Amanda DiGiondomenico

Amanda is a freelance blogger and considers herself a resident of both Baltimore and Washington, DC. She loves taking road trips up and down the East Coast, but looks for any excuse to escape to California. She’s perfected the art of traveling with just a carry-on and finds airports oddly relaxing. Amanda spends her time tweeting and writing for her personal blog, The Spendicate.

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Posts by Amanda DiGiondomenico

South Africa

How are your resolutions going? Don’t worry — no one is judging you for eating that piece of cake. What about your travel resolutions? Do you need a little inspiration to make 2013 your most adventurous year yet? Then take advantage of these trends — forecasted by JWT, a global marketing communications agency — and book those plane tickets!

Hotels in Africa
International hotel brands are expanding to Africa with Marriott planning to open a property in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, in 2013, the French hotel group Accor planning to add almost 5,000 rooms in 30 hotels by 2016 and Starwood intending to open 10 African hotels in the next 3 years. Get ahead of the curve by entering to win a trip to South Africa!

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Calling all coffee junkies — we want to know where your favorite coffee is from! Are you a Papua New Guinea purist? An Ethiopian enthusiast? Instagram your favorite coffee with the hashtag #DangerousGrounds and we’ll feature our favorites next week, just in time for the Dangerous Grounds season finale!

Tonight, Todd Carmichael heads to one of the world’s least-explored countries —  Papua New Guinea — on an all-new episode of Dangerous Grounds. He scours the villages of this Oceanic country in the hopes of finding delicious Blue Mountain Coffee. But first he must brave the notorious Highlands Highway that’s known to be ravaged by local bandits, giving it a reputation for armed robberies and murders.

Will Todd make it down the highway in one piece? Can he convince PNG’s villagers to part with their most prized commodity? Find out on an all-new episode tonight, Jan. 8 at 11|10c!

And don’t forget to Instagram your favorite coffee with #DangerousGrounds!

Thanks to this age of instant gratification, pretty much anything can be done via computers and smartphones when it comes to booking travel. Some sites and apps allow you to go even further — with the Conrad Concierge app, users can make dinner reservations, request housekeeping and even check in and check out of their hotel stay with the touch of a button. Hipmunk.com allows users to find the best airfare according to routes with the least “agony” involved. And the next big thing? Sivi.com. READ MORE

Photography by Golden Owl, flickr

Happy 500th birthday, Florida!

In 2013, it will be half a millennium since Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed on the shores of Florida, essentially becoming America’s very first tourist. To commemorate the 500th anniversary and honor Ponce de Leon for inspiring the European colonists to settle here, the Sunshine State is having a big year with festivals, events and celebrations.

2013 is chockfull of lively gatherings, and we listed a variety of our favorites throughout the year. Mark your calendar for some truly exciting adventures that wait in Florida!

Jan. 5: First Christmas in Florida
Mission San Luis, Tallahassee

Witness a reenactment of explorer Hernando de Soto’s 1539-1540 encampment in Tallahassee, with costumed interpreters, re-enactors, music and theatrical performances at Florida’s only recreated Spanish mission.

Feb. 2013: Grand Opening of Colonial Quarter
St. Augustine

Commemorating the discovery of La Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon 500 years ago, St. Augustine has added a legacy addition to its visitor experience: A living-history museum with exhibits, shows, taverns, restaurants and more to immerse visitors into Florida’s Spanish colonial experience.

Feb. 1-May 11: Picasso Exhibition
St. Augustine’s Visitor Information Center

Exhibition of graphic work and ceramics by Pablo Picasso, featuring pieces from the Fundacion Picasso in Spain that have never been displayed in the United States.

Feb. 7-18: Florida State Fair
Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa

In 2013, this annual festival will highlight how historic European influences affect Florida’s lifestyles today, especially in food and agriculture.

April 2-5: Commemorating Ponce de Leon
Melbourne Beach

Costumed interpreters will land a replica ship to commemorate Ponce de Leon’s landing on Florida’s northeast coast. Events include an Air Force flyover, 21-gun salute, parade and erection of a statue of the Spanish explorer.

April 29-May 6: Broward Navy Days
Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

This annual event focuses on Florida’s rich maritime history, with tall ships to salute Viva Florida 500.

May 24-27: Florida Folk Festival
Stephen Foster State Park, Hamilton County

Singer-songwriters, folk musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, Native Americans, Florida cowboys and historical re-enactors bring Florida history to life.

June TBA: Spanish National Soccer
Miami Dolphins Stadium

Spain’s National Football Federation presents an exhibition soccer game and a chance to meet players, thanks to Espana-Florida Foundation, Fast Track Agency, the Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.

Oct. 3-5: International Spanish Food and Wine Festival
Throughout St. Augustine

Spanish culture will abound as Spanish wine distributors, along with local and regional restaurants, take over the Visit Information Center and Promenade for a festival celebrating Spain’s food, wine and dance. Hosted with the U.S.-Spain Chamber of Commerce.

October TBA: Festival Calle Orange
Orlando

One of Florida’s most internationally famous cities celebrates the state’s Hispanic roots with a street festival, food and cultural activities spread over 10 city blocks.

Nov. 30-Dec. 8: Maritime Heritage Festival
St. Augustine Municipal Marina & Promenade

Boats of all kinds — from tall ships to fishing skiffs — will celebrate maritime heritage at America’s oldest port, starting with the launch of a high-tech sailing voyage around the world in hopes of breaking a record.

- Jimmy Im

Jimmy Im is NYC-based travel writer, TV host and instructor, as well as the cofounder of OutEscapes.com

It was a big year. The Olympics took over London, and James Bond returned to the box office for the 23rd time. We took a tour of the Twilight destinations and even learned where Gangnam is. 2012 is definitely a year to remember, so let us jog your memory before we jump into 2013 … READ MORE

Still trying to figure out what to do on New Year’s? Well, if you happen to be near any of Priceline’s top 50 party spots, there’s a good shot that there are too many good parties to choose from.

Priceline released their 9th annual list of the Top 50 New Year’s Party Spots this week, and we bet you can guess what city came out on top. New York City not only topped the list, but also took several spots with different boroughs holding their own when it comes to partying like it’s 1999.

Florida grabbed 12 of the 50 spots with their theme parks and top-notch beaches stealing away many New Year’s revelers.

The top 10 party spots are:

#1 New York City, Midtown West

#2 New Orleans, French Quarter

#3 Las Vegas, Strip North

#4 New York City, Upper East Side

#5 Las Vegas, Strip Vicinity South

#6 New York City, Times Square/Theater District

#7 Orlando, Downtown Disney/Lake Buena Vista

#8 Miami, Downtown

#9 San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf

#10 Chicago, North Michigan Ave./River North Area

If you’re looking for a more adult-oriented New Year’s celebration, check out our picks for Sexy New Year’s Eve Getaways.

Are you in one of the top NYE party spots? What are you doing to celebrate? Tell us in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Sandos Hotels & Resorts

Whether you believe the world is going to end tomorrow or not, you can’t deny that Mexico is doing it up Mayan-style. Even though the Mayans, themselves, are saying the world is not going to end (phew!), that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate like it might, and these attractions in Mexico are making the most of the “new era.”

Tulum, one of the last cities built by the Maya and a popular tourist spot in Mexico, is celebrating the end of the Mayan Calendar with the Pyramid of Positive Thinking, designed by artist Xavier Maria y Campos. The pyramid, designed to reflect Mayan culture, will be fleshed out with recycled plastic bottles containing positive thoughts written by residents and visitors to the area. It is expected to receive more than 700,000 thoughts from people around the world.

Photo courtesy of the Riviera Maya DMO

Considered to be the world’s largest natural aquarium, Cancun’s Xel-Ha is celebrating the beginning of a new era with a variety of renewal experiences. The aquarium is looking on the bright side of things with yoga by the sea on the closest Saturday to the 21st each month and a special purification and transformation experience at the mouth of the world’s longest underground river. They’ve also been inviting people to write positive messages on the leaves of the sacred Ceiba tree through January 6.

The famed eco-archeological park, Xcaret, is offering visitors a series of Maya experiences, including a special “Hand the Sun Over” ceremony with the flight of 104 macaws, mystical meditation guided nature journeys and, tomorrow, a Maya 2012 gala dinner with a contemporary dance presentation.

Sandos Caracol Eco Resort & Spa is bringing history back to life with actual Mayans sharing their traditions with guests. With a “Maya Market” offering authentic cuisine, Xtabentun Maya coffee demonstrations, Maya spa rituals and Maya warrior dog tours on the calendar of events, Sandos is going all out. The property even introduced a dedicated New Era website with all the event details and a trailer teasing the December 21st “End of the Maya Calendar” party that will wrap up the celebrations.

Thinking about a trip to Mexico? Get the lowdown with Oyster’s Spotlight on Cancun post!

 

Ethiopia

Tonight @ 9|8c, Todd ventures to the birthplace of coffee: Ethiopia. Finding a great coffee bean in the motherland should be easy, right? Well, not exactly.

Since great coffee is available for purchase in markets throughout the country, Todd has to go above and beyond to find a bean that is not only better than great, but different from anything he’s already found. Not to mention, the government tightly guards the country’s coffee industry. Not only does the government control the coffee trade with a Wall Street-like market system, but they also blend every kind of bean together, stripping it of any discernable identity.

Can Todd navigate Ethiopia’s chaotic roads and overpowering government to find a new and exotic coffee bean? Tune in to find out!

 

Get excited for our Ghost Adventures live event during the all-new episode at 9|8c! Let us know what you think of the episode tonight when you tweet using the hashtag #GAcrazytown, and your tweet might make it into the broadcast.

Your tweets and Facebook comments will also be featured on TravelChannel.com throughout the day, so make sure you tell us how pumped you are!

The guys are headed to Mineral Wells, TX, famous for its “crazy water” that was believed to have healing properties. The GAC investigate the Baker Hotel, which is believed to be “infested” with ghosts. During the lockdown, Zak becomes mysteriously aggressive – did he get too close to a spirit?

Watch tonight at 9|8c to see this along with your tweets live on-air! And don’t forget to visit the fan feed online to see everyone’s (including Zak, Nick and Aaron’s) tweets and Facebook comments throughout the day!

Last night on Dangerous Grounds, Todd Carmichael traveled to Borneo in search of a rare coffee bean that even he hadn’t tasted before: Liberica, also known as “Elephant” coffee — named for its massive beans.

Liberica Coffee

Upon finding the elusive bean, Todd brought the coffee back to the La Colombe factory in Philadelphia for a tasting with his closest buddies, who also happen to be coffee aficionados. Get an inside look at what happens when coffee experts taste something new.

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