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December 2011

December 30, 2011

Winter's Best: Banff & Lake Louise Off-Season Travel Guide

Ice climbers on a frozen waterfall in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park (Heather Hansen)

Banff National Park is easily Canada's most-visited park, drawing over three million visitors a year to gape in wonder at its Rocky Mountains magnificence. Together with adjacent Jasper National Park, threaded by the stunning Icefields Parkway, these two parks accounted for 40 percent of visitors to Canada's national parks in the past year. It's a gem, but certainly not one that remains undiscovered.

Go in winter, however, and you'll almost feel like you've got the place to yourself. It can be bitterly cold, with the mountains, rivers, and lakes in the grip of snow and ice, but this is a season of countless chilly delights. Here are some of my favorite activities for a winter vacation to the Banff area.

Read's vacation guide for going to Banff, Alberta

Icefields Parkway, True to Its Name
The 143-mile-long Icefields Parkway, running between townships Lake Louise and Jasper, remains open throughout the year, although services in winter are limited and the road is liable to closure. However, with the right driving equipment (or by signing up with a local tour company), you can discover a road free of tour-bus gridlock. The famous scenic byway is flanked by over 20 glaciers and seven sprawling icefields, breathtaking mountain vistas around every turn, and vivid frozen waterfalls (perfect for ice-climbing!) lining the route.

Read's vacation guide to the Icefields Parkway

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Related Topics: Canada Travel · Trip Ideas

December 28, 2011

Anthony Bourdain Shares His Top Five Travel Tips

ANTHONY BOURDAIN- NO RESERVATIONS COLLECTION 6-PARTSeasoned traveler and punk rock celeb chef Anthony Bourdain  (host of the Travel Channel's No Reservations) presents his top five travel tips to avoid travel nightmares and make the most out of your time on the road.

Eat like a local.  Wherever you are, eat what the locals are good at or famous for, and eat where those locals like to eat it. Do not rely on your concierge for dining tips. He’s in the business of making tourists happy. You want the places that make locals happy. Seek out places crowded with locals. Avoid places where others of your kind are present.

Show appreciation.  People everywhere like it when you are appreciative of their food. I cannot stress enough how important your initial reactions to offerings of local specialties are to any possible relationships you might make abroad. Smile and try to look happy, even if you don’t like it. If you do like it, let them know through word or gesture of appreciation.

Visit local markets.  Get up early and check out the central food market. It’s a fast way into a culture, where you’ll see the basics of the cuisine.  You’ll often find local prepared foods at stands or stalls serving markets’ workers.

Travel prepared.  Be prepared to be stuck in an airport for indeterminate periods of time.  Load your mobile device with as many games, songs, apps, and e-books as possible to keep busy during long waits. Also, make sure to pack a battery charger to power up.

Continue reading "Anthony Bourdain Shares His Top Five Travel Tips" »

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Related Topics: Food and Drink · Travel Tips

December 23, 2011

The Most Exciting New Resorts and Hotels of 2012

By awayblog

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Rendering from Revel, Atlantic City, New Jersey (Revel Entertainment)

While resort development has certainly slowed due to the global recession, with many projects shelved these past two years, 2012 will be a banner year for the unveiling of new properties. Billion-dollar mega-resorts, ultra-chic honeymoon hotspots, and boutique hotels in downtown centers will all open their doors to the public this coming year.

In some instances, cost has not been spared. Take, for example, the $2.4 billion Revel, set to open on 1,000 feet of Atlantic City boardwalk this spring. Built to delight all Boardwalk Empire fans and folks who like their casinos to display Vegas-style flair, Revel will occupy more than enough space to entertain guests for a weekend of gaming. The 47-story tower will house 12 restaurants, six pools, a 5,800-seat theater, close to four dozen retail stores, and one massive casino.'s Atlantic City Travel Guide

As one would expect, London is gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympics with a slew of new hotel construction. Yet two of the most exciting openings have pushed their launch dates beyond the Games. Near Hyde Park Corner, in the upscale neighborhood of Knightsbridge, the Wellesley Hotel London is now scheduled to debut in November 2012. Next door to the Lanesborough Hotel, the Wellesley will feature 36 spacious suites, including the largest suite in the city, and is billing itself as the first six-star lodging in London.

Overlooking the Thames in London, the 70-story building dubbed "The Shard" is supposed to be completed by the end of the year, but Hong Kong hotelier Shangri-La reportedly won't move in until early 2013. Once finished, the Renzo Piano-designed building will be the tallest structure in the European Union. Shangri-La will occupy floors 34 to 52, so rest assured that you'll have glorious vistas of the city's skyline.'s London Travel Guide

Assoufid, Marrakesh (Rocco Forte Hotels)

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Related Topics: Places to Stay · Top 10 Lists · Travel News · Trip Ideas

December 22, 2011

Three of the Best Anti-New Year's Destinations

By Lacy Morris

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Amsterdam in the Netherlands covered with snow(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
A wintery night in the Netherlands, Amsterdam (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

New Year's has become a holiday juggernaut of sorts. Thousands pile into Times Square to watch the ball drop each year, and the abstract cha-ching of money being made rings for weeks before the big day. But if you're any sort of skeptic about the grandeur of this resolution-esque holiday, we give to you our anti-New Year's destinations where you'll never have to pick confetti from your hair. Here are our top three New Year's anomalies.

Death Valley National Park
Peak visitation in Death Valley is right around the holidays; and let us assure you, you will not see any fireworks, you will not have to throw elbows to get through the entrance doors, and the only counting you'll do is narrowing down the three million acres that are at your disposal. As opposed to the scorching summer months when the environment is quite inhospitable and certain sections are closed off to the public, the entire park's acreage is open for winter access. The days are pleasant, the nights can be a bit chilly, and there are rarely rainstorms. One of the most desolate places in the world is the key to a bother-free New Year.'s Death Valley National Park Travel Guide

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

December 21, 2011

Photo Contest Update: Traveling Around the World in the Footsteps of Our Readers

By awayblog

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Having just closed's inaugural Dream Destination Photo Contest, we're now thrilled to be traveling vicariously via your fantastic submissions in the quest to pinpoint our winning entry. Look out for an announcement in the first week of January. During our month-long search for our readers' most inspiring photo, we received entries for pictures taken on every continent except Antarctica. Of the over 80 countries and 37 states that were represented, the most-photographed destinations were Paris, Oahu, Rome, Santorini, and Venice. Other locations were as far-flung as Afghanistan, Burma, and Iraq. Mountains, seascapes, and sunsets/sunrises were your favorite compositional subjects. Here at HQ, we've loved indulging in some primo armchair travel throughout the month, so thanks to everyone who took part—and here's to more great adventures in 2012! Safe travels over the holiday season.

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Related Topics: News · Travel Photography

December 20, 2011

Fun Festival: Night of the Radishes

By Lacy Morris

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Radish Carvings at Noche de Rábanos, Radish Night (Stephanie Schneiderman, Tia Stephanie Tours)

In Oaxaca, Mexico, a mass harvest of radishes is underway in preparation for Noche de Rábanos, Radish Night, one of Mexico's many unique and colorful festivals. And like most other festivals of its kind, Radish Night is full of entertaining history and odd appeal.'s Oaxaca Travel Guide

Legend has it that two Spanish monks assisted the local people to grow produce in the land that was naturally irrigated by the Atoyac River. Once cultivated, the monks encouraged the farmers to carve intricate figures into the radishes as a way to allure people to purchase the produce at the market. The odd entrepreneurship stuck and became a staple of the area's culture, over the years developing into the festival it is today.

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

December 16, 2011

Apocalypse 2012? Not According to Copan.

A carving at Copan Ruinas, Honduras (Nathan Borchelt)

Our guide is explaining that we have nothing to worry about in 2012. If the Mayans were still here in Copan, Honduras, even they would just be playing a game that involved kicking a large ball among two stone rises, honoring the winning team by way of human sacrifice. Nothing to worry to about.

There’s a lot of debate over what December 21, 2012—the end of the 5,126-year “Long Calendar” according to some—will bring. Some say nothing more than Y2K-esque anti-climax; others say the end of the world. Here in Copan, an archeological site on the border of Honduras and Guatemala that lay largely ignored until the early 1900s, they take the middle road. Our guide says that 2012 marks the end of a 58-year cycle in which thousands would come to what is now known as Copan Ruinas. But the end of the world? They don’t think so. Whatever the case, tourists intrigued by South and Central American history will surely be more interested in Copan and other Mayan sites as that (questionably) epic date approaches.

Continue reading "Apocalypse 2012? Not According to Copan." »

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

December 14, 2011

2012 International Hotspots: Life List Locales for the New Year

By awayblog

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Ice berg of arch and row of houses,Greenland(Top Photo Group,Thinkstock)
Greenland coastal homes as an iceberg floats by (Top Photo Group/Thinkstock)

They're melting and sinking. They're booming—or busting. They're jaw-droppingly scenic and cosmopolitan. One thing that's clear about our nods for the best travel destinations of 2012 is that they're changing, and fast, which means the coming year is perfect for a trip of a lifetime. Now that we've spun the globe and picked our top spots, it's your turn to make it happen—and, of course, to let us know which ones we missed.

Thanks to climate change, this enormous country (which has a human population of 57,000 and a sled-dog population of 30,000) might soon become too hot for its own good—in more ways than one. Rumor has it that Greenland could be sitting on some 47 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Temps are trending five degrees above normal. And the number of people visiting on cruise ships has doubled since 2004. Yes, it might be year-round Northern Lights. It might be restaurants reachable only by helicopter. Or the world's biggest and least-visited protected park. Our bet? Greenland is starting to live up to its unlikely name, and people want to catch it while it's still under ice.

Weekend Guide: Defying Expectations in Greenland

This tiny archipelago of 1,200 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean is the epitome of paradise: coral reefs, constant sunshine, bathwater lagoons, and opulent resorts going up as fast as couples can say "I do." It's also the lowest country on the planet, with an average elevation of five feet above sea level and a high point of seven feet, seven inches. Think about the threat of sea level rise, then do the math: You can tell your grandchildren that you saw a disappearing nation way back in 2012.'s Maldives Travel Guide

Once virtually ostracized and still a land of red flags (in the form of tyrannical rule), this magical country is open for business. In fact, our own State Department says, "After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism." There is much to take in, and it all has the feel of olden-day adventure travel: thousands of stupas, golden pagodas, floating gardens, creaky river steamers, and fortune tellers. Whether travel will help locals or pad the pockets of corrupt generals remains to be seen. The wonder of Burma, however, is ever clear.

A Country in Photos: Burma

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Related Topics: Exotic Escapes · Top 10 Lists · Travel Trends · Trip Ideas

December 12, 2011

New Orleans is Home to Football this Winter

By Kate Chandler

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New Orleans,Superdome(David Reber's Hammer Photography,Flickr)
New Orleans Superdome (David Reber's Hammer Photography/Flickr)

Over the years, has named New Orleans as a top destination for bachelor parties, Christmas vacations, Memorial Day weekends, and July 4th fireworks. This winter, we'll add to that list: It's the place for football.'s New Orleans Travel Guide

New Orleans is home to the 2012 BCS National Championship (that's for college football, for those of you who don't follow gridiron events). And despite the usual turmoil over BCS rankings of the country's best teams, it's hard to deny that the National Championship is cause for celebration.

On January 9, 2012, the Louisiana State Tigers will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Superdome, one of the country's largest indoor football stadiums. Because NOLA is close for fans of both teams, tickets and hotel rooms are going like wildfire. Want to go? Tickets are selling for a mere $1,300 (per ticket, and in the nosebleed section at that) on StubHub. Or you can scour the web for contests giving away tickets. We found one from the tourism board of Visit South Walton, where all you have to do is enter on its Facebook page in the "Giveaways" section. Yes, South Walton is in Florida, but, hey, they are legit and have free tickets!      

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

December 06, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Markets Around the World

By BootsnAll

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Christmas market,Prague(Hemera,Thinkstock)
Prague's Christmas Market (Thinkstock)

The tradition of the Christmas market, or Christkindlmarkt, began in Germany, Austria, and Alsace. Over time the idea spread, and though you'll still need to book a flight to Europe to visit the best ones, you can experience the festivity of a cozy Christmas market here in the United States as well.

From the original (and some might say best) Christmas markets in Germany to the latest incarnations, Christmas markets keep people coming out in the cold to celebrate the season. The smell of cinnamon and freshly baked sweets fills the air, lights sparkle on the trees and in shop windows, and visitors stay warm sipping hot mulled wine, called gluhwein. Get into the holiday spirit at one of these great Christmas markets around the world.

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago's Chriskindlmarket is the largest traditional German market outside of Germany, a must-do to kick off Christmas season in Chicago. On November 26, it sprang to life in the Loop's Daly Plaza with the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Nosh on Bavarian pretzels and grilled bratwurst, or pick up some hot wine in a souvenir cup, and browse the small village of shops beneath the lights of city skyscrapers.

Munich, Germany
Like many large cities in Germany, Munich offers several Christmas markets, but the largest and oldest is in Marienplatz, in the old center. More than 140 stalls in the shadow of a giant Christmas tree sell decorations, art, jewelry, and traditional German fare. The market opens on the first Friday in December, and every evening at 5:30 Alpine choirs perform in the Town Hall's balcony.

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Related Topics: Holidays, Events, & Festivals

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