Sep. 21, 2012 at 10:02 AM ET
Jesse LeBlanc, owner of The Green House Inn, a B&B in New Orleans, encourages guests to stroll over to Coliseum Square, a nearby park lined with stately antebellum houses, and to sit on benches, enjoy the beautiful surroundings and mingle with neighbors.
“Before you know it, you are having coffee and tea with people you never met before,” he said.
LeBlanc also strongly encourages his guests to avoid dessert when dining out — even at the top restaurants — and instead to jump in a taxi after the main course and head to Sucré, a tiny, “sweet boutique” on Magazine Street that serves exquisite homemade candies, pastries and gelato. “The place is phenomenal,” he said. “We know all the little places.”
The insider tips and advice that LeBlanc and his fellow innkeepers routinely dispense are frequently not in guide books, they say, and that’s precisely the inspiration behind a new series of Innkeeper’s Guides to popular destinations around the country.
“It is a way for us to help travelers learn about a community by offering a more intimate glimpse into an area,” said Tim Wilson, a spokesman for BedandBreakfast.com, which publishes the online guides.
The series draws on the expertise of innkeepers who “highlight things that do not get a lot of publicity, like off-the-beaten path places and best kept secrets,” Wilson said.
And the results, he said, are authentic and distinctive local experiences for travelers.
“An Innkeeper’s Guide to Key West,” for example, has Captain Steve of Atlantis House talking about bringing guests to Boca Grande, an outlying island about 12 miles west of Key West, Fla. “Half of the island is a bird sanctuary and the other half is a deserted beach,” the captain noted. “We pull the boat up on a sand bar and spend the day snorkeling, picnicking and taking a casual stroll along the beach observing wildlife.”
So far, five guides, including the one to Key West, have been completed. Other destinations are: Cape Cod, Mass.; Cape May, N.J.; Savannah, Ga.; and New Orleans. Each guide has a brief introduction to the area, followed by: top things to do, best nightlife, top day trips, where to eat and where to shop.
A guide to Asheville, N.C., is scheduled for release next month.
The series may be new, but it formalizes a process that has always been a part of the B&B experience, said Dean Carlson, owner of The Mermaid & Alligator in Key West.
Carlson said he and his staff, many of whom have lived in the area for 20 some years, have been to local places repeatedly, not just once or twice, like many reviewers. And they can also offer the most current information on new openings. They dispense advice on everything from where to find the best coffee or little Cuban sandwiches to which snorkeling or sunset boat best suits their needs. And they even help nervous young men find the ideal restaurant in which to propose. “The next morning, we’ll ask ‘How did it go? Did she say yes?’ So all of a sudden, you are part of the special occasion,” Carlson said. “Those kinds of things you can’t find in a guidebook, quirky things about a location. And we do it every day.”
Jonathon Day, an assistant professor at Purdue University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said: “I think travelers love to have the inside scoop on places they visit, and reaching out to people in the community about their favorite places is one of the best ways to do that.”
“No one wants to miss the best things about places they visit, so this is a great way to get that insider’s view,” Day said. “I love anything that gets you to the heart of the destination experience.”
Guide readers can also use BedandBreakfast.com to find and book a place among more than 13,000 properties worldwide, read reviews and check out savings promotions.
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