One of the biggest destination's on my grandmother's bucket list has always been to see Mount Rushmore in person, so this year we decided to let her check this off her list (and mine!) and finally make a trip up to South Dakota. I also wanted to see this destination however I was not prepared for how gorgeous the surrounding area would be. I expected it to be similar to the Midwest - flat farmlands with just one random mountain for the monument. As we started the 14-hour drive my perception quickly changed because it was absolutely breathtaking! On our itinerary we visited Badlands National Park, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Spearfish Canyon, Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore.
Once we finished our drive through the National Park we headed up to Wyoming to see the first ever National monument Devils Tower (as seen in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"). It was such a unique thing to see in person. The surrounding landscapes were large rolling hills with a few small mountains and then all of a sudden there's this tall figure! We took the drive up to the top and then walked around the base of the Tower. Experienced rock climbers are able to climb up to the top but that was a hard pass for me!
On our second day we drove through several areas before making our way to Mount Rushmore. We took the scenic route to Keystone (where Mount Rushmore is located) and we started north and made our way south thru Spearfish Canyon and Black Hills National Forest. Even though it adds about an hour and a half on to your commute it's absolutely worth it! While driving through this area I felt like I was in Colorado with the winding roads, tall pine trees and rapid rivers off to the side of the road. One of the most breathtaking parts was seeing Bridal Veil Falls just right off the side of the road. We pulled over for a quick photo op and to take in its beauty.
When we finally reached the small tourist town of Keystone we decided to go for a unique lunch opportunity instead of just dining in a regular restaurant. Instead we went to Rushmore Tramway Adventures and took a chairlift to Mountaintop Grill for a scenic view of Mount Rushmore! I was terrified to be on the chairlift on the way up and down, but it was totally worth it to have a view of Mount Rushmore for a simple lunch of burgers, fries and sodas.
With a full belly and being very thankful to be on flat land we finally made our way to our final destination - Mount Rushmore! It seemed so surreal to stand at the base and look up and this incredible piece of artwork. I couldn't help but just stare at it and think "wow!". It also was a great feeling to know my grandmother was finally able to check this off her list and to share the moment with my family.
Hawaii has been at the top of my bucket list for years! When I decided to make this trip happen in 2018 I invited a few friends along and made it the ultimate girls trip; Jenn, Rachel, and Abby joined me on this adventure. Hawaii had everything we wanted in a vacation- perfect weather, beaches, hiking, water activities, and city life. The choice of which two islands to visit was a hard one, but for this trip we landed on Oahu and Kauai.
Oahu was the perfect start to our vacation! Our first few nights were along the famous Waikiki Beach. Here we were able to walk all around our hotel to restaurants, shops, and different sections of the beach. We really enjoyed the beach and the hustle of the Waikiki strip.
Oahu has so much more to offer than just Waikiki. It’s a must to get out of that area whether you rent a car or take a guided tour of the island. Some of our highlights from around the island are below.
Any visit to Oahu isn’t complete without a stop here. It was a very humbling experience to learn about the attacks in such detail and see how much it affected the people of Hawaii personally.
We love to hike, so a trip up Diamond Head was an easy choice for an activity. Even if you are a light to moderate hiker this trip is worth it for the view. The path is paved, but it is mostly uphill so be sure to take your time and bring water.
This private nature reserve is home to the filming location of many favorite movies and TV shows. I enjoyed fangirling over the sites from “Jurassic Park” and “Lost”. Here you can zipline, take ATV tours, horseback rides, or a film bus tour. We decided to go for the 2-hour ATV tour and I’m so glad that we chose that. It was a highlight for our time on Oahu.
These botanical gardens blew away our expectations! The variety of flowers and historical sites leading up to the waterfall was so impressive. Rachel majored in Conservation Biology, so this stop was especially exciting for her.
Polynesian Culture Center
We decided to stay two nights on the North Shore so that we could really enjoy the quieter pace of Oahu and enjoy a full day experience at the Polynesian Culture Center. Our tickets were for the Ambassador Luau Package, which included visiting the villages from noon to 6pm, a dinner buffet show, and the “Ha: Breath of Life” performance. Each village had exhibits on their island and gave special little shows throughout the day. Have the guide was so beneficial because she was able to take us on the best route to maximize our time. My favorite was the Samoa act! I truly recommend spending the full day here from noon until the “Breath of Life” performance!
Kauai was our second island choice because of the amount of natural beauty on the garden island! About 80% of Kauai can’t been seen by car. It can only be accessed by water, air, or hiking—so we decided to do all three!
We really chose to live it up in Kauai and stay at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. This hotel was gorgeous! Having Club access, we also enjoyed the spa access and use of the club lounge for breakfast.
Na Pali Coast Catamaran Cruise
I love to be out on the water, so the catamaran cruise was the activity I was most excited about and it did not disappoint! We woke up bright and early and made it to the ship in time to sail away just after sunrise. Breakfast was served as we enjoyed the salt water breeze! We had an amazing sighting of dolphins swimming and even a whale tale! First, we stopped in a cove to snorkel. We had a blast seeing the variety of fish and a sea turtle swimming. After snorkeling we set out to get our first glimpse of the Na Pali Coast. I can’t even put into words how stunning the landscape is in person. Captain Jeff and his crew shared stories and facts about Kauai along the way. Our deli lunch and beverages really hit the spot for our scenic ride back to Port Allen.
Since so much of Kauai can only been seen from above we decided to spring for a helicopter tour. We saw some amazing waterfalls and the Na Pali Coast again! Our pilot gave some great commentary and played some touring music. If there is any place to take a helicopter tour, Kauai must be at the top of the list.
Another item at the top of our list was hiking. We decided to visit the lookouts of Waimea Canyon and choose a trail there. We ended up on the Canyon Rim trail. This gave us some fantastic, unspoiled views and a few bonus waterfalls. The trails are not very well marked so be sure to read the signs on how long the hike is and bring plenty of water.
This was such a truly spectacular trip and I was so lucky to share it with three friends. Hawaii is perfect for friends, romance, and family! It’s all about the islands and places you choose. I’m happy to share more details about my accommodation, activities, or trip planning!
Start planning your next trip by giving Stacey
a call at 314-439-5700 ext. 128 or send her an email.
Most of the time when people mention they're traveling to Iowa people question "why?". No, it's not the most popular state, but hidden in each state of our county is a gem and Iowa's is the small Dutch town of Pella.
Pella is located right outside of Des Moines, IA that Hollanders claimed as their new home in 1847. They named it Pella, otherwise meaning "city of refuge". This Dutch community has grown since it was first founded and it still holds on to its founding roots of traditions, food, customs and more. One of the most popular traditions that they celebrate like their European ancestors is the famed Tulip Time Festival. When I heard about the Festival (and it only being 4 hours away from St. Louis) I knew I had to go and I'm so glad I did!
As we walked around this city we couldn't believe how much it actually felt like we could be in Europe. All of the buildings in the city had similar architecture to that of the Netherlands with bricks, towers, colorful shutters and of course, windmills! Pella actually has an authentic windmill that was built in Hoogmade, the Netherlands, and was de-assembled and then re-assembled in Pella in 2002. Visitors are able to take a tour and go up the windmill however we were unable to during our visit (we'll save it for next time!).
The streets were alive with dancing in wooden shoes, Dutch food trucks, beautiful Dutch clothing, presentations and parades. I honestly didn't anticipate for there to be as many people at this small festival, but it turns out Pella usually has around 150,000 visitors for the Tulip Time Festival each year. It made it fun and exciting to be around so many people who were interested in learning about and celebrating a different culture.
Pella is a destination I fully plan to visit again with my family. It offers something fun and unique to a large audience and it's great for a quick weekend getaway. This town also has local wineries and a lake for even more activities outside of the Festival. If you're interested in visiting the next Tulip Time Festival in Pella then mark your calendar for the first weekend of May in 2019 - we'll see you there!
To book your Tulip Time Festival vacation contact the staff at Brentwood Travel today! Call us at 314-439-5700!
When you work in the travel industry your resolution list doesn't always include just diet and exercise; instead, it's where to travel next! Some of our staff members shared where they hope to travel in 2018 that they had not visited before. We wish everyone a happy 2018 and we hope you complete your travel resolutions, too!
Allison Harper - Walt Disney World
Ashley Curry - Road trip to another state with a stop in Walt Disney's hometown, Marceline, MO
Cathy Robinson - Singapore and Italy
Cheryl Hegger - Adriatic and Baltic
Emily Medina - Galapagos Central Islands & Inca Discovery tour to see Machu Picchu
Jennifer Wilmes - Alaskan tour
Joanie Ramey - Napa, CA by way of Sacramento, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Destin, FL; Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Maggie Groene - Alaska and Punta Cana
Mickey Gaona - Portugal
Missi Wilson - Anywhere on a cruise
Stacey Hoehne - Hawaii
Susan Hakenjos - Meditation and wellness trip in India
To book your 2018 resolution trip contact one of our excellent specialists at 314-439-5700, or visit our Contact Us page.
One of the most magnificent destinations in the world is Alaska. The ice-capped mountains, crystal-clear waters, scenic forests and those oh-so-adorable sled dogs - it's a spot that should be on everyone's "bucket list". Many of our staff members have conquered its vast terrains and they invite you to attend "On Stage Alaska" presented by Holland America Line and Brentwood Travel on Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00 PM. This once a year performance will feature our staff members, Alaskan locals, and Holland America Line representatives to show you why your next trip should be Alaska. Read our staff's testimonials below to get a sneak-peek of what you'll learn at "On Stage Alaska".
Seating at Creve Coeur Community Center is free but limited! To reserve your spot, email us or call 314-439-5700 ext. 110. To find out more about "On Stage Alaska" click here.
"Cathy Robinson put together a FABULOUS Alaskan experience for Elaine and me (Bruce).
We did the 11 day Alaskan tour, with four days on land and a seven day Inland Passage cruise on the Coral Princess. Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we were greeted by Princess staff and received our welcome packet. We were surprised by the “Meet Me Onboard” request to send a suitcase ahead to the ship. We did NOT pack a separate bag for this, so we spent a lot of time ‘repacking’ one of our suitcases. That was a minor inconvenience, as the remainder of the trip was trouble free! Our luggage was delivered to our rooms by the time we arrived at the hotels/ship.
The Discovery III riverboat cruise was the best excursion of the trip. The ship was equipped with a great sound system and video monitors, so all onboard could see and hear all narration. There were fascinating bits of information. Iditarod training camp and fishing village info was easy to hear and see. We really enjoyed that.
The Tundra Wilderness Tour was awe inspiring! The vastness of Alaska was prominently displayed and we got to see several species of wildlife – from afar. We also got to see all of Mt. Denali. We joined the 30% club of visitors that got to see the entire mountain top.
The two Princess lodges were beautiful. They were rustic looking and very accommodating. We purchased the on land food package and certainly got our money’s worth. We could order anything on the menus, with no exceptions. All the food tasted great. The bus drivers for excursions were all courteous and explained in detail what we were seeing and some history of the area. Despite the rain, the train ride to Whittier was entertaining and visually stunning.
The Coral Princess was clean and the staff was VERY friendly and again, the food was really delicious. We did purchase the ‘all beverage’ package on the ship and that worked out well. We had no questions on any drink we could order including call drinks.
There was a lot of notice of invo-virus and signs to wash hands frequently. There were Purell hand sanitizers by all restaurants, shops, elevator lobbies and stairwells. However, they were not ‘forcing’ you to sanitize before entering restaurants – especially the buffet (sanitizing was mandatory on other cruise lines we have sailed). We recommend sanitizing hands before and after dining
They brought naturalists on board to discuss what we were seeing in Glacier Bay and as we entered and cruised the Inland Waterway. They were very informative and helped all to view humpback whales, sea otters and Orca killer whales during our journey.
The shore excursion disembarkments were well coordinated. We had no delays leaving or re-entering the ship. The meeting points on shore were well marked. Bus drivers to and from the excursions were informative and very helpful with participants with disabilities, or problems getting on/off the buses.
Our three shore excursions were:
This was our first trip to Alaska and our first time on Princess Cruise Line. We will not hesitate to recommend Brentwood Travel to our friends and we will have them coordinate our next major travel event."
Start planning your Alaska adventure by emailing Cathy or contact her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 114.
Missouri is well known as the Show Me State and we will receive quite a show on August 21, 2017. An eclipse extravaganza will cross through our state for a once in a lifetime experience.
A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely blocks the solar disk. During totality, it will get as dark as night. Missouri will experience as much as 3 hours of the partial eclipse and 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality.
The Sun’s diameter is 400 times that of the Moon. The Sun is also about 400 times farther away. As a result, the two bodies appear almost exactly the same size in the sky. This truly remarkable coincidence is what creates a total solar eclipse.
You may experience strange things during a total solar eclipse. Shadows will look eerie and breezes may vanish. A 10°–15° F drop in temperature is not unusual. And bright stars and planets may be also be visible!
About five seconds before totality, Baily's beads will appear. They are little bead-like blobs of light at the edge of the Moon. They are created because gaps in the mountains and valleys on the Moon's surface allow sunlight to pass through in some places but not others.
A Brief History of Total Solar Eclipses
The word eclipse comes from ekleipsis, the ancient Greek word for being abandoned. Surviving records have shown that the Babylonians were able to predict solar eclipse as early as 2500 BC. The ancient Chinese were the first to document a total solar eclipse and explained their occurance as a celestial dragon devouring the sun.
The wonder of a solar eclipse lead to myths and folklore being created throughout many cultures. The Batammaliba people in Africa see each eclipse as an opportunity to end old feuds. The myth is that an eclipse is caused by fighting between the sun and the moon. When an eclipse occurs, the Batammaliba come together as a community and try to end their own fighting as a way of encouraging the sun and moon to do the same.
The last time a total solar eclipse occurred over Missouri was in 1442. The Osage people still ruled this region and Columbus had not even been born yet. The next eclipse over our area will be in 2505 which is 488 years away, making this viewing truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Protect Your Eyes During the Eclipse
A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime:
To learn more on eye safety during a total solar eclipse, click here. And be sure to follow us on Facebook on Monday, August 21 as we post live updates during The Great American Eclipse event.
Brentwood Travel clients Bob and Mary Jo worked with travel consultant Ashley Curry and traveled with Globus Tours to explore several National Parks by coach, raft, and even by helicopter. We asked them to share their amazing pictures to inspire fellow travelers to plan their own journey to these treasured places.
My wife and I have been fortunate to travel extensively worldwide for the past 50 years, but we never visited a group of National Parks. We were referred by our friends after they took the 14-day "Parks & Canyons Spectacular" through Globus Tours. They booked their trip through Brentwood Travel and Ashley and highly recommended all three.
We and a couple we have traveled with for years were delighted with all aspects of the tour. It satisfied several bucket list items: Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful and Grand Canyon.
The wildlife in Yellowstone was fantastic. We even saw a black bear mother and her cubs, one of which climbed a tree. The Grand Tetons were the most spectacular range. We toured the Grand Canyon by helicopter and took a float trip down the Snake River.
But the surprising highlight of the tour was a walk through Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. The views and vistas created by the light seeping into the canyon were spectacular.
Our accommodations, food and coach were first class, as were our guide Daryl and driver John.
We highly recommend Globus, Brentwood Travel, and Ashley.
Start your National Parks adventure by emailing Ashley or contact her at 314-439-5700 Ext. 127.
The newly announced ban on electronic devices may have a slight impact on your travel plans, but planning in advance will help you stay productive during your trip.
Here is what you need to know to navigate these new rules:
Aulani…Aulani simply saying the name which in Hawaiian means “the place that speaks for the great ones” or “messenger of a chief”; it makes me want to go back. The resort is located on the island of O’ahu and only twenty-five minutes from Honolulu International Airport.
When you enter the property it is lush with beautiful trees. The friendly Aloha spirit is felt the minute you step out of your car. Women and men are given beautiful Lei. Children have their own welcoming gift of a Menehune necklace (Menehune are shy mischievous people of Hawaiian Islands that are gifted and magical).
What really opens your eyes and makes you say “wow” is the lobby. It is a tall entry way with Polynesian style of architecture. Your eyes look at the pictures telling a story of the people and the land. Then you are drawn to the ocean in the distance while looking at the Waikolohe Valley (the name of the recreation area) in the foreground.
The resort has 351 guest rooms including 16 suites and 481 multi-bedroom suites. My family and I stayed in an Island Garden View with two queen-size beds. We had a beautiful view of the garden, mountains and a partial view of the ocean. The resort is large, but it is easy to navigate. Every evening the daily ‘IWA (schedule) is available for the next day. It lists activities for the ‘Ohana (family), Keiki (children) and ‘Opio (youth 13-17years old).
We started our morning with a 6:30am stretch class by the ocean. It was a perfect way to start the day and the classes change each day. We had breakfast at ‘Ama’Ama which is an oceanfront restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was fantastic! It is one of two restaurants on property that reservations are highly recommended. The other restaurant is called Makahiki named after the annual Hawaiian festival celebrating the season of bounty. The service is buffet style and they are opened for breakfast with Disney characters and dinner.
The ‘Olelo Room a lounge open for bar fare in the evening. I thought the concept for the lounge was brilliant. Everything has a word on it. For example the word ‘Noho’ was written on the top of the chairs; since it is the Hawaiian word for ‘chair’. The whole lounge is meant to be interactive for the guests to speak with the cast and to learn about the Hawaiian language and culture.
Truly the greatest kids club is the wonderful Aunty’s Beach House. Throughout the day they have activities for children. Some require sign up because space is limited. You can arrange to have your children eat lunch or dinner based on availability and for an additional fee. Aunty’s Beach House has something for every child's interest. Plenty of rooms with different crafts, a movie room that looks dark and stormy so you want to sit and watch the movie, and a big jungle gym in the backyard to run around.
There is even more to do in the Waikolohe Valley. There are two water slides, one of them is called Tubestone Curl. It empties out into the lazy river so you can relax and let the river move you. The resort also has three pools. One is an infinitely pool that looks out to the stunning ocean. If you swim underwater you can hear whale sounds. There is a larger pool where they do activities as well as an adult only pool. Another unique aspect of the resort is the Rainbow Reef. This is a live reef with incredible aquatic life. The cast makes sure it is kept pristine and have you follow special guidelines when entering.
The beach is wonderful, complimentary boogie boards and snorkels are available. Since it is a lagoon it is easy for young children to play in the water. Paddleboards are available for an additional fee. I have been wanting to paddleboard for awhile and it was fantastic! Quite the workout. The lagoon is shared with the neighboring Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina. The Luau called KA WA’A is definitely a must see. It is right on property and as of now performed twice a week. They offer pre-show activities and the buffet highlights Hawaiian cuisine.
The Laniwai Spa is stunning. It is the only spa on O’ahu to offer Kula Wai an outdoor hydrotherapy garden. This is another example of bringing Hawaiian rituals and beliefs into the setting. The signature treatment is the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi. This massage technique is passed down from generation to generation. The Laniwai offers many different spa treatments. My family and I were having such a wonderful time at the resort, we only left one night for dinner to a restaurant across the street at Ko’Olina Station.
I really enjoyed being at Aulani for several reasons. Here are my top five:
1. The Aloha spirit of warmth and inclusion is felt the minute you arrive till you depart.
2. The Hawaiian stories and history are woven into the fabric of the resort.
3. Aunty’s Beach House was fantastic place for the children. They kept asking to go back!
4. The resort has many activities. Golf at the top rated Ko Olina Golf Club can be arranged.
5. It is a wonderful place for a family, multi-generational as well as couples to vacation.
I could go on for pages about all the fantastic activities and feel about the resort. Our
experience did exactly what we wanted which was much needed relaxation, new experiences
and fun. I look forward to our next vacation to Aulani - A Disney Resort and Spa. Next time will
explore all the wonder O’ahu has to offer.
Dana has more travel advice to share and recently completed the
Hawaii Destination Specialist Program. Contact her today to book your next trip.
Brentwood Travel Vacation Experts
In the 60 years since Brentwood Travel was founded in 1957, we've grown into the largest, full-service travel agency in the Greater St. Louis area. No matter what your travel needs may be, our consultants will be able to assist you.