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Best Things To Do in San Francisco

San Francisco may only stretch across 7 miles, but it's packed with an assortment of activities that's sure to please outdoorsy types, foodies and curious wanderers of all ages. The Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see, while a visit to Alcatraz Island to tour the infamous and now closed federal prison should also be high on your list. Instead of spending all your time around the touristy Fisherman's Wharf, you can discover a more authentic side of San Francisco by grabbing a bite at the Ferry Building Marketplace or with a visit to the vibrant Castro. And whether it's climbing to the top of Twin Peaks or sauntering through Golden Gate Park, active types and nature lovers will find plenty to love about San Francisco. How we rank Things to Do:

1. Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge's vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast's most enduring symbols and the city's most popular tourist attraction. The bridge's name, "Golden Gate," actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat.

2. Ferry Building Marketplace.

Attention all foodies: this delectable attraction needs to be at the top of your San Francisco to-do list. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a public food market that features a variety of food stalls that act as small restaurants, snack stops and grocery stores. Here you can find everything from staples, such as seafood, burgers, Mexican food and plenty of coffee, to a Japanese delicatessen, empanada stand, nut shop and a cheese and dairy bar.

3. Golden Gate Park

If California had a Central Park equivalent, Golden Gate Park would undoubtedly be it. Though Golden Gate Park sees a small fraction of the visitor's it's New York counterpart does (Central Park gets upwards of 25 million, while Golden Gate gets more than 13 million yearly), it's about 174 acres bigger (Central Park is 843 acres). The park offers so much to see and do, it could take an entire day to experience all that it has to offer. Trails, picturesque picnic spaces, playgrounds, sports courts, gardens, museums and more can be found within its evergreen borders. With so many options available, it's best to map out ahead of time what you want to do, though some attractions warrant a visit, regardless of traveller taste.

4. The Exploratorium

This museum, or as it refers to itself, "a learning laboratory," features 600 hands-on exhibits that cover a plethora of subject matter, such as engineering, psychology, geography and biology. The museum spreads its knowledge over six main galleries, each with its own standout interactive offerings. Highlights include the tactile dome, where you'll have to rely only on your sense of touch to navigate through the pitch-black sphere, the colored shadow area, where flashes of colorful lights project your shadowed figure onto a wall, and the 10,000-toothpick sculpture of San Francisco that also acts as a marble run for ping pong balls.

5. Cable Cars

Chances are you've seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city's iconic cable car or trolley. So of course, to fully experience San Francisco's charm, you should hop on board. San Francisco's cable car system is the last of its kind in the United States, given the title of a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The cable car was conceived after Andrew Smith Hallidie, an immigrant from England, witnessed an accident involving a horse-drawn buggy trying to climb a steep San Francisco hill and failing. His father had a patent for wire rope in England and he used that to design a transportation system that relied on just that. Thus, cable cars were born in the late 1800s.

6. Mission District

The Mission District has attracted San Francisco's young bohemian crowd in the past decade, but it's still retained its authentic, local Mexican ambiance. This is the place that introduced the burrito to the wider world, so be sure to check out a local hole in the wall for some great eats. The Mission is also a great neighbourhood for getting away from the heavily visited tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman's Wharf. Recent travellers said the funky neighbourhood has a cool vibe and is filled with interesting murals. For an excellent view of the city, walk to the nearby Bernal Heights hill and relax for a bit. Also try the nearby Dolores Park, the most popular spot for sunbathers on a fogless day.

7. Muir Woods National Monument

What better exemplifies California's dramatic landscape than sky-high redwood trees? That's what you'll find at Muir Woods, the beautiful and expansive national monument just 16 miles north of San Francisco. This attraction is a must-see for anyone looking to get up close and personal with some of California's most famous topography, not to mention a nice break from the bustle of the big city. The largest redwood tree in Muir Woods measures about 258 feet tall. To give you a better visual, imagine 45 six-foot-tall individuals stacked on top of each other. And if that wasn't enough to impress, the average age of redwoods in Muir Woods is 600 to 800 years, and that's not even some of the oldest in the park at the moment.

8. Alcatraz

While riding a cable car and getting a snap of theGolden Gate is a must when visiting San Francisco, both visitors and travel experts tend to argue the same for Alcatraz. This is because Alcatraz is rich with history. Sitting on a small, rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is most known as being a former federal prison that housed some of society's biggest offenders, the most famous of which was Prohibition-era mob boss Al Capone. Before that, it was a military prison that housed prisoners from the Spanish-American War and Civil War, as well as the site of the West Coast's first operating lighthouse. The prison closed down both times due to high operating costs and was handed over to the National Park Service in 1972 after the island experienced a short occupation from Native American activists. Today, the attraction sees about one million visitors per year.

9. Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is so tourist-laden that some travelers might prefer the quieter, more authentic attractions nearby (like the Castro or Golden Gate Park). But if you're looking to explore all of San Francisco – from its alternative underbelly to its mainstream attractions – Fisherman's Wharf really is a must-see. This waterfront neighborhood features a laundry list of things to do, as well as a few popular San Francisco sites. One of these is Pier 39. The Pier features plenty of shopping and restaurant options for tourists and is also famous for offering sweeping views of the bay, as well as the can't-miss attractions that call it home, including Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Though while you're there, don't miss an opportunity to snap a photo of the sea lions who have a habit of sunbathing on buoys near the docks.

10. Chinatown

While New York City's Chinatown tends to take centre stage in the USA, San Francisco's Chinatown is just as much of a star. San Francisco's Chinatown hosts one of the largest Asian communities outside of Asia, and is considered one the oldest in North America. Chinese immigrants first started coming to California in search of fortune during the Gold Rush. After being driven out of the gold mines (due to discrimination and restrictive legislation against Chinese immigrants), the Chinese moved to build businesses of their own in the area that is now Chinatown – one of the city's most visited neighbourhoods.

11. AT&T Park

The San Francisco Giants have been calling this stadium home since 2000, playing host to multiple World Series games. AT&T Park is regarded as one of the most scenic baseball parks in the United States for its picturesque placement along the San Francisco Bay. The majority of attendees are afforded prime views of the glittering water from their seats all the while being able to enjoy one of America's greatest pastimes.

12. California Academy of Sciences

Attention all travelling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest.

13. Twin Peaks

If you want the best views of San Francisco, take a hike to Twin Peaks. These famous grassy pounds rise 922 feet from the ground, making them the second highest point in the city (after Mount Davidson). From the top, travelers can view multiple San Francisco landmarks, including the Bay Bridge and the downtown skyscrapers. Whether you decide to go during the day or night (some say you should do both), numerous visitors agree that the views are stunning and worth the trek. But make sure to bring a jacket: many recent visitors said it can get windier (and subsequently chillier) up top than at sea level.

14. Baker Beach

While San Francisco isn't known for being a beach town, the city's Baker Beach is often considered one of the best in California. Located in the northwestern area of San Francisco in the Presidio, Baker Beach is primarily known for its sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the neighboring Marin Headlands. The mile-long beach offers travelers plenty of room to spread their legs and features picnic areas and access to nearby Presidio trails. Travelers flock here to snap photos of the bridge, however, if you're looking to catch some rays or get your feet wet, you should go elsewhere: Swimming at Baker Beach is dangerous thanks to large waves, undertow and rip currents, and the city's fickle weather means it's not always warm enough for sunbathing.

15. Union Square

Situated a couple blocks north of Market Street and southwest of the city's Financial District, Union Square sits at the heart of downtown San Francisco's hustle and bustle. This area is loved by travellers and locals alike for its awesome location and incredible energy. Union Square Park is flanked by tall buildings (some of which are adorned with Time Square-size ads) and busy streets, offering people the unique opportunity to sit in the middle of a busy city and enjoy the atmosphere without the risk of getting run over. The square also acts as a park, outfitted with small grassy spaces and palm trees. There are also multiple seating areas and works of art dotted across the square. The most recognized are the tall Dewey monument, situated in the centre of the square, and the regularly photographed Hearts of San Francisco sculpture found at the base of the square.

Do you need more reasons to visit San Francisco?

Well? What are you waiting for?


Image of Northern Lights in Iceland

Iceland was settled by Nordic people in the ninth century and is a unique destination that offers unspoilt nature, breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture.

Here are eight reasons why a trip to Iceland should be on your winter’s travel list:

1. Iceland is closer than you think.

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland is a three-hour direct flight from the UK. The flights are very well priced and it is possible for us to arrange a trip to Iceland as a stop-over before heading for destinations in the USA including Boston, Washington, DC and New York.

2. Scenic, other-worldly beauty, everywhere you turn.

Iceland is so staggeringly beautiful and otherworldly. On a recent visit, we felt like we were in Narnia. Everywhere you turn there are glaciers, waterfalls, lava fields, rainbows, streams and mountain ranges. The scenery is out of this world, and falls right into your lap.

3. Northern Lights

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are one of nature’s most spectacular and beautiful phenomena. Iceland is an ideal holiday destination for Northern lights viewing, located midway between Europe and North America.

You can experience the Northern Lights on one of the many tours that offer you a “second chance” if you fail to see them on the first night out.

4. Icelandic Horses

Icelandic horses are petite, at times pony-sized, but most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. Icelandic horses are long-lived, sure footed and hardy. They are considered to be the world’s purest breed. They were brought to Iceland upon Viking ships and served as the only source of transport for many years over the rough terrain of Iceland.

The Icelandic is a “five-gated” breed, which includes walk, trot and canter/gallop, as well as a four-beat lateral ambling gait known as the tölt that is a bit like speed walking. The horses are incredibly sociable and friendly.

We were lucky to have a 90-minute Icelandic horse adventure with The Icelandic Horse Company. The husband and wife owners were so knowledgeable and committed to gentle instruction, education on the special horses and rider’s safety. We were all able to do the tölt!

5. Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

The Blue Lagoon is a unique geothermal spa situated in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, south-western Iceland. It’s 30 minutes from Reykjavik and only 15 from Keflavik International Airport.

The Blue Lagoon is a large expanse of naturally heated powder-blue water, set amidst a jet black lavascape. Visitors come to bathe and enjoy the extensive range of massage treatments and therapies. From simple admission to a half-day luxury experience with meals and drinks included, there is a Blue Lagoon experience for all budgets.

6. Adventure

From mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, glacier tours, kayak, river rafting, caving, whale watching, birding and elf hunting (yes, elf hunting), there are endless outdoor activities for everyone.

7. Culture & History

Icelanders enjoy a sophisticated European culture based on age-old traditions. Viking heritage is intrinsically woven into the fabric of Icelandic culture and the Sagas that recount early Viking voyages form the foundation of the Icelandic literary tradition.

There are many museums dedicated to the history and traditions of the Icelandic people including the Saga Museum in Reykjavik, a 10th-century Viking log house, The National Museum of Iceland and our favourite — the Skogar Museum in South Iceland. The Skogar Museum was founded in 1949 by a 90-year old gentleman who still raises the museum flag each day.

Skogar Museum visitors can see how the Icelanders lived in the past in small turf houses and learn the history of Icelandic inhabitants. There are tools and instruments used for fishing and farming, old handicrafts and papers, clothes and things related to superstitions to name a few.

8. Hip Reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital and the largest community in Iceland, with a population of about 200,000. Including the neighbouring towns, the capital area has a total population of about 170,000, which is about 60% of Iceland’s population of 300,000 people.

Reykjavik’s friendly and energetic culture that includes a internationally recognized music and arts scene, great food, fabulous hotels for every budget, chic shopping and a notoriously “enthusiastic” nightlife.

Fabulous modern Icelandic restaurants like Kolabrautin in the gorgeous Harpa Concert Hall and Fish Market have helped make Reykjavik a destination for foodies.

Do you need more reasons to visit Iceland? Icelanders are friendly, easy on the eyes, everyone speaks English, tipping is included in all pricing and free Wi-Fi is available everywhere.

Well? What are you waiting for? - Iceland - Northern Lights Holiday


Image of Azure Window in Malta

Game of thrones’ ‘Azure window’ CRUMBLES: Malta's 164ft-high arched cliff washes away after being hit by heavy storms

Malta's famed Azure Window has crumbled into the sea after being pummelled by stormy weather.

Geologists had long warned that the arched cliff structure, on the north-western coast of the small island of Gozo, was eroding and last year visitors had been banned from walking on top of it or sailing beneath it. But on Wednesday morning their prediction came true and the natural wonder dramatically collapsed with a 'loud whoomph' according to Roger Chessell, a local resident who witnessed its boulders crashing down hundreds of feet into the Sea.

Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat described the event as 'sad' and 'heartbreaking'.

He added on Twitter that the 164 foot-high limestone landmark had always faced 'unavoidable natural corrosion' but finally 'that sad day arrived'. The natural site had lured millions of tourists over the years. It has also been used as a backdrop in dozens of films and most recently it featured in the first season of the HBO series Game of Thrones in the Dothraki wedding scene.

Malta's Environment Minister Jose Herrera said that the environmental conditions surrounding the Azure Window were behind its eventual collapse. Its exposed positioning meant it was constantly battered by strong winds and violent waves. 'What nature created, it took away,' Dr Herrera said in a press conference. Malta's tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis admitted the country had lost a prime visitor asset. However, he maintained that Gozo has a lot more to offer than the Azure Window.

There's Never Been a Better Time to Travel in Europe

British holiday makers heading to Europe received a welcome boost recently after the pound soared to a seven-year high against the single currency. Sterling rose above 1.42 euros – a level not seen since January 2008 – giving families more ‘bang for their buck’ on the Continent.

The euro has tumbled against a host of currencies from around the world in recent months as the threat of recession and deflation hangs over the single currency bloc. The fall accelerated last month when the European Central Bank outlined plans to pump at least £850billion of emergency funds into the eurozone’s struggling economy. The prospect of a flood of cash being created through so-called quantitative easing has lowered the value of the euro.

The situation in Greece, where the new Left-wing government is at loggerheads with the rest of Europe over its debts, has also undermined confidence in the single currency. It is feared that Greece will default on its debts and be forced to leave the euro – plunging the region and the currency back into crisis.

Chris Saint, head of currency dealing at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the pound’s rise against the euro ‘has a bit further to run’. He blamed the ‘impasse between Greece and the rest of the eurozone’ and added that ‘there doesn’t seem to be much common ground’.

The Ultimate European Road Trip

Is this the ultimate European Road Trip?

The journey takes in 45 stop-offs in total and includes countries such as the UK, Portugal, Bulgaria, Estonia and Finland. Covering 16,287 miles and 14 days of driving, It is advisable allow three months in order to spend some time exploring each of the cities.

If you are thinking about doing a road trip, you could use the above map to help with choosing your destinations and we'd be delighted to assist you in putting the trip together.

Destinations On The Ultimate European Road Trip

How to Pack Your Suitcase Like a Pro

If you've ever had problems closing your suitcase, this video will show you just how to make the most out of every inch - so you can stop wrestling your case and start enjoying your trip!

You can see more of Tom Ayzenberg on his travelblog: http://imflyingaroundthecountry.com

Retirees Lead The Way With Adventurous Travel

A quarter of retirees say they want to reward themselves with a relaxing cruise in the sun-soaked Caribbean, while 23 per cent are keen to take a scenic train trip across Europe. Showing their adventurous side, 20 per cent say they want to view the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas strip during an exhilarating helicopter ride. Travelling Route 66 features in the "must do" list and rounding out the top five is a romantic gondola ride in Venice.

TOP BUCKET LIST DESTINATIONS

~ View Aurora Borealis, Norway (29%)
~ Go on a cruise in the Caribbean (25%)
~ Inter rail across Europe (23%)
~ Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and the Las Vegas strip (20%)
~ Ride a gondola in Venice (18%)
~ Walk the Great Wall of China (18%)
~ Go on Route 66 road trip in US (18%)
~ See the Taj Mahal in India (17%)
~ Go on an African safari (17%)
~ Visit the pyramids in Egypt (15%)

New Airline Cabin Luggage Sizes

Airlines are set to adopt a new rule on cabin luggage that will reduce the size of bags passengers can take on planes. Aviation bosses introduced the guidelines last night and eight major carriers have already signed up, according to The Telegraph - with more expected to adopt the process in the coming months.

New carry on bag sizes:
55cm (21.5 inches) tall
35cm (13.5 inches) wide
20cm (7.5 inches) deep

Atlantic City - On the Up

From Atlantic City’s humble beginnings as the summer home of the Lenni-Lenape Indians to the vision of creating a tourist attraction in 1854 by Dr. Jonathan Pitney, a local physician, Atlantic City boasts a rich and varied history.

Atlantic City offers something for everyone. From the boardwalk to the bay, our great city has become a world-class destination and a "must see" attraction for millions of visitors annually. From fine dining and entertainment, to a wide array of shopping and, of course, casino excitement...we're "always turned on"!

Furthermore, Atlantic City is also a great place to live with stable neighborhoods and proud citizens who truly care for their community. As Mayor, it is my goal to unite Atlantic City and make a positive difference in the lives of others. The City of Atlantic City is concerned with improving the quality of life of our citizens. We also encourage development and support a partnership between business, industry, government and community.

Atlantic City is very unique, having both a small town charm coupled with an international "big city" identity. We are truly among the most diverse communities in America. In closing, please be sure to visit this website frequently to learn more about the City of Atlantic City, and more importantly...don’t forget to make Atlantic City your No.1 destination!

http://www.cityofatlanticcity.org

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