Places To Visit

The Best Cities in California

Almost everyone in the world has heard of California before. Its iconic surfer culture, cosmopolitan Las Angeles, hip and “techy” San Francisco – Cali really has a bit of it all. With a population of almost 40 million people, its got more residents than most countries! Here are 3 cities in California you shouldn’t miss on your next trip there.


1. Los Angeles

“The City of Angels” is the largest city in California with a population of 3.8 million people. It’s also the second largest city in the US after New York City. It makes a great place to visit with a myriad of activities to do like going to shop on Rodeo Drive, cruise the Hollywood Hills and keep and eye out for stars, hike in Runyon Canyon or hit the beach in Ventura. If you want to stay in style, then opt for private villa rentals in Los Angeles over a hotel, you won’t regret it!

2. San Francisco

Located in the mid to northern part of California, San Francisco is the largest city in the region. It was almost completely destroyed in the early 1900s due to an epic earthquake and ensuing fire, but it was rebuilt and now boasts beautiful Victorian architecture as well as a melange of other styles. San Francisco is a culture vulture’s heaven with its countless museums, historic Fisherman’s Wharf, the famous island-jail, Alcatraz, and one the oldest China Town in the USA. Here’s a travel tip, walk around China Town and when you find a restaurant that’s busy, it’s going to be worth the wait.

What’s also great about San Francisco is that you can be in pristine nature in about 20 minutes, and you get to cross over the famous Golden Gate Bridge to get there! Muir Woods is a truly magical place. It’s home to countless Redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world. There are currently trees living in Muir Woods that are over 350 feet tall!

3. San Diego

Just a few miles north of the Mexican border rests stunning San Diego. This cosmopolitan city has some of the best weather in the country with almost perpetual sunny skies and a pleasant temperature year round. Explore the historic Gas Lamp Quarter, climb aboard a massive Air Craft Carrier or enjoy the waves at Pacific Beach, a famous surfing beach.

San Diego is a great beer city and there are many independent brewers that you can take tours of. Ballast Point is a great brewer and they have daily tours and tastings.

Explore Flights, Hotels, and Seasonal Things to do in Vail, Colorado

There are many things to do in Vail, Colorado ... photo by CC user Nick Csakany on wikimedia

Of course, everyone knows about winter activities like skiing and snowboarding in Vail, Colorado. Although it’s one of the top trendy vacation spots and home to world-class athletes, it retains a friendly small town feel at the same time. Vail, known as a world-renowned vacation destination, isn’t only popular when the weather drops; it’s common during all seasons, boasting the ultimate experience for all ages.

Founded by Siebert and Eaton in 1962, the ski resort is named after Charles Vail, the legendary highway engineer who built the first road through the area. Their dream when viewing the mountain terrain from the top was to create a ski resort, never imagining that it would become so much more.

Spring Fling

Actually, March is the end of the ski season and noted as the biggest end-of-season bash of the Rocky Mountains. With free live concerts, after-dark parties, and base area giveaways, you’ll have the time of your life. Whether you’re ending the cold weather or beginning the warmer season, there is something for everyone.

Summer Vacation in Vail

On Wheels

Most people don’t think of traveling to Vail, Colorado during the summer months and others wonder why they would. Well, from experience I can testify there are a multitude of adventurous and exciting things to do in the warmer months.

There are gorgeous trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding, the usual stuff. For something different, try mountain biking on the cross-country trails where you’ll see miles of scenic vistas. Getting to the top is fun, but if you want a ride down the mountain, the trails are accessed by Gondola One for the first timer, families, or experts. Purchase a bike haul ticket at the base gondola. And if you forgot to bring your bike or helmet, rentals are available from Vail Sports in the Village.

On Water or by Foot



Vail Village via by mattmangum

Tickets for other activities like kayaking and rafting are found in Vails White Water Park in the center of the village. Guided class 1-4 river trips on the Eagle or Colorado River are exhilarating and exciting. The Betty Ford Garden is the highest botanical garden in the United States. There, you’ll see waterfalls, as well as perennial and rock gardens, or you can have fun with a photography or kids educational class.

On the Mountain Top

Adventure Ridge is full of fun activities for all ages. Take the Eagle Bahn Gondola 10,000 feet up and play disc golf, or go tubing. If you’re not that adventurous, enjoy the spectacular views while eating BBQ food. Buy tickets in bundles of three or more goings-on. Try the Rebound Trampoline and catch air or step up the Climbing Wall. Play Lawn Sports like the bag toss, horseshoes, or Dino Dig. You can even fly through the air on the Zipline or go ice skating. Yes, summer ice-skating at Dobson Ice Arena. To heal those sore muscles, swim in a hot mineral bath at Glenwood Hot Springs.

Fall Extremes and Winter Variations

On Land, Air, or by a Motorized Vehicle

Everyone takes to the road during fall foliage, but have you ever thought about seeing the impressive end of summer colors from a hot air balloon? What about watching the X-Game athletes? Another exciting thing to do is to go jeeping with a professional Jeep driver climbing and turning for the experience of your life.

If you’re not a skier, try a Dog Sled Tour, a one-of-a-kind experience whizzing by wildlife like elk, deer, and the elusive snow fox. Try Ice Climbing with Apex Climbing School with a private guide. Give snowshoeing or snowmobiling a try or go on a sleigh ride. At the end of the day, visit Vail Valley where restaurants, shops, and attractions are plentiful.

Now that you know the time of year that appeals to you most, the below information will get you there and find lodging.

Fly Into Denver International Airport or Eagle Country Regional Airport

Finding an inexpensive flight to Vail, Colorado is tricky. Denver International Airport had its busiest year ever in 2014 with 53.4 million passengers. In fact, the busiest months were January, February, April, May, September, and October. Also noted as the 15th busiest airport in the world, DIA is just 121 miles from Vail Mountain, or a two-hour drive while Eagle/Vail Airport, is 30 minutes from the mountain and one of the fastest growing airports in the nation. I suggest you make your reservations on the fringe seasons if possible.

There are ample transportation services from the airport to the hotels, beyond car rentals. I use Vail Transport Services or All Mountain Transportation, both competitive with pricing.

Stay in a Hotel, Condominium or a Private Room

Prices are higher in the winter months. When looking for cheap places to stay, keep in mind, Vail is expensive. The least expensive is a private room in one’s home. But you’ll find lower cost lodging in Vail by staying a bit further from the mountain.

Places like the Holiday Inn Vail and the Eagle Point Resort are affordable, both with a pool. The Eagle Resort is a condominium with an airport shuttle, and the Holiday Inn has a fitness center, restaurant, and business center. If you travel with your pet, they’re welcome too. Finally, the Vail Marriott Resort and Spa is the least expensive in August, and the Simba Run Vail Condominium is cheapest in October. In 2014 World Travel Awards nominated Hipmunk as a lead comparison travel site, so investigate different places to stay using the best website.

I’m trying to build an ultimate resource for things to do in Vail. If you’ve been there, please add your thoughts or other tips and things to do below.


Linda Manning lives in trendy Newport, Rhode Island, with her husband, Paul, and young English springer spaniel Brooklynn. She is a licensed boat captain and certified diver who loves to travel. She is a freelance writer for travel sites such as At home, Linda loves gardening, cooking, entertaining, art, museums, and all Newport has to offer.

3 Epic Road Trips in the USA

Route 66 is one of the most epic road trips in the USA... photo by CC user Vítězslav Válka on

Being a relatively young country compared with most other nations on Earth, much of the USA grew up around the automobile, creating a strong car culture that is hard to find elsewhere in the world. As such, there are many epic road trips in the USA, and if you are visiting this nation in 2015, the following three routes will make the best use of the rental car that you will be hiring.

1) Route 66

As sung about in the King Cole Trio’s late 1940’s hit (Get your kicks on) Route 66, this iconic American road trip will take you through the western two thirds of the United States from Chicago to LA.

Cutting through parts of America’s heartland, breadbaskets and its picturesque deserts on your way to the sanguine lands of California, this route (now discontinued in places due to freeway construction) may not be the most scenic at times, but it will put you in touch with some of its most real people.

Being separated from the often alienating nature of the USA’s biggest cities, the hospitality that you will shown in places like Amarillo, Texas and Flagstaff, Arizona will reflect very positively on this nation’s reputation for friendliness.

2) Boston to Washington DC

If you thrive off the energy of urban areas instead feeling drained by them, and don’t mind driving on busy interstate highways, following I-95 from Boston to Washington DC will put you in touch with many of America’s most prominent cities.

Start in Boston, where the first events that set the American Revolution in motion occurred, and after a side trip to enjoy the beach resorts of Cape Cod, head down the coast towards New York City. Spend several days wandering from borough to borough after seeing the essential attractions (Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Empire State Building, etc), as virtually every culture and nationality on the planet has an enclave within the bounds of NYC.

After this, work your way down the Jersey Shore and head straight into Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell and the home of the Declaration of Independence, as well as one of the yummiest sandwiches on Earth, the Philly Cheesesteak.

Finally, head through Delaware and Maryland to Baltimore, where the Inner Harbor holds many tourist attractions worth a day or two, and then onward to Washington DC, where tons of museums and monuments will keep you busy until you get to see the White House (reserve a tour spot through your nation’s embassy well in advance).

3) Pacific Coast Highway

Lauded in many travel publications as one of the best road trips in the USA, the Pacific Coast Highway takes you along Central California’s heartstoppingly scenic coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The Coast Range tumbles into the ocean through much of this road’s length, creating countless photo ops along the away, as well as numerous isolated beaches where nature lovers can recharge their mental batteries in an hour of aimless wandering along the high tide line.

Top reasons to visit French Guiana

monkeys like this fella here are among the top reasons to visit French Guiana ... photo by CC user deadmike on Flickr

While tourism isn’t the top economy of this overseas French territory, the top reasons to visit French Guiana allow you to explore this country’s untapped tourism potential. Located in the Amazonia department of South America between Brazil and Suriname, the country is blessed with a coastline of fine, golden sands and warm, azure waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, as well as the lush greenery of the Amazonia. And there’s a whole lot of other things to see and experience in this overseas French territory.

Here are some of the top reasons to visit French Guiana, and don’t forget about finding a French translation company before you go.

Rhythm of the Carnival Guyanais. Ranked as the 4th largest carnival in the world, the Carnival Guyanais is one of the most anticipated celebrations in the whole of South America. The carnival is filled with dancing to the sounds and rhythm of rumba, waltz, mazurka and the beguine. Booking a cheap hotel in advance is recommended as things sell out very fast closer to carnival. Many flights heading to French Guyana also transit through the USA, make sure you have a transit or ESTA visa in order before passing through the USA to avoid any headaches.

The Carnival Guanais takes place on January to February.

Watch rocket launches. Nothing’s more exciting than counting down to the majestic launching of the rocket ship, Ariane 5. To attend the launch, you may need to send a request for an invitation by mail. Don’t forget to include your name, age and contact details. Also, it’s best to send the request way ahead.

Take a walk on the wild side. One of the top reasons to visit French Guiana is the excursions to the Amazonia, where you can marvel at its abundant and unique flora and fauna in its forests and rivers and see the unique cultures of its indigent residents, the Amerindians and the Maroons.

Tours in the Amazonia offer a great deal of activities, from hiking, to boat trips.

Beaches. French Guiana is also known for its pristine beaches, where you can catch some sun, sea and surf, and if you’re lucky, giant sea turtles nesting in one of its isolated and protected beaches.

Unique shopping experience. Whether you go to the Hmong Market in Cacao or the market in Cayenne, shopping in French Guiana is a unique and unforgettable experience. Here, you can find interesting trinkets and pieces perfect for souvenirs. In addition, you can never ignore the country’s unique culture through the people selling their wares in the markets.

Top Places to learn Portuguese in Brazil

Cosmopolitan Sao Paulo is one of the best places to learn Portuguese in Brazil ...  photo by CC user julioboaro on Flickr

Occupying a massive chink of the South American continent, Brazil and its 200 million people have become one of the most significant nations on Earth in the 21st century. Without a doubt, it has become one of the world’s most powerful Portuguese speaking nations, as desperate young people from the mother country have fled their economically destitute land in search of opportunity here.

Others, like you dear traveler, often come seeking some of the best parties, surfing beaches, and jungle environments on the planet. Unlike the rest of Latin America though, this nation speaks Portuguese, a language related to Spanish, but with a number of fundamental differences.

So while you might be ready to book your flight on TAM, you don’t quite know where a great place to study Portuguese in Brazil might be. To help you solve this conundrum, we have uncovered three cities that are perfect for this purpose.

Find out which suits your personality best and once you do, start packing and prepare for the learning opportunity of a lifetime!

1) Belo Horizonte

Located in the midst of historic Midas Gerais state, Belo Horizonte is a great place for those that want to discover the wealth of colonial architecture that lies in smaller towns and cities on days off from their studies. Located well away from larger centers like Rio and Sao Paulo, very few people here speak even basic English, making an excellent environment for immersing yourself in Portuguese 24/7.

Those that are fans of modern architecture will love this place, as Belo is a planned city founded in the 1890’s, meaning that most of its growth has occurred in the past century.

2) Florianopolis

Want to combine your love of the beach and surfing with learning Portuguese? If so, then Florianopolis will make for an excellent base for your learning efforts. It is said that immersion has its greatest success when you learn vocabulary that is centered around your interests, so when you go to hit the waves, limit your interactions with fellow English speaking foreigners, and surf with the locals.

Not only will you learn to speak Portuguese faster, you’ll pick up the local knowledge of the best surf breaks, leading to experiences that travelers passing through can only dream about!

3) São Paulo

If you are a fan of large cities, but the touristy vibe of Rio de Janeiro rubs you the wrong way, then São Paulo will prove to be an excellent option for you. Being a big learning center within Brazil, there are many native Brazilians that are looking to learn English as they earn their degree.

This presents an opportunity for a cultural exchange that will allow them to teach you Portuguese, in exchange for helping them with their English. As for the city itself, São Paulo is known as one of Brazil’s leading centers for arts and culture.

This means that there will be no shortage of museums and galleries to explore, making this place heaven on Earth for the cultured among us.