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Calling All Chocoholics: The Portland Chocolate Festival Is Coming!

By Michael Cervin

It was recorded that when Spanish explored Cortez arrived in Mexico in 1518 he found that Montezuma drank 50 cups of cocoa daily. Of course those “cups” of cocoa were refereed to as jar or pitchers, so it’s no surprise that Montezuma eventually passed away.

portland chocolate festival 2013No matter. Chocolate still makes the world go around. In fact when I travel I often bring chocolates to my parents, from places like Austria, Belgium and Oahu (yeah, I meant Hawaii). Bean to bar chocolates are a big deal these days as people are looking for handmade, unique foods. So if you love chocolate, and I don’t need to underline, bold, or italicize the word chocolate because it needs no special adornment, then head to Portland (Oregon…Portland, Maine doesn’t understand chocolate) for the 7th Annual Chocolate Fest.

First off Portland is a really cool city with lots of areas, like the Pearl, and great restaurants and nice people, and it’s a reasonable drive to the town of Tillamook on the stunning Oregon coast where they make cheese, and I love cheese as much as I love chocolate. Oh, sorry. Yes, the cocoa bean gets full due at this event.

And the monies raised go to help the World Forestry Center which is a non-profit organization founded in 1964 whose mission is to educate and inform people about the world’s forests and trees, and environmental sustainability which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with trees other than cocoa beans grow on trees, and we should always be nice to trees, and abundantly nice to cocoa trees.

Over 9,000 people attend, most in search of the 70 chocolate vendors who pass out samples of heaven, many of whom are based in the Pacific Northwest. There are nine wineries and breweries, and a handful of restaurants in attendance too so you can get a great overview of why Portland and the Northwest are places you want to visit. Answer the call of chocolate and heard to Portland (Oregon…Portland, Maine doesn’t understand chocolate).

Chocolate Festival

Jan. 18-20 (Friday 6:00-9:30pm, Saturday 11am-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm)

Portland Convention Center

777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.

Portland, Oregon

Cost: $12 (are you kidding? I can eat 12 bucks worth of chocolate in 12 minutes!)

After splurging, you may want to head to Portland’s unique, trendy and cult-ish Voodoo Donuts (I’ve been, it’s pretty incredible), or take a load off and drive a wee bit to the Columbia River Gorge and visit the area’s 90 waterfalls, or stay in downtown to explore the multitude of micro-breweries. There’s also Powell’s Books who carry my four travel books, but that’s not really the point.

First things first: check the DealAngel hotel results for Portland now!

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Who’s on First? The Who in L.A.

By Michael Cervin

The Who (bad name, great band) is iconic as one of the pioneering rock bands of, well…mostly ever. Never mind the fact that the original members are pushing 60, it’s about the music, baby, and therefore a new tour is all that is needed to infuse the band and their audience with a pure love of rock ‘n roll. Well that and maybe a wee bit of cash.

Embarking on a 37-date North American tour entitled “Quadrophenia and More” surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform the 1973 album in its entirety, along with other popular songs from their catalog. I remember seeing Quadrophenia, the film, and thought I was so cool as a teenager because I “understood” British teen angst. Yeah, well, whatever.

This is The Who’s first North American tour in four years and as Pete Townshend explained: “We’ve been trying to find something we can do together, Roger and I, for a while.

Quadrophenia was something we both felt we could get together on. The last time we did it (on tour) was in 1997. We’ve been anxious to work together before we drop dead.” Nothing like a little honesty there, Pete. Roger Daltrey, for his part, refers to the album as the equivalent of, “Mt. Everest for a singer.”

No offense Mr. Daltrey but I’m guessing hiking to 29,000 feet through snow, ice and bitter wind is a little more stressful than singing at the Staples Center in L.A. Of course, considering all the wannabe-actors everywhere pitching their screenplays and the over-the-top self centered vibe that permeates the smog-filled air, maybe hiking with a Sherpa ain’t so hard?

I’d go just to hear them sing Baba O’Riley, Pinball Wizard and one of my all-time favs, Who Are You?, (though I’d way prefer to miss Boris the Spider). So if you’ve missed them in concert before, you Won’t Get Fooled Again if you go.

The Who

Los Angeles Staples Center

Deal Angel hotel results for Los Angeles

January 30th , 7:30 p.m.

111 S. Figueroa, Los Angeles

(213) 742-7100

Cost: $39.50 to $129.50

The concert is over, you’ve screamed like a banshee, so why not give it a rest and check out The Getty Center which is a very cool museum? Or, head to the Hollywood Bowl for an outdoor concert, and there is the California Science Center which is now home to the space shuttle Endeavor, and more low to the ground is the Petersen Automotive Museum.


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Events for Kids in Denver: the Parade of Lights

By Carrie Dow

Heading to Denver? Check the DealAngel hotel deals for Denver first!

Downtown Denver celebrates the holidays with the 38th annual Parade of Lights. Holiday revelers can enjoy two parades, the first one is Friday, November 30, at 8 p.m. and a second parade on Saturday, December 1, at 6 p.m.

activities for kids in denver - parade of lights

Image: Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post

The Parade of Lights, sponsored by local TV station KUSA, kicks off the beginning of the holiday season with a two-mile parade filled with colorful, shiny floats all decked out in thousands of holiday lights.

This ultra-lighted spectacle also features several gigantic balloons, dancing from Colorado Mestizo and Revive Christian Dance, drum performances by Denver Taiko and Montbello Drum Line, the Distinguished Clown Brigade, the precision of horse drill organization the Westernaires and several high school marching bands. The parade starts at the Colorado Civic Center and ends at 14th and Glenarm Place. Spectators can view the parade for free all along the parade route. Get there early to get a good spot.

For those wanting an even more spectacular view of the parade there will be a grandstand with seats for purchase at the City and County Building, which will also be festively lit. Grandstand seats are $18 for adults and $16 for children ages 2-12. Children under two are allowed in the grandstands if they sit on the lap of a ticket holder. Tickets can be purchased online from TicketHorse or by calling 1-866-461-6556.

Ever had a yearning to control one of those giant balloons or dress up in a silly costume? The Parade of Lights is your chance! The parade needs over 500 volunteers to help make it a special occasion for all ages. Positions available include balloon handlers, grandstand managers, production assistants, costumed characters and more. Call the Parade Office at 303-295-6330 for more information.

Parade watchers are encouraged to take Light Rail downtown using the H, F and D Lines that bring people directly to the parade route. The 16th Street Mall shuttle will not operate during the one-hour parade, but will be available both before and after for spectators to use.

Make an evening out of this special event by staying in Downtown Denver afterward. There will be restaurant specials and stores open late with holiday deals along with art gallery showings, carriage rides, ice skating and other special events to coincide with the parade.


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Life in Black & White: Picasso at the Guggenheim

Picasso_Guggenheim - new york hotel deals - deal angel

By Michael Cervin

Pablo Picasso saw the world in cubist forms and a diverse palette of color, so it’s rather fun in a geeky way that the current Picassoexhibition at the Guggenheim in Manhattan is dedicated to his works in black and white. This doesn’t mean every drawing is actually devoid of color, but that it is used sparingly and undoubtedly there’s no colorful language either.

What’s worth noting is that 38 of the show’s 118 works have never been exhibited in the U.S. and five of them, among them the sharply angular “Bust of a Woman With a Hat” (1939) have never been seen anywhere in public (now me, I see lots of women’s busts while wearing hats, ah, but I think I’m a little more alert then Mr. Picasso). The show spans the years 1904 to 1971, and includes paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, all of which highlight Pablo’s choice of black, white, and gray in lieu of color.

The curators of the show state:

“His repeated minimal palette correlates to his obsessive interest in line and form, drawing, and monochromatic and tonal values, while developing a complex language of pictorial and sculptural signs.” (uh yeah, what they said).

“The recurrent motif of black, white, and gray is evident in his Blue and Rose periods, pioneering investigations into Cubism, neoclassical figurative paintings, and retorts to Surrealism” (well, duh, is there any other kind?).

“Claiming that color weakens, Picasso purged it from his work in order to highlight the formal structure and autonomy of form inherent in his art.” (suddenly I feel very inadequate as a writer…).

OK, so anyhow…it’s worth visiting cause you won’t see many of these works again. And I mean Ever. Plus the Guggenheim itself is one of the coolest buildings and it’s worth seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s most well-known public space.

Picasso in Black and White

The Guggenheim Museum

1071 Fifth Ave.

(212) 423-3587

Daily 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., closed on Thursdays

Cost $22

Showing Now through Jan. 23rd

After a riveting time inside, maybe it’s time to head outside for a boat tour around the island of New York (yes folks, it’s actually an island), or the Queens Museum of Art has a weird miniature model of all five boroughs constructed in 1964 and featured in the (bad) movie “New Year’s Eve,” and frankly Peter Luger’s steakhouse is a must for a juicy Porterhouse.

Taking a trip to New York? Check the DealAngel hotel results for New York City here.

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Activities for Kids in Denver: Zoo Lights

By Carrie Dow

At the Denver Zoo even the wild animals get into the holiday spirit by having their lawns decorated with thousands of sparkly holiday lights. Zoo Lights is a chance for you and your family to ooh and ahh around the zoo grounds at this special month-long event.

Each year the Denver Zoo’s Zoo Lights event features 38 luminescent acres and over 150 animated animal sculptures. These special light sculptures swing through trees, jump across lawns and hide in bushes for visitors to find. This year, to celebrate their newly opened Toyota Elephant Passage, the area will feature a Festival of Lanterns to light the way for the zoo’s pachyderms.

The Denver Zoo has been undergoing an expansion with new exhibits such as Predator Ridge, Tropical Discovery and Primate Panorama and their largest project, the Elephant Passage. Covering a 10-acre complex, the Elephant Passage is so named for Peter and Ella’s Elephant Bridge which allows the elephants, rhinos and tapirs to move between habitats on a bridge that spans a pedestrian walkway above visitors’ heads. Imagine seeing an elephant weighing some ten thousand pounds walking above you?

Zoo Lights is one of the few times during the year when the Denver Zoo is open in the evenings making it easier for more people to enjoy. Be sure to Text Dzoo to 56512 on the day you visit to find out if any special offers are available as well as what special events are scheduled that evening and to learn about which animals the public will encounter.

Various events include visits with Santa, penguin feedings and creation stations for kids while adults can warm up with hot chocolate or coffee (with or without holiday spirits) or have dinner at the Samburu Grille.

Admission for the 22nd annual Zoo Lights is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors age 65 and up, and children 11 and under are $6. Zoo Members receive a $2 discount on adult and children admission fees. Daytime admission and membership do not include Zoo Lights admission.

The zoo will close each night at 5 p.m. and reopen at 5:30 p.m. Zoo Lights starts Friday evening, November 30, and runs through Wednesday, January 2, 2013, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online from the Denver Zoo or at the zoo’s entrance. The Denver Zoo is located at Denver’s City Park with main entrance on 23rd Avenue between Colorado Boulevard and York Street.

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Orange Beach Vacation Ideas: Lighted Boat Parade

By Carrie Dow

Planning a trip to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach? Check the Deal Angel results for Gulf Shores here!

What do boats, Santa Claus and thousands and thousands of holiday lights have in common? That would be the Nautical Night of Lights in Gulf Shores, AL, where instead of using reindeer Santa floats along the Intracoastal Waterway in a high-powered yacht.

Orange Beach vacation ideas - Lighted_Boat_Parade_PhotoThis Gulf Coast twist on the holiday season features a parade of sea vessels, large and small, all lit up in the brightest of lights. Enjoy this parade on water Saturday, December 8, starting at 5:30 p.m. and ending around 8:30 p.m.

The 27th annual lighted boat parade is hosted by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce and features numerous private boats as they travel the Intracoastal Waterway Canal all sporting their brightest holiday decor. Boats are judged for awards in three categories; sailboat, powerboat 32’ and under, and powerboat 33’ and up. Awards are based on lighting, music and crew attire, the more spectacular the better.

This holiday flotilla will make its way by The Wharf public viewing area and wind along to Zeke’s Landing Marina in Orange Beach. Spectators can view the boats from any public area along Canal Road. Whether you watch from the road or BYOB (bring your own boat), the event is FREE!

The Nautical Night of Lights boat parade will begin at Lulu’s at Homeport Marina. Lucy ‘Lulu’ Buffett is Jimmy Buffett’s sister and one of the best at southern cuisine in all of Alabama. Festivities at Lulu’s for the boat parade start at 4 p.m. and finish with musical guest Tony Brook in the evening.

The parade boats finish some 18 miles away at Zeke’s Landing Marina, which is nestled in between Gulf Shores and Perdido Key, FL. A full-service marina and dry dock facility, Zeke’s also has three restaurants, plenty of shopping and charter boat and watersports rentals. Enjoy the views from other lookout points along the route including Bear Point and Sportsman.

The Nautical Night of Lights caps off a full day of fun on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Other events taking place that day include the Jingle Bell Run 5K, Merry Market and Christmas Open House at The Wharf and the arrival of Billy Claus, Santa’s brother, at Lulu’s.

Lighted Boat Parade

The deadline to register a boat for the event is Friday, November 30.

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Visit a Liquid Gold Mine: Breckenridge Distillery, CO

By Carrie Dow

In the hills of Summit County, Colorado, just an hour outside of Denver, is something of a gold mine. A liquid gold mine.

Breckenridge Distillery is located high in the Rocky Mountains, 9600 feet above sea level to be exact, making it the world’s highest distillery. If that leaves you breathless, wait until you taste these mountain spirits.

Breckenridge Distillery began just four short years ago when Dr. Bryan Nolt, self-proclaimed whiskey freak, had a great idea. He was spring fly fishing at his favorite watering hole in the Ten Mile Mountain Range when he realized all that fresh flowing snowmelt would taste even better distilled into a whiskey.

Before diving into this endeavor, he took a class at the American Distilling Institute in California where Jordan Via was his instructor. After finishing the class Nolt introduced Via to the clean crisp waters of the Blue River and a partnership was born.

For Nolt single-malt whiskey was his passion, but Via wanted to try a bourbon. A specific type of whiskey, bourbon – per US standard – must be 51% made from corn, aged in new, charred-oak barrels, and aged for at least two years. Via suggested creating a super ryed-up bourbon that would be completely different from typical American bourbons.

Breck’s bourbon contains 56% yellow corn, 38% green rye and 6% unmalted barley and is aged for 2-3 years with 43% ABV. The results have been rewarding. As in received one-of-only-three-gold-medals-at-the-2011-International-Wine-and-Spirits-Competition-in-the-UK kind of rewarding. This distinction makes it one of the world’s best bourbons.

The best thing about Breckenridge Distillery is they are not keeping all this gold to themselves. You too can experience some of the world’s best booze by visiting their distillery located at 1925 Airport Road, just off Highway 9 before you enter Main Street in Breckenridge.

As long as you show up during business hours (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday), they will be happy to show you around, especially their 700 gallon Vendome custom copper pot still. They will even let you sample some of their creations free of charge. Along with their bourbon and malt whiskey, Breckenridge Distillery also makes an award-winning vodka, a spiced rum, spiced whiskey, chocolate liqueur, genepi liqueur and several infusions.

If you are a fan of the Discovery Channel show Deadliest Catch, then you may already be familiar with the bourbon of Breckenridge. The boat captains spent a week in Breckenridge after the series wrapped to film their After the Catch shows. The captains even challenged Breckenridge Distillery to an Outhouse Race last spring. Check out their video.

Breckenridge Distillery is in the midst of an expansion with plans to increase production to 15 barrels a day and their holding capacity to 15,000 barrels. If you can’t make it to Colorado, you can find Breckenridge Bourbon in over 35 states nationwide including limited deliverability to Alaska. Call 1-970-547-WSKY (9759) to order you flask of gold or get more information.

Making a trip to the Rockies? Check the DealAngel results for Denver first!

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Christkindlmarket 2012, Chicago

By Jan Ross

Christkindlmarket in Chicago 2012

When we were in Europe last year late in November, the annual Christmas markets were just being set up. We watched in the small town of Rudesheim, Germany as pieces and panels were fitted together to create charming gingerbread house-style booths where in the next few weeks they would be selling a wide assortment of food items, crafts and gifts. We missed it all by just a few days and I was so sad.

But I cheered up when I realized there is a Christmas market in Chicago every year which is based on the European Christmas markets. And it looks pretty fabulous.

Chicago’s first Christmas market, which they named Christkindlmarket after the German open-air festivals which had been held for a hundred years, was first held in Pioneer Court 1996. Because it was immensely popular and attracted huge crowds, the festival was movied to the large and central Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become an annual and very popular event ever since.

The name Christkindlmarket is taken from the fairy story about the Christkindl, a fairy being dressed in a gold and white robe with a crown on her golden hair. Depending on the region of Europe, either the Christkindl or Father Christmas will deliver gifts on Christmas day.

With the first festival in 1996, city officials from Nuremberg, Germany were invited to partner with Chicago for the event and companies in Germany and the Chicago area were invited to participate.The market is a wonderful place to purchas a variety of seasonal items and foodstuffs, but it’s also an educational experience as well. Students who are studying German can practice by conversing with the many German speaking vendors and there are also scavenger hunts, crafts and German holiday songs to enjoy.

The market is the perfect place to find truly unique gifts such as hand-blown and painted ornaments, nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks and beer steins, as well as toys, jewelry, clothes, home decor and wooden crafts. Many vendors demonstrate how items are made, such as wood carving.

But by far the most popular items are the large assortment of wonderful food and drinks. Sauerkraut, potato pancakes, waffles and other typically German delicacies are available and you can sample Gluehwein, a hot spiced wine which comes in a souvenir cup shaped like a boot and decorated with the market’s logo.

A variety of events are scheduled throughout the time the festival is open, from a tree-lighting ceremony to performing choirs to lots of activities especially for children.

Location: Daley Plaza between Washington, Clark and Dearborn Streets

Admission and Parking are Free

Dates: November 20, 2012 – December 24, 2012

Hours: Open Daily Sun – Thu 11am – 8pm Fri – Sat 11am – 9pm

Special Hours: First Day: Nov. 20th 2 pm – 8 pm, Thanksgiving Day: Nov. 22nd 11am – 4pm, Christmas Eve: Dec. 24th 11am – 4pm

For more information, check the website here:

There’s one thing more exciting than a Christmas market: finding a great hotel deal in Chicago! Check the results now!

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The Night of 100 Elvises 2012, Baltimore MD

night of 100 elvises baltimore

1,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong… Can they?

By Jan Ross

Last year, we headed to Sin City for the very first time – we were even referred to as “Vegas Virgins” and this title could not have been more apt. We stared in wide-eyed amazement at people gambling on Easter morning (so shocking!) and we wandered through one incredible hotel after another. But truly one of the coolest things we did during our visit was attending the Cirque du Soleil “Viva Elvis” show. Music! Acrobatics! Lights! As Elvis fans, we were in rock ‘n roll heaven.

But a show that featured only one Elvis is nothing compared to the event that will take place on November 30 and December 2 in Baltimore, MD at the Lithuanian Hall on Hollins  Street. For Elvis fans, the “Night of 100 Elvises” is the place to be.

Not a concert but more of a party, the event takes place in three rooms and three levels with entertainment, refreshments, plenty of room for dancing and even reserved seating with a limited number of reserved tables. Reserved tables are in the Ballroom, behind velvet ropes with centerpieces to take home.

The main ballroom will host at least 12 bands and 12 Elvis tribute artists; the Elvis Lounge will offer entertainment in a nightclub style; the Jungle Room will provide more entertainment and more seating. All profits from the event are donated to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Guardian Angels.

Premium draft beer and soft drinks are included in the ticket price and cash bars will also be available if you prefer cocktails, bottled beer, wine or specialty drinks. Not only that, complimentary All American Cocktail Snack Hour will be from 7:30 PM until 9:00 PM offering Elvis’ favorite snacks (fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches are on the menu, God help us) followed by dessert and coffee. There will also be food for sale including barbecue, hot dogs and more. A complimentary shuttle will be available from the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys and the Holiday Inn – Inner Harbor from 6:30 PM to 2:30 AM.

An annual highlight of the event will be an ice sculpture of Elvis with his guitar carved by Art HongPong, son of Olympic gold medalist, Vivat HongPong.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $55.00. Reserved seating is $80.00 per chair. A table for 10 is $800.00, plus the USPS Priority mailing cost of $6.00 per mailing. Reserved Tables are available only in advance & only by mail.

Location: Lithuanian Hall, 851-3 Hollins Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1003

For more information:

100 Elvises! What more do you need to know? Check the DealAngel hotel results for Baltimore and get your dancing shoes on!

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Why Just One Christmas Tree? The Festival of Trees, Maine

By Jan Ross

festival of christmas trees maine

Are you sure that’s a Christmas tree?

I’m just going to put it out there – I have a pretty damn cool Christmas tree. Bedecked with hundreds of tiny colored lights and covered with dozens of ornaments, I spend a great deal of time each year carefully placing each ornament delicately on a branch.

Each beautiful and unique ornament was purchased in one of the many locations around the world we have visited so one branch may sport a tiny windmill from Amsterdam, another a miniature gold Eiffel tower and a third a carefully painted and preserved starfish from the beach.

But my fabulous tree pales in comparison to the gorgeous examples that you will find at the annual Festival of Trees in Methuen, Maine right outside Boston. Back in 1994, volunteers who worked at the Tenney Gate House decided they needed a unique fundraiser to restore the Gatehouse, originally a two-story rough stone farmhouse built in 1830 and currently occupied by the Methuen Historical Society.

They came up with the idea of a fundraiser that would feature fully decorated Christmas trees which could be raffled off to pay for the extensive restoration costs.

The Festival of Trees they began in 1994 with 18 trees and a modest sum of $3,100 has grown to over 200 beautifully decorated trees and provides not only the necessary funding for the Gate House but also offers grants to historic preservation projects throughout the Merrimack Valley, donating over $1,200,00 to a variety of projects.

To take your chances on bringing home of the lovely Christmas trees, you must purchase raffle tickets at the event. A sheet of 26 tickets costs $5.00 and you can purchase as many sheets as you wish. Just tear off your tickets and place them in the ticket container in front of the tree(s) you would like to win.

The trees will be raffled off on Sunday, December 2nd, beginning at 8:00 a.m. but you do not have to be present to win. If you have won, you will receive a phone call to pick up your tree that same day.

Not only will you be able to peruse some of the most beautifully decorated Christmas trees you have ever seen and possibly take one home if you win the raffle, you can also sample some delightful culinary masterpieces. The Festival of Trees TASTE event has also become a permanent fixture at the event, with 25 local restaurants providing a variety of incredible taste sensations from all over the world.

The 2012 host is chef and restaurateur Paul Wahlberg who has recently opened Wahlburgers with his brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg. This event will be on Friday, November 16 before the Festival of Trees begins the next day and tickets are $50 per person.

The Methuen Festival of Trees is the largest in New England and one of the largest in the country. Over 27,000 people from all over the world attended last year and even more are expected this year when the 19th annual Festival of Trees begins on Saturday, November 17th. The event will be indoors at Valley Office Park, 13 Branch Street in Methuen, Maine. There will be plenty of free parking, handicap accessibility and direct access from Route 93.

There is, quite simply, no way you will ever have a Christmas tree quite as fabulous as mine.

But the winning the Festival of Trees raffle might come a close second.

Planning a trip to Boston for the holidays? Get an early Christmas present by checking the DealAngel hotel results for Boston now!

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