Archive for July, 2013

Photography by Shaun Egan / JWL / Aurora Photos

The Eiffel Tower may be the City of Light’s most popular symbol, but for romantics, nothing says Paris quite like Notre Dame Cathedral. More »

Photography by star5112, flickr

Venture out to Grant Park on Chicago’s magnificent lakefront now through Sunday, July 14, for the 33rd annual Taste of Chicago. Read on for a breakdown of the world’s largest outdoor food festival.

0 = Price. The cost of admission is FREE, however you’ll need to purchase strips of 12 tickets ($8) for food and drink items (priced from 3 to 14 tickets for tasting and full-size portions).

6 = Number of celebrity chefs participating in Mazda6 Celebrity Chef du Jour, including Rick Bayless, Carrie Nahabedian, Guiseppe Tentori, Paul Kahan and Gale Gand paired with The Hearty Boys. Introduced last year, the event costs $40, which  gets you a sit-down, 3-course meal in an air-conditioned dining pavilion.

14 = Number of different food trucks participating in the festival — for the first time ever! Parked on the concrete path parallel to Lake Shore Drive, they’ll begin selling entrees and desserts an hour before the evening concerts.

16 = Booth number of famed Eli’s Cheesecake, which has been at all 33 tastes. The Chicago Tribune calls a cool slice of Key Lime Skinny Cheesecake one of The Taste’s best bargains – it’ll only set you back 3 tickets!

35 = Number of restaurants on this year’s menu, including Taste favorites Bobak’s Sausage Company and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, as well as newcomers like Bombay Spice and Southern-inspired Wishbone. For the full, diverse list and locations visit the Taste site.

48 = Number of bands and musicians taking the stage(s) this year, including Robin Thicke, rock ‘n roll legend Robert Plant and Grammy-award winners Jill Scott and fun.

For more on demonstrations, pop-up restaurants, kids’ activities and daily schedules, visit the official Taste of Chicago site.

Not able to make the Taste in Chi-town? We’ve rounded up more of the best Food & Wine Festivals around the country.

Photography by Paul Giamou / Aurora Photos

The gem of California’s iconic Route 1, Bixby Bridgeoffers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean’s lush and rugged coastline for those who are daring enough to brave its vertigo-inducing outlook. More »

Thanks to its many rivers and abundance of livestock equipment, Nebraska has become a hot spot for the unlikely activity of “tanking.” Like a cross between Tilt-O-Whirl and bumper cars, but set on water, tanking involves retrofitting a large, round plastic livestock feeding tank with chairs and tables. Folks then pile in — most tanks can accommodate about 6 people –and enjoy a leisurely float down the river as they meander and turn with the current and take in the sights and sounds.

While Nebraska isn’t the only state that offers tanking trips — there are a handful of outfitters popping up in places like Iowa — it’s by far the most popular. And even though Nebraskans have been doing it for decades, tanking is still relatively unknown outside the Midwest, although that’s slowly starting to change.

Michael Suelter founded Get Tanked in Ericson, NE, in 1987, and claims to be the state’s first tanking outfitter. Today he has nearly 50 tanks, and offers 4-mile trips down the horseshoe-shaped Cedar River, which flows past sandhills and open woodlands thriving with wildlife.

In nearby Burwell, Bruce and Sue Ann Switzer of Calamus Outfitters offer 2- and 5-hour tanking trips down the Calamus River, which gently flows past rolling sandhills where you’re likely spot beavers, muskrats, herons and deer.

In addition to river tanking, Calamus Outfitters has accommodations for up to 65 people at 2 lodges and 4 cabins, along with horseback riding, canoeing and Jeep tours, although tanking remains one of their most popular activities, especially with families. “It’s not really for thrill seekers,” Sue Ann says. “You just relax and go with the flow.”

At the Sandhills Motel in Mullen, NE, Mitch and Patty Glidden offer tanking trips down the spring-fed Middle Loup River, which winds through a valley past lush green meadows and picturesque highlands.

“On a good Saturday we’ll put up to 200 people in the river,” says Mitch Glidden. “It’s really taking off.”

While most tanking outfitters are located in the remote sandhills area of western Nebraska, a few have popped up in the more densely populated eastern side of the state. Steve and Jill Evers enjoyed their tanking excursion so much they opened Tank Down the Elkhorn in Omaha in 2007, which offers a 7-mile trip. Steve says he and his wife both have a blast helping families float down the river, and it supplies supplemental income during the summer when things slow down at his taxidermy business.

And just recently, tanking has finally made its way out of the Midwest. Last year during a business trip, John Johnson came across a Nebraska flyer promoting river tanking. Always looking for new entrepreneurial opportunities, Johnson launched Foothills Outdoor Adventures. Based in Wilkesboro, NC — about 3 hours west of Raleigh — the outfitter offers tanking trips down the Yadkin River, which rises in the Blue Ridge Mountains and flows through the 1,475-acre W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.

“We’re the only one east of the Mississippi doing this,” Johnson says. “We’ve definitely hit on a really good niche market.”

- Sam Boykin

Plains Indian Museum Powwow

Plains Indian Powwow (Photo: L. Singh)

We love Wyoming. On July 10, 1890, the Cowboy State entered the Union, and with it a million travelers’ dreams were made. Including this one’s. Standing on Mirror Lake Highway, under the massive “Forever West” sign, puts it all in perspective: This is a place where you can roam free. And you’ll do a lot of roaming here. With just over 500,000 people — in a state roughly the size of the United Kingdom — Wyoming is the least populous of all the states.

Your first stop in this great expanse of the American Wild West is Cody, WY. Granted, this is a tourist hub, as the western-wear-and-trinket shops along Sheridan Avenue attest. But you sort of expect that: The town’s namesake, after all, was the late-great western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, who helped found this rugged stretch of northern Wyoming in 1895. See his apparition at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, a complex of 5 museums that tells the story of the American west through western art, firearms exhibits and stories of the Plains Indians.

The world of Native American culture comes to life every summer, just beyond the museum’s doors. For more than 30 years, the Plains Indian Museum Powwow has showcased dancers and drum groups from Northern Plains tribes. Members of Native American tribes come from neighboring states, such as Idaho and Nevada, and in addition to performing, they sell Indian jewelry, bead and quillwork, clothing and more. Try the fry bread, hand-made by Arizona native Mary Sounding Sides. She’s been making fry bread at the powwow for the past 10 decades. What’s her cooking secret? “No secret,” she says, “just something I learned as a girl.” Make sure you stay for the grand finale: Flanked by American and Native American flags, dancers march away; they may wave to you and invite you to join the march as well.

Hotel Irma’s Gunfight (Photo: L. Singh)

More western lore comes to life at the town’s landmark, Hotel Irma. Buffalo Bill built this hotel in 1902, and named it after his daughter. The afternoon I swung by, I pulled a seat up to the cherry-wood bar that was given to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria — complete with an antique cash register from the early 1900s. You never know who you’ll meet as you sip a beer or lemonade; my bar buddy for the afternoon was a local Native American man named Oliver who told me about an upcoming powwow at nearby Wind River Reservation.

Stay ‘till the evening. It’s a little cheesy, but you’ll want to stay for Hotel Irma’s free gunfight show. Be patient with the sound system — this is live theater, folks, and sometimes the mics cut in and out. But you’ll get the basic gist, especially once you see “Wyatt Earp” shoot up outlaw cowboys Billy Clayton, and Tom and Frank McLaury.

Your next step: breathtaking Yellowstone. But you’ll need a full day for that. Check back later this week; we’ll give you the lowdown.

Meet Johnny Jet – he’s Our Type of Traveler. Johnny Jet travels around 175,000 miles and visits more than 20 countries each year. He and his website JohnnyJet.com have been featured over 3,000 times in major publications, including USA Today, Time, Fortune and The New York Times. JohnnyJet.com has been named “one of the best money-saving web sites for travel” by Budget Travel Magazine, while the LA Times calls it “one of the top 10 essential travel resources on the internet.” Sign up today for Johnny Jet’s free weekly travel newsletter at JohnnyJet.com and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Traveling Type: How did you get started travel blogging?
JohnnyJet: I kind of fell into it. I started before the word ‘blogging’ was even created. Back in 1995, I began emailing stories of my travels to my friends, along with useful travel tips. My friends started sharing it with their friends and when my email list grew to over 500 people, I created a website. A few months later, Laura Bly from USA Today featured JohnnyJet.com and it became my full-time job about 4 months later.

What’s your blog about?
My website chronicles my travels and includes useful travel tips and advice to help people travel better and smarter. You’ll also find travel news and great travel deals.

How many countries, cities, and continents have you traveled to?
I’ve been to 6 continents and roughly 100 countries according to the Century Club’s list.

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
That’s a tough call. It really depends on the time of year. I love Southeast Asia, Australia and the South Pacific in the winter and I love Europe and Nantucket in the summer.

What’s your favorite place to get away from it all?
A European cruise on Seabourn.

What’s your must-have item that you never travel without?
My passport! And my Acer Aspire S7 laptop, which has the new Windows operating system.

What’s your favorite travel app?
FlightAware

Tell us your funniest travel story/experience. 
I was at Club Med Opio in Provence, France, and had signed up for a massage. When I arrived for my appointment, the receptionists were giggling as they handed me a robe and showed me to the men’s locker room. When my masseuse showed up, she escorted me to the room and said something in French, which I didn’t understand. Then she said, “Voila.” Usually, after being led into the therapy room, the masseuse steps out so you can get your naked body on the table and under a towel so no one has to witness what’s beneath the robe. But when she said, “Voila!” again and motioned for me to get on the table, I gathered she was telling me to drop the towel and hoist my naked self up onto the table. I didn’t want to look like a prude American so I did as I was told and just … well, dropped the towel.

WHOA NELLY! You should have seen this scene. I don’t know who was more surprised — the masseuse or my reaction to her reaction! After I let it all hang out she let out a little scream and quickly turned around. I instantly grabbed the paper covering from the table and covered you-know-who. With her back to me and one hand over her eyes, she handed me some paper underwear. It turned out that the women at the front desk had ‘forgotten’ to give me this important cover-up.

What’s the best hotel/resort/hostel you’re stayed at?
That’s another tough call. But as of right now, I would have to say Southern Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island or Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri Kenya Safari Camp.

Where’s “home”?
Manhattan Beach, California

What would you recommend to travelers visiting your hometown?
Rent a bike and ride along the Strand to soak up the views and the sun.

What’s #1 on your bucket list?
Vietnam.

Photography by Soneva Fushi

Like a page out of Robinson Crusoe, this no-shoes-required, remote island in Maldives is filled with intrigue, discover, and tropical excitement. More »

It’s time to get real — really, really real.

Nude Recreation Week kicks off this week, and with it so should your clothes. Just imagine letting it all go, and embracing your true, natural self. You’ll be living out loud Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” like never before … and joining a revered American tradition while you’re at it.

Bear with us …

Turns out, for the past 82 years, nude recreation has been celebrated nationwide by the premier, uh, outfit of its kind — the American Association for Nude Recreation, whose annual membership costs less than the price of a bathing suit. Thank AANR’s advocacy and its 35,000 members: The US is now home to more than 250 campgrounds, beaches and resorts nationwide for nude recreation, says AANR president Susan Weaver.

Goodbye, Tan Lines!

If all of this is a little new to you, relax: We’ve got you, um, covered, with a little advice from AANR prez Weaver herself. Her first tip: Check out AANR’s Nude Resort Locator — it lists all the nude recreation venues nationwide where you, in all your natural best, are welcome. Also be sure to check out TravelChannel’s roundup of best nude beaches. Plus, our scoop on Jamaica’s nude beaches and where to go au naturel in the Caribbean.

And once you show up, don’t be afraid to tell people you’re new.

“If you say it’s your first time, people are overwhelmingly cordial and put you at ease,” says Weaver, speaking to us from her home in Annandale, VA. Weaver, personally, loves all the resorts she’s been to – including her home club, Avalon Resort in West Virginia, as well as recent visits to Star Ranch Nudist Club in McDade, TX; Squaw Mountain Ranch, a family nudist campground in Estacada, OR; and DeAnza Springs Resort in Jacumba, CA.

“There are no end to places to visit and wonderful people to meet,” says Weaver.

Since the mid-1980s, Weaver has embraced the nude recreational lifestyle herself. “It’s such a joyous and freeing experience,” says Weaver. “You feel more one with nature … you don’t have to worry if your tan lines will be even … you can simply enjoy the sun, wind and water … and you won’t get sand in your bathing suit, which is most uncomfortable, we’d all agree.”

Americans Want to Get Naked

Turns out, some 53 million Americans agree. That was the finding of a recent survey conducted by MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm: Roughly 15% of the American population would spend their recreational dollars on nude leisurely fun like skinny dipping (an activity Weaver calls the “wave of the future”).

Doing the math here: That means that in an office of 100 people, about 15 of your coworkers would be game for a nude recreational outing. And lucky for you guys, the big one is coming up next Saturday.

World Record Skinny-Dip: Make History Next Saturday!

In 2009, history was made, when more than 13,500 nudists skinny dipped simultaneously at the same time – a feat captured by Guinness World Records. This year, AANR, and North America’s other premier association of its kind, the Naturist Society, will gather members to make history once again.

On Saturday, July 13, at 1 p.m. LNT (Local Nudist Time) nudists throughout North America will take the plunge in lakes, rivers, resorts and waters off beaches from coast to coast. Get all the World Record Skinny Dip details, then plan ahead.

Wherever you take the plunge, keep in mind these tips, says Weaver: Leave cameras at home, bring sunscreen (“we take skin safety very seriously,” she says), and be open to meeting new people.

And once you do: We want to hear from you – tell us your story below!

Courtesy of Getty Images

Travelers visiting Washington, DC, will notice something different about the city’s skyline. Although it’s closed for repairs, the Washington Monument is now lighting up the night sky. The National Park Service has installed 488 lamps on the scaffold surrounding the monument.

The rehabilitation is part of a welcome change. On Aug. 23, 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the 555-foot-tall monument, cracking and chipping stones near the top and shaking the mortar loose. The lights are expected to stay on until the popular tourist attraction reopens in spring 2014.

The Big Apple more your style? If you’re heading to NYC, there’s exciting news for tourists who want to check out Lady Liberty. Yep, after being hit by Superstorm Sandy last fall, the Statue of Liberty has once again opened to the public after a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 4th.

You may recall that the National Park Service closed Liberty Island following Hurricane Sandy; however, the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened after a year of renovations. Last October’s storm flooded and damaged New York Harbor docks and Liberty Island’s walkways, buildings and electrical systems, but the 126-year-old iron statue made it through the storm unscathed.

Looking for more sightseeing recommendations for these cities? Check out our list of Washington DC Attractions and Top 10 Attractions in NYC.

Photography by Andrew Watson / JWL / Aurora Photos

Say “Sawasdee” to paradise in Hat Phra Nang, a beach accessible only by boat along the Andaman Sea in Railay, Thailand. More »

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