Spring Break is quickly approaching and families, couples, and solo travelers are gearing up for the much awaited chance to get away. We all know the well known Spring Break destinations, but this year I encourage you to think outside the box and visit a lesser known, but just as exciting destination.
Why Should You Skip the Well Known Spring Break Destinations in favor of these lesser though of destinations?
Spring Break is a great reason to take a trip (not that a reason is ever needed!). There are some very well known, popular destinations for a spring break vacation (such as Cancun, Punta Cana, Jamaica, and so on…), but what about the lesser known, but equally as relaxing, adventurous, exciting (whatever you may be searching for) destinations? Any why should you consider them?
If you choose a destination that is lesser known it is a given that there will be fewer crowds. You won’t be dealing with the craziness of the crowds that flock into places such as Cancun over spring break. There will be fewer crowds, giving you more time to relax and explore your destination. Crowds are not for everyone, and this is a great way to avoid them!
The popular spring break destinations are likely to have higher prices, from lodging, air travel, attraction prices, all the way down to the cost of beverages and souvenirs. These destinations are popular and fill up with people-the merchants take advantage of that. Visit a lesser known destination and you are likely to get better prices all around.
Experience Life As A Local
At these lesser known destinations you are bound to be surrounded by more locals than tourists, giving you a chance to really experience the culture of the destination and experience what it’s like to live at that destination. You will be able (if you choose to) interact more with the locals and learn the best local restaurants, shops, and locations around the area.
With less crowds there will be less lines and less craziness. You won’t have to fight your way through hundreds of people to see an attraction, therefore making it possible for you to either spend more time just relaxing or more time to experience more of the destination and visit more attractions.
I don’t know about you, but for me large crowds are stressful! They are not a reason for me not to visit a destination, but if I can avoid them you better believe that I will! With less crowds there will be less stress, making the trip more enjoyable for you and your travel party.
So, What Destinations Should You Consider for Spring Break?
Skip the near by, but overcrowded country of Costa Rica and explore Belize for some exploration of nature reserves, snorkeling, and diving. Belize is a small country located in Central America that has gorgeous shorelines on the east coast, jungles to the west, and the world’s second largest barrier reef.
In Belize you can go exploring at Actun Tunichil Muknal, visit Mayan ruins at Caracol, enjoy one of Belize’s cayes, go diving along the Belize Barrier Reef, visit the Belize Zoo, go snorekeling with Manatees, enjoy a helicopter ride over the Blue Hole, and experience some of Belize’s unique cuisine.
Todos Santos is a quaint little town along the Pacific Coast that is a great alternative to Mexican destinations such as Cancun and Tulum. It is becoming increasingly popular as a travel destination, however it still presents with a relaxing, charming atmosphere. If you are looking for a ocean side town where you can relax and maybe hit the waves Todos Santos may be the spot for you!
In Todos Santos you can hit the beach and soak up the sun, test your skills with some surfing, take a hike along the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, take a day trip to Los Cabos, and spend some time walking cobblestone streets for shopping, dining, and visiting local art galleries.
Carlsbad, California is a costal city outside of San Diego, California that is well known for its Tamarack Surf Beach and many beach side activities with less crowds than the well known cities.
In Carlsbad you can enjoy some surfing (obviously!), visit the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, get some thrills at Legoland California, take in the vivid colors of The Flower Fields, spend a day at the South Carlsbad State Beach for some swimming, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, or simply lying on the beach, visit Carlsbad Village for some shopping and dining options, or go on a food tour.
Hilo, Hawaii, is one of the most locally populated areas in Hawaii. It is located on the Northeastern side of the Big Island and is known for its combination of natural beauty and a modern vibrant town. Hilo is home to many gorgeous waterfalls, rock pools, and rainforests.
In Hilo you can visit Wailuku River State Park and view Waianuenue (or Rainbow Falls), explore the Boiling Pots (basalt-lava rock pools), visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, spend some time relaxing on Coconut Island, take a drive along the Hamakua coast, go on an ATV tour, take a helicopter tour, or explore some hot springs.
Nicaragua is a country located in Central America that is known for freshwater lakes, volcanoes, beaches, and natural landmarks. Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure, history, architecture, or just a few days to relax you can find it in Nicaragua.
Visit the Somato Canyon for some adventure, boating, and tubing down the canyon’s river, visit the Masaya Volcano, an active volcano, hike Cerro Mogoton, Nicaragua’s highest peak, take a ferry to Isla Ometepe for some horsebike riding, hiking, swimming, bird watching, kayaking, or mountain biking, visit the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, hit the beach for a day, or visit the 365 mini-islands of Las Isletas.
Chattanooga is a city in southeaster Tennessee along the Tennessee River and Appalachian Mountains. Chattanooga has lots to offer for members of your travel party, including a waterfront, mountains, shopping, dining, history, and arts.
In Chattanooga you can take a boat tour of the Tennessee River, see the darker side of Chattanooga on a ghost tour, visit the Chattanooga Zoo, visit Audubon Acres for some hiking, take a stroll through the Art District, hike Lookout Mountain for stunning views of the city and surrounding areas, or go underground and enjoy the Raccoon Mountain caverns.
Riviera Maya, Mexico is located just South of the well-known destination Cancun, Mexico. It spans over approximately 100 miles of coastline. Riviera Maya is full of white sand beaches, turquoise waters, ancient Mayan city remains, mangroves, lagoons, and nature reserves.
Riviera Maya offers many great activities/adventures, including pristine beaches, cenotes, underground rivers, ziplines, ATV’s, and ancient Mayan ruins to explore. If you are looking for some nightlife, shopping, and dining options be sure to visit Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is the largest town in the Riviera Maya, so it is definitely the place to visit if you are looking for some civilization. You can also take a short ferry from Playa del Carmen to Cozumel to enjoy some scuba diving, snorkeling, and Chankanaab Lagoon.
Stavanger, Norway is a city located in southwestern Norway that has rich roots as a oil capitol. Today it is one of the largest cities in Norway, but maintains its history through preserving many historic buildings and cobblestone streets.
In Stavanger you can wander the cobblestone streets of Old Stavanger and take in the sights of over 200 historic wooden buildings, visit Skagenkaien for some shopping, great food, and nightlife, visit one of Stavanger’s many museums, spend the day relaxing at Sola Beach (or if you’re a little bit more adventurous opt to go windsurfing), visit Jæren to view some natural coastline and go hiking at the recreation center, go shopping along the colorful Øvre Holmegate street, or take a day trip to Lysefjord and take in stunning views of rock walls, waterfalls, and small islands.
Piran, Slovenia is a costal city on the Adriatic Sea that is comparable in architecture to Venice, but without the tourist crowds. It has much to offer, including a charming town square, colorful architecture, and beach access.
In Piran you can take a dip in the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, walk along the city walls and get impressive views of the city and sea, visit Tartini Square for some history and architecture, grab some fresh sea food, visit the Piran Cathedral, or sit back and enjoy the sunset.
Portofino is a small fishing village along the Italian Riveria coastline that is home to colorful homes and boutiques, fresh seafood restaurants, and a picturesque harbor.
In Portofino you can visit Piazza Martiri Dell’Olivetta, the main square, for some shopping and dining, visit the Sun Church of St. George and Castello Brown for some staggering views, take a private boat tour, go for a hike through the Portofino Regional Park, and enjoy some fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants.
Dreaming of that big trip to ________? (You fill in the blank). But you haven’t taken it yet? Is it because you have no one to travel with? Do you ask and always get the response: “We don’t have the money,” or “We can’t take the time off of work,” or a million other reasons/excuses as to why that trip may not be doable for your friends/family?
If this is the case solo travel may be the thing for you! You will have to open yourself up to new possibilities and take a leap of faith into a situation that may make you uncomfortable at first, but you will quickly see all the opportunities that solo travel will open up for you.
Reason 1: You are in control
You can go where you want to when you want to. You don’t have to follow anybody else’s schedule (***Note: I am not in any way discrediting family/group travel-that has its own perks!). I have often times found that when I travel with a group I do not get to see or do things that I want to do. I am a fast paced traveler and like to explore as much as I can, and this is not always the case for those I am traveling with. When I travel solo I can go at my own pace and explore what interests me.
Reason 2: Last Minute Trips are Easier
It is much easier deciding tonight that in the morning you are going to hop a flight and go half way around the world than it is to have to plan with everyone you will be traveling with, choosing dates, hotels, transportation, etc. that will work for everyone. If it is just you there is nothing holding you back as far as planning and coordinating. You will have much more flexibility.
Reason 3: You Have Less Distractions
If you are traveling alone you will have more time to focus on the destination, instead of focusing on the people around you. You will have plenty of time to sit and admire the scenes in front of you. You can focus 100% of your attention on the destination instead of focusing and engaging with your travel buddies.
Reason 4: You’re More Likely To Meet New People
As a solo traveler you will appear much more approachable and be more open to meeting new people and striking up a conversation. If you are traveling with a group of people your attention is going to be on the group, not on what’s going on around you. When you are traveling solo you are going to be much more open and most likely for someone to strike up a conversation with. You may even meet some locals and experience the destination as they see it, instead of an outside view.
Reason 5: You Have Complete Financial Control
If it is just you you can spend as much or as little as you want on what you want. If you want to spend hundreds of dollars on a luxury, five star hotel who will stop you? If you want to spend $20 a night on a hostel who will stop you? You can decide how much money you want to spend on what, no worries about what the other members in your travel group can afford or may choose not to afford.
Reason 6: You Will Boost Your Self-Confidence
Traveling alone can be very frightening and overwhelming, but it can also be very empowering. Traveling alone will put all the decisions into your hands and you will realize how much you are capable of on your own. You are also more likely to put yourself out there and do things you may not do if you were traveling with a group. You may be hesitant at first, but once you get more comfortable with being uncomfortable a whole world of possibilities will open up to you.
Reason 7: You Will Have More Travel Opportunities
If you venture out into the world of solo travel you will no longer have the reasons or excuses that you have when tying to travel with a group. There will be no one telling you that they don’t have the funds at the time or no one telling you they can’t get off of work. The reasons why not will quickly fade away and you will find yourself just going. You will see and experience so much more solo than you would if you were sitting around waiting for someone to go with.
Things to Know Before Your First Solo Trip
I would recommend that everyone travels solo at least once in their life. It presents many great opportunities and experiences. If you are prepping for your first solo trip, here are some things to consider:
Being Nervous is Normal (It’s okay to feel nervous-just don’t let this stop you!)
You Don’t Have to Be Completely Alone (Talk to the locals, make a new friend, step out of your comfort zone)
Use Your Standard Safety Tips (take the same safety precautions while traveling alone that you would when traveling with a group) as well as some extra precautions so you know you have a back up plan in case something goes wrong.
Do a little bit of planning so that you know where you are going and what to expect when you get there. Have your resources lined up so you know where you are staying, what you will be doing, how you will be getting around, etc. (You don’t have to have everything spelled out-one of the great things about solo travel is the freedom of flexibility).
Do you frequently find yourself wishing you could travel more often? And at the same time does that list come into your head of all the reasons why you can’t? Have you limited yourself with all the reasons why you can’t, instead of finding the way that you can? (Trust me-if this is you you are not alone!)
What a dream-being able to travel the world at your own pace and experience all the stunning, mesmerizing sites this world has to offer. But let’s face it-this is not the reality for the majority of us.
For me, traveling full time is something I am working towards, hopefully in the near future. But my reality right now is traveling while working a full time job. It is not the easiest and I am not able to travel as often as I would like, but it is doable and with a few minor adjustments it can be a reality for you as well! Here are ten tips to make it happen!
The first step to being able to travel while working a full time job is to make it a priority. You have to put some time and energy into planning your trips, adjusting your schedule so it is possible, and setting aside money to make it to your destinations. If travel is something that is important to you it must be on your mind frequently (or if you’re anything like me-all the time!).
How can you make it a priority?
Set aside time specifically for travel planning (Don’t let it fall by the wayside because you have so many other things to do and so many responsibilities between your full time job and home life).
Be very picky about how you spend your earned time off. Don’t use it unless you absolutely have to-save every last hour for travel!
Plan ahead-I like to sit down and plan out where I am going to go and when I am going to go so that I can plan out what days I will need to take off from work and if I will have enough annual leave to do so.
Don’t let yourself make travel something that you will do one day-make that day today!
The only way to travel while working a full time job is by using your annual leave time (excluding the option that you are taking time of without pay). If you want to travel often you will have to make the most of your time off. So, how can you make the most of it?
Save your time for what you really want to use it for (Don’t give up time without really thinking about what you are losing. If you are using vacation time to run some errands you are potentially giving up travel time unnecessarily. Plan your schedule out so that you are able to complete all your tasks/responsibilities on your own time and save your vacation time for travel.
Combine it with days you already have off, such as a weekend or during a holiday.
Use all your vacation time-plan trips so that by the end of the year you have used all your annual leave time. The company I am employed through will pay back a certain number of hours at the end of the year for unused vacation time. Some jobs are like this and others you will just loose any unused vacation time after a set amount of time. Neither scenario is good for the frequent traveler Use it before you loose it!
International travel is great, but do not exclude local travel! If you do your research you are likely to find dozens of great locations within close enough distance for you to take a one or two day trip to. Chances are if you are working a full time job you will have more extended weekend trips than full one-two week trips. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of what is right around you and enjoy traveling to these locations. Don’t take your own backyard for granted.
4.) Don’t Be Narrow Minded
While it might be great to take a one or two week vacation, taking a three or four day vacation can be just as great. Don’t be afraid to take several shorter trips-you still get to see and experience the destination.
Don’t close yourself off to new possibilities-be open to every destination and every type of travel-whether it be one day or 14 days. Always take the chance!
5.) Plan Your Trips Around Your Already Scheduled Days Off
You have two days off a week (for most jobs)-use them! Don’t let those two days go to waste just because it is a short duration. Depending on where you live it is likely that there are plenty of options within driving or flying distance of you that will still allow you time to enjoy the destination. So GO!
Don’t let the limited time be the reason you don’t go. You can also maximize this time by adding a day before or day after off, giving you a little extra time at your destination, but not using up a ton of your annual leave time.
6.) Work From Home
This may not be a possibility for everyone, but those of you who are able to should take advantage of this. There are plenty of jobs that will allow you to work from home or maybe your current job will allow you to complete some of your job responsibilities from home. If you think it is a possibility it doesn’t hurt to ask!
IF you are looking for a new job that will allow you to work from home consider these: medical transcriptionist, medical coder, web developer/designer, call center representative, travel agent, insurance representative, or child care giver, to name a few. Now I realize not everyone is looking for a job or career change, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it!
If you have to travel for work-say attend a work conference in another city or country-do it! And not only should you do it, you should take some additional time to spend at the destination. If your boss is asking you to attend a 3 day conference take a day or two before or after and enjoy some time exploring the destination. You may have to be a little flexible about the destination (it may not be at the top of your bucket list), but take advantage of the fact that you are able to travel there and find something to enjoy!
This may not be an option for everyone, but if you have your heart set on traveling and have exhausted you earned annual leave take some time off without pay. I personally have done this on more than one occasion and don’t regret it for a second!
You may have to do a little bit of planning to make sure your paycheck will cover your bills or that you have a little extra saved up for that purpose to make up for the pay you will loose, but as long as you plan ahead this option is well worth the experience you will have!
If you have holidays off take advantage of that and take a couple extra days off-before or after the holiday. This works out great if the holiday falls on a Friday or Monday. That gives you three days off to begin with and if you take an additional day off before or after the holiday you could potentially have five days off-long enough for a nice getaway.
This is one of the main reasons I am able to travel as much as I do. I work three 12 hour shifts Wednesday through Friday. This gives me full time hours but still gives me four days every single week to travel If I take a day or two extra off I could have up to 6 days off, giving me plenty of time to travel.
While every job will not be able to offer a less traditional schedule, if your job is one that will take advantage of it! Sure, a 9-5 Monday through Friday job is nice, but is much more limiting than a schedule such as my own.
So there you have it-traveling with a full time job is for sure a possibility, you just have to make it a priority and take the steps necessary to get there. Open up your mind and come to terms with the type of trips you are able to take and enjoy them to the last second!
One more tip I will give you-do not get discouraged! Take your traveling journey at your own pace and go where you are able to go at the pace you are able to go. Do not get discouraged because you can’t make it to every destination on your list and don’t let this stop you from making it to the ones you can. Enjoy every minute you spend traveling…even when you can’t do it all.
Do you have any tips for traveling while working full time? I would love to hear from you-comment below!
Everything you need to know to take a self guided walking tour on the Boston Freedom Trail.
Boston, MA is a thriving modern city that is filled with many historical sites and landmarks that hold the city’s rich history of national importance. Boston is home to many great attractions, restaurants, public parks, markets, shops, and is home to the Boston Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long walking tour through the city that takes you to 16 historical sites, including churches, graveyards, meeting halls, and battlegrounds.
There are many great ways to explore the Boston Freedom Trail, from self guided walking tours or public and private walking tours. Throughout the year different immersive and interactive programs take place at the 16 historical sites along the trail.
To begin the freedom trail you can choose from two different starting options: the Bunker Hill Monument or Boston Common. I have done both and collectively have visited all the sites along the trail.
While it can be walked in it’s entirety in a couple hours, the amount of time spent on the trail will be determined by how many of the sites you want to enter, how much time you want to spend at each, and whether or not you stop at other attractions along the way (stay tuned for tips on Boston’s other great attractions!). For our visit we did a self guided tour and took advantage of it by exploring nearby attractions. It took us two days to complete the trail.
The Freedom trail is connected through a thin red brick trail and a Freedom Trail plaque that marks each site of the trail, so it is difficult to get lost.
Like any major city, parking is always a factor and may be difficult to find. Boston is no exception. There are parking garages available at either end of the Freedom Trail-but do note there are fees (and most are not inexpensive). Despite the fees, I would recommend using one of these parking garages for ease of mind.
You can park and start the trail from that end or park and take public transportion to the opposite end and work your way back to your car. If you are planning on doing the Freedom Trail in one day, I would recommend this. You will be back at your car at the end of the trail and not have to worry about making your way back when you are exhausted (and chances are you will be if you spend a whole day walking and exploring Boston!).
Parking near Boston Common
1.) Boston Common Parking Garage-parking is available in an underground parking garage under Boston Common ( 0 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02116). Rates vary depending on the amount of time, but the weekday 24 hr. parking fee is $32, with cheaper weekend and Holiday rates.
2.) One Beacon Garage (1 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108)-$42 for daily weekday rates with cheaper rates available on the weekend.
3.) CityPlace Garage (8 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116)-$33 for weekday and weekend 24 hr. passes.
I would recommend parking in the Boston Common Parking Garage, it will bring you right up (via elevator) to the Boston Common the first stop of the Freedom Trail.
Boston Common is the oldest public park in the United States, having been founded in 1634. The area has a rich history, including being used to graze livestock until 1830, use as a site for Puritanical punishment (including a whipping post and execution site), and a training and gathering area for the Redcoats. Today the area is a public park with greenery, a pond that is home to ice skating in the winter, a splash pad, and plenty of space from enjoying a relaxing walk through nature or a picnic lunch.
The Massachusetts State House or “New State House” is the current capitol building of the state and home of the Massachusetts government. Today you can enter and view the building on weekdays and take a self guided tour you or can take a public tour of the building to learn more about the history and daily operation of the building. (Reservations are required and can be made by calling 617-727-3676). We did not take the tour of the building, so I can’t comment further on that, but the photographs I have seen from other travelers are beautiful.
Location: 24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
Hours: Weekdays 845am to 5pm, with tours being offered from 10am to 330pm.
The Park Street Church was founded in 1809 and continues to function today as an active church. Visitors can attend a church service on Sundays or can visit Tuesday thru Saturdays during the summer months. The church stands tall at 217 feet and was once the tallest building and first one visible when approaching the city of Boston.
Location: 1 Park St, Boston, MA 02108
Hours: The church is open on Sundays for Sunday service at 8:30am, 11:00am, or 4:00pm.
The Granary Burying Ground dates back to 1660 and is the final resting place of an estimated 5,000 Bostonians, with some of the most notable Americans in history buried here, including Paul Revere, James Otis, Samuel Adams, the Boston Massacre Victims, John Hancock, and Robert Paine.
Location: Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108
Hours: 9am to 5pm daily
5.) King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds
King’s Chapel was the first Anglican church founded in Boston in 1686. The current building was rebuilt around the original structure in 1754. Today you can view the sanctuary and one of America’s oldest pulpits and participate in educational events. Also available the Bells and Bones Tour, a tour that goes through the church’s crypt and bell tower. A Art and Architecture tour is also available and explores the history of the sanctuary’s architecture. For more information on the tours and available times visit the King’s Chapel webpage.
The King’s Chapel burying grounds are located adjacent to the church and was the first proper burying grounds in Boston. It is the final resting place of many notable people, including John Withrop (Massachusetts’s first governor) and Mary Chilton (first woman to step off the Mayflower).
Location: 58 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02108
Hours: King’s Chapel services are held on Sundays at 11:00am and Wednesday nights at 6:00pm. The Burying Grounds are open daily from 10:00am to 4:30pm.
The Boston Latin School was the oldest public school in America, being founded in 1635. Boys were educated at the school while girls continued to attend private home schools. Five of the signers of the Declaration of Independence attended the Boston Latin School. The original building is no longer standing, but the school was rebuilt and currently sits in Fenway. The original site of the school is marked by the famous Benjamin Franklin statue and is located near King’s Chapel. The statue is located near Old City Hall, so be sure to check that out while in the area.
Location: School St. at City Hall Ave, Boston, MA
7.) Old Corner Bookstore
The Old Corner Bookstore is the oldest commercial building in Boston. It was built in 1718 and first served as an apothecary shop. The shop became a bookstore in 1828 and would become home to many famous publishing companies, including Ticknor and Fields. Since then, the shop has been home to many businesses, and currently operates as
Location: 283 Washington St, Boston, MA 02108
Hours: The location operates as a Chipotle and is open daily from 10:45am to 10:00pm.
8.) Old South Meeting House
The Old South Meeting House was home to many historic meetings, Puritan sermons, tea tax debates and a final meeting that started the Boston Tea Party. The Old South Meeting House is open today as a public museum.
The oldest standing building in Boston, the Old State House was built in 1713. It was the site of the Massachusetts Court until 1798. Today you can visit the building, enjoy a self paced tour, and enjoy performances by costumed staff. You can also visit the Freedom Trail Museum and see artifacts from historic Boston.
The site of the Boston Massacre is marked today with a site marker. The Boston Massacre took place in March of 1770 as a confrontation between British soldiers and a mob of people. The mob was harassing the soldiers when they open fired into the crowd, killing five.
Location: Corner of State and, Congress St, Boston, MA 02109
Hours: Open 24/7
11.) Faneuil Hall
Faneuil Hall was the site of Boston’s first town meeting. It would become the site of many important meetings/debates in the history of the nation’s birth, including protests against the sugar and stamp act. Today Faneuil Hall is open as a marketplace with many stores and restaurants.
Location: 4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
Hours: 10:00AM to 9:00PM Mon.-Sat., and 11:00AM to 7:00PM on Sundays.
The home of the famous patriot still stands and is open for daily tours. View the home and learn about the history of Paul Revere, Boston, and the birth of America on a public tour. Also available at varying times are living history presentations, music, and craft demonstrations. Tours are available at $5 for adults, $1 for children 5-17, and discounted for students at $4.50.
Location: 19 N Square, Boston, MA 02113
Hours: 9:30 AM to 4:15 PM daily with extended hours in the summer months
Old North Church is the oldest church in Boston and is the church in the famous midnight ride by Paul Revere. The Old North Church campus is made up of the church, five gardens, Captain Jackson’s historic chocolate shop, Patriots’ Corner, and the Old North Church Bookshop.
Guided tours are available that takes visitors through the footsteps of Paul Revere when he rang the church bells. Also available is a Bones and Burial Tour. Tours range in price from $4-$8. Visit their website for more information on the tours and tickets.
Location: 193 Salem St, Boston, MA 02113
Hours: 10 AM to 4 PM Wednesday through Saturday and Mondays, closed Tuesdays, and open Sundays from 12 PM to 4 PM.
Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds was Boston’s largest colonial burying ground and dates back to 1659. The burying grounds was also used by the British to train their cannons during the Battle of Bunker Hill. Notable burials include Edmund Hartt (builder of the USS Constitution), Robert Newman (placed the lanterns at Christ’s Church on the night of the midnight ride), and Prince Hall (anti-slavery activist). Admission is free.
Location: Hull St, Boston, MA 02113
Hours: 9 AM to 4 PM daily.
15.) USS Constitution and Museum
The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship that is still floating. The ship was launched in 1797 and was used in the war of 1812. Today you can visit both the museum and jump aboard the ship. While the museum and ship are free to visit, donations are accepted. All visitors of the USS Constitution who are 18 and older must have valid ID to enter the ship.
Location: Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA 02129
Museum Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 6 PM in Spring/Summer and 10 AM to 5 PM in the fall/winter months
The Ship: Closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the Fall/Winter and open 10 AM-4 PM Wed. thru Sat., Closed Mondays in the Spring/Summer, open Tuesday-Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM.
The last stop (or first-depending on which direction you choose to go in) is the Bunker Hill Monument. Bunker Hill is the site of the first major battle in the American Revolution that was fought on June 17, 1775. The Bunker Hill Monument now sits at the site to commemorate the battle. You can climb the monument free of charge, but you have to get a pass from the Bunker Hill Museum. Passes are available on a first come, first serve basis.
Both times that I have walked the Boston Freedom Trail I brought my daughter with me (the first time she was about 18 months and the second 4 years). Both times she enjoyed it, so it is definitely something you can enjoy with a family. Here are some tips to make the experience more enjoyable:
Give yourself extra time
Naturally it is going to take longer to get through the Freedom Trail with young children (as with anything!). Avoid having to rush through by packing to much into too short of a time frame. Realistically with kids I would recommend splitting the trail in to two days and taking plenty of breaks.
Skip the Tours
While you may enjoy some of the tours, they may not be appropriate for younger children. Some of the tours can be long and if discussing the history of the location (let’s face it) boring for children. Spend more time in the outdoorsy locations where the children will have more freedom and can run (such as Boston Common or the cemetaries (for some reason my daughter has a fascination with leave and they were a highlight for her).
Bring Plenty of Fluids
Walking the Freedom Trail, especially in the summer months, can make for a long day and if you (and the kids) don’t stay hydrated it will make it even longer and less enjoyable. To save money pack a bag and fill it with water or juice that you can bring along the trail with you.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
There is a lot of walking along the Freedom Trail. Make the day a little easier and more enjoyable for you and the children by wearing comfortable shoes. Don’t wear flip flops! Some of the streets are cobblestone streets, so you won’t want to wear high heels that may be difficult to navigate the cobblestone with.
Take Part in a Living History Experience
Some of the stops along the trail offer living history experiences and interactive exhibits that kids will love, including the Old State House and Faneuil Hall. Do some research before your trip and find out which locations are offering what during your visit. It will get the kids more involved and create a more enjoyable experience for all.
Print Out a Map for Your Child
Prepare your child/ren for the trip by talking about it and printing out a map to discuss all the places you will visit. Bring the map with you so that they can follow along. My daughter absolutely loves being in control of the map anywhere we go.
Public Tours of the Boston Freedom Trail
Both times that I have walked the Freedom Trail I opted for a self guided tour. I feel that it provides more freedom and the ability to visit each location at my own pace. However, a self guided tour is not for everyone and there are benefits to a guided tour. Here are some of the guided tour options available for visitors:
1.) Walk Into History Tour-a 90 minute tour that takes you to 11 of the 16 stops of the Freedom Trail, starting at the Boston Common and ending at Faneuil Hall. The tour will give you a history of the locations as you visit them one by one. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
2.) Historic Pub Crawl Private Tour-a 90 minute tour through the taverns of Blackstone Block. You will be lead by a costumed guide while enjoying local brews. The tour is a private tour, costing $42 an adult, with a minimum payment of $250.
3.) African American Patriots-a 90 minute tour that explores the history of African American patriots involved in the American Revolution as you explore many of the sites along the Freedom Trail and in addition some sites that are significant in the history of the African American Patriots. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
4.) Revolutionary Women-a 90 minute tour that explores the role of women in the American Revolution while visiting many of the stops along the Freedom Trail. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
5.) North End Tour-a 90 minute walking tour that highlights the stops along the North End Freedom Trail, including Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, Old North Church, and Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, along with some other historic places in Boston’s oldest neighborhood. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12.
6.) Lantern Tour-a 90 minute walking tour that explores the darker side of the Freedom Trail’s history, including sword duels, pirates, and the punishment and execution of convicted witches. The tour cost is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors/students, and $8 for children aged 6-12 (although please note this tour is not recommended for children under 12).
For more information on the available tours and to purchase tickets click here.
The Freedom Trail Web page-for complete information of the Freedom Trail visit their main web page for information on the sites, available tours, and information on planning your visit.
The Freedom Trail App- Search for “Freedom Trail Walking Tour” in your app store to download the app, which features a map of the freedom trail, images, descriptions and history of the sites, and youtube videos of the sites. Don’t just see the sites, learn about the history of the sites.
America is home to many stunning scenes, from mountains, to valleys, to great plains, waterfalls, canyons, lakes, rivers, and over 60 national parks. Nature is abounding and there is no better way to see it than by hitting the roads (and back roads). So what route should you take, you might ask? Here are five great American road trip ideas for some inspiration.
Duration: 10 hours (with no stops) to 5-10 days, all depending on how many stops you want to make and how long you want to spend at each.
Drive the 655 mile Pacific Coast highway and take in breathing views of the Pacific Ocean and the golden state’s shoreline. The Pacific Highway spans from San Francisco to San Diego, or vice versa depending on where you decide to begin.
Must Make Stops:
1-San Francisco: A great place to start your journey, drive across San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge and enter into one of California’s most well know cities. Many great attractions await you in San Francisco, from Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz Island, Union Square, and the famous San Francisco tram.
2.) Santa Cruz-Visit the Santa Cruz boardwalk, the lighthouse, Pacific Avenue, Wilder Ranch State Park, and grab a bite to eat or do some shopping at the Wharf.
3.) Montery Bay-Visit the Montery Bay aquarium, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Caramel by the Sea (sea-side village with shops and restaurants), or enjoy some water sports (kayaking, sailing, or whale watching).
4.) Big Spur-The Big spur has many great sites to stop and observe and a unique hippy/artsy feel that you can enjoy. Drive along the coast and take in views of the many beaches, view Bixby Bridge, or soak in the natural hot springs bath at the Esalen Institute.
5.) Santa Barbara-visit the Santa Barbara Zoo botanical gardens, Stearns Wharf, East Beach, or visit the Lobero or Arlington theater.
6.) Malibu-Walk along the shoreline of one of the many stunning beaches, visit the Point Dume State Beach and Preserve, visit Paradise Cove, or enjoy some water sports or paragliding.
7.) Los Angeles-visit the nation’s television industry capital, visit the Hollywood sign, take the walk of fame, visit Disneyland, or visit the Venice Boardwalk.
8.) San Diego- visit the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, Seaworld San Diego, or hit the water for some whale watching, sun bathing, or cruising.
1.) Half Moon Bay-located shortly outside of San Francisco, a great place to stop and snap a photo from the edge of the cliffs.
2.) Bixby Bridge-a 714 foot long concrete bridge along the Pacific Highway, and one of the most photographed bridges on the Pacific Coast.
3.) The 17 Mile Drive-the 17 mile drive along Big Spur is full of great photo spots (about 15 overlooks). Take some time to enjoy this area and get out of the car. Spend time time hiking along the beaches and taking in the beautiful sites.
4.) China Cove (located within Point Lobos State Natural Reserve) will offer breathtaking ocean views.
5.) Mcway Falls-an 80 ft. falls on Big Spur that you can hike to and snap gorgeous photos.
***If you wish to extend the trip you can continue on to include the Oregon and Washington Coast Lines.
Duration: A minimum of two weeks is recommended to take in all the major sites along the road.
Perhaps one of the most well known road trips through the United States, Route 66 spans from Illinois to California and crosses through eight states. It is one of the most traditional American road trips.
1.) Chicago-why not visit one of America’s biggest cities at the start Route 66? Spend a day exploring all that Chicago has to offer, including Willis Tower, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier.
2.) Meramec Caverns in Montana-take a guided tour of the Meramec caves as well as special activities/events, such as ziplining, riverboat rides, and lantern light tours.
3.) Palo Duro Canyon State Park- a 70 mile long canyon in the state of Texas, with stunning landscapes, live music, camping, and hiking.
4.) Cadillac Ranch-Located in Texas, a series of brightly colored Cadillacs that are half buried in the desert dirt. Many continue to mark the cars today with their own graffiti art.
1.) Cloud Gate, Chicago, IL-located inside Millennium Park, Cloud Gate is a famous stainless steel sculpture.
2.) Blue Whale, Catoosa OK-a whale shaped sculpture that once served as a diving board and dock sitting over a small pond.
3.) Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas-brightly colored cadillacs that have been marked over the years by graffiti.
4.) Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM-retro neon sign with the classic Route 66 symbol painted on the ground.
2.) The seven mile bridge-okay, if you’re driving the Overseas Highway you aren’t going to miss it, but it is something to take note of. The bridge connects Knight’s Key (in the middle keys) to Little Duck Key (in the lower keys). You will be completely surrounded by ocean while driving across the bridge.
3.) Visit the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail in Key Largo. The Heritage Trail is a walk-able or bike-able trail along the bay/ocean that will give you some time to relax while taking in gorgeous views.
4.) Bahia Honda State Park-for some of the best beaches in the Keys (the Keys are not known for great beaches) visit the Bahia Honda State Park. Many of the best beaches are also located near by, so this is a great spot to stop and visit.
5.) Key West-I would recommend spending at least a couple days in Key West. Finish the drive along the Overseas Highway and visit Mallory Square and the Mile 0 Marker.
1.) The Duration of the Seven Mile Bridge-there will be plenty of great photo opportunities along the Seven Mile Bridge as you enjoy this unique experience.
2.) Mile 0 Marker-find the mile 0 marker located in Mallory Square for a great selfie opportunity.
3.) Key West Lighthouse-photograph the lighthouse itself or climb to the top for some great views of the island.
4.) Catch a sunset at Mallory Square-Mallory Square is home to some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Join others in capturing its beauty.
Duration: The drive can be completed in 3-4 hours, but this is without making any stops. To fully experience the area and all it has to offer a minimum of 2-3 days is recommended.
Skyline Drive runs the length of Shenandoah National Park located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. If you are a nature lover, Skyline Drive is the perfect road trip for you. The drive though is leisurely one with the max speed limit being 35 mph. You can enter the park at one of four entrances. Note there is a $25 per vehicle fee to enter. Along the 105 mile long drive there are over 75 overlook spots for you to stop and observe the dazzling landscapes.
1.) Luray Caverns or Shenandoah National Park-Go underground and tour one of the many caves located along the drive. The park features some of the largest cave systems in the eastern US.
2.) Hike an Appalachian Mountain Trail-okay, while this is not a exact location per se, it is a must do along Skyline Drive. Get out of your car and hike up one of the many trails/mountains to the summits, where you will find spectacular 360 views.
3.) Big Meadows-an area of the Shenandoah National Park that is wide open and a common spot to find plenty of wildlife-including butterflies, birds, black bears, and deer.
4.) Hike to a waterfall. Shenandoah National Park is full of water falls. Your trip would not be complete without stopping to get up close to one. Visit one of the many, such as Overall Run Falls, Dark Hollow Falls Trail, South River Falls, and many more.
***Tip: Enter the park with a full tank of gas as there is only one gas station located inside the park (and the price isn’t to pretty).
Skyline Drive is home to over 75 overlooks, and therefor many, many photo opportunities. However, some to take note of include:
1.) Tunnel Parking Overlook-provides a great open view of Shenandoah National Park and a great place to catch the sunrise.
2.) Hazel Mountain Overlook-features unique, large rocks at the overlook that will add to your photo or will provide you with a stepping stone to get better views of the park.
3.) The Point Overlook-a rocky overlook area that will provide you with great sunset views.
4.) Hawksbill Trail-the highest point in the park that will give you great 360 views and photo opportunities of the park.
5.) The High Road to Taos
Location: New Mexico
Distance: 56 Miles
Duration: The drive can be completed in approximately 3 hours, but again if you want to take in everything the route has to offer 1-2 days is recommended.
The High Road to Taos spans from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Taos. Although the drive you will see mountains, desserts, forests, small towns, and Pueblo villages. It outlines the rich Spanish history and ancient Indian Pueblos.
Must See Spots:
1.) Tewa Pueblo-a national historic landmark with a garden, vineyard, and a recreational area featuring Nambe Falls.
2.) Chimayo- Visit the tiny church El Santuario de Chimayo that is believed to have healing earth (a small dirt well) where thousands of pilgrims travel to every year.
3.) Picuris Pueblo-known for its mica-infused pottery, ancient adobe church, and if visiting in the summer time you won’t want to miss their High Country Arts and Crafts Fair.
4.) Carson National Forest-enjoy some time taking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains ad get back to the basics with nature.
5.) Visit the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church-a historical church located in Taos, a national historic landmark, and a representation of Spanish culture in New Mexico.
1.) El Santuario de Chimayo-an ancient church that is believed to have healing earth makes for a great photo opportunity.
2.) San Francisco de Asis church-capture the unique architecture of the historic Spanish church.
3.) Taos Pueblo-abode buildings that are over 800 years old. Capture the architecture of the Pueblo.
jim pruitt/ Getty Images
What is your favorite route for an American Road Trip? I would love to hear about your great experiences. Please free feel to comment below.
2020 is now upon us and if you are anything like me you already have a mile long list of where you want to travel to in 2020. If you love to travel as a family, you may be looking for destinations that you can enjoy as an adult but also that will be a great family friendly destination. Together with other travel bloggers and families that frequently travel together, I have compiled a list of the best travel destinations in 2020 for families.
1. San Diego, California
-Nikki, She Saves She Travels
“If you’re putting your travel list together for 2020, a top destination in the USA is San Diego, California. It’s pretty much the perfect weather year-round and has a ton of variety of things to do for everyone. It’s family friendly, yet entertaining for adults, too.
San Diego is a city full of life, which simply begs to be explored. You’ll get a good compromise between a city and beach scene, with amazing attractions and affordable things to do, too. You could spend 2 days in San Diego or a full week exploring the area!
Here are my favorite reasons to go to San Diego:
1.) San Diego Zoo
It’s world-famous and for good reason! Take a few hours or the whole day to explore the zoo that’s consistently ranked in the top 5 in the world. It’s near downtown San Diego but the zoo does an amazing job of making you feel right at home in the animals’ habitats. It’s probably the top family destination in San Diego, and a must-see for sure.
Play in the shimmery sand for an afternoon on Coronado Island. The sand literally sparkles underfoot and it’s super soft – perfect for kids. You can spend hours hunting for sand dollars and seashells. Make sure to grab some ice cream or dinner along the main drive, too.
3.) Old Town San Diego
One of my absolute favorite parts of the city – and one that I make sure to hit every visit to San Diego – is Old Town. It’s history dates back to the origins of the state of California, and includes several free museums to wonder around. There’s plenty of shops and markets, too. But perhaps one of my favorite parts is the dozens (yes, you read that right) of Mexican restaurants in Old Town.
My favorite is Old Town Mexican Café for authentic Mexican food at an affordable price. Make sure you try the handmade tortillas – they’re to die for!”
“San Juan is a tropical destination with gorgeous beaches, colorful buildings, and plenty of fun for the kiddies. Whether you are looking for some beach fun, outdoor activities, or something that will get the children thinking you can find it in San Juan. Some of our favorite attractions include:
1.)Museo del Niño de Carolina-The children’s museum of San Juan is a great way to spend the day and will keep your children entertained. It has many different options, including exhibits that will make your children think, go-karting, a mini petting zoo, and pedal boats.
2.) Spend the day at Isla Verde Beach. Spend some time enjoying the sun and jumping the waves or building a sand castle. Bring some snacks or grab a tropical snack from one of the many food carts.
3.) Walk the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan-spend some time taking in the colorful buildings of Old San Juan or exploring one of the two forts located in Old San Juan.”
The floating Roman city is sure to be a hit for all ages. The water alone is enough to keep the kids entertained in this unique city, but Venice has lots more to offer the young ones.
1.) Take a waterbus tour on the Grand Canal or rent a private gondola. Soak up the sights of the city along Venice’s main transportation system-the canal and take in the architecture and colorful buildings that surround the canal.
2.) Visit the prisons of Doge’s Palace. This might not be an activity that every child will enjoy, but some may find it intriguing. Explore the halls and history of one of Venice’s historic prisons.
3.) Have a picnic lunch in Giardini Pubblici. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the public gardens where the children can run and enjoy a traditional playground. You may even get a few minutes to site and relax!
London is a great family friendly destination that is full of rich history, culture, great food, and many great family friendly attractions. Some of the best include:
1.) Ride the London Eye-get a birds eye view of the city from above on the London Eye. Children and adults the same will love it and the ride will get you away from the crowds for a few minutes.
2.) Sea Life London Aquarium-the aquarium features sea life, interactive games, and educational exhibits. Animal loving children will especially enjoy it. Also nearby is Shrek’s Adventure where you can find a 4D show and interactive fairy tale shows.
3.) Take the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour-this is a great attraction if your child is a Harry Potter fan. Take them back stage to filming locations and see props straight from the movies.
5. Guanajuato, Mexico
The Awkward Traveler
“Guanajuato City, Mexico is a fantastic city for families, especially as someone’s first time in Mexico or abroad. Mexico has a reputation of being fun and colorful, and Guanajuato represents this beautifully, with a cascade of colors through the streets and painting the city in a bright rainbow. After all, it IS the city that inspired the design of Disney’s Coco! If your family hasn’t seen the movie before, it is a great movie to watch together on the plan and a great warm-up to the actual city. Although Guanajuato is a bit off-the-beaten path for foreigners, it is a popular vacation spot for Mexican citizens, so the town is full of activity and exciting events. The city is extremely walkable, with plenty of courtyards and parks to play in for kids. And if little ones happen to get tired by the end of the day, taxis and rideshare services are cheap and easy to use. The BEST way to get a feel of the local culture is to spend your night walking with the callejonada, an interactive walking tour that sings the local history and legends of Guanajuato. However, if the walk is in Spanish and some of the jokes may go over the heads of minors. Thankfully, Guanajuato is also home to a Mummy Museum, which has the best naturally preserved mummies IN THE WORLD. And there’s always mariachi bands battling each other in the town square!”
Need more recommendations for a trip to Guanajuato? Find them here.
“Amsterdam is full of great activities to do as a family. Amsterdam is a very family friendly locations and children are welcomed with open arms. Our favorites are:
1.) NEMO Science Museum-with five floors of entertaining, education exhibits the museum is sure to keep your family busy for hours. Highlights include blowing giant bubbles and performing experiments in a real laboratory.
2.) Artis-Amsterdam Royal Zoo-your family can enjoy visiting the many species of animals as well as visiting the aquarium and planetarium. It will keep the family busy for the entire day. “
“Visit the land down under and make some great family memories that will last a life time. Melbourne is a great place to visit as a family with lots of attractions the children will love as well as the adults.
1.) Visit the Sea Life Melbourne aquarium. Your family can spend the day admiring sea life and learning about and interacting with the different species.
2.) Visit an amusement park. What kid doesn’t love hoping aboard a good old fashioned theme park ride? Choose from Luna Park near the St Kilda pier or visit the Wonderland Junior Docklands in the inner city for a day of laughter, thrills, and fun.
3.) Get up close to Australia’s native wildlife at the Healesville Sanctuary. Here you can observe wildlife including kangaroos, koalas, emu, dingoes, and wallabies. Your children can also spend some time in the Future Vets play area and learn about caring for sick and injured animals.”
“Punta Cana is a great tropical destination and with family friendly resorts your family will have a blast. Choose an all-inclusive resort and you will have plenty of activities for both yourself and your children, and with great programs for the children you will find yourself with some free time to enjoy the spa amenities or simply lying on the beach soaking up the sun. Like many other resorts in the area, Dreams Punta Cana Resort offers a large pool, daily entertainment for children including arts and crafts, dance classes, and aerobic classes. The resort also offers nature tours and has many outdoor play areas. For the older children you can find nightlife activities with disco music, water sports and a resort only hotel, as well as a waterpark.”
9. Montreal, Canada
Montreal, Canada is a city full of history, entertainment, and family friendly attractions. Some must do’s for families are:
1.) Visit Olympic Stadium and ride to the top of the Montreal Tower. The kids will enjoy wandering the large open areas of the stadium and will be amazed at the views from the top of the Montreal Tower.
2.) Visit Parc Jean-Drapeau-Parc Jean-Drapeau has much to offer, from a man-made lake for swimming and sand castle building to botanical gardens, and an amusement park. You will find something that every member of the family can enjoy at Parc Jean-Drapeau.
3.) Hike Mount Royal-step outside of the busy streets of the city and spend some time hiking Mount Royal. Visit the Chalet Du Mont Royal for some spectacular views of the Montreal city line and enjoy some peace and quiet, and maybe even a picnic lunch, in the woods of Mount Royal.
Looking for more inspiration for visiting Montreal? Find more information here.
10. Orlando, Florida
My Choice-Navigation Junkie
Orlando, Florida practically spells out the definition of family travel. With theme parks galore and plenty of other family friendly attractions Orlando will be a great vacation spot for any family.
1.) Disney World, Orlando-little explanation is needed for this attraction. Disney World is a great destination for children of any age (and adults to!). With four different theme parks, two water parks, mini-golf courses, and Disney Springs (shopping complex), there is something for everyone. Bring out your inner child and make your younglings dreams come to life.
You can find more information on spending a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom here.
2.) SeaWorld Florida-SeaWorld is a great theme park for any animal lover (and children usually love animals!). Not only you can enjoy rides, shows, shopping, and games you can also have great animal encounter experiences.
3.) ICON Park Florida-ICON park is home to Orlando’s observation wheel as well as a wax museum, the Sea Life aquarium, restaurants, and shops. With a variety of activities and entertainment options there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
New Year’s Eve is a night of celebration as we say goodbye to the previous year and declare our hopes and goals for the new year. With celebrations taking place across the globe on New Year’s Eve there are countless choices for you when deciding where to spend the holiday. Here are 15 great cities around the globe to spend the evening:
1. New York City
New York City is perhaps one of the most well known cities to celebrate New Year’s Eve in. The ball drop is viewed by million around the globe who are ringing in the New Year and there is nothing like being there in person. The crowds are insane and if you want a good viewing spot you will have to be there early (some even camp out the night before to get a good view). Live music can be found throughout Times Square throughout the day and the evening will bring in many rooftop parties.
Bangkok is known for being one of Asia’s best nightlife cities and more so on New Year’s Eve. Join the lively celebrations at Central World Plaza or at one of the many bars/night clubs, including roof top/sky high bars. For a less crowded option enjoy a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River.
The stunning city line of Dubai becomes even more spectacular on New Year’s eve with a stunning fireworks display. Also throughout the city you can find parties and celebrations among the city’s skyscrapers, including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a party city year round, but it comes even more to life on New Year’s Eve. Jackson Square in the French Quarter is filled with bands playing throughout the night with a stunning fireworks display over the Mississippi River to ring in the New Year. Don’t forget the Fleur de Lis drop and watch as the New Orleans symbol drops down a 25 foot pole, much like the ball drop in New York City. After parties continue throughout the night at bars and nightclubs along Bourbon Street.
5. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo’s main western style celebration takes place in Yokohama with a fireworks display and parties lasting all night. However, more traditional Japanese celebrations of New Year’s Eve take place at temples throughout the city. Visit a temple for traditional midnight ringing of bells. The bells are rung 108 times, representing a cleansing of you from the 108 worldly desires and springing you into the new year as pure as possible.
6. Cape Town
Cape Town is full of New Year’s Eve festivities, with pop-up performances lining the V&A waterfront. The evening ends with a marvelous fireworks display. Enjoy the last sunset of the year atop Table Mountain with cable cars taking you up and back.
If you are a history person, Athens is the perfect place for you to visit on New Year’s Eve. With the Parthenon as the backdrop you can enjoy concerts and other forms of live entertainment as well as an end of the night fireworks display. Athens is also home to many rooftop hotel parties and celebrations with great viewing areas for the fireworks display.
8. Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Square in Venice turns into a party destination on New Year’s Eve, with concerts and a fireworks display. The romantic nature of the city makes it a great place to share that midnight kiss with your special someone.
9. London, England
Catch a stunning fireworks display over the London eye with live music and then join in for some fun at one of the many after parties throughout the city. Celebrate New Year’s day with viewing of the New Year’s Day parade.
Vancouver comes alive with New Year’s Eve celebrations with all night long street parties, entertainment, and food trucks. The night ends with a traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display. You can also find traditional New Year’s Eve parties throughout the city at bars and hotels.
11. Rio de Janeiro
If you’re a beach person Rio de Janeiro may be the perfect spot for you to spend New Year’s Eve. Join millions of people to celebrate the New Year along the beach and after midnight join them in the tradition of running into the ocean (jumping 7 small waves and either making a wish or giving thanks with each wave they jump).
Visit Edinburgh and celebrate the New Year over three days instead of just one. Known as Hogmanay, Edinburgh’s celebration begins on December 30th with a torchlight viking parade as well as a fireworks display. On New Year’s eve the party takes place outside of Edinburgh castle with concerts, dancing, outdoor bars, and an evening fireworks display. The festivities continue on January 1st with the Loony Dook as you jump into the freezing River Forth.
13. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is full of lights, music, celebrations, and a marvelous fireworks display at the end of the night. Join the party of Fremont Street or the Stripe for some dancing and music.
14. Sydney, Australia
Sydney, Australia is home to lively New Year’s Eve celebrations and brilliant fireworks displays. The Sydney fireworks display on New Year’s eve is said to be one of the most spectacular and beautiful displays in the world. The fireworks display lasts 12 minutes with to special events-The Waterfall (over a thousand candle-fireworks streaming from Harbor bridge to the river below) and the bridge effect (a special pyrotechnic design that matches with the theme of that year’s celebration). Also enjoy the Harbour Light Parade which features more than 50 illuminated vessels floating down the river.
***Fun fact: More people attend Sydney’s New Year’s eve celebration than New York’s Times Square celebration.
15. Reykjavik, Iceland
While there is no major fireworks display like you might find elsewhere on New Year’s Eve, the locals in Reykjavik all purchase their own fireworks and at the strike of midnight release them. The city lights up with hundreds of mini fireworks displays while fire trucks and docked ships ring their bells and blow their horns to ring in the New Year. Also throughout the evening community bonfires are held.
Let your inner child run wild at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida! With so much to offer for every age group, the Magic Kingdom can take you back to the glory days of your youth and fill you with magic and joy.
***NOTE: The Magic Kingdom is for adults to!
How can you make the most of a day at the Magic Kingdom?
How Much Time is Needed?
To be totally honest you could spend a week visiting just the Magic Kingdom and still not be able to experience everything it has to offer. The Magic Kingdom is huge and full of great rides, amazing dining experiences, unique shows and parades, plenty of shopping opportunities, a variety of special events, and magical character experiences.
However, if your time is limited, the Magic Kingdom is still worth the visit. In one day you can experience much of what the Magic Kingdom has to offer. If you have an extra day on your vacation and are having a drawback about what park to visit a second time, the Magic Kingdom should be it!
How Much Does It Cost?
Tickets can be purchased as one day tickets or in a package. The longer the number of days you are visiting the less you will pay per day for the tickets.
One day tickets to the Magic Kingdom will vary based on the time of year, but generally range from $109 to $129 for a single day ticket. If you are looking for a longer stay, park combinations, and park hopper options visit Disney’s website for package deal pricing.
For guests staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort there is a walking path available, taking approximately ten minutes to reach the park.
The Monorail is available for guests staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian that will take you right to the front gate.
Guests staying at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness can reach the Magic Kingdom via ferry.
Guests staying at all other Disney Hotels can reach the park via Disney buses or van. Buses transport guests throughout the day, from about an hour before park opening to after park closing. Disney now offers transportation through Minnie Vans which will transport you from your resort to the park gates. If you desire, you can also use Uber to get to/from the park.
For guests who are driving to the Magic Kingdom there is parking available with transportation options to the front gates (you can find more information below).
If you are arriving to the Magic Kingdom by car there is parking available, but it can be a bit pricey. For on-site guests staying at a Disney resort parking is complimentary. However, for offsite guests not staying in a Disney resort the daily parking fee is $25. Preferred parking is $50 a day and gets you closer to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Do note, however, that once you have paid the fee for the day you can park at any of the other Disney parks at no additional fee assuming you provide proof.
At Disney’s Magic Kingdom the parking lot is located about a mile away from the park entrance. Visitors can park there and then have the option to take either the Monorail or a ferry to the park entrance. The parking lot at the Magic Kingdom is quite large and a tram is offered to bring guests parking in the back sections of the parking lot to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
***Note: if you are going to be using the monorail or ferry to get into the Magic Kingdom allow an extra 30 minutes to an hour to get to the park.
While the hours may vary depending on the time of year and whether or not there is a special event going on (such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), the Magic Kingdom will generally be open from 9am to 8pm. During special events, the Magic Kingdom generally stays open until 12 midnight.
Extra magic Hours: Extra magic hours are a perk of staying at one of Disney’s on-site hotels. Hotel guests are allowed into the park either before the park opens or after it closes for enjoyment of the rides with less crowds (speaking from experience-these extra magic hours are well worth getting up a little earlier! We were able to do so much in the so little time). Be sure to check the daily park hours for your visit to the park so you don’t miss these extra magic hours.
Fast Pass + is a great service offered to all guests, included in the price of your ticket. For guests who are staying in a Disney World resort fast pass reservations can be made 60 days in advance and for ticket holders staying off grounds reservations can be made 30 days in advance. It is recommended to make your reservations as soon as possible for the best availability.
You can make up to three fast pass reservations at once per day. Once you have used the three fast pass reservations you can then schedule up to three more. For this reason, I would recommend making your fast pass reservations for the morning so you will have the afternoon to make new fast pass reservations.
****Note: Fast pass reservations will be limited on the day of, so don’t expect to get reservations for the best attractions after you have used up your three already made reservations. There will, however, be some availability, so don’t hesitate to make three more reservations.
Beginning the Day
The Magic Kingdom has an opening show each day-Let the Magic Begin. Guests wishing to view the opening ceremony are allowed to enter the park an hour early and head down Main Street USA to the castle. The show takes place on the stage of the castle and features trumpets announcing the arrival of the Royal Herald and Mickey Mouse. All guests with tickets to the Magic Kingdom are permitted to enter for the show. Also during this time many shops along Main Street U.S.A. will be open, so if you want to spend some time shopping with fewer crowds this may be the time to do it. Guests will be allowed to enter the park shortly before 8am for the opening show when park opening time is 9am.
The Sections of the Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom consists of seven different areas (or lands):
Main Street U.S.A
Main Street U.S.A. is the first section that guests will see upon entering the Magic Kingdom. Main Street U.S.A. is home to many dining and shopping options, some character experiences, and a working barber shop.
The Old West of the 19th century themed section of the Magic Kingdom. The shops in this section of the park feature western themed souvenirs and food options including burritos, taco salad, and fajitas. Frontierland can be reached by passing through Adventureland or passing through Cinderella’s Castle and then heading to the left.
Fantasyland is the one that your child is likely to enjoy the most. It has many child themed rides featuring many of their favorite, classic characters. Fantasyland is a favorite for guests and quickly becomes swamped with crowds. You can enter Fantasyland by passing through Cinderella’s Castle or by passing through Tomorrowland or Liberty Square.
A combination of a tropical island and jungle theme. Popular Disney rides including the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean can be found here. Also in Adventureland is the home of Dole Whip-the Aloha Isle and many other fruit-flavored treats. Adventureland is to the left when you come to the end of Main Street U.S.A.
Colonial America themed section of the Magic Kingdom, and home to the popular Haunted Mansion. Liberty Square holds a replica of the Liberty Bell and Liberty Tree. It can be reached to the left of Cinderella’s castle.
This section of the Magic Kingdom represents a depiction of the future and features many space themed attractions. Tomorrowland is home to the people mover and Disney’s Carousel of Progress. It can be found to the right at the end of the Main Street U.S.A.
Must Sees At The Magic Kingdom
While everything at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is worth seeing/experiencing, there are several attractions that you won’t want to miss!
Cinderella’s Castle-One can not visit the Magic Kingdom and miss this iconic feature. Cinderella’s Castle sits at the center of the Magic Kingdom and is the site of many performances throughout the day. Located inside the castle is the story of Cinderella told through gorgeous mosaics, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (a salon where children ages 3 through 12 can be transformed into their favorite princess or prince), and Cinderella’s Royal Table (a unique restaurant with character dining).
The Walt Disney Railroad (A train ride that allows you to see much of the park as well as provides transportation to different sections of the park. The railroad stops in Frontierland and Main Street USA)-note the railroad is currently closed for construction.
Be Our Guest Restaurant-if you are able to get reservations (reservations can be made beginning 180 days before arrival if staying at a Disney World Resort) this is a must! I would describe the food as average, but the scene is stunning! (As someone who grew up with Beauty and the Beast as a favorite movie-this restaurant was like a dream come true.)
Meet Mickey Mouse-how can you visit Disney and not meet the mouse behind it? You can meet Mickey at the Town Square Theater at the Magic Kingdom.
The Festival of Fantasy Parade-once daily you can join Disney characters as they parade down main street with music and dancing.
Happily Ever After fireworks show-end of the night show with fireworks and illuminations on the castle.
The coasters-The Magic Kingdom is home to a few coasters (some smaller, some bigger, but all fun nonetheless), including Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, the Barnstormer, and the even Dwarfs Mine Train.
Meet a Princess-as the home of Cinderella’s Castle, it makes sense that the Magic Kingdom would be home to meet and greets with the Disney Princesses. Choose one of them or aim to meet them all (options include Cinderella, Tianna, Belle, Rapunzel, Ellena, and Ariel)
Here is a quick list of the rides available in each section of the Magic Kingdom.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Its a Small World
Mad Tea Party
Peter Pan’s Flight
Prince Charming Regal Carousel
Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Walt Disney World Railroad (currently closed for construction)
The Hall of Presidents
Liberty Square Riverboat
Country Bear Jamboree
Tom Sawyer Island
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
Stich’s Great Escape (temporarily closed)
Tomorrowland Transt Authority People Mover
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Pirates of the Caribbean
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Swiss Family Treehouse
Restaurants To Experience
The Crystal Palace
The Crystal Palace is a buffet style restaurant that offers character dining. The Crystal Palace offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner experiences. Guests can enjoy meet and greets with Pooh and friends (including Tiger, Piglet, and Eeyore. Prices for The Crystal Palace range from $15-35 for breakfast and $35-60 for lunch and dinner.
Be Our Guest Restaurant
The Be Our Guest Restaurant is one of the most popular and fills up very quickly. Reservation must be made well ahead of time. Be Our Guest is a quick service restaurant located in Fantasyland. For dinner, a sit down three course meal is offered with a special appearance from the Beast. While the food at this restaurant is decent, it is the scene that makes it so popular. It is located within the beast’s castle with three different dining rooms available for guests to choose from: The Grand Ballroom, The West Wing, and the Castle Gallery. Don’t forget to try the Gray stuff…its delicious! Pricing ranges from $15-35 for breakfast and lunch, and a set $62 for adults and $37 for children for the dinner meal.
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Cinderella’s Royal Table is located inside Cinderella’s Castle. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While enjoying your meal you can enjoy meet and greets with several Disney Princesses. Character experiences include Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, Ariel, Aurora, Jasmine, and Snow White. Pricing ranges from $62-$75 for adults and $37-45 for children.
Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
A table service dining option with cuisine options from Asia, South America, and Africa along with the same humor and jokes you find on the Jungle Cruise ride. Prices range from $15.99 to $35.
Casey’s Corner is a quick service American themed restaurant located on Main Street U.S.A. Options include hot dogs, corn dogs, and french fries. To drink try a refreshing lemonade slushie. Prices are generally $15 and under.
Gaston’s Tavern is not a full service restaurant, but it does offer some great snacks and alcoholic beverages. Outside of Gaston’s Tavern you may find Gaston himself-one of the most interactive and humorous characters you can meet. You can also get a souvenir mug featuring Belle or Gaston. Prices are generally $14.99 and under.
Must Try Snacks at the Magic Kingdom
Dole Whip (pineapple and soft serve ice cream treat)-available at Aloha Isle, Adventureland
Egg Roll-an inexpensive snack available at the Adventureland snack cart
Citrus Swirl (mix of soft serve vanilla ice cream with frozen orange juice)-available at Sunshine Tree Terrace, Adventureland
Churro (fried dough pastry topped with cinnamon and sugar)-available at Frontierland Cart.
Lefou’s Brew (frozen apple juice with toasted marshmallow and topped with a passion fruit-mango foam) available at Gaston’s Tavern
Mickey Ice Cream Bar (okay, it is just vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate, but there is something magical about this Mickey Mouse shaped treat)-available at multiple places throughout the Magic Kingdom
Turkey Leg-available at Cool Ship, Tomorrowland
Entertainment at the Magic Kingdom
Disney’s Magic Kingdom is plenty full of things to do, and in addition to the great rides and dining options, the Magic Kingdom also offers shows and parades.
The Festival of Fantasy Parade
The parade takes place daily, starting in Frontierland near Splash Mountain and continuing down through Main Street U.S.A. (2pm during seasonal special events and 3pm all other times of the year).
Move It, Shake it, Dance and Play It!
Dance party that takes place twice daily along Main Street U.S.A featuring singing and dancing with Mickey and Minnie. The dance party generally takes place twice daily, but be sure to check the entertainment schedule for times during your visit.
Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
Stage show that takes place in front of Cinderella’s castle multiple times throughout the day. The show features many Disney characters, including Tiana, Rapunzel, Olaf, Elsa, Anna, and of course Mickey.
Happily Ever After Fireworks Show
End of the night fireworks and light show that takes place at Cinderella’s Castle. Watch as the castle comes to life with lights and lasers.
***Note: While I certainly recommend checking out some of these shows/parades, if you choose not to this is a great time to get on some rides with shorter wait times. Especially during the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which is offered only once a day, the crowds will be lined up to watch the parade, thus leaving less crowds on the rides.
Characters at the Magic Kingdom
Character Meet and Greets vary, but there are a few main characters you can count on meeting (99% chance) at the Magic Kingdom:
Mickey Mouse and Tinker Bell (located inside the Town Square Theater)-Wait times can be long, but fast pass options are available. I have also found that waiting until the end of the night or while a show/parade is going on will result in less waiting time.
Pluto and Chip& Dale-located in Town Square. These characters will vary on occasion-we have seen Stitch at this location on more than one occasion.
Captain Hook-located in the Pirates of the Caribbean Courtyard
The Beast-found exclusively at the Be Our Guest restaurant dinner
Cinderella, Eleana of Avalor, Rapunzel, and Tiana-located inside Princess Fairytall Hall. Again, the wait times can be quite long, but fast pass is available.
Belle-located in the Enchanted Tales with Belle attraction.
Ariel-located at Ariel’s Grotto in Fantasyland
Gaston-located in Belle’s Village Courtyard
Winnie the Pooh and Tiger-located outside The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Buzz Lightyear-located in Tomorrowland near the Carousel of Progress
Donald, Daisy, Minnie, and Goofy (The Astounding Donaldo, Madame Daisy Fortuna, Minnie Magnifique, and The Great Goofini) located at Pete’ Silly Sideshow in Fantasyland
Shopping at the Magic Kingdom
Main Street U.S.A is full of shops where you can find souvenirs, apparel, artwork, jewelry, and treats. Each section, or “land” of the Magic Kingdom will have shops with merchandise linked to the theme of that land.
Emporium: the largest shop with the widest selection located on Main St. USA
Big Top Souvenirs and Big Top Treats-located in Fantasyland, shop for all types of souvenirs and enjoy some special Disney treats.
Plaza Del Sol Caribe Bazaar-for some pirate themed souvenirs visit Plaza Del Sol Caribe Bazaar near the Pirates of Adventure ride.
Mickey’s Star Traders-for Tomorrowland themed souvenirs.
***Note: If you are staying at a Disney World resort and shopping in the parks you can have your items delivered to your hotel room. Guests who are not staying in a resort can have their items sent to the front of the park to be picked up on their way out.
Unique Experiences at the Magic Kingdom
Early Entry Options
Early Morning Magic at Fantasyland- a ticketed special event that allows you early access to Fantasyland and all its attractions, as well as an all you can eat breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Check-in begins at 7:30am and guests are allowed to enter the park at 7:45am. Select rides will be available for guests, including It’s a Small World, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Mad Tea Party, Peter Pan’s Flight, Princess Fairy Tll Hall, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, and Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid. Tickets run at $89 for adults (10 and older) and $79 for children (3 to 9). Please note you must also purchase regular admission tickets to the park.
Pre-park opening dining options (these restaurants open at 8am, even on days that the park opens at 9am, giving you a head start to the day):
Be Our Guest Restaurant
The Crystal Palace
Cinderella’s Royal Table
The Bibbidi Boddidi Boutique:
a salon where children ages 3 to 12 can be transformed into their favorite princess or prince. Reservations are required and can be made up to 180 days in advance. Packages range from $75 to $450, depending on what you want included.
Harmony Barber Shop
You can get a haircut at the Magic Kingdom at the Harmony Barber Shop.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour
A five hour walking tour that dives into the history of the Magic Kingdom, takes you to hidden locations, and reveals secrets about the functioning of the park. The tour is $99 a person. (Not something I would recommend if your time is limited).
The Pirates’ League
Similar to the Bibbidi Boddidi Boutique, guests can be transformed into pirates or mermaids. Pricing ranges from $19 to $45.
Disney’s Villains After Hours
A special ticketed event that takes place on select nights throughout the year. The after hours goes for 3 hours after the park closes when the villains take over and guests can experience spooky entertainment, themed treats, and unique photo pass options. Entertainment includes Villains Unite the Night (a stage show featuring popular villains including the Queen, Maleficent, Jafar, and others), themed lighting, and music. Ice cream, popcorn, and beverages are included in the admission price and can be found on carts throughout the park. Pricing is $145 per person.
Special Events at the Magic Kingdom
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party-ticketed event that takes place on select nights throughout the months of November and December. The Magic Kingdom is transformed into a Winter Wonderland with shows, a Christmas party, shows, a parade, dance parties, and holiday treats. Select rides will also be open during the event.
A Frozen Holiday Wish (watch as Elsa transforms Cinderella’s Castle into a frozen delight)
Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (traditional Disney characters dressed in holiday cheer)
Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks show
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas (party with friends in Tomorrowland)
Club Tinsel (dance party at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe)
Minnie’s Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks Desert party at Tomorrowland Terrace
Tony’s Most Merriest Town Square Party (tasty treats and special parade viewing)
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party-a ticketed event that takes place on select nights throughout the months of August, September, and October. The Magic Kingdom is full of Halloween decorations, special character experiences, trick or treating, special Halloween treats, Halloween themed parades, shows and fireworks, and lively dance parties. Special photopass experiences will also be available throughout the park. Select rides are also open during the event with less lines and less waiting. All guests are welcome to come in their favorite Halloween costume, with a few rules that apply (can be found here)
Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular (end of the night show with fireworks and laser light displays)
Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular (stage show featuring the Sanderson Sisters)
Boo To You Parade (traditional Disney characters dressed in their Halloween best as well as special appearances from the Haunted Mansion characters)
The Cadaver Dans Barbershop Quartet (singing and laughter)
Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Dessert Party (with Plaza Garden Viewing or at the Tomorrowland Terrace)
Photopass/ Memory Maker
Photopass is a service that Disney offers to capture photos of your whole family on your Disney vacation. There are several photopass photographers set up throughout the park (character meet and greets and other select spots) where you can get your photo taken and then almost instantly they will show up on your photopass account. This can be accessed online or through the My Disney Experience App.
For me, photos are one of the most important souvenirs you can get from a destination, so I always choose to go with Disney photopass. You don’t have to worry about carrying a camera around and capturing the photos and another plus-you can get in the photo as well. Photopass can be purchased in advance for $169, or the day of for $199. It is important to note that if purchasing for the discounted price in advance you will not be able to use it for the three days following the purchase, so you will want to do this far in advance for your trip.
Important Tips You Need to Know
Don’t over do it. You need time to relax as well as the young-lings. Any time I have tried to spend the whole day in the park without taking a break back at the hotel with young children has been a disaster. It takes time out of the day, but will make the time you spend at the park more enjoyable.
Download the My Disney Experience App. The My Disney Experience App will allow you to make fast pass reservations and dining reservations, as well as view wait times, character locations, photo pass locations, and can serve as your map to the Magic Kingdom.
Prepare yourself for the crowds-if you are not someone that enjoys crowds be aware that the Magic Kingdom is very crowded. You should expect long wait times for certain attractions and don’t go into the park thinking you will see everything-you will just disappoint yourself.
Plan to arrive an hour to an hour and a half before park opening. It will take time to park, get transportation to the front gate, time to get through security, and time to get through the ticket turnstiles.
Bring plenty of fluids! You are allowed to bring beverages into the park as long as they are non-alcoholic and not glass bottles, so pack your bag with plenty of fluids. You will need them in the Florida heat and it will save you money in the long run.
Dress for the weather-Florida weather is hot. Dress appropriately and don’t forget the sunglasses and sunscreen.
Head to the back of the park-when entering the park upon opening always head to the back of the park. A lot of the crowds will be staying towards the front as people tend to jump on the first attractions they see. This will make the back attractions less crowded first thing in the morning and allow you to do more.
You need to do some planning. While going to a theme park does not generally require much advanced planning Disney World is a different story. There is so much to do and see that you need to spend some time planning in order to maximize your time.
With the coming of 2020 comes a whole new year to travel and experience adventure! I don’t know about you, but I am actively planning my 2020 trips. The list is endless, but I have narrowed it down to some top destinations I would like to visit this year. I have compiled a list of the top attractions on my list for each destination, some must try food options, and some family friendly attractions. Some of the destinations will be visited as a solo traveler and some as family travel, but I have not yet decided which yet-so I included some family fun options for each.
Here are the top 18 destinations on my bucket list for 2020:
Italy is at the top of my list this year. Rome, Italy has so many great, classic attractions. From the historical buildings, stunning architecture, and mouth watering menu options there is something for everyone. Top attractions include the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum, Vatican CIty, Pantheon, Piazza Novana, the Sistine Chapel, and the Spanish Steps.
While visiting Rome is a must, near-by small, lesser known towns are also on the list to see.
Anzio is an ancient coastal town with a rich military history. It is located just an hour outside of Rome and offers much to see, including a fishing port, ferry terminal to the Pontine Islands, Roman villas, Roman tower, and sandy beaches.
Castelli Romani is located a few miles outside of Rome and consists of 13 small towns full of Italian charm. There is much to see-including caldera lakes, forests, and vineyards.
Food in Rome:
Cacio e Pepe (cooked pasta with a smooth sauce made with aged sheep milk cheese, black pepper)
Maritozzi (a croissant filled with whipped cream)
Pizza al Taglio (a style of pizza unique to Rome, adorned dough cooked in a sheet pan that is cut and served by the slice)
Rome is known for many meat based dishes as well that I will mention, but that are not on my list as a Vegetarian -Trapizzino (triangle shaped pizza stuffed with meatballs, chicken caccaitore, or other fillings), Suppli (rice balls filled with ground beef or sausage), Porchetta (slow roasted pork).
Family Friendly Attractions:
Visit the Colosseum (plenty of room to explore)
Catch a puppet show at Teatrino di Pulcinella al Gianicolo (an open air puppet theater)
Visit the The Borghese Gardens (a large park with space to run, rowboat, ride a bike, pony rides on the weekends, gardens, and a zoo)
Visit the Catacombs (again, lots of room to explore)
For more great information on Rome attractions check out this great post by Globe Trotting
Paris has lots to offer from the well known, more popular sites such as the Effiel Tower, Louvre Museum and Notre-Dame Cathedral as well as less visited attractions and locations. These well known attractions are on the list, but so are some out of the way, lesser known, villages.
Paris is home to five “isolated” villages, or villages that most tourists have not heard of. The best way to really experience a destination is to experience it like the locals. These villages are high on my list for getting a unique experience in Paris. Butte-aux-Cailles is one mall town that features street art and cobblestone streets.
Food in Paris:
Baguette (French bread)
Pain au chocolat (a chocolate filled croissant)
Brie (French cows milk cheese)
There are also many traditional meat entrees to try, but as a vegetarian these are not on my list.
Family Fun in Paris: Some of the top family fun attractions on the list in Paris (besides the obvious top attractions) include:
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (a nature park with streams, a gazebo, donkey rides, and carnival games)
MénagerieduJardin des Plantes (a zoo featuring big cats, red pandas, and a primate house)
Jardin d’Acclimatation (basically a theme park including pony rides, puppet shows, and animals)
Musée Grévin (a wax museum featuring important figures in French Culture/history)
For more information/help planning a trip to Paris check out Nomadic Matt’s Guide to Paris.
For help planning a family friendly trip to Paris view this guide from Earth Trekkers.
Athens, Greece is a historic destination, the capitol of Greece, and filled with intriguing sights to see. Top attractions include the Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon, Plaka, and the Greek Agora. Athens is home to many museums highlighting the history of the area, including the Acropolis Museum and National Archaeological Museum.
Food in Athens:
Saganaki (a fried cheese appetizer)
Horiatiki Salata ( A Greek salad made up of red tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, Greek olives, extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese, and spiced with salt, pepper, and oregano.
Fava (a creamy spread that is made from yellow split peas)
Spanakopita (spinach pie, made with spinach, herbs cheeses, onion, eggs, and olive oil).
Tomatokeftedes (tomato balls, made of tomatoes and herbs, and served with yogurt sauce)
Gemista (meaning stuffed, a variety of different stuffed dishes are available, including tomatoes, zucchinis, and bell peppers. These may be stuffed with rice, herbs, spices, and tomato sauce).
Briam (a roasted dish featuring different kinds of vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, shallot, carrots, garlic, and herbs.)
Family Friendly Attractions:
Visit the ruins (from past experience children love to wander and explore ruins. However, be sure that your children are respecting the ruins and not causing damage).
Visit Parliament and feed the pigeons (always a hit activity)
Attica Zoo Park
National Gardens of Athens
The Golden Hall Playground
Take a ride on the Athens Happy Train (it takes you through the city and past many top sights)
Visit the Children’s Museum
A guide to planning a trip to Athens, Greece by Nomadic Matt can be found here.
4-Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde is a national park located in southwest Colorado. It is home to over 600 cliff dwellings that date back to 550-1300 AD. These cliff dwellings were built by the ancestral Puebloans.
Mesa Verde is home to many great hiking trails that allow you to see the historic dwellings. Highlights to see at Mesa Verde National Park include Wetherrill and Chapin Mesa.
For more information on visiting Mesa Verde check out this guide.
San Diego is a city sitting on California’s Pacific coast. It is full of great attractions, including beaches, parks, gardens, museums, and art galleries. One attraction that hits close to home for me that will be a must do is the Whaley House, a historic home that is believed to be haunted. The reason that this stands out so much for me is my maiden name is, you guessed it, Whaley. If there is any relation, that I am not sure of it, but it is interesting none the less.
Food in San Diego:
San Diego is home to a number of different cuisine specialties, including Mexican food, wood-fried California style pizza, Asian specialties, and seafood. On my list of locally grown/made foods include:
Local wines (San Pasqual Valley, Rancho Bernardo, and Julian)
Hard and sweet apple cider locally produced
Julian Apple Pie
Family Friendly Attractions:
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Seaworld San Diego
Old Town California (historic area of San Diego with food and shopping).
The New Children’s Museum
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Carlsbad Flower Fields
La Jolla Cove
Check out this guide from TripSavvy for help planning a trip to San Diego.
Quebec City, Canada is one of those places that I tell myself every year I will make it there this year. The architecture is stunning and it has the charm of a European City. Top attractions include Old Quebec, the old city walls, Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec, and Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.
Food in Quebec City (the food in Quebec City is largely French based, as the city was originally settled by the French and city has strong French roots)
Poutine (a combination of French Fries, gravy and cheese curds)
Crepes (so many different options here-meats for the non-vegetarians, and many sweet fruits based crepes that are Vegetarian friendly)
Rabbit (not something I would try, but it is largely popular in Quebec City)
Meat Pie (again, not something I would try, but it is popular in Quebec City)
Family Fun in Quebec City
Village Vacances Valcartier (an outdoor recreation center)
Méga Parc des Galeries de la Capitale (an indoor amusement park)
Aquarium du Québec (auarium featuring over 10,000 marine animals)
Plains of Abraham (a historic battlefield park that will give your kids lot of space to run/play)
Cozumel, Mexico is an island of off Mexco Riviera Maya featuring shorelines, beaches, and forests. Another unique aspect of Cozumel is the ancient Mayan ruins, a big draw for me. Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, and Ek Balam are some of the most popular ruin sites, but there are many smaller sites as well.
Food in Cozumel:
Empandas (baked or fried turn overs that are stuffed with a variety of things, including meat, fruits, or vegetables.
Esquites (corn in a cup topped with butter, lime juice, Chile powder, cheese, and mayo)
Churros (a dessert covered in cinnamon and sugar)
Marquesitas (crepe filled with cheese and other fillings)
There are many meat based dishes that are unique to Mexico that I will mention (but again that are not on my list as a vegetarian): Cochinita Pibil (slow roasted pork), Pescado Frito (fried fish), Pozole (sou with chicken/pork).
The beach (okay…so this one may be obvious. But what kid doesn’t like building a sand castle?)
Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park (swimming, snorkeling, snacks, zip lining)
Punta Sur Park Ecological Reserve (white sand beaches, wild life, and a lighthouse)
Cozumel Glass Bottom Tour
Visit a cenote (clear, natural, limestone pools)
For help planning a trip to Cozumel check out this guide.
Nashville, TN is known as the country music capitol. It is home to many famous music venues, including the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Also located in Nashville is the Johnny Cash museum.
Food in Nashville:
Goo Goo Clusters (candy made of caramel, marshmallow, peanuts, and chocolate)
Belle Meade Bourbon (a local alcoholic drink)
Fruit tea (Nashville is known for its fruit tea, tea sweetened with pineapple, orange, and/or lemonade)
Meat options: hot chicken, meat & three (meatloaf, brisket, country fried steak, or ham with vegetables)
Family Fun in Nashville:
Adventure Science Center (hands on, educational exhibits)
Nashville’s Children’s Theater
Nashville Shores Waterpark and Treetop Adventure Park (water rides and a sky course)
Rocket Fizz (a candy store!)
For more ideas of what to do in Nashville check out this guide.
Venice is a city built on 100 small islands in a lagoon of the Adriatic Sea. Venice is unique in that there are no roads, only canals. Top attractions in Venice include St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basillica, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal, and Bridge of Sighs.
Food in Venice:
Bellini (an alcoholic drink originating from Venice made up of Prosecco and peach purée)
Bigoli (long, thick pasta made from whole wheat flour)
Risotto (a creamy rice dish that may include butter, onion, white wine, and parmesan cheese)
Grappa (a grape based promace brandy)
Tiramisu (a coffee flavored Italian dessert)
Polenta (boiled cornmeal)
Family Fun in Venice:
Take a boat ride on the Grand Canal
Explore the prisons of Doge’s Palace
Take a ride in a Gondola
Watch Glassblowers on Murano
Visit the beach (Lido)
Check out this guide to Venice for help planning your trip.
The Grand Canyon is a national park located in Arizona. It was carved by the Colorado River and stands today as colorful rock layers that wow visitors and display years and years of history.
There are many great viewpoints along the canyon, including Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and the Desert View Watch Tower.
Many activities are offered at the Grand Canyon, including hiking, camping, bike riding, rafting, and guided tours.
More information on planning a trip to the Grand Canyon can be found here.
11-Waverly Hills Asylum, Kentucky
This destination is a little bit different…it comes from the internal need for me to explore abandoned buildings. And of course a little thrill from the supernatural! Waverly Hills Asylum is located in Jefferson County in Kentucky. It is believed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the world. It was once a tuberculosis sanitorium and later served as a home for the elderly until its closing in 1981.
Today tours of the building and ghost hunts are offered throughout the year with special holiday events. You can spend an overnight in the building and see what kind of out of this world experiences you encounter.
Cleveland is a US city located in Ohio. It is a traditional US city featuring the Rock and Roll hall of fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Zoo, West Side Markets, and for those of us who are fans of the film The Christmas Story, the Christmas Story house.
London is England’s capitol and a historic city dating back to Roman times. It has much to offer, including Big Ben, Westminster Abby, London Tower, the London Eye, and a short distance away Stonehenge and the Roman Baths.
Food in London:
A full English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, baked beans, and toast-vegetarian version also available with avocado and grilled halloumi).
Scones with clotted cream and jam
Crumpets with your choice of topping (similar to english muffins)
Afternoon tea (scones, finger sandwiches, pastries, and of course tea)
Pimm’s Cup (made with a British gin-based alcohol and ginger ale or lemon lime soda, fruit, and mint)
Family Friendly Attractions:
Natural History Museum
Visit the British Museum
The London Science Museum
Ride the London Eye
Hamleys Toy Store
Warner Bros studio Tour
Foe help with planning a trip to London click here.
15-Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a east coast park located in Maine, USA. The park features forests, sandy beaches, gardens, a lighthouse, and mountains/peaks. It is also home to many different species of wildlife, including moose, whales, and bears. Acadia is home to the highest peak on the East Coast.
Nearby Acadia National Park is Bar Harbor, a small bayside town with shopping and food options, a great place to stop after a busy day of hiking and exploring.
More information on visiting Acadia National Park can be found here.
Yellowstone National Park is located in three US states, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Yellowstone is a park full of canyons, rivers, forests, hot springs, and think most notably geysers. The park is also home to hundreds of different animal species.
Yellowstone also offers many great outdoors activities, including hiking, rafting, paddling, horseback riding, rodeo, and fishing.
More information on planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park can be found here.
Ottawa is the capitol of Canada. It has been on my bucket list for a long time and I just missed it this summer, being so close in Montreal. Unfortunately did not have time to make it there, but it is on my must do list for 2020.
Ottawa has so much to offer, including the architecture of Parliament Hall, Peace Tower, Byward Market, Fairmont Château Laurier, Rideau Canal, and Major’s Hill Park. Westboro Village is on the list for shopping and a relaxing stroll.
Food in Ottawa:
Ottawa is home to a mixture of cultural food, including Lebanese, Vietnamese, French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine.
Shawarma (I will mention this not because it is on my list to try (not a vegetarian dish), but because Ottawa is said to be the Scawarma capitol of Canada. It is a Mediterranean dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices and roasted.
Beaver Treats Fried Dough Pastry (originated in Ottawa, although can now be found around the globe)
Caesars (alcoholic drink, the Canadian version of Bloody Marys)
The Obama Cookie-a little bit of an interesting back story-this cookie was named after Obama when he visited in 2009 and bought cookies for his family. Okay, maybe not so interesting-but visitors still seek out these cookies.
Family Friendly Attractions in Ottawa:
Petrie Island Beach (a sandy beach that sits on the Ottawa River)
Canadian Museum of History (the museum displays the history of Canada through fun and interactive exhibits)
The Rideau Canal (kayaking, canoeing, walking trails, and scenic boat tours)
Wilderness Tours (white water rafting)
Omega Park (A wild life park)
For tips on planning a trip to Ottawa have a look at this guide by Planet D.
Phuket, Thailand is the largest island in Thailand. It is famous for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and inexpensive costs (food and hotels). Phuket offers much to do, including visiting the famous Patong Beach, a boat tour through Phang Nga Bay, and visit Phuket town for some local culture.
Food in Phuket:
Roti (a sweet treat made with either banana, chocolate, condensed milk, and nutella)
Som Tom (Papaya Salad) (papaya, tomatoes, green beans and chilles)
Khao Pad (fried rice that may or may not be made with pork, chicken, or seafood)
Fried yellow noodles with vegetables
Meat options: Khao Ka Moo (stewed pork leg with rice), Moo Ping (pork), Kai Yang (grilled chicken)
Family Fun in Thailad:
Visit the beach
Phuket Trickeye Museum
Phuket Fantasea (live show)
Splash Jungle Water Park
Zorbing at Rollerball
Patong Go Kart Speedway
Tips for planning a trip to Phuket can be found here.
In addition to the above destinations, a couple of my other 2020 goals include:
Hiking an additional 10 Adirondack High Peaks (On my quest to become a ADK 46’er)
Visiting at least 10 more US States (On my quest to visit all 50 US states)
Join me at year’s end to review my travels for 2020 and see how many of these great destinations I made it to!
I would love to hear from you-What destinations are you planning to visit or hope to visit in 2020?
With the beginning of winter and the coming of Christmas, people around the globe are bound to be gearing up for the holidays with festivities and shopping. Christmas markets take place throughout the world and offer great shopping options as well as some great ways to celebrate the holidays!
A little bit about the history of Christmas Markets: Christmas Markets date back as far as the Middle Ages (1298). The Vienna Dezembermarkt is believed to be the first “Christmas Market.” At this time the “festival” was hosted for a day or two in early winter to allow people to stock up for the coming winter. After this what was called Wintermarkte (Winter markets) began to spring up across Europe.
Christmas Markets as we know them today are most associated with Germany, with the first Christkindlmarkt being held in 1384 in Bautzen, Saxony. The original markets sold mainly meat, but quickly developed into more complex markets selling everyday goods, decorations, seasonal treats, and homemade crafts. The markets eventually evolved to include singing and dancing. In the 16th century Christmas Markets got a huge boost as giving gifts on Christmas became more popular and developed into what we know today as Christmas Markets.
Here is a list of some of the best Christmas Markets around the world to add to your bucket list:
1.) The Viennese Dream Christmas Market (Vienna, Austria)
Why not visit a Christmas Market in the city where Christmas Markets are said to have originated? The Viennese Dream Christmas market is a popular market in Austria’s capitol that sits in front of City Hall. It showcases over 150 stalls selling anything from booze to food to gifts. The market also offers activities for children, such as cookie making, reindeer rides, a ferris wheel, an old fashioned merry-go-round, and an ice skating rink. The market also features the Nativity Path, which displays 12 handmade Nativity scenes. You can also catch some Christmas carols from an international choir on select days (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays).
The Skansen’s Christmas Market takes places in Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum. It began in 1903. The market features food, treats, decorations, bon fires, leather goods, embroidery, hand made gloves, crafts, candy, and books. You can also enjoy the museum with decorated historic homes and farmsteads. Also enjoy dancing around the Christmas tree and decoration making in the Christmas workshop. While visiting the market be sure to stop over to the Skansen zoo, which features nordic animals, including reindeers.
When: Late November to New Year’s Eve.
Where: Djurgårdsslätten 49-51, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden
The Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is home to an annual Christmas market featuring great food with many restaurants open and decorated for the holidays, traditional fair rides, Christmas decorations, as well as vendors in and outside of the Trainsbury Station for goodies and Christmas gifts. The market features three different light shows that take place in the park. There is also a band that offers entertainment to shoppers. On December 25, 26, and 31st the market also features a fireworks display at the gardens.
Enjoy the traditional food, treats, and gifts found at a Christmas Market, all set with the beautiful Französischer Dom as the backdrop. The market is well known for it’s gourmet dishes. The market features nightly international concerts with music ranging from classical and jazz to Christmas carols. The last day of the market, New Year’s eve, ends with a huge fireworks display.
5. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park (New York, USA)
The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is one of New York’s most popular winter festivals. The market features over 125 vendors selling food, treats, jewelry, and handmade crafts. The market also features an ice skating rink with free admission. The market is home to Le Carrousel where shoppers can take a break and enjoy a ride, and may even be joined by Santa and his elves. Children can also visit with and get their photo taken with Santa at Santa’s Corner.
When: October 31st to early January
Where: New York, NY 10018-located between Fifth Ave. and Avenue of the Americas.
Based in the Historic Distillery District, Toronto’s Christmas Market is one of the largest Christmas Markets in North America. The district transforms into a wonderland of Christmas lights, rides, vendors, and of course-Santa! In the center stands a 50ft. Christmas tree. Throughout the week different entertainment options are offered-including bands and carolers.
When: Mid November to Mid December
Where: 373 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5A 1G4, Canada
The Basel Christmas Market is said to be the biggest and best in Switzlerland. It is held in the city center on Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. In the center sits a large Christmas trees with decorations designed by the Johann Wanner, a very well known decorator. The market features over 160 vendors in small, wooden chalets selling gifts, food (including Basel Läckerli, a form of gingerbread), glühwein (mulled wine), Swiss raclette (cheese), and grilled sausages), handmade toys, and jewelry.
When: Late November to Late December
Where: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, Basel, Switzerland
Held in Victoria Square in November and December, the Frankfurt Christmas Market is one of England’s largest and most traditional Christmas markets. The market features over 80 vendors selling food, booze, handmade crafts, and handmade toys. A trip to the Frankfurt Christmas market wouldn’t be complete without a visit to see Chris Moose, a singing moose located right outside the entrance of the Council House.
9. Budapest Christmas Fair and Winter Festival (Budapest, Hungary)
The Budapest Christmas Fair takes places at Vörösmarty Square. The fair features over 120 vendors selling traditional fair desserts and Hungarian dishes, such as Sekler Cake, stuffed cabbage, roasted goose, pulled pork sandwiches, and duck sausage. The fair also offers many children and family entertainment options, including music, puppet shows, and craft workshops.
10. Old Town Square Christmas Market (Prague, Czech Republic)
The Old Town Square Christmas Market was named one of the best by CNN In the center sits a 22 meter tree decorated with angels and gingerbread. Below the tress is a nativity scene and Christmas village that serves as a photo booth. Vendors are set up that offer handmade goods, gifts, decorations, and food, including mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, and gingerbread. Theater performances and concerts also take place throughout the festival.
ICE Village in Amsterdam is a winter festival located beside the Amsterdam skating rink on Museumplein. The festival features over 50 vendors lined along the skating rink and sell items including food, gifts, decorations, and fashion items. The festival also features fire pits and live entertainment. And of course-ice skating!
Where: Christmas Village on Ice, Museumplein 1071 DJ AMSTERDAM
The Fira de Santa Llucia takes place annually on Avenida de la Catedral in the Gothic Quarter. The market features over 280 stalls that offer Christmas decorations, homemade gifts, nativity scene figures, and Christmas instruments (zambomba).