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World Cup fever is growing hotter and hotter around the world, and while soccer watching has not always been associated with the US, the 2014 FIFA World Cup seems to be capturing America’s interest.  Last night’s nail-biting USA-Portugal match on ESPN scored a 9.6 rating, making it the highest-rated World Cup match ever in the US. While the world’s game is growing in popularity across America, what US city can lay claim to having the most World Cup fans? The nation’s capital: Washington, DC.

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Photo by Arthur Boppre, Wikimedia Commons

We apologize for the interruption in our regularly scheduled posting, but while we’ve “sunset” This Week in Photos, our weekly travel roundup isn’t going anywhere. Here are some of the top stories shared around the Travel Channel offices this week.

The World Cup has been buzzing in the background at Travel Channel HQ and the workdays are punctuated by cheering from cubicles. Some employees aren’t as fortunate, however, and in China they’re taking to more extreme tactics to not miss any of the action. With a crushing 11-hour time difference – meaning the daily opening matches start around midnight — Chinese workers are buying fake doctors’ notes to play hooky. According to NPR, the more money workers are willing to pony up the more authentic the excuse: 50 bucks even gets you an ultrasound, CT scan, blood or urine test to back up your “diagnosis.”

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Photo Courtesy of Fütbol Club Eatery & Tap

Do you know the best places to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup? Here’s a list of some of the best soccer bars in the US — just in case you can’t make it to Brazil. A lively atmosphere, authentic soccer fans, good beer/cocktails and food were all criteria that helped us narrow down our list.

1. The Londoner  (Addison, TX) Head to The Londoner if you’re looking for an authentic British pub experience. England fans usually frequent the Addison bar, which is also the flagship location for the Dallas-Fort Worth pub chain. All 4 locations will host kick-off parties on June 12 with drink specials like $5 caipirinhas, and plans are already underway to show 48 World Cup games live.

Where: 14930 Midway Road, Addison, TX 75001

2. Atlantic Beer Garden (Boston)
Go for the 29 HD TVs, 2 projection screens, 12 draft lines and list of more than 40 craft beers to wash down their tasty Mac n’ Cheeseburger or seafood scampi. Its South Boston waterfront location makes it the perfect spot to take a stroll if the soccer games gets too intense and you need a breath of fresh air.

Where: 146 Seaport Boulevard, Boston, MA 02210
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Photo Courtesy of Embratur

“Belo Horizonte” means beautiful horizon in Portuguese, which is fitting for its magnificent landscape. When the city was first built, it was planned to house only a few hundreds of residents. No one ever expected that it would grow to have more than 5 million inhabitants. Unlike São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasília, tourists often overlook Belo Horizonte as a travel destination. That means those who venture out to Belo Horizonte gain unique experiences that most visitors don’t know exist.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s “Bar Capital.”
Belo Horizonte is the capital of Minas Gerais state, but it is also known as Brazil’s “bar capital.” The city has more than 14,000 bars for locals and tourists to choose from, which makes Belo Horizonte’s nightlife extremely animated. This is the ideal setting for people who don’t necessarily have tickets to the World Cup games in the Mineirão Stadium (Estádio do Mineirão), but want to celebrate with some of the world’s most spirited fans.
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Salvador’s Pelourinho Neighborhood (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Salvador is known as Brazil’scapital of happiness” because of its countless number of popular outdoor parties, including its street carnival. Its humble beginnings can be traced to 1549 when Portuguese settlers decided to colonize Brazil and make Salvador the capital of the country. As a result, this coastal city quickly became the main port of call for ships from all over the world that would dock and import their goods into South America. Salvador is no longer Brazil’s capital, but it is a magnificent city with unique architecture, historic museums, chic gastronomy restaurants and African-inspired music, which makes it a unique host city for the 2014 World Cup soccer games.

Salvador, the City of Music
Bahia is the musical state of Brazil. Its rich mixture of Brazilian, African and European cultures birthed genres and rhythms like axe, pagode and samba.. The state’s capital, Salvador, marches to its own beat. People here sing and play special percussion instruments like the berimbau, agogos and atabaques.
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Curitiba (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Curitiba is a city that advocates sustainable living. The name of the city originates from Guarani, an indigenous language in South America, and translates to “lots of pine trees.” People traveling to Curitiba for the World Cup will admire the Arena Da Baixada, which is considered to be one of the most modern stadiums, as it opens its doors to more than 40,000 fans from around the world. Even with all of the excitement and energy surrounding the games, guests will enjoy Curitiba’s hidden gems, including its urban parks and city center.

Curitiba, the City with Sustainable Living
With existing public policies that focus on sustainability in urban public areas, the city of Curitiba is at the forefront of environmentally friendly living. These policies helped build and maintain 30 parks and forests, and the government’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the United Nations Environment Program, who awarded Curitiba a prestigious award for its recycling waste project.

To start your tour of Curitiba’s urban parks, we recommend going to the Parque de Pedreiras (Quarries Park) where the marvelous Ópera de Arame (Wire Opera House) is located. This gorgeous, translucent structure is built out of steel tubes and is full of windows, and it only took an impressive 75 days to construct.
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Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Rio de Janeiro is a magnificent city for travelers looking for a well-rounded experience of Brazil. Rio is more than a popular backdrop for countless movies. It’s home to iconic soccer players like Pelé, the popular Christ the Redeemer, the classic bossa nova, the most beautiful beaches in the world and  the world’s most entertaining carnival. Rio de Janeiro’s laidback culture and natural beauty will leave a lasting impression to adventure seekers, soccer fans and history lovers making their way to Brazil for the World Cup.

Rio de Janeiro, The City of Yellow, Green, Blue Through and Through
In 1950, Brazil hosted the World Cup, which left the country heartbroken and disappointed when the championship title was awarded to Uruguay after the team won the final game by 1 point in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, the sport and the country of Brazil have drastically evolved, and locals are ecstatic to experience with visitors the fruits of their labor after  more than 4 years of preparation for the 2014 World Cup. It all ends here in Rio de Janeiro, and only 1 team will win the title of  2014 FIFA World Cup champions.
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Cuiaba (Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Cuiabá is a host city not to be overlooked by visitors when traveling to Brazil for the World Cup. In the 20th century, this gold-mining city drastically grew from 57,000 to 544,737 residents in 30 years. Today, the city’s 3 ecosystems (the wetlands of the Pantanal; the savannas of the Cerrado; and the Amazon), are treasured by locals and tourists. The city offers visitors magnificent opportunities to immerse themselves in nature, whether it be waterfalls, rivers, plateaus, or miles and miles of beautiful green landscape.

Cuiabá, The City of Picturesque Countryside
One of the many spots to hike and explore in Cuiabá is the Chapada dos Guimarães National Park (Parque Nacional Chapada dos Guimarães), a UNESCO World Heritage site located a few miles outside of the city. This enormous natural park gives people a place to go and explore the large orange and red-rock formations via guided hikes with varying levels of difficulty. Along the hike, visitors to the park see caves, canyons and beautiful outlooks.
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(Photo Courtesy of Embratur)

Recife will set the scene for the much-anticipated USA vs. Germany World Cup game, scheduled for June 26. In addition to being an entertaining host for the big game, Recife is also an ideal destination for a relaxing vacation full of adventure, culture and beaches just waiting to be explored. Recife is a popular city that is no stranger to grand celebrations and festivals. In the upcoming months, travelers can experience various events with the locals.

Recife, the City of Many Bridges
Recife is referred to as the “Brazilian Venice” because of its 50 bridges, which cross over various waterways and rivers similar to the ones in Venice, Italy. These bridges serve the purpose of connecting the city’s smaller surrounding islands like Santo Antonio, Sao Jose and Bairro do Recife. Nestled in Recife’s modern metropolitan style, the city also has an “Old Recife,” known as Recife Antigo, which is the oldest, most traditional district in the state of Pernambuco. Visitors can appreciate the city’s cultural and historical landmarks, all while enjoying its modern attractions, like the dozens of restaurants and craft fairs that are attended by locals and visitors alike.

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Photography by Andre Maceira – Photo Courtesy of Embratur

Of all the 12 cities hosting the 2014 World Cup, Porto Alegre is the southernmost city in Brazil. Travelers heading down to the state of Rio Grande do Sul are recommended to pack warm coats and extra layers because unlike northern Brazil, the winter weather in Porto Alegre is usually  between 44° and 55°F. Undoubtedly, the weather will not take away from the countless activities Porto Alegre has to offer both soccer fans and world travelers alike. Visitors should know that the citys offers  great urban parks, wine tasting tours, cultural centers, delicious food and exhibits that feature some of the most important pieces of art in Brazil.

Porto Alegre, The City with Multiculturalism.
In the 19th century, Porto Alegre had a large influx of immigrants; the majority of which came from Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Africa and Lebanon. The immigrants that settled helped the city flourish as a melting pot of cultures. As a result, Porto Alegre has grown to become a diverse cosmopolitan city with over 1.5 million inhabitants known as Porto-Alegrenses. The city’s gastronomy and architecture is a mixture of Brazilian traditions infused with influences from different countries.
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