Derek Freal

Derek Freal

" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
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!

More About

  • # Visited
    26 countries
  • Travel Quote
    " Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel. What do you do? "

At first glance, Hong Kong might appear to be just another sprawling modern metropolis that revolves almost entirely around technology, corporate business, and the global financial market. Little do first-time visitors realise that there is plenty more below the surface. For those eager to get off the beaten path and explore the hidden side of Hong Kong, these are some of the most fun and intriguing sights and activities in this modern city-state.

Wander the walled villages

The city's sleek, iconic skyscrapers reveal little about Hong Kong's rich history and culture. For that, visitors need to visit one of the city's walled villages. Shui Tau Tsuen may require a bit of work to get to but a trip out here is well worth it. Nineteenth-century buildings with ornate architecture and decorations provide a glimpse into the past that visitors will not soon forget, including traditional temples and a remarkably well-preserved study hall.

View Hong Kong in a different light

Hong Kong skyline at night
Image via Flickr by Phil Wiffen

It's impossible not to notice the abundance of lights, sounds and smells that pervade every corner of downtown Hong Kong. However, you can never really fully appreciate them until removing one of your senses and letting the other four work overtime. That is the concept behind Dialogue in the Dark. Visually impaired guides lead guests along a 75-minute journey that is unlike anything they have ever experienced. "See" the ferries, wet markets, traffic intersections and more in a whole new light. If nothing else, this excursion will give you an insight into life as a blind person, and a new level of respect for the extra sensory experiences that they encounter on a daily basis.

Dialogue in the Dark also offers other darkened experiences, from dining to birthday parties.

Escape the island

Peng Chau
Image via Flickr by Marc van der Chijs

Most people eager to temporarily flee the fast-paced city life flock to Lamma Island, but there is a better place. Completely overlooked by both foreigners and locals alike, the small Peng Chau Island is a great way to slow things down. Relax at the waterfront, watching the boats, or visit a couple of the island's temples. Just don't forget to take a stroll down the Peng Yu Path, a hiking trail immersed in nature with picturesque views of the ocean. The best part? Peng Chau Island is only a thirty-minute ferry ride away!

Another option is the town of Sai Kung, located in the New Territories, and home to the best beaches in all of Hong Kong! Sample the local seafood, go cliff-jumping at Sheung Luk Streams, soak up some sun on the beach, and be sure not to miss the floating seafood market. You can find out more, and get directions to each of these individual attractions.

Of course Hong Kong has plenty more to offer visitors, especially when it comes to food and technology. Still not sure it's the destination for you? Here are four more amazing reasons to visit Hong Kong now.

Hawaii is rich in activities and attractions both cultural and geographic. It poses as one of the top tourist destinations in the US. You can also find great accommodations in many places such as the Bluegreen Resorts. Consider visiting the following locations if you are planning to tour the Hawaiian Islands.

1. USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is the biggest natural harbor within the State of Hawaii, initially referred to as “Pu’loa” by the ancient Hawaiians. Situated in Honolulu, the USS Memorial at Pearl Harbor is the top tourist destination in the Hawaiian Islands. You can visit here to see the nine historic sites where the WWII began for America. At the Pearl Harbor, you can get a movie ticket to watch a film that summarizes the history of this primeval site.

2. Waikiki Beach

The name Waikiki means ‘sprouting waters’ and refers to the freshwater rivers that used to flow towards the ocean. It was at first a holiday destination for Hawaiian royalty but was later recognized by foreign visitors. The Beach town of Waikiki is decorated with a broad array of luxurious resorts and restaurants. In Waikiki Beach, you can see the Duke Kahanamoku Statue, the Waikiki Aquarium, and Honolulu Zoo.

3. The North Shore of Oahu

The north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, is one of the best surfing destinations in the world

The North Shore of Oahu is the geographic region between East Oahu’s Kahuku Point West Oahu’s Ka’ena Point. The North Shore of Oahu is widely acclaimed for its huge waves and impressive coastline that attracts surfers from all around the world during the Winter. Among the famous North Shore surf spots are Sunset Beach, Ehukai Beach, and Waimea Bay. Here you will also see the historic town Hale’iwa that is widely recognized for its art galleries, a surf museum, food trucks, and yoga studios.

4. Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

The Na Pali Coastline is considered one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is rich in Hawaiian cultural history. The perfect way to explore this coastline is by use of an ocean vessel. You can also choose to study the coast through the Kalalau Trail by foot and experience the magnificent beaches, streams and natural waterfalls.

5. Road to Hana

This is one of Hawaii’s most spectacular landscapes. As you are on the Road to Hana, you can get a glimpse of the Twin Falls, the Garden of Eden Arboretum, and Wai’anapanapa State Park. In Hana Town, you can check out the art galleries, farmers markets, and Hana Bay.

6. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park

This is a secluded destination ideal for lovers of nature. It serves as a symbolic gesture of contemplation for those who have suffered from Hansen’s Disease. As you tour Kalaupapa, you can stop to experience the windward side of the peninsula.

7. Haleakala National Park

The Haleakala National Park is perfect for camping and hiking trips. The summit area here offers a stunning view and landscape good for watching sunrise or sunset.

8. The Island of Lana’i

Sometimes referred to as the “Pineapple Isle”, it is a striking, privately owned island located in the Hawaiian archipelago. While in Lana’i, you can explore the beautiful garden of Keahikawelo, a landscape of rock towers, Sweetheart Rock, and the romantic Puu Pehe Beach. There are also some world-class golf resorts and scuba diving spots here.

9. Hawai’i Volcanoes

To get the history of how the Hawaiian Islands were formed, visit the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Here, there are some volcanic lava fields, steam vents, old lava cave, the Kilauea’s Caldera and the Halema’uma’u Crater.

10. Diamond Head State Monument

The view of Waikiki Beach from the top after hiking Diamond Head Volcano in Hawaii

This is Hawaii’s most renowned signpost. While at Diamond Head State Monument, you should take the short hike through old military bunkers. Remember to carry a flashlight as part of the trails goes through long dark tunnels.

With all these breathtaking attractions, Hawaii is your destination of choice. It is fun to visit whether you are traveling alone or with your family.

White Sox. Hot dogs. The longest street in the world (within one single city). The Bulls. 15 miles of public beach. Chicago-style pizza. Yes, the Windy City is home to many things, and it's important to experience and indulge in as many of them in as possible while here. If you've only got time for a short trip to Chicago, overabundance is the key.

Chicago-Style "Red Hots"

When it comes to Chicago cuisine, hot dogs are one of the city's most iconic dishes. Part of this is undoubtedly a result of Oscar Mayer getting its start way back in 1900. And while they still have a factory here, in this post-9/11 world we live in now, it no longer offers tours. (Because we all know that's the first thing the terrorists will go for, our wieners.)

Chicago-style hot dogs are known as 'Red Hots'
Chicago-style red hot dawg....simply delicious!

However, thankfully Chicago style dogs can still be found throughout the city. The battle for Chicago's best dog still rages strong, but that doesn't mean you cannot partake in a few selective battles. Jimmy's Red Hots usually tops most people's top three lists of hot dog joints in Chicago, and for good reason. For over 50 years they've been perfecting that art of the dog and still stay true to tradition by serving all its meals through a small walk-up window.

On the other end of the spectrum is Franks 'N Dawgs, which despite the rough name is actually a rather refined hot dog joint. They've elevated hot dogs to a gourmet level. You have to taste them to believe them! Try the Lamb-orghini, or for a Vietnamese-infused flair, the Banh Mi.

Chicago-Style "Deep Dish"

Pizza in Chicago also has its own unique flair. And much like the rivalry between Nathan's and Oscar Mayer, the feud for the best rages not just between restaurants within the city but also between the cities themselves. While New York goes thin and wide, Chicagoans do like they do with everything and overload it.

Chicago-style deep dish pizza
Chicago-style deep dish pizza

The most popular of all Chicago-style pizzas is known as "deep dish," and it is exactly what it sounds like. It's pizza so hefty you can eat it with a fork. It's the pie of pizzas. And there are far too many amazing pizza joints doing phenomenal things to mention. The Art of Pizza is one such place that is doing great things -- you can tell that by the name alone. Another is Burt's Place, which thanks to Anthony Bourdain is now so popular you have to place a reservation -- not for seats but for a place in the oven for your pie.

Other versions of Chicago-style pizza include the stuffed pizza, a mid-1970s evolution of the deep dish, and thin crust -- with crust so thin it's crispy, unlike New York-style thin crust. (It is also cut into small squares, as opposed to gigantic slices.)

Of course, great Chicago food isn't limited to purely dogs and deep dishes. They also have fabulous Italian beef and a wealth of great Polish and Mexican restaurants. If all else fails, just go out and explore whatever establishments are nearby. And don't forget to book a cheap Chicago hotel to save some extra cash and put it toward that amazing Chicago-style food.

  flickr   //   benimoto   maveric2003

Nowadays traveling without a smartphone is rare. The abundance of useful travel apps has completely revolutionized modern travel. From currency converters to language translators, there's an iPhone app for that.


  Price: Free

Backpackers have a tendency to collect SIM cards like bracelets as they wander from country to country. While this is great for staying connected, the biggest downside is that your number constantly changes. WhatsApp solves that by giving you one number that never changes, regardless of country. You can also share photos, videos, audio notes and even your current location, making it an invaluable tool when trying to meet people in a foreign country where addresses are not readily available -- or readable. Group chats make it easy to stay in touch with other travelers you meet as you each blaze your own trail through the country, meeting up again whenever -- and wherever -- your paths should cross.


  Price: Free

One of the best things about traveling is trying new local restaurants and bars. Yelp has amassed over 70 million reviews, photos and information on businesses, stores and venues worldwide. Their innovative search features make finding exactly what you crave as easy as a couple of taps. Want to know where the nearest open bar is? How about the most popular restaurant with locals? Let Yelp help. But the best part? Their reviews are more honest and contain much more useful information (such as wifi passwords, dish reviews, and recommended employee names) than those found on TripAdvisor.

iTranslate Voice

  Price: $6.99

For less than the price of one of those antiquated pocket translation guide books -- which by the way only work in one country -- iTranslate Voice allows you to instantly speak in over 40 different languages from around the world. Over the last few years the app has consistently gotten better and better and recognizing words and providing accurate translations. It also acts as an electronic dictionary, allowing you to look up definitions for individual words or quick translations for simple phrases. Users can also save important or frequently used phrases to their phrasebook, allowing for quick access to key phrases that might be difficult to remember or tricky to pronounce. As soon as you begin traveling with this app, it becomes indispensible!

XE Currency

  Price: Free

Since long before their were even smart phones, I've used XE for all my currency conversions. Their app offers up all the information of their site in a streamlined, easy to navigate way. Check current conversion rates between any two currencies on the planet, even track back through the weeks, months or years to see how a particular currency has performed over time. But beyond all that, with XE Currency you'll never be screwed over by a tricky salesman, dishonest currency exchange shop or shady taxi driver again.


  Price: Free (with in-app purchases)

Postagram is one of the coolest apps you've probably never even heard of. What it allows you to do is take any photo from your iPhone -- or Facebook, Dropbox and a variety of other sources -- and turn it into a glossy, professional-looking postcard. This postcard is printed out and can be mailed anywhere in the USA for only $0.99 and is delivered in as little as two business days. Need to mail it elsewhere in the world? That's only $1.99, although delivery can take a couple of weeks depending upon the destination. I have an iPhone 5C with T-Mobile's ultra-fast wireless and with Postagram I can take a selfie while hiking, add a quick message and send it off to friends back home in less than a minute.


  Price: Free

Couchsurfing began as a web site that revolutionized the way backpackers travel around the world by putting travelers in touch with locals in 120,000 cities around the world. Locals, many of whom are travelers themselves in between trips, open up their house to foreign guests. Both gain knowledge and information about the other's culture, plus the backpackers get insight and tips directly from a local -- and a free place to stay! Win-win.

What other iPhone travel apps can you not live without when backpacking?

On the surface Carlsbad appears as little more than a typical family resort town, perfect for an ideal summer vacation or as a pit-stop on the next family road trip. After all, it's the home of Legoland, California, one of the coolest amusement parks for kids in the world, and K1 Speed, a racetrack designed for the kid in all of us. However, beneath the surface sights are some amazing hidden gems and awesome activities that will make your next trip to Carlsbad more memorable.

Go Hiking

Carlsbad is home to around a dozen different hiking trails located around the city. The Aviara Trails, a collection of six diverse hiking paths on the southern side of town, offer the best scenery. Each trail is named after one of its primary features, making it easy for first-time visitors to pick a trail that is appealing to them.

Tip: The Lagoon Trail and the Eucalyptus Trail are the two most scenic walks, with the latter being my personal favorite.

Hiking in Carlsbad, California

Catch a Show

The New Village Arts Theatre is an intimate and artistic theater that has been a favorite among Carlsbad locals for over a decade. Plays vary throughout the year but the cast is always top-notch and never disappoints. Although there are only 99 seats, the theater positioned them perfectly so all guests have a great view of the stage. For a full schedule or to book tickets, please consult their website.

Tip: Wine and beer are served at the theatre, so come eager for a drink. Also, there is usually a surprisingly good food truck out front to satisfy any appetites.

Read More: Carlsbad California's Hidden Gems

Learn Something New

Take the family over to the Museum of Making Music for a unique and educational experience. As the name implies, this museum is a hands-on experience that is designed to be fun for the whole family. It covers over 100 years of musical instruments, history, displays, and stories in a way that is both entertaining and informative.

Tip: Check their upcoming events schedule to time your trip with an exciting live performance.

Take the Carlsbad Best Burger Challenge

While the winner of the coveted "best burger in Carlsbad" award may never be officially declared, that doesn't mean you can't take the challenge and proclaim your own winner. Three of the traditional top spots vying for the title are Pure Burger, Notorious Burgers and Craft Burger. All three are quite delicious but Craft Burger is my personal favorite.

American cheeseburger

Another noteworthy burger joint is Ty's Burger House, located on the northern side of Carlsbad. They have made a name for themselves recently thanks to their extensive menu of exotic meats such as kangaroo combined with craft beer, an outdoor patio and great music. Of course Ty's also serves all the traditional burgers as well -- perfect if not everyone in the group is an adventurous eater.

Tip: Visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds.

These are but a fraction of the exciting things Carlsbad offers, so get off the beach and go explore the city! Want some extra cash to throw around town? Make sure to book a cheap Carlsbad hotel.

  flickr   //   familyclan   mdid

Beautiful natural scenery and sights, fun water-based activities, top-notch shopping, addictive nightlife, amazing food, and so much more: Just because you only have a short time in New Zealand's most impressive city doesn't mean that you should miss out on some of the best things the city has to offer.

Hike a Nearby Volcano

Auckland is home to a whopping four dozen volcanoes! That means no matter where in town you are staying, there is a nearby volcano that you can hike up and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view. Don't expect lava flows though -- these volcanoes have erupted only once in history and are now dormant. In fact, most are lush green parks.

Read More Free Things To Do In Auckland

Splash Around With Some Water-Based Fun

Water plays an important part in the weekly life and fun of Auckland residents thanks to the Auckland Bay. Hop a ferry and explore some of the nearby islands. Get your adrenaline pumping with activities like surfing, kayaking, jet-boating, diving, and windsurfing. Or if relaxation is the name of your game, enjoy some peaceful morning fishing or soak up the sun on a beach.

Karekare Beach near Auckland, New Zealand

Insider tip: Nestled in the countryside west of Auckland is Karekare Beach, overlooked by most tourists and much more refreshing than the crowded beaches at the heart of town.

Tingle Your Senses

Unlike anything else I have ever experienced, the Odyssey Sensory Maze is exactly what the name suggests: an invigorating journey that will stimulate all of your senses and leave you wanting more. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music, and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone,'ll just have to discover the rest for yourself.

Read More Offbeat Sights and Activities in Auckland

Learn More About the Māori

Maori man issuing a challenge at a cultural show at Rotarua, New Zealand
Photo courtesy of Peter Mackey

The Polynesian settlers who originally settled in New Zealand became known as the Māori. Their rich cultural history shaped and still plays a part in New Zealand culture, despite making up only 15% of the country's population. Learn more about the Māori by visiting one of Auckland's many museums, art galleries, or cultural attractions.

Enjoy the Best Auckland Has to Offer

Certain things always tend to be better in big metropolises, primarily shopping, nightlife, and food. Thankfully, Auckland excels at all three. If it's shopping you crave, there are numerous hotspots around town, such as Queen Street, Ponsonby, Newmarket, the Britomart Precinct, and of course Takapuna up on the North Shore.

When it comes to nightlife, many of the same areas known for spectacular shopping are always home to the city's best bars and clubs. Britomart is a popular favorite with both locals and foreigners, but Ponsonby and Parnell are where the stars shine. However, there are also other offbeat after dark Auckland areas, such as K Road and High Street.

As far as great food, that can be found throughout the city. Just ask a local! Or check out this list of the Top 50 Restaurants in Auckland.

Ready to visit yet? Just make sure to find a cheap Auckland hotel, and put all that money you save to good use having fun around town!

Few forms of travel involve more excitement, unpredictability, and opportunities to connect with the locals than road trips. Whether in a car, motorcycle, RV, or even a converted school bus (yes, I've done it!), nothing beats a good old-fashioned road trip! This summer, why not hit the road on one of these epic routes and see what you find:

Motorcycle the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam

One of Southeast Asia's most popular motorcycle routes is the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail that runs north to south through this elongated nation. I spent three months in Vietnam in 2014 and this was one of the highlights of my time there. The countryside of Vietnam is gorgeous and most of the roads were smooth sailing.

Traveling the Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorcycle, I accidently stumbled upon the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in Phong Nha, Vietnam

Along the way there are tons of small villages to stop at and meet locals, as well as plenty of sights to see that are off the main tourist trails. One example is the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, home to over 300 caves, including the largest one in the world, Sơn Đoòng Cave. Back in 2003 the park earned itself a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List and although tourism has been slowly increasing ever since, most visitors to the park are Vietnamese.

Take a Cross-Country USA Road Trip

Back in 2010, I spent six months on a 32-state United States road trip and had an unforgettable experience. We went from California to Washington, D.C., and then back to California. It was amazing to see the way the terrain, roads, people, and food varied state to state.

The Grand Canyon, United States of America
The Grand Canyon

Most people always assume that life in the United States is the same throughout the country; however, nothing could be further from the truth. But the only way to experience this is to travel cross-country for yourself!

If that's too grand of a road trip for this summer, check out the 7 Best American Road Trips for Last Minute Getaways.

Travel Iceland's Ring Road

Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is  perfect for road trips
flickr   //   auspices

Iceland is a majestic and beautiful country, and one of the best ways to experience it is to spend a couple of weeks circling the entire island in a rented car. As my friend Liz of Young Adventuress describes it, Iceland's Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is "830 miles of adventure and surprises." Just be sure to read all the do's and don'ts of an Iceland road trip before you go!

Experience the Real India: By Road!

India's diversity cannot be understated. From the deserts of the west to the lush and rainy mountain hills in the far east, the climate, flora, and fauna change as dramatically across the country as do the people and the food. While some of this is seen when traveling the country by bus or train, only when you navigate the roads yourself does this become clear.

The Rickshaw Run, an extreme and unforgettable 3,000 km road trip across India
This is Meghalaya, a beautiful state in the northeast of India...with nice, new highways!

Earlier this year I traveled 3,000 kilometres from the far west of India to the far east ... by rickshaw! With a top of only 55 km/hr (around 35 mph) it took us two weeks, but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommended — and possible for you to do. Learn more here.

What other road trips would you suggest?

Reno's big sister Las Vegas may get all the attention, however that doesn't mean visitors to Nevada should skip Reno. The city and surrounding area has plenty to offer -- besides just gambling -- without the overwhelming crowds of Vegas. Consider these offbeat sights and activities when planning your Reno vacation:

Be A Kingpin at The National Bowling Stadium

Offbeat Reno, Nevada: The National Bowling Stadium

This 78-lane bowling megaplex is a testament to how much the citizens of Reno love the sport. The National Bowling Stadium is the largest bowling alley in the world and as such plays host to all the big bowling tournaments. It was also used in the filming of the bowling comedy classic Kingpin. Go on by and test your skills at the "Taj Mahal of Tenpins."

Get Your Adventure On

Go karts, mini golf and the Ultimate Rush, oh my! Grand Adventure Land is a miniature amusement park located at the Grand Sierra Resort but open to the public, not just guests of the resort. The highlight of the park is a ride called the Ultimate Rush, a crazy combination of hang-gliding and sky-diving that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!

Read More     Reno Has More to Offer Than Just Casinos

Visit the Birthplace of Denim

Levi's 501 denim blue jeans

Levi's denim jeans are an American icon known around the world and they got their start in Reno, Nevada. First designed by Jacob Davis using Levi's denim, the two patented the idea in 1871 and the rest is history. Although Davis' original factory no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this historic event can be found at 233 N Virginia Street.

Visit the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

I bet you didn't even know this one existed, eh? Neither did I before passing through Reno on a road trip with my off-road addict of a best friend. Turns out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is located downtown inside of the National Automobile Museum, making it a great destination for all sorts of motor enthusiasts. The amount of stuff inside will amaze you! Definitely a must visit and a great way to pass an hour or two.

Offbeat Reno: The National Automobile Museum

The Offbeat Festival

2015 marks the first year of the Reno Offbeat Arts & Music Festival. This four-day festival is designed to highlight the burgeoning offbeat art, music and food not just in Reno, but found throughout all of Nevada. It will take place November 5th - 8th, 2015 throughout downtown Reno. Details and full lineup have yet to be announced, however you can find out more on the Reno Offbeat Festival web site.

  Bonus: Visit the Bunny Ranch

Offbeat Reno: The original Bunny Ranch

This infamous brothel gained nationwide attention after the HBO behind-the-scenes special about brothel life, Cathouse. Needless to say this is not a family outing, but for all you solo travelers out there eager for a unique experience, this is for you. Expect the night to cost you a couple hundred dollars, however it is possible to spend several thousand here, if budget is of no concern.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Travel Ideas

  flickr   //   darronb   kenlund   bburky_   brewbooks   josefff

One of the most popular year-round beach destinations in Texas is South Padre Island. Although the island is most known for being a party haven of college students every spring break, it is also popular with families all summer and snowbirds all winter. The island may be small but is perfect for relaxing (as long as you are not trying to do that during spring break, of course). So the next time you need a quick weekend getaway, South Padre Island is where to go -- and this is how you make the most of it in just 48 hours!

Try a New Activity

Beaches are fun, but don't spend all your time lying around on them. Get up and go try something new. There are plenty of fun and exciting water-based activities available in South Padre, from kiteboarding to wakeboarding, kayaking, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving (and certification), even surfing. Pick one or two that you have never tried before and give it a shot!

Do Something Offbeat

Fly-boarding in South Padre Island, Texas

Most visitors come to South Padre Island for its beaches, obviously, however there is more to do than that. The island boasts several great parks and nature centers, such as Andy Bowie Park and the SPI Birding and Nature Center. Or for those looking for a bit more adventure, consider trying fly boarding while in South Padre, a hot new water-based activity that you may recognize from TV or the movies. It is essentially a water-powered jetpack that propels the wearer into the air and is wicked fun!

See more Offbeat Things To Do In South Padre Island

Eat Your Way Around Town

One of the best things about all islands is the abundance of good seafood. Thankfully South Padre is no exception to the rule. Blackbeards' restaurant is a laid-back and affordable place with great seafood. They are also the proud home of the best onion rings on the island. Don't believe me? Try them for yourself!

Crawfish boil in South Padre Island, Texas

Or if you want to treat yourself or take your loved one out somewhere nice to enjoy a romantic sunset dinner and a cocktail or two, look no further than the Sea Ranch Restaurant, the island's premiere dining establishment and a local favorite for nearly 40 years. Try the Ahi Tuna, my personal favorite. Or if you've been out fishing recently, bring your catch in here and their chefs will turn it into a delicious dinner.

Catch a Live Show & Enjoy the Night

Just because the sun has set doesn't mean the fun has to stop. If you still have energy left before heading back to your South Padre hotel, consider heading over to Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill. The serve both seafood and traditional American staples such as burgers and buffalo wings, however their real claim to fame is being the largest beach bar in all of Texas. Live music and concerts are regular events here that definitely help make for a memorable South Padre experience!

As a native Texan, I've been to Padre more times than I can count. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask away!

Nashville is known as Music City and the city definitely lives up to its reputation. However, there is much more to Nashville besides just country music. From artwork to history to haunted locations, Nashville is a city that will keep you on your toes - if you know where to look and what to do. Check out these awesome off the beaten path ideas:

Clothe the Naked Dancers

My first visit to Nashville was in 2010 on a road trip and I still remember the surprise at what we found on Music Row. Right there in the center of the roundabout is a massive 40-foot tall statue of nine larger-than-life naked people dancing, celebrating and acting free. The symbolism behind the statue is that dancing is the physical expression of music and a way of uniting diverse people.

Musica statue on Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee

Of course, Tennessee is the buckle of the Bible Belt, so not all the city's music lovers are also lovers of this statue, named Musica (one can only assume the name came from the fusion of music and erotica). Occasionally, clothes or sheets will be found on the statues in the morning, so feel free to help clothe the naked dancers if you wish.

Explore Nashville's Haunted Side

There is no shortage of haunted locations in and around Nashville. From the history and legends of the Bell Witch Cave to the modern terror that at Nashville Nightmare, there is something here that will scare the socks off you.

Located about half an hour north of Nashville, the Bell Witch Cave is open for tours during the summer and autumn. As the legends go, back in 1817 the Bell family began being harassed by a witch before she eventually fled to this cave. The entire property, cave included, remains in the Bell family to this day.

Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee
Image copyright Denise Mattox

However, it's the haunted houses of Nashville Nightmare that will really give you goosebumps. These advanced, modern haunted houses are a more engaging "choose your own adventure" style experience and are designed to be scary for adults as well. Trust me, they will make all of the haunted houses you remember from you childhood seem like happy, cheery fairy tales.

Visit Ancient Nashville

The parthenon at Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

Located in Centennial Park just a few minutes southwest of downtown Nashville, a life-size replica of the Parthenon was originally built for the 1897 Nashville centennial. Locals fell in love with it and in 1920 the temporary plaster Parthenon was torn down and rebuilt with permanent materials. Nowadays, this impressive structure serves as an art gallery with both permanent and changing exhibits. Its claim to fame is the life-size statue of Athena, painstakingly reconstructed to her original beauty.

Tour a Cemetery...Or Two

Turns out that over the years lots of famous historical figures and musicians have been buried six feet under Nashville. Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and James Robertson, one of the founders of Nashville, all are found in one of the cemeteries scattered around the city or Old Hickory Lake. My personal favorite was the Suicide Rock tombstone.

As the story goes, in 1836 Ann Rawlins Sanders jumped off a rock ledge to her death. Upon learning this, her boyfriend broke off the ledge so no one else could use it to commit suicide and somehow transported the large boulder into town, where it became Ann's tombstone, or so the story goes. Check it out for yourself at Old City Cemetery -- you can't miss it, it's huge!

Ready to visit Nashville? Check out Hipmunk for cheap Nashville hotels and other travel guides I've written.

  flickr   //   denisemattox   stephenyeargin

Page 1 of 10

Login to The HoliDaze to submit articles and comments or register your blog.