Archive for September, 2011
The number of worthwhile places to see seems to grow all the time. With the explosion of the Internet, it is now possible to learn about far-flung locations with amazing sights, but what are the world’s most-visited tourist attractions? You might be surprised to find out that, despite France having the largest number of annual visitors, the United States has nine of the top ten. Thanks to a weakened American dollar, foreign tourists have been flocking in record numbers. Have a look at the list and see how many you’ve made it to – and how many more you have to go.
1. Times Square, New York City
The pulsating lights of the Big Apple seem to be concentrated in this small, two-block-long plaza. In addition to being home to excellent Broadway shows and dozens of restaurants, you will find great shopping in all price ranges. Plus, you might find it’s a good place to stay, as several hotels in the area compete for visitors’ business.
2. Central Park, New York City
You’ll love the contrast of modern skyscrapers sprouting up around this manmade 850-acre park in Manhattan. It’s a great spot to lounge in the afternoon sun and have a picnic before heading to one of the many museums lining its borders.
3. Union Station, Washington, DC
A blend of functioning train station with shopping mall, the architecture is the star of this century-old building. Pass from hall to hall through stunning designs from a variety of eras, then duck into one of the many stores to check out the latest in fashion or publishing.
4. The Strip, Las Vegas
The glitz and glamour of Sin City are hard to beat. Grab a hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard and take to the sidewalk to see the bright lights. There are great shows, incredible dining options, and enough interesting people to keep you entertained 24 hours a day.
5. Niagara Falls, New York and Ontario
Of all the attractions on this list, only one is shared by two countries, but when you consider more than six million cubic feet of water pass over the edge every second it’s easy to see why. There are taller falls, but none quite have the power of this beauty on the border of the United States and Canada.
6. Grand Central Terminal, New York City
This classic piece from the Beaux-Arts motif of architecture is an absolute stunner. Much like Union Square, it functions as a commuter hub and retail center, but the painted ceiling has the added quality of providing New Yorkers something they never get to see: the constellations of the night sky.
7. Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston
A landmark of American history, the cobblestone streets have been closed to vehicles to allow pedestrians the ability to roam freely between the shops and restaurants. Once called the “Cradle of Liberty,” you’ll be walking in an area where luminaries like George Washington once spoke.
8. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Orlando
Part of a theme park-filled area, a throng of people spends time in the “Most Magical Place on Earth” every day of the year. Walk through the gates of Cinderella’s castle and engage in the pursuit of fun through classic rides – Mad Tea Party, It’s a Small World – and modern attractions, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
9. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
The granddaddy of the modern theme park, it’s significantly smaller than it’s younger sister on the other side of the country. Take a step inside the imagination of Walt Disney, the visionary, as you swoop through the turns of Space Mountain or make some ghostly friends at the Haunted Mansion.
10. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
For nearly seven hundred years, this masterpiece of Turkish construction has brought in the finest wares from merchants. Once known mostly to locals in search of a good deal on home furnishings and clothing, the brightly-painted walls draw more tourists all the time.
There are few things in the world more satisfying than a scoop of ice cream on a day. In fact, creating a frozen treat might be among the oldest ideas to beat the heat – the Persians are said to have drizzled thickened grape juice on a bowl of snow as early as the 5th century BC. Similar blends of ice and fruit took place later in China and Rome, but it took another 1,500 for milk to become the main ingredient, leading to the smooth texture we recognize today.
If you’re on vacation in summertime, see if you can’t make it to one of America’s best ice cream cities to enjoy a tasty break from the hot sun:
Richardson’s Ice Cream, Middleton, Massachusetts
An extension of a family farm that dates back to the 17th-century, each of the 85 flavors is still produced on the 300-acre homestead outside the Boston city limits. Though it’s grown since opening in 1952, it retains the old-fashioned feel by serving an excellent strawberry ice cream. The Maine Black Bear is a luxurious treat: chocolate-covered raspberry truffles and chocolate chips are mixed into red raspberry ice cream.
Ici Ice Cream, Berkeley, California
Run by a former pastry chef, you’ll find all sorts of delectable creations here. You might find a rose-flavored scoop on the handmade organic cone irresistible (like many do) or you could be tempted by the green tea variety, but you’ll always find the natural, sustainable ingredients a delicious way to care for Mother Earth.
Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream, Wilmette, Illinois
This parlor in the Chicago suburbs has been churning out batches of classic flavors since 1935. Once enjoyed by Al Capone, it’s a favorite for locals and tourists. Rocky Road is popular, but you could be tempted by the apple cinnamon, a concoction of the sweet fruit and graham cracker chunks in the spicy, cold base.
Mt. Desert Ice Cream, Bar Harbor, Maine
Already well-known in the northeast United States, this small-town chain got a major boost when President Obama stopped by for dessert with his family. Known for its creative names and combinations, the wide variety available is almost unmatched. Get your hands on a scoop of Bay of Figs for a Mediterranean take on the frozen treat.
Pumphouse Creamery, Minneapolis, Minnesota
This small shop is famous for heaping portions that are worth the wait. With hardly enough room for the line in and foot traffic out, folks are always waiting to get their hands on the all-local, organic confections on offer. The mouthwatering Sea Salt Praline is a common choice, but the adventurous can’t resist the Chipotle Chocolate.
There can be little argument something romantic about the shift from summer to autumn. Every year, as vacations end and students begin roaming the hallways of local schools again, the leaves turn from bright green to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. It’s almost as if Mother Nature has a change of the guard to monitor the transition from fun in the sun to work in the classroom.
The weather begins to get colder, but it’s a fantastic time to find a trail to walk and take in the scenic splendor. If you are one of the many who enjoys a good fall hike amongst the trees, put on your favorite sweater and pair of jeans, then visit one of these top ten fall foliage travel destinations:
1. Aspen, Colorado
Tucked away in the mountains to the west of Denver, this isn’t your typical spot to see the leaves. That said, the trees from which the town gets its name provide a fiery golden blanket at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Depending on the path you choose, each successive rise in elevation will bring a more magnificent view.
2. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Whatever your preferred method of travel, the dense forest in this part of the Cascade Mountains provides a wide range of trees to catch your eye – maple, cottonwood, ash, and more. The great thing is, you can enjoy it by car driving along I-84 or plan a rafting trip if you’d like to move at a slower pace.
3. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
An abundance of leafy tree species rise from the cliffs surrounding this Midwestern lake. Some of the best views are from the water, but there are also plenty of well-marked hiking trails complete with information posted about the surrounding forest.
4. Washington County, Maine
The Northeast is always densely-populated at this time of year, but those in search of solitude have a better chance of finding it here than along well-known roads in The Catskills or famous local parks like Boston Common. This quiet region has beautiful coastal lighthouses, too, and is famous for its blueberries – a sweet treat for the end of your hike.
5. Asheville, North Carolina
Situated in the Appalachian Mountains, you’ll love the stunning vistas of this western North Carolina town. Though there’s plenty to see from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the area is best viewed from one of the many bike trails that crisscross the hillsides.
6. Door County, Wisconsin
There are very few place in the US that allow you the opportunity to take a fall foliage tour and visit the beach within a few hours – but you’ll find it here! Peninsula State Park will allow you to relax on the shores of Lake Michigan after a long hike through the falling leaves.
7. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
If you want the feel of rural America while enjoying the bright color palette of the Smoky Mountains, this is the place for you. With more than 600 miles of trails awaiting you, there are plenty of places you can explore – and friendly folks to welcome you when you get back.
8. Lost Maples Natural Area, Texas
Fill a picnic basket and wander along the trails of this south-central Texas beauty. Characterized by the rare Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, you will be surrounded by shades of yellow and auburn as you stroll along. Take some time to go fishing or see if you can catch a glimpse of the uncommon Green Kingfisher flitting between the trees.
9. Litchfield Hills, Connecticut
Want something quaint and somewhat out of the way? Book a room at one of the inns that dot the countryside here in the Berkshire Mountains and walk one of the many trails – especially if you’re close to Bantam Lake. For an extra thrill, schedule a hot-air balloon ride to see the landscape spread out beneath you like a colorful autumn rug.
10. Stowe, Vermont
Billing itself as “Fall’s Color Capital,” you’ll want to take the Mount Mansfield Auto Toll Road through this lush collection of crimson and gold leaves. And, if you’re in the mood, you can swing over to Burlington, the state capital and another popular leaf-peeping spot on Lake Champlain.
When Labor Day rolls around, everyone knows that Fall is near. With the kids back in school and the adults behind their desks until Thanksgiving, making sure you have one last getaway is crucial. If you’re like most people, you’re on a tight budget and have limited time, so your trip has to be inexpensive and convenient. With that in mind, here are some of the best Summer attractions for families before Autumn arrives on September 23:
Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Acting as a Hall-of-Fame-like collection for the instruments humans have created across cultures and throughout history, this vibrant and expansive space holds dozens of pieces from all over the world. Music plays over wireless hotspots, giving guests a taste of the sounds produced by what their eyes behold. And, if that’s not enough, get tickets for one of the music festivals – everyone from local hip-hop artists to luminaries like jazz legend Ahmad Jamal perform in the theater.
Pirate and Treasure Museum, St. Augustine, Florida
There’s only one spot in the entire world to see a real treasure chest – without becoming a pirate yourself, that is! Housing a collection of antique artifacts, like the aforementioned trunk Captain Thomas Tew carried his valuables in, and modern collectibles connected with the nautical marauders, this is a whimsical journey everyone will enjoy.
Citygarden, St. Louis, Missouri
After a visit to the top of the Gateway Arch, enjoy some playtime at this creative playground in downtown St. Louis. Disguised as a sculpture garden, it features two dozen works of art fit for climbing on and sliding down.
Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, California
Though world-renowned for its displays, the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum has outdone itself with the addition of a new Dinosaur Hall. Exhibits are spread across two floors surrounding an open atrium filled with 17 skeletons that is dominated by two Tyrannosaurus rex specimens, allowing visitors the feel of being the vicious meat-eater’s next meal.
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte, North Carolina
Filled with artifacts and exhibits spanning several decades of America’s fastest-growing sporting passion, you’ll find plenty to do and see here. The hall features 15 simulators to give you the feel of hitting the banked corners of your favorite raceway at close to 200 miles per hour.
Lincoln Center, New York
Families with an interest in the arts will love a tour of the United States’ unofficial center for music and dance. In addition to slipping behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Opera House or Alice Tully Hall, you can spread out for a picnic on the expansive new Illumination Lawn atop the restaurant – it’s like a city park three stories above the street!
Americans are famous for taking the cuisine of other cultures and transforming it into a diverse creation influenced by the culinary styles from many countries. No matter what foods immigrants bring with them, other influences have an effect over time – like the pizza, a product of Naples, Italy. After coming really to prominence in the United States in the wake of World War II, it seems the only limits to ingredient combinations are within the imagination of the person making the “tomato pie.”
Everywhere you go, you’ll find all sorts of interpretations, but – regardless of whether you prefer the thick, Chicago-style or thin, New York-style crust – make time to visit these shops next time you stop in (or near) their home cities:
Metro Pizza, Las Vegas
Founded by a pair of brothers from New York, you’ll find a wide selection of traditional and fresh combinations available. The Stockyard, a stuffed pizza overflowing with pepperoni, sausage and ground beef, is a favorite but there dozens of mouth-watering options.
Co., New York
The hometown of American pizza, it continues to be a center of innovation for the simple dinner. Stop in at this slightly-upscale spot in the Chelsea area for a pie with an interesting twist. The Ham and Cheese is a classic, but adventurous customers might turn towards the Shiitake – a mushroom, onion and walnut extravaganza.
One of the best spots to grab the Windy City’s classic deep-dish crust, the recipe is a tightly-guarded family secret. The pepperoni pizza is beloved by patrons, but coming in a close second is the flavorful Rudy’s Special – a concoction layered thick with cheese and overflowing with sausage, mushrooms, onion and green pepper.
Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
If you’re looking for fashionable place to get a great pizza, this may be just the restaurant for you. Led by famous chef Mario Batali, the ingredients are farmed or caught locally as much as possible. The menu is different than you might expect at a corner diner, but the white anchovy, tomato and Fresno chile pie is a surprisingly delicious offering.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, CT
Founded in 1925, this Connecticut staple is still in the family more than eight decades after it first opened as The Spot. Using coal-fired ovens, this thin-crust offering remains as true as possible to those in Frank’s hometown on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Though the Original Tomato Pie is still on the menu, get your hands on a slice of the white spinach, mushroom and gorgonzola for a real treat.
Something about the flow of water gives any room or destination an extra soothing quality, which is why there’s little surprise people flock to areas where ocean waves lap against the shore or mighty rivers spill over cliffs to create stunning waterfalls. The graceful power of the world’s waterways has carved amazing sights all over the world and, with the beaches almost always being too crowded, there are ample opportunities for you to enjoy them on a leisurely cruise. When planning your next getaway, think about sneaking off to one of the world’s most beautiful rivers.
1. Rio Caño Cristales, Colombia
Legend has it this natural wonder hidden away in central Colombia is “the river that ran away from paradise.” Fueled by summer sunshine, algae bloom in the slow-moving waters, creating a bright red glow offset by the green and yellow moss peeking through the clear waters above. Part of a larger national park where the Amazon and Orinoco regions mingle, the horse- or donkey-back ride through the jungle to this gem is well worth it.
2. Zambezi River, Zambia and Mozambique
Covering nearly 1,700 miles in southeastern Africa, there is plenty to see along the flow of this river that separates Zambia from Mozambique. You can admire the diverse wildlife coming in from the surrounding plains to drink or, if you feel like embracing danger, swim in Devil’s Pool near of Victoria Falls. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, you can get very close to the edge of the 354-foot cascade – if you dare.
3. Danube River, Central Europe
Want to see a lot of territory on one voyage? A voyage along this wide European waterway winds along or through ten countries – almost a quarter of the continent’s total number! Beginning in Germany’s Black Forest and gently drifting to the Black Sea in Romania, it is impossible to avoid a feeling of history. Dotted with mountaintop castles, medieval towns and major cities, you’ll experience the growth of culture over more than a thousand years as you float along.
4. Rio Futaleufú, Chile and Argentina
If you’re in the mood for a bit of adventure, then you’ll want to paddle through the rapids of this river on the border of Chile and Argentina. Glacial runoff from the Andes Mountains produces bright blue waters that sweep through rocky canyons, churning and bubbling for large stretches ideal for whitewater rafts and kayaks. In more tranquil areas further downstream, you’ll find evergreen forests and freshwater fishing that are hard to beat.