Blount Small Ship Adventures, based in Warren, R.I., is offering $1,000 savings per couple on sailings of its “Islands of New England” trips this summer, including three new enrichment cruises focusing on arts and crafts adventures, food and wine discoveries, and Native America history. The six-night cruises on the Grand Caribe hits six ports including the Massachusetts islands of Cuttyhunk and Nantucket, and Block Island in Rhode Island. The sailing also features onboard entertainers, a lobster bake, three meals a day (with beer and wine at lunch and dinner) and snacks around the clock. Unlike many cruise operations, here you can bring your own bottles, and they’ll provide mixers and cocktail setup.
The Grande Caribe, which has 48cabins and a capacity of 88 passengers, was built by Blount Boats in Warren in 1997 and renovated in 2009 with new furnishings, décor, cabins and dining rooms. With discount applied, rates start at $1,599 per person, based on double occupancy, and doesn’t include a port charge of $185 per person. Booking must be made by May 31.
For info, visit www.blountsmallshipadventures.com/ine.
A couple of years ago we wrote about a National Park Service walking tour of Woodstock, Vermont during the Civil War period. It was researched and developed by historian and author Howard Coffin, who was born in Woodstock and scoured the historic records to piece together what life was like on the home front during those tumultuous years. The tour will be offered again this summer; see www.nps.gov/mabi for details.
Six of Coffin's ancestors served in the Vermont regiments and his fascination with the Civil War knows no bounds. He has just published a new book, Something Abides: Discovering the Civil War in Today's Vermont (Countryman Press, $35), that sheds the same light on the entire state. Based on six years of research and numerous miles of driving through the Green Mountain State, Coffin identifies more than 2,500 extant sites that were affected by the Civil War and organizes them by county.
“Vermont's Civil War sites are everywhere, on back roads, at the ends of roads, by busy downtowns, at crossroads, in store blocks, on islands, in remote woods, in fields, in churches and cemeteries, and on college campuses and school grounds,” Coffin writes. And he fully expects readers to seek them out. “Take with you an 'Official Vermont Road Map,'” he advises, “one of the best maps in all 50 states. And it's free.”
AAA Southern New England can design trips for members just about anywhere, but in the interest of saving money and patronizing businesses in its own area, is also keen on creating trips closer to home, officials there say. One of them is “The City Get-Away Boston,” where you can spend the night at the Revere Hotel in the Hub’s theater district, eat at Four Diamond-ranked Asana at the chef’s table, go to Fenway Park for a ball game and get 10-percent off at the team store. You can also hit Huntington Theatre for a $5 discount per ticket or get $10 off at Blue Man Group.Further south is the “Family Friendly Resort Cape Cod” offering, with a stay at Four Diamond-ranked Wequasset Resort & Golf Club, dinner at the resort’s twenty-eight Atlantic, and a whale-watching trip with Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, where AAA members get discounts. There is also the “Ultimate Luxury Beach Vacation Rhode Island,” with a stay at Five Diamond Ocean House (a giant hotel on the bluffs that was rebuilt in place of the original one that stood for many years, and using more than 5,000 artifacts and furnishing elements from the original), dinner at the hotel’s Four Diamond Seasons restaurant, and theater at the nearby Theatre By the Sea, a classic barn theater that in its glory years saw the likes of Marlon Brando and Mae West tread the boards there, and where AAA members get 10-percent off select performances this summer. For all info, check out www.southernnewengland.aaa.com
You don’t have to wait for the summer heat anymore to find things to do in Nantucket. Though things ramp up mostly after Memorial Day, and certainly by July 4, the island has a variety of early-season offerings, and hotels and inns with deals to take advantage of them.One popular event is the Nantucket Wine Festival, marking its 17th year May 15-19, with a schedule of special events such as celebrity chef cooking demos, tastings, seminars, symposia, auctions and a charity gala. For full event schedule and pricing, visit www.nantucketwinefestival.com The White Elephant is hosting many of the festival events, including the Grand Tastings and Harbor Gala, the former featuring more than 150 wineries from around the world. The gala is the festival’s signature event with 40 stations of dishes prepared by the country’s best chefs, which, naturally, are paired with appropriate wines. The White Elephant and sister properties, White Elephant Village and The Wauwinet, are offering weekend packages including stays, event tickets, dinners at Brant Point Grill and Topper’s, as well as brunches. Rates start at $500 a night. For info, check out www.nantucketislandresorts.com At Harborview Place, offered by Beautiful Places villa rentals, stay three or more nights in a one- to three-bedroom residence and get a wine festival package with access to a variety of events, including the tasting, VIP party, auction, Friday night supper club and breakfast on the harbor. Visit www.beautiful-places.com/location/massachusetts for information. Orla and Michael LaScola, owners of American Seasons, are partnering again with West Coast wineries such as Donelan Family Wines and Flowers Winery to host seminars and dinners highlighting domestic wines paired with LaScola’s take on American dishes. For information on the events at the restaurant, visit www.americanseasons.com If you have flexible travel plans, the antique inn Century House celebrates its 180th anniversary this year by offering a weeknight stay in a queen room for $180 plus tax and service during select dates in May and June, based on last-minute availability. There is no online booking for this deal: Call 508-228-0530 on the preceding Saturday or Sunday to secure a stay the following Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. You can also combine the special with multiple week-night stays at standard rates. And you can help celebrate innkeepers JeanEllen Heron and Gerry Connick’s 30th anniversary running the inn. Connick’s famous and massive berry breakfast alone is worth the stay. The next month, the spring version of Nantucket Restaurant Week runs June 2-9 (another runs in the fall), with a variety of restaurants participating, including American Seasons, where they offer three-course dinners from $25-$45. For a full listing, visit www.nantucketrestaurantweek.com Writers have long been drawn to the island, including historic scribes like James Fenimore Cooper and Edgar Allen Poe, and modern authors such as Nathaniel Philbrick. The 2nd Annual Nantucket Book Festival runs June 21-23, with panel discussions, interactive readings for adults and kids, and “Authors in Bars” events giving festival goers a chance to personally toast their favorite writers. A roster of more than 20 notable American writers are expected, among them Philbrick, Paul Hendrickson and Lois Lowry. The Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant, the event’s host hotel, will host the weekend’s closing brunch June 23 with Alice Hoffman, author of more than 20 novels including “Here on Earth,” an Oprah’s Book Club choice. Other events include breakfast receptions with authors Ann Leary and Amy Brill, and a pig roast at Cisco Brewery. Check it all out at www.nantucketbookfestival.org And lest we not forget the island’s nautical roots, the Egan Maritime Institute will hold “Red, Right, Returning: Present Day United States Coast Guard Lifesaving Procedures and Boat Safety” at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, May 23-Oct. 14. The outdoor exhibit features present day Coast Guard lifesaving procedures, guide to boat safety and a recreational four-person life raft for anyone to try out on dry land. Back by popular demand is last year’s exhibit, “Guiding Lights: Nantucket’s Lighthouses, Keepers and Their Families,” that includes hands-on activities. Visit www.eganmaritime.org for more information.
Federal Hill has long been called Providence’s Little Italy, retaining an Old World flavor while embracing a variety of other ethnicities and shops that cater to many varied tastes. And it’s all on display June 4 for the 14th Annual Federal Hill Stroll, organized by the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau. Participants can sample signature cuisine or get discounts at restaurants, shops and galleries."The stroll is a great chance to experience one of Providence’s most treasured neighborhoods,” said Martha Sheridan, president and CEO of the bureau. “Federal Hill is rightfully known as one of the best ‘Little Italys” in America and the stroll lets people affordably see why.” Tickets are $30, plus tax, and include admission button, two free beverages and a map of participating venues. The night starts at 4:30 p.m. and includes various musical entertainment along the way. Participants can also vote for their favorite venues and help crown this year’s King of the Hill and Most Creative Venue. One voter will win dinner for two at a Federal Hill eatery. Participating venues include Andino’s Italian Restaurant, Scialo Bros. Bakery, Nancy’s Fancies, Pane e Vino, Trattoria Roma, West Side Eyewear Boutique and Wise Guys Deli. Tickets are limited and must be bought in advance at www.federalhillstroll.com or by calling 401-456-0298. The event will be held rain or shine.
Where in the world?
That’s the question that the new online game Geoguessr asks, deftly utilizing Google Map satellite views to ask users if they can locate the area in question based on minimal surroundings. The game scores you based on how far in distance your guess was from the actual point the image references.
While hints like vegetation can be helpful in figuring out which part of the world you’re in, some guesses will inevitably land you halfway across the globe. Give it a shot. Time-wasters should only be so educational and cultural.
The spare grace of Shaker design and Shaker music have a lot in common, and both still strike a chord in the modern world. Who doesn't know at least a few bars of “Simple Gifts” ('tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free)? It turns out that the spare Shaker architecture is a rich environment for enjoying music – and live music brings those venerable Shaker meeting houses back to life. Three Shaker sites – one in Kentucky and two in New England – are exploiting that synergy with musical programs this summer.
First up is the 2013 Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill (800-734-5611, shakervillageky.org) in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on May 25-26. The Shaker community here reached its peak of about 500 members in the 1820s and today the historic site contains 34 restored buildings, including the 1820 clapboard meeting house where most of the performances by the New York-based Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will take place. Highlights include several pieces by Brahms, Mozart, and Benjamin Britten as well as a lively concert of Spanish-themed pieces featuring classical guitar. Sight lines and sound should be nearly perfect – the structure was built to be free of all obstructions that could impede worship services.
Canterbury Shaker Village, (603-783-9511, shakers.org) in Canterbury, N.H. presents Traveling Home, a performance by composer and singer Kevin Siegfried and a small choral ensemble on June 23. A scholar of Shaker music, Siegfried will perform some lesser known works from the Shaker repertoire that embody what he calls “the expressive tradition.” About 25 of the original structures of the Canterbury community, which was established in 1792, have been restored as a museum of Shaker life and beliefs.
The only remaining active Shaker community, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village (207-926-4597, www.shaker.lib.me.us) in New Gloucester, Maine was founded in 1783. Its acoustically acclaimed meeting house, built in 1794, will serve as the venue from June 26-29 for the Maine Festival of American Music: Its Roots and Traditions. The festival launches with an unusual collaboration of the Portland String Quartet with Mic-Mac storyteller David Lonebear Sanipass presenting Native American legends and influence in chamber music. Over the course of the festival, audiences will get a chance to sing along with Shaker music, and catch chamber music interleaved with Shaker hymns.
By Jan Shepherd, Globe correspondent
All eyes will be on the silver ball in Thursday's (May 16) free “Pinballapalooza” in Toronto. Organized by the Stratford Festival to herald its new staging of “The Who’s Tommy,” the day-long event features an attempt to set a Guinness World Record when 100 pinball machines are played simultaneously at 12:40 p.m. Even if you’re not a pinball wizard, the 9 a.m.-6 p.m. celebration at First Canadian Place offers games, ticket deals at a pop-up box office, and performances by “Tommy” cast members. The rock opera about a boy who becomes a pinball wizard despite being blind, deaf and unable to speak is the largest musical ever staged by the Festival. Using 21st century technology to enhance the visual “bells and whistles,” the production is led by Des McAnuff who co-created the rock opera with The Who’s Pete Townshend and directed the Tony Award winning Broadway production 20 years ago. The musical is part of the Festival’s 61st season of diverse repertory presented on four stages in Stratford, a city 2 hours west of Toronto. Visit www. stratfordfestival.ca for information on tickets and performances of “Tommy” and other plays and musicals in the season that runs through Oct. 20. For information on May 16 event, visit www. stratfordfestival.ca/pinball.
Home cooks take note: The 5th Annual Inn to Inn Spring Herb Tour runs June 8-9, when 11 White Mountain inns in New Hampshire present an in-depth look at a popular culinary herb. Tour-takers will take home herb trivia, historical facts and ideas for growing your own, getting seedlings from each inn. In the past, people have grazed from inn to inn sampling tomato basil soup, carrot chervil dip, sage biscuits, tarragon egg salad and rosemary chocolate cookies. This year’s offerings feature a new menu of herb-inspired tastings, organizers said.Six northern inns (Jackson to North Conway) take part June 8 and five southern ones (Conway to Chocura) on June 9. Northern inns, and the herbs they’ll highlight are: Inn at Ellis River, mint; Glen Oaks Inn, lemongrass; 1785 Inn, parsley; Eastman Inn, thyme; Old Red Inn & Cottages, anise; and Admiral Peary House, sage. Southern inns are: Darby Field Inn, basil; Snowvillage, lavender; Inn at Crystal Lake, rosemary; Riverbend Inn, chives; and Brass Heart Inn, oregano. The spring herb tour is held primarily for those booking a two-night package at one of the inns, but those not staying can get tickets from May 11-25 for $25 per person by calling 603-356-9025. Lodging packages start at $178 per couple, which includes two nights, herb-themed breakfasts each morning and two tour tickets. Prices vary from inn to inn and depend on room choice; some packages include special five-course, herb-themed dinners. One-night packages start at $99 per couple for the room, breakfast for two and a pair of tour tickets. For information on all, visit www.CountryInnsintheWhiteMountains.com or call 603-356-9025.
Provincetown is long known for its art scene. Last year, Harbor Hotel Provincetown introduced ARTBEAT, a series of bi-monthly exhibits celebrating the area’s artistic bent. Beginning May 13, the hotel unveils its newest addition to the series, “Provincetown Award Winners,” featuring the best of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s members. The show will feature past and present award winners of the major grants, The Lillian Orlofsky Award and The Romano Rizk Scholarship. The exhibit runs from May 13-June 27, with opening reception May 16 at 5:30 p.m.
The hotel will continue to be home to rotating exhibits of paintings, sculpture, video and film, as well as co-sponsored events with local collectors and museums. It’s also a place to save some spring money: Through May 20, they have a “Pay the Temperature” deal, where daily rate is based on temperature on the day of check-in. The rate can’t be booked online but by calling 855-447-8696. For hotel info, visit www.harborhotelptown.com
Cap Juluca, a resort on the Caribbean island of Anguilla and member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is offering a couples-only deal. The “Exclusive Tangled Up in You” package is available through Dec. 18 which includes a five-night stay in the resort’s new 3,290-square-foot ocean-front Jonquil Suite, with private infinity pool, Jacuzzi and full-service kitchen, free non-motorized sports, a private beach dinner, one in-room massage for two, and a one-day private boat trip with snorkeling, fishing, picnic lunch on a nearby island and a visit to the beaches of St. Maarten. Package prices start at $13,765, exclusive of 20-percent tax and service fees.
Open to all is the resort’s “More Maundays” package (the resort is on Maundays Bay), which gets you a fifth night free when booking for. The deal runs through Dec. 18, with rates from $495 a night.
The resort, with accommodations spread out in 18 separate Moorish-style beachfront villas, recently underwent a multi-million renovation that included reconstruction of the main house social hub, adding 60,000 new flowering plants, modernizing back-of-house functions and changes to its four dining venues and guest rooms. To check it all out, visit www.capjuluca.com
The sleek-looking Peek.com made its debut in Boston on Friday, and looks to be a valuable curated source of activities and attractions in the area, as well as other cities across the country. Peek highlights categories of tours in Boston, and even provides the opportunity to book and purchase right from the site. Ten percent of those revenues over the next three months will go toward the Boston One Fund to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
The company was founded by Harvard Business School alum Ruzwana Bashir, and her co-founder, MIT alum, Oskar Bruening. It is backed by Jack Dorsey (Founder of Twitter) and Eric Schmidt (Chairman of Google), and is currently in more than 10 regions, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Orlando.
Think you’re exciting Boston? Not as exciting as Oakland, apparently.
In determining the most exciting cities in America, real estate website Movoto ranked Boston second to San Francisco’s neighbor, using a number of criteria including park acreage per person, the lack of big box stores and fast food restaurants, and museums and bars per square mile. Sounds like Boston would be a big winner, no? Not the case.
“When we think of an exciting place to live, we think about places where there is always something to do—whether it’s eating at new restaurants or jogging through a park,” the report concluded. “This sounds a lot like Oakland, so we really weren’t that surprised.”
San Francisco came in third, followed by Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New York, which came out just ahead of Milwaukee. Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore. rounded out the top 10.
Windham Hill Inn, a Relais & Chateaux property in West Townshend, Vermont is marking spring with its first Gardener’s Luncheon and Market May 18, bringing together local Vermont vendors to showcase the area’s seasonal offerings. The inn’s gardener Claduia Dekany will also be on hand to give garden tours and tips. Spring-inspired paintings, prints and notecards will be available in the hotel’s Sun Lounge and gift shop.
Activities include seasonal lunch, cooking demos with the inn’s chef, with an eye on how to prepare early-spring veggies, and herbs and perennials available for purchase from local gardeners at Griffin Gardens. For information, visit www.windhamhill.com
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe correspondent
Phiaton’s PS 210 BTNC earphones offer the latest Bluetooth 3.0 and noise-cancellation technology, remain comfortable even after hours of use, and let you answer phones calls with the push of a button while blocking out background noise. The earphones have a small receiver on the cord that has a button for answering calls, a button for changing songs and volume, a switch for turning the noise-canceling feature on and off, a clip so you can attach the device to your shirt or bag, and a nice short cord that won’t get in your way. You can even hard-wire the receiver to your device if its battery runs out. Charge the earphones via micro USB port. $159. 866-313-3203, www.phiaton.com
By Kari Bodnarchuk, Globe correspondent
Pelican’s new ProGear S140 Sport Elite Tablet Backpack comes with a watertight and dustproof hard case built into it for carrying a tablet or other devices that you want to keep from getting crushed or damaged. A padded lumbar storage compartment below the hard case pr ovides extra protection for camera and other fragile gear. This rugged pack also comes with a sizable main compartment that can swallow your laptop, jacket, snacks, and other travel items, two handy front pockets, a water bottle pocket on each side, and super cushy padding on its back. The pack weighs 6.12 pounds empty, and sells for $239.95. 855-604-8562, www.pelicanprogear.com
If you’re the charitable sort and like motorcycles, this may pique your interest: Laconia Harley-Davidson commemorates the 90th anniversary of Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire by trying to raise $30,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, donating a one-of-a-kind, customized 2013 Harley-Davidson Street Glide motorcycle, to be raffled off. Tickets are $10 each, with 3,000 available at www.laconiaharley.com. Over the past four years, Laconia Harley-Davidson has raised $125,000 for N.H. nonprofits.The bike will have customized artwork by pinstripe artist, and resident of Candia, N.H., Russ Mowry, a guy well known in the bike biz, earning a lifetime achievement award by Willie G. Davidson, son of former Harley-Davidson president William H. Davidson. Mowry said he will use a 1,000-year-old technique of hand-spun gold leaf for the “Laconia Motorcycle Week 90 Years Strong” design on the front of the Street Glide. The iconic Boys & Girls Club logo will be hand-painted on one side saddle and the Laconia Harley-Davidson logo will adorn the other. Second- and third-place winners will receive a $500 and $100 gift card respectively, good at Laconia Harley-Davidson or White Mountain Harley-Davidson. Tickets will also be sold throughout Laconia Motorcycle Week from June 8-16.
The annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven is scheduled for June 15-29, where more than 100,000 usually attend to take in events, more than 80 percent of which are free. The theme this year is “Dreaming New Worlds,” which organizers say reflects the imaginative, inspiring and innovative elements of the programs.<
Additional attractions include dozens of tours throughout the city, ranging from urban cycling adventures to culinary tours, as well as master classes and workshops. Headline acts include Aaron Neville June 15 in a free show on New Haven Green; Box City June 15-16, an interactive crafts activity for kids who build a miniature city from found boxes, a free event; and a free performance of the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet with Wu Man June 22. For complete info and tickets, visit www.artidea.org or call 203-498-3758.
Nassau Paradise Island in the Bahamas is promoting an “Instant Savings” deal this spring and part of summer. Travelers who book by May 20 at participating hotels get $300 in savings when booking an air-inclusive six-night minimum stay, or $200 for a four- or five-night stay. Travel can take place through Nov. 3, but with blackout dates of June 20 through Aug. 18. The offer is valid for travel starting in the United States and Canada. Participating resorts include Atlantis Paradise Island, Comfort Suites Paradise Island, Harborside Resort at Atlantis, Marley Resort & Spa and 13 others. For the full list and to book, visit www.NassauParadiseIsland.com
CitySights NY has announced the return of its double-decker hop-on/hop-off tours across the Brooklyn Bridge with a revised Brooklyn Tour, and Gray Line New York announced its new double-decker hop-on/hop-ff tours to the Bronx Tour/Loop. David W. Chien, director of marketing for CitySights, said a lot of people visit Manhattan and never set food elsewhere.
“That would mean they’d miss great treasurers of New York,” Chien said. “Brooklyn and the Bronx are exciting and diverse boroughs of New York City, and we’re thrilled to return the hop-on/hop-off services to Brooklyn, and commence our tours to the Bronx.”
CitySights Brooklyn Tour has a web special of $44 for adults and $34 for children. For details, visit www.citysightsny.com/tourpage.php?item=BT For info on the Bronx Tour, visit www.newyorksightseeing.com/tourpage.php?item=BXL