The Florida Keys is one of America’s most iconic road trips. Starting in Miami and extending south until Key West, this 113-mile stretch of road takes only three hours to complete. But to drive end-to-end with no breaks would be doing yourself a disservice.
That’s because this island chain is beautifully diverse and feels a world apart from the theme parks and shopping malls of mainland Florida. While it is Key West that typically gets all the attention, anyone who has taken the time to stop at all the islands will tell you that they each offer a unique experience. Before you start your journey, ensure you have a read through our top 10 must do’s in the Florida Keys and make a point of stopping at least once on each island.
1. Dive/Snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park (Key Largo)
The crown jewel of the state park system and the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. It is also home to one of two coral reef formations in United States waters. You can view the coral reef system from a glass bottom-boat, or snorkeling. Other activities available in the park include canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, picnicking, swimming and wildlife viewing.
2. Kayak and explore Everglades National Park (Key Largo)
This is the only eco-system of its type in the world with the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States – boasting rare and endangered species. It has even been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of international importance.
3. Fish in the Sport Fishing Capital of the World (Islamorada)
Take a charter boat out to one of the only places on Earth where it is possible to catch a sailfish in the morning, and then venture into the backcountry in pursuit of bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook and redfish in just inches of water.
4. View art at Robbie’s Marina (Islamorada)
A nostalgic destination reminiscent of why some of the most talented artists, writers, fishermen and presidents have called the Florida Keys home. Robbie’s Marina rests peacefully among coconut palms with shimmering views of the unspoiled Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean converge. With free entry, a private sandy beach, restaurants serving fresh food, and quaint art and craft pavilions, it’s not hard to understand why so many artists have chosen this place to immortalise in paintings.
5. Learn about local marine life at Dolphin Research Centre (Marathon)
The Dolphin Research Centre on Marathon is a not-for-profit research and educational facility that offers several exciting daily presentations demonstrating the dolphins’ high flying athletics, educational fun facts, dolphin research, new behaviour training, medical behaviours, and much more.
6. Turtle Hospital (Marathon)
Visit the Turtle Hospital and see how they rehabilitate injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat. Learn how they conduct and assist with research aiding sea turtles and work toward environmental legislation to ensure that the beaches and waters are safe for sea turtles.
7. Visit Bahia Honda State Park and Recreation Area (Big Pine Key)
With its white sandy beaches and abundant wildlife, Bahia Honda Key frequently makes the list of most beautiful beaches in America. Experiences available in the park include biking, bird-watching, boat tours, camping, fishing, and snorkelling.
8. Spend time on Big Pine and the Lower Keys
Spend a half day exploring the backcountry waters off the lower Florida Keys. Encounter key deer, sea turtles and dolphins in their natural habitat as well as exploring the Great White Heron National Sanctuary.
9. Day trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park (Key West)
Almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. The 100-square mile park is mostly open water with several small islands. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is known the world over as the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, picturesque blue waters, superlative coral reefs and marine life, and the vast assortment of bird life that frequent the area.
10. Sunset at Mallory Square (Key West )
Celebrate the end of your road trip at Mallory Square where every evening you can enjoy free live music and street entertainers, art and craft stores and enjoy a cocktail as the sun goes down.
Los Angeles is a popular city for a weekend break - whether it’s a stopover on the way to the Pacific Ocean or Asia, or as part of wider Western America road trip. Thing is though, it’s a big city and it can feel like a mammoth task planning how to see as much of it as possible in two days. So we’ve done it for you. Including where to stop for lunch and dinner, and how to get around the city.
Arriving in LA
Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is located southeast of the city, about 15 miles from downtown and 20 miles from the San Fernando Valley. There’s an Airport Bus that connects the airport to three stops in LA: Van Nuys, located in the Valley; Westwood, about halfway between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills; and Union Station in downtown LA. These buses usually don’t cost more than $10 per person, but they only take debit and credit cards. Alternatively you can get a cab at the airport, which will cost more but can drop you at your hotel door step (and ready to start your 48 hours!).
Time to rise and shine and beat the queues, because we’re heading north to Universal Studios Hollywood™. There’s a full day of adventure to be had here, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, King Kong 360 3D, Springfield U.S.A, The Walking Dead Attraction, and (of course) the world-famous Studio Tour.
When it’s time for lunch you’ll be spoilt for choice with real-life replicas of fictional places – such as Three Broomsticks™, Moe’s Tavern, and Jurassic Café. You can also head into City Walk, where you’ll find restaurants, cinemas and souvenir shops.
Transport links: the Los Angeles Metro can drop you right outside Universal Studios Hollywood™ if you take the Red Line and get off at the Universal City/Studio City station.
Photo by Anthony Ginsbrook on Unsplash
It might take you a full day to get around Universal Studios Hollywood™ but if you do make it out within the afternoon, head over to Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood (which is less than a ten-minute drive away). On the tour, you’ll come across outdoor sets and soundstages used to create productions such as The Big Bang Theory, Pretty Little Liars, La La Land, Argo, and Gilmore Girls.
Studio Tour guests will also stop at the DC Universe - DC Comics Exhibit, the real Central Perk Friends set, and the original Batman Museum - Batmobile Collection.
Side note: working your way through both Universal Studios Hollywood™ and Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood will be tight, but it’s not impossible if you book tickets in advance and plan which attractions you want to see.
Before you head back into Central LA stop by the Griffith Observatory, which is open until 10pm. This art deco landmark from 1935 features a high-tech planetarium, public telescopes and some of the best views of Los Angeles (including the famous Hollywood sign).
Transport link: hailing a cab is your best way to get from Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood to the Griffith Observatory, though you can take a scenic 2-hour walk through Griffith Park. When you’re finished, The Griffith Observatory is an hour’s walk from Sunset Boulevard and there is a bus between the Observatory and the Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line Metro Station.
Los Angeles is celebrated for its nightlife, and there are plenty of places to choose from. Though the Downtown Arts District in the east of the city is definitely LA’s neighbourhood of the moment. It’s an industrial district turned chic nightlife epicentre, and home to delicious restaurants like Bestia, the inspiring Hauser & Wirth Gallery, and a bevy of breweries. In the wider Downtown District, you’ll also find several nightclubs to party away in until the early hours.
Saturday’s itinerary was quite adventurous, but don’t worry because Sunday is more relaxed. Head out to The J. Paul Getty Museum in Bel Air, one of the world's largest arts organisations. Its collection includes Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art from the Neolithic to Late Antiquity. As well as European art—including illuminated manuscripts, paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts—from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. Take a slow wander around the decorated halls to wake yourself up.
Transport links: this is up a hill with not much else around it, so we recommend booking a taxi, Lyft, or Uber.
Make your way back into the city, firstly stopping off in Beverly Hills. Even if this area is out of your price range, it’s still well-worth a visit to admire the lavish boutiques, take a picture with the iconic Beverley Hills sign, stop by the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, and book a tour of the most extravagant houses in LA.
There are also a lot of restaurants in Beverley Hills to choose from, including Mastro’s Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory, and Ocean Prime.
Afterwards, head up to Hollywood Boulevard and find your favourite stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Then explore some of the nearby landmarks such as the Hollywood Wax Museum®, Museum of Death, and the Capitol Records Building.
Transport links: there are no direct buses or metro line between the Getty Museum and Beverley Hills and Hollywood so we recommend getting a taxi, Lyft, or an Uber (which will take little over 10 minutes).
While you’re in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, you have to catch a show. This is the home of showbiz after all! Along Sunset Boulevard you’ll find several famous venues – from the Laugh Factory for comedy, The Roxy Theatre for rock music, ArcLight for showing first-run movies, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre where many well-known actors and comedians started their careers, and Hollywood Palladium for the big name performers.
Have you been to Los Angeles? What attractions would you recommend to someone only in the city for 48 hours?
Illinois is famous for a few things – but one of the most notable is the starting point of the famous Route 66. Three hundred miles of this iconic road stretches through the state of Illinois and passes by some incredible attractions and sights along the way. If you’re embarking on your first Route 66 adventure, here are a few of the places we recommend you stop at.
1. The Route 66 Sign
The famous Route 66 starts right in the heart of Chicago, and you’ll find the iconic Route 66 Begin sign on East Adams St./Jackson Blvd. & South Michigan Av.
2. Illinois Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum
Route 66 is home to numerous great museums – but if you can only visit one, we recommend the Hall of Fame. Among the artefacts, you’ll find the bus and van of Route 66 icon, Bob Waldmire: an artist famous for his whimsical maps of the Mother Road and its human and natural ecology. Remember to get a photo with the World’s Largest Route 66 mural in Pontiac.
3. The Muffler Men
In Wilmington, Atlanta, and Springfield, you’ll notice each town is home to a giant and colourful statue (they’re not hard to spot). They were all once used for promotional purposes by local businesses, but are now iconic in their own right. Tall Paul is located alongside Route 66 in Atlanta and cannot be missed as you drive past. The Gemini Giant stands alongside the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington. While the Lauterbach Tire Man is found outside Lauterbach Tires on Wabash Avenue in Springfield.
4. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum
The city of Springfield was the home of Abraham Lincoln for the 17 years leading up to his election as the 16th president of the United States. There are a few Lincoln themed attractions in Springfield, but the best is undoubtedly the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It’s home to the world’s largest collection of Lincoln-related documents, including realistic holographic presentations, a show reel of the 1860 presidential election, plus clothes and toys of that era.
5. Original Historic Route 66 Brick Road
Step back in time to Old Route 66 at its best. A short drive outside of Springfield, you’ll find Brick 66: a beautiful 2.5-kilometer-long stretch of restored, hand-laid brick road from 1931 that is beautifully framed by rolling hills.
6. Cosy Dog Drive-In
Welcome to the home of the all-American corn dog. Established back in the 1940s, Cosy Dog Drive-In is not just a restaurant but also a souvenir shop and mini-museum with an impressive collection of Route 66 memorabilia.
7. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch
For something a bit out-of-the-ordinary, head to Henry's Rabbit Ranch Home - where you’ll find rabbits of both the hopping kind and the VW kind. You’ll also stumble upon a giant fiberglass jackrabbit that visitors can climb onto the back of, and a bunny graveyard paying tribute to some of the ranch’s previous residents (plus a gift shop with Route 66 souvenirs).
8. Pink Elephant Antique Mall
The Pink Elephant Antique Mall features a number of unique roadside attractions and multiple photo opportunities! The mall itself sports larger than life sculptures including a pink elephant and a large male statue from the move ‘Flatliners’. In addition to a retro-looking ice cream shop, the newest edition is the Mother Road Fudge-n-Candy shop. Enjoy retro candy, chocolates and homemade fudge!
9. World’s largest Catsup bottle
The World's Largest Catsup Bottle stands proudly next to Route 159, just south of downtown Collinsville, Illinois. This unique 170ft tall water tower was built in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Company for the G.S. Suppiger Catsup bottling plant - bottlers of Brooks old original rich tangy Catsup.
10. Old Chain of Rocks Bridge
As you leave Illinois, remember to snap a selfie at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge out of Collinsville. Built in 1927, it’s the fifth bridge to cross the Mississippi River – and was part of the original Route 66 road – the perfect way to wave goodbye to Illinois as you carry on your Route 66 adventure.
Sarasota boasts an interesting backstory. In the 15th Century, Spanish explorers expelled the Calusa people – leaving the place virtually empty until the Seminole Wars. While the place was once again populated – it was isolated until 1902 when the Tampa railroad was built. Sarasota then grew popular as a winter resort for the affluent, and the city’s arts institutions followed. Then circus magnate John Ringling decided to relocate his circus here, building a winter residence, art museum and college, and setting the town on course to become the artistic hub that it is today.
This all led to Sarasota rising as one of Florida’s most diverse holiday destinations – which offers a lot more than just a pretty shoreline. It is also just south of Tampa, and is easy to reach from the UK. Here’s your guide to making the most of your time in Sarasota.
Ringling Museum of Art
If you’re looking to discover the local art scene, you can’t get much better than the official museum of Florida. Established in 1927 - in memory of Mable and John Ringling – it offers twenty-one galleries of European paintings as well as Cypriot antiquities and Asian, American, and contemporary art. The museum is in total home to more than 10,000 objects, but it’s most celebrated items in the museum are 16th–20th-century European paintings, including a world-renowned collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings.
The museum is open daily 10:00am - 5:00pm, Thursdays until 8:00pm, and can be found in north Sarasota towards Bradenton.
The Sarasota Ballet has been around since 1987, but it was in 2007 that is became a big player on the world stage. This is when the renowned English ballet dancer and choreographer, Iain Webb, was appointed director and revolutionised The Company’s catalogue, introducing 146 ballets and divertissements through the 2017 - 2018 Season.
Ballets by Sir Frederick Ashton are his personal favourite, but under his watchful eye The Sarasota Ballet has become recognised for orchestrating American premiers of international pieces, and commissioning new works (both from budding choreographers from within The Company and established choreographers from around the globe).
2019 performances include The Sarasota Ballet Gala, Transcending Movement, The Sarasota Ballet - Martha Graham Dance Company, and Giselle. You’ll find the Sarasota Ballet near Indian Beach / Sapphire Shores.
Visit the art galleries on Palm Avenue
Palm Avenue is known amongst locals for its collection of art galleries – and they are definitely worth visiting. If you’re in Sarasota on the First Friday of the month, stop by Palm Avenue between 6pm and 9pm for Palm Avenue’s First Friday Walks, when members of the Palm Avenue Arts Alliance sing, dance, and serenade the community and guests.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Since 1973, scientists from Selby Gardens have ventured into some of the world’s wildest places to identify, study, collect and learn from exotic and remarkable plants – which has led to the gardens becoming a world-leader in the study and conservation of plants, particularly epiphytes.
Some of the highlights at the gardens include Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden, Tropical Conservatory, Towering Bamboo Garden, and the Koi Pond.
Shop till you drop
Sarasota also boasts some incredible shopping opportunities. To start with, there are a few outlet malls within the area. The new Mall at University Town Center, located at Interstate 75 and University Parkway, is a shopping and dining destination, with more than 125 stores and restaurants. The Mall at UTC's anchors are Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard's. Westfield Southgate in south Sarasota features retailers like Talbots and Chico's, and even has a movie theatre.
But if you’re looking for something independent and distinctive, Pineapple Avenue offers a row of antiques shops. While Main Street, also downtown, is home to boutique clothing stores and other fun shops.
If you require any more convincing that Sarasota is the centre of Florida’s cultural scene – it is home to Florida’s oldest continuous orchestra. Opened in 1949, the 80-member Orchestra performs more than 100 classical, pops and family concerts each year. Upcoming shows in the 2018-2019 schedule include Legends, Perfect Pairs, Tis the Season, and La La Land in Concert.
Play a round of golf
The golf courses in Sarasota are the perfect balance between being well-known enough that keen players will be impressed that you’ve teed-off there, but not so famous that they’re overrun. University Park Country Club is a members-club that also allows members of the public to play. All three nines (all are Ron Garl designs) are top notch, with speed and true rolls, and the course is noted for its great overall condition. And with all the different sets of tees you’ll feel like you are playing a different course every visit.
Taste the local cuisine
Sarasota County is home to award-winning chefs and 21 Zagat-rated restaurants – so a trip round its local restaurants is definitely in order.
If you’re in Sarasota with your other half, Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key is known as one of America’s Top 200 Most Romantic Restaurants. While Michael’s On East is Sarasota’s only AAA Four Diamond Restaurant.
However, if it’s really important that you have a nice bottle of red with your dinner, The Crow’s Nest Restaurant & Tavern boasts 950 varieties of wine and has been awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and the “Best Of” Award of Excellence. While The Bijou Café claims the largest collection of South American wines in Florida.
For something a bit more unusual – how about a trip to one of Sarasota’s two Amish restaurants? Both Der Dutchman and Yoder’s restaurants are the epitome of casual, home-cooked dining and are perfect family-friendly restaurants. The Amish pies have been recognized as some of the best in the country.
There are also several food-based festivals throughout the year. Savor Sarasota Restaurant Week during the first two weeks of June offers a multi-course culinary experience at more than 60 restaurants. Let’s Eat, Englewood in the fall also celebrates dining, with multiple restaurants offering special menus. Forks & Corks Food and Wine Festival, a multi-day event by the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, includes food and wine seminars at various restaurants. The Whiskey Obsession Festival showcases more than 200 spirits to taste, ranging from the elegant to the sublime. Finally, the Suncoast BBQ & Bluegrass Bash in Venice brings award-winning pitmasters to Venice.
Enjoy a night out in Downtown Sarasota
Finish your holiday by letting your hair down in the centre of Sarasota nightlife scene, where you’ll find craft beer, cocktails, light bites and unique characters. Some of the most popular places include Jack Dusty at The Ritz Carlton, Selva Grill, Social Eatery & Bar, and State Street Eating House + Cocktails.
Have you ever been to Sarasota? Leave us a comment letting first-time visitors know what should be first on their list.
People tend to fall in love with Chicago very quickly – and it’s not hard to understand why.
The city has plenty to do: including sports, shopping, fun fairs, museums and even a beach! But there’s a vibe about Chicago that you can’t mistake. It’s buzzing, but it’s also friendlier than your average large metropolitan. We recommend that every city-lover stops by Chicago at one point in their life – and here’s our guide to making the most of any visit.
What to see and do
Chicago’s vast size can be daunting for first-time visitors with so many attractions to pick from. While we’d encourage you to research everything Chicago has to offer and decide what’s right for you, we’ve pulled together a selection of Chicago’s best sights.
One of the most relaxing ways to take in the beautiful sights of Chicago is on a boat tour along its river and lake. Choose between Chicago’s First Lady and Shoreline Sightseeing, or get adventurous with Kayak Chicago.
Stroll through Millennium Park
You’ve probably seen the pictures of a bean-like structure in Chicago? You’ll find it here in Millennium Park. Amongst the 25-acres of public space, you’ll find FREE art installations, outdoor concerts, film screenings, outdoor workouts, and tours. In winter there’s also an outdoor ice-rink.
Shop along Magnificent Mile
Chicago is home to a very eclectic and stylish shopping scene, with the Magnificent Mile as its epicentre. This cosmopolitan, history-packed strip on downtown Michigan Avenue (between the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Oak Street) is home to department stores, multi-story megamalls, luxury boutiques and brand name retail chains.
Visit larger-than-life galleries
The world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago hosts one of the biggest collections of late-19th-century French art in the world. While the Museum of Science & Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Oh, and The Field Museum is home to Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur to roam the Earth.
You could spend a week just exploring the museums and art galleries. There’s museums that document and celebrate African-American heritage, Jewish tradition, Mexican art, Lithuanian culture, Ukrainian history, Puerto Rican culture, military history, maritime history, and even an American Writer's Museum.
Catch a sports game
Chicago loves its sports, particularly soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and hockey. There’s always a game happening in Chicago so it’s worth searching for one while you’re in town.
Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, and while there is more to the city’s food scene than this – you will still find a lot of pizzerias. Lou Malnati in the River North area is generally regarded as the best place to stop by for a slice of this famous dish.
Other foods that are quintessentially Chicago include their own style of hot dog (it’s topped with vegetables), Italian beef (a style rarely found outside the city), and steak (Chicago is the meat-packing capital of the world). For something a little different, you can visit the old haunts of Al Capone, such as the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge or the Green Door Tavern.
Chicago was once awarded "City of the Year" by GayCities.com, and its gay district Boystown was named “best gay neighbourhood in the world" by Out Traveler magazine. It’s no wonder though as Chicago boasts a rich and proud LGBTQ history, which you can learn all about with an LGBTQ+ Landmarks Tour, or by strolling the Legacy Walk in Boystown. There’s also a selection of LGBTQ+ businesses, ranging from bookstores to nightclubs.
Getting to Chicago and finding your way around
Chicago is the home of United Airlines, so there’s no shortage of flights. There are several flights to Chicago a week from the UK, including a new service from Edinburgh to O’Hare International Airport. O’Hare International Airport is home to an on-site hotel, a yoga room, mother’s room, and an aeroponic garden.
Once you’re in Chicago, The El (short for the CTA's elevated train, which also includes subway trains) offers a quick and inexpensive public transportation option. If you need to get out to the suburbs, Metra Trains from Union, Ogilvie, and La Salle Street stations provide several convenient routes.
If you’re not going very far and just want to explore the city centre, it’s easy enough to hail a cab. Lyft and Uber also have a presence within the city.
If you’re a keen cyclist, you can also make use of the city’s bike-share service, Divvy. Their bike rental stations can be found across the city, where you can pick up one of their unmistakable blue bicycles. If you’re walking, Chicago’s streets are laid out in a handy grid system.
Other important information:
Chicago is at its best during the summer months (though we recommend wearing layers)
You’ll need a US Visa and US Dollars
Tipping is customary in Chicago
The perfect family destination is somewhere that expertly combines excitement and relaxation. In Tampa Bay on Florida’s Gulf Coast, you’ll stumble upon a pleasant mixture of both. Whether it’s roller coasters, museums, or nature – families will discover plenty of attractions where they can create memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay offers the perfect blend of theme park and animal adventures. Within its 300 acres, you’ll find thrilling rides, one of the country's premier zoos with more than 12,000 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games.
Admissions: Adult tickets are $84.99, while children aged 3-9 get in for $76.99 (children 2 and under are admitted for free).
2. Adventure Island®
Just across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay you’ll find Adventure Island® waterpark. It’s perfect for all the family with thrill-seeking water-rides like Colossal Curl™ (the tallest ride at Adventure Island® at nearly 70 feet and 560 feet in length) and private cabanas where quieter members of the family are able to relax with a book.
Admissions: Adult ticket prices are $44.89 plus tax, and children ages 3 to 9 are $40.61 (children ages 2 and under free).
3. Florida Aquarium
The Florida Aquarium is one of the most celebrated aquariums in the United States. Here you can immerse yourself in interactive programs like Dive with the Sharks, Shark Swim and Swim with the Fishes or take a Wild Dolphin Tour on board the Bay Spirit II (a 72-foot powered catamaran). And after exploring all the exhibits inside, make sure you visit the Aquarium's new water play area The Splash Pad!
Admissions: Adults are $24.95, seniors (60+) are $22.95, and children under 12 are $19.95 (Children 2 & under are Free).
4. ZooTampa at Lowry Park
ZooTampa at Lowry Park is home to more than 1300 animals and famous for having one of the most beautiful, tropical zoological settings in the world. The Zoo brings together animals and visitors to create unforgettable, natural connections. Guests get closer to wildlife than ever before by touching a giant tortoise, feeding a giraffe, getting nose-to-horn with an Indian rhino, hand-to-fin with slippery stingrays and more! Families can also splash in water play areas, feel thrills on rides and take in educational shows.
Admissions: Adults are $34.95, and children 3 to 11 $25.95.
5. TECO Manatee Viewing Centre
Manatees are a unique marine mammal local to Florida – but they are endangered. This viewing centre is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary. During the centre’s open season, Nov. 1 through April 15, displays, interactive exhibits and more educate visitors of all ages about the life cycle of the manatee and the challenges this animal faces.
Admissions: the centre is run by volunteers and is completely free.
Have you been to Tampa Bay with your family? What attractions do you recommend they visit first?
New York City is one of the world’s most notorious shopping destinations. So it’s no surprise that it knows how to celebrate Black Friday in style. Long before the annual shopping extravaganza hit UK shores, NYC was dishing out bargains - with famous department stores opening up early and 70% discount tags being the norm.
If you’ve booked yourself an NYC shopping break that spans over Black Friday (or the days that follow – bargains can still be found weeks later) here is our quick guide to getting it right on the day.
Arrive at the department stores early
The department stores of New York City are world-famous and, as a result, everybody heads there first. Many of them open up early, so it really is a case of “you snooze, you lose”. Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Barneys, Bloomingdales, JCPenny, and Century 21 will all have a line of people waiting to get in (make sure you’re one of them).
Macy’s will be open all night
On the topic of department stores – the iconic Macy’s has recently dropped the news that they will be open throughout the night. The doors will open at 5pm on Thursday, just hours after the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Stores will stay open until 2am then close for a few hours. The doors will re-open at 6am on Black Friday.
Get out of Midtown Manhattan
After you’ve grabbed some bargains from the big department stores, it’s time to escape Midtown Manhattan. This is the perfect excuse to head to Manhattan’s newest (and shiniest) shopper’s paradise: Brookfield Place. You’ll find even more high-end brands here, including Louis Vuitton, Lululemon, Saks Fifth Avenue, and J Crew.
Visit the Winter Villages
If you’re looking for some unique Christmas gifts, make your way to one of NYC’s Winter Villages. You’ll find them in some of Manhattan’s most famous public squares, though Bryant Park Winter Village is the most well-known one. There you’ll find jewellery, artisan soaps, home-made candles, art prints, and other unique gifts for your loved ones.
Follow the stores and brands on social media
Several brands and stores will offer exclusive offers on social media – including discount codes that you can show at the checkout.
Leave the British brands alone
While the shops of NYC boast many incredible deals, the big savings only really apply to American brands. Many British brands sell goods in America at a higher price – so if you’re looking for some Burberry or Vivienne Westwood, you’ll make bigger savings in London.
“Is it expensive though?”
This is a common question we get from customers who are looking to stay close to the action at a Universal Orlando on-site hotel. Equally the hotels can offer amazing value for money and easy access to the parks with great benefits only on-site hotel customers get.
And now there really is something for all budgets: the upcoming Universal’s Endless Summer Resort, opening in 2019 (but available to book now), is Universal’s first ‘Value’ hotel offering budget-friendly accommodation. It still, however, will come with many of the extra perks that Universal Orlando hotels are known for. Here is a quick rundown of the features and amenities.
1. Universal Orlando Park benefits
It wouldn’t be a Universal Orlando Resort hotel if it didn’t offer benefits that you can use in the parks. Guests can enjoy Early Park Admission, credit their purchase to their room key, and receive complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to their hotel. There will also be complimentary shuttle bus transportation to and from the theme parks and Universal CityWalk
2. It’s right in the heart of International Drive
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is being built on the site where Wet n Wild waterpark once stood. It’s just off where International Drive intersects with Universal Boulevard and a quick (free) shuttle to CityWalk and the parks
3. There will be two hotels
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort will boast two hotels: Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites. The first of which will have 750 rooms and will open in August 2019, while the second will be home to a massive 2,050 rooms and will open throughout 2020. Guests at each hotel will be allowed to make use of amenities at the other hotel.
4. The theme will be sea, surf and sand
While the décor at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort will be more minimalist than other Universal Orlando hotels – this is still a Universal hotel, and that means it needs a theme… think relaxed and fun surf vibe with beach details woven throughout the experience (fairly fitting as it will look out onto the lake that Wet n Wild used to wrap itself around!)
5. There will be five room categories
Out of the 750 bright and beachy guest rooms, 390 will be 2 Bedroom Suites that comfortably sleep up to six adults with the rest a comfy standard double queen room (sleeps up to four). You can also get the standard double with a pool view and the 2-bedroom suites with a pool or water view – perfect!
6. The Two-Bedroom Suite is ideal for large families
These suites are the perfect base for the entire family, sleeping up to six. They feature two bedrooms: one room with two queen beds and the other with one queen bed. There’s also a kitchenette area and cool picnic table for dining and hanging out; as well as a bathroom with separate shower and vanity areas so all the family can get ready at the same time.
7. There’s on-site food and drink
Universal’s Endless Summer Resort boasts its own food court that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also have pizza delivered to your room. When you’re looking for a liquid refreshment, you can choose between the coffee bar in the lobby and the pool bar.
8. The pool area is pretty great
The pool itself is surfboard-shaped and has a Splash Zone for the kids. There are also poolside activities such as Hula-Hoop Contests, Bingo and Ping-Pong.
9. There’s other entertainment on-site
In the form of a fitness centre and a Game Room, where you’ll find video and arcade games. Plus a Universal Studios Store to stock up on all your favourite character merchandise!
10. Rooms start at only $73 per night
We weren’t exaggerating when we said this new hotel was budget-conscious.
I have just returned from a wonderful trip to Las Vegas and was lucky enough to take in one of the famous Cirque du Soleil® performances. When you are in Vegas, there are some experiences that just cannot be missed, and this is definitely one of them. I can say with confidence that a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas is an absolute must do, and I would recommend taking in a show to anyone planning their trip.
With such a variety of shows on offer it can be difficult to make a decision. Each show is unique and there really is something for everyone. I opted to see Mystère™ by Cirque du Soleil® at Treasure Island.
Mystere by Cirque du Soleil is the original Cirque du Soleil production. Combining high energy acrobatics and dramatic dance, the show caters for all ages and is suitable for families. Some of the acrobatic stunts were so intense that I was literally on the edge of my seat! The artists put on an exciting, thrilling show, with comedic acts to entertain the audience. There is also some audience participation which is great. The performance takes places to the thunderous rhythms of the Taiko drums, an amazing experience in itself.
I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance, so many people are left disappointed when they arrive in Las Vegas only to find out the show is sold out. The shows are incredibly popular and certain performances sell out weeks in advance. I highly recommend pre-booking your tickets to guarantee you get the best seats and avoid any frustration. Don’t worry if the show is close to capacity, the theatre is designed incredibly well, with seats raised all around the stage. With artists on the ground, trapezing through the air and running through the audience, you will always have sight of something.
On the evening of the show, make sure you allow plenty of time and arrive early. The artists come around the audience for photo opportunities and it is a great experience to meet the artists. A fantastic experience for all, but something extra special if you have kids with you.
If you’re looking for a destination that combines city and beach, you won’t find much better than Greater Fort Lauderdale .
Located on Florida’s east coast, Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of blue-wave certified beaches alongside a cosmopolitan playground (that is still home to a relaxed beachy-vibe). No matter what kind of city-type culture is your favourite – whether it’s dining, art, nightlife or shopping – you’ll find it in this sun-drenched destination. Here’s how to spend your holiday in Greater Fort Lauderdale.
1. Indulge in Floribbean cuisine
The south of Florida is home to a unique blend of culinary flavours that are descendant from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Asia – and can be traced back to when the Spanish first landed on US shores. Popular Floribbean dishes include key lime pie, conch fritters, mango salsa, rice and bean dishes, jerk chicken, plus seafood gumbos and salads.
2. Visit the Downtown Hollywood Art Mural Project
Head to Hollywood’s Downtown Area to admire street art by local and international artists. Artist names include Tatiana Suarez, Evoca1, Rone, The London Police, Jessy Nite, Ernesto Maranje, Logan Hicks and Kenny Scharf. You can stroll through the streets yourself or book a guided tour. Afterwards, why not check out the area’s cafes, bars and restaurants or dip into Greater Fort Lauderdale’s craft ale scene?!
3. Explore Bonnet House
Bonnet House is a historic home found in the Fort Lauderdale Beach area. It dates back to 1895, when Hugh Taylor Birch, a successful Chicago lawyer gifted it to his daughter and new husband as a wedding gift. The husband, Frederic Clay Bartlett, was a self-taught architect and the main house is based on his interpretation of Caribbean plantation-style architecture and also features his eclectic art collection. When Bartlett’s second wife died in 1997, she deeded the property to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation (the largest donation in state history).
The main properties in the estate include the main house, an art studio, a music studio and a guest house. Plus, there are also five different ecosystems: primary and secondary dunes, mangrove wetlands, a freshwater slough and a maritime forest. It is also licensed for private events, including weddings.
4.Shop till you drop in Sawgrass Mills
Welcome to the largest designer outlet mall in North America. You’ll find many quintessential American names here including Barneys, Bloomingdales, Kate Spade and Super Target – alongside international brands like Armani, Valentino, and Versace. Bag yourself bargains of up to 70% off!
5. Paddleboard in the ocean
Watersports are plentiful in Greater Fort Lauderdale – but paddleboarding is definitely the most popular. There are numerous tour companies who’ll take beginner and experienced paddle boarders out into the Atlantic – including special tours like sunset boarding, full moon boarding and yoga boarding!
6. Dock and Dine
If you’re feeling peckish while paddleboarding, you can paddle over to one of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s many waterfront restaurants. We mean this literally, as many have a Dock and Dine policy where you can park your boat or board up front and get out. If you opt for one of the many seafood restaurants, you can also witness crates of fish being freshly delivered that day.
7. Hop on the Jungle Queen Riverboat
Explore the city (and beyond) on-board the Jungle Queen Riverboat. You can choose between either a 90 minute sight-seeing cruise (which takes you along the New River where you’ll pass by Millionaire’s Row, spotting mega-yachts and celebrity homes) and a Tropical Isle cruise (which takes you on the same route, but this time you’ll end up on Tropical Isle where you can watch an alligator show, see exotic birds, lemurs and monkeys, and hold a baby alligator).
8. Escape the city to the Everglades
Greater Fort Lauderdale is the gateway to the Florida Everglades. Here you can awe at exotic flora, fauna, and wildlife from alligators to Florida panthers. It’s also home to the Seminole Indians, who invite visitors to learn about their proud, ancient culture.
9. Stop by Riptide and Tortuga Music Festivals
If you like music, time your visit alongside one of these music festivals. Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival was founded to help raise awareness about ocean conservation and focuses on country and rock music. Riptide, however, is held at the end of the year and past acts have included Weezer, Pvris, Boyz II Men, and Salt-n-Pepa.
10. Explore the city by canal
Greater Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America thanks to its 300 miles of canals. There are numerous boat tours that can take you along these waterways including the area’s very own water taxi– the perfect way to relax on your final night.
Washington, DC requires no introduction. Its monuments, buildings and landmarks have been seen on television sets across the world and are instantly recognisable. But every television broadcast in the world can’t prepare for you for how fascinating the city is in real life. We recommend that everyone should visit at one point in their lives. Here’s our guide to making the most of it.
If it’s historical monuments and museums you want to visit, then you need to head to The National Mall. It’s a lot longer than most people anticipate and it’s a good idea to schedule aside a whole day just to explore. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to visit everything, so here are our top picks.
Honour the legacy of the 16th President of the United States, and the man who ended the American slave trade. Found at the western end of National Mall, the famous 19-foot statue of Lincoln attracts the most attention. But remember to admire the neo-classical architecture and visit the museum inside. On the steps, you’ll also find the words “I Have a Dream” engraved on the exact spot where Martin Luther King Jr presented his famous and powerful speech.
Lying at the other end of the Lincoln Reflection Pool is the tallest structure in all of Washington, DC. It stands at 555ft and took so long to build that the original quarry ran out and you can see the change in colour two-thirds up. Currently, the monument is closed for renovations until 2019, but when it does re-open, you’ll need a ticket to get in and it is generally recommended that you book in advance.
The Smithsonian Institution is a world-renowned museum and research complex that consists of 17 museums, galleries and the National Zoo. Access to all of these museums is completely free. Several of them are dotted along the National Mall – including the Smithsonian National Museum of Air and Space, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and National Museum of the American Indian.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
While this is a must-see on National Mall, it is humbling and sometimes difficult to take. The main exhibition starts with the identity cards of Holocaust victims, then their harrowing story is gradually revealed. You also find The Hall of Remembrance, the museum’s official memorial to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
If you’re visiting with children, there’s instead Remember the Children: Daniel's Story. It’s lighter than the main exhibition and tells the story of Daniel, a fictional child based on a collection of true stories about children during the Holocaust.
National Gallery of Art
Found on the National Mall, between 3rd and 9th Streets, lies one of North America’s largest art museums. It is comprised of two buildings – that are connected by an underground passage – with the original neoclassical building showcasing European art and the modern East Building exhibiting contemporary pieces. Entry is free, but you’ll need to set aside a good chunk of your day if you want to get around everything.
Since 1800, this is where both the lower House of Representatives and the Upper Senate meet to debate and write legislation. There’s an underground visitor centre below the East Plaza, which includes a tour of various chambers. In order to watch Congress in Session, however, you’ll need to take your passport to the House and Senate Appointment Desks on the upper level.
Welcome to Washington, DC’s newest neighbourhood. Set along the waterfront, here you’ll find a mile-long stretch of restaurants, retailers, nightlife, sports and activities for kids. It’s also home to local events, including concerts, food markets, and outdoor yoga sessions. You’ll find it only a few streets along from The National Mall.
Food & Drink
Washington DC’s foodie scene has a reputation for focusing on power breakfasts and colossal steaks. While these two cuisines are readily available within the city, the city is much more eclectic than its reputation.
Many TV chefs have restaurants in the city, and famous-faces are not a rare sight. Washington, DC’s most famous chef is José Andrés and you need to make sure you stop by one of his restaurants - whether it’s Jaleo, Zaytinya, or the upscale Barmini.
It also probably comes as little surprise that Washington, DC is also home to 14 restaurants that have earned Michelin Star status. This includes minibar by José Andrés (which specialises in molecular gastronomy), Blue Duck Tavern (featuring a rotating seasonal menu focusing on farm-to-fork), and Métier (a 36-seat restaurant with a $200 seven-course tasting menu).
There’s also a diverse mix of international cuisine, including flavours you may not have stumbled upon before. Try Lao food for the first time at Thip Khao, or even Ethiopian at Dukem and Etete. But perhaps the most unique dining experience in Washington, DC is the Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian. The menu contains foods that are indigenous to the Americas from wild salmon and forage mushrooms to bison chilli and fry bread.
If you’re unsure where to start, Washington, DC boasts a selection of culinary tours. These range from brewery tours, to trips around different Farmers Markets.
With the Family
Washington, DC is also a great place to visit with children. Across the city, you’ll find child-friendly museums, open spaces and restaurants with kids’ menus. Here are our top picks!
International Spy Museum
Kids will love pretending to be their favourite spy character at this interactive museum. There’s an immersive experience called Operation Spy, where the kids play the part of a secret agent who has to retrieve critical intelligence and escape from a high-security compound. Children ages 6 and up get in for free.
U.S. Botanic Garden
The U.S. Botanic Garden is already a great day out anyway but is extra enjoyable with little ones. Firstly there’s a scavenger hunt where kids have to find specific plants. There’s also a Children’s Garden where your mini-me can jump around in the playhouse, pump water, dig with shovels, water plants and, on occasion, help the staff plant flowers.
The National Zoo
You can spend an entire day wandering around this 163-acre park that is home to over 2,000 animals (25 per cent of which are endangered). You’ll find it in the residential area of Woodley Park neighbourhood, with the entrance on Connecticut Avenue. It’s part of the Smithsonian Institution, so admission is free.
The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution, a world-renowned museum and research complex that consists of 17 museums, galleries and the National Zoo. Access to all of these museums is completely free.
Madam Tussauds requires no introduction, but at Washington, DC you’ll find more historical and political figures than usual – including all 45 U.S. Presidents (alongside your favourite A-list celebrities, like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé).
The Daily Grill
When it’s time to fuel up, take your little ones to this All-American restaurant. In addition to its extensive kids' menu, it also offers healthy options for the adults. There’s a restaurant in both Dupont Circle and Georgetown.
How to get there and finding your way around
There are direct flights from the UK to Washington, DC that run multiple times a week – including a non-stop route from Edinburgh to Washington Dulles International Airport with United Airlines. Once you’re there, the Metrorail and Metrobus are the most convenient ways to get around Washington, DC. Though there’s also The DC Circulator bus– which is only $1 per ride and runs six specific routes designed for easy-on, easy-off access to popular sites. But saying that, Washington, DC is a very flat and walkable city.
Other important information
Summers are hot in Washington, DC and the capital is on the same latitude as southern Europe
Many consider spring to be the nicest time of year to visit due to the cherry blossoms.
The currency used is the US Dollar
English is the national language and widely spoken
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Visiting Boston is like opening an American history book.
All around you will find sites of important historical events, landmarks paying homage to US history and some of the world’s most celebrated educational institutions. If you’re looking for a holiday that enriches and feeds the mind then Boston is definitely the destination for you.
But where to start? We’ve rounded up 10 of the best historical attractions and museums to get you going. Let us know if we’ve missed your favourite.
1. Freedom Trail
Start your day off with a leisurely walk round Downtown Boston. This 2.5 mile trail will take you past 16 significant historical sites. This includes the sites of the Benjamin Franklin statue, U.S. Constitution and the Bunker Hill Memorial.
2. Boston Light
Massachusetts and Boston (plus New England has a whole) has a strong maritime history. You’ll find lots of lighthouses dotted along the coast but Boston Light, found on Little Brewster Island in outer Boston Harbor, is the oldest lighthouse in the USA.
3. Harvard University
Harvard is America’s oldest university and is still renowned throughout the world as one of the world top educational organisations. But you don’t need to be a student to wander around the grounds. Student-led tours are common and stop by Widener Library, Memorial Church, University Hall, Fogg Museum and the John Harvard Statue.
4. Old State House
The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston, and one of the most important. It was the centre of politics in the colonies, and The Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony on the east side of the building. The Boston Massacre also took place just outside its doors. It’s already a stop on the Freedom Trail, but well worth a special visit.
5. Museum of Fine Arts
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts if the fourth largest museum in the United States, and the 55th most-visited art museum in the world. Its collection is one of the most comprehensive with more than 450,000 works of art. Some highlights include Egyptian artefacts, paintings by Monet and Van Gough, imperial Chinese art and The Rothschild Collection.
6. The institution of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1936, the Institution of Contemporary Art primarily concentrates on visual art and performances. In 2006, the museum established a permanent collection and features work by Louise Bourgeois, Mona Hatoum, Nan Goldin, Doris Salcedo, and Cindy Sherman.
7. Boston Public Library
If you’re looking to carry out some serious research while in Boston, you’ll find plenty of resources at the Boston Public Library. It is the third largest public library in the USA, behind the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. Its collection boasts over 23 million items and covers all media formats from books, DVDs, CDs, maps, music scores, microfilm, manuscripts, prints and electronic resources.
8. Boston Children’s Museum
Boston is a great city break for a family, and the Boston Children’s Museum is one of the best attractions for young people. It is the second oldest children’s museum in the United Sates, and its collection includes Arthur & Friends, Countdown to Kindergarten! And Science Playground.
9. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Found on Columbia Point, this museum celebrates the life, leadership, and legacy of President Kennedy. Permanent exhibitions include the 1960 Presidential Election, The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, and The U.S. Space Program.
10. Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
This award-winning museum invites guests on an immersive one-hour tour to one of America’s most revolutionary time periods. Your 18th Century host will take you through an interactive colonial town meeting, onto one of our ships to “dump the tea”, and through the wider museum experience. Make sure you also stop for some cake at Abigail’s Tea Room.
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.
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
Philadelphia is a city that will excite and inform you in equal measures. Full of history and culture, there are no shortages of fascinating historical landmarks and museums. But it’s also got all the modern flair you would expect from any large American city – with shopping, delicious restaurants and distinctive neighbourhoods. Here’s everything you need to know before your first trip to America’s birthplace.
Things to do
Explore American history
Philadelphia played a crucial role in the creation of the United States – it was even the temporary capital while Washington DC was built! Historic attractions include Independence Hall – where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted, the Liberty Bell, Independence National Historical Park, The Betsy Ross House (where the American Flag was designed!) and the former house of George Washington.
Wander between the neighbourhoods
Philadelphia is home to vibrant – and distinct – neighbourhoods. Eat delicious dim sum in Chinatown, explore the cobbled streets of Old City, soak up the Italian vibes of South Philadelphia or go for a relaxed walk in Rittenhouse Square.
Treat your taste buds
While you’re in the city you need to try the famous Philly cheesesteak. But there’s more to the city’s rich foodie scene. The Reading Terminal Market and Italian Market are both iconic landmarks and definitely worth a visit. The city is also home to a wide mix of restaurants thanks to the city’s rich cultural mix.
Admire some art
Philadelphia is home to the oldest art gallery in the USA, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The city was also home to Thomas Eakins, whose portraits of 19th Century Philadelphians make him arguably the greatest American painter. Plus, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is the third biggest art museum in the world.
Shop ‘til you drop
Make sure you book a sizeable luggage allowance as Philadelphia offers plenty of shopping opportunities – the clothing and shoes are even tax-free! The King of Prussia Mall is also one of the biggest in America and boasts eight department stores including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. But if you prefer something unique, wander around the side streets and you’ll find an infinite number of independent owner-run boutiques.
How to get to Philadelphia and find your way around
Philadelphia International Airport is a twenty-minute drive from the city centre and offers 4 non-stop flights to London a day. There’s also a railway line that connects the airport to Philadelphia’s downtown area (plus taxis charge a flat rate of $28.50 between the airport and Centre City).
If you’re planning a multi-centre break, Philadelphia is only two hours from New York City, 90 minutes from Baltimore, and three hours from Washington D.C via car. Philadelphia also sits on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail track, which connects the city to Boston, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York City.
Philadelphia is very easy to navigate and is rated as one of the USA’s most walkable cities. The city centre is compact and uses the grid system, with many notable attractions less than 20 minutes away from each other by foot.
Other important information
Like all of the USA, English is the official language, the currency is US Dollars and visas needs to be arranged in advance. Philadelphia also has a similar climate to the UK, with the same seasonal pattern. The 4th of July is considered one of the best times to visit with fireworks and street parades but other months still have a friendly atmosphere (with smaller crowds).
If you’ve been to Philadelphia before, what would advise would you offer first-time travellers?
If you haven’t already been to Florida, chances are it is on your list. And while the thrilling rides and attractions of Orlando definitely steal the limelight, the beautiful coastline should be on your list as well.
One of the best stretches of coastline has to be Clearwater Beach. Set on the west coast of Florida, it overlooks the warm waves of the Mexican Gulf, where beach-bums and water sports enthusiasts can both enjoy their chosen pastimes. Not only that, but the city itself boasts indie shops, restaurants and quaint attractions to see you through into the evening. Here are seven reasons why Clearwater should be on your travel bucket list.
1. Award-winning beaches
Have you really been to Florida if you didn’t stop by one of many white-sand beaches? The beaches in Clearwater are an excellent choice and are even award-winning. Clearwater Beach and Sand Key Park are two main ones, with white sands, the warm currents of the Gulf and on-duty lifeguards.
2. Marine Life
It’s not just beach-bums and water sports enthusiasts that love the exploring the Gulf coastline. Whether it’s bottle-nosed dolphins, turtles or the elusive manatee – you’ll find lots of beautiful creatures swimming around the shores. The best way to see them is to take a boat trip.
3. The Dolphin Trail
The water isn’t the only place where you’ll find dolphins in Clearwater. On land, take the “Dolphin Trail” that showcases one hundred, six-foot tall, fiberglass dolphins – each one decorated by a local artist and sponsored by a local business. See how many you can find.
4. A festival every night at Pier 60
Pier 60 throws a party two hours before the sun goes down – every single evening. Each night is different, where you might be greeted by local musicians one evening then a fire-breather the next. These events are also family-friendly, and there’s a playground very close to Pier 60.
5. Fishing and boating opportunities
The Gulf shoreline lends a hand to any holidaymakers or locals who enjoy fishing. There are a number of fishing and scuba diving tours that take people out regularly.
6. Tasty food
You’re going to be hungry after a long day at the beach – and Clearwater is not short of restaurants. Seafood is especially popular and one of the best places to try a fish-platter is Nauti-Nancy’s. But you’ll also find plenty of All-American diners and Caribbean inspired cuisine.
7. It’s the perfect end to an exhilarating Orlando break
Orlando is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, but a week exploring the parks tires most families out. So there’s no better way to relax than to hire a car and drive down to Clearwater and enjoy a few days on the beach before catching a flight back to the UK.
There’s no arguing that Napa Valley is primarily famous for producing some of the world’s finest wine. But this scenic county in central California is much more than just wineries and rolling vineyards.
Located north of San Francisco, Napa Valley works as a day-trip or as a relaxing end to a busy city-break in one California’s urban hubs. Aside from the obvious wine tasting tours (which are considered some of the best in the world) you’ll also find plenty of laid-back activities as well as beautiful outdoor pursuits in this beautiful but popular county. Here’s just a taster.
1. Sip fine wine
We’re going to start with the obvious though. Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries, some owned by multigenerational families, others by massive corporations – and a few by celebrities. Shortlisting the best wine tasting experiences in Napa is another blog post entirely – but an insider tip is to move away from the large wineries along Highway 29 and head to the hills, where a plethora of medium- and smaller-sized wineries awaits. Also, most wine tours are by appointment only so remember to research and book before you go.
2. Treat your taste buds
Wine has always been the perfect accompaniment to delicious cuisine, and Napa Valley isn’t short on that either. The Oxbow Market is the perfect place to try some regional food and wine, including fresh seafood and locally made jams. If it’s high-end sit-down dining that you’re looking for, then head to Yountville – which potentially has one of the world’s highest concentration of fine-dining restaurants.
3. Rent a convertible
Take advantage of California’s sunny weather and hit the Silverado Trail on the east side, which curves through the landscape from Napa to Calistoga. Plus, Calistoga is a hot springs town – making it the perfect place to rest after a day of driving.
4. Explore the great outdoors
If you’re into hiking, head to Westwood Hills Park and try the three-mile long trail. Alternatively, tackle the five-mile path to the top of 4,343-foot-high Mount St. Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson Park, outside Calistoga.
5. Admire some art
Originally a winery, the 217-acre Di Rosa now displays an impressive collection of works by Bay Area artists. It’s well worth a visit, and official guided tours highlights the 125-year-old residence and sculpture garden. Then in the evening, head to the Cameo Cinema, a historic cinema house in St. Helena, which dates back to 1913 and showcases a mix of indie, foreign, and first-run Hollywood films.
If you’ve been to Napa Valley, what is your favourite thing to do?
The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City is almost as famous as the city itself. Built right in the heart of Manhattan, and named after a famous President, its grand opening was earmarked by the Jazz Age. Since then it has earned a reputation as an iconic New York City hotel.
Needless to say, everyone who has ever stayed in this classic hotel can attest to its beauty and elegance. If you were to ask them to name their favourite amenity or feature it would likely be one of these eight.
1. The prime location
Located on Madison Avenue, some of NYC’s most energetic attractions lie right on the hotel’s doorstep. The Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central Station are literal seconds from the front door. While Central Park and the Empire State building are mere streets away.
2. Elegant rooms…
There are a total of 1,025 rooms at the Roosevelt Hotel, polished to perfection with dark mahogany furnishings and traditional wheel back chairs. To add to the sophistication, the beds are made with triple layer sheets and a golden duvet.
3. …with modern amenities
Catch-up with work or family back home with the high-speed wireless internet, or relax after a long day with Cable TV and in-room movies. When it’s time to leave your room and explore the city, make sure you’re impeccably groomed to cosmopolitan standards with your own hairdryer, iron and ironing board.
4. 24 hour Fitness Centre
The Roosevelt Hotel also caters to holidaymakers who like to maintain their fitness regime while away. Use of the fitness centre is complimentary and includes fruit, water, towels, magazines and newspapers.
5. Five dining options
Whether it’s a filling breakfast to start your day or a sumptuous dinner to celebrate a special occasion, The Roosevelt Hotel delivers. Choose between a special evening dinner in the Roosevelt Grill; or reward your taste buds with the legendary Roosevelt burger in the Madison Club Lounge; or stop for some convenient bar food at Vander Bar; or nibble away on the finger food in mad46 – plus there's room service!
6. Rooftop bar
Mad46 is an iconic Manhattan establishment and many New Yorkers consider it the place to be seen on a Friday night. Its rooftop location is the perfect place to soak up the Big Apple’s exhilarating atmosphere while still high enough off the ground to feel like a calming oasis. Make sure you pop up to the Roosevelt roof at least once during your stay.
7. Fascinating history
The Roosevelt Hotel first opened in 1924 and - while the hotel has added modern amenities - the elegance of the 1920s still fills the air. Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the architects chose the colonial architectural style because of the President’s fondness towards this period. It was also the location for the first ever broadcast of Guy Lombardo’s much-loved New Year’s Eve tradition of singing “Auld Lang Syne” over radio.
8. It’s a Hollywood film set
Film buffs will recognise the exterior and interior of the hotel. It has made an appearance in several famous movies and cult-favourites such as Maid in Manhattan, Malcolm X, Wall Street, French Connection, The Boiler Room and 1408.
Christmas is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to snuggle up on the sofa, hot chocolate in hand, to watch your favourite festive films.
There are so many incredible movies to get you in the mood for Christmas. One thing that many of them have in common is that they are set in New York City. This concrete jungle comes alive in the winter, with elaborate lights, beautiful trees and awe-inspiring holiday windows turning it into a winter wonderland.
Here’s a list of our favourite movies set in the Big Apple that are bound to get you into the festive spirit.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Miracle on 34th Street has been beloved by fans for 70 years. It’s hard not to feel full of Christmas spirit when watching Kris Kringle bring the joy of Santa Claus to New York. This movie has won four Oscars and even inspired a Broadway play over the years!
Location Spotting: Beginning during the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, this movie is set in Manhattan, and is specifically set on West 34th Street. Macy’s Department Store is still situated there to this day – allowing for the perfect photo op for fans of the film!
This movie may only have come out in 2003, but it has become a Christmas classic in that time. It is hard not to appreciate the beauty of New York during the holidays as you witness Buddy – raised by elves in the North Pole – discover the joy of Christmas in the city.
Location Spotting: Dozens of exterior shots of NYC were used in the filming of Elf, but one of the most memorable is of Bethesda Fountain – which Santa’s sleigh narrowly misses when it crashes in Central Park.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
The second film in the ‘Home Alone’ series, this movie shows New York from the eyes of 10-year old Kevin. It’s no wonder we feel a child-like excitement for Christmas when we watch it! Even though the focus of the movie is on Kevin outsmarting and out-pranking the Wet Bandits once again, some of the scenic shots of the Big Apple will take your breath away.
Location Spotting: The heart-warming reunion between Kevin and his mother at the end of the movie takes place at the Rockefeller Centre. Would you like to make a Christmas wish there like Kevin does?
Did you know that ‘Scrooged’ is a modern adaption of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’? Bill Murray’s much-loved comedy is all about teaching inconsiderate Frank the true meaning of Christmas, with an ending that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
Location Spotting: If you want to visit the spot where Dickens’ tale came to life, head to Park Avenue. It may look like many other office blocks in New York, but this is where Frank’s Christmas story began to unfold!
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
This hugely successful romcom is the ultimate ‘will they, won’t they’ love story. Whilst not strictly a Christmas movie, it’s hard not to feel festive when you see Harry and Sally carrying a Christmas tree together through New York. This is the perfect movie to watch with your other half on these longer, darker nights.
Location Spotting: Get dropped off at Washington Square Park and walk through the arch, luggage in hand, to mimic Harry in the movie. Don’t forget to bring your favourite travel buddy so they can capture the perfect shot!
Have these films got you feeling festive? Let us know which location you would like to visit first in the comments below!