GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, N.C. - A mainstay of western North Carolina tourism is making a transition from attraction to a portion of a foundation.
Grandfather Mountain has announced that the attraction famous for Mildred the Bear and the Mile High Swinging Bridge is now an arm of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
The park was originally a family-owned business. The late Hugh Morton opened it in 1952, and one of the most popular attractions was a black bear named Mildred who had been adopted from a zoo. The park still has a wildlife habitat where visitors can see eight black bears.
The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation is a nonprofit corporation established to preserve Grandfather Mountain, operate the nature park in the public interest and participate in educational and research activities.
All proceeds from the sale of attraction tickets and souvenirs will be reinvested in the mission of the foundation.
Coffeehouse opens at Colonial Williamsburg
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Don't expect soy lattes or Internet access for your laptop, but your next visit to Colonial Williamsburg could include a stop in a coffeehouse.
Visitors will be able to experience an 18th century-style coffeehouse when R. Charlton's Coffeehouse opens Friday on Duke of Gloucester Street at the historic site.
Free coffee, tea and hot chocolate inspired by 18th-century recipes will be served in demitasse cups as R. Charlton's. Costumed re-enactors talk to visitors about how the consumption of these drinks related to colonial society, hospitality and political issues of the day, including trade and taxes.
R. Charlton's, named for coffeehouse proprietor Richard Charlton, was a real establishment in the 1760s, frequented by politicians, gentry and others. The China tea imported from England, West Indian coffee, chocolate from the Caribbean rim and high-style cuisine placed the establishment a cut above other local taverns. Patrons gathered there for social gossip, political discussion and the latest news from England.
The coffeehouse was even the site of a protest against the Stamp Act of 1765, in which England imposed taxes in the colonies on newspapers, pamphlets and legal documents. That protest will be incorporated into Colonial Williamsburg's programming, debuting for one episode during Friday's opening and becoming a regular scene for visitors in the spring.
The coffeehouse recreation began as an excavation by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. A Victorian home had been built on the foundation where the original coffeehouse stood, and Williamsburg's archaeological studies of the site began in 1995 after the home was purchased by Colonial Williamsburg and moved to a new location outside the historic area.
Some pieces from the coffeehouse had been repurposed inside the Victorian home, and thousands of artifacts were unearthed at the site, enabling historians and artisans to reproduce for R. Charlton's the look of everything from furniture to coffee cups. Shingles, nails and even paint were handcrafted by workers from Historic Trades, an interpretive department at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The planning, design, construction and endowment of R. Charlton's Coffeehouse was funded by a $5 million donation from the Mars Foundation.
Hotel rates continue downward
Hotel room prices are expected to drop a total of 8.8 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 and will continue creeping down in 2010, though at a much slower rate, according to the 2010 lodging forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers Hospitality & Leisure Practice.
"It is expected that the steepest declines in ADR (average daily rates) have passed, but that year-over-year ADR levels will continue to decline, resulting in a 1.8 percent decline" next year, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.
A 3.2 percent increase in the number of hotel rooms this year added to the hotel industry's problems, PricewaterhouseCoopers said, expanding supply just as consumer demand weakened and further hurting the ability of hotel operators to maintain stable pricing.
Many new hotels, including a number of luxury projects and high-end renovations such as the Fontainebleau in Miami and the Roosevelt in New Orleans, have opened during the recession as projects that were planned before the downturn came to fruition.
Occupancy levels for 2009 are expected to decrease 8.4 percent over the previous year to 55.2 percent, PricewaterhouseCoopers said, meaning that hotels in 2009 will be on average just over half-occupied.
The number of hotel rooms available is expected to continue to grow next year but so will demand, leading to a slightly higher hotel occupancy rate for 2010 of 55.8 percent, the report said.
That's still seven percentage points below the long-term average for the industry of 62.8 percent occupancy.
While the decreases have resulted in lowered revenue for the hotel industry, they've been a boon for consumers looking for travel bargains, as hotels have slashed rates and offered deals to lure guests.
Outside magazine's best ski resorts
Outside magazine's November issue scopes out the best ski resorts in North America, from Alaska to Vermont.
For the deepest snows, Outside lists Alta/Snowbird in Utah, Jackson Hole, Wyo., Alyeska Resort in Alaska and Silverton Mountain in Colorado.
For the apres-ski party scene, the magazine recommends Breckenridge in Colorado, Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, Park City, Utah, and Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado.
For fresh powder without the crowds, Outside mentions Powder Mountain, Utah, Jay Peak in Vermont, Bridger Bowl in Montana and Crested Butte in Colorado.
And on the magazine's "editor's choice/Best in Class" list were Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Steamboat in Colorado, Taos in New Mexico and Mammoth Mountain in California.
- Compiled by The Associated Press