Thanks for the suggestions guys...while both cameras appear comparable, my research online has me leaning towards the Nikon D5100 due to its attractive price point at the moment. Sears is currently selling the camera with 18-55MM lens for $582 and I got a 55-200MM Nikon lens off eBay for $70. I'll wait and see if the Canon T3i price drops within the next week or two and if so i'll just return the Nikon.
Current: 2015 535i X-Drive / Dark Graphite II / Black Dakota Leather
Retired: 2007 328xi / Montego Blue / Black Novillo Leather