ALL POSTS IN [Holidays]

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras in New Orleans (Photo: Getty Images)

The final countdown has begun to “Fat Tuesday” around the world. But only in New Orleans can you celebrate with the true flair of a party-ragin’ Cajun. There’s plenty to do during one of the biggest annual celebrations in America. And in a multilingual city with a rich French colonial history, there are myriad options for Carnival fun. It’s no coincidence that The Big Easy is sometimes referred to as the “most unique in the United States,” and this annual bead-begging bash shows exactly why.

A direct flight from New York to New Orleans is about 3 hours. From Los Angeles it’s just 1 hour more. And from Washington, DC, it’s only a 2 1/2 -hour jaunt, all of which makes it easy to jump right into the Mardi Gras mix. Once you arrive in New Orleans you’ll want a comfy place to rest up and energize from the day’s travels. Here are a few suggestions for enjoying Mardi Gras in New Orleans that will fit almost any budget. READ MORE

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up some romance-inspiring travel ideas. Get your heart pumping on an adrenaline-filled adventure or gaze into your valentine’s eyes at a fireside table for 2 this weekend.

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“Chocolate Trio” at The Spiced Pear; Photo by OpenTable

Haven’t made a reservation yet for Valentine’s Day dinner? Better get on that — it’s only a week away! Need ideas of where to go? OpenTable released their 2014 Most Romantic Restaurants in America, as voted by OpenTable diners.

Whether you’re looking to rekindle the flames with a fireside meal or prefer to woo your S.O. over sake and sushi, these restaurants are sure to inspire a little romance.  This year’s list of winning restaurants with swoon-worthy dishes and come-hither ambiance spans more than 32 states and is based on more than 5 million restaurant reviews. It must be the dreamy coastal views, because California, Florida and Hawaii boast the most romantic restaurants. And the cuisine that’s this year’s favorite for flirting over? Fondue.

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Photography by George Powers

Update: February 2, 2014, 8AM

It was a cold, soggy morning in Punxsutawney, PA,  for Groundhog Day. The world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from his hole on Gobbler’s Knob and, to the chagrin of the crowd of over 20,000, saw his shadow, meaning 6 more weeks of winter.

Despite the rain and unfortunate prediction, the atmosphere in Punxsutawney is simply electric. If you ever have the chance, a visit to see Punxsutawney Phil is sure to excite.

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Tired of winter? There may be some relief in store this weekend in the form of a furry, little groundhog.

That’s right, it’s once again time for Groundhog Day! The one day a year when everyone focuses their attention on the tiny Pennsylvania borough of Punxsutawney to see whether the world’s most famous rodent sees his shadow. Tradition has it, that if Punxsutawney Phil, as he’s affectionately known, sees his shadow, we are in store for 6 more weeks of winter. However, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, we can all look forward to an early spring.

Without a doubt, Groundhog Day is truly one of America’s more odd traditions, but it’s a big deal all throughout the country.

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How far did Martin Luther King Jr. travel in his life?

Over the course of the civil rights leader’s 39 years, MLK marched with tens of thousands of civil rights activists from Selma to Montgomery; spoke before tens of thousands more on DC’s National Mall; and in an eerie premonition, told an audience at Mason Temple church in Memphis that “we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” MLK was shot the very next evening, on a balcony, at Memphis’s Lorraine Motel.

While MLK’s domestic trips are well-documented, especially through the South, Dr. King was also a world traveler. In the last 11 years of his life, Dr. King traveled some 6 million miles. READ MORE

“Travel more.” It’s certainly at the top of our resolutions for the new year (and every year, for that matter).  Here are 7 more resolutions to make the most out of your travels in 2014.

Slow down your travel. 
Savor the fleeting moments when you’re not at your desk buried under work or stuck in rush-hour traffic. Revel in the experience, whether that means lingering at a 4-hour meal or a tossing out the museum list for a long walk with no target destination. It’s easy to pack your schedule on a trip, afraid that you’ll miss something, but you won’t be able to fully appreciate a different culture unless you take the time to experience its nuisances.

Don’t let a “dangerous” label deter you. 
Of course, we aren’t advising traipsing around a war-torn country without taking any precautions, but rather suggesting that there are places that are inherently dangerous— whether they’re crime-ridden or full of wild and hungry animals – that shouldn’t be avoided because of fear alone.  Be safe, but don’t cross off visiting some of the world’s best places  — like Brazil, Nicaragua, and Colombia — altogether just because their reputation is a little dicey.

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Santa’s on his way (Photo: Getty Images)

Once again a time-honored Christmas Eve tradition is underway, as Santa Claus makes his way around the globe delivering gifts to good little boys and girls everywhere. If NORAD’s current calculations hold steady, Father Christmas’s reindeer route is unfolding as planned, with one of the latest Santa sightings made in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Barring navigational forces, Santa’s journey, which usually starts in the South Pacific and hits New Zealand and Australia before moving on to Japan and Asia, will take Kris to Africa and Europe, followed by North America and South America, as he delivers the goods — at last count, nearly 2 billion — to kids everywhere by Christmas Day.

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Photography by Reuters

At upscale Galeries Lafayette, in the city’s Opera District, the windows facing the street show fairytale scenes.
Daily Escapes!

Winter solstice at Stonehenge

Winter solstice at Stonehenge (Photo: Getty Images)

Welcome to the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice kicks off this Saturday, and with it, thousands of visitors from around the world have gathered at Stonehenge — the mysterious standing set of stones dating between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C., in Wiltshire, England — to mark the grand astronomical event when the monument aligns on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunset.

Of course, who are we fooling? On Saturday morning, most of us would probably prefer to snuggle up under the covers than brave the gathering crowds at Stonehenge (even if the new $44 million visitors center, which opened this past Wednesday, sounds interesting, with an exhibition that includes a forensic reconstruction of a Neolithic man). We’ll leave it to the druids, pagans and astronomical diehards currently gathered at Stonehenge to fill us in on the grand event, which, on the flip side, ushers in the longest night of the year.

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The Resort at Paws Up

Photo by The Resort at Paws Up

Well folks, you had the perfect gift picked out online, added it to your list, but just when you were about to add it to your “cart,” the express shipping fee made your eyes bulge or worse, the item is now on backorder. Not to fear, we have some last-minute ideas that your favorite traveler will truly appreciate: An unforgettable travel experience where the only thing to ship is yourself.

Glamping at the Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, MT
Wilderness lovers and those who prefer to be pampered (think: gourmet meals) will both be pleased with a getaway to this luxurious ranch about 30 minutes east of Missoula, MT. Guests can go fly fishing, horseback riding and hot-air ballooning before hitting the spa tent for a massage and then retiring to their own tent, complete with heated floors and electricity.

Check out more glamping spots.

Sonoma Country’s 3-Day Barrel Tasting Weekends
The Wine Road, an association of more than 100 wineries that includes household names like Clos du Bois and family-owned operations such as Stryker Sonoma, typically hosts barrel tastings twice a year along Sonoma’s Russian River Wine Road. Most wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples — a chance to purchase wine while it’s still in the barrel, at a discount, before the wine is bottled in 12 to 18 months. So this really could be the gift that keeps on giving.

Explore more wine-tour weekends.

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