Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

First-Ever, Statewide Waterfall Trail in the U.S. Opens Just in Time for Summer
Kick off summer on a quest. For the very first time, a statewide trail helps active travelers get off the beaten path, connecting them to over two dozen waterfalls across the most scenic parts of West Viriginia.

The 29 waterfalls of the official West Virginia Waterfall Trail are just a ‘drop in the bucket’ of the more than 200 waterfalls found in picturesque places around the state.

Chasing Waterfalls in America’s Newest National Park

Included on the trail are six waterfalls in America's 63rd – and newest - national park, the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. These breathtaking cascades can be found within secluded coves, such as Turkey Creek Falls, or can be enjoyed at the end of a scenic trail, such as Glade Creek Falls, or hidden gems like Finn's falls. As travelers continue to flock to the national park, the falls along the West Virginia Waterfall Trail highlight must-visit spots to add to an East Coast summer nature trip.
 
The novelty of the new park and its falls is in addition to well-known cascades along the West Virginia Waterfall Tails like Blackwater (pictured) and Sandstone, as well as lesser-known waterfalls like Drawdy in Boone County. Some, like Cathedral, tower above the valley floor, while others span wide rivers.

As more and more of us show an interest in spending our leisure and travel time outdoors, the launch of the first-ever waterfall trail couldn’t come at a better time – in addition to its debut at the beginning of the summer and along with the state’s landmark new national park and nature preserve.

'Breathtaking waterfalls are everywhere in our 1.5 million acres of parks and public lands, making this trail a must-experience activity for adventure-seekers this summer,' said West Virginia’s Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby on the occasion of the waterfall trail inauguration in June, 2022.

The state dubs itself ‘an outdoor oasis in the heart of the East Coast,’ and just in 2022, the state has been recognized by a number of prestigious publications for its magnificent scenic beauty and outdoor recreation. Among its natural wonders, the rushing waterfalls found across the state create the perfect backdrop for soft adventure that’s accessible to almost everyone, young and young at heart, and at multiple levels of fitness.

West Virginia’s connecting its natural wonders via new technology. Travelers on a waterfall quest in the state can go to WVtourism.com/waterfalls and register to have the West Virginia Waterfall Trail passport delivered straight to your smartphone. As travelers explore each of the more than two dozen waterfalls featured on the trail, they can stamp their passports by checking in at each location.

The state’s Department of Tourism is even rewarding waterfall chasers with exclusive gear along the way in the trail’s inaugural season:
  • Check in at three or more waterfalls and receive a custom sticker.
  • Check in at 10 or more waterfalls and receive an aluminum water bottle.
  • Check in at 20 or more waterfalls and receive a waterfall wanderer t-shirt.
 
'From simple boardwalks to hilly treks, we want to make your efforts to experience our falls worth every mile,' said Ruby. 'While out and about on the West Virginia Waterfall Trail, be sure to post photos of your explorations on social media using #AlmostHeaven.'
 
Go for the falls, stay for West Virginia’s other stunning attractions. In addition to its majestic mountains and rolling hills, West Virginia is full of rich historic sites, enchanting art galleries, charming towns and what state officials call “an immense sense of belonging found only in these heaven-like landscapes.”

 

Start Your Nature Trip!

 


New Ways to Celebrate the Start of Summer at the "World's Most Photogenic Beach"
A recent survey of the most popular hashtags in travel photo posts in social media wasn’t a scientific study. But it did generate a clear winner of the title “World’s Most Photogenic Beach.”

That honor went to the seven miles of shorelines and sparkling waters of South Florida’s legendary Miami Beach. If it’s been a while since you indulged in the surfside views and epic lifestyle of one of America’s most famous beaches and beach towns, here are some experiences that can give you new ways to enjoy Miami Beach.

And just in time for the unofficial start of the summer season – with family-friendly ideas, too. 

Seaside

Air & Sea Show: Late May’s unique annual event, dubbed “the Greatest Show Above the Earth,” showcases the men, women, technology and equipment in motion from all five branches of the U.S. military, as well as police and emergency responders. Over two days, you’ll get a rush of adrenaline watching offshore powerboat racing exhibitions, extreme water sports, and more – all with sweeping ocean views from the shores of Miami Beach.

Fishing Charters: Find a little adventure of your own through some of Miami Beach’s world-class offshore, deep sea or wreck fishing just off its shores. Experienced anglers and novice fishers just starting to get a taste for man vs. fish challenges will find an active, educational, and customized day – or half-day – at sea.

Luxury Yacht Charters: Maybe you don’t need your day on the water to have a goal like a big catch. Singles, couples, friends and families can all enjoy a day on the water ‘living the life’ on a luxury yacht. Custom charter itineraries can include a tour of the shore’s gorgeous architecture and celebrity home views, an afternoon learning the ropes on how to operate a water vessel, culinary experiences catered by local private chefs and active water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding and jet skiing.
 
Salt Float Bath Therapy: You can even get the benefits of salt water while on land. The Carillon Miami Wellness Resort lets you float your stress away in a weightless saltwater bath that incorporates 800 pounds of healthy bath salts. The experience helps release natural endorphins, relieve muscle pain, calm anxieties and stimulate blood flow. Who doesn’t need some of that? Plus the stellar ocean views poolside while you relax following your salt water spa experience.

 

Open-Air Design 'Museum'


You may already know about Miami Beach’s globally-recognized collection of design genres including art deco, Mediterranean revival, MiMo and the Miami Beach school of architecture. The city keeps adding to its unique design history in its tropical vacation lifestyle.

Signature Lifeguard Stands:
Recently, the reinvented Miami Beach’s signature lifeguard stands by William Lane (pictured, top) have been newly-recognized as iconic landmarks and symbols of the design-centric, urban beach destination.
 
After Hurricane Andrew destroyed several of the lifeguard stands dotting Miami Beach in the 1990’s, the city called upon designer William Lane to create replacements. Almost immediately, the five lifeguard stands, which the designer said were “influenced not only by Miami’s midcentury and art deco architecture but also by its Caribbean culture and the use of vibrant colors derived from the natural beauty of the tropics” became symbols of the community’s renaissance. Decades later, he was asked to revitalize more of Miami Beach’s seven-miles of sand and sea with new, eye-catching lifeguard towers. You won’t want to miss even one.
 
Get more of a design fix at some new or newly-renovated Miami Beach hotel properties, and design tours, too.
 
The Shelbourne South Beach dates back to the 1940's, exuding timeless luxury, elegance and original Art Deco design. As a stylish playground, guests can expect a dose of oceanside glamour with pops of color and interesting angles to enjoy, even from the hotel’s pool and diving platform. 
 
While Miami Beach is known for incredible Art Deco style, Mediterranean Revival is not to be missed. From superstar couture designer Gianni Versace's masterpiece on Ocean Drive to restaurants and storefronts featuring handmade tile and metal intricacies, travelers can get a taste of another of the city’s distinct design flavors during a walking tour curated by The Miami Design Preservation League. It showcases the architecture made popular on Miami Beach in the 1920's and 1930's. 
 
And, no day is complete on Miami Beach without a classic cocktail in stylish surroundings. Design-lovers can check out the new Lapidus Bar at The Ritz-Carlton South Beach. The beachside hotel was built in the 50’s by iconic architect Morris Lapidus, known as the pioneer of Miami Modern style. Evoking the glamorous, Rat-Pack feel of the era, the bar is located in the hotel's lobby and is part of a spectacular $90 million renovation, bringing the design elements of the past together with iconic, Ritz-Carlton five-star service.
 

Start Your Miami Beach Trip!







10 Reasons Why Guided Tours are a Top New Family Travel Trend
Even if you’ve never considered taking an escorted or guided tour before, this might be the best time to see why more and more people – and even families – are signing up for an escorted vacation.

There are a lot of myths about guided tours, and images of exclusively older singles and couples on buses.
Read on! Not only does a multi-city guided tour give your family a ‘tasting menu’ of destinations to revisit for a longer duration another time, which is one of the reasons they are such a great introduction to places like Europe for a family.

You may be surprised how many ways any type of escorted tour is your best option for a low-stress, high-reward family vacation.

By: Lynn Elmhirst, producer/ host: BestTrip TV

Let’s start with the ‘return to travel’ reasons why booking your next family vacation with a guided tour company provides you with the easiest and most reassuring travel options.

1.    Post-Pandemic Ease: Why navigate the health rules of one or more foreign destinations yourself? Your guided tour company will help you make sure you are well-prepared for all the requirements of your trip.
2.    Post-Pandemic Safety: Many people are still cautious about travel and their exposure to many new people. Traveling with the same, (often tested, with vaccines required) people, in the same luxury coach, maximizes your ‘safe’ time, with less time spent in public transit around or between cities.

Now onto the timeless ways that escorted tours tick a lot of boxes for family travel:

3.    Leave the Planning to an Expert: As much fun as planning travel can be, a lot has changed in the last couple of years, and anyway, do you have the time for all that research and reviews and planning? Booking a guided tour means someone else is investing in precious planning time – and you benefit from it. And tour companies have direct access to their own sources. That current, most expert local knowledge ensures you get the best experiences – and you know every aspect of your trip has been vetted and someone else is responsible for making sure it all comes together.
4.    Focus on Family Time: When someone else is taking care of all the logistical details, you can concentrate on what family travel should be all about: good times with family members. No juggling of reservations and train schedules, or even struggling with a ‘lost in translation’ moment of communication confusion. You’ve downloaded that onto people who do it every single day.
5.    Someone Else is the Timekeeper and Box Ticker: No more family travel time spent ‘herding cats’ or worse, being the ‘bad guy.’ Your tour guide is tracking what time you have to leave for the airport, or how long it will take to get to your dinner or show reservations. It’s not left to one member of the family to keep all the balls in the air. You can relax and enjoy.
6.    Jump the Line: One of the best things about places like Europe is the landmark museums, historic sites and scenic view points like funiculars and tower tops to enjoy. Many also come with long line ups that can test the patience of not only the youngest, but even the more mature members of the family. The good news is that tour companies book blocks of tickets and can often walk their tour group right past the long line ups of independent travelers. So you don’t have to miss a thing because it creates too much stress to wait in line.
7.    Keep Every Family Member Interested: Escorted tours give you a broad overview of the best of the best of a destination, plus often access to unique, in-depth experiences in special interests you might not be able to access yourself. There’s enough of a change of pace, scenery, and activities to keep everyone in the family on their toes.


8.    Get Off the Beaten Path: You might think of Paris for a family trip to France. Guided tours will often also take you to smaller, outlying destinations you don’t know about or don’t want the hassle of organizing a side trip to. Often, these smaller, local destinations and activities in these less crowded destinations can be the most memorable of your trip.
9.    Local Expert = Better Experiences: Translator, timekeeper, fountain of historic knowledge… and current lifestyles. Your tour guide gives you that ‘friend in town’ experience you can’t get traveling on your own, unless you have an actual friend in town. Furthermore, they are the best sources of advice on ways to spend your unscheduled time, so you can also find experiences to enjoy your family’s special interests or get tickets to a local event.
10. Customize Your Travel Experience: Just because you’re booking a guided tour doesn’t mean you can’t experience a destination in your own way. You can book a top or tail custom extension of your guided tour to remain in the destination you’re now familiar with for an extra couple of days to take in a sports game, event, markets, shops and more. Even without a trip extension, different types of tours give you different amounts of escorted and free time to pursue your family’s interests. Your expert travel advisor can help match your family to the style of guided trip that best suits your interests, attention span, and energy levels.

Bonus: Group Discounts
If you take an extended, or multi-generation family group tour, you may be able to get discounts for the size of your group. In fact, it might even make sense to arrange for a private family group tour, with all the benefits of group travel- customized for your own family. Another way guided group tours may be the perfect way to get together with your extended family group after a couple of years without travel.

Your travel advisor has the expertise of the different types of guided tours, and ways to get the best value guided tour for your family.
 

Start Your Guided Tour Trip!





10 Amazing New Museums to Visit in the U.S. in 2022
From cultural giants like George Lucas and Bob Dylan, to New York’s Broadway or America's mountain peaks, to milestones in Latino and African American heritage – not to mention spellbinding art from the country's past... and future! - across the U.S., museums are having a renaissance, with new openings that reflect some of the most fascinating themes of modern America.

Don't forget to add one of these newly-opened museums to your agenda if you’re traveling to any of these U.S. cities soon:
 

Los Angeles, California:

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

Philanthropist and filmmaker George Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and president of Ariel Investments founded the $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. It is set to premier in 2023 in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park.
 
The museum will bring together mass-produced images, showcasing the richness and complexity of visual storytelling. The galleries will feature works from Lucas’ personal collection of more than 100,000 pieces of fine and popular art as well as “Star Wars” ephemera, not to mention state-of-the-art cinematic theatres, numerous dedicated spaces for learning and engagement, green spaces and restaurants.

 
 

Seattle, Washington:

NFT Museum
 
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, and it’s a hot trend for the technically savvy. NFT’s have been compared to digital, collectible baseball cards, whose ownership can be tracked through packets of data called blockchain. The world’s first NFT museum in Seattle (above, and top) has been billed as the first art museum and gallery to exhibit blockchain art. It’s a revolutionary new era in art history.
 
The 3,000-square-foot space houses more than 30 custom-designed screens where visitors can see artwork by local and international artists. Highlights include pieces by the Los Angeles-based crypto artist Blake Kathryn, Larva Labs' hugely popular CryptoPunks avatars and Seattle-based photographer Charles Peterson, showcasing never-before-seen photos of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain as NFTs. www.seattlenftmuseum.com 
 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Black Holocaust Museum
 
The Black Holocaust Museum, founded in 1988 by Dr. James Cameron, has reopened to the public following a 14-year closure. The opening once again cements Milwaukee’s Bronzeville district as a center of African American culture.
 
From 1910 to the 1950s, Bronzeville buzzed with Black-owned businesses, but that character was destroyed by “urban renewal” projects that affected Black neighbourhoods across America. Today, Milwaukee’s Bronzeville is supported by $400 million of redevelopment funds which are helping to reinvigorate its history and heritage. The 10,000-square-foot space takes visitors on a journey through more than 4,500 years of African and African American history.
 
 

Washington DC :

The Molina Family Latino Gallery
The Molina Family Latino Gallery is the Smithsonian’s first gallery on the National Mall to celebrate the Latino experience in the United States.
 
The 4,500-square-foot gallery will open with ¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States, an exhibition that shines the spotlight on the historical and cultural legacy of U.S. Latinos, offering visitors the chance to engage with first-person digital storytellers, data-driven maps, videos and illustrated biographies.
 

 

Yosemite, California:

The Yosemite Climbing Museum & Gallery

Visitors to Yosemite Mariposa County can reach a new peak of local rock-climbing lore and legacy at the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum & Gallery.
 
The center features more than 10,000 pieces, a priceless collection of historical climbing artefacts (including pitons used on early of El Capitan) and dozens of archival photographs that tell the rock-climbing community’s story through the ages.
 
 

Mobile, Alabama:

Africatown Heritage House

The Africatown Heritage House multisensory project is the only exhibit in the world to show artefacts from the Clotilda – the last known slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States. The ship arrived at Mobile Bay in 1860, after slavery had already been outlawed, carrying 110 kidnapped African men, women, and children.
 
They survived enslavement and established an independent community called Africatown, which has become a treasured part of African American history and legacy.
 
The ship was discovered sunk in Mobile Bay in 2019, and the new exhibit brings to life the story of the 110 captive African men, women and children who were on board.  
 
 

Tulsa, Oklahoma:

Bob Dylan Center
 
If you have a fascination with an artist widely thought of as America’s pre-eminent pop culture poet, take a trip to Tulsa. The new Bob Dylan Center is a treasure trove of the artist’s works and memorabilia, from handwritten manuscripts to unreleased concert recordings, and recognition of his place in the American musical lexicon.
 
The Center boasts an exclusive, 100,000+ piece collection, spanning the entire length of the iconic singer and songwriter’s career. It’s the centerpiece of the three-story museum in Tulsa’s vibrant Arts District, just steps from the city’s renowned Woody Guthrie Center for the folk artist who was one of Dylan’s biggest influences.
 
Visitors to the Bob Dylan Center can also attend public programs, performances and lectures.
 
 

New York, New York:

Museum of Broadway

Amidst the bright lights of Times Square, the Museum of Broadway is the first-ever permanent museum dedicated to Broadway and honoring the legacy of “The Great White Way.'
 
The multi-story Museum of Broadway blends immersive installations and traditional displays, telling the history of the legendary theater district from its 1735 beginnings to present-day shows like Hamilton. This meshing of art and technology is divided into three sections: a map room of Broadway using immersive video projections; a visual Broadway timeline that lets viewers delve into the stories behind such ground-breaking musicals like Hair and Rent, learning how women led the way in much of Broadway’s early storytelling; and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Broadway show, from set design to lighting.
 
 
Meantime| TNT Traysikel: Our Way, Courtesy of Mike Arcega, Paolo Asuncion, and TNT Traysikel. Photo by RJ Bonifacio
 

San Francisco, California:  

Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco
 
San Francisco’s the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a non-collecting contemporary art museum, focusing on the artists themselves. It’s a 50/50 split between emerging Bay Area artists on-the-verge of national or international attention, and more established local and international artists.
 
Its 11,000-square-foot warehouse space will dazzle visitors hosting large-scale installations or pieces with atypical proportions. Its shift away from acquisitions aims to create a space that is responsive to the moment, creating programmes with increased relevance and meaning.
 
 

Charleston, South Carolina:

International African American Museum

Nearly half of all African slaves brought to the U.S. came through Charleston’s Gadsden’s Wharf, where the International African American Museum is slated to open in late 2022.
 
The new museum aims to tell never-before-told stories of the African American journey and themes will include connections across the African diaspora, the spread of African American culture and influence, and the movements for justice and equality.
 
From digital interactivity to live performances, visitors will learn about historic figures and events dating back to the start of slavery, the role of South Carolina in the development of the international slave trade, and the worldwide impact of African American culture.
 
  

StartYourTrip!





Heartstopping Acrobatics and Spectacular Seaside Settings at Cliff Diving World Series
Aquatic athletes free-falling from nearly a hundred feet in the air, with only 3 seconds to perform up to 5 precise and artistic somersaults as they hurtle towards the water below. All against breathtakingly dramatic scenery.

The Cliff Diving World Series serves up a double travel thrill: adrenaline-pumping feats of human athletic and performance skill - set against a backdrop of epic historic, urban and natural seaside locations whose sheer heights and seas below are captivating. 

Origins of Cliff Diving and the Cliff Diving World Series

Cliff diving originated hundreds of years ago in Hawaii. Daredevil athletes competing in today’s Cliff Diving World Series vie for the King Kahekili trophy. It’s named after the Hawaiian chief who first leaped from the island’s sacred cliffs in the 1700’s.

For over a decade, there’s been an elite event that pays tribute to King Kahekili’s daring athletic legacy. The Cliff Diving World Series as ‘pure extreme sport.’ Just man – or woman – versus gravity, with a body of water below. A dozen male and a dozen female competitors compete at each of the 8 stops on the global map of cliff diving venues, accumulating points along the way.

At the end of each season, a champion in each category is awarded a trophy in King Kahekili’s name.

Go Jump off a Cliff

It’s easier said than done! Part art, part athleticism, all adrenaline go into every cliff dive.

Height, speed and g-force, as well as aerial awareness, timing and physical strength all play a huge role in creating the most perfect, aesthetic and, of course, safe dives. The divers can launch from different stances and include pikes, tucks, somersaults and twists on the way down to impress the judges.
 
Here are some more ‘fast facts’ about cliff diving:

  • Rotation speed - 2.4 rotations per second
  • Time in the air - 2.6 seconds
  • Speed at water entry - Up to 50 mph
  • Deceleration on water impact - 10 G
 

Takes Your Breath Away

It’s one thing to watch Olympic diving into an indoor pool. Cliff diving takes it to the extreme – with winds, sun shining off the water, even the uneven appearance of the water surface in waves below - all acting like performance wild cards.
In addition to the uncontrolled environment – is the sheer (literally!) beauty of cliff diving locations, from their Hawaiian roots to their modern-day versions.

The Cliff Diving World Series is hosted in breathtaking waterside locations where athletes launch from rock formations, historic bridges, landmark buildings or beside waterfalls.
 
The inaugural competition was staged in La Rochelle, France in 2009, and since then, the cliff diving elite of the world have tested their mettle and displayed their athleticism and diving style epic locations in Hawaii, Thailand and the Philippines and urban centres like Dubai, Bilbao and Cartagena.
 
Both fresh and salt, warm and cold water will do, and 2022 will see dramatic dives in capitals like Paris, Oslo, and Sydney, as well as the Old Bridge of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina (above), Polignano a Mare, Italy, Sisikon on the shore of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, and Boston.
 
Of course, for those of us whose dives are limited to jumping off docks, or a pleasure boat, or the marina of a small cruise ship for a fun little dip, the thrill of the Cliff Diving World Series is to be watching these daredevils of the air and sea from the shore.
 
That makes a holiday to one of the Cliff Diving World Series locations the perfect blend of excitement of the spectacular, unique, natural extreme sport, with local, seaside lifestyles that come so naturally to these cliff diving destinations.
 
Find out more about the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series and its current season of dates and locations here, and ask us how you can…

 

StartYourTrip!



Top Image: The cliffs of Islet Franca do Campo, Azores, Portugal, one site of the Cliff Diving World Series







You’ll Love This New Generation of Private Island Resorts
There’s a new generation of private islands. One that creates an environment for guests to vacation their way to becoming their best selves.

Scratch any impressions you have of private islands inhabited by music moguls jet-skiing with nude models, royalty sneaking around with other people’s spouses, or tech billionaires popping magnums of champagne.

The new private island experience isn’t just about seclusion away from prying eyes. 

It’s about the ultimate spirit of togetherness with a group of people you value most in the world – having the uplifting and inspiring shared experience of a customized vacation that provides all the means for you to leave better than when you arrived. 

Imagine having an entire island all to yourself for a family gathering, the ultimate destination wedding, vow renewal, reunion, or team-building exercise.

The new type of private island is exclusive, but at the same time also more easily sourced and booked than ever before. Your trusted travel advisor can help you craft an end-to-end private island retreat that will transform your idea of a tropical vacation.

Here’s one of our favorite examples of private islands that’s breaking the mould and redefining what a private island vacation can mean. 


The Aerial BVI

This 43-acre private island destination in the British Virgin Islands is nestled among fourteen surrounding islands, with both stunning sunrises and sunsets.

The new approach to the private island experience comes from its most recent owner, a self-made young woman entrepreneur. Her vision is to “provide guests with the space to find their center again, eat healing food, reconnect to nature and loved ones, and discover what matters most.”


Like the best of private island experiences, guests enjoy the services of a full staff of chefs, hosts, activities managers, housekeeping and watersports teams, boat captains, island concierge and everything needed to fulfil your every need – whether you know you need it or not.

Spectacular Tropical Island Home Away From Home

The Aerial welcomes 26 guests in five residences with names that channel the owner’s aspirations for those coming to the island: Unity House, Faith House, Serenity House, and the Love and Grace Villas.

Rooms in each residence are unique, and as you might expect, they flow into their island surroundings allowing guests to feel part of the natural environment, with island and ocean views dominating sightlines.


Rooms are outfitted in different ways to feed different guest needs ranging from relaxation to reflection, to romance to writing to simply engaging with the outdoors: relaxing daybeds, serene “focus spaces” with writer’s desks for those who want to journal their journeys, private, cliffside balconies, chair swings, outdoor showers or soaking tubs, romantic stargazing decks, and balconies overlooking the infinity pool, to name a few.



Healing Cuisine

The Aerial challenges its guests to think outside the box of private chefs and indulgent dishes.

Its dining, while delicious and satisfying, is about providing “healing,” cuisine that helps guests to “think their best, feel their best, create at their best and connect to the planet in a beautiful and sustainable way.”

The private island resort sources ingredients from local providers in the British Virgin Islands in what it says is a true producer-to-table experience. Food that can’t be bought locally is sustainably sourced. There’s still comfort and fun at the table, though – the resort even has a wood burning pizza oven.


Private Island, Private Beach… and Beyond

 
On a private island, the world – or at least the island- is your oyster. The white sand beach is reserved for you and your private party. But The Aerial, in keeping with its personal, physical and spiritual growth mission, has its own distinct twist on private island activities.

Of course you expect the luxuries of a spa and healing center on the beach, an infinity pool, multiple bars including a beach bar, ping-pong, a yacht, Hobie Cats and a full complement of watersports, and even a recording studio. A wood burning fire pit on the beach? Check.


Those in search of self-improvement and relaxation can participate in yoga in inspired places, guided meditation and writing. Get your blood pumping hiking miles of island-wide trails. Reflect on our place in the universe stargazing.

There’s memory-making fun for families and adults trying to rediscover their inner child. A fleet of pastel-colored, electric Mini Mokes. On the beach: a tribal gym set, giant Jenga and giant Connect 4 and movies and bonfires on the beach.


And beyond your wildest dreams! “Indy’s Redemption Ranch” on the island is home to rescued former race horses, miniature ponies, and even a handful of zebras. Riding on the beach and hand feeding the herd is just the beginning. Swimming with the ponies and guided equine therapy take ranch-on-the-beach to a whole different level.


The Aerial replaces traditional concepts of private island resorts with conscious travel that reconnects you and your select group of guests with the wonders of Nature, and gives you the inspired spaces, seclusion, and activities to discover your very best life.
 

Start Your Private Island Trip!


The Very First National Park Turns 150
 It’s not just the first national park in the U.S. It’s the first national park in the world. In March, 1872, American president Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the establishment of Yellowstone National Park to preserve and protect some of the country’s most emblematic scenery and wildlife for future generations.

That first national park represented the start of the entire U.S. National Park system. Today, the National Park Service manages 85 million acres of land, comprising 63 National Parks and over 400 National Park sites.

But Yellowstone’s 2 million-plus acres remain a standout among America’s most spectacular natural and historic treasures even 150 years later.

Yellowstone National Park is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, said to be one of the last – and largest – and nearly intact - ecosystems in the world. 

The park has the most active and intact collections of “geothermal features” on the planet. It’s comprised of 10,000 hydrothermal sites plus half of the active geysers in the entire world, including the famous geyser Old Faithful. While not the tallest geyser in Yellowstone or even the one that erupts the longest, it has the distinction of being the most predictable, erupting every 44 minutes to two hours.

The geysers alone make Yellowstone incredible. But the park also has two dozen entries on the National Register of Historic Places. And other majestic natural features, plus a very famous and note-worthy inhabitant.

Early techniques of park management involved eliminating nearly all natural predator animals in Yellowstone, permitted hunting bison to the extent that less than two dozen of the massive, essential herbivores remained, and introduced non-local fish species that decimated native fish.

Better knowledge and practices mean that today, the Park is, according to the National Park Service, “the healthiest it has been in over a century.” Yellowstone has seen the return of predators like wolves, grizzly bears, and native fish.
But the bison may be Yellowstone’s most symbolic success story.

Although near extinction at the turn of the 20th century, the largest land animal in North America is now over 5000 strong in the park. After the US Army beefed up its protection of bison from poaching a century ago, and bison from private herds were sourced to help boost the herd in Yellowstone, the park has become the only place in mainland USA to have a continuous, free-ranging bison herd since prehistoric times.

Many of Yellowstone’s greatest features and successes have connections to Native American Tribes. Before any human of European heritage set eyes on its wonders, let alone designated it a U.S. National Park, Native Americans lived, used the thermal waters for faith and medicinal practices, hunted, fished, gathered plant life, and even quarried obsidian stone for 10,000 years in the parklands.

Over two dozen tribes have connections to the millions of acres of Yellowstone, as it’s located where the Great Plains, Great Basin and Columbia Plateau meet on lands straddling what are now the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
And for its 150th anniversary, America’s largest national park will commemorate and share the land’s Indigenous history and values.

In the summer of 2022, Yellowstone Old Faithful Lodge will host Native American public art installations, a Marketplace featuring work from tribal artists, and the “Historic Yellow Bus” will tour the Old Faithful district.

Tribes are also planning a gathering in celebration on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming in June, and in August, Teepee Village will be erected by several tribes near Roosevelt Arch.


Park superintendent Cam Sholly says the Village and other 150th anniversary commemorations, “will be an opportunity for multiple tribal nations to be here on the landscape in the park, directly interfacing with visitors and talking about and educating visitors about their culture and their heritage.”

Additional park anniversary activities include horse club rides and parades, groundbreaking ceremonies, ribbon cuttings, inter‐tribal bimonthly virtual video series gatherings, family‐friendly Old Faithful sponsored experiments, and social media events that will engage travelers both near and far.

This may be the perfect year to acquaint or reacquaint yourself and your family with the groundbreaking Park or any national park in this historic year. Escorted tours, epic trains, historic lodges and outdoor experiences are all part of National Park travel.

Start Your National Park Trip!





Another Record Broken: Biggest Ship at Sea
If you’re a mega-ship fan, you have another entry to add to your cruise travel bucket list. The largest ship at sea has just launched in a feat of engineering, design, and imagination.

Royal Caribbean has debuted Wonder of the Seas in Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale. The newest ship in the fleet clocks in at 1118 feet long and 210 feet wide. There are 18 decks for nearly 7000 guests plus 2300 crew members.

That makes it the world’s largest cruise ship. Wonder of the Seas is the fifth Oasis-class ship for Royal Caribbean, and together, they hold the top five spots for largest cruise ships in the world.
 

What’s New?

As you might expect in the biggest ship in the world, with four previous Oasis-class ships setting a standard each successive ship in the class has topped, Wonder of the Seas has out-scaled, round the clock hospitality, entertainment, activities, and thrills. There are more than 20 restaurants, bars and lounges.


Plus, Wonder of the Seas is debuting all-new features, beginning with an entirely new ‘neighborhood.’
  • Suite Neighborhood – The new, eighth neighborhood is for Royal Suite Class guests. Now, in addition to an exclusive restaurant, Coastal Kitchen, the Suite Lounge and the grandest Ultimate Family Suite yet for a family of 10, Royal Suite Class guests will have a private Suite Sun Deck in a new location, which features a plunge pool and bar.
 
  • Caribbean Pool Deck – At the center of the ship’s Caribbean vibes is the pool deck, where a new cantilevered Vue Bar joins the lineup of poolside hotspots, including the popular Lime & Coconut, live music; The Perfect Storm, a trio of high-speed waterslides; kids aqua park Splashaway Bay; and the adults-only Solarium.

 

  • Wonder Playscape – There’s a whole new outdoor adventure for families with kids on Wonder of the Seas. Underwater-themed play area Wonder Playscape is open day and night, with climbing walls, games, interactive activities that come alive by touch, imaginative puzzles and light shows engage young travelers in more ways than one. It’s just around the corner from Royal Caribbean’s signature mini golf course, Wonder Dunes, that has a whole new look.
 
  • The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar – Royal Caribbean’s hospitality now has Southern flair. On the comfort food menu are staples from the U.S. South, plus new twists on classics. The new restaurant debuts an official ‘brunch’ venue, and is of course also open for dinner, and late at night, where the good times are accompanied by live country music, farmhouse-style decor, a robust collection of 19 American whiskeys and other Southern libations.
 

What’s Returning?

Oasis-class fan favorites are back, too.
·     Thrill-seekers can chase the waves on the FlowRider surf simulator, race down the tallest slide at sea, The Ultimate Abyss; brave the 10-story-high zip line; scale twin rock climbing walls;
 
·     Guests can explore any one of the eight neighborhoods, like Central Park and its 20,000-plus real plants; or
 
·     Enjoy original entertainment on four dramatic “stages:” theater, air, ice, water, including inTENse, which features high-diving feats, slacklining, aerial acrobatics and more performed by the first all-female cast in the AquaTheater, the one-of-a-kind amphitheater.

 

Where’s Wonder of the Seas Cruising?

During its inaugural season, Wonder of the Seas is sailing 7-night Caribbean cruises through April 2022. Its Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises include visits to Royal Caribbean’s private island/ beach resort destinations, Perfect Day at CocoCay in The Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico; Roatan, Honduras; and Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.   

Then, in time for summer holidays, Wonder of the Seas repositions to the Mediterranean.
From Barcelona and Rome, Wonder of the Seas sails 7-night Western Mediterranean cruises to destinations like Naples and Florence, Italy; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; and Provence, France.

And after completing an inaugural Europe season, Royal Caribbean’s newest ship will return to homeport in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to sail year-round Caribbean adventures.

Start Your Family Cruise Trip!









Why Taking an Alaska Cruise is 'For the Birds'
Bears and whales and other marine mammals are high on everyone’s list for wildlife sightings in Alaska. But we think any trip to America’s Last Frontier is, well, ‘for the birds.’

With more coastline than the rest of the United States combined, as well as parks bigger than some countries, Alaska’s natural treasures include abundant populations of some of the continent’s most interesting, colorful, and majestic birds. 

You may think, in northern climes, the bird population doesn’t stack up against tropical feathered friends. But in fact, there are birds in Alaska in every color of the rainbow, including vivid blues, reds, oranges and greens.

And in every size, from a flame-colored hummingbird only a couple of inches long… to a regal eagle with a nearly seven-foot wingspan!

Pack your binoculars on your next trip to Alaska and watch for these avian residents of Alaska.

Bald Eagle

If you were asked to name a bird in Alaska, your answer would likely be ‘Bald Eagle,’ a bird that symbolizes not only America, but the wilderness frontiers Alaska is famous for. More bald eagles – an estimated 30,000 - live in Alaska than the rest of the U.S. combined.
 
 
America’s national bird is unmistakeable. It’s an immense and heavy raptor: 3 feet long with a wingspan that can reach 7.5 feet! Its dark body, with white head, sharp, hooked yellow beak and matching legs is dramatic, and distinguishes it from other birds of prey.
 
It’s easy to spot bald eagles in Alaska. They’re found all along the coast, where they hunt for fish and sometimes small mammals. They have an eery screeching cry, so you can often hear them before you see them. And bald eagles mate for life, building large, treetop stick nests to raise their young.
 

Rufous Hummingbird

At the absolute other end of the size scale, a bird that hovers around three inches long, and barely tips the scales at under 2-tenths of an ounce. Where bald eagles soar and dive and strike, Rufous Hummingbirds dart and hover with great speed and manoeuvrability.

 
The Rufous Hummingbird’s name gives its plumage away, since the word means ‘reddish’. But that name undersells these tiny birds, which are brilliant orange on their backs and bellies, with red throats and black wings, a combination that makes bird watchers describe rufous hummingbirds as “glowing like a bed of coals.”
 
Do you think hummingbirds stick to purely warmer climes? These hummingbirds take annual, record-breaking migrations. While they fly vast distances to Florida, Mexico or even Panama to winter, the longest hummingbird migration on record, Rufous Hummingbirds live in southern Alaska during the prime tourist season. Small flying insects and nectar from flowers that bloom in Alaska’s short season, like its famous ‘fireweed,’ sustain these unique tiny birds in the north.
 

Willow Ptarmigan

 The state bird of Alaska isn’t the showy bald eagle. It’s the modest, chicken-like willow ptarmigan, part of the pheasant family, and they’re called grouse in the British Isles. Like grouse in the U.K., they are a game bird, with the widest range in Alaska.
 
As do their cousins the chickens, willow ptarmigans forage on the ground, eating on tree buds and insects in forests and moorlands in northern climes.

 
These large ground birds are the largest of three ‘Arctic’ grouse in Alaska. Willow ptarmigan are fully white when young, and darker, mottled browns when older, with a dashing red brow and distinctive feathered feet which help it travel along frozen ground.
 

Murre

Common murres are abundant in the Gulf of Alaska. They look like penguins, with tuxedo coloring and upright stance, but of course, penguins are only found at the South Pole, not in the north.

Murres, unlike penguins, can fly – up to 125 miles from their nests high on cliffs of rocky shorelines to find food for their chicks. They can also dive up to 600 feet for small fish. Remarkably, when chicks are ready to fledge, their father swims below them at the base of the cliff and calls to them. Chicks hurl themselves 800-1000 feet off the cliff and swim to their father, who stays with his chicks, caring for and feeding them for a month or two.

After breeding season, murres are seen in large groups called a ‘bazaar’ or a ‘fragrance’ on top or flying across open ocean.

 

Tufted Puffin

Who can resist a smile when you spot a tufted puffin? Nicknamed ‘sea parrots’, their black bodies and white faces with yellow plumes set off their most eye-catching feature: an oversized red and orange bill.
 
These stocky, awkward seabirds are almost comical in appearance, easily spotted in flocks flapping short wings and flying just above the water line. Their wings are adapted best to swimming underwater, where they catch fish and often snag multiple fish cross-wise in their beaks.
 

Puffins are abundant in Alaska, and favorite image for souvenirs from America’s 49th state.
 

START YOUR BIRDWATCHING TRIP!




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Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day with this Cruise Ship Classic
We often sing the praises of the inventive, entertaining, and sometimes, celebrity-chef driven specialty restaurants on cruise ships. But some of the best culinary experiences cruising are in the main dining room, where talented chefs craft classic, favorite dishes, presented with a sense of ceremony that make dining at sea a true occasion.
 
Take National Chocolate Cake Day. January 27 highlights the appeal of one of the world's most popular desserts, one that's been around since 1765. A comfort food that cheers an ordinary day puts a smile on every face, and is the sweet touch that makes life's milestones all the brighter.
 
A rich, decadent chocolate cake is the kind of mainstay, staple dessert you find on main dining room menus on many cruise lines.
 
 
For National Chocolate Cake Day, Chef Russel Gomes from Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras ship, shares a recipe for a 5-ingredient, half-hour version that means you don't have to wait til your next cruise to indulge.
 
 

Five! Simple Ingredients

9oz Semi-sweet Chocolate
6oz Butter
4 Eggs
3oz Sugar
2oz Flour 
 

Five Easy Steps 

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass mixing bowl using the medium setting in a microwave, in no more than 1 minute increments at a time, til fully melted. Use a spatula to fold the butter and chocolate together til blended.
  2. In another mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar and whisk for a few minutes, then add flour and whisk til there are no lumps. It's just enough to bind the ingredients, so you get that lava, molten effect, not a regular chocolate cake!
  3. Add the egg mix to the melted chocolate and combine, whisking constantly so the heat of the chocolate doesn't cook the eggs.
  4. Pour the mix in greased, individual ceramic molds. Single-serving size souffle cups if you have them, or improvise! Even small coffee cups will work.
  5. Set the molds in a pan with hot water in it. Put the pan in a pre-heated, 350°F oven for 20 minutes.
 
Place the warm cup on a plate to serve. A dusting of icing sugar, maybe a fresh strawberry, and you have a cruise ship classic dessert for a homemade celebration - or an ordinary dinner at home, to make any day National Chocolate Cake Day.
 

Start Your Culinary Trip!

 
 
 
Sun, Sand, and a Side of History: 7 Historic Sites You Must Visit in the Caribbean

 If you love sun and sand… with a side of history, here are seven Caribbean islands whose history lives on today through preserved and protected UNESCO World Heritage historic sites.

Which history-rich destinations top your list for an upcoming beach holiday with a twist?


ANTIGUA: “Nelson’s Dockyard”

Known for its famous inhabitant, British Admiral Lord Nelson, who lived in Antigua’s Royal Navy Dockyard for three years in the 1780’s, Nelson’s Dockyard is part of a National Park UNESCO site that is comprised of Georgian naval buildings and a walled enclosure. (Pictured, top, courtesy Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority)

Historically, for Britain’s Royal Navy far from home in the West Indies, Antigua’s coast and English Harbour were a perfect bolt hole from enemies and the elements. Deep, narrow bays protected by mountains provided an ideal location to repair ships and regroup safe from hurricanes.


In the late 1700’s, the Dockyard was built, using enslaved Africans, as a strategic, Eastern Caribbean stronghold to protect English sugarcane plantations from other European powers trying to expand their Caribbean presence.
Nelson’s Dockyard isn’t just an historic site. Today, Nelson’s Dockyard is still Antigua’s main port, where cruise visitors to Antigua embark and disembark, as well as hosting the country’s famous sailing and yachting events.
 

BARBADOS: Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison

The distinction of biggest British colonial garrison in the 17- and 1800’s belonged to Barbados. Combined with the capital of Barbados, Bridgetown, one of the finest remaining examples of British colonial settlements of the period, it’s a UNESCO site.

Bridgetown’s name comes from the bridge constructed in the area by earlier Amerindian inhabitants, before being settled by the British beginning in the 1600’s. Other Dutch and Spanish settlements were laid out in a grid, but Bridgetown follows a ‘serpentine’ city layout. Bridgetown’s harbor was a key maritime hub and frequent first port of call for ships arriving from a trans-Atlantic crossing.


The Barbados Garrison began at the turn of the 1700’s with construction of a fort, barracks, parade ground and other supporting buildings, including its famous red towered guardhouse. It protected the island from attacks by competing colonial powers like Spain, Holland and France.

Bridgetown and its Garrison are still central to life on Barbados. Cruises call at Bridgetown’s port, and some lines embark on Caribbean itineraries from Bridgetown, which has a host of land and sea-based activities for visitors.
 

CURACAO: Historic Willemstad and its Harbor

Willemstad (in English: William Town) is the modern-day capital of the Dutch island Curacao. Until 2010, it was also the capital of what had been the Netherlands / Dutch Antilles, which included the ‘ABC’ islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as the ‘SSS’ islands of Dutch St. Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.


Its candy-colored, unmistakable harborfront skyline combines Dutch with Spanish and Portuguese architectural styles of the 1600’s. It’s one of the most distinctive and best-preserved historic cities in the Caribbean. Willemstad is home to the oldest surviving synagogue in the New World.

Today, Curacao, in the southern Caribbean, is a must-see destination for travelers who have already immersed themselves in the more abundant examples of British and Spanish Caribbean history. The ABC islands are famous for their dry, desert climates, and world-class diving, as well as iconic examples of 400-year-old Dutch history.
 

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Colonial City of Santo Domingo

The capital of the Dominican Republic was the first seat of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas. This ‘cradle’ of the New World was founded in 1496 soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s the oldest, continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas.


Santo Domingo’s Colonial City is much more than a single building, which is sometimes all that remains of historic settlements. It’s home to the first cathedral, first hospital, first customs house, first fortress, first monastery, first castle, and first university in the Americas. In addition to the historic landmarks, Santo Domingo’s early form of urban planning created a city laid out in a grid pattern, establishing the model that would be used throughout Latin America as Spanish and Portuguese influence spread.

Although most famous as an all-inclusive beach resort vacation destination, and many visitors to the Dominican Republic stay in their beach resort communities, expanding your visit to Santo Domingo’s UNESCO World Heritage Colonial City is an eye-opening, intriguing insight into the entire region’s history. 

JAMAICA: Blue and John Crow Mountains

The mountains that cover a fifth of the island are Jamaica’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.

In addition to being a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’ with 1357 flowering plants, a quarter of which are only found in Jamaica, and 87 that can only be found in the park, the steep slopes of the rare, ‘tropical mountain’ environment are the only known home for rare butterflies, birds, boa and other creatures. 


History lives here, too. This is where indigenous Tainos and former enslaved persons fled to escape colonial power. The thickly forested mountains provided the isolation and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.

Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.
 
The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and hid them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their struggle and successes influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.

PUERTO RICO: La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site

If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship arriving into port in San Juan at sunrise, you’ll have seen one of the most beautiful approaches by sea in the Islands. San Juan’s fortified harbor projects on rocky shores out into the sea, with emerald greenery setting off the stones and the waves.


The series of defensive structures that are now a UNESCO World Heritage site on this U.S. territory were built beginning in the 1500’s, and one quick look at a map will tell you why. Puerto Rico occupies a very strategic position in the Caribbean Sea, and this fortified harbor stood guard over the bay and city.

The U.S. National Park Service manages the Old San Juan site that includes a citadel, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, built from the 15- 1700’s and named after Spanish King Philip II, as well as bastions, powder houses, and almost all of the impressive old city wall.

La Fortaleza or El Palacio de Santa Catalina, is the name given to the vivid, wedding-cake style governor’s mansion in Old San Juan. Built in 1533, it has been the official governor’s residence for centuries and is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World.
 

ST. KITTS & NEVIS: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The UNESCO World Heritage historic site in the twin-island country is the fortress – one of the best preserved historical fortifications in the New World - perched on the steep slopes of St. Kitts’ Brimstone Hill. Like Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua, and Bridgetown, Barbados’ historic core and garrison, Brimstone Hill’s fort is a British military construction. It was built in the 17th and 18th centuries by enslaved Africans.

But the historic site everyone’s talking about these days is on next-door Nevis, where a stone house originally built in the late 1600’s merges Nevisian and American history. The recent, wild success of the Broadway musical Hamilton has shone a spotlight on the Nevisian birthplace of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who, among many accomplishments during a pivotal time in history, was instrumental in having the international slave trade made illegal.

(Image courtesy Four Seasons Nevis)
In the heart of Nevis’ small main town of Charlestown, Hamilton House and other historic buildings are still very much part of local life. The first floor is a museum, and the second floor is the meeting room for the island’s House of assembly.

The landmark resort on the island, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, has even created a special Hamilton experience to bring his legacy to life for guests, involving a visit with a local storyteller, on-resort experiences and even a Hamilton-inspired playlist.


 START YOUR HISTORIC ISLAND TRIP!



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Hike Europe's Most Famous Ancient Trail During This Jubilee Year
Only once or maybe twice a decade, the Camino de Santiago becomes an even more remarkable hiking journey through Spain.

Pilgrims and tourists have been hiking the “Way of St. James,” as it translates, since the 9th century. It’s a 500-mile (800 km) route across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the spiritual home of the apostle James who preached in Spain, became its patron saint, and whose remains were returned here and enshrined.

The route of St. James’ final, return journey to Spain became a pilgrimage, one that continues to this day.

Spiritual and religious devotees walking the route today are joined by those taking the “Way of St. James” as a journey of self-discovery, to achieve a personal challenge, or to explore this unique cultural experience and northern Spanish countryside actively on foot or by bicycle.
 

Jubilee Years on the Camino de Santiago

 
And if your trip coincides with a Jacobean (from “James”) Holy Year, the experience will be all the more exceptional. The “Xacobeo Holy Year” occurs when the festival of St. James, which takes place annually on July 25th, falls on a Sunday. That means the special celebrations of Jubilee Year happen once or twice a decade.
 
Due to the pandemic, the Holy Year 2021 was extended for the first time over two years. Already, special festivities have begun for its second half. “Light up the Xacobeo” is an initiative where more than a hundred monuments and landmark buildings throughout Spain are illuminated to honor the special pilgrimage year. Half of those are along the actual Camino de Santiago. 

 (Illuminations at the terminus, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain)

They include a wayfinding arrow, pointing the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the terminus of the Way and a long pilgrimage. They mirror the wayfinding signs that are used to mark the actual route still today.
 
This year’s Xacobeo Holy Year has gone global. Recognizing how communities and the world have come together even more during pandemic times, “Light up the Xacobeo” illuminations and wayfinding have spread beyond Spain’s borders.
 
Here, for example, is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada, illuminated for the Holy Year Jubilee – wayfinding arrow guiding pilgrims and seekers towards Spain.

(Photo courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain in Canada)

In addition to special, wayfinding illuminations, the Way of St. James in Spain this Jubilee year will be celebrated by events including concerts, art exhibitions, films, conferences and educational activities for all ages.

Centuries-Old Traditions


That’s in addition to all the traditions of the Way of St. James, not just wayfinding markers that range from the humble to the spectacular illuminations of the Jubilee year.


Scallops are the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The shellfish is plentiful on the beaches of the region, and originally the shells may have been practical for pilgrims to scoop shared food and water, as well as become a souvenir of the life-changing journey. 

Pilgrims still wear a shell to show they are on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. And scallop shell markers, including brass shells inlaid in cobblestone paths, or stylized sideways shells, often gold on a blue background on signposts or buildings still mark the path through towns and countryside. 


Most pilgrims then and now buy and carry the credencial. In days of yore, it provided access free accommodations and support for pilgrims along the Way. It’s also like a passport, an official record of your journey. You get an official St. James stamp in each town you eat, or official stay along the way, and presented at the Pilgrim's Office once you reach Santiago, proves that you have completed the official route and qualify for a 'compostela' – a certificate of completion.

A Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela twice daily, and pilgrims who received their compostela the day before have their countries and where they started their journeys announced during Mass.

Pilgrimages had trickled down to only a few hundred travelers along the Camino de Santiago by the 1980's. Then, in 1987, it was declared the first European Cultural Route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Modern pilgrims and secular active travelers re-discovered the appeal of the historic route.  

These days, 300,000 or more people make the trip every year on foot, by bicycle or horseback, and in escorted tours by vehicle that stop at highlights along the way. During Jubilee years, that number swells.

The trip on foot from the Spanish border nowadays takes about a month. Not everyone who walks on the Camino receives a compostela, but you can still earn one without a month-long commitment. 

To qualify, you must make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, even if they are your own spirituality and inner quest, do the last 100 km (approx 60 miles) on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km (approx 120 miles) by bicycle, AND you still need to collect a certain number of stamps in your credencial which you present at the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela.

The next Jubilee Year for the Camino de Santiago isn't until 2027, so don’t wait to experience this uplifting, unique experience.
 
As the Tourist Board of Spain says: Just walk. Buen Camino.
 

 

START YOUR TRIP!


Top image courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain.

Unless noted, other images: Getty

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Celebrate the Festive Season - or Make a Gift of the Holidays at Four Seasons Across North America
There’s only one holiday season, but the luxury lifestyles of one of many Four Seasons hotels or resorts is just around the corner - either a drive or a short-haul flight - from many of us, and our loved ones.

Treating ourselves during the festive season, or giving our loved ones the gift of a recognized luxury travel brand experience in your hometown or at a favorite destination - will help make this holiday special and memorable.

Here are some suggestions to help you get into the Christmas spirit - or capture the holiday magic for your loved ones.

Your expert travel advisor can help you create the perfect luxury travel experience or give the perfect gift, from wellness, culinary, and family festive experiences.


Surround Yourself with Christmas Cheer


Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort gets into the Christmas spirit with a chocolate and gingerbread display created by its award-winning chef. Even a Christmas Grinch can’t help but smile at the charming life-size gingerbread house, with candy canes, lollipops, Santa and more, Plus - it’s the perfect holiday photo backdrop for your social media holiday post. You can enjoy festive treats including holiday gelato flavours such as chocolate peppermint, while the little ones try their hands at cookie decorating.

At Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, the holiday display takes the form of a modern arctic wonderland. A large, mirrored polar bear flanked by custom made flocked trees and poinsettias adorned with snow. The holiday magic extends to the ground floor's reflective Christmas tree and the fifth floor's life-size reindeer, creating a majestic holiday scene and the perfect backdrop for holiday photos.

Make a List, Check it Twice… then get some Help


Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston’s Wellness Floor has curated a holiday gift guide featuring bespoke experiences and products for mindful giving. You can fill your loved ones’ stockings with certificates for a side-by-side couples massage or Cryotherapy Energy facial and gifts such as candles, cashmere loungewear and beautiful Italian leather handbags. Maybe slip one treat in there for yourself for your next visit to Boston, too.

Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC’s Holiday Market is a goldmine of the gifts and culinary works of local artisans as well as the Hotel's craftspeople including their pastry chef’s gourmet hot chocolate bar. And you can shop for your loved ones surrounded by live music entertainment, light and snow displays. You can feel even better about holiday gift giving this seasons as a portion of the proceeds from every sale is donated to Children's National Hospital.

Culinary Christmas - and the Whole Holiday Season


Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel is ringing in the holidays in style. A series of prix fixe menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, along with a New Year's Day Brunch let you leave all the work to the hotel chefs - and you can choose to indulge fully with options like caviar, a seafood platter, and Bloody Mary and bottomless champagne bar. The restaurant, which overlooks the famed Rodeo Drive, will also be offering a special holiday afternoon tea, complete with delicate and elegant Italian desserts by its chef.

The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler’s popular Vintage Camper is back for the winter, serving up decadent hot chocolate and cook-your-own s'mores. Guests can enjoy a Tipsy Snowman, the Resort's playful signature hot chocolate, or wind down with a complimentary wine tasting offered every evening featuring a selection of local British Columbia wines.

Hands-on Holiday Experiences



At Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley, a limited-time winter wonderland pop-up reimagines an alpine village. Rustic wooden chalets take center stage, while 'snowfall,' fireside movies, an après-ski menu including s'mores and hot cocktails create an inviting experience on the outdoor terrace. The village includes a sweet shoppe, Instagrammable life-sized snow globe and more.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina’s #FSWAYFINDERS program is a weekly series featuring art, culture, history, and in-depth workshops that make the holidays in Hawaii come alive. A curated group of artisans and crafters offers intimate and engaging learning opportunities including ukulele lessons, coconut hat weaving, lei making, evening stargazing and hula workshops with all proceeds going to the artisans themselves.

Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire keeps the holidays active, with horseback riding across the 500 acres of parkland, the ultimate treetop challenge, a relaxing ride on a traditional horse-drawn carriage or a unique bird-watching experience on a wildlife walk.


Restoring from Stresses of the Holiday Season


Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s The Spa has two festive ways to treat winter-ravaged skin and stressed-out bodies. Picture yourself or a loves one enjoying a Peppermint Facial or a Fire & Ice Massage. Up the ante with an after-hours private booking that allows for full access of the entire spa complete with the hotel’s margarita cart.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas uses locally sourced materials in its seasonal relaxation treatment. The Cranberry Pomegranate Body Treatment features a wrap, head massage, and full body scrub and leaves you feeling restored for another day of gaming, entertainment, and super-sized shopping of Sin City.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole is celebrating the winter solstice with restorative yoga and intention setting sessions. Guests can enjoy a complimentary restorative yoga session and wassail, the traditional warming drink you sing about in Christmas carols.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is also commemorating the winter solstice with guided meditation, sound healing and intention setting on the longest night of the year.

#HappyHolidays




Images courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts







First Club Med Mountain Resort in North America Opens; it's the First All-Season, All-Inclusive in Canada Another, all-inclusive Club Med in Utah to open soon read more
The Most "Amazing Journeys" in 2022, According to National Geographic's Experts Looking at travel through five lenses: nature, adventure, sustainability, culture and history, and family, NatGeo’s experts have narrowed a world of travel riches into a list of 25 can’t-miss journeys next year. read more
Theme Parks and Beyond: Nearly 2 Dozen Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Orlando This Season
Orlando’s claim to fame is its extraordinary collection of family-friendly theme parks standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the balmy weather of the Sunshine State.

But the warmth of the holiday season in Orlando outshines even the Florida sun.

From Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, to re-imagined Christmas and New Year’s Eve experiences at the theme parks and beyond, it’s a great way to get into the Christmas or Hanukkah spirit - or get a change of pace from the stresses of spending the holidays at home - again!

Whether your celebratory taste runs to festive performances, dazzling light shows, or theme park themed celebrations, Orlando is the place to capture the spirit of holiday cheer this year.

Your expert travel advisor can help you find the best value, last-minute holiday trips now, gift a future trip, or make plans to get away to Orlando later this winter. Happy Holidays!


FESTIVE THEME PARK CELEBRATIONS


Walt Disney World Resort - Select nights starting November 12, 2021


Disney Very Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs for 24 select nights
from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The new separately ticketed, after-hours holiday event will bring
festive food and beverage offerings, dance parties, nighttime spectaculars and “Mickey’s
Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.”

• The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays takes guests on a global holiday
celebration with costumed performances, seasonal food throughout 11 World Showcase
nations, along with sights, sounds and flavors of the season celebrated by cultures near
and far.

• At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can dine with Minnie and friends at Minnie's
Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine, catch a glimpse of old St. Nick as he cruises in his
candy-apple red convertible down Hollywood Boulevard and experience a captivating
projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom brings a holiday twist to the magic of nature with festive
flotillas featuring Chip n’ Dale, Donald Duck, holiday percussionists and Santa sailing
down the Discovery River. As nighttime falls, a holiday edition of the Tree of Life
Awakening will begin accompanied by a heartwarming musical score.


Universal Orlando Resort - November 13 – January 2, 2022


• Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure brings holiday charm to Seuss
Landing with The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the classic tale
starring the Grinch. 

• Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features festive decor in both
Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
Guests can cap off their evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade to
enjoy “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” – a spectacular transformation of
Hogwarts castle with a stunning projection.

Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons offers guests a walk-
through experience of larger-than-life Macy’s balloons and colorful Christmas floats,
including characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Despicable Me, along with Santa.

SeaWorld Orlando - November 12 – January 2, 2022


• During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, over 3 million sparkling lights will shine
throughout the park. Festivities include live performances, seasonal food and meet-and-
greets with Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. 

New for 2021: the littlest guests can sing and dance with their favorite Sesame Street characters during Elmo’s
Christmas Wish Show and Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Finale features soaring fountains, dazzling lights and fireworks.

LEGOLAND Florida - Weekends November 26 – December 31, 2021


• Holidays at LEGOLAND will feature a giant LEGO Christmas tree, seasonal shows,
holiday characters, special treats, LEGO activities, twinkling lights and more.


FUN BEYOND THE THEME PARKS


• ICON Park is home to The Santa Workshop Experience through December 24. Every
child who participates receives a free ticket to ride The Wheel (adult guests receive 50%
off). ICON Park hosts its first tree-lighting ceremony on December 1 with a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree visible from International Drive. 

• The Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World Village holiday spectacular, taking
place November 12 - January 2, 2022, immerses guests in a sparkling wonderland of millions of lights, including a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays and a guided storytelling tour of 100 magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram.

• The Dazzling Nights outdoor holiday event at Harry P. Leu Gardens, running November 19 – January 9, 2022, features a three-quarter-mile interactive holiday experience with epic lighting installations, themed photo moments, live entertainment and more. 

Crayola Experience’s Colorful Christmas, taking place November 20 - January 3, 2022 includes diving into a life-sized snow globe, complete with falling snow, and crafting unique gifts. 

• Throughout the entire month of December, downtown Orlando is offering nine free holiday
events as part of Downtown for the Holidays. Visitors can watch The Nutcracker by the
Russian Ballet of Orlando; stroll around Eola Wonderland to see the dazzling holiday décor and lights - including the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree; or grab a blanket and enjoy a holiday movie on the Lake Eola lawn. 

• The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts holiday-themed performances
during its outdoor, socially distanced FrontYard Festival. Holiday performances include
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Wild & Swingin' Holiday Party and the Big Band Holidays
tradition by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.


SPARKLING EVENTS TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR


Live large at New Year’s celebrations in Orlando! From five-course dinners to
exciting theme park celebrations, ringing in 2022 in Orlando will sure be worth the countdown.

• The New Year’s Eve Dinner at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa’s
Sear + Sea features a gourmet meal and rooftop terrace boasting nightly views of both
theme park fireworks, which typically provide an extra-large NYE display. 

• Downtown Orlando’s Wall St. Plaza area, features multiple themed bars linked by an
open-air courtyard, for an annual New Year’s Eve Block Party with lightshows, dance
parties and a big countdown to 2022.

• On New Year’s Eve during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, spectacular music and
a bold fireworks display will send a wave of welcome to the New Year ahead.

• On International Drive, numerous venues hosting celebrations with unique entertainment and live music.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL OFFERS


Ask your expert travel advisor about the best Orlando travel deals for upcoming holiday season.

#StartYourHolidayTrip!






World First UNESCO Trail Connects 13 Sites in Scotland 13 diverse sites with natural and cultural significance, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities now form a dedicated digital trail. read more
Malama Hawaii Program: Giving Back on a Trip to Paradise
The Hawaiian Islands may draw you to their other-worldly tropical beauty, South-Pacific culture and warm welcome, legendary beaches and seaside lifestyle.

But the most memorable trip to Hawaii may be the one that gives back.

The Malama Hawaii Program connects visitors to activities that make a difference to the islands’ land, ocean, wildlife, forests, fishponds, and communities. Malama means 'give back' and it puts you in a position to become part of Hawaii, leave it an even better place… and have vacation memories of a lifetime.

It’s about building real relationships between people and place, and enriching your life as well as the destination you visit.

The Malama Hawaii Program has brought together a number of hotels and resorts, tour companies, and local volunteer organizations in a collaboration for the good the Hawaii that everyone loves. 

Volunteer projects range from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and even creating Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elders).

Visitors gain a more enriching travel experience through their positive impact, and may also qualify for perks like discounts or even a free night’s stay at a participating hotel or resort by participating in its dedicated volunteer activity.

There are opportunities to Malama on at least four of Hawaii’s visitable islands.

Oahu


In Oahu, check in with the community group Malama Maunalua to participate in a volunteer activity allowing them to malama aina. Volunteers will learn about ecological issues affecting Maunalua Bay and participate in removing three types of invasive algae threatening marine sanctuaries in the bay’s nearshore waters.

Get hands-on during an immersive, volunteer workday with eco-nonprofit Papahana Kualoa. You’ll sink your feet into the satisfyingly muddy earth of its loi kalo (irrigated taro terraces) to do the good work of helping plant or harvest kalo, a staple crop of the Native Hawaiian diet.


Maui


Don’t miss the ocean conservation activities at the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Visitors in the foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program head out to Maui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris. Data recorded by the foundation helps to mitigate and prevent shoreline and marine life damage.

You can also participate in the critical environmental work of removing invasive species from Maui’s protected lands, by volunteering to help with restoration and conservation projects of the nonprofit Hawaii Land Trust, which does vital stewardship work contributing to wildlife protection efforts at the island’s Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge.

Island of Hawaii


Visitors can volunteer to help restore and replant a 275-acre lowland dry forest preserve, surrounded by nature at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. You may be able to be part of building trails, tree planting, clearing invasive plant life and more, all while taking in the sights and sounds of the preserve’s tranquil landscape.

Adventure seekers interested in mountain hiking and volunteer work are encouraged to look into the workdays of Uluhao o Hualalai for a private eco-tour traversing the mature koa and ohia forests of 8,271-foot Hualalai volcano. In addition to hiking to one of the volcano’s many craters and learning about the cultural significance of the surrounding landscape, visitors are also invited to participate in the group’s reforestation efforts by planting native trees.


Kauai


You can spend a part of your vacation experiencing Kauai’s verdant and vibrant forest areas with the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, and participate in a remote video review to help identify the island’s protected birds and their activity and patterns. You can also join a virtual seminar to learn more about the native forest birds and the eco-project’s conservation efforts. Held monthly, the project’s Forest Fridays virtual series focus on the protection of the threatened native iiwi bird and three federally endangered native bird species — the puaiohi, akikiki, and akekee — with a goal of facilitating recovery of their populations in the wild. Visitors can also view prior series segments via the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project’s YouTube channel.


Ask your trusted travel advisor how you can Malama on your next trip to Hawaii.

#StartYourTrip!


Images: Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Heather Goodman
Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers harvest kalo taro



Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein Opens in the Birthplace of Famous Fictional Monster
Over 200 years ago, a trail-blazing female author penned the novel that brought one of the first tales of the horror genre to life.
This year, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein opened to commemorate the life of the novelist and her legendary, terrorizing creature.

In 1816, at just 19 years old, Mary Shelley wrote much of her novel Frankenstein in the chic, English spa-city of Bath.

Frankenstein the novel was groundbreaking on two levels: it had a rare, woman author, and it was one of the earliest examples of published horror stories. Shelley’s novel helped spawn a popular culture trend that resulted in a literary, theatrical, and nowadays, film and television landscape full of vampires, monsters, the living dead, medical and science experiments gone awry with terrifying and supernatural results.

Mary Shelley’s monster has been immortalized countless times over in frightening or campy, early and recent films, in pop culture references like cartoons and music videos, and is of course a perennially classic Hallowe’en costume.
Now Frankenstein’s monster has a permanent home of its own in the town where it was born.

Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath celebrates the author as well as her notorious fictional creature. Her monstrous literary creation has 'lived' in various artistic forms non-stop since its inception in Shelley’s novel, but this is the world’s first attraction dedicated to the trail-blazing Regency-era author.

Interactive exhibits tell the full story behind the genesis of ‘Frankenstein’. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein celebrates the legacy of the author’s work across four atmospheric floors, uncovering:

Mary Shelley’s Unusual and Complex Life - Visitors retrace the tragic and unconventional life events and radical scientific thinking that flourished in Shelley’s active and ahead-of-its-time mind;

The Monster of Shelley’s Imagination - You’ll confront head on the formidable 8-foot breathing creature in a world-first recreation exactly as the author imagined in her novel;

Frankenstein in Popular Culture - Revisit all things Frankenstein and his “monster” in the Popular Culture rooms bursting with vintage memorabilia, props, posters, and even bizarre collector items;

Enter the Darkness - Venture down into a dank foreboding basement, in a dark and disorientating walkthrough experience revealing the unhallowed practices of a deranged scientist.

Multi-sensory Classic Horror


Brace yourself for a thrill. Ominous music and unsettling soundscapes, eery temperature shifts, bespoke scents and unsettling aromas, lighting and special effects, electric shocks, projections, and props deliver a scarily immersive, unnervingly thrilling and visceral experience.

It’s not all scary, though. In the Popular Culture rooms, notes of cinemas, popular culture and childhood nostalgia are conjured with gourmand notes of popcorn, vanilla, caramel, chocolate with an undertone of plastic and even playdoh!

You Can’t Escape Frankenstein’s Monster - or Can You?


The bravest of 'Franken-fans’ can test their mettle in Victor’s Lair Escape Room, where you have just one hour to unravel the ramblings of his deranged mind and, more critically, your way out.

You begin locked in Victor’s miserable attic quarters, strewn with insane equations, strange artefacts and miscellaneous body parts. Trying in vain to unlock the mysteries of life itself, he needs just a few more ‘vital’ components to fulfil his maniacal quest. If you and your group can unravel the ramblings of a madman and discover the equation through 14 challenges, you’ll reveal the mystery of Frankenstein’s undead life, but more critically, your way out to freedom.

Between the literary history, the tale of a trail-blazing woman author, a creature who has embedded itself into our cultural fabric, immersive and entertaining exhibits and challenging activities, as well as tongue-in-cheek approach that even has body parts in jars intermixed with items for sale in the gift shop, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein has become a gothic must-do experience in the elegantly Regency-era city of Bath.

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy of Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein, Bath, UK



If you’re like most of us, your holiday season last year fell a little bit short on the fa-la-la’s. This year, it’s not too late to double down on , and make up for lost time with 'peak Christmas' at the Christmas markets of Europe.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, shares this video with some of the highlights of a nighttime German Christmas market - and explains why visiting Germany's Christmas markets this year may be the best way to return to travel.

Authentic Christmas Cheer

If it’s your first Christmas market experience, Germany is the way to go. So many of our modern Christmas traditions hail from Germany (via England, thanks to Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert); for a real injection of the spirit of Christmas, this year, it’s time to go to the source.

Even today, Germans are the torch-bearers for festive authenticity – only genuine fir branches, music, food, drink and shopping traditions allowed!

Good Timing

Since Germany’s Christmas markets begin in late November, four weekends before Christmas, and wrap up Christmas Eve, you have time to get a dose of Christmas cheer and still make it home for the holidays -laden with everything to deck the halls on this side of the ocean.

For an extra special experience, visit in the evening – when twinkling lights, bonfires and torches kindle the magic and spirit of the season and transport you back to the ancient origins of this winter festival.

Good Taste

It doesn’t matter if you had substitutes at home last year, tasting traditional German Christmas market foods at the source will remind you of exactly why you travel: because it never tastes the same as when you’re 'there.'

The fir bow-draped, traditional wood stalls include the best German standards: hot sausages, pretzels, and beer, plus the seasonal delights: hot, mulled 'gluhwein'; stollen, a particularly addictive fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and marzipan.

Oh, the glorious marzipan. Forget the icky, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goo slathered on top of cheap fruitcakes here at home. Once you taste the real thing, you just can't get enough. Marzipan in Germany comes formed in all shapes. Look for the quirky Christmas traditional 'marzipan kartoffeln' – marzipan 'potatoes', little marzipan balls dusted with coco to look like… miniature potatoes. Other shapes are delightful, hand painted confections – a favorite in southern Germany is little pigs, a symbol of good luck.

You Can Bring it Home With You

The best thing about the Christmas spirit is sharing it. By definition, markets are perfect for souvenirs, to savour your own memories, and pass them along to your loved ones.

High quality, and often, artisan-crafted German Christmas traditional items like nutcrackers, ornaments, religious items and toys, toys, toys are iconic symbols of Christmas for the young and young at heart. You are going to want to buy the unparalleled handmade glass ornaments and you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how and if you can get them home safely. Sheepskin slippers and mittens, and lots of boiled wool have a European design flair you don't find at home. Every market also has local specialties like the iconic blue and white china in Dresden, in everyday and Christmas designs.

If you haven’t restarted travel yet, the historic, traditional atmosphere of Germany's Christmas markets may be the best way to get back to the travel you love - and rediscover the magic of the holiday season.

#StartYourTrip!




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This New Museum in Oslo is a Real 'Scream'
Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' is one of the most famously eery pieces of art in history, and it continues to disturb admirers today.

Now, MUNCH, a new museum and landmark architectural masterpiece on Oslo’s waterfront, has opened, with the world’s largest collection of works by the famed Norwegian artist. That includes several versions of Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.

More than 26,000 works bequeathed by the artist to the City of Oslo are housed in the massive museum with unparalleled views of the Oslo Fjord. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist.

11 exhibition halls feature not only versions of Munch’s most famous, disturbing work, but also over half of Munch’s known works, from paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944, to monumental mural paintings like The Sun (1909), which stretches nearly 8 meters.

While Munch is best-known for The Scream, he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognized today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.

The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to Oslo such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 of the artist’s personal belongings.

Image: Munchmuseet

Alongside personal items and displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the highlights of Edvard Munch’s work and influence, visitors will get to enjoy a wide-ranging program of cultural events and experiences for art lovers of all ages, including concerts of all types of historic and ultra-modern music, literature readings, performance and art workshops.

That includes those interested in modern architecture and the transformation of the Oslo city skyline.

Image: Munchmuseet

Right on the edge of the Fjord and in the heart of Oslo’s city life on the water, MUNCH was designed and created in homage to Edvard Munch’s connection to the Norwegian landscape and his habit of painting outdoors in all seasons.

The top floor opens up into an observation area, offering some of Oslo’s most spectacular views. The perforated, translucent aluminium façade reflects the changing colours and conditions of the Oslo skies. Visitors can also enjoy dining in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.

A can’t-miss destination on your next trip to the Norwegian capital.

#StartYourTrip!

All images courtesy MUNCH






8 Top Features to Look For in an All-Inclusive Resort
The days are getting shorter, the skies are getting duller, and the temperature’s dropping. That’s our cue to start thinking about a beach vacation.

Many people are deciding to 'splash out' on their next vacations and really treat themselves to the very best version of their dream trip. 

That’s where your trusted travel advisor can really add value to your vacation.

We recommend dreaming big! Pick the features that appeal most to you, and work with your trusted travel advisor to help match your top features with an ideal destination and design your best beach vacation ever.

Your travel advisor can also help make sure you are fully up-to-date on the current travel requirements for your next sun and sand holiday.

Here’s our list of some of the top requested features of an all-inclusive resort vacation. Which of these features would make your all-inclusive holiday dreams come true?

Swim-Up Bar

For many of us, our first drink at a swim up bar - whether it’s a margarita, a mudslide or a mojito - is the moment we feel 'Ah!' I’m on vacation. It’s one of the most popular features of beach resorts - but not every resort in the tropics has one.

Generally speaking, the more pools a resort has, the more likely it is to have one with a swim-up bar.

Adults-Only Pools and Other Areas

Speaking of pools, if you don’t like your swim time interrupted by pool noodles, splashing and high-decibel shrieks, it’s time to consider an adults-only resort - or at least one with adults-only areas. That could include not only pools, but lounge areas, sections of the beach, bars and restaurants.

That way, kids can be kids and grown ups can get their rest in, too. Or playtime, because sometimes adults like to have grown up fun. And more adult behavior can have its place without having to worry about being improper in front of someone’s kids - or getting a glare from disapproving parents.

Multi-generational Family Time

Some resorts make a concerted effort to cater to all generations, especially those who travel together.

That can come in the form of adult-and kid areas, where everyone, from parents, grandparents, child-free aunts and uncles, and kids, can all have their own versions of a great tropical vacation.

It can also be different types of accommodation, from connecting rooms or suites with separate sleeping quarters but shared living areas, even to private villas.

The Beach

Some sun-lovers enjoy spending their entire holiday at the pool. But for others, they haven’t really been on vacation unless they’re in the sea.

While most resorts have access to waterfront, not all beaches are created equal. Do you want to be on a long strip of a famous beach that goes for miles? Or have access to a smaller, secluded - even private - beach? Must it be a silky, sand beach or are pebbles ok?

Do you need to see the beach from your room’s balcony? Or are you satisfied to have a 10+ minute walk or ride to a distant beach at a very large property?

If the beach is important to you, these are the questions to ask yourself.

On-site Watersports and other Activities

How active a vacation do you want? Do you want to rent jet-skis? Go snorkeling? Play tennis every day? If an active vacation - or lots of time in the water - is your idea of the perfect vacation, your best bet is a resort that already has lots of activities on the property so you have easy access to your favorite activities.

Multiple Included Restaurants

If you’re a foodie, an all-inclusive with just one buffet might not be up to your standards. Fine dining and multiple international cuisines are increasingly available at all-inclusives throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and other short-haul tropical destinations.

Make sure to ask your travel advisor if all the specialty restaurants are included, or what the costs of specialty dining is.

Bonus Question for the Super-Savvy: are there any restaurants with air conditioning? Not everyone soaks in the tropical heat with equal pleasure. Some of us just can’t enjoy dinner in a restaurant that isn’t air-conditioned.

Spa and Wellness


Almost all resorts at least have the facilities to get a massage, but after that, your wellness travel experience varies widely.

Some have extravagant spas with huts on the beach, where your massage is accompanied by the sounds of the waves and the smell of sea breezes.

Others have daily, scenic, included yoga, pilates, and other sessions for physical and spiritual well being. There are also some resorts with spa menus so those committed to returning from vacation even healthier than when they left can embrace health throughout the day.

Work-from-anywhere Services


A trend that started before the pandemic is now here to stay. More and more resorts have created an environment for those who are able to work and travel at the same time.

From enhanced internet, to live-work accommodations and packages, to private rooms where you can book quiet virtual meetings… if you are joining the ranks of digital nomads, there are all-inclusive resorts that you can call 'home' - until you want to move on again!

Treating Yourself to Upgrades


For a really special treat, let your fantasies of beach vacations run wild: private villa with your own splash pool? Overwater bungalow? Butler Service? It’s all available for that unforgettable beach vacation.


#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV




3 Million Lights for 101 Nights of Niagara Falls' Festival of Lights this Winter
This holiday season will be the brightest ever in the most popular tourist attraction in Canada – and one that conveniently spans the border with the U.S. - just as the land border between the neighboring countries is set to be open in both directions.
 
Beginning in mid-November and running 101 nights all the way to late February 2022, Canada’s largest, free outdoor light festival will take place. It’s the longest Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights of its 40-year history, designed to keep spirits bright throughout the darkest days of the year.
 
With over 3 million lights and over 75 spectacular displays providing colourful visuals, Niagara Falls will be transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and across the tourism districts. Visitors to this popular annual festival can bundle up and walk or drive through the Festival route to explore the outdoor, socially distanced, self-guided experience. 

 (Above and top photos: Niagara Falls Tourism)

That’s of course in addition to the nightly, colorful illumination of the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls. The lights in the winter takes on a fantasy appearance as mist generated by the torrents of falling water freeze as they rise up into the air, creating natural and other-worldly ice sculptures clinging to the Falls.
 
You may even want to take more than one trip to Niagara Falls for the 2021-22 OPG Winter Festival of Lights. The Festival will be presented in two parts.
 
From November 13, 2021 – January 9, 2022 over Christmas and New Years, the Festival features favourite 3D animal and holiday themed displays, including the popular Dufferin Islands loop within Niagara Parks. 20 new displays introduced in 2020 will return, including a giant gingerbread house, 20-foot polar bear and fairy tale castle, plus 8 new displays for 2021.
 
Then from January 10 - February 21, 2022, spanning Valentine’s Day, the new, second half of the Festival showcases winter wonderland and love-themed displays. 3D animals from Dufferin Islands will magically appear in other parts of the tourism district, and holiday themed displays will be replaced with new illuminations.
 
Two maps – one for each part of the Festival of Lights – are available on the Winter Festival of Lights website so you can plan your trip – or trips – to take in the change in displays during the entire, extended Festival period.
 

New Light Show Dramatically Illustrates the Other Side of the Falls

 
This winter season may be the perfect time to discover the illuminated magic of Niagara Falls. The city has just opened another fascinating attraction with its own, celebrated light show.
 
The Niagara Parks Power Station is a new landmark attraction just south of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls that opened late summer. It pays homage to the incredible power of the water that flows over the Falls - and how the Falls have benefitted residents on both sides of the border, in addition to Niagara Falls’ place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
 
The first major power plant on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parks Power Station was completed in 1905 to produce hydroelectricity by leveraging the power of the six million cubic feet of water that surge through the Niagara River and over the Falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall on the continent. 
 
Beyond its stunning architectural features and landscape design, the power station was one of the first in the world to undertake a major tunnel project, with water entering the structure and dropping 180 feet before being expelled into a 2,000 foot tunnel that emptied into the lower Niagara River, right at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
 
An engineering and architectural marvel, the station’s generators were the largest of their kind. Power generated from the Niagara Parks Power Station was used to service Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York, and the plant remained in operation over one hundred years, until 2006 when it was decommissioned.
 
By day, visitors explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities.

(Photo: Niagara Parks)
Each night, an immersive sight and sound experience “Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed” brings the building’s story of transforming water to electricity to life. This immersive, family-friendly experience features incredible 3D projection, interactive moments of wonder, and a breathtaking musical score in the heart of the power station.
 
The dramatic light show at the Niagara Parks Power Station - as well as the newly-extended Festival of Lights - will brighten any traveler’s winter.
 

Start Your Trip!



Montreal is a year-round global capital of celebration. The world’s second-largest French-speaking city (after only Paris) is famous for its cosmopolitan flair, cuisine, fashion, as a UNESCO City of Design, the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil - and a full calendar of top-shelf festivals that wrap the city in energy anytime you visit.

A famously active winter city, Montreal’s star shines even when the temperatures fall, with a mid-winter ‘Nuit Blanche’, ‘Igloofest’ and active celebrations of the city, like giant outdoor skating rinks.

Summer is high festival season, with marquee events like the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix race which is the most watched F1 race in the world, the world’s largest comedy festival, rock and electronic music fests, the Montreal World Film Festival, just to name a few.

Most summers, that includes the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Guinness World Record-holding celebration of jazz music that transforms the city’s Quartier des Spectacles, or festival neighbourhood, into the world’s biggest jazz club with thousands of performers from dozens of countries, including today’s jazz legends as well as tomorrow’s.
 

© Benoit Rousseau - Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
 
In 2021, a smaller Montreal Jazz Festival took place in September – highlighting the irresistible appeal of open-air events as we start traveling again.

And it highlighted perhaps the very best time to visit Montreal – during the Fall, when warm sunny days and crisp nights are tailor made for enjoying the city outdoors to its fullest. There’s Montreal’s version of Oktoberfest in its Beer Festival, MUTEK, an exposition combining electronic music and digital art, MOMENTA, Montreal’s Biennale of photography and image art, even a two-part video gaming extravaganza.

But one literally 'outshines' them all.

Gardens of Light

 
For weeks at the height of the best fall weather in September and October, Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are transformed into pure enchantment. Three gardens: Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations, are set aglow with light and magic.
 
Glittering lanterns in different shapes, styles and sizes glitter along paths through the dynamic and uniquely styled gardens, illuminating not just your way, but providing an authentic gateway to three of the world’s great cultures.
 
The beloved annual spectacle draws thousands who come to be immersed in inspiration and culture, and the best time to visit includes the late afternoon sun, blooms and fall colors, that transition with sundown to a different world that pays homage to the rising moon.
 
In fact, one of the central – and very Canadian- experiences is an interactive, lunar installation that captures the relationship between humans and Nature. Under the real moon above, and in the reflection of a illuminated moon installation, you’ll hear wolves howling – and if you howl, too, it makes the illuminated moon grow bigger. It takes a nocturnal experience out of the playbook of camping in Canada’s north country – responding to the howling wolves – and makes it into art that highlights dialogue between humans and Nature.
 

The First Nations’ Illuminations: Circle of Life

 
The illuminations in the First Nations Garden grow out of the actual, giant poplar tree that’s the dominant feature of the garden, and labelled the Sacred Tree. On and around the Sacred Tree, the light installations portray the birth and fading of seasons and Nature’s constant transformation.

To add to the primal experience, the light show is played against a projection of fire and to the evocative soundtrack of a human heartbeat.
 

The Chinese Garden: Legend of Pangu

 
There’s a long cultural tradition of lanterns in China, making the magical silk lantern installations in this section of the Montreal Botanical Gardens both a natural fit and a fabulous transformation.
 
The Gardens of Light here recreate in dramatic illuminations the Chinese fishing tale of the mythological creature Pangu, who is accompanied by four more creatures representing the four compass points. The black tortoise for North, the red bird for South, blue dragon for East, and white tiger for West.
 

The Japanese Garden: Zen by Light

 
Where the Chinese Garden is dramatic, the Japanese Gardens by Light are meditative and understated. An illuminated path begins to glow as the sun sets, with the unmistakeable shapes of Japanese garden features reborn in peaceful lighting.

True to ancient Japanese culture, the illuminations pay homage to the changing seasons and highlight, rather than mask, Nature, enhanced on certain nights by live music.
 
Montreal’s Gardens of Light may be one of the most magical ways to celebrate autumn outdoors in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
 

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By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image credits as noted.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Places to Celebrate Britain's 'Football' Heritage
This month, English fans of ‘footy’ had lots to celebrate. Despite a heartbreaking loss in the finals of the Euros, it was England’s best performance ever in the continent’s biggest game.

Soccer, that is.

Britain is the birthplace of the modern sport that has traveled around the world to become the most popular in the world. It’s also morphed into versions with their own fans - for example, North America has co-opted the name ‘football’ for a different game entirely.

Although kids all over the world since the beginning of time have kicked things around the village, the game that became British ‘football’ and the world’s ‘soccer’ traces its roots back to the mid-19th century.

That’s when players and clubs from around Britain came together as the Football Association to come up with a single set of rules. Not everyone was happy with the new rules; a splinter group of clubs opted instead to form the new Rugby Football Union, and so two completely different games were born.

No matter how you define ‘football’ today, any sporting fan on a trip to Britain should try to get tickets to see a game live in its birthplace.

Here are some other places and ways to immerse yourself in British footballing heritage while traveling around Britain:

Aston Villa’s Villa Park

Aston Villa football club was formed by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel, which sounds very sedate, but the club’s competitive attitude has nothing to do with church-like behavior. Since 1897, the club has played its home games at Villa Park, which was once a Victorian amusement park developed in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a grand stately home with gardens dating back to the mid-17th century. Alongside touring the stadium, this slice of history is just a short distance away.

The Wolves’ Interactive Museum at Molineux


Molineux has been the home of the Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) since 1889. Another of British football’s founding clubs, the stadium’s interactive museum takes visitors on a journey through the early years of modern football, while stadium tours provide a behind-the-scenes peek into memorable moments from the club’s history.



Manchester United’s Playing Field and National Football Museum


Some clubs can trace their origins to the workplace. Manchester United, as they are now known, was initially formed by the Carriage and Wagon Department of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1878.

When they changed their name at the turn of the century, the club moved to their current Old Trafford stadium in 1910 and have remained there ever since. Learn more about this world-famous club’s heritage on a museum and stadium tour.


Football fans in Manchester can also embark on an interactive journey through the beautiful game at the National Football Museum, set in the striking Urbis building in the city centre. Alongside a penalty shootout and other interactive games, it’s packed with footballing memorabilia including medals, replica trophies and shirts from history-making games..

London’s Storied Clubs


Arsenal can trace its roots to the south of the capital, in the late 19th century when a group of workers from the Royal Arsenal, an armaments factory in Woolwich. The club relocated to North Londond then to its current Emirates site in 2006. Behind-the-scenes tours dive into the club’s rich history, and there’s also legend experiences – guided tours by some of the club’s former players – to enjoy.

North London club Tottenham Hotspur was formed by a gang of schoolboys in the 1880s, and played at their White Hart Lane stadium from 1899. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, built on the same site, opened in 2019. It includes the Goal Line Bar, which at 65 metres is the longest bar in Europe!

After enjoying a stadium tour, those with a head for heights can gaze out over the capital on the Dare Skywalk, a chance to climb the stadium and look down on the pitch below. A similar rooftop tour is also available at Newcastle’s St James’ Park stadium, offering up panoramic views of Tyneside.

Chelsea, another of London’s top clubs, was formed in 1905 in an upstairs room of a pub, now named the Butcher’s Hook. Located in the shadow of Stamford Bridge, which was being built at the time, fans can tour the club’s stadium and museum.

National Footballing Sites


Iconic Wembley Stadium, complete with its massive, 133 metre (430 foot) arch, reopened in 2007. It can hold up to 90,000 fans, making it Britain’s largest sporting venue. In addition to history-making matches like Euro 2020’s final, played in July 2021, it’s also where epic concerts including the record-breaking Live Aid take place.


Glasgow’s Hampden Park is known as the home of Scottish football. It was the world’s biggest stadium when it opened in 1903. Hampden Park still holds the British attendance record, from 1937, when nearly 150,000 people crammed in to watch Scotland play England in 1937. Although its capacity has massively reduced with modernisation and the introduction of safe seating, Hampden Park is still home to the Scottish Football Museum – a space dedicated to documenting the northern nation’s footballing history.

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