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Top 5 most beautiful natural sites that your teens will visit in America

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Summer is fast approaching and you still do not know what destination to choose for your teen’s colony? This dream of wide open spaces, scenery, grandeur? Why not explore the magnificent American landscape? Here’s a top 5 most beautiful natural sights in America with summer camps for teens Telligo!

The Niagara falls

The-Niagara-Falls

Located in the State of New York on the border between Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls offer a majestic sight. Á board a ferry, your child will sail to the foot of this gigantic waterfall that pours each second huge amounts of water. A natural wonder to visit at least once in his life and he will have the opportunity to experience the stay Niagara & the Cities !

Viñales Valley

Viñales-Valley

In the heart of the Cuban pampas, is the green Viñales Valley. This greenery surrounded by mogotes (rounded limestone hills) is a landscape of lush vegetation extraordinary. When hiking, your child will discover its tobacco plantations, sugar cane or corn and plunge in the heart of the Cuban culture.

The Bahamas

The-Bahamas

Paradise on earth, the Bahamas archipelago consists of several small islands fringed sandy beaches with crystal clear waters are a delight for divers as marine life is rich and diverse. These magical islands offer a panorama of breathtaking landscapes!

The Grand Canyon

The-Grand-Canyon

Lovers of the great outdoors, he dreams of starting a road trip to discover the incredible vistas of the Grand Canyon, stay American Old West is done for him! The many views of this natural park in Arizona offer an amazing show on geological crevices that the Colorado River has carved there for millions of years.

The Everglades

The-Everglades

Adventurer in search of thrills, your teen will leave airboat to explore the Everglades. This network of mystical swamps with dense tropical vegetation and unique wildlife is actually the largest reserve of wilderness in the United States! Your teen will discover on stays in Florida that we offer!

Paul Morris is an entrepreneur, consultant and author. He is an advisor at Xpert Automation, a tech-based business incubator focused on scalable startups, and founder of ContentFy.

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Bangkok Sightseeing Tour

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Bangkok seemed to me a fantastic mix of modernity and mysticism; Western rush and Eastern romanticism. Bangkok was my initiation into the contradictions of modern Asia: extreme luxury juxtaposed with ramshackle poverty; booming illicit trade alongside religious sensibilities; advanced technology coupled with ancient traditions. Let’s begin the Grand Bangkok Sightseeing Tour.

Indeed, the legendary city of sin left massive impressions. Bangkok, to me, is forever associated with grandness. Not the grandness of the bustling metropolis laden with skyscrapers, gargantuan crowds, and the proverbial so much that’s synonymous with Tokyo or Hong Kong–but rather the grandness of overwhelming warmth and friendliness, awe-inspiring aesthetics, larger-than-life attractions, and extreme ironies. It’s the kind of place that’s simultaneously fascinating and challenging–in the way only a new experience smacking with culture shock could be. And in the end, Bangkok’s exotic charms, pockets of tranquility, and traces of the timeless gradually tug on your heart and the city grows on you.

Tuk-tuk
After the veil of night has been lifted, Bangkok awakes not with a yawn and a stretch, but with a bang and a clatter. Mangy dogs, street urchins, people hurrying to their respective jobs, and multinational travelers surge through the streets and narrow back sois. Tuk-tuks and motorbikes clamor for attention, motoring with the reckless speed of video game vehicles. Odors commingle in an unlikely musk of burning meat and stir-fry grease, prayer incense, sweat, and a big whiff of grime. Clinging humidity and car fumes leave grit hanging in the air; in fact, the air pollution is so strong that one wonders about the local life expectancy. Commerce comes alive everywhere you look–produce and flower stands, food carts, lottery-ticket vendors, and clothes, crafts, and accessory stalls collide on roads lined with 711s, KFCs, and tailor shops. Everywhere, a solicitation, an entreaty: “Farang, farang!” “You want?” “You like?”

After getting over the attack on the senses that is Bangkok, one can sink into the comforts of a people so genuinely friendly, it’s almost as shocking as the city’s less palatable attributes. Locals are full of smiles and helpful suggestions, and extremely chatty. Of course, sometimes people cozy up to you because they have ulterior motives–but more often than not, the Thais’ amiable solicitations arise out of national pride, curiosity about foreigners, and humble sincerity. For instance, a tuk-tuk driver insisted, at no extra cost, on taking me to the Temple of the Lucky Buddha–simply because “Lucky Buddha good Buddha.” A local university professor I met outside the Grand Palace spent a good 15 minutes pointing out special attractions and restaurants on my city map. Coupled with a love of fun and a virtually ubiquitous attitude of mai pen rai (essentially, “no worries”), the Thai people were as charming and inviting as could be. As a large sign at the city’s airport poignantly beckons, “Welcome to the Land of Smile”–indeed, a most common characteristic on the face of a Bangkok resident is a radiant, ear-to-ear grin.

Another remarkable manifestation of Thai beauty lies in its temple architecture. The swirled, golden eaves of roofs glinting in the sun; facades encrusted in glittering, colored glass in all the colors of the rainbow; many-headed serpents pouncing out of banister knobs; everywhere, everything is ornate, gilded, mosaic-laden. Every temple is a testament to the careful, complex Thai aesthetic, a realm of vibrant, jeweled bliss–where at every turn lies yet another visual stimulus. Fittingly, Bangkok happens to be home to two of the most impressive temples in Thailand.

Bangkok-Grand-Palace

Nothing can really prepare you for the splendor of the Grand Palace. You may have visited Versailles, trekked to the Taj Mahal, or ambled around Angkor Wat–but no other site that comes to mind mirrors the Grand Palace’s otherworldly grounds. This large, walled complex spread out over 945,000 square meters, containing governmental offices, galleries, and Buddhist chapels, is the most shockingly vivid sight on Bangkok’s landscape. The Palace itself is not so remarkable–while certainly grand in size, its style is more Western, via the Victorian Era. However, the other 100 buildings represent over 200 years of architectural experimentation–and it shows.

The Palace grounds are a feat of the surreal. The sectional, orange- and green-tiled roofs of the main buildings, in all their psychedelic, geometric glory, resemble the brightly-hued toys of one’s childhood. Golden and gilded chedis rise out of the colorful fray. Visitors wander through mazes of bejeweled buildings, brass Buddhas, massive and multicolored guard statues, gold-plated shrines, mother-of-pearl inlaid doorways, exquisite prayer wheels, mosaic-encrusted stupas, and extensive murals depicting the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. Peek around a corner and you’re likely to spy miniature ruby and sapphire glass-garnished guardians dancing Tut-style around the base of a magnificent chedi, or stone elephants encircling a holy altar, posed ready to charge whomever dares approach their inner sanctum.

Wat-Phra-Kaew

The centerpiece and crowning glory of this dreamscape is Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The inner walls of the temple are adorned with magnificent murals depicting the life, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. Past the crowd, atop a high altar, stand tiers of Buddha statuettes stacked like the layers of a wedding cake–but instead of the plastic bride and groom, at its top looms the famed Emerald Buddha (actually, made of jade), considered the talisman of the Thai kingdom. Sitting in a glass case, high above the heads of worshippers and tourists, the sparkling green Buddha has a palpable aura of mystery.

Bangkok’s second most famous attraction is Wat Pho, the oldest and largest temple in the city. In a complex of worshiping sites not quite as awe-inspiring and grandiose as the Palace–but at the same time more tranquil, and just as fascinating–stand small temples, galleries containing Buddha images, 91 chedis, four wihaans, a library, and shady, manicured groves. The main event here is the spectacularly large reclining Buddha (over 140 feet long and 50 feet high), plated in gold and inlaid with beautiful mother-of-pearl illustrations of the 108 laksanas (characteristics of the Buddha) on the soles of its feet. The colossal Buddha is in fact one of the most common iconic images associated with Bangkok–and in fact, all of Thailand.

Wat Po’s other most renowned feature is its national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine–including Thai massage. A combination of accupressure, massage, and stretching, Thai massage is not your average healing experience, and is well worth the 200 baht (about five U.S. dollars) per hour at Wat Pho. Treating oneself to a traditional Thai massage is a must while visiting the country, so you might as well get one where most licensed practitioners get trained!

All temples and other major sightseeing aside, the place that really clinches the grandness of Bangkok is Chatuchak Weekend Market–the mother of all open-air markets, with 3,000 stalls spanning over a mile. Vendors at Chatuchak hawk everything and anything, from live animals to batik wall hangings, opium pipes, prayer beads, vintage Levis, electronics…and on and on the litany of treasures goes. An attraction in and of itself, you can spend the better part of a day just roaming the market, zigzagging from stall to stall, eyeing items or honing your bargaining skills. (By the end of a couple hours here, you can become a total shark.) Grab an iced drink (sold in plastic bags punctured by a straw–don’t ask me why) and get lost in the maze. And if you’re ready to indulge in emptying your wallet, this is the place. Thai silks by the meter, in all colors imaginable, come at bargain prices. Hill-tribe crafts, clothing, and handbags make nice gifts, as do teak and bamboo sushi sets and other funky housewares. If you’re prepared to do a bit of shipping, gorgeous Buddha statues, Oriental rugs, Thai furniture, and antiques can be yours for fairly good fees–just stick to your bargaining guns.

Whatever your pleasure, take a few days in Bangkok to let its sights, sounds, smells, and essence wash over you. Although it’s a city of over six million residents (and growing), life moves at a fairly mellow pace. While it’s a place of gigantic scope, it’s got a heart as warm as its climate

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Soaking up Some Holidays in Hong Kong

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Holidays in Hong Kong

Hong Kong looks like a mad scientist threw chrome, aluminum, glass, and rock into an over-sized petri dish and zapped it with Big-Bang energy and some cosmic debris–and bang, whap, whiz, whir, KABLAMO!, chaos emerged from order. Forces of nature took their toll with gargantuan, revolutionary results. Some of the most futuristic architecture on the planet dwells here, and skyscrapers surge ever-upward as if to say, “Big? I’ll show you BIG!,” reflecting and deflecting neon spectra in all their postmodern beauty. Cavernous streets adorned with tiny shops and stalls and crowned with elevated walkways; air flooded with the buzzes and whirs of cellular devices, taxis and trams, and multi-lingual chatter; digitally rendered ads bouncing from TV screen to LED projection. All these elements evoke the set of Blade Runner or an ultra-modern, silver-screen version of Gotham City. In this post we will explore Holidays in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a city of extremes: Massive population, towering heights, palpable wealth, raging nightlife, endless possibilities. With the dazzling verdant touches of a tropical island thrown in, Hong Kong is truly one of the most unique urban scenes that even the most well-traveled have ever seen.

Did I mention wealth? In the hub of Asian finance, many denizens’ bank accounts are hardly suffering. Hong Kong has the highest per capita Rolls-Royce ownership in the world. Get the picture? Consequently, it’s also one of the most expensive cities to visit, if not the most. If you’re not fortunate enough to be traveling on corporate payroll or to have a local friend to stay with, then mon Dieu, start saving up fast! Budget accommodations are available, but if you don’t mind spending a little extra dough to avoid holing up in shoebox-sized hostel lodgings, you’ll find a nice array of moderately-priced hotels whose rates hover around the US$150-US$250 per-night range (for a double room). Of course, if you’re planning on lapping up some luxury, you’ll have no problem unloading a bulging wad o’ cash in this city of swanky accommodation addresses.

The hard truth is that in order to have Holidays in Hong Kong, you do need a substantial spending allowance–lodging first and foremost empties your wallet, with eating, drinking, and entertainment close on its heels. The good news is that public transportation and attractions hardly cost anything and add exceptional value to your Hong Kong experience. Call the city overly style- and money-conscious, call it nerve-grinding, call it anything–but the fact remains that Hong Kong is one of the most fascinating and exciting places on the planet, if not in the entire galaxy.

In the Thick of It

hong-kong-tourism
The best way to experience the city is to simply stroll around and take it in. There’s no better place to aimlessly wander through the fray than in Central. Home to the epicenter of the Hong Kong business world (and that’s one big epicenter–this is, after all, the city that money was built on), Central will provide plenty of eye candy to keep you stimulated. Starting off heading downhill from Hollywood Road, you’ll wind past elegant eateries and boutiques until you hit a sea of buildings clamoring for attention. From the porthole chic of Jardine House to the climbing-koala frenzy of the twin Lippo Centre buildings, from the praying-mantis heights of the Bank of China Tower to the stingray contours of the Convention Center, you’ll discover amazing modern architectural achievements. Vestiges of colonial rule (found in structures such as the Legislative Council Building) are intermittently interlaced throughout, signifying the contrasts between old and new.

Almost more mind-boggling than the jungle of skyscrapers is the massive tangle of people flooding the streets. Rush hour periods see over 200,000 commuters jam onto the 2,620-foot city escalator, which transports people downhill into Central in the morning and uphill towards Mid-Levels in the evening. Designer clothes-clad professionals whir past on every road, back alley, and elevated walkway with cell phones a-blazing. The energy just crackles.

Equally energetic, the Chinese neighborhood of Sheung Wan is located directly west of Central–but it couldn’t be more different. A maze of noodle stalls, dried-foods markets, ginseng outlets, tea houses, mahjong parlors, and a host of other local businesses and traditional eateries, Sheung Wan is a great place to get lost and immerse oneself in local culture. And not the conglomerate East-West fusion that’s so rampant in Central. Foreigners (predominantly Western, at that) comprise about five percent of Hong Kong’s population, and a vast majority of these expats and burgeoning business moguls take up digs in Central. Sheung Wan is a refreshing reminder that despite certain Western appearances, you are, indeed, in China.

Life of Leisure

Tsim-Sha-Tsui
If you’re a die-hard shopper, rejoice! Shopping happens literally everywhere, from the electronics shop-laden streets of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon to the massive Japanese department stores of Causeway Bay. Plenty of designer shops and mini-malls line Central’s streets. For some genuine Hong Kong funkiness, drop into Shanghai Tang (located in Central), where Eastern and Western design fuse in a swirl of silk, velvet, and a wondrous palette of bright colors.

Much like Manhattan, Hong Kong has the proverbial so much of everything, epitomized by its long litany of restaurants catering to every palate. The city boasts approximately one restaurant for every 700 people–no small feat for a population of 6.8 million! For top-notch (and often trendy) dining, head uphill (or up the rush-hour escalator) to SoHo, which in Hong Kong translates to south of Hollywood Road. You’ll find a range of nouveau Asian cuisine, from Mongolian to Nepalese, with modern culinary twists and über-stylish restaurant interiors. Don’t rule out the prime people watching that goes down in these chic eateries.

The same can be said for bar hopping in Lan Kwai Fong, a happening nightlife district in the northern edge of SoHo as it drips downhill into Central. You never know just who you’re rubbing elbows with at the newest, hippest martini bar, English pub, or jazz club. For the truly hardcore partiers out there, take note: Some nightclubs in the area open on Friday evening and stay open around the clock through Sunday evening. All the same, it’s here that the city’s most recurring theme is realized: Locals work hard and play hard, and they certainly have the cash to support it.

Go Loony in Kowloon

Kowloon-Park
Across the harbor, the pace doesn’t slow for a minute. Kowloon is home to Tsim Sha Tsui, the main tourist district, where many swanky hotels, museums, and tons of shopping await you–as well as fabulous views of Central’s skyline. Hop aboard the Star Ferry for a classic ride between Hong Kong and Kowloon’s bustling shores, offering unparalleled close-ups of Asia’s most beautiful and busiest harbor–the ride costs a mere HK$2.20. The ferry docks at an easy walking distance from the Kowloon promenade, where you’ll run into the wonderful Hong Kong Museum of Art, a postmodern structure with great exhibits on traditional and modern Chinese arts. Next door is the super-sleek Hong Kong Space Museum, where stargazers can set their sights on magnificent astronomy exhibits.

While you’re on the promenade, don’t miss spectacular views of Central across the water–breathtaking sights both by day and night. Stroll to the Peninsula Hotel to see the city’s most elite accommodations (and perhaps enjoy a drink in the elegant lobby bar), and then duck down Nathan Road for electronics bargain hunting. You’ll also pass a number of Indian tailors, renowned for their speedy, quality renderings of all your sartorial needs. Whether you’re in town on business or pleasure, hit the tailors for a brand-new, custom-made suit or other garments.

Eventually you’ll hit Kowloon Park, an odd plot of greenery and paved walkways containing serene meditation spots, an aviary, a flamingo pond (quite a surreal sight!), the Hong Kong Museum of History, and more delights. Past the hustle and bustle of southern Kowloon, you’ll hit the more traditional Chinese neighborhoods of Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok–the Kowloon equivalents of Sheung Wan–where you can indulge in authentic cultural treasures.

Seeing Green

Hong Kong Island
You might get overwhelmed on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon–it’s not difficult to see why. Luckily other points of interest offering more peace and quiet (relatively speaking, of course) beckon. If the beach calls your name, head to the south side of Hong Kong Island to Shek O or Repulse Bay. For a glimpse into the sleepy fishing village that once was the norm here, visit Aberdeen. But for Hong Kong Island’s true main attraction, ascend the tram to Victoria Peak (or, colloquially, the Peak), where a slice of lush serenity awaits.

Standing proudly at 1,750 feet, the Peak offers dazzling panoramic vistas of the cityscape, the mansions dotting the Mid-Levels leading up to the Peak, Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, the South China Sea, and the tons of tiny islands scattered throughout. Although there are bound to be tourists up there taking in the views, you can reclaim some solitude on one of the many looping hiking trails, accessible right near the Peak Station or the Peak Café. The trails, which vary in length, all tell stories of the island’s exotic flora, pointing out indigenous tree and flower species along the way–all the while reminding you that yes, you are on a tropical island, in case you forgot in the concrete jungle down below.

After relishing the natural environment and views of ant-like figures on the snarled streets below, cozy up with an excellent bloody Mary or gin and tonic (or sample the restaurant’s delicious fare) in the Peak Café before descending by tram. Others can browse the shops in the Peak Station visitor center and adjacent mini-mall before returning to Central, where the tram ride ends.

Sweet Relief

Po-Lin-Monastery
For an even more tranquil local experience, take a day trip to one of the Outlying Islands, several of which are accessible by ferry from Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Although Lamma Island is often lauded as the local gem, Lantau offers amazing hikes, unparalleled scenery, and the gorgeous Po Lin Monastery (above), home to a giant Buddha and the set of many martial-arts movies. It’s a place that raises a profound sense of shock when you realize that you’re only a little way across the harbor from the colossus that is Hong Kong proper.

Once you debark the ferry, you can take a bus up to Po Lin; the bus stop is directly across from the ferry building, and the ride takes about 40 minutes. The first sight you’ll undoubtedly see once you arrive at Po Lin is the enormous bronze Buddha (no exaggeration–the statue weighs 250 tons and stands over 100 feet tall). The Buddha sits in an equally large lotus flower, saluting visitors in a meditative pose from the top of a dramatically long, steep stairway. With jagged green peaks in the background and mountain mist swirling about, gazing upon the Buddha is an unequaled experience. The monastery itself is quite a sight to behold, with its colorfully and carefully rendered aesthetic. While non-Buddhist guests cannot attend services in the monastery, you’re certainly allowed to listen and watch from outside the building. The monastery offers free cups of tea, and for a nominal fee, you can enjoy a simple vegetarian meal.

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Top Things To Do in South Beach Miami

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Endless sunshine, miles of sandy beaches, and warm waters draw legions of visitors to Miami every year. Perched on the southern tip of Florida and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, this tropical metropolis is also home to unique urban neighborhoods, a diverse population, and uncommon attractions. Strut your stuff along the palm-lined, pastel-perfect streets of South Beach or practice your Spanish in Little Havana. Stop to smell the flowers in a landscaped slice of paradise, see a flock of pink flamingos up close and personal, and keep your cool in a funky public pool. In this post We explore Top Things To Do in South Beach Miami.

South Beach Scene

florida-miami-south-beachTo many visitors, South Beach is Miami. This trendy and energetic hotspot occupying a 23-block area on the southern tip of Miami Beach is jam-packed with art-deco architecture, nightclubs, restaurants, and people, people, people. A festive atmosphere prevails around the clock as a steady stream of celebrities, fashionistas, hipsters, and sightseers stroll, strut, preen, and otherwise work their way down the see-and-be-seen streets of South Beach.

Thanks to a heroic preservation effort, hundreds of buildings from the 1930s and 1940s escaped the wrecking ball in the late 1970s, resulting in a neighborhood renaissance that gave rise to Miami’s most popular tourist attraction, the Art Deco District. More than 800 neon-trimmed hotels, apartment buildings, and condominiums decked out in a rainbow of sherbet shades have earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, ensuring that the whimsical architecture will delight residents and visitors for years to come. Even the fast-food franchises joined the design frenzy–check out the deco-detailed Denny’s and McDonald’s.

For maximum viewing pleasure, head for the three streets closest to the beach where most of the exuberant structures (and plenty of colorful characters) reside: Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue, from 6th to 23rd Streets. Don’t miss the Versace mansion (left), the Miami Beach Post Office, and the Albion, Delano, and National hotels. The South Beach sands also boast a helping of “art deco-dance,” with six brightly-painted, oddball lifeguard stands watching over the water. The Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive) provides free maps for self-guided tours and sponsors 90-minute walking tours of the area on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings. Modest tour fees and proceeds from the sale of deco-inspired souvenirs benefit the Miami Design Preservation League.

Shoppers hungry for the ka-ching of the cash register should head to Lincoln Road Mall, a recently renovated pedestrian mall lined with boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, and cafés. Feel free to browse until the wee hours–most shops stay open late to accommodate the night-owl crowds. Lincoln Road also serves as the headquarters for several prestigious cultural institutions, including The New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet, and the South Florida Art Center.

La Vida Latino in Little Havana

In 1959, thousands of Cubans fled their homeland and recreated a community west of Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami. Many of the neighborhood’s original immigrant residents have moved on to ritzier locales, but Little Havana’s streets still buzz with new arrivals from Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico.

The heart of the city’s most distinctive ethnic enclave lies on Southwest Eighth Street, more commonly referred to by its Spanish name, Calle Ocho. This is the place to buy an authentic embroidered guayabera shirt or a hand-rolled cigar. For inexpensive and authentic Cuban fare, try the black beans and rice or ropa vieja (shredded beef stew) at Versailles, a neighborhood institution. And don’t leave without jolting your veins with a café Cubano, a thimbleful of thick, rich espresso loaded with sugar.

Fabulous Flora

fairchild-tropical-botanic-gardenMiami lies just a few degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer and it has the flamboyant flowers, lush leaves, and funky fruit to prove it. Rain of Gold, Bird of Paradise, Lady of the Night…something is always in bloom at Fairchild Tropical Garden. Here you’ll find the largest botanic garden in the United States, featuring 83 acres of winding paths, lakes, and lily ponds. Wander through a two-acre rainforest, marvel at orchids and bromeliads in the multi-level conservatory, and see over 700 species of flowering trees in the arboretum. The newest exhibit, “Keys Coastal Habitat,” features native South Florida plants that frequently attract migrating birds. Visitors lucky enough to visit in July can participate in the annual International Mango Festival: shop for mango chutney, buy a mango tree for the backyard, and sample mangoes from around the world at this three-day extravaganza. Don’t forget to enter your favorite fruit in the Mango Beauty Contest or test your culinary prowess in the Mango Cook-Off. Admission to the Garden includes a 30-minute, narrated tram tour. Plan to visit in the morning or late afternoon for the coolest temperatures and most dramatic light.

Vizcaya Museum and GardensBuilt in 1916 as a winter retreat for the wealthy industrialist James Deering, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is prized as much for its grand architecture and opulent interiors as for its 10 acres of formal gardens overlooking a serene swath of Biscayne Bay. The Italian Renaissance-style villa features 34 rooms filled with tapestries, antiques, art, and decorative furnishings from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Tour the mansion and stroll along the shady garden paths lined with Florida jasmine, live oaks, sculptures, and fountains. Indulge in a private moment in the secluded Secret Garden or wind your way through a topiary maze. As a special treat, moonlight garden tours are offered three or four times a year.

Animal Attractions

Over 1,000 parrots, cockatoos, macaws, peacocks, and flamingos fly free in the Parrot Jungle and Gardens, a lush bird sanctuary, wildlife habitat, and botanical garden. Don’t miss your chance to see a roller-skating cockatoo or a parrot on a bicycle–the Trained Bird Show puts the talents of the avian residents on display several times a day. Exhibits aren’t limited to our feathered friends; other features include a butterfly glade, petting zoo, alligator and crocodile pools, and primate viewing area.

Marvel at the acrobatic antics and athletic abilities of Lolita the Killer Whale, Salty the Sea Lion, and dozens of dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium, a 38-acre marine life and entertainment park. Four daily shows highlight the talents of these agile marine mammals. Watch graceful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins as they jump, spin, flip, and tail-walk to music and narration, or assist the trainers while they feed the boisterous sea lions. The Tropical Reef Aquarium is loaded with water (750,000 gallons), colorful tropical fish, loggerhead turtles, and moray eels. Conquer your fears in the Shark Exhibit; see the endangered manatee, Florida’s state marine mammal; and feast your eyes on poisonous arrow frogs, toucans, and exotic tropical reptiles in the Faces of the Rainforest exhibit. The Dolphin Interaction Program, the Seaquarium’s newest attraction, allows visitors to slip into a wetsuit and join the animal trainers for a one-on-one session with the slippery sea creatures.

Beach-Bumming and Cool Pooling

Miami boasts 35 miles of delicious beachfront and no shortage of places to ride the waves, soak up the sun, or build a sandcastle. Swimmers and sun worshippers can choose between two principal areas: busy Miami Beach and quieter Key Biscayne. From South Beach to Sunny Isles, Miami Beach offers 12 miles of wide, well-maintained beaches with soft white sands and turquoise waters. The entire stretch of Miami Beach is open to the public and lifeguards patrol the shore at designated points. Tanned and toned hipsters and fashion photographers and their muses frequent Lummus Park Beach, which runs along Ocean Drive from 6th to 14th Streets in South Beach. Haulover Beach Park, just north of Bal Harbour, features a clothing-optional section, kayak rentals, and optimum winds for kite flying. Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park is a popular option for families and picnickers.

For a freshwater swimming option, hold the sand, make your way to residential Coral Gables, otherwise known as City Beautiful, and glide past the stucco walls and wrought-iron gates guarding the Venetian Pool. Carved from a former limestone quarry, this funky outdoor pool was the brainchild of Coral Gables’ founding father, George Merrick, and has remained a local favorite since opening to the public in 1924. Vine-covered loggias, cascading waterfalls, and coral-rock caves contribute to an otherworldly bathing experience. An underground spring supplies the 820,000 gallons of water needed to fill the free-form lagoon, which is drained nightly in the summer months to guarantee a clean, clear, and refreshing dip. Swimming lessons for children (ages three and older) and adults are available for a reasonable fee during the summer.

Even if you can’t afford to splurge at The Biltmore Hotel, stop by for a peek at America’s largest hotel pool. This legendary swimming spot measures 21,000 square feet and holds over 600,000 gallons of water. Back in the day, aqua-celebrities Esther Williams and Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller, who also doubled as a hotel swimming instructor, regularly splashed down in the Biltmore’s waters.•

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Emerald Coast Florida – A Jewel of a Family Destination

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Looking for a beautiful, affordable place to take the whole family for a fun-filled vacation? Emerald Coast Florida might be it. From emerald-green waters and powdery white-sand beaches to world-class fishing and exotic gourmet dining, there’s something for everyone in the friendly seaside towns of Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island. If you’re bored on the Emerald Coast, it’s only because you choose to be.

The Best Beaches in the South

Emerald-Coast-FloridaCovered with pure white Appalachian quartz ground to a fine powder over the millennia, the 24-mile Okaloosa County coastline has some of the softest sand you’ll ever feel seep through your toes. Equally stunning are the clear emerald-green waters. Completing the picture are stretches of rolling sand dunes dotted with sea oats and sand pines that provide refuge for sandpipers, egrets, and other coastal birds. These are beaches the way nature intended: pristine and beautiful. And thanks to the combined efforts of the Okaloosa County Environmental Council and the Tourist Development Council, these beaches will stay that way forever: Sixty percent of the beaches are protected by law and will never be developed. Rigorous clean-up schedules also ensure that 195 acres of seashore remain debris-free so that families can frolic in the sand and sea without worry.

Safety for All

Safety is a major concern in Okaloosa County. The locals work their hardest to protect their guests, the environment, and the local wildlife. Every day the Park Service posts flags so swimmers know where it’s safe to bathe. The color-coded flag system makes it simple: Blue means it’s safe to swim; yellow means exercise caution; and red means danger, with no swimming allowed. On shore, the Park Service prohibits littering, glass, fires, animals, and vehicles, rules which help to maintain the sand’s snowy-white appearance.

Human safety isn’t all that concerns Okaloosa County. The locals recognize that the beaches are their most-valued asset and they work hard to protect them. The Dune Restoration Project supports the planting of sea oats and other vegetation that strengthen the dunes against the sometimes destructive forces of wind and water. Visitors are expected to heed the strict laws that protect the safety of endangered sea turtles, so you should avoid disturbing these gentle creatures and their nests. By following these simple rules, humans and nature can peacefully coexist in a unique environment that is safe for all.

World-Class Fishing and Other Water Adventures

World-Class-FishingIf you and the kids are looking for adventure away from the beach, there are plenty of affordable possibilities located in the shallows near Choctawhatchee Bay. Parasailing, waterskiing, windsurfing, and snorkeling are just a few of the activities the whole family can enjoy. If fishing is your desire, Destin is the place for you. It serves as a harbor to over 140 vessels that offer deep-sea, inshore, and bottom fishing for as little as $25 a half-day. Fish for red snapper, grouper, amberjack, and triggerfish. Or, hunt big-game fish such as blue marlin, dolphin fish, wahoo, and blackfin tuna.

Looking for something more relaxing? Another affordable adventure is a three-hour excursion aboard the historical Nathaniel Bowditch. Perched on the bowsprit of this 54-foot traditionally rigged steel schooner, you and the kids can stand watch as dolphins playfully race the craft. Later, when the sun fades into tangerine skies, and the emerald waters deepen into sapphire blue, enjoy a romantic wine cruise at sunset.

Land-Lubbers Rejoice

LandlubbersIf a day on the water is not your idea of a fun vacation, never fear. Okaloosa County has wonderful museums, great shopping, and one of America’s oldest free-standing aquariums. Visit the U.S. Air Force Armament Museum and see over two dozen planes up-close, as well as a fighter-cockpit simulator. Nearby, you can journey through 10,000 years of Native American history at the Indian Temple Mound and Museum. And for those who love a hands-on experience, there’s the Focus Center children’s fantasy science museum. Great shopping is just minutes away, too. Visit the wonderful shops at Silver Sands Factory Stores or pick up some fun tourist trinkets at any of the local Alvin’s Island stores.

No trip to the Emerald Coast would be complete without a trip to the Gulfarium-home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, tropical penguins, and turtles. Begin your visit by attending the Dolphin Show where Princess, Panama, and Delilah perform aquatic dances and other daring acrobatic feats, to the delight of audiences young and old. Head down to the Living Sea where a 150-year-old turtle teases a scuba diver who educates the audience about underwater life. Listen to a saltwater serenade as the Sea Lions perform their own music and acrobatics at the Sea Lion show. End your visit with the Multi-Species Show where dolphins and sea lions play together to demonstrate their strength and gymnastic agility.

Exotic, Family-Friendly Gourmet Dining

Family-Friendly-Gourmet-DiningWhen the sun goes down, there are over 400 family-friendly restaurants to choose from. If it’s exotic fare that entices the family, head to Nigel Manley’s World Grill & Microbrewery to enjoy an ostrich steak while the kids feast on a burger and then escape the adults to play on the jungle gym outside. If seaside dining is more to your liking, feast on crab at the Back Porch. Missing the game on TV? Drop by the Angler’s Beachside Grill and Sports Bar. If you’re heading back from a day at sea the Lucky Snapper is a wonderfully convenient choice for delectable seafood dishes. Craving Italian? Enjoy the charming Neapolitan atmosphere and delicious hearty pasta dishes at Café Grazie–all at a price that won’t break the bank.

Whatever your pleasure, you’re certain to find something for you in the seaside towns of Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island. The Emerald Coast is truly a gem of a place.

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Travel guide of Gold Coast Hinterlands

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Ideal for anyone who wants a good time, the Gold Coast Hinterlands is packed with enough fun for everyone in Australia, and then some. This stretch of golden beach on the southeast of Queensland offers sunshine, surf, exciting theme parks, extreme sports, and loads of shopping opportunities. Slightly to the west is the peaceful hinterland with rain-forests and Eco-friendly getaways.  These contrasts of calm rain-forest and action-packed beach cities form a perfect getaway where visitors can have the best of everything – thrills when they want them, and serenity when they need it.

Things to do

It’s impossible to be bored on the Gold Coast. The list of things to do would be endless – skydiving, surfing, water-skiing, bush walking, vineyard tours, museums, dolphin encounters, gourmet dining, and of course…theme parks.

Even if the idea of going to a theme park makes you balk, you really need to try at least one. They are just so much fun and the kids love them!

Dream World : A fun place for everyone, whether you are a family with young kids, older kids, or out with your mates. This theme park is actually a series of parks, made up of such places as preschooler heaven, “Wiggles World,” as well as whole sections of thrill rides, kiddy rides, shows, and such attractions as “Big Brother” for your inner reality-TV junkie. Dream World also owns the theme park White Water World and it is possible to buy tickets from Dream World that covers several different parks or events.

Sea World: Get up close and personal with dolphins, sharks and polar bears. This theme park offers heaps of excitement for everyone, with just the right mixture of thrill rides, shows, exhibits, and animal encounters. This is a must-see for your next Gold Coast adventure.

Warner Bros Movie World: The ultimate combination of fast-paced entertainment with heart-stopping thrill rides; visitors can have fun living as though they’re in the movies. Kids will love seeing all their cartoon favourites on parade and in shows, bigger kids and grown ups can pretend they’re on real movie sets with their favourite action heroes, and then plunge themselves into some serious action. Families, groups and couples will have a blast.

Wet ‘n ‘Wild: Sometimes it’s just too hot to visit normal theme parks and you want to have all the thrills while cooling off in a spray of water. Wet ‘n’ Wild offers everyone the chance to ride watersides at their comfort level, watch “dive-in” movies, splash around in a giant wave pool and try every other man-made water attraction imaginable. The park is open year-round and offers everyone a great day out.

Once you’ve had enough of the theme parks, consider trying tours of the nearby vineyards, laze on a beach, explore the hinterland, or read a good book by the pool. If you are the type of person who can never get enough action, evenings can be filled with the nightclubs of Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta, or you can take in a show and try your luck at Conrad Jupiter’s Casino or enjoy one of the many other theaters and restaurants in the area.

When to go

The Gold Coast is a load of fun year-round.  Winters are mild, with average temperatures generally between 9 and 21 degrees Celsius, and summers offer averages of 19 to 29 degrees.

How to get there
You can easily travel to the Gold Coast by train, plain, car or coach.

Fly straight into Gold Coast International Airport, or to Brisbane and then catch the “airtrain” service to the Gold Coast. All of the major airlines have daily flights, some with several per day depending on your departure city.

It’s an easy drive along the Pacific Highway from the north or south of the Gold Coast. Inter and intrastate coach services will take you straight to the action at Surfer’s Paradise Transit Center.

Accommodation

Want something truly unusual? Consider staying in the world’s largest residential tower and enjoy spectacular views. Or maybe a houseboat or “floating apartment”. If you want to completely escape the glitz and glam or the region, you could spend your evenings in a private rain-forest chalet. In contrast, if you want non-stop action, there are endless choices including sleeping right in Sea World Resort.

The Gold Coast accommodation options are just as varied and interesting as the activities, so whether you are a single, couple, family, friends, a large or small group, you will find options perfect for you easily and within your budget.

Ideal length of visit

You’ll need at least a week to enjoy all the attractions, with a bit of time to bask on the beaches. If you live closer by, you could also enjoy fun-filled mini-breaks.

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5 Natural Wonders of England

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As spring sets in we thought we’d suggest a handful of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of England – no prizes for visiting all five, but you’ll have a warm sense of achievement and some wonderful memories. Let’s discover 5 Natural Wonders of England

1 – Fingal’s Cave, Scotland

fingals-cave-scotland
A short boat-ride out from Mull or Iona will take you to the Isle of Staffa, home to Fingal’s Cave. It’s an eerie place: the noise of the water rushing into the sea cave’s basalt organ-pipes creates a sense of a natural cathedral. This phenomenon is similar to the one you can hear at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland; legend has it that both were formed when two rival giants threw rocks at each other across the Irish Sea. Try to discuss your visit to Staffa in advance with boat companies, as bad weather can make it impossible to enter the cave.

2 – The Farne Islands, England

farne-islands-england
Lying just off the coast of Northumberland, these islands are home to 23 species of seabird, including 37,000 pairs of puffins. A large grey seal colony also resides here and over one thousand pups are born on the islands every autumn. Aside from the natural attractions, these islands are also historically significant: once home to St Cuthbert in the seventh century, visitors can now admire the chapel dedicated to him and its fine stained glass windows. A Victorian lighthouse and a medieval peel tower are also worth a look, and the view of the Northumberland hinterland is unrivalled. These islands are accessible by boat from Seahouses, and there are multiple licensed companies that have booking offices in the harbour. Most trips last about 2.5 hours.

3 – Snowdonia, Wales

 

snowdonia-wales
The highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon, makes a glorious centrepiece to a Welsh holiday, and climbing it is the best way to take in the mysterious and ancient landscape surrounding it. The Snowdon Mountain Railway can take you to the summit if you’re feeling less energetic, although there are several different paths suited to a variety of abilities. Once at the top you’ll be treated to some of the most spectacular views in Britain, which can now be enjoyed from a specially constructed visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, opened in 2009.

4 – Cheddar Gorge, England

 

cheddar-gorge-england
Deep inside Somerset, the spectacular limestone gorge at Cheddar is one of the most extraordinary natural sights in Britain. It’s been a regular tourist destination for many years, without any real encroachment onto the beauty of the area. Rock climbing and caving are perhaps better here than anywhere else on the mainland, and the natural history of the area provides some interesting educational opportunities; try climbing the lookout tower and learning about the 9000-year-old Cheddar Man, Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.

5 – Experience the Simmer Dim in Shetland, Scotland

 

shetland-islands-uk
The farthest point north in the UK is found in the Shetland Islands, closer to Norway than the British mainland, with a population that doesn’t even really consider itself as Scottish. Up here you’re sure of both a warm welcome and cold winds. While the islands are a well-known site to view the northern lights in early spring and late autumn, a visit in midsummer will let you experience something equally alien – the “simmer dim”. From the sunset around 10:30 pm until dawn at 3:30 am, an extended period of twilight descends, bright enough to allow you to read outside all night if the sky is clear. Those who cherish their sleep may want to give the simmer dim a miss, but as a way of marking the summer solstice it’s unbeatable.

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A Visit to Discovery Cove Orlando

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Bear hugs, butterfly kisses, crocodile tears–our language is peppered with phrases from the animal kingdom. A whole new set of phrases might spring to mind to describe the unprecedented range of up-close animal encounters to be had in Discovery Cove Orlando. At this unique theme park, there are no lines, no crowds, and no rides. In fact, there is nothing to distract guests from the task at hand–to interact with animals ranging from dolphins to birds in a gorgeous tropical setting.
With a special reservations-only policy that limits the number of guests per day to 1,000, this is not your typical Orlando theme park. VIP treatment and personalized service begins as soon as guests check in, and all worries quickly fade away. Food, towels, snorkeling equipment, beach gear, even suntan lotion–everything here is taken care of in the all-inclusive price. A quick, private orientation tour introduces the park’s coral reefs, coves, aviaries, beaches, pools, and lagoons.

Slippery Flippery Smooches

For guests age six and older, the Dolphin Swim is a Discovery Cove highlight. In groups of seven, guests join a knowledgeable trainer in shallow water as they are introduced to the park’s bottlenose dolphins, a species that reaches a length of about nine feet in adulthood and can weigh up to 650 pounds. The bottlenose dolphin is an especially sociable mammal, given to activity and play. Learn about the hand signals and positive reinforcement techniques that trainers use to communicate with them as they chase each other, toss seaweed, carry objects, and play.

After learning about dolphin behavior, guests have a chance to get a little up-close and personal. Time for some hugs and kisses with the gentle creatures as guests pair up with the dolphins one-on-one. Moving into the deeper water of the lagoon, guests can swim alongside their dolphin, play, and depending on the dolphin’s mood, can enjoy an exhilarating belly ride or dorsal tow.

Tropical Reef Madness

Thousands of exotic fish from over 70 species await beneath the waters surrounding the park’s Coral Reef. Fully equipped with snorkel, mask, swim vest, fins, and even a wetsuit if desired, guests can submerge into a world where angelfish and butterflyfish appear to flap their wings, balloonfish and pufferfish float, and damselfish and hawk fish display their brilliant colors. An underwater shipwreck is available for safe exploration, even though the waters teem with barracuda and sharks.

Nearby, in the Ray Lagoon, snorkelers can swim surrounded by mysterious, undulating stingrays. The creatures can grow up to four feet in diameter and, despite their name, are surprisingly gentle. For this reason, guests can float with them and touch their velvety skin without fear of being stung.

Meandering throughout most of the park is the Tropical River. Here, too, colorful fish swim just below the water’s surface, and guests are free to explore the terrain along the river’s banks, which shift from tropical rainforest to sandy beach. At points, the river gives way to plunging waterfalls and rocky lagoons, and even an underwater cave. Through the snorkel mask, guests can gaze upon sunken underwater ruins and hidden grottos, all populated by a variety of underwater creatures.

Bird-Side View

After swimming beneath a breathtaking waterfall in the Tropical River, guests come upon a giant, free-flight aviary. Over 200 birds from 30 exotic species reside within this sanctuary. Guests can feed, touch, and gaze upon the birds as they fly back and forth across this very naturalistic setting. Amidst the tropical foliage, lorries seek out nectar from blooming, brilliant flowers and graceful cranes walk delicately through the grasses. Although the storks, frogmouths, and laughing thrushes might try to raise a racket, the colorful parrots and lorikeets remain unperturbed in this serene place.

Sea More

With all this plus a freshly prepared meal, personalized service, use of beach umbrellas and hammocks, access to freshwater pools, lockers, and parking included in the price, it is easy to see why most families spend upwards of eight hours in this theme-park oasis. But as an added bonus for those who want even more marine adventures in days to come, a seven-day pass to nearby SeaWorld Orlando is also thrown in as just one more reward for paying an all-inclusive price.

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A Visit to Disneyland Resort Paris

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England. England would make sense–they speak English there (mostly). Spain, with all that Mediterranean sun–that could work. Ditto for Italy. Or how about Sweden? Swedes are a fun-loving people–they brought us ABBA and aren’t even embarrassed about it. And Denmark–the amusement park, in the form of Tivoli Gardens, was practically born there.
But Disneyland Resort Paris? Does this make sense?

 

Getting There

Disneyland Paris Resort is close enough to Paris–about 45 minutes by car or train–to make it an easy day trip. If you’re visiting Paris, why not reward the kids for a day spent trudging through churches, museums, and other boring grown-up stuff by promising them a day at Disney? Chances are that’s a deal the whole family can live with. If you’re driving from Paris, take the A4 motorway (Autoroute de l’Est) and get off at exit 14, marked “Val d’Europe, Parc Disneyland.” Parking is available for seven Euro per day. A less stressful way to get there is by RER train. This suburban commuter line runs all day and evening from several locations in downtown Paris. Take route A to the Marne-la-Vallée/Chessy station, which is just outside the park gates. If you’re going straight to Disneyland Paris from the airport, you can catch a VEA navette (shuttle) seven days a week at both Charles de Gaulle and Orly. Tickets, purchased on the bus, cost 14 Euro for adults, 11.50 for children.

A little research reveals that maybe it wasn’t such an off-the-wall idea. Walt Disney, it turns out, was always a big fan of France, having first seen it as a teenaged ambulance driver during WWI. He returned many times as an adult, and later borrowed many European (if not specifically French) stories for his movies, including Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio, and more. France also contributed in no small part to building the Disney empire, because it can be  argued that without France’s Lumière brothers, there would be no movies. And what would Disney be without movies?

Not convinced? Frankly, neither were we–until we saw it. And we’re here to tell you: It works. Disney has pulled off an amazing and delicate cross-cultural feat by bringing the magic of Disney, one of the most American products there is, to France, a country fiercely proud and protective of its culture.

Disney has accomplished it by keeping the Disney product fundamentally intact, but giving it a European twist. Take the food service, for example. Throughout the parks, you’ll find fast food, which is generally anathema to the quality-conscious French. But you’ll also find alcohol widely available. This probably doesn’t surprise European visitors, but may come as a shock to any American who’s ever gone on a futile search for a beer or glass of Chardonnay stateside. (Currently the only American Disney park serving beer and wine is Anaheim’s California Adventure.)

The look of the resort is subtly European, as well. The main gates to Disneyland look something like a Swiss chateau. Inside the gate, Main Street, USA will look very familiar. But with its Teutonic city hall and charming little shops, the look is more like Main Street, Austria.

If you really want to be reminded that you’re in a foreign country, close your eyes and open your ears. You might catch snippets of conversation in a half- dozen or more languages. But don’t worry if your high-school French is a little rusty. All park employees speak at least two languages, and while you’ll
usually be addressed first in French, you’ll get by fine with just English. Park signs and maps are in French and English (at a minimum–you’ll typically see German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch as well). Announcements are given in several languages, always including English.

On attractions requiring narration, Disney has come up with a simple and elegant solution to the problem of translating longer speeches: On these rides and exhibits, you’ll be given a headset, free of charge. Be sure to take one with a Union Jack on it–that’s the Disney label for English-language materials.
You’ll hear a perfectly synchronized English translation as you go through the attraction.

Disneyland

Disneyland, the older of the two parks at Disneyland Resort Paris. It’s modeled closely on L.A.’s Disneyland Orlando’s Magic Kingdom. Not every American attraction made the trip across the Atlantic–there’s no Hall of Presidents at Disneyland Paris, for example. But the famous Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Dumbo ride, Space Mountain, It’s a Small World these and virtually all the Disney greats can be found here.

Homesick for a taste of the U.S.? Just outside Disneyland, you’ll find Disney Village, the resort’s dining and nightlife center. Planet Hollywood, McDonalds, and the Rainforest Café all have outposts here featuring plain old, un-exotic American food. There are also several bars with live music designed to simulate the American late-night experience. Some might say it’s a shame to eat burgers in the land of escargot and fois gras, but we doubt your kids are among them.

For another slice of Americana, be sure to catch Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. You’ll eat your victuals off a tin plate, cowboy style, while watching sharpshooters and trick riders conjure the spirit of Bill Cody’s original Wild West shows.

Walt Disney Studios

This park, the newest addition to Disneyland Resort Paris, is an easy walk from Disneyland. It opened its doors on March 16, 2002, almost 10 years to the day after Disneyland made its French debut. Although some of the attractions are similar to things you may have seen at other Disney parks (the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Studio Tram Tour, for example), many of the rides and shows are unique to France. Here is where you’re most likely to be reminded that you’re in Europe.

The park’s flagship attraction, the MoteursAction! Stunt Show Spectacular, is probably the best example of a new attraction with that French je ne sais quoi. This show, which you won’t see in the U.S., is set in the French Riviera–your first good clue that you’re not in Anaheim anymore. From your stadium seat, you’ll watch as stunt cars and motorcycles perform a series of spectacular chases, jumps, and fiery crashes straight out of an action flick. Then, going against the cardinal rule of magic, the performers show you how many of the stunts were done. (You’ll smack your forehead when you see how the
driver pulled off that high-speed, maneuvering-in-reverse escape.) One curious aspect is that the French muscle cars look, to American eyes, impossibly small and cute. No matter–the wheels may be quaintly European, but the fast pace is pure Disney e-ticket excitement.

The Rockin’ Roller Coaster is another slightly made-over American ride. If you’ve been to the version at Disney – MGM Studios, you’ll notice that the Parisian ride has been stripped of its Los Angeles setting. You won’t miss it, though. The main premise–that you’re on a wild musical trip with the band Aerosmith–is the same. The sudden twists, turns, and that bug-eyed, 0-to-60 in milliseconds start are all there, too.

One other attraction that will look familiar to American visitors who’ve been to Disney – MGM Studios is the Studio Tram Tour. This guided tour of cinematic catastrophe includes an earthquake, a flood, and a bridge collapse that you might, just for a second, think is unscripted. Even if you’ve been to the Orlando version, this one’s worth it for the scenes of London in ruins after an attack by, believe it or not, dragons.

One ride you may think you’ve seen, but you haven’t: The Armageddon Special Effects extravaganza. The premise is based on the Hollywood blockbuster film, but the ride, which sends you through an amazingly realistic asteroid bombardment, is only found at Walt Disney Studios. That’s just part of the show, though. You’ll also get a glimpse into the world of special effects. You’ll see how many of them are done–which doesn’t make them any less amazing.

Looking for a kinder, gentler ride for smaller children? Try Aladdin’s Flying Carpets Over Agrabah (Les Tapis Volant, in French). Or try one of the park’s more unfamiliar attractions. Chances are you’ve never seen the TV show Zapping Zone. But you’ll probably still enjoy the chance to see the actual working set where the live show is taped.

The tiniest kids in your party might be a little frightened by Animagique (this one’s not for anyone afraid of the dark), but most other visitors count the show among the highlights of their visit. Using black lights and a dimly lit theater, Animagique features Donald Duck and other beloved Disney characters in a slightly psychedelic fantasy celebrating the art of animation. Puppets seeming to float in mid-air are just the beginning of this fantastic special-effects bonanza.

Another surreal but highly enjoyable experience is the Cinémagique show. A badly timed cell-phone call (you’ll never leave yours on in a theater again) sets hero Martin Short off on a funny and astounding journey through 100 years of movie magic, combining live action with film. How does the flesh-and-blood actor end up inside the movie? How does he get back out? How do the movie characters and real actors talk to each other? Here’s one place where Disney isn’t giving up any secrets. This show has to be seen to be believed.

One final exhibit not to miss is the Art of Disney Animation show. You and the kids will get a kick out of seeing how animation developed through the ages, and how it’s done today. As with many Disney tricks, seeing how it’s done doesn’t make it any less magic.

Indeed, the magic of Disney shines as brightly in Paris as anywhere, having survived a trip across the Atlantic and translation into a Babel of different languages. Which just goes to show that Uncle Walt was right–it really is a small world, after all.

Inside Scoop

One common misconception about Disneyland Paris is that it’s failing–this just isn’t true. Disneyland Paris receives over ten million visitors every year, putting it in the same ballpark with Anaheim and Orlando (and Tokyo Disneyland, for that matter), which each typically receive 11-12 million annual guests. In fact, the park actually claims to be the number-one tourist destination in Europe, meaning you’ll have plenty of company in the park. (FastPasses, an American import, make lines bearable.)
Probably the main reason Americans think the park isn’t doing well is that that so few of them go. Europeans, however, are flocking to Disneyland Paris Resort in ever greater numbers. French guests, not surprisingly, make up about 40 percent of all park visitors, followed by families from the U.K. at 18 percent. Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain send about eight percent of the annual total. Visitors from the rest of the world–the United States included–make up the remaining 10 percent.

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Hidden Gems of New York – New York Attractions

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New York Attractions

Any New York itinerary has a few standard must-dos – the Metropolitan Museum, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park – but often these spots are crammed with more visitors than residents, and it’s hard to get a real sense of city life. For this, you’ll need to hunt out some less-standard sights, restaurants and markets. More than ever, New York’s real action is on the fringes of Manhattan and in the outer boroughs, so get your Metro card and get riding. You’ll be glad you made the effort to find these off-the-radar attractions.

1) High Line

New York City’s most stylish park counts as “hidden” because you could walk right by it without noticing it suspended above you, along disused elevated rail lines. Crowds flocked to the strip of green on Manhattan’s far west side when it opened in 2009, but now a second section of converted track has given park-goers room to disperse nicely along the full length, from just below 14th Street up to 30th Street. The landscaping is beautiful, but one of the most mesmerizing perches is a bench overlooking 10th Avenue, for an uncommon perspective on city traffic.

2) Le Poisson Rouge

Just when it seemed like most of the creative nightlife had fled to Brooklyn, this performance venue opened in Greenwich Village in the space of a former legendary jazz club. The “multimedia art cabaret” books everything from avant-garde classical to quirky literary salons. It’s not too big – about 250 pack in for a seated event, and up to 700 when the dance floor is wide open. And the crowd is invariably as interesting as the main event.

3) Housing Works

In SoHo, where it can feel like the whole neighbourhood is devoted to nothing but bijou boutiques, the Housing Works Bookstore Café offers a real taste of community. Its massive stock of secondhand titles rewards aimless browsing, and many well-known authors schedule readings here. Next door (and at several other locations around the city), an associated thrift shop offers some equally surprising fashion finds. Proceeds benefit AIDS patients and homeless people.

4) Pulqueria

New Yorkers have finally discovered the joys of real Mexican food, and this is one of several newer restaurants that seek to capture the flavor and flair of America’s neighbour to the south. This basement spot in Chinatown features pulque, a boozy beverage that had nearly died out in Mexico until a younger generation reclaimed the funky fermented-agave concoction. Look for it down a hall lined with Vietnamese signs.

5) Smorgasburg
Smorgasburg-Brooklyn

For much of New York’s counterculture, food is the new rock-and-roll, and Smorgasburg is the scene’s weekly Woodstock. On summer weekends, it takes place on the waterfront in East River Park, in the semi-industrial Williamsburg neighbourhood. In winter, it moves indoors to a historic former bank building nearby, with drink deals at Brooklyn Brewery. Either way, wear your stretchy trousers and prepare to graze on some of the best small-scale food in the city, whether newfangled kimchi-bedecked hot dogs or an old-fashioned chocolate egg cream.

6) Brooklyn Bridge Park

The waterfront under the iconic bridge has received a welcome makeover, and the city’s newest park affords amazing river views. On summer nights, look for free outdoor movies, with the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. The area, which encompasses abandoned piers from Brooklyn’s shipping heyday, is still being built on, so every summer brings new attractions.

7) Fisher Landau Center for Art

Fisher Landau Center for Art is devoted to the exhibition and study of the contemporary art collection, and even less known to tourists, this private collection of contemporary art is fantastic – and completely free to visit. Every biggie from the last fifty years is here, from Andy Warhol to Jenny Holzer to Damien Hirst.

8) Essex Street Market

Established in 1940 by a street-vendor-hating mayor, this cavernous concrete market hall languished for decades. But in the 21st century, it has grown into a great mix of long-established Lower East Side vendors, like old-school butchers and Latin America grocers, alongside upstart artisans. The notoriously cantankerous Kenny Shopsin has a weird and wonderful restaurant here, and the excellent Boubouki bakery produces delicious Greek sweets.

9) The Moth

This MacArthur Award–honored storytelling event now takes place in several cities around the US, but its heart remains in the Big Apple. The shows revel in the simplest form of entertainment – gripping stories, told well – and often feature only-in-New-York moments. Outside of the summer, catch the monthly formal shows, which can gather everyone from writers, to civil-rights lawyers, to window dressers, to tell true tales on a given theme. Or participate in more frequent storytelling “slams”, open to audience members.

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