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Park Guell, Barcelona: What to Know Before Visiting

Easily recognizable by its colorful mosaic architecture, Park Guell is a must-see attraction on any visit to Barcelona.  Its whimsical and playful designs left me feeling as if I had just stepped into the pages of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books.  The park is the work of renowned artist Antoni Gaudi whose work is showcased throughout Barcelona.

The park has a rather unique history.  It was commissioned in 1900 by Eusebi Guell.  He and Antoni Gaudi planned to create a luxury gated community outside of the hustle and bustle of the city.  The plan was to build 60 houses in addition to a large square, markets and other services for the community.  Sadly the idea was not as well received as the pair had hoped and only two of the 60 houses were actually built.  The housing project was abandoned in 1914.  It wasn’t until 1922 that the project was turned into a park which is enjoyed by millions of visitors each year.

Amazing Views
Park Guell is built on Mount Carmel and has some of the most amazing panoramic views of the city.  The views alone are worth the trip to this attraction. 

Very Crowded
No matter what time of year you visit, the park is sure to be crowded.  In an effort to maintain the conservation and maintenance of the park, the entrance is regulated so only a certain amount of visitors are allowed in at a time. 

Book in Advance
It’s recommended that tickets be purchased in advance.  Tickets are available for purchased up to 3 months ahead of time. Visitors can choose the type of tickets and the time slot that best suits their travel needs.

Steep Inclines
Keep in mind that some of the paths are very hilly.  There are sections of the park that have inclines that are actually quite steep so keep that in mind if mobility is an issue or if you plan to visit on a hot summer day. 

Allow at Least a 1/2 Day
Between getting there and taking in all the sights you’ll want to allow at least 1/2 a day to fully enjoy the park. 

Not Centrally Located
Park Guell is on the outskirts of the city away from other city attractions.  It’s a good idea to be aware of this when planning your itinerary but please don’t let that discourage you from visiting this one-of-a-kind attraction.

Visit the beautiful city of Barcelona and book your accommodations through a luxury home exchanges in Spain and around the world with International Vacation Home Exchange .  Find out more about how home exchange works.  Eusebi Guell’s plan for luxury homes may have fallen through but IVHE has a variety of luxury properties to choose from not only in Barcelona but around the world. 

Thank you to travel writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

A Day Trip to Torun, Poland

I had an opportunity to spend a few weeks just outside Torun, Poland in a tiny town called Kutno.  If you’ve never heard of Kutno then that wouldn’t surprise me.  There are only two reasons people are familiar with Kutno:  1) you have ancestors from there or 2) your son has competed in the European and African Little League Championship.  The second is what brought us there. 

Other than being home to the baseball championship games, not much else goes on in Kutno. So when we had a game-free day we decided to explore the surrounding areas and take a short drive to the neighboring town of Torun.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of this little known European city.  We found the town to be a refreshing change from the tourist driven cities around the world.  Torun has one of the quaintest European town squares.  We had great time exploring on foot and grabbing some lunch in one of the outdoor cafes.

Torun is one of the oldest most historic cities in Poland.  The city is well known for its stunning medieval architecture.  It is one of the few Polish cities to escape major damage during World War II.  It is also birthplace to the polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.  A monument of the famous astronomer stands just outside town square and there is a lot of town pride for their well-known former resident. 

At the heart of Old Town is the magnificent Old Town Hall.  It’s one of the few gothic structures that is not a church.  We climbed the narrow stairway of the tower to enjoy some breathtakingly charming views of the city and captured some beautiful photos. 

Walk just a few minutes outside of center square and you’ll find Torun’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  We discovered that composer Frederick Chopin has ties to the city as well.  The family of one of his good friends was connected to the city so Chopin spent quite a bit of time there.  Places where he frequently stayed honor him with a plaque. 

One of the best reasons to book a home exchange for your next holiday is that it allows you to escape the tourist scene and experience your travels like a local.  Whatever part of the world you’re planning on exploring International Vacation Home Exchange is sure to have a luxury property nearby.  Search properties near your next travel destination.   If your travel happens to include watching boys play baseball in Little League games then best wishes on the team making it to Williamsport and yes, IVHE does have properties in Pennsylvania.  

Thank you travel writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Take a Trip Down a Famous Canal: Panama

A few months ago, I started working as a writer for a construction firm in the United States. I am one of this people who get super excited when I go to Home Depot, so a job with a construction company was the perfect fit! I know somewhere, my dad is super proud. Hopefully this makes up for that time I almost sawed off his finger while helping him build a bird house. Granted I was like 9 at the time. And it was an accident. But my now 34-year-old self still feels bad.

Right now, I am totally geeking out over a massive construction project that is wrapping up in Panama. And this isn’t just any ordinary expansion project; this is one of the largest expansion projects in the world! The Panama Canal expansion project, dubbed Third Set of Locks Project, is intended to double the capacity of the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal is a man-made, 48-mile waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The waterway cuts through the country of Panama and features a series of lifts that helps ships to pass through the canal. The Panama Canal has been instrumental in the trade industry for more than a century.

The nine-year, $5.4 billion expansion project doubles the canal’s cargo capacity. A third lane has been added so that more and larger cargo ships can pass through. The project is expected to be complete this summer. If you are interested in learning more about the expansion project, click here.

The two main ports for the Panama Canal are located near the cities of Cristóbal and Panama City. Both cities are in the country of Panama. There are daily tours of the Panama Canal available to tourists. You can even experience the canal first hand from a boat, or you can get a bird’s eye view from the Panama Canal Museum.

Now aside from seeing one of the greatest feats the engineering world has ever seen, there’s a number of reasons why you should visit Panama Canal. There are also a few International Vacation Home Exchange vacation home properties in the country. So your lodging is covered.

1)      Panama City. The city is both a vibrant metropolis and a historic wonder. It is also a regional hub of trade and immigration. As a result, the city has become a melting pot of cultures from both the east and the west. The skyline glows with glass and steel towers. Panama City is also the gateway to both sandy beaches and lush rainforests.
2)      Historical wonders. Here’s a fun fact, Panama was once under water. Now, the country bridges North and South America. For more than a century, nearly a third of the world’s gold passed through Panama. You can see the ruins of forks that were attacked by pirates. 
3)      Easily Accessible. Most major airlines will fly to Panama from cities such as Madrid, Miami, Amsterdam, and Berlin.
4)      Indigenous tribes. There are about a half dozen indigenous tribes living in Panama. You may have seen documentaries on these tribes on the Discovery Channel.

If you are looking for a way to relax during your trip, you can also do a little bird watching. Panama is home to nearly 1,000 bird species. You may even catch a glimpse of these species during a hike through a tropical forest. Because, why not; you are in Panama!

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla

I’d Love to Travel But….

There’s no doubt that traveling comes with its share of hassles and inconveniences making it easy for some to come up with a long list of excuses as to why they don’t.  As tempting as it is to stay in your comfort zone, nothing new or exciting ever happens there.   Here are a few of the most common excuses people give as to why they don’t travel.  Hopefully, I’m able to debunk a few and encouraged everyone to add a little adventure to their lives. 

“I can’t afford to travel”  Yes, travel can be expensive but with a little creativity there are many ways to fit it into your budget.  

Sign up for a credit card that earns you travel points  There are a tons of  credit card companies out there offering points toward travel expenses that can save you hundreds of dollars. 

Book a home exchange: Book a home swap with a company like International Vacation Home Exchange and save thousands on your accommodation expenses.  You’ll also save money by cooking at home instead of eating out. 

Start a Vacation Fund:  Be cautious of where you are spending your money.  Each time you decide against           making an unnecessary purchase put that money in a special fund towards your     vacation.  You’ll be surprised how fast that fund adds up and how many useless items you often spend your money on. 

“I hate to fly”
While flying can sometimes be a frustrating and unpleasant experience, it’s quite often the only option to get to your from Point A to Point B.  It’s best to just embrace it.  To be honest, I love to fly.   When else do you have several uninterrupted hours where you don’t feel like you should be doing something more productive?  It’s forced “down-time”.  Make the most of it. 

Read a Good Book Flying is probably the most uninterrupted time you can have. 

Watch a Movie                 Research movies that are out and find one you’ve been dying to see then save it for your flight.  You’ll be at your destination before you know it. 

Take a Nap Take advantage of time to take a guilt free nap.  You’ll arrive at your destination completely refreshed

“We have a beach house so we don’t need to go anywhere else”
Having a vacation home is nice way to spend vacation time and create family memories but it can easily get you into a travel rut.  Consider using your vacation home to arrange a home swap through IVHE.  Home swap is a great way to broaden your travel horizons and visit a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting.  IVHE has luxury homes all around the world. 

“It’s a dangerous time to travel”
While recent incidences around the world may cause you to have some apprehension regarding travel, it’s important to keep in mind that if we waited until there was nothing disturbing going on in the world and it was completely safe to travel then no one would ever travel anywhere.  They’ll always be something to worry about somewhere in the world so don’t let current events prevent you from planning a trip. 

Put an end to the travel excuses and start living your travel dreams today.  Hopefully, in no time at all you’ll be using “I’m too busy traveling” as your new excuse. 

Thank you travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

4 Things I Love Most About The Netherlands

We once spent an unforgettable Bank Holiday weekend touring The Netherlands.  Even though the weather did not cooperate on this trip, it still stands out as one of my most memorable holidays.  It poured the kind of “sideways” rain that requires you to ditch your umbrella in the bin and purchase a new one every block or so.  We were fortunate enough to get a few breaks from the downpours and even enjoyed a few quick appearances from the sun.  The fact that The Netherlands still remains one of my all time favorite holidays just goes to show how many amazing sites this country has to offer its tourists.  Here are a few of my favorite attractions. 

Keukenhof is often referred to as the Garden of Europe as it is one of the world’s largest flower gardens.  Its stunning displays showcase a variety of flowers and you’ll see tulips in every imaginable color as far as the eye can see.  Tulips have always been my favorite flower.  I’d take a bouquet of tulips over roses any day which is something considering I was born on Valentine’s Day.  The park covers 79 acres and is located southwest of Amsterdam in a town called Lisse.  The gardens are located on what was once a hunting ground dating back to the 15th century.  You can tour the gardens from mid-March to mid-May but the best time to view the tulips is in the middle of April. 

The Anne Frank Museum is located on a canal in central Amsterdam and is one of the most memorable and moving museums to visit in the world.  During World War II, Anne Frank hid from the Nazis with her family and 4 others in the hidden rooms in the back of this canal house.  It was known as the Secret Annex.  Though Anne Frank did not survive the Holocaust her story did through her well known diary, published in 1947.  The Museum has preserved the hiding place in this 17th century building.  Visitors can tour the exhibition and learn more about the life of Anne Frank. 

Royal Delft
Delft pottery is easily recognizable by its beautiful blue hand painted designs.  On a visit to Royal Delft you can witness artists still delicately hand painting each piece by this centuries old tradition.  Royal Delft is located in the town of Delft and is the last remaining earthenware factory from the 17th century.  Be sure to stop by the gift shop to purchase a hand painted piece of pottery made just steps away in the factory.  My Delft pottery piece is one of my favorite souvenirs that I’ve collected over the years. 

Canal Tours
No trip to The Netherlands is complete without a canal tour through one of the world’s most amazing cities, Amsterdam.  There are many variations of canal tours to choose from offering wine and cheese, burgers and beer, champaign or just your regular sightseeing tour.  Whichever tour you choose you will experience beautiful views of the waterfronts as you glide through this majestic city. 

The Netherlands is just one of the 70 countries in which International Vacation Home Exchange offers properties. View this Amsterdam apartment in city center or view this exclusive vacation home located in one of the most picturesque locations in The Netherlands.  Add a home swap in The Netherlands to your bucket list and know that rain or shine you’ll have holiday memories to last a lifetime. 

Thank you travel writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Rocky Mountain High – It’s Real in Colorado

Whether its winter or summer, few places have as much physical beauty to offer as Colorado.  One feels on retreat there even when tending to business.
Take Boulder for instance.  Home of the University of Colorado/Boulder, the mountains loom quietly but decidedly over this progressive community.  Perhaps the topography is in part responsible for the state’s strong conservationist stance.   Actor and avid environmentalist Robert Redford attended the University of Colorado, though according to Redford himself, not very successfully.  Nonetheless, a great American conservationist was born.
In the 1980s, when I was in Boulder, the University of Colorado and the city seemed ahead of its time; bike paths crisscrossed the whole, beautiful campus.  Real effort was put into maintaining the character and splendor of the place.
I met a man, who was to me, the quintessential example of a progressive Boulderite.  When he and the mother of his child decided to split, they had a “separation ceremony” complete with meditation and the burning of candles.  I wish I had been more like that; my break-ups consisted of a lot more angst, and I must admit, some yelling.
Do you want to increase your inner peace and contentment?  International Vacation Home Exchange has this luxury home exchange in Boulder—the perfect place for centering or even having an amicable “separation ceremony.”
In addition to a luxury home exchange in Boulder, IVHE has several luxury vacation homes in magnificent Breckenridge, Colorado.  Breckenridge was founded in the mid-1800s after the discovery of gold in the nearby Blue River; it later became a thriving boomtown in the Wild West. 
However, by the 1950s, Breckenridge was nearly a ghost town and might have faded into the past had Breckenridge ski area not officially opened in 1961.  Further boosting the town’s appeal was that in 1984, Breckenridge’s historic district was placed on the National Register of Historical Places, and Main Street was restored to its western glory.  In 2009, a grand gondola came to town.  Breckenridge’s Main Street is a bit like Park City, Utah’s Main Street with unique shops, spas, and restaurants with wonderful western facades. 
Like Park City, Breckenridge offers delights year-round.  In the summer, take a “gold mine hike,” or explore your adventurous side with mountain bike racing. And if you have never ridden a ski lift in summer, you must try it once—the views are spectacular.  There is also a National Forest nearby which only adds to the area’s appeal.  Want to go in winter, but not a skier?  Breckenridge offers a ski and snowboard school.
Are you ready to have a Wild West adventure but stay in luxury accommodations?  Check out these IVHE luxury vacation homes in Colorado.  See how it works.
Thanks to travel writer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

A Look at Helsinki’s Top Attractions

Visit the beautiful seaside city of Helsinki and you’ll experience a mix of culture, history and natural beauty.  Finland’s capital is a great city to explore on foot or by bike.  It also offers a public transportation system that’s both reliable and easy to navigate.  Here are a few must-see attractions awaiting you in this Baltic capital.

Fortress of Suomenlinna
This top Helsinki attraction is just a short ferry ride from Helsinki’s harbor.  It was built in the 18th century by Sweden as a defense against Russia.  The fortress is made up of a grouping of six islands.  Learn more about its rich history by taking one of the guided tours offered throughout the summer months. 

Rock Church
Though it’s known as Rock Church or Church of Rock its official name is Temppeliaukio Church.  This Lutheran church is built directly into rock.  As visitors approach this site, the only part of the church that is visible is the top of the dome as the church is built below ground level.  Natural light comes in through the windows surrounding the roof.  This unique church offers a peaceful rest after a day of sightseeing where you can take a seat and listen to its tranquil music. 

Senate Square
Senate Square offers a great vantage point at the top of its steps where you can sit and take in the views of the city.  The square is made up of four buildings, Helsinki Cathedral, Government Palace, University of Helsinki (main building), and Sederholm House offering fine examples of neoclassical architecture. 

Market Square
This is my favorite part of the city.  Market Square is the central square in Helsinki and borders the Baltic Sea.   Youll be sure to find everything from fresh Finnish food to one-of-a-kind souvenirs, handcrafted by local artisans.  Canal tours around the Helsinki harbor frequently depart right from Market Square and offer an opportunity to explore the local islands during the summer months. 

Central Park
With 1/3 of Helsinki covered in green area, it’s no wonder one of its major sites is Helsinki’s Central Park.  What sets Helsinki’s park apart from other city parks is the fact that Central Park is more wild woodlands than manicured gardens.  The park offers many activities for the outdoor enthusiast and draws some 2 million visitors each year.  Whether you prefer to jog, bike, hike or use the archery range there are an abundance of ways to enjoy this city’s green space. 

Experience the Baltic area as a local by booking your next home exchange with International Vacation Home Exchange.  You’ll be just minutes from city center in this Helsinki flat or chose this luxury flat in StockholmFind out what makes IVHE different from other home exchange options and learn how you can begin enjoying its benefits today. 

Thank you to travel writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Travel Lessons from a Rookie Parent

There was a time that I thought I was a pretty savvy traveler. I always had a game plan when I walked through the terminals to the airport. I owned the skycap lines. I also knew how to quickly get through security. You can usually spot the veterans out in the security lines. We already have our shoes and belts off ready to go into the bin well before we even get to the x-ray line. We know the rules of the carry-on items like the back of our hands. Then you can spot the novice flyers. They are the ones who usually hold up the lines by forgetting to take laptops out or have to make countless trips through the metal detector because of forgotten belts and loose change. We’ve all been there. You learn.

Suddenly, I found myself becoming the novice traveler once again. Recently, my husband and I flew to Denver with our 16-month-old son. This would mark our son’s first flight (and our first flight with a baby). We were the rookie parents. And our mistakes began weeks before we even left for the airport. Though we didn’t need to purchase a seat for our kid, we still needed to include him on our itinerary. And of-course, we forgot to check that box. Luckily, I realized our mistake a few days before our trip and after a few phone calls, our son had his own ticket.
Now flash forward to our departure date. We showed up early to the airport and it was a good thing that we did. The trip through security was rough. First, the security agents (TSA) took the stroller and then pushed me and my kid through a metal detector. Then, my hands had to be checked for residue. The stroller was flagged as suspicious for some odd reason. As a result, my husband had to be thoroughly checked (more like patted down). The items in both of our bags had to be checked one-by-one for anything that could apparently bring down a plane. Imagine this process while trying to hang on to a very mobile and very impatient toddler. Luckily we made our flight and I may have aged 2 years at this juncture.

Okay, so we got off to a rough start. But I wasn’t going to let this ruin our flight. I was a seasoned traveler after all and this seasoned traveler/rookie parent was armed with an iPad, treats, milk, and toys. The goal: try to keep the kid happy so he doesn’t ruin the flight for some 150 passengers onboard. And mission accomplished! No tears, just giggles and smiles. Had there been tears, I would have bought drinks for everyone onboard.

Now for our trip home. We used two different airlines for our trip: Delta and Southwest. Southwest would be our ride home. Getting through security at Denver International Airport was a piece of cake. Getting on the plane was a different story. We were issued what we thought were boarding passes at the ticketing counter. We were actually issued security passes and needed to check in with customer service in the terminal. Didn’t realize this until we tried to board the plane. Swing and a miss. Once that was resolved, we tried a second time to board the plane. We were not allowed to board because our stroller needed to be check-in through customer service and not at the gate. Strike two. So we went back to customer service, got a tag for the stroller and finally were allowed to board the plane. However, because we were now some of the last people onboard a full flight, my husband and I couldn’t sit next to each other. We would have to sit apart. Strike three.

Once again, my kid was a champ. 80-minutes and like 20 episodes of Bugs Bunny later, we were on the ground in Utah. We got our luggage, car seat, and infant pack and headed back to our house. The travel adventure was not over though. Our infant pack was damaged beyond repair during the flight. Because my husband and I both had carry-on bags, the pack would need to be checked with our luggage. From there, I am not sure what happened but our brand new pack was pretty banged up. We were told that we should have invested in a protective cover for the pack. Strike four.

Okay, so if this were a baseball game, I would be sitting the bench. Rookie mistakes. But you learn, right? Here are some of the lessons I learned as a rookie parent flying with a kid for the first time.

1)      List your child as a passenger when you book your ticket. Even if you plan on having your child sit in your lap, you still need to include him or her on the itinerary.
2)      If you aren’t purchasing a seat for your small child, be sure to bring his or her birth certificate with you. Some airlines require an age verification at check-in.
3)      Strategize the diaper bag. Be sure to pack diapers, food, and toys. Lots of toys. Pack mostly toys or anything that will keep your kids entertained.
4)      Arrive early. Just in case your stroller is deemed suspicious or something while in the security line.
5)      Change diapers just before you board the plane.
6)      Invest in covers or anything that can help protect car seats, hiking packs, or anything that will need to go under the plane.

The most important lesson I learned was patience. Patience is key. Flying with children is not easy. One thing we did before we left was solicit advice from other parents. Many of the tips I received from other parents are sprinkled in the lessons I listed above. The unexpected will happen. We traveled to Colorado to participate in the Bolder Boulder 10K. We’ve ran this race a few times in the past. But we did it as a young married couple, not as parents. The day before the race, we learned we were NOT allowed to bring my son’s running stroller out on the course (strike five). Though a setback, we just rolled with it (hence the brand new hiking pack that was later damaged on our trip home). This was our mantra for the whole trip: roll with it. You learn.

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla

Enjoy the comforts of a home when on vacation, do a vacation home exchange.  With all the amenities of a vacation home, you and your young children will be much happier, thus making it a truly enjoyable vacation.  

7 Fun Facts about the City Beautiful: Orlando

I was 27 when I took my first trip to Orlando, Florida. Though I believe age is just a number; I was still a kid at heart even in my 20s. My now husband and I went to Orlando for the same reason why many people go to Orlando: Disney and Sea World. Again, I am a kid at heart. We spent a few days hitting the theme parks there before heading west to the community of Clearwater. It was an amazing trip. I came back with a nasty sunburn and like 5,000 photos. I also had about 1,200 emails waiting for me at work, but that’s a different story.

Orlando is home to more than a dozen theme parks. Walt Disney World itself has four parks. Down the street, you can find Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Also in Orlando, you can find Shamu and SeaWorld. The city is surrounded by lakes and wetlands. If you head east, you will eventually run into the Atlantic Ocean and Florida’s famous white sand beaches. The city has a humid subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 70-90 degrees all year round. In 2014, 62 million people visited Orlando, making the city one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the United States.

Sadly, as I write this post, Orlando is a temporary home to media outlets around the world for all the wrong reasons. The city has seen its fair share of tragedy in a span of just a few days. It is hard to believe that a city so beautiful has been plagued with unspeakable events. These events will forever shape not just the city, but the country and the entire world. But I digress.

I have always wanted to write about Orlando. I’ve written about Disney World and Harry Potter. But there is more to the City Beautiful. Let’s talk about the 7 facts about Orlando that you may not know.

1)      Orlando has been around for more than a century. The city was incorporated in 1875. It wasn’t until Walt Disney World opened in 1971, that the city became internationally known.
2)      There are more than 25,000 vacation homes and rental properties in and around Orlando and Central Florida, including these International Vacation Home Exchange properties.
3)      Orlando is home to more than 100 lakes. And these lakes are likely home to several alligators.
4)      The city’s famous lake, Lake Eola, is actually a massive sinkhole that measures at about 80 feet at its deepest point. And it is a must-see if you visit the city.
5)      Orlando was originally the main hub of Florida’s citrus industry. Farmers would eventually move their citrus crops south in the early 1900s.
6)      Walt Disney World Resort sprawls across more than 40 square miles. To give you an idea of how large that is, all of Manhattan is 33.7 square miles.
7)      The city is commonly referred to as The City Beautiful. Other nicknames include City Phenomenal and City Different. When I was a kid, I simply referred to the city as Mickey’s Vacation Home.

There is more to Orlando than just theme parks. The city has a bustling entertainment and performing arts scene. The city also served as backdrops to several Hollywood movies including “Jaws 3”, “My Girl”, “Parenthood”, and “Lethal Weapon 3”. In fact, Orlando is often referred to as “Hollywood East” because of the number of movie studios in the area. If you are lucky, you may see some celebrities walking the streets. And while you are visiting the city, be sure to talk to the locals. They will be excited to show you the roads less traveled by tourists. And as always, safe travels.

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla 

San Antonio: Beyond the Typical

San Antonio is city with many sides. Located in south central Texas, it holds the distinction of being the 7th most populated city in the US. However, it feels a little differently than your typical metropolitan area might. Things are just bigger in Texas, so San Antonio is a bit more spread out and less densely populated than many other major hubs in the US. The town has a rich history. It was first named by Spanish explorers in the late 1600s in honor of its namesake, Saint Anthony of Padua. I traveled there this past year for the first time and I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I disembarked the plane. The only preconceived notions I had of Texas were of 10 gallon hats, big belt buckles, cattle ranches, and the like. However, I found San Antonio to be a bastion of culture, filled with rich history and interesting locales.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a stay near Riverwalk, which is a huge center for tourism, dining, shopping, and entertainment. Encircled by a winding river, the quaint cobblestone streets are tucked under the busy downtown traffic, providing a cool oasis and a scenic place to stroll. The first impression San Antonio gave was most certainly the food! It’s the definition of authentic Tex-Mex and each restaurant is sure to put their own spin on the flavor, so you won’t have the same meal twice. The drinks are nothing to shake a stick at either – from prickly pear margaritas to more traditional fare, this is absolutely a town that knows how to eat and drink in style. Even the tucked-away holes in the wall that were well outside of the tourist district did not disappoint, and the prices were surprisingly reasonable for a city of this size.
My visit happened to coincide with their annual jazz festival, which was a site to behold. Throughout the week, I saw signs of several other planned events and festivals. It became quickly apparent that there isn’t any shortage of things to do here. If you’re looking for a culture experience during your visit to San Antonio, it shouldn’t be difficult to find an event that fits the bill. San Antonio blends a lot of culture and history into one town, so expect their festivals to be equally diverse and exciting. Because of the reasonably temperate climate allowing them to operate almost year-round, San Antonio is able to offer more outdoor festivals than many other cities.
If you’re looking for a trip full of rich history, great food and drinks, and plenty of stimulating cultural activities, then San Antonio should be high on your list of places to visit. There are famous historical sites, like The Alamo, that have proven to be timeless tourist favorites. There is certainly a lot of the traditional Texas in this city, but I found San Antonio to be diverse and different, with interesting and unexpected twists almost everywhere you go. From the tourist district to the hidden gems that reside off the beaten path, San Antonio is far more than typical.

Thank you to travel writer Emma Sledge.  

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