Located in Winter Haven, FL and just 45 minutes from the Orlando theme parks and downtown Tampa. LEGOLAND is a brand of interactive theme parks dedicated to families with children between the ages of 2 and 12.
Save big on holiday travel this season with Amtrak’s winter flash sale offering discounted fares across the country to popular destinations from New York and Boston to Chicago and beyond.
The sale, which must be booked by Nov. 15, is available for travel from Dec. 4 through March 15, 2024, according to the rail company. The sale is valid on most Amtrak routes nationwide and includes no blackout dates.
In the Northeast, travel from Baltimore to Philadelphia, from Baltimore to Washington D.C., or from Boston to Providence starting as low as $4 one-way. Or head from Baltimore to Boston for as low as $28 one-way and from New York to Washington D.C. for as low as $17 one-way.
In the Midwest, travelers can journey from Chicago to Minneapolis starting at just $34 one-way, travel from Chicago to Denver starting at just $58 one-way or travel all the way from Minneapolis to Seattle starting at just $83 one-way. Or head up and down the West Coast with trains from Denver to Sacramento starting at just $98 one-way and trains from Los Angeles to Portland starting at just $82 one-way.
The sale is valid on all routes except Amtrak’s Ethan Allen, Vermonter, Hiawatha, San Joaquins, Pacific Surfliner, and 7000-8999 Thruway services. The sale is valid for coach or Acela Business class tickets only and upgrades are not allowed.
Travelers also can’t make changes to their tickets once purchased, and cancellations are subject to a 50 percent cancellation fee.
Do you live near Chicago or are planning to visit soon ? Discover 6 nearby destinations to visit besides the Windy City. Check out this article by Adam Lapetina for Travel & Leisure.
Cities can sometimes feel like endless stretches of concrete — especially in the hot summer months — and Chicago is no exception.
Fortunately, there’s a whole world out there beyond the city limits. While it doesn’t always feel like it, there are so, so, so many worthy escapes within a few hours’ drive of Chi-town: storybook towns studded with ice cream parlors, lakeside cities with entirely different cultures, and even places where you can connect with nature among waterfalls and lush trees. Waterfalls! Outside Chicago!
The Windy City’s location, in this case, is your ally. Pack your car with some picnic accoutrements, and maybe some hiking gear just in case, and head off. You’re within driving distance of some truly great, out-of-the-ordinary places that make for wonderful road trips. Here are six of them.
Imagine a state already known for its beer and cheese having to cater to over 30,000 college students, and you’ve got some idea of the earthly delights that await in Madison, Wisconsin. This state capital could have been a destination in its own right for its unique geography — located on a narrow isthmus surrounded by two large lakes, it’s beautiful even during cold Wisconsin winters — or its remarkable breadth of shopping, cultural events and festivals, and architecture, but its food scene is virtually unrivaled for a city of its size.
The streets are filled with an eclectic mix of professors, politicians, businesspeople, street performers, and health nuts, and if you ask any of them for their favorite spot, you’ll likely get a range of answers as large as the city’s 250,000-plus population: American small bites at the new and renowned Mint Mark, tacos and margaritas at Canteen, Lao-Thai noodles from Vientiane Palace, and the list goes on and on.
Most students, however, will drive you toward craft-beer watering holes like The Malt House or Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, which purportedly serves one of the best burgers anywhere. Wash it down with some Wisconsin beer from New Glarus as well as some fried cheese curds, and you’ll have yourself a real Madison, Wisconsin, night.
Madison is about two and a half hours from Chicago.
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
TODD RYBURN/GETTY IMAGES
Yes, Illinois isn’t known for its natural beauty like some other states. Yes, its highest natural point is Charles Mound, a diminutive 1,235-foot hill. But that doesn’t mean that hidden gems don’t exist here. For a true escape from Chicago’s steel-and-stone skyscrapers that’s still within the state limits, drive to the area around Starved Rock State Park.
Visitors expecting more flat Illinois farmland will be surprised to find an incredible valley around the Illinois River, with lush trees, striking bluffs, and 14 gorgeous waterfalls feeding into the roaring waters. Starved Rock is a choice destination for camping, hiking, kayaking, and white-water rafting, and after you’re exhausted from a day of physical exertion, it’s also got a place to hang your hat: the Starved Rock Lodge.
However, if you feel like experiencing a bit more of the local flavor, the towns around the river valley provide it in buckets. Tiny, charming Utica is home to the August Hill Winery and some wonderful antique stores, while the historic towns of Oglesby and Ottawa are chock-full of Americana: small museums, galleries, and great food, particularly at the Red Dog Grill in Ottawa and The Rootbeer Stand in Oglesby.
Starved Rock State Park is about an hour and a half from Chicago.
Allegan County, Michigan
Lake Michigan is huge. And in the summertime, when the heat gets a little unbearable, you could easily just jump into the lake in Chicago. But there’s something to be said for taking a jaunt out to Michigan to visit a string of lakeside towns that bring some truly unique qualities to the mix.
Douglas, Saugatuck, and Holland — and Fennville, though it’s not right on the water — epitomize small-town charm, while still offering some truly city-sized amenities for city-sized appetites. Fennville is known as the fruit basket of Michigan, with apple orchards, vineyards, and berry farms alongside delightful creameries and even corn mazes, while Saugatuck and Douglas consistently take the cake as two of the best lakeside towns in the Midwest, with incredibly charming downtown areas, gorgeous undulating sand dunes, pristine blue water, and more art galleries than you can shake a stick at. In fact, it’s here that two School of the Art Institute of Chicago instructors founded their own art school and residence, Ox-Bow, establishing an artists’ colony right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Their legacy endures to this day.
Further up the road, you’ll find a truly unique destination in Holland, where Dutch colonists established a foothold in the 1800s, bringing with them their culture, architecture, pastries (check out DeBoer Bakkerij), and even fields’ worth of tulips, which you can find at Veldheer Tulip Gardens.
Fennville is about two hours from Chicago.
Among the many types of travelers out there — people who crave solitude, people who don’t want to leave the 100-foot radius of their resort’s pool — there are those who are fascinated by city life, jumping from one urban area to another. If you count yourself among them, a road trip from Chicago to Indianapolis is certainly warranted.
First off, it’s the 17th-largest city in America, with a vast population and penchant for festivals, parties, and overall pageantry (it is the Racing Capital of the World, after all, and its famous month of May includes tons of smaller celebrations leading up to the Indy 500). No matter the time of year, though, you’ll find Indianapolis in full swing, whether you’re in the midst of its rollicking IndyFringe Festival in August and September or its Wine & Food Festival in June. It’s also a museum hub, with the world’s largest children’s museum, several art museums with broad and granular focuses, and small museums focusing on its favorite children, from Vonnegut to President Benjamin Harrison.
But one of the main reasons visitors flock to Indianapolis is its incredible food scene, which has, in recent years, exploded into national prominence. Hot new restaurants like Bluebeard, Milktooth, Crispy Bird, Oca, and more have all contributed to its reputation as a gastronomical powerhouse, while iconic institutions like Workingman’s Friend have been, well, working behind the scenes to keep Hoosiers well-fed for decades. It’s about time their city gets noticed.
Indianapolis is about three hours from Chicago.
Traverse City, Michigan
If you’re craving a real getaway, you can’t do much better than northern Michigan — it’s still within driving distance of Chicago and not as remote as the state’s Upper Peninsula, while still providing a wilderness-tinged escape for city dwellers. The de-facto capital of the region, Traverse City, is a city in name, but its population of around 15,000 means it’s got small-town charm and accessibility, making it a perfect gateway to the region’s breathtaking sights. Stop in for a glass of beer or wine at one of the many famous wineries and brewpubs, like Mari Vineyards or Mackinaw Brewing Company, before heading into the wilderness.
From Traverse City’s quaint streets, you can head north and explore the Leelanau Peninsula, or veer west to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Better yet, take scenic M-22 to tick off both boxes. Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the country’s best stretches of shoreline, with incredible dunes and westerly views that mean it’s got some of the best sunsets east of the Mississippi.
From there, mosey up M-22 to continue exploring the Leelanau Peninsula, where wilderness encroaches a bit further and small towns, each with a population under 1,000, dot the roads. Hike through the dense forests, pick apples and berries at the region’s many farms, and be sure to grab a heaping sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty in the county seat of Leland (population 377).
Traverse City is about five hours from Chicago.
In rare cases, a road trip doesn’t just mean traveling great distances — it can also mean traveling back in time. That’s what’s figuratively the case when you drive west from Chicago to Galena, consistently rated as one of the best small towns in America. For decades, Galena has been on a mission to preserve its rich history, meaning it has one of the most unspoiled historic town centers in the country.
The town’s good fortune started back in the mid-1800s, when it was the beneficiary of government grants to begin mining precious minerals located under the town. Since then, the town has focused on maintaining the buildings from that boom time, and there are architectural landmarks around every corner. The Galena Historic District is a particular delight, comprising more than 1,000 buildings, including the home of Ulysses S. Grant, a prime example of the Italianate style and now a dedicated memorial to his legacy. The town even has trolley tours that take you to its major historical and architectural benchmarks, contributing to its overall throwback feel.
Galena’s best eating institutions don’t necessarily date all the way back to 1850, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also great — Durty Gurt’s Burger Joynt was founded in 2007 and serves gigantic, almost architecturally impressive stacks of meat and cheese. Looks like everyone’s concerned with building a legacy here.
Las Vegas’ Bellagio fountains have company. There’s a new public spectacular near the Strip: The Sphere.
The Sphere, a giant illuminated dome that was recently built next to The Venetian Resort, is the new shining star of Las Vegas, adding a brilliant orb of flashing lights to the colorful skyline of The Strip.
The Sphere (255 Sands Ave.), sometimes simply called Sphere, opened in the summer of 2023 at a reported cost of $2.3 billion and became an instant landmark. Its exterior is covered with 1.2 million multi-color LED lights that are programmed to create ever-changing, awe-inspiring displays. Abstract art, trompe l’oeil, and occasional advertising campaigns swirl across the surface, with the brightest images lighting up around sunset and usually culminating in a recreation of the moon by late night. The effect is both exhilarating and hypnotic, like the world’s most intense screen saver, but one with a sense of humor.
But the interior of the Sphere is a tourist draw of its own: a massive event venue of up to 17,000 seats across nine levels for concerts and movies. It’s being promoted as “the most technologically advanced performance space in the city” based on features including a wraparound LED screen at 16K, the highest resolution in the world at a scale like this, and mechanisms to create “4-D” immersive shows using enhanced sound, wind, and aromas.
It certainly is an enormous space. At 366 feet (111 m) tall, the exterior shell of the Sphere is now the largest dome structure in the world, big enough to fit London’s Big Ben, New York’s Statue of Liberty, and the U.S. Capitol dome inside with room to spare.
Entering the Sphere for an event costs money, but it’s easy to indulge in its outdoor lighting displays in other ways. Some resorts are better situated for views than others, and several spots around town have become famous, or perhaps infamous, among locals for attracting Sphere-gazing crowds.
The McDonald’s on Paradise & Twain east of The Strip serves great views of the Sphere.
The looming government shutdown threatens to severely limit public access to America’s national parks and deliver a crushing economic blow to communities that rely on park tourism.
On a call with reporters late Thursday, Biden administration officials detailed plans to shutter the majority of national park sites around the country in an effort to prevent the kind of damage sustained when the Trump administration opted to keep them open during the lengthy 2018-19 shutdown.
The federal government is set to come to a screeching halt when annual funds run dry at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, unless lawmakers in Congress are able to reach an eleventh-hour deal.
The senior administration official stressed that a shutdown would “severely impact every corner” of the National Park Service, which manages 425 individual sites spanning more than 85 million acres.
“At National Park Service units across the country, gates will be locked, visitor centers will be closed, and thousands of park rangers will be furloughed,” the official said. “Accordingly, the public will be encouraged not to visit sites during this period of lapse in appropriations out of consideration for protection of natural and cultural resources, as well as visitor safety. At the end of the day, the parks belong to all of us and we all share in their stewardship.”
The United States desperately needs more railway options to ease crowding in the skies and on the roads. One of the country’s most promising new train options, open as of September 22, 2023, finally links the major population centers of Central Florida with Southeastern Florida, known widely as South Florida.
The privately funded Brightline railway connects the Orlando area (which has about 3 million residents) with the megalopolis of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach (about 10 million people). That’s a lot of locals to serve, but the real boon will be for tourists who want to see more of the state without having to bother with car rentals.
Now, rather than braving the unbridled mayhem of I-95, where multitudes of reckless Florida drivers have apparently never even heard about the technology of turn signals, or parting with high fees on Florida’s Turnpike or the state’s many privately funded toll roads, tourists can simply hop aboard a newly built, modern train carriage and zip between the two tourist centers in slightly less time than it would take to drive.
Brightline is being built and opened in stages. The first section of the train’s route, from Miami to West Palm Beach, was adapted from a previously existing right-of-way and opened in 2018. That segment now includes stops in Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach.
But the addition of the Orlando leg north of West Palm Beach required a lot more investment, including the construction of entirely new rail beds. Future expansion plans include pushing the line all the way to Tampa, on Florida’s west coast.
Brightline estimates that a trip between Orlando and West Palm Beach takes about 2 hours; going all the way between Orlando and Miami would take about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Driving the same full distance would usually take you 4 hours, but would cost you a lot more in stress (as you try to survive the Darwinist jungle of Florida’s seemingly lawless highways) and, at other times, dozy boredom (as you cross Florida’s mind-numbing swamps).
The train’s scheduling is convenient and plentiful. In late 2023, Brightline trains depart Orlando for South Florida 16 times a day between 5am and 8:50pm, which puts the last train of the day in Miami at 20 minutes after midnight.
Going north, from Miami to Orlando, 16 daily trains depart for Orlando at regular intervals between 5:45am and 9:45pm. No matter which direction you’re traveling, you’ll never have to wait more than 2 hours for the next train between 6am and 10pm.
For all this, a standard one-way ticket between Orlando and any station in South Florida costs $79 each way (peak hours favored by commuters may be $99). You can also buy “Family” tickets for four that start at $199. That costs much less than airfare usually costs for the same trip, and it saves hours of wasted time at airports.
How did Americans manage to make train travel so convenient? What is this—Switzerland?
Tickets can be purchased at stations (like here, at Orlando’s stop), via the Brightline app or at GoBrightline.com.
For food, you’ll mostly have to rely on grab-and-go kiosks at the stations, because full meals are not served aboard trains. You can get snacks and beverages, including booze, during your ride, although the options are somewhat simple.
As many longtime travelers know, it’s generally a good idea to start planning your trips ahead of time. But there is such a thing as planning too far in advance, particularly when it comes to getting airline tickets. Some people buy their tickets early in hopes of saving money and, while this is often what happens, it’s also possible to purchase your tickets too early.
If you buy your tickets in advance, you can get really good deals on flights, but if you’re not sure what’s going on with your travel plans, then buying in advance can be a waste of money. It’s also possible to spend more money on airline tickets if you buy them too early.
Ways To Save Money on Airline Tickets
Knowing the right time to purchase airline tickets is a big part of saving money on your trip, but there are several other methods to cut costs the next time you travel. Here are just a few:
Set up travel alerts. “I buy [airline tickets] and then set a Google alert for that same flight,” said Colleen Kelly, host at PBS Family Travel with Colleen Kelly. “If the price goes down, I can call the airline and they will refund the difference. I’ve done this numerous times. I also use the Hopper app and enter my details of when I would like to fly. This is helpful, especially if you have flexibility, to find the best deals on all different airlines.”
Stay flexible. “Some of the best ways to save money on booking airline tickets are to be flexible with your travel dates and buy during flight sales,” Middlestadt said. Sometimes, all you need to do is change your departure date by a day or two or switch to a nearby airport to save some money.
Check out several airlines. A lot of airlines compete with each other on pricing, but that doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best deal. Shop around among different airlines to see whether you can find a better deal.
Consider alternative transportation. Flying might be your only option for an international trip or if you’re going from one side of the country to the other. But if you’re staying closer to home, or if you’re visiting an area with excellent rail or metro transportation, consider these potentially cheaper options instead.
Best Time To Book Domestic Flights
Good news procrastinators: Studies show that you don’t need to book flights that far out to get a good deal. The Expedia study found that the sweet spot is 28 to 35 days before departure while the Google study found prices bottomed out 44 days before departure. However, both studies agree that you don’t want to wait until the last minute. Book at least 21 days before departure.
What Is The Best Day To Buy Airline Tickets?
Historically, travelers have been advised to book flights on Tuesdays to get the best flight deal. And there was a time when this was true. A decade ago, airlines generally launched new sales on Tuesdays, and airlines were generally quick to match each other’s prices. This could lead to cheap flight deals on Tuesdays. That is if an airline launched a new sale. However, this advice no longer holds true. Airlines don’t just release sales on Tuesdays, and airlines don’t always match their competitors’ sales. Now, the advice on what is the best day of the week to buy airline tickets depends on which study you read. According to a recent study by Expedia, the cheapest day to book flights is Sunday. When comparing Sunday flight prices to Friday, Expedia found that travelers save 5% on domestic flights and 15% on international flights. For the past four years, Sunday has been the best day of the week to book flights.
Sources: The Best Day To Book Flights – Forbes Advisor; GOBankingRates | Personal Finance Site To Help You Find More Ways To Save Money And Make Money
When you’re traveling, the last thing you want to think about is someone spying on you. But in a 2019 survey by real estate company IPX1031, 11 percent of respondents reported finding a hidden camera in their Airbnb.
“One of the reasons this is happening is because of the ready availability of low-cost camera technology,” says Jack Plaxe, security consultant at Guidepost Solutions. Cameras with pinhole lenses that can be easily concealed are available through Amazon and other shopping sites for less than $100.
And today’s spy cameras are so small that if they’re properly concealed, there is no telltale sign, says Mike O’Rourke, CEO of Advanced Operational Concepts. Many come already installed in clock radios, smoke detectors, lamps, and other portable devices.
While the untrained eye might not be familiar with how to find hidden cameras, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.
Luckily, your smartphone can detect cameras that your eyes can’t see. There are two ways to find hidden cameras using your mobile phone, Koblitz says. The first uses your smartphone’s camera to spot infrared light coming from a camera that is recording in the dark.
Open your smartphone’s camera, and flip the lens to selfie mode.
Make the room as dark as possible by turning off the lights and closing the curtains.
Scan the room slowly with your phone’s camera lens, looking for any glowing lights that are purple or white.
You can also install a network scanner app like Fing, which lists devices that are connected to the Wi-Fi network and their IP addresses.
Connect your phone to the Wi-Fi network and open Fing.
Android users: Tap Refresh to start scanning. iPhone users: The app will automatically begin scanning.
Once the app finishes scanning, search the list for devices with camera manufacturers like Nest, Arlo, or Wyze, or IP addresses listed as “IP Camera.”
Because Miami Beach is such an iconic beach in Florida – and the USA – we’re going to start this road trip there! Now you could probably spend an entire week just exploring the Miami Beach area, because there’s so much to do. Hang out at South Beach, the Art Deco Historic District or the popular Ocean Drive.
Must-see during every Florida road trip: Everglades National Park
On your way from Miami to Key West, you will pass little Florida City – this town is a starting point to the south/main entrance of Everglades National Park. If you can book 2 hours of your travel time, it’s an excellent idea to visit at least Anhinga Trail and observe some fantastic birds and alligators.
Actually, it’s the easiest way and the best place to see Everglades wildlife in their natural habitat on your Miami to Key West Road trip, so don’t waste this opportunity.
Stop for water activities at Key Largo
Key Largo is the first town on the Florida Keys you reach while driving to Key West. Highway 1 enters halfway down this 33-mile long island after it leaves the mainland of Florida.
Money conscious tourists can find great values in Key Largo. Everything from gas to groceries to overnight accommodations costs less there than they do in Key West.
Key Largo is where the Highway 1 drive starts to become truly beautiful.
This island is more than a pit stop to gas and go. There are sights you’ll only see in Key Largo. Scuba divers flock to the Keys, and they’ll certainly want to stop at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to see the underwater sculpture Christ of The Abyss. Even non-divers will enjoy this History of Diving Museum!
OK, that’s 3. 19 more things to do await you by clicking the link below.
When heading to the security checkpoint at any airport, your biggest concern is making it through as quickly and easily as possible. Even if you just packed the basics, there’s sometimes a worry that your bag will be pulled for further inspection—which could keep you from making your flight on time. These concerns are normally unwarranted, but travelers do get stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers even when they truly believe they haven’t packed any security no-no’s. Eager to avoid that situation? Read on to discover five surprising items TSA may flag you for at airport security.
1 Snow globes
The holiday season means seeing family, and more often than not, carrying gifts to give them. But if you’re planning to deliver a snow globe to a loved one, be warned that it might not get through security. “If a wrapped gift looks suspicious on an x-ray machine, the only person unwrapping your perfectly wrapped gift will be the TSA screening agent,” she says.
2 Exercise weights
If you’re looking to stay fit—and don’t mind schlepping a heavier bag—you might toss some exercise weights into your carry-on. Doing so can be problematic, however, according to Rebecca Deitsch, founder of the travel blog Day Trip Queen.
“While TSA doesn’t technically forbid weights in your carry-on luggage, they do forbid sports equipment that could be used as a bludgeon,” Deitsch says. “Their example is a baseball bat, but other items can be removed at the discretion of the TSA agent.”
3 Peanut butter
Food is always a questionable addition to your carry-on or personal item, and some foods seem to fall into a gray area. For instance, peanut butter is considered a liquid.
“Last summer, TSA confiscated a jar of peanut butter I was bringing to a family member who lives abroad,” Eric Segalstad, vice president of Gondwana Ecotours, tells Best Life. “I was traveling without checked luggage and didn’t foresee that JIF Extra Crunchy was considered liquid. Now I know!”
4 Christmas crackers
When you think of Christmas “crackers,” your mind might go to some festive food, but these crackers are actually cardboard cylinders that are pulled open to find a small gift inside. They’re often used as table decorations, and while they’re more popular in the U.K. and Canada than in the U.S., you’ve likely seen them during the holiday season. If you’re in charge of supplying them, though, they’re not getting past TSA
According to TSA, these novelties aren’t permitted in your carry-on luggage or your checked bags. And don’t pack bang snaps—those small fireworks that make a snapping noise when thrown against hard surfaces—either.
5 Small metal tools
It’s common sense that any weapon shouldn’t be brought to the airport (unless you’ve followed instructions to transport it properly), but TSA has a wider definition of what can actually be used as a weapon—similar to those two-pound weights. Deitsch recommends looking out for “small metal tools of any type.”
“If you are flying with your guitar and you have extra tuning keys, wire clippers, or any little metal objects, it’s best to put these in your checked luggage, even if they seem inoffensive,” she says. “This is especially true if you are entering a foreign country and there is a language barrier.”
Corkscrews are a bit tricky, as they’re not allowed if they have a blade, per TSA, but if they don’t have a blade, they’re safe to take through security. Swiss Army Knives will be confiscated as well, as the agency says that only “plastic or round bladed butter knives” can come through a checkpoint. When putting them in your checked bag, make sure that they’re “sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors,” per TSA’s requirements.
If you have concerns about what you’re packing, TSA makes it pretty easy to search for items on its website. For items that you can’t find listed, take a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger, the agency says.