Fun and Interesting Things To Do in Beijing

While visiting Beijing, the city of the famous American actor - Jet Li, you could take a traditional tour trip to visit traditional tourist spots or you could make use of the options given in this article and add a little spice to your trip and make it ultra interesting.

Beijing, the capital city of the Republic of China, is also known as Peking. The blend of history and modern development makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations and to make most of what it has to offer, the best time to visit Beijing is between September and November. If you are one of those people who likes to do things differently and enjoy thoroughly, here are some fun and interesting things to do in Beijing, the Bicycle City of the World.

Interesting and Fun Activities
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of regular tours, you could visit the many interesting places in and around Beijing in unconventional ways. You can ask around for the tours listed below from your hotel reception or look out for them in local newspapers and travel magazines. As for the little ones accompanying you, there are manyattractions for kids.

  • Hiking the Great Wall of China
  • Motorcycle Trips
  • Biking and Walking Tours
  • Shijingshan Amusement Park (for kids)
  • Jingshan Park and Chaoyang Park (Famous for their seasonal activities)
Beijing Opera and Folk Music
One of the things you cannot afford to miss out is the Beijing Opera. It is an exciting mix of history, culture, acrobatics and martial arts. The opera actors make extensive use of heavy costumes, masks and folk music. They make a great appeal to people of all ages and are quite entertaining.
  • National Center for Performing Arts Opera House (No.2 West Chang'an Avenue, Xicheng District, Beijing)
  • Beijing Liyuan Theater (1F Qianmen Hotel, 175 Yongan Road, Hufangqiao, Xuan Wu District, Beijing)
  • Huguang Guild Hall (3 Hufang Road, Xicheng District)
  • Peking Opera Theater (No. 30, Haihuxili, Fengtai District)
  • Changan Grand Theater (No.7, Jianguomen Neidajie, Dongcheng District)
Art and Cultural Activities
The Chinese culture is full of vivid colors, larger than life imagery and plentiful symbolization, and Beijing is one place where you get to see all of them. There are manyfestivals and fairs that take place in Beijing. Unfortunately, they are celebrated only at certain times in a year, usually during the Chinese new year or spring time. But theart galleries are good places to visit the whole year round.
  • Lantern Festival (also known as Yuánxiāojié or Deng Jie, celebrated on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year)
  • Longtanhu Temple Fair (No.8 Longtanlu, Chongwen District)
  • Ditan Park Fair (Ditan Park, Andingmenwai, Dongcheng District)
  • 798 Art Zone or Qijiuba Gongchang (Chaoyang Qu, North of Dashanzi Huandao, Chaoyang district)
  • Wan Fung Art Gallery (No.136 Nan Chi Zi Street, Dong Cheng District)
There is no dearth of entertainment in Beijing for anyone. For those who are not satisfied with visiting only the tourist spots, there are many famous teahouses (no it's not a place to have just tea!) where you can witness live tea performances, deeply rooted in the history of Beijing. Some of the modern drama performances and puppet shows in Beijing can leave you spell-bound for a long time to come. Those who are ardent movie buffs can find their entertainment in Chinese movies. Then there are entire 'areas' dedicated to clubs, pubs and bars for those who want to experience the modern nightlife of Beijing.
  • Beijing Tea Houses: Lao She Teahouse (3F, building 3, Xi Da Jie, Qianmen, Beijing); Santaosha Teahouse (No. Jia 1, Waiguan Xiejie, Chaoyang District)
  • Theater in Beijing: Beijing People's Art Theater (22, Wangfujing Da Jie)
  • Puppet Shows: China Puppet Theater (A1 Anhua Xili, Chaoyang)
  • Chinese Movies: Megabox (G1, Sanlitun Village, Sanlitun); Stellar International Cinema Address (5/F, Jinyuan Shopping Center, 1 Yuandalu, Haidian District, Beijing)
  • Nightlife: Tianqiao Area, Sanlitun Bar Street and Embassy Area (Famous for rock-and-roll, hip-hop, jazz and other such activities)
Famous Beijing Cuisine
The culture of any place is always reflected in the taste of its cuisine. Like its culture, Beijing cuisine is steeped in its history. So there is a variety of cuisine to be tried in Beijing - calorie rich cuisine, cuisine based on herbal medicine, street food and western cuisine with a Beijing twist. In short, it is a culinary feast for food lovers!
  • Beijing Roast Duck
  • Shandong cuisine (Quick-fired mutton is the most common dish)
  • Huai'an -Yangzhou Cuisine (Mr. Pan's Fish)
  • Wolong Cuisine (Famous for chinese herbal tea, chicken in parmesan, sichuan pepper and roasted lamb)
  • Beijing Snacks (Especially on Donghuamen Night Snack Street and Wangfujing Snack Street)
Acrobatic Stunt Shows
Chinese acrobatic shows are an amazing visual treat and the fact that there is an acrobatic show almost every evening is like an icing on a cake. These shows have unbelievable stunts, performed without the usual safety nets. At a point where you think there is going to be an accident, you are surprised with a spectacular stunt.
  • Traditional Chinese Acrobatics Show (Chaoyang Theater)
  • The Legend of Kung Fu (Red Theater)
  • China National Acrobatic Troupe Performance (Tiandi Theater)
  • Star Dream Acrobatic Show (Dongtu Theater)
  • Legend of Jinsha (Beijing Workers Club)
Spas and Bath Houses
Traditional Chinese Massages, especially the tui na massage, is a great way to de-stress. The tui na massages are known to relieve backache, joint pain and muscular tension. Some of the spas offer Chinese massage therapies along with other modern therapies. Apart from these, you could have your manicure and pedicure done intraditional Chinese nail art. Another great way to relax and refresh in Beijing is by making use of the famous Beijing bath houses.
  • Bodhi Therapeutic Retreat (17 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District)
  • Jingchen Retreat Spa (B2\F, China World Hotel, 1 Jianguomen Waidajie)
  • Spa No. 8 Hot Springs Club (8 Chaoyang Gongyuan Xi Lu, Chaoyang District)
  • Langtaosha Bath House (6 Xueyuan Lu, Haidian)
  • Frost: Coffee, Nails and Cocktails (55 Xingfucun Zhong Lu, Sanlitun)
Beijing is famous for its shopping centers that range from large commercial centers to local fleas markets and antique markets. Just make sure you know what you want and have adequate bargaining skills. Though you will have to be on your guard against low quality material almost everywhere, you are sure to find treasures to take back home.
  • Wangfujing Dajie (From East Chang'an Avenue to China Art Gallery)
  • Xiushui Silk Street Market (On the East Xiushui Street, near the U.S. Embassy)
  • Liulichang Culture Street (On the South of the Peace Gate, Xuanwu District; famous for Chinese artifacts)
  • Dashilan Street (A 580 year old commercial street near the Qianmen Gate)
  • Hongqiao Market (Opposite the Tiantan Park, Tiantan Donglu, Chongwen District)
Beijing offers many sports to choose from and many more sport centers. Dongdan Sports Center, Ritan Park, Yuyuantan Park and Julong Garden Fitness Club are some of the frequented sports centers in Beijing.
  • Martial Arts
  • Ice Skating
  • Sailing
  • Target Shooting
  • Golf Courses
This is just a small list of the most interesting things to do in Beijing from the many options that are available for tourists. Plan out your trip and the things you wish to do well in advance. While this is a good thing to do for any tour trip, it becomes all the more necessary for a place like Beijing which is constantly flooded with people. Making ticket arrangements and reservations before you actually go there, is a must if you do not want to be left out. In any case, a visit to Beijing is bound to be memorable and interesting in the least.

How to Plan a Road Trip with Children

Road trips
Road trips are a fun way to show your kids the country, but it can be a hassle having them in the car for that long. Try some of these tips to keep your children happy.

The winter is almost over, and spring break is upon us. If you’re thinking about taking your family for a fun vacation this spring or summer, consider a road trip. Road trips are great for children because they’ll see more of our great country than they would in a plane. It’s also fun to stop at different landmarks on the way, not only to see the great stuff our country has to offer, but also to stretch your legs and stop and smell the roses. Family time is irreplaceable, so take your time getting to where you’re going. However, with any long trip, there is a chance that kids might get restless. If you travel prepared, though, you’ll have a happy trip.

Road Games

There is a huge variety of games, kids can play while on the road. From trying to find license plates from each state, to singing road trip songs, these classic games can be played with little to no money. If you visit your local bookstore, you can find a section of books that have all of these games in them already. However, if you don’t want to spend the money on these books, you can create them yourself. Find pictures of license plates from different states and collect them together for your kids to see, before they hit the road. You can also grab a CD from your local library that has all the sing-along songs on it for you to enjoy.


For the bookworm in your family, head to your library or bookstore and stock up on books they have always wanted to read. If your kids can read without getting car sick, it’s a great time to practice reading skills and catch up on books they’re excited about. Make sure these are books for fun; let them pick out whatever they want. It is vacation, after all!


If you’re OK letting your kids use technology on family vacations, let them bring along portable DVD players or game centers. This can keep them occupied and not fighting for hours. However, put a time limit on any technology they use. Nothing is more annoying than trying to talk to your kids, while they are busy texting on their phones or playing games. Maybe allow them to use the technology between certain stops, but no more. Also, be sure you have a rule that, during meals, they cannot use their devices. Family vacation time is time for the family to spend together, not on their separate devices.


Food is the best way to keep kids happy. Children often get hungry before adults do, so keeping several options for snacks on hand can help, keep your kids calm and full. This can also help you save money while on the road by making it, so you don’t have to stop at rest stops or restaurants, where you’re sure to spend a lot of money.

Sleepy Time

Vacations are time to rest up, so let your kids sleep during the car ride if they are able. Bring along pillows and blankets and even some favorite stuffed animals and calming music and let them cuddle up in the back seat - as long as they are still wearing their seat belts, of course! This will not only keep them quiet, but also prevent them from getting crabby due to exhaustion.

The Staycation - A Vacation You Take Without the Usual Stress and High Costs

The term staycation hasn't been with us for more than a couple of years and in the current financial crisis people and families are torn between needing to get away for a while and managing their budgets. The objective of a staycation is to take what your immediate area has to offer and do what you want to do. Needing to relax is more important than ever, your decisions are more important and you need to be able to focus and think rationally and that only happens in minds that are not over worked or stressed out.

So you need some time away, but don't have the cash to go anywhere. Whether its just you or the whole family, start with blocking out some time by scheduling vacation days with work; now you are committed. The next step is to find out what each person you are traveling with would enjoy doing during some of that time. Lastly, research the options in your area and don't let the word research scare you. This is going to be a fun project and if your kids are old enough they can research the activity that they have chosen. You'll want to know what the hours of operation are, the cost, supplies needed, any restrictions (like are strollers allowed) and plan each day accordingly.

If the children have drastically different preferences for activities or choose expensive activities, then it may make a lot of sense to divide and conquer. The kids are happy doing what they enjoy, you get to enjoy some "quality time" with one of your children when they are their best. The other idea is to set a limit as to how much a child's activity can cost. If one child's activity is cheaper, then their day may get to include dinner at their favorite restaurant, a stop at the ice cream stand on the way home or even a new fishing pole to take to the lake that day.

The cost will be so dramatically less expensive then traveling somewhere, that you can probably have an expensive date night at a nice restaurant, go to a play, stay in a local hotel with a pool for the kids, go to a local amusement park or have one overnight trip with the rest of the time spent locally.

If you are the type of person that never sits still, then you won't have a problem thinking of things to do and will have a great time. If you are the type that can spend an entire weekend on the couch, then the biggest risk associated with staycations is treating it like it's a weekend and never getting off the couch or running errands and doing housework, so you end up not doing anything fun. That's why I think planning a staycation is important for these people, because it's easier to follow through when you have plans.

One last piece of advise to consider is about those you enjoy spending time with and have fun with them. If that means dinner with the next door neighbors or seeing family, then great; but this isn't a holiday, so you don't have to go see family if you don't want to. I've found that it doesn't matter what I'm doing, if I'm around people I enjoy, I'm always having fun.

Devil's Throat Walkway - Iguazu Falls

Brazil Travel Guide - Visiting Natural Wonders - Iguazu Falls
An international campaign to identify the world's Seven Natural Wonders has begun, with places of natural importance from each continent being ranked by voters around the world.

With such attention on some of South America's most spectacular sights, we thought we'd give a Latin America For Less guide to visiting each place that is in contention for the title of South America's most important Natural Wonder.

As the ratings currently stand, the mighty Iguazu Falls are in second place as the most significant natural wonder on the continent.

The falls straddle the border between Argentina and Brazil and are an enormously impressive sight. Almost 1.7 miles wide, Iguazu is actually made up of numerous sets of individual falls, the largest of which is known as the Devil's Throat, on the border itself.

The story goes that when Eleanor Roosevelt first laid eyes on the falls, all she could exclaim was, "poor Niagra!"

Because of the falls' location on the border between the two countries, they have become a popular destination for both Argentina and Brazil vacations.

Visiting Iguazu

One of the most popular Brazil tours that include Iguazu begins in the buzzing, iconic city of Rio de Janeiro before taking an internal flight to the Iguazu National Park.

On the Brazil side, most Iguazu hotels are concentrated between the town of Iguazu and the falls themselves. There are a good range of accommodations, including top-end choices such as the Mabus Thermas & Resort and Rafain Palace, as well as the budget-friendly Rafain Centro and Best Western Falls Galli Hotel - all of which are recommended by Brazil For Less.

Once travelers are settled in at their hotel, the entire afternoon can be spent exploring the falls. Walkways lead through the river canyon through a tropical rainforest that is rich with life. As you approach the falls, the thundering roar grows louder until you reach the waterfall system itself, hundreds of minor falls that gradually lead up to Iguazu's centerpiece: the Devil's Throat.

On the second day, most Iguazu tours visit the Argentine side of the falls, with an opportunity of taking a train ride right up to the Devil's Throat falls for some breathtaking photo opportunities. There are also several walkways around the falls, each of which offers a different perspective.

Other Attractions

Once you've taken in the magnificence of the falls, there are plenty of other activities in the area, especially wildlife watching in the surrounding forest. The trees are alive with a huge number of bird species, and the Macuco Trail is a particularly well-known bird watching route.

Boating on the river with the falls as a spectacular backdrop is another popular activity. It's even possible to take your "Iguazu Baptism" - a journey behind the falls themselves for a truly thrilling experience as millions of gallons of water thunders before your eyes.

Finally, not far from Iguazu is the Triple Frontier, the place where the Brazilian, Argentine and Paraguayan borders meet, which is marked by a monument from each nation to recognize their shared history.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

Grand Canyon Skywalk
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a glass bridge that will be cantilevered 20 meters out from the edge of the canyon, 4000 feet above the Colorado River! That's over 2000 feet higher than the current world's tallest building (Taipei 101 - 1671 feet).

I must tell you that it's going to be a thrilling experience. I visited this location in August (welding of floor beams just began) and I must say that it was pretty scary standing by the edge of the canyon because there are no barriers. It's a sheer drop down to the Colorado River. I can just imagine how scary it will be to stand on the Skywalk and looking 4000 feet below to the ground!

The one thing that you won't have to worry about is its strength and durability. The Skywalk will be supported by steel beams anchored 14 meters into the canyon walls. It is also designed to hold 120 people and withstand winds of up to 100 m.p.h! Visitors will have to wear shoe covers to protect the glass floor and prevent themselves from slipping.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk is located at Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation and is partially owned and operated by the Hualapai tribe. They are predicting tourism to double to 500,000 visitors a year (currently 250,000 a year), upon opening. It is part of a $40 million project that will include a visitor center, restaurant & bar, gift shop, movie theater, museum and meeting facilities.

There are two downfalls to visiting the Skywalk. The first one is that you will have to purchase a ticket as an add on to the variety of tour packages that they have at Grand Canyon West. It will be cost $25 a person to visit the Skywalk plus the tour package that you decide to choose. The second one is if you decide to drive to Grand Canyon West, I highly recommend that you take a high clearance vehicle because there's a 14 mile stretch of unpaved road that's really bumpy. If you decide to take a car as I did, it will take you almost an hour to drive through this stretch because of the very poor grading.

Grand Canyon West is 120 miles southeast of Las Vegas, located on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Williamsburg and Greenpoint

Williamsburg and Greenpoint
Williamsburg in Brooklyn is a vibrant, active community represented by many different ethnic groups such as Italians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Hasidic Jews. Greenpoint is the northern most neighborhood in this borough and lies to the southwest of Williamsburg.

The land upon which the neighborhood of Williamsburg stands was purchased from the local Native Indians in 1638 by the Dutch West India Company. At this time the area was chartered as the Town of Boswijck in 1661 and the town’s name was later changed into English as Bushwick. It was in the 19th century that Williamsburg broke away from Bushwick and became an independent community. When Williamsburg was finally annexed into the neighborhood of Brooklyn, it saw a lot of industrial, cultural and economic growth. All the local businesses started doing very well. Wealthy New Yorker’s like Cornelius Vanderbilt and railroad tycoon Jim Fisk chose to build their mansions in Williamsburg. They were followed by Charles Pratt and his family. Pratt founded the Pratt Institute which was and is even today a school for the Arts and Architecture. He also founded the Astral Oil Works which later on became part of Standard Oil. This area could also boast of being the home to the Corning Glass Works before the company moved to Corning, New York. When German immigrant and chemist Charles Pfizer arrived in America, he chose to settle down in Williamsburg and founded Pfizer Pharmaceutical which operated until 2007. Over time, this area also became a popular location for manufacturers of condiments and household products like Domino Sugar and Esquire Shoe Polish. Most of the residents of Williamsburg were of German descent; however, when the Williamsburg Bridge was built a lot of Jewish people moved in from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Williamsburg could also boast of being a financial hub as it was home to two major community banks - Williamsburg Savings Bank (1851) and the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg (1864) which is now known as the DIME.

In 1898 Brooklyn officially became one of the five boroughs of New York City. Williamsburg really began to thrive when the Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1903 and grew to be a popular area. The neighborhood was featured in a novel which was later made into a movie called "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" about a young girl growing up in the tenements of Williamsburg. Through all sorts of problems the neighborhood rallied, and finally in 2005 the N.Y.C. Council passed a large-scale rezoning of the North Side and Greenpoint waterfront this got developers to create a continuous two-mile long string of waterfront esplanades and helped to solve Williamsburg’s problem with a vacated and derelict warehouse which had started to become an eyesore.

There are a lot of designated historical landmarks in Williamsburg. In 1980, the Kings County Savings Institution chartered in 1860 became listed on the National Register of Historical places. This building is located on the corner of Bedford Avenue and Broadway. In 2003, The Landmark Preservation Commission designated the Williamsburg Houses as a landmark. William Lesicaze designed these modern architectural buildings which consists of twenty 4-storey apartment buildings. Three buildings which were once part of the Domino Sugar Refinery also became New York Landmarks in 2007. The original Domino Sugar Refinery was built in 1856 and processed over half of the sugar that was used in the U.S. Operations of the refinery ended in 2004 and in 2010 it was converted for residential use.

The area of "South Williamsburg" is home to the Yiddish speaking Hasidim community and to Puerto Rican residents. This area is separated from "the South Side" by Broadway where you can find Puerto Rican and Dominican residents. Polish and Italian residents live on "The North Side". A large Italian-American, African-American and Hispanic population can be found in East Williamsburg as well as many industrial spaces. This area is located between Williamsburg and Bushwick. The Italian community of the "North Side" is made up of immigrants who came from the city of Nola near Naples in Italy. In the summertime, they celebrate the "Festa dei Gigli" or the "Feast of Lilies" in order to honor St. Paulinus of Nola who was once the bishop there in the 5th century. So for two weeks in the summer the streets which surround Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Havemeyer and North 8th Streets, are full of celebration. The highlight of this feast is "Giglio Sundays" when a hundred-ft. tall statue accompanied by a band and singers is carried around the streets in honor of St. Paulinus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Interestingly enough, this feast was the subject of a documentary which was called "Heaven Touches Brooklyn in July" and was narrated by actors John Turturro and Michael Badalucco. Most of the tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews who live in Williamsburg belong to the Satmar Hasidic Group. This is one of the fastest growing communities in the world. The area is also home to The Hebrew Academy for Special Children.

In November of 2009 to help the poverty-stricken, a 50-seat kosher soup kitchen was open on Lee Avenue. The first artists started moving into Williamsburg in the 1970s and thrived there through the 1980s and 1990s. The artist’s community had grown greatly by 1996. Williamsburg is not only home to a lot of galleries but also to theaters like The Brick Theater and The Charlie Pineapple Theater. The neighborhood has also become famous with the music scene. A certain number of unlicensed performance, theater and music venues began operation in abandoned industrial buildings and other spaces around the streets about the Bedford Avenue subway stop. Some of the legitimate commercial music venues that are presently in Williamsburg include Pete’s Candy Store, Union Pool, Northsix (now the Music Hall of Williamsburg) and Galapagos which is now Public Assembly. Events like concerts, movies and dance performances were held at the previously abandoned pool at McCarren Park in Greenpoint during the summers of 2006, 2007 and 2008, but in 2009, the so-called pool parties got a new location at the Williamsburg Waterfront. The neighborhood has also attracted respectable representatives of the funk, soul and worldbeat music scene. Labels such as Daptone and Truth & Soul Records. Jazz and World Music has found a home here with classical jazz playing full-time at restaurant venues, such as Zebulon and Moto.

Most of the area which is now Greenpoint was once farmland and the only thing that survives from those days it that some of today’s streets have the names of the families who once owned farms here. In the 19th century, land was divided into parcels and it is upon these parcels of land that most of Greenpoint was built. Along the East River toward the west, there were rope factories and lumber yards. The Native Americans who once lived here were the Keskachauge, a sub-tribe of the Lenape. This area was so lovely at one time with Jack pines and oak forests, meadows, freshwater creeks and briny marshes. A lot of water fowl and fish made their home here.

In 1638, The Dutch West India Company sought rights to settle down here. One of the earliest European settlers was a Norwegian immigrant called Dirck Volckertsen who built up a farm and planted orchards, raised crops and had sheep and cattle. Unfortunately, he had a lot of disputes with the Keschaechqueren Indians who killed two of his sons-in-law and tortured a third one. This was in the 1650s. Another immigrant who ran into trouble with the Indians was Pieter Praa who was a captain in the local militia. His farm used to be where Freeman Street and McGuinness Boulevard is today. Greenpoint’s residents included five related families at around the time of the Revolutionary War. On the banks of the East River between what is today known as India and Java Streets, lived Abraham Meserole who was the grandson of Pieter Praa. His brother Jacob Meserole had a farm which stretched across the whole south end of Greenpoint and his family made their home in the area today located at Manhattan Avenue and Lorimer Street near Norman Avenue. Pieter Praa’s son-in-law Jacob Bennett farmed the northern part of Greenpoint and their family was located at Clay Street. Another son-in-law Jonathan Provoost farmed the eastern end and lived in the house that had been built by Praa and the western end of Greenpoint was farmed by Praa’s grandson-in-law. When the Revolutionary War began, the British Army had an encampment here. Greenpoint began to change considerably when an entrepreneur Neziah Bliss married into the Meserole family in the early 1830s and bought out practically all the land in Greenpoint. In 1839, he got a public turnpike to open up along what today is Franklin Street and in 1850 Bliss established regular ferry service to Manhattan. In time Greenpoint became a shipbuilding and waterborne commerce center.

It was in the mid-19th century that German and Irish immigrants arrived, and before the turn of the century, the Polish people moved into the neighborhood as well. Merchants and workers could be found living along the streets which lead to the waterfront. This particular area is now known as Greenpoint’s Historic District and can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. Today one can still see some of the old buildings from those days. The U.S.S. Monitor was constructed in Greenpoint’s dockyards and was used during the American Civil War as the Union’s first ironclad fighting ship. It was launched on Bushwick Creek. Along Newton Creek was built the largest wooded ship ever - The Grand Republic. When the 1860s came along Charles Pratt opened his Astral Oil Works on the waterfront and later sold his interests to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust in 1874. The Astral Apartments were built in order to provide affordable housing for the workers of Astral Oil.

Nowadays, Greenpoint’s residents are mostly working class and the neighborhood has a large Polish population. To the north of Greenpoint Avenue live people of Latin descent and there are also quite a few South Asian and North African residents. In the area one can find some nice parks such as McCarren Park, formerly known as Greenpoint Park, which has the largest green space. The smallest green space can be found at McGolrick Park formerly Winthrop Park. In this park one can also find the landmarked Shelter Pavilion from 1910 and a monument to the U.S.S. Monitor from 1938.

Greenpoint also has some architecturally interesting buildings, such as the Episcopal Church of the Ascension built in 1853 on Kent Street. It is the oldest church in the neighborhood. The Astral Apartments dating back to 1885 are still on Franklin Street, the Saint Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church built in 1875 is on Manhattan Avenue, the Eberhard-Faber Pencil Factory is on Franklin Street. On North Street, you can find the Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord built in 1921. Dating from 1867 is the Oliver Hazard Perry School on Norman Avenue and it has the honor of being the oldest continuously operating public school building in N.Y.C., On Humbolt Street is the Saint Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church built in 1896, serving as a Catholic shrine to the Polish community. And finally, there is the synagogue building of Congregation Ahavas Israel which was built in 1903 and is located on Noble Street. This building has lovely stained glass windows and a torah shrine with turn-of-the-century wood carvings and is only open during services on Saturday mornings. Greenpoint is an interesting neighborhood which is rich in history and well worth visiting.

Preparing for a Great Road Trip

With the prices of airplane tickets skyrocketing, if you are traveling within the country, it is often advisable to take a road trip instead of a plane. Road trips can also be extremely exciting and spontaneous. If you are traveling by plane, you cannot stop to see the world’s largest ball of yarn on a whim, but if you are driving, you can do whatever you want and go wherever the wind takes you. Sometimes, some of the best-laid plans need to be thrown to the wind in favor of life lessons and experiences, and that is exactly what a road trip provides. If you are planning the next Great American Road Trip for this summer, what follows are some tips for you to make the most of your time.

Pack a Map

In the modern age of GPS systems and smart phones, reading a map is truly a lost art. By turning off yotr electronic devices and relying on your trusty map and your sense of direction, you can learn a great deal. If you are too focused on your GPS system, you are going to miss all the scenery around you. Don’t be afraid to just look out of the window for a bit, and don’t be afraid to get a little bit lost. As we are in the age of electronic devices, even if you do get lost, you know you can always find your way.

Use Your Camera

Take lots of pictures on your trip. Even silly pictures of the passengers in the car are part of your road trip memories. Use the camera liberally, especially if it is a digital one. Any time you stop, be sure to take pictures, too. You don’t want to forget any of the awesome things you’ll do on this trip, and you certainly don’t want to forget any of the wonderful scenery you’ll pass. Take all sorts of pictures; you might even want to check out a photography book from the library and read it as you drive to learn some tips about how to make the most of your digital camera.

Bring Food

Stopping for food can be fun, but if you cannot find a restaurant and hunger strikes, you want to be able to avoid crabbiness. In order to do that, you must pack food and water. Furthermore, if your car breaks down and you are stranded for a while, you want to be sure to have supplies with you. Always pack extra food and water and, when you make a pit stop, stock up. You can never have enough trail mix, granola bars, and water bottles.

Stay Clean

Clean your car before you start out on the road trip. You don’t have to have your car professionally detailed because it will just get dirty again, but it doesn’t hurt to run a vacuum over the seats and floors and get up all of those nasty, winter particles. You don’t want to travel in a dirty car, so be sure to take your garbage with you every time you leave the car, as well. Of course, be sure you dispose of all garbage properly.

Play DJ

You won’t want to talk to each other during every minute of your road trip. Talking that much is almost impossible. For those moments that you just want a little quiet time, have a mix CD prepared. You can even prepare several CDs, one for each mood of the trip, and listen to them all as you go.

Best Places to Visit in Iceland

Iceland, with its unusual and mystical terrain, is in every measure a treasure cove. Iceland's surreal landscape and exotic places thrill just about anyone who seeks an escape from the regular humdrum of life.
Hmm! Picture this: an ebony frame, laced with snow, and interspaced with fiery flames of red. No, I am not describing Snow White but a land that is made up of ebony beaches; and of mountains covered with thick blankets of snow under which lie fields of molten lava. Picturesque and exotic - that's how I relate to Iceland and its many aesthetic places.

Velkomin to Iceland, home to some of the most splendid ice sculptures, resplendent waterfalls, and huge glaciers. A land that comes across as being a unique and exquisite destination, tells the tale of lava fields and mystical light displays. Brimming with a life of its own, Iceland puffs and spurts to make its presence felt. Thanks to its vibrant hues and colors, it is open to wanderers who like to charter an unknown course, be it in summer, spring or even somber winters. From pristine nature that will enthrall not just nature enthusiasts, to lazy days spent in some of the geothermal pools, everything about Iceland waits to be explored. Djammið, Þetta reddast. Here are just a handful of places you can take on.

Up North (Norðurlands)

North Iceland provides charming trails for the adventurous spirit to ride along. Its resplendent nature trails and rich bird life make it a hot destination for tourists to flock to. Here, you can enthrall yourself at Europe's biggest waterfall, or thrill yourself with river rafting. You can choose to explore the highlands or get up close and personal with the whales. You can otherwise be entertained with the mystical dance of The Northern Lights or Norðurljós.


Dettifoss waterfalls located 90 km from the town Húsavík in the Vatnajökull National Park, is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river originating in the Vatnajökull glacier. You can access the waterfall either by hiking 34 km along the canyon from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, or drive down along the gravel road leading to the falls. The access roads, however, remain closed during the winter months, that is from January to April.


Godafoss, also known as the waterfall of the gods, is one of the most impressive attractions in Iceland. It is located 50 km from the town of Akureyri, in the Mývatn district of North-Central Iceland. Located on the Skjálfandafljót river flowing south of road 1 or the Ring road, it is easily accessible; thus attracting tourists and divers alike. As the story goes, it was at these falls that the Lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw the statues of his Norse (Viking) gods into, hence giving it the name Goðafoss.


Leirhnjúkur is a lava field or plain that overflowed during the 1984 eruption. Located close to Mývatn lake in the north, this expanse is a solfatare field (openings through which sulfur vapors rise). In order to access the Krafla mountain, you need to hike 5 km through the field on a wooden platform. The presence of different metals makes the lava colored which increases the visual appeal of the area. Be careful not to step off the boardwalk/wooden bridge or else you might risk getting your foot burned.


Called the capital of the North, Akureyri is a comparatively large town on the coast of the Eyjafjörður bay. An educational hub of Iceland, it is also one of the most popular stops among travelers inundating Iceland. For a unique experience and a culture taste of the 17th century, visit Laufás, an old rectory-turned-museum. Other attractions around the town include skiing at the Hlíðarfjall, and Jaðar, the northernmost golf course.


Hofsós is a small village and is one of the oldest trading post of the country. Located on the eastern shores of the Skagafjörður Bay, and a mere 345 km from the country's capital city, this city boasts of providing you with tranquility and peace. The city houses the Vesturfarasetrið á Hofsósi or the Icelandic Emigration Center, which is a regional folk museum. Hofsós also offers tourists a camping site. Besides, you can unwind at the shore observing the birds, by some basalt columns.

How to Travel on a Budget

Travel on a Budget
Vacations can be fun, but costly too. Follow these tips to avoid breaking the bank on your next family vacation.

Many people decide they cannot take a vacation because it will be too costly. This is unfortunate because you miss out on some quality family time, and your kids will miss out on seeing the great sights this world has to offer. Plan your next vacation frugally, and you won’t come back from your trip in debt. If you take some time to do some extra planning, your next vacation doesn’t have to break the bank.

Continental Breakfast

Few hotels do continental breakfasts anymore, but if you can find one that does, book it. When you’re on vacation, the costliest part is eating out. For a family of four, you can easily spend over $100 on each meal, including breakfast. By taking breakfast out of the equation, and taking advantage of the continental breakfast your hotel offers, you can easily save a ton of money on your next trip. Sure, the breakfast food might get boring, but lunch and dinner are the fun meals to eat out, anyway.

Stock Up On Food

Once you get to your destination, you can always make a quick trip to the grocery store and buy food to eat. For anyone who cooks regularly at home, you know this is a great way to save money, especially if you’re on vacation with the whole family. Unless your hotel room has a refrigerator, be sure you buy things that won’t go bad at room temperature. If you can, get a hotel suite that has a kitchenette, so you can prepare lots of your meals in your hotel room. This will save you even more money. Sure, going out to eat is fun, but seeing all the attractions you want is even more fun.

Find Free Entertainment

Lots of cities have free entertainment options, especially during the summer. Some museums have free days, and sometimes you can catch a free movie in a park. If you do a little research before you go and plan your trip around the days, you can see the sights at a reduced cost, and you’ll save a ton of money while still seeing the best that the city has to offer.

Stay Close to Home

A staycation is a great way to save money while still getting away for a little while. If you live close to a city, you don’t have to go very far to have a great time. Because you’re not spending money*on airfare or gas, you can even splurge a little more and explore the parts of the city you never have time to explore when you go for just the day. If you find a nice hotel downtown and see new sights, a staycation can feel like a real vacation.

Shop Around for Airfare and Hotels

You definitely want to shop around for airfare and hotels. There are so many websites now that will give you discounted rates, that it’s silly to pay the full price for anything anymore. Check out a few travel websites before you book your trip to be sure you’re getting the best price. Also, if your travel dates are flexible, avoid traveling on holidays and weekends. Traveling and staying in hotels during peak travel times can cost you a lot more than you would like.

Budget Carefully

The best thing to do to be sure you don’t empty out your wallet on your next vacation is to go with a strict budget. Allow yourself a certain amount of money to spend per day, and once you’ve gone over that, don’t spend any more. If you have some left at the end of your trip, you can splurge on your last day, or go back home with money to spare.

What to Pack When You Travel by Train

Travel by Train
Packing for a journey is made up of two parts: packing items that you need for your destination and packing stuff for the journey itself. So what should you pack for a train trip? Scroll below to find out.

Of all the modes of transportation, train travel is often the most confusing, when it comes to packing. Like plane trips, you are allowed 1 or 2 carry-on bags and heavier baggage, which should be checked in. You cannot access checked-in baggage, until you disembark. When it comes to carry-on baggage, which travel accessories are really necessary? The ironic thing about packing (especially last-minute packing), is that you realize what you should and shouldn't have packed, only when you have boarded the train. You can prevent such irony by packing right. In this article, learn what items should make it or be erased from your train travel packing list.

How to Pack for a Train Trip

Carry Your Own Entertainment

Train journeys can be a moving visual treat with scenic views and outdoor beauty, but after a while, the countryside seems to look the same. Come nighttime, and you won't be able to see anything outside; so, pack something that will amuse you on the journey or keep your brain cells whirring.

Bookworms should make the most of a train trip by indulging in some heavy-duty, uninterrupted reading. Pack a novel or two (or even more) to sink into your seat and read. A book of puzzles or brain-teasers will also keep you on your mental toes. Grab some magazines or comics for light reading. You can also pack a lightweight journal or diary and jot down notes. An e-Reader saves you the hassle of carrying heavy books, as it can store a whole library of literature in one small device. If you are traveling with company, then get a portable board game like a miniature chess set or a deck of cards.

If books are not your cup of tea, then get along a portable DVD player, a handheld game console or a tablet PC for your multimedia needs. A tablet PC is the most handy of all gadgets for a train trip; it is easy to carry around, use and store. Plus it allows you to do a variety of functions on a single device. Laptops fall into the same category. With Wi-Fi available on most train routes, you can surf the Web to keep yourself amused.

You could just pack an iPod and listen to music. Headphones are compulsory to avoid disturbing those around you. In all this talk of gadgets, your cell phone is a no-brainer. Another essential electronic accessory is the charger for a said gadget as electronic gadgets will run out of battery juice at some point or the other.

The amount and location of power outlets on a train, differ based on the type of seat (first-class has an outlet at every seat), so charge devices before making the train trip or get a lot of batteries, if you can't find a free power outlet. If you're traveling with kids, remember that they get very bored very easily and quickly. Pack some small toys or a board game or coloring books and crayons to keep them (and you) happy.

Make Your Journey Comfortable

Whether this is your first train trip or your fiftieth, two "comfort" items needed for long distance train trips are a light blanket and a pillow. It can get cold at night in the train, so get a lightweight small blanket or a pashmina that folds up easily to store in your bag; yet is snug enough to keep you warm. Instead of leaning your head on the window screen or struggling with the seat, get a travel pillow to lay your head on. A train attendant can provide a pillow if available but you may not feel that comfortable. A compressible foam pillow is ideal as it is conveniently portable. If you experience neck pain, get a neck pillow for added support.

Other comfort items that can be included in your train packing checklist are as given below.

  • Keep basic toiletries or a toiletry kit, which contains soap, floss, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Tissues or paper towels are needed for wiping up a spill or to wipe hands clean. For washing your face sans water, pack some antibacterial wet wipes.
  • A small face towel, skin moisturizer, deodorant and face wash will keep you looking fresh throughout the trip.
  • In case of a long train journey, keeping yourself groomed can be a problem. Guys can pack an electronic shaving kit, so all they need is a power outlet. If not, they can pack a portable shaver and shaving cream.
  • Ladies can keep a portable makeup kit with bare essentials like eyeshadow, foundation and lipstick. A small comb or hair brush is a must-have for both sexes.
  • Eye care items such as contact lens solution should be carried. Get some eye drops to soothe dry eyes during the journey.
  • For a sound and uninterrupted sleep, get a pair of earplugs and an eye mask to block out noise and light.
  • Pack a spare change of clothes and an extra pair of socks in your carry-on bag. Try to pack wrinkle-resistant clothes.
  • Kids on board means, an extra set of clothes for each child, especially for infants. Pack an extra blanket or two.
  • Keep cash handy with you as there are no ATMs on trains and you will be able to withdraw money only at the next station. Carry a reasonable amount and a little extra in case of an emergency.
  • The motion of the train, inactivity or too much disturbance can give you a headache, so remember to store a strip of Tylenol or pain-relief medication for any aches and pains.
  • Bare Necessities: Food and Water

Yes, you do get food and water on the train. Overnight journeys and long distance trips will give you a chance to enjoy a nice meal in the train's dining car. There is a snack bar from where you buy certain foods and beverages. But don't depend on the train's culinary facilities completely. Certain items you may be craving for at a particular moment, may not be available. The dining car and snack bar will be open at fixed timings. And snacking in a train can get expensive. So avoid such pitfalls, by carrying around your own set of culinary rations. This does not mean bringing the entire fridge. Some satisfying snacks to store with you for a train trip are:

  • Fruits like apples, oranges, pears, especially those that won't get crushed
  • Chewing gum, especially if you smoke to keep those nicotine pangs at bay (smoking on the train is not allowed!)
  • Crackers or chips
  • Granola and energy bars
  • Nuts and raisins
  • Wedges and nubs of cheese
  • Simple, spill-free sandwiches like peanut butter
  • Ready-to-eat meals with no cooking required
  • Flask of coffee or tea
  • Juice packs

A word of caution: Depending on how long your journey is, pack snacks accordingly; else, you may find yourself hogging. Do not pack any food items that require refrigeration or reheating, as there are no such facilities on the train. Drinking alcoholic beverages at your seat, is allowed only in the Sleeping Car. There is tap water on the train, but carry your own bottle of water, especially for a short trip.

Along with your travel items, remember to store the necessary train paperwork, such as your ticket or rail pass. Keep your ticket or pass at hand in your carry-on bag, as you will need to show it to train officials, while boarding the train or during your journey. While packing for train travel, remember that there's a limit to how much you can carry. Two carry-on bags are allowed and their individual weight should not exceed 50 pounds. There are limits prescribed to the physical size of the bags as well. Pack wisely and minimally; try to take items that serve multiple purposes and are compact.