Category Archives: Things to Do

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The Most Majestic Architecture In Europe

Traveling through Europe is a great way to experience not only some of the world’s best food, art, and culture, but also some of its best architecture. Architecture in Europe seamlessly blends the ancient with the modern to create a landscape that honors history, while also being innovative and forward-thinking. Though nearly every European city offers up an array of beautiful museums and storied cathedrals, there are a few with magnificent architecture that set them above the rest.

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Valencia, Spain

Popular for its sunny beaches along Spain’s Orange Blossom Coast, Valencia is also well known for its breathtaking architecture. The buildings in the historic Barrio del Carmen are from ancient Roman times, while the soaring Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados is a Gothic behemoth that towers over the neighborhood’s winding cobble-stoned streets. Famed architect Santiago Calatrava designed the modern architectural jewel of Valencia: the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences. A performing arts venue located at the at the end of the river Turia, the crystalline dome appears lifted straight from the riverbed, and makes for quite the spectacle as it sits glowing on the water at night.  

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Bilbao, Spain

North of Valencia in the Spanish Basque Country lies Bilbao, a small city that’s garnered a large reputation for its impressive architectural wonders. Chief amongst these wonders is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, one of the most admired creations of contemporary architecture. Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum was built in 1997 along the Nervion River and has since drawn massive crowds of people to gaze upon its warped metallic frame. Many experts have deemed it one of the most important architectural works of the twentieth century, as aside from its impressive construction, the museum is also well-known for its extensive contemporary art collection.

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Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is best known for its many 19th century Roman architectural monuments, which have garnered this colorful town the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just a quick day trip from Lisbon, tourists flock to this small wonder of a city to check out the prehistoric monuments like the Castle of the Moors and the National Palace of Pena. Several royal residences can also be found in the city, many of them dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Strasbourg, France

Another of Europe’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites is Strasbourg’s historic city centre, Grande Île. Grande Île was the first entire city centre to be placed on the World Heritage list, and for good reason, as many of its streets appear pulled straight out of the Middle Ages. The medieval landscape of ancient Strasbourg is captivating in and of itself, but its crown jewel is the Cathedral of Our Lady. Construction of the cathedral began in 1015 and wasn’t completed until the late 1400s, making it the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time.

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Cambridge, England

Around the same time as many of the buildings in Strasbourg were being built, The University of Cambridge was holding its first classes. Founded in 1209, Cambridge is one of the oldest and longest-surviving universities in the world, and today its name is synonymous with academia, prestige, and history. Its sweeping campus combines richly green lawns with stately, iconic halls, like King’s College Chapel and the Cripps Building at St. John’s College. The most notable feature of Cambridge’s architecture is the patterned brickwork found on many of its buildings, which experts believe to be some of the earliest examples of this style in the world.

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How to Keep a Great Travel Journal

In an age when much of human communication takes place in 140 characters or less, somehow the travel journal still persists. There are many wonderful reasons to catalogue a trip, from recording facts to sharing the experience with others, chronicling advice or travel tips from locals, quashing boredom in the airport or during solo meals, processing the wide array of emotions that can crop up during travel, and feeling a little less alone.

Ultimately, the best reason for keeping a journal lies with the traveler who writes it. Just keep these few tips in mind and you’ll have a travel treasure for years to come. 

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Consider the audience

Will other people read the journal, or is it for your eyes only? If the journal will be shared, will it be read by close friends and family or on a public blog? The answers may influence the style, tone, and content you choose to adopt. If the journal will be public, readers may be less interested to know what time you brushed your teeth each night. If it’s private, consider the details you’ll most want to remember when revisiting the journal decades from now.

Choose a medium

There is no wrong or right way to record a journey. Pick the medium that works best for you, whether that’s a pen and some notebook paper, a fancy leather-bound or homemade journal, or the “notes” feature on a smartphone. What matters is that you’re excited to write things down.

Include the basics

So much happens during vacation that it can be tough to know what or how much to include. A good place to start is recording the trip itinerary and/or plotting the route on a map tucked into the journal. Also chronicle names and descriptions of people you encounter along the way (be sure to jot down their contact info if you want to stay in touch!).

Personal observations and tips also make great fodder for journals. If you develop a knack for traveling with pets or camping in bad weather, record those lessons so you can share them with fellow travelers. Then focus on highlighting your favorite parts of the trip, whether that’s sunrise in London or perusing art in Athens. And always remember to date each entry.

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Make it come alive

A journal doesn’t have to consist of a step-by-step, chronological recap of each day’s events. The pressure to record everything can get overwhelming (and boring) real fast. Instead, create a vivid diary of experiences by highlighting exceptional moments (say, standing in the center of the world or surfing in La Jolla), writing down funny dialogue, describing the experience from the perspective of all the senses (tastes, sounds, smells, textures), journaling about your emotions during the trip, and incorporating multimedia like drawings, receipts, theater or train tickets, postcards, brochures, interesting leaves, or the business cards of new acquaintances. These mementos will help bring memories alive when you revisit the journal down the road.

Keep up

Try to write things down on the day that they happen (or the next day at the very latest). Otherwise, it’s easy to forget things as you’re inundated with new experiences. Even if it’s not possible to write out a narrative entry every day, consider jotting down a few notes each night in order to keep track of events.

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Tag team it

Invite travel companions to take turns keeping the journal and recording their own thoughts, reflections, and mementos. This can both infuse the journal with fresh perspectives and take some pressure off if it’s feeling daunting to write every day.

Look for themes         

Near the end of a trip, consider pouring back through the journal and noting any themes that arose. Did you learn a big lesson or change in some way? Did the trip meet or defy your expectations? These reflections can spark concluding entries as well as personal insights.  

Above all, remember to keep it low pressure. The fastest way to kill journaling motivation is treating it like homework. Instead, write when you want to, write however much (or little) you want, and don’t worry about spelling, grammar, and the like. Do it your way, and it’ll be much easier (and more fun) to chronicle your adventures.  

 

6 Football Stadiums That Beat Watching The Game From The Couch

Fans across the U.S. are rejoicing as football season finally gets underway (or, more accurately, they’re yelling at their TV screens and drinking a lot of beer). While many fans opt for the comfort of couch viewership, they don’t know what they’re missing live and in person. NFL stadiums around the country are vacation destinations in their own right, and each boasts a distinct vibe and set of amenities for a total experience that’s well worth the trip. Here are six stadiums to check out this season.

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1. AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) – Arlington, TX

“Everything’s bigger in Texas,” indeed. The NFL’s largest venue can pack in more than 100,000 fans underneath its retractable roof. It boasts an HD Jumbotron that spans the entire distance between the 20-yard lines, luxury boxes level with the field, and unobstructed sightlines thanks to the stadium’s impressive construction, which avoided the use of pillars. And don’t miss the nearby Cowboys Hall of Fame.

Where to Stay

There are a number of hotels near the stadium that are cheap and decent at the same time. Check out the Rosewood Crescent if you’re feeling fancy, the MCM Elegante Hotel & Suites if you’re looking for affordable comfort, or the Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Central Expressway if you’re in the mood for a clean stay without any frills.

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2. Lambeau Field – Green Bay, WI

One of the most legendary (and loudest) stadiums in all of NFL history, Lambeau Field (named after the Green Bay Packers’ founder, E.L. Lambeau) has been making a name for itself since its opening in 1957. While it’s undergone several massive renovations in the years since—including expansions to the concourses, seating capacity, locker rooms, and luxury suites—the stadium is still beloved for its old-school feel. To visit Lambeau is to revisit football moments of yore, from 1967’s “Ice Bowl” to the legendary coaching of Vince Lombardi.

Where to Stay

The area outside of Lambeau Field includes a variety of hotels as well as bars and restaurants. The family-friendly Tundra Lodge includes access to a waterpark while the Motel 6 Green Bay offers rock-bottom prices.

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3. Lucas Oil Stadium Indianapolis, IN

Those looking to enjoy the game from the lap of luxury should book a flight to Indianapolis, stat. Lucas Oil Stadium—home of the Colts—boasts state-of-the-art amenities at every turn, from the retractable roof (which is temporarily being kept shut) to the club lounges, field-level suites, spacious concourses, climate-controlled walkways, cushioned seats, accessible vendors, and a window wall that showcases downtown Indianapolis.

Where to Stay

Comfortable and affordable lodging abounds near the stadium. You can’t go wrong with the well-rated Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, the Westin Indianapolis, or the Embassy Suites Indianapolis Downtown.

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4. Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

High-tech is the name of the game in Santa Clara, where the NFL’s newest stadium (home of the 49ers) is pioneering advances in technology. The $1.2 billion stadium includes a bridge made from solar panels, LED video boards, Wi-Fi that works throughout the whole stadium, an interactive museum, and a stadium-specific app that tells users where to find parking, provides real-time stats from other games, and lets fans order food directly to their seats. It’s also the first professional football stadium to earn LEED Gold certification in recognition of its energy-saving initiatives.  

Where to Stay

Don’t confine yourself to the stadium—get out and explore all that nearby San Francisco has to offer. Stay in the middle of the action at the luxurious Fairmont San Francisco, historic and budget-friendly The Mosser, or the exclusive Park Central Hotel San Francisco.  

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5. Soldier Field – Chicago, IL

The NFL’s oldest venue, Soldier Field was first constructed in 1924 and then extensively renovated in 2003. Its historic nature—this is the field where the “Monsters of the Midway” claimed four titles in seven years—makes it a must-see for any football devotee. Its views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan aren’t bad, either.

Where to Stay

Chicago may be a pricey city, but it is possible to find affordable accommodations near Soldier Field. Check out the spacious River Hotel, the budget-friendly Inn of Chicago, or the swanky Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.   

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6. Sports Authority Field – Denver, CO

Opened in 2001, the newest home of the Broncos is almost twice as large as the team’s original stadium. Head to Sports Authority for the gorgeous views—not just of the Ring of Fame, which honors legendary Denver players and is visible from every seat, but also the Rocky Mountains (visible even from within the stadium) and the public works of art that line the pedestrian walkways.

Where to Stay

Peak travel season for Denver runs through October, so book hotels for November or later in order to get the best deals. Scope out good prices and great amenities at the Double Tree by Hilton Denver-Aurora, the Red Lion Hotel Denver Southeast, or the Hyatt Place Denver Airport.

Prices for flights and hotels will rise as the season kicks into high gear, so book early for the best deals. Whether in Indianapolis or San Francisco, enjoy the game!

 

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The Four Best Day Trips For Fall Visitors To Seattle

For visitors to the Pacific Northwest this fall, there is no shortage of activities in Seattle, the region’s largest and fastest-growing city. Baseball fans can check out a Mariners game, foodies can stroll around Pike Place Market for hours, and brave souls unafraid of heights can take in the unparalleled view from the Space Needle. But travelers who find themselves with free time, and with access to a car, may want to consider the following four day trips, which highlight the lush beauty unique to the Emerald City and the surrounding area, particularly in the Autumn season.

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The San Juan Islands:

About a three-and-a-half-hour drive north, the San Juan Islands are a must-see destination for out-of-towners. The San Juan Islands are composed of 172 individual islands, but four (San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island) are served by ferries and feature activities for visitors. For wine aficionados, visiting San Juan Vineyards, located on the main San Juan Island, is well worth the drive –  their well-regarded wines have won many awards. Those with fond memories of the film Free Willy should also be sure to go whale watching while exploring the islands, with the best time for viewing occurring from late May to October. All four islands have hotels and inns for those wishing to stay overnight, with the Earthbox Inn and Spa offering the perfect ambiance to relax.

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North Cascades National Park:

Northwest of Seattle is the North Cascades National Park, which is about a four hour drive from the city. Many come here to camp, and the jagged peaks, engulfed by hundreds of glaciers nestled among cascading waters, ensure an unforgettable experience. No other U.S. park outside of Alaska contains as many glaciers, in addition to diverse wildlife: bald eagles, moose, bears, grey wolves, and more than 200 species of birds. If you’d prefer a day trip in the park as opposed to camping, try staying at the budget-friendly Red Roof Inn near the Seattle-Tacoma Airport (Sea-Tac).

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Olympic Peninsula:

Three hours west of Seattle is the Olympic Peninsula, home to temperate rainforests and the Olympic Mountains. There is no shortage of activities with fishing, sailing, boating, and hiking being among the most popular. The Peninsula is also famous for its lush scenery featured in Hollywood blockbusters like the Twilight series. Those wishing to stay in and around the peninsula have a plethora of options, while nearby Olympia offers budget-friendly hotels like Red Lion Hotel or the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites.

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Mt. Rainier National Park:

For aspiring mountain climbers, the three hour drive south to Mt. Rainier National Park is a must. Mt. Rainier is an iconic part of Washington state’s landscape, standing at 14,000 feet above sea level. An active volcano, Mt. Rainier has the largest glaciers in the U.S. outside of Alaska. Most climbers require two to three days to reach the summit, with experience in glacier travel and self-rescue required. About half of the 8,000-13,000 climb attempts per year are successful, so only the brave at heart should undertake the climb. Less experienced mountain climbers shouldn’t feel left out though, as the entire park is open for hiking, backcountry skiing, camping. Photographers should definitely pay a visit – you won’t see anything else like it in the U.S. Try staying in nearby Tacoma, at either the Hotel Murano or the Silver Cloud Inn, for affordable, modern luxury.

 

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Inside Banksy’s Dismaland

Dismaland, the warped “bemusement park” in the U.K. created by world-renowned street artist Banksy, will soon come to an end on September 27. Pre-sale tickets sell out almost as quickly as they they’re released and non-ticketed fans have reported waiting for hours to enter, with many not getting in. But don’t fret. Hipmunk has the insider tips to increase the likelihood of feasting on today’s established and up and coming artists handpicked by the mystery man himself.

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What is it and why bother?

Dismaland is “modeled on those failed Christmas parks that pop up every December,” according to Banksy. On the surface it feels like a dreary parody of Disneyland mixed with freak show panache including grimy Disney characters. It’s an interactive experience that mocks the generic experience of theme parks, complete with shoddy rides, mediocre games, sub-par prizes and miserable staff. Although Dismaland includes street art, it’s not a Banksy’s show. The spectacle boasts 61 artists from 17 countries, including controversial artist Damien Hirst.

Where is it and how to get there?

Dismaland is set on the dilapidated, now defunct, water park in the U.K.’s seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare, in the county of Somerset in South West England. It’s about a three-hour bus ride from London, depending on traffic. The most affordable way to get there from London is on local bus company Berry’s Coaches, although times are limited. A round trip ticket is about £25 from London’s Hammersmith station to a drop off point in Weston-Super-Mare, only an 11-minute walk from Dismaland. National Express Coaches from London’s Victoria Station offer more frequent services for about £50 depending on when and how far in advance tickets are booked.  A National Rail train is the most expensive option, with tickets as high as £100 or more, but is also the most flexible with times and dates.

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How much is it and how to get tickets?

Entrance to Dismaland is only £3 at the door or £5 for online pre-sale tickets, service fee included. There are four time slots to choose from: 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. on most nights. Make sure to check the online calendar. Tickets are only released through the official Dismaland website about a week in advance, so beware of scalpers.

I didn’t get an online ticket. Now what?

Don’t be discouraged as most people will have to wait in line, but be in it for the long-haul. Minimum wait time is probably about four hours, but with the hype building and the show ending soon, most likely way more. The park stops selling tickets at the door at 1 p.m. and then starts selling tickets again at 3 p.m. Stay in line when ticket sales stop at 1 p.m. as many people get discouraged and leave, which means the line moves forward. Plan to go during the week instead of a weekend when lines are expected to be shorter—although “shorter” is relative.

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Take your shoes off, spend the night.

It’s probably best to have an overnight excursion and go to Weston-Super-Mare the day before you’re planning on going to Dismaland to be one of the first to join the line, or queue as the Brits say. Weston-Super-Mare is a lovely seaside town with former terraced houses turned quaint bedsits near the shore. Stay at the Beverly Guest House or the Oakover Guest House, both only minutes from the train station and Dismaland. Visit the town’s Helicopter Museum, stroll along the Grand Pier or explore the SeaQuarium. The Paddle Steamer Waverly and the MV Balmoral offer day trips Knightstone Island north of the town.  Somerset is also well-known for cider. Visit the Thatchers Cider farm a few towns away in Sanford.

Other things to consider

The wait will be long so take some snacks and drinks or pack a lunch. There is a fish and chip shop about a 15 minute walk away from Dismaland. There are portable toilets available on site stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Once inside the park, there are food stands featuring pizza and falafel wraps, coffee and beer. Make friends with the people in line. Not only will it make the wait go faster, but they can hold places in line. Note that once inside, much like other theme parks there will be more queues to see and ride the other attractions. But once inside, visitors are allowed to stay until the park closes at 6 p.m. or longer for ticket holders with evening ticket slots. Also, don’t be insulted by the rude park workers in Mickey Mouse ears and pink vests. It’s all part of the Dismal experience.

All photos courtesy of JoAnn DeLuna

 

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Celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month With This Three-Day Kentucky Bourbon Tour

In 2007, Congress declared September to be America’s National Bourbon Heritage Month—so it’s time to get sipping.

The most popular type of whiskey in the U.S., bourbon is made from a grain mixture (aka “mash”) that’s at least 51 percent corn. Federal law also mandates that bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof or stronger, and nothing other than distilled water can be added to the bottles.

There’s no better place to celebrate this American spirit than in its birthplace: Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. Fly into Lexington and prepare to drink up on this multi-day tour.

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Day One: Buffalo Trace Distillery – Frankfort, KY

Where else to start exploring the history of bourbon than at America’s oldest continuously operating distillery? For over 200 years, Buffalo Trace has been distilling bourbons—the distillery even remained open during Prohibition in order to make bourbon for “medicinal purposes.” In the past decade alone, the family-owned bourbon producer has earned more awards than any other distillery in the world.

Take part in Buffalo Trace’s award-winning history by embarking on the Trace Tour, a free, hour-long tour that walks visitors through every stage of the bourbon-making process, from aging barrels to packaging (and, of course, tasting the finished product). You’ll also be able to taste the exclusive Pappy Van Winkle or George T. Stagg (both are bottled at Buffalo Trace)—but for a price.

Where to Stay

Nearby Lexington, KY is the state’s second-largest city and is considered the Horse Capital of the World. The city is also home to a wide range of budget-friendly hotels; check out the Hyatt Place Lexington for easy access to restaurants and downtown attractions, or the University Inn Hotel, which offers quiet lodgings and a continental breakfast.

Day 2: Woodford Reserve to Wild Turkey

After waking up in Lexington, prepare to visit two distilleries over the course of the day (don’t worry; they’re not far from each other).

Woodford Reserve Distillery – Versailles, KY

Start off at one of the country’s smallest and oldest distilleries. To this day, Woodford Reserve is crafted in small batches in order to enhance the flavor of each of the bourbon’s ingredients and developmental stages—grains, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The distillery builds and chars its own barrels and boasts one of the longest fermentation processes in the country, all of which contributes to the bourbon’s complex flavor profile.

The daily tour ($10 per person) at Woodford Reserve explores the history of bourbon and details the distillery’s unique approach to the bourbon-making process. Or take an even more in-depth approach on the Cork to Corn Tour ($30 per person), a two-hour session that covers the mechanical, chemical, and technical processes that contribute to making great bourbon.

Wild Turkey – Lawrenceburg, KY

Located just 16 miles down the road from Woodford Reserve is the distillery for Wild Turkey, one of the country’s most popular bourbons. The original distillery was founded in 1869 and then modernized in 1933 once Prohibition had ended. It sits atop a limestone shelf on the Kentucky River, which provides water for the distillery. In order to keep up with high demand, in 2010 the brand created a new, larger distillery nearby. Just how big is demand? The new warehouse can hold 20,000 barrels.

The free tour allows visitors to watch mash being made, peruse the original fermentation room, and witness the bourbon-making process from filling the barrels to bottling the aged bourbon.

Where to Stay

Head back to the hotel in Lexington for the evening and rest up—you’ll be traveling partway across the state the next day.

Day 3: Jim Beam to Bulleit

Wake up for the approximately 1.5-hour drive from Lexington to Clermont—perhaps better known as the home of Jim Beam. You’ll be visiting two distilleries again today, so be sure to pace yourself. On the way to Clermont, stop for lunch in Bardstown, the official Bourbon Capital of the World. Shop for souvenirs (and, of course, bourbon) at the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace before driving on to Jim Beam.

Jim Beam – Clermont, KY

Another of America’s most popular bourbons, Jim Beam was founded in 1795 and has been family owned and operated for seven generations. The distillery is known for aging its bourbon twice as long as the standard aging process and has used the same strain of yeast for more than 75 years.

The Jim Beam American Stillhouse tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) allows visitors to actively participate in the bourbon production process, from mixing grains to bottling your very own product from Jim Beam.

Bulleit – Louisville, KY

Twenty-nine miles away from Jim Beam sits the Bulleit Distilling Company. Despite being the baby of the bunch (the distillery was founded in 1987), Bulleit Bourbon has already made quite a name for itself. The company’s founder, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr., quit his job as a successful lawyer and pursued his lifelong dream of reviving his great-great-grandfather’s bourbon recipe, which was produced between 1830 and 1860. The distillery maintains the family tradition by creating a spicy-yet-smooth flavor that’s earned accolades across the country.

The Stitzel-Weller Distillery tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) takes place in a beautiful old building that first opened on Derby Day in 1935 and was reopened to the public in 2014. Learn about Bulleit’s distinctive family recipe while strolling through the distillery, then finish things off with (you guessed it) a tasting.

Where to Stay

Head to Louisville, which is just a few miles away from Bulleit’s distillery. The city is packed with fun things to do; not least among those activities is the Urban Bourbon Trail, a bar-hopping adventure among the self-dubbed “world’s best bourbon bars,” each of which serves at least 50 different bourbon varieties.

Turn in for the night at the luxurious and stylish 21c Museum Hotel, which also includes an on-site modern art museum. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option after sipping on bourbon all evening, check out the Econo Lodge Downtown.

Three days, five distilleries, and a whole lotta bourbon—after touring some of America’s best bourbon distilleries, you may just want to go ahead and declare October (and November, and December…) your own personal bourbon appreciation month.

In 2007, Congress declared September to be America’s National Bourbon Heritage Month—so it’s time to get sipping.

The most popular type of whiskey in the U.S., bourbon is made from a grain mixture (aka “mash”) that’s at least 51 percent corn. Federal law also mandates that bourbon must be aged in new, charred oak barrels and bottled at 80 proof or stronger, and nothing other than distilled water can be added to the bottles.

There’s no better place to celebrate this American spirit than in its birthplace: Kentucky’s Bourbon Country. Fly into Lexington and prepare to drink up on this multi-day tour.

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Day One: Buffalo Trace Distillery – Frankfort, KY

Where else to start exploring the history of bourbon than at America’s oldest continuously operating distillery? For over 200 years, Buffalo Trace has been distilling bourbons—the distillery even remained open during Prohibition in order to make bourbon for “medicinal purposes.” In the past decade alone, the family-owned bourbon producer has earned more awards than any other distillery in the world.

Take part in Buffalo Trace’s award-winning history by embarking on the Trace Tour, a free, hour-long tour that walks visitors through every stage of the bourbon-making process, from aging barrels to packaging (and, of course, tasting the finished product). You’ll also be able to taste the exclusive Pappy Van Winkle or George T. Stagg (both are bottled at Buffalo Trace)—but for a price.

Where to Stay

Nearby Lexington, KY is the state’s second-largest city and is considered the Horse Capital of the World. The city is also home to a wide range of budget-friendly hotels; check out the Hyatt Place Lexington for easy access to restaurants and downtown attractions, or the University Inn Hotel, which offers quiet lodgings and a continental breakfast.

Day 2: Woodford Reserve to Wild Turkey

After waking up in Lexington, prepare to visit two distilleries over the course of the day (don’t worry; they’re not far from each other).

Woodford Reserve Distillery – Versailles, KY

Start off at one of the country’s smallest and oldest distilleries. To this day, Woodford Reserve is crafted in small batches in order to enhance the flavor of each of the bourbon’s ingredients and developmental stages—grains, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The distillery builds and chars its own barrels and boasts one of the longest fermentation processes in the country, all of which contributes to the bourbon’s complex flavor profile.

The daily tour ($10 per person) at Woodford Reserve explores the history of bourbon and details the distillery’s unique approach to the bourbon-making process. Or take an even more in-depth approach on the Cork to Corn Tour ($30 per person), a two-hour session that covers the mechanical, chemical, and technical processes that contribute to making great bourbon.

Wild Turkey – Lawrenceburg, KY

Located just 16 miles down the road from Woodford Reserve is the distillery for Wild Turkey, one of the country’s most popular bourbons. The original distillery was founded in 1869 and then modernized in 1933 once Prohibition had ended. It sits atop a limestone shelf on the Kentucky River, which provides water for the distillery. In order to keep up with high demand, in 2010 the brand created a new, larger distillery nearby. Just how big is demand? The new warehouse can hold 20,000 barrels.

The free tour allows visitors to watch mash being made, peruse the original fermentation room, and witness the bourbon-making process from filling the barrels to bottling the aged bourbon.

Where to Stay

Head back to the hotel in Lexington for the evening and rest up—you’ll be traveling partway across the state the next day.

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Day 3: Jim Beam to Bulleit

Wake up for the approximately 1.5-hour drive from Lexington to Clermont—perhaps better known as the home of Jim Beam. You’ll be visiting two distilleries again today, so be sure to pace yourself. On the way to Clermont, stop for lunch in Bardstown, the official Bourbon Capital of the World. Shop for souvenirs (and, of course, bourbon) at the Kentucky Bourbon Marketplace before driving on to Jim Beam.

Jim Beam – Clermont, KY

Another of America’s most popular bourbons, Jim Beam was founded in 1795 and has been family owned and operated for seven generations. The distillery is known for aging its bourbon twice as long as the standard aging process and has used the same strain of yeast for more than 75 years.

The Jim Beam American Stillhouse tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) allows visitors to actively participate in the bourbon production process, from mixing grains to bottling your very own product from Jim Beam.

Bulleit – Louisville, KY

Twenty-nine miles away from Jim Beam sits the Bulleit Distilling Company. Despite being the baby of the bunch (the distillery was founded in 1987), Bulleit Bourbon has already made quite a name for itself. The company’s founder, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr., quit his job as a successful lawyer and pursued his lifelong dream of reviving his great-great-grandfather’s bourbon recipe, which was produced between 1830 and 1860. The distillery maintains the family tradition by creating a spicy-yet-smooth flavor that’s earned accolades across the country.

The Stitzel-Weller Distillery tour ($10 for adults 21 and over, free for anyone under 21) takes place in a beautiful old building that first opened on Derby Day in 1935 and was reopened to the public in 2014. Learn about Bulleit’s distinctive family recipe while strolling through the distillery, then finish things off with (you guessed it) a tasting.

Where to Stay

Head to Louisville, which is just a few miles away from Bulleit’s distillery. The city is packed with fun things to do; not least among those activities is the Urban Bourbon Trail, a bar-hopping adventure among the self-dubbed “world’s best bourbon bars,” each of which serves at least 50 different bourbon varieties.

Turn in for the night at the luxurious and stylish21c Museum Hotel, which also includes an on-site modern art museum. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option after sipping on bourbon all evening, check out the Econo Lodge Downtown.

Three days, five distilleries, and a whole lotta bourbon—after touring some of America’s best bourbon distilleries, you may just want to go ahead and declare October (and November, and December…) your own personal bourbon appreciation month.

 

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Serena Williams’ Journey to the U.S. Open (And Where to See History in Action)

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As has become seemingly standard, star tennis player Serena Williams has had an impressive year. She’s been globe-trotting all over the place, racking up victories and enough trophies that she’ll probably need to check several bags in order to bring them all home.

Now, she’s poised to achieve the greatest accomplishment in tennis: a single-season or “career” Grand Slam, in which a player wins all four majors (the most important tennis events held each year) in the same calendar year. The last woman to accomplish this feat was Steffi Graf in 1988, while the last man to do so was Rod Laver in 1969. In Williams’ case, the deciding verdict will come from her performance at this year’s U.S. Open, now currently underway.

Here’s a look at where in the world Serena Williams has been playing tennis (and taking names) throughout 2015, plus tips for where to stay in order to get in on the action at the U.S. Open.

Serena’s Trips to the Majors and Beyond

Australia

Williams won her first major of the year in beautiful Melbourne, which served as host to her victory at this year’s Australian Open. She defeated veteran tennis star Maria Sharapova in the finals, earning her sixth Australian Open title in the process. She also posted the fastest women’s serve (126 mph) and served more aces (88) than any other woman competitor.

California

While it’s not a major tournament, Williams’ return to the Indian Wells Masters (aka BNP Paribas Open) was significant in its own right: Williams lifted a more-than-a-decade-long boycott of the tournament after a racist incident caused her and her sister, Venus Williams, to withdraw from the competition in 2001. Part of that history repeated itself this year when Williams withdrew from the semifinal because of a knee injury.

Miami

A week after Indian Wells, Williams handily cleaned up at the Miami Open. While not a masters, her win in Miami signaled a host of accomplishments: It marked her eighth Miami Open title and her 21st consecutive winning match, and ticked her number of career wins past 700 (yes, you read that right).

Spain

After winning in Miami, Williams hit the clay court circuit in Europe, first at the Fed Cup World Group Play-Off in Italy and then at the Madrid Open in Spain. Williams was, somewhat shockingly, handed her first loss of the season in the Madrid semifinals.

France

After losing in Madrid and withdrawing from the subsequent Italian Open because of an elbow injury, Williams found herself facing down her next shot at a major title in Paris, France. The city shed its romantic reputation and embraced hard-hitting athleticism for this year’s French Open, where Williams once again dominated on the (clay) court. She defeated Lucie Safarova to win her third French Open crown.  

England

Williams then flew to London, UK to compete at the prestigious Wimbledon Championships. She handily defeated first-time finalist Garbiñe Muguruza to earn her sixth Wimbledon crown.

Sweden

Following on the heels of her victory at Wimbledon, Williams traveled to Båstad, Sweden to compete in the Swedish Open. She swiftly defeated her first opponent, but withdrew from the rest of the tournament after her previous elbow injury flared up again.

New York City

Now back in her home country, Williams is vying for her seventh title at the U.S. Open, held just outside of Manhattan in Flushing, Queens. A win here will earn her both the coveted single-season Grand Slam and her 22nd victory at a major championship.

Seeing History in Action

Thinking about flying to New York City to witness amazing athleticism with your own eyes? We’ve got you covered. Here’s where to stay while enjoying the U.S. Open.

Getting from Manhattan to Flushing

So you’ve booked a hotel in Manhattan and are pumped to feast your eyes on the best athleticism that tennis has to offer. There’s only one obstacle left between you and glory, and that’s the trip from Manhattan to Queens. Here are your best bets for making it to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park:

  • Rent a car. Traffic on the Grand Central Parkway East will be nuts, but the trade-off is having somewhere to store your belongings while you’re inside the stadium. Visit USOpen.org for the latest travel advisories and follow directions closely as traffic patterns in the area have changed.
  • Call a cab. While the route will likely be the same regardless of whether you take a taxi or do the driving yourself, the benefit of a taxi ride is that you won’t need to worry about parking before, during, or after the event. Call a cab well in advance to help cut down on the wait.
  • Take the subway. The subway gets crowded during the U.S. Open, but it’s likely still the best way to get to Flushing (that’s probably why more than half of the tournament’s patrons utilize public transportation). Just take the No. 7 from Times Square, Fifth Avenue, or Grand Central Station. Visit mta.info for complete schedules.
  • Ride the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The LIRR provides service from Woodside (in Queens) and offers easy connections from Penn Station for those utilizing New Jersey Transit. Visit www.mta.info/lirr for schedules and rates.

No matter where you stay, you’re guaranteed to be dazzled at the U.S. Open. And if Williams wins? Being there will earn you bragging rights for life.

 

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The Best Scenic Runs for Tourists in New York City

Heading to the Big Apple? Sure, there are the must-see for any tourist, from The Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty to the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park.

But perhaps there are some even cooler things to see not only by foot, but by stride. Whether training for a marathon (marathon season is coming up, after all) or simply looking to get some exercise in after all those slices of New York pizza, check out these running routes around the city to see the sights in a completely new way.

Manhattan

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Hudson River Run

This route is great for runners looking to run one mile or 10. The Hudson River Greenway is a path that runs from Battery Park in Manhattan all the way up to the Bronx, and is paired pretty perfectly with a sunset. Along the route, runners will see (depending on mileage) the USS Intreprid, the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington Bridge, and great waterfront restaurants perfect for a post-run meal. The path is on the west side of Manhattan, so the best option is get off at any ACE or 123 train stop, and then walk west until the Hudson River is in sight! After the run, check out the Highline hotel, which is also on the west side of Manhattan, for a well-deserved drink in their garden.

Brooklyn

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Coney Island

Coney Island is part beach, part seaside resort, and part amusement park. In other words, it’s awesome. Visitors can also run the length of its boardwalk, which is just shy of six miles run. The best part? Jump in the ocean right after to cool off. To get there, hop on the D, Q, N or F train all the way to  Stillwell Avenue. Just remember to wear sneakers (and bring a bathingsuit)!

The Five Bridges Run

Forget one of those tour buses and hit three of New York’s boroughs—Manhattan, Queens, and Williamsburg— by fast foot. Note: This route is easier for those more familiar with the city, or is at least with someone who is! For a killer 17 mile run, start at the 59th street bridge in Manhattan, cross to Queens, jump on the Pulaski Bridge to connect into Brooklyn, and then run over the Williamsburg Bridge to return back to Manhattan. From there, head towards and over the Manhattan Bridge, then finish the run over the Brooklyn Bridge. Phew! Here’s a map that will be helpful, too. When starting at the 59th Bridge, take the NQR trains to the 59th/Lexington Stop. To start at the Brooklyn Bridge, take the 456 train to, what else, but the Brooklyn Bridge stop. Bonus points for grabbing a room at the NU Hotel, a chic hotel that will make any tourist feel like a New Yorker.

Queens

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Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

Forget Central Park and check out this city greenspace in Queens. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park offers a great 2.5 mile loop so anyone can see the best things Queens has to offer: the Unisphere, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, The Queens Museum, and Citi Field (go Mets!). People can access the park by car (parking is pretty easy) or take the 7 train to Willets Point/Mets Stadium. Consider staying at Red Roof in Queens to cut down on travel time.

Astoria Park

This park is well known for having the largest pool in the city, but it also comes with much more: tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, and many trails for runners. There’s also a gorgeous shoreline along the East River for a great running route that comes with a nice breeze. The best option is to take the Q train to Astoria Park, then walk (or run!) less than a mile to the park’s entrance.

Bronx

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Van Cortlandt Park

For a taste of New York that’s feel anything like a city, head on the 1 train to 242nd street and explore the trails at Van Cortlandt. It’s a bit of a hike, but is totally worth it for the committed runner. The famous route is the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which can be up to seven miles long. Fun fact: Van Cortlandt is the third largest park in New York City, behind Pelham Bay Park and Staten Island Greenbelt, and is also home to the oldest building in the bronx: Van Cortlandt House Museum.

 

 

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A Bookworm’s Tour Through Tennessee’s Best Bookstores

A recent survey examining the U.S. states with the most bookstores had a few notable surprises. While large states like California and Texas have the largest total number of stores, when it comes to bookstore per capita, those two states were nowhere to be found! For travelers wishing to explore more of the U.S.’s literary heritage, a glance at the list should be the first step in planning your next vacation. Rounding out the top five (with Montana coming in first) is Tennessee, which boasts 369 bookstores for about 6.5 million residents.

It’s safe to say bookstores and literary pursuits are not the first things that come to mind when thinking of the Volunteer State, so nicknamed due to the large number of Tennesseans volunteering as soldiers during the War of 1812. Instead, visitors flock to Tennessee every year for reasons musical (Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion and museum and Nashville’s many country music venues), nature-related (the Smoky Mountains) and an all-around good time (touring the Jack Daniels Distillery). While it may not seem the obvious choice for more reserved bookworms, the following stops show that for book-loving travelers there is a quieter, more literary side to the state that’s well-worth exploring!

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The third-largest city in the state, and the homebase of the University of Tennessee’s legendary Vols, Knoxville boasts a locally-owned, independent gem of a store called Union Ave Books. Located in the heart of downtown, Union Ave Books offers a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction, young adult and children’s books. The store owners aim to please, going so far as to order books you might want that are not available in-store. The store also hosts a variety of local and nationally known authors for readings and book signings so be sure to check their event schedule before planning your visit. For those wishing to stay nearby and explore more of what Knoxville has to offer, the affordable and comfortable Crowne Plaza Hotel is just blocks from the store, and the bustling downtown area.

Nashville, a.k.a. Music City, almost had no independent bookstores left after the 2010 closing of independent store Davis-Kidd and the 2011 closing of a Borders located near Vanderbilt University. Thankfully for book lovers in the country music capital of the world, bestselling author Ann Patchett and veteran publisher Karen Hayes stepped in to save the day by opening Parnassus Books, an “independent book store for independent people.” Named for Mount Parnassus, the home of literature, learning, and music in Greek mythology, the store aims to provide a “refuge for Nashvillians of all ages,” with Patchett and Hayes declaring Music City to be the “Athens of the South.” With a well-stocked collection of literature, non-fiction, children, and art books as well as author events and book clubs, Parnassus Books is a must-visit for any book lover. Visitors to the area looking for affordable lodgings can check out the Holiday Inn Nashville or the Hutton Hotel, both just a 10 minute drive from the store.

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If driving away from Nashville and towards Memphis, be sure to stop by Madison’s Book Attic, a beloved local establishment specializing in used and out of print paperbacks, hardbacks, and audio books. Operating since 1987, Book Attic’s staff pride themselves on having the knowledge and experience to track down any book that its customers might desire. Anyone looking to settle down nearby for the night should consider the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, located in Goodlettsville, and just a 5 minute drive from Book Attic.

A trip to Tennessee is incomplete without visiting Memphis, one of the early homes of blues and rock and roll. A trip to Memphis is likewise incomplete without a stop by Burke’s Book Store, founded in 1875. Its current owners boast that the store today encompasses “the best of the old, the latest of the new, and hard to find collectibles.” Its kind and knowledgeable staff includes an expert devoted solely to locating out-of-print works. For out-of-towners looking to stay in the heart of the action downtown, a booking at the hip, boutique Madison Hotel (just a 15 minute drive from Burke’s) is a must.

 

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See 1K Years of Irish History in a 5-Day Road Trip (Legendary Pubs Included)

By: Fiona Moriarty, Hipmunk

There are as many reasons to see Ireland as there are people who travel to the Emerald Isle. History, geology, pub culture, folklore, and breathtaking views are all par for the course for travelers to the island.

If you have a few days to spare, you can soak up nearly all that Ireland has to offer while rolling through the southwestern half of the country. Here’s a road trip itinerary guaranteed to make you “ooh,” “ahh,” and promise to come back.

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Day 1: Dublin to Kilkenny

After flying into Dublin and spending the night in Ireland’s capital city, prepare for a cross-country adventure full of historical sites and breathtaking views. Rent a car and set off on a short drive (approximately two hours) to the artsy town of Kilkenny.

Check in at the quaint Kilkenny House Hotel before heading to Kilkenny Castle, which was built in the 1100s. Then venture on to Dunmore Cave, which features some of the finest calcite formations in Ireland. Once you’ve had your fill of history and geology, return to Kilkenny to explore its many arts and crafts shops and downtown restaurants.

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Day 2: Kilkenny to Killarney

Buckle up for a day of striking scenery. There are so many sights to choose from on this leg of the journey that you can’t go wrong. If you aren’t off-put by crowds, then don’t miss visiting the popular Blarney Castle or driving part of the gorgeous Ring of Kerry. For a (slightly) less traveled path, stop by King John’s Castle, the historic Swiss Cottage, or the Muckross Friary and traditional grounds.

Arrive in Killarney and check into the quirky and contemporary Ross Hotel. Since you’ll no doubt be tired from the long day’s drive, enjoy food and drink at the hotel’s restaurant before tumbling into bed.

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Day 3: Killarney to Ennis

Explore Irish history on the way to the small town of Ennis by stopping by Bunratty Castle, the geologically marvelous Burren, and/or Craggaunowen – The Living Past, where you’ll learn how the Celts lived, farmed, and hunted in Ireland. Enjoy dinner in Ennis before retiring to the upscale Ashford Court Boutique Hotel.

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Day 4: Ennis to Galway

Travel to the western edge of the country in order to take in one of the most gorgeous views around at the stunning and popular Cliffs of Moher (Fun fact: These are the so-called “Cliffs of Insanity” from the film The Princess Bride). If you’re still in an adventurous spirit after visiting the cliffs, head to Aillwee Cave, which was formed by glacial melt waters and is situated close to Galway.

Finish the drive to Galway and check in at the luxurious Jury’s Inn, located near the historic Spanish Arch, the Galway City Museum, and Eyre Square (If you’re feeling budget-conscious, consider staying in the friendly Galway City Guesthouse instead). After dumping your luggage, enjoy dinner and drinks at any of Galway’s many restaurants and pubs.

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Day 5: Galway to Dublin

Spend the morning exploring the sites of Galway before hopping back in the car for the three-to-four-hour ride to Dublin. If you fancy some detours on the way back to the capital city, stop at medieval Athenry Castle, the monastic ruins of Clonmacnoise, or Trim Castle, where Braveheart was filmed.

Upon returning to Dublin, settle in at the supremely well located Blooms Hotel before enjoying dinner and drinks out on the town. Whether you retire early or partake of the Temple Bar neighborhood’s pubs all night, be sure to contemplate what a wonderful trip it’s been.