Beyond theme parks: Local Orlando highlights

Orlando is best known for its proliferation of theme parks, but this large city has delights that go far beyond cartoon characters and thrill rides. Locals love the city for more than its pixie dust. These popular destinations highlight a lesser-known side of Orlando that is well worth a visit.

Church Street – For Action-Packed Evenings

Nestled in the heart of Orlando, the Church Street district is popular for its night life. Things really step up around the holidays where traffic is blocked off so parties for events like Halloween and New Year’s Eve can literally spill into the streets. Popular bars like Chillers, Big Belly, and Latitudes keep things exciting year-round with weekly events and drink specials that draw big crowds. Several downtown hotels like the Grand Bohemian Orlando, Autograph Collection are just minutes from this popular area.

Lake Eola Park – For Outdoor Entertainment

Photo by Ivory Rines via

Lake Eola Park offers a refreshing patch of nature in downtown Orlando. The park is dominated by Lake Eola. The signature fountain in the middle is the icon of the City of Orlando. A 0.9-mile path circling the lake offers a popular spot to jog or stroll. The Walt Disney Amphitheater hosts live performances, and many downtown festivals take place in and around the park. Lake Eola’s best-known residents are the live swans that fill the park. Visitors can get a little swan-like themselves with paddle boat rentals on the water.

The Orlando Science Center – For Kid Friendly Fun

Visitors of all ages can enjoy the immersive entertainment available at the Orlando Science Center. Over four floors, guests find exhibits that showcase live animals, dinosaur skeletons, and Florida farms. Children can watch bees build a hive, excavate a dinosaur fossil, or pick and sort play oranges at the Orange Grove Factory.

Local parents often opt for a season pass so they can return again and again for the experiments and exploration that never get old. You can enjoy convenient access to the Science Center during a visit to Orlando with a stay at a nearby hotel like the Comfort Suites Downtown.

The Dr. Phillips Center – For Live Performances

The Dr. Phillips Center is a new collection of entertainment venues with theaters for every type of performance. The Walt Disney Theater seats over 2,700 people, while The Bob Carr Theater is only slightly smaller with a capacity of just over 2,500. Both are ideal for Broadway performances, concerts, and other big events. The Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater offers an intimate setting with just over 300 seats and a multi-purpose space that accommodates live entertainment as well as special events like banquets.

Check the center’s schedule before booking your flights to Orlando and you can adjust your stay to coincide with performances from the Orlando Ballet, Orlando Philharmonic, and others. The packed schedule includes concerts, plays, musicals, comedians, and more.

While Orlando’s theme parks offer plenty of entertainment, this city’s lesser-known side offers just as much to explore. Find out what locals already know about Orlando’s diverse draws and try visiting one of these highlights in one of America’s most popular cities.

The Great Hike: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park ... photo by CC user GuyFrancis on wikimedia

Americans love it, the world is simply mesmerized by it, welcome to Yosemite National Park. Not so long ago, two great free climbers managed to scale the full height of Yosemites El Cap or Dawn wall.

This feat is not something that happens overnight; in fact, the two free climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson planned their ascent for many years. Judging by their sheer dedication, Yosemite is really something worth traveling for. For your next itinerary, make sure that you have your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) Visa with you for a smooth travel experience when entering the USA.

There are not so many free climbers in the world, some are just casual indoor wall climbers, myself included. But given the chance, I would also do my best to summit the magnificent and scary Dawn Wall of Yosemite.

Nonetheless, you dont have to be a professional climber to fully experience Yosemite. Any dedicated backpacker can explore Yosemite in a whole new way without clinging to ropes and sticking your fingers on a little crack on the wall to inch up closer to the summit.

Backpackers have the tendency to pack up heavily and chances are that they fail to even reach half of the summit because of dead weight. The novel idea is to leave almost all of the heavy stuff behind and just bring your normal day climbing stuff.

The popular High Sierra Camp Hikes offer the best hiking on Yosemite with the emphasis on convenience. High Sierra Camps allow you to hike the best high country trails without carrying over 40 kilos of heavy camping materials.

There are 5 camps on a stunning 85 kilometer loop, each with their own amenities such as tent cabins, cots, blankets, even the trekker friendly chuck wagon that spits outs ready-to-eat meals.

To make your hike easily manageable, you can start at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge tracking the loop from behind; think about it like reading a book starting from the last page.

The advantage of this method is that it somehow gives an illusion that everything is off to an easy start. However, nothing is easy on Yosemite National Park. You really need to work it if you want to enjoy your hiking adventure.

Tracking the river also allows you to pass through fantastic meadows littered with wildflowers all the way to Glen Aulin camp, followed by May Lake just 13 kilometers ahead.

When you get to the Sunrise Camp, you start having sudden surges of adrenaline. Whilst youre tackling Sunrise Camp, you can be invigorated by the breathtaking view of the early sun rays that hit the ground at first light.

The colors are simply stunning and for the lack of words simply profound. The technical climb is at the Matthes Crest, strictly for professionals only or if you have a background for really challenging climbs.

If time is not on your side, you can proceed directly to Vernal Fall whilst passing through the Mist Trails. The scenery here is simply stunning; with the the tall plume exhibiting natural light shows doing most of the talking.

Yosemite hiking is not for the faint of heat but with sheer dedication, anybody can discover the great secrets of the national park.

The Most Iconic Hotels on The Las Vegas Strip

The Las Vegas Strip Iconic HotelsMost people traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada are looking for a bit of fun and entertainment. Gaming is the big draw to this city that never sleeps. The Las Vegas Strip is considered the place to visit because of the many hotels and casinos available for the tourists, and locals as well. It is a sight to see, especially at night. The most iconic hotels on the Las Vegas Strip are all aglow with sparkling lights and they are definitely a sight to behold.

The Luxor Hotel is located between the fabulous Mandalay Bay Hotel and the fantastic Excalibur Hotel. Both are well worth a visit. The Luxor Las Vegas has some very unique features and is considered the second largest hotel in Vegas and the eighth largest in the world. All of that may sound impressive but wait until you see the famous sky beam, which on a clear night can be seen about 275 miles away by aircraft flying at cruising altitude. The Luxor is built in the shape of a pyramid and it is named after the city of Luxor in Egypt. There is a re-creation of the Great Sphinx of Giza which stands 110ft tall. The re-creation of the 140ft tall Obelisk stands proudly at the front of the pyramid inviting all in for a visit.

Another wonderful hotel on the strip is the Excalibur Hotel. It is great, especially if you would like to return to the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This hotel is a great place to stay for families or honeymooners because there is something for everyone and the entertainment is spectacular. Be sure to buy your tickets to the Tournament of Kings in advance. It is a good bet you will not be disappointed.

The Bellagio Hotel is a luxury hotel that is a five diamond resort and seems just about perfect in every respect. There is fine food, great gaming, wonderful service and too many other attractions and features to mention here. If you have heard about the fabulous Dancing Waters of Las Vegas, then you have probably heard about this hotel. The water fountain display is just one of the many features of the Bellagio.

All of the hotels on the famous Las Vegas Strip are full of fun and excitement and deserve a visit from all visitors. Each of these hotels have something unique and interesting for everyone. A few of these hotels are: The MGM Grand, Ballys, Caesars Palace, The Mirage, The Venetian, Treasure Island, The Flamingo, The Paris Hotel and Wynn Las Vegas. These are by no means all of the hotels on the Strip but all of them are worth a visit whether you are going to be staying in Las Vegas for one day or many days. Check with a local travel agent or on one of the numerous internet sites available if you would like to get more information about any one of these fine hotels.

Before you go to the US, make sure to sort out an ESTA visa beforehand to avoid problems at the border or airport.

Top Tourist Attractions In American Samoa

The top tourist attractions in Samoa are easy to reach since American Samoa is relatively small compared to its independent Western counterpart. Since it was an annexed territory similar to Hawaii, the land is also highly developed as a chief American tourist capital. American Samoa is also an excellent alternative to the highly advertised Hawaii or the hardly popular destination of Guam. One can safely say that American Samoa is also a jewel territory of the United States in the Pacific region, and one definitely worth traveling to.

scenery in American Samoa

1. Pago Pago
Our tourist begins his or her excursion usually in a place where all vacations start – in the capital region. Pago Pago is one of the top tourist attractions in Samoa and for a capital region there is not too much urban density. It is clear how the US government is keen about preserving the dominance of greenery in the city despite the presence of civilization. In fact, there are strict guidelines as to the height of the buildings so there clearly is no danger of undermining the natural environment with its development schemes. Our tourist now starts to shop for groceries in the market plazas.

2. American Samoa National Park
It is not very hard for most tourists to question how this remote archipelago became an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. One of the best places to satisfy their curiosity is to start their history lesson in American Samoa National Park. This landmark is also considered a tourist or visitor information center. It is always best to stop by in this place before deciding to head out to other islands. Our adventurous tourist, contemplating on visiting neighboring atolls, decides to learn every piece of valuable information needed. Cruising may take days and it is always important to find a place to crash to enjoy the island-hopping trip.

3. Tula
Tula is one of the top tourist attractions in Samoa for those people who are eager to meet native islanders. Our tourist is very excited to meet the distant relatives of his or her favorite Hollywood actor, Dwayne Johnson (the Rock). Traditional Samoan people are very interesting, since they are known for being very conservative. They can be easily put off with women wearing short shorts, so it is always best to dress decently.

4. Aunu’u Island
If one should look for places that have a deep and strong connection with nature, the Aunu’u Island is a perfect location to visit. One of the fascinating natural landmarks in this atoll is the famous red quick sands around Pala Lake. Our tourist has enjoyed his stay with the natives and he heard about an ideal location to take pictures of sea, where waves slap the rocks of Ma’ama’a Cove.