Glass-bottomed attractions: spectacular views at terrifying heights

Condé Nast Traveler
  • Dennis Watts

Embrace the vertigo—the view from these skywalks, glass bridges, and see-through observation decks are worth it. Check out the list for dizzying images of the Alps, the Grand Canyon, New Zealand, and more.

  • 1. Grand Canyon Skywalk

    Dennis Watts

    Grand Canyon West (Hualapai Reservation), Arizona

    Sure, the views of the Grand Canyon are spectacular from pretty much any angle, but none are as thrilling as looking through the glass walkway that juts out over the Canyon’s western rim; the horseshoe-shaped path is suspended 4,000 feet (shudder) above the canyon floor. Tours include a hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus ticket that takes you to the Skywalk as well as viewpoints back on terra firma.

  • 2. Dachstein Sky Walk

    Erich Hagspiel

    Dachstein, Austria

    A visit to the Dachstein Sky Walk starts with a gondola ride, which delivers sprawling vistas of its own, but it’s only upon arriving at the platform that you’ll get to peer straight down, 820 feet, at the Dachstein glacier and up into the Alps. Not enough high-altitude scenery? Take a walk across the suspension bridge—the highest in Austria—for more breathtaking views.

  • 3. Sky Tower

    Sky Tower

    Auckland, New Zealand

    From the main observation deck in Auckland’s Sky Tower, look down—way down—at the city through a glass floor that’s just an inch and a half thick. (Touch-screen computers with live cameras will tell you what you’re looking at.) And, since this is New Zealand, of course that’s not the only thrill the Sky Tower provides—you can also base jump off the tower.

  • 4. The Edge at Eureka Skydeck 88

    The Edge

    Melbourne, Australia

    The Eureka Tower claims to be the tallest residential tower in the entire Southern Hemisphere. You can take in the view from the 360-degree observation deck or open-air terrace, but, for a little bit of extra cash, you can step into The Edge—a glass cube that sticks out nearly 10 feet from the rest of the building, more than 980 feet above the ground. Even the elevators here are thrilling: They reach the 88th floor in less than 40 seconds.

  • 5. Glacier Skywalk

    Brewster Travel Canada

    Jasper National Park, Canada

    One of the newest glass-floored attractions, the Glacier Skywalk in the Canadian Rockies, doesn’t open to the public until May 1. When it does, you’ll definitely want to add it to your must-do list. The curved walkway extends 100 feet off the edge of a cliff, holding steady 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. From the observation platform, you can see out across the valley and up into the mountains of Jasper National Park.

    See more spectacular views at Conde Nast Traveler

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Categories: Extreme Adventures | Leave a comment

Weird natural wonders you won’t believe are real

Condé Nast Traveler
  • Conde Nast/Newscom

From Mexico’s Cave of Crystals to waves frozen in time, these natural formations will make you look twice.

  • 1. The Cave of Crystals

    Conde Nast/Newscom


    Mother Nature hid the largest crystals in the world nearly 1,000 feet below Naica Mountain, in the northwest region of Chihuahua, Mexico. The hidden caves were drained in 1975 but miners only unearthed these milky-white selenite crystals—spires of gypsum as long as flagpoles—in 2000. Though they may look icy, the mega crystals are forged in extreme heat, up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and were developed in mineral-rich water over a period of 500,000 years. Researchers can only enter the cave for short periods of time, and there are plans to re-flood it to preserve the crystals.

  • 2. The Wave

    Conde Nast/Newscom

    Utah and Arizona

    This awe-inspiring rock wave in shades of ochre and crimson unfolds through the Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the border of Utah and Arizona. First water, then wind eroded the Navajo sandstone, revealing layers of sand that blew through the area during the Jurassic period. Access to “the wave” is heavily restricted; the Bureau of Land Management hands out only 20 permits to the Coyote Buttes region a day.

  • 3. Fingal’s Cave

    Conde Nast/GMS Photography


    Reminiscent of Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and just across the sea in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa boasts the same hexagonal basalt columns, but houses them in a cathedral-like sea cave with shimmering turquoise water. Not convinced Fingal’s Cave is superior? German composer Mendelssohn wrote an overture inspired by the acoustics he heard on his visit.

  • 4. Wave Rock

    Nigel Killeen


    Like a 46-foot-high cresting wave that’s never going to break, this odd rock formation in Hyden Wildlife Park is a popular photo stop on trips to western Australia. (Travelers tend to assume the surfer pose for pictures.) The wave was formed by the erosion of softer material at the bottom of the ancient granite dome, and the vertical stripes are the result of rain washing chemicals down its face.

  • 5. Snow Rollers

    Conde Nast/Newscom


    Like a cross between tumbleweed, a hay bale and a doughnut, this natural phenomenon is rarely witnessed; it requires very specific snow conditions and wind speed. But when all the boxes are ticked, as they were this January in Ohio (pictured), the wind rolls an ever-growing snowball and then blows out its middle, creating this bizarre sight.

    See more weird natural wonders at Conde Nast Traveler

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Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

10 awe-inspiring travel photos that will give you wanderlust

Ever dreamed of capturing that perfect shot while on vacation?  Sure, there are some good, hang-on-your-wall worthy snaps you’ve taken.  But have a look’s 11th annual photo contest finalists.

There were 60 finalists selected from over 50,000 images by photographers from 132 different countries.  Not all were travel photos.   The six categories include, The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile (a new category this year).

But first, a word of warning: These travel photos will give you some serious wanderlust.  Resist the urge to dust off that SLR and book a flight somewhere exotic.  Enjoy.

  • 1. A young monk

    A young monk.

    Innwa, Burma, December 2012 (Canon EOS 7D)

    By Pyiet Oo Aung  (Rangoon, Burma)

  • 2. Navajo Bridge

    “Navajo Bridge” is an image overlooking the Colorado River’s Marble Canyon.

    Page, Arizona, August 2012 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Matthew Zheng (San Francisco, California)

  • 3. Sun on an Indian monetary

    Sun painting a monastery and the surrounding Ladakh landscape.

    Ladakh, India, July 2013 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Porus Khareghat (Mumbai, India)

  • 4. Ricardo Breceda’s sculpture garden

    Designer Ricardo Breceda’s sculpture garden is a site to behold anytime.Lee waited for a moonless night to capture the Milky Way, and he light painted the sculptures to “conjure up a sort of 1950s sci-fi movie feel, with two atomic creatures doing battle under the stars.”

    Borrego Springs, California, August 2013 (Nikon D7000)

    By Ken Lee (Lake Balboa, California)

  • 5. Ethiopia boy and his father

    Portrait of a young Suri boy going with his father to take care of the cattle.

    Ethiopia, August 2013, (Nikon D600)

    By Sergio Carbajo Rodriguez (La Garriga, Spain)

  • 6. Action Hero

    As part of a show called “Well of Death,” a biker performs a stunt at a village fair to celebrate Rath Jatra, a Hindu festival.

    Dhamrai, Bangladesh, June 2012 (Lumix FZ 100)

    By Nidal Adnan Kibria (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

  • 7. Neist Point Lighthouse

    Neist Point Lighthouse at dusk.

    Isle of Skye, United Kingdom, August 2013 (Nikon D600)

    By Stefano Coltelli (San Miniato, Italy)

  • 8. Terraced fields in Vietnam

    Terraced fields during harvest season.

    Mu Cang Chay, Vietnam, September 2012 (Canon 5D Mark II)

    By Vo Anh Kiet (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

  • 9. Fisherman in Burma

    A fisherman on Inle Lake.

    Inle Lake, Burma, November 2013 (Canon EOS 1DX)

    By Aung Pyae Soe (Rangoon, Burma)

  • 10. A break at Devil’s Wall

    “Devil’s Wall and the Harz region had always been an inspirational source for German poets and artists like Brothers Grimm or Caspar David Friedrich. My aim was to elaborate this natural topic with the medium of contemporary photography combined with that kind of certain romantic imagery of times past,” says Koester.

    Devil’s Wall, Harz Mountains, Germany, June 2013 (Nikon D800)

    Photograph by David Koester (Halle, Germany)

Categories: Travel Destinations | Leave a comment

Scotland’s top 10 castles
  • Visit Scotland

In honor of Tartan Day on April 6, Visit Scotland gave us a list of the best castles to celebrate Scottish heritage. From massive fortresses like Inveraray Castle, to historical city landmarks like Dunvegan Castle, these iconic castles have fascinating tales to tell. Here is their list:

  • 1. Eilean Donan

    Visit Scotland

    Visually one of the most recognized romantic and  iconic castles in all of Scotland. Eileen Donan is set in the stunning Scottish Highlands and is one of the most photographed in the country. Strategically located on its own little island overlooking the stunning Isle of Skye, visitors can wander through most of the fabulous internal rooms, viewing period furniture, Jacobean artifacts and displays of weaponry and fine arts.

  • 2. Stirling Castle

    Visit Scotland

    The castle is of great historical importance in Scotland as it was once the favored residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held celebrations in the castle. Knights and nobles once flocked to the castle to revel in its grandeur and beautiful gardens. Today, guests can meet costumed characters in the roles of bodyguards, court officials, maids of honor, etc. Families enjoy the palace vaults where children can try activities such as dressing in period costumes and playing medieval instruments. Not too far from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a great visit for first-time travelers in Scotland that are staying in the larger cities.

  • 3. Edinburgh Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A must-see for any traveler visiting the medieval and charming capital city of Edinburgh. The castle is a world famous icon and a World Heritage Site, and the most famous of Scottish castles for obvious reasons. The oldest part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century– the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510 and the castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.

  • 4. Urquhart Castle

    Visit Scotland

    Urquhart Castle offers a taste of Scotland’s dramatic Highlands– with 1,000 years of drama and history, guests experience a glimpse of the medieval life and stunning views over Loch Ness. The Grand Tower watches over the iconic loch (lake) where guests may spot a view of the mythical Loch Ness Monster, Nessie. Urquhart’s stories can be told through a collection of artifacts left by its residents, historic replicas and more. This is where St. Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century and where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the War of Independence.

  • 5. Ballindalloch Castle

    Ballindalloch Castle

    One of Scotland’s most romantic castles (known as “The Pearl of the North”) — it’s located in the heart of Speyside, one of Scotland’s famed whisky regions and is one of the few private castles in the country that has been lived in continuously by the family which founded it, the Macpherson-Grants. The castle shop stocks a wide variety of great Scottish goods, including luxury cashmere, family tartans and jewelry.

  • 6. Dirleton Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A charming and romantic 12th century castle. The renowned gardens include an Arts and Crafts herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest.

  • 7. Cawdor Castle

    Visit Scotland

    Home of the Thanes of Cawdor, this 14th century castle is set in the Highlands, about 5 miles southwest of Nairn. Originally belonging to Clan Cawdor, it was passed to the Campbells in the 16th century and is famed for its connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The castle’s interior allows for guests to view highlights such as the impressive Drawing Room, Tapestry Bedroom and the Dining Room (which includes 19th century antique cooking tools and furniture).

  • 8. Glamis Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A monument to Scottish heritage, Glamis Castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, along with the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. Every room has its own story and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life once you step inside.

  • 9. Inveraray Castle

    Visit Scotland

    On the shores of Loch Fyne, Inverary Castle & Gardens is one of Scotland’s finest. The ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of the Clan Campbell whose family have resided in Inverary since the early 15th century, the castle was designed by Robert Morris and decorated by Robert Mylne. Its fairytale facade houses an equally enchanting interior. There is a tearoom that is quite popular amongst visitors.

  • 10. Culzean Castle

    Visit Scotland

    A remarkable vision of turrets and battlements, Culzean Castle is surrounded by surging seas, secret gardens and lush forests. The castle is set on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde and has been associated with the Kennedy family since the 14th century and was converted by Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792. Culzean also has a strong link with President Eisenhower, as the top-floor apartment was presented to him for his lifetime in recognition of his role during World War II.

Categories: Travel Destinations | Leave a comment

Find paradise in French Polynesia


A decadent lunch right at the water's edge

Discover the French Polynesian islands: Tahiti, Bora Bora and more


Travel to these exotic islands may be easier than you think. Take a look at one of the world’s most romantic and beautiful beach destinations.


The 118 islands of French Polynesia, which include Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, are the stuff dreams and bucket lists are made of.

Treasured for its exclusivity and remote locale, French Polynesia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But this “remote paradise” is not as far away as you might think: It’s just a 7 1⁄2-hour flight on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles, a small price to pay for the exquisite beauty, uncompromised luxury and near magical tranquility that await you.

It’s impossible to visit every island, so just focus on a few. Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahiti would be an excellent start.


-Underwater camera – The friendly sharks, rays and fish are plentiful.

-Water shoes – Lots of coral can be found under the sea.

-Hiking shoes – Explore the rugged islands.

-A light rain jacket – It gets hot and sometimes sprinkles, but not for long.

You can begin your adventure by flying into Tahiti and catching a quick connection to the 11.3-square-mile island of Bora Bora, where you can stay at the Bora Bora Nui, which looks exactly like a screen saver: crystal blue water, over-water bungalows, pristine white sands and swaying palms.

Thanks to its mild weather and calm waters, French Polynesia is one of very few places with over-water bungalows, and you’ll find them at a number of resorts, including the Bora Bora Nui and the Moorea Hilton. Staying in one is like living on a boat docked in the perfect harbor.

You could spend all your time at the Bora Bora Nui lounging on the beach or getting pampered in the spa at the top of the hill, which boasts sweeping South Pacific views. But you’ll want to spend at least one day swimming with the sharks and the rays. Hire a guide who will take you by boat to the perfect spot.

You can also relax on the hotel’s private island of Motu Tapu, another short boat ride away. The resort will set up a table in the surf, complete with silver, china and a white linen tablecloth, so you can sit with your feet in the water as you sip champagne and dine on lobster and other fresh seafood.

Back at your bungalow, you can snorkel and swim right from your private dock or dangle your feet in the water and feed the waiting sea creatures. The longer you linger, the more varieties will appear, from trumpetfish and Picasso fish to sharks and rays.

When it’s time to move on, take a short flight from Bora Bora to the larger, 52-square-mile island of Moorea on Air Tahiti, the only domestic airline. The Moorea Hilton offers compelling vistas and over-water bungalows with glass floor inserts and end tables you can peer through to see the life below.

Don’t miss the Hilton’s Toatea Bar & Creperie, an over-water restaurant with a school of sharks that swims around it all evening, especially when the chef comes out to feed them.

Make sure to tour the island and see all its tropical glory. You can rent a car or take a 4×4 to visit Belvedere Lookout, which offers incredible island views and a magnificent sunset.

And if you’ve ever wanted to learn about the elusive black pearl, you can visit Ron Hall Pearls, where the owner’s son will teach you how they grow and how to judge a pearl’s worth.

When you’ve had your fill of Moorea, you can catch a 45-minute ferry to Tahiti, which is more urban than the other islands and feels enormous at 403 square miles. The island is rife with lush, natural beauty, with a fiercely green rain forest and a magnificent waterfall.

A visit to the home of Mutiny on the Bounty author James Norman Hall, which has been converted into a museum, is well worth your time, as is a trip to “Le Marché de Papeete” (the market), where you can wander through aisles of local handcrafts, fresh fruits and fragrant manoi oils.

Wherever you go in French Polynesia, don’t miss the delicious poisson cru, a ceviche-like raw fish dish made with coconut milk and lime. Order it with french fries, because there’s something about the cold, fresh fish mixed with the hot, salty, crisp fries that takes you straight to heaven.

As I boarded my flight back to the U.S., I could still smell the flowers that had adorned my hair and been draped around my neck just hours earlier. The mother of a friend I made in Tahiti had woven them for me from the red flamboyant, yellow tipanie and white tiare Tahiti flowers and green auti leaves so I could wear them to the Hura Tapairu, the local annual dance competition.

That loving gesture served as a tiny glimpse into French Polynesia’s rich culture and the kindness and generosity of her people.

You don’t go to French Polynesia; you go home. The islands envelop, embrace, enthrall and enchant you. You may leave her, but French Polynesia will never leave you.

How to get there:

Air Tahiti Nui

Where to stay:

Bora Bora

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort and Spa

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and Spa


Moorea Hilton

Moorea Pearl Resort


Manava Suite Resort Tahiti

How to get around:

Air Tahiti

Aremiti Ferry

Categories: Fun in the Sun | Leave a comment

Hauntingly beautiful ghost towns across America

There’s something alluring about these abandoned towns, many of them former mining colonies in the Wild West.

  • 1Bannack, Montana

    Rob Crandall

    The first territorial capital of Montana, Bannack is known for Sheriff Henry Plummer, a convict who reinvented himself as a lawman while secretly orchestrating stagecoach heists with a band of brigands. His success was short-lived, though, and he was found out and later hanged by vigilantes on January 10, 1864.

  • 2Elkhorn, Montana

    Visit Montana

    Now a state park, a few dilapidated buildings still stand in this former mining town south of Helena.

  • 3Cahawba, Alabama

    Stephen Saks

    The state’s first capital takes its name from the state’s longest river, situated at the confluence of the Cahaba and the Alabama. It was abandoned after the Civil War.

  • 4Bodie, California

    State of California

    Once home to 10,000 people, Bodie boomed in the 1870s and ’80s, when gold was found in the hills surrounding Mono Lake. It’s now a State Historic Park.

  • 5St. Elmo, Colorado

    John Elk

    This is just one of many ghostly villages in Chaffee County, Colorado, a veritable goldmine of historic boomtowns.

    See more ghost towns at Conde Nast Traveler

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The world’s coolest indoor water parks

We know—it’s still cold outside and you’re dreaming of beaches. Consider this the next best thing: awesome indoor water parks around the world equipped with pools, water slides, swim-up bars, and in some cases, all-year “sunlight.”

  • 1Kalahari Waterpark Resort, Ohio, U.S.A.

    Courtesy Samantha Flynn

    This is the granddaddy of America’s waterparks. Covering a massive 173,000 square-feet, Ohio’s Kalahari is the largest indoor waterpark in the country, designed with an African motif and a roof system that allows for year-round natural light (spring sunbathing, anyone?). Beyond its vast village of condos and spa, there’s a newer 215,000 square-foot convention center. (Because the corporate team that works together, waterslides together.)

  • 2Avalanche Bay, Michigan, U.S.A.

    Courtesy Erin Ernst

    Located in the shadow of one of the Midwest’s most accessible ski destinations, Boyne Mountain is home to Avalanche Bay, Michigan’s largest waterpark. Spanning a whopping 88,000 square feet, Avalanche is open year-round, making a trip to its tropical 84-degree indoor wonderland a reality, après ski.

  • 3Happy Magic, Beijing

    HOW HWEE YOUNG/epa/Corbis

    Officially known as the Beijing Water Cube Water Park, Happy Magic is part of the National Aquatics Center and is now Beijing’s most visited tourist spot after the Great Wall. Thanks to a major renovation in 2011, the place looks even more futuristic than on opening day in 2008: think splashy colored tubes, transporting human water rockets through a system of slides twisted this way and that.

  • 4Tropical Islands Resort, Krausnick, Germany

    HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/Reuters/Corbis

    We wouldn’t think to add a visit to a waterpark onto a trip to Germany, but Tropical Islands Resort—an hour south of Berlin—looks truly tempting. Housed in a biodome, Europe’s largest tropical spa and sauna complex (over 100,000 square-feet) is anchored by real sandy beaches and turquoise wading pools—plus an entire wing dedicated to the “art of the sauna.” Yes, please.

    See more of the world’s best indoor water parks.

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Categories: Travel Destinations | Leave a comment

Taking the Kids — and the true secret to vacation happiness — asking their help planning
  • 20140320msttk-a.jpg

    Kayaking among glaciers. (THOMSON FAMILY ADVENTURES)

  • 20140320msttk-b.jpg

    Biking in Alaska. (AUSTIN ADVENTURES)

  • 20140320msttk-c.jpg

    Hiking in Alaska. (AUSTIN ADVENTURES)

  • 20140320msttk-d.jpg

    Rafting adventure in Alaska. (AUSTIN ADVENTURES)

Pity the California dad.

He had spent a lot of money to take his wife and three daughters on an adventure trip to Costa Rica — idyllic remote eco lodges, nesting sea turtles, monkeys in the trees, butterfly gardens. As adventures went, it hit all the buttons for my 13-year-old niece and her pal — we were on that same trip from Thomson Family Adventures.

Unfortunately, this dad’s three tween and teen daughters didn’t think so. They had wanted to go to Maui and a Costa Rica adventure vacation couldn’t be any more different than the big, fancy beach resort they’d envisioned. It wasn’t a question of cost either — Maui might even have cost less. It was what their dad had wanted them to experience. He was very excited about the trip.

Too bad those kids weren’t happy campers, complaining about everything from the lack of air conditioning to the bugs. That, of course, meant their parents weren’t happy either. The kids weren’t spoiled brats; they just hated being dragged along somewhere they had no desire to be. It was, after all, their vacation too.

The lesson: Take the kids’ opinions into account when planning a family getaway, whether it’s a big-ticket adventure, a trip to Orlando, a camping trip or a weekend exploring a city. Believe me, if the kids aren’t happy, you won’t be. That holds too for grandparents planning a multigenerational trip for grandkids they may not see that often. I admit I’ve been there — like the time I dragged my wilderness-loving daughters to an all-inclusive in Mexico. Thankfully, they didn’t whine, but they only perked up when we left the resort to explore a cave or a nearby beach town.

These days, according to new research from the 2014 Portrait of American Travelers, there’s a lot more discussion with the kids about vacation and I’m glad to see it. Sixty-Six percent of those polled who have kids living at home report the kids are influential in their vacation planning and decisions. That’s a more than 20 percent jump from 2011. (Take note marketers: Kids now have an important and growing say in where families go and what they do when they get there!)

As you plan your next family getaway, ask the kids:

– See dinosaurs at a natural history museum or take part in a hands-on art experience at an art museum?

– Hike to a waterfall or a lake?

– Eat Chinese, Sushi or Italian?

Create pin boards on Pinterest to collect everyone’s ideas. Pinterest recently released an app, “Place Pins,” that is very popular with family travelers who want to share their ideas. It’s even got an interactive online map to help find new places and get directions.

Of course, talk about budget with the kids. You’re not going to Atlantis in the Bahamas or on a cruise if your budget can only handle a few days at a modest place a drivable distance from home. And make sure everyone in the family — even the youngest — gets a say in the itinerary. (Alternate their picks for first-ride-of-the-day in Orlando, for example.)

I’ve been talking to a lot of kids around the country this past year as I’ve been researching my series of Kids City Guides from Globe Pequot. (The Kid’s Guide to LA and to Chicago have just come out; The Kid’s Guide to Boston next month.) Each book includes lots of tips from local kids and kids who are traveling to help kids have more fun on vacation. To help steer all of you on the path to Family Vacation Nirvana, here are six tips from kids:

1. PLAN TOGETHER “Do research on the computer before you go,” suggests Elsa, 8, from Chicago. “It really helps when you get there,” especially at a big theme park!

2. ALWAYS BE PREPARED. ”Have a reusable water bottle and Band-Aids in your backpack,” suggested Rebecca, 11, who is from Orlando.

“Bring snacks like animal crackers,” said Allison, 11, who is from Los Angeles.

“Have sunscreen so you don’t get burned,” said Jennifer, 11, from San Diego. “And sunglasses so you can see if it is too bright,” added her classmate Melissa.


“Have a picnic,” suggested Dylan, 12, from Los Angeles.

“Lay down in the grass at a park and then fly kites,” added Edward, 10, from San Diego.

“Walking around a city with no agenda is the best thing!” said Hannah, 12, from Chicago. “I like to just look around at all the buildings downtown,” agreed Ian, 11, also from Chicago.

4. HAVE A SOUVENIR STRATEGY IN ADVANCE ”Kids should save up before they go,” suggests Lexie, 10, from El Paso, Texas

Parents should suggest kids “get a souvenir that they can see and use every day that will remind them of their trip,” adds Alexia, 14, from San Diego.

“The best souvenirs are pictures — better than a toy,” believes Natalia, 10, from Chicago.

Start a collection, like postcards from around the city you’re visiting, said Jenna, 12, from Antioch, Ill., or pins from theme parks. “I have over 90 so far,” said Macy, 10, who’s from Connecticut. “Trading pins is my favorite thing to do at the parks!” said Caroline, who is 10 and lives in Orlando and visits Disney World often.

5. SKIP FAST FOOD in favor of new flavors at local eateries. “It’s very fun to try food from different cultures,” said Michael, 9, who is a big fan of Chicago’s summer Taste of Chicago festival. Kids alternately suggested families not leave where they are visiting without eating Sushi, Mexican, barbecue, pizza and Chinese at favorite local haunts.

6. SEE A MUSEUM FROM A KID’S PERSPECTIVE. Try some of the interactive family activities, whether you’re exploring a science art museum or an aquarium. “I like to look at all the different types of art in the past and compare it to modern art,” explained Chris, 14, from Los Angeles.

“Try to get a behind-the-scenes tour at an aquarium. It’s really cool!” says Amber, 11, from Chicago.

And my favorite from William, 10, who is from Phoenix: “Never put your hand in a shark’s mouth when it yawns.

Happy travel-planning!


Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator Her new  Kids Guide to LA is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando and coming in December, Chicago.

Categories: Travel Info | Leave a comment

Spectacular ice caves you can visit year round


Last month images of the ice caves on Lake Superior went viral. The lake had frozen over to its greatest extent in decades, and for the first time in five years the sea caves of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore near Bayfield, Wisc. became accessible by foot.

Normally a paddling destination in summer, the caves have gotten a winter makeover, complete with elaborate ice formations and chandelier-like arrangements of stalactites.

For sightseers and local businesses alike, this rare site has put a silver lining on an especially punishing winter. By one recent count, 88,000 people have trekked across the frozen lake to see the caves, compared to the 148,000 people who visited Apostle Islands in all of 2013.

But barring a last-minute vacation to Wisconsin, most of us won’t get a chance to see the caves in person before the lake ice breaks up.

Never to worry: Ice caves are not strictly a winter-only phenomenon—you just have to go to the right place.

Many of the most spectacular examples are in glaciers, formed as summer meltwater widens openings in these ever-shifting rivers of ice. Deep blue glacial ice can cause the light filtering through to bathe everything inside in a spectral glow.

Others are actual caves where, by some geological fluke, the temperature remains below freezing year round, so that water seeping in accumulates into incredible frozen formations.
We did the research and came up with ten ice caves you can visit even when the mercury starts rising again. That way you won’t have to wait till Hell—er, lake Superior—freezes over again to snap photos that’ll make your Wisconsin friends jealous.

After all, they had to suffer for it.

  • 1Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

    Flickr/AER Wilmington DE

    These incredible caves are constantly on the move as the glacier inches towards Mendenhall Lake and changes shape along the way. The best way to access them is from the West Glacier Trail with the help of a guide. Above and Beyond Alaska leads hikes to the crevasses and caves of Mendenhall Glacier, and provides crampons and mountaineering gear.

  • 2Big Four Ice Caves, Washington

    Flickr/Michael Matti

    One of the most popular attractions in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and only a short drive from Seattle, these caves are formed in a perennial pile of avalanche debris on the north face of Big Four Mountain which is kept from melting by the mountain’s shadow. Streams formed by the summer melt carve the caves out of the ice. Photos like this may make entering them seem enticing, but be warned: the caves are unstable and two people have been killed by falling ice there in recent years.

  • 3Mer de Glace, Chamonix, France


    The largest glacier in France, the Mer de Glace lies on the slopes of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain. An “ice grotto,” complete with caves and ice sculptures, is carved out every year to allow visitors inside the glacier.

  • 4Fox Glacier, New Zealand


    This glacier, in Westland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island, actually ends in a temperate rainforest, making it very easy to visit. You can hike right up to the edge, but to see the ever-changing formations and ice caves of its interior, your best bet would be a “helihike” by Fox Glacier Guides, which takes you to a remote site on the glacier via helicopter.

  • 5Eisriesenwelt, Austria

    Flickr/Inspiration Point Studio

    Thought to be the largest network of ice caves in the world, this underground cavern in the Austrian Alps translates as “world of ice giants” because of its huge size—around 30 miles—and the eerie formations that fill its “rooms.”

    See more ice caves at The Active Times

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Categories: Exotic Locations | Leave a comment

TripAdvisor users pick best beaches in the US and the world

Looking to beat those dreary cold-weather blues? Take a trip to one of the world’s best beaches–at least according to TripAdvisor users.

The online travel review site just announced the winners for top beaches in the U.S. and world ranked by traveler reviews and ratings on the TripAdvisor website over a 12-month period.

Baia do Sancho on the island of Fernando de Noronha, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Brazil, took the top spot for the world ranking, followed by Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos and Flamenco Beach, Culebra in Puerto Rico.

In the U.S., Florida made a showing, but users considered six out of the top 10 beaches in  America to be in Hawaii.

The full list ranks over 322 beaches around the world.

Check out the first 10 U.S. beaches below and don’t forget to pack your swim trunks.

  • 1Lanikai Beach, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii


    Although a few beach savvy tourists advise to stay away from the weekend crowds, this beach receives  top marks for the pristine white sand and miles of gentle waves. Popular activities include kayaking and snorkeling.

  • 2Ka’anapali Beach, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii


    For swimming, snorkeling and just catching rays, this popular Maui beach can’t be beat. Reviewers said they loved the hotel options nearby and couples enjoyed taking in a romantic sunset.

  • 3Siesta Key Public Beach, Siesta Key, Florida


    Siesta Key wins top points for overall cleanliness. Traveling with kids or adults? No problem, this beach is also very accessible, according to site reviewers.

  • 4Hanalei Beach, Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii


    Another Hawaiian treasure with intricate coves and a “very cool pier.” Surfing is a popular activity on Hanalei, so don’t forget to wax your board.

  • 5Wai’anapanapa State Park, Hana, Maui, Hawaii


    Wai’anapanapa is more than surf and sand. This state park features black lava rock beaches that form a uniquely beautiful backdrop for a hiking excursion. The park is on the road to Hana, Maui.

  • 6Wailea Beach, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii


    Wailea Beach is loved not for just its beauty but also because of its convenience. Tourists recommend it for its plentiful parking, numerous hotel nearby hotel and restaurant options and expansive sand.

  • 7Hunting Island State Park, Beaufort, South Carolina


    Hunting Island is a natural refuge for viewing wildlife and different fish species, which will surely excite the young scientist in your family.  It also has a historic lighthouse dating back to 1859.

  • 8Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay), Kailua-Kona, Island of Hawaii, Hawaii


    The striking turqouise water is one of the most iconic features at this Hawaiian hotspot. This beach may not be the best for little children as the waves can get pretty big but adventure seekers will love to play in this turf.

  • 9Saint Pete Beach, Saint Pete Beach, Florida


    This popular Floridian beach is known for its white sand and gentle tide. This tropical paradise is a definite favorite of tourists and locals.

  • 10Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii


    Looking for wildlife? Check out sea turtles, live coral and brilliantly colored tropical beach in the waters of this natural preserve. Although this beach can get a little crowded, TripAdvisor reviewers say the snorkeling here cannot be beat.

Categories: Fun in the Sun | Leave a comment