Categories
Arts & Culture Booking Strategy Business Travel Entertainment Experiential Travel Food & Drink Luxury Travel Romantic Travel

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.

[st_related]How to Find Bedbugs[/st_related]

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.

[st_related]The Most Bizarre Hotel Requests from Guests[/st_related]

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.

[st_related]15 Things Your Hotel Won’t Tell You[/st_related]

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.

Traveling? Get a Carry-On That Does More

The Bigger Carry-On from Away

3 words: lightweight, durable, & multi-functional. The Carry-On from Away makes traveling that much easier, especially with its removable, TSA-approved battery for your electronics.

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_deals_search search_type=hotel]

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.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Weekend Getaways

Killington and Pico: Two Mountains, One Weekend

The forecast called for a complete washout—record-breaking warm temperatures in January and non-stop rain all weekend. Reservations were already made, so we hopped in the car anyway and headed north to Vermont on Friday night.

The destination? Killington and Pico, Vermont’s second and fifth tallest ski mountains. The plan? Ski both in just one weekend.

We checked into The Killington Grand Hotel, which is an easy walk from the slopes at Killington. This sprawling hotel has firepits, hot tubs, a heated pool, a spa, and everything you need to relax after a day on the mountain—plus a complimentary shuttle to take you to the nearby access road, which is lined with lively bars and restaurants.

You don’t need to leave the hotel to find great food—Preston’s, The Killington Grand Hotel’s on-site restaurant, is a member of the Vermont Farm to Plate network and utilizes local ingredients in its cuisine.

After dinner, we headed up to our room and watched the groomers on the mountain from our balcony, sending up our best snow dance (or at least anti-rain dance) to Mother Nature.

Against all the forecasts, Saturday morning dawned dry and warm. Thanks to the tireless work of the snowmakers earlier in the week, there was still plenty of snow on the slopes, even as the temperatures crept above 50 degrees. Killington is nicknamed “The Beast of the East”, and it’s easy to see why—this massive mountain has the highest vertical drop in New England (just over 3,000) and some of the most trails around (155), almost all of which were open that Saturday.

[st_related]The 8 Best Ski Gear Items for This Winter[/st_related]

The Saturday felt like a mid-week ski day—the forecast had scared away the crowds, and we skied right onto every single lift without having to wait in line, something that’s unheard of for a Saturday in January. The trails were empty, so we took our time on each descent, reveling in the quiet open spaces.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Caroline Morse Teel (@travelwithcaroline) on


Skiing in New England, I’m used to having to take frequent breaks inside to warm up in between runs and lift rides; but on this magical weekend, we only felt compelled to stop when we were too hungry to keep going. We skied down Needle’s Eye Run and right up to the Jerk Jamaican Mountain Grill, where we sat outside with our food and enjoyed the sunshine before getting right back on the lift—a definite treat in January.

After lunch, we headed back out to the slopes and kept going until last chair, after which we watched the sunset over drinks outside at the Umbrella Bar at the base of the mountain.

One quick and free shuttle ride down the street, and we were at the famous Wobbly Barn, a local steakhouse with a legendary nightlife. A great live music scene here will get you on your feet, no matter how tired your legs are from skiing.

The next morning made the forecasters look even more foolish, as it was another dry start to the day. We packed up the car for a quick 10-minute drive down the street to check out Pico Mountain. If you have a Killington lift ticket, you can ski at Pico for free.

Pico Mountain is more old-school and family-friendly than Killington. All of the trails lead down to the same single base area, so you’ll never get lost and find yourself on the opposite side of the mountain.

There are fewer trails (57) here than at Killington, but also smaller crowds, as this mountain is more of a secret than “the Beast,” but there’s enough terrain here to satisfy beginners and experts alike.

After a solid half day of skiing, the anticipated rain finally came, and we took refuge in the old-fashioned lodge by the real wood-burning fireplace.

If you’re planning a Vermont ski weekend this winter, combining a trip to Killington and Pico will let you experience both sides of New England skiing—from the big, flashy, and new Killington to the quiet, laid-back, and traditional Pico.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:110354″ /]

More from SmarterTravel:

Caroline Morse Teel was hosted by Killington. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the mountain. 

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Airport Beach Entertainment Experiential Travel Group Travel Outdoors Peer-to-Peer Travel Senior Travel Solo Travel Travel Trends

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]

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:1237001″ /]

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.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:190138″ /]

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.

[st_related]8 Awesome Things to Do in Arizona (That Aren’t the Grand Canyon)[/st_related]

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:115484″ /]

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.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:601490″ /]

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.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:218639″ /]

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.

[js_hotel_rates_cta hotel=”taid:186815″ /]

More From SmarterTravel:

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

[st_deals_search search_type=vacation]

Categories
Active Travel Miscellany

How to Book a Ski Vacation: A Definitive Guide to Ski Packages

If you’re thinking of planning a ski vacation, you’ve got options. You can, of course, purchase your airfare directly from an airline, rent a car from an agency, book a hotel near a ski resort, and then buy lift tickets on the mountain. But before you do, know your options: Bundling several travel components into a ski package can potentially save you time and money.

If you decide to research a ski package vacation, there are a number of ways to start planning, depending on the type of vacation you want:

In addition, online resources such as user reviews can help you refine your search and choose the offer that works best for you.

Air-Inclusive Ski Packages

Airlines often have a good selection of bundled ski packages. United Vacations consistently offers a variety of deals. And since United typically includes lift tickets in its packages, it’s a good place to start. United’s major rival, American Airlines Vacations, is also worth looking at. Its wide network of flights means it can provide access to ski towns across the country and around the world.

Of course, all of the major airline vacation providers offer ski packages, so it’s a good idea to search the carriers that have service from your airport. Nearly all of the packages are for resorts in the Western states, with a few Canadian options as well. Each provider will bundle airfare, accommodations, car rental, and lift tickets into any of their packages.

Don’t confine your search for an air-inclusive ski vacation to the airline vacation providers, though. Expedia can combine specially-negotiated airfares and hotel rates into low package rates. And Expedia features vacations not only to the West, but also to New England, Quebec, and even Europe. Orbitz also has many ski vacations for sale, including to destinations like Aspen, Banff, Tahoe, and Whistler.

[st_related]10 Stylish Apres Ski Clothes to Wear Off the Slopes[/st_related]

Ski Packages Without Airfare

If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of the mountains, but you want to stay for longer than just a day trip, you can save money by picking up a package that comes with both accommodations and lift tickets. And there’s no better place to start your search than the mother of all ski websites, Ski Central, which features links to resorts, hotels, and an avalanche of travel agencies specializing in ski vacations.

You’ll also want to visit SkiNet.com, which allows you to choose between pre-set packages and vacations that you build step by step.

Ski.com has a similar setup, and also includes what it calls “last-minute bargains,” though we didn’t see a significant difference between the restrictions for those and the other offers that rotate through its home page.

Ski Resort User Reviews

Once you’ve found a deal that looks promising, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the resort in question, so that your ultimate choice is an informed one. Start with OntheSnow.com, which offers user reviews of ski resorts around the U.S.

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_newsletter]

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2008. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. 

 

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors

America’s 10 Best Small Ski Resorts

Shorter lift lines, a friendlier feel, and less expensive tickets—there’s a lot to love about smaller ski areas. Here are the 10 best small ski resorts in the U.S.

Grand Targhee, Wyoming

Grand targhee ski resort in wyoming

Thanks to Grand Targhee’s location west of the Tetons, this ski area averages a massive 500+ inches of snowfall a year. Although there are just five lifts, you’ll rarely wait in line here, as the crowds tend to pass over Grand Targhee in favor of the more famous Jackson Hole (which is only about an hour away).

Where to stay: The Grand Targhee Ski Resort has plenty of housing options, from ski-in-ski-out rooms to two-bedroom suites.

[st_related]The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List[/st_related]

Magic Mountain, Vermont

Magic mountain ski resort in vermont, usa

Magic Mountain may be small, but the terrain here is mighty. The ski area was founded in 1960 by a Swiss ski instructor who wanted to create “a little corner of Switzerland” in Vermont. Today, Magic Mountain is home to some of the most challenging terrain in the east (including plenty of glades), plus numerous easy and intermediate trails for beginners. Despite a recent $1.5 million investment in snowmaking and lift improvement at Magic Mountain, peak-price tickets are still just $74 for a full day of skiing.

Where to stay: The affordable Upper Pass Lodge is located right next to Magic Mountain’s parking lot.

Mt. Abram, Maine

Mt. abram ski resort in maine, usa

With lift tickets regularly exceeding $100 at many resorts, a day on the slopes can be an expensive proposition. Not so at Maine’s Mt. Abram, where weekend tickets cost $49 for a full day or $39 for a half day. Headed up on a Thursday or Friday? You can snag lift tickets for a bargain $29, which gets you access to five lifts and 54 trails.

Where to stay: There’s no on-mountain lodging at Mt. Abram, but the charming Bethel Hill Bed and Breakfast is just down the road.

[st_related]How to Book a Ski Vacation: A Definitive Guide to Ski Packages[/st_related]

Big Powderhorn, Michigan

Big powderhorn ski resort in michigan, usa

Michigan doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a ski destination, but the state is actually home to 37 areas where you can hit the slopes. Big Powderhorn’s Upper Peninsula location means this small ski resort is blessed with 17 feet of average natural snowfall. At the base, a Bavarian-style village offers plenty of apres-ski dining and drinking options, plus a free shuttle bus to and from the mountain.

Where to stay: Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort has some great ski-and-stay deals if you book your lodging and lift tickets at the same time.

[st_related]The 30 Ski Trip Essentials You Need for a Winter Vacation Rental[/st_related]

Whaleback Mountain, New Hampshire

Whaleback mountain ski resort in new hampshire, united states

A locally owned, nonprofit ski mountain is a rare thing to find, but Whaleback Mountain is one. Owned and operated by the Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation, the resort aims to preserve the mountain and keep it affordable and accessible for the nearby community. Come here on a Friday evening for night skiing and a family-style dinner for just $32 total (or $28 for kids).

Where to stay: Historic Shaker Farm Bed and Breakfast is a quick drive away, and offers beautiful Mascoma Lake views for apres-ski.

Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Silverton mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

There’s only one lift at Silverton Mountain, but you can also opt for a helicopter ride to the top. (Prices start at $179 for one heli-drop, or book six runs for $1,190.) This ungroomed and unmarked mountain is for advanced and expert skiers only, which keeps down the number of visitors. In fact, Silverton Mountain boasts that it gets more snowfall per year (400 inches) than visitors per day.

Where to stay: The closest town to the mountain is the former mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Stay at The Avon, which has been around since the early 1900s and is lovingly preserved.

[st_related]10 Winter Outfit Necessities for Travel[/st_related]

Solitude Mountain, Utah

Solitude mountain ski resort in utah, usa

The aptly named Solitude Mountain lets the masses go to nearby mega-resorts Alta and Snowbird, and keeps its similar snow conditions (over 500 annual inches of snow on average) on the quiet side. Just eight lifts serve 80 runs and three different bowls, so you’ll be able to find some empty slopes no matter when you visit.

Where to stay:  The Creekside Condominiums are slopeside condos that even have a rooftop hot tub for apres-ski muscle soothing.

Bolton Valley, Vermont
Bolton valley ski resort in vermont, usa

Family-owned Bolton Valley has something for everyone. Six lifts serve 71 downhill trails that are well divided for different abilities (34 percent easier, 38 percent more difficult, and 28 percent most difficult). Not interested in downhill? There are also over 62 miles of backcountry, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing trails here.

Where to stay: The Inn at Bolton Valley is by far the most convenient option. You can ski in and out, and also easily walk to plenty of dining options.

[st_related]Where to Ski Near Boston[/st_related]

Sunlight Mountain, Colorado

Sunlight mountain ski resort in colorado, usa

Sunlight Mountain recently made headlines for having America’s most expensive lift ticket. Priced at $700, the Sunny 700 includes not only a one-day lift pass but also a hot springs day pass and a pair of hand-crafted Sunny 700 skis. Fortunately, a regular one-day lift pass at Sunlight Mountain costs just $65, which is very affordable for Colorado. But you should still splurge on that hot springs pass: Sunlight Mountain is home to the world’s largest hot springs pool, which feels amazing after a long day on the slopes.

Where to stay: Liquor lovers should book a room at the nearby Distillery Inn, a luxury hotel within a working distillery.

Diamond Peak, Nevada

Diamond peak ski resort in nevada usa

Lake Tahoe has a glitzy reputation, but Diamond Peak Ski Resort keeps things a little more low-key. This community-owned resort may have only a few lifts, but the mountain has a serious vertical drop (1,840 feet). The panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from the summit can’t be beat either. Take the leisurely way down on Diamond Peak’s longest run, which clocks in at a leg-testing 2.5 miles.

Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe runs a free ski shuttle to and from the mountain, so you don’t have to fight for parking.

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_deals_search search_type=hotel]

Caroline Morse Teel has a goal to ski all the best small ski resorts in New England. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for ski and travel photos from around the world. 

 

Categories
Cities Entertainment Family Travel

The Ultimate Super Bowl LIII Atlanta Visitor Guide 2019

The Super Bowl is football’s biggest showdown and a huge event that’s watched not just across America, but across the world. People tune in to see some of the world’s best athletes battle for the championship. They also tune in to see the dazzling halftime show, as well as the irreverent commercials. And each year, a lucky few get to see the game in person.

Below is a handy travel guide with everything you need to know about Super Bowl 2019,  which will be held in Atlanta, Georgia.

When Is Super Bowl LIII 2019?

The day NFL fans look forward to this year is February 3, 2019. It’s the 53rd Super Bowl, taking place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium—the first time the game has been played in Atlanta since the year 2000. The game will be played between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

Where Is the Super Bowl?

This year’s Super Bowl takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (1 AMB Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30313) in downtown Atlanta, near Vine City.

[st_related]A Visitor’s Guide to Atlanta Neighborhoods[/st_related]

Amenities at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is relatively new—it opened in fall 2017—but it’s already much loved. The home of the Atlanta Falcons features a retractable roof and the world’s largest 360-degree halo-screen scoreboard, as well as self-serve fountain drinks with free refills, strong Wi-Fi, and reasonable food prices. The stadium is designed so that most seats offer an excellent view. Those who are interested can book a guided tour of the entire stadium.

Who Is Performing at the Super Bowl 2019?

The Super Bowl halftime show, formally known as the Pepsi Halftime Show, is always epic. Previous years have spotlighted the world’s biggest stars, including Beyonce, Prince, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Justin Timberlake.

This year the headliner will be Maroon 5, with lead singer Adam Levine taking center stage. At press time, there was still speculation as to whether special guests will appear with him, with Big Boi and rapper Travis Scott rumored to be among the potential cameos.

Leading up to the big game is the Bud Light Super Bowl LIII Music Fest, a three-night extravaganza happening January 31 through February 2 at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena. Headliners will include Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Post Malone, Aerosmith, Ludacris, and Migos.

Tips for Travelers: How Safe Is Atlanta?

The vast majority of visitors to Atlanta travel safely within the city. Gangs are active in certain Atlanta neighborhoods; if you avoid those areas, which include U-Rescue Villa, Old Fourth Ward, Kirkwood, and the general area southwest of the I-20 and I-85 interchange, you should remain safe (especially if you stay in Midtown, the suburbs, and Atlanta’s east side). That said, it’s always a good idea to stay alert for pickpockets, especially near crowded events like the Super Bowl.

[st_related]Is Atlanta Safe? Warnings and Dangers Travelers Need to Know[/st_related]

Things to Do in Atlanta: Top Tours and Attractions

Atlanta offers plenty of fun things to do, with excellent tours that let you take it all in. One particularly worthwhile private tour of Atlanta is called From Civil War to Civil Rights, which takes you to important battlefields as well as the memorable Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Fans of CNN can take its studio tour, or if The Walking Dead is more your speed, you can try out a Walking Dead Big Zombie Tour—if you dare.

For more ideas, see 10 Must-See Atlanta Attractions.

Traveling to Super Bowl 53 with Kids?

If you’re planning on taking your kids to the Super Bowl, first of all: lucky kids. Second of all: How are you planning to entertain your children before and after the big game?

I’ve got a few ideas for you on what to do in Atlanta with kids. Consider the LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Zoo Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park, the excellent Georgia Aquarium—and, of course, the iconic World of Coca-Cola. For more ideas, check out SmarterTravel’s sister site, Family Vacation Critic.

Where to Eat in Atlanta

No matter what you’re looking to eat in Atlanta, you’ll find something satisfying for your taste and budget.

Atlanta’s best restaurants include Staplehouse, 1Kept, and Marcel, though if you’re more interested in saving a few bucks while still getting some great grub, head instead to one of Atlanta’s best places for cheap eats, including Aviva by Kameel, Victory Sandwich Bar, and Kwan’s Deli.

If you’re really looking to get a taste of the South while you’re in Atlanta, try Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Wisteria, or The Colonnade for some of the most authentic Southern cuisine anywhere.

[st_related]10 Great Spots to Try Southern Food in Atlanta[/st_related]

Where to Stay in Atlanta

Most Atlanta hotels near the Mercedes-Benz Stadium are fully booked during the dates surrounding the Super Bowl, though at the time of publication there was still some (pricey) availability at the Motel 6 Atlanta Downtown, as well as the Budgetel Savannah.

If you’re looking to offset the cost of your Super Bowl tickets, however, you’ll probably want to zoom out a distance from the stadium, where you might still find decent hotel deals in Atlanta.

[st_related]10 Best Cheap Hotels in Atlanta[/st_related]

Atlanta Weather: What’s It Like in Late Winter?

Winter in Atlanta tends to be cool, windy, and sometimes wet. Daytime highs usually hover in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, with nighttime lows dipping down into the mid-30s. In Atlanta, it tends to rain for about seven days out of each winter month.

Fashion in Atlanta: What to Pack for Atlanta in February

Packing for Atlanta can be tricky in early February, when rain and wind are quite possible—but semi-comfortable daytime weather is quite possible, too. The solution is to dress in layers, plus comfortable shoes and sunglasses—and for the Super Bowl (held after dark), pack for weather that approaches freezing, including a beanie, a solid coat, gloves, and wool socks.

In general, when you’re figuring out what to wear in Atlanta, keep in mind that the fashion sensibility here is modern and casual, with sneakers, vintage pieces, designer tees, and hats reigning supreme. Women can look current in a hip pair of booties, and men won’t look out of place in plaid.

And, of course, don’t forget to wear the colors of the Super Bowl team that you’ll be cheering for.

[st_related]What to Pack for Atlanta[/st_related]

Find Flights Now to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport sits nine miles from Mercedes-Benz stadium, making for about a 15-minute drive, though that timing can depend a lot on traffic.

Head over to Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, to find affordably priced flights to Atlanta.

Atlanta Transit: How to Get Around Atlanta

Atlanta is a car-heavy city, which means that highway systems are extensive and well maintained—but often clogged with endless traffic. Atlanta officials are bracing for intense Super Bowl traffic, since the city is expecting more than 150,000 additional people during the time of the big game, and some roads will be closed. The heavier traffic is expected to start about a week before the Super Bowl and last until February 4.

In fact, the Atlanta police department is advising people not to drive during the hours surrounding Super Bowl, asking people to take public transit, hire a car, or walk instead.

If you do choose to rent a car or drive your own into Atlanta, make sure to park it somewhere safe and well-lit, since vehicular larceny—a.k.a. car break-ins—is one of Atlanta’s most common crimes. Make sure, too, to hide any items that might invite smash-and-grab thieves in the glove compartment or trunk.

If you choose to use public transit, you can take comfort in the fact that MARTA—Atlanta’s rail and bus system—is actively preparing for crowd control and has made many preparations, including hiring dozens more police officers, to prevent delays and security issues for the time surrounding the February 3 game. There will also be more rail cars, buses arriving more frequently, and extra MARTA workers standing on the platforms to load trains quickly.

MARTA’s website offers additional reassurance: “During major events such as Super Bowl LIII, MARTA can easily transport you to key venues around the city like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium … without the hassle of traffic or parking.” Use the service’s trip planner to make sure yours goes smoothly, and check the site for game day reroutes. Always stay alert and vigilant on MARTA, especially after dark.

MARTA is also selling commemorative Super Bowl Breeze cards (one-day, three-day, or four-day pass) at Breezecard.com.

Hired-car services are also an option in Atlanta, though Super Bowl traffic might make it expensive to travel even just a short distance in an Uber or Lyft. As always, be cautious when using phone-based car services. Check to make sure that the driver and car match what comes up on your phone app. Don’t sit in the front seat if you can avoid it, and use the app’s “share” feature so that a loved one can track your location.

If you’re planning on walking, go in pairs or groups, especially at night, and keep your wits about you. Stick to well-lit, populated streets.

The Super Bowl website offers additional information for getting around Atlanta during the big game and surrounding events.

[st_related]10 Important Rideshare Safety Tips for Travelers[/st_related]

Where to Buy Tickets to Super Bowl LIII

You can buy tickets straight from the Super Bowl website, where packages start at more than $3,000 per person and include an all-inclusive pregame party.

If you’re lucky, you could also win the lottery as a season ticket holder, or get them gifted via your work, as a client perk or some such.

But the main way to get Super Bowl tickets is by buying them on the resale market, known as the “secondary ticket industry.” Resellers typically sell them starting at $3,500 each, going up to $10,000 or more, depending on the seats you purchase and when you buy the tickets.

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”784″ type=”3-mod”]

—original reporting by Avital Andrews

Categories
Budget Travel Business Travel Cities Money Oddities

Get Paid to Travel and Watch NFL Football Around the World

Do you like NFL football? Do you like to travel? Do you also enjoy receiving normally expensive things for free?

Courtyard by Marriott has announced it will send one lucky fan around the globe to spread the word about, well, Courtyard by Marriott and the NFL. This person will be hired as Courtyard’s NFL Global Correspondent, and “embark on a dream season of international travel … and share their findings with fans, followers, Courtyard guests – and the world at large.

[st_related]10 Hotels NFL Fans Should Have on Their Radar This Football Season[/st_related]

“This season-long opportunity will include travel to NFL events around the world, including games in London, Mexico City and Minnesota, culminating in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Courtyard is seeking individuals who have a love for and knowledge of the NFL, are comfortable in front of a camera, are passionate and enthusiastic storytellers and are always looking to move forward in their personal and professional journeys.”

To enter, applicants must submit a 60-second video at CourtyardCorrespondent.com. The video should “highlight your NFL expertise, and how your passion for the game makes you the perfect fan for this opportunity.”

Beyond that, Courtyard by Marriott outlines some additional criteria for interested fans hoping to make the team, so to speak:

  • Be passionate and knowledgeable about the NFL and love to travel
  • A flexible schedule, and an ability to attend games in London (Oct. 28), Minneapolis (Nov. 4), and Mexico City (Nov. 19), culminating with a trip to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta next February
  • Must be comfortable on camera, with an eye for creating content, and an ability to engage an audience both online and in‑person
  • A current passport and a willingness to fly to sought-after NFL destinations.
  • Membership in either the Marriott Rewards or SPG loyalty program.

Courtyard by Marriott says candidates will be selected based on “charisma, passion and overall NFL expertise,” and will advance to an interview round before the winner announced on Oct. 16. The first trip, to London, takes place less than two weeks later.

[st_newsletter]

More from SmarterTravel:

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Outdoors Packing

Putting the Ultimate Travel Shoe to the Test

Tropic ultimate travel shoe

When buying a new pair of shoes for travel, most people overlook the most important element of the perfect travel shoe: water resistance. It’s not as obvious a factor as how the shoe looks and feels, but if you’ve ever had to leave your shoes out to dry for days on a hotel balcony or pack them up in a plastic bag only to taint your all your clothes with the horrible smell of marinating walking shoes, you know as well as I do how a shoe that can dry quickly can save your trip.

Few travelers have extra suitcase space for bulky rain boots, and finding stylish, comfortable, and water-resistant shoes has always been a challenge. But this year a new water-resistant shoe is making waves, raising more than $2 million euros in crowdfunding.

The Tropic Monsoon shoe is a lightweight slip-on sneaker that is specifically designed with adventurous travelers in mind. I wore the Tropic Monsoon shoes for two weeks and tested them out in all different environments, and what struck me was just how breathable the shoes were thanks to the quick-drying 3D mesh technology. When I wore the shoes on a hot summer day and stepped into an air-conditioned room, the cold air went right through the mesh of the shoe to cool down my feet. The feeling was refreshing and satisfying in a way I had never felt before.

The shoe is also extremely practical with a removable footbed and an elastic counter heel that ensures the shoe both fits snugly and is easy to slip on and off. With its thick rubber sole, the Tropic Monsoon is suitable for many different kinds of terrain, and its quick-drying and water-resistant capabilities also mean you can take it swimming with you. Though they might look like sneakers and are comfortable to wear all day, these are walking shoes, and I don’t recommend using them as a replacement for running shoes if you’ve got a rigorous workout planned. Additionally, the soles can be slippery on smooth surfaces, even with the rubber grip. So if your shoes are fresh out of the water, avoid walking on tile until they are mostly dry.

Price and where to buy it: Starting at $69, Tropic is available for pre-order (shipping in late 2018) on the company’s IndieGoGo page.

How the Tropic Monsoon Shoe Rates:

  • Usefulness: 9/10. Not just comfortable walking shoes, these shoes are suitable for swimming and impervious to water damage, which adds an extra dimension of usefulness. However, I found the slip-resistant soles not so resistant when walking over wet tile, so this is something to be wary of.
  • Value: 10/10. Usually the new products you find on Indiegogo have inflated prices to help the company get off the ground, but these multi-use shoes are available at a very reasonable price.
  • Portability: 10/10. These shoes are super light and easy to slip on and off, which makes packing them a breeze.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. This is a good-looking pair of sneakers and easy to work into an outfit, whether you’re out sightseeing or off to a casual dinner.

Final Verdict: The Tropic Monsoon is a stylish shoe that is sure to be my go-to for long days on my feet. However, it’s not quite a replacement for a good pair of running shoes.

[amazon_native_ad search=”travel shoes”]

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” 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. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

More from SmarterTravel:

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

Categories
Active Travel Security

World Cup Travel Warnings Include Hacked Phones and LGBT Concerns

Every four years, soccer fans from across the globe flock to the FIFA World Cup. Most recently the games have drawn hordes to Brazil, South Africa, and Germany—which, as all destinations do, saw their fair share of travel warnings and safety advisories ahead of the games.

But this year’s host, Russia, is prompting some unique travel warnings from the FBI, State Department, and officials in other countries.

[st_related]The Government Might Be Spying on You Through In-Flight Wi-Fi[/st_related]

World Cup Travel Warnings of Hacked Phones

[st_content_ad]Cybersecurity is shaping up to be a big World Cup travel concern, with the director of the FBI National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), William Evanina, advising that attendees “don’t assume you’re too insignificant to be targeted” by Russian hackers via phone, laptop, or any other electronic device. “Make no mistake—any data on those devices (especially your personally identifiable information) may be accessed by the Russian government or cyber criminals,” Evanina said.

The science-fictionesque advice only gets weirder. Evanina tells Reuters, “If you can do without the device, don’t take it. If you must take one, take a different device from your usual one and remove the battery when not in use.”

So, yes, it appears the FBI is advising World Cup travelers to use a burner phone.

Officials at the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Center have also warned Britons and the English soccer team itself of the potential for phones to be hacked at the games, Reuters reported. Cybersecurity was also a buzzed-about issue at this year’s Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

While this seems like an extreme case, it should come as no surprise that phones and laptops, especially those on public Wi-Fi networks or with Bluetooth on, can be easily hacked if you don’t use a virtual private network, or VPN. Someone could always be watching if you’re not prepared. Then again, the FBI seems to think that being in Russia in particular might make you more vulnerable to having your personal data breached.

[st_related]How to Avoid Wi-Fi Scams While Traveling[/st_related]

World Cup LGBT Warnings

For World Cup travelers who are part of the LGBTQI community, though, cybersecurity isn’t the biggest threat. Russia’s far-right, anti-LGBT sentiment—especially in sports—is well documented, and public displays of affection between LGBT people are, vaguely, illegal in Russia.

“Russian law bans providing ‘the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations’ to minors. Foreign citizens face fines, up to 15 days in jail, and deportation for violating this law,” the U.S. Department of State’s visitor information for the 2018 World Cup states. “What Russia considers propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations is vague. Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100).”

The Russian Football Union has said gay spectators and rainbow flags will be welcome at the 2018 World Cup. However, British members of parliament have also said in the days leading up to the World Cup that “vague reassurances from Foreign Office ministers have not been enough to reassure us that UK nationals will be safe, regardless of their background or sexual orientation.”

When laws aren’t on your side in a foreign country, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid any public behavior that could offend locals or police. The State Department reminded World Cup travelers that non-Russians at the games are “subject to all Russian laws, which may differ from those in the United States. If you violate these laws even unknowingly, you may be arrested, fined, expelled, and banned from re-entering Russia. Expect increased police presence and enhanced security measures in and around stadiums.”

The next World Cup will be held in 2022 in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are also widely unaccepted.

More from SmarterTravel:

SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram at @shanmcmahon.

Categories
Adventure Travel Beach Booking Strategy Cities Family Travel Historical Travel Road Trip Weekend Getaways

The 8 Best New Jersey Beaches to Visit This Summer

Every summer an annual pilgrimage begins: People all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York start heading “down the shore.” They’re in search of summer’s simple pleasures—biking on the boardwalk, eating ice cream and funnel cake, and, of course, soaking up the sun. You can do all of the above in dozens of New Jersey beaches up and down the coast, but which one should you choose for your next summer vacation?

Listed in geographical order from south to north, these are the best New Jersey beaches for travelers.

Cape May

cape-may-new-jersey

[st_content_ad]Visiting Cape May, located at the southern tip of New Jersey, feels like stepping into the past. Founded in the mid-18th century, it’s America’s oldest seaside resort and one of the best beaches in New Jersey for history and architecture buffs. Visitors can rent a bike or hop on a trolley to see its colorful Victorian mansions, many now serving as quaint B&Bs. Or savor the sea views during a jog or stroll along the paved promenade, which stretches for nearly two miles along Cape May’s clean, wide beach.

Where to Stay: The Queen Victoria draws numerous repeat visitors who love its individually decorated rooms (some with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs), sprawling front porches, and daily afternoon tea.

The Wildwoods

wildwoods-new-jersey

This collection of three adjacent beach towns offers a little something for everyone. Wildwood has a classic wooden boardwalk, complete with shops, restaurants, and arcades, plus three separate piers of amusement park rides. It’s flanked by North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, which offer a quieter, more residential experience. While Cape May is known for its stately Victorians, the Wildwoods are all about the 1950s, with fun retro motels and diners scattered around town. The Wildwoods also boast some of the widest beaches in the state, and access is free—no beach tags required.

Where to Stay: The Starlux Boutique Hotel is in the middle of all the action, just a short walk from the beach and boardwalk. Its decor captures the 1950s “Doo Wop” style Wildwood is famous for, and you can even stay in one of two vintage Airstream trailers.

[st_related]10 Fun Things to Do in Wildwood, New Jersey[/st_related]

Ocean City

ocean-city-new-jersey

Ocean City is one of the best beaches in New Jersey for family fun. It’s been a “dry” town since its founding in 1879 by four Methodist ministers, so it attracts less of a young party crowd than some other New Jersey beaches. Visitors flock to its 2.5-mile boardwalk, which is lined with amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses, pizza places, ice cream shops, and arcades. Some of the prettiest beaches are on the southern end of town, where you can go hiking, fishing, or sunbathing on the quiet grounds of Corson’s Inlet State Park.

Where to Stay: The big pink Port-O-Call Hotel is a local landmark, located right on the boardwalk. Rooms overlook either the Atlantic Ocean or Great Egg Harbor Bay.

[st_related]6 Best Things to Do in Ocean City, New Jersey[/st_related]

Long Beach Island

long-beach-island-new-jersey

This barrier island on the central New Jersey coast stretches from Barnegat Light State Park in the north (with its picturesque lighthouse) to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in the south, a popular spot for bird watching. In between are a variety of beach towns—some lively, others quiet and laid-back. The heart of the action is Beach Haven, where you’ll find Fantasy Island Amusement Park, the Surflight Theatre, and the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.

Where to Stay: The 22-room Daddy O Hotel has contemporary rooms and a hip rooftop bar with views of both the ocean and the bay.

Spring Lake

spring-lake-new-jersey

The Jersey Shore isn’t usually associated with genteel elegance, but that’s what you’ll find in the quiet seaside community of Spring Lake, where the streets are lined with gracious Victorian homes. It’s a perfect spot for strolling, from the non-commercial boardwalk along the beach to the downtown shopping district and the leafy park in the center of town.

Where to Stay: Pull up a rocking chair and relax on the front porch of the Spring Lake Inn. Many of the 16 individually decorated guest rooms feature nostalgic touches such as four-poster beds or fireplaces.

[st_related]The Best Beaches in America to Travel to This Summer[/st_related]

Belmar

belmar-new-jersey

Though it’s just a couple of miles up the coast from Spring Lake, Belmar has a completely different vibe. Popular with college kids and families, Belmar always has something going on during the warmer months, including movies and concerts on the sand. Certain parts of the beach are reserved for boogie boarding, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. And you can breathe easy: Smoking is prohibited on both the beach and the boardwalk.

Where to Stay: The eight-room Tandem Bike Inn offers a homemade breakfast each morning, as well as free bikes for guest use.

Asbury Park

asbury-park-new-jersey

Asbury Park is best known as the city that launched Bruce Springsteen’s career, and it’s still a great place to catch a show—not just at the legendary Stone Pony but also at the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, located right on the boardwalk. But there’s a lot more to do in one of the hipper New Jersey beaches, including biking, surfing, fishing, and strolling the boardwalk. You can even bring Fido to the dedicated dog beach at Eighth Avenue or to Yappy Hour, a happy hour for dogs at Wonder Bar. There’s a diverse range of cuisine in Asbury Park, from typical beach fare like seafood and pizza to Korean tacos and vegan wraps. There’s even a distillery producing vodka and gin.

Where to Stay: The Hotel Tides is a boutique option just a few blocks from the beach and boardwalk. There’s a variety of art on show in the lobby.

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

Sandy Hook

sandy-hook-new-jersey

Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook offers several miles of clean, quiet beaches with views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Pack your bike or rollerblades and hit the Multi-Use Pathway (MUP), which makes a seven-mile loop around Fort Hancock. Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and bird watching are also popular activities at this New Jersey beach.

Where to Stay: The 14-room Cedars and Beeches is a friendly B&B located in nearby Long Branch.

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”33066″ type=”3-mod”]

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

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Health & Wellness Outdoors

Are E-Bikes the Best or Worst Thing to Happen to Bicycle Tours?

E-bikes—electric-assist bicycles—offer hope for recreational cyclists who like the idea of a multi-day bike trip but who worry they’re not up to the challenge. But as more cycling companies mix e-bikes into their offerings, are they alienating their core customers?

“Initially, it was hard for the purists, including me,” says VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations’ Technical Operations manager Dave Drumm. “But once I spent some time on one and began to understand how they work and their benefits, I realized they’re amazing. I’m a convert for sure.”

[viator_tour destination=”562″ type=”3-mod” tours=”5963WINE,9866P6,5963ELECTRBIKE”]

The Benefits of E-Bikes

Adding e-bikes—bikes that give a boost to your pedaling—means opening up multi-day biking tours to entirely new audiences, most notably, couples that include one serious and one recreational cyclist. “E-bikes level the playing field” for traveling companions at different levels, Drumm explains. “We’re seeing couples who, for the first time, are actually able to enjoy a cycling vacation with their partner, side by side.”

Active travel company Backroads agrees, noting that e-bikes “are enabling people with different interests and activity levels to enjoy the same trip together.”

The benefits extend beyond just being able to keep up with the peloton. According to Backroads, customers have come to embrace e-bikes as a way of getting more out of vacation: “Guests have said that they enjoy the days better because they aren’t as worn out at the end of the day, or because they move through the routes quicker which enables them longer stops at cafes, it gives them a chance to shop en route or luxuriate at the next destination.”

[viator_tour destination=”651″ type=”3-mod” tours=”6929P4,30758P3,3306RENTE”]

Even some tour leaders—who have to be in top shape to keep up with the rigors of leading cycling trips—have found benefits to e-bikes, since the pedal assist allows them to move easily from the front of a line of cyclists to the end to check on people throughout the cycling day, and still have enough energy to deal with transfers, restaurant reservations, and hotels at night.

[st_related]World’s Most Beautiful Bikes Trails[/st_related]

The Challenges of E-Bikes

But it’s not all smooth pedaling. As more companies add e-bikes to their fleets—especially in Europe, where e-bikes have been popular for longer—challenges have arisen. Since e-bikes are heavier than traditional bicycles, companies may need special trailers and licensing to transport their fleets. Because the bikes are considered motorized vehicles, there are some parks that prohibit their use, which can mean reworking itineraries. And since everything depends on a battery, companies must plan ahead for keeping everyone charged up. Backroads, for example, provides a second battery for every rental and swaps it out at lunch every day to make sure bike and cyclist can cruise worry-free to the end of the day.

[viator_tour destination=”538″ type=”3-mod” tours=”5509LISBONEBIKE,12812P1,12812P3″]

The Future of E-Bike Trips

“It’s not a blip, it’s not a fad. This is where things are going,” says Drumm. Both VBT and Backroads say they, like many others in the industry, have grown their e-bike fleets in recent years, and plan to expand further. And while the bikes cost more to acquire and maintain, both companies avoid passing along those costs to customers on bike tours. Both companies see e-bikes as a complement to, rather than a competitor to, traditional bicycles, and report that cyclists of both kinds ride happily side by side on trips every day.

E-bikes are bringing pedal-powered sightseeing to larger audiences, but the best parts of cycling vacations—the sore muscles, unfiltered scenery, and bliss of a comfortable bed at the end of a long day of riding—will continue to be earned, one mile in the saddle at a time.

More from SmarterTravel:

[amazon_native_ad search=”bicycling accessories”]

Follow Christine Sarkis on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Categories
Active Travel Outdoors Weekend Getaways

How to Do a Weekend in Mount Snow, Vermont

Located an easy drive away from both New York City and Boston, Mount Snow is the place to go if you’re looking for a big mountain weekend getaway. With 600 acres of terrain, events every winter weekend, and slope-side lodging, you can make the most of your precious weekend time here.

How to Do a Weekend in Mount Snow, Vermont

Hotel: It’s hard to miss first chair if you’re staying at The Grand Summit Hotel, which is located right next to the chairlift (with some rooms offering a direct view of the lift, so you can see if there’s a line when you’re ready to go). This slope-side hotel has a free ski valet, so you can store your equipment overnight and simply grab it and go in the morning.

[st_content_ad]Friday: After an easy drive, you should arrive just in time for dinner. Harriman’s Farm to Table restaurant is conveniently located in the Grand Summit Hotel, and has live music on Fridays and Saturday nights.

Saturday: If you’ve planned ahead and brought breakfast to make in your hotel room (studios and above have kitchens), you can roll right out of bed, eat, and be on the chairlift in less than 30 minutes.

It’s never too cold to ski at Mount Snow, thanks to their bubble chairlifts (a rarity in New England), which protect riders from the cold and wind. There are 86 trails to explore, ranging from tough black diamond glades to long and easy green circles.

If you’re in need of a mid-day break, The Bullwheel, located at the summit has great views (especially from the outdoor observation deck if it’s warm enough) to enjoy lunch from.

Mount Snow has festivals or events nearly every weekend during the ski season, so make sure you check their calendar when planning your trip. I visited during their annual Reggaefest, and highly recommend it. Bands play music during the day on a big open air stage at the base of the mountain, setting a festive atmosphere for the day. This is also the weekend that the resort holds the Pond Skim competition, in which entrants try to ski or snowboard across a 100-foot icy cold pond, with points being awarded based on costume and style. If you’ve never seen someone in a hot dog costume try (and fail spectacularly) to make it across a pond, I can vouch that it is hilarious. The Duct Tape Derby is also held this weekend, and is a soap-box racer style sledding event for kids and adults.

Sunday: Since Mount Snow likely isn’t too far of a drive for you, you can ski or snowboard until last chair (4pm) and maximize your mountain time. Even if you’re not ready to hit big jumps yet, make sure you visit the Carinthia peak at Mount Snow, which has a number of different terrain parks—you can see some skiers and snowboarders doing some pretty impressive tricks here.

Mount Snow Bars & Restaurants

Mount Snow Attractions

  • A ride in Mount Snow’s bubble chairlift
  • Watching the action at Carinthia terrain parks
  • Weekend festivals/events
  • Long John Trail (3.1 miles)

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”22228″ type=”3-mod”]

Caroline was hosted by Mount Snow. Follow Caroline’s adventures around New England and the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline .

Categories
Arts & Culture Beach Cities Family Travel Theme Park

Tampa with Kids: The 10 Best Family Activities

Filled to the brim with beaches, amusement parks, and long sunny days, Florida is one of America’s most fabulous playgrounds—and the Tampa Bay area is no exception. Headed to Tampa with kids? There’s no shortage of places for the little ones to learn and play, from the Florida Aquarium to the inviting beaches of the Gulf Coast.

Tampa with Kids: The Best Family Activities

Below are 10 fun activities to try in Tampa with kids.

[viator_tour destination=”666″]

Florida Aquarium

Start in downtown Tampa at the Florida Aquarium, located next to the cruise terminal. Kids will be entranced by sea creatures of all kinds, from baby alligators and playful otters to scary sharks. There are several touch tanks for children who love to get up close and personal—but if anyone really wants to get their feet wet, check out the “Swim with the Fishes” program. Kids 6 and older can go snorkeling in the aquarium’s coral reef exhibit, getting a fish’s-eye view of hundreds of angelfish, parrotfish, moray eels, and other sea life.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens is the biggest Tampa attraction for families, brimming with adventure and activity for all ages. The African-themed park boasts a Serengeti Safari, a Congo River Rapids ride, and a Tiger Insider tour that lets you meet the animals and their keepers. There are plenty of roller coasters, too, such as SheiKra, which features two stomach-churning, 90-degree drops of over 100 feet. But the rides are only part of the story; the park’s large collection of African animals includes hippos, lions, zebras, elephants, and giraffes, among others. If anyone needs a break, take in a show at one of the park’s several theaters.

Museum of Science and Industry

A visit to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is one of the most educational family activities in Tampa, but don’t tell the kids—they’ll be too busy testing their bravery in a roller coaster simulator, gazing up at the sky in the planetarium, and discovering what it feels like to be buffeted by hurricane-force winds. You can also take in a show in the IMAX theater.

[st_content_ad]Dinosaur World

It’s worth the drive to check out Dinosaur World in Plant City, Florida. At this outdoor museum kids can go on a fossil dig, test their knowledge of dinosaur trivia at a game show, and check out life-size dinosaur skeletons.

Clearwater Beach

Don’t feel like you’ve “done” Florida without seeing some sun and sand? If so, head for Clearwater Beach, about a 40-minute drive from Tampa on the Gulf Coast. This wide, white beach boasts some of the softest sand in the country, but there’s way more to do than just build sandcastles (though that’s fun, too!). During the day, set sail from Clearwater Marina with a rowdy crew of buccaneers and wenches aboard Captain Memo’s pirate ship. Kids can practice their “aarrrrr!” and “ahoy matey!” to their hearts’ content as they keep an eye out for dolphins. In the evening, don’t miss Sunsets at Pier 60, a festival that celebrates the Gulf Coast’s gorgeous sunsets every night with live music, street performers, and other family fun.

Other Tampa Beaches

Beyond Clearwater, the Tampa area has numerous other white sand beaches where kids can play. Indian Rocks Beach, along Gulf Boulevard, is conveniently accessible from the city (and there are plenty of restaurants nearby). At St. Pete Beach you can rent a Jet Ski, or go SCUBA diving, parasailing, or fishing. If you’re seeking solitude, head to the quiet sands of Caladesi Island State Park, on one of Florida’s last undeveloped barrier islands (it’s accessible by ferry from Honeymoon Island).

Animal Attractions

If you’re visiting Tampa with kids who love animals, you have a number of fun options, including the Lowry Park Zoo, the Manatee Viewing Center at Tampa Electric (open part of the year only), and the Big Cat Rescue Center, which saves lions, tigers, bobcats, and more from situations such as performing acts or misguided pet owners. You’ll melt when you see some of the rescued marine animals, such as Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and otters, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The most popular critter is Winter the dolphin, who starred in the movie “Dolphin Tale.”

Spring Training

See who’s up at bat during spring training—since several Major League teams call this part of the world home in February and March. The Phillies are based in Clearwater, the Blue Jays play in Dunedin, and the Yankees have set up shop in Tampa. It’s a fun outing for travelers visiting Tampa with kids who love sports.

Sunken Gardens

Stroll through St. Petersburg’s bloom-filled Sunken Gardens to see an exotic collection of more than 50,000 tropical flowers and plants. Don’t miss the butterfly garden.

Canoe Escape

For all things nature just 25 minutes from Tampa and close to Busch Gardens, take the two-hour or full-day Canoe Escape down the Hillsborough River through a 16,000-acre wildlife preserve. You’ll paddle down “alligator alley,” where dozens of gators, including some 11-footers, sunbathe on logs and dive into the river from the river’s banks. Tour guides also point out snakes, turtles, river otters, fish, and birds of prey as they relax in their natural habitat. Hourly rentals also are available.

More from SmarterTravel:

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

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Experiential Travel

Brazil’s Kitesurfing Paradise

In Cumbuco, you only need to take one look at the horizon to figure out what this town is all about. Flocks of colorful kites fill the sky and attached to each of them is the tiny silhouette of a person pulling the strings.

In this small fishing village turned kitesurfing paradise, the wind is the main attraction—and it never stops. Situated perfectly between the Atlantic Ocean and southern sand dunes, Cumbuco has drawn extreme athletes from around the world with its promise of reliably perfect kitesurfing conditions.

An Invisible Draw

The center of the town is quiet during the day. Stray cats roam in search of a shady napping spot and dune buggy drivers loiter, waiting for the next customer. Most restaurants don’t open until late in the day, when hungry kite surfers come to refuel after another day on the water.

Cumbuco has undergone a massive transformation since the advent of kitesurfing and the discovery of the village’s perfect conditions. The town, which brims with surf schools, kite repair shops, and plenty of comforts for tourists, has found its calling in kitesurfing. And as it turns out, so have the people of Cumbuco.

Cumbuco’s Rising Stars

Some of the world’s best kite surfers are born here and to understand why, there’s no better place to go than Lagoa de Cauipe, a small lagoon just five miles away from downtown Cumbuco. It’s here where Cumbuco’s perfect wind is used to the fullest advantage. The lagoon’s surface is calm, and only a narrow strip of sand separates the lagoon from the beach. On one side of the lake, dune buggies pull up, hauling kites, boards, and athletic tourists to claim a kite surfing spot for the day. On the other side, a row of beach bars serve classic Brazilian fare—rice, beans, and fish—and offer partially submerged hammocks, perfect for watching the kites.

On this side of the lake, you are closest to the village of Cauipe, where some of the world’s best kite surfers are born. With the world’s most perfect training ground in their backyard, the children of Cauipe learn young and practice constantly.

Kids, some as young as six years old, clip in and cast off their kites like they were born doing it. They launch themselves on to the water and zoom off, practicing their jumps with incredible command over the massive kites, magically avoiding tangling their strings with those of other surfers. It’s a spectacle no one on shore can look away from.

(Photo: jamie ditaranto)

Kitesurfing Paradise

As the sun sets, the number of kites dwindles with the fading light. Kites are lowered down slowly, folded up carefully, and carried home in shoulder bags. Without the kite surfers, the lake is not much to look at—flat with scratchy-looking mounds of grass. But if you stand knee-deep in the water, warm from a full day in the sun, and close your eyes, you’ll feel the full force of the wind against your body. You’ll feel the certainty in its persistent blowing, as if it has finally found its main stage.

More from SmarterTravel:

[st_deals_search search_type=air]

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer, photographer, and proud American-Brazilian. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto for beach recommendations and caipirinha recipes.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Cities Entertainment Family Travel Miscellany

Orlando Beyond the Theme Parks

If you’re travelling with kids, chances are you won’t have the option of skipping some of the major theme parks on your visit. But if this is a second trip or your kids aren’t keen on the inevitability of long lines, there are still plenty of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.

9 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks

From shopping and theatre to arts and eats, these ideas of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks will help you create an itinerary that gives you a deeper understanding of what the city of Orlando is really about.

[viator_tour destination=”663″ type=”3-mod”]

Theater: Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Dr. phillips center for the performing arts

[st_content_ad]Step away from the adrenaline rushes and head into the theatre for a thrill of a different kind. From touring Broadway shows to comedy specials and musician names you’ll recognize, the Dr. Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts offers a variety of entertainment options that will enrich as well as entertain.

Sports: Church Street District

Church street district

Set in the “heart of Downtown Orlando” this area is your go-to spot for sports venues and the entertainment and dining options that surround them. Basketball fans should take in an NBA Orlando Magic game at the Amway Center. Soccer fans will want to cheer for the home team Orlando City Soccer Club at the Orlando City Stadium. Can’t get tickets? No problem. Area dining establishments offer plenty of ways to cheer on local teams by raising a toast at a fan-favorite bar.

Indoor Fun:  WonderWorks

WonderWorks

When you’re looking for what to do in Orlando besides theme parks, look no further than WonderWorks. From the moment you set eyes on the upside-down house on International Drive, you know you’re in for a wacky time. But, to truly appreciate what Wonderworks has in store you need to be prepared to spend some time. There are more than 100 hands-on interactive exhibits here—everything from the chance to lie on a bed of nails to a gravitational simulator ride. You’ll also find a three-story ropes challenge, a laser tag course, and opportunities to test your brain skills. In the evening, take in the Outta Control Magic Show, a magic/comedy pizza party dinner show that is good for kids, teens, and adults.

Art: Orlando Museum of Art

Orlando museum of art

Spend an afternoon wandering the exhibits at the Orlando Museum of Art, where the mission is to “inspire creativity, passion and intellectual curiosity” in its visitors. Exhibits rotate, but often feature local talents. The museum is small enough to explore in a few hours—making it the perfect air-conditioned art break from your day of outdoor adventures, and an ideal answer to the question: “What is there to do in Orlando besides theme parks?”

Science:  Orlando Science Center

Orlando science center

Let little ones burn off some energy inside four floors of exhibits at the Orlando Science Center. Permanent exhibits include Nature Works, DinoDigs, Our Planet, The Kinetic Zone, and KidsTown (an interactive world dedicated to pint-sized explorers). The Center also offers a Science Live! Program, in which exhibits are brought to life with interactive shows and projects. (Check ahead for times and dates.)

Community: Mills 50

mills 50

You’ll be quickly enthralled with the variety of cultures on display in The Mills 50 district. The Main Street America initiative has become a draw for visitors (and locals) who are drawn to the independent businesses in the area. Adding to the intrigue is an expanding enclave of authentic Asian restaurants, shops, and markets. In fact, Mills 50 is now home to the largest Vietnamese-American community in Florida. To come here and not eat would be a huge mistake. Don’t miss Hawkers Asian Street Fare, Pho 88 and Shin Jung. And if your craving is for Mexican food, Black Rooster Taqueria, with its farm to taco cuisine, will satisfy.

Nostalgia: Old Town  

TripAdvisor

Take the family for a stroll and explore a bygone era at Old Town USA. The walking district offers an array of shopping and dining options in neighboring Kissimmee. Built as a re-creation of a classic Florida town, Old Town USA features historical architecture and nostalgic storefronts. There are also plenty of opportunities for classic entertainment (Skee-Ball or Ferris Wheels anyone?). The kicker: Every Saturday night there’s a Classic Car Cruise that brings out owners and fans alike. Come out to watch them make their way down the main street.

Adventure: Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park

Orlando tree trek adventure park

Get a new view of Orlando on an aerial adventure course that will challenge your tree trekking skills. The six courses at this adventure park combine a host of obstacles including Tarzan swings, wobbly bridges, and plunging zip lines. There are different entry levels for kids (ages 7 and up) and adults so that everyone gets a challenge. And safety demonstrations and trained instructors make sure you go home with the party you came with.

Animals:  Central Florida Zoo and Brevard Zoo

Central florida zoo

Two zoo offerings in Orlando offer fresh perspectives on the age-old tourist choice. At the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, you can attempt the ZOOm aerial adventure course that gives you a sense of how many of these animals see the world. Rope bridges, suspended disks, and zip lines offer a fun, new way to see the landscape below. And at the Brevard Zoo, you can hop in a kayak for the only guided kayak tour around an animal exhibit in the country. You’ll paddle through Expedition Africa as your guide points out giraffes, rhinos, and zebras on shore.

More from SmarterTravel:

[viator_tour destination=”663″ type=”3-mod” tours=”2855ENCOUNTER,44788P1,3958ORLEXP”]

  • Original reporting by Heather Greenwood-Davis