Celebrate Mardi Gras By Mail Ordering A King Cake
There are bakeries across the American South that ship their creations of this oval-shaped and tri-hued dessert across most of the U.S.
Often many of them maintain the traditional king cake recipe of a brioche base adorned with white icing and gold, green and purple colored sugaring. Others have experimented with more contemporary versions and fill them with cream cheese or fruit flavors and go all out with toppings. And most bakeries can process mail orders to send a king cake right to your doorstep.
Of course, Louisiana is synonymous with Mardi Gras and has many bakeries that ship king cakes.
In New Orleans, Gracious Bakery + Café’s King Cake Mix is available for purchase online. The artisan bakery has boxed up what’s needed for making a king cake in your kitchen; you just need to add in the wet ingredients.
Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery in Slidell sells out quickly on its king cake shipping orders. Upon seeing their webpage, you’ll know the reason why. Theirs range from traditional to ones filled with cream cheese or topped with pecans.
Brennan's in New Orleans is famous for its bananas foster but for 2022 Mardi Gras the fine dining restaurant is shipping three special king cake varieties. They are traditional, a Chocolate “Black & Gold”, “Pink Parade” Strawberry Cream Cheese and Banana Foster.
Gambino’s Bakery, a NOLA longtimer, has king cake specialty packs with Mardi Gras attire to don while dining on this dessert, among other choices.
Cannata’s Market in Houma has a RougaGooey King Cake adorned with Louisiana roasted pecans and cane sugar, white chocolate, and gooey butter along with Mardi Gras beads. Another reason to buy this cake: a donation from its sale goes to the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center.
Among its king cakes, Cajun Pecan House in Cutoff has a popular cinnamon-pecan flavored king cake. Or splurge on king cake carnival packs, having the King Cake story, Mardi Gras beads, doubloons and a porcelain mask.
NOLA’s Haydel’s Bakery broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest king cake in 2010, by creating two giant rings that wrapped around the Superdome. Haydel’s king cakes include traditional or filled with cream cheese, German chocolate and other choices.
Also in NOLA, Adrian’s Bakery sends out king cake choices including Bavarian cream, lemon, pineapple and praline.
Delicious Donuts & Bakery in Lake Charles takes mail orders by phone. Their king cakes choices involve their pecan and praline along with fruit or cream fillings with choices including cream cheese, apple, blueberry, cherry, and strawberry.
Crystal Weddings in Lafayette has an alphabet of king cake flavor options, from almond amaretto to strawberry cream cheese.
Also in Lafayette, Poupart Bakery ships both a traditional French king cake--a round puff pastry with almond filling--and the Mardi Gras king cake.
Mobile, Alabama also celebrates this pre-Lenten festival. The Lighthouse Bakery in Dauphin Island, Ala. ships their baby king cakes by mail but requires orders to be placed over the phone during business hours.
Galveston has both the largest Mardi Gras celebration in Texas and the third largest one in the nation behind New Orleans and Mobile. Both the Maceo Spice and Import Company and Gypsy Joynt take orders over the phone for shipping king cakes. In Houston, which also honors Mardi Gras, Rao’s Bakery ships king cakes with traditional cinnamon or strawberry, blueberry and raspberry fillings; mini king cakes are also available.
Get Inspired by National Plan for Vacation Day
Raise your hand if you lost or rolled over PTO days in 2020. Even in non-pandemic years, Americans are notorious for wasting millions of vacation days annually. In 2020, workers left an average of 33% of their paid time off on the table according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. Over the last year, many Americans and travelers worldwide had to cancel trips and put their vacation plans on pause. Losing much-needed travel inspiration not only takes a toll on mental health, but keeps people tethered to their desks for longer periods of time with no vacation in sight. This year, hope for trip planning is on the horizon with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday, January 26 is National Plan for Vacation Day, a day celebrated annually to encourage Americans to plan their time off. It helps highlight the importance of taking time off to travel both for personal health and wellbeing and for our nation’s economic health. Visit Colorado Springs is joining the initiative to encourage hopeful travelers across the nation to plan out their PTO days. “Visit Colorado Springs is proud to be celebrating National Plan for Vacation Day,” said Doug Price, President & CEO of Visit COS. “Each year, we hold a staff event to encourage our team to plan their vacation days. This year it’s even more special – we could all use travel inspiration after staying put much of the last year.” Travel is predicted to return at steadier rates in the second half of 2021, so it’s a great time for people to get inspired by travel once again and start planning for much-needed time off. Even for those taking staycations or smaller road trips, planning days into the calendar at the beginning of the year makes it much more likely the trip will actually happen. Now’s the time to browse Instagram and Pinterest, start reading your favorite travel blogs again and let trip planning begin! We've partnered with Colorado Springs to describe why Here are some ideas for those looking to explore the Pikes Peak Region in 2021. Fly in and out of the Colorado Springs Airport. COS is known for its convenience and neighborhood feel with fewer crowds, short walks and easy parking. Starting March 11, 2021, Southwest Airlines joins the lineup of airlines servicing COS. Conquer Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain with all-new experiences in 2021. Hike, bike, drive or take The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the 14,115 ft. summit. The Cog Railway is reopening for visitors in May 2021. Grab a donut at the new Summit Visitor Center atop the peak, opening in early summer.Visit the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, ranked #1 Best New Attraction in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The USOPM is one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the world. Take the family to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and enjoy the hippos and penguins at the new Water’s Edge: Africa exhibit. Don’t forget to head to the giraffe habitat to feed them a tasty snack. Find adventure in our wide-open spaces on one of the region’s many trails and parks. There are so many miles of trails to explore in the area that it’s easy to spread out and avoid crowds while enjoying time outdoors. Book a stay at new downtown hotel, Kinship Landing. Kinship Landing is a friendly, boutique hotel in downtown Colorado Springs that brings travelers and locals together around city and outdoor exploration. No matter what destination is on the horizon for your next trip, planning is key. Instead of letting your 2021 vacation days go to waste, challenge yourself to plan out a staycation, road trip or vacation that will give you the R&R you deserve after a tough year. This piece was written in partnership with Visit Colorado Springs
10 beautiful livestreams to brighten your day
Enter the live stream. These videos provide a real time glimpse into a destination. And while they may not be a perfect cure for wanderlust, they do provide an instant portal to somewhere new and exciting – all without costing a penny or requiring a quarantine period! Ahead, ten live streams to enjoy while you daydream about packing your bags for real. Jackson Hole, Wyoming Visit skiers paradise from the comfort of home. Watch as visitors snap pictures under one of Jackson Town Square’s famed elk antler arches and pop in and out of shops like Jackson Trading Company. Ready to explore even more of the region? See Jackson Hole has over 50 streams featuring an elk refuge, ski slopes, an alpine slide, and more. Deerfield Beach, Florida Tranquility is transmitted via WiFi thanks to this stream of Deerfield Beach. While the view rotates among scenes of the beach, boardwalk, and skyline, the vibe captured is mostly sunny and always soothing. Listening to ocean sounds as birds call in the distance is so peaceful, it doesn’t take much imagination to convince yourself you’re actually in Florida. It is a bit like having a mini vacation in your pocket at all times. Brooks Falls, Alaska Need a boost of excitement? Try the Brooks Falls stream. You’ll be gasping at your screen as brown bears in Katmai National Park swipe their next meal out of the water. And with some bears consuming upwards of 30 fish per day, the action is endless. This stream isn’t always live, but even in the off-season, it plays highlights from past broadcasts that are well worth the watch. For your best chance to catch the action as it happens, tune in during the summer months when bears hunt from the large groups of salmon heading upstream. Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii Don’t let the sound of waves breaking on the shore fool you; this isn’t your grandma’s sound machine! The Pipeline Cam shows adrenaline-seeking surfers hanging ten on some of O’ahu’s best – and gnarliest – waves (some towering up to 30 feet!) The Pipeline’s Ehukai Beach also hosts some of the world’s most prestigious surfing competitions including the Billabong Pipe Masters. New York City It may be awhile before you get your hands on your next Levain chocolate chip walnut cookie or feel fully comfortable exploring the city by subway, but that doesn’t have to mean foregoing the excitement of New York City completely. This broadcast from St. George Tower captures The Big Apple’s iconic skyline between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Need even more NYC? This Times Square stream delivers the hustle and bustle straight to your screen – no dodging of those photo-loving mascots required. Duluth, Minnesota You don’t need to be a maritime enthusiast to appreciate this live stream, but stick around long enough and you just might become one. There’s something inexplicably magical about watching massive freighters – often loaded with coal and iron ore – pass through the Duluth Ship Canal as they traverse Lake Superior, serenading spectators with their horns as they go. (And shocking online viewers out of a midday slump!) Redondo Beach, California Next time you’re California dreamin,’ start streaming the City of Redondo Beach Pier camera. The view of the Pacific and lucky beachgoers will no doubt add a bit of sunshine to your day. For a different view of the town, check out the City of Redondo Beach Harbor Camera which often captures a glimpse of recreationists hitting the water by paddle board, kayak and boat. Las Vegas, Nevada Nowhere in the United States delivers on that promise of excitement (and excellent people watching!) quite like the Las Vegas Strip. This camera swivels up and down the street from its perch at the American Eagle storefront providing a birds-eye-view of the action. You’ll catch glimpses of Vegas hotels including Excalibur with its colorful medieval facade, New York-New York and its on-site roller coaster, and Paris Las Vegas with its replica Eiffel Tower. Leavenworth, Washington With panoramic mountains and charming Bavarian-inspired architecture, Leavenworth not only looks like it is in Europe, it looks straight out of a storybook! During the day, shoppers fill the streets, and in the winter, sledders fly down the hill at Front Street Park. Tune in between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day to catch a glimpse of the town all lit up for the holidays – the scene is almost as breathtaking as those mountain views. Yellowstone Gone are the days of loading up the minivan, hitting the road, paying an entrance fee, and hoping you make it to a viewing area at just the right time to see Old Faithful erupt. Now all it takes is a few clicks. Watch Old Faithful and a dozen other geysers in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin area in real time on the National Park Service website. The site also provides a handy estimate of when Old Faithful is set to erupt next so you never miss the excitement. Another perk? The park’s yummy sulfur smell can’t be transferred over WiFi... yet!
Outdoor holiday celebrations around the United States
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and many parts of our country are feeling festive despite the pandemic. If you are still cautious, or on the fence, or simply prefer an outdoor experience, this list is for you! Here are a few places around the U.S. where you can get into the holiday spirit outdoors and admire holiday decorations and lights from walking paths. Here’s where to celebrate the holidays this year— remember to check out our private booking platform with discounted rates! Northeast New York City, New York The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit daily from from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm. New Hampshire The 2.5-mile drive-through light show at the New Hampshire Speedway in Loudon features 400 different lighting displays with snow-covered mountains in the background. Woodstock, Vermont Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at Billings Farm & Museum, where you can try your hand at candle dipping, watch traditional holiday cooking demonstrations, create your own gingerbread ornaments—or just head straight to the onsite Dairy Bar for cider donuts. Mid-Atlantic Maryland At Ocean City, Maryland's Winterfest of Lights guests can explore zillions of sparkling holiday lights, animated light displays, and a 50-foot holiday tree on display along a paved path in Northside Park. The Annmarie Sculpture Garden is transformed into an outdoor wonderland until January 1st with many light sculptures of wild animals, winter wonderlands, musical holiday scenes, and magical beings. Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia The White House isn’t the only place in the nation's capital that’s getting in on the holiday spirit. Civilians can enjoy the undeniable festive energy in the District through New Year’s Day by visiting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The National Menorah will be lit throughout Hanukkah. About 25 minutes away in Vienna, Virginia, celebrate the season at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights. Stroll the one-way half-mile path full of holiday lights and festive decorations, admire the Fountains of Lights and watch as the “sing to me” tree’s lights dance along with all your favorite holiday tunes. Timed tickets must be purchased online ahead of time and are available on a limited basis. Roanoke, Virginia Treat yourselves to a lovely half-mile walk through the woods, toast marshmallows around the fire, shop for presents at the Artisan Christmas Market, donate canned goods to help others, meet Santa and his elves, and feast your eyes on more than 500,000 lights during the Illuminights Winter Walk of Lights at Explore Park. Purchase timed tickets online or by phone to access this event. Virginia Beach, Virginia Head to Virginia Beach for a unique beach-themed holiday lights display. At the Holiday Lights at the Beach, you’ll drive on the Atlantic Ocean boardwalk that has been transformed into a nautical lights display, including a surfing Santa. Southeast Aiken, South Carolina Enjoy more than two miles of beautifully lit paths with over 100,000 lights and holiday decorations at Christmas in Hopelands Gardens. This year, the colorful displays will be lit up all December long to help keep spirits bright. The Christmas Craft show features handmade crafts and goodies made by talented artisans from across the Southeast. There is sure to be something for everyone’s style, taste, and budget. The Christmas Craft Show is also a great place to shop for your holiday gifts and décor. South Walton, Florida If you’re in the Florida panhandle, don’t miss 12 Nights of Lights at The Village of Baytowne Wharf, located about halfway between Pensacola and Panama City Beach in South Walton. Enjoy a festive light show every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday leading up to Christmas! This sparkling event will also be featured during our special holiday edition of the Wednesday Night Concert Series. Watch three dazzling shows each night! Houston, Texas The Space Center in Houston is hosting Galaxy Lights, a technological holiday celebration featuring kinetic light shows, choreographed light and music sequences, an interactive light pad, a large light tunnel and the chance to see a film about astronauts celebrating the holidays in space, among other themed attractions. Galaxy Lights requires its own tickets, which can be purchased online, and takes about 90 minutes to fully enjoy. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Dolly Parton’s Dollywood features an award-winning spectacle, set in the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. The festival features over 5 million lights, and even include fireworks this year. Midwest Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Visit the Tree of Light, a 55-foot silver maple tree decked out in 30,000 lights near the River Walk in Wisconsin Dells. As the holiday season kicks off, Wisconsin Dells will deliver a little extra cheer again this year with one of the biggest and brightest displays of all. In the open-air located off the River Walk in downtown Wisconsin Dells, a towering 55-foot silver maple tree will showcase 30,000 dazzling points of light, making it the only – and we mean only – light display of its kind in the Midwest. Stroll along the River Walk and view additional lighting in the form of 70 holiday trees, all sponsored by area businesses. Indiana The Santa Claus Land of Lights is a 1.2 mile Drive-Through Family Christmas Light Adventure located inside Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Enjoy the largest campground holiday light show in North America and the only light show that tells a story in lights and storyboards! Create new family memories and family traditions this Christmas Season at the Santa Claus Land of Lights – Family Christmas Light Adventure! For more themed light displays cruise through The Christmas Lake Village Festival Lights. The gated community of Christmas Lake Village invites you to drive through nine miles of festive light displays! Awards for Judges’ Favorite, Kids’ Favorite, Reason for the Season, and Best Lights will be awarded to four homes. Cheyenne, Wyoming Celebrate the holiday season Western-style this year in Cheyenne, where you can get your letter to Santa stamped by an Elf and see the mail get picked up by a Pony Express rider, visit holiday horses at Santa’s Saloon and Stables, hear Cowboy Carolers sing and meet Mr. Claus by the fire at Kringle Ranch, part of an event by the Little America Hotel & Resort. Check the calendar for more Old West holiday festivities happening through December 31. West Sonoma County, California Cue that legendary piano music and celebrate trees of all shapes and sizes all December long at Windsor’s annual Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove. This year, more than 200 trees were decorated by neighborhood families, classes, small businesses and community groups for you to enjoy on a socially distanced stroll through Windsor Town Green. San Luis Obispo, California Don’t miss San Luis Obispo’s annual Light Up Downtown event, the region’s destination for making holiday memories for more than 40 years. This year, they will feature the return of our annual Holiday Parade, Santa's House, and the Classic Carousel. Explore and celebrate local businesses and check out the lights, sights, and family fun in the Holiday Plaza! Nevada The Polar Express in Carson City, Nevada drive-through lights experience is operating until Christmas Eve. The brilliant light show will feature Santa, Mrs. Claus, and dozens of elves busy at work as they prepare for Christmas. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite holiday pajamas and bring hot chocolate as they travel through the North Pole experience. Hawai’i Get into the Mele Kalikimaka spirit at the 25th anniversary of Kauai’s Festival of Lights. The displays use recycled and reclaimed materials at the Historic County Building park and can be enjoyed until New Year’s Day. Millions of colorful lights illuminate the park’s looming coconut palm trees wrapped in colorful lights as well as upcycled decorations including aluminum can flowers and water bottle butterflies. Arizona Make the best of the holidays at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. The gardens offer a dash of holiday magic with 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags and thousands of white twinkle lights. Las Noches de las Luminarias includes pre-recorded carols to enjoy during the experience. In Lake Havasu City experience London Bridge Resort's Festival of Lights—the Bridgewater Channel is lit up with over 500,000 lights that set the water aglow and spark the holiday spirit.
Look up tonight! Northern Lights expected in Northern USA
The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has put out a geomagnetic storm watch for December 9-11, 2020. The storm should make the Northern Lights viewable across a large swath of the Northern United States. The forecast is the largest Coronary Mass Ejection (CME) of 2020. States that will likely be able to see the Northern Lights are Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. For the best viewing, find a dark, clear night and turn off all lights. According to the SWPC: "Geomagnetic Storm Watches are in effect from December 9th - 11th, 2020 due to anticipated CME effects. The CME occurred on December 7th, and was associated with a C7 flare from Region 2790. Analysis suggests CME arrival possible late on 9 December, initially resulting in G1 (Minor) storm levels. As CME effects continue, activity is likely to increase, especially if the magnetic field carried with the CME connects well with Earth's magnetosphere. Therefore, the potential for strong storm levels exists and a G3 (Strong) Watch is in effect for December 10th. CME-related disturbances are forecast to continue into 11 December, likely resulting in G2 (Moderate) storm levels - and another Watch has been issued accordingly. While SWPC forecasters are fairly confident in CME arrival at Earth, timing and geomagnetic storm intensity are less certain. Continue to monitor our SWPC webpage for the latest conditions and forecast."