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Courtesy of Ballpark Boathouse

A week into the government shutdown, tourists and furloughed employees alike in Washington, DC, are asking, “What do we do now?” While we don’t have the answers for when the shutdown will end or what’s going to be the state of our country after, we do have some ideas to take our mind off the shutdown while it’s happening.

So for those who find yourself in DC with some time on your hands, here are a few things to do:

Churchkey

Enjoy Happy Hour … All Day Long
Drink your debt-ceiling worries away at the numerous bars and restaurants in the district that are offering shutdown specials. Nothing like a little comfort food or cocktails to ease stress and put a smile on your face. Check out Washington Post’s growing list of places to eat and drink for less during the shutdown.

See DC From the Water
Tourists and locals should take a chance to see the city from another angle  — from the water.  Ballpark Boathouse, the only public boat rental open during the shutdown, is extending their kayak rental season by staying open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as long as the government shutdown continues (and until the water temperature hits 55 degrees).

Photo by Kathleen Rellihan

Check Out Other Neighborhoods
Tourists might normally stick to the Mall and downtown, but the shutdown of the National Monuments is the perfect excuse to see less tourist-trodden territory. Escape downtown and head to the eclectic U Street neighborhood for a taste of African-American history, indie shopping and inventive restaurants. And on Saturdays, you can check out the new District Flea for some wallet-friendly shopping.

Take Up a New Hobby
Out of work? Put those idle hands to use by learning a new craft. Fibre Space in Old Town, Alexandria, is offering free knitting lessons for federal workers on any day the government is closed. Or perhaps you have always wanted to try yoga, but didn’t have the time. STROGA yoga studio in DC is offering free noon classes to those with a government ID.

Get Snap Happy Outside of DC
While there might not be any photo snapping of national monuments for the time being, tourists and locals can see a different side of the area by taking a photo safari outside of the city. Shoot the barns and bridges in nearby Frederick, MD, or capture the morning light in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, just an hour’s drive away. Or head out on a leaf-peeping adventure outside DC now that fall foliage is starting to peak in the area.

No matter where you are in the US, don’t let the government shut down your vacation.  Here are travel alternatives outside DC during the shutdown.

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Breaking Bad tour

Meet the Trolley Guys: Jesse Herron (left) and Mike Silva, owners of ABQ Trolley Tours

“Yo, yo, yo, 1 4 8 3 to the 3 to the 6, to the 9, representin’ the ABQ.” With the final episode of Breaking Bad now here, fans of the landmark series can’t get enough of Albuquerque these days – and Albuquerque locals Jesse Herron and Mike Silva, founders of ABQ Trolley Co., are delivering on the goods.

For the past year, this business duo has offered visitors a custom-tailored tour of Breaking Bad’s shooting locations, from Saul Goodman’s office to Gus’s Laundromat. Hop aboard the trolley with these guys — Silva, with his Walter White-inspired black porkpie hat; Herron with a jersey sporting the words “Pinkman,” and get ready to embark on one wacky 3.5-hour odyssey through the heart of the show. And just in case you can’t make it to Albuquerque this season, fret not – this tour isn’t breaking bad anytime soon – here’s what ABQ Trolley’s Jesse Herron has to say.

Traveling Type: What does your Breaking Bad tour cover?
Jesse Herron: The tour is 3.5 hours — it covers about 38 miles around Albuquerque and the show’s major recurring locations: Jesse’s house; Walt’s house, Los Pollos Hermanos, which is about 20 minutes from the center of town, Jesse and Jane’s duplex, Walt’s condo, Saul Goodman’s law office in the Northeast Heights, the A1A car wash, Gus’s house, Gus’s laundry, Mike’s house is on there this season, too … the locations are spread out all over town. There are also many minor locations that riders will recognize seeing briefly from the show. There’s also Breaking Bad trivia with very cool prizes donated from local businesses.

Jesse Pinkman's house

Jesse Pinkman’s house (Photo: ABQ Trolley Co.)

Where do Breaking Bad visitors come from?
Last season it was mostly locals just because they snatched up all the tickets when news of the tour broke locally — this season it’s probably a 50-50 split between locals and visitors from all over the US and the world, like Germany, Australia, the UK, Mexico, the Netherlands, Paris, Singapore and the Philippines.

What surprises people on your Breaking Bad tours?
In the case of locals, they’re surprised that some of the sites — like the Laundromat Gus operates – have been around for years, and they have been driving past it without even noticing it for years. Same goes for Saul’s law office — it would be difficult to identify if someone didn’t know where it was and the fact that there is not, in fact, an inflatable statue of liberty adorning the roof. For out-of-town visitors, a lot of times they expect to see Albuquerque as just a desert — they’re surprised it’s not 115 degrees here … that we do have 4 seasons, there’s a river here, mountains, we have the largest urban forest in America here, one of the best preserved stretches of Route 66 is here, and there’s volcanoes. I think visitors arrive not knowing exactly what to expect but they leave blown away by the landscapes, culture and attractions here.

Is Breaking Bad’s portrayal of Albuquerque fair?
I don’t think Breaking Bad’s portrayal of Albuquerque would be something that would keep a fan of the show from coming to visit. A Breaking Bad fan would never say, ‘I’m not coming to Albuquerque because there’s a meth problem there.’ It’s not a problem here, and that’s not what the show is about — and in no way does Breaking Bad glorify meth or drug use. The locals that say they don’t like the way the show portrays Albuquerque are often the same people who have never seen the show. And, let’s not forget that it’s a TV show, it’s fiction! The show really highlights all things Albuquerque — from the local hamburger chain, local shops like Gertrude Zachary Jewelry to showing the characters drinking local beer, it’s all pretty accurate, down to the zip codes and neighborhoods.

Breaking Bad tour

Stop by Gus’s house (Photo: ABQ Trolley Co.)

How has Albuquerque embraced Breaking Bad?
I think that a lot of the locals are enjoying the new attention that Albuquerque has received because of the show. A handful of businesses have really embraced the show and are having fun with it. There’s a Breaking Bad beer, a Biking Bad [bike] tour, Breaking Bad bath salts (called ‘Bathing Bad’) … Marble Brewery is offering Heisenberg/Walter White-themed beers… you can even buy a sheet of blue candy from Great Face & Body that comes with a mallet and smash it up like Walt and Jesse do on the show.

With the show winding down, how are your tours doing?
This season of Breaking Bad, the tours sell out months in advance and are sold out through the end of October. For those people not booking months in advance, the next best thing is our Best of ABQ city tour — Tuesday through Sunday, twice a day, we have an 85-minute trolley tour of Albuquerque, and if you’re a Breaking Bad fan, we’re pretty accommodating — when you board the trolley (and you let us know you are a fan) we can point out 5 or 6 different locations – like Jesse’s house, the Crossroads Motel, the Railyards, Tuco’s headquarters … visitors can also see the Denny’s showcased in Seasons 4 and 5. Plus, a restaurant in East downtown called the Grove, seen in Season 5, so there’s quite a bit to see on just the city tour.

And what happens when the show ends?
Even though Breaking Bad is coming to an end, we are keeping the tour going — the Bad tour will return next April. We’re going to keep Breaking Bad’s legacy alive in Albuquerque well into the foreseeable future. As long as visitors come to see Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s Albuquerque, we will be here to show it to them.

Photography by Joel Addams / Aurora Photos

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Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Photo of Milestone Hotel in London by Oyster.com

Twice a year, designers, models, photographers, bloggers, DJs, and so on, crisscross the globe in search of the next big thing. The most anticipated shows being in the 4 fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan and Paris. Here at Travel Channel, we’re always searching for the best places to stay — may we present the most stylish hotels in each city.

New York: September 5 – 12, 2013
The Ace Hotel is known as every other tech startup’s “office” in NYC, but during Fashion Week its unconventional vintage- and industrial-inspired design draws hipsters and fashionistas alike.

London: September 13 – 17, 2013
The Mileston Hotel is a picturesque, boutique hotel in Kensington has been voted one of the best in London. It boasts a 24-hour butler service and elegantly designed rooms that range from period to contemporary decor. For the fashion set, may we suggest lounging in a black-and-white space featuring Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Milan: September 18 – 23, 2013
For inspiration off the runway, look no further than Maison Moschino Milan, a 65-room hotel inspired a 1840s Neoclassical railway station inspired by the famed Italian designer. Our writer noted, “Just like the brand’s whimsical, haute-couture designs, the hotel is all about fairy tales and fanciful fantasy.” Expect puffy, cloud-like light fixtures, lit-up gowns and an overall Alice and Wonderland effect.

Paris: September 24 – October 2, 2013
Located on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne is the famous Hotel Plaza Athenee, brimming with Parisian style and Art Deco décor. Stylish guests will appreciate majestic views of the Eiffel Tower (from the Eiffel Suites) and close proximity to the Dior Institute as well as high-end shopping.

Check out the rest of our stylish hotel picks for every budget.

Inspired by Maison Moschino Milan? See more designer-inspired hotels.

The town of Laconia, NH, is usually quaint and quiet. But for a single week in June, hundreds of thousands motorcycle enthusiasts make their way to Weirs Beach to show off their custom choppers, indulge in some quality seafood and get down with their bike brethren.

In the mood for a $100 lobster pizza? How about a resort overlooking the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee? The 15,000-person town of Laconia has it all. Wanna get down and dirty with the bikers in Laconia? Check out our travel guide to find out what you can’t miss during this crazy week in June, and tune in tonight at 9|8c to watch Adam Richman join in on the madness on an all-new episode of Fandemonium.

Photography by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

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The Trans-Mongolian train makes its way through the Mongolian countryside.

At the top of many people’s bucket list is a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  A trip on the railroad allows riders to experience the never-ending forests of Siberia, the lonely valleys of Mongolia, and the Gobi desert in one trip. However, with a trip that can span a third of the globe and take up to 7 days to complete, special preparations are definitely necessary.

The first step in preparing for your journey is to figure out which of the 3 routes you want to take. The classic line is the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok on Russia’s far eastern coast. On the other hand, the most popular route with travelers is the Trans-Mongolian, which crosses through Siberia before veering off the main rail line, traveling through Mongolia and ending in Beijing, China. Lastly, you can take the Trans-Manchurian line, which runs from Moscow to Beijing, but bypasses Mongolia.

The marker on the train indicating its major stops in Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian.

The second step in preparing for your journey is to get the appropriate visas. Nearly every nationality requires a visa for travel to both Russia and China, and while you can obtain them yourself, both are time consuming. To make the process easier, consider using a visa service to like Invisa Logistics for Russia and CSCA for China, both of which are recommended by the respective embassies.

Americans can enter Mongolia visa-free, but most others will have to secure a visa to travel there as well.

It’s also a good idea to arrange your tickets prior to leaving. While you will pay a surcharge for this service, it beats turning up at a Russian train station and discovering that your train is sold out or that the ticket seller doesn’t speak any English (a problem you’re likely to encounter). For trains leaving from Russia or Mongolia, you can obtain your tickets from Real Russia. For trains departing from Beijing, CITS is a reputable agency with English-speaking agents.

Buying your ticket ahead of time also requires you to plan your stops. All 3 train lines pass through Irkutsk, which is a very popular stop close to the mid-point of the journey. This Siberian city is also the gateway to the must-see Lake Baikal. The largest lake in the world by volume, Lake Baikal is so clean that you can drink directly from its frigid waters. There’s no better place to see Siberian culture or nature than the peaceful shores of the lake.

The sun sets over China’s Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.

On the Trans-Mongolian Line, many like to stop in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, as well, to experience this amazing country. While the city itself is nothing special, a trip to the countryside gives you the chance to stay with a nomadic family in a traditional ger (felt-lined tents) and view the sweeping vistas of beautiful green grass and impossibly blue skies that go on for as far as the eye can see.

The interior corridor of the Trans-Mongolian.

 

Lastly, you need to prepare for the trip itself. Since you’ll spend a total of 6 or 7 nights on the train, make sure that you have plenty of reading material and batteries. Also make sure to pack some wet wipes for cleaning yourself (there are no showers onboard), a thermos and instant coffee or tea (hot water is provided in each car), and some ear plugs.

While you’ll have a nice bed on your trip, most people will share a compartment with others, so a phrasebook will be very helpful in getting to know your travel companions. Even if you opt for a private compartment, having a Russian and Chinese phrasebook will help you figure out when the train is leaving each station and how to order food in the dining car.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the journey of a lifetime, and with a bit of preparation, you can ensure that you’ll have the time of your life as you traverse the Far East.

 —–

All photos by author Jim Cheney.

The author onboard the Trans-Mongolian train.

Jim Cheney is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, PA. Jim spent over two years in Asia traveling and working prior to settling back in America. His writing focuses mainly on travel planning advice and unique travel destinations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

To find more of his work, visit his site, Tripologist.com.

 

 

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Brony: An adult or teenager, often male and college-age (or older), who is a fan of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic — a show about pretty, magical ponies who fight evil. Seriously.

In 2011, the very first BronyCon was held in New York City with 100 bronies in attendance. The convention hopped around the city, holding 3 more events complete with visits from the voice actors and dance parties, until reaching 3,000 attendees in 2012. And today marks the first day and a new city for this army of bronies, with attendance expected to be 6,000 brony-strong.

Get excited, Baltimore! Or should I say, Baltimare …

The Baltimore Convention Center, a picturesque location on the harbor for these My Little Pony fans, will be hosting the event all weekend. From the “Mane Events Hall” to the “Portal to Equestria,” there will be videogame tournaments, lectures on voice acting and discourses analyzing the culture of My Little Pony.

Not yet convinced? Head to the Hall of the Moon for a class on drawing ponies. Or visit the Salt Block Lounge for the Brony Karaoke Smackdown.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a bro to enjoy the pony festivities. Girls are welcome, too. Need a little help navigating the city? Check out our Baltimore travel guide for tips!

Can’t make it to Baltimore? Watch the convention’s live stream!

Photography by ROB TILLEY / Spaces Images / Aurora Photos

This city in Guatemala’s highlands, best known for its Spanish Baroque and colonial architecture. More »

Most seasoned travelers have probably heard of (and dreamt about) the amazing train ride through the Tijuca Rainforest to see the 125-foot Christ the Redeemer statue high atop Corcovado Mountain. And who hasn’t heard the gossip about the Brazilians’ buff beach bodies and the droves of scantily-clad women who sunbathe on the world-famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.

Well now, you can get your chance to see Rio de Janeiro – free of charge! Enter to win a trip for 2 to the Marvelous City and see why it’s such a hot vacation destination. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that tourists are flocking to the tropical city not only for its beaches, but also because it will host both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

See Rio for yourself! Explore this Brazilian city and its secret treasures like Leblon, Rio’s most affluent neighborhood with a beautiful beach that’s known for being much quieter than Ipanema or Copacabana. See Rio from above and go hang-gliding off Sugarloaf Mountain, or just lay low and spend the day on Paqueta Island, where it’s not uncommon to see a horse-drawn carriage.

There’s something for everyone in this Brazilian city, so take the first step and enter to win a free trip — your next adventure awaits you in Rio de Janeiro!

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