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September 2011

September 29, 2011

Top Five Adventures in Bonaire (Besides SCUBA)

By Guest Blogger

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Bonaire Dive Community (Thinkstock)

Divers have been doing their best to keep Bonaire a secret for decades. They've long considered this Dutch municipality in the Caribbean a veritable home away from home, and happily allowed the rest of the world to think its highly protected reef park is the only thing going for it. But today Bonaire is on the rise, and non-divers are starting to take notice.

From incredible island hiking to world-class windsurfing, Bonaire is an all-around outdoor paradise. Better yet, unlike neighboring Aruba and Curacao, there's not a chain hotel in sight, and its easy roads and well-marked attractions make it eminently explorable, with or without a tour guide. Throw in super-friendly, Dutch-infused locals with an infectious love for their natural landscape, and you've got the DIY traveler's trifecta.'s Bonaire Travel Guide

Explore Bonaire for yourself with this lineup of the island's top five outdoor adventures—no SCUBA tanks required.

1. Washington Slagbaai National Park
With rolling desert hills and towering cactuses dominating the landscape, the rugged Washington Slagbaai National Park feels more like the American southwest than the Caribbean, except for one thing: You can't turn the bend of a dusty West Texas trail to find a deserted white-sand beach where rolling waves seem to be catered to body surfing. From hiking and mountain biking to bird watching, kayaking and cliff jumping, this park has adventures to top any visitor's must-do list. Car- and bike-friendly roads run alongside hiking trails that include a flat walk through the prickly pears out to Chikita Beach and a not-so-flat climb to the top of Branderis, the island's highest point. Aside from the visitor center at the entrance, the only facilities are found at Slaagbai, a white sand beach on the west side of the park with a single food vendor and picnic area among historic harbor buildings.'s Washington Slagbaai National Park Travel Guide

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · Scuba & Snorkeling · Trip Ideas

September 19, 2011

Some of the Best Oktoberfest Festivals Outside of Munich

By Kate Chandler

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Celebrating Oktoberfest in Cincinnati, Ohio (courtesy, Cincinnati Chamber)

Munich is the official home of Oktoberfest, a 17-day beer-drinking celebration of Bavarian culture that starts on September 17 this year. But of course something this fun can't be contained to one city, state, or country. And thus Oktoberfest parties have sprung up all over the world. If you can't make it to Munich for the original, try one of these other favorites. 

Blumenau, Brazil
Coming in as a top contender for the "largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany" prize is Blumenau in southern Brazil. Nearly one million tourists flock to this German immigrant-founded city each year for parades, bands, traditional German food, and, no surprise, beer. Visit the Eisenbahn microbrewery to sip Dunkel or Kolsch that abides by the Reinheitsgebot, an old German law on craft beer standards that has since been repealed but is still highly respected.'s Brazil Travel Guide

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Also nearing the one million-visitor mark is Oktoberfest in the twin Canadian cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. This area has deep German roots; many people here speak German, and Kitchener was even once named Berlin until World War I prompted a name change in 1916. Besides lots of beer guzzling, this year's festival includes a Miss Oktoberfest pageant, the Oktoberfest Idol contest (like American Idol crunched into two hours), and lots of family-friendly events.'s Ontario Travel Guide

Cincinnati, Ohio
Closer to home (for most of you reading this), Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, September 17 and 18 this year, claims to be the biggest Oktoberfest in America, drawing more than 500,000 annually. In addition to copious beer consumption, festival-goers take in some 80,000 brats, 24,000 potato pancakes, and 3,600 pounds of sauerkraut as they witness the Running of the Wieners, the world's largest Chicken Dance, and the Beer Barrel Roll.'s Cincinnati Travel Guide

Other Oktoberfest festivals worth traveling to:
Samuel Adams OctoberFest in Boston, Massachusetts (September 9-10)
Oktoberfest in Denver, Colorado (September 16-18, 23-25)
Oktoberfest by the Bay in San Francisco, California (September 30-October 2)
Soulard Oktoberfest in St. Louis, Missouri (October 7-9)

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

September 12, 2011

Five of the Best Towns to Celebrate Halloween

Toast to Life,Flickr
Halloween Key West-Style (Toast to Life/Flickr)

For kids, Halloween is infamous for costumes and trick-or-treating; for teens, horror flicks and potentially a day off school; for college students, lingerie and beer; for parents, watching their children do all of the formerly mentioned (lingerie and beer aside). If you love everything about Halloween, then put on your disguise and head to one of these cities that knows how to party, whether it’s rated PG or R.

Party-Hardy: New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans and its above-ground gravesites can be creepy even when it’s not Halloween, but The Big Easy sure knows how to celebrate. Second in size only to Mardi Gras, All Hallows’ Eve is celebrated with elaborate costumes, drinking, dancing, and parades. Even the zoo gets in on the action with “Boo at the Zoo.” And while you're there, chow down on what New Orleans is most known for, its tasty local cuisine—try a po’boy and some beignets to replenish your appetite during all your wickedly awesome fun.'s New Orleans Travel Guide

Sexiest: Key West, Florida
The annual Key West Fantasy Fest is one word: risqué. During the week-and-a-half before Halloween, clothing is sparse, lingerie is welcomed in public, and Captain Morgan is about as frequent as water. The Pretenders in Paradise event has up to a $10,000 cash prize costume contest; the Duval Street’s mile-long street fair promises lively libations and costumed frivolity; and Captain Morgan’s famous parade, with 70,000 frolicking partygoers, finishes out the celebrations on Saturday night.'s Key West Travel Guide

College Town: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Reigning supreme as one of the nation’s top party schools by the Princeton Review (and numerous other sites), Ohio University’s insane Halloween parties date back to the 70s, when the indiscretions of the college culture were a bit more hush-hush. The Annual Athens Halloween Street Party is considered to be one of the largest block parties in the nation, typically attracting more than 20,000 people to the streets of downtown Athens. If you’re going, be smart and call a taxi. Each year a few dozen people take the festivities too far and end up in the back of a cop car.'s Ohio Travel Guide

Continue reading "Five of the Best Towns to Celebrate Halloween" »

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

September 07, 2011

Learn to Mountain Bike in Park City’s Deer Valley Resort

Mountain biking on Park City's Mid-Mountain Trail (Nathan Borchelt)

The cliché "just like riding a bike" holds true…unless you’re talking about the first time you go mountain biking. This ain’t like hopping on the Huffy of your youth. Not only are the bikes themselves considerably more complex (front and rear shocks, 29-inch wheels, disc brakes etc.), but the act of cycling on single-track introduces a whole host of new challenges for the newbie. Some adjustments (not hitting just the left brake, keeping your pedals parallel to the ground to avoid hitting rocks and roots) may become self-evident after ten minutes in the saddle. But bracing for some serious riding through mud, dirt, sand, root, and rocks can still leave your arms quivering.

And that’s why we love what Park City’s Deer Valley Mountain Resort has initiated: Throughout the summer (and for the weekend after Labor Day), you can enroll in the Mountain Bike School, where experienced instructors help you get your balance on the new downhill bikes, teach you basic technical skills, and then guide you on several of the mountain’s bike terrain. The trails themselves are accessible via three chairlifts, with routes that range in difficulty from beginner to expert-only, with such fun (and frantic) features as banked turns, sinewy switchbacks, and gentle rollers through groves of aspen and pines. The more experienced cyclist, meanwhile, can pick up a few tips that’ll drastically improve one’s riding ability.

But don’t take our word for it: Here’s a great blog entry by Amy Kersey of Park City Tourism about her first time on a mountain bike this summer.

And, to further whet your appetite, we also bring you our new photo gallery of the active side of Park City.

Private two-hour lessons run $55, while three-hour adult classes cost $48 (children eight to 12 get a three-hour class for $38). Lift ticket and bike rentals not included.

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Related Topics: Cycling · From Around the Web · Outdoor Adventures

September 06, 2011

Safety in the World's Newest Nation—South Sudan

By WorldNomads

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(South Sudanese celebrate winning the referendum on independence)

There's a pretty good chance you've never visited this country, because until July 9, 2011, the Republic of Southern Sudan didn't exist. Of course it did physically exist—the land, the water, and the people—but until the official declaration of independence, it wasn't a nation.

Unless you are an aid worker, a United Nations official, or a very foolhardy traveler, it's unlikely you've been anyway, because this was one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

Civil War
Northern Sudan and the government in Khartoum were at war with Southern Sudan and the rebels based in Juba, the country's largest city. It was Africa's longest civil war, 1983-2005, and resulted in the deaths of two million people and the displacement of another four million.

Visitors not caught in the crossfire, or stumbling on the tens of thousands of landmines littering the countryside, ran a gauntlet of outlaws and criminals who regarded any foreigner as an intruder, or a walking bag of cash to be held for ransom.

Continue reading "Safety in the World's Newest Nation—South Sudan" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Travel News

September 02, 2011

Europe on Sale! Shoulder-Season Deals for Travel Throughout the Continent

London's Borough Market (Justin Lightley/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty)

Forget the blazing bonfire that seems to be the European banking system. Europe has started its annual fire sale for fall travel, and North American travelers are set to be the major beneficiaries. As the season shifts from summer to fall, savvy travelers are primed to save on shoulder-season airfare through most of the major transatlantic carriers, not to mention discover lower prices (and slimmer crowds) at local hotels and eateries throughout the continent. Here are some ideas for a last-minute hop across the pond.

Go North Before the Lights Go Out
Scandinavian Airlines has extended its fall sale booking window till September 5, with reduced fares to northern European gateways including Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, and Gothenburg. Enjoy a region that's filled with fall colors, dramatic outdoor landscapes, and seasonal highlights like West Sweden's annual lobster harvest. Iceland is another accessible spot with decent shoulder-season deals through national carrier Icelandair. This rugged glacial splodge in the North Atlantic boasts volcanic landscapes, huge waterfalls, thermal springs, and an edgy vodka-fuelled nightlife. (This year also marks a peak in a decade-long solar-flare cycle that means Iceland's aurora borealis will burn even more brightly this fall and winter.)

Read's European Travel Guides

Continue reading "Europe on Sale! Shoulder-Season Deals for Travel Throughout the Continent" »

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Related Topics: European Travel

September 01, 2011

Events to Remember the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001

By Lacy Morris

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Rendering of the completed National September 11 Memorial (National September 11 Memorial & Museum)

This September 11 marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating terrorist attacks on America. Across the country, events are being planned to commemorate loved ones who were lost in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, and the brave men and women who fought to save them. Many of the ceremonies will be televised if you aren't near a memorial event. Here are a few options on the East Coast planned to remember 9/11 and the way it has shaped our lives. 

National Museum of American History
Washington, D.C.
More than 50 objects will be on display on open tables, taken from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The open display containers are meant to give visitors an intimate experience when combined with stories of how American life has changed since that day. The exhibit will run September 3-11, 2011.

The National September 11 Memorial
New York City, NY
Set in the exact space that the World Trade Center once stood, this memorial has been a long time coming. Two reflecting pools fill the footprints where the two towers once stood, with the largest man-made waterfalls in the world pouring into both. They stand in the middle of nearly 400 swamp white oak trees. Opening day will be on September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Flight 93 National Memorial
Shanksville, PA
Flight 93 was scheduled to land in San Francisco when it was overtaken by terrorists and eventually crashed into a Pennsylvania field, killing everyone on board. There has been a temporary memorial several miles from the crash site, which will shut down for good on September 9. The dedication for the new memorial will begin on September 10, culminating on September 11 with a ceremony to honor the men and women who were on the flight. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to pay their respects at the memorial on September 11, though the time of their arrival has yet to be released.

Continue reading "Events to Remember the 10th Anniversary of September 11, 2001" »

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

Beach Soccer World Cup Kicks Off in Northern Italy

Santa Maria church in Ravenna, Italy (Vito Arcomano/Fototeca ENIT)

Don't have time for soccer as it's played in its full-length version? Then the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup might be the game for you, featuring fast-paced 36-minute games split into three periods. What does this have to do with travel? This year's tournament kicks off today in the northeastern Italian town of Ravenna, an intriguing and less-visited town close to Italy's Adriatic coast. Ravenna is an easy train ride from Rimini or Bologna in the province of Emilia-Romagna, and boasts a lattice of walkable streets and squares that showcase the city's rich mix of Roman, Byzantine, and medieval architecture. Notable sightseeing highlights include the shimmering mosaics in the Chiesa di San Vitale and Mausoleo di Galla Placida. Ravenna is also the burial place of Dante Alighieri, author of epic poem The Inferno. The Beach Soccer World Cup runs through September 9 and features 16 teams from around the world including Italy, Brazil, Mexico, and Senegal. Once you've got your fix of this spectator-friendly game, you'll probably want to start planning your trip to the 2013 running of this biannual event: Tahiti.

Traveling to Northern Italy? Check out's gallery of photos from towns around the region.

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