15 Berlin Adventures Your Whole Family Will Love
Berlin is likely to evoke vastly different images depending on when you came of age: the concrete and barbed wire of the Berlin Wall (1960s to '80s), Mike Myers's über-bored performance artist Dieter on Saturday Night Live (1990s), or a hipster paradise of avant-garde art galleries, after-hours dance parties, and cheap rent (2000s). But it's safe to say that few people would have predicted Berlin's latest claim to fame. Beyond the roving burlesque shows and underground supper clubs, this sprawling metropolis has become one of the best places on the continent to have—and be—a kid.
Berlin's softer side has been nurtured from many sources. For one thing, it has good, kid-friendly bones, in the form of abundant parks and sidewalks wide enough to accommodate most baby-stroller traffic jams. Add that to the government's pro-family work-life policies and the laid-back vibe that's accompanied its rise as the "Silicon Allee" of Europe and you end up with a youthquake unlike anything the city has seen in decades. With a massive new international airport opening this year, the crowds will undoubtedly keep coming.
View our slideshow of Berlin's best all-ages attractions!
The city is already experiencing the kind of tourism explosion most destinations only dream of. In 2010, hotel stays in Germany were up 11.9 percent, with Berlin accounting for 41 percent of the bookings. In fact, Berlin has passed Rome to become the third-most-popular European city for visitors, after London and Paris. So what happens when an epicenter of cool is overrun by vintage 1960s Silver Cross prams? How do you explore this edgiest of European cities with kinder in tow? Here are some of our favorite stops in the new Berlin—all grown up, and ready for the whole family.
1. PICK UP A BIKE
About half a million Berliners take to their bikes each day, so you'll be in good company on one of Berlin on Bike's rentals. Choose from city, touring, and trekking bikes, all of which come with rear baskets. Even the kids can get a set of wheels, with three sizes of smaller cycles as well as child seats and trailers (reserve in advance) and helmets for all. A free route planner on bbbike.de helps you map paths through the city based on your desired speed, road surface, and the availability of designated bike lanes, of which Berlin has some 400 miles. Kulturbrauerei, court 4, berlinonbike.de, $13 for 24 hours.
2. MAKE THE MOST OF BREAKFAST
Breakfast is to Berlin as dinner is to Barcelona: an opportunity to dress up and visit with family and friends over an endless parade of tempting little dishes. Only here, you don't have to stay up late to partake. A true Frühstück is no small-scale continental affair: It's a cornucopia of savory salads, cold cuts, eggs, cheeses, fruit, and freshly baked breads and pastries piled high on a tiered tray. For a classic version that's as beautiful as a Renaissance still life, head to Anna Blume, a café-cum-flower shop in Prenzlauer Berg. On weekends, arrive early to claim a table on the leafy terrace (the people-watching is worth it), then let your morning meal stretch into the afternoon just like the locals do. If the kids get antsy, you can always take them to the playground at Kollwitzplatz, one block away, to clamber over wooden structures shaped like enormous vegetables. Kollwitzstrasse 83, cafe-anna-blume.de, Frühstück for two $23.
- BERLIN TRANSIT TIP: FLYING IN This year, the Berlin Brandenburg Airport will make its debut, replacing Berlin Tegel as the city's international airport and nearly doubling its passenger capacity. (Both of the city's existing airports, Tegel and Schoenfeld, will close once Brandenburg is operational.) AirBerlin, Lufthansa, and other airlines plan to boost their traffic to coincide with the opening, including new nonstop routes between Los Angeles and Berlin, and a 20-minute rail shuttle will connect Brandenburg's terminals with downtown.
3. SEE THE WRITING ON THE WALL
For almost 30 years, the most potent symbol of the Cold War was the 96-mile Berlin Wall. Today, less than a mile of it remains, and it's all at the East Side Gallery (eastsidegallery.com), a freedom memorial that runs along the Spree River in Friedrichshain. Originally completed in 1990, many of the more than 100 paintings have recently been restored by their creators (with more updates scheduled). Yet while Wall art is (thankfully) a dead art form, wall art is everywhere. Berlin is an urban canvas, full of fences, façades, and subway cars featuring the graffiti of local taggers and international artists alike, some of whom (Banksy, Swoon, Blu) sell similar work on the world art market. Online magazine Berlin Graffiti (berlingraffiti.de) keeps tab of the newest tags, while Benjamin Wolbergs's Urban Illustration Berlin: Street Art Cityguide ($30, Gingko Press) contains artist interviews, a pull-out map of key pieces, and snapshots of over 500 of the city's most compelling works.
4. CLIMB AROUND IN A CHURCH
Not all art in Berlin is conspicuous. The MACHmit! Museum for Children (which roughly translates to "join in!") hides within a converted Protestant church and is outfitted with Bauhaus-inspired climbing shelves, fun-house mirrors, and a series of hands-on arts and crafts and cooking exhibits (Senefelderstrasse 5, machmitmuseum.de, $6). Transit geeks with good timing can immerse themselves in the history of the city's subway at the pop-up Berliner S-Bahn-Museum, hosted by a group of train enthusiasts in a former railway station the second weekend of the month, from spring through autumn (S-Bahn Griebnitzsee, s-bahn-museum.de, adults $2.75). There, guests can play conductor behind the wheel of a drive simulator modeled on century-old technology.
5. REFUEL ON THE CHEAP
Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte may be boutique- and stroller-filled neighborhoods now, but they were once the center of the East Berlin resistance. The counterculture ethos still exists in pockets, including FraRosa Weinerei (wine bar), one of three related honor-system restaurants in Berlin where patrons pay what they will (really) for everything from lunch to tea and cakes to four-course dinners of German specialties made with organic ingredients—and, of course, wine (Veteranenstrasse 14, weinerei.com). Honigmond Kaffeehaus-Restaurant charges a bit more, though $9 for its wonderful, all-you-can-eat lunch buffet is still a bargain. Besides, the lovely corner bistro has had a fascinating life: Before the Stasi secret police raided it in the late '80s, it was the unofficial headquarters of the East German opposition movement (Borsigstrasse 28, honigmond.de/restaurant.html).
- BERLIN TRANSIT TIP: GOING UNDERGROUND Although the city's once-bisected subway system has been reconnected, crossing town on the U-Bahn remains a challenge. The first rule of riding: Know your zones. There are three in the city (A, B, and C), and failing to pay for all those you travel through could get you in big trouble with the undercover inspectors who roam the cars. For most trips you'll only need zone A, or A and B (about $3 each way), while airport trips call for a three-zone fare ($4).
6. EXPLORE AN ANIMAL PLANET
Built on the site of the 18th-century pheasantry that once supplied fowl to the King of Prussia's royal kitchen, the 168-year-old Zoological Garden was Germany's first zoo and, with 17,727 animals, has one of the most diverse populations in the world. Savvy visitors will want to sync their trips with the feeding times of their favorite animals (pandas at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., penguins at 1:45 p.m.), or splurge on a private, 20-minute visit with a single species, complete with zookeeper Q&A. And be sure to keep an eye out for the zoo's newest arrival, Kathi, a baby hippopotamus born in October. Hardenbergplatz 8, zoo-berlin.de, from $29.50 for a family ticket; private tours an additional $107.
7. FIND A STREET'S SWEET SPOT
Every Berliner has a favorite secret street, a place like the cobblestoned Gräfestrasse in Kreuzberg. The four-block-long stretch serves as a microcosm of the modern city: here, Kadó, a highly focused candy store that sells 400 varieties of licorice—and nothing else (Gräfestrasse 20, kado.de, licorice from $2.10); there, Lilli Green, an eco-minded design shop that stocks the shelves with "upcycled" objects such as pencils made of old Japanese newspapers and storage baskets fashioned from recycled car tires (Gräfestrasse 7, lilligreen.de, pencils 12 for $7). And then there's Little Otik, a rustic New American restaurant whose out-of-the-shadows evolution mirrors Berlin's own. Its owners, New York transplants Kevin Avery and Jeffrey Sfire, started hosting by-appointment dinners for 10 in their pop-up supper club in February 2009, then decided to take their underground sensation public, with a changing menu of seasonal dishes such as white bean and farro soup, grass-fed rib eye with bone marrow butter, and date and almond pie with vanilla ice cream (Gräfestrasse 71, littleotik.de, entrees from $12).
8. DIVE INTO A SPLASHY SWIMMING POOL
If you didn't know better, Berlin might be one of the last places on earth you'd think about taking a dip. But it happens to be a swimmer's paradise—and one for all seasons. In winter, residents have their pick of 37 local Stadtbads (municipal pools), perhaps the most spectacular of which is in the gritty-but-gentrifying Neukölln district (Ganghoferstrasse 3, berlinerbaederbetriebe.de, $5.25). Built in 1914 and expanded in 1999, the Roman-style bathhouse is decked out with marble columns, soaring ceilings and fountains, plus two heated pools and a sauna. Come summer, the crowds shift to the Badeschiff, a swimming pool installed atop an old barge docked on the Spree River (Eichenstrasse 4, arena-berlin.de/badeschiff.aspx, $5.50). It's connected to land by a series of piers, where cocktail bars, a mini-spa, and a "beach" of trucked-in sand spring up each season.
9. SKIP THE LINE AT THE REICHSTAG
No visit to Berlin would be complete without a tour of the Neoclassical Reichstag building, constructed in the late 19th century to house the German parliament before being ravaged by fire, bombed in war, and abandoned as the seat of government in favor of Bonn. Following reunification in 1990, the Reichstag reverted to its original use, its renovations crowned by an iconic glass dome that yields sweeping panoramic views of the city 800 feet below. But entry to the building, while free, comes with a price: punishingly long lines. Avoid the wait by booking afternoon tea at the glass-walled rooftop Käfer Café, adjacent to the dome. After you've called ahead and made a reservation, enter the Reichstag through the handicapped entrance to the right of the building's west portal, then speed straight to the top. Platz der Republik 1, feinkost-kaefer.de, pastries from $1.25.
- BERLIN TRANSIT TIP: GETTING LOST If it seems like there's no address system in Berlin, well, there are two. The city initially opted for horseshoe-style numbering (up one side of a street and back down the other), and shifted in the 1920s to evens on one side, odds on the other. Our best navigation tip? Always ask for the cross streets.
10. MAKE A DAY TRIP OF IT
Nature lovers don't have to leave the city limits to dabble in pastoral pleasures. From the Grünau S-Bahn in southeast Berlin, hop on streetcar No. 68, perhaps Germany's most scenic, and hurtle east through a corridor of green to Alt-Schmöckwitz, a tiny village at the end of the line that's bordered by three lakes (bvg.de, tram $3 each way). Or head west: Two miles from the Brandenburg border, the Waldsee Sculpture Garden is an al fresco arts gold mine (Argentinische Allee 30; hausamwaldsee.de, $9.25). There are works by contemporary German artists such as the late bronze sculptor Karl Hartung (who is getting a solo show this summer), and Ina Weber, who created an interactive mini-golf course outfitted with models of architectural ruins as obstacles. For an instant escape in the heart of the city, look no further than Berlin's newest, and largest, park: 990-acre Tempelhof airport, site of the 1948-49 Allied air lift that supplied food to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade (U-Bahn to Platz der Luftbrücke). Its defunct runways have been repurposed for bicycle races and kite-flying contests, and pick-up baseball games take place on the ramshackle diamonds where U.S. troops once played.
11. HAVE A FOOD-CART FEAST
Hamburgers, falafel, even tacos—Berlin has them all. But for the city's best street food, check out two homegrown fusion dishes concocted decades before the term came into vogue. Currywurst, a sliced pork sausage served with a curry-laced dipping sauce, was first developed to make use of the British food products supplied to West Berlin after World War II. Some of the best in town is available seconds after you arrive: Head to the EsS-Bahn kiosks housed inside picturesque vintage streetcars just outside the main terminals at both Tegel and Schönefeld airports (berlin-airport.de, $4). When you're ready for the next course, make a beeline to Kreuzberg, where the Turkish immigrants who started settling in the area in the 1960s took their native spit-roasted lamb and savory sauces and turned them into the now-iconic döner kebab sandwich. For a twist on that classic, check out the version at Mustafa's: crisp flatbread stacked with delicately spiced chicken and shredded vegetables (Mehringdamm 32, mustafas.de, $4).
12. LEARN A NEW MOVE
Berlin has dance clubs (underground, after-hours, and otherwise) for every taste, fetish, and demographic. For longevity, however, Clärchens Ballhaus has them all beat. A bona fide Berlin institution, it's been in the business since 1913 (and appears to still attract some of its first-wave clientele). Head over early for a group tango, salsa, or swing lesson, whirl the kids around until they drop sleepily into a corner, then keep on dancing until dawn—doors won't close until the last guest leaves. Auguststrasse 24, ballhaus.de, lessons from $4.
13. SEE A SILENT FILM
Berlin is chock-a-block with specialty cinemas, many of which show classic Hollywood films in English. But you could see those at home, couldn't you? For a one-of-a-kind theater experience that still won't get lost in translation, buy a ticket for a silent-film screening at the Babylon in Mitte, where the musical accompaniment might be the movie's original score performed live on piano or a local DJ spinning trance music. Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse 30, babylonberlin.de, silent-film screenings $8.75.
14. SLEEP LIKE A MOVIE STAR
Immerse yourself deeper still into the glamorous world of Stummfilm (silent movies) by staying at Hotel-Pension Funk, a 14-room inn located in the former home of silent film actress Asta Nielsen. Its graceful, Jugendstil chandeliers, antique wardrobes, and original architectural details (vast art nouveau windows, decorative moldings) will transport you to a bygone era—albeit one blessed with free Wi-Fi. Fasanenstrasse 69, hotel-pensionfunk.de, from $68 for doubles with a shared bath, breakfast included.
15. OR FIND A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
For an even funkier stay, book the "band room" at the Michelberger Hotel, in a converted factory. With five single beds, a lofted sleeping area, a dining table, and big windows overlooking the communal courtyard, it feels like playing house in the best way. Warschauer Strasse 39/40, michelbergerhotel.com, doubles from $78, band room from $155.
The RIGHT Way to Pack Your Luggage!
Sunscreen? Check. Extra socks? Double-check. There are some things you'll never forget to pack, whether you're headed to the Swiss slopes or the wilds of Africa. But your go-to packing checklist will only get you so far. Each unique vacation type—from a rugged eco-tour to a weekend getaway to a Mexican beach escape—comes with its own packing needs. Maximize your suitcase space by following our handy guide to what to bring and what to leave at home. You may be surprised by what we've uncovered! CRUISE Bring: An alarm clockIf you want to wake up for that oceanside sunrise, pack your own gear: Very few cruise lines stock alarm clocks in their cabins. The no-alarm rule isn't universal—Euro River Cruises and One Ocean Expeditions, for two, offer cabins with alarms—but most major cruise lines don't specify alarm clocks in their amenities. It's best to come prepared with something jangly and loud. (This rule is especially important if you're in a windowless interior cabin, where day and night hours look completely identical.) Leave at home: Irons and other items with heating elementsWhen it comes to appliances, there's no hard and fast rule for what's allowed or prohibited on cruises—each line sets its own policies. Some, like Norwegian, allow hair dryers and curlers, while banning hotplates, clothing irons, and "any other item that may create a fire hazard." Disney and Royal Caribbean add coffee makers to the do-not-bring list; Cunard merely prohibits "inflammable or hazardous items," leaving the actual definition of such items to their own discretion. The safest course of action is always to contact your specific cruise line before embarkation to avoid the embarrassment of having to bail your bag out of the ship's banned-items jail. ECO-TOUR Bring: Extra batteries or a solar chargerYour camera battery just died, and your back-to-basics eco-lodge has no outlets. To avoid getting caught with your power down, stock up on replaceable batteries for your camera, flashlight, and other gadgets if your tour operator can't guarantee charging solutions. If you're the type to take your cell phone everywhere, there are other eco-friendly solutions. Samsonite Luggage Window Solar Charger (shop.samsonite.com, $50) fits most cell phones and takes 13 hours of sun to juice up completely. For the iPhone junkie, Eton's Mobius Rechargeable Battery Case with Solar Panel (etoncorp.com, $80) is compatible with the latest 4 and 4S models, and since it doubles as a heavy-duty phone case, you'll get the power of the sun and defense against drops and dings. Leave at home: Mosquito netsLet's not gloss over the risks: According to the World Health Organization, 30,000 travelers become infected with malaria every year. Add in yellow fever, encephalitis, and dengue fever, and the little buggers are a serious concern in tropical and subtropical areas. Luckily, most eco-tour operators know the hazards and provide mosquito nets for guests—making nets one less item to cram into your overstuffed bag. Instead, use that extra space for malaria prevention medication and an effective DEET-based insect repellent. ROAD TRIP Bring: A multitasking car chargerThere's nothing worse than the strains of "On the Road Again" petering out halfway through your road trip because your iPod has lost its charge—except maybe getting lost in the middle of the desert because your smartphone, and its mapping app, also conked out. Give yourself (and Willie Nelson) a hand and pack a reliable car charger for your music player, phone, and other electronics. ThinkGeek's Power Bullet Charger (thinkgeek.com, $15) amps up the juice with dual USB ports, allowing you to charge two devices at once from a standard car cigarette lighter. And when you reach your hotel, it plugs into a standard wall socket to keep the electrons flowing. Leave at home: Caffeine pillsWe know, we know—Amarillo is almost on the horizon and you just need one last boost of late-night energy to make it. Unfortunately, while there's little risk in moderate caffeine use, popping those pills—or slurping down energy drinks—can make you a hazard to yourself and other drivers. According to the National Institutes of Health, caffeine intoxication can result in tremors, tachycardia (increased heart rate), and "psychomotor agitation." Pill concentrations vary, but the 200 milligrams of caffeine in over-the-counter Vivarin is equal to two and a half cans of Red Bull—and too much of either can spell danger. Pull over and take a rest instead. Amarillo will still be there in the morning. AMUSEMENT PARK Bring: Ready-to-eat snacksEvery good penny pincher knows to pack his own snacks when visiting a pricey theme park. But remember: not all foods are the same when it comes to theme park policy. Although Disney World allows you to bring in outside food, state law prohibits employees from "storing, preparing, cooking, or reheating any food" brought in by guests. That means everything must be completely ready to eat—no instant oatmeal or Easy Mac! (Universal Resort has a similar policy.) Another item you'll have to provide yourself at Disney: chewing gum. Walt reportedly hated the goopy stuff and banned its sale within the parks. Draconian? Your shoes won't think so. Leave at home: A first-aid kitIt's tempting to over-prepare for an emergency, but the House of Mouse and other major amusement parks have you covered when it comes to basic health issues. Each Disney theme park has first-aid stations staffed by certified nurses who are equipped to fix minor scrapes and internal ailments. You'll find a wide array of free products, from Tylenol to Tums to bandages, in addition to blood pressure checking stations. Universal Resort, Six Flags, and Cedar Point offer similar first-aid stations at their parks, so there's no need to fill up your pack with pills you may end up not even needing. MEXICAN VACATION BRING: Eco-friendly sunscreenChances are, you won't forget sunscreen on your beach vacation. But you may need to do a little research ahead of time to make sure you're bringing precisely the right kind of lotion. Chemicals in your sunscreen can have a negative effect on fragile coral reef ecosystems, and some Mexican eco-parks, including Xel-Há and Xcaret, are protecting them by banning sunscreens that contain certain compounds. Before crossing the border, look for lotions that are light on the questionable chemicals, such as paraben, cinnamate, and benzophenone. Opt instead for eco-conscious brands like Burt's Bees (burtsbees.com, $18) and Tropical Seas (tropicalseas.com, from $4.50). Leave at home: Charitable donations (unless you've planned ahead)Many American travelers hope to turn their trip abroad into an opportunity to help out; a popular plan is to bring clothing to donate to a local orphanage or charity. But know before you go: According to the U.S. Department of State, Mexico's customs regulations prohibit the importation of used goods, including all textiles. So that pile of clothing you're intending to hand out in Tijuana might not make it south of the border. Donations of medicine and other items are allowed, but they must be approved and arranged in advance with Mexico's customs department. You can still do good—just arrange it beforehand instead of hoping for negligent border patrol officials. WEEKEND FLIGHT Bring: Tablet toothpaste, bar shampoo, and stick deodorantOn a short trip with no checked baggage, there's no time to waste on the TSA. If you're traveling light with just a carry-on, avoid the 3-1-1 liquid policy (3.4 ounce bottles or less, one-quart sized plastic bag, one bag per passenger) altogether and fly dry. Stock up on TSA-friendly alternatives to liquid products, like Lush's Toothy Tabs (lushusa.com, from $4), foaming toothpaste stand-ins that come in a variety of flavors, and J.R. Liggett's bar shampoos (jrliggett.com, $7), which are detergent-free and come with a range of supplements for hair health. Finally, remember to pack a reliable solid deodorant—gels and aerosols are subject to the TSA's 3.4-ounce rule, but the stick stuff isn't. Leave at home: Gel shoe insertsThe TSA is more concerned about planted bombs than plantar warts. Like any other type of gel, shoe cushions fall under the TSA's regulations—good luck finding inserts that weigh in under 3.4 ounces. Instead, invest in a pair of comfy travel shoes, or skirt the TSA's regulations by using plastic or memory-foam insoles instead. Wondering what else passes the TSA test? Take advantage of the agency's Can I Bring? online search engine to inquire about every kind of carry-on, from alcohol (3.4 ounces or less, please) to Zippos (one per guest). ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT Bring: Top-shelf liquorSure, all-inclusives may be all-you-can-drink, but they're often more about quantity than quality. Because some resorts have contracts with local brewers or suppliers, the drinks included in the package price might not be premium quality. Many resorts, like the Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas or Bali's Meliá Benoa, will state this up front, but others are craftier. Always scan vacation packages for references to "local" or "house" liquor. If you're hoping, for example, to toast a special occasion with a nice bottle of champagne, it's a good idea to bring one into the resort yourself. Leave at home: Tip moneyMost all-inclusives will save you from constantly reaching for singles by including gratuities in the package price. In fact, some resorts actually ban employees from accepting any money from guests. No matter how grateful you are towards the bellboy for lugging 12 bags up to your hotel room, you'll have to suppress your generous instincts. Again, the policy isn't necessarily consistent; both Sandals and Mexico's Karisma Hotels & Resorts, for example, include gratuities in their upfront prices, but smaller resort operators may diverge from this policy. Make sure you know their expectations before you book, and if there's any doubt, contact them directly and ask. SKI TRIP Bring: IbuprofenPacking a painkiller for a ski vacation might seem like a no-brainer—but it's not just for those après-ski aches. Earlier this year, a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine reported that the drug could prevent the fatigue, headaches, and nausea that characterize altitude sickness, with fewer negative side effects than drugs like Diamox that specifically target the illness. The study found that ibuprofen reduced the probability of altitude sickness by 25 percent at altitudes from 4,100 to 12,570 feet, a range that encompasses most top skiing areas, including Breckenridge, Whistler Blackcomb, and Switzerland's Zermatt. Leave at home: Your ski gearSkis, boots, and poles aren't exactly compact, so nix the U-Haul and rent your equipment on-site. It might be cheaper than you'd expect: Ski Country Resorts & Sports in Breckenridge, for example, offers packages from $21 per day for a full set of gear, and less if you bring some items on your own and rent piecemeal. The deal looks even rosier if you're flying to the slopes. Ski equipment will count as your first piece of checked luggage and can lead to fees of $50 for a domestic roundtrip on Delta or American.
You Haven't REALLY Seen Nassau Till You've Seen...
Having a great day in this ever-popular cruise port is hardly a challenge, but losing the crowds of your fellow cruise passengers can be. Here are seven places to add to your itinerary for an inspired day on shore, all backed up by Bahamas-based folks in the know. In each case, we've also indicated how far the attraction is from the port to help you plan your day. 27 Stunning Photos of the Caribbean Festival Place 1-minute walk Unlike the touristy Straw Market, this new artisan fair inside the cruise terminal sells only "truly authentic Bahamian goods," like handwoven straw bags and conch-shell bracelets made by locals with special needs. Prince George Wharf, Call (242)323-3182, bracelet $10. -A.F. Educulture Museum 10-minute taxi ($6)*Dedicated to the Mardi Gras-like Junkanoo parade, this spot offers a year-round chance to see the floats and try on elaborate costumes and masks. "If you plan ahead, someone will even take you to the shacks where they build the floats." 31 West St., Call (242)328-3786, admission $10. -K.S. Fort Fincastle 5-minute taxi ($4)This tiny, 18th-century hilltop fort was originally used to watch for pirate invasions. "The 125-foot water tower is the highest point on the island and has the most spectacular 360-degree views of Nassau." Bennett's Hill, water tower admission $1. -K.S. Potter's Cay 8-minute taxi ($5)The row of seafood shacks under the Paradise Island Bridge is the spot for fresh conch. "Each day, workers head to their favorite stall for lunch. I like the conch salad from Twin Brothers—the mollusk is cracked right in front of you, so you know it's fresh." Under the Paradise Island Bridge, conch salad $10. -A.B. Crazy Johnny's 8-minute taxi ($5)"You'll find a boatload of yacht captains and crew at this old-time rock-and-roll club. The crowd is mostly Bahamians who come to hear live local bands and sing karaoke." Cold Kalik beers up the chill factor. East Bay St. and Fowler St., crazyjohnnysbahamas.com, beer $5. -A.B. Doongalik Studios Art Gallery 10-minute taxi ($6)"This gallery is off the beaten path in a beautiful old residence surrounded by a leafy garden." It also contains works from 70 local residents, making it the country's largest inventory of Bahamian art. 18 Village Rd., www.doongalik.com, 12 postcards for $14. -A.F. Sandy Toes 8-minute taxi ($5) to Paradise Island ferry terminal, then 40-minute boat rideA short boat ride from Nassau, this private beach on Rose Island is an uncrowded gem, perfect for kayaking and snorkeling. "Atlantis resort is in the distance, but this beach is a world away—it's where locals escape to." Excursions include a welcome drink, buffet lunch, and snorkel equipment. Tours leave from the Paradise Island Ferry Terminal, sandytoesroseisland.com, $70. -A.B. *Estimated transportation rates are per person, based on two passengers. Additional charges apply for larger groups.
11 Greatest Riverfront Towns
Beacon, NY Why Go: Just an hour and a half north of NYC, Beacon's Hudson Riverfront was long dominated by scrapyards and oil tanks. But thanks to a twenty year restoration effort, a prime parcel at Long Dock Park opened to the public in July 2011, with a dedicated kayak pavilion, fishing pier and rehabilitated wetlands (scenichudson.org). What to Do: Nearby Dia:Beacon's contemporary art collection includes exhibitions and installations by Richard Serra and Sol LeWitt (3 Beekman St., 845/440-0100, tickets from $10, diacenter.org). Just up the bluff, Chrystie House Bed & Breakfast feels like a true Hudson Valley estate, with an elegant, Federal-style main house set on immaculate grounds (300 South Ave. 845/765-0251, doubles from $175, chrystiehouse.com). SEE STUNNING PHOTOS OF ALL THE TOWNS! Hood River, OR Why Go: Sporting an outdoorsy, Oregon appeal, Hood River is probably best known for its wind and kitesurfing—considered by some to be the best in the world. But the temperate climate and fertile orchards that surround also make for ideal farm-to-table dining—both at local restaurants and the homespun wine vineyards. What to Do: Big Winds offers windsurfing lessons for folks of all skill levels (207 Front St., 888/509-4210, beginner classes from $65, bigwinds.com). Nearby, the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn is one of the only hotels in town located on the Columbia; some rooms with private patios overlooking the Gorge (1108 East Marina Wy., 800/828-7873, doubles from $111, hoodriverinn.com). Twin Cities, MN Why Go: Over the past decade, Minneapolis's Riverfront District has blossomed from a hodgepodge of abandoned flour mills to a magnetic cultural center in its own right—from the Jean Nouvel-designed Guthrie Theater to innovative green spaces like Gold Medal Park. What to Do: Drink in panoramic views of the Mississippi River from the Mill City Museum's observation deck (704 South 2nd St., 612/341-7555, admission $11, millcitymuseum.org). For the river's full effect, cross the pedestrian-and-bike-only Stone Arch Bridge for a close encounter with the St. Anthony Falls. Memphis, TN Why Go: Straddling one of the widest points along the Mississippi, Memphis has a rich history of riverboat commerce that dates back centuries. This July, the Beale Street Landing project will begin to open up its waterfront even more, letting touring riverboats dock right alongside its bustling entertainment district and creating additional room for outdoor activities like walking, jogging and cycling. What to Do: Hop aboard the Mud Island Monorail for a rare bird's eye view of the river. Your roundtrip ticket can be a part of a package that also includes admission to the Mississippi River Museum, with fascinating cultural exhibits on the Lower Mississippi River Valley, such as an interactive exhibit which gives you the opportunity to pilot a barge and experience a flood's devastation (125 North Front St., 800/507-6507, Museum Package $10, closed during winter months, mudisland.com). San Antonio, TX Why Go: One of the first American cities to fully realize its river's potential, San Antonio created River Walk, an otherworldly oasis, with arched bridges, tiny waterfalls, and quiet reflection pools all set one story below street level. Just last year, the Mission Reach branch extended the trail three miles further, passing through native plants and woodlands. What to Do: Wash down a mango pork carnita with handcrafted margaritas at Barriba Cantina (111 W. Crockett St. #214, 210/228-9876, entrees from $10, barribacantina.com) after you're done exploring. Nearby, the 17-room Riverwalk Vista with it's expansive ten foot windows and rustic charm is one of the area's few true boutique hotels. It places you within a pebble's toss of the River Walk (262 Losoya St., 866/898-4782, rooms from $127, riverwalkvista.com). Augusta, KY Why Go: Augusta's riverfront setting is so idyllic that a movie adaptation of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn was filmed here. Its ferry service—one of the last remaining on the Ohio River—has been operating since 1798. What to Do: Trace singer Rosemary Clooney's life story (including tidbits on nephew George) at her childhood riverfront home (106 East Riverside Dr., 866/898-8091, tickets $5, rosemaryclooney.org). On June 2, the Augusta Art Guild will hold its annual Art in the Garden festival, with visual art, jazz performances, and food vendors set along the riverbank (augustaartguild.com). Great Falls, MT Why Go: Great Falls' ties to the Missouri River go back to the days of Lewis and Clark, when they portaged up the namesake waterfalls on their journey west. Trace their route via footpath along the River's Edge Trail, beginning in the historic downtown and passing through gorgeous prairie canyons (thetrail.org). What to Do: Of Great Falls' accommodations, La Quinta Inn & Suites Great Falls is one of the few hotels with actual river frontage (600 River Dr. S., 406/761-2600, doubles from $94, lq.com). Two miles east, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is built into a bluff with dramatic views of the river (4201 Giant Springs Rd., 406/727-8733, tickets $8). Hermann, MO Why Go: Hermann's riverside perch along the Missouri makes it the most scenic of Missouri's Wine Trail towns. Self-guided walking tours of the German town's riverfront include historic German heritage sites, restored buildings, and quaint restaurants and saloons. What to Do: Taste unique varietals at vineyards like Stone Hill Winery, with its beautifully restored cellar and tasting room (1110 Stone Hill Hwy., 800/909-9463, stonehillwinery.com). Nearby, the Alpenhorn Gasthaus is your best bet for lodging—its four rooms set on several acres of pastoral farmland (179 East Hwy. 100, 573/486-8228, doubles from $145, alpenhorngasthaus.com). New Orleans, LA Why Go: You might forgive New Orleans for turning its back to the water, but the Mississippi River will forever be part of the city's blood. Later this Fall, a mile-long riverside greenbelt adjacent to the hip Faubourg Marigny neighborhood is slated to be unveiled, with jogging paths, concert venues, and unsurpassed views. What to Do: You're in New Orleans, after all: Eat. Just north of the new park sits Elizabeth's Restaurant, whose decadent brunch offerings like duck waffles and praline bacon have garnered a cult following (601 Gallier St., 504/944-9272, elizabeths-restaurant.com). Come evening, kick up your heels at Mimi's in the Marigny (2601 Royal Street, 504/872-9868, mimisinthemarigny.net), a neighborhood fave with live jazz and delicious tapas. Davenport, IA Why Go: Davenport's entire downtown fronts the Mississippi River, with a slew of waterfront parks connected by its Riverfront Trail. Summer music festivals like River Roots Live are a big draw, especially when they coincide with food fairs like Ribfest (www.riverrootslive.com). What to Do: Catch a Quad Cities River Bandits game at Modern Woodmen Park, a minor league baseball stadium so close to the Mississippi that homeruns land right in the river (209 South Gaines Street, tickets from $5). A crisp Old Davenport Gold from the Front Street Brewery (Iowa's oldest brew pub) is the perfect end to the day (208 East River Dr. 563/322-1569, pitchers $13.50, frontstreetbrew.com). Cincinnati, OH Why Go: Cincinnati's taken an especially hands-on approach to reclaiming its waterfront, clearing a path through old highways and industrial parks. This Fall, it's slated to open the first phase of a $120 million, 45 acre riverfront park at its center—the crown jewel in a decades' long revitalization effort. What to Do: Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse is a favorite for local barbecue, as well as its unique riverfront setting (925 Riverside Dr., 513/721-7427, pork loin back $21, montgomeryinn.com). To get even more up close, hop aboard a historic riverboat for a cruise along the Ohio River (bbriverboats.com, Historic Harbor Sightseeing Cruise, $18).
12 Most Beautiful Paths—No Car Required
With all due respect to road trips, some of the world's most breathtaking routes aren't fit for four-wheel drives. And they're better off for it. After all, aren't the world's most beautiful views best absorbed at your own pace? These 12 gorgeous trails, paths, and passageways let you do just that—from the saddle of a bicycle, a pair of skis, or your own two feet—without any impatient drivers looming in your rearview mirror. You don't even have to worry about planning the trip—outfitters run road-tested tours through all of these gorgeous spots. SEE THE GORGEOUS SCENERY ALONG THESE TRAILS 1. HIKE INCA TRAIL, PERU High in the Andes, this 26-mile journey follows in the footsteps of fifteenth-century Incans, leading past a series of ruins to the mystical royal retreat of Machu Picchu. Hundreds of species of exotic flowers (including nearly 200 types of orchids) and tropical birds (giant hummingbirds, tanagers, and Peru's national bird, the bright-red-headed cock-of-the-rock) can be seen along the way. Ancient stone stairs line the path as it leads up through cloud forests and alpine tundra, until the clouds part and the massive Puerta del Sol—Sun Gate—reveals the stunningly preserved granite city of Machu Picchu.Book a Trip: Access to the trail is limited (for preservation purposes), so it's best to reserve your trek well in advance (4-6 months in the high season of May-October). SAS Travel Peru's four-night trek includes bus transport from Cusco, all meals, tent accommodations, and porter service throughout (sastravelperu.com, four-night treks from $610/person). 2. HIKE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, U.S.A. Cutting through 14 states on the Eastern seaboard, the 2,180-mile "A.T." is one of the longest continuously marked trails in the world, taking in a greater variety of scenery than any other path on the continent. The route starts in Georgia's rugged green Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, winds up through the vast valleys and peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park, then crawls through bucolic New England towns before ending in Maine's incredibly isolated Hundred-Mile Wilderness, one of the most likely spots in the country for moose sightings.Book a Trip: The Appalachian Mountain Club arranges three- and four-day hikes across New Hampshire's White Mountain segment of the trail, a swath of Alpine tundra best experienced when its high-altitude wildflowers are in full bloom (mid-June through September). Trips are led by staff naturalists and include meals, seasonal activities like bird-watching, skiing, or snowshoeing, and accommodation in rustic mountain huts (outdoors.org, three-day hikes from $316). 3. HIKE ZION NARROWS, UTAH This dramatic gorge cutting through Zion National Park claims a close second place behind the Grand Canyon for sheer, jaw-dropping canyon beauty, yet draws just over half of the more famous park's annual crowds. The path through the gorge—home to some of the world's deepest slot canyons—alternates between gaping, quarter-mile-wide stretches and narrow, 20-foot passageways, and runs directly through the Virgin River's bed—which means hikers who want to go the distance will have to ford waist-deep water from time to time. Still, Zion's fans believe it's worth the wade to stare up between the 2,000-foot-high sandstone walls, lined with lush hanging gardens, streaming with flutes of water, and bouncing with beams of red-orange light.Book a Trip: If you're not the type to wander through canyons on your own—or all that keen on waist-deep wading—the pros at Zion Rock Guides lead beginner-level full-day (dry) hikes that include a stop for lunch and ice cream at the in-park Zion Lodge (zionrockguides.com, from $90). 4. CYCLE HIAWATHA BIKE TRAIL, IDAHO AND MONTANA The pine-forested Bitterroot Mountains (part of the Northern Rockies) supply the deep-green backdrop for one of the country's most exhilarating rails-to-trails bike-path conversions (completed in 2001). This former stretch of mountain railroad straddling the Idaho-Montana border incorporates 10 covered tunnels (including one, the Taft Tunnel, that's more than a mile and a half long), seven dizzying, canyon-spanning trestles (some as high as 230 feet), and panoramic views across both states. Bonus: The 15-mile gravel trail is mostly flat or slightly downhill, so the smooth ride is doable for most kids and families. (Just be sure that your bike has a headlight for those dark tunnels! It's not only recommended—it's required.)Book a Trip: If you prefer to go it alone, day passes cost $10 through Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area (skilookout.com); less-experienced cyclists might opt for a guided tour from Row Adventure Center, which includes a picnic lunch and transportation from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (rowadventurecenter.com, from $179). 5. HIKE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL, U.S.A. Consider it the other great American backpacking path: The 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail spans the entire West Coast, from the Mexico border to British Columbia. Along the way, hikers pass through 25 national forests and seven national parks, taking in everything from the vivid red Vasquez Rocks near Los Angeles to the deep blue waters and snowcapped peaks of Crater Lake in Oregon. Not to mention Yosemite, Sequoia National Park and the Sierra Nevadas in between. The parallel Sierra Cascades Bicycle Route provides a path for two-wheelers.Book a Trip: Newbies can hook up with the hardcore hikers who are tackling the full trail on Next Adventure's four-day, 32-mile hike along the Oregon Section of the Pacific Crest Trail (nextadventure.net, $400). Guides lead small groups through Mt. Hood National Forest, and all gear, meals, and snacks are included. 6. HIKE TORRES DEL PAINE CIRCUIT, CHILE This 52-mile trail loops through a section of southern Patagonian wilderness that contains some of the most otherworldly scenery on the planet. Giant blue glaciers and craggy mountain peaks are in abundance here, but the most spectacular formations in this national park are the namesake paines—10,000-foot pillars of granite that spiral up from the glacial-carved valley. The challenging hiking circuit also traverses past green lagoons and expansive ice fields—and if the landscape itself weren't enough, eagle-eyed hikers can spot exotic wildlife (llama-like guanacos, ostrich-esque rheas) roaming the grassy pampas.Book a Trip: Cascada Expediciones offers a five-day, four-night highlights trek; most nights, hikers stay in geodesic eco-domes equipped with sheepskin throws and windowed ceilings for midnight star-gazing (ecocamp.travel, from $1,313). 7. WALK CINQUE TERRE, ITALY Five colorful villages carved into the cliffs of the Italian Riviera are connected by a series of fifteenth-century footpaths winding directly above the Mediterranean. With autos on these ancient roads still few and far between, this is one of the few places where hikers can still travel car-free through the heart of Old Europe. The scenic vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards lining the steep cliffs along the trail are bested only by the historic towns themselves, each one filled with centuries-old churches, postcard-perfect homes and high stone walls that cling to the rocks above the sea.Book a Trip: Seven-day treks from UTracks make the central town of Corniglia your base—travelers stay, local-style, in rental apartments—with daily excursions to the surrounding villages and breaks for vineyard tours and swimming (utracks.com, from $860). 8. CROSS-COUNTRY SKI OR HIKE THE KING'S TRAIL, SWEDEN One of Europe's last swaths of genuinely pristine wilderness lies more than 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Here, the narrow hiking and skiing path known as the Kungsleden, or King's Trail, is the singular sign of civilization along much of the route. For wintertime skiers the 270-mile route is a snow-swept wonderland; for summer hikers the untouched birch forests come alive with multi-colored flowers blooming under the midnight sun. Either way, you're likely to encounter herds of wild reindeer—and have an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights.Book a Trip: The eight-day trip led by Nature Travels is rife with extra-special experiences—sauna stops, a boat ride across Lake Ladtjojaure, and the option to add an excursion up 6,906-foot Mt. Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest peak (naturetravels.co.uk, eight-day trips from $1,100). 9. CYCLE ROUTE DES GRANDS CRUS, FRANCE For folks who take equal pleasure in viticulture and vélo-culture, there's no better bike path than "the road of great wines," a 40-mile route through the heart of Burgundy's famed Côte d'Or (golden slope). The road is lined by a procession of intimate, family-run wineries set along a southeast-facing limestone slope, which is the reason these vines get so much sun (and produce such great wines). The occasional castle punctuates the surrounding landscape. What's more, it's virtually impossible to get lost, thanks to the no-French-necessary road signs stamped with pictures of grapes that are planted all along the route.Book a Trip: The four-night trip offered by Detours in France includes bike rental, luggage transfers, hotel accommodations, breakfasts, two dinners, a wine-tasting meal and private tour of the Gothic Hospices de Beaune, built in 1443 (detours-in-france.com, from $857). 10. HIKE THE WHALE TRAIL, SOUTH AFRICA If you like long walks on the beach—and we mean really long walks—South Africa's 34-mile Whale Trail is sure to float your boat. The first half, which starts in the Potberg mountains of the De Hoop Nature Reserve, winds east down the verdant green hillsides toward the water; all along the way, trekkers gaze down on the turquoise rock pools and craggy cliff formations that make up this stretch of Indian Ocean coast. Once you hit the ocean, the trail doubles back west, with 17 more miles of secluded, sandy beaches, tide pools, and sea caves. Both segments of the trail have excellent vantage points for the star attraction—abundant southern right whales that populate these waters between June and December. During those months, hikers routinely report seeing 50 or more whales at a time, and some tour operators (like Karoo, below) have a money-back guarantee if you don't spot at least one.Book a Trip: Karoo Tours' six-day hikes include transportation from Cape Town, accommodation in rustic cabins, and all meals (www.karoospirit.co.za, from $555). 11. HIKE MILFORD TRACK, NEW ZEALAND To many folks—including, presumably, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, who filmed his trilogy there—New Zealand is the ultimate destination for dreamy, fantastic landscapes. The ecologically-diverse Milford Track, which cuts through Fiordland National Park, on the westernmost section of the South Island, is like a sampler platter of the country's most outstanding outdoor offerings. The 35-mile route swings through temperate rainforest, alongside rushing rivers and waterfalls, across wetlands vivid with ferns and moss, and over a narrow alpine pass. But the trail's primary attractions are its magnificent fjords—dramatic, V-shaped valleys carved out of the mountains by glaciers roughly 20,000 years ago.Book a Trip: Guided hikes on the Milford Track don't come cheap: Ultimate Hikes' five-day option includes all meals and snacks, accommodations in cushy lodges, and a cruise on Milford Sound, and starts at $1,488 per person (ultimatehikes.co.nz). If you'd rather strike out on your own, Hike South's self-guided option might fit the bill, with three nights' accommodation in unheated conservation huts for $276 (hikesouth.com). Just be sure to reserve your spot in advance—by several months, if possible—as access to the trail is limited to 90 new hikers per day. 12. MOTORBIKE HO CHI MINH TRAIL, VIETNAM An elaborate network of mountain and jungle roads built by the North Vietnamese to provide support to troops down south during the Vietnam War, this legendary trail runs the length of the country, winding more than 1,000 miles from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. While segments of the road have since been reclaimed by jungle, the entire route is navigable by motorbike via secluded dirt paths that wind around vertigo-inducing mountain passes where stilted wooden houses are perched on the green mountainsides; through isolated ancient villages; and down to sandy stretches of uninhabited coastline.Book a Trip: Vietnam Adventure Tours has an 18-day, full-trail option, as well as a 3-day, all-inclusive "Taste of Ho Chi Minh" itinerary that offers homestays in Thai stilt houses and in a Muong village (activetravelvietnam.com, 3-day trips from $363).