Guest Page by Alexandra Jacobs

Got green? The top cities to party for St. Patty
By Alexandra Jacobs

St. Patrick's Day has got to be the top holiday we Americans celebrate yet know very little about. Most of us know it as that day we have to wear green and drink lots of beer. Can't argue with that. But the day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland, takes on different twists depending on which city you choose to celebrate all things Irish.
Here's a list of the top five cities in the U.S. to test the Luck O' the Irish until the Top O' The Morning.

1.  San Francisco
San Franciscans know how to party, no doubt about it. The home of the infamous Irish Coffee (Irish Whiskey, coffee and brown sugar), this city began celebrating St. Patty's Day with a parade way back in 1852. This year's parade will be held on March 12, almost a full week before St. Patty's Day itself. It likes to get the party started early.
There are many Irish pubs in San Fran to get you into the Irish spirit, but be sure to hit Durty Nelly's and the Blarney Stone for the real deal.

2. New York City
This one's a given, considering New York City's rich Irish history (think Ellis Island). New York holds the biggest St. Patty's Day parade, with approximately 2 million parade-goers annually. The parade actually began in 1762, making it the oldest continually running parade. Of course, it passes by St. Patrick's Cathedral, and lasts about five hours.  The city is always hopping during this time, so look into renting a New York City apartment.
Irish-themed pubs that cannot be missed on this day are Finnegan's Wake on the Upper East Side, PJ Carney's near Central Park and Dempsey's Pub in the East Village. Be sure to start the day with a traditional Irish breakfast, which puts your usual cornflakes or bagel to shame.

3. Boston
What can we say about Boston? It IS Irish headquarters for the United States, and parties on St. Patty's Day like it's 1999. It was actually 1737 when the first parade was held in Beantown. The parade, to be held March 20, is a visual smorgasbord of bagpipers, bands, floats and almost a million attendees.
There are too many Irish pubs to count, but if you absolutely have to know, the following are well known  for their rowdy St. Patty's Day celebrations.
Be sure to try the Kinsale Pub or its sister, the Asgard Pub. Both are laid-back without being holes in the wall, serve a mighty good Irish stew, and reek of Irish history. And don't overlook the Lansdowne, a bit more upscale, with Irish specials all week long, as well as Irish music.
You may also choose to join a St. Patty's Day Bar Crawl. Look online for more information.

Dyeing an entire river green to get into the St. Patrick's Day spirit? Chicago did it. Having said that, it's fairly obvious that Chicago holds a special place in its heart for the Irish holiday.
The first Chicago St. Patty's parade was in 1843, and began the river dyeing the 1960s. The March 12 parade will start at noon at the corner of Balbo and Columbus. Before you head over to join the throngs of parade watchers, don't miss a stop at Fado Irish Pub for a hearty Irish breakfast which might include Irish sausages with colcannon, bangers and mash, black and white pudding, pan fried potato bread and  corned beef and cabbage boxty.

5. Dublin, Ohio
C'mon, what did you expect? With a city name like that, it's out of the question to NOT celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and in a big way.
First of all, Dublin is small. The town's population is less than 40,000, yet it gets approximately 20,000 visitors on the Irish holiday. The parade has about 100 floats, as well as The Grand Leprechaun.
This year's parade will be March 12.
While Dublin, Ohio, may be on the small side, it's got a good share of Irish grub. One must-try is Brazenhead Irish Pub, which has a great selection of burgers and beer.
This year, Brazenhead is hosting two weekends of entertainment for St. Patrick's Day. Be sure to look online for updates.

Orlando Offers Everything from Theme Parks to Beaches
By Alexandra Jacobs

Each year, as Spring Vacation draws close, families start making plans.  Spring Vacation is the great relief after a dull, dreary winter.  Ideally, the week should be spent somewhere warm and sunny where the winter blahs feel as if they are about a million miles away.  That’s probably why Orlando, Florida is one of the best places to spend spring break week.  With an unbeatable collection of family attractions, Orlando easily tops the list of spring break hot spots.

Disney World is Orlando’s largest theme park and its top attraction for visitors of all ages, whether they stay at Hamptons Houses or inside the park.  It operates 365 days a year, but it really blossoms in the spring when there are plenty of spectacular deals available.  With four immense theme parks, two water parks, a pulsating nightlife district called Downtown Disney and championship style golf courses, Disney World is one attraction that simply cannot be missed.  To see this theme park properly, allow at least four days, if not more.  The color, excitement and noise may leave park goers feeling over-stimulated, but they will also build memories that will last a lifetime.

Even on a family vacation, it doesn't hurt for mom and dad to sneak away for an evening of grown up fun by themselves.  Fortunately, Orlando offers plenty of opportunities for dancing the night away, enjoying gourmet fare or even catching some hot live music and all without breaking the bank.  Pointe Orlando on International Drive is one of the best places to do all of these things without having to drive all over the city.  Visit B.B. King’s Blues Club for some of the best live music or join the Improv Comedy Club for a fun night of jokes and hilarious impressions.  Visit the Oceanaire Seafood Room for a delectable dinnertime.  Visitors who haven’t had enough can head over to Howl at the Moon for an unforgettable evening of dueling pianos.  One evening may not be enough to experience all of the nightlife Orlando provides.

Photo by flickr user Paxton Holley

Orlando may not be on the coast, but it is certainly close.  Getting out to enjoy some relaxation in the sand is an easy day trip and it's one of the least expensive destinations in the area.  Try out Cocoa Beach.  This five-acre beach is only about an hour outside of Orlando.  What makes this beach truly outstanding is a clean, safe environment and excellent proximity to a wide range of services, including diverse shops and restaurants.  Visit the Ron Jon surf shop to pick up some surfing related souvenirs and maybe even try out the sport.  In this sunny, sandy locale the surf is always up!

Orlando offers so many attractions that they simply cannot all be appreciated within the space of just one Spring Vacation.  Many families make Orlando their go to vacation spot, heading there year after year.  It’s such an immensely entertaining region that no two trips are ever precisely alike.    

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