Our travels and ideas for planning your next trip!

Posts tagged ‘USA’

California Wine Country Backroads Getaway

      Heading north from San Francisco for a few days in the California Wine Country, I was eagar to relive my very favorite backroads wine country outing.  Even though I spent eleven years leading groups on this same exact route (and would do it again in a minute if any of my readers want to put together a group), I am thrilled to return again (especially now that I live in Idaho) with my cousins in tow. 

     From Petaluma, take Bodega Ave (get yourself a map) to Valley Ford Road, destination the village of Freestone. You will wind through gently rolling hills and emerald meadows reminecent of the English countryside resplendent with flocks of sheep and spring lambs.  Stop for a few few minutes in Freestone a blink-and-you-missed it rustic little town.  Save some tummy room for a sticky bun at the Wild Flour Bakery.  Spa enthusiasts must not miss an osmosis enzyme bath at the Osmosis world class spa hidden away in this tiny town. 

     Having totally indulged yourself, drift north again through wooded lanes to the quaint welcoming town of Occidental.  Lost in time with no expansion for decades, I always envision ladies of the 1920’s coming by train from San Francisco with broods of kids for their summer lodgings.  My mother, in fact was one of those children who learned to swim on the Russian River during summers in a cabin named “Don’t Worry”.  Her Dad came up for weekends while Grandma and six little ones played away the summer at Camp Meeker just down the road from Occidental. 

   Enjoy an Italian meal family style at Negris.   Walk around the town visiting the little shops for folk art.  Rest for the night in Occidental at The Inn At Occidental.  This is an exquisite bed and breakfast with all the romance , ambiance and delight to the eyes of a country home.  I personally recommend selecting The Inn at Occidental if you are celebrating a special occasion.  

     Next, we meandered up the redwood line roads towards Camp Meeker.  Just beyond we swerved left into the Alliance Redwoods.  My children went to school in the lodge here for three years long ago.  Now it is a bussling center for nature study classes and retreats.  More exciting, today though is the “Canopy Tours!  ZIP THE REDWOODS!!  7 adrenaline-pumping zip lines-one over 800′ long.”  My cousins purchased a gift certificate for their son’s anniversary package.   www.sonomacanopytours.com

     Still having a grand time, we continued past Alliance Redwoods to Monte Rio and Guerneville to Armstrong Redwoods.  I always feel as if hobbits are watching me from under dewy ferns in this enchanted forest of giant redwoods.  Cool and peaceful for an afternoon walk, my heart is filled with joy at the beauty of God’s creation.    Another way to tour Armstrong Redwoods is on a segway.  To set that up contact http://segwayofhealdsburg.com/.  Ask for my son, Michael Del Vecchio, to be your guide!

     Do you like champagne?  We are in the wine country so you must visit the Korbel Champagne Cellars.  Tasting and tours are free.  My favorite is the “Natural”.  Here is our darling wine server and my grinning husband.  The tour includes a facinating story about the Korbell family history so be sure to catch it. 

   Of course, a stop in Sebastopol at the Fosters Freeze for a soft-serve icecream is a must.  This was my husband’s restaurant for 22 years and boy do I miss my daily dipped cone.  Thanks for coming along on my favorite Sonoma County tour.  We didn’t visit many wineries or take a side trip to the coast but you can on your trip. 

Have fun travel dreaming,


Sample of US Wedding Destinations

Come journey with me to a few gorgeous places for a Destination Wedding in our home land.  No need for a passport and frequent flyer miles will apply.  Of course, a plenitude of venues are available of which I have chosen only five dramatically different possibilities.  Shall we begin our trek…

   The California Wine Country was my home for 20 years.  In my mind there are few places more beautiful year around than this corner of the world.  Vineyards, valleys, hills, the ocean not too far away, and mild weather make it a fantastic destination.  If your idea of perfection would be a wedding at an elegant manor house, with beautifully sculptured gardens, and restaurant given Zagats highest overall rating for dining in Sonoma County, The Madrona Manor would be the ideal location.

Built in 1881, this Victorian estate stands on eight acres of landscaped gardens in the hills above the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. Madrona Manor offers the opportunity to experience the wine country from a stylish and gracious setting. Your guests will be able to relax in one of the Manors marvelously comfortable rooms, stroll through the lovely gardens, have a swim in the pool, and go off to explore the pleasures of nearby Healdsburg and the local wineries.

  Traveling to the Inland Northwest to my new home, a setting of mountain grandeur and spectacular lakes, the Panhandle of Northern Idaho.  Here we shall visit a mountain top and a forest glade. 

Celebrate your “Happily Ever After” on top of Schweitzer! Yes, the bride and groom and all the guests ride a ski lift to the very top of the mountain at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort for a wedding with an unbeatable panorama view. The wedding couple join hands upon a deck overlooking 3 mountain ranges, Canada, Montana, Washington.  Turn around and feast your eyes on the incredible grand lake of Ponderey.  Summers, July and August are the best months for weddings at this splendid resort.  The winter ski lodge becomes your reception area with stunning views as well and the condos and resort hotel your accommodations.  Recently, I attending a wedding show at Schweitzer, savoring culinary delights produced by the Schweitzer chefs which were amazing.  The transformations of a ski lodge into a gracious reception area was lovely.  The rooms were northwest moose (which are still common up here) and deer decor with simple elegance and comfort.  Your guests will be able to relax a short walk from the wedding plus enjoy many outdoor adventures while in northern Idaho.

Forest wood nymphs dancing about a rustic cabin where the pretty maid marries a handsome woodsman can be a fantasy come true at Heartland Ranch  in Northern Idaho.  Heartland Ranch has an old west, country charm in the middle of the woods.  For couples looking for an economic wedding in beautiful lake mountain country, you could search far and wide without finding a better option.  Their “Just A Few” packages start at $245 for the Bride and Groom plus up to 15 guests with $50 off Monday and Fridays.  Heartland accommodates up to 80 guests. Your hostess and owner of the ranch, Becky Applegate, will create memorable occasion for you.  Psst… She also designs and sews affordable wedding dresses.     Visit www.weddingsbybecky.com to learn more.  accommodations for guests, tours and activities are located at nearby Sandpoint or Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  Come a day ahead or stay a day over to visit the lake beaches, silver mines, melodrama, quaint towns, or Hiawatha Trail.

Board the airplane now to check out some United States beaches for blissful barefoot weddings.  Who said you had to leave the states for sand between your toes as you say “I Do”?  

 First we fly to Hawaii to the Honeymooners favorite island, Maui.  Though Maui has some economical options, my top choice here is exclusive luxury at The Waldorf Astoria Collection of Hotels, the Grand Wailea.  Grand Wailea is a truly stunning Maui hotel. Whether it is just the two of you, a small group of family and friends, this exquisite resort is an unforgettable Maui wedding location. Choose from the romantic and intimate Seaside Chapel, a ceremony on the beach, or in a picturesque gazebo.  Listen to a comment from trip advisor to see why I chose the Grand Wailea, ” Our main reason for going was to renew our vows. The hotel is absolutely stunning. Very exotic location and when compared to the others it stands out like a sore thumb. The hotel is like paradise. It fulfills the Hawaii experience 100%.”   The ultimate in modern elegance combined with Polynesian tradition will create for you a blissful Hawaiian Wedding. 

To end our journey, we fly across the continent to Florida for another beach wedding catering to the familymoon.   If you are getting married with children alongside, consider the all-inclusive Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida.  This is the only all-inclusive resort in the United States, which means you know your cost before you go.  All food and most all activities are included so all you need is money for extras!  My Club Med families always come back with raves and often will never try another resort.  One couple met at a Club Med, married and honeymoon at a Club Med, and return every year with their children. 

Club Med Sandpiper Bay is the perfect romantic setting for a large family vacation-wedding or a vow renewal ceremony. Breathtaking ocean views provide the perfect backdrop for your special day.  The resort offers modern elegance with a cheerful array of color to delight children of all ages.  A wedding at Club Med Sandpiper Bay is especially great for the couple who just wants to kick back, relax, spend time with their friends and family and enjoy the scenery. Your kids will have the time of their life at Club Med’s children’s clubs with dedicated activities and sports for babies, children and teenagers from morning to evening, and all coordinated by qualified and enthusiastic professionals. This would be perfect for a family wedding on the beach under the warm Floridian sunshine. 

Hope you enjoyed our travels.  There are so many possibilities so do some exploring yourself or call your travel agent for help.  See you next time with a focus on beach weddings in exotic destinations.


United States Destination Weddings


 Ride a ski lift to the top of a mountain for a spectacular vista view for your wedding, wander through a meadow carrying a bouquet of wild flowers, ride in on a horse to a red barn country wedding, take a cinderella carriage to your Victorian mansion, say “I Do” before a picturesque alpine lake or in a glamorous winery…all these possibilities and many, many more are open to you in my own communities… North Idaho Mountain Lake Country and the Sonoma County Wine Country of California.  Other regions around the US including national parks and vacation resorts are wonderful places for destination weddings.  The options are as varied as your imagination. 

     So let’s get started.   If you already have an area you would like to explore, skip to the next step, if not you can google, talk to friends, and talk with a travel agent. Gradually, you will be able to narrow down a general location to focus on and specific resorts you want to consider.  We will visit a good number of possibilities in the future.  For this blog, however, we will concentrate on what to do when you have a venue (resort/location) to consider.

After reviewing the resort/location website, call them.  Ask for the wedding coordinator or event manager for the resort.  Have her send you brochures.  Then ask the following questions:

  1. What makes this particular resort unique or special for a wedding?
  2. Number of guests accommodated for an indoor wedding/outdoor wedding?
  3. Number of hours allotted for wedding/reception?
  4. Cost of facility for wedding/reception?
  5. Is reception catering offered through the venue or is an outside caterer needed?
  6. Would you please send menus and prices for your catering options?
  7. Layout of the wedding area/reception area.
  8. Is there a gazebos for outdoor weddings or other accoutrements?
  9. Does the resort offer any embellishments for a wedding or reception?
  10. Dressing areas for the bride and groom?
  11. What happens to an outdoor wedding if it rains?
  12. Parking facilities.
  13. Is alcohol permitted?  What restrictions or permits are needed to serve alcohol?
  14. Are there any other permits or reservations needed?
  15. What facilities are available for the music?  Is there an extra charge for microphones, etc.?
  16. What accommodations are available for the bride and groom before the wedding?
  17. What accommodations are available for guests?
  18. Does the resort have a wedding planner?  Or who would be my primary contact person should I book this resort for my wedding?
  19. What tasks does the resort wedding planner take care of?
  20. Does the resort offer a list of resources for a wedding such as local florists, minister, etc?
  21. What are the state requirements for a wedding license?  Is there a waiting period after the license before the wedding?

Gather your information.  Plan to visit your favorites if possible.  Then before you make your reservation at the resort of your choice, consider hiring two possible support people.

1) Hire a wedding planner local to the resort (if one is not provided by the resort or if the resort wedding planner does minimal).  Since you live far away, the local wedding planner becomes your eyes and hands to be sure all the details come together for a sensational day.    She is worth the cost.  Ask the resort if they have a list of wedding planners.  Then call and interview each one to see if you have a good rapport. 

2)  Contract with a travel agent to set up the resort booking, block rooms for the wedding guests and plan your honeymoon for you.  Why use a travel agent for this when you can do it yourself?  Because an agent can a) take this burden off of you b) negotiate a group rate, c) be sure your guests are in the same proximity of each other at the resort, d) find a lessor expensive hotel near the resort for budget minded guests, e) find a nearby vacation rental house if a large family group want to stay together in a house, f) provide a contact person for your guests and g) arrange tours (sightseeing, wine tasting, river rafting, etc) for your guests who want to come early or stay late to enjoy the area.  She can also make a smooth transition to your honeymoon. 

A note about travel agents:  Some charge a fee to assist you, some do not.  Some, like myself,  require a deposit which is applied toward your reservation when you book, thus the services cost you nothing.  The travel agent services are paid for by the commission on the booking from the resort.

Fee based travel agents charge from $50 to $350 to arrange guest travel plans.  They can be well worth their fee if you need a great deal of assistance in your travel plans or if you are going to a far off exotic location.  Check your local agent to determine if their services are  of value to you.

For your education, after 911 the airlines canceled travel agent commission on airfares.  Also, the budget hotels such as Motel 8 do not pay commissions.  So if your agent books these for you she is doing so as a courtesy or may need to charge a fee to cover her time. 

Just a few actual incredible places to have a Destination Wedding in the good old USA coming up next, so check back soon.