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Things To Do Deep In The Heart Of Texas

The Southern states in America have such a wide range of culture that it is hard to chose where to go. New Mexico has Spanish colonial architecture with a Hispanic culture. California is mostly associated with Hollywood, but it has roots in the cultures of Spain, Asia, Mexico, and the Eastern United States. But the one state you should really try to visit is the Lone Star State. Texas is a big area – about the size of most of Europe – so you’re better off choosing one city to explore during your visit. Here are a few hot destinations to help you narrow down your choices.

 

Austin

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If you’re a fan of music, Austin is a great place to tick off your bucket list as it’s the live music capital of the world; there are roughly 200 live music venues that you can catch a show at pretty much any day at any time, either at popular venues like the Moody Theatre, or downtown in hole-in-the-wall bars like The Continental Club on South Congress. Austin is also home to the largest urban population of bats in North America, estimated at 1.5 million bats. Each night, from mid-March to November, the bats emerge from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk to blanket the sky as they head out to forage for food. Surprisingly, it’s become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Texas.

 

Mt Pleasant & Titus Country

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See the naturally beautiful side of Texas at Mt Pleasant & Titus Country. The pristine lakes, mountains, and preserved nature trails get visitors away from the hustle and bustle of city life that some have come to associate with Texas. Starting your day at magnificent hotels like the Super 8 Mount Pleasant, you could choose to go down to the lakes and indulge in some fishing, sunbathing, swimming, or hiking, or you could book a visit to Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards. Here, you can enjoy even more spectacular views, an extensive Tapas menu, and during the late summer you are welcome to join in the fun of harvesting the grapes. Mt Pleasant is also known for its great fresh produce, which you can buy at the local farmer’s market. It’s just the kind of country retreat that the doctor ordered.

 

Houston

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A vibrant culture scene awaits anyone who makes a stop in Houston; not only is it home to the NASA Johnson Space Center, but so many fascinating museums that you probably won’t see anywhere else. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the closest you’ll get to visiting Jurassic Park, especially since when you see features like the Stegosaurus and a gigantic T-Rex in the 30,000-square-foot Hall of Paleontology. Houston also caters to even the most eclectic fashion senses, with clothing stores that specialise in authentic, vintage cowboy boots, as well as stores that feature designer labels like Lanvin, Stella McCartney and Valentino.

All the places in Texas offer a unique experience, so try ticking a few off your bucket list.  

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The 2 Sides of Hoover Dam

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Did you know that Hoover Dam is between Arizona and Nevada? Yes it is. I only came to know when we visited few days ago. All I know is that Hoover Dam is a very famous landmark in Boulder City, Nevada. It was built around 1931 and completed 5 years later.  After visiting the famous attraction, I learned that the Hoover Dam spans from one end of Nevada and the other end of Arizona.

 

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(The Hoover Dam from the Arizona side and behind is the Memorial Bridge)

 

We drove from our hotel in Las Vegas to Hoover Dam. The drive was approximately 45 minutes without any congestion. We even got lost and drove all the way to Arizona and had to turn back to reach the road towards the entry of the Hoover Dam gate.

 

We crossed the Hoover Dam and parked our car on the Arizona side. The view was spectacular! We walked towards the sign board that indicated that we were in Arizona already. The road uphill after the state sign has more views of Hoover Dam and the surroundings. And I find them very beautiful despite of the very hot and humid weather that day.

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The water was a bit low when we visited but there were still some small sailboats sailing by beyond the buoys. We took some pictures from the upper road that has a balcony ledge on the side of the dam. After that, we went back to the car and drove to the other side, which is the Nevada side and parked in the car park.

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If you are visiting the Hoover Dam for the first time, it has a small restaurant and a merchandise/souvenir shop near the entrance, and car park. Few meters away from the shop is the Spillway House which was originally built in 1987. It was rebuilt last 2013 and has been set to house events for a beautiful vista of the Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead. All these are in the Nevada side of the dam.

 

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I just wished that the weather was not very extreme as there was a heatwave at the time of our visit. We weren’t able to cross the Memorial Bridge.

I don’t recall every paying for entrance when we entered and cross the Hoover Dam. The only fee we paid for was the parking.

 

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(This is in the Nevada side as you enter The Hoover Dam)

 

This is a perfect place to visit when you are already in The Strip in Las Vegas due to its proximity. You can either join a tour organized by your hotel or pre-booked with a tour operator of your choice. You may also drive there on your own if you don’t want to follow a rigid timing and want to explore at your own pace. You can check the web for directions on how to get there coming from The Strip of anywhere in the US if you are driving. However, consider traffic and weather conditions too when visiting. We could have stayed longer if it wasn’t from the high temperature. It is still a very memorable experience!

Address: Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, NV 89156

 

 

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Our US Summer Vacation 2017

Posted in personal, US trip, USA, vacation
on September 5, 2017

I told myself that I will not travel during summer time because it is very difficult to deal with the heat especially if I am already coming from a very hot and humid country. Last year, we also spent a brief summer vacation in the US, and this time again, we decided to stay in Riverside at my aunt’s place for almost two weeks. And yes, I travelled again this summer.

I am not sure why harsh weather conditions follow us. If you are following my blog, you’ll know we were stuck in New York for few days during Hurricane Sandy, and this time around, there was a heat wave during the whole time we were in LA. There was also Hurricane Katrina but it was in Texas. US is so big that you don’t feel the adverse weather conditions in Texas if you are in California because it was just hot, hot, hot! However, hubby and I still had fun with our relatives and friends in California. It was like a mini-reunion of sorts of family and friends from Dubai who are now in the US.

The vacation as a whole is really fun. We got to treat our dear Aunt to Las Vegas. It isn’t the first time for us to visit Las Vegas so there was certainly not walking along The Strip at night due to the very hot weather. We just stayed in the hotel most of the time, drove to Hoover Dam, played at the casino, and relaxed in the room.

The entire vacation was really what I wanted except for the weather. It would have been the perfect get-away it if wasn’t for the heat wave. I hope, the next vacation will be this Thanksgiving. It will be nice to celebrate it with family and friends.

Until next vacation!

 

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Fancy Getting Wet And Wild In Florida?

Posted in beaches, holidays, travel, travel tips, US
on September 5, 2017

Thousands of people choose Florida as the ideal destination for a beach holiday each year. And, with hundreds of miles of beaches and famously good weather, it’s easy to see why. If you’re after white sand and blue sea, this destination won’t disappoint.

But, it would be doing Florida a disservice to assume that the water filled fun stops there. In truth, this destination offers a lot more than that for those who are after a wet and wild holiday. In fact, a little research will reveal that Florida has some amazing water related activities to try out. To give you an idea, we’re going to look at a few of them here.



Aquatica, Orlando

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We couldn’t write this without mentioning water parks. In all honesty, you’ll be spoilt for choice here. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that there are endless water parks in this destination. Would we expect any less?

But, today we’re going to focus on Aquatica, Seaworld Orlando’s water park. To see why this was the best pick for this list, you only have to look at rides such as the Dolphin Plunge. Not only do you get the thrill of a fast paced water slide. You also get to glide through the enclosure of the park’s Commerson’s Dolphins. These creatures are playful by nature, and will often dart along with you. So, you get the water park fun, and the experience of underwater life to boot!



Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Sarasota

In keeping with the marine theme, you could head to Sarasota’s Mote Marine Lab, host to an incredible 135,000-gallon shark habitat. Here, you can witness ongoing research which is sure to give you a real in-depth perspective. Plus, you can book up to enjoy fun activities, such as a shark encounter, or even your own breakfast with sharks. With amazing accommodation like the Regency Inn & Suites only 15 minutes away, there’s no excuse not to pay this place a visit. For keen marine enthusiasts, it’s an absolute must.


Neptune Memorial Reef, Key Biscayne

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For something a little more unexpected,  head to the Neptune Memorial Reef in Key Biscayne. This art piece, designed by Florida local Kim Brandell, is an underwater world unlike any other. This piece is a Neptune Society sponsored cemetery and forms a natural reef underwater. Swimming around the 16-acre site may chill your bones a little, but it’s something you won’t forget in a hurry. If you’ve always wanted to see a city underwater, now is your chance.



Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

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Your water filled stay wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the world’s largest freshwater swimming pool. The Venetian Pool is the only pool listed in the National Historic Register, and was formed out of a coral rock quarry in 1924. This amazing spectacle has a natural filter system which refills the pool daily. As well as being an amazing sight to see, a swim here is sure to be one for your history books.

 

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Beyond Orlando: Non-Theme Park Attractions In Florida

Posted in travel, travel guide, travel ideas, travel tips, US, US trip, USA
on July 31, 2017

Families and young people usually love traveling to Florida for one big reason; the theme parks in Orlando. Whether it’s Disney World or Harry Potter World, Orlando is a global attraction for fans of all ages. But there is more to Florida than thrilling rides and taking selfies with your favorite characters. Of course, there is nothing wrong with going to Florida purely to spend a few days in Universal Studios, or any of the other theme parks, but it would be a shame to miss out on all it has to offer.

 

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Hang out in the resort

It might seem a bit redundant to go somewhere new and just hand out in the resort, but sometimes staying in a resort is a vacation in and of itself. A resort differs from a hotel in that it attempts to provide for most of its guests’ needs on its premises; check out Resorts & Lodges to see what they can offer for your break from reality. Resorts typically not only offer lodging but also food, drink, sports, entertainment, and shopping onsite. There are many different types of resorts, from spa, golf, and ski resorts, to luxury and all-inclusive facilities. This is perfect if your aim is just to relax and recharge, but if you want to explore the sights, you’ll have to leave the premises.

Explore shipwrecks

If you want to venture off the beaten path, you can’t venture much further than America’s most remote and least visited National Park, Dry Tortugas. Juan Ponce de Leon first stumbled upon this stretch of islands in 1513. It served as a shipping point soon after, but it was also the site of hundreds of shipwrecks. Fort Jefferson was built on the site in 1800, but it was abandoned in 1874, and was registered by President Roosevelt as a National Park in 1935. The park can only be reached by boat or seaplane, but the wrecks are magnificent sites to see while snorkeling.

Kennedy Space Centre

Whether you’re a history or science buff, or you used to dream of going to space when you were a kid, the Kennedy Space Centre is worth visiting while you’re in Florida. The Centre is around 140,000 acres, but fortunately you are taken on a tour by bus. You could even get tickets for the scheduled rocket launches if you want to experience that first hand. Who knows, maybe if you bring your kids with you they’ll be inspired to become an astronaut.

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Duval Street, Key West

Duval Street, found at the end of the Key West islands, is best known for its Caribbean charms and beautifully renovated buildings. With bars and pubs lining the streets, music of all genres spills out onto the sidewalk, inviting you to come on in and kick up your heels. Be sure to stop at the Green Parrot Bar, a legendary dive bar which has been drawing in crowds since it opened in the late 1890s.

What will you discover in Florida?

 

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Experience The Wild Side Of North Carolina

From the Appalachian mountains in the west to the rugged coastline of the east, North Carolina is a state of extremes and well worth exploring. Whichever season that you choose to visit, North Carolina will provide you with the most stunning vistas. The active holidaymaker has a wealth of options at their disposal including hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding or deep sea fishing to name but a few. If you’re after a vacation that will see you experiencing the joys of nature, take a look at these ideas that will get you experiencing the wild side of North Carolina.

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Walking Is The Best Mode Of Transport

There is no better way to experience the clean, fresh air of this southern state than to walk. Not only does this save you money but you get to venture into areas that are inaccessible by vehicle. Some of the hikes aren’t for faint hearted. You’ll need a solid pair of walking boots and an above average level of fitness to complete some of the challenging trails. Make sure you do your research beforehand and choose the walk that is right for you.

Embark on a hike within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and you’ll venture through oak forests with an abundance of flora and fauna. You’ll have the chance to spot wildlife native to the area, and at the end of your hike, you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible view of Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls.

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Ocean Air

If the sea scented air is more your style, you could choose to hoist yourself up onto your trusty stallion and, depending on your level of skill, take a gentle wander down the beach or a thrill inducing gallop along the sand. There can’t be many life experiences that are more romantic than sunset horse ride along the coast.

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City Life

Although you’re keen to experience the lush forests, the historic national parks, and the striking mountain ranges, you need to think about where you will be basing yourself. For some of your vacation, it’s wise to think about resting your weary bones at a Comfort Inn based in town. This way, you’ll have a range of useful amenities on your doorstep and won’t be stuck for supplies, as well as being able to venture out into the wilds.

Don’t forget, within the more populated areas there are still some awesome sites of natural beauty. Airlie Gardens consists of a peaceful lake, giant oaks and seemingly neverending acres of relaxing walking opportunities. If you’re after something a little more laid back while still being outdoors, it’s a good idea to check out the green spaces that the town and cities have to offer.

 

So forget the lure of NYC and opt for the more adventurous NC to get your fix of the outdoor lifestyle. Pack your waterproofs, hiking boots, and rugged camera and start planning your trip to the beautiful state of North Carolina.

 

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Sampling The Delights of New Mexico

Across the country, there are few states that offer as much natural beauty and charm as New Mexico. While shows like Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul have focused their attention on the state’s vast arid deserts and sleepy suburbs, you have to see it to understand how grievously they do it a disservice. New Mexico is home to some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world, with breathtaking views that could give The Grand Canyon a run for its money. With some of the country’s most glorious national parks and two UNESCO World Heritage sites, there’s a damned good reason why they call it the land of enchantment.

Here are a few suggestions for enjoying this beautiful and diverse state.

Take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque

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There are few experiences that give you the unique and thrilling perspective of a balloon ride and Albuquerque balloon rides are a great way to view the diverse terrain New Mexico’s largest city. As the world slowly shrinks away beneath you, and you float into the Heavens it’s an incredibly meaningful experience alone or a moment of unparalleled romance if you’re riding with a partner. You’re sure to be awed by the silvery flourishes of the Rio Grande glistening in the sun and marvel at the magnificent Sandia Mountains.

 

Walk in the footsteps of the Pueblo peoples at Chaco canyon

Chaco Culture represents the synergy of ancient culture and national heritage about as well as any of the country’s best National Parks. Wandering through the remains of the ancient buildings at Chaco Canyon (the construction of which began in the mid-800s), the scale and complexity of the architecture is awe inspiring and humbling. Chaco’s unique architecture is uncommon for its time, because it was built according to a plan that pre-dates modern high rise apartment blocks.

When intact, the structures of Chaco consisted of hundreds of rooms, stacked several stories high. In fact right up until the 19th century, the buildings at Chaco held the record for being the largest in North America.

 

Be awed by the Bisti / De-Na-Zin badlands

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If you love to travel off the beaten track, then prepare to be dazzled by one of the most unique and beautiful locations on the planet. When you enter the 41,170 acres of this undiscovered treasure near to the Chaco National Park, looks like you’ve stepped off a spaceship onto the terrain of some vast and mysterious new planet.

Its geology is as diverse as it is stunning, alternating between grasslands and wondrously bizarre rock formations in a landscape of white, gray and red.

 

Plunge into the mystery of the Carlsbad caverns

When sulphuric acid dissolved in the limestone beneath the Chihuahuan desert, it resulted in these astonishing underground rock formations. A range of guided tours are available which are well worth considering, however we’d still recommend coming back just to meander at your own pace in the cool depths, marvelling at the incredible beauty and diversity of the caverns.

 

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