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5 Awesome Florida Water Parks

July 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sometimes, in order to get through the heat of summer, you have to build your vacation around the water. And if you’re planning a family vacation with kiddos, a sure winner involves a water park or two. Since Florida is a state covered in water parks, it’s the perfect place to plan you next summer vacay, with thrilling spots where you can cool off your whole group and have fun in the process. But with so many water parks, it can be difficult to know which one is the right park for your family. Don’t worry - we’ve put together a list of the top water parks in Florida. 

LEGOLAND Florida Water Park in Winter Haven

About an hour south of Orlando, right next to LEGOLAND Park in Winter Haven, you can make a big splash at LEGOLAND Florida Water Park, especially if you’re looking for summer activities for kids. Designed specifically for families with kids under 12, the water park presents a fine space for everyone in your group to enjoy. Some favorite rides include the Joker Soaker, the DUPLO Splash Safari and the Build-a-Raft River. LEGOLAND Florida Water Park sits within a 150-acre interactive theme park with more than 50 rides, making it possible to head for drier lands if necessary.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach in Bay Lake

The ultimate oxymoron, Disney’s Blizzard Beach is not your average water park. While most water parks take on tropical themes, Blizzard Beach is exactly what you’d expect from its name. Designed to resemble a ski resort, the park looks impressively like a melted winter wonderland. Some of the park highlights include Mount Gushmore, one of the world’s tallest and fastest waterslides, as well as the chance to float down a tranquil river and sunbathe on a white sand beach.

Aquatica in Orlando

Located in Orlando, Aquatica is SeaWorld Orlando’s Waterpark. As a result, this water park places an impressive emphasis on sea life. Visitors can go on thrill rides, have animal encounters and find amusement rides for the whole family. One of the most popular rides is Dolphin Plunge, a ride featuring enclosed tubes that race you through a dolphin’s environment. Aquatica also receives acclaim for its Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a free fall drop slide, and Roa’s Rapids, an action-filled river with high tides and geysers. If you want to spend more time at Aquatica or Orlando, you can also book a room at Extended Stay America while in town for all of your family needs, especially as kids stay free.

Adventure Island in Tampa

If you’re looking for one of the coolest Florida summer activities out there, look no further than Adventure Island, where you can cool off on even the hottest Florida days. The park features a lazy river called Rambling Bayou and a wave pool called Endless Surf. In addition, visitors can take advantage of tube rides, waterslides and the newest ride at the park, Colossal Curl. The ride allows you to experience the feeling of weightlessness complete with funnel and wave elements. And, this ride is great for families as it can hold up to 4 passengers.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon in Orlando

Also located in Orlando, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon is part of Walt Disney World and all of its fun summer activities. It tends to draw the most crowds of all the water parks in the U.S. The crowds come for a reason, one of which is the surfing lagoon. The lagoon is one of the world’s largest measuring at a whopping 2.5 acres. It boasts the biggest waves of any Florida water park. The park also gives patrons the opportunity to swim with sharks along with fish, coral and plant life typically found in Caribbean waters.

 

Water slides and wave pools are all the rage come the summer months in Florida. Even if you want to travel to the Sunshine state when it is at its most balmy, your whole crew can cool off by making a splash at these water parks. 

 

Try the Best French Fries in America this Summer

July 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

They’re the perfect compliment to your burger or sandwich. They’re always the most popular “side” option - a key component of American dining. French fries are an American staple, and more often than not, a side of fries is a standard option. However, French fries sometimes get a bad rap for being just sides. Some French fry purveyors across the country agree that a fry is much more than just a secondary addition, leaning more toward a classic snack or meal. If you’re vacationing this summer, be sure to check out some of the best of the best French fries in the U.S.

#1. The Boise Fry Company in Boise, Idaho

In a state known for their potatoes, it’s no wonder that the Boise Fry Company has made a name for itself in Idaho as the best restaurant for French fries. The fry-oriented dining experience uses the finest and freshest potatoes. The potatoes are then fried in natural peanut oil. When you head to this French fry spot, you’ll be greeted with the motto that fries are not second-class citizens. The Boise Fry Company tops off its fries with a number of sauces and seasonings beyond traditional ketchup - like smoked sea salt and blueberry ketchup. There are over 100,000 variations of sauces and dressings at the Boise Fry Company. The outfit also has locations in Meridian, Idaho and Portland, Oregon.

#2. Al’s French Frys in Burlington, Vermont

Located in Burlington, Vermont, Al’s French Frys has been an institution in town since the late 1940s. It all started with Al and Genevieve Rusterholz. The duo opened up a French fry stand that quickly morphed into a burger joint. Part of makes Al’s fries so unique is that the menu has remained largely unchanged since its inception. You can order fries by the quart, pint or cup and even add on cheese, gravy or chili.

#3. Pommes Frites in New York, New York

While the original French fry restaurant Pommes Frites was recently destroyed as the result of an explosion in a neighboring building, Pommes Frites has announced it will reopen in Greenwich Village in the fall. The original Pommes Frites quickly made a name for itself in New York City for serving up classic Belgian style fries. The restaurant takes perfectly double cooked frites and then tops them with extraordinary sauces. For the adventurist fry foodie, some of those sauces are a bit more out there, like pomegranate teriyaki mayo, peanut satay, Bordeaux wine, fig and sage mayo. The new location will set up at 128 MacDougal Street just south of Washington Square Park. While you’re in New York, you might as well make a trip out of it with the family and save by staying at Extended Stay America, where kids stay free.

#4. Thrasher’s French Fries, Ocean City, Maryland

Nothing quite says summer like a trip to Ocean City, Maryland. And when you’re there, be sure to make time to hit up Thrasher’s French Fries. Southern man J.T. Thrasher started the institution in 1929. He founded the establishment not with the goal of being the best burger joint, but rather with the goal of procuring the best French fry in America. To this day, Thrasher’s continues to stick to their original recipe. Thrasher’s fries carry such acclaim all on their own, the iconic establishment doesn’t even offer ketchup!

Salty, fluffy and a little added crunch are what turn an ordinary potato into an extraordinary fry. So if you’re roaming the country this summer, from Burlington to Boise, be sure to check out these spots to find the best French fries in America. 

 

5 Best Restaurants in Atlanta

July 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When you take that first glance of Atlanta, the city can overwhelm. With its endless skyline, many neighborhoods and wealth of attractions, the city keeps travelers busy whether on vacation or in town for business. But once you’re there, chances are you’re going to want to stay for all that Atlanta has on the table. Before you leave town, be sure you make your way to one of these acclaimed restaurants in Atlanta.

Mary Mac’s Tea Room

If you only have time for one meal in Atlanta, you won’t be disappointed if that meal is at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. For over 70 years, Mary Mac’s has been setting the standard for Southern cooking in town. Mary Mac’s reputation is so respected that the Georgia House of Representatives declared the restaurant Atlanta’s official dining room. Opened in 1945, Mary Mac’s is one of the few surviving tea rooms in the city. The restaurant focuses on serving made-from-scratch southern fare with southern hospitality sprinkled into the mix. After a meal at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, you’ll want to find an Extended Stay America in Atlanta for the night to recover and perhaps come back the next day. It’s just that delicious.

Heirloom BBQ

When you find yourself in the southern United States, a little barbecue is practically mandatory. Atlanta is no different. Despite being a large cosmopolitan city, Atlanta holds barbecue very near and dear to its heart, with some of the best Atlanta restaurants being barbecue establishments. One of the best spots for ‘cue is Heirloom BBQ. The chef-driven restaurant pays homage to iconic BBQ. Heirloom takes pride in providing simple, classic and fresh barbecue. Owned by chefs Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor, Heirloom BBQ serves the traditional staples like pulled pork, ribs and brisket, but Jiyeon’s South Korean heritage gives the restaurant a “Seoul” food touch combined with classic Southern cuisine. The interesting background is reflected throughout the menu with dishes like spicy Korean pork. The small eatery sets up right in Atlanta.

Bacchanalia

If you’re looking for fine dining in Atlanta, any local will tell you to head to Bacchanalia. The make-your-reservation-three-months-in-advance kind of place boasts a well-established reputation as one of the top Atlanta restaurants. Since 1993, Bacchanalia has been dishing up American cuisine from chefs and owners Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison. Through light and creative plates, Bacchanalia provides a seasonal menu with a strong emphasis on organic ingredients. Many of those ingredients come straight from Anne and Clifford’s farm. You can select the five course prix-fixe menu composed of three savory courses, a cheese course and lastly a dessert course.

The Optimist

One of the main downtown Atlanta restaurants, The Optimist is for all the seafood lovers who are in town. Offering fine seafood, the restaurant brings the seaside fish camp experience to landlocked Atlantans. Serving up fresh oysters from the Alabama coast, Maine sea scallops and whole roasted Georgia trout, The Optimist takes its direction from executive chef Adam Evans. Set on Howell Mill Road, The Optimist has become known across town for its high quality and sustainable seafood.

Taqueria del Sol

When you have had enough Southern comfort food or barbecue, head to Taqueria del Sol. The stand-in-line-and-order kind of place serves from scratch Southern, Mexican and Southwestern dishes. Opened in 2000, the menu is mostly driven by Mexican cuisine with plenty of tacos and sides with a cross-cultural flair. You can find Taqueria del Sol in two locations in Atlanta.

 

Many travelers come to Atlanta and leave a few pounds heavier. Something that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given all the southern comfort food and the fact that it’s one of the best fine dining experiences in the country. 

America's Best Aquariums

July 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

 

 

Government and Military Travel Tips

July 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.