Jackson is a unique and famous city. The area, collectively referred to as Jackson Hole, is like a bubble of flat land surrounded 360° by forests, mountains and national parks. The high elevation keeps the entire region cold at night year round and thanks to the rugged yet scenic terrain, the area is also famous for skiing. However there is much more to do in and around Jackson than just that!
Jackson is entirely surrounded by the Grand Teton National Park and National Elk Refuge. Outdoor adventures abound! There are many great land- and water-based activities to be had nearby. Hiking. Wildlife. River-rafting. Fishing. Hot springs. There are countless day-trip adventures to be had -- or better yet check out Jackson Hole cabin rentals to spend an authentic night under the stars but without the work that comes with camping ;)
Whatever you end up doing in and around Jackson, don't miss these unique and offbeat activities:
Old Faithful isn't Wyoming's only time-based water attraction, just its most famous. That reliable hot water geyser has been Wyoming's claim to fame since the late 1800's. However the state also has a cold water feature that operates intermittently, hence the name -- Intermittent Spring. Also known as Periodic Spring, this natural occurance is the largest in rythmic spring in the world.
At Intermittent Spring, the water flows in 18 minute cycles. 18 minutes on, 18 minutes off.
Why the river flows like this is not as much of a mystery as one might first thing. There is a widly accepted as true scientific theory behind Intermittent Spring. Basically, cold spring water collects in underground cave and begins slowly filling up a narrow shaft that leads to the surface. Eventually water pressure builds up too great, forms a funnel and all the water gets sucked out. Incoming air then closes the waterway until water pressure builds up again.
Think of it like flushing a toilet. The funnel sucks the entire basin down a narrow tube in a flash. Only at Intermittent Spring, you get to watch the toilet water coming out, instead of filling back up.
Growing up in Texas, I'm used to shooting and comfortable around firearms. But if you are not, consider checking out the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience. Here you can not only learn to shoot but also take a firearm education class and understand why so many people support gun ownership. Maybe even begin to grow a little more appreciative of them yourself.
Beginners can learn the basics about gun safety and go for their first shoot. Rather than just pick any random gun, an expert will pair a first-time shooting with the most appropriate gun. Already know how to shoot? Browse the massive arsenal and pick something new.
Those already familiar with handling various firearms at close range can improve their long range skills or learn a new one, such as mastering the shotgun or taking a tactical defense class. JH Shooting Experience even offers ladies-only classes and other specific courses, such as improving your hunting skills.
Still in doubt? Leave all of your precoceived notations and judgements at the door and come try for yourself. As a wise man once said, "Don't knock it until you try it."
Everyone always talks about how great Yellowstone National Park is -- don't get me wrong, it is beyond great. It's stunning. Absolutely breathtaking. No trip to Wyoming is complete without a visit to the world-famous Yellowstone National Park. This obligatory stop sometimes referred to as "the first and still the best" is on every traveler's bucket list. There's a reason why America's first national park -- and the first in the entire world -- attracts over four million visitors per year. However what most people fail to mention is the unique, offbeat and out of place Smith Mansion, otherwise known as the Abandon Mansion of Yellowstone.
This handmade wooden structure tells the story of a man who loved a lady, but seemily loved carpentry more. In 1970 Lee Smith began making a house for his wife. After the first floor was complete, Lee kept building, kept adding on new floors, new balconies, and eventually even giant elaborate exterior staircases. He never stopped. After the divorce he kept building. It was not until his death in 1992 that construction ceased. Lee was only 48 when a strong gust of wind blew him off the roof while he was (you guessed it!) working on his house. He fell twelve feet and passed away from his injuries.
The Smith Mansion is truly one-of-a-kind. There are no blueprints. Everything came from Lee's mind. Unfortunately after he died the house became neglated and began rotting. Efforts are currently underway to preserve and repair the mansion by Lee's daughter, Sunny, and her husband. Although public tours are not regularly scheduled due to the disrepair the house has fallen into, the family is trying to raise funds to help pay for the preservation. Give them a shout and perhaps you can score a private tour.
It is impossible to miss the Smith Mansion if you are entering Yellowstone from the the eastern entrance. It is less than hour drive from Yellowstone Lake, and regardless of which entrance you used, definitely worth the drive just for the photos. Read more about the history of Smith Mansion.
Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but there is much more to do in the heart of Florida than just wander around a sprawling amusement park. There's art, food, nightlife, and culture. After all that, if you still have the time and energy to visit an amusement park, then I'll tip you off to the strangest offerings in Orlando that you've probably never heard of. So come with me, let's drop those bags at a hotel -- I recommend an IHG Hotel near Universal -- and then take a whirlwind weekend tour around town!
With over two dozen museums, there's something for everyone here in Orlando. Fan of sports cars? Visit the Exotic Car Gallery. Fascinated by the history of the Titanic? Visit Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Artwork more your thing? The Orlando Museum of Art is one of the top-rated in the city. Traveling with kids? Orlando Science Center is the place to go. Want to please the kids and the kid inside of you at the same time? Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is your answer.
Alternative: Don't like any of those? Then you'll absolutely love the Tupperware Confidence Center! Not only is it one of the most unusual museums in the entire United States, but it also wins my award for the most creative museum name ever. 100% refund if you don't leave here with more confidence in your Tupperware skills.
Ever visited an ice bar? They can be found in over 30 cities around the world and are absolutely amazing. After donning a jacket and gloves, guests are led into a frozen bar where everything is hand-carved from ice: walls, chairs, tables, glasses, decorations, and even the bar itself!
Of course, if you're visiting Florida to escape the winter back home, this might not sound like an appealing idea. However, Icebar Orlando is the largest ice bar in the world and features over 70 tons of carved ice, making it the top dog in an already exclusive club. And for that reason alone, Icebar Orlando deserves a visit on a humid evening.
Alternative: Orlando Brewing has been creating "darn good beer" for over a decade now and offers free daily tours every day of the week (except Sunday). The bar features two dozen taps, so no matter what your poison, you can go straight to the source for the freshest brew.
Given its reputation as an international family vacation destination, cuisines from around the world can be found in downtown Orlando and the theme park district of the southwest. There is no one dish or cuisine that is distinctly Orlando. However, there are some restaurants that are distinctly Orlandian.
The Cowfish is proudly the first and only burger and sushi bar in the world. Step on in and try one of the signature creations: the Burgushi. Café Tu Tu Tango fuses global recipes with a Florida twist, using only local ingredients and serving meals in an art gallery showcasing local artists.
Alternative: Can't decide? Spend a few hours on an Orlando Food Tour to eat your way around town and have a couple drinks while doing it.
Screw Walt Disney World. Go somewhere unique this trip, like Gatorland–home to all your alligator amusement needs–or better yet, the Holyland Experience–where the Bible comes to life. Hint: it's even more entertaining and over the top than the good book itself. ;)
Alternative: If neither of those sounds right for you, check out these other one-of-a-kind Orlando amusement parks.
A hugely popular favorite with cruises and resort dwellers, you could be mistaken for believing that there is no stone left unturned in The Bahamas. However, these islands have a wealth of hidden gems which make them a must for anyone’s traveling bucket list.
Photo via WikiMedia
If you’ve ever wanted to explore deep sea wreckages, head to the island of Norman’s Cay where the remains of a smuggling plane lie under 6 feet of warm Bahamian waters. The wreckage can be easily explored with a snorkel, just watch out for the nurse sharks who like to sleep under its wings!
Photo via WikiMedia
Located on the island of Great Inaguas, Lake Rosa (also known as Lake Windsor) is home to some 80,000 West Indian flamingos, making it one of the largest flamingo sanctuaries in the world. The birds feed in the wetlands of Rosa Lake which is within the Inagua National Park 287-square-mile reserve. Stretching 12 miles, Lake Rosa is also home to a vast array of other species including herons, ducks, pelicans and roseate spoonbills, making it the ideal destination for bird watchers.
Complete with a medieval style monastery, Mount Alvernia (also known as Como Hill) is the highest point in the Bahamas. Although only 206ft above sea level, the view from the top is stunning so make sure to pack your camera. The monastery was built in 1939 by a Catholic Priest, Father Jerome, who named the hill Mount Alvernia, after a mountain in Tuscany which was given to St Francis of Assisi.
Photo via WikiMedia
There are so many places to eat out in the Bahamas, but none quite as awesome as Doc Sands’ Conch Stall. Proprietor Nicola Sands treats customers to the preparation of their meal, as she shucks the conch flesh and chops it into the salad right in front of them. Located by the Paradise Bridge, Doc Sands’ Conch Stall is a must for anyone traveling the Bahamas on a budget.
Hidden away on the island of Nassau, Clifton Heritage Park is most definitely off the beaten track, as it is not even accessible by public transportation. With historical ruins such as the Pirate Steps, as well as three stunning secluded beaches, a sacred circle and an underwater sculpture garden, this park is perfect for anyone wanting to get away from the crowds.
Originally a natural stone arch connecting the northern and southern parts of the island of Eleuthera, the Glass Window Bridge is an amazing example of nature at its best. Though the natural arch was destroyed by hurricanes many years ago, the bridge has been rebuilt since and still goes by the name given to it by artist Winslow Homer in 1885. Also known as the “narrowest place on earth”, the bridge provides a panoramic view of the striking contrast between the rich navy blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the calm turquoise-aqua waters of the Caribbean Sea, separated by a strip of rock no more than 30ft wide. Stunning!
Situated in between Fort Worth and Dallas, Arlington, Texas, is home to tons of sights and activities. Best known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys football team and a couple of major amusement parks, Arlington is a fun, touristy city. Many visitors overlook the city's best attractions, though. The next time you find yourself passing through Arlington, check out some of these unique and offbeat destinations
When people think of Arlington, the first thing that invariably pops into their heads is the sprawling Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. Travel just down the road from the rollercoasters and rides, and you'll find the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. Located right next to the highway, this place isn't exactly off the beaten path, but it's definitely unique.
photo via eagrick
Did you know that bowling was originally invented by the ancient Egyptians? Or how a bowling ball is made? You can learn lots of interesting things at the bowling museum, even if you're not a big fan of the sport. The museum is full of historical information, a bowlers' hall of fame, and interactive exhibits that offer a great way to kill an hour. There's even a miniature bowling alley at the end for you to get in a round or two before leaving.
If you're a bowler, then visiting this place is a must. The Bowling International Training & Research Center is also located on site, so you could run into a professional bowler during your visit.
Anyone who lived in the United States in the late 1990s remembers the commercials for the singing fish mounted on a plaque, the Big Mouth Billy Bass. The commercial had one of those annoying jingles that gets stuck in your head. Between the jingle and the sheer ridiculousness of a singing fish hanging on the wall, these things actually proved to be a brief hit before they found their permanent home tucked away in a closet.
The Billy Bass Adoption Center is located within a popular Arlington restaurant known as the Flying Fish. This places serves excellent seafood with a Cajun twist, and it's worth visiting just for the food. The massive collection of novelty singing bass is an added bonus, though. Have one somewhere around your house? Bring it with you and make a donation!
As the name implies, "Sky Mirror" is a 6-meter-wide stainless-steel dish that serves as a giant mirror. It's angled so that one side reflects down on the people standing in front of it, while the other side reflects up toward the sky. Anish Kapoor, the same artist who created Chicago's famous "Cloud Gate" reflective sculpture, also designed "Sky Mirror."
photo via vincehuang
Originally unveiled in 2001 in Nottingham, England, "Sky Mirror" quickly became a popular sculpture. It's moved several times over the years and even spawned a couple of imitations. Since 2013, it has resided outside Arlington's AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
"During summer when it's 24 hours of daylight, we drink to celebrate that. When it's winter and only a few hours of daylight, we drink just to get through it." Welcome to Iceland, a country with a complex and interesting relationship love of alcohol -- including several unique types of alcohol that are available nowhere else in the world. As such, no trip to Iceland is complete without visiting a few cities and regions that are famous for their local brews.
Much like the United States, Iceland has a complex past with prohibition -- one that started earlier and lasted many, many decades longer. Enacted in 1915, the ban on alcohol was eventually loosened over the years on certain spirits, but unfortunately beer over 2.25% remained illegal until March 1st, 1989.
In order to have the most authentic Icelandic experience available, be sure to make a few new local friends over the following drinks:
Brennivín is unquestionably the national drink of Iceland. It is a purely Icelandic creation using potato mash and herbs native to this Nordic island nation to create an unsweetened schnapps. Sometimes called "Black Death" in reference to the original bottles, which featured a white skull on a black label, Brennivín is primarily served chilled in shot form. It is often accompanied with Icelandic hákarl (fermented shark), the national dish of Iceland. Although I am an adventurous eater, I much prefer my Brennivín sans-shark. Why? Well, as Anthony Bourdain so eloquently said, Hákarl is "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" that he has ever eaten anywhere in the world.
Because Brennivín is unsweetened, outside of Iceland it is sometimes referred to as an "akvavit" instead of a schnapps. Regardless, it is surprisingly smooth, hits hard, and has no shortage of foreign fans despite the fact that Brennivín has never been exported internationally. At least not until 2014 when Egill Skallagrímsson, the countriest premiere Brennivín brand and also an award-winning beer brewery, began exporting Brennivín to the United States -- but no where else. Yet.
While Brennivín can be found throughout the country, never is it in more abundance than during Þorrablót, the Icelandic mid-winter festival every January.
There is an old saying that the worse something tastes, the better it is for you. That would appear to be a big selling point behind Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps, which yes, is made with real Icelandic moss. There is even a tuft of the famous lichen lovingly included in each bottle produced. Icelandic moss is so important that it is protected by law and has been used medicinally for centuries to treat things such as cough, sore throat and upset stomach. (Of course if you drink too much Fjallagrasa, you are liable to end up with one of these afflictions, rather than curing it.)
The moss is hand-picked in the mountains of Iceland, ground up and mixed with a "specially prepared alcohol blend" which remains a trade secret of IceHerbs, the company that produces Fjallagrasa. It is then soaked for an extended period of time, allowing all of the biologically active components of the moss to dissolve. No other artificial colors or flavors are added.
Just like with Brennivín, as there is no sugar in Fjallagrasa Moss Schnapps, it is technically not a schnapps by international definition. Regardless, it is still consumed around the country for both healthly and recreational purposes.
Vodka may not be an Nordic creation (we owe Poland for that one) however Icelanders may have perfected it. Reyka Vodka is often referred to as the best vodka in the world by vodka connesiours. Using pure arctic water naturally filtered through a 4,000 year old lava field and then distilled in a top-of-the-line Carter-Head still -- one of only six that exist in the entire world, and the only one that is being used for vodka -- the result is so pure and delicious it goes down like water.
With only one still Reyka is brewed in small batches of only 1,700 litres each, ensuring optimal quality every time. As an added bonus, the entire Reyka distillery is powered by volcanic geo-thermal energy, meaning that the world's best vodka is also the greenest. Everyone wins.
Although this is Iceland's first distillery, public tours are unfortunately not available. But you can take a digital tour to see exclusive photos and learn more about the process that makes Reyka vodka so special here.
Opal is a popular licorice candy in Iceland and also the name of an equally popular vodka that also tastes like licorice. As my local buddy put it, "Once you outgrow the candy you switch to the drink." At 27% ABV Opal is not the strongest, but if you are a fan of Jägermeister straight then you will probably enjoy an Opal shot or three.
Up until 1989, the only type of beer that was legal in Iceland was the weak "near-beer" consisting of only 1-2% alcohol content. However because 40% ABV spirits such as Brennivin and vodka were legal, people would add them to their beer. Known as Bjórlíki, you will never find this for sale in any store or bar. However if you venture off the beaten path and explore the Icelandic countryside, you can taste this beauty for yourself.
Made from the sap of birch trees, Björk and Birkir are two relatively new Icelandic creations. Sure they might not have the history or significance of other drinks such as Brennivín and Bjórlíki, but c'mon now where else in the world can find liquor made from birch trees? Yeah, that's what I thought.
As the story goes, the two brothers behind Foss distillery traveled around Iceland sampling all the native flora until they decided that birch was the most delicious. So they planted what will one day become a sustainable birch forest and now gently "borrow" a little sap from the growing trees to make their spirits. Oh and in case you were wondering, the 27.5% ABV Björk is not named after the singer but rather the Icelandic word for "birch". It has an earthy, woody taste with a slightly sweeter finish than the 36% ABV Birkir, but both are intriguing. Either one would make a unique souvenir to take home the next time you travel Iceland.
After nearly 75 years of prohibition, it's time to celebrate. Every March 1st is Iceland's "Beer Day" and it is best celebrated in the capital city of Reykjavik by doing a Rúntur -- the Icelandic word for "pub crawl".
During this time of year the sunset is after midnight and sunrise just before 3am, but because of the lingering glow that exists even after sunset, it never truly gets dark. As such, the "night" is perfect for bar-hopping and celebrating the holiday with some new Icelandic friends. Did I meantion that bars are open until 4am?
By means of a strange acculturation process while growing up, I'm more connected to the American culture than I am to the Portuguese. As a result, the United States is high on my list of countries to visit (and the list of offbeat attractions grows with it). I'm still in the romancing phase, but I'm already liking my odds in Arizona and in Pasadena. I have my eye on several attractions in these areas and more, and I'm interested in the best hotels in each area.
I love a good alien story, especially if it mixes an “X-Files” vibe with some futuristic storytelling like H.G. Wells' “War of the Worlds”. However, you can visit some “other-worldly” attractions without leaving this planet. The Lowell Observatory and the Cinder Lake Crater Field are two offbeat must-sees in Flagstaff. I wonder if I can find an alien-themed hotel in Flagstaff? Or at least one with a mysterious alien story behind it.
Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona via James Jones
The Antelope Canyon is hardly a secret and it's very high on my list of beautiful sights. The most photographed rock formation in the American Southwest is one guided tour away when you visit Page. To continue exploring the scenery beyond the canyon, check with your hotel in Page for tour recommendations.
Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona via Todd Petrie
Do you know the Talking Heads' song “Road to Nowhere”? Well, in Yuma, things go a little further with a “bridge to nowhere”. No, it's not a metaphor. The Gila River was diverted in 1968, and today the McPhaul bridge crosses (oddly) over sand and rocks. I have a series of postapocalyptic-themed photos for that bridge in mind, meaning the visit could be emotionally draining. Finding a hotel in Yuma for some well-deserved R&R would do the trick.
Did London Bridge really fall down like in the nursery rhyme? Technically, it was sinking due to structural problems, and in the late 1960's, the city sold the bridge to the highest bidder — a local entrepreneur in Lake Havasu City. Booking a romantic stay at a Lake Havasu City hotel and a stroll on the bridge shipped overseas, block by block, sounds like a great story to tell.
London Bridge in Lake Havasu City via Ken Lund
Hoverboards are not a real thing (yet) but Dr. Emmet Brown's house is. Fans of “Back to the Future” wouldn't the Gamble House be an offbeat must-see? This could (probably) only be topped by a Buffalo Wing soda. I'm not entirely sure I would handle the sugar rush at the Rocket Fizz, the place where these strange soda flavors come from. Tasting wouldn't be a problem; narrowing down the weirdest ones to taste would. How do you top this off? Perhaps with a stay at a Hollywoodesque hotel in Pasadena, where you can pretend to be a star with a quirky taste for strange sodas.
The Gamble House in Pasadena, California via Ken Lund
Exploring the fjords and glaciers. Embracing the midnight sun. Breathtaking scenery and one of the homes of the Northern Lights. A vibrant sauna culture. Yes, Norway is known for a lot of things. However the country is not known for its one-of-a-kind museums, eccentric artists and lust for liquor. But maybe it should be. The next time you find yourself in Oslo, make sure to check out at least one of the unique and offbeat destinations:
When you think of a glass bottle collection, do you think or of ships and other miniatures inside of bottles? Regardless of which answer you picked, this is the place for you! Welcome to The Mini Bottle Gallery, the only museum of its kind in the world. It is home to over 50,000 bottles of all shapes, sizes and designs.
The owner is a fourth generation descendent of the Ringnes brewery founders and one of Norway's most affluent businessmen. His love of bottles started as a kid upon receiving a half bottle of gin as a gift and has grown over the years into a massive collection.
In spring of 2000, Ringnes purchased a building in the heart of Oslo, and three years later the museum opened. Most bottles are full of alcohol but others have fruits, berries, even animals. Public hours are limited to between noon and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only, however private visits for large groups can be scheduled in advance for alternative days.
All those beer and liquor bottles have you craving a drink? Head on over to Torggata, specifically the blocks in between Youngs Gate and Hausmanns Gate. 6-7 years ago this was a seedy street full of trash, graffiti and drug dealers. Now it is full of trendy new restaurants and bars, and street art has replaced graffiti. Yes, Torggata has quickly become one of the hippest parts of Oslo.
Cobblestone streets. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Outdoor diners enjoying the day. And a strong emerging nightlife. This is Torggata, where McDonald's struggles and exotic foreign cuisine florishes. Jaime Pesaque, the renowned Peruvian chef with restaurants in Lima, Dubai and Milano (just to name a few), now has one in Torggata as well: Piscoteket
The entire area is full of restaurants serving different cuisines from around the world, and most of these also serve alcohol as well. However there are plenty of dedicated bars to. Just go for a stroll and stop in whatever place catches your eye. Guarantee you'll have fun!
Traditional museums have a tendancy to be boring, it's okay, we can all agree here. That's why it is our duty as travelers to support all those strange, quirky and one-of-a-kind museums scattered around the world. My rule is this: if the museum name makes you think "WTF" then you're obligated to go inside.
Over the last two decades more and more professional magicians are worrying that their trade is dying. Some magicians are revealing the secrets behind popular tricks, to inspire a new younger generation to follow in their footsteps. Others are devising newer and more elaborate stunts with the help of modern technology. Meanwhile in Norway a group of magicians began collecting magician memorabilia to tell their story.
By 2001 this collection of posters, props, photographs and gear had grown so large it needed to be moved to its own apartment (exterior pictured above). Thus Norsk Tryllemuseum, the Norway Museum of Magic, was officially born.
Note: The museum is only open on Sundays from 1pm-4pm with a magic show at 2pm. Ideally, you are supposed to go for the show and enjoy the museum as a "free bonus".
Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway's most esteemed sculptors and nowadays is known throughout the world. His easily recognizeable work are thos iconic statues of human beings doing, well, human things. Vigeland was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
In a deal with the Oslo government, Vigeland agreed to donate all his future works to the city. By the time he passed away in 1943 this was over 200 sculptures. Together they cover a sprawling 80 acres and comprise the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. The pinnacle of all this artwork is a 14-metre tall monstrosity known as The Monolith. Carved entirely out of granite, 121 writhing bodies for a human totem pole obelisk.
The park is open 24 hours a day and entrance is free, however it is quite popular with both locals and tourists, so try to avoid visiting at peak hours.
That's right, Gustav Vigeland had several brothers, one of which became a famous artist: Emanuel Vigeland. Although he never attained the same level of fame as his older brother, he was nonetheless an accomplished sculptor, painter and stained glass artist.
The mausoleum itself is an intriguing homage to life, death and sex, all rolled into one. It was originally intended to be a museum but halfway through Emanuel changed his mind and decided to combine mausoleum and museum into one. Shaped like a small church with bricked up windows, the acoustics of the building are so powerful that speaking loudly is simply not possible.
When Emanuel passed away 1948 he was creamted and ashes placed within a low-hanging niche above the entry. The end result is that every guest of the mausoleum has to bow down to Emanuel on their way out.
Of course this is only the tip of the glacier of things to do in Oslo. For more advice and information for what to do and where, check out this Norway travel guide....and have fun!
Singapore is a small island city-state, which means that it quickly gets boring for uninformed travelers. Three days in Singapore, and you have literally done it all — or so you might think.
But the next time you find yourself passing through Lion City, drop your bags off at a nice hotel in the best part of Singapore and then knock a few of these offbeat activities off your travel bucket list:
Singapore is a sprawling metropolis — at least the main island is. However, up north, next to Malaysia, lies the smaller island of Pulau Ubin. Known as the Last Kampung of Singapore, this island is the only place you can still see the traditional village houses of the past. Only around 100 residents remain today, surrounded by lush flora and diverse fauna. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore and quiet beaches to relax on. Definitely a nice retreat from the city life in Singapore!
Dating back to 1937, Haw Par Villa has earned itself a reputation as Singapore's most bizarre tourist attraction and religious theme park. Originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, it was built by two brothers, the same duo who created Tiger Balm rub. The park was designed to teach Chinese mythology, but over the years it has evolved into an over-the-top collection of over 1,000 multicolored statues and giant dioramas depicting various — and often gory — scenes from Chinese history, folklore, and legends. Haw Par Villa might not be off the beaten path anymore, but Singapore doesn’t get any stranger than this!
Located right on Clarke Quay, this is one activity that every visitor to Singapore has seen but few ever try. The G-MAX reverse bungy is like nothing else you have ever experienced. Strap yourself in, and get ready. After being slingshot up in the air, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr, riders bounce and fly around in what G-MAX politely refers to as a "swing" — ha! This experience is so uncommon that I recommend having someone else film your ride. Besides, at 45 SGD, it's the cost of two drinks in Clarke Quay — and definitely more worth it.
To make a long story short, a Taiwanese company developed a machine that prints photos onto coffee foam. Of course, the next logical step is to use this for selfies instead of trippy designs. If you don't mind paying a hefty premium for your coffee and waiting a few extra minutes (yes, even longer than usual), you just might be a perfect fit for Selfie Coffee. And where else in Singapore would it be located than the hipster hotspot that is Haji Lane?
Up in the northeastern corner of Singapore lies Kranji, the Singapore countryside that many tourists do not even realize exists. Yes, there is a part of the main island that isn't a cement jungle! Here the jungle is still thick, and small farms are scattered among it. The biggest and best-known is Bollywood Veggies and its Poison Ivy Bistro, which serves what is arguably the freshest food in all of Singapore. There are also several nearby parks and nature reserves worth exploring, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir Park, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Beyond just greenery and fresh foods, Kranji also has plenty more to offer. Horse racing takes place every Friday and Sunday at the Singapore Turf Club, conveniently located right next to the Kranji MRT Station. The Kranji War Memorial pays homage to all the fallen soldiers from all the nations who helped defend Singapore from the Japanese during World War II.
Singapore may be small, but the harder you look, the more you find. What other offbeat and quirky sights or activities would you recommend?
Multi-colored volcanic lakes. Haunted resorts. The world's largest mud volcano. The world's most elaborate funerals. An abandoned chicken church and other abandoned structures. Yes, this is Indonesia Off The Beaten Path.
When I arrived in Indonesia for the first time ever, I assumed one month would be long enough to see all there was worth seeing. HA! How wrong I was. Here it is many years later and I'm still finding new places to travel in Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of those countries where for every one place you visit, you learn of two more places that you have to visit. You're never done. There is always more.
Unfortunately most visitors stick to the same overcrowded sights and miss out on all the amazing, offbeat and unique sights and activities just around the corner from popular tourist destinations. My job is to keep you from doing just that. So save this list! The next time you find yourself in Indonesia, make sure to visit at least a couple of this unique, offbeat destinations:
In May of 2006 a drilling accident in Sidoarjo resulted in the formation of a mud volcano. Mud has been flowing out ever since, swallowing up everything nearby. Ten years later and the mud is still flowing, the victims have only been compensated a fraction of what they were promised, and the drilling company has weaseled its way out of all responsibility. What remains has turned into a one-of-a-kind off the beaten path attraction.
More photos can be found on Inside Other Places
You won't find any signs or entrance lines, but you may find locals who will charge you a few rupiah to see the sights or to be your motorcycle tour guide. As long as they don't ask for something completely unreasonable, just go for it -- they need it more than you in this case.
Sidoarjo is located 25km south of Suarabya and the mud volcano is located on the south side of town near the river. It's pretty hard to miss. This is what it looks like from above:
Although mud flow has dropped from 100,000 cubic metres per day to less than 10,000m3/day, scientists estimate that it could continue erupting for another 20-30 years.
Move over Borobodur, you've got some competition! Another place of worship has risen up past the jungle treetops just 2 kilometres away. The story begins in 1989 when an elderly man visiting his wife's family in Magelang was struck with a "vision from God" that told him to build a church atop this particular hill. So he bought 3,000 square metres of land on Rhema Hill and built this omnistic (open to all religions) church shaped like a chicken. (Or as he called it, a Dove.) The church finally opened its doors for a few years in the mid-1990s but it wasn't long before money dried up and the property was abandoned. Designed to look like a dove, the church so much resembles a chicken that it is known to the locals as Gereja Ayam ("Chicken Church").
Given the Chicken Church's prominent location atop a hill just a couple kilometres further down Jalan Raya Borobordur past Borobordur, it's not too hard to find. However if you get lost, just ask any local, "Dimana Geraja Ayam?" ("Where is the Chicken Church?") Oh and dress accordingly as it does require a short hike through the brush and up the hill.
Kelimutu Volcano has a good reputation with tourists of Indonesia who make it as far East as Flores and Komodo National Park. However few outside of this niche group have ever heard of Kelimutu Volcano, also known as the Tri-Colored Lakes. The mountaintop is home to three crater lakes of three different colors! The westernmost lake, Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People), is blue, Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) in the middle is green, and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is red. Of course their colors have been known to vary slightly, which researchers assume is from fluctuations in the gases from the volcano.
Aerial view of the tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu via Michael Day
The Tri-Colored lakes of Kelimutu were not discovered until 1915 and the last official eruption was in 1968. However water in the lakes was boiling for several days back in 2005 and again 2013. As geologists worry that the next eruption could destroy the tri-colored lakes, research there is ongoing.
Given everything, I recommend visiting sooner rather than later. And staying one night nearby so that you can catch the sunrise from Kelimutu.
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via Arian Zwegers
The funeral ceremonies of the Toraja people are certainly not off the beaten path anymore -- they've been covered by journalists, photographers, researchers, bloggers and cultural preservationists before. Many, many times before. However no list of unique and offbeat activities in Indonesia would be complete without mentioning them.
In Toraja culture, a funeral is more a celebration of life than a mourning of death. The most extravagent event in their entire lives is, ironically, their funeral. They are elaborate affairs that can last for weeks and cost a fortune. People in Tana Toraja work and save their entire life not for their future, but for their funeral. Sometimes funerals are even delayed for years after the deceased has passed in order to give the family time to raise the remainder of the money necessary for these grand events. During this time in limbo the body will wait patiently inside the family home, waiting for its burial....up on a cliffside.
via Arian Zwegers
Yes, rather than bury their deceased in the ground, Torajans place them inside of a wooden coffin and hang it up on a cliffside. Sometimes these are just propped on the side of the rock wall. Occasionally childrens' coffins are just suspended by rope. However if the family is wealthy enough, they will carve out a miniature cave in the rockface with enough room for several family members. A handcarved wooden effigy is then placed outside and facing away, to watch out over the land and protect the deceased.
In between Bali and Lombok lies a small little island known as Nusa Penida. It is a pristine paradise, home to several small villages, plenty of deserted beaches, and only one hotel and one bungalow complex. Nusa Pendia is Bali's Hidden Paradise. Thanks to minimal tourim the traditional way of life still exists here. It's like Bali was 40 years ago.
Come here for a few days to escape the tourists and the touts. Rent a motorcycle and explore the island. It actually takes several days to cover every road, village and beach. Up north you'll find countless seaweed farms that are a photographer's dream. There is even a Buddhist temple inside of a cave! Even as I type this, I'm still wearing the bracelet I got from the priest during my blessing there back in 2014.
Don't miss Tanglad, the mountaintop village of Nusa Penida. It is known throughout Indonesia for its colorful tenun fabric, which is still handmade to this day. Learn more here.
via Stefan Krasowski
While most of the Indonesian archipelago lies south of the equator, this invisible line cuts Kalimantan in half. Just a few kilometres north of the town of Pontianak lies a monument that is supposedly on top of the equator. Or was. Much like the fake equator monument in Ecuador, GPS has since revealed that this location of this monument is not on the real equator. Another small marking has been erected a slight distance away that is supposed to signify where the equator has "moved" too, but this too is debated. Regardless, the monument still stands and is definitely worth stopping by for a photo opportunity if you find yourself in the neighborhood.
As a result of the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002, international tourism temporarily stopped and the Beach Bounty Club Bungalows never officially opened. These 26 luxury bungalows and their grounds have ever since remained quietly stuck in time as nature gradually takes back over. Located on the southwest coast of Gili Meno, they are not hard to find. Most likely you will have the entire place yourself. Ferries are available from Lombok or fast boats from Bali -- at both Sanur Beach and Padangbai.
There is another abandoned resort located on Bali that suffered a similar fate in 2002 before it could ever open its doors. Located on the mountainside near Bedugal Lake lies the Taman Rekreasi Bedugul, also known as the Ghost Palace Hotel, this place is far creepier than the Beach Bounty Bungalows.
Of course these are but a fraction of all the amazing things to do in Indonesia. Take my advice and definitely book the longest trip possible. And no matter where you decide to visit, check out Traveloka.com for cheap hotels throughout Indonesia.
Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the United States, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International, so it should be no surprise that millions of people visit Atlanta every year. However, many of them miss out on some of the coolest and quirkiest things that the city has to offer. Don't be one of them! The next time you are in Atlanta, make sure to check out these quirky and offbeat sights and activities:
One of my favorite theatres in all of the USA and arguably the best independent theatre in Georgia, Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is known for showing amazing indie and foreign films. Of course they also show a few regular blockbusters too, if those genres are not your type of thing. Friendly staff, clean cinemas, polite audiences and -- best of all -- cold beer! Popular with the locals but never too crowded, the Landmark is a perfect way to kill a couple hours.
Remember the good old days of arcade games? They are back thanks to Pac-Man Play Arcade. From the classic games we grew up with like Pac-Man to newer crazes such as Dance Dance Revolution, there is something here for everyone. Bring a few friends and challenge each other to see who can get the highest score.
What, you weren't planning on coming back from Atlanta with a kid? Better think again! Located about an hour outside of the city is Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of the famous Cabbage Patch Kids. First created in 1978, new Cabbage Patch Kids are still born every hour -- but only during business hours, of course. Adoptive parents get to pick their name and a birth certificate is drawn up right then. It's a very interesting place and process, one that should definitely be on everyone's Atlanta "to-do" list.
The fast food chicken chain Chick-Fil-A actually got it's start in the suburbs of Atlanta in the 1940's as the Dwarf Grill (due to its small size) but was later renamed to the Dwarf House. This original location is still going strong, serving thousands of local customers every day -- as well as those few tourists looking for off the beaten path sights or the occasional road-tripper lured in by the sign on the I-75 that reads "Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House." Here they serve much more than your modern Chick-fil-A, including burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.
The Little Five Points district has been referred to as Atlanta's version of San Francisco's infamous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood or New York City's Greenwich Village. Here you will find a mixture of independent record label studios and stores, new-age shops selling crystals and other assorted goods, vintage clothing stores, novelty shops, tattoo parlors, coffee shops and other offbeat goodies. It is the best place in town for both shopping and people-watching, two often underrated pastimes.