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Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!
# Visited16 countries
Next TripCurrently back in Asia starting a 4-yr RTW adventure. What's after this? No clue...but that's the way I like it :)
Dream TripVirgin space cruise. More feasible: Antarctica
Travel Quote" Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel. What do you do? "
Home CountryUnited States
Houston is one of the largest cities in Texas, and as with all big metropolises, there are so many things to do there that it can often be overwhelming to visitors. It is for that exact reason that I have recently been writing so many articles on all the amazing sights and restaurants in Houston, Texas. Now I proudly present the best summer activities to beat the Houston heat and humidity while still having a great trip.
Take A Dip In The Cool, Cool Water
What better way to cool off during the summer than by going for a swim. Houston has no shortage of public pools, however the real place to visit is Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown. They are home to acres upon acres of water slides, rides and pools. Plus if you are traveling as a family then this is one destination that every kid is guaranteed to love, regardless of their age.
Catch A Sports Game
Houston is home to several professional teams, including the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, and the Houston Texans. Baseball is the sport of summer and football season starts in September, so depending on when visitors will be in town dictates which sports will be in session. Luckily, either way the best deals on tickets to both games and musical performances can always be found with TiqIQ.
Enjoy A Night Out
Once the sun goes down and the temperature cools, outside dining becomes much more enjoyable than it is during the daytime heat. Restaurants like Boheme, The Tasting Room at King's Harbor and Batanga have made a name for themselves thanks to their delicious food and perfect outdoor ambience. The latter two are especially nice for a romantic night out. However, my personal favorite is Cottonwood, which is known for their sprawling patio, impeccable food and refreshing craft beer selections.
Go To A Music Festival
Houston summers and the Free Press Summer Fest go hand-in-hand. This annual music festival is held every June and has quickly become one of the largest annual music festivals in the nation. Performers such as Bassnectar, Deftones, and The Naked And Famous have performed here in years past and the 2015 lineup, although not yet announced, is expected to be one of the best thus far. Although you may still find yourself out in the sun during the day, you'll be having too much fun to worry about the heat.
Escape The City
Sometimes it is necessary to escape the urban jungle, even if only for a quick day-trip or one night getaway. Thankfully there are plenty of refreshing parks within the vicinity of north Houston's suburbs. Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the closest option but Sam Houston National Forest is by far the most rewarding. Both parks offer camping and hiking, however Sam Houston covers a sprawling 160,000 acres, as opposed to Lake Houston's 5,000 acres.
If you have any questions on what to do in Houston this summer, please leave a comment below or drop me an email and I will help you plan an unforgettable trip.
Everyone knows that Carlsbad, California is home to many amazing resorts and relaxing beaches; however, there are tons of other exciting things to do during your vacation here. Whether in town or just outside of the city, family friendly activities or things geared more towards adults, there is no shortage of ways to pass the time. It is a perfect destination for both romantic getaways and family vacations, and one that leaves first-time visitors eager to return for a second taste.
The most well-known of all of Carlsbad's attractions, Legoland California is obviously heaven for children. However, it is also entertaining to parents as well. With over 60 family rides, and plenty of engrossing and educational attractions and shows, Legoland is 128 acres of pure joy. To save money on tickets, check out Excursiopedia.
K1 Speed Carlsbad
While mom and the young kids are having fun at Legoland, K1 Speed is the perfect place for dad to take the teenagers. Get a rush of adrenaline and experience what it is like to be a race car driver in a safe, fun environment. Even if you've been before, it's worth a second visit because they periodically change the track. Oh, and did I mention they also sell food and beer there? So, what are you waiting for?
Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch
Arguably the most beautiful sight in all of California, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are 50 acres of colorful brilliance. For a nominal $10 entry fee, visitors can wander through the fields for hours and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It is also a favorite destination of photographers or anyone who wants to get some amazing family photos amongst a sea of flowers. The best time of year to visit is during spring when everything is in full bloom.
Day-Trip to San Diego
Located just a 30-minute drive to the south, San Diego is a bustling metropolis that offers tons of activities not found in Carlsbad. Whether you want concerts, sports venues, or theatre shows, the city is your oyster.
The Chargers call San Diego home and, depending upon the time of year you are visiting, catching a football game is a great way to pass the afternoon. If the performing arts are more your taste, the Civic Theatre and Balboa Theatre are the two main theatres in San Diego. My personal favorite is the latter. Not only is it an impressive theatre, but it was recently named one of the world's 15 most amazing theatres by CNN Travel. Tickets to all of these events, as well as musical concerts, can be found on TiqIQ.
However you decide to pass your time in Carlsbad, there is one thing everyone needs: a nice hotel. Luckily, visitors can find cheap hotels in Carlsbad and save some money for all the impressive sites and excursions around town. Additionally, if you have any questions on what to do while there, you can always contact me. I've been several times and, over the course of my trips, have seen and done just about everything in town.
flickr // notahipster
Nestled deep in Texas on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico is marvelous Corpus Christi, one of the state's most popular tourist destinations for both Texans and out-of-state visitors. It is also the gateway to Padre Island. No, not South Padre Island, you party animals, Padre Island National Seashore. A pristine and scenic destination for those more interested in nature and relaxation than partying. It is also just one of the many amazing things to do in and around Corpus Christi.
The USS Lexington
The USS Lexington is a retired aircraft carrier with a long and rich history. It's now one of the most popular museums in all of Texas. Just imagine wandering through a decommissioned battleship that still looks ready for battle – complete with two dozen real aircraft perched on her decks – instead of a dusty old museum and it is easy to see why.
The ship is stocked full with hundreds of exhibits scattered across 11 floors and is an easy way to kill an entire day. Perhaps that is why their Overnight Campout tours are so popular amongst families and youth recreational groups. Live the life of a soldier at sea, complete with authentic bunks and meals in one of the mess halls. I did this several summers as a kid and was pleasantly surprised to see they are still offering them.
Texas Surf Museum
The quaint Texas Surf Museum museum is a must-visit for any surfing enthusiast. It covers the history of surfing in Texas through photos and articles, and of course has a bunch of surfboards on display and information on famous surfers from the state. It may not be the most entertaining to young kids but is a neat little stop for dad. As an added bonus, it is always free.
Concerts and Events
Corpus Christi is home to two great venues, Selena Auditorium and the American Bank Center. Throughout the year, both offer monthly musical and theatre performances. Check out the upcoming shows and find cheap tickets on TiqIQ.
Padre Island National Seashore
At 70 miles long, the Padre Island National Seashore is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world and serves as the perfect year-round escape close to the city. From fishing and swimming to camping, the sheer size of this island can almost make you feel like you have it all to yourself. It is recommended as day-trip or refreshing weekend getaway.
Texas State Aquarium
One of the top 10 aquariums in North America according to USA Today, the Texas State Aquarium is a fun and educational family destination for people of all ages. It is packed full with over a dozen exhibits, and more species of animals than you can count. One of the their most popular exhibits is the dolphin show, which can be viewed from stadium seating or seen like never before through the large underwater viewing window.
Regardless of what you decide to do while in town, there is one thing everyone needs: cheap hotels in Corpus Christi. And like always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!
Houston is a vibrant city with plenty of fun sights and excursions to entertain both American and foreign tourists. From sports games to shows to nightlife, there is something for everyone in 'Space City', a nickname the city earned because of the NASA research center. The city is great for last-minute travelers on a budget. Here are some tips for a successful trip to Houston.
How to Get Around Houston
There are plenty of transportation options around Houston, most predominantly the METRO bus system. Their 1,200 buses cover every part of town that you want to visit (as well as some you wouldn't). Another option is the METRORail, which although it only has one line does manage to run right through the heart of the city. Finally there are taxis, useful for short trips or if the weather is foul, but certainly not the most cost-effective option for long distance journeys.
Where to Stay for Less
Houston has no shortage of hotels to choose from and many of them cater to budget-conscious travelers. One of my personal favorites is Comfort Inn Southwest Parkway. Not only is it conveniently located and accessible via public transportation, but a stay here won't break the bank. You can also find a much more extensive list of cheap hotels in Houston on Hipmunk. Airbnb has plenty of options as well, most of which are geared toward groups or families as opposed to individuals.
What to Do in Houston
Depending upon the time of year, Houston has a variety of annual events. These include the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is open every year in February and March, and iFest, an art and music festival held every April. However, the pinnacle is the Houston Art Car Parade, an event that must be seen firsthand to truly believe. It is exactly as it sounds: fully functioning cars and motorcycles turned into decadent works of art. And the best part? It's completely free!
Excursiopedia also provides themed tours of Houston. Consider touring one of the many museums, over a dozen of which are free year-round. Several others offer free entry days once a week.
Must-See Events and Theatre
The sport lovers will be happy to know that Houston has several major teams. First and foremost are the Houston Texans, a football team in the AFC Southern Division. For basketball lovers the Houston Rockets are very well-known team that has had some great players through the years. And of course we cannot forget the Houston Astros, the city's baseball team. Whichever sport you prefer, be sure to check ScoreBig for cheap tickets.
Or if theatre is more your thing then you'll be happy to know that the city has so many theatres it actually has a theatre district located downtown.
Of course there are also plenty of other theatres scattered around town. Ultimately, regardless of when you visit Houston or where you stay while there, budget is of little concern if you plan ahead. If you have any questions than feel free to ask me.
As a writer for Hipmunk, you will see several of my city guides published there -- including my overview of hotels and attractions near Rice University. Since I know these particular cities so well I occasionally I write more about them here at The HoliDaze. View more of my Houston articles and information
Phuket is Thailand's largest island and an incredibly popular tourist destination. There is so much to see and do there that often visitors get overwhelmed and miss some of the best opportunities. From sports to excursions to local cuisine, there is plenty to do beyond the beaches. Truly Phuket is one destination that does not disappoint. Here is what not to miss during your next vacation to this beautiful island.
Take A Thai Cooking Class
Thai food is one of the most well known -- and loved -- of all Asian cuisines. It can be found in countries around the world, however nothing quite beats the authentic taste that can only be found in Thailand. While in Phuket make sure to take a Thai cooking class. After a morning stop at the local market for fresh ingredients its off to the kitchen to begin learning the tricks of the trade. And the best part? At the end of the day you get to indulge in all the decadent dishes you have made.
Eat The Best Food On The Island
If cooking isn't your thing or you just want food without the wait, trust the locals. One of their favorite places -- and mine now too -- is Bentley's Soup (or as it is known in Thai, โก้เบนซ์ เกาเหลาเลือดหมู). Not only is the food to die for but the restaurant is open until 2:30am, making it a perfect destination for those midnight munchies. Deciding what you want may be a bit difficult, as the menu is only in Thai, however, if all else fails, just point to what you want then get ready to leave full and happy.
Attend A Muay Thai Kickboxing Match
Watching a Muay Thai match on television is nowhere near as exciting as seeing one in real life. Kickboxing is Thailand's preeminent sport and those guys really know how to fight. Unlike the often choreographed wrestling in the western world, Mauy Thai is known as "the art of eight limbs" and after witnessing a match firsthand you will understand why. There are matches every Friday night at Suwit Boxing Stadium, with the amateurs going first as they gradually work up to the main event.
Visit The Khao Rang Hill View Point
For the best view of Phuket Town take a drive (or taxi) up to the Khao Rang Hill View Point. This is the perfect vantage point to practice your photography. Not only is the view spectacular but there are also several restaurants serving delicious food at great prices. It is also a popular destination for watching the sunset or indulging in a romantic dinner.
Get Away For A Day
Koh Phi Phi first gained international attention after the release of The Beach, most of which was filmed on the island. Nowadays this small archipelago is on every tourists' list and as such there are no shortage of travel agencies willing to take you there. The islands are perfect for a day trip and offer amazing swimming or diving experiences.
What are some of your favorite things to do in and around Phuket?
As a writer for Hipmunk, you will see several of my city guides published there -- including my overview of Phuket. Be sure to give it a read before your trip to Phuket!
As the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston has no shortage of delicious and diverse restaurants. However some stand apart from the crowds because of their unique menus, quirky designs or intriguing owners. With so many one-of-a-kind options at your fingertips, why would anyone want to stick to the chains? Make the most of your trip to Space City by trying something new and exciting like these five places.
If you are a fan of Thai food then this little restaurant should not be missed. It is a favorite of local Houstonians who all know their favorite dishes by the letter and number combination, such as H5 or S11. The original owner of this delicious restaurant is lovingly referred to as the Thai Soup Nazi (a reference to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi), however he passed away in 2010. Luckily the restaurant remains relatively unchanged and the food is still as delicious as ever. Plus, it is BYOB, so how can you go wrong?
Another great BYOB Italian restaurant is Just Dinner. The name comes from the fact that this restaurant is literally only open for dinner, from 6pm to 9pm every day except Sunday. Because of that, it is highly recommended you make a reservation first. The building is actually a house turned restaurant with a cozy, intimate feel and delicious menu. I recommend the Prime Beef Filet Mignon -- simply to die for!
This Lord Of The Rings themed restaurant is a must-try for any visitor to Houston, but especially for Lord Of The Rings fans. The restaurant is full of all kinds of Tolkien items from movie posters to figures to photos. However the menu is completely normal, albeit a bit heavy on the vegetarian dishes. Meat lovers need not fear though, there are plenty of options for you as well. Despite the fact I have never seen any of the movies, I really enjoyed the Hobbit Cafe, even if it was a little cramped.
As the name implies, Jus' Mac serves nothing but macaroni and cheese dishes. The menu is divided into two categories, Radical and Conservative. On the radical menu there are dishes like the Hangover, perfect for a Sunday morning brunch, or my personal favorite the Cheese & Chong. The conservative dishes might be better for those who are not the most adventurous of eaters, but even those are unique twists on this classic American comfort food.
Brothers Taco House
Given the state's proximity to Mexico, it should be no surprise that tacos are a staple of most Texans diets. Brothers Taco House is well-known by Houston locals for having the best tacos in all of town. From top-notch breakfast tacos to vegetarian favorites like rajas con queso and classics such as barbacoa, there is something here for everyone.
Wherever you decide to eat, make sure to find a cheap hotel in Houston near the restaurant of your choice because once you stumble on out of any of these places, the first thing you are going to need is a nap!
As a writer for Hipmunk, you will see several of my city guides published there -- including my overview of hotels and attractions near Rice University. Since I know these particular cities so well I occasionally I write more about them here at The HoliDaze.
SoHo (officially known as South of Houston Street) is one of the trendiest, most happening neighborhoods in all of Manhattan, New York City. The area has become a mecca of sorts for local artists and thankfully that spirit is pouring over into local businesses as well. SoHo is jam-packing full of unique boutique restaurants, tasty cafes and decadent bakeries, some of which have draw national attention. However in order to truly appreciate the food of SoHo, you have to take your time and visit only a couple restaurants a day, rather than trying to pack them in as fast as possible.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
In recent years this bakery has earned more awards than I have fingers. From Time Out New York's "Best Bakery of 2012" to Zagat 2013's highest ranked bakery, people throughout the city cannot get enough of this bakery. In addition to all the pastries you would expect to find, this bakery also specializes in savory soups and sandwiches that are perfect for a quick lunch. The Dominique Ansel Bakery menu gradually changes over time but I've never had a bad thing there.
Ruby's has been a favorite of local Manhattanites for many years now, which unfortunately thanks to the small size of the cafe meant that dining here always required patiently waiting for a table. However as of a few months ago this is a thing of the past. Ruby's long-awaited expansion has finally opened! This cafe is the best place in town to experience melt-in-your-mouth Australian cuisine at its finest! My personal recommendation is the Bronte Burger with bacon, your soon to be best new friend.
Balthazar is a phenomenal French bistro with a full menu from breakfast through midnight suppers. However what they are most known for is Sunday brunch. They even have a special menu for this special day of the week. Come on down and easy into your Sunday with one of their amazing Hangover Drinks and eggs any way you can imagine them. Or skip right to lunch and go with the smoked salmon, one of their most popular Sunday dishes.
Cafe Gitane offers incredible food at prices that won't empty out your wallet, a quality that is rare to find among SoHo's most popular eateries. That is also the reason this place is perpetually packed -- but the food is so good and the prices so unbeatable that it is worth a short wait. The cuisine is primarily French with a touch of Moroccan flair. Although Gitane also serves breakfast, their lunch and dinner menu is what really keeps people returning. One taste of their Moroccan couscous and you will be hooked!
Wherever you eat in SoHo, make sure to same room for a bit of desert. Georgetown Cupcake started in Washington, D.C. back in 2008 and quickly took the nation's capital by storm thanks to a TLC reality TV show. In 2012 they opened a location in SoHo to compete with Manhattan's preeminent pasty shop, Magnolia Bakery (made famous by Sex In The City). Now nearly three years later much of the city has come to prefer Georgetown over Magnolia but in order to decide for yourself, you have to experience the delectable delicacies firsthand.
What other places in SoHo would you recommend?
Houston, Texas, is a humongous city that often overwhelms visitors and leaves them uncertain where to go, what to eat and what to see. Luckily, as a native Texan, I've spent a great deal of time exploring the city and finding some of the most unique, hidden and offbeat destinations — some of which not even local residents know about.
National Museum of Funeral History
Museums related to our own mortality are always intriguing, despite sometimes being a bit macabre. All that aside, this is one of the most captivating and engrossing museums I have ever visited. From the history of embalming to an entire collection of hearses to a coffin built for three, you really never know what to expect around the next corner.
The Beer Can House
The late John Milkovisch was confronted with a conundrum. His house needed to be painted, but he didn't want to do it. His solution? Cover the entire thing with over 50,000 beer cans. He started in 1968 and didn't finish until 15 years later. While the place is definitely quirky and a must-visit for any beer enthusiast, one can only assume that Mr. Milkovisch must have passed away from cirrhosis of the liver.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Located just outside of Houston in Sugar Land, this magnificent Hindu temple seems out of place, as if it has been transplanted here from somewhere in India or Southeast Asia. In fact, it is the first traditional Hindu temple in the United States. Be sure to come hungry as the food here is the best and most authentic Indian food in all of Houston. For visitors unfamiliar with visiting religious sites such as this, please do not forget to take off your shoes before entering.
If you are a fan of Thai food then this little restaurant should not be missed. It is a favorite of local Houstonians who all know their favorite dishes by the letter and number combination, such as H5 or S11. The original owner of this restaurant is lovingly referred to as the Thai Soup Nazi (a reference to the Seinfeld episode about the Soup Nazi); however, he passed away in 2010. Luckily, the restaurant remains relatively unchanged and the food is still as delicious as ever. Plus, it is BYOB so how can you go wrong.
The Orange Show
From the mid-1950s until his death in 1980, local Houston postal worker Jeff McKissack created this impressive monument to honor his favorite fruit, the orange. It covers an impressive 3,000 square feet and will suck you in from the moment you begin walking along the maze of pathways. Nowadays, it has become a folk art favorite not just of local Houston residents but art lovers across the entire USA.
This is but a fraction of all the offbeat things to do in Houston. However, no matter what you decide to do or see while visiting Space City, save some money by finding a cheap hotel in Houston via Hipmunk.
As a writer for Hipmunk, you will find several of my city guides published there. Occasionally I write more about these particular cities here at The HoliDaze, since I know them so well, and when I do I like to brag about my work with Hipmunk.
Thoughts of Montana often conjure up scenic images of rollings hills, pristine streams and snow-capped mountains, however the most gorgeous time of year is undoubtedly during the winter.
There are few things more gorgeous than fresh snowfall that has yet to be broken by tracks or the twinkling of a thousand stars on a cold, cloudless night. And nothing is more fun in this winter wonderland then gliding down a mountain slope on skies or tearing across the fresh snow on a snowmobile.
Before beginning to traveling the farthest corners of the globe I started in my own backyard and few states impressed me as much as Montana during the winter. Not only is it gorgeous but it's also a playground for grown-ups, a chance to once again feel like a carefree kid with no responsibilities. It is also an amazing family destination because it is fun for all ages.
Two years ago while passing through Montana I had my first experience with winter glamping and no other glamping experience since has come close. It's hard to even convey how amazing it is to spend the day outside, bundled up against the low temperatures and frolicking around like a kid, only to come inside from the cold and instantly be transported to warm, safe haven where a nice glass of German Riesling and a warm fire await.
Glamping is still a relatively new vacation option yet it is one that has quickly become popular in many countries around the world. It is, as the name suggests, glamorous camping and no other form of camping compares. Imagine a tent, yurt or other semi-permanent structure that is so elaborately furnished and stocked with modern technological conveniences that it is hard to even believe it isn't a luxurious cabin. Now that is glamping.
However the best part of glamping in the winter is the outdoor activities.
Arguably the most popular of all winter spots, Montana is well-known for it's amazing skiing. What the states lacks in population it makes up for in mountains and they come alive during the cool weather months. Whether beginner or expert there is something for everyone in this great state.
Picture a pristine frozen lake...and now imagine you whisking across it on skates, spelling out your name in cursive letters or doing figure eights. Ice-skating is my favorite of all winter sports and as most of you know how clumsy I am, it should go without saying that I don't injure myself nearly as much on the ice as I do while skiing.
SLEDDING / SNOWMOBILING
Whether you prefer hitting the snow on a gasoline powered beast of a machine or comfortably sailing across it on a horse-drawn sleigh, both offer a relaxing and refreshing way to enjoy the winter wonderland.
Of course there are plenty of other winter activities to partake in, especially if you stay somewhere that will cater to your every whim, such as The Ranch at Rock Creek. This includes winter paintballing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, sledding for the kids and pistol or rifle shooting for the adults.
Tempted to try glamping, either as a family or as a romantic getaway for two? The Ranch has you covered! Of course if you still are not sold on that idea, they also have private log homes and a more traditional iconic lodge. Whichever you decide just know that the possibilities for wintertime fun are endless. This year make your winter vacation an unforgettable one at The Ranch at Rock Creek!
Have you ever been glamping?
Austin, Texas is known as the live music capital of the world and for good reason. Regardless of the time of year there are always an abundance of amazing shows to catch. The next time you are visiting Austin be sure to check out these venues:
The Continental Club
An Austin staple for over fifty years, the Continental Club has been graced by countless famous musicians, including Stevie Ray Vaughn and Hank Williams. When it first opened the Club was BYOB and within a couple years it was the first venue in town to sell liquor by the drink. Although it was briefly a burlesque club during the 1960's, nowadays the Continental Club is fun for all ages.
The Saxon Pub
This small, intimate pub is one of the newer ones musical venues on this list but it has already earned it's place as an Austin musical staple. Live recordings are frequently done here and guests never know which celebrities might make a surprise appearance jamming on stage with local musicians.
This blue's club is one of the best known spots in Austin to catch both up-and-coming and well-known artists. Founded by the late Clifford Antone, mentor to Stevie Ray Vaughn and noteable musicians, there is no such thing as a bad show at Antone's.
Arguably most diverse venue on this list, the Mohawk is like no other. A favorite among the counter-culture crowd, both long-time Austinites and out of town visitors sweat by this bar. Although they do not serve any food, the famou food trucks East Side Pie's and Arlos can be found right out front and are the perfect way to grab a bite withou having to miss the music.
Spider House is a coffee bar and cafe rolled into one that has been a favorite among Austin locals since it opened in 1995. The place has a uniquly Austin vibe and is definitely one of those locations keeping Austin weird. Their two outdoor stages are graced by talented local artists on a nightly basis.
Unlike the other items on this list, SXSW is not a venue but rather an annual week-long musical experience. Every year in March thousands of bands from around the world flock to the city and can be found jamming on every stage and street corner in downtown. Although the vast majority of the shows are free, the biggest ones featuring the most well-known performers usually require an SXSW wristband. Of course attendees should always be on the lookout for last-minute suprise shows featuring headliners that are announced via social media and free for those who are "in the know" and can make it there in time.
Of course these are but a fraction of the amazing places in Austin to find great music -- the city does not disappoint. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, Austin is my hometown and music is in my blood. Rock on!