Things to See in Brooklyn: Special New York City Guide

This post was originally published as “Brooklyn Travel Guide” by IHG.

things to see in Brooklyn, New York City

The distinct culture, deep-rooted history and magnetic energy of Brooklyn make it one of the most beloved and revered destinations in America. Celebrated around the world for its big-city excitement and unique brand of authenticity, this buzzing New York City borough–the city’s most populous–constantly attracts visitors from around the globe, and you’ll find amazing hotels in Brooklyn to fit your travel needs.

Things to See in Brooklyn 

You should have no problem finding things to do in Brooklyn, an iconic destination that has inspired many of the world’s most famous citizens. As soon as you cross the East River on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll immediately know you’ve arrived in one of the world’s great cultural epicenters. This National Historic Landmark connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, and has been heralded in film, television and literature for generations. Visit the 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park for great Manhattan skyline views, public art installations, athletic fields and playgrounds for children and adults alike, and even a restored 1920s-era merry-go-round called “Jane’s Carousel.” For local history, see the four-story Brooklyn Historical Society building, where you can peruse archives of photography, newspapers and a large library of research from borough’s past. Other museums and family-friendly places to put on your must-see list include Prospect Park Zoo, New York Transit Museum, Waterfront Museum and Showboat Barge, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Coney Island Cyclone historic wooden roller coaster.

Ride an East River Ferry to get off your feet for awhile and see the city from the water. Or, head to Brighton Beach for a day in the sun and the chance to walk along the picturesque boardwalk. Nearby, Russian restaurants and bakeries serve up delicacies you’ll savor to the last bite. More delicious eats can be found on Smith Street, a hotspot for foodies and grumbling stomachs across the city.

Coney Island is another beach destination you won’t want to miss; it’s the widest beach in the area and boasts amusement rides and entertainment that will bring smiles to the young and the young at heart. Hear the soaring chorus of voices at the famous Brooklyn Tabernacle. Stroll the rolling hills of Green-Wood Cemetery, where you’ll find monuments and tombstones of a surprising number of famous figures.

For a full day of outdoor and cultural activity, head to Prospect Park where the Zoo, Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens all offer great ways to spend a few hours. The Brooklyn Museum is the second largest in New York and features artifacts that stretch from ancient Egyptians to modern day, while the Transit Museum, housed in a 1930’s subway station, has interesting displays all its own.

Brooklyn is also a hotspot for new residents of New York City. The neighborhood of Williamsburg has attracted an impressive array of new restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, and varying in cultural diversity. There are also many bars, lounges and performance venues where you can make unique discoveries to make your visit unforgettable.

Find the Best Hotels in Brooklyn

Your choices for Brooklyn Hotels range from rooms between culturally rich and trending neighborhoods to business-friendly establishments that put you close to downtown Manhattan, and many of the area’s central locations for business and government. You can expect around-the-clock amenities and services at many Brooklyn hotels, including 24-hour restaurants and room service, as well as all-day business center access.

Where to Stay in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Heights, the area’s oldest neighborhood, and downtown Brooklyn are usually preferred locations for business travelers looking to stay near Manhattan. Diverse neighborhoods like Fort Greene offer amazing architecture, reputable cafes, arts, entertainment and cultural experiences that put New York City’s reputation as a cultural melting pot on display.

The neighborhoods of Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights both offer boutiques and cafes, while Cobble Hill is worth walking through for the houses and neighborhood buzz alone. Williamsburg is the city’s creative hub, home to some of the best restaurants and most talented live entertainment. The nightlife here needs no introduction and party-goers won’t have to look far to find a cold drink and a bumping bass line.

How to Get to Brooklyn

The New York City metropolitan area is served by three key airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.  JFK, at just 11 miles distance, is the closest airport to Brooklyn. It offers convenient service to Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg and Bushwick via Air Train, with less than an hour of travel time. LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is 16 miles away from central Brooklyn. Taxi or private transportation services are advised to and from LaGuardia, as there is no direct public transportation into Brooklyn. Newark Liberty is 21 miles from Brooklyn, with arrival times usually within an hour using the Air Train, then the Path train or NJ Transit to either Penn Station, the World Trade Center or Manhattan’s 33rd Street. Another option is the Airport Express Bus which goes to subway-connected Manhattan locations like Grand Central Station, Bryant Park and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Unique Miami Brunches: My Top 5 Spots

On my last trip to Miami, I wanted to avoid Cuban cuisine. Nothing against my fellow Caribbean people, but I craved inventive food. Being the busy bees we are, my friend and I made it a point that weekend to find the most unique Miami brunches. So next time you plan a trip, head down to a Miami, Florida hotel, take in the sights, and explore the various food options the city has to offer. Take a look at our top five brunches in Miami with a twist.

Unique Miami Brunches Guide

Yardbird Southern Table

1600 Lenox Ave.

Yardbird’s brunch may seem traditional on the surface, but once you dig in, it’s a different story. Case in point: strawberry waffles with dulce de leche. Butter-and-honey biscuits with pepper jelly and 27-hour-brined crispy chicken, dredged in spices and flour. Thick house-cured, smoked pork belly bacon. Dozens of whiskey and bourbon pairings to choose from.

Chef Todd Harrington’s Southern menu is best sampled tapas-style, so pick several dishes for the table and enjoy. Brunch hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

GK Bistronomie

218 NW 25th St.

A unique Miami brunch affair awaits at this Peruvian bistro in Wynwood. GKB, as it is affectionately known, is the perfect spot for lengthy girl talks thanks to the unlimited $24 Billette Rosé from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Sunday. Other items that stand out from the new à la carte brunch include pulled pork quinoa with fried egg, softshell crab Benedict, and guava-mascarpone-stuffed French toast.


Inside Fontainebleau Resort, 4441 Collins Ave.

Brunch at this four-diamond award-winning Miami Beach spot is more of a huge lunch than a breakfast. I guess it depends on who you ask.

Western meal classifications aside, Hakkasan’s weekend prix fixe is a steal at $28 per person. Available between 12 and 2:45 p.m., it includes two dim sum baskets (crisp and steamed), choice of an entrée, a vegetable, a plate of either rice or noodles, and dessert. You’ll feel like a dumpling yourself once you happily roll out of there.

Unique Brunches in Miami Guide

Batch Gastropub

30 SW 12th St.

One of the most casual brunches in Miami does not veer far from the traditional, but some of its dishes are unique enough to make it to my list. Batch’s crown jewel in my book is the Mac Attack ($12), delicate gnocchi smothered in aged Gruyère cheese and sprinkled with “Dorito dust.” The list of add-ons for this unique macaroni and cheese dish is equally impressive. Pick from grilled or fried chicken, hanger steak, pulled pork, shrimp, pecanwood-smoked bacon, pork belly, whiskey caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, a farm egg, corn, rosemary fries, and truffle oil.

Midtown Oyster Bar

3301 NE 1st Ave., Suite 103-1

This Midtown Miami brunch is all about the Benedicts. Midtown Oyster Bar has three kinds, including buttery Maine lobster, Norwegian smoked salmon with capers, and Alaskan crab meat with asparagus. All arrive paired with spongy English muffins, runny poached eggs, and that thick hollandaise sauce to create the epitome of a good ol’ brunch.

Not a Benedict lover? Then their $25 bottomless mimosas and sparkling rosé may do the trick for you.

Whether your ideal brunch includes unlimited mimosas or hearty food, none of these unique Miami brunches will disappoint you. Plan your Sunshine State getaway today!

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Unique Miami Brunches Guide

Hipmunk Hotels: Budget Stays In The South

This post was first published on Samantha En Route blog on May 21, 2016 by Samantha

budget stays in the South, Gulf Coast beach

Photo by Esther Levy on

Huntsville, AL

There are few major attractions in Huntsville, AL, including the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Alabama Constitution Village. Being a low-tourist city means that pricing for accommodation is relatively low year-round. The La Quinta Inn Huntsville Space Center has rates starting at around $50 per night (where guests can enjoy a pool, complimentary Wi-Fi, and free breakfast), while the Huntsville Knights Inn starts at $44 per night and includes free breakfast. Boutique and charming hotels, such as the Embassy Suites Huntsville Hotel & Spa and the Homewood Suites by Hilton Huntsville are also available at around $110 per night.

Tuscaloosa, AL

Off the beaten track and not one of the more famous southern cities that draw travelers, Tuscaloosa, AL still has plenty to offer tourists with its up-and-coming feel in the form of live music, events, museums, and more. Many cheaper accommodations also exist, such as Home-Town Suites Tuscaloosa for around $54 per night, Days Inn Suites for around $58 per night, and even the Hampton Tuscaloosa East for around $94 per night. Since Tuscaloosa is becoming a bigger tourist city in the summer, it’s recommended to visit after the peak season to avoid any crowds.

Hot Springs Village, AR

Jacuzzi-goers will love a weekend getaway to Hot Springs Village, AR, where tourists can take in the city’s natural hot springs on Bathhouse Row or even enjoy it pumped directly to their hotel. To continue basking in the outdoors, fishing and boating are also popular activities in the area. Many accommodations are more than budget-friendly, including the Economy Inn Hot Springs at $43 per night, the Shamrock Motel at $58 per night, the Best Western Winners Circle Inn at around $77 per night, and even AirBnB accommodations at $100 per night or less for a simple room.

Little Rock, AR

Being one of the northernmost southern cities means that Little Rock, AR will have a mild climate year-round, perfect for touring. Most tourists visit in the fall to see the autumn colors. Cheap accommodations are abundant in the city, including the Rodeway Inn and Suites, the La Quinta Inn Little Rock West Medical Center, the Comfort Inn West, and the Courtyard Inn Little Rock West, which have rates from $50-$80 per night. Airbnb rooms average $83 per night and can even go down to $20 for a simple overnight spot.

Pompano Beach, FL

Fly directly into Fort Lauderdale from many US destinations and rent a car to the lesser-known Pompano Beach, FL. With great beaches and Florida sunshine but less popular than its more famous neighboring cities, beach-goers can often find a great deal to stay within a budget. The Budget Lodge runs for about $100 and the Executive Economy Lodge typically is about $80 per night. Airbnb rentals average about $50 per night or less, while higher-end properties are still on the less expensive side at around $200 or less, such as at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort and Spa.

Redington Beach, FL Video: My Birthday Weekend + Local Tips

A Monday is even worse when you have just returned from your birthday weekend at the beach! I came back from one of my favorite beaches in the entire State of Florida, Redington Beach, yesterday. SO! Today, I’m going to share the short-and-sweet video I filmed at one of the beaches there last Saturday.

I just turned 29 on June 25th, by the way. Can’t believe it… I remember so clearly my first summer in Europe before I turned 18..

That was 11 YEARS ago. Absolutely insane how time flies after high school!

Redington Beach, Florida Video: My Birthday Shot!

The more I visit these beaches in Pinellas County, Florida, the deeper I fall in love with them. Sandwiched between the larger, ever-crowded Clearwater and St. Petersburg beaches, the small stretch made up by Redington Beach, Redington Shores, and North Redington Beach have captured my heart thanks to their local vibes.

Entertainment pricing and ample FREE parking, though, are the 2 huge pros that keep making me come back to for more.

It doesn’t matter which of the 3 Redingtons you choose: it’s hard to tell the difference between them, to be honest. You seamlessly go from one to the other, finding several family-owned businesses of outstanding value and quality sprinkled between the 3.

My Top Redington Beach Tips for Travelers

Again, all 3 Redingtons are so close together that these tips apply to Redington Beach and travelers in the vicinity.

Sunset at Redington Shores: one of Florida's best beaches

Top Spot for Happy Hour and Early Bird Specials: Seabreeze Island Grill

17855 Gulf Boulevard
Redington Shores, Florida 33708
Talk about not only the best deal in Redington Shores, but the best deal in any Coastal Florida town, perhaps: USD $12 for a three-course meal fromtheir Early Bird menu. Anyone showing up between opening and 6 PM can take advantage of this.

This deal includes their homemade, freshly-baked luau bread accompanied by either famous coconut macadamia butter as an appetizer; followed by one out of 10 entrée options that include things like Canadian-style lobster tacos or even a crab-meat-stuffed Mahi PLUS two sides; finished up with featured dessert of the day (typically a slice of their homemade cheesecake, drizzled with your choice of fruit, chocolate or caramel syrups).

Mah God. I’ve been there more than my toes and fingers can count and always come out of their stuff. Pair THAT combo with a USD $3 massive Margarita and then you understand why I have been going there almost every single weekend since I rung up 2016.

Best happy hour in Redington Beach

Top Spot for Breakfast and Brunch: Sweet Sage Café

16725 Gulf Boulevard
North Redington Beach, Florida 33708
Just tried this quirky café yesterday before we departed Redington and HOLY SCRAMBLED CRAB BENEDICT. I didn’t care much for the flatbread used as toast at the bottom, but the filler-free, perfectly-spiced crabby goodness topped by the fluffiest scrambled eggs I’ve ever seen in my life, then smothered with hot, creamy hollandaise sauce… It’s what egg Benedict lovers’ dreams are made of.

Oh, did I mention those just costed me USD $10.98?! God bless our waitress for recommending that! My partner got the waffles and they were equally-delicious and holy-whipped-cream presentation a plus.

If you are into buffets, Sweet Sage also offers a fantastic holiday and weekend brunch buffet for USD $12.99 per person.

best brunch in Redington Beach

Best-Value Accommodation: Carousel Motel

18202 Gulf Boulevard
Redington Shores, Florida 33708
There are many, many budget accommodation options in Redington Beach and beyond. If you have the time and patience, I actually recommend you drive down Gulf Boulevard between the 3 Redingtons and drop by any of the motels with a “VACANCY” sign and haggle.

No patience or just want the freedom to drop in and know you got a good rate, though? Stay at the Carousel Motel like I have done 2 times already, then.

Redington Beach hotel, Carousel Motel

Efficiency at Carousel Motel: double bed is on the right, tucked in a corner nook with a small closet

Their cheapest motel room, with 2 twin beds, is USD $65 a night in the low season. However, I believe their efficiency with one double bed is their best value, just USD $10 more a night (USD $75) in the low season as well. Remember the rates most local motels show in their websites typically do not include 12% taxes and are based on 1-2 people per room (although Carousel does allow additional people for USD $5 each).

Yes, the motel’s decor is a bit outdated, but it is always clean and you can’t beat its location. Carousel is right next door to the public parking of Redington Shores and a street away from direct beach access. Additionally, it’s an easy walk to several restaurants, a great pizza place, and 711 right across the street. Ad of course, it is at the doorstep of all 3 Redingtons, so you can walk to either Redington Beach (like I did to shoot the video above) or North Redington Beach.

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I’m obsessed with this area of Florida, I know. Visit Tampa Bay yourself!

I can’t wait to go back after my trips to South Carolina & Cocoa Beach 😀

Unique Places to View NYC’s Skyline

This article was first published on summer 2016

The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, One World Trade Center…all of offer exceptional views of NYC, but only with some major trade-offs. You could wait hours in line just to reach the top, and the cost of admission is as sky-high as the observation deck. Plus, you’ll find the same exact views in every tour guide and on about half of all NYC postcards. Visiting New York City is breath taking, make sure you are getting the most out of your trip whether your hotel is within walking distance to Times Square or discovering more unique places off the beaten path.

So where should you go to see New York in a new way? Fortunately, there are several other locations which let you see the NYC skyline from a fresh perspective. While they aren’t featured in many city guides, we’ve put together a list of cool and unique locations with unbelievable skyline views. These are more than just tourist trap observation decks; each one doubles as a memorable New York experience, whether you’ll be enjoying a relaxing stroll in the park, learning about natural history, riding a famous carousel, listening to live music, or viewing some of the world’s finest artwork.

Keep this guide handy as you explore New York City from top to bottom. We’ve highlighted some local spots with seriously exceptional views of the city that will remind you why NYC is so special.

unique NYC skyline views

Chicago Food Guide: Must-try Dishes and Where to Eat Them

If you are expecting this Chicago food guide to only contain a list of places to grab some deep dish pizzas and other quintessential American foods, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Don’t worry, I’ll guide you through the most iconic dishes you should try while staying in the Windy City–and which joints cook them best.

Chicago food, jibarito sandwich

Image via Flickr by Minah

El Jibarito

El Nuevo Borinquen: 1720 N California Ave.

Since the first migrants settled in the city in the 1930s, Puerto Ricans have long been involved in the cultural makeup of Chicago. When it comes to food, one of the most significant contributions is El Jibarito–a sandwich where tostones (fried green plantains) are used in lieu of bread.

Whether you add shrimp, ham, chicken or steak to your jibarito, it will always be crispy, garlicky, and riquisimo!

Indian food Chicago

Image via Flickr by PROMarit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Indian Food. Period.

Along Devon Ave., West Rogers Park

As a result of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, an increased number of Indians came to Chicago. Nowadays, Devon Avenue (between Damon & California Ave.) could be called Little India.

Whether it’s Uru-Swati’s vegetarian samosa chaat; Mysore Woodlands’ tear-jerking-hot cilantro tamarind soup rasam; or Tiffin’s mild chicken tikka masala, any Indian food joint you choose along Devon will make your taste buds’ day.

cemita, Mexican Chicago food

Cemita via Flickr by Kate


Cemitas Puebla: 817 W. Fulton Market, West Loop

You can’t go wrong with Mexican food in Chicago. Mexicans, in fact, make up the largest Hispanic group living in the city.

There is one particular Mexican delicacy that has become a Chicago institution: cemitas or Mexican-style sandwiches. Standing out in the crowd? The three-meat cemita atomica with Oaxacan cheese, avocado, and smoked chipotle sauce.

classic Chicago food, Italian beef sandwich

Image via Flickr by jpellgen

Italian Beef Sandwich

Johnnie’s Beef: 7500 W. North Ave., Elmwood Park

Spicy Italian beef sandwich, topped with sweet peppers, then dunked in its own juices. Now that’s a classic Chicagoan food.

Who does it best, though? It’s down to Al’s Beef (presumptive 1938 creator), Johnnie’s Beef, and Portillo’s. Shockingly, even chain restaurants dish out amazing food in Chicago.

I’d go to Johnnie’s though, as getting to this local diner is part of the experience.

authentic Chicago style hot dog, Chicago food

Image via Flickr by Arnold Gatilao

Chicago-style Hot Dog

Gene & Jude’s: 2720 River Rd., River Grove (cash only)

To qualify as a Chicago original, a hot dog must be 100 percent beef and in its casing for a nice snap; lay on a poppy seed bun; and be topped with tomato slices, chopped onions, sport peppers, relish, mustard, celery salt, and a pickle spear. You could stretch it by only having the onions, peppers, mustard, and relish as toppings.

Please, don’t ask for ketchup. Not only is it seen as an insult, but in some cases, the restaurant will simply not have it available!

No deep dish pizza. Sorry.

Don’t mention a “Chicago-style deep dish pizza” to locals either–many of them will likely roll their eyes. An authentic Chicago food list would not include such a travesty, they’d say.

Proceed at your own risk!

Hipmunk Hotels: 5 Hotels in Foodie Towns of the South from Lafayette to New Braunfels and More

This post was first published on Southern Fried Travel blog on April 12, 2016.

There is a foodie in everyone, especially when it comes to lip-smacking, tangy barbecue. The secret sometimes is in the sauce, but in places like New Braunfels and Midland, Texas it’s all about the meat and how it’s slowly cooked. Charleston, South Carolina barbecue goes for the equal-opportunity barbecue stance with offerings of the basic four styles of barbecue sauce. Louisville, Kentuckians like their barbecue sauce flavored with Kentucky Bourbon and molasses, while Cajun barbecue around Lafayette, Louisiana features a bolder and spicier flavor, and they even barbecue their shrimp.

Never take your barbecue for granted. For an adventure in barbecue, check out hotels in New Braunfels, Midland, Lafayette, Louisville and Charleston in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and South Carolina. When you book your hotels, go to Hipmunk for an equally flavorful hotel with the texture of the historic South. So enjoy your barbecue and your stay in the South.

Charleston, South Carolina

Nick’s bar-b-q in Charleston, South Carolina image via flickr by Vla Tsujl

Not only does South Carolina map out their barbecue trail, but they offer the four basic barbecue sauces of mustard sauce, vinegar and pepper sauce, light tomato sauce, and heavy tomato sauce. South Carolina barbecue starts with pulled pork as the meat of choice.

There are several affordable hotels in Charleston. Book The Meeting Street Inn, a cute, pink stucco, three-story inn, complete with white verandas and Colonial-style furniture and four poster beds reminiscent of the Civil War era. Another inn is the Kings Courtyard Inn, which is a short walk from downtown Charleston.

Louisville, Kentucky

First time at Smoketown USA in Louisville, Kentucky image via flickr by Joe Chang, iknowjoe

Kentucky bourbon barbecue uses Kentucky bourbon, tomatoes, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar on chicken. Louisville Kentuckians like their barbecue sauce flavored with molasses for extra sweetness. One cheap Louisville hotel possibility is the Galt House Hotel, which is next to the convention center. The Hyatt Regency Louisville Hotel is another excellent choice to check out.

Lafayette, Louisiana

Louisiana barbecue with four sauces image via flickr by Patrick Lorenz, coffee shop soulja

Cajun barbecue is spicier, with garlic, paprika, chili powder and onions. Besides the regular chicken, beef, and pork, Cajuns also serve barbecue shrimp, and the barbecue around Lafayette, Louisiana goes for a bolder and spicier flavor.

If you’re looking for a hotel in Lafeyette, you can’t go wrong with Buchanan Lofts, which features nine guestrooms decorated as industrial lofts. You’ll like the peace and quiet that comes with a small hotel as well as this venue’s abundant amenities.

New Braunfels and Midland, Texas

Texas Pride barbecue – The name says it all image via flickr by NikonFDSLR

Texas barbecue is generally served with beef brisket as the meat of choice. With Texas, the barbecue is more in how the meat is cooked and less about the sauce. One of the best hotels in Midland is the Grand Texan Hotel and Convention Center, with its indoor pool with slide and a hot tub. Another hotel to check out is the Home2 Suites by Hilton Midland with their suites.

German settlers came to Texas and created their own town: New Braunfels. German-flavored barbecue is bold and tasty. When staying in New Braunfels, check out the Lamb’s Rest Inn B and B and also perhaps the Prince Solms Inn Bed and Breakfast to get more of the local German flavor of the place.

So put on your traveling shoes and step into the barbecue adventure of your life. Look up these little gems and enjoy your stay as you forge your own barbecue trail.

5 Top Sand Sculpting Festivals in the USA

best sand sculpting festivals, USA

Every year, there are numerous sand castle festivals across the United States that you won’t want to miss. The festivals generally feature live music, food booths and awe-inspiring sand creations that are sure to amaze you.

1. Headlands BeachFest

In July, the Headlands BeachFest is held at Ohio’s Headland Beach. The event brings master sand sculptors from around the world who compete to win the coveted title of “Ohio’s Master Sand Sculptor.” There is live entertainment, art booths and numerous food vendors. Best of all, admission to the event is free.

2. Blue Water SandFest

The Blue Water SandFest is three days of fun. The event takes place at the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, alongside Lake Huron. Three sand sculpting competitions are held: the Master Sand Sculpting Contest, Advanced Amateur Contest and the Amateur Contest. You can also enjoy one of the event’s hands-on sand sculpting lessons. At the Kid Zone area, children can try their hand at sculpting sand. Tickets to the event are sold at the front gate.

If you are attending the festival, you might want to make advance lodging reservations because hotels in the area sell out quickly. The Quality Inn & Suites Port Huron is located close to the Fort Gratiot Lighhouse.

3. Long Beach Sand Sculpting Competition Extravaganza (Sandsations)

The Long Beach Sand Sculpting Competition Extravaganza, also known as Sandsations, is a festival that has taken place for over 30 years in Long Beach, Washington. The competition itself is held next to the Long Beach Boardwalk. Sand sculpting classes are held for all skill levels throughout the event. Even children are encouraged to try their hand at sand castle construction.

Hotels in the area tend to book up for the annual event, so you should consider reservations. The Cedars Ocean View Inn, for instance, is located within walking distance to the Long Beach Boardwalk.

4. Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest

For over 50 years, the Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest has taken place on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. The contest is a race against time to see which sculptor can create the most awe-inspiring masterpiece before the ocean’s rising tide washes it away. There are competitions for all skill levels held throughout the day. The event is especially fun for the whole family with its mix of food, music and craft booths.

The Courtyard Hotel is located within walking distance to Cannon Beach. The concierge at the hotel will be happy to assist you with any local tours, tickets or transportation.

5. U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge

The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in San Diego takes place every year over Labor Day on the city’s B Street Cruise Terminal Pier, where 300 tons of sand is dumped so it can be crafted and molded into elaborate sculptures. The event features non-stop live music, vendors and a variety of carnival rides.

There are plenty of hotels in San Diego that are located close to the event. However, since many of them book up rapidly, reservations are recommended.

Building sand castles is fun for all ages. If you want to spend a weekend enjoying sand, music, food and fun look no further than one of these five top sand sculpting festivals.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Oct. 28th.

The Best Driving Routes to Enjoy This Fall’s Foliage

We’ve been conditioned to love summer and dread fall since we were kids, eagerly awaiting the end of the school and dreading the next semester’s beginning. But fall comes with a lot to like, from football season to a little nip in the air to the breathtaking colors of changing leaves, which transform trees into works of art.

That makes fall the perfect time for a getaway. One of the best ways to see the colors in all their glory is take a ride smack dab in the middle of them, which is why we’ve rounded up some of the best routes for enjoying fall foliage via car. They span both coasts and offer equally stunning views for travelers across the country.

fall foliage Colorado

Maroon Creek Road

Aspen might conjure up images of snowboarding, but the Colorado town was actually named after a tree — so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s one of the most popular foliage driving routes. Before snow season kicks into gear, Aspen and all its trees are beautiful, relaxing, and scenic.

The most popular route to enjoy their changing colors is Maroon Creek Road, as visitors can get a glimpse of the lovely Maroon Bells while taking it the trees’ scenic fall colors. Travelers simply have to book a hotel in Aspen, such as the four-star Limelight Hotel Aspen, then drive 10 miles or so southwest via Highway 82.

One thing to note: The route is so popular that a drive is restricted from the summer months to October 4. During the day, the route to the Maroon Bells can only be access by public bus, but visitors can take their own car after-hours for a small fee. Giant mountains, fall foliage and fields of wildflowers will undoubtedly make both the drive and fee worth it, though.

fall foliage Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Our second route may sound similar because it also features mountains and fall foliage, though it’s all the way across the country. The Blue Ridge Parkway is labeled as “America’s Favorite Drive” and it’s easy to understand why. The drive spans two states, 496 miles, and 26 tunnels, and drivers are surrounded by nature’s glory the whole way.

Countless hotels are scattered along the Blue Ridge Parkway and offer spectacular views of the mountains, trees and other attractions like lakes from their windows. The Blue Ridge Parkway has numerous entrances in Asheville, North Carolina, and visitors can enter the Parkway at US 25, US 70, US 74, or NC 191. A lot of great hotels are available along each, such as the Quality Inn & Suites Biltmore East, which is situated right off of US 70.

Plan to make the drive in mid to late October for the best fall foliage sightings, and be aware of the fact that leaves begin changing at higher locations first, so the scenery may vary throughout the route.

fall foliage New England

Green Mountain National Forest

Travelers can also find amazing foliage throughout New England. While there are a variety of routes to choose from, one of the most beautiful is in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. This destination also boasts the unbeatable combination of mountain, wildlife, and beautiful trees. It’s also home to six different scenic driving route: Two in the north zone and two in the south zone.

The Trailside Inn is located nearby, right off Route 100. The highway runs north to south through nearly the entire state, including along almost the entire eastern side of the Green Mountain National Forest.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Oct. 20th.