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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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.
Atlanta is home to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International, the busiest airport in the United States, so it should be no surprise that millions of people visit Atlanta every year. As such, there is no shortage of hotels in Atlanta. However, staying at the same lackluster cookie-cutter hotels can sometimes get a bit boring. The next time you are in Atlanta, be sure to throw some freshness in your life by checking out these unique and offbeat hotels:
Located in the historic district of Atlanta, The Highland Inn is unique in every sense of the word. Built in 1927, the hotel exudes character while still maintaining its historic charm. They even use the same old traditional metal keys instead of those new digital keycards. The Highland also has a few pet-friendly rooms, so if you are traveling with your favorite furry friend, this is the hotel for you.
Although the front lobby of Artmore Hotel - Midtown appears like most any other hotel, guests quickly realize they are staying somewhere unique as they venture further into the hotel. Its theme centers on movie stars of the golden age of cinema, and throughout the hotel are old black-and-white photos and cool artwork. However, it's with the rooms that the Artmore shines! (After all, isn't that what you want most in a hotel, a great room?) The rooms are stylishly designed and complete with a full kitchen, so the hardest part about staying here is actually leaving the hotel and exploring Atlanta.
With room names like the "Fantastic Suite" and "Extreme WOW Suite," there should be little doubt in your mind that the W Atlanta Midtown Hotel is doing something different. Each spacious room features a modern design with amazing decor, fashionable new furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows allowing you to look down on the busy Atlanta streets while also providing the perfect amount of natural daylight.
Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Aloft sports a modern design that relies heavily on rich, vibrant colors -- but not so much that it becomes distracting or overwhelming. This same sense of style is also evident in their rooms, which feature an interesting mix of non-traditional colors. Aloft is also both clean and affordable, two very important features when it comes to choosing the right hotel.
Behind its rather traditional, nondescript exterior shines the unique, artistic flare that the Hotel Indigo chain has become known for. Each location is styled and furnished in a way that compliments the local culture and history, and the Hotel Indigo Midtown Atlanta is no different. Inside each room, wood floors with plush rugs compliment the vibrant color scheme and bright murals.
Combining Oriental luxury with Southern charm, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is my favorite 5-star hotel in all of Atlanta. Their spacious rooms are immaculately furnished with unique, stylish artwork, furniture, and decor. Some of them even have terraces, allowing you to enjoy the sunrise or sunset (depending upon your room) in all its glory.
flickr // mikeschinkel
Everyone travels differently, but one thing we all need is somewhere to sleep. Frequent travelers easily get bored with the predictable cookie-cutter chain hotels but even occasional travelers can — and should — want to stay somewhere truly unique. It turns a mundane trip into a vacation that you cannot stop talking about when you stay in a quirky three-bedroom boutique hotel or a boatel. (And yes, that is exactly what it sounds like.) The next time you are in Toronto, check out one of these amazing hotels:
The only thing that the Drake Hotel exudes more than quirkiness is sophistication. This classy, yet surprisingly affordable, downtown Toronto hotel is a cultural landmark and so hip it is credited with reviving the West Queen Street West district firsthand. Each room has vastly different themes which will leave you settling for one based on design, not size. Of course, my personal favorite is the Crash Pad — how could you not want to stay there?
Proud to be Toronto's only boat bed-and-breakfast since 2011, Making Waves Boatel is open four short months a year (otherwise known as Toronto's summer season, from June through September). It is perfectly situated right in the heart of the downtown waterfront and is the perfect place to wake up every morning. Guests are given access to the entire three-story boat, which can even be privately chartered for families or business travelers.
In the late 1990s, this was not the type of place you wanted to be caught dead in. However, in 2002 a local architect purchased the property and with the help of his daughters turned it into the pride of all of Toronto. The Gladstone Hotel is hands-down the premiere boutique hotel that is driving people wild with it's superbly artistic design and flawless style. A perfect fusion of Victorian class and modern luxury, prices range from $150-$400 but are well worth it. Each unique room was custom designed by a local artist and will make your jaw drop.
Quietly tucked away in a residential neighborhood near the University of Toronto, this 6-bedroom inn has been raking in the awards and accolades since it opened nearly a decade ago. The Baldwin Village Inn was built back in the 1880s, but has since been extensively renovated. Although the exterior still exudes an air of the classic European elegance of years past, the interior has been contemporarily fitted with every modern convenience you have come to expect.
This fully restored Victorian mansion is quirky and cool just by itself, but there is one big feature that puts it over the top: the Madison Avenue Pub. As you might have guessed, the Pub is conveniently connected to the Manor and every bit as posh. It is also one of the most popular University of Toronto bars and, as such, is a great place for a craft beer and a well-cultured conversation before turning in for the night.
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flickr // csaila
The destinations and the sights may change but the hotels rarely do. It's easy to get bored with mundane, predictable hotels, even if you are not a frequent traveler. After all, there is no reason the experience at your hotel should not be as rewarding as the destination itself. With the following quirky, offbeat and just downright amazing Auckland accommodations, visitors will be writing home about the hotels instead of the city itself.
One of the best things about traveling is sampling new foods and the local beer. Thankfully whoever is behind the Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery made a bold but smart move and combined the two in New Zealand's first brewpub and hotel. Adding to Shakespeare's charm is the fact that it is located right in the heart of Auckland and is one of the best budget hotel options in all of town. In fact it is quite easy to spend more here on beer than you will on your room. But don't worry, that's a good thing -- their craft brews are delicious!
Ponsonby in West Auckland is one of the cities most iconic and intriguing suburbs. The area has a rich and vivid history but nowadays is known for its shopping, cafes, art galleries and nightclubs. Situated right in the center of all that action is Ponsonby Manor, the perfect place to stay if you want to enjoy the colorful neighborhood without breaking the bank. This Victorian manor has been around for over 150 years but has been repeatedly renovated to keep it modern. Each of the rooms is unique and, just like any good manor, Ponsonby has a garden, communal kitchen, television room and of course a barbecue area. A great way to escape the traditional hotels and live in a more local environment.
Matakana Village is one of Auckland's most well-known and well-loved destinations located just outside of the big city. It is also great wine country. It is here that the immaculate Riverside Matakana luxury resort occupies 40 acres along the Glen Eden River. They offer private bungalows that are surprisingly affordable and the ultimate in relaxation. While in town be sure to visit the weekly Matakana Market every Saturday and definitely indulge in some wine tasting. Vineyard tours are available and come highly recommended!
For a truly unique experience, head one hour north of Auckland to MacKenzie Farmstay in Matamata. There you can enjoy a tranquil stay on a working farm surrounded by 30 acres of rolling farmland filled with sheep, cattle, goats and horses. Take the five-minute ride into town to spend the day exploring boutique cafes and visit the Hobbiton movie set, the filming location the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
Houston has countless sights and destinations that are ideal for the entire family but specifically orientated children, such as the Children's Museum, NASA Space Center, and Splashway Water Park. However, no matter how you decide to pass the day as a family, it really makes the trip that much easier if you are also staying at a family-friendly hotel. That having been said, here are my top picks for the best kid-friendly hotels in Houston.
When choosing a hotel as a family, it really helps if that hotel makes a special point of catering to kids. The Four Seasons Hotel Houston takes the gold here. Not only do they provide milk and cookies to the young ones while the parents are checking in, but they also give a special gift to each of your little ones. Special kid-themed toiletries and children-sized bathrobes are also included. And if the parents want to escape for a few hours and get an on-site spa treatment or catch an evening show, The Four Seasons can also arrange a babysitter to watch over loved ones.
Photo by Nicolas Henderson via Flickr
The Omni Houston Hotel has taken children's entertainment to a whole new level by provided all kids with a backpack full of goodies upon check-in. Contained within are crayons, an activity book full of fun games and healthy recipes, memory game playing cards, and more. If that isn't enough to keep the youth occupied, then consider booking one of their Kids' Sensory Suites. This attached room is a special little world designed exclusively to appeal to children. It has bright artwork and murals, a Nintendo Wii complete with a collection of kid-friendly games, an art station where kids can release their inner creativity, an assortment of children's books and movies, and even glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. But the best part? One of the walls is a chalkboard that comes with colored chalk so that your kids can make their room truly unique. These suites can even be customized for a boys- or girls-only party if so desired.
For the discerning family, St. Regis Houston offers the ultimate luxury family experience. They have a Family Traditions package that will help you to explore the metropolis in a way that is entertaining to kids of all ages. They can also equip your room with a variety of necessities to make your children feel more at home during their stay -- and even provide butler service assistance to keep mom and dad from getting stressed. A kids pool and youth-orientated dining menus are also staples of the St. Regis experience. Of course, if you ever need to break free from your children for a session of couples pampering at the hotel spa or late night show at the theatre, rest easy knowing that St. Regis has plenty of babysitters and nannies on-call.
Corpus Christi is the perfect getaway year-round, but for those of us who unfortunately have to work for a living, sometimes a weekend is all we can escape for. Luckily, it is entirely possible to see both the best of Corpus Christi and a few overlooked nuggets in only 48 hours.
Corpus Christi is known for great seafood and we all have to eat, right? The two most well known seafood joints in town are Snoopy's Pier and Doc's Seafood & Steak Restaurant. Both are located right next to each other on Padre Island and cannot be missed -- just follow the crowds. Stopping at one of these two fine establishments on the way in or out of town is almost an unwritten law among regular visitors to the island.
Another place you shouldn't miss is the Costa Sur Bar & Grub, which has built up a rather large and loyal local following. Their cuisine is an interesting Corpus Christi-twisted take on Peruvian fusion seafood. Come for the fish, stay for the ceviche. They not only serve it they serve several different types!
The Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington Memorial are the two most popular sights in town. While they should not be missed, visitors that only have a limited time in town should definitely arrive in the morning to beat the crowds. The two are also located right next to each other and both open at 9am daily.
Visit the aquarium first and you shouldn't need more than an hour or two if you have kids. Once aboard the USS Lexington you can spend the better part of the day! It is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is loaded with history and plenty of interesting things to explore on every floor from front to back. Overnight stays are even possible.
While people always have their own different personal favorite section of beach for a variety of reasons, the question of whether Mustang Island is better than North Padre or vice versa has finally been settled: North Padre is the winner, most specifically Padre Island National Seashore. Home to over 70 miles of beaches -- at least for visitors whom come equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle.
During my trips I have learned this: Mustang Island is great to go for a short stop, but if you want to spend half the day or even the entire day away from it all, opt for North Padre Island. Bring some food, water and yes, even a six-pack of beer, conveniently "forget" your cellphone at the hotel, and prepare to relax the day away.
Although camping on the beach is always an option, it's certainly not the most romantic of options for a quick weekend getaway. For that check out my guide to cheap hotels in Corpus Christi on Hipmunk. (Yes, I'm a regular writer for them too.)
flickr // thesuperstar
One of the hottest social media sites on the internet today is Pinterest. While many associate the media sharing site with arts and crafts, the fact is that the social media icon has evolved and adapted to contain a multitude of useful information. In fact, Pinterest has become a valuable tool for the travel industry and anyone planning a weekend getaway or a long overdue vacation. Following along popular travel icons like yours truly ;) will provide you with plenty of travel inspiration and motivation from around the world. This information can reveal where to go, what to eat, and what to do when the time for the trip has arrived or make adequate plans in advance.
All too often travelers flock to the same destinations year after year. Pinterest gives users interesting snapshots of exotic and domestic destinations that can light the fire of adventure in anyone. Since the site is visual in nature, some pretty impressive pictures can grab the attention of the reader. Plus, the information provided with the photo reveals all the necessary details about the location. Basically, the social sharing sight allows users to check out different aspects of a resort, city, country, theme park, or more before buying a ticket or booking a flight.
A good portion of the fun of traveling is trying the different culinary treats at the destination. Pictures of food are not exactly new to social media, but finding out where the photo was taken, what the item is, and how it tastes is extremely beneficial to anyone planning a journey. Plus, it is even possible for photos of different foods to stoke the imagination, which leads to investigation about an eatery or cafe. Putting different foods or drinks on a taste list is a very real possibility, and getting peek at them beforehand is a major asset.
Pinterest is all about getting ideas. Since inspiration can strike at any minute, users are able to get an understanding of what an area has to offer in the way of entertainment and activities before booking the trip. While guide books and other media outlets have a similar approach, getting the opinions of other users or people that have actually made the visit can serve as a priceless source of information. Getting informed and checking out what the destination might have in store can reveal some hidden gems or off the map places that really can transform a trip into some great lasting memories.
In the end, social media is transforming the way a lot of industries do business. Businesses in the travel industry are just beginning to understand the power of Pinterest, and travelers are really starting to get a foothold on the site as well. Figuring out where to go, what to eat, and what do has never really been as fun as it is now. Strong visuals and an easy to use interactive format make Pinterest a must use website for anyone planning a vacation. Following the right accounts, companies, and users can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting new ideas on different destinations. In short, the photos make the site come alive, and the links provide some of the best information available to anyone looking to explore new territory or uncover a new favorite place to go.
Over the years, I've hit -- and had fun -- at countless party destinations. Don't get me wrong, when you have 51 weeks of work a year and but one week off to go wild, being at a location with an ample supply of bars is pivotal. However sometimes when traveling with the family or in search of beauty and culture, traveling beyond the party is a necessity.
Nowadays so many popular tourist destinations are synonymous with partying, unfortunately. Bali, Indonesia. Cancun, Mexico. Vang Vieng, Laos. Phuket, Thailand. But each one offers so much more. Even though Phuket has a party reputation, that doesn't mean drinking is the only thing to do on the island. Here is the HoliDaze guide on how to escape the Phuket party scene and ensure a refreshing trip.
Pub crawl through Phuket Town? Why, when bars can be found in nearly any city in the world? Opt instead for culture. Go visit a few of the Wats or volunteer at one of the many animal foundations scattered around the island. The Soi Dog Foundation and Gibbon Rehabilitation Project are doing amazing things to improve the situations of animals living on the island, and both have temporary volunteer positions around all year.
Image by Maegan via Trover
One thing I've learned over the years is that sometimes you just have to ditch the guidebook in order to truly appreciate the unexpected. Motorcycles are ridiculously easy to come by in Phuket and as soon as I did the whole island opened up to me. Just pack a bag for the day and head off into the horizon. You never know where you are going to end up but at least the island isn't so big that you will get lost to the point of needing a search party to retrieve you. You can also take part in one of the local tours offered.
Being an island, Phuket has no shortage of beaches. However Phuket also has no shortage of tourists, which means that the most convenient beaches are also the most populated.
Image by Moons via Trover
For the picture-perfect beaches that will give you an iconic shot worthy of using on your Facebook page for years to come, visit my favorite sandy destination in Phuket: Haad Sai Kaew Beach. It is an ideal combination of untouched sand alongside a few small but delicious thatched roof restaurants, one that will you will be dreaming about long after leaving Phuket.
Sometimes the hassle of planning a busy trip and seeing all the best of a location is too much to be bothered with. Luckily if this should happen to you, rest easy knowing that there is no shortage of magnificent Phuket hotels eager to cater to your every whim. The private resorts contain some of the most spotless beaches on the island. Rather than having to acquire transportation and make the trek up north, it is possible to find a nice resort in town that has a pristine beach.
Image by Munchu via Trover
There are no shortage of great restaurants in Corpus Christi, but sometimes visitors get tired of eating seafood. I know, usually fresh seafood is one of the best parts about visiting a coastal city, but we all have our limits. For those of you looking for mouth-watering food that wasn't swimming in the Gulf of Mexico the day before, head on over to one of the following impressive establishments.
The only thing that beats a delicious pizza is a delicious pizza served alongside an ice cold craft beer. Thankfully that is what B & J's Pizza has become known for. With a history that dates back four decades, B & J's has long since been a favorite of both Corpus Christi residents and visitors in town on vacation. They now have two restaurants in town and are ranked high on the top 100 list of best independent pizza restaurants in all of the United States.
In the mood for a gourmet burger without the gourmet price? Forget all those burger chains scattered around town and head on over to Wallbanger's Gourmet Hamburgers. Although they serve more than just burgers, these are what really impress most. They don't have a set burger menu but rather provide you with a list of possible toppings and let you go wild. Have a Texas-sized appetite? Try one of their stuffed burgers or attempt to eat your way through The Banger, a monstrous three-pound burger that will leave you begging for mercy -- or assistance from your friends.
Have a craving for Vietnamese food? Look no further than the delectable Saigon Cafe, home of an impressive variety of bubble teas and the best pho in all of Corpus Christi -- maybe even all of Texas. (I say this both as a Texan and as someone who has traveled extensively through Vietnam.) The restaurant itself is rather nondescript however it's the food that keeps people coming back, not the decorations. Plus I'd swear they have Speedy Gonzalez working back in the kitchen because both times I've been here my order was ready ridiculously fast. The only downside? The staff tend to pronounce pho "fo" instead of the correct "fa" which leads me to believe that the new owner must not be Vietnamese.
Located on the 24th floor of the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel, the only thing that comes close to the savory food at the Republic of Texas Bar & Grill is the impressive view of the Gulf. That is what makes it the perfect restaurant to visit for a romantic dinner and arguably the best bar and grill in the entire city. The food doesn't come cheap, which may be a bit of a deterrent to some people, but remember: you get what you pay for. Go for the Broken Arrow Ranch Venison -- it does not disappoint!