Shermanstravel Blog

Arts & Culture

Bergen-Harbour Credit Bergen Tourist Board _ Willy Haraldsen - visitBergen.com - 620 - 3

Ever since Bergen was the inspiration for the kingdom of Arendelle in the hit Disney film Frozen, this Norwegian town has been getting a lot of attention from travelers. But the city is more than a fairytale setting — although the vibrant colors on the historic buildings in Bryggen wharf may seem straight out of a storybook. Teeming with culture, nature, and adventure alike, some of Bergen’s other proud badges include Norway’s second largest city, the Gateway to the Fjords, and a European City of Culture. Here are five ways to experience the best of all that on a budget:

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little rock - allen brewer

Long known for its political prowess as Arkansas’ capital, the riverfront city of Little Rock is now showing off a softer side, with an eclectic mix of history and nature that appeals to travelers. Surprisingly, some of the biggest attractions at this offbeat destination are also the free ones. Here are 10 of them to add to your itinerary:

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adirondackslakegeorgeAs the largest state-run nature reserve in the continental United States, Adirondack Park offers plenty of opportunity for outdoor activities, from hiking and fishing in the summer months, to wintertime skiing. Even if you find yourself near one of the park’s most popular resorts, Gore Mountain, outside of prime ski season, you’ll find plenty of other attractions to keep you busy. Here’s a sampling…  Read more

Vienna Austria ParliamentI traveled to Vienna this year to attend the Life Ball, the largest fundraiser for AIDS research in the world. The event is televised on Austrian TV and is notable for the procession of elaborately costumed partygoers walking the red carpet to the ornate City Hall. This year’s event included President Clinton, Ricky Martin, and Conchita Wurst, the Austrian drag queen who won this year’s Eurovision song contest.

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Doi Inthanon National ParkIf you’re hungry for variety in your travels, Thailand is your country. Visitors in search of big-city bustle, colorful produce and flower markets, and street food galore go to Bangkok. Partiers, backpackers, and sun worshippers head south to the islands. And outdoorsy types, and those simply in search of some fresh air and quiet, go north, to the mountainous region around the city of Chiang Mai.

Covered in both jungle and alpine forest — not a contradiction in terms — this area offers rice paddy-covered mountains, elephant sanctuaries, gilded temples (if you haven’t had your fill in Bangkok), and even opportunities to visit and stay with families via new community-based tourism efforts.

We recently spent some time in tourist-free Doi Inthanon National Park, which is about a two-hour drive southwest of Chiang Mai. Here’s a sampling of some things you can do and see in this area, all of which can be accomplished in a day trip with a rental car. Pay the 200 baht (about $6.25) entry fee; pack a sweater, comfortable shoes, and some rain gear; and you’re set for the day.

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Hanoi - Andrea Schaffer

This coming year, 40 years will have passed since the war ended in Vietnam. A political topic still sensitive here in the States, the occasion is all the more reason to dive in and learn more about what Vietnam is like today. And we can’t think of a better place to start than the country’s capital, Hanoi.

Crossing the Pacific to get there is an upfront investment, for sure, but once on the ground, things get affordable in a hurry. With forty-cent beers and 5-star hotels for under $200 a night, even a traveler on a strict budgets can fully indulge here without worry.

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Four Seasons Gresham PalaceI have been to Budapest several times and, on each visit, I adore staying at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace. In the off-season (winter, or shoulder season in fall or early spring), rates are quite reasonable relative to other 5-star properties in Paris, London, or New York City. (Think $280-$320 per night, compared with $500+.) The Gresham Palace is, in many ways, in a league of its own when it comes to Budapest’s hotel offerings. In fact, it was just named the number three hotel in the world in Travel + Leisure‘s 2014 World Best Awards. The majestic old-world structure was originally designed to be an insurance company before it became a hotel.

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CaitrionaSamOutlander

The hugely popular novel Outlander, written by Diana Gabaldon and the first in a series of eight books, has at long last been made into a television series, premiering on Starz this Saturday, August 9. The story is set in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th century Jacobite rebellions. The series was filmed on location there — the producer even called the country the “third character.”

If you’re a fan of the novels, or are caught up in the excitement over the new show, you might want to put some of the show’s atmospheric shooting locations on your travel list. Here are some to get you started:

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harvard university  620 - 2

Colleges and universities aren’t just institutions of higher learning. Some of them are itinerary-worth destinations, even for those who haven’t stepped foot into a classroom for a long time, thanks to stunning architecture, fragrant gardens, impressive museums, and great history. Here are 10 schools that get an A+ on all these fronts.

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bigcedarlodge

The Ozark mountain range is so vast that it not only covers the southern half of Missouri, it also extends to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. And even though it’s referred to as mountains, the area is actually a plateau. Covering 47,000 square miles, the rugged Ozarks are filled with forests, and hiking trails, and beautiful views. Here are some ideas for exploring:

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PIazza_Mattei

If you’ve been to Rome, you probably visited Piazza di Trevi, Piazza di Spagna, or some of the other, more popular public squares. But Rome’s other piazzas offer just as much culture and history as their touristy counterparts. Here are five lesser-known piazzas worth seeking out:

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Expo Milano 2015Ready for a modern version of the World Fair, and in a place that you were already planning to visit? Milan has been chosen to host the 2015 Universal Exposition that will run from May 1 to October 31, 2015. This six-month event will showcase the best of the participating countries’ technology and innovation. This year’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” which will focus on the culture, traditions, and creativity of the participating countries and how they relate to food and diet. Visitors can expect an open-air theater, a wine pavilion, tastings, and lots more. With Italy’s incredible food culture, it’s easy to see how Milan was a logical choice. Here’s Milan’s Expo by the numbers:

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replica - japan

We all know cities share common names — there’s a Paris in Texas and a Rome in Georgia, just to name two. But who would have thought that some cities would go as far as to share landmarks? Las Vegas is an obvious example, but other lesser known ones include the miniature Eiffel Tower in the Lone Star State, complete with a ten-gallon hat, and a 15-year-old Statue of liberty in Tokyo. Indeed, literally hundreds of cities worldwide replicate popular tourist attractions, both satisfying their own citizens wanderlust and increasing visitors’ chances of crossing various famed sights off their lists. Here are just some of our favorite replicas.

0_ASUGammage_creditNickDoan

One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous Arizona works, Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, AZ, turns 50 this year. The building has an interesting history, initially commissioned by the assassinated King Feisal II of Iraq and then eventually revived as a university building, finally opening in 1964. To celebrate its birthday and the prestigious guests it has received — from traveling Broadway productions to George W. Bush and John Kerry during the 2004 presidential debates – the performing arts center has partnered with two other iconic Wright destinations to offer the “Frank Lloyd Wright Experience,” with hotel and entertainment discounts this week.

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estonia - Jean-Pierre Dalbéra - 620

Paris, Rome, and London are all classic first-time Eurotrip destinations. But for savvy or returning travelers, Eastern European cities — think: Prague, Budapest, and Tallinn, among offers — offer just as much beauty and history, but at cheaper prices and in fewer crowds. Although communism clothed much of the area a few decades ago, the region has largely shed that attire and now welcomes travelers with eclectic mixes of medieval architecture and preserved fortresses alongside Soviet era blocks and 21st century designs. With so many nations to discover, here’s where to start:

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