10 Traveling Safety Tips When Venturing Out In The World

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Going out to discover what the world has to offer when venturing to the great unknown. It is always a great idea to have a game plan in place, and know what to do to keep yourself and fellow travelers safe. Besides staying safe, you also want your experience to be as enjoyable as possible by taking in a sigh of relief that all will go as smoothly as possible. So let’s get started on how to make your traveling destination the best one yet.

Choose your ground transportation wisely

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. citizens abroad. Whenever possible, travel in a vehicle that is in good condition and offers working seat belts. Research the safety records of bus companies, and avoid using less-safe vehicles like rickshaws and mopeds.

Check in with the State Department

Did you know that the State Department provides updated safety information for every country in the world? You can search the website and get trustworthy details about wherever you’re visiting. Find out everything, from which vaccinations you need to the local laws to any travel warnings (including crime and security warnings). While you’re on the website, head over to the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) page, where you can register your travel plans. In the event of an emergency (whether it’s a natural disaster, an emergency back home or civil unrest), they will be able to contact you.

Review the escape route in your hotel room

Let’s be honest — when you check in to a hotel room, you’re more focused on scoping out the amenities than studying the map on the back of your door. But before you get too settled in, you should take a quick look at the emergency escape routes. You’ll be glad you did if an emergency arises in the middle of the night.

Leave an itinerary and emergency contact

Unplugging while on vacation can be great, but try not to go too under the radar, especially if you’re traveling alone. Leave your itinerary (even if it’s just as basic as which city you’ll be visiting and when you’ll return) with a trusted friend or family member back home, and try to check in with him or her every day. That way, if something happens, they can alert authorities on your behalf.

Scan a copy of your passport

Before you leave, scan a copy of your passport, e-mail it to yourself and take a photo of it to save on your cell phone. That way, if you need your passport while out (but it’s locked up in your hotel safe), you’ll have access to all your details. Plus, if it’s stolen, getting a replacement will be that much easier.

Confirm visitors with the hotel desk

You’re in your hotel room and there’s a knock at the door from someone claiming to be maintenance or housekeeping. Before you let this person in, call down to the front desk to verify that someone from the property needs access to your room. Criminals have been known to pose as hotel workers in order to get inside rooms.

Don’t flash your cash or valuables

Keep your cash separated, with some spending money easily accessible and the rest hidden, so that you’re not showing off a big wad of cash every time you pay. Although it’s tempting to have your Smartphone out constantly to look up directions or take photos, be mindful of your surroundings — thieves love to grab cell phones from people using them on trains and run off at the next stop.

Steer clear of animals

Cute stray dogs and cats roaming the streets may make for good photo opportunities, but resist the urge to get too close. Wild animals can carry all kinds of not-so-fun diseases (including rabies) that could ruin your trip.

Keep an emergency car kit

Whether you’re driving your own car on a road trip or renting one abroad, make sure you keep a fully stocked kit in case of emergency. This should include a backup battery for your phone, a first-aid kit, reflective warning signs, blankets, non-perishable food, a tire gauge, a flashlight, bottled water and a snow shovel.

Save emergency numbers

Remember, you can’t call 911 everywhere. Find out what the local emergency hotlines are and save them to your phone (preferably on speed dial). Also research the nearest U.S. embassies or consulates and save those addresses and phone numbers as well.

Articles, image and information found here:

http://www.smartertravel.com/photo-galleries/editorial/10-most-important-safety-tips-for-travelers.html?id=957&source=41718

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2015/02/19/safety-tips/23617237/

Five Places to Visit In Honor Of Presidents Day

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Here comes another holiday to celebrate and take time off of work. What better way to spend Presidents Day than to honor the presidents themselves. Here are some great places to visit for the holiday:

Mount Rushmore (South Dakota)-

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Is one of the most iconic presidential sites around! Amazing scenery, and gets replicated many times in television and film and also gets referenced when referring to your top 4. I.E. “What is considered your Mount Rushmore of NBA players of all time?”

Lincoln Monument (Washington, D.C.)-

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Probably the most famous memorial for a president is the giant statue of Abraham Lincoln reflecting in a chair. Many people like to do their own reflecting here.

White House (Washington, D.C.)–

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How cool is it to visit the house where it all took place (past, present and future). Just make sure you book these popular tours well in advance (minimum of 21 days). And if you can’t afford to go to D.C., you can always take an interactive tour on their website.

Legoland (California)–

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Wait, huh? That’s right, Legoland. Can’t make it to the White House or Mt. Rushmore? They have replicas at Legoland as well models of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Mt. Vernon (Virginia) –

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See George Washington’s mansion, bowling green, final resting place, greenhouse, gardens, etc. There is plenty of beauty to see and plenty of history to learn.

Image sources: Britannica, Guiddo, History, Common Dreams, Mountvernon

10 Of The Most Unexpected Romantic Hot Spots Of All Time

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Now that Valentine’s Day is underway, it is time to think about all those romantic getaway destinations you have wanted to surprise your significant other with. Everyone knows about Paris, London and The Big Apple, but what about places that fellow travelers have not explored when it comes to finding the perfect city of romance? Here are ten different places to look into when wanting to breathe in the essence of love in the air atmosphere.

Good Old Austin, Texas

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What could be so romantic about Austin? Well springtime is downright incredible; it’s unlike anything you could imagine. The weather is almost perfect with lots of grassy fields covered in bluebonnets. The capital city has Lady Bird Lake aka (Town Lake) which is centered in the heart of the city. You can do so many fun activities such as: kayaking, paddle board, and canoeing. Or take a relaxing walk around the pathways taking in the city and soaking up the sun. Don’t forget to try some of the best food around.

America’s National Capital Washington, D.C.

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This city I am sure is not the one that would be first on your list for a romantic getaway, unless you were a history buff. But don’t count out Washington D.C. It has so much charm and a rich history of the past with Georgetown’s streets made of brick, to captivating historical monuments’ all aglow at night. In the spring the cherry blossoms will surround the city in beautiful pink hues captivating you by their magic, which will bewitch you under the city’s spell.

Try The Village Of E’ze, France Close To The French Riviera

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What makes this village stand out against the rest? Well this place is pure romance as it is a medieval village that sits on top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and St. Jean-Cap Ferrat. Besides having a killer view, you also get twisted narrow pathways that lead into secret courtyards that have some of the most beautiful secret gardens hidden away for you and love to discover together.

Minneapolis

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Minneapolis has the Stone Arch Bridge that lights up with a beautiful orange radiance that shines down on the Mississippi River creating sparkles of illumination beneath. You can also take your pick of staying in the urban parts of the city or surrounding yourself with the 180 parks, 22 lakes, 80 miles of biking trails to discover, try the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, or catch a show at Guthrie Theater to feel of the city’s rich history.

Brussels, The Capital Of The European Union

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Brussels is quite fascinating! This city has the 17th century cobble-stoned Grand-Place which makes for a truly pleasurable sensation, with ornate metal buildings and medieval towers stopping over to take it all in is a must. Stop by the Magritte Museum to see what artwork could be waiting for you. And make sure to sample and indulge in their world famous chocolate and beer.

The Five Town Make Cinque Terre, Italy Breathtaking

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When you stop to visit these villages on the Italian Riviera you will be engulfed with pure romance. These Cliff side villages have a ban on any type of motorbike or car being in the city, but they do have buses throughout the villages to help transport you to your destination. Try taking a stroll down Via Dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane). Between Manarola and Riomaggiore, are stoned carved beaches along the Cliff side and unspeakable ocean views. If you go along the longer blue trail, it will link all five villages together, a long walk but worth the hike.

Pittsburgh

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This once upon a time steel town now shines brightly. They have countless bridges- more than 440 and a when you mix the bridges with the skyline and Mother Nature all around, it makes for one beautiful romantic moment after another. Walk through Point State Park which is where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio River.

Iconic Sydney

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We have all seen the Sydney Opera House or Sydney Harbour and you have undoubtedly pure romance all around. But make sure to check out what other things Sydney has to offer such as the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens full of beautiful picnic spot after picnic spot. And for added bliss you have the opera house in the background to enjoy. Check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge to see the city from a different angle, and when you have said and done all that, relax in the sun by enjoying the infamous Bondi Beach.

Madrid, Spain

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How do you even begin to describe a beautiful city full of charm and old world architecture? You visit, so you can experience all that it has to offer. Madrid is enchanting as there are some many different aspects to each neighborhood. It’s almost like a having a big family reunion with so many personalities all together in one place. It also has historic and modern together which makes everything that much more exciting. Wander to El Retiro Park to stare at the wonderment of the monuments and sculptures. They even have the enormous gate that still stand as a reminder of guarding the city but also to remember Madrid’s past.

Massachusetts, Berkshires

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All these cities in Berkshire are worthy of the title most romantic. Check out the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox to soak up the harmonious sounds they provide in an otherwise quiet town. They also have The Mount which I one of the most beautiful settings in the area filled with rich history. And then take some time to cuddle up to the fire at the Blantyre countryside inn.

Image sources: austinreferralrealty, iStock/drnadig, imgfave, digitallydanielle, .telegraph.co.uk, thegoldenscopeit, heartofpittsburgh, boalingua.ch, makeuponlineschool, americathebeautiful

Would You Walk on Some of The World’s Most Dangerous Paths?

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Do you walk on the wild side? Love to explore dangerous places around the world? Check out these 5 dangerous paths and decide if you are up to the adventure of these best places to travel for challenging hikes.

The Huashan Trail in China

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Hikers must maneuver ridges against the cliffs that are under 12″ wide.

Caminito Del Rey in Spain

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Watch your step on this hike! Very dangerous but quite beautiful!

Damaged Suspended Bridge in Indonesia

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These kids are walking to school; no crossing guard here!

Tianmen Mountain in China

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Take your “Walk of Faith” on a cliff 4700 feet up in the air.

Half Dome in The United States

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You might want to ascend the vertical staircase to the 800 foot peak of this half dome in California.

Image sources: theprovince.com, expertvagabond.com, boredpanda.com, foxnews.com, sierraclub

Visit and Learn About Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

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One of the most instantly recognized buildings in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. One of the top tourist destinations in Ireland.
William the Earl Marshall built the first stone castle on the site, which was completed in 1213. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day

The Butler family bought the Castle in 1391 and lived there until 1935. They were Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde and lived in the castle for over five hundred years. They were a remarkable family, resilient, politically astute and faithful to the crown and to Ireland as dictated by the politics of the times. These loyalties determined their fortunes and career, and so too the fortunes of their seat

The property was given to the Nation in 1967 and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public and the Parade Tower is a conference venue.

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Kilkenny Castle, Ireland: The Story of Two Modern Sieges in a Medieval Castle
Kilkenny Castle is one of the most recognisable – and most visited – buildings in Ireland.

Kilkenny Castle was founded in Medieval times, but its most significant moments have been played out during more recent history. The castle was featured in Oliver Cromwell’s re-conquest of Ireland in 1650; and was besieged during the Irish Civil War in 1922.

It’s easy to spot the influence of Cromwell when you visit Kilkenny – he destroyed one entire side of the castle! Despite this, sections of the castle have been rebuilt and the site hosts tens of thousands of tourists every year.

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Kilkenny Castle: A Fortress and Chateau, on Medieval Foundations
Kilkenny Castle grew from the work of one Norman Knight – Richard de Clare, who was nicknamed Strongbow. Strongbow was one of the devout knights who helped Henry II of England seize control of some regions of Ireland, from 1171 onwards.

Strongbow laid the original wooden Motte and Bailey castle buildings in 1172. He died four years later, and his lands eventually passed to his daughter’s husband – William Marshall.

William Marshall was one of the most successful and fearless of all Norman knights at that time. As a result of his might, he was granted vast portions of land. He chose to settle in Ireland, and, in 1207, he established the Medieval town of Kilkenny.

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In about 1209, he started to rebuild Kilkenny Castle where the wooden castle had once stood (it had since been burned to the ground). The stone curtain walls and the round drum towers (of which three remain – see below!) were all the work of William Marshall.

The Missing Wall of Kilkenny Castle: The Castle and the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the fact that, nowadays, Kilkenny Castle is effectively three-sided. One of the four walls – and one of the great round drum towers – has disappeared over time.

Where did it go? Well, the Eastern wall and the North-Eastern tower were blown to bits during the 1650 Cromwellian siege of Ireland.

The Cromwellian siege was an exceptionally bloody re-conquest of Ireland, emerging from the fall-out of the English Civil War.

For about ten years prior to the reconquest, Ireland had briefly been able to claim self-governance, with the Catholic Irish Confederate governing large chunks of the country. Cromwell, then leader of England and devout Protestant, viewed the arrangement with antipathy.

His resultant reconquest of Ireland was exceptionally blood-stained – sparing few devout Catholics, and killing, according to different sources, anywhere from 15-50% of the Irish population.

Cromwell’s assault upon Kilkenny Castle had symbolic, rather than strategic, significance. Although the then-owner of Kilkenny (James Butler) was a Protestant, his castle had been seized and was used as the Parliament (of ‘supreme council’) of the Irish Confederate.

Cromwell’s bombardment of Kilkenny marked his dominance over the Catholic Irish Confederate, and hence his reconquest of Ireland. Indeed, Cromwell’s efforts really completed the British domination of Ireland, which, just a few years later, became part of the British Commonwealth (alongside Wales and Scotland).

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Kilkenny Castle: Reconstruction and Repurposing
A bizarre two-and-fro occurred within Kilkenny Castle during the c17th and c19th. In the early 1650s, James Butler (the Protestant owner) returned to his castle from his self-imposed exile in France.

The history of Kilkenny is intimately entwined with the life of the Butler family, one of Ireland’s most important blood-lines. Indeed, the Butlers were owners of the castle from 1328-1967.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, if you’ve got any Irish blood and your surname is Butler, you’ll be related to the clan (however distantly).

Seeing the damage that’d been inflicted upon his castle, and inspired by the grand palaces and chateaux he’d visited in France, he returned with grand ideas – to remodel Kilkenny in the style of a true French palace.

By all accounts, although his ideas might have been eccentric, they weren’t distasteful. His grand plans included a Jacobean house within the North West wing; and also the foundations of the grand galleries in the base of the castle.

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However, in the c19th, the descendants of the Butler family (now enjoying wealthier times) had a dramatic change of heart. Likely inspired by the Romantic movement – which emphasised the beauty and significance of historical context – they decided to demolish the ‘chateau’ elements of the castle, and rebuild it in a romanticised, ‘Medieval’ fashion.

Some of their additions were frankly bizarre – building an entrance archway through the c13th curtain wall, as one ill-advised example. The consequence of their work was that Kilkenny became a muddle of architectural styles, somewhat detracting from its historical significance.

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The Modern Day Siege of Kilkenny Castle
The second most dramatic moment in Kilkenny Castle’s history happened very recently indeed – back in 1922.

The Butler family – namely Lord and Lady Ossory – were still residents of the castle. The Irish Civil war, however, raged around them. Lord Ossory memorably wrote that he was woken at the “unreasonable hour of 5.30am” by his butler, who brought the news that Republican forces had seized and occupied his castle.

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Admirably, both the Lord and Lady stayed put, despite the arrival of a “heterogeneous body” of “about 22 men”, who were equipped with “bombs and rifles”.

Things quickly took a turn for worse, however, when the opposing force – the Irish Free State – laid siege to the occupied castle. The castle contained the Lord, Lady, servants and Pekinese dogs – along with the 22 members of the opposing Republican force.

Quite incredibly, the Butlers chose to hole themselves up in one of their bedrooms – barricading the door with nowt but a machine gun outside. The siege lasted for two days, and despite significant damage to the castle, no-one was hurt. The siege ended when Free State forces crashed a car into the castle – and, surreally, both their side and the Republicans subsequently claimed credit for ‘saving’ the Butlers from the opposition.

Kilkenny Castle: From Ruin to Tourist Hot-Spot
In 1935, the Butler family, who had fallen on difficult times, decided that the hour had come for Kilkenny Castle. They sold their possessions and moved to London; leaving the castle abandoned and in a perilous state of disrepair.

The family still owned the castle, however; and for the following 30 years, it decayed rapidly – a sad, abandoned and uninhabited Irish ruin.

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Understanding the importance of the castle to Irish heritage, in the 1960s, the Butlers finally got round to selling the place to the Irish Ministry of Public Works for a nominal sum of £50. The family subsequently re-presented the castle to the people of Kilkenny in 1967.

The castle’s been well-taken care of since then, and houses a significant Art Gallery within its basement. It’s surrounded by extensive, and delicately-clipped ornamental grounds, and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Ireland.

Original article here.

Enjoy The New Year With These Top 10 Destinations

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What could be better than traveling to one of the world’s best destination hot spots to revel in this new year? I can’t think of many. But if you’re looking for some travel places to be more meaningful and exciting, look no further than these top ten best places to visit. Go experience what it’s like to try something new and get out of the same day to day mundane tasks. Make 2015 one to remember for many years to come.

The 10 Best Places to Spend The New Year in the World

Stay calm, plan ahead and be prepared. No, that’s not the motto of the boy scouts- it’s our advice for getting the most out of your upcoming New Year’s Eve celebration. But don’t worry; from the first hint of 201 in Sydney to the never-ending “fireworks” of the Northern Lights in Iceland, our goal is to help you plan your best Out-With-the-Old party yet. Raucous, ribald or relaxing- whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find a celebration to suit your mood.

1. Las Vegas

Enjoy dancing (and drinking) in the streets with more than 300,000 fellow partiers. Take your pick: the free-for-all, nightclub-strewn Strip or the 21-and-over Fremont Street Experience with three stages and nine hours of live bands; both are closed to traffic. Listen to the crowds roar at midnight when fireworks erupt from casino roofs around the city.

2. Berlin

One million-plus hedonists and hipsters can’t be wrong. The 1.2 mile stretch between the Victory Column and Brandenburg Gate is the place to celebrate Silvester — German for New Year’s Eve. Live bands and fireworks highlight this notorious outdoor party. For those ready to start their resolutions early, here’s our alternative pick: the 39th annual New Year’s Eve Run through the idyllic Grünewald forest.

3. Los Angeles

We love Hollywood’s exclusive club scene, rowdy pub crawls and over-the-top Cleopatra’s New Year’s Eve Ball, but this year downtown’s new Grand Park features live music, art installations, food trucks and a digital video show on the walls of City Hall. Post midnight, head to Pasadena to watch floats being assembled for the legendary New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses Parade.

4. Iceland

When the sun sets around 4 pm, visitors in Reykjavik bid their time while locals enjoy mass, neighborhood bonfires and an annual comedy show on T.V. Come midnight, though, Iceland’s capital explodes with 500 tons of fireworks. If you’re lucky, the Northern Lights will blaze above the city, too. Making up for the late start, bars and clubs beckon until five in the morning.

5. Sydney

A breathtaking light parade on Sydney Harbour? Check. Spectacular fireworks? Check. More than a million people gathered to be among the first to usher in 2015? Double check. For an unforgettable front row seat, grab tickets for one of the city’s best events with a view — we suggest the Royal Botanic Gardens or the La Bohème gala at the Opera House.

6. New Orleans

No slouch when it comes to throwing a party, the Big Easy rings in the New Year with vigor and verve. The place to be: Jackson Square, where Baby New Year drops from the top of Jax Brewery at midnight while fireworks scatter over the Mississippi River — book a steamboat cruise for prime viewing. Afterward, let the good times roll with all-night revelry on Bourbon Street.

7. London

London lights up as fireworks shoot from rafts on the Thames and the foot of the London Eye. Best spots for watching: Victoria Embankment and the South Bank. Many areas require tickets, so check ahead. Better yet, hire a barge for exclusive views, then head for the pubs to sing Auld Lang Syne. But don’t stay out too late; the New Year’s Day parade is one of London’s major events.

8. New York City

Blinding neon, world-class performers and that famous ball drop. Times Square is a given for merrymakers who want to go the classic route. As for those who prefer their festivities with an edge, there’s only one choice. Purchase an Official All-Access Meatpacking District Party Pass and you’ll glide past the velvet ropes at the neighborhood’s top bars and clubs — premium open bars included and bragging rights guaranteed.

9. Miami

Who? 250,000 locals and international visitors. What? The biggest fireworks show south of Times Square. Where? Bayfront Park, home to The Big Orange — live bands, family-friendly festivities, fireworks over Biscayne Bay and a midnight countdown as a 35-foot neon orange descends from the top of the InterContinental Miami.

10. Rio de Janeiro

But for New Year’s Eve, Copacabana is the place to be, featuring stages full of something for everyone, including scintillating samba, dance-your-pants of electronica or sweaty rock ‘n’ roll. Hotels are open around the clock, and beach-goers clothed in traditional white garb boogie the night (and the morning) away, while spraying Champagne into the air and throwing flowers into the ocean as good luck offerings to the goddess of the sea, Yemanja. This celebration is in full display under midnight fireworks.

If you’re looking to influence the coming year, tradition holds that revelers wear all white, while touches of blue call for peace in the coming year, red invites passion and yellow is for prosperity. It’s the biggest party in Rio not called Carnival, and packs it all into one wild night and morning on one of the world’s most marvelous beaches.

Read more here.

The Top 13 Family Vacation Hot Spots

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When it comes to finding a great family vacation in the US, look no further than these top 13 destination hot spots of the year. Come delve through this list of fun and exciting things to do with your family. This list has been compiled by thousands of travelers. Who voted on what they felt were the best kid friendly place to visit. We hope this help you when deciding and planning your next trip.

#1 Orlando-Walt Disney World

Why go: Known for its timeless appeal, thrill rides and performances, Disney World is engineered specifically for families, and its formula is very successful. But if you aren’t up for putting on mouse ears, Orlando hosts a slew of theme parks that are sure to excite wee ones. There’s no other city in the United States — the world, even — that celebrates childhood quite like Orlando. The feeling that you get when you catch the light off Epcot Center’s Spaceship Earth (found in Walt Disney World, of course); or from your first sip of Butterbeer in Hogsmeade (located insideIslands of Adventure’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter); or when you witness the soaring heights of Shamu’s flips (during the “Believe” water show at SeaWorld) — all prove that being a kid is about state of mind, not age. The notion that only young ones will enjoy this city’s charms is just that — a notion. In reality, Orlando has a little of this and a little of that to appeal to all ages, and there’s more to do here than visit theme parks. The subtropical climate is great for golfing and the downtown city landscape is too attractive not to explore.

#2 Honolulu – Oahu

Why go: Honolulu — especially Waikiki — offers excellent child-friendly beaches and activities, like snorkeling, swimming with dolphins and the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park. Plus, many hotels sit along the shore, negating the need for public transportation or a vehicle. Oahu blends cosmopolitan luxury and breathtaking scenery more than any other Hawaiian island. The state’s capital city, Honolulu, showcases the island’s urban appeal. Nearby you’ll find a host of cultural and historical sites, from the austere USS Arizona Memorial to ornate ‘Iolani Palace. In the nearby Waikiki neighborhood, a skyline of high-rises and resort hotels contrasts with sprawling white-sand beaches. For a taste of rural Hawaii, visit the North Shore. Here, you’ll find the most brilliant blue waters and meandering hikes. But those three spots aren’t all Oahu offers. Its high-class restaurants, vibrant cultural events, and wild nightlife further showcase this island as a “Gathering Place” of Hawaiian culture.

#3 Yellowstone

Why go: Kids will get a kick out of watching Old Faithful erupt, and there’s nothing quite like an afternoon hike to bring the clan together. Hotels inside the park can be expensive, so make this a BYOB (bring your own bed) vacation. With dramatic peaks and pristine lakes, Yellowstone is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Multicolored pools swirl around hot springs; verdant forests weave past expansive meadows; and volatile geysers launch streams of steaming water toward the sky. With so much unspoiled natural beauty, it’s no wonder everyone suspected John Colter (a scout for explorers Lewis and Clark) was embellishing when he first described Yellowstone’s geothermal curiosities in 1807. Nowadays, there’s no doubt that the park is indeed extraordinary. While you traverse the park’s 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls, be prepared to share the trails with permanent residents like buffalo, elk and sometimes even grizzlies.

Although Yellowstone attracts about 3 million visitors every year, chances are — unless you spend your entire trip at Old Faithful — you won’t see much of them. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres creep from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, offering plenty of untouched territory to explore. Carve out a day or two to take in the view at Yellowstone Lake and Mammoth Hot Springs. But save some time for the trails through lesser-known regions, like the hot springs of the West Thumb Geyser Basin and the untamed wildlife dotting the Lewis River Channel and Dogshead Loop. While the sheer number of trails and wildlife-watching opportunities may seem daunting at first, remember: You can always come back.

#4 Yosemite

Why go: What makes Yosemite an excellent family destination is its numerous outdoor offerings, from hiking and camping to mountain climbing and rafting. And, unlike other parks, Yosemite boasts relatively easy accessibility (San Francisco is only a few hours away by car). One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within a seven-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley. Here you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks — Half Dome and El Capitan — as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments. Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite — guided tours and climbing lessons are offered from local adventure outfitters. Just don’t expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation — at least four million people visit a year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature’s wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.

#5 Grand Canyon

Why go: The Grand Canyon is a universally admired family destination, perhaps due to the Brady Bunch and the Griswold’s. You’ll find lots to do here, including hiking, kayaking, rafting and riding Grand Canyon Railway. The Grand Canyon also manages to be budget-friendly. “Grand” doesn’t begin to do this canyon justice. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is truly a natural wonder. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has expanded with the help of the mighty Colorado River, and for centuries, people from all over the globe have traveled to gaze out over its red and orange grandeur. Managed by the National Park Service and officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon leaves its approximately 4.5 million visitors per year awestruck.

But if you’re seeking a secluded escape to Mother Nature, you should be prepared: The Grand Canyon can be very crowded. The South Rim — home to the Grand Canyon Village and the well-worn Bright Angel Trail — is particularly popular for sightseers and hikers. It is on this side that you’ll find the most amenities. However, for a true escapist experience, head to the North Rim. This is the place for backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

#6 Washington D.C.

Why go: The key to D.C.’s family appeal is the National Mall, which is surrounded by free, kid-friendly museums and renowned monuments. If you have some extra time, spend a few hours at the National Zoo (which also offers free entry) or snag a treat at one of Georgetown’s cupcake shops. With its marbled monuments and high-profile politicos, Washington, D.C., has long been saddled with a reputation as a stuffy government-driven town. A “city of southern efficiency and northern charm,” as John F. Kennedy once described it, Washington is often seen by outsiders as slow and inefficient. But these days, our nation’s capital is awash with a new energy, transforming itself into an exciting, faster-paced East Coast vacation destination. Although government is still the sun around which this city orbits, the District also offers a host of renowned museums and interesting neighborhoods. And with a recent explosion of restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and clubs, D.C. is transitioning into a thriving cultural hub. As the D.C. Tourism Board is emphasizing through its “DC Cool” campaign, this isn’t the Washington you remember from your middle school field trip — it’s much hipper than that.

You can choose a traditional D.C. adventure, filled with tours of classic attractions like the White House and the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. And there’s no better way to experience iconic D.C. than with a stroll around the Tidal Basin. (Plan to visit in late March or early April —just in time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival — and you’ll be rewarded with a canopy of beautiful pink bloom.) But if you’ve already seen the national landmarks, get a feel for the city’s more youthful ambiance, highlighted by its urban neighborhoods, marquee art galleries and vibrant farmers’ markets. Follow foodies to Eastern Market, where Capitol Hill residents shuffle through stands for the freshest produce and trendiest clothing (before working their way through a mile-high stack of pancakes). Afterward, peruse the high-end stores peppering Georgetown or rub shoulders with savvy Washingtonians at the many bars and music joints crowding the U Street Corridor. While you’ll only need a few days to see the city as you know it from your history book, it could take months to experience the Washington that today’s locals know and love.

#7 San Diego

Why go: The simple truth: San Diego offers 70 miles of sandy fun. When the waves start to bore little ones, the creatures at the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld are sure to hold their interest. Plus, if you need some relief from the sun, head to the museums of Balboa Park. Consistently sunny weather and 70 miles of magnificent coastline are what draw active types to San Diego throughout the year: that and the mouthwatering cuisine, thriving nightlife and one of the country’s favorite zoos. And then there are the beaches: Retreat to Mission Beach to soak up the rays, to La Jolla to catch a wave and to Coronado for a leisurely seaside stroll. When you’re ready to ditch your flip-flops and board shorts for more formal attire, you’ll find pockets of vivacious nightlife throughout, especially near the historical Gaslamp Quarter.

America’s Finest City is a confluence of different communities defined by the area’s military and Hispanic heritage: San Diego is home of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet and sits adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border. In spite of constant growth (and its title as California’s second-largest city), San Diego maintains a small-town feel, making it a popular destination for families and anyone looking for a laid-back, Southern California getaway in the sun.

#8 Myrtle Beach

Why go: Myrtle Beach lacks the diversity of other destinations on this list. But in terms of accessibility and cost, Myrtle Beach offers an excellent family getaway. Meanwhile, Ripley’s Aquarium and Mount Atlanticus Miniature Golf are welcome distractions from the shoreline. The clean beaches are the main draw in Myrtle Beach, but there’s more to her than miles of brown sand. One of the best East Coast family vacation destinations, Myrtle Beach, S.C. boasts hundreds of golf courses for golfers at all levels; amusement parks that fling the kiddies around on water rides, roller coasters and race tracks; Dolly Parton singing and dancing for dinner guests; and Ripley’s Aquarium, which dares visitors to commune with the sharks. It might not be the ritziest vacation, but the casual capital of South Carolina’s 60-mile long waterfront, the Grand Strand, is a rambunctious smorgasbord of family fun.

#9 San Francisco

Why go: San Francisco is home to some excellent family-friendly attractions — Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, to name a few. The city is also close to great outdoor areas, including Yosemite National Park and Muir Woods. The only downside: It’s pricey. A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, San Francisco draws those free-spirited types who have an eye for edgy art, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. It’s really not surprising that songwriter Tony Bennett left his heart here: The city boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues — there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy here. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. And for the quintessential San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car.

Often described as Los Angeles’ more refined northern cousin, cool and compact San Francisco takes the big-city buzz exuded by its southern counterpart and melds it with a sense of small-town charm. Here, you’ll discover a mish-mash of culture flourishing throughout San Francisco’s many vibrant quarters. Follow the crowds to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz) before heading along the bay to the Presidio for a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. But don’t forget to save time for the Mission district, The Haight and The Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle.

#10 Williamsburg

Why Go: Nearly everything in this tiny Virginia town caters to families. Colonial Williamsburg allows youngsters to immerse themselves in history. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t deny the kids a chance to cool down at Water Country USA or to ride the coasters at Busch Gardens. For such a historical town, Williamsburg — as tourists know it — is fairly new. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the downtown area of this Virginia Peninsula city was restored. Now you can tread the same steps that our Founding Fathers once took — in fact, in Williamsburg, you just might even find yourself trekking alongside those men (or at least, alongside some talented, costumed interpreters acting out their parts). The area isn’t a novelty, though. Instead, Williamsburg and the nearby cities of Jamestown and Yorktown are breathing monuments to some of the best-known figures of our colonial history. Patrick Henry, George Washington, John Smith, Pocahontas and more — they all receive their due.

#11 Anaheim-Disneyland

Why go: Similar to its Disney sister city, Orlando, Anaheim has enough mouse-themed attractions to keep parents and kids busy and smiling. Plus, Anaheim has the added benefit of its California location, which sits in close proximity to the beaches and sites of Los Angeles and San Diego. Many vacationers come to Anaheim for Disneyland. A plaque at the entrance of the park says: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy,” and for more than 50 years, this complex of amusement parks and hotels has remained a fun fantasy world. Even if you’ve been to other Disney resorts, nothing beats the original’s unique place as a vintage landmark in the heart of Southern California. This vibrant park is still a great place for families — in fact, your kids will most likely have so much fun with Mickey and friends that they’ll never want to leave. And with plenty of thrilling rides and a bustling Downtown entertainment district, you might not want to leave either.

But Disneyland isn’t the only thing luring visitors to this Southern California city. There are other parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Adventure City, a picturesque nature park and even an “angelic” baseball stadium. And, although you might not know it as you’re sweating it out in the summertime, Anaheim is within a 30-minute drive to the cooling ocean breeze of Long, Huntington and Laguna beach’s.

#12 San Antonio

Why go: San Antonio contains an abundance of family-oriented attractions, including the Alamo, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld and several historic parks. Add plentiful family-friendly restaurants and a relatively unique setting and San Antonio truly is a first-rate family destination. Davy Crockett may have perished at the Alamo, but San Antonio clings to the Texan pride shown by the “King of the Wild Frontier” and his compatriots in 1836. This modern city’s history especially rears its noble head throughout downtown. In addition to the Alamo, you’ll find several other famous missions, all of which are now a part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. And amongst the gleaming skyscrapers, the austere San Fernando Cathedral still stands as a testament to the city’s religious past. But, don’t be fooled: You don’t need a hankering for history to enjoy this city. With theme parks, top-notch museums, professional sports teams and the famous River Walk, you might have too much to do to “Remember the Alamo.”

#13 Tampa

Why Go: Trade crowded, expensive Orlando for relaxed, affordable Tampa. Mingle with manatees at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center or look for lions at Big Cat Rescue. If your family can’t shake the longing for roller coasters, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island will do the trick. Everyone knows that Tampa is the place for families, and for animal lovers, also for conventioneers. But possibly — even if you don’t fit into any of those demographics — Tampa is for you too? This balmy city by the bay still has plenty of charms away from the amusement park, the aquarium and the convention center (although Busch Gardens and the Florida Aquarium are not shabby ways to spend a day). There’s lots of history here — for example, Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stopped here on their way to Cuba during the Spanish-American War. And you’ll also find a few choice museums, including the Museum of Science & Industry. And then there’s the sports — this is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL). It’s the namesake city of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, and the actual spring training home base for several other major league teams. And when you’ve exhausted all that Tampa has to offer, you can just pop over to St. Petersburg for some sophisticated dining or to Clearwater for the beach.

Courtesy of Travel US News