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The Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas is known for its intense reflections of sunlight.

10 Strangest Buildings in the World You Have to Visit

This isn’t any ordinary travel list, but then again, you’re not an ordinary traveler. For the unorthodox globe-trotter, no bucket list is complete without some of the strangest buildings the world has to offer. From Brazilian museums to amazing Las Vegas hotels, these architectural works are definitely not your average buildings.

Habitat 67 in Montreal, Quebec

Lovers of strange architecture must visit Moshe Safdie’s vision of the ideal community. Originally created as his master’s thesis at McGill University, Habitat 67’s oddly stacked 146 homes of different shapes and sizes is constructed from 354 pre-made concrete blocks.

Mind House in Barcelona, Spain

Antoni Gaudi’s creative masterpiece Mind House is a mix of practical and whimsical. Located on the el Carmel hill in Parc Guell, Mind House was commissioned by Count Eusebi Guell and built between the years 1900 and 1914. With ethereal curves and eclectic accents in tile, ceramic and glass, this strangest of the world’s buildings is also one of the most beautiful.

Kansas City Library in Kansas City, Missouri

Designed to look like a shelf of classic books, the “Community Bookshelf” is the exterior of the Kansas City Public Library’s parking garage. The structure is 25 feet wide and nine feet tall, with a total of 22 different titles displayed that range in genre and literary period from Tao Te Ching and Romeo and Juliet to Lord of the Rings.

Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas

Spanning a massive 1,600,000 square feet, the Las Vegas hotel and spa Vdara opened in 2009. Designed by architect Rafael Vinoly, this hotel has a claim to fame that no other Vegas hotel can boast: Due to its surface materials and unique, curvy design, the sun’s reflection creates dangerous “hot spots” that focus on the pool deck and change positions as the sun moves throughout the day. Tellingly, visitors have nicknamed this phenomenon the Vdara Death Ray.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum, Netherlands

Home to an impressive collection of more than 750,000 hours of multimedia, the Netherland Institute for Sound and Vision is encased in colorful, shimmering glass panels. This impressive structure proudly represents all the amazing work visitors can find in the museum and archives housed within its walls.

Visit these fantastical structures and take a peek into a world of creative architecture that spans the entire globe. Drop by for art, shopping, entertainment and more, but for once, those can all take a backseat to the buildings themselves. For once, it’s what’s on the outside that counts.

Enjoy self-catered dessert from La Boqueria in the comfort of your Barcelona hotel for a sweet finish to a sweet day.

Food on the Fly: Successful Self-Catering

Picture yourself at lunch in Paris, sitting at a sidewalk café, eating salade niçoise and gazing at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Perfection, non? Doesn’t get much better than that.

Unless, of course, you were dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

This is the magic of self-catering. Skipping the restaurant meals in favor of a grocery bag full of goodies can lead to magical travel memories of perfect picnics, exotic delicacies and adventurous eating. You’ll also save a little money along the way. Start turning meals into memories with these tips for successful self-catering.

Marketplace Magic

Word of warning: Once you start shopping local markets, you may never go to a restaurant again. When food becomes this much fun, you won’t want to. Barcelona’s La Boqueria, for example, is a vibrant sensory experience, awash in color and sound. It’s a photography buff’s dream. Here, you can sip a cup of fresh-squeezed juice in any flavor imaginable while you stock up on authentic Catalonian lunch fare — plus some goodies to enjoy while people watching from your balcony during a siesta at Arc La Rambla.

Locally Made Goodness

Seek out small shops. You’ll find delicious, fresh-made local fare, with the bonus of a more personal touch. Since meeting new people is one of the best parts of travel, visiting friendly mom-and-pop shops makes for a truly special travel experience. Bakeries are a great place to start; try stepping out of your hotel in Paris and follow your nose to a fresh-baked baguette. It’s hard to imagine a greater joy than ripping off warm hunks of bread on your way to the Champs-Élysées.

Picnic Perfection

With self-catering, where you eat is just as important as what’s on the menu. Casually enjoying a leisurely meal in an iconic location is an experience you’ll never forget. While enjoying a stay in any of these family-friendly New York City hotels, take the gang for a picnic in Central Park. The kids will love playing in the green expanse while you all fuel up for a visit to Strawberry Fields or the Central Park Zoo.

To truly feel like a native Londoner on your next U.K. visit, join the locals enjoying their lunch against the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica. Or enjoy a picnic in St. James Park, with a view of Buckingham Palace.

Explore, Experiment, Enjoy

Travel is all about new experiences. Start with these tips, and then experiment away. Whether it’s sun-dried tomatoes and ciabatta in Rome or dolmades in Istanbul, you’ll soon be crafting your own incredible self-catering experiences and turning meals into memories. Bon appétit!

Many Cancun hotels offer excursions to Chichen Itza

Amazing Places to Witness the Equinox

Twice each year, the earth experiences a perfect balance between daylight and darkness. The vernal and autumnal equinoxes were considered sacred, mystical days by many ancient cultures, and some even built elaborate monuments to mark the passage of time and capture the sun’s rays during this phenomenon. You can visit these fascinating archaeological sites anytime of the year, but for a real adventure, try going during the equinox.


The small town of Salisbury makes a great day trip from any hotels in London. Whether you arrive by car or by train, the moment you first see the massive columns of Stonehenge rise up from the Salisbury Plain is one you won’t soon forget. Archaeologists and astronomers have long noted that the massive stones frame the summer solstice sunrise perfectly, and modern-day pagans have embraced the monument as a spiritual center. There are guided sunrise tours that bring groups to witness these celebrations. Spring and fall equinox, however, get far fewer crowds than the summer solstice, so it’s a great time to reflect on your own spiritual rejuvenation in a quieter setting.

Chichen Itza

Spring and fall are a great time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, and resorts such as the Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas offer excursions from the coast to Chichen Itza, the once-great Mayan metropolis. The Mayans were talented astronomers, and the ruins at Chichen Itza include a domed observatory. During the equinox, the main attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulcán, the serpent god. When the sun begins to set on the day of the equinox, the shadows created form the shape of a great serpent slithering down the central staircase. The Mayans believed that the serpent brought the rains with its spring appearance and the dry season with its fall appearance.

America’s Stonehenge

Nestled in the green woodlands of southern New Hampshire lies America’s Stonehenge. This little-known but fascinating archaeological site contains a Native American stone circle and altar that serve as a more accurate astronomical calendar than its namesake. From the alignment stone, several large stones in the ring mark the location of the equinox sunrises. The area offers special equinox events and has great hiking year-round. America’s Stonehenge makes a great day trip from hotels in Boston or Cambridge, especially in the temperate autumn.

Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient cultures, learning more about astronomy, or just enjoying an offbeat adventure, traveling to these amazing areas that showcase the equinox is sure to be a memorable trip.

Staying across the pond at a hotel in London? Be sure you have the right power adapter to charge all your devices.

The Definitive Guide to Outlets Around the World

These days, most of us want to travel with our electrical gadgets, whether that be a cell phone, tablet or similar mobile device, laptop, camera, music player or hairdryer. But not using the right power adapter when you are traveling can be worse than an inconvenience–it can damage equipment and lead to electrical failures. What’s more, it can be hard to find the adapter you need in some parts of the world, so it’s always best to travel prepared.

While most modern electronics are able to take 220 or 110 volt (V) power, many devices still need adapters even if you don’t have to convert the voltage. An adapter will allow you to connect to the power supply for the country you are in.

Whether you are staying in the fanciest hotels in New York or the best Las Vegas hotels, it’s always worth asking, as they may be able to offer you advice or lend you an adapter–find out before you travel.

And while many hotels provide some of the actual gadgets you may need, not all will. Most cheap hotels in London, for example, won’t be able to supply hair dryers in rooms or computers in a business center. (Though they may have one if you ask.) Therefore, it’s important to understand the various types of power adapters on the market as you travel, and be able to read the voltages labels on your gadgets so you choose the right equipment you need.

Reading Power Labels Properly

You can find information regarding your gadget’s power supply requirements on a label stuck to the back of it, on the plug or on the transformer box. The input will mostly be AC100-240 V 50-60Hz 14W with an output of DC 1.2V 23A. The input line reveals whether a gadget is single, dual or multi-voltage.

In the U.S., power supplies use between 110 and 120 V; in Europe it’s more likely to be between 220 and 240 V. Other parts of the world will have other variations. Again, check before you travel.

Power adapters are usually 110-120 V to 220-240 V or 220-240 V to 110-120 V. They convert incoming voltage into an output your gadget can operate on. But in addition to the right power adapter, you will need the right plug adapter as well, as follows:

  • The UK standard has three rectangular pins in a triangle.
  • The EU standard has two circular prongs.
  • The U.S. standard has two parallel prongs of different sizes.

Some countries will be different, and, again, some may use different plug types for varying devices.

Finally, consider a universal adapter, which combines a power adapter with a plug that fits into varying socket types. (Expect to pay more for these, however.)

Some hotels, such as the Four Seasons in Denver, offer discounts to guests visiting the location for charity work.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

Jet to an exotic country. Get immersed in local customs. Help build a house or dig a well. Make buddies with fascinating people you’d never meet otherwise. A “voluntourism” trip seems like a great way to give back or improve the world in a small way. It can be, but you should ask a lot of questions before signing up and plunking down cash.

Over the last several years, this well-meaning market has grown quickly, with studies estimating 1.6 million volunteer tourists per year and growing. About 33 percent of volunteer travelers are between the ages of 20 and 40. Another 34 percent are slightly older, between 41 and 60. Overall, the travelers are more likely to be female. However, the impact of these trips is hard to quantify. A large majority of the tourists take them because they want to help alleviate poverty and find joy in the camaraderie.

Voluntourism: Helpful or Hurtful?

In a piece for the Guardian called “Beware the ‘Voluntourists’ Doing Good,” Ossob Mohamud writes that there are more effective ways to help the needy than take a trip. His concern is that very often the helpers come off as patronizing and condescending, with little understanding of the local culture and the people’s actual needs.

Other critics complain that high-paying volunteers take jobs away from local laborers. The engagement between volunteers and Cambodian orphans may seem endearing — until you discover some of these children have families, and are just being hired out to entertain big-hearted tourists with sob stories. In other reported cases, an orphanage may keep the conditions of an institution squalid to ply more money from tourists primed to donate. Even if the orphans do connect with the volunteers, they’re once again faced with feelings of abandonment when the tour is over.

Not all NGOs think voluntourism is bad. Chris Johnson, director of communications for the Fuller Center of Housing, is less concerned about a volunteer’s impetus for choosing to build homes for families in the mountains of Peru or Nepal “as long as the work gets done.” In a New York Times article, he explained that the families who benefit from the new residence probably don’t care if the builders are doing it for selfish reasons.

How Do You Know If Your Program Is Effective?

So, how do you know if the program you’re paying for is actually helping people? There are several important details to consider that will help uncover the impact of the tour, outlined by the editors of the site Ethical Volunteering.

1. Bigger Isn’t Always Better

While you might think the more you pay for a tour, the more impact it will have, a more expensive tour may have less impact because it has fewer connections to local organizations.

2. Watch out for Grand Promises

As much as you want to think you’re “changing the world,” the reality is you’re giving a small boost to an organization that needs a hand. Be mindful of marketing that promises more.

3. Don’t be swayed by pictures of children

It’s great to help children, but if you’re looking at a brochure that tugs at your heartstrings rather than demonstrates what impact you’re making, be wary.

4. Check if the organization screens volunteers

Is this organization of change hoping to capitalize on your skills, or does it just need your money? Take heed if it doesn’t care about what capabilities you have.

According to a study by the Adventure Travel Trade Organization, the most popular volunteer programs offer the opportunity to work with children, support education, protect the environment, create local jobs, and assist clean water projects.

While the popular voluntourism destinations are in Asia, Africa and Latin America, it’s also possible to assist NGOs in cities such as New Orleans and Orlando. Some hotels in Denver, like the Four Seasons Hotel Denver, have been known to offer a discount to guests willing to spend half a day working with charity.

Find a project that makes for a great experience while also positively impacting the world.

11 Travel Accessories Every Adventurer Needs

The number of travel accessories designed to make life easier on the road just keeps growing. From electronic luggage scales to portable Bluetooth speakers, there are so many things that can come in handy while traveling. Take a look at these 11 travel accessories that help you no matter where you go.

1. Neck Pillow

You can’t rest at five-star hotels in Miami every time you’re tired. A neck pillow can make sleeping in random places, like a train stop, much more comfortable.

2. Travel Packing Aid

A travel packing aid can help you neatly organize toiletries, travel documents and currency, ensuring important items are easily accessible and secure.

3. USB Utility Charge Tool

Even if you’re looking to be unplugged for your next trip, you’re still going to need to charge your smartphone, laptop, camera and so on. A USB utility charge tool means you only have to bring one product to charge all your devices.

4. Smart Luggage

Smart Luggage has arrived, and the features are amazing. Fingerprint locking mechanisms, built-in GPS systems, digital scale sensors, anti-theft systems, shape-changing abilities and more are available right now to make traveling safer and more convenient.

5. Shoe Bag

Why stink up the rest of your bag? Shoe bags are a great way to keep your luggage clean, and are a necessity for most vacations as you may need sandals for some activities and gym shoes or boots for others.

6. Self-Sealing Dry Bags

Clothing or other belongings occasionally get wet. That’s just part of traveling. A dry bag ensures that those wet items don’t soak the rest of your stuff.

7. Wine Bag

This can serve two purposes: one is to actually store wine and bottles of liquor; the other is to store glass items and other fragile things.

8. Waterproof Travel Backpack

Rolling around luggage can get annoying, especially if you’re on the move a lot and not just chilling in hotels in Paris or wherever else. Go with a sturdy, waterproof backpack that protects your belongings and is easy to carry.

9. Waterproof Phone Case

A phone is a necessity for most travelers, so using a waterproof phone case to protect it from water damage and accidental drops just makes sense.

10. Umbrella

It rains almost everywhere in the world at some time or another. Bring an umbrella.

11. First Aid Kit

Whether you’re backpacking your way through southeast Asia or sleeping in one of those luxurious hotels in Dubai, you never know when an accident could happen. So be prepared.

More travel accessories are being created all the time. Use the ones on this list, but also keep an eye out for new travel items to make your trip perfect.

Hippie Hollow Beach on Lake Travis is less than 30 minutes from Austin hotels.

Takin’ it Off in Texas: Beaches Where You Can Sunbathe in the Buff

Texas may be known as the epicenter of the conservative movement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sunbathe in the buff. While Texas law doesn’t prohibit toplessness on any beach, you need to know precisely what the rules are and where to head to avoid getting arrested for indecent exposure, public lewdness or disorderly conduct.

Officially Sanctioned Nudity

There’s only one official nudist beach in the state. Hippie Hollow at Lake Travis in Austin boasts slabs of rock for soaking up the sun and sliding into the lake for a swim. This site has restrooms, garbage bins and drinking water conveniently located near the lake.

Need to Know: The clothes-free option doesn’t extend to the parking lot, so keep yourself under wraps until you enter the park. You must pay an entrance fee to use the facility.

Stay Nearby: Stay downtown at an Austin hotel to be within a 30-minute drive of Hippie Hollow Park. Sheraton, Hyatt, Hilton and Radisson are just a few of the national chains you can choose from. If golf is your game, Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa has four 18-hole courses just 16 miles southwest of the lake.

Most Popular Nude Beach

Join the party on UFO Beach on South Padre Island — the area got its moniker when an emergency evacuation pod that looked like a UFO washed onshore. The sandy beach is the state’s most popular unofficial nudist beach, especially during spring break. The beach lies 10 to 12 miles north of Beach Access No. 6. Since you’ll be driving on wet sand, access the site in a street-legal four-wheel drive vehicle. ATVs not licensed for street use aren’t allowed.

Need to Know: The last chance for a porta-potty is at Beach Access No. 5, 3 miles south of Beach Access 6. There is a fee to access the beach.

Stay Nearby: South Padre Island is a four-hour drive from hotels in Houston, or you can stay closer to the beach on South Padre Island. The Hilton Garden Inn South Padre is less than a 10-minute drive from Beach Access No. 6. The hotel has rooms with ocean views, refrigerators and microwaves. You have direct access to a clothing-required public beach and can enjoy amenities such as a beach-side pool and whirlpool tubs.

Away From It All

Explore 60 miles of remote shoreline along Padre Island National Seashore. To access the beach, drive south from the Malaquite Visitor’s Center until you run out of pavement. While nude sunbathing isn’t officially permitted, it’s practiced discreetly. The remote and open nature of the shoreline lets you see a vehicle approaching long before it’s close enough to notice whether you’re naked.

Need to Know: Texas nudity law specifies illegal nudity as intentionally exposing your anus or genitals without regard for whether someone present will be alarmed or offended. Throwing a towel around your lower half while people are within viewing distance is sufficient to comply with the law.

Stay Nearby: Corpus Christi hotels put you within a 30-minute drive from the Malaquite Visitor’s Center. You can find national chains such as Best Western Fairfield Inn, Embassy Suites and Courtyard by Marriott in the area. Stay on the edge of Corpus Christi Bay at Hotel Corpus Christ Bayfront, a hotel with views of the marina and within walking distance of restaurants and city nightlife.

If you're heading to Burning Man, book a hotel in Reno - the closest airport to the festival.

Tips on Attending the Burning Man Festival

Every year thousands of people from around the world converge on the Nevada desert to celebrate the Burning Man Festival. It’s a celebration of art, culture, self-expression and humanity.


Tickets to Burning Man sell out fast because The Bureau of Land Management puts a cap on the number participants each year. Burning Man typically takes place in August and September, but pre-sale tickets go on sale in January and the official sale starts February.

Hotels and Camping

The Burning Man Festival takes place in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and features thousands of campers who spend the night in a variety of tents and recreational vehicles. The nearest commercial airport is in Reno, which is located about 120 miles from the festival. If you want to spend the night before the start of the event, or after the event, at a hotel in Reno, book your room in advance.

The small community of Winnemucca Nevada sits about 225 miles from the festival and is also a popular stopping point for burners before and after the festival. Each year the Winnemucca Inn and the Winners Inn Casino cater to festival goers who seek a good night’s rest before roughing it in the Nevada desert.

Must-Have Items

There are several must-have items, besides the basics of water, food and shelter, that you should consider packing for the festival.


Bring lots of sunscreen. The Nevada desert is brutal on skin, especially if you are among the festival goers who enjoys shedding conventional clothing items.


Burning Man is huge, encompassing 5.5 miles of desert space and consisting of numerous camps. Cycling is an easy way to get from place to place and explore the wide array of campsites.

Ear Plugs

The event is loud and goes on 24 hours a day. If you value a good night’s sleep, pack a pair of ear plugs to help drown out the noise for a few hours of blissful slumber.

Clothing Variety

Weather in the Nevada desert is unpredictable. Daytime highs can reach triple digits and nighttime lows can plummet below freezing. Pack a variety of clothing items to fit each extreme. You should also bring an umbrella for torrential downpours and dust storms.

With an expected attendance of 50,000 plus each year, there is little doubt that the Burning Man Festival is one of the premier free-spirit events in the world. With a bit of planning, your attendance at the unique function will undoubtedly be memorable.

Time to Float On a Root Beer Boat

August 6 is National Root Beer Float Day, and it couldn’t come at a better time! The dog days of August practically demand fizzy, frozen goodness. It’s a simple treat that’s all about the quality of the root beer, and some places do it better than others. If you’re craving the perfect root beer float, check out some of these locations.


A&W is a classic root beer brewer, and the company now has restaurant locations all over the country where you can order a float anytime you like! On National Root Beer Float Day, A&W offers their delicious, classic treats to customers for free from 2 pm until closing.

Bell, Book and Candle

NYC residents, rejoice! Bell, Book and Candle off of West 10th Street makes some of the most indisputably delicious root beer floats around. Every ingredient at this renowned spot is made from scratch, giving the resident root beer float that homemade flavor you won’t find in a franchise store. Check out hotels in New York City and surrounding areas when you’re planning a visit during the root beer madness.

Old Town House of Jerky and Root Beer

San Diego has a delectable secret: the Old Town House of Jerky and Root Beer. This place offers a variety of unforgettably delicious root beers and jerky made of every imaginable kind of meat. Stay at the La Quinta Inn in Old Town to be nearby for return trips.

Jake’s Ice Cream

Being able to enjoy a root beer float from Jake’s Ice Cream in Atlanta is a bit of a unicorn experience: People rave about the float, but it’s not always available because it sells out so fast. This August 6, though, the establishment plans to go out of its way to keep their beloved refreshment on tap.

Red Robin

Red Robin is famous for its burgers and its bottomless root beer floats. Load up and keep going, because you can stuff your belly with as much of this sweet concoction as you want. If you’re hanging your hat at a hotel in Los Angeles, Cleveland or any other major U.S. city, there’s sure to be a nearby location where you can check out this scrumptious deal.

Beat the August heat with a root beer float at one of these convenient locations. Whether you travel specifically for the fizz or just happen to be in the area, don’t forget to honor this American tradition and cool yourself off in the process!

Celebrate National Hot Dog Day near your hotel in New York City - there's bound to be a stand on the corner!

Best Places to Grab a Bite on National Hot Dog Day

Get out the ketchup! Every July 23 is National Hot Dog Day, a summer celebration of the must-have grill food. Eateries all over the world serve up their own version of the classic hot dog, but if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, there are great national — and international — wiener joints out there to satisfy your cravings.

Katz’s Deli

New York has long laid claim to being the home of the American hot dog, and if you’re in the city, you can’t do much better than Katz’s Deli. Order the classic, a big, all-beef hot dog loaded with sauerkraut and just a touch of mustard.

Gene & Jude’s

What makes a true Chicago dog is a much contested , but many would agree that the best place to go is Gene & Jude’s. Their classic, no-nonsense dog is served with mustard, onions, tomato, a pickle spear and some relish, all pushed into a poppy seed bun. What emerges from this is a delectable combination of sharp and sweet flavors.

Dat Dog

New Orleans has recently been making waves in the wiener game, thanks mostly to the strength of local franchise Dat Dog. Never a city to back away from spice, New Orleans finds it own classic dog twist in Dat Dog’s simply named hot sausage, an Andouille-inspired, hand-ground creation that sets the mouth on fire. The French Market Inn, located in the historic French Quarter, is a short distance away from one of their three locations.

Montreal Pool Room

Not eager to let Americans take all the hot dog credit, Canada has put quite a spin on the classic dog themselves. The Montreal dog is steamed, not grilled, and layered with mustard, onions and coleslaw. The best place to grab one? The Montreal Pool Room, one of the oldest and most traditional joints in town.


For those a little more south of the border, Santiago, Chile is your hot dog mecca. The classic Chilean dog is known as a completo — Spanish for complete, which here means a wiener loaded with mashed avocado, mayo, sauerkraut and chopped tomatoes. The best place in the city to find one is Domino, a soda fountain with multiple locations, which makes it easy to try out for anyone staying at a hotel in Santiago.

Hungry yet? No one’s suggesting you book a flight out specifically to sample these hot dogs, but if you’re in the area, there’s no reason why you can’t do your taste buds a favor and grab a dog to try.