Traveler Magazine: A Trip to the South isn’t Complete without Visiting Lexington, Lafayette, or Norcross

This post was originally published on Traveler Magazine 2 weeks ago. 5-Must-SeeCities-in-the-Midwest-1.png

Travelers that want to find a combination of beauty, history, hospitality, and sunshine need to consider visiting the South. The South has something for everyone. Whether you want a taste of bourbon in Kentucky or to relax by the water in Maryland, there is a southern city that matches your needs. Check out the 5 southern cities below that have something to offer its visitors.

Lexington, KY

Lexington is the “Horse Capital of the World” and is one of the most popular cities in Kentucky. One of the must-see’s in Lexington is the Kentucky Horse Park, where you can explore a 1,200 acre facility that features museums, art exhibits, and of course, a variety of horse breeds. If you like gambling, you can bet on horse races on grounds like the Keeneland Race Course. While a lot of the popular attractions involve horses, there are non-horse activities worth checking out if you visit Lexington.  One of my favorites is taking a tasting tour at a local distillery. For instance, you can try a taste of Kentucky at one of the bourbon distilleries, like the Wild Turkey  or Four Roses.

Lafayette, LA

If you are travelling through Louisiana, you need to stop by Cajun country and stay a few nights in Lafayette. Lafayette is a vibrant city that offers a nice combination of “country” with city-life. You can spend the day visiting Avery Island, where you can see the Tobasco factory, a bird sanctuary, and exotic animals in Jungle Gardens. After a busy day of exploring, go enjoy the local cuisine at one of the many Cajun and Creole restaurants. Want to enjoy the nightlife? Check out the bars and clubs on Jefferson Street. If you need to find a place to stay near the action, consider Studio 6 which is only a few blocks from the action.

Kissimmee, FL

The Sunshine State is a popular travel destination in the South. One of my favorite cities to visit is located in the heart of the state in Kissimmee, FL. For budget travelers, you have to check out the $20 million dollar local park project, the Kissimmee Lakefront Park. You can rent pavilions, go boating, fishing, BBQ, hiking, and other low-cost outdoor activities. The real reason most people stay in Kissimmee is because of its close proximity to Walt Disney World. In fact, you can stay at an affordable Kissimmee hotel like the Vacation Village that is only about 10 minutes away from Disney World.

Norcross, GA

For travelers that enjoy getting off-the-beaten path, Norcross will be worth considering. It’s cleverly tagged “a place to imagine” because of its blend of art, music, cuisine, and history. Take a stroll down the historic downtown and stop into the Crossing Steak House for a cocktail. The real benefit to staying in Norcross is that you can find an affordable hotel and still be just a few minutes from downtown Atlanta.

Salisbury, MD

Salisbury is a fun city in southeastern Maryland that offers its visitors a variety of activities. If you want a quiet place to relax, the 11 acre park on Schumaker Pondis just the spot. Grab a nice book, blanket, and a few snacks, and you can decompress in the serenity of the park. Another local favorite is the Salisbury Zoo. Admission to the zoo is free and they provide guided tours. If you are looking for a versatile city to spend a few days while traveling through Maryland, you should consider staying in Salisbury.

Disclaimer: TravelrMag is a collaborative partner with Hipmunk. Our views are always our own.

Oh, Canada! Hipmunk’s Guide to The Great White North

This post was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 3, 2016.canadian_travel_imageBy: Hipmunk Staff

From the famed ski slopes of Whistler to the roaring majesty of Niagara Falls, some the world’s greatest travel destinations are just north of the border, in Canada.

With an overload of Canada travel options, which of these destinations are most popular among travelers? Hipmunk analyzed its travel data from 2015 to find out.

The 25 cities below make up 80 percent of all hotel accommodations in Canada. We also included their average hotel and Airbnb booking prices, as well as average airfare (if flying from the US or within Canada) to each city. Note: all prices are in US dollars.

Here’s how they ranked:

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Straddling the border between New York and Canada, Niagara Falls takes the cake as the most popular Canadian city for tourists. The city’s world-famous waterfalls — which flow at a rate of six million cubic feet of water per minute — attract some 12 million visitors every year and commands 16 percent of all Canada city searches on Hipmunk. Just north of Niagara Falls, Toronto closely trails in second, garnering nearly 15 percent of total Canada hotel search volume.

Hotels

At an average of $194 per night, Whistler has the most expensive hotels of any Canadian tourist destination. Following closely are Mont-Tremblant ($177) and Banff ($172). Each of these destinations is known for its ski slopes in the winter and hiking in the summer.

It’s important to note that these hotel prices can vary tremendously depending on the season. As a general rule, most cities are more affordable during winter months (when it’s very cold) than in the summer months, when weather is more amenable. Below, we’ve broken down these hotel prices by season.

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Ski resorts seem to be a notable exception to this rule. In Whistler, for example, hotels are nearly $100 more more night during the winter than in the summer!
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Flights

Over course, if you’re planning to visit any of these locations, hotels won’t be your only cost: you’ll have to fly there as well. Typically, flights into most major airports in these regions range between $350 and $420.

In general, flights to Canada’s easternmost popular cities seem to be a bit more expensive than those on the western coast. Like hotel rates, flight prices are seasonal: in the warm summer months, flights cost slightly in the summer than they do in the winter.

Total

Now that we have laid out hotel and flight costs, let’s compile this into one handy total expense chart. For the purpose of this calculation, let’s assume the trip is for two people (two flights) who are sharing one hotel room for three nights.

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Whistler comes out on top again. With $194 per night average hotel rooms, and flights that average $372, Canada’s premier ski destination is not particularly cheap. It’s a wonderful city to visit year-round, and its prices reflect that.

Cities that experience more brutal winters (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary) seem to be on the cheaper end (though this rule doesn’t hold 100 percent true).

When to Go

Last, just in case you’re interested in finding the best deal for any city on this list, we’ve broken down these prices by month. Let’s take a look at the median hotel price and median flight price into each of these cities throughout all of 2015. Are there any opportunities to save money by going during “almost” peak season?

Below, we’ve listed the price of the a flight plus three nights in a hotel room by month. We’ve highlighted some of the months that are almost at peak season where you can get an especially good deal.

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And so travelers, now you have all the data you need to find a great deal on practicing your French skills in Montreal, hiking in Whistler, or carving fresh powder in Banff. Happy travels!

Methodology: Hipmunk analyzed its daily median booking prices for Canadian hotels, Airbnbs, and airfare (arriving to Canada from the US or within Canada) in 2015 to determine average prices.

Hipmunk Hotels: Foodie Stops in Ventura, Torrance, Santa Ana, San Mateo, and Oakland

Every time I book a trip, I create three “to-dos” at the place I plan to visit: best beach/mountain/lake, best hotel, and best restaurant. If I succeed at visiting two of the three on each list, I’m a happy traveler. To continue my exploration of California, I found some really great restaurants and local foods to get the most of my California vacation.

Ventura, California

Ventura Harbor Village is known as the seaside playground. Located in Ventura, California, the village houses hotels, bars, and amazing local spots for tourists and locals to enjoy. Most of the eateries have an ocean or harbour view, so this location is seaside dining at its finest. You can find casual as well as elegant dining. The restaurants are as diverse as the people. There is Italian, Mexican, Asian, Greek, and American food, all utilizing the local seafood and produce. Brophy Bros Restaurant and Clam Bar is first on my list.

Image provided by Ruth Rieckehoff via Trover.com

Torrance, California

Torrance, California is an oceanside township south of Los Angeles with great ocean view hotel rooms. It houses a famous restaurant with an unlikely speciality on the menu, the Hawaiian Sweet Roll. Opened in 1977, King’s Hawaiian Bakery & Restaurant & Factory is the continental U.S. home to these tasty Polynesian treats.  If you’ve never had one, head out to your local grocery store and pick some up, but make sure you head over to the deli section. This bread is too good to hangout with the other breads. The restaurant features Hawaiian inspired dishes using the famous sweet bread rolls and you can learn about the history of the bread and the family who created it back in 1950 in Hawaii.

Image provided by Rich Barton via Trover.com

Santa Ana, California

Santa Ana is another suburb of Los Angeles that has its own personality and cultural influences. The city’s downtown historic district is the new hot spot for tourists to stay and locals to live. Santa Ana has Spanish influences and several local restaurants use the local seafood in the Spanish cuisine. I look forward to trying the fish taco or shrimp enchiladas that are popular at some of the local spots.

San Mateo, California

San Mateo, California is located in Silicon Valley near San Francisco. It’s no surprise that the food in this region of California is heavily influenced by the large Asian population in the area. Downtown is the best place to stay to sample the many Japanese inspired restaurants and check out the Asian themed Central Park.

Oakland, California

Across the Bay and north of San Mateo is Oakland, California.While Oakland may not get the respect it deserves, the city grew when people from San Francisco relocated during the 1906 earth quake. The San Francisco Bay offers beautiful views from the Oakland side. There are many great southern food restaurants; one of my favorite dishes is chicken and waffles. The House of Chicken and Waffles is my first stop. It’s in the name, I have to try it.

Image provided by Nica F! via Trover.com

Do you have any hidden food gems in California to share? 

The Best Non-Beach Spring Break Getaways

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 16, 2016.

The words “spring break” may conjure images of swimsuited coeds frolicking on the beach, but a truly enjoyable spring break is hardly one size fits all. Everybody has their own preferences, and some folks simply prefer urban, landlocked, or mountainous settings to sandy ones. If you fall into the former category, then don’t let your friends pressure you into yet another sticky spring break on the edge of the ocean. Instead, book a trip to any of these stellar non-beach spring break getaways.

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Austin, TX

Texas’ capitol has earned itself a reputation as the hipster capital of the country—and for good reason. The unparalleled music scene, thriving foodie culture, and laid-back vibes make this city a must-visit for any college student. The wildly popular SXSW festival is held every year in March, so expect hotel rates to rise during the month—but if you make it to the festival, your money will be well spent. The weather is nice and temperate in the spring, so don’t forget to take advantage of the many outdoor recreational opportunities both in and just outside of the city.

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Asheville, NC

If wild parties aren’t your thing, then head to laid-back Asheville for a spring break that won’t disappoint. Located between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers gorgeous 360-degree views and easy access to outdoor adventures. The city is also home to thriving arts and foodie scenes, interesting museums, and an abundance of live music—you’re unlikely to find more buskers per capita in any other city. Be sure not to miss the historical Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned house in the U.S. The grounds also feature a winery, garden tours, and the upscale Antler Hill Village, which offers shopping, dining, and live entertainment.

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Las Vegas, NV

For those who are comfortable with flashing lights and large crowds, Las Vegas is the place to be. From world-renowned casinos to one-of-a-kind performances, raucous pool parties, expansive buffets, and an anything-goes nightlife scene, Las Vegas brings the party at all hours of the day and night. Don’t miss the downtown Fremont Street Experience, which includes a pedestrian mall, concert venues, and various wild attractions such as the SlotZilla Zip Line, which lets adventurous spring breakers fly over the street at a height of more than 70 feet.

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Memphis, TN

If you’ve never been to the birthplace of Rock ‘N Roll, it’s high time you paid it a visit. Whether you’re interested in music or southern heritage, you’ll get a (fun) education anywhere you turn. Head to Sun Studio, where the first ever Rock ‘N Roll record was made, or visit the Center for Southern Folklore or the Pink Palace Museum to learn about southern art, culture, history, and music. And of course, be sure to visitGraceland Museum, home to none other than the one and only Elvis Presley. When you’ve had your fill of educational tours, head to Beale Street (the official “Home of the Blues”) to enjoy great food, live performances, or the jovial nightlife.

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New Orleans, LA

With Mardi Gras over and the summer humidity still months away, spring break is the perfect time to explore New Orleans at a leisurely pace. Thanks to the city’s fusion of Cajun, Creole, French, Native American, and Spanish cultures, awesome architecture, art galleries, food, museums, music, and live performances are a stone’s throw away in any direction. Head to Bourbon Street if you’re looking to party, visit the historic French Quarter to experience a taste of the past, or stroll Frenchman Street to hear some of the best blues, jazz, and rockabilly around.

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San Antonio, TX

What Austin’s cool cousin lacks in beachside access, it makes up for in great weather, artsy shops, award-winning food, interesting museums, gorgeous architecture, and awesome outdoor activities. By day, stroll along the pedestrian Riverwalk, hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, or tour the historic missions, which were recently designated aWorld Heritage Site. At night, take a ghost tour of the city before hitting up the area nightlife or retiring to one of the city’s many budget-friendly hotels.

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Press Play on These 4 Great Travel Podcasts

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 22, 2016.

The appeal of travel is that you get to, well, go somewhere. That’s why a travel podcast might sound a little counterintuitive at first. Most people would rather go to Peru (for example) than hear someone else talk about it. And if that’s not an immediate option, browsing photographs may seem superior to spoken word.

And yet podcasts have exploded in popularity precisely because the spoken word is so powerful, and because a lack of visual commitment makes them perfect for filling time stuck in traffic, walking the dog, or cleaning the kitchen. Plus, travel podcasts specifically can clue you in on new destinations, while also offering travel tips, language lessons, and much more.

If you’re in the market for some new podcasts to add to the queue, try one of these; it just might just inspire your next vacation.

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1. The Indie Travel Podcast:

For the last decade, New Zealanders Craig and Linda Martin have been “professionally homeless,” meaning they travel full-time. The couple chronicles their travels on the Indie Travel podcast. According to a recent anniversary episode, Craig and Linda describe “Indie Travel” as the desire to experience a destination as opposed to just seeing it — generally by engaging with the local environment, businesses and people.

In most episodes, the couple hones in on a specific destination and talks about their experience — whether that means navigating the United Kingdom, living in Mexico, or visiting Ukraine. The couple also sometimes shares more practical advice and interviews other travelers. With over 300 episodes already broadcast, new listeners have plenty of backlog to enjoy on top of the usual two to three new podcasts coming out each month.

2. Travel with Rick Steves:

A good number of top travel podcasts are created by a couple or group of friends who quit their full-time jobs to travel the world. They are (understandably) eager to share tips and best practices to that end — which is great! But many of us aren’t in a position to necessarily rearrange our lives around travel; we simply want to get away or spice up some standard trips. That’s why the “Travel with Rick Steves” podcast remains a staple.

Episodes don’t spend time on his life story or on motivational quotes about breaking away from your routine. Instead, the episodes showcase places and cultures, while also featuring renowned guests from activist and author Gloria Steinem to British actress Joanna Lumley. And while Steves’ voice may sound a bit monotone when you first tune in, it’s actually quite soothing as you get used to it, making for perfect background listening.

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3. Conde Naste Traveller Travelogue:

Another established, well-executed podcast that features a nice range of voices is the Conde Naste Traveller Travelogue. Conde Naste is one of the world’s leading media companies, while its Traveller Magazine boasts beautiful photography and seemingly endless travel suggestions. The podcast, as you might guess, is essentially the magazine a new form.

Launched last fall, the weekly episodes are conversational, yet keep things a bit more journalistic. So far, topics have included how to travel with kids, information on new TSA rules and how to survive holiday travel, in addition to destination-specific highlights from Australia to Miami. Oh, and each episode kicks off by sharing the “Cocktail of the Week.” Get a buzz on, then book a trip!

4. Survival Phrases:

Ever find yourself in a new country without the ability to even ask for basic directions? That’s where the “Survival Phrases” podcast comes in. It can help travelers prepare (or perhaps cram last minute) for travel to a country in which people speak a different language. There are podcasts series available for 27 total languages, from Spanish to Chinese to Dutch. In teaching important travel phrases, the podcast attempts to offer listeners “cultural insight you will not find in a textbook,” including frequently used modern phrases.

If you have travel coming up, pick a podcast, scroll through the archives and find an episodes that focuses on your destination. You’ll be sure to find some great suggestions and stories, while other episodes may also provide the perfect place to visit for vacations that follow.