4 Newest U.S. National Parks



Newest National Parks

The National Park System dates back to 1872. Since Yellowstone became the first national park, dozens of locations have been recognized as well (61 total, as of 2019, though there are 419 NPS-operated units like national monuments and historic sites). However, new parks are few and far between. The most recent four were established between 2004 and 2019 (yes, a new national park was added to the list this year!) Every now and again, the United States sees a reason to add to the list. Be sure to grab a park pass and go visit. Here are the four newest national parks.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Established as a national park in September 2004, the Great Sand Dunes preserve is located in Colorado. The large sand dunes tower at up to 750 feet on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley. The park has the tallest sand dunes in North America, spanning an area of about 30 square miles. Evidence of human habitation in the sandy park and its surrounding valleys dates back about 11,000 years. The first people known to inhabit the area were the Southern Ute Tribe. Apaches and Navajo also have cultural connections to the dunes area.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park

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With the most national parks in the nation (and some of the oldest and best), you may have overlooked California’s most recent addition to the National Park Service inventory: Pinnacles National Park. Located mid-state toward the coast, Pinnacles protects the mountainous area east of the Salinas Valley, a prominent farming community. The national park is divided by rock formations, which are only connected by foot trails. Pinnacles has a long history as public land, despite being established as a national park by President Barack Obama in 2013. It was originally established as a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The most developed areas of the park are on its East side, but Pinnacles still offers mostly pristine wilderness.

Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park

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You may have missed it in the news, but the St. Louis Gateway Arch was designated as a national park after many years as a national memorial in 2018. The city-defining Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument that was completed in 1965 and is known as The Gateway to the West. The memorial was initially established to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase and subsequent westward movement of American explorers and pioneers, as well as the first civil government west of the Mississippi. Today, there is a museum on the 91-acre property as well.

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Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park

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On the shores of Lake Michigan is the newest national park in the U.S., the Indiana Dunes, authorized by Congress as a national lakeshore in 1966 and upgraded to national park status on Feb. 15, 2019. Containing approximately 15,000 acres of land, the park runs for nearly 25 miles along the lake’s southern shore. It’s Indiana’s first national park, and contains a surprising amount of rare plants and animals, some of which are on the federal list of threatened and endangered species (Mead’s milkweed and Pitcher’s thistle among them). The park is more than just sand dunes, too. You’ll find wetland, prairie, river and forest ecosystems.

5 Fastest Growing U.S. Cities



Fastest Growing U.S. Cities

For jobs, lifestyle choices, weather, cost of living, retirement — you name it — we’re moving a lot. Using census data, trends surveys rely on myriad criteria and methodology to determine the fastest growing areas, often breaking down information based on small, medium and large cities. Not to mention use of precise definitions for metropolitan statistical areas, metropolitan divisions and so on. Confused yet? Not to worry. The overall trends are driven by a few easy to understand factors.

People are still moving to take jobs in coastal tech hubs. Then there are inland cities growing due to “tech dislocation,” places with rapid tech sector growth due to the exodus of workforces from more expensive cities. Another huge factor is retirement (think Florida and Arizona). Note that the cities on this list are all large, and made the top five based on pure volume of growth. Meanwhile, many small and medium cities had a higher percentage of growth. Based solely on overall growth numbers released in May by the United States Census Bureau, the five fastest growing cities in the country are highlighted below.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California

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Perhaps the poster child for urban sprawl, Los Angeles grew by 18,643 people since the last annual count, for a total 2017 population of 3,999,759. That’s just over 50 people per day. With a mild year-round climate of near-perpetual sun, weather has to be one of the biggest enticements for new residents. The Southern California mega-city has long been a draw for free spirits, artists and aspiring actors, along with being a domestic melting pot with large Hispanic and Asian populations. Hollywood, the center of the television and film industry in the U.S., accounts for much of the city’s industry, along with the music biz.

Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

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With its recent growth, Fort Worth has overtaken Indianapolis, Indiana, to become the 15th largest city in the country. For a city that started as a trading post for cowboys at the end of the Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth has come a long way. The city in North Central Texas grew by 18,644 for a total population of 874,168. Cowboy heritage is retained here, where the Fort Worth Stockyards are still home to some of the nation’s largest rodeo events, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame honors early pioneers. It’s not all about country culture, however, as this metropolitan city is home to international art institutes like the Kimbell Art  Museum. Considering a move or visit to Fort Worth? A great resource is the city’s website, fortworthtexas.gov.

Dallas, Texas

Dallas, Texas

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Long the commercial and cultural hub of north Texas, Dallas is a modern metropolis sprouted from western roots. After all, the city’s NFL franchise is called the Cowboys. The culture and charm of Dallas — which grew by 18,935 to an overall population of 1,341,075 — are highlighted by the Lake and Garden district in East Dallas (parks, lakes, an arboretum and gardens), Deep Ellum (a former warehouse district turned nightlife hotspot), the Arts District (largest urban arts district in the nation, in the core of downtown) and Highland Park (high-end shopping and dining in North Dallas). Potential Dallas transplants and visitors will find great information at the visitdallas.com.

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Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

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The capital of Arizona, Phoenix grew by 24,036 residents to reach a population of 1,626,078. Retirement and the resort lifestyle are keys to the area’s growth, with aging baby boomers flocking for year-round sun and warmth. Ritzy resort spas and world-class golf courses, among them a Jack Nicklaus design, are attractive to a crowd with plenty of expendable income and leisure time. Beyond the country club gates, Phoenix offers everyone cultural pursuits, with a vibrant nightlife fueled by glitzy nightclubs and dive bars alike, along with a cosmopolitan culinary scene. Spring training baseball and abundant outdoor recreation are additional draws, while the city’s Desert Botanical Garden showcases the abundance of life that flourishes amidst harsh growing conditions, with displays of hearty cacti and native plant species.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

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Whether or not they “remember the Alamo,” folks are flocking to San Antonio, which grew by 24,208 to reach a population of 1,511,946. The major city in south-central Texas is steeped in colonial history, including the Alamo, the 18th-century Spanish mission preserved as a museum to commemorate the infamous 1836 battle for Texan independence from Mexico. Tracing the contours of the San Antonio River for miles through the heart of the city, San Antonio’s River Walk is its most prominent modern landmark, an alluring pedestrian promenade of shops, restaurants and bars. Future residents and vacationers can grab a great perspective on the city atop the 750-foot tall Tower of the Americas, which overlooks the entire city from its location in HemisFair Park.

9 Beautiful European Cities By The Sea



Europe’s long and varied coastline is dotted with settlements whose inhabitants have, for centuries, made their living from the sea. Today, many feature historic mansions, charming historic squares and quaint harbors that draw as many tourists as fishermen. Though some have grown into cities, others are constrained by the physical landscape to remain impossibly beautiful coastal towns.

Rovinj, Croatia

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The gem of Istria covers a tiny headland, huddled around a harbor full of fishing boats. For centuries, the steeple of St Euphemia has risen like a beacon from the mass of terracotta roofs which surround it. On the ground, explore cobbled streets and narrow alleyways to discover a liberal scattering of gift shops, cafés and bijou apartments.

Portree, Scotland

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The largest town on Scotland’s Isle of Skye welcomes visitors with the sight of rows of brightly-painted cottages. Life centers around the busy harbor, but those with time on their hands are advised to take a hike. The Scorrybreac trail and the path up the headland known locally as The Lump are two of the best local walks.

Oia, Greece

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Few Greek towns have made such an impact as Santorini’s Oia, and you only have to set eyes on the place to understand why. The town’s whitewashed homes and businesses cling to the rocky flanks of the dormant volcano overlooking the azure lake that fills its caldera. Its intense beauty has drawn artists and photographers for years, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Vernazza, Italy

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Though visitors would not be disappointed with any of the Cinque Terre settlements, there’s something about Vernazza that’s especially compelling. The cupola-topped bell tower of Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church stands tight against the waterfront but for the best views, climb the steps to the tower of the ruined Castello Doria and look out over the glittering sea.

Tavira, Portugal

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There are many contenders for stunning coastal towns along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve, but Tavira is a stand out. The town itself is located inland of a long sandy beach and the salt pans are home to a wide variety of seabirds including waders, spoonbills and flamingos. In the heart of the medieval town, you’ll find a castle built in the 13th century on the site of a mosque and Santa María do Castelo Church, which houses the tombs of seven knights allegedly ambushed by the Moors.

Visby, Sweden

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Located on the Baltic coast, the Hanseatic port of Visby lies on the island of Gotland. Its 13th-century ramparts, historic warehouses and the former homes of wealthy merchants make this one of the most delightful towns in Sweden. Pull up a chair at one of the pavement cafés that grace Stora Torget, the main square, and people watch over a cup of coffee. But when you can drag yourself away, the Gotland Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s Viking past.

Cadiz, Spain

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In their rush to tick off the sights of Seville, Cordoba and Granada, visitors sometimes overlook Cadiz, but to do so would be a shame. In the 17th and 18th centuries, merchants built watchtowers to ensure they knew their ships had returned to port. Today, 126 of the 160 remain. Get a bird’s-eye view from the Camera Obscura at the top of Torre Tavira before taking a stroll at ground level to gaze up at these interesting structures.

Aeroskobing, Denmark

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Nicknamed “the fairytale town of Denmark,” Aeroskobing, or Ærøskøbing as it’s written in Danish, is a stunner of a coastal town. Cobbled streets, winding alleyways and historic houses give the place bags of character. Don’t miss the Priors House, which dates from 1690, the town’s cook house – built to reduce the risk of fire breaking out on the wooden boats that docked in port – and Ærøskøbing Church in the market square, the third to grace this spot.

Fowey, England

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Pronounced “Foy,” well-heeled Fowey made its money on the export of china clay, which these days manifests itself in the pastel-colored houses and cosy pubs that jostle for position around this characterful Cornish harbor. The town that inspired Daphne du Maurier to write Rebecca makes a handy base for sampling the famous local mussels and for exploring the rest of the Polperro heritage coastline.

Enthusiastic advocate for independent travel and passionate geographer, Julia considers herself privileged to earn a living doing something she loves. When not roaming the globe, you’ll find her windswept but smiling, chatting away to her two dogs as they wander the Essex marshes.

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Discover the history behind Machu Picchu



Discover the history behind Machu Picchu

“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.” —Hiram Bingham

Tucked amidst the rainforests of the Andes, sheltered by a canyon, and hidden from the outside world lies the remains of a once-towering empire. Machu Picchu is a long-hidden archaeological treasure that tells the story of the Inca and its emperor Pachacutec. Spanish conquests destroyed much of the civilization, which led to difficulties in studying the ancient culture. Investigations and revisions occur to this day. Machu Picchu was one of the few sites that the Spanish never discovered, and so it has remained as a site of inquiry, mystery, and inspiration for countless explorers and scientists.

The structure

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Originally thought to be a military fortification, further research has named the site as a royal estate, believed to have been built by emperor Pachacuti to house elites wishing to avoid the turmoil of Incan city life. The site is most renowned for its architecture, comprising an urban and agricultural sector. The iconic terraces surrounding the area were feats of engineering designed to ensure drainage, soil fertility, and structural stability of the nearby mountain from which it takes its name. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in Quechua.

The residential sector was sub-divided by the class of its inhabitants and contained some of the most notable structures. The estimated population isn’t believed to have exceeded 750 people, and that number declined dramatically during the harsher seasons. Most of these inhabitants were servants who supported the residing royalty and elites. Studies conducted on human remains in the surrounding area indicate that most living here were non-native and had traveled from across the Incan Empire.

Hail the sun

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It’s likely that Machu Picchu was a site of spiritual significance for the Inca. The Inca are known for their worship of the sun, and several structures in Machu Picchu show consistent resemblance to similar structures in Cusco and Pisac. The western section of the residential sector accommodates the Torréon, “Temple of the Sun.” Once towering above the city, reaching to the sky, a pair of serpent doors facing the sun open to a series of pools and a panoramic view of the surroundings.

At the bedrock of the mountain, the Intihuatana stone (pictured above) stands as another monument of light. The Intihuatana is structured to point directly at the sun during winter solstice. The Intihuatana may have been used by the Inca as an astronomical tool for their calendar.

Feasting in the daylight

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The most notable sight at Macchu Picchu is the Inti Mach’ay, a ritual cave bearing the most advanced masonry in the empire. Inti Mach’ay was the ritual home of the Royal Feast of the Sun. Toward the end of the December solstice, the Inca celebrated and prepared for the shortest day of the year, after which the sun appeared for longer. At the end of the solstice, the Inca fasted and self-purified. In Machu Picchu, young boys stood in the cave to watch the sun rise as a rite of passage into manhood. Across the land, at the same day and time, the Incan people faced northeast, crouched down, blew kisses, and raised two cups of chicha, an alcoholic drink.

Much of what we know about the Incan empire is derived from archeological evidence found at Machu Picchu. Though the ruins only tell whispers of a once-loud song, the site still arouses a sense of inspiration, wonder and adventure for those who travel to the Andes to witness the monument of Pachacutec.

7 Scenic Coastal California Parks



7 Scenic Coastal California Parks

In many parts of the U.S., winter is still hanging on by its icy fingertips, causing us all to do a lot of California dreaming. We can do more than dream, though – we can actually go to California and enjoy some warm, sunny weather! If you are heading that way, be sure to check out these seven scenic coastal California parks, each with its own unique type of beauty that you won’t want to miss.

Año Nuevo State Park

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The first park on our list offers something truly incredible. Between December and April every year, Año Nuevo State Park welcomes home nearly 10,000 elephant seals, who return to the beach to breed, have babies and molt. Long-term visitors can watch an entire lifetime play out before their eyes, something that you just can’t get anywhere else. The park’s “coastal terrace prairie landscape,” dune fields and wetland marshes are also home to endangered animals like the San Francisco Garter Snake and the California Red-legged Frog.

Limekiln State Park

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California is famous for its enormous redwood trees. If they’re the reason you are headed to California, make sure to check out Limekiln State Park, where there is an entire forest full of them. With 24 campsites, this park is a perfect place to spend a few days enjoying nature and taking in the beauty of the Big Sur Coast, where you might even be lucky enough to spot an otter, or even a few migrating whales.

Angel Island State Park

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If you are looking for a little history in addition to spectacular ocean views, then Angel Island State Park is right up your alley. Referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West,” this park in San Francisco Bay saw the arrival of 175,000 Chinese and 60,000 Japanese immigrants between 1910 and 1940. Long before that, though, it was a hunting ground for Native Americans. During the Cold War, it was home to a missile base and radar control station. Now, the park holds overnight educational programs so children can learn about all of this history and more.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers some truly amazing views. The high cliffs of the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the sea here at this park, where you can walk amongst the giant redwoods, oak trees, sycamores, cottonwoods, alders, willows, conifers and maple trees as you follow the winding Big Sur River. Campers who spend the night here often see bobcats, raccoons and several species of rare birds.

Morro Bay State Park

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Morro Bay State Park is an interesting place to spend an afternoon. It has a preserve featuring a large lagoon and the impressive Morro Rock, a volcanic plug formed 23 million years ago by volcanoes that have long since gone extinct. It also has a golf course, a museum and a marina, and is home to hundreds of species of birds you could spend all day watching. From November to February, visitors can also visit the butterfly grove to see a flock of monarchs in their roost.

Montaña de Oro State Park

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Montaña de Oro State Park has a little something for everyone. For aspiring cowboys and cowgirls, there are high, rugged cliffs, canyons, streams and hills, all of which you can explore on horseback as you follow the park’s winding trails. For those who prefer the beach, there are large coastal plains, secluded beaches and tide pools. And for everyone else, there are huge, rolling fields of wildflowers to gaze at as you marvel at nature’s beauty.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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The last entry on our list may just be the best of all. The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is not only stunning to look at it with its ocean views and scenic backdrops, but it’s also of great scientific importance. It is home to several rare plant communities, as well as to communities of otters, seals, sea lions and migrating whales. It is also home to a few endangered archaeological sites that can enlighten future generations about how our ancestors lived. This park, dubbed “the crown jewel of the State Park System,” combines beach coves with rolling meadows and plant life from both the ocean and the land surrounding it, making it a great place to explore.

5 Best U.S. National Parks for Bird watching



5 Best U.S. National Parks for Bird watching

Even if you’re not a member of the Audubon Society, that doesn’t mean you can’t still appreciate the beautiful splendor of our feathered friends. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 45 million Americans engaged in birdwatching in 2018. And if you’ve decided to go beyond your backyard to find new birds, then these five national parks are ideal havens for discovering birds in their natural habitat.

National Mall, Washington, D.C. — 260 species

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You might be surprised that a city-based park is home to so many birds. But the National Mall in the heart of the nation’s capital serves as a haven for 260 diverse species of birds, including numerous waterfowl. Its prime location next to the Potomac River attracts a variety of birds and acts as a seasonal home for migratory songbirds. While the National Mall doesn’t have the largest availability of diverse vegetation when compared to other National Parks, it does serve as a great option for spotting a large number of species in one day.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Gary, Indiana — 285 species

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Indiana Dunes National Park could serve as a two-in-one vacation. This park sits just at the southern base of Lake Michigan and is the location of numerous lakeside beaches. If you’ve had your fill of catching rays or opt to visit this national park during the off-season, birding is a very popular attraction.

In fact, this activity is so common that the park and nearby tour operators offer guided birding tours. If you time your trip to Indiana just right, you can stop by the Indiana Dunes Birding Festival in late May. This three-day event is hosted by the Indiana Audubon Society and focuses on conservation and education to preserve the area as a haven for local and migratory birds.

Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada — 375 species

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With a name like Death Valley, you probably imagine an inhospitable and barren wasteland. But the opposite is true. If you’re not familiar with this park, you might be surprised that it spans two states. Death Valley offers diverse habitats that include valleys, woodlands, and canyons. Because of this, this national park attracts a wide array of seasonal migratory and year-round bird species.

One of the most recognizable bird species is the Roadrunner. While it looks nothing like the purple and blue Looney Tunes cartoon version that outsmarts Wile E. Coyote, this bird is a year-round resident. Experts recommend that you traverse multiple habitats to increase your chances of spotting the largest variety of birds.

Gateway National Recreation Area, New York & New Jersey — 375 species

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Gateway National Recreation Area is yet another national park that straddles multiple states, this time New York and New Jersey. The park is a critical home for birds, many of which are on the threatened or endangered list like the piping plover. It is located within the Atlantic Flyway, a main north-south pathway that birds follow during seasonal migration patterns.

Gateway features three major units: Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay, and Staten Island. Advanced birders will usually prefer Jamaica Bay because it serves as a refuge for more difficult-to-spot birds. The park even offers a special birding field guide that highlights 12 of the more popular species guests will see.

Everglades National Park, Florida — 280 species

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Most people know that the Everglades is an extremely diverse biosphere, and not just for birds. This watery reserve offers nine unique birding spots perfect for discovering feathered friends that can be divided into three main categories: wading birds, land birds, and birds of prey.

Some of the most common species include the white ibis and the wood stork, along with numerous species of egrets and herons. This park is a popular attraction for birders from around the world. Should you choose to go birdwatching at Everglades National Park, be sure to use their interactive checklist.

While bird watching is a popular pastime at pretty much every national park in the U.S., this is a great list of places to get you started. If there’s a particular bird that you have in mind and want to see in real life, be sure to use the Audubon Society’s interactive bird guide on their site for detailed information about specific species and maps of where to find them.

7 Most Visited Attractions in New York City



7 Most Visited Attractions in New York City

Call it befitting that The City That Never Sleeps lives in the dreams of citizens of the world. Home of the National Stock Exchange, high fashion, fine art, exquisite cuisine, and skyscrapers reaching high as the American Dream, New York consistently brings in millions of visitors from all over the globe. The most densely populated U.S. city has an endless list of attractions to explore on any given day, but a handful stand out with numbers as large as the city itself.

Times Square

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From New Year’s to the stock exchange, entertainment to dining, Times Square endures as an iconic center of thriving metropolitan life. With over 39 million visitors annually, “the center of the universe” is the most visited tourist site in the world. The staggering number of visitors to the square prompted the city to make adjustments to address the hectic streets when it established designated areas for performers, seating, and exit routes.

Brooklyn Bridge

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In spite of countless private sales, the Brooklyn Bridge remains the property of the city. The nearly 6,000-foot bridge connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan sees over 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians, and 2,600 bicyclists daily. By choice or by necessity, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of New York’s busiest hot spots, offering an idyllic view of the harbor for misty-eyed tourists and disgruntled commuters alike.

Grand Central Terminal

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Driving through New York has never been for the faint of heart, making its public transit system a staple of many New Yorkers’ daily lives. Grand Central Terminal has been coined the “world’s loveliest station” with its opal glass clock, astronomical decorations, and fine dining. The beauty of its corridors attracts tourists and natives to breathe in the air of constant movement.

The 9/11 Memorial

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On September 11, 2001, the world shook in the face of horror and tragedy. From the ashes of the World Trade Center, America summoned its strength to erect a monument in honor of the loss of innocent lives and the courage of the first responders who gave theirs in turn at a moment’s notice. Ten million visitors have graced the grounds of the memorial since its opening in 2014.

The Empire State Building


“Twas beauty that killed the beast,” but the tourists come for the view. At a height of 1,454 feet, the Empire State Building Observatory towers 102 stories above the heart of Manhattan with its breathtaking view of the New York City skyline. The National Historic Landmark continues to draw crowds, nearly competing with its own enormity. Over 110 million have visited the monument to date, with yearly totals around 3 million.

The Statue of Liberty

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Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to snap the perfect photo op for their Instagram account. Our green lady from France is still an internationally renowned landmark of the United States. Countless tourists from around the world and locals seeking a reminder of American history flock to the Statue of Liberty every year. In 2018, the Statue of Liberty saw 4.34 million recreational visitors.

The Metropolitan Art Museum

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The image of New York is one of busy city streets, larger-than-life ambitions, and world-class art. It’s this last point that has been drawing the biggest crowds of any single attraction in the city. 2018 saw a record high for the Metropolitan Art Museum with 7.35 million visitors. This last year, the Met housed an exhibit of over 200 installations of Michelangelo’s work titled “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer.”

3 Unforgettable Sites in Liberia



3 Unforgettable Sites in Liberia

Liberia is a country with a tumultuous history. The country, founded by freed African American slaves in 1847, is the oldest republic in Africa. However, the last few decades have been marred by conflict. In fact, the Second Liberian Civil War ended just 15 years ago, in 2003.

Despite the country’s recent history, it sits in a beautiful countryside, and there are some striking things to be seen both in the wild and in the country’s urban centers. Here are three unforgettable sites in Liberia that highlight the country’s past, present, and hopes for the future.

Sapo National Park

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Located in the heart of Liberia’s sparsely populated Sineo region, Sapo National Park is the country’s first and only protected forest. The nature reserve, created in 1983, covers about 700 square miles and is the largest section of the Upper Guinean ecosystem that remains.

The park is rich in biodiversity and is home to some of the rarest mammal species in the world. This includes African Forest Elephants and Pygmy hippos – both of which are listed as endangered. There are also 600 different species of birds living in the park including African Eagles and many species of parrots.

The park’s interior is relatively undeveloped which helps protect it from illegal mining, hunting and logging. Plus, the lack of easy transit across the region helps to preserve the area’s fragile ecosystem but make it difficult to access by all but the most dedicated nature enthusiasts. If you can find your way to the heart of Sapo National Park, however, you will find a vibrant world unlike any other on the continent.

Hotel Ducor

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When Ducor Hotel opened in 1960, it was the first five-star hotel in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia. The hotel welcomed visiting politicians, business leaders and travelers for decades and was the crown jewel of the city.

Hotel Ducor closed its doors when the First Liberian Civil War broke out in 1989. During the conflict, the building was used as a military base of operations. Once the military left, citizens displaced by the conflict took over the hotel.

The hotel now sits in disrepair despite attempts to renovate it in 2007. While Hotel Ducor is not open to the public, it remains one of the most visited tourist destinations in Monrovia because of the striking sight of the towering ruins.

Mount Nimba

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Mount Nimba is a celebration of the beauty of Liberia. This UNESCO World Heritage Site towers over the surrounding jungle landscape at 5,750 feet in elevation. In addition, Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve protects 17,540 hectares forest.

Mount Nimba is the source for many of West Africa’s most important rivers. The ecosystem surrounding the mountain is composed of hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects.

While the infrastructure of the park cannot handle too much tourism, dedicated travelers can reach the mountain. Those who do will have the chance to see one of the lushest jungle environments in West Africa.

Since Liberia is a country stabilizing from a difficult period, there are necessary safety precautions that must be considered. Make sure permits are in order, guides are arranged, and know when it’s safe to be at various locations. If you can set up a safe journey, Liberia holds some unforgettable sights for you to see.

3 Small German Towns Worth Exploring



3 Small German Towns Worth Exploring

Germany is an urban travelers dream. Metropolises like Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt offer enough world-class shopping centers, history, and nightlife to keep anyone busy for days, if not weeks. But Berlin isn’t for everyone, and if you want to escape the bustle of the big city on your next trip to Germany, there are many wonderful small towns you can visit. Here are three unique German towns that are worth exploring the next time you travel through the Fatherland.


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A wonderful destination for history, Idstein’s first recorded mention was at the turn of the 12th century, and the oldest building still standing in the town was constructed in 1410. Idstein features an impressive collection of vibrant, painted timber-framed buildings in classic medieval style.

One of the highlights of the town is the Idstein Castle, whose foundations were first constructed in 1170and is flanked by the famous Witch’s Tower. The castle was updated, rebuilt, and renovated over the centuries that followed until it was redesigned in its current baroque style in 1714.

Another place in Idstein of note is the Union Church. This 14th century church may look nondescript from the outside but features a stunning interior, the highlight of which is a set of 40 paintings by Flemish artist Michael Angelo Immenraet.


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Nestled in the Harz mountains between Hanover and Berlin, Quedlingburg is another superb small-town destination. Even more history is to be found on the cobblestone streets of Quedlingburg, which has been occupied since the 800s. The town is even referred to as the birthplace of Germany because Heinrich I was named the first king of Germany here in 919.

The entire city sits under the stoic Quedlingburg Abbey. Founded in 936, the abbey is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture, with stately stone walls topped with a vibrant red roof. Inside the church is a museum displaying many artifacts of ancient humans who lived in the region and fossils from the Ice Age.

Also on display is the Quedlingburg treasure, a collection of lavish manuscripts, weapons, chests and vases, many fitted with valuable jewelry. Pilfered from the abbey during the Second World War, the artifacts have returned and make the abbey a must-see stop on your next trip through the heartland of Germany.


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Journey back in time with a trip to Rothenburg, the best-preserved walled town in Germany. The town is one of the most visited in Germany, receiving more than 2.5 million visitors per year.

Begin your journey through Rothenburg by strolling along the famous wall that surrounds the oldest parts of the town. Stunning views are offered of both the town and the surrounding countryside, and the wall also gives access to the many towers built into the structure.

Stroll to St. James Church to admire the dual sweeping spires and tall windows decorated with biblical scenes that date back to the 1500s. The church has been standing since 1485 and took almost 200 years to complete. You can also visit the marketplace to find unique gifts and explore the Town Hall, Councilors Tavern, and visit the Christmas Market, if you are traveling during the holidays.

3 Most Luxurious Trains You Need to Ride



3 Most Luxurious Trains You Need to Ride

Travel by train has always been a status symbol in the sense that an elevated luxury and excitement accompanies the traveler. There’s an adventurous spirit inherent on most luxury trains, both throughout history and during modern times, and 21st-century amenities make traveling by train almost like traveling into the future. Whether you’re boarding for business or pleasure, here are three of the most luxurious trains you need to ride.

The Blue Train

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Before the Maharajas Express took the crown (making it the top-spot candidate on this list), The Blue Train repeatedly held the coveted award for the World’s Leading Luxury Train. In fact, The Blue Train sat atop the list eight times since 1998 and has been Africa’s Leading Luxury Train for well over a decade.

Africa’s most luxurious train connects two of its most important cities — Cape Town and Pretoria — and traveling in one of The Blue Train’s lounge cars or suites is akin to staying in a five-star hotel. It’s a self-proclaimed palace on wheels.

The Blue Train helped define a new era of luxury travel in the region, and the train has come a long way since its beginnings in the early 20th Century. Plan for leisurely-yet-extravagant 19- to 27-hour journeys aboard the train. The average starting price for booking a trip on The Blue Train is a little over $1,000.

Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express & Shangri-La Express

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Golden Eagle Luxury Trains operates a number of high-class, deluxe trains through Russia, India, China, and the surrounding areas. Guests can board in locations like Moscow, Beijing, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, and Venice, to ride Golden Eagle trains through stunning scenery as well as historic landscapes and cities. Two of Golden Eagle’s most luxurious, world-renowned trains make the list.

The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express boasts that its path across Russia, between Moscow and Vladivostok, is the world’s greatest railway journey. Views include the mysterious Ural Mountains, picturesque steppes, and the shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake (Lake Baikal). But the views are only part of the train’s extravagance. Golden Eagle trains are designed with emphasis on comfort, relaxation, and enjoyment. Imperial suite guests are treated to a complimentary bottle of Don Perignon when they board, and luxury amenities include private guides and Russian language lessons.

The Golden Eagle Shangri-La Express shares many of the luxury amenities and en-suite comforts as the Trans-Siberian Express. What sets the two apart are the must-see destinations. The Shangri-La Express gives guests the opportunity to retrace the Silk Road or travel Tibet while enjoying fine dining and entertainment accommodations aboard China’s premier private train.

Lavish train travel comes with a lavish price tag. Be prepared to pay upwards of $75,000 to experience all the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian and Shangri-La Express trains have to offer.

Maharajas Express

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The Maharajas Express train in India is consistently ranked among the most luxurious rail-bound destinations in the world. It’s been called the “Ritz-Carlton of the rails” by comparison, and for good reason. The Maharajas Express has received the World Travel Award for World’s Leading Luxury Trainevery year since 2012.

Amenities include themed restaurants, a premium lounge and bar, a game room, complimentary house wines and spirits, optional excursions with spa amenities in hotel destinations.

The average cost of a ticket aboard the Maharajas Express isn’t cheap. Expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $24,000 — depending on the travel package and duration of your trip — for a baseline deluxe cabin or presidential suite, respectively.