Spend a Romantic Weekend in Vienna

Dreaming of feeling the 19th-century atmosphere and enjoying a delicious piece of cake? If this sounds like an ideal day, then head to Vienna, the beautiful capital of Austria, for a dreamy escape full of history, food, and charming vibes.

Day One
The city center is easily accessible by every kind of transportation. If you arrive by plane, jump on the CAT, the nickname for the City Airport Train, or on the S7 Metro to head into town. If you arrive by train, you can take a direct connection to the city center in less than 15 minutes. Once there, you’ll find an array of bike-sharing and scooters for moving about the city. However, walking is easy and pleasurable since the city center is small and worth exploring its little streets.

Start your trip the right way by treating yourself to a Viennese dinner at Zwölf Apostelkeller. Make sure to reserve a table in advance and ask for one in the main grotto so you can also enjoy live traditional music. Try the schnitzel, a thin, breaded, pan-fried veal cutlet. Afterward, spoil yourself at Café Demel for a delicious Sachertorte, the most common (and tasty!) cake in the country. Admire the beautiful Rococo-style saloons and browse its shop on the ground floor if you wish to bring some delicacies with you.

Day Two
Start your next day in the Austrian capital with a visit to the Schönbrunn Palace. Public transportation will take you straight there. Purchase the Sisi Ticket for access to the Imperial Furniture Collection and the Wien Hofburg, along with the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Imperial Silver Collection. Walk around these majestic buildings and go back in the time for a day. The tour is lengthy, so wear comfy shoes. You should also download or buy a full guide of the palace or the city itself. You should also try the famous Viennese sausages at one of the Würstelstände, a traditional Austrian street food stop. Check out this list of the best ones, and choose one for a stop along your tour.

After a long day visiting these breathtaking fortresses, unwind with a meal at Pürstner; the portions here are pretty big, so you can share plates. Do not miss out on the Spätzle and homemade soups. Finish the day by taking a nice walk around the city center — Stephansplatz and Karlsplatz are magical at night. Complete your evening by enjoying a fancy cocktail at the rooftop bar Das Loft Bar & Lounge, where you have one of the best views of the city.

Day Three
Your last day in the beautiful Austrian capital can be spent on an alternative route. Start the day with a tasty Viennese breakfast at Cafè Mozart. Try the delightful apple cake if you did not already have the chance to, and combine it with one of the many teas they offer.

Then, visit the beautiful University of Vienna. A list of guided tours can be found here. Make sure to visit its beautiful old-style library. If you enjoy visiting libraries, here is a list of the best ones in town.

Afterward, head to the Hundertwasserhaus, an ex-working-class district that was built by the architect and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. His idea was to spread joy through the 50 apartments of the colorful building given to the less-privileged. The shapes are soft with no angles present in the building, and the colors are vivid. In front of the building, you can find the Hundertwasservillage with a restaurant, souvenir shops, and an explanation of the project itself.

After a good Käsekrainer (a hot dog with a cheese sausage) at the kiosk in front of the main building, go straight to the Belvedere Palace to admire the beautiful collections of Klimt, Monet, Schiele. Buy a combo ticket for the Upper Belvedere, Lower Belvedere, and Belvedere 21. Stay until sunset, since admiring the beautiful colors of the sky around the Belvedere Gardens is an amazing show. Finish the day at the chocolate shop Xocolat Manufaktur, where you can try the heavenly Viennese praline.

Let’s be honest: who does not love sweets, chocolate, and the historical fashion of the age of Sisi? You will fall in love with Vienna with the exquisite food, romantic atmosphere, and history throughout the city.

The Magic of Thanksgiving Time in Anaheim, CA

In Anaheim, Thanksgiving is about community. This time of year, the destination and its partners come together to support families and friends across local circles and beyond. The warmth of the holiday is truly felt by those who live in Anaheim and those who visit, and all are welcome to participate in the many activities and celebrations. And, who are we kidding – it’s also about the food.

We Give Thanks
For 32 years, the We Give Thanks organization and the Anaheim Ducks have been serving local families delicious, warm meals on Thanksgiving Day. With the participation of continuing sponsors like the Hilton Anaheim, over 230,000 meals have been served to date. The 2019 event will be held in the parking lot of the Honda Center on Thursday, November 28. The event is a celebration for all ages, with live music and endless smiling faces. Learn more about attending, becoming a volunteer or donating directly by visiting the We Give Thanks website.

Anaheim Turkey Trot 5K & Fun Run at Angel Stadium
What better way to build up your Thanksgiving Day appetite than a morning 5K at the one and only Angel Stadium? This family-friendly event is for everyone – run, jog, trot, walk, or stroll on the flat, festive course. Participants will receive a Turkey Trot finisher medal, t-shirt, chances to win exciting raffle prizes, and of course, a pumpkin pancake at the finish line! The 5K begins at 8 AM the kids’ race starts at 9 AM on Thursday, November 28. Proceeds benefit Ware in the World Foundation, encouraging healthy lives through fitness by gifting life-enhancing opportunities locally and cross-culturally. Learn more or register to participate here.

World Taste Event at the Anaheim Packing District
Attention foodies! Hilton is proud to continue its sponsorship of the annual World Taste event at the historic Anaheim Packing District. On the evening of November 13, grab your date, your family, or your friends, and embark on a culinary expedition at this uniquely-Anaheim venue in the heart of Orange County, California. Each wristband includes 10 gourmet tastes from participating foodie establishments within the Packing House, and of course, live entertainment for the evening. Be sure to buy your tickets early!

Thanksgiving Champagne Buffet at Knott’s Berry Farm
Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant first opened in 1934, and today it remains an iconic location for delicious homestyle meals that visitors to the theme park and locals alike, continue to line up for. On November 22 only, enjoy an exclusive Thanksgiving-style champagne buffet at this unique and historic venue. Rollercoaster screams in the background included. Bring the family, and reservations are recommended.

Did Someone Say Pumpkin? The Best Fall Sweets and Treats in Anaheim
Anaheim is quickly becoming more than just a destination for theme park connoisseurs and convention attendees. It’s becoming those things and a place for foodies of all kinds. Let’s be honest – most visitors to this magical destination are probably a little bit of all three. According to this delicious blog post from Visit Anaheim, this season, you can find your favorite, seasonal pumpkin offerings throughout the Anaheim Resort. Our favorites include the Mickey-shaped Pumpkin Spice Beignets in New Orleans Square at the Disneyland® Resort, the Pumpkin Spice Butter Cake from Reunion Kitchen + Drink, and the Mickey Pumpkin Cupcakes from the new GCH Craftsman Bar & Grill at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Status: Mouth Currently Watering.

Ready to explore Anaheim this Thanksgiving season? Experience the magic with rates from $99 at Hilton Anaheim, located in the heart of Orange County and just steps from the Disneyland® Resort.

Celebrate Thanksgiving Hawaiian-Style in Honolulu

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to visit Honolulu, Hawaii. Enjoy the beaches, soak in the warm sunshine, hike through the lush green valleys, and relax away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Hawaii is known as “The Aloha State” and aloha is celebrated at Thanksgiving. Truly a time to give thanks, Thanksgiving in the islands is anything but traditional! The diverse cultural history of Hawaii is reflected in local-style Thanksgiving meals. You may wonder, what can visitors do in Hawaii during the Thanksgiving holiday? The answer is simple: Plenty!

A turkey is cooked in an underground imu in Honolulu, Hawaii

Cook a Turkey in the Ground
Wait, in the ground? Yep! You heard that right! Turkeys are often cooked in an underground oven called an “imu.” Should you drive around the island the day before Thanksgiving, you may be alarmed by huge clouds of smoke rising in the air. Rest assured, what you’re seeing is people coming together to build an imu. A large imu can hold as many as 500 turkeys and requires the full support of the community. The night before Thanksgiving, the imu is built, and people drop off their thawed, foil-covered turkeys. Once the red-hot lava rocks cool, turkeys are placed in the imu to cook overnight. Families arrive early Thanksgiving morning to pick up their tasty treats and give thanks for all who worked hard to prepare the meal. If you want to observe the process, feel free to visit The Key Project in Kahalu’u on the windward side of Oahu. Stop by around 3 PM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and be prepared to stay a few hours. It’s likely you can even lend a helping hand!

Palm trees in front of Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii

Dining
Many restaurants and hotels offer a traditional turkey dinner complete with all the classics. In addition, you may be surprised to find a few less-familiar options on the menu such as ahi poke, Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, kalua turkey, lumpia, pan-fried noodles, poi, rice, Lau Lau, and kalua pork.

Count on your Hawaiian Thanksgiving being a holiday to remember! You can take in the sights and sounds of a luau with your meal, dine aboard a dinner cruise, enjoy fine dining, or even get dinner to-go and eat at the beach with your toes in the sand! A few dining options include taking in the sights and sounds of the Thanksgiving Holiday Luau on the Great Lawn at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, spending an evening at the Diamond Head Beach Luau, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner at House Without a Key at the Halekulani, or if you feel like cruising to the North Shore, you can dine at the Turtle Bay Resort Thanksgiving Buffet. For your best bet, ask around once you’re on the island. Who knows, you may even get an invite to someone’s house!

A beautiful Hawaiian rainbow

Giving Back
Encompassing the aloha spirit, the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort has a 25-year tradition of team members volunteering to prepare and serve over 400 Thanksgiving meals for The Institute of Human Services.

Should you find yourself in the giving spirit and looking for a volunteer opportunity, you may want to consider volunteering with The Salvation Army to help serve 2,000+ meals on Thanksgiving Day.

A mural at the Pipe Masters surf contest in Honolulu Hawaii

Surf’s Up!
Winter means waves on the North Shore of Oahu! Scores of the world’s best surfers flock to Oahu to compete in the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing events running from October 28 – December 20, 2019. Of course, the Hawaiian Islands already host many of the best surfers who can literally ride the massive waves in their own backyards!

A colorful sunset over a beach in Honolulu Hawaii

Holiday Events
Waikiki Holiday Parade
Where can you find Santa Claus waving a friendly shaka to the crowd while he relaxes in slippers, an aloha shirt, and board shorts? At the Waikiki Holiday Parade, of course! The long-running parade serves as both a tribute to the heroes of Pearl Harbor as well as a kick-off to the holiday season. This year’s parade is on November 29, 2019.

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot
A great way to explore Waikiki is the Turkey Trot, a 10-mile training run through the heart of Waikiki. Work up a sweat and soak up some sunshine before the big meal!  The Turkey Trot has been running for 45 years. Literally!

Island’s Best Craft Fair
Jumpstart your holiday shopping by attending Oahu’s longest-running craft fair, a local favorite.

Aloha and Happy Thanksgiving
Whatever you choose to do over the Thanksgiving holiday, be sure to soak in warm aloha spirit while visiting Oahu. Aloha is the very best souvenir to take home. It’s free — you can give aloha to everyone you meet and it’s the gift that will always, always keep on giving. Aloha and a hui hou!

Enjoy the Holidays in San Diego

There is something magical about the holidays, and when you celebrate in sunny San Diego, outdoor celebrations are plentiful. While San Diego offers amazing outdoor shopping like the newly redesigned Westfield University Town Center in La Jolla or Fashion Valley minutes from downtown, here’s a guide to a few unique holiday activities only available in America’s Finest City. With warmer weather comes outdoor holiday festivals, boat parades on the bay, and even ice skating on the beach. Let’s start in Balboa Park, home of the San Diego Zoo.

Palm trees and Christmas lights at sunset at the San Diego Zoo

Holiday Cheer at Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is one of the top attractions in the city, and a visit during the holidays is extra special with the annual Jungle Bells celebration. Jungle Bells kicks off in mid-December through early January showcasing hundreds of animal-shaped light displays, live music, and special events all month such as holiday storytelling by Dr. Zoolittle. While you are in Balboa Park, check out the December Nights festival, a holiday favorite by locals. This free festival takes place on December 6 and 7, 2019 and features light displays, music, and local cuisine in the park. The event does attract a large crowd, so taking a Lyft or rideshare to the park is usually a little less stressful.

A boat lit up with Christmas lights for the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Bright Lights on the San Diego Bay
In its 48th year, the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights that takes place on December 8 and 15, 2019 is guaranteed to entertain crowds. The parade consists of 80 or so boats, fully decked out for the occasion, sailing along the shores of the bay. There are a number of locations along the route to catch the parade, as well as many waterfront restaurants on Harbor Island.  I suggest Coasterra – not only are the views spectacular, but the modern Mexican cuisine is delicious as well. From the cocktail menu, a must-try is Deb’s Coconut Margarita, named after Chef Deborah Scott. While the sun always shines bright during the day, it can get chilly by the water in the evening, so be sure to bring a scarf and jacket if you’re planning to enjoy the boat parade outdoors.

A holiday sand castle on the beach at the Hotel del Coronado

Holiday Cheer from Downtown to Coronado
Holiday cheer runs aplenty with nightly light shows on Bayfront Pier to Skating by the Sea at Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton. For a great way to view all of the lights and décor, start at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront near the oversized Christmas tree and walk along the water to the ferry, which will take you across the bay. Flagship Cruises offers ferry service every hour, on the hour, across the bay to Coronado. Once you are in Coronado and make your way to The Del, lace up your skates and enjoy stunning views from the oceanfront ice rink. If skating isn’t for you, lounge at Frostbite for s’mores and holiday cocktails.

Fun fact: Hotel del Coronado had the first electrically lit, outdoor Christmas tree in 1904 – needless to say, holiday traditions run deep at the resort. There are many events going on throughout the holiday season so check the events calendar before your visit.

A large Christmas tree in front of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront

While you could spend the entire month of December exploring all San Diego has to offer to get your fill of holiday cheer, I hope these ideas add an extra sparkle to your travels. Many memories will be made from celebrating with the animals at the zoo to sipping hot chocolate as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean at The Del. For additional information about holiday happenings in the city, check out Travel.Hilton.com/SD or San Diego’s events calendar.

Walk Through History in Berlin

There are not many places you can visit that show the history and effects of the turbulent 20th century as much as the German capital of Berlin.  Berlin found itself at the epicenter of last century’s chaotic history. The city has the ability to teach travelers about the dark days of Nazi rule, the rebuild following the war, and the split between the East and West.  However, from those struggles, lessons were learned, and the city has recovered and grown into a unique cultural experience taking the best from both parts of the Iron Curtain.

A view of the Oberbaum Bridge over the River Spree

Unlike most major cities, Berlin does not have a true central area. Of course, one could argue that Museum Island or the area surrounding the Bundestag are the centers, but in reality, the city has developed into many neighborhoods with their own centers, nightlife, and entertainment. This is likely due to the Berlin Wall, which separated the city for nearly thirty years and forced its citizens to grow separately without much contact. Most of the wall has been torn down to allow the two sides to unite and begin to integrate. However, when walking around the city, you will find a dual line of cobblestones reminding everyone where the large wall once stood.

People walking next to the East Side Gallery

While the vast majority of the wall has been deconstructed with parts of it sent to museums all over to warn and teach about the dark times that the world went through, other parts still stand. One example is the East Side Gallery, which used the wall as a canvas to depict images of freedom, democracy, and the peaceful victory over tyranny. The gallery has transformed the wall from a symbol of oppression to the world’s largest open-air art exhibit championing freedom and stimulating new development and businesses in the area. In the backdrop sits the double-deck Oberbaum Bridge with its distinct towers.

A view of the Alexanderplatz and the east side of Berlin

Although the Berlin Wall is by far the most famous site in Berlin, the most noticeable is the large needle overlooking the city, the Berliner Fernsehturm. The tower is located next to Alexanderplatz, one of the most famous and largest plazas in the city. While this might be one of the more tourist-heavy locations in the city, you should not miss lunch or dinner in the Sphere rotating restaurant at the top of the tower. The views are amazing. Even today, while you are enjoying your meal, it is easy to see the differences between the East and West architecture and urban planning.

The front of the Berliner Dom, which is a large castle in Berlin

Walking West from Alexanderplatz, you will undoubtedly end up at Museum Island, a UNESCO Heritage site that houses most of the city’s museums. It is surrounded by numerous museums that have recently been established.

The island is also home to the Berliner Dom and the Berlin Palace. The Dom offers arguably the second-best views in the city and the opportunity to walk through the royal Hohenzollern family crypt below the cathedral. The Palace, on the other hand, has been converted into a large gallery hosting numerous events and exhibitions throughout the year.

Buildings in the open square of Gendarmenmarkt

Continuing your walk west, you will encounter numerous spectacular 18th and 19th-century buildings that have been converted into embassies and hotels, as well as operas and cathedrals. Especially interesting during winter months is the Gendarmenmarkt square which has a Christmas market and ice rink annually. Further west, you will see in the distance the glass dome of the Bundestag, the Großer Tiergarten Park, and standing directly in front of you, the famous Brandenburg Gate.

Dark columns at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

While all these sites are a must-see, often overlooked to the south of the gate stands the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, sometimes called The Holocaust Memorial, made of over 2,700 dark columns creating an expansive maze and bringing about a somber mood to its visitors.

A sign denoting the Checkpoint Charlie Mauer Museum

Not far away is the famous Checkpoint Charlie Mauer Museum highlighting the creative ways people escaped the East and the must-visit Topography of Terror Gestapo Headquarters Museum.

The interior of the Olympiastadion Berlin

If you have the ability and time to explore the outskirts, you should visit Olympiastadion Berlin, the location where Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals in the presence of Adolf Hitler. Today, the stadium is still used for large events and is one of the biggest in Europe.

The exterior of the Memorial and Musuem Sachsenhausen

Further away in the outskirts, you should find time to visit Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, the closest concentration camp to Berlin where many political prisoners met the cruelty of the Nazi regime.

The history and experiences that you will be faced with in Berlin are unmatched. The city teaches us to remember the past, to learn from those mistakes, and to move forward into a better tomorrow. The “better tomorrow” is here in Berlin, and sure enough, after you have walked in the past, be sure to grab a currywurst and a cold Berliner Pils. Relax and get ready for a fun night ahead.

Spend Thanksgiving in New York

I would argue that New York City is magical no matter what time of the year you visit, but there is truly something spectacular about the city during the last two months of the year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times to visit for all the activities the city offers.

An overhead view of Central Park in New York City during the fall

Where to Eat
If a traditional Thanksgiving meal is as important to you as it is to me (i.e.. very important), have no fear. There are plenty of spots in the city to enjoy an all-American Thanksgiving lunch or dinner. Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. Bubby’s offers a family-style meal finished off with a selection of pies they are known for. The Smith and Quality Meats are also great options, or if you’re looking for something a little different, try Miss Lily’s for a Thanksgiving feast with a Caribbean flair.

Fall colors in Central Park in New York City

Sightseeing
Whatever you do, make sure to visit Central Park to experience the jaw-dropping beauty of the fall foliage. Stroll through the park to spend an afternoon exploring The Met, or head to Rockefeller Center and take in the view of the park’s colors from above at Top of the Rock.

A view of the Manhattan skyline from Westlight in Brooklyn

For a magical panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline, cross the East River and head to Westlight, a rooftop bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Get there just before sunset to sip a cocktail and watch the sky’s colors envelop the city.

The inside of the Oculus in New York City

Escape the chilly weather by exploring the Oculus downtown followed by a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. For art lovers, check out The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking district.

Floats and parade-goers along the route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

The Parade
Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on the top of the list of things to do for many people visiting New York around Thanksgiving. If you’re one of those people, prepare to wake up early and claim your spot by 6 AM. Head north of Herald Square to the Upper West Side for less of a crowd.

You can also see the giant balloons being inflated in the afternoon and evening before Thanksgiving at the American Museum of Natural History in the Upper West Side. Visit later in the evening around 6 or 7 PM to see more of the balloons close to full inflation than you would at an earlier time. Keep in mind that the crowd will likely be larger as it gets later. Also, take the subway instead of a taxi, since many of the surrounding streets are closed off to traffic.

A street view of Macy's in New York City at night

Black Friday Shopping
It’s no secret that NYC is a paradise for shoppers, and Black Friday in the city is truly an experience. Macy’s opens its doors for Black Friday shopping in the evening on Thanksgiving, while others including Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Century 21, and Saks Fifth Avenue, open early on Friday morning.

Get in the Holiday Spirit
While the city hasn’t been fully decked out in Christmas decorations yet, there are plenty of holiday activities to partake in. Visit the Bryant Park Winter Village, see the famed Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or visit the Union Square Holiday Market, which has a European vibe.

The exterior of the New York Hilton Midtown

Where to Stay
The New York Hilton Midtown is centrally-located, making it an ideal choice if you’d like to be within walking distance to Times Square, Fifth Avenue, and more. For a different perspective of the city, opt for the Millennium Hilton New York Downtown or the Hilton New York Fashion District.

If you’re not already captivated by NYC, the energy in the city at this time of year will certainly change that. Grab your family, friends, or fly solo and start planning – this trip will be one for the books.

Explore off the Beaten Path in Reykjavik

The Nordic island nation of Iceland has breathtaking views, sustainable agriculture, active volcanos, and a diverse culinary scene. This is just the tip of the iceberg — Iceland also features a bustling nightlife, dozens of public geothermal pools, and hospitable locals. Given the number of European travelers I encountered, it became apparent that perhaps, Iceland is a nation that Americans unknowingly overlook as a top travel destination. Start exploring on a road less traveled.

Colorful houses lining a snowy street

Navigating Locally
The traditional language in Reykjavik is Icelandic or “Íslenska,” a northern Germanic language true to the country’s Scandinavian roots. Don’t panic, most Icelanders speak English as well.  Iceland does not have any rideshare companies but you’ll be able to navigate around town via public buses. The buses run frequently, offer free Wi-Fi, and are clean and comfortable. Taxis are also conveniently accessible from downtown Reykjavik.

Blue building on a street corner with mountains in the background

Downtown Reykjavik
Stroll around downtown where you will find plenty of shops, bars, restaurants, and local businesses. Make the most out of your trip by purchasing the Reykjavik City Card. The city card offers free admission to certain museums, attractions, hot pools, and free rides on the inner city’s public transit buses. (Excluding Bus 55, the airport express bus) It also offers discounts at specific restaurants, additional attractions, and tours.

What to Taste
Don’t leave Iceland without tasting an Icelandic hotdog, locally known as a pylsa. Critically acclaimed as one of the best hotdogs in the world, pylsas are easy to find in Reykjavik. My favorite pylsa was from The Hot Dog Shake and Pylsa Stand. It is only a couple blocks away the downtown city center. The Hot Dog Shake and Pylsa Stand top their dogs with extra crispy fried onions. They also offer more traditional toppings including raw white onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, and remoulade. Remoulade is usually made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs.

Nightlife
If you’re looking for some cool shops and bars, head over to Laugavegur Street, which translates to “Wash Road.” Enjoy authentic Icelandic beverages and foodie options at the Lebowski Bar. A lively sports bar and a tribute to the 1998 crime/indie film The Big Lebowski. Their extensive list of crafted White Russians, the burger of the month, happy hour, abasement bowling alley, and a live DJ after 9 PM are all great reasons to visit.

Hot Pools
Visiting hot pools is a frequent pastime of Icelanders all year round. If you plan on visiting a few different public hot pools, I recommend purchasing the Reykjavik city card to gain admission into various hot pools throughout the city. Most of the hot pools are easily accessible by walking, bus, or taxi.

Sightseeing in Reykjavik
Visit the Sun Voyager structure for the perfect photo ops. The structure overlooks Mount Esja and the vast landscape throughout Reykjavik. Although active, this volcanic mountain range is a serene and picturesque landscape to enjoy.

Have a thing for architecture? Visit Hallgrímskirkja, the tallest church in Iceland. The tower boasts 224 feet high and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. The church is open to the public for free before noon.

Touring Iceland
Tours of the Northern Lights are most popular during the winter months from November through February. This is when the country experiences the least amount of daylight and the Northern Lights display beautifully. Although a self-guided tour of The Northern Lights is not impossible on your own, I definitely recommend joining a tour guide. They will be able to take you out during perfect weather when you have a greater chance of seeing the lights.

The most popular daytime tour is the Golden Circle Tour. It includes Kerið, a volcanic crater, Geysir Hot Spring, Thingvellir National Park (a Game of Thrones film site), and Gullfoss Waterfall. Depending on your tour guide and the amount of time you have, you’re likely to make more stops along the way.

While you are exploring Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, submerge yourself in the beauty and culture that Iceland has to offer. Icelanders are even more welcoming towards visitors that seek local experiences rather than popular ones, so don’t be afraid to explore on your own. You might find an old record shop, a cozy cafe, comedy club, or a convenient grocery store that reminds you of home. Whatever you do, find your own adventure in Reykjavik!

Top 5 Girls Weekend Activities in Santa Fe

In the memorable words of Cyndi Lauper, “girls just wanna have fun,” and Santa Fe, New Mexico is a great place for a girls’ gathering. Here are the top 5 recommended activities and adventures you should consider when planning a getaway here.

A firepit at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe

Spa Day at Ten Thousand Waves
Situated just outside of town, this Japanese-styled retreat is an immersion in relaxation and a total state-of-mind shift.  From the foot-soaking long tub that overlooks one of the Japanese courtyard gardens and the stone fire pit surrounded by cushioned teak seating, to the individual outdoor massage rooms filled with natural birdsong and clean mountain air and the zen-like post-massage relaxation room, and finally, the authentic Japanese restaurant, this place is worthy of the price tag.

Inside a canyon at Bandelier National Monument

Natural and Archaeological Adventure at Bandelier National Monument
An obscure park with fewer visitors than many of its bigger counterparts, Bandelier National Monument is located about an hour north of town. An easy hike along the canyon floor reveals the beauty of the rocks as well as the fascinating history of the ancient Puebloan natives. Take the side trails to explore the cliff dwellings as well as remnants of kivas and other farming structures that were central to their long-vanished culture. Climbing up the ladders into the dwellings is optional, but it adds to the fun.

The wall decor at the restaurant Pig N Fig in Santa Fe

Since you might get hungry after the hike, head to the Pig N Fig for a delightfully memorable lunch. Be sure to try the namesake sandwich for a real treat.

Exhibit inside of the Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos

Tip: If you have time and are interested in the atomic history of the area, visit the Bradbury Museum in Los Alamos. The town is still an active research and development area, and a visit to this attraction is very eye-opening. Oppenheimer’s house is a block away, and full-size models of his weapons are on display at the museum.

Flowering trees by a pathway to the entrance of the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe

Art Exploration at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum
Located near the heart of Old Santa Fe, this bountiful collection offers great insight into the artist’s love of flowers, nature, native cultures, and the dramatic contrasts of desert landscapes. Variety abounds in O’Keefe’s works and provides some great conversation starters.

Tip: If you have a group larger than 4 people, it may be more cost-effective for one person to join the museum as a member since the benefits include admissions savings that more than pay for the membership fee. Be sure to check on it in advance on their website.

The exterior of the diner Maggie's in Madrid

Boutique Shopping with a Movie Twist in Madrid
This one-street town located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque includes the movie set restaurant, “Maggies” from “Wild Hogs.” Quaint, artsy shops line the street and are housed in once-abandoned homes rescued from the ravages of time by local craftsmen. Everything from jewelry made by local silversmiths, to giant chainsaw sculptures of dragons and butterflies, to homemade honey and jams can be found in this delightful town that is a step back in time.

Tip: Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as the town is about ten blocks long and you won’t want to miss anything.

A statue outside of the St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral in Santa Fe

Immersion in the Southwest Culture of Downtown Santa Fe
Take time to explore the historical churches, shops, and restaurants that surround the town square. One of the most well-known sites is the Loretto Chapel with its winding staircase, and while it is worthy of a visit, don’t miss its neighbor the St Francis of Assisi Cathedral to understand the role of the church in the area’s development. Missions and unique architecture are all around the city, and taking a stroll down the streets will give you a wonderful glimpse of the flavor that makes this area a treasure.

Whether your friends like to unwind at a spa, explore out in nature, compare thoughts about art, shop ‘till they drop, or discover a spicy culture built on a past with a mission, Santa Fe is one great destination.

A Local’s Guide to a Weekend in London

Creating lasting memories in a city like London isn’t the most difficult thing to do. This vibrant city that never sleeps can offer anything you can wish for. It can be overwhelming when just spending a couple of days in the city, but a weekend guide including highlights, must-tries, and off-the-beaten-path activities can come in handy to maximize your experience.

Full English Breakfast
Starting the day well with a full English breakfast at least once is a must. The meal consists of bacon, eggs, British sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, black pudding, and toasted bread. It is available on every corner of the street, every hotel, and every pub that serves breakfast. For a nice variety of food and a beautiful view over the River Thames, visit Browns Butlers Wharf.

London Landmarks
London’s iconic landmarks are relatively close to each other, so you can see the city highlights in one day. From Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye, to the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London, you can create some memorable shots of those beautiful iconic buildings along the famous River Thames.

If you’re trying to save energy for the rest of the trip, book a personal guide from SmallCarBigCity to be driven around in a classic Mini Cooper and see the landmarks for a unique perspective with entertaining fun facts about the city along the way.

Afternoon Tea
Relax and unwind while sipping from your “cuppa tea” during a quintessential (Champagne) afternoon tea. One of my favorite places to enjoy this delicacy is at the Conrad London St. James. Enjoy expertly paired teas with finger sandwiches, seasonal sweet treats, savory items, and scones. (Don’t forget to join in on the clotted cream or jam first debate!)

Theatre
With an enormous variety of shows and musicals, a visit to the West End should be high on your list. Shows take place seven days a week, and it is worth a visit for those wishing to get a taste of cultural London. The evening shows start at 7.30 PM, so most restaurants around will offer a pre-theatre menu to enjoy a fast, decent meal.

More interested in historical culture? Visit Shakespeare Globe and admire the reconstruction of Shakespeare’s historic 16th-century playhouse. Enjoy live demonstrations at various times throughout the day, including Elizabethan clothing dressings, stage fighting, and printing play scripts using a replica 17th-century press.

A Taste of the British Countryside
To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, visit the glorious green just outside of London. By taking the train from Paddington, you’ll be in the middle of the countryside in less than 50 minutes.

For the full experience, make sure to book a Vintage Day Out, where you will be taken around the countryside in a vintage Rolls Royce before stepping onto a classic boat to watch the afternoon drift by. A true British lunch is served on board while your captain talks you through the beautiful sights.

Gin Culture
Finish the day with one of Britain’s favorite drinks: A gin and tonic. With over 315 distilleries in Britain, a London Dry Gin is a must-try. Make sure to visit the City of London Gin Distillery to attend a workshop to create your gin by selecting your botanicals, nurturing your gin throughout the distillation process, taking tastings, and deciding when to make the cut. You will not leave the distillery without your very own bottle of gin.

Sunday Roast
When in London on a Sunday, pop into any pub for a classic Sunday roast. This is a filling meal consisting of roasted meat and potatoes with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, bread and mint sauce, vegetables, and gravy. Should you find yourself around South East London, make sure to visit a local restaurant called The Yellow House for a very tasty Sunday roast.

Alternatively, for a nice pub atmosphere and amazing views over the River Thames, The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe is highly recommended, just make sure to book in advance.

Cheers to the weekend with a pint of lukewarm ale, another British classic you shouldn’t miss!

A Very New Orleans Thanksgiving

Are you planning a visit to New Orleans this fall? Halloween and weekends with home football games are extremely popular time frames, and rightfully so. While many people decide to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in the comfort of their home, taking a vacation to New Orleans over the holiday should be a consideration for you and your family. Below are some activities to plan for and other recommendations.

Crowds of people walking down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter at night

Football
It’s fall and that means it’s football season in New Orleans. For the second consecutive year, the Black and Gold are playing their rival on Thanksgiving night. This year the game is in Atlanta, but the party, as always, will be in New Orleans. Make plans to watch the game at one of the many watering holes across town and see how local fans party during a game. If you’re looking to make your way further away from the French Quarter, Cooter Brown’s, Tracey’s, and Bayou Beer Garden are popular destinations for fans of all ages and each has a great selection of food to choose from. Cooter Brown’s may possibly have the most TVs in one bar in the city, but it also tends to fill up the fastest. For a prime time game against a bitter rival, you may want to arrive an hour and a half before the game, no matter your choice of location.

The exterior of the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans

Bayou Classic
New Orleans is a city with many annual events that bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area to celebrate. The annual Bayou Classic is one of the longest-running staple events of the city. Each year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Superdome plays host to the match-up between Grambling State and Southern University’s football teams. For tourists who don’t plan to attend the game, there are still plenty of ways to join in on the fun. There’s a Thanksgiving parade from the Superdome to the French Market, while Friday’s key event is the legendary Battle of the Bands, which is known to be as competitive as the football game itself.

The decorated lobby of The Roosevelt in New Orleans

From Thanksgiving to Christmas
Every year it seems Christmas and other holiday celebrations start earlier and earlier. When traveling, that potential sigh should become a cause for excitement. New Orleans holiday celebrations last throughout the entire month of December, and some even begin as soon as Thanksgiving. The Roosevelt New Orleans, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel decks out its block-long lobby with hundreds of thousands of lights across dozens of Christmas trees. Here’s a local’s secret: The holiday lobby display is actually in place the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 27th), even though the official lighting ceremony is the next Tuesday.  The city’s legendary Celebration in the Oaks begins on Black Friday (November 29) and features amusement park rides, eggnog, and other holiday-themed drinks, as well as an immaculate light show featuring the ever-endearing 12 Yats of Christmas.

A ballroom at The Roosevelt in New Orleans filled with decorated tables set for a meal

Brunches Galore
Any trip to New Orleans is not complete without eating some of the many different cuisine options in the city. On Thanksgiving, you have the choice of prix fixe options including Tableau, SoBou, or Tommy’s, where you’ll be treated to a delicious Cajun-style Thanksgiving, including my favorite side, dressing with oyster dressing. Alternatively, you and your family may choose to attend a brunch buffet at hotels such as The Roosevelt. Spaces fill up quickly around town, so reservations are highly recommended. In addition to a larger assortment of choices, the brunch buffets usually include live entertainment and are held in some of the most immaculate ballrooms in the city. Once you’re done eating, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to walk around Downtown New Orleans and do any exploring that you haven’t been able to at that point in your trip.

Explore History in Turin

Brisk fall days are perfect for exploring Turin’s rich culture, history, arts, and myths in one of the countless museums and other exhibitions that the city has to offer.

Turin was the first capital of the reunited Kingdom of Italy and is the “Hollywood of Italy,” the cradle of the Slow Food Movement, and the home of Fiat. Don’t forget about the Arte Povera, which is a contemporary art style born in Turin, and the Black and White Magic Triangles that are said to cross in the city center.

As the days get colder, I’d like to take you on a full-day Museum excursion to experience Turin’s cultural heritage.

We’ll start our day at the DoubleTree by Hilton Turin Lingotto, which is a great piece of the city’s history, as the hotel is located where the first Fiat cars were once built.

Part of the Lingotto building hosts the Pinacoteca Agnelli, designed by Renzo Piano, which permanently showcases masterpieces from the Fiat founders’ private art collection including works of Picasso, Renoir, and Manet. From the gallery, you also get access to the former Fiat rooftop test track, which, even after several renovations of the building, remained in the original state. It’s impressive to imagine the first Fiat cars in the 1930s racing the 1.8 km circuit on the roof to be approved before shipped.

From here, we continue to discover the history of the automotive at the Museo dell’Automobile, just a ten-minute walk from the hotel, a must-see for car enthusiasts. On three floors, you are taken on an all-senses journey from the first steam vehicles, vintage cars, solar prototypes, and even F1 bolides. Take a tour with one of the enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides, which takes around 1.5 hours.

Within a ten-minute metro ride, we arrive at the historical city center of Turin. From far, you can spot the 168-meter high iconic landmark, the Mole Antonelliana, originally built in 1863 as a synagogue, and today is home to the National Museum of Cinema. Follow the corkscrew stairs up five floors to the exhibition area where you can dive into the history of cinema starting with the earliest versions, the shadow games, to the most spectacular effects of today’s Hollywood industry. Book a ride with the glass elevator that takes you from the ground floor through the exhibition space up to a viewing platform from where you can enjoy a fascinating panorama all over Turin and to the Alps.

Next on our list, and just a short walk through the charming Piazzas of Turin, is the second-largest Egyptian Museum in the world, second to the one in Cairo. The museum was founded in 1824 by King Carlo Felice after several Italian archaeological excavation missions. By that time, findings were still divided between the excavator and Egypt. It’s a fascinating collection of sculptures, tombs, and even a mummy. The English audio guide helps you understand and learn the most during your visit in approximately 1.5 hours.

Let’s jump from the ancient Egyptians to the early 1900s and the beginning of contemporary art movements in the country. Turin was a main stage for the Arte Povera, literally “Poor Arts,” at the end of the 1960s, where the trend was to return to simple, daily-life objects and messages. Every year in November, Turin celebrates contemporary artists with an international exhibition called Artissima. If you are not in town during this particular weekend, I recommend you visit the GAM Torino, Italy’s first public collection of modern art, containing masterpieces of Divisionism, Futurism and Arte Povera. It is the place to admire and interpret modern, young, international contemporary art, along with many temporary exhibitions and art events.

Last but not least, Turin is known as the “Paris of Italy.” Since it was the first capital of the reunited Kingdom of Italy, as you walk through the city center, you can still admire wide open places, stunning palaces, and arch-covered roads of this pompous era. Don’t miss the Royal Palace of Venaria, which is slightly outside of Turin, but easily reachable by car or bus. The palace is an architectural and landscape masterpiece that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It’s also one of the least-known, most Instagrammable places I have ever seen!

You might feel in Turin you could even spend another few days discovering the hidden treasures of culture, history, and fine arts. You are right – there is so much more to see! Just get the Torino & Piemonte Card for up to five consecutive days and get free admission to more than 80 cultural sites. You will find thousands of reasons to explore ancient history and reward your curiosity – you will fall in love with Turin.

How to Spend Fall in South Florida

Fall is a great time of year in South Florida.  There’s a crisp ocean breeze and low humidity, so take advantage of the multiple ways to spend your time outdoors. Since the weather is still warmer for those visiting from the North, South Florida has a lot to offer for visitors and can become your go-to spot for a fall vacation.

Boats in the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway

Fall Events and Activities
One of the biggest events to attend is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. It is the largest in-water boat show in the world, and you can spend the weekend walking the docks and admiring the biggest, most beautiful yachts you have ever seen. The boat show happens the first weekend of November, and it is definitely the event to see and be seen.

An overhead view of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami

For college sports fans, check out the Miami Hurricanes or the Florida Atlantic University Owls. Both schools are within a reasonable driving distance and can offer a family-fun environment while catching a competitive sporting event.

Historic building and bridge over water at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami

Explore the history of the area while you’re here – there are plenty of sites that have backstories dating to the early 1900s. One spot to visit is the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami. There are a ton of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities around the grounds, and you should have perfect weather, so you can take your time to enjoy all there is to see.

You can also visit one of the multiple breweries that can offer fall flavors and the opportunity to spend some time with the locals. Stop by Funky Buddha Brewery in Fort Lauderdale, which offers their Last Snow seasonal porter with coconut and coffee flavors. In Miami, check out MIA Brewery where you can try the seasonal Moo Over Miami stout. There are plenty of brewery options in the area and I guarantee none will disappoint.

Looking for an outdoor family activity? Head south to Knaus Berry Farm.  Here you can pick strawberries, taste a delicious strawberry milkshake, and purchase some jam to bring home as souvenirs.

Overhead view of a bridge over the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway

Where to Enjoy the Holidays
Since South Florida is such a vacation destination, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor feasts, even on major holidays. In Fort Lauderdale, try Shooters Waterfront located on the Intracoastal Waterway. It offers great views and a vast array of dinner options, including a Thanksgiving buffet and an a la carte holiday menu. During the weekend brunch for the crab cake benedict and a frosé! If you are in Miami, check out Shuckers Waterfront Grill. The view of Biscayne Bay will take your breath away. They are known for their grilled wings, but honestly, the fish dip is more my speed – it’s fresh and tasty.

Horses racing at Gulfstream Park in Fort Lauderdale/Miami

If you are looking for a fun Thanksgiving Day, check out Gulfstream Park for some horse racing, shopping, and dining. Start the day around noon, betting on the ponies that speed by.  With your winnings, head to Frankey’s, where you can still bet on the races while enjoying all the other sporting events on the multiple TVs around the restaurant. Make sure to try the cucumber and jalapeno martini – it’s cooling with a kick. Also, try their Buffalo chicken mac and cheese – who said you have to have turkey on Thanksgiving?

A sunset over the beach through palm trees in Fort Lauderdale

One of the greatest things about fall in South Florida is that no matter where you go, the weather is enjoyable outside. There are so many restaurants and cafés in the area, and most of them offer outdoor seating. The good thing is that it’s not snowing, and it’s not one hundred degrees out. When you do come visit, make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to chill outside with a cold beverage or hot chocolate. Just promise not to laugh at us Floridians in our winter coats and Uggs!