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January 2009

January 30, 2009

Tampa Beyond the Super Bowl

By Karen Chen

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Tampa has lots of options if you get footballed out (Guy Vanderelst/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty)

This year, the mack daddy of all American sporting events—a little something we call the Super Bowl—is being held in Tampa, Florida. Whether or not you're a football fan, the Super Bowl always provides a good excuse to gather with friends and eat unhealthy amounts of chili, nachos, pigs in a blanket, or any other delicious meat concoctions you can think of (a certain football stadium made entirely of snack food has been making its rounds on the blog circuit lately). But to give yourself the peace of mind to freely consume snacks for six hours straight, first get out and explore the city. Or, if you're visiting Tampa for the big game this weekend, don't make Raymond James Stadium the only place you see.  

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Related Topics: Florida Vacation · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Trip Ideas

The Season to Ski: Discount Packages

SEPARATE IS NOT EQUAL: Book accommodations and lift passes together in a package and save big (courtesy, Park City Mountain Resort)

Everything has a season, we are told. For skiers and snowboarders, primetime is on the horizon. February and March are the best ski months and the most snow typically falls in February. Even this past week, most resorts in the country, at least the usual suspects across both East and West, reported big dumps. My home mountain in Park City got about two feet in three days. Folks, we’ve got a pretty good year going—the snow is plentiful, the economy appears to have shrunk the crowds, and airlines are countering by touting seat sales.

Following are a few nuggets that might get you thinking about hitting the slopes soon. Generally speaking, ski packages offer huge savings compared to go-it-alone trips. But look closely at the package. Ideally it will include transportation (air plus ground, but air is getting to be increasingly less likely), accommodations, breakfasts, lift tickets, local taxes, and sometimes equipment rental and instruction. It’s best to unwrap the package, consider the quality of each item, and give it a monetary value. Then compare totals to the cost of the package.

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Related Topics: Skiing & Snowboarding · Travel Deals

January 29, 2009

Chattanooga, Tennessee: My Top 3

MOUTH OF THE SOUTH: Paddlefish at the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga (Todd Stailey)

I've always felt somewhat ambivalent about Chattanooga, the closest big town to where my in-laws live in this scenic (roadside billboard blight, notwithstanding) corner of southeastern Tennessee. It's the sort of place that always appears in "best places to live" lists—including a top slot on Outside magazine's 2008 pantheon of urban greatness—but I've never been sold on the entire package. Sure, it's nice to have a climbing wall and a café that brews organic coffee within spitting distance of your trendy urban loft, but what about the traffic-clogged sprawl, the run-down sections close to its revitalized downtown core, the relatively limited job market in the area?

Well, my cynical opinion of magazines' penchant for new, new—new!—American towns list-making aside, I managed to glean a better appreciation of this popular paragon of the New South on my latest trip there this Christmas. And while I can't claim to have completely overcome my early reservations about this post-industrial town on the banks of the Tennessee River, here are a few places I can definitely recommend. (And, feel free to hurl virtual vitriol at me in the comments section below if you don't agree or have other ideas.)

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Food and Drink · Places to Stay · Travel Tips

January 28, 2009

Travel Video: New England Clam Chowdah!

By Karen Chen

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Anyone from Boston will tell you there's no place on earth that makes a good enough "chowdah" to compare to the stuff from back home. Since I'm from Beantown, and believe a steaming, hearty bowl of chowder (topped off with airy Westminster oyster crackers) is good for the soul on cold, blustery days like these, I'm going to be biased and post a video about searching for the best chowder in the Boston area. The host of the video goes right to the source to find the secrets to making the most delicious seafood soup around: the kitchens of Boston institutions and the shores where the seafood is caught. My favorite line of the video, from a clam digger from Ipswich, Massachusetts: "I can't stand these nitwits from New York who put tomato in their chowder." Well said, sir. Keep anything red far away from my chowder. But I'm always one to keep an open mind, so if you know of a place that serves up some mean competition for the title of best chowder, let me know. I'd hope to someday visit and taste for myself.

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Travel Videos

January 27, 2009

The Top Ten Travel Movies of 2008

Uluru in the Aussie Outback, one of Australia's true cinematic stars (courtesy, Australia Tourism Commission)

Okay, it’s true. On the surface, sitting in a dark room in front of a flickering screen for at least 90 minutes doesn’t really have anything to do with travel, especially if you could be spending that same hour and a half…ya know…outside, exploring a new part of your own neighborhood or revisiting your favorite haunts.  But truth is, I love films almost as much as I love to travel. Hours-long movie marathons in the dark confines of my apartment, shades drawn to block out the shining sun?  Done and done.  After all, the best movies transport you to another world, from cyberpunk futures to the savannas of Kenya to the iconic western landscape of the Rocky Mountains.  

And so, as Hollywood starts to froth at the mouth in giddy anticipation of the 2009 Oscars, airing February 22, I offer up my own list of the ten best movies that should inspire you to travel. They may not be the best movies of the year. Frankly, they may not even be good. But all evoke a sense of place as real, palatable, fully-realized, and inspired as the place where the film was shot.

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Related Topics: Top 10 Lists

January 23, 2009

Best Days in the Mountains

JUST ONE OF THEM DAYS: Skiing the French Alps (Mike Truelove/Digital Vision/Getty)

I’ve spent a lot of winter days traveling to far-off ski resorts. So I’m frequently asked to name the best ski resort in the world. My answer is this: There is no best place to ski; every resort brings something different to the game. But there are "best days" in the mountains. We’ve all had those. Here are two of my best days: The incomparable Ski Utah Interconnect Tour that descends upon six resorts in a single day, and the extraordinary guided trip down the winding glacial corridor of the Vallée Blanche near Chamonix, France, which is the longest lift-serviced ski run in the world.

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Related Topics: European Travel · Skiing & Snowboarding

The Perfect Wedding Prep?: Bushwhacking the Australian Outback Solo

By Guest Blogger

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TRAIL MATES: Kangaroos in Australia (courtesy, Australian Tourist Commission)

Most brides dive eagerly into wedding planning as soon as they get engaged. I, on the other hand, left the country—two days after saying yes—to hike the 600-mile Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia. And while I can’t say the timing was planned, I can report that my three-week trek proved the perfect final solo journey before joining with a lifetime hiking partner.

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Outdoor Adventures

January 22, 2009

Inauguration 2009

By Erika Lloyd

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The crowd awaits the 2009 Inauguration (Erika Lloyd)

Inauguration day is over and the anticipation and excitement from the past three days lingers throughout Washington, D.C.  As a resident, I’d been looking forward to the events for the past couple of months, especially since some of my family members decided to visit from Maine and California.  We’d reached out to our few contacts and emailed our representatives, but like millions of other people attending the inauguration we weren’t able to get tickets to the historical event; however, we were determined to be a part of it.  We approached it with flexibility and without much of a plan, as I figured any plans would quickly get run over by hordes of other equally excited people and unexpected issues at the scene. 

Sunday, January 18, my brother and I made our way to the concert at the Lincoln Memorial featuring performers such as Bruce Springsteen, Shakira, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, U2, Josh Groban, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, and speakers including Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Ashley Judd, Queen Latifah, Jamie Foxx, and a slew of other stars.  Joe Biden and Barack Obama spoke towards the end of the event.  We arrived an hour or so before the show (yeah, way too late) and were ushered into an area near the Washington Monument, where we stood with hundreds of thousands of other people, cheering and chanting “O-BA-MA”.  The crowd gushed with enthusiasm, people sang and danced, and kids jumped up and down trying to get a glimpse of the JumboTrons. 

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

Thoughts on Mongolia’s National Drink

By Guest Blogger

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FIELD OF DREAMS: Yurt in Mongolia (RedChopsticks/Getty)

“Have you ever had horse milk?” The question was asked plainly and without pretense by our host in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. “It’s kind of like... beer. It’s a national drink here.” Perhaps it was the fact that I’d spent the last seven days in China, eating fish heads, chicken claws, and other regional “delicacies,” that made me consider “milk that tastes like beer” as a viable, potentially pleasurable even, drink.

Two hours later, we were sitting in a yurt (replete with linoleum flooring covering the ground and a racy perfume poster as the lone wall art) somewhere in the rolling Mongolian countryside with a local family and a cupful of horse milk straight from the churn by the table. Refrigerator? Not for miles. Scorching July heat? Yup.

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Related Topics: Asia Travel

January 21, 2009

Ode to the Haggis: Celebrating Robert Burns' 250th Birthday

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race!" (Harrison Eastwood/Digital Vision/Getty)

First up, let's set the record straight. Haggis is not typically part of the daily Scottish diet, though a minority of hardcore offal-addicts may disagree. It does, however, make the occasional appearance for the sake of culinary variety or, as is more likely, as the ceremonial centerpiece to Burns Night gatherings that are held on January 25th every year. This is the evening that Scots gather the world over to celebrate the birth of the country's greatest poet, Robert Burns, enjoying a feast of haggis, "tatties" (potatoes), "neeps" (turnips), whisky, and poetry. While you may not recognize some of Burns' better dialect-laced work like A Man's a Man for a' That or To a Mouse, sing that ol' New Year's Eve chestnut, Auld Lang Syne, and you'll know who I'm talking about.

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Related Topics: European Travel · Holidays, Events, & Festivals

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