Area joins in '100 Miles of Lights'

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ARLINGTON, Va. -- Seven Tidewater-area cities are promoting "100 Miles of Lights" packages from Thanksgiving through Jan. 2.

The cities, along with the Virginia Tourism Corp. and Arlington, Va.-based Mid Atlantic Receptive Services as partners, developed the program last year.

The cities have had holiday illuminations and many festivals and special events in the past, but there was no joint marketing or packages.

"This is really our first year," said Kate Scopetti, Mid Atlantic president, explaining that the marketing thrust last year was to get group tour operators interested for this year.

"Holiday programs are popular in many areas, and we weren't getting our market share," said Scopetti.

The downtown illumination of Norfolk, which is one of seven participating cities in Virginia's The cities stretch from Richmond to Virginia Beach along I-64.

The other participating cities are Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Williamsburg.

Mid Atlantic sells programs at net rates to group operators and also produces its own commissionable FIT packages.

Last year, several motorcoach tours were scheduled. This year there are 25, mostly affinity groups, some flying in from as far as Montana, others departing by coach from other parts of Virginia or nearby states.

For FITs, Mid Atlantic has five packages, providing a choice of two to four nights and two to seven cities, including accommodations and admissions to events.

Prices start at $148 per person, double, for the Christmas of Long Ago package, which includes two nights' accommodations plus admission to attractions in Newport News, Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.

The highest-priced plan, the $259 Beautiful Holiday Memories, features all seven cities with four nights' accommodations and admission to 14 attractions and events.

Packages can be customized with extra nights and tours, and agents book their own air and car rentals for clients.

"There are more than 80 specific events, some lasting a day, others going throughout the period," said a spokeswoman for the Newport News Tourism Development Office, which handles publicity for 100 Miles.

"They include musical performances, parades, reenactments and the opening of historic homes," she said.

Notable are three drive-through illuminations: the Virginia Beach boardwalk, beginning Nov. 17; the Newport News Park Celebration, and Norfolk Botanical Garden's Garden of Lights, both of which begin on Nov. 23.

According to the spokeswoman, the cities are close together, and visitors can combine all three in one night.

On Nov. 18, Portsmouth/Norfolk buildings will be lighted and Colonial Williamsburg will begin its traditional celebrations. On Dec. 1, Richmond's Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will begin its walkthrough GardenFest of Lights.

Mid Atlantic's Scopetti said that for the 2001 program, she plans to develop an expanded choice of shorter tours both for groups and FITs.

Mid Atlantic, which specializes in group and FIT products covering Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, also plans to improve its Web site so agents can make reservations and customize packages on line.

For further information, call Mid Atlantic at (800) 769-5912 or check its Web site for packages at www.takeafuntrip.com.

For a calendar of events during 100 Miles, call the Newport News Tourism Development Office at (888) 493-7386.

Agents can also e-mail [email protected] to receive an events listing.

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