Be it the vibrancy of the music scene in New Orleans, the diversity of cuisine, or the ever popular Wine and Food Festival, the Big Easy is easy to love.
Although, the city is bustling with visitors year round, you will generally find the largest crowds from February to May when the major festivals tend to occur. Hurricane Season, from June to November, offers some bargain hotel rooms, but from June to August you can also count on sizzling heat & stifling humidity. September to November offers bargains and milder temperatures but watch the weather reports.
Our favorite time to visit New Orleans is late April. You will typically find sunny days and steamy nights to add to the delightful adventure of strolling the city.
You may also get the added bonus of experiencing the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Enlighten Excursions just added a new link to the Passport section on our trip information page.
If, like me, you geek out about great new resources you’re going to love this new online tool that answers the title question: Do you need a visa to go there?
Actually, for all those questions that we explorers have about visa requirements when traveling from country to country, or with foreign travel companions, we can now consult Passport Index an awesome online resource.
Let’s face it, Visa regulations are not always straightforward and every individual’s situation can be different and sometimes confusing. Passport Index tools can assist you in understanding what type of visa preparation you’ll need to embark upon in order to minimize your travel surprises.
In 2014, more than 45% of couples overspent there wedding budgets. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area the average cost for a traditional wedding that same year was more than $39,000. And New York? Foggeda bout it! The average cost was over $76,000.
These costs for traditional weddings and the potential for savings with a destination wedding are part of the reason that destination weddings have become increasingly appealing over the past few years. Mexico and the Caribbean are among the most sought after locations due to the prevalence of all-inclusive resorts in these areas. But Hawaii is also among the favorites.
Some of your savings come from combining the wedding and honeymoon, but you also save a great deal on decorations because nature does most of that work for you by providing amazing backdrops and scenery. It doesn't hurt either that many resorts have complimentary wedding packages and discounted or complimentary receptions depending on your group size and your travel agent's knowledge and negotiation abilities.
If your dream vacation involves soft white or golden sand caressing your toes, crystal blue temperate water and state of the art resorts, then Koh Samui is worth visiting. Touting a vast variety of beaches and resorts, you can vacation your way in Koh Samui. From romantic secluded villas to boutique wellness resorts like Absolute Sanctuary, to deluxe resorts offering dining, shopping, and nightlife entertainment like Anantara Lawana resort and spa, Koh Samui’s resorts are diverse. Santiburi Beach Resort & Spa, Sea Dance Resort and Sawadee Sea View are also good value options for romantic getaways. Enjoy the warm breeze and the culture of Thailand at the location that best suits your budget and needs.
The destination offers exotic tourist attractions such as the Big Buddha Temple on a small northeastern Koh Samui Island. The 40 foot high golden statue of Big Buddha rests atop the shrine which has amazing views from its platform. Numerous visitors and devotees visit year round and is one of the most famous landmarks of Koh Samui.
Additionally, Angthong National Marine Park is a marvelous place to explore natural caves, magnificent rock formations and stunning blue lagoons. The Samui Aquarium and Tiger Zoo are two other attractions to consider as you explore Koh Samui. From bird shows to tiger shows you will find entertainment here. The Samui Aquarium also houses various sea marvels like giant catfish and sharks. You may also find yourself mesmerized by the majestic leopards, parrots, sea hawks and hornbills.
If you’re seeking an interesting learning experience combined with a little adventure, you might consider a visit to the Samui Snake farm. The Snake farm houses reptiles of various origins and sizes. Watch as snakes weave and writhe in the arms of snake wranglers. The shows are fascinating and highly informative. You never know when you might need to draw on the understanding you will gain here of reptilian defensive postures.
Koh Samui, Thailand is a beautiful, hospitable, place to visit and a great alternative to the ever popular Phuket, Thailand beach vacation.
If you want to explore more of Thailand on this vacation, you may want to start with Bangkok and Chiang Mai before retreating to your Koh Samui beach paradise. Either way, consider adding #KohSamui #Thailand to your #MustExploreList!
My best advice is to plan ahead and take reasonable precautions wherever you choose to celebrate your honeymoon or nuptials.
That said, there are a number of beautiful and romantic US locales for that dream wedding or honeymoon. One of my favorite US wedding and honeymoon settings is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.
Imagine exchanging vows in one of the estate’s scenic gardens, or on a hilltop overlooking the estate with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or in the elegant Lioncrest ballroom with wrought iron chandeliers and a majestic vaulted ceiling.
No matter the size of your wedding party, this venue has a variety of marvelous wedding settings to suit your vision.
There are also a variety of accommodations and activities on the estate. You can choose to stay at the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, the Inn on Biltmore Estate, or the Cottage on Biltmore Estate.
In addition to touring the estate, the grounds, and the gardens, you should explore Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Winery. Antler Hill Village offers biking, hiking, trail rides and a number of other outdoor activities. You can also get lessons on shooting sporting clays and fly fishing on the estate.
Touring the winery you can enjoy complimentary wine tastings or pay for a specialty tour. The Red Wine & Chocolate tour is near and dear to my heart and I know I'm not alone!
For a memorably romantic evening honeymooners will be enchanted by both the rich cuisine and the epic views at the Biltmore Estate Dining Room.
But don’t make this journey without venturing into Asheville. This eclectic town is what makes this venue one of my favorites in the US. Quirky boutiques, book stores, antique shops, museums and art galleries abound in this vibrant town.
Take a stroll through downtown Asheville along Asheville's Urban Trail. Thirty trail stops with public sculpture bring Asheville’s history to life.
And whether you’re there in spring, summer or fall you’re bound to happen upon a drum circle or festival celebrating anything from orchids, cheese and chocolates to art, music and the Appalachian Trail.
This town is also a real culinary star with farm to table dining at its heart. You’ll find a huge variety of restaurants, bars and cafes for all tastes from Mediterranean, Indian and Thai to moonshine cocktails, soul food, and wine bars. And there are over 15 wineries in the mountains and foothills near the city.
So on the #WeddingWednesday add #Asheville to your potential venues for a #destinationwedding or #honeymoon.
Photos by captioned artists. License terms CC BY-SA 2.0
Last week we discussed traveling to Washington, DC in the spring and taking in the beautiful cherry blossoms. But Japan is one of the best places in the world to see cherry blossoms in April. In Tokyo and Kyoto there are literally millions of cherry trees.
If you visit Tokyo in late March or early April you will generally find comfortable day time temperatures and, you will be treated to any number of blossom parties held in public parks, like, Ueno Onshi, Chidorigafuchi, or Asukayama Park. The blossoms also beam along the Meguro and Sumida Rivers.
Be aware that the Japanese celebrate Golden week at the end of April-- usually from about April 29th through May 4th, 5th, or 6th. Many Japanese workers take paid time off during this period to celebrate a series of holidays including, Showa Day, Greenery Day, Children’s Day and Constitution Memorial Day. This is an extremely popular time for the Japanese to travel.
Conventional wisdom says to avoid traveling to Japan at all during this time due to lack of transportation and hotel inventory and higher prices. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret, Tokyo is often the exception. Because a large number of Tokyo residents tend to travel to rural areas or out of the country, the city is relatively quiet at this time. Generally restaurants, public museums and most stores stay open on public holidays, so sightseeing should be pleasurable. Though, I can’t guarantee that getting beyond Tokyo on the bullet train will be a breeze during golden week.
Regardless of when you go, just know that spring is warm and welcoming in Tokyo. And, I always recommend booking your tours or accommodations as far in advance as possible.
Japan’s highest mountain, the active volcano Mount Fuji can be seen from Tokyo on a clear day. Those aspiring to hike the mountain should plan a trip for July or August.
Reminiscent of the renowned Eiffel Tower visitors are treated to a 360 degree panoramic view of the city from The Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower which is open every day. In recent years the Tokyo Tower has played second to the Tokyo Skytree.
The Tokyo Skytree is the world’s tallest tower and provides awe-inspiring views of the city towards Mount Fuji. If you have the time, you won’t regret squeezing them both in.
Another enchanting site in Tokyo is the Sensoji Temple an ancient Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. Beautiful in the daylight or illuminated at night, this is Tokyo's oldest and one of its most important temples.
I also recommend you add 21_21 Design Sight to your tour of Tokyo. This museum of experimental design created by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake and constructed by premier Japanese architect Tadao Ando features innovative artists like Naoto Fukasawa and Frank Gehr.
Tokyo’s unique districts are fairly simple to explore via its efficient public transportation system. And trust me, from sushi to onsens, and shopping to karaoke, your inner adventurer will want to do some independent exploring.
Some popular districts to check out include Shibuya, Akihabara and Ginza. Akihabara attracts computer and technology lovers, while Shibuya and Ginza are popular shopping areas. Browse elegant boutiques and art galleries, people watch in the cafes, get the latest gadgets, and sleuth out rare and popular comic books. Personal confession time: no trip to Tokyo would be complete for me without a visit to a karaoke spot. Shibuya has a number of fun places for karaoke.
Music lovers should check out the happenings in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood, just a few blocks outside of Shibuya.
For more unique experiences visit one of Tokyo’s onsens--bath houses famed for healing and rejuvenation, take a tour of a sake brewery, or get tickets to a sumo wrestling match.
Tokyo cuisine will intrigue you. Of course my foodies will want to try the soba noodles, tempura and sushi prepared by master sushi chefs. Even if you don’t like sushi, you may just change your mind on this trip. Adventurers may want to try anything from blowfish and locusts to octopus ice cream. The Tsukiji fish market-- the largest wholesale fish market in the world, is a great place to sample sushi.
Tokyo is an ancient city teaming with modern innovation and cutting edge design. There are awesome opportunities to be immersed in the culture, people watch, explore, and just have a great time. It's definitely time to add Tokyo to your #MustExploreList
As a DC native I admit to some bias, still, Washington, DC gets my vote for best destinations to visit, especially from March to May. June, September and October are also very good times to make the trip but spring is personally my favorite season.
DC is a gorgeous city in the spring time and, it’s not just about the tidal basin blossoms. You’ll find the whole city and surrounding suburbs aglow with everything from the magnificent cherry blossoms, tulips, magnolia and dogwood trees, to forsythia and flowering pears. They are certainly beautiful. And, if you miss the Yoshino Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin, there are a variety of cherry trees at the National Arboretum, many of which tend to peak slightly later than the Yoshino Cherry Blossoms each year.
In fact, I always like to remind my visiting friends that DC is known as "the City of Trees" because of its broad variety of tree species. From George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Boss Shepherd and Marion Barry, planting trees in DC has been a government and community priority. More than 15,000 trees were planted in DC from 2013 – 2015.
In addition to its lovely trees, the magnificent marbled monuments, memorials, and renowned museums should not escape mention and exploration.
The Martin Luther King, Jr and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorials are my absolute favorite places in the city, with the Einstein memorial only slightly trailing behind.
But, no trip to DC should neglect the traditional attractions, like the Washington Monument, the White House, and the Smithsonian Museums. The National Gallery of Art, Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museums are a few of my favorites.
And what's great about Washington is that it seems the lovely landscape is always changing. For example, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will have its grand opening on the mall in the fall of 2016. So, if you’re planning a trip for this fall or next spring, you may want to add this site to your #MustExploreList .
Free museums and monuments, free lectures and exhibits and the amazing things you can discover just by walking around the city, make DC a perfectly affordable get away.
March is a wonderful month to travel to Jamaica and explore this island’s captivating culture and history. But then again, anytime from November to April is amazing. May through October is the rainy season and hurricane season starts in June so if budget is an issue then you may find your best deals during this time.
Jamaica is derived from the Arawak name “Xayamaca” which means lands of rivers and springs. And, true to its name, you will find shimmering water and pristine white sand beaches, like Seven-Mile Beach in Negril, or numerous other stunning lagoons and beaches. So whether you like to swim, dive, snorkel or just bask on the beach, you can find your paradise here.
Wherever you decide to base yourself in Jamaica--Montego Bay or Ocho Rios on the northcoast of the Island, Kingston on the southeast coast of the island, or Negril set on the island’s west coast-- you will easily find entertainment and relaxation during your stay. I love the slower pace of life and the laid back vibe of Jamaica.
I could write an entire blog on Jamaican food, but for now I’ll just say this: To explore authentic Jamaican cuisine you will need to venture out of your resort and dine with the locals. If visiting Negril, be sure to get to Rick's Café. This wonderful café sits atop a 35 foot cliff overlooking the Caribbean and the broiled Jamaican spiny lobster is amazing! Beautiful sunrises and breathtaking sunsets can be found at Ricks and all over this island. The majesty of it all tends to illuminate petty worries and help you see that some things are just not that serious.
In Cairo, Egypt’s capital city, you will find a wonderful juxtaposition of past and present. This city is an exquisite mélange of modern urban chaos, rural tradition, ancient relics, extraordinary monuments, and world class museums.
The Greater Cairo area is home to nearly 17 million people and is the largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. Set on the Nile River, the city is known as ‘Mother of the World’ or Um ad-Dunya to those who live there.
The best times to visit include February to April and October to November. And while it seems much too obvious to say this, I have to: If this is your first visit don’t miss the Great Pyramid and Sphinx of Ghiza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This majestic site has astonished civilization for over 4000 years.
You will also seriously regret not visiting the Egyptian Museum, so allow yourself ample time for this one of kind attraction.
You should also visit the Khan el-Khalili Market, a souk in the Islamic district of Cairo that has been operating since 1382. If you're hunting for locally produced souvenirs, antiques or jewelry this is the place to be. However, if, like me, you don’t like shopping much, you still shouldn’t miss this amazing experience. Just pull up a chair and enjoy people watching while savoring shisha, or a cup of Arabic coffee or tea. You can also sample an enormous array of traditional cuisine from the street vendors here.
And last, but not least, if you have the opportunity to do so, I highly recommend a visit to Saqqara—the sacred cemetery of the Pharaohs.
Here you will find 11 Pharaohs’ pyramids surrounded by the tombs of their families, servants and pets. Saqqara has been a major Egyptian excavation site since the 19th century and remains one of the most fertile grounds for archaeologists working in Egypt. Experts believe thousands of tombs and burial chambers have yet to be uncovered here.
These are just a few highlights. There is so much more to discover in this amazing city. That's why you have to add Cairo to your #MustExploreList