‘Tis that time of the year again when home and business owners go completely over the top with Christmas lights and displays. With the passing of each year it seems there is an unspoken competition with oneself to top last years displays and visitors are constantly delighted with new innovative and interactive Christmas displays. All over the world this tradition takes place, although most notably in the United States where some entire towns transform their houses, buildings and streets. From inflatable characters to dressed up dolls to millions of lights and robots, here are six absolutely crazy over-the-top Christmas displays around the world:
6. Garabedian Family Christmas House -Pelham Gardens, New York
It is known to many as “The Christmas House” and once pulling up to this house, you will understand why. It is one of the craziest Christmas displays in all of America. There is a traditional nativity scene of course but along with that comes nearly 200 animated figures, all dressed up in old-school Hollywood-style gowns. These figures dance to upbeat holiday music all night long. Think Disney princesses, occulted angels, and dolls dolls and more dolls. The Garabedian family is in the fashion business throughout the year but it is the holiday season when they really get to work, having to assemble and take down the dolls each and every single night (weather depending). Although other houses in the neighborhood are decorated, this is a must to anyone looking for a unique, crazy Christmas display.
5. Richmond, Virginia
The city’s mayor has deemed Richmond as the “tacky lights capital of the world”, whether that makes this city more attractive to future residents or not, they have some of the craziest Christmas displays in the world. The Tacky Light Tour has been created here, a registry that lists houses with more than 40,000 lights that people can visit. A tacky Light Tour is a trip made by family and friends from one insanely decorated home or business to the next in the city of Richmond and here people go all out, even renting a limousine to ride in. Expect timed musical lights, giant inflatable characters, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus and more than 70 million lights in total.
4. Jamaica Estates, New York
This property is so massive it takes up an entire block and owner Anthony Gurino has made it his mission to celebrate Christmas to the extreme. Not only is this property fun to look at but the house is also interactive. Included here is a coffee and hot chocolate station, free cookies for all and holiday music playing. Expect to see carolers, donation boxes and sometimes even Santa and Mrs. Claus show up and pay a visit to unsuspecting visitors. The wires are covered so walking through the property is easy and there are plenty of benches for you to sit on for the incredible photo opportunities. Make sure to get close to the windows to see the incredible displays inside as well. From flashing lights to reindeer on the roof to more colors than you can imagine, this is one light display you wont want to miss.
3. Policarpio Street -Mandaluyong, Philippines
This street screams Christmas, despite the obvious lack of snow as a collection of neighbors have made it their collective goal to decorate their houses to the extreme to celebrate the holiday season. Millions of sparkling lights seem to cover every inch of the houses while rooftops and gardens are adorning with figures, toys, holiday décor and nativity scenes. The House of Santa Claus is worth checking out as it boasts the largest Santa Claus collection in Metro Manila. From twinkling lights to neon strands to food stalls that line the street to fill your belly with goodness, Policarpio turns into a whimsical Christmas village for the entire month of December.
2. Hyatt Extreme Christmas -Plantation, Florida
The Hyatt family has taken things to the extreme when it comes to Christmas displays and although the city of Plantation does not support this cause and has even threatened fines of up to $7,000, for now this house is completely decked out and the tradition continues. Think snow-blowing machines, a whopping 200,000 lights, visits from Santa and his live reindeer, a movie screen showing holiday films, a Ferris Wheel of stuffed animals and endless moving characters. Starting preparations in August, this family and its team adds new excitement every year including a complete Santa’s workshop, M&M candy disco and 24-foot sign celebrating the magic of Christmas.
1. Robolights -Palm Springs, California
This sci-fi holiday spectacle has been tradition since 1986, when Kenny Irwin Jr. decided to do something a little different for the holidays. This year-round event can be viewed from the street but Christmas time is when Robolights really comes alive. Free to the public, with donations accepted there are millions of lights that twinkle in some pretty epic sci-fi ways. This landscape of art includes Nuclear Elves in the tennis court while Santa’s sleigh (or battle wagon as it’s referred to) is pulled by 12 robotic reindeer. Think wise men laden with microwaves, robots standing over 50 feet tall, animal heads on toilet seats, solid colored rooms and more alien like art. The property is over 4 acres and provides more unusual and crazy looking things than you have ever imagined, and all lit up in Christmas lights.
Golf may have been invented in Scotland but Americans love the sport. The United States accounts for approximately 45 percent of the golf courses in the world. While golf used to be a “rich man’s” sport, today there are courses that fit every budget. With the emergence of players like Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam golf has become popular with people of all ages. Along with the growing popularity of golf, weekend trips and golfing vacations have also become more popular. Couples and groups of friends have found that a golfing vacation is the best way to play some of the best courses and also enjoy a great travel destination at the same time. We have come up with our list of the best golf destinations in America.
12. Palm Springs, California
Palm Springs is a resort destination in the desert. The area became popular around 1900 for its hot springs. In the early part of the 1920’s the Hollywood elite would go there to get away from the crowds, but soon hotels and spas began springing up to serve the clientele. Today Palm Springs is still a spa destination but also offers great golfing. Palm Springs has over 100 public and private courses in the area. Courses are available for all levels of players and budgets. One of the best golf packages is at Indian Wells Golf Resort which has 36 holes and is ranked in the top 20 of “courses you can play” in California by Golfweek magazine. When not golfing you can enjoy the hot springs, shopping, hiking, biking or horseback riding. Great for couples looking to go on a trip, or even just a group of friends.
11. San Antonio, Texas
Texas has over a thousand golf courses to choose from. San Antonio makes our list not only for the great courses but the surrounding activities. La Cantera Golf Resort is ranked #2 in “Top Resorts in North America” and among the “top 50 Golf Resorts in the US” by Conde Nast traveler. As the site of PGA events, the resort offers great dining, luxurious rooms and is a good home base for exploring the surrounding area. Sights like the famed San Antonio River Walk and of course, The Alamo are both destinations that need to be on your must see list. Located at the gateway to the Texas Hill Country, San Antonio is a great destination for couples, families or that buddy trip.
10. Savannah, Georgia
Established in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia. Outdoor cafes, gourmet restaurants and River Street along the Savannah River offers visitors a unique experience. The famed 18-hole Savannah Harbor Golf Resort is a Robert Cupp and Sam Snead championship course and is ranked among the top 100 golf courses in the US by Conde Nast Traveler. The Westin offers golf packages from $109 and up. The Westin also has a complimentary water ferry to take you to River Street where you can check out the brew pubs, galleries and great restaurants after a day on the course.
9. Orlando, Florida
Mickey Mouse isn’t the only thing Orlando is known for. Besides the proximity to Disney World, Orlando offers world class golf courses and resorts. Resorts like the Villas of Grand Cypress are close to Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando. The resort offers exceptional golfing and has hosted such tournaments as the LPGA Tour Championship, World Cup of Golf and Greg Norman’s Shark Shoot-out. The club offers 45-holes of Jack Nicklaus Signature designed golf. With all the great nearby attractions, Orlando rates as a great golf destination for everyone.
8. Napa, California
Located in the Napa wine region, the Silverado Resort and Spa is also home to two championship courses designed by PGA Hall of Famer Johnny Miller. The resort offers several golf packages and also has Junior Golf Summer Camps. The resort also has a world class spa with wellness coaches and even a golf swing therapy session with massage and reflexology treatments. With over 400 wineries in the region a day tour of wine tasting and sightseeing should be on your list of things to do. Host to the PGA Frys.com tournament, the luxury resort is a great getaway for couples looking to relax, golf and spend time in the wine country.
7. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island off the coast of South Carolina is known for beautiful beaches, exceptional restaurants and world class golf. With over 50 courses to choose from on the island it is hard to make a choice, but one place stands out above the rest. The courses at Sea Pines Resort home to the Heron Point Course by Pete Dye, the Ocean Course and the Harbor Town Golf Links which is a favorite among PGA players has to be the best resort on the island. Located on 5,000 acres the resort hosts the annual PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage tournament. Accommodations range from elegant rooms at the Harbor Town Inn to homes and vacation villas. The resort has vacation packages to suit couples groups and families.
6. Monterey, California
Monterey, located on California’s rugged central coast, is the home of the Pebble Beach Golf Resort. Even people that don’t follow or play the sport have heard of Pebble Beach. Over the years the resort has attracted politicians such as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Teddy Roosevelt, golfers like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones and celebrities the likes of Bill Murray, Bing Crosby and Clint Eastwood. With choices of three distinct accommodations, the Lodge, the Inn and a Mediterranean-styled estate, you can relax in style and also experience one of the best known courses in the world. Five courses to include the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links will test your skills and patience.
5. White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Don’t be confused that this location is included on our list. White Sulphur Springs is home to The Greenbrier. Since 1778 The Greenbrier Resort has been welcoming guests from all over the world. Listed on the National Historic Register, The Greenbrier has hosted 26 of the nation’s Presidents and has been a favorite of royalty and celebrities. Befitting the status of the Greenbrier be prepared to dress accordingly. Collared shirts and slacks, no denim, are required on the course. With rates ranging from $300 per person and up, this is chance to experience great golf and stay at a historic resort. You never can tell who you might run into.
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Situated at the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs is also home to the US Air Force Academy. Colorado Springs offers visitors great outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing and of course golf. The Broadmoor was founded in 1918 and at the time had the highest elevation golf course in the United States at 6,400 ft. The resort has three courses and package rates that include accommodations, course fees and meal credits. The resort also has over 20 restaurants and lounges on the property. If you ever decide to venture away from the resort, the nearby area surrounding Colorado Springs offers a lot of things to see and do.
3. Tucson, Arizona
Located in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson is also the home of the University of Arizona. Historic old Spanish Missions, Hot Air Balloon rides, horseback riding, handcrafted jewelry and souvenirs are all available. The reason we include this on our list is the Omni Tucson National Resort, a host course for the PGA Tucson Conquistadores Classic and past host of the Chrysler Classic. Ranked by PGA pros as one of the most challenging finishing holes on the tour this course will make for a memorable trip. The Catalina course has hosted over 30 PGA tournaments throughout the years while the Tom Lehman designed Sonoran Course features 2 lakes and over 60 bunkers. After spending time on the course exploring Tucson and all it has to offer makes for a great trip.
2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
With close to 100 courses in the greater Myrtle Beach area there is no wonder why it is often called “the Golf Capital of the World”. Depending on the time of year a golf vacation package can cost as low as $60 per day which includes lodging and course fees. When you’re not on the golf course you can enjoy the beach, great shopping or book a fishing charter. Myrtle Beach is a great destination for couples, families or friends alike. With courses like TPC Myrtle beach, awarded five stars by Golf Digest and the Dunes, a Robert Trent Jones signature course; Myrtle Beach has to be on your list of destination.
1. Pinehurst, North Carolina
While Myrtle Beach is known as the “Golf Capital of the World” Pinehurst is known as the “Cradle of American Golf”. Pinehurst has a population of less than 15,000 and is home to nothing else but Pinehurst. Since the first cottages were built in 1895, Pinehurst has expanded and grown into one of the most recognized golf courses in the world. In the early 1900’s Donald Ross was commissioned to build the first four courses at Pinehurst. Since then it has grown to nine courses total and has hosted more championships than any other course in the United States. Pinehurst has to be on every avid golfer’s bucket list and is a great trip destination.
Palm Springs, California, has a bit of a reputation—and one that isn’t entirely undeserved. Once a desert frontier town, it was transformed post-World War II into an oasis for celebrities and rich retirees, as well as snowbirds looking to escape the cold of the north. In the 1960s, it also became a hot spot for West Coast spring breakers; its popularity lasted until the late 1980s and even today, it’s known as a party town. From the 1970s on, more and more people settled permanently in the city and many live there year-round, although there are still many seasonal residents as well.
Contrary to many perceptions, partying isn’t the only thing to do in Palm Springs, despite what movies would make you think. In fact, there’s a vibrant town with a rich cultural history—and one that caters to the budget traveler as well as the celebrity debutante with a plethora of activities that are actually free. With spectacular shopping and enthusiasm for the great outdoors, Palm Springs is a destination that offers up an activity for just about any kind of traveler. Here are 11 great ideas to consider when you plan your trip to this desert oasis!
11. Visit Moorten Botanical Garden
The Moorten Botanical Garden is a relatively small operation, with the garden encompassing about 1 acre of Colorado Desert ecosystem. The garden was founded in 1939 by Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and his wife Patricia. Moorten was one of the original Keystone Cops in early silent films. The residence was built in a Mediterranean style and the Moortens collected many specimens from Baja California, Mexico and Guatemala. The garden is still owned by the family today. The residence is commonly known as the “Cactus Castle.”
The garden has grown since 1939 and now includes 3,000 examples of desert plants, including cacti, which are grouped by region. The greenhouse cactarium includes specimens from the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Yuma, Mojave and Colorado deserts, as well as plants from South America, Namibia and South Africa. Outside, collections of agave, bombax, and cardoon and boojum trees thrive. Over a dozen species of African aloes can also be found in this unique and fascinating garden.
10. Hike the Cactus to Clouds Trail
Hiking is incredibly popular in Palm Springs, as are many other outdoor sports and activities. One of the things that makes hiking in this area so pleasurable is the changes in elevations; the city is nestled in a valley, surrounded by mountains, which means that you can hike up some pretty steep inclines in order to find some absolutely breathtaking views.
One popular hiking trail is the Cactus to Clouds trail which, as the name implies, takes hikers from a relatively low elevation among the cacti to a high peak where you might actually think you can touch the clouds. Since Palm Springs gets very little rain, a hike up the Cactus to Clouds trail usually means a view of bright blue sky. Located in San Jacinto Park, the trail is the greatest elevation gain of all hiking trails in the U.S. Also known as the Skyline trail, the hike takes you up 8,000 feet to Long Valley, and then climbs another 2,600 feet to the summit of San Jacinto Peak! The entire trail is about 20 miles (round-trip), and it starts behind the Palm Springs Art Museum. Hikers can access the Aerial Tramway from the trail as well.
9. Explore the Auga Caliente Cultural Museum
The first people to inhabit the Coachella Valley were the Cahuilla people. The Auga Caliente band of the Cahuilla established this museum in 1991 to promote the history and culture of the Native peoples of the valley. The museum is the first Native American-owned museum to be part of the Smithsonian’s Affiliation Program and the museum also participates in the American Alliance of Museums’ Museum Assessment Program and has won several awards. The museum is currently fundraising for a planned 100,000 square-foot expansion.
The museum has 2 core exhibits: one about the Cahuilla people, with a focus on their culture and history, and the other about Florence Patencio, a prominent cultural community leader. Other exhibits include a timeline of the Cahuilla people at Palm Springs City Hall, an exhibit at California State University San Bernardino that explores Native American participation in sports and an exhibit on the Wahaatukicnikic Tetayaw (Blue Frog) that the Cahuilla people believe lives at the Agua Caliente hot spring. The museum also sponsors online exhibits and publishes The Spirit newsletter. The museum plays host to many cultural events as well, including a Native film festival and song and dance festivals celebrating traditional Native music and dance.
8. Take in Some Public Art
Palm Springs’s history as a resort for the rich and famous has, naturally, made it a center for arts and culture. Although the city is small and often undervalued, this desert location is by no means a cultural wasteland. The city has established a 7-member committee to promote the arts in the city. To date, some of the committee’s biggest projects have been sponsorship of public works of art, many of which are still on display in and around the city. The project has helped to foster art, support artists and has served to beautify the city as well. It also offers visitors a chance to discover the best of the city’s art scene for free, just by walking around.
Among the recent works are sculptures by Konstantin Demopoulos (Red Echo), John Clement (Squeeze) and Christopher Georgesco. DeL’Espries’ bronze statue of Gene Autry celebrates “America’s favorite singing cowboy,” while Doug Hyde’s 1994 sculpture depicts 2 Agua Caliente women engaged in traditional work. The piece is aptly titled Agua Caliente Women. Other recent projects have included Delos Van Earl’s Jungle Red and Steve Rieman’s Escena Wind Wave.
7. Participate in VillageFest
For over a decade now, Palm Springs’ downtown core has undergone a transformation every Thursday night as local businesses, tourists and citizens participate in the weekly street fair known as “Villagefest.” Beginning in 2004, the city worked with downtown businesses to develop the weekly event, which now draws in tourists and locals alike. Fair-goers can stroll along Palm Canyon Drive where food trucks and craft vendors gather.
The fair runs for about 4 or 5 hours and features local artisans, artists and purveyors of everything your heart could desire: jewelry, fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, snacks and sweets. Local restaurants also get in on the fun by offering exciting deals for customers, and entertainment abounds during the festival, as both local entertainers and downtown clubs get in on the action. Downtown stores also stay open later to accommodate shoppers. Stop by and pick up some authentic Southwest art, grab a bite to eat and take in some delightful entertainment—Palm Springs style.
6. Ride the Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is something you can’t find just anywhere: it’s the largest rotating aerial tramway not just in the U.S., but in the world. Before the tramway’s construction in 1963, people had to hike from Idyllwild to the San Jacinto Peak—a rather lengthy and intense climb. The tram was constructed as an alternate way of getting from the floor of the Coachella Valley to the peak. The ride takes 12 and a half minutes.
Constructed in the rugged Chino Valley, the tram passes North America’s sheerest mountain face. It also passes through 5 biomes on its route between the Valley Station and the Mountain Station. The cars rotate slowly, providing passengers with a panoramic view of the area. On a clear day, passengers can see more than 200 miles to the north, all the way to Mount Charleston, which is north of Las Vegas. To the east and west, the view is about 75 miles, and the Salton Sea is visible in the southwest. Once at the top, visitors can hike through alpine forest, or, with a permit from the U.S. Forest Service, do some back-country hiking. Two restaurants are also located at the summit.
5. Discover Joshua Tree National Park
Many of us have heard of Joshua trees and Joshua Tree National Park might be one of the few places near Palm Springs that we know of to find them. The park was formed in 1936 as a national monument and then elevated to the status of national park in 1994. The park encompasses some 790,000 acres, stretching through both the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The higher, cooler climate of the Mojave Desert is the habitat of the Joshua tree. Other vegetation include 3 kinds of oak, California juniper and pinon pine, all of which grow densely enough to create forests. In the eastern portion of the park, the Colorado Desert is home to various scrubland plants.
The desert climate of the park means that the days can be hot and the nights freezing. Snow can occur at higher altitudes, especially during the cooler winter months. Days in the summer can be blazing hot, so spring and fall are the best times to visit the park as the weather is more comfortable. Prominent rocky outcrops known as inselbergs are popular among rock climbers and scramblers. The park has several hiking trails and camping, birding and astronomy are all popular activities here.
4. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you want to get above it all, but the tramway and mountain climbing are out of the question for you, perhaps you’d like to consider a hot air balloon ride. Palm Springs is a great place for taking an idyllic ride through the great blue yonder, owing that to the number of sunshine days the city experiences and the variety of landscapes you’ll drift over on this peaceful tour. You’ll have a bird’s eye view of polo and golf courses, exotic orchards and, of course, the Coachella Valley and the desert itself.
Flights are seasonal, from November through May, and are offered at sunrise and in the late afternoon on days the weather permits. Balloons Above, one of the tour operators, allows the breeze to dictate the course of each flight. With so much to see in any given direction, however, it doesn’t matter much which way you go! Tours are pricey—starting at $225 per person—but there are many discounts and great group rates available for this unbelievable experience!
3. Book a Desert Eco-Tour
Since 1987, the Desert Adventures Company has been offering tours of the desert surrounding Palm Springs. In their famous big red jeeps, the company has become synonymous with eco-tourism and desert sightseeing. Tours start at $125 per person and visit areas such as the San Andreas fault, the nearby Indian and Painted Canyons and Joshua Tree National Park. For a little extra, you can take the San Andreas Fault tour at dusk and enjoy a gorgeous desert sunset and some stargazing. Other tours package shuttle passes, Palm Springs tram passes, admission to nearby attractions and a meal (dinner or lunch, depending on the time). If you want to see the desert but don’t feel comfortable heading out into the wilds on your own, a tour is a great option.
If the untamed wilderness isn’t your thing, there are also in-town tours which offer up great perspective on Palm Springs and the people who have shaped the community into what it is today. One of the tour packages visits various locations around the city, including celebrity homes, while also exploring the mid-century modernist architecture the city is famed for. Another tour focuses on the LGBT community and its influence on Palm Springs.
2. Do Some Stargazing
Are you an amateur astronomer or interested in teaching your kids about the universe that we exist in? Be sure to pack your telescope when you venture to Palm Springs then. Although it’s known as a springbreak destination and a party town, filled with celebrities and pop culture, the city’s location in the desert makes it an ideal area for doing some stargazing.
The clear desert sky and number of sunshine days often combine to showcase some fantastical sunrises and sunsets and at night, the vast expanse becomes a window to the heavens, with many constellations plainly visible, even to the naked eye. Palm Springs has long had an eye for preserving the natural beauty in and around the cityscape. Minimal lighting reduces the light pollution that clouds the nightscapes of many other urban areas in the U.S., which means that most places both in and near the city offer good views. For an exceptional experience, camp out in Joshua Tree National Park or at a high elevation to get even closer to the stars. Check your calendar to see if there are any astronomical events, such as meteor showers, happening during your stay.
1. Get Outside
Perhaps the best thing about Palm Springs is the climate. The city is situated in the Sonoran Desert and surrounded by mountains. The city rests in the Coachella Valley, with the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the east, the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south, the San Jacinto Mountains to the west and the San Bernardino Mountains to the north. The city is warm year-round, with the average temperature in the winter months hovering around 21 degrees Celsius and over 300 sunshine days per year.
What that all boils down to is a destination that’s custom-made for outdoor adventure. With nearby canyons and mountains, hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing are all popular pastimes. Horseback riding through the desert is also popular, as are golf and tennis. With plenty of flat land around, there is certainly space for tennis courts and golf courses. And if you need to cool off, swimming is another popular recreation activity in Palm Springs—or perhaps you can soak up some sun lounging poolside with your shades on.