6 Reasons You Should Visit Paros This Summer

Paros, one of the many Greek Islands, is often neglected outside of Greece and the average tourism agency does not push it as hard as other destinations, though it is certainly worth a look. Even if it’s less well-known, this beautiful island and the luxurious villas are worth visiting, either on their own or as More »

California Coast RV Road Trip

Most known for Hollywood celebrity sightings, California is also home to some of the most famous beaches and coastlines of the world. This is perfectly complemented by the seamless weather and temperature that lures in new residents and tourists every year. So if you are looking forward to enjoying the summer heat, regardless of the More »

Going to Orlando and its Parks

It’s time to make a journey and the destination this time is called Orlando, a space full of fun that attracts millions of people during the whole year due to it’s famous parks, places like Disney World, Universal Studio or the Cabo Discovery will keep you busy all day long. Start by looking for a More »

Tag Archives: seasonal travel

11 coolest winter places in America

The Upper Geyser Basin at sunset in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., where most wintertime visitors choose to tour by snowcoach or snowmobile.

Snowstorms used to mean long days spent making snow angels and having snowball fights followed by big mugs of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows. Alas, we’re not kids anymore. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get outside and play. There are lots of grownup winter activities, like, say, leading a pack of sled dogs across the Maine wilderness or snowshoeing over pathways carved back in the Ice Age (when it was considerably chillier). One thing that hasn’t changed? That cup of hot cocoa still hits the spot.

Slideshow: The most thrilling wintertime activities 

Compete in your own Winter Games
Lake Placid, N.Y.

Ever watch bobsledders zooming down the track during the Olympics and think, “I could do that”? Well, in Lake Placid, you can. The town has hosted the Winter Games twice (in 1932 and 1980), and now caters to visitors seeking glory. Any reasonably fit person can take a bobsled run (with both a professional driver and a brakeman keeping things safe) at the Olympic Sports Complex. At the nearby Olympic Center, you can pretend you are Apolo Anton Ohno and speed skate around the oval. The center has activities for people of all ages, including a torch run, a snowboarding race and hockey slapshot contests. (518/946-2223, whiteface.com, prices for activities vary.)

Get the best view of the Northern Lights
Fairbanks, Alaska

Thanks to its proximity to the North Pole, and the lack of urban light pollution, this isolated area is one of the best places to take in the aurora borealis. The coloful ribbons of light are caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere, and the crystalline skies here, about 360 miles north of Anchorage, come alive (the local university offers forecasts for viewing). If you’re looking for some guidance, book a snow-coach tour. The trips depart at 10 p.m. from Chena Hot Springs Resort, about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The staff sets up a heated yurt where you can warm up after viewing the lights while sipping hot beverages. (907/451-8104, chenahotsprings.com/winter-activities, $75 per person.)

Relax with a glass of ice wine
Traverse City, Mich.

There aren’t many places in the U.S. with the appropriate conditions to make ice wine (most of it is produced in Germany and Canada). This town, a four-hour dive from Detroit, is graced with panoramic views of Lake Michigan, and the cold air coming off the lakes is perfect for chilling grapes. The wine makers at Chateau Grand Traverse use Riesling grapes that have been left on the vine after the harvest to freeze in the chilly northern Michigan air. The winery offers free tours and tastings of its other wines, and you can also sample wine made from cherries, the area’s other bounty. (12239 Center Rd., 800/283-0247, cgtwines.com.)

Ski down untouched trails
Park City, Utah

Park City has three resorts and some of the country’s best skiing, but the best way to get off the runs and really experience the countryside is on a Sno-Cat. Small groups of skiers pile into trucks with tracked wheels that can handle the area’s diverse terrain and travel to parts of the mountain with “virgin” runs untouched by other skiers. Park City Powder Cats will take you to Thousand Peaks Ranch in the Uinta Mountains for up to 12 runs through quiet bowls and glades. (435/649-6596, pccats.com, from $449 for a day trip.)

Take a sleigh ride in the wilderness
Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Jackson Hole may be a premier ski destination, but a much less publicized highlight of a visit to the town is a sleigh ride at the nearby 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge. From mid-December to early April, visitors can enjoy a horse-drawn ride through the park to see thousands of elk. Guides with Bar T5 will also point out the park’s other wildlife, such as eagles and trumpeter swans. (Free shuttle buses depart from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, 800/772-5386, bart5.com, $18 for adults, $14 for children 5-12.)

Zoom through America’s first national park on a snow coach

West Yellowstone, Mont.
Read more: http://www.budgettravel.com/feature/coolest-winter-places-in-america,8281/#ixzz1luz43m8L

Roads at the West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park are not plowed in winter. If you want access to this part of the park, populated by bison, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep, you’ll need to rent a snowmobile or book a snow-coach tour. Some vehicles come equipped with handlebar warmers and you can even rent cozy layers if you didn’t pack enough for the frigid air. The park’s abundant animal population doesn’t seem to mind the chill. (destinationyellowstone.com/play/snow-coach, from $105 for trips not including park fees.)

Snowshoe the Ice Age trail
Chetek, Wis.

Don’t be intimidated: Snowshoeing on Wisconsin’s nearly flat Ice Age National Scenic Trail is totally doable. The state’s National Scenic Trail encompasses about 620 miles of marked pathways that feature landscapes left behind when glacial ice carved the Earth more than 12,000 years ago. In winter, a section of this trail is open to snowshoers at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. Rent your snowshoes from the visitors’ center (free, but donations are encouraged) and loop the 6.5-mile trail, studded with frozen mini-lakes and countless 5-foot-tall boulders. (13394 County Hwy M, 888/936-7463, dnr.wi.gov.)

Take the reigns on a dog-sledding tour
Millinocket, Maine

This paper-mill town, a three-hour drive north of Portland, has charm to spare. Among its most popular winter sports is dog sledding, but this isn’t just a simple guided ride. Maine Dog Sledding Adventures at Nahmakanta Lake is actually a training program. Here, guests learn how to harness and drive a team of five to six Alaskan huskies. Mush! (207/731-8888, mainedogsledding.com, from $375 for half-day trips for up to four people.)

Cross-country ski by lantern light
Silver City, Mich.

The Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, affectionately known as the Porkies, offer 92 square miles of terrain for cross-country skiing. But you haven’t really experienced the beauty of this pristine wilderness until you’ve traveled the trails by lantern light. Every Saturday through February 2012, a mile path will be lit by kerosene lanterns, with a comfort station at the midway point for a warm-up. (906/885-5275, skitheporkies.com, $30 for ski rental.)

Sled around a high-country hamlet
Silverton, Colo.

Forget cars. In winter, residents of Silverton prefer to get around on kicksleds (essentially chairs placed on 6-foot-long steel runners). The townsfolk are so committed to winter fun that they refrain from plowing after the first bountiful snowfall so that the fresh powder will pack into a perma-crust for smoother sledding. Guests and non-guests can rent sleds (as well as skis, snowshoes, and other equipment) from the Wyman Hotel, and take advantage of the area’s average annual snowfall of 150 inches. (1371 Greene St., 970/387-5372, thewyman.com, doubles from $125, kicksled rental $10 for guests and non-guests.)

See freaky ice formations beneath the earth
Lava Beds National Monument, Calif.

Winter temperatures in this part of northern California average in the 40s during the day and the 20s at night. Not chilly enough? Go underground into some of the local caves, where the air hovers at the freezing point year-round. To safely journey into the caves at Lava Beds National Monument, rent a helmet and headlamp from the visitors’ center. Then go 100 feet beneath the Earth’s surface into the Crystal Ice Cave, where freaky ice formations include a 20-foot-high crystal curtain. (530/667-8113, nps.gov/labe, $10 per vehicle for a seven-day entrance.)

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Best spring break getaways

Laura Begley Bloom from Travel + Leisure magazine shows off five sunny, warm and affordable getaways for spring break, including a Hawaii, Las Vegas and the Caribbean.

If you’ve got kids, you know that “spring break” has nothing in common with college students partying at the beach or a couple’s spontaneous escape to a resort. Organizing the needs and wants of various age groups is no vacation.

Slideshow: More spring break getaways

So let us at Travel + Leisure point you toward our favorite family-friendly vacations, with a trip and budget that’s right for you. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 30 percent of travelers have children in tow, and with such a large share of the market, you can bet hotels and cities across the country are rolling out the red carpet for all ages.

If your kids have webbed feet, the new Aulani, a Disney Resort Spa, will have them squealing with delight. But the hotel is also a parent’s dream. It’s the first Disney property in Hawaii — on a serene crescent of sand along Oahu’s western shore — and the first property not connected to a theme park (i.e., no long lines).

T+L photographer Jessica Sample was won over by Aulani’s waterslides, which tunnel through lava rock. “Look for hidden animal drawings carved into the stone,” she suggests. You can also go paddleboarding or snorkeling in the shallow waters off the beach, which teem with tame stingrays and angelfish.

Artsy families will find inspiration at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Every April, the staff offers a weekend-long Crafting Community for all ages. It’s not Crayola and Play-Doh, either: kids can do everything from make their own henna tattoos to watch movies alfresco (popcorn and glow sticks provided). As mom Meredith Alexander says, “It’s as if someone came into my head and created the perfect weekend for my family.” Not a bad review!

But maybe the truest break comes with heading into the wild and letting kids release all that energy in the great outdoors, exposing them to wildlife and America’s natural beauty. One of our favorite outfitter trips is an awe-inspiring introduction to Utah’s national parks that includes riding horses through Zion and learning canyoneering in the slots of Escalante.

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Budget-friendly Carnivals beyond Rio

Christophe Simon / AFP – Getty Images

From Rio de Janeiro to Venice, revelers take to the streets in colorful costumes.

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Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival. Call it what you will, the festivities leading up to Ash Wednesday are one of the world’s truly global parties.

For Americans who have experienced and fallen in love with the cathartic hedonism of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is only logical to want to experience the excitement elsewhere. And the obvious next step is the granddaddy of all Carnivals, the biggest party in the world: Rio de Janeiro.

However, with the recent strength of the Brazilian currency, Rio’s skyrocketing cost of living and general inflation in the lead up to 2014’s FIFA World Cup (the final game will be in Rio) and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, celebrating in “The Marvelous City” has become a very expensive option.

Fear not. Here are three budget-friendly (or, at least, budget-friendlier) options for those who want to enjoy an international Fat Tuesday, but don’t want to starve to do it.

Related: New Orleans revs up for Mardi Gras

Veracruz, Mexico
You need not travel to another hemisphere for an international Carnival. Slightly more than an hour-and-a-half flight from Houston is Mexico’s port city of Veracruz, home to one of the country’s largest Carnival celebrations. Revelers fill stadium seats to watch dozens of salsa dance groups compete and then show off their own moves in the town square at night. “Carnival here is not just about music and parties, but also about the food,” said Mauricio Reyes, head waiter at Veracruz’s well-known Mariscos Villa Rica Mocambo seafood restaurant. “During Carnival, people love to eat ceviche, pompano a la sal (salt-baked pompano fish) and shrimp with chile and lime.”

Patras, Greece
Greece’s in-country tourism prices have been down since its economic crises started. For a different spin on Carnival, check out the lively celebration in Patras, which has roots back into the 19th century. This family-friendly Carnival is a mix of different mini-Carnivals that include parades, treasure hunts, a kid’s carnival and masquerade balls. As the country is Greek Orthodox and not Catholic, the dates are a little different. It begins on Jan. 17 and continues until Clean Monday (the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent).  

Recife, Brazil
While Rio is Brazil’s most famous pre-Lenten party, it is certainly not the only one in the country. The city of Recife in northeastern Brazil hosts a wild street party that is crowned by the Saturday morning Galo da Madrugada (Rooster of Dawn) which is arguably the largest single Carnival parade in Brazil.

Recife-born banker Diogo Bezerra says, “While Recife has also become expensive compared to the past, it is not yet as expensive as a more developed city like Rio. Now’s the time to come for Carnival as we are one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and prices are catching up.”

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Texas warns against spring break trips to Mexico

The state of Texas on Tuesday warned residents for the third consecutive year not to travel to Mexico during the upcoming university spring break season, saying drug cartel violence and other criminal activity are a safety threat even in resort areas.

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The announcement is a major blow for Mexico’s economy. Tourism is Mexico’s second-largest industry. About 60 percent of Mexico’s visitors are American, and about one third of them are either Texans or travelers who pass through Texas.

The advisory comes despite pleas from top Mexican officials to limit the travel warnings to specific areas where the threat of violence is greatest.

Mexican officials said that popular tourist areas such as Cancun and Cabo San Lucas are safe for American travelers.

Drug violence has claimed an estimated 40,000 lives in Mexico since 2006.

“The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and we commend their continued commitment to making Mexico a safer place to live and visit,” Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said. “However, drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas.”

The number of Americans murdered in Mexico jumped to 120 last year from 35 in 2007, McCraw said.

“Many crimes against Americans in Mexico go unpunished,” he said.

Experts stress importance of safety for spring breakers

Some crime in Mexico is directly related to cartel violence, and some is not, but rape is a serious problem in resort areas, said Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas department.

“Some bars and nightclubs in resort cities like Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana can be havens for drug dealers and petty criminals,” Vinger said.

Mexican officials said they are deeply concerned about Texas’ advisory.

“This warning is exceptionally aggressive,” said Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board. “To paint Mexico with such a massively broad brush stroke is simply outrageous.”

Lopez Negrete met with several Texas state officials and told them that the drug cartel violence is largely confined to isolated areas along the Rio Grande in northern Mexico, including the city of Juarez across from El Paso.

He urged the state to stress that the violence is not widespread, and that of the 22.7 million tourists who visited Mexico last year, almost none were in the vicinity of any type of violence.

“Those pockets where this violence is taking place are very well identified,” Lopez Negrete said during his visit to Texas last week. “This is totally unrelated to tourism. This is not about attacking tourists.”

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

How to identify any blossom

Karen Bleier / AFP – Getty Images

This year marks 100 years since the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki to Washington, D.C.

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It doesn’t get much more beautiful than blossom season, and while cherry trees tend to get all the love this time of year, there are plenty of other arboreal displays to admire. The problem — for those of us who aren’t particularly savvy about these things — is figuring out exactly what kind of tree you’re appreciating at any given time.

Turns out, an app we featured last fall in our roundup of leaf–peeping–season gear is just as useful for shedding a light on spring’s spellbinding displays as it is for illuminating fall’s most colorful foliage.

The Leafsnap app, which works with iPhones and iPads (and is free), is a continually–updated electronic field guide that puts 2,500 high–res photos of native American trees’ leaves, bark, fruit and flowers in the palm of your hand. Flip through the images in the database for fun, or snap a photo with your device and upload it to the app to find the match.

And if you just feel like doing some armchair blossom–spotting, check out the Field Guide to Flowering Trees of the World Flickr group; it’s got more than 11,000 photos of some 1,300 different species of tree, all labeled with their scientific names.

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