Midatlantic Memories - Brand USA MegaFam!
There’s no doubt many of you will have spoken to Stefan, Lime’s Customer Service Executive as he plays a huge part in our operations department. He has been working for Lime just short of two years and was fortunate enough to be selected to join one of Brand USA’s MegaFam trips.
These trips are a chance for our team to learn about and experience British Airways products to give you the most accurate advice, as well as learning about the destination. Although Stefan has travelled to the US before, he hadn’t visited any of the cities on this itinerary. Find out how Stefan got on during his Midatlantic adventure…
Written by Stefan Wodnik-Beetles
This year I was lucky enough to be nominated to attend the Brand USA British Airways and American Airlines MegaFam on behalf of Lime. With seven different itineraries all ending up in Arizona, I participated in the Midatlantic Memories itinerary visiting Pittsburgh (PA), Gettysburg (PA), Baltimore (MD), Richmond (VA), New Harbor (WA) and Scottsdale (AZ).
To begin our trip across the pond we departed from London Heathrow and flew direct on the new British Airways route to Pittsburgh on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We got off to a flying start when we were surprised with an upgrade to Club World and were treated to all the benefits that came with the cabin. This included access to the Club Lounge in Terminal 5 which had complimentary dining, entertainment and Elemis spa treatments. We were also treated to a champagne welcome drink with a hot towel before relaxing in our Club World seats that recline into a fully flat bed… heaven!
During the flight I was also offered afternoon tea which included scones with jam and clotted cream and finger sandwiches; it really was a luxurious experience in the sky and the perfect upgrade to really start the holiday off in style.
The flight was brilliant, I couldn’t fault it! The cabin crew were always making sure that all the passengers on board were comfortable, offering them drinks and taking food orders as well as giving recommendations on the menu and wine pairing.
Day 1 - Exploring Pittsburgh
Following our safe arrival and stay at the Omni William Penn Hotel - the perfect location for anyone wanting to see the city with great transportation links - it was time to start our Midatlantic Memories journey.
Our first morning was jam packed with visits back in time to the Carrie Blast Furnaces, Andy Warhol museum and John Heinz history centre.
Once we’d had lunch at the Bits and Bytes food tour, we visited the Wigle Whiskey Distillery, an entirely family owned and operated business. American whiskey was born in Pittsburgh and Wigle is the most approachable and balanced of the three main Pennsylvania rye whiskeys.
We ended our first day at the Duquesne incline that took us up to the side of Mount Washington. We had dinner with a view at the Monterey Bay Fish which offers some of the best fish the east coast has to offer.
Day 2 – On the road to Gettysburg
After a fantastic first day in Pittsburgh it was now time to make our way to Gettysburg. Along the way we stopped at the Flight 93 National Memorial, a memorial for the United Airlines Flight 93 crash site on 11 September 2001. The memorial was made to honor the passengers and crew of the flight who stopped the terrorists from reaching their target by fighting the hijackers. This was an emotional stop before arriving in Gettysburg but I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to visit and pay my respects.
We finally arrived in Gettysburg and our first stop was within the heart of the town at the Mason Dixon Distillery where we had a tour of the fully restored furniture factory offering craft beverages and food.
Once we had finished our tour we were taken for a horseback ride through the battle of Gettysburg, learning the historical significance of the three day conflict for the American civil war and the battle that turned the tide on the side of the unionists. It was a brilliant and informative tour that gave a really good insight into the events that took place at the battle of Gettysburg.
With day two almost done and dusted we finished with a private tour of the Gettysburg National Military Museum for a night at the museum event to bring the history of Gettysburg to life. Then it was time to unwind in our hotel for the night, the Gettysburg Hotel.
Day 3 – Philadelphia to Maryland
Our first destination of the day was the town of Frederick where we visited another distillery (no one was complaining), the Mclintock Craft Distillery, offering a wide range of bourbon and rye gin and vodka spirits.
After our tour we set off to the city of Baltimore, once among the most important port towns in America. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Moncao, a grand hotel sitting near the beautiful Inner Harbor waterfront.
We arrived later in the day so our first activity in Baltimore was an evening tour of the National Aquarium, the largest tourist attraction in Maryland. The aquarium is home to more than 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in award-winning habitats.
Day 4 – Visiting the capital of America
With an early start after large breakfast at a traditional American diner we headed to our tour of the American Visionary Art Museum in downtown Baltimore. This is a great activity that has something for everyone to see and do as its many exhibits are interactive.
Next on our itinerary was a tour of Sagamore Spirit Distillery (we don’t go a day without a distillery tour) but this one features one of the largest distilleries in the USA. We got up close and personal to the process that goes into making their whiskey and even got to see the completion of the fermentation process, their latest batch of their award-winning whiskey that is located on the Baltimore harbor.
Continuing our action-packed day, we then set off to our next stop National Harbor which is located a bridge away from the capital Washington, D.C. With National Harbor being so close to Washington, D.C. and offering easy transport routes we took this opportunity cross over to Washington, D.C. and went to visit The Lincoln Memorial, The White House and The Capitol building before heading back to our hotel for the night, the AC Marriott which was located right on the riverside with brilliant views.
Day 5 – Onto the ‘River City’
With the morning free to explore we had time to do some shopping. Of course, no trip to the National Harbor is complete without a ride on the Capital Wheel located on the peer which offers great views over harbor.
It was then time to get back onto the coach and head for Richmond, Virgina. We began our Richmond visit with a cycling tour of the city taking in the sights of the college campus and Monument Avenue resulting in a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which has a collection of over 33,000 permanent pieces of work.
Following our cycling tour, we were ready to get our adrenaline pumping and went white water rafting down the James river to experience the only class two to four white water rapids that run through a major US city. Once our heart rates had returned back to normal we then hopped onto a mobile comedy beer tour in the evening which took us around the local breweries of Richmond and of course we were able to sample the locally brewed beers. This tour was a great way to see the Richmond skyline and get some Instagram worthy pictures!
With another busy day completed we then headed back to our hotel for the night, the Graduate Richmond which is themed on collage dormitories within the US.
Day 6 – Next stop… Arizona!
As our trip was coming to an end we headed to Washington, D.C. to catch our flight for the last leg of our MegaFam to Phoenix, Arizona. Arriving early in the evening we were transferred to our hotel, the Mountain Shadows hotel which was located within a golf course and shadowed by the Arizona mountains; it was a truly spectacular location! Once our bags were dropped and we had a quick freshen up, we went on to meet all the other people who had the pleasure of attending the MegaFam. We spent the evening enjoying ourselves socializing in the local bars before getting some shut eye before the last full day of our trip.
Day 7 – MegaFam Gala
Our final day we set off early and went on a mountain bike ride through the desert taking in the scenery while learning about the local plants and wildlife that survive in the area. After we had taken in the sights we went on to join our food tour of the local family run restaurants of the area of old town Scottsdale.
In the evening we attended our MegaFam Gala at a surprise location out in the desert with a banquet meal where we were able to say our final goodbyes after the most amazing trip. The location and food were amazing, and it was great fun chatting to the other groups about the different itineraries. We were also able to chat with representatives of British Airways, American Airlines and Brand USA.
Day 8 – Crossing the pond back to the UK
It was time to pack our suitcases, say goodbye and catch our final flight back to London and this time we flew with American Airlines. Again, I couldn’t fault the service on British Airways codeshare and Atlantic Joint Business Partner. It was a brilliant flight that gave a real taste of the American hospitality. The cabin crew, entertainment system and food were all brilliant and it was just what we needed to relax after a busy week in the USA.
Each of the cities we visited offered something different and there were a variety of activities to suit everyone. Whether you wanted to learn about the history or local living in the USA, visit popular landmarks or even to get your adrenaline pumping then this itinerary had it all.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the team at British Airways, American Airlines and Brand USA - especially Skylar and Josie - and to all the tourist board representatives that made sure that this trip was one to remember.