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12 Amazing Solo Vacations to Take in 2020

Don’t have anyone to travel with in 2020? That’s no reason to stay home. Solo travel is on the rise, and tour operators are expanding their offerings to meet the increasing demand. Below are the 12 best solo vacations for 2020, covering every corner of the globe. Some of these trips made the list because they’re specifically designed for solo travelers; others offer discounted single supplements or roommate matching so you don’t have to pay extra fees for traveling alone.[st_content_ad]

Note that all trips and single supplement discounts were available at the time of publication, but they could sell out at any time. If you’re interested in these solo vacations, it’s best to book early.

Explore Madeira, Portugal, on Foot

Exodus Madeira Portugal Hiking Excursion

Sweeping coastal views, sleepy fishing villages, and sheltered forests await on Exodus Travels’ Walking in Madeira itinerary. The seven-night trip includes leisurely walks of up to nine miles a day along some of Madeira’s most breathtaking hiking trails. The trip ends with free time to explore Funchal, the island’s historic capital. Exodus will match you with a roommate, or you can pay a modest single supplement for your own room. Departures are available every month throughout 2020.

See Morocco from the Mountains to the Desert

Camel Back Ride Sahara Desert Morocco

Overseas Adventure Travel is one of the best tour operators for solo vacations, thanks to free single supplements on most trips. That includes one of its most popular tours, the 14-night Morocco Sahara Odyssey, which takes you through the narrow streets of ancient medinas, over the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, and through the dramatic peaks of the High Atlas Mountains. Unique experiences include lunch in a Berber home and a couple of nights under the desert sky in a private tented camp. This trip has available departures between April and December 2020.

Explore Northern India’s Icons

Amber Fort Jaipur India.

See the Taj Mahal and much more on this dedicated solo trip to India from Intrepid Travel. The seven-night itinerary starts and ends in bustling Delhi, where you’ll discover the city’s oldest mosque and have free time to explore on your own. Then you’ll head to Jaipur to visit royal palaces and soar above the city in a hot air balloon before visiting the 14th-century village of Karauli and touring the magnificent Taj Mahal. Intrepid will match you with a same-gender roommate so you can avoid paying a single supplement. This trip departs on select dates between April and December 2020.

[st_related]11 Important Taj Mahal Facts to Know Before You Go[/st_related]

Take a Hiking Vacation in Vermont

hiker on long trail vermont.

Escape to the pristine mountains of Vermont on a wellness getaway, hiking each morning and enjoying spa treatments and fitness classes each afternoon. New Life Hiking Spa is the perfect retreat if you need a little R&R, drawing numerous solo travelers (mostly women) of all ages. Small-group hikes, communal meals, and friendly public spaces offer ample opportunity to get to know fellow travelers. New Life’s 2020 season runs from May 14 through October 5 and is held at Killington Mountain Lodge.

Discover Ireland Your Way

cliffs of moher ireland sunset.

Not big on group tours? Consider Great Value Vacations’ Irish B&B Getaway package, which includes airfare, a rental car, and accommodations at bed and breakfasts around Ireland, allowing you to wend your way through the countryside at your own pace. Highlights include dramatic coastal roads, lively villages, and historic castles. The itinerary can be customized for six to nine nights, and you may depart any month of the year.

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Have an Adventure in Colombia

colombian coffee REI adventures.

REI’s Experience Colombia tour showcases the breadth of the country’s landscapes, from the lush green highlands where world-class coffee is grown to the sandy beaches of the Caribbean coast. This eight-night itinerary starts in Bogota and finishes in Cartagena, with plenty of adventures along the way—like mountain biking through coffee plantations, hiking to a rare tropical glacier, and sea kayaking to a colorful coral reef. If you’d like to avoid a single supplement, REI will pair you with a same-gender roommate. This trip is available between June and December 2020.

Live Like a Local in Nepal

g adventures nepal living like a local.

Get an intimate glimpse of what life is like in rural Nepal on a fascinating six-night journey with G Adventures. After a night in Kathmandu, you’ll travel to the farming village of Panauti to meet your host family. You’ll spend the next few days learning to make dumplings, tasting local wine, hiking to villages and monasteries, and even playing volleyball with the locals. G Adventures will pair solo travelers with a same-gender roommate so you don’t need to pay a single supplement. This trip is available on select dates through December 2020.

Eat Your Way Through Central Mexico

Oaxaca City Street Mexico.

Flash Pack targets solo travelers in their 30s and 40s, matching each person up with a same-gender roommate so you can avoid single supplements. If you love good food and unique culture, give Flash Pack’s Cultural Journey into the Heart of Mexico trip a try. The eight-night itinerary features tequila tasting in Mexico City, a cooking class in Oaxaca, and lunch aboard a vibrantly colored trajinera boat in Xochimilco. You’ll also go swimming in natural thermal pools at the foot of the world’s only petrified waterfall. This trip departs on select dates between April and December 2020.

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Spot Rare Wildlife in Madagascar

black and white ruffled lemur madagascar.

Keep an eye out for lemurs, chameleons, boa constrictors, and numerous rare birds as you travel with Explore! through Madagascar: The Lost Continent.  In addition to wildlife-watching treks through the island’s national parks, this itinerary also features a walk along a spectacular canyon, a visit to Madagascar’s oldest palace, and a stay in a local community guesthouse. Explore! will match you with a same-gender roommate if you don’t wish to pay a single supplement. This trip has departures between April and November 2020.

Go Off the Beaten Path in Nicaragua

granada cathedral Nicaragua,

Less visited than neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua has its own magic to discover. Road Scholar puts some of the nation’s most intriguing spots on display in its seven-night Exploring Nicaragua: Colonial Towns to Countryside package, with highlights such as a visit to a rum factory (complete with tastings), a cooking workshop in Leon, a walk through a cloud forest, and an expert talk on Nicaragua’s history by a former guerilla. Road Scholar is currently offering single rooms at no added cost on this itinerary. This trip has several departures between September and December 2020.

Discover the Best of Tuscany and Umbria, Italy

tuscany italy winding road.

There’s a reason Tuscany and neighboring Umbria are two of Italy’s most beloved regions. Discover them for yourself on Insight Vacations’ Country Roads of Umbria & Tuscany tour, an eight-night voyage to destinations such as Florence, Assisi, Siena, and San Gimignano. You’ll dine in the kitchen of a local chef in Orvieto, then learn about traditional textile weaving in Perugia and visit a family-run olive mill in Assisi. Single supplement discounts up to 90 percent are available on select departure dates between May and October 2020.

[st_related]3 Ways for Solo Travelers to Avoid Single Supplements[/st_related]

Have an Adventure with Fellow Women

woman standing above dubrovnik.

If you, like many female travelers, feel safer and more comfortable in the company of other women, consider booking a trip with Adventure Women, which offers active, women-only tours to destinations around the world. Most of the company’s clients come alone, so you’re sure to find common ground with your fellow travelers. Solo vacations for 2020 with availability at press time include a nine-night Tanzania safari, an eight-night sailing trip around Croatia, a nine-night culture-focused trip to Oman, and more. You can choose to be matched with a roommate or pay a little extra for your own room.

For more ideas, see The Top Travel Destinations for 2020.

More from SmarterTravel:

Sarah Schlichter wants to take every one of these solo vacations. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Food & Drink Historical Travel Island Outdoors

10 Fun Off-Resort Things to Do in Oahu

It’s easy to soak up the sun on Waikiki Beach for a week, sampling the area’s many restaurants and taking side trips to nearby Pearl Harbor or Diamond Head. But if you limit your Hawaiian vacation to just one area, you’re missing out. There are plenty of other things to do in Oahu, an island that spans 597 square miles of golden beaches, crashing waves, deep green forests, and laid-back surf towns.

To learn about Honolulu’s most popular attractions, see SmarterTravel’s Honolulu Travel Guide. But for the best things to do in Oahu outside the capital city, read on.

Have an Adventure

atvs at kualoa ranch

Sprawling across 4,000 verdant acres on Oahu’s Windward Coast, Kualoa Ranch offers just about every adventure you can imagine, from horseback riding and zip-lining to kayaking and ATV tours. This private nature reserve is also a popular Hollywood filming spot; movie tours lead visitors past familiar landmarks from films and TV shows such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, and Lost.

You can also relax at Kualoa’s exclusive Secret Island Beach, where you can swim, kayak, play beach volleyball, or simply enjoy the views of Mokolii, a small island off the coast also known as “Chinaman’s Hat.”

Other adventurous things to do in Oahu include a hike or off-road expedition with North Shore EcoTours. The company operates on private conservation land, so there are no other tourists around.

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Hit the Beach

oahu beach

Waikiki is the island’s most famous (and most crowded) beach, but there are plenty of other golden stretches of sand on Oahu where you can lay your towel. On the island’s Windward (eastern) Coast is Kailua Beach Park, which spans more than two miles and includes bathroom facilities, picnic tables, and multiple parking lots. Its calm waters are popular for swimming and kite surfing. Nearby is Lanikai Beach, which some travelers find even more beautiful, despite its lack of facilities and limited parking.

On the North Shore are beaches with towering wintertime waves for surfing, including Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. Or head to the Leeward Coast on the west side of the island to catch the sunset from Keawaula Beach, also known as Yokohama; keep an eye out for dolphins or whales.

Help alleviate the environmental effects of your visit by participating in a beach cleanup. The company Travel2change offers a variety of activities like a yoga class or biking trip combined with a beach cleanup after your desired activity.

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Soak Up Local History and Culture

performer at polynesian cultural center

Oahu may be best known for beaches and natural beauty, but it’s also home to a wealth of fascinating cultural attractions. Start with the Polynesian Cultural Center, where you can watch performances and visit villages representing the cultures of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Aotearoa. The popular attraction now offers immersive cultural experiences with locals like the Umu Making Experience. Each ticket entry (when purchased online) allows you to come back for free for three days, so you can experience other parts of the center.

Learn about the island’s history at Hawaii Plantation Village, which features restored buildings from the sugar plantation era of 1850 through 1950. Follow it up with a visit to Queen Emma Summer Palace, the former royal mountain retreat that’s now a museum housing furniture and regalia belonging to the 19th-century queen. Oahu is also home to spectacular museums like the Bishop Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, the Hawaii State Art Museum, Iolani Palace, and the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design.

And don’t discount Oahu’s modern art scene; street art is increasingly prominent in Honolulu and its surrounding neighborhoods. Check out Pow! Wow!’s interactive mural map of Oahu.

Taste the Island Flavors

hawaiian poke

From fresh seafood (poke, anyone?) to shave ice, Oahu offers plenty of delicious flavors to sample throughout your trip. A great place to start is at the many farmers’ markets that take place around the island, offering locally grown produce and artisan food items. You can visit the North Shore Country Market on Saturday mornings, the Windward Mall on Wednesdays and Sundays, or a number of others supported by the Hawaii Farm Bureau. If you’re in Oahu on a Saturday or Tuesday evening, check out the KCC Farmer’s Market for fresh and local food like fried mochi balls, seafood, coffee, and more.

Also be sure to explore the island’s more modern neighborhoods like Kaka’ako for juice bars, farm-to-table dining, and its own farmers’ market. And don’t leave the North Shore without trying shave ice: Visitors line up for the famed Matsumoto Shave Ice, and it’s worth it!

And, of course, you can’t visit Hawaii without going to a luau. This traditional Polynesian-style feast typically features pork roasted in an umu, or underground oven, as well as other Hawaiian dishes such as poi (mashed taro) and poke. Some of the most popular luau events on Oahu include the Alii Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Ka Moana Luau at Sea Life Park.

[st_related]10 Great Places to Try Hawaiian Food in Honolulu[/st_related]

Take a Hike

hiker on mountaintop in oahu

Stretch your legs and enjoy some of Oahu’s best views by incorporating a hike or two into your vacation. One popular, not too strenuous option is the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, located along the Kalanianaole Highway east of Honolulu. The two-mile paved trail overlooks the ocean; keep an eye out for whales in season.

Not far away is a significantly more challenging hike, the Koko Crater Railway Trail, where railroad ties now serve as steps for a steep uphill climb. The reward for all that effort? Sweeping views of Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, and other landmarks in the eastern part of Oahu.

Other trails to consider include the Kuliouou Ridge Hike and the coastal trail at Kaena Point State Park.

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Stroll Through Gorgeous Gardens

pink flowers in oahu

Nature lovers will enjoy the lush foliage and vibrant flowers in botanical gardens across the island. A particular highlight is Waimea Valley, where a walking trail winds through a mix of tropical plants and cultural sites on the way to a waterfall visitors can swim in.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden is another serene place for a stroll, spanning some 400 acres of plants from various parts of Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and the Americas. Or you can wander among the native Hawaiian plants at Wahiawa Botanical Garden, located just down the road from Dole Plantation.

You can also stop by Byodo-In Temple, a scale replica of a Japanese temple surrounded by Japanese-style gardens.

Hit the Water

surfer north shore oahu

If you wanted to, you could spend the majority of your vacation enjoying the crashing waves and turquoise waters surrounding Oahu. Learn to hang 10 with a surfing lesson at Uncle Bryan’s Sunset Suratt Surf Academy or North Shore Surf Girls. Or, for something a little different, go “canoe surfing” with We Go! Island Canoe in Kailua. On the North Shore, Sea and Board Sports Hawaii offers a little of everything, from stand-up paddleboarding to glass-bottom kayaking.

And don’t neglect Oahu’s underwater world. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, just a short drive from Honolulu, is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling spots, but you can also snorkel right off the beach at Shark’s Cove or Kuilima Cove on the North Shore.

The brave can book an open snorkeling session with famed marine biologist Ocean Ramsey and her company One Ocean Diving. The pelagic shark research snorkel teaches you about shark safety, biology, and conservation. And yes, you really get to swim in the open ocean with these fantastic animals.

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Play a Round

golf course oahu

The spectacular views at Oahu’s courses might ruin you for golf at home, but it’s a risk worth taking. Many of the most popular courses are on the grounds of resorts, including Ko Olina Golf Club, which features a Ted Robinson-designed course with plenty of water features, and Turtle Bay, which has two 18-hole courses on the scenic North Shore.

Non-resort courses to consider include the Ewa Beach Golf Club, a challenging course on the western side of the island, and the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club, offering lush foliage and mountain views on Oahu’s eastern side.

Learn About Agritourism

giant machine cog on display at the decommissioned Kahuku sugar mill plantation on the island of Oahu Hawaii

Many of Hawaii’s former sugar plantations are getting a second life. One example is Ko Hana Distillers, which is a rum distillery set on a former sugar plantation. You can even combine a distillery tour with a hike through the company Hawaii Forest & Trail. Or experience even more agritourism with the Farm to Forest Experience, which includes a tour of a working organic farm and a hike with amazing views.

A visit to Gunstock Ranch is another agritourism experience on Oahu. The ranch is home to a Hawaiian Legacy forest and offers tours to help plant trees as well as go horseback riding or tour the ranch. 

Kahumana offers tours of its organic farm, which offers vocational training for locals struggling with homelessness or disability. You can also enjoy a delicious meal on site at the Kahumana Cafe.

Kahuku Farms offers tours as well as a cafe featuring ingredients grown on site. At the Dole Plantation, you can take a train tour, find your way through a garden maze, and sample ice cream made with the company’s famous pineapples.

Discover WWII History

uss bowfin submarine admiral clarey bridge oahu.

Of course, no visit to Oahu is complete without a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial, but there are three other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites that are also worth visiting: the Battleship Missouri Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum. Experiences range from guided tours to climbing aboard a real WWII-era submarine. The USS Missouri Memorial and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are located on Ford Island and accessible via shuttle buses. Here you can tour the historic battleship, see the battle-damaged airfield, and even walk inside hangars with a fleet of vintage airplanes. Tours and passes are available for all four sites.

What to Pack

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Hawaii as a guest of Hawaiian Airlines and Barclays. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. 

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.

Categories
Food & Drink

Recreate Your Favorite Travel Meal at Home: The Best Kitchen and Dining Gadgets

Still dreaming of that fresh pasta you drooled over in Bologna, the mango lassi that cooled you down in Delhi, or that Turkish coffee that woke you up after a red-eye flight? You can recreate these and other world-famous delicacies at home with these cool kitchen gadgets.

NutriBullet Blender Combo

Smoothies, soups, sauces, and more—the NutriBullet Blender Combo does it all. This small but powerful kitchen gadget can grind up everything from nuts to vegetables in seconds. The combo set lets you blend into either a 64-ounce pitcher, a 24-ounce travel cup with a handle, or a 32-ounce cup. With multiple speeds and 1200 watts of power, there’s no limit to what you can blend up.

Oxo Silicone Egg Poachers

Remember that bed and breakfast that served up the most delicious poached eggs? And then you tried to recreate them at home but ended up with a watery mess? Oxo’s Silicone Egg Poachers make it easy to make poached eggs at home—just place the gadget in boiling water and crack an egg in. The holes allow water to flow around (but not drown) the eggs. When they’re done, just pull them out using the tab. This simple tool even collapses so it won’t take much room in your kitchen.

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Capresso Coffee Team Pro Plus

Coffee is always better when someone else makes it, but in the case of the Capresso Coffee Team Pro Plus, it’s almost like having a personal barista in-house. With the press of a button, this coffee maker will grind fresh beans directly into the filter and then automatically brew up to 12 cups of coffee. You can change the slow burr grind setting for different kinds of beans, and a charcoal water filter helps make your coffee taste even better.

Dual Cheese Raclette Table Grill

If you’ve ever been to Switzerland and feasted on raclette, you know how ingenious this dish is (it’s literally a plate of melted cheese served with a few token vegetables). With the Dual Cheese Raclette Table Grill, you can now have a raclette party at home (a cheese party is the best kind of party, right?). This gadget has eight raclette pans so you can experiment with different cheese and topping combinations.

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Oxo Adjustable Temperature Kettle

If you want to make the perfect cup of tea, don’t make it in the microwave or even on the stovetop. The best tea comes from having the temperature right so that you don’t burn the leaves (for green tea, you want 180 degrees Fahrenheit, for mint you want 194 degrees, and so on). Oxo’s Adjustable Temperature Kettle lets you set the temperature with the twist of a dial so you get the perfect cup every time. The kettle is made from a cordless BPA-free borosilicate glass that’s safe for boiling water.

Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Pan

You don’t have a wood-fired pizza oven, but that’s okay. You can create gourmet pie with this nifty Cast Iron Pizza Pan that can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, on the grill, or even over a campfire. Turn out crispy pizza crusts, roast vegetables, or even bake cookies on this tool—it’s seasoned with oil for a natural non-stick finish.

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Mickey Mouse Waffle Maker

Bring back fond Disney World memories at every breakfast with the Disney Classic Mickey Mouse Electric Waffle Maker. This easy-to-use gadget serves up perfectly shaped Mickey waffles—plus it’s non-stick so you won’t be scrubbing batter out of the ears for hours each morning.

Hurom Cutting Board

Slice and dice without worrying about germs on the Hurom Cutting Board. Made from a naturally antibacterial Japanese cypress wood, the cutting board helps prevent mold and bacteria growth naturally. The wood is also good for knives, and won’t chip them. Bonus: Flip the cutting board over and the smooth side doubles as a cheese board.

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Cuisinart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

Return to your twice-a-day gelato habit like you’re still on vacation in Italy with Cuisinart’s Ice Cream and Gelato Maker. Two different paddles let you make either ice cream or gelato, and the only limitation on flavors is your imagination.

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Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Categories
Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink

The 8 Best Cheap Eats in San Diego

When it comes to cheap eats in San Diego, the options center mostly around Mexican, seafood, pizza, and beer—and that’s just fine. Prices may be low, but the best cheap eats in San Diego earn high marks for authenticity, creativity, and freshness. These are some of the best food stands, diners, and shops in San Diego for inexpensive snacks and meals.

Top San Diego Cheap Eats

Here are nine places to get a delicious meal in the sunny SoCal city without breaking the bank.

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Salud!

[st_content_ad]Salud! is a former food truck that got so popular it’s now a busy and fun restaurant in Barrio Logan, the city’s oldest Mexican-American neighborhood. When you’re looking for cheap eats in San Diego, head to Salud! for its daily taco specials and affordable micheladas. Locals line up for carne asada, carnitas, and street-style tacos, as well as beer, vegetarian options, and Mexican street corn. When you’re short on change but big on hunger, order the giant al pastor taco with shredded pork—this super-filling snack is also super affordable.

Las Cuatros Milpas

If you’re craving authentic Mexican food but can only afford to eat at the cheap restaurants in San Diego, Las Cuatro Milpas fits the bill. There’s always a long line of locals at this iconic Barrio Logan eatery—but these mouthwatering tamales and burritos are worth the wait. Plus, the line moves quickly, thanks to employees who are both efficient and extremely nice. Every tortilla served here is freshly made, and the rolled tacos are juicy and meaty.

Blind Lady Ale House

Blind Lady Ale House is a festive pub in Normal Heights. Its seasonal farm-to-table menu features creative full-sized pizzas, like the one with bacon and eggs. Quirky and down to earth with lots of craft beer—San Diego’s specialty—“BLAH” is a cool, casual, and family-friendly place to grab an affordable meal. For dessert, do a Batch root beer float.

The Crack Shack

For good cheap eats in San Diego, head over to one of the Crack Shack’s two locations—the main one in Little Italy, or the second spot in Encinitas. Both are egg-and-chicken-themed festive lunch spots serving chef Richard Blais’s inventive and affordable dishes like the senor croque sandwich, a fried chicken with pickled fresno chiles on brioche; and Mexican poutine, featuring schmaltz fries, pollo asado, and jalapeño cheese wiz. This is a casual indoor-outdoor eatery, and you can sit by the heater if you get chilly. There’s also a full bar.

Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Carnitas’ Snack Shack is a local favorite with an affordable and mostly meaty menu featuring items with pulled pork, pork belly, pork links, ham, and bacon. There are plenty of non-pork options as well, including beet terrine with goat cheese, crispy chicken, burgers, and a rib-eye steak sandwich.

Hodad’s

This throwback-style hamburger stand with a sense of humor (“Under 99 billion sold!”) is a great place to get cheap eats in San Diego. Hodad’s specializes in giant-but-affordable burgers, including the “Guido burger” inspired by Guy Fieri—it overflows with pastrami, ketchup, pickles, cheese, and more. Hodad’s has three busy but laid-back locations in San Diego: one downtown; one at Petco Park; and the original Ocean Beach spot, where it’s fun to sit and people watch. Besides the traditional beef burgers, there’s a good veggie burger, a giant serving of onion rings, and grilled cheese. 

Phil’s BBQ

Down-home, family-owned, and community-oriented, Phil’s BBQ doles out huge portions from its four San Diego locations, including an always-busy spot in Point Loma. These heavenly baby back ribs come with onion rings, coleslaw, and fries. Phil’s also sells a variety of meaty sandwiches, a cheeseburger po’boy, and even a veggie burger.

Nomad Donuts

These are doughnuts like you’ve never seen—or tasted. The gourmet options at one-of-a-kind Nomad Donut change regularly, but you can expect specialty pastries featuring unique flavors from all over the world, like the dirty chai doughnut and the black currant harissa. The vegan options here are just as delicious and fluffy. Pro tip: Get here early for crullers.

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—Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Adventure Travel Experiential Travel Food & Drink Outdoors

11 Underrated Africa Tours for Your Bucket List

If you’ve landed on this page you’ve either seen the Big Five already in South Africa, or you’re after a trip to Africa that’s more “off the beaten path.” But Africa is a vast continent, and finding the right trip here can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve narrowed down 11 tours to less-traveled African destinations that are worthy of your bucket-list.[st_content_ad]

The Best Africa Tours to Lesser-Known Destinations

Tourism to Africa is rapidly increasing, with over 2,800 hotel rooms added since late 2019 and another 6,600 new rooms coming in the next few years. Plus, new air routes from Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, Kenya Airways, and Turkish Airlines are opening up the continent to more overseas travelers. These 11 tours and destinations are now more accessible for travelers and will be sure to gain popularity over the next few years.

Get a Taste of Food, Culture, and Coffee in Nairobi

nnairobi kenya food market

Sure, a trip to Kenya and the Masai Mara are already known to most well-versed travelers, but many skip out on the country’s lively capital, Nairobi. It’s one of the most modern cities in Africa, and its stories can be told through food and culture. One of the most underrated things to do here is to take an urban city tour. Airbnb offers a walking tour called Nai Nami, or Our Streets – Our Stories. Travelers have the chance to explore the city via a walking tour led by underprivileged youths. Other off-the-beaten-path tours in Nairobi include food tours, like this authentic Kenyan food tour (from Viator, SmarterTravel’s sister site) or a coffee farm and tasting tour (also on Viator).

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Explore Lesser-Known Senegal and the Gambia

beach in Serrekunda, Gambia.

Most travelers don’t think to visit Western Africa, but the countries of Senegal and the Gambia are building up their infrastructure to be more tourist-friendly. Traveling with a group tour operator to these countries is a reliable way to experience their deep-rooted history, coastal landscapes, and local village life. We recommend G Adventures’ 10-day Classic Senegal & the Gambia tour, as it covers a lot of the region’s highlights with a good balance of guided tours and free time.

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Safari in Tanzania with the Family

REI tanzania tour africa.

The gorgeous landscapes of Tanzania offer just as much, if not more, as the surroundings in South Africa. Plan your next epic family vacation to Tanzania with REI Adventures’ Tanzania Family Adventure & Safari. The nine-day trip takes you through multiple wildlife reserves, cycling on a forest canopy walkway, hiking with Maasai in a local village, and more.

Find Out Why Everyone Is Going to Ethiopia

woman tossing corn gondar ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Africa, and for good reason. The country offers unparalleled landscapes, delicious food, and unique history. Intrepid Travel’s 13-day Incredible Ethiopia tour covers all this and more. Spend a day in the capital city before heading out to the lakeshore towns of Bahir Dar and Gondar, continuing on to the Simien Mountains, and ending in the town of Lalibela, home to some of the region’s most significant religious sites.

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Go Gorilla Trekking in the Congo

gorilla trekking in congo

Travel to the heart of Africa on this all-inclusive safari and gorilla trekking trip with Deeper Africa. You’ll spend most of your time in Odzala-Kokoua National Park across three different safari camps. Activities include a kayak safari, a boat cruise, forest walks, gorilla trekking, and night walks with the chance to see western lowland gorillas, the guereza colobus mustached monkey, forest buffaloes, and forest elephants.

See Three National Parks on a Luxury Safari in Rwanda

silverback gorilla rainforest.

African Travel’s Discover Rwanda tour explores three national parks over the course of 11 days: Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, and Volcanoes National Park with stays at luxurious accommodations like a One&Only resort. No stone is left unturned with this itinerary, which includes game drives, canopy walks, chimpanzee trekking, hiking, gorilla trekking, and more. Rwanda is home to dozens of animals such as lions, black rhinos, shoebills, buffalo, leopards, elephants, giraffes, spotted hyenas, zebras, elands, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

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Relax with a Beach Escape to Zanzibar

stone town zanzibar.

Looking to chill out on one of the most pristine coastlines in the world? Head to the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar for a few days of pure relaxation. Contiki’s six-day Zanzibar Beach Escape includes five nights on the main island, Ungujain, in a beachfront hotel with plenty of free time to explore. Snorkel, dive, and enjoy watersports for a few days, and then explore the capital, Stone Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also attend full moon parties, eat at the Rock Restaurant, and take a day trip to Prison Island.

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Discover Africa by Train on the Rovos Rail

train on journey in south africa

While there aren’t too many ways to explore Africa by rail—yet—Vacations By Rail’s Rovos Rail journey is truly an off-the-beaten-path way to experience multiple countries on the continent. Spend six nights aboard a luxury train, as well as a night in a game lodge in Etosha National Park in Namibia and a night at Soussusvlei Lodge. Along the way you’ll see dramatic landscapes like Big Hole, Fish River Canyon, the Kalahari Desert, the Namib Desert, Walvis Bay, and Etosha National Park. Other stops include the Diamond Mine Museum, Windhoek (Namibia’s capital), and Upington in South Africa.

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Take a Safari-Cruise in Southern Africa

croisieurope boat african dream deck.

CroisiEurope’s Southern Africa Safari-Cruise tour is truly a bucket-list experience in a relatively less crowded region of Africa. The highlights of this tour include the comfortable boat, the African Dream, built by the river cruise company, as well as game drives in Chobe National Park (home to a quarter of the continent’s elephant population). Plus, unadvertised experiences, like seeing the Milky Way every night while sleeping on the largest manmade lake in the world, can’t be beat.

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Experience Madagascar a la Jane Goodall

eastern lesser bamboo lemur madagascar.

The 14-day Highlights of Madagascar tour by G Adventures is endorsed by primatologist Jane Goodall, which means the trip not only has a low impact on the environment but also contributes to the protection of wildlife and supports local communities. You’re guaranteed to see amazing animals and landscapes on this itinerary, including lemurs, baobab trees, natural swimming pools, beaches, and rice paddies.

This tour also includes a stay at a local community guesthouse as well as visits to an artisan workshop and a traditional healer.

Spend a Week Sleeping on the Nile River

temple of karnak cairo egypt.

Most travelers visit Egypt for the epic Pyramids and don’t spend much time exploring the rest of the country’s offerings. (Did you know, for instance, that the Aswan High Dam’s reservoir capacity is five times the size of the Hoover Dam?) The 12-day Splendors of Egypt & the Nile tour by Uniworld gives you ample time both in the rising capital city of Cairo and on the famed river. Sailings are set to start in the fall of 2020 and include a full week aboard a brand-new ship, the S.S. Sphinx. Included excursions span from lesser-visited temple visits to bird-watching boat rides, and, yes, visits to the Ancient Memphis sites.

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What to Pack

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Which Country Is Right for You?

While both Portugal and Spain occupy the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, you may be wondering: Which one should you visit? The best answer is both, of course, but which one to choose depends on what kind of vacation you want to have. Here’s the ultimate rundown on Portugal vs. Spain so you can make the best decision.

Portugal vs. Spain: Language

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal. It’s fairly similar to Spanish, but a word that goes far is obrigado/a for “thank you” (not to be confused with the Spanish gracias).

Spain gets a bit more complicated. While the predominant language is Spanish, and you can hear and see that everywhere, Spain has several semi-autonomous regions that are proud of their heritage and language. I once hopped into a cab in Barcelona and received a grouchy “Catalan or English—no Spanish!” when I tried to give my address. Catalan is spoken widely in places like Barcelona and Valencia, but there’s also Galician in Galicia, and Basque in places like Bilbao.

The good news? English is also widely spoken in both countries, especially in the bigger cities.

Winner: If you speak Spanish, Spain is much easier to navigate. But for simplicity’s sake, Portugal wins this round.

Portugal vs. Spain: Food

pasteis de nata portugal.

Portugal offers some of the best seafood in the Mediterranean, with delicious cod, octopus, prawns, and sardines. It’s less known than other “fine dining” destinations like France, so as a result, incredible multi-course dinners are fairly affordable. This is changing quickly though, with Michelin awarding its first stars to Portuguese restaurants in 2019.

Most restaurants open late—if you can get in at 7:00 p.m., you’re likely in a tourist spot—with dinners stretching into the wee hours of the morning.

One famous dessert you can find in Lisbon is pasteis de nata, an egg custard tart sprinkled with the tiniest bit of powdered sugar. It’s heaven in a bite, and worth the long wait at Pastéis de Belem, around the corner from Jeronimos Monastery.

Spain is globally known for its delicious food, especially its avante-garde fine dining scene made famous by Ferran Adria. But Spanish food is equally delicious in its simplest form: cured meats, cheeses, and olives. You’ll find regional specialties from jamon iberico in Andalusia to paella in Valencia and sea urchin in Costa Brava.

Like Portugal, restaurants are open late. But Spain also enjoys a thriving tapas and pintxos scene—small plates at tiny standing-room-only bars—where you can start your dinner as early as 4:00 p.m.

Winner: This one is close—you won’t go wrong! Portugal is easier for vegetarians and pescetarians, but Spain continues to produce globally renowned restaurants and high-quality food across every region, making it the winner.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Wine

In Portugal, head north to Porto, the birthplace of port. You can take a river cruise through the Duoro Valley and sample not just tawny but also ruby, rose, and white port. While you’re there, try vinho verde or “green wine,” which is crisp, acidic, and perfect to pair with seafood, not unlike a sauvignon blanc. Or you can explore the island of Madeira for a wine you’d rather drink than cook with (trust me!).

Spain is known mostly for bold, fruity tempranillos from the Rioja region (similar to a pinot noir or a cabernet sauvignon, depending on how they’re aged), but you’ll also find sparkling cava in Penedes and bright sherries from Jerez. You’ll generally find delicious, surprising options anywhere in the country.

Winner: This one depends on your wine preferences! If you’re a red wine drinker, Spain. If you’re a white wine drinker or into fortified wines, it’s Portugal all the way.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Key Destinations

beach near lagos algarve portugal.

Start your Portugal trip in the capital city of Lisbon. Covered in tiles and palm trees, it doesn’t feel like the major metropolis it really is. Climb up to the historic Alfama neighborhood, listen to fado fading through the alleyways, ride an iconic yellow tram, or head to Belem to explore monasteries and palaces of old.

Portugal’s charm comes from its laid-back cafe culture. Nearby Sintra offers colorful castles and palaces that inspired Hans Christian Andersen. You’ll find delightful small towns across the country, especially Cascais, Sortelha, and Amarante. Explore medieval Obidos or the Roman ruins in Coimbra.

Portugal’s coastline boasts deep cliffs and gorgeous views. Whether you explore the caverns of Lagos, surf or sea kayak in Albufeira, or hop over to the Azores Islands, you’ll find less crowded beaches than elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

In Spain, you’ll have your pick of big cities between Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid offers cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, world-class museums, and imperial palaces; Barcelona has funky Gaudi architecture, wide-open avenues, and plenty of delicious food.

Head south to Andalusia to slow down and experience Moorish architecture or Granada’s famous Alhambra. Another alternative: Head north to Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls or make the pilgrimage by foot on the Camino del Santiago to the Santiago de Compostela. Try your hand at world-class rock climbing in the Pyrenees, cheer for your favorite team at a soccer match in Barcelona, or watch flamenco dancers twirl and stomp in Seville.

Then, when you’re ready to relax, head to the beach: Spain has nearly 5,000 miles of coastline for you to choose from. Whether you want to hang out in the sleepy fishing town of Cadiz or island hop to nightlife centers like Ibiza or Mallorca, you’ll find perfect cliffside beaches across the country.

Unlike Portugal, Spain struggles with overtourism, which has made it more difficult to visit due to long lines and crowds from cruise ships dropping thousands of visitors overnight. All that really means is you’ll have to adjust your expectations, be willing to pay for a tour to skip the lines, or travel during the shoulder or off-season.

Winner: This one also depends on what you like. For big cities with medieval charm and pristine, relatively empty beaches, Portugal’s the winner. For outdoor enthusiasts and art and architecture lovers, Spain wins this round.

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Portugal vs. Spain: Cost of Travel

I’ll use two of the most popular destinations in both countries as a proxy for cost—it does vary between high season and low season, and depending on whether you’re in a more popular tourist area. Porto, Portugal, for example, is much cheaper than Lisbon; the little white village of Ronda in Spain is much cheaper than bustling Madrid.

Is Portugal cheaper than Spain? Overall, yes. In Lisbon, you can find a great hotel for around $100 a night depending on the neighborhood, averaging out around $175/night. The average hotel in Barcelona is closer to $200 or $250 depending on the neighborhood.

For restaurants, you’ll pay between 10 and 15 euros for a main course in Lisbon, while Barcelona tends to be between 20 and 30 euros, especially if you’re trying to bag bucket-list dining experiences like a table at Tickets.

Attractions in Portugal also tend to be cheaper—for example, a ticket for the Tile Museum in Lisbon costs 5 euros, while the Prado in Madrid costs 15.

Winner: If you’re on a budget, you won’t beat Portugal’s value. While Spain is definitely still on the cheaper side for most of Europe, Portugal’s the winner.

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The Bottom Line

mijas spain street with plants.

Both Portugal and Spain offer a wide variety of exciting attractions and delicious food.

Head to Portugal if you’re a seafood fanatic wary of crowds, or if you’re on a budget. Portugal is an up-and-coming destination that will surprise you.

If you’re really into fine dining, world-class museums, or rock climbing and hiking, Spain is a great choice. It’s the type of destination you can visit again and again and experience something new.

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Always in search of adventure, Kayla Voigt hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the start of the Boston Marathon. You can usually find her at the summit of a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Say hi on Instagram @klvoigt.

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14 Things a Hotel Concierge Can Do for You (And 6 Things They Can’t)

Few travelers think to contact the hotel concierge for much more than directions or restaurant recommendations—but if you don’t, you’re missing out on a wealth of local expertise. A good hotel concierge has impressive powers and can assist with almost any travel problem you might face, so you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage.[st_content_ad]

That said, a concierge is not a magician. Below are 14 things your hotel concierge can do for you, six more they can’t, and four tips for maximizing your moments at the hotel lobby.

What a Hotel Concierge Can Do for You

Save You Money

The concierge can tell you how to get to the airport for less, where to find nearby happy hours, what the best free sights and activities are, and how much is a fair price for a taxi.

Recommend Fitness Facilities

If your hotel doesn’t have a gym or lacks the equipment you want, the concierge can usually point you to an affiliated hotel with better facilities, recommend a good running trail, or give you a list of nearby fitness centers that offer daily or weekly passes.

Get You a Ride When There Seems to Be None Available

If it is rush hour, raining, or really late, finding a taxi or Uber ride can be tough. The concierge can make this happen with a phone call in many cases. This can even work if you’re not staying at the hotel in question. I once saw a friend walk into the lobby of a New York hotel and offer the concierge a tip; within seconds, we had a ride.

Get Tickets for You

Many concierges are careful to say they can’t get tickets for sold-out shows, but the truth is they sometimes can. They may have relationships with brokers, or know season ticket holders who may not be using their seats, or even have tickets themselves; Michael Fazio, author of Concierge Confidential, started to purchase tickets to certain shows that he would then sell to guests, usually at a markup that matched the secondary market.

Keep You Safe

A concierge can offer advice on whether a neighborhood, park, or activity is safe to visit, and what you can do instead if your idea is iffy.

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Help You Celebrate

Are you proposing to your partner or celebrating a landmark birthday? Your hotel concierge can help with anything from filling your hotel room with flowers and balloons to organizing a rooftop proposal, complete with a photographer to document the occasion.

Help You Do Your Job

A concierge can assist with all kinds of work-related tasks, such as getting materials to a printer, setting up a courier service, mailing packages, and setting up a meeting space.

Help You Look Good

A concierge can get you an appointment with a barber or hairdresser, get clothes pressed, and more.

Fix Sticky Travel Problems

A concierge can help you find an expeditor or make an embassy appointment if your passport is stolen, or facilitate repairs if your smartphone goes on the fritz. They can also accept overnight mail or late-arriving luggage.

Get You a Table

Restaurants will often find a way to fit in customers who are recommended by their preferred concierge contacts. If the restaurant is truly full, the concierge can often get you to the front of a waiting list.

Recommend Local Service Folks

Need a babysitter, an auto repair shop, or a dog walker? Your concierge can help.

Create a Custom Itinerary

If you have a bunch of stuff you definitely want to do but are uncertain how to make it all fit together, the concierge can take your list of attractions and put together a coherent and achievable plan. He or she can also help you avoid pitfalls such as road construction or closed subway stations.

Help with Special Needs

If you are disabled, aren’t feeling well, or have other special needs, a hotel concierge can offer considerable assistance—like calling wheelchair-accessible taxis, finding English-speaking doctors, and recommending restaurants that can accommodate certain food allergies.

Provide Assistance Before You Arrive

The concierge can be a resource not just once you’re at the hotel but beforehand as well. For instance, he or she could help you plan out your first day, including a restaurant reservation for dinner.

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What Your Hotel Concierge Can’t Do for You

Gossip

Discretion is an integral part of a concierge’s job, so they tend not to talk about other guests, including which celebrities might be staying in the hotel.

Illegal or Immoral Activities

You shouldn’t expose a concierge to risk by asking him or her to help with illegal—or dubiously legal—activities such as obtaining drugs, forging signatures, finding “companions,” or the like.

Babysit

A concierge can help you find someone else to look after your child, but he or she can’t actually do the babysitting while on duty.

Float You a Loan

They’ll help you with money concerns, but concierges are not banks; don’t ask them to dig into their pockets for you.

Sell Stuff for You

Concierges are also not your personal eBay or Craigslist; they can’t sell tickets you no longer need or items you don’t want to take home. However, he or she may be able to recommend a place where you can do the sale yourself.

Book Tickets to Sold-Out Shows

Truly sold-out shows tend to be just that; however, you can ask if the concierge has any ideas or contacts to help get you tickets, and he or she might have a strategy for you. If there is truly no way to get certain tickets, the concierge will tell you so.

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Tips for Using a Hotel Concierge

Don’t Be Shy

You might feel as though the concierge is only there for the folks in the penthouse suite, but this isn’t the case; he or she is there to help all guests, so feel free to ask.

Give Them Some Time

Concierges can often pull off difficult tasks, but to do so on very short notice is tricky, and it distracts them from helping other guests. Give the concierge some notice if you need something beyond simple advice.

Present the Concierge’s Card

When a concierge sends you to a restaurant or other establishment, it is often his or her name, not yours, that is the attraction for the proprietor. So if a concierge asks you to show his or her card, do it; these relationships are what makes concierges able to help you now and in the future.

Not All Concierges Are the Same

Concierges at the very best (and most expensive) hotels are notorious for pulling off near-miracles; those at less prestigious establishments typically don’t have the same pull.

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated with the latest information.

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22 Amazing Philadelphia Restaurants (That Aren’t Known for Cheesesteaks)

Philadelphia may be famous for cheesesteaks, but this cosmopolitan city also offers plenty of more sophisticated fare, from Mediterranean small plates to farm-to-table vegetarian dishes. Pack your appetite and check out this list of the best Philadelphia restaurants to sample on your next trip.

Buddakan

dish at buddakan philadelphia.

A waterfall and a 10-foot Buddha statue greet diners at Buddakan, one of the most perennially popular Philadelphia restaurants. The wide-ranging Asian menu includes everything from sashimi and dumplings to pad Thai and lamb chops grilled with Mongolian BBQ sauce.

Positano Coast

dining room at positano coast philadelphia.

The bright, airy dining room at Positano Coast offers an attractive backdrop for its seasonal Mediterranean dishes. Choose from classic Italian options like eggplant parmigiana or veal marsala, or savor seafood dishes like the zucchini crabcake or pan-seared branzino.

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High Street on Market

man eating pasta at high street on market.

Many of the breakfast, brunch, and lunch dishes at High Street on Market feature fresh bread from the restaurant’s own bakery—including the avocado toast with pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs, and feta, which appears on the breakfast menu, and the “best grilled cheese ever,” served at lunch with cheddar and butter on potato bread. At dinner, the focus is farm-to-table fare.

City Tavern

dining room at city tavern philadelphia.

Founded in 1773, the historic City Tavern is kitschy but fun, with waiters dressed in colonial costume. On the menu are traditional dishes like braised rabbit and Martha Washington-style colonial turkey pot pie, but also fried tofu, the directions for which were inscribed in a 1770 letter from Franklin. Bonus: George Washington and Benjamin Franklin really did eat here.

Reading Terminal Market

reading terminal market philadelphia.

One of Philly’s favorite spots for lunch is Reading Terminal Market, housed in a huge, late-19th-century railroad shed at 12th and Arch Streets. Vendors at the market offer nearly every imaginable cuisine, from smoothies and seafood to gyros and pad Thai. You can also pick up local favorites like Amish home-baked goods and, yes, cheesesteaks.

Barbuzzo

meal at barbuzzo.

Barbuzzo is on 13th Street, in a once-desolate neighborhood that has recently transformed into the trendy Midtown Village with new restaurants and boutiques. The Mediterranean-inspired fare includes seasonal pastas, pizzas, and main dishes such as grilled octopus. Small plates, sophisticated farmhouse decor, and reasonable pricing will help you forget about the cramped tables.

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El Vez

taco at el vez philadelphia.

Many locals believe El Vez serves the tastiest tacos in the city, and they’re not alone; the restaurant’s shrimp taco made a recent list of America’s best. Other highlights on the menu include margaritas, carne asada, and freshly made guacamole.

Devon Seafood Grill

bar at devon seafood grill.

The Devon Seafood Grill, located in the Rittenhouse Square area, is one of the best Philadelphia restaurants for an upscale evening out. The menu changes depending on the fresh catch of the day, but usually includes favorites such as jumbo lump crab cakes, freshly shucked oysters, and grilled Atlantic salmon.

Zahav

bar at zahav philadelphia.

One of the hottest spots in town is Zahav, whose name means “gold” in Hebrew. The Israeli menu features hummus, vegetable salads, small plates (fried cauliflower, haloumi cheese), and coal-grilled main dishes such as beef kebab and chicken shishlik.

Monk’s Cafe

monk's cafe philadelphia.

For pub fare try Monk’s Cafe, offering comfort food favorites like burgers and macaroni and cheese, as well as a wide selection of fine brews. “If you think that you don’t like beer,” the restaurant’s website claims, “then you have never really tasted quality beer.”

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Cuba Libre

the bar at cuba libre philadelphia.

Cuba Libre, a restaurant and rum bar in Old City, is eclectic and dynamic (and has fabulous mojitos). The menu offers Cuban and Latin favorites like arroz con pollo, and, of course, the classic Cuban sandwich.

Vedge

diners at vedge philadelphia.

Even dedicated carnivores find themselves savoring the cuisine at Vedge, a vegan restaurant in Center City. The ever-changing menu emphasizes seasonal local vegetables, with indulgent desserts such as white chocolate “cheesecake” and strawberry shortcake.

Suraya

colorful dishes at suraya philadelphia.

Recognized as the best new restaurant of 2018 by Philadelphia Magazine, Middle Eastern favorite Suraya starts out strong with appetizers such as baba ghanoush and fried kibbeh (beef and bulgur dumplings), leading into delicious main courses such as kebabs and black bass grilled in a banana leaf. In nice weather, you can enjoy your meal in the restaurant’s lovely garden.

Sate Kampar

dining room at sate kampar philadelphia.

Located on Passyunk Avenue, in a part of town where most of the other restaurant options are Italian, Sate Kampar offers a welcome change of pace. Malaysian dishes are the focus here, from classic meat skewers to nasi lemak bungkus, a mix of rice soaked in coconut cream and topped with sambal, anchovies, roasted peanuts, and hardboiled egg.

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Amada

people sharing an appetizer at amada.

Sample Andalucian tapas like ham croquettes and bacon-wrapped medjool dates at Amada in Old City—or splurge on larger main dishes such as lobster paella or roasted suckling pig. You can add a tasting menu of Spanish wines or sherries as well.

Kilimandjaro

diners at kilimandjaro restaurant philadelphia.

Have a taste of West African cuisine at Kilimandjaro, a Senegalese restaurant in West Philadelphia that’s popular for its grilled fish and roasted meat dishes. Consider ordering a fresh ginger-mango juice to enjoy while you wait for your main course.

The Dandelion

fireplace at the dandelion pub in philadelphia.

Located near Rittenhouse Square is The Dandelion, an English-style pub serving up classics like rabbit pie, beer-battered fish and chips, and bangers and mash. You can even stop by for afternoon tea, featuring mini-sandwiches and pastries alongside your favorite cuppa.

Butcher and Singer

dining room at butcher and singer philadelphia.

With a vibe inspired by 1940s Hollywood, Butcher and Singer is one of the best Philadelphia restaurants for a classic steakhouse experience. In addition to excellent cuts of meat, you can also enjoy seafood dishes like oysters from the raw bar and lobster a la Newburg. There’s also a lengthy wine list.

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Las Bugambilias

dish at las bugambilias philadelphia.

Order up a margarita to go with the lovingly prepared Mexican food at Las Bugambilias on South Street. The wide-ranging menu offers plenty of vegetarian options, including enchiladas and chiles rellenos, and the restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner most days of the week.

Morimoto

dining room at morimoto philadelphia.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s flagship restaurant brings the delicately balanced tastes and exquisite preparation of Japanese cuisine to Center City Philadelphia. Order a la carte—options include sushi, noodles, wagyu dumplings, and more—or treat yourself to the omakase, or tasting menu, for the full experience.

Kensington Quarters

charcuterie plate at kensington quarters.

Enjoy solid American fare in the up-and-coming Fishtown neighborhood at Kensington Quarters. Popular items on the menu include the excellent KQ burger, served with smoked cheddar and garlic aioli, and the mixed charcuterie appetizer.

Vientiane Cafe

table full of food at vientiane cafe philadelphia.

Vientiane Cafe has been serving up authentic Lao and Thai cuisine in West Philly since 2002. Try the laab, a traditional Lao dish in which meat or tofu is marinated with a mix of roasted rice powder, lime juice, kalanga, mint, cilantro, and bean sprouts. Other options include curries, noodle dishes, fried rice, and more.

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Sarah Schlichter visited the city as a guest of Visit Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration. Carolyn Spencer Brown contributed to this story.

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The Best Cheap Eats in Las Vegas

In addition to your standard fast food outlets, which are lit-up electrified versions of themselves here, there are plenty more original options for cheap eats in Las Vegas.

The Best Cheap Eats in Las Vegas

These are our 10 favorite places to get an affordable meal in Sin City.

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Krung Siam Thai

Krung siam thai

[st_content_ad]Las Vegas’s Chinatown, a bit off the strip, is a wonderful place to go for an affordable and delicious Asian meal. Krung Siam Thai is one of the best options in that district—prices are quite accessible, and the food is fresh, delicious, and authentic. It comes out quick, brought to you by attentive servers in a casual dining room that occasionally features live musicians.

The menu includes an adjustable heat scale, so order your food spiced up according to what your taste buds can handle. Share a grilled beef sirloin, roasted duck, or deep-fried catfish with chili paste. The vegetarian options here are fantastic, too.

Evel Pie

Mr. mamas

For a fun pizza experience, zoom over to Evel Pie, a hopping Evel Knievel-themed joint decorated with memorabilia and photos related to the motorcycle stuntman’s rip-roaring career. These are some good cheap eats in Las Vegas—order a cheesy New York-style slice (starting at $4) or a made-to-order hot pie. Try the Barry White Pie or Cheesy Rider, and wash it all down with cold beer.

Mr. Mamas

Mr. mamas

For amazing breakfasts at affordable prices, head off the Strip to family-owned Mr. Mamas, a cute diner with a splashy black-and-white floor. Service is friendly here, and portions are large. Customer favorites include pancakes, steak and eggs, and the California omelette. The menu also lists big burgers, wraps, salads, and great coffee.

Halal Guys

Halal guys

For an excellent fast-food alternative, head to the Forum Food Court at Caesar’s Palace and walk right up to the Halal Guys counter to order some of their delicious Middle Eastern fare. Choose between a wrap or a platter—falafel, chicken, or beef gyro, topped with the Guys’ signature spicy white sauce. Service is quick and friendly, everything is wonderfully flavorful (including the baklava for dessert), and the joint stays open until 2:00 a.m. on weekends to fuel the city’s late-night revelers.

Garden Court Buffet

Garden court buffet

If you’re in Sin City, you’ve gotta try a Las Vegas buffet. But while buffets will usually cost you, the abundant Garden Court Buffet in the Main Street Station Hotel is actually one of the best cheap places to eat in Las Vegas.

Its dining room is accented with columns, filigrees, and popcorn lights. The all-you-can-eat breakfast is $9, lunch is $10, dinner is $13, and the champagne brunch is $14. This smorgasbord lets you mix and match your favorites from all kinds of cuisines: Mexican, Asian, Southwestern, pizza, rotisserie, and much more. This is where the locals eat.

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos el gordo

Las Vegas’s three Tacos El Gordo locations stay open (and busy) until at least 2:00 a.m. every night. That’s because the family-owned restaurant’s Tijuana-style tacos are beloved by locals, and prices are so reasonable that you can order as much as you want to satisfy your Mexican cravings.

The tacos are stuffed right in front of you with fresh ingredients going into handmade corn tortillas topped with scratch-made guacamole and salsa. Order off the meat-heavy menu, then wash it all down with horchata.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out burger

In-N-Out Burger has a cult following of devotees obsessed with the chain’s perfectly grilled burgers and oh-so-satisfying fries. These fans will be happy to know that the family-owned company has five locations in Las Vegas, and that they’re all open until at least 1:00 a.m.

The simple, unchanging menu offers the aforementioned burgers and fries, as well as grilled cheese and shakes made from real ice cream. This is very affordable fare, and you can get it via drive-through—but be prepared to wait a while as staffers scramble to feed their hungry hordes.

Rockhouse in The Venetian

Rockhouse in the venetian

You wouldn’t expect to find affordable food deals in the Venetian, but those in the know head to Rockhouse for its weekly specials: $1.50 tacos on Tuesdays and $1 chicken wings and $1.50 hot dogs on Wednesdays.

Frequently, this hard-partying bar will host $1 PBR happy hours, and it always offers plenty of other hard-to-turn-down drink specials. Yes, this is bar food—but it’s good, and it comes with a side of live bands, deejays, and bar-wide drinking games.

Dirt Dog

Dirt dog

Unassuming and minimalist, Dirt Dog serves up some of the yummiest cheap eats in Las Vegas. The street-food-inspired menu options include tasty and unique hot dogs (including a vegetarian option), lobster rolls, and carne asada fries. Its two locations, one at Bally’s Grand Bazaar and one at the southwest end of the city, stay open late, pour tap beer, and serve side dishes like dirty corn, which comes with crema, cotija cheese, and chili powder. The “Filthy Fries” come with guacamole and chipotle aioli. For dessert, go for the deep-fried Twinkie.

Viva Las Arepas

Viva las arepas

Venezuelan fast food? It’s a thing at Viva Las Arepas, where authentic arepas start at $5. You can also splurge on the Arepa Reina Pepiada, which comes with chicken, avocado, mayo, cheese, and a fried egg, for just $7.50.

Its two family-owned Las Vegas locations aren’t immediately obvious but are definitely worth looking up, because you’re guaranteed a memorable and delicious meal. There’s a vegetarian arepa ($5.50), as well as a shredded beef arepa, which is flavorful, smoky, and juicy. Mango juice costs $3, fried plantains are $4, and fried yuca root goes for $3.50.

Perfectly Affordable Vegas Outfit

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Airport In-Flight Experience

10 Tasty Snacks You Can Bring on the Plane

We’ve all been there: standing at the airport newsstand, desperately searching for a snack to get us through the upcoming flight. Sometimes we find something reasonable (at least until we see how much it costs). Sometimes we’re not even that lucky. The same can be said for in-flight snack boxes: It’s rare to want everything inside one, so you’re essentially paying for things you won’t eat (or enjoy).

But there’s a solution to all of this. Skip the airport snacks and bring your own instead. Here are 10 plane snacks for all types of food fans that cost less than those from the airport, can be tailored to your tastes, and will save you any pre-flight stress at the newsstand. Oh, and they all comply with the TSA’s stringent 3-1-1 rule, too.

Author’s note: I found these items at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but other grocery stores may carry similar products.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit

Dried fruit is a refreshing and healthy snack, and the variety available today makes it a snap to create something amazing. I like to buy several different types of fruit and then make my own mix, so I get a little bit of everything I love. The tropical mix (as seen above) is simple and will make your flight feel easy-breezy, but have fun mixing whatever types of fruits you fancy. This mix made enough for several flights, so it only ends up costing a few dollars per flight.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Soft & Juicy Mandarins, Trader Joe’s Freeze-Dried Mango, Trader Joe’s Coconut Strips, and Trader Joe’s Dried Baby Sweet Pineapple.

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Beef Jerky

Beef jerky

One of the greatest road-trip snacks has evolved a bit since its humble gas station days. Nowadays beef jerky comes in a variety of meat and with different seasonings—all of which are perfect for a long flight when you want something a bit more substantial than the usual light-snack fare. Choose from buffalo, turkey, lamb, chicken, and even bacon for your favorite flavor. The Whole Foods Epic Bars are a neat twist on the traditional jerky, as they include fruit and unique spices, are easy to pack, and taste more like a meal.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Turkey Jerky, Trader Joe’s Buffalo Jerky, and Epic Bars.

Feel-Good Flying

Feel-Good flying

Mom always said to eat your veggies, and now it’s easy to do that even at 30,000 feet. You can find almost any type of veggie or bean that has been dehydrated, dried, or roasted and seasoned for your snacking pleasure. Don’t believe me? How about kale, broccoli, chickpeas, sprouted flax, or seaweed? And these are just a few of the many options out there. You’ll feel good and your taste buds will thank you for mixing it up a bit.

Pictured: Go Raw Zesty Pizza Sprouted Flax Snax, Biena All-Natural Chickpea Snacks Honey Roasted, Trader Joe’s Seasoned Kale Chips, and Halo Seaweed Sea Salt.

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Cheese & Crackers

Cheese & crackers

This classic combination will cost you when ordered in-flight, but why pay high prices when you can pack your own cheese and crackers? Trader Joe’s makes it simple to do with its Spanish Cheese Tapas Sampler pack that includes three different types of cheeses, each sliced thin for easy snacking. All you need is a suitable cracker, which you can pack in a small zip-top bag. And since cheese is best served at room temperature, you don’t need to worry about keeping it cold until the flight. Plus, the entire platter costs less than a glass of airline wine.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Fig & Olive Crisps

Don’t Want a Million Wrapperzz?

Beeswax Snack Bags from Amazon

One of the newest sustainable trends is swapping traditional plastic snack bags with beeswax. It sounds obscure, but these reusable and environmentally-friendly gizmos can help you preserve your in-flight snacks and eliminate a mess.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Early morning flights are already enough of a pain without having to think about what to eat. Thankfully, there are a slew of easy-to-pack options for on-the-go breakfasts. Granola bars have always been a reliable standby, but the dried rectangles of our past have gotten a new lease on life and are jam-packed (sometimes, literally) with flavor and toppings. You can also skip the bar and opt for something a bit fancier like the individually wrapped chocolate crepes pictured above. There really is something for everyone when it comes to the most important meal (or snack) of the day.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s “This Fig Walks into a Bar” Cereal Bars, Kind Bar, Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Chewy Coated and Drizzled Granola Bars, and Jacquet French Crepes Chocolate.

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Sweets

Sweets

Nothing cures a dull flight like a little bit of sugar, and these easy-to-pack plane snacks are sure to put a little pep in your step. Enjoy mini biscotti, thin cookie crisps, or small packs of four butter cookies with your afternoon coffee or tea. Or, make your in-flight entertainment even better with better-for-you chocolate-coated peanut candies or red licorice. I like to buy the snack-sized zip-top bags and fill them with several of my favorite treats for when I need something sweet.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Soft Bite Mini Almond Biscotti, Hannahmax Baking Crunchy Cookie Chips Cinnamon Sugar, Panda All Natural Cherry Licorice, Unreal Candy-Coated Milk Chocolate Peanuts, and Pierre French Pure Butter Cookies.

Fresh Snack

Fresh snack

This timeless pairing of apple and peanut butter makes an ideal snack for those wanting something healthy and fresh on their flight. These TSA-compliant individual pouches (1.15 ounces) of nut butters make it easy to snack without a bulky jar or knife. Keep your apple slices in a separate zip-top bag or simply pack a whole apple and spread the nut butter on it before you bite. Bananas are another great and easy-to-transport option for fruit, but you can also opt for your favorite cracker if you don’t want to pack something that can spoil.

Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that allergies to peanuts and other nuts are common and can even be deadly in an enclosed environment such as a plane. You might want to check with your flight attendant and/or neighboring passengers to make sure there isn’t anyone nearby with a severe allergy before you open any snack item containing nuts.

Pictured: Gala apple and Justin’s Maple Almond Butter.

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Trail Mix

Trail mix

If it’s good enough for scaling mountains, it’s good enough for flying. Trail mix may be the go-to snack for many, but it can also be disappointing when it contains unwanted ingredients. There are two ways to combat this. Trader Joe’s sells a wide variety of different mixes, each including an array of fruits, nuts, candies, chocolate, yogurt, granola, and so on. Chances are good you’ll find something you like. They also offer some mixes packaged individually for easy transport. Whole Foods, on the other hand, offers a Make-Your-Own Trail Mix bar ($8.99/lb.), which allows you to create your ultimate mix for the flight. No sneaky filler peanuts for you.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Cashew Macadamia Delight Trail Mix, Trader Joe’s Macadamias Gingerly Mix with Cranberries & Almonds, and Trader Joe’s Handfuls of Breakfast Trail Mix.

Chocolate

Chocolate

Chocolate cravings are no laughing matter, especially when you’re stuck 30,000 feet in the air. Thankfully, you can avoid these situations by keeping a quick bite close by. Since chocolate bars are so personal and everyone has their favorite, I’ll instead share some neat alternatives to the typical. These chocolate wedges from Trader Joe’s make it so simple to get your chocolate fix with an easy-to-carry tin and 16 individual wedges. On the other hand, chocolate-covered anything is also a fantastic way to kill the craving, and these dark-chocolate-coated coconut chips are sure to take you someplace tropical.

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Wedges, Trader Joe’s Extra Dark Chocolate Wedges, and Dang Chocolate Toasted Coconut Chips.

Alternative Chips

Alternative chips

There’s no denying that potato chips make a great snack, but you can do better for your flight. Turn on your favorite flick and break out one of these individual bags of kettle corn. Each bag is more than enough for a filling snack, and you get six in a pack. This cheddar snack mix is also a great way to shake things up a bit during your favorite shows. It brings the cheese and crackers into one box and is way better than any standard airline snack. These, however, are just two ideas for chip alternatives. Have fun with the flavors and your flight will be smooth sailing (or flying).

Pictured: Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn and Annie’s Organic Cheddar Snack Mix.

For more ideas, see 31 Airplane Snacks that are TSA-Friendly, Delicious, and (Mostly) Healthy.

The Weekend Bag from Away

The Weekend Bag from Away

When traveling, everyone needs a mini-duffel bag for their immediate belongings (electronics, books, + SNACKS!), so why not get this bag that’s cute and practical?

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Kate H. Knapp also covers food-related topics for Eat Boutique, as well as recipe tests for major online publications and cookbooks. Follow her on Instagram @katehknapp and Twitter @katehknapp.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Experiential Travel Food & Drink Group Travel Historical Travel

10 Incredible European Tours for 2019

Have you booked your 2019 European vacation yet? If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Whether you’re into history, hiking, or Harry Potter, this list of the best European tours offers unique adventures across the continent.

All of the following European tours for 2019 still had spots available at the time of publication, but could sell out at any time—so book soon if you’re interested.

Visit Hogwarts on a Harry Potter Tour of England and Scotland

alnwick castle

This seven-night European tour from Great Value Vacations is a must for all Potterheads. It starts in London, where you’ll take a walking tour of locations used in the Harry Potter films, from Diagon Alley to the Ministry of Magic. You’ll also tour the Warner Bros. studio to see props, costumes, and sets. A day trip to Oxford lets you explore more filming sites on your own before you’re off to Edinburgh, where you can visit the cafes where J.K. Rowling wrote the books and then tour Alnwick Castle—which you’ll recognize as Hogwarts. Departure dates for this tour are available from April through October 2019.

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Taste Your Way Through Turkey

istanbul sweets

From delicately spiced kebabs to the famous Turkish delight, Turkey is known for its tempting cuisine—and you can try it straight from the source on this nine-night Real Food Adventure from Intrepid Travel. It starts and ends in Istanbul, where you’ll sample street food and visit a spice market. From there you’ll travel to Bodrum to visit a local winemaker, pick your own produce, and learn to make gozleme (a savory flatbread). A highlight of the trip is three days in Goreme, where you’ll take an Anatolian cooking class and ride in a hot air balloon over an otherworldly landscape filled with whimsically shaped rock formations. Departure dates for this trip run from April through September 2019.

Follow in the Footsteps of Great Composers in Austria and the Czech Republic

mozart statue vienna

Road Scholar’s 14-night Great Composers of Europe itinerary is a memorable, immersive experience for culturally curious music lovers. Highlights include a private piano performance in Mozart’s Vienna apartment; visits to grand concert halls; and lectures on the lives of Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, and others. The itinerary includes stops in Eisenstadt (where Haydn lived for many years) and Salzburg (the birthplace of Mozart) before ending in Prague, home to the Museum of Antonin Dvorak. This trip departs on select 2019 dates between May and November.

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Indulge Body and Soul on a Wellness Trip to Iceland

woman blue lagoon iceland

Need a restorative getaway? Consider this six-night wellness-focused trip to Iceland with G Adventures. Do yoga on a black sand beach, turn your focus inward during guided meditation sessions, and let the therapeutic hot spring waters of the Blue Lagoon relax away every ache and pain. In between wellness activities you can enjoy adventures such as whale watching, hiking on a glacier, and making rye bread in a geothermal bakery. This trip begins and ends in Reykjavik, and departs on select dates between May and September 2019.

Get Off the Beaten Path in Poland

gdansk street sunset

Looking for picturesque medieval towns, stately castles, and fascinating history—without massive crowds? Head to Poland. The 10-night Best of Poland tour from Trafalgar gives you an excellent sampler of what the country has to offer, including a visit to the world’s largest castle near Gdansk. Memorable experiences include dinner with a local family in the Polish Highlands and a chance to bake your own traditional gingerbread. The itinerary also includes a haunting visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This trip departs on select dates between May and September 2019.

Live Like a Local in France

aix-en-provence church

For travelers seeking a more immersive experience than a one-week vacation can give you, Smithsonian Journeys is offering the chance to live for three weeks in an apartment in the sun-soaked French city of Aix-en-Provence. The program includes a mix of free time and organized tour experiences to places like the Luberon Valley and Avignon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can also choose one or more enrichment tracks focused on French language lessons, cooking classes, or arts and culture. This trip is available in May or September 2019.

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Look for Brown Bears in Romania

brown bear in romania

Europe isn’t known as a hotbed for wildlife, but this seven-night trip from Exodus Travels takes you to a place in the Carpathian Mountains where you can still spot brown bears. The itinerary includes a visit to a bear sanctuary as well as an evening spent watching for bears from a forest hide. During the rest of your vacation, you’ll tour Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s castle), hike along pristine alpine trails, and go bird watching outside the medieval town of Brasov. This trip departs between May and October 2019.

Bike the Back Roads of Sicily

siracusa alleyway sicily

Soak up the sights, sounds, and orange-blossom scents of Sicily on a five-night biking trip with Backroads. You’ll discover ancient cave dwellings, taste fresh olive oil on a working farm, and tour the Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, a World Heritage site. And because you’re cycling at least 13 miles every day, you can sample all the pasta and gelato you want without guilt. (If that amount of cycling sounds like a lot, give yourself a boost by opting for an electric-assist bike, included with the price of your tour.) This trip departs between April and October 2019.

Discover Traditional Christmas Markets in Germany

frankfurt christmas market

There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by taking a Classic Christmas Markets river cruise with Uniworld. During this seven-night trip, you’ll warm yourself with mulled wine as you wander along cobblestoned streets through festive markets selling homemade treats and artisan crafts. Stops include the fairy-tale village of Rothenberg, Wurzburg with its stunning Baroque-era palace, and Nuremberg, famous for gingerbread and Germany’s largest Christmas market. This trip departs on three different dates in December 2019.

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Hike the Unspoiled Julian Alps

hikers in julian alps

Combine an exhilarating physical challenge with jaw-dropping mountain views on this eight-night hiking trip with National Geographic Expeditions. The trip starts and ends in the charming small city of Ljubljana, Slovenia, with stops in the cozy village of Kranjska Gora and in picture-perfect Bled, where a medieval castle looms over a pristine mountain lake. Dramatic mountain hiking trails take you across the border into Italy and Austria at various points during the trip. You’ll eat well the whole way, with cheeses from local cheesemongers and dinner at the countryside villa of Chef Ana Ros. This trip departs in June, August, and September 2019.

For more ideas, see Top Travel Destinations for 2019.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Active Travel Arts & Culture Beach Cities Family Travel Historical Travel Outdoors

7 Fun Things to Do in Wilmington, NC

Wilmington, North Carolina made headlines last year when Hurricane Florence hit the region, flooding the city with nearly two feet of rain and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. But the area is bouncing back. While some local residents are still waiting on housing assistance and repairs, most hotels, restaurants, and attractions in the Wilmington region have reopened and are eager to welcome back visitors.

On a recent trip to Wilmington, I discovered not a disaster zone but a friendly Southern city with a growing riverfront district, a burgeoning food scene, and streets full of gracious historic homes with rocking chairs on their front porches. The city is within a quick drive of several beach towns, making it easy to combine an urban getaway with a day or two of sun and sand. Below is a sampling of the many fun things to do in Wilmington, NC.

Explore Downtown and the Riverfront

historic downtown wilmington nc

The heart of Wilmington is its historic downtown, which runs inland from the Cape Fear River. Shops, galleries, eateries, and a 1.75-mile-long wooden Riverwalk make this area an excellent spot for a stroll. While it’s fun to wander on your own, a good guide can offer context and local color to bring the area to life. Consider a spooky ghost walk, a literary tour with Old Books on Front Street, or even a horse-drawn carriage ride. You can also get out on the river with Wilmington Water Tours.

One of the best downtown shopping spots is the Cotton Exchange, a collection of boutiques and restaurants housed in a 19th-century building that was once home to the largest flour mill in the South. Recommended stops here include Down to Earth for aromatherapy oils, Heart of Carolina for local gifts, and Two Sisters Bookery for books (while you’re there, say hi to Katie, the bookstore cat).

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Visit Battleship North Carolina

battleship north carolina

This WWII-era battleship is one of Wilmington’s most famous landmarks, docked on the opposite shore of the Cape Fear River from downtown. The ship earned 15 battle stars during action in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and other encounters in the Pacific.

The battleship is bigger than it looks from across the river: It stretches the length of two city blocks and has nine different levels for visitors to discover. Wear comfortable shoes for climbing from one deck to another as you explore the engine room, bridge, mess, and berthing areas. Keep an eye out for Charlie, an alligator who lives in the swamp surrounding the battleship.

Tour Historic Homes

bellamy mansion

There are three historic homes-turned-museums within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Wilmington. Bellamy Mansion was built on the eve of the Civil War, and the family who owned it had to flee to escape the war. Today it’s notable not only for its grand architecture and attractive gardens, but also for its well-preserved urban slave quarters—a rarity in the U.S.

Just a few blocks away is Burgwin-Wright House and Gardens, which dates back to 1770 and is the only colonial home in Wilmington that’s open to the public. The house is furnished with elegant antiques, while the gardens include colonial-era culinary herbs as well as flowering trees and plants.

Also worth a stop is the Zebulon Latimer House, built in 1852 and now the headquarters for the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. Tours are available to guide you through the house’s 14 rooms and tell you about the lives of the people who once lived here.

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Check Out Local Museums

wilmington railroad museum

Want to learn something new? Visit the museums of Wilmington, NC. The Wilmington Railroad Museum details the history of what was once one of the city’s key economic drivers: the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Exhibits include a 100-year-old steam locomotive, more than 20 scale-model trains, and even a Thomas the Tank Engine play area for kids.

The Cape Fear Museum is another must-visit, with wide-ranging collections of all things regional, from Native American artifacts to 20th-century photographs and toys.

Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Cameron Art Museum, which hosts a rotating slate of exhibitions as well as select objects from its own collection of regional, national, and international artwork. Leave time to stroll the museum’s sculpture garden and nature trails.

If you’ve got kids in tow, you won’t want to miss the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, where little ones can enjoy hands-on activities like playing on a pirate ship and going “shopping” in a market exhibit.

Stroll Through Airlie Gardens

airlie gardens

The lush wooded grounds of Airlie Gardens are just a short drive from downtown Wilmington. Scattered across the garden’s 67 waterfront acres are sculptures, ponds, historical buildings, a chapel made entirely of bottles, and the Airlie Oak, the state’s largest oak tree, which dates back to 1545.

Come in early spring to see camellias, azaleas, and flowering trees, or in the warmer months (mid-May through mid-October) to explore the seasonal Butterfly House.

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Get a Taste of Wilmington

oysters at surf house carolina beach

For a small city, Wilmington has a wide variety of great food. Sample it for yourself with Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours. The company runs afternoon and evening food tours to restaurants around Wilmington. Another option is Tasting History, which offers food tours in nearby Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.

Beyond the tours, you’ll want to make time for full meals at some of these popular local spots: Savorez (for vibrant Latin American flavors), Manna Ave. 123 (the city’s only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant), Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria (for pasta, wood-fired pizza, and other Italian delights), and Indochine (for authentic Thai/Vietnamese cuisine).

Hit the Beach

boardwalk onto kure beach

There are three beach towns within a half-hour drive of Wilmington, each with its own unique vibe. The closest is Wrightsville Beach, known for watersports, spas, and chic boutiques. Here you can go stand-up paddleboarding, take an eco-cruise with Wrightsville Beach Scenic Tours, or simply relax on the sand.

A few miles south is fun-loving Carolina Beach with its family-friendly boardwalk and a state park where you can see Venus flytraps growing in the wild. There’s also a lake in the center of town where you can rent paddleboats or watch outdoor movies in the summer. Don’t miss a meal at Surf House, one of the region’s best restaurants.

With just one stoplight and no full-service hotels, Kure Beach is the quietest and most laid-back of the Wilmington, NC-area beaches. You can see the remains of a Civil War-era fort at Fort Fisher State Historic Site or learn about local marine life at the North Carolina Aquarium. Fort Fisher State Recreation Area features nearly six miles of pristine, undeveloped beach.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Wilmington, NC, as a guest of the Wilmington and Beaches CVB. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Experiential Travel Food & Drink Group Travel Luxury Travel Senior Travel Solo Travel Travel Trends Women's Travel

Italy’s Best Local Wine Tasting Experiences

Nothing speaks more to la dolce vita than sipping and swirling your way through a local wine tasting in Tuscany. As well as providing the opportunity to sample some of the world’s finest vinos, each experience offers a glimpse into local life through the lens of the people who know the land best. Enter our exclusive Be My Guest experiences in Tuscany, each crafted with the desire to connect guests to the region and the people who lovingly produce each drop.

Join us as we venture through Italy, where Be My Guest all began, and explore Tuscany’s best local wine tasting experiences with Trafalgar.

Villa Ill Leccio with the Landi Family
Chianti, Tuscany

Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you step into the grounds of Villa Il Leccio, a storybook 18th-century Italian villa situated in the heart of Tuscany’s Chianti wine region. The Landi family have lived here since the late 19th-century and with a welcome as warm as the weather, you’ll never want to leave.

Enjoy the villa’s picturesque surroundings as host Giada takes you on a tour of her family’s Tuscan home, traditional wine cellars, olive groves and vineyards before reaching their tranquil garden of oak trees for a unique Chianti tasting. Although Chianti celebrated 300 years of ‘official’ winemaking in 2016, the famous drop has arguably been produced in the region for over 2,000 years. A blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti is a very dry red with an aroma that is similar to cherries and like most Italian wines, best enjoyed with food. Befittingly, guests can accompany their wine tasting with a home-cooked Tuscan dinner prepared by Giada herself, using ingredients grown in her kitchen garden and served alfresco.

Experience this on: Italian HolidayItalian DiscoveryEuropean Whirl  

Fattoria di Petroio with the Pallini-Lenzi Family
Quercegrossa, Tuscany

Located on the old road between Siena and Florence in Tuscany’s Chianti region, is Fattoria di Petroio – 280 hectares of Tuscan paradise, with an ancient villa at its heart dating back to the twelfth century. Originally inhabited by monks, this is one Italian relic that will charm you quicker than Robert De Niro.

Now home to the Pallini-Lenzi family – including Gian Luigi Lenzi, his American wife Pamela and their daughter Diana, a trained chef – the family are all actively involved in wine making, producing about 4,000 bottles of Chianti Classico annually. Not only are they producing highly-acclaimed red wine but the family also make extra-virgin olive oil from three different types of olive trees and a delicious, golden Chianti dessert wine.

Feel like old friends, as Diana Pallini-Lenzi takes you on a tour of her family’s home and grants you exclusive access to their winery. Watch as she demonstrates the family’s traditional wine production methods, while telling you about the villa’s rich past including a peek at the distinctive ‘hole in the wall’ caused by an unexploded bomb during WWII. You’ll have the chance to explore the villa’s ancient wine cellar, sip some of the finest Chianti, taste fresh olive oils and indulge in a unique type of chocolate spread made with Fattoria wines. ​

Experience this on: Wonders of Italy 

Agriturismo Borgo Della Limonaia with the Callistri Family
Pistoia, Tuscany

Discover what life is really like in rural Italy at the Callistri family’s agriturismo or ‘farm-stay’. Located at the foot of a natural amphitheatre and with the rolling Tuscan countryside as its backdrop, Agriturismo Borgo della Limonaia is an idyllic escape from the daily stresses of life.

Agriturismos are independently-owned farms that farmers have decided to open as accommodations for travellers across the world. The farms continue to run as they normally would and you can expect your room to be within the farm house or a converted out-building. The experience is informal, authentic and the best bit, the food is unrivalled.

As you stroll through gardens of ripe fruit and vegetables, Raffaelle Callistri shares the history of his home and local area – including stories from the great siege between the Florentine and Sienese armies during the 16th-century. With clucking hens at your feet, you’ll enjoy an authentic wine and olive-oil tasting before tucking into a Tuscan feast cooked by land lady, Daniela using organic ingredients from the farm.

Experience this on: Rome and Tuscan HighlightsItaly Bellissimo   

Castello del Trebbio with Alberto & Anna
Pontassieve, Tuscany

Listen to tales gone by as you step back in time to 12th-century Italy at Castello del Trebbio, a 12th-century fortress cloaked in history and intrigue. Here, at the height of the Florence Renaissance in 1478, the Pazzi family masterminded to kill the last remaining members of the powerful Medici family, resulting in the infamous feud that we read about today. Feel like part of the plot in the castle’s “Conspiracy Room” as you sip Chianti and revel in cloak-and-dagger mystery.

Join hosts, Alberta and Anna Baj-Macario as they unveil secrets of the castle’s past with a tour of its ground floor and cellars – which were once the castle’s dungeons – all the while explaining how the family now run the farm and winery using traditional Tuscan farming methods (including producing their wine in line with the stars!).

Feel like a king as you dine in the castle’s great hall on a delicious organic supper, with all the ingredients sourced from within one kilometre of the property. Lovingly prepared by the family, this is one meal you won’t forget in a hurry. Later, join the family in the castle gardens for an appertivo under the stars and professional tasting of Castello del Trebbio’s home-grown wine. ​

Experience this on: Italian ConcertoItalian GloryEuropean DreamEuropean Wonderland

2019 marks the anniversary of Trafalgar’s exclusive Be My Guest experiences – a travel industry first that started in Italy a decade ago. Book your Italy trip today, with Be My Guest experiences included on each and every one, and get to the heart of the place where it all began.

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Arts & Culture Cities Food & Drink Travel Trends Weekend Getaways

10 Best Celebrity Chef Restaurants in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the undisputed capital of celebrity chef restaurants. If you’re a famous cook, you’re not famous enough unless you’ve got a joint on Las Vegas Boulevard. Below, we’ve listed 10 of the best celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas.

The Best Celebrity Chef Restaurants in Las Vegas

It’s nearly impossible to choose just 10 great celebrity restaurants in Las Vegas, so do keep in mind that there are plenty more beyond this list, too.

Joël Robuchon

Joël robuchon

[st_content_ad]When it comes to celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas, both of Joël Robuchon’s in the MGM Grand are darn near the best. France’s most famous chef operates L’Atelier Las Vegas de Joël Robuchon, as well as the Joël Robuchon Restaurant. In the former, his exquisite recipes are prepared in front of you in an open-exhibition kitchen. Decor is red and black, sleek and classy. Order prix fixe or a tasting portion—you can’t go wrong. The latter, which is purple and plush with elegant decor and linens, is about as fancy and splurgy as you can get. And yes, it’s all worth it.

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Restaurant Guy Savoy

Restaurant guy savoy

Restaurant Guy Savoy, in Caesars Palace, is refined, quiet, and quite excellent. Guy Savoy, a master of a chef, has made sure that his Las Vegas restaurant presents as serious a fine dining experience as his lauded original in Paris, France. His Vegas spot has two Michelin stars of its own, a 13-course tasting menu, a superlative wine list, a caviar room, and a private chef’s table for those who want to see where and how the magic happens. Service here is dignified and highly attentive.

É by José Andrés

É by jose andres

José Andrés was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” as well as a James Beard Outstanding Chef. É by José Andres, in the Cosmopolitan, shows off why—it’s a hidden enclave serving avant garde Spanish cuisine; there are just two nightly seatings for eight people each, and the lucky patrons get treated to 21 courses of full-flavored surprises.

This is a bucket-list item for most gourmands, though Jaleo, the restaurant that houses it, is no slouch either. For that one, Andrés created inspired Mediterranean and Spanish dishes, presented beautifully in festive environs. The chef’s two other Las Vegas restaurants are Bazaar Meat, a large-portion steakhouse off the Strip; and China Poblano, serving Chinese-Mexican fusion food in a brightly colored dining room.

Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar

Guy fieri’s vegas kitchen and bar

Guy Fieri went to college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and seems to have gotten the town’s spirit infused into his identity—and his cooking. As far as celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas go, this may very well be the first that comes to mind. Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar in the Linq Hotel is very, well, Guy Fieri. It’s casual, busy, and fun, with nice servers and big, bold entrees. Order a Vegas-style burger and fries or share some “Trash Can Brisket Nachos.” Come here for lunch, late-night dining, lots of beer, and views of the Strip.

Fieri also operates El Burro Borracho in the Rio Hotel, right next to the next to the VooDoo Beach pool party—it’s Fieri’s signature take on Mexican food.

Border Grill

Border grill

Beloved Los Angeles chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken rose to national prominence on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales. Their popular Border Grill chain has two Las Vegas locations whipping up modern Mexican food full of color and flavor.

One is in Mandalay Bay and is great for brunch, which includes bottomless mimosas and unlimited small plates. The chefs’ second local spot is in Caesars Palace, where a ceviche bar lets you try many varieties, including Guatemalan, Peruvian, and Caribbean. Both locations feature quick and friendly service and bold Latin decor.

Bouchon

Bouchon

Thomas Keller is the revered restaurateur best known for having created the Michelin three-starred French Laundry in California’s wine country, and Per Se in Manhattan, which also boasts three Michelin stars. Joining the ever-growing trend of celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas, the famous chef transported the menu and ambiance of his much-loved Bouchon Bistro in Yountville right into the Venetian Resort.

Come for the French comfort fare and bistro classics in this high-vaulted space full of warmth, or enjoy the night views from out on the patio. In either scenario, Bouchon Las Vegas presents expert service, extremely flavorful dishes, and hand-painted murals. This being a Thomas Keller joint, there’s an extensive wine list, too.

Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen

Gordon ramsay’s hell’s kitchen

Fans of Gordon Ramsay’s hit show will adore Hell’s Kitchen, which opened in early 2018 at Caesars Palace. It’s Ramsay’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant, but the first that attempts to replicate his studio set. A life-sized video of the intense television personality greets you at the door, and then you walk into an immersive experience whose details will be immediately recognizable to regular viewers.

Ramsay is a Michelin-starred chef, and his culinary talent shines via concoctions like his smoked beet salad, lobster risotto, beef Wellington, and sticky toffee pudding. A huge bar offers craft cocktails, more than 20 wines by the glass, and a 30-option beer list. The vast 300-seat dining room features fire elements, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that face the Strip and the resort’s fountains. It’s always packed here, so book early.

Rivea

Rivea

Back in 2015, when Michelin-decorated chef Alain Ducasse debuted Rivea, his refined Las Vegas restaurant, he said of it, “Every detail transports guests to those endless summer nights in the South of France.” This romantic sentiment has held true throughout the restaurant’s existence thus far: Its inviting interior is done in cool blues and greens, and Ducasse’s French and Italian flavors, put together with local, seasonal ingredients, are always simple and fresh.

Rivea sits on the 64th floor of Mandalay Bay’s Delano Las Vegas, a sky-high perch that provides breathtaking 180-degree views over Las Vegas. While soaking in the skyline, savor small plates, main courses, and desserts that are highlighted by sommelier-curated aperitifs. Specialties here include beef carpaccio, chickpea crepes, and Provencal caponata. Adjacent to Rivea is Skyfall Lounge, where deejays spin late into the night.

Cut by Wolfgang Puck 

Cut

Wolfgang Puck is one of the world’s best-known chefs, so it’s no surprise that Cut has become one of the most prominent celebrity chef restaurants in Las Vegas. The Palazzo’s fancy steakhouse is modern and vast; rectangular chandeliers elevate the dining room, while expert servers help you choose your cut. Options include Japanese and American wagyu, New York sirloin, a 12-ounce ribeye, and filet mignon. Vegetarians can create a worthwhile dinner by mixing and matching the long and creative list of well-prepared sides. Everything comes expertly plated, as a roving whiskey cart makes its rounds.

Wolfgang Puck fans will want to visit his other Las Vegas restaurants, too: Spago, Cucina, Lupo, and Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill.

Giada

Giada

Giada de Laurentiis’s first restaurant has been a huge hit. Opened in 2014, the 300-seat Giada at the Cromwell Hotel features bright Italian flavors, an open kitchen for those who are interested in watching the chefs cook, and charming white-and-cream decor. With views of the Bellagio fountains, indoor and terrace seating, and an ambiance that melds elegance with fun, it seems that there’s nothing that the Emmy-winning Food Network star can’t do.

The top chef puts her Le Cordon Bleu education to good use here—try the polenta waffles with Nutella for breakfast, the elaborate mimosa brunch, the lunch or dinner tasting menu paired with wine, and all those fresh-baked breads and pizzas. For dessert, the lemon ricotta cookies are sublime. If you’re staying at the Cromwell, you can order food from Giada right to your room. De Laurentiis’s second Las Vegas restaurant, Pronto by Giada, debuted at Caesars Palace in early 2018.

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Beach Entertainment Luxury Travel

Virgin’s New Adult-Only Cruise Ship for Non-Cruisers Is Open for Bookings

When it comes to deciding where to go on vacation, cruising can be a very divisive topic. Often the reasons why people love cruises (the never-ending buffets, the organized activities, the family-friendly options) are the same reasons non-cruisers avoid them. But with the announcement of Virgin Voyages, a new adults-only cruise line from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, cruising is about to change.

What Makes It Different

In 2020, Virgin Voyages will begin their new four to five-day cruise itineraries for a whole new model of cruising that aims to eliminate common cruise pain points. Their first ship, The Scarlet Lady, will be adults-only and crew gratuities will be included in the cost of the ticket, which means no last-day stressing about tips. Instead of a buffet, there will be over 20 onboard restaurants to choose from, with flexible dining hours that will sometimes extend past midnight. All dining cover charges will also be included with the initial cabin price. At no extra charge, all guests will also have access to unlimited Wi-Fi and can take advantage of group workout classes.

[st_related]What It’s Like to Stay in a Virgin Hotel[/st_related]

In addition to a restructuring of the cruise business model, Virgin Voyages has also made a commitment to do away with single-use plastics like straws and water bottles, and will instead offer water-refilling stations and free sparkling water throughout the ship.

What Makes It Really Different

With so much included, a Virgin Voyages cruise is not likely to be on the affordable end of the market, but onboard, Virgin Voyages is promising an experience that goes way beyond the food and Wi-Fi. From circus acts and dinner theatre to experimental dance parties and midnight dodgeball games, their entertainment program is aiming to bring metropolitan vibes to the Caribbean. Virgin Voyages invited unique artists like Pig Pen Theatre Company and 7 Fingers Creation Collective to create special entertainment experiences for the ship, and is even planning to start a residency program at their private Bahamian beach club for up-and-coming DJs.

The adults-only Scarlet Lady will be a large ship with a capacity for 1,700 passengers, and Virgin Voyages is planning a program that aims to appeal to all guest profiles. Whether you’d feel more at home in an athletic club, a cooking class, the onboard tattoo parlor, or at the drag queen brunch, Virgin Voyages wants to make sure there is truly something for everyone.

Launching April 1st, of 2020, sailings to the Dominican Republic, Havana, and Costa Maya are now open for booking on the Virgin Voyages website, starting at $1,450 per cabin.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.