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    10 things you’ll find along Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline

    Chicago is home to everything you would expect from a large American city: sky-scraping towers, fusion cuisine, impeccable shopping and eclectic nightlife. But the thing that sets it apart from other cities is its beautiful lake-side setting.
    Along the Chicago-edge of Lake Michigan, you’ll find a plethora of activities – many of which you wouldn’t typically associate with a bustling city. You also have two options for exploring it. You can walk the entire distance along the Lakeside Trail (it’s 18 miles long) or you can hop in a rental car and drive along the Lake Shore Drive and stop off where you want to. There’s also the option of a boat tour! No matter how you choose to explore this scenic part of the city, you need to make sure you stop by these 10 things along Lake Michigan in Chicago.  
    Millennium Park
    If you’ve seen pictures of a silver bean structure in Chicago – this is where you’ll find it. Millennium Park is also home an outdoor art space, ice skating rink, outdoor theatre, and a 50 feet fountain. The park is also cleaned regularly and has won awards for its accessibility.
    Beaches
    The words beach and city don’t typically go together, but in Chicago they do. The city’s beaches typically open for the summer months between May and then close again for winter on Labor Day.  Oak Street Beach is one of the most popular, boasting volleyball tournaments, a restaurant, bike rentals and watersports. Lifeguards are also on duty.
    Lincoln Park
    Near the northern end of Lake Shore Drive you’ll find Lincoln Park. Clocking in at 1,200 acres, it is home to Lincoln Park Zoo, beaches, a golf course, soccer fields, bird sanctuaries, a nature museum, picnic grounds, boat harbours and a tomb from 1857. One of Chicago’s most renowned restaurants, North Pond, is also located here.
    Buckingham Park
    In the middle of Grant Park, you’ll find what many consider to be America’s greatest water fountain. Originally dedicated to Clarence Buckingham, it was designed in a rococo wedding cake style and inspired by the Latona Fountain at the Palace of Versailles. It was also featured in the title sequences of TV shows Married with Children and Crime Story.
    Navy Pier
    Navy Pier is perfect for both foodies and history buffs. While these days it is a promenade filled with patio restaurants, theatres, tour boats and land-based rides (including a show-stopping Ferris wheel), it has been – at different times – a port, a warehouse and a University of Illinois campus.
    Adler Planetarium
    On Northerly Island, you will find America’s very first planetarium. Dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrophysics, it is home to three full size theatres, extensive space science exhibitions, and the Doane Observatory (the only place in Chicago where the public can see planets, stars, and galaxies up-close).
    Belmont Harbour
    Chicago is home to several harbours, but Belmont Harbour is definitely the most scenic (and biggest). Located in the neighbourhood of Lincoln, it is surrounded by parks and the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
    Museum of Science and Industry
    Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is one of the few buildings still in the city that were built before the city’s 1893 World’s Fair (which many of Chicago’s modern buildings were built for). The museum spans a wide range of themes, but its most notable displays are the Apollo 8 lunar module and a captured German U-boat from WWII.
    13 different neighbourhoods
    The Lakeside Trail is so long that it actually passes through thirteen different neighbourhoods: Edgewater, Uptown, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Gold Coast, Streeterville, Loop, South Loop, Bronzeville, Kenwood, Hyde Park and South Shore.
    A beautiful sunset
    There’s 59 miles between Chicago and the other side Lake Michigan. With no landmass visible from the city there’s a clean line for the sun to slip behind every night – creating a sunset you would typically associate with a tropical island. Make sure that at least once during your Chicago adventure you head out to edge of the lake for a perfect sundown.
    What’s your favourite attraction along Chicago’s Lake Michigan Shoreline? Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed your favourite!


     

    A beginner’s guide to the Philippines

    If you’re looking for a south-east Asia destination with sandy beaches, beautiful underwater reefs and foodie adventures - that isn’t a massive tourist hub - we recommend the Philippines .
    This collection of more than 7,000 islands is still little known to British travellers. Despite bringing together everything that makes South-East Asia so popular (food, culture, beautiful beaches and warm weather), it also has a few unique quirks. English is widely spoken, the architecture is significantly different and the people are some of the friendliest you will meet. Here’s everything you need to know before your first visit.
    Where to go and what to do
    With over seven thousand islands, you won’t get to see everything – so we’ve narrowed it down to the following five things.
    Swim with whale sharks

    If you still haven’t ticked swimming with whale sharks off your bucket list, now is the time. Head to Donsol Bay on Luzon Island or Oslob in Cebu.
    Get sporty

    Sporty types are well catered to in the Philippines. Not only does its never-ending coastline naturally cater to watersports, but the hilly inland is also popular with hiking and mountain biking. Fun fact: the Philippines is also the unofficial zip-line capital of the world.
    Island hop in Palawan

    Island hopping is a must for any beach-bums visiting the Philippines – with Palawan being the number one option. This was actually where the author of The Beach (later turned into a film with Leonardo DiCaprio) was living when he wrote the book. The turquoise waters, colourful reefs, and the secluded location definitely get the imagination going!   
    Banaue Rice Terraces

    If you’re looking for a beautiful hidden gem to add to your travel scrapbook – head to the Banaue Rice Terraces. These 2,000-year-old terraces – that were built by indigenous tribes - are a beautiful shade of green and the air is a lot cooler here. Remember to pay a visit to the nearby town of Sagada; enjoy a couple of days caving, spelunking and hiking!
    Keep your eyes peeled for tarsiers

    These funny looking creatures are native to the Philippines and have to be seen to be believed. They are actually endangered though – and being only five inches tall makes them really difficult to spot in the wild. The Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol is the best place to meet them.
    Food and Drink
    Thanks to the country’s Spanish history, most dishes favour a sour or vinegary taste as opposed to the spicy flavours of other Asian nations. The most famous dish is adobo: a rich stew with garlic, soy and vinegar with some local meats or seafood. Pork is the most popular meat in the Philippines, but fresh seafood is also very common and the mangoes are meant to be some of the best in the world!
    How to get there
    A direct flight to Manila runs from Heathrow and takes just under 14 hours. However, the Philippines makes for a great twin-centre break with a stopover somewhere else on the way. Dubai is a popular choice, where you can combine a few days in the glittering city before relaxing on a white-sand beach on a remote Filipino island.
    Domestic flights are very easy to come by as well and are often the best way to see different parts of the country.
    When to go
    December to February are the best months to visit the Philippines. Though the shoulder seasons of November and April are still pleasant and offer great value for money. The wet season is between May and October, but the rain isn’t constant and you will still see sunny days.
    Other important information
    Tagalog and English are the two primary languages The currency is the Philippine Peso (which you can pre-order from Barrhead Travel) Boracay Island will be closed to tourists from 26th April 2018 for 6 months for environmental rehabilitation You can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days (you can also get a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy before you travel, which will allow an initial 59-day stay) Check with your GP about two months before you travel to see if you need any vaccinations (this can depend on which area you visit) Tipping in the Philippines is usually around 10%

     

    A beginner’s guide to Dutchess County

    You might not have heard of Dutchess County , but you’ll certainly have heard of nearby New York City.
    Located only 72 miles north of The Big Apple, Dutchess County is a relaxing contrast to the bustling city. Here you can unwind, eat fresh produce, and explore some of New York State’s fascinating historic sites. Plus, the county is also close to New York Stewart International Airport. Here’s everything you need to know before your first trip to Dutchess County.  
    Things to do
    Treat your taste buds
    Dutchess County is a foodie haven brimming with a wide variety of cuisines including Farm Markets, fine-dining restaurants, wineries, distilleries, and brewpubs. At the helm of the culinary scene is The Culinary Institute of America, ranked as the leading culinary school in the United States. They offer student-guided tours and four student-staffed public restaurants.
    Farm culture is massive in Dutchess County and if you drive along any road you’ll likely pass a family-owned farm where you can stop and pick-your-own produce, shop their farm stands, or join them during family-oriented festivals.
    Locally owned vineyards offer tasting sessions – and sometimes even relaxed outdoor concerts. The Dutchess Craft Beverage Trail features award-winning wineries, distilleries and breweries where you can tour and taste a wide variety of locally produced handcrafted spirits.
    Soak up some culture
    Dance, drama, film and music all have a home in Dutchess County. In fact, Dutchess County is home to numerous international celebrity film stars and musicians and serves as the location for multiple movies and television shows.
    During the day there are museums and art galleries to explore, including Dia:Beacon one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to large installations by world-renowned artists from the 1960s to the present. At night you’ll find bars and restaurants with live music. For something a bit different, you can also visit glass-working studios and watch artisanal glassblowers perfect their craft.
    Walk through history
    In Dutchess County you get to choose which historical period you visit. Will it be the pre-Revolutionary War, the Gilded Age, or the early 20th century?
    Bannerman Castle Island on the Hudson River is a unique attraction but the National Historic Sites in Hyde Park are some of the most popular in all of New York. There you can tour Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage (the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady), the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt (who is the only president elected to four terms), the gravesite of Franklin and Eleanor in the Roosevelt Rose Garden, and explore the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, America’s first presidential library and the only one used by a sitting president.
    Fun with the family
    Dutchess County also has its fair share of family-friendly activities. Some of the best include Soukup Farms where you can tour their maple-making process and sample their pure maple syrup, the Dutchess County Fair, Mid-Hudson Children's Museum, SplashDown Beach Waterpark, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome with biplanes and airshows featuring vintage aircraft, and Trevor Zoo, caring for more than 180 animals including 8 endangered species as the country’s only accredited zoo managed by high school students.
    Explore the great outdoors
    Make the most of Dutchess County’s beautiful landscape with an impressive range of outdoor recreation that includes biking, hiking, horseback riding, golf, kayaking, archery and skeet shooting. If you’re looking for something a little calmer, there are a number of scenic parks that are perfect for a picnic and afternoon stroll including the not-to-missed Walkway Over the Hudson, the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge.
    Shopping
    Dutchess County features antique, boutique, handcrafted and indoor mall shopping and is located close to Woodbury Premium Common Outlets, one of the largest outlet centres in the world.
    How to get there
    Dutchess County is primarily served by New York Stewart International Airport, which is also a major airport hub for New York City itself. Budget airline Norwegian Airlines runs direct flights from Edinburgh. If you’re doubling-up a stay in the Hudson Valley with NYC (which many people do) you can jump on a train for a scenic ride along the Hudson River from Grand Central Terminal or Penn Station.
    Where to stay
    Dutchess County is all about relaxation and that is what most accommodations offer. Lodging options include private bed and breakfasts, historic inns, budget-friendly motels, and family-oriented campgrounds. Three hotels that we recommend are the Hilltop House Bed & Breakfast, Beekman Arms Delamater Inn and the Hyatt House Fishkill
    When to go
    Dutchess County is a year-round destination, however many people choose to visit between early and mid-October when the autumn hues are at their best.
    Other important information
    Dutchess County is considered the dividing line between downstate New York, and upstate New York. Like all the United States you need to arrange your visas in advance, the official language is English and the currency in US Dollars. Dutchess County is easy to reach by train (only 90 minutes) from Grand Central Terminal (Metro-North Railroad) and Penn Station (Amtrak) in NYC. Car hire in Dutchess County is simple with rental service pickup from local train stations and makes Dutchess a great hub to explore the Hudson Valley and other regions of New York State and neighbouring New England.

     

    6 far-flung destinations you can fly to from Belfast

    If you live in Northern Ireland, a lot of the time you’ll need to travel to Dublin if you want to fly somewhere exotic. But that isn’t always the case. While Belfast International Airport mostly flies to other European airports, it does offer a few long-haul flights to far-flung places. Here are six places you can fly to from Belfast that aren’t in Europe.
    1. Cuba

    Cuba is becoming more accessible to the rest of the world, including Belfast. Flights are available to Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport (also known as Varadero Airport), which is just under two hours from Havana.
    2. Mexico

    If it’s a fun-filled beach holiday you’re looking for, then you can’t do much better than Cancun. Home to numerous all-inclusive resort hotels, the beaches and nightlife in Cancun are world-famous. If it’s history you’re after, however, the ancient city of Tulum is only a day-trip away.
    3. Orlando

    Orlando is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world – and it’s not hard to imagine why. Home to world-famous roller coasters and theme parks, there’s plenty to keep the children entertained morning to night.
    Away from the parks you’ll find amazing shopping and dining – plus, there’s the other side of Florida that often gets forgotten about. Cities like Kissimmee, St Pete’s and Tampa are only an hour’s drive away, and offer a different experience than the one you’ll have in Orlando. They’re perfect for a few days of relaxation before you fly back.  
    4. Las Vegas

    If you’re looking for an all-night party, then you need to book a flight to Las Vegas. The famous 4-mile strip is lined with casinos, A-list entertainment and an infectious atmosphere – all essential ingredients for a night out. Then during the day there’s always a pool party happening somewhere.
    5. NYC

    New York City is somewhere that requires no introduction. Full of shopping, entertainment, famous landmarks and delicious food – there are several reasons why people return to this buzzing metropolis year after year. Flights run twice a week to Newark Liberty International Airport.
    6. Boston

    If you’re after an American city break but are looking for something that is more chilled than NYC, Las Vegas or Orlando, we recommend Boston. A great city for anyone interested in America’s rich history, you can spend your days wandering between different museums. Plus, seafood lovers will adore the coastal restaurants. 

     

     

    5 popular stop-offs on a Japan touring holiday

    Japan is a multi-faceted country with beautiful landscapes at one end and glittering neon cities on the other (with lots of temples, anime, sushi, technology, karaoke and hot springs in the middle). It’s a fabulous destination that can also be overwhelming for a first time visitor. If there’s anywhere in the world where an organised tour would be a great decision, it’s Japan.
    Thankfully numerous organised and escorted tours are available. Whether you want a short trip around Tokyo, or you’re looking for a month-long itinerary that covers every mile of the country – you’ll find what you’re looking for in our choice of tours. Here are five destinations that are especially popular on an organised Japan tour.
    1. Tokyo
    First off is the world famous Tokyo. A larger than life metropolis that combines modern-day neon skyscrapers and futuristic technology with ancient shrines and old-school sweet shops. It’s also a haven for foodies, with a higher volume of Michelin-star restaurants than any other city in the world. Shopping is also world-class, offering high-tech gadgets, colourful anime toys, traditional crafts, and trendy clothing.
    2. Kyoto
    While Tokyo is one of the world’s most futuristic cities, Kyoto celebrates the old ways. Sometimes known as Japan’s spiritual heart, it is home to 2,000 temples and shrines and it’s not unusual to see monks and geishas wandering the streets. If it’s traditional Japanese culture that you’re looking for, this is where you’ll find it.
    This includes traditional Japanese foods. In the afternoon you can stroll into a traditional teahouse, or tuck into some hearty ramen. Then in the evening, you can visit an izakaya (Japanese pub-eateries) or Michelin-star restaurant. Finish the night off at one of the trendy cocktail bars.
    3. Hiroshima
    While it is certainly an unsettling part of Japan’s history, a visit to Hiroshima is essential for anyone interested in the country’s past. While it was once believed that the city would remain uninhabitable, the city has now been re-built (including the reconstruction of monuments such as Hiroshima Castle and Shukkeien Garden) and Peace Memorial Park was constructed as a reminder of the city’s past.
    4. Osaka
    Osaka is Japan's second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo – and is a popular nightlife destination. The Kitashinchi and Dōtonbori districts are the most popular places for locals and tourists to head out to in the evenings.
    During the day, we recommend you try out the unique cuisine (which differs from that of Tokyo on the east coast). Some local foods include battera (a block type sushi topped with mackerel), okonomiyaki (fried cabbage cakes that resemble a cross between a pancake, pizza, and omelette) and takoyaki (bits of octopus inside fried dumplings).
    Also remember to visit Kaiyukan (one of the world’s largest aquariums), Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum and – of course – Universal Studios Japan.
    5. Hakone
    Only an hour and a half in the car from Tokyo, the mountainous town of Hakone is the polar opposite of Japan’s capital city. Its main draw is its hot springs, which makes it a great final destination on a Japan tour. It is also a place of picturesque natural beauty with impressive views of the iconic Mount Fuji and is on the doorstep of the scenic Lake Ashi, which you can tour by boat and is overlooked by the stunning Hakone Shrine.

     

    10 reasons to visit Tampa

    As Florida’s most diverse travel destination, Tampa Bay packs an entire Sunshine State getaway into a single location: thrilling roller-coasters, historic Cuban culture, year-round outdoor activities, fantastic food, and waterfront sunsets. There’s so much for all the family, no two days are the same.
    Here are 10 reasons why Tampa should be part of your next Florida adventure.  
    1. Amusement Parks
    Florida is famed for its larger than life attractions, and Tampa Bay is no exception. The main amusement centre is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which is home to nearly five miles of thrilling rides and Falcon’s Fury, the tallest drop tower in North America. There’s also a waterpark, Adventure Island, which is home to both fast-drops and lazy rivers.  
    Remember to pick up a Tampa Bay CityPASS, which provides a 51% discount to Busch Gardens and the rest of Tampa Bay’s most popular family attractions.
    2.The amazing shopping opportunities
    From luxury labels to big bargains, Tampa is home to an amazing selection of shops.
    International Plaza and Bay Street, moments from Tampa International Airport, features 200 luxury shops and dining experiences unavailable elsewhere in the area. Historic open-air Hyde Park Village brings together a unique blend of high-end brands in a walkable environment. Twenty minutes north of downtown, Tampa Premium Outlets has 100 stores packed with discounts.
    3. It’s a popular cruise port
    Tampa is home port for four cruise lines, making it a convenient jumping-off point for journeys to sun-drenched Cuba, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Carnival and Royal Caribbean are even adding new, larger, or upgraded ships to meet the demand in Tampa Bay.
    4. Its foodie scene
    Tampa is home to Florida’s oldest restaurant, the Columbia, along with some of the Sunshine State’s most cutting-edge culinary experiences. In dynamic Tampa Heights, Ulele, Armature Works and The Hall on Franklin feature diverse local specialities in unique environments.
    Florida’s hub for craft brewery offers 25 breweries within 10 square miles. Wine lovers will find the largest private collection in the world at Bern’s Steak House, a family-owned local restaurant.
    5. It’s home to a rich history
    People have treasured Tampa Bay for 12,000 years, but Spanish explorers truly put the region on the map 450 years. In 1885, the arrival of the railroad and the cigar industry turned Tampa Bay into a boomtown nearly overnight. Immigrants from Cuba, Spain, Sicily, Germany, and Eastern Europe gave Tampa Bay a flavour unique to Florida. In 1914, the world's first commercial flight touched down here after leaving nearby St. Petersburg. Explore Tampa Bay’s deep roots at the Tampa Bay History Center or hop a ride on a historic streetcar and stroll the brick streets of historic Ybor City, where artisans still roll cigars by hand as they have for 130 years.
    6. Boating and water activities
    With a stunning harbour on its doorstep, Tampa Bay is the perfect place to get out on the water. Captain your own e-boat for a self-guided tour of the local waterfront. Or try a self-propelled trip via water bike, paddleboard or kayak. The bright yellow Pirate Water Taxi makes regular stops at the waterfront’s most popular destinations.
    Discover Tampa Bay’s treasures by strolling the Tampa Riverwalk, which links downtown’s most popular attractions like gems on a string.
    7. The nearby beaches
    While Tampa Bay has no beaches of its own, the world-famous sugar sand strands of Clearwater and St Pete’s are less than an hour’s drive away. The beaches regularly rank among the finest in America for everything from sand quality to environmental management. 
    8. Broadway-style shows
    For live entertainment, book your tickets at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, home to The Florida Orchestra, Opera Tampa, and an annual Broadway season. The largest theatre complex in the southeastern United States, the facility boasts five stages and a prime spot along the Tampa Riverwalk.
    9. Artistic street art
    Tampa Bay is home to some incredible street art that makes for great holiday snaps. Say you were here beneath the enormous “Tampa” postcard mural at Franklin and Royal streets. Ponder the sculptures along the Tampa Riverwalk and the open-air gallery along Bayshore Boulevard. Guided tours will take you past some of the unique pieces.
    10. It’s a great stop-off on a Florida road trip
    Tampa Bay makes a great base of operations for a wider itinerary. Orlando’s sprawling theme parks are just over an hour east. To the south, you’ll find Bradenton 50 minutes away, Sarasota an hour and a half away, and Fort Myers 2 hours away. Even Havana is within reach – just a 70-minute flight from Tampa International Airport (perfect for a day trip!).
    Direct flights to Tampa Bay via British Airways run out of London Gatwick, making the urban heart of Florida’s Gulf coast a convenient place to start and end your Florida road trip.


     

    Why You Should Visit Ras Al Khaimah

    If you really want to visit the Middle East for a holiday, but don’t consider yourself a massive fan of sprawling cities – then we recommend visiting the up-and-coming Ras Al Khaimah.
    While Ras Al Khaimah – just like its glitzy neighbours - is home to world-class resorts and beautiful Emirati sunshine, the city is full of traditional Arabic buildings, fascinating museums, ethereal landscapes, and outdoor pursuits. Here are eight reasons why you should visit Ras Al Khaimah.
    Its beautiful landscape is full of hiking trails
    It probably comes as little surprise that Ras Al Khaimah’s lunar-esque landscape is home to impressive hiking trails. Some of the best places to hike in Ras Al Khaimah are the Hajar Mountains and Jebel Jais. The latter best known for being the highest mountain in the UAE, standing proudly at 1,934 meters tall.
    It’s home to a haunted village
    Just south of Ras Al Khaimah you’ll find the abandoned village of Jazirah Al Hamra. But these aren’t your usual spirits. It’s rumoured to be haunted by jinns, spirit-like creatures of Islamic folklore. The buildings are also a bold orange colour, making it a popular place for travel photographers.
    There’s even more fascinating history
    History buffs should head to the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, a local gem that houses artefacts dating back to the 14th century, as well as pieces that range from ancient tribal artefacts through to exhibits that showcase work from the late Islamic period.
    It’s a heaven for adrenaline junkies
    Up in the Jebel Jais Mountains, you’ll find the world’s longest zip line, as certified by the Book of Guinness World Records. The line is longer than 28 football stadiums! Remember to book your slot online before you go though, as places can fill up quickly.
    Foodies will love the culinary options
    Ras Al Khaimah is home to an extensive range of flavours and cuisines – whether you’re craving familiar international flavours or exotic Arabic aromas. We definitely recommend that you stop by an Arabic Café for some finger food and your favourite sheesha flavour.  
    There are wild animals
    Wild animals aren’t a common sight in the large Emirati cities, even in the immediately adjacent desert. In Ras al Khaimah, however, animals roam much more freely - with camels and goats being especially common. Even the extremely rare Arabic Oryx makes the odd appearance.
    You can relax in a luxury resort
    After a day out hiking mountains and exploring haunted villages – you’ll want to unwind. Which is easy in Ras Al Khaimah as the city is home to numerous luxury beach resorts. Most of them also boast spas and on-site watersports.
    It’s a great way to wind down after a holiday in Dubai
    Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah might be geographically close, but their atmospheres couldn’t be any different. Ras Al Khaimah is the more relaxing of the two and is the perfect place to enjoy some well-deserved downtime after a jam-packed few days in Dubai.

     

    A beginner’s guide to Texas

    If it’s cowboy culture you’re looking for, Texas should be the top of your American holiday wish list.
    The Lone Star State is buzzing with deserted cowboy towns, rodeo shoes, food trucks and fascinating history. But it is also more than that. Within its rustic landscape lies the modern cities of Houston and Austin, all-American sports, craft beer and a sunny shoreline looking over the Gulf of Mexico.
    So grab your cowboy boots, we’re going to Texas.
    Where to go
    Clocking in at 695,662 square kilometres, Texas has a lot of attractions and realistically, you won’t get around it all in a two week holiday. To help, we’ve rounded up the five top attractions to consider.
    Space Center Houston
    This educational space complex boasts more than 400 artefacts including Pete Conrad’s Apollo 12 Suit, the new interactive Mars exhibit and the world’s largest collection of lunar rocks.
    Dr Pepper Museum
    In Britain, we claim to either love or hate Dr Pepper, but in Texas, it is considered the national drink. At the Dr Pepper Museum in Waco, you can listen to gallery talks, take part in a scavenger hunt and pick up some branded merchandise in its gift shop.  
    Guadalupe Mountains National Park                         
    This is the best place to learn more about the striking Texan landscape. Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects the world's most extensive Permian fossil reef, the four highest peaks in Texas and an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna.
    The Alamo
    If walls could talk, the Alamo would have a lot to say about the history of Texas State. Older than Texas itself, The Alamo has existed since the 18th Century and was used as a military lookout as the state changed hands between the English, French, Spanish and Americans.
    Dallas, Houston and Austin
    As we said, Texas isn’t all cowboys and desert. In the cities of Dallas, Houston and Austin you’ll find museums, nightlife and food trucks. Everyone who has visited all three has a strong opinion on which one is their favourite - so we’ll leave it up to you to decide.
    Food and Drink
    Everything is bigger and better in Texas, and that includes the portion sizes. Make sure you leave plenty of room for dinner and only order what you can realistically eat. BBQ food is a really big part of the local foodie scene and you can easily find queues of people waiting for a seat at the big BBQ restaurants. Chilli is also the official dish of Texas and you’ll find plenty of authentic Tex-Mex on offer. One Texan stereotype that holds true is their love of meat, so vegetarians might struggle – though liberal Austin is good for plant-based food.
    Texas also boasts a large selection of home-grown beers, most with German heritage. Some of the best include Lone Star Beer, Ziegen Bock and Shiner Bock. There are also several award-winning wineries in Texas, mostly located around Hill Country west of San Antonio and Austin and in the Panhandle region around Lubbock.
    Also, keep an eye out for Tito's Vodka – a Texan vodka made from yellow corn that is distilled six times. Like most US states, the legal drinking age is 21.
    When to visit
    The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit Texas. The heat during the peak of summer can be uncomfortable for travellers used to a British climate, but the spring and autumn are more relaxed. Weather is still warm in winter, but some attractions are closed.  
    How to Get There
    Texas has three main airports, based out of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Non-stop flights are available from both Manchester and London. Amtrak also offers three routes through the state so you can fit your Texan escape into a wider American adventure.
    Other hints and tips:
    Many locals consider themselves Texans first and American second so you’ll find the Texas flag flying outside many official buildings If you’re hiking in Southern Texas, be mindful of the Mexican border. It’s not always very well marked. English is the official language of Texas, though you’ll hear a lot of Spanish (especially in the cities)

     

    10 must-stop locations in the American Rockies

    The Rocky Mountains are considered one nature’s most beautiful gifts. They stretch for 3,000 miles from the northern parts of British Columbia right down to the border of New Mexico.
    They are believed to be between 80 million to 55 million years old. Over the years further tectonic activity and glacier erosion have sculpted the mountain range into dramatic peaks. These days the peaks are also home to scenic alpine towns and active ski resorts. Throughout the year hiking, camping, mountaineering, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, and snowboarding are all popular.
    A road trip through the American Rocky Mountains is a must. Around every bend there is a new discovery and you’ll be amazed at how stunning they are in real-life. In order to make the most of it we recommend stopping off at these 10 locations.
    1. Denver
    Colorado’s capital is the only metropolitan hub in the Rocky Mountains. It is considered the gateway to the American Rockies and boasts some of the USA’s best ski resorts. It’s a great base for a Rocky adventure including food, theatre and nightlife.
    2.Royal Gorge
    Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas, the Royal Gorge has a maximum depth of 1,250 feet. You’ll find it west of Cañon City, Colorado, where it begins at the mouth of Grape Creek and ends near U.S. Route 50.
    3. Pikes Peak
    Everyone needs to stop by the highest summit of the southern Front Range. There’s several ways to reach the summit (you don’t have to hike!) including the world's highest cog railroad and the Pikes Peak Highway. You’ll find it in Pike National Forest, 12 miles south-west of downtown Colorado Springs.
    4. Yellowstone
    Yellowstone National Park stretches across the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, nestling itself into the South Central Rockies. It’s also the United States oldest national park. The must-see wonder of the park is Yellowstone Lake. It is one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America and is located on the Yellowstone Caldera (the largest active volcano on the continent).
    5. Glacier National Park
    Further north in Montana lies this beautiful national park that cradles on the American-Canadian border. The park encompasses over 1 million acres and within that visitors will find over 130 named lakes plus more than 1,000 different species of plants. As for animals, you can keep your eye open for grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goats.
    6. Mount Rushmore
    Technically, this isn’t part of the Rocky Mountains but it is not far out of the way. Take a small detour into South Dakota from Wyoming, and you’ll find them in the Black Hills National Forest.
    7. Trail Ridge Road
    This isn’t a place to stop, but is instead a beautiful stretch of road that provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Eleven miles of the route travels above the treeline, with the towns of Estes Park and Grand Lake not far away. It is open from late May through to mid-October.
    8. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
    Also known as the Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building, this is a great place to learn more about the Rocky Mountains. It is also architecturally significant and was designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West, with the intension of integrating it in to its natural surroundings.
    9. Sawtooth National Recreation Area
    If you’re looking for somewhere to engage in outdoor activities, this is the perfect place. Within the park’s 730,864-acre range you’ll find hiking, backpacking, white water rafting, camping, rock climbing, kayaking, and mountain biking. You’ll find the park in central Idaho, seven miles north of Ketchum on Highway 75.
    10. Stanley Hotel
    If you’re looking for a bit of pop culture during your trip, then you’re in luck. This 142-room Colonial Revival hotel in Estes Park, Colorado was the inspiration for Stephen King’s 1977 bestseller The Shining. Since the novel was published it has become popular with ghost hunters and even offers its own ghost tours.

     

    5 classic All-American road trips

    America was built for a road trip. Not only is there plenty of ground to cover, but the landscape is beautifully diverse. Looking for lovely coastal towns? Try Florida. Craving sunny beaches? Go to California. Want to wind around beautiful autumnal roads? Head to New England. Maybe you want to glide around the creaks of striking mountainous ranges? Try the Colorado Rockies.
    There are infinite possibilities for an American road trip, but some are more iconic than others. Here are five of the best road-trips the USA has to offer.
    1.       Route 66
    Technically speaking, Route 66 isn’t an official road anymore but that doesn’t mean you can’t find remainders of it. One of the best places to explore the old road is in Illinois, where the original road started.
    Turn on your ignition in Chicago and work your way south to Collinsville. Along the way, you’ll find nostalgic attractions including a Drive-In theatre, Historic Route 66 signs and the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
    2.       Pacific Coast Highway
    Explore California’s rugged and beautiful coastline, while also stopping by some of its key cities. Starting in San Francisco and ending in San Diego, you can travel this route in a day but we recommend taking your time. The route embodies everything that makes California such a well-visited state. From sleeping seaside towns to celebrity-spotting opportunities, to surf-spots to farm-fresh foods and local wines, you’ll tick it all off.
    3.       Florida Coast to Coast
    Terrific weather and even better beaches, this is the only state where you can swim in the Gulf of Mexico in the morning and then watch the sunset on the Atlantic Coast on the same day.
    Start your journey in St Petersburg, a laid-back coastal city with artist flair (it boasts the largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain). Then carry on to Sanibel Island, where you’ll find a mass of washed up seashells and lazy bicycle routes. Then wander through the Everglades National Park, where you might come across black bears, alligators and the rare Florida panther. Then finish your journey in the glitzy coastal city of Miami.
    4.       USA’s Great Lakes
    Head north into the heart of the Mid-West and explore the scenic lakes and the sparkling urban hubs that sit on their shores. Start your journey by flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where three rivers meet Lake Michigan. Then head to the Windy City itself and soak up its brilliant nightlife, spend money on the Magnificent Mile and enrich your brain at world-class museums. All with Lake Michigan as the backdrop.
    After the excitement of Chicago, reign it back in with a visit to small-town Columbus, Ohio. Stroll along the waterfront or stop by the city’s German Village. Next, and still in Ohio, is Cincinnati – one of the best places for baseball fans.
    Then cross over into Michigan, and stop by the scenic Grand Haven. It’s the perfect place for an active holiday with gorgeous lake-side bike trails and plenty of hiking trails. Make sure you take a walk along the boardwalk and visit the Grand Haven Lighthouse. Then explore the heart of Michigan: Detroit. Set on the banks of the Detroit River, this city is famous for Motown as well as Techno, Hip Hop and other genres. A visit to the Motown Museum is a must.
    Then finish off your journey in Indianapolis, with a leisurely gondola ride along the city’s Central Canal.
    5.       Hana Highway
    Hawaii is one of nature’s finest creations and this stretch of road is one of the best ways to admire its scenic beauty. Found along the coast of the island of Maui, this 83-kilometer road runs alongside abundant waterfalls, botanical gardens, iconic surf spots, black sand beaches and green taro food crop patches. There isn’t a bad view insight.
    Finish up in the rustic and charming town of Hana. An understated place, you’ll find it nestled in an emerald rainforest. And remember to pick up the iconic bumper sticker “I Survived the Road to Hana."
     

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