Monthly Archives: December 2018

Streaming isn’t so Holy

Nolan Watson, CEO of Sandstorm Gold, a streaming and royalty company, is of the opinion that for juniors planning to build mines debt is a bad idea, according to a recent interview by Gold Investing News. “I don’t think it makes sense for the junior mining companies,” he is quoted as saying. The argument goes that for single-asset juniors hoping to build a mine, taking on debt is incredibly risky because when things go wrong and you can’t make loan repayments shareholders lose out. In his words, “debt is the most risky form of capital because bankers are inherently nervous beasts and they like to call in loans and send you to bankruptcy if things don’t work out well.”Sandstorm Gold

He argued this was especially true for juniors focused on a single project. “I believe that true debt is a very bad idea for a one-asset company. That’s because if you have any technical problems, or any permitting problems on that one asset, and you can’t pay back your debt, you violate your debt and go insolvent immediately.” With that said he argued debt makes more sense for larger miners, the Rio Tintos and Goldcorps of the mining world. But not juniors.

I disagree. Indeed, I think it’s just as important to consider the downside of streaming and royalties, as debt, or equity financings. A bit more on that in a moment, but first I have to agree with Nolan on the risk that comes with debt. In mine development debt deals can end up being toxic for shareholders when ramp-ups and repayments go wrong. Recall some awesome blowouts where shareholders, who usually hold equity that is unsecured to assets, basically ended up not being shareholders after mine ramp-up issues – delays, surprises, capital costs gone FUBAR – led to restructuring. Baja Mining. Northland Resources. Colossus Minerals. After these largely one-asset juniors saw mine building go awry, their shareholders ended up being stripped of meaningful ownership after painful reorganizations.

So Nolan correctly points out streaming or equity financings in mine-building scenarios are more forgiving down the line when things go horribly wrong. A streamer/royalty company like Sandstorm Gold pays some cash upfront to secure the right to buy a portion, often in the 10% range, of life of mine production at a very low cost, and in doing so does not typically get a secured interest on the asset, as can be the case with loans. If things don’t proceed as planned on a project – it doesn’t become a mine on time or at all – then a streamer/royalty company has paid for nothing, at least nothing until or if a mine is developed. In this sense streaming can be a relatively safe way to raise cash for juniors in the eventuality that a ramp up goes very poorly.

But if the devil in debt is the potential for unsecured or lower rung shareholders to lose an asset to creditors, there too is a devil in streaming. You are forward selling gold, at a very low price, on a project often for life of mine (i.e. ~$400-$500/oz gold) which, to some degree, strips away some future profits from the company, and thus shareholders. There are many shades of this, of course, with some deals covering a wider property – future discoveries included – to more narrow, capped deals where the forward selling can max out on specific resources. Some CEOs thus avoid streaming and royalty deals in favour of debt/equity largely for that reason, or they at least view all three funding sources as a competitive mix, where the pros and cons must be weighed. In this calculation the sale of future production at a low price, or the sale of a royalty (a cut of revenues), may be seen as too costly in comparison to debt. Or not, of course.

Sandstorm Gold

It’s not without reason many of the leading single-asset gold juniors have turned to debt – both from banks and in the form of convertible notes – as a major component of their financing plans for projects. Osisko Mining, since taken over by Yamana and Agnico-Eagle, relied heavily on a variety of loans, including $225 million in long term debt (which it renegotiated when it needed to) to build the Canadian Malartic project. Detour Gold did $500 million in convertible notes to help turn its Detour Lake gold project into a top Canadian gold mine. (Of course that debt is unfinished business. It’s unsecured, by the way, and due in 2017, and one suspects Detour may look to refinance it.) Torex Gold brought in banks to get a $300 million debt deal @ 4.25% + LIBOR, secured against assets, with hedging on 204,000 ounces gold, and maturity in 2022.

Did these deals not make sense? Sure there’s risk, but I wouldn’t go so far as to label them as senseless. By using debt heavy financing over heavy streaming/royalty deals, the likes of Osisko, Detour and Torex, favoured future production that is relatively unencumbered and more open to the potential for gold price increases. Don’t get me wrong. Streaming has an important place in funding junior companies. But I think debt does too. Whether it is part of a junior’s financing plans is not really a case of not making sense at all and more a case of calculating risk and costs of funding and assessing confidence in project timelines and cash flows.

Stronger mining CSR means more benefits for host nations – WGC

The World Gold Council published survey results Thursday, which showed that in 2013, 15 WGC member companies spent total of US$47 billion of which 79% was expended in countries hosting their mining operations, and provided work for more than 160 000 people.

Local suppliers of good and services within those host countries were the biggest recipients of WGC members’ investment at 71% or $37.4 billion.

World Gold Council

In the World Gold Council report, “Responsible gold mining and value distribution, 2013: A global assessment of the economic value created and distributed by members of the World Gold Council”, the United States ranked first in WCG members’ spending at US$7.5 billion, followed by Australia at $6.3 billion, Canada at $4.1 billion, Argentina at $3.7 billion and the Dominican Republic at $3.3 billion.

As WGC members paid a total of $4.65 billion to the governments in which they have operations, the U.S. topped the list at $750 million in government payments, followed by Peru at $582 million, Argentina at $482 million, Mexico at $368 million, and Australia at $363 million.

“Last year, official government donors spent a total of $135bn on overseas development assistance, but less than half of that actually entered local economies,” said Scott Gilmore, founder and CEO of Building Markets. “By comparison gold mining contributed over $37bn of value to host countries, representing 79% of total expenditures.”

The $26.36 billion in total business that the gold mining companies conducted with suppliers far outranked payments to governments and payments to people and communities. U.S. suppliers earned $4.9 billion from WGC member companies in 2013, followed by Australia at $4.8 billion, the Dominican Republic at $2.74 billion, Canada at $2.4 billion and Argentina at $1.8 billion.

CSR 1

“One of the interesting facts in the report is the relative level of payments to suppliers,” observed Christopher Sheldon, practice manager, extractive industries at the World Bank. “In order to maximize mining’s contribution to development we need to focus on how these payments to suppliers can benefit local business more and promote economic diversification through the use of local content.”

WGC mining company in-country expenditures for people and communities totaled $6.4 billion in 2013 with the U.S. again placing as top beneficiary at $1.6 billion, followed by Canada at $1.1 billion, Australia at $1.09 billion, and Peru at $355 million.

Numbers of employees and contractors employed by WGC member companies totaled 162,816 persons. Peru topped the list with 19,368 employed by WGC gold companies, followed by the United States with 16,474 employees and contractors, Papua New Guinea with 11,133 persons, and Ghana with 10,958 employees and contractors.

CSR 1

Total global gold output for 2013 was 3,039 tonnes with the WGC member operations accounting for 732 tonnes of production or 24% of total global gold production.

In an e-mail to Mineweb, Newmont Mining Group Executive, Corporate Communications, Omar Jabara said, “Newmont’s direct economic contributions in the countries where we operate totaled nearly $9 billion in 2013.” Newmont is a long-time member of the World Gold Council.

“In addition to employing nearby residents at our operations, Newmont partners with local entrepreneurs to establish and grow businesses that provide supplies and services to our mines, as well as other potential customers,” he stressed. “Nurturing local enterprises also includes supporting institutions that teach skills and trades to local residents, thereby empowering them to take advantage of the many economic opportunities generated by our mines and our suppliers.”

“Beyond partnering with local entrepreneurs, Newmont also invests in community infrastructure, health care, education and capacity building,” said Jabara.

Fellow WGC member Barrick Gold did not respond to Mineweb’s request for comment as of deadline early Friday morning.

CSR 1

“2013 was not ‘business-as-usual’ for the gold mining industry,” said WGC Chairman Randall Oliphant, the executive chairman of New Gold. “A sharp decline in the gold price, combined with increases in the costs of key input commodities, such as diesel and steel, created the perfect storm that rendered many mine operations unprofitable. The companies included in this report made accounting write-downs of their assets worth $25bn.”

“Looking forward, host countries and mining companies can both benefit from mining activities and it is in their interest to collaborate and find a mutually acceptable arrangement,” he added. “I hope this report provides a useful fact base for the discussion about the distribution of benefits among stakeholders.”

Terry Heymann, managing director of gold for development at the World Gold Council observed, “This report shows the continuing commitment of responsible gold miners to helping stakeholders understand the economics of mining. By developing a consistent and transparent approach to reporting costs and providing comprehensive insights on the monies paid to governments, business and employees, the report seeks to address concerns of a ‘trust and data deficit’ and highlight the contribution gold mining companies are making to national economies.”

The survey includes data from 15 gold companies with operations in over 25 countries with a total of over 160 000 employees and contractors. The 2103 figures include data from 87 producing gold mines and 60 non-producing operations including exploration, pre-mine development and closed mine sites. All gold-producing companies who are members of the WGC were invited to participate.

Stop Smoking Tips

Quitting smoking is no easy task. Many smokers say quitting is one of the hardest things they’ve ever had to do. If you’re going to quit smoking, you probably won’t be able to do it alone. Quitting smoking cold turkey works for some people, but it’s rare. You need some quick and easy stop smoking tips that will help keep you going!

Stop Smoking 1

1. Keep Your Mouth Busy

One way to make sure you aren’t as tempted to smoke it to keep your mouth busy with something else. For a lot of people, that’s food. That’s why many people gain weight when they quit smoking. But it doesn’t have to be fattening food. You can stop smoking and get healthier at the same time! Let’s look at some ways to keep your mouth busy.

  • Chewing gum, especially nicotine gum or bubble gum.
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Chewy beef jerky

Stop Smoking 1
The important thing is to find snacks that aren’t incredibly fattening, but will also keep you chewing for a long time. Soft fruits aren’t going to work very well, but things like apples and pears will. These foods are usually high in fiber and will also help lower your cholesterol!

2. Keep Your Mind Busy

When you start thinking about cigarettes, you will have a very hard time staying away. You need to keep your mind on other things. This means keeping yourself busy with hobbies or intellectual pursuits.

If you prefer intellectual things, I recommend taking up something like crossword puzzles, sudoku, quizzes, and other things that keep your mind very busy. If you prefer a more hands-on approach, you might pick up a crafting hobby like building model planes, knitting, sewing, building furniture, painting, or fixing up old cars.

3. Keep Your Hands Busy

One common complaint people have when they quit smoking is that they just don’t know what to do with their hands. Without that cigarette in their hands, they feel strange somehow. This is a good time to practice things that require a lot of finger coordination like sewing, knitting, painting, drawing, typing, playing the piano, or learning to shuffle and deal cards like a dealer in a Vegas casino!

Stop Smoking 1

4. Keep Your Body Busy

As your body begins to recover a bit, you’ll find yourself able to breathe better than before you stopped smoking. This is a good time to start getting a bit of exercise, which will also help keep your mind off cigarettes. You don’t have to run a marathon or buy a treadmill, just walk a little further, park further away from the store, or get outside and walk the dog more often.

Why Business To Business Marketers Need To Win The Zero Moment Of Truth, Too

Back in June I told of The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) and why marketers needed to win it. However, it appears some in the business to business marketing world assumed that ZMOT only applied to those in the business to consumer marketing world. Well, we all know what happens when one assumes…Why Business To Business Marketers Need To Win The Zero Moment Of Truth, Too

The Zero Moment Of Truth And Why Marketers Must Win It… that was the full title of my aforementioned post from June in which I introduced you to ZMOT and Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director of US Sales & Service and Chief ZMOT Evangelist. I had just finished reading the extremely interesting and engaging ebook Winning The Zero Moment Of Truth and I knew I had to share it with you.

For those of you not familiar with ZMOT it is essentially the moment AFTER a consumer sees something – an ad, a commercial, etc., and BEFORE they head to the store shelf or website to make a purchase. The Zero Moment of Truth is that timeframe where a consumer – a human being, goes online and conducts a search via Google or any other search engine for that matter.

[[from my original post]]

How prevalent is the ZMOT?

Consider…

In a study commissioned by Google, Shopper Sciences surveyed 5,000 shoppers and asked them how many sources of information do they use before making a decision? The survey revealed that the average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information, ranging from TV commercials and magazine articles, to recommendations from friends and family, to websites, ratings to blogs.

The 10.4 number is very significant when considering just a year earlier the average shopper used only 5.3 sources of information to make a decision.

What this means is consumers, shoppers, people have a plethora of information sources at their disposal and they are using them.

  • 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase
  • 79% of consumers now say they use a smart- phone to help with shopping
  • 83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them

So it’s painfully obvious that people, consumers, are going online via their PCs or smartphones BEFORE making a decision, before they stand in front of that shelf. And did you catch the last bullet, the one that read that 83% of moms, AKA women do online research? These are the same women that are driving the purchasing bus!

Even Though It’s Called Business To Business, There’s Still A Consumer On The Other End

It never ceases to amaze me how many business to business marketers fail to realize the one obvious truth that stares them in the face every single day… there is a person on the other end of that line, that email, that postcard, that whatever tool you are trying to use to sell.

A real, live, breathing human being who is going to do exactly the same thing every one else does when they want to learn more about something, anything… they are going to conduct an online search! Just as if they were in the living room searching on new slippers, these same people (operative word: people) are going to do a search on your company, your business, your service, etc.

Why Business To Business Marketers Need To Win The Zero Moment Of Truth, Too

In other words…

When a business to business marketer sends something to a prospect or lead or even existing customer, that person on the other end of that line is going to go online, do their search, and you better be there to win that Zero Moment of Truth, cause make no mistake about it, it will happen and if you don’t win it, someone else will.

And for those still not sold on ZMOT in a business to business setting or platform, perhaps hearing from these folks will help change your mind…

So, business to business marketers AND business to consumer marketers as well… are you winning the Zero Moment of Truth? And if not, what do you plan on doing to win it in the future?

When In Doubt Blame Advertising

No matter what ails you, no matter what is troubling you, no matter what undesirable set of circumstances you find yourself in, you can take refuge in the fact that no matter what you may have done to put yourself in said predicament, there is always advertising to blame.

While that statement may sound somewhat bombastic, there are those among us who do in fact lay the blame of much of what afflicts society directly at the feet of advertising. I wrote about this very topic in a column for Ad Week last December entitled You Better Not Pout, Kids. Ads Are to Blame. In the piece I referenced a survey which saw one-third of consumers blaming ad agencies and advertising in general for the “current economic crisis because they encouraged people to buy things they couldn’t really afford.”When In Doubt Blame Advertising

But the main focus of my article was a woman in California, who along with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), sued McDonald’s for deceptive marketing aimed at the youth of the country. The woman in question went so far as to state: “I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.” You can read the full Ad Week article to get my thoughts on this but needles to say, I didn’t think much of this lawsuit.

Now if that weren’t enough, today comes word that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is jumping into “advertising is evil” – at least when it comes to fast food and kids, fray…

“It’s time for the food industry to clean up its act and not advertise junk food to young children. Just by banning ads for fast food, one study says we could decrease obesity and overweight by 17 percent.” That was a statement made by Dr. Victor Strasburger, who penned the new policy for the AAP. Call me cynical but I would surely love to read more about this study the good doctor references, such as who funded it and who participated in it.

When In Doubt Blame Advertising

Ok, I WILL be cynical now… By not feeding our kids fast food, at least too much of it – you know, moderation? – and feeding them instead healthier foods, and providing them with the means to exercise and not allowing them to plant themselves in front of the TV all day, could decrease obesity and overweight by 100%!

I love how the original source, courtesy of Reuters, conveniently places this fact smack dabble in the middle of it all: “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in six children and teenagers are obese — up three-fold from a generation ago.” Yes, how convenient to include the fact that more and more American teenagers are fat and that fast food is to blame.

The full article, which can be found here and many other media outlets, also goes on to speak to the need to limit TV time overall and also to monitor what our children watch… “Violent content also tended to keep kids up at night, no matter when they watched it.” Wow, shocking news! Gimme a break….

‘I don’t know why Jimmy is so heavy… sure, he eats McDonald’s 4-5 times a week but it’s not my fault. It’s all that darned advertising he sees on TV. I don’t WANT to give him that to eat, but what can I do?’

When In Doubt Blame Advertising

Now, I made that last line up but it’s definitely a microcosmic (is that even a word?) overview of far too many parents and others in the world today. It’s actually nothing new, the blame game has been around for centuries. When in doubt, blame someone else or in this case, something else for your problems.

How about this? How about parents actually do some parenting?

I have an eleven-year old daughter and six-year old son and I know full well how hard it is to just say no. My wife tells me all the time I don’t say no enough and she’s probably right but enough already with the blame advertising mantra… look yourself in the mirror Moms and Dads. You are responsible for your children. Not some guy in a clown suit with bright red hair and big red feet in a TV commercial.

Health Spas in Winchester, Va

Among the Winchester, Virginia, health spas, Mane Attraction, Blue Ridge and The Lee Clinic stand out as the most professional. With focuses on rejuvenation, wellness and weight loss, these three clinics have manageable hours and accessible locations. As centers for relaxation and improvement, all three spas guarantee customer satisfaction.

Health Spas in Winchester, Va

Mane Attraction

Professional staff, environmentally friendly products and quality service contribute to the prestige of Mane Attraction.The spa specializes in massages, skin-care treatments, facials, body wraps and scrubs, and microdermabrasion; while the salon features hair, nails, skin, make-up, eyelash extensions, spray-on tanning and waxing services. Wellness packages, including dual treatments, regenerative therapies and full-body wraps, are gift or day-off ideas. Mane Attraction is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mane Attraction
170 Costello Drive
(540) 667-0180

Health Spas in Winchester, Va

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Massage and Natural Body Care Center

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Massage and Natural Body Care Center offers acupuncture, cranial-sacral therapy and reflexology. Ensuring the best quality in Winchester, Blue Ridge guarantees that the amount of relaxation time paid for is the amount of time received. Life skills coaching is another option, and aims to improve daily routines by teaching breathing enhancement techniques and healthy food choices and giving personalized verbal or visual feedback for individual problems, such as depression or high blood pressure.

Blue Ridge Therapeutic Massage and Natural Body Care Center
2170 S. Loudoun St.
(540) 667-5800

Health Spas in Winchester, Va

The Lee Clinic

As the motto, “Look and Feel Like Yourself Again” suggests, The Lee Clinic advocates proactive wellness. In the battles against poor nutrition, rapid aging and ubiquitous toxins, this health care center provides specialized treatments for all ages, skin types and body shapes. With a focus on healthy living, Lee Clinic also offers numerous approaches to weight loss. Its combination of both mental and physical treatments has given it a prestigious name in the spa industry.

The Lee Clinic
Suite I, 2228 Papermill Road
(540) 542-1700

10 Tricks Keeping Weight Loss Resolutions

If you are anything like me one of your New Year resolutions was to lose some weight and get healthier.

Making a weight loss resolution is the easy part. The hard part is to keep the weight loss going weeks later.

Being a busy mom taking care of family…..working…..making sure that everyone else is healthy doesn’t make it easy to stick to your weight loss resolution. It’ hard to find time for regular and healthy meals…..To fit exercise into busy schedule is a hard task.

10 Tricks Keeping Weight Loss Resolutions 1

Suddenly summer is here. The extra weight is too. We wish that we would stick to our weigh loss resolution 5 months ago.

Sounds familiar? I was there before. Year after year…… after year….. Same old story.

This year I am prepared to follow through to lose some weight and get healthier. It won’t be easy, but there are little weight loss tricks that can help along the way.

#1 Chew Gum – while cooking or baking. It will save you from eating extra 300 or more calories during the day.

#2 Buy Smaller Size Clothing – just one piece and use it to measure your progress and to keep the weight loss momentum going. After it fits buy another item one size smaller.

#3 Buy Snacks For Your Family – don’t buy your favorite snacks. Buy snacks that your family loves and you are not very fond of. They won’t be upset about the lack of snacks and you will be on your way to get healthier.

#4 Cook Bigger Meals – to avoid eating unhealthy foods every time you cook healthy soup or pot of chili make a little more and freeze it in single servings. When hunger strikes you don’t have to reach for bag of chips or plate of nachos. You can reheat your single portion meal in a snap.

10 Tricks Keeping Weight Loss Resolutions 1

#5 Use Your Time Wisely – if you spend hours every week sitting around while waiting for your children during their figure skating, hockey, soccer or other activities you can use this time for a brisk walk or power walk around the neighborhood . I am sure your children won’t mind mom getting some exercise at the same time they are.

#6 Keep Food Diary – this will help you prevent late night snacking. When you get the urge to munch after 7pm just look inside your diary and see how much calories you already consumed. It won’t stop you all the time, but in a long run it will help you to achieve your weight loss goal.

#7 Call Your Friend – if you are dying to eat something that is really bad for you and there is no way you can say no just pick up the phone and call someone. You will interrupt your thinking process and you will forget abut the craving.

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#8 Drink Cold Water – if you feel hungry just gulp down a large glass of ice water. Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger.

#9 Start Small Project – like cleaning out the junk drawer, organizing your Tupperware, cleaning out the closet will help you from boredom overeating.

#10 Load Up On Veggies – make sure most of your main meals includes vegetables. The fiber in vegetables is important for speeding up your metabolism which makes it easier to lose weight. Load up half of your plate or more with vegetables and you’re not only lose the weight , but you will get healthier and more energetic.

Valentine’s Data Crunching – Being Strategic In Love And Marketing

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is in the air. And on the web. Online dating has replaced cruising the bar for other singles, especially during the website dating ‘high season’ between Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day. For those of us who’ve dabbled in Internet dating, the anxiety of choosing the right photos and words is an all too familiar feeling in the quest to attract “the one” (or just someone. Anyone.) But Amy Webb, CEO of Webb-Media Group, threw her human instincts by the wayside to master dating sites through a data-driven approach of mathematical equations, key words and an SEO-friendly profile. She logged her story in her new book, Data, A Love Story.

Valentine’s Data Crunching – Being Strategic In Love And Marketing

Webb joined JDate and was disappointed with her initial matches. On sites like JDate, the users themselves provide data. When ineffective data is entered into the site’s “matching” algorithm, ineffective matching is put out. Ergo – online dating is the pits, spitting back incompatible mates. Webb wasn’t satisfied with the system, and instead spent a month researching data points, crunching numbers and analyzing the competition, ultimately finding a formula for the most successfully matched user profiles on the web.

Here’s what she found:

The most successful women on the site had profile pictures that showed Valentine’s Data Crunching – Being Strategic In Love And Marketing some skin, wrote short, positive bios and waited about a day to respond to messages from admirers.

“When you think about it, online dating is sort of the ultimate exercise in product marketing. Except that you are the product. So how can you leverage what you’ve got, how can you make sure you’re being seen by the most number of people?” Webb explains. “If you think of (it) as more of a catalog database … as long as you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s no different from doing a search in a library or doing a search for shoes on Zappos.”

As a frustrated online dater I can’t help but be a bit exasperated with her findings. Weren’t we taught that the right person would like us for who we Valentine’s Data Crunching – Being Strategic In Love And Marketing are? But as a brand strategist, I should have figured this out sooner. We are in an age that requires us to brand ourselves all the time, so why should it be any different in dating?

Before I landed a great job, I spent hours tweaking my resume. From format and font to titles and time frames, it never seemed quite right. But when I joined OK-Cupid, I only dedicated about 15 minutes to filling out my profile. In my (obviously) romanticized version of online dating, it would be easy to charm my potential suitors with my best photos and sparkling wit. But Webb’s story brings up a valid point – when positioning yourself for love, forget about branding for your own satisfaction. Like you would with any great product, use your data, strategize, and brand for the consumer.

The Best Mini-Vacations

Sometimes you just need to get away. You must turn off the work noise, the home noise and the everyday-life noise. A two- to four-day vacation can rejuvenate your spirit, allowing you to return to your daily life with a new outlook. Whether your soul feels called to the beach, mountains or city, there are plenty of mini-vacations to choose from.

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Try this island for “really” getting away from things. You’ll need to fly or boat into this barrier island, located on the outer banks of North Carolina. Roam the 16 miles of natural beaches, breathing in the fresh salt air. There are plenty of lodging choices and places to eat, including takeout, restaurants and coffee houses. Stop by the Ocracoke Preservation Museum or take a show in at the Deep Water Theater. If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at deep-sea fishing, take a charter boat out for a half or whole day.

San Francisco Jazz Festival, California

If it’s spring fever you are experiencing, perhaps losing yourself in some of the best jazz music the country has to offer will bring up your spirits. It’s 26 years famous. Experience the well-known names as well as the newer artists to come on the scene. Complete your mini-vacation with some city sightseeing and shopping. Don’t forget to take a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Wind Works, Tennessee

Take a hot-air balloon ride from the base of the Smoky Mountains. Your flight will begin in Sevierville, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Float over rolling farmland with a 360-degree view. Turn around and enjoy the mountain scenery. A mini-vacation with the surprise of a balloon ride for a birthday, anniversary or location of a marriage proposal will not be forgotten. For something really special, ask about a ride on the special Little Pirate Balloon. There are great accommodations in Sevierville, from luxury hotels to campgrounds

The Tree House Cabin, Missouri

Remember the treehouse you played in as a kid? Some of the best times you ever had was roughing it for the night with a few of your best friends. Those childhood days are over, but you can bring back the same experience with a bit more comfort at the Tree House Cabin. If seclusion is what you need, spend the weekend fly fishing or hiking. Then come back to your accommodations, sit on your private deck and look at North Fork. The treehouse comes complete with an equipped kitchen, microwave and air conditioning. This mini-vacation in the Ozark Mountains will have you dreaming of a trip back to the treehouse for months to come.

The Best Christmas Vacations in the US

Christmas often brings warm visions of home and family, but it can also bring headaches. Decorating can be an expensive nightmare, and the traditional family dinner usually means more work. All of the preparation can actually cut into precious family time instead of adding to it. If the thought of a warm beach or a fun-filled ski holiday fills you with guilt, don’t let it. More people are choosing a family Christmas vacation to avoid the hassles at home. And with so many options available within the United States, the trip needn’t be expensive or time consuming. With a little planning, you can create a Christmas vacation of a lifetime that will let the whole family relax and have fun.

The Best Christmas Vacations in the US

New Traditions

If you’re reluctant to break with tradition too much, consider an area that offers a cozy holiday atmosphere. Connecticut’s Christmas Village in Torrington offers traditional events with a quaint backdrop. For a trip of a lifetime for younger children, head to Santa Claus, Indiana, where Christmas is celebrated all year round, complete with a theme park and a candy castle. Older kids might enjoy a ski trip to Colorado or Utah or, for a more budget-friendly trip, look for resorts close to home. Most will create artificial snow even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The Best Christmas Vacations in the US

Tropical Holiday

If you can’t stand one more minute of cold and snow, try a beach resort Christmas. For the warmest weather, head as far south as you can. The Florida Keys offer events for the whole family, and San Diego, California, has an array of holiday fun including whale watching. Amusement parks in warm destinations will often offer special package deals for the holidays too. Be sure to ask about seasonal discounts and deals.

The Best Christmas Vacations in the US

Winter Adventure

The more adventurous might want to book a holiday adventure vacation. Most outdoor activities can be tailored for the winter months including biking, boating and hiking. West Virginia resorts offer canopy tours and horseback riding all year round, and many have seasonal packages. New Mexico’s mild climate and diverse climate makes it the perfect place for early winter adventures. Consider renting a cabin in or near a state or national park, and put together your own adventure tour.