An NYC Must-See Reopens to Visitors!

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
October 30, 2013
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">Dekoker/Wikimedia Commons</a>

When I write about Ellis Island, it's a little personal.

Okay, it's a lot personal. If my great-grandfather Angelo Cappiello hadn't left his little village in Italy more than a century ago and passed through the "Island of Hope, Island of Tears," I wouldn't be here. He was one of the 12 million immigrants who were processed at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. He (and I) got lucky—my great-grandfather gained entry into the U.S. while many others were sent back home.

One year ago, Ellis Island was not nearly so fortunate. The National Park Service site, which debuted as a museum in 1990, was dealt a tremendous blow by Superstorm Sandy, whose storm surge caused serious flooding and extensive damage to electrical systems and other infrastructure. While some areas remain closed to the public, we're really psyched that the island is once again welcoming visitors from around the globe.


A visit to Ellis Island—which is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument—begins at either lower Manhattan's Battery Park or in Jersey City's Liberty State Park, where Statue Cruises operates ferry service to both Liberty and Ellis islands (, $17 adults, $14 seniors, $9 children 12 and under, free for children under 4).

An audio tour of the island is included in the ferry/admission price (which also includes a stop at Liberty Island). The Great Hall of the island's Beaux-Arts main building is open, giving you the chance to see where long lines of hopeful immigrants once stood, and to savor Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino Moreno's stunning ceiling, featuring interlocking terra cotta tiles. While some exhibits, such as "The Peopling of America 1550-1890," are now reopened, others, such as "Peak Immigration Years," remain closed.

On a sunny day, even in late fall or winter, the ferry ride alone is a beautiful way to experience the vast, deep harbor that helped make New York City and its neighboring communities in New Jersey one of the world's most valuable ports. And whether or not you have an Ellis Island immigrant in your family, I heartily recommend the somewhat geeky—and slightly sentimental—recitation of Emma Lazarus's famous poem "The New Colossus" as your ferry approaches Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty: Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she with silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor...

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Fall for Boston: 6 Great Activities

There's no place like Boston in autumn. Sure, the Red Sox are in the World Series (yay!), but even when they're not, this city and its neighboring communities play host to foliage, football, spooky Halloween traditions, and outdoor activities like no other. Boston foliage and hot cider hold a special place in my heart because they remind me of visiting family and the beginning of the school year, four of which I spent at Boston College in the beautiful Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill. (Boston's fall foliage actually resembles our team colors of maroon and gold.) Here, six of Boston's top fall activities: See the Foliage. Whether you drive far out into the hills and suburbs or enjoy the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, you've got to see the gorgeous leaves. There really is no wrong way to do foliage in New England, even if it's just strolling through a local park with beautiful hues that glow when bathed in sunlight. Sip Hot Cocoa and Watch a Football Game. Fall for me means sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows while watching a football game. No matter whom you are rooting for (or even if you're not into football) it's the Boston way. Bostonians love their sports and invite anyone to join in the cheering. Eat and Drink Pumpkin Everything. Fall means savoring pumpkin-flavored and -spiced goodies. (This year there are even Pumpkin Spice M&amp;Ms at Target stores!) When I studied abroad in Italy I fell in love with the seasonal tortellini di zucca and everything else "di zucca," and now eating pumpkin tortellini while sipping pumpkin ale is one of my fall traditions. Visit a Brewery. Speaking of pumpkin-flavored brew, try some for free at a brewery tour! The two major breweries in the Boston area are Samuel Adams and Harpoon. Both have free tours and tastings: Samual Adams always has free tastings; visit Harpoon during the week after 4 p.m. for a free tasting that includes great info and a 20-minute time period of free access to many taps and a complimentary (not to mention sweet, soft, warm, and fresh) pretzel!  Go on a Witch (or Ghost) Hunt. Visit charming, spooky Salem (of witch-trial fame), a cute town with funky shops that range from fun to downright scary. But Salem is not the only place to find ghosts in the area. My friends and I once signed up for a ghost tour in downtown Boston. Did the spirits make an appearance? Well, maybe not. But the history, stories, laughs, and company were sure entertaining! Skate on Frog Pond. There's nothing like skating outside. In cool weather with many layers and hot cocoa to warm you afterwards (can you tell I like hot cocoa?), skating is the perfect date or activity. Though it can get crowded, it's a must on the Boston bucket list! The Common is beautiful and skating adds a heavenly touch to any autumn evening.


South America's Greatest Adventures

Article by Andreas Ambarchian, a freelance journalist from England. He writes about a variety of subjects including travel, wildlife and sports. This article was written on behalf of South American Vacations, providers of adventure tours in South America. With tropical rainforests, Andean mountains, and arid deserts, the varied landscapes of South America make it the perfect place to enjoy an exciting adventure holiday. The Amazon Jungle, PeruWhen it comes to adventure, there are few places in the world that can compare with the rainforests of Peru. Even getting to the region's largest city, Iquitos, is a bit of trek: unreachable by road, visitors have to arrive in the area via air or boat. The real adventure, however, starts when you leave Iquitos to explore the surrounding rainforest on a jungle tour. One of the most biologically diverse areas of land on earth, the Peruvian Amazon is inhabited by 63% of all the mammal species in the entire country and home to a third of all the mammals in the world. In this area, you can also see endemic species of birds and reptiles as you trek through the dense forest foliage. Where to book: To find the most reputable tour guides, go to the iPeru office in Iquitos on Calle Napo 161, Office 4, close to the Plaza de Armas in Iquitos. It's important to go with a trustworthy company because, although they are rare, unpleasant stories of trips gone wrong and abandoned tourists are not unheard of. Cost: The typical cost for a two-day tour is around $200 per person. The Death Road, BoliviaThe Bolivian capital of La Paz is a sprawling assortment of bare brick houses built precariously on the slopes of the valley that the city calls home. However, even more unstable looking than these dubiously positioned structures is the Death Road, a 41-mile stretch of gravel-covered dirt track that connects the capital to Coroico, a city northeast of La Paz. The infamous route is estimated to claim the lives of around 200 people a year, a figure that led the American Development Bank to label this stretch as the most dangerous road in the world in 1995. Although used by both cars and lorries, the road has recently become a popular tourist attraction, with backpackers keen to take on the deadly path. The route incorporates a nearly 12,000-foot descent, with tight, hairpin bends, almost all without the safety of guard rails. Where to book: Many hostels in La Paz have links with tour companies. Cost: The general price for one rider is around $60, less for larger groups. Iguazu Falls by Boat, BrazilThe spectacular views of the waterfalls of Iguazu are probably best observed from the Argentinian side of the attraction, however, for those interested in feeling the raw force of the famous falls up close, a boat ride from Iguazu National Park in Brazil is undoubtedly the better option. The tour starts inside the park, with passengers first being transported to the water's edge by car. From the shore, boats leave every 15 minutes, with the ride itself lasting about two hours. Passengers are taken through some of the smaller cascades before getting within breathtaking proximity of the Three Musketeers Falls, the largest part on the Brazilian side. Anyone going on the ride should be aware that they will get very, very wet, however, any personal items can be put in the waterproof sack provided on the tour. Where to book: Inside the park. Cost: $100 per person. Trekking to the Lost City, ColombiaBuilt in 800 A.D. and abandoned during the Spanish Conquest of South America, the Lost City of Sierra Nevada in Colombia was left undiscovered for hundreds of years until, in 1972, a group of treasure hunters stumbled on the site. More than 40 years later, the Lost City remains largely unexcavated, accessible only via a 44km guided trek. Tours to the ancient site, located in the tropical jungle of the Tayrona National Park, generally leave every day during the high season between December and March, or every few days throughout the rest of the year. Walkers can choose between the option of a four-, five-, or six-day trek. Along the route there are mud paths, rainforest clearings, and swarms of mosquitoes as well as refreshing rock pools. The final stage of the trek includes a climb up 1,400 steps. Where to book: At a travel agency in the nearby cities of Santa Marta and Taganga. Cost: Tours cost around $315.


5 Best Beaches in Southeast Asia

Article by Andreas Ambarchian, a freelance journalist from England. He writes about a variety of subjects including travel, wildlife, and sports. He wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel, specialists in tours all over Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia offers fun-loving guests lots of opportunities to enjoy late-night beach parties, as well as plenty of secluded sections along the seemingly endless coastlines of the region. Here are five beaches you won't want to miss. Koh Phangan, ThailandAn island off the coast of Southern Thailand, Koh Phangan is one of the most popular areas in the region with young travellers. While the island is surrounded by beautiful coastline, it is for its beach parties that the area is most well-known. The monthly Full Moon parties, which take place on Haad Rin, are notoriously hedonistic affairs with all-night music, cheap drinks and good-but-inexpensive food. The area also hosts a number of spin off nights, including Half Moon and Black Moon parties. Even for this part of the world, Koh Phangan is particularly indulgent. Ko Yung, ThailandOne of the most ecologically diverse islands of the Ko Phi Phi archipelago, the small northern territory of Ko Yung is home to a relatively undisturbed coastline. Blessed with exotic marine life, including leopard sharks and colourful coral reefs, the island is a far cry from the fast developing main island of Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest and most populated island of the archipelago. Ko Yung has a mixture of stone and sand beaches, both of which act as perfect launch pads from which to enjoy the warm Andaman Sea. Koh Rong, CambodiaDespite a burgeoning tourism scene, the idyllic coastline of Koh Rong still offers guests the chance to experience white sand beaches away from the crowds. Many of the developments on the island are very new, most having opened as recently as 2010. Visitors should go to the southeast part if they seek a bustling nightlife, however, further north or west, away from the tourist village of Koh Touch, are some of the most secluded beaches in Cambodia. Nha Trang, VietnamFormerly a quiet fishing town, Nha Trang is now one of the most popular seaside resorts in Vietnam. Located about eight hours northeast of Ho Chi Minh by road, the largest city in the country, Nha Trang is easily accessible inside Vietnam, as well as having growing international links. Despite this fast development however, the beaches here still capture the essence of a traditional fishing village with local fisherman happy to cook up the catch of the day at very reasonable prices. The beaches also have on offer some of the best scuba diving in the country. El Nido, PhilippinesThe inspiration for the film The Beach, El Nido is suitably idyllic and alluring for the setting of a paradise island. The local authorities are trying to keep El Nido sustainable so there is still plenty of coastline to go around despite a recent growth in tourism within the region. The beaches here offer the usual white sand and turquoise water as well as adventure activities such as snorkelling and rock climbing on the nearby cliffs.


What Are Your Favorite Things to do in London and Paris?

By this time next week, I'll be strolling along the Champs-Elysées, snacking on fresh-baked croissants, and roaming the streets of Paris on my way to the next world-famous museum. I'm going to be visiting London and Paris next week and the good news is, you can come, too! Follow along with my adventures as I post photos from the road to our brand new Instagram page, @budgettravel. I'm going to be taking a tour by Contiki, a company specializing in vacations for 18-35-year-olds, and I'm right in the middle of the age group having just turned 26. This is my first time taking a group tour, as I've gotten used to taking solo trips around the U.S. or family vacations abroad that required tons of planning ahead of time, so I'm excited to sit back and not have to worry about all the big details like hotels and sightseeing for a change. I'm taking Contiki's London &amp; Paris Plus Paris Extension tour, so I'll have three nights in London and five nights in Paris, giving me a total of nine days to see the sights. The package price includes a guided trip to the Palace of Versailles, a visit to the Eiffel Tower at night, sightseeing and walking tours of London and Paris, a trip to a French perfumery, tickets to a West End musical, a one-day pass for the London Underground, a two-day pass for the Paris Metro, ferry crossing across the English Channel with a scenic drive through historical WWI battlefields on our way to Paris, plus daily breakfast and two three-course dinners. While much of the trip is planned out—there are also guided trips to Stonehenge and Bath, and a group trip to the Moulin Rouge dinner show built in as optional add-ons—I will still have a lot of free time to check out other sights not covered by the tour, like inside of the Louvre, for instance. I'm going to invest in a Paris Museum Pass and indulge in some museum-hopping during the off-days, and make a pilgrimage to Palais Garnier, the famous haunted theater thought to be the inspiration for Phantom of the Opera. I've been to London before. My mother, sister, and I spent a few days there this summer at the end of a vacation to Ireland, a trip we'd literally been planning since I was in high school. With such a short time in London, we stuck to the tourist trail, visiting Westminster Abbey (the most impressive Cathedral I've ever seen, and I've been to the Vatican twice!), the Tower of London (very creepy and slightly depressing), and watching the Changing of the Guard procession outside Buckingham Palace with thousands of other tourists. We hopped on trains to visit some of Londons' best pop culture sites like Abbey Road, Harry Potter's Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station, and the location of London's only Dr. Who Tardis, and spent a day exploring the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. But there are still a few places we didn't have time to check out—Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London's great—and free!—museums like the British Museum and National Gallery among others, and the thing I'm looking forward to most, a ride on The London Eye, a magnificent Ferris wheel that overlooks Big Ben, Parliament, and the rest of the city. While this will be my second trip to London, it's my first time visiting Paris. Before I travel to a new place, I always ask my friends and family for recommendations for off-the-beaten-path spots that I'd never know about otherwise. Our intrepid Budget Travel audience has traveled all over the world and always has great advice, so now I'm asking you. What are your favorite little-known places to visit in London and Paris? Sound off below!