For our first-time attendee, things didn’t look too promising when she arrived to find all the hot balloons just lying flat on the ground.
There were families gathered in the field with their kids still in their pajamas. And lots of people with giant cups of coffee. And for a while, nothing seemed to be happening.
But after a set of small test balloons were sent up to make sure the wind conditions were suitable for hot air balloon adventures, the business of filling up the balloons, taking off, and flying over Washington’s lower Yakima Valley was underway.
The sunrise launches are thrilling, but somehow we missed out on seeing the Night Glow when all the hot air balloons are anchored to the ground and are then lit up from inside so that they glow against the night sky.
So we’re already planning on attending next year. See you there.
Hundreds of airline and airport employees, their families, and even travelers participate in the Fiesta Takes Flight Parade in the middle of the airport’s terminals. The parade features authentic coronation dresses, entertainment, unique parade floats, colorful fiesta attire, and festive colors throughout the airport.
Imagine showing up for your flight and seeing this!
“This is such a fun time to celebrate the history, vibrant culture, and traditions of San Antonio. We have a very creative family at SAT and it’s always exciting to see everyone’s entries on the day of the parade”, said Jesus H. Saenz, Jr., Director of Airports, San Antonio Airport System. “And I’m always filled with pride when travelers enter the terminals and I see their reactions to the decoration and festivities because it is so unique and representative of our beautiful city”.
Trophies are awarded to parade participants for creativity, spirit, originality, colorfulness, theme, and spirit. American Airlines won the first place trophy. Southwest Airlines won second place. And Delta Air Lines, Aeromexico and Viva Aerobus tied for third.
One of the airport’s fiesta traditions is to distribute colorful medals to tourists. This year’s medal featured The Star of Texas or La Estrella de Texas, an art installation at the entrance to the airport by Mexican artist Sebastian.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is having an in-terminal and virtual celebration on Thursday, Nov 4 to celebrate the end of all the major construction at the N Concourse. If you happen to be traveling through SEA between 11 am and 1 pm, head to the N Concourse for music and spoken word performances, food sampling, art tours, and giveaways. The even will able streamed online. In the evening, at 6 pm, SEA will host a travel trends panel that will be streamed live as well.
Giant cream puffs will be sold, but there will be no cheese curd eating contest at the Wisconsin State Fair this year.
After last year’s cancellations due to Covid restrictions, states are bringing back their annual fairs with increased attention to safety, cleaning and disinfecting — plus some changes.
“We are seeing people gravitate towards normalcy — the events, people and places they missed out on last year,” said Misty Belles, managing director of the travel agency network Virtuoso. “Local celebrations that bring together communities, from street fairs to state fairs, are returning.”
At this year’s Iowa State Fair, which runs Aug. 12-22, there will be no farm-to-fair dinner, the family-style sit-down meal for 500 during which Iowa farmers answer questions. Nor will there be the usual on-site grape stomping. However, fairgoers will find a new park for tractor pulls.
At the Indiana State Fair, which runs July 30-Aug. 22, Covid vaccinations will be available, and fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear masks. Eating contests — including an ice cream eating championship — are shelved this year. And to spread out the crowds, fair organizers have added a weekend at the front of the fair schedule but are closing the fair Mondays and Tuesdays.
New England’s Eastern States Exposition, known as “The Big E,” will run Sept. 17-Oct. 3 with no restrictions, CEO Eugene Cassidy said. “Minor changes will be unrecognizable, while others may be more obvious, like a combined daily parade instead of two separate parades,” he said.
The Oregon State Fair, which runs Aug. 27-Sept. 6, is also back at full capacity, with no mask or physical distancing requirements or proof of vaccination, fair officials say. But there will be no California State Fair — Cal Expo — this summer because the state fairgrounds are still being used as a mass vaccination center.
As cities and states open back up again, they are going all out to get visitors’ attention — and their travel dollars — beyond state fairs.
Theme Parks, festivals, attractions
Theme parks and attractions from Disney to Dollywood have been welcoming visitors for months, with safety protocols already in place — but with summer shifting into high gear, more attractions are reopening.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood reopened on June 26 after being closed for over a year. Opening hours are adjusted and there are some new post-pandemic additions to the tour, including an expanded Central Perk Café where guests can dine in re-created sets inspired by the show.
At Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, “Our guests are enjoying the Summer Celebration, which opened on June 25 and includes the new multisensory fireworks and drone show,” Pete Owens, a Dollywood Company spokesman, said.
In New York City, the interior of the Statue of Liberty up to the pedestal/interior (but not the crown) reopened to the public ahead of the July 4 weekend. “We’re seeing a homecoming to normalcy with an abundance of new and returning events and attractions across all five boroughs,” said Chris Heywood of NYC & Company marketing company, which includes NYC Restaurant Week and the U.S. Open.
After being dismantled and made over, SkyWheel Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is back spinning, with a new wheel structure, refurbished gondolas, and new state-of-the-art lighting systems for light shows.
Even the Enchanted Forest theme park, near Salem, Oregon, is welcoming visitors again. The family-owned attraction had received death threats when it announced masks and proof of vaccination would be required at the entrance, so it pushed back its opening date until Covid restrictions were relaxed.
Cruises are also back — though limited this summer due to capacity restrictions.
“It’s taken 15 months to be able to say, but cruising is officially back — and for North Americans, there are a number of options to consider,” Colleen McDaniel, editor in chief of Cruise Critic, said.
Ships are scheduled to depart Florida and Texas for Caribbean cruises, and Seattle for Alaskan cruises, and travelers can also fly to St. Martin or the Bahamas and leave on select ships from those ports, she said.
The summer concert season has also returned to many cities, with Lollapalooza at Chicago’s Grant Park on July 29 with headliners including Miley Cyrus, Foo Fighters and Post Malone. The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival is scheduled for Sept. 2-5 in Manchester, Tennessee.
In the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Tanglewood is back with a full summer season of performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and concerts by Brandi Carlile, soul-gospel icon Mavis Staples and folk singer Judy Collins.
Maryland’s DelFest, founded by bluegrass pioneer Del McCoury, is also back on the books for Sept. 23-26 — and McCoury, now 82, said he is anxious for the festival’s return.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without playing, and since my two sons are in the band, it was especially hard,” he said. “I think it’s going to be very emotional. Tears have come to my eyes many times when I read the notes about how excited longtime fans are to be coming back.”
(This is a slightly different version of a story we wrote for NBC News)
A Twitter message from El Paso International Airport (ELP) on National Selfie Day sparked our curiosity about the writing on the restroom mirror in the photo.
It turns out that is part of the airport’s Elevate Love Project, so named to fit with the airport’s call sign ELP.
“Our staff submitted their positivity and we placed them on the mirrors to boost the mood of anyone who sees them,” explains, ELP Education and Graphics Specialist Asa Aguilar. “We have had great responses from the public and many people have submitted to this initiative.”
Here are some samples of the messages and the selfies people have shared. Great idea!
We were also curious about the bird in the photo. And we are pleased to learn that this is Red T. Hawk, El Paso International Airport’s mascot and ambassador.
We think every airport should have a mascot and we’re pleased to add Red T. Hawk to our list.