FIVE TOP U.S. NATIONAL PARKS
Acadia National Park: Located on the middle southern coast of Maine near the popular tourist town of Bar Harbor, this is an ideal spot to experience the wild beauty of the state while having some of the best restaurants, hotels and shops available nearby. Make a point of getting up very early at least once during your visit here, so you can experience the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Most people prefer to drive to the summit, but if you are feeling particularly ambitious, there are walking trails as well. Be sure to get here early, especially during the summer and early fall, as it is a popular tourist spot and it can become crowded.
Badlands National Park: Located in South Dakota, this gorgeous park incorporates over 240,000 acres of prairies and impressive buttes and pinnacles rising towards the skies. This place overlaps with the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is subsequently held sacred to the Lakota tribe. It is the home of a number of caves as well as multiple species of wildlife, from the majestic bison to badgers, bighorn sheep and even bobcat and coyotes! Life is ancient here, as is evidenced by the many prehistoric fossils which have been discovered in the area.
Everglades National Park: Otherwise known as the River of Grass, this natural wonder located in Florida encompasses and protects the largest tropical wilderness in all of the United States! Encompassing a huge area of wetland flowing out from Lake Okeechobee, this is the home to many endangered species of birds, along with marine life, including manatees. The mangrove and cypress swamps here are a sight to behold as well, as many of them are well over a hundred years old! While there is no shortage of wildlife tours to partake in, be sure to make time to visit Shark Valley, which offers guided tram tours around an area that allows a safe way to experience up close encounters with gators, great blue herons and many other protected species! If you work up an appetite while you are in the area, be sure to stop in Everglades City at the Camellia Street Grill for some of the best stone crab dishes in the state, as well as simpler selections like a fresh, flaky grouper sandwich!
Glacier National Park: This picturesque park is spread out over 1,500 square miles of Montana’s breathtaking Rocky Mountain range. Running parallel to the Canadian border, this spectacular area park has a stark contrast between soaring glacial peaks and pristine valleys, along with a plethora of wildlife, including grizzly bears and mountain goats! If you are into outdoor activities, there is plenty of hiking trails to cover here rated for everything from novice to expert. If you prefer to take in the sights in a more leisurely manner, make a point of traveling the Going to the Sun Road. This fifty-mile expanse has portions that are open year- round, yet a great deal of it closes during the winter, so be sure to plan ahead. Here you can access Logan’s Pass, which is the highest point of elevation on the road as well as many other picturesque scenic outlooks.
Grand Canyon National Park: There is truly nowhere else in the world like this ancient and massive geological formation located in Arizona. One of the most visited National Parks in the entire country, the steep, massive canyon spanning the Colorado River is largely considered to be one of the modern wonders of the natural world. The more popular south rim is open year-round, complete with guided tours that are well-worth the money and time. While the north and west rims are also worth exploring, if you only have a day or two, the south rim is definitely the place to be. Book a hotel in either Flagstaff, New Mexico or Sedona, Arizona for a clean place to stay and numerous dining options before embarking on a tour in the morning.
La Barbecue: (2027 E Cesar Chavez Street) In a town that is synonymous with delicious barbecue on every street, this place remains an understated yet unquestionably satisfying staple. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 – 6:00, this isn’t place for late night fare, but if you are seeking a late lunch, there is nowhere better to grab a taste of some of the best barbecue in the entire city. You can order everything from turkey, brisket and pulled pork platters that are priced by the pound to a jalapeno sausage or chopped beef sandwich. Be sure to get a side of their house made pickles as a perfect accompaniment to nearly any dish on the menu.
Clark’s Oyster Bar: (1200 W 6th Street) This upscale eatery offers spectacularly fresh seafood selections amongst a beautiful setting, offering seating both indoors and out. Obviously, this is the place to go if you are a fan of raw oysters, but even if you are just into delicious seafood, you can’t go wrong with stopping here for lunch or dinner. There is even an impressive selection of caviar available, as well as fresh salads and inventive cocktails.
FUN PLACES TO EAT IN AUSTIN
BEST BURGERS IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
Top Notch Hamburgers: (7525 Burnet Road) This classic burger joint is mind-blowing in its delicious simplicity. Since 1971, its charcoal-grilled patties have attracted tourists and locals alike. The majority of the plates here go by a number, so be sure to study the menu before ordering. The number two is a simple yet unreal cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, while the number seven is topped with a simple mix of grilled onions and hickory sauce. There is a delicious veggie burger option available as well as a grilled cheese or fresh fish sandwich available for those with various dietary restrictions.
Best Ideas while Visiting Paris
The Eiffel Tower: It is interesting to think that the most famous landmark in Paris was never intended to be a permanent structure. Originally built as a temporary attraction for the World’s Fair in 1889, it was a valuable site for military transmissions, which saved it from demolition until it established itself as a famous landmark and bustling tourist attraction. Take an elevator to the top for a panoramic view of Paris, but be sure to come back and marvel at the tower at night, when thousands of lights illuminate it in its full glory!
BEST SITES IN PARIS, FRANCE
The Notre Dame Cathedral: Located alongside the Seine River was built in the 10th century, and is widely regarded as one of the best Gothic-style cathedrals in the entire world. While you can find beautiful statues and impressive architecture simply by wandering around, taking the nearly 400 step long journey to the top affords for some of the best views of the city you will find anywhere! The crypt is open to viewers as well, yet be warned that this is a famous attraction, so you want to come early or else prepare yourself for sizable lines.
The Pere-Lachaise Cemetery: This is the largest cemetery in the city, and one of the most beautiful in the world as well. Boasting over 100 acres, the place is full of lush green vegetation and gorgeous cobblestone paths along with three separate memorials dedicated to World War One. Before you venture into the grounds, be sure to grab a map, as you will want to know where to find some of the cemetery’s most famous residents, including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin, Gertrude Stein and Oscar Wilde!
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN PARIS
Le Cinq: Located in the Four Seasons Hotel at 31 Avenue George V, this place is a Michelin Star rated French restaurant that is the absolute epitome of rich, flavorful food and an exquisite dining experience. While it is certainly not the most wallet-friendly suggestion, the overall package here makes the expense well worth it, as you are not only treated to out of this world food and drink selections, you also have the added bonus of receiving impeccable service in an elegantly gorgeous environment. Begin your meal with the shelled spider crab or sorrel sorbet before moving onto one of their signature entrée dishes, such as sea bass paired with buttermilk and caviar or a grilled and glazed pigeon served with olive cream and mashed turnips! For those with a sweet tooth, be sure to end the experience with the crunch coffee mousse along with a classic cappuccino.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SAN FRANCISCO
Alcatraz Island: Located over a mile off-shore in San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is an island just over two acres that originally served as the sight for the first lighthouse and fort to be erected on the West Coast. It’s most famous role in history was becoming the nation’s first maximum security prison. This place served as a federal penitentiary from 1934 – 1963, housing infamous prisoners such as Al Capone. As the island was surrounded by open water with a healthy shark population, the prison never experienced a successful prisoner escape. Shortly after the prison was shut down, Native American activists occupied the island for nearly two years. Recently, Alcatraz has become a must-see spot for anyone visiting San Francisco. Taking a guided tour is worth the extra expense here, as you will learn about everything from the history of the island to exploring a chance to experience an encounter with one of the many spirits that is rumored to remain behind the prison’s walls!
Fisherman’s Wharf: One of the most popular spots for tourist to visit, this area encompasses the northern end of San Francisco’s historic waterfront district. This is the home of Pier 39, which is where some of the most exciting attractions can be found, including The Aquarium of the Bay, arcades and plenty of shopping and dining options. This is also an excellent opportunity to spot sea lions, who rest upon the docks and even the shoreline! Another popular option is visiting Ghirardelli Square, which served as the manufacturing plant for Ghirardelli chocolates for approximately seventy years. Today, it is a mecca for shopping, including stores such as Mashka Jewelry and Vom Tass. If you can eat at only one place while exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, make is Scoma’s. With their “pier to plate” philosophy, it is at once an excellent spot to enjoy incredibly fresh seafood while still maintaining a relaxed, less formal pretense. For lunch, you can’t beat the open-faced albacore tuna melt while the dinner menu offers a delicious lobster bisque or clam chowder. The Prawns Annuzzi are a particular favorite amongst customers as a main course, as is the Oyster a la Scoma.
The Golden Gate Bridge: This fabulous, bright orange suspension bridge is probably the most iconic landmark associated with the city of San Francisco. Opened in 1937, the 1.7-mile-long bridge connects San Francisco with the Marin counties of Northern California. With towers reaching almost 750 feet tall, this is a prime tourist destination, attracting more than ten million visitors each year! While it may seem silly to visit a bridge, there is far more to the Golden Gate than can be seen simply by driving or walking over the bridge. The visitors center is a valuable resource for learning about the history of the bridge and the area surrounding it, while there are guided tours available as well! If you are planning on walking across the bridge, please be sure the pay attention to the weather forecast, as rain, fog and chilly conditions can make the excursion far less exciting!
Union Square: Heralded as the most frequently visited neighborhood in the entire city, this place can be rightfully named the Rodeo Drive of Northern California. Here, you will find a wide array of high-end stores boasting top designer names such as Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vitton and Valentino. During the milder months, the outdoor cafes here are a spectacular spot for relaxing and people-watching! The Rotunda Café located at the fourth level of Neiman Marcus is a must visit area for anyone seeking to break up the day of shopping with a delicious meal located in a polished setting. They are only open for lunch, but what a lunch you will have here! An impressive wine list pairs with signature cocktail options such as the gorgeous Mary or blackberry julep, leading to lobster fries or a shrimp and crab cocktail as a beginning to a wonderful culinary experience. For the main attraction, the crab and shrimp Louie salad is out of this world, as is the lobster club and Dungeness crab melt!
Committee: (50 Northern Ave, Boston, Massachusetts) A delicious alternative to the classic concoction, the Bloody Marietta is the Mediterranean version of the cocktail, offering a distinct Greek-inspired spin. The mix is infused with everything from olive oil, basil, oregano and olive tapenade before being garnished with spicy feta stuffed olives! The perfect accompaniment to their out of this world breakfast gyro, the pairing is a match made in culinary heaven you will not soon forget!
Lola: (1575 Boulder St, Denver, Colorado) This popular restaurant serves authentic Mexican food with a gourmet flair seven nights a week for dinner, yet locals know that the best time to experience this place is to come for brunch on the weekends. Alongside such comforting morning dishes as Horchata Pancakes and Green Chili Huevos, their Ultimate Bloody Mary is well worth waiting all week for! Known for its intense level of spiciness, the accompaniments are just as fiery as the drink itself, including a chilled shrimp poached in chili sauce coupled with spicy, pickled asparagus that will ensure you start your day invigorated!
The Nook: (1144 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia) Start your morning with their signature cocktail, the Bloody Best, which combines 32 ounces of perfectly spiced mix combined with vodka that is all designed to be happily slurped from a hollowed-out beef straw! As is the case with most killer Bloody Marys, the magic here is in the toppings, which include the standard lemon, lime, jalapenos and pepperoncini’s, yet this spot goes a step farther by including a piece of buttered toast, freshly cooked tater tots and even a skewer of flavorful steak!
BEST BLOODY MARY NEAR ME
The Public House: (3355 Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada) Located deep within the casino at the Venetian lies this gem that prides itself on top-notch food as well as an enormous beer and cocktail selection. While there are three separate recipes to choose from, you can’t go wrong with the Cerdo Picante Bloody Mary! Simple yet deliciously paired, the bacon and jalapeno infused vodka is the star of the show here, perfectly complimented by the house mix and garnished with olives and a chilled shrimp!
The Ruby Slipper: (1005 Canal St, New Orleans, Louisiana) This place is a popular spot for enjoying a morning libation. While you can elect for the delicious classic Bloody Mary, the Ruby Slipper has a bacon infused version that is absolutely out of this world. A perfect balance of smokiness and tang, a thick piece of perfectly cooked bacon and a skewer of spicy green beans completes the masterpiece.
The Small Bar: (4628 Park Blvd, San Diego, California) Voted the Best Bloody Mary in America by Huffington Post, the Bloody Mary Superior is a classic, tasty example by which all other versions of the drink are measured. The ingredients are simple yet classic – house made mix, chili-garlic infused vodka, a splash of steak sauce and some Guinness thrown in for good measure. From there, they pile on the fixings, which include everything from the classic skewer of olives topped with bacon and shrimp along with less familiar treats, such as pickled green beans and marinated mushrooms. For just $8.00, you can combat your hangover with the holy grail of Bloody Marys, accompanied by a complimentary bag of pork rinds!
Sunda: (110 West Illinois St, Chicago, Illinois) This charming eatery prides itself on blending Asian influences with a modern, artistic flair. Be sure to sample their Sumo Mary, which blends a deliciously spicy mixture combined with vodka and paired with all sorts of authentic Asian toppings. From the perfectly prepared lumpia, duck bao and Chinese pickles accompanied by pork belly, and of course, bacon, this is one of the most deliciously unusual takes on the classic drink you will find anywhere!
Explore Central Park: Boasting over 840 acres of trees, shrubs, playgrounds, sculptures and much more, Central Park is the most frequently visited urban park in the entire United States! The Central Park Zoo delights visitors of all ages with its popular sea lion pool coupled with other exotic animals, such as lions and wolves, while the Conservatory Garden provides viewers with floral displays encompassing French, Italian and English styles. The 11-foot tall sculpture of Alice in Wonderland perched atop a mushroom accompanied by the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter is a favorite stop for children, as is the Bethesda Fountain, which features an angel blessing a pool of water. Central Park is home to the Tavern on the Green, one of the cities most famous and largely-renowned restaurants. While you will want to be sure to make a reservation, dining here is an absolutely unforgettable experience. Start your evening with a watermelon salad paired with feta cheese and crispy prosciutto followed by a pan roasted salmon for a meal that will make you understand why this place has been so popular since its 1934 opening!
Get Educated: New York City is home to a number of impressive museums and many excellent art galleries. Spend the day perusing the wonders that are housed in the American Museum of Natural History, or visit the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, which boasts masterpieces collected from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and countless other places! Of course, no NYC museum crawl is complete without stopping by the Guggenheim, which houses pieces from some of the world’s most famous artists, including Pablo Picasso and Norman Rockwell.
Pay Your Respects: On September 11th, 2001, the entire country stood in a state of shock and grief as the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers became the focal point of the deadliest terrorist attack ever to occur on American soil. Located in the precise spot where the twin towers fell, this reflecting pool framed by waterfalls stands as a stoic, beautiful tribute to the 3,000 souls that were lost at ground zero, along with the additional 125 who were killed at the Pentagon and over 200 that perished in one of the four plane crashes that day.
BEST FOOD IN NEW YORK CITY
Indulge in Authentic Deli: The Jewish deli is nearly synonymous with authentic New York cuisine. While there are thousands of wannabes lining the streets, the absolute authority is Katz Deli, which has been operating since 1888! This place serves the best corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, coupled with a simple squirt of brown mustard and accompanied by a kosher dill pickle spear. The matzo-ball soup is also out of this world, as is the square potato knish!
See a Show on Broadway: The absolute epitome of American theatre, catching a play or musical on Broadway is a must-do for anyone into the entertainment scene. Located near the hustle and bustle of Times Square, be sure to check the calendar for up to date information on performances!
What to See and Do in Richmond, Virginia
American Civil War Museum: The ultimate must-see location to learn about the Civil War, this place is at once sobering and fascinating. Richmond served as the Capital of the Confederate States during the War Between the States, and the city was heavily damaged by Union forces multiple times. The American Civil War Museum contains a huge variety of artifacts and paraphernalia which dates back to this pivotal point in American History, making it the primary authority on Confederate history!
Edgar Allan Poe Musuem: Known as the master of the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston on January 19th, 1809. At the tender age of two, he was placed in the custody of foster parents in Richmond, Virginia, who served as the primary adult influences in his childhood and young adulthood, in spite of the fact that he was never formally adopted by the Allan’s. The Poe museum, which was once the home of the beloved horror poet and story teller contains a number of unusual artifacts to peruse, as well as handwritten editions of some of his most famous works!
Virginia State Capitol Building: This stark- white, pillared building is largely considered to be one of the prettiest capitol buildings in the entire nation. Partially designed by founding father Thomas Jefferson, the layout was based on the Maison Carrée Temple in Nice, France, and carries much of the Old-World elegance in its exterior and interior design. Take advantage of the free guided tour, and be sure to visit at least a few of the Civil War monuments located in nearby Capitol Square!
Places To Eat in Richmond, Virginia
Kuba Kuba: Serving some of the most delicious Cuban fare in the city, this is a no-frills eatery where you select your food from a giant chalkboard located at the front. In spite of the unadorned, somewhat hectic atmosphere, this is the place to go if you are looking for a Caribbean spin on breakfast, lunch or dinner. Featuring everything from eggs with Cuban toast and a classic Cuban sandwich, they offer a number of deliciously authentic dinner choices as well, including the classic ropa veija, which features marinated flank steak paired with rice and plantains.
The Roosevelt: Located in Church Hill, the oldest neighborhood in the city, this place prides itself on supplying classic, uncorrupted Southern cuisine. You can begin with a light entrée of chilled cucumber and avocado soup, or if you are looking for a more substantial starter, the smoked chicken wings are absolutely out of this world! For entrees, you can do no better than the soft-shell crabs sautéed with tomatoes or a roasted pork shoulder served with black eyed peas and fresh fennel salad.
Spoonbread Bistro: Not only is this restaurant located in Richmond’s historic fan district, it also boasts some of the most well-loved staples of Southern cuisine coupled with a distinctive, elegant French flair! For those looking for a cure for the morning hangover, a breakfast cupcake composed of whisked eggs, bacon, tater tots, ham and swiss cheese is absolutely unparalleled. For dinner, you will want to be sure to taste the braised short ribs and rosemary-infused grits before moving onto one of the main courses, such as seabass cooked with lemon and shallots served with the infamous white truffle spoonbread, or their signature dish, the Cat Sea Pig. This is an unlikely yet delicious combination that pairs catfish and sea scallops wrapped in bacon, which are then finished with a rich tomato sauce coupled with rosemary grits and fresh Brussel sprout for a culinary combination that is out of this world!
Best Cuban Restaurants in the United States
Cuba Cuba Café and Bar: If you ever find yourself in Denver, be sure to stop by this unique location which will make you feel as though you have been transported to the islands in the middle of the mountain scenery! You can elect to sit inside or on the bustling patio, where you can sit back and enjoy a variety of creative rum cocktails while listening to the upbeat salsa music that is always in the air. Offering live music on Saturday nights and a mojito happy hour Monday-Thursday, it is no wonder why this spot has become a favorite amongst Denver’s young professional crowd. There are the classic appetizers such as plantain chips coupled with guacamole or fresh ceviche, yet if you are only going to eat one thing here, make it the camarones al coco. This dish translates to shrimp with coconut in English, and while it may seem like an odd combination, the perfect pairing of seared shrimp with fresh coconut milk, garlic, ginger and peppers is the very definition of soul food.
Pambiche: Portland, Oregon is certainly not first city that comes to mind when you think authentic Cuban food, however, this place prides itself on serving delicious Cuban recipes that have been in the Maribona family for many generations. With its funky décor and friendly vibe, this is a wonderful option for sharing some insanely good food with friends and family. The brunch menu is centered around cage-free, fresh egg dishes such as Cuban French toast or rice and eggs. Be sure to sample a cup of café con leche, a traditional morning drink made from expresso topped with steamed milk. If you are stopping for lunch, you will want to try the Plato Cubano, which consists of seasoned pork shoulder coupled with rice and beans, while dinner selections range from braised oxtail to chicken cooked in a creole herb gravy. Be sure to save room for one of their famous cookies for desert!
Pilar Cuban Eatery: Located in Brooklyn, New York, this hip restaurant is a favorite amongst those seeking authentic Cuban cuisine with a modern twist! Start your morning with a classic breakfast empanada consisting of scrambled eggs, cheese and a choice of chorizo or maduros (fried plantains) coupled with a cup of strong Cuban coffee, or refuel yourself mid-day with the lunch sampler, which includes a cup of soup as well as an empanada, croquette and delicious Cuban salad! If you come here for dinner, be sure to take advantage of their extensive cocktail menu, which includes everything from the classic dark and stormy to daquiris and a passionfruit and mango mojito! A wonderful place to meet up with friends, begin your meal with Cuban nachos (plantains, black beans, pickled onion and red pepper sauce) before selecting from a number of mouthwatering entrees, including rotisserie chicken or ropa vieja, which is made from skirt steak combined with tomatoes, peppers and onions served with the classic combination of beans and rice.
Versailles Restaurant: Heralded as the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant, this gem is strategically located on Calle Ocho in Little Havana in Miami, Florida. This place first opened in 1971 and it remains in the same family to this day! A popular gathering spot for Cuban exiles and tourists alike, the focus here is on serving authentic, classic Cuban dishes at a price that is accessible to everyone. Open from 8 am until 1:00 am, this is a perfect spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-night snack! Specialties here include ceviche tropical, shrimp au gratin and oxtail stew, yet if you are looking for the ultimate experience, order the Versailles Especial, a hearty sandwich made from sweet ham, roast pork, sausage and swiss cheese topped with mustard and pickles and piled high onto perfectly toasted Cuban bread.
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