BT Readers Share Their Unforgettable Vacations
You never forget your first real vacation. We asked our readers and fans on our Facebook and Twitter pages to tell us about their most memorable vacations—and they delivered. They've done it all, from road trips across the United States with the family, to biking across Iowa, whale–watching in Maui, and even cross–country skiing in Norway. Some reminisced about trips they took to other countries while living overseas, while others described fond memories of traveling abroad for the first time. Whether it was a first trip to a theme park as a child—or as an adult—or a first experience with the family at a national park, they've inspired us to explore new places, and share our own favorite travel memories.
Sometimes it's the journey more than the destination that makes a vacation stand out. I can remember my mother letting me have the window seat during my first flight at four–years–old, showing me how beautiful the clouds looked from the plane, and calming me down when I cried because the flight wasn't longer (my belated apologies to whoever else was on that flight). After reading through all the incredible vacation experiences our readers have had, I feel the need to do a massive overhaul of my travel bucket list, especially with all the far–flung and fascinating places you've been to so far. A special thank you to everyone who shared their stories with us—it's not too late, we'd still love to hear about your most memorable vacations, so share them below!
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5 Reasons Brooklyn is Hot Right Now
Brooklynites know what the rest of the world is just discovering—that Brooklyn is a great place to visit. According to NYC & Company, the official tourism bureau of New York City, 50.2 million people visited in New York City* in 2011 (and 10 million of them were international visitors). More and more of these folks are finding their way to Brooklyn, as evidenced by the outcropping of new hotels sprouting up in the area. What's drawing them to the borough—and why should you make time for a Brooklyn stop on your next New York vacation? Let me count the ways that this borough is cool: 1. The French say so. The New York Times recently reported that "Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than to call it 'tres Brooklyn,' a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality." 2. Hot new hotels are opening left and right. Three of my favorites: Aloft New York Brooklyn, a 176-room just a short walk from the Brooklyn Bridge. Rates start at $169 per night. Nu Hotel a hip hotel in downtown Brooklyn that recreates the experience of loft living (some rooms even have hammocks suspended from the ceiling). Rates from $269 per night. 3B, a charming, 4–room B&B; that is run by eight young artists and writers who live nearby. A complimentary breakfast is served each morning. Rates start at $120. 3. Exciting art spaces. Brooklyn Museum of Art and BAM cinema are two longstanding favorites of mine, but you can also find plenty of avante-garde art spaces too, including the Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo for live performances and the Black & White Gallery in Williamsburg. 4. Awesome restaurants. Char 4 for down–home Southern cooking with a New York twist (and one of the best selection of whiskeys I've ever seen). Lucali, voted the best pizza in Brooklyn and rumored date spot for Beyonce and Jay-Z (575 Henry St., Carroll F or G), Lomzynianka Restauracja in the Polish enclave of Greenpoint where you can get a fresh platter of pierogis, and Egg, for some of the best brunch around (135 N. 5th St near Bedford L), plus it's right next door to the Brooklyn Brewery so after you finish brunch you can tour the factory and down a pint. 5. Revitalized outdoor spaces that are fun for the whole family. Coney Island has been revitalized with new rides as the Human Slingshot, which catapults guests 220 feet in the air, new restaurants such as the out post of Grimaldi's, one of Brooklyn's best known pizzerias. There's also the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, with bike paths, sandy volleyball courts, and a public pool, not to mention a quaint grassy stretch overlooking the river. Do you have any favorite Brooklyn places that I missed? Tell us about them below! *Please note: 50.2 million people visited New York City in 2011, not Brooklyn, as originally stated. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Confessions of...A New York Street–Food Vendor BT Editors' 12 Favorite Foodie Destinations 30 Vacations Budget Travel Readers Will Never Forget
Surprisingly Swanky Fast Food Joints Around the World
When it comes to the typical fast food joint, terms like "atmosphere" and "ambience" are less important than ones like "super size." But there are a few greasy spoons tucked around the globe that serve a surprising portion of sleekness and even grandeur along with their burgers, fries, and sweet treats. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FAST FOOD JOINTS The picturesque beachfront shack shown above (in Pacifica, CA), has been called "the world's nicest Taco Bell." Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the opulence of a Starbucks in Dubai, but with one look at the one in the city's Ibn Battuta Mall, our jaws drop anyway. It might feel strange to order a Big Mac or a stuffed crust pizza instead of stuffed pheasant at the McDonalds in Bray, Ireland, or at the Pizza Hut in Shakespeare's hometown, Stratford–upon–Avon. And trust Tinseltown to make a bucket of fried chicken look glitzy. The Kentucky Fried Chicken in Los Angeles, designed by architect Jeff Daniels in 1990 to reflect postmodernist style, stands on Western Boulevard, on the Hollywood–Koreatown border. Have been to any surprisingly fancy fast food restaurants yourself? Did the atmosphere elevate the experience? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 8 Foreign Fast Food Chains You Need to Know BT Editors' 12 Favorite Foodie Destinations A Coffee Addict's Guide to the World
Will Kindles Replace Bibles in Hotel Rooms?
You may be in for a surprise next time you open a drawer in your hotel room. A pilot program being launched at the Hotel Indigo in Newcastle, England is replacing paper Bibles with Kindles pre–loaded with a copy in the 148 rooms. If the program is successful (it runs until July 16, 2012), Kindles could be tried out at the hotel chain's 44 locations worldwide. Guests of the hotel can read the good word, or borrow free books from the 1,500–title Kindle lending library during their stay. You can also buy books through Amazon to be loaded on the Kindle, but you can't take it with you and the device will be wiped after you check out. And remember the 8th commandment: Kindles that make their way into guests' suitcases will result in a replacement charge. The program has no affiliation with Gideons International, the organization responsible for all those hotel Bibles (they distributed more than 80 million last year). They have no problem with the electronic versions, with a spokesperson telling CNN "Anything to put the Bible in people's hands is a good thing." What are your thoughts on the program? Do you think this is a step toward modernity, or the end of a tradition? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 7 Common Expenses that Take Travelers By Surprise 30 Hotel Chains Every Traveler Should Know 8 Ways to Save Big on Summer Travel
London's Seven Newest Attractions for 2012
London has raced to create several new attractions in time for this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games. While you may be skipping the city during the Games unless you have tickets to events, the rest of 2012 is an ideal time to check out these fresh, permanent landmarks. The city's tallest skyscraper debuts Last night, south London celebrated the opening of The Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe, located next to London Bridge Station. Created by architect Renzo Piano, the pyramidal, reflective shape has become the most defining building on the cityscape. Today tickets went on sale for the 800-foot-high, 360-degree observation deck, which opens to visitors February 1, 2013 (from £24.95, or about $40 for adults 16 and over; theviewfromtheshard.com). The city's first cable carRunning since late June, a new cable car service across the Thames connects the O2 Arena in Greenwich with the ExCeL Centre and the Docklands in North London. It's called Emirates Air Line (from £5 or about $8; emiratesairline.co.uk) because of a private-public partnership with the famous mideast airline, and the staff wear the uniforms of Emirates flight attendants. The cars move up to 9 mph, though they're slowed when it is windy. London's hottest new arts venue One of the city's most visited museums is the contemporary art venue Tate Modern, housed in a former power station along the Thames. Two long-unused oil tanks have been converted into giant underground spaces for live art installations and performances. These giant concrete tanks open to the public on July 18. Part of a mammoth expansion of the museum, the galleries claim to be the "first in the world to be permanently dedicated to live art, performance, installation and film works." tate.org.uk The city's tallest public sculptureThe new 37-story-tall sculpture/observation tower ArcelorMittal Orbit opens mid-July for the Olympics. The giant red structure was co-designed by British architect Annish Kapoor, who made the Cloud Gate (a.k.a., the Millennium Bean") sculpture in Chicago. The Orbit closes after the Olympics for a period until the Olympic Village is renovated and re-opened to the public with facilities for the community and a new Olympic history museum. Europe's largest shopping mall Located next to the Olympic Village and open throughout the games, Westfield Stratford City is well-linked to downtown by subway and features many of the city's top brand stores. Tip: The John Lewis department store has a third-story window overlooking the Olympic park, plus a nice restaurant with free WiFi. London's largest mural Britain has had a long history of "pleasure gardens," essentially parks specifically devoted to providing culture to the public in an outdoor setting. London's latest such venue is in a 15-acre converted industrial space on the northeast side of the Thames River, called (londonpleasuregardens.com). Opened on June 30th, the gardens currently sport a 10-story mural created by Shepard Fairey, the street artist who came up with the Barack Obama campaign 'Hope' posters. Events will rotate, but the space welcomes outdoor parties and art exhibitions. Check its website for the schedule. A classic ship, rebuilt and re-displayed Destroyed by fire in 2007, the Cutty Sark is a three-masted tea clipper from the 1800 that has been rebuilt in a $77 million project. Created in 1869, it was the swiftest merchant sailing ship of its time. A clever museum display elevates the ship as if it were floating so that you can walk underneath it (rmg.co.uk). MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Budget Travel's Picks for Affordable Hotels in London Paris's Newest Attractions for Summer 2012 5 Affordable Restaurant Chains in London]