Category Archives: U.S.A.

Top Travel Tops for 2018

It’s the season of resolutions–the time to plan this year’s travel, uncover new destinations and fantasize about exotic trips you may or may not ever take.  But with so many “top travel lists” how do you focus your exploration?  Fear not. Traveling IQ has combed the pages, clicked the links and collated the suggestions from the most trusted travel publications, to find the ultimate destinations for IQ’s 2018 Travel Top Trilogy.

New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS – Photo courtesy of NewOrleans.com

New Orleans leads the pack as the American city most recommended by travel publications.  Celebrating its tricentennial in 2018, the Big Easy promises to make its 300th birthday party a year-long event.  And you’re invited! Whether you chomp on po’boys or savor fine Creole cuisine, guzzle Hurricanes down Bourbon Street or sip craft cocktails in hotel lounges, saunter through historical walking tours or dance along with extravagant parades, New Orleans requests the honor of your presence.

Malta

MALTA

MALTA – Photo courtesy of Flickr/DRAS

Malta is stepping into the spotlight in 2018.    The small island country off the coast of Sicily has a “vibe that is Mediterranean with a North African twist,” says Travel & Leisure.  Already a popular European beach getaway, this year, the world’s artists will descend on Valetta, Malta’s capital, named a 2018 European Capital of Culture.  Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Valetta boasts Baroque architecture, prehistoric temples and the enviable characterization as “Europe’s sunniest city,” with more than 300 days of sunshine each year.

South Korea

Winter Olympics PYEONGCHANG

PYEONGCHANG, KOREA – Photo courtesy of Flickr/Korea

South Korea will be on full display as PyeongChang hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics next month.  Now an easy commute with the launch of a high-speed rail connecting the resort town to Seoul in 70 minutes, you can tour the Olympic village, attempt your own Triple Axel, and still make your dinner reservation in Seoul’s trendy Hannam neighborhood.  After dinner, don’t forget to stroll through Seoullo 7017, the city’s new high-line park, lined with 24,000 plants atop an elevated former highway.

(These destinations were chosen from the top lists of the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, CNN, Frommers, US News & World Report, Lonely Planet, Afar, the Guardian, Rough Guide, LA Times and National Geographic.) 
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U.S. Tourism Welcomes a Tentative World

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You are welcome here—no really, you are, we promise—has been the predominant U.S. travel campaign theme of 2017.

The travel industry has been working overtime to offset a negative international perception of the United States since the presidential election. Cities such as Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco (to name a few) have invested in various versions of “Welcome” campaigns. In February, Hyatt Hotels launched the “World of Hyatt” integrated marketing campaign during the Oscars® broadcast, with a video celebrating empathy and multiculturalism. In June, Brand USA, the destination marketing organization for the United States, announced their “One Big Welcome” strategy, using personalized video invitations from “real people” to attract potential visitors.

Unfortunately, the President’s “America First” political message is translating to “America Alone” when attracting international tourism. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 1.3 million fewer foreigners visited the United States during the first half of 2017. The New York Times  reported that European readers overwhelmingly cited the Trump administration and its policies as reasons for avoiding travel to the United States. And last month, the National Brands Index, a global survey measuring perception of fifty nations, saw the U.S. drop from No. 1 to No. 6, in overall nation brand.

International travel is America’s number one service export, boasting an $87 billion international travel trade surplus last year.  In an article in Worth, Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association writes, “The Trump administration has yet to convey a sustained message of welcome to international visitors. Long-term failure to do so will unnecessarily deter travelers, which could have disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy.”

While we wait….
and wait…
and wait…
Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite, inclusive travel campaigns of 2017:

Los Angeles: #EveryoneIsWelcome

Hyatt: “World of Hyatt”

San Francisco: #AlwaysWelcome

(Photo via NYCgo.com)

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Miami Beach to Host World Outgames

gay socks running

Attention gay sports fans (and allies!):  Miami Beach and Miami will host the World Outgames in 2017, marking the first time the sporting event is held in the United States.

Sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), the World Outgames–a gay-inclusive Olympics of sorts–takes place every four years in a different global city.

Included in the Miami Beach-Miami bid were proposals to host a human rights conference, a diverse cultural program, a World Outgames Village, opening and closing ceremonies, and 30 sporting events over 10 days, all under the South Florida sunshine.

Consider this your four-year warning:  It’s time to squeeze into the Speedo, dust off your running shoes, or bedazzle that figure skating costume.

(Photo via GayNZ.com)

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San Antonio Keeps the Mex in Tex

Charreada (Photo: Al Rendon/SACVB)

Charreada (Photo: Al Rendon/SACVB)

Spend a day exploring San Antonio’s Mexican heritage, dating back to 1821 when the area officially belonged to our southern neighbor.  Less than three hours from the border, the city continues to be a cultural gateway between the two countries.

Rent a car for the day to facilitate exploring outside the city center, then make a pit stop for a Tex-Mex breakfast of chorizo and egg tacos at Tito’s Restaurant. Next, let the music move you–regardless of your religious beliefs–when the traditional mass incorporates the music of a Mexican mariachi choir at the historic 18th century Mission San José (Sundays at 12:30 p.m.).  Afterward, make your way to Charro Ranch for a Charreada (usually once monthly at 3 p.m.), a Mexican rodeo featuring rope tricks, music, dance, and impressive synchronized horseback choreography by sidesaddle-riding women in traditional dress.

Head back downtown to peruse the shops of Market Square, the largest Mexican marketplace outside of Mexico, for authentic souvenirs ranging from artisanal pottery and brightly-painted dolls to kitschy “lucha libre” masks and bedazzled sombreros. Steps away, feast on heaping plates of chicken enchiladas in móle sauce at the 24-hour Mi Tierra Café and PanaderiaFamily-owned since 1941, Mi Tierra serves classic Mexican dishes with a wide selection of tequilas and margaritas.  Finish your meal with a cinnamon-laced Mexican hot chocolate and the signature pan dulce (sweetbread) while listening to the sweet serenade of trovadorers.  Stick around at the bar to tackle a jumbo margarita or two, then cab it over to Alamo Street Eat Bar, the city’s gourmet food truck park, serving beers and mobile eats till 2 am on Fridays and Saturday nights.

(A version of this article first appeared in New York Magazine)

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VFW Post 76 in San Antonio

This Veteran’s Day celebrate some down-home fun with vets and civilians alike on the lawn of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Post 76.  Originally organized by veterans of the Spanish American War, the oldest post in Texas invites all of San Antonio to celebrate with outdoor parties and free live concerts (usually Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm) overlooking the San Antonio River Walk.

Sip on cold, cheap beers ($2.50 for non members) and join the honky-tonk dancing locals, jamming to a rotating roster of bands, under the bright, Texan stars.

To plan a weekend escape in San Antonio, check out my article published in New York Magazine.

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Rock the Vote with Hard Rock Hotel

To help you celebrate Election Day in the United States, the music-inspired Hard Rock Hotels chain is keeping you inspired with a free “Rock the Vote” playlist, made available exclusively to the readers of USA Today (and by proxy, Traveling IQ).  For more information on how to download the free playlist, visit “Hotel Check-in” on USA Today

(Photo courtesy of Hard Rock)

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Innkeepers Thank Veterans

B&B for Vets

Innkeepers in the United States and Canada are thanking the brave men and women who have served in their country’s armed forces the best way they know how… with hospitality.

On November 11, (Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada), an estimated 1,000 inns and bed & breakfasts in both countries will offer complimentary stays to veterans and current military personnel.

Entering its fourth year, the B&B for Vets program aims to offer a much-needed break to veterans who may not otherwise be able to afford a vacation.   Many of the participating inns and B&Bs are donating guest rooms for free stays on November 11, and others are offering special military discounts throughout the weekend.

Veterans (with military ID) interested in reserving a room should contact the inn/B&B where they wish to stay.

For a complete list of participating inns and B&Bs visit http://www.bnbsforvets.org (U.S.) or http://www.bbcanada.com/bbforvets (Canada).

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The Week in Travel (9/28/12)

The world of travel moves fast!   Let’s keep up–together.   On Fridays,  Traveling IQ curates the highlights from the past week:

“Let me help you with that”

*Sometimes you just want need a young man to lather up the sunscreen on hard-to-reach spots.  Going beyond the complimentary shampoo and conditioner, hotels are enticing with free amenities like a personal tanning butler in South Beach, a pet goldfish in San Francisco, and a Rolls-Royce in Beverly Hills.  (via USA Today)

*According to Claire Danes, Israelis “work very hard, worry very hard and play hard and well.”  The recent Emmy winner talks about filming “Homeland” in Tel Aviv, and poses for photos throughout Israel’s party capital.  (via NY Times)

*Results are in:  more international visitors are coming to the United States and UK gay men travel twice as much as their straight countrymen.  (via eTurboNews and Unicorn Booty)

*You can now leave your flask at home, Princess.  For the first time since opening forty years ago, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will serve wine and beer.  (via USA Today)

*Explore the coral reefs of Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii without getting wet.  Google launches underwater Street View as a new virtual map of the oceans.  (via Boing Boing)

*The phrase “Nice rose bush!” can have several meanings when 600 people explore nature au naturel during clothing-optional days at Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury, England.  (via NY Times)

What did I miss?  Share your favorite travel news in the comments below or by posting on the Traveling IQ Facebook page.

(Photo: The Ritz-Carlton via USA Today)

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NYC Celebrates Furry octoBEARfeast

Photo: Dick Mitchell,  Model: Gio  Photo: Dick Mitchell,  Model: Gio

Before winter hibernation, New York City bears are having a ball, and you’re invited to flaunt your PETA-approved fur for a good cause.   For the first time, the city’s LGBT Community Center (commonly called “the Center”) is expanding their popular gay bear dance party, Fur Ball, into octoBEARfest:  “a week-long celebration of everything furry.”

The Fuzzy Wuzzy festivities kick off with sustenance.  On Monday, October 1, the boys will celebrate Bear-BQ at Bone Lick Park restaurant with $3 shots and drafts, $3.50 margaritas, and 35¢ wings.  Tuesday brings the Bears & Beers fundraising dinner, with unlimited food and drinks and optional VIP bourbon tasting, at 508 Gastrobrewery.

To help you find the perfect napping partner after all that food, the Center will host Bear Bating on Thursday, October 4, a speed-dating event for bears and their admirers; and then the big daddy event of the week, Fur Ball on Saturday, October 6.

Headlined by DJ Corey Craig,  Fur Ball’s estimated  900 guests will take over every floor of the Center, with two dance floors, go-go-bears, and an outdoor garden.  And more importantly, all proceeds benefit the Center, whose programs range from hosting arts and entertainment events, advocacy groups and family gatherings, to offering youth, recovery and wellness programs.

So let your hair down, wear your God-given fur out, and celebrate for a Grrrrrrreat cause.

Visit the Center’s octoBEARfest website for tickets and additional information.

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Atlantic City’s Balancing Act

Nik Wallenda  (Photo via Flickr)

Atlantic City is striking a delicate balance these days:  honoring its legacy as one of America’s best-known casino enclaves while broadening its appeal with sleek new resorts, celebrity-chef restaurants, and even the AC casino industry’s first gay nightclub.

On August 9, Atlantic City will gamble on a new balancing act.  At 3pm, the “King of the High Wire” Nik Wallenda—the man who earlier this summer walked the high wire from New York to Canada over Niagara Falls—will perform a high wire walk above the city’s famous boardwalk.  Traveling 1,300 feet from the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel to the Tropicana Casino and Resort, Nik will balance more than 100 feet in the air without a safety harness.

Free and open to the public, the event will launch the Wallenda family’s new acrobatic show at the Tropicana, tempting fate through September 22.

For more information visit www.DoAC.com.

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