America

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Raleigh

By on June 18, 2017

 

Tucked into the center of North Carolina is Raleigh, the capital city and one of the state’s top destinations for tourists. The sheer number of universities and research institutions in the area put Raleigh in the center of the Research Triangle, while the young college students pump the city full of art, culture, and nightlife.



While you could spend a week in Raleigh and barely scratch the surface of what this city has to offer, it’s possible to enjoy the area comfortably over a three day weekend. Here’s how you can maximize your time in this vibrant city.

Explore Art and Science at One of the State’s Top Museums

Image via Flickr by unclibraries_commons

Raleigh has some of the best museums in North Carolina. The crown jewel is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the most popular museum in the state. This museum is free and has 25 permanent exhibitions, so you may have to return a few times during your weekend to see it all. Check out some of the upcoming temporary exhibits before you go so you can plan your trip around a specific showcase.

An additional must-see museum is the North Carolina Museum of Art, which boasts ancient Egyptian artifacts next to modern art and musical performances. The North Carolina Museum of History is ideal for American history buffs, and the Marbles Kids Museum is a good pick for children 10 and under.

Raleigh, North Carolina Museum
The North Carolina Museum of Art

Follow Your Nose to Some of the Best Local Eateries

Raleigh offers top-notch Southern cooking, but the city has also embraced other cultures. Whether you’re craving curry or you want some wasabi, you’re sure to find something that appeals to your taste buds. Consider signing up for a food tour once you arrive, where expert guides will take you to sample dishes from some of the premier chefs in the area.

Visitors can also enjoy a tour of the Videri Chocolate Factory and watch the entire chocolate-making process. You might want to pick up extra souvenirs on your way out in case you accidentally eat your chocolate gifts on the way home!

Look for Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Raleigh is a great vacation spot if you want to hit the road with your dog. Fido will love the vast hiking trails and nature reserves, while you’ll love the pet-friendly restaurants around town. Most local eateries will welcome your pooch with a treat and bowl of water to cool off.

A few hotels in the area are also dog-friendly and will either charge a small fee for pet cleanup or let your furry family member stay for free. Some travel sites like Hotel Planner allow you to filter your options by pet-friendly accommodations so you can easily find a place for your pet. The best long weekends are the ones when you don’t have to say goodbye to the pets you love!

The biggest challenge of visiting Raleigh is having to leave, which is why so many college students choose to stay after graduation. Once you return from your visit to the Research Triangle, you’re sure to start planning another trip.

raleigh videri
Videri

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America

A Little Bit of Everything in Los Angeles

By on May 10, 2017

hollywood

If you’re a parent with young children like me, planning a vacation can be a complicated, tedious, albeit exciting task. Take this California-Seattle-Vancouver trip we had some time ago as an example, but let’s focus on California first…particularly Los Angeles and nearby attractions and sceneries.

Apart from thinking of places to visit that both us parents and children would enjoy in the city, deciding to stay in a hotel or availing vacation rentals in Los Angeles, or renting a smaller apartment was also on the to-do list. It was convenient to have relatives living there where we stayed for just a few days so as not to impose. 😉

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Walking around Hollywood boulevard

Of course, a visit to California won’t be complete without planning a trip to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Then you need to consider various things to do – other awesome places to visit, experience new adventures, food to taste, etc. Personally, I think there’s no other place that could offer all that and more but Los Angeles, a.k.a. “The Big Orange” and the “City of Angels”.

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walking around the neighborhood

 

Vacationing in L.A. makes for a truly memorable experience especially since there are so many things to do and places to visit aside from Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. What’s more, the weather is just perfect for different activities – outdoor adventure trips, food trips, swimming, shopping, or just walking along and soaking up what downtown Los Angeles has to offer.

When we went there, there was no way I was leaving out Disneyland from the itinerary. The trick to enjoying a magical Disney sojourn is to plan. It can be overwhelming especially with all the attractions waiting to be explored and experienced by every visitor in the world-renowned tourist destinations. However, armed with determination, I was able to wrestle my way through planning the Los Angeles/Disneyland trip.

mickey and aurora
Happy place!

 

After booking, I browsed for helpful tools in planning the “Disney” vacation, as my children called it. The Disney website was especially helpful as I gathered information about the attractions and restaurants in the resort. I also looked for audio-visual materials with images and narratives about Disney parks. Believe it or not, there is a Disney Planning Spreadsheet, which is a worksheet and a calendar for organizing schedules. When you have kids, accomplishing this spreadsheet is a must. I particularly found the Disney Crowd Level Chart helpful in picking the right date for the trip. We were able to schedule the trip during off-season, so the crowd was light and we didn’t have to wrangle our way in. (Highlights to this trip was blogged separately.)

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inner room

After our Disneyland sojourn, we went back to the hotel and recharged for next day’s adventures.  Because all of us in the family love to eat, we decided to try out the infamous food trucks of Los Angeles. There is a website especially dedicated to finding out which trucks are expected to park in specific locations.



Here’s a tip: most of the food trucks serve fusion cuisine at extremely affordable prices. I particularly enjoyed the truck that offered Korean menu – Japchae, Kimbab, and Kalbi. They even have kimchi quesadilla and kogi sliders!

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Sandwiches, Filipino Food Truck

 

There was a truck serving a dish called Cheesy Mac and Rib Melt, combining grilled cheese with grilled fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with a choice of three types of bread. Can you guess who ordered it? Other delectable goodies served by the food trucks included potato hash with peanut and leek sauce, veggies grilled with parmesan and herbs, spicy sausage and kale with fried egg and aioli, and roasted pumpkin and egg with spinach, mint, cilantro and yogurt. Yum! Kids love potatoes mostly, so they never get hungry after hopping from one place to another.

Lake Tahoe
Serene, Lake Tahoe (photo by hubby)
lake tahoe beach
photo credit: hubby

Los Angeles is also just minutes away from places of natural beauty such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Hubby and I didn’t pass up on the chance of bringing the kids at Lake Tahoe.

Moreover, since it’s seldom that we get to enjoy frolicking in the beach, we made sure to visit some of the sizzling beaches and breathtaking coastline of California.

Outdoor pool
Outdoor pool

Oh, and did I mention we got to see how it’s like to live like a movie star when we toured around some of L.A.’s extravagant houses? Yes, we felt that one of the best ways to enjoy a truly lavish vacation is to go on the famed Hollywood tour. L.A.s’ lush green neighborhoods are a welcome view from all the busyness around. Palm tree, pine trees, and a handful more of them in rows until the end of streets, you’d forget how

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Beverly Drive
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palm trees
LA property
Not sure who lives here but I love the greenery…

 

But you know what I looked forward to at the end of the day? It’s resting in a place we could call “ours” while we were away from home. Whether in a hotel room, a resort rental, or apartment, what matters is the family that we would come home to.

 

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America

Take a Romantic Vacation in Florida

By on August 11, 2015

 

Stunning Florida Sunset

If you want to add some sizzle to your love life, travel with your beloved to Florida. There are few sights and sounds more romantic than ocean waves crashing on a sandy beach. The sunshine state has even more to offer than the beauty of the seashore, however. When you and your sweetheart travel to Florida, you two can stroll through art galleries, enjoy candlelit dinners, and play at amusement parks.

Experiencing art together during your vacation can be enriching and memorable. You two can view paintings in galleries, hear musicians play, and may even find some sculptures or paintings to bring back home as mementos of your trip. Bradenton is a vibrant artistic town and home to Village of the Arts, where you’ll find art walks and live music. Dining spots in Bradenton and other Florida cities range from formal to casual. You can find an array of menu choices ranging from lobster to Cuban and American dishes. You can picnic along the shore or eat by candlelight; the choice is yours depending on your mood. Laughter can get your endorphins pumping, which is always a great thing for stoking the flame of romance, so for some playtime, head to Disney World. You don’t have to be a kid to don Mickey Mouse ears and ride a roller coaster. For more ideas to help you plan your vacation, take a look at this infographic.

florida infographic

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America

New York City in a Limousine

By on June 24, 2014

 

Private transportation services can be hired for special occasions. For example, high school graduations or proms can be enjoyed when students ride in modern limousines. Other types of parties can also be more fun if a private limo is used to get to a club or other venue. There are even party buses that are equipped with a variety of amenities to offer the ultimate experience on the go. Additionally, private transportation is commonly used for tourism in major cities.

New York panorama

Traditional limousines are essentially stretched out town cars. There are also stretched out sport utility vehicles that offer private rides. Limo companies often have minivans that can provide transportation for large groups such as a dozen people or more. Such vehicles are perfect for making group trips to popular tourist destinations in a big city. Minivans are equipped with large windows to allow passengers unobstructed views of all the sights in a busy urban setting. Extra wide seats offer plenty of comfort in minivans that are designed for tourist trips rather than public transportation use. A service like Luxury Limo NYC and other car hire is an example of private transportation in a major city.

Limousines and minivans may be equipped with luxurious amenities that are not found inside passenger vehicles. For example, mini bars are often paired with small coolers to store drinks and snacks. Retractable trays can be used for eating or doing other tasks while riding in a limousine. State of the art entertainment systems include surround sound speakers that might be synced to a flat screen HDTV. A WiFi portal also allows limousine passengers to connect to the internet from mobile devices without having to waste precious data through a cell phone company’s service. Mood lighting in limousines can be set up to different colors and intensities. Some party themed limousines might even have disco balls and special visual effects inspired by night clubs.

An insulated interior in a limousine or minivan allows passengers to have a great time without causing much disturbance to other people and vehicles outside. Some large party buses might even have dance floors that allow passengers to get up and groove to the music. Leather upholstery on all of the seats surely add a touch of luxury to any limousine or mini bus. The seats are designed to prevent staining from any spilled drinks, something that often happens on party buses.

the famous square

 

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America

Paradise that is Jackson Hole

By on March 27, 2014

 

weather perfect

One of the Wyoming’s most highly visited mountain ranges, the Tetons rest across its western borders with the state of Idaho and is south of the Yellowstone National Park. The eastern part of the Tetons are called the Grand Teton National Park, though tourists visit across the mountain range throughout the year.

Many tourists enjoy the mountaineering recreation that comes with traveling through the Grand Teton National Park and the Tetons in general. Because the Tetons are relatively easier to access by road than other mountain ranges across the Rocky Mountains, tourists tend to migrate and travel through the Tetons any time of year. The winter activities in the Tetons are especially enjoyable, with a large snowboarding and skiing culture associated with the Tetons.

charming winter night

One of the unique aspects about the Tetons is their formation of large valleys across Wyoming and Jackson Hole is one of the most prominent valleys in it. Jackson Hole’s name is derived from the fact that early settlers traveled from the north into the valley, which appeared as a very steep descent. This earned the valley the name “hole” because the settlers felt like they were falling into a hole. Despite this name and perspective, Jackson Hole remains one of the main cultural and economic center of the Tetons.

The largest city in Jackson Hole is called Jackson. There, tourists can find all major commercial activities for this part of Tetons, including major Jackson Hole Wyoming hotels and transportation through the Jackson Hole Airport. In Jackson, tourists can eat at major restaurants in the region, see movies and plays, and see major art exhibits. Its location in the Tetons allows Jackson to have an average high in the mid-50s degree Fahrenheit while the average low is in the low-20s Fahrenheit.

jackson hole autumn
attractive in autumn

As previously stated, Jackson is the one of the main economic hubs in the Tetons and a major hospitality and recreational center for all tourists in the region. When one is traveling through the Tetons, they may end up lodging and eating in Jackson. The Jackson Hole region also hosts regional festivals that attract hundreds of tourists from across the state and region. Some of those events include the Hot Air Balloon Festival and the Targhee Bluegrass Festival.

If there is any region in the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains region to stay during any time of the year, the Tetons is the place to be. With the Jackson Hole region and the city of Jackson as one of the hubs of activities, tourists can travel anywhere from the Grand Teton National Park to Yellowstone National Park.

winter wonderland

 

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America

Travel Conveniently with the Help of Travel Agents

By on December 14, 2013
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iconic SF cable car

“My hubby’s recent trip to Northern California was a little bit shorter than last time. He didn’t get to use a travel agent to book his trip but my husband got to stay with a friend’s family the whole time (thank you so much, Red) ^_^. It was quite convenient.

You don’t always have a friend or relative in every state. Therefore, it is best to consult with experienced travelers and travel agents for the best options. For example, if you want to visit North Carolina and you live in Seattle, you should use a professional Charlotte travel agent for help in planning your upcoming trip.”

Even though many of us are Internet savvy, there is a lot of organization required when planning a honeymoon, vacation or even an emergency trip to see friends and family. In most cases, you will have to call several companies such as the airlines, hotels and car rental businesses. When using a travel agent, you can make one call and everything is taken care of. Travel agents have all the information necessary right at the tip of their fingers to assist you with your trip organization.

Some people have the wrong conception that travel agents charge for their services. In almost all cases, this isn’t true. Yes, the travel agent is paid for their services, but in most cases not by the client. The ones who pay for their services are the travel companies. Only on a rare circumstance will there be extra charges added to your deal. This means you aren’t paying extra for a holiday or vacation package when using an agent. Because there is no commission paid, you don’t have to do the booking yourself because you won’t be getting a cheaper price.

It’s very beneficial to use the services of a travel agent. You always receive the best advice, and the travel agent will have either been to your destination before or booked it before for several clients. This gives them more firsthand knowledge, tips and advice to pass along to you. They will offer you many options for availability, pricing and personal preferences. The information they have available will make your trip more comfortable and convenient. Additionally, you have customer service available while planning and traveling on your trip. Never discount the true importance of having that contact person available if things go wrong or not according to your original plan.

Best of all, you receive personal service and a trip customized based on your budget, preferences, special attractions you want to visit and the dates that you want to travel. A travel agent wants your business and will do anything to ensure you are satisfied. Even in today’s world where we can easily do these things ourselves, it is still beneficial to use a professional agent to take care of your trip.

golden gate bridge
Golden Gate Bridge seen from Alcatraz island

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America

Five Things to do while in Colorado

By on November 16, 2013

 

Colorado – The Rocky Mountain State. A trip to this beautiful state will leave you wanting for more. The culture, attractions, and climate are so diverse that you wouldn’t know where to begin once you have set foot there. However, among the places you could visit there, Denver and Aspen stand out imposingly. This is probably because these two cities are considered the hub of all the great things you can do while in Colorado.

If we try to list down the attractions you can visit and the activities you can dabble in when you visit the Rocky Mountain State, we could be dealing with an endless inventory. Of course, food tripping, shopping, and museum hopping are staples every time you visit a new place. Hence, we would only discuss five things (apart from those previously mentioned) you can do while visiting Colorado.

Elk Mountains
Elk Mountains

1. Go skiing

Aspen happens to be surrounded by four world-class mountains within the area, which is why it boasts of the most diverse selection of terrain and on-snow experiences in Colorado. One of these mountains is Aspen Mountain, which was developed as a ski resort in the mid-20th century. Since then, Aspen has become sort of a playpen for the rich and famous. Aspen Mountain looms over the town of Aspen, with a top elevation of 11,215 feet and a vertical drop of 3,269 feet.

If you’re in for some serious skiing lessons (that is, if you’re not an expert yet), there are 76 trails waiting for you, depending on your skill level (beginner, intermediate, or expert). These trails are accessible through chair lifts or the cable car. Instructors are on standby to help beginners out, and throughout the ski resort, ski instructions and equipment rental are abundant.

2. Attend a concert or watch the opera

One of the icons that remain an integral part of Colorado’s history is The Wheeler Opera House, which is also in Aspen. It may have bowed to two fires in a span of one week in 1912, but since it was restored to its former grandeur in 1984, it has continued to be home to numerous events such as lectures, country and rock concerts, jazz concerts, Broadway shows, plays, films, and musicals. It would be a good idea to book your ticket as early as possible if you plan to catch a show as shows sell out very quickly.

3. Go exploring

Colorado has four national parks, but the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde deserve to be visited over and over again. The park offers guided tours, which is great especially if you want to learn more about the people who used to inhabit the more than 600 dwellings found in the park. Still, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could take off on your own and explore some of the archaeological sites that have been unearthed and marvel at the beauty of these.

You could also take a full-day tour of the Ute Mountain Tribal Park and learn about Ute history or study wall paintings and petroglyphs.

river rafting colorado
image via http://www.whitewater.net

4. Go River Rafting Colorado

There are four rivers across the central part of Colorado, all of which lead to the Arkansas River. You could take a leisurely float trip or, if you want to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush, get ready for a bumpy ride that only Class 5 rapids can give you. Colorado has many companies that offer rafting packages inclusive of steak lunches and cruises. However, if you really want to go the extreme route, try visiting Colorado in early May, just as the snow packs are melting. During this time, you can experience the wildest water rapids the Arkansas has ever seen.

5. Feed your mind

Colorado is not just about skiing, music, and dancing. There are awesome places you could visit if you want to feed your mind, and one of these is the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. There are weekly lecture series in the form of pictures, stories, and adventures presented by locals and visiting guests that would appeal to nature lovers. Most of the lectures start around seven in the evening, which gives you something meaningful to do after spending the day outdoors.

However, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies also offer ski tours and snowshoe tours; thus, if you want to visit the place during daytime, you won’t lack for cool events and activities to enjoy.

There, we have just covered five things you can do while visiting Colorado. Be sure to ask your travel agent about the ideal months to visit the state so you could get the most out of your travel experience.

Rim Arch

 

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America | Travel Tips

How To Successfully do 48-Hours in New York

By on November 22, 2012

 

Of course the attraction of the US city of New York is familiar to most of us but there is so much to see and do here you are never going to fit it all in. Therefore some prioritizing should be considered.

central park, new york
Central Park – photo by sis-in-law

Getting in and Around
The first point is to get your travel arrangements and travel insurance worked out. The best way in is by air and you will be required to catch a flight to the city’s main airport — JFK International. The airport however, is some 20 kilometres from the hub of Lower Manhattan and taking the AirTrain from the JFK to the Beach Subway Station will be the next step. From here you can take the A-Train to Manhattan. The alternative is taking a taxi but this will cost considerably more.

Next, you may want to make a quick visit to the main tourist office which is situated at 810 7th Avenue. Here you would do well to pick up a New York pass, which will get you into many of the top attractions in addition to giving you several dining discounts.

  

What Not to Miss
As noted above, there are a massive number of top attractions in the city — too many in fact to see them all, but there are certainly a few attractions which simply have to be included in your itinerary.

The Statue of Liberty
The first has to be what is probably the most famous icon in the city if not the whole country; the Statue of Liberty. Standing at a massive 305 feet in height, if you include the pedestal, this famous symbol of democracy, freedom and independence is a spectacular sight and should not be missed. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the public are no longer allowed to go up to the top but the pedestal is always open for visitors on a daily basis from 9.30 am to 5 in the afternoon.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another must see is this, one of the largest art galleries in the world, which is often simply known as the ‘Met’. Located at 1000 5th Avenue on 82nd Street the Met is home to over 2 million artworks which includes both contemporary pieces in addition to some of the finest examples of classical, Egyptian, Asian and Byzantine art in the world. Open from Tuesday to Sunday the gallery does have an entrance fee but payment with credit cards is welcome.

Central Park
At over 843 acres Central Park is one of the largest and probably the most famous parks in the world. Set between 5th Avenue and Central Park West the park includes facilities for rock climbing and other sporting activities in addition to being a great place to take a stroll, something that more than 20 million people are estimated to do each year. Furthermore, the Public Theater and the variety of sculptures that populate the park are also worth a look. The park is open every day between 6 am and 1 am.

The Empire State Building
Finally a visit to the Big Apple will never be complete without seeing what was for 40 years the tallest building in the world and still remains the most famous skyscraper ever; the Empire State Building. Climbing up to the 86th floor allows you to enjoy the best views of the city. The building is located at 350 5th Avenue.

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