A Ryanair aircraft stands on the tarmac at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport Germany, September 12, 2018. The airline will mount a fight to block Italian government funding of the airline poised to succeed Alitalia. Ralph Orlowski / Reuters
The extensive landscape of the US makes it a popular destination for tourists the whole year round.
There’s something to do for everyone: families, couples, and single travelers alike. No matter what time of the year you’re visiting, there’s a destination for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you love exploring the corners of new cities or you want to go hiking off the beaten track, we’ve got some beautiful destinations that will satisfy your wanderlust.
This guide will take you through some of the best entertainment options as well. It’s not just the views that can take your breath away!
Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, bars and restaurants or even casinos, we’ve got all the entertainment you need. There are many options to choose from, including some Michigan online casinos.
No matter what you’re looking for in the USA, we’ve got all the best destinations off the beaten tourist track.
Bars Off the Beaten Track
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, Michigan
One of the oldest jazz clubs in the world, it’s no wonder that Baker’s is a must-see attraction in Michigan. Built all the way back in 1934, this historic arts venue has always been a Detroit hotspot. The food is some of the best in town and the service is always impeccable. And with legends such as Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing having graced its stage, Baker’s legendary status is no surprise.
Tunnel Bar in Northampton, Massachusetts
If you’re a fan of a martini in an unusual location, then the Tunnel Bar in Northampton is the bar for you. Located in (or under) Northampton’s Union Station, this tunnel was previously used for commuters and train workers. Now, it’s been transformed into a beautiful bar with all of its original brick and stone fully intact.
The Coffin Club in Portland, Oregon
This next bar is not for the faint-hearted! It’s the Coffin Club in Oregon and we think you can probably guess the theme. It’s full of spooky memorabilia and glow in the dark skeletons that makes for a spooky night out. The Coffin Club has even been voted as being one of the top ten themed bars in the world!
Unique Nature Sites
Ocqueoc Falls in Rogers City, Michigan
If your interests are less city and more out in the wilderness, why not take a trip to Ocqueoc Falls just outside of Rogers City? Not only can you experience the beauty of these magical waterfalls but there’s also a campsite nearby where you can stay. You’ll have to be quick though, there are only 15 sites for tents and small campervans and they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
You can hike up to the falls along the Bicentennial Pathway and you can even do some trout fishing if you’re so inclined. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment to cook it though! There are only very basic amenities onsite including vault toilets and a hand pump well for water. So it might be campfire cooked trout for dinner!
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lake Michigan
The Sleeping Bear Dunes are found alongside a 35 mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline. This park is known for its incredible scenery including its beaches and forests as well as, of course, the sand dune formations. You’ll also find the North and South Manitou islands nearby which are accessible via ferries.
There are 20 miles of hiking trails as well as an 1871 lighthouse that you can visit. And if you’re a history buff, there are plenty of tours you can take as well as a museum to visit and learn all about the rich history of the dunes and surrounding areas.
Goblin Valley State Park in Green River, Utah
Don’t let the name put you off – Goblin Valley is one of the most unique sandstone formations you’ll see anywhere in the world. In fact, its landscape is often compared to that of Mars! With its weird and wonderful sandstone formations, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. It’s a once in a lifetime sight and one you won’t want to miss!
Devil’s Tower in Wyoming
Another unusual rock formation is the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. This astonishing geological feature was formed by molten rock millions of years ago and has managed to stand the test of time. There are lots of hiking trails to complete – or even rock climbing if you’re feeling brave! But note that there is an annual climbing closure for the month of June to respect the Native American cultural significance of the site.
White Sands National Park in New Mexico
The White Sands National Park is so unique that it is even home to a type of sand that is rarely found anywhere else. It’s called gypsum and is so rare because it is actually moderately soluble in water – meaning that you won’t be finding it on a beach. White Sands National Park is actually the largest gypsum dune field, covering 275 square miles.
The rarity of this landscape means that all of its life and plants are protected. It also means that not a lot of people know about it – so it’s always a peaceful place to visit.
Channel Islands National Park in Ventura, Los Angeles
Despite its proximity to Los Angeles, Channel Islands National Park is the second least visited park in California. That’s great news for travelers who prefer to bask in the beauty of nature in peace. It’s also a must visit place for activity lovers! There are loads of hiking trails to explore such as the Smugglers Cave trail.
If a day trip just isn’t enough time for your island trip, there’s also the option to camp on the island. Just make sure you pack light – it’s a mile long hike to get from the ferry to the campsite!
Given the vastness of the USA, it’s no surprise there are some places that are hidden away from the usual tourist traps. Whether it’s a park, lake, or entertainment venue – there are plenty of unknown places to explore.
Which hidden gem would you like to add to the list?
Sicily is of course a part of Italy and is the largest island in the Mediterranean with a host of attractions that make it famous. This stunning island is one of the twenty regions of Italy and is famous for such things as Mount Etna, The Roman Theatre of Taormina, as well as the bustling city of Palermo—which is an attraction in its own right and should definitely be included on your Sicily itinerary.
Sicily is an island that has the perfect combination of beautiful landscapes, fantastic beaches, incredible cuisine as well as one of Europe’s best climates, so it’s no wonder that this island is a favorite among travelers and holidaymakers.
So, let us show you what an 8 day Sicily itinerary could look like.
Here’s how to plan an eight day Sicily itinerary
Let’s start off your Sicily trip in Palermo.
Day 1-3: Palermo
You will begin your dream trip to Sicily, by starting in the capital city of Palermo which is famous for its beautiful fountains and glorious piazzas. But mostly for its incredible food culture—which is one of the main reasons you’re in Italy right?
Sicilian cuisine is out of this world and attracts many people for this reason alone, and one of the major attractions you cannot overlook is the ancient La Vucciria food market. This market holds social significance within the city as well as playing a central role here. This iconic food market is where you can indulge in all kinds of delicious and local street food, experience locals enjoying the dolce vita as well as embrace the lively atmosphere, which makes this a standout spot.
To get here, make your way to Piazza Caracciolo, Palermo anytime between 7 am and 7 pm Monday – Saturday. Palermo is an ideal spot to try some famous street food such as arancini (Italian rice balls) and sfincione (Sicilian pizza), as well as take a cooking class to learn the secrets behind these mouthwatering recipes. If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to try the famous beef spleen sandwich known as pani ca meusa.
With full bellies, you are ready to take on some of Palermo’s best attractions over these few days.
- Cattedrale di Palermo: This impressive Roman Catholic church dates back to 1185, and is a fantastic building of great significance within the city. It’s open Mon-Sat from 7am-7pm and Sun from 8am-7pm.
- Palazzo Dei Normanni: This is by far one of the best-preserved examples of Arabic-Norman-Byzantine architecture and can be visited Mon-Sat from 8:30 am-4:30 pm and Sun from 8:30 am-12:30 pm.
- Teatro Massimo: The largest opera house in Italy and the third-largest in the world.
If you find yourself with time on your hands and are looking for more things to do, then make sure to add these optional attractions to your list.
- St John of the Hermits: A medieval Norman church with impressive Arab-Norman architecture. You can visit Mon-Sat from 9:30am-6:30am and Sun from 9:30am-1:30pm.
- The Ballaro market: Another market to experience more delicious Sicilian food as well as clothing. You can find some mouthwatering fruit, cheeses, fresh fish, and local vegetables. Mon-Sat 7:30 am-8:30pm/Sun 7:30am-2pm.
Day 3-5: Taormina
Today, you will leave Palermo and follow the north coast towards Taormina, stopping off at Cefalu—a stunning hamlet by the sea—before continuing to the east coast of the island. Taormina is a fantastic resort town, which is definitely worth a visit. On your first evening, make sure to take a stroll down the bustling main street of Corso Umberto and pick a bar or restaurant to spend at for the evening.
After dinner, why not take in an open-air performance at the Greek Theatre which dates back to the 3rd Century—guaranteed to be a great experience, as well as provide insatiable views of the famous Mt Etna in the distance.
The next day, there are a host of activities you can enjoy in this beautiful coastal town, including:
- Relaxing on one of the beaches such as Isola Bella.
- Enjoying the panoramic view from Piazza IX Aprile, which has the best view of the city and Mt Etna and is, of course, open 24 hours a day to enjoy.
- Chiesa Madonna Della Rocco for more incredible city and sea views, a peaceful haven to relax and the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of local wine. Mon-Sun 8:30am-7pm.
- Alcantara Gorge, which is a 50-minute drive from Taormina and is a geological marvel, as well as the perfect place to visit to see glorious waterfalls and take a refreshing dip in the Alcantara River.
Spend your second evening in Palermo listening to live music and enjoying some delicious Italian cuisine in town.
Tip: The Godfather fans can visit a few of the movie’s film locations in the town of Savoca, just outside Taormina, which was used as the fictional town of Corleone.
Day 5-6: Catania
After breakfast, you will leave Taormina and head to Catania. However, you will of course be stopping at one of the most famous attractions on the island along the way–Mount Etna. This active stratovolcano is the tallest volcano in Europe and attracts many visitors to marvel at the sheer sight of this natural attraction. You can either take on the Mt Etna trail, which is around a 1-hour return and is of medium grade, or you can simply spend some time enjoying the views and the endless photo opportunities before continuing to Catania.
Related read: The World’s Most Famous Volcanoes
Note: While Italy is generally not an unsafe place to visit, you should be aware of pickpockets and petty theft, especially in touristy areas, so be vigilant and take care of your valuables in places such as this.
Catania is the second-largest city in Sicily and is a place that you just cannot overlook on your Sicily itinerary planning. When arriving, expect to be greeted by a fantastic view of Mount Etna, which forms the iconic backdrop of this stunning city. Here you will spend the evening absorbing the atmosphere of the city in all its glory, which is apparent at the Piazza Duomo.
The following day you will have the whole day to explore the city’s sights, including:
- Palazzo Biscari: Visit this marvelous palace for its incredible Catanese Baroque architecture, complete with stunning frescos. Given that this historic location is now being used for concerts, check their website for upcoming unmissable events. Mon-Sun 10am-1pm.
- The Cathedral of Catania: This beautiful and historic cathedral is centrally located, so there is no reason to miss out on seeing the wonderful baroque architecture which makes this so popular. Be on the lookout for the domed roof, the columned facade, and the numerous frescoes that can be admired for hours. Dedicated to the patron saint of Catania, St Agatha, whose festival is held from February 3rd – 5th. Mon-Sat 10:30am-12pm/4pm-5:30pm, closed Sundays.
During your time sightseeing in Catania, make sure to refresh yourself with a cold and fruity beverage from one of the historic Catania kiosks which date back to the 1800s and are found in many of the piazzas, especially Piazza Umberto. Enjoy another beautiful evening in Catania, with a delicious local dinner of Pasta Alla Norma (pasta and eggplant) and a stunning sunset over Mount Etna, as you take in all you have encountered today, as part of your 8 day Sicily itinerary.
Day 6-8: Siracusa
Today, after a fresh and tasty Italian breakfast, alongside some world-famous coffee, you will set yourself up for the day and make your way to Siracusa, which is an ideal spot to discover its attractions as well as being close to some major stop-off points too. On your way here, you can stop at the archeological site of Agrigento, which is one of the most significant historical sites on the whole island. After marveling at the various mesmerizing ruins, you will continue to Siracuse, where more adventure awaits.
On your first day in Siracusa, you will get the chance to discover many things, including:
- The Fontana Diana at the Piazza Archimed: Dating back to 1907, this is a major feature in the city of Siracusa, which is dedicated to the Goddess, Diana.
- Ortigia, which is accessed via a bridge and is famous for its incredible Baroque style Piazza del Duomo–one of the best in Italy.
On your second day in Siracusa, you will visit Modica, which is a haven for the sweet tooth, given that it is famous for the Modica chocolates—which you can taste and, of course, take home. This town is famed for its beautiful array of historic buildings, its chocolate museum, and its tiny narrow, picturesque streets.
You will spend the rest of the day as you please, wandering this beautiful hilly town, before making your way back to Catania for your last evening in Sicily, closing off your fantastic 8 day Sicily itinerary.
Planning your trip to Sicily
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.
If you’re looking for an alternative Osaka travel guide, you’ve just landed on the right page. Japan expert, La Carmina, shares her best tips and advice for exploring the more underground side of Osaka.
Only three hours from Tokyo by bullet train, Osaka is a turbo-charged setting for a long weekend getaway. Although it’s worth seeing historic landmarks such as Osaka Castle, travelers shouldn’t miss out on exploring the underground culture for an alternative perspective of the city. For instance, Osaka is home to a gritty and raucous music scene that’s matched only by its drinking holes — where the staff has feathered and dyed hair, the speakers blast Def Leppard, and the walls are decorated with grinning skulls.
I’ve been writing about Japan and visiting Osaka for well over a decade on my La Carmina travel blog. Here are some of my favorite subculture hangouts in the city, which I hope you’ll get to check out on your next trip.
See also: A day in Osaka, Japan
Osaka shopping guide
Let’s start off this alternative Osaka travel guide with a few vintage, indie and unique shopping spots in Osaka.
Shinsaibashi’s Shopping Arcade is a bustling treasure hunt: look for indie and vintage boutiques, such as Dangerous Nude, amidst the mass retailers. Nearby Amerikamura is the cultural equivalent of Tokyo’s Harajuku, with Goths, punks and rockers hanging out in Triangle Park (here’s a map of the best stores). Poke your head through the beaded curtains for cyber fashion, tarot cards and 1980s toys.
A stone’s throw from Umeda Station, EST is a young women’s “shopping town with dream and excitement.” The boutiques lure you in with frantic J-pop music and the chic outfits seen in Cutie and ViVi magazines. If the hundred-plus indie and alternative shops aren’t enough, across the street is Hep Five, a shopping and entertainment megalopolis with a red Ferris wheel.
Sightseeing in Osaka
Here are a few more unique sights to visit in Osaka.
Believe it or not, the Pokemon Center is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Japan. The gargantuan Umeda, Osaka store is stocked with every character imaginable. Children in Pikachu hats will remind you that the brand’s motto is “gotta catch em all,” so bring your wallet.
Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world and a family favorite. Young Osaka resident Takumi Tanaka reminisces on his childhood visits. “It’s always fun to see the penguins and dolphins playing, but my favorite thing to do is visit the Floating Jellyfish tanks. It’s so relaxing to watch the intertwining tendrils,” he says. “Also I love to watch the staff feed the sea otters, who play like children.”
Tanaka also encourages first-timers to visit the historic Osaka Castle, especially during the cherry blossom season. “There are always festivals and gatherings in the beautiful park, and little stalls that sell traditional foods like takoyaki. It’s fun to just sit on the benches and watch people go by,” says Tanaka.
Related tour: Guided Walking Tour around Osaka Castle
Bars and Nightlife in Osaka
What’s an Osaka travel guide without a list of the best bars and nightlife?
Related tour: Osaka: Nightlife Experience
Fans of Visual Kei/J-rockers Blood were heartbroken when the group disbanded. But like a Goth Elvis, vocalist Fu-ki is alive and ominously wielding an ice pick behind the counter of his Bar Midian.
The Umeda dive is near-impossible to find, so I suggest studying these detailed directions on my La Carmina Blog. Midian’s decor is a heavy metal wet-dream: a dripping candle sits in a Dracula wine bottle; an axe rests in the umbrella stand. That night, we sat with tattooed rockers who headbanged to Black Sabbath videos and scandalized us with their boy-on-boy antics.
Drinks are 500 yen and have names such as Black Rose and Satan. Fu-ki mixes a strong cocktail and will gladly make you a special one, or pour you a Belgian Satan Beer. He’s also known to pick up the tab for newcomers, especially if you bond over music — so don’t forget to ask him about his Motley Crue cover band.
When metal and rock bands tour Osaka, they frequently stop by Moonwalk, a bar that pumps Marilyn Manson and Japanese glam metal to a young, heavily-pierced crowd.
My travel comrade and I had an instant crush on our eyeliner-smeared server Kouta, who plays bass in a new Visual Kei band. The fantasy faded a little when he went into the kitchen to cook our orders: tasty 315 yen plates of Korean fried rice and lotus pork cakes. There’s a 400 yen cover charge, but the drink menu — which has over 300 offerings for 200 yen each – more than makes up for it. Got a sweet tooth? Try the raspberry yogurt cocktail. More of a hardcore type? Go for the brandy ginger mixer. And don’t be surprised if the charming bartender brings over free shots.
Bar Rock Rock
Alice Cooper. Bad Religion. Motley Crue. Metallica. They are among the hundreds of famed faces who have raised hell at Rock Rock since the bar opened in 1995, leaving behind autographed photos and tales of destruction.
The atmosphere reminds me of a really chill jazz club, only with screamo vocals. The bar plays anything from punk to metal and has events throughout the year that bring in throngs of rock fans. These include special DJ nights such as Hell’s Bells (AC/DC), Emotion is Dead (emo) and the self-explanatory Loud & Heavy.
The menu is a typical selection of pizzas, pastas and salads (600-800 yen). The drinks are standards, plus a selection of fruity cocktails (500-800 yen). A little pricy, but worth it when they’re poured by celebrity bartender “Noxl Rose.”
Food in Osaka
Take your tastebuds on an adventure.
See also: Japanese Pork Chop in Downtown Osaka
Non-Japanese speakers, memorize the word “okonomiyaki.” It’s a tragedy if you leave without tasting the grilled savory pancake (usually with seafood, and topped with bonito flakes and brown sauce) that is Kansai’s soul food. Look for family restaurants such as Tengu, where recipes are passed down from several generations.
Takoyaki — grilled octopus balls made from pouring batter into molds — are another Osaka specialty. Every major street has a stand where you can buy a dozen for 500 yen. Twists on the original include egg or melted cheese toppings, and takoyaki stuffed in a crepe. But nothing beats mom-and-pop shops, such as Tako House at Umeda station, where a shy grandma oversees the cooking.
Yuzu (citrus fruit)
Yuzu is a divine mating between a lemon and a tangerine. In Osaka, you’ll find the flavor in seemingly every type of dish: sorbet, sake, shochu. The fruit is rarely found fresh outside of Japan, so don’t hesitate to gorge on it at every meal.
Day Trips from Osaka
If you want to escape from Osaka for a day, check out a few of these nearby places.
Take a jaunt to Kobe to explore its outstanding parks, zoo, and harbor. For a walk on the dark side, visit Gothic / fetish / occult / Satanic Bar Idea. The friendly ladies behind the nail-spiked bar will chat with you and perform dark rituals, including shibari or rope bondage demonstrations.
Get away from the grit with a day trip to Nara, only an hour away by subway. The cultural capital dazzles with six Buddhist temples, a Shinto shrine and the Imperial Place. But the biggest thrill, for tourists of all ages, is petting the sacred deer that roam in Nara Park.
Related tour: From Kyoto or Osaka: Private Walking Tour through Nara
Kyoto is located north of Osaka, and home to thousands of well-preserved places of worship such as Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion). First built in the 14th century, the three-story gilded structure holds the Buddha’s ashes and is set in an exquisite garden with a mirror pond.
Related tour: From Osaka: Kyoto Top Highlights Day Trip
At the heart of walking holidays in Spain lies the Camino de Santiago – Pilgrimage of Compostela – known as the Way of St James in English. This is a network of pilgrim paths dating back to the 9th century, when the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great were discovered, in which different towns and villages across Europe all lead back to Santiago, Spain.
Although Camino de Santiago Frances begins in France, these routes all end in Spain. For this reason, Spain has become a very popular walking holiday destination, in which holidaymakers and hikers from around the world dive into a segmented route within one of the pilgrim paths.
This type of holiday has it all: physical activity, culture and history, and is a chance to explore different places. Whilst you may have driven from one town to the next in Spain, it’s not quite the same experience as walking, in which you have lots of time to take in your surroundings and see every inch of soil between two connected villages or towns.
Within Camino de Santiago, there are many routes with varying levels of difficulty. Sarria to Santiago is a popular one as it’s graded 2 out of 5, yet covers 111km, crossing various significant Spanish towns such as Sarria, Puertomarin, Palas de Rey, and Arzu.
This particular route takes 7 days to complete, in which there are many great hotels along the way. Of course, because most of the day is spent walking, which is free, and the hotels include half board or breakfast (up to you), these walking trips have very few unexpected costs.
Another popular route to Santiago is from St Jean Pied de Port. if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound very Spanish then you’re right, because this route begins in southern France and ends in, you guessed it, Santiago. The ‘French Way’ is one of the most culturally rich walks in the world. St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque region is a 12th-century town. Soon, you head to Pamplona, which is world-famous for its bull-running, before you eventually pass through northern Spain. This walk is extremely diverse, allowing you to see both the differences and similarities in Spanish-French architecture, culture, and terrain.
Socialising and Culture
Of course, meeting other pilgrims along the way is also a key part of these routes – this is the benefit of sticking to the historical trails. Other like-minded folks will undoubtedly be crossing the same paths that are experiencing the same challenges.
Because these are historical routes, the towns they cross are culturally significant too. Almost any route you choose will have a plethora of cathedrals, architecture, and authentic cuisine. Rustic villages and forests are plentiful in northern Spain too.
What Time of Year is Best?
Southern France and northern Spain are both fairly mild climates all year round, with average summer temperatures of 25 degrees celsius (80F) and average winter temperatures of 12 degrees celsius (54 F). For this reason, no time of year is too challenging to make these walks, although between June and September is recommended if you want as little rain as possible.
It’s not a surprise that I often think back to my recent trip to Jamaica.
Whether it’s the flashes of white sand and perfect water, the local food, the wanders through downtown Montego Bay, the day trips into the jungle-covered interior and, of course, the infectious vibe of the people, the trip was beyond memorable.
I had been to Jamaica many times when I worked on board cruise ships as a Tour Manager, way back in the early 2000s. But this time was different. Instead of visiting for a mere few hours at a time, on this occasion, it was a full 10 days on the island. Naturally, this gifted me the opportunity to do more, meet more people, eat more food and simply visit far more places.
A vacation to Jamaica should be high up, very high up, on any traveler’s list, especially if that traveler is fond of tropical destinations, a combination of relaxation and culturally-focused excursions, endless natural wonders and, to be honest, feeling happy from the moment you arrive. From that first smile and all the positive energy you’ll soak up from your first few conversations, by the time you reach your accommodation you will already know that you’ve made the right choice for your trip.
And the good news is that traveling to Jamaica right now is quite easy, with a simple set of Covid guidelines to follow:
As for my personal recommendations of places to visit:
- Beaches (Negril Seven Mile Beach is gorgeous!)
- Dunn’s River Falls
- Bob Marley Museum
- Wandering around downtown Montego Bay
- Appleton Rum Tour
- Food tasting (find out where the locals eat and try jerk chicken, codfish and meat patties)
- Hire a driver for a day trip through the interior (stop in villages along the way and meet great people!)
Jamaica is also a short flight from much of the US, making it an even more ideal destination for that well-deserved island vacation.
I’ll be back again myself, for sure. And it will absolutely be for another 10 day stay (at least!) as I still have plenty more of this welcoming, laid-back island to explore!
The Caribbean is the holy grail of boating holidays. With over 5,000 islands, incredible weather and endless tropical marine life, setting sail with a catamaran rental through Nautal offers up an endless world of possibilities. Here is a guide to the many adventures you can get up to when sailing around the Caribbean at your own pace.
Island hopping is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind when traveling around the Caribbean on a boat. Catamaran rental in the Bahamas, for example, is a fantastic way to pass the time, being home to 700 islands and 2,400 cays alone. When factoring in the Caribbean as a whole, you’re undoubtedly going to stumble on some hidden gems and potentially uninhabited islands.
For example, Salt Cay, a gorgeous island that is home to a quiet village and a sleepy atmosphere, is one you most likely haven’t heard of. With only one bar and one restaurant, you’re getting a unique experience of serene isolation, but with some locals nonetheless. There are countless other islands just like this, but also some more vibrant and populated ones too, like Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.
Beaches and Coves
Almost any one of the 5,000+ Caribbean islands is bound to have a white sand beach with crystal clear water, so it’s almost redundant to name some of the “best”. However, there certainly are some noteworthy names that are highly acclaimed, and it gives you somewhere to start in your search.
The first name that comes to mind is Grace Bay, which is on one of the Turks and Caicos islands. There is a coral reef just off the shore of its 8 kilometer long white sand beach. Being a highly regarded beach, there are also some famous exclusive resorts and hotels too if you’re looking to take a night off from the catamaran.
Seven Mile Beach located in Grand Cayman is another name you may have heard of – and for good reason. Laden with coconut palm trees, Seven Mile Beach is a very swimmable and tourist friendly beach that has plenty of hammocks, clear water and amenities for you to enjoy.
Before exploring the possible water sports that you can indulge in, it’s worth noting that the marine life in the Caribbeans is buzzing and rich in its beauty. Stingrays, turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins are just some of the many exotic marine life you may come across. This makes scuba diving a thrilling activity, and being on your own boat, you can stop off whenever and wherever you like.
Some local islands may offer boating tours, which would be redundant, but they may be worth trailing if you see one as they may know the exact spots for spotting certain species.
If you head to a more populated island, such as the Dominican Republic, you will find many merchants selling or renting gear for some water sports – like windsurfing and jet skis. In fact, Exumas in the Bahamas also has swimming pigs which is a once in a lifetime kind of thing to see.
Ultimately, renting your own boat at Nautal changes the entire dynamic of the vacation. Suddenly, you can see and do everything you want to but can do so at your own pace and with privacy. It allows you to improvise – perhaps you have stumbled on an incredible sunset or great snorkeling spot – and can avoid the crowds whenever you wish.
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Before the mountain biking season starts up again, it’s a good idea to consider which mountain biking destinations you want to head to this year.
You might already be imagining yourself riding through scenic trails, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, and a light breeze cooling down your sweat. However, before you pull your bike out of storage and dust it off, spend a few moments thinking about where you’re going to go for this year’s mountain bike trips.
Top mountain biking destinations in North America
Here’s where to go for some of the best mountain biking in the US and Canada.
1. Moab, Utah
Moab is the place to go for all US mountain bikers. Bikers come from miles around to experience the truly unique red rock destination in southeastern Utah. If you’re aiming to hit multiple hot spots in one road trip, Moab is easily accessible from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.
You’ll find plenty of historic mountain biking trails in Moab, such as the popular Whole Enchilada. But what makes this location different is that the trails are always changing and expanding. On average, 30 miles of new trails are created each year. Two of the most recent are North Klondike and Klonzo.
2. Sedona, Arizona
The best mountain bike rides in Sedona are all within a short ride of the town, so you won’t need to stress about driving anywhere. If you’re looking for a proper challenge, head for the Highline/Templeton/Baldwin loop of the aptly named Hangover Trail.
Intermediate riders will undoubtedly enjoy the Chuckwagon/Mescal/Aerie network. While beginners can get in on the action on the Big Park Loop and the Bell Rock Path.
3. Bend, Oregon
Bend’s classic “moon dust” conditions don’t suit everyone, however, that doesn’t stop it from being one of the top US mountain biking destinations. Singletracks are continually being added to Bend’s hundreds of miles of trails and mountain bike infrastructure.
Another attraction that makes Bend stand out is the recent opening of the Mount Bachelor downhill mountain bike park, which already boasts a wide array of trails.
4. Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler is a true mecca for all things mountain biking. It’s best known for its world-class downhill mountain bike park, but the area is covered in excellent cross country and all-mountain singletrack trails.
There are countless other locales in British Columbia, such as Squamish, Fernie, Nelson, Golden, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Revelstoke, and many more.
5. Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte is a Rocky Mountain town for skiers and mountain bikers alike. Located midway between Denver and Grand Junction, it is even closer to Colorado Springs. You’ll have no problems enjoying a relaxing and scenic road trip from either of these major cities.
When you get there, you’ll find over 700 miles of alpine singletrack trails. Not only is Crested Butte home to one of the oldest mountain bike festivals, it also features a legendary 13,000-foot climb and is one of the destinations that started the mountain biking craze back in the 1970s.
6. Downieville, California
Downieville is another location that’s tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You have to travel over an hour up into the mountains on winding two-lane highways but once you’re there, you get to experience the Downieville Downhill, a marquee ride that everyone’s heard of. Surrounding the town is a gigantic network of 500 or more miles of mountain bike trails.
7. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
For many mountain bikers, The Tahoe Rim Trail is a bucket list adventure but you should also consider adding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Flume Trail to your list. The newest trails are in the Southlake area, while the best downhill trailers are in the Northstar Resort. For the best views, you’ll need to head higher up.
8. Wydaho, Wyoming and Idaho
The Wydaho region covers Jackson, Jackson Hole Resort, Victor, Idaho, Driggs, and Grand Targhee Resort. Mountain biking has really blown up in Wydaho over the last few years. There has been significant trail development close to the town of Jackson. Historically-illegal trails on Teton Pass have also been adopted into the trail system.
Jackson Hole has improved its bike park, but the most notable improvements have been at the Grand Targhee Resort. There is now an incredible array of downhill mountain bike trails, cross country trails, winter fat biking trails, and other two-wheeled singletrack routes.
9. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is in Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and it’s a city known for its mountain beauty, historic architecture, and vibrant art scene.
Asheville is surrounded by some awesome trails, including the Bailey Mountain Bike Park and the 500,000-acre Pisgain National Forest. Kisuma, Dupont, and Tsali are also close to Asheville and offer more of North Carolina’s most treasured mountain biking trails.
10. East Burke, Vermont
Close to the Canadian border, East Burke is a secluded mountain town that is challenging to get to, but well worth the effort. If you live on the East Coast, East Burke is a three-hour drive from Boston and an hour and a half from Burlington.
East Burke is a great place to ride your mountain bike. It includes The Kingdom Trails network which has something for all ability levels. There are well-groomed doubletracks for beginners and tight, fast, flowing singletracks for more experienced cyclists.
Other areas you want to check out include Burke Mountain, Dead Moose Alley, and Darling Hill. The area is best experienced between May and October.
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.
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If you want to travel the world for a year with your partner and children, here are some things to know about getting it right:
Make Sure It’s the Right Decision
The reality of long term travel is that it isn’t always fun or easy. While there are plenty of adventures to look forward to, you should also prepare yourself for boredom, disrupted travel plans, poor weather, uncomfortable situations, and more.
This is not meant to put you off your gap year. Rather, it is meant to offer a more balanced perspective of what your year of travel may look like. This way, you can ensure that you and your family are better prepared for the experience.
Create a Plan for Homeschooling
If you are traveling with younger children, education may not be a pressing issue. However, with older children, the situation can be more complicated, especially since each state and country has its own laws on homeschooling. Check what the requirements are and make sure to abide by them to prevent your kids from falling behind. To make the job easier, try to register your children in homeschooling courses or systems. They will be able to follow professionally constructed lessons, assignments, and more.
Match the Destinations to Your Children’s Age
When traveling with children, you may not always get to be as adventurous as you like. This is especially true when moving around with infants and toddlers.
When it comes to babies, look for places with creature comforts and good healthcare in case of emergencies. You should also have constant access to safe water and food. Primary school-aged kids are a bit tougher, but you should still look for areas with proper accommodation and basic comfort.
When your kids enter their teenage years, you can head out to more remote areas or even into the wilderness. You can choose to live in RVs, and tents or travel to countries where you will find yourself off-the-beaten-path on a regular basis.
Travel With the Necessities
It’s only once you begin traveling that you realize how vastly different countries are, especially when it comes to supplies for your children. You might not be able to get the kind of baby formula or top quality car seats that you’re used to at home. Stock up on items that you can’t do without. If your children are quite young, take a car seat and stroller wherever you go as well.
Plan Activities Around Your Kids
When planning activities, it is important to balance out museum visits with fun activities for your kids. Otherwise, they will get bored and that’s not going to make a family gap year any easier. This doesn’t mean that you only have to hit up theme parks or play centers though.
Instead, focus trips around nature, animals, and activities that actively engage your kids. These trips keep them occupied but also broaden their minds and horizons. You may also want to do plenty of research before visiting larger cities. It won’t take long to see how kid-friendly a certain city might be and whether or not they have sufficient activities that would appeal to kids and a family.
A family gap year can be a great experience for everyone as long as you are prepared for what to expect. With the tips above, you can proceed knowing that you have properly thought out your decision and now understand how to move forward in the best interests of your entire family.