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August 2011

August 29, 2011

See Migrating Whale Sharks—At a Discount

The big migration: A whale shark as it passes through the waters off Cancun (Villa del Parmar)

Villa del Palmar Cancun just announced a $500 reduction in their annual Whale Shark Adventure Package, which runs through this September.  For $1,598, you get five days and four nights at this plush resort, along with easy access to the migrating whale sharks. Personally, we think swimming with those massive fish is reason enough to drop everything and head south. But the resort sweetens the deal with a cache of other options, like two 50-minute massages, round-trip airport transfers, use of all non-motorized water and land toys, and more. All meals, snacks, and premium-brand alcoholic beverages are covered, and up to two children under 12 stay and eat for free when with their parents.

Editor's Note: An earlier draft referred to whale sharks as "mammals". They are, in fact, fish; their name refers to their massive size.  Thanks to ND Buffington

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Cheap All-Inclusive Trips · Cheap Trip Ideas · Scuba & Snorkeling · Travel Deals

August 18, 2011

Las Vegas Bachelor Party Options

(courtesy Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Bureau)

They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and when it comes to bachelor parties, most of it probably should. But there are plenty of options in Las Vegas for bachelor parties that won't burn a hole in your wallet (or your sense of self-worth). 

I recently attended an old friend's marital send-off in Sin City and, at first, was totally against it. I wanted to go whitewater rafting in West Virginia instead, spending some days out on the river doing man-things like chopping wood and heckling day-trippers from Philadelphia. But popular favor among the other attendees wound us up at Planet Hollywood, and I was shocked to come back with a few stories I could share in pleasant company. Here are some ideas for fun-yet-innocuous things to do in Vegas. After all, you'll need something to tell the fiancé when you get back, right?'s Las Vegas Travel Guide

1. A Guy's Gotta Eat
For all its reputation as a desert outpost, many of the world's best chefs have joints in Las Vegas, and nothing makes a bachelor feel more like a VIP than strolling into a fine restaurant, sitting in the corner booth, and ordering his fill of steak. We hit up Craftsteak at the MGM Grand, run by New York celebrity-chef Tom Colicchio. It wasn't cheap (we each got the $115 "we pay, you fill the table with steak and vegetables" prix fixe), but there was more meat on the table than... well, it was a lot of meat. 

2. Shoot Guns
With so much desert around, I guess it makes sense that Vegas would be home to several firing ranges, where you can fire off M-60s, AKs, and Desert Eagles, as well as pose for funny pictures with heavy artillery that your future mother-in-law will use against you someday. We woke up too late to make this happen, and opted to hang out at the pool at Planet Hollywood instead, which is another good, low-key option. You're in Vegas; you're allowed to bail. 

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Related Topics: Travel Tips · Trip Ideas · US Travel

August 11, 2011

Five Seriously Awesome Places to Say a Prayer

By Lacy Morris

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Russia, Moscow, St. Basil's Cathedral at moonrise(Grant Faint,Photogs Choice,Getty)
(Grant Faint/Photographer's Choice)

5. St. Basil’s Cathedral
Red Square, Moscow, Russia
The official name is the “Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin by the Moat,” but we simply call it St. Basil’s Cathedral. Built in the 16th century by Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral was a symbol of the country’s capture of Kazan. The nine ornate “onion domes” are the lids to underlying chapels, the ninth and lastly built of which houses the tomb of St. Basil, a loved Russian Orthodox saint, or yurodivy,  a “holy fool for Christ.” Legend has it that aptly named Ivan the Terrible insisted that the architect responsible for the creation had his eyes removed to ensure he never out-built the cathedral’s beauty on another structure. The cathedral is usually open to visitors every day except Tuesday, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.'s Moscow Travel Guide

Las Lajas Cathedral(Martin St-Amant,Wikipedia) 4. Las Lajas Sanctuary
Ipiales, Nariño, Colombia
Located in a canyon of the Guáitara River, the building of Las Lajas Sanctuary began in 1916, not completed until 33 years later. Legend has it that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a steep cliff-side wall above the river below, which prompted its construction as a way to commemorate. The image is still visible today. Walking down the arduous path toward the gateway, you’ll notice thousands of shrines and plaques placed there as a thanks by believers on holy pilgrimages. The easiest way to get there is by taxi from the nearby town of Ipiales. 

Hallgrímskirkja church(Molechaser,Flickr) 3. Hallgrímskirkja
Reykjavík, Iceland
In 1937, the designer of this Lutheran church had Iceland's iconic basalt lava columns in mind when he set about creating the one-of-a-kind place of worship. It is the tallest building in Iceland, standing nearly 245 feet, and took 40 years to complete. Perhaps the most famous aspect of the structure is the massive organ it houses. Weighing in at 25 tons, the instrument has 5,275 pipes and rises 49 feet high. Overlooking the city of Reykjavik, the view from the bell tower is one of the best you can get in the city. The three bells in the tower represent the architect, his wife, and their young daughter.'s Colombia Travel Guide & Iceland Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Top 10 Lists · Trip Ideas

August 09, 2011

Top Ten Landscapes of the Silver Screen

By awayblog

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Petra, Jordan renaissance tomb,Photodisc, andrea Pistolesi 10130830
'X' MARKS THE SPOT: The ruins of Petra are so surreal it could be mistaken for a man-made movie set (Andrea Pistolesi)

Every so often there comes a movie that is an instant classic and a landscape forever reminiscent of its moment on the big screen. Completely parti pris, though open for dispute, here is writer Laura Kiniry's list of the top ten iconic landscapes of the silver screen.

10. Location: Jordan's Ancient City of Petra
Movie: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

9. Location: Greater Salzburg, Austria
Movie: The Sound of Music

8. Location: The Chattooga River, Georgia
Movie: Deliverance

7. Location: Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Movie: The African Queen

6. Location: Halona Cove, O'ahu
Movie: From Here to Eternity

5. Location: Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

4. Location: Bodega Bay, California
Movie: The Birds

3. Location: Sicily, Italy
Movie: The Godfather

2. Location: Southern Tunisia
Movie: Star Wars

1. Location: New Zealand
Movie: The Lord of the Rings

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Related Topics: Top 10 Lists

August 04, 2011

GORP Launches New Outdoor Gear Blog

Our partner—guide to all things outdoors—just launched GEARZILLA, a fantastic new gear blog. They're running profiles of five new outdoors and travel products a week, each thoroughly vetted by a cadre of in-the-know gear testers, writers, and editors. PLUS: They're holding a contest each month. Just submit a review of your own favorite piece of gear, and the best one every 30 days will win free stuff like Patagonia's Torrentshell Jacket. They've also got great tips on how to navigate the confusing world of outdoors gear (from how to buy a tent to explaining what this whole soft shell revolution is really about), a huge cache of packing guides, and loads more.

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Related Topics: Free Stuff · From Around the Web · Travel Gear

August 02, 2011

Top Five American Zoos

San Diego Zoo 062
(San Diego Zoo)

August is synonymous with back-to-school, and what better way to get those kiddos into the learning mindset then to intrigue them with an educational (but fun!) trip to the zoo. Nothing gets their little minds reeling like a glimpse into the animal kingdom. With close to 200 zoos in the U.S., there are plenty of options close to your hometown, but here are five of our favorite larger versions around the country.

San Diego Zoo
A little more than two miles north of San Diego, you will find the largest zoo in the United States, the San Diego Zoo. It's considered the largest zoo based on the fact that its 100 acres house more than 4,000 animals from 800 different species. The animal exhibits closely imitate the animals’ natural habitats. We recommend taking the 35-minute Guided Bus Tour aboard a double-decker bus, with stops along to allow guests to hop on and off at five different points inside the zoo. Tickets are included in the price of a one-day admission pass. We also recommend allotting three to four hours so you have ample time to walk through the exhibits. A tip from the zookeeper: Many animals are “early risers,” so get up with the sun for prime viewing opportunities.

Indianapolis Zoo
With more than 3,000 animals spread among the park, the Indianapolis Zoological Society is most known for its elephant program. The zoo offers a few different elephant activities including an art adventure where the elephant is the artist of the hour, and an opportunity for guests to help scrub down the largest animal on land. As an added bonus, the African elephant Kubwa just gave birth to her third calf this July. Surprisingly, the landlocked Indianapolis Zoo is also known for its dolphins. They have a unique experience that lets guests meet a dolphin, learn hand signals, and give a fishy reward.

National Zoological Park
Head to the nation’s capital to visit the Smithsonian’s 163-acre zoo for free! Print off a map of the zoo ahead of time and plot your route; but be sure to make a stop at the panda exhibit. The National Zoo is one of only four zoos in the U.S. (San Diego, Atlanta, and Memphis) that has giant pandas to visit. You can also check out the live panda cams on the zoo website to see what the lovable Mei Xiang and Tian Tian are up too.

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