Summer is coming, and the beaches are calling. Whether it be on the east coast, the west coast, or the Gulf, get ready to feel the sand between your toes. These five destinations are family friendly but also offer plenty of activities that will appeal to adults of all ages--but especially those still young at heart. Get ready for a fun summer!
When it comes to overlooked family destinations, Gulf Shores should be at the top of everyone's vacation list, with 32 miles of pristine white sands. It's the home of both the Gulf State Park and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, as well as more than half a dozen different golf courses--even a mini golf center for the kids. There's Waterville USA and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, not to mention a seemingly never-ending number of water-based activities in the warm Gulf waters. What are you waiting for? Get packing and come on!
The beachside Los Angeles suburb of Marina del Rey is small but beautiful. The area gets its name from the marina, which is actually the world's largest small boat marina in the world. Marina del Rey is home to over 5,000 boats and yachts, Burton Chace Park, Mother's Beach, and Fisherman's Village, which has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows over the years, including one of my favorites, Arrested Development. Other must-visit attractions include the famous Venice Beach and refreshing Yvonne B. Burke Park.
Known for its many miles of boating canals and iconic riverwalk promenade, Fort Lauderdale has long been a popular year-round destination. Besides all the obvious aquatic activities, there is a sprawling city to explore full of museums, parks, shopping districts, casinos, live music venues, delicious restaurants, and sports arenas. The area is also home to hotels of all budgets, including the immaculate Lago Mar Resort Hotel & Club for discerning travelers, as well as several more affordable chain options.
For those looking for a romantic luxury getaway, look no further than Hilton Head Island. This upscale island paradise is full of beautiful beaches, meandering rivers and streams, relaxing parks, lavish resorts, 24 sprawling golf courses, and over 350 tennis courts. While these are all perfect for couples, those traveling with children might consider checking out Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort. Located on an island within a river, this is arguably Hilton Head's most impressive resort.
Everyone in America knows the name Myrtle Beach, but the city is popular with international tourists as well. Beyond the 60 miles of soft beaches lies an exciting and fun-filled city to explore. For adventurous travelers, there are adrenaline-packed activities like NASCAR races at the Myrtle Beach Speedway, ziplining, and even skydiving. Water lovers will find that their days are full of parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, and scuba diving. Are arts and culture more your thing? Myrtle Beach is home to a wide array of museums, historical tours, live music venues, and, of course, the Duplin Winery.
Kailua-Kona is the jewel of West Hawaii. This breathtaking tropical paradise is on the leeward side of the island and as such receives much less wind and rain. As a result, it's a great place for scuba diving or practicing your surfing skills before tackling the tougher waves on the eastern shore. But where to stay in Kailua-Kona? That depends on what you plan on doing while you're there.
Want to be right in the center of Kailua-Kona and have everything you need mere footsteps away? Look no further than Uncle Billy's Kona Bay Hotel. Situated right in the center of the bay, Uncle Billy's offers both rooms with a view and ground-floor suites with direct access to Hale Halawai Park. The massive Kona Inn Shopping Village is located right across the street and can satisfy almost all your shopping needs. Beyond that, Uncle Billy's is surrounded by water-based sights and activities, ample restaurant and bar options, tons of shopping, and, of course, the best cultural events.
The cliffs of Kona Bay. Photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr
Perched on the cliff edges 1 mile south of Kona Town lies Aston Royal Sea Cliff, one of the most beautiful properties in the area. With spacious suites that include a full kitchen with all the appliances and utensils, as well as a washer and dryer, this is the perfect choice for guests planning a longer stay, families, or other large groups. Two pools on site enable you to enjoy a salt-free swim while basking in the tropical sun and enjoying the magnificent view.
Bigger isn't always better, but in the case of Royal Kona Resort, nothing could be more accurate. This massive resort has been one of the area's premiere accommodation options since 1968 and now consists of three huge oceanfront buildings with nearly 450 rooms, sprawling grounds, multiple pools (including a kids' pool), tennis courts, and a fitness center. Located just a short 10-minute walk from the town center, Royal Kona Resort is close to the action but not too close.
Don't plan on spending much time in the hotel room? Then don't waste any more money than necessary when paying for lodging. Kona Seaside Hotel is one of the cheapest hotels in the Kailua-Kona area, and you won't have to sacrifice on service or cleanliness just to stay to budget. The hotel has a large pool and even owns the Splashers Grill next door, which means you can have delicious dishes and thirst-quenching drinks delivered poolside.
Featured photo by Robert Linsdell via Flickr.
Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently rolled out a Boeing 787 airplane painted from tip to tail with the likeness of Star Wars’ R2-D2. The airplane will carry its first lucky passengers beginning Oct. 18 with a flight between Tokyo and Vancouver, Canada. The project is part of a five-year promotional deal between ANA and the Walt Disney Company.
This is hardly the first time an airline has made headlines for dolling up its planes. These designs are typically part of publicity partnerships or are created to promote special events or anniversaries. Check out some of the wackiest paint jobs in airline history, below.
Photo: Flickr user Mark Harkin
First on the list is the world’s largest plane decal, which reportedly took more than 400 hours to complete before it was released into the air in 2012. The Lord of the Rings-themed plane didn’t stop at the paint job. Inside, a hobbit-themed safety video featured characters from Middle Earth, while the cabin crew adorned themselves with pointy ears for the plane’s first flight.
Photo: Flickr user Aero Icarus
In 2010, Swiss International instated daily flights between Zurich and San Francisco. To celebrate the new route, the airline decorated a plane with just about every San Francisco stereotype around, from peace signs to flower power.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Flickr user Cubbie_n_vegas
Get it? A Boeing 737 becomes a Boeing salmon-thirty-salmon in this 2005 fish-themed paint job. The inspiration for the artwork is a bit unclear: Some sources claim it was designed to celebrate Alaska’s seafood industry, while others believe it stemmed from a 1987 incident in which an Alaska Airlines plane was hit by a fish while taking off in Juneau (The fish was purportedly dropped by an eagle).
A collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, the design for this Boeing 737-800 was inspired by Uluru, aka Ayers Rock. The Australian World Heritage site is famous for its rich colors, which appear to change as the sun’s angle shifts throughout the day.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
What a magical idea. In partnership with Virgin Holidays, Virgin Atlantic branded one of its 747 jets with the logo for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The paint job functioned as publicity for the Universal Orlando resort.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
To celebrate 20 years of flying between Japan and China, ANA unveiled its panda-themed jet in 2007. It reportedly took 350 people a total of 80 hours to plaster the image of the world’s cutest bear onto the jet.
This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.
Airplane cabins aren’t always known for being roomy, comfy, or luxurious, but the newest crop of first class suites are stunning travelers with their size and opulence. New Yorkers who get by in tiny 100 square foot apartments and Londoners who would pay $145,000 for a shoe box next to Harrod’s may consider moving in when they see how gorgeous and extravagantly large the new cabins seem by comparison. Here’s a roundup of the best and biggest first class cabins that money (or airline miles) can buy.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Travelarz
In December 2014, Etihad Airways introduced The Residence on its Airbus A380 planes. The three room suite is a whopping 125 square feet and can be occupied by up to two people traveling together. It includes a living room, a private bathroom, and a bedroom with a bed large enough to share. Etihad hasn’t skimped on the amenities either: It comes with a 32-inch television, a cabinet for chilled drinks, and Christian Lacroix pajamas. The leather on the seats is made by Poltrona Frau, which also makes leather seats for Ferrari and Maserati.
The suite also comes with exceptional service. It includes a luxury chauffeur for transportation to and from the airport, and a Savoy Academy-trained personal butler to meet you and the airport and anticipate your every need. The Residence is available on A380 planes between London and Abu Dhabi, and soon to New York and Sydney, Australia as well. A ticket in The Residence can cost about $20,000 one way. If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to travel like an oil magnate or a Russian oligarch, this is the way to go.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78
The Singapore Airlines Suites may only feature one room rather than three, but it’s certainly not much of a step down. Running about $18,000 each way, the Suites were introduced in 2007 and are available only on the Airbus A380. Flights are offered from Singapore to 14 destinations, including New York, London, and Hong Kong, so there’s plenty of opportunity to experience the best of Singapore Airlines.
The cabins are the work of luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, and feature a 35-inch wide bed and a 78-inch long bed with cabin doors that can be shut completely. When your partner is in the adjacent cabin, the wall removes so that a double bed can be folded down for some in-flight pillow talk. Each Suite also features a 23-inch LCD screen, Bose headphones, a Ferragamo amenity kit, and Givenchy sleepwear. To complete the perfect in-flight experience, the Book the Cook service allows passengers to order their meals before the flight and choose between Michelin-starred chefs Georges Blanc and Carlo Cracco, among others.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Altair78
At around $13,000 one way, the Emirates First Class suites are a bargain compared to the options above, and their most famous feature will seem like a dream come true: an in-flight shower. In a huge improvement on showering over a toilet in your London apartment, each Suites passenger gets 30 minutes in the spa suite with five minutes of hot water conveniently monitored by a light timer. There are two shower spas for the 14 privates suites on each Airbus A380 flight, and the bathrooms also features heated floors and designer towels and toiletries. Imagine being able to freshen up at the end of a long flight, enjoy a shave or a steam, and arrive at your final destination feeling impossibly calm and collected. Now that’s luxurious.
Of course, the cabins in First Class Suites are lovely as well. The seats, which are tablet-operated, fold down to 79-inch beds, and there’s an on-board bar where passengers can mingle with business class passengers over a drink. The cabins also have remote-controlled sliding doors and 23 inch LCD screens for entertainment. Emirates offers chauffeur service to and from the airports in over 70 cities, and flights on the A380 available to over 35 destinations. Maybe it’s time to let go of your lease and take to the skies for luxury and comfort next year.
This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on Jnuary 18th.
In terms of thinking of a vacation, North Carolina isn't at the top of everyone's list, but perhaps it should be. Take a look at some of the state's best destinations:
Although it's not the biggest city in North Carolina, Raleigh is one of the state's most hip, up-and-coming destinations (take that, Charlotte!). The city is a veritable melting pot of artists, chefs, entrepreneurs, and hip locals. Nightlife, including live music and the craft beer scene, is steadily improving. Also, the city is absolutely gorgeous, flawlessly wrapping its historic North Carolinian charm in a sleek, modern that still retains its uniquely artistic, relaxing vibe. Don't believe me? Here are 10 amazing photos that will make you want to visit Raleigh right now.
For travelers looking for the diverse excitement of a metropolis like Raleigh but with a much more subdued countryside escape, look no further than Durham. The city is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and historic charm but at the same time is experiencing a rejuvenation of sorts thanks to surge in festivals, art exhibits, and enough unique eateries and craft breweries to keep even longtime residents busy experiencing new places. More in the mood for golf? The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club is the city's première hotel and golf course. Featuring exquisite architecture, sprawling grounds, world-class golf and nothing but the finest amenities, this is the place to stay.
When it comes to finding the best beaches in North Carolina, Wilmington takes the gold. The city is part of a small peninsula nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River, so rest assured there is no shortage of water-based activities here. Wilmington even includes several beautiful beach islands that act as a natural barrier to the ocean. Surfing, fishing, boat and jet-ski rentals ... the city caters to water sport enthusiasts. However, there is also much to do on dry land, including golfing, hiking/biking, museums, and art galleries, even a surprisingly wide selection of nightlife and live music options.
Like many destinations in North Carolina, Greensboro is great at combining natural beauty with historic charm and plenty of ex align="justify"citing activities to keep visitors entertained, whether they are in town for a weekend or a week. The city is also home to a large selection of budget-friendly hotels, making it easy to save some extra money for all the fun things to do/see/eat around town. The Wingate by Wyndham offers an amazing level of comfort and service for only around $100 a night. Of course, there are also plenty of other options that are even more affordable.
In the time-honored tradition of saving the best for last, let's conclude this list with Asheville. From craft beer to live music, the city has everything that makes Raleigh great but wrapped up in a smaller, more hip package. And if by some strange chance you do happen to get restless in the city, there are many amazing outdoor destinations just outside the city limits. If you only have time to visit one city in North Carolina, make sure it's Asheville — you won't be disappointed!
Summer? Autumn? Winter? Doesn't matter when you are headed to Florida, the weather is always great. However, why head all that way just to find yourself in another big city? The following five small towns pack a big punch when it comes to top-notch resorts and breathtaking beaches.
While Saint Augustine most definitely is not the first city that comes to mind when you think about Florida, it should be. This modest city of less than 15,000 people was founded in 1565, making Saint Augustine the oldest city in the United States. People visit not only for the beaches but also for the stunning Spanish colonial architecture. Travelers who value style and comfort above all else will want to make the Bayfront Westcott House B&B their home away from home.
Located just 25 miles from Tampa is Clearwater Beach, a popular year-round destination for anyone who needs a quick escape from the city stress, or who is in urgent need of the closest beach from the Tampa airport. The town has several times been named one of the top ten beach destinations in Florida, and for good reason. The pristine white sand beaches and bright blue cloudless days are the stuff you usually only find in movies. Beyond just water-based activities, the town also boasts several amusement parks, museums, and other family-friendly destinations.
For anyone planning to visit northwestern Florida, Panama City can be found just west of Tallahassee and has year-round perfect weather. Rather than simply having one Gulf coastline, Panama City is actually nestled slightly inland and surrounded on three sides by a large collection of rivers and bays. As one might guess, this makes the city a favorite of visitors because of the easy access to water. Trivia fact: When the Panama Canal was first constructed, the closest American port was in a town called Harrison, so the town changed its name to Panama City.
Sanibel Island is an elongated island that acts as a barrier island to Cape Coral and Fort Myers. The island is beloved not only for its massive wildlife refuges (the largest being a whopping 5,200 acres!) but also its shell-covered beaches. Combine that with its easy access via bridge to the metropolitan area, and it's no surprise that the island is perfect for families on vacation. There is also no shortage of resorts catering to both couples and families. One of the most highly reviewed is the Sanibel Island Inn, thanks to its immaculate beaches and landscaping, not to mention its amazing amenities.
The biggest, and arguably the best, destination saved for last on this list is West Palm Beach. With a population of around 100,000, the city boasts enough diverse sights, activities, restaurants, and shopping for travelers of all types and ages. Some of the favorite attractions that you must visit at least once include the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservatory and, of course, McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary.
Featured image via Martial Arts Nomad
Finding accommodations in New York City can be daunting for a tourist. As a New Yorker, I believe that location is most important, especially for first-timers and families. Don’t pay for transportation when you can situate yourself with a place to stay where it’s convenient to get to most top tourist sites.
Some of the best Hotel offerings are in the Boutique Category. Often you will get Five-Star Service and accommodations for a price much less than you would from the more renowned names in the industry. Below are some top picks:
As one of the Top Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this gem of a hotel, located near the Heart of Times Square, lives up to its billing. Upscale service and amenities include Frette Sheets, turndown service with some Le Belge Chocolates, Molton Brown Bathroom Products, and complimentary coffee/tea and an afternoon beverage in the lobby. Theatres, Top Restaurants, Shopping right outside your front door. Starting at $116/night. WiFi and Fitness Center.
Those who are looking to travel as a family, this hotel is a top choice. Located near Grand Central Station, The Empire State Building and Macy’s. The rooms are a nice mix of 60’s retro and modern design. Suites have a kitchenette, and the hotel offers “kid-friendly” amenities, such as board games and a shop for children’s sundries. For adults, there is a wonderful rooftop bar to enjoy a post-sightseeing or pre-dinner drink. Suites start at $132/night. WiFi and Fitness Center.
Few are better located than this lovely boutique hotel. Just right off World Famous Fifth Avenue, staying here brings the guest within walking distance of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and some of the best shopping in the world. The rooms are well appointed, affixed with luxurious leather and wooden features. There are unlimited chilled bottle water and complimentary in-room coffee. Starting at $149/night. WiFi and Fitness Center.
This hotel prides itself on client experience. Upon walking in, one can’t help but admire the beautiful photography hung throughout. The service is impeccable and the rooms luxuriously appointed with lush beds and high thread count sheets. The aesthetic is muted, with relaxing neutral colors.There is a fine restaurant connected named, The National Bar and Dining Room, created by renowned chef, Geoffrey Zakarian. A great getaway, especially for a romantic one. Within walking distance to all major sights, which include the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park. Rooms start at $179/night. WiFi and Fitness Center.
With a high energy lobby and a popular rooftop bar, this is the fashionable choice. This very stylized hotel is located in, the now popular, Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood. Views of the Hudson River from most rooms. Set within the center of the Theatre District, this hotel is a treat for a culture seeking traveler. Starting at $199/night. WiFi and Fitness Center.
This post was sponsored by Hipmunk and originally appeared on Dish Our Town's The Best Boutique Hotels in Asheville on February 25th.
Asheville, North Carolina, is one of the trendiest smaller cities in the eastern U.S., which is not really surprising seeing as it offers something for everyone.
Whether you come here for the stunning fall colours, amazing food scene, great outdoors, artsy culture or just to see the historic Biltmore Estate — the most famous and iconic of Asheville’s attractions — this cool and cultured town is sure to be a great short escape.
Asheville is a stylish place with gourmet dining options, mouth-watering chocolate shops and microbreweries. However, underneath the glossy façade, Asheville is still a down-to-earth mountain town that will be a welcome breath of fresh air to city dwellers. The artsy and hippie population also adds character and soul to this town that’s hard not to fall in love with.
Biltmore estate in Asheville. Photo Credit: Steven Hirsch
Fall is one of the most popular times to visit Asheville, because the region is known for having some of the most beautiful fall colours in the country. Visit in the first few weeks of October to view the magnificent leaf colours of over 100 species of deciduous trees.
Asheville is also a town with a conscience; you’ll find plenty of yoga classes, vegan food and sustainable businesses. Therefore, when in Asheville, do as the locals do and support independent and local businesses. With so many boutique hotels in Asheville, it’s not hard to have a stylish, independent and sustainable visit.
The Haywood Park Hotel is a great boutique hotel with a unique twist due to its history as a department store. With a great central location and super friendly staff, a stay at Haywood Park will get you all set for a memorable experience in Asheville.
If you want to splash out in Asheville, then the Omni Grove Park Inn is the ultimate luxurious mountain resort escape. The location view and setting are stunning, and with luxurious rooms and a huge array of facilities, you might not want to leave!
Views from Asheville. Photo Credit: Curt Rosner
The 1900 Inn on Montford has the benefit of a downtown location but still offers a quaint alternative to standard Asheville hotels. This bed and breakfast has luxuriously appointed rooms full of Southern charm and all the home comforts you need for a perfect stay.
If you want to feel more like a local while staying in Asheville, then check out the Residences at Biltmore for conveniently located, spacious and luxurious apartment-style accommodation. The featured fireplaces, spacious balconies and stylish swimming pool area add nice touches.
The Hill House Bed & Breakfast Inn offers a great all-around, independent stay in Asheville. Rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable with touches of historic character. The location is close to downtown but far enough away to be peaceful, and the free full breakfast is a tasty extra touch.
This post was sponsored by Hipmunk and originally appeared on Global Gallivanting's The Best Boutique Hotels in Asheville on February 25th.
If there's one U.S. destination that embodies the four different seasons, it's New England. Here, whether winter blesses you with blue skies or snows a fierce blizzard, you'll experience a beauty that's just as sublime as the fall colors, spring flowers, or long nights of summer. Here are five reason to visit New England before spring, no matter which destination you prefer.
Although winter's half over, much of what remains is still the relatively low season as far as Vermont's ski slopes are concerned. The majority of the season's visitors flock to Stowe Mountain and the Killington Ski Area during Christmas or early March, you see, which means that late January and all of February are comparably uncrowded. So, get a hotel in Burlington, and get up to the slopes before the cold-loving Spring Breakers do!
In the summer, the seaside city of Newport, RI is bustling with tourists—in 2015, over half of Newport's 250,000 visitors came during July, August or September! Winter, by contrast, is deserted, with less than 10,000 visitors coming in either January or February. Whether you take in the colonial charms of Old Newport, or enjoy sea breezes (which will admittedly be very brisk this time of year), you'll have this gem of a city all to yourself if you come before the end of winter.
Snow in New York City is unpredictable—some years get two or three blizzards, while others are completely free of the fluffy white stuff. Still, if you want to have a chance of experiencing the romance of New York in the snow, your best bet is to visit between now and the end of March. TIP: For a stay that's both convenient and affordable, book a hotel in East Elmhurt, near LaGuardia Airport, where many domestic flights to New York City arrive and depart.
Boston is many things—historical, exciting, highly-educated—but cheap is generally not one of them. To be sure, whether you stay in one of the central city's historical neighborhoods, brainy Cambridge, or suburban Woburn, prices throughout February and into March are some of the lowest you'll find all year, particularly on accommodation. If you happen to get a beautiful late winter snow, it's simply an added bonus!
One false assumption many people have is that Maine Lobster has a season, as is the case with Caribbean lobsters found in the Bahamas and Florida. The good news is that Maine Lobster is an amazing treat all year round. The better news? If you visit in winter your hot, succulent lobster will taste all the more delicious, thanks to sub-freezing temperatures inBangor and other cities in Maine.
These are just five reasons to visit New England in winter—five dozen surely exist! Can you think of any other reasons you'd want to travel to New England between now and the end of March?
This post originally appeared on Leave Your Daily Hell's “5 Reasons to Visit New England Before the End of Winter“
Norway is one of the most expensive destinations to visit in the world, but that doesn't mean you should skip the country entirely. Despite high prices, there are a number of tactics that will help make a trip more affordable while still providing memorable experiences.
Gardemoen, where's that? Less than thirty miles from Oslo, you'll find this unknown suburb that's home to the city airport. While that sounds like a far distance to commute in and out of the city for daily touring, Gardemoen hotels are a fraction of the price compared to inner city Oslo hotels, and a 23-minute high-speed train will take you to the Drammen district. At the very least, consider this area for your arrival and departure nights when airport convenience is key.
Photo by Maria Vittoria Fronda via Trover.com
Stavanger's natural landscape is the biggest draw for travelers, and exploring the outdoor playground is a budget-friendly activity. Look for Turistforetning hiking trails which are clearly marked with information or maps that are widely accessible throughout town. Many hikers and climbers choose to stay at hyttes, or cabins, within the mountains, but hotels in Stavanger are more comfortable if roughing it isn't your style.
Norway is a summer destination just as much as a winter one, and Kristiansand in the south is a great option in good weather. Pack your bathing suit to swim at the town beach or at Hamresanden, a three-kilometer stretch of sand. Skip the saltwater by swimming in the many lakes, or simply enjoy the waterfront by walking the boardwalk, taking a sightseeing boat, or fishing. Waterfront hotels in Kristiansand are easy to find!
Photo by Backpack ME via Trover.com
Tromso's scenery is spectacular, but the views of the skies are best of all. Each winter, visitors enjoy displays of the northern lights. Spotting the Aurora Borealis is as simple as going outside after dark, but you can also choose to cross-country ski or snowshoe to more isolated spots. Joining a guided excursion is possible too, at a higher cost. Regardless, there's an option for every budget. To save on Tromso hotels, look for Airbnb's since owners like to escape the Arctic cold in winter and rent their apartments out.
Trondheim is home to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and with 25,000 students in town, there are plenty of restaurants to meet a low budget. One of the best options is the 18th-century Tavern which offers specials on klubb, a Norwegian potato dumpling often cooked with bacon. Here you'll get as many as you can eat on Tuesdays for less than 100 krone. Don't forget to try the other student favorite: a pølse hot dog served in a lompe tortilla. All Trondheim hotels can point you to their favorite!
This post originally appeared on The Girl And Globe “Budget Hacks: Traveling In Norway For Cheap” on February 26th.