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When you think of Texas, funky beach towns probably aren’t the first things that come to mind; it’s more likely that you’ll think of cowboys and barbecue. But with 300 miles of coastline, “Texas” and “beach” are a great match (and Texas has a quite a few beach surprises up its sleeve). Galveston, which is actually an island, has an offbeat, oceanside vibe, making it the perfect place to change the way you think about southern beach towns. And when it comes to exploring the island, you can see the best of it without spending a fortune.
From a pier with a Ferris wheel, to incredible gumbo, an awesome Mardi Gras scene, and a beachfront strip with enough unusual bars and restaurants to quench anyone’s thirst, the town has a lot to offer. It’s also full of gorgeous Victorian architecture that was meticulously preserved after the devastating Great Storm of 1900, and there are enough museums and history tours to keep any culture buff busy for weeks. Plus, with summer humidity on its way out, it’s easier than ever to save money and enjoy all the eccentricity that makes Galveston feel worlds away from the nearest mainland super-city, Houston. Here are my top choices for getting to know the culture of Galveston, for less. Read more
While October might not scream “beach season,” many parts of the U.S. are still enjoying weather that calls for shorts and a lounge chair. Sure, you can go to Florida or Southern California pretty much year-round for sun and sand, but what about beach destinations that get cooler as fall sets in? For now, many of them are still prime for a late-season visit, with great deals, fewer crowds, and comfortable temperatures. Okay, so you might not get a sunburn (Who wants that, anyway?), but you’ll still find plenty to do in these seven locales: Read more
UPDATE: Five national parks in Utah have re-opened, though the government shutdown remains in effect. CNN reports that since October is one of the busiest months for visitors exploring Utah’s stunning canyons, deserts, and million-year-old rock formations, the state has decided to fund the re-opening of five national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion), plus three other sites (Natural Bridges, Cedar Breaks national monuments, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area) with its own money. The sites are scheduled to re-open fully on Saturday October 12 for at least the next 10 days, with plans to continue funding the parks if the shutdown drags on further.
Of the many facets of day-to-day life that will be directly affected by a government shutdown (healthcare, IRS, the military) that begins today, travel and tourism concerns are relatively low on the list. However, for travelers who booked their trip months ago – not to mention tourism offices who rely on those visitors actually showing up – the closures can seriously upset your plans. Though flight and hotel bookings (and, thankfully, public transportation) remain unaffected, some itineraries (especially to destinations in the Western U.S.) will have to be re-arranged entirely.
Of the thousands of worthy sightseeing spots in the U.S., 401 of them are national parks. These include everything from preserves like Florida’s Big Cypress Swamp to monuments like the Statue of Liberty to the massive, hugely popular Yellowstone National Park, which receives over 3.5 million visitors per year. A full database of sites can be found here. Below, we’ve compiled five of the most-visited national park sites, coupled with alternative sites you can visit instead. Read more
For all the negative implications of fall (cooler weather, shorter days, less sunshine), the season isn’t without its charms. After all, what other time of year can you travel with manageable weather and great bargains on flights and hotels? So instead of dwelling on how you can’t wear short shorts or sip an iced latte in October, let’s embrace fall. Whether you’re interested in watching the leaves blow around a beautiful state park, or enjoying your first-ever slice of grape pie, or taking full advantage of all the fall deals being offered right now, here’s your guide to a fun-filled, money-saving, get-in-your-car-and-go fall. Read more
Of the six reasons we recently gave for Melbourne being voted the “most livable city in the world,” public transportation ranked number four. Meanwhile, eight thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, sprawling Los Angeles isn’t about to win any awards for its still-in-progress Metro system and tangled network of unreliable bus routes.
No surprise, then, that LA has become known as a “car city” — almost every destination on your itinerary is usually best reached by car.
But there is a movement, albeit a small one, to change all that: Car Free LA is a day-long event taking place this Sunday, as part of a worldwide initiative celebrating alternative transportation modes. And for anyone who happens to be visiting the city this weekend, the centerpiece of LA’s campaign will be a public walking (and Metro) tour from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, and back (for those not in town, you can follow all the fun on Instagram and Twitter by using the hashtag “carfreeLA”). Read more
Since 2009, the adventure travel industry has grown at a staggering rate – 65 percent year-over-year – and today it’s a $263 billion industry. While the words “adventure travel” might make you think of extreme heli hiking or mountain biking through the Alps, there’s a huge range of options, many of which are entirely doable for the average traveler. From slow-paced culture and adventure trips, to hiking, kayaking, and biking tours, there’s something for almost everyone, from kids to baby boomers and beyond. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite tours and ranked them by effort and strenuousness – 1 being the least challenging (light activity like walking), 2 a little bit challenging (like snorkeling), 3 mid-level challenging (longer, slow-paced hikes), 4 intermediate-level challenging (like stand-up paddle-boarding and hiking through rainforest), and 5 at an advanced level (strenuous hikes or mountain climbs throughout the trip). You might be surprised at how affordable – and approachable – they can be:
1. South Africa
If Africa has always been on your travel bucket list, consider this vacation. It’s guaranteed to cross off some major destinations like Table Mountain, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls. Explore the country’s capital, stop in South Africa’s wine country, and continue on to Kruger National Park, a game sanctuary, for a few days of safari. You’ll have the opportunity to see zebra, giraffe, hippo, and more wild animals. End on a high note (literally) at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, where 550,000 cubic meters of water go over the towering falls every minute. 11 nights; from $3,593 with airfare
Adventure level: 1
Of Sedona’s 100+ hiking trails, there are four that tend to stand out from the crowd. And it’s not their natural beauty, climate, or level of difficulty that makes them special, but rather, if you can believe it, the energy of their respective locations. Though many of its residents are there for the hiking and extreme beauty of the area, the town also attracts an eclectic group of psychics, fortune-tellers, and soul-seekers who make frequent pilgrimages there to connect with a higher plane.
In 1981, a woman named Page Bryant, a psychic, author and lecturer who made her home in Sedona for 10 years, identified four “vortexes” throughout town, where she felt the metaphysical energy was the strongest. Now, locals roll their eyes at this for a couple reasons. To start, the vortexes are all conveniently located off major highways, drawing concerns that tourism might be the motivation behind their selection. Guides also like to joke is that Bryant was a bit out of shape, so she selected areas that were easily accessible. It’s also tough to tell whether these areas cause visitors to feel good because of their “energy,” or simply because they showcase Sedona’s incredible beauty.
What’s the truth? Well, I guess you’ll have to make a visit and decide for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the four individual sites: Read more
After spending five days in Iceland, I can’t understand what took me so long to visit. The country is a mere five-hour flight from New York (like flying to California) but it’s a world away in terms of the scale of its nature adventures. Iceland is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Reykjavik is a small, charming city with one main street, a cute harbor, excellent restaurants, and a handful of city sights to explore, like the new opera house. But if you want to get the best of Iceland, the prime sightseeing is outside of town. I hadn’t planned any excursions in advance so I had to work fast and learn about what I needed to see.
I short-listed a few activities after asking fellow hotel guests what they recommended. Here’s what I did: Read more
Throughout Africa, the Big 5 will always have undisputed cache among travelers. But come spring, certain regions of South Africa’s Northern Cape province, including Namaqualand, which is within about six hours’ drive of Cape Town, bloom with wildflowers. Among the standout: brilliant orange Namaqualand daisies, indigenous succulents known locally as vygies, and the impressive king protea, the country’s national plant.
Starting around August and running through September, the landscapes in this part of the continent transform into a Technicolor explosion of orange, yellow, red, and purple, as millions of wildflowers herald the end of the winter rains. Tourists flock to see the spectacular show, snapping photos, meeting fellow floraphiles, and trading stories of their excursions in restaurants and B&Bs along the way.
Here, tips on how to stop and smell the daisies. Read more
Angkor Wat, the Grand Canyon, the Blue Lagoon: just a few of the natural and man-made wonders many of us, if we’re lucky, get to experience during a lifetime of travel. In most cases, visiting them is as easy as just showing up. But what about the countless other jaw-dropping sites we’ll never get to see? Whether too remote, or frozen under ice, or sunk at the bottom of the ocean, here are a few “hidden” sites that no technological advancements – or wishful thinking – can ever bring us closer to.
Earlier this month, a team of scientists discovered a previously-unknown volcano, located deep under the Pacific, 1,000 miles off the coast of Japan. Confirmed as the largest volcano in the world (about a hundred times bigger than Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, which previously held the title), the rock mound, nicknamed Tamu Massif, would make for a pretty impressive sight – too bad its summit lies 4,500 feet below the ocean’s surface. Evidence shows that the 124-million-year-old volcano likely went dormant shortly after it formed, though that doesn’t bring us any closer to traversing its wide, craggy surface. Read more
Table Mountain, the flat-topped monolith that soars over Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the coastal city’s most iconic landmarks. Named as one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature last year by the foundation New7Wonders, the gorgeous, cloud-swathed mountain is flanked by the surrounding peaks of Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak, and offers stunning views of the city and its beaches and harbor below.
It’s not surprising, then, that exploring Table Mountain is a huge draw for both visitors and Capetonians themselves – a fit, outdoorsy bunch who relish the abundance of outdoor activities their city offers. One way to impress them? Ascend to the 3,280-foot peak on foot.
On a recent trip to South Africa, I did just that – and the experience was a shining highlight of my time in Cape Town. Here, a few tips I learned on the way up. Read more
Poor Slovakia; since Czechoslovakia dissolved in 1993, it seems to have been forgotten about in favor of its former partner and larger neighbor to the west, the Czech Republic – and recognized by travelers only for its role as the setting for grim horror movies.
Slovakia’s tourism industry got a much-needed boost when its second largest city, Košice was awarded the title of this year’s European Capital of Culture…but, again, it has been overshadowed by the joint titleholder, Marseilles. So, we’re making a case to not overlook this small, landlocked country: Here’s our five reasons why it’s actually great.
As well as having the honor of being named European Capital of Culture, Košice is home to the easternmost Gothic cathedral in Europe, St. Elizabeth’s, and a beautifully well-preserved town square crowded with historic buildings. Impressive architecture – from Renaissance to Baroque and Art Nouveau styles – and terraced cafés fill the streets of the town center, making it an ideal city to enjoy a leisurely stroll through.
Deserving of its Cultural Capital title, Košice has a lively arts and entertainment scene. Several new projects were initiated to coincide with its reign, including the Kunsthalle, an arts and performance venue constructed on the site of the city’s beloved and long disused Art Nouveau swimming pool in Metský Park. Read more
Dubbed Green Lake for its emerald waters, it offers you a chance to scuba dive around sites that are usually on dry land, including its meadows, trails, roads, and bridges. You can see fish swimming through the branches of trees – a surreal effect. Read more
Tucked high into the Ecuadorian Andes, a series of atmospheric colonial-inspired haciendas-cum-hotels unfold in dramatic valley settings, fringed by soaring volcanic peaks. Mostly family-run affairs, some working farms or horse ranches, all are rich in history and hospitality. Recently back from two weeks of hacienda-hopping in the Andean highlands surrounding Quito, these seven vetted haciendas deliver exceptional atmosphere at budget-friendly prices, from under $150/night. Read more
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