" 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!
Barcelona is an eclectic and vibrant city with a captivating culture. Travelers from around the world flock here for a taste of that savory Spanish cuisine, to admire the city's history and architecture, and of course for the opportunity to bump to Barcelona's rhythmic musical beats once the sun goes down. Given all there is to do in and around town, it's easy for first-time visitors to feel overwhelmed. To help you plan your itinerary, here are some of the best offbeat things to do in Barcelona, each of which will give you a real taste of the city.
Photo by Jamie Lynn Buckner via Trover
Barri Gotic is a well-known Barcelona neighborhood and consistently remains popular with tourists. It is one of the must-visit places for Barcelona first-timers. Find a quaint café and enjoy some people-watching while basking in the culture and history of this unique neighborhood.
Although this might not be the most "offbeat" item on the list, it is nonetheless a mandatory experience for anyone who has never shaken their stuff in Barcelona. Razzmatazz is a monstrous club and arguably the most popular in town, both with locals and visitors. It has five separate areas, each boasting different themes and musical genres, ensuring that no matter your tastes, you'll find something to like at this club.
Photo by Oh Barcelona via Flickr
One of the best ways to truly appreciate the city is to see Barcelona from a hot air balloon 3,000 feet up in the sky. Needless to say, this is a must for any photographer. The flight times vary depending upon which package guests choose, but expect to spend a minimum of two hours up in the air, admiring the city far below.
Everyone loves a good ghost story and this tour features two solid hours of them. The Ghost Walking Tour guides you through several different neighborhoods as you listen to tales of strange and unexplained events that have occurred — or still continue to occur — in each quarter.
Photo by Sher BonDurant via Trover
Ever since I had my first bout of alcohol-induced fun below zero at the Ice Bar Tokyo, I've been hooked on these venues. After donning a jacket and gloves, Icebarcelona guests are led inside of the main chamber. Everything inside is made of ice — the walls and sculptures, chairs, cups, and even the bar itself. All the ice is imported from Belgium and freshly carved once a year. As the bar itself is kept at around -5° C to preserve this ice, most stays inside last less than one hour. That is still long enough to rack up quite a bill, though, as drinks are expensive but well worth it for anyone who has never experienced an ice bar.
La Ramblas cuts right through the heart of Barcelona and is another well-known spot among foreign visitors. However one place that many overlook is the Museu De L'Eròtica (Museum of Erotica). While this is obviously not a family-friendly destination, it is still a very interesting (and occasionally laughable) trip through the adult history of the world. It also comes with a free glass of champagne.
Everyone travels differently, but one thing we all need is somewhere to sleep. Frequent travelers easily get bored with the predictable cookie-cutter chain hotels but even occasional travelers can — and should — want to stay somewhere truly unique. It turns a mundane trip into a vacation that you cannot stop talking about when you stay in a quirky three-bedroom boutique hotel or a boatel. (And yes, that is exactly what it sounds like.) The next time you are in Toronto, check out one of these amazing hotels:
The only thing that the Drake Hotel exudes more than quirkiness is sophistication. This classy, yet surprisingly affordable, downtown Toronto hotel is a cultural landmark and so hip it is credited with reviving the West Queen Street West district firsthand. Each room has vastly different themes which will leave you settling for one based on design, not size. Of course, my personal favorite is the Crash Pad — how could you not want to stay there?
Proud to be Toronto's only boat bed-and-breakfast since 2011, Making Waves Boatel is open four short months a year (otherwise known as Toronto's summer season, from June through September). It is perfectly situated right in the heart of the downtown waterfront and is the perfect place to wake up every morning. Guests are given access to the entire three-story boat, which can even be privately chartered for families or business travelers.
In the late 1990s, this was not the type of place you wanted to be caught dead in. However, in 2002 a local architect purchased the property and with the help of his daughters turned it into the pride of all of Toronto. The Gladstone Hotel is hands-down the premiere boutique hotel that is driving people wild with it's superbly artistic design and flawless style. A perfect fusion of Victorian class and modern luxury, prices range from $150-$400 but are well worth it. Each unique room was custom designed by a local artist and will make your jaw drop.
Quietly tucked away in a residential neighborhood near the University of Toronto, this 6-bedroom inn has been raking in the awards and accolades since it opened nearly a decade ago. The Baldwin Village Inn was built back in the 1880s, but has since been extensively renovated. Although the exterior still exudes an air of the classic European elegance of years past, the interior has been contemporarily fitted with every modern convenience you have come to expect.
This fully restored Victorian mansion is quirky and cool just by itself, but there is one big feature that puts it over the top: the Madison Avenue Pub. As you might have guessed, the Pub is conveniently connected to the Manor and every bit as posh. It is also one of the most popular University of Toronto bars and, as such, is a great place for a craft beer and a well-cultured conversation before turning in for the night.
flickr // csaila
When people think of Orlando they think of Walt Disney World first and of all the other theme parks dotting the horizon second. This is the "Theme Park Capital of the World," home to so many that there is a Top 10 list just of the best Orlando theme parks! (I don't even think there were ten in my home state.)
Most of the big name establishments are owned by Disney or Universal Studios, and thanks to the deep pockets of their marketing departments the masses have been led away. Meanwhile Orlando's offbeat theme parks, the overlooked ones paying homage to religious history and non-cartoon characters, are ready, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to entertain you and me. So come with me and let's see what we see!
Equally entertaining to both religious folks and those a little less theologically certain — perhaps even more so for the latter — the Holy Land Experience is exactly what it sounds like: a real-life Christian historical museum. Its 15 acres are filled with biblical reenactments, religious shows and presentations, live music, specialty shops, and nonsectarian research library.
Gatorland might not be the most obscure or unknown attraction in Orlando; however, it is definitely the most fun! This gigantic 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve is also the self-proclaimed "Alligator Capital of the World" — but seriously, who out there is going to challenge that title? Open every day of the year, Gatorland has dozens of shows, sights, and experiences such as Gator Wrastlin' and Gator Leapin'. It is the perfect daytime activity for the entire family.
The Ripley's name has long been synonymous with oddities and offbeat items. After all, they don't they call their museums "odditoriums" for nothing! I've visited several Ripley's in cities around the US, and they are nothing if not peculiar, even a tad disturbing at times. In addition to the usual tribal oddities, torture devices, shrunken heads, and other downright baffling objects, Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is known for its fertility statues, which are purported to have helped over 2,500 women become pregnant. Oh, and the spinning vortex tunnel is pretty neat.
If such a thing as an educational amusement park could ever be said to exist, that would be WonderWorks. With over 100 interactive exhibits, visitors can get their knowledge on first, and then go upstairs to the basement (yes, I said that correctly — have you seen this building yet?) for all the exciting hands-on games and amusements, such as laser tag.
No other dinner show can compare to this one. Guests are transported back to medieval times to enjoy a feast inside a castle as the knights joust. Sound familiar? Yes, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament is the same restaurant from the old Jim Carrey movie, The Cable Guy. Two decades later, they are still going strong and the show is still as entertaining as ever! It's a definite "must" for any quirky travelers to Orlando.
The destinations and the sights may change but the hotels rarely do. It's easy to get bored with mundane, predictable hotels, even if you are not a frequent traveler. After all, there is no reason the experience at your hotel should not be as rewarding as the destination itself. With the following quirky, offbeat and just downright amazing Auckland accommodations, visitors will be writing home about the hotels instead of the city itself.
One of the best things about traveling is sampling new foods and the local beer. Thankfully whoever is behind the Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery made a bold but smart move and combined the two in New Zealand's first brewpub and hotel. Adding to Shakespeare's charm is the fact that it is located right in the heart of Auckland and is one of the best budget hotel options in all of town. In fact it is quite easy to spend more here on beer than you will on your room. But don't worry, that's a good thing -- their craft brews are delicious!
Ponsonby in West Auckland is one of the cities most iconic and intriguing suburbs. The area has a rich and vivid history but nowadays is known for its shopping, cafes, art galleries and nightclubs. Situated right in the center of all that action is Ponsonby Manor, the perfect place to stay if you want to enjoy the colorful neighborhood without breaking the bank. This Victorian manor has been around for over 150 years but has been repeatedly renovated to keep it modern. Each of the rooms is unique and, just like any good manor, Ponsonby has a garden, communal kitchen, television room and of course a barbecue area. A great way to escape the traditional hotels and live in a more local environment.
Matakana Village is one of Auckland's most well-known and well-loved destinations located just outside of the big city. It is also great wine country. It is here that the immaculate Riverside Matakana luxury resort occupies 40 acres along the Glen Eden River. They offer private bungalows that are surprisingly affordable and the ultimate in relaxation. While in town be sure to visit the weekly Matakana Market every Saturday and definitely indulge in some wine tasting. Vineyard tours are available and come highly recommended!
For a truly unique experience, head one hour north of Auckland to MacKenzie Farmstay in Matamata. There you can enjoy a tranquil stay on a working farm surrounded by 30 acres of rolling farmland filled with sheep, cattle, goats and horses. Take the five-minute ride into town to spend the day exploring boutique cafes and visit the Hobbiton movie set, the filming location the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
People all over the world know two things that London has in abundance: amazing street art and crappy weather. While I cannot help you with the latter, I can show you where to find some magnificent street art -- as well as several other offbeat sights and activities that should not be missed next time you are in London.
First things first. You've escaped the airport and dropped your bags off at the hotel room. Now what? It's time for a drink! Walk right past that hotel bar though, that's not where you want to be. Find a nice, quirky watering hole and go mingle with some locals. My personal favorite is the Phoenix Artist Bar -- and if you don't already want to visit there just based off hearing the name then please, just stop reading now, because this guide is clearly not for you.
Phoenix is becoming less-and-less "hidden" every month but that doesn't make it any less offbeat. The bar is frequented by those in the theatre industry and is in fact a private club. However non-members can get in by presenting a theatre ticket. The interior is stocked full of theatre memorabilia and their upbeat atmosphere will make you quickly feel right at home. Other offbeat options include Cellar Door and the aptly named Happiness Forgets.
London has no shortage of theatres and shows, however my personal favorite is the Whirled Cinema. From the outside the building appears to be an abandoned but inside it is the most lavish 60-person theatre that you've ever seen. They also have a small bar where you can order cocktails or a pizza to make your movie more enjoyable. Good luck finding the place though!
Toilets have become all the rage in recent years, with more and more countries opening up toilet restaurants. London even has a toilet coffee shop. However in order to truly appreciate these necessities of daily life, it helps to learn how far they have come over the years. London Loo Tour is an hour-and-a-half long walking tour that traces the history of toilets all the way up to now. You'll never look at the loo the same way after!
Located in southeast London, the 19 acre garden surrounding Eltham Palace is arguably the best garden -- and best-kept green secret -- in all of London. Here visitors can escape the chaos and noise of the city without ever actually leaving the city. The entire property is considered a three-in-one getaway: visitors can relax in the park, marvel in the majestry that is Eltham Palace (which dates back to the 1300s), and even tour the 1930s Art Deco house also located there.
Last but not least is London's street art scene. Head on over to Brick Lane and the surrounding areas to find some of the city's best street art, including several well-known works by Banksy and other prolific artists. Further north are the neighborhoods of Dalston and Hackney, both of which not only have plenty of street art but also an abundance of vintage stores, boutique cafes, quirky coffee shops and other independent businesses that will make it easy to pass the day away.More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
Corpus Christi is the perfect getaway year-round, but for those of us who unfortunately have to work for a living, sometimes a weekend is all we can escape for. Luckily, it is entirely possible to see both the best of Corpus Christi and a few overlooked nuggets in only 48 hours.
Corpus Christi is known for great seafood and we all have to eat, right? The two most well known seafood joints in town are Snoopy's Pier and Doc's Seafood & Steak Restaurant. Both are located right next to each other on Padre Island and cannot be missed -- just follow the crowds. Stopping at one of these two fine establishments on the way in or out of town is almost an unwritten law among regular visitors to the island.
Another place you shouldn't miss is the Costa Sur Bar & Grub, which has built up a rather large and loyal local following. Their cuisine is an interesting Corpus Christi-twisted take on Peruvian fusion seafood. Come for the fish, stay for the ceviche. They not only serve it they serve several different types!
The Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Memorial are the two most popular sights in town. While they should not be missed, visitors that only have a limited time in town should definitely arrive in the morning to beat the crowds. The two are also located right next to each other and both open at 9am daily.
Visit the aquarium first and you shouldn't need more than an hour or two if you have kids. Once aboard the USS Lexington you can spend the better part of the day! It is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is loaded with history and plenty of interesting things to explore on every floor from front to back. Overnight stays are even possible.
While people always have their own different personal favorite section of beach for a variety of reasons, the question of whether Mustang Island is better than North Padre or vice versa has finally been settled: North Padre is the winner, most specifically Padre Island National Seashore. Home to over 70 miles of beaches -- at least for visitors whom come equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
During my trips I have learned this: Mustang Island is great to go for a short stop, but if you want to spend half the day or even the entire day away from it all, opt for North Padre Island. Bring some food, water and yes, even a six-pack of beer, conveniently "forget" your cellphone at the hotel, and prepare to relax the day away.
Although camping on the beach is always an option, it's certainly not the most romantic of options for a quick weekend getaway. For that check out my guide to cheap hotels in Corpus Christi on Hipmunk. (Yes, I'm a regular writer for them too.)
flickr // thesuperstar
Over the years, I've hit -- and had fun -- at countless party destinations. Don't get me wrong, when you have 51 weeks of work a year and but one week off to go wild, being at a location with an ample supply of bars is pivotal. However sometimes when traveling with the family or in search of beauty and culture, traveling beyond the party is a necessity.
Nowadays so many popular tourist destinations are synonymous with partying, unfortunately. Bali, Indonesia. Cancun, Mexico. Vang Vieng, Laos. Phuket, Thailand. But each one offers so much more. Even though Phuket has a party reputation, that doesn't mean drinking is the only thing to do on the island. Here is the HoliDaze guide on how to escape the Phuket party scene and ensure a refreshing trip.
Pub crawl through Phuket Town? Why, when bars can be found in nearly any city in the world? Opt instead for culture. Go visit a few of the Wats or volunteer at one of the many animal foundations scattered around the island. The Soi Dog Foundation and Gibbon Rehabilitation Project are doing amazing things to improve the situations of animals living on the island, and both have temporary volunteer positions around all year.
Image by Maegan via Trover
One thing I've learned over the years is that sometimes you just have to ditch the guidebook in order to truly appreciate the unexpected. Motorcycles are ridiculously easy to come by in Phuket and as soon as I did the whole island opened up to me. Just pack a bag for the day and head off into the horizon. You never know where you are going to end up but at least the island isn't so big that you will get lost to the point of needing a search party to retrieve you. You can also take part in one of the locals tours offered.
Being an island, Phuket has no shortage of beaches. However Phuket also has no shortage of tourists, which means that the most convenient beaches are also the most populated.
Image by Moons via Trover
For the picture-perfect beaches that will give you an iconic shot worthy of using on your Facebook page for years to come, visit my favorite sandy destination in Phuket: Haad Sai Kaew Beach. It is an ideal combination of untouched sand alongside a few small but delicious thatched roof restaurants, one that will you will be dreaming about long after leaving Phuket.
Sometimes the hassle of planning a busy trip and seeing all the best of a location is too much to be bothered with. Luckily if this should happen to you, rest easy knowing that there is no shortage of magnificent Phuket hotels eager to cater to your every whim. The private resorts contain some of the most spotless beaches on the island. Rather than having to acquire transportation and make the trek up north, it is possible to find a nice resort in town that has a pristine beach.
Image by Munchu via Trover
There are no shortage of great restaurants in Corpus Christi, but sometimes visitors get tired of eating seafood. I know, usually fresh seafood is one of the best parts about visiting a coastal city, but we all have our limits. For those of you looking for mouth-watering food that wasn't swimming in the Gulf of Mexico the day before, head on over to one of the following impressive establishments.
The only thing that beats a delicious pizza is a delicious pizza served alongside an ice cold craft beer. Thankfully that is what B & J's Pizza has become known for. With a history that dates back four decades, B & J's has long since been a favorite of both Corpus Christi residents and visitors in town on vacation. They now have two restaurants in town and are ranked high on the top 100 list of best independent pizza restaurants in all of the United States.
In the mood for a gourmet burger without the gourmet price? Forget all those burger chains scattered around town and head on over to Wallbanger's Gourmet Hamburgers. Although they serve more than just burgers, these are what really impress most. They don't have a set burger menu but rather provide you with a list of possible toppings and let you go wild. Have a Texas-sized appetite? Try one of their stuffed burgers or attempt to eat your way through The Banger, a monstrous three-pound burger that will leave you begging for mercy -- or assistance from your friends.
Have a craving for Vietnamese food? Look no further than the delectable Saigon Cafe, home of an impressive variety of bubble teas and the best pho in all of Corpus Christi -- maybe even all of Texas. (I say this both as a Texan and as someone who has traveled extensively through Vietnam.) The restaurant itself is rather nondescript however it's the food that keeps people coming back, not the decorations. Plus I'd swear they have Speedy Gonzalez working back in the kitchen because both times I've been here my order was ready ridiculously fast. The only downside? The staff tend to pronounce pho "fo" instead of the correct "fa" which leads me to believe that the new owner must not be Vietnamese.
Located on the 24th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, the only thing that comes close to the savory food at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill is the impressive view of the Gulf. That is what makes it the perfect restaurant to visit for a romantic dinner and arguably the best bar and grill in the entire city. The food doesn't come cheap, which may be a bit of a deterrent to some people, but remember: you get what you pay for. Go for the Broken Arrow Ranch Venison -- it does not disappoint!
Of course before you go stuffing your belly to the point where a post-meal nap is required, make sure to find a cheap hotel in Corpus Christi on Hipmunk. Trust me, you'll want that extra money in your pocket when it comes time for desert.
Auckland is one of the most fun and most beautiful cities in the world. It is also a very popular tourist destination. However sometimes the most rewarding experiences can be found when you escape the tourist crowds and blaze your own path. That having been said, here are my picks for the best offbeat sights and activities in Auckland, New Zealand.
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. It only takes about 30 minutes to travel through this diverse collection of differently themed sections, each distinctly different from the one before it. Each section features unique obstacles, lighting, music and yes, even smells. There is a jungle zone, a cave zone, a space zone, and...well...you'll just have to discover the rest for yourself.
Island-hopping in the Hauraki Gulf is a popular pastime but many tourists -- even native Aucklanders -- never make it past Rangitoto and Waiheke islands. Yes, Tiritiri Matangi is a bit further away than those two (a 75-minute ferry ride), however the trip is more than worth it. This wildlife sanctuary is home to nearly a hundred different species of birds and therefore a must for both nature lovers and ornithologists alike. Plus if you don't want to go alone you can easily join a Tiritiri tour.
Photo by Nayika via Trover
Take a trip back in time by visiting the Glenbrook Vintage Railway. It's nearly an hour south of the city but you'll feel a world away! Come early and learn about the classic trains and the history of the railway from local volunteers before riding the train up to Waiuku. The train carriages are all perfectly restored and in immaculate condition. They even have open-air carriages that are perfect for capturing amazing photographs of the countryside. After arriving in Waiuku you can spend the day exploring and then either catch the return train to Glenbrook or continue back up to Auckland.
Located about 45 minutes north of the city, there is so much to do in here that you could easily turn a Matakana day-trip into a 3 or 4 day mini vacation. The village is most known for its Farmers' Market every Saturday, however there is much more to explore than just that. From dozens of vineyards and countless boutique restaurants and family owned B&Bs, Matakana is an amazing place that is always hard to leave.
Auckland and the surrounding area has no shortage of beaches, however Karekare is completely overlooked by most foreign tourists. The result is a pristine beach nestled in the countryside with virtually no signs of life around it. It is the perfect location for a relaxing day-trip or a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The black sand gets incredibly hot in the afternoon sun, so this destination is best visited early in the day. Plus if you get bored with the beach just follow the trail through the lush vegetation and you will be rewarded with some spectacular waterfalls.
Photo by Umar via Trover
Regardless of how you decide to spend your time, you are sure to find cheap hotels in Auckland. Then you can use the money you save to enjoy some of these offbeat Auckland activities!
Hipmunk has published a large number of my city guides to destinations around the world on their site. Check them out for more!
Corpus Christi is a popular tourist destination both for Texans and travelers from all corners of the United States. However while most stick to the beaches and other water-based activities, there are quite a few spectacular yet overlooked sights and attractions located around town. For anyone seeking to do something different on their next trip to Corpus Christi, look no further than the following sights.
Located near the heart of Corpus Christi is a three-story tall statue of a devil, affectionately known as the Demon of Corpus Christi. The irony of a gigantic devil statue in a city named after the body of Christ cannot be overlooked, and neither can the statue itself. Originally part of an amusement park ride in Pennsylvania, after the ride was shut down the statue was purchased by a local resident and relocated to Texas.
Selena, also know as the "Queen of Tejano," was an amazing singer who was tragically murdered in 1995 at the age of 23 by the original president of her fan club. A couple years later the Selena memorial opened, complete with a bronze statue of the Queen herself. It wasn't long before rubbing the statue's butt became known for bringing good luck. Whether or not this is true is still debatable, however this act has become fiercely popular among visitors of the memorial, both male and female.
Back in 1492 Colombus' three ships famously discovered of the land that would become the United States. In 1992 full-size replicas of these ships were built and briefly toured around a few American ports before settling into their home in Corpus Christi in 1993. There they still reside, two at the Museum for Science and History and the third in the Corpus Christi Marina.
Everyone knows that Austin is the "Live Music Capital Of The World" but few realize just how many amazing musicians came from Texas. Thankfully the up-and-coming South Texas Walk of Music Fame is paying tribute to some of the greats with ceramic tile statues. Notables include Selena, Reverend Horton Heat, George Straight and Vallejo, among dozens of others. Although it was founded ten years ago it still remains a rather small sight. However it is growing every year with the inauguration of six new musicians on the last Friday of June.
Every Texan knowns the beloved burger chain known as Whataburger. For those who have never heard of Whataburger, the next time you pass one on the highway be sure to stop in and find out what all the excitement is about. Sure, it may be fast food, but it is leaps and bounds above all those stereotypical chains whose product is lab-created instead of farm-grown. Few realize that the statue of Harmon Dobson, founder of Whataburger, is located in Corpus Christi.
However you decide to pass your time in Corpus Christi, don't forget to check Hipmunk for cheap hotels andother view my many other articles there -- not just on Corpus but also covering tons of other cities around the USA and abroad.
flickr // qnr