Back-to-Roots Routes for the Road Warrior
Americans have lately been expressing the desire to slow down their fast-paced, stress-filled lives. From the slow-food movement to bike-to-work days, there are all sorts of evidence of our desire to live in a way that is deliberative, salubrious and heartfelt—rather than rushed, superficial and deleterious to our heart health.
Vacations have always been about relaxation, about slowing things down in order to really enjoy life. Now that many Americans are trying to live by the standards expressed by the newly christened slow movement, a more comprehensive offshoot of the slow-food movement, there are many vacation options that are not just about personal pleasure and relaxation but that are also about community building and reflecting on the bigger picture.
Getting Revived at the Folk Revival (and Learning Something, Too)
Taking place from June 27th- July 1st and July 4th-8th, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (which began in 1967 at the tail end of the 1960’s folk-music revival that gave us Bob Dylan and Joan Baez) is a celebration of traditional, community-based arts and crafts of all sorts, such as music, cooking, dance, woodworking, painting, etc.
International practitioners of deeply-rooted cultural forms and processes give demonstrations on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. All the entertainment and education here is homegrown—which results, of course, in a diverse array of aesthetics, personalities and techniques. Come see demonstrations of everything from New York City graffiti writing (minus the New York Police Department) to the dancing of an Italian tarantella—a dance traditionally believed to be the remedy for a disease caused by the bite of a tarantula. Every festival focuses on a U.S. state, a U.S. region, and on many international cultures.
Last, but not least, the festival is free—your tax dollars at work!
Getting Real by Eating Real Food
The folks behind the Eat Real Festival, which takes place between September 21st-23rd in Oakland, California’s Jack London Square, believe that the food we eat should be (as much as possible) sustainable, community-based fare that has not been altered chemically. Needless to say, you will find no processed food at this homey food-truck festival. That is not to say, though, that this is a health-food festival. You can score plenty of comfort food here—burgers, fries, chocolate, etc.
Also, just because this festival stands in opposition to modern methods of mass-food processing and shipping does not mean that it is a stodgy back-to-basics event. You will find plenty of edgy fusion food at Eat Real. Fittingly for the festival’s California location, Mexican food is combined with just about every other ethnic food: Filipino and Korean tacos and Indian burritos are some of the festival’s most popular items.
While in Jack London Square, make sure to check out London’s Yukon cabin, which was disassembled up north then shipped to Oakland (his hometown) and reassembled in his eponymous square.
Getting a Really Good Night’s Sleep
An important component of community-based culture and cuisine is the way it makes you feel. You can feel the love in it. It emanates love because it has the feeling of home. Even if it doesn’t exactly have the feeling of your home, it still has the feeling of home. When you’re on the road, you want to get this feeling of home from the hotels you stay in. You get this feeling from Extended Stay Hotels, which, like home, have kitchens where you can prepare real food and a living space where you can have real family time with your loved ones.
Save 20% - Select Weekends at Extended Stay Hotels
Last minute deals for new bookings this weekend (stays 03/30 through 04/02) and next weekend (stays 04/06 through 04/09) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Weekend Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% on stays this weekend or next at your favorite destinations, like Los Angeles, San Jose, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Houston and many others.
For Arrival Dates 03/30/2012 and 03/31/2012
* Los Angeles, CA - Rates from $47.99/night
* San Jose, CA - Rates from $47.99/night
* Fort Lauderdale, FL - Rates from $59.99/night
* Orlando, FL - Rates from $39.99/night
* Houston, TX - Rates from $31.99/night
* Washington, DC Area - Rates from $43.99/night
* See all locations >
For Arrival Dates 04/06/2012 and 04/07/2012
* Los Angeles, CA - Rates from $49.99/night
* Atlanta, GA - Rates from $31.99/night
* Chicago, IL - Rates from $35.99/night
* Boston, MA - Rates from $52.99/night
* Dallas, TX - Rates from $31.99/night
* Seattle, WA - Rates from $34.99/night
* See all locations >
Feel the Rush at Top U.S. Amusement Parks
Having a relaxing vacation is all well and good, but sometimes, you need to have a little bit of adventure and excitement in your life. This is true even if you have a family. Just because you have school age children doesn’t mean that you have lost your sense of adventure; you just have to change the type of adventure and thrill seeking you do on your vacation.
A great way to get your sense of thrill and excitement with your entire family in tow is by visiting an amusement park. Some of the country’s best amusement parks provide something for everyone to enjoy. If you want to pack up your family and head out for a great time for everyone, head out to one of these top-rated amusement parks. Make sure to book a few nights at a family-friendly hotel while you’re at it so that you can have several days to enjoy your time at the amusement park.
1. Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio
If you love the rush of roller coasters and dipping and spinning rides, then Cedar Point is for you. There are 68 rides at this amusement park, which is known for its scary roller coasters that leave that weightless feeling in the pit of your stomach. If you’re feeling especially daring, try the Wicked Twister, the world’s tallest roller coaster. If you go in the summer, there’s also the Soak City water park attached to Cedar Point, which lets you cool off in the middle of the day.
2. Busch Gardens – Tampa, Florida
This is the perfect amusement park for those who are looking to see a little bit of the world in an extended vacation. Busch Gardens has more than just roller coasters and water rides; there are areas in the park themed after the Congo, Morocco and Nairobi, among other parts of the world. This amusement park is also a part of Sea World’s family, so you can be sure that have some underwater adventures with Shamu as well.
3. Holiday World – Santa Claus, Indiana
Funnily enough, this is one of the amusement parks that you have to wait for; it’s not open all year long. Celebrating Christmas, Halloween and Independence Day, this theme park really knows how to celebrate the big holidays. Rated the friendliest and cleanest park many times over, this is ideal for younger families on a budget. There are also water slides to enjoy in the summer too, so when you head out to enjoy Holiday World for the summer, make sure you pack a spare set of clothes.
4. Universal Studios – Orlando, Florida
This is the perfect amusement park for those who are in love with movies. Now, Universal Studios is home to Harry Potter, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter being the most popular section of the park. There are many other elements of the park, like the HD film featuring Spiderman or the Jurassic Park river ride. For those who are looking forward to visiting Harry Potter soon but live on the western side of the country, there will soon be a new development at the Los Angeles Universal Studios as well.
Top Spring Break Destinations for 2012
There’s something absolutely exciting about counting down to spring break. You can pack your most attractive swimsuit, and head off to the beach with the nation’s young college crowd. You don’t have to be in school to look forward to time off of work, but it doesn’t hurt to love staying up late and dancing the night away. There are quite a few spots around the country that are go-to destinations for spring break, so make sure you plan something fun for you and your friends.
The following cities are the top spots for those looking to start their spring with fun and frolicking. Make sure that you and your friends plan on taking tons of sunscreen, as the sun is going to be strong as you play near the water.
1. Key West, Florida
Key West is considered the home of the continuous party for those who love spring break. There are plenty of bars and beaches dedicated to meeting partiers and beach lovers on vacation, so you are bound to find new friends who love to celebrate the coming of spring. Go parasailing, or head out to kayak on the blue water that surrounds the white Florida beaches.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is usually a party city to begin with, but with spring break, there are even more party goers than usual. There are specials dedicated for those who head to Sin City to ring in spring, and there is plenty to do. Hang out poolside at some of the most popular hotel pools, or wait until the sun goes down to enjoy the excitement and festivities that occur in the restaurants, clubs and street. MTV even has parties and events going on, so make sure to get there early.
3. Los Angeles, California
If you are star struck and are dying to see some celebrities in their natural habitat, then you have to head over to Los Angeles. L.A. has some of the most popular clubs and restaurants in the world, and celebrities are frequently flocking to these new and cutting-edge spots. During the day, head to the Santa Monica pier, and soak up some sun while you check out some of the street performers. You can even check out the Hollywood sign and take photos next to famous landmarks and celebrity handprints. You can also head to the beach and enjoy the warm Southern California weather for the entire duration of your vacation too.
4. New York City, New York
Not everyone has to head to the beach to start off the spring season. For those who love museums, Broadway shows and spending time immersed in culture, then you will want to head to the Big Apple for your spring break. Needless to say, there is plenty to do without having to don a swimsuit. You can still dance the night away; New York is home to some of the most amazing concert and dancing venues in the country.
Regardless of the choice you make for spring break, you need to have your best friends with you to celebrate the coming of spring.
How to Get the Most out of Jaw-dropping Landmarks in the U.S.
If you have already made the expense to go to the most famous landmarks in the United States, then the last thing that you want is to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience be marred by bad weather, crowds of people or lack of proper equipment. This can lead to bad memories of the experience, rather than the fond ones that you should have of these beautiful spots in the country.
Though it might seem simple to see these top vacation spots on a whim, you will want to properly plan out your vacation so that you get the most out of your trip. By properly planning, you can get an astonishing photo of the Grand Canyon, or you can scale to the top of Half Dome with ease. It’s all in the details that you pay attention to while planning.
1. Make sure you go at the tail end of tourist season.
There is nothing worse than walking about on a picturesque hiking trail in Big Sur and being bumped into and jostled by other tourists who don’t seem to understand common hiking courtesy. There’s a reason that many people opt to travel to top US landmarks at a certain season; it’s the best time to see just how beautiful the natural landmark truly is.
However, many miss out on the chance to see these landmarks because they refuse to go when they know that the campsites will be packed, or when they know that the crowds of people will be so dense that they won’t get the full experience.
To keep from this happening to you, call the state park, and find out when peak tourist season ends. That way, you can plan a trip, without worrying about the crowds.
2. Don’t hesitate to stay up late or get up early.
Professional photographers will tell you: the best photos of landscapes and landmarks are taken in early morning or twilight hours. This doesn’t bode well for those who enjoy their sleep.
If you’re going to a particular landmark for the chance to take a once-in-lifetime photo, then be sure that you do some homework. Scope out the most picturesque spot in the area, and decide if the light is best at twilight or in the morning.
If you want to still get some sleep, then set an alarm for just before dawn, go get your photo, and crawl back into bed for more shut-eye.
3. Annie, get your gear.
There is nothing worse than discovering that you have finally driven out to the best rock climbing spot in the country, but you can’t enjoy the experience because you have the wrong type of rope or shoes. Before you leave the house, be sure that you’ve researched and have found the right gear and equipment that you will need on your trip.
For example, if you’re going to be in the water, be sure that your swim trunks suffice and that you don’t need a wetsuit. If you’re heading out to the desert, find out how much water you’ll need to pack with you, or if there are wells for you to take advantage of. This minute amount of homework could mean the difference between a memorable vacation and one that you’d rather forget ever happened.
To Buy or Not to Buy: Is the New PlayStation Vita Worth the Hype?
PlayStation has been a busy beaver in recent months, and with the recent release of its new PS Vita, markets around the US and Europe have finally gotten a chance to play with the new “revolutionary” handheld gaming console. This new gaming console is supposed to revolutionize the way that gamers play, especially while they travel across the country. If you are considering investing in a portable gaming option, then this might be the new toy for you.
The Advantages of the PlayStation Vita
The Japanese gaming markets made it apparent that this new console is preferable to the PlayStation 3, and it has even sold three times more than its larger, stationary counterpart. It still is still yet to be determined whether the PS Vita is going to outsell the Nintendo 3DS or the PSP, which have been selling very well in past months.
So what’s the big deal with the PlayStation Vita, and why should you invest in it? Why would this be considered the end-all for gamers to enjoy while they travel and while they enjoy their free time at home?
- All the Extras
Firstly, it will boast dual analog sticks. Add that on top of motion sensors and front and rear cameras, and you will not be lacking any element of the gaming and social media. Even social gaming is easier with various forums for individuals to chat about games and to form groups for team play. There are also apps for gamers to download to make the system even better.
- Advanced Internet Capabilities
Some critics are calling the Vita an “almost smartphone” for its handiness. For example, you can have 3G coverage added to your Vita that would give you Internet access wherever you go. In addition, the Vita also allows you to see who of your friends are playing nearby you through the GPS, and it allows you to find the cheat codes you need on the browser. The only thing this product can’t do is allow users to make phone calls, but you can console yourself with a movie from Netflix, if you so choose.
- A Variety of Games and Purchase Options
Sony also brought along some of the top franchises in the gaming industry to make the purchase even better. For example, you can play Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or you can also enjoy FIFA soccer. A bonus about this new gaming system is that you can either purchase your new games for Vita through a retail store or through the online store on Vita.
- Bigger and Better
It’s nice to have a gaming system that is handy and portable, but it is also nice to have a clear screen. If your son or daughter is using this gaming system while on the road, he or she will want to be able to see things clearly. That’s where the five-inch screen in the middle of the console comes in. Be aware: the Vita is not a small device; it weighs over half a pound. In addition, the system stands at 3.2 inches, and it boasts a 7.2-inch width.
This is definitely an impressive toy, and if you are considering purchasing one, you might want to spend a few hours fiddling with it until it’s mastered.
Lions and Tigers and Bears—Visiting Top Zoos in the Country
As much fun as it is to see the local fauna of the area that you are visiting, there is nothing more exciting than being able to see the exotic animals that are on display at the local zoos. While every area has its own animals, there are certain zoos that are both beautiful and spacious, making the experience of seeing rare and exotic animals even more enjoyable. The U.S. is home to some of the most attractive zoos in the world, and the animals are well taken care of, happy and on display for everyone to enjoy.
The following zoos attract people from all over the world. Don’t miss a chance to visit one of these zoos while on your vacations. As you book your stay at an Extended Stay Hotel, look and see if any of these zoos are in your area. Your family will be roaring with delight.
1. Cat Tales Zoological Park – Spokane, Washington
This zoo was started in 1991 with only four big cats, and it revolved around the home of its cofounders, Mike and Debbie Wyche, who felt the need to open their home to big and exotic cats that were rescued. The original four cats were former pets that got too big for their homes, and needed a loving home, which was found at the zoo.
Things have changed quite a bit at this zoo, which is home to almost 50 big cats, several bears, some reptiles, birds and dogs. This is still quite a family-oriented zoo, though tours are a bit more extensive than what they used to be when the zoo first started.
2. Aquarium of the Bay – San Francisco, California
Not every museum has to be filled with animals that walk on all fours. This beautiful aquarium is the home to some of the most beautiful and exotic animals of the world.
If your family is filled with would-be sea creatures and mer-folk, this is the zoo you want to stop by. It’s also conveniently located in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, so you can visit with the sea lions outside after your time mesmerized with jellyfish and tropical fish.
3. World Famous San Diego Zoo – San Diego, California
There is a reason that people from all over the world go ape over the San Diego Zoo. This zoo, which is already located in a part of the country that is constantly sunny, also brightens up the faces of any animal lover with its plethora of bears, big cats and primates.
Exotic animals from all over the world are not only housed here; they are also able to breed and have adorable babies for everyone to fawn over at the baby animal nursery. Even larger animals, such as the rhinoceros and the elephants, are likely to have adorable little ones. If you find yourself monkeying about San Diego, this is a must see.
4. Columbus Zoo – Columbus Ohio
Approximately 9,500 animals call this zoo home. This zoo has gained its fame under Jack Hanna, internationally renowned for his love of animals and his extensive knowledge of them. The reason this is one of the most popular zoos in the country might also have something to do with the fact that this zoo also has a water park, amusement park and golf resort as part of its amenities.
20% Off - Weekend Stays at Extended Stay Hotels
Last minute deals for new bookings this weekend (stays 03/09 through 03/12) and next weekend (stays 03/16 through 03/19) at select Extended Stay Hotels(sm) locations. Visit our Weekend Deals section by clicking here. From there, you can book and save at least 20% on stays this weekend or next at your favorite destinations, like San Diego, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis, Charlotte and many others.
For Arrival Dates 03/09/2012 and 03/10/2012
* San Diego, CA - Rates from $55.99/night
* Denver, CO - Rates from $31.99/night
* Boston, MA - Rates from $51.99/night
* Minneapolis, MN - Rates from $35.99/night
* Charlotte, NC - Rates from $51.99/night
* Portland, OR - Rates from $41.99/night
* See all locations >
For Arrival Dates 03/16/2012 and 03/17/2012
* Sacramento, CA - Rates from $31.99/night
* Atlanta, GA - Rates from $31.99/night
* Chicago, IL - Rates from $35.99/night
* Dallas, TX - Rates from $31.99/night
* Seattle, WA - Rates from $34.99/night
* Washington, DC Area - Rates from $46.99/night
* See all locations >
Top Pet-Friendly Vacation Locations for Both You and Fido to Enjoy
Let’s face it: Americans love their pets. We spend tons of money every year on animal insurance for our cats, dogs and birds, and we love buying them the best toys and pet food that we can. The idea of them being unhappy or uncared for is appalling to us, and we do what we can to make sure that, regardless of where our pets are, they have everything that they need to enjoy themselves.
This is the case for travelers who want to take their pets along, as well. Having your pet stay cooped up in a kennel might not seem appealing, so there are now resorts and top hotels across the country that offer animal-friendly rooms for your vacation. There are many metropolises across the country that are now accommodating your pets, but there are some cities that stand out above the rest. Regardless of the weather, you can be sure that you and your cat, dog or iguana will have a great time. Make sure to pack all of your pet’s favorite toys so that your pet pal still feels at home, too. Visiting the right city could mean a perfect vacation for the both of you.
1. San Diego, California
Not surprisingly, this laid back town loves dogs of all kinds. There are even several beaches dedicated to pets and their owners. There are also several dog parks throughout the county for you to enjoy, in addition to hiking paths that are accommodating to your four-legged friends. Some of the restaurants and eateries around the county even have special dog-friendly seating for you and your pet to enjoy.
2. Lake Tahoe, California
This is another water front city that prides itself on offering pet friendly alternatives for travelers. Some ski resorts offer you all the amenities you need, plus the access your doggie needs to the great outdoors. Some suites might even have a space just for your pet. If you want to take a break from your pet while you go out on the water, or if you want your dog to have a relaxing experience too, consider booking him/her time at a pet spa in Lake Tahoe.
3. Austin, Texas
If the beach isn’t your thing, then hitch a wagon to your St. Bernard and head over to Austin. This sprawling city has expanded from being just a naturally breathtaking Texas town; there are many cosmopolitan elements for you to enjoy as well. If you want to spend time burning energy with your pet, head out to an off-leash park in Austin. You can play fetch to your heart’s content.
4. Seattle, Washington
No list of pet-friendly cities would be complete without Seattle. This city is very welcoming to pets, especially well-behaved ones that know how to interact with other pets. This is even a great place to visit for your dog’s birthday if you want, as there is a dog-friendly café in Seattle: the Dining Dog Café and Bakery. You don’t have to bring your own meal, either. There is plenty of human food for you to partake in as well.