*TWI Magazine Winter 2021 - The Magic of the Holidays


The magazine written and photographed by North American Travel Journalists Association members.


Lightner Museum, St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights



The Magic of the Holidays

The Magazine Written and Photographed by North American Travel Journalists Association Members

Letter from the Editor

TravelWorld International Magazine

is the only magazine that showcases

the member talents of the

North American

Travel Journalists Association






The holidays ARE magical! And this is a year where magic

is more important than ever! We are striving to recover from

pandemic darkness and we are searching for that special

light that we find in the warmth and love of Christmas. The

spirit of Christmas is believing in the hope for the good of

all mankind. We fulfill that hope by caring and sharing with

our loved ones and those in need. While the weather outside

becomes colder, our hearts become warmer, and we rise to

become our better selves! This IS “The Magic of the Holidays.”

Finding this magic fulfills our dream of enjoying “Happy


While the holidays are helping us become happier and more

relaxed, our world is gradually becoming more secure and we

are finally starting to look forward to travel. This issue is a

compilation of delightful destinations, mostly seasonal, and

all beautifully depicted in these stories and photographs by

North American Travel Journalists.

We hope you are finding the magic of the season and enjoy

Happy Holidays!

Joy Bushmeyer,


Group Publisher:


VP Operations:


NATJA Publications

Helen Hernandez &

Bennett W. Root, Jr.

Yanira Leon

Joy Bushmeyer


Donna Adinolfi Carrie McLaren

Lucas Aykroyd Kathryn Reed

Laura Watilo Blake Bennett Root, Jr.

Victor Block Barbara Singer

Lina Zeldovich


Discover Puerto Rico

Explore Branson

Explore Fairbanks

Florida's Historic Coast

GI Laurel Highlands

Love Catalina

Pure Florida, Punta Gorda Englewood Beach

Whidbey adn Camano Islands

Editorial /Advertising Offices:

TravelWorld International Magazine

3579 E. Foothill Blvd., #744

Pasadena, CA 91107

Phone: (626) 376-9754 Fax: (626) 628-1854



The Magic of the Holidays

St. Augustine’s “Nights of Lights” Carrie McLaren 6

Explore Beautiful Berchtesgaden, a Bavarian Getaway Lucas Aykroyd 10

Cleveland’s “A Christmas Story” House Laura Watilo Blake 16

Santa's North Pole - Not Fake News Bennett Root, Jr. 22

Welcome the New Year Immersed in Snow at Tahoe Kathryn Reed 30



Cover Photo

The cover photo is of

St. Augustine’s “Lightner Museum”

during the “Nights of Lights” display.

Photo provided by


Volume 2021.04 Winter 2021. Copyright ©2021

by NATJA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduction in whole or in part without written

permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and

information sent upon request. Acceptance of

advertising in TravelWorld International Magazine

in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by

NATJA Publications, Inc., nor do products or services

advertised. NATJA Publications and TravelWorld

International Magazine reserve the right to reject

any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors

are their own and not necessarily those of Travel

World International Magazine or NATJA

Publications. TravelWorld International Magazine

reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity

and length, as well as to reject any material submitted,

and is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts.

This periodical’s name and logo along with the

various titles and headings therein, are trademarks

of NATJA Publications, Inc. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.

2 3








The Magic of the Holidays

A Norman Rockwell Christmas in Rangeley, Maine Victor Block 32

Winter Wellness and Adventure in Costa Rica Donna Adinolfi 36

Off the Beaten Path, Holiday Escapes in Puerto Rico Lina Zeldovich 44

The Academy Museum Opening Gala Barbara Singer 46






Be inspired by the light of the Aurora Borealis. Renew your energy under

the Midnight Sun. Experience the warmth of Fairbanks–Alaska’s Golden Heart–

and the basecamp to Denali, Interior and Arctic Alaska.

Call 1-800-327-5774 for your free Fairbanks Visitors Guide.

Explore your Alaskan vacation at explorefairbanks.com.


Lightner Museum, Nights of Lights

Here’s a look at some of the fun ways

to experience this magical display of

holiday cheer –

Horse and Carriage on Aviles,

Nights of Lights

Unique Ways to See

the Nights of Lights

here are many unique

ways to admire the

Nights of Lights,

making each visit a new

experience for holiday goers.

One of the most popular

ways to explore the city of

lights is on the Old Town

Trolley’s Famous Nights of Lights Tour.

Tours depart each evening from the

Visitor Information Center and include

a pair of magical viewing glasses along

with fresh, hot cookies and apple cider

at the end of the tour.

Experience the Glow of St. Augustine’s


Story by Carrie McLaren • Images provided by FloridasHistoricCoast.com

Plaza Gazebo, Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

n its 28th season, the St. Augustine Nights

of Lights is considered a ‘must see’ event

for the holiday season. In fact, National

Geographic named it one of the top ten

holiday light displays in the world. With

millions of white lights decorating the Nation’s

Oldest City, the festivities take place every

night between November 20, 2021 to

January 31, 2022.

For a truly unique vantage point of

the lights, make plans to be on the

waterways of St. Augustine, including

Matanzas Bay and surrounding

waterways. Enjoy a sunset sailing on

the Schooner Freedom, complete with

blankets and refreshments. The ship

itself is decked out with 2,000 twinkling

white lights. For an intimate night on

the water, enjoy a harbor tour with St.

Augustine Eco Tours aboard one of their

6 or 12-passenger boats.

For a more romantic Nights of Lights

evening, reserve an old-fashioned,

horse-drawn carriage ride through

the city. With many booking options

available, some carriage rides even

include complimentary ride.

Waterfront Nights of Lights, St. Augustine


The Nights of Lights season begins on November

20th at the gazebo in the Plaza de la Constitución

with the lighting of the Christmas tree and a

countdown to officially light up the city with

twinkling, white lights throughout the city.

From a guided trolley ride to a scenic boat tour or a

look from above, there are many ways to experience

the lights and seasonal activities during the Nights

of Lights in St. Augustine.

If history is more your thing, book a

guided, walking tour with Ancient City

Tours for a 90-minute stroll through the

lights to learn the history and stories

of the nation’s oldest city, including

colonial folklore and holiday traditions.

Some of the many stops on the tour

include the Lightner Museum courtyard

and the Plaza de la Constitución.


Bayfront Palms, Nights of Lights, St. Augustine

iving history interpreters

present a timeline of St.

Augustine’s colonial history

on select nights as they stroll

through the lights

offering visitors

a glimpse of the

city’s people and

stories. At the Villa

Zorayda Museum, guests can explore

the grounds’ Christmas trees on

display with more than 100 candles lit

thoughout the museum. Beer fans can

enjoy Nights of Pints with a dedicated

Nights of Lights brewery passport

supporting local breweries.

On December 11, a true Florida

celebration takes place with the

Holiday Regatta of Lights, hosted by

the St. Augustine Yacht Club. Sailing

through Matanzas Bay between the

Bridge of Lions and Castillo de San

Marcos, be on the lookout for shrimp

boats, sail boats and more – each

illuminated with brilliant light displays.

Holiday Shopping on

St. George Street

44 Spanish Street, Nights of Lights, St. Augustine


Palm Tree, Nights of Lights

Special Events

During the Nights of Lights

eekends are a popular

time for viewing

the holiday lights

and there are plenty of

special events to celebrate

the holiday season. From

dining to history buffs and

family-friendly Christmas

festivities, there’s plenty of excitement and

beauty to found on Florida’s historic coast.

At the St. Augustine Lighthouse, guests

can enjoy tours of the Keeper’s house

and grounds with 21 uniquely decorated

Christmas trees located throughout the

property. The Lighthouse’s luminary night

takes place December 1st with holiday crafts

for the children, a visit from Santa and plenty

of holiday refreshments.

Other festivities during Nights of

Lights include holiday performances,

fireworks displays and even a morning

parade with Santa Claus take place

on select weekends creating an

atmosphere of togetherness and


Make Plans to See

the Nights of Lights

From unique ways to see the lights

to the special events and activities

held throughout the city, it is easy to

see what makes the Nights of Light

a longstanding celebration of St.

Augustine and the holiday season.

For more information on

planning a visit to St. Augustine’s

Nights of Lights, go to:



Berchtesgaden, seen here in winter, is less than two hours by car from Munich.

Photo courtesy of Berchtesgaden Tourism

Berchtesgaden is a popular winter destination in Germany.

Photo courtesy of Berchtesgaden Tourism

Explore Beautiful


There’s nothing quite like a Bavarian mountain getaway!

Story and Photos by Lucas Aykroyd

Once notorious as a 1930’s getaway for the Nazi elite,

Berchtesgaden, Germany nowadays provides a captivating

Alpine alternative to Banff or Aspen. The Bavarian mountain

town of 8,000 lies less than three hours southeast of Munich

by train, attracting aficionados of nature and history alike.

For snow enthusiasts, Berchtesgaden features six different ski

areas with some 37 miles of downhill runs. The magnificent

Obersalzberg ski area above the town has terrain suitable for

all skill levels. You can also get your heart rate up on more

than 60 miles of groomed cross-country trails.


The historic Bavarian mountain town of Berchtesgaden dates back to 1102.

Photo courtesy of Berchtesgaden Tourism)

Visitors can explore the Konigsee Village

before taking a boat ride on the lake.


A boat tour of Lake Konigsee is a popular choice

for Berchtesgaden visitors.

Smoked lake

trout and rye

bread are

served at the


cafe by Lake


f you’re seeking serenity

and contemplation, take

the Lake Konigsee boat ride

to Saint Bartholomew’s Church

with its distinctive red domes.

At the adjacent FischerstÜberl

cafe, you can savor smoked lake

trout and dark rye bread. While

cruising on the five-mile-long lake,

you’ll spot a red cross commemorating a

1688 nautical disaster that claimed 71 lives

here. Listen to the wistful strains of your

guide playing a trumpet toward the “Echo

Chamber” fjord cliff walls.

Getting sent to the salt mines sounds

onerous, but the Salzbergwerk

Berchtesgaden is a thrilling, almost

Disney-esque attraction for guests of

all ages. Highlights of Germany’s oldest

salt mine include riding a mining train,

admiring a 256,000-square-foot salt

cathedral cave, and sliding down polishedwood

slides. Lasers and psychedelic

music add zest in between the educational

displays about drilling and pumping brine.






boasts a

mountaintop perch straight out of

a James Bond movie. Little touches

make this 2015-opened, five-star

property special. For instance, newly

arrived guests are served tiny steins

of iced tea with mint in the spacious

reception beneath a chandelier

made out of antlers.

Whether you’re getting a

rejuvenating massage at the spa –

which also has pools, saunas, and

a meditation lounge – or setting

up an adventurous hike with the

on-site activity concierge, staying

at the Kempinski makes life in

Berchtesgaden even more beautiful.

The Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden opened in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden



a leading local

brewer, was


in 1645.

At the Gasthof zum Neuhaus, fill up

on traditional Bavarian delicacies like

Wiener Schnitzel and roast duck with

dumplings, washing it all down with

locally brewed beer such as Hofbrauhaus

Berchtesgadener Dunkel. A jolly

atmosphere prevails with live accordion

music and locals in Lederhosen and


When dusk falls, relax in your

Executive Mountain View Room,

admiring the 6,473-foot-high

Untersberg peak in the distance.

The feeling of tranquility is palpable.

Even though Berchtesgaden has had

its dark moments in the past, this

beautiful Alpine community has a

bright future.

Spa-goers at the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden

can enjoy a beautiful winter panorama.

Photo courtesy of Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden

To plan your trip to

Berchtesgaden, visit

Roast duck

with dumplings

delights diners at


Gasthof zum Neuhaus.

A selection of chocolates and

macarons awaits guests at the

Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden.

An Executive Mountain View Room at the

Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden offers many comforts.









In Branson, we believe in a few things.

And the only way to experience a

Christmas vacation is to be here with us.

Branson. You won’t believe it, until you do.

International sights

Go Explore. Go Play.

Go Laurel Highlands!

without international flights

Experience Pennsylvania‘s Laurel Highlands for

#FreshAirFUN provided by Mother Nature.

Just a short drive from Pittsburgh.




You don’t have to deal with cramped 14-hour flights, long customs lines, or confusing

currency exchange to experience something memorable. Introducing a new way to travel –

INTRAnationally. Get all that international charm without ever leaving the country.

Right here in St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra.

Visit FloridasHistoricCoast.com to learn more.


Plan your trip at







Cleveland’s ‘A Christmas Story’ House

Story and photos by Laura Watilo Blake

Opposite page: It’s

Christmas all year long

at the ‘A Christmas

Story’ House—yellow

clapboard house with

the green trim at 3159

West 11th Street in

Cleveland’s Tremont


This page: The leg lamp

glowing in the front

window draws a lot of

attention to the home

after hours.

Want to spend Christmas reliving the classic holiday film ‘A Christmas Story?’ You could

catch the 24-marathon of the movie on TBS or TNT on Christmas Eve. Better yet, pack

your bags (and your pink bunny pajamas), head to Cleveland, Ohio, and stay overnight in

the house featured in the iconic film. Here’s a peek into what it’s like after hours in the

‘A Christmas Story’ house, one of the city’s best-known cinematic landmarks.




y day, the ‘A Christmas

Story’ House is a

museum to movie magic,

located in Cleveland’s

Tremont neighborhood.

The mustard-yellow clapboard

house with green trim looks

like many of the modest century

homes on the city’s west side, but

it’s the only one selected as the

Parker family home in the 1983

classic holiday film ‘A Christmas

Story.’ Fans of the film come

from all over the country and

globe armed with every detail of

the film’s plot when they wander

through on a tour. They fire off

its memorable lines as easily as

protagonist Ralph (“Ralphie”)

Parker could have shot an eye out

with his Red Ryder BB gun. Some

of the museum staff and docents

can tell you what they were doing

when the film crew came to town

in the early 1980s. They may have

been extras in the parade scene or

perhaps they waited hours in line

to see Santa Claus at Higbee’s, a

now-defunct department store in

downtown Cleveland.

Few people, however, can say

they’ve spent the night in the

museum surrounded by artifacts

from the 1940s-era movie. When

superfan Brian Jones bought the

house overlooking Cleveland’s steel

mills sight unseen in 2006, he could

not have imagined people lining up

Above: It’s a bit

surreal playing board

games under the

light of the infamous

leg lamp in the

living room of the

‘A Christmas Story’

House. Once the

tours are finished for

the day, overnight

guests have the run

of the place.

Left: The narrator

of the film, ‘A

Christmas Story,’

takes us back to

his childhood in the

late 1930s and his

burning desire for a

Red Ryder Carbine

Action 200-Shot,

Range Model Air


around the block to visit the house,

let alone pay thousands of dollars to

spend the night on Christmas Eve.

But once the holiday spirit strikes,

the house becomes a mecca for

America’s most-watched holiday

movie and the calendar fills up with

overnight bookings.

y family decided to pull the

trigger and book an afterhours

visit to the famous film

location in the off season,

which starts at a much more

reasonable $495 midweek

between April and October. A

third-floor loft with kitchen, living

room, bathroom and one bedroom becomes our

personal refuge during regular museum hours,

but once the tourists leave, we have the full run

of the house. We can even sleep in Ralphie’s and

Randy’s bedroom surrounded by antique toys and

children’s books from a bygone era—all of which

can be played with.

Since my seven-year-old daughter had never seen

‘A Christmas Story’ before, I wondered what she

would think about the strange artifacts throughout

the Parker home. Like the many visitors before her,

she is naturally drawn to the infamous leg lamp

with its “soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the

front window.” She gets a good laugh when she

picks up the rotary-dial phone in the second-floor

hallway to hear Mrs. Schwarz’s verbal assault

on her son whom Ralphie wrongly accused of

teaching him the F-word—the “queen-mother of

dirty words.” In the bathroom, a bar of Lifebuoy

soap stands by to be Ralphie’s punishment for

using said F-word. I discourage Kinley from putting

the soap in her mouth, given it has bite marks on it

from a previous museum visitor.

The surreal experience continues as we hang out

in the living room and play board games under

the light of the leg lamp late that evening. The

Christmas tree gleams year-round in the corner of

the room with the Red Ryder BB gun propped up

by the fireplace. Even though the interior shots of

the Parker home were filmed on a soundstage in

Canada, the home was painstakingly remodeled

to closely match the set’s layout. At any moment,

I expect Ralphie to bound down the stairs like

a “deranged Easter bunny” wearing the pink

pajamas his Aunt Clara bought him. Instead, we’re

interrupted by a few of the film’s fans climbing the

porch stairs and peering in the front window to

get a peek. They are just as surprised as we are

when they realize we were inside looking back at

them. We took that interruption as our cue to head

upstairs to the loft apartment and call it a night.

Top to bottom:

Get an earful from Mrs.

Schwarz when you

pick up the second

floor hallway phone.

Read the hidden

message Ralphie

deciphers with a Little

Orphan Annie Secret

Circle decoder pin in

the bathroom.

Reenact the scene

in which Randy took

refuge under the

sink when he was

sure their father was

going to kill his older


Sleep in Ralphie

and Randy’s room,

surrounded by vintage

books and old-school



everal months later, when the holiday season

was in full swing, we finally sat down to

watch the Christmas classic together as

a family. It was a joy to see our daughter’s

reaction to the various scenes in the film.

She shouted and pointed to the TV when

she recognized the yellow clapboard house.

“I remember that!” she exclaimed, then

repeated the phrase over and over when she

watched scenes that corresponded with artifacts in the

home. Since everyone else had seen it a million times, it

was great fun to experience it again with a newbie.

Make Up


She may have done the A Christmas Story experience in

the reverse order, but we still managed to create a new

fan and ensure the holiday tradition of watching the film

will continue long into the future.

A Christmas Story House’s private third floor loft provides

refuge for guests for the entirety of their stay. You can

watch the DVD of A Christmas Story in the living room.

Guests can also use the rest of the house from an hour

after closing until 9 am the following day.

Plan your

movie night

A Christmas Story House rates

range from $445 to $995, but staying

Christmas Eve and Day will set you

back thousands more. The stay

includes a free museum tour for up to

6 guests. Staying Christmas Eve and

Christmas in 2021 costs $3,995, and

the price goes up to $4,995 in 2022.

If the A Christmas Story House is

booked, you can stay overnight in

the Bumpus House next door. The

Bumpus House has two more themed

suites available for overnight stays.

The “Hound Dog Haven” suite on the

first floor can accommodate up to

4 guests per night, and the “Stolen

Turkey” suite on the second and third

floors can sleep six. Rates range

from $245 to $995 depending on the

room, day of week and time of year.

However, Bumpus House guests do

not get a free tour of the A Christmas

Story House.

For up-to-date rate information, visit



Fans of the movie may know the Parkers’ next door neighbor had a

roving pack of hound dogs that frequently bothered Ralphie’s dad

and even barged in on Christmas Eve, gobbling up the delicious

turkey Mrs. Parker had just taken out of the oven. T he Bumpus

House, as it’s called, is also available for overnight stays.

Now more than ever, every moment counts. And

there’s no better place to enjoy every moment than

Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach. From pristine

beaches, to fascinating eco-tours, to boating in

Charlotte Harbor, your family will discover every kind

of outdoor fun imaginable.

Ready to reclaim your freedom?

Plan now at: PureFlorida.com



In the land of the

midnight sun,

the landscape is

eerily alive, stars

twinkling among

sentinel trees.


Not Fake News!

Story and Photos by B.S. de Bunker

(Alias: Bennett Root, Jr.)

he rumors start earlier every year, now well

before Thanksgiving, just like the ads for

diamonds, drones, and dolls. I guess they

are an improvement over the rumors and attack ads

whenever we have an election, but these seemed just,

well, mean-spirited. I was hearing it rumored that

Santa wasn’t real, and the North Pole workshop was

just an urban legend. Perhaps it was the Grinch and his

boys, or Scrooge and his social media team. “Fake News!” they

said. “BS” (as in Bushido Samurai) I said.

The faint green curtain

moving through the sky

suggests a sumptuous

light show was on its way.


Fake News! Fake News! Just because it is reported on Fox doesn’t

always mean it is “Fake News.” I’d heard these rumors before, but I

wasn’t buying it. This was a job for B.S. (Billy Smith) de Bunker. I

called the TravelWorld editor and got an assignment (no expenses

paid) to check it out. I proceed directly to plan my trip to the

North Pole—red-eye into Fairbanks, snowmobile to Fort Yukon,

dog sled to Artic Village… I was determined to find out once and

for all whether Santa’s workshop was really at the North Pole, and,

well, whether Santa himself was real.

After the usual battle getting to Fairbanks (not the flight so much

as getting into the airport and finding parking), I grabbed a cup

of hot coffee and a cinnamon roll from The Cookie Jar and then

started checking the usual sources, local newspaper archives, and

locals at Fairbanks watering holes. Soon enough, I ran into my

new best friend Bernie, a friendly old-timer who said he could set

me up at his resort “to get adjusted,” while he got me the forward

lodging and transportation I would need to get on to the North

Pole and see for myself, once and for all, whether Santa was real

or just more fake news.

Nothing better than a hot cup of coffee and

a cinnamon roll, especially after a red-eye

flight. It is gooey but is it good!

Bernie was amazing! He guided me to a great

place with all the amenities. He also booked my

transportation and guides for the North Pole.


is resort was not Saint Tropez or even Mar-A-

Lago, but it did have a few amenities, like a hot

tub (adult attire only) and the famous Aurora

icehouse and bar, featuring frozen appletinis in

iced martini glasses. (No kidding—the glasses

were made fresh each day from vegetarian

farm-to-table chunks of ice, cut locally, onpremises).

I partook of both, but briefly, wanting to

get a good night's sleep and an early start the next day.

The vistas as we

headed north

were spectacular,

but it was cold!

It was chilly at the Aurora Bar. The

Appletinis were exceptional!

Traveling by




and quick.

Much better

than the


There aren’t a lot of roads on the way to the North

Pole, and what there were really were not all

that passable. So fortunate I was that

Bernie had engaged Matt, my

snowmobiling guide, for the next

leg of my journey. I geared up,

which was quite a process,one

I secretly resented until I

learned that snowmobiles can

travel well over 100 miles an

hour in some cases, and it is

pretty darned cold when you

are not inside a car with the

heater going.

“…the woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have

promises to keep and miles to go, before I sleep...”

Nothing more relaxing than skinny dipping

after a walk in the snow. It is bracing!

The first leg of my trip

required me to suit up.

I was thankful for the

gator, the gloves, and

the helmet when we

got out on the trail.

Jeez, it was cold

getting to the facilities in

the middle of the night.

I thought I had booked

a two-room suite. Was

I surprised when I

found out the second

room was out back….

Anyway, before

nightfall I had

arrived at Bernie’s

suggested tworoom

suite, only

to find out that my

second room had

outdoor plumbing

and a pre-chilled

seat. I was

thinking I’d have

been better off to

book with Tom

Bodett, and have

him leave a light

on, and perhaps

the furnace, too.

I will say the scenery on the way was spectacular, fast-moving water (it knew how to avoid freezing, even if

I did not) and beautiful, silent birch trees. I assume they were silent—it’s hard to tell with a snowmobile’s

engine running right beside you. But I made that night’s stop in time for my afternoon nap, which was a

good thing because I was told outside of Fairbanks was the ideal spot for a nighttime light show. I set my

alarm for 11 pm and got up in time to see the midnight sun and the stars all at once. Really a special treat,

and just an appetizer for what was to come.

In the wee hours of the early morning, the Northern Lights were on display. It was well worth the trip.



For the next leg of the

journey, I was on a dog

sled. My hands and

head were warm, but

the wind on my

face burned

and my

beard was

frozen in


The sled bounced along the trail until we turned

north, smooth sailing for the next couple of hours.

nd soon enough, we rounded

a bend and cleared the trees,

and what to my wondering

eyes should appear, but

Santa’s 2021 Distribution

Center, complete with

forty bays, and forty

sleighs—but I digress.

The Distro Center was

strategically placed next to the

decorated Christmas trees and the

Santa blow up by his marketing

elves, and in front of his workshop,

which looked out on—wait for

it—Santa’s North Pole! I jumped

for joy! I was so happy, and maybe

starting to feel warmer, too. (It

could happen.) I’m still not sure

whether the scene was real, or I

had just been in the sled too long,

I reached out and actually touched

the North Pole and I noticed a

bit of graffiti welded on the Pole

(check it out—“Bob,” as in Bob was

here), so I knew it must be real.

We deftly navigated

the sleigh parking

and the reindeer,

and my musher

pointed me

over a small

mound of snow.

The North

Pole! Not

Fake News!

A little graffiti

welded to its

sides, but

a real pole


he next leg of my trip would help me

understand that cold was not defined by

winters in Detroit or Boston, or even by

the wind whipping off Lake Michigan

in February. No, cold is a few hours on

a dog sled. It looks romantic, and it is exciting,

but it is also COLD! Even with big gloves and

a Russian Ushanka hat with the flaps down.

But the dogs don’t run forever, and it was on a

rest stop, chatting with my musher, that my trip

was saved. I asked how much farther to Santa’s

North Pole, and he said, “Santa’s North Pole? I

was told to get you to the polar North Pole. That’s

different. Santa’s? That’s less than an hour away.”

Warmed by his comments (well, not really), we

set off, the course now corrected.

The dogs

were impatient,

ready to go, and

very yappy. Within

moments there was

only the sound of a

sled on snow.

Well, just one more thing

remained for me to check out.

I ran up to the door and asked

a couple of elves who were just

leaving where I might find Santa.

“He’s in the back,” they said. I

pushed onwards, really excited

now, and there I saw him, taking

only a little license, “in the flesh.”

He was real! Fake News, fie on you!

I was just going to get an interview

on my trusty tape recorder, when

I heard bells, not church bells,

maybe more like alarm bells, like

on my alarm clock. I sat up in bed,

wondering was this just a dream?

No interview, how could I prove

this was real? Fortunately, this

story was on my computer, so I

knew it. I knew it was real.

Santa’s North Pole—

Not Fake News!

“Oh, Santa’s North Pole,” the musher

said. “That is different, and within minutes

Santa’s Distribution Center came into view.

And finally, I met the Man

him-very-self! My faith was

restored. “Hey, hear those

bells? Sounds just like my

alarm…” Merry Christmas.




It’s time to feel the embrace of the sun on your face, our historic trails under

your feet, and our endless white sand between your toes. It’s time to book.

Find out more at DiscoverPuertoRico.com.

Fresh ideas for your next adventure are right here in The Natural State. With a

variety of outdoor and city destinations, southern cuisine and rich historic culture,

Arkansas has something for everyone. We encourage NATJA members to explore

Arkansas. We’ll make you feel right at home.



28 29

Welcoming the New Year

Immersed in Snow

In the Lake Tahoe Basin

The Sierra Nevada mountains seem to go on forever

Story and Photos by

Kathryn Reed

For 360 degrees it was a winter wonderland. It

was like being in the middle of the Sierra with

mountains as far as the eye could see.

What a glorious way to welcome in the New

Year; a snowshoe just outside of the Lake Tahoe

Basin in Alpine County, California. While this

is the state’s smallest county, it has some of the

biggest views for outdoor lovers.

t was minus 7 degrees as we left the Tahoe Basin.

At the trail’s starting point it was 10 degrees and

had warmed to 22 by the time we were done. What a

thermometer would have read on the ridge, where the

wind howled to the point it seemed to take our breath

away, well, it’s probably better we didn’t know.

That wind whipped ice formations onto rocks in

what looked like works of art, especially with the orange

lichen nearby. At times the snow was so hard our snowshoes

made no indentation, while at other times it was like floating

on pillow-like powder. In other spots it was a crusty layer we

punched through.

Without a

distinct trail,


make their

way through

the wilderness


Ringing in the New

Year by breaking

trail on snowshoes

For the group of us from the Tahoe area,

distinguishable landmarks dotted the landscape—

Elephants Back, the runs at Kirkwood Mountain Resort,

Little Round Top, Round Top, Hawkins Peak and others.

Meiss Meadow resembled a frozen lake; with one

person saying the cabins looked like Monopoly board

pieces. Caples Lake, covered in ice and snow, was

uninviting. The view of sapphire-colored Lake Tahoe

may have been what General John Fremont saw

when he first laid eyes on this alpine wonder.

Five of us spent the first day of the New Year on an

incredible snowshoe in the Carson Pass-Kirkwood

cross country ski area. Plenty of tracks could be seen,

presumably mostly from backcountry skiers. For the

most part we were breaking trail. We knew where we

wanted to go, but there was no set trail to get us there.

That added to the fun.

From the trailhead we headed nearly straight up and then to

the left toward the ridge we knew we wanted to trek along.

Had we continued, Little Round Top would have added at least

another three miles to our journey. We opted to drop down

into a bowl. At the bottom we hooked up with the groomed

trails of Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center

before we made our way to the Caltrans maintenance station

where we had left a vehicle.

In all, we went 6.55 miles. We started at 8,573 feet and

reached a maximum elevation of 9,444 feet. With the up and

down route, we gained a total of 1,654 feet in elevation and

descended 2,267 feet.

It was the best way to welcome in another year.

Elephants Back sticks out over the pine trees


elebrants gather in the center of town

to watch the lighting of the Giving

Tree, which is the focus of a gift donation

project for children and adults in

need. The handful of places to shop

and eat, along with many homes, are

bedecked with strings of multi-colored lights and

other seasonal decorations.

In the annual Walk to Bethlehem, Rangeley

residents, dressed as the people in “The

Christmas Story,” and others, walk from church

to church, pausing to sing carols outside each

one. The event ends at the Church of the Good

Shepherd where everyone goes inside to enjoy a

holiday pageant.

The Annual Walk to Bethlehem

recalls the magnificent message

of The Christmas Story.

The lighting of the Giving Tree is part of

a gift donation program for the needy.

The beautiful stone Rangeley Library was built in 1909.

During the holiday season, Rangeley greets

guests with an array of attractions that combines

welcome variety with reminders of treasured

times past. Those seeking an outdoor sporting

experience have a choice of options. Frozen lakes

and ponds are transformed into nature-made

rinks for ice skating. There’s skiing at Saddleback

Mountain, just outside of town.

Ice skating on a frozen pond

A Norman Rockwell Christmas

In Rangeley,


Story and Photos by

Victor Block

ome people prefer to spend the

holiday season lying on a sundrenched

beach beneath the shadow

of palm trees. Others take to the

seas on a cruise ship or check into a

resort to gorge on food and festivities.

Then there are those for whom

nothing exemplifies the holidays

as much as a tiny, snow-covered

picturesque village that clings

stubbornly, and proudly, to its

past and long-held traditions.

That’s the winter scene which

greets visitors to Rangeley, Maine.

Its small-town setting serves as

the perfect backdrop for holiday

scenes that would fit perfectly into

a Norman Rockwell painting.



eople who wish

to experience


have a choice

of 150 miles

of well-groomed

trails, which interconnect

with other systems that

lead throughout Maine and into

Canada. The snow-covered trees

and quiet surroundings of forests

welcome folks who snowshoe or

would like to learn how, and offer

opportunities to spot moose which

make the woods their home.

Those who prefer a warmer

ambiance may seek out roaring

fireplaces in restaurants which

range from pizza to posh, or curl up

with a book before log blazes that

burn in the lobby of the Rangeley

Inn and elsewhere.

Snowmobiling is one of a number of

outdoor winter activities in and around Rangeley.

he Inn is but one inviting

place among many which

relate interesting chapters of

the town’s history. Before the first

Europeans arrived, Abenaki

Indians set up hunting and

fishing camps along shorelines of

the area’s lakes and ponds. The names of some

bodies of water – Cupsuptic, Umbagog and

tongue-twisting Mooselookmeguntic – attest to

the Native American influence.

In 1796, an Englishman named James Rangeley

showed up and purchased land on which a

town soon evolved. In the mid-19th century,

the village, which bore his name, gained a

reputation as a fishing Mecca because of its

abundance of brook trout and, later, landlocked

salmon. Well-to-do fishermen from Boston,

New York and further away made the trek to

the still primitive destination, and over decades

grand hotels like the Rangeley Inn sprang up to

offer them comfortable accommodations.

Winter sunset over Rangeley Lake

Today the Inn shares space along Main Street,

a several-block-long stretch of road without

a stop sign or traffic light, with single-story

frame buildings that house the Lakeside

Theater, the Alpine Shop, aptly named Moose

Alley bowling and a smattering of small stores

and restaurants. Much of the vehicle traffic

consists of logging trucks creaking beneath

their heavy load.

Frozen Waterfall

Along with the eclectic list of things to see

and do in and around Rangeley, it’s the serene

atmosphere and reminders of a way of life from

the past that attract many people to visit and,

once they’ve done so, to return year after year.

Maine Street, Rangeley would fit

well in a Norman Rockwell painting.

It doesn’t take long for those who drop by

to understand that this area of Maine is as

much a lifestyle as a destination, one that fits

comfortably into the time-honored tradition

of small-town friendliness. That’s among

the reasons why generation after generation

of families come back repeatedly, including

during the Holiday season.

Winter sunset over Rangeley Lake



Stunning mountain views of Nicoya

Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean

greet you every day –

beautiful with or

without sunshine.

This journey began at Juan Santamaria

International Airport, and it took about

40-minutes to get to Atenas and the

entrance of The Retreat. This hotel is

located on a 50-acre quartz mountain so

another (short) ride was required to go

up the steep mountain to the cozy and

inviting check-in area. If you rent a car,

be sure to contact the hotel and let them

know what kind of vehicle you have; they’ll

guide you.

The idea of staying at a hotel located

on a quartz mountain was intriguing

to me as I felt that it was the perfect

location for a wellness retreat with

the anticipated bonus of the healing

benefits of quartz. Diana Stobo,

owner, bestselling author, and health

and wellness life coach created this

transforming retreat. The Retreat

offers the tools to assist guests with

better health practices, letting go

of stress, and the peaceful space to

relax and just be. There’s much

more to Diana’s story and what led

her to create this magical place that

she refers to as “Heaven on Earth.”

Having experienced The Retreat, I

couldn’t agree more.

Each day you’re greeted by the

beauty of nature at every turn –

from the birds chirping, to the

sound of water flowing, to the

deep color of the red ginger along

the paths. The beauty of the

property is also noteworthy as it is

an intimate space with 13 peaceful

rooms, the Vida Mia Healing

Center and Spa, farm-to-table

organic restaurants, 2 saltwater

pools, a yoga studio, meditation

deck, organic gardens, and

magnificent views. The beauty

of the valley was so mesmerizing

I couldn’t help but be in the

moment as I gazed over the flora

and fauna of this fertile land.

Story and Photos by Donna Adinolfi

“Once a year go someplace you’ve never

been before.” - Dalai Lama

I took this advice and went

someplace new, which was also

a bucket list destination, Costa


You’ve likely heard “Pura Vida”

in relation to Costa Rica – it’s a

way of life – and evident with

just about everyone you meet. I,

for one, needed a lesson in the

“Pure Life,” as far as living more

simply, and it certainly unfolded

during my journey.

Winter is a great time to visit

Costa Rica as it is considered the

dry season and the new year is a

great way to immerse yourself in a

wellness retreat and connect to Pura


Costa Rica is best discovered by

exploring different areas. My

opinion, yes. But you’ll see that it’s

a desirable way to see the country

as there’s more to Costa Rica than

sunning on the beach.

The Pacific region goes through its dry

season from December to March while

the Caribbean region’s dry season is

typically February and March.

This glimpse of Costa Rica is about

the Central Valley, which includes San

José, Heredia, and the Alajuela areas.

Although winter is also considered dry

season, it does vary with the altitude,

and you could see some rain, even

though the rainy season is between

May and October. Bring a raincoat!

The Main Pool & Jacuzzi for when

it’s time to relax especially under the

therapeutic waterfall. Ahh…



The Retreat’s anti-inflammatory

dinner is with colorful veggies and

locally sourced chicken.


A daily

treat at

The Retreat

is Cappuccino

and Coconut

Milk –

so much

better with

Costa Rican


Nothing says

the tropics

more than

these exotic

refreshers at

The Retreat,

healthy, vibrant,

and nourishing.

Breakfast begins with

anti-inflammatory juices,

fresh fruit, chia pudding,

granola, and a chef’s special.

As you meander through the property,

be ready to work your thighs and abs too

because it is on a steep mountainside.

Going to meals, the pool, the spa, and

fitness studio will get you to 10,000 steps

before you know it. Note: If you do have

mobility challenges, it’s best to discuss

them with the resort administration before

you arrive so that you will be prepared.

Dining was certainly a highlight of

The Retreat as the chef created some of

the most amazing farm-to-table (antiinflammatory)

meals you could imagine.

They are artfully plated to engage all the

senses and boast colorful, fresh, organic,

and locally sourced and sustainable items.

The kitchen is also grain and dairy free,

although you’ll see goat yogurt and cheese

used at times. But keep in mind that the

menu is customized for each guest. Best

of all, you can see what’s going on in the

kitchen as it’s an “open kitchen” and you

can view how meals are prepared and the

ingredients used. You can take cooking

classes to engage in the practice of cooking

healthy and bring what you learned home

with you – all part of what I like to call,

the tools of wellbeing.





greets everyone

each day while his mate,

Jane, is nowhere to be found.

Rather than hibernating during the

winter, guests can create healthier

lifestyles by choosing one of several

offerings from packages that include

anti-inflammatory meals, hikes, yoga

and more. For example, the Art of

Resting package is suited for most

of us after the intense last couple of

years we’ve experienced. The 5-Night

Holistic Medical Spa Retreat package

is a more intense program that is led

by Dr. Vinod Balakrishnan. It includes

yoga, nutrition (doctor prescribes

based on your Dosha), Abhyanga

Equilibrium Treatments, and more.

Guests are asked to complete a

questionnaire for a personalized plan

for the journey and will then go home

with a plan to continue their Ayurvedic


Even though you may want to relax

and enjoy everything this resort offers,

you may also be ready for a little

adventure - it is Costa Rica, after all.

On-property nature hikes, exploring

the crystal quartz mountain, are

possible as well as off-property tours

like the La Paz Waterfall Garden and

Poas Volcano Adventure. Maybe you’ll

see a sloth! (Sadly, I didn’t see any).

If you do want to visit a beach, Jaco

Beach is the closest to The Retreat at

about 40-minutes away. You may

even make a stop at the “Bridge of

Crocodiles.” The concierge can assist

with this one too.

As for me, I was content soaking

in the positive vibes of The Retreat

for my three days. As I explored the

property, I immersed myself in the spa,

yoga, and learned more about antiinflammatory

cooking and ayurvedic

practices from Dr. Vinod.

The excitement lies in the exploration of the world around us.” - Jim Peebles

Winter is a great time to explore Costa

Rica even among the clouds of the Central

Valley and Alajuela.

As you travel around Alajuela, be sure to

stop in Sarchi. This town is famous for

the brightly colored and hand painted

oxcarts (they’re still in use) and Sarchi

is also known for furniture building and

local artisans - consider making a stop

at Carratas Eloy Alfaro, which opened in

1923, for a tour and shopping.

Colorful Oxcart located in Sarchi,

Costa Rica, which is the birthplace

of the oxcarts. Visit the Eloy Alfaro

oxcart factory for a tour.

As my journey continued beyond Sarchi,

I couldn’t help but wonder what this

next experience would be like as we

approached El Silencio Lodge & Spa.

This luxury lodge is located within

Bajos del Toro, which is also a UNESCO

cultural heritage site, amid lush valleys

and breathtaking waterfalls. This resort

offers stunning views as it is on a 500-

acre private cloud forest and surrounded

by the Juan Castro Blanco and Poas

Volcano National Parks. Don’t forget

to pack your rain jacket, it may come

in handy as you hike up to explore the

property’s three waterfalls.

First, I must mention that even though

this was my home for only one night,

albeit a short stay, it was spectacular!

With so much to explore on property, you

might find it hard to leave your luxury

suite or villa, with amazing floor to ceiling

cloud forest views, attention to detail

beyond ordinary, and you can enjoy it all

from either the handcrafted rocking chairs

or the heated outdoor jet pool.

Food is the highlight

of any journey,

especially when it’s

from an organic farm

and greenhouse.

Vegetables, spices, and

herbs – all from the Lunch at El Silencio

property – are featured included Gallos,

on Las Ventanas authentic cuisine

of Costa Rica,

Restaurant’s gardento-table

seasonal veggies inside a

with meat and or

menus. Check out the corn tortilla.

trout pond to catch

your dinner (or simply choose trout from

the menu).

Activities continue year-round so you’ll

find as much to do in the winter as you do

in the summer since it averages 50-70°F

year-round with January being the coldest

month at 61°F. Expect it to be mild

during the day and chilly in the evening

with a mix of sun (in the morning), rain,

clouds and yes, mist, most days.

More about the activities as one of the

best yoga classes I’ve ever experienced was

with Karla. It included sound healing, and

while our class was surrounded by floating

clouds, it led to a profound yogic journey.

This is “Karla”,

Yoga & Sound

Healing Instructor

at El Silencio

Lodge & Spa.

Home for the night in one of

the 2-Bedroom Villas at El

Silencio Lodge & Spa.

I planted a stinging nettle during the

tree planting ceremony at El Silencio

Lodge & Spa, in honor of my mom.

Another winter activity to consider

is the Night Walk as it’s when the

Cloud Forest comes alive, and our

senses intensify. Enjoy the scents

and sounds of nature by exploring

the trails of El Silencio at sunset

(weather permitting).

The most personal experience

had to do with the tree planting

activity offered at El Silencio.

The tree planting ceremony is

complimentary as you plant a tree

in Costa Rica’s carbon-offsetting

forests to help bring back colorful

Quetzal birds to the region. While

my hope is that these birds return,

it was even more meaningful to me

on that day as I planted the stinging

nettle tree in honor of my mom.

Everything about this resort

exceeded my expectations.


When I think of Costa Rica there are three things that always come

to mind – Sustainable Tourism, Chocolate, and Coffee - Finca Rosa

Blanca gave me all three and so much more.

Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee

Plantation & Inn has a

welcoming entrance.

Colorful and healthy farm-to-table

salads are at Finca Rosa Blanca.

If you’re traveling within the Central Valley

to be among the rain forest and cloud forest

it may be a good idea to spend a few extra

nights closer to San Jose. Along the way,

consider a stop at La Paz Waterfalls, which

is what I did via winding Bara Blanca road

for this next Bucket List stop. La Paz is a

spectacular waterfall along the side of the

road, so no hiking involved here and time

for several Instagram moments.

One of the best hotels in the area and a

short ride to Juan Santamaria International

Airport is Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee

Plantation and Inn. It makes a great 2 to

3-night respite at the beginning or end of

an eco-adventure and what called out to me

was the architecture and its funky, bohemian


Heliconia Exotic

Tropical Plant is

one of many at

Finca Rosa Blanca

and seen all over

Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Jonnathan picked a

tropical hibiscus for me,

which can be found

in abundance at the

beginning of the coffee

plantation tour.

Did I mention there’s a lot to discover in Costa Rica? From Canopy

tours to waterfall hikes to wellness resorts and beyond - it’s

important to pre-plan some activities prior to your winter visit and

you’ll likely want to do more - as in my case - so you can do what

I’m doing and go back and explore another area (or revisit what you

loved the most).

Costa Rica is a wonderland of eco-adventures that can satisfy that

wanderlust craving and a place where you become one with the

Pura Vida spirit of this beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming country.

Pack closed toe shoes, long pants, raincoat, insect repellant, small

flashlight, camera, binoculars, dry bag, hat, sunscreen, long sleeve

tops, sweater/jacket, and bathing suit. Be sure to leave room in

your carry on for the amazing chocolate, fragrant coffee, and other

goodies you find along the way.


A hidden doorway and colorful

tropical plants welcome you at the

entry of the Garden Villa, Las Aves.

My guide, Jonnathan, and I on

the Coffee Plantation Tour at

Finca Rosa Blanca.

Check this off your bucket list –

the La Paz Waterfall.

It’s easy to access as it’s

located alongside the road.

Finca Rosa Blanca is filled

with funky architecture, vibrant

art, and other lovely touches

throughout the property.

In speaking with the owners, Glenn, and Teri

Jampol, this dream all began in 1985 with

Glenn’s mom, Sylvia. They’ve been at it for

over 30 years and created one of the most

fascinating places in my travels and their

own piece of heaven.

First, as mentioned earlier, it’s the vibe that I

connected with but it’s also the art as Glenn,

originally from California, is an artist. His

work and the collection from he and his

wife, Teri, can be found around the property.

The buildings, the hidden doorways, tropical

foliage, the rooms, décor, and everything

about this hotel is a work of art.

You feel like you’re in another world as you

meander along the paths and immerse in the

nature that surrounds you – a symphony of

birds, the beauty of the colorful hibiscus and

tropical plants, and the scent of coffee as you

approach the restaurant.

Coffee beans are in abundance, of course,

along the Finca Rosa Blanca Organic

Coffee Plantation Tour.

Speaking of coffee,

the organic coffee tour is a must.

The coffee plantation of Finca Rosa Blanca

is on 30 acres of rich soil and shadegrown,

high-altitude organic coffee of

the Arabica varietals. Along my tour,

which was led by Jonnathan, I learned

about organic agriculture and sustainable

practices of not only the coffee but also

the on-property farm. As you meander

through the shaded forest, you also see a

variety of plants and flowers as you witness

the massive amount of coffee beans.

By the way, Finca Rosa Blanca’s coffee is

certified sustainable by Rainforest Alliance

and ICAFE, the Costa Rica National

Institute for Coffee.

• Fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport/San Jose (SJO)

airport for your adventure to the Central Valley and the Alajuela area.

The Retreat’s Holistic Medical Spa Package, Visit:


• Transfers to El Silencio and Finca Rosa: Costa Rican Trails

handled transfers and tours and they were attentive, knowledgeable,

professional and there isn’t anyone else I would use for my return.

• Visit Costa Rican Tours at www.costaricantrails.com/

• Visit The Retreat at www.theretreatcostarica.com/

• Visit El Silencio Lodge & Spa at www.elsilenciolodge.com/

• Visit Finca Rosa Blanca at https://fincarosablanca.com/en

• Visit Costa Rica Tourism for Juan Castro Blanco and Paos National

Parks and more at: https://www.visitcostarica.com/en


International sights


without international flights




In Branson, we believe in a few things.

And the only way to experience a

Christmas vacation is to be here with us.

Branson. You won’t believe it, until you do.

International sights

Go Explore. Go Play.

Go Laurel Highlands!

without international flights

Experience Pennsylvania‘s Laurel Highlands for

#FreshAirFUN provided by Mother Nature.

Just a short drive from Pittsburgh.





You don’t have to deal with cramped 14-hour flights, long customs lines, or confusing

currency exchange to experience something memorable. Introducing a new way to travel –

INTRAnationally. Get all that international charm without ever leaving the country.

Right here in St. Augustine | Ponte Vedra.

Visit FloridasHistoricCoast.com to learn more.


You don’t have to deal with cramped 14-hour flights, long customs lines, or confusing

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Plan your trip at



Off the Beaten Path

Holiday Escapes in Puerto Rico

Story and Photos by Lina Zeldovich



Learning to SCUBA dive

with Captain Cachi

Photo by Nicole Olmeda

of Discover Puerto Rico

nce winter arrives in North America, people

will once again flock to Puerto Rico for warm

weather and holiday escapes. Most of them

will get off the plane in the capital of San

Juan, catch a cab to a nearby beachfront hotel,

and stay for the duration. Some will venture

out on rainforest tours, horseback riding or

snorkeling adventures, and then come back to

San Juan. The rest of the island’s 3500 square miles of

empty beaches, lush rainforest, towering mountains

and wildlife refuges, remain off their radar. So do the

bioluminescent bays—bodies of water that glow in

the dark, thanks to a natural phenomenon. There are

only a few such unique places on the entire planet

and Puerto Rico has three bioluminescent bays with

only one you can take a boat to and swim in: The

bioluminescent bay at La Parguera. One of Puerto

Rico’s districts, La Parguera sits in the southwest

corner of this vibrant tropical island, two hours away

by car from its packed, touristy capital. Another big

reason to escape there this holiday season—avoiding

San Juan’s crowds.

Most importantly, La Parguera’s bay is the only place

where I can swim in the mysterious bioluminescence,

so getting here is well-worth the two-hour drive. So

is my SCUBA lesson with Cachi of Paradise SCUBA

and Snorkeling, a local La Parguera company—he’s

been doing this for 30 years. As we glide over the coral

formations, Cachi points out some of its inhabitants.

We can’t speak—only point and tap. The colorful

underwater world undulates around me in slow

motion, so tantalizing and mystifying that I lose track

of time. As I chase a small school of fish, brush against

velvety plants and touch sea stars, I start feeling like a

marine creature myself. When we emerge an hour later,

I can’t wait to dive back. But we have to eat first before

embarking on our twilight adventure.

By the time we come back to shore, we are starving.

We have just about enough time to grab a late lunch at

Moons Bar & Tapas, feasting on the freshest seafood.

After that we board the boat again, and literally sail off

into the sunset. On the way, Cachi explains the origins

of the bioluminescent phenomenon. The light is emitted

by the microscopic organisms called dinoflagellates

found throughout the ocean. When present in high

concentrations and agitated by movement, they produce

enough visible light, which in the dark looks like a surreal

glow. Cachi descriptions don’t disappoint: When I jump

off the boat into the black ocean waves in complete

darkness, save for the faint moon twinkle, the water

around me immediately lights up in golden streaks.

The harder I paddle, the brighter it glows. I feel like a

mermaid lighting up a Christmas tree underwater. Or

decorating the ocean for the holiday season. Or setting

off celebratory fireworks. What an antidote to the cold

and snowy North American winter. And best season’s

greetings ever.

When I finally get to my bed inside the Combate Beach

Resort in Cabo Rojo, a nearby region of Puerto Rico, I fall

asleep instantly, exhausted from my marine adventures.

But the ocean’s magic stays with me. In my dream I see

corals, fish, and the dinoflagellates. And myself, too—a

mermaid setting the waves aglow for the holiday season.

Captain Cachi driving to the bioluminescent bay

y SCUBA diver instructor Captain Cachi checks my

gear one last time, and we start slowly descending into

the waves of La Parguera Bay in Puerto Rico. This is

my first dive ever, and I’m both thrilled and nervous. I

have done the basic diving exercises a few dozen times

while still on the boat: Learning how to blow water

from inside my mask, how to put the mouthpiece

back on should I accidently let it go, how to equalize the pressure

in my ears as we descend—but doing so underwater is a different

story altogether. As I sink beneath the ocean surface, leaving the

air world behind and entering the underwater one, I instinctively

hold my breath. Cachi points to my mouthpiece, instructing me to

inhale. “Breathe!” he motions in silent language—and I finally start

gulping the air, just as we become fully submerged. I look up and see

the ocean surface of La Parguera Bay quivering above me—a mindboggling

sight I’ve never experienced before.

All aboard, sailing to ocean adventures Feasting on fresh seafood at

Moons Bar & Grill



Movie lovers rejoice!


is now open in Los Angeles!

Discover everything you ever wanted to

know about Films here!

Story and Photos by Barbara Singer

Celebrity Gala Photos by Academy Museum Foundation


Opening night reception of the Academy Museum on

The Dolby Family Terrace atop the glass Sphere Building

The new Academy Museum on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles

The Sphere Building with the David Geffen Theater and the Academy Museum

in the Saban Building, is the largest and newest movie museum in the US

fter years in the

making, the

Academy of

Motion Pictures

has achieved

the longtime

dream of the movie industry

of completing a 300,000

square-foot Museum

Complex. While Los

Angeles is already popular

with tourism, this museum

undoubtedly is destined to

become a world-renowned

tourist destination! An

architectural masterpiece,

it was designed by Pritzker

Prize-winning architect

Renzo Piano and is a must see

attraction that promises to be

an exciting movie experience

for all who enter its portals.

A landmark Art Deco

building with golden metal

exterior, it is located on

historical Museum Row at

Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire

Blvd. and was chosen years

ago to be the main Museum

building. Originally built in

1939, it was one of the popular

May Company department

stores. The highly recognizable

Academy Museum today is

comprised of two buildings,

the Saban Building and

adjacent to it, the glass

dome Sphere Building with

the 1000-seat David Geffen

Theatre and atop, the Dolby

Family Terrace, a spectacular

open setting for parties and


estivities at the dazzling

Gala opened with a

celebration of events

provided by the Museum’s

own Lights-Camera-Action

and commencing with an

open house Press Conference

for world journalists. Next,

there were Special Honorees,

then Welcome Days for Charter

Members, and finally, the

anticipated VIP Opening Night

Official Ribbon Cutting and

Opening for everyone. Academy

Museum Director and President,

Bill Kramer, declared the Museum

complex “an instant landmark for

residents and visitors alike” in the

world capital of filmmaking.

Arriving at the Academy Museum

Gala, guests, honorees and

superstars entered a palm-lined

coconut grove on a green carpet

and through a forested tree

tunnel, an amazing exhibit by

Japanese filmmaker and animator

Hayao Miyazaki. The Gala,

which was a Museum fundraiser,

benefited film making programs

and education. Ethiopian

filmmaker Haile Gerima and

Italian superstar Sophia Loren

were honored and special award

recipients were Bob Iger, Annette

Bening and Tom Hanks, for their

lengthy campaign leadership

on behalf of the Museum.

Champagne flowed and guests

were treated to a Wolfgang Puck

inspired dinner. Highlighting the

evening, the one and only Lady

Gaga, performed an array of jazz

and classics, loved by all.

The coveted invitation to the

official Opening Night of the

Academy Museum

The first journalists visiting the

1000-seat David Geffen Theater

in the Sphere Building

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles

with Dawn Hudson, CEO of AMPAS.

Photo by Academy Museum


Honoree Sophia Loren with her son

Edwardo Ponti. Photo by Hunter Abrams/@

Academy Museum Foundation

Honorees Bob Iger, Annette Bening,

Tom Hanks with Nicole Kidman,

Photo by Hunter Abrams/@Academy

Museum Foundation

Cher and Lady Gaga, who gave a

stunning performance for the Gala

Guests Photo by Hunter Abrams@

Academy Museum Foundation



Oscar winners through the decades receive

their awards and give their

acceptance speeches

on a dedicated,








are are

on display

in glass


in the





The Museum

Gift Store -

the place

to take

home movie



film books,

film logos,

clothing and


Stories of Cinema

core exhibit

begins in the

Sidney Poitier

Grand Lobby.

On multi-levels

are the stories of

moviemakers and

their works.

The last model of the shark

“Bruce” from Jaws 1975, is

now suspended above the

escalator between the levels

of the Academy Museum

ntering the Grand Lobby,

which is named for film

legend Sir Sidney Poitier,

I felt transformed and

required a moment to

marvel at the ingenious

modern design and massive

10,000-square-foot space with 24-

foot ceilings. Located at this level is

Fanny’s Restaurant & Cafe, named for

famed vaudeville, theater and radio

star Fanny Brice with support of her

granddaughter Wendy Stark. We are

reminded that Barbra Streisand won

an Oscar for her portrayal of Fanny

Brice in Funny Girl (1968). Service

for dining and cocktails is also at

this level. And additionally, the new

Museum Gift Store is a great place

to collect cinema treasures, books,

posters, logo clothing and so much

more. The impressive “Founding

Supporters Wall” also embellishes

this level and if you look closely you

can see my name. The “Stories of

Cinema” exhibit begins here too, with

hundreds of reel tidbits on multiple


Moving upward to Level Two via

the escalator, one instantly recalls

“Bruce,” the shark from Jaws (1975).

This fiberglass model, the last one

from the original four models,

weights 1,208 and is 25-foot-long,

and looms over visitors ascending

and descending. In the “Stories of

Cinema” area Oscars are a fascination

and a room is devoted to Oscar

winners through the years, showing

their acceptance speeches on multiple

screens. In the “Gold Room” there

is a circular display of the coveted

statuettes, each in a glass case,

donated by the many recipients such

as Clark Gable and Barry Jenkins. If

you can’t get enough of the Oscars

here, go for “The Oscar Experience,”

(a separate ticket required), where

you can get star treatment on stage

while receiving an Oscar in front of a

simulated cheering audience.

ere are a few more of the

exceptional exhibits that

can be enjoyed:

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Gallery,” behind the scenes.

This display includes the cast on the Yellow

Brick Road, Judy Garland’s costumes, those

dazzling Ruby Red Shoes – (the ones she

wore to click her heels) with 2,300 sequins,

designed by MGM’s own Adrian, plus

sketches and other items from the film.

Director Spike Lee has a personal gallery

immortalizing his career with film posters,

hand written scripts and speeches (he

does not type), inspirations of musicians

and athletes, eccentric outfits and more.

Lee’s Oscars include Best Screenplay for

BlackKkKlansman (2018) and Honorary

Oscar (2016).

Spanish Academy Award-winning director

Pedro Almodovar’s special exhibit is devoted

to his acclaimed body of work.

“Backdrop: An Invisible Art” displays the

monumental matte painted backdrop of

Mount Rushmore which dominates the

room. Created for Alfred Hitchcock’s “North

By Northwest” (1959), it is a realistic vision

augmented by photos showing how it was

used in the film.

The Path to Cinema, on Level Three,

appeals to history buffs with inventions that

contributed to film visuals from shadow

boxes, to peep shows and magic lanterns.

Level Four is the inaugural exhibit of Japanese

Oscar-winning director/animator Hayao

Miyazaki, beloved for his many decades of

big-eyed children, whimsical creatures and

animated cells. Enter via a magical tree tunnel

to view his sketches and storyboards up close

with movie clips on the walls in a recreation

of his Ghibli Studio in Japan. There are 400

pieces of his collections in this special exhibit.

Also on this level Pixar Toy Story giant

Zoetrope features characters from “Toy Story”

(1995), placing them on a giant turning table

bringing them to life.

You can look at everything from behind the

scenes for the Wizard of Oz of 1939.

“Director’s Inspiration” is Academy Award winner Spike Lee’s

collection of works from posters, scripts and music, with his personal

items, to themes and collaborators.

A retrospective and inaugural exhibit of Japan’s Hayao

Miyazaki,acclaimed Academy Award-winning director

and imaginative animator, is on Level 4.

The most pristine set

of Ruby Red slippers

(worn by Judy Garland

for close ups in The

Wizard of Oz of 1939)

were designed by

MGM designer Adrian.


he Academy Museum is the talk of the town. There is so much to

see and absorb! It is truly a life changing experience. Plan a journey

here, marvel at the exhibits and consider returning soon for screenings,

lectures and happenings, and movies everyday, all year round! With my

passion for movies, and as a Founding Supporter, Charter Member and

Journalist, I participated in the early celebrations and can personally verify that

the new Academy Museum is an instant joy and worth a visit. It’s a perfect place

to spend holidays, and any days, with family and friends.

Dive IN

Rita Moreno’s Academy Award gown

was worn for her West Side Story

1961 win. She revisited it again at

the Oscars 2018 as presenter

The world’s foremost collection of

historical optical toys and devices

can be seen in The Path to Cinema

with highlights from The Richard

Balzer Collection.

This LA City landmark, formerly May

Company Department Store in 1939,

has been restored by architect Renzo

Piano into the Academy Museum.

This is the Olympia Typewriter

used by Joesph Stefano to write

the Psycho 1959 script for Alfred

Hitchcock, one of the most

influential films of all time.

This Technicolor Camera from 1937

is displayed up close in the Academy

Museum. Technicolor became a

major color system of films.

This is the costume from

Rocketman (2019) worn by

Taron Egerton as Elton John,

and now in the Identity Gallery



6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036,

323-930-3000 academymuseum.org

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It’s a water-splashing, wildernesswandering,

cocktail-sipping, toes-in-the-sand, headin-the-clouds,

off-the-grid, any-time-of-year kind of getaway. Just

22 miles off the coast of Southern California, you’ll never feel more, well … away.

Plan your trip at LoveCatalina.com




It’s time to feel the warm embrace of the sun on your face,

our historic trails under your feet and our endless white

sand between your toes. It’s time to book.

Find out more at



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