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

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

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

    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.
  4. 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!
  5. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    A beginner’s guide to the Philippines

    If you’re looking for a south-east Asia destination with sandy beaches, beautiful underwater reefs and foodie adventures - that isn’t a massive tourist hub - we recommend the Philippines . This collection of more than 7,000 islands is still little known to British travellers. Despite bringing together everything that makes South-East Asia so popular (food, culture, beautiful beaches and warm weather), it also has a few unique quirks. English is widely spoken, the architecture is significantly different and the people are some of the friendliest you will meet. Here’s everything you need to know before your first visit. Where to go and what to do With over seven thousand islands, you won’t get to see everything – so we’ve narrowed it down to the following five things. Swim with whale sharks If you still haven’t ticked swimming with whale sharks off your bucket list, now is the time. Head to Donsol Bay on Luzon Island or Oslob in Cebu. Get sporty Sporty types are well catered to in the Philippines. Not only does its never-ending coastline naturally cater to watersports, but the hilly inland is also popular with hiking and mountain biking. Fun fact: the Philippines is also the unofficial zip-line capital of the world. Island hop in Palawan Island hopping is a must for any beach-bums visiting the Philippines – with Palawan being the number one option. This was actually where the author of The Beach (later turned into a film with Leonardo DiCaprio) was living when he wrote the book. The turquoise waters, colourful reefs, and the secluded location definitely get the imagination going! Banaue Rice Terraces If you’re looking for a beautiful hidden gem to add to your travel scrapbook – head to the Banaue Rice Terraces. These 2,000-year-old terraces – that were built by indigenous tribes - are a beautiful shade of green and the air is a lot cooler here. Remember to pay a visit to the nearby town of Sagada; enjoy a couple of days caving, spelunking and hiking! Keep your eyes peeled for tarsiers These funny looking creatures are native to the Philippines and have to be seen to be believed. They are actually endangered though – and being only five inches tall makes them really difficult to spot in the wild. The Tarsier Sanctuary in Bohol is the best place to meet them. Food and Drink Thanks to the country’s Spanish history, most dishes favour a sour or vinegary taste as opposed to the spicy flavours of other Asian nations. The most famous dish is adobo: a rich stew with garlic, soy and vinegar with some local meats or seafood. Pork is the most popular meat in the Philippines, but fresh seafood is also very common and the mangoes are meant to be some of the best in the world! How to get there A direct flight to Manila runs from Heathrow and takes just under 14 hours. However, the Philippines makes for a great twin-centre break with a stopover somewhere else on the way. Dubai is a popular choice, where you can combine a few days in the glittering city before relaxing on a white-sand beach on a remote Filipino island. Domestic flights are very easy to come by as well and are often the best way to see different parts of the country. When to go December to February are the best months to visit the Philippines. Though the shoulder seasons of November and April are still pleasant and offer great value for money. The wet season is between May and October, but the rain isn’t constant and you will still see sunny days. Other important information Tagalog and English are the two primary languages The currency is the Philippine Peso (which you can pre-order from Barrhead Travel) Boracay Island will be closed to tourists from 26th April 2018 for 6 months for environmental rehabilitation You can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days (you can also get a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy before you travel, which will allow an initial 59-day stay) Check with your GP about two months before you travel to see if you need any vaccinations (this can depend on which area you visit) Tipping in the Philippines is usually around 10%
  6. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    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.
  7. If you live in Northern Ireland, a lot of the time you’ll need to travel to Dublin if you want to fly somewhere exotic. But that isn’t always the case. While Belfast International Airport mostly flies to other European airports, it does offer a few long-haul flights to far-flung places. Here are six places you can fly to from Belfast that aren’t in Europe. 1. Cuba Cuba is becoming more accessible to the rest of the world, including Belfast. Flights are available to Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport (also known as Varadero Airport), which is just under two hours from Havana. 2. Mexico If it’s a fun-filled beach holiday you’re looking for, then you can’t do much better than Cancun. Home to numerous all-inclusive resort hotels, the beaches and nightlife in Cancun are world-famous. If it’s history you’re after, however, the ancient city of Tulum is only a day-trip away. 3. Orlando Orlando is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world – and it’s not hard to imagine why. Home to world-famous roller coasters and theme parks, there’s plenty to keep the children entertained morning to night. Away from the parks you’ll find amazing shopping and dining – plus, there’s the other side of Florida that often gets forgotten about. Cities like Kissimmee, St Pete’s and Tampa are only an hour’s drive away, and offer a different experience than the one you’ll have in Orlando. They’re perfect for a few days of relaxation before you fly back. 4. Las Vegas If you’re looking for an all-night party, then you need to book a flight to Las Vegas. The famous 4-mile strip is lined with casinos, A-list entertainment and an infectious atmosphere – all essential ingredients for a night out. Then during the day there’s always a pool party happening somewhere. 5. NYC New York City is somewhere that requires no introduction. Full of shopping, entertainment, famous landmarks and delicious food – there are several reasons why people return to this buzzing metropolis year after year. Flights run twice a week to Newark Liberty International Airport. 6. Boston If you’re after an American city break but are looking for something that is more chilled than NYC, Las Vegas or Orlando, we recommend Boston. A great city for anyone interested in America’s rich history, you can spend your days wandering between different museums. Plus, seafood lovers will adore the coastal restaurants.
  8. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    5 popular stop-offs on a Japan touring holiday

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

    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.
  10. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    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)
  11. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    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.
  12. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    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."
  13. The Mount Royal Hotel has always held a special place in Banff’s history. Located on the historic corner of Caribou Street and Banff Avenue, the hotel has always been a popular meeting place for locals, off-duty park wardens and those new to town. But despite its century-long history, the hotel has moved with the times and is due to re-open this July with an exciting offer of modern amenities. Here are just five reasons you should stay there. 1. The hot tub lounge The most talked about amenity at the new Mount Royal Hotel is outdoor hot tub lounge. Found on the fifth floor, it is a place where you can grab a drink and relax in a hot tub – while enjoying views of the peaks like Cascade, Rundle, Sulphur and the Sundance Range. It is also guests only so you won’t need to fight for space either. 2. It blends the modern with the new Banff boasts a strong heritage, and this can be seen through the town’s ranch-like hotels. You can relax by a log fire while enjoying a cocktail, and wander through the hall with tartan carpets before relaxing in your room with a smart TV and kitchenette. 3. Four room types to choose from Choose from the Centennial Room View, Centennial Room, Heritage Room, and Junior Suite. All come with plush bedding, a kitchenette, smart TV, desk area, and two queens or one king-sized bed. Plus, the Centennial room View and Junior Suite come with unobstructed views of the surrounding peaks. 4. Two restaurants While Banff itself is not short on tasty dining experiences, there’s a restaurant and pub conveniently located within the hotel. Tony Roma’s Restaurant is a casual dining family restaurant where you can bite into BBQ ribs, slow-roasted chicken and AAA Alberta beef. While Toque is the perfect place to socialise with friends over a game of pool with craft beers and heart-warming Canadian poutine. 5. And other touches that make your stay comfortable Including concierge desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, outdoor parking, bell service, hotel library and 24-hour reception. Your stay at the Mount Royal Hotel is guaranteed to be just what you need for a relaxing stay in Banff.
  14. 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.
  15. Morag@BarrheadTravel

    10 things you’ll find on-board the Disney Magic

    If you’re a Disney-mega fan then visiting the parks is not enough – you also have to take a trip on a Disney Cruise. There are currently four ships in their fleet: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. The Disney Magic was the first one to set sail (way back in 1998) and offers a quintessential Disney experience. She’s currently sailing around the Bahamas and Caribbean, but will occasionally retreat across the Atlantic for cruises around the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. But no matter where she visits, she’ll still have the same family-friendly amenities on-board. Here are just ten things you’ll find on-board Disney Magic that make it a great choice for Disney fanatics. 1. Tangled: The Musical See this modern classic come to life in front of you with this magical live performance – only available on the Disney Magic. The live show remains true to the Disney movie, reuniting the characters of Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Mother Gothel, and, of course, the palace horse Maximus. 2. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Don’t just meet your favourite characters – become them. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is owned by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and offers both Disney Princess and Knight Packages. Little ones can choose between Disney Diva and Fairy-Tale Princess, or they can opt for something more dapper like a noble knight or sea-loving captain! 3. AquaDunk Definitely for the braver members of the family! This waterslide is found at the Forward Funnel on Deck 13 and takes passengers over the edge of the ship in a 20-foot curvature. Oh, and it’s see-through (height restrictions apply). 4. Animator's Palate Treat your taste buds and eyes to a sensory overload at this unique dining experience. As you sit down to dine, you’ll be surrounded by large screens that take you through the journey of designing your favourite characters – from initial sketch to final animation. 5. MARVEL Day at Sea This is only available on selected 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami in early 2018, and on select 5-night cruises to The Bahamas and the Western Caribbean in early 2019. But is worth it for the meet-and-greets, stunt shows and unique youth club programmes. 6. Wide World of Sports If you want to keep up your fitness while on holiday, head to the top deck where you’ll find the Wide World of Sports. Here you’ll find a massive open-air basketball court, ping-pong tables, and general areas for moving around. Elsewhere on the ship, you’ll also find a Shuffleboard and a Running Track. 7. Senses Spa Salon Unwind from the activities across the rest of the ship at this high-end luxury spa. Treatments include Swedish massage, ELEMIS facials, Cellulite Reduction, acupuncture, cut & blow dry, and manicures. 8. Disney's Oceaneer Club On-board the Disney Magic kids between 3-12 get to choose between four different areas at the onboard children’s club: Andy’s Room, MARVEL’s Avengers Academy, Mickey Mouse Club and Pixie Hollow. 9. Adults-only dining at Palo While the younger members of the family are enjoying the many child-friendly activities on-board, the parents can treat themselves to some adult-only dining. Named after the signature long poles used by gondoliers in Venice, Palo serves up the best in northern Italian cuisine. Main dishes include butternut agnolotti, seared sea scallops, and piquant Dover sole. Palo is also open for brunch. Additional fees apply for this dining option. 10. Keys Piano Bar Another venue for the adults to unwind in, this dimly-lit space is inspired by the famed piano bars of Hollywood’s heyday. The drinks menu is also delectable, offering Martinis, scotch, single malt, tequila, cognac, port, Madeira and speciality coffees like espresso, cappuccino and café mocha.
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