Sept. 14-- Create art with a mustached marine mammal. Wallow in the museum landscape of a southwestern artists' enclave. Head inland for island fun.
A mega micro vacation is the ultimate "treat yourself" getaway-a weekend recharge where the emphasis is on spoiling yourself or experiencing those things you always dream about doing ... someday.
Here are three destinations that are ready to indulge your whims.
ANIMAL ART IN INDY
Slip through the gates and behind-the-scenes at the Indianapolis Zoo for some one-on-one time with a walrus, penguin, snake, rhino or other animal that will create a piece of art just for you.
Animal Art Adventures presents the zoo's many talented animal artists in informal individual sessions that include a chance to learn more about the animal and watch it create a one-of-a-kind painting. A zookeeper will join you and up to three others, discuss the animal, its breed, care and characteristics and, depending on the animal, give it a variety of simple commands. You get to choose the paint colors you want for your piece, ask lots of questions and, again – depending on the animal – touch it and perhaps even get a kiss on your hand.
This program runs on select Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, and the experiences are so popular that many sell out for months in advance. For more information about each particular animal adventure, visit http://www.indianapoliszoo.com, click on "Plan Your Visit" and then "Special Zoo Experiences."
This adventure will be the icing on the cake of a day spent at the Indy Zoo, which also has an aquarium and a botanical garden with some 23,000 native and exotic plants, conservatory, water garden and gentle walking paths. From wildebeests and cheetahs in the plains biome to the walruses and polar bears in the ocean biome to the orangutans and budgies in the deserts biome and more, you'll have a chance to see 1,600 animals. This includes fan fave dolphins, most enjoyably seen in the underwater viewing dome.
Overnight in a place that appreciates art as much as your zoo denizen Da Vinci: Indianapolis' Hotel Broad Ripple is a charming lodge-like hotel made up of nine individually and impeccably decorated guestrooms, perfect for couples or families. Thoughtfully appointed with antiques and art, the hotel is an artist aficionado's enclave in Indy's culturally vibrant Road Ripple neighborhood.
SO MANY MUSEUMS IN SANTA FE
A celebration of the blending of earth, sky and cultures in a desert hot spot, Santa Fe is known for its rich and diverse art traditions. In "City Different," as this New Mexican burg is called, you can immerse yourself in the art, history and culture of the Native American Southwest, the Spanish colonial past and folk traditions from around the world as they unfold on the streets at craft fairs, in shops and galleries and in an eclectic collection of museums.
Amidst the enchanting landscape is a museum mecca. Head downtown to explore several, including the New Mexico Museum of Art, which spotlights Southwestern artists; the Palace of the Governors at the New Mexico History Museum, which is housed in a government building constructed by the Spanish in 1610; and the richly spare Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
An oft-overlooked gem is the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Here, at the country's only museum exhibiting, collecting and interpreting the most progressive work of contemporary Native artists, find thousands of works in all media created in 1962 or later in the permanent collection, plus special exhibitions throughout the year. Through Dec. 31, the museum hosts "Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain," a major retrospective featuring more than 120 paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by this prominent contemporary Native American artists.
Santa Fe's rich Native American heritage means there is abundant art and crafts available throughout the city. The best place to shop for jewelry, pottery and other works? The Palace of the Governors. Some 60 to 80 artists gather daily to show and sell their handiworks.
In keeping with the cultural vibe of your visit, step through the massive hand-carved doors at Rosewood, the Inn of the Anasazi, and into its elegant yet earthly restaurant featuring dishes that reflect the Inn's Southwestern and native heritage. Overnight at the sumptuous yet subdued Inn on the Alameda. Located between the historic Plaza and the 100-plus galleries of Canyon Road, is the epitome of comfort, charm and Southwestern elan.
PLAYING ON PIGEON FORGE'S 'ISLAND'
Disney meets Key West in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., at The Island. Surrounded by the Little Pigeon River and anchored by Jimmy Buffett's breezy four-star Margaritaville Island Hotel, cheeseburger or no, it is paradise just a few steps and one "license to chill" away from Pigeon Forge's famously gridlocked Parkway. And perfect for a girlfriends' getaway guaranteed to blow out your flip flops.
Sixty-plus retail and specialty shops and 17 eateries line the wide, curving walkways. The Island's 19 adventures include the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, scraping the sky at 200 feet to gift riders seated in climate-controlled all-glass gondolas with panoramic views of the lights of downtown Pigeon Forge and the surrounding 89-nozzled Island Show Fountain that dances to choreographed music at 30-minute intervals.
Gather at Ole Smoky Moonshine to sample up to 13 communion cups of sublimely flavored hooch. A shine guide will shepherd you through the taste profiles of white lightning, Tennessee Mud, pumpkin ("you can taste the pie crust"), java ("if Starbucks and moonshine had a baby") and more. Browse the hodgepodge of goodies at Emery's 5 & 10. Select a leaf-shaped jigsaw puzzle from Puzzled. Shop and dine with Paula Deen, a girlfriend that won't steer you wrong in matters of culinary accoutrements and buttery comfort food. Her Family Kitchen is located up the escalator from the Paula Deen Store.
At the St. Somewhere Spa, book a Lost Shaker of Salt body scrub, customized Wastin' Away massage or lavish 90-minute Sun Soother facial-so relaxing you may commit the unladylike sin of snoring between your chamomile aloe masque and accompanying foot massage. No worries. Just "breathe in, breathe out, move on" to the spa's Chill Room where an attendant will pour you a glass of wine and invite you to stretch out on a comfy chaise.
The Island is all about fins up. Chances are, you'll be content to blend up your own moonshine margaritas in your room's blender and decide this is the perfect place for wastin' away.
Santa Fe, NM: https://santafe.org
Santa Fe Museums: https://santafe.org/Visiting_Santa_Fe/Museums/index.html
Indianapolis, IN: www.visitindy.com
Indianapolis Zoo: www.indianapoliszoo.com
Pigeon Forge, TN: www.mypigeonforge.com
The Island: http://islandinpigeonforge.com
(Author and travel and lifestyle writer Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there's just too much to see and do in the world. Contact her at KathyWitt24@gmail.com, @KathyWitt.)