Marco Polo’s Top 5 Romantic Destinations + GIVEAWAY

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about the big romantic gestures, and what better way to show your love than by taking your significant other on a romantic getaway. We at Marco Polo have decided to share our top 5 romantic destinations with you and to spread the love, we are also giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Pocket Guides:

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam may not seem like a romantic destination, but there is a lot of love in this Dutch city. A stroll down the canals, hand in hand with your love, while the locals cycle by, also often hand in hand. Or take a canal cruise and snuggle on the boat while you take in the beautiful 17th century sights.

Oh, and don’t forget to treat your love to a bunch of tulips at the Bloemenmarkt!

BALI

Bali is without a doubt a romantic getaway destination: the beaches, the views, the sunsets, what more could you ask for? The island is a perfect couple’s paradise! For those wishing to splurge, check out the AYANA Resort and Spa in Jimbaran for first class luxury! For those looking for luxury on a budget, this can still be found at Keraton Jimbaran Beach Resort with its own private beach!

While you’re on the island be sure to check out Sanur for its relaxed vibe, Ubud’s rice paddies and in the north: Lovina to do some dolphin watching!

Venice Marco Polo Guide

VENICE

The canals, the gondolas, the gorgeous historical buildings – Venice is full of romance! It has been the setting of many a love story, and one of the most famous ones is the tragic love story between a fisherman and a mermaid. All that is left of their love is a stone heart that is said to bring eternal love to those who touch it, so make sure to take your own love there.

For the best view of Venice, check out Ponte dell’Academia, also known for the many love locks attached to it. Just don’t leave yours there, the locals will not appreciate the damage done to the historical bridge.

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

LAKE GARDA

The beautiful Lake Garda, with mountains in the distance, makes for a stunning scene for the couples seeking an active vacation. Visit the historical harbour of Sirmione, go hiking in the nearby mountains and end your day in one of the area’s excellent Italian restaurants, or watch the sun set into the lake on the beach.

NEW YORK

With all the romantic comedies set in New York, it would be hard to argue why New York does not belong on this list. It is the perfect urban setting for your very own love story. Exchange kisses on the top of the Empire State Building, take a stroll in Central Park and re-enact your favourite romantic movie scene in the city that never sleeps.

*****

GIVEAWAY

To spread the love, Marco Polo is organising a giveaway! We are giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Pocket guides to one lucky winner, chosen at random.

How to enter?

Simply share the story of your most romantic travel moment or your favourite romantic destination in the comments below. You can earn more win-chances by liking our Facebook page and by following our Twitter and Instagram and by letting us know in your comment that you have done so.

The competition is open from Wednesday 14 February 2018 until Tuesday 20 February 2018 at 12.00 GMT. We will contact the winner personally via email using the email address used to leave the comment so make sure to check that it is spelled correctly!

Good luck! 

Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promotion is open to UK and EU residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and their immediate families of Marco Polo, its agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
  2. To enter, simply comment on the blog post. Additional win-chances may be acquired by liking the Marco Polo Facebook page and by following the Marco Polo Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the entrant has done any of the mentioned actions, it should be stated in the comment.
  3. This competition will commence on 14 February 2018 and all entries must be received by 12.00 GMT on 20 Febryary 2018. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, posted late, misdirected, and incorrect, garbled or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid.
  4. No purchase necessary, however internet access is required.
  5. The Prizes: 1 x prize winner will receive 5 x Marco Polo Pocket Guides: (£7.99 each).
  6. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if a winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The winner will be liable for all costs and expenses not stated relating to claiming or partaking of the prize.
  7. The promoter may substitute the prize for a prize of an equal or greater value if, for any reason the original item is unavailable.
  8. By entering, winners agree that if they win they will participate in any reasonable publicity arranged by The Promoter or its agencies.
  9. By entering the promotion entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms & conditions and by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The Promoter or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize.
  11. The Promoter or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of The Promoter or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.
  12. The Promoter reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering or to have tampered with the operation of the promotion or the Marco Polo website, or to be acting in violation of these terms and conditions.
  13. To the full extent permitted by law the Promoter will not accept liability for any loss, damage, injury or death arising from this promotion beyond its reasonable control.

The Promoter is Marco Polo Travel Publishing, Pinewood, Chineham Business Park, Crockford Lane, Chineham, Basingstoke, RG24 8AL

That New England Feeling

The Atlantic Ocean, lobsters, beautiful nature and plenty of history and culture, New England and Boston have it all!  Experience the region’s unique air and find out what makes it tick – just like the locals themselves.

FEELING BOSTON

Families on picnics, students out for a stroll, tourists photographing the swans, ducks, and monuments: the Boston Common is many things to many people. Above all, it is a wonderful place to daydream. Sit down on one of the benches and ponder over everything that started here in Boston. Many of the movements that later changed the way America thinks had their roots in this city – puritanism, abolition, feminism and same-sex marriage are just a few.

BEACON HILL

Boston is Beacon Hill and, when you leave Boston Common and immerse yourself in this posh residential district, you will feel like you are right back in days gone by, in the America of old. In the days of horse-drawn carriages, the city’s most influential people resided in these red-brick town houses. Especially interesting are the cobblestoned streets like Acorn Street, with its tenement buildings where the domestic staff were kept out of sight.

SO GREEN

Take a lawn with a monument in the center, add a neat church and scatter a few colonial-styled public buildings around it and you have the classic New England idyll. The following rule of thumb will help you in your search for the most beautiful village greens: those in Connecticut are large, there are a great number of them in Massachusetts and New Hampshire’s are small and inviting. Some of the most picturesque greens are in the following towns: Warren, Rindge, Lebanon, and Fitzwilliam (all in New Hampshire).

ART AS YOU GO

Artists are good for tourism and in summer many communities organise regular art walks. The galleries move their exhibits outside onto the pavement and invite passers-by to stop and chat with the artists. You will fund excellent art walks in Brattleboro, VT (www. gallerywalk.org), Portland, ME (www.liveworkportland.org/arts/ walk) and Boston (www.beaconhillartwalk.org/).

LOBSTER GALORE IN MAINE

Steaming pots, melted butter, and long lines – the lobster shacks in Maine are at their busiest in summer. There are several dozen of these simple lobster eateries between Kittery and Bar Harbor. Especially good: Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown (www.fiveislandslobster.com) and The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport (www.theclamshack.net).

FOREST OF FLAMING COLOUR

New England in autumn comes alive with natural displays of colour when forests of birch trees, beech, and hickory all explode in vibrant tones. This spectacle of nature begins at the end of September and the foliage is most beautiful in the Berkshires, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains.

KISS ME ON THE BRIDGE

Ever since Meryl Streep risked more than a quick glimpse at Clint Eastwood from one, covered bridges have become synonymous with romance. There are still many constructions of this type in New England; the roofs protect the wood from decay and their shady interiors make them ideal for a romantic rendezvous. That is why they are also known as kissing bridges. Vermont has the most, 106 in all, and also has the only museum devoted to this subject: the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum (44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington; Fri–Sun 10am– 5pm).

A NEW ENGLAND HIKE

After so much culture you need a touch of the wilderness. The White Mountains are the best hiking area in the northeast and the Appalachian Trail, America’s most famous long-distance hike, runs through the most spectacular sections. And, if you feel like going on a multi-day hike but don’t want to pitch a tent, you can take advantage of the hut system operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (5 Joy Street, Boston, 617 5 23 06 36, www. outdoors.org).

 

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Where to go in 2018? – Marco Polo Staff Picks

Choosing your travel destination can be difficult, as there is the whole wide world to choose from. Many of us are planning our 2018 travels at the moment, so we thought we would ask around our office for some ideas, and some Insider Tips. Here are Marco Polo’s Staff Picks for your 2018 travels:

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Ian MacDonald

LAKE GARDA

“Lake Garda is my favourite holiday destination, it has everything – the weather, the views,
the food, the wine… did I mention the food and wine?

My tip for Lake Garda: Have your first espresso immediately after getting off the autostrada
(motorway). Stop at the car park after the first hairpin bend coming from Nago heading for
Torbole and enjoy your first cup of coffee, your first aperol or your first ice cream (at the bar
on the other side of the road). The view to the south is breath-taking.”

– Ian MacDonald, Managing Director

Dresden Marco Polo Guide

DRESDEN

“Dresden city exudes a magical aura. When the morning sun glistens on the Elbe River and
highlights the silhouette of the Altstadt, even the residents of Dresden catch their breath.

As one of the most popular travel destinations in Germany (the city welcomes around
ten million visitors every year, and this figure is on the rise) it impresses its visitors
with monuments, art and culture. Yet, it is the Elbe River that defines the city’s
mood. It winds its way through the town in broad curves, passing vineyards, stately
castles and homely beer gardens, and lined by the broad Elbwiesen meadows, which
are unlike anything to be found in other large European towns these days. People meet
here to sit around camp fires, eat picnics, go for a walk, ride their bikes
or relax in the sand and watch the clouds go by… why not join them?”

– Andrew, Sales Representative for London and the South Coast

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

“This is hardly a hidden gem, but after travelling around Asia for two and a half months,
this place is the one I still dream of. Angkor Wat is simply the most stunning thing I have
ever witnessed in my life. It’s no exaggeration to say it took my breath away. Make sure
you allow plenty of time to explore the temples. The best way is by tuk-tuk; hire a driver
for the day. Or if you’ve brave enough you can rent a moped or bike – but prepare to sweat!!

Whilst in Siem Reap be sure to check out Pub Street and the Night Market. Restaurant wise
– I’d recommend New Leaf Eatery and Genevieve’s, both of which are non-profit organisations,
so you can enjoy your meal knowing you’re supporting a great cause!”

– Hayley, Digital Marketing Manager

Photo credit: Alison Floutier

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP & SAN DIEGO

“If you’re on Highway 5 heading south from LA to San Diego, add an extra hour to your journey time to allow a stop in San Clemente. It describes itself as the ‘Spanish Village by the Sea’ and would be so easy to dismiss in your charge south to the San Diego. But an hour here, taking in the ocean views and gorgeous Spanish architecture is well worth your time. Insider Tip – you’ll see the big Starbucks sign from the 5. Use this for navigation but stop at the Zebra House Coffee Shop. The best coffee you’ll experience in California and if you strike lucky, the walls can be laden with beautiful artwork from local artists.

Coronado, the spit of land that juts out from San Diego, is Paradise with a capital P. Everyone knows it for ‘The Del’, the grand Victorian Hotel Del Coronado graced by US Presidents and Marco Polo staff alike! It’s a beautiful beach to while away a few hours and then take your sandy-self to the Babcock and Story bar on the ocean front to sip a perfectly ice cold beer and imagine Marilyn Monroe filming Some Like it Hot on the beach just in front. If you can tear yourself away, a drive round to Point Loma is well worth the view looking back across the Navy base, the principal home port of the US Pacific Fleet, and see the hotel and the whole of this gorgeous peninsula.

Insider Tip – the finest Mexican food and eye-wateringly wonderful margaritas can be found just across the road and a world away from the tourist hub of The Del. Hidden behind a row of shops, is the fantastic Miguel’s Cucina. You need to find time to linger here.”

– Diane, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

Marco Polo Guides Lisbon Largo Trindade Coelho

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

LISBON

“Ah, where do you start with Lisbon? I think I’ll have to start with food – freshly caught seafood including prawns the size of your fist and Bacalhau, a local speciality! You can’t leave without trying a Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart. The most popular place to try them is Pasteis de Belem, but they’re sold all over the city. Not forgetting the wine – Portugal produces some excellent wines! Including the famous Port and Madeira, of course… but they’re found all over the country. In Lisbon, the local delicacy is a sickly sweet but surprisingly delicious liqueur called Ginjinha. It’s made from cherries and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole cherry in the bottom of your cup! The best places to try it are A Ginjinha near the famous Rossio Square or Ginjinha Sem Rival.

Alfama is my favourite area in Lisbon, I could wander around there for hours. And you must visit Castelo de São Jorge, Rossio Square and the beautiful Cathedral: Se! My other tip is Belem… which is a little out of the city, but worth a visit… and if you have time, take an excursion to Sintra. You won’t regret it!”

– Petra, Sales & Marketing Manager

BOSTON

Boston is ideal as a stand alone city break or as a good starting point for trips further afield in the New England area. Hotels can be ridiculously expensive so we tend to go for the better priced boutique B&Bs. Seafood is plentiful and just about everywhere from cafes, pubs to restaurants offer lobster and their famous Clam Chowder on their menus and at such good value.

For sports fans you have everything covered, The Boston Red Sox Baseball stadium where you can take a guided tour, the TD Gardens for Ice Hockey and Baseball and Patriots Place for the current Superbowl Champions, the New England Patriots for American Football and The New England Revolutions for Soccer. This is further afield and requires a train journey but great to get to see small town America as you travel by.

Boston and the New England coastline is brilliant for spotting whales and from the harbour you can easily book day trips on the many tours they offer. Duck Tours are great to get your bearings and get the low-down on the city from a local driver and they all end up on the river which is one of the best places to view Boston. Their Aquarium is right on the harbour front and worth a visit.”

– Julie, Office Manager

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS

“Amsterdam is one of those destinations that everyone has to see at least once in their life, but my tip for anyone visiting Amsterdam for more than a day or two is to leave the city. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a lot more to see in the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. One such place is Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the country. It’s only 20 minutes away by train, but Utrecht is still a bit of a hidden gem for most tourists.

There are canals, just like in Amsterdam and many other Dutch cities, but the canals in Utrecht have a unique feature: the canal side docks. Once used for loading trade goods, today there are countless restaurants that host their terraces on the docks.

The Dom tower is the main landmark of the city, an old church tower from the 15th century, which you will be able to see in the horizon almost everywhere in the city. The cathedral is also worth a visit, as is the old courtyard with its flowers and a maze. Entrance is free, though a small donation at the door is always appreciated.

If you are hungry or thirsty, there is plenty that Utrecht can offer. My personal favourite for a quick, inexpensive snack is the Vietnamese streetfood restaurant Kimmade, on Mariastraat. It’s a tiny little place, with seats for around 10 people, but the food is excellent. For drinks Neude is the place to be, especially if it is sunny. The square will be packed with tables and chairs and this is where the locals will be. Order a beer and a portion of fries – or bitterballen if you are really feeling the local vibe, and enjoy.”

– Senja, Social Media Assistant

What is your pick for 2018?

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Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 12: Hanukkah in New York

It’s Day 12 of our Advent Calendar and it’s also December 12th, the first night of Hanukkah. We are headed to New York, to find out how the big Apple celebrates the Festival of Lights. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

8m by Chabad.org, on Flickr
8m” (CC BY 2.0) by Chabad.org

 

HANUKKAH IN NEW YORK

So far most of our Holiday traditions have revolved around Christmas, but it would be remiss of us to ignore the other big celebration of the Holiday season, Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. From the evening of December 12th, until the evening of December 20th, Jewish people around the world get together with their families and friends to light the candles of the hanukkiah, the Hanukkah menorah. New York has a large Jewish community, and among all the pre-Christmas parties, there are also lavish Hanukkah celebrations to be found.

On the Upper East Side, on the 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah is lit every evening of the Hanukkah, around 5:30 PM (see image above, from last year). In other parts of New York there are also large public Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies, though the one in Brooklyn is known as ‘the Largest’ (not to be confused with the world’s largest on Upper East Side). ‘The Largest Hanukkah’ menorah lighting ceremony also hosts a free concert on the first night of Hanukkah and there are also hot latkes and presents for children.

Even if you are not Jewish, it is the perfect time to learn more about the Jewish traditions, as many museums in New York, such as the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, have special exhibits on the topic. At the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, children – and parents – can learn all about the dreidel.

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Marco Polo New York Spiral Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do In Florida

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed in Florida! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Florida’s most important sights.

Florida Marco Polo Guide

1. FLORIDA KEYS
Florida Keys makes number 1 on our list thanks to its bewitching mix of liberality, a super relaxed lifestyle and a tropical climate.

2. SOUTH BEACH MIAMI
Crazy, creative, trendy and full of life: with its magnificent Art Deco architecture, the South Beach
neighbourhood is the very best reason to pay Miami a visit.

3. EVERGLADES
Meeting an alligator in these wetlands is an unforgettable experience – but don’t forget the countless other species that are also worth a look!

4. KEY WEST
Awash with artists, hedonists, Mojitos, Key Lime Pies, drag queens and Hemingway clones, this city on the Keys is the most liberal spot east of San Francisco.

5. MAGIC KINGDOM PARK®
Orlando has been shaped by Disney World®, the mother of all theme parks – and Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom Park® is the princess of all fairy tale castles.

6. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
Get a taste of exciting contemporary history: it was from this space station that America took its first steps toward the stars.

7. PENSACOLA
Founded in 1565, Florida’s western most city is a pleasant, peaceful place. Alongside the Old Town, the gleaming white beaches are a magical attraction.

8. LITTLE HAVANA
Florida would be unimaginable without Cubans. Miami’s Little Havana – with the Calle Ocho at heart – brims with Cuban life like nowhere else in the USA.

9. ST. AUGUSTINE
With its romantic alleyways and plazas, St. Augustine – Florida’s birthplace – still has an unmistakably Spanish Colonial feel to this day.

10. TAMPA AREA BEACHES
Pinellas Peninsula by Tampa is a real tropical paradise. The soft, white, sugar fine sand makes the peninsula a real Mecca for all lovers of sun and fun!

 

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Florida Marco Polo Guide

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Low Budget Florida

Let Marco Polo show you how to visit Florida without spending a fortune…

Florida Marco Polo Guide 

 

Miami

The Jazz on South Beach: A dorm bed costs $20–35 and a room costs $50–100. On top of that, the Jazz has a club coordinator who provides guests with access to the South Beach clubs. 28 rooms | 321 Collins Ave. | Tel. 1 305 6 72 21 37 | www.jazzhostels.com

Jerry’s Famous Deli: No deli really, rather a good ol’ diner from the time of the big road cruisers. It serves over 600 dishes, mainly burgers and sandwiches, and the portions are always huge. 1450 Collins Ave. | South Beach | Tel. 1 305 5 32 80 30 | www.jerrysdeli.com

Tap Tap: Haitian cuisine amidst works of Caribbean artists in super-bright colours. The grilled chicken comes highly recommended. 819 5th St. | Miami Beach | Tel. 1 305 6 72 28 98

Miami creativity for free: Every Sunday and every second Saturday of the month there is no charge for the Miami Art Museum. This fabulous museum exhibits both established and young artists and has outstanding collections.

 

The Keys

Harriette’s Restaurant: A yellow box building with a green roof. It serves up lots of calories for little money. Pictures of local softball teams and trusty regulars hang proudly on the walls. MM 95.6 | Key Largo | Tel. 1 305 8 52 86 89

The Whale Harbour Inn: Nowhere else in Florida will you get so much seafood for only $30. Islamorada | MM 83.5 | Tel. 1 305 6 64 98 88 | whaleharborrestaurant.com

Key West Aquarium: One of the oldest aquariums in the US, which has shark and turtle basins as well as a touch pool with manta rays and crustaceans. Shark feeding happens daily at 11am, 1pm, 3pm and 4.30pm. Open daily 10am–5pm | Admission $13 | 1 Whitehead St. | www.keywestaquarium.com

 

The Everglades

Bird watching: A good pair of binoculars is all you need to enjoy spotting cranes, frigate birds, swallow-tailed kites and 347 other species. Bird check lists are available from the visitor centres.

The wonders of the Everglades in black and white: In the Big Cypress Gallery, a good 18 miles east of Ochopee, landscape photographer Clyde Butcher presents the dramatic and idyllic results of his quest for timeless beauty. Free admission | Open daily 10am–5pm

 

The West Coast

City tour (nearly) for free: Well, 25 cents is as good as, no? In St. Petersburg, an old-fashioned trolleybus serves 13 stops and covers most of the city’s attractions. Park your car at St. Petersburg Pier and get aboard the yellow-painted Looper bus for a city tour. Daily 10am–5pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-Midnight.

The Lazy Flamingo II: This restaurant serves oysters, mussels and shrimps and is a favourite with the locals. 1036 Periwinkle Way | Sanibel | Tel. 1 239 4 72 69 39

 

The Panhandle

City view: You can enjoy a superb view of the state and capital city from the Observatory on the 22nd floor of the New Capitol Building in Tallahassee. If the visibility is good then you can see all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Free admission | Mon–Fri 8am–5pm | 400 S Monroe St.

Panama City Beach: Loads of special offers and other discount incentives available on their Chamber of Commerce website. www.pcbeach.org

 

The East Coast

Sawgrass Mills shopping centre: Find more than 350 stores and designer outlets all under one roof. You are sure to find a bargain at the biggest mall in southern Florida! 12801 W. Sunrise Blvd. | Fort Lauderdale

The Pirate House Inn: Something between a youth hostel and a guesthouse, which has beds in dorms as well as private rooms at absolutely rock bottom prices. 5 rooms, 2 dorms | 32 Treasury St. | St. Augustine | Tel. 1 904 8 08 19 99 | piratehaus.com

Lazy beach days: If you want to sunbathe or go for a cooling dip then head for Midtown Beach as it is the only public beach in town. Ocean Blvd. | Between Royal Palm Way and Gulfstream Rd.

Al’s Pizza: A popular pizza canteen with cheerful staff and delicious food. 303 Atlantic Blvd. | Tel. 1 904 2 49 00 02

 

Orlando

Theme park fun: If you’re going to visit Walt Disney World (disneyworld.disney.go.com) or Universal Studios (www.universalorlando.com) it is worth checking out this valuable information from MoneySavingExpert before you go: www.moneysavingexpert.com!

Grape’s Wine Bar & Gourmet Bistro: A choice of 120 different wines, snacks and light meals in a functional urban ambience. 9101 International Dr. | Pointe Orlando | Tel. 1 407 2 48 28 38

Ocala National Forest: An adventure park that charges no admission fee. The forest is blessed by the sun and characterised by its deep shades of green, slender palm trees, knotty oaks, sand pines and flowing rivers. Despite the fact that it is close to the entertainment capital of Orlando, you can certainly find peace and relaxation in this dense national forest. Visitors can swim and snorkel in crystal-clear springs or paddle through palm forests and observe sea eagles and even black bears. A range of outdoor activities including canoeing, cycling and walking can also be pursued here. Ocala National Forest | Ocklawaha Visitor Center | Daily 9am–5pm | Tel. 1 352 2 36 02 88 | CR 315 and SR 40 | Close to Silver Springs

 

» Read more about Florida

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Florida Marco Polo Guide

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Low Budget New York

Want to visit New York but can’t flash the cash? Here are Marco Polo’s top tips to get the best out of the Big Apple without spending a wedge:

 New York Marco Polo Guide

Free museum admission

Entry to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is free every Friday afternoon. The museum’s collection of contemporary art is phenomenal and its special exhibitions are outstanding. Many regard the museum as the world’s best because it gives the visitor a conclusive overview of 20th century art thanks to masterpieces such as Henri Matisse’s Dance, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair and Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Opening times: Sat–Mon, Wed, Thu 10.30am–5.30pm, Fri 10.30am–6pm | 11 W 53rd St | Between 5th Ave and 6th Ave | Entrance free Fri 4pm–8pm otherwise $20 entrance fee | www.moma.org | Subway: 47th–50th St, B, D, F, M

The ferry not to be missed

Perhaps the most inexpensive experience you can have in New York is the round trip on the Staten Island Ferry. When it pulls away from the shore you get to see the full sweep of the Manhattan skyline from the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and on to New Jersey – all for free. On the other side of the ferry the view is of Brooklyn, New York City’s biggest borough.

Every 30 minutes during the day (every 15 minutes in rush hour), hourly 11.30pm–6.30am | South St/State St | Subway: South Ferry, 1 (only the first five front carriages of the train.)

Dining on a budget

City Bakery: vegetarian buffet with some innovative flavour combinations. Daily 7.30am–7pm | 3 W 18th St | Tel. 1212 3 66 14 14 | www.thecitybakery.com | Subway: 14th St–Union Square, L, N, Q, R, 4–6

Degustation: Tapas at reasonable prices. Mon–Sat evenings only | 239 E 5th St | Tel. 1212 979 10 12 | www.degustation-nyc.com | Subway: Astor Place, 6, 2nd Ave, F, M

Schnitzel & things:  This mobile food truck with its mustard coloured logo parks in a different New York street every day! For its sumptuous deepfried cod, chicken and pork chops track it down at www.schnitzelandthings.com or on Twitter. Mon-Fri between 11.30am and 2pm | Tel. 1347 7 72 73 41

Tai Thai: Authentic Thai food at Bangkok prices! 78 E 1st St | Tel. 1212 7 77 25 52 | www.taithainewyork.com | Subway: 2nd Ave, F, M

Free Concerts and Exhibitions

An excellent repertoire of jazz, world and eastern European music is on offer on the tiny stage at Barbes jazz club and bar in Brooklyn’s Park Slope – admission is free. Excellent live music, good acoustics and an eclectic mix of patrons of all ages have elevated this small gem in an excellent location in Brooklyn to cult status. 376 9th St (6th Ave) | Tel. 1347 422 02 48 | www.barbesbrooklyn.com | Subway: 7th Ave, F, G

World Financial Center – This complex of buildings on the southernmost tip of Manhattan across from Wall Street comprises office blocks, shops, apartments (Battery Park City), an imposing conservatory (Winter Garden), yacht harbour and green areas. The Winter Garden has a variety of restaurants and shops not to mention free concerts and exhibitions. Information: ‘events calendar’ of www.worldfinancialcenter.com | West St | Between Vesey St and Liberty St | Subway: Chambers St, A, C, J, M, Z, 1, 2, 3

Free tour guides

Big Apple Greeters are enthusiastic New Yorkers who volunteer to show tourists their city in their spare time – free of charge. These very personal tours through Manhattan or Brooklyn are very popular and it is a good idea to book well in advance. Tel. 1 212 6 69 81 59 | www.bigapplegreeter.org

Free Newspaper

The free weekly newspaper the Village Voice is the city’s events calendar with comprehensive arts and culture listings. Look out for the red boxes at the side of the street and in some cafés. www.villagevoice.com

Keep fit!

Even though you find yourself in the concrete jungle you can still keep fit – just remember to pack your trainers! Jogging around the reservoir running track in Central Park or through Prospect Park in Brooklyn is an experience in itself. There is also the new Hudson River Park located on Manhattan’s West Side where you can either jog, cycle or rollerblade along the waterfront all the way from the southernmost point to far north of the island. In summer you can swim for free in the municipal pools in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan (www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/pools) and in winter you can go ice skating in Central and Bryant Parks and at the Rockefeller Center. Many of the parks offer free t’ai chi and yoga courses in summer. www.bryantpark.org

 

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Low Budget Las Vegas

A visit to the world’s gambling centre without spending a fortune? Well, the gambling part is up to you… but with Marco Polo’s top insider tips, you CAN visit Las Vegas AND save money! Let us show you how:

 Las Vegas Marco Polo Guide

Accommodation

Accommodation in Las Vegas is noticeably more expensive on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you are given the choice then try to time your arrival for a Sunday.

Nowhere else in the world does supply and demand influence hotel prices as extremely as in Las Vegas. Just like the airlines: every day, every flight has a new price, designed to maximise profit and to attract guests on the down days. So when business is slow in the middle of the week, say on a Tuesday, a room in an exclusive hotel can cost as little as 59 dollars and then next day when a trade fair starts and the city is full, the same room will cost you $249.

On websites, prices are shown months in advance but a visit to a travel agency is also worthwhile: sometimes travel agents have a set rate for rooms which can even be cheaper during trade fairs or over the holiday season, meaning they can be a better option than booking online.

The USA Hostel Las Vegas is a very comfortable youth hostel with Jacuzzi, swimming pool, billiards, ping-pong tables, internet access and a well equipped kitchen. A daily pancake breakfast and a Sunday barbecue are included in the price, as is the cost of your transport to the bus or train station. 1322 Fremont St | Downtown | Tel. 702 3 85 11 50 | www.lasvegashostel.net

America’s Best Value Inn: A motel sans casino with clean and comfortable rooms that are simple and fuss free. Only a block away from the excitement of the Strip. It also has its own attractive swimming pool. 250 rooms | 167 E. Tropicana Ave | Tel. 1 817 3 33 52 12  | Bus 201 East from corner Strip/Tropicana Ave | www.americasbestvalueinn.com

Motel 6: One of the cheapest motels in the city but the accommodation is quite acceptable, with a swimming pool and in a good location not far from the MGM Grand. 600 rooms | 195 E. Tropicana Ave | tel. 702 7 98 07 28 | Bus 201 East from the corner Strip/Tropicana Ave | www.motel6.com

Sightseeing

Browse through the events magazines like What’s on? (www.whats-on.com) or Vegas Magazine (lasvegasmagazine.com) for coupons. There are even coupon websites available like www.vegascoupons.com, or you can find special promotion codes on the Internet, for example at www.smartervegas.com. Even restaurants, shows and exhibitions use coupons in their marketing. You can often get two tickets for the price of one, a free starter or even a free main dish.

Free shuttle buses travel to almost all of the hotel casinos and other attractions that are away from the Strip, e.g. to the Orleans, the Hard Rock Hotel or the Rio Suites. The monorails between the Bellagio, CityCenter and Monte Carlo, between Mirage and the TI Treasure Island as well as the line between Excalibur – Luxor – Mandalay Bay are all free.

Visit the www.vegasfreebie.com website for an overview of the free attractions and shows in Las Vegas.

Dining

Low prices away from the Strip: more and more of the large resorts that are not on the Strip itself try to make up for their location with low prices and this is where you will find some excellent buffets at very reasonable prices. West of the Strip, try the inexpensive prime rib in the Cortez Room (Gold Coast Casino. While east of the Strip, Mr. Lucky’s (Hard Rock Hotel) serves huge salads for $10. Close by is the Bougainvillea Cafe (Silver Seven’s – formerly Terrible’s) serving for example, a Thai curry for $5.99.

The food courts in the shopping malls are also a good source of cheap meals (e.g. in the Fashion Show Mall). You can get anything from pizza to Chinese sweet and sour and Mexican tortillas to ice-cream – and it is all self-serve.

Du Paris Golden Gate Bay City Diner: An American diner with prices, portions, design and service that harks back to the good ol’ days. Delicious pancakes for breakfast! Have your starter at the San Francisco Shrimp Bar (in the same hotel). The shrimp cocktail with home-made cocktail sauce at only $1.99 is a still a winner. More than 40 million dishes have been sold since 1959! Daily 24 hours | In the Golden Gate | 1 Fremont St | Tel. 702 3 85 19 06

Courtyard Café: American and spicy New Orleans cuisine at reasonable prices. A decent steak with different side dishes for only $18 – which is not something you will find often in Las Vegas. Daily 24 hours | In the Orleans Casino | 4500 W. Tropicana Ave | Tel. 702 3 65 71 11 | Bus 201 West from corner Strip/Tropicana Ave

Dragon Noodle: Every kind of Asian noodle dish made with fresh ingredients as well as traditional Chinese cuisine, often visited by Asian guests – which speaks volumes about the quality of the food. Sun–Thu 10.30am–1pm, Fri/Sat 10.30am–midnight | In the Monte Carlo | 3770 Las Vegas Blvd S. | Tel. 702 7 30 79 65  | www.montecarlo.com

Free Live Music

In the large hotels, bars and casinos, up-and-coming bands and singers from all over the USA often perform over the weekends. From the Indigo Lounge in Bally’s, to the Bond Bar in the Cosmopolitan, the La Scene Lounge in the Venetian to the Koi Lounge in Planet Hollywood. You can relax and enjoy without worrying about the cost as there are no cover charges. Sometimes it is not even necessary to order a drink.

Lions at MGM Casino

Whilst the tiger in the Mirage can only be viewed from behind bars, the MGM Casino shows their wild cats completely free. There is a glass enclosure in the centre of the casino with a pride of lions and they can even be viewed from underneath in a glass tunnel – if you are lucky, one might just be on top of the tunnel. The lions work in shifts: six hours in the exhibition and then two days of freedom on a nearby ranch (Open daily 11am–10pm | free entrance).

Vintage nostalgia

1950 Chevys, Cadillacs and antique Fords and even one of Elvis’ original cars, are all on show at the Imperial Palace – a car buff’s dream. Download a coupon from the Auto Collections website and book a free entrance ticket. Daily 10am–6pm | Entrance $8.95, free entrance with printed coupon from the website | Located in the Imperial Palace | 3535 S. Las Vegas Blvd | www.autocollections.com

Water Ballet

Every afternoon and evening, the water fountains in front of the Bellagio dance a water ballet accompanied by melodies from Broadway shows, famous operas, Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti and Céline Dion. The 1200 jets perform an impressive, choreographed water ballet of light and music every 30 minutes in the afternoons, at night every 15 minutes. Insider tip: Get the best view from the Eiffel Tower on the opposite side.

Shopping

Original historic souvenirs need not be expensive. Los Angeles Antiques on the outskirts of Downtown offer a wonderful collection of memorabilia from old casinos: from gambling chips and neon signs to lovely decorative pieces. Mon–Thu 10am–6pm, Fri/Sat until 8pm, Sun noon–5pm | 625 Las Vegas Blvd S. | The Deuce bus | lostvegas.vpweb.com

Colourful accessories, new and second-hand wares – the selection at the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet at the western edge of the city is huge. Many dealers, but the prices are good – and you can also negotiate. Fri–Sun 10am–6pm | 1717 S. Decatur Blvd | Bus 204 West corner Strip/Charleston, then bus 103 South | www.fantasticindoorswapmeet.com

 

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Guest Post: USA Road Trip 2015 guide book reviews

Photo credit: Motorhome Planet

Photo credit: Motorhome Planet

By Motorhome Planet

“We were lucky enough to receive review samples of guide books for the areas we were visiting on our USA 2015 trip from both Rough Guide and Marco Polo. Here’s a list of the books we used:

Marco Polo

Rough Guide

  • Pocket Rough Guide Las Vegas
  • Pocket Rough Guide San Francisco

So which guides came out on top? Which were kept in the glovebox and thumbed intensively at each place we visited?

City Guides – Rough Guide vs. Marco Polo

Before this trip, we’d never used Marco Polo travel guides before, but that could now change.

Reading and comparing the Las Vegas and San Francisco guides from Rough Guide and Marco Polo, we both preferred the Marco Polo guides.

San Francisco 9783829706872

WHY?

In fairness, both guides are similar and both are well up to the job. Both use a two-column layout and have similar content.

Our preference for the Marco Polo guides was mainly because we preferred the organisation of the content and the more modern formatting of the guide. It seemed more readable and easier to find what you want — e.g. suggested eateries, grouped by budget, or details of casino attractions in each section of the strip.

Both guides included pocket maps of the central areas of each city, but with differences. The Marco Polo maps were physically larger and included more detail. For example, in San Francisco the bus routes were marked on the map. Very useful.

In Las Vegas, the Marco Polo map covered a wider area and was far more useful for driving. As it happens, the Rough Guide pocket map was the best for a walking tour of the main strip area as it was very large scale and showed all the main casinos in enough detail to plan an efficient route.

Summary

There weren’t any bad guides here. The four city guides were all good, but Marco Polo Guides had the edge and I’d now like to try one of their full-size country/region guides.”

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Roland Head, from Motorhome Planet.

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Top 10 Family Beaches

Off on holiday with the kids? Here are Marco Polo’s Top 10 Family Beaches from all around the world! From Brussels to Crete, and from Italy to the USA – we’ve done the hard work for you – so you don’t have to! 

Caribbean

1. Dominican Republic, Samana, Las Terrenas

The water is like a bath, the sand perfect for playing in and, where the waves gently lap the shore, squeals of delight can be heard each time a wave comes in. The Caribbean is a paradise under palms for families. When the children are a bit bigger, whale-watching is an unforgettable experience – the best time to visit is in February.

Caribbean Marco Polo Map

 

2.  Greece, Crete, Bálos Beach

Turquoise, more turquoise, Bálos. The lagoon in the northwest of Greece’s largest island gives you that South Seas’ feeling – but without the palms. The beach of white shell and coral sand around the lagoon and the shallow water – up to a child-friendly depth of 50cm (less than 2ft) – are ideal for a relaxing family trip.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

 

3. USA, Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach

Buttercup Lucine, Florida Cone… the sandcastles on Sanibel Island are richly decorated, the island an eldorado for shell collectors. Gentle waves and no sudden drops are an open invitation for small children to paddle safely. For souvenirs head for ‘She Sells Sea Shells’.

Florida Marco Polo Spiral Guide

 

4. Italy, Caorle, Spiaggia di Levante

Spiaggia di Levante, with its sunbeds and shades, stretches out beyond the old fishermen’s church. Kids love the climbing frame on the sandy beach. Don’t forget a walk along the promenade with the children who can clamber around the artistic stone sculptures to their heart’s content.

Italy Marco Polo Guide

 

5. Western Australia, Monkey Mia

Anyone who has experienced this will dream about it for the rest of their lives. Swimming with dolphins is just pure bliss. On Monkey Mia beach Flipper’s relatives in the wild come right up to the beach. What does a dolphin’s skin feel like? Like a shelled hard-boiled egg under water!

Australia Marco Polo Guide

 

6. Belgium, Blankenberge

Building sand castles on the beach here has moved to a completely new level! Every year, children and adults can marvel at the work of professionals during the sand sculpture festival when the most incredible creations imaginable are conjured up in Blankenberge. For the rest of the year the little ones can try to make a work of art of their own, or simply enjoy paddling in the water.

Belgium / Luxembourg Marco Polo Map

 

7. France, Cabourg, La Plage des Romantiques

Villas along the promenade conjure up pictures of the elegant spas of old. The beach has been given the ‘Famille Plus – Mer’ seal of approval by the Ministry of Tourism and is considered particularly family friendly with lots of activities for young visitors available throughout the year.

France Marco Polo Atlas

 

8. France, Île de Ré, Le Bois-Plage-en-Ré

The beaches slope gently into the sea and the temperature of the water is perfect thanks to the Gulf Stream – the beaches in the south of the Île de Ré, off the French Atlantic coast, are ideal for the whole family. And don’t forget to buy a packet of the finest salt – known as fleur de del – from the salt pans here to take back home with you.

French Atlantic Coast Marco Polo Guide

 

9. USA, New Jersey, Cape May

This brightly-coloured resort with its oversized ‘dolls’ houses on the southern tip of the Garden State looks as if it is made of icing. There’s plenty of room on the long beach on the Atlantic for building sand castles and the waves are perfect for boogie boarding too. Cape May is perfect for all ages.

USA Marco Polo Map

 

10. Norway, Stavanger, Solastranden

A long, fine sandy beach, blue skies with a few cotton-wool clouds just here and there… Who doesn’t think of Norway’s beaches straight away? Solastranden near Stavanger is a popular place for families in the summer months.

Norway Marco Polo Guide

 

Content taken from the Marco Polo World Map with 100 Dream Beaches.

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