Top Things to See and Do in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine’s primary claim to fame is its status as the oldest colonial settlement in the United States. In 1513, the famed Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed on the southeastern coast of the North American mainland. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida, which translates into English as “land of the flowers.” About half a century later, another Spanish voyager, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founded the city of St. Augustine. The modern-day city traces its heritage back to 1565.

Visitors will find a wealth of treasures to enjoy in St. Augustine, including lots of family-friendly activities for kids. Here are 12 hot suggestions to help kick off your trip planning…

17. Take a Guided Tour

St. Augustine features many reputable tour operators that offer informative, educational, and entertaining guided experiences. Guided tours are a great way to get acquainted with the city, and operators offer themed outings that cover a wide range of subjects. You can take a hop-on hop-off tour that allows you to explore points of interest on your own, as well as history tours that delve deep into the city’s storied past.

After nightfall, you can experience the spooky side of St. Augustine with mystery tours and ghost tours. Research your options and book in advance to optimize convenience.

Source: Bob Pool / Shutterstock.com

16. Explore The City On A Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour

Speaking of guided tours, the St. Augustine Hop-On-Hop-Off Trolley Tour is a great opportunity to see the city at your own pace. This tour includes 23 stops all of which you can hop on or off whenever you please.

The tour also comes with an informative guide so you can learn about St. Augustine’s history along the way.

Source: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

15. See The City From Above in a Helicopter Tour

The St. Augustine Fort Matanzas & Old Downtown Helicopter Tour provides you a unique view of St. Augustine, Florida that you won’t get anywhere else.

The tour departs over the Intracoastal waterway to North Beach where you will be able to enjoy a view of 17 miles of stunning coastline. During the tour, you’ll see Vilano Beach, Porpoise Point, Conch Island, Bird Island, San Jose Forest, Mendez Park, St. Augustine Beach and Fort Matanzas. Finally, on your way back to the airport be sure to take in the view of the Old Downtown.

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14. Stroll Down St. George Street

Historic St. George Street runs through the heart of St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter, and it is an absolute must-see. This pedestrian walkway passes many of the city’s best-preserved historical sites, including its ancient schoolhouse and the Old City Gates. Along the way, you’ll pass dozens of interesting boutiques, inviting cafes, and independent galleries. Prevailing wisdom suggests that you’ll need between two hours and half a day to get your fill of this beautiful section of St. Augustine.

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13. Check Out The Alligators At The Alligator Farm Zoological Park

If you’re hoping to see some wildlife on your trip to St. Augustine, be sure to check out the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. You’ll not only have the opportunity to check out every crocodilian species but you’ll also be able to check out their wide range of other animals too.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to check out the wildlife you can add more adventure to your day by zip-lining through the zoo! The challenging course will give you a birds-eye view of alligators and crocodiles and you’ll be able to see tropical birds at eye level and red-ruffed lemurs at an arm’s length!

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12. Discover the Lightner Museum

While you’re in the Colonial Quarter, it’s a good idea to check out the nearby Lightner Museum. Rated as one of the city’s most unique attractions, the Lightner Museum features an unusual collection of 19th-century art. Some of the strange things you’ll encounter include old-school cigar packaging, a collection of shriveled heads, and bundles of human hair. If weirdness isn’t your cup of tea, there’s also plenty of conventional artworks for you to enjoy. The museum is housed in a former hotel that was built in the 19th century, and its beautiful architecture is also a major draw in its own right.

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11. Head for the Lighthouse

The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum is widely considered another auto-include on visitor itineraries. Built between 1871 and 1874, the lighthouse is the oldest brick building in the city that still stands today, and urban legends claim the site is haunted by several spirits. Visitors rave about heading to the top for a soaring view of the city and surrounding coastline, but be prepared to work for your reward as you’ll need to climb 219 steps to reach the summit.

While you’re in the neighborhood, it’s also worth checking out the Maritime Museum. Both the lighthouse and the museum are open year-round, with the only closures falling on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

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10. Hit the Beach

St. Augustine Beach is located about five miles outside the city’s Colonial Quarter, and it’s a big hit with families. The beach features a kid-friendly splash pad, along with approximately two miles of pristine white sand and warm, crystal-clear waters. It’s rarely crowded, and the north end of the beach is crowned with the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier. This is a great place for angling enthusiasts to cast a line and try their luck.

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9. Visit the Old Jail

Another supposedly haunted historic location, St. Augustine’s Old Jail was completed in the early 1890s and now serves as a fascinating tourist attraction. Designed to match the city’s existing architecture, the Old Jail is a surprisingly appealing Romanesque Revival building. It remained in active use as an incarceration facility until 1953 before opening to the public the following year.

Guided tours are available and highly recommended, with staff dressing up in authentic period garb and leading visitors on an informative and eye-opening experience.

Photo by: Visit Augustine

8. Hunt for Pirate Treasure

St. Augustine and the Florida coast are rich in pirate lore, and it is perfectly captured at the popular St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. A convincing character named Captain Mayhem greets visitors at the door, offering free guided tours. One of the tour’s main highlights is a replica pirate ship, which guests are free to explore. As you might imagine, this opportunity is a big hit with kids.

Some of the historical treasures housed in the museum include America’s oldest surviving “Wanted” poster and an authentic skull-and-crossbones “Jolly Roger” flag that dates to the 1600s. The museum isn’t overly large and can be fully explored in just a couple of hours. Yarrrr!

Photo by: St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Facebook

7. Seek the Fountain of Youth

Florida’s discoverer, Juan Ponce de Leon, is also famous for his efforts to find the fabled Fountain of Youth, a legendary pond whose waters supposedly stopped the natural aging process. According to some, he succeeded in his efforts, and the magical spring is said to be located in Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.

In addition to its namesake spring, the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park also houses an old-style blacksmith’s studio, a replica Native American village, and a planetarium. Several dozen peacocks also roam the grounds, putting on a show with their dazzling feather displays.

Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock.com

6. Explore the St. Augustine Distillery

The St. Augustine Distillery is a locally owned and managed distillery that is famous for artisanal spirits. The distillery is conveniently located downtown St. Augustine in a stunning restored ice plant.

Check out the St. Augustine Distillery for yourself! The tours are free and are offered 7 days a week. During the tour, you’ll learn about their award-winning bourbon whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum and you can even have a taste for yourself (if you’re of legal drinking age, of course).

Source: Angela N Perryman / Shutterstock.com

5. Explore Exotic Wildlife at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve

This isn’t your average run-of-the-mill zoo. The St. Augustine Wild Reserve was founded in 1995 to serve as an animal sanctuary, and the nonprofit organization that operates it is committed to rescuing exotic animals from life-threatening situations.

Some of the fantastic beasts you’ll find within include bears, leopards, mountain lions, and tigers. You can also see a lion that was once owned by pop star Michael Jackson. However, be sure to book your visit online before you head there, as reservations are required.

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4. Head to Castillo de San Marcos

Castillo de San Marcos is America’s oldest surviving brick military fortification. Built by Spanish settlers in the latter decades of the 17th century, the fort served to safeguard St. Augustine from pirate invasions and attacks by the British, who were seeking to strengthen their foothold in North America at the time.

Britain, of course, eventually took control of the modern-day United States, and they went on to use the fort as a base for military operations during the American Revolutionary War. About a century later, the Confederates also used Castillo de San Marcos as a base of operations during the American Civil War. The site has enjoyed National Monument status since 1900.

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3. Ferry to Fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas is one of America’s most unique National Monuments. It is built completely out of concrete and seashells, and the site commemorates the spot of a major battle fought between Spanish and French colonial powers, who were vying for supremacy during the early years of North American settlement.

The fort itself dates to 1740 and rests in the midst of a 100-acre plot of marshy barrier islands that dot the Matanzas River. Left to decay for many years, Fort Matanzas was carefully restored by the United States Department of War between 1916 and 1924. Today, it is accessible only by ferry, but the trip is well worth it, particularly for history buffs. It can easily be paired with a visit to Castillo de San Marcos, which is its companion monument.

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2. Check out Fort Mose Historic State Park

Fort Mose Historic State Park brings local history to life in unique ways. During colonial times, Fort Mose served as St. Augustine’s northernmost military fortification. As slavery spread throughout the developing American South, it also became an important junction on the famous Underground Railroad escape route.

Founded in 1738, Fort Mose also evolved to become the first free African settlement in the modern-day United States. The Fort Mose Historical Society occasionally stages reenactments in the park, and visitors can enjoy picnics and kayaking all year round.

Photo by: Visit St. Augustine

1. Enjoy A Sunset Cruise

After spending the day exploring the city unwind with a relaxing Sunset Cruise with Florida Water Tours. The adult-only tour is reserved for passengers who are 21 years old and over which ensures you’ll have a relaxing adult atmosphere.

Onboard you can purchase from a great selection of beer, wine, and other non-alcoholic drinks. While you taking in the breathtaking sunset view you’ll also pass many landmarks such as the Bridge of Lions, St. Augustine Lighthouse and more.

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The 10 Wackiest Hotels in The US

Do you ever get tired of checking in to the same old cookie cutter hotels? You know the kind, you can’t tell the difference unless you walk outside and look at the sign. Next time you travel try something a little more fun, in some cases just plain strange and wacky. There are wacky hotels all over the world like the Kumbuk Hotel in Sri Lanka made of grass in the shape of an elephant. If you live in the US you don’t necessarily have to travel across the world to find wacky hotels. We have listed a few a little closer to home.

10. Winvian Farm, Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

Winvian Farm is a 113 acre resort consisting of a major dating to 1775, 18 cottages, a suite and some unusual accommodations. The Hadley Suite is 950 sq. ft. with a wood burning fireplace, Jacuzzi and steam shower while the cottages vary in size and decoration. The room that catches everyone’s eye is the Helicopter Suite. A 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican HH3F helicopter has been fully restored and awaits those eager to spend the night aboard. Your suite comes with pilot and copilot seats along with a few modern updates such as sofa and flat screen TV. Housed in a “hanger” you can sip cocktails while dreaming of flying through the skies. The king size bed site in the hanger next to the helicopter so if you get the urge to play pilot during the night it is only a few steps away.

9. The Shady Dell, Bisbee, Arizona

Step back in time to when things moved a little slower, families took long vacations and if you were lucky you had a sleek trailer in tow so you could set up and enjoy the outdoors with all the comforts. The Shady Dell originally began in 1927 when people traveling needed a place to stop and relax. Today you will find nine vintage travel trailers and a 1947 Chris Craft Yacht restored and available for rent. Trailers come complete with bedding, dishes and coffee maker but cooking is not allowed and no open campfires on the grounds. The park is only open part of the year so check in advance. Oh, one more thing. Unlike when the family cruised down the road with the dog in the back and dad puffing on a Lucky Strike cigarette The Shady Dell has a policy of No Smoking, No Pets and No Children under 15 years of age.

8. Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

Until 1997 the small town of Cottonwood Idaho had one big thing in town, which was the Monastery of Saint Gertrude. But then Dennis and wife Francis began carving dogs using chainsaws. One thing led to another and Dog Bark Park and Inn opened. It was only natural that the carving got bigger and pretty soon the Inn was built. The Inn is complete with queen size bed, two folding beds in the loft, full bath and continental breakfast featuring home baked pastries and the family’ secret recipe for fruited granola. Pets are allowed, of course, and a shop where you buy the artwork that Dennis and Francis make is on the premises. There is no phone or television so plan on spending the day outside with your pet or take a drive and check out the monastery. No word on whether the monastery allows pets.

7. The Quarters at Presidio La Bahia, Goliad, Texas

Located one mile south of the town of Goliad Texas the Presidio La Bahia was established in 1749 and since 1853 has been owned by the Catholic Church. In the mid 1960’s a major restoration took place and in 1967 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. After the restoration the quarters was used as the residence of the priests and today is rented out to the general public for nightly stays. Located on the west wall of the old presidio the quarters is a two bedroom apartment with three beds. Included are living and dining areas with a fireplace, master bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and shower. Guests can come and go as pleased and take time to explore the mission grounds during their stay. With access via a back door to the mission you can relax in the courtyard, admire the chapel and contemplate history.

6. Kokopelli’s Cave B&B, Farmington, New Mexico

Located in northern New Mexico just outside Farmington you are greeted by the beautiful La Plata River Valley and Kokopelli’s Cave B&B. Carved into the sandstone cliff is a 1700 sq. ft. manmade cave. The cave comes with master bedroom, living area, dining area, kitchen and a bathroom with a waterfall shower and Jacuzzi tub. Being in a cave the temperature stays between 68- 73 degrees year round. The cave also has two porches with sliding glass doors so you can enjoy the views. Since there is an abundance of wildlife no pets are allowed. The cave is 70 feet below the surface and the only way to get there is to embark on a hike then take the trail down to the cave utilizing steps carved into the sandstone. It is probably best not to try and bring lots of luggage, instead pack a backpack.

5. Wigwam Motel, San Bernardino, California

Built in 1949 on historic Route 66 in San Bernardino, The Wigwam Motel saw it’s heyday during the golden age of roadside Americana when gas stations, motels and restaurants were built in shapes to attract the motorists enjoying the newly created highways. Gone are the Barbasol Shaving Cream road side signs and not too many restaurants in the shape of tea kettles still exist but the Wigwam is still standing. Originally there were seven Wigwam Motels spanning Route 66 from Kentucky to California due to an innovative entrepreneur named Frank Redford. Today only three are still intact. One in Kentucky, one in Arizona and Wigwam number 7 in California. The rooms are fairly small but come with free Wi-Fi, a pool and all the atmosphere of days gone by.

4. Cedar Creek Treehouse, Ashford, Washington

If you want to get off the grid and take a break with no crowds then head to the Cedar Creek Treehouse. Located near Mount Rainier National Park the treehouse sits 50 feet up a 200 year old redwood tree. There is also a 100 foot treehouse observatory so you can get an unimpeded view of the surrounding forest and a floating treehouse that are seen by tour which is included in the rental rates. The Treehouse uses solar power, has plenty of windows and comes with a small kitchen, a sleeping loft with futons, dining area and while it has a bathroom there is no shower. With five flights of stairs you don’t need a fitness center but you can go swimming in the nearby creek. There is no restaurant but you are invited to fish for native trout and can cook it up on the campfire. A two night stay is required and the rates are almost as high as the treehouse at $650 for a couple.

3. Liberty Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts

What once was the Charles Street Jail and temporary home of Malcom X, and Sacco & Vanzetti, underwent a $150 million renovation and reopened as the Liberty Hotel in 2007. Architects took extra care to preserve as much of the original features and history of the old prison. The Clink restaurant still has the original jail cells which create cozy nooks for dining while the Alibi Bar is located in what was once the jails drunk tank. The yard, now turned into outdoor dining can accommodate up to 250 people while the catwalk dining area is reserved for hotel guests only. Where you could once spend the night for free, by being picked up for drunk in public or some other crime, a stay now will cost a little more. Rates run from $465 to $6000 for the penthouse suite.

2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Florida

Unless you are a certified scuba diver you will need to take a discover scuba course to stay at the Jules’s Undersea Lodge. The world’s first underwater hotel started off as an underwater research lab. Named after Jules Verne the author of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, the hotel sits 21 feet underwater in a lagoon. The hotel has a list of requirements in order to take the scuba course and be able to stay at the hotel. The hotel has two private bedrooms and a common room where you can dine or look out the 42-inch round window and view the marine life and a chef is available to dive down and prepare a meal. You can book a 3-hour visit and enjoy a pizza lunch for $150 or spend the night which will run $800 per couple. The hotel has attracted a few celebrities over the years including Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

1. The Shack up Inn

If you are a Blues lover then you probably know that the Mississippi Delta is the home of the Blues. Located on what was once a plantation the Shack up Inn serves up cold beer, blues music and the opportunity to spend the night in an authentic sharecroppers shack. The two-room shacks have been renovated from the original just enough to give you a few comforts but keep the experience as authentic as possible. As stated on their web site “The Ritz we ain’t”, no discounts, no room service, no phone and the only wakeup call you will get is if you don’t check out on time. Guests can enjoy live music, head to the nearby Blues Museum in Clarksville or just relax in the rocker on the front porch of your shack with a bottle of beer in hand and imagine the music of Muddy Waters, Charlie Patton, John Lee Hooker, and others.

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Famous Movie Hotels Where You Can Live Like A Star

Hotels have played a prominent role in movies throughout the years, from the glamorous places where James Bond stayed to the exotic resorts. Let’s discover the iconic hotels that were featured in famous films where you can stay and be treated like a star!

10. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Maybe because of the proximity to Hollywood or maybe because it is a beautiful hotel full of grandeur and luxury, either way, the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles has been featured in a lot of movies. In fact, the hotel has a list of movies, TV shows and other appearances listed on their web site that is 15 pages long. Some of the more famous movies shot all or in part here include Jersey Boys, The Italian Job, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man, Rush Hour 3 and Rocky III. When not starring in movies the Millennium Biltmore has hosted celebrities, presidents, and dignitaries for the last 90 years. The 27 suites range from 900 sq. ft. one-bedroom suites to the 4,600 sq. ft. Presidential Suite that encompasses 2 floors, has 3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and an antique elevator. Rounded out by a piano, full kitchen, dining room, and library it is truly majestic.

9. The Fontainebleau, Miami, Florida

Since opening in 1954 the Fontainebleau Hotel has popular with the rich and famous. You might remember the swimming pool from the movies Scarface starring Al Pacino and the James Bond classic Goldfinger. Parts of the movies The Bodyguard as well as Police Academy 5 were shot on location here as well. The hotel occupies 22 acres of prime oceanfront property in the heart of Miami’s Millionaire’s Row and offers luxurious accommodations along with a touch of the glamorous golden era. The hotel offers guest rooms ranging from the standard room at 300 sq. ft. and luxuriously appointed to the six luxury penthouses. For $3,000 a night you can book the La Baie Presidential Suite with its polished marble floors. The hotel has a marina where yachts can dock for the day and enjoy the award winning restaurants at the hotel or the famous pool and beach.

8. Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Long thought of as a playground for the ultra-rich, Monaco is still one of Europe’s premier destinations. No hotel exemplifies the opulence and luxury of Monaco more than the Hotel de Paris. Built in 1864 the hotel is still the standard for others to try and copy. Movies such as Iron Man 2, The Red Shoes from 1948 and the movie Monte Carlo from 2011 were shot here. What would a luxurious European hotel be without James Bond? Two of the famous spy’s movies were shot in part here, Never Say Never Again and Goldeneye. This 5-star hotel has 182 rooms appointed in European style and luxury to include Louis XVI chairs and heated floors in the bathrooms. The hotel has three restaurants where gentlemen must wear jackets and a private wine cellar holding over 400,000 bottles of wine, some dating back to 1850. Free entry into the famed casinos and 24-hour concierge service await you at the Hotel de Paris.

7. The Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, California

Originally opened in 1928 the Beverly Wilshire sits across from Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills. The hotel made an appearance in movies like Escape From the Planet of Apes and Sex and the City: The Movie. The world really came to know the hotel when it served as the setting for the blockbuster movie Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. With 395 rooms and 137 suites, the hotel has hosted celebrities, political figures, and royalty. The guest rooms are big, 400 sq. ft. and just get bigger from there. The Presidential Suite is 5000 sq. ft. has a media room and a huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Enjoy a meal at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant CUT where you can get some of the best steaks in the country including True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Japan.

6. The Plaza, New York, NY

The Plaza Hotel in New York has been featured in several movies. The hotel was featured in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby, featuring Robert Redford and in the 2013 version as well. The Plaza also appears in the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest as well as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Sleepless in Seattle and Scent of a Woman. The Plaza Hotel is the ultimate in New York style and sophistication. The hotel has 282 guest rooms and 102 suites including the Royal Plaza Suite. The three-bedroom suite overlooking 5th Avenue comes with a fitness room, baths with marble mosaic tile complete with 24-carat gold plated fixtures and butler services. The Plaza Food Hall is a culinary dining and shopping venue popular with guests and locals. Chef Todd English prepares award-winning meals in the European style food hall featuring rustic Mediterranean food.

5. Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Bellagio in Las Vegas and its iconic fountains have played a prominent role in movies about Las Vegas. The movies Oceans 11, Oceans 13, were shot there. Besides the fountains which attract thousands to the musical dancing waters, the hotel continues to be a favorite destination for Vegas visitors. Cirque du Soleil makes its home at The Bellagio and the conservatory and botanical gardens are a favorite. From the Fiori di Como chandelier containing 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms that adorns the lobby to the fine art gallery The Bellagio strives to provide the utmost in luxury. The concierge can obtain those hard to get show tickets and the staff goes out of their way to make you feel special. The resort rooms are 510 sq. ft. and have marble floor entries, sitting areas, and mood lighting. The Executive Parlor Suite is 2,500 sq. ft. and features a billiard lounge, theater room, and wet bar. For the most discriminating an 8,000 sq. ft. three bedroom, seven bathroom villa is the ultimate in luxury. Featuring a fitness center, massage room, dry sauna and private hair salon the villa comes with a 24hr butler service.

4. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, California

This 5-star hotel on famed Nob Hill in San Francisco sets the standard for luxury and elegance. The movies Hotel and The Rock use this as a filming location along with the 1958 classic Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart. The hotel has 592 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants and bars and a culinary garden where the hotel maintains honey bees that serve up over 800 pounds of honey each year. The Fairmont Hotel has 62 suites with the main building suites containing a parlor, bedroom and marble floors. The Penthouse Suite is 6,000 sq. ft., has three bedrooms and four bathrooms. Complete with a fireplace in the living room, formal dining, library, billiard room and terrace overlooking the city.

3. Waldorf Astoria, New York, NY

The 47 story Waldorf Astoria Hotel has over 1,400 rooms and is one of the largest luxury hotels in the world. The hotel has welcomed presidents, celebrities and royalty throughout the years. Movies have been using the Waldorf since the 1940s because of the grandeur and location on Park Avenue. The 1970 comedy The Out of Towners with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis was filmed at the hotel along with The Great Gatsby. Remember the scene in The Godfather Part III where George Hamilton, who plays the Corleone family lawyer, negotiates with the crooked Arch Bishop? Yep, filmed at the Waldorf. Rooms range from luxury guest rooms in the tower to suites, including two-bedroom apartments where figures such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe have all stayed. No word on whether JFK and Marilyn were staying there at the same time.

2. Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

The movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at the beautiful Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. What most people don’t know is that Turtle Bay has been the setting for over 150 movies and television shows. The original Hawaii Five-O filmed there as well as Magnum PI, the movie Soul Surfer and a host of others. There is no wonder why. I mean come on you have the beautiful tropical setting, great beach and of course the resorts impeccable attention to detail. Instead of a fussy concierge, you get a staff that is friendly and willing to do whatever is needed for you to have the ultimate resort experience. You might find yourself enjoying a cocktail with a local or a well-known pro athlete or celebrity. The resort is situated so you get an ocean view from every room whether it be one of the suites, beach cottages, villas or rooftop premier rooms with walk-in stone showers and soaking tubs.

1. The Savoy, London

The Savoy in London has long been an iconic Hotel and one known for elegance and style. Located on the Thames River, near the shopping and theater districts, the Savoy has attracted politicians, celebrities, and visitors from around the world seeking luxurious amenities. The movie industry is no exception and has the Savoy for settings in several movies dating back to 1921, including The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, Notting Hill in 1999 and Made of Honor in 2008. The 5-star hotel has 268 rooms decorated in either Edwardian or art deco styles featuring luxurious marble bathrooms. Suites also have the luxury of having a dedicated butler. The Royal Suite covers the entire 5th floor and was recently refurbished at a cost of over $3.7 million.

The Best Things to See and Do in Orlando, Florida

Orlando is well-known for its fun and family-friendly theme parks, which are headlined by Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, home of Epcot Center. While you’d surely have a fine time if you focused your trip on one or both of these world-famous attractions, you’d also miss out on the many other things Orlando has to offer.

With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of 12 things to see and do in Orlando besides these popular theme parks.

12. Ride the Orlando Eye

This towering, 400-foot observation wheel is the tallest on America’s east coast, and delivers stunning views of the Orlando skyline. It’s a great way for first-time visitors to get oriented in the city, as long as you don’t have a fear of heights.

When your ride on the Orlando Eye is over, you can amuse yourself at the wheel’s companion entertainment center. Situated on the same grounds as the Orlando Eye, the I-Drive 360 center is an expansive, multimillion-dollar entertainment facility brimming with great eats, themed attractions, and live entertainment.

11. Take a Drive to Winter Park

Winter Park is an upscale suburban community situated just north of Orlando. Its interesting history dates back to the 19th century, when the town became a preferred winter destination for wealthy Americans from colder climes. It now boasts an enviable collection of amazing boutiques and gourmet restaurants that are every bit as fashionable and luxurious as those found in places like Beverly Hills, only they’re much more welcoming and accessible.

After your shopping excursion, head to the Winter Park History Museum to learn more about this unique community. Then, cap off your visit with an unforgettable dining experience at one of the city’s many fine establishments.

Photo by: City of Winter Park Facebook

10. Blast Off Into Outer Space

Okay, we might be cheating a little bit on the “no theme parks” rule with this one, but it’s primarily educational so we decided it doesn’t count. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to an incredible collection of fascinating interactive exhibits that bring the mystery and wonder of the “final frontier” to life like nothing else.

Be sure to check out the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, try a simulated blast-off with the Shuttle Launch Experience, and check out the Space Shuttle Atlantis Exhibit.

Photo by: Kennedy Space Center Facebook

9. Get Cultured in Orlando’s Museums

Few visitors realize it, but Orlando actually has one of the most active and engaging arts scenes of any city in the eastern United States. To get a sampling, start your exploring with a visit to the Orlando Museum of Art, which is renowned for its Art of the Ancient Americas permanent exhibit. Then, if you’d like to sample the local arts scene, head to downtown Orlando’s CityArts Factory, which displays the work of up-and-coming Florida artists.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art also merits an honorable mention. This gallery will be of interest to anyone who enjoys jewelry, glass, and ceramic artwork.

Photo by: Orlando Museum of Art Facebook

8. Experience the Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve

This beautiful 440-acre nature park is the perfect way to enjoy a break from Orlando’s intense sunshine and heat while still enjoying the outdoors. With dense trees casting deep natural shade, this lakeside park offers breathtaking views and fantastic photo opportunities. Peaceful and scenic, the nature preserve’s well-maintained trail network makes for easy walking through idyllic flatwoods and perfectly conserved marshlands.

Pro tip: Don’t forget the mosquito repellent. The park is home to Lake Tibet-Butler and thick marshes, which tend to attract mosquitoes. While these bloodsucking bugs are most active around dawn and dusk, you’ll want to be protected no matter what time you visit.

OnTheTrail / Shutterstock.com

7. Take a Day Trip to Kissimmee

This charming city lies just south of Orlando, and makes for an easy day trip if you’re looking for a break from the fast pace of urban life. Its main attraction is Kissimmee Lakefront Park, where you can wander walking paths, turn the kids loose on beautiful playgrounds, or head to the pier to go fishing.

The park’s boat tours are also highly recommended, and can be booked for as short as 30 minutes if you’re pressed for time. However, many who have visited Kissimmee rave about the boat rides, and especially the airboat experiences. If you aren’t in a hurry, a longer tour is well worth the extra time and money.

Photo by: Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel

6. Dance the Night Away in Thornton Park

If you’re over 21, aren’t in town with young children, and are looking for some after-hours adventure, head to Thornton Park. Based on and around East Central Boulevard, Thornton Park is a drinks-and-dancing hotspot, with dozens of trendy bars and nightclubs drawing throngs of fashionable partygoers practically every night of the week. If you want to make a whole night of your Thornton Park experience, get dressed up for dinner and head for one of the neighborhood’s many eateries before hitting the party scene.

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5. Shop Till You Drop

Orlando is one of the best shopping cities in the region. The most convenient way to enjoy the best of the city’s bustling retail scene is to head to one of its three designer outlet malls, which house dozens of boutiques carrying famous brand-name fashions. First and foremost, there’s Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets, which has undergone a recent expansion.

Then, if you’ve still got some money left over, head to Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores. Conveniently, the Lake Buena Vista outlet center provides free shuttle service to and from dozens of local hotels. Last but not least, there’s also the high-end Mall at Millennia, which is the preferred destination of discerning and demanding fashionistas looking for upscale brands including Breitling, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Prada, among others.

4. Traipse Through Tropical Gardens

The Harry P. Leu Gardens offer a quiet respite from busy city life even though the site is just a short drive from downtown Orlando. This natural paradise dates back to the 1930s, when local entrepreneur Harry Leu founded the gardens as a place to plant the seeds and saplings he collected during his extensive travels around the world. Today, the gardens now include more than 50 acres of stunning botanical specimens, including centuries-old oaks, tropical and semitropical blossoming plants, and breathtaking flower collections.

Guests are also welcome to enjoy picnics on the manicured lawns, and visitors can learn more by popping into the Leu House Museum. Oh, and be sure not to miss the park’s Tropical Stream Garden and its picturesque water features.

Jillian Cain Photography / Shutterstock.com

3. Paddle the Afternoon Away

Lake Eola Park is a breath of fresh air in downtown Orlando. With a serene pond and professionally landscaped collection of parks and gardens, Lake Eola Park is home to a wide range of plant and animal life. You can take a leisurely walk around the park by following its main path, which covers about half a mile. Visitors can also rent paddleboats and head out on the water for a relaxing ride that also delivers fantastic views of the sleek city skyline.

Karen Fields / Shutterstock.com

2. Enjoy a Bike Ride

Another enjoyable off-the-beaten-track option is to head into Baldwin Park, which is just a few miles outside of central Orlando. This relatively new, master-planned community features upscale homes, quiet coffee shops and cafes, and a great collection of suburban retail outlets. You can also rent a bike and enjoy a ride around Baldwin Park’s beautiful lake. A smooth, easy cycling and jogging trail runs around its perimeter, delivering two and a half miles of idyllic beauty. The best time to visit is early in the morning, when temperatures are still nice and cool.

1. Go Alligator Watching

Florida is well-known for its alligator population, and while you definitely don’t want to get too close to these vicious reptiles, there are many safe ways to see them. One popular option is to take an airboat tour in a gator park, with Wild Willy’s on Lake Tohopekaliga being a particularly popular option. Wild Willy’s is just a short drive from Orlando, and offers affordable gator-watching experiences you won’t soon forget.

If you’re interested in venturing a little further from Orlando, there are also many excellent spots to explore Florida’s unique brand of nature around Sarasota. Myakka State Park is a particularly recommended option if you’re in this area.

Phillip Maguire / Shutterstock.com

The World’s Absolute Best Tennis Hotels

Tennis lovers unite! All over the world, there is a multitude of amazing hotels and resorts that are catering to the player in all of us. Whether you are a serious tennis player, looking to watch the pros in action or just getting started; there is a tennis hotel for you. From the south coast of Antigua to the Swiss Alps to the charming state of South Carolina, these hotels are loaded with amenities, fabulous dining choices, luxury rooms and of course, the best in tennis instruction. Discover the World’s Top Tennis Hotels where we promise you will improve your play.

12. Carlisle Bay, Antigua

On the south coast of Antigua overlooking the sparkling blue waters and rain, forested hills sit a family-friendly hotel that is perfect for the tennis lovers. The bedroom suites are enough to visit this hotel alone, with their chic furniture and split-level designs. As for dining here, guests have their choice of four different restaurants, all serving locally sourced ingredients.

But it is tennis for the whole family that really stands out at Carlisle Bay. With nine well-maintained tennis courts, including four that are floodlit for night play; you won’t have any problems working on your skills. Rackets and balls are provided on a complimentary basis, as well as the hotel runs complimentary clinics throughout the week. If you are looking for more professional instruction there are instructors on hand for group or private lessons. It’s hard to beat the setting as you practice amongst tropical flowers and the bright shining sun.

Via Carlisle Bay

11. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa, Arizona

This 1,300 acre Arizona resort is surrounded by an outcrop of 12-million-year-old granite and is set just north of Phoenix. It has been ranked as one of the top tennis resorts in all of America by TENNIS magazine and it certainly does not disappoint. The Boulders features exceptional service and first-class facilities including four premier hard courts, three cushioned courts, and one classic clay court. Private lessons and clinics are offered on a daily basis and expect to dramatically improve your skill here.

While off the court guests will enjoy the four crystal blue pools, two world-class golf courses and a 33,000 square foot spa. Guests here have their choice of casitas, executive suites, villas or haciendas; all decked out with luxury furnishings and the feel of home. The resort is truly an oasis full of willows, cactus and flowering shrubs, flowers and a dramatic landscape.

Via Boulders Resort & Spa

10. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Big Island, Hawaii

This beautiful beach hotel features 11 tennis courts alongside the ocean, making this one of the best views players will get. The hotel was built in 1965 by legendary hotelier Laurance S. Rockefeller and was completely updated after an earthquake in 2006. As well as enlarged and enhanced rooms, a spa and new restaurants, the courts also got a facelift. The setting of the tennis complex is perhaps what makes it so special, located so close to the sea that players often call timeouts to watch the whales and bottlenose dolphins that pass just off-shore.

The tennis direction Craig Pautler has set up amazing lessons, clinics, social activities, games and programs for kids. Children as young as 4 years old can start in the tiny tot’s tennis program whereas adults can enjoy the round robin tournaments or private lessons.

Via Big Island Now

9. Sani Resort, Greece

This resort sprawls over 1,000 acres and is made up of four hotels, ranging from family friendly to grown-up suites. It also happens to feature its own marina, an ecological reserve, an 8km stretch of beach and six tennis courts. The courts are clay and floodlit, housed in the state of the art sports complex near the Sani Beach Hotel. The Sani Tennis Academy focuses on providing an ideal environment to motivate young beginners while at the same time giving advanced players the opportunity to continue training at a higher level.

Experienced full-time coaches are on hand to lead you through group sessions or one-on-one instruction. Kids are welcome here and specialty camps are offered for kids aged 4-12. Besides tennis there are plenty of other activities such as scuba diving, walking trails and lounging by the pool. Three restaurants, a spa, and miles of beach await visitors to this awesome tennis resort.

Via Booking.com

8. Wild Dunes, Isle of Palms, South Carolina

It has been ranked in the top 10 of best Tennis Resorts in America, nine years in a row by Tennis Magazine so it is no surprise it is amongst the best in the world. Tennis isn’t just an option at this beautiful resort but a true passion. Wild Dunes offers 17 courts, including a stadium court and five of them floodlit for night play. As a guest here you will receive complimentary court time.

Guests are also privy to top-ranked instruction with professional instructors and activities range from clinics, lessons, and drills. Accommodations here range from condos to cottages to hotels and guests can choose from pool-side to beach-side and even court-side. Other activities here include golf, fishing, water sports, and fitness. Let’s not forget about the abundance of spa services that are offered here as well.

Via Destination Hotels

7. TOPS’L Beach & Racquet Resort, Destin, Florida.

Visitors here only need to spend moments in the Pro Shop and around the courts to appreciate the love for tennis at this resort. Located on the soft white sand beaches, this private resort combines a 12-court tennis complex with a gorgeous stretch of beach, for the ultimate tennis vacation. Several tall towers and numerous one and two-story condos make up the resort, along with an expansive pool, restaurants, whirlpools and an on-site shuttle service.

Players here should expect the ultimate tennis experience as the staff is focused on delivering lessons, clinics, round robin plays and weekends devoted to team competitions. The 12 courts are all clay courts and ten of them are lighted for night use, with guests having complimentary access to all of them. There is no reason why you can’t enjoy the beach and improve your game at the TOPS’L Beach and Racquet Resort in Florida.

Via 30A.com

6. Gstaad Palace, Switzerland

This beautiful hotel is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Swiss Alps and dates back to 1913. Featuring 104 rooms, a spa, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, numerous restaurants and four tennis courts; this Palace is truly spectacular. During the summer seasons is when tennis lovers will want to head here, specifically during one of the specialty tennis weeks when tennis legend Roy Emerson offers personal instruction to guests.

If you are more interested in watching the pros perform, plan on staying at this hotel during the Allianz Swiss Tennis Open Gstaad where the world’s best tennis players compete for one of the most important tennis trophies. There also happens to be three indoor courts located next door in case of bad weather. Whether you want to relax with a full body massage after a long day of practicing, soak in the steam baths of hit the nightclub; this hotel truly offers it all.

Via TrailblazerGirl

5. Topnotch Resort and Spa, Stowe, Vermont

This resort and spa is a haven for both tennis lovers and those looking to get introduced to the sport. With a recent renovation to its 76 rooms, this resort also enlarged the amazing swimming pool, enhanced the 40,000 square foot European Spa and installed a new casual restaurant. It’s the tennis academy that sits above all though with its extensive menu of both indoor and outdoor programs. Players can count on playing up t 5 hours a day if they choose to do so while junior programs divert kids and encourage the whole family to play. Staff will arrange opponents for games or group and private lessons. There is your choice of rooms, suites, and homes to rent; all packed with luxury amenities. If you get sick of tennis why not head over to the equestrian center, golf courses or shops that are all located nearby.

Via Topnotch Resort

4. Forte Village Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy

If you happen to love tennis and want to visit the wonderful country of Italy, there is only one place you need to visit and that is the Forte Village. This resort in Sardinia features a total of 12 tennis courts- 10 clay, 1 natural grass and 1 synthetic- all floodlit for nighttime use. Guests flock here for the head coach of the tennis program here, a man by the name of Rocco Loccisano, a former top Australian player and once trainer to Wimbledon champion Pat Cash.

Private or group lessons are available from a plethora of tennis professionals but that isn’t all these amazing resort offer. Choose from a spacious seafront suite, bungalow, villa or 5-star hotels to spend your nights in. An array of restaurants and bars await you, as well as shopping and nightlife. If you happen to have the kids with you, make sure to check out the awesome children’s wonderland that features pools, a theatre, and other fun activities.

Via Forte Village

3. Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

With two complete tennis complexes located on this 10-mile island, it is easy to be close to a championship court. This elegant oceanfront hotel comes complete with an elegant spa, dedicated children’s park, five designer golf courses, 10 miles of pristine beach and numerous shops and restaurants. What makes this resort pretty special is the fact that they have put their tennis clubs under the direction of former touring pro, Roy Barth.

For 35 years Barth has been operating a broad-based program that features a lengthy roster of weekly activities including instructional clinics, mini-camps, round robins and private lessons. The resort features 90 holes of championship golf, fishing tours, special activities for kids and teens and a plethora of dining options including a signature steakhouse. Choose to stay in the Sanctuary Hotel, a private villa or luxury private homes.

Via charlestoncvb.com

2. Rancho Valencia, California

This elegant Relais and Chateau and retreat in Santa Fe California has a huge focus on tennis, offering 17 courts for just 49 suites. This family-friendly resort also has a way with customer service and guests here should expect that every need they have will be catered to, one and off the court. Along with the amazing courts, this retreat offers an incredible 10,000 square foot spa, a delicious restaurant that is focused on California coastal ranch cuisine and amenity-rich suites.

The suites here are simply to die for, with their gas-log fireplaces, outdoor Jacuzzis, private patio gardens and jetted tubs. Guests here will enjoy the superior coaches and instructors that offer private lessons and programs that are tailored to each individual. Complimentary match play, daily tennis clinics, video lessons and family lessons are just a slice of what is offered here.

Via Jetsetter

1. Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

The setting is picture perfect, an English mansion that is set in the Buckinghamshire countryside that dates back to 1908.  The grounds are over 300 acres and include 49 exquisite rooms, three restaurants, indoor swimming pool, a 27 hole championship golf course, and a whopping 13 tennis courts. Tennis is the draw here and every year this hotel hosts the pre-Wimbledon tennis tournament where tennis stars from around the world gather to warm up for the season.

Many guests choose to come during this week to watch the stars in action. If you are more interested in working on your own tennis skills though, this hotel offers lessons to guests on both the indoor and outdoor courts and provides junior camps to young players. Luxury amenities, incredible dining options and the opportunity to not only work on your skills but see the stars in action make this one awesome tennis hotel.

Via Stoke Park

8 Unusual Organized Tours for an Outstanding Vacation

Are your usual travel plans seeming a little flat? Do you want a travel experience that is truly conversation-worthy when you return home? Do you crave something out-of-the-box, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Read on below for some suggestions of amazing tours that are out of the ordinary- to varying degrees. Some will put a different perspective on familiar sites or cities. Others may have you saying- they have a tour for that?

1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom, Orlando

One of the first rules of being a magician is to never reveal the secrets behind your tricks. Well, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando turns that whole concept on its ear by providing a tour to its underground tunnel system (Utilidor) – which is where much of their magic happens. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom- think about it; have you ever seen anything the least bit utilitarian (i.e. supplies traveling) or un-magic? The complex Utilidor system is an intricate, minutely detailed system that is the conduit for Disney Cast Members (staff) to whisk from one location to another, supplies to be delivered and for garbage to be transported. It’s a whole other world underground at Disney World- complete with cafeterias, a hairdresser as well as a myriad of offices. The traveler who has a keen appreciation for well-executed logistics will enjoy this 7 hour tour, which includes lunch. It’s Disney from a whole new perspective.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

2. Chernobyl, Ukraine

While touring the site of a nuclear disaster may not top everyone’s travel wish list, those wishing to gain insight into the historic 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be pleased to know that there are a number of organized tours open to the public. There are one day and two day tours offered (some include transportation to and from Kiev). Depending on your tour company, expect to see the village of Chernobyl and to travel through various checkpoints. You’ll see the abandoned town of Pripyat. Groups are taken through the Exclusion Zone (which is closed to the general public, but open to tour groups) and then brought into the Chernobyl Power Plant itself to witness the site of the disaster.

Chernobyl

3. Helter Skelter Tour, Los Angeles

In Los Angeles you can go on a guided tour that takes you through the sites of some of the grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family. The tour delves into the minds of the killers and victims themselves in the hours prior to the murders. These cases continue to fascinate the public to this day, and this tour explores some of the reasons why.

crime scene

4. Funky Chicken Coop Tour, Texas

This organized tour is a little different than other tours for a number of reasons. For one thing- it is a once-a-year event. For another, it was developed as a promotional tool of sorts. The annual tour was launched by not-for-profit Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc. in order to raise public awareness around urban farming. The tour has a home base with family-friendly activities, and proceeds to tour around several urban chicken coops in the Austin area, where the public can view urban poultry (and other) farming first hand.

Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour
Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour

5. Train with a Sumo Wrestler, Japan

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a Sumo Wrestler? In Japan, there are a number of tours intended to acquaint you with a morning in a typical day in the life of a Sumo Wrestler by immersing you in the experience. The art of Sumo Wrestling is steeped in centuries of tradition, deep history and regard for ritual. The tour begins in a traditional Sumo stable, where wrestlers live and train together. On this tour, your day starts with the traditional early morning Sumo Wrestling practice, where you’ll watch wrestlers have at it, and then have a go in the ring yourself. After your wrestling, you’ll eat the traditional Chanko meal (which is a mix of protein and veggies) which Sumo Wrestlers eat every day (these wrestlers reportedly eat about 10,000 calories in a single meal) to maintain their training regime. You’ll share the meal with the Oyakata (master) who will field any questions about what it is really like to be a Sumo Wrestler.

Sumo Training

6. Tragic History Tour, Los Angeles

Unfortunately, often with fame comes a lot of tragedy and promising young lives are cut all too short. So it is no surprise that star-studded Hollywood has been the scene for a number of star-related deaths and scandals. There are a few organized tours that let you be celebrity voyeurs, and get your fix of celebrity gossip, complete with guided commentary. The Dearly Departed, Tragic History Tour brings you to 75 different sites over the course of an afternoon. See where Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and River Pheonix died. See the sites of the scandals that surrounded Hugh Grant, Rhianna and Chris Brown. With a nod of decidedly dark humor, this tour is delivered from a “tomb buggy” (a bus). It’s the perfect tour for the celeb-obsessed.

The Viper Room

7. Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

There is nowhere quite like Amsterdam, the ultimate melting pot of all vices. Why not benefit from a little local commentary from an expert guide while taking in the “sights”. One tour company (named, plainly Amsterdam Red Light District Tours) has a tagline of ‘History, Hookers and Hashish: we have an awesome tour for you’. Delivered in English by local Dutch guides, guests of this tour will see the first condom shop in the world, peep shows, the infamous Amsterdam pot-smoking coffee shops, prostitutes (including the Museum of Prostitution) and appropriately, the Hangover Information Centre.

Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

8. Crop Circle Tours, UK

Paranormal believers unite! You have likely heard of crop circles, but did you know that they have a high season? (which interestingly peaks in the middle of high traffic summer vacation season). There are a number of tours that take you out to tour recently formed circles. If you’d like to extend your extra-terrestrial tour time, then combine the crop circles with a “Magical Mystery tour” which hits all the local crop circles, but also takes you to see Stonehenge and Avebury, which borders the Warminster Triangle, where there has reportedly been strange sights, sounds, ghostly/unexplained apparitions- not to mention a very strong electro-magnetic field, which is requisite it would seem for UFO encounters.

Crop Circle

The Top 10 Artsy Towns in America

For those with the slightest creative bent, there is something inherently romantic about ‘artsy’ places, places where great artists congregated, often out of poverty, a sense of adventure, a disdain for convention. Present day fans still make the pilgrimage to commune with the spirits of their artistic heroes. This list is about living and breathing art colonies in the U.S. that no longer occur in urban slums but thrive in small towns, all the more notable for being the raison d’etre of the town’s very existence. All of the below are in beautiful natural settings. A few have artistic tradition a century old. Some have revived places on the verge of ghost town status and what could be more romantic than that? What follows is a list of intriguing places in which art is the core of a modern sustainable economy. Off the beaten track, these places offer tremendous travel value. The list comes from, of all places the World Property Journal, with artistic elaborations only your Escape Here correspondents can share.

10. Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Had they all lived at the same time, four of the greatest American artists of all time would have been neighbors here, just a few miles from each other in the historic Berkshire mountains on the Massachusetts-Upstate New York border whose homes have now become museums. Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, authors Edith Wharton (The Age of innocence) and Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and the picture postcard perfect village of Stockbridge; the home of painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s legendary works achieved great fame and following in the Saturday Evening Post. He captured the spirit of small town America before its demise and his illustrations remain much admired for their nostalgic depiction of a world that is largely extinct. Some of his greatest works are on display. The Arts are the soul of Stockbridge with gardens, theater and a short drive away, the fabulous Tanglewood Music Festival.

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

9. Sag Harbor, New York

Yoga studios and spas have crept into the 200-year-old whaling port in the tiny Hamptons on Long Island. Its literary credentials are impeccable and it is mentioned several times in Moby Dick. Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck lived and wrote Travels with Charley here. It remains a writer’s colony though reminders of its whaling past are prominent. Art shows are everywhere and year round. The Sag harbor Fine Arts Center, quite an accomplishment for a village of 2,100, features quality musical performance and dance recitals. The scenery is spectacular in a quiet place that, like Rockwell’s art, is a window on another time.

Sag Harbor, New York

8. Manitou Springs, Colorado

The charming town at the foot of Pike’s Peak (Elevation 14,110) is on the Register of Historic Places. The Ute Indians knew they had a good thing long ago, but the town with its 11 springs was founded only in 1872 as a spa destination and has been a tourist attraction ever since. Still the native presence remains strong with amazing ancient cliff dwellings. The frontier settlement layout and vibe remains but there are some two dozen working art studios and an artists’ co-op now as well as chamber music and frequent art walks. Among the better known local artists is Michael Baum whose Disneyish yet charming southwestern landscapes are done in the unusual medium of oil on linen.

Photo by: Manitou Springs
Photo by: Manitou Springs

7. Madrid, New Mexico

After the gold and coal ran out so did the inhabitants in the 1950’s. The Wall Street Journal carried a for sale ad offering the whole place for $250,000. No one bit so Madrid became a ghost town. Somehow the old buildings survived until artists move in and turned it into a colony of galleries and studios. Folk art and crafts range from handmade cowboy boots to exquisite Cerillos turquoise from the nearby Turquoise Trail to native artifacts. There are spas and restaurants even though the last census records a population of 210, most of whom came from somewhere away and never went back. And it’s MA-drid by the way. Not to be confused with that pretender in Spain.

Madrid, New Mexico

6. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

Many would say the greatest work of art in the area is the Pebble Beach Golf Course, opened in 1919 and considered the greatest, most beautiful course in the country. A town of 4,000 has four exceptional venues for the performing arts. It is a wealthy enclave now but in the early 20th century it was a sanctuary for impoverished bohemian artists left homeless by the Great San Francisco earthquake. It’s memorably captured by Jack London in Valley of the Moon. Writers, painters, photographers and poets found inspiration in the beautiful stretch of Pacific shore. A Shakespearean tradition dates from 1911 and is still going strong. Far from bohemian now but visual artists still share the same inspiration.

Carmel, California

5. Delray Beach, Florida

As the 20th century wound down, Delray Beach was a dying town with shuttered storefronts and apparently no future. It is now a burgeoning arts center  as The Delray Art League promotes the art scene and has over 200 members. Pineapple grove is a happening art ‘hood’ with galleries, cafes and cool buzz. The Arts Garage is a unique venue serving up all types of experimental musical forms. The old industrial warehouses have been transformed to Artists’ Alley and house dozens of working spaces, and there are more at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. Performing artists can find venues at Delray Square Arts, plus the average temperature in January is 71. Makes you feel like getting artsy don’t it?

Delray Beach, Florida

4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is Cherokee country while European settlement began in 1806. It lays claim to being home to the largest independent arts community on the continent that has its roots in the Great Depression in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. The Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail features over 100 artisans along an 8-mile loop that produce exquisite Americana artifacts; ceramics, pottery, jewelry and wood carvings.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

3. Cody, Wyoming

The town takes its name from William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. It’s known especially for the renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a clutch of five museums celebrating different aspects of Cody’s life and legacy as well as the American Frontier experience, including the Whitney Western Art Museum. The New York Times calls the Smithsonian-related complex “among the nation’s most remarkable museums” A thriving local art scene culminates in the annual Rendezvous Royale community festival topped off by the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale.

milosk50 / Shutterstock.com
milosk50 / Shutterstock.com

2. Fredericksburg, Texas

A fascinating place settled by German immigrants in the 1850’s, named after a Prussian price with a unique Texas German dialect spoken. The age of political correctness has not precluded the use of the nickname Fritztown. Known as the peach capital of Texas, the town’s artistic bent came with the settlers, among them accomplished artists from Dresden. Galleries abound and local sculptors have national reputations. The town can also claim an Art School and Guild.

Fredericksburg, Texas

1. Taos, New Mexico

As the light of Provence once lured the eye of Vincent van Gogh, the magical light and dramatic landscape of the southwest town of Taos has lured a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful visual artists over the last century. High end inns and hotels in Santa Fe feature the iconic paintings of Inger Jerby, a Scandinavian native who found her way to Taos and stayed, part of a new interpretation of Old West painting. The art colony, the beautiful setting and the a significant Native presence have drawn artistic legends like Georgia O’Keefe, photographer Ansel Adams and the great British novelist D.H. Lawrence.

Gimas / Shutterstock.com
Gimas / Shutterstock.com

10 Things to See and Do in Daytona Beach

Located in Volusia County, Florida, Daytona Beach is a city with a population of a little over 60,000 people. It is also the principle city of the Fun Coast region of Florida. It is well-known for its hard packed sandy beaches that allow for recreational vehicles to be driven on it and the Daytona International Speedway as the headquarters to NASCAR. Out-of-towners descend on the city in February for the beginning of the Daytona 500, in July for the NASCAR Coke Zero 400, in March for Bike Week, late October for the Biketoberfest and in January for the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race — there’s always something going on in Daytona! Here’s the top 10 things to see in and do in this beach city:

10. Boot Hill Saloon

Known as being one of the most famous biker bars, the Boot Hill Saloon is a bar located on Main Street in Daytona Beach. If you are a motorcycle enthusiast and love the atmosphere of an old-school biker bar, you won’t find any more authentic than the legendary Boot Hill Saloon. They host special event catered specially to their clientele, have a gift shop on site and feature live musical entertainment. The friendly staff will welcome you when you walk in the door and you can take in pieces of history hung all over the wall inside the bar. While drinking a frosty ale, you will enjoy some fantastic music and great fun. Sometimes the atmosphere gets a little wild, but security is good, people are friendly and there is always a good time to be had by all. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience you will want to revisit year after year.

Photo by: The Legendary Boot Hill Saloon Facebook
Photo by: The Legendary Boot Hill Saloon Facebook

9. Beach Street

With so much to see and do in Daytona Beach, you don’t want to miss out on the great shopping district located on historic Beach Street. Right on the riverfront, you will not just enjoy a great shopping experience in their one-of-a-kind shops, but you will soak in the scenic surroundings, enjoy magnificent dining and wonderful entertainment. You can take a tour of Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory, watch an independent films at Cinematique Theater, a Daytona Tortugas game, step into history at the Halifax History Museum or relax at the Halifax Harbor Marina. The News-Journal Center at Daytona State College hosts live musical and theatrical performances. It’s all wrapped up in one neat little location in downtown Daytona. You haven’t experienced Daytona Beach until you’ve toured, shopped, eaten and been entertained on Beach Street.

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

8. Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier

The Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier offers much more than just place to go for a nature walk on the beach. It is actually a combination of the Joyland Amusement Center, Mardi Gras Fun Center, Pizza King and Lisa’s Gift Shop. The entertainment center features outdoor and indoor rides and amusements including a classic arcade. There is also a giant Ferris Wheel, the Sandblaster Roller Coaster, go-carts and the Slingshot located on the boardwalk. Every Saturday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day, there is a fireworks display. You can also enjoy a concert, watch street performers and many more family friendly fun activities. Where else can you take a walk on a scenic sandy beach, enjoy some amusement rides, play some arcade games, eat some fantastic food and have good clean family fun all in one place? This is the definite one-stop vacation destination.

Daytona Beach (2)

7. Ponce Inlet

Located on the southern tip of a beach peninsula south of Daytona Beach, Ponce Inlet is a town with a population of just over 3,000 people. The town is home to several marinas and the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse. The Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station is one of the best preserved, most complete light stations in the country. It has been declared a National Historic Landmark and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ponce Inlet with its spectacular view of the Florida coastline and Halifax River. The lighthouse keeper’s dwellings and other historic light station buildings are home to the lighthouse museum which features exhibits from lighthouse life, lighthouse pieces including Fresnel lens restoration, the keepers and their families, Daytona Beach and Florida’s history as well as shipwrecks. The town has lovely boardwalks, and observation tower and nature trails as well.

James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com
James R. Martin / Shutterstock.com

6. Ocean Center

Located on North Atlantic Drive in Daytona Beach, the Ocean Center is the fifth largest convention center in Florida. In the grand entrance you will find a Cultural Information Center, lobby space with gathering areas, restrooms and concession facilities. They also display the “Arts in Public Places” program and has dedicated areas for permanent and visiting works of art and cultural displays. Other things to see in the lobby include a marquee mural that changes with the center’s exhibits. The main arena seats 6,176 for ice hockey and football, 8,362 for basketball, 7,184 for the circus, 7,380 for ice shows, 8,582 for wrestling and 9,440 for concerts. It also hosts trade shows, banquets, high school graduations, conventions and other events. Be sure to check their schedule of events before visiting. It will be well worth the effort.

Photo by: Ocean Center Facebook
Photo by: Ocean Center Facebook

5. Museum of Arts and Sciences

Often referred to as MOAS, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach is one of the largest museums in Central Florida and is home to over 30,000 objects. When you visit here, you will see a giant ground sloth skeleton, the largest permanent exhibition of Cuban art outside of Cuba, Chapman Root’s collection of Americana including two private rail cars and the second largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in the world. Though about half of the museum’s exhibits are permanent, many exhibits change every few months. There is also a planetarium and auditorium on the premises. It is a wonderful way to introduce your children to culture while fascinating and amazing them as well as having good clean fun.

Photo by: Museum of Arts & Sciences
Photo by: Museum of Arts & Sciences

4. Peabody Auditorium

Home to the Daytona Beach Symphony Society for over 60 years and the summer home of the London Symphony Orchestra for more than 40 years, the Peabody Auditorium is 2,521 seat music venue in Daytona Beach. There you can catch a Broadway show, headline performer, opera, drama or comedy performance. They also offer civic ballet, schools, cheerleading, bodybuilding and dance competitions. The theater has hosted some huge names in entertainment like Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, James Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Seinfeld and David Copperfield. It has also presented big name productions such as CATS, 42nd Street, Chicago, STOMP, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Riverdance. With a history of major talent and shows being hosted here, you know you won’t be disappointed when you attend a great show with your family, friends or other loved ones.

Photo by: Peabody Auditorium Facebook
Photo by: Peabody Auditorium Facebook

3. Southeast Museum of Photography

Opened in 1992 and relocated in 2007, the Southeast Museum of Photography is a museum on the Daytona State College campus. It’s permanent collection consists of over 3,500 photographs and hold over 20 exhibitions annually. Some of the talent on display here include photographs by William Klein, Sally Mann, Harry Callahan, Gordon Parks, Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind and Robert Rauschenberg to name a few. Entry to the museum is free of charge but donations are accepted. Plan a visit here on your vacation. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends and family admiring some wonderful local talent. You can go back several times so you don’t miss out on some very unique displays.

Photo by: Southeast Museum of Photography Facebook
Photo by: Southeast Museum of Photography Facebook

2. Daytona International Speedway

Opened in 1959, Daytona International Speedway is a race track in Daytona Beach and is the home of the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious race. It is also host to other races such as ARCA, AMA Superbike, USCC and Motocross. The track has multiple layouts which are used for different types of races. They include the primary 2.5 mile (4.0 km) high speed tri-oval, 3.56 mile (5.73 km) sports car course, 2.95 mile (4.75 km) motorcycle course and .25 mile (0.40 km) karting and motorcycle flat track. The 180-acre (73 ha) infield includes  Lake Lloyd which has hosted powerboat racing. If you love adrenaline-pumping sports and have always wanted to see a world-class race, Daytona International Speedway has to be on your agenda.

Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com
Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

1. Daytona Lagoon

Touted as Daytona’s Year-Round Family Fun Center, Daytona Lagoon is a waterpark and family entertainment center located on Earl Street in Daytona Beach. The waterpark section is open to public from March through October but the remainder of the attractions are open all year-round. Some of the rides and attractions you will see are Blackbeard’s Revengea dark tunnel ride in an inflatable 3-person boat, Poseidon’s Pass – a slide ride similar to Blackbeard’s Revenge but with three tunnels, Adventure Mountain – where you speed through two slaloms before splashing into a pool, Pelican’s Drift – Lazy River, Castaway Bay – a large play structure with 4 slides for children, The Wave Pool, Kracken’s Conquest – a ProRacer speed slide and many dry attractions. You play miniature golf, ride a carousel, play lazer tag and more. The family fun never end at the Daytona Lagoon.

Photo by: Daytona Lagoon Facebook
Photo by: Daytona Lagoon Facebook

Extreme Sports Guide: 10 Best Spots in the World for Insane Stunts

From base-jumping and snowboarding to canyoning and bouldering, check out these beautiful natural spots where adrenaline junkies get their daily fix of death-defying stunts. Ranging from extreme to family friendly, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime at the 10 best spots around the world.

10. Underground Tubing

Also called blackwater rafting, get ready for the underground adventure of a lifetime at the Waitomo caves in New Zealand, a major tourist attraction in the North Island. Cave tubing is a great way to see up close the glowworms and ancient rock formations in a series of caves found in the northern King Country region. Formed on Oligocene limestone, the caves are an exciting family friendly activity that will make unforgettable memories. For the more adventurous, specialized tourism companies can take you on an extreme cave crawl that leads to spots rarely seen by the crowds.

Waitomo caves NZ

9. Zip Lining

With the popularity of eco-tourism in Costa Rica, zip lining is often included as part of the tour. Traversing a treetop incline by a pulley is also a great way to see the lush rainforest. Feel like a bird gliding along the horizon as you make your way across Selvatura Park. The zip tour is full of lush, breathtaking scenery, but adrenaline junkies should head to Sun City, South Africa for the world’s longest, fasted zip-line. The Zip 2000 is an intoxicating thrill ride blasting across the safari at 100 mph. It might seem dangerous but Zip 2000 (www.zip2000.co.za) has boasted a 100% safety record since it opened in 2004. It’s also open to kids 12 and up, making it a thrilling family adventure. Zip-lining enthusiasts claim that it feels just like flying, not freefalling like on bungees and parachutes.  

zip line

8. Coasteering

With coasteering, thrill seekers can get their fix of adrenaline on the edge of the world, literally. Head to Pembrokeshire, Wales, the rocky and precarious coastal cliff that is a top spot for extreme outdoor adventures. In a series of swimming, diving, and climbing trails, coasteering involves traversing the rocky coastline on foot and without the aid of watercraft. There are several coasteering outfits that offer guided tours across the windswept coastline, so get ready for a day full of cliff jumping, rock climbing, and swimming in the waves. Coasteering may seem like a sport for daredevils, but with the proper safety equipment and expert guides leading the way, even kids can do it, making it ideal for an outdoor family adventure against a backdrop of breathtaking coastal cliffs.

Coasteering

7. Canyoning

Also called river trekking, this rugged outdoor sport encourages the use of climbing techniques and equipment to rappel and climb rugged canyon terrain. The best places for canyoning are mountains with flowing water like The Grand Canyon in Arizona, which contains breathtaking scenery and some of the steepest canyons in the world. A good place to start is on a mountain with flowing water where you can follow a local expert through a tour of cascading waterfalls, windswept boulders, and trickling streams. Another popular spot for canyoning is in Norway and its Scandinavian fjord country. Armed with a wetsuit, helmet, and climbing gear, get an up close look at the Jostedal glacier as you swim, climb, and rappel your way across the Sognefjord, one of nature’s best obstacle courses.

Jostedal glacier

6. Bouldering

Bouldering, also known as climbing without safety equipment, can be as daring or dangerous as you want it. For thrill-seekers, it’s just you and thousands of feet below, so one wrong move and game over. Even so, that hasn’t stopped this popular sport from becoming a possible competition in the 2020 Olympics. Ranging from 10 to 25 feet, the boulders are quite a challenge, especially without any ropes or safety nets. Instead, climbers must rely on their skills and fearlessness to conquer the boulders one precarious step at a time. Popular spots for extreme bouldering is the lower Sierra Nevada Mountain range in Bishop, California, the giant Rocklands of South Africa, and the forests of Fontainebleau in France.

bouldering

5. Ice-climbing

If you have nerves of steel, get ready for the ultimate thrill as you ascend ice formations with nothing more than an ice pick and a will to live. Adrenaline junkies use Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park (www.ourayicepark.com), the world’s only park devoted to this extreme winter sport. Situated within walking distance of the town of Ouray, the ice park is a man-made climbing area in a natural gorge. Free and open to the public, the park also offers a range of climbs from easy and moderate to high-level. Depending on experience and skill level, there are many climbs to choose from, including the Kids Climbing Park and the Scottish Gullies for the more advanced ice-climber. So, get your axe in gear and head to the San Juan mountain range and the spectacular, rugged terrain of the Rockies. 

Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

4. Bungee Jumping

Bungee jumping is a classic adrenaline rush go-to because if it’s a bridge and it’s high up, why not jump off it? Plus, even the craziest daredevils feel somewhat protected by the bungee cord, the only thing between a stunt of a lifetime and certain death. One of the most popular jumps is at Macau Tower, the highest commercial jump established by Kiwi entrepreneur and professional daredevil AJ Hackett. Since the 90s, adventure seekers have traveled to this adrenaline-making mecca for the thrill of their lives. Located on the mainland of China in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, the 765-ft jump is in the Guinness World Records as the Highest Commercial Bungee Jump in the world.

nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com
nikitabuida / Shutterstock.com

3. Cave Diving

If you can handle the real dangers of freshwater cave diving, get ready to dive deep into an underwater hole in the earth for an up close look at ancient stalactites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, an area known for containing the world’s largest concentration of sinkholes. Surrounded by a lush tropical rainforest, plunge into the dark inner depths of crystal-clear turquoise waters. Another popular spot for thrill-seekers is Ginny Springs State Park in High Springs, Florida, one of the most dangerous cave dives in the world. On the way to the network of caves, some as big as two football fields, there are signs covered in skull and crossbones and with the ominous warning, “People have died here.” Even so, it’s one of the top cave diving destinations in the world for its extensive system of caves and caverns.

cave diving

2. Sky Jumping

Popularized by Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider, sky jumping is the ultimate thrill. Instead of jumping out of a plane, adrenaline junkies head to the nearest giant cliff and jump off, gliding into the air with the help of a winged bird-like suit. A favorite spot for this extreme sport is the mountains of New Zealand, a region known for its large population of extreme sports enthusiasts. The sport involves a wing suit, which is designed to help you glide through the air in a death-defying free fall and then finally the deployment of a parachute. This activity is perfect for sky divers who want to take the next step in their daily adrenaline fix. Only the most experience skydivers should attempt this. In fact, it is recommended that participants have at least 200 free fall sky dives under their belt before they take the plunge.

sky jumping

1. Heli-skiing

Heli-skiing is so dangerous it’s outlawed throughout Europe, but for the extreme adrenaline junkie, Alaska and the wild frontier of the Chugach Mountains is a popular spot for one of the most daring stunts. Considered to have the world’s deepest, softest powder, the Chugach peaks are an ideal spot to reach treacherous skiing slopes, ones that are so high and rugged that they can only be reached by helicopter. Only advanced skiers and snowboarders should try it, but for those looking for the ultimate thrill, there are several local outfits that can get you to the colossal vertical gorges and inspiring snow-capped peaks. Now is the time to channel your inner Bodhi from Point Break because “If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price.” No pressure.

heli ski