DC deserves a longer look

International tourists are recognising that Washington DC has plenty to offer beyond its political buildings, museums and monuments.

Pearl Street

The nation’s capital, which has seen eight years of successive growth in visitor numbers, is now much more than a ‘quick-visit city’, said Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC and also Chair of the Board of the U.S. Travel Association.

“We are number eight in the list of the most-visited U.S. cities and we are changing the perception that DC should merely be a short add-on at the start or end of a longer trip," he said.

"There is so much more to DC than museums, galleries the White House and the Capitol Building - and the word is getting out, he added.

"Our 'DC Cool' brand is all about our theatre, nightlife, retail, the food scene, sporting events and how walkable DC is.”

The tourism chief also pointed to areas of the city that are in the process of a major regeneration - and offering tourists something new as a result.

For example, in the city's southwest The Wharf development has hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. Located close to the Potomac it also provides DC with a ‘new’ waterfront location, with water taxis available to ferry tourists to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor.

Added Ferguson: “Until recently southwest Washington was so Federal Government-centric that after dark it was a bit of a ghost town.

"But now you have the Museum of the Bible, which opened 18 months ago and, soon, the new International Spy Museum, which is moving to the area. There are also fabulous hotels like the Mandarin Oriental, which has been there a few years, and a new Hilton that is opening at L’Enfant Plaza in March.

Washington DC is part of the ‘Capitol Region’, along with Maryland and Virginia.

capitalregionusa.co.uk

Aer Lingus in for long haul

Aer Lingus has committed to continuing flights to New England for at least four more years.

Aer Lingus Reveal

The Irish airline will fly from Dublin to Hartford’s Bradley International Airport through September 2022.

Additionally, it has committed to placing one of its first four A321neoLR aircrafts on the route.

The service operates daily during the summer months and three times a week ‘off season’.

Aer Lingus began flying into Bradley in September 2016 and the success of the service proves the airline’s commitment to lesser-known or ‘second tier’ hubs in the U.S., said Stephen Kavanagh, CEO, Aer Lingus.

“The success of the route over the last two years has proven the model of airlines, airports, and communities sharing risk to bring international service to previously unserved cities. We look forward to continued success and ensuring greater connectivity for the people of Connecticut,” he said.

Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland, founded in 1936. It operates 65 aircraft on over 100 routes, including 17 direct routes from Ireland to North America. U.S. cities it flies to from Dublin include New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. in August, it will start a service to Minneapolis.

Those starting their journey across the Atlantic in Ireland benefit from U.S. immigration pre-clearance facilities in Dublin and Shannon airports.

Last year readers of Condé Nast Traveler’s recognized Bradley International Airport as the third-best airport in the U.S.

The Readers’ Choice Awards poll gave the airport high marks for ‘convenient on-site parking, plentiful charging stations and free Wi-Fi, decent restaurant options and an overall relaxed atmosphere.'

aerlingus.com

bradleyairport.com

Complete Southern trip

Complete North America has a 14-night Southern fly-drive option taking in everything from Elvis to Cajun Country.

RCA Studios

Priced from £1,820pp for the entry-level value package, it also features blues & country music, Antebellum homes and New Orleans.

The same tour is available on a standard package, from £1,885pp, and a superior package from £2,550.

The price difference on the three packages is linked to the standard of accommodation offered.

After two nights in Atlanta guests will move on to Nashville for two nights, for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio ‘B’, where the 'Nashville Sound' was created.

Three nights in Memphis includes a visit to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion, with the Superior package option featuring accommodation at The Peabody Memphis.

It is then on to Mississippi, for the birthplace of Blues, where Robert Johnson famously sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in Clarksdale; Vicksburg, a town of tremendous significance during the Civil War; and Natchez, for two nights.

Natchez is home to the largest number of original plantation homes in the U.S. and guests on a Superior package will get to stay at the antebellum mansion, Monmouth Plantation.

Time will also be spent in Layfayette, in the heart of Cajun & Creole Country, where guests will lounge back on the back porch of the Blue Moon Guesthouse, which has become one of America’s premier venues for roots music from around the world.

The final three nights will be spent in ‘The Big Easy’, with two full days to take in a city known for its French Quarter, Bourbon Street, historic Garden District and evening steamboat cruises on the Mississippi River.

completenorthamerica.com

New Orleans: all that Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival, an outdoor extravaganza of music, food and history reaches its 50th staging this year.

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The two-weekend festival, one of the premier events of the year in the city, takes place on the last weekend of April and first weekend of May (April 25-May 5) at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.

In honour of its half centenary, the celebrations will kick off with a host of artists performing across multiple stages.

The Jazz and Heritage Festival line-up is still to be announced, however it always features local jazz bands, Cajun rhythm and blues bands embodying the sounds that made New Orleans famous.

And previous headliners have included Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and last year saw Sting, Lionel Richie, Beck and Aerosmith perform alongside New Orleans favourites Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, Trombone Shorty and Kermit Ruffins.

In addition to the music, the event includes a food fair showcasing over 100 variants of local Louisiana and international delicacies.

There is also a craft bazaar featuring the works and creations of numerous regional artists.

louisianatravel.com

Virgin doubles up Boston

Virgin Atlantic is to introduce a second daily service between Heathrow and Boston beginning March 31.

Virgin Air

The new flight will leave Heathrow at 20.30, arriving into Boston at 23.00.

The return will depart Boston at 08.30, arriving into Heathrow at 20.10.

The new service means there’ll be over 180,000 additional seats between London and ‘Beantown’ annually.

Virgin operates a daily flight from London to Boston year round during the summer months, and also flies there from Manchester on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Cobblestoned, red-brick Boston was one the first settlements in the U.S. when it was founded in 1630.

Today its popular sights include the colonial-era Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, and numerous historic landmarks.

These can be toured by following the Freedom Trail, a redbrick 2.5 mile walking trail that takes in 16 different historic sites of national significance, all of which had a part to play in the events of the American Revolution.

Starting in Boston Common, other highlights include the Massachusetts State House (also open for free tours) and Faneuil Hall, famous marketplace, original ‘Cradle of Liberty’, and site of many famous speeches – from Samuel Adams denouncing the British, to Senator Edward Kennedy announcing his candidacy for president, to John Kerry’s concession speech in 2004.

And don’t miss the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts – numerous galleries, craft beer breweries, sports – catch a Boston Red Sox baseball game at historic Fenway Park - and stylish boutiques.

virgin-atlantic.com

discovernewengland.co.uk

New Universal hotels on sale

Travel agents can now book rooms at two new Universal Orlando hotels, giving them access to the resort's most affordable rates.

Universal

Surfside Inn and Suites will be ready to take its first guests this summer, while sister property the Dockside Inn and Suites will open its doors in May 2020.

The 2,050-room Dockside is a coastal-themed hotel in the destination’s new ‘Value’ category, where rates start at £59 per night. Two-bedroom suites, which sleep six and include a kitchenette, start at £89 per night.

Both new hotels are located in Universal’s Endless Summer Resort, just minutes away from its three theme parks - Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay – as well as its dining and entertainment complex – Universal CityWalk.

Guests will benefit from early park admission, which gives them access to the three theme parks an hour before public entry, complimentary bus transfers between the theme parks and Universal CityWalk, destination-wide charging privileges with their room key, and complimentary delivery of merchandise bought throughout the resort to their hotel.

The two new hotels give the partnership between Loews Hotels & Co and Universal Orlando a total of eight owned and operated hotels across the destination, offering Premier, Preferred, Prime Value and Value categories.

universalorlando.com