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Can he do it? This coming Sunday, the world will find out as Nik Wallenda attempts his latest daredevil feat: a walk across the Grand Canyon while suspended a stomach-churning 1,500 feet — more than 4 football fields — above the Little Colorado River.

Wallenda is no stranger to mind-boggling stunts. A year ago, this seventh-generation American acrobat made headlines when he successfully walked across Niagara Falls — a total of 1,800 feet — becoming the first person to do so.

Now Wallenda has his eye on the Grand Canyon, without the tether he wore last year (something Wallenda reportedly wasn’t happy about wearing, but which he did in compliance with the Niagara Falls Commission’s stipulations). This go-round, Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk, on land owned by the Navajo Nation, will occur without a harness, before a live audience (10-second delay notwithstanding). Two wireless point-of-view cameras will also be affixed to Wallenda’s vest.

Don’t think you’d want to duplicate Wallenda’s Grand Canyon walk? You can still score bragging rights with your own dramatic adventure. Take a South Rim mule ride through the Grand Canyon, but plan ahead — trips may be booked 13 months in advance. North Rim mule trips are offered from mid-May to mid-October.

If views of deep chasms and astonishingly old geologic formations spread across 1.2 million acres are all the drama you need, hike the Grand Canyon. Or enjoy the dazzling, dizzying view of the canyon from the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bridge walkway that offers a 4,000-foot-high view of the canyon’s floor. Come night, crash at one of the 10 best luxe hotels near the Grand Canyon.

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The Obamas arrived in Ireland on Monday, and while the president attended the G8 summit in Belfast, the first lady and daughters Malia and Sasha were able to fit in a 2-day whirlwind tour of Dublin, exploring their Irish roots.

“There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” says the web-hit Irish folk song that went viral back in November 2008.  The president’s great-great-grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall, and Ireland celebrates this connection by always extending a warm Irish welcome to the president and his family.

Michelle Obama and daughters learned more about their Irish ancestry with a special tour of Trinity College, where they viewed archives documenting their family’s Irish origins and saw the Book of Kells, a 9th-century illustrated gospel manuscript.

Other highlights of the first family’s trip included a private tour of Glendalough, one of the most famous monastic ruins in Ireland, and a special Riverdance performance at the Gaity Theatre, where Michelle Obama addressed an excited audience.

And talk about a power lunch … the first lady dined on fish and chips in Dublin with the “first rock star of Ireland,” U2 frontman and world humanitarian Bono.

This wasn’t Obamas’ first visit to Ireland. Back in 2001, the president visited his ancestral hometown Moneygall searching for his “missing apostrophe.” On this visit, the president met his 8th cousin, Henry Healy, now known as “Henry the Eighth.”

 

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REUTERS/Adam Ihse/Scanpix

This past weekend marked another royal wedding: the nuptials of Princess Madeleine of Sweden and American financier Christopher O’Neill. The much-buzzed-about royal wedding took place at the Royal Chapel at the Palace of Stockholm, followed by a reception at Drottingholm Palace, where the Princess was born.

Princess Madeline met her husband-to-be while living in New York, and Mr. O’Neill has declined a royal title so he can keep his US citizenship and continue his banking career.

Well-wishers lined the cobblestoned streets in Stockholm on Saturday as the royal couple traveled in a horse-drawn carriage through Gamia Stan, the medieval old town. The newly wed couple then set sail from Stockholm Harbor on a royal barge to Drottingham Palace for a lavish reception, with royals and celebrities from all over the world in attendance.

A royal wedding isn’t the only reason Stockholm is on our radar this month. Weather-wise this Scandinavian gem shines in June … quite literally. On June 21, thousands of tourists will flock to Sweden to see the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon when the sun shines for a full 24 hours around the summer solstice.

If you’re more of royal watcher than a sun gazer, there’s another big event to look forward to this summer: the much-anticipated arrival of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s baby. Kate’s 8-month baby bump is getting bigger and bigger every day, as seen at the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation last week. The royal baby is due mid-July and the world is abuzz with speculation, rumors and bets: Will the royal heir be a boy or a girl? And what will be the baby’s name and title?

Our bets are on Alexandra, Queen Elizabeth’s middle name. What do you think?

 

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World Oceans Day

We, as travelers of the world, have a lot to appreciate the ocean for: Travel and trade, food, medicines, communications, and just about half the oxygen we breathe.  And with concerns of increasing impacts linked to climate change, ocean acidification, diminishing overfished populations and endangered species, and polluted waters — we have many reasons to help protect the ocean, especially during travel.  Join the international celebration on June 8, World Oceans Day, by taking action to keep it healthy and beautiful!

Here are a few tips for making your future travels as ocean-friendly as possible:

Planning:

  • Consider Ecotourism options — Help make the local community a healthier, more beautiful place after your visit.
  • Travel shorter distances — Explore the “hidden gem” destinations around your home and appreciate what your own habitat has to offer.
  • Avoid cruises — Cruise ships are notorious for creating major issues with improper waste management leading to pollution, excessive energy consumption, coral reef damage, and other kinds of environmental degradation to regions visited.
  • Consider purchasing Carbon Offsets — Help balance the impact of energy used to travel by funding an environmental cause.

Transportation:

  • Ride public transit — Rather than using your own car or a rental car, consider trains or buses. These options can be less expensive than flying and greatly reduce the pollution caused by driving long distances. Plus, a train trip can take you through beautiful natural environments that you might never see by car.
  • Get around on foot or bike — Walking and biking around your destination can help you get a true feel for a place.

Where to Stay:

  • Consider staying in a “green” hotel or eco-lodge — Show that you support businesses that exemplify environmental sustainability.
  • Participate in water-conservation programs in hotels — Help save diminishing freshwater resources used for washing linens. If the hotel does not have this program, let the cleaning staff know that you don’t need your towels and sheets changed every day.
  • Borrow or rent from a local — Couchsurfing is a free service that will let you find a couch to sleep on during your trip. Airbnb is another popular site, allowing travelers to find hosts renting their extra bed, room, apartment, or house for travelers. This may give you the opportunity to save money, meet natives, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Packing & Toiletries:

  • Leave little bottles of hotel amenities untouched — Resist the urge to take the small plastic bottles of soaps and shampoos from hotels. These can create more waste, often ending up in the ocean. Instead, use a refillable bottle from body care products from home.
  • Use multi-purpose, biodegradable soaps — Reduce the number of products you need to pack as well as the amount of chemicals washed down the drain or into local streams. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Pure Castile Classic Soap is a biodegradable, vegetable-based, 18-in-1 uses product for cleaning, shaving, shampooing, and moisturizing.
  • Choose and apply sunscreen wisely — Look for biodegradable, organic sunscreens. Also, apply 30 minutes before going into water or else the sunscreen is likely to wash off right away in the water.  Such sunscreens and other skin lotions are made with chemicals and oils harmful to humans and the ocean.
  • Bring your own reusable bags — Avoid disposable plastic bags. Even when disposed of properly, the lightweight plastic can escape garbage bins and find ways into woodlands, storm drains, and water ways. Plastic bags are of the most dangerous marine debris, accounting for millions of turtle, sea bird, and marine mammal deaths by ingestion, entanglement, and suffocation each year. Even worse, plastic bags do not biodegrade.

Food & Drink:

  • Bring a reusable water bottle Avoid adding empty water or other beverage bottles to the waste stream by refilling your own container from larger sizes.
  • Seek local food — Look for vendors and restaurants with local ingredients rather than consuming goods that must be shipped to your destination from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
  • Only eat sustainably-sourced seafood  Consume fish that is local, not over-fished, or is responsibly aquacultured.

Activities:

  • Educate yourself – Enjoy a new place by learning about its wildlife and unique natural characteristics.
  • Volunteer in the community you’re visiting — This could be as simple as picking up litter in places you visit and disposing of waste properly.
  •  “Leave only footsteps, take only pictures” — Try not to disturb native plants and wildlife. Many countries have established eco-parks that allow tourists to see the natural beauty of a country without harming the environment.

Souvenirs:

  • Be careful what you buy — Don’t buy endangered species products such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. Don’t purchase star fish or turtle-shell related souvenirs or any creature that may have been put to death for the sake of a gift shop sale. These animals may have been killed specifically for tourist trade.
  • Leave rocks, shells, seeds, and other natural artifacts in the wild — This will prevent any contributions to habitat destruction.

Celebrate World Oceans Day this Saturday by making a promise to protect the ocean or find an event near you!

- Lauren Goldberg, The Ocean Project

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 Travel moves you and so will our Watch Travel Channel App. Travel Channel’s brand-new app for iPad® and iPhone® refreshes daily, offering the full range of our video content wherever and whenever you want.  To watch the latest full episodes, you will need the username and password provided by your television service provider.  The app filters content by show, host, destination or interest, making it tap-simple to get ideas for your next vacation or nearby outing. Watch Travel Channel is a must-have for every fan – and it’s now available to download for free at App Store. We’re working on an  Android   version too; more on that later this summer.

Until then, check out our Mobile Apps page for more info about other Travel Channel apps, including The Layover app.

French bombshell Brigitte Bardot wears a bikini in a boat near Saint-Tropez, France, in 1968. (Photography by Robert Cohen/RDA/Getty Images)

This weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and with that comes the unofficial start to bathing suit season. Whether that gives you cause for excitement or dred, it’s the time of the year to bare it all. To kick off the start of bathing suit season, we took a look back at how this article of clothing (in more recent times, a very itty-bitty, teeny-weeny article of clothing) has caused such a stir throughout history.

The first modern-day bikini debuted in 1946. (Photography by Keystone/Getty Images)

If the swimsuit has caused such a stir, then the bikini has caused a cannon-ball-sized splash. The first bikini debuted at the Piscine Molitor swimming pool in Paris in 1946. The bikini’s designer, Louis Reard, a French automobile engineer, named the 2-piece sensation after the Bikini Atoll where the US had recently conducted nuclear tests. The model, a 19 year-old dancer, forever changed swimsuit history that summer day by donning the original bikini, made from 30 inches of newsprint fabric.

Over 65 years after the original bikini debuted, another important swimsuit moment occurred this year: The Sports Illustrated 50th Swimsuit issue. Every year fans eagerly anticipate SI’s swimsuit issue to see what bikini babe will grace the cover, and this year was no exception. Travel Channel was there as SI combed all 7 continents, crisscrossing the globe from Easter Island to Africa to find the most exotic and sexiest shoot locations. This year’s anniversary issue also included another first — the first fashion shoot on ice-covered Antarctica. Who would have thought the snow-covered beaches of Antarctica would be steamy enough to grace the anniversary’s iconic cover? We imagine model Kate Upton’s physique had something to do with heating up the icy cover shot, too.


So whether you’re ready for bikini season or not, dive back into history with us as we look at Swimsuits Through the Years.

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Dolly Parton at Dollywood's Splash Country

Dolly flipped the switch, and RiverRush welcomed its first riders at Dollywood’s Splash Country.

“There’s a lot of fun in store at my Dollywood’s Splash Country in 2013,” Dolly Parton said. “Growing up, playing in the creeks and streams here in the Smoky Mountains, I could only dream of something like a water coaster. But look at us now!”

Thanks to cutting-edge hydromagnetic technology and linear induction motors, RiverRush defies logic. Guests ride a 4-person boat 237 feet in the air and race down a 25-foot, 45-degree drop. Moving water continues to propel them up hills, through twists and tunnels, hairpin turns, rapids and 3 more scream-inducing drops along the 1,176-foot track.

Named America’s Must-See Waterpark in 2009 by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Dollywood’s Splash Country also features Fire Tower Falls, the state’s tallest twin-speed slides, a 25,000-sq-foot wave pool, a 1,500-foot lazy river and more than 25 speed slides and white-water rafting adventure rides.

In preparation for the highly anticipated RiverRush, Dollywood’s Splash Country introduced Time Saver, a convenient line reservation system. The system reserves a rider’s spot in select lines, freeing them to experience other attractions. A waterproof wristwatch device indicates when it’s time to return to the ride.

Dollywood’s Splash Country, located next to Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN, is open 10am-6pm daily through Labor Day.

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Before you book your next flight, here’s a word of warning: You may not want to fly on Spirit Airlines. The carrier received the lowest overall scores of any company that Consumer Reports has ever rated.

Today, Consumer Reports released its results from a readers’ survey that ranks the best and worst airlines.

So why didn’t Spirit Airlines make the cut? Industry analysts say that although the no-frills airline charges less than other carriers, customers still take a hit in their pockets by paying other additional fees, including $10 to $19 to book a flight, $3 for a soda or M&Ms, and $35 to $100 per carry-on bag. Readers also claimed that the airline has some of the “tightest” seating space in the industry.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Virgin America topped the list for the first time, receiving some of the highest customer satisfaction scores that any airline has received in years.  According to the survey, flyers said they like the comfy, leather seat cushions in the airline’s economy class. Readers also gave the airline’s in-flight entertainment high marks.

Other carriers that fared well included Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines for check-in and cabin staff. American, United and US Airways received the lowest ratings possible for cabin cleanliness, seating comfort and onboard entertainment.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center surveyed more than 16,000 readers — who flew a combined 31,732 domestic flights — in February. Readers were asked to rate their satisfaction with the airlines’ check-in ease, cabin-crew service, cabin cleanliness, seating comfort, baggage handling and in-flight entertainment.

Here’s a quick look at the airlines and their overall score, based on a 0 to 100 scale:

1.   Virgin America, 89
2.   Southwest Airlines, 85
3.   JetBlue Airways, 85
4.   Hawaiian Airlines, 82
5.   Alaska Airlines, 81
6.   Frontier Airlines, 78
7.   Delta Air Lines, 71
8.   US Airways, 66
9.   American Airlines, 66
10. United Airlines, 63
11. Spirit Airlines, 50

Barbie's Dreamhouse

Whether you are a Barbie girl who wants to live in a Barbie world or you’re about to embark on your first solo trip, there’s something that will pique your interest in our weekly travel news roundup.

Visitors to the life-size “Barbie Dreamhouse” in Berlin can try on Barbie’s clothes in her walk-in closet and bake virtual cupcakes in her kitchen. The “Dreamhouse” will move on to other European cities later this year according to ITV News.

Gadling has a map of “Forbidden America,” incase you were wondering which areas were no-go zones for Soviet tourists in the 1950s.

Are you a travel snob? Read Lonely Planet’s “In defense of the ‘tourist trail’” and find out. How could you not see the pyramids while in Cairo or the Taj Mahal in Agra, right?

Seeing the world on your own leaves less room for error, so the Solo Traveler has compiled 7 mistakes to avoid (from the obvious to the insightful).

Plus, Go BIG or Go Home reveals the World’s largest ropes course at sea on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship.

Want even more travel highlights from this week? Check out our This Week in Photos slideshow!

In honor of The Great Gatsby film release, step back into the opulent Jazz Age with a visit to New York’s iconic landmark hotel, The Plaza. This historic hotel is celebrating Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited film adaptation of The Great Gatsby with a collection of Gatsby-inspired experiences. The setting for one of the book’s most climatic scenes, The Plaza was also a well-known haunt of the author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda — so much so that it has been said Ernest Hemingway once advised Fitzgerald to give his “liver to Princeton and his heart to The Plaza.”

If you’re truly gaga for Gatsby, for a mere $2,795 you can spend a night in the Fitzgerald Suite that pays homage to its famous patron. Designed by one of the film’s set designers and co-producers, this 700-square-foot suite is filled with period-inspired pieces and artifacts from the film’s production, like Tom Buchanan’s sporting trophies lining the walls. Make yourself a gin martini or mint julep from the suite’s built-in bar and escape into the 1920s with Fitzgerald’s complete collection of works, all at hand in the room’s library.

If your budget is less than Gatsby-esque, you can still get into the spirit at The Plaza.  The Palm Court’s “Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages” tips a hat to the Jazz Age with 1920s-inspired plates like Pate de Fruit with Gin Rickey Sugar. The Todd English Food Hall honors Gatsby with “prohibited” cocktails like “Silver Peppered Stars,” made with Hendrick’s Gin, house-made orange bitters and French vermouth.  The hotel’s iconic Champagne Bar is transformed into a Moët Pop-Up Bar, offering a special cocktail called the “Moët Imperial Gatsby,” with green chartreuse and a sugar cube. And you can dance off all that gin and champagne with the live jazz bands at The Rose Club’s “Gatsby Hour” on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

After you’ve partied like Gatsby, recover from the previous evening’s celebrations (hello, roaring headache) with a “Caudalie Grape Gatsby” custom treatment at The Plaza’s Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa. Daisy would approve.

For more Gatsby-inspired extravagance, check out our Travel Like The Great Gatsby slideshow and relive the Jazz Age decadence … without the hangover.

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