January 18, 2016

Enjoy an Oregon Winter Wonderland in Baker City

By Scott Catron from Sandy, Utah, USA (Baker City Oregon Downtown  Uploaded by Zaui) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Scott Catron from Sandy, Utah, USA (Baker City Oregon Downtown  Uploaded by Zaui) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Living in Oregon we have easy access to many types of recreation all year long. Now that we are in the throes of winter and have made it past the Holiday Season, how about planning a fun long weekend in one of Oregon’s Winter Wonderlands? For those of us who live in the Portland-Metro area we have easy accessibility to Mt Hood. But Oregon has so many other great locations for winter recreation, each one offering its own uniqueness as a destination. Baker City is located in the North Eastern corner of the state, off 1-84 as you approach Idaho. It is part of the Snake River, Oregon Trail and Hells Canyon National Scenic Byway, making for an ideal stop on any road trip, cycle across Oregon journey or as a destination of its own.

If you have ever dreamed of experiencing a country winter holiday reminiscent of times gone by, this is a place you need to visit. Baker City offers a vibrant, historic downtown center which will take you back to the 19th century, yet keep you in modern comfort as well. The Geiser Grand Hotel was built in 1889 and is the iconic landmark of the city’s old west feel. During the winter months you can take a guided tour of Baker City in a most unusual way, by horse drawn sleigh. The owners of the Geirser Grand Hotel offer sleigh ride tours to show you the historic highlights of the town. These tours end with a spectacular winter bon-fire to warm you inside and out. Baker City has been able to retain its historic architecture so well, there are over 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. You will see firsthand places such as a cathedral made from volcanic tuff (volcanic ash compacted into hard rock), the Carnegie Library of Baker City and the courthouse where there burns an eternal flame to honor residents lost in World War I. If you are a history buff, Baker City is one place that should be on your bucket list. 

By Ian Poellet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the historic feel of Baker City there are award winning brews and restaurants, including Barley Brown's Brew Pub, drawing visitors from around the world on culinary and brew tours. The great food and drink experience doesn't end there however, anyone who visits Baker City is sure to delight in the taste sensations of the Peterson Gallery & Chocolatier, combining the finest in European chocolate recipes and fine art. Local, organic menus will make your mouth water and wines from around the world will quench your thirst. There is an international scope to the restaurants in Baker City, you can enjoy an incredible steak alongside tiramisu or sake if you like. 

If you are up for a ski run or two, Anthony Lakes is nearby and offers amazing winter recreation experiences.  Situated in the foothills of the Elkhorn Mountains, the base elevation of Anthony Lakes is 7,100, and as the highest in Oregon and provides the best powder skiing in the state. The average snow fall is 300 inches per year. Anthony Lakes has 21 ski runs within  1,100 acres of mountain terrain. Not only can you ski and snowboard, there is also cross country skiing, or better yet rent some snowshoes for your winter hike. Planning a vacation to Baker City and Anthony Lakes is easy as you can split your stay between the Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort for several days of mountain fun before or after your stay in Baker City. 

If you are an Oregonian and have yet to experience a winter vacation in Eastern Oregon, or if you are planning a trip to our beautiful and varied state, we encourage you to spend some time  in our Winter Wonderland of Baker City, the snow is there and waiting for you.
By Ian Poellet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

January 8, 2016

Experience Fire and Ice on an Oregon Road Trip to Winterfest

If you live in the Northwest, you know there is always something fun and exciting to experience no matter the season. This includes winter with all the incredible cold weather recreation activities that abound across the state. If you are a visitor here during the winter, you are for a great time no matter where you choose to go or what you choose to do. Festivals are a great way to connect with a destination, meet the local people and enjoy a slice of life experience. The world is full of festivals and Oregon is no exception. We have our very own winter celebration in Bend, Oregon every February, and it is one you won’t want to miss. Being held February 12th -14th, Winterfest is a community festival full of big ice, big fire, big entertainment and big art. This is one festival that sure to chase away any winter blues and makes for an excellent long weekend getaway. 

There are two key themes to Winterfest which make this a festival like no other in the world. Fire and Ice. We love the winter and the ice that the cold brings, but what can you do with it at a festival? Make art of course! On Sunday the annual Ice Carving competition is on. This is a competition you can watch and anticipate as ice sculptors will gather and create their magnificent, temporary art right before your eyes. Winter would not be as fun if you couldn’t get warm, that is where fire comes in. Winterfest is full of fire. You can keep warm throughout the festival at one of several different Fire Pit sculptures. These
fire pits combine fine crafted metal art with flame, providing one-of-a-kind ways to enjoy an outdoor fire. The competition is fierce and the fire burns hot! And if that is not enough fire for you, there are hands on demonstrations in the arts of metal and glass forging.

Connecting all these fun and exciting activities together is the Ice Queen and Fire King. Each year a couple plays host to Winterfest, helping ensure all have a wonderful time, handing out souvenirs and taking photos with festival guests. The royal couple enter the festival on horseback and hold court at a specially made throne. The Ice Queen and Fire King have been known to show up all over Bend, so keep an eye for them when you are there, you may just get a special treat!

Winterfest is also a music festival showcasing a variety of excellent bands and musicians. You will hear the sounds of musicians such as Colorado’s Bluegrass favorites, Honey Don’t, Emmy nominated Gangstagrass combining banjos and rap in unexpected ways, or local Bend burlesque band, The Grand Company, and other amazing bands on the Main Stage throughout Winterfest. 

 Wine aficionados can enjoy a unique Bend experience with the Wine Walk around the Old Mill District, where wine tastings await you along the banks for the Deschutes River.

On the thrilling side of things, Winterfest brings you Metal Mulisha, an acrobatic bike show, full of stunts you should never try at home, but will be in awe to watch. You and the kids can get in on the action with the Kids Cocoa Run and the Royal Run. The Cocoa Run is a fun way for the kids to make their own sweet cup of hot chocolate by running from station to station for sweet treat ingredients. Once they cross the finish line, they get drink their own concoction. The Royal Run is an exciting run along the Deschutes River and through the Winterfest grounds. There will be some obstacle challenges on the way and the entire run is made more fun for those that wear a costume, though not required, they are highly encouraged.

Other kid activities include the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science & Industry) science tent, bounce houses and Slackline Tricks to entertain with cool acrobatic tricks on a springy rope suspended above the ground. All weekend long you can visit the Marketplace to search for that irresistible, one of a kind piece art you simply must have. You can also taste culinary delights with the specialty foods and drinks available with all the food carts at the festival.

All this and so much more is waiting at Winterfest. And the best part of all is tickets are only $10.00 for the entire weekend. Some events do cost additional, if you register for the wine Walk, Cocoa Run or Royal Run, your entrance to Winterfest is included in the fee. This is one long weekend getaway that you can easily plan for. Within Bend there are some great places to stay as well. For a hotel with its own great brews and amazing art, there is the McMenamin’s Old St Francis School. McMenamin’s pubs and hotels are Oregon icons of a laid back, comfortable lifestyle surrounded by great local food and brews. Anyone who visits Oregon is highly encouraged to explore any one of the many McMenamin’s establishments to get a feel that unique Oregon character, and the Old St. Francis School is no exception. If you want to stay some place a little more refined and opulent, The Oxford Hotel in Bend’s downtown could be just the place for you. With Mt. Bachelor so close to Bend, a bit of skiing may be on your weekend agenda, and if so, the Seventh Mountain Inn Resort may be just the place to give you easy access to the mountain and Winterfest. There are also several bed & breakfast establishments in the area. With a B&B you get the comfort of home for a reasonable cost, and often the owners are locals with some of the best insights on what to do beyond the Winterfest celebration.

Winterfest has something for everyone and will make an adventurous and fun weekend getaway. C.P. Trips can help set up the ideal accommodation for you and plan your activities so you don’t need to wait in line or worry about something selling out. If you are traveling from outside Oregon we can also help with your flight and any other planning of your Oregon vacation. Call us today and for a small fee we can get you on your way to the Winter wonderland in Bend, Oregon.

January 1, 2016

A Cultural Exploration of Cuba

There are so many places in the world worth traveling to, anyone who loves to travel is bound to have a long bucket list of places they want to visit. Some places are harder to get to, or which have been challenging to travel through, if not even dangerous at times. Vacationing abroad is always done at the whim of governments, social ups and downs and current happenings within a given country. Some places have simply been off limits to the traveler. No matter how much you may want to explore a place, sometimes there are restrictions and limits. Cuba is one destination that has long been on the travel prohibition list. With relations between the United States and Cuba having long been regarded as poor, we Americans have had limited access to this incredible cultural icon of the Caribbean. Since the end of 2014 however, travel restrictions have been relaxed, allowing for travel from the United States into Cuba, so we can finally experience this unique island once again.

This is not to say that traveling to Cuba is now like traveling to places like Mexico or
Puerto Rico. There are specific ways of travel which are required by the Cuban government and agreed upon by the United States. Traveling to Cuba within the parameters provided can not only be a very rewarding journey, it can allow for an experience like none other in the world. With all the specific restrictions and the need to follow certain protocols, the idea of traveling to Cuba can be daunting, even if it has been at the top of your travel list for years.  But you need not worry. Cuba has a rich and vibrant culture ready to embrace visiting Americans, and you can enjoy this island nation through intriguing experiences in an easy and stress-free way. By far the best way to travel in Cuba is with a Cuban Approved Guided Tour. There are a handful of tour companies which have worked with the Cuban government to establish specific vacations which are culturally enriching, economically favorable for the people of Cuba, and which meet the government’s protocols when it comes to tourism. This equates in an enjoyable, fun, and safe journey for visitors.

If Cuba is a destination you have longed to travel to, now is the time to go. C.P. Trips has partnered with Collette Tours, a premier tour company with years of experience
in providing in-depth tours of the island, to plan a special cultural exploration tour of Cuba just for you. You will get up close and personal with a visit to a cigar factory spending time with the rollers to see just how this popular export is made. You’ll meet locals who proudly keep their classic American cars running, despite challenges from United States embargoes and government restrictions. There will be explorations of historic Cuban architecture, which has been proudly cared for over the generations, since the time of the colonial period which brought European grandeur to the island. These iconic images of Cuban Culture are to be expected, but there is so much more to experience on your personal tour of Cuba.


Art plays a big role in Cuban culture. Throughout your tour you will meet different artists, performers and musicians ready to share their artistic endeavors with visitors. From area art schools to market places, theaters and even retirement communities, you will be immersed with the sounds and sights of artisan crafts, local music, song and dance. Some stops along the way will include a handicraft market in Santa Clara, the Tomas Terry Theater opera house in Plaza Mayor, visits to local artists’ homes, and the Cuban Fine Arts Museum in Havana. Speaking of museums, this is one way to get a deeper understanding of Cuba’s history and aspects of the Cuban culture. You will learn about how Che Guevara, Sugar Cane, and Literacy programs have had a great impact on the island’s residents.

The food of Cuba will be another focus of the tour. Part of a guided tour with Collette includes many of the meals. With these, you will have several opportunities to experience the culinary delights of this tropical island. When in Old Havana you will enjoy a uniquely Cuban treat with a special dinner at a Paladar, a small, specialty restaurant with its own organic farm. Delving deeper into the culture of Cuba, you will have opportunities to meet with locals who will shed light on the role of religions such as Christianity and Santeria within the lives of Cubans. Get set to even learn a few steps of the national Cuban dance, Salsa as well during your tour.

If you have not taken a guided tour before, a journey to Cuba is an ideal way to experience all that this type of travel can offer. With a destination such as Cuba, this is truly the best way, and one of the few ways you can do so as an American Traveler. Each day includes enriching experiences, plenty of activities, amazing food and opportunities to shop, explore and relax throughout your vacation. It has been over 50 years since travel to Cuba was easy to do, now it is easy once again. You will be sure to bring back incredible stories and amazing photos, mementos and memories with a one of a kind journey to a one of a kind destination.

But there is a catch, tours to Cuba are filling up fast. Companies like our partner Collette Tours have a limited number of dates and spaces available for travelers to join. Reserving a space now is highly encouraged, to ensure you can make it to Cuba in 2016. Our Collette Tours journey to Cuba will be from September 6th – 14th, with a deposit to reserve your space due by the end of February. If you are concerned about how much this tour may cost, there is even more great news for you. Often when you travel with a tour or a cruise, air fare is not included in the cost of your tour. With Collette Tours when you reserve your space
on the Cuba Cultural Exploration tour, your flight from Portland International Airport (PDX) to Miami is included in the price. All air taxes, fees and hotel transfers are also included. At a cost of just $4,399 per person, double occupancy, this is one vacation you can’t afford to miss. Our partner agent, Judy Arndt is coordinating this special Cuban tour, and can be contacted by phone at (503) 666-8828 or by email at journeysbyjudy.oregon@yahoo.com. Call or email Judy, or Cindy today and reserve your place on this special tour of Cuba.