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 Memorable Places to Get Engaged

Getting engaged is a huge deal. Not only are you agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone (which is no small undertaking), the engagement itself will be a story that will be told over and over again for the rest of your lives together. And every good story has to have not only great characters (in this case the future bride and groom), but a great setting to start it off on the right page. So to help create the plot of your fairytale story, here are some memorable spots in which to get engaged.

10. Siesta Key -Florida, United States

Siesta Key beach is known to be one of the best in the world, with its temperate waters, signature white sands and miles and miles of beach to walk. Siesta Key is also known to have some of the best sunsets in the world. Take your beloved for a stroll on the beach at sunset and pop the question against the fiery night sky.

Siesta Key

9. Kylemore Abbey -Connemara, Ireland

Another castle to consider for the prince and princess in one of their most romantic moments. Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland. This castle has numerous restored rooms and six acres of walled Victorian gardens. There are sweeping views of the rolling Irish countryside. Think fresh air, a pastoral setting and history in which to chart your future.

Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

8. The Jefferson Memorial -Washington, D.C., United States

Getting engaged is no small feat, and perhaps surrounding yourself with meaningful words and history will enhance the depth of the commitment and of your love. Engagements at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. are popular. After a stroll around some Washington landmarks, pop the question in the cradle of history, with thoughtful passages about rights and freedom taken from the Declaration of Independence upon the walls.

Jefferson Memorial, Washington

7. Venice, Italy

Again, it may be cliche, but Venice straight up just oozes romance. This city of waterways has amazing architecture, deep history, and a laid-back vibe that gives you time to pause and savour the moment. Floating in a gondola would no doubt make for a memorable proposal- but to make it even more romantic, have your gondolier stick to some of the side canals, for a more intimate moment.

couple venice

6. The Pitons, St Lucia

The Pitons are black volcanic mountains, and provide a majestic backdrop for any engagement.  If your partner is outdoorsy and enjoys fancies a hike, a proposal with a view atop one of the Piton spires could be a step in the right direction toward a ‘yes!’. If you are a little more sedentary, the Pitons themselves can be viewed from various locations and hotels around the island.

The Pitons, St Lucia

5. Quebec City -Quebec, Canada

With its European flavour, cobblestone streets and romantic bistros that line the street, this walled city is the epitome of romance. There are a few good spots to seek out for your proposal. The Joan of Arc Garden, located within the Plains of Abraham, with its numerous, vibrant flower beds is a popular spot. Another idea is at the Chateau Frontenac. This historic hotel has rooms with amazing views as well as boasting amazing, classic architecture.

quebec city

4. Neuschwanstein -Schwangau, Germany

Want a romance with a fairy-tale ending? Start your marriage off with a proposal in a real-life castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th century castle located in Southwest Bavaria in Germany. This popular castle ushers through some 6,000 visitors every summer. Why is it so romantic? It’s the inspiration from an actual fairy tale: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty fashioned their castle after Neuschwanstein. We’d say this proposal spot is definitely fit for any princess!

Neuschwanstein Castle Munich

3. Central Park -New York City, United States

Any season will do for a romantic proposal in New York’s iconic Central Park, but the fall provides a pretty backdrop, with loads of trees tipped in vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. Pack a picnic and go for an afternoon stroll or even a horse-drawn carriage ride. A couple of the most popular proposal spots? The Bow Bridge or the Carousel at 46th St.

Central Park

2. Paris, France

It’s a little bit cliche, but Paris really is the city of love. There is something indefinable in the air that communicates romance. The more obvious places to get engaged centre around the Eiffel Tower, either in a hotel with a view or at the Tower itself, or along the banks of the Seine River. Given the romance vibe in Paris, you could propose literally anywhere and have it be meaningful. Want something a little different, but with a spectacular view? Climb the 300 steps up to the dome in the Sacre Coeur Basilica, in Montmartre. The climb is a little daunting, the view is incredible.

Paris, France

1. Santorini, Greece

This group of small islands is one of the most scenic areas in Greece, and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Europe. Santorini is actually perched on the rim top of an active volcano. The topography of this area creates some spectacular hillsides and cliffs, which provide wonderful views of the clear seas below. It’s also famous for show-stopping sunsets, which will create the perfect backdrop to pop the question.

Santorini Island - European Islands

The 12 Most Beautiful Metro Stations In The World

Metro stations are often thought of as being dingy, dark, and sometimes unsafe and generally not a place that you would want to hang out in. But those who think of metro stations this way must not have visited any of these unbelievably breathtaking ones. From the world’s largest art gallery to a station that has been shut off to the public for years, to a station with gold-plated walls; here are the 12 most beautiful metro stations in the world.

12. Saint Petersburg, Russia: Avtovo Station

With a name deriving from a Finnish word meaning “middle of nowhere”, Avtovo is an industrial region that is often overlooked by tourists. But the Avtovo station located underground looks more like a small museum on the outside and offers incredible beauty on the inside. The platform houses ornate glass pillars and a mosaic dedicated to the Leningrad Blockade, and more than one million people who died in the 87day siege of the city by Nazi forces during WWII. The walls are faced with white marble and the domed roof provides a feeling of being in an elegant ballroom, not a metro station. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and provide soft lighting, a warm welcome to the usual harsh underground lighting. It is actually illegal to take a photo in a Russian subway station so remember just look with your eyes or you may be faced with a fine.

Avtovo Station Russia
Anton Kudelin / Shutterstock.com

11. Washington, D.C: Union Station

In contrast to most of America’s utilitarian subways, this gem sticks out like a sore thumb, a really pretty sore thumb. The history behind this station is interesting as Kennedy was president at the time of the planning and it’s believed that the station represented the dignity of the governments, not the cheapest possible solution. What we have now though is a beautiful crafted metro station that came from the likes of great subways around the world. The series of vaulted cathedral ceilings with coffered blocks and elegant up-lighting gives it a sense of calm and tranquility. Make sure to watch as the lights on the platform begin to throb every time a train approaches. This one of a kind station in America looks more like a church, rather than a train station. Remember, just like church there is no eating here.

Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com
Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com

10. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Formosa Boulevard Station

This station is known as the dome of light, dubbed to be the largest glass work in the world and is overly impressive. It was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quaglianta and took over four years to complete. The dome spans over 30 meters in diameters and features over 4,500 colored glass panels that were shipped all the way from Germany. The overall message of this piece of art is love and tolerance and has been designed to relate to the story of human life. The themes include water, earth, light and fire. This station is also home to an impressive 3-D art installation done by successful 3-D street artist Su Chia-hsien that has faded over the years but still worth a look. Try to avoid rush hour in order to gain the best pictures of this impressive metro station.

Lau Chun Kit / Shutterstock.com
Lau Chun Kit / Shutterstock.com

9. Moscow: Komsomolskaya Station

It looks more like a ballroom than a metro station and was actually inspired by a wartime speech of Stalin’s. It was constructed in 1952 and remains absolutely breathtaking with its marble pillars and mosaics. Artist Pavel Korin and architect Alexey Schusev were actually awarded the Stalin prize for their work here. Chandeliers are the lighting of choice and there are a total of eight ceiling mosaics throughout the sunny yellow paint job. This huge hall supported by columns has high ceilings, making it feel as though are in a museum rather than a metro station, even its banisters are intricately designed and pretty. Make sure to time your visit accordingly, on the weekdays in the summer tend to be the least crowded times, in order to fully appreciate the works of art throughout the station.

Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com
Leonid Andronov / Shutterstock.com

8. Bilbao, Spain: Moyua Square Station

The ambitious Bilbao metro system took two stages to actually complete, the first from 1988-1995 and the second from 1997-2004. The system itself is known as being incredibly fast, cheap, efficient and clean and it’s no wonder why love to ride it. Designers of the metro system used natural light and intuitive space to encourage commuters to walk in the right direction without needing to rely on signage, a design that not only works, but is also beautiful. The routes are meant to flow, like a trail through a cave, guiding you to the stations. The sheltered glass canopies that pay homage to the Paris Metro are light wells during the day and beacons at night, guiding the commuter home. The glass canopy that protrudes out of the Moyua Square Station is the most well-known of all.

Photo by: Wikipedia
Photo by: Wikipedia

7. Naples, Italy: University Station

It took New York designer Karim Rashid to transform this subway station into the colorful, fun station it is today. Sculptures and graphic patterns line the escalators, walls and ceilings here. The curved walls are painted in bright colors, of pink and yellow while floors are a kaleidoscope of rainbows. There is a diverse academic community that travels through this station and Rashid wanted to tap into those minds, creating a space for learning while waiting for the train. Rolling LED programming is situated behind frosted glass and displays universally recognized words and transformational digital artwork takes over the platform stairways. The seating here has even been taken into consideration and is designed to look more like a landscape than furniture. If you have ever wanted to lose yourself in a sea of colors and abstract art, head to this ultra modern avant-garde type subway station.

Baloncici / Shutterstock.com
Baloncici / Shutterstock.com

6. Paris, France: Arts et Metiers Station

The entrances to this station are icons of elegant public architecture but it is what lies beneath that truly amaze visitors. Walking down into this station is like walking into an old-time brass submarine. Riveted copper walls and huge gears hanging from the ceiling set the stage. Port holes along the walls are outfitted with picture boxes depicting 19th-century navigation. Sleep silver and copper chairs are fitted seamlessly against the walls and even the garbage cans fit into the scene. The station was created by Belgian comic’s artist Francois Schuiten and was based on the fiction works of Jules Verne. Don’t miss the museum that is situated above the metro station that is full of inventions and oddities from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com
Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com

5. Saudi Arabia: Riyadh Metro

It is set to be the most beautiful metro station in the world with its gold-plated walls, huge marble walkways and space-age designs. One of the biggest names in architecture, Zaha Hadid is in charge of the design of this station. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is funding the station and demands that the metro be ready to use by 2019. The stations will be powered by renewable energy and the façade will be designed to let light in while keeping out the harsh desert sun, there is no need to worry about sweating here, this metro will be fully air-conditioned. The overall shape is meant to look like the country’s sand dunes and will feature raised elevators along with other beautiful finishes. Ground was broken in August 2014 and construction started on what promises to be the most beautiful station in the world.

Photo by: Dubai Metro
Photo by: Dubai Metro

4. New York City: City Hall Station

The city hall station is normally closed to the public but visitors can get down here by taking a tour offered by the New York Transit Museum. This station was built largely as a ceremonial terminal for local government dignitaries and only operated for forty years, from 1904-1945 due to lack of space. Arched ceilings with Guastavino tiles, ornate skylights and the grandest subway architecture that this city offers awaits visitors here. If you don’t want to take a tour but still want to see this wonderful piece of history, stay on the 6 train after its final Brooklyn Bridge stop. As the train makes its turnaround to loop back, riders can catch a glimpse of this beautiful station, lost in history. You will wonder why every other station in New York doesn’t look as good as this one.

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

3. Dubai, U.A.E.: Khalid Bin Waleed Station

In a city where the average high temperature in August is over 100 degrees, you may want to escape the heat and head to the spotless and air-conditioned metro station. This just isn’t a normal metro station though, it can be described more of a museum of Dubai’s history. The theme of this station is water, depicting Dubai’s history of fishing and pearl diving. Fiber optic chandeliers hang from the ceilings which result in looking more like breathtaking jellyfish, tiled floors are done in brilliant blues and gold, and the blue mood lighting above makes this station absolutely magnificent. The station is spread over three floors and like everything else in the city; it oozes luxury and cleanliness.

Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com
Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

2. Naples, Italy: Toledo Metro Station

It seems that nothing can top the dimpled tunnel walls of the metro station here in terms of impressiveness. This city has truly transformed its underground system into a visual spectacle with its art initiative that challenged world renowned architects and designers to overhaul the subway. The Toledo Station that opened in 2012 is amongst its most impressive, featuring mosaics by artist William Kentridge and a seascape made up of LED wall panels. The wall between the ground and lower level is made up of thousands of Bisazza tiles that move from light to dark blue as passengers travel down the escalators. This station was designed around the theme of water and light and passengers will hardly believe their eyes as they wander around, taking in the unusual effects. In a city that is known for its vandalism, it is impressive that this metro station remains unscathed.

luckyraccoon / Shutterstock.com
luckyraccoon / Shutterstock.com

1. Stockholm, Sweden: T-Centralen Station

The Stockholm underground is actually considered the world’s largest art gallery and nearly all of the stations resemble and art gallery or museum. In fact these are so awe-inspiring, many miss their trains as they admire the art work. There are more than 140 artists who are represented across 90 of the station including both permanent and temporary exhibits. The highlight of this underground system is the T-Centralen station where all three stations meet. The blue line section was painted back in 1970 and huge lines of blue and white adorn the walls and ceilings as well as rustic arches and columns decorated with mosaics. It doesn’t matter which station you head to here, they are all ultimately beautiful and fabulous. Spend all day riding the metro and discover a whole new world of underground art.

IvanKravtsov / Shutterstock.com
IvanKravtsov / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Best Chinatowns Across America

America is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. Most major American cities have neighborhoods settled by the people who crossed oceans and began an unpredictable journey to America to provide a better life for their children, escaping poverty and war in their homeland. Little Italy, Germantown and of course, Chinatown are all staples of America’s cities, their residents establishing their identities in America while holding onto their native cultures. Among the oldest of these miniature ethnic pockets are the Chinatowns that dot the U.S., from Seattle to Boston, San Francisco to New York City. Here are the 10 best you’ll find in America.

10. Washington D.C.

Though one of the smallest Chinatowns on this list, Washington D.C.’s Chinese neighborhood benefits from a great location-walking distance to many other landmarks and neighborhoods-and a more calm atmosphere than others. Only about a fifth of the neighborhood’s 3,000 residents are actually Chinese, as recent college grads have moved to the area in recent years, attracted to the affordable housing. This does not take away from the authentic Chinese atmosphere, however. Like many Chinatowns, there is a classically styled archway over H Street and 7th Street, just a few blocks down from the Verizon Center, where the hometown Wizards (NBA) and Capitals (NHL) compete. You’ll find a handful of shops selling pastries and little knickknacks, as well as some great restaurants, such as Tony Cheng’s Seafood and Pho DC -one of the best bowls of Pho in the D.C. area.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

9. Houston

Not to be confused with the city’s “Old Chinatown” neighborhood, the current community of Chinese residents, shops and restaurants can be found in the southwestern part of town. Unlike most Chinatowns, which usually occupy a number of dense city blocks, the Houston Chinatown is a widely dispersed set of strip malls over 6 square miles. It’s probably the most automobile friendly Chinatown on this list, so if you’re a tourist without a rental car this one would be a tough draw. Chinese food is not the only kind you’ll find here. Filipinos, Indonesians, Japanese, Koreans and more have populated the area, and have brought the cuisine of their home countries with them. Some people are hesitant to even refer to this part of the city as Chinatown, since there are so many other Asian influences present.

Photo by: Capital Realty Group
Photo by: Capital Realty Group

8. Boston

Boston, a city more known for its Irish heritage as seen in films like Good Will Hunting and The Town, is also home to a stellar Chinatown, the only one in all of New England. 70% of the population is Chinese, though there is a strong Vietnamese influence as well, which can be felt in the number of Vietnamese restaurants and food stalls. Located near Boston’s theater district and Tufts Medical Center, Chinatown is a convenient place to stop for an authentic Chinese dinner before a night around town, but its also got enough to keep your attention for a full day. There are some great hot pot (a Chinese fondue of sorts) restaurants, as well as dim sum and some hole in the walls with cheaper options but still quality eats.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

7. Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Chinatown traces its roots all the way back to the mid 19th century, when Cantonese immigrants opened restaurants and laundries in the city center. In the late 1990s, an influx of immigrants from other Asian countries including Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, began moving into Philly’s Chinatown. Like many other Chinatowns in America, there is a Friendship Gate (an archway) that’s built in the colorful style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, which acts as symbol of connection between Philadelphia and its sister city of Tianjin. It’s a beautiful landmark, and well worth a picture or two. Hong Kong style eateries can be found on 10th Street and Race Street, where restaurants serving other Asian fare-Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese-can also be enjoyed.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

6. Los Angeles

Forever immortalized by the 1974 film Chinatown, and also featured in the buddy-cop classic Rush Hour, L.A.’s Chinatown is vast, full of things to see and do (and of course, eat). When the Central Pacific Railroad Co. began work on the country’s first transcontinental rail in the 1860s, they started to recruit laborers from China, who then moved here and settled in what is now known as Chinatown. Among the highlights: a statue of Bruce Lee and Sun Yat-sen (father of modern China); a beautiful Wishing Well, a dragon mural and a main plaza strung with red lanterns. There are restaurants with glass displays of roast duck and pigs, but some of the more popular eateries include an Italian place called Little Joe’s and a French deli called Philippe’s.

LA Chinatown

5. Honolulu

Hawaii might be well known for its East Asian influence already, particularly its Japanese roots, but did you know that Honolulu has one of the best Chinatowns in America? Chinese laborers from the area’s sugar plantations settled here in the 19th century, only to have the entire neighborhood burned down in the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire of 1900. It has since been rebuilt, a bustling, open space full of fruit stands and restaurants. Given Hawaii’s tropical climate, the Honolulu Chinatown feels like a small city in the south of China. The famed Wo Fat restaurant, known as the namesake for a character in Hawaii Five-O-is now out of service, but its historic façade is still worth a visit.

Honolulu Chinatown

4. Seattle

America’s Pacific Coast has long been concentrated with immigrants from East Asia, and while officially named “Chinatown”, this Seattle neighborhood is more Little East Asia. The bulk of this Chinatown is on King Street, though just off the main thoroughfare is Japantown, which as you can imagine is modeled after a Japanese city. There is a vibrant and lively Chinese New Year celebration with lion dancers and fireworks, and the China Gate restaurant has a beautiful gate modeled after the walls of the ancient Chinese capital Peking (now Beijing). Hing Hay Park is an idyllic outdoor spot with a traditional Chinese Pagoda and chess tables. The Nippon Kan Theatre and the Wing Luke Asian Museum are also must see attractions.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

3. Chicago

Located on the Red Line, Chicago’s Chinatown provides great views of the city skyline as well as a variety of restaurants and landmarks to check out on a fine summer day in Chicago. The Nine-Dragon Wall is a beautiful jade and yellow colored monument built in the style typical of imperial China. Chinatown Square, decorated with statues of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, is full of shops; tea shops, traditional medicine shops and massage parlors that have the feel of the dense hutongs (alleyways) of Old Beijing. Lao Beijing and Lao Szechwan are local staples, serving traditional cuisine from those cities, and Hing Kee is a great noodle spot that makes their noodles by hand. Get a foot massage at one of the area’s massage parlors, and visit a Buddhist temple, which can be easy to miss among the abundance of grocery stores, restaurants and gift shops. Make sure to stop by the shop that specializes in swords! The Bruce Lee poster in the front display is hard to miss.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

2. Manhattan

Manhattan’s Chinatown is huge, so huge that it can almost be considered its own mini-city, and it has the second largest population density of Chinese in the entire Western Hemisphere. There are 9 Chinatowns scattered across all of New York City, but Manhattan’s is the largest and the oldest, and it’s easy to forget that you’re still in America, not a metropolis of China. There are fish markets and fruit markets, theaters and museums. There’s a Little Hong Kong, a Little Fuzhou, a Little Guangdong. It’s almost like a Chinatown within a Chinatown within a Chinatown. Between 90,000 and 100,000 people live in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and its easy to get put off by the density and activity, but if you’d like to experience what life in a modern Chinese city is like, and are willing to have an open mind while doing so, then dive right in and take in all it has to offer.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

1. San Francisco

The oldest in the country, San Francisco’s Chinatown sees more tourists every year than the Golden Gate Bridge. Every September, the neighborhood hosts the Autumn Moon Festival, a Chinese tradition that celebrates the summer harvest, and it’s a must-attend event for those who’d like to experience a traditional Chinese holiday other than the New Year. Boasting two hospitals, a post office, schools, libraries, parks, restaurants and grocery stores, San Francisco’s Chinatown is essentially an autonomous enclave, and is also home to the highest Chinese population outside of Asia. For the most authentic taste of China outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the #1 place to visit.

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Virginia’s Top 10 Historic Sites to Visit

Steeped in history and blessed with natural beauty, Virginia oozes tradition and charm. Located in a remarkably compact area are dozens of carefully preserved sites that tell the stories behind America’s birth and fight for independence as well as its bloody Civil War. From the Revolutionary War to the War Between the States, Virginia has seen more battles on its soil than any other state. With majestic estates of America’s first presidents with the hallowed grounds of its national cemetery to the most significant fields of battle, Virginia is a fascinating place to explore for anyone with an appreciation of history.

10. University of Virginia

photohoo / Getty Images

Many other universities can claim a long and prestigious history, but what school other than the University of Virginia can boast it was designed by Thomas Jefferson? The third U.S. president, who lived just outside Charlottesville on his Monticello estate, spent the last years of his life designing the university as a model academic institution. Today, the thriving, picturesque campus that opened in 1825 remains a remarkable architectural showcase, dotted with large trees and stately historic brick buildings. Jefferson’s crowning achievement is the domed Rotunda library. Designed to resemble Rome’s Pantheon, the Rotunda serves as the center of a majestic pavilion lined with student dorms that are still in use. A vibrant college town, Charlottesville bustles with energy. Its pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown has dozens of shops and restaurants complemented by street musicians. The mall’s Paramount Theater opened in 1931, hosts concerts, plays, and other special events.

9. Appomattox Court House

James P. Blair / Getty Images

The horrific violence of the Civil War came to a most civil end on April 9, 1865, when Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sat down in the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House and worked out the details of the Army of Northern Virginia’s peaceful surrender. Today, the quaint, quiet village is a National Historic Park with over a dozen buildings including the restored courthouse and McLean House, a theater showing a film on the monumental significance of the surrender, and a museum filled with documents and military artifacts related to the milestone event. A gentle, four-mile walking trail allows visitors to relive the history up close at several landmarks such as the site where the Confederate flag of truce was received by Union General George Custer and the road where the defeated Southern army laid down their arms.

8. James Madison’s Montpelier

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

A leisurely drive northeast of Charlottesville past well-manicured horse farms is one of Virginia’s most impressive historic estates—James Madison’s Montpelier. The fourth U.S. president and father of the U.S. constitution lived at Montpelier throughout his momentous life. He is buried there along with his equally famous wife, Dolley Madison. Archaeological digs continue today at the sprawling, 2,650-acre complex that includes a two-acre, formal botanical garden and over 200 acres of old-growth forest behind the home that was built in 1723. A hike in the quiet forest, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1987, is worth the visit alone, with interpretative signage marking trails where workers took grain through the woods to be ground at nearby mills. The visitors center presents a film and exhibits life at Montpelier. The mansion includes Madison’s presidential library along with other authentic books, furnishings, and art from Madison’s years living there.

7. Museum and White House of the Confederacy in Richmond

Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images

As the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, Richmond is chock full of history. The city’s Museum of the Confederacy has the largest collection of Confederate artifacts found anywhere, including personal items from Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and other legendary leaders. Founded in 1890, the museum also includes impressive art depicting the South’s war experience. Next door, the White House of the Confederacy was the residence of Davis and his family during the war. The circa 1818 mansion has been restored to its stately antebellum condition. Also nearby is the Virginia State Capitol that served as the site of both the Virginia and Confederate legislatures. Capitol Square surrounding the state capitol complex includes the governor’s historic Executive Mansion. The Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center provides a fascinating overview of the bitter fighting that took place in and around the capital city.

6. Old Town Alexandria

Grace Cary / Getty Images

Much of the Washington, D.C. suburb of Alexandria doesn’t feel historic with high-rise apartments adjacent to commuter train stations and trendy shops. Old Town Alexandria is a delightful exception that extends westward from the Potomac River for several blocks. Once part of the original Washington, D.C., Alexandria was a busy seaport during the Colonial period and became a hospital center for the Union army during the Civil War. Gadsby’s Tavern in the heart of Old Town is one of America’s most famous watering holes. Now a museum, the circa 1785 tavern and adjoining City Hotel (ca. 1795) was visited by the nation’s first six presidents including hosting Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural party. The free King Street Trolley runs through the heart of Old Town, the home of Christ Church where George and Martha Washington worshiped, and the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary, now a museum where the Washington’s shopped.

5. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Ian Spanier / Getty Images

Located between the capitals of Richmond and Washington, D.C., Fredericksburg and nearby towns endured some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park captures the intense battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania that saw 100,000 casualties. The four battlefields are within a short drive from each other and collectively comprise the world’s second-largest military park. Each battlefield has self-guided driving tours and walking trails, but a stop at the visitor centers of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville is a smart way to begin your tour. They present a short overview film along with maps and exhibits, plus rangers can help determine the best options with the time you’ve allotted. A comprehensive exploration could easily take two days, but a half-day can be rewarding. Special events and guided tours are offered in the warmer months to the numerous historic buildings and landmarks of this hallowed ground.

4. Arlington National Cemetery

Marc Perrella / Getty Images

Perhaps no single site is more steeped in American history than Arlington National Cemetery. Perched on a picturesque hill overlooking the Potomac River and the nation’s capital, the former estate of Robert E. Lee became a national cemetery at the height of the Civil War in 1864. Originally owned by the grandson of Martha Washington, Arlington is the final resting place for a Who’s Who of American dignitaries including generals, admirals, chief justices, secretaries of state, Presidents William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy, as well as Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline and brothers Ted and Robert. The hallowed ground is highlighted by the Tomb of the Unknowns that is guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day and the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s grave. Another not-to-be-missed site is the Arlington House where Lee resigned his U.S. Army commission to lead the Army of Northern Virginia as the Civil War began in 1861.

3. Monticello

Bruce Ellis / Shutterstock

Thomas Jefferson made Monticello his permanent residence just outside Charlottesville in northwestern Virginia beginning in 1770, and today the domed estate offers a revealing glimpse into the genius of Jefferson. Mementos of the Lewis & Clark expedition and Jefferson’s world travels grace the estate, as do many of the third U.S. president’s mind-boggling inventions. A stroll along the grounds of the heavily wooded estate takes visitors to the family cemetery where Jefferson was buried upon his death in 1826, as well as to the lovely orchard, garden, and vineyard areas. In fact, Jefferson was a noted wine lover who unsuccessfully attempted to recreate the delicious wines he savored during his trips to France. Today, Jefferson Vineyards has been much more successful in producing vintage-quality wines on the same soil as its namesake. It’s among dozens of wineries around Charlottesville offering tastings of wines made from Virginia grapes.

2. George Washington’s Mount Vernon

JacobH / Getty Images

Virginia lays claim to many famous people but none more so than George Washington. America’s first president moved into George Washington’s Mt. Vernon in 1752. He expanded and transformed the circa 1735 home his father built into a 21-room mansion with a sweeping, two-story porch facing the Potomac River that he designed. The mansion and grounds have been meticulously restored to their 18th-century condition. Over a dozen outbuildings are open for visitors on the sprawling estate including a working blacksmith shop, distillery, and gristmill. Serpentine paths wind through impressive groves of trees, beautiful walled gardens, and to the family cemetery where George, Martha, and other members of the Washington family are buried. Visitors can even opt to arrive at the site of Washington’s original wharf on the Potomac. Operators run a regular schedule of shuttle boats from nearby Alexandria and Washington, D.C.

1. Jamestown, Williamsburg & Yorktown

Regine Poirier / Shutterstock

Driving along the 23-mile Colonial Parkway in southeastern Virginia that connects Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown is akin to stepping into a time machine that takes you back to the beginnings of a nation. Start at Historic Jamestown where English settlers arrived in 1607, some 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, and then onto Jamestown Settlement to see replicas of the ships that brought the settlers. There’s also a reconstruction of their original fort and a recreated Powhatan Indian village where Pocahontas lived. Nearby Colonial Williamsburg is a truly immersive experience of colonial life complete with costumed characters, horse-drawn carriages, and seemingly countless historic buildings on the 301-acre complex including the Governor’s Palace and taverns frequented by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Yorktown is where America finally won its independence from Britain when the surrender of General Cornwallis signified the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1781.

10 Most Sacred Sites in the United States

There is a world of variety in what different belief systems find sacred, some have passages of rites, others have sites of worship or holy animals and without a doubt all have a list of defining principles to follow. Great thinkers have struggled with the definition of the truly sacred. But it should be safe to say that in the multicultural melting pot of the United States, there are places of impossible beauty that are undeniably sacred, no matter what your religious background is, these sites will instill a feeling of awe at being in the presence of a higher power. Whether man-made or a natural wonder, they can be considered sacred because of what history has unfolded there or simply the depth of faith their natural beauty displays.

10. Sakya Monastery -Seattle, Washington

Sakya, meaning “grey or pale earth”, is one of four major branches of Buddhism. The monastery was a Presbyterian Church from 1928 until converted in 1975. The name resonates with the original Sakya monastery now in China, built in the 13th century containing some of Tibet’s greatest art works. The saffron robes, beaming Buddhas and the gentle teachings give it an aura of peace. Its devotion to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture in the face of the overwhelming power of the Chinese government is striking. The Head Lama has reflected that “the changes in Tibet are an example of the true nature of human existence: all is impermanent, and everything changes” adding to the sense of being in the presence of a heavenly power far beyond anything a mere earthly superpower can muster.

Photo by: Wonderlane via Flickr
Photo by: Wonderlane via Flickr

9. Cahokia Mounds -St. Louis, Missouri

Over a millennium ago, Cahokia was a huge settlement cross the river from what is now St. Louis. With an estimated 40,000 people in and around it, it is believed by many to have been the largest city in the world at that time, certainly the biggest in North America before Columbus. The High Priest literally ruled over the center of Mississippian Native culture from Monk’s Mound (so named by Trappist monks centuries later) where the Sacred Fire burned. In shades of England’s Stonehenge Monk’s Mound and the burial site of the Ruler-Priest are aligned by the stars. In fact, a circle of wooden poles nicknamed Woodhenge was used as a solar calendar. There are dozens of mounds once used for ceremonies, burials, sacrifices and with them the tingling feeling that ancient spirits still roam over them.

Cahokia Mounds

8. Unity Temple -Chicago, Illinois

The renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Temple after the Unitarian Church of which he was a member was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes in 1905. Its replacement, too, appears to be an act of God, like no other church on the face of the earth with a complete absence of anything resembling tradition liturgical shapes and textures. Instead of soaring domes and gold leafed chapels there is a mesmerizing geometric precision. Wright saw it as a “democratic’ religious space for the worship of God and a “meeting place, in which to study man himself for his God’s sake.” Like a late Mozart symphony, it seems like a masterpiece that could only have been achieved with the help of the angels. Modern and unconventional it may be, but it still induces a powerful urge to fall on one’s knees in wonder. It is designated a National Historic Landmark and attracts visitors from around the world.

Photo by: Teemu008 via Flickr
Photo by: Teemu008 via Flickr

7. Crater Lake -Medford, Oregon

With a depth of 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest in the country and Top Ten worldwide. It is an underappreciated scenic gem with one-tenth the four plus million visitors the Grand Canyon gets. The Klamath nation still regards it as a sacred site, created long ago by a terrible battle between the Chiefs of the Above and Below Worlds that completely destroyed the mountain that stood there. Scientists believe that Mount Mazama imploded some 8,000 years ago after a series of cataclysmic eruptions to form a caldera or volcanic depression, which became the lake with an unforgettable shade of blue seen only here. New Age spiritual adherents believe that the lake is a major vortex site and the source of positive energy from the earth’s natural power grid.

Crater Lake

6. The Islamic Center -Washington, D.C.

The mosque and cultural center has been ensconced on Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C. since 1957. It was one of the earliest mosques in the country and for a time was the largest in the Western hemisphere. The interior is lush and imposing, recalling the legendary works of the great Ottoman architect Sinan, called the Muslim Michelangelo. In happy historical coincidence, it was in fact built by an Italian architect. There is something about great mosques that are piously humbling but artistically uplifting. It was there that President George W. Bush read the Koran just six days after the terrorist attack of 9/11: “In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule”. As the place the President of the United States reached out to a shaken Muslim community, invoking the words of the Prophet and the souls of the victims, in the name of peace, this must forever be a hallowed, sacred place.

Islamic Center, Washington

5. Mount Shasta -Mt. Shasta, California

Part of the Cascade Range in northern California, Shasta is central to the Creation story for local Native Americans and remains a sacred place for them. They have lived there for 9,000 years and though their numbers have dwindled shockingly, descendants still conduct ceremonies in its honor. The towering extinct volcano, once an active part of the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire, stands over 14,000 feet. No other mountain on the continent has been ordained by so many groups with mystical significance. As with many Native American sacred sites, its spirituality has been adopted by contemporary belief systems. Buddhists built a monastery there with the belief that it is one of the Seven Sacred Mountains in the World. Many New Agers believe it to be a vortex emitting earth’s subterranean energy. More than a few believe it to be a refueling base for UFO’s. Some of it may seem sacrilegious, but in a way underline the beauty and power of a place whose beauty has been put here by a Creator for a higher purpose.

Mount Shasta, California

4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Baltimore, Maryland

Maryland was founded as a safe haven for Catholics persecuted in England, but the pious Puritans took up the persecution in the New World to the point that in some places Catholics could be sentenced to death. It took 145 years after the Declaration of Independence to build this Cathedral in Baltimore, so when the Basilica opened its doors in 1821, it was a major landmark for the country. It is sublimely warm and welcoming inside. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II have blessed it. He called it “the worldwide symbol of religious freedom”. In a sense it can be said that people died for this to be realized and so remains a moving testament to their faith and conviction in the face of intolerance.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Baltimore, Maryland

3. Devil’s Tower -Crook County, Wyoming

It is as much as 70 million years old. A stunning geological formation, from a volcanic eruption, it has been shaped and scarred by a millennium of erosion. Known in contemporary culture from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, some twenty Indian tribes have said to had close and sacred encounters with this natural beauty for thousands of years. It is also known as Bear Lodge and Bear tipi. There are many different legends of how it was created by the Great Spirit Legend. The crevices down its side are said to have been left by a bear sliding down in futility after his erstwhile victims found refuge on top. It was the first site declared a National Monument in 1906 and is still a place for Sun Dances, vision quests and other ceremonial customs. Its commanding presence juts out of the Black Hills looking down on its domain- does it have a supernatural power and in its mystery lies the questions by the grace of whom?

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

2.  Touro Synagogue -Newport, Rhode Island

The English settled Jamestown in 1607 and the Puritans landed famously at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The first Jewish settlers found their way to New York in 1654 and to Newport Rhode Island in 1658, likely fleeing persecution (as their ancestors and descendants have) in the Caribbean. The community thrived and decided it was time for a synagogue in 1759, so they chose Peter Harrison, who was considered the colonies’ greatest architect of the 18th century. Its interior is exquisite like a small English palace. Intensely symbolic, it was built so that people inside face east to Jerusalem and the number 12 is a recurring theme honoring the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It too is a historic site, but moreover it is a symbol of the devotion of a tiny group who lit a torch of hope for their ill-treated people in the New World.

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

1. Bighorn Medicine Wheel -Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming

They are scarce, with only a hundred or so remaining set in starkly, spectacular, settings. medicine wheel’s are intensely spiritual, places that were made for worship. The Bighorn is the grandfather of all medicine wheels, though its 10,000 foot elevation makes it a daunting destination. Its intricate celestial significance is captivating. It’s a circle with 28 spokes, the number of days in the lunar calendar and a sacred number to many tribes. The spokes point to the rising and setting places of stars near and distant, the Sun at summer solstice, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius, the Dog Star (whose apogee in August gave rise to The Dog Days of summer) in Canis Major. Medicine wheels are the New World’s Stonehenge. Despite their name, they were not used for medical purposes. They should more appropriately be called ‘sacred hoops’ honoring the gods and seeking divine wisdom to guide them in every facet of tribal life.

Photo by: The Cut via Flickr
Photo by: The Cut via Flickr

The Best Farmer’s Markets in the U.S.

Heading to the farmer’s market can be an experience all in its own. The atmosphere, the experience of talking with the person who grew the very food you’re buying – it’s something we can’t get at the grocery store. Then there are markets to take it all to the next level. They host games, booths for crafts, trivia where winners earn candy even. Others host live music or DIY baking lessons, and free samples to all who pass. That’s an accurate description of many farmer’s markets throughout the United States. But which ones are the absolute best? What markets offer more than any of the competition? And which ones are worth traveling for? Or at least making a slight vacation detour? We’ve complied this list of some of the very best from around the country:

8. Market on Central -Fort Dodge, Iowa

This is no ordinary market, it’s a full-day event. If you’re willing, that is. Their entire motto is, “Come for breakfast, take home lunch, and stay for dinner,” selling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Vendors also come with homemade pies, chocolate bars, wine, and crafts. Everything from kites, to clay pots, to clothing has all been found at the huge market. There’s also an active art scene present, allowing guests to enjoy music or watch a live show, they might even purchase a piece of art to take home.

Photo by: Market on Central
Photo by: Market on Central

7. DuPont Circle Fresh Farm Market -Washington, D.C.

Another full-day event, DuPont Circle offers shoppers meals, foods to take home, and plenty of shopping stalls. Buy meat by the pound, seafood, flowers, produce, and get a new outfit while you’re at it. There’s even vendors selling unique (but delicious) foods, like pickles on a stick – choose from several flavors, or crepes that can be filled with tons of different toppings. Then, once you’re good and full take a stroll and look at all the local art!

Photo by: DuPont Circle Fresh Farm Market
Photo by: DuPont Circle Fresh Farm Market

6. South Bend Farmer’s Market -South Bend, Indiana

With nearly 100 years of service under its belt, the city of South Bend has made their market a permanent occurrence. They now host a brick and mortar building and open their doors to the public three days a week (three times as often as most markets!) A move that’s allowed the city to uphold its market traditions, the same ones they’ve been boasting since 1919. And if you get hungry while shopping, stop at their restaurant and fuel up … or just snack on your buys – either way sounds delicious!

Photo by: South Bend Farmer's Market
Photo by: South Bend Farmer’s Market

5. Jefferson County Farmer’s Market -Jefferson County, Washington State

This event perhaps come with one of the most widespread items up for sale. Following seasonal crops, vendors bring berries, apples, pumpkins, flowers, artichokes, arugula, and even mushrooms. Their crafts, too, fall outside of the normal farmer’s market offerings. Things such as paper jewelry and sheep wool dolls can all be found for sale in Jefferson County.

Photo by: Jefferson County Farmer's Market
Photo by: Jefferson County Farmer’s Market

4. Ala Moana Farmers’ Market -Honolulu, Hawaii

Branch out of your comfort zone and try the local cuisine the next time you take a trip to Hawaii. Vendors at the Ala Moana market come prepared with plenty of passion fruit, red Hawaiian papayas, as well as traditional breads and desserts. And if you’re not sure about trying Hawaiian goods, they’ll let you taste test each item first! Goods can be purchased every Saturday, year-round and offer some great experiences for locals and travelers alike.

Photo by: Ala Moana Farmers' Market
Photo by: Ala Moana Farmers’ Market

3. Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market -Statesboro, Georgia

In Statesboro, they take the word “market” and bring it to the next level. Aside from traditional farmer’s fare one would expect, shoppers can also find grits, leather jewelry, bird feeders, cheese sticks, and even herbal salves to help the body heal and relax. This outdoor market closes for the winter, though shoppers can still order items online (seasonal availability is listed), and pick them up at certain drop-off spots.

Photo by: Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market
Photo by: Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market

2. Woodmont Farmer’s Market -Milford, Connecticut

Not every establishment can say they’ve been around since the 1600s, but that’s exactly the case for Woodmont. Braving any season, they’re open Wednesdays to sell pickles, produce, hand-made cheese, and plenty of seafood. And unlike most markets, it’s actually put on by a private party, Robert Treat Farms, adding a unique touch to the event. Its quaint feel and unique décor help take this market to the next level. Oh and did we mention to try the pickles?

Photo by: Woodmont Farmer's Market
Photo by: Woodmont Farmer’s Market

1. Boyne City Farmers Market -Boyne City, Michigan

Expand your market taste buds (and shopping skills) when visiting Michigan. This celebrated market offers berries, granola mixes (including trail mixes), caramel popcorn, and dried fruit. Then display your goods in beautiful handmade glass creations, or if that’s not your thing, choose a metal container instead. All versions can be found at the market. Shoppers can head outdoors every Saturday, then stop by an indoor location during the colder months of November through April.

Photo by: Boyne City Farmers Market
Photo by: Boyne City Farmers Market

10 Awesome Zoos Where You Can Spend the Night

We all know that kids love spending time at the zoo but did you know you can take things one step further and actually spend the night there? And hey, this experience isn’t just for kids. Many zoos all over the world are opening their doors after dark and are giving visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals. From bring your own tent events to luxury lodges to sleeping beside the sea lions; here are 10 awesome zoos where you can spend the night.

10. Zoo Miami -Miami, FL

Zoo Miami, formerly known as Miami MetroZoo has a tragic past. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy dumped over three feet of water onto the zoo and killed 25 animals. Then in 1992 Hurricane Andrew came in and destroyed 5,000 trees, the 1.5 acre aviary and all of its inhabitants. The zoo has worked hard over the past decade to restore it and one of the ways they have made themselves unforgettable is their sleepovers they offer. The best they offer is perhaps their Annual Big Cat-Nap Campout. This special once a year sleepover invites families to pitch their own tents in the grasslands for a real camping experience, complete with sounds effects provided by the very real zoo animals nearby. A favorite for kids and adults, make sure your kids are at least 6 years old and pre-register as this event is known to sell out fast!

Jaguar Zoo Miami

9. Zoo Atlanta -Atlanta, GA

Zoo Atlanta is one of the best in terms of offering an abundance of overnight programs. Whether you want to bring 10 kids for a birthday party or want to have a family sleepover; this is the zoo for you. For families there are two options for overnights. The first is to pick one of their theme nights, pack up your sleeping bag and join the fun as you have awesome animal encounters, themed games, a scavenger hunt, breakfast and private guided tour of the zoo. The second option is to join one of the deluxe family nights where you will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and actually feed the zoo residents. If you want to leave the kids at home, Zoo Atlanta offers an adult-only group experience where you and 10 of your friends get together for an epic after hours scavenger hunt that lasts throughout the night.

Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com
Rob Hainer / Shutterstock.com

8. Zoofari Slumber, Nashville Zoo -Nashville, TN

The Zoofari Slumber at Nashville Zoo allows anyone over the age of 4 to camp out overnight, specifically recommended for families with children aged 4-12. This is a bring your own tent experience that requires families to pack everything they would normally take camping, including camp food, chairs and musical instruments. A variety of activities awaits families here including hayrides, inflatable castles, animal shows and crafts. The evening hot dog and marshmallow roast is always a hit for the kids, as is the campfire songs. A full breakfast is served in the mornings. Sleeping under the start just a short ways from the snoozing animals, content in your own tent is something every Nashville family should experience.

Photo by: Nashville Zoo
Photo by: Nashville Zoo

7. Overnight Safari at the Bronx Zoo -The Bronx, NY

The overnight safari series at The Bronx Zoo sells out year after year so if you are planning on snoozing with the snow leopards, we suggest you register early. Children 5 and older are welcome at these fun nights where you will bring your own tents, sleeping bags and picnic dinners. It is more like a summer camp experience packed all into one night here as the experience starts at 4pm and the zoo fills your night with never ending activities. From the classroom where animals are brought in to the scavenger hunts and activities that are planned, there is never a dull moment until the 10pm bedtime. The campsite is located between the Monkey House and the Sea Lion Tank, promising that the barking sea lions will wake you up in the morning. Plenty of snacks are provided, admission to the zoo the next day and a whole bunch of surprises await you at this overnight safari.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

6. Snore and Roar, Smithsonian National Zoological Park -Washington, DC

It is the best way to see the animals of the Smithsonian Zoological Park after hours and have the entire park to yourself, as well as falling asleep to the sounds of wolves howling. Your tent will be perched on Lion/Tiger Hill and the overnight experience begins with a keeper-led tour of the exhibits. There is a maximum of 12 participants on each of these sleepovers so it’s suggested you book early. Both of the family options and the adults-only nights offer games, activities and breakfast. Each overnight experience is catered to a different area of the zoo, from reptiles to cheetahs to small mammals. Expect wine and cheese on the adults only nights and more family geared activities on the family nights, perfect for ages 6 to teen. Whatever experience you choose, this is one zoo that lets you get up close and personal with the animals of your choice at one of the best zoos in the world.

Red Panda Smithsonian National Zoological Park

5. Adult Overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo -Philadelphia, PA

Leave the kiddos at home on one of these adults-only overnights at the Philadelphia Zoo. You have to 21 and over to attend this event and prepare to indulge in some happy hour drinks starting at 6:30pm. What you will get on these overnights is a behind the scenes experience, up-close encounters with the animals, an after-dark tour of the zoo, meet and greats with the zoo experts and a light dinner. There are a couple different options for adults overnights, including a throwback to summer camp bring your own tent option and a haunted overnight where you will sleep in the historic treehouse. The next morning breakfast is served and you will experience the opening of the zoo alongside the workers, while visiting some adorable baby animals. An awesome night complete with beer, animals and ghost stories; you couldn’t ask for a better zoo experience.

Peacock Philadelphia Zoo

4. Serengeti Bush Camp, Toronto Zoo -Toronto, Canada

You won’t have to bring your own tent to sleep here, nor will you be stuck inside a building. The Toronto Zoo offers something really unique at its overnights. Spend the night in an authentic African Tent, complete with cots as you experience the African Savanna. Activities are in abundance during the experience and include a walking tour of the African Savanna and interactive adventure at the African Rainforest Pavilion. Dinner is served at the Simba Safari Restaurant which overlooks the white rhino and zebra exhibits, as the sun sets in the background. There are a number of programs here including an adults-only night and a night for families with kids younger than 5; all planned with age appropriate activities. This VIP experience is once in a lifetime and you will truly feel as you sleeping in the middle of Africa, amongst the animals.

Lion Toronto Zoo

3. Roar and Snore Safari, San Diego Zoo Safari Park -San Diego, CA

It is quite possible you will fall asleep to lions roaring and elephants trumping at this overnight safari experience at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. From February to November, you can combine the thrill of camping with the excitement of up-close animal encounters at one of the many themed overnights here. The campground, complete with your choice of canvas tent overlooks the 65 acre East Africa enclosure which features such animals as rhinos, giraffes, wildebeest and antelope. As with many of the zoo, this one offers a number of different programs for families with young children, school aged children or adults only. Dinner, snacks, breakfast, crafts, activities and of course animals encounters are all included in the price. If you do feel like splurging try one of the adults-only experiences where you can get up close and personal with more animals than ever, and stay in the premium tents where wood floors, a queen sized bed and electricity await you.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

2. Roar and Snore, Taronga Zoo -Sydney, Australia

The unique accommodation site sets this overnight experience apart from the rest. Nestled on the cliff top overlooking the stunning Sydney Harbor on one side, and lions, leopards and meerkats on the other side; Roar and Snore at Taronga Zoo is an extra special overnight experience. In the evening guests are privy to some of the amazing native Australian reptiles as well as the big cats who are most impressive at night. In the mornings are when the cute and furry animals come out to play.  The full education experience include close up animal encounters, guided tours of the zoo after dark and behind the scenes experiences. The VIP treatment continues with refreshments, a feast with drinks and beautiful tent accommodations. Think beds, showers and electricity here. The Tarongo Zoo has created an incredible overnight program that should be the envy of many others around the world.

Taronga Zoo Giraffe

1. Jamala Wildlife Lodge, National Zoo and Aquarium -Canberra, Australia

Australia is at the forefront of delivering exceptional overnight zoo experiences and Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo and Aquarium is a prime example of this. This all-inclusive luxury lodge experience includes overnight accommodation, all beverages and food and a number of animal encounters. Accommodations range from lodge rooms, bungalows and tree houses, each with their own unique animal encounter. How would you like to stay in a bungalow where you can take a bath and look into the lion’s den, or how about being able to feed the giraffe from your balcony? From an amazing dinner party to personal tours to pre-dinner drinks and an afternoon safari; this feels more like a vacation than just a simple overnight experience at a zoo.

Photo by: National Zoo & Aquarium Canberra
Photo by: National Zoo & Aquarium Canberra

10 Awesome Museums Where You Can Spend the Night

We can all thank the movie “Night at the Museum” for peaking everyone’s interest in spending a night at a museum, especially kids. While the artifacts and animals won’t come to life like the movie (or will they?), there is something pretty amazing about curling up surrounded by history. From snoozing under a 94-foot blue whale to building rockets to live animal exhibitions, these sleepovers aren’t just for kids. Indulge in an adult’s only sleepover complete with craft beer and wine or spend some quality family time at these 10 awesome museums where you can spend the night.

10. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum -Cooperstown, NY

You can sleep among the iconic athletes at this awesome hall of fame and museum during their Extra Innings Overnight program, a true delight for any baseball fan. The program typically runs just four times a year and is open to both children of members and youth groups. The program was inspired by the Night at the Museum movie but instead of dinosaurs and Indians, the kids get bats and balls. The actual sleeping happens underneath your favorite hall of famer’s plaque so get there early to stake your claim. Activities throughout the night include a scavenger hunt, presentations, hands-on exhibits, personal tours and movie and popcorn. This program is designed for children ages 7-12 and adults seem to enjoy it just as much as kids. Get your favorite jersey out and sleep under the stars at this awesome museum.

Photo by: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Photo by: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

9. The National Archives -Washington, D.C.

It only happens once a year but the History, Heroes and Treasures sleepover at the National Archives is not to be missed. Aimed at children 8 years of age and older, this evening lets you curl up next to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Throughout the night, young explores will learn about the greatest adventures of time through music, games and chats with historical figures. Plan on writing a letter to the president, playing with historic toys and dressing up in period clothing. The evening concludes with a movie in the William G. McGowan Theatre. The next morning sleepover guests are treated to a pancake breakfast with a celebrity and even more activities including a chocolate history demonstration, a favorite for everyone. This event has only been happening for a few years and tends to sell out so make sure you register early.

Photo by: National Archives Foundation
Photo by: National Archives Foundation

8. Milwaukee Public Museum -Milwaukee, WI

Overnights at this museum give parents and kids the opportunity to explore the museum after dark, in themed overnights. The program is open for children ages 6 through 12 and their parents. One of the best values on this list, it only costs $47 per person if you are not a member. Themed nights include Ancient Worlds, Mystery Night and For Your Eyes Only; where participants get a look at the exhibits not normally available for public viewing. Activities include a self-guided flashlight tour of the third floor, a dome theatre show, educator-led activities, scavenger hunts, breakfast the next morning and admission the next day. Overnight sleepovers run on select Fridays and make sure you check the calendar and book your place in advance! For a fun-filled family atmosphere that never feels too crowded, check out this museum for your overnight adventure.

Photo by: Milwaukee Public Museum
Photo by: Milwaukee Public Museum

7. Carnegie Science Center -Pittsburgh, PA

The themed sleepovers at this museum are held monthly and offer such themes as Spooky Science and the Polar Express. These awesome sleepovers include live shows, an Omnimax movie, theme-related activities and free time to explore the museum exhibits once it is closed to the public. The Planetarium show or laser show is always a hit with the kids, as is the science workshop. A late night snack and continental breakfast along with admission is included the next day. If you are into the Star Wars series you will love the robot themed exhibit where you can lay your head down to sleep, right beside replicas of C-3PO and R2D2. Whichever themed night you choose, we promise it will be full of fun and adventure at this awesome science center.

Photo by: Carnegie Science Center
Photo by: Carnegie Science Center

6. Natural History Museum -Los Angeles County, CA

These overnight adventures just aren’t for kids anymore, although you can still attend one of the family specific sleepovers. The overnight adventures are broken into themes and include a girl’s only Camp Butterfly experience, Camp Dinosaur, Camp Arachnids and Camp Mummies. Each night includes specialty themed activities, scavenger hunts, crafts, an evening snack and admission to the museum the following day. The adult’s only program is a little different welcoming guests 21 and over to dance to live music, work on art projects and spend the evening in the nature gardens. Once night falls, adults will head indoors for a scavenger hunt, a DJ spinning tunes, a midnight buffet and open craft beer and wine bar. This all-nighter is made even better by movie screening, behind the scenes tour and a morning buffet. The cost for adults, only $95 which includes all food and drinks; we can’t think of a more awesome adult museum experience!

Photo by: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Photo by: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

5. The Field Museum -Chicago, IL

The resident T-Rex, Sue, welcomes families with children from 6-12 to experience once of its “Dozin with Dinos” sleepovers. You will want to pack your flashlight for this sleepover as you will head out on a self-guided tour of the Ancient Egypt exhibit which includes a gigantic three-story replica of an Egyptian tomb, complete with mummies. Overnight guests here will also have the opportunity to excavate fossils and examine the T-Rex’s bones. Educational workshops take place throughout the night and bring kids up close to live insects and animals. There are a number of premium packages for families looking for something a little extra and these include a behind-the-scenes guided tour and sleeping spots in the Evolving Planet Exhibition. This overnight program runs from 5:45pm until 9am the next morning and promises to be a hit with the whole family.

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

4. Saint Louis Science Center -St. Louis, MO

These family orientated sleepovers are offered all year round and allow visitors to explore the science center after dark. Science demonstrations, a planetarium show and Omnimax film are just part of the activities. Kids will delight in the pizza dinner, evening snack and continental breakfast which are included with this overnight experience. Parents and children ages 6 and up are invited to spend the night here sleeping in one of the galleries. Crafty activities include building a rocket, constructing an animatronics dinosaur and analyzing germs in the life sciences lab. Each sleepover features a different theme including dinosaurs, planetarium and Sherlock Holmes. Campers here also have the chance to explore the centers 700 exhibits with plenty of free time. Grab the kids, pack up your sleeping bags and head here for an unforgettable adventure.

Photo by: Saint Louis Science Center
Photo by: Saint Louis Science Center

3. The Franklin Institute -Philadelphia, PA

If you think visiting this museum during the day is great, try visiting at night at one of their Camp-In sleepovers, where kids and adults can snooze beside a giant heart of a 350-ton locomotive. Guests at this sleepover will not only enjoy a live astronomy show, a planetarium show and an IMAX movie but they can also try their hand at rooftop stargazing in the Joel N. Bloom Observatory. Kids love taking a ride on the flight simulator, exploring the brand new exhibits in the morning before the public have access and taking part in the hands-on activities. What is even better, once you have taken part in this sleepover, all children under 13 will have free access to this museum for a year! These sleepovers run Friday and Saturday nights periodically throughout the year and it’s truly an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for families.

Photo by: The Franklin Institute
Photo by: The Franklin Institute

2. Museum of Science and Industry -Chicago IL

They call it Science Snoozeum and this rare opportunity to visit the museum after dark excites both kids and adults. An intense but fun-filled scavenger hunt will have you searching as a family for a special path, kids will participate in special science activities and make their own science toys, and families will have the chance to sleep nose-to-nose with a real-life 727 airplane. Explore the exhibits after dark including the life-size replica of a coal mine, an actual U-505 German submarine and a giant heart. Sleepovers here are offered to families with children ages 6-12 and include parking, admission, an Omnimax film and breakfast. This program operates all year round and offers many themed nights including Halloween and Christmas. The program begins at 5:30pm and ends at 8:30am and includes both an evening snack and breakfast.

Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry Chicago
Photo by: Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

1. American Museum of Natural History -New York City, NY

It is no surprise that you can unroll your sleeping bag at this museum, after all the famous movie featuring Ben Stiller was inspired by the NYC Natural History Museum. Visitors here have two options for sleepovers though, one a family inspired event where ages 6-13 are welcome and the other, an adult only 21 and over event. The family friendly version includes a live-animal exhibition, a flashlight tour of the dinosaur exhibit and a space show, along with snacks and crafts along the way. The adult’s only sleepover starts off with a champagne reception and live jazz music, followed by a buffet dinner with both beer and wine. A flashlight-led fossil fact-finding tour, a midnight showing of the space show and several presentations take place throughout the night. In both sleepovers, visitors will curl up under the beloved 94-foot long blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.

Photo by: American Museum of Natural History
Photo by: American Museum of Natural History

The 15 Worst Airports For a Layover

While the increase of people flying means more flights, it also means more stops and connecting flights, which can be a good or bad thing depending where you stop. Having a layover is most people’s worst nightmare. There are often long lines to clear customs and security and scarce food choices along with overpriced Wi-Fi and uncomfortable seating. The following 15 airports are the absolute worst for layovers in the world. Next time you are booking a flight you may want to avoid flying through any of these airports even if it means spending a few extra dollars. Trust us, you’ve been warned.

15. Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport, France

This airport is mainly used by budget airlines and is often found at the top of the list of airports to avoid at any cost. This is in due part to a number of different factors. To start with the airport is located a long and slow 88 km away from Paris, therefore count on not leaving during your layover. The airport looks more like a bus station rather than an airport and the building is run-down and dirty. It is often cramped and crowded with passengers who are unloading and trying to leave as quickly as possible. The airport also closes at night so you will want to avoid an overnight layover here, as you will be asked to leave. In saying all of this, the airports in Paris are not known for being first-class so if you are looking to save a few dollars, flying in here may be worth your while.

Paris airport

14. Dulles International Airport, Washington, D.C

If you were expecting to enjoy your layover at the Dulles International Airport, think again. With one of the worst on time performances in the US, this airport often keeps passengers waiting far longer than necessary. If you think your layover was long already, expect to tack on even more time. What really irks passengers who are on a layover here is the lack of amenities and shops that can keep you entertained. If you were looking for options when it comes to dining, think again and realistically your best bet may be to slide up to the airport bar and have a beer. The good news is that the Dulles International Airport at least offers WiFi throughout the terminals; the only problem will be finding an available plug.

Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

13. Miami Airport, Florida

The biggest thing about having a layover in Miami is making sure it isn’t a long one. The reason being is that this airport moves at a ridiculously slow pace and if you need to rush to make your connection, you aren’t going to make it. Expect security lines, baggage claim lines and a frustrating lack of amenities. Shops and restaurants are limited and highly overpriced and don’t let the “free WiFi” signs fool you, it isn’t actually free to browse the net. If you are planning on spending the night here, one will be hard pressed to find a floor that is carpeted, a place where the lights are dimmed and the announcements stop. Instead sleepers are privy to noisy cleaners, brightly lit areas and chairs that have armrests, thus ensuring you have to lie on the floor. The only saving grace this airport offers is that South Beach is just 15 minutes away, therefore if you can store your bags and leave the airport, we highly suggest hitting the beach.

Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com
Daniel Korzeniewski / Shutterstock.com

12. Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France

It is one of the world’s busiest airports and although it is improving it is still one of the worst airports to have a layover in the world. If you want to use the internet while you are here, plan on paying big bucks to connect to WiFi. One can also plan on disorganization, chaos and rude staff who absolutely refuse to speak to you in English. You won’t find first class shopping, nice lounges or attractive dining options here either. Many complain about the size of the restrooms quoting they are ‘dirty and too small’ while others have frustrations in the all too often terminal corrections. Food here is also quite pricey and if you are planning on eating, we suggest bringing as many snacks with you as possible from outside the airport.

pio3 / Shutterstock.com
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

11. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi

It is not surprising that Africa has some of the worst airports in the world, due to the impoverishment of the country, the overwhelming heat and questionably effective security processes. Having a layover in any of these airports can often be long, tiring and downright boring. Passengers seem to expect more from this International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, but instead are faced with long lines that have been referred to as ‘cattle markets’, overcrowded lounges, dirty and run down restrooms, shabby stores and overpriced food. It is currently undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation which hopes to be open in 2017 and capable of handling 20 million passengers. For now though, when you have a layover here expect to pay loads for the WiFi, food and drinks. Expect the bare amenities and cross your fingers you are not there during a threat as that is when things really go downhill.

Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Arthurbuliva via Wikimedia Commons

10. London Luton International Airport, England

You are most likely flying into this airport if you have booked on a budget airline but expect to spend even more money once you get here. If you stuck here on a layover everything will cost you more. If you want access to WiFi, expect to pay. If you need a plastic baggie to put your liquids in to go through security again, you will have to pay for one of those too. If you want to buy something to eat, expect to pay higher than normal airport prices. Because of the slew of budget travelers that are flying into here seating can be limited, as well as sleeping space. The carpet is hard and cold, the announcements boom day and night every 10 minutes and it’s freezing cold, all the time. Do we need to say anything more about the layover life here at Luton?

ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

9. Chicago Midway Airport, Chicago, USA

If you get stuck on a layover here and it’s unexpected it is most likely due to weather. Both Chicago airports are notorious for cancelling and delaying flights because of weather and unlike O’Hare, the Midway Airport lacks in pretty much all amenities to keep you occupied while you wait. If you do have to have a layover here we suggest doing it overnight. In Concourse C this airport actually sets up cots, military style for a few hours, until 4am when they wake you up and tear down the cots as the airport is opening. It is actually your only option here as the concourses close from midnight until 4am. If you are stuck here during the day it is good to know that WiFi isn’t free, the food is bearable and you may have to fight someone for an electrical outlet.

Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport
Photo by: Chicago Midway International Airport

8. Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii USA

A layover at this airport is almost always inevitable if you are visiting one of the Hawaiian Islands but it’s not exactly the greatest welcome to Hawaii. If you are planning to sleep there overnight it is important to note there is no real good sleeping area other than the floor. As well, many layover passengers complain about the constant Hawaiian music that plays on repeat all night loud, except for when one of the many announcements comes on. There are a few dining choices at the airport, but everything closes by 10 pm. A lot of boarding gates do not open until right before flight time which leaves many passengers roaming aimlessly around the halls as the seating is very limited. WiFi will cost you, plugs are a hot commodity and it can get quite hot in this open air airport.

cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com
cleanfotos / Shutterstock.com

7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

First off let’s be clear in saying that this airport is not in Frankfurt, despite the official name. Don’t depend on leaving the airport and spending a few hours in the city during your layover because the city is actually located over 120 km’s away. The best way to describe this airport is downright depressing. The low ceilings, the plastic chairs, the lack of artwork or anything of color and the overall feel. The floors are dusty and dirty and if you plan on sleeping here we suggest laying some newspapers down on it. Nighttime layovers tend to be loud with lots of young people who are flying on budget airlines and if you can muster up a quiet space, the good news is security won’t bother you. Dining options are nil after about 10 pm and expect loud cleaners and announcements all night long.

Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Tadekptaku via Wikimedia Commons

6. Los Angeles International Airport, California, USA

It is safe to say that most people hate flying through this airport. It is a stark contrast to the many Asian airports it connects with and needs serious updating to compete with them. An overall lack of signage and unfriendly staff is what people complain about most. Being the fourth busiest airport in the world, this airport gets crowded quickly and not knowing where you are going becomes quite frustrating. An overall lack of cleanliness is also a major complaint and it is best to avoid staying here overnight. The food options are scarce and overpriced, the chairs are uncomfortable with armrests on all of them and the charging stations throughout are placed in areas where there are no seats. Combine all these things with the fact that some terminals close at midnight and the security lines are atrocious and you’ll understand why people hate this airport.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

5. Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport, Italy

This airport although cheaper than the others that service Milan can be a big pain if you have a layover here. A lack of electrical outlets is a major source of irritation amongst tech savvy travelers, as well as a lack of seating. Due to the number of backpackers and other budget travelers who fly in here, there are many people trying to sleep and waste hours upon hours on layovers. It means there is not enough space for everyone. The security staff and cleaners can often be short tempered and if you were hoping for a restful sleep think again. Sleeping passengers are often woken up to move for cleaners and otherwise. The lack of WiFi is annoying and there is often loud, drunken travelers spending the night alongside with you.

Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Luigi Chiesa via Wikimedia Commons

4. LaGuardia International Airport, New York, USA

This worn out airport is at the top of the list for the worst airports in the US, layover or not, year after year. Even Vice-President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia to the likes of a ‘third world country’. So what makes this airport so awful for a layover? To start, the ridiculous long lines you have to wait in, to clear security, to recheck your bags, to even get a coffee. Speaking of coffee, the restaurant choices are mediocre and unfriendly at best. The décor doesn’t help out matters as it is downright depressing, as are the metal and plastic seats that don’t have any cushions. This airport isn’t overly clean either. The amount of delays this airport faces is almost embarrassing so one can expect a long layover here, even if it wasn’t scheduled to be. Spending hours in this airport is a total mind numbing experience that will have you avoiding it like the plague for the rest of your flying life.

Photo by: La Guardia Airport
Photo by: La Guardia Airport

3. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)

This airport has been referred to being more like a prison than an airport and having a layover here is definitely not recommended. If you do happen to be stuck here, it is recommended you don’t leave the airport as taxi drivers and touts like to loot the unknowing customers. This airport is often overcrowded and there is seemingly no crowd control throughout the entire place. Complaints range from corruption to aggressive security checks to an overall lack of cleanliness to non-existent technology. Officers will outright ask for bribes and this is generally just not the place to be stuck on any type of layover. Filthy, crowded, and hot are all words used to describe this awful airport. The good news, apparently they are building a new airport that will be finished in 2016, let’s hope it’s not as corrupt as this one.

Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com
Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

2. Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, USA

Passengers can’t say enough bad things about the Newark airport. It is awful being stuck here on a layover, whether it was scheduled or a result of weather delays. The biggest complaints are about the unfriendly staff who work at this airport, from security that kicks you out of the terminal at ungodly hours to the service staff at the restaurants. Using the WiFi here will cost you, although it probably won’t work or be too slow for your liking. We also suggest bringing along a heavy sweater as even during the summer it seems this airport is freezing. Chairs with solid armrests force travelers to sleep on the floor and make sure you watch out for cockroaches as they constantly roam the terminals. And don’t even think about trying to make it into NYC to waste some time, it’s at least an hour and half by public transit, and that’s on a good day.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

1. Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Manila

This is by far the worst airport in Asia and has been continuously at the top of that list for years. Luckily they are doing things to improve conditions but clearly not fast enough. First off passengers will want to fly into terminal three and only terminal three, but if you have the problem of being stuck in any other terminal on a layover than this is what you can expect. Dirty, filthy, cramped toilets that smells awful. This is one of the most widely-known complaints about this airport. Metal seats, spotty WiFi and a lack of dining and shops are some of what passengers can experience. Plan on waiting in lengthy lines and be sure to grab any seat available as they don’t come up often. Don’t plan on sleeping on this layover as the announcements every 10 to 15 minutes will keep going all night long, along with the three beeps before and after, just to make sure you are listening.

Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Mithril Cloud via Wikimedia Commons