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    A foodie’s guide to Costa Rica

    As a destination, Costa Rica has become synonymous with adventure and eco-tourism thanks to its beautiful natural landscape. So it probably comes as little surprise that its food scene is hearty, energising and locally grown. With all the adventure you’ll be experiencing while on holiday in Costa Rica, you’ll require plenty of fuel – so here’s some traditional Costa Rican dishes to treat yourself to.      
    Casado
    A popular dish with locals is the Casado. The word translates to marriage in English, and is an unpretentious dish that is a balance between rice, beans, meat – it could be fish, chicken or red meat - and green or pasta salad. It’s easy on the purse-strings, but it’s nutritious and will fill you up for a day of exploring.
    Soda
    When you wander through Costa Rica looking for somewhere to eat, you’ll see two types of dining establishments: restaurants and sodas. The restaurants are what we are accustomed to in the UK and cater to international tourists. Sodas, however, are a traditional Costa Rican affair where you’ll get served like a local (including the traditional Casado).
    Fruit
    It probably comes as no surprise that a tropical country like Costa Rica is ripe with fresh fruit. Some varieties you’ll have heard of (such as mangoes, bananas and coconuts). But some you won’t have – such as guanábana, mamones, guayaba, maracuyá, and granadilla. Make sure you try at least one while on your visit.
    Coffee
    Costa Ricans take their coffee very seriously. So much that only one type of coffee bean can be legally grown in Costa Rica. It’s called the Arabica bean and it isn’t the easiest to grow, requiring high altitude and mild temperatures - something Costa Rica excels at.  Make sure you have a cuppa while in Costa Rica as even the budget-friendly cafés come equipped with espresso machines.
    Other drinks
    If you’re not a coffee drinker, there are other refreshing options. One of the most popular is refrescos, a fruit smoothie made from the water of milk. There’s also agua dulce: water sweetened with sugar cane, which is a common drink for kids.
    If you’re looking to let your hair down, we recommend either guaro (a fiery sugar cane liquor) or the national beer, Imperial.
    Desserts
    To finish off your Costa Rican dining adventure, treat yourself to a very sweet dessert. One of the most popular (and named national dessert by National Geographic Magazine) is the tres leches. It’s a cake that is typically prepared as a moist sponge or butter cake that is then soaked with a trio of different kinds of milk (evaporated, condensed and whole milk). Despite the very soggy-sounding description, tres leches is anything but soggy and is actually delicious.  
    Oh, and remember to try a Costa Rica flan.

     

    Top 10 cultural sites and attractions in Valletta

    Malta’s capital city of Valletta boasts a long and interesting history. Its oldest buildings date back to the 16th Century, during the rule of the Order of St. John. Since then it has passed through many rulers’ hands and was a base during both world wars. It was even recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980 and has been described as a 'one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world'.
    To this day Valletta has retained its 16th Century elegance but has moved on in many ways. Malta is now a festival capital and its streets are lined with boutique hotels, restaurants, live shows, street theatres and jamming session. It has even been designated the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (with more plans to grow its arts scene!). With all this going on it was hard to limit the cultural attractions to just 10, but if you are only here for 10 days here is what we recommend tops your list.  
    1. Casa Rocca Piccola
    This historic 16th Century Palace is still occupied to this day (currently by the noble de Piro family) but daily tours are still available. The palace itself is stunningly beautiful and well-maintained, but the most fascinating historical artefacts are the World War two air raid shelters that give a fascinating glimpse into wartime life.
    2. National War Museum
    As we mentioned earlier, Valletta played an important role in both world wars. If that interests you, you’ll find two rooms dedicated to Valletta’s involvement in the war at the National War Museum. Some of the most important artefacts include The Gloster Sea Gladiator fighter plane, Roosevelt’s Jeep ‘Husky’ and the Malta award for gallantry, the George Cross. However, the museum’s collection spans further than the previous century, and you’ll find military equipment here that dates back to the Bronze Age. 
    3. Victoria Lines
    Unofficially known as the Great Wall of Malta, the Victoria Lines is a defensive wall that separates the North and South of the island. It was built by the British Military in the 19th Century to protect the harbours in the south from northern attacks. Some parts of the wall have fallen but you can still book guided tours along the bits that still exist.
    4. St. Francis of Assisi Church
    This beautiful church is famous in Malta for both its Baroque architecture and its collection of paintings gifted by Italian Baroque painter Mattia Preti. It was originally built in 1598, opened in 1607, rebuilt in 1681 and then enlarged again in the 1920s – with all the different layers of gradual construction blended into one. These days it is mainly used for the classical music concerts held in its magnificent Baroque oratory.
    5. Manoel Theatre
    If you’re looking to combine both theatre and history, then you can’t do much better than one of Europe’s oldest working theatres. It was named after Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, Fra António Manoel de Vilhena, who personally funded and overseen its construction. An intimately-sized theatre, it has only 623 seats available for its shows that are performed in both English and Maltese (including opera, pantomime, and musicals).
    6. St. John’s Co-Cathedral
    Built between 1573 and 1578 by the Knights of Malta, and designed by military architect Glormu Cassar (who designed many of Valletta’s most prominent buildings), St. John’s Co-Cathedral six considered to be an extremely fine example of high Baroque architecture. The church has eight chapels, the entire marble floor is a series of tombs (housing almost 400 knights) and there is even a crypt beneath the cathedral!
    7. Grand Harbour
    Perched on a natural harbour, The Grand Harbour served as the base of the Order of Saint John from 1530 until 1798 (which is when most of the harbour walls were built). It was heavily bombed during World War 2, but has remained functional with effort to restore areas of historical significance.
    8. Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens
    For the best views of the aforementioned Grand Harbour, head up to the collonaded Upper Barrakka Gardens. Originally it was built in the 16th Century as a place for knights to relax, but these days it is a nice shady place for locals and tourists to unwind from the bustling city below.  Also, the lower terrace holds the Saluting Battery where the cannon fires every day at noon.
    9. Grandmaster’s Palace
    The Grandmaster’s Palace is a must for anyone interested in Malta’s war history. Within its opulent walls exists over five thousand suits of armour and equipment used by soldiers and knights since the 16th century. It is also home to the only complete and intact set of the famous 18th century French Gobelins tapestries entitled, “Les Teintures des Indes”, in the world.
    10. National Museum of Fine Arts
    The collection at the National Museum of Fine Arts dates back to the Order of St. John (16th Century) – and includes the largest collection of paintings by the Baroque artist Mattia Preti (1613–1699) and a collection of rare, antique maps. The building itself is also historical and was originally one of the oldest in Valletta until a knight re-built it as his private home in the 1760s.

     

    Why you should stay at Dreams Resorts & Spas

    If you’re thinking of jetting off to Mexico or the Caribbean soon with your family or spouse, and are looking to stay somewhere high-end, then we recommend Dreams Resorts & Spas.
    They boast 14 beach-front resorts across Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Panama. No matter where you stay however, you will find the same sumptuous surroundings and attentive service.
    That’s because Dreams have a policy of Unlimited-Luxury® at all their resorts. And when they say all-inclusive, they really mean all-inclusive.
    Included in the price you paid when booking, is gourmet à la carte dining (without reservations), unlimited spirits (including top-shelf), and unlimited natural fruit juices and soft drinks. There are also waiting staff who will bring you your drinks at the pool and on the beach.
    In your spacious room or suite, you’ll also enjoy concierge service, daily maid service, and a mini-bar that is re-stocked daily. Upgrade to a Preferred Club Room and you can relish in exclusive Preferred Club status and amenities.
    Then in the wider resort you’ll enjoy daytime activities, theme parties and live nightly entertainment. You’ll also enjoy free Wi-Fi throughout the resort.
    Children and teens are also welcome at Dreams Resorts & Spas. There’s the Explorer's Club for Kids aged 3-12 years old, which is included in your Unlimited-Luxury® experience too. Here your little ones will enjoy activities that are both fun and educational while being supervised by American Red Cross certified staff. Some resorts also have a babysitting service at an additional cost, which sits outside of the official children’s club.
    And of course there is the spa. Their world-class Dreams Spas by Pevonia® boast more than 30 treatments (both traditional and indigenous), along with whirlpools, saunas, and steam rooms, plus participating resorts include treatments for both children and teens too! Their resorts also come complete with a beauty salon and fitness centre on-site.
    And if you’re a couple looking for an anniversary, vow renewal, honeymoon or full-blown wedding – they can arrange that too. There’s even a Honeymoon Gift Registry where your family and friends can buy you extra resort credit. 
    What's your favourite thing about Dreams Resorts and Spa? 

     

     

    9 reasons to visit Kissimmee, Florida

    Kissimmee, Florida is famed for being the best of both worlds: close enough to the thrilling rides of Orlando, but far enough away that you can unwind in peaceful surroundings after a day of theme park fun.
    But that’s not the only reason why Kissimmee is an excellent base for your Florida holiday. Below we’ve rounded up 9 reasons why you should consider a holiday to this sunny destination. Have we missed your favourite reason to stay in Kissimmee? Let us know in the comments!
    1. Spacious villas
    Villas and holiday homes are the accommodations of choice in Kissimmee and popular with groups of friends and larger families. Many of the villas also have their own private pools – perfect for cooling off in the Florida sun!
    2. World-famous theme parks
    With Walt Disney World® Resort just ten minutes away, plus an assortment of popular theme parks within a short driving distance including Universal Orlando Resort™, SeaWorld® Parks & Resort™, and LEGOLAND® Florida, Kissimmee offers easy access to thrills and fun for all ages.
    3. Explore Florida’s natural environment
    Kissimmee’s surrounding natural environment is authentic to when the city was first established in 1883. Book an iconic airboat ride through the headwaters of the Everglades and explore the natural beauty of Florida, from the wildlife to the wetlands.   
    4. Its assortment of alligators
    Alligators are Florida’s original inhabitants, and Kissimmee offers incredible opportunities to encounter these reptile residents up-close. Visit Gatorland, a 110-acre park where you can meet alligators of all breeds and sizes and even fly over them on the Screaming’ Gator Zip Line.
    5. The historic downtown area
    If you’re looking for an afternoon of shopping or enjoyable evening dining, Downtown Kissimmee features an eclectic assortment of shops and restaurants. Home to antique shops, family-friendly dining options, and the nearby Kissimmee Lakefront Park, this walking district is the perfect place for an evening with the family.
    Great golf
    Florida is well-known for its year-round sunshine and golf, and Kissimmee is no exception. Some of the most popular courses include Kissimmee Golf Club, Reunion Resort Golf Course, and Celebration Golf Club.
    7. Adventures in the air
    Hot air balloon rides are a must-do experience in Kissimmee – but you can also fly a jet plane or take control of a WWII-era fighter plane with Warbird Adventures at Kissimmee Gateway Airport.  
    8. Close to the coastline
    Kissimmee is less than two hours from both the east and west coastlines of Florida. You can take a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the Atlantic Coast, or visit the beaches on the Gulf Coast.
    9. Easy access
    Kissimmee is only 25 minutes from Orlando International Airport, and you can easily hop in a shuttle bus or taxi to arrive at your hotel or holiday home.

     

    10 luxury hotels for that perfect wedding abroad

    Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, so you’ll want it to be perfect.
    One of the easiest ways to reduce the stress is to have someone else organise it for you. Thankfully there is an endless amount of hotels with beautiful wedding packages that take care of everything - so you literally have to turn up on the day.
    Whether you’re looking to get married in the Caribbean or somewhere closer to home; a lively resort or a secluded cliff-side hotel, there’s something out there to suit you and your sweetheart. Here are just 10 hotels that cater to couples looking to marry abroad (and all of them 5-star!). 
    Moon Palace Cancun, Mexico

     
    If you’re looking for an upbeat (but luxurious) wedding venue in Mexico, then we recommend Moon Palace. The five-star resort offers facilities for all couples and guests, including world-class restaurants, a lavish spa, and a 27-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus.
    Their wedding package is also just as exciting. Aside from a beautiful beach-side ceremony, the wedding package also includes a coordinator, bridal bouquet, wedding cake, sparkling wine, gift registry, complimentary honeymoon package – plus that all-important marriage license and certificate!
    Luxury Bahia Principe Esmerelda, Dominican Republic

    If a laid-back wedding in the Dominican Republic sounds like the correct combination for your wedding, then have a look the Luxury Bahia Principe Esmerelda. This elegant resort has Bavaro’s stunning white-sand beach right on its doorsteps, making it a perfect choice for a romantic wedding.
    Their Sunshine Wedding Package includes all the basics such as a wedding coordinator, wedding cake and Honeymoon breakfast in bed. However, it also includes extra touches like a semi-private dinner reservation for 30 people, 15% spa discount and 10 digital photos.
    Grand Bahia Principe in Jamaica

    This resort hotel boasts its own private beach – so no wonder it’s a popular choice with sweethearts tying the knot. There’s also three swimming pools, three whirlpools, buffet restaurant, water sports, volleyball, and evening entertainment.
    The Sunshine Wedding Package includes all the usual – wedding co-ordinator, decorated ceremony location, bridal bouquet, recorded music for the ceremony, wedding cake, and honeymoon breakfast in bed. On top of that, it also includes 10 digital photos, 15% spa discount, late-check out for the couple, and dinner reservation for 30 people.
    Maritim Resort and Spa Mauritius

    This luxury resort is a favourite with people looking for upmarket family weddings, romantic honeymoons and other special occasions. There’s an 800-metre beach on its doorstep and, in the resort itself, you’ll find four restaurants, three bars, large swimming pool, 9-hole golf course, boat house with water sports, and a fitness centre.
    The Wedding Package itself includes a coordinator, decorated ceremony location, candlelit dinner for the couple, a bottle of sparkling wine, wedding gift – plus legal fees, marriage certificate and transport to Port Louis to complete the wedding declarations.
    Olympic Lagoon Resort Nissi Bay, Cyprus

    This stunning hotel is perfect for couples looking for a lavish wedding. On-site you’ll find three swimming pools (including a lagoon pool), buffet restaurant, outdoor Cypriot restaurant, American-style diner, cocktail bar, and a gym.
    The Wedding Package here is also just as extensive. You’ll have all the basics like a wedding coordinator, ceremony, bridal bouquet, marriage license, and honeymoon breakfast in bed. But you’ll also be treated to a decorated bridal table, 15% spa discount, and the taxi transfer to Town Hall to sign the documents. There are also a few extras that are subject to availability including late check-out, room upgrade, and cocktail reception.
    Coral Beach Hotel Resort & Coral Beach Suites, Cyprus

    Offering undisturbed views of the landscaped gardens and the coast, this hotel is the perfect backdrop to a romantic wedding. The wedding package itself has all the basics (ceremony, co-ordinator, candlelit dinner, marriage license, and honeymoon breakfast in bed) and a few extras like 25% spa discount, facial for the bride and bathrobes in your room.
    The wider resort has all the facilities needed for you and your family to relax after the wedding. There’s an outdoor pool, kids’ pool and indoor pool. There’s also a squash court, gym and sauna. For food and drink, there’s a buffet restaurant, poolside snack bar, beach bar, lounge bar and nightclub. There’s also Wi-Fi and on-site reps who visit twice a week. 
    Stella Place, Crete

    If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort hotel with plenty of activities, then look no further than Stella Place. Here you’ll find a whopping two outdoor swimming pools, one indoor swimming pool, and three kids’ pools (two with waterslides!). On the food side of things, there’s one buffet restaurant and two a la carte restaurants. For children, there are three children's clubs that covers ages 3-15. There is also a playground, high-chairs and cots.
    Hotel Grecian Park, Cyprus

    Perched on a hillside, this small but elegant resort provides a breath-taking backdrop for your big day. The hotel itself is modern and comes equipped with everything you need for a relaxing honeymoon. There’s a small collection of sports, three pools, a pool bar serving snacks and a Japanese restaurant serving sushi (as well as the main restaurant).
    The wedding package here is simple but stylish. You’ll be treated to a ceremony, bridal bouquet, single-tier wedding cake, and sparkling wine on arrival. Register’s fees and marriage certificate are also included.
    Liberty Hotels Lykia, Turkey

    Nestled between beautiful mountains and azure seas, this self-contained resort might be the world’s most beautiful place to get married. Your wedding package itself includes everything you need (co-ordinator, marriage license, bridal bouquet, single-tier wedding cake, honeymoon breakfast in bed and candlelit dinner) but you’ll be treated to VIP check-in on arrival, late check-out until 6 pm, and the option to hire one of the hotel’s speciality restaurants.
    The hotel itself might have a remote location, but there’s plenty to do on-site to keep you and your guests entertained. There’s archery, volleyball, water polo, tennis, aerobics, aqua aerobics, and darts. There’s also a gym and sauna, as well as 10 swimming pools – one of them a mini on-site waterpark! When it’s time to wind down, there’s a buffet restaurant, tennis café, and four bars, as well as evening entertainment.
    DB Seabank Resort & Spa

    If you want to combine the beautiful landscape of Malta with a contemporary hotel – then this place ticks the box! Set 50m from a sand-and-shingle beach, this hotel has plenty to keep the loved-up couple and their guests busy. There’s a main swimming pool, kids’ pool and indoor pool, as well as volleyball, mini-golf, French bowls, beach football, and a gym. Food-wise, there’s the main buffet restaurant, Italian restaurant, Jungle-themed American restaurant, Brazilian restaurant, and Asian buffet restaurant. 
    The wedding package here covers all your basics including cake, venue and legal documents. But you can upgrade to the Superior Wedding Package that includes a white dove release, red carpet for the aisle, bridal hair and make-up, and fresh flower centrepiece.

     

    10 things you didn’t know about Canada Day

    The most important holiday in the Canadian calendar is fast approaching. On July the 1st, Canadians will take to the streets, parks, clubs and bars to celebrate their nation’s birthday. This year they will be celebrating 151 years as the country we recognise today. If you’re not familiar with Canada Day and its history – we’ve got 10 facts that you can impress your friends with.   
    1.    It’s not actually about Canadian Independence
    Canada Day marks the anniversary of when the British Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia , joined Ontario and Quebec to become the Dominion of Canada. Canada didn’t achieve full governmental independence from the U.K. until 1982. 
    2.    Some of the other provinces didn’t join until the 20th Century
    Manitoba and Northwest Territories joined a few years later in 1870. Then British Columbia in 1871, Prince Edward Island in 1873, the Arctic Island joined the Northwest Territories in 1880, and then Yukon joined in 1898. 
    The 20th Century then witnessed Alberta and Saskatchewan join in 1905 and Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949. Finally, in 1999, the Northwest Territories were split in order to create the new territory of Nunavut.
    3.    Niagara Falls has two firework displays in one week
    The USA celebrates its own birthday just three days after Canada, so if you’re staying in Niagara Falls you’ll have the chance to watch two firework displays at the border. 
    4.    Detroit even gets in on the action
    The famous city of Detroit lies just across the lake from the Ontario town of Windsor, and they have joint Canada Day and Independence Day celebrations. It’s called The International Freedom Festival. 
    5.    There are famous Canadians born on Canada Day
    Most notably Pamela Anderson and Dan Ackroyd. 
    6.    It is sometimes celebrated on July the 2nd
    Under the Federal Holidays Act, Canada Day is observed on July 1, unless that date falls on a Sunday, in which case July 2 is the statutory holiday. Even in the case of the 2nd becoming the legal holiday, celebrations will still happen on the 1st. 
    7.    It marks the start of Canada History Week
    In 2013, the week after Canada Day was named Canada History Week and is when Canadians are encouraged to explore their nation’s history. 
    8.    It was originally called Dominion Day
    The year that Canada achieved independence from the U.K. was the same year the Canadian Parliament changed the name to Canada Day. 
    9.    It’s the anniversary of other major events in Canadian History
    Such as the first national rail hook-up by the Canada National Railway in 1927, the flooding of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958, the first colour television transmission in 1966 and the establishment of O Canada as the country's national anthem in 1980.
    10.    The celebrations haven’t changed much
    The very first Canada Day (then called Confederation) was celebrated with the ringing of the bells at the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto, with bonfires, fireworks, military displays and music — pretty much the same way it is celebrated today. 

     

    5 Pride Festivals that need to be on your bucket list

    It’s June so that means we’re officially into Pride month. Across the globe, LGBTQ+ communities will be celebrating with festivals and marches – many of them attracting crowds larger than some countries!  
    Pride parties can range from small gatherings that are only a few years old, right through to decades-old festivals that are so big, streets need to be shut down for the event. But if it’s big – or historically important – that you’re looking for, we have rounded up five Pride Festivals that need to be on your bucket list.   
    1.      New York City
    Back to the place that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ movement. In the early hours of June 28th, 1969 police raided a small bar in Greenwich Village that was popular with the local LGBTQ+ community. Tired of the raids, this time the customers fought back and the Stonewall Riots made their way into the history books. A year later the world’s very first Pride Parade was held in New York City.
    This year’s event will be held on the 24th June, and (aside from the main march) you can attend dance parties, cabaret shows, comedy shows and even a climbing event!
    2.      Sao Paula
    Pride made its way to Brazil in 1997, and a decade later it became the world’s biggest Pride festival – even making its way into the Guinness Book of World Records. The city has just hosted its 2018 celebrations and is it reported that 3 million people were in attendance.
    3.      Toronto
    In 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world (and the first outside of Europe) to legalize same-sex marriage. So it’s no surprise that it knows how to organise a Pride Parade - and Toronto Pride is arguably it's best. 
    The main event every year is the main parade, and the corresponding Dyke March and Trans March. Though there are other events throughout the city (both official and non-official) including dance, film and book events.
    4.      Madrid
    If you’d like to stay closer to home, head to Spain’s capital for the biggest Pride party in Europe. Past parades have attracted up to 2 million people, and in 2017 there were 11 parties over 9 days – including a massive outdoor all night long party at Ciudad Del Rock!
    This year’s Pride will be held on the 7th of July.
    5.      Antarctica
    We’re not pulling your leg – Antarctica will be holding its first Pride event in 2018! Technically it will just be the 10 employees of McMurdo Station, but it could open the doors for larger events in the future. Whether that’s the employees of the other workstations or the cruise liners that sail in during the year (it’s definitely bucket-list worthy for sure).
    What’s the best Pride Festival you’ve ever attended? Have we missed your favourite?


     

    5 things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake

    You’ve heard of Niagara Falls and its adjacent tourist town, but have you heard of Niagara-on-the-Lake?
    Located only 25 minutes from the famous waterfalls, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a well-preserved 19th-century village - with beautiful Colonial-style buildings - which looks out onto the scenic Lake Ontario. It’s the destination of choice for travellers who want to be within easy reach of the iconic Niagara Falls but desire somewhere more peaceful than the bustling Toronto or Niagara Falls Town.  
    While the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is quaint and not overrun with glitzy attractions, there is still a generous helping of relaxing ways to spend your day. Here are the top five things to do in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 
    1.    Shaw Festival
    If you’re a huge theatre-fiend visiting between April and October, then this is a must-do. The Shaw Festival is a major charitable theatre festival and is the second largest repertory theatre company in North America. 2018’s programme includes performances and re-enactments of The Magician's Nephew, A Christmas Carol, Grand Hotel and The Hound of the Baskervilles. 
    2.    Wineries
    Niagara-on-the-Lake is the heart of Ontario’s wine region. There are 39 wineries that call this town home – all with their own unique and distinctive story. There’s Andrew Peller Limited who produced many of the brands you’ll see in Canadian wine shops, through to Frogpond Farm which is Ontario’s first certified organic winery. 
    Most of the wineries offer tours but require advance booking. There are also tour companies that offer days out stopping by different wineries by bike!
    3.    Fort George
    Fort George National Historic Site is a historic military structure that was the scene of several battles during the War of 1812. It was built by the British Army in 1796 and became their HQ after it was completed in 1802. Today it consists of earthworks and palisades, along with internal structures, including an officer's quarters, and blockhouses for other military and their families. The Powder Artillery is the only original structure still standing. And remember to look out over the water where you’ll see historic Fort Niagara in New York State. 
    4.    Outlet Collection
    Even though Niagara-on-the-Lake isn’t a big city, it is still home to a big outlet-style mall that North America is famed for. Outlet Collection at Niagara is an open-air outlet shopping mall found on Queen Elizabeth Way and Glendale Avenue. Here you’ll find all you need for a shopping day trip: from big-name brands like Adidas, Kate Spade and The Body Shop, to restaurants like Subway, Bear Sushi, and Big Smoke Burger.  
    5.    Niagara Falls
    We can’t forget about the famous Niagara Falls, can we? Only a 25 minute drive away, you’ll be exploring the iconic falls and the surrounding town in no time. Remember to book yourself a ride on the Hornblower for a close-up view!  
     

     

    A beginner’s guide to Colorado

    Colorado is one of those USA states that has something for everyone. 

    For the outdoors enthusiast, there is the Rocky Mountains. For the foodies, there is the locally-owned restaurants and breweries in cosmopolitan Denver. If it’s old western cowboy charm you’re after, there are the rustic towns of Durango and Silverton. If it’s outdoor adventure, then there’s the world-famous Rocky Mountains, as well as four National Parks. Oh, and if it’s a romantic or relaxing holiday you’re looking for – there’s plenty of soothing hot springs to choose from. 

    Let’s learn more, shall we? 
    Things to Do
    Mesa Verde National Park

    The Mesa Verde National Park is the perfect blend of beautiful scenery and ancient history. Aside from its scenic hiking trails, it is also the largest archaeological preserve in the United States where you’ll find ancient villages made out of (and set in into) the stone that surrounds them. 
    Taste some local food

    Colorado has a rich foodie scene. You can find everything from fine dining, to fusion food, and good old-fashioned BBQ. But make sure you try the local Denver Omelette, prepared with cheddar cheese, diced ham, onions, and green bell peppers. And if you’re a seafood fan, you need to try the Rocky Mountain Oysters. 
    On top of that, Colorado is home to the largest concentration of craft breweries in the United States. Most of them also offer tours and beer tasting. 
    Denver

    Known as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is a city that still relishes Old West culture and outdoor pursuits. It is the home and final resting place of Wild West hero Buffalo Bill, and you can explore his life at the interactive Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. 
    The city also offers a mix of diverse neighbourhoods. Head to Lower Downtown (LoDo) for hip bars and restaurants and make sure you stop by the historic Larimer Square for shopping and take a moment to people watch at the newly revamped Union Station. While The River North Arts District (RiNo) is made up of historic warehouses and factory buildings full of street art and craft breweries.  
    Outdoors fun in the Royal George Region

    For the adrenaline junkies why not ‘canyon’ a waterfall or camp on a cliff? Or, for those who prefer keeping their feet on the ground, you can head out for a scenic hike and spot the local wildlife including moose, elk and bears. There’s also plenty of camping (and glamping) opportunities. 
    Relax in the hot springs

    After a day of outdoor fun and touring craft breweries, you’ll need to unwind. Thankfully, Colorado is home to some soothing natural hot springs. Even in the winter, Mother Nature still does her job and is one of the few places in the world where you can soak up warm water while snowflakes fall around you. 
    Experience a bird’s eye view…in a hot air balloon

    For the most incredible views of Colorado’s exquisite landscape, book yourself a hot air balloon ride. There’s plenty of companies in the cities and resort towns that offer these, and they really are the best way to experience the beauty of Colorado.  
    How to get there and getting around
    You can fly to Denver non-stop from London with three airlines, or one-stop from other regional UK airports. Colorado is a must for any multi-state fly-drive itinerary. Or, for those that prefer to travel by train, you also have the additional option of travelling to Colorado on Amtrack’s California Zephyr that connects Chicago to San Francisco! 
    Once you’re in Colorado, the best way to switch between the different regions and cities is by hiring a car. 
    Other important information
    •    Colorado is the highest altitude state in America so remember sun cream, a sunhat and drink plenty of water. 
    •    Colorado weather can change very quickly so remember to pack a variety of clothes
    •    Tipping is customary in Colorado with 15 and 20 per cent of the bill being the norm
    •    Colorado is on Mountain Standard Time, and is seven hours behind the UK.  
    •    The currency is the USA Dollar, which you can exchange in advance


     

    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!


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