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    1.  

      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?

    2.  

      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? 
       

    3.  

      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.

    4.  

      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.
       

    5.  

      10 scenic must-visits in New England

      It’s common knowledge that the USA is full of beautiful landscapes and scenic wonders, and New England is no exception. From idyllic villages to tranquil lakes and panoramic mountain views, the cluster of states in the USA’s north-eastern corner has a charming beauty that is peaceful and calm.
      Whether it’s Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhodes Island or Vermont you’ll find a beautiful collection of natural and urban wonders on a trip around New England. Here’s just 10 stops that we recommend making.
      1.Acadia National Park

      This 47,000-acre heaven is a rolling landscape of deep woodlands, glacier lakes and mountain peaks set against the rugged Maine coastline. The edge of Echo Lake Beach is a popular spot for falcons, black bear and moose, while in the wider park you can look up at the tallest peak on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
      2.The Cog Railway

      Set amongst the beautiful landscapes of New Hampshire lies the world's oldest mountain-climbing cog railroad, the Cog Railway. Hop on board an historic steam or eco-friendly biodiesel powered locomotive and leisurely ascend into New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the top of Mount Washington. The views from the highest mountain in the north east of the USA are spectacular.
      3. Kancamagus Highway

      Take the scenic route along Route 112 through northern New Hampshire where the roadside is nothing but lush forest uninterrupted by modern amenities such as hotels, gas stations -and even phone reception! In the autumn, it’s a leaf-peeper’s dream.
      4. Stowe

       
      If you’ve ever seen an autumnal postcard with a white chapel then you’re already familiar with the picture-perfect Stowe. The town is known for its festivals and events, including arts and crafts shows, a balloon festival, and the weekend-long British Invasion event that happens in the third week of September.
      5.Green Mountains

      You can visit the Green Mountains range once every season and feel like you’ve travelled to an entirely different place. In the winter months, they are infused with the energy of ski enthusiasts, in the spring snow melts and flowers begin to blossom, the summer months turn the mountains into a lush green dreamland and then in fall, visitors witness the iconic kaleidoscope of autumnal colours that New England is famed for.
      6.Boston

      New England’s urban highlight is, without a doubt, Boston. This beautiful and charming urban sprawl boasts a unique blend of old and new making it a must-visit for anyone after history and culture. The best way to discover the classically American history of the city is to wander along the Freedom Trail: a 2.5-mile, red-lined route that leads you to 16 historically significant sites, including museums and meetinghouses, churches, and burying grounds.
      7.Explore the maritime history

      New England has a long maritime history and the coastline is dotted with scenic lighthouses, beaches and fishing harbours. There’s 150 lighthouses along the coast in total: the oldest complete lighthouse is Scituate Lighthouse in Massachusetts, while Stonington Harbor Light in Connecticut boasts the country’s oldest lighthouse museum that opened in 1925. Mystic Seaport in Connecticut is also a must-visit for a maritime adventure, where you can climb on board tall ships, browse fascinating exhibits and enjoy exciting seaside-themed events.
      8.Whale Watching

      Between March and November, many whales roam the waters off the coast of New England thanks to copious amounts of mackerel, herring, krill and other schooling fish. Humpback whales are known to be spotted within the schools that swim by, along with Finback, Right, and Minke whales.
      9.Delicious foodie stops

      In between all the mountain climbing and days out, you’re going to need a bite to eat. Thankfully New England has a rich and varied foodie scene. Try some Ben & Jerry’s in its hometown in Vermont, stop by a lobster shack and treat your tastebuds with some shellfish caught straight from the nearby Atlantic coast, or load up on fresh cranberries from Cape Cod or blueberries from Maine. New England is also home to numerous maple trees and every March syrup and candies pop up in shops all over the different states.  
      10.Historic education

      A lot of the major events in USA history took place in New England. From the first landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, to the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution – there’s a lot of history here and a lot of the sites and landmarks are still standing today. Explore the grand mansions from The Gilded Age in Newport (Rhode Island), stop-by one of America’s oldest cities (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), walk the freedom trail in Boston or visit Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts that commemorates the arrival of the Pilgrims.
       
       

    6.  

      How to celebrate 4th of July in New York City

      You won’t find a more American celebration than the 4th of July – it’s a country-wide holiday and is marked by parades, fireworks and barbeques across the land. However, New York City definitely hosts some of the most spectacular events in the entire country and there's arguably no better place to celebrate the 4th of July than in The Big Apple. 
      Macy's 4th of July fireworks
      The most impressive has to be Macy’s 4th of July fireworks, which is the largest in the United States and delivers a truly spectacular array of multi-coloured fireworks which are launched from four barges in the Hudson River. They’re visible from Manhattan’s West Side, and New Jersey, as well as being broadcast live on TV.
      As an alternative, choose to watch the fireworks as you enjoy dinner, an open bar and live music on a sightseeing cruise in the New York harbour. It’s an ideal way to get an unobstructed view of the fireworks, but be sure to book in advance as they’re always popular. Or a cheaper option is to watch the display from a pier party at the Circle Line and World Yacht piers along the river.
      July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest
      For something a little different, head for Coney Island, where the Nathan’s Famous July 4th International Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place at the company’s flagship restaurant. The 10-minute, all-you-can-eat contests will feature men’s and women’s contests. Free to attend, the competition attracts in the region of 40,000 spectators who enjoy live music and entertainment too. Just one block south of Nathan’s is the legendary Coney Island Amusement park with rollercoasters, a boardwalk and the beach.
      Street fairs
      July is a month when many areas of the city hold street fairs. These tend to run from around 11am to 6pm, and can include all sorts of attractions, including food vendors, psychics. Stroll around and enjoy the sights and sounds as you cool down with a smoothie and soak up the atmosphere.
      Parades in Manhattan
      If it’s a traditional parade you’re after, Manhattan doesn’t hold one, but take the ferry to Staten Island for one of the oldest parades in the country. Its 102nd parade kicks off at 1230 from the Showplace Center, and houses along the route will compete to be the best decorated and most patriotic home in 2013.
      Relax in Central Park
      For a lazy, and cost-effective,  4th of July, head for Central Park for a nice picnic in the sun. Manhattan’s famous green space has good picnic spots everywhere, and if you enter from the most southwest entrance at Columbus Circle, you’ll find food carts and a supermarket where you can stock up on your picnic basket.
      From the glitz and glamour of the spectacular fireworks display to the chilled-out and laid-back open air of Central Park, whatever you choose to do on the 4th of July in NYC, the celebrations will create unforgettable memories.

    7.  

      10 music-themed attractions in Nashville

      Music City: a place doesn’t just randomly happen upon a nickname like this, it has to be earned by music fans across the world.
      And Nashville has certainly earned that accolade and respect. These streets and buildings helped cement the genres of blues, country and rock & roll, and that musical history still beats through the city’s atmosphere to this day.
      If you’re a music fan, then Nashville has to be on your list – with these 10 music-themed attractions at the top of your itinerary!
      Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
      Found in the heart of Nashville’s downtown entertainment district, this 130,000-square-foot museum is a wonderland of rhinestone costumes, acoustic guitars, interactive exhibitions and classic lyrics sheets. Current and upcoming exhibits include country legends such as Charlie Daniels and Loretta Lynn as well as modern day idols such as Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
      Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
      What makes this museum extra special and a must-visit for any music and pop-culture enthusiast is that it pays homage to the musicians who have worked in some of the world’s most famous tracks – whether they were the frontman or the behind-the-scenes drummer. The museum is also designed so that six American cities that have a renowned reputations for producing great music get their own chance to shine (Detroit, Nashville, Muscle Shoals, L.A., Memphis and New York).  
      Music City Walk of Fame Park
      Taking inspiration from Los Angeles Walk of Fame, the stars on Nashville's Music Mile pays homage to individuals (whether famous or behind the scenes) who have made significant contributions to the city’s musical heritage - names such as Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Reba McEntire, Emmylou Harris, Little Richard and Hank Williams are already dotted around the park. Induction ceremonies are opened to the public and happen twice a year in April and November.
      The Johnny Cash Museum
      For many, Johnny Cash is the epitome of country music and opening his namesake museum right in the middle of Nashville’s heart is a fitting tribute. Even the most diehard fans will be mesmerised walking from room-to-room as they are reminded by how long and colourful his career was.
      Fontanel Mansion
      Previously owned by country legend, Barbara Mandrell, this 27,000 square foot log home is Nashville’s only country music mansion tour. The house was designed by Mandrell herself and boasts 20 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, 2 kitchens, an indoor pool, and even an indoor shooting range. Throughout the house, music fans will spot memorabilia associated with Mandrel as well as other rock stars associated with Fontanel.
      Loretta Lynn’s Ranch
      Another country star to open up their private property to their fans is Loretta Lynn – who even makes the odd appearance and performs for her guests! She also built the Coal Miner’s Daughter museum on the property, where she has amassed a huge collection of memorabilia from her own career (and the careers of some of her friends). Then there’s the addition of the Loretta’s Fan & Doll Museum, where she displays all the gifts she has received from her fans over the years.
      Nashville Symphony
      The GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony host roughly 140 performances a year with a broad range of classical, pop and jazz musical styles. There’s also a range of educational and community programmes on offer throughout the year for adults and children.
      National Museum of African American Music
      Even though this landmark museum won’t be open until 2019, it will be the first of its kind in the country. It will serve as a space that celebrates music created by African-American musicians, and the music influenced by it. There are plans to build five exhibitions that represent blues, gospel, jazz, R&B, and hip hop – all genres that have been heavily shaped by African-American communities.
      Ryman Auditorium
      Visit (or even book tickets to a show!) what is considered to be one of the most legendary theatres in Nashville that offers some of the best acoustics in the world. As you step through the front doors, you’ll be walking in the same shoes as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Minnie Pearl, and even president Theodore Roosevelt (to name a few).  To this day, the auditorium attracts some of the biggest named in music – regardless of genre – including the Foo Fighters, Lana Del Ray, Tom Jones and Ed Sheeran.
       

    8.  

      The Ultimate Hawaii Bucket List

      Hawaii is more multifaceted than you might presume. As you glide into the capital of Honolulu you’ll be met with a metropolitan hub that rivals that of LA or NYC, but is set amongst a striking landscape of jungles, volcanoes and sandy shorelines. Across the six islands, you’ll find a chest of Pacific Ocean treasures just waiting to be discovered. If you’re planning on visiting soon, we recommend ticking these 39 activities off your bucket list.
      1. Come face-to-face with an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (if you visit at night time, you can witness the lava glowing out the crater!)
      2. Get a view of the other islands by hiking to the top of Koko Head.
      3. Drive the scenic Hana Highway, arguably the best drive in Hawaii.
      4. While driving to Hana, remember to stop by the Pipiwai hiking trail.
      5. Swim with sea turtles.
      6. Take in the breath-taking views from a helicopter tour.
      7. Grab your fork and dig into a Poke Bowl (local delicacy made of cubed raw fish, seasoned any way you like it).
      8. Find the Kaniakapupu Ruins (they’re on the Nu’uanu Oahu hike).
      9. Visit Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens.
      10. Go mountain tubing through caves.
      11. Stroll through Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-foot ancient tunnel formed by flowing lava.
      12. Gasp at the Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
      13. Snorkel around Molokini - a crescent-shaped volcanic crater that peaks out of the Alalakeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kahoʻolawe.
      14. Visit the historic Iolani Palace (the only palace on United States soil).
      15. Stargaze at the top of Mauna Kea, home to the world’s largest astronomical observatory.
      16. Practice your golf swing at one of the archipelago’s 70 courses.
      17. Skydive over the islands.
      18. Walk along one of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, such as Punaluu Beach.
      19. Kayak to Mokulua Islands.
      20. Grab a tasty dinner form the food trucks on the North Shore.
      21. Take in amazing views of Waikiki at the top of Diamond Head State Monument.
      22. Whale watch off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.
      23. Visit the Oloupena Falls, the tallest waterfall in Hawaii and the fourth largest in the world.
      24. Pay your respects at the USS Arizona Memorial that went down during the events of Pearl Harbour.
      25. Snorkel at Hanauma Bay, the most popular snorkelling beach on Oahu.
      26. Walk around Old Lahaina Town, a Maui town of historical and cultural significance.
      27. Watch lava flow into the ocean (this isn’t a regular occurrence, but is once in a lifetime if you do see it).
      28. Try some Shave Ice – a local delicacy that can be likened to a grown-up Snow Cone.
      29. Hike the Napali Coast along the Kalalau Trail.
      30. Hop on board a submarine and discover Hawaii’s colourful aquatic life.
      31. Visit The Polynesian Cultural Center – a Polynesian theme-park with six areas representing Fiji, Tonga, Samao, Tahiti, Hawaii and Aotearoa.
      32. Gaze out at the Pacific Ocean at Ka Lae – also known as South Point, the southernmost area of the USA.
      33. Feel déjà vu as you keep a look-out for film and television sets from Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lost, Pearl Harbour, and King Kong.
      34. Spot a Hawaiian Monk Seal, the only seal native to Hawaii.
      35. Get your surf on (the South Shore is best for beginners) or watch the professionals at one of the many championships.
      36. Walk on Hanalei Beach Pier.
      37. Visit the Red Sand Beach (Kaihalulu Beach).
      38. Explore the Haleakala National Park and look out for the 400-foot tall Waimoku waterfall.
      39. Visit Post-A-Nut on Molokai, and send a coconut back home to your friends and family.
      Hawaii is one of the world’s top bucket list destinations – is there anything you think we’ve missed?

    9.  

      Why you should twin-city in Kissimmee and St. Pete/Clearwater

      Picking just one stop whilst on holiday in Florida can be a challenge. The Sunshine State is home to multiple cities and beach-side towns that offer their own unique slice of Floridian culture. As multi-centre holidays increase in popularity, we encourage our holidaymakers to pick two (or more) must-see destinations to allow them to get the most out of their sun-drenched holiday.
       
      Two of our top picks are the towns of Kissimmee (which is nicely snuggled in beside Orlando) and St. Pete/Clearwater, overlooking the shimmering Gulf of Mexico. Here are just a few reasons why they make the perfect twin centre Florida holiday.
      Explore two sides of Florida
      St Pete/Clearwater and Kissimmee both have a lot of similarities, but at the same time highlight two unique sides of the Sunshine State. Kissimmee offers a traditional Florida vibe with the Everglades tropical wetlands and local fairgrounds, while St. Pete/Clearwater is a quintessential beach holiday filled with water sports, beach-front eateries, and diverse culture in the downtown area.
      You’ll need down time after the theme parks
      Kissimmee’s main charm is its easy access to Orlando’s world famous theme parks, whereas St. Pete/Clearwater has a laid back vibe and is all about relaxing on its beautiful beaches. And as fabulous as the parks are, relaxation may be just what you need if you’ve had a few days of high-impact excitement. St. Pete/Clearwater is home to 35 miles of award-winning beaches, including the pristine barrier islands of Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands in Dunedin, where families and couples can play or relax next to the crystal clear waters.
      Excellent shopping
      Both Kissimmee and St. Pete/Clearwater boast tremendous local shopping – so there’s twice the opportunity to shop ‘til you drop. In both cities you’ll find speciality shops, local stores, artisan markets and independent boutiques where you can pick up some unique clothing or souvenirs.
      Both are family-friendly
      With its close proximity to the parks, Kissimmee is widely recognised as a family-friendly holiday destination. It’s not just the nearby Orlando that can offer adventure and thrills – Kissimmee itself is home to Fun Spot USA and Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park. St. Pete/Clearwater is perfect for families with its water-based activities, Clearwater Marine Aquarium as well as pirate and sea-life cruises.
      Both are close to a major airport
      You don’t want to spend the final day of your twin-city break travelling back to your original destination for your flight. Thankfully Kissimmee is near Orlando International Airport, while St. Pete/Clearwater is 30 minutes from Tampa International Airport.
      They’re under two hours apart
      When it’s time to make the switch between the two destinations, you’ll only be 90 minutes in the car. And no matter which direction you’re travelling, all you have to do is drive onto Interstate 4 and you’re on your way.

    10.  

      A shopaholic’s guide to Las Vegas

      Las Vegas is a city famed for glitz and glamour so it’s no surprise that it is home to some impeccable shopping. Here, shopping fanatics will find a swarm of trendy outlets where they can find themselves lost in rails of designer threads, all-American high-street favourites and hard-to-find independent labels. It’s the perfect way to spend the daytime hours before Las Vegas switches on its iconic lights to signal the start of its famed nightlife.
      If you’re looking for some retail therapy while visiting Las Vegas, the two primary shopping destinations to take note of are Grand Canal Shoppes and Fashion Show Las Vegas. Here’s the low-down on what both of them offer.
      Grand Canal Shoppes The Venetian | The Palazzo

      This sophisticated array of shops and entertainment has made a home for itself in the Mediterranean styled The Venetian (part of The Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino). It boasts 875,000-square-feet of space with a larger than life Barneys New York as its main focal point. There’s 160 other stores to choose from including fashion-favourites Armani Collezioni, Kate Spade New York, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Michael Kors, Fendi, and Christian Louboutin.
      Aside from treating themselves to some gorgeous new clothes, shoppers can also enjoy award-wining dining and in-mall entertainment. Resident culinary superstars include CUT by Wolfgang Puck, Table 10 and Delmonico Steakhouse by Emeril Lagasse, db Brasserie by DanielBoulud, B&B plus Burger & ***** by Mario Batali.
      You can even treat yourself to as Gondola ride through Las Vegas’s very own Venice.
      Essential stats:
      Location: The Venetian | The Palazzo, where Spring Mountain Road meets Las Vegas Boulevard
      Number of shops: Over 160
      Opening times:  Sunday – Thursday 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
      Fashion Show

      Claiming the accolade of largest shopping destination on the *****, this larger-than-life shopping centre clocks in at 2 million square feet. Fashion lovers will adore the collection of clothing stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Saks Fifth Avenue, Superdry, Gap, Nordstorm and Topshop. Plus, they’ll love the chance to pick up some new cosmetics from Lush, Kiko Milano, bareMinerals and Bath&BodyWorks. Also remember to stop by Macy’s department store!
      The shopping centre is also home to a new alfresco dining area that includes a new walking pathway, lush landscaping, outdoor patio and dining terraces. Examples of delicious restaurants found on this mini-***** include Kona Grill, Benihana, Luke’s Lobster, Flip Flop Workshop and Davidoff of Geneva Cigar Bar.
      Essential stats:
      Location: Where Spring Mountain Road, meets Las Vegas Boulevard
      Number of shops: 250 stores, 25 dining choices and 8 department stores
      Opening times: Monday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday’s

    11.  

      Our top 10 magical restaurants at Walt Disney World

      Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the place where dreams come true, for adults, teenagers, children – and foodies. On top of being home to six theme parks, two entertainment districts, a sports complex and 20 resort hotels, the Walt Disney Resort in Florida also has more than 300 delicious dining options. The cuisines on offer at Disney take influence from across the globe, including South Africa right through to Tokyo (you'll even spot a Yorkshire fish 'n' chip shop).
      If you're heading to Disney World soon, and are just as excited to sample the food as the rides, remember to book Free Disney Dining. You can enjoy free Disney Dining when you book a Disney Moderate o Deluxe Resort Hotel by 3rd November 2016 or a free breakfast when booking a Disney Value Resort by 7th July 2016.
      Now it's only a matter of short-listing which restaurants you want to visit. The options are virtually endless, but here's our top picks of the most magical and unique experiences available with the Disney Dine packages.
      1. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant
      Drive-in cinemas don't just exist in American films. This 50s-inspired restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios features all-American food and car-shaped booths to re-create the feel of a drive-in movie. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu boasts creative takes on classic favourites such as the Build-Your-Own Angus Burger, Salmon BLT Burger, Out-of-This-World Turtle Cheesecake and Spicy Buffalo Popcorn Chicken. Drinks include Ariel or Buzz Lightyear Punch served in a souvenir mug, while grown-ups can enjoy a Piña CoLAVA cocktail or an Oreo milkshake infused with chocolate liqueur.
      2. Splitsville™ Dining Room
      Enjoy a game of bowling after (or before) your meal at this retro-inspired diner at Disney Springs. Book out a lane in advance and even have your food brought over while you and the family enjoy a game of 10-pin bowling. The menu at Splitsville is vast including pizza, hand-rolled sushi, juicy burgers, salads, and taco bowls. There's also an impressive cocktail menu with classic and frozen concoctions, plus a large ***** and wine menu.
      3. Coral Reef Restaurant
      Enjoy high-quality seafood such as Charbroiled Octopus, Seared Mahi Mahi, and Pan-seared Verlasso Salmon in an intimate setting with views of a live coral reef. Situated in Epcot, the panoramic windows provide spectacular views of sea turtles, stingrays and sometimes a scuba-diving Mickey Mouse. Also a place to enjoy fine rums and a pint of Reef Amber Draft.
      4. Be Our Guest Restaurant
      Located at the foot of the Beast’s Enchanted Castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, step inside this French-inspired restaurant for a quick-service breakfast, lunch or an unforgettable sit-down dinner. Menu items include Feast A La Gaston, The Master's Cupcake and a choice of beverages served in a light-up souvenir goblet.
      5. Mickey's Backyard BBQ
      Munch on delicious BBQ food from an all-you-cat-eat buffet while Mickey and friends put on a show around you. Located in Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, this is one of Disney's most popular dining experiences and advance booking is recommended.
      6. Cinderella's Royal Table
      Cinderella's Castle is the symbol of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park and the first thing visitors gaze upon when entering the park. Step inside the castle for a world of fine-dining fit for royalty. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Cinderella's Royal Table serves high-quality dishes such as slow-roasted pork tenderloin, chef's fish of the day and pan-seared scallops. Fairytale themed dishes include Castle Salad, The Clock Strikes Twelves flourless cake, and Cinderella's S'mores.
      7. AristoCrêpes
      While exploring the exciting Disney Springs you'll definitely need to stop off for a snack. Our vendor of choice is AristoCrêpes on the outskirts of The Marketplace. Here you'll find a selection of sweet and savoury crêpes - but not your average banana or nutella options. This is where you can surprise your taste-buds with a beef crêpe stuffed with horseradish cream, pickled red onion, baby spinach and sharp cheddar or, if you have a sweet tooth, a key lime pie cheesecake crêpe.
      8. T-REX ™
      In Disney Springs there is dinosaur-inspired place to eat that blends creative cuisine with hands-on discovery zones. Dino fans can munch on themed dishes from a Doublesaurus Burger to a Caesar-saurus Salad. The attached Dino-Store has a plethora of educational toys where kids (or big kids) can build their own plush toy at Build-A-Dino® By Build-A-Bear Workshop®.
      If your mini-paleontologist can't ever have enough there's also Restaurantosaurus over in Dino-Land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
      9. ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill
      For sport fans, there are two ESPN dining halls in Disney World. The first is the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill in the ESPN Sports Complex and the other is the ESPN Club on Disney's BoardWalk. Both offer the perfect place to enjoy the game on widescreen TVs while munching on the best pub food.
      10. The BOATHOUSE®
      If you're visiting Disney World for a special occasion and want to treat yourself to an opulent sit-down meal, this is the place to reserve a table. Serving lunch and dinner daily, the menu is as decadent as you would imagine with dishes including Anastasia Gold Caviar, Blue Star Angus Carpaccio, Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos plus 8, 12 and 28 ounce steaks. There's also an extensive wine and Martini menu. Located on the waterfront of Disney Springs, you'll also enjoy romantic views as you dine – you can even treat yourself to a private dinner cruise.

    12.  

      Bucket List ideas for New York City

      Here are some bucketlist ideas for New York City which is the world’s melting pot of culture. This skyscraper packed metropolis is the most populated city in the US, making it one of the most diverse and culturally rich in the world, so it has to be jam packed with attractions. From famous landmarks, designer stores and Michelin star restaurants, what’s not to love?
      1. Climb to the top of the iconic Empire State Building.
      2. Wander through the urban garden that is Central Park.
      3. Sail over to Liberty Island and get a photo with The Statue of Liberty.
      4. Sit and watch NYC go by at Times Square.
      5. Surf, shop, eat and drink at Rockaway Beach.
      6. Observe the everyday commuters at Grand Central Station.
      7. See NYC from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.
      8. Experience the oriental in China Town.
      9. Let out your artistic side at the Guggenheim Museum.
      10. Journey through Times Square and Midtown Manhattan on board THE RIDE: half tour, half theatrical show.
      11. Take a look at the immigration gate of America at Ellis Island.
      12. Attend at least one outdoor summer festival.
      13. See an award winning show on Broadway, from Aladdin to Les Miserables.
      14. Walk down Wall Street among the millionaires.
      15. Watch the filming of shows like Jimmy Kimmel and Good Morning America for free at ABC Studios.
      16. Enjoy the multicultural food from street vendors throughout New York City.
      17. Observe the exotic animals of NYC at Central Park Zoo.
      18. Pay homage to John Lennon at the Strawberry Fields Memorial.
      19. Cross the Brooklyn Bridge and view the city from a different angle.
      20. Instagram the colourful street art of Brooklyn.
      21. Look down on the Big Apple from a helicopter tour.
      22. Party in the city that never sleeps, with high profile nightclubs like Output and Sullivan Room.
      23. Get involved in America’s greatest past time at the New York Yankees Stadium.
      24. Have a blast at New York’s most iconic and oldest theme park - Coney Island.
      25. Eat like the locals and order yourself a lobster roll.
      26. Walk The High Line, a renovated walking path that was once railroad tracks and a testament to urban beautification efforts.
      27. See what the fuss is about at New York’s first pizzeria Lombardi’s.
      28. Pose with the Charging Bull on Wall Street.
      29. Dig deep into the strong Italian roots of NYC in Little Italy.
      30. Splurge out on the most extravagant brands on 5th Avenue.
      31. Be the first to listen to up and coming music acts at Prospect Park.
      32. Explore all five boroughs of New York: Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island (the ferry to Staten Island is free).
      33. Tour Chelsea Brewing Company - Manhattans largest micro-brewery.
      34. Admire some of the most prestigious works of contemporary art at the Museum of Modern Art.
      35. Take a trip to television past and explore the locations of your favourite TV shows, such as Gossip Girl and Sex in the City (you can walk by Carrie Bradshaw's front steps on 66 Penny Street in Greenwich Village).

    13.  

      Why Illinois is the perfect destination for every travel persona

      When you're asked to imagine Illinois, it's probably Chicago that springs to mind first. It's a great city and is well known around the world for good reason. With bold skyscrapers looking out onto the beautiful Lake Michigan, with a flurry of shops and restaurants, it embodies everything a thriving US city should be.
      Outside the metropolis of the Windy City however, Illinois is home to other holiday destinations that all kinds of travellers will enjoy. Located in the Great Lakes Region, with 1,100 historic sites and approximately the same size as England and Wales combined it's not short of an eclectic amount of attractions.
      For the adventurous road-tripper...Route 66
       
      An American road-trip is on many travel enthusiasts bucket list, with Route 66 being the most famous route through the American planes. The historic road starts off in Chicago with 400 miles inside Illinois state boundaries. Before passing over the state line you'll drive past numerous classic American diners, Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cozy Dog Drive In (it's famous for selling hot dogs on a stick) and Shea's Gas Station, owned by Bill Shea who has a large collection of Route 66 memorabilia and a guest book with signatures from around the world.
      For the relaxed nature lover...Grafton and Alton
       
      With a nickname liked Prairie State you know Illinois is going to have some beautiful landscape to awe at. There's 1.5 million acres of state parks to explore as well as 3,000 miles of rivers and streams. While there's beauty across the whole state, nature lovers are best to head to the towns of Alton and Grafton, the meeting point of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway. This is where the Mississippi River meets the Illinois and Missouri Rivers. These two towns are also near the largest state park in Illinois, Pere Marquette State Park where visitors can enjoy fishing, hiking, and scenic drives among 8,000 acres of natural beauty.
      For the curious history buff...Springfield
       
      The capital of Illinois is where visitors looking for politics and history should book themselves a trip to. Explore the life of Abraham Lincoln at his 200,000 square foot namesake library and museum before visiting the only house he ever owned that is now a National Historic Site. Springfield is also the location of the Illinois State Capital building where all state law is debated and decided on.
      For beautiful gardens and even more history...Rockford
       
      Located an hour from Chicago, Rockford is a city for those looking for natural history and a city-centre garden with an oriental twist. Come face-to-face with the world's most complete juvenile t-rex in the Burpee Museum of Natural History, while also learning about Native American history. Stop by the Midway Village Museum as well to view 125,000 objects that all relate to the city's history. Afterwards, stroll through the Anderson Japanese Gardens and wonder at the waterfalls, ponds, rock formations and colourful species of fish, ducks and minks. Remember to also stop by the garden's tea house.
      For the wine appreciator...Galena

      It's not just the west coast that offers wine lovers the chance to sip wine fresh from the vineyard, the Mid-West is also a good place to fill up your glass. The town of Galena in the North-West corner of the state is famous for its vineyards where wine lovers can delight their palate on various wine tours.
      For the enthusiastic city-lover...Chicago
       
      It's not Illinois's most famous destinations for nothing. Chicago has everything you would imagine a well-known American city would have. It has some of the world's tallest towers, dollar-dropping shopping, a massive landscaped park and foodie delights. Couples can take in romantic views at the top of the John Hancock Observatory and families can run around Navy Pier and ride the 150-foot Ferris wheel with views of Lake Michigan. People looking for the perfect holiday selfie should head to Millennium Park and take a picture of their distorted reflection in the Cloud Gate – a curved bean shaped sculpture.

    14.  

      The Ultimate Florida Bucket List

      Our bucket list ideas for Florida will take you on a journey to one place in the world that claims 'to have it all'. Where travellers of all styles will hit the pillow each night exhausted from the attractions on offer. Florida is one of these places though the Sunshine State doesn't just claim to have a lot to do, it really does have a lot to do.
      Famous as the home of Walt Disney World and a portfolio of other theme parks, Florida is a state where a bucket list keeps on growing as new corners are discovered. Even if getting your heart pumping on one of the fastest rides in the world isn't your cup of tea there is boundless shopping, fascinating museums, beautiful landscapes, famous golf courses and sandy beaches just waiting to be ticked off your Florida bucket list. Time to get started before it grows again.
      1. Drive along the Overseas Highway across the Florida Keys
      2. Explore the caves of Florida Caverns State Park
      3. Wander round Florida's oldest city, St. Augustine.
      4. Dip your toes into the Gulf of Mexico
      5. Visit Torreya State Park and admire its rare namesake tree
      6. See a manatee in the wild (they can be found in shallow, slow-moving waters)
      7. Take a dip in the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, the country's largest freshwater pool
      8. Walk through the streets of Naples, one of the wealthiest cities in America (you might just spot one of its famous resident)
      9. Take the car out to Spook Hill and watch it roll backwards, but uphill
      10. Marvel at the largest Salvador Dali collection outside Europe at The Dali Museum in St Petersburg
      11. Watch mermaids perform at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
      12. Book yourself onto a boat tour in Clearwater, one of the best places in Florida to spot bottlenosed dolphins
      13. Sit in the rocket simulator at the Kennedy Space Centre
      14. Safari in the Disney Animal Kingdom
      15. Take a boat through the Ten Thousand Islands
      16. Watch the development of a Disney animated film at Disney Hollywood Studios (and ride the Hollywood Tower of Terror)
      17. Make an expensive over-the-top purchase on Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue
      18. Learn more about Florida's Gulf Coast at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton
      19. Mingle with foodies (and top chefs) at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival
      20. Tee off for a round of golf (we struggled to pick just one course for this bucket list, as Florida is home to dozens of world class courses)
      21. Go on an Art Deco walking tour of Miami
      22. Spot alligators at Gatorland in Kissimmee
      23. Get wet on Summit Plummet
      24. Celebrate the sunset on Pier 60 in Clearwater at their nightly festival
      25. Have breakfast with a Disney character at one of their resort hotels
      26. Shop in Aventura Mall, the largest mall in Florida and the third largest in the USA
      27. Board a cruise in Fort Lauderdale, one of the world's busiest cruise terminals
      28. Get hands-on with science at the Wonderworks Museum
      29. Stroll down International Drive in the evening and see it slowly light up
      30. Sip a butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
      31. Eat in several countries in one day at Epcot
      32. Stand at the front of the Magic Kingdom and gaze up at Cinderella's Castle

    15.  

      A Valentine's Weekend in New York City

      New York City: a metropolis of famous landmarks, around-the-clock energy and the romantic valentine's weekend getaway of choice for couples across the globe.
      Regularly making top 10 lists of places that you must visit before you die, the Big Apple has something that appeals to everyone no matter what kind of holiday they are after. Alive at all times of year and never sleeping, New York is one of the most romantic places on earth if you're looking to get away for Valentine's Day.
      Ideally suited for couples who love to get lost in a metropolitan wilderness, New York City offers an endless possibility of romantic moments. Here are some of the events on offer for the 14th of February 2016.
      Visit a private Valentine's Day art show
      If you and your other half have a mutual love affair for art, the Museum of Modern Art is hosting a special Valentine's Day tour for the city's romantic twosomes. Enjoy a luxury candle-lit wine reception complete with hors d'oeuvres before learning about the artwork on a private after-hours group tour.
      Pretend to be your favourite on-screen couple
      You can barely walk five steps in NYC without spotting a building used in one of your favourite films. If you and your loved one have a favourite romantic movie that was filmed in the Big Apple, it's likely it will be on the Romantic Movie Moments Tour. This two-and-a-half-hour tour around Manhattan includes locations from When Harry Met Sally, Sweet Home Alabama, Maid in Manhattan and the first Sex and the City film.
      Take an evening cruise on the waters of Manhattan
      Every visit to New York requires a day where you do nothing but take in the famous Manhattan skyline. Imagine gazing at that skyline, at night, in a boat, with the person you love (plus wine and dinner). There are several companies that organise cruises on the Hudson river, and most are offering Valentine's Day deals with drinks, dinner and dancing.
      Star gaze in the Planetarium
      February is a chilly month in New York for stargazing, however the Hayden Planetarium is offering a warmer indoor alternative. Located inside the American Museum of Natural History, the planetarium is hosting a Valentine's event Romance Under the Stars complete with open bar, hors d’oeuvres and live music followed by romantic stories from the ancient past.
      Pretend it's Halloween
      If you and your love would rather celebrate Halloween over Valentine's Day, rest assured New York offers plenty of fright-fests all year round. The Blood Manor haunted house is an interactive show where guests take a guided tour around a mansion populated by trained actors. It's open all year, and has a special ticket-only Bloody Valentine weekend event.
      Overlook the city from the Rockefeller Centre
      The Rockefeller Centre is always regarded as a must-see on a trip to New York City. If you're going to be there over the V-Day weekend, then the Manhattan building complex is hosting numerous events to suit a variety of romantic styles. Whether you want to cosy up on the observation deck, or listen to a jazz band in the Rainbow Room, the Rockefeller Centre will have something to help your sweetheart fall for you all over again.
      Keeping it low-key
      If you would rather not attend an official Valentine's Day event and prefer to do something small with your spouse, NYC has plenty of smaller couple-based activities. A romantic stroll around Central Park, an evening meal at one of the city's many eclectic restaurants, or join the loved up couples in Times Square (it's not unusual to see a Valentine's Day wedding taking place). New York City is known for having something for everyone, and the 14th of February is no exception.

    16.  

      Louisiana in the Movies

      Destination Louisiana is loved by Barrhead Travel as well as by film directors! With its atmospheric big cities, coastal wetlands, swamps and marshes, multi-million dollar sound stages and post production houses, this destination has a lot to recommend it as a perfect film location.
      In 2013, Louisiana was the top locale for major Hollywood movies, ousting California from its usual place at the top of the heap. But film-making in the state isn’t a new phenomenon at all – it’s been home to some of the best known films of the last 100 years.
      For instance, the original 'Tarzan of the Apes' was made here in 1918. It was chosen based purely on the fact that Morgan City, Louisiana, courtesy of its swamps and rich scenery, looked a lot like an African rainforest all those years ago.

      The Louisiana film hits have kept on coming. There’s the classic Easy Rider, featuring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as freewheeling hippies and setting the bar high for the use of iconic Louisiana locations. The state’s Highway 105 was also the chosen spot for the end scene and credits of this film.
      If weepies are more your film style of choice, then this is the place that the comedy-drama Steel Magnolias was born, and where Monster’s Ball took place. Prefer thrillers or crime dramas? The Big Easy, Dead Man Walking and Delta Heat were all filmed in Louisiana, as was the phenomenally-successful 12 Years A Slave.
      Add in Catch Me If You Can, about the true-life adventures of con-man Frank Abignale, the Blues Brothers 2000, 21 Jump Street and The Waterboy, and you have a whole variety of different film genres which took this place as their inspiration.
                                 
      Image Credit: Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock.com
      It’s reported that 1 in 7 people who choose to visit the Bayou State are there because they have cleverly researched which massive film productions and television series have been shot there. Take vampire-based television series 'True Blood' for instance – it’s catapulted this Deep-South state to fame, becoming a must-visit place of worship for fans from all over the world.
      In 2015, Louisiana is still going strong in the film stakes. Soon to play host to Hollywood heavyweights Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington in the adaptation of the classic 'The Magnificent Seven,' Louisiana is still shining as one of the world’s top film locations.

      You don’t have to be a film buff to visit Louisiana though – there are more than enough reasons to jump on a plane to visit it, thanks to its beautiful landscapes and scenery. The cities have a strong multicultural, multilingual heritage, influenced by a mixture of 18th century French, Spanish, native American and African cultures – the perfect melting ***** for an unforgettable holiday completely unlike anywhere else in the USA.
      Whether you want to get up close to where some of the world’s greatest actors have been captured on celluloid, or just want an escape from the norm, then Louisiana will tick all the boxes as a top holiday destination and a world class film set, all rolled into one.

    17.  

      Vegas First-Timers

      So, you've never been to Las Vegas. What's kept you? Never mind - let's stop talking, and start doing! The important thing here is that you're ready for the time of your life, and there's no better place to celebrate than Las Vegas.
      First up - people watching. It may sound mundane, but with the cross-section of visitors and celebrities who come to Las Vegas, it's usually primetime entertainment. There are several terrific vantage points on the Strip, including Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, a French bistro with the bonus of being directly across the street from the famous Bellagio fountains. Serendipity 3 at Caesars Palace also has a great outdoor view of Las Vegas Boulevard, not to mention some tasty treats. Elevated viewing with outdoor dining is always popular at Planet Hollywood  - both at  Cabo Wabo Cantina  and PBR Rock Bar.
      Cruising the strip is required for any first-timer, by car or by foot, and since we're on the strip, now's a good time to start. As you cruise, check out the enormous digital marquees for amazing shows you'll only find in Las Vegas. There's LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage, Rock of Ages at The Venetian, Tournament of Kings at ExcaliburLe Rêve - The DreamWynn Las Vegas. The people back home will expect you to see at least one of them. Check out legendary magic duo Penn & Teller,Rio Hotel for a one-of-a-kind Las Vegas experience.
      Be sure to get out and have a little fun exploring, too. Stroll through the open-air street party that is Carnaval Court at Harrah's, or let out a few screams riding the roller coaster at New York-New York. The new LINQ entertainment and shopping street meanders between the LINQ Hotel and Casino and Flamingo Hotel. With new restaurants, shops and performance venues, this family-friendly destination will soon be home to the High-Roller Observation Wheel.There's so much to do in Las Vegas besides gaming, but if this is your first time in town, you almost have to play a little. Many hotels offer free lessons for novices - the Golden Nugget among them. While you're downtown, check out the assortment of restaurants and bars that make up the Fremont East District and the new Container Park, made entirely of shipping containers; and be sure to drop by the historic El Cortez  and the all-new elegant Downtown Grand hotel.
      Hungry yet? Las Vegas used to only be famous for buffets. Nowadays, you can also enjoy the culinary creations of any number of celebrity chefs; but as a first-timer, a buffet is in order. The Bistro Buffet at the Palms will satisfy your palate with international selections, while the Bayside Buffet at Mandalay Bay features a diverse selection of tastes, with sweeping views of a tropical water garden. Celebrated for its expansive selection of gourmet offerings, the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace will leave everyone at the table wanting more.
      Looking for adventure? We've got you covered; whether you like thrills by air, land or sea. Start with the SkyJump at the Stratosphere. At 108 stories, it's the longest controlled free fall of its kind. Soon, you'll be able to experience Slotzilla - a spectacular high-flyin' attraction where you get hooked to a harness and zip line right over the crowds on Fremont Street and under the giant video canopy. Not daring enough? How about swimming with the sharks at the Shark Reef Aquarium< at Mandalay Bay?
      Las Vegas is the birthplace of many legendary excursions - from Swingers to The Hangover. Who knows? You could be the next to leave your mark on Las Vegas.

    18.  

      Top 5 New York Must-Visit Stores

      By Ashley McAfee, Guest Blogger
      When visiting New York City, whether for the first time or the fifth, you’re going to find an overwhelming number of stores in different shopping districts. So which ones to prioritise? We’ve composed a list top five New York Must-Visit Stores that are iconic, exciting, and not to be missed!
      1. Tiffany & Co.
      727, 5th Avenue at 57th Street
      Unsurprisingly  first on our New York Must-Visit. This world-famous jewellers will truly live up to your expectations, and make you wish you had all the money in the world! Located on prestigious 5th Avenue, it’s a store which looks exactly like you see it in films, with a distinct air of sophistication and nostalgia. 4 floors of blissful, sparkling merchandise mean that you’ll definitely not want to leave without a little blue box of your own…
      2. The Prada Epicenter
      575, Broadway
       
      Designer doesn’t get any better than this! Located in the Soho district of Manhattan, The Prada Epicenter is one of only three in the world (the others are situated in Beverly Hills and Tokyo). This concept store is highly original, with fascinating architectural design touches, including a huge ramp in the middle, which transforms to become a stage used for gigs at night. The exhibition - like store is, of course, full of very expensive products, but it’s worth a trip for its aesthetic design alone.
      3. Sephora
      Times Square Studios
      There are many Sephoras located across the globe, but the beauty chain’s Times Square store is wondrously innovative, utilising digital and interactive technology. Island displays feature iPads, specially used to identify which perfume you are best suited to, and such is the technology that it sprays out samples of different perfumes for your delectation. Check out the digital foundation colour matching system, and take advantage of the opportunity to virtually try on nail polish before buying. The store stocks a huge amount of beauty brands, so make sure you take plenty of dollars (bought at great rates from Barrhead Travel, of course!), because this is the right place to treat yourself.
      4. Kate Spade
      789, Madison Avenue
      You’ll find Kate Spade on the iconic Madison Avenue, in the Upper East Side area of Manhattan. The flagship shop’s interior design imitates an iconic American townhouse and has four floors, each more intriguing and awe-inspiring than the last. It’s a stunning environment which represents the brand through its visual merchandising - even in the store’s lift! Feminine, bright and colourful, this doesn’t feel like a retail space at all. The brand sells everything from womens wear to stationery, and so there’s something for everyone!
      5. Cake Boss
      625, 8th Avenue
      Family owned Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey became famous from the TV show Cake Boss and, due to its ensuing popularity, opened a store in the heart of Manhattan. This New York bakery is located only a five minute walk from Times Square, and sells the most heavenly cakes and mouth-watering chocolate covered strawberries. They also have a range of Cake Boss merchandise if you’re a fan! In store, there’s a glass window through to the kitchen, where you can actually watch the bakers creating the cakes whilst waiting on your order.

    19.  

      The Windy City.

      Chicago: The Windy City
      A city steeped in culture and modern architectural elegance, a trip to Chicago will offer everything you desire from a city break in the one trip – shopping, an amazing music and theatre scene, over 5500 restaurants, professional sports and unique attractions. You'll leave with unforgettable memories and anticipation to plan your next trip.
      Combining the hustle and bustle of a major city with over 70 eclectic neighbourhoods, Chicago offers a completely dynamic holiday where you'll experience the best of both worlds. Chicago's synonymous with an impressive outline of skyscrapers and the striking views won't disappoint. Check out Willis Tower, America's tallest building, as it soars high above the sky. Other landmarks include the Magnificent Mile, the prestigious shopping district that sits on Michigan Avenue with many shops for you to love treating yourself in.
      Michigan Avenue also hosts Tilt – an observation deck that extends outwards on the 94th floor, that offers views of up to 50 miles of Chicago's gorgeous skyline as well as Lake Michigan and four other states. Those who suffer from vertigo may want to instead try Navy Pier, a 3300 foot-long pier that sits on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Filled with attractions, shops and places to eat, you can spend the whole day discovering its delights. You can even take a sightseeing tour from the pier and discover the city by boat.
      Other gems, such as the abundance of diverse neighbourhoods dotted throughout the city, offers an authentic slice of Chicago with boutiques, a plethora of dining options and history and culture as you've never seen it. Take a visit to the neighbourhoods in the North and experience jazz music and comedy sketches, and a cuisine that boasts Ethiopian, Mexican and Middle Eastern fare, as well as many more foods from around the world.
      Now couldn't be a better time to choose Chicago, with exclusive offers from Barrhead Travel. A fun-packed 3 night trip starts from £961, including return flights and accommodation, as well as a free sightseeing tour. Call us on 0141 242 1300 to book your Chicago adventure.

    20.  

      Experiencing Universal Studios, Florida

      Experiencing Universal Studios, Florida
      Hear from one of our staff members about their trip to Universal Studios.
      Hi, my name is Sarah Lemasurier and I was lucky enough to go on a familiarisation trip to Universal Studios Resort in Orlando, Florida. On hearing the news, I was so excited as I literally only had 2 weeks until l I was due to travel, so of course I started packing straight away!
      We flew with Virgin Atlantic and we got upgraded to PREMIUM ECONOMY! Wow, it was amazing. Could this trip get any better, I wondered? Well, the answer to that was a definite Yes.
      Our group stayed at the Cabana Bay, which had just opened this year, and we were met there by our rep from Universal. She told us that, not only would we be going to Universal, there would be a VIP guide to escort us around for the 2 days - amazing!
      Staying on site at Universal Studios was awesome and there were so many plus sides to it - I loved the fact that you could charge everything in resort on your room key. This makes it a lot safer for anyone staying there, because they don't need to carry around a lot of cash. Also, the early admission into Harry Potter was brilliant! We were able to enjoy the rides and walk through Hogsmeade without it being too busy. I'd definitely recommend doing this.
      I loved the Portofino hotel so much that I am looking at going there for my honeymoon next year. ! It's absolutely stunning - the pictures in the brochure don't do it justice! It's one of the nicest hotels I've ever been in.
      I would definitely say that for me the biggest attraction for families is the child swap facility – this is somewhere that parents can sit with their children whilst one parent is on board the ride or rollercoaster. It’s a huge help to families and I’m sure that lots of my clients will be interested in this. Confession time - I didn’t know this existed, and it's something other theme parks don't offer. I have told all my colleagues about it and they agree it’s a fantastic Universal feature.
      I have to be honest… I didn’t think I would enjoy the Blue Man Group, but happily I was proved wrong. This show was fantastic. It was so new and different to anything I have ever seen before. Loved the interaction with the audience and the technology used was superb. In fact, I loved it so much I actually bought the DVD!
      Universal Studios is much bigger than I ever imagined and the rides are superb. I didn't realise there were so many roller-coasters! I also loved City Walk. I thought this was a great place to stroll around of an evening and there were plenty of things for us to do, from the cinema to eating out to dancing the night away. There is literally something for everyone and for all ages.
      Again I loved the fact that you could charge everything on resort to the room. I also didn't realise how many rooms Universal had! I would definitely recommend anyone travelling to Universal to stay on site.
      I love the idea of a VIP guide round the resort and have already recommended this service to my customers! I also feel a lot more confident in advising about the Universal product now I have lived the experience myself. I loved that William, our tour guide, gave us some really interesting facts about the park and we learned things that not a lot of people would know, which I can now pass on.
      Before the trip, I would have recommended the resort to younger couples and families with children age 6 and above for the rides. After being there, I would say it is a place for everyone. Even if you don't want to take part in the rides etc. there is plenty to see and do. The attention to detail in the parks is extraordinary. Each world is completely different and there is something to suit a wide variety of different tastes. Even parents with younger children are good to go, thanks to the child swap area, so parents can ride the rides and not have to queue up again.
      The trip was extremely well organised and Hannah, the Universal Studios representative, was exceptional at making sure we all had a good time! She kept us on schedule and always went through our daily itinerary so we knew what was happening. We always knew our meeting points and I felt very safe in her company.
      William looked after us very well also and even came on some of the rides with us! He was very informative and could answer any questions we had about the parks. His experience shone through. I would highly recommend his services to any of my customers.
      10 out of 10 for this trip!

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