Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Suburbia Safari: Vacation Simplified and Close


Who doesn’t want to, one day, just pack everything up and fly to Paris? Or Venice, or Hawaii- just somewhere that’s out of the ordinary suburban daily life. I mean, how are you going to find anything exciting to do around here?

It’s easier than you might think. It’s time to find out how to have a great time without ever even leaving the city.


When you want to find something to do, there are a few places to look.

  • Does your city have a Facebook page? If you follow it, they’ll keep you updated to new events.
  • The local newspaper is sure to have a listing of all sorts of fun things to do.
  • Last, but not least, keep tabs on your local library- they usually have a bulletin board full of people’s flyers, letting you keep up on the newest and greatest town activities.

Types of Fun

There is so much to do- you might go from finding the town ‘blah’ to being a bit overwhelmed.

Let’s start with the great outdoors:

  • Concerts
  • Outdoor Theater (Shakespeare in the Park, anyone?)
  • Seasonal Events (Parades and Easter Egg hunts!)
  • Fairs and Festivals
  • Sports
  • Hiking Trails
  • Playgrounds
  • Pools and Splash Pads
  • Parks and Beaches (and often parks will have their own events)
  • Zoos (who will also have events- follow them on social media, too!)

And more!

What about indoor activities?

  • Concerts (in concert halls!)
  • Plays (also in concert halls!)
  • Other Theater (Improv Comedy, etc.)
  • Dance (Both to observe and classes to learn)
  • Museums (Science museums tend to be interactive for more fun for the kids)
  • Gyms (Check out their classes and learn something new.)
  • Libraries & Library Story Time

And more!

How to Explore

Obviously, you can just plan a trip to, say, watch a play in a park and have a picnic, maybe with a Frisbee for before-the-play fun. Those outings are exciting and become fond memories for your family. To give yourself a break, let the kids participate in a library story time while you kick back and read something. Day trips to the museum can be great fun, not to mention educational. But there are less conventional ways to explore, too. Have you tried just walking out the door and seeing where the road (and/or sidewalk) take you? Add a random element and then you’ll really have an adventure on your hands. Who knows what you’ll see and what you’ll learn? And all without a passport, travel tickets, or hotel fees. Hometown adventure is something you’ll never forget.

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Travel Carry-On Must-Haves

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Most airlines allow 2 carry-on items, one in the overhead bin and the other under the seat in front of you. When you’ve got limited space, figuring out what to bring in as little space as possible is essential. Let’s talk about things you definitely want to make sure you take on that next flight.

Need To Get On the Plane:

Photo ID and Boarding Pass- Put these in an easy-to-access location so you aren’t holding up the line at the checkpoint (although probably not pockets- remember you need to empty your pockets when going through security).

Need for the Trip:

Itinerary- Please don’t get lost.

Wallet- With cards, addresses, and generally just to keep an eye on.

Phone- Good for a lot of things. Coordinate landing times, check times in the airport, and if you’ve got a smart phone, entertainment and maybe even your boarding pass.

Other Electronics- Laptops, eReaders, etc., make travel much easier.

Charger- Because really, what good will your phone/laptop be if it’s dead? Maybe you have one in your checked bag, but that won’t help if you have a layover and get stuck for hours. (Which will happen if you forget your charger, so bringing it with you is proof against bad luck. Right?)

Headphones- Or ear buds. Something to listen to music/watch a show/quiet the world around you.

Health- Tylenol for headache prevention, hygiene equipment for the ladies if it’s near that time, sanitizing wipes are a good idea (and not liquid, so no worries about bottle size).

Good Stuff to Smooth Travel:

Water Bottle- Bring it empty, fill after you pass through security, don’t get dehydrated. Or buy one past security if you prefer/forgot to bring one.

Food- We know airport food is expensive. Bring crackers, peanuts, granola bars, fruit (not if you’re flying international; there could be complications)- whatever you like munching on.

Camera- If you don’t use the one on your phone, at least.

Pen & Paper- For jotting down ideas, doodling, or just having handy, pen & paper are good to have.

Books- Nothing to keep you occupied on a long trip like a good book. Make sure it’s one you’ll like and be interested in or it might just make the trip feel longer.

Traveling with Kids:

Entertainment- Maybe books, favorite dolls- something to keep them occupied. Just nothing too complicated so pieces don’t get lost and certainly nothing noisy. Aside from bugging neighbors, do you want to be cooped up with a noisy toy for hours?

Snacks- We know we already mentioned this, but it’s especially handy to have around when traveling with young ones. Keep them occupied, full, and happy or the trip will be harder on you.

Overhead Bag:

This is the emergency essentials- the to-go bag ready for you if your checked bag gets lost. This should carry:


1-2 sets of clothing (including underwear)

Hygiene Equipment- brush, toothpaste/toothbrush, contact solution, deodorant, etc.

Anything you may need- within the first two days of your trip that isn’t easily obtainable from a store.

Enjoy your trip, fly safe, and be ready for whatever the journey may care to throw at you!

Image courtesy of Fox News

10 Traveling Safety Tips When Venturing Out In The World


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.

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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


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


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.


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


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 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


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


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.



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


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


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


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,, thegoldenscopeit, heartofpittsburgh,, 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:,,,, 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.