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An NYC Must-See Reopens to Visitors!

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
October 30, 2013
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Courtesy <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ellis_Island_from_Ferry.jpg" 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.

READ ABOUT OTHER DESTINATIONS THAT SURVIVED SANDY

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 (statuecruises.com, $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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Inspiration

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.

Inspiration

South America's Greatest Adventures

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Inspiration

5 Best Beaches in Southeast Asia

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Inspiration

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!

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