Planning your summer vacation already? Check out these up-and-coming destinations.

The Biloxi Lighthouse, Mississippi
The Biloxi Lighthouse by Ipung Zan via Flickr

Biloxi, Mississippi

The beachfront city of Biloxi is a popular summer destination for people looking to enjoy the gulf. Water-based activities such as fishing are some of the biggest pastimes of the area. In fact, every 4th of July the city holds the Mississippi Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, which draws crowds in excess of 50,000 people. Nearly all the hotels in town are located on or near the water, and because gambling is legal in Biloxi, most have casinos as well.

Charlotte, North Carolina skyline as seen from the Central Ave. bridge over Independence Blvd
Charlotte, North Carolina skyline by James Willamor via Flickr

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte is the largest and most well-known city in North Carolina. Home to nearly 3 million people, there is no shortage of sights, activities, museums, theme parks, festivals, and excitement to keep visitors of all ages and interests amused. Plus, all the sports fans will be excited to hear that not only does Charlotte have a team for every major sport, it is also the home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Sunset over Deer's Head in Salisbury, Maryland
Sunset on the grounds of Deer's Head in Salisbury, Maryland by Eric B Walker via Flickr

Salisbury, Maryland

Salisbury is a small city at the head of Wicomico River in southeastern Maryland. It is a peaceful, unassuming town that is perfect for a family weekend getaway or a quiet pit stop on an American road trip. Venues like the Salisbury Zoo, Coco's Funhouse, Pemberton Historical Park, and the Wicomico County Youth & Civic Center are perfect for the entire family. Other places, such as the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, are geared more toward older guests. When it comes to lodging, the Hampton Inn Salisbury is the only one you should consider. Not only does it have a central location, but it's also the highest-rated hotel in town!

Main Street in College Park, Georgia
Main Street in College Park, Georgia by Robert S Donovan via Flickr

College Park, Georgia

Contrary to the name, there is no college in the small, charming southern town of College Park; the building that was a college many years ago is now city hall. Despite having a population of only 14,000, the city has over 850 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an intriguing destination for anyone interested in the historical side of Georgia. Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, College Park is home of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport. As such, there is no shortage of hotels and restaurants in town.

Sunset over Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky
Sunset over Bardstown Road in Louisville, Kentucky by Scott Smithson via Flickr

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is Kentucky's largest city and one of the most popular year-round destinations for out-of-state visitors thanks to its abundance of things to see, do, and eat. Baseball fans will immediately recognize the city because it is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, the iconic baseball bat. However, the city is also the home of the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center, among others. Plus, just outside of town are countless parks, trails, lakes, and rivers offering a seemingly never-ending amount of outdoor activities. If you've got an entire family to keep happy or just want to pack as many diverse activities as possible into one trip, definitely put Louisville on your list of destinations this summer!

Published in United States

Unique and offbeat activities and adventures make every destination more exciting. Thankfully, Sydney has a world of quirky, cool, and unique activities, many of which tourists do not visit. The next time you find yourself in the Harbour City, be sure to squeeze a few of these sites into your trip:

Cockatoo Island

Located out in Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island was a penal colony in the early- to mid-1800s before becoming the site of one of Australia's largest shipyards. Nowadays it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and intriguing blend of prison and shipbuilding history. It has also become a regular venue for festivals, art installations, and outdoor events. Definitely a must visit during the warmers months.

Sydney's Best Offbeat Beaches

Sydney's most popular beaches are always crowded, but there are alternatives. Check out the second oldest national park in the world, the Royal National Park on Sydney's south coast — great for surfing, snorkeling, or just relaxing on the beach. Or go north up to Manly and check out secluded Collins Beach at Little Manly Cove. The beach is small, but when visiting on a weekday you are almost guaranteed to have the sand to yourself.

Explore Bundeena

Located just a short train ride to the southern suburb of Cronulla, there is a little place named Bundeena. This hip, quirky village is home to large number of artists, and not-so-surprisingly is full of boutique cafés and independent art galleries. Definitely a great day trip and chance to escape the crowds of the city.

Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the best unique and offbeat things to do in SydneyImage via Flickr by Mertle

Cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge ... on Foot

Over 200 trains and nearly 200,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day, but few people cross on foot ... by walking across the top of the bridge. Yes, that is what you can do thanks to a company called BridgeClimb. The entire expedition takes 3-1/2 hours and comes with a complimentary group photo, bridge climb completion certificate, and hat.

Witness the Bondi Rescue

Since 2006 a reality TV show / documentary known as Bondi Rescue films every summer at Bondi Beach and then begins broadcasting in February. If you are visiting Sydney during the summer months, consider taking a brief stop at Bondi Beach to watch the lifeguards hard at work dealing with shark scares, water-related injuries, drunk beachgoers, and other beach hijinks. Did you know the lifeguards here perform over 5,000 rescues every summer?

Learn More About Rugby

One of Australia's most popular sports is rugby and catching a game firsthand in Olympic Park is one of the unique, iconic things to do when visiting Sydney. Never seen a rugby game before? Its similarities with American football will make it an interesting experience for visitors from the United States. Rugby season runs February to July, with the semi-finals and playoffs taking place in late July and early August.

Ready for an offbeat Sydney adventure? All you need now is a good Sydney hotel and your adventure is ready to begin! More Offbeat Travel Guides
Published in Australia

Reno's big sister Las Vegas may get all the attention, however that doesn't mean visitors to Nevada should skip Reno. The city and surrounding area has plenty to offer -- besides just gambling -- without the overwhelming crowds of Vegas. Consider these offbeat sights and activities when planning your Reno vacation:

Be A Kingpin at The National Bowling Stadium

Offbeat Reno, Nevada: The National Bowling Stadium

This 78-lane bowling megaplex is a testament to how much the citizens of Reno love the sport. The National Bowling Stadium is the largest bowling alley in the world and as such plays host to all the big bowling tournaments. It was also used in the filming of the bowling comedy classic Kingpin. Go on by and test your skills at the "Taj Mahal of Tenpins."

Get Your Adventure On

Go karts, mini golf and the Ultimate Rush, oh my! Grand Adventure Land is a miniature amusement park located at the Grand Sierra Resort but open to the public, not just guests of the resort. The highlight of the park is a ride called the Ultimate Rush, a crazy combination of hang-gliding and sky-diving that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!

Read More     Reno Has More to Offer Than Just Casinos

Visit the Birthplace of Denim

Levi's 501 denim blue jeans

Levi's denim jeans are an American icon known around the world and they got their start in Reno, Nevada. First designed by Jacob Davis using Levi's denim, the two patented the idea in 1871 and the rest is history. Although Davis' original factory no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this historic event can be found at 233 N Virginia Street.

Visit the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

I bet you didn't even know this one existed, eh? Neither did I before passing through Reno on a road trip with my off-road addict of a best friend. Turns out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is located downtown inside of the National Automobile Museum, making it a great destination for all sorts of motor enthusiasts. The amount of stuff inside will amaze you! Definitely a must visit and a great way to pass an hour or two.

Offbeat Reno: The National Automobile Museum

The Offbeat Festival

2015 marks the first year of the Reno Offbeat Arts & Music Festival. This four-day festival is designed to highlight the burgeoning offbeat art, music and food not just in Reno, but found throughout all of Nevada. It will take place November 5th - 8th, 2015 throughout downtown Reno. Details and full lineup have yet to be announced, however you can find out more on the Reno Offbeat Festival web site.

  Bonus: Visit the Bunny Ranch

Offbeat Reno: The original Bunny Ranch

This infamous brothel gained nationwide attention after the HBO behind-the-scenes special about brothel life, Cathouse. Needless to say this is not a family outing, but for all you solo travelers out there eager for a unique experience, this is for you. Expect the night to cost you a couple hundred dollars, however it is possible to spend several thousand here, if budget is of no concern.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Travel Ideas

  flickr   //   darronb   kenlund   bburky_   brewbooks   josefff

Published in United States

Nadaam wrestlers

I flew halfway around the world and was greeted by this...
(Photo from asiabest.ca)

Right now the 3-day celebration that is the pinnacle of the Mongolian tourist season is in full swing. It is a festival of merriment and machismo. A celebration of what it means to be a man. Athleticism and physical prowess is revered. And men get hot and sweaty. Dressed in naught but tiny vests and woollen underwear. Pink woollen underwear (usually).

It can only be the spectacle that is Naadam (in Ulaanbaatar it is celebrated 11-13 of August every year). Inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in 2010, Naadam is an old Mongolian tradition that has seen revival along with the rise of Mongolian nationalism, at the start of the last century, and now celebrates Mongolian independence in 1921. Naadam is the festival of the "three manly sports" – archery, (long distance) horse riding and of course Mongolian wrestling.

Chinggis Khaan (Ghengis Khan) the embodiment of Mongolian manliness

Chinggis Khaan (Ghengis Khan) -
the embodiment of Mongolian manliness

There are differences to each of the sports to what you would be familiar with. Archery is not aiming at a bull’s-eye, but shooting an arrow in a parabolic path into what is essentially a tiny cylindrical target on the ground (similar in size to a hole on a golf course). Men and women compete separately, at difference target distances. While the competitor's task seems impossible to me, they have been using a bow from a very early age. The bow are incredibly strong – speaking to a Swiss-Armenian archer on the flight out, he was saying his young son's bow from Mongolia is equivalent to the strength of an adult’s Olympic bow, and so has to buy archery equipment on his trips to Mongolia. It's a serious sport – so serious that even the president and prime minister compete (it's true – I was literally spitting distance away from them at the time!).

Horse riding is not like what you would see at Ascot or the other races of that sort. It is like the marathon of horse races; long distance, somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The riders are children (again, a skill that many Mongolians learn from an early age – as young as two years old!), as the aim of the race is to test the skill of the horse, not the rider. After the races (there are races for different ages of horse) the winners are celebrated by a song declaring their equine brilliance. And the loser in the youngest age group is honoured with what I guess is the the Mongolian equivalent of a limerick.

Finally, there is the wrestling. 3 days of wrestling. It's a hard sport to break into – the previous year's champion chooses his opponent (usually the weediest boy there), followed by the second winner etc. It results in an initial stage of David & Goliath bouts running simultaneously before the opponents become more evenly matched. This makes it very difficult to break into the sport of Mongolian wrestling. After each individual fight the winner does the traditional victory eagle dance – a somehow graceful movement after the tussling a few moments before. The winners are also awarded rank titles according to what stage of the competition they get to – there is a whole lot of tradition and ceremony attached to the whole event.

Naadam festival in Ulaanbaatar at the National Sports Stadium

Sadly I never saw the action up close...

I experienced Naadam in Ulaanbaatar at the National Sports Stadium (smaller Naadam celebrations can be seen outside UB a few days before). Like with the Olympics, the opening ceremony is actually the bit most people watch – a huge, choreographed re-enactment of a traditional story, along with a parade featuring Mongolia's musical all stars (one of whom was on my return flight – no idea what his name is though!) as well as various members of the armed forces. Finally there is the singing of the national anthem – musically pretty good, not too pedestrian at all, melodious, lyrically inspirational (and with hints of propaganda in the style of the Communist era). Conveniently song sheets were distributed – all in the Cyrillic alphabet (which I fortunately knew after a failed attempt to teach myself Russian) – and I think I gave it a fair bash at singing along.

Aside from the opening ceremony, seeing a few rounds of wrestling, wandering over to the archery range, wandering around the festival grounds (mobbed by Americans touroids decked out in traditional Mongolian clothing they must have been shafted paying for), trying some khuushuur (greasy, fried mutton dumplings – perfect festival food), perhaps taking a taxi out to the horse race and then coming back for "Ode to a Horse", there isn't really all that much else to do, aside from watching endless rounds of wrestling at a distance (if you want to see it up close, maybe go to one of the wrestling rings that can be found in most big towns, or start an ad-hoc game after a few vodkas). There's a lot of sitting around between brief moments of excitement (like many major sporting event such as the Olympics or big motor races). There are also fireworks in Suukhbataar square – the first night of Ulaanbaatar's celebrations if I remember correctly.

Aspiring (and failing) to be a

proud Mongolian horseman

Naadam is an interesting introduction to Mongolian culture, although it will be hard to gain a good understanding without a Mongolian to explain it to you – it certainly won't feel as authentic. Aside from Naadam itself, UB is pretty cosmopolitan. There are a few interesting museums (like the Natural History Museum which has some really interesting dinosaur fossils, and also the National Museum of Mongolian history for further introduction to Mongolian culture), but once you've seen them, UB has nothing more to offer than international bars and an equally international crowd of people (even more so since Mongolia's recent mining boom).

My advice: get out of UB ASAP and experience the real, untamed Mongolia like the manly Mongolian I can only aspire to be.

Published in Mongolia

Everyone knows that Carlsbad, California is home to many amazing resorts and relaxing beaches; however, there are tons of other exciting things to do during your vacation here. Whether in town or just outside of the city, family friendly activities or things geared more towards adults, there is no shortage of ways to pass the time. It is a perfect destination for both romantic getaways and family vacations, and one that leaves first-time visitors eager to return for a second taste.

Legoland California

The most well-known of all of Carlsbad's attractions, Legoland California is obviously heaven for children. Surprisingly, it is also entertaining to parents as well. With over 60 family rides, and plenty of engrossing and educational attractions and shows, Legoland is 128 acres of pure joy.

K1 Speed Carlsbad in California

K1 Speed Carlsbad

While mom and the young kids are having fun at Legoland, K1 Speed is the perfect place for dad to take the teenagers. Get a rush of adrenaline and experience what it is like to be a race car driver in a safe, fun environment. Even if you've been before, it's worth a second visit because they periodically change the track. Oh, and did I mention they also sell food and beer there? So, what are you waiting for?

Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch

The beautiful Flower Fields at Carlsbad, California

Arguably the most beautiful sight in all of California, the Carlsbad Flower Fields are 50 acres of colorful brilliance. For a nominal $10 entry fee, visitors can wander through the fields for hours and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. It is also a favorite destination of photographers or anyone who wants to get some amazing family photos amongst a sea of flowers. The best time of year to visit is during spring when everything is in full bloom.

Day-Trip to San Diego

Located just a 30-minute drive to the south, San Diego is a bustling metropolis that offers tons of activities not found in Carlsbad. Whether you want concerts, sports venues, or theatre shows, the city is your oyster.

The Chargers call San Diego home and, depending upon the time of year you are visiting, catching a football game is a great way to pass the afternoon. If the performing arts are more your taste, the Civic Theatre and Balboa Theatre are the two main theatres in San Diego. My personal favorite is the latter. Not only is it an impressive theatre, but it was recently named one of the world's 15 most amazing theatres by CNN Travel.

If you have any questions on what to do while there, feel free to leave a comment below.

  flickr   //   notahipster

Published in United States

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