10 Soccer Stadiums You Need to Visit

One of the best ways to experience a city as a local does is to attend its local sporting events. The crowds are often friendly (as long as no one makes the mistake of wearing the other team’s colors) and they’ll point out the best street food, the cheapest beer, and most likely, they’ll be using local slang to insult the opposition. But not all soccer teams are created equal, nor are their arenas. Read on to find the 10 sporting teams whose arenas should be on your bucket list.

10. Estádio Municipal de Braga – Braga, Portugal

The Estádio da Luz might be “the Cathedral” and Estádio José Alvalade is bright and beautiful, but it’s the Estádio Municipal that should be on soccer fans’ must-visit list. How many stadiums are carved out of a quarry? The Portuguese stadium might be unique in its setting, providing a beautiful place to watch a match. Only two sides of the field are flanked by stands, meaning the stadium is on the small side, holding just over 30,000. But a glance toward the hew rocks on one end, upon which the scoreboard stands, can fool visitors into believing they’re in the middle of nowhere. Look around to the other end, however, and the city of Braga sprawls below. The stadium sits just a 15 minute walk outside the city center, meaning there’s also plenty of opportunity to enjoy the delights of Portugal’s food and drink.

Photo by: Leon
Photo by: Leon

9. Anfield Stadium – Liverpool, England

For neutral fans wanting to catch a game in the country that gave birth to modern soccer, Anfield is by far the best choice. While Manchester United has a slick new complex and both Chelsea and Arsenal are located in London, all three are known for the rather tepid atmosphere pervading their stadiums. So for those seeking both a great stadium experience and a fun city to explore, the choice must be Anfield. Liverpool hasn’t won a major trophy in over a decade, but that doesn’t mean Reds fans are any less dedicated. The stadium is filled to capacity for nearly every league match, and the Kop – where the most vocal supporters sit – is guaranteed to be raucous. Be sure to learn the words to the club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, before showing up at Anfield, as the entire stadium sings along just prior to kickoff.

nui7711 / Shutterstock.com
nui7711 / Shutterstock.com

8. Juventus Stadium – Turin, Italy

Serie A was once the top league in Europe, but Italian football is on the decline. That means less money, and less money means once-glorious stadiums like the San Siro in Milan are now crumbling. Juventus Stadium, however, provides not just a bright spot on the peninsula, but a prime model other clubs are in the process of emulating. Filled to almost its 40,000 capacity for every game, all that money goes to the team, a rarity in Italy. For Juventus, that means the ability to buy better players, which has lead to a run of league titles. For fans, it means getting to watch great soccer in the comfort of a modern stadium. For the visitor, it’s a wonderful atmosphere with seats almost right on top of the field. In short, it’s where to go to see the future of Italian soccer.

Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com
Pix4Pix / Shutterstock.com

7. Maracanã Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s Maracanã is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. Even those who have no idea of its history (the venue was built to wow visitors coming to Brazil for the 1950 World Cup) would likely recognize it as an icon. All those memorable shots of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue, broadcast to millions during the 2014 World Cup final, often showed the stadium in the background. Visitors might be disappointed to learn they can’t see the famous statue from inside any longer, however, as the roof has been extended to protect nearly every seat in the house. But the upgrades make this a great place to watch a game, from the open, single tier of yellow and blue seats to the airy roof above. And lovers of soccer history will be thrilled to know they’re sitting in the same stadium where the legendary striker Pelé scored his 1,000th goal.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

6. Celtic Park – Glasgow, Scotland

Celtic played their first match at Parkhead, as fans refer to the stadium, way back in 1892. The park has come a long way since those days when just one wooden stand loomed over the field. Rebuilt in the 1990s, 60,000 seats now enclose the field, and the noise from the stands creates an intimidating atmosphere for visiting teams. Those wanting to catch a game at Celtic Park should try to get tickets to an Old Firm derby, when Celtic play their rivals Rangers. More difficult to find now that Rangers are in the second division, when a tournament draws these two together, these tickets are some of the hottest in Europe. Not only does the Old Firm pit the two most successful teams in Scottish history together, but it brings together passionate fans that absolutely despise the other side, making for a cracking atmosphere.

Cornfield / Shutterstock.com
Cornfield / Shutterstock.com

5. Estadio Azteca – Mexico City, Mexico

Club América is one of the most successful teams in Mexico, and it’s definitely worth a trip to watch them play Chivas Guadalajara, another of the country’s best and América’s most bitter rivals. But the real reason to come to this stadium is for international matches. The Mexico national soccer team, nicknamed El Tri, rarely ever loses a game at its home stadium, largely due to the intimidating atmosphere in the stands, which hold more than 95,000 spectators. Even when El Tri isn’t playing, history gets made. The Azteca, the first stadium to host two World Cup finals, has given the world some of the most famous moments in soccer. In 1970, Italy beat West Germany 4-3 in what’s known as the “Game of the Century,” while 1986 brought not only the “Goal of the Century” from Diego Maradona, but his infamous “Hand of God” incident against England.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

4. Türk Telekom Arena – Istanbul, Turkey

Once the holders of the Guinness Book of World Records title for the loudest crowd noise at a sporting event, now Galatasaray fans behave as though they’re determined to take back their crown. The Türk Telekom Arena isn’t one of the biggest in the sport, holding just over 50,000, but the cim bom faithful know how to create a fantastic atmosphere. Galatasaray supporters are also partial to fire, so keep an eye out for flares and flames coming from the sections that house the hardcore fans. For those lucky enough to score a ticket to the Intercontinental Derby, when city rivals Fenerbahçe come to visit, huge displays of choreography and massive banners exalting Galatasaray are to be expected. Expect to be entertained by antics on the pitch as well, as tempers flare there’s usually at least one sending off.

Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Omer via Wikimedia Commons

3. La Bombonera – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Officially named the Estadio Alberto J. Armando, this stadium is called “La Bombonera” due to the fact that it resembles a chocolate box, having originally been built in a U-shape, although the fourth side is now filled with a low stand and VIP boxes. The addition of more space for spectators along that fourth side hasn’t diminished the stadium’s acoustics. The triple-tiered stands along three sides trap the noise, aiding the 49,000 supporters in creating an atmosphere hostile to visiting teams. The smallish capacity can make tickets hard to come by, especially if Boca Juniors are playing rivals River Plate, but the experience of being among such passionate fans is worth the effort. Take time before the game to walk around La Bombonera, admiring the murals depicting important moments in Boca Juniors’ history – particularly the choosing of the club’s famed blue and yellow colors.

Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com
Jess Kraft / Shutterstock.com

2. Camp Nou – Barcelona, Spain

The biggest soccer stadium that can be found outside North Korea, the Camp Nou is on nearly every serious soccer fan’s bucket list. And no wonder: the stadium plays host to one of the most successful teams in Europe and offers a stage to many of the best players on earth.The fans also demonstrate a fierce pride in Catalonia, the autonomous region in which Barcelona is located. The club’s Catalan motto, “Mes que un club”, is spelled out in the seats, the supporters sing in Catalan, and the region’s flag waves throughout the stands. If going to El Clásico, the meeting between Barça and Real Madrid, read up on the political background for some fascinating insights into the rivalry. Even without a visit from the rivals, however, visitors are certain to see some wonderful soccer played out.

Natursports / Shutterstock.com
Natursports / Shutterstock.com

1. Westfalenstadion – Dortmund, Germany

The absolute best place to go for fans who want to experience both entertaining soccer and a fantastic atmosphere. Officially named Signal Iduna Park, the Westfalenstadion is the biggest in Germany and one of the largest in Europe, holding 81,359 when both seating and standing are included. While standing is not allowed when Borussia Dortmund are playing in European tournaments, it is their standing section that is perhaps the most attractive feature of a trip to the stadium. Die Gelbe Wand, or the Yellow Wall, comprises the Westfalenstadion southern terrace. It was named so because Dortmund’s primary color is bright yellow. The wall is an intimidating sight, featuring 25,000 supporters doing their best to strike fear in the heart of the opposition. Also watch for Dortmund’s tifo, or giant banners, unfurled in impressive displays of choreography as the match begins.

Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr
Photo by: lackystrike via Flickr

15 Amazing Libraries for Literature Lovers

Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.

15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England

The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.

Royal Grammar School
Photo by: The Despectacled Librarian

14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria

As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.

Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com
Radiokafka / Shutterstock.com

13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada

This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.

Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
Photo by: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s  biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells  and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.

VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com
VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock.com

11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.

T photography / Shutterstock.com
T photography / Shutterstock.com

10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States

Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt

This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.

Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr
Photo by: Nathan Hughes Hamilton via Flickr

8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States

Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.

Photo by:  NCinDC via Flickr
Photo by: NCinDC via Flickr

7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt

Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.

RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com
RiumaLab / Shutterstock.com

6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy

This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.

Photo by:  Iain Cameron via Flickr
Photo by: Iain Cameron via Flickr

5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia

With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.

Russian State Library

4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States

Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.

Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr
Photo by: Jeremy Keith via Flickr

3. Vatican Library, Vatican City

Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.

Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr
Photo by: Anna & Michal via Flickr

2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States

Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.

Photo by: m01229 via Flickr
Photo by: m01229 via Flickr

1. The British Library, London, England

This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.

Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr
Photo by: Andrew Gustar via Flickr

10 Unexpected Kid-Friendly Vacation Destinations

Beyond the Disney World’s, the aquariums, the all-inclusive resorts and the cruise ships; there is a whole other world of vacation destinations that are kid-friendly. Although at one time these destinations may have catered to only adults, in recent years they are encouraging families to visit and making it more affordable and easier to do so. From the mountains of Argentina to the coast of Wales to the heart of Brazil; these 10 unexpected kid-friendly destinations will have you booking your flights in no time. But hurry, before everyone else realizes what really awaits families here.

10. Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia has always been known as an incredible adventure destination but in recent years more and more families have taken to traveling here. It could be that the breathtaking landscapes that boast mountains, lakes, fiords and glaciers beckon to both kids and adults alike, or perhaps parents are discovering this destination which encourages kids to switch off their electronics. There is an abundance of guided walks, boat rides and horseback rides that are designed with kids in mind. The landscape here is rich with wildlife including gray foxes, cougars, whales, sea lions and eagles and if you are traveling with older kids mountaineering is a popular option to see some of these.  To get the kids excited about traveling here make sure to let them watch Ice Age before you go, where glaciers and fiords come to life. Plenty of family lodges and restaurants make this destination perfect for your next family vacation.

Penguins Patagonia, Argentina

9. Croatia

One wouldn’t necessarily think of traveling to Croatia for a family vacation, as it is well-known for two things; its line-up of music festivals and a romantic seaside getaway. Families should be happy to know though that this breathtaking landscape is the perfect spot to bring the kids. Croatia boasts many family-friendly hotels that include kids clubs, private pools and planned activities. Even though this country is known for its elegant cuisine, kids here will find plenty of pasta and pizza on the menus, along with ice cream parlors on every corner. The long stretches of beaches are one of the biggest reasons to head here with the kids. Many of them boast facilities such as restrooms, snack bars and even lifeguards. This country loves children and while traveling here with them, you will be welcomed into every restaurant, museum or any other activity you want to explore.

Beach Dubrovnik Croatia

8. South Africa

Whether you are looking for a beach vacation or something more along the lines of a safari; South Africa is the perfect place to do so with the kids in tow. The excellent weather, breathtaking scenery, accommodations that fit your budget and a variety of activities to be had; the long flight is definitely worth it. Hotels that are specially geared towards families are speckled throughout the country and come with amenities such as kids clubs and experienced babysitters. These hotels often offer discounts for kids and many of them even offer ‘kids stay free’ promotions. Wildlife safaris can be planned on malaria-free reserves with all-inclusive lodges and an exciting kid’s program. Some even offer horseback riding and cycling safaris; which prove to be popular with kids. First-world amenities make it easy for the whole family to enjoy this country with kid’s menus in the restaurants and excellent road infrastructure.

Cape Town South Africa

7. Panama

It is one of Central America’s hottest new destinations and the biggest decision that families face when visiting this country is deciding where to go. This country is packed with wildlife, jungles, a remarkable canal system, fascinating islands and impressive history. A good tip in this exotic location is the fact you can drink the tap water safely, a bonus for families with kids who need plenty of hydration! Discover the jungle and wildlife with one of many family friendly guided tours, charter a boat around the islands or play in the surf at one of the many beaches. If you are looking to explore Panama City, it has never been a safer option than now and families will love strolling through the historic neighborhoods, biking along the paths, tasting unique fruits from the markets and enjoying one of the many ice-cream stands that are always nearby.

Panama

6. Sedona, Arizona

This vast natural playground provides the perfect setting for a family destination, whether you want to explore the red rocks and their geology, slide down a waterslide or pick out constellations in the night sky. A jeep tour through Sedona that caters to families is the perfect way to start your vacation as guides will educate you on the land, the rock formations and point out flora and fauna you will see throughout your visit. A visit here must include time spent at Slide Rock State Park where kids and adults will slide down the natural water chute, swim in the pools and enjoy a day of hiking. Camp Verde is also a must do on this family vacation with its zoo, zip lines and a close up look at Montezuma Castle. Plenty of kid-friendly accommodations and restaurants make it easy to plan your next family vacation to Sedona.

Wollertz / Shutterstock.com
Wollertz / Shutterstock.com

5. Hong Kong

If you can overcome the idea of taking your kids on quite a long flight, Hong Kong is perhaps one of the most underrated kid friendly destinations in the world. Underneath the modern skyscrapers that dot the landscape lays an array of kid-friendly activities, hotels and restaurants. The two theme parks here; Ocean Park and Disneyland Hong Kong are a huge hit with families and unlike other monstrous theme parks, these are small enough that kids can walk around and are less crowded than other theme parks. The people of Hong Kong love children and everywhere you go you will find someone willing to lend a hand, give up their seat and make your experience even more memorable. The luxury hotels here cater to families which means you won’t have to give up first-class amenities; some of the features for kids include kiddie pools, playgrounds, babysitters and baby equipment.

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

4. Wales, U.K.

If you are looking for a family vacation in the U.K. but don’t want to pay the high prices and fight the crowds in London, Wales is the absolute perfect solution. Only a two hour drive away from London is a world full of natural wonders, kid-friendly bargain accommodations and enough activities to fill your days for weeks. This destination is for families who love to camp or stay in cottages as there are an abundance of options, from ‘glamping’ in a yurt to staying in a self-catering cottage on the coast. If exploring the outdoors is on your list of things to do, Wales has you covered with its numerous mountain climbs and loads of nature reserves complete with boardwalks that make pushing a stroller a breeze. For the families that are seeking a little more excitement make sure to check out the zip lining adventures, underground trampolines and white water rafting.

Jason Batterham / Shutterstock.com
Jason Batterham / Shutterstock.com

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

It has long been known as the ultimate playground for adults but Las Vegas is surprisingly kid-friendly. This city may just offer more entertainment and activities for children than anywhere else in North America, other than Orlando. Staying here is a breeze as many of the hotels cater specifically for families and if you are looking for something a little quieter, many of them are located just a short shuttle trip away from the strip. Amenities such as kid’s pools, babysitting, playgrounds, camps and organized activities are all found in the hotels. Despite popular belief, a family vacation here can also be quite affordable with the many free attractions including free shows, street performers and admission to certain attractions. The best part of taking the kids to Vegas might just be watching their reaction as they see life-sized replicas of some of the most famous landmarks in the world.

Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com
Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock.com

2. Atlantic City, New Jersey

It may be known for its casinos and entertainment but Atlantic City certainly shouldn’t be thought of as an adults-only destination. This city has in recent years has put a big push on promoting itself as a family-friendly city which means you can score great deals on hotels which are catering to families. Choose a hotel that has a pool, kid’s programs and restaurants within to make your trip even easier. Many families are now choosing a non-gaming hotel when they visit here. Beaches line the Atlantic Ocean complete with surfing and kayaking opportunities. The Steel Pier is located on the boardwalk and features many rides and attractions for families, with even a kiddies-ride area. The Atlantic City Aquarium, the IMAX theater and historic landmarks are all just a short drive away.

Pier Atlantic City, New Jersey

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio is often known for its beautiful people and beautiful beaches but underneath all of that is an extremely kid-friendly city that absolutely loves children of all ages. Restaurants that have attached playgrounds are the norm here, as are kid-friendly beaches and an abundance of family activities. Some of the beaches have organized kids activities, along with a slightly calmer feel than many of the popular crowded, beats-pumping ones. A train ride to see the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue, aerial cable car rides, a walk in the rainforest and enough fresh juices, ice cream and pastries to keep the kids happy all day long proves that Rio can be just as fun for kids as it can for adults. Enjoy the hotels where kids stay free, the restaurants where they eat free and the welcoming arms of the people who will gladly juggle your screaming baby when you are trying to enjoy your meal.

Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com
Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com

15 Favorite Museums from Around the World

What’s one of the first things you check out while visiting a new city? If your answer isn’t ‘a local museum’ then you definitely need to read this list! We’re exaggerating a bit, but while a museum might not be your first stop, it’s long been a favorite activity of travelers and tourists alike. It’s a great way to explore the history and culture of any city or country and help get a better understanding of its people. Many museums also feature beautiful architecture making them a must visit for those photography enthusiasts. With so many amazing establishments all around the world, choosing a museum can be difficult (although you can always visit more than one) so here’s a quick look at some of our favorites from major cities around the globe:

Museum of Anthropology –Vancouver

Located on the University of British Colombia (UBC) campus, the MOA is home to more than 40,000 ethnographic objects from around the world including the South Pacific, Asia. Europe, Africa and the Americas. The museum offers educational school programs, facility rentals for special events, a Native Youth program, and serves as a research facility for UBC students. Located just 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the museum is easy to get to by car or public transit. Admission is $16.75 CAD for adults and children under 6 are free. Museum of Anthropology Vancouver resized2

Royal Ontario Museum –Toronto

The Royal Ontario Museum or ‘The ROM’ as it’s affectionately known, is located near downtown Toronto and is among the world’s leading museums of natural history and world cultures. With constantly changing exhibits and galleries, one visit to the ROM is never enough as this facility strives for dynamic education and entertainment. Adult admission is $16 CAD, $13 for children age 4-14, or visit on Friday’s after 4:30pm for special discount rates.

Niloo / Shutterstock.com
Niloo / Shutterstock.com

The Guggenheim –New York

With so many amazing institutions to choose from in this city, it’s hard to pick just one to visit; but The Guggenheim Museum located in Manhattan’s Upper East Side is a real stand-out. Most notable for its unique architecture, the ‘teacup’ design was created by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Opened in 1959, visitors to this art institution can experience special exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, film screenings, performances, lectures and tours. Admission is $25 USD for adults and children under 12 get in for free.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

 Field Museum of Natural History –Chicago

Where can you meet a scientist to learn about nature and history, or sleep over among creatures from prehistoric times? Chicago’s Field Museum has all this and much more. This museum inspires curiosity about life on Earth while exploring how it came to be and how we can work to make it a better place. With traveling exhibits on subjects from Indigenous peoples, to prehistoric mammals, even the history of chocolate…there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Basic admission to the Field museum is $18 USD for adults and $13 for children.

Jason Patrick Ross / Shutterstock.com
Jason Patrick Ross / Shutterstock.com

Los Angeles County Museum of Art –Los Angeles

Also known by its acronym; ‘LACMA’ is the largest art museum in the western United States today. The museum boasts a collection of over 120,000 objects ranging from antique artifacts to modern objects of today, which represent the entire geographic world and nearly the entire history of art. It’s clear that this museum strives to be best in class. Located in the heart of LA, it’s situated on 20 acres known as Hancock Park. General admission to LACMA is $15 USD for adults and children under the age of 18 are free.

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum –Rio

Another museum that may be most famous for its recognizable architecture, the MAC Niterói is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and serves as one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the 16 meter high structure includes 3 floors and is surrounded by a beautiful reflection pool. Inside you will find many works of contemporary art from influential Latin artists as well as those from around the world. Adult admission is $10 Brazilian Real or about $3.20 USD, with children under 7 in for free.

lazyllama / Shutterstock.com
lazyllama / Shutterstock.com

The British Museum –London

Founded in 1753, the British Museum located in London brings history and art to life in England. This was the first national public museum in the world and offered free admission to guests since its beginning; a tradition that continues even now. Nearly 6 million people a year come to visit this museum and explore the interesting architecture and fascinating exhibitions which range from ancient mummies, to works of aboriginal art, to ancient Greek statues. The British Museum London

The Louvre –Paris

One of the most recognizable museums in the world, no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre. This French landmark is the largest and most visited museum in the world drawing nearly 10 million visitors each year. Museum exhibits are grouped into 8 categories including Egyptian Antiques, Islamic Art, Sculptures, and Prints and Drawings. All-access admission is €16 or about $17.50 USD.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

Vatican Museums –Rome

What world-wide list of museums would be complete without including the famous museums of the Vatican in Rome, Italy. The collection is made up of 54 galleries with the world famous Sistine Chapel being the very last gallery in the museum. The galleries display works of art built up by the Popes through many centuries including some of the most renowned sculptures and pieces of Renaissance art in the world.  Admission to the Vatican Museums is €16 or about $17.50 USD for adults and €4 or about $4.50 USD for students. Vatican Museums Aerial Rome

State Historical Museum –Moscow

Many people know Moscow’s Red Square as the home of the world famous Saint Basil’s Cathedral, but this colorful landmark isn’t the only sight worth seeing in the square. The State Historical Museum is also a most recognizable structure with its grand size and deep red color. The museum is an homage to all things Russian history and the total number of objects in the collection is said to be in the millions. Admission is 300 Russian Rubles for adults which is about $5.30 USD.

Elena Ermakova / Shutterstock.com
Elena Ermakova / Shutterstock.com

ArtScience Museum –Singapore

What first might look like some sort of lotus flower structure is actually Singapore’s ArtScience Museum, located at the Marina Bay Sands Resort. This newer attraction opened in 2011 and is the world’s first ArtScience museum; featuring 21 gallery spaces in over 50,000 square feet. Inside you’ll find permanent galleries as well as intriguing temporary exhibitions that change throughout the year. All access admission to the ArtScience Museum is $25 Singapore Dollars or roughly $18 USD for adults and $12.50 USD for children. ArtScience Museum Singapore

Hong Kong Museum of Art –Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Museum of Art seeks to preserve the cultural heritage of China while promoting locally produced works of art. Established in 1962, the museum’s collection contains over 16,000 pieces including paintings, calligraphy works, and antique treasures. Located in historic Victoria Harbour, a trip to the Hong Kong Museum of Art is a great way to learn more about the history and future of Chinese art. Standard admission is $10 Hong Kong Dollars or about $1.30 USD.

e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com
e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com

Tokyo National Museum –Tokyo

Located in Tokyo’s Ueno Park, the Tokyo National Museum is a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Established in 1872, this is the oldest national museum in Japan as well as the country’s largest art museum. The museum collection focuses primarily on Japanese art and antiques but also includes art from other Asian countries and along the Silk Road. Adult admission is 620 Japanese Yen or around $5.20 USD while those under the age of 18 get in for free.

cowardlion / Shutterstock.com
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

Museum of Contemporary Art –Sydney

Located in The Rocks district on the edge of Sydney’s famous Circular Quay, the Museum of Contemporary Art first opened its doors in 1991. The MCA operates with the goal of exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art from all over Australia as well as around the world. The permanent collection includes over 4,000 works by Australian artists, while the museum also features ever changing temporary exhibits. Regular admission to the MCA is free of charge, though special temporary exhibitions may require a small charge.

Jean-Philippe Menard / Shutterstock.com
Jean-Philippe Menard / Shutterstock.com

National Gallery of Victoria –Melbourne

Located in Melbourne’s CBD, the National Gallery of Victoria -or more commonly known as the NGV, is the oldest public art museum in Australia.  The organization operates 2 distinct sites: On the South side of the Yarra River you’ll find the NGV International where you’ll find an extensive collection of art from all over the world including Asia, Europe and America. North of the river in Federation Square is the NGV Australia, also known as The Ian Potter Centre where you find both aboriginal and non-aboriginal art from all over Australia from the colonial period to present day. General admission to either site is free of charge. National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne resized

The 15 Coolest New Tourist Attractions for 2015

The year of 2015 is promising to take monumental steps forward in technology, science and innovation and tourist attractions are benefitting from this trend. With more people traveling than ever before, older attractions are reinventing themselves and offering visitors new exhilarating experiences. From the new floor in the iconic Eiffel Tower to a bicycle path turned glow-in-the-dark; tourism imagination is at its fullest. Besides the revamped tourist attractions are a number of fabulous brand new attractions including state of the art museums focused on helping our planet, sustainable distilleries and skyscrapers and cable cars that can whisk visitors up mountains at lightning speed. From an ice tunnel in a large glacier to what feels like the top of the world in New York City; visitors around the world have no shortage of epic and cool new tourist attractions to explore. Join us in discovering the top 15 coolest new tourist attractions in 2015.

15. Shanghai Tower -Shanghai, China

Set to be the second tallest tower in the world, the Shanghai Tower could not be left off this list of coolest and most amazing attractions of 2015. Towering over the Huangpu River with 125 stories the shape of the tower is most unique. With a curved façade and a spiraling form the tower provides nine indoor zones for public visitors offering 360 degree views of the city. Each zone is home to its own atrium with gardens, cafes, restaurants and retail space.

Sustainable design is at the heart of the Shanghai Tower and at the center of its design is the second skin that wraps around the building creating the atriums that help reduce the heating and cooling efforts needed for the building. Other features include water conservation practices, wind turbines and extensive landscaping. The tower truly represents the future in the way cities are being created and is redefining the role of skyscrapers in big cities. The building is set to be the second tallest only for a short while as the Ping An Finance Centre in Shenzhen is set to surpass it in 2016. Regardless of whether it is the second, third or tenth tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower features unique components and a breathtaking design that can only truly be appreciated in person.

TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com
TonyV3112 / Shutterstock.com

14. Eiffel Tower Glass Floor -Paris, France

One of the attractions on our list that has been re-vamped into one of the coolest new attractions of 2015 is the infamous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Paris the Eiffel Tower went through a 40 million dollar face lift and includes a new museum, solar panels and a dizzying glass floor. The museum tells the story of the history of the museum through seven screens while the solar panels will help produce hot water and energy for the tower.

The main new attraction here and the one that has everyone talking is the glass floor located on the first floor, almost 200 feet above the ground. Visitors will feel as they are literally walking on air as the non-slip coating applied to the see through panels allow people to walk, lay, sit and take “selfies”. If you didn’t think you were scared of heights take a jaunt up to this unique twist on an already iconic tourist attraction and step out onto the glass floor; this addition only makes us want to visit the Eiffel Tower even more.

Eiffel Tower looking up

13. Flyway Taiwan -New Taipei City, Taiwan

One of the most exciting attractions on our list takes place in New Taipei City in Taiwan, amongst the rolling green hills and breathtaking landscapes. Flyway, a company founded by a man from California is set to open in spring of 2015 offering a two hour zip-line canopy tour. With over ten cables to whiz down through the forests and over valleys as well as swings, rope ladders and “free fall” experiences there is no shortage of adrenaline rushing activities.

Located on the eastern edge of Taipei, Taiwan this is not for the faint-hearted. Visitors that have done zip-lining before should think twice about skipping this tourist attraction as the varying landscapes, professional commitment and interesting course offers something very different than the typical jungle zip-line experience. The trend-crazy island of Taiwan is full of beauty, lush green rolling hills and the perfect choice to go flying through the air Tarzan Style at one of the coolest attractions set to open in 2015.

Valley Taipei Taiwan

12. Bombay Sapphire Distillery -Laverstoke, United Kingdom

When one of the most iconic gin brands in the world creates a distillery with a visitor’s center it promises to be amazing and out of this world. Bombay Sapphire has managed to transform a 300 year old paper mill that sits amongst a conservation area with over a thousand years of history into a state-of-the-art sustainable distillery. The renovated Laverstoke Mill showcases the natural beauty and heritage of the site while letting visitors see the unique Vapour Infusion distillation process.

The two giant greenhouses showcase the botanicals that Bombay uses in their gin and are composed of 793 individual pieces of glass. The Dakin Still House lets visitors get up close and personal to the distillation process while the Botanical Dry Room will invigorate your senses and uncover your preferred tastes. The Mill bar is where the tasting happens and all the drinks can be tailored individually depending on your botanical preference.  A combination of incredible history, beautiful glass architecture and some of the best gin in the world makes this our number twelve coolest attraction of 2015. Discover the village of Laverstoke; home to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery.

lev radin / Shutterstock.com
lev radin / Shutterstock.com

11. Whitney Museum of American Art -New York City, USA

The largest column-free museum gallery in New York City is set to open in spring 2015; The Whitney Museum of American Art has packed up its collections and moved to its new location. Situated in the meatpacking district between the High Line and Hudson River in Manhattan the building promises to include approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space. The special exhibit section is set to encompass 18,000 square feet making it the largest column free gallery in NY.

The cantilevered entrance creates a large public space where visitors can see views of the Hudson River, the park, industrial structures and mingle with others that are passionate about art. The education center that is part of the Museum includes classrooms, a 170-seat theater, conservation lab, reading room and black box with adjacent outdoor gallery for performances, film and video. Combined with a retail store and choice of restaurants; the new and improved Whitney Museum of American Art looks to be one of the coolest attractions of 2015.

Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com
Stuart Monk / Shutterstock.com

10. One World Observatory -New York City, USA

The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere is the size of six statue of liberty’s stacked one on top of each other and is set to open in the spring of 2015. The One World Observatory occupies floors 100-102 at One World Trade Center spanning 120,000 square feet. Not only does the observatory offer a spectacular 360 degree view of New York City, surrounding waters and iconic landmarks but offers dining options, a gift store and interactive exhibits.

Visitors will first experience a multimedia gallery of the construction and engineering of this fabulous attraction. They are then whisked upwards 102 floors in just 60 seconds; the fastest elevator ride in the world. The observatory includes the “See-Forever” theater which shows a film celebrating the city of New York. A fun fact about this building; architects and designers built the tower to the specific height of 1,776 feet, to represent the year the US Declaration of Independence was signed. One World Observatory promises to be one of the hottest tourist attractions of 2015 and should be on your list of places to visit.

Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com
Felix Lipov / Shutterstock.com

9. Sapa Cable Car, Sapa -Vietnam

The world’s longest and highest cable car is set to open in Vietnam in 2015. The three rope cable car system is designed to take people from the foot of Fansipan Mountain to the top in just 15 minutes. In the past only avid hikers could make the two to three day trek to the top. The summit of the mountain is described as the roof of Indochina and offers stunning views across the landscapes below to those who have been unable to view it from the top in previous years.

The sleepy hill station of Sapa will be transformed into a high attraction tourist spot making some residents uneasy about the number of visitors trekking through their culturally diverse environment. Other residents however are looking forward to it; some residents have never been to the top as the trek is too hard while others plan to open restaurants and markets for the visitors. The cable car will be able to carry a maximum of 2,000 people per hour up the mountain with 35 people per car; that is the same amount of people that stood atop the mountain last year, total. The longest and highest cable car is set to open in time for National Day in the fall of 2015 and is certainly going to be a unique attraction.

Hoang Cong Thanh / Shutterstock.com
Hoang Cong Thanh / Shutterstock.com

8. Springfield at Universal Studios Hollywood, -Los Angeles, USA

For anyone who has watched the legendary TV show “The Simpsons”, this new attraction coming to Universal Studios Hollywood is sure to be one of the coolest attractions on the list for you. The town of Springfield is being re-created in Hollywood, modeled after the already popular Simpsons attraction in the Orlando Park. Universal Studios Hollywood is home to the very popular Simpson’s ride which is a medium-level thrill ride with gut busting humor and outstanding displays.

The new attraction promises replica eateries including Krusty Burger, Luigi’s Pizza, Phineas Q. Bufferfat’s 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor, along with Moe’s Tavern and the Duff Brewery. Slide up to the bar at Moe’s Tavern and grab a Duff Beer and make a prank phone call. Or visit the Kwik-E-Mart and indulge in a Squishee frozen drink. Other attractions include Mr. Burn’s mansion and the nuclear power plant. It seems as designers have stuck to the true essence of the show and have worked hard to make the iconic TV show come to life. Whether you spent years watching the show or have only watched one episode this attraction is sure to delight any visitor to the park.

Supannee Hickman / Shutterstock.com
Supannee Hickman / Shutterstock.com

7. TITLIS Rotair -Engelberg, Switzerland

Whether you visit Switzerland in the winter or the summer this brand new attraction is going to be something you want to do. The TITLIS Rotair is one of the world’s only revolving gondolas and it transports visitors to the summit of Mount TITLIS. Passengers load onto the gondola at the middle station located in the town of Engelberg and take a short five minute trip up to 9,926ft; the top of the summit. Passengers are provided with 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape; steep rock faces, snow covered mountain peaks, and deep glacial crevices.

There is no bad place to stand as the gondola does a full rotation up to the top and offers great views from any position. At the top another adventure awaits visitors as the Glacier Cave is free to walk through, as is the adrenaline pumping suspension bridge that is Europe’s highest suspension bridge and offers breathtaking lookouts into the abyss. The Glacier Park is also accessible from the summit and one should try the quick and slippery snow tubes or minibobs that take you down the hill; while a magic carpet waits to pull you back up. A chocolate shop, a watch store and a breathtaking Mountain view; what more could you want?

prosiaczeq / Shutterstock.com
prosiaczeq / Shutterstock.com

6. Langjökull Ice Tunnel in Langjökull Glacier – Iceland

Deep in the heart of the country’s second largest ice cap; Langjökull Glacier near Reykjavik an underground tunnel is being dug for the sole purpose of letting visitors get up close and personal to the ice and educating them on such matters as global warming. Set to open in June 2015 visitors will be privy to exhibitions, information, restaurants and even a small chapel for those wishing to marry in the midst of the dense ice. Make sure to bundle up in this tourist attraction though!

Visitors will get a chance to walk through the tunnel and observe the varying ice levels and colours. From the newer white ice to the colder blue ice visitors will get a better understanding of how the glacier formed. The size; 200-300 metres long at 30 metres below the surface makes it the largest man made ice structure in the world. Lights are installed on the walls of the tunnels and numerous nooks and dens will house information about the glacier and global warming. Guided tours will be available and will require a short trip aboard an 8-wheel truck across the glacier to reach the entrance to the tunnel. Discovering the layers of ice, finding out how they formed and witnessing a truly spectacular man-made creation is what awaits you at Langjökull Ice Tunnel.

Langjökull Ice Tunnel Iceland

5. Starry Night Bicycle Path -Nuenen, Netherlands

One of the most unique tourist attractions created for this year is located in Nuenen, Netherlands. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaard has created a glow-in-the-dark bike path with swirls of patterned lights that are based on Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. The pattered lights look remarkably like the falling stars in the painting. This kilometer long stretch was made in tribute to the artist who passed away 125 years ago. Van Gogh was born and raised in the Dutch County of Brabant and spent a couple years working and living in the city of Nuenen.

The glowing path is created with a combination of special paint that gathers light through the day and LED lights that charge throughout the day from a solar panel. The result is a breathtaking display that is entirely self-sufficient and remarkably poetic.  The path is part of the 335-kilometer Van Gogh Cycle Route that is free to use and open to the public all year round. Discover this beautiful piece of art that pays tribute to the great artist while you wander the breathtaking country of the Netherlands.

Photo by: Ferdinand van Oostrom
Photo by: Ferdinand van Oostrom

4. BioMuseo -Panama City, Panama

The BioMuseo or the The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life as it’s actually called is located in Panama City, Panama and is number four on the list of the coolest attractions of 2015. The museum was designed by Frank Gehry, world-renowned architect whose works have been cited as the most important works of contemporary architecture of our time. The building is brilliantly colored with each panel painted a different color and overlooks the Pacific Ocean at the front and the entrance to the canal from the back.

Inside visitors will find a plethora of exhibits to explore. Keep in mind that as of January 2015 the museum was open but still not fully completed. An overview of the biodiversity of Panama starts you off and there is an audio guide available in Spanish and English to guide you along. The movie theater boasts screens on the floor, ceiling and three sides taking you into the rainforest and nature. Visitors should look forward to the aquariums that are set to open in 2015 and will offer a look at the difference in the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. A beautiful piece of architecture loaded with education on Panama this is one spot you shouldn’t miss out on.

Photo by: BioMuseo Panama
Photo by: BioMuseo Panama

3. The Yellow Submarine -Península Valdés, Argentina

One of the newest and coolest attractions of 2015 has taken an older attraction and turned it into something new and exciting. Whale Watching is a popular activity for tourists to do in certain parts of the world but there is often the complaint that only the backs of the whales can be spotted as they breach up for air. Lucky visitors will watch as the spectacular mammals jump and play but this is rare and unseen most times. A company in Argentina has solved this problem and taken whale watching to a new level with a chance for visitors to go underwater.

Yellow Submarine is the first company to build a semi-submarine specifically designed for watching whales and sea lions. The submarine offers visitors the chance to walk around on the outdoor upper deck or go down to the underwater lower viewing area. Watch as the whales and sea lions glide right past the viewing windows and feel as if you are truly diving amongst them. You will want to head here from September-December for the high season where the whales are in abundance. As you watch the enormous majestic whales glide right beside you it will be easy to understand why this attraction made our top 15 list.

Photo by: Yellow Submarine
Photo by: Yellow Submarine

2. Museum of Tomorrow -Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil’s “Marvelous Port” program is revitalizing Rio’s urban waterfront district and at the forefront of this project is the Museum of Tomorrow. The museum’s focus is on science and the sustainable and ecological future of our planet. Set on the highly prominent Pier Maua, the gleaming white sculptural structure extends 300 m into the sea and is surrounded by water on three sides. A recreation area, park and 5-and-a-half acres of gardens along with pools of recycled rainwater also surround the building.

The roof is made with huge steel structures shaped like wings that help control the climate and act as solar panels. This sustainable museum has a floor space of over 5,000 square meters with four main areas of exhibits, interactive games, and projection screens. The idea behind the museum is to connect science with everyday life and to recognize that we must be proactive in environmental practices. This breathtaking piece of architecture promises to dominate the downtown waterfront while offering a unique look at our planet and the history of humankind in regards to it. Just in time for the 2016 Olympics, this museum is a treat for the eyes and mind.

Photo by: Museum of Tomorrow
Photo by: Museum of Tomorrow

1. Markthal -Rotterdam, Netherlands

The first covered market hall in the Netherlands has opened after five years of construction and promises to be something unique and special. Starting with the design, the building is a massive arch that was designed by Dutch architects MVRDV. It houses a public market with 96 fresh produce stalls, 20 hospitality and retail units and 228 apartments. The breathtaking building holds the biggest piece of artwork in the Netherlands inside of its arches; a colorful mural consisting of oversized images of the produce one will find inside, flowers and insects.

The motto of Markthal is “work, live, shop and enjoy it” and it certainly offers visitors the chance to do all of that. From well-known bakeries to local producers to a cookery school this extraordinary piece of art and retail space is truly one-of-a-kind. A staircase in the center of the market offers visitors the chance to learn about the history of food and witness the artifacts that were found during the excavation of the site. Open 7 days a week with over 1,200 underground parking spots anyone is welcome to enjoy this space at anytime. The quality and uniqueness of the design coupled with the endless amounts of choice for food, drink and shopping makes this our number one coolest destination of 2015.

Gerard Koudenburg / Shutterstock.com
Gerard Koudenburg / Shutterstock.com

The 9 Most Bicycle Friendly Cities in the World

As more environmentally friendly methods of travel are being embraced throughout the world, a number of countries have begun to reinvest in one of the oldest means of travel: the bicycle. This eco-friendly outlook combined with the decrease in money consumers are willing to spend on cars has led to the bicycle making a major resurgence in urbanized areas all across the globe. With more research being done into the field, cities are now actively looking to encourage residents to leave cars at home and take to the streets on their favorite two-wheeler. Not all cities are created equal, however, and some are certainly a few notches ahead of the competition for having the most bicycle friendly city. Below is a look at 9 of the Most Bicycle Friendly Cities in the World.

9. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The privilege of hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics firmly places the international spotlight on both a nation, and the cities within. As a host city for both events, Rio de Janeiro has been revamping the landscape in preparations for the great number of tourists that will travel to the city. However Rio’s association with cycling can be tracked back to the Rio Climate Summit in 1992, which saw cycling tracks created along the famous Copacabana beach. This development proved to be a success, and the city now has a modest but ever-expanding network. The city has had success with a new bike share program, and while still behind the truly elite cycling cities, Rio looks to be taking the right steps toward modernizing cycling in Brazil.

lazyllama / Shutterstock.com
lazyllama / Shutterstock.com

8. Tokyo, Japan

As the largest city on the list, it is important to include and examine a city with the sheer size of Tokyo. Mega-cities tend to follow the trends set in other mega-cities, so Tokyo can provide an example for how to incorporate the bicycle into the densely populated urban environment. A very thorough driver training process in Japan makes the roads safer than some other major cities, which is certainly a plus for cyclists. Since public transit and cycling tend to be tied together, it should be noted as a positive that Tokyo now features a 24-hour metro service. Though the Japanese tradition of mixing cyclists with pedestrians is still alive and well, more infrastructure is being developed along roadways. Tokyo does a number of things right, and serves as a role model for mega-cities throughout the world.

longtaildog / Shutterstock.com
longtaildog / Shutterstock.com

7. Montreal, Canada

The premiere destination for cycling in North America, Montreal has long been ahead of the curve in the development of cycling tracks. With tracks dating back to the 1980’s, Montreal is a North American city where not only is the bicycle used for both commuting and errands, but features prominently in nightlife as well. Political advocacy plays an important factor in the development aspect of a city, and this is what has helped push Montreal to the top of North American cycling. An important step saw all of the influential players consult together to look for more efficient developments. The culture for cycling is in place in Montreal, but the city needs to take the next step to truly modernize the infrastructure in the city.

bms-photo / Shutterstock.com
bms-photo / Shutterstock.com

6. Malmo, Sweden

Situated so close to a number of famed bicycle cities, Sweden’s third-largest city has taken a number of measures in developing the infrastructure for cycling. Drawing inspiration from cities like Copenhagen, Malmo is looking to set an example for the rest of Sweden to follow. With major financial commitment and innovative communications, the city has demonstrated their strong desire to create a more cycling friendly culture throughout residential areas. One feature that has helped make life easier for cyclists is the seemingly minor concept of naming bike paths to make them easier to find on a GPS. Providing residents with easier access to knowledge regarding routes and pathways, alongside the new “No Ridiculous Car Trips” ad campaign has helped foster a friendlier outlook on cycling from residents. As with any new development, it will take time for Malmo to catch up with the cities ahead, but with further political emphasis, the future looks bright.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

5. Bordeaux, France

Every country needs to have one city that is willing to step to the plate, and show what can be done with a little commitment, innovation and belief. For a number of years, Bordeaux was nothing more than an afterthought in terms of cycling in France. Sure, there were still a few cyclists in the streets, unlike other cities where bicycles had essentially disappeared. But Bordeaux has invested heavily in the creation of cycling lanes and tracks all throughout the city. There are now some 200km of bike lanes in Bordeaux, with an additional 200km when factoring in the surrounding urban area. Statistics show that the popularity of cycling is on the rise in the city, and the development of tramways should help further the progress of creating a new culture in the city. France is one of the European countries taking cycling most seriously, and Bordeaux is the leading example.

Lilyana Vynogradova / Shutterstock.com
Lilyana Vynogradova / Shutterstock.com

4. Seville, Spain

Seville is an excellent example of the power that bicycle planning can have. As recently as 2006, Seville was a city that had a very small percentage of the population using bicycles. Since focusing attention on cycling in the city, the rapid development saw some 80km of bike lanes created in just a year, with more added afterwards. Hand in hand with the development of the bike lanes was the creation of a bike share program, which helped fuel the growth of cycling among residents. Though Seville doesn’t have the highest percentage of riders, the clear commitment from local government is a strong indication of what the future holds for the city. The future looks bright for Seville, though cycling enthusiasts are strongly – and rightfully – worried that a nationwide mandatory helmet law would drastically cut back the growing number of cyclists in Seville.

KarSol / Shutterstock.com
KarSol / Shutterstock.com

3. Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht is perhaps the leading example for what cycling can be in a smaller city. In fact, there are videos of the bicycle “rush hour” online that demonstrate just how integral cycling is to the fabric of Utrecht. Some might be surprised to know that 33% of all journeys within the city are done on bicycle – in contrast to 19% of journeys being taken by car. Cycling is an accepted part of the culture for both young and old, and by individuals and families. Cycling is so popular in Utrecht in fact, that the City Council has taken steps toward developing the world’s largest bicycle parking station near the Central Railway Station. The parking station will feature room for some 12,500 bicycles, and will cost some $58-million USD to build. When thousands of bicycles are strewn haphazardly about town creating an eyesore and an obstacle course for pedestrians, it is clear why Utrecht has invested in such a large station for cyclists.

hans engbers / Shutterstock.com
hans engbers / Shutterstock.com

2. Copenhagen, Denmark

Every day in Copenhagen, cyclists travel an astonishing 1.1-million km. Given that 36% of residents commute to work, school or university that number starts to make a bit more sense. The city even has a goal of seeing that number rise to 50% in the year 2015. The extensive and well-used cycling paths in Copenhagen are separated from the main traffic lanes, and sometimes even feature their own signal systems providing riders a chance to turn more safely. Copenhagen is so renowned for its cycling culture that the development of bike lanes and infrastructure in other cities is measured by the term “Copenhagenize” in reference to the numerous features in the city. The next step being taken in Copenhagen is the development of greenways, aimed at developing a safe, scenic and fast way to travel from one end of the city to another.

Cycling Copenhagen, Denmark

1. Amsterdam, Netherlands

No other city does cycling quite like Amsterdam. Though the city may slightly lack in uniform infrastructure, the extreme saturation of cycling in the core of the city truly shows what cycling means to residents of Amsterdam. The widespread use of a 30km/h speed limit makes roadways much slower – and much safer – for cyclists. The political good will toward cycling in Amsterdam starts at a local level, and stretches all the way to the national government. Nowhere else in the world is cycling more accepted and embraced among the local population, which creates a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that is prominently mainstream. Some 38% of trips made within the greater city area are made on bicycle, and that number rises to 60% in the inner city. No city in the world is designed more to accommodate bicycles, and Amsterdam will continue to lead the way for the foreseeable future.

Cycling Amsterdam, Netherlands

The 8 Best Day Trips out of Rio

Rio is a city in which you could easily spend your entire vacation but what if you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the lively city for a day or two? Escape Here has the top picks for day trips out of this state capital, whether you choose to spend just one day or you enjoy it so much you spend several days, the choice is yours. From sleepy beach towns with breathtaking landscapes to tiny villages that have been transformed into hip towns; the possibilities are endless to explore the areas around Rio. Rent a car, book a flight or hop on the bus to reach these destinations. Whether you are looking to relax, hike in the jungle or try your hand at surfing we have a destination for you. Here are our top choices for best day trips out of Rio.

1. Buzios, Brazil

Located only a couple hours out of Rio is a culturally rich and sophisticated village that was once a tiny fishing village. Since then it has been transformed into a place full of breathtaking beaches, charming shops, endless adventure opportunities and an epic nightlife scene. Rua das Pedras is the main drag and this cobblestone street is lined with bars, clubs, hotels, art galleries, restaurants and shops.

Home to 23 beaches, this village is a popular spot for surfers including kite and wind surfers as well as snorkels and divers. The Eastern side of the peninsula is windy and caters to the surfers with crashing waves and big surfs whereas the Western side tends to be calmer and more tranquil. If you are interested in witnessing the beautiful endangered golden lion monkeys head over to Emerências Reserve. Choose to fly into Buzios with local airlines offering regular flights or catch a bus from Rio. Explore this lovely town for a day or two and understand why it’s so hard to leave.

Buzios, Brazil

2. Paraty

A slightly longer trip out of Rio will get you to the beautiful city of Paraty where cobblestones streets and colonial architecture will delight your eyes. With the Bocaino Mountains at its back you won’t find a more perfect picture setting to explore the jungle, waterfalls and beaches. The pedestrian only streets in this town house well-preserved buildings and the national historic monument.

Boating out into the water to visit the flotillas of islands and caves is a favorite activity in Paraty; as is boating around the beautiful bay where millionaires and fishermen own gigantic homes hidden on the bay. Sugarcane plantation tours, hikes to the waterfalls and a train ride through the Atlantic Forests are just a few activities to do while in Paraty. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the monkeys that can often be seen roaming the cobblestone streets. With hundreds of beaches nearby and a plethora of nearby towns; Paraty is the first day trip of many you are sure to have out of Rio.

Paraty Brazil

3. Petropolis

Petropolis is the closet Mountain Resort to Rio and here you will find a large number of locals coming to escape the heat and find new adventure. Along with cooler weather, this city offers historic architecture, plenty of eco-tourism opportunities and charming hotels. Most of the city’s attractions are located in the historic downtown making this an easy city to explore.

The Museum Imperial houses some of the most important objects in Brazilian history including the gold quill that was used to sign the law that liberated slaves in 1888. Make sure to stop by Crystal Palace, the beautiful São Pedro de Alcântara Cathedral and Museum Casa de Santos Dumont; where the Brazilian father of aviation and inventor of the wristwatch used to reside. Once you are done exploring the history of the town head out to one of the many charming restaurants and treat yourself to a traditional Brazilian meal. There is no shortage of history, culture, adventure and great food in this city.

Su Justen / Shutterstock.com
Su Justen / Shutterstock.com

4. Ilha Grande

A prison island twenty years ago is now a fiercely underdeveloped protected area made up of lush tropical forest. Breathtaking beaches and hillsides combined with an abundance of wildlife makes this “Big Island” a must do day trip out of Rio for every visitor. Trails span 150 kilometers through forests that are home to endangered species such as the maned sloth and brown howler monkeys. The emphasis on this island is hiking, canoeing, kayaking and swimming.

A few things to note about this Island, there are no cars and no banks on the island. We do suggest taking some cash with you as not all shops and restaurants accept cards. The largest village is Vila do Abraão where most of the visitor facilities are located. The atmosphere of the island is largely laid back with plenty of youth, guitars on the beach and inexpensive accommodations. Boasting one of the top beaches in Brazil; Lopes Mendes, you will find ultimate relaxation and tranquility here. Ilha Grande is the perfect getaway from the busy city of Rio and once here you will find it very hard to leave.

Ilha Grande Brazil

5. Prainha Beach

Our next day trip out of Rio mixes things up a little and is not a village or a city but one particular beach. Prainha Beach is worthy of its own day trip as this crescent shaped beach is one of the best surfing spots near Rio. The fact that it’s bordered on each side by rocks and cliffs only adds to its breathtaking beauty and makes this beach a must visit.

The best time to travel to this beach is during the week as the weekends often get very crowded. The protected area is something unique to this beach but when it’s too crowded authorities will restrict the access to it so avoid disappointment by traveling throughout the week. Explore the rocks and cliffs and the wildlife that hides within them, or try your hand at surfing in the swells. Strong swimmers only should go in the water as it conditions can get rough. Access this beach by car or by hopping aboard the orange surf bus that runs through Copacabana and Ipanema. Discover this beauty of a beach and spend the day outside of Rio.

Prainha Beach Brazil

6. Angra dos Reis

The amazing archipelago of 365 islands of Angra dos Reis is a must visit, whether it is a day trip for one, two or even three days. This amazing port city offers its fair share of churches, markets, pretty buildings and an abundance of opportunity for adventure. Whether you choose to explore Angra dos Reis independently or take a day trip to the sea; this city will not disappoint.

Day trips out onto the sea will give you a chance to experience some of the regions 2,000 beaches where you will have the chance to scuba dive, snorkel, fish and more. If you are feeling independent head inland and discover the towering waterfalls and beautiful treks. If you are feeling adventurous make sure to try the white water rafting or parasailing that is offered here.  Snuggled into the rainforest mountains and with breathtaking blue ocean and lush vegetation being in Angra dos Reis feels like you are in a different world entirely. Don’t miss this short day trip out of Rio while you are vacationing in Brazil.

Gimas / Shutterstock.com
Gimas / Shutterstock.com

7. Minas Gerais

Northwest of Rio lies Minas Gerais; a state that is known for its cowboys, dairy farms and cachaça distilleries. A must visit here is the 8,000-acre Reserva do Ibitipoca. Although this Reserva is privately owned, any visitor can now experience it by staying at its perfect lakeside farmhouse; Fazenda do Engenho. This luxury accommodation begs to be explored for at least one night and you will soon feel at home on the wraparound porch with hammocks, complimentary yoga classes and cuisine that’s to die for.

The reserve is home to wildlife, waterfalls and is best explored by horseback, hiking or electric bikes. Guided tours will take you throughout the reserve and around every bend you can expect a new surprise. From the art installations to the merry brass bands to a fire-lit dinner beside a waterfall; this place is a natural oasis you can enjoy with some luxury. Listen to the frogs as they lightly croak at night, wake to the sounds of the squabbles of the parrots and soak in the stars as the sun sets and dusk falls. Treat yourself on this day trip out of Rio and we promise it will be unforgettable.

Reserva do Ibitipoca Brazil

8. Niteroi

A short 20 minute ferry ride across Guanabara Bay brings you to this small city where you can enjoy watching the magnificent sun set over Rio. “The City of Smiles” as it’s often called offers some of the less-crowded beaches in the area along with some of the best surfing spots in South America. Art lovers flock to Niteroi to take a peek at the world-class Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC). This Oscar Niemeyer designed building is the shape of a flying saucer that appears to be landing just above the crashing waves.

Other futuristic Niemeyer buildings line the town including the undulating theatre, but it’s not just futuristic buildings here. For the visitor looking for a little history make sure to head over to the Santa Cruz Fortress for its colonial-era architecture. The Fortress offers spectacular views back to Rio so be sure to bring your camera along. By far the closest day trip from Rio; Niteroi is a perfect blend of old and new.

ostill / Shutterstock.com
ostill / Shutterstock.com

12 Best Warm Weather Escapes for the Holidays

Tired of spending your holiday season slaving over a hot oven trying to get the turkey cooked just right? Are you tired of shoveling snow and wearing winter boots all season long? Are you ready for a bit of relaxation and sunshine over the holidays? How does sunshine, ocean breezes, and barbecues sound? This season choose to trade in your turkey for a beach barbecue, your shovel for a snorkel and your boots for a bathing suit. Keep the Christmas spirit alive with twinkling lights, visits to Santa, magical live shows and Christmas parades.  Explore some of the most gorgeous countries, islands and cities in the world that offer unique holiday seasons and escape with us as we give you the 12 best warm weather escapes for the holidays.

1. Grand Cayman

White sand, a sparkling blue ocean and palm trees swaying in the cool breeze doesn’t exactly shout Christmas but don’t fret; there are plenty of Christmas activities and traditions in Grand Cayman. Visiting over the holiday season requires booking early into one of the many villas, resorts, hotels or condos. From luxury hotels to beach houses there is no shortage of great places to stay here. The culinary capital of the Caribbean boasts fabulous restaurants with award-winning chefs. But if you really want to experience Christmas here, read on.

Besides the 40 foot decorated Christmas tree and the parade of lights that sees boats cruise the harbor decorated with lights and decorations, you can also find Santa on this Island. Cruising around in his shorts and t-shirt, Santa can be found at his house (aka his boat) twice a week. If Christmas lights are what you are after during the holidays make sure to take the Christmas Light Tour which can be done by driving around the island or hopping on the bus to explore the many houses decorated in lights. Leave the cold, snow and pine trees behind and escape to this beautiful island where gorgeous weather and sparkling lights make this a very special Christmas.

Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach

2. St. Croix

You may not think about heading to the Virgin Islands for Christmas but with beautiful mountains, beaches, a rainforest, outstanding scuba diving and a month long Christmas Festival; it’s one of our favorite places to escape to over the holidays. From boutique hotels to villas right on the beach, from championship golf courses to 18th century forts to the best global dining options of the Islands; you won’t be bored here.

Make sure to head to St. Croix early enough in December to catch the Christmas Boat Parade where the boardwalk and streets are decked out in a Christmas theme. Watch as the parade of boats travel by; all seeming to top the next in decorations and lights. Stick around for the amazing fireworks display that happens after the parade. The annual St. Croix Christmas Festival or Carnival as it’s often called; is a month long festival that involves parades, live music events, local cuisine, arts and craft fairs and so much more. Every day/night of the week discover a different pageant, show or fair to explore. Stay throughout the first week of January to discover the infamous Three Kings Day Parade in which the adults strut down the street in costumes. Christmas is widely celebrated on this island and the sun, beach and gorgeous scenery make for the perfect holiday setting.

St. Croix

3. Cape Town, South Africa

Don’t spend your holidays shoveling snow, slaving over a hot kitchen stove or worrying about running out of eggnog. Instead head to beautiful Cape Town with its glorious beaches, abundance of cocktails and plethora of dining options with breathtaking views. Beautiful botanical gardens, South African penguins, exceptional wineries and your choice of accommodations including hostels, hotels, resorts and luxury 5-star resorts are just some the reasons you need to visit over the holidays.

Let’s talk about the Christmas festivities now. Christmas Markets start in early November and run all the way to Christmas offering everything from ceramics to home décor to one-of-a-kind crafts and gifts. Visit the brand new Christmas Village which includes Santa’s House, a Nativity Barn, Fantasyland and an Elves Clubhouse. Treat yourself to a traditional Christmas lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants that offer up a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Christmas lights, parades and free entertainment are prominent throughout Cape Town during the month of December. Bask in the sun, enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner and fall in love with the amazing city of Cape Town.

Lighthouse Cape Town, South Africa

4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brilliant sunshine, silky sand and breathtaking ocean views make Rio de Janeiro the perfect city to visit over the holidays. Mountain tops that tower over wide white sand beaches with beach side restaurants offering delicious cuisine and some of the best accommodations in Brazil; Rio also offers spectacular Christmas festivities.

Take in the enormous floating Christmas tree that measures over 85 meters high and is set up on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon waters. Every year the tree takes on a different theme and is first lit up on December 1st and remains lit until January 6th. Furthermore the Christmas Lights in Rio are switched on the first of December. The lights and decorations cover the churches, store windows, city squares, palm trees and other huge buildings around the city. Reindeer, snowmen and Santa Claus decorations line the shop windows around town. Shopping centers ofter up seasonal product launches, skating rinks and extended shopping hours. The perfect combination of Christmas and sunshine puts Rio de Janeiro on our list of top holiday escapes.

ANDRE DURAO / Shutterstock.com
ANDRE DURAO / Shutterstock.com

5. Australia

Sun instead of snow, sun bathing instead of shoveling and a BBQ instead of a turkey dinner; sounds like Christmas in Australia. A multicultural country offering expansive landscapes, summer weather in December and bustling vibrant cities; Australia is a top choice for travelers when looking to escape somewhere warm for the holidays. Whether you choose to visit Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne or any of the coasts you can be assured Christmas festivities will be taking place.

From Christmas carols, to decorated Christmas trees and houses to candlelight services; Australia does Christmas right. A popular decoration in this neck of the woods is the Australian Christmas Bush; a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream colored flowers that turn deep shiny red near Christmas time. Picnics of cold meats and cooked prawns and BBQ’s on the beach replace traditional turkey dinners and cold bubbly champagne replaces traditional eggnog. Since Christmas in Australia takes place in the middle of summer you really can’t go wrong visiting this continent during the holidays. Enjoy the holiday concerts each town puts on while you sit under the stars by candlelight and listen to the magical voices, or visit one of the many elaborate light displays you can find all over the country. Fabulous dining, breathtaking scenery and kangaroos instead of reindeer make Australia the perfect getaway during the holidays.

Visun Khankasem / Shutterstock.com
Visun Khankasem / Shutterstock.com

6. Puerto Rico

In a city more than 500 years old; culture, cuisine and jingle bells set to a salsa tune set the stage for one of the best vacations during the holiday season. Choose from historic hotels bathed in warm hues of color, luxury boutique villas and idyllic ocean views. Palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze, exotic flora and fauna and strolls through the rainforest make up the atmosphere of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

Christmas time is a special time here. Take part in an annual tradition and participate in masses held at dawn featuring the singing of Aguinaldo’s, which are Puerto Rican versions of Christmas Carols. Celebrate an authentic Puerto Rican Christmas on Christmas Eve where you will dine on the traditional dinner of roast pork, patties and rice and beans. Catch a live reenactment of the nativity scene at one of the Midnight Masses and embrace the local culture. Join in the tradition of shopping for a hand-carved wooden saint for your special someone. Puerto Rico: a perfect blend of laid back atmosphere, sunshine filled days and Christmas Spirit that will stick with you year round.

Puerto Rico

7. Bali, Indonesia

An Indonesian paradise worthy of any postcard, no matter what time of the year. Imagine white sand beaches, lush tropical jungles, mischievous monkeys, and stunning coral ridges. Think of beachside villas, open air huts and small unique resorts that cater to every need possible. Despite the rains that often visit Bali in December; there’s plenty of sunshine and Christmas spirit that makes this destination a top escape for the holiday season.

Great fun, devotion, beach parties and celebrations sum up the essence of Christmas in Bali. Recognized as a national holiday in the country; hotels, shopping centers and resorts get in the spirit. Christmas lights and decorations are hung throughout, trees are in hotel lobbies decorated and lit, letters are delivered to Santa Claus and traditional Christmas lunches and dinners are served at a few different restaurants.  Markets in Bali often run out of stock for Christmas gifts so we suggest shopping earlier rather than later. Beach parties throughout the night on Christmas Day, fireworks and special functions all help to make your holiday unforgettable in Bali.

Bali beach

8. Hawaii

You don’t have to go to the other end of the world to celebrate your holiday with sunshine, palm trees and ocean views. Head to the Islands of Hawaii where Christmas is celebrated with exuberant parades, lights and concerts throughout. Whether you are hiking up volcanoes, discovering the migration of the humpback whales, stand up paddle boarding with the sea turtles or attending a traditional Hawaiian Luau; this is the perfect spot to escape the cold weather and head to the tropics.

Christmas in Hawaii is celebrated with surfing Santa’s, reindeer being replaced with dolphins and Santa’s sled being replaced by canoes. In Honolulu a holiday spectacle is put on with a 50ft pine tree that is covered with shimmering lights, elaborate decorations and live entertainment. Dinner is often a traditional roast meat with all the accompaniments but instead of naps and blissful turkey coma’s; visitors to Hawaii will often head to the beach and join the locals in swimming, surfing and beach parties; where guitars, ukuleles and hula dancing is the norm. Surf, sand and a whole lot of Christmas spirit makes this the perfect escape for the holidays.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

9. Grenada

Untouched beauty, warm people, white sand beaches, sunken treasures and unspoilt landscapes makes Grenada a top destination for any time of the year. Travel here over the holidays to beat the cold weather blues, skip the shoveling and celebrate Christmas in a new and unique way. Discover an underwater sculpture park, cascading waterfalls and discover this breathtaking spice island.

Christmas brings special food and drink to the table in Grenada. Try the delicious black fruit cake that is baked and soaked with port wine and white rum and wash it down with a refreshing local ginger beer. Or get back to the traditional with a baked stuffed turkey or macaroni pie. Head to the Carriacou Parang Festival with free open-air concerts, cultural presentations and live entertainment. Christmas day tends to be traditional with the exchange of presents, displays of nativity scenes and visits from Santa Claus. Parang music is widely played all over the island incorporating steel pans, guitars, spoons and any other object to make the music friendly and warm. Indulge in the local flavors, explore sunken treasure sinks and escape the cold weather when you head to Grenada for your holiday vacation.

Grenada

10. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles knows how to do twinkly lights; they also know how to do luxury hotels, world-class shopping, award-winning restaurants and glorious sunshine. Although there is no “bad” time to visit LA we suggest taking your next trip here over the holiday season where Christmas is taken to a whole new level of fun. Enjoy the winter activities without the snow, the fabulous free shows and the hundreds of thousands of lights on display.

How about an afternoon of outdoor ice skating on one of many rinks throughout the city? Or head to Disneyland or Universal Studios where your favorite characters have indulged in the festive season. Watch as the Grinch and Whoville take over Universal Studios. Head down to the water to watch the festive boat parades where boats are covered with lights and decorations. The Griffith Park Christmas Lights feature tens of thousands of lights each year as the neighborhoods compete for best dressed. For a unique experience head to the zoo for the light show and reindeer romp. Any which way you turn in this city; the festivities will continue to amaze you. Ditch the winter boots, shovel and jackets and head to the city of angels for your warm weather escape.

Beverley Hills Christmas

11. The Philippines

This country has earned the distinction of having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. Starting in early September and running through January; this warm weather destination celebrates in style. Untouched beauty, white sand beaches, brilliant blue ocean, delicious local cuisine, unique accommodations and some of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba diving are just a few of the reasons you should plan on spending your holiday here. And did we happen to mention the amazing local people?

Christmas in the Philippines is a huge deal and expect plenty of dancing, food, music and festivities anywhere you go. Visit Policarpio Street where an entire neighborhood is dedicated to showcasing the best Christmas decorations and lights. Each neighbor tries to outdo the next and explore the House of Santa which showcases one of the largest displays of Santa’s in the world. Food stalls and bazaars line this incredible street from 6pm-midnight. The COD Christmas display is also worth a visit where a different theme takes stage every year. If you haven’t quite finished your shopping there are plenty of stores in the area to take advantage of; and of course they are all decked out in Christmas décor. A traditional Christmas feel in a country where the people are inviting, the weather is warm and the festivities last for months.

Philippines Christmas

12. New Zealand

New Zealand is less about snow and sleighs and more about sun and backyard BBQ’s at Christmas time. Couple that with the amazingly friendly locals, striking landscapes, underground glowing caves, cascading waterfalls and emerald lakes and you may decide to spend every holiday “Down Under”. Celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer takes on new traditions in this country but don’t fret; we’ve got you covered on what to do to fit right in.

Traditional Christmas Dinner is replaced by either a traditional roast dinner that is cooked under the ground or fresh seafood or ham cooked outdoors on the BBQ. Relax under the shade of the Pohutukawa; New Zealand’s Christmas tree which boasts bright red blooms throughout December. Catch Santa Claus in his Speedo and sunglasses as he surfs the waves, canoes the waters delivering presents or sailing his boat. Maximum daylight hours at Christmas time allow locals and visitors plenty of time to enjoy the sun, sand, sports and relaxation that make up Christmas time in New Zealand.

New Zealand

13 Places to See While Single

Travelling single for the first time can be downright scary but if you have courage to take the plunge it’s something you won’t regret. To travel single is to indulge one’s self. Whether you want to party hard in a hot sunny destination where the drinks keep flowing and the bars never close, or whether you want to find inner peace in a tranquil setting where reading a book on the beach all day is encouraged; there is a place for every single traveler in this world. From the beaches of Costa Rica to the mountains of New Zealand, these destinations are full of adventure, relaxation and friendly locals and fellow travelers that will make you feel at home. When you need some time alone; pack your bags, hop on a plane and explore the twelve best places to travel when single.

13. Cali, Colombia

As Colombia’s third largest city; Cali parties more than any other city in this country. Known as The Salsa capital of the World, you can dance from dusk until dawn; no questions asked. If you are looking to relax after a big night of salsa dancing, why not head to the Cali Zoo. The focus here is on Colombian wildlife and education. Stroll through the lush city park and and grab a bite of the seafood chowder or lobster that is always offered. Boasting some of the most beautiful women in the world, professional salsa dancers at every turn and a warm sultry temperature all year long; this city is a must visit when single.

Cali Colombia

12. Iceland

With a country built on tourism and not the most romantic place you think of when you think vacation, Iceland is the perfect destination for the single traveler. Most locals speak impeccable English and English signs and menus are offered throughout the country putting single travelers at ease. Home of the excursion day trips, Iceland offers a chance to meet fellow travelers while whale watching, hiking or relaxing in the hot springs. Catch the northern lights from September to April or choose to travel from mid-May to August where midnight sun keeps it light 24/7. Don’t be fooled by the serenity of this country, the locals also know how to throw a party and keep it going all night long; especially during the summer months.

Reykjavik Iceland

11. Australia

Home to thousands of solo travelers a year, you certainly won’t stick out here if you are alone. Besides the irresistible accents and the sense of welcoming from the locals; you will find a never ending supply of hostels that are begging to be stayed in. From snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef to climbing The Blue Mountains in Sydney to exploring the Outback; Australia is a perfect place to check off some of those things on your bucket list. Make new friends, fall in love with the countryside and explore some fantastic beaches. From Sydney to Perth; Australia as a whole is considered incredibly safe for international travelers.

Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com
Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com

10. Panama

With solo travel being a norm and English widely spoken throughout the city, Panama City has much to see and do. With its lively and diverse culture coupled with the famous Panama Canal and being one of the friendliest Central American destinations, this country can’t be missed. For the single adventure traveler this country is packed with zip lining, white water rafting and surfing opportunities. For a more laid back vacation one must not miss travelling to the San Blas Islands where tourism has not yet taken over. The native Kuna’s control this land and you will find untouched nature and beauty. Sail the islands, sleep in eco-friendly accommodations and embrace your soul here. Make sure to give yourself time to really enjoy all this country has to offer.

San Blas Islands, Panama

9. Maui, Hawaii

Pristine white sand beaches, friendly local people and a currency that won’t have you scratching your head in confusion, Maui is the perfect Hawaiian Island to visit as a single traveler. If adults-only resorts are something that you’re looking for, Lahaina in West Maui has no shortage of them. Five star hotels line the ocean with private beach access, pools and spas. If a condo rental is more your style there are plenty to rent steps from the ocean. Renting a car from the airport is faster than claiming your luggage and driving the Island is just one way to see the beauty. Stand up paddle board with the sea turtles, kayak with the whales and attend a beach/ohana party.

Maui, Hawaii

8. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Although not the safest of cities on our list; Rio deserves to be one of the top twelve places to see when single. Where else boasts gorgeous mountains, pristine beaches and a party like Carnaval? Besides having one of the best hotel bars in the world (check out the Fasano Hotel), Rio is known for its beaches. Take a walk around and mingle with the locals on the beach and we promise you an invite to a party. Make sure to hook up with some fellow travelers and explore the beautiful downtown area lined with churches and museums. If you are going to visit during the biggest carnival in the world, be sure to book early and prepare yourself for a lot of dancing and little sleep.

Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com
Celso Pupo / Shutterstock.com

7. New York City

It is hard to feel alone when you are immersed in a city that’s home to more than 18 million people. This concrete jungle is packed with so much to do you won’t have time to even remember that you’re travelling single. Now is the time to spoil your single self and dine out at a world renowned restaurant (If you feel overwhelmed by dining single, make reservations at non-peak times) or catch that Broadway Show you have always wanted to see. Climb up The Empire State Building, take a boat to see The Statue of Liberty or stroll through Central Park. There isn’t a better place in the world to check out the nightlife than in the “city that never sleeps”.

Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com
Natalia Bratslavsky / Shutterstock.com

6. Costa Rica

For the backpacker adventurer Costa Rica is a must visit when solo. With two major airports to fly into and endless stretches of beach and jungle; there is something for everyone. Relatively safe and reasonably priced makes Costa Rica desirable to travelers. While there why not join a surf camp and learn to surf while meeting fellow travelers. Take a ride into the rainforest where you can discover sloths, monkeys and a variety of lizards, snakes and frogs. Immerse yourself in the culture and eat locally or try your hand at the nightlife that often lasts until dawn. Whatever it is you do here, we promise you will enjoy it. The locals are friendly, the beer is cheap and the weather is warm, what else does a single traveler need?

Pura Vida Costa Rica

5. Bali, Indonesia

Yoga on the beach. Lodging on the beach. Temples and Ruins. Beautiful beaches and clear water. Must we say more? Packed with spiritual seekers, backpackers and international travelers; Bali is the perfect get away for the single soul seeking traveler. The Balinese people are known to be friendly, welcoming and make you feel right at home. Rent a motorbike, take a stroll through town or raft down the Ayung River for a little adventure. If you are looking to explore a less remote place, hop on a plane to a smaller island; we suggest Lombok. Filled with local markets, celebrations and temples like none other; Bali is the perfect place to relax, unwind and really find your inner zen.

Bali, Indonesia

4. Miami, Florida

For the single traveler who is ready to party, look no further than Miami. With beautiful weather, beautiful beaches and beautiful people; Miami is a hot destination for single travelers. Head to South Beach where you will find no shortage of velvet rope lined nightclubs with the hippest DJ’s. Bask in the sun on Miami Beach where countless events and activities run year round. Be prepared to open your wallet in this town; this is not for the backpacker. Hotels will be a major expense but if you want the royal treatment, book yourself into one that offers a spa and bask in the glory. Make sure to dine out at one of Miami’s waterfront restaurants and enjoy a sunset view.

Miami club

3.  New Zealand

With a landscape of rolling hills to jagged mountaintops, New Zealand is not only beautiful but one of the safest countries to visit. Friendly, open-minded locals make this destination a favorite for single travelers. Meet fellow adventures while you are bungee jumping or jet boating the rivers. Find friends in The Lord of The Rings tour; where you can tour actual filming locations. Relax in thermal hot springs after a day of wine touring or take in a Rugby game with the famous Maori players. With New Zealand being one of the best hiking (or “tramping” as the locals call it) destinations in the world, don’t miss out on partaking in one of the nine epic hikes through the countryside. “Wow” just won’t sum up this vacation destination.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand

2. Ireland

A country filled with friendly people, beautiful historic bed and breakfasts and a whole lot of pubs; Ireland rounds off our top twelve destinations to travel to when single. Locals are more than happy to share directions, stories and a pint of Guinness with any traveler that crosses their path. Countless castles, shamrock tours and a pub at every corner means lots of fellow solo travelers to meet. Take a trip to Dingle beach and meet the local dolphin or join one of many guided tours around Ireland. If you don’t mind driving on the left hand side of the road, rent a car and explore the monuments of prehistoric Ireland at Bru na Boinne or the Titanic Museum at Cobh. Ireland will make any solo traveler feel welcome, as that is the way of the Irish.

Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.

1. Ibiza, Spain

Though recent tourism efforts are trying to steer this city towards a more family friendly vibe, Ibiza is still one of the most notorious party destinations on the planet making it ideal for the single traveler. It’s filled with colorful clubs that run till the sun comes up, booming house and trance music and people who want nothing more than to party all night long surrounded by beautiful people. Big name DJ’s are always coming through hosting mega parties that’ll keep you dancing all night long. This little island’s nightlife is centered on 2 areas: Ibiza Town on the southern shore and Sant Antoni to the west. No matter which spot you choose as your base you’re guaranteed an outrageous and unforgettable vacation.

Beach party Ibiza, Spain

The Most Dangerous Cities in The World to Travel

It’s now easier than ever to visit distant locations around the world. Some places, however, are best avoided due to dangerous conditions. Certain dangerous places, on the other hand, are also desirable tourist destinations. If you do decide to visit such places, you should at least be aware of the risks and take sensible precautions. Here, in descending order, are the 10 most dangerous cities in the world.

10. Caracas, Venezuela

Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

This is the capital city of Venezuela and it is presently facing a crisis involving drug gangs. Street crimes such as muggings and theft are also common, making this an undesirable destination for most tourists. Many other cities in Venezuela also have high crime rates.

9. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Mexico’s problems with drug traffickers are well known and Ciudad Juarez is one of the nation’s most violent cities right now. Police are often employed or paid off by drug gangs, which means that many crimes go unpunished.

8. Cape Town, South Africa

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Due to the prevalence of poverty and social unrest in this city, it is suffering from an extremely high crime rate. Although many tourists are drawn to South Africa because of its natural beauty and proximity to nature preserves and other attractions, Cape Town can be a dangerous place. It is possible to enjoy a visit to this city if you avoid the more dangerous sections and don’t travel alone at night.

7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Many cities in Brazil have very high crime rates, and some are more dangerous than Rio de Janeiro. Yet since Rio is by far the most popular tourist destination in Brazil, it’s worth focusing on here. Rio is actually safer than it was a decade ago, but street crimes are still common in many areas, especially at night. It’s possible to enjoy the resorts and beaches of this city, but common sense precautions should be taken.

6. Guatemala City, Guatemala

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Although Guatemala, a Central American nation on the Caribbean, has many tourist attractions, it’s a nation that is plagued with drug violence. It has a high murder rate and other common crimes include street robberies, bus holdups and carjackings. It’s advisable if visiting Guatemala to remain in safer regions and avoid Guatemala City.

5. Acapulco, Mexico

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Not long ago, this city was considered a safe and luxurious resort area. While tourism to Acapulco is still popular, drug violence has now made this into a dangerous area. Recent statistics reveal that this city has one of the world’s highest murder rates -142 per 100,000 people. People visiting Acapulco are advised to remain on the property of the resorts where they are staying, as most of the crime occurs in surrounding areas.

4. Baghdad, Iraq

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Bombings, gunfire and other violent events are common in Iraq. This country has been on the “do not travel” list for Americans for many years and Baghdad remains a dangerous place. The future of Iraq is extremely uncertain as U.S. troops are departing from the country. This is another war-torn country that is not likely to be safe anytime soon. Since the violence in Baghdad usually consists of unpredictable outbreaks of terrorism, it’s not a place that people should visit without a good reason.

3. Kabul, Afghanistan

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This has been one of the most dangerous cities in the world for some time. It is still a war zone, although U.S. troops are gradually being removed from the country. Terrorist attacks, including many bombings are common. Kabul is facing a very uncertain future and will probably be a very dangerous place for the foreseeable future. Like Baghdad, Kabul is a city where violence can occur at any time.

2. Karachi, Pakistan

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Pakistan is experiencing a great deal of political unrest, and crime as well as terrorism is rampant. Assassinations are common, as well as suicide bombings and gang warfare. Karachi is one of the centers of this violence and tourists are advised to avoid this city.

1. San Pedro Sula, Honduras

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This city has ranked as one of the world’s most violent for several years now. According to many sources, it has the highest homicide rates in the world -169 per 100,000 people. Arms trafficking is a big problem, and illegal firearms are prevalent throughout the city. This is a city that tourists would do well to avoid.

Curious about the most dangerous places in the United States only? We’ve compiled a list of the most dangerous cities in just the US to increase your travel awareness.