The road trip of a lifetime: 5 tips for your Route 66 adventure

Route 66 in America

America’s renowned Route 66 may be a well trodden path but with so much to see, so many experiences to be had and all sorts of diversions to be made off the main track, all Route 66 road trips are unique. However, there are a few top tips that everyone should follow to make sure the trip goes off without a hitch and that you get the most you can out of this incredible experience.

Route 66 in America

When to go

Since Route 66 takes you across most of America, the weather can vary quite widely. While you can go any time as long as you are prepared for all weather conditions, the best time to go is between mid-May and mid-October to make the most of the nicer weather. Make sure you pack for all eventualities with regards to the weather, as it can still fluctuate in this short time period.

Renting a car

Rates are fairly erratic and change all the time, especially since they depend on your departure point, destination, travelling time, the model you want and when you make the order. If you want to keep costs down, it may be worth bucking the trend and considering driving from West to East instead of the customary direction.

On the road

On the other hand, if you want to make the most of your trip and make it as memorable as possible, why not hire an incredible car? Models similar to the Mercedes SLS AMG make great choices if you’re looking for a show stopping, attention grabbing ride that will zip along the long sections of straight road and get you to your destination faster.

Take a map

Route 66 may be a well trodden tourist trail but that’s not to say figuring out the way between stop-offs in a no-brainer. Route 66 highway signs are frequently stolen, so if you turn up not knowing where you’re going you could get very lost indeed. A GPS system can be indispensable for times when signs seem to disappear into thin air, or invest in a good old-fashioned map.

Take it slow

People on a budget or under time constraints may set themselves a shorter time period to complete Route 66. Two weeks is the minimum amount of time you should give yourself to do it justice, but if you are more flexible then extending your stay will give you the chance to see all the incredible sights along the way. Every stop-off is teeming with things to do, so the more time you dedicate to your trip the better.

Resources

And last but not least, get prepared as much as you can. The best resources for this is http://www.historic66.com where you will find maps, forums and even books.

America’s Best Adventure Holiday Spots

The Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Heading off to America has long been seen as an adventure in itself. Perhaps because of the length of the journey, or maybe harking back to the days of discovery, few people will fly across the Atlantic without excitement of some adventure about to unfold.

Despite claims to the contrary by many pseudo-psychologists, it’s not all about the journey – but, of course, the destination as well. In fact, there are plenty of adventure activities to be had for those looking to add a splash more excitement to their already adventurous journey.

The Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

Hiking in the Grand Canyon

US President Theodore Roosevelt famously loved this Arizonan icon and campaigned for it to be preserved. Now, the Canyon has been awarded National Park status and is visited by around five million people from all over the world every year.

The Grand Canyon isn’t the deepest nor the widest of its kind in the world, but there are many other attractions which entice people to it, including adventure tours.

There is plenty to see and do at the Grand Canyon, from simple sightseeing to hiking and river rafting. Tourists will certainly want more than one day at the Canyon, however, not only because of the many activities that can be undertaken, but because park officials will advise against hiking all the way down to the river and back up in one day because of the potential heat exhaustion.

Ranch dressing

For many, nothing could be more American than staying on a ranch, riding steeds all day then tucking into some hearty, meaty barbecue food as the sun sets. This is about as far from the glitz and glitter of Las Vegas or California and instead a chance to get back to nature or spend quality time away from the rigours of modern life.

The work isn’t easy, however, as holidaymakers will be expected to get stuck in to experience the most realistic slice of ranch life possible, so travel insurance is a good idea! This can include cattle roundups, pack trips and trail rides. Even as dusk settles, there’s no rest as holidaymakers tighten up their bootlace ties for an authentic barn dance.

It may not be a week spent lounging by the pool, but after spending time under acres of glorious blue sky, it would be hard not to feel entirely revitalised.

Sporty Yosemite

Another of America’s iconic National Parks is Yosemite, which covers around three quarters of a million acres and welcomes 3.7 million visitors every year. Not only that, the visitors in question come all year round, as Yosemite’s attractions change with the seasons.

During summer, the National Park is a haven for walkers, offering some 800-miles of hike-able trails, ranging from flat, entry-level routes to something a little more intense.

Likewise, climbing is also well catered for in Yosemite, especially on the rocky cliffs of imposing 900 metre rock formation, El Capitan. In fact, climbing efforts in this area were instrumental in getting the hobby recognised as a bona fide sport.

Where winter travellers are concerned, skiing is most commonly the order of the day, as Yosemite has not only downhill offerings but also cross-country and snowshoeing.

All travellers to Yosemite should be warned, however, that wilderness permits are required for overnight stays and that any food should be kept in bear-proof containers.

Niagara Falls

Running along the US-Canada border between Toronto and New York is the Niagara River, which gives its name to the three waterfalls which attract millions of tourists to the area all year round.

There are, in fact, three separate Falls which make up Niagara: the Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Of these, the Horseshoe Falls (which is on the Canadian side) is the largest, as 90 per cent of the entire river’s discharge passes through it. The other two both fall on the American side.

Despite being the smallest, Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most popular with tourists as it offers the ‘Cave of the Winds’ attraction, which allows tourists to walk out in front of the cascading water. The attraction is as popular as it is exhilarating – offering tropical storm conditions and winds that can reach up to 68mph. At one point, walkers can even step right up to the waterfall on a redwood walkway. Understandably, this wood has to be replaced every year because of the damage it sustains.

Alaska

Adventure holidays in America typically bring to mind dust bowl deserts, cowboys or canyons. Thanks to America’s purchase of Alaska from Russia in the 19th Century, however, snowy odysseys can be added to the list as well. Adventurers heading to Alaska can try their hand at a number of snow-based activities – with one of the most popular being dog sledding.

This historically vital mode of transport is still in use today and “mushers” run regular trips both for people happy to take in the surroundings whilst being ferried around, to those wanting to try their own hand at the reins.

Elsewhere, avid nature-spotters can indulge their habits without having to be strapped to a pack of dogs – as there are a number of ways to see the moose, whales or bears that have made a habitat in the north. If that wasn’t enough, Alaska also offers rainforest hikes and white-water rafting experiences for those not wanting to compete with the sometimes unwelcoming heat of America’s southern states.

So whilst the simple act of travelling to America may seem like something of an adventure in itself, these activities show that this outlook needn’t end the moment you step off the plane.

Stunning Vancouver, BC

Accommodation for everyone in Vancouver

Stunningly beautiful Vancouver was named the Top Destination in Canada in TripAdvisor’s 2012 Travelers’ Choice awards, and the Top City in Canada in the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards.

The eighth largest city in Canada, Vancouver has been chosen as the “World’s Most Liveable City” not onece or twice but eight times since 2002 by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Situated at sea level, scenic Vancouver features both ocean and mountain views and a temperate climate – one of the warmest in Canada.

Accommodation for everyone in Vancouver

Up there among the best

Vancouver is vibrant, progressive, cosmopolitan and culturally diverse, with world-class restaurants, entertainment and sports facilities. Tourists frequently comment on the cleanliness and the safety of the city, and the friendliness and hospitality of Vancouverites. Accommodations are affordable compared to other first-rate destinations such as London and New York.

Attractions

Vancouver’s core is compact and easy to get around in, with lots to do within a small area. Major attractions include:

  • Historic waterfront Gastown
  • Canada Place convention centre cruise ship port, and hotel, with its fabric roofs which resemble sails
  • One of the largest and most exotic Chinatowns in North America, including the classical Dr. Sun Yet Sat Chinese garden
  • The world class Vancouver Art Gallery
  • The over 70,000 sea creatures in the Vancouver Aquarium
  • The 1000-acre urban oasis of Stanley Park, including almost 9 kilometers of seawall
  • The futuristic domed Science World at Telus World of Science (a children’s favourite)
  • Numerous beaches (with incredible sunsets)
  • Granville Island Public Market (including the Arts Club Theatre)
  • The 167-meter-high Vancouver Lookout at Harbour Centre, with a spectacular 360° view of Metro Vancouver. Warning – the trip up in the exterior glass elevator is not for the faint of heart.

Other popular activities with both tourists and locals include skiing, sailing, swimming, golfing, major sporting events, live music, dance, theatre, shopping (check out world-renowned Robson Street), night clubs, and dining out in any type of restaurant you have a craving for.

When in Vancouver, it’s a short trip across the Burrard Inlet to one of the top attractions in the Vancouver area, the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in the city of North Vancouver.

Don’t forget Whistler

And it’s a day trip (about one and three quarter hours away) up the winding, picturesque coast-hugging Sea to Sky Highway to the well-known resort municipality of Whistler. While Whistler, nestled at the foot of the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, is famous as a ski destination, it has plenty to offer tourists year-round, including dining, shopping, golfing, mountain biking, events and festivals, and sight-seeing opportunities second to none, including breath-taking chair and gondola lifts, and even bear-viewing tours.

Visit www.hellobc.com/vancouver for more information on this enthralling city, including a list of the many festivals and special events happening in Vancouver year-round. Don’t forget your travel insurance either. It pays to feel safe after all, especially if you go for the wilder side of Vancouver!

The Little-Known Topiary Skyline of New York City

The phenomenon of Manhattanhenge

High in the sky above New York City, there’s a new kind of movement. A green movement towards verdant and lush patches of plants and shrubs, which guard the top of skyscrapers like sentries. It’s one of several great new reasons to visit NYC, including an amazing solar phenomenon and a fantastic rooftop bar.

The phenomenon of Manhattanhenge

Manhattanhenge

This isn’t a place of worship for Druids in dark robes. No, Manhattanhenge is a phenomenon that’s only seen once or twice a year in New York City, sort of like an urban solar eclipse. Geography and astronomy geeks will be well versed with this event – the sun takes its daily traverse across the sky and sets smack bang in the middle of the streets of Manhattan in a cascading fireball of orange and red. It’s a great reason to visit Manhattan and happens twice a year, once at the end of May and once during July. For a truly great view of this awesome sight, take it in from a cruise on the Hudson River.

The Manhattanhenge phenomenon was a happy accident resulting from the way the city was first conceived and designed. Today’s Manhattan reflects the legislature of 1811 street planning that follows a roughly rectangular structure for streets that stretch from the north east to the south west. This results in a weird kind of summer solstice that means all of the streets in Manhattan are privy to a breathtaking solar temple twice a year.

The High Line

This is a part of the city’s must-see list of parks; a sprightly green belt of leafy topiary that’s built upon a disused railway line. The High Line is a mile-long elevated road that snakes its way from Gansevoort Street into the meat packing district. Nearly 4.5 million people visited the High Line in 2012 and there always seems to be a crowd, so if you want some inner-city serenity, the best time to go is in the morning when it opens at 7am.

Due to the constant buzz of people on the High Line, there are always exhibitions and things going on up there among the plants. The Whitney Museum of American Art, which faces the High Line, has rooftop exhibitions to ponder over while taking in the glorious views. The High Line as a railway had its final curtain call in 1980 and for decades sat unused and sad looking, so it’s great that it’s now booming and has become a genuine horticultural marvel of NYC.

Le Bain – Rooftop Bar

Of all the swanky bars in New York, Le Bain is the place that’s full of kitsch, where visitors are guaranteed a good time. It attracts the local musician and artist crowd and features kitschy fake plants, astroturf along with baby pink lounge chairs, and evokes a cute ’60s style. Watch the moon rise over the Hudson River with a Fraise 76 (vodka, lemon and strawberry, topped with Champagne).

New York has always inspired with its huge scale and its towering skyscrapers but now there are several more reasons to look to the sky in the Big Apple.

Image by 4rilla

Searching for the Five Star in Florida

Your own island

Holidays in Florida can only be described as fun in the sun; why else would it have been nicknamed the Sunshine State? It isn’t all crowds, fast-paced rides and theme parks however and those who desire to find luxury holidays in Florida will be pleased to learn of Orlando’s many idyllic, neighbouring resorts.

When we think of Florida, we often associate it with the Walt Disney World Resort – one of the most renowned theme parks to date. However, despite boasting a playground to both children and children at heart, it is also home to a number of luxury resorts, many of which offer ultimate relaxation.

Your own island

Sandpiper Bay

Sandpiper Bay, located just two hours from Orlando and Miami, is one such indulgent resort. Despite showcasing a large element of relaxation however, it’s suited to both families and sportsmen.

Budding golfers can perfect their swing at one of the 15 courses in the surrounding area, whilst fitness fans can try their hand at a beach workout. Other popular activities include sailing down the St Lucie River, exploring nearby Miami on a Harley Davidson and sharpening up your tennis skills with an expert coach.

St Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa Bay

Those searching for a picture-perfect beach will need to head west on the coastline, where you will find the shore enveloped by inviting, golden sands. St Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa Bay are just a few of the more renowned beach spots, boasting powder-soft sands and clear blue waters.

Naples

Further South stands the sophisticated Naples, a popular hangout with the chic individuals amongst us. The Everglades National Park is another must-see resort and is home to a range of wildlife including crocodiles and manatees.

Florida Keys

Diving enthusiasts looking to indulge in a little laid-back luxury will certainly welcome an opportunity to visit the southernmost tip of Florida – the Keys. Wander the sand-fringed shores barefoot, switch off and get ready to chill.

When you long for a little life, the sharp contrast of nearby Miami boasts the ultimate haven for those that love to party. Miami also boasts a little more culture than anywhere else in Florida, with Spanish influences and its art-deco legacy.

Little Venice

If you want more than just leisurely activities, head to the east coast. Here you will find Little Venice, the NASA Kennedy Space Centre and Fort Lauderdale. All of these travel hot spots boast a backdrop of the dramatic Atlantic Sea – the ideal holiday hotspot.

Where to gamble, eat, play and marry in Vegas

Gamble at the slots

It’s a once in a lifetime holiday destination, a place like nowhere else on earth, where?… it’s Vegas, Baby! But how do you choose what to do when you get there? Here’s the inside scoop on where to gamble, where to eat, where to play, where to wed and what else you can do in Vegas.

1. Get Hitched

Even if you didn’t intend on getting married in Vegas, sometimes it just happens. If you are going to be sensible and play the waiting game you can still head down to the chapels and watch the newlyweds come out. Popular chapels include the Viva Las Vegas Chapel which is the epitome of Las Vegas kitsch or the tiny Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, the Las Vegas alternative to Gretna Green.

2. Play the Slots

Some people come to play the classic games such as poker and roulette, whilst some would rather while away the hours on the slots. Good casinos for slots include Gold Coast, The Sahara or The Palms all of which provide free drinks even if you only play the slots.

3. Hit the Big Ones

Gamble at the slots

Although there is more to do than just visit the Strip, you can’t leave Vegas without visiting the most famous casinos- Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, MGM Grand and the Luxor. The Bellagio is the place for those who want to gamble in style, it may be a kitsch version of old class style and elegance but you certainly get a taste for the high life here. The water fountain at the front of the Bellagio is one of the most well-known landmarks in Las Vegas.

4. Tour the Weird and the Wonderful

Vegas is full of many oddities and strange landmarks. Some of the most popular include the water slides at the Golden Nugget which see you swim through shark tanks as well as the white knuckle rides at the top of the Stratosphere building. More quirky offerings include the Atomic Testing Museum and the Cirque de Soliel O Performance.

5. Tour the World in a Day

Many of the hotels feature mock ups of the World’s capital’s landmarks. Some of which are actually quite impressively lifelike. In one day you could be seeing the Temples of Luxor, the Eiffel Tower, the gondolas of Venice and the Statue of Liberty.

6. Take Photo Evidence

Find the famous neon ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign which is located at Las Vegas Boulevard South and have a few snaps taken next to it. That way you will never forget that you have been to Vegas even if it still all feels like a dream when you get home.

You will never go anywhere like Vegas again, well unless you go back to Vegas again of course. Try to see as much as you can – take a bus along the whole strip and also get out of town and visit the Las Vegas Springs Preserve. On top of all that there’s the chance to eat like a king, shop till you drop and drink like a fishh.that’s Vegas Baby!

Guide to visas and ESTA for travelling to the USA

No need for a visa if you hold one of these

To travel to the land of the free and home of the brave, i.e. the USA, there are a few things you must know and do before you go. The first is that you need a visa. Or at the very least you need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Even this doesn’t guarantee you entry into the country, the immigration officials decide that when you arrive.

No need for a visa if you hold one of these

The ESTA

If you’re travelling as a tourist, the ESTA aka the Visa Waiver Programme, is your first port of call. The Visa Waiver Programme has been designed to cut down on the time and stress of applying for a full visa for those who want to visit the USA. At one time, everyone who wanted to travel there had to have a visa, but now, those from designated ‘low-risk’ countries with important business or tourism links, who are visiting for business or pleasure do not need a physical paper visa.

ESTA Eligibility

To meet the conditions of an ESTA, you must:

  • be a full citizen of one of the 36 countries in the visa waiver programme. Among these countries are the UK, Australia, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Japan, Singapore, South Korea and the Netherlands.
  • hold a machine readable photo passport;
  • have a return or onward bound ticket;
  • only be visiting for 90 days or less and
  • not hold a US Visitor Visa already.

Application can be done online and must be done at least 72 hours before travel. It costs $14 to apply directly from the Customs and Border Protection website, but you can also apply for a visa for America through a service for a fraction more which can give you more help and support.

 Visas for Longer Stay or For Countries Outside The VWP

For those that hold residency from outside the Visa Waver Programme, or for those that need a visa to be able to stay up to six months, you will a non-immigrant visa; either need a B1 or a B2 American Tourist Visa. These are paper visas, and to qualify you must hold a valid passport; intend to return to your country of residence once the visa expires; be able to support yourself financially during your stay in the United States; and be of good character.
You can also apply for business visas (to engage in professional or commercial undertakings as long as it doesn’t end in financial compensation- non-immigrant), work (to earn money in America, both temporary and permanent), student (to engage n study), and family (for family of American citizens to join them in permanent residency) visas that can give the opportunity to live in America. There are many more types of visas like the famous green card. These types of visas are harder to qualify and require more evidence and testing than tourist visas or ESTAs do, so you must apply for them with much more time in hand before you want to travel.

What you can find in the Forums Shops at Caesars Palace in Vegas

Majestic Caesars Palace

Majestic Caesars PalaceLas Vegas, Nevada is an excellent place for the shopping lover in all of us to head to when it’s time to exercise those shopping muscles. If you’re in need of a new wardrobe or simply want to get in a good window-shopping expedition, then the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is the place to be.

Luxury Brands

One of the really fascinating aspects of The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is the collection of luxury brands in one spot. If you’ve got your eye on the latest designer sunglasses or a new handbag, this is the place to spend your dollars. Shop stores like Coach, Armani, and 7 for All Mankind. Even if all that’s in your budget is some window shopping, these luxury brand stores will surely give you something to admire.

Electronics and Technology

For the electronics geek in all of us, enjoy some of the best technology related stores around. The Forum Shops know how important the newest and latest gadgets are. And, you’ll find them all in one place. Shop at fan favorites like Apple for a new iPad or iPod. Or perhaps, the latest iPhone is on your list. You may also enjoy shopping at Sony for the latest in laptops, music and electronic goods.

Bath and Body Supplies

After a long day of shopping or playing in Las Vegas, surely you’re going to need a little down time. While you’re on your shopping adventure, pick up some luxurious bath and body supplies to help you unwind from the day. Pick up some makeup from MAC, some lotion from Bath and Body Works, soap from Dior Beauty or some bubble bath from Kiehls. This many fabulous spa shops in one place isn’t found most places, so take advantage of these great brands all under one roof and stop up.

Specialty Foods

Another fun reason to shop at The Forum Shops is the collection of fine specialty food shops. If you’re in the mood for chocolate, make a stop by Max Brenner chocolate. Hungry for some dinner and dessert? Rest your weary legs and fill your tummy at the Cheesecake Factory. Or, pick up a gift for those you left at home at Fat Tuesday. There are so many fabulous specialty and gourmet food items waiting.

Give your credit card a workout by shopping at The Forum Shops during your Las Vegas vacation.

 

Picture credit: MDB 28

Guest post: Famous Historical Landmarks of America

Mount Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota

The famous historical landmarks of America give the country a unique identity and a chance to attract tourists from all over the world. Therefore, the federal authorities and other organizations who look after these historical places ensure that such places are well maintained and are able to fulfill the recreational and learning requirements of the tourists. With the increasing flow of the tourists, the administering authorities and the shopkeepers and vendors operating near these places are able to earn more revenues, thus contributing in the economic development of the nation.

A tale behind each

The American heritage is reflected from the various national parks, mansions, presidential monuments, museums, forts, islands, theaters, etc. These famous places in America date back to different eras and have served differently, but in the present day, all these sites narrate a tale related to the time it was built and the various events it has witnessed.

The notorious island of Alcatraz

Alcatraz

For example, the Alcatraz Island in San Francisco housed a federal prison, became a ground for protests by the United Indian of All Tribes, and was home to several officers before being designated as a national recreational area and subsequently a national park.

Mount Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota

Sculptured mountain

Similarly, the Mount Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota, where sculptures of four Presidents of America have been carved, has become a unique historical site that draws the attention of tourists, historians, artists, and all other people. This site and many other historical places are an example of how the people and organizations have carried the American heritage in different forms.

Morristown National Historic Park

Another noted historical landmark of America is the Morristown National Historic Park. This park consists of three separate sites that were occupied by army troops during the American Revolutionary War. Visitors can watch the different artifacts preserved here and also work as a volunteer for different positions offered by the park.

Every such place brings along several reflections of the history and offers new avenues of recreation and learning for the visitors. The tourists also get a chance to spend some quality time with their companions, collect souvenirs, click photographs, and take back a plethora of memories back.

Preserved through the ages

The best thing about the historical landmarks of America is that most of these are well preserved till date and have not lost the original structure and charisma. This has been a major breakthrough because if the original structure is altered or ruined, then the charm of antiquity associated with that place is gone. Even the visitors are instructed not to damage any part of the place to retain its original form.

More than an open venue

Rather than just keeping the place open for a visual delight, the authorities conduct several programs and events on a regular basis. Many historical places and some of the portions of these places are also given on rent so that the people can organize personal and corporate events to enjoy a different setting. Thus, the importance of any historical site of America can never be undermined because these places have played a significant role, either directly or indirectly, in shaping the present day America and will be a national asset till eternity or beyond that too!

Author Bio: Hello there! I’m Steela. A social worker who leads and counsels a group of young people who look up to her as their mentor. I am an amateur painter and Photoshop enthusiast. I love to play sports and one of my passion is the wonderful game of basketball. Always ready for a competitive game of basketball. Love to travel all around the world.

Video – Canada condensed in 2 minutes

Buffalo in the Canadian winter

It’s hard to find a country as varied as Canada. As well as its huge size, Canada has a lot to offer to adventurous travellers. You could settle for a city break among the skyscrapers of Toronto or brush up on your French in Montréal, but when you have the huskies of the north straining on their straps to pull your sledge, why stop there?

Wonders and beauties of Canada

Buffalo in the Canadian winter

Brown bears, buffalos from the plains of Alberta, salmon in the rivers, whales in the sea, wildlife is everywhere waiting to be photographed and admired. And why stand and just watch? Get active too – white water rafting, kayaking, hiking through vast forests, ice hockey, skiing and fishing… One country and all this to discover and experience.

You could even step off land and take a cruise from Vancouver, making your way to another wilderness – Alaska.

Here’s a taster of Canada: