Archive for the 'tradition' Category

Stars, Stripes and Savings: From Traditional July 4th Getaways to Unique Celebrations

Stars, Stripes and Savings - Celebrate July 4thCelebrate Independence Day at some of America’s most historic and patriotic destinations! On July 4th, there will be fireworks displayed across the country whether it is on a pier, in the downtown area of your state or in the backyard of your homes (if the law permits). Aside from taking pride in the red, white and blue with the booming of fireworks and a hot dog or hamburger (whichever you prefer) at hand – some states have their own unique celebrations.

Boston Chowderfest
During the Boston Chowderfest, which takes place at the beautiful Harborfest, approximately 12,000 participants chow down to select the best chowder from Boston-area restaurants. The samples and style of chowder can vary from thin and soupy with minced clams, to hearty, thick and creamy chowder with potatoes. If you love chowder then this is a must-see event for you this Fourth of July.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest (Brooklyn, New York)
Every year, Coney Island attracts many people in the New York summer heat to witness the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Marking its 95th year, contestants chomp down hot dog after hot dog in hopes of getting the famous Nathan’s Mustard Belt along with cash prizes. Also, when visiting Coney Island check out the attractions and historical sites in the great Brooklyn area.

Gettysburg Civil War Re-enactment
Marking its 147th re-enactment this year, the Gettysburg Civil War re-enactment takes place in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If you enjoy a little time travel and are a history buff, be sure to check out the re-enactment among other sites in Pennsylvania such as the iconic symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell.

Pig War Picnic
Just off the coast of Washington State lie the San Juan Islands. Visit the Fourth of July Beach along Griffin Bay and don’t miss the annual Pig War Picnic, named for the so-called “Pig War” waged on the island between Brits and Americans in 1859. The picnic takes place on nearby Price Street, following the Fourth of July parade, and serves up equal parts burgers and hot dogs with good old-fashioned fun. Also, marvel at the gorgeous nature San Juan has to offer such as watching a Bald Eagle fly overhead, which is sure to put you into a stars-and-stripe state of mind.

1800HOTELS offers up to 60% OFF on hotels in New York, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas for your July 4th Weekend Getaway!

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Top 10 Travel Destinations to Ring in the New Year

Whether you prefer to sit at home in front of your TV to watch the world go mad on New Year’s Eve, or you like to be smack dab in the middle of all the action in any given city, the following are Knowledge That Travels Top 10 Travel Destinations to Ring in the New Year! What’s great about this yearly final countdown event is that the entire world (well, almost) gets together and celebrates the beginning of a New Year. Resolutions are made (and barely ever followed) but all of that doesn’t matter because celebrating New Year’s Eve and the first official day of the year in the Gregorian calendar is legendary!

1. New York,  NY: Arguably known as the most famous and widely celebrated New Year’s Eve celebration, watching the world-famous ball drop in animated Times Square is a truly unforgettable, once in a lifetime experience. Around 1 Million people stream to Times Square each year to partake in one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve celebrations.

2. Las Vegas, NV: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, and New Year’s is no exception to this adage. Imagine an already bustling city that comes even more alive on New Year’s Eve. The world-famed Fremont Street Experience hosts its annual street bash illuminating an already light-saturated city with fireworks! Up to 300.000 people attend this celebration making it one of the most striking New Year’s experiences around.

3. Niagara Falls, Canada: Though not marked by fame as some of the other city hosts, the Niagara Falls set a breathtaking scene for a spectacular fireworks show that is held each year in Queen Victoria Park.

4. Madrid, Spain: Here, the city’s population (and tourists) head to the center of the city to the famous Puerta del Sol square, where the countdown is followed on a large clock sitting atop Casa de Correos. In Spain, a longstanding tradition has it to eat grapes as the clock chimes away. With each of the clock’s 12 chimes marking the beginning of a New Year the Spanish consume a single grape (in its solid fruit form mind you, not the liquid form) for good fortune in the new year.

5. Vienna, Austria: As the music capital, Vienna is an enchanting destination to celebrate the coming of the new year. By tradition, those who wish to celebrate publicly head to the Viennese city hall , donned with dancing shoes because when the clock strikes 12, the whole crowd in the square breaks out dancing the famous Viennese Waltz, chanting Prosit Neu Jahr (Happy New Year!) Attention: if you’re heading into the first district, watch your step because fireworks are going off everywhere.

6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: One of the best times to travel to Rio de Janeiro is during New Years, as it is a tradition in Brazil to go to the beach as it is summer time in the Southern Hemisphere, and everyone wears white clothing. It is such an amazing experience with hope for the next year to be better for everyone, and the fireworks are beautiful, lasting almost half an hour in Copacabana.

7. Paris, France: If you want to be where all the action is, head to the famous Champs-Elysée where you can watch a spectacular fireworks show held at the Eiffel tower. Don’t forget to practice your “Bonne Année!” It’s also custom in Paris to be sprayed with Silly String, that’s French for saying “Happy New Year!”

8. Sydney, Australia: Fireworks are a must in any given New Year’s celebration ceremony and Sydney raises the bar on this one as this show by the harbor is ranked as one of the most watched shows in the world.

9. London, U.K. : Big Ben marks the highlight as he chimes away on midnight, ringing in the New Year. Spectacular fireworks can also be seen at one of London’s famous landmarks, the London Eye. River cruises along Thames are also quite popular and offer excellent vantage point views of the city’s fireworks. If the New Year’s Eve celebrations aren’t enough to quench your thirst for welcoming the New Year, you can head to the famous London’s New Year Day Parade on January 1st at 12 noon.

10. Edinburgh, U.K.: For all you New Year’s celebration junkies who can’t get enough of all the cheers and joy, Edinburgh is the place for you! Because here you have the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, where celebrations last up to 5 days! (Tuesday 29 December 2009–Saturday 2 January 2010). There is something in store for every one and all ages at this extended New Year’s run of events!

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An Insider Look at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sugarloaf and Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, BraziRio de Janeiro in Brazil is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in South America. A magical place really, with a setting of incredible mountains, beaches, and the lake Rodrigo de Freitas in the South Zone of the city. This city reflects the great diversity of Brazil, where you can find so much to do, places to visit, and incredible cuisine. Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon are the most famous beaches, my favorite one is definitely Ipanema, where you can see people playing volleyball, surfing, running, biking, playing futevolei (a mixture of soccer and volleyball), or just lounging in the sun or catching up with friends while sipping on a fresh coconut or caipirinha (the Brazilian national drink).  The warmth of the locals is palpable, they are so accommodating and will strike up conversation as if you were an old friend. Every time I visit this city where I am from, I still feel like a tourist since I have lived in the U.S. for a while, and share the beauty of the city with so many international travelers who are as mesmerized as I am by the positive energy of the place.

One of the sites that is a must of course is the Christ the Redeemer statue, which sits atop a mountain overlooking the whole city. The view is breathtaking, you can see everything from the Lake, to the Guanabara Bay, to the largest soccer (futebol) stadium in South America, the Maracana. Another site would be the Sugar Loaf, two mountains facing the Guanabara Bay in which you go up a tram twice to see a great view of Copacabana, the Business Downtown area, Flamengo, and Niteroi, another city across the bay also very populated.

I love going to Ipanema for shopping, there are so many high end fashion stores, as well as great bargains, and the Hippie fair which happens every Sunday, with so many paintings, arts & crafts that are very ingenious and pretty, as well as even typical food from the Northeast of Brazil.

One of the best times to travel to Rio de Janeiro would be during New Years, as it is a tradition in Brazil to go to the beach as it is summer time in the Southern Hemisphere, and everyone wears white clothing. It is such an amazing experience with hope for the next year to be better for everyone, and the fireworks are beautiful, lasting almost half an hour in Copacabana.

The cuisine is also another reason why I love Rio… from the seafood to the Portuguese style great bar food, to the churrascarias typical of the south where you can eat an unlimited amount of different meats, you will find any type of typical food for every taste. After a day of walking on the beach, or going to the museums downtown, or going to the Botanical Gardens, it is great to end your day with a great meal and live music!

I will definitely be going to Rio during the Olympics, as that will be a great way for Brazil to showcase the culture and warmth of the Cariocas!

– Juliana Ribeiro (Hotel Specialist at 1800HOTELS)

Click here for a list of 1800HOTELS’ exclusive Hotel Deals in Rio de Janeiro

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From Bratwurst to the World’s Largest Christmas Store: Frankenmuth, Michigan

A truly hidden treasure lies 1 ½ hours north of Detroit. The State of Michigan has many hidden treasures, and in this small German town, known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” you can find a lot of heart and soul. Frankenmuth was founded by German-Lutheran missionaries in 1844. Today, St. Lorenz church still stands as a testament of their faith which offers a German service once a month, and daily tours for visitors.

If you’re looking for European Christmas spirit in the U.S., Frankenmuth is the place to go! The winter here holds a ton of fun for visitors. You can stop in at the end of January for the Snow Fest. You can enjoy the snow sculpting and ice carving competitions, fireworks, and many more activities. The main attraction is Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It’s the world’s largest Christmas store and is as big as 5 ½ football fields!! You can get everything you ever wanted and more! My parents got us hand painted Christmas tree bulbs with our names on them, and they do the names right there in the store while you wait!

Many people also visit Frankenmuth in the summer for their Bavarian Festival. It is a great weekend of Bavarian music, German bands, and plump bratwurst! My grandparents live there, and they say that it’s the most beautiful time of year. The community really takes care of the look and feel of the town, so if you like to take in the sites, make sure to stop and smell the flowers! For more info on the Bavarian Festival, you can call 1-800-FUNFEST or go to www.frankenmuthfestivals.com for other ideas about the summer concerts in the park, or the world expo of beers.
Some of my favorite places to eat in Frankenmuth are the Bavarian Inn, where my dad worked, and Zehnders, where my mom worked. They were working right across the street from each other, and happened to meet on a blind date, set up by friends. They dated, got married, and 30 years later, are living happily together in Michigan. Take a chance on Frankenmuth on your next visit to Michigan, it truly exudes the family atmosphere that vacations are all about!

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You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto, Spain Says: Just Throw it!

La Tomatina

La Tomatina, annual festival held on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol, Spain

Usually, when tomatoes start flying through the air, something really bad has happened that has triggered people’s unhappiness. If someone is delivering a miserable speech on stage, the traditional weapon of choice for expressing your dismay? Tomatoes. You just saw a movie in the theater that didn’t meet your expectations – what do you do? You go on rottentomatoes.com and cast your critical vote. These are just two of many examples where tomatoes come into play.

There is, however, another striking occurrence where this red fruit dominates the scene, literally. Once a year since 1944 the poor tomato fruit is spared its negative connotation that it’s been stuck with over time, and is actually connected to something positive and joyful.  On the last Wednesday of the month of August (that would be today), the 11-day festival La Tomatina in Buñol (near Valencia, Spain) culminates into the world’s largest food throwing festival. Surpassing the number of citizens (9,000) that inhabit this otherwise quiet town, over 30,000 folks swing their arms catapulting overripe and rotten tomatoes into the air and at people in the crowd. In order to avoid injuries, it is suggested the tomato is broken and squished in the hand before hurling it at the crowd.

The exact origin of this traditional event remains blurred with contradicting legends. Some say it is due to a local fight that broke out years ago when a truck overturned and spilled its load of tomatoes onto the streets. Locals try to protect their homes from this red mess by covering them up with plastic sheets – usually in vain.

Next time the infamous enunciation argument of whether it’s “tomato or tomahto” breaks out, you could bring some sense into this nonsensical “I’m right, your wrong” – discussion by alluding to this little Spanish fiesta anecdote. Or, if you’re really into it, grab that tomato and … (remember to squish!)

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Everybody, Say Cheeeeeeese: Vermont Celebrates its Cheesemakers

CheeseLookout France, the U.S. State of Vermont is making competition with its fine and award-winning artisan cheese products. For those who missed it this past weekend, the Green Mountain State proudly presented and celebrated its premier cheesemakers and artisan cheese products at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne. Tickets to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival were high in demand ($20 entry per person, $45 for educational seminars) and sold out far in advance. And it’s no wonder people flocked to this event, since Vermont has the highest number of cheesemakers per capita (over 40 of them) – and let’s not forget to mention the blatantly obvious – nothing beats a fine piece of ripe cheese, accompanied with a good glass of red wine: simply scrumptious!

Participants tasted samples from over 40 cheesemakers, 20 wineries and 15 artisan food producers (including the local artisan Ben & Jerry’s, even though I’m having a hard time imagining how ice cream and cheese could strike a match.)

If you were one of the lucky ones to snatch one of 1000 available tickets, we’d love to hear your story!

For all who missed this exquisite culinary experience, there are plenty of cheesy events scheduled for the fall.

Next up:
September 12th – Plymouth Cheese Festival, Plymouth Notch, VT

September 20thFlynn Center Wine and Food Festival, Burlington, VT

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Aloha and Mahalo to Hawaii’s 50 Years of Statehood

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never 100 percent sure how many States the U.S. actually had. I always knew it was somewhere around the late 40’s to 50, but I wasn’t sure, so I usually kept quiet and thought to myself “was it 49? 50?”  Well, I’m happy and proud to announce that as of today, I will never forget that nice and round, 2-digit number. Because today marks the 50th anniversary of Hawaii officially becoming the 50th State of the United States of America. That’s right, on August 21st, 1959, the beautiful Islands of Hawaii (all 19 of them) were admitted to the Union when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the proclamation.

Fun Fact Friday:
Did you know that Hawaii was once called “Sandwich Islands.” Captain James Cook discovered the Islands back in 1778 and named them after his sponsor the 4th Earl of Sandwich.

Have a great weekend everybody!


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