Tag Archives: hawaii

Whale Watching and Cocktails on Maui’s Teralani Sunset Cruise

12 May
Getting ready to set sail.

Getting ready to set sail.

When I signed up for the Teralani Sunset Maui Cocktail Sail on my trip to Maui, I was mostly after drinks, snacks, and some nice photographs of the sun sinking behind the volcanic islands. I hadn’t expected the National Geographic-style whale adventure my evening would become.

As the West Maui mountains gradually receded, crew member Liz gave us the run down on the ship’s parts: the all-important bathrooms, bar, and general guidelines for boat safety on the Teralani Sunset Cruise. Then she said we’d also be searching for whales.

Off to go searching for whales.

Off to go searching for whales.

I didn’t get my hopes up however. I knew I’d arrived for my trip to Maui at the tail end of the whale season, when most migrating humpbacks have already started their journey back to Alaskan waters. I specifically skipped an all-out whale-watching tour, thinking it would be a bust. But barely into my first drink, Teralani’s whale expert Mark announced the presence of humpbacks near a boat a few hundred yards away.

Whales emerging near the boat.

Whales emerging near the boat.

In the distance, occasional puffs of water, forceful jets of exhalation, sprung from the sea. The deck was instantly crowded with teetering tour goers hoping to catch a glimpse of the action, camera in one hand, drink in the other.

We approached slowly before Captain Pam idled the ship’s engines to stop our forward progress. Mark stood on the deck behind us, telling us that legal restrictions meant we could not approach within 100 yards of the whales. As we bobbed up and down in the water watching the puffs and the occasional dorsal fin, he narrated lots of whale facts, telling us that the whales we were seeing were a female and calf pair, about to make the trip to Alaska. The females come to Hawaii to give birth, fattening their calves up on rich milk and strengthening them for the long trip north through lots of playing.

As Mark described it, the intensely caloric feedings are “like giving a five-year-old a Red Bull.” The calf is so energized they hurl themselves to and fro.

Whales jumping out of the water!

Whales jumping out of the water!

And that’s when I mostly stopped listening, because the whales began leaping and somersaulting, twirling in mid-air before dramatically smacking a dorsal fin on the water’s surface. For a split second, the entire female whale would be visible, the bumpy blue-black skin in sharp relief against the evening sky, trails of water flung from her body. Then calf would follow, imitating its mother in perfect sequence, as if they were performing a well-rehearsed dance routine.

The next two hours were a blur of whale jumping. At one point, the curious whales swam towards our boat, their bodies distorted by the cerulean water. One even exhaled right onto the crowd of people clinging to the front of the boat. We had a few brief breaks in between sightings to grab a drink or an appetizer, but for the most part it was constant whale action. I’m not sure I even noticed the sunset.

Whale Watching and Cocktails on Maui’s Teralani Sunset Cruise

Oahu Submarine Scooter Adventure

30 Apr
A couple enjoying the Scooter Adventure.

A couple enjoying the Scooter Adventure.

If you’ve ever wanted to swim with the fishes but felt nervous about your skill level and knowledge of the underwater world, the Oahu submarine scooter adventure is a great way to explore under the sea without any dive experience. I got the chance to go on a two hour adventure out in the beautiful Maunalua Bay, just off of Hawaii Kai, motoring around on an underwater submarine scooter in 30 feet of clear blue water.

Captain Joey giving instructions

Captain Joey giving instructions

The tour started off as we boarded a large 40ft two-story vessel, and headed out to sea. Captain Joey manned the boat, while safety divers and crew, Mike and Kellen provided details of what to expect from the experience, as well as sharing Hawaiian folklore about historical sights. I took in the 360 degree view, with the distinct and iconic outline of Diamond Head Crater to my right, Koko Head Crater standing out proudly back on land, and whales spouting in the distance.

The crew getting the gear ready

The crew getting the gear ready

After we arrived at our dive site, Captain Joey brief us on how to operate the scooters, explaining that the scooters used the same theory as turning a glass upside down in a bucket of water, where air would remain in the space between. All we had to do was simply duck under the sub and emerge in the protected bubble, sit ourselves comfortably on the seat, press the air-controlled motor to move forward, and steer much the way we would a bike.

Safety divers

Safety divers taking photos

Three safety divers were in the water with us the entire time to make sure we were okay, and to point out wildlife and take photos for purchase after the tour. There were 14 people and five scooters in our tour group, so while some of us were underwater, the others could make use of complimentary snorkel gear or lounge on the boat and soak up the sun.

Sea Turtle swimming nearby.

Sea Turtle swimming nearby.

Entering the water on my scooter was a surreal experience. The fish swam toward me and I felt like I was in a giant aquarium, with colorful fish and sea turtles at arm’s reach. Kellen took photos and showed me various sea life, communicating with me through underwater motions. Turtles slowly glided by as I motored around and checked out the coral and sea urchins on the ocean’s floor and watched colorful fish swim under the waves.

Oahu Submarine Scooter Adventure

10 Best Cities to See From Above

29 Apr

For the ultimate bird’s eye view of your destination there’s no more thrilling way to get your bearings than zooming over the landscape in a helicopter. Whether hovering over a kaleidoscope of corals at the Great Barrier Reef or soaring around the Statue of Liberty in New York, here are 10 of the best places in the world to see from above.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon View

Grand Canyon View

The world wonder of the Grand Canyon is so immense you’ll have to take to the skies to get a feel for its true magnitude – an incredible 446 km long and up to 29 km wide. Helicopter flights have become a hugely popular way of viewing the canyon, with various flight paths taking in Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Kaibab National Forest and the Grand Canyon National Park. Best of all, you can fly through the canyon itself, plummeting 1,500 feet beneath the rim for a spectacular journey through the Dragon Corridor, the canyon’s widest and deepest section where the vast expanses of colored rock showcase millions of years of geology.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Don’t blow all your cash on the slot machines because there’s an even better way to take in the dazzling lights of Las Vegas – by helicopter. Fly over the famous Strip at night for the most atmospheric views over downtown Vegas, the Stratosphere Tower and the Luxor Pyramid. Keep your eyes peeled for overhead views of New York New York, Bellagio, Paris, the Venetian, Caesars Palace and Treasure Island, as well as getting the chance to peek into the famous resort pools and hotels. Prefer a daytime flight? Combine it with a flight over the nearby Red Rock Canyon where you’ll get views of the Nellis Air Force Base, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Mt Charleston.

Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

Swap the urban sprawl for an up-close encounter with Hawaii’s stunning natural scenery with a helicopter flight over the most tropical state in the US. Fly over dense rainforest, crashing waterfalls – including the epic ‘Wall of Tears’ – and volcanic peaks for a breathtaking airborne adventure. Best of all, you can look down on one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea, which is often oozing lava from its gaping crater.

New York

New York City Skyline

New York City Skyline

Few city skylines are as iconic as New York’s but the only way to cram all the city sights into one tour is by soaring overhead. Helicopter flights over New York head up the Hudson River, taking in the Financial District, the Yankee Stadium, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and Central Park, as well as offering unbeatable aerial views over Manhattan, New York Harbor and Staten Island. The main highlight though, is the chance to circle the inimitable Statue of Liberty – the city’s most legendary landmark.

San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

If you can’t make it to New York, flying over the San Francisco skyline comes a close second, with its exhilarating mix of towering bridges, rolling hills and urban beaches. Flights swoop over the notorious Alcatraz Island, the magnificent 1.7-mile long Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque San Francisco Bay and the historic Ferry Building, but for the most atmospheric views, take to the skies at night when the city will be aglow with neon.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Often deemed the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ Australia’s underwater marvel is one of the country’s biggest attractions. Divers and snorkelers flock to the northern shores to experience the colorful coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef, but to really grasp its size, take a helicopter ride over the ocean. Flights not only offer a bird’s eye view of the reef – an otherworldly mass of corals – but take in the World Heritage Rainforest of the Daintree National Park, the surrounding white sand cays and the nearby city of Cairns.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

There are few better ways to mark your arrival in Los Angeles than looping around the iconic Hollywood sign in your own personal VIP helicopter. Couple it with a glamorous aerial tour of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan beaches, then soar over the celebrity studded haunts of Beverly Hills and Bel Air’s luxury mansions. Your guide can even point out the most iconic LA sights from above – the Hollywood Bowl, Sunset Strip, Downtown LA and Universal Studios.

French Riviera

Villefranche Bay, French Riviera

Villefranche Bay, French Riviera

Join the European jetset for a James Bond esque retreat to the star-studded French Riviera, where you can enjoy a taste of the highlife with a helicopter tour over the famous Mediterranean coastline. Floating overhead, the shimmering ocean, luxury yachts and endless beaches provide the perfect backdrop, but the real highlights are the panoramic views of sights like the Prince’s Palace, the Rock of Monaco, the Monte Carlo Casino and the Monaco Grand Prix race track.

New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

The self-proclaimed adventure capital of the world offers plenty of ways to take flight, but if you’d rather not jump out of a plane or turn yourself into a human yo-yo, get a view while safely strapped into a helicopter seat instead. Choose from a jaw-dropping flight over the glistening Franz Josef or Fox Glacier on the South Island’s West coast; a close up view of the iconic Sky Tower and volcanic Rangitoto Island in Auckland; a bird’s eye view of the famous Craters of the Moon and the mighty Huka Falls at Lake Taupo; or hovering over bubbling mud pools in Rotorua.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Taking the pilgrimage to the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue at the summit of Corcovado Mountain is a right of passage for visitors to Rio de Janeiro, but for an even better view of the holy man, take a helicopter flight over the mountaintop instead.  That’s not all; you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the legendary Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Rodrigo de Freitas Lake and the Maracana Stadium. Make sure to toast your safe return with a Caipirinha – Brazil’s national cocktail.

10 Best Cities to See From Above

The World’s Strangest Beaches

29 Apr

While white sand beaches with azure waters and billowing palms are nice, they’re far from unusual. For those looking for a truly unique coastal experience, the following beaches provide just that. Barking sand, star-shaped fossils and natural underground hot springs are just a few of the strange experiences you can have on the following strangest beaches.

Hoshizuna Beach, Okinawa, Japan

Hoshizuna Beach is one of the unique beaches in the world where you can find star-shaped sand (the other two are on Taketomi Island in Okinawa, Kaijihama Beach and Aiyaruhama Beach). The tiny stars are actually fossils from thousands of tiny crustaceans. That being said, locals have a mythical story to go along with why the beaches contain star-shaped sand. Legend has it that there once was a star mother and father who had a star baby. While they consulted God of Sky about the birth they left God of Ocean out of the decision making, who became infuriated and killed the baby star with a big snake. The snake’s feces became the fossils we see today on the beach. Additionally, God of Sky put the baby star into the heavens as a fossil, which is why you see stars in the sky today.

Gulpiyuri Beach, Llanes, Spain

Gulpiyuri Beach; World's Strangest Beaches

Gulpiyuri Beach, Llanes, Spain. Photo courtesy of guillenperez via Flickr.

While there’s nothing unusual about a beach with golden sand, crystal waters and waves, it is when its location is in the middle of a meadow. The 131-foot (40-meter) shoreline of Gulpiyuri Beach offers a whole new type of beach serenity, as you can cool off in the translucent salt waters while taking in both beach and rolling countryside hills.

Loango National Park, Gabon, Africa

For those who want a mixture of pristine beach and wildlife spotting, Loango National Park is the place for you. The park extends all the way to the white sanded coast, where you can watch hippos, gorillas, buffalos, leopards, elephants and wild pigs take a dip in the water — and sometimes even surfing. It’s definitely not your usual day of building sand castles and playing beach volleyball.

Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska

Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska. World's Strangest Beaches

Petroglyph Beach, Wrangell, Alaska. Photo courtesy of brewbooks via Flickr.

Petroglyph Beach will take you back in time. Nobody is quite sure how the 40 rock carvings got there, but they make the beach quite unusual as you take in the boulders etched with faces, birds and fish, thought to be carved over 8,000 years ago. For a mix of mystery, history and culture, Petroglyph Beach is a must.

Barking Sands Beach, Kaua’i, Hawaii

Just as the name says, the sand on Barking Sands Beach makes a barking noise when rubbed. This means that as you walk over its 17 miles (27 kilometers) of coastline it will sound like a rambunctious dog. What makes this strange beach even more unusual is it’s also home to a rocket-launch site and missile-defense testing center.

Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas. World's Strangest Beaches

Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas. Photo courtesy of dany13 via Flickr.

While white- and golden-sand beaches are commonplace, when is the last time you laid out on a beach of striking pink sand? Pink Sands Beach is over three miles (5 kilometers) long and 50 to 100 feet (80 to 161 kilometers) wide. The cause of its unusual hue is Foraminifera, a coral organism that leaves behind its pink shell when it dies.

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand. World's Strangest Beaches

Hot Water Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand. Photo courtesy of eliduke via Flickr.

Due to intense geothermal activity on the Coromandel Peninsula, visitors to Hot Water Beach can dig holes into the sand to create natural hot spring pools. The water gets as hot as 147°F (64°C), and makes for a relaxing and unique beach experience.

Schooner Gulch, Mendocino Coast, California

Also known as “Bowling Ball Beach,” visitors to Schooner Gulch can witness thousands of boulders of equal shape, size and spacing sit lined up like soldiers defying the tides. What’s truly amazing about this rare phenomenon is it is completely natural, with no human interference. The geological explanation is that these concretions are created from resilient minerals and materials that have been able to withstand damage from the Pacific Ocean.

Giant’s Causeway, Near Bushmills, Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway, Near Bushmills, Northern Ireland. World's Strangest Beaches

Giant’s Causeway, Near Bushmills, Northern Ireland

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is home to 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, created by volcanic eruptions. These natural formations feature precise hexagonal shapes laid out like honeycomb clusters that disappear into the sea.

The landscape is so dramatic in appearance it has inspired local legends of giants walking over the water to Scotland, hence the word “causeway.”

Chandipur Beach, Chandipur, India

At high tide Chandipur Beach may appear like any other; however, at low tide the water recedes about three miles (five kilometers) from the shore, exposing the seabed to beach-goers. Visitors can see unusual seashells, driftwood, crabs and  other organisms  usually not exposed on the beach, giving them the feeling they’re walking into the sea.

Genipabu Beach, Natal, Brazil

Genipabu beach. Natal, Brazil. World's Strangest Beaches

Genipabu beach. Natal, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Leandro’s World Tour via Flickr.

Genipabu Beach offers much more than just swimming, as the landscape is a mix of beach and desert. Enormous sand dunes allow for sand boarding and camel riding, while the Atlantic Ocean provides opportunities for water sports. Basically, this unusual beach offers two completely unique experiences in one.

Perissa, Santorini, Greece

Perissa Beach, Santorini, Greece. World's Strangest Beaches

Perissa Beach, Santorini, Greece.

While we’ve all seen white and gold sand — and sometimes even strange beaches glowing with hues of pinks, oranges and reds — Perissa Beach in Greece is the complete opposite. The endless beach’s pitch black sand creates a strikingly eery yet beautiful landscape. These dark volcanic granules are extremely soft and fine, as well. From the beach you can also walk to the ancient city of Thira, thought to have once been a Spartan colony, by hiking up the Perissa’s backdrop mountain of Mesa Vouno. Warning: Because of the sand’s dark color it tends to get extremely hot, so bring your flip flops.

The World’s Strangest Beaches

The Best Honeymoon Escapes in the US

29 Apr

Ahh, the honeymoon…. This splendid tradition has origins in the old days when bridal tours were the way young couples got to know each other, both physically and on an experiential level. Though initially not terribly popular – many frowned upon honeymoons as a spendthrift extravagance and a dangerous subjection of what doctors then called woman’s “frail health” – it didn’t take long for the honeymoon to become forever entrenched in our collective longing. During the late 1800s the honeymoon tradition caught fire and the flames of passion have since been continually stoked.

Today, most everyone jumps at the chance to run away with their love, and many see it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore some far-flung corner of the world they’ve only dreamed about. They long for sleepy bungalows, abandoned beaches, rest and relaxation with a loved one, and who knows – maybe even the odd adventure or two. But making your honeymoon a great experience doesn’t mean you have to break out the passport. The United States of America has some wide borders – a continent’s width or more – and there are plenty of great honeymoon escapes in the US. If you’re looking to get out and explore the wild unknown with the love of your life, here are some great options.

Kauai and Maui Island Hop

Beach in Maui

Wakikki Beach in Maui

Hawaii has long been atop the list of best honeymoon escapes the world over. The easy-breezy lifestyle, glistening rainforests, rugged coastlines, and, of course, spectacular beaches mean that Hawaii has got it all. Ingratiate yourself in ultra-luxury or camp in sleepy bungalows or enjoy a Bed and Breakfasts in-between – whatever kind of island escape you’re looking for, you can find it in these magical islands.

Don’t like being stuck indoors? Not a problem – Kauai is the eco-lover’s paradise. Huge banyan trees and king palms lead the way down to the Wailuku and Wailua rivers where you can find lovers kayaking through the jungle’s birds of paradise. The flat roads and small hills make a sun-drenched bike for the local Hawaiian Shave Ice all the more enjoyable, and hiking the Na Pali coastline is both free and spectacular. If you want to make it an adventure, you can backpack through the Na Pali coastline, and see where they buried the bravest of the Hawaiian kings.

Maui, on the other hand, is often considered a mix of modern amenities and rugged nature. On Maui you can explore the wandering mountainside and bamboo forests of the Hana Highway, while returning to home base in, say, to go paddle-boarding and bar hopping in Lahaina at your leisure. Maui is all the aspects of Kauai with a distinctly Maui twist. And from Maui, it’s easy to hop over to the even-even-more-untouched island of Lana’i.

Stay: While in Maui, stay in the Ho’oilo House outside of fun and festive Lahaina, and wake up with rainbow mountains at your back. This wooden bungalow has personality, privacy, and an outdoor shower – a great to start the day before going to paddleboard or snorkel the cove.

Eat: Dinner is at Aloha Mixed Plate with traditional Hawaiian fare and feet-in-the-grass coastal views, and then on to Fleetwood’s for some rooftop live music. For a truly unique and romantic experience, eat and watch the Old Lahaina Luau right on Front Street. Tiki torches blaze against the open Pacific sky and you and your loved one will feast on traditional Hawaiian fare while watching one of the highest-rated luaus in all of Hawaii.

Do: Dawn at the Haleakala Crater is worth the trip alone, and probably one of the most romantic places on earth to propose (but I suppose that portion of the trip is behind you). Bike from the top of the crater down through Eucalyptus groves and take a road-trip out to Hana where you can ride horsebacks and explore old pineapple plantations and ancient horse ranches. Be sure to sample some of the Kona-grown coffee, as well as some delicious pineapple and the famous 7D dried Mangoes.

Napa, Wine Country and Spa

Napa and Sonoma

Napa Vineyard

Napa and Sonoma honeymoon escapes are not just for the wine and food lover, though the name might ring synonymous. There are so many romantic things to do in Napa and Sonoma. You’ll find quaint country charm, a small but lively nightlife, some great spa packages and, of course, the world class wine and food you’ve come to expect. But beyond just tasting wine, there’s plenty more ways for a culinary enthusiast experience the area. You can check out cooking classes, ride horses through the vineyards, take a hot air balloon to see the valley from above, and even custom-blend your own wine.

Stay at the Vintner’s Inn, an intimate, four-diamond luxury inn located on the hills of Sonoma. With a view of the 92-acre plantation from your window, as well as some excellent eats from the signature restaurant (John Ash & Co) in-house, a relaxing spa, and some of the area’s best Pinot Noirs on hand, this is an excellent wine and foodie escape for honeymooners. In Napa Valley, St. Helena’s Wine Country Inn is a bed and breakfast with large private cottages and plenty of spaces to relax (including a picture-perfect porch swing overlooking the vineyards); Younvtille’s luxe and modern Hotel Yountville offers free bikes to explore the town’s tasting rooms and gourmet restaurants, like the famed French Laundry.

Do: From here, consider spending a day on a biking tour of the area’s vineyards, or heading to Oxbow Market in Napa where you’ll see Napa living at its finest. Wine bars, beer stalls, oyster shucking, arts, crafts, and sustainable yields – all in this one market that’s a social meeting place as much as a market. Open from 9am -7pm daily, bring your wine to the oyster bar, grab a cupcake, and rub elbows with locals – Oxbow market is a great way get a bit of the local feel while indulging in your inner tourist. Afterward, catch some live music further down the road in the western-styled Opera House (built in 1880), or go kayaking in one of the nearby watersheds.

Eat at Tra Vigne. Cozy and candlelit, this beautiful Napa escape is a staple for its Italian cuisine redolent of Tuscany. Either dinner or Sunday brunch are great options, and be sure to take a peek at their wine selections – enough here to do Napa proud. Farmstead in St. Helena is the place to go for farm-to-table food with an upscale twist, and when you tired of all the wine, check out the creative cocktails at Goose and Gander.

Experience Southern Charm in Charleston

There’s no denying the charms of Charleston. A warm, hospitable people, a slower pace of life, and that easy way people seem to approach the notion of having a good time – the southern US sometimes feels like it’s a different country entirely. If you decide to take your honeymoon in the South, both New Orleans and Charleston should be on your radar. You’ll find love in every hundred-year-old oak tree, plantation house, sprawling lawn, and marshy waterway you come across. Shrouded in both history and mystique, the culture and sights and smells you’ll find here truly are in a class of their own.
South Carolina’s Charleston takes the cake as a historic town with a lively young feel. Long the bastion of powerful plantations, winding waterways, and beautiful boardwalks, today’s Charleston is undergoing a foodie-craze, and a bit of a cultural renaissance.

Stay: at Kiawah Island. Noted by both National Geographic and Frommer’s as one of the best honeymoon destinations around, this little island is a sanctuary far from the reaching hands of developers yet located only 30 minutes outside of downtown Charleston. Here you and your loved one will discover all that makes the Carolinas grand. You can walk secluded beaches, take sandy bike paths through forests that lead to marshy lagoons, and wile away the evenings watching the sunset from your wooden-planked porch waiting for fireflies to appear.

Do: See the Old City Market in historic Charleston. The neighborhood here is steeped in history, yet new in appearance and feel. Check out the local basket-weavers, eat some delicious local food, and stroll the downtown area looking for a place to grab some signature sweet tea and soak up some of the area’s fine atmosphere.

Eat at Slightly North of Broad. This eclectic bistro is rapidly gaining popularity for its locally sourced food, fun energy, and healthy alternative to the traditional Julia Child method of southern cooking traditional to the area. Drink some sweet tea – it’s a southern favorite.

Or New Orleans

New Orleans food

New Orleans Cajun Jambalaya

New Orleans is probably best known for its Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest celebrations, but the true meat of the city lies in its culture – which wafts from every corner Po-Boy deli and blues-filled bar. Honeymooners that escape to New Orleans find themselves in a long-parade of French Quarter mansions, Creole-cuisine themed restaurants, and soft, moonlit cicada serenades.

Stay: At the Hotel St. Helene, just next door to the iconic Napolean House (great for romantic cocktails and the ever-popular muffaletta). This historic and newly renovated luxury hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and known for its gorgeous courtyard, the ferns that sprout out of the rustic patina on the walls, and for being right in the middle of everything worth seeing in the French Quarter.

Do: Stroll Woldenberg Park at sunrise or sunset and listen to the saxophone wail alongside the wide Mississippi, or ride a gondola in City Park. Be sure to catch a plantation tour or two, or take an always fascinating exploration into the bayou on a fan-boat tour.

Eat to your heart’s content at one of New Orleans excellent restaurants. Café Degas is iconic New Orleans with hearty French Cuisine and a lovely lighted patio, while the Columns Hotel is as an Uptown mainstay.

Partying in the Florida Keys

Key West

Sunset in Key West.

Key West in widely known as a party destination, but its white sand beaches, pastel sunsets, and the warm waters of the Gulf make also make it an ideal honeymoon destination for those who prefer a more lively scene. With great views of the Caribbean to your south, an Afro-Caribbean take on seafood, and an active music scene, everything in Key West seems brighter, more upbeat.
Key West itself is a great honeymoon escape because it’s close to so much. Whether it’s underwater diving, relaxing on the beach, or seeing the various communities that comprise the Keys, Key West is your jumping off point.

Stay at the Southernmost House historic inn. A Key West icon, staying here is like journeying back in time. Carved wooden beds, brightly colored walls, and a sleepy Bed and Breakfast feel make the Southernmost House Historic Inn a place for lovers. In the morning you can sip your coffee while watching the sun rise over the rippling Gulf, take a dip in the zero-entry pool, or walk down to Duval Street, where the avenue awaits your window shopping desires.

Do: see Hemmingway’s House, dive with the sea turtles on a shipwreck dive, or watch the sunset in Mallory Square, the center of Key West’s historic district. Grab a glass of wine at one of Duval Street’s many restaurants, then walk the quiet beach at Fort Zachary Taylor to watch the moon rise in its large southern glory.

Eat at Louie’s Backyard – this Caribbean-American restaurant has one of the best views of any restaurant anywhere. For sunset and a glass of wine? Heavenly. With some signature Key-Lime Pie for dessert? Other-worldly.

Getting active in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park lake

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy of Andrew Kalat via Flickr.

This honeymoon escape destination is for those who love the outdoors and the great big expanse of North American sky. If your idea of a honeymoon retreat involves plenty of mountain air, horseback riding through forests, river trips, fly-fishing, or just hiking the great outdoors, Glacier National Park should be just the ticket.
Glacier National Park is more than the usual National Park, though. Taste a whiskey distillery tour, explore old logging towns, Stand-up Paddleboard, kayak, or just float down a lazy river – Glacier National Park has the all-star lineup you’re looking for.

Stay: You have some options on where to stay when you visit Glacier National Park. A great base of operations would be Glacier Park Lodge. Located in East Glacier Park, the glacier lake setting, available golfing, swimming, horseback riding and day spa are great for those who love to mix a little relaxation with their rugged outdoors.
For those that appreciate more seclusion and privacy will likely fall in love with the Swiss-styled Great Northern Chalets. Located just 1 mile from West Glacier, these garden lined chalets boast stunning views, seclusion, and a prime location for all outdoor activities stemming from Glacier National Park.

Do: Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road – this roadway and engineering marvel spans 50 miles of the parks interior and is best driven in the morning, with a camera planted firmly in the backseat. Take a private boatride on one of the park’s many lakes, or consider a guided horseback trail ride to learn about the areas abundant flora and fauna.

Eat: at the Belton Chalet. Located in West Glacier, Montana, this is the intimate fine dining experience you’ve been looking for. Dine among historic walls and candlelight with the wild outdoors just beyond the window.

Go over-the-top in Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Welcome sign to Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is not only the shotgun wedding capital of the world – it’s also one of the preeminent honeymoon escapes in the US. Everything is bigger, grander, and more audacious here, including the area’s wonderful abundance of romantic activities, outdoorsy fun, relaxing spas, and unbeatable amenities that make Las Vegas a honeymoon escape destination of choice.

Stay at the Bellagio. This is top of the line when it comes to honeymoon suites, and definitely comes with the price tag to match. If you can stomach it, the Bellagio’s comfortable elegance can’t be matched. Floor-to-ceiling marble, the finest linens, king-sized beds, and fireplace suites overlooking the world-famous fountain show in the hotel’s entrance make the Bellagio the hot-spot for honeymooners.

Do get a couple’s massage at one of the many fine spas in the area. For the ultimate in luxury, head over to the Dragon Couples’ Suite at the Mandarin Oriental. Private steam showers, adjacent treatment tables, a view of the strip, personal soak tubs, and private vanities make this the best couple’s spa treatment in Vegas.

Eat at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas. Without a doubt the best view at dinnertime, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas positions you directly across the fountain show at the Bellagio. With a fine wine list, excellent French cuisine, and superb service, all you need is your spouse, and your honeymoon retreat is complete.


The Best Honeymoon Escapes in the US

Visiting the Hawaiian Island of Moloka’i

28 Apr
Molokai. Photo courtesy of  BrentDPayne via Flickr.

Molokai. Photo courtesy of BrentDPayne via Flickr.

It’s Sunday afternoon as we wander the quiet streets of Kaunakakai, the only real town you’ll see when visiting the Hawaiian Island of  Moloka’i. Like Sleeping Beauty, this quiet community – which could double as the set for an old-time western – seems to be under a spell. Most of the shops and restaurants are closed, and few people are out and about.

We begin to feel a slight panic. What are we going to do on this languid island for three full days?

Several days later, my husband Alan and I regretfully boarded the nine-seat prop plane leaving Moloka’i, with a long list of things to do on our next visit. Although many businesses on this traditional church-going island with just over 8,000 residents do shut down on Sundays, we found more activities and adventures than we could possibly pack into a short getaway.

On Moloka’i, though, you have to look a little harder for things to do than you might in a more touristy destination. There are no big resorts with concierge staffs to plan your trip and few regularly scheduled activities. And while visitors are welcome, you need to adapt to the island’s leisurely pace. As a sign at the local airport suggests, “Slow down, you’re on Moloka’i.”

Here are our tips for planning your own Moloka’i escape:

Ride a Mule into Moloka’i’s Past

Moloka’i’s most-visited “attraction” stems from a dark chapter of Moloka’i’s history. From 1866 until 1969, Hawaiians who were suffering from Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) were forced into isolation on Moloka’i’s remote Kaluapapa peninsula, at the foot of a steep cliff that plunges nearly 2,000 feet into the sea. When the residents were allowed to leave and the area was preserved as the Kaluapapa National Historical Park, a small number of the former patients chose to stay and live out their lives in the community.

You can visit Kaluapapa only in one of two ways: by riding a mule down the three-mile trail from “topside” (as residents call the rest of Moloka’i) or by hiking down the same precipitous path. Either way, when you reach the village, you must join a guided tour. You can book through Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tours, outfitters Moloka’i Outdoors or Moloka’i Fish and Dive, or the Hotel Moloka’i.

Explore a Mill and a Phallic Rock

If you don’t want to make the trek down to Kaluapapa, you can learn more about the community’s history at the Moloka’i Museum, a small gallery on the site of a former sugar mill. Watch a video about the settlement and see photos and artifacts from the community and about Father Damien, the priest who lived and worked at the settlement for 16 years. You can also learn about the history of the island’s sugar industry and explore the restored R.W. Meyer Sugar Mill, which German immigrant Rudolph Meyer built in 1878. The museum is on Highway 470 in the center of the island.

Moloka'i's Phallic Rock. Photo courtesy of 4nitsirk via Flickr.

Moloka’i’s Phallic Rock. Photo courtesy of 4nitsirk via Flickr.

Continue north on Highway 470 past the museum to the Kaluapapa Lookout, where you can get a distant glimpse of the Kaluapapa settlement below. (From here, you can check out how steep the cliffs are before you sign up for your mule ride or hike.) And a short walk from the lookout point is one of Moloka’i’s most unusual attractions, Kauleonanahoa, also known as the Phallic Rock. As soon as you see this stone formation, which is said to have powers of fertility, you’ll understand its name.

Talk Story with Uncle Pilipo

The island’s east end is its wet side, and as you drive east along Highway 450, you enter a rain forest lush with leafy trees and drooping vines. Your destination at the farthest eastern point on Moloka’i is the Halawa Valley. There’s a small beach here, but the main reason to follow the serpentine road to its eastern terminus is to take part in an unusual cultural adventure.

Septuagenarian Pilipo Solatorio greets visitors in the hale (thatch-roofed shelter) outside his Halawa Valley home and talks about life in this rural taro-growing village, where he was born in 1939 and is now the oldest surviving resident. He told us about his boyhood in the village, the devastating tsunami that hit the island in 1946, and how he left home at age 16 to join the military and see a bigger patch of the world. He explained about taro farming and traditional Hawaiian greetings, and shared photos of his extended family.

Mo’oula Waterfall in the Halawa Valley via Alan Albert

Mo’oula Waterfall in the Halawa Valley via Alan Albert.

After talking story with Pilipo, either he or his son will lead you on a 90-minute hike across the family’s ancestral lands to the Mo’oula Waterfall, which cascades down a rain forest slope. Pack a picnic lunch to eat by the falls, where you can go for a swim. It’s an easy walk, except that you need to cross two chilly streams; bring water shoes or take off your hiking shoes to wade across.

Crack Some Nuts

If you’ve never tasted macadamia nuts fresh from the tree, make a beeline for Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm, where owner Tuddie Purdy will teach you about how the nuts grow and then let you crack and shell some samples. You can also taste some of their freshly roasted macadamias. You’ll want to buy more than one bag to take with you, since you’ll likely gobble up the first one before you get home. The farm is located on Lihi Pali Avenue, behind Moloka’i High School.

Listen to the Sounds of Moloka’i

Every Sunday afternoon, the musicians of Na Ohana Hoaloha give a wildly popular free concert on the lanai at the Coffees of Hawaii Plantation, in Kualapu’u, not far from the airport. They play traditional Hawaiian music, and regulars often strum along on their own ukeleles. The locally-grown coffee is delicious, too.

Check out the weekly music schedule at the Paddler’s Inn, a restaurant and bar in Kaunakakai where we were lucky enough to hear a performance by Lono, a notable Moloka’i musician who plays updated Hawaiian folk music. To accompany the tunes, Paddler’s serves excellent local fish, burgers, and cold beer.

Have an Art Adventure

In Kaunakakai, visit Moloka’i Art From The Heart, a cooperative gallery that shows and sells jewelry, ceramics, and other works by local artists. If you prefer to make your own, check the schedule at the Moloka‘i Arts Center, a small studio space tucked behind the Coffees of Hawaii Plantation, where art classes are open to both locals and visitors.

Where the Beaches Are

Papohaku Beach extends nearly three miles via Carolyn Heller

Papohaku Beach extends nearly three miles via Carolyn Heller

Most of Moloka’i’s best beaches are along the west shore. Papohaku Beach seems to go on for miles, and in fact, it does; at more than two-and-a-half-miles long, it’s not only the island’s longest stretch of sand, it’s among the longest beaches in Hawai’i. Just avoid Papohaku on a blustery day when the wind kicks up the sand.

If it’s too windy, continue south past Papohaku to the end of the road, where you can sun and swim on a more sheltered cove at Dixie Maru Beach.

Dixie Maru Beach via Carolyn Heller

Dixie Maru Beach via Carolyn Heller

On the island’s east end, the smaller Kumimi Beach (also known as Murphy Beach) is located at Mile Marker 20 on Highway 450.

Where to Stay

Moloka’i has only one hotel, the comfortable, laid-back Hotel Moloka’i, just east of Kaunakakai, with 54 rooms in two-story Polynesian-style units. Ask for a room on the second floor; the vaulted ceilings in many of these upper-floor rooms give them a more spacious feel. Room rates range from $169-269. The hotel also charges a $2.50 per day resort fee that includes a light Continental breakfast, Wi-Fi, local phone calls, and use of beach chairs and snorkel gear.

The other option on Moloka’i is to rent a condominium. See listings at Moloka’i Vacation Properties, Moloka’i Resorts, and Moloka’i Land and Homes. You can find lodging options at AirBNB as well.

Where to Eat

When visiting the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i, don’t come expecting elegant eateries or celebrity chefs. Instead, you’ll find traditional Hawaiian “plate lunches,” lots of burgers, and some Filipino influences. Most places to eat are in Kaunakakai.

Lechon from the Moloka'i Roast Pork House via Carolyn Heller

Lechon from the Moloka’i Roast Pork House via Carolyn Heller

We enjoyed the lechon (crispy roast pork) at the modest Moloka’i Roast Pork House (33B Ala Malama Avenue), which serves plate lunches and Filipino fare. We can also recommend the hearty and comforting pancit, rice noodles with vegetables.

For simple, well-prepared plate lunches like katsu chicken or kimchee burgers, served with the classic two scoops of rice or macaroni salad, stop into friendly Mrs. K’s, opposite the town library in Kaunakakai. If you find the standard Hawaiian portions too hearty, Mrs. K’s will make you a “mini” version of several of their dishes.

Vegetarians don’t have a lot of options on Moloka’i, so look for Outpost Natural Foods, a tiny grocery with a vegetarian lunch counter inside. They make smoothies, veggie sandwiches, and a daily hot dish. It’s on Makaena Place, behind the gas station.

Kanemitsu's Bakery. Photo courtesy of crispyteriyaki via Flickr.

Kanemitsu’s Bakery. Photo courtesy of crispyteriyaki via Flickr.

It’s a Moloka’i tradition to pick up a loaf of hot sweet bread available only after 8pm from Kanemitsu Bakery (79 Ala Malama Avenue). The bakery itself is closed in the evening; you buy your bread from a counter in a dark alley behind the shop. These puffy loaves are filled with your choice of cream cheese, butter, cinnamon sugar, or strawberry jam (or a combination), and they’re big, so bring a friend and share.

Getting To and Around Moloka’i

You can fly to Moloka’i from Maui or Oahu; it’s about 25 minutes by air from either island. When we flew from Maui, we had spectacular views of the cliffs on Moloka’i’s north shore (taking a helicopter tour over Moloka’i offers some fantastic views).

From Maui’s Lahaina Harbor, Moloka’i Ferry sails to Kaunakakai in 90 minutes, but it’s not necessarily cheaper than flying. Check the weather first, too, as the crossing can be choppy.

Moloka’i measures 38 miles long and 10 miles across. Although there is a taxi service, it’s difficult to get around without renting a car, which you should book in advance. Traffic is light, so bicycling is a possibility; the road along the south coast is relatively flat, but the rest of the island is quite hilly.

For more information about visiting Hawaii’s Moloka’i island, contact the Destination Moloka’i Visitors bureau. And plan to stay more than three days. As we found even on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, there’s plenty to see and do on Hawaii’s most Hawaiian island.

Visiting the Hawaiian Island of Moloka’i

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley

11 Mar

To be perfectly honest, I’m not much of a driver. Sure, I hold a driver’s license, but as a New Yorker, it merely serves as a means as identification. I don’t own (or operate) a vehicle and I take the subway to work. So when the van pulled up for my Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley, and I saw the rows of rugged-looking four wheelers lined up—I could hardly contain my excitement.

After a brief (yet thorough) tutorial, our guides let us hop on the ATVs, and I felt like Cinderella in her carriage … or maybe Danica Patrick in her Chevy. Either way, we went for a test run and soon were off!

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley

Since I’d never been on an ATV before (and was a bit nervous), I started out slowly, but had the hang of it after a few minutes. Soon after, I was flying through the Waipio Valley like a pro. The most amazing part? The scenery. Four wheeling has always conjured up images of tractor-trailers, stinky farm animals and flat lands, but it was here that I saw bigger-than-life trees, incredible black sand beaches and the tallest waterfall in all of Hawaii. Middle America, this is not.

The guides, a group of locals completely immersed in the Hawaiian culture (the types you want to hang out with and be their best friend), helped to make me feel totally comfortable as a newbie. Also, I loved the non-boring tidbits of info they’d weave in about Hawaiian culture, history and what locals do for fun (real Hawaii!) during the entire tour.

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley

With plenty of turns, rugged bumps and mud puddles, I took every opportunity to get as filthy as possible (seriously, who knew racing though mud could be so incredibly exhilarating?), and when it was time for the first break, I needed that refreshing swim in the base of a waterfall. I use the word refreshing because the water temperature registered somewhere between brisk and limb-numbing, but I was covered in mud and needed to wash off what they call my “Hawaiian freckles.” After our group swim, we had time to snap a few photos and a quick snack, but there was more thrilling four wheeling and a stop at Hiilawe Falls.

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley

“Hawaiian Freckles”

Big Island ATV Tour Through Waipio Valley, Hiilawe Falls

Hiilawe Falls

This was my first trip to the Big Island and I packed-in a lot activities that a city girl never gets to enjoy: snorkeling, surfing (okay, surf lessons), whale watching, hiking and loads of beach time. But this ATV tour was by far my favorite part of the trip. I was able to leave the “tourist” area of my resort, got incredibly messy and met some really cool locals. And though my drivers license probably wasn’t required—I busted out my racing skills all the same.

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Best TV & Film Tours Around the World

9 Mar

Taking a vacation can be all about escape – and the same can be said about losing ourselves in the movies and TV shows we love. It’s only natural, then, for film and TV buffs to combine the two when we travel by visiting famous filming locations around the world.

Sometimes you’ll find out that a story set in one place is actually filmed in another place entirely (or, worse yet, on a soundstage or studio with a green screen!) – but in some cases, the location is so important that it almost becomes a character in the story. Here are some of the best film and TV tours around the world that will let you get up close and personal with the destinations behind your favorite shows.

Downton Abbey

We’ve fallen in love with the beleaguered Crawley family over three seasons, but it’s hard to say whether we would be as enthralled if the spectacular Highclere Castle wasn’t the setting for the fictitious Downton Abbey. Highclere has been a family home for hundreds of years, and even today there’s a real-life Earl and his family living in the castle. This private tour of Downton Abbey film locations includes a private chauffeur and guide, and you’ll see both Highclere Castle and the Oxfordshire village of Bampton where other scenes from “Downton Abbey” are filmed.


Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit

Hobbiton tours

Visit Hobbiton! Photo credit: Bobbi Lee Hichton.

Peter Jackson brought the fantasy world of Middle Earth to beautiful reality in his home country of New Zealand. Although some of the fanciful elements were created in studios and computers, New Zealand’s stunning natural landscapes made it instantly obvious why Jackson was the right man to bring Tolkien’s visions to life. In many cases, the structures built for the films have been removed, but the set of Hobbiton still exists – and LOTR fans will recognize the backdrops for famous scenes from Edoras, Rivendell, Helm’s Deep, Minas Tirith, and Isengard. There are several options for Lord of the Rings and Hobbiton Tours in New Zealand, depending on which locations you want to check out.


Ice Road Truckers

It’s unlikely that anyone watching Ice Road Truckers would think that doing that job full-time would be better than watching the show from the comfort of a warm living room, but visitors to Anchorage can at least get an inside look at what the task is actually like with the Ice Road Trucker Big Rig Experience. During the 2-3 hour tour you’ll go on a guided tour of a real transportation yard at the port of Anchorage, peek inside a modern sleeper truck, and actually get ten minutes behind the wheel of a big rig simulator to find out what driving on the ice road is really like.

New York TV & Movie Sites

NYC film tour - Ghostbusters

Find the fire station used in Ghostbusters in New York

The Big Apple has served as the backdrop for more films and TV shows than you can probably count, but sometimes the scenery is particularly memorable or important to the story. Grab your gal pals for a Sex and the City Hotspots Tour of filming locations such as Charlotte’s art gallery, Miranda’s cupcake bakery, and a bar the ladies frequented. Take a day trip to New Jersey on The Sopranos Sites Tour during which you’ll see the Bada Bing bar, the place where Chris was shot, and the diner booth where Tony sat in the final scene of the series.

See how the other half lives with a Gossip Girl Sites Tour of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, with stops at the hotel where the Bass and Van der Woodsen families live, the swanky building Blair calls home, the Henri Bendel shop, and Humphrey’s favorite bakery. Head for an NBC Studio Tour to see where they film The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Dateline, and Saturday Night Live. You can also go on a New York TV and Movie Sites Tour to see more than 60 film locations for shows like FriendsWill and Grace, The Devil Wears Prada, I Am Legend, How I Met Your Mother, and Seinfeld or a Central Park Movie Sites Walking Tour to see filming locations for When Harry Met Sally, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters, and Love Story.

Harry Potter

Leadenhall Market, Harry Potter tours

Leadenhall Market, featured in Harry Potter films

Who among us hasn’t watched the Harry Potter films and wished we could be transported to that magical world? Well, even if you can’t conjure up any spells when you wave a magic wand, you can visit some of the places where the Harry Potter films were created. From the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour and Harry Potter walking tours in London to multi-day tours of Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland, you can satisfy aspiring witches and wizards of all ages with these Harry Potter tours.


Hawaii TV & Movie Sites

50 First Dates location, film tour on Oahu

50 First Dates film location

You’ll probably have plenty of reasons to do nothing more than lie on the beach during a Hawaii vacation, but visiting the many Hawaii locations featured in movies and TV shows actually means you’ll see some of the most beautiful spots on the islands. On Kauai, you can take a 6-hour Kauai Movie Sites Tour that includes 13 filming locations for shows like Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gilligan’s Island, The Amazing Race, and Tropic Thunder. You’ll also get lunch at Tahiti Nui, where part of The Descendants was filmed.

On Oahu, you can take a 5-hour Hummer tour of Oahu TV and Movie Locations, with stops at filming locations for Lost, Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Karate Kid II, Godzilla, and Hawaii Five-0. If you prefer a little more physical activity, you can take a mountain biking tour of Kaaawa Valley that gets you up close and personal with filming locations for Lost, Jurassic Park and Godzilla.

Pawn Stars

Rick's Restorations, Pawn Stars tour

Rick’s Restorations

Las Vegas sometimes feels like one big film set, but it’s the recent success of a reality show that’s drawing fans in droves to a real-life pawn shop in Sin City. Pawn Stars is filmed on location at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, and the guys you’ve come to love on the show – Rick Harrison, his family, and employees – are often in the shop themselves whether filming is going on or not. In addition to seeing the pawn shop, a Pawn Stars Tour of Las Vegas also includes a stop at Rick’s Restorations, where retro appliances are refurbished, and the Toy Shack, a vintage toy appraiser.

The Walking Dead

It seems that these days we’re all joking about (or preparing for!) the zombie apocalypse. What better place to get some first-hand zombie knowledge than in Atlanta, where they film the hit series The Walking Dead and where the movie Zombieland was made? During an Atlanta Zombie Film Locations Tour you’ll not only visit filming locations for both zombie shows, you’ll also get instruction from your guide – a veteran onscreen “zombie walker” – in how to walk like a zombie. You never know when that sort of information will come in very handy, indeed.

Chicago Movie Tour

Marina City and Towers, Chicago film tour

Chicago’s famous Marina City and Towers

Chicago’s unique architecture has featured in many popular movies, whether the stories were meant to take place in Chicago or not. During a 2-hour Chicago Movie Tour you’ll visit more than 75 filming locations – which also happen to be some of the city’s main attractions. You’ll see filming locations for movies like The Dark Knight, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Blues Brothers, The Untouchables, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Transformers 3, covering more than 30 miles through Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.


Doctor Who

Whether you grew up watching Doctor Who or you’re a recent convert, there’s no denying the appeal of a London tour of Doctor Who filming locations from its introduction in 1963 right up through the newest BBC incarnation of the series. You’ll ride around the city in one of London’s famous black cabs and see where the “Dalek Invasion of Earth” and scenes with the Time Lord (among many others) were filmed, and you’ll see major London landmarks along the way. You’ll even see a remarkably TARDIS-looking police box.

Boston TV & Movie Sites

Cheers, Boston movie sites tour

Enjoy a beer at Cheers

The city of Boston has served as the location for so many stories over the years that during a 2-hour tour of Boston TV and movie sites you’ll visit more than 30 distinct filming locations. Among the places you’ll visit is the brownstone house featured in Parent Trap, the famous park bench in Good Will Hunting, a mob hangout for Jack Nicholson in The Departed, and the park featured prominently in Ally McBeal. And of course no tour of film sites in Boston would be complete without a stop at the original Cheers bar, where you’ll get a chance to have a drink. It’s up to you whether you want to count the number of people who yell “Norm!” as they walk in.

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Spring Break Destinations for Every Kind of Traveler

8 Mar

With Spring Break just around the corner, now’s the time to cast aside your studies, hunt down those last-minute deals and plan an unforgettable trip.  Whether you’re looking for a budget beach break, a romantic getaway or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, here’s a roundup of the best Spring Break destinations.

For budget travelers

Bahamas

Nassau Cable Beach - Best Spring Break Destinations

Budget travelers can find good deals in the Bahamas

One of the most affordable destinations in the Caribbean, the Bahamas offer plenty of Spring Break deals, with cheap flights running from the US to Nassau and Paradise Islands and a variety of island cruises available. Lounge on white sand beaches or try your hand at water sports during the day, then hit the beach clubs by night.

Puerto Rico

With a drinking age of 18 and prices far cheaper than most U.S destinations, the aptly nicknamed ‘Island of Enchantment’ is fast becoming a popular alternative to the party hotspots of Mexico. If the pristine beaches and lively nightlife aren’t enough to entice you to Puerto Rican shores, there are plenty of alternative activities to try, from horseback riding to scuba diving to trekking in the rainforest.

Florida

If you’d prefer to stay stateside and cut down on pricey airfares, there are plenty of options in Florida. Hit the beach bars and celebrity studded nightclubs at Panama City Beach, join the crowds at Miami Beach, or get involved in myriad spring break activities in the Florida Keys.

Mexico

We couldn’t complete a spring break roundup without a nod to the student party Mecca of Mexico. If you’re looking for a non-stop roster of sunbathing and parties, head to the beach resorts of Cancun, Los Cabos or Acapulco, but don’t expect to have the beach to yourself – masses of students will be descending on the coast for the busiest season of the year.

For sun seekers

Thailand

If you’re happy to fly further afield, Thailand offers some of the world’s best value beach resorts, with vast beaches, coral filled waters and a notoriously debauched party scene. Spend your time snorkeling or elephant trekking in the jungle, then hit the beach bars at night. Phuket, Hua Hin and Koh Samui are all popular among beach lovers, but be sure to join the masses for one of Koh Phangan’s infamous Full Moon Parties where cocktail buckets and blaring dance music keep the scantily clad revelers dancing until the early hours.

India

Goa Baga Beach - Best Spring Break Destinations

Goa’s Baga Beach

Uncover India’s bohemian roots with a beach vacation in Goa, where you can revel in the laid-back vibe and try wakeboarding, kite surfing and jet skiing, before hitting the beach bars at sunset. Once you tire of the sun, sea and sand, head inland to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, home to some of the country’s most spectacular architecture, and undergo a pilgrimage to the magnificent Taj Mahal.

Brazil

With powder white beaches, scorching temperatures and endless Caipirinhas, Brazilians know a thing or two about a beach holiday. Head to Rio where you can soak up the rays on the famous Copocabana beach, hit the waves on neighboring Ipanema and pay a visit to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. If you’d prefer to dodge the crowds, travel north to Natal where you can spread your beach towel on the popular Ponta Negra beach and hit the samba clubs in the evening hours.

South Africa

Few countries boast more sunny days than South Africa and whether you’re after an action packed vacation or a leisurely beach break, there’s something for everyone. Of course, you just might need a trust fund to afford the airfare, but if you’ve got the cash to splash out, a South Africa Spring Break is an unforgettable adventure. Brave the waves on the famous Wild Coast, spot the Big 5 on safari in the vast Kruger National Park or come face to face with Great White sharks on a shark diving excursion from Cape Town.

For adrenaline junkies

Costa Rica

Costa Rica offers myriad activities to get your blood pumping, from hurtling down rapids in a whitewater raft to scaling the crater of an active volcano. For the most mind-blowing experience, make like Tarzan on a rainforest canopy tour, where you’ll get to zip line at breakneck speed through acres of untamed jungle, or zoom along the rainforest floor on an ATV instead.

Belize

Belize scuba divers in Blue Hole - Best Spring Break Destinations

Go underwater in Belize

Home to the second largest Barrier Reef in the world, Belize is the perfect place to strap on some fins and dive to the depths of the ocean on a scuba diving excursion. Another hugely popular activity is cave tubing with Belize harboring one of Central America’s most extensive underground cave networks. Still not exciting enough for you? Try zip lining through the jungle, kayaking through crocodile infested waters or parasailing on the open ocean.

Las Vegas

The bright lights of the famous Strip aren’t just for revelers and gamblers; Las Vegas makes the perfect destination for thrill-seekers, with the vast Grand Canyon right nearby. Take a helicopter flight over the strip, whiz through the Valley of Fire on a dune buggy, brave the Grand Canyon Skywalk, take a sunrise hot air balloon ride or skydive over the spectacular Red Rock Canyon. Or you could just blow your savings on the roulette table.

Niagara Falls

One of Northern America’s most celebrated natural attractions, just catching sight of the thundering Niagara Falls is a thrill but those hoping for an action packed trip can hurtle beneath the falls on a high-speed jet boat, zoom over the top in a helicopter or get a view from a giant tethered helium balloon. Not all activities have to involve the falls, though – go kayaking along the Niagara River, bungee jumping in the Niagara Falls area or climb the precipitous gorge at the nearby Devil’s Hole.

For snow bunnies

Whistler, British Columbia

Just because it’s spring doesn’t mean you have to opt for a beach holiday – swap sand for snow and hit the ski slopes instead. Head to the world-renowned Whistler resort – the continent’s largest ski area – where you’ll have the pick of over 200 ski runs. There’s plenty of snow-free activities to keep you busy on the warmer days too – horse riding, canoeing and mountain biking are all popular pastimes.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

With some of the best ski runs in America, Jackson Hole is a veritable paradise for skiers and snowboarders. Springtime offers warmer weather activities too, so once you tire of the slopes you can hike or horseback ride through the Grand Teton Park, whitewater raft in the Snake River Canyon or explore the legendary landscapes of nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Lake Tahoe

Springtime in Lake Tahoe is the perfect time to explore the area’s idyllic beaches and waterfalls, but those hoping to hit the slopes will find plenty of powder still dusting the peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Squaw Valley and the Heavenly Mountain resorts are popular spots, where you can ski or snowboard through the day, enjoy a beachside barbecue, then party the night away at one of the lakeside casinos.

For couples

Hawaii

Couple in Hawai - Best Spring Break Destinations

Hawaii is great for couples

Whether you take a romantic sunset boat cruise, cuddle up in a luxury eco lodge or just stroll hand in hand along a moonlit beach, Hawaii is a destination tailor-made for falling in love. There are plenty of adventures to be had in paradise too – try your hand at surfing, snorkel among the shimmering corals or take a helicopter ride over the famous ‘Ring of Fire’.

Vancouver

With its impressive mountain-backdrop and park-lined waterfront, Vancouver offers the perfect backdrop for a loved up getaway. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride around Stanley Park, take the ferry over to the picturesque Vancouver Island, then enjoy dinner with a view at Grouse Mountain’s observatory restaurant or on a sunset dinner cruise through Vancouver harbor.

Buenos Aires

Effortlessly cool and oozing with Latino charm, Buenos Aires is the unofficial romance capital of Latin America. Get in the mood with a tango show or dance class; enjoy a stroll through the Palermo Rose Gardens, where you can hire a rowing boat on the lake and visit the planetarium for some sunset stargazing; then head to the waterfront Puerto Madero for dinner with a glittering view of the docks.

San Francisco

With its abundance of art galleries, designer boutiques, hip bars and gourmet restaurants, San Francisco never falls short of ideas for date night. If you prefer some low-key romance, snuggle up on a boat cruise around San Francisco Bay, take a day trip to the Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries or take in the sunset from the famous Golden Gate Bridge.

For Europhiles

Tuscany

Rent a villa in the idyllic Tuscan countryside and spend your days cycling the vineyards and olive groves, pouring over masterpieces in the birthplace of the Renaissance and over-indulging in delicious Italian pastas. Whether you’re after serene landscapes or iconic architecture (don’t miss the famous leaning tower of Pisa), few European destinations offer such variety as Tuscany.

Paris

Alternatively, opt for a memorable sojourn in the City of Lights, where you can breakfast on croissants and shop among the world’s most fashionable people. A trip to the Louvre, the exquisite Château de Versailles and of course, the inimitable Eiffel Tower, are all must-dos, along with a cruise long the River Seine and an entertaining evening at the notorious Moulin Rouge.

Costa Brava, Spain

Costa Brava beach - Best Spring Break Destinations

Join the sunbathers in Costa Brava

If you want to guarantee some warm weather, the glamorous resorts of Spain’s Costa Brava coastline are one of Europe’s most popular springtime destinations. Beloved by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles, the vast Mediterranean beaches are not only popular with sunbathers but renowned among surfers, windsurfers and kite surfers, and with a network of hiking and cycling trails running along the coast, you’ll never be short of things to do.

London

You can’t visit Europe without paying a visit to the British capital and even after the excitement of the 2012 Olympics has died down, there’s still lots to see and do in London. Take a tour on the city’s iconic double-decker buses, enjoy a boat cruise along the Thames, watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and get spectacular views of the city from the London Eye and The Shard. Make sure you spare some time for the quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea at one of London’s glitziest venues.

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Top 12 Places to Enjoy Dinner with a View

8 Feb

Whether you’re picnicking in the park or indulging in gourmet cuisine, the location is just as important as the food itself – after all, who could forget toasting champagne at the pinnacle of the Eiffel Tower or sharing dessert with a window-view over the thundering Niagara Falls? From a personal-butler service atop the world’s highest Ferris wheel to an authentic Aussie barbecue under the outback stars, here are 12 of the world’s best locations for dinner with a view.

1. Dinner on the Melbourne Colonial Tramcar

Melbourne Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

See Melbourne pass by while enjoying a meal aboard the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

Eating on the move isn’t normally recommended, but relaxing on-board a luxury restaurant-on-wheels as you chug through the historic streets of Melbourne is a clear exception. Hop on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant where you’ll not only get to experience the old-world ambiance of the 1948 vintage tramcar itself – decked out with lavish velvet and brass fittings – but you’ll get a tour of Melbourne’s landmark sights as you eat. Silver-service waiters dish up a decadent 5 courses, as you wind through the city streets, the verdant Albert Park and the bustling suburb of St Kilda.

2. A barbecue under the stars at Uluru/Ayers Rock

Sounds of Silence Restaurant

Sounds of Silence Restaurant

You can’t visit Australia without taking part in the country’s most famous tradition, a barbecue, but forget flipping burgers in the backyard – a real outback BBQ needs to be set under twinkling stars. Explore the vast red desert of central Australia and dine with a view of the country’s most iconic natural landmark – Ayers Rock. Known as Uluru to the Aboriginals, the giant sandstone mass – the world’s second-largest monolith – is located on a major planetary grid point and revered as a sacred place among the Aboriginal tribes. Opt for the Sounds of Silence Restaurant or an Uluru (Ayers Rock) Outback Barbecue Dinner and Star Tour where you’ll get to discover the UNESCO World Heritage listed natural wonder up close (climbing the mountain is forbidden out of respect to the aboriginal communities) and sample a true Aussie-style barbecue with a backdrop of the mount. Throw a ‘shrimp (or a kangaroo sausage) on the barbie’ as the sun sets over the desert plains, then lay back for a natural cosmic light show as you spot star constellations in the clear desert skies.

3. Dining in the revolving Sydney Tower

Sydney Tower Restaurant

Catch a view of the city from the Sydney Tower Restaurant

Once you’ve tackled the outback wilderness and dined on the rails, finish off your tour of Australia with a view of the cosmopolitan cultural capital from above. Towering 300 meters over Sydney city center, the Sydney Tower Restaurant is the highest revolving restaurant in the Southern Hemisphere, with panoramic views stretching all the way to the distant Blue Mountains. Join an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet at the top of the city’s tallest building and eat to a backdrop of the glittering Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera house and the golden sands of Bondi Beach. The adventurous can even brave the Skywalk – a glass-floor viewing platform running around the iconic golden turret at a dizzying 268 meters. Better try it on an empty stomach first!

4. Eating at a Paris icon in the Eiffel Tower

Few counties offer such a winning combination of incredible cuisine and undeniably romantic surroundings as Paris and where better to experience the magic of the City of Lights than from the top of the magnificent Eiffel Tower? Climbing the 1,710 steps to the top floor of Gustave Eiffel’s 19th-century masterpiece (or at least riding the elevator) is a must, but for the ultimate experience, enjoy an Eiffel Tower Dinner and Seine River Cruise. The Eiffel Tower’s Restaurant 58 is one of the most fashionable brassieres in town, where you’ll get to tuck into aperitifs and sip wine with a birds-eye view over the surrounding Trocadéro gardens and the Paris skyline.

5. Hawaii dinner cruises

 

If you prefer your vistas with white sand and rippling ocean, take your dinner date to America’s most tropical state, Hawaii, where you can add Hawaiian dancers, swaying palm trees and rainbow-colored lei (garlands) to the occasion. Sail along the idyllic Kohala coast on an Oahu Sunset Dinner Cruise, where you’ll soon be enraptured with the views – cobalt-blue waves, sculpted coastal cliffs and a molten sunset setting the beaches alight. You’ll even travel out past the landmark Diamond Head to discover the deserted bays and hidden coves of Oahu, and keep your eyes on the waters too, as whales can often be seen peeking out of the waves.

6. Breaking records on the Singapore Flyer

Singapore Flyer Sky Dining

Singapore Flyer Sky Dining

Forget the iconic London Eye and the dazzling Texas Star; the Singapore Flyer  takes the prize for the world’s highest observation wheel, soaring an vertigo-inducing 541 feet in the air. Best of all, you can even dine on board with your own luxury butler service serving up a four course spread as the wheel completes two rotations. The expansive panoramas not only offer fantastic bird’s eye views over Marina Bay, Singapore River and the Raffles Place financial district, but on clear days you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of foreign shores, with neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia lying within view. Better get there quick though – Beijing’s 682-foot Great Observation Wheel and the 550-foot Las Vegas High Roller are both under construction, so it looks like Singapore won’t be holding its title for much longer.

7. Dinner on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Dinner at Victoria Peak

Enjoy dinner atop Victoria Peak

There’s no better place to marvel over Hong Kong’s dazzling neon lights and imposing skyscrapers than from the famous Victoria Peak, the city’s highest and most popular observation point. Reached by the Peak Tram, a 120-year-old funicular railway, the mountain offers expansive vistas over the lively harbor below, as well as 360-degree panoramas from the Peak Tower viewing terrace. Take a Hong Kong Harbor Night Cruise and Dinner at Victoria Peak tour, where you’ll get to soak up the city lights from the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant (Bubba Gump’s) at the top of The Peak Tower and follow it with a romantic night cruise along the Victoria Harbor in a traditional Chinese boat.

8. 360-degree views at KL Tower, Kuala Lumpur

KL Tower

Dine in style at the KL Tower

Built in 1995, the iconic Kuala Lumpur (KL) Tower is the city’s tallest building, boasting the highest public viewpoint in the Malaysian capital. High-speed elevators whisk visitors to the top floor of the futuristic telecommunications tower where the observation deck offers mind-blowing city views at over 900 feet above street level. At the top, the Seri Angkasa Revolving Restaurant serves up a buffet of local cuisine where you’ll get 360-degree city views without having to move from your chair. Of course, you could always just grab a Big Mac a few floors down, at allegedly the world’s highest McDonald’s.

9. London’s highest meal at The Shard

Opening its highly anticipated 72ndfloor rooftop observation deck – London’s highest lookout point at 800 feet above street level – in February 2013, The Shard’s spectacular architecture, fashioned from glass panels that change colors in the light like a gigantic ‘shard of glass’, presents magnificent views even from ground level. Diners can choose from a range of world-renowned restaurants spread over 3 floors of the futuristic skyscraper, designed by legendary architectural visionary Renzo Piano and now the E.U’s tallest building measuring in at 1,016 feet. Housed in a glistening glass atrium on the 31st to 33rd floors, this is dining with a view at its most spectacular, with 360-degree views taking in Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and a host of other key sights. The only downside is you’ll have to wait – the restaurants aren’t set to open until later in 2013, so keep an eye on the website for details.

10. The View Restaurant, NYC

New York Dinner Cruise

Watch the sun set on a New York Dinner Cruise

The most iconic lookout points might be from the Statue of Liberty and the Top of the Rock observation deck, but for dinner with a view, New York’s highest restaurant is a worthy rival. The aptly named The View is New York’s only revolving restaurant, located on the 48th floor of the Marriot Marquis hotel, where you can indulge in a varied menu of international cuisine, or just sip a cocktail in the lounge bar while taking in the spectacular views over Times Square and the Broadway Theater District below. If vertigo-inducing heights aren’t your thing, explore the glittering Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building from street level, with a New York Dinner Cruise along the famous Hudson River, instead.

11. Watching Niagara Falls at Skylon Tower

For a waterfront view you can’t get more dramatic than looking out over the colossal Niagara Falls from the area’s highest viewing point. The landmark Skylon Tower presides over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls – the largest of the Niagara’s three falls stretching an awe-inspiring 2,600 feet wide and reaching heights of 173 feet. Take to the sky-high revolving dining room for a view that changes with each course, spanning the American Falls, Niagara Falls, the Great Gorge, the Niagara wine district and, on clear days, as far as the city skylines of Buffalo, New York and Toronto. For the ultimate experience, enjoy an atmospheric evening dinner set to an explosive backdrop of fireworks over the floodlit Horseshoe Falls.

12. Eating at the Top of Europe at the Eiger Glacier Mountain Restaurant in Switzerland

Jungfraujoch train

The train to the Top of Europe

If dining on the brink of a vast glacier sounds like the perfect adventure, you’ll find few views more wondrous than those from the famous Eiger Glacier Mountain Restaurant. Teetering on the icy foothills between the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, the terrace restaurant lies at 7,618 feet (2322 meters), surrounded by a wintry wilderness of snowy peaks, glistening glacial passes and icy streams. Reached by train on the famously picturesque Jungfrau railway, you can make a day of it and carry on to Jungfraujoch – the Top of Europe at the end of the line. The highest railway station in Europe is a destination in itself, towering an incredible 11,333 feet (3,454 meters) above sea level, but most famous is the Sphinx Observation Terrace, overlooking Europe’s longest glacier, the Aletsch Glacier.

 

Top 12 Places to Enjoy Dinner with a View Ayers Rock , Food and Drink , food tours , hawaii , hong kong , Kuala Lumpur , London , Melbourne , new york city , Niagara Falls , Paris , Singapore , Switzerland , sydney