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May 2009

May 29, 2009

Mountain-Bike Scotland for Fun—and a Good Cause

RIDING HIGH: On the trail in Glencoe, Scotland (courtesy, Trailbrakes)

How's this for immersive tourism? Ride an adventurous S-shaped route from the southwestern tip of Scotland through the main cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and on up past Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis (the United Kingdom's highest point), and Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. The 500-mile route is part of an ambitious ten-day itinerary being offered by Trailbrakes, a Scotland-based mountain-biking outfitter. Covering over 50 miles each day, over 80 percent of the ride is off-road on a network of single- and doubletrack trails that is fast gaining world acclaim among mountain-biking aficionados. (Look below the jump for a Google map illustrating the approximate route.)

Continue reading "Mountain-Bike Scotland for Fun—and a Good Cause" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Outdoor Adventures · Trip Ideas

May 28, 2009

Behind the Image: The Night Parade at Curacao's Carnival Celebration

NATURAL NEON: Carnival in Curacao (Nathan Borchelt)

Of all the places that I've been lucky enough to photograph, the Night Parade (or Marcha Despedida) that marks the end of Curacao's weeklong Carnival celebrations each March ranks as one of the downright best times.

Continue reading "Behind the Image: The Night Parade at Curacao's Carnival Celebration" »

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · Exotic Escapes · Holidays, Events, & Festivals · Travel Photography

May 27, 2009

Revisiting Luray Caverns, Virginia

By Karen Chen

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OPTICAL ILLUSION: What looks like stalagmites rising from the floor is really a reflection of the ceiling in a perfectly still pool of water (Karen Chen)

Sometimes revisiting a place results in seeing it in a totally different light than before. I recently went to Luray Caverns in Virginia, and even though I'd been once before while on family vacation as a kid (yes, it was part of the requisite family road trip to Washington D.C.), this time was more fascinating than the first—probably because I actually listened to the tour guide. Located just 90 minutes outside of D.C., Luray makes for a convenient day-trip destination, or a good stopover on the way to Shenandoah National Park, a favorite camping and hiking spot for weekenders from the surrounding area.

Though not by any means the largest, longest, or most beautiful cave in the world, the truth is that caves, no matter which ones, are a wondrous thing. I had evidently forgotten this because as we pulled up to the caverns' Information Center, I half expected a sorry excuse for a natural wonder. Adding to that feeling of doubt was the entryway to the caves, a swinging door just next to the gift shop, looking more like the door to the bathroom than the entry point to a great geological wonder. But as soon as we descended into the cool, damp caverns, my attention was immediately captured by all the awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites jutting out from every surface of the underground rooms.  The caverns' lights cast a magical golden glow over the millions of spiky cones, giant columns, and bubbly rock formations.  We'd been transported to a different world—and the gift shop was still right above us, though completely forgotten.

Continue reading "Revisiting Luray Caverns, Virginia" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Family Vacation · Trip Ideas

May 26, 2009

Top 10 U.S. Beaches: Dr. Beach's 2009 Picks

POT OF GOLD: Hanalei Bay on Kauai, Hawaii (Thinkstock/Getty)

Florida International University's Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, has released his 2009 list of top beaches (note that past winners are ineligible for inclusion). Here are his top ten beaches:

1. Hanalei Bay (Kauai, Hawaii)
2. Siesta Beach (Sarasota, Florida)
3. Coopers Beach (Southampton, New York)
4. Coronado Beach (San Diego, California)
5. Hamoa Beach (Maui, Hawaii)
6. Main Beach (East Hampton, New York)
7. Cape Hatteras (Outer Banks, North Carolina)
8. Cape Florida State Park (Key Biscayne, Florida)
9. Coast Guard Beach (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
10. Beachwalker Park (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)

Tell us about your favorites in the comments section. My fave U.S. beach is probably the pristine stretch of sand at the bottom of the road in Carmel (amazing sunsets); outside the U.S.—and this one's way off the beaten track—it's Mogushi Beach in southwestern Japan. (For more of staffers' far-flung beach favorites, check out our interactive Google Map here.)

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · California Travel · Florida Vacation · Hawaii Vacation · Top 10 Lists

Beach Bytes: Hunting Island, South Carolina

Hunting-Island-lighthouse,-The historic Hunting Island Lighthouse, one of eight along the South Carolina coastline, is the only one that's open to the public. And the view of ocean, beach, marsh, forest, and neighboring islands from the top is worth every ounce of effort up its adventurous 167-step spiral staircase!

The original purpose of the lighthouse was to guide vessels along the coast between Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. The first structure was destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War, to be replaced by a new tower in the 1870s. Later, in 1889, it was taken apart piece by piece and moved a mile from the original site, which had been damaged by erosion. Since 1933, the lighthouse has been a beacon for tourists rather than wayfaring sailors. A dedicated group of energetic volunteers, the Friends of Hunting Island, has renovated buildings within the compound and continues to collect lighthouse artifacts and support the preservation.

Continue reading "Beach Bytes: Hunting Island, South Carolina" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Trip Ideas

May 25, 2009

¡Cuba Libre!: Should the Ban on Travel to Cuba be Lifted?

LONELY LAMENT: Guitarist in Trinidad, Cuba (Chris Cheadle/Digital Vision/Getty)

The incoming Obama administration got the presses buzzing with speculation this past April that it was about to reverse the decades-long ban on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. Turns out the changes fell some way short of early predictions, with only a partial loosening of restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans. However, pressure is still being applied by proponents of an end to the outright ban, the only such restriction for U.S. travelers anywhere in the world. Travel website recently entered the fray, launching an online petition that it hopes to use to lobby the new administration to drop the ban, in place now since 1962. You can sign the online petition, plus learn more about travel to Cuba, at

Do you think the travel ban to Cuba should be lifted? Leave your comments below.

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · Travel News

May 22, 2009

Video: Freediving World Record Set at 288 Feet!

In April of 2009 an astounding mark was set at the Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas. Will Trubridge established a new world record for constant-weight, no-fin freediving at 288 feet. Check out this video of the dive in its eerie, utterly inhuman entirety here:

As Trubridge explains in the YouTube comments, the reason he starts to sink at the 1:20 mark is because, at a depth of around 60 meters, the body becomes negatively buoyant, letting him free fall the rest of the way. But, Trubridge explains, "This obviously works against you in the ascent, as you feel heavy after the turn at the bottom and have to swim all the way back to the surface." He also wears nose plugs and liquid-filled goggles to reduce the degree of equalization needed as he descends.

The deepest I've ever been is 110 feet—and that was with a full scuba tank. This guy, he's just amazing.

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · From Around the Web · Outdoor Adventures · Scuba & Snorkeling · Travel Videos

May 21, 2009

PSA: New Border Control Rules to Go Into Effect on June 1, 2009

Globe-photodiscDon't get caught on the U.S.-Canadian border without the required documentation this summer. On June 1, 2009, all U.S. and Canadian travelers will be required to present a passport or other document that denotes identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. This is part of new requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). WHTI-compliant documents for entry into the United States at land and sea ports include the following:

- U.S. or Canadian passports;

- Trusted Traveler Card (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST/EXPRES);

- U.S. Passport Card;

- State or province-issued Enhanced Driver's Licenses (when and where available).

U.S. and Canadian children under age 16 arriving by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

For more information about the coming WHTI changes, visit

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Related Topics: Travel News

May 19, 2009

Beach Bytes: Paradise Found in Holden Beach, North Carolina

Holden Beach, North Carolina (Liz Mitchell)

Driving across the high bridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway to reach Holden Beach, I can never understand why they call it a causeway. It’s an impressive approach to an 11-mile strip of North Carolina coast. It’s time to take a deep breath and begin a week of escape from rushing around in your normal nine-to-five life.

As soon as we cross the bridge and I spot Paradise Cafe, I cannot resist the urge to stop for their fried flounder sandwich. Calling this a sandwich is a misnomer; it is actually two large fillets of real fish, about four times too big to fit on a bun and nothing square or frozen in sight. Fresh and delicious, it’s served with thick-cut homemade potato chips. Have it with a beer, a standard part of this lunch. Of course, one trip to Paradise Cafe is never enough; I’ll be back for cheese grits for breakfast, too. And even though plenty of other restaurants also serve fresh local seafood with a beachy ambiance, I just happen to fancy the idea of going to paradise. 

Continue reading "Beach Bytes: Paradise Found in Holden Beach, North Carolina" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Family Vacation · Trip Ideas

May 18, 2009

Greater Outdoors Project—Cast Your Vote!

GOP Logo Redwood Creek vineyards (pioneers of the fantastic annual campfire cooking contest) and Planet Green have partnered up to fork over a $50,000 grant toward an outdoor restoration project. After legions of potential contestants, they've narrowed the finalists down to five potential winners, and the victor will be selected by you, either by logging on to Redwood Creek's website, or texting a vote to 39668 with the appropriate text codes.

The finalists are:

Continue reading "Greater Outdoors Project—Cast Your Vote!" »

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Related Topics: National Parks · Outdoor Adventures

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