Jet Off to the Sunshine

florida pelican

Eastern Brown Pelican

If you want to escape the unpredictable British weather and get some Vitamin D, jet off to Florida! You’ll find a great range of tour operators’ deals at a price you can afford. So getting some much needed sunshine won’t cost you the earth.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and head off over the Atlantic, you need to plan where you are going to stay. If you want to be at the heart of the action, close to all the biggest tourist hot spots, but still have your own space, then look no further than Lake Buena Vista. Home to the famous Walt Disney theme parks, Lake Buena Vista holidays are what Disney magic is all about. The town is actually controlled by the Walt Disney Company, making a stay here a truly unforgettable experience.

There are many accommodation options available in Lake Buena Vista. First up are the hotels, which are out of this world. With countless swimming pools, luxury accommodation and delicious cuisine, you’ll want to spend the whole holiday at the hotel! Lake Buena Vista hotels are some of the best in the world, guaranteed to give you and your family the holiday of a lifetime. Some of them are within walking distance of the parks, but why bother when you can enjoy a ride on the free hotel shuttle services that ferry holiday makers back and forth to the parks, saving you walking in the heat and the parking charges at the theme parks.

If you want to experience American life, why not check into your very own villa for a week or two? There’s nothing like waking up in your own villa, taking a refreshing dip in your private pool then enjoying coffee and pancakes on the patio before heading back to the theme parks for the day. You will also have the freedom to enjoy family barbecues after a day of fun in the sun. The villa experience is truly unique, and with great deals from tour operators, they are an affordable option.

Photo Credits: Andrea Westmoreland

Famous Roads in the United States

Last Stop: Hollywood Blvd!

If you were to take a tour of all the famous streets in the United States, you would find yourself jetting all over the country. There are plenty of famous streets that tourists flock to in this country, no matter what kind of vacation they are looking for.

St. Charles Ave Streetcar

A Streetcar Named Desire

New Orleans is full of infamous streets. St. Charles Avenue is home to the most famous vintage streetcar around, in addition to jaw dropping mansions. The Garden District also includes Magazine Street. Don’t miss out on Royal, which includes unique antique shops and art galleries. Of course there is also Bourbon Street, the most notorious street in the city for partying.

Lombard Street

Make sure your brakes are good before going down this street!

San Francisco’s Lombard Street is one of the most crooked streets in the world, featuring eight hairpin turns. This street runs from the Presidio to a neighborhood called Cow Hollow, but the crooked section is just one-fourth of a mile long.

ny stock exchange

New York Stock Exchange

New York is also home to numerous familiar streets. The history of Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange dates back to the seventeenth century. You also would not want to miss the fabulous shows on Broadway or the shops and attractions on Fifth and Madison Avenues.

vegas strip

A stunning view of Vegas at night!

A discussion of famous roads in the United States would be incomplete without mentioning Las Vegas Boulevard. The Strip, as it is often called, consists of casino resorts decorated to the hilt to keep the fantasy alive. This is a wonderland for adults who want to gamble and party the night away.

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Nobody could forget the street that draws those dreamers looking for a cinematic big city adventure. That would be Hollywood Boulevard. Stay at one of the posh Hollywood or Santa Monica Hotels and head on down to the Boulevard to stroll along the 18 block Walk of Fame. Take a picture with your favorite super hero and board a bus to tour the city. A trip down Hollywood Boulevard is incomplete without visiting Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Many tourists flock to other attractions on Hollywood Boulevard, including the Guinness Book of World Records Museum and the Hollywood Wax Museum. Hollywood & Highland also offers a tremendous number of shops and souvenirs in addition to a movie theater and a bowling alley.

hollywood

Who doesn’t love the Hollywood Sign?

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign will find that this shopping area offers fantastic views that are great for photos. Travelers will have the opportunity to see clothes and props from classic and modern films in the old Max Factor building, now a museum. The Museum of Death is also a big draw.

Make Hollywood Boulevard the last stop on your next trip to southern California. Hollywood is the city of dreams, opportunity and hope for aspiring actors, singers and performers. The sense of excitement is always in the air and tourists want to feel that same glimmer, even if it is only for a few days. When it comes to touring the most famous streets in the United States, Hollywood Boulevard definitely takes the cake.

Austin City Limits Festival Tickets Promises to Delight

Austin City Limits Festival

Who’s going to the Austin City Limits Festival!

Austin City Limits Festival tickets are on sale for the 2012 event October 12-14 in Zilker Park. The festival promises to be even better this year, with a fantastic lineup of headline acts. The park will have eight stages and 130 bands. With legendary rock star Neil Young and his band Crazy Horse as one of the headline acts, the park is sure to be rocking.

Young caps the day’s performances on Saturday, October 13. Friday’s headline act is the Black Keys, while the festival concludes Sunday night with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Other top bands performing include Florence and the Machine, The Roots, Asleep at the Wheel, Weezer and Iggy and the Stooges. With so many bands making an appearance, every conceivable rock sub-genre is represented.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are currently on tour to back their 2011 album “I’m With You.” The tenth album from the group is the first to feature new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. The tour runs through late January, 2013, with shows throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. The international tour has also been all over Europe and will make stops in Turkey and Israel.

Neil Young is also out behind a new album, “Americana.” The album is an exploration of the dark underbelly of the folk songs Americans learn as children. “Clementine,” and “Oh, Susannah” are turned into dark mysterious rock songs under the musical genius of Young and Crazy Horse. Another album should be out later this year from the reunited group.

The Black Keys released “El Camino” in early December, 2011. The album draws on rock influences like soul and rockabilly. The distortion and fuzz in the guitar work is reminiscent of club rock from the late 1960s. The band has been on the road since May. Their tour will take them all over the U.S., Australia, Europe and Canada.

Asleep at the Wheel is coming off their successful play “Ride With Bob,” the musical to commemorate western swing legend Bob Wills. Their most recent project has been “Willie and the Wheel,” a collaboration album between the band and Willie Nelson. The band is on tour through spring next year.

Jack White will also headline on Saturday on a different stage. His solo album “Blunderbuss” was released on April 24, 2012. The talented guitarist is only 37 years old, but is already ranked 70th on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All time.” White wrote, produced and recorded the album himself.

Legendary songwriter Steve Earle’s most recent album was released in 2011. “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” features tunes penned by Earle. Some songs were featured in other projects.

Austin City Limits Festival tickets promise numerous other activities to investigate between sets. There will be art and food vendors, a children’s area and a sports hideaway for the football fan. Google will provide an area with free WiFi. There’s even an organic farmers market!

Circle of Wits

Outwitted by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Inside the QVB Dome

Inside the Queen Victoria Building Dome, Sydney, Australia

Blue Ceiling Capitol Building Havana Cuba

Blue Ceiling Capitol Building, Havana, Cuba

mapparium

Mapparium at the Mother Church, Boston, MA, USA

CapitolDome

Interior of the Capitol’s Dome, Washington D.C., USA

Cromer Circles

Beach at Cromer, Norfolk, Great Britain

Tuckerman Hall in Worcester, MA, USA

Tuckerman Hall in Worcester, MA, USA

Full Circle Festival in Newport Landing, Nova Scotia, Canada

Full Circle Festival in Newport Landing, Nova Scotia, Canada

Have you ever experienced prejudice or adversity on your travels? How have you handled it?

Secret Destinations

Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow over California

I find that traveling allows me to discover myself in ways I could not otherwise do so. I’ve found strength, courage, and daring on my travels. I’ve had the strength to keep going when physically and mentally tired. I’ve had the courage to try new things outside of my comfort zone. I’ve had daring to grab life and live it.

What has been your secret destination? Is it a place or a discovery? Or both?

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber (1878–1965)

The 10 Wildest Little Known Festivals in the World (Part 2)

Last time we spoke about five odd but super fun sounding festivals held around the world. Today we continue that topic with five more crazy awesome festivals. Which one would you attend?

Redneck Games

These Redneck Games look very refreshing and fun!

6. The Redneck Games

This festival was created out of the offense taken by media implications that the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta would be hosted by a bunch of “rednecks”. The redneck games include classics such as “bobbing for pig’s trotters” and “toilet seat throwing.”

Hadaka Matsuri

Are you thinking of Mulan and King of the Mountain right now? I am.

7. Hadaka Matsuri

A Japanese festival born out of a Buddhist practice in which they purified their spirits, it is now known as the “naked man festival.” Thousands of men in loincloths gather on one of the coldest nights of the year to join in the celebration.

crying baby

I can’t imagine wanting to attend this – The noise! One crying baby is one too many!

8. Crying Baby Festival

This festival is centered around two sumo wrestlers who hold up a pair of babies. The winner is the baby that cries first. The festival celebrates the Japanese saying, “crying babies grow fast.”

Sonkran Water Festival

I vote we hold a Sonkran Water Festival with all these hot temperatures!

9. Sonkran Water Festival

Thailand holds this festival every year for three days, in which everyone participates in a giant water fight. Doesn’t that just sound inviting with all the record breaking temperatures out in the midwest right now? I vote yes.

World Gurning Championships

Add some strange sound effects and we got a winner! Meeep!

10. World Gurning Championships

Taking place in Egremont, Cumbria, this festival celebrates making ugly faces. Whoever makes the ugliest face wins! So what do you say is this a face only a mother could love?

Read the first part again: The 10 Wildest Little Known Festivals in the World (Part 1)

The 20 Most Popular Tourist Spots in New York City

statue of liberty

Statue of Liberty National Monument

1. Statue of Liberty

A gift from the French, the Statue of Liberty once greeted every immigrant coming into the United States.

Central Park in winter in new york city

Central Park in winter

2. Central Park

Take a walk through the world famous central park, which includes gardens, forest, hills, lakes and a very large lawn.

Times Square or the Crossroads of the World

Times Square or the Crossroads of the World

3. Times Square

Located right in the middle of the city, it is famous for its annual ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

Tribute WTC Visitor Center

Tribute WTC Visitor Center

4. 9/11 Memorial – Tribute WTC Visitor Center

Pay respect to the men and women victimized by one of the worst terrorist attacks ever.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

5. Empire State

Go to the top of the tallest building in New York at 1,454 feet tall.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

6. Grand Central Terminal

This railway station is the largest in the world with 44 platforms and 67 different tracks.

Rockefeller Center

Atlas at Rockefeller Center

7. Rockefeller Center

This complex build by the Rockefeller family in the 1930’s, includes 19 commercial buildings all in the center of the city.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Ellis Island Immigration Museum

8. Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Ellis Island was the entrance to the U.S. that every immigrant had to go through. Visit the museum to learn about the immigration system and the history that surrounds it.

American Museum of Natural History

American Museum of Natural History

9. American Museum of Natural History

Founded in 1869, this museum contains a staggering 32 million specimens, of which only a small selection is showcased at a time.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

10. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Housing over 2 million pieces of art and spanning every culture and time, there is plenty to see here.

The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art

11. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

View thousands of works of art in the most important museum of modern art in the world.

Tigers at Bronx Zoo

Tigers at Bronx Zoo

12. Bronx Zoo

Visit one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the world, with over 600 different species.

Top of the Rock

View from the Top of the Rock

13. Top of the Rock

Located on the GE building, it is the best place for a panoramic view of the entire city.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

14. New York Public Library

The second largest library in the country holds almost 53 million different items.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

15. Federal Reserve Bank of New York

One of 12 federal reserves in the U.S., this one is by far the largest.

Chrysler Building

The top of the Chrysler Building

16. Chrysler Building

A beautiful example of Art Deco style architecture, this building was the tallest in the world until the Empire State Building was constructed.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral

17. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Check out this awe-inspiring Roman Catholic Church built in a Neo-Gothic style.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

18. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

The fourth largest church in the world also claims to be the biggest cathedral and angelical church.

Brooklyn Brewery

The Brooklyn Brewery

19. Brooklyn Brewery

Have a beer at one of the largest breweries in the city.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

20. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

Rub elbows with hundreds of celebrities, all made of wax.

Have you been to any of these places? Which is your favorite?

Top 5 Affordable Summer Vacations

Guest Blog by Alexandra Jacobs

Start making big plans for a summer exotic vacation priced just right. You don’t need to spend a fortune to live large on an exciting summer getaway. Pick a destination out of a hat or take a few tips from the top 5 summer vacations that you can afford.

1. ) New York City

new york city central park

The Essex House and Central Park Lake

A week in the Big Apple can be cost effective and affordable when you plan a thoughtful trip. Trade the expensive New York real estate hotels for the smaller budget boutique hotels and slash your travel bill in half. The New York boutique hotels have emerged as the number one way to take Manhattan with style, grace and some cash left in your wallet when you are done. Keep your recreation and entertainment scaled down to a minimum with these top picks that are budget-friendly or free.

  • The Downtown Boathouse

Kayak rentals are provided free of charge to paddle your way past the impressive NYC skyline. This non-profit organization also provides lockers for your gear, however, guests are expected to bring their own combination lock. If you have some extra change, donations are welcomed by The Downtown Boathouse to keep the attraction up and running for others.

  • Central Park

Walk or jog through the beautiful gardens and take in the sights for free at Central Park. In addition to self-guided tours through the grounds, free performances are held regularly showcasing talent from the theater, dance, poetry and music disciplines.

  • The Ed Sullivan Theater

Get in line for free tickets to the David Letterman Show taped at the Ed Sullivan Theater. The tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to arrive early for admission tickets and get back in line early again to secure a good seat.

2. ) Belize

Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Macaws at Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Belize vacations take you to same of the best beaches in Central America and some heart-pounding jungle action just minutes away. The best of Belize includes:

  • The Hamanasi Resort

Kick back and relax in this tropical jungle atmosphere fitted with vaulted ceilings, exquisite decor and your choice of waterfront or tree house guest rooms.

  • Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Take a walk on the wild side with tours of this impressive facility that caters to the conservation of monkeys, pumas, jaguars and over 250 species of birds.

  • Water Sports

Belize is destination number one to hang out on the beaches and participate in the aquatics. Windsurfing, board surfing, snorkeling, diving and open water kayaking are available to everyone for a solo excursion or participation with a group and certified instructor.

3. ) Jamaica

Mystic Mountain

View from Mystic Mountain's Sky Explorer Chairlift

A Jamaica vacation is priced just right with fabulous four-star hotels stretched along the beaches. Spend the day in the crystal clean waters, then head for the hills for more action and adventure.

  • Zip lines. 

Jamaican zip lines run through the rain forests with multiple platforms and strong harness gear.

  • Mystic Mountain is where you will find the one and only Jamaican Bobsled ride.

Not too slow and not too fast, the Jamaican Bobsled attraction whisks you through the rain forest and delivers sweeping panoramic ocean views.

  • Cooking Classes

The Jamaica cooking classes are the place to learn the art of Caribbean cuisine. Many of the classes are free or offered for a nominal fee. Eat what you make and learn a valuable kitchen skill to last you a lifetime.

4. ) Sharm el-Sheikh

Sharm el-Sheikh

On the Beach of Sharm el-Sheikh

A Sharm el-Sheikh vacation is one gorgeous beach destination with class. Five-star waterfront hotels are affordable and come complete with complimentary non-motorized water sports. Eat, drink and be merry in Egypt’s finest beach city stretched along the sugar sand shores at The Red Sea.

  • Relax in your room or on the beach

Get five-star accommodation at four-star prices at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for spacious condominium-styled sea front rooms.

  • The Hard Rock Cafe, Sharm el-Sheikh

The Hard Rock Cafe is opened for lunch through late night dinners and dishes up the best burgers in town. Located in the downtown section near The Promenade shopping plaza, the Hard Rock Cafe is top quality and budget-friendly dining in Sharm.

  • St. Catherine’s Monastery

The St Catherine’s Monastery is a full day’s excursion and easy to book from your hotel tour desk. Daytime visitor’s will walk through the monastery, visit with the staff and catch lunch in a local restaurant. The evening tour of the region includes a midnight climb up Mt Moses to watch the sunrise from the summit rising at approximately 5:AM in the summer months. After the downward trek, climbers are treated to a brief tour inside the St Catherine’s Monastery attraction.

5. ) Los Angeles

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier at dusk.

A summer vacation in Los Angeles takes you to the movie industry attractions, golden beaches and theme parks  all the way down to adjacent Orange County.

  • Stay at The Bonaventure Hotel.

Located just a two minute walk from the Los Angeles Metro train station. Connections on the trains take you to Long Beach, Hollywood and a stop right in front of Universal Studios in North Hollywood.

  • Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a great place to spend the day for sunbathing, boating, fishing, arcade games and carnival rides. Eat cheap on the pier or walk to The King’s Head English pub for bargain lunch prices and ocean front views.

  • The Hollywood Bowl

Tickets for performances at the Hollywood Bowl should be purchased in advance of your Los Angeles vacation. Box seats are limited down front; however, the bleacher seats are close enough to get a good view of the concert. Shows include classical, jazz, pop rock, and a fireworks display on select summer performances.

Alexandra is a travel enthusiast who loves to write about tourism, beaches, food, and the wonderful things in the world.  She provides her own insights on vacationing to the blogosphere.  If you would like to learn more about her, follow her @alexsjourneys or visit her blog alexsjourneys.wordpress.com.

15 US National Parks You Shouldn’t Miss

From Florida to Hawaii, and from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, America’s National Parks are a treasure-trove of natural beauty and recreation. Here’s a list of 15 of the best national parks in the USA that you absolutely shouldn’t miss. The National Park pictures are alone worth the price of admission ;)

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

1. Big Bend National Park-

Take one of the scenic drives for gorgeous views of the Rio Grande.

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

2. Bryce National Park-

Awe-inspiring canyon views and hoodoos up to 150 feet tall make this Utah park a must-see.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

3. Crater Lake National Park-

Stunning deep blue water and 2,000 foot high cliffs define Crater Lake. Summer visitors can take a tour to Wizard Island.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

4. Death Valley National Park-

Bring a 4-wheel drive to see less well traveled areas. Have plenty of water with you!

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

5. Everglades National Park-

Book a guided boat tour or strike out on your own in a canoe or kayak to really see what the Everglades are all about. Watch for Alligators!

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

6. Glacier National Park-

This is a hiker’s paradise. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available in the winter for a great way to explore the park’s more than 700 miles of trails.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

7. Great Sand Dunes National Park-

Hiking on sand is slow-going but worth it for an up-close look at the largest sand dunes in North America. And where else can you go sledding with no snow?

Grand Canyon national park

Grand Canyon National Park

8. Grand Canyon National Park-

Experience breathtaking views from the rim, hike to the bottom, or take a rafting trip down the Colorado River. Any way you choose to see it, this is a can’t miss natural wonder.

Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park

9. Haleakalā National Park-

Camp overnight and enjoy stargazing under strikingly clear night skies. In the morning, watch the sunrise over the largest dormant volcano on Earth.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

10. Mammoth Cave National Park-

The best way to see the caves is with a guided tour. Mammoth is the largest cave system in the world, and hasn’t even been completely explored yet!

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

11. Mesa Verde National Park-

In addition to the beautiful desert scenery, check out some of the more than 600 cave dwellings of Pueblo people who called this area home for more than 700 years.

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

12. Petrified Forest National Park-

Explore on foot to get the best experience in this park, which features petrified trees that grew 200 million years ago.

Sequoia National Park

General Sherman, Sequoia National Park

13. Sequoia National Park-

Pictures don’t do these majestic trees justice. Take the short hike to the “General Sherman”- it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty!

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

14. Yellowstone National Park-

Visit Old Faithful, see the wildlife, go camping, fishing, or hiking! There’s always something to see and do at America’s first National Park.

zion national park

Zion National Park

15. Zion National Park-

Take in towering, colorful canyons beneath a bright blue sky. Hike “The Narrows”, at least partway, for the best views.

Visiting these National Parks will give you a real understanding of the natural beauty and wonder of America. Have fun!