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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!
Vienna is rich in both food and culture, but there is much more than that driving tourists here. Overwhelming history. Amazing coffee. Excellent shopping. Countless nearby vineyards. As Austria's capital and largest city, there is something for everyone here. That is undoubtedly part of the reason the city has become a favorite of so many travelers throughout Central Europe. However, for all you first-timers out there, I've got a few tips and suggestions for you.
Summers in Vienna are surprisingly pleasant and as a result there is always a plethora of outdoor gatherings, open-air film festivals, farmers' markets, and other events going on. It's also more enjoyable to sit outside while you eat, breathing the fresh air and taking the opportunity to do a bit of people-watching.
Of course if it's the cold weather you want to experience, Vienna is an impeccable Christmas destination. From late November onward there is an ample selection of Christmas markets to be found all around town, much like there is in Germany.
Restaurants throughout Vienna tend to offer a staggering amount of dishes, most of which are pretty delicious. However, before dining at a restaurant, the first food you must try upon arriving in Austria is a Frankfurter. Regardless of what part of town your are in, within a short walk you will encounter a small street-side sausage stand.
They are known locally as "Würstlstand" and the best way to get a quick, authentic, and tasty sausage for cheap. Enjoy a traditional plain Frankfurter, the Burenwurst (with bacon), Käsekrainer (with cheese), or my personal favorite, Bosna (with onions and curry).
There is a strong coffee culture throughout Austria, but most especially in Vienna. Of course when I say coffee, I do not mean Starbucks. Although the chain can be found in the city, it is best to be avoided at all cost. Instead opt for a local cafe or coffeehouse, both of which are in plentiful supply throughout the city.
Coffee in Austria is a very leisurely event. Don't ask for your coffee to go. Take your time, savor the moment. Bring a book or a laptop or even a friend. Have a bit to eat with your coffee. And if your waiter/waitress comes across as a bit rude or snooty, don't let it get to you. That's a perfectly normal response to strangers. As a local friend explained to me, "You have to be rude at first, before you can be cordial. It's just how we do things."
Walking aimlessly around the cobblestone streets of Vienna is an enjoyable pastime as well. It truly is a gorgeous city, full of beautiful streets and spectacular architecture. This is a must for any photography, history, or architecture buffs. Or if you want to add an educational aspect to your journey, consider taking a guided walking tour and learning more about the buildings you are marveling over.
San Diego is one of California's most entertaining cities. It can be exciting or relaxing, fun or mischievous, but always an enjoyable and delicious time. While many people come here for the weather and beaches, there is much more to San Diego than shoreline. Check out these offbeat sights and activities to make your next trip to "the Plymouth of the West."
Never heard of the Whaley House? Neither had I. Turns out this place has a history to it, and was in fact named "the most haunted house in America" in 2005 by Life magazine. Built back in 1857, the Whaley House was much more than just a mansion. It was the theatre, county courthouse and general store. Unfortunately for the Whaleys, however, many of them lost or took their lives in this same house. Sightings of their ghosts are still reported.
Don't worry, it's perfectly legal. The Cuban Cigar Factory uses Cuban tobacco grown in Honduras, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic combined with traditional Cuban methods and expert rollers from Cuba to produce their cigars. It's even possible to watch the masters at work, which means you don't have to be a cigar connoisseur to enjoy a brief visit here.
What makes good food even better? When you throw in a crazy, quirky environment that overloads your eyes and mind as much as your taste buds. This my friends is Lucha Libre, the most offbeat eatery in all of San Diego. As you may have guessed from the name, this delectable diner has a strong Mexican wrestling theme. In fact they even offer a discount for patrons who dine wearing their favorite lucha mask. Beyond on the flair however are tacos that deliver a smackdown. Definitely the best taco shop in all of San Diego. (Go for the Tap Me Out taco.)
Be honest, who doesn't like a good craft beer? Offbeat Brewing is known for producing top-notch craft ales and just happens to be located in Escondido, in the northern suburbs of San Diego. The founder and brewmaster left Stone Brewing Company to start Offbeat Brewing in 2011. Since then Offbeat has made a name for themselves throughout not just California but also with craft beer enthusiasts throughout the States. Last year while I took a tour through their brewery and sampled their entire line in the tasting room afterward. The winner? Hands-down it's Bear Arms Brown Ale, one of my favorite beers of all time.
For a tasty cocktail simply text the number on the website to make a reservation at Noble Experiment, San Diego's secret speakeasy. Just please don't post about your visit to social media.
This Mexican metropolis is located just a short drive or bus ride to the south and is perfect for a day-trip. Eat some delicious food, do some shopping or just soak up the glorious Mexican culture.
Eager to take your trip? Well my final piece of advice is to make sure a book a cheap San Diego hotel and use the money you save exploring these offbeat activities.
So you're passing through the fabled New York City but you only have 48 hours in the Big Apple. How can you make the most of this glorified layover? For starters, by booking a cheap NYC hotel and spending as little time in it as possible. New York City is expensive and there is a never-ending supply of new places to explore, things to experience, and of course food to eat. So save some money by not splurging on a hotel; you will want that extra cash elsewhere.
The city itself contains five boroughs and covers a whopping 305 square miles. Residents who have lived here for years can still consistently find new things to see, do, and eat. However, for guests on a quick trip, these are the sights, activities, and foods that you should not miss.
A visit to Lower Manhattan is a must. Here you can see the Statue of Liberty, walk down Wall Street and past the New York Stock Exchange, even take a sobering glance at the World Trade Center Site.
Moving north to Midtown are Central Park and Times Square, both of which are very popular with tourists. (In other words, very crowded.) However, an obligatory short stop at both is a must for all first-timers to New York City. If visiting the park as a couple, consider taking a romantic horse-drawn carriage tour through Central Park.
The city is also home to tons of theatres, art galleries, and museums. Just off Times Square is the Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditourium, which I believe vaguely falls into that last category. This "museum" (and I use that term loosely) is a great offbeat destination and an entertaining way to kill an hour. You cannot even begin to imagine what you will find inside—and I won't ruin it for you by spoiling it.
The city that never sleeps has an overwhelming amount of impressive and historic architecture. Set aside three hours and take a walking architecture tour of NYC, perfect for photographers, history buffs, and of course architecture enthusiasts. Or just wander around freely by yourself—you never know what you will find!
Pizza. New York style pizza is known around the entire world. It's time you investigate firsthand and find out why. Although the battle for the best pizza joint in the Big Apple is a war that will never be won, it is certainly a fun one to partake it by eating your way through town.
There is only so much pizza that you can eat in 48 hours though, so try to limit yourself to New York's best known pizza spots. Head out to Brooklyn for Lombardi's, famously known as America's first pizzeria (since 1905) and the birthplace of the New York style dish. Other notables include: Di Fara Pizza (also in Brooklyn, since 1965), Patsy's Pizzeria in East Harlem (since 1933), and Denino's out in Staten Island (since 1937).
For some reason people tend to overlook Raleigh, North Carolina as a vacation destination but they really shouldn't. From music to nature, nightlife to history, there is something for everyone here!
Raleigh skyline, as seen from South Saunders (source)
Raleigh is a very bicycle-friendly city (source)
Charles Frazier House, built in 1925 and on the National Register of Historic Places (source)
Sun down, fun up (source)
Lots of live music can be found in Raleigh (source)
There is history in Raleigh too (source)
Plenty of beautiful nature in Raleigh as well (source)
Raleigh Lake (source)
Lake Johnson Park (source)
There is even a trolley pub! (source)
Montreal is an amazing city and arguably the best in all of Canada (take that Toronto!) but it's also one of those cities that takes time to reveal herself to you. Unfortunately when passing through Montreal briefly for vacation or on a road trip, this type of deep understanding is not always possible.
To truly begin to grasp the magnificence of Montreal you must see her underbelly, live it like a local and experience it all. Here's are a few quick suggestions on how to experience Montreal like a local:
Montreal is known for its bagels and one of the oldest and most authentic local establishments to enjoy them is Fairmount Bagel. Dating back to 1919, Fairmount is known throughout Canada as the best bagels in the country. Just one bite and you will understand why. Order your personal favorite "all dressed" and then watch the workers hand make and bake more bagels while you wait for it to be served.
Poutine is a classic Canadian comfort food and there is no shortage of places to find this dish in Montreal. There is also no shortage of top five and top ten lists of the best poutine joints in Montreal scattered around the web. It's a longstanding debate that will never be settled, however my personal favorite is La Banquise. They don't just serve poutine they serve over thirty different varieties of poutine! My recommendation for all you meat lovers out there is the Three Meats (La Trois Viandes, with ground beef, pepperoni and bacon).
Montreal is a big bicycle city and a beautiful city to just wander around and randomly explore. But rather than doing this on foot why not rent a bicycle for the day and explore the city on two wheels. Montreal On Wheels rents bicycles and also organizes various tours, if free exploring isn't your cup of tea. They are all great people and have a very local and active community of bicycle enthusiasts supporting them. Always a good way to meet locals.
Montreal is also home to dozens of museums and anyone in the mood for museums should look into getting a Montreal museum pass. It allows for free entry into 35 of Montreal's best museums and is a great way to pack as much learning and culture as possible into a short trip.
Don't forget Montreal's Underground City, built to serve as a warm weather lifeline during those cold Quebec winters. It is composed of over 20 miles of pedestrian tunnels connecting metro stations and apartment complexes to everything from stories, restaurants, movie theatres, banks, offices and more.
Okay, sleeping like a local might be the trickiest part...namely because visitors don't have a home there, obviously. But to find a temporary home for your Montreal trip then consider checking Airbnb or save time (and a few dollars) by searching the web.
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Let's be honest. Food can get boring. Day in and day out, week after week and year after year. Such routine. Such hassle. It's time to make things more interesting. And what better place to do that than in London, England's most diverse and interesting city.
London is an impressive city with hundreds, if not thousands, of hidden nooks and crannies to explore. Food in the city is the same way. There are always exciting new restaurants opening up that are doing something different. So come with me and let's see what kind of quirky restaurant bars we can find.
Most restaurants have entrances, usually composed of a door. Boring! It's the places where the entrance is hidden or through the kitchen -- or in this case through a phone both -- that really captivate me before I've seen the inside. Thankfully, I was so impressed by the food here that I had to list Bunga Bunga first. Order the My Little Porcellino, or for a delicious vegetarian pizza, try the Burratina.
Much like Bunga Bunga, prospective patrons of La Bodega must pass through a raunchy-looking adult sex shop to gain access to the restaurant within. Don't let that scare you away though -- inside you will find what is arguably the best Mexican food in all of London and drinks that are dangerously easy to down. The Pork Belly Carnitas here are my personal recommendation...but then again I've always been a sucker for pigs.
I despise the circus (clowns are evil, just trust me on this one) but Circus is amazing! Guests are visually entertained by talented acrobatics and magic tricks while they devour their food and indulge in their drinks. Circus is a bit more expensive than the other establishments on this list, but to be fair you are also paying for the show. Definitely something that every visitor to London should experience at least once.
Admit it: you already want to visit here just having heard the name. It's okay, I had a similar reaction. Turns out that Meat Liquor is the best burger joint in all of London, albeit a bit hippie-esque. Personally I never thought "chicken" and "burger" went together until I tried their Buffalo Chicken Burger. Simply amazing!
London's largest and most well-known restaurant bar combination is Shaka Zulu. The restaurant recently re-opened last year following a 5.5 million pound renovation after acquiring the next door bar, Gilgamesh. The place supposedly is now even bigger and better, although I have yet the see the improvements firsthand.
Of course it's no secret that eating out in London and enjoying the city's nightlife is anything but cheap. There are ways to be thrifty. So make sure to check out my guide to cheap London hotels on Hipmunk to save some cash -- cash which can then be spent on some unforgettable food and drinks!
Eager to take a long overdue romantic getaway to Miami? It's no problem finding someone to watch over the kids for a weekend but what about your favorite four-legged friend? Obviously they have to come with! Thankfully there are plenty of charming great pet-friendly hotels in Miami Beach.
Plush carpet. Spacious bathrooms. Sparkling fixtures and furniture. The name of this downtown Miami hotel describes it in one word: EPIC. I am nervous just wearing my shoes or drinking wine over the carpet around friends' places this nice; I would certainly never think it acceptable to bring a pet somewhere like this. However the EPIC not only is allows pets they even encourage them by never charging a pet fee or size limitation. Add in an amazing view and delicious restaurant and it's a wonder that EPIC is so aptly named.
Located right on the highway outside the airport, Sofitel is the perfect pet-friendly hotel for anyone in transit. However it by no means looks or feels like an airport hotel. Instead Sofitel exudes a unique charm thanks to it's stylish design that features just a touch of that modern Paris feel. Plus what they lack in beachfront view they more than make up for with their jaw-dropping view of the downtown Miami skyline. Although they do charge a $300 deposit per pet, it is 100% refundable as long as Fido doesn't destroy the place.
Another option for visitors that prefer the calm and quite located a few miles south of the heart of Miami is Fortune House. The hotel has an amazing few and rooms with balconies, if so desired. They are the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine while watching basking in the sun set. Fortune House is one of the best options for longer vacations thanks to their extended stay discount and tranquil surroundings.
When nothing but the absolute best will do for you and your furry family members, the Viceroy is the only hotel in Miami to consider. Impeccable style, impressive views and an infinity pool -- all three of which can be enjoyed simultaneously on the 15th floor -- are just a few of the many things that the Viceroy has to brag about. A world class spa, top-notch dining with a seemingly endless wine choices and delectable cocktails, the hardest thing about staying at the Viceroy is leaving. However if you have to enquire as to what their pet fee is, this might not be the best hotel for you.
For the budget conscious traveler, Miami also have several pet-friendly options that will give you everything you need to feel at home on the road without any of those excess frills. Red South Beach is located just across the causeway in Miami Beach and their prices cannot be beat. Definitely the best pet-friendly lodging and an ocean view within twenty miles. Extended Stay America also has a Miami location that is perfect for the family on the road.
No other metropolis on earth compares to Dubai. Located in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is home to the world's tallest building and several breathtaking manmade islands that have turned the city into a household name around the world. Their iconic innovations and architecture combined with white sands and year-round sun draw an increasing number of foreign tourists every year.
To keep up with these hordes of cash-wielding foreigners, hotels in Dubai have taken excess to the extreme. The next time you find yourself in Dubai for a day or two, check out some of these over-the-top monuments of excessi--Dubai's most amazing luxury hotels:
To be treated like modern-day royalty, one need not look further than The Palace. The Arabian theme and architecture whisk guests back in time, until they look up and see that directly across the lake lies the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Rooms and suites come in a variety of luxurious themes and each has a balcony; however it's the 500-square-metre two-story Imperial Suite penthouse that takes the crown here. With four master bedrooms, two living rooms, two study rooms, two dining rooms and 360-degree view of the city, there is no better place to stay in downtown Dubai.
When simply seeing and visiting the world's the building is not enough and you need to stay overnight in it, then the Armani Hotel is your only option. Literally. As the exclusive hotel inside Burj Khalifa, the Armani rooms all have a view of Dubai unlike any other: it lacks the city's most iconic structure. And while the hotel may be on the small side (it only occupies six floors of the Burj, 34th-39th) everything else about it from the service to the design is grandiose.
Of course its the 390-square-metre penthouse suite where the party really takes place. In addition to the 360 degree views of the city, the desert and the sea beyond, it comes complete with multiple dining rooms facing each of those three directions (allowing guests to enjoy whichever scenic background view they prefer) as well as its own private gym and fully stocked bar and pantry.
Two of the Dubai skyline's most stunning masterpieces are the beautiful Jumeirah Emirates Towers. All 400 hotel rooms feature a sleek and elegant modern Arabian style complemented by breathtaking views of the city. Of course the towers are much more than just a hotel. They also are home to a wide variety of shopping, dining and nightlife options, ensuring that all the guests needs can be met on site. Of course, should guests want to leave the Towers to get a little sun and water in their life, it's good to know that complimentary passes to a private Towers beach and the Wild Wadi Waterpark are provided to each guest.
However, anyone booking the 312-square-metre, two-storey Royal Suite won't want to leave this palacial enclave with floor to ceiling windows in every room.
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Few cities are as quirky and universally known as Amsterdam. It is a wildly popular tourist destination, and for good reason. The general vibe in Amsterdam and the feeling you get walking the streets is distinctly unique and impossible to ignore. The next time you find yourself in Amsterdam and need something new to do, check out these cool offbeat activities:
Be honest, this is on your list. After all, Amsterdam's coffee shops are known around the entire world but certainly not for their coffee. Of course, with millions of eager tourists flocking to the city, there are tons of coffee shops that are nothing more than abysmal tourists traps. It is these places, these chains, which should be avoided at all cost. For a local experience, head on over to Grey Area, my personal favorite -- always a tasteful selection there.
It is possible to take a subway tunnel walking tour through Amsterdam's Noord-Zuidlijn Lign (North-South Line). Over the course of two hours we learned all about the history and development of the city's massive public transportation system. However, these tours are primarily in Dutch -- guests must book a private tour if they want it in a foreign language. (Of course that could also be a very offbeat thing to do, take a tour in a foreign language you don't know and try to see how much of it you can make sense of.)
The line is scheduled to reopen in 2018, which means this offbeat option will only be around for the next few years.
This place is so great I almost don't want to write about it, lest it become cheap and commercialized like so many other mainstream tourist "hotspots." For visitors looking for a cool place to go where the locals still outnumber the tourists, head on up across the river to Amerstdam-Noord (North Amsterdam).
A decade ago, there was nothing spectacular to the Noord, but over the last few years things have been quietly and quickly improving. New restaurants, start-ups, and other hipster-friendly joints are becoming more and more plentiful. Although the area remains overlooked by most foreign visitors, don't expect it to stay that way for long. Visit now while the area is still raw and untainted.
Although this activity has grown increasingly popular with tourists in recent years, that doesn't make it any less offbeat. Where else are you going to see millions and millions of cut flowers in one giant auction house? Nowhere. Literally nowhere. The Aalsmeer Flower Auction is the largest in the world -- so big, in fact, that nearly every cut flower in the world that is intended for public sale passes through here. The sheer logistics of it are mind-boggling, but the beauty of it all will leave a lasting impression on you.
Amsterdam is great at keeping things secret, and you never know what you will find when you just wander off into the distance without a set plan. Ask locals or just follow your gut for best results, but if you have limited time or would rather wander with a group, consider a walking tour of Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District, De Wallen, the oldest part of the city.
Most people consider Houston more of a business city than an ideal tourist destination. However recently I found myself back in Space City for the first time in several years and had the opportunity to explore again. Given that Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States and therefore has millions of people to keep entertained, it should be no surprise that there are loads of exciting things to do there. Here's how to see the best of Houston.
This is a must. After all Houston's nickname is Space City and it is because of the fine people at NASA that America reached the moon first and Neil Armstrong is a household name. Nearly a million visitors a year visit here to learn the history of America's space program, see the original Mission Control Center, learn how the shuttles are made and get a peek at what NASA has in store for the future. You can browse dozens of exhibits featuring hundreds (if not thousands) of photos, and even get the chance to meet-and-great real astronauts.
Like any metropolis Houston has its fair share of offbeat sights and activities. Did you know the National Museum of Funeral History is there? Nothing like facing your own mortality to make for an interesting day. How about a house covered entirely in beer cans? This work of art took 15 years by a local artist that one can only assume was an alcoholic. Although he is no longer with us, his house is.
Houston has been a city for hundreds of years and still has a very vibrant historic district. One of the daily activities that occurs there every evening is a the historic Houston pub tour -- yes, tour, not crawl. This is an educational experience to downtown watering holes, some of which date back over 150 years. Learn a little, drink a little, and then leave with a sense of having discovered a bit more about this misunderstood metropolis.
Food is a daily necessity but that doesn't mean it has to be predictable or stereotypical. Houston has a wide array of quirky restaurants that will leave you talking as much about the decor as the food. One of my personal favorites is Jus' Mac, which as the name implies serves nothing but macaroni and cheese served in a variety of delicious (and entertaining) ways. The best tacos in Texas can be found here too, as well as Houston's Soup Nazi, a play off the classic Seinfeld episode -- if you know where to look.
Since you'll be spending so much time exploring the city, there is no reason to splurge on an expensive hotel room that you'll hardly even use. Check out my article on budget travel and hotels in Houston for more or find hundreds of cheap Houston hotels online.