America's Best Aquariums

With summer quickly approaching, families are looking to hit the road and take a vacation. However, it isn’t always easy to find attractions that can help you beat the heat and entertain all parties. Luckily, many major cities have aquariums, fine spaces to not only learn about life under the sea, but also cool places to escape the heat. If you want to experience some of the best, here are four standout aquariums across the U.S. to visit this summer.

#1. The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

Located in downtown Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium is home to more than 10 million gallons of water and more animals than any other aquarium. As if those weren’t enough accolades, the Georgia Aquarium features popular exhibits like the Cold Water Quest, Ocean Voyager, River Scout, Aquanaut Adventure and Tropical Diver. Visitors can expect to see 500 species from all around the world and more than 60 different habitats, making it one of the best aquariums in the U.S. Its convenient location next to Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca Cola and CNN Studio Tours makes it easy to reach when staying in Atlanta. The space offers an intriguing spot to see beluga whales, penguins, dolphins, seat otters, whale sharks and manta rays.

#2. New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts

If penguins are your poison, the New England Aquarium is the perfect spot to view three species of penguins along with thousands of other aquatic animals. Located at Central Wharf, reachable from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market if you are staying in central Boston, the aquarium overlooks a key piece of downtown Boston’s waterfront. Most come to see the Giant Ocean Tank, home to thousands of creatures. In addition, the aquarium offers an IMAX Theater with various films on aquatic themes. Overall, visitors can marvel at lionfish, sea-dragons, giant Pacific octopus, Northern fur seals, California sea lions and Atlantic harbor seals.

#3. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois

Perched on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium boasts 32,000 animals, easily placing it on lists for one of the best aquariums in the country. Even being right in Chicago, the aquarium offers the chance to explore the world’s oceans, rivers and reefs. Exhibits include the Wild Reef where you can see sharks swim right above you and the oceanarium with its dolphins and beluga whales. Complete with floor to ceiling windows, the Shedd Aquarium differs from other aquariums across the country as it showcases a wealth of habitats, from the rainforest to the Pacific Northwest coast.

#4. Houston Downtown Aquarium in Houston, Texas

Settled into the northwest corner of downtown Houston, the appropriately named Downtown Aquarium is certainly not your average aquarium. Part aquarium, part restaurant and part amusement park, the aquarium features different aquatic ecosystems and specialized species from all around the world. The experience is decidedly more interactive than most aquariums with touch tanks for the whole family to enjoy. In addition to the aquarium, the space also has a seafood restaurant on site where you can bask in a large aquarium while you eat. The main takeaways of the Houston Downtown Aquarium include a large shark tank, Ferris wheel and carousel. And when you need to rest up after all of the activity and excitement the Downtown Aquarium has to offer, Extended Stay America has you covered in Houston.

 

Finding attractions that all family members will appreciate aren’t always easy on summer vacations. However, these aquariums offer a little bit for everyone. Whether you are headed to Chicago or down to Atlanta, these aquarium spaces educate, entertain and excite even the crankiest of travelers.

 

 

July 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Government and Military Travel Tips

If you have to travel as a government or military employee, those business trips and assignments can be long, exhausting and even chaotic. Traveling for any job has its ups and downs, but for military and government workers, there are somewhat different tips to follow to get the most out of your travels. Before you take off on assignment for the long or short term, here are a few helpful travel tips to follow.

Tip #1: Take Advantage of Expedited Airport Security

If you have to fly for a business trip or a short-term assignment, you don’t want to spend too much time at the airport. In the U.S., military travel can be a little less painful with the help of TSA Pre Check for Active Duty Military. The program offers those in the military expedited airport security screening benefits. The program is in place at more than 120 TSA Pre Check airports. Active duty service members can easily travel through the airport more quickly and easily by not having to wait in the long security lines, remove their shoes or even take out their liquids. The program also includes any accompanying family members under the age of 12.

Tip #2: Always Ask For a Discount At Hotels

One of the main advantages for traveling military or government employees is the discounts, specifically those offered on hotels. Many military and government workers neglect to book properties that offer discounts on room rates. Extended Stay America is one of those hotels, offering deals to military and government employees, making government travel easier to afford. In most cases, you usually can select the discounted rate and show your government or military identification at check-in. By taking advantage of government travel rates at hotels, the wallet is less constricted so that you can still get out and appreciate your destination, despite being there for work.

Tip #3: Do Something Local

Working and traveling doesn’t always leave much wiggle room to fit in sightseeing while on your way or at your destination. Military and government employees should try to at least do something local. A business trip doesn’t necessarily need to be only about business. In addition to hotels, many attractions like museums also offer discounts or free admission to the military. Playing the part of tourist becomes a little bit more affordable in that case. Also, it can be beneficial to look for hotels near where you have to work. By being closer to the task at hand, you stand to have more time to escape the job and actually see something at your destination.

Traveling for business has its positives and negatives. While you might get shuttled off to a far-flung destination of your dreams, being able to enjoy it isn’t always on the table. However, by practicing these main military and government employee travel tips, you stand a better chance of dodging long lines at the airport, scooping up amazing hotel deals and seeing something local at your destination. After all, all work and no play tend to make for a dull business trip.

 

July 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Cities to Celebrate Independence Day

It is a day for barbecues, fireworks, music and being outside. Donning their festive red, white and blue, millions assemble across the nation for the 4th of July to celebrate American pride. However, you don’t have to be at home to have a fulfilling 4th of July. From Boston to Los Angeles, the country is riddled with 4th of July destinations.

Chicago, Illinois

In an all American city like Chicago it’s no wonder that the 4th of July is done in style. As the smell of barbecue fills the air, you can follow your nose to Windy City Ribfest. The event is just one of the many festivals taking place for the holiday. Windy City Ribfest features some of the best local and national rib experts along with music. In addition to Ribfest, Chicago offers Fourth of July Fireworks off of Navy Pier. For 4th of July in Chicago, many flock to a rooftop or to Millennium Park to take in the free fireworks display. Other events this year around the 4th of July in Chicago include catching the Chicago Cubs series with the Marlins or sticking around for Taste of Chicago, a taste of Chicago’s Street fare in Grant Park.

New York, New York

No one quite does the 4th of July like New York. The holiday in the city consists of plenty of celebrations and events, but perhaps most notable is the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks. One of the largest displays in the country, the event features fireworks launched off of the Brooklyn Bridge and three barges in the Lower East River. If you’d rather spend the 4th of July in New York in true foodie fashion, you can head to Coney Island to see Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Boston, Massachusetts

In a patriotic and historical city like Boston, you go big for the nation’s Independence Day. 4th of July in Boston revolves around Boston Harborfest and the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. Boston Harborfest is one of the city’s best festivals. It showcases colonial and maritime heritage with reenactments, concerts and historical tours. The events are concentrated in Boston’s historic downtown and waterfront districts. Boston Harborfest is an annual tradition in the city. In addition, visitors can attend the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The premier Independence Day celebration takes place on the banks of the Charles River. Travelers can expect concerts and fireworks for the celebration.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is home to many different celebrations for the 4th of July holiday. Some popular events include 4th of July AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl. Travelers can see one of the largest fireworks displays in the area at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. If you are around the LA Civic Center, you can also find the July 4th at Grand Park event, a four-block block party that also includes fireworks. And for a truly spectacular 4th of July in Los Angeles experience, travelers can head aboard the Queen Mary for the Queen Mary BBQ, Brews and Red, White and Blues event. The entire ship details various eras throughout the U.S. Attendees of the event can experience live music, family friendly activities and fireworks.

 

While many prefer to have 4th of July celebrations at home with family and friends, spending the holiday on the road can be an enriching experience. These places across the country pack in the punch with fireworks, food and music.

June 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Lawn and Beach Games for the Summer

As summer begins, many families and friends hit the road for destinations where being outside is practically mandatory. If you are planning some road trips this summer, you can keep all parties entertained by tossing a few fun beach and lawn games in the trunk. Not only are these games easy to pack, they also involve the whole family.

Kubb

Even if your road trip this summer is taking you to U.S. destinations, you can still play the part of a Swede by packing Kubb in your vehicle. Often referred to as Viking Chess, the Swedish lawn game has been played in Sweden for more than one thousand years. The components of Kubb are pretty easy to assemble if you know a little bit about woodworking. The game consists of throwing short dowels at your opponent’s pieces to knock them over. Kubb can be played on sand or a lawn and with as few as two people to as many as 12 players. The game is easy to pack on a road trip, as there are just small wood pieces required for Kubb.

Horseshoes

If you are looking for summer beach games or summer lawn games to play on a trip to Los Angeles or down to Orlando, horseshoes are always a classic game to play. With origins probably during the Roman Empire when soldiers used to throw horseshoes for distance, the game has become a classic backyard summer activity. At the same time, horseshoes can be played on a beach in the sand. Horseshoes are also easy to pack, as all you need are four horseshoes and two stakes. Players simply drive the stakes into the sand or grass with the goal of ringing the stake with the horseshoe. Games can be played in rounds with usually the goal of reaching 15 points before the opponent.

Baggo

Not to be confused with cornhole, baggo is practically made for travel. One of the great summer activities for kids, Baggo features boards with a hole in which opposing teams attempt to knock beanbags into the hole for the most points. The easily portable beanbag game requires a flat surface like a lawn to play and generally two teams of two. Many baggo boards fold up like a suitcase, making them easy for travel.

Bocce Ball

Always part of fun summer activities, bocce ball can also be played while on a road trip. All ages and varying skill levels make bocce ball a very universal game. You will merely need a flat area to play and a bocce set. Players can assemble in teams of one, two three or four people to play. Each team receives four balls with the goal of rolling your ball closest to the pallino or jack ball. Travelers should look out for designated bocce ball courts as they usually provide the ideal surface to play, a court composed of sand.

From bocce ball to kubb, lawn and beach games are a fun way to spice up a road trip. Not only can you keep everyone entertained, but also you can be outside, enjoying the warmth of summer.

 

June 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Celebrating Father's Day on the Road

As soon as Mother’s Day passes, many families shift their focus to Father’s Day. Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day falls in the heart of June, when many families are on their summer vacations. Celebrating dad on the road tends to be a little less expected than those Father’s Days at home. If you are planning on being out of town for Father’s Day, here are a few ideas as to what you can do with dad to treat him.

Father’s Day Tip #1: Take Dad on a Brewery Tour

Most dads can appreciate a fine brew. As craft breweries have exploded across the country, there always tends to be a brewery tour at your destination. Brewery tours educate visitors on the brewing process and usually provide samples. You can often bring the whole family but of course, tastings are limited to those over 21. Brewery tours can provide a fun activity for the whole family and something every beer-loving dad can appreciate.

Father’s Day Tip #2: Take a Hike

If you are short on Father’s Day ideas, most destinations across the country naturally have a little something dads can enjoy. Many fathers would prefer to spend Father’s Day in the great outdoors. Families can do a bit of digging to find the nearest state park or hike to take dad on for his day. In terms of Father’s Day activities, going on a hike is something the whole family can do and an activity available in most destinations.

Father’s Day Tip #3: Plan a Trip to Golf-Friendly Destinations

 Golfing is often a favorite pastime for dad. If the whole family wants to take a vacation and you need Father’s Day gifts from the kids, everyone can pick out a golf course where dad can spend the day playing. For those families who haven’t already selected a summer vacation destination, you can always lump Father’s Day gifts into the mix by selecting a golf friendly destination. Places like Hilton Head, South Carolina, Florida and Southern California make for perfect golf and family friendly destinations. Dad can enjoy a round in a place the whole family can appreciate. Plus, if you book a reservation at an Extended Stay America in one of those golf friendly destinations, dad can enjoy the lessened strain on his pocketbook, as kids stay free.

Father’s Day Tip #4: Stay Connected

In some cases, dads can’t be with their families for Father’s Day. If your dad is on a business trip for the holiday, the important thing is to stay connected with him. No matter where your dad might be for Father’s Day, technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch. Hotels virtually everywhere have Wi-Fi so you can Skype or FaceTime with dad on his special day to let him know you’re thinking of him.

Father’s Day on the road can be a disaster if not planned just right. Before you forget it’s dad’s day during your family vacation, it never hurts to schedule in a few activities and attractions just for him. 

June 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

4 Los Angeles Hidden Hot Spots

Like most major cities, Los Angeles juggles a busy agenda. The City of Angels crowds with landmarks, attractions and cultural givings famous all over the world. While most lists outline the must see attractions in Los Angeles, many visitors want to get to the core of the city. If you would rather seek out Los Angeles’ lesser known, hidden gems, here are four that are sure to give you that sense of Los Angeles off the grid.

Hidden Hot Spot #1: Virginia Robinson Gardens

If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Los Angeles, a fine place to start is the Virginia Robinson Gardens. Many don’t know about this gorgeous six-acre property right in the middle of Beverly Hills. The estate was built in 1911, making it the first estate in Beverly Hills. Named after the department store giant’s wife, the Virginia Robinson Gardens has even made it on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just behind the Beverly Hills Hotel, the property shows off a display garden, mansion and pool pavilion. Visitors can imagine the space decades ago when it functioned as the site of many lavish Hollywood parties. Tours of the estate include a walk through of the famous mansion’s buildings and gardens. However, like all respectable secret Los Angeles attractions, you must make an appointment to visit. The Virginia Robinson Gardens recommend reserving a tour at least two weeks in advance.

Hidden Hot Spot #2: The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Los Angeles features countless famous museums, but if you seek a more off beat museum space, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is for you. If you are staying in Los Angeles for a few days, you can catch one of the city’s most intriguing and strange exhibition spaces. The Museum of Jurassic Technology combines myths, superstition and natural wonders. Located on Venice Boulevard in Culver City, exhibits tend to have nothing to do with dinosaurs or technology. One of those weird and wacky displays includes the Garden of Eden on Wheels, a collection from Los Angeles area mobile home parks.

Hidden Hot Spot #3: The Underground Tunnels of LA

Created during prohibition when 11 miles of service tunnels became passageways to speakeasies, the Underground Tunnels of LA present yet another off the beaten path attraction in town. The pedestrian tunnels stretch from Spring and Temple Streets to First Street and Grand Avenue. The surviving tunnels run under many of the city’s main government buildings and have even been featured in films. While the Underground Tunnels of LA boasts a history for transporting mobsters, murderers and cash, today, travelers with a sense of adventure can explore the tunnels by way of a hidden entrance behind the Hall of Records.

Hidden Hot Spot #4: Time Travel Mart

If you fancy yourself a time traveler, Los Angeles has another hidden attraction for you. The Time Travel Mart is touted as a convenience store for time travelers. It features goods for sale from virtually every era. Filled with oddities, the space offers the chance to see Barbarian repellent, primordial soup in a can and dinosaur eggs. All of the proceeds from Time Travel Mark fund a non-profit.

Figuring out what to do in a major city like Los Angeles isn’t always easy. However, if you have a sense of adventure, a want to see the quirky and off beat, Los Angeles doesn’t disappoint with these quirky and hidden gems. 

June 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)