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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.

[st_related]10 Best Beaches in Honolulu[/st_related]

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.

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8 Best Mancations for Every Type of Guy

No offense guys, but many of you are tough to please when it comes to travel. While plenty of you are avid travelers, for the most part, women dominate travel decisions and planning. Whether you’re looking for a guy’s trip, bachelor party, solo getaway, or a father-son vacation, here are eight destinations where you can truly have a stress-free vacation.

San Diego, California

three men surfing in san diego california

Relax and unwind in California while avoiding the hassle of Los Angeles. San Diego makes for a great solo trip or bachelor party destination—with activities suiting both types of trips. La Jolla is a great surfing destination, while downtown San Diego is home to great nightlife. Go to a Padres game, play a round at world-famous Torrey Pines, take a craft brewery tour, enjoy rooftop bars in the Gaslamp Quarter—the activities are endless with year-round mild weather and fewer crowds than other popular California destinations.

Where to Stay: If you want to golf, stay at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines for a guaranteed tee time at the legendary course every day. Or opt to stay closer to downtown at Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter for a more urban experience.

[st_related]10 Fun Things to Do in San Diego[/st_related]

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Rome, Italy

Outdoor view of the colosseum or coliseum, also known as flavian amphitheatre

For an incomparable European experience, look no further than Rome. From the ruins of the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Circus Maximus to the lively nightlife, Rome is the perfect guys trip. You can also golf at the championship course, Parco di Roma Golf Club, with the St. Peter’s dome as your backdrop.

Where to Stay: The Rome Cavalieri offers pools, access to Parco di Roma Golf Club, gladiator training in the hotel’s private park, a central location, an Italian Super Car “experience day”, a private visit to the Vatican Gardens and Sistine Chapel, and its own art collection for the ultimate Roman experience.

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Phoenix, Arizona

Man holds a bike in the air phoenix arizona

Enjoy the desert heat in Phoenix poolside or on the golf course at any of the area’s 185 courses. Depending on the time of year, you can also catch a football game at the University of Phoenix Stadium or a baseball game at Chase Field. Take an ATV tour in the desert, river raft and fish outside of Scottsdale, or rent a boat on Tempe Town Lake (all within driving distance of Phoenix).

Where to Stay: The Arizona Biltmore boasts eight pools, private cabanas, bike rentals, desert jeep tours, Grand Canyon tours, and a championship golf course. You’ll have it all at this resort.

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Bali, Indonesia

tourists walk through the gate of a hindu temple in bali

If you’re willing to make the journey, Bali is the best Southeast Asian destination for a guys trip. You can surf at some of the world’s best beaches, relax at countless infinity pools, visit Hindu temples, and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the rice paddies and volcanoes. Once you’re there, everything is pretty inexpensive and the food, nightlife, and culture are well worth the flight.

Where to Stay: Conrad Bali is located on the coast of Nusa Dua at Tanjung Benoa and offers activity planning, golf, a beach coastline, a wellness studio, three restaurants, and multiple pools.

Maine

man hiking in the woods of main

If you’re looking to go off-the-grid, the Maine Huts & Trails is the perfect adventure trip. The hut-and-trail system is located in western Maine along trails marked by mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. There are four hut stops—Stratton Brook, Flagstaff, Grand Falls, and Poplar—connected by paths accessible via foot or bike. From hiking and biking to fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming, the options are endless. And if you’re looking for a winter trip, you can ski and snowshoe.

Where to Stay: Book your trip through Maine Huts & Trails, with rates at $90 per night, including three daily meals.

[st_related]9 Epic Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trips[/st_related]

Louisville, Kentucky

a bourbon flight in louisville kentucky

Take on the bourbon trail with your group of guy friends (and SmarterTravel’s handy five-day guide). From the bourbon to the food, Louisville makes for a great weekend or long-weekend destination. Check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Muhammad Ali Center for some non-bourbon activities.

 Where to Stay: 21c Museum Hotel Louisville also doubles as a contemporary art museum, fulfilling your childhood dream of sleeping in a museum. They offer free tours, and a great view of downtown Louisville, all within a few blocks of 4th Street’s nightlife.

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Killarney, Ireland

view of canoes on lake in killarney ireland

You can have any type of vacation in Killarney. It’s a stop on the Ring of Kerry circuit, the start and endpoint for the Kerry Way walking trail, and home to the castles, lakes, and mountains found in Killarney National Park. It also offers access to renowned golf courses and a great culinary and pub scene.

Where to Stay: The Ross is located in the heart of the town center, close to the national park. They also offer an “Off the Beaten Track” guide and cater to whatever activity you decide to do: if you’re golfing, they will store your golf equipment and offer early breakfast, or if you’re hiking, they will reserve guides, pack a lunch, and give route recommendations.

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Lake Louise, Canada

man paddles on lake louise in canada

Located in Banff National Park, Lake Louise offers a variety of activities for your guys-only trip in Canada’s “Diamond in the Wilderness.” Come summertime, the area offers hiking, ATV excursions, canoeing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and white water rafting. And in the winter, the lake is home to some of the best downhill skiing areas anywhere. Year-round, you can opt for a helicopter tour, glacier walk, wildlife safari, skydiving, paragliding, cave tours, or grizzly bear tour. Make sure to also check out the town of Banff, about a 40-minute drive away for even more activities, bars, and fine dining.

Where to Stay: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will plan your entire trip through their concierge service so you can enjoy your vacation stress-free. Choose from their seasonal guides and make sure to take one of their GoPros with you to capture your adventures.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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10 Fun Things to Do in Wildwood, New Jersey

There’s nothing like summer at the Jersey Shore, where you can spend your days relaxing on the beach and your evenings playing mini golf, riding roller coasters, and eating ice cream on the boardwalk. But while the beach and the boardwalk are the main draws, there are many other fun things to do in Wildwood, New Jersey—one of the most popular family resorts on the state’s southern coast.

The Best Things to Do in Wildwood, NJ

[st_content_ad]If you get restless sitting on the beach, active options in Wildwood, New Jersey, include biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. History buffs will appreciate Wildwood’s collection of 1950s and ’60s architecture. And there are plenty of day trip possibilities if you want to add a change of scene to your Wildwood vacation.

A note on geography: What many people think of as Wildwood, NJ, is actually three municipalities that share an island: Wildwood Crest, Wildwood (also known as Wildwood by the Sea), and North Wildwood. Cresse Avenue divides Wildwood from Wildwood Crest, and 26th Avenue marks the boundary between Wildwood and North Wildwood.

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Each municipality has a slightly different vibe—Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood have a quieter, more residential feel than lively Wildwood itself, where you’ll find the big amusement parks and the bulk of the boardwalk. But each town runs seamlessly into the next, so you can take advantage of all the fun things to do in New Jersey’s Wildwoods, regardless of where you stay.

[st_related]The Essential Beach Packing List[/st_related]

Enjoy the Beach

Wildwood new jersey beach

During peak season at some New Jersey beaches, it can feel like you’re elbow to elbow with the family under the next umbrella. That’s not a problem in the Wildwoods, home to the state’s widest beaches. Here, it’s easy to find your own personal stretch of sand for sunbathing, reading, building sandcastles, or playing cornhole.

Wildwood Beach has recently started allowing beachgoers to park right on the beach, for a fee that starts at $10 per day (it goes higher during special events). And if you’re not up for the long walk to the water across the hot sand, you can hire a beach taxi to cart you and your boogie board to the waves. Or you can head to North Wildwood, where the beaches are significantly narrower than those in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

Bonus: Access to Wildwood beaches is free all year long.

Hit the Boardwalk

Wildwood-Jersey-Boardwalk

Wildwood Boardwalk stretches about two miles from Cresse Avenue in the south to 15th Avenue in the north. During summer, it’s a kaleidoscope of activity: Kids scream from the tops of roller coasters, bright yellow Sightseer trams trundle by with their perpetual refrain (“Watch the tram car, please.”), seagulls wheel overhead, and the air is redolent with the sweet smells of funnel cake and cotton candy.

The boardwalk’s shops, arcades, amusement parks, golf courses, and eateries can easily keep you entertained all day long. If you get tired, hop aboard one of the eco-friendly electric tram cars, which run the length of the boardwalk, typically from 11:00 a.m. until whenever the amusement parks close that day. You can pay per ride ($3.50), purchase a hop-on-hop-off daily wristband ($7), or buy a book of single-ride tickets ($15 for 5; $29 for 10; $60 for 25). These iconic tram cars have been shuttling beachgoers and up and down Wildwood’s boardwalk since the summer of 1949.

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Ride the Rides and Slide the Slides

Three massive piers stretch from Wildwood’s boardwalk across the beach, featuring roller coasters, water slides, and other rides of all sizes—including a giant Ferris wheel that provides panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and Wildwood, NJ. Families will never run out of things to do at Morey’s Piers, encompassing three amusement park areas and two water parks.

Offerings for little ones include an old-timey carousel and kid-sized trains and boats. Thrill seekers should head to Adventure Pier for a heart-pounding ride on the Skycoaster, which hurtles you more than 100 feet into the air above Wildwood Beach.

Take a Morning Bike Ride

wildwood jersey bikers

Biking is one of the most popular things to do in Wildwood, thanks to the island’s many miles of dedicated bike paths. You can pedal the entire length of the island from the Wildwood Crest Dunes Bike Path up onto the boardwalk and then along the Mulberry Bike Path and seawall in North Wildwood, for a 12-mile round trip. (Note that bikes are not permitted on the boardwalk after 11:00 a.m. on weekdays or 10:30 a.m. on weekends.)

Bring your own wheels, or rent bicycles or surreys from local operators like Zippy’s Bikes, Crest Bike Rental, and D R Bradley Bike Rentals.

[st_related]Are E-Bikes the Best or Worst Thing to Happen to Bicycle Tours?[/st_related]

Behold a Blast from the Past

wildwood-jersey-starlux

What sets the Wildwoods apart from just about any other Jersey Shore community is its collection of motels, diners, and other historical buildings from the 1950s and early ’60s. Neon signs, plastic palm trees, bright colors, and angular roofs are hallmarks of this retro architectural style, dubbed “Googie architecture,” or “Doo Wop architecture,” after the music of the era.

You can learn more at the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum, housed in a former 1960s diner. This small, colorful museum features a collection of signs, furniture, and memorabilia from the Doo Wop era. The museum also runs “Back to the ’50s” trolley tours on select summer nights to show visitors the best Doo Wop architecture around town. Call (609) 729-4000 for information and reservations.

Can’t get enough Doo Wop? Stay in one of the Wildwoods’ dozens of midcentury-style motels, including the Starlux Boutique Hotel in Wildwood, Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, or Lollipop Motel in North Wildwood.

Savor a Great Meal

wildwood-jersey-breakfast-surfing-pig

Think “Jersey Shore food,” and you’ll probably think pizza and ice cream. Of course, you can find plenty of both in Wildwood, NJ: Try Sam’s Pizza Palace, which has been serving up great slices since 1957, or Cool Scoops for sweet treats in a ’50s-style ice cream parlor. But Wildwood also has plenty of other options for hungry travelers.

One favorite fine-dining option in Wildwood, NJ, is Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy seafood and steak on a deck overlooking the bay; come at sunset for great views. Pacific Grill Wildwood, for its part, offers a reasonably priced three-course prix-fixe menu nightly, along with à la carte dishes such as crabcakes and braised short ribs.

For more casual fare in Wildwood, NJ, head to Maui’s Doghouse, where you can choose from more than 30 hot dog toppings, like beer-cooked sauerkraut, homemade chili, spicy brown mustard, and spinach sauteed in garlic and white wine. The final product comes to you in a plastic dog bowl. Also in North Wildwood is The Surfing Pig, serving up burgers, barbecue, and seafood with a side of lovely bay views.

Get on the Water

Wildwood-Jersey-Jet-Skis

In the Wildwoods, the ocean and bay offer more than just pretty views. Fun things to do in Wildwood, NJ, on the water include fishing, kayaking, surfing, and wildlife watching. You can even take a swashbuckling “pirate cruise.”

The Starlight Fleet offers fishing trips as well as whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. At Lakeview Docks, you can rent WaveRunners, kayaks, fishing boats, swan-shaped pedal boats, and standup paddleboards. And Ocean Outfitters offers surfing lessons and board rentals.

Play a Round of Golf

golf

There are several golf courses within an easy drive of Wildwood, NJ. In Cape May Court House, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Wildwood, Laguna Oaks offers 10 holes spread across 200 acres. And the beautiful 18-hole course at Cape May National Golf Club was built around a private bird sanctuary.

If mini-golf is more your thing, you don’t have to look far. Popular courses in Wildwood, NJ, include Island Miniature Golf, which also has a rock-climbing wall; Dragon’s Lair Mini Golf, a medieval-themed indoor blacklight course; and Harbor Light Golf, which also sells ice cream.

Check Out Special Events in Wildwood, NJ

wildwood-jersey-international-kite-festival

Some of the best things to do in Wildwood, NJ, only happen once a year. Wildwoods International Kite Festival kicks off summer on Memorial Day weekend, followed by other annual events like the National Marbles Tournament in June, the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in July, and the Wildwoods Baby Parade in August. Autumn brings the Wildwoods Food & Music Festival and the Fabulous ’50s & Beyond Weekend, both held in October.

For more information about what’s on during your trip, refer to the Wildwoods’ events calendar.

Take a Day Trip from Wildwood, NJ

cape-may-houses

The Victorian charms of Cape May are just a 20-minute drive from Wildwood, NJ. Here, you can bike through the historic district, take a carriage ride, or visit the Cape May Lighthouse. The Cape May County Park & Zoo makes a fun—and free—day trip with children.

If casinos and big-name entertainment are more your things, Atlantic City is less than an hour’s drive from Wildwood, NJ.

Ready to hit the beach? See What to Pack for a Jersey Shore Vacation: 28 Essentials from SmarterTravel’s sister site, What to Pack.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to the Wildwoods as a guest of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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

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10 Fun Things to Do in Phoenix

Wondering what to do in Phoenix? Look beyond the resorts, spas, and golf courses. The best things to do in Phoenix also include outdoor adventures, shopping, and so much more.

10 Fun Things to Do in Phoenix

Spend your time lounging at the pool, and you’ll miss everything Phoenix has to offer. Here are 10 fun things to do in Phoenix on your next trip.

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Step Back in Time at Rawhide

[st_content_ad]If you have a family, Rawhide should top your list of fun things to do in Phoenix. The recreated 1880s-era Western town is free as long as you’re content to soak in the ambiance, watch the blacksmith at work, and visit the general store.

Attractions and shows cost extra, but are worth it. Wristbands give you unlimited access to the mechanical bull, desert train ride, wagon rides, petting zoo, gold panning, rock-climbing wall, and gunfight shows in the theater. Individual tickets are available for purchase, too.

Go Off-Road on a Segway

Most major cities have a Segway tour, but few have off-road tours, and even fewer have off-road tours through the desert. Phoenix is one of them. These guided tours include not only a fun ride but also insights into indigenous plants and animals.

Off-road Segway tours wind through the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation. Other than using bigger tires with much thicker tread, the off-road maneuvering is no different than operating a Segway on pavement, and most newbies master it fairly quickly.

Go Horseback Riding Through the Desert

Several outfitters operate in the Phoenix area, offering guided horseback rides in state, regional, and city parks such as South Mountain Park. Most wranglers weave history and geography into the ride, so you’ll learn a little something along the way.

Rides are typically nose-to-tail (for safety) and last an hour or two, but some outfitters offer half-day, full-day, breakfast, and dinner rides, too. If you’re not comfortable in the saddle, wagon rides into the desert are another good option. Before you go, confirm activity times since they often change in the summer. One recommended outfitter is Arizona Horses.

Learn About Native Animals at the Phoenix Zoo

There are several animal-centric attractions in Phoenix, from the Wildlife World Zoo to Butterfly Wonderland and OdySea Aquarium. But if you want to learn about native animals, there’s only one place to go: the Phoenix Zoo.

The zoo’s Arizona Trail is dedicated to native species, including the Mexican gray wolf, the mountain lion, and the diamondback rattlesnake. During warmer months, try to come first thing in the morning or in the evening when animals are more active.

Ride Over the Valley in a Hot Air Balloon

Before take off

Want to see native Sonoran wildlife in its natural habitat? Lift off in a hot air balloon. Animals don’t realize you’re above them as you float over the outskirts of Phoenix, so they don’t spook as you approach. Most balloon rides stay low for the first portion of the flight, and pilots point out any wildlife they see.

As the balloon rises, you’ll discover Phoenix’s unique geography. Landings are often followed by a Champagne toast and either breakfast or dinner. Hot Air Expeditions is one reputable local operator.

Shop in Old Town Scottsdale

You can spend an entire day in Old Town Scottsdale, especially if you love to shop. Old Town has boutiques selling everything from Native American jewelry and trendy fashions to Phoenix souvenirs. Some of the Valley’s best restaurants and bars can also be found here.

Old Town boasts the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Across Camelback Road is Scottsdale Fashion Square, the largest shopping mall in the Southwest with brands like Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.

Take a Jeep Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Phoenix is to take a Jeep tour through the Tonto National Forest. Most tours depart from area resorts and head into the Sonoran Desert just north of Phoenix. Guides enlighten passengers on the desert’s unique wildlife and plants and share stories about local history.

You also get to experience what an off-road vehicle can do, which is both good and bad. Jeeps and Hummers climb steep hills and pick their way over uneven ground on these tours. It’s a fun but jolting experience; skip it if you have back problems. 360 Adventures is one recommended operator.

Experience Art on First Fridays

First Friday in Phoenix is a must for art lovers, showcasing more than 20 galleries as well as performing arts venues and artist studios. You also get free admission to the Heard Museum (featuring Native American art) and Phoenix Art Museum, and local restaurants and bars feature special artwork. A free trolley shuttles you to areas of interest.

If you miss First Friday, the city also hosts Third Fridays, also known as “Gallery Night.”

Golf a Desert Course

Phoenix has more than 200 golf courses. Some have shade trees, lakes, and waterfalls, and look as though they were plucked from another part of the country. Others incorporate Phoenix’s natural terrain, including saguaro cacti and wide ravines, into their layout. If you haven’t played one of these desert courses, book yourself a tee time.

Desert play isn’t necessarily any more challenging, but but you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking and unique scenery. And it’s not uncommon to see rabbits, coyotes, and other wildlife on the course. Troon North Golf Club offers one of the area’s best desert courses.

Drive a Race Car

Have a need for speed? Look no further than Bondurant Racing School. Started by 60s race car driver Bob Bondurant, the famous school offers driver safety, high performance, and racing classes. Depending on the class, you might even have the chance to get behind the wheel of a Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

The experience isn’t cheap, and you’ll have to schedule well in advance. For a more budget-friendly day at the track, gather eight or more friends and try your skills at ProKart racing at Bondurant. You’ll still need to book ahead as a group, but it’s a seriously fun thing to do in Phoenix.

More from SmarterTravel:

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—Original reporting by Teresa Bitler

Categories
Active Travel Cities Miscellany

9 Best Fort Lauderdale Golf Courses

Lush links, easy accessibility, comparatively low green fees, and year-round play make Greater Fort Lauderdale a hole-in-one for golfers. With more than 40 Fort Lauderdale golf courses to choose from, duffers are spoiled for choice.

Fort Lauderdale Golf Courses

Fort Lauderdale golf courses include options for players of all skill levels, from exclusive private clubs and well-maintained municipal facilities to resort courses designed by the likes of Joe Lee, Bruce Devlin, Robert Trent Jones, and Tom and George Fazio.

Colony West Country Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

[st_content_ad]The Devlin/Von Hagge-designed course at Colony West is known to be challenging, especially the signature #12 hole that requires a laser shot through a cypress forest to hit the floating island green. There are bunkers and water hazards galore, and the deep rough can frustrate even experienced golfers—just what you’d expect from a course that has been named one of the 50 best in the United States. Luckily, the club offers $1/minute golf lessons for anyone looking to hone their swing.

The Club at Emerald Hills

fort lauderdale golf courses

It’s a mere mile from the Fort Lauderdale Airport to The Club at Emerald Hills, so you can get from tarmac to tee in record time. The course itself is beautifully maintained, with lush fairways and a bevy of water hazards that showcase the ingenuity of designers Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge. Both individual and corporate memberships are available, and there are also guest rates so the public can get a feel for everything Emerald Hills has to offer. The club has hosted several major events, including the U.S. Open and the PGA Tour Doral.

Carolina Golf Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

Carolina Golf Club comes with the tagline “Southern Charm in a Tropical Paradise,” and it’s a motto that fits the establishment to a tee. The clubhouse is a three-story mansion built to resemble a Southern plantation; the design team of Devlin/Von Hagge took inspiration from South Carolina’s Drayton Hall to create the imposing building and its sweeping front staircases. The course itself is a par-71 18 holes spread over 7,774 yards of greens. The grounds are semi-private, and there’s a social club that’s open to the public, so golf enthusiasts have a place to gather and discuss the day’s scorecard.

Bonaventure Golf Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

Fun is the name of the game at Bonaventure, a championship course designed by Joe Lee in 1970. The Everglades are just a stone’s throw away, and wildlife sightings are common as golfers navigate the tree-lined greens. Of particular note is the third hole, which has a stunning waterfall bordered by stacked stones and swaying palms.  Play through 18 holes previously visited by the likes of Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, and Jesper Parnevik, then visit the 19th Hole Bar & Grille where you can grab lunch and a cold beer, or tuck into Sunday brunch.

Grande Oaks Golf Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

Grande Oaks prides itself on being a tight-knit, private club, and the immaculate grounds perfectly reflect the staff’s dedication to providing members with an excellent experience. Memberships are family-oriented, so even little putters can learn to take on all 18 holes on the Raymond Floyd-designed course. Anyone needing some guidance can acquire extra training at the Grande Oaks Golf Academy, a 40-acre facility that includes five full-length practice holes, multiple bunkers, two hitting bays, a pitching and chipping green, and both Trackman and Flight Scope Launch monitors.

Coral Ridge Country Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

This members-only club boasts a challenging championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones, a second nine-hole course designed by Reese Jones, and a whole host of amenities including 11 clay tennis courts, a junior Olympic swimming pool, and multiple restaurants. Younger members can partake in the club’s summer camp, which offers tennis and golf lessons for kids ages 3 to 15.

Hollywood Beach Golf Resort

fort lauderdale golf courses

One of the oldest Fort Lauderdale golf courses, the Donald Ross-designed spread at Hollywood Beach dates back to 1924. The 18-hole, par-70 course encompasses 110 acres in a bucolic setting. There are no houses in sight, just rolling greens and tall trees that provide privacy and shade for anyone waiting for their turn to putt. Amenities include a pro shop, locker rooms with showers, and Grill 1924, a new on-site food truck serving casual fare for lunch and dinner during the week and all three meals on the weekend.

Inverrary Country Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

At Inverrary, you’ll find two of the best Fort Lauderdale golf courses in one spot. The East Course is diverse, with undulating greens, bunkers, and water hazards that have challenged famous players (Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Hale Irwin, and Jack Nicklaus, to name a few) who have attended the 15 PGA and LPGA tournaments hosted here in the past. The West Course has also seen its share of professional and amateur contests and is suitable for everyday golfers of all skill levels. Junior golfers are especially welcome at Inverrary, where they can play for free any day after 3:00 p.m. as long as they’re accompanied by a paying adult.

Deer Creek Golf Club

fort lauderdale golf courses

The Arthur Hills-designed course at Deer Creek Golf Club has been open to the public since 1971. There’s a practice range with chipping areas and sand traps, as well as two practice greens on the course; combine that with the club’s three golf schools, and even newbies can upgrade their game in record time. After working up an appetite on the green, check out the Deer Creek Grille, a restaurant and bar that serves up tasty dishes 365 days a year.

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Active Travel Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Travel Trends

10 Fun Things to Do in Las Vegas

Your conundrum won’t be trying to find fun things to do in Las Vegas—it’ll be narrowing down your options.

Fun Things to Do in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is basically Disneyland for adults, so it’s helpful to come prepared with your list of must-dos. Here are our recommendations

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Fun things to do in las vegas

Hit the Nightclubs

[st_content_ad]Las Vegas is much more alive by night than by day, so focus on nightlife when you’re planning things to do in Las Vegas. The nightclubs here, each in their respective resort, are among the world’s best. Deejays come from all over the world to spin for Vegas’s party-loving crowds.

Dress in your sexy best and prepare to dance and drink the night away in some truly impressive spaces. Your options include exclusive Hyde Bellagio, with its view of the famous fountains; opulent Jewel at Aria; celebrity-magnet 1 of a Kind (1OAK) at the Mirage; massive Marquee at the Cosmopolitan, and many more.

Fun things to do in las vegas

See a Show

When it comes to the performing arts, Las Vegas is an embarrassment of riches. There are dozens of extremely high-caliber productions here, drawing some of the world’s best talent. Cirque du Soleil runs seven permanent shows (Mystère, O, Michael Jackson One, Zumanity, Ka, The Beatles Love, and Mindfreak Live) on the Las Vegas Strip, each showcasing Olympic-level acrobats, gorgeous costuming, and exhilarating music.

Blue Man Group, for its part, is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas—it’ll leave you with your jaw dropped, and goosebumps all over. There’s also the wonderfully whimsical Absinthe variety show at Caesars Palace, magical Le Reve at Wynn, Channing Tatum’s sexy Magic Mike Live at the Hard Rock Hotel, and Inferno, a new fire spectacular at Paris Las Vegas. Plus the many famous magic shows; remember, Las Vegas is home turf for David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy, Penn and Teller, Criss Angel, and Mat Franco.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Try Your Luck at the Casinos

In Vegas, almost every hotel has a casino, and almost every adult who travels here plays at least a hand. Gambling is one of the most popular things to do in Las Vegas, thanks in part to this city’s loose slots, endless poker and blackjack tables, spinning roulette wheels, 24-hour availability, free drinks as long as you’re playing, and surroundings designed to keep you alert and engaged late into the night.

The most famous casino here is probably Bellagio’s, thanks to Oceans 11. But really, you’ll have a similar experience almost anywhere you play—tension on the seat as a fast-playing dealer either whisks away chips or pushes more toward you. Be warned, though: that “house always wins” refrain isn’t always true—but usually it is. So play what you’re willing to play, then walk away.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Go for a Hike

With so many manufactured indoor environments in Las Vegas, many travelers forget that just outside is one of the world’s most spectacular outdoor environments—the Mojave Desert, offering its rare and wonderful Southwestern scenery. Red Rock Canyon, a national conservation area, is the best place to take a hike locally, and we’d go so far as to say that a visit there is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.

Its more than two dozen trails range from super easy to super extreme. Whichever one you choose, you’ll take in fresh arid air, wide expanses of earthen tones meeting sky, smatterings of Joshua trees, and a twinkling nighttime spectacle just away from the city lights.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Admire Art

Seeing world-class art by famous masters might not come to mind first when you’re brainstorming things to do in Las Vegas. But if you know where to look, you can have fine-art experiences here almost on par with the great cities of Europe. Start at Bellagio, whose entrance showcases a glass masterpiece by Dale Chihuly. The hotel’s small Gallery of Fine Art has rotating exhibits that have featured works by Monet, Warhol, Van Gogh, and Degas. In Picasso, the Bellagio’s fine-dining venue, peruse the many hanging originals painted by the restaurant’s namesake artist.

The city’s other worthwhile art attractions include Centaur Art Gallery, where you can buy Rembrandts, Renoirs, and Chagalls; the Art of Richard MacDonald, where masterful sculptures evoke the energy and emotion of Cirque du Soleil; the modern-focused Metropolitan Gallery Las Vegas; and the vibrant Arts Factory.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Meet Animals

Animal lovers will find plenty of fun things to do in Las Vegas. There’s the massive Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, flamingos at the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat, and dolphins, lions, and tropical birds at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.

Perhaps the most authentic animal experience in Las Vegas, however, is off the Strip at Springs Preserve, where the resident animals—gila monsters, gray foxes, cottontail rabbits—are native to the surrounding Mojave Desert, and there’s a beautiful seasonal butterfly habitat.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Party Poolside

Hanging out by a pool is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas. That’s not because other options are boring—they’re not. It’s because Las Vegas pools are way more exciting than anywhere else in the world. Sure, you can find relaxing pools around town, but most are eager party scenes big on music, cocktails, food, cabanas, and people-watching. Wear your most stylish swim gear and don’t forget the SPF—the Mojave sun is nothing to mess with.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Get a Spa Treatment

Let’s face it, Las Vegas isn’t exactly the most relaxing of destinations. It’s full of nonstop stimulation, noise, and lights. When you find that you need a break from the flashy scenery and pulsing music, retreat into one of the city’s dozens of resort spas—almost every hotel has one.

Las Vegas has perfected the art of creating spaces where people can go to recharge and be pampered. Book a massage, a facial, or an indulgent mani-pedi. Many Vegas spas use organic or locally sourced ingredients, and some will also do body art for when you’re ready to jump back into the poolside or nightlife scene.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Play Golf

Tee off at Topgolf Las Vegas, an eight-acre golf-themed playground just behind the MGM Grand—it’s got 107 climate-controlled hitting bays featuring interactive golf games for all ages, lounge-style seating, and high-definition TVs. Topgolf’s balls are microchipped, which means you can track your hits’ distance and accuracy. The four-level venue also offers VIP suites, two pools with cabanas, five bars, a concert venue, a Callaway Fitting Studio, and a retail shop. For a more traditional golfing experience, head to Bali Hai Golf Club on the Strip just south of Mandalay Bay.

Fun things to do in las vegas

Take Flight

Vegas visitors looking to catch some air can head to Vegas Indoor Skydiving, where you gear up in a jumpsuit and step into a cylindrical chamber where 120-mile-per-hour winds push you upward, letting you experience the free-falling sensation of jumping out of a plane. For those who’d rather experience actual skydiving over the Strip, Las Vegas Outdoor Adventures will teach you how to jump out of a helicopter. If you’d prefer to propel your own body into the air, head to Xplozone Trampoline Park instead.

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

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Experiential Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Outdoors Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends

8 Ways to Use a Fitness Tracker When You Travel

By its nature travel gets people out into the world doing things they rarely do at home, so for folks locked into the bed-commute-office-commute-bed grind, a trip can feel liberating—but also physically challenging. If you’re feeling a little worn out during a trip, how do you know whether it’s a “good” tired due to activity, or a “bad” tired due to jet lag or too much time jammed into an airplane seat? Enter the fitness tracker, the ubiquitous 21st-century gauge of what we are—and are not—doing with our bodies.

[st_content_ad]A fitness tracker such as the Fitbit Blaze or Garmin Vivofit can take some guesswork out of life on the road. Did you really catch any Zs on the plane? When it feels like you haven’t slept in a week, is that really the case? How many flights of stairs did you climb, and does it count as a workout? A fitness tracker can tell you all this and more.

How to Use a Fitness Tracker When You Travel

While many people use activity trackers all the time, in an informal survey of friends I found that those who travel the most lean most heavily on a fitness tracker to help them stay healthy, in shape, and on track. Here are some of the ways a fitness tracker can benefit any traveler.

Protect Yourself from Getting Sick

Perhaps the clearest benefit of using a fitness tracker is to have a general sense of how much you’re sleeping as well as how much exercise you’re getting, and then to use the data to make sure you’re not pushing so hard that you become vulnerable to illness and exhaustion. This can help you stay healthy, productive, and confident on the road.

[st_related]18 Surefire Ways to Get Sick While Traveling[/st_related]

Find Out How “Healthy” Your Trip Is

Some vacations are much more sedentary than you might think. For example, a beach vacation where you spend your days outdoors and playing in the ocean seems like it would be “better for you” than a visit to a big city, but that isn’t necessarily borne out by data. In fact, a study by the company behind the now-defunct Jawbone tracker found that people took fewer steps when traveling to beach locations—they did get more sleep, however.

Your chosen destination matters as well; visitors to Delhi take around 7,000 steps per day, according to the study, while visitors to Rome take over twice that many at 15,000 per day.

Measure Your Distance Walked

Travel often requires walking distances that your daily life may not. If you’ve got an office job in the suburbs, for example, it’s pretty easy to walk only a few hundred yards on any given day—maybe 30 yards to your driveway, 50 to the office, a couple hundred while at work. I frequently work out of my house and can go almost an entire day without walking more than 10 or 20 yards at a time.

But even the most basic travel sometimes requires more steps than a day at the office. Even if you drive to the airport, you have to hoof it across the skyway from the parking lot, then to check-in, then through security, then to your gate—this alone might get you covering more ground than a regular workday.

The steps add up. The longest walking distances between gates at some U.S. airports can range from a half-mile up to two miles, according to USA Today.

These are respectable distances; two miles with a carry-on bag or two is approaching “hike” status if you ask me.

[st_related]10 Hotel Room Exercises You Can Do Without Any Workout Gear[/st_related]

Track Sleep on the Plane

Lots of us doze off at some point in-flight, and when traveling long distances these can be some really helpful Zs. In the absence of clocks, normal mealtimes, a view out the window, and other factors that help us track time, however, it can be nearly impossible to know how much sleep you actually bagged.

I have taken red-eyes on which I fell asleep before takeoff and then thought I slept almost the entire flight, with maybe a few short stirrings due to meal service, people moving around, or a neck crick. Reckoned on a fitness tracker, however, I found I did not get the nearly six hours of sleep I thought I had, but logged more like 3.5 hours of actual sleep time. No wonder I felt wrecked the next day.

This information is helpful to know both at the outset of travel and when coming home; a restful vacation often concludes with a grueling forced march of pre-dawn wakeups, airport connections, and tarmac strandings. Having a bit of data about how much sleep you actually sacrificed can help you reset when you finally get home.

Measure Sleep During Your Trip

Getting your sleep under control when traveling is perhaps one of the most common and oft-mentioned challenges, and having a baseline from “real life” will help you understand what you need when you’re trying to adjust to jet lag and catch some Zs at a hotel.

[st_related]33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel[/st_related]

Survive a Business Trip

Frequent business travel is grueling and has been found to speed up the aging process and increase your risk of suffering several life-threatening conditions, according to Harvard Business Review. Time changes, extreme jet lag, poor sleep, bad food, too much alcohol, and other factors pile up over time to beat up frequent travelers.

If you’re a road warrior, using a fitness tracker to monitor sleep, activity levels, resting heart rate, and more could help you take better care of yourself and lower the risk of ill effects during your business trips.

Inspire You to Go to the Hotel Gym

Most hotel fitness centers are desolate little closets with CNN headlines blaring at you from a TV on the wall and no one else around to share the misery. So who could blame you for not wanting to drag yourself out of the comfort of your hotel room?

But hard data can sometimes create considerable motivation—and if your activity tracker is showing that you haven’t gotten many steps in over the past few days, it just might goad you into working up a sweat.

If the hotel gym is still a dungeon too far, use the data to get you out of the hotel and to a local running trail.

[st_related]8 Workouts to Do on Vacation That Aren’t at the Hotel Gym[/st_related]

Start a Fitness Program

The capstone achievement of all this information might be to use your activity tracker on a trip to kick-start a fitness routine that you’ve been putting off due to other obligations, inertia, or excuses.

I found myself in this situation over the summer, so on a business trip I booked lodging that was close enough to where I would be working to make a car ride seem silly, but not so far that I would run late or even be discouraged by a little bit of weather. At the end of a week I had logged more walking miles on my fitness tracker than I had in the entire previous month; then I took a short vacation that involved some hiking (that was much easier than I had anticipated, so I knew I was onto something)—and I was under way. Now, five months on, that “walking start” is still paying dividends.

If you use an activity tracker on the road, are there any benefits you’ve experienced that I missed? Share them in the comments!

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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 to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Cities

Palm Springs Weekend

Author: Rudda-les
Date of Trip: April 2007

This has been a dreary winter in the North. A quick business meeting in Rancho Mirage afforded me the opportunity to spend a few glorious days in this spectacular paradise.

Flying into Ontario, California with Southwest, I was impressed with the location and design of this “New Generation” airport. Interstate 10 runs across the U.S. from the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California and the sparkling Pacific. Ontario lies some forty miles east of the Los Angeles basin, right off the I-10. It is easy to hop on the freeway to begin your adventure. Fares are far better (mostly due to Southwest) into Ontario than Palm Springs, and the ease of the drive into the Coachella Valley makes this modern air facility a great choice. Ontario is about seventy-five miles west of Palm Springs.

I splurged and booked a room at the Renaissance Esmerelda Hotel in Palm Desert, and was quite impressed with its lush grounds, swaying date palms and beautiful scenery. I used Hotels.com and really got a good rate on a beautiful (and huge) standard room, with a fantastic view of the golf course below. If you are a golfer or like to play tennis, THIS IS THE PALACE FOR YOU!

Nestled between the Santa Rosa and Chocolate Mountains, the Coachella Valley is truly a sportsman’s paradise. There’s no shortage of things to do here. The Palm Springs Arial Tramway is a MUST, as it presents a vista that is literally indescribable and unforgettable. The Coachella Valley is made up of (from west to east) North Palm Springs (where you’ll find the tramway), Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio. North of Palm Springs, you’ll find Desert Hot Springs, a town that seems to be largely undeveloped, and lacking in the glitzy offerings of other valley towns.

On Thursday evenings, downtown Palm Springs hosts an open-air street fair, and it is absolutely worth the visit. You can stroll along Palm Canyon Drive in the shadow of the Santa Rosas and grab a coffee at Starbucks or a smoothie at Jamba Juice.

Downtown Palm Springs has a lot more to offer. The Desert Museum is a fascinating glimpse into the cultural side of this great place. With two shows on most days, the famous Palm Springs Follies offers a wonderful insight into spectacular theatrical productions, staffed with showgirls in their sixties, seventies and eighties (I couldn’t believe it myself … they are astoundingly beautiful and defy age itself!).

Palm Springs is the home of many, many fine dining establishments. A leisurely dinner at the Kaiser Grille was, in a word, memorable. The Palm Springs Air Museum on Gene Autry holds one of the largest collections of old warbirds in the World. Well worth a visit.

Palm Canyon Drive stretches from North Palm Springs all the way out to Indio, snaking its way east, nestled at the foot of the Santa Rosa range. If you have time, catch a show at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Desert (Fred Waring and Monterey) for some world class entertainment. The theatre shares a campus with the College of the Desert. Across the street at Trader Joe’s market, you might just run into Kevin Costner pushing around a shopping cart.

A quick call to Stand By Golf and I had a morning tee time at one of the valley’s most beautiful golf courses. I was paired with a Japanese businessman who was in the valley after closing on a vacation and retirement home at PGA West in La Quinta, the home of the Skins game. Arnold Palmer is a resident there.

It was hard to concentrate on my game with all of the awe-inspiring desert scenery that surrounds you. The sunsets in this valley are, in a word, spectacular. An evening stroll along Palm Desert’s El Paseo (the Rodeo Drive of the Desert) was well worth the experience. Shops like Gucci, Prada and the like are shoulder-to-shoulder on this beautiful inviting street, full of the celebrities enjoying “la dulce vita” that the desert offers. A delightful evening repast at Vittorio’s Italian Restaurant completed this all-too short weekend.

Its no wonder the famous of Hollywood have homes here, and can often be seen driving and strolling around town everywhere. Bob Hope (a desert icon) had a home here, and it can be seen from just about everywhere in Palm Springs. The saucer-shaped structure, nestled into the mountainside, measures just under 50,000 square feet! Legendary luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Liberace, Allan Ladd, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Clark Gable (and many more) all maintained residences here in the golden age of show business. It is still a mecca for the world’srich and famous.

Remember that this IS a desert community. The weather is beautiful for most of the year, but the temperature can soar into the 100-110 range in the dead of summer (July, August and early September). Be sure to bring along plenty of sunscreen and moisturizer because the desert heat and dry air can reek havoc on your exposed skin when it’s very hot.

It’s no secret why this has become a favorite retirement spot for the famous. The Valley has been the winter home of former-presidents (Gerald Ford lived in Rancho Mirage in Thunderbird Heights, and Mrs. Ford still maintains a home there). This is really a paradise worth a visit. A warning though … you might just want to stay!

Categories
Beach

Chic Los Cabos

Author: Aida M Garcia-Toledo
Date of Trip: April 2008

To be perfectly honest I was not really sure what to expect when I prepared for my trip to Los Cabos. In my mind Los Cabos brought up images of Hollywood starlets and sophisticated luxury hotels, romantic vistas and beautiful raw beaches. My husband, on the other hand, had a completely different image. For him Los Cabos was everything bad that exists in Cancun, minus the pretty beaches: tacky, cheap, dirty and sleazy, drunk gringos doing tequila shots all night long…. huge all-inclusive mega resorts The thought put me in a panic. Was I about to go spend my 2nd year anniversary in a Cancun Spring Break Hell?

After speaking to a friend who had just visited Los Cabos and doing some intense research I decided it was worth the trip. Both my husband and my views were absolutely accurate which is why a trip to Cabo requires planning and research to make sure your trip is as spectacular as ours ended up being!

Los Cabos is a land filled with contradictions. You are in Mexico, but everyone insists on speaking to you in English (being a native Spanish speaker I had to insist on speaking Spanish). You can enjoy a leisure afternoon admiring the art galleries and Mexican culture in San Jose del Cabo or you can bar hop and do tequila shots all day long in Cabo San Lucas. You can swim and/or snorkel in crystalline calm waters or you can surf or admire ferocious waves as they pound onto the coast. You can play a round of golf on the bright green golf courses with majestic views of the ocean or you can explore the desert’s harsh dry cactus filled terrain in a 4X4. You can stay in the some of the most luxurious hotels in the world or you can choose a cheap hole in the wall for the price of breakfast at the other hotels. This is Los Cabos. You can run into a famous celebrity or VIP touring the coast on his or her mega yacht, just as easily as you can have a beer next to a plane old Joe.

We arrived at the San Jose International Airport and as our plane made its way to the runway we could see the line of private jets neatly parked nearby. We made our way outside, careful to IGNORE the dozens of people waiting for us outside the luggage collection. We had, luckily, been warned to walk past these people who, like piranhas, were looking for a poor innocent tourist to fall into their time-share selling trap. Once we had rented our car (probably the best decision we made in the entire trip. Taxi’s from the airport to the hotels can run up to US $85 one way. With cars being rented for as little as $30 a day, and giving you the flexibility to explore Baja California Sur, it was a no brainer!), we went off on the only main highway, make that the only highway, towards the Hotel corridor where most of the nice hotels are located.

Cabo is what you want it to be. For us is was a magical place. A place where the beauty and rawness of the desert converged splendidly with the multifaceted ocean. Where a sleepy little town can show off its charm as it develops into a artistic and chic center of Mexican Culture. Where the gastronomic experiences match some of the best restaurants in the world. You just need to know how to ‘DO’ Cabo correctly.

1. DESTINATION: First and foremost you will not visit Cabo San Lucas. Do not waste your precious time. Your destination in Los Cabos is anywhere BUT Cabo San Lucas. If you are short on time I suggest focusing on the beaches and San Jose. If you have a longer trip planned you can venture to Cabo Pulmo or Todos Santos. San Jose was for hundreds of years the only inhabited community in the southern tip of Baja California. In 1730 a small Jesuit mission settled in San Jose and today San Jose is a sleepy Mexican town coming alive with art galleries, chic decorating and jewelry boutiques and exquisite dining. It will not take you long to fall in love with the bright colors and narrow streets of San Jose. The people are as warm as can be, eager to help or point you in the right direction. San Jose’s Art District is filled with original pieces and treasures from artist from Mexico and beyond. The Church, in front of the town’s main plaza on Hidalgo Street is the quintessential small town Mexican Church. It, along with the plaza, remain the center of socializing and activity for the local townspeople. On weekends weddings and concerts take place. Local nuns sell baked goods and the children play hide and seek. Activity fills the air on weekend evenings, but is a relaxed and heartwarmingly authentic activity that portrays what life is really like in this small town.

Time seems to stands still here so take your time and enjoy San Jose del Cabo.

2. BEACHES: Not all beaches in Los Cabos are equal. Before going on, it is important to understand the geographic layout of Los Cabos. Los Cabos is made up of 2 towns: San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. Both towns are connected by an 18 mile stretch of spaciously separated waterfront hotels, golf courses and luxury home developments. Most of the waterfront hotels are on lovely wild beaches, where you quickly become hypnotized admiring the power of the waves crashing down on the shore. It is the ocean showing off through a majestic show of power and beauty. I don’t know how, but the hours flew by as I simply stared in awe at the waves, feeling the mist of the ocean on my skin. I have never understood why people would go to a beach that they can’t swim in, but during this trip I understood the almost drunken effect a wild beach can have on you.

There are, however, beaches you can swim in. This is another reason it is a good idea to rent a car. A short drive away, off the corridor are two lovely beaches: the beach at Bahia Santa Maria and Bahia Chileno. Both are blessed with calm crystal clear waters and ideal for snorkeling. Bahia Chilena is slightly nicer (plus is a bit more civilized with public bathrooms and a on call policeman and lifeguard). We arrived early: 9:30 am and enjoyed about an hour of complete solitude, our own private beach. By 10:30 a couple more tourist trickled in, not too much….but it was shortly after that that a HUGE catamaran filled to maximum capacity came towards us. I felt a cold sweat break out as this monstroutious thing floated towards me, but started breathing a bit easier when I saw that the catamaran and its passengers stuck to the opposite side of the beach where I was. (when you arrive walk all the way to the left of the beach to settle in, as the snorkeling tours usually stay to the right of the beach) and so I went on to enjoy a swim in the refreshing water….. that is until I felt a sharp sting on my ankle and realized I had been stung by a small yet poignant jellyfish. Maybe it was bad karma for wanting the tourists to go home and not enjoy the beauty of the beach with us. In any case I was reminded that caring does mean sharing (even a beautiful beach) and that in Los Cabos you DO have to be careful with the jellyfish!

SIDE TRIPS: if you have some extra days a side trip to Cabo Pulmo. a one hour drive north of San Jose del Cabo, is a must. Inside Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park are some of Cabo’s most beautiful beaches (warmer and much more tranquil than the rest) with superior diving and snorkeling opportunities. Cabo Pulmo is one of only 3 living coral reefs in North America, with over 236 different species of fish, many of them protected, and five of the seven types of marine turtles that exist who come here to nest. During The Cabo Pulmo Beach Resort has diving and snorkeling trips everyday, and offers a good option for those who want to stay the night. As with any National Park responsible tourism and respect and consideration to the environment are of the utmost importance.

3. HOTELS: Ok, not all of us can stay at luxurious and beautiful hotels like the Ventanas al Paraiso or the One and Only Palmilla. If budget was not an issue these would be my main recommendations. However, if you are not keen to shelling out $600 (and up) a night, there are a couple of other hotels that are lovely and are a good alternative. Casa Natalia is a good alternative in San Jose. This charming, boutique hotel is located right in the middle of the town, and has one of the area’s best restaurants ‘Mi Casa’. Although it is landlocked the hotel has a beach house on the water and a shuttle that runs back and forth throughout the day.

The Hacienda del Mar Resort (from the Sheraton family), is another alternative, which really is where you can get your best ‘bang for your buck.’ Hacienda del Mar IS a large mega resort, however it doesn’t feel as large as some of the other’s on the Corridor thanks to the fact that rooms are located on different small buildings throughout the property. The main building is lovely with a real feel and look of an authentic Mexican Hacienda. The beach, rough, but wide enough to allow for privacy and nice sunset walks. My only recommendation: if you want a beach chair by the pool facing the beach get up early as most are already reserved by 8:30am! Better yet get away from the crowds and take a chair on the beach (no need to reserve! Not many people choose to sit on the beach, so you will have much more peace and quiet).

HOW TO GET THERE Many major airlines including Aeromexico, Mexicana, American Airlines, Continental and Delta fly into the San Jose International Airport.

WHEN TO GO Thanks to Los Cabo’s year round great weather, high season runs from October through July, and low season is brief; August and September. Some hotels, however, do have lower rates starting in May. Hurricane and tropical storms can affect Los Cabos so if you are planning on traveling from July – November a good cancellation policy or travel insurance is recommendable.

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10 Best Things to Do in Dublin, Ireland

Ready to explore the capital of the Emerald Isle? Dublin is a cozy city of 600,000 residents that sees millions of visitors every year. The family-friendly hub is a haven of lively pubs and trendy eateries—each one more colorful and quirky than the next. From hidden gems to centuries-old landmarks, here are the best things to do in Dublin.

The Best Things to Do in Dublin, Ireland

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Associate Editor Shannon McMahon visited Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day as a guest of the Guinness Storehouse, with additional support from Failte Ireland. Follow her travels on Twitter and Instagram.

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10 Best Summer Hotel Deals in Myrtle Beach

Planning (and affording) a summer vacation should be fun—not stressful. That’s why hotels across the greater Myrtle Beach area are making it super easy to plan a trip, no matter if you’re traveling with the whole family, a few friends, or by yourself.

Whether you’re looking for resort-style lodging with all the amenities (hello, lazy river!), a more intimate property, or a condo-style rental to fit the entire gang, these properties have you covered with everything from free nights to dining credit. The only decision you need to make is which deal offers the best value for your travel style.

 

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10 Best Girlfriend Getaway Deals in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is the ultimate destination for girlfriend getaways. That’s because you can strike the perfect vacation balance between maximum relaxation (spas, 60 miles of sun-soaked coastline) and new adventures (standup paddle boarding, kayaking the Intracoastal Waterway).

Area hotels are making Myrtle Beach even more attractive with packages and huge savings specifically for girls’ getaways. Spa, food, shopping: Where will you apply your savings?

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10 Best Things to Do in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has all the ingredients for a classic American vacation. Its vibe is a combination of youthful fun mixed with nostalgia. What does that mean? It means everyone can feel like a kid at Myrtle Beach, and you’re sure to return home with fond memories that will help you maintain your vacation glow long after you’ve returned to work. Here are the 10 best things to do in Myrtle Beach.

Find a Secluded Stretch of Sand

Okay, the beach is obvious. But, the question is where on the 60 miles of coastline are you going to plunk down your blanket and sandcastle bucket? Make sure you find the stretch of sand with the atmosphere that matches your beach style. Huntington Beach State Park has more than three miles of secluded sands flanked by dunes.

South of town, Surfside Beach and Garden Beach are even quieter options for families who want a place to sun and swim.

Insider Tip: Lack’s Beach Service lifeguard locations dot the coast to keep swimmers safe. But simply renting your beach chairs and umbrellas from them is one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach, too.

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Eat Seafood

While you can’t go wrong with just about any seafood joint in the area, Murrells Inlet is the place to go for local catch. The fishing village, located south of downtown Myrtle Beach, has a MarshWalk lined with waterfront eateries. For you-know-its-local fare, head to Wicked Tuna. The eatery only serves fish caught locally by its own boats, and you’ll also find tons of fare for the turf lovers.

Downtown, family-run Mrs. Fish is another local favorite due to its down-to-earth vibe (food comes on paper plates) and super low prices (at lunch you can get a fried seafood platter with flounder, shrimp, bay scallops, and oysters for $13.99). Placing a takeout order for an instant picnic at the beach is one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach.

Insider Tip: Even if you’re not hungry, hit the MarshWalk on a summer night and you’ll more than likely hear several live bands—no cover charge.

Catch Your Dinner

Myrtle Beach State Park is known for its surf fishing for flounder, trout, king mackeral, and more. You’ll need a saltwater fishing license, available at bait shops or online. Nonresidents can expect to pay $11 for a 14-day license. You can also opt to hire a fishing charter. Some for-hire services will even clean your fish for you.

Insider Tip: For fishing without a license, several public piers sell daily fishing passes, including Myrtle Beach Pier. For $5 you can fish all day.

Walk the Boardwalk

The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade is home to it all: rides, restaurants, and hotel rooms. You’ll often stumble on live music in the summer in addition to fireworks displays. But no trip to the 1.2-mile boardwalk is complete without a Ferris Wheel ride. The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel takes you high above the coastline—more than 180 feet high—for arguably the area’s best view of the Atlantic. Tickets are $9 for kids three to 11 and $14 for adults.

Insider Tip: Head south to Garden City Pier for similar fun on a smaller scale. The pier has an arcade, a bar with live music and karaoke, and plenty of fishermen reeling in their catch. It’s one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach one a smaller, less-crowded scale.

Get a History Lesson

Hopsewee Plantation, former home of one of the signer’s of the Declaration of Independence, sits along North Santee River and takes you back to life on an 18th-cenutry rice plantation. For $20 (discounts for children under 17), the one-hour tour covers every room in the National Historical Landmark, while also tackling the area’s more difficult history when visiting slave cabins on the grounds.

Insider Tip: Reserve seats for tea at Hopsewee Plantation in advance. There’s a small fee to reserve in advance, but the entire cost gets applied to your meal.

Drive Fast … Really Fast

Myrtle Beach Speedway lets you get behind the wheel of a NASCAR race car. After training and instruction, you get behind the wheel for a five-minute timed racing session that’s easily one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach. You’ve got the track all to yourself. No instructor riding with you, just in-car communications making sure you stay on track. When it’s over, you’ll find out your top speed.

Insider Tip: For a more affordable experience, you can go for a ride with a professional racing instructor behind the wheel of a NASCAR.

Fly Through the Sky

While you can literally fly through the sky on a helicopter ride, you can get a little more wind in your face with Soar + Explore. Located at WonderWorks, which also hosts science exhibits and laser tag, this rope course lets you navigate 33 different elements by climbing and balancing your way across ropes and cables for $11.99. You can add on trip across the 50-foot-high zipline. Radical Ropes has a ropes course and ziplines, but also lets you free fall from 70 feet.

Insider Tip: Ditch the swim attire if you plan to tackle one of these courses. Swap flip-flops for closed-toe shoes and wear pants or shorts to comfortably navigate the ropes.

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Get Outdoors

A city on the water inevitably has a bunch of water-based activities, and there’s no better time to try something new than when you’re on vacation. Coastal Scuba has classes and dive charters for SCUBA, while Kokopelli Surf Camp offers not only surf lessons, but also kayak and paddleboard tours and rentals. For something more laidback, Waccamaw River Tours take you down the creeks that line the area’s National Wildlife Refuge.

Insider Tip: When you need a break from the sea, strike it out on land on the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway. Eventually the path will stretch more than 25 miles from Murrells Inlet to Georgetown as part of the East Coast Greenway.

Take a Day Trip

If you’re the type of traveler that gets fidgety after a couple of days, then you’re in luck. Myrtle Beach is perfectly positioned not just for access to the Atlantic, but also to several of South Carolina’s best small towns. Pawleys Island, a barrier island south of downtown, is a quiet, historic resort town with untouched dune-backed beaches.

Away from the coast, Conway is worth a visit, too. The town’s Riverwalk is lined with shops and restaurants, and on Saturdays the Farmers Market is the place to go for food-based souvenirs like jams and jellies.

Insider Tip: Look for cooking classes at Horry Georgetown Technical College, so when you head home you can prepare your own fish, shellfish, or barbeque to perfection. Classes are also available for kids ages nine to 13.

Golf

It’s no secret that golfing is one of the best things to do in Myrtle Beach. Many legends of the golf game have designed some of the more than 100 golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area, but the best part is that the area’s public golf courses are just as beautiful. River Oaks Golf Plantation lets you get your golf game on among its three, nine-hole courses.

Insider Tip: If you’re not into formal golf, there’s a themed mini golf course to fit your style: Hawaiian, Jurassic, pirates, and even a course that requires a ride in a mining car.

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Here’s How You Could Win a 6-Day Golfing Trip to Scotland

Enter the VisitScotland “Epic Scotland” sweepstakes by June 6, 2017, for a chance to win the grand prize: a six-day golfing trip to Scotland for two, including airfare, hotel, tickets to the AAM Scottish Open, golf rounds at four different courses, a full set of Callaway golf clubs.

To enter, provide the requested contact information (name, email, etc.) on the sweepstakes landing page and press “Submit.” Done! Time required to participate: less than 30 seconds.

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The Fine Print

  • Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, including the District of Columbia, and Canada, who are at least 18 years old at the time of entry.
  • Limit: one entry per person.
  • Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of the grand prize: not disclosed.

Somebody has to win this trip, right? Might as well be you.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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12 Foreign Islands That Most Americans Have Never Heard Of

Sometimes you just want to get away—really, really far away, whether it’s mentally, physically, or both. And if that means going where your fellow Americans aren’t likely to follow, you may want to consider some of these far-flung islands. Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of them—most other Americans haven’t either.

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