Once Upon a Time Vacations

 

Once Upon a Time Vacations

by Amy Lignor

 

Whether you are a lover of history or you simply have the “Beauty & the Beast” obsession – which, according to movie revenue data, millions all over the world are suffering from – just think how amazing it would be to stay in an actual castle. We already know what the beauty would be from the female perspective, but when it comes to the gentlemen out there, just think about how much better that “moment” on bended knee would be if you popped the question in a very real castle.

 

There are once in a lifetime vacations. However, here we delve into those “Once Upon A Time” trips that include a stay in some of the most elegant homes ever built; homes of royals and historical heroes and heroines that will have you impressing that girl you love, or giving that history-loving mind of yours an unforgettable gift.

 

When you talk about castles, Europe is the hands-down winner of the oldest and most highly esteemed palaces ever built. Not a surprise, considering you are talking about countries ruled by kings and queens who erected walled cities and grand battlements to be able to withstand centuries of war.

Balfour Castle

BALFOUR CASTLE  Photo Credit: Stephen McKay

Talk about a rich history. We begin at Balfour Castle in Scotland, which is the most northerly castle in the world where you and yours can stay. 5-Star luxury is an understatement. At Balfour, you will be amongst some of the most impressive wilderness as you dwell in the castle on the small island of Shapinsay, which is quite famous for its sheltered bays that once provided safety to Viking ships.

 

If wishing to head to Italy for the amazing culture and even more amazing food, you can stay in Castel Relais Porrona, which is a 12th century castle located in the midst of olive trees and vineyards in Tuscany. From saunas to pools to horseback riding, this is one palace that is beyond compare.

 

Built almost 1000 years ago, situated just 60 miles from London, Amberley Castle can be found. This is one choice that will live in your memory for all time because of the fact that the castle has maintained its original medieval architecture. Each of the 19 rooms available feature whirlpool baths and other modern-day amenities, of course; yet the gardens, walls and magnificent twin-tower gatehouse still stand and add to the beauty of a world that has not existed for quite some time.

 

If France is the country of choice, the luxurious Chateau de Bourron can be found just an hour’s ride from the heart of Paris. Built in the traditional brick and stone style, this fortress was constructed in the early 17th century and even has the spring-fed moats to add to the perfect picture of what a castle should be.

 

If looking for a Spanish experience, Pousada de Óbidos is the place to visit in Portugal.

The actual city of Óbidos is walled; the castle, itself, was begun in 718 AD and not completed until the mid-1300’s. This is where the troops that defeated Napoleon for the first time were dispatched from – which feeds into that historical mind of yours. And when it comes to irresistible beauty, Pousada de Óbidos is close by the white-sand beaches and the pristine waters of the Silver Coast. From hot air balloon rides to sailing, this is one castle adventure that should not be missed.

 

The architecture in India is breathtaking, and the Neemrana Fort Palace near Delhi is one that steals the show. It was back in 1464 that the palace was constructed on a hillside by order of the king, so that he could see his lands at any time he wished to view them. Seven palace wings built over 14 layers make up the tiers of the hill, making this one of the most unique castles in the entire world.

 

And there is no other way to complete a list of the best castles other than with Ireland and the beautiful Ashford Castle. This is literally the oldest Irish castle in existence. Medieval, Ashford was constructed in 1228, and the Guinness family (who purchased Ashford in the 1800’s) added to the property, yet did not disturb the natural beauty that made up the castle in the first place. A true recipe of the ‘old’ (ramparts, chandeliers, medieval armor) mixed with the ‘new’ (spas, horseback riding, golf courses, and more), this Irish castle is most definitely one that will take your breath away.

 

So…ready for a historical walk through a royal world? Ready for the perfect spot to propose? Or are you simply ready for your own chance to have a true castle-in-the-air experience? Then check out these stunners as you move forward to book a magical vacation.

 

It’s Time to Travel to These Wonders of the World that May Soon Disappear

 

It’s Time to Travel to These Wonders of the World that May Soon Disappear

by Amy Lignor

 

When it comes to travel, there are many locations you and your family should take the chance to see. However, there are also a few that should be seen now, before they become listed among the “missing” Wonders of the World. It is a fact, no matter how you look at life, that the Earth is in danger when it comes to global warming, air pollution, rising sea levels, deforestation and a list of other environmental and ecological problems. Whether by human hands or simply the changes Mother Nature has decided upon, the landscape is being altered, causing one-of-a-kind areas to slowly disappear.

jungles, rainforests, Alaska, Tuvalu, Antarctica, Venice, Italy, Disneyworld, Glacier National Park

So as you sit down and begin researching that next big family trip, take a look at these areas that provide excellent guides, adventure, fun, and create memories that will last – even if the areas themselves do not.

 

A good place to start is Alaska. Falling under the already sparse category of “unique,” this state experienced output from several Canadian copper and gold mines, posing a hazard to Alaska’s major salmon rivers. Now is the perfect time to book a true, authentic Alaskan fishing lodge where you and other passionate anglers can cast for Pacific salmon, char, and more. In addition, with animal and plant species facing extinction as they lose their natural habitats, heading to Alaska and viewing the wildlife makes for a great time.

 

Along the same lines, with jungles and rainforests shrinking because of oil drilling, logging, mining, etc., taking a trip to the country of Rwanda would be a jaw-dropping experience you’ll never forget. Here, you can encounter some of the last remaining mountain gorillas, as well as golden monkeys and chimpanzees. Studies have been released showing that 60 percent of primate species are threatened with extinction, which means now is the time to soak in a Rwanda experience with some of the best guides in the business.

 

A very remote location that’s not appearing on vacation “bucket lists,” considering that only about 1,000 tourists visit here per year* (*UN data), Tuvalu in the South Pacific is perhaps the one true paradise still on Earth that should be seen. With stunning beaches, brilliant blue waters and colorful lagoons, this little nation is sinking into those rising waters at a rate of 0.2 inches per year. Seeing as that Tuvalu lies just 6.6 feet above sea level, taking pictures of those lagoons, enjoying the culture and cuisine, and walking those beaches are a must.

 

Along the same path as Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands are also being “drowned” by rising sea levels, with five of the islands already gone from view. Stunning villages have had to be relocated because of erosion on other islands, so if looking to capture that cultural experience while relishing in secluded bays and snorkeling in coral reefs, the Solomon Islands are your top choice.

Solomon Islands

Although most people want only those relaxing, warm beaches in the summertime, there are those (believe it or not) who love to partake in more adventurous pursuits. If you rate in this category, than it’s time to head to Antarctica. With the major ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula breaking, retreating or losing volume over the past decades, exploring the peninsula is definitely something you’ll never forget. From snowshoeing to mountaineering to kayaking and camping, an Antarctic excursion offers it all.

 

Greenland, as well, is suffering from its melting ice sheet. This is a country that actually logged its highest average summer temperature on record just last year. If looking for a phenomenal adventure that includes seeing those Arctic landscapes, Greenland is the perfect location. But if looking for a trip closer to home, head to Glacier National Park in Montana. If you are unaware, this is one of the most popular spots in all of the U.S. Unfortunately, those increasing numbers of visitors come from the fact that people are attempting to get a last look at the once giant glaciers that originally shaped the park. At one time this was home to approximately 150 glaciers but is now down to 25. Some scientists call for their complete disappearance by 2030, but other estimates call for the demise to be sooner than that.

 

Although there are a slew of others to be seen, one that must be mentioned is not only one of the most beautiful places on Earth but is also one of the most romantic cities and has been utilized in films galore, and been written about in tons of books. It is Venice, Italy: The city where you can take that authentic gondola ride down the canal and view the hundreds of bridges, stunning waterways and amazing architecture. Yes, Venice has been sinking for centuries, but scientific evidence has suggested that the process is speeding up, causing the one-of-a-kind city to sink almost five times faster.

 

Knowing this information, when booking your next vacation try to remember odds are positive places like Disneyworld will be around for a long time to come, but there are others out there that are just too fantastic to risk missing.

Traveling to the “Stars”

 

Traveling to the “Stars”

by Amy Lignor

 

Astronomy can be daunting if you’re just starting out. After all, there’s a whole universe out there to see. The best way to begin, however, is not by investing in those expensive telescopes. Instead, simply travel to the most amazing areas in all of America and start…looking up. There, in the night sky, you will see the most incredible sights as you gaze at constellations, shooting stars, and basically relax and enjoy while being surrounded by a world that not even the master painters could recreate on canvas.

Astronomy, night sky, Joshua Tree National Park, Cherry Springs State Park, Big Bend National Park, Badlands, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, myriad of colors, brilliant skies

There is an unforgettable place located in California where surreal and unique sights await. Binoculars are a must for this one, because you will not want to miss a second of the brilliant skies that shroud Joshua Tree National Park. At the Jumbo Rocks Campground, you are talking about the sun setting on an absolutely pollution-free area that holds a fascinating menu of plants and animals that you most likely have never seen before.

 

The geologic features, the culture, the history – this is one area to stargaze that will be locked in your memory for all time. It is the Colorado Desert that makes up the most eastern part of the park and meets up with the slightly cooler Mojave Desert on the western side – the side that plays home to the Joshua tree. And by pitching your tent among the park’s giant granite rock formations, you find yourself 1,000 feet higher than some of the other park’s sights and sounds where you will literally watch in awe as the Southern California sky lights up in a myriad of colors.

 

Only a short hop away is Phoenix, Arizona, which is ideal for seeing those stars. You are offered places such as, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, where the skies offer stellar views of planets, star clusters and galaxies; as well as Tempe Town Lake, where you can actually be a part of a glow-in-the-dark paddling event.

 

Heading higher up into the atmosphere, Badlands National Park in South Dakota offers an incredible nighttime sky. So brilliant, in fact, that “sky viewing” is offered Friday through Monday nights. And after the ranger program is over, you can continue to stay and be impressed by the striking views that more than 7,500 stars provide. Telescopes are on-site and the campground there is actually created with 96 level campsites, where you are given an extraordinary spot to get what feels like an up-close and personal view of the Milky Way, itself.

 

And for even more depth and clarity of the Milky Way, head to the Lone Star State. Big Bend National Park in the great state of Texas boasts the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48. There are no towns, no dwellings – nothing casts light upon that world other than the stars themselves.

 

Not to leave out the East Coast here, in the state of Pennsylvania, one of the greatest and most talked about places for stargazing is at Cherry Springs State Park. Named for its numerous stands of black cherry trees, this park is remote, wild and sits atop a mountain where it truly feels like you can touch the stars as well as see them in all their glory. This location is so incredible that they even offer a facet of the Stars-N-Parks Program for stargazing enthusiasts. The magnificent night sky at Cherry Springs can also be viewed at the Night Sky Viewing area located north of Rt. 44 (opposite the gated Astronomy Observation Field). Public parking lots are located here along with several information kiosks about the area. Visitors can either camp or simply follow the walkways, sit on the benches and gape at the stunning night sky that’s decorated with everything you can think of, including “falling stars” that make the sky look like a glittering oasis. Here, your vacation will be more than fun…it will be magical.

 

From Utah to the City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico, stargazing trips can be had no matter where you live or where you wish to visit. Mother’s Day is coming. Summer is around the bend. Perhaps you can bring the ones you truly love to get a glimpse of these breathtaking places where they can literally reach for the stars!

Hidden Adventures for the Budget Conscious

 

Hidden Adventures for the Budget Conscious

by Amy Lignor

 

It is a fact: There is never any money for travel. We all have those bills that just keep coming. In fact, there are some months it seems like they are coming even faster than the month before. But everyone – every person, every family, every parent – wants to go on vacation, They want – actually, they need – to get away from it all for a while and have a little fun in order to http://cmscommander.com/wp-content/uploads/tom671/2017/glacier-national-park-montana-near-iceberg-lake.jpgcut down on the anxiety and celebrate life for a time. So…what to do? Well…there are places in the U.S. that were strictly put in the U.S. for the budget conscious traveler. They are not only stunning places to visit, but they are also free. Why, you ask? Because we are talking about the conglomeration of U.S. National Parks that are out there and all the unique, FREE activities and events they have to offer.

This is not just about walking trails, by the way. Take for instance Katmai National Park in the stunning vista of Alaska. Here, there is a population of 2,000+ grizzly bears, and at the National Park, you can delve into bear-watching that is truly cool. There is an area called Brooks Camp that gives you and the family the perfect “perch” where you can safely watch these bears fish, have fun and more, with peak viewing times being in July and September.

 

If heading East, you and the family will love the EarthCache Hunt held in Acadia National Park located in the state of Maine. A very cool “hunt” that offers people hidden clues that actually teach everyone about the amazing surroundings. For four to six hours families can search for the “cache” and have a great time!

 

Now many people head to the Great Smoky Mountains already, but you should be made aware of the fact that at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the fireflies put on an amazing show for visitors. Even Walt Disney couldn’t make something like this synchronized light show that occurs for roughly two weeks in late May to mid-June.

 

California’s Death Valley National Park is extremely awesome for those who are into the “dino” craze. Paleontology tours led by experienced rangers are offered to the visitors, providing them with a tour of fossilized animal tracks in parts of the Park that are usually off-limits. This is one of those activities for real hikers or those who love to exercise, seeing as that it is a seven mile round trip hike that includes new canyons to explore, moonlit sand dunes and so much more.

http://cmscommander.com/wp-content/uploads/tom671/2017/glacier-national-park-montana-near-iceberg-lake.jpg

For a shorter hike, head to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Here, next to the Rio Grande, you can relax in hot springs, with dissolved mineral salts in the water that, according to many, have healing powers. Visitors can take a jaunt in the 105-degree pool in the foundation of an old bathhouse on the north bank of the Rio Grande, enjoy the scenery, and even walk Hot Springs Road which leads straight to the Hot Springs Historic District.

 

As a person who dwells in this stunning state, I can vouch for the coolness of Carlsbad Caverns State Park in New Mexico. On summer nights visitors are mesmerized by the thousands of bats that take to the sky. (Vampire lovers, this is the place for you!)

 

In Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, you and the family can head out with a ranger for a three-hour tour. Not like Gilligan’s Island, however; you will return from this tour. But only after seeing stunning landscape as well as a slew of wildlife. Ten cars are allowed at one time and is offered on a daily basis in September.

 

Last, but not least, if you want the water, a true “quest” can be had in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in the state of Ohio. Starting in April and ending in November, you take this canal quest that allows you to follow rhyming clues that will lead you to a hidden box. Each and every “quest” is designed to help you learn about and admire the natural and cultural gems of the Canalway, with each treasure hunt being unique and telling its own story of a particular spot located along the canals.

 

So when looking at the bills and shaking your head wondering HOW you’re going to be able to at least take a break for a while, think long and hard about heading to one of these National Parks. Most all of the parks across this beautiful country of ours are absolutely free, while offers require only a minimum charge. And even when it comes to those, most offer several free entrance days for you to enjoy.

 

But no matter which park you choose to visit, you will be granted a memorable vacation that’s a whole lot of fun for you and the family!

Soure:  GIG News

Travel: Leaving the Commonplace Behind

 

Travel: Leaving the Commonplace Behind

By Amy Lignor

 

What is the definition of a vacation? Well, there are those living in the snow who believe their vacation should come along with the warmest beach and a few fancy drinks with little umbrellas in them so they can relax before heading back to the deep-freeze. There are also those who sit at desks all day and dream of a vacation that allows them to hike those trails in the Great Outdoors. There are even more who have the kids literally screaming in their ear who simply want a vacation from their vacation.

travel to the fascinating, not just for Halloween, Shanghai Tunnels, Old Town Tatu, Clinton Road, beauty and culture, spice it up

But when you look at the “trends” in the travel industry, more and more people are choosing to travel to the fascinating. Of course, in this case ‘fascinating’ is all about haunted places, creepy historical mansions and locales that are truly odd. That’s right…this is not just for Halloween fun anymore. In fact, these locations are now offering some of the coolest hotels, best restaurants, nightclubs and hot spots that offer up evening fun, and even shopping, art, and theatre districts in order to make the ‘abnormal’ a perfect place to visit.

 

In other words…the commonplace is out.

travel to the fascinating, not just for Halloween, Shanghai Tunnels, Old Town Tatu, Clinton Road, beauty and culture, spice it upLet us begin in Portland, Oregon. Here, visitors are heading to the Shanghai Tunnels. These is actually a maze of dark passages that run between Old Town and downtown Portland. People who love the maritime realm will love this “shanghai” tale. It is here, from 1870 to 1940, that abductors took hold of unsuspecting men and actually sold them to captains of sea vessels as basic slaves. These men had to work aboard the ships they were trapped on for no money. How did they get them, you ask? That’s where the tunnels come into play. In Old Town, Portland there were saloons that had trap doors carved in the floor – so when the patron got more than a little tipsy, they fell into this labyrinth and were held there until they were “shipped” out. Haunted by restless spirits, people love touring these tunnels and then heading in to downtown Portland to have a great meal!

 

Another “Old Town” that’s being visited is located in the bustling city of Chicago. Referred to as Old Town Tatu, it was back in the 1880s that Tatu played home to Chicago’s very first funeral parlor (and you can only imagine the number of mobsters that ended up in there.) Now people go to get inked. Here, tattoos are given, as the visitors (usually) get a view of all types of unnatural activity that includes objects moving of their own accord, active poltergeists, as well as a ghostly apparition that some remember quite well. Chicago is already an incredible city – this just adds to the ‘abnormal’ part of your visit.

 

travel to the fascinating, not just for Halloween, Shanghai Tunnels, Old Town Tatu, Clinton Road, beauty and culture, spice it upThere are many mansions across the country that are most definitely anything but commonplace. Although most everyone knows about the Winchester House located in San Jose, California, there is also a mansion in St. Louis that is part of the long list of tourist attractions in this stunning city. Now an extremely popular inn and restaurant, Lemp Mansion actually saw sixty years of tragedy inside its doors. The Lemp family was a truly rich dynasty. But when the brewing business hit the skids, father took his own life, followed by his two sons and then, oddly enough, another death occurred of a boy who lived hidden away from the world inside the mansion’s attic. Not only can you enjoy the location now for both the food and service, but there is also a weekly ghost tour of the mansion given to those visitors who wish to sink their teeth into the ‘abnormal’.

 

Yet another mansion can be visited in the sunny, beautiful city of San Diego. The Whaley House was built in 1857 by an extremely wealthy retailer. Unfortunately, he just so happened to build it atop “unholy” ground that once served as the site where criminals were executed on the gallows. Whether you believe or disbelieve, the facts remain that Whaley was plagued with everything from deaths to suicides among his family, and when people head to San Diego they love to stop by and meet up with these restless spirits.

 

And if you are one of those who loves to hike and be a part of the Great Outdoors – yet likes a little ‘abnormality’ brought into play – West Milford, New Jersey is the perfect place for your next vacation. Just ten miles long, Clinton Road is a desolate place that has grown popular over time with tales of paranormal activity, phantom trucks being seen flying down the roadway, as well as being the place where mob hit man, “The Iceman” was discovered. Clinton Road has its very own ‘dead man’s curve,’ and offers no exits whatsoever. In other words, you do have to walk, drive or run down Clinton Road the entire ten miles…no matter what you meet up with along the way.

 

There are many more to choose from out there in the world – places that not only provide you with the beauty and culture you’re looking for, but also spice it up with sites you will never forget.

Vacations…Underground

 

Vacations…Underground

by Amy Lignor

 

There are millions of spots to visit and sites to see around the world when it comes to vacation time; however, there are also those you can’t necessarily “see.” In this world of digital technology and highly imaginative architecture that creates buildings that are higher and more “glitzy” than ever before, it is important to remember that in ancient times, people were building “down.” Various civilizations created locations underground, while others actually got buried by Mother Nature and simply forgotten about. Let’s begin internationally…

 

Heading to France, you can admire an entire village made up of caves and stone called the Barry Troglodyte Village. Overlooking the Rhône Valley, not only do you receive some of the most scenic sites imaginable, but you also get to delve into history where the Neolithic actually lived until the early 20th century. And, while in France, if visiting the stunning cityscape of Paris, you can also be a part of wandering amidst over 200 miles of catacombs resting right below “The City of Lights.”

bootlegging industry, caves, Bunker Palace, NORAD, summer vacation ideas, Seattle Underground, Wieliczka Salt Mine, Underground Great Wall

In Scotland, you can be awed by a series of chambers that were formed in the 19 arches of South Bridge in Edinburgh. Built to link the “Old Town’s High Street” with University buildings on the city’s south side, the Edinburgh Vaults are something you and the family will never forget.

 

In Saskatchewan, at a place called Moose Jaw, you can visit an award winning attraction operating year-round that will give you a sneak peek at the bootlegging industry during the days of Capone.

 

If a wartime historian, the tunnels resting below the earth in Beijing, China, make up a network that is absolutely enormous. Called the “Underground Great Wall,” this was provided for the people in order for them to have the ability to run if the Russian Army invaded during the Cold War.

 

Spain offers one of the most special “underground” sites there is with Setenil de las Bodegas. Here, residents make their homes under a rock. Growing out of a network of caves, these bright white tiny houses look like they are actually emerging from the cliff face, with rock roofs as well as some with olive groves growing on their rooftops.

 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978, the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland is truly amazing, clocking in at more than 700 years old. Visitors are offered the tourist, miners’ or pilgrims’ route to take, as well as the “Mysteries Tour” which is one of the physically hardest – perfect for all those hikers out there. Being a location for TV shows, exhibitions and theatre performances, even the movie industry has utilized this incredible site.

 

And if looking for something in the United States… The Seattle Underground in Washington is extremely cool to witness. Lying under Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood there are bars, hotels, banks, and even shops that sit abandoned since 1889, when the Great Seattle Fire hit the city, razing most of the wood buildings in the business district at that time. With people capitalizing in on rebuilding efforts, they failed to do it correctly, and in 1965, a local citizen established a very popular Underground Tour (Bill Speidel) where you will learn all about what “really happened” and what “used to be.”

 

If a fan of “War Games,” the Cheyenne Mountain Complex set in Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs is the place for you. Inside lies the Combat Operations Center which became a self-contained and sufficient town hidden underneath the Rockies. It was meant to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack with NORAD – the North American Aerospace Command being the leaders of it all. Closed at one time, it was reopened to the public to tour in 2015.

 

Last, but not least, if you’re headed to “Sin City” for a little gambling fun, you just have to leave those gaming tables for a minute to check out Bunker Palace. At 15,000+ square feet, this complex is actually on the market, for sale at just $1.7 million. A two-story home is visible at street level, but underground you find an actual house with a lawn, hot tubs, and a 360-degree mural of the “Great Outdoors.” You add in a putting green, and this becomes the one place that would cause you to never want to “come up for air” again. A perfect setting for either a vampire or a person who is simply looking for a house that is one-of a-kind.

 

So when you plan your next vacation and want something out of the ordinary, just remember that there are “spots” on the map you can find and visit that will give you both thrills and chills. All you have to do is look…down.

 

Where to Vacation? Go Big or Stay Home!

 

Where to Vacation?
Go Big or Stay Home!

by Amy Lignor

We speak about luxury vacations, budget vacations, vacations that are fun for the kids, and many more areas of travel at this time of year. But there is also a category that many do not touch upon because they “assume” it is far too difficult for those on a budget to be able to enjoy these jaw-dropping wonders. However, whether you are a backpacker looking to “become a journeyman” and all you need is the price of the plane ticket; or one that is saving up for that “ultimate trip,” these are locations where either can go to create memories that will be among the greatest and grandest of their entire lives.

create memories, gateway to the world, Germany, backpacking, go BIG, the place to be, Ecuador, Morocco, India

Let us start with the island of Kauai in the United States. For those who are unaware, Kauai was the stunning backdrop for the Jurassic Park movies. Taking aerial tours will show you the sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast that reach into the sky like monoliths towering over the water below. When it comes to exploring the island on the ground, just hiking along the marked paths is a photographer’s dream. Heading onto the floor of Waimea Canyon, or through the bogs of Alakai Swamp, visitors hike through the largest mahogany forest North America can boast. Whether journeyman or someone looking for luxury, Kauai is awe-inspiring beauty to the ‘nth’ degree.

When talking about remote, rustic and a place that actually offers up reindeer farms and snowshoeing, the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland is yet another “big” vacation that will never be forgotten. Staring up at the Northern Lights, Finland is filled with national parks, historical sites, and hiking sanctuaries for those seeking silence and tranquility that can be found nowhere else on Earth.

Another country that people are saving every nickel to visit is India. Here, the wild tiger population is growing by leaps and bounds (thankfully), and being able to see those regal Bengal tigers is a true vision that can only be viewed here in the U.S. inside an IMAX theater. Which is fine, of course, but definitely takes away from the magic of it all. In Central India, the Madhya Pradesh national parks are absolute havens for these wild tigers and visitors can even ride the Indian Railways’ new Tiger Express tourist train to go on the ultimate safari.

In Ecuador’s Chocó region, visitors can actually be a part of the primeval cloud forests – these are areas filled with the richest plant and animal life on the planet. North of Quito, these Andean slopes shrouded in fog play home to hundreds of species of birds, the rarest of orchids and air plants, as well as the olinguito – which just happens to be the newest mammal species discovered here in 2013. Can you just imagine exploring these sites by flying through the clouds on a zip-line Sky Bike? The immensity of this one-of-a-kind spot offers both thrills and chills.

For those looking to “go big” in the city and see beauty they’ve never before seen, Marrakech, Morocco is just the place to be wowed. With colors that set the imagination on fire, this former imperial city is now a major economic center that allows visitors a look at some of the most amazing palaces, gardens and mosques to be found anywhere. Mazelike alleyways allow people to come upon thriving, busy marketplaces packed with traditional textiles, pottery and jewelry. Even the famous fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent used Marrakech’s kaleidoscope of colors as his own palette when creating his vibrant fashions.

Another city that deserves to be on the “big” list was enjoyed by Hemingway, himself, who was so intrigued by the place that he called it “The Capital of the World” in one of his short stories by the same name. This is Madrid, Spain, and is a cosmopolitan fantasy come to life. With everything from parks and gardens to street artists and more than sixty museums, Madrid is all about creativity and class.

Last but not least is Germany’s “gateway to the world.” Although many plan trips to Berlin, it is Hamburg that takes the breath away. This floating city located on the Elbe River near the North Sea is a maze of canals that rivals Venice, itself. You can cruise the canals and take in the spectacular views of one of the world’s largest historic port warehouse districts and even visit the brand new concert hall complex that was built atop a brick warehouse providing stunning views of the city.

So whether heading out as a nomad with a backpack and a dream of viewing some of the world’s biggest sites to be seen; or one with money in the bank looking for luxury in a new locale that just has to be part of that proverbial bucket list – these “big” locales are the ones to see!

Original Source:  St AUG News

New Museums & Exhibits Boost Travel in 2017

 

New Museums & Exhibits Boost Travel in 2017

by Amy Lignor

 

It is true that after a while the “same-old, same-old” gets, well…more than old. Finding a place to visit that is new, fresh and filled with fun for the family can grow into one heck of a research project. But some old names are opening some pretty amazing exhibits and expos this year. In addition, some brand new buildings are being placed in various countries worldwide that have more and more people booking tickets.

 

https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/forbidden-forest?gclid=Cj0KEQjw76jGBRDm1K-X_LnrmuEBEiQA8RXYZ9GGOi1zMfOe3xW4ObKvmBty6hLZimfEPlVtMizflNEaAk7h8P8HAQLet’s face it, when it comes to children, taking a journey to anything that has the name “Walt Disney” is the place to be. But even if you have been there before with the kids, Disney World is now adding things to bring it up-to-date. You won’t get past the higher ticket prices, but with new restaurants coming in, evening entertainment taking the stage and beloved character appearances growing by leaps and bounds, Walt Disney World is actually an “old place” with a “new, exciting” vibe. And if you’re looking at the Pacific Coast, Disneyland is bringing in more and more sites to see inside the Hollywood Studios where the Star Wars Force continues to “awaken.”

 

On the other side of the pond, in Leavesden, England, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour has added even more to the Harry Potter world that kids absolutely fawn over. The new “Forbidden Forest” opens at the end of this month, where visitors can follow the footsteps of their favorite characters and run into everything from Hippogriffs (remember Buckbeak?) and Hagrid’s favorite pet, Aragog. This huge ‘Acromantula’ is deep in the forest and will most likely be emerging from his lair as you walk through the tall trees to have a chat with you. Just remember…his family of spiderlings are all around, so make sure an escape route has been planned.

 

Now we come to some amazing museums taking over in 2017 that are definite “must-see” stops. In Germany, you will be able to view a new attraction in the city of Potsdam’s historic center. Named the Museum Barberini, this is a stunning reconstructed palace that includes works created by the literal masters, including Monet and Renoir.

 

If looking to see the largest museum to open on an entire continent, in Cape Town, South Africa, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa will be a $38 million dollar institution housed inside the 57-metre-high Grain Silo. This incredible work of architectural art will include various expos and exhibitions built to celebrate Cape Town’s industrial heritage.

 

In the stunning country of Greece – one that has ancient myths and legends galore – sits the new National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens. This is a major reconstruction project that has met with some ‘kinks’ while getting it ready for the public to enjoy. Which is exactly what you can do when it opens to one and all in the autumn of 2017.

 

At home in the U.S., the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles has actually re-designed their logo in an attempt to evoke the one-of-a-kind urban life L.A. possesses. The building is a rehousing of the Santa Monica Museum of Art and opens in the Downtown Arts District in the autumn. From architecture to urban design to fresh exhibitions and educational programs, the ICA LA will bring together sites that all will love to witness.

 

Also a gift to the U.S. is the Museum of the American Revolution opening in Philadelphia. For everyone interested in politics, history, war, freedom and the civilization of this country, this museum is for you. From historical objects to works of art, manuscripts and more – all of the exhibitions will bring you and the family on a journey that the U.S. is proud to remember.

 

If you happen to be visiting the world of Harry Potter in London, the Victoria & Albert Museum should also be on your “go to” list. In July of 2017, V&A will also be bringing in a fresh, new look with “Exhibition Road.” This is the largest architectural project in London that has happened in over a century and will offer up new exhibition space, the Sainsbury’s Gallery, the Sackler Courtyard and the Blavatnik Hall – which is an entrance fit for a King.

 

These are just a sneak peek at the list of many new locales to enjoy as you plan your next vacation. If things keep going like this, the proverbial “bucket list” will become longer than Santa’s “good kid list” has ever been.

 

Source:  GIG News

“The Purple Isle” is Calling!

 

“The Purple Isle” is Calling!

Welcome to Islamorada, Florida

by Amy Lignor

 

When a vacationer dreams of visiting that perfect location with stunning sunsets, amazing food, and deep blue waters decorated with the most extraordinary coral reefs on this planet, it is a fact that they run to their cell phones and computers to book their flights as fast as they can to…Islamorada, Florida.

Islamorada, Florida, paradise on earth, Art Walk, Long Key State Park, Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park,  ICE Amphitheater, History of Diving MuseumA literal village of islands first sighted by Spanish adventurers back in the 1500’s, in this day and age it is the ultimate spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy sights that cannot be seen by simply looking out the living room window – especially if you happen to live in parts of this country where the snow is still flying this time of year.

Islamorada has a rich history that involves many industries cropping up throughout the centuries. In fact, when a fleet wrecked on the reefs of Islamorada, a thriving wrecking industry grew that made the area of Key West the wealthiest one in all of the United States straight through the 1870s. But new and interesting industries continued to grow as more settlers arrived. From being a Spanish trading post to playing home to the first canning factory for a true delicacy that ended up being a beloved one worldwide – pineapples – the farmers also raised limes, melons and vegetables, adding to the wealth around them.

 

From, perhaps, these less glamorous trades, this location has gone on to thrive because it just happens to be ‘paradise on earth.’ In 2017, reveling in the industry of tourism, Islamorada has a list of items that calls out to anyone and everyone who wants to escape the cold and be a part of what has now become one of the most unforgettable vacation spots on planet Earth.

 

Nicknamed “The Purple Isle,” Islamorada is a “top ten choice” to visit. Between the saltwater wilderness of Everglades National Park and the blue waters of the Florida Strait lies this conglomerate of six islands, and because of the location, everyone from amateurs who simply want to sightsee to professionals who want to “land the biggest catch they can” have access to the world’s highest density of professional offshore charter boats. Tournament-grade captains and the most highly skilled recreational fishing guides work here, and can navigate any vacationer to the best spots Islamorada has to offer.

 

If looking for fun and a whole list of activities for the family, Robbie’s Marina is a great place for people to come and feed the hungry tarpon that wait at the docks for visitors to arrive. Then, the family can move on to see a variety of shows that include everything from sea lions to parrots at one of Florida’s original marine mammal parks.

 

Those who love (or live) to dive, come to Islamorada to be fascinated by the History of Diving Museum before “jumping in” to view and explore the unique reef line and patch reefs that are breathtaking to one and all.

 

For those who wish to stay on land and listen to the music, daylong festivals are held on the lawn of the outdoor waterfront ICE Amphitheater located inside Islamorada Founders Park. The music can also be enjoyed after the sun goes down and the tropical evening takes hold. This is one park filled with things to do. An Olympic-sized pool, a beach, ball fields, a skate park, a dog park – Islamorada has made sure that no family member will be without something fun to do each and every day of their vacation.

 

If a nice leisurely walk is on your ‘to do’ list, the lush nature trails at Long Key State Park, and Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park allow you peace, quiet and historic sites to see before heading to one of the many amazing locations to dine. “Fresh-from-the-dock” seafood and cuisine for all the landlubbers are served in the tiki-covered bars, the fish houses, secluded island bistros, as well as gourmet cafes where you can sit on the beachfront and take in the stunning scenery while you eat.

 

The shopping never has to end because of the ever-burgeoning boutiques and those who love the creative art world can rejoice in the “Art Walk” held in Islamorada every single month.

 

With a full package that includes excellent beachfront lodging, quality hospitality, dining, and activities, there is no end to The Purple Isle’s vast number of choices for those who wish to experience a true vacation in paradise.

Source:  GIG News

With the Kids in the Car “Road Trips” are Out the Window

 

With the Kids in the Car “Road Trips” are Out the Window

by Amy Lignor

 

Travel…with kids. The one thing that most all parents will agree upon is the fact that heading out on the road with kids for a relaxing holiday is a big mistake. Did you ever see the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation? If you have, then you know exactly what I mean. Now parents may roll their eyes at this. Especially those that have saved up money by skipping “big family vacations” for the last couple of years just to go somewhere unique and a whole lot of fun in 2017. Others may roll their eyes because they will feel like “Disney” is the only ‘world’ that the kids will enjoy. However…that is not the case. If you are looking for that awesome vacation for both you and the kids, (with no long-distance driving involved), there are a few that will delight every member of the family.

Merry old London is one of those mega-city’s that cannot and will not let parent nor child down. There is no way to be bored in this place. From entertaining tourist spots to the amazing dinosaur exhibitions and interactive worlds found at the museums in London, the kids will never even yawn once. From heading to Big Ben to stepping inside one of the most famous bridges in the world; from paddle boating in Hyde Park to riding on the world’s largest Ferris wheel; from legends to mysteries to castles – London is the best place to visit.

 

If wanting one of those mega-city vacations in the U.S. of A., The Big Apple is the place to go. The list is so lengthy when it comes to what New York City has to offer both parent and child, it becomes even longer than the list Santa keeps of all those ‘good boys and girls’ who get a present delivered to them on Christmas Eve. This is the place to check out!

 

But what if you’re the outdoorsy type of family and a mega-city literally turns you off? If that’s the case, then the answer is simple. Right here on the Florida Panhandle sits one of the most popular vacation spots to be found. Destin, Florida is all about beaches. The shores are made of snow white Appalachian quartz, and Dad can certainly go off and have a ball golfing while the kids head to the water parks and be thrilled and entertained all day long.

 

Camping, meteor showers, lunar eclipses…no, this is not about how to travel with your kids to the moon. It’s actually about what you will be able to give your kids who need entertainment by planning a family trip to Death Valley. Spring is the right time to go when it comes to this one, however. Don’t wait until those scorching days of summer set in. With over three million acres of wilderness to choose from and no artificial light taking away from the beauty that the skies have to offer, every kid’s jaw will literally drop.

 

Just as much fun can be found in the Grand Canyon. You and your family can fly there and rent a camper or plan a vacation where you will be led by the pros to the most beautiful locations America has to offer. Hiking, biking, backpacking – trips that include almost every outdoor activity you can think of are made available in the Grand Canyon, and your kids will be talking about it forever. They will literally have so much fun they’ll make it a point to bring their own kids there one day and make it a true family tradition.

 

Could we get through the list without even mentioning Disney? Of course not. BUT, everyone always talks about the theme parks that are ripe with entertainment for kids. This time we’ll speak only about those rich, fun Disney cruises. Unlike most other companies that have had major issues with the cruises they offer, Disney still remains one that is reliable and will keep the kids entertained the entire time. Avoiding all the long, long, loooonnnnngggg lines that you find at a Disney theme park, the cruise offers movie theaters, water slides, deck parties and live shows with those lovable Disney characters, and a whole lot more. This is most definitely the “happiest place at sea.”

 

So when it comes to planning for that spring or summer trip, take a good look at these locations that are literally perfect for both parent and child.

Source:  GIG News