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dec 10 2014

Where Does Santa Claus Go For His Post-Christmas Vacation?

(Pavel Chernobrivets/Dreamstime.com)

You're not gonna believe this, but I interviewed Santa Claus.

It happened like this: About a month ago I was thinking about how much I dislike traveling around the holidays. Call me Scrooge (who, btw, I did not interview—because he is a fictional character), but I just don't like crowds. If I have my way, I take my family somewhere nice after the holidays. I started thinking about who might be an expert on post-Christmas travel and it hit me: Who works harder at Christmastime—or deserves more of a break afterward—than St. Nick?

feb 28 2014

Tips For Taking The Kids To Mardi Gras This Year

A young boy collects beads at a Mardi Gras parade.

(Courtesy bitmask/Flickr)

Are you ready for Mardi Gras 2014? Parades have been taking place around New Orleans every weekend since February 15th, leading up to the main event this Tuesday, March 4th, historically the day before start of the Catholic season of Lent. While most of us may envision wild teenagers and scantily–clad women when the phrase Mardi Gras is mentioned, it is traditionally a family season of celebration. Many New Orleans natives have been known to attend the festivities with the whole family, letting the kids collect beads, toys, and other goodies. Here are a few tips for those of you planning to make this year's event a family affair.

nov 12 2013

Save Big by Traveling During "Shoulder Season"!

Hawaii's Waikiki Beach: Enjoy good deals in February!

(Courtesy Butch25/myBudgetTravel)

If you're planning a winter vacation, you've probably noticed that some of the most beautiful, luxurious spots are also the most crowded and expensive. It's just the laws of supply and demand. But what if I told you there was a "sweet spot" that travel experts call Shoulder Season between the pricy high season and the less-desirable (often rainy and cold) low season? Over the next few months there are a few great opportunities to beat the crowds, enjoy nice weather, and even save some money.

jun 25 2013

Amtrak Expects Summer Ridership to Rise This Year

Glacier National Park is just one of the breathtaking vacation destinations served by Amtrak this summer.

(Courtesy Loco Steve/Flickr)

A reporter recently asked me for some rail travel tips. I told her quite honestly, "You know, I have to admit sometimes train travel is my favorite way to go."

A great train ride can combine the best of road tripping (beautiful sights whizzing by your window, an ever-changing kaleidoscope of images) and flying (comfy seat, the ability to nod off at a moment's notice). Amtrak is reporting that advance ticket sales suggest ridership will be up significantly this July and August compared with last year. Translation? If you're considering taking the train this summer, don't wait too long to make up your mind. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a second to remind you of some of the options Amtrak is offering this summer.

apr 17 2013

Spring Food Festivals You Must Taste to Believe

The Great Smoky Mountains are the setting for the annual Bloomin' Barbecue & Bluegrass food festival, one of our can't-miss food destinations for the month of May.

(Courtesy daveantphoto/myBudgetTravel)

Admit it. The words food and festival make your mouth water.

I know, I know. You're picturing yourself balancing a plate of, say, gulf shrimp with a nice cool glass of local chardonnay. Add a balmy Southern breeze in your hair and you've pretty much got a perfect afternoon. Here, four of our favorite American food festivals coming up in May, served with a heaping side order of affordable hotels.

jan 28 2013

New Orleans Travel Tips for Super Bowl Weekend

Long before anyone knew that the contending NFL teams in Super Bowl XLVII would be the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, this year's host city, New Orleans, was preparing for the crowds expected to pack the city next weekend. As with last year's Super Bowl, which was hosted by another mid-size city, Indianapolis, this year's promises a weekend where visitors can rub elbows with enthusiastic locals, with the party atmosphere traveling easily from the Mercedes Benz Super Dome (the site of the actual game) to the French Quarter and beyond. The location and time of year also mean that this year's Super Bowl festivities will overlap with those of Mardi Gras season, creating perhaps a "perfect storm" of hospitality and high spirits.

dec 12 2012

Have a Creole Christmas

(Courtesy izik/Flickr)

As if you needed one more reason to visit New Orleans, we've got two words for you: Creole Christmas.

The reveillon, inspired by a French Christmas Eve tradition, is a luxurious meal of Creole dishes such as oysters, pork belly, duck confit, foie gras beignets, grits, grillades, gumbo, cakes, pastries, and other indulgences.

dec 04 2012

Where the Locals Go in the French Quarter

The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is a local favorite in New Orleans.

(Courtesy Hotel Monteleone)

Avoid the tourist traps with these seven recommendations for where to stay, shop, eat, and play in New Orleans.

Carousel Bar & Lounge
This watering hole at the historic Hotel Monteleone more than lives up to its name: The 25-seat circular bar revolves under a circus-like gazebo, making a complete cycle every 15 minutes. But its festive look belies serious literary cred. Heavy-weights such as William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote all regularly went along for the ride. 214 Royal St., hotelmonteleone.com, sazerac $9.  

Royal Blend Coffee & Tea House
In New Orleans, coffee often plays second fiddle to sugary beignets. Caffeine addicts should head to this java den deep in the Quarter, where exotic, single-origin roasts share the menu with the city's signature chicory coffee. 621 Royal St., royalblendcoffee.com, chicory coffee $3.50 per pound.

Fleurty Girl
This isn't your frat brother's T-shirt shop. NOLA native Lauren Thom sells design-forward gifts like voodoo doll pins, red-beans-and-rice cufflinks, and sweet-tea-scented soap. 632 St. Peter St., fleurtygirl.net, sweet tea soap $6.

Librairie Book Shop
So, books are going digital? This hole-in-the-wall never got the memo. Sift through rare, used, and hard-to-find tomes on topics such as the history of The City That Care Forgot (that's New Orleans, for the uninitiated) or the poems of Arthur Rimbaud. 823 Chartres St., 504/525-4837, used books from $2.

Hotel Provincial
Once the home of a Confederate hospital, this hotel is said to be haunted by ghostly infantrymen. They probably still recognize the spot, thanks to its ante- bellum trappings, such as antiques-filled rooms and an ivy-lined cobble- stone courtyard. 1024 Chartres St., hotelprovincial.com, from $119.

Coop's Place
Don't mistake the people in line for tourists. This is where locals indulge their Cajun cravings for red beans and rice, rabbit and sausage jambalaya, and seafood gumbo. And don't skip the fried chicken. It puts the city's homegrown Popeyes chain to shame. 1109 Decatur St., coopsplace.net, cup of jambalaya $5.

nov 13 2012

New Orleans's New Streetcar Line

A new streetcar line will help passengers travel from New Orleans's iconic French Quarter (above) to the Superdome, where the 2013 Super Bowl will be played.

(Courtesy Alaskan Dude/Flickr)

It's rare that a single news item has the potential to please both devotees of Tennessee Williams and fans of professional football, but here goes: New Orleans is scrambling to complete a streetcar line that will connect the French Quarter to the Superdome in time for the February 3 Super Bowl. 

sep 06 2012

7 Great Culinary Bike Tours

Ride around San Francisco, one of many culinary bike tours around the country

(Daniel Watson-Weller)

The French aren’t the only ones who can pair a meal with a pair of wheels. A fresh crop of culinary bike tours is leading American city slickers to restaurants that are well worth the trip.

Charlotte

Taste & Cycle Charlotte

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