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3 Free Ways to Get Your Pop Culture Fix in London

By Kaeli Conforti
August 13, 2013

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of traveling around Ireland and London with my mother and sister during a 12-day vacation we'd been planning since I was in high school. As this was our first trip to London, my sister and I quickly came up with a list of places and things we had to see, hitting all the major tourist attractions like the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the infamous Tower of London. As we flipped through guidebooks and asked our friends for suggestions, we began to realize there were a few other spots we couldn't resist visiting while we were there. Whether you're a Beatlemaniac, the ultimate Harry Potter fan, or a lover of all things Doctor Who, a trip to these three London spots is sure to create some classic vacation photos for your collection. The best part: apart from a cheap ride or two on London's Underground (aka. The Tube), you can capture the perfect British pop culture souvenir photo for free.

Crossing Abbey Road
There comes a time in every Beatles fan's life when this photo just needs to be taken. Grab your friends, hop on the Tube's Jubilee line to the St. John's Wood station, and take a 5-10 minute walk down Grove End Road to Abbey Road Studios, the place where the magic happened. Chances are you'll spot the crowd lined up to cross the street long before you see the Studio, so join in the Beatles-inspired merriment and help a fellow pilgrim get the perfect shot (they'll most likely assist you as well). A word of caution: this is an active street and there are cars full of people going about their day who will honk at you for blocking the road, so work together and wait for gaps before jumping into the middle of the road. No photo is worth compromising your safety, but with a little patience and creativity, it works. After your moment of Beatles-fan glory, walk by the Abbey Road Studios entrance gate to read song lyrics and graffiti messages left by thousands of fans from around the world, all lovingly written in sharpie along the front wall.

Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station
I have to admit, I did feel a little silly asking a security guard at King's Cross Station where I could find a fictional place from the Harry Potter series, but when we spotted the line of people in front of Platform 9 and 3/4, it was nice to know I wasn't the only one—it does get a little confusing because platforms 1-9 are on one side of the building, platforms 10 and up are on the other, and there is no obvious middle-ground. You are given the option to buy the professional photograph taken by the team from the nearby shop selling all things Harry Potter, or alternatively, you can switch off with other people in line and take free photos with your own camera. There's a funny, enthusiastic guy working the line, handing out different colored scarves according to which House you've decided you belong to (Gryffindor is the most popular choice by far), and you get to do two photos each—the first, a stationary pose where you're shown pushing your cart through the imaginary border followed by an action pose where, with the toss of your scarf, it looks like you're running through it. There are also props available, like wizard's wands, to create your own scene, and be prepared for an epic photo shoot if the person running the line wants to get involved—he actually handed me a wand, asked me to point it at him, and jumped backward at the last minute to make it look like I had stunned him in mid-air!

A real-life Tardis (it's bigger on the inside)
My sister and our friends are big fans of the hit BBC television series Doctor Who (I'm just starting to get into it now) so when we found out there was an original blue-colored police telephone callbox located just outside the Earl's Court Underground station, we knew we had to stop by for a photo-op. For those of you who don't watch Doctor Who, the blue callbox is a Tardis, or a "time and relative dimensions in space," a time-traveling transportation device on the show. We took the green District line from our hotel near Victoria Station to the Earl's Court station, all-in-all a 20 minute adventure for some great photos to make all our friends jealous. For a look at the inside, Google recently added this special feature that lets you view the fictional, imaginary inside of London's real-life Tardis. Click on this link, let your mouse hover over the blue police telephone box, and click on the double-arrows that appear next to it. As they say on the show, it's bigger on the inside.

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Flying Solo: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Alone

Whether you're thinking of setting off on your very first solo travel adventure or are gearing up for your fifteenth, we've got some tips from the experts—four entrepreneurs who have made a living traveling around the world and writing about their experiences. Here, in our first-ever Solo Travel Panel, we'll discuss everything from how to meet other like-minded travelers to important safety tips and essential things to keep in mind when exploring a new destination on your own. SEE OUR READERS' FAVORITE SOLO TRAVEL ADVENTURES! Meet our panel of solo travel experts: • Julia Dimon Founder of TravelJunkieJulia.com, Julia Dimon is an adventure travel writer and TV host who has been to more than 80 countries across all seven continents. • Beth Whitman A world traveler for more than 25 years, Beth Whitman is the founder and editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick, a website dedicated to sharing stories, inspiration, and travel advice from experienced travelers. • Christine Maxfield  Founder and editor of CompassMag.com and the podcast producer of When In Roam: Conversations with Travel Writers, available on iTunes. • Amanda Pressner Co-author of The Lost Girls, an epic tale of three friends who quit their hectic full-time jobs and traveled the world. Visit LostGirlsWorld.com for more information about their inspiring journey. Which places would you recommend for first-time solo travelers? Christine Maxfield: If you're traveling on a budget, I'd recommend visiting Southeast Asia first. Not only is it one of the cheapest regions in the world, but it's also a tropical paradise with a ton of historical sites and natural attractions to see, the people are friendly, and the food is tasty. What more could you ask for? Julia Dimon: Southeast Asia is great for first-time solo travelers. Thailand in particular has a great tourist infrastructure, with tons of English speakers and locals who are accustomed to foreigners. The country is extremely diverse with hilltribes and elephant treks through jungles in the north, the wild cosmopolitan city of Bangkok, and beautiful beaches and crazy parties in the south. Food, activities, and domestic flights are very affordable and it's safe. It's a particularly great destination for young people since there are so many backpackers passing through Thailand. Beth Whitman: That's a very personal decision. A destination like Asia might be very comfortable for me but might be really uncomfortable for someone else. Someone else might prefer England or even the Middle East (which wouldn't be as comfortable for me). The key is that for a first-time solo trip, you should be comfortable and confident because you're going to have a much more enjoyable (and likely safer) experience. Amanda Pressner: I would recommend Peru or Argentina—there are tons of solo travelers who start out in Lima or Cuzco and move on through other parts of the South American continent. Check out Loki Hostels, which are large, clean, fun, and an amazing place to meet solo travelers, especially if you're not fresh out of school. I also love Australia and New Zealand for anyone traveling solo, as they're extremely safe and there's an amazing infrastructure for travel. So do Thailand and all of Southeast Asia really, but Bangkok is a really easy and inexpensive way to start your trip and meet other like-minded travelers. And, if your daily budget is a little higher (or you're older, and don't want a super-young crowd), you should check out any major city in Europe—Eurorail passes and a plethora of clean, safe lodging makes Europe a no-brainer for the solo traveler with a bit more money to spend. What was your first solo travel experience like? Beth Whitman: My first "real" solo trip was a three-month trip from New Jersey to California that I took in college (I took a semester off). Along the way, I stayed with friends and in youth hostels. In the youth hostels, I met people from all over the world and was hooked. I wanted to meet more travelers and also experience the destinations where these fascinating people came from. Amanda Pressner: When I decided to go solo, I was already traveling, so no one found it that weird. I was in Australia, so in fact, people were like, "Way to go! Great decision!" It was only after I returned, and realized how many other travelers there were who traveled solo (especially as women) did I realize it was far more unusual to stay in a group of three for a full year. Note the number of blogs written by three women...not many! What is the best way to meet new people on the road? Christine Maxfield: Staying at a hostel or bed-and-breakfast is a great way to meet other travelers, since the proprietors tend to organize group outings for guests to local hotspots or restaurants that they might not know about otherwise (or feel comfortable visiting on their own). At the very least, the property should have a community board where you can post your contact info to meet up with other guests and check out the surrounding sites together. Whenever I want to get to know a culture better and make local friends quickly, I join a work-exchange program like WWOOF.org, HelpX.net, or WorkAway.info. Work exchange is a little different than volunteering because you barter your time for food and lodging with a host rather than spending money for the opportunity. I've learned the most interesting jobs that way, from black-pearl diving to working at a sea-turtle hatchery, and it only cost me my hard work! It was a very fulfilling way to travel, and I also made lifelong friends with my hosts so I was never lonely. Beth Whitman: Global Freeloaders and Couchsurfing are great ways to meet people who live in the destination  you're visiting. You don't even have to stay with them. Many people are available for coffee or to just show a person around their town—this is such a great way to connect with the locals! Julia Dimon: I like to stay in hostels, B&Bs, and with friends of friends. If there's a way to stay with the local people (ie. Couchsurfing, renting a room with roommates, or doing a house swap) you'll often feel more connected to the local culture than staying in a hotel chain. Being friendly, smiling, and striking up a conversation in whatever scenario you find yourself in is the best way to meet new people. Asking for locals' recommendations on where to eat and visit can also spark a new friendship. Joining a group tour or day activity (say white-water rafting, wine tasting, or bike touring) is a great way to meet other travelers. Shared experience is a great way to bond with your fellow travelers.  Amanda Pressner: You can do it the digital way—using your blog and social media connections to find others around you—or you can do it the old fashioned way...just getting out there and seeing the world. There are a few ways to make breaking the ice a little easier though. Asking someone to take your photo is a time-tested conversation starter (and healthier than bumming a cigarette in the hostel bar!). Sign up for a cool tour or a volunteer opportunity while you're traveling so you're thrown in with other locals and travelers and have something to talk about. Take public transportation (overnight trains are awesome for meeting other people, since you're often grouped together in shared cars). If you're intimidated about saying hello, just remember that this isn't high school, and you're not the only new kid—this is traveling, and everyone is the "new kid!" Be friendly...people will be friendly back! What can solo travelers do to NOT attract the wrong kind of attention in a new place? Christine Maxfield: When women travel alone, they automatically draw some attention to themselves, but keep in mind that you can get catcalls in your own country as well. The key is to dress modestly, never go out alone at night until you learn the rules of the area, and never get drunk or visit the beach by yourself. If you're traveling in a very conservative region like the Middle East or in a Muslim country, cover your arms and legs, wear sneakers or closed-toe shoes, and wear hair on top of your head (loose hair is considered rude!).  Beth Whitman: Women can often be seen as an easy target. It's therefore very important to be vigilant whenever we're on our own. We need to protect our personal items and also be aware of not putting ourselves in situations that could get dangerous (taking a taxi by ourselves, for example). Assuming this is more geared toward women, the best thing a solo traveler can do to not attract attention is to avoid conversations with single men and not put themselves in situations where this might happen. One thing a woman might do is join a group of people walking down a street if she thinks someone might be following her. Amanda Pressner: If you're a female traveling solo, be a little more conservative about your dress than you might be at home. Don't go out alone after dark, even if you think you know where you're going and how to get around. Take a taxi, even if you have to spend more than you want, to get you from point A to point B safely. Ask someone in the know (ie. a front desk clerk or a waitress) if you're heading out during the day to an area that you're unfamiliar with, and ask them if it's safe to walk. Make new friends and travel with them whenever possible. I believe that Jen, Holly, and I did not get into much trouble during the year we traveled because there were three of us in a group at almost all times.  What about safety? Christine Maxfield: I always carry a pickpocket-proof bag and combination locks from the safety company PacSafe, an LED flashlight called the SureFire Defender that temporarily night-blinds an aggressor, a safety whistle, and a rubber doorstop to slip underneath my hotel door just in case it tends to be a little less safe than I would've liked. One of my favorite tricks is to slit the seam on the side of my bra, stash some $100 bills in the lining, then close the makeshift pocket with a little Velcro. It's much stealthier than a money belt! Julia Dimon: As a young blonde women who has always been drawn to more taboo locations (I've traveled through Rwanda, the DRC, Mozambique, Jordan, Turkey, Palestine/West Bank, and to Chernobyl), I often get strange looks from people. I feel like they are surprised that I've returned in one piece. But truly, in my experience traveling through 80 countries and to all seven continents, it's not a big, bad, scary world out there. People are far more likely to help you rather than harm you. In terms of safety, it doesn't matter if you're in New York City or Nairobi, you can stay safe by trusting your instincts. If the little voice inside of you feels like something is a bad idea, really listen to it. Don't be afraid to say no or extricate yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Trust your gut. Beth Whitman: The most daring solo trip I've ever taken was a solo motorcycle trip from Seattle to Panama (yes, in Central America). I rode a BMW 650 for nine weeks and over 7,000 miles. Before I left on that trip, people told me I'd be raped, murdered, thrown in jail, or the bike would be stolen. I knew in my heart of hearts that if I treated people well, I would be treated well back and have a safe trip. And I did!  Amanda Pressner: If you're by yourself for the long haul, try starting your adventure at a hostel or guesthouse in a large city, where you're sure to meet like-minded travelers. Look for places that boast large common areas, cafe or activities rooms so you can cross paths with other people in a safe setting. Why should someone consider traveling by themselves compared to with a group? Amanda Pressner: It's often a good idea for women to stick together when traveling in unfamiliar or "higher-risk" places, but when it's safe to do so, don't be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and fly solo for a few days. Jen, Holly, and I all traveled alone during specific points of our journey and we ended up meeting far more interesting locals and fellow travelers than when we'd been roaming in a pack. After traveling with two other women for almost 11 months, I felt a sense of autonomy and freedom when I traveled on my own. I got to make all the decisions, see what I wanted to see, and make choices to experience the destination in exactly the way that I wanted. Once I got past the insecurity and loneliness part (and yes, that happens) I was more willing—and in fact motivated—to open myself up to new people and experiences that I otherwise wouldn't have when sheltered by my group. Beth Whitman: While group or organized travel definitely has its place, traveling solo provides you with an opportunity to gain confidence and to test your limits. When you're on your own, you're responsible for everything and that can be a really empowering experience, especially for women. Julia Dimon: When deciding to travel alone or in a group, consider the following: a.) difficulty of the destination b.) your travel goals c.) time, and d.) budget. In my experience, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, and the Caribbean are super easy to navigate on your own. It gets more challenging in destinations that have a history of political conflict or a less developed tourism infrastructure. In these cases, having a guide organize all the details and speak the language is incredibly helpful. If your travel goals are to see as much as possible in a short amount of time, a guided tour is a great call. All the administrative details are already taken care of, leaving you to just relax and take in the sights. If your goal is to really immerse yourself in local culture, challenge your problem-solving skills, and get off the typical tourist trail, you may be happier traveling solo. Typically group tours are much more expensive than going solo, so that's another consideration. What I've done in the past is start with a group tour (I did a two month camping overland excursion through South Africa, Namibia, and Zambia), then once I got my bearings and felt comfortable with my surroundings, I left the group and traveled solo through other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Doing the group-and-solo combo is a great way to get a feel for the country, the culture, and the vibe, then branch out on your own. Is there anything you know now about solo travel that you wish someone had told you back then? Amanda Pressner: Just that the loneliness, that weirdness that you feel the first few days tends to go away, but it can be pretty intense. If it's your first time solo traveling, you might wonder if you made a mistake, but you didn't! Give yourself a few days to feel out of sort, then make some efforts to get social. Beth Whitman: Just to be open to new experiences and meeting new people. I would suggest that people not be afraid to spend money on adventures. You can always make more money but you might not be able to experience something again. Julia Dimon: I wish someone had told me, "You'll be fine. You got this." It can feel a little scary to take off by oneself to parts unknown (especially for an entire year, like I did back in 2005), but once you get to the mystery destination, you quickly realize that all those fears that kept you up at night were unfounded. That you are, in fact, okay by yourself, and it's an extremely enjoyable adventure to be the conductor of one's travel destiny. I know now that it's not necessary to be afraid that you will be lonely or won't meet anyone. There are tons of like-minded solo travelers out there...you'll certainly cross paths with them, make friends, and have new experiences—so let the fear go. Solo travel is such a gift. Solo travel gives you the space and freedom to challenge your beliefs and philosophies, expand your horizons and really grow as a person. Additional solo travel resources can be found on RickSteves.com, the official website of travel guru Rick Steves—here, he offers tips for staying street-smart in Europe. Check out GoGirlGuides.com for detailed travel advice and fun, inspirational articles and guidebooks created by long-time solo traveler Kelly Lewis.

Inspiration

How to Plan the Perfect Dude Ranch Vacation

Darley Newman is the five-time Daytime Emmy Award nominated host, writer, and producer of the lifestyle travel TV series Equitrekking, which broadcasts on PBS and international networks in over 82 countries. Interested in taking an all-American dude ranch vacation? As someone who's taken a lot of them, including girlfriend getaways, family escapes, and wilderness adventures while filming my PBS TV show Equitrekking, I can tell you that there are a variety of diverse choices. While many ranches promote a casual, relaxed atmosphere, others offer luxury with top amenities. While some modern ranches cater to foodies and offer gourmet fare, others deliver cookouts and cowboy singers. Ranch vacations can make for a stress-free, wallet-friendly and family-friendly vacation. Here are five travel tips to help you plan your ranch escape and pick the right ranch vacation for you. Pick your ranch styleIn thinking about your dream ranch vacation, decide what best suits your goals and tastes. Are you seeking an authentic Western experience on a dude ranch vacation, a working cattle ranch where you can play cowboy, or a luxury ranch resort complete with a fitness center and spa? Do you want an intimate, boutique setting or larger numbers of guests to perhaps serve as a buffer for the rest of your group? Decide up front on ranch activities and amenitiesMany guest ranches offer a surprising array of special activities either onsite or nearby such as whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, mountain biking, cooking classes, spa treatments, square dancing, horse pack trips, local sightseeing, and often have children's programs—a built-in, stellar babysitting tool. If there's a particular activity or amenity you're seeking, this can be a good way to narrow your search. Having so many pre-planned activities can often take some stress out of the trip because you don't have the pressure of planning everything for your group. Addicted to the Web or need cell reception? Keep in mind that some ranches are off the grid, meaning you'll be staying in a technology-free environment. This can be a great way to unplug from our interconnected world and enhance your family or group bonding. Run the numbersMany dude ranches are all-inclusive, so if you are getting initial sticker shock from the week's pricing, do the math. Consider that all meals, activities, lodging and even some alcohol can be included, meaning you know almost all of your expenses up front. You'll need to add in flights and transportation to and from the ranch, as while some ranches offer free airport shuttle service, you'll need to rent a car for others. Consider that you will need to tip at many ranches, which could add 10 to 20 percent more to your tab. Search the ranch website, email, or call the destinations you are considering to find out what's included, so you can create a budget and stick to it for your ranch vacation. Check out ranch planning resources There are a lot of great ranch escapes, so enjoy exploring and getting ready to saddle up and ride the range! Here are some trusted ranch vacation resources to help you narrow your search: • Equitrekking.com. The companion website to the Emmy-winning PBS TV show offers Ranch Travel Deals, the Equitrekking Vacation Guide to great ranches and horseback riding vacations, and Dude Ranch Blogs. • Dude Ranchers Associations. The Dude Ranchers' Association has been helping travelers choose Western vacations since 1926 and offers great ranch planning resources. If you've narrowed it down to a state, check out the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association, Arizona Dude Ranch Association or Wyoming Dude Ranch Association. • Top20Ranches.com. This website features 20 of the best North American dude and guest ranches. Enjoy the ranch search As someone who likes simply looking at travel destinations, I ask that you, too, enjoy the search and that you search in a variety of ways. There are great resources online, but don't judge a ranch by its website. Search multiple places, read online guides and reviews and if you can, ask around. A personal referral from a trusted source is always a good idea.

Inspiration

Take a Ride on These Budget-Friendly Bus Tours

Whether you're looking for a fun day-trip to a famed amusement park, an hour-long joyride through the legendary Wild West, or a behind-the-scenes look at the city featured in AMC's hit show Breaking Bad, we've rounded up several bus tours around the country where you can get to know a new place without breaking the bank. Embrace your inner child with a trip to Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City It's called the Big Apple for a reason, and one way to take in all the major sites in a small amount of time is to tour parts of the city by bus. Both CitySights NY and Gray Line New York offer a wide variety of sightseeing tours depending on which neighborhoods are highest on your list—check their websites to view touring options that include packages to Broadway shows, day trips to locations outside the city, and in-depth tours of the Bronx and Brooklyn. Their special deal this summer involves more than $75 in savings and a chance to embrace your inner child with a day-trip to Luna Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Valid now thru Oct. 1st, the package includes transportation to and from Manhattan, four hours of unlimited amusement park rides, a ride on the legendary Cyclone Roller Coaster (guests must be taller than 54 inches), a Nathan's Famous hot dog with a 16 oz. drink, a souvenir hat, a $10 card to use for the arcade and games, and a complimentary pass for access to the beach and boardwalk. The Luna Park package costs from $59 for adults and from $39 for children ages 3-11. Please visit the websites for CitySights NY or Gray Line New York to book this deal and to view pick-up and drop-off locations. Book ahead of time online or arrive at least 15 minutes early to grab a spot on this limited-edition tour. Meet the legends of the Wild West in Deadwood, South Dakota If you want to feel like you've just stepped into an old Wild West film, definitely visit the historic town of Deadwood, a magical place where crowds gather in the streets several times a day to watch historical re-enactments of street-dueling gun-fighting shootouts that took place more than 100 years ago—you can even catch a re-enactment of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok every night at the #10 Saloon, followed by The Trial of Jack McCall, the man who shot him. For a closer look at 19th-century Deadwood, reserve a ride on Alkali Ike Tours, an hour-long narrated bus tour through the historic town and adjoining neighborhoods. The tour even includes a visit up the hill to Mt. Moriah Cemetery where you can learn about the town's most famous inhabitants—Preacher Smith, Seth Bullock, and Potato Creek Johnny among others—and pay a visit to the gravesites of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, two legendary (and real) characters who lived and died in Deadwood. Tickets cost $9 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-16. Children under age six get in free. Ask about special discounts for Veterans, seniors over age 60, and those visiting from outside the U.S. Call 1-866-601-5103 to book ahead of time as tours can fill up quickly during the busy summer months. Tours leave Monday thru Thursday and Saturdays at 12:15 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. from Main Street in front of the #10 Saloon. Breaking Bad-themed trolley tours in Albuquerque, New Mexico If you're lucky enough to be anywhere near Albuquerque, N.M., where nearly the entire series has been filmed, catch a ride on The BaD Tour by the Albuquerque Trolley Company, a 3.5 hour open-air joyride that covers 38 miles and 13 main locations from the show including the exteriors of Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Gus's houses, the car wash and laundry facilities that act as the meth-maker's storefronts, Tuco's headquarters, the ever-shady Crossroads Motel, and the infamous railroad tracks. To top it all off, you'll get a complimentary drink during a stop at Twisters Grill, the restaurant that doubles as Los Pollos Hermanos on the show. Tickets cost $65 per person including taxes and leave from 208 San Felipe St. NW in Albuquerque's Historic Old Town. Check website for available dates and to purchase tickets online. Please note that the tour is rated 'R' because of the show's dark subject matter and may not be appropriate for children. If you're short on time or if tickets happen to sell out due to the tour's popularity, the Albuquerque Trolley Company also offers an 85-minute long Best of ABQ City Tour, featuring a peek at several major sites from the show like Jesse Pinkman's house and Hank's DEA office during a fun trip through Historic Old Town, Museum Row, Nob Hill, the University of New Mexico, the historic Barelas neighborhood, and along Historic Route 66. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $23 for students and seniors over age 65, and $12 for children under age 12. Tours leave from 208 San Felipe St. NW in Albuquerque's Historic Old Town. We want to know: have you ever taken a themed-bus trip in a new place? Tell us about it below!

Inspiration

How to do Florence on a Budget

Florence is an Italian city best known for its art. Home to the Galleria degli Uffizi and the Galleria dell'Accademia (where Michelangelo's David masterpiece resides), visitors from around the world flock to see famous statues and paintings by Raphael, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci among others. The good news is you don't have to break the bank to get some world-class culture. You can view sculptures, paintings, and other works of art for less—or for free—if you know where to look. Whether you're a history buff, art lover, or just passing through, there's something for everyone in Florence. Stroll the medieval streets admiring Florentine architecture (it's best to do this accompanied by a scoop or two of gelato!), take in views of the city's famous Duomo, and take tons of photos of the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio at sunset for a memorable—and free—day on the town. And whatever you do, don't forget to bring your camera! Here are some great ways to get the biggest bang for your buck when visiting Florence. Visit the Statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia—for lessYou can't go all the way to Florence and not see David. For a budget-friendly way to visit Galleria dell'Accademia, try investing in a Firenze Card, which remains valid for 72-hours, covers admission to 60 museums, galleries (including Galleria degli Uffizi), historical villas, and gardens, and includes a three-day transit pass—great for taking cheap, scenic rides around the city. While the $81 (72 euro) price tag might seem a little steep, keep in mind that most of the included museums charge between $9-–$28 (8-–25 euros) each and you can now visit 60 of them over a three-day period. You'll also have access to a separate, shorter line for Firenze Card holders. Visit the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence's famous DuomoNo trip to Florence is complete without a look inside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most easily recognizable landmarks in the city. Fortunately for budget travelers, admission to this 13th century gothic cathedral is free (although you can pay about eight euros per person to climb the 463 steps of Brunelleschi's dome for sweeping views of the city or opt for the all-inclusive $12 (10 euro) ticket that lets you tour the Galleria dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi's Dome, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Crypt of Santa Reparata). Step inside the cool marble interior during a hot summer day and check out Giorgio Vasari's magnificent frescoes featuring the Last Judgment and a beautiful clock built in 1443 by Paolo Uccello that still works today. See free art—and famous replicas—in Piazza della SignoriaVisit replicas of popular sculptures like Michelangelo's David and Judith and Holofernes, grab a snack at one of the outdoor restaurants and cafés, or stroll the Piazza, taking in the sites on your own. You can also view Cellini's statue of Perseus holding Medusa's head, sculptures by Donatello, and Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines in the square's open-air sculpture gallery, as well as other works like Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus, and an impressive fountain featuring Neptune near Palazzo Vecchio, a 14th century palace that overlooks the Piazza. Visit Piazzale Michelangelo for beautiful panoramic views of FlorenceFor a change of pace, take a ride on the #12 or #13 ATAF bus (tickets cost about $1.35 (1.20 euro) per person and are valid for 90 minutes) from the Santa Maria Novella train station to Piazzale Michelangelo for amazing panoramic views of Florence from the top of the hill. You'll get a beautiful 20 to 30-minute ride over the Arno River through the Florentine countryside to a scenic square overlooking the city, complete with a replica of Michelangelo's David and plenty of vendors to help you find the perfect souvenir. Explore sites south of the Arno RiverVisit Ponte Vecchio, the city's famous medieval arched bridge, now home to an assortment of shops and restaurants, and a regular spot for free musical entertainment. Cross the river to Florence's Oltrarno District to see how the super-wealthy Medici family once lived—admission to the Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, and several museums associated with the Medici Treasury are included with the Firenze Card (mentioned above), or you can purchase tickets for from seven euros ($8) per person. A three-day combo ticket is also available for from about $13 per person.

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