Special Saint Patrick’s Day beers and where to get them


Special Saint Patrick's Day beers and where to get them


With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, many microbreweries around the United States are starting to release their special Irish-inspired beers. Red ales, cream ales, and chocolate- and coffee-flavored stouts are making their annual debut, going head-to-foamy-head with the traditional St. Paddy’s Day libation Guinness. Here is a roundup of some of the nation’s St. Patrick’s Day beers and where to get them.Location: Boston
Brewery: Harpoon Brewery
Special Beer: Harpoon Celtic
What It Is and Where to Get It: The Boston brewery’s popular Harpoon Celtic has been brewed since 2000 and is the de facto seasonal brew for spring. Available in 27 states and counting, Harpoon is best enjoyed at the brewery’s Boston Tasting Room.

Location: Frederick, Maryland
Brewery: Flying Dog Brewery
Special Beer: Lucky SOB Irish Red
What It Is and Where to Get It: This brewery north of Washington, D.C., claims to brew its Lucky SOB Irish Red with “real four-leaf clovers handpicked at the brewery last St. Patrick’s Day.” Ahem. Look for their beer on draft only at pubs in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., throughout March.

Location: Durango, Colorado
Brewery: Steamworks Brewing Company
Special Beer: Irish Car Bomb
What It Is and Where to Get It: Blended with Irish cream and Jameson whiskey during its second fermentation, Irish Car Bomb is “named for the beer’s effect not as a political statement.” Yeah, right. At any rate, the first cask of 2012′s Irish Car Bomb brew will be tapped at 3 p.m. on March 16.

Location: Lake George, New York
Brewery: Adirondack Pub and Brewery
Special Beer: Mocha Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Adirondack Brewery uses organic cocoa and ground Caffe Verro coffee in its rich stout. Look for Adirondack beer at restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley.

Location: Cleveland
Brewery: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Special Beer: Conway’s Irish Ale
What It Is and Where to Get It: This eco-friendly Cleveland brewery makes the “malty” Conway’s Irish Ale for the St. Patrick’s Day crowd. Great Lakes Brewing Company beers are available throughout Ohio and in 13 other states.

Location: Brooklyn
Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery
Special Beer: Dry Irish Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Brooklyn Brewery’s unfiltered Dry Irish Stout is brewed the traditional way, meaning that they use flaked raw barley rather than nitrogen to give the beer its foamy head. Dry Irish Stout is on tap at the Brooklyn Brewery’s Tasting Room as well as a few other restaurants and pubs in NYC and Brooklyn.

Location: Bend, Oregon
Brewery: Three Creeks Brewery and Silver Moon Brewing
Special Beers: O’Cosci Stout from Three Creeks Brewery; Shamrock Green Bridge Pilsner and O’Shawnigan’s Irish Red from Silver Moon Brewing
What It Is and Where to Get It: The central Oregon town of Bend has no fewer than 10 microbreweries along its Bend Ale Trail. Two of those breweries, Three Creeks Brewery and Silver Moon Brewing, produce St. Patrick’s Day beers, which are available on draught from the breweries’ tap rooms.

Location: Chico, California
Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Special Beer: Knightro – Celtic Festival Beer
What It Is and Where to Get It: Sierra Nevada beers are sold throughout the United States but you can only get the brewery’s small batch Knightro stout – and 14 other limited-edition beers – at its Chico Taproom and Restaurant.

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Brewery: Arbor Brewing Company
Special Beer: St. Pat’s Strong Stout
What It Is and Where to Get It: Arbor Brewing Company brews St. Pat’s Strong Stout, which has a “chalky, Turkish coffee palate” for the holiday. Also available each March at the ABC Brewpub are Espresso Love Breakfast Stout and a vegan-friendly Blackheath Sweet Stout.

Photo Flickr/miamism

Video game exhibition coming to the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Major video game exhibition coming to the Smithsonian American Art Museum Gamers: put “World of Warcraft” on pause, lay down your controllers, and take note. Beginning on March 16, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, will open the first major exhibition of video games. The Art of Video Games will show how video games as an artistic medium have evolved over the past 40 years and will feature 80 games, all of which were chosen in a public vote in 2011.

The 80 games on display will be organized according to their game systems, of which there are 20 types, from Atari to to XBox 360, Nintendo Wii, and Sony PlayStation 3. Prepare to be sent into a fit of nostalgia while viewing early favorites, like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong (alas, no Frogger). Or, just browse in amazement at how far video graphics have evolved with each iteration of Super Mario. The exhibit features four Super Mario versions: Super Mario Brothers 3, Super Mario World, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy 2.

The best part about the The Art of Video Games is that visitors will have a chance to play five of the games. Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and Flower will all be featured in the museum arcade, giving anyone the chance to try out these vintage games or rack up a new high score.

The Art of Video Games kicks off with three days of GameFest, a weekend in which visitors can meet video game pioneers, artists, and designers. The exhibition runs from March 16-September 30, 2012, before moving on to the Boca Raton Museum of Art in October.

Image Flickr/zooboing

Boat ride through forgotten Florida at Wakulla Springs State Park


Boat ride through forgotten Florida at Wakulla Springs State Park


Most people who visit Wakulla Springs go for the gators. Still others want to check out where Johnny Weissmuller swung through the “jungle” as Tarzan in the 1930s and 40s or the dark, swampy thicket where the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was said to lurk. Above all, travelers come to see the pristine tangled wilderness that is becoming rarer to find as Florida develops.

This is Wakulla Springs State Park, one of the most popular day trips from Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. A three-mile pontoon trip down the Wakulla River is the park’s biggest draw, giving visitors the chance to spot wildlife and plug into nature for the 45-minute ride.

On a sunny day, alligators can be spotted lazing on the banks of the Wakulla River or grimacing among the reeds and cypress knees along the shoreline. If they’re out, alligators make for splendid photography subjects, unlike the myriad fowl – great blue herons, white ibis, anhingas – which fly off right as you get them in your camera cross-hairs, or the manatees, which swim slowly just below the water line, never surfacing for their close-up. The park claims that between 20 to 30 manatees can be spotted swimming in the springs and river each day. I was satisfied to have seen a herd of about seven sea cows (another name for manatees) when I visited the park in December. There are only about 4,500 of these aquatic mammals left in the world and the estuaries and backwoods springs of Florida are one of the premier places to see them, especially in winter.

Wakulla Springs doesn’t have to be a day trip. On site is the grand Wakulla Springs Lodge, built in 1937 by Edward Ball, the financier and conservationist who owned this stretch of north Florida from 1934 until the mid-1960s when he sold it to the state of Florida for the establishment of a state park. The 27-room, Mediterranean-revival-style lodge is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and the surrounding park is a National Natural Landmark.

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Image by wilsonb/Flickr

Major hotel brands band together to launch RoomKey.com




What do you get when six of the world’s leading hotel brands come together? You get RoomKey.com, a new hotel search engine that launched on Wednesday.

Choice Hotels International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Marriott International, and Wyndham Hotel Group form the group of six that created RoomKey.com, a simple search tool that allows travelers to search for hotels by date and location, then delivers results that can be sorted by price, distance, hotel name, and star rating. Room Key users can toggle search results to view them on a grid, in a list, or on a map.

At first glance, Room Key’s format appears to be modeled on Google Hotel Finder, the hotel search engine that Google unveiled last summer. Like Hotel Finder, Room Key results link to the hotels’ websites rather than a third-party booking site, thereby ensuring “a personalized and welcoming experience that offers flexibility, accuracy, and benefits of booking with the hotel companies’ proprietary sites,” according to Shafiq Khan, senior vice president of ecommerce, Marriott International. Choice Hotels International’s Senior Vice President of Global Distribution Robert McDowell added, “We at Choice are thrilled to be a part of Room Key alongside these five other global hotel companies. In the face of a staggering number of online booking options, our goal is to make the experience of finding the right hotel as personal and enjoyable as the experience of staying in one.”

Room Key’s beta launch includes only U.S. hotels, but that should change in a future iteration of the site given the vast inventory of properties available under Room Key’s six partners. Also look for the site to expand with more user reviews, comparison tools, and social sharing of travel plans.

Go ice skating at your hotel in Miami

Go ice skating at your hotel in Miami
What’s better than ice skating during the holidays? How about ice skating with the knowledge that the sunny beaches of Miami are waiting for you when you’re finished?

Travelers escaping the cold for the balmy climes of South Florida can enjoy a little taste of winter with the Intercontinental Miami’s Holiday Ice Rink. Through January 15, 2012, the full-size rink will be open at Intercontinental’s Bayview Patio, which has views of Biscayne Bay.

While you don’t have to stay at the Intercontinental to enjoy the rink – the ice is open from 10am-10pm daily; admission is $20/hour adults and $10/hour kids, inclusive of ice skate rental and discounted parking – you can pretend that you’re in St. Moritz by taking advantage of some of the hotel’s cool après-skate activities, like spa massages or a dip in the heated outdoor pool. Building on the ritzy Swiss resort theme, the grand lobby of the Intercontinental will feature through January 1, 2012, the photography exhibition “Andy Warhol: ‘The Model Boy’,” the inaugural installation of the Intercontinental Miami Arts Program displayed in conjunction with Art Basel Miami Beach.

For families considering a stay in Miami over the holidays, the Intercontinental is offering the Holiday Ice Rink Package, which includes ice rink passes for a family of four and tickets to the Miami Children’s Museum, starting from $269 per night.

By the way, if you’re planning on New Year’s Eve in Miami, none other than Ludacris performs right in front of the Intercontinental as part of Downtown Miami’s New Year’s Eve Celebrations. Hotel rink by day, rap concert by night? Sounds to me like a well-balanced way to ring in 2012.

Photo Flickr/daveynin