" 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!
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.
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 and off the beaten path 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.More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
These offbeat destinations offer a unique glimpse of Barcelona, both during daylight hours and after dark. Ready to visit yet?
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 best 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, let's get off the beaten path in Orlando and 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.
Worried all these amusement parks and activities will break the bank? Browse cheap Orlando hotels via Hipmunk and save as much green as possible for having fun!More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides
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. It's time to dive on into the offbeat and off the beaten path side of 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