotel rates remain a deal, and rental car rates will be lower

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, air fares over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are expected to remain unchanged from last year as air passengers will pay a lowest average round-trip fare of $176 per ticket. Weekend daily car rental rates will drop 15 percent from an average of $43.30 in 2009 to $36.65. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to remain a bargain, but will decline only one percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $141.60 per night compared to $142.45 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay four percent less at an average cost of $99 per night.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides nearly 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at

*IHS Global Insight reported average spending last year rather than median spending. Average spending in 2009 was $1,052.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Delta Receives Final Chinese Government Approval to Begin Nonstop Flights between Seattle, Beijing

PRNewswire -- Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today announced it has received final Chinese government approval to launch nonstop flights between Seattle and Beijing, beginning June 4. The new route, which will operate five times weekly, will connect customers from destinations throughout Delta's and codeshare partner Alaska Air Group's network to the Chinese capital via convenient connections at Alaska's Seattle hub.

Departure and arrival times have been revised from the initial announcement of the route based on the slot times granted at Beijing's Capital International Airport. Flights will operate as follows:

Flight Departs Arrives Operates Effective
------ ------- ------- -------- ---------
129 Seattle at Beijing at Monday, Wednesday, June 4, 2010
9:05 p.m. 11:40 p.m. Thursday, Friday,

128 Beijing at Seattle at Monday, Wednesday, June 6, 2010
8:55 a.m. 5:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday,

With the revised flight times, customers will continue to have full connecting options at the Seattle gateway to and from 67 nonstop destinations offered by Delta, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. Delta and Alaska offer customers reciprocal codeshare, lounge and frequent flyer benefits to make it easier to connect between the airlines' domestic and international networks at Seattle.

Delta's revised Seattle-Beijing schedule will be updated in all ticketing channels, including, on Saturday, May 22. Ticketed customers with full contact information available in their reservations will be notified by Delta of any changes to their connecting flight times beginning Saturday.

The new Seattle-Beijing route is one of two new Asian flights launching from Seattle this summer as Delta continues to position the city as a key gateway to Asia. A new nonstop flight between Seattle and Osaka, Japan launches June 7. Both flights complement existing daily service from Seattle to Delta's hub at Tokyo-Narita, which offers Seattle customers one-stop connections to 12 destinations throughout Asia.

In conjunction with the new service to Seattle, Delta also will make minor adjustments to the 8:55 a.m. departure time of its existing daily flight from Beijing to Tokyo-Narita. Beginning June 6, Delta Flight 634 will depart Beijing at 6:55 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday; and will remain unchanged at 8:55 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.

Flights from Seattle to Beijing; Seattle to Osaka; and Beijing to Tokyo-Narita will be operated with 216-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft featuring 35 seats in BusinessElite and 181 seats in Economy.

At Seattle, Delta continues to invest in its products and services, including constructing a new Sky Club to open later this year and reintroducing roving customer service agents known as "Red Coats." With its summer 2010 schedule, Delta will offer Seattle customers the choice of 40 peak-day departures to 12 domestic and international destinations.

A portion of travel for some itineraries may be on Delta Connection carriers Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Chautauqua, Comair, Compass Airlines, Freedom Airlines, Mesaba, Pinnacle Airlines, Shuttle America and SkyWest.

Delta Air Lines serves more than 160 million customers each year. With its unsurpassed global network, Delta and the Delta Connection carriers offer service to 358 destinations in 66 countries on six continents. Delta employs more than 70,000 employees worldwide and operates a mainline fleet of nearly 800 aircraft. A founding member of the SkyTeam global alliance, Delta participates in the industry's leading trans-Atlantic joint venture with Air France KLM. Including its worldwide alliance partners, Delta offers customers more than 13,000 daily flights, with hubs in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-JFK, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Salt Lake City and Tokyo-Narita. The airline's service includes the SkyMiles frequent flier program, the world's largest airline loyalty program; the award-winning BusinessElite service; and more than 45 Delta Sky Clubs in airports worldwide. Customers can check in for flights, print boarding passes, check bags and review flight status at

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Fee Changes for Rocky Mountain Recreation and Public Fishing Area

Rocky Mountain Recreation and Public Fishing Area, located in northern Floyd County, is worth the drive if you have the time. This beautiful 5,000-acre area boasts two recreational lakes, camping opportunities, swimming areas and plenty of other outdoor activities.

The area is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division and funded (operational) by the property owner Oglethorpe Power. Beginning June 1, 2010, visitors who frequent the recreation area and campground (tents and recreational vehicles) will see a change in fees.

Rocky Mountain Recreation and PFA has 36 developed recreational vehicle (RV) campsites that include grill, picnic table, 50 amp electrical hookup and a water hookup. There are nine wooded tent sites that include a picnic table, tent pad and grill. Fees are as follows:

·         Daily parking fee: $5/day (previously $3)
·         Annual parking permit: $30/year (no increase)
·         RV Campsites: $25/day (previously $20)
·         Double-site campsites: $50/day (previously $40)
·         Tent campsites: $12/day (previously $10).

A wildlife management area license is not required to fish at Rocky Mountain, but all vehicles parked on the area must have a valid parking permit, which are available at all entrances.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010 Is the Year To Visit The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford

/PRNewswire/ -- It is rumored that Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do...Explore. Dream. Discover." With millions of families about to embark on summer vacations, The Mark Twain House & Museum encourages Twain fans, readers, history buffs and I-95 road warriors of every age to discover Hartford.

Through the support of the museum's Centennial Sponsor The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., The Mark Twain House & Museum will host tours of the historic house, family events, literary lectures, and new exhibits celebrating the life, legacy and books of the father of American literature all year long. Located less than 90 minutes from Boston, two hours from New York and less than an hour from Interstate 95, The Mark Twain House & Museum is the perfect summer diversion.

"One thing most people don't know about Twain is that he was known for his unique travel writing long before Huck, Jim and Tom were born here at his Hartford house," said Executive Director, Jeffery Nichols. "We can't think of a more important time to make The Mark Twain House & Museum a fun and educational part of your vacation plans."

Between 1874 and 1891, Clemens raised a family and published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, while living in Hartford. The House and its Museum Center are open every day for guided tours. Each year, more than 60,000 guests visit the home's 19 rooms, including the famous billiard room where Twain worked, and admire its many unique features, such as intricate decorative arts by Louis Comfort Tiffany's firm Associated Artists. The museum's collections boast approximately 50,000 artifacts, including original manuscripts and first editions, historic photographs and family furnishings.

In addition to Mark Twain's unforgettable mansion, visitors to Greater Hartford can also investigate the charming Harriet Beecher Stowe House, the brand-new Connecticut Science Center, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (America's oldest public art museum), the Tony Award-winning Hartford Stage, and dozens of other cultural sites.

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Georgia State Parks Launches Geocaching Challenge in Support of the 'Get Outdoors Georgia' Initiative

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Department of Natural Resources celebrated the introduction of geocaching in state parks with a fun and family-friendly launch and learn last Saturday. The event was supported by the Georgia Geocachers Association, and was attended by more than 100 people, including GGA members, Atlanta Girl Scouts, newcomers to the joys of geocaching and assorted media. The kick-off event for the statewide program was held at the Fort Yargo State Park in Winder. The Georgia State Parks Geo-Challenge is designed to encourage participants to find all the caches hidden in 42 State Parks across Georgia and provides three bonus caches that are a little more challenging. The introduction of geocaching, the planet's largest treasure hunt, adds to the many events, programs and activities now available in Georgia's State Parks.

The Business of Geocaching

Geocaching combines technology, the thrill of an outdoor adventure, and the fun of sharing your experience online. Participants find the cache coordinates online at, then set out to find the boxes, called caches, using GPS devices. Once a player locates the cache, the experience is shared with other geocachers. With over one million active caches around the world, and now more than 40 hidden in Georgia's parks, the entire state is waiting to be explored.

Georgia State Parks posted their geocaches at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, and the first one was located by two geocachers camping at A.H. Stephens State Park at 5:45 a.m. To date, 40 of the 45 caches have been found, with the prestige of finding a brand new cache still available for the three bonus caches.

By tapping into the game of geocaching, the Georgia State Parks is focused on attracting more people to the parks and increasing revenue. While still relatively new, the program is proving highly attractive with 800 fans joining the Georgia State Parks Facebook page since the launch of the game.

Get Outdoors Georgia

The launch of geocaching in the Georgia State Parks is part of the organizations' initiative to get citizens to "Get Out. Get Dirty. Get Fit." in the great outdoors. The initiative is supported by REI who donated GPS units for those wanting to try geocaching for the first time, as well as Girl Scouts who now have a new geocaching badge to start working for.

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Pigeon Forge Aims to Take Back the Family Vacation

Do you have a friend you’d like to help with $100 in gas money? How about utilities for a year? Or 12 car payments? Or perhaps a year of mortgage payments?

The vacation destination of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., can help you accomplish exactly that.

The method is Pigeon Forge’s “Taking Back Vacation” campaign, which continues through July, when one family will win $15,000 for mortgage or rent payments.

Pigeon Forge, a major family vacation destination and a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is conducting the campaign in reaction to the nation’s economic troubles of the past two years.

“We believe in the family vacation, and we feel family vacationers are our guests. Our whole community feels this way, and ‘Taking Back Vacation’ is our way to demonstrate that. It’s unusual for a whole destination to do this, but its our way to support a lot of families,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.

All winners – and the people who nominate them – also will receive three-day vacations in Pigeon Forge.

The nomination process requires two clicks at Pigeon Forge’s Web site,, and composition of a 100-word essay. Visitors to the Web site will choose the winners from the posted essays.

“Too many people have had to curtail family time recently, and we want to draw attention to how important family vacations are. Those times together are vital, and places such as Pigeon Forge can be the glue that binds families,” Downey said.

The “Taking Back Vacation” campaign grows from April through July.

In May, 10 families will win $2,100 for utility payments.
In June, five families will win $6,600 for car payments.
In July, one family will win $15,000 for mortgage or rent payments.

Pigeon Forge made a similar outreach in 2006, a year of unexpected jumps in gasoline prices, by giving away a tanker truckload of gas.

“Our ‘Great Gas Giveaway’ was load of fun,” Downey recalled, “and we want the ‘Taking Back Vacation’ idea to be the same. Our goal in Pigeon Forge is making people happy and creating good memories.”

Pigeon Forge has a resident population of about 5,800, but it attracts more than 10 million visitors a year. It is home to Tennessee’s most visited tourist attraction, Dollywood, as well as more than a dozen theaters, scores of family attractions and more than 250 outlet, craft and specialty stores.

Its next-door neighbor, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the most visited national park in the U.S.

“We’re in a great location and have tons of fun to offer. We hope parents will see us as a destination for family fun – before their kids outgrow childhood,” Downey said.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

National Park Foundation Lauds Centennial Anniversary of Glacier National Park

PRNewswire/ -- The National Park Foundation, official charity of America's national parks, today honors the 100th birthday of one of our nation's most treasured places. On May 11, 1910, President Taft signed legislation officially protecting Glacier National Park in Montana. In honor of the anniversary, National Park Foundation President and CEO Neil Mulholland made the following statement:

"The significance of Glacier National Park's centennial could not be more apparent against the backdrop of the environmental crisis in the Gulf. While national parks are not immune to oil spills and other calamities both natural and man-made, they are places where we do our best to protect nature at its finest.

"National parks like Glacier were created and have long been protected by citizens who took action to preserve these spaces for generations to come. We congratulate the National Park Service and its partners whose celebration today reminds all of us that the parks are ours to enjoy -- and ours to safeguard in the next century and beyond."

The Glacier National Park Fund is a non-profit that works on behalf of the park, which was originally created by the National Park Foundation. Since being designated as a unit of the National Park Service, Glacier has also been designated an International Peace Park and a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

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A Fun Twist On The Annual Vacation

(NAPSI)-An annual vacation can sometimes become monotonous, especially if your budget doesn't allow for an exotic venue. This year, consider keeping it fresh by making photography part of the adventure.

Viewing your trip through the lens of a camera can add a fun and inexpensive twist to the ordinary, while ensuring lasting memories. And according to National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, you don't have to be a pro to take incredible pictures.

Here are some easy photo tips from Richardson to help you capture memories on your next trip:

• If you want to focus on something small or short, get down low, very close to it.

• To add color to a picture, frame your subject with leaves or flowers in the foreground and get really close to them.

• Boring pictures can become interesting pictures when you leave stuff out. If the photo is all about the details, leave out what might detract.

• Most really good night shots aren't taken at night. They are actually taken at dusk, just after sundown. Set up your tripod and wait out the perfectly balanced moment.

A great photo can happen anywhere at any time, and now those vacation shots can land one person the ultimate vacation: a trip for two to the Greek Isles with National Geographic Expeditions and the chance to be featured in National Geographic magazine in an ad for Energizer® Ultimate Lithium batteries.

Through June 30, aspiring photographers can visit national to enter a photo in the 2010 Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest. There are six thematic categories: animals/wildlife, nature, travel, people/cultures, weather and action/energy.

Whether a digital photography novice, a proud picture-taking mom or a longtime photo enthusiast, all skill levels are encouraged to enter.

"You don't have to be an expert or have expensive equipment to capture a magnificent shot," said Richardson, judge for the Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest. "Great photography is often about being in the right place at the right time and making sure you're prepared to capture the moment when it happens."

To learn more tips from Richardson, see past finalist and winner photos and to make a submission, visit

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Music! Tigers! Beers!

Tickets are now on sale for Brew at the Zoo and Wine too!, presented by Comcast, Saturday, May 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Zoo Atlanta. Now back for a third year, the Zoo’s signature seasonal event is rapidly gaining a reputation as the city’s most unique festival experience.

Highlights will include sampling of more than 30 brews, 12 wines and four champagnes; four live bands ranging from rock to 80s new wave to hip-hop to folk; and exclusive viewing of the source of Brew at the Zoo’s popularity: more than 1,000 animals from around the world. A portion of proceeds from Brew at the Zoo 2010 will benefit the care of Zoo Atlanta’s Sumatran tigers.

How do YOU Brew? Prior to the event, Zoo Atlanta hosts the How do YOU Brew? Video Contest, inviting creative filmmakers to submit a 30-second DVD for a chance to win a $1,000 prize package including tickets to Brew at the Zoo, an exclusive VIP animal encounter, a Brew at the Zoo T-shirt and a limited-edition pilsner glass. The winning video will premiere during Brew at the Zoo on Saturday, May 29. Entries must be received by May 14. Filmmakers can find inspiration from the original How do I Brew? commercial on Full contest detailsand eligibility requirements are available on Contestants must be 21 and up to enter.

Advance tickets are available now on Advance tickets are $35 for Zoo Members; $40 for non-Members; $45 if purchased on the day of the event. Designated drivers and non-drinkers may purchase tickets at $20. Guests must be 21 and up to drink. Visit for event details.

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14th Annual JAKES Day at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center - May 15, 2010

Looking for a way for the whole family to enjoy the outdoors this spring? Come to Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center’s JAKES Day Saturday, May 15! This fun-filled event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center’s (CEWC) Discovery Area in Mansfield.

Sponsors for the JAKES Day include the Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

Admission is free and includes an array of activities that focus on wildlife, conservation efforts and outdoor recreational opportunities in Georgia. Children can try their hands at archery, fishing, shooting sports, and can go on a mini-boat ride with a WRD Conservation Ranger. Show your spirit for the outdoors by getting your face decorated with wildlife art! Presentations scheduled for this event include puppet shows from Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, retriever demonstrations, and live snake and bird of prey programs. Several exhibitors from wildlife-related organizations also will be on hand to give out information and goodies to those interested in expanding their outdoor horizons.

The first 300 kids will receive a free t-shirt and a free hot dog lunch from the Georgia Chapter of NWTF (adults can eat for a nominal fee). For kids under 17 years old, memberships in the NWTF’s JAKES club (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics, & Sportsmanship) will be available for a small membership fee. Door prizes will be given away at the close of the event too! Be sure to stop by the Visitors’ Center to view an indoor planetarium set up by the Atlanta Chapter of the National Astronomy Club, tour the museum, and visit the gift shop. Discounts will be available for several gift gallery items (excludes hunting & fishing licenses and Charlie Elliott books).  

For further information, visit and choose the “Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center” quick link, or call CEWC at (770) 784-3059.  To get to CEWC, take I-20 to Exit 98. Travel south on Highway 11, go through Mansfield and continue three miles south to the entrance at Marben Farms Road on the left. Then follow the JAKES Day signs to the Discovery Area.  Hope to see you there! 

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Luggage Charges Top Consumer Reports' Survey of Travel Gripes

/PRNewswire/ -- Travelers have many reasons to be annoyed, but what bugs them most are luggage charges and add-on airline ticket fees, according to a survey by Consumer Reports.

Travelers were also very annoyed by rude or unhelpful staff, whether at airlines, hotels, or rental-car companies.

In a nationally representative survey conducted in January, Consumer Reports asked 2,000 Americans to score three lists of travel gripes covering rental-cars, airlines, and hotels for a total of 24 items on a 1-to-10 scale, 1 meaning an experience "does not annoy you at all" and 10 meaning it "annoys you tremendously."

Luggage charges (8.4 overall) and added airline ticket fees (8.1), top the list, but rude or unhelpful staff at rental-car companies (7.9), hotels (7.8) and airlines (7.7) were also among the more annoying things that rub Americans the wrong way while traveling.

The complete report on how Americans ranked all 24 annoyances is available in the June issue of Consumer Reports on sale May 4, and online at

Among the highlights:

Poor communication about airline delays (7.1) annoyed people slightly more than the delays themselves (6.8).

Airline travelers who hog your seat (7.0) and carry-on space (6.7) are less annoying that some other irritants. Many people give crying babies and unruly kids (4.9) on planes a pass and have apparently gotten used to puny or no airline snacks, (5.1) and long lines for security and check-in (5.2).

Women travelers are somewhat more annoyed than men. Among complaints for which the gender gap was sufficient: pricey in-room hotel snacks (6.8 women, 5.2 men); insufficient or chintzy hotel bedding (7.2 women, 6.2 men), and high pressure pitches for extra rental-car coverage or upgrades (7.1 women, 6.0 men).

Some gripes, annoyed respondents under age 50 much more than those 50 and older. Those included rude or unhelpful airline staff (8.6 under 50, 8.0 50 or older), rental-car pitches (6.8 under 50, 6.1 50 or older), and absence of the ordered car (6.5 under 50, 5.4 50 and older), However, older folks are far more ticked off than younger people by those unruly kids on planes (4.5 under 50, 5.3 50 and older).

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 2,000 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place from January 21-25. The margin of error is +/- 2% points at a 95% confidence level.

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