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Free breakfast, iPod docking stations, and coffee makers are nothing compared to some of the whacky hotel amenities we found. From vintage record players to pet psychologists, here are five quirky — and dare we say somewhat outrageous — amenities that can be found at hotel chains across the country.
Vacation rental properties have been a complete game changer for travelers looking for homey, affordable places to stay. They’re a great way to save money, especially for families and larger groups, and they offer all the amenities of home. You can often cook your own meals and wash your laundry at no extra charge.
There are lots of reasons to take the train: amazing views, no security lines, no need for GPS, and you can even stretch your legs or get a snack. But a big pitfall is that tickets can be pricey. That’s why we’re happy to see these Amtrak deals, which are available right now:
The United States maintains more than 6,000 federally-protected sites, spanning over 1 million square miles and totaling roughly 27 percent of the U.S.’s entire land area. Attracting millions of visitors worldwide, the U.S. National Park System offers tourists incredible variety, from the lush Everglades, to windswept Death Valley, to the grandaddy of national parks, the Grand Canyon.
Traveling to each, individually and together, can cost a fortune, so if you’re planning a road-trip, you can save a ton with a national parks pass, or consider showing up on one of the many free-admission days. For those still wondering where, when, and how to visit, here is our guide on planning a trip to the country’s top six national parks in 2014. Read more
Looking for an easy budget getaway? Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains offer a mix of inexpensive activities and attractions that work for all kinds of travelers, from thrill-seekers and hiking nuts to kids and foodies. Here’s just a sampling of our favorites, broken down by the type of traveler… Read more
As any midwesterner will tell you, Kentucky is an incredibly beautiful place to visit in the fall; then again, the same could be said for Tennessee and Missouri. If you’re trying to figure out which one to visit on an upcoming road trip, you’ll be glad to hear it’s possible to visit all three within a matter of minutes.
At the far southwestern edge of the Bluegrass State, the Kentucky Bend is one of the oddest state borders in the United States. It’s a rare example of an exclave, or a piece of land isolated from the rest of its borders and surrounded by foreign soil. Considering there are only a handful of exclaves in the U.S. (Ellis Island, interestingly, is one of them), this geographical oddity, located roughly equidistant between St Louis, Evansville, and Nashville, is a must-see stop on any tour through this part of the country.
Not long ago, New York’s Central Park Zoo said a sad farewell to one of its own: Gus the polar bear. He was a fixture at the zoo for more than 25 years and had some…well, problems. Sure, he was neurotic (like a true Manhattanite), but he was beloved by many. (It’s reported that nearly 20 million people visited him during his time at the zoo.) On a happier note, we can’t help but think about the new baby animals that draw visitors to zoos across the country each year. And let’s face it, no matter how young or old we are, it’s hard not to ‘ooh and ahh’ over a cute baby cheetah (or elephant, or snow leopard). If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, here are some new furry friends that have recently arrived at America’s zoos…
It doesn’t get much cuter than these adorable kittens. At the Memphis Zoo, a male leopard was born in July, and while he doesn’t have a name yet, the public will have a hand in picking it from seven choices. Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo also welcomed a male cub in June, and he’s set to make his public debut this month when he turns three months old. Poaching and other factors have lead the species to be listed as endangered and only about 3,500 to 7,000 exist in the wild.
When to go: While you can’t see the Memphis cub just yet (the zoo is reconfiguring the cage so there are no spaces in the caging where he could slip out), stay tuned for updates on their Facebook page. In Chicago, you’ll be able to see the newborn by the end of next week. Read more
You watch your favorite television show to unwind after a long day at work or to enjoy some entertainment without leaving your couch. But some people are so inspired by what’s happening on-screen that they’re motivated to travel to the place depicted in their shows. Yes, TV tourism is a real thing, and destinations like Nashville and Northern Ireland reap the benefits when shows are based or filmed there. Here are some notable TV-centric destinations where visitors are flocking this year. Read more
Do you know the difference between whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and rye? It can be confusing, especially since all bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbons, and all scotch is whiskey, but not all whiskey is scotch. (Think of it like bubbly. All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne.) Here’s your go-to guide on brown booze and where the best distilleries are around the world. Read more
For some positive antidotes to that depressing and inaccurate, yet still pervasive, stat about American travelers – that a mere 20 percent of U.S. residents hold passports – consider these figures from the U.S. Travel Association:
- U.S. residents logged 1.6 billion trips for leisure purposes in 2012
- 1 out of every 8 jobs in the U.S. depends on travel and tourism, an industry that generated $200.9 billion in payroll for those directly employed in U.S. travel
- Direct spending by resident and international travelers in the U.S. averaged $2.3 billion a day, $97.7 million an hour, $1.6 million a minute, and $27,125 a second!
The bottom line: Traveling is a powerful force that’s good for everybody, which is the underlying message of National Travel & Tourism Week, starting May 4 and running through May 12. Currently, more than 60 locations across the country, including state and local tourism boards and travel businesses, are hosting some pretty nifty events. Here, a quick rundown of highlights sure to bring out the travel bug in you. Read more
When you think Tennessee, you think Nashville. And when you think Nashville, you might also think of the city’s blooming convention scene (OK, after you think of the music, of course). In an effort to get you outside of the boardroom and into the heart of Music City, we’re offering up two restaurants, two attractions, and one bar that you can hit with just a few extra hours between meetings.
When it comes to fresh, fine eats that don’t require a lot of walking from the halls of the Nashville Convention Center, Merchants is an excellent bet. It’s an upscale southern eatery that serves up delicacies like friend green tomatoes, sweet potato fries, and shrimp ‘n grits. It’ll work well for lunch or dinner, but be aware that the fabled “second floor” only opens after 5:00PM. Read more
My father moved to Memphis while I was in college. An upstate New York native, I was a bit of a stranger to this brave new world below the Mason-Dixon line. Of course, one of the first things that I had to learn about was Memphis barbecue. They take it very seriously there, arguing about which place is supreme. I’m a fan of Payne’s, simply for the down home feel, but you’ll find advocates for Neely’s, the Rendezvous, Cozy Corner, and Central BBQ in different parts of the city. What was impressed upon me most was that I was having Memphis barbecue. The fact it was theirs, a product of the history and the people that lived there, and that they had opinions about it — very strong opinions, in fact — was an essential component.
As I traveled more and more across the United States, I learned that each and every city with a vibrant ‘cue culture is very proud of each and every one of their regional differences. America is homogenized in most things; most of these cities with lots of ‘cue also have exurbs with big box stores and the like that are the same in each and every city. Barbecue is where these cities get to cut loose and show off what their respective culinary traditions have to offer. Read more
As the kids start counting down the days to summer vacation, America’s theme parks are counting down to the newest, biggest, most scream-worthy rides and attractions (so far, anyway). Here, a handy primer on where you’ll be taking the family this year.
The biggest news, of course, is the opening of Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure. This 12-acre attraction based on the Disney-Pixar Cars movies incorporates three new rides – including the thrilling coaster Radiator Springs Racers (pictured) – a trio of restaurants, and other themed shopping and entertainment venues. Watch out for Lightning McQueen, Mater, and other Cars favorites starting June 15.
Almost as fast as you can say sesquicentennial, April 12 will be here. The date will mark 150 years since Confederate soldiers fired on Union ones at Fort Sumpter in Charleston, South Carolina, effectively beginning the Civil War. And even if you don’t have Civil War buffs in your midst, there is something about this anniversary and the pageantry surrounding it that could translate to a nice learning vacation this spring.
Many celebrations will be planned around battlefields, and “they’re all over the east,” observes Lonely Planet U.S. travel editor Robert Reid, and “battlefields from Charleston to Bull’s Run are planning particularly ambitious events.”
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