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    1.  

      10 things you’ll find at the upcoming Universal’s Endless Summer Resort

      “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. 

    2.  

      Staff Travel Diaries: Cirque du Soleil® in Las Vegas

      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.

    3.  

      10 things to do in Greater Fort Lauderdale

      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.

    4.  

      A beginner’s guide to Washington, DC

      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.  
      National Mall
      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.   
      Lincoln Memorial

      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.
      Washington Monument

      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.
      Smithsonian Museums

      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.
      US Capitol

      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.
      District Wharf

      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.
      Madame Tussauds
      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

    5.  

      9 reasons to visit Kissimmee, Florida

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

    6.  

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

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

    7.  

      A beginner’s guide to Dutchess County

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

    8.  

      10 reasons to visit Tampa

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

    9.  

      A beginner’s guide to Texas

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

    10.  

      10 must-stop locations in the American Rockies

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

    11.  

      5 classic All-American road trips

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

    12.  

      10 of the best historical attractions and museums in Boston

      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.

    13.  

      A beginner’s guide to Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    14.  

      A beginner’s guide to Philadelphia

      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?

    15.  

      Why Clearwater should be next on your list

      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.

    16.  

      5 things to do in Napa Valley

      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?

    17.  

      8 reasons to stay at the Roosevelt in New York City

      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.

    18.  

      Christmas Movies Set in New York City

      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!
       
      Elf (2003)

      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?
       
      Scrooged (1988)

      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!

    19.  

      Staff Travel Diaries: Colorado

      Hi Kellie, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Barrhead Travel. 
      I have worked for Barrhead Travel for a little over 6 years now. I am a Travel Consultant who specialises in Worldwide Holidays. I am also the specialist for Sandals and Beaches resorts and promote weddings and honeymoons in their resorts. I was even the first member of staff to be married at a Sandals Resort! 
      What did you see when you were in Colorado? What would you recommend to people visiting?

      Where to start? Colorado caters to everyone. If you are into art and culture Denver ticks all the boxes. Fort Collins was my favourite though. Small town, friendly people and great atmosphere. We visited Ginger & Baker and had a walk through with owner Ginger whose vision for her restaurant/pie shop was amazing and I would love to go back and see the finished building. Breckenridge is fantastic for skiing and the town itself is lovely with great little places to eat. For the adrenaline chasers, Royal Gorge is the place to visit (but not for the faint of heart or those afraid of heights).    
      Tell us a bit about the hotels you stayed in.

      AC Hotel in Denver is brand new and super central, plus the staff and food were amazing.
      The Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins: really central, and a little bit more traditional in design and decoration. 
      DoubleTree Breckenride Hotel: close to the slopes for skiing and close to resort centre.
      Royal Gorge Cabins: Without a doubt my favourite. Fairly new, modern and a fab home away from home with views that would take your breath away.
      Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs: central hotel with nice cocktail bar just off the lobby.
      What clothes would you recommend someone packs? 

      The weather is so changeable. Depending on the time of year pack sunscreen as well as hats and gloves. One day could be glorious sunshine and the next could be a snow storm.
      How did you get to Colorado? 

      I flew from Glasgow via Reykjavik with IcelandAir. First time flying with them and really enjoyed it. Connecting via Iceland is so easy and would 100% use them again.
      Any other tips for someone travelling to Colorado?

      Pack lip balm and hand cream as well as drinking loads of water. The high altitude really does affect your skin making it dry. Plenty of water to keep hydrated as it high and dry.  Especially the higher you go. Pack painkillers as the altitude can give you a bit of a headache.
       

    20.  

      Top 5 American cities to visit for Thanksgiving

      Did you know that more Americans celebrate Thanksgiving every year than Christmas?
      A national holiday since 1864, Thanksgiving is a day full of food, family and most importantly, giving thanks for all the positive things in your life. While it is traditional to celebrate the holiday at home with your loved ones, you can experience countless different traditions by travelling around the United States.
      Here’s our top choices for where to spend your Thanksgiving break – from the traditional, to the historical, to the down-right wacky!
       
      Waikiki, Hawaii
       
      For a tranquil getaway, opt for some sun and take off to Hawaii. While the rest of America is wearing jumpers and scarves, you will be having a ball in Waikiki resting on a hot beach, paddling in crystal clear waters and enjoying the gentle ocean breeze. If you don’t want to miss out on the traditional meal, head to one of the beachfront restaurants for an incredible Thanksgiving buffet with your loved ones.
      AFTER THE FEAST: Burn off those extra calories by taking part in Waikiki’s ‘Turkey Trot’, a 10km fun run with over 4000 participants each year. Alternatively, show off your artistic talents by taking part in one of the many Christmas themed sand-sculpture competition.
       
      New York City, New York
       
      New York is probably the most well-known place that you can celebrate the holiday in a traditional sense. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is one of the most famous and is broadcast nationwide on Thanksgiving morning every year, featuring marching bands, novelty balloons and a giant turkey float. After your front-row view of the parade, take the pressure off cooking a huge meal and dine out at one of The Big Apple’s thousands of restaurants – although some fixed-price menus will be pricy, the quality of the cuisine will always be sublime.
      AFTER THE FEAST: Every shop in New York will primed and ready for Black Friday the next day, so celebrate the end of the holiday in style and shop til’ you drop.
       
      Plymouth, Massachusetts
       
      Although a small coastal town rather than a city, Plymouth is where the Thanksgiving tradition began. After watching the annual parade, spend your day at the incomparable Plimoth Plantation. Once a colonist’s village and now a living history museum, interact with Pilgrim actors and Native interpreters to learn the fascinating history of America’s biggest holiday. Join others from around the world to indulge in a traditional New England dinner, featuring native turkey, and giblet gravy. This is a once-in-a lifetime event, and tickets sell fast every year.
       
      AFTER THE FEAST: Experience everything America’s hometown has to offer. Enjoy concerts celebrating America’s military history and rich history, or – if you have any room left – sample yet more delicious delights at the Harvest Market and New England Food Festival.
       
      San Francisco, California
       
      Thanksgiving is the perfect time to discover The City by the Bay. Many tourist attractions remain open over the holiday, but if you want to celebrate like a local, spend the day on the water. Our recommendation? Take in a sunset cruise around the California coastline after your meal. For an incredible alternative activity, join the ‘Indigenous People's Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz’ in the early hours of the morning, featuring traditional dancing, singing and other performances.
      AFTER THE FEAST: Make sure you stick around for the unmissable Macy’s ‘Annual Tree Lighting Festival’ in Union Square the next day. Choir performances and a special visit from Santa make for the perfect family day out.
       
      New Orleans, Louisiana
       
      For all-American festivities with a twist, head to the Deep South. New Orleans enjoy their own parade in the form of the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Parade - the most alternative part of your Thanksgiving will be the cuisine. Try some New Orleans classics including deep-fried turkey and the aptly-named ‘Turducken’. Consisting of a chicken stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey, this delicacy is a meat-lover’s paradise.
      AFTER THE FEAST: Hang around in New Orleans to experience the spectacular ‘Celebration of the Oaks’ the next day. Join 165,000 others in City Park for breath-taking light displays throughout the 25-acre grounds.
       
       Where would you love to celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Let us know in the comments below!

    21.  

      The 10 most haunted buildings in New York City

      More than 8 million people call New York City home and a further 60 million tourists visit the island every year – and apparently ghostly spirits can’t get enough of the place either!
      While we don’t have official numbers on how many ghosts populate NYC, we wouldn’t be surprised it goes into the thousands. Anyone looking for a spook certainly won’t be disappointed. There are numerous places you can look for paranormal activity, but today we’ve rounded up the most popular. If you’re looking for a ghost these are the best places to look.
      1. Dakota Apartments
      While this apartment block is already infamous as the murder site of John Lennon, it’s disturbing past starts way before that. Over the years, there has been sightings of a little girl dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing, an adult with the face of a small boy, and even the ghost of Lennon himself. In 1968, the exterior of the building was also used in the horror classic Rosemary’s Baby.
      2. The House of Death
      At 14 West 10th Street you’ll find a beautiful townhouse that has been called the most haunted building in New York City. Throughout the 20th Century the building has been the site of many gruesome crimes – and experts claim there are 22 ghosts that call the building home. Mark Twain lived here from 1900 to 1901 and his ghost has even been spotted wandering the stairway.
      3. 12 Gay Street
      Located along one of Manhattan’s most picturesque streets lies this former speakeasy. It operated during the Prohibition era and was called the Pirate’s Den – before being bought by former NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker. Residents and neighbours have insisted that flapper girl ghosts have been seen on the property. If that wasn’t creepy enough, at one point the building was owned by Frank Paris, the creator of notorious hell-puppet Howdy Doody.
      4. The Manhattan Well
      You’ll miss this one if you aren’t looking for it. First brought to public attention as the murder site in the Manhattan Well Murder trial of 1800 (the first American murder trial to have a recorded transcript), it’s now a site of spooky goings on.
      A young woman named Gulielma "Elma" Sands was found here, and a man named Levi Weeks (who had been courting her) was accused of her murder. The trial went on for weeks but – to much public outrage – Levi was acquitted. The well was filled in and built over in 1817, but was rediscovered in 1980 – and paranormal investigators claim that Gulielma Sands still haunts the area.
      5. The Conference House
      Over on Staten Island you’ll find the only surviving pre-Revolutionary manor house in New York. It was at one point used by loyalist Colonel Christopher Billop as a station for British forces during the Revolutionary War. Plus, it was the location of the unsuccessful Staten Island Peace Conference on September 11, 1776.
      However, ghost hunters visit for a different reason. In 1779, Billop suspected a fifteen-year-old serving girl of spying for the rebels and threw her down a flight of stairs, killing her. Apparently her screams can still be heard today. To top it off, the house was built on a Lenape Indian burial ground.
      6. Merchant’s House Museum
      This is one of New York City’s more under-the-nose museums. Once owned by the Tredwell family, it’s rumoured that the youngest member still lives there in spiritual form. Gertrude Tredwell lived there until her death in 1933 – and weird sights, sounds and smells have been reported. You can book yourself a ghost tour of the house.
      7. Morris-Jumel Mansion
      Manhattan’s oldest remaining house has certainly seen its fair share of ghostly spirits. The previous owner Eliza Bowen Jumel is a common sight, but the ghosts of a soldier and a young girl aren’t unheard of.
      8. White Horse Tavern
      This sophisticated pub was quite the hangout for tortured writers back in the early 1950s.  One of them, a poet named Dylan Thomas, drank too much whiskey and collapsed on the pavement outside. He later died in hospital but it’s rumoured that his ghost returned to the pub.
      9. New Amsterdam Theatre
      If you’re seeing a show here, keep your eyes peeled for an extra performer. A onetime Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl named Olive Thomas died by suicide here in 1920, and there have been reported sightings since. Her pictures have been hung up at every entrance so that the cast and crew can greet her on their way in and out. Apparently she has remained a friendly ghost and keeps her peace with the living.
      10. Hotel Chelsea
      If you’re looking for some celebrity ghost sightings, it’s rumoured that the ghost of Charles R. Jackson and Nancy Spungen wander the Hotel Chelsea at 222 West 23rd Street. Currently it is closed for renovations but will reopen in 2018.
      There’s plenty more haunted building in NYC aside from these ones. Have we missed any of that you think are especially spooky?                      

    22.  

      The Ultimate American Horror Story filming location guide

      It’s October and that means it’s fright time. Not just because it’s Halloween in two weeks, but because the latest instalment of American Horror Story is now on our screens.
      Acclaimed by critics and worshipped by fans, the show has become a favourite with TV fans obsessed with the macabre. Many of the season’s standalone storylines (that fit into a wider universe) are based or inspired by real-world events, such as New Orleans voodoo queens and disappearing colonies.
      The producers have brilliantly brought these storylines to life with some of today’s finest actors, impeccable special effects and location scouts who spent weeks looking for the perfect filming sites. Fans of the show have made it their goal to not only track down every filming location used, but also the real-life locations of the stories some of the seasons were based on.
      Ready for a pop culture guide/history lesson? Let’s get started.
      Season 1:  Murder House
      The Harmon residence might not have been the friendliest or happiest home in the world, but there’s no denying that the house was beautiful. In real life, it is known as The Alfred Rosenheim Mansion and can be found on the wealthy Westchester Place in Los Angeles.
      Its real history is also fascinating (but a lot less gruesome). Rosenheim was an architect by trade (as well as a roller-coaster designer!) and built the house in 1902 for himself and his family. They sold it after eleven years to California’s richest man, A.J. McQuatters (the then president of the Alvarado Mining and Milling Company). The house then switched hands in the early 1930s to actor Edward Everett Horton.
      After that – believe it or not – the house was sold to Catholic Order of Nuns who used it is as a convent. They built a chapel on its grounds, and all the attic scenes were filmed here. It was damaged by an earthquake in 1994 and the nuns put it on the market for an impressive $3 million.
      The producers of American Horror Story weren’t the only film-makers to choose the house as a backdrop. Spiderman, Seabiscuit, The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, Six Feet Under, Bones, Dexter, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have also filmed here.  
      Season 2: Asylum
      While Asylum was set in gloomy 1960s New England, the series was mostly filmed in sunny Orange County. The exterior shots of the asylum were the Santa Ana Courthouse – an imposing Romanesque structure that was perfect for bringing the frightful Briarcliff Mental Institution to life.
      Season 3: Coven
      Die-hard fans will want to visit the Lalaurie Mansion - and we mean the real one. While the Gallier House was used for exterior shots, and the Hermann-Grima House was used for interior, this isn’t where everything went down in 19th Century New Orleans.
      On Royal Street, near the waterfront, you’ll find the real Lalaurie House. Purchased in 1832 by Doctor Louis Lalaurie and his wife Delphine, it became the location of many lavish parties and gruesome crimes. The couple was well-respected among the New Orleans elite but the slave trade began to notice the high-turnover of their house slaves.
      When a fire broke out, their secret was no longer safe. When law enforcement got to the property they discovered the missing slaves in the attic - many of them disfigured, mutilated and amputated. Some were also dead and never disposed of. The couple had already fled the city and it's widely believed that they moved to France. Many believe it was a slave who started the fire in the kitchen in the hopes of attracting attention from law enforcement.
      Over the years the building has been used as a saloon, barber and furniture shop. It was even owned by the actor Nicolas Cage at one point.
      For somewhere more light-hearted, remember to pop by Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies aka the Buckner Mansion in NoLa's Garden District. You’ll also find Maison Vitry in the Treme District stepping in as Marie Laveau’s Cornrow City Salon. 
      Season 4: Freak Show
      While this season was meant to be set in Jupiter, Florida, the producers kept to New Orleans. The circus camp was a purpose-built set that is longer there. But fans can still stop by Dandy’s home. The real location is Longue Vue House & Gardens in the Lakewood neighbourhood. The diner in the series is Camellia Grill in the French Quarter.
      Die-hard fans might also want to make the trip to Philadelphia . Specifically to the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia to learn more about the real-life Edward Mordrake.
      Season 5: Hotel
      Welcome to Hotel Cortez, aka the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. While not used as a filming location by the producers, this infamous hotel and its shady past inspired the series. It opened in 1927, and since then has there has been over a dozen deaths caused by suicide, accident or murder. Its name changed in 2013 to Stay on the Main.
      The deaths that have taken place on the property are not the only thing that’s a bit off-putting. It was also the reported residence of serial killers Richard Ramirez in 1985 and Jack Unterweger in 1991. It is also rumoured that the Black Dahlia (who was actually portrayed Season 1 Murder House) made the Cecil Hotel her last stop before her death in 1947.
      For filming, the producers used The Oviatt Building at 617 South Olive Avenue for its exterior shots. The lobby and hotel rooms were a purpose-built film set inside Fox Studios, but there’s one place you can visit. The ornate wood-panelled ballroom is the lower level of the Los Angeles Theatre at 615 South Broadway!
      Season 6: Roanoke
      If you’re looking for the farmhouse where Matt and Shelby stayed, you’ll be disappointed. The house was purpose-built for the show in the Calabasas area of California . But you can still visit the real Roanoke (sort of).
      The modern-day Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in North Carolina is where the Roanoke colony was established by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. At the same time, a native Croatoan tribe also lived on the island and not everyone peacefully co-existed. Colony leader John White travelled back to England for more people and supplies. But between the harsh winter and the Anglo-Spanish war, he didn’t return for three years. When he did, there were no people or buildings, only the word Croatoan carved into a tree.
      Many historians, archaeologists and conspiracy theorists have tried to work out what happened to them. While you won’t find any remains in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, there is a visitor centre with information.
      Season 7: Cult
      We’re only half-way through the current season and we’re not sure how many locations we might be introduced to. But eagle-eyed fans picked up from the trailer alone that the house the ice cream truck drives in front of is the same house that belonged to the Doyle’s in the 1978 Halloween slasher flick. The real-life location of these houses is Orange Grove Avenue in West Hollywood (the Myers House was 707 Meridian Avenue, South Pasadena, California.)
      Now that the show is running, we’ve discovered that the show’s main characters Ally Mayfair-Richards and Ivy Mayfair-Richards live in the Doyle’s former house. And a murder has already taken place across the street – in the same house where the Wallace family lived in Halloween. Oh, and the murder took place while a bit of babysitting was going on.
      Coincidence or homage? You decide.
      What is your favourite season of American Horror Story so far and can you name any locations that we’ve missed?

    23.  

      More than a city: where to visit in New York State

      New York City is amazing and one of a kind; there is no denying that. But so many travellers get sucked into the glamour of Manhattan that they never step outside to see the wider New York State. A contrast to its glitzy capital, New York State is an abundance of green and natural landscapes, outdoor activities and quaint towns dazzled with that New England charm. Whether it’s your first or fifth time visiting the Big Apple we highly recommend taking a trip outside the city to explore the gems that lie within the wider state.  
      1.    Niagara Falls

      While this famous waterfall is mostly associated with Canada and the much-loved Toronto, it’s New York State that hugs the American border. Some visitors have even argued that New York offers a more natural experience of the falls, as the USA side is situated within national park rather than a lively tourist town. 
      2.    Finger Lakes

      New York’s scenic Finger Lakes region can be found in the western part of the state and is named after the 11 long, narrow, north-south lakes that stretch across its plains. Ideally suited for watersports and outdoor activities, the region is popular with active holidaymakers looking for fishing and kayaking. Wine enthusiasts will love the award-winning tipples that grown in the region, while history enthusiasts will adore the cultural attractions including the Haunted History Trail of New York State. 
      3.    Thousand Islands

      After visiting Niagara Falls, stop by this other natural wonder that straddles the Canada-USA border. Stretching for about 50 miles down the Saint Lawrence River, the archipelago is made up of 1,864 islands with some belonging to the province of Ontario and some belonging to the state of New York. Grindstone Island and Wellesley Island are the two most recognisable islands that belong to the USA, the first of which is filled with tourist-friendly relics.  
      4.    Bannerman's Castle
      Further up the Hudson River from NYC lies Pollepel Island and Bannerman's Castle: an abandoned military ruin steeped in history and haunted tales. The island was, at one point, owned by Scottish entrepreneur Francis Bannerman who purchased it in 1900 as a storage site for his business. At 150 Main Street, Beacon, New York you’ll find the Bannerman Island Gallery that showcases work inspired by the island and castle. 
      5.    Adirondack Region
      Head upstate to the Adirondack Region and explore the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 (it spans for more than six million acres). It will be difficult to see the whole region and different parts bring different activities. You could head to Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake regions for kayaking and canoeing, or take your pick from hiking trails in the High Peaks Wilderness in the Lake Placid Region. You can even keep a lookout for sunken shipwrecks in Adirondack Seaway near the Canadian Border. 
      6.    The Hamptons

      New York State’s other famous residential area is a popular seaside break for locals looking for a bit of low-key luxury. Located at the eastern end of Long Island, you’ll need to spend a pretty penny to stay here but being within easy reach of New York City itself you can easily pop out for a day-trip. 
      7.    International Museum of Photography and Film
      The George Eastman Museum in Rochester is home to many artefacts but it is the photography and film section that makes it a must see. Considered one of the best collections in the world, visitors can gaze upon 400,000 photographic objects dating from the introduction of the medium in 1839 and admire works by over 1,000 photographers. 
      8.    Watkins Glen State Park

      You’ll find this natural gem at the southern tip of Seneca Lake and will be instantly mesmerised by the rock formations and waterfalls. The singular stream descends 400 feet past 200 foot cliffs, while the gorge path winds under and over waterfalls for an immersive experience.  
      9.    Wine tasting in Hudson Valley

      Wine enthusiasts need to make sure they visit Hudson Valley aka the oldest wine making and grape-growing region in the United States. The regions wine industry dates back as far back as 1677 and even today visitors will find a beautiful collection of wine tasting events and festivals. 
      10.    Allegany State Park

      Somewhere as beautiful as New York State is bound to have plenty of peaceful state parks, but Allegany clocks in as the state’s largest. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the 18 hiking trails (all of varying difficulty) while history-lovers will love exploring the ruins of a New Ireland settlement from the early 20th Century. 
      Where is your favourite place to visit outside of New York City? 
       

    24.  

      10 films and TV shows set in Los Angeles

      Los Angeles is the film and television centre of the world. Year after year film fans flock to this glitzy metropolitan city to explore the city’s pop cultural heritage, including scouting out famous film sets.
      Anyone visiting Los Angeles to follow in the exact footsteps of their favourite actors and fictional characters will find their itinerary building up quickly. While the amount of films set in Los Angeles is literally into the hundreds, we’ve rounded up 10 to get you started!
      Grease
      Rydell High School is a combination of Venice High School (exterior shots) and Huntington Park High School (interiors). And even though Grease centres on the gang’s senior year, the characters still get out and about in Los Angeles. The race scene was filmed at the Los Angeles River, between the First and Seventh Street Bridges, the sleepover was shot at a private house in East Hollywood and the drive-in movie scenes were shot at the Burbank Pickwick Drive-In (though it has been replaced by a shopping centre).
      City of Angels
      Even if the name didn’t give away the primary filming location, the beautifully haunting beach scenes probably did. San Francisco Public Library, Dodger Stadium, Grand Central Public Market, Big Bear Lake and LAX Airport all step in to bring this film to life.
      Legally Blonde
      While Legally Blonde centred on Elle Woods journey through her first year at Harvard University, most of it was filmed in Los Angeles (aside from a few exterior shots). Most of the California filming took place in Pasadena, ever so slightly north-east of Los Angeles. This includes CalTech Campus (1200 East California Boulevard) that stood in the for the fictional CULA campus and Rose City High School (325 South Oak Knoll Avenue) was used for college’s hallways. The ‘Gamma Theta’ sorority house is also set within CalTech’s campus, and can be found at 345 South Hill Avenue, south of East Del Mar Boulevard.
      Terminator 2
      Proving that sequels can succeed the original, Terminator 2 was filmed all over this glamorous city. John Connor’s House where he lived with his foster parents can be found at 19828 Valerio Street, while Northridge Mall (exterior) and Santa Monica Place Mall (interior) were used for the mall chase, the payphone that John calls his foster parents from can be found outside Lakeview Terrace Liquor Store and the final scenes were filmed at the Kaiser Steel Plant.
      Buffy the Vampire Slayer
      While this cult vampire favourite took place in the fictional town of Sunnydale, there was no escaping the west-coast Cali girl vibe of the show. Most of the filming took place in LA, though the producers stayed away from iconic landmarks to keep the air of a fictional town. The exterior of Sunnydale High School was Torrance High School at 2200 W. Carson Street, while the college scenes were filmed at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) campus in Westwood. After Buffy and the Scoobies blew up the original high school, her sister Dawn can be seen attending what is actually California State University, Northridge.
      Just three blocks north of Torrance High School lies Buffy’s home that she shared with her mother, Joyce, and in later seasons her sister Dawn. While the mansion that is occupied by vampires Angel, Drusilla and Spike at the end of the second season is Ennis House and stands on a hilltop at 2607 Glendower Avenue in Griffith Park.
      And if you’re looking to hunt out some vampires in a graveyard, many of the cemetery scenes were filmed at the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery at 1831 W. Washington Boulevard, in the West Adams District.
      La La Land
      La La Land is not only a great film – it’s also an accidental tour of Los Angeles. Head to Griffith Park and re-create the “A Lovely Night” dance or practice your moves to “City of Stars” on Hermosa Pier. Then there’s the opening scene filmed on the Century Freeway – the crew actually shut it down for two days to get the perfectly choreographed routine just right.
      Clueless
      Fans of this 1995 hit comedy will spot locations everywhere in Los Angeles. Whether it’s her “Beverly Hills mansion” that is actually found in San Fernando Valley, the Westfield Fashion Square where Tai nearly “met her death” or the Shoreline Drive where Dionne, Cher and Murray end up on the freeway, you won’t have to look too hard to find the sets.
      Keeping Up With the Kardashians
      Whether or not you actually admit to watching this (we know you do) you’ve probably seen the clips where we see the exterior of the house. It’s been well documented that this is not Kris Jenner's actual house, though the dummy one is still hidden by a gated community (and was on the market for $9 million earlier this year). However, the family boutique DASH can be found on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood if you fancy a nosey (and you might even bump into one of the older Kardashian sisters).
      Reservoir Dogs
      When travelling through Los Angeles make sure you stop for breakfast at Pat and Lorraine's, 4720 Eagle Rock Boulevard, where the Dogs stopped to discuss Madonna lyrics and the ethics of tipping. And later you can visit the jewellery store that they robbed – even though it’s actually a mirror/picture frame supplier (either way, its address is 2612 West Burbank Boulevard at Wyoming Avenue in Burbank).
      American Horror Story
      Despite dedicating each season to a different story and setting, the producers have kept much of the filming to Los Angeles – even when it’s meant to be set elsewhere. The Harmon’s mansion in Season 1 is in Los Angeles as said so on screen (real address is 1120 Westchester Place, Los Angeles, CA 90019) but the creepy New England Briarcliff Asylum in Season 2 is actually the beautiful Santa Ana Courthouse in Oak View, a small town not far north of Los Angeles.
      While we jump to New Orleans for season 3 and 4, the producers went back to Los Angeles Season 5 and scouted out the Oviatt Building (617 S. Olive St.) for its exterior shots of Hotel Cortez. Even Season 6, that follows the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, which was meant to be set in Virginia used an old ranch mansion in Calabasas, California.

    25.  

      10 of the best museums in Philadelphia

      American cities are always bursting with colour and fascinating history – but none of them compete with the footprints of history that have been silently marked onto the pavements of Philadelphia . Birth place of the Constitution and the American flag (plus the Rocky films) this is where the United States of America truly began, and is a city that any self-proclaimed history buff needs to visit. In order to soak up the most knowledge from your trip to this historic city, we recommend these 10 museums.
      Benjamin Franklin Museum

      Benjamin Franklin is famous for being a founding father of the United States but many people don’t know that he lived in Philadelphia for most of life and fulfilled many different roles from printer to scientist. Inside his name-sake museum, visitors will discover personal artefacts, computer animations and hands-on displays exploring Franklin’s life as a private citizen and statesman. In the courtyard outside the museum stands the iconic ghost house that traces the outlines of Franklin’s now demolished house and print shop.
      The Liberty Bell Center
      The Liberty Bell is an iconic symbol of Philadelphia and American Freedom, and this centre explores the myths and legends that surround it. Exhibitions show the bell being used as a symbol for many liberation campaigns – from suffragettes to abolitionists – and organisations using it as part of their branding and advertising.
      Carpenter's Hall
      Before America became its own independent nation, and before Washington DC was built, there was the First Continental Congress. It was here that independence was debated for the first time and a vote to support a trade embargo to England was passed unanimously – helping Carpenter’s Hall cement itself in the American history textbooks.
      Museum of the American Revolution
      In 2017, Philadelphia’s Historic District became home to this all-encompassing museum exploring every facet of the American Revolution. Inside this 118,000 square feet building, history buffs will find art, manuscripts and printed works from America’s Revolutionary Period, as well as artefacts from the Revolutionary War such as American and British weapons.
      Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
      Founded in 1812, this is the oldest continually operating natural history museum in the western hemisphere, and helped fund some of the biggest fossil digs in North America and worldwide. Between the four floors, visitors will a find fully constructed Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and large game animals from the 1920s and 1930s showcased in a 3-D painted dioramas that replicate their natural habitats.
      Philadelphia Museum of Art

      If it’s art you’re after, the third largest art museum in the USA is a must-visit. Renaissance, American, Impressionist and Modern art are all present throughout, plus in the upper level there are 80 rooms dedicated to period art, and there’s a whole other room dedicated to Philadelphia’s own Thomas Eakins.  
      The Betsy Ross House

      The American Flag is one of the most recognisable and iconic flags in the world – but do you know how it originated? The stars and stripes was sewn together by Betsy Ross in her Philadelphia home that you can visit. On a self-guided tour, you can wander through the bedroom, basement and living area and spot Ross family memorabilia.
      National Liberty Museum
      Feel inspired by the stories of real-life heroes at this emotional museum. Jackie Robinson, Nelson Mandela, Jim Henson and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai are all featured in this interactive museum. There is also a three-floor exhibit that plays tribute to the heroes of 9/11.
      City Hall and City Hall Tower

      Aside from being historical significant, City Hall and its adjacent tower is also architecturally beautiful. The largest municipal building in the United States, the exterior is adorned with sculptures representing the seasons and continents, as well as allegorical figures, heads and masks. And obviously you can’t miss the statue of William Penn looking over the city from the top of the tower.
      Independence National Historical Park
      Not technically a museum, but still an important part of Philadelphia – and USA – history. This is the location of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the New Hall Military Museum, Franklin Court, the Bishop White House and the Graff House – and many events took place here that moved America towards the country it is today.
       

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