The World’s Most Spectacular and Unique Picnic Spots

There are few more idyllic, memorable, budget-friendly activities than enjoying an outdoor picnic. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic spot to nosh wine and cheese, a family looking for a day outing, or a big group planning an event or reunion, there are loads of spots that will enhance the overall features with scenery, amenities and unique features built right into the setting. And there are many who agree that food just taste better outside.

1. Irvine Regional Park, CA

Located in Orange, CA, Irvine Regional Park is a mecca for family fun that includes a picnic. In addition to numerous picnic tables and outdoor grills, there is a host of activities to partake in after you’ve finished your potato salad. There are bike trails (bike rentals available), equestrian trails, pony rides, paddleboats and fishing. There is even a train that the family can hop on for a ride across the park, as well as a zoo.

2. Huayna Picchu, Peru

Looking for a picnic perch with a view? You can’t get much better than spreading your blanket out atop Huayna Picchu in Peru, breaking your bread and taking into the vistas out and below. At an elevation of 9,000 ft., stopping atop this mountain after a reportedly grueling hike- not only gives you a chance to rest and refuel your body after the hike, but a chance to refresh your soul as well, with a stunning panorama of the 15th century ruins of Machu Piccu, including the Urubamba River Valley and the iconic city of Inca.

3. Gatineau Park, QC

Gatineau Park, located just outside of Ottawa, ON has 5 different picnic areas within their network of parks. The park is very popular with mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Charcoal BBQs are available at various locations throughout the parks, as well as lots of picnic tables. The Etienne Brule Lookout is a popular picnic spot and offers fantastic views of the Ottawa River and connects to hiking and biking trails.

4. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

You’ve heard of dinner and a show? How about lunch and a view? And as views go, you can’t replicate the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim has over 300 miles of trails to wander, take in this wonder of the world. Desert View Drive, which winds along the south rim of the Canyon leads to the Desert View Watchtower. Along this road are several lookout points and picnic areas. If you’re looking to extend your stay and camp, reservations are highly recommended. There are three campgrounds at the South Rim, including tent sites that can accommodate up to 50 people and three vehicles- so if your picnic plans are for a large group or reunion- this is a good spot for you.

5. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, Bristol UK

This fun park expands over 50 acres along the River Avon and has loads of family activities, including a petting zoo, mazes, a toddler village, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The park offers a “Riverside Experience” with miles of trails to follow along the river, providing idyllic picnic spots along the way.

6. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, B.C.

In Squamish B.C., Shannon Falls cascade down over Howe Sound, and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. A meandering trail through the forest will get you down to the base of the falls- which is where you’ll want to head for photo ops and great views. If you feel like a longer hike, this trail hooks into the Stawamus Trail, which spreads its way out to three different summits. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is well-equipped for picnickers with a concession stand and picnic area located next to the parking lot. This area is for day-use only, making it ideal for a daytime hike and picnic to take in the views.

7. Villa Borghese Park, Rome

Villa Borghese is Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park, with vast amounts of green space, walking trails and ponds. This park spreads out over 226 acres, and is populated with statues, museums, fountains, theatres and a zoo. There is a wide patchwork of lush, idyllic gardens in which to stop and smell the roses- literally. There are lots of grassy patches under trees to spread out your blanket and feast on your Italian picnic basket. Afterwards you can wander to one of the many man-made lakes and feed the ducks.

The 6 Most Beautiful Views In Italy

We have all wondered where those photographers get those stunning postcard prefect pictures of Italy, but wonder no more. Italy is full of stunning views, whether you are atop an active volcano or looking out from the bell tower of a gorgeous sun bleached church. The best part about these views is that you don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture them. Try to head to these vantage points either early in the morning or at dusk to capture the perfect photo, or leave the camera at home and just enjoy the beauty. Either way, here are six beautiful views in Italy worth checking out.

6. Bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

It is well worth it to fork out the few euros for the elevator ride up to the 60-meter high bell tower, which offers incredible views of Venice. It is actually located right across the street from St. Mark’s Basilica, which features long line-ups and a pricey 10 euros to ride up its bell tower. Instead head to this church and monastery for uncrowded views of the entrance to the Grand Canal, the dome of Santa Maria Salute and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. This 16th century church is worth visiting on its own, with its brilliant white marble that gleams above the blue water lagoon.

Bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice

5. Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

What is visiting Florence if you cannot manage to get that sweeping panoramic that includes both the stunning city and the mountains. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a square that offers just that. To get here, visitors will walk uphill along a beautiful tree-lined street, or take a taxi/bus if you aren’t feeling like walking. The square is dedicated to Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo and has bronze copies of some of his marble works found elsewhere in Florence: the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. The view from here is simply stunning, capturing the heart of Florence from Fort Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Florentia.

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

4. Amalfi Coast

It is hard to narrow down a most beautiful view when it comes to the Amalfi Coast, as there are just so many. But if you feel like strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trails, you will find some of the best views along the Sentieri degle Dei trail. You will see down the coast all the way to the tip of the peninsula and on a clear day you can eve see Capri. It’s no wonder that this trail’s name is actually ‘Pathway of the Gods’. If hiking isn’t on the agenda another great place to take in the views of the coast is Villa Rufolo, a villa located in the historic center of Ravello, originally constructed in the 13th century. The views from the villa take in the stunning coastline and the sea, and all that is will cost you is $5 euro.

Sentieri degle Dei

3. Janiculum Hill, Rome

It is one of the only places you can capture the entire city of Rome in one spot and visitors here will capture panoramic views of the city, including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and St. Peter’s Basilica. Janiculum Hill is located just across the river from the centro storico and choose to either hike up the hill or take one of the buses. It is the second tallest hill in the contemporary city of Rome and was believed to be the center for the cult of the god Janus, thus earning its name as Janiculum Hill. It has been home for water mills, the site of a memorable battle and a place of worship. Now it is a spot where locals walk, a park where children play and the best place to see Rome in its entirety.

Janiculum Hill, Rome

2. Mt. Vesuvius, Bay of Naples

It is one of the most explored and well-known volcanoes on earth, due in large part to when it blew its top in A.D. 79 and destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii. This volcano has had no shortages of explosions, including the most recent one in 1944 but that still doesn’t keep locals and tourists from heading to the top to see the epic views. A hike around the crater’s lip will give views of Naples, its sweeping bays and Pompeii. While up there make sure you listen closely as you can heard the occasional cascade of rocks tumbling into the crater. Observe whisps of smoldering steam and take a moment to remember that this all mighty and powerful volcano will most definitely erupt again in your lifetime.

Mt. Vesuvius, Bay of Naples

1. Corniglia-Vernazza Hiking Trail, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre aka Five Lands are the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in Liguria. The best view is the main hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia where visitors are treated to gorgeous views of the seaside and Vernazza. While the views are spectacular, hikers should be warned that this is no easy stroll. Much of the path here is steep with sheer drops to the sea below and the journey is made by hundreds of tourists each summer. There is another option that offers almost as spectacular of views. Start from Vernazza on the number 2 trail towards Corniglia and near the beginning of the path make sure to turn around. Here is where you will get that picture postcard view of Vernazza. Try to come here in the morning, as later in the day the sun will be straight in your camera lens.Cinque Terre 2

8 Places to Visit in Italy Before You Have Kids

Italy is truly one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, offering a geography boasting incredible landscapes- from the icy Alps to the volcanic craters to the turquoise waters. Along with incredible scenery, this country is filled with history, medieval towns, and more UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites than any other country. Dine on traditional Italian foods, indulge in the finest of wines and take in incredible sites. Italy is a place to be visited twice, once before kids and once with kids and the following eight places should all be done before you are toting around the wee ones.

8. Milan

The fashion capital of the world is best discovered without kids in tow, for obvious reasons and the time to get there and shop is now. This seething metropolis at times can seem brash and soulless but underneath that lies serious history and beauty. Visitors should count on visiting the grand Gothic Cathedral that lays at the heart of the city, La Scala one of the best Opera Houses in the world, the ancient shopping gallery- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Brera Art Gallery. There is no shortage of museums, churches and historical monuments to be found in this city, along with a slew of incredible restaurants and accommodations. Shop, eat, catch a football game or attend one of the many exhibitions that take place throughout the year; whatever it is you do, enjoy it sans kids.

La Scala Milan

7. Sicily

The gorgeous island of Sicily is one of Europe’s most alluring destinations, the eternal meeting point between East and West, Africa and Europe. The varied landscape here with sea, mountains and volcanoes makes for a stunning backdrop for outdoors activities. Visitors here will be privy to plenty of diving, swimming, climbing and hiking. The ancient cuisine here will make any foodie happy, as the chefs still depend on island-grown ingredients including shellfish, tuna, hazelnuts and almonds, and play with these ingredients to create timeless recipes with creative flairs. Wander through the rubble of ancient columns, through the breathtaking Concordia temple and palace walls as you discover the history of this incredible island. Best done without kids, this is one place in Italy you must get to.

Sicily ruins

6. Cinque Terre

Made up of five small fishing villages, Cinque Terre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and offers some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet. This is a place that is rooted in history with the oldest village, Monterosso dating back to AD 643. Much of what remains in the villages today date back to the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and parish churches. Explore the villages by train or foot, as cars were banned over a decade ago. Expect long walks with breathtaking views, eccentric shops, quaint B&B’s and superior wine and food. The main draw here is the landscape and there is an abundance of hiking trails throughout the villages, as well as a number of beaches throughout.

Cinque Terre

5. Amalfi Coast

If you are looking for a more road trip style vacation before you have kids, there is only one choice when it comes to Italy, and that is the Amalfi Coast. Considered to be Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline the landscape is full of towering bluffs, pastel colored villages, luscious green mountains and expansive vista over the sparkling turquoise waters. Aside from the sheer beauty you encounter here, the Amalfi coast is home to a slew of superb restaurants and hotels, as well as being one of the top spots in the country for hiking. Don’t miss the coastal towns of Positano and Amalfi, which are the two favorites. If you are looking for romance stop into the most romantic and beautiful small town in Southern Italy, Ravello, a city blessed with lush gardens, unforgettable views and a beautiful history.

Amalfi Coast

4. Merano

This city of flowers is located in Italy’s Alps, a breathtaking landscape of snow-capped peaks, clean air and luscious green. The city itself sits only 1,000 feet high and is often referred to as the Shangri-La of Italy with its sunny microclimate and leafy boulevards. Visitors come to this city for it’s incredible spa hotels, wonderful organic farmers markets and spectacular wine. Head here during the International Wine Festival in early November for a chance to try local stars as well as vintages from around the world. Explore medieval castles, ride the aerial tramways, dine on sausage and beer from street stalls, meander through the Merano Promenades or simply soak your troubles away in the abundance of spa centers; whatever it is you choose to do, do it now before you have little ones in tow.

Merano italy

3. Tuscany

The region of Tuscany is full of great things to see and do, without kids of course as dragging them to renaissance towns and art galleries surely won’t be any fun for them. There are plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore in this region including Siena, a beautiful medieval town worth exploring. This region is truly postcard material with its gently rolling hills, golden wheat fields, silver olive groves and hilltop villages. Spend your days hiking, cycling, visiting the islands off the south coast or simply sipping a glass of wine with your significant other. Explore the historic churches, chapels and monuments that make up the breathtaking city of Florence and choose from the simplest of accommodations or boutiques so chic you can even choose your own sheets.

Tuscany

2. Rome

A city full of history, fine art and great food screams for a child-free visit and this is one city you need to get to before having kids. This internal city is one of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring capitals. Much of your days in Rome will be spent wandering historic sites, immersing yourself into the culture and idling around the city streets. When the sun sets and the temperatures break here, that’s when the real party starts and let’s be clear; this is no party for kids. The fashionistas descend onto Rome’s cafes and restaurants and then later head to the famous late-night clubs and bars. Think freshly ground coffee in the mornings, five-star dining in the evening and gorging on pizza at neighborhood diners.

Colosseum Rome

1. Venice

This city seeps with romance, from the romantic gondola rides through the canals to drinking wine at the open-air cafes that fill the sidewalks. It screams child-free with its impressive dining options complete with plenty of Prosecco, Venice’s signature drink of choice. Bringing kids here really isn’t recommended, as there is lots of walking, plenty of adults-only dining and just not really that many interesting things to see or do as a kid. Venice thrives on mystery and awe, a place where marble palaces disappear into the fog, where labyrinth like streets fill the city and where cathedrals beg to be discovered. There are no cars or roadways here, just canals and boats and narrow alleys and small squares, with hidden treasures at every turn. The perfect place to explore sans kids.

Venice

9 Landscapes That Inspired Great Works of Art

The world we live in is gorgeous and often awe-inspiring. Given that fact, it’s little wonder that many artists throughout the years, in many different places and cultures, have tried to capture just a little bit of that beauty on their canvases. From the natural to the man-made, there is no shortage of vantage points that have inspired—and continued to inspire—us to create memorable works of art. Here are 9 masterpieces that are almost as breathtaking as the real thing.

9. San Giorgio Maggiore (Monet)

San Giorgio Maggiore is one of Venice’s islands, so it should come as little surprise that it’s been the subject of a painting or two. Venice is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to a combination of architecture and natural endowments. The island’s most recognizable feature is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century church. The building’s silhouette certainly dominates Claude Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight, an Impressionist work completed between 1908 and 1912. The painting was started during Monet’s only trip to Venice. Even more than a century later, you can visit Venice and experience this precise view for yourself, with the sun setting over the water and the buildings of San Giorgio Maggiore silhouetted against the darkening sky.

monet

8. Lander’s Peak (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, but immigrated to the United States at an early age. Soon determining to become a painter, Bierstadt returned to Europe to study art. In 1859, he joined an expedition led by Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor. They traveled west from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Bierstadt sketched and painted many majestic scenes of the American west. His 1863 piece The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak is based on one of the sketches he made during this expedition. The painting depicts Lander Peak, a summit of more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) located in the Wyoming Range; the peak is one of the highest in the area. Although Bierstadt’s painting isn’t true to nature, Rocky Mountain landscapes like Lander’s Peak are breathtakingly beautiful and popular with photographers and tourists alike.

Photo by: Albert Bierstadt via Wikimedia Commons

7. Lake McArthur (MacDonald)

J.E.H. MacDonald was part of the Group of Seven, a famed group of Canadian artists working in the early part of the 20th century. The Group of Seven tended to have a nationalistic bent and painted many iconic scenes of the Canadian wilderness; at least 2 members were also war artists capturing Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Beginning in 1924, MacDonald traveled west annually and produced many works featuring the Rocky Mountains, which dominated his later works. Lake McArthur, Yoho Park was painted in 1924, the year of MacDonald’s inaugural trek west. Yoho National Park was the second national park in Canada and forms part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site with several other parks. The Lake McArthur Trail, an 8-kilometer circuit, will take you to the north shore of the lake—which looks much the same today as it did in 1924.

group of seven Lake McArthur

6. Cotopaxi (Church)

Frederic Edwin Church, like Albert Bierstadt, was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painting in the 19th century. Like Bierstadt, Church painted grandiose landscapes. Whereas Bierstadt painted the American West, Church was lured in by South America; many of his works feature Andean landscapes, inspired by 2 trips to Quito, Ecuador. While his most famous work is The Heart of the Andes, his 1855 painting Cotopaxi is perhaps a truer depiction of a South American landscape. The work shows the volcano Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes and the second-highest summit in Ecuador. As of 2015, Church’s 1862 painting depicting Cotopaxi smoldering away might be more accurate—the volcano, one of the most active in Ecuador with 87 recorded eruptions since 1534, has entered a new phase of activity and is under constant monitoring since an eruption of ash on August 14 and 15, 2015.

Cotopaxi church

5. Autumn Mountain Shadow (Guan Tong)

Guan Tong lived more than 1,000 years ago, during China’s Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. A painter of the Northern Landscape style, he lived in Chang’an (Xi’an) and was no doubt inspired by the mountainous terrain that surrounded him. Autumn Mountain Shadow is perhaps the most famous painting attributed to Guan Tong and while it’s difficult to discern the precise place that he was painting, there are hundreds of similar views of the rugged northern mountains in and around Xi’an. A barely visible path in the painting is reminiscent of many of the winding trails near Xi’an, especially those about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of the city, near Mount Hua. Mount Hua itself is similar to the landscape Guan Tong depicts in Autumn Mountain Shadow, and many tourists today visit Mount Hua for its ancient, sacred sites and temples, as well as its breathtaking views.

Mount Hua

4. Staubbach Falls (Bierstadt)

Albert Bierstadt painted much of the American West, but he also painted plenty of European landscapes as well; one of his first exhibits featured a large canvas of a Swiss landscape. Bierstadt studied in Europe and later traveled widely there, making many sketches and paintings in his signature grandiose style. Among his Swiss landscapes is this 1865 piece, entitled Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen. The waterfall is one of Europe’s highest unbroken falls, descending about 1,000 feet into the valley below. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the Falls are a popular site in Switzerland, along with the iconic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau in the east. The Falls are about 1 kilometer from the village of Lauterbrunnen, which lies at the bottom of one of the deepest valleys in the Alps.

Staubbach Falls

3. Grand Canal, Venice (Canaletto)

Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was born in Venice in 1697. He spent most of his life there and took up his father’s line of work: painting. Much of his early artwork was painted “from nature,” rather than in the studio, a technique he returned to in his later years. In his later works, he painted grand scenes of Venice’s iconic canals, including the Doge’s Palace. His 1738 painting The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola depicts the Grand Canal as it was—and, perhaps surprisingly, this is a scene that remains remarkably similar even today. The buildings still bear a likeness to those depicted in Canaletto’s work, a testament to Venice’s enduring local flavor. And, of course, gondoliers are still a common sight on the waterways of this iconic city.

Grand Canal, Venice

2. Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

During the 19th century, Utagawa Kunisada was one of the most prolific masters of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. His works were incredibly popular, although they have been overshadowed since by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Today, Kunisada’s work is becoming more recognized. Although he was more known for prints of popular actors and pretty girls, he also produced landscapes and seascapes like Futamigaura at Dawn. Completed around 1830, the print depicts Sakurai Futamigaura, a scenic place north of Itoshima. Known as the “Married Couple Rock,” the feature is two large rocks about 150 meters from the beach. The rocks have been joined together by a shimenawa, a sacred Shinto rope used to ward off evil. The shimenawa at Sakurai Futamigaura is 30 meters long and weighs approximately one ton. Although Kunisada painted the area at dawn, Sakurai Futamigaura has become renowned for its sunsets.

Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)

1. Roman Campagna

The Roman Campagna is a low-lying area that surrounds Rome. In ancient times, it was important in agriculture, but was abandoned during the Middle Ages. Many Roman ruins dotted the landscape. The Campagna became one of the most painted landscapes during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a trip to the Roman countryside to paint was considered part of the European Grand Tour. Today, however, much of the Campagna has been built over; the spaces that remain are clustered along the Appian Way. Today you might see the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella or the Circus of Maxentius as part of your own Grand Tour. Another popular subject is the Ponte Nomentano, which is now in a pedestrian-only park within the city. The bridge’s medieval tower was popular for painters and a visit to this scenic spot may want to make you paint—or at least take a photo.

Appian Way

The Top 8 Pet-Friendly Vacation Destinations in Europe

For many people, pets are more than just a companion—they’re like family. That means many of us like to travel with our pets. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opinion of our four-legged friends and, in many places, you’ll find that Fido isn’t welcome to join you. Things are a bit a different in Europe: many countries are incredibly pet-friendly, which makes them perfect destinations for pet lovers from around the world. Here are 8 pet-friendly stops in Europe.

8. Norway

The Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark and Norway tend to get a bad rap with travelers who want to bring their pets with them on holiday; these 3 Northern European countries are considerably less pet-friendly than other European countries. Still, that doesn’t mean pets are never welcome. A good example is Norway’s famed fjords, which you can tour via cruise liner. Your dog is more than welcome to join you on the trip and will be treated as a guest too. Oslo, Norway’s capital, has many pet-friendly hotels, so finding accommodations for you and Fido shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. Norway also has plenty of open space, meaning travelers and their dogs can get their daily exercise. Shops, restaurants and public transit pose more of a challenge to four-legged travelers, who may not be welcome inside most establishments.

dogs in Norway

7. United Kingdom

With the introduction of the (PETS), the United Kingdom has become an even friendlier destination for you and your four-legged friend. More and more visitors are bringing their pets with them on holiday, most notably those from other EU countries; cats and dogs arriving from North America and other places are still required to enter quarantine on arrival. Once quarantine is over, however, the U.K. opens up to four-legged travelers. The National Rail system allows dogs of all sizes, provided they’re leashed, which means you can travel anywhere you want, whether it’s Cornwall in the south or north to the Scottish Highlands. The British Isles also offer plenty of green space with lots of national parks to visit, which makes for ideal dog-walking conditions. Pet-friendly accommodations are available throughout the U.K.

puppy on a train

6. Ireland

Some parts of Ireland are pet-friendly, while other parts are not so friendly toward four-legged travel companions. Dublin is often considered very pet-friendly, and many restaurants and cafes are quite happy to have your pup accompany you on outdoor terraces and patios, provided that they’re leashed. Hotels and other accommodations are often pet-friendly as well, although you want to call ahead and ensure that Fido is welcome. While dogs are often unwelcome on walking trails, particularly because they cut through sheep country, a few trails welcome leashed dogs: Killarney National Park admits four-legged friends, as do some of the trails in the Wicklow Mountains (although not the Wicklow Way). Your best bet in Ireland is to take a cottage vacation—a popular option with pet owners, since you’ll be in the countryside.

killarney national park with dog

5. Netherlands

The Netherlands are perhaps most famous for being incredibly cyclist-friendly, but Dutch cities like Amsterdam are also rather pet-friendly. Much like other parts of Europe, many restaurants are pet-friendly, often allowing diners to bring their leashed pet with them to outdoor dining areas. Hotels are often pet-friendly, and shops may allow dogs inside (although it’s best to ask). Amsterdam in particular recommends itself as a great pet-friendly destination for those traveling with dogs, thanks to plentiful parks. Vondelpark, the largest and best-known in the city, is a great location, while Oosterpark is divided into 2 zones: a children’s zone that is dog-free and the other where dogs are welcome. This park is well-known to the locals and is becoming more popular with tourists traveling with their pooches.

dog and windmill

4. Switzerland

Think of Switzerland and you’ll probably think of Bernese mountain dogs and St. Bernards bounding through the snow to rescue stranded skiers in the Alps. Given dogs’ importance, it should be little surprise that the Swiss are fond of dogs—and of four-legged travelers. Most restaurants are more than happy to welcome you and your furry dining companion (even if Fido won’t be ordering off the menu). Like other places in Europe, dogs are also welcome in most shops and hotels, although you might call ahead to ask about specific pet policies. Public transit is also pet-friendly; all cats and dogs are allowed on trains, although you’ll often need to purchase a half-price, second-class fare for animal companions. Smaller animals may be required to sit in a purse or basket for travel—but it’s still better than boxing your friend up in a carrier.

dog in engadine switzerland

3. Italy

Italians love their furry friends and most of the time, you’ll be able to bring your dog with you into stores, hotels and even restaurant dining areas. Northern Italy is usually considered to be more dog-friendly than the south, but Rome is also cited as one of the most dog-friendly destinations in Europe. Yes, even in a big tourist center, dogs are more than welcome. Public transit also welcomes furry travelers, often without a carrier, although a muzzle may be required during your ride. Some places may also ask you to purchase a fare for your four-legged travel companion—although often at a discount of 50% or more. Most hotels will welcome pets, although some charge extra fees. Good practice is to call ahead to to a restaurant or hotel before you make your reservations.

cat in Italy

2. Germany

While Germany isn’t the most pet-friendly place in Europe, the country is pretty friendly toward your four-legged friends. Much like other parts of Europe, pets are welcome on public transit, so long as they are on a leash; a muzzle may be required, but there’s no reason to put your pup in a carrier. Small dogs are often welcome in the dining areas of restaurants, although larger breeds may not be as welcome. Dogs are often welcome in shops as well, and you can expect most accommodations to be pet-friendly. Of course, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ensure that Fido will be welcome—and to suss out if there’s any additional fees for having him tag along with you to dinner or to your hotel.

dog at octoberfest

1. France

If you’ve ever wanted to visit Paris and lunch at a bistro, but can’t bear the thought of leaving Fido out of the experience, don’t fret. France is consistently rated as the most pet-friendly country in all of Europe—and that’s saying something, considering how pet-friendly most European countries are. Dogs are more commonly permitted into dining areas than not; in fact, it would be strange to see an owner leave their dog outside while they went into a shop or restaurant. As a result, many hotels are pet-friendly, as are other establishments. If you plan to travel about, public transit is also pet-friendly, allowing you to take your pet with you on the train, often on a leash rather than in a carrier. So go ahead and make your dream trip to France a whole-family affair!

yorkie at paris cafe

The 10 Best Cities in the World 2015

More than 128,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted for their favorite cities in the world outside of the U.S. and the votes have been tallied. It should come as no surprise that the major cities such as Rome, London and Paris made the list, thanks to their iconic landmarks, fantastic cuisine and abundance of things to see and do. There are a couple of sneaky cities that made this list, ones that are not obvious at first but once you dig deeper it becomes abundantly clear why they are favorites. Discover the top 10 best cities in the world as of 2015 according to the readers of Condé Nast Traveler:

10. London, England

It is one of the world’s most visited cities and offers an abundance of things to see and do for people of any age. London is a mash of wide-open spaces and chaotic cityscape, a combination that seemingly works for this city. Central London is where you will find the awesome galleries and museums, and the most iconic of sites, the double decked buses and the famous phone booths. The landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the London Eye enthrall visitors as does Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hampton Court Palace with their beautiful green spaces. There are a ton of restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from when the sun goes down, along with friendly locals. Arts, culture, history- you will find it all here in this city that rates as one of the best 10 cities in the world in 2015.

elenaburn / Shutterstock.com
elenaburn / Shutterstock.com

9. Kyoto, Japan

Step back into time when you visit Japan’s ancient city of Kyoto where quiet temples, sublime gardens and colorful shrines make up the landscape. There are said to be over 1000 Buddhist temples found in this city and it is here where visitors can appreciate the masterpieces of religious architecture. The city is surrounded by mountains on three sides which offer incredible hiking. Don’t be surprised when wandering the streets to find a secret temple or unique shop that you may have passed by and not noticed, as it seems secrets lie throughout this city. A large range of excellent restaurants are located throughout the city, most housed in traditional wooden buildings where you can gaze over incredible gardens while you eat. Experience the ancient times of Japan as you wander the streets, stopping to chat with friendly locals, visit the ancient specialty shops such as pickle vendors or tea merchants and ending your day with a soak in the local public bathhouse. It will be clear why this is one of the best cities in the world.

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

8. Bruges, Belgium

Entering this city is to be transported into the middle of a fairy-tale that is based in a medieval town. Cobblestone streets, market squares with soaring towers and historic churches at every turn help make this one of the most picturesque cities in the world. Built between the 12th and 15th century, it remains one of the best preserved medieval cities. Dreamy canals link the market squares, nighttime brings evening floodlighting and in the spring the daffodils cover the courtyards. It is one of the most visited cities as well, due to its overwhelming beauty. Visiting in the winter is the best away to avoid the throngs of tourists, and although cold and icy, there is something magical about this medieval city when it’s covered in snow. Make sure you spend at least a couple of days exploring here.

Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com
Emi Cristea / Shutterstock.com

7. Prague, Czech Republic

This beautiful historic town is worth visiting for the beer alone- kidding, sort of. Arguably, it does boast the best beer in Europe but there are so many other reasons that this city was voted number 7 as the best in the world. It’s maze of cobbled streets and hidden courtyards are a paradise for those who love to wander throughout the city, exploring ancient chapels, awe-inspiring gardens and hidden pubs with no tourists in site. The landmarks are truly spectacular here, from the 14th century stone bridge to the hilltop castle to the lovely lazy river that inspired one of the most beautiful pieces of 19th century classical music, Smetana’s Moldau. Quirky doesn’t even begin to describe this city, with its nuclear hidden bunkers, cubist lampposts and interesting fountains. Marvel at the Bohemian art, discover the stunning architecture and order a beer by simply placing a beer mat on the table.

Prague, Czech Republic

6. Rome, Italy

Italy’s eternal city continues to enthrall visitors from all over the globe. Rome is known for its history, fine art and incredible food. There are endless sights to take in including The Colosseum, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. There are extraordinary restaurants to eat at, cafés to drink at and tiny local shops down alley ways that serve up the best pizza and pasta you have ever had in your life. Masterpieces by Michelangelo and fountains by Bernini are strewn throughout the city as well as towering ancient churches overflowing with beautiful stained glass and ornate decorations. Whether you are a history buff that can spend weeks wandering through this city, or a foodie who wants to enjoy local wine and fine dining, or someone who just wants to experience an incredible city, full of locals with a gruff sense of humor, Rome should be at the top of your list.

Vatican Museums Rome

5. Paris, France

It has established itself as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, boasting iconic landmarks, cobblestone streets, historic buildings and charming sidewalk cafes. There would be no point in visiting this city if you are planning on skipping the most iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower. Make sure not to miss the other “big” sights though, such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame cathedral, and the impressive Louvre. Finding a place to grab a bite to eat here is almost overwhelming as it’s reputation for cuisine is outstanding. Whether you are looking for a neighborhood bistro or an epic fine dining experience, every single establishment here prides itself on it’s food and wine. Paris also happens to be one of the great art repertoires of the world, with scores of museums throughout the city, from the famous Louvre to the smaller ones boasting contemporary and modern art. There is no shortage of places to discover in this incredible city.

cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com
cesc_assawin / Shutterstock.com

4. Sydney, Australia

It is Australia’s biggest city and even after spending a month here it can feel as though you have barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. The city can be loud, in your face and chaotic offering crazy firework displays, drag queen clubs, hip bars, live music and no shortage of parties to attend. Sydney can also be wild in terms of nature, with National Parks bordering the city and working their way into it. Native critters show up in unsuspecting places and parks compete with skyscrapers and suburbs. Spend endless hours at the beach, specifically Bondi Beach, one of the world’s greatest beaches. Dine at lively restaurants, visit the Sydney Tower for spectacular views from the glass platform or spend hours’ people watching from one of the outdoor cafes.

Bondi Beach Sydney Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

Packed with history, host to great nightlife, full of incredible restaurants and home to quiet tucked away corners, Vienna is a city that begs to be explored. It is one of the most musical cities in the world in part due to the great number of composers and musicians that were born here, lived here and worked here. Visitors to the city should count on taking in the incredible music at one of the famous music venues such as the Staatsoper and Musikverein. Dining in the city is always a treat with its bistro pubs serving up delicious brews and wine, or in creative restaurants where chefs are taking things to a new culinary level. An incredible transportation system makes it easy to get around, the city is known for being incredible safe and the locals are both welcoming and friendly.

volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com
volkova natalia / Shutterstock.com

2. Budapest, Hungary

This city is rich in history, natural cites and unique cuisine, drawing visitors from all over the world. A famous hallmark of Budapest is their hot springs that surround the city, making bathhouses one of the most popular activities in the city. Soak your troubles away in one of the many that are located within the city. Budapest is often called “The Paris of the East” due to its stunning architecture including Roman ruins and the Buda Castle which was built in 1265. Don’t count on just indulging in goulash, there is actually a lot more to Hungarian food and Budapest has the reputation of being a food capital, offering incredible dining options along with excellent wine. Discover a city whose history is almost too complex to understand, a city that is rebuilding with hope and reconciliation, a city that will leave you feeling in awe of it.

pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com
pavel dudek / Shutterstock.com

1. Florence, Italy

Despite Rome and its incredible architecture, and Milan- fashion capital of the world; the best city in Italy and the world in 2015 is actually Florence. Some say you can visit time and time again and not see it all. This city is romantic, magnetic and busy, home to incredible world-class art, food and wine. Don’t miss the iconic Uffizi Gallery or the modern-art museum- Museo Novecento, as well as the Palazzo Vecchio, the stunning fortress palace. Head to the maze of streets in San Lorenzo for a food lover’s paradise or to the 400-year-old pharmacy that still sells traditional elixirs in the central square of Piazza di Santa Maria Novella. The narrow streets of this city tell a thousand tales, through its historic buildings, through the food and wine, and it’s no wonder why it’s number one on this list.

Florence Italy

The 5 Most Breathtaking Castles in Italy

Towering spires, romantic ruins, and incredible locations among seaside cliffs or verdant valleys—we’ve got to say, the castles of Italy have really got it all. The boot-shaped country boasts incredible fortifications up and down its coasts that have helped guard its residents for centuries. But we must say, some Italian castles just have a little bit more going on than others. On your next Italian getaway, consider making a pit stop at one of these particularly picturesque castles in Italy:

5. Rocca Maggiore

Looming high above the hilltop town of Assisi you’ll find the Rocca Maggiore, an impressive fortification that dates back all the way to the 1100s. The crumbling crenelations and pinkish glow of the bricks make this a handsome castle indeed—and the view from the top of the castle isn’t bad either. Tourists who make the trek up to the hilltop that Rocca Maggiore rests upon are rewarded with sweeping views of the lush Spoleto Valley below. The town of Assisi is famously known for being the birthplace of Saint Francis, so the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi in town gets quite crowded. If you want to skip the crowds and queues, head up to the Rocca Maggiore; during the weekdays, you just might have the castle all to yourself!

Rocca Maggiore assisi Italy

4. Castle Belfort

When you think of the platonic idea of a romantic, crumbling castle, Belfort Castle near Spormaggiore is probably exactly what you imagined. Surrounded by verdant green hills, valleys, and forests, the castle lies in partial ruins today, but it was once an imposing fortress that was built to protect the districts of Andalo and Molveno. The castle’s tall tower and grey, weathered bricks will have visitors harkening back to a time of kings and knights in shining armor. Built way back in 1311 by the Count of Tyrol, Belfort Castle was actually burnt down in a fire in the 1600s before being reconstructed in 1670 by the Count of Saracini. After a long day of exploring the castle grounds, head to the nearby province of Trentino to taste the region’s unique dishes of German influence, including hearty traditional bread dumplings.

Castle Belfort Italy

3. Aragonese Castle

Atop dramatic whitewashed cliffs that plunge into the deep blue sea thousands of feet below sits the utterly picturesque Aragonese Castle, near the Italian island of Ischia. The castle was actually built upon a large volcanic rock; today visitors can make their way to the castle via a 720-foot-long bridge that crosses over the water from Ischia. Built in 474 BC by Hiero I of Syracuse, Aragonese Castle served as a fortress that protected Ischia from the fearsome pirates that trolled the surrounding waters for centuries—although many of the churches, ramparts, and walls that dot the castle’s island were built between the 14th and 17th centuries. Today, the castle is Ischia’s most popular tourist attraction, with good reason. It’s hard to resist the romance of a cliff-top castle in the sea!

Aragonese Castle Italy

2. Castel dell’Ovo

Okay, we can’t talk about Castel dell’Ovo without talking about how the castle got its funny name—in Italian, “Castel dell’Ovo” translates to “Egg Castle”! Legend has it that Roman poet Virgil, who purportedly was pretty good at casting a spell, placed a magical egg in the castle’s foundations to support its fortifications. Well, the castle is still standing today, so maybe Virgil’s old egg trick had something to do with it! Today, visitors can explore the castle as it stands on the peninsula of Megaride in Naples. After exploring all the nooks, crannies, and cannons strewn about the castle grounds, head over to Borgo Marinaro, a small fishing village that first popped up beyond the castle’s walls in the 1800s, for a fresh meal of seafood at one of the village’s quaint, delicious restaurants.

Castel dell’Ovo Italy

1. Castello Orsini-Odescalchi

If it was good enough for not one, but two papal families, then it’s certainly good enough for a stop on your Italian tour. Yes, the Castello Orsini-Odescalchi, on the banks of Lake Braccino, served as the home base for both the Orsini and Borgia families during its illustrious 500+ years in existence. The castle serves as a pristine example of Renaissance military architecture, and the castle museum beckons visitors inside to view impressive works of medieval art, weapons, frescoes, and furniture. And Hollywood fanatics, take note: the castle has served as the backdrop to a number of high-profile weddings, including the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. At only a 55-minute train ride from Rome, a journey to see this castle would make a great day trip away from the bustling city.

Castello Orsini-Odescalchi Italy

8 Italian Attractions Every Kid Should Experience

Taking your kids on vacation is always a gamble, will you be able to find enough fun, engaging activities to keep them satisfied and tired out at the end of the day? While on the surface, Italy may seem like it’s more of a romantic, honeymoon destination than anything else but that’s only one aspect. For fun and educational experiences, these 10 family-friendly destinations are sure to be the highlight of any Italian vacation, and will create life-long memories for your children. Here are 10 Italian attractions every kid should get to experience:

8. Trulli Village of Alberobello -Alberobello, Bari

A visit to the village of Alberobello in southern Italy will have kids exploring a setting that sparks their whimsical, fairy-tale imaginations. This village is home to many Trulli houses which are adorable traditional structures made of limestone with characteristic conical stone roofs. The town of Alberobello has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its abundance of these white-wash trulli houses, traditional to the region of Puglia.

Andrei Rybachuk / Shutterstock.com
Andrei Rybachuk / Shutterstock.com

7. Bomarzo Monster Park -Bomarzo, Viterbo

This is one monster encounter your kids will actually be excited to participate in! Also know as the Gardens of Bomarzo, this nature park and garden is a complex of intricate structures and sculptures of mythical-type creatures. Kids will delight in running through the garden paths encountering lions, dragons, whales, Pegasus and many more.

Bomarzo Monster Park

6. Parco di Pinocchio -Collido, Tuscany

The Adventures of Pinicchio is an iconic children’s story written by author Carlo Collodi, the authors real name is actually Carlo Lorenzini but he spent a great deal of his childhood in the town of Collido so his pseudonym pays homage to this place. In this village today you can find the enchanting Parco di Pinocchio or Pinocchio Park which is filled with gardens, art, nature and education for children -all with an enchanting twist that they are sure to enjoy.

"Parco di pinocchio 23 la capretta e il grande pescecane 02" di I, Sailko. Con licenza CC BY-SA 3.0 tramite Wikimedia Commons.
Parco di pinocchio 23 la capretta e il grande pescecane 02” di I, Sailko. Con licenza CC BY-SA 3.0 tramite Wikimedia Commons.

5. Acquario di Genova, Genoa

If you’ve got some little animal lovers in the family, a trip to the Acquario di Genova (Aquarium of Genoa) will ensure a most memorable experience for the whole family. The aquarium is the largest in all of Europe and features seals, manatees, dolphins, penguins and many more adorable animals with whom children can get up close and personal.

Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com
Joymsk140 / Shutterstock.com

4. Italia in Miniatura -Viserba, Rimini

Even kids can feel like giants in this tiny town and leisure park in Viserba, Italy. This park features 273 miniature scale versions of famous Italian and European buildings and landmarks which you can walk through. The landscape is completed by a monorail, 10,000 miniature plants and 5,000 miniature trees. But that’s not all there is to enjoy here, either; the park also offers several attractions like a log ride, playground, cinema and merry-go-round.

oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com
oneinchpunch / Shutterstock.com

3. Villa Borghese Gardens, Rome

Italy can be hot in the summer months and many children (especially the young ones) will start to ‘melt’ or should we say meltdown when temperatures soar. To find some respite from the heat in a beautiful setting, head to Rome’s Villa Borghese Gardens. These beautifully manicured gardens provide shade and an ideal spot for a family picnic and the kids will love exploring the wide open spaces and historic buildings.

Villa Borghese Gardens Rome

2. Bioparco di Roma, Rome

This top attraction for kids is actually located within the Villa Borghese Estate but it’s so fantastic that it deserves a mention all its own. The Bioparco is the lergest zoo in all of Italy and considered one of the best in Europe. The zoo features many attractions that kids will love and over 1,100 animals and 222 different species.

Bioparco di Roma

1. Gardaland -Castelnuovo del Garda, Verona

The number one children’s attraction in Italy has to be the mega-theme park known as Gardaland. The complex of over 445,000 square meters includes Gardaland, Gardaland Sea-life and the Gardaland Hotel. The amusement park is the largest in Italy and Forbes once named it as the 5th best amusement park in the world. There are tons of roller coasters, water rides, thrill rides, kids rides and much more that will all delight your children no matter what age.

Dmitry V. Petrenko / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry V. Petrenko / Shutterstock.com

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities to Visit in 2016

The ever popular publisher of travel guides has come out with their ‘Best of Travel 2016’ guide which lists the best of the best for the next year of travel in all sorts of categories from best budget travel to best family travel experiences. If you’ve been planning ahead for next year’s vacations here is the list of the best cities to visit in 2016 to get your imagination running wild. All cities were reportedly chosen for their “topicality, unique experiences and ‘wow’ factor”.

10. Rome

Is there ever a year that it’s not a good idea to visit Rome? We say no, and Lonely Planet agrees saying that the Eternal City “never goes out of fashion.” But in 2016 there are a few special events happening in addition to the myriad of usual reasons why Rome deserves your time; for starters, Pope Francis has declared the coming year as The Year of Mercy, a global celebration which is sure to attract people to the city to celebrate their faith. The non-religious spotlight shines on Rome as well, the city is featured in the soon to be cinematic blockbusters Spectre -the latest installment in the 007 series and the upcoming remake of Ben Hur.

collesseum rome

9. Nashville

Nashville aka ‘Music City’, has been synonymous with country for as far back as we can remember, and while the city will still meet these expectations of boots and spurs, it will also surprise you. Lonely Planet says that this Southern city is booming, thanks to a rapid gentrification by a new crop of residents attracted to the city’s relatively low cost of living and expanding job opportunities. So you can still get your fix of country crooners on Broadway, but elsewhere you can enjoy new galleries, coffee shops, craft breweries and independent clothing retailers.

Nashville downtown skyline

8. Manchester

Lonely Planet says that the #8 city on this list, Manchester is the “UK’s cultural boomtown” so if you’re at all interested in The Arts, you might want to take note of this former industrial city for your 2016 travel plans. The government has committed £78 million to build a new, multi-purpose arts space called ‘The Factory’. The space will be home to a 2,200 seat theater and host the Manchester International Festival. There were several other openings this year including the re-opening of the Whitworth art gallery after a £15 million revamp, and the newly opened HOME multi-artform center. And let’s not forget the stunning Central Library, the city’s official public ‘living room space.’

Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester

7. Fremantle

Anyone familiar with Australia knows that the West has been on the rise for years now, so it’s not surprising to see the city of Fremantle make this year’s list. This Western port town is situated on the Swan River, about 14 kilometers from the Western Australian capital of Perth. It’s a far cry from Sydney, both in geography and in vibe, but don’t underestimate ‘Freo’, because if you do you’ll be missing out on a lively and thriving counterculture of hipster bars, live music rooms, craft breweries, alternative book stores, seafood shacks and beach buskers.

MEzairi / Shutterstock.com
MEzairi / Shutterstock.com

6. Mumbai

You may be thinking to yourself “India, booming? Really?” Well, yes. In fact, in 2016 India is predicted to overtake China as the fastest growing economy in the world. A fact that makes the city of Mumbai seem a little more worthy of its nickname ‘Maximum City’. With rapid reinvestment of its wealth in development and expansion, you’ll find everything in Mumbai is getting an upgrade. From the creation of a shiny new terminal at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, to the new air-conditioned commuter monorail to old cotton mills finding new life as shopping centers, one thing is for sure, Mumbai will surprise and delight you in 2016.

silentwings / Shutterstock.com
silentwings / Shutterstock.com

5. Rotterdam

One look around at the landscape and scenery of Rotterdam tells you this city is cutting edge. Futuristic architecture and contemporary construction are on display everywhere including the Markthal Rotterdam, a public food hall and residence which opened in 2014 and still has people talking, or the Netherlands largest building; De Rotterdam. In 2016 we’ll see the opening of the Museum Rotterdam inside the Rem Koolhaas-designed Timmerhuis building, this and a slew of new bars, restaurants and nightlife venues prove that life in Rotterdam is anything but ordinary.

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

4. George Town

Malaysia hasn’t exactly seen a lot of recognition for modern arts and culture and the city of George Town in Penang state is probably more well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed streetscape than anything else. While any UNESCO designation is nothing to glaze over, Lonely Planet says it’s not the only reason to head to George Town in 2016. It’s a city that’s setting the pace for modern arts and culture in the country and visitors can experience this while visiting the Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, a re-purposed formerly abandoned transportation hub or checking out the Urban Xchange: Crossing Over festival which features funky street art throughout the city.

manzrussali / Shutterstock.com
manzrussali / Shutterstock.com

3. Dublin

It’s estimated that currently, 40% of the population of Dublin is under the age of 30. As such, the vibe of this city right now is one that’s youthful, vibrant and on the rise. A stroll along the bustling banks of the River Liffey will convince you of this fact for sure. In 2016, the Irish capital will be celebrating the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising -a brutal insurrection against British Rule that ultimately led to the formation of the Irish Republic. Lonely Planet says you can be sure that celebrations throughout the city will be loud and they will be long.

Dublin bridge

2. Quito

The #2 entry on this years top travel list is another city steeped in history and old world charm, after all the entire city of Quito, Ecuador is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a fact that many are already familiar with and has long been a reason to visit, but Lonely Planet says it might just be the addition of some new along with the old, that might convince you of its worth. Tourists who prefer things easier than the backpacking travel lifestyle will enjoy the city’s new metro system which will open in 2016 as well as the refurbished train station and the shiny new airport. Everyone will enjoy the city’s old town architecture and towering mountains that have had adventure-seekers heading here for years.

Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

1.  Kotor

What’s an up-and-coming travel list without at least one city that you’ve probably never heard of? Well Lonely Planet insists that this one is worthy of their #1 top city to visit in 2016 spot. Kotor is a secluded coastal city on Montenegro’s Gulf of Kotor. According to Lonely Planet, it’s amazingly beautiful from every angle and “is one of the most photogenic spots in all of Europe.” That’s certainly saying something considering the kind of places it’s up against for that title. Unlike other coastal cities in the same region, the cruise ships haven’t touched Kotor, leaving the city’s maze of alleys, plazas and cafe’s all for you. But don’t say Lonely Planet didn’t warn you, the cruisers will discover this piece of European paradise soon enough.

Kotor Montenegro

7 Scenic Spots for an Epic Picnic

There are few more idyllic, memorable, budget-friendly activities than enjoying an outdoor picnic. Whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic spot to nosh wine and cheese, a family looking for a day outing, or a big group planning an event or reunion, there are loads of spots that will enhance the overall experience with scenery, amenities and unique features built right into the setting. And there are many who agree that food just tastes better outside.

7. Irvine Regional Park, CA

Located in Orange, CA, Irvine Regional Park is a mecca for family fun, and that includes a picnic. In addition to numerous picnic tables and outdoor grills, there is a host of activities to partake in after you’ve finished your potato salad. There are bike trails (bike rentals available), equestrian trails, pony rides, paddleboats and fishing. There is even a train that the family can hop on for a ride across the park, as well as a zoo.

Photo by: Gavin Farrington
Photo by: Gavin Farrington

6. Huayna Picchu, Peru

Looking for a picnic perch with a view? You can’t get much better than spreading your blanket out atop Huayna Picchu in Peru, breaking your bread and taking in the vistas all around you. At an elevation of 9,000 ft., stopping atop this mountain after a reportedly grueling hike not only gives you a chance to rest and refuel your body after the hike, but a chance to refresh your soul as well, with a stunning panorama of the 15th century ruins of Machu Piccu, including the Urubamba River Valley and the iconic city of Inca.

Huayna Picchu, Peru

5. Gatineau Park, QC

Gatineau Park, located just across the Ottawa River, has 5 different picnic areas within their network of parks. The park is very popular with mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Charcoal BBQs are available at various locations throughout the parks, as well as lots of picnic tables.  The Etienne Brule Lookout is a popular picnic spot and offers fantastic views of the Ottawa River and connects to hiking and biking trails.

Gatineau Park, QC

4. Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

You’ve heard of dinner and a show? How about lunch and a view? And as far as views go, you can’t replicate the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park at the South Rim has over 300 miles of trails to wander and take in this wonder of the world. Desert View Drive, which winds along the south rim of the Canyon leads to the Desert View Watchtower. Along this road are several lookout points and picnic areas. If you’re looking to extend your stay and camp, reservations are highly recommended. There are three campgrounds at the South Rim, including tent sites that can accommodate up to 50 people and three vehicles- so if your picnic plans are for a large group or reunion- this is a good spot for you.

Grand Canyon South Rim, AZ

3. Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park, Bristol UK

This fun park expands over 50 acres along the River Avon and has loads of family activities, including a petting zoo, mazes, a toddler village, and indoor and outdoor play areas. The park offers a “Riverside Experience” with miles of trails to follow along the river, providing idyllic picnic spots along the way.

Avon Valley
Photo by: Avon Valley Adventure and wildlife park

2. Shannon Falls Provincial Park, BC

In Squamish B.C., Shannon Falls cascades down over Howe Sound, and are the third tallest falls in British Columbia. A meandering trail through the forest will get you down to the base of the falls- which is where you’ll want to head for photo ops and great views. If you feel like a longer hike, this trail hooks into the Stawamus Trail, which spreads its way out to three different summits. Shannon Falls Provincial Park is well-equipped for picnickers with a concession stand and picnic area located next to the parking lot. This area is for day-use only, making it ideal for a daytime hike and picnic to take in the views.

Photo by: Panoramio/Schalk Mouton
Photo by: Panoramio/Schalk Mouton

1. Villa Borghese Park, Rome

Villa Borghese is Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park with vast amounts of green space, walking trails and ponds. This park spreads out over 226 acres, and is populated with statues, museums, fountains, theaters and a zoo. There is a wide patchwork of lush, idyllic gardens in which to stop and smell the roses- literally. There are lots of grassy patches under trees to spread out your blanket and feast on your Italian picnic basket. Afterwards you can wander to one of the many man-made lakes and feed the ducks.

Villa Borghese Park, Rome