Monday, March 30, 2015

The East Strip in Las Vegas

These are hotels near the Convention Center and most are chain hotels with a couple of exceptions.  Look around for a good deal in this area and see what you can find.

    The first hotel that is in this area is the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.  It boasts 657 rooms and has plenty of Hollywood and music industry memorabilia.  If you like having the casino close by, you will appreciate this hotel.  The lobby borders around its casino.  The hotel also has a great pool setting.  Several pools joined by some sandy beach and a lazy river.

    The Las Vegas Hilton is about two blocks off the main strip.  Barry Manilow performs here at present in the Headliner Showroom.  Also out front, you will find a statue of Elvis Presley outside the doors, and as you walk in, you will see one of his sequined jumpsuits.  He played over 837 sold-out shows at the hotel.  Also, you will find the Star Trek Experience here.  You may even run into some Borg, Andorians, or Klingons.  They have several packages to choose from and in one behind the scenes tour, you get to see an actual bridge set used in “The Next Generation.”  They have hundreds of props, paraphernalia, and articles of clothing from the television series and the movies.

    There are several chain hotels that you can stay at relatively cheap if you don't need the casino glamour and all its casings.  There is the La Quinta Inn, Residence Inn by Marriott, Best Western Mardi Gras Inn, the Emerald Springs Clarion Hotel Suites, Fairfield Inn, and a Motel 6.  All of these offer clean rooms, a bath, in some cases, a suite with a living room area and some have a continental breakfast. 

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The North Strip of Las Vegas

The north end of the strip is known for its inexpensive hotels.  There are several to choose from and some are older hotels that have been around since the 1950's.

    The Riviera was the first high rise hotel opening in 1955.  Liberace and Joan Crawford hosted the ceremonies.  This is an adult oriented hotel and they advise against bringing your kids.  They have many wonderful shows such as Crazy Girls, and An Evening at La Cage.  Splash has ended its run at the hotel.  It is located right across the street from the Circus Circus.

    The Circus Circus is definitely a hotel for families and welcomes kids.  They have circus acts that perform over the casino floors which the little ones can also watch from the second floor.  There is the Adventure Dome complete with roller coaster and other exciting rides on the second floor too.  They also have a midway arcade that is quite popular.

    A little further down the strip and you will find the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (Sahara).  This hotel has a huge roller coaster wrapped around the front of it as well.  Inside they have quite the Nascar collection above the eatery.  They have cars, shirts, posters, autographed pictures, and keyrings.  This hotel is done in Moroccan décor and Arabian Night themes.

    The Stratosphere is a unique hotel due to its awesome size.  It is 1,149 feet high.  The building has 109 floors.  On the top floor, there are three rides for the adrenalin junkie.  They have the High Roller which is a roller coaster that goes around the outer rim of the top of the hotel.  The Big Shot which is a free fall ride that sends passengers back and forth at 45 mph, also at the top of the hotel.  And the last is called the X-Scream.  This gives you the feeling of falling off the side of the building from 109 stories up. 

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Staying Downtown in Las Vegas

The Downtown area of Las Vegas is also called Glitter Gulch.  Centered around Fremont Street, this was the first section to build hotels.  The Fremont Street Experience has revitalized the whole area again.  This experience includes a laser light show and a Neon museum which houses signs of hotels and casinos from days past.

    First opening in 1946, the Golden Nugget was the first hotel designed for casino gambling.  So named because of the 61 pound Hand of Faith gold nugget that is on display.  They have a delicious buffet and a top rated health club for their guests.

    The Four Queens which opened in 1966 was named for the owner's four daughters.  It only had 120 rooms at its opening, but it has evolved into a major downtown hotel.  To get a feel of Old Las Vegas, take a trip to this historic hotel.

    The Fremont Hotel opened in 1956.  Wayne Newton started his singing career in the old showroom.  The Fremont Street Experience can be heard up until midnight in some of the rooms. 

    Main Street Station is decorated in the fashion of early twentieth century San Francisco.  It opened in 1966 and is a mere three minute walk from Fremont Street.  Inside the lobby, you will find ornate chandeliers and tin ceilings.  Outside there are stained glass windows and wrought iron railings.  This hotel is definitely themed for the Old West.

    The Lady Luck Hotel first opened in 1964, but under another name.  Honest John's boasted a 2,000 foot casino.  Today, Lady Luck has increased that to 30,000 feet and they added a seventeen and twenty-five story tower for the hotel rooms.  Most of the clientèle at this hotel is repeat business.  This hotel is becoming a major player in the Downtown area.

 Downtown Las Vegas Hotels

The Forum Shoppes at Caesar's Palace

Caesars Palace Classic Hotel

 The Forum Shoppes have been described as a little bit of Rome married to Rodeo Drive and painted with Spielberg and you have an elegant retail space to shop.  You enter through a forty eight foot archway.  They have also painted a Mediterranean sky that the light changes as the day goes on.  A goddess of fortune welcomes you under the central dome. 

    Opened in 1992, the Forum Shoppes are a 250,000 square foot shopping paradise.  The architecture takes us back to between 300 BC to 1700 AD.  There are animatronic statues of Bacchus, Venus, Pluto, and Apollo playing the lyre.  It is a seven minute show with dancing water and a laser-light show.  An extension was added in 1998 called the Roman Hall.  This hall houses a 50,000 gallon circular aquarium that includes shows involving fire (it does get hot, so stand back), dancing water and animatronic figures that tell the story of the rise and fall of Atlantis.  

    They have many shops in the Forum.  There is a shop for every taste and interest.  Just to name a few:  Houdini's, Louis Vuitton, Ann Taylor, Gucci, Versace, Antiquities (a movie memorabilia place),  Fendi, Armani, and FAO Schwarz (a toy store).  In addition to shopping, there are several restaurants to get a meal and take a break in.  Perhaps the most famous is Wolfgang Puck's Chinois.  There is also a Planet Hollywood and a Cheesecake Factory.

    There was a second expansion that opened right onto the strip.  They added a three story glass entrance and 175,000 more square feet of retail stores.  The shops are open until 11 PM on Sunday through Thursday and 12 Midnight on Friday and Saturday.

    Take a whole day here just to browse or see the animatronic shows.  This place has a lot to offer and the aquarium has seats nearby so you can just sit and relax watching the fish after an exhausting day of shopping.

 Caesars Palace Classic Hotel
 Las Vegas Hotels 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

1980s and 1990s in Las Vegas

AS the 1980's began, Las Vegas seemed to be booming once again.  McCarran airport had just started a twenty year, $785 million expansion plan.  Siegfried and Roy started in their own show, “Beyond Belief,” that ran for six years at the Frontier.  They played a record breaking 3,500+ shows to sellout crowds every night.

    Steve Wynn opened the Mirage Hotel in 1989.  It had five story waterfalls, lagoons, and tropical type foliage.  The hotel was fronted by a fifty foot volcano that erupted nightly in a explosion of color.  He also invited Siegfried and Roy to come and headline his hotel.

    The 1990's brought us the Excalibur that along with the Circus Circus was bringing the family attitude to Las Vegas.  With its pageantry and medieval background, the hotel was perfect for kids.  Also in the 1990s came the Luxor, the MGM Grand Hotel and Treasure Island.

    In 1995, Fremont Street was completed and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opened.  It was billed as the first rock and roll hotel.  1996 brought the Monte Carlo and the 1,149 foot Stratosphere Hotels.  The New York New York arrived in 1997 with its Manhattan skyline and scale size replica of the Statue of Liberty.

    Between the years of 1998 and 1999, the CEOs of Las Vegas took a look at the growing town and decided to change the look from family vacation place to luxury resort capital.  Hotels that were opened after this time reflect this attitude.  The Bellagio, Venetian, and Paris Las Vegas were all built to follow the trend.  Now they see other hotels are also making expansions.  The Luxor, Caesar's Palace, and Mandelay Bay have all added in another tower that has created hundreds of rooms for even more tourists to enjoy.

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1960s and 1970s in Las Vegas

The 1960's brought the debut of the slot machines.  Some of these machines would accept up to a $500 token.  The jackpots grew over time from $100 to $10 million today. 

    The Rat Pack was in town filming Ocean's Eleven.  The rat pack was chairing a summit meeting at the Sands Hotel.  The group included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter :Lawford, and Joey Bishop. 

    The building boom took a brief rest when the El Rancho burned down in 1960.  It wasn't until 1966 that another hotel was built.  The Aladdin was opened and was quite an exotic Arabian Night type of hotel.  Howard Hughes burst into town in the late 60's and went on a shopping spree of land and hotels costing more than $300 million.

    The Circus Circus opened in 1968 and Las Vegas had become a family destination as well.  With the circus acts over the casino floors, adults and children could partake in the shows.  Elvis Presley returned in 1969 to the International showroom and his fans had grown up enough to enjoy the show.

    In 1971, the Union Plaza, a 500 room hotel, opened at the head of Fremont Street.  Merv Griffin started taping his shows at Caesar's Palace.  He made the city a little more famous by bringing it into people's homes each night on the television.

    1973 saw Siegfried and Roy's first show open at the Tropicana.  They would turn women into tigers in their show “Folies Begere.”  They became world class illusionists in their own right.

    The 1970's also brought two major disasters to Las Vegas.  The first was a flash flood that hit the main strip and wound up costing more than $1 million in damage.  The second was that gambling was legalized in Atlantic City and this took a lot of tourists away from Las Vegas.  Dollar slot machines were brought out at the end of the decade.

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1940s and 1950s in Las Vegas

Bugsy Siegel started out in Las Vegas in the 1940s.  He took some already existing properties and just added to them.  In 1941, the El Rancho Vegas was built among these properties almost right across the street from where the Sahara Hotel is located now. 

    Las Vegas was promoted as the Wild West combined with glamour.  Hollywood's connection helped the town grow and become a playground for celebrities.  In 1947, Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel and its showroom boasted many headline entertainers.  There were Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

    Hotel growth was phenomenal during the 1950's.  The town was moving from a frontier type to an entertainment type of place.  Entertainers such as Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen brought an elegance with them and builders started to add golf courses and tennis courts to the hotels.  In 1952, the  Binion Horseshoe Club would opened and would later become famous as the home of the World Poker Series.  In 1955, the Showboat Hotel opened that not only had the best buffets in town, but also had a bowling alley and twenty four hour bingo games.

    In 1956, Elvis Presley appeared at the New Frontier, but his fans were too young at the time to appreciate the shows.  In 1958, the 1,065 room, 10 million dollar Stardust hotel was opened.  The show that opened there “Lido de Paris” was the longest running show ever in Las Vegas.

    Competition for tourist monies also brought sporting events to the town.  The 1950's saw the start of the PGA Tournament of Champions for golfing.  Also, the wedding venue took off and Las Vegas became a popular destination to go and tie the knot.  A lot of celebrities sparked this takeoff in weddings getting married there themselves.  Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are just one of the couples that took advantage of the chapels in Las Vegas.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Tipping in Las Vegas

Being the money making location Las Vegas is, it only makes sense that everyone is out to get their share of the pie.  Tipping is expected in certain circumstances and venues.  Here is a list of people and tips they are expecting to receive:

    Hotel bellhops get $1 per bag, unless man bags, then $2-3 per bag.

    Chamber staff get $1-2 a day, unless you have a pet or made a big mess.

    Tip the doorman or concierge only if they have given you specific information about something you want to do or see.

    Valet parking attendant should get $1 every time you get your car.

    Restaurant servers get 15-20% of the bill.

    Bartenders get 10-15% of the total bar bill.

    Coat room attendants get $1 per article of clothing.

    Cab drivers get 10-15% of the fare.

    Skycaps at the airport get $1 per bag, unless you have many bags, then $2-3 per bag.

    Barbers and Hairdressers get 15-20%.

    Ushers at movies get no tip.

    Gas station attendants get no tip.

    If a theater has maitre d' seating and you want to upgrade your seat, tip him $15-20 per couple.  But have your money ready, because they get annoyed if they have to wait.  You may also tip with chips from the casino where the show is playing. 

    Dealers in the casino get a few dollars if you had a big win or if they helped you by explaining how to play and what to do.

    Remembering to tip can also get you unexpected results.  The cab driver may take you the scenic route.  The concierge may work harder at getting those hard to find concert tickets.  The chamber staff may grant special requests that they normally wouldn't do.
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tips for Playing in the Casino

The first thing you should do when approaching a game or table is to see what the minimum and maximum bets are.  Watch if you go to the same one several times, they change these limits Thursday through Sunday sometimes.  Also, if the bet limits are too high, try the downtown casinos.  They are routinely lower than the strip casinos.

    Throw out the mindset that the dealer wants you to lose.  He is a working guy just like you and it is just a job to him.  Help him out by tipping him when you can.  You will find he will be helpful in changing coin or explaining the game to you.  They want you to win, after all, the more you win, the better the tip will be.

    If you find yourself in need of chips, go to the table and place your money on the table surface.  Never try to hand the dealer the money, they will not take it.  It could be considered as a bribe.  When you place it on the table, they will pick it up and ask you what you want. 

    Be careful of the free drinks offered in the casino.  They will give you all you want for free.  They want you to be intoxicated and drunk.  They want you to keep playing and, hopefully, losing.  They do have juices and soda for free as well.

    If you are at the table playing a hot game and need to leave for a few minutes, just ask the dealer to “cover your chips.”  If you need to get some fresh air or take a quick trip to the bathroom, they will cover your chips with a cloth and watch them for you.  This is quite helpful if you don't want to lose your spot at a table where you are having a good run.  Don't abuse the privilege and don't be gone longer than half an hour.

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Las Vegas - Travel Tips

To get from the airport to your hotel in style, you may consider taking a limousine.  The airport also runs a shuttle service and there are several taxi services you can employ. 

    Remote check in has become quite popular.  If you are staying at Paris, MGM Grand, Bally's, Caesar's Palace, or the Flamingo, you are able to check in once you get to the airport.  They give you your room key at the airport and you can go straight to your room without the hassle of waiting in line at the front desk. 

    There are several free guides to tell you what is going on at any given time in Las Vegas.  “What's On” magazine will tell you about all of the buffets, shows, restaurants and malls in the area.  It also has multiple ads for tours for the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Death Valley.

    Bring a bottle of water with you wherever you go.  Because of the dry air of the desert setting, you can lose more fluid than you think.  Always stop and get some water or a drink every few hours to rehydrate yourself. 

Always be careful with your purse or wallet.  This is especially true around crowds.  At the Fremont Street Experience, there are a lot of people standing around and it is a pickpocket's heaven.  Somebody may accidentally bump into you.  Check your pockets afterward.

    Don't try to walk from Fremont Street back to the strip.  You will walk through area where there are not a lot of people even in the daytime.  Ladies, be especially careful.

    When crossing the street, make sure to use the crosswalks.  You can be fined for not following the sign.  Also, wait for the WALK before you cross.  Local people will fly down the strip and you could be injured.  Many of the people driving cars are also tourists who are sightseeing while driving and not paying complete attention to the road.

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Travel Tips

Emergency Services can be reached from anywhere in the United States by dialing 911.  To reach the Nevada Highway Patrol, dial 647 on a cellular phone.

    Parking your car may take some fancy footwork as you are not allowed to park on the strip at any time.  If you can find a parking lot or a garage to leave your car in, that would be the best bet.  You avoid paying the fees for the garages if you use the valet parking at the hotels. 

    If you are staying in one place for several days, you might consider doing your own laundry.  Of course, there are clothing and drug stores everywhere in case you did forget something.  So don't pack your suitcase to the brim.  Save room for all the souvenirs you will be bringing home.  Use fabric softener sheets to keep your clothes smelling fresh in the suitcase.

    Make a little bag of things you find you might need on a trip.  Your list might include pens, pencils, safety pins, sewing kit, and some stamps to mail your postcards.

    If you are running late the morning of your departure, call down to the front desk and see if you can delay your check out time.  In most hotels, the check out time is noon.  For a small fee, they may add a couple hours to the time so you don't have to rush around.

    Bring a couple of pairs of comfortable walking shoes on your trip.  There is a lot of walking inside and outside the hotels even if you ride the bus to each one.  Make sure you have broken in your shoes so you will not be suffering later.

    When you get to your room, no matter if you are only staying for an hour, place the dead bolt on the door.  Thieves will stop at nothing to get your valuables.  Most hotels have a coded safe in each room so you can feel safe in leaving your extra money or jewelry in them.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Best Hotels In Vegas

In 1997, the New York - New York Hotel and Casino opened and led a new challenge in for others to keep up with them.  Nobody did for almost eighteen months.  You can tell the hotel by the 150 foot Statue of Liberty   in front of it.  You can also see a bit of the Manhattan skyline – The Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.  To top it off, it has a huge roller coaster built around it as well.  Inside, you can enter the casino through the Brooklyn Bridge, and you will end up in Greenwich Village afterwards.  The main casino and gambling areas are done up to look like Central Park.

    Caesars Palace Classic Hotel was opened in 1966.  It was built to showcase Roman History.  The Coliseum, the baths, the staff dressed in gladiator outfits all serve to remind us what this hotel is about.  It has four towers of rooms that have wall to floor windows with the most breath-taking views you will ever find.  The Forum Shops occupy three floors and has stores for every taste and interest.  From a Houdini magic shop to FAO Schwarz's toy store, you can find a wide variety of shopping available.

    The Venetian Resort Hotel Las Vegas and its twin tower, Venezia, all have suite type rooms.  Most have the bed area as well as a sunken living room complete with TV and a mini-fridge stocked with goodies.  They boast six outdoor pools and most are heated even in the winter.  The Grand Canal Shoppes on the second floor rank up there with Caesar's Forum Shoppes.  Also, on the second floor as well as outside the hotel, you can ride in a gondola around the hotel.  The second floor's ceiling is decorated to make you think you are outside on a warm spring day.  It is a very relaxing place to walk and window shop. 

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Thrill Rides in Las Vegas

The Stratosphere Hotel has possibly the most scary thrill rides in Las Vegas.  The rides are on the 109th floor of a 1,149 foot tower.  They have three outrageous rides you can choose to ride.  One is the High Roller.  This is a roller coaster that goes at the fastest speeds possible as it races around the track that seems as if it is suspended in midair.  The second is called the Big Shot.  Hold onto your stomach, this is a free fall ride that sends you 160 feet up in the air on a 228 foot tower and plummets you back down again.  You sit in an open car and it will appear that you are dangling over the strip.  The third ride is the X-Scream.  This giant seesaw device propels you over the side of the building and lets you dangle there weightlessly before bringing you back to safety.
    At the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, they have a roller coaster that loops around in front of the hotel.  They call it Speed:  The Ride.  It takes off through a hole by the new NASCAR Cafe in the hotel and goes around the loop, under the sidewalk and up a 250 foot tower where you are weightless for a few seconds.  Then you ride the coaster backwards through the whole track

    The Cyber Speedway boasts a NASCAR vehicle about three quarters of its normal size.  You can choose to race around the Las Vegas racetrack or race through the streets of Las Vegas.  At the end, you get a computer generated report to tell you how you did.

    The Adventuredome at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino Las Vegas is an amusement park with several rides for the kids.  They do have a roller coaster that races through simulated Grand Canyon mountains.  They have several other swing rides and a mini-golf game.  There is a small arcade where you can play video games as well before you hit the Midway.

Book  Stratosphere Hotel, Casino and Tower
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Top Attractions in Las Vegas

There are many fabulous things to do besides gambling in Las Vegas.  Whether it be a show or shopping, you can always find something to do if you look for it. 

    The hotels are the best attractions in Las Vegas.  Hotel hopping can take the better part of a week to see them all.  That is just a simple walk through from one side to the other.  Plan on at least a day in your favorite ones just to see all the sites.  But be forewarned, some that look small on the outside are huge when you get in the door. 

    Shark Reef at Mandelay Bay Hotel will take about one to hours to visit.  Here you will see all kinds of sea life and reptiles.  They have everything from crocodiles, pirahna, jellyfish, sharks and even some baby rays you can touch.  They also have an underwater tunnel you can walk through to see the sharks and other fish swimming above you.

    Star Trek:  The Experience and Borg Invasion 4-D is definitely worth a visit if you are a hard core Trekker.  You may even run into some Klingons, Borg, or an Andorian.  They have a behind the scenes tour where you can see a bridge used in the television series “The Next Generation.”  They also have you “beam” from a cargo bay onto the bridge.  The tour also includes viewing of some of the paraphernalia, props and clothes used in the series.

    The Stratosphere Thrill Rides are not for the faint of heart.  They are located up on the 109th floor of the hotel.  They have the High Roller, a roller coaster, The Big Shot, a free fall ride, and the X-Scream, which is a dangling teeter totter that suspends you off the side of the building.

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Caribbean Travel: Where Can You Go?

Many people enjoy traveling to the Caribbean for vacation. However, most don’t realize exactly how vast this region is. There are hundreds of things to do and places to see while you’re in the Caribbean, so before you begin planning your trip, you must first decide exactly where you want to go.

Once called the West Indies, the Caribbean was discovered by different explorers from Europe. Many of the people living on these islands, therefore, speak English very well. Because of the location of these islands in the world, they also cater very well to a United States tourist base, so most of the places in this area are great for travel.

Some of the main islands in the Caribbean include the following: Anguilla, Antiqua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and the Caicos Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can also travel to a number of Central and South American countries that can coastlines along the Caribbean Island.

There are some places, of course that will not be as appropriate for a vacation as others. In fact, in some Caribbean island countries, like Cuba, can be quite dangerous for travelers in some cases. Some of the most popular places for Caribbean travel include Antiqua, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can also choose to take a cruise throughout the Caribbean, so you can visit a number of the great islands in this area of the world.

Wherever you decide to travel, make sure you do you research first. In most cases, you’ll need a passport and sometimes you’ll need visa as well. You may also need to make certain considerations for the luggage you wish to take into and out of the Caribbean countries where you wish to travel. Pets are another consideration—if you plan to take your furry friend on vacation with you, you may need to make special arrangements.

Overall, the Caribbean has sunny beaches and luxurious resorts. You can find activities to fill your days with fun, no matter what you like to do—water sports, museum hopping, site seeing—the Caribbean have something for everyone. Work with a travel agent today to get started on planning a wonderful vacation to these islands.

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Jamaica: A Piece of Paradise

If you want to travel to the Caribbean, you certainly have no shortage of wonderful destinations from which to choose. One of the most popular places for tourists in the Caribbean, however, is Jamaica. The country of Jamaica is about 150 miles long and 50 miles wide, so it isn’t huge, but it is mighty in the world of tourism, and is actually the third largest island in the Caribbean. It is found less than 100 miles south of Cuba and a little over 100 miles from Hispaniola, the island on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic as found. It was formally a possession of Spain, and late of the United Kingdom, but is now its own nation.

Although Jamaica is small, it has had a large cultural influence on the world. Reggae, ska, dancehall, and ragga are just a few of the many musical genres that originated in Jamaica. Jungle music in the United Kingdom and hip-hop in the United States are also largely accredited to the Jamaican immigrant population. The Rastafari movement also began in Jamaica.

When you are visiting Jamaica, there are a number of fun activities for you to do. Of course, like most other Caribbean islands, Jamaica is home to a number of beautiful beaches, so it is a real island paradise. While there, you can try diving, parasailing, boating, swimming, snorkeling, jet and water skiing, and surfing. Fishing is also very popular in the Jamaica, and you can see a variety of great planets and animals when you are visiting this island.

For those who are not interested in fun in the sun, the nightlife in Jamaica is also great. You can dance the night away in a number of clubs and visit bars to try some of the local drinks. The restaurants here serve both foreign and cultural cuisine, and shopping is great for tourists who want to pick up lots of gifts to take home.

If you plan to go to Jamaica on your next vacation, you can fly directly there or you can take a cruise through Caribbean islands. Make sure that you check with your airport to see what kinds of travel paperwork are required to visit Jamaica from your country and be prepared to experience this fun island culture by reading up on the many things you can see and do while there. Jamaica can be your own island paradise when you visit, so the vacation is definitely worth making the travel plans.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Planning an Escape

If you want to travel to the Caribbean, one of the most important things you can do is plan it completely. Planning it now may be a lot of work, but if you do it before ever leaving home, you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation while there. No matter which Caribbean island you want to visit, planning is very important.

First, plan how you want to get to your destination. Because of the nature of the Caribbean, flying straight to your destination is not you sole choice. You do so if you choose, but you can also take a cruise throughout the Caribbean islands and visit a bunch of different port cities. In either case, you should plan your transportation as one of the first and foremost aspects of your vacation. Often, you can get a cheaper deal on tickets if you plan far in advance.

You should also consider your accommodations when traveling to the Caribbean. You first choice is, of course, any one of the many hotels and resorts scattered around the islands and catering especially to tourists. Many of these places to stay are completely Americanized and some even are owned by America companies. Another choice you have is the all-inclusive resort. Found on many of the Caribbean islands, all-inclusive resorts are great because they include meals, tours, private beaches, and more for free. If these don’t strike your fancy, you can also try booking a room in a smaller hotel or bed and breakfast, where you can get a true cultural experience.

Once you have your transportation and hotel figured out, you should consider planning certain activities. You can leave a number of days open for relaxing on the beach and spur of the moment tours, but if you don’t plan ahead for some of your activities, you may not be able to fit them into your schedule once there. It is best to plan ahead a bit, but not too much. This is the best way to enjoy your Caribbean vacation.

The last thing you should consider planning is a back up. Things inevitably go wrong on any vacation, so if it rains, have something to do other than lie on the beach. If the hotel overbooks accidentally, be prepared by knowing the names and numbers of some other hotels that might have open rooms. The key to a great vacation in the Caribbean is not to have everything go smoothly, but rather to enjoy it no matter what.

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The Balmy Bahamas

Made up of over 700 small islands and cays, the Bahamas are a great Caribbean island destination spot for travelers. These islands are located east of Florida in the United States and North of the country of Cuba and make up their own English-speaking country. Tourists from around the world love to visit the Bahamas, and it is a popular travel spot for honeymoons and weddings.

The Bahamas are one of the most prosperous countries in the world because of their success with tourism and with financial institutions. Recently, urban renewal programs have been launched to keep the island safe and high-end for travelers. The country as the third highest per capita income in the West and is the most successful country in the Caribbean. The climate in the Bahamas is beautiful and comparable to the Florida climate enjoyed in cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Although the islands are highly susceptible to hurricanes, they usually have a very tropical and pleasant weather, influences heavily by the waters of the Gulf Stream.

If you are traveling to the Bahamas from the United States, the closest island is Bimini, known as the gateway to Bahamas. Here, they cater to tourists. Andros Island, which is to the south of Bimini, is the largest island in this chain, and the largest city on the island is the capital, Nassau, which is located on the island of New Providence. Other larger islands in this chain include Eleuthera, Cat Island, San Salvador, Crooked Island, Exuma, Acklins, and Long Island.

A number of great festivals take place in the Bahamas, so you can enjoy things like the Crab Fest on the island of Andros and the Puneapple Fest on the island of Eleuthera. This is also the birthplace of the rhythmic musical genera junkanoo, which is played heavily at festivals. Rake and scrape, calypso, and hymnals are also important in these islands.

If you decide to travel to the Bahamas to visit one or more of the great islands, you will have a variety of activities from which to choose. There are water sports like sailing and jet skiing to help fill your days, or you can relax on the beautiful sandy beaches near the clear ocean water. A variety of tourist attractions and tours can also be a part of your Bahamas vacation. Be sure that you book your trip well in advance to get the best prices and to be sure you have the chance to do everything you want to do while traveling in this Caribbean paradise.

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The Cayman Islands: Dive into a Beautiful Vacation

If you are planning to travel to the Caribbean for you next vacation, you have many islands from which to choose for you destination. On such island that makes a beautiful place for a vacation is the overseas territory of the United Kingdom known as the Cayman Islands. If you love diving, this is an especially great place to visit, since is the world’s leading underwater diving tourist destination.

The Cayman Islands are made up of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. These islands are located in the western portion of the Caribbean Sea. The Cayman Islands are about 150 miles from Cuba and about 480 miles from Miami, Florida. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are sometimes known as the “Sister Islands” and are about 90 miles east of Grand Cayman Island, which is about 75 square miles. The islands are made up of large coral heads and is home to a number of exotic birds, fish, and land animals, including the endangered Blue Iguana, as well as The Grand Cayman Parrot and Cayman Brac Parrot, which are found only on these islands.

Tourism accounts for most of this island’s revenue, so while you are visiting these islands, the people there will surely cater to your every needs. World famous scuba diving is found here because of the clear waters and the proximity to the Cayman Wall. You can swim beside string rays and number of other amazing sea creatures while traveling in the Cayman Islands, as well as explore shipwrecks.

Outside of the water, you can check out popular spots like the black limestone fields, hiking trails, lighthouses, and museums. Cayman Sea Salt Co is also located here, as well as a number of financial institutions. In fact, many business men travel to the Cayman islands because this location is one of the world’s leading offshore financial centers.

Before you head to the Cayman Islands, it is important to understand a bit about the islands and make sure your paperwork is in order. You’ll need a passport to fly there, and maybe a visa, depending on where you live. Camping is illegal in the islands, which many do not realize when leaving, and if you are caught camping, you will spend time in jail. It is also important to make sure that you can show a return flight ticket. Visit the Cayman Islands can be lots of fun if you’re ready!

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Visiting Anguilla

If you know you’re interested in traveling to the Caribbean Islands, you have a variety of choices for your final destination. You can try a fun cruise throughout the islands in order to visit all of the best hot spots, or you can fly directly to one of the many wonderful islands found in this region of the world. One of the islands from which you can choose is Anguilla.

Anguilla is not one of the most popular islands when talking about Caribbean travel sites, but for that very reason, it is great if you are looking for a more private Caribbean vacation, without lots of other tourists. Anguilla is actually a British overseas territory and is the most northern of the Leeward Islands. Anguilla is comprised of one larger island, including the capital city of The Valley, and also includes a number of tiny islands and cays, most of which are privately owned or uninhabited. Some of the other smaller islands that are part of the Anguilla chain include Dog Island, the Prickly Pear Cays, Scrub Island, Seal Island, and Sombrero, or Hat Island.

The climate on Anguilla is generally what you would expect to find in this tropical region of the world. The island does get northeastern trade winds, so it is fairly dry compared to other tropical islands, with the most rain coming in September and October. Anguilla is also along the path of some hurricanes in the summer and fall.

When traveling to Anguilla, make sure you spend some time in the beautiful Caribbean water. Anguilla is known for its coral reef, which is home to a variety of sea animals and plants. The land itself is mostly sandy and not particularly good for farming industries. However, the waters along the coast are great for fishing, so if you enjoy that sport, you may be interested in applying for a fishing license and talking to some fishing outfitters in Anguilla when planning your Caribbean travel.

As with most Caribbean islands, if you want to travel to Anguilla, you need the proper paperwork. Before you leave, apply for a passport, and it is important to be able to show either a return plane ticket or a ticket to otherwise leave the island at some point. Make your hotel reservations at least a few months in advance in order to find the best deals for your stay in the Caribbean.

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Wedding Bells in the Caribbean

The Caribbean islands have long been a favorite honeymoon destination for newly married couples. The weather here is sunny all year round and you can enjoy a number of wonderful vacation activities together, like taking tours, trying water sports, and lying in the sun. However, in the past few decades, it has also become very popular to travel to the Caribbean for the wedding itself, not just for the honeymoon. There are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so.

First, you must consider who you want to have present at your wedding. By law, you will probably be required to have a certain number of witnesses, and you may not be able to imagine your wedding without your father to walk you down the aisle or your best friend as your best man. Remember that every guest you want to be present at the wedding will have to be flown to the island. In many cases, the guests will not be able to afford this trip themselves and you will have to pay for all or at least some of it. If this isn’t in your budget, it may not be possible for you to have everyone present at your wedding ceremony. The cost of a Caribbean wedding is definitely a disadvantage.

Remember also that you will probably be vacationing for your honeymoon wherever you hold the wedding. While it may be nice to have friends and family around for the wedding, you might wish they would disappear for the wedding. Your guests may also want to take a vacation while they are in the neighborhood, so if you want some private time, and all inclusive couples only resort may be what you need for them to stay out of your way.

However, one of the main advantages is that you are already in the location where you’ll be honeymooning. Travel is stressful and not a good way to start a new life together, so instead, you can just jump right in to paradise. Not only that, but your wedding will be an very memorable event because the beach background overlooking the sunset and ocean will be beautiful. Many couples love the island scenery, so a Caribbean wedding may be perfect for you.

If you decide to have a Caribbean wedding, contact a wedding planner from the specific island to which you will travel. He or she can help make sure that your big day goes smoothly and that you will have the time of your life on your honeymoon.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Aruba Adventures

If you like warm, arid weather, beautiful sunny beaches, and stunning sunsets, Aruba might be the perfect vacation spot for you. This little treasure in the Caribbean caters to tourists, especially from the United States, so many people find this to be a great destination. If you’re interested in Caribbean travel, check out what Aruba has to offer to you.

Aruba is found not far north of Venezuela and is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. One of the best things about this island is its climate. Unlike many of the other island in the Caribbean, Aruba does not have a generally rainy climate, and in fact is home to desert-like terrain featuring a few species of cacti.

The standard of living in Aruba is very high, and they cater toward a classy, high-end market. Therefore, if you wish to travel to Aruba, your stay may be a bit pricier than in some of the nearby islands in the Caribbean, like the Bahamas or Jamaica. However, the stay is definitely worth it. Aruba has famous white sand beaches and beautiful clear blue waters. If you like water sports, you don’t have to lie on the beach all day! You can try diving, snorkeling, sailing, swimming, parasailing, jet skiing, or any number of other fun adventures.

The Carnival season is important in Aruba and takes place from January until Ash Wednesday. Just as in many other Caribbean countries, Carnival in Aruba has a variety of great festivities in which vacationers on the island can take part. This includes midway games and children’s rides, parades, contests, parties, and special foods. If you’re looking for an exciting time to visit Aruba, try during the Carnival season.

Because the majority of this island’s revenue comes from tourism, and many of their tourists come from the United States, Aruba’s residents usually speak English. The America dollar is also widely accepted (for a fee) in the major shopping and restaurant districts, and the exchange rate is fairly fixed, so money is easily exchanged if you want to do so. More and more, Aruba is becoming a second home for the wealthy from the United States and from around the world.

Aruba can be your sole vacation destination, and you can fly directly into the country’s large public airport, or you can take a cruise throughout the Caribbean islands and stop to enjoy Aruba for the day. The island has a little something for everyone, so whether you like a relaxing vacation to sleep in the sun or an exciting vacation full of adventure, Aruba is a destination in the Caribbean that you should consider.

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Beaches in Barbados

The Caribbean holds many great treasures when it comes to island destinations. Barbados is just one of these great places. This single island is its own independent country and is located close to South America, a bit over 250 miles from the coast of Venezuela. It is east of Saint Lucia and north of Trinidad and Tobago. The island itself is only about 165 square miles of low-lying land, but the tropical trade winds, beautiful rainforests, and, of course, lovely sandy beaches make it popular for tourist travel. You too can enjoy a vacation in Barbados.

According to the United Nations, Barbados is the fourth most developed of all the developing countries in the entire world. It may be small, but almost every resident of this island nation enjoys a very high standard of living, and this extends to the tourists who visit the country every year, so you can expect your travel in Barbados to be nothing short of fantastic.

If you plan to travel to the sunny beaches of Barbados, you will probably fly into the single major airport on the island, Sir Grantley Adams International Airport. Many major airlines fly into this airport from almost everywhere in the world, and it is actually a major hub for the Caribbean, so no matter where you are traveling in this region of the world, you may fly into Barbados to catch a flight or cruise to another island.

Some of the best things to do while you are in Barbados are centered on the beach. Surfing is very popular because the waters here are perfect for it, with the Soup Bowl, located near the town of Bathsheba, being a popular surfing destination. The western and southern coasts are most popular, and you’re sure to be able to enjoy a number of sunny days lying on the pink sand if you like to sunbathe.

However, if the beach isn’t your thing, you can also enjoy the shopping in the duty-free tourist centers. You can also check out the fun and exciting night life, the wildlife reserves, and the festivals that take part all over the island in July and August. Popular tourist destinations include Farley Hill National Park, Animal Flower Cave, Hackleton’s Cliff, Sharon Moravian Church, Orchid World, Gun Hill Signal Station, Garrison Savannah, and Barbados Historical Museum. Large towns that in Barbados in which you can stay include Bridgetown, Speightstown, Holetown, and Oistins. You can also stay in any one of the small local towns dotting the island while visiting this beautiful country.

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A Honeymoon in the Caribbean

Your honeymoon is one of the best vacations you’ll ever take. It is the start of a new life with someone you love. As well as a great reason to visit one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Whether you leave straight from your reception or wait a few weeks until the excitement dies down, a honeymoon is a vacation that you will remember for the rest of your life. One of the most popular places to go on a honeymoon is the Caribbean.

There are many reasons why the Caribbean is the perfect honey spot. First, not many people live in a magical tropical paradise as is found on most of the Caribbean islands. Because we do not live in this kind of weather, the Caribbean is an escape from reality. Another reason when the Caribbean is a great place for a vacation is because it is in fact so popular. The islands cater to couples and love, and you can find a variety of special activities available just for newlyweds.

To plan a honeymoon in the Caribbean, you must start long before you even finish planning your wedding. First, consider how much the honeymoon will cost in your budget. If you overspend, you’ll find yourself coming home to a new life filled with debt, and that is never a great way to start a new life. Instead, start with a budget in mind and find a Caribbean island that can meet your needs.

The second thing you should consider when it comes to planning a Caribbean honeymoon is that you’ll need a way to transition from the wedding to the honeymoon. Traditionally, the honeymoon was to start on your wedding night, but most couples also love to hold wedding receptions. Your wedding reception will probably last well into the night, and leaving for an airplane trip to the Caribbean islands may not be the best idea at that point. Instead, lots of couples are opting to spend the night in a local hotel and leave for the honeymoon in the morning. Still others spend the week after the wedding moving into a new home and leave on the honeymoon after that. Some couples even wait an entire year and plan their honeymoon for their first anniversary in order to save up money. The key is to do what is right for you.

When on your honeymoon in the Caribbean, make sure that you mention this fact to people. You may receive special treatment like a ticket bumped to first class or a nicer hotel room for the same price if people are helping you to celebrate. Champagne and other free drinks, special prices are restaurants, and hotel gifts are some of the other great honeymoon specials you may receive on your honeymoon in the Caribbean. This is a great way to start your new life, so even if small things go wrong, simply focus on enjoying your time together.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

For the Kids, Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios is a great place to take the kids.  Not only do they have wild and interesting rides, but you can get a look "behind the scenes" at how movies and tv shows are made.

The park is actually split into two parts.  The upper part is the theme park, with the majority of the rides, the characters, and the food.  It's separated from the lower part with one of the largest escalators in the world.  The lower part is the actual film lot, and a tram ride shows visitors quite a lot of it.

First, the rides and attractions.  Using the same sort of "flight simulator" design as Disney's Star Tours, the Back to the Future ride lets visitors ride in a modified time machine into the past and future, and the tourists almost get eaten by a dinosaur along the way.

The ride that dominates the entire park, though, is the Jurassic Park ride.  The plot is simple; the tourists are on a boat excursion through the park when the "incident" from the movie releases the animals.  The boats are diverted into the waste processing facility, while being threatened by a variety of animated dinosaurs, and just as it seems they're about to be eaten by the T-Rex, they dive beneath his feet and down a huge drop into water.  The "you might get wet" warning is an understatement--the ride is designed to soak every rider to the skin.

Follow the soaking with the Backdraft attraction.  After an intro area that shows how some of the fire effects are created, the crowd is ushered into a mock-up of a factory that explodes into flame right in front of them.  There are literally explosions happening twenty feet in front of you, with no more protection than a handrail.

The tram ride is a mostly tame but very entertaining ride through movie history, complete with the Bates Motel from Psycho, the shark from Jaws, and a simulated earthquake in a train station.

All in all, Universal Studios Hollywood is a great place to take the kids for a weekend.

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For The Kids, Paris, France

For The Kids, Paris, France

If you're looking for destinations in Europe, Paris should be near the top of the list.

Like any trip, be sure to plan ahead.  September is the busiest month for tourism in Paris, so book your hotel room well in advance.  You can visit after September, of course, but if you do, pack extra raincoats and umbrellas, because you will definitely get rained on.

Upon arrival, kids with any sense of Europe are going to want to see three very important sites.

First, the Eiffel Tower.  Hated when it was built as an ugly monstrosity, it's now one of the most famous landmarks in the world.  There are four lines to get onto the tower, so look for the shortest one.  Don't be afraid to haggle over souvenirs underneath it, and make sure to go to the top of the tower at least once.

Second, thanks to Victor Hugo (and Disney's) famous Hunchback, don't miss Notre Dame Cathedral, where Napoleon took the crown out of the Pope's hands and crowned himself.  If you don't mind a bit of a wait and a climb up 386 stairs, the view from the bell tower is worth it.

And third, the Mona Lisa.  This will require a visit to the Louvre, which is like visiting another city inside Paris.  Fortunately, like all of the museums in Paris, anyone under the age of 18 gets into the Louvre for free.  Buy your tickets online, to avoid a long wait outside the museum (or, if you didn't get the chance to do that, use the underground entrance in the shopping mall.  That's where you'll find shortest line).

It's easy to get lost in the Louvre, because the museum is huge.  You'll never see the whole thing in one visit, so don't even try.  Just follow the signs to the most famous exhibits, like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, and enjoy the sights along the way.

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Safety Tips for your Travel with Family

Ten safety tips when traveling with Children

Traveling abroad is a great learning experience for kids and parents. Here are 10 tips to help keep your family safe, and ensure everyone has a great time.

1. Fill out all emergency information on your passports. Make sure family members wear their passport on their body at all times. Children should carry the phone number and address of at least one trusted adult back home.

2. Read, understand, and follow all travel warnings issued for the area you are visiting. Do not travel to unsafe areas.

3 .Make two copies of everyone’s passport id page. Carry one copy with you in a separate place from your passport, and leave the second with a trusted friend or family member back home. Parents should carry additional copies of children’s passports.

4. Always carry current photos of your children with you.

5. Leave a copy of your travel plans with family or friends at home. Include hotel names and phone numbers. Have your children carry a copy of travel plans with them, as well.

6. Learn local laws and customs before you leave for your trip. Be sure your children understand them as well.

7. In airports, bus depots and train stations, never leave your luggage unattended. Instruct your children not to touch other people’s luggage, or pick anything up from the floor.

8. If you will be in a foreign country for more than two weeks, contact the embassy or consulate in that country. This will make it easier for officials to find you in case of emergency back home.

9. Do not wear expensive jewelry, or clothing that stands out. Don’t carry more money than you will need. Consider credit cards or travelers checks.

10. Make sure you exchange money at authorized places. If you have any questions or get in trouble, contact the closest embassy.

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