Among my many resolutions for this year: (1) Spend less. (2) Travel more.

At first glance, those two tasks might seem to cancel out each other. But, you see, I have this addiction. I’m a travel-a-holic. I love to go to new places … whether they are on the other side of the country or the other side of the city. So I’m (working on) becoming a super savvy traveler this year. I’m searching for the best values, insider tips and special offers.  

Working in the travel industry, one thing I’ve learned when planning a trip is—start with your local Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). CVBs are made up of locals who are passionate about their destination. We know the best places to eat, visit, stay and see. And we usually have knowledge of some great packages.  Like this one I’m going to share with you today:

The Embassy Suites Columbus Dublin is offering a Cabin Fever Family Fun Package (Feb. 19-20) with tons of fun and entertainment for everyone in the family—all for $124.99/night.  Activities include a family game and activity room (think board games, crafts and family friendly music), a movie room with kid-friendly flicks, bingo and wacky DJ games, a chocolate fountain, an Evening Manager’s reception, an indoor swimming and whirlpool, one large 2-topping pizza and a 2-liter bottle of soda per package, a goodie bag with local discount coupons and snacks, AND a full cooked-to-order breakfast buffet for all. (Call 614/790-9000 to book your package.)

Need more incentive? How about half-price admission to the #1 Zoo in the country? The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is offering half-price general admission during the entire months of January and February.  That’s plenty of opportunity to see Polar Bear Twins Anana and Aurora frolicking in their cool Polar Frontier habitat the way three-year-old Polar bears sisters do.  It’s hard to beat that kind of economical family travel fun, right?  For more info, visit the Dublin CVB website or call 800/245-8387.

-Post by Mary

The countdown has begun.  2010 is just two days away and you are STILL trying to decide how to ring in the New Year?  We can help.  Below are some local (Dublin, Ohio) establishments that are offering something special on Thursday, December 31.

Getaway Package Deals:

Crowne Plaza Dublin Hotel. (600 Metro Pl. N. Dublin, OH 866/372-5566) The hotel’s family style NYE celebration features a (very) full package including overnight stay (with late check-out), a family dinner buffet, two drink coupons (per adult), New Year’s gear, Children’s activities, movies and games, a DJ and a dance floor and breakfast. $219.95/plus tax (for 2 adults & 2 children).

Columbus Marriott Northwest. (5605 Blazer Pkwy. Dublin, OH 614/791-1000) Plan a romantic NYE getaway for two and take advantage of a VIP package at an economical rate. Enjoy an overnight stay, chocolate covered strawberries, a bottle of champagne, four drink tickets and a breakfast buffet for two for just $179.95/plus tax.

Holiday Inn Express Dublin (5500 Tuttle Crossing Blvd. Dublin, OH 614/793-5500) Enjoy a great getaway AND a great rate with this new hotel’s special New Year’s Eve deal–save 50% off best available rates when you mention the “New Year’s Eve Special.”  (Valid 12.31.09 only)

Restaurants:

Digger & Finch Scottish Pub & Grille. (6720 Riverside Dr. Dublin, OH 614/889-8585) Savor dinner specials ranging from Grilled Twin Filet to Seared Ahi Tuna or Broiled Maine Lobster ($21.95-$27.95) that include a champagne toast, party favors and live music by Hat Trick.  Or just come for appetizers ($8 each) from 10 p.m.-1 a.m.

La Scala Italian Bistro. (4199 W. Dublin-Granville Rd. Dublin, OH 614/889-9431) Enjoy an evening of dinner and dancing with the Eddie Pollina Band. Three-course menu includes Beef Tenderloin with Shrimp Caruso and a toast. $110/per couple.

Mary Kelley’s. ( 7148 Muirfield Dr. Dublin, OH 614/760-7041) NYE special menu features include Prime Rib, BBQ Baby Back Ribs and a pasta dish.

Matt the Miller’s Tavern. (6825 Avery Muirfield Rd. Dublin, OH 614/799-9100) Visit this local favorite spot and enjoy a special menu for NYE … featuring Surf & Turf, Chilean Sea Bass and other options. Then savor a serving of Banana Bread Pudding (with liquid center) for dessert.

NYE on the Cheap:

If you are planning to hunker down at home and watch the ball drop on your new flat screen (from the comfort of your living room), you might want to pick up a pizza to enjoy during the countdown. Here are a couple of local deals:

  • Bridge Street Pizza. ( 16 E. Bridge St. Dublin, OH 614/761-3169) Tucked into a little storefront in Historic Dublin, you might never know this place has the #3 voted pizza in North America. Enjoy a stone baked traditional pizza or a gourmet option like the Chicken Primavera or The Potsy. Holiday deal: two large one-topping pizzas for $18; or one large one-topping (plus 2 cans of pop) for $11.
  • Donato’s Pizza. Multiple locations in Central Ohio)  Who can resist this hometown favorite? Special offer: pick up a regular pizza and enjoy Donato’s  29 cent wings deal … or check their Website for other great online offers.

-Post by Mary

It’s hard to believe that December is just on the other side of this coming weekend. Dublin’s work crews have been busy wrapping Historic Dublin Ohio in green garland, red bows and hanging those famous icy blue lighted snowflakes over the Scioto River bridge. (You really have to see them at night!) And Dublin’s “Sweet Street” (as High St. recently has become known–due to the many delicious candy, cupcake and cookie shops that have sprung up) is feeling more like Sugarplum Lane.

Next Thursday, December 3 is the City of Dublin’s annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at 62 West Bridge Street (east of Indian Run Elementary). The Dublin singers will kick off the festivities with carols at 6 p.m., followed by the arrival of Santa at 6:25 p.m.–when the jolly old elf will help the Mayor and members of City Council light the tree. Then the festivities will move to the Dublin Library (75 N. High St.) where Schade Photography will offer free photos with Santa, courtesy of the Historic Dublin Business Association (HDBA).  There will also be storytelling, refreshments and a chance to meet some reindeer.

The fun continues next Saturday (December 5) with a BriHi celebration in Historic Dublin. Trolley rides will be offered throughout the district. Local merchants will offer discounts to holiday shoppers. Visitors can take part in sampling and  judging a Chili cook-off for just $5. Gingerbread houses created by local high school students will be on display at Sister’s Sweet Shoppe, Our Cupcakery and La Chatelaine.  These charming fantasy creations will be available for sale via a silent auction, as part of a charity fundraiser.

Why not make the most of this family fun weekend by combining these free activities in Historic Dublin with a Kids Go Free Columbus Zoo Wildlights Getaway?  Book your package online in advance, stay at one of the eight participating Dublin hotels, experience Wildlights on Friday evening–then meander Historic Dublin on Saturday shopping, sipping peppermint hot chocolates and celebrating the season.