See the winners of our travel photo challenge
We teamed up with GuruShots, the world's favorite photo game, to run a travel photo contest. Almost 100k photos were submitted to the challenge, and we are pleased to feature the top 500 travel photos from around the world!
Without further ado, here are the contest winners:
The last pie shop in Pie Town
When Sarah Joe Montana Chavez first visited Pie Town, New Mexico, on family vacations, three pie restaurants were open for business in the small high-desert town. The town’s love of pie was signified by the summertime Pie Town Pie Festival. Pie Town’s appeal was was based on curiosity from quirky travelers. “Folks look at a map and think, oh, Pie Town, let’s check that out and eat a pie in Pie Town,” says Montana Chavez. Then the COVID-19 pandemic halted mass gatherings and the Pie Town Pie Festival had to be cancelled in 2020. Trepidation lingered for the three pie businesses on whether to open their doors, thanks to the unknown health factors of the virus. After the pandemic hit, two of the three pie shops in Pie Town shuttered, leaving one sole pie shop – the Gatherin’ Place – the last pie shop in Pie Town. Montana Chavez baked at home for fun prior to moving to Pie Town, but didn’t realize that she would be carrying on a small-town tradition of doing just that: baking pie. A Phoenix, AZ native, depending on the day, Montana Chavez is the baker, shipper, cook, and front of house staff for the last pie shop in Pie Town: Pie Town Pies. In January 2021 Montana Chavez was folded into her new role as one of the last bakers in Pie Town. She was in between jobs when her stepmother, Sarah Chavez, decided to purchase a historic Pie Town antique shop, the Pie Town Homestead, which is next to the pie shop formerly known as The Gatherin’ Place. Montana Chavez moved to Pie Town to help her stepmother with the antique business, but when Chavez learned of the opportunity to buy the last pie shop in Pie Town next door, she couldn’t resist. Being able to serve travelers pie in Pie Town was the impetus for Chavez to purchase the Gatherin’ Place and keep the last pie shop in Pie Town alive. Montana Chavez learned all about baking New Mexican pies from the previous baker at The Gatherin’ Place and carries on the unique tradition of home-spun baking. The most popular pie she crafts is the New Mexico Apple Pie, a basic apple pie mixed with green chile and piñon, a treasured Southwestern nut that bursts from clusters of bushy piñon trees across New Mexico each fall. Montana Chavez says she has noticed an uptick in RV travel with adventurers on their way to California and Nevada. However, Pie Town faces distinct challenges in ramping up tourism because even though comparable towns across the state have faced similar travel fluctuations during the pandemic, Pie Town’s problems lie in its rural, serene nature. “There’s just not too much out here. In Santa Fe, there are a lot of restaurants and places to go, but in Pie Town, there is the RV park and a hotel or two. Having the last restaurant here and keeping it open is what makes Pie Town a place to still stop and visit.” As the pandemic hopefully turns a tide that welcomes back travelers to Pie Town, Montana Chavez is confident in the leadership that she and her stepmother can provide for businesses development and the community. “My stepmother is big on helping local artists by selling their goods at the Pie Town Homestead. She works to keep everyone involved to help the town stay alive.”
How 42 decaying president heads found a home in a Virginia field
From George Washington to George W Bush, each bust is 18-20 feet high, weigh between 11,000-20,000 pounds and sit in varying states of decay. The heads were moved to the field after the failure of President's Park, an attraction that was intended for tourists to Williamsburg, but wasn't met with much success. When the park failed, the busts were scheduled to be destroyed, but Howard Hankins couldn't bear the thought, and offered to take the busts to his privately owned farm. But moving the busts proved difficult, the process broke noses off and put holes in the back of some of the heads. Abraham Lincoln's bust has a hole in the back of his head (a poignant reminder of his assassination) and Ronald Reagan's bust was struck by lightening. There was at one time a miniature head of Barack Obama, but it appears to have been stolen. The busts sit on private property that is not open to the public, but tours are offered occasionally. Photography tours are run by John Plashal. There are plans to remove the President's heads to another location, potentially for another run at a museum. Those plans appear to be on hold as of 2020.
19 Romantic Staycation Ideas for Valentine's Day Weekend
As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, hotels and destinations around the U.S. have been doing their best to reopen safely, initiating strict health and safety protocols and updates like contactless check-in to help restore confidence in travel among visitors and keep employees safe. Valentine’s Day is happening during a long weekend this year, making it a great time to escape with your beloved to a remote cabin in the woods or try a romantic staycation closer to home. According to a recent study by vacation rental search engine HomeToGo, U.S. travelers are booking Valentine’s Day weekend vacations 48% more than they did last year, prioritizing trips to remote cabins and rural destinations over busy cities. Searches have increased the most for rentals in the Adirondack Mountains and Windham in New York, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Banner Elk in North Carolina, Captiva Island and Anna Maria Island in Florida, Aspen and Colorado Springs in Colorado, Big Sky in Montana and the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, with travelers requesting whirlpools, Wi-Fi and pet-friendly perks as top amenities. For those willing to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow the rules in the places they visit, there are plenty of affordable romantic packages to be had. Here’s a look at 19 of our favorites, all available for under $220 a night. Maine In South Berwick, The Stage House Inn’s romance package includes a $100 credit at its onsite restaurant Dufour, a bottle of prosecco and homemade truffles to enjoy during your stay. Rates from $199 a night when you book by calling (207) 704-0516 and stay between February 11 and March 13, 2021. Rhode Island Hotel Viking in Newport wants you to celebrate the good times with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine and breakfast for two at One Bellevue Restaurant. Rates start at $199 a night when you book through this link. Virginia Just 20 minutes from Washington, D.C, Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria’s Valentine’s Day package comes with locally made treats like a cocoa mask kit for two and two Bailey’s chocolate mousse cheesecakes from the Alexandria Makers Market. Rates start at $179 a night and include late 2 p.m. check-out. Northern Virginia is also a great place for day trips to local wineries, with most sporting socially distanced seating with heaters and fire pits for you and your beloved to cozy up next to as you sip locally made wine. Stop by Cana Vineyards & Winery in Middleburg, Cave Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Mount Jackson, Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, Potomac Point Winery & Vineyard in Stafford, Montifalco Vineyard in Ruckersville, Valley Road Vineyards in Afton or King Family Vineyard in Crozet — all within a 2.5-hour drive of Washington D.C. North Carolina Calling all Nicholas Sparks fans: Get ready to geek out in Beaufort — where two of his novels, A Walk to Remember and The Choice were set — with Beaufort Hotel’s A Ride to Remember package. In addition to a one-night stay, you’ll get a special keepsake and two tickets to the Ride to Remember guided bike tour of Beaufort. Use promo code PRIDE to unlock rates from $169 a night. Florida Celebrate Valentine’s Day all month long at Plunge Beach Resort, located in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea about 45 minutes north of Miami. As part of the romance package, you’ll get a free bottle of Champagne and a $30 breakfast credit to use at one of the resort’s onsite restaurants, with rates from $179 a night in February. Tennessee Bode’s Valentine’s Day promotion includes a 14% discount and a complimentary bottle of prosecco when you book a night at either of its two Tennessee properties now thru February 15, 2021. Rates start at $171 a night at Bode Nashville and $111 a night at Bode Chattanooga with promo code BEMINE. Texas In Austin, Lone Star Court’s retro-style Valentine package comes with complimentary Wi-Fi and parking, a bottle of bubbly and a special kit so you can create your own s’mores by one of the onsite fire pits. Rates from $144 per night. With rates from $149 a night, Hyatt Regency Houston’s romance package treats guests to a bottle of Champagne and chocolates upon arrival, complimentary parking and late 2 p.m. check-out. Call (713) 654-1234 or choose the romance package offer when booking this deal online. Le Meridien Houston Downtown’s Better Together package is bookable for Friday and Saturday stays only, making it the perfect excuse to plan a romantic night in. You’ll get a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, late check-out, VIP access to the rooftop bar, Z on 23, and two house cocktails, with rates from $204 per night. The Westin Stonebriar in Frisco, about a 30-minute drive from Dallas, treats guests to sparkling wine and gourmet chocolates, late check-out and a romantic four-course dinner for two at its restaurant, Herd & Hearth, as part of its Retreat to Romance package. Rates from $209 per night for stays February 12-14, 2021. About 90 minutes from Dallas, head to East Texas for a romantic and socially distanced stroll at the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, home to 14 acres and 35,000 rose bushes sporting over 500 varieties of roses. Afterward, drive 40 minutes south to Jacksonville for a romantic retreat at Hotel Ritual and Wellness Center, with rates from $150 a night and all-inclusive amenities like complimentary cocktails, daily gourmet breakfast, spa pools (treatments are extra), sauna access and free snacks, coffee and tea all day long. New Mexico Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a complimentary bottle of bubbly at El Rey Court in Santa Fe when you stay between February 11-15, 2021. Use promo code HEART to unlock rates from $150 per night. Missouri St. Louis is the place to be Valentine’s Day weekend, with a socially distanced jazz extravaganza at BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups on February 13 (tickets from $20) and a special Valentine’s dinner at Lemp Mansion Restaurant & Inn February 11–13. Spend a romantic — and potentially haunted — night at the Inn, with rates from $150 a night Sunday thru Thursday and from $205 a night Friday and Saturday. Wisconsin If a romantic cabin in the woods is more your style, the following are all located within a 90-minute drive of Madison, with a two-night minimum stay required. In Platteville, Walnut Ridge is home to two luxury log cabins, each with a perfectly placed whirlpool spa by the fire and rates from $150 to $170 per night. Rustic Ridge Log Cabins in Merrimac offers five upscale and spacious log cabins with Wi-Fi, fireplaces and in some, Jacuzzis so the two of you can spend some much-needed alone time in Wisconsin wilderness. Seasonal rates from $219 a night thru March 2, then from $199 a night thru May 4. In Oxford, escape to A Secret Cottage for a romantic stay in the country with a private lake, whirlpool tub, fireplace, spacious front porch, fully stocked kitchen and a skylight upstairs so you can snuggle under the stars. Rates on Friday, Saturday and holidays start at $155 a night, while they’re from $150 a night for Sunday through Thursday stays. Nebraska You really can’t get more romantic than celebrating Valentine’s Day in an actual town called Valentine. If you’re up for a drive, Heartland Elk Ranch — located about five hours from Omaha in the north-central part of the state — is home to four beautifully furnished cabins close to hiking trails and stocked fishing ponds, as well as a herd of 50-75 elk that roams the area freely. Enjoy views of the Niobrara National Scenic River, with rates from $155 a night Monday thru Thursday and from $165 a night Friday thru Sunday and on holidays. In Omaha, celebrate your love at the same hotel John and Jackie Kennedy once visited for their 5th year anniversary, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, formerly known as the Blackstone Hotel. Its Love is All Around Us package gives guests a special amenity, valet parking, two tickets to redeem for free wine or tea at the Fontenelle Room and a complimentary yoga class in the Gold Coast Ballroom if you’re there on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Get Inspired by National Plan for Vacation Day
Raise your hand if you lost or rolled over PTO days in 2020. Even in non-pandemic years, Americans are notorious for wasting millions of vacation days annually. In 2020, workers left an average of 33% of their paid time off on the table according to data from the U.S. Travel Association. Over the last year, many Americans and travelers worldwide had to cancel trips and put their vacation plans on pause. Losing much-needed travel inspiration not only takes a toll on mental health, but keeps people tethered to their desks for longer periods of time with no vacation in sight. This year, hope for trip planning is on the horizon with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Tuesday, January 26 is National Plan for Vacation Day, a day celebrated annually to encourage Americans to plan their time off. It helps highlight the importance of taking time off to travel both for personal health and wellbeing and for our nation’s economic health. Visit Colorado Springs is joining the initiative to encourage hopeful travelers across the nation to plan out their PTO days. “Visit Colorado Springs is proud to be celebrating National Plan for Vacation Day,” said Doug Price, President & CEO of Visit COS. “Each year, we hold a staff event to encourage our team to plan their vacation days. This year it’s even more special – we could all use travel inspiration after staying put much of the last year.” Travel is predicted to return at steadier rates in the second half of 2021, so it’s a great time for people to get inspired by travel once again and start planning for much-needed time off. Even for those taking staycations or smaller road trips, planning days into the calendar at the beginning of the year makes it much more likely the trip will actually happen. Now’s the time to browse Instagram and Pinterest, start reading your favorite travel blogs again and let trip planning begin! We've partnered with Colorado Springs to describe why Here are some ideas for those looking to explore the Pikes Peak Region in 2021. Fly in and out of the Colorado Springs Airport. COS is known for its convenience and neighborhood feel with fewer crowds, short walks and easy parking. Starting March 11, 2021, Southwest Airlines joins the lineup of airlines servicing COS. Conquer Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain with all-new experiences in 2021. Hike, bike, drive or take The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway up to the 14,115 ft. summit. The Cog Railway is reopening for visitors in May 2021. Grab a donut at the new Summit Visitor Center atop the peak, opening in early summer.Visit the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, ranked #1 Best New Attraction in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. The USOPM is one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the world. Take the family to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and enjoy the hippos and penguins at the new Water’s Edge: Africa exhibit. Don’t forget to head to the giraffe habitat to feed them a tasty snack. Find adventure in our wide-open spaces on one of the region’s many trails and parks. There are so many miles of trails to explore in the area that it’s easy to spread out and avoid crowds while enjoying time outdoors. Book a stay at new downtown hotel, Kinship Landing. Kinship Landing is a friendly, boutique hotel in downtown Colorado Springs that brings travelers and locals together around city and outdoor exploration. No matter what destination is on the horizon for your next trip, planning is key. Instead of letting your 2021 vacation days go to waste, challenge yourself to plan out a staycation, road trip or vacation that will give you the R&R you deserve after a tough year. This piece was written in partnership with Visit Colorado Springs
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