Video: Holiday Greetings From The National Park Service

The National Park Service has released a fun little video to wish us all a happy holiday season and of course issue an invitation to visit them soon. No matter what time of year it is, the parks represent some of the best travel experiences anywhere, and we’re reminded of that as the video bounces around to at least a dozen national parks and monuments across the U.S. Chances are, no matter where you go for the holidays, there is a national park not far away. So, if you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands, and feel the need to get outside, look for a national park near by. I’m sure you won’t regret it.


My Own Personal Krampus

I have a photo, printed from film, old school … my husband and I are standing in a snowstorm in the Austrian alps. The flash from the camera reflects off giant fluffy flakes. The sky behind us is black – it’s early evening, but an alpine evening, so it is dark. We are wearing big coats and big hats and big snow boots. We are surrounded by a group of Krampus, the alpine monster of the season, big shaggy horned devils who strike fear into the hearts of small children, who chase taunting teenagers down the streets of snow-globe villages, who torment tourists and locals alike.

Only we don’t look the least bit rattled. We are smiling big holiday smiles. It looks like a family portrait with our pets.

The Krampusspiel – or, as I like to call it, The Running of the Krampus – takes place every year on December 6. It’s part of a series of deep winter alpine traditions around Christmas and the solstice that acknowledge the change of the season. Three Kings come to your house and chalk your doorways, and there are little sprites that rattle around in your fireplace until you give them candy to go away, and there are runners in all white who carry beautiful lanterns and ring bells to scare away the bad spirits of the previous year.

But the Krampus has taken the spotlight. His shaggy coat, his massive size, his devil’s face, and his swinging broomstick, have captured the collective imagination, perhaps targeting the same people that like slasher movies. Krampus parades take over the streets of popular ski villages in Austria (and some parts of Bavaria) in a pageant of Alien meets Satan. Removed from the context of all those winter traditions, the Krampus is now the star in a winter nightmare of swinging chains, of orcs set free from Middle Earth, of underworld creatures released from the pits of hell.Every year we read at least one story of a tourist absolutely terrorized by an out of control Krampus at a Krampusspiel. And every year we have to wade through a swamp of nostalgia and annoyance. These are not our Krampus’, they are not the Krampus my Austrian husband grew up with, they are not the Krampus he dressed up as when he was in his twenties. They are not the Krampus in our family portrait.

I was utterly enchanted with the Krampus the first time I saw him. He was in the hallway of our apartment building. I heard him before I saw him; he wore giant cowbells and rattled through the streets in the dark. I opened the door and he was standing there, filling the stairwell, while the neighbor’s kids stood silent, wide eyed in wonder. They looked tiny, awestruck, but not afraid. I’m quite sure if they’d looked up, past the shaggy monster’s waist, they’d have seen their expressions reflected on my own wondering face.

While locals line the sidewalks and await his (pre-scheduled) arrival at their homes, the Krampus runs through town, shaking his bells, swinging his broomstick, and admonishing the little ones about their behavior throughout the year. He’s got friends with him who carry baskets of treats for kids – peanuts and tangerines and maybe little chocolates. Sometimes, St. Nikolaus is there too, giving stern but affectionate lectures, asking the children to recite rhymes about Christmas.

The story of the Krampus is scary. He will beat you with his broomstick, stuff you in his sack, drag you back to his lair if you’ve been bad. He’s a terror. There’s no denying it. But our Krampus, the one that runs the streets of my husband’s tiny village, he’s more “Where the Wild Things Are” than hatched from James Cameron’s green glowing alien planet. His face is a carved wooden mask, not shiny resin and plastic. He carries a bundle of twigs bound into an old fashioned broom, not a length of chain or a whip. He will raise his hands over head and roar at the cocky teenager who taunts him with the traditional Krampus rhyme, but he will not chase a tourist four blocks in an act of aggression. He is campfire ghost-story scary, not “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” scary.

It is strange that I have affection for this alpine myth, for this black devil from places unknown, but each winter I find myself an unlikely defender of the Krampus. People send me videos of vicious looking beasts running rampant through snow covered hamlets and I think, “No, no, no. You don’t understand, this is not what the Krampus is.” My memory will not be ruined by this. I hold the picture in my hand and think, “Ah, there you are! This is the Krampus I know, the one my husband grew up with!” I stand in the snow surrounded by creatures imagined. There are big snowflakes and the sound of bells and eyes big with wonder and I am not even a little bit afraid.

[Photo credit: Pam Mandel]

Discounted Holiday Events Make For Rich Seasonal Travel

holiday events

As we make plans for travel through the first of the year, holiday events are often included. At home or on the road – traditional, old fashioned or new – different holiday events are in place for us to enjoy. Some are free to see, others have a ticket or admission price, but all aim to be a part of our holiday travel plans. Here are a few of the more noteworthy holiday events to consider.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular“- New York City
Norwegian Cruise Line has been designated the official cruise line of the Rockettes and is offering a 25% savings on tickets to the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” through December 30, 2012 (use promotional code “Cruise”).

Norwegian also launched a sweepstakes that gives “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” attendees a chance to win a cruise for a family of four on Norwegian Breakaway, which will be the largest ship to homeport year-round from New York City beginning in May.

Holiday Ballet “The Nutcracker” from Georgia Metropolitan Dance Theatre
– Atlanta
To many of us, nothing says “holidays” like a good performance of “The Nutcracker” and Atlanta’s Georgia Metro Dance Theater has one of the best.

In its 11th year of creating holiday magic, they invite you to come and watch the timeless tale unfold as a young girl’s gift of a nutcracker comes to life and a handsome prince whisks her away through the land of snow.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing LightsOrlando
Walt Disney World in Orlando has a seasonal display featuring millions of glittering lights
at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Synchronized to holiday music, buildings are blanketed in sheets of multi-colored lights with thousands more forming twirling carousels and heavenly angels in a show that cycles every ten minutes.

Included with standard admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park, Santa and his reindeer will be on hand through January 6, 2013.


CHILL: A Dazzling Ice Kingdom in a Giant Igloo at the Queen Mary
– Long Beach
Retired ocean liner the Queen Mary has been transformed into an amazing winter wonderland for the whole family called CHILL through January 6, 2013. A giant igloo, home to The Ice Kingdom, features a one-of-a-kind exhibit with larger-than-life ice creations.

Ice Tubing, an Ice Skating rink, a Holiday Village, complete with Christmas trees, “Candy Lane,” gingerbread decorating, carolers and Santa Claus will be on hand too as we see in this video:



Looking for discount tickets to these and other holiday attractions? Suddenly Frugal, an online source has all of these and more listed as well as a list of the 11 Best Freebies When You Travel.

[Photo credit- Flickr user ZakVTA ]

Photo Of The Day: Thanks For Flying

photo of the day - air stairs
Happy Thanksgiving, and hola from the Dominican Republic, where I’m spending the holiday with family and friends. Rather than searching the Gadling Flickr pool for a turkey (or Turkey, where I spent the last two Thanksgiving holidays) photo this year, I wanted to see what came up for the term “thanks,” and found this pic from our own Kent Wien, boarding an American Airlines airplane in Antigua. You don’t see the first words “Thanks for…” in the shot, but if you’ve been on enough planes, you know how to complete the sentence that ends “… flying American Airlines.” Climbing air stairs from the runway always feels a bit retro, and seeing the old slogan brings back memories of some of my first flights. I’m thankful for my passport and the ability to share my wanderlust with my baby, in her thirteenth country today. Count your blessings and enjoy the day wherever you are.

What are you thankful for? Add your picture to the Gadling Flickr pool for another Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Fly For Fun]

Over The River And Around The Detour With Road Travel Info Sources

over the river and traffic

Over The River and Through the Wood” is a Thanksgiving song that many travelers will be humming if not singing in a couple weeks as they hit the road for holiday events. To keep the holiday mood light, many will turn to a variety of online and smartphone tools designed to make life on the road easier.

Sigalert takes the California Highway Patrol definition of “any unplanned event that causes the closing of one lane of traffic for 30 minutes or more,” and turns it into data drivers can use to plan their trip. Complete with personalized routing and traffic alerts via email or text, a subscription version ($2.95/month) gives rich data, but just stopping by the Sigalert website reveals a quick, detailed snapshot of traffic right now.

Frixo.com specializes in giving traffic reports for UK motorways, updated every three to five minutes using sensors placed on motorways and common roads. Speed limits, traffic incidents, information motorists will see on electronic road displays, road work information and weather conditions that might affect a trip are also listed.At Traffic.com, U.S. drivers can check their drive time in a side-by-side comparison with delay time and average speed for a road trip from home to grandmother’s house. Traffic.com also invites visitors to visit NavteqMaps24.com where the future of mapping is happening right now.

At the top of the list of road trip guidance helpers is Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive, now part of mapping solutions company Navteq. Making revolutionary new maps that are as detailed and current as possible, this is the one we want along for the holiday ride or anytime, as we see in this video:




[Photo credit- Flickr user epSos.de]