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Plan your holiday adventure with Harry Potter at Universal Studios now

Published: Monday, October 30, 2017 @ 2:54 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 25, 2017 @ 1:16 PM

Planning a trip to Universal Orlando? The new Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter adventure have Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley taking on a Christmas theme Universal has moved up the start of the holidays, launching Nov. 18 There will be a new Universal Holiday Parade featuring new floats and new balloons The Harry Potter activities and parade will be included in regular park tickets which start at $74 for multi-day tickets and $110 for single day tickets Each night the Wizarding World Christmas

Christmas at Hogwarts? Start planning now to enjoy the new holiday adventure, Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at  Universal Orlando.

Both sides of the attraction will feature holiday adventure and the magic of Christmas-themed decor. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley will take on a Christmas theme and at Islands of Adventure, the newly created holiday experiences will include special effects projecting Christmas moments from J.K. Rowling's series at Hogwarts castle.

Here are six things to know before you start planning your wizardly holiday adventure at Universal Orlando:

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Orlando attraction will be included in regular park tickets , which start at $74 for multi-day tickets and $110 for single day tickets.(Contributed by Universal Orlando Resort/For the AJC)

The holidays start early at Harry Potter World. 
Universal has moved up the start of the holidays, so the celebration will launch Nov. 18, five days before Thanksgiving, and run through Jan. 6.

The Universal Holiday Parade has a new look.
It's not strictly Harry Potter, but the newly dubbed "Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's" will include new balloons and floats. The park is promising Merry and Mayhem minions from "Despicable Me," who will join Santa Claus to live up to their names.

Flashback photos: Grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Holiday magic, no extra charge.
The Harry Potter activities and parade will be included in regular park tickets , which start at $74 for multi-day tickets and $110 for single day tickets.

Stocking stuffers from Honeydukes are hard to top.
All the Wizarding World storefronts will have holiday decor wizarding style and they're planning speciality holiday food and drink. 'Tis the season (or at least it will be the season) to load the stockings with Cauldron Cakes, Chocolate Frogs and more signature treats from the Honeydukes™ shop in Hogsmeade™. Remember when Harry got a rubber band for Christmas from the Dursleys? These treats will be the exact opposite of that.

Get ready for Grinchmas
Seuss Landing will be throwing a Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of Dr. Seuss's classic holiday tale starring The Grinch™.

Stay late for the lights.
Each night, the Wizarding World Christmas celebration will go out with a bang as a festive spell is cast onto Hogwarts castle. The decor, candlelight and festive moments projected on to the castle walls come from mapped projection technology, but it's so magical!

Chair J.K. Rowling sat in to write 'Harry Potter' sells for $394K

To learn more about holiday festivities at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,  click here.

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Southern Living names this resort best in the South

Published: Sunday, June 10, 2018 @ 8:47 AM

Rocking chairs are lined up outside for guests to relax while enjoying a view of the Smoky Mountains outside the Blackberry Farm main house in Walland, Tenn., on June 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
WADE PAYNE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rocking chairs are lined up outside for guests to relax while enjoying a view of the Smoky Mountains outside the Blackberry Farm main house in Walland, Tenn., on June 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)(WADE PAYNE/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Southern Living recently polled its readers to discover their picks for the top places to visit in the SouthBlackberry Farm, in Walland, Tennessee, south of Knoxville, took home the top prize.

>> Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards

Southern Living noted, "Blackberry Farm emanates hospitality, from its farm-to-table offerings to the porches on guest cottages."

Blackberry Farm is a luxury hotel and resort situated on a 4,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains.

There is a spa, brewery and working farm on the property. The resort offers plenty of wine and dining options, musical entertainment, workshops and more. 

Activities include horseback riding, archery, fly fishing, hiking and paintball.

>> Read more trending news 

One Facebook reviewer noted, "Have traveled quite well in my 50+ years, but Blackberry Farm stands out as the BEST of all. They anticipate your every wish and deliver it with cordial efficiency. Understated, approachable elegance. Go there, go there, go there! It is transforming."

Southern Living honored The Barn at Blackberry Farm by awarding it the best restaurant in Tennessee, too.

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Florida beach named nation's best in TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice awards

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 8:57 AM

Florida Beach Named the Best in the Nation

A Florida beach has been named the nation's best in TripAdvisor's annual Travelers' Choice awards.

>> See the full rankings here

The travel website announced Tuesday that Clearwater Beach was the best in the U.S. in 2018, climbing from No. 4 in 2017. The beach also topped the national list in 2016. 

>> Read more trending news 

Meanwhile, Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, took the award for the best beach worldwide.

>> Click here or scroll down to see which other beaches made the lists

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How to plan your perfect weekend in Asheville, North Carolina 

Published: Tuesday, May 29, 2018 @ 2:59 PM

We've got your weekend in Asheville planned out for you.

Are you planning your ideal summer getaway? You don’t have to fly to the Caribbean to have your perfect summer trip. This news organization has chosen several destinations that are easy to get to for a long weekend trip. From Hocking Hills to Cincinnati, we’ve got the best places to eat, see and visit on a budget this summer. 

Spend a weekend tucked away in the mountains. Asheville, located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is a funky town with amazing art galleries, live music and a thriving foodie scene. The drive from Ohio to Asheville is a little more than six hours.

Here’s what to do in Asheville:

1. Go for a hike 

Hiking in Asheville is the perfect way to spend a morning. Head to Chimney Rock State Park, where you’ll walk up flights of stairs to see a stunning view of the mountains. You can also hike to the summit of Table Rock Mountain, catching panoramic views of the soaring mountaintop in Linville Gorge. Another option is the 1.5-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain. The hike climbs about 700 ft. in elevation. 

2. Browse a bookstore 

Pick out a book from Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe. The independent bookstore has organic coffee, author events and a cozy vibe. Battery Park Book Exchange is another perfect place for bibliophiles. Readers can browse thousands of books while sipping on fine wine or Champagne. The used bookstore and Champagne bar is located in the heart of Asheville. 

3. Visit the Biltmore Estate

Explore the 8,000-acre beautiful Biltmore Estate built by George Vanderbilt. Take a rooftop tour of the grounds to see a birds-eye view of the estate for $25. The Biltmore also has special wine, cheese and chocolate tastings, or experience an elegant dining experience. The Biltmore has special food events like the “Biltmore Brewing Beer Dinner” or the “Enchanted Tea at Vanderbilt Room at The Inn.” 

4. Drink a beer 

Asheville is packed with breweries. Grab a beer at Wedge Brewing or sip on a cherry stout at The Lab. The Amazing Pubcycle, Asheville’s pedal wagon, will take you on a tour of some of the city’s best breweries. You can even get beer ice cream at The Hope Ice Cream Cafe

5. Treat your taste buds 

Asheville is a foodie paradise. Order some light Caribbean food and a margarita at Salsa’s and sit outside in the sun. Some other best restaurants: Buxton Hall Barbeque and Red Ginger Dim Sum. For brunch, head over the Mayfel’s for Louisiana-inspired fare or Biscuit Head for house-made jams, killer biscuits and amazing 

grit bowl specials. Don’t forget to grab some sugary goodness at Vortex Donuts before you go. 

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Fort Ancient, other Ohio sites step closer to World Heritage status

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 6:59 PM


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The Fort Ancient Earthworks in Warren County and other sites comprising Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are a big step closer to being designated as World Heritage sites.

RELATED: Lawmakers join push for World Heritage status

“The U.S. Department of the Interior is scheduled to publish a notice in the Federal Register tomorrow inviting Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks as the United States’ next nomination to be prepared for World Heritage List consideration by the World Heritage Committee,” according to a press release issued Thursday by the Ohio History Connection.

This is the next step in the process through which officials with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decide the sites deserve the designation making them international tourist attractions.

MORE: What you should know about Fort Ancient Earthworks

“The final decision on inclusion on the list will be made by the World heritage Committee, composed of representatives from 21 nations elected from the members of the World Heritage Convention, and advised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites,” according to an announcement by the Department of the Interior.

Other sites include in the Ohio application are the Earthworks at Newark, the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park near Chillicothe, along with the Hopewell Mound Group and Seip, Hopeton and High Bank earthworks.

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Area lawmakers had joined an effort to win the designation for the sites. The bid had been placed on hold during the transition to the Trump administration, as the appointee to the U.S. Park Service was being made and the department’s direction determined.

“For more than a decade we have worked to recognize Ohio earthworks on the World Heritage List and we are excited to be one step closer,” Burt Logan, executive director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection, said in a press release.

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