Readers' best wildlife photos
This may be the best "Readers' Best" slide show to date. From over 1,000 submissions, we picked 20 outstanding photos—including a fabulous Florida flamingo, gorgeous butterflies in Japan, and regal-looking penguins in the Falkland Islands.
Check out the images in our slide show.
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New York City is America's most visited city
New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg announced on Monday that the Big Apple drew more that 45 million tourists from here and abroad in 2009, becoming the number one tourist destination in America for the first time in 20 years. The city beat out competitor Orlando, which was number one in 2008. Although tourism to New York City did drop almost four percent in 2009, it wasn't the dreaded 10 percent that officials had predicted. The statistics are from Tourism Economics, a consulting firm. Just back from New York City? Going there soon? Check out our New York City page for tips and reviews, and leave your recommendations and questions in the comment field.
Sonoma: New free, wine-themed tours
For the first time, a group of Sonoma County wineries are offering free, self-guided walks, letting you venture far beyond their tasting rooms. Since the start of the New Year, Sonoma Vineyard Adventures tours allow visitors to walk through the vines—an area that's normally off-limits to outsiders—at Balletto Vineyards, Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Mauritson wineries. The participating wineries have created paper guides that point out notable details along the clearly marked paths, each less than a mile long. For example, the Mauritson trail winds past rows of various grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. Other sights include essential equipment, such as a wind machine that protects vines from frost. You'll even spot the winery's crush pad, where more than 20 grape varieties are processed during harvest season. Run yearround, each tour ends in a tasting room so you can sample the final product. The self-guided walking tours are all free; Mauritson offers a complimentary wine tasting, but Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Balletto each charge $5 per tasting. The pilot program, developed by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, may expand to other vineyards. Cheers to that. EARLIER Napa Valley: The CIA's new cooking classes Wine Country Contenders: Four lesser known, well regarded wine regions
Map of the world's most remote spots
A nifty new world map created by researchers points out the most remote places on the planet. Researchers calculated how much time it would take to travel to every location on the planet from cities of 50,000 or more people nearest each location, reports The New Scientist. If a location is hard to reach by train, road, or river because it's steep, densely jungled, or behind tightly controlled border crossings, it is ranked as especially hard to reach. It turns out that less than 10 per cent of the world is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city. Take a look at the map, where the darkest spots are the hardest-to-reach places. You may be surprised. [The map was produced by researchers at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank.]
World's newest tallest tower: Burj Dubai completed
We're only four days into 2010, and there's already a new landmark in the world: The Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower at half a mile high, officially opened today. As we wrote in 2008, the building's height remained top secret so that no competing project could overtake it. The secret's out now: The final height is more than 2,700 feet, making the Burj Dubai more than twice as tall as New York City's Empire State Building. The tower has several other claims to fame—world's highest swimming pool (76th floor), highest observation deck (124th floor), and highest mosque (158th floor). The tower cost $1.5 billion to build, and was renamed just this afternoon. Now called Burj Khalifa bin Zayed, the new name is in honor of Abu Dhabi's ruler, who bailed out Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in late 2009 after a financial crisis. That sky-high observation deck opens tomorrow in the otherwise empty building, for those brave enough to take a peek. Interested in architecture? Check out our recent story on the World's Most Beautiful Bridges.