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4 Reasons to Vacation in Seattle This Summer

July 29, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flying fish, ocean and mountain views, and freshly brewed coffee are some of the main images conjured up when plotting a trip to Seattle. If you are traveling to this Pacific Northwest city during the fall, winter or spring, rain clouds and all that come with wet conditions tend to also invade your vacation plans. However, those who visit in the summer are rewarded with a very different looking Seattle, one with sands to sink your toes into and fireworks lighting up the summer sky. If you are still on the fence about heading to Seattle for a summer getaway, these five reasons are sure to sway you toward this Pacific Northwest stunner.

#1: The Ferry Rides

Seattle is often pictured with its waters. To get those shots of the skyline and Puget Sound, you often have to board a boat tour. For families on a budget, you can take the ferry instead, running between Seattle and Bainbridge Island. The ride takes you across to the island, but it is the return that causes cameras to snap fervently. On clear summer days, you can usually see Mount Rainier. If you aren’t so blessed with clear skies, the ferry ride will at least lend jaw-dropping views of the city.

#2: The Beaches

When most visitors think of Seattle, rain clouds and hot coffee might come to mind. However, in summer the beaches surrounding the city truly begin to glisten. Families and other travelers visiting in the summer can take advantage of the balmier temperatures and dip their toes in some Seattle sands. One of the most striking beaches in the summer is Alki Beach Park . Reaching from Alki Point in Seattle to Duwamish Head on Elliott Bay, the beach not only offers a long stretch of sand to enjoy, but also views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Seward Beach Park is also popular in the summer for its picnic accommodations and walking trails.

#3: The Outdoor Theater

While there are several reasons to visit Seattle in the summer, perhaps none is more compelling than the opportunity to attend a play in the great outdoors. The Seattle Shakespeare Company puts on free outdoor productions of classical plays all around the region. In Seattle, you can catch those performances in the summer at Volunteer Park. The Seattle Shakespeare Company has a calendar detailing when you can catch these budget-friendly performances.

#4: The Parks and Gardens

It’s hard to run out of things to do in Seattle in the summer, especially in the parks and gardens department. Seattle Parks and Recreation maintains more than 400 parks. If the family is seeking more than just green spaces and wooded areas, Seattle even supplies parks of an artistic variety. Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle features world-class sculptures, complete with vistas of the city, harbor and mountains. The park is free to enter and occupies nine acres of town.

Even though you won’t have to dodge much rain in Seattle over the summer, you will still want a space where the whole family can unwind after a day of touring the town. Extended Stay America's Seattle suites come equipped with all of the needs for a family, such as separate bedrooms, premium television channels and fitness centers.

5 Must-Try Deep Dish Pizza Joints in Chicago

July 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Part of the reason travelers head to Chicago is to sample the city’s signature pizza. In Chicago, the style of pizza is seldom thin but rather deep dish. It is the kind of pie where one slice might put you over the edge, piled high with meats, cheeses, vegetables and sauce. Holding everything together is a crust that is golden, buttery, and above all, sturdy, to hold up all of that weight. To sample some of the city’s best, don’t miss these Chicago deep dish joints.

MUST TRY #1: Pizzeria Uno

To begin your deep dish tour of Chicago, many will tell you to start with the first at Pizzeria Uno. While Pizzeria Uno has now gone on to chain status, the establishment began with Ike Sewell in downtown Chicago. He reportedly came up with deep dish pizza as we know it. Back in 1943, he created a pizza that was far from a snack, but rather a meal, one that would require at least a half hour in the oven. Ike’s recipe for success is still served in the same location after several decades. If you can’t get into Pizzeria Uno, you can take a seat at Pizzeria Due, a joint operation right around the corner.

MUST TRY #2: Gino’s East

For travelers in search of one of the best deep dish pizzas in the city, you might want to look to the establishment with the longest line. Gino’s East is certainly popular, where a line forms nightly. The deep dish tradition began at Gino’s East with two taxi drivers and a friend back in 1966. Gino’s East doesn’t just provide one of Chicago’s best pizzas but also a unique dining experience. You can sign the wall as many others have done.

MUST TRY #3: Lou Malnati’s

With 34 locations in the Chicago area, Lou Malnati’s is certainly one of the most prominent deep dish pizza purveyors in town. Lou studied deep dish in the 1940s at the first deep dish pizzeria in Chicago. He would later take his deep dish skills out to a suburb of Chicago and open up the first Lou Malnati’s. The style of deep dish is certainly traditional, with Lou Malnati’s even using the same small dairy farm for mozzarella for the past 40 years. If you love what you taste but you aren’t from the Windy City, Lou Malnati’s has the option to ship a pizza right to your door.

MUST TRY #4: Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta

Started by the son of Malnati in 1991, Pizano’s serves up a different kind of pie. If you are looking for a less hefty version of pizza, Pizano’s offers a thinner crust too. This deep dish establishment also uses less sauce on the pie. If you’re searching for places to eat in Chicago but you don’t want the weight of a traditional deep dish pizza, Pizano’s is always a recommended choice, not to mention it has been touted as “Oprah’s Fave thin crust pizza.”

MUST TRY #5: Giordano’s

Many critics make the claim that the best pizza in Chicago—the best deep dish to be more specific—hails from Giordano’s. Giordano’s history for deep dish boasts roots in Italy when Mama Giordano would serve up an Italian Easter Pie, a double crusted, ricotta cheese stuffed pie. It became a tradition in the Giordano family, one they would bring to Chicago. Effren and Joseph Boglio introduced the Windy City to Mama’s recipe in 1974. The people liked what they sampled and now Giordano’s has several locations in Chicago.

With leftovers in hand, you can recover from all of that bread, cheese, sauce and toppings at your Extended Stay America suite in Chicago. And when your stomach grumbles in the morning, you can easily heat up your leftover deep dish pizza in your own private kitchenette.


Beat the Lines & Beat the Heat: Tips for Your Summer Trip to Disney World

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It is every family’s idea of the perfect summer vacation: a trip to Disney World. And despite how many travelers see it as a great destination in the summertime, the crowds, the lines for rides and the intense heat can make the entire experience less like summer vacation and more like work. To beat the lines and the heat, here are five tips to consider for your summer trip to Disney World.

Tip #1: Utilize Fast Passes to Beat the Lines

Luckily for travelers and families heading to Disney World in the summer, Disney offers Fast Passes to visitors. These magical passes allow you to beat the crowds by selecting a timeslot in which you will head to a ride of your choosing. You can skip the stand-by line and avoid waiting for hours on end to get on a 5-minute ride. Disney allows you to choose your Fast Pass experience up to 30 days in advance of your visit. These passes are included with your ticket at no extra charge, but they are limited each day of your visit.

Tip #2: Break Up the Day with an Indoor-Outdoor Balance

When you head to Disney World in the summer months, you know that the Florida heat and humidity will be blazing down on park goers. All of that sun and humidity can lead to a very cranky and sunburnt family. In order to keep safe in the Florida sun, it is best to map out a balance of indoor and outdoor attractions, alternating each so that you are never overheating or getting too much sun exposure. There are many rides with air conditioning to give you a break from the heat, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Even outdoor rides like Splash Mountain can be a fun experience and an instant cool off in the process. And, of course, you’ll want to stay hydrated by sipping on one of the many cool Disney beverages available throughout the park!

Tip #3: Map It Out

Disney World is a massive place composed of countless rides, Orlando attractions, shops and restaurants. If you go into your Disney World vacation without a plan of what you want to do and see, you will spend a great deal of time staring at a map in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. Families should map out where they want to go, creating a route that doesn’t involve jumping all around the park, wasting time in the sun and watching lines form.

Tip #4: Dress and Prepare for the Heat

Even if you create a careful indoor and outdoor balance of rides and attractions, the heat can be a problem at Disney World in the summer, especially if you don’t dress and prepare for the weather. Your whole crew should be wearing breathable and light fabrics. You can even pack a personal battery-powered mist fan to use while waiting in lines. There are also mist sprayers in many different spots in the park. Families should always apply sunscreen before heading out to Disney World – just don’t forget to reapply throughout your visit.

Tip #5: Arrive Early

While you can try all of these secrets to beating the crowds and the heat at Disney World, there is one very simple way to avoid both. Families on their Disney vacation should try to be early risers. While it might be tempting to hit the park at noon, the earlier you arrive, the fewer crowds you will face. Temperatures will be more bearable if you get an early start on the day. To avoid using up your Fast Passes for the day, you can visit some of the most popular rides in the early hours when crowds are at their smallest.

After a day of braving the heat and crowds at Disney World, the entire family can relax at Extended Stay Orlando. The amenities include pools, hot tubs and roomy suites to facilitate relaxation.

3 Easy Recipes for Healthy Meals

July 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If you’ve been traveling for any amount of time, from a few days to several weeks, at some point you will crave home-cooked meals. Not only can eating out become expensive, but it can also leave you feeling unhealthy. If your hotel room has a kitchenette, even with limited supplies, you can make a number of hotel-cooked meals. In order to whip up healthy meals at your hotel, you must look for recipes that are simple to prepare, without heaps of ingredients. Fancy kitchen tools and gadgets aren’t likely readily available in most standard hotel kitchens - but never fear, you don’t need that crème brûlée torch or mandoline to stay healthy and satisfied from the comforts of your hotel room.

Here are a few simple, fresh and easy recipes to try that will help you stay healthy on the road and save some cash by not dining out every night.

1. All Wrapped Up Salad

Better Homes and Gardens lends a very simple and healthy recipe you can easily make in your hotel kitchen. The All Wrapped Up Salad requires just whole grain tortillas, shredded romaine, an avocado, a cucumber, Monterey Jack cheese and salsa (if you like a kick to your wrap). You merely roll up the ingredients into the tortilla wrap, chill for a few hours and serve. You can even dip the wraps in salsa for a bit more heat. While requiring very few ingredients and kitchen tools, the recipe is also only 248 calories per serving.

Great “Hotel Tip” - Add some chicken or steak that was left over from your last restaurant meal for some added protein.

2. Asian Noodle Bowls with Steak and Snow Peas

Martha Stewart shares a perfect meal to make in your hotel kitchen that is both healthy and requires very few ingredients. Her Asian Noodle Bowls with Steak and Snow Peas recipe includes salt, pepper, Japanese buckwheat noodles, skirt steak, snow peas, soy sauce and unsalted peanuts. The noodles are cooked first in boiling water. In a large pan, the steak is cooked for two to six minutes on each side. Snow peas, soy sauce and the noodles are all combined together. The sliced steak and peanuts are placed on top.

Great “Hotel Tip” - Get some “to go” soy sauce packets from an Asian or Sushi restaurant so you don’t have an almost-full bottle of soy sauce after your meal.

 3. Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto

When you are thinking of hotel cooking ideas, it’s useful to consider meals that have ingredients you can easily use again for another meal. While Italian food isn’t always seen as healthy, Giada de Laurentiis’ Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Prosciutto is a healthy meal that will also fill you up. You will need penne pasta, zucchini, squash, cauliflower, carrots, garlic cloves, olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese. First, you cook the pasta for 8 to 10 minutes. In the oven, you place the vegetables and garlic on a pan and drizzle with olive oil, baking for about 20 minutes. In addition, you can prepare a vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. All three components of the pasta, vegetables and vinaigrette are combined for a healthy and rich meal.

Great “Hotel Tip” - The leftover ingredients can be used to make prosciutto sandwiches or even a vegetable rich salad for lunch.

Look for more great recipes at http://www.awayfromhomecooking.com/

If you want to save money and also eat cleaner while traveling, a hotel kitchen is essential for cooking on the road. Extended Stay America suites come with kitchens so that you can prepare meals that are healthy and filling even if you are far away from home. 

4 Best Beaches for 4th of July Fireworks

July 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the 4th of July, fireworks displays are a dime a dozen all across the United States. However, some of these pyrotechnic shows are featured in locations that add even more to the spectacle. A number of beaches across the country host fireworks displays that would make Uncle Sam proud. Here are a few sandy places to sink your feet into for 4th of July fireworks.

1.      Falmouth Heights Beach Fireworks on Cape Cod

Located in the seaside community of Falmouth, Massachusetts, Falmouth Heights Beach comes alive for the 4th of July. From this quaint beach location, you can witness a fireworks display that Travel and Leisure Magazine calls one of the top 10 displays in the country. The show begins around dusk, but get there early, as there are plenty of activities going on before the main event. Falmouth hosts a bike and carriage parade where the more patriotic the dress, the better.

 2.      Lights on the Lake Fireworks Show on Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe boasts plenty of sandy stretches of beach to enjoy on the 4th of July. The area takes advantage of its waterside perch to host one of the best beach fireworks displays on the West Coast for Independence Day. Lights on the Lake Fireworks Show takes place on the shores of South Lake Tahoe in northern California, bordering Nevada. In conjunction with Pyro Spectaculars, the event features music and fireworks synchronized for a truly patriotic event. Families and friends who want to take in the sky-popping color and light display will need to claim a piece of beach early. Some of the best perches to view the show are Nevada Beach, Lakeview Commons/El Dorado Beach and Lakeside Beach. Lights on the Lake Fireworks Show also brags of being the largest fireworks display west of the Mississippi.

 3.      San Diego’s Annual Big Bay Boom!

San Diego makes it easy to partake in 4th of July fireworks from a sandy spot. The city prides itself on the annual Big Bay Boom!, the largest fireworks display in the county. There are a number of spots where you can see the nine o’clock show. Fireworks are launched from barges around the bay off Shelter Island, Embarcadero North, Harbor Island, Seaport Village, Coronado Ferry Landing and Embarcadero South Marina Park.

 4.      Miami Beach Fire on the Fourth

The 4th of July celebrations in Miami Beach are not taken lightly. Visitors and locals will find an all-day celebration for the Fire on the Fourth event located at North Shore Park Bandshell. The event features food trucks, yoga on the beach, a DJ, various live concerts, performances and of course, a fireworks display to close out the day. Free shuttles are offered to and from the beach to make it easier to attend.

If you need a place to stay near the beach fireworks displays for Independence Day, you will find Extended Stay America suites right where you want to be. Positioned in many major cities and towns across the United States, Extended Stay America's suites offer roomy accommodations that the whole family will enjoy.