Category Archive: Destinations

Tips for Planning Your Universal Orlando Vacation

I thought I was a pro when it came to visiting Universal Orlando. After all, I’d been to Halloween Horror Night last year and had been to Universal Hollywood just a few months ago. But with the ever-evolving attractions, hotels and restaurants, and now a waterpark, it sometimes feels like I’m at a brand new destination every time I go. That means my strategies and tips for visiting Universal Orlando Resort are evolving, too. Here are my tips for maximizing the fun, while minimizing vacation stress, when planning your Universal Orlando vacation. Select Your Dates to Visit Universal Orlando I’m a big fan of shoulder and off-season travel as it often means fewer people and better prices. Mid-September through October is probably my favorite time to visit – the weather is warm but not stifling and the crowds are manageable. If you’re […]

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Getaway to Nara, Japan

Nara, located in the Kansai region of Japan, was formerly known as Heijo and in 710 was established as Japan’s first permanent capital. The capital was moved in 784, in large part due to the growing power and ambition of the many Buddhist monasteries located there. The historical treasures of the area remain, however, including some of the oldest and largest temples in Japan. Like most other cities in Japan, there is folklore around the name of Nara. A variety of theories exist, but the most widely accepted one says that the name came from words and phrases that meant “flat land” or “gentle slope” which described the area’s topography. Today Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and is an active center of both government and commerce. Like Awaji, It makes an easy getaway destination from Kyoto and […]

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100 Free (and Almost Free) Things to Do in Washington, DC

With all the attention on Washington D.C. during the presidential election cycle, it’s easy to think that the city is all about bickering between the various branches of government. In one of the United States’ most visited cities, there are plenty of attractions and things to do that are budget friendly – free or almost free – whether you politically lean left of right. This list should provide you enough ideas no matter what time of year you’re visiting. If you’re looking for something family friendly: Marvel at the National Zoo’s conservation efforts firsthand along the Asia Trail. Pay a visit to giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as their offspring, Bao Bao and Bei Bei (the youngest cub). Be sure to take a peek at their tiny neighbors, the red pandas, too. Stare up at the […]

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UNESCO Site: Visiting Malbork Castle, Poland

A visit to Malbork Castle Museum will feature both the historical and artistic aspects. There are also some archaeological activities and research, always looking for ways to add depth to the layers of history of the Teutonic Order and the Castle. The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, usually referred to as the Teutonic Order, is a Catholic religious order dating back to the 12th century. Although it was originally founded as a German military brotherhood, it’s purpose has changed over the years and since 1929 it has been strictly a religious order, although it harkens back to those early years with the conference of honorary knighthoods. Today the Catholic branch of the Order has about 1,000 members, and while originally no women were permitted, members today include a couple hundred nuns. The Castle of the […]

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Universal Orlando Resort: I’m So Excited

I am an unapologetic Universal fan, whether it’s Universal Orlando Resorts in Florida (I went there last year for Halloween Horror Nights), or Universal Studios Hollywood (I went there on a getaway last month with a family teenager). So you can imagine my enthusiasm when Universal Orlando Resorts asked me to join their Blog Squad, a year long ambassador program to discover and write about the theme parks (and a water park opening early next year), special events, world-class hotels and entertainment venues, shopping, food, and more. (You can read the announcement here.) This opportunity to discover more about Universal Orlando starts tomorrow! I’m excited to spend five days on site in the company of other bloggers, photographers, and videographers, many of whom I’ve not yet met. My stories of discovery and fun will come weeks and months down the road, […]

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Where Else to Go Podcast: Rwanda

After a bit of a hiatus, the Where Else to Go podcast is back, and in this episode I talk with Bret Love from Green Global Travel about Rwanda. If you’ve ever thought about visiting this African nation, perhaps visiting the gorillas or chimpanzees, you’ll want to listen to this episode.   Pin this to your favorite Pinterest boards.

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Fall Travel Getaway Guide: Providence, Rhode Island

Fall is a wonderful time to plan a getaway. It’s shoulder, or value season, in many destination, and that usually means fewer people, better availability, and lower prices, while the weather is still reasonably good. Another day exploring Providence. A photo posted by Mary Jo Manzanares (@travelingwithmj) on May 4, 2016 at 7:04am PDT It’s easy to think of Providence, Rhode Island, as just part of the massive Boston area, but it deserves consideration in its own right. This capital city is one of the oldest in the United States, and its own special flavors and culture. With a population of under 200,000, it is a big (not huge) city, yet still keeps a small town heart. Here’s my guide to a fall getaway in Providence. While some of these recommendations are good all year round, some are quintessentially fall. […]

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15 Ways to Experience the Real Hawaii

Hawaii. Our 50th state is comprised of 137 islands, although only six of them are typically vacation destinations. We tend to think of Hawaii as a fly-and-flop destination, we fly in, flop on the beach or by the pool, and spent our days relaxing in the sun, often with a drink in hand. After going there a number of times, you may want to venture off the beach and out of the bar. When it’s time for that, my recommendation is to take time to learn more about the story of Hawaii, the stories and histories of multiple cultures over hundreds of years. From the indigenous Hawaiian culture, which was the first to mālama ka ‘āina (“care for the land), to the Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Filipino, Okinawan and Puerto Rican citizens who began arriving in the mid-19th century to work on […]

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Getaway to Universal Studios Hollywood

Heading to Universal Studios Hollywood during summer vacation was a frightening idea. The crowds, the lines, the mass of humanity crowded together pushing and shoving! But summer was the only time I could schedule a getaway to celebrate the 13th birthday for a family member. I set out to find a way to make it work both for the new teenager and for me. Here’s what I did as well as tips and recommendations for your own trip. Note:  This article was written in collaboration with Expedia.com who asked me to share my personal getaway guide to Universal Studios.  Choosing Your Dates Summer is vacation time, so there are a lot more people at Universal, and my top recommendation for timing is to go off-season, during the week while kids are in school, and to avoid weekends and holiday seasons. That […]

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Weekend Getaway: Gig Harbor, Washington

The Pacific Northwest town of Gig Harbor, Washington, is located across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma and is about a 45-minute drive from Sea-Tac Airport. The town has taken its rich history of commercial fishing and boat building and turned its downtown area into a historic waterfront community that attracts visitors with its galleries, parks, public and private docks and marinas, shopping, and dining. It is also one of the many small towns that promote itself as the gateway to Olympic Peninsula. It’s easy to think of Gig Harbor as a summer destination, and it is a great one, but don’t overlook the value that can be found in the shoulder or offseason. Fall is a beautiful time in the area, sunny and crisp days, but the rainy season means fewer people and lower prices. Things to Do Enjoy a […]

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