Breathtaking natural beauty and enchanting sunsets. Iconic landscapes and rich Native American history. Welcome to New Mexico, also known as The Land of Enchantment. No state better captures the true essence of the American Southwest than New Mexico -- and the best way to experience this is to go off the beaten path in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Certain Ruidoso spots are obligatory visitor destinations, such as Ruidoso Downs and the Lincoln National Forest. However make sure not to miss out on these unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso:

Ziplining at 11,489 feet up!

Ziplining gets exponentially more fun as the elevation increases, it's a scientific fact*
* may not be "scientific" or a "fact" but it is the truth

Ziplining at Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Like any good ski company, Ski Apache offers plenty of adrenaline-pumping outdoor summer activities as well. These include mountain biking, hiking, a 9-hole disc golf course, and of course the star of it all, their impressive ziplines.

Ziplining at Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Ziplining at Ski Apache is an unforgettable experience. Located over 11,000 feet above sea level (3,500 metres), this three-part zipline tours covers nearly two miles in distance (over 2.7 kilometres), offers "the most spectacular view in Southern New Mexico" and hits speeds of up to 65 MPH! (105km/hr!) Now tell you me that you don't want to experience this ;)

Best of all, ziplining is open year-round!

Gallop over to the Museum of the Horse

I have an unhealthy fixation with strange, unique and one-of-a-kind museums. No museum is too small or too quirky. Few museums are worth a second visit but every museum is worth one.

Spiderman says everybody gets one -- first on Family Guy, and then two years later he said it for the first time in the comics
"Everybody gets one" according to Spiderman in Family Guy S06E03. Little known fact: Two years later Spiderman said those same words in the comicbook for the first time.

The Museum Of The Horse in Ruidoso changed its name to Hubbard's Museum of the American West but the museum is no less interesting, especially to anyone fascinated by horses or the history of the American West.

The Museum Of The Horse is one of the many unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico
"Free Spirits at Noisy Waters" by Dave McGary is a collection of eight giant horse scupltures located on the grounds of the Museum of the American West. Photo via pamwood707

The Hubbards were a racing family, which explains why the museum is located next to the race track, Ruidoso Downs. It focuses on a wide variety of regional history, from wild horses and horse racing to Native Americans, pioneers and frontier life.

Although small, a lot is packed into the museum. Scultpures, horse carriages, weapons, art and a plethora of antiques, all of which have detailed descriptions. There are also seasonal exhibits as well.

  Entrance to the grounds is free, but the museum costs $7.

Don't forget to stop by Ruidoso Downs located next door!

Horse racing at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico
Ruidoso Downs

Try Something You've Never Done Before

When it comes to outdoor activities, that is where Ruidoso really shines, regardless of whether it is summer or winter.

Horseback riding around Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and off the beaten path summer activities in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Summer Activities

During summer there is horseback riding, disc golf, hiking, mountain biking, cycling tours (on the road), fishing, ziplining, horse racing, camping and more. Pick one (or more) of these that you have never done before and give it a go. What better way to create some unforgettable memories in Ruidoso?

Snowboarding at Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and offbeat winter activities in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Winter Activities

Cold weather means skiing, snowboarding, winter ziplining, tubing, sledding, and all sorts of other snow-filled activities. Decide on one that you've never done and make sure put it on your Ruidoso to-do list.

Go Mountain Biking Around Grindstone Lake

Ruidoso has nearly a dozen lakes, parks and recreation areas -- one for every 700 residents -- so outdoor activities abound. However the hiking trails around Grindstone Lake are some of the most relaxing, beautiful and enjoyable of all these activities.

Mountain biking around Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and offbeat outdoor activities in Ruidoso, New Mexico

There are 18-miles of multiple use trails around Grindstone Lake and on into the neighboring Lincoln National Forest designed by the International Mountain Biking Association. In other words, sure they are suitable for hiking, but they were designed for mountain biking. ;)

Map of the 18 miles of hiking and biking trails around Grindstone Lake in Ruidoso, New Mexico
screenshot from discoverruidoso.com

Grindstone Lake also offers fishing and has a 27-hole disc golf course.

Disc golf at Grindstone Lake is one of the many unique and off the beaten path outdoor activities in Ruidoso, New Mexico

Unlesh the Beast at Pillow's Funtrackers

Go karts, bumper boats and miniature golf, oh my! Pillow's Funtrackers is a unique theme park that is fun for kids of all ages -- including our inner kid. (When was the last time you released that guy?) ;)

Open all year round, Pillow's Funtrackers attracts thrill-seeking guests from all of New Mexico, not just visitors to Ruidoso.

Pillow's Funtrackers is a unique and offbeat theme park in Ruidoso, New Mexico

All three go kart tracks, the bumper cars, miniature golf course and mountain maze are open year-round, however the bumper boats and gemstone panning are seasonal activities.

  Orlando's Most Offbeat Theme Parks

  Prices are suprisingly affordable as well. For $100 you can get 20 tickets, each good for one admission on any of the 20 rides.

Want More?     Offbeat Travel Guides   New Mexico Travel Guides   USA Travel Guides

  This article was sponsored in part by Discover Ruidoso, however it should go without saying that all experiences are my own opinion and were not influenced in any way.

  Know of any other unique and offbeat Ruidoso activities?

Published in United States

As the sultry summer rolls in, the desire to travel peaks for many. According to a TripAdvisor survey, 67% of U.S. travelers are planning to embark on an international leisure trip this year. In 2014, only 50% of the travelers were reported taking one. The survey also revealed that 95% of travelers from the country have plans for a domestic trip this year.

The survey features 44,000 global responses from hotel sectors and travelers, including over 6,700 U.S. respondents. It also indicated that the travel budgets in the country are likely to average $8,700 in 2015. One quarter of the respondents in the U.S. are planning to keep their 2015 travel budget similar to last year, whereas 43% have plans to spend more and another 23% are anticipating cutbacks.

The TripBarometer "Global Travel Economy" report from TripAdvisor also names the “Top 5 Dream Destinations for U.S. Travelers” in 2015:

These are places that U.S. travellers said they would like to visit, if money is no object. But for many travelers money is an object and therefore we have created this list of 5 international budget vacation destinations:

1. Milano

  Italy

Since Italy is one of the top dream destinations of the U.S. travelers, we could not help but include it in our list. 2015 is indeed the year if you have always dreamt about visiting this land of art and ancient ruins. Expo Milano, from May 1 to Oct. 31, is expected to bring in over 20 million visitors to the country.

images/countries/italy/udine.jpg
Udine, Italy

But we are not just talking about big cities like Rome, Venice and Milan. There are several other breathtaking beautiful cities in Northern Italy that deserve all your attention. Visit the Roman Theatre in Aosta; the beautiful Lake Como; the magical seaport city of Trieste with its scenic Città Vecchia; the mediaval city of Udine and its Venetian-Gothic style buildings and castles, and hundreds of other tiny picturesque towns that are literally begging to be explored.

2. Tbilisi, Georgia

  Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

If you are foodie and have budget constraints, visit this gourmet paradise this summer. The colorful Georgian life of Tbilisi awaits you. Don’t forget to savor a healthy portion of their scrumptious meat dumplings (locally known as khinkhali) and khackapuri, which is the Georgian equivalent to the pizza and wash it down with some of the finest rich red wine. You will be surprised to know that the tradition of wine growing in Georgia goes back to 6000 BC and the country has some interesting grape varieties.

Apart from being a gourmet paradise, Tbilisi has a rich history. This ancient city was founded in the 5th century and has been rebuilt 29 times. For all the history buffs, the city offers an exotic mix of classical, medieval, Art Deco and Soviet structures.

Explore the 4th century Persian citadel, the churches and museums all day through and relax in the steam of the famous sulphur baths in the Old Town. The summer weather makes it a perfect vacation destination and its insanely low holiday prices are added bonus.

3. Bali, Indonesia

  Indonesia

Sunset in Bali, Indonesia
Sunset in Bali, Indonesia

This Pacific paradise has good news for budget travellers this year: hotel prices in Bali are down 12 percent, as per Hotel Price Index. The Island of the Gods is popular for its distinctive black sand beaches and rugged coastlines. If you are inclined to it, enjoy the island’s world-class surfing and diving and explore the jungle interior that houses 10,000 picturesque temples (including the renowned hillside temple Pura Luhur Batukau) and volcanoes.

Take a walk around Ubud, the Balinese bustling metropolis, to explore its stunning royal palace and soak your soul in the heavenly gamelan music; the traditional local market is a shopper’s paradise.

If you want a laid-back vacation, the hotel pools are great places to laze around. After all Bali, with its natural beauty, cultural attractions and unique music, is a place to sooth your mind and body into a state of perfect relaxation.

4. Izmir

  Turkey

Izmir, Turkey

If you think Istanbul is the only place to visit in Turkey, İzmir will stun you with its liberal and laid-back feel. Located along the Central Aegean coastline, this historic and happening port city lives by its seafront kordon. Visit the hip bars in the Alsancak District or its collective art exhibition spaces if you want to experience İzmir’s distinct culture.

June is a great time to visit the city when it hosts the International Izmir Festival, where you can enjoy classical and contemporary ballet, music and theatre performances. The city with its Mediterranean Europe atmosphere is a chic alternative to other popular and more expensive Turkish destinations.

5. Porto

  Portugal

Porto, Portugal

Porto or Oporto is one of the most charismatic cities of Europe. In fact, you won’t find another European budget spot finer than this second largest metropolis of Portugal. The motto of this picturesque city, where Port Wine was named and originated, is: “You’ve tried the wine; now try the city!”

The Ribeira Square, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies next to the Douro River, is the place to start off. Enjoy the art of people watching from a quiet corner while sipping your morning ‘bica’, which is the Portuguese espresso. The Crystal Palace Gardens are just a short walk away from the Ribeira Square where you can see roaming peacocks along with other love birds. Head towards the Romantic Museum or explore the city’s renowned architects.

Don’t forget to indulge in the culinary feast of a classic Porto lunch, the ‘Francesinha’, a meat-delight served with layers of various meats and melted cheese and drenched in tomato sauce. It is served with a chilled Portuguese beer.

The romantic Porto awaits you this summer with its intriguing and majestic beauty for that ultimate budget European vacation.

A Final Word

While these are some of the best international budget holiday destinations you can think of this summer, you can further cut the cost by opting for a budget hotel and bargained deals instead of staying in a luxury resort. Whether you are looking to explore a royal European city or relax on the beach, we tried to include vacation options for every budget and taste.

  flickr   //   cmichel67   vshioshvili   kailehmann   ligthelm

Published in Travel Tips

Houston is one of the largest cities in Texas, and as with all big metropolises, there are so many things to do there that it can often be overwhelming to visitors. It is for that exact reason that I have recently been writing so many articles on all the amazing sights and restaurants in Houston, Texas. Now I proudly present the best summer activities to beat the Houston heat and humidity while still having a great trip.

Take A Dip In The Cool, Cool Water

What better way to cool off during the summer than by going for a swim. Houston has no shortage of public pools, however the real place to visit is Wet 'n' Wild SplashTown. They are home to acres upon acres of water slides, rides and pools. Plus if you are traveling as a family then this is one destination that every kid is guaranteed to love, regardless of their age.

Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas

Catch A Sports Game

Houston is home to several professional teams, including the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, and the Houston Texans. Baseball is the sport of summer and football season starts in September, so depending on when visitors will be in town dictates which sports will be in session. Luckily, either way the best deals on tickets to both games and musical performances can always be found with TiqIQ.

Enjoy A Night Out

Once the sun goes down and the temperature cools, outside dining becomes much more enjoyable than it is during the daytime heat. Restaurants like Boheme, The Tasting Room at King's Harbor and Batanga have made a name for themselves thanks to their delicious food and perfect outdoor ambience. The latter two are especially nice for a romantic night out. However, my personal favorite is Cottonwood, which is known for their sprawling patio, impeccable food and refreshing craft beer selections.

The Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, Texas

Go To A Music Festival

Houston summers and the Free Press Summer Fest go hand-in-hand. This annual music festival is held every June and has quickly become one of the largest annual music festivals in the nation. Performers such as Bassnectar, Deftones, and The Naked And Famous have performed here in years past and the 2015 lineup, although not yet announced, is expected to be one of the best thus far. Although you may still find yourself out in the sun during the day, you'll be having too much fun to worry about the heat.

Escape The City

Sometimes it is necessary to escape the urban jungle, even if only for a quick day-trip or one night getaway. Thankfully there are plenty of refreshing parks within the vicinity of north Houston's suburbs. Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the closest option but Sam Houston National Forest is by far the most rewarding. Both parks offer camping and hiking, however Sam Houston covers a sprawling 160,000 acres, as opposed to Lake Houston's 5,000 acres.

If you have any questions on what to do in Houston this summer, please leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.

View the Houston Travel Archives for much more!

  Hipmunk has published a large number of my city guides to destinations around the world on their site. Check them out for more!

  flickr   //   clockwerks   in_rainbows69

Published in United States

Most people who live in places considered to have a 'normal climate' often long to the south. Yes, sure enough 'south' often has it all, cheap drinks, temperature, beaches, cheap food, cheap hotels, cheap flights...

But what many of these places lack is sights and adventure! And even if they have a bit of that, not too many of us normal people enjoy hiking in the mountains in 40° C (or more!) heat. Most of us at some point get a little sick of the same old thing, even if the beaches on Costa Del Sol might not be exactly like the ones on Gran Canaria, the concept is the same -- Warm, sandy and sunny. As a Norwegian, and particularly a Northern Norwegian, I know all about longing for the southern parts of the world. I may not have been to too many exotic places, but I have spent my fair share of time in Southern Europe, on the beach, flat out, frying in the heat. Now I've "re-discovered" my own country and region that I have gotten a little older.

I moved to the town of Tromso in Troms County, Norway. I moved here predominantly to study, but I fell in love with the town. The town has many positive aspects, firstly during summer time, it never gets dark due to the midnight sun, and during summer there are numerous festivals and activities going on, during the winter, the northern lights dance across the sky almost like magic. The town is located on an island, in the middle of a strait leading up to a fjord. The airport is located in the middle of the island, 5 minutes away from the city centre. The airport has daily flights to other destinations in Norway such as the capital, Oslo, but also international flights linking it to world cities such as London. During my time in Tromso, I worked for three hotels, all at a different end of the scale. The town offers everything from good value 3 star hotels, to high end 5 star hotels. There are major chains located in the city such as Scandic, Radisson BLU and Choice Hotels, yet also smaller chains and independent hotels all offering something unique to the city. As the largest city in Northern Norway. Tromso offers a vibrent night-life, a multitude of shops and leisure, as well as great sights.

The main sights are:

  • The Mountain Cable Car that takes you up to the mountain, giving a panoramic view over the city. On the top there is a restaurant serving local cuisine as well as lighter meal options.
  • The Arctic Cathedral located by the iconic Tromso Bridge, facing the city centre. The church hosts intimate concerts throughout the year yet is also a sight to see on its own.
  • City Museums are the three main museums in Tromso. The Town Museum on the southern tip of the island, which focuses on town history; the Roald Amundsen Museum, which holds a large collection from arctic expeditions and the ship Polarstjernen (an old fishing ship located next to Polaria). Other things worth visiting include: Skipsbroen Bar at the Rica Ishavshotel, the best view in the city. Gründer Bar and Café, the best night club in town. The University with its botanical garden and geological exhibition as well as the Old Town area north of the bridge, containing the largest collection of old wooden, traditional Norwegian houses north of Trondheim.
  • Polaria is part of the Fram Centre, which is a research facility focusing on the arctic. At Polaria there are exhibitions on arctic wildlife, and the centre has seals and arctic marine life on display.

Polaria, Norway and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Published in Norway

I have been hearing about Bacoor, Cavite’s halo-halo treasure called Digman and not until I worked on my Cavite article for Republic of 7107 Island Travel Magazine that I was able to visit this legendary halo-halo sanctuary.

The hunt was quite an adventure, though I am with my Caviteña friend Michelle, we braved the streets of Bacoor by commute. Good thing her brother Ryan was just a phone call away to monitor us and made sure we did not make the wrong turns or end up in another area.

Once we got down from the jeepney at Barangay Digman, just a block away, we saw a signage with an inscription “Original Digman Halo-Halo Reg. Phil. Pat Off” and an arrow pointing to the left. This was at the corner of Rubio Street, Barangay Digman in Bacoor.

As we enter the quaint eatery with several white monoblock chairs and tables, mounds of halo-halo ingredients welcomed us. I could not help myself as I instantly order my very first Digman Halo-Halo. To make this tall cooler more satisfying, I sampled their home made siopao and empanada.

Digman’s Halo-Halo was overflowing with freshly made ingredients, cooked the very early morning and ready for the taking before they open at 10am. On regular days, you can savor 12 ingredients, while summer days bring more ingredients with fruits in season. Regulars are sweetened bananas, pinipig, kundol, beans, langka, gulaman, garbanzos, kaong, nata de coco and topped with ube halaya and leche flan. You can also have it your way, as one elder ordered a tall glass without beans. I myself would prefer not to have garbanzos and beans in my cold comfort. Oh did I mention that this tall glass only costs Php50?

Edilberto with sister Donita now manages their mother’s store which was first built during the Japanese invasion. During my return for the interview, Edilberto was ecstatic as he recalls how his mother’s venture has been successful with the simple business. What started as a nipa hut is now a two-storey concrete structure. Edilberto prides that even celebrities like the King of Philippine Comedy Dolphy would order from his residence just to have his fill of the tall glass of Digman’s Halo-Halo.

Published in Philippines

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