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If you think Florida and then immediately think “family vacation” or “spring break,” there’s another side of the Sunshine State you need to see. Florida offers plenty of romance, from its gorgeous beachfront sunsets to its many resorts that make for the perfect couple’s getaway. Below you’ll find hotels across the state that’ll keep the romance going year round, and when you’re ready to book, make sure you visit Orbitz.com for the best deals.

These romantic hotels are the perfect spots for your next romantic getaway.

Looking for the perfect couple’s retreat? Here are our picks for the most romantic hotels and resorts in Florida so you can start planning your romantic getaway — just the two of you.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

Courtesy The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

The Ritz Carlton – Amelia Island

Why It’s Great for Couples The 444 rooms at this classic beach resort cater to luxury-lovers with plush beds, marble bathrooms and private terraces. Onsite amenities are just as cool: a waterfront pool and beach with chaise lounges and attendants; access to a private golf club; and dining options from the bikini-friendly Ocean Bar & Grill to Salt, an award-winning standout with a multi-course tasting menu.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Rent a pair of horses and take a ride along the ocean’s edge; Amelia Island is one of the few places in the country where regulations allow it.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Boca Raton Resort & Club

Courtesy Boca Raton Resort & Club

Boca Raton Resort & Club – Boca Raton

Why It’s Great for Couples This Waldorf Astoria Collection romantic hotel has been hosting the rich and famous for more than 80 years, lured by the striking Addison Mizner architecture and With its elegance and storied past, you’ll love the glamorous vibe of this pink-hued beach castle. Seven pools and a half-mile stretch of private beach (complete with wait staff and towel service) offer plenty of options for soaking in the Florida sunshine after a morning spent at the world-class tennis courts or one of the two 18-hole golf courses. Enjoy a romantic dinner without ever leaving the resort — you have a delicious array of options ranging from Mediterranean cuisine at the 27th-floor Cielo or sushi from the legendary Masaharu Morimoto.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Indulge in a couple’s massage in Spa Palazzo’s private couple’s suite — or have it up in your room instead, with 24 hours advance notice.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Hawks Cay

Courtesy Hawks Cay

Hawks Cay – Duck Key

Why It’s Great for Couples Adventure-loving couples will feel right at home at this 60-acre paradise, which even has its own full-service marina. Swim with dolphins, catch a sunset cruise, explore the reef — the list of activities goes on and on, so bring some energy! A true island hideaway, each villa has a water or garden view, and the resort’s stone fire pit is a perfect place to sit back after a long day and before you snuggle into the cozy white linens of your dark-wood poster bed. When you’re done with all the high-energy thrills, sip a poolside mojito at the adults-only tranquility pool and then follow it up with a Key Lime Mojito body treatment at the Calm Waters Spa.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Get up early and watch the sunrise over their private lagoon. You’re likely to be the only ones there and the light on the still water is something you won’t soon forget.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Zach Stovall

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa – Lower Torch Key

Why It’s Great for Couples This intimate private-island resort was designed with romance in mind. Stand-alone thatched-roof bungalows showcase ambiance galore, in the form of canopy-draped king-size beds, oversized tubs and private garden showers. What they don’t have —in-room telephones and TV’s, or any guests under age 16 — is as important as what they do have: a beautiful beach, secluded pool, multiple shady nooks with hammocks, and a marina should you prefer to arrive by sea.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Toast to your love by the light of tiki torches when you sign up for a private dinner, served at a table in the sand or under a thatched-roof gazebo at secluded Palapa Point.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Loews Don CeSar Hotel

Courtesy Loews Don CeSar Hotel

Loews Don CeSar Hotel – St. Pete Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples Florida’s Pink Palace has it all — luxury service, infinite Gulf views and a little mystery (it’s rumored to have a friendly ghost). Nestle into 300-thread-count white linens in one of the 277 guest rooms. You’ll need the rest after all that parasailing, kayaking, beach volleyball and pool time (there’s even an underwater sound system). Need a break from the sun? The Don also boasts three restaurants, a host of specialty shops and an 11,000-square-foot spa.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Legend has it the hotel was built on romance. Developer Thomas Rowe used to meet his secret lover, an aspiring opera singer, by a fountain outside the Royal Opera House. After her death, Rowe built the hotel as a tribute to their love, complete with a replica of their special fountain. He called his romantic hotel the Don CeSar, the name of the hero in Maritana — the opera in which his lover performed.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Marco Island Resort & Spa

Courtesy Marco Island Resort & Spa

Marco Island Resort & Spa – Marco Island

Why It’s Great for Couples Why Marco Island? How about year-round summer weather, white-sand beaches and a scenic location in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands? This 727-room Marriott is one of the isle’s top stays, thanks to draws like two golf courses, beachside dining at Quinn’s on the Beach, paddleboard rentals and a Balinese-style spa with its own spa pool. Iconic Gulf sunsets are best viewed from the resort’s new Tiki Bar — with fruity cocktails in hand, natch.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Set sail aboard one of the property’s two catamarans (only six passengers each) to seek ocean-bound treasures such as dolphins, manatees and sea turtles.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Courtesy Ocean Key Resort & Spa

Ocean Key Resort & Spa – Key West

Why It’s Great for Couples This getaway exudes a chic SoBe vibe, a refreshing addition to laid-back Key West. Tucked at the tip of Duval Street within walking distance to the evening Sunset Celebrations at Mallory Square, it’s right in the middle of the action. But when you hole up in your private cabana by the sexy waterfront pool, you’d never know it. During the day, head out for a catamaran sail — snorkel stops included — or get pampered with Key Lime Margarita pedicures at SpaTerre. At night, roam nearby Duval Street or sample the specialty-drink menu at the guest-exclusive Liquid Lounge pool bar.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love With private balconies, whirlpool tubs and ocean views, the 100 rooms are designed to make “staying in” completely acceptable — even in party-heavy Key West.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Courtesy Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Ponte Vedra Inn & Club – Ponte Vedra Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples This oceanfront resort spans a whopping 300 acres, and includes private homes, 250 hotel-style rooms in the historic Inn and another 68 suites in the elegant, beach-facing Lodge. Generations of loyal families return here year after year (the resort dates to 1928), drawn by stellar golf, a top-rated tennis complex, four swimming pools and of course, that gorgeous beach. Book a romantic dinner at The Seahorse Grill, where fresh seafood is served from a second-level dining room overlooking the Atlantic.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Book time in the elaborate spa, where two Couples’ Suites come with perks like private steam room, Jacuzzi and outdoor patio for post-treatment relaxation.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | The Setai

Courtesy The Setai

The Setai – Miami Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples Standing stylish on Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach, this historic romantic hotel dates back to the 1930s and exudes an Art Deco feel mixed with an Asian influence. Shop the onsite Asprey boutique (the classic British line is known for its leather goods, jewelry and home decor), laze beside one of three pools (each set with a different temperature), or listen to the surf from your beachside daybed. Come evening, retire to your room, sexily outfitted with rainfall shower, black granite tub and bed topped with custom Fischbacher linens.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love The Spa is one of the best in Miami. Book a Couples’ Bath and enjoy champagne and canapes as you soak up the view of the pool.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | South Seas Island Resort

Courtesy South Seas Island Resort

South Seas Island Resort – Captiva Island

Why It’s Great for Couples This Gulf Coast resort is so sprawling (it takes over one entire end of Captiva Island) that guests hop a complimentary trolley to get around. Standard hotel rooms and one-bedroom villas make great home bases for couples, but the real fun is outdoors. Soak in the hot tub at the new lagoon pool, or gear up with Sunny Island Watersports. Itching to see more? Rent bikes — or better yet, a golf cart — to explore Captiva’s varied attractions, from quirky eats at the Bubble Room Restaurant to bird watching at J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love: Grab picnic fixings (made-to-order paninis, fresh fruit, wine) at the resort’s Captiva Provision Company. Then claim a spot for two on the powdery beach — at 2.5 miles long, there’s ample room to find a some seclusion

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Sunset Key Cottages

Courtesy Sunset Key Cottages

Sunset Key Cottages – Key West

Why It’s Great for Couples The 40 cottages of Sunset Key are hidden away on a 27-acre island, located 500 yards from Key West. Each cottage is equipped with modern amenities disguised with “Old Florida” ambience — think Victorian-style tin roofs, airy living and dining areas, pre-stocked kitchens and grand porches overlooking the sea. There are no cars here; instead, people walk or take golf carts. The Sunset Key Pool, onsite restaurant Latitudes and the Spa are all steps away. (The four-bedroom cottages even boast their own private plunge pools.) Should you want to see the outside world, a 24-hour ferry delivers guests to the sister property, The Westin Key West Resort & Marina.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love For pure seclusion at Sunset Key, have your concierge arrange a private dinner on the beach, paired fresh-caught seafood with glasses of bubbly.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | The Breakers

Courtesy The Breakers

The Breakers – Palm Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples Heading up the grand, palm-lined drive to the resort’s main entrance, you know you’re about to experience something special. Inside, the romantic hotel’s opulent Italian-Renaissance decor aims to impress, as it has since 1902. Outside, the vibe is more classic beach escape, with a pristine beach and five oceanfront pools to choose from. Two championship courses may give you the urge to tee off; we also love their collection of well-curated shops, especially the modern jewelry at Mix.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Splurge on a poolside Beach Bungalow (exclusively for day use) for total pampered privacy — think day beds, a stocked fridge, a flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi and a private bathroom, plus dedicated concierges for any additional flights of fancy.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | The Palms Hotel & Spa

Courtesy The Palms Hotel & Spa

The Palms Hotel & Spa – Miami Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples Living up to its name, The Palms is beautifully landscaped with swaying palm trees and lush tropical gardens that decorate the space between hotel and beach. The 251 newly renovated rooms makes a chic statement with bold hues and nature-inspired textures that align with the hotel’s focus on green sustainability. Even though you’re just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Miami, you’ll feel like you’re on a private island.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Dinner on the outdoor terrace at Essencia is a must, as much for the atmosphere as for the farm-to-table menu, which changes seasonally.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

Courtesy Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club

Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club – St. Petersburg

Why It’s Great for Couples: Located right on Tampa Bay, the water views are stunning at this 1920s-era hotel. But it’s the ornate flourishes of the romantic hotel itself that really characterize this 85-year-old hotel: The Mediterranean Revival architecture landed The Vinoy on the National Register of Historic Places. Pop into the grand ballroom for a peek of the past, and enjoy the sweeping bay views from your room — some of which even have private balcony spas.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Book ahead for a swanky dinner at the elegant Marchand’s Bar & Grill. With their signature dishes that incorporate fresh herbs and olive oil, you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a romantic dinner in Italy without ever leaving the resort.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | WaterColor Inn & Resort

Courtesy WaterColor Inn & Resort

WaterColor Inn & Resort – Santa Rosa Beach

Why It’s Great for Couples We have a major crush on this beautiful resort complex, spanning Route 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. For a romantic escape, stay in the main inn, where 60 plush rooms face the beach and perks include freshly baked cookies at turndown. (You can bring the family back another tine to take advantage of their collection of rental houses in every shape and size.) Leave the keys in your room and get around the area on a pair of loaner bikes; it’s what the locals do.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Spend the morning kayaking or canoeing on the inland lake, then hit the beach. When you reserve those side-by-side beach chairs in advance, you never have to worry about losing that primo spot.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Casa Monica Hotel

Courtesy Casa Monica Hotel

Casa Monica Hotel – St. Augustine

Why It’s Great for Couples Blending modern luxury with old-world charm, this circa-1888 landmark in America’s oldest city takes you back to another time. The castle-like feel is present in every detail of the resort (it even has turrets!). Every one of the 138 rooms is uniquely appointed and decorated. We love the two-story Signature suites, especially the Ponce de Leon with its rooftop whirlpool and private balcony.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Arrange to have a bottle of champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and fresh flowers waiting in your room upon arrival (or delivered at any time). The final touch: a carriage ride through the city’s historic quarter.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | The Gasparilla Inn & Club

Courtesy The Gasparilla Inn & Club

The Gasparilla Inn & Club – Boca Grande

Why It’s Great for Couples Quaint cottages and palm-tree-lined walkways give a sense of home to this Old Florida resort, which dates to 1913. Guests love the upscale yet casual vibe, accessibility to the Gulf of Mexico, and storied fishing heritage. (Boca Grande is considered the tarpon-fishing capital of the world.) Bonus: Pets are welcome too!

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Jackets are required for dinner in the Main Dining Room during high season — a Gilded Age remnant that we love. Another reason to dress up: the resort’s three USCA-certified croquet lawns.

Romantic Hotels and Resorts in Florida | Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

Courtesy Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando – Orlando

Why It’s Great for Couples This 700-plus-room bellissimo resort was designed to resemble the Amalfi Coast port of the same name, with a lake standing in for the Adriatic Sea. During your stay, challenge each other to a game of bocce ball, book a treatment at the Mandara Spa, or rent a private cabana at the Villa Pool (a much quieter setting than the resort’s family-friendly Beach Pool). Guests also get express boarding on park rides at Universal for a perfect adrenaline-charged date that’s built right into your stay.

Romantic Extra You’ll Love Come sunset, grab a bistro table in the Harbor Piazza and enjoy Musica della Notte (Music of the Night), a nightly live show featuring classic opera, folk tunes and romantic ballads.

This article was from Islands and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, Florida Vacation, Orlando vacation, Romantic getaways

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The marriage proposal is a milestone life event for many, one made even more epic when it happens while on vacation. It’s also quite popular: If you Google “How to propose while on vacation,” it yields more than 2.6 million results.

While saying or hearing “Yes” from your sweetheart in any locale is pure magic, there is a beautiful metaphor in doing it while on the road. In the process of exploring a destination, whether it be a beach, a glacier or a jungle, the start of an even bigger adventure is sealed with that “Yes.”

RELATED: 11 romantic (and sexy) places to go on Valentine’s Day

Here are 14 couples who began that journey together while on vacation. Perhaps these swoon-worthy stories will spark a few “Awwws” and maybe even some inspiration to pop the question yourself.

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Dan Lougheed

Alaska
When Lia and I were planning our trip to Alaska, she asked if we could take an excursion for a hike on Mendenhall Glacier. I felt like this adventure would be appropriate for a proposal. It was a hike of a lifetime. The spot our guide secretly picked was majestic; we even drank fresh glacier water directly from the proposal spot to celebrate the ‘yes’.”—Dan Lougheed from Detroit, MI

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Rodney Wright

St. Martin
I proposed to Todd aboard a yacht that I chartered in St. Martin. We took a sunset cruise to Tintamarre Island where I proposed. But my proposal almost didn’t happen. As we were sailing, we encountered a bit of rough water. My now-husband started to get sea sick and said he wanted to go back to shore. Fortunately, the captain (who was helping me with the proposal) and I convinced him to continue on to Tintamarre. Very glad that we made it there and even more glad that he said ‘yes’.”Rodney Wright from New York

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Angela Shannon

Chianti, Italy
After ten years of dating, Zach and I planned a two-week Italy vacation. Friends and family said we’d return engaged or married. We became so annoyed by these claims that Zach told everyone he definitely would not propose on this trip, as if he was supposed to do so on cue. Thus, I didn’t expect anything. After a week or so in Italy, we spent a day at a chianti festival in Greve, then ended the day checking into a B&B in Castellina in Chianti. After walking the gorgeous grounds, we opened a bottle of wine from that day’s festival. Zach got down on one knee, without a ring, and asked me to marry him. I love that he was so inspired by our experience that he had to propose; no amount of pressure made that happen—just the beauty and romance of Italy.”—Angela Shannon from Chicago

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Chandra DiGregorio

Jerusalem, Israel
I was fortunate enough to get a spot on a free trip to Israel with 40 other young adults and was beyond excited that my 27th birthday fell in the middle of the trip. While I was excited to spend my birthday in Jerusalem, I was a bit sad that my boyfriend David would be traveling on business, so would miss both the trip and my birthday. My birthday fell on a Friday, and at sundown my group and I walked to the Western Wall to join in the celebration. Just as we began to walk towards the actual Wall, I felt a tap on my shoulder—it was David! He had been lying the whole time about his business trip and conspiring with the tour operator for months to surprise me on my birthday! After I got over the initial shock of seeing him, he revealed the true purpose of his trip: He got down on one knee and proposed in front of all of the girls on my trip and thousands of onlookers. As I screamed ‘Yes!’ my answer was met with hundreds of congratulations, hugs, crying, singing and dancing as the sun set over the Old City of Jerusalem.”—Chandra DiGregorio from New York

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Erica Gannett

Big Sur, California
Wes and I were on vacation in Big Sur when we got engaged. We spent the day driving along the coast, stopping to hike at several overlooks. We had just finished a two-mile hike when Wes asked me if we could find a beautiful, remote spot for the sunset. We walked down to the McWay Waterfall at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, but it was way too crowded, so we climbed around to the other side of the waterfall. We walked down the hill to get a better look at the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean, and then Wes asked me, ‘Would you be mine forever?’ He handed me a gorgeous vintage engagement ring. It was perfect and a complete surprise.”—Erica Gannett from Brooklyn, NY

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Maureen Fingerman

Bahamas cruise
About a year after I started dating Rick, his mother planned a family cruise to the Bahamas. Leading up to it, he kept getting phone calls from the public relations department from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I didn’t think much of it. As we were going up the escalator to check in at port for our cruise, I look up and there’s a huge banner: ‘Maureen, It had to be you. Will you marry me? Rick’ When we got to the top there was a band playing ‘It Had to Be You’ and everyone around us was applauding. I said ‘Yes’ and so began our wonderful life, sailing aboard the Nordic Empress [now Empress of the Seas], where the champagne kept flowing and we received congratulations at all the island stops.”—Maureen Fingerman from Buffalo Grove, IL

ALSO: Say “I do” to big savings by signing up for Orbitz Rewards!

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Susan Betteridge

Siem Reap, Cambodia
After 16 fabulous days traveling Vietnam and Cambodia with my soul mate, on the night before we thought were scheduled to travel home, Julie and I realized we had read our itinerary wrong and had another full day to enjoy Siem Reap. On our ‘free’ day we went to check out a local craft fair featuring artisans from around Cambodia. Julie and I knew we wanted to get married since the first week we were dating, but since we were two feminine girls who didn’t fulfill typical gender roles, we couldn’t quite figure out how to handle the whole proposal thing. So when a silver jeweler caught my eye when walking through the craft fair, I turned to Julie without thinking and said, ‘What if we got two rings and got engaged right now?!’ So we bought two simple silver rings—the artist explained they symbolized a knot or two things coming together, how perfect!—and then walked to the edge of the Siem Reap River in front of a beautiful Buddhist statue and took turns proposing to each other. No makeup. No fanfare. And nothing but love.”—Susan Betteridge from Chicago

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Tania Howard Pritz

New York City
Braden planned a surprise weekend away for the two of us in New York City. After a fun day of shopping and sightseeing, he took me to the Top of the Rock to see the sunset. As the lights in the Empire State Building popped on, he dropped onto one knee: ‘Would you and the girls do me the great honor of creating a family with me? Would you be my wife? I want to grow old with you.’ It was an amazing moment.”—Tania Howard Pritz from Annapolis, MD

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Jenise Hughes 

Seoul, South Korea
I was in South Korea visiting my boyfriend for the holidays, and we decided to go to Seoul for New Year’s Eve weekend. We went to N Seoul Tower, which is one of the top spots to visit because it’s almost 800 feet above ground, and put our lock of love onto the ‘Love Fence’ area. In that moment, he got on one knee, pulled out the ring in front of a crowd and asked me to marry him, 800 feet in the air in Seoul, Korea. It was very romantic and unexpected.”—Jenise Hughes from Sacramento, CA

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Jeanette O’Laughlin

Dubrovnik, Croatia
In our second-to-last evening in Dubrovnik, Ciaran and I went for dinner besides the pier in Old Town. I should have known something was up, as Ciaran was so nervous. However, I was blissfully unaware he had been waiting for the ‘right moment’ to ask me to marry him. After dinner, he suggested going for a walk down the pier. At the end of the pier, he proposed. I am pretty certain he didn’t get to the end of the question, as I shouted, ‘Yes!’ and jumped into his arms.”—Jeanette O’Laughlin from Elmhurst, IL

Photos courtesy of Jennifer P

Mt. Rushmore
My husband proposed via helicopter over the Black Hills of South Dakota because he knew I’d always wanted to go on a helicopter ride. He led me to believe that we were going hiking in the mountains; but when he picked me up, we headed in the opposite direction of the mountains. We made our way quickly down the highways and squealed around hairpin turns into the Black Hills of South Dakota. I had no idea where we were going or why he was in such a hurry. Then I saw a sign for Black Hills Aerial Adventures. As soon as we pulled in, the pilot started up the engines and prepared for take off. My husband proposed (of course I said ‘Yes’!) before we were whisked away on a magical tour where we saw Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and the beautiful rolling hills of South Dakota. It’s easy to say the magic of that day left me feeling sky high!”—Jennifer P. from Wyoming

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Morgan Charleson

Paris, France
While in Paris with my boyfriend, Anthony, we decided to climb the Eiffel Tower. The view from top was perfect. We took a few photos, then Anthony asked for one more photo. After it was taken, Anthony turned to me and dropped to one knee:  ‘Morgan, will you marry me?’ My hands were over my mouth and tears were flowing; he asked again because I didn’t answer the first time. He shakily put the ring on my finger—but not after choosing the wrong hand first!”—Morgan Charleson from Perth, Australia

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Michelle Weigold

Colombia
While on vacation in Colombia, my boyfriend John and I planned a day trip to Tayrona National Park with the goal of going to a beautiful, isolated beach. Getting there wasn’t so easy. We rode on horseback through dense, muddy, insect-ridden jungle paths for about three hours. The heat and humidity were torturous. When we finally arrived, I was in awe of how peaceful and pristine it seemed. I rapidly started heading to the water, about to jump in … but John wouldn’t let me! He started walking towards the other side of the beach, and I had no clue why. He set his camera tripod down in the sand and commanded: ‘We’re taking a photo here.’ I got mean and snippy because I wanted to swim, but he coerced me into the photo by saying my hair would look better dry than wet. He had a remote to make the camera take the photo. When I suddenly sensed movement to my left, my initial thought was, ‘Oh my God! John is passing out from the heat!’ When I realized he was down on one knee, it finally clicked. Now, after two years of marriage, I still laugh about how mad I was at him the moments before our jungle beach proposal. He knew me well enough to know that I’d always dreamed of a proposal abroad, and as a travel-obsessed Spanish teacher, an isolated beach in Colombia surrounded by jungle was the ideal place to do it!”—Michelle Weigold from Villa Hills, KY

Left: shutterstock | Right: Photo courtesy of Danielle Tucker 

Walt Disney World, Florida
The day before the proposal, Nic and I spent the day visiting the different ‘countries’ at Epcot. When we got to China, I wanted to browse through some of the shops to see if I could find any strange or funny presents to bring back for my family. On our way out, Nic and I noticed a small jewelry section with mood rings. Nic asked me for my ring size because he was thinking about getting me a promise ring. I immediately got upset. After dating for five years, I think we had passed the ‘promise ring’ stage, so I walked away pouting. Fast forward to the following day, when Nic and I were exploring Magic Kingdom. While it had been raining most of the morning, the sun finally peeked out around noon, and this was our cue to take our pictures by the Cinderella Castle. After the first few pictures, Nic started digging in his pocket. I assumed that he was grabbing his phone. To my surprise, he pulled out a black velvet box. At first I was confused … Then upset because I remembered our conversation about promise rings. Then he got down on one knee and said, ‘Danielle Nicole Tucker, you are the love of my life. Will you marry me?’ Needless to say … I said ‘Yes!'”—Danielle Tucker from Lincoln, NE

Were you part of a wedding proposal moment that happened while traveling? Inspire others with your story by sharing it in the comments below.

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Tagged: California Vacation, Caribbean Vacation, Cruise, Do Disney, Europe Vacation, Florida Vacation, International vacation, New York Vacation, NYC, Orlando vacation, Romantic getaways

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.
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Florida and family vacations go together like resort pools and cannonballs—especially now that spring break’s just around the corner. Now is the time to start to thinking about family fun amid the Sunshine State’s palm trees, beaches and coveted warm weather. Your family just needs to decide where in Florida to spend its break. It’s a big family decision filled with excitement and a lot of choices.

RELATED: Orlando’s newest attractions for 2017

Here are five resorts in Florida that will live up to your kids expectations, and your own, for the perfect spring break vacation.

Photo courtesy of Legoland Hotel

Winter Haven: LEGOLAND Florida Resort

Just in time for spring break, experience Winter Haven’s LEGOLAND Hotel, just 130 kid-verified steps away from the entrance to the theme park. With master builder classes and nightly activities, families can choose from themed accommodations featuring pirates, the kingdom, adventure and even the LEGO Friends.

New to the theme park in 2017 is LEGO NINJAGO World, with hands-on fun for families to perfect their ninja skills. LEGO NINJAGO: The Ride combines 3D computer animation and 4D special effects for a fun, sensory experience to defeat the ninjas.

Photo courtesy of Omni Amelia

Amelia Island: Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort

For a quiet beach escape, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island features 3.5 miles of oceanfront property, 54 holes of championship golf, a luxury spa, daily kids activities and programming, and a unique Nature Center featuring kayaking, nature trails, guided Segway tours and more. Just a short drive into town, Fernandina Beach’s Centre Street features local shops and dining.

ALSO: The travel rewards are anything but pint-sized when you join Orbitz Rewards!

Photo courtesy of Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo

Lake Wales: Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo

For those in search of a one-of-a-kind camping experience, the Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo now offers luxe teepee accommodations. With Native American style décor, these upscale teepees feature a double-sided stone rock hearth fireplace, screened private patio deck, mini refrigerator, a king bed, full sleeper sofa and air conditioning and heating, accommodating up to four guests.

Families staying in teepees receive VIP seating at Saturday night’s on-site rodeo and complimentary use of a golf cart during their stay.

Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Resort

Boca Raton: Boca Raton Resort & Club – A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Take to the water this spring break at South Florida’s Boca Raton Resort & Club – A Waldorf Astoria Resort. Aspiring surfers can master the waves with group or private surfing lessons. Sign up for body boarding and stand-up surfing lessons on the FlowRider, a wave simulator offering memorable water experiences.

While parents enjoy two championship golf courses, a world-class tennis center and the top-ranked Waldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & Club, they can rest easy knowing the kids are having just as much fun playing PS4, XBox One, WiiU and token-operated arcade games at Quest Club.

Photo courtesy of Fort Wilderness

Lake Buena Vista: Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

This list would be remiss without mentioning one of Disney’s many Orlando-area resorts. While all the theme park’s properties are geared towards maximum family fun, we especially like Fort Wilderness for its range of price points, and its fantastic outdoor offerings. Your crew can saddle up for horseback riding, spot wild animals in the cypress forest—think deer, rabbits and armadillos—hone their archery skills and go canoeing. Other kid favorites include the waterslides and night-time campfire sing-alongs.

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Tagged: Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Orlando vacation, Spring Break, Spring break

Carrie McLaren

Carrie McLaren

Carrie McLaren

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Who needs 1,350 miles of beautiful coastline, endless buckets of sunshine and tons of activities when there’s snow to shovel, grey skies to stare at and six layers of winter garb to endlessly take on and off? Here are 8 reasons NOT to visit Florida this winter. Read this now, thank us later.

RELATED: 11 beaches that probably aren’t for you

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

1. Plant City: Can you believe this town? Home to the annual Florida Strawberry Festival, this spot near Tampa claims fresh, local fruit in the middle of winter. #sketchy

Photo credit: Redit Psyberartist/Flickr.

2. Crystal River: Swimming in clear, freshwater springs with those goofy gentle giants known as manatees? #overrated

Photo credit: Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr.

3. Miami Beach: People are always carrying on about hanging out on Ocean Drive, one of the world’s most famous streets with all its restaurants, bars and hotels. We have a better idea. #NetflixAndChill

Photo credit: Judy Gallagher/Flickr.

4. Everglades National Park: So it’s got panthers, alligators and numerous bird species like the tricolored heron. Uh, thanks, but we’d rather watch cat videos on YouTube. #priorities

ALSO: Earn towards your next trip when you book flights and hotels with Orbitz Rewards? Sounds like a trap.

Photo credit: Alexandre Breveglieri/Flickr.

5. Orlando: “Oh but what about Disney World,” you say? This is what passes for ice around here. #NotEvenClose

Photo credit: Rachel Kramer/Flickr.

6. St. George Island: Just a guess—you also like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. #TotalCliche

Photo credit: Reinhard Link/Flickr.

7. Kennedy Space Center: Sure, we’ve heard how you can see the Space Shuttle Atlantis up close, experience a simulated shuttle launch and have lunch with an astronaut at the Space Center, but look: If we wanted to travel to infinity and beyond, we’d watch Toy Story. #NotToday

Photo credit: Rain0975/Flickr.

8. Daytona Beach: They say the Ponce De Leon Inlet Light Station near Daytona Beach is Florida’s tallest lighthouse and that if you climb the 203 steps to the top, you’ll be treated to a view of the surrounding waterways. Interesting ploy, but you can’t trick us into doing cardio. #NiceTry

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Miami Vacation, Orlando vacation

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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This time of year, your idea of communing with nature might mean watching “Planet Earth” on Netflix while you snuggle under a blanket. But at these botanical gardens, a breath of fresh air is always in season.

RELATED: 7 wellness resorts that really get it right

Norfolk Botanical Garden. Credit m01229/Flickr.

Norfolk Botanical Garden | Credit m01229/Flickr CC

Norfolk Botanical Garden: Norfolk, VA
With 12 miles of walking paths, a library filled with horticulture books and a year-round conifer garden, there’s plenty to explore anytime. In winter, check out the holly sculpture garden and then huddle up in the Tropical Display House with its palms and birds of paradise. Then when the weather warms up, bring the kids to the garden’s World Plaza, a splash pad that sneaks in lessons about the Earth’s oceans and other waterways.

Desert Botanical Garden. Credit Martin Ely/Flickr.

Desert Botanical Garden | Credit Martin Ely/Flickr CC

Desert Botanical Garden: Phoenix, AZ
Of course there are cacti. But you’ll also find wildflowers, butterflies and other colorful features that prove just how gorgeous a desert garden can be. Periodic exhibitions enhance the natural landscape, while special events like Music in the Garden, Dogs’ Day and Agave on the Rocks (margaritas are involved) leave no room for tumbleweeds.

Chicago Botanic Garden. Credit H. Michael Miley/Flickr.

Chicago Botanic Garden | Credit H. Michael Miley/Flickr CC

Chicago Botanic Garden: Chicago, IL
This serene spot just north of the Windy City feels a bit gentler when you observe snow falling on evergreens, red berries peeking through, and yellow willow branches standing out. Attend an indoor orchid show, take a calming Tai Chi class or enroll your kids in a cooking class, and spring will be here before you know it.

Dallas Arboretum. Credit Rodney/Flickr.

Dallas Arboretum | Credit Rodney/Flickr CC

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden: Dallas, TX
For many gardens, spring and summer are prime time. But this show-stopping destination was named one of “the 16 Most Beautiful Public Gardens to Visit in the Fall,” by House Beautiful. Mild Texas temperatures, vibrant blooms, an annual 10k race and gourds in every configuration imaginable make this spot a perfect autumn destination. Rounding out the year are signature events like the Dallas Arboretum Food and Wine Festival in March, and the Cool Thursdays Spring/Summer Concert Series.

United States Botanic Garden | Credit Wikimedia Commons

United States Botanic Garden: Washington, DC
Regardless of your politics, there’s one thing in DC we can all get behind: this national treasure that showcases the diversity of America’s plant life. From the indoor gardens and galleries perfect for a winter visit to the outdoor garden within view of the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Botanic Garden will make you feel proud to be an American. Be sure to check out the First Ladies Water Garden, which salutes the contributions of FLOTUSes past and present.

Bok Tower Gardens. Credit Neil Thompson/Flickr.

Bok Tower Gardens | Credit Neil Thompson/Flickr CC

Bok Tower Gardens: Lake Wales, FL
It’s a garden, it’s a historic landmark… it’s a great way to escape the hubbub of Central Florida’s more chaotic attractions. This sprawling property is prime territory for photography, birdwatching, geocaching, hiking or just enjoying a picnic on the lawn during a bell tower concert. Bring swimsuits and let the kids splash in Hammock Hallow Children’s Garden, or carve out some grown-up time when you sign up for a yoga, painting or cooking class in the new outdoor kitchen.

New York Botanical Garden. Credit Wiki Commons.

New York Botanical Garden |  Credit Wiki Commons

New York Botanical Garden: Bronx, NY
Nothing against Central Park, but this 250-acre self described “urban oasis” deserves its day in the sun. From conifers and berries in winter to roses and lotuses in summertime, a little R&R away from city life is always in bloom. Indoor and outdoor art exhibitions, children’s programming and other special events give visitors to the Big Apple a reason to come back throughout the year.

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Tagged: Chicago Vacation, Florida Vacation, New York Vacation, NYC, Orlando vacation

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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Thinking about traveling with your kids and the grandparents in tow? If your extended family is separated by distance, a trip together is an especially delightful way to connect. Whether you choose to hit the road together or fly, stay at an all-inclusive or take a cruise, here’s why multi-generational travel should be on your 2017 bucket list!

RELATED: 5 classic family resorts for relaxing and reconnecting

1. Discover a destination through their eyes

There’s nothing quite like the experience of seeing a destination through the wonder of a child’s eyes. Whether it’s having a blast in Orlando, exploring a mega-size cruise ship or climbing up the Statue of Liberty, discovering new experiences together as a family will rank high on your list of memorable trips.

“There’s no greater pleasure than my husband and I getting to travel with our son, daughter-in-law and grandson,” says Saralee Rosenberg of Dix Hills, New York. “Recently, we took him to the Kennedy Space Center, the Everglades and a Mets Spring Training game in Florida. His smile said it all: ‘I have the coolest grandparents.’ The days go quickly, but the memories last a lifetime.”

2. Share memorable experiences

“Orlando is the perfect destination for multi-generational travel because it offers many opportunities for quality family time,” said Kirsten Maxwell of Lake Forest, Illinois who visited with her husband, parents and three kids. “It was wonderful to have extra sets of hands everywhere we went. Whether we were exploring the theme parks, swimming or making dinner in our apartment, there was always someone making a special memory with the children,” she says. “When the grandkids took their grandparents down the Ripsaw Falls water ride at Universal Studios, I don’t think my parents knew what they were in for. Everyone came away drenched. They never laughed so hard, and none of them will ever forget it!”

3. Create long-lasting bonds

Nature is the perfect bonding experience. Watch turtles come to nest in Florida, go whale watching in the Caribbean or swim with the dolphins in Mexico. Memories like these will strengthen the bonds between the generations and give children a new appreciation for their grandparents’ wisdom and insights. When Elise Frost of Highland Park, Illinois took a Princess cruise to Alaska with her parents, siblings and cousins, her favorite excursion was the float plane ride. “We all donned headphones and flew across wilderness and glaciers to Taku Lodge for a feast of fresh-caught salmon. The views were exquisite and years later, my kids still talk about it.”

ALSO: Earn huge rewards on your family trip when you join Orbitz Rewards!

4. Cruise together

A cruise offers the best value because meals and activities are all included. On bigger ships, there are plenty of things to do like bowling, ice skating, ropes courses and bumper cars, not to mention exhilarating water parks with huge slides and tunnels you can enjoy together. But it’s the quiet moments, too, when you can play a board game, stroll around the ship or participate in a family game show. Cruising truly caters to all the generations. If you want to enjoy part of the day independently, there are Kids Clubs for the younger set as well as fitness classes and art auctions for the adults. Meet up for dinner—it’s a win-win!

5. Discover great destinations

Of course, the king of multi-generation travel is any Disney property, whether you opt for Florida or California. So whether you want to wander through the Magic Kingdom or California Adventure Park, explore EPCOT or splash around Blizzard Beach, add your extended family to the fun. Check out other popular destinations such as the National Parks of the West, dude ranches, Mexican all-inclusive resorts or the Dominican Republic, and start creating your own magical memories.

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Tagged: California Vacation, Cruise, Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Orlando vacation

Mira Temkin

Mira Temkin

Lover of lore with a thirst for adventure, Mira has her bags packed -- ready to go in a flash. She writes with spirited soul about destinations, hotels and spas.
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If you find yourself in any of these destinations, be sure to add a sweet note to your travels with a stop at these top pie places.

Are we sure "delicious" doesn't start with letter P? Credit P is for Pie Bake Shop.

P is for pie… and “please may I have some more?” | Credit P is for Pie Bake Shop.

P is for Pie Bake Shop: Orlando, FL

This small-batch Orlando bakery serves up pies in every form imaginable, including whole pies to mason jar pies to pie pops to individual cuties to whoopies and more. The offerings change with the seasons, from Triple Berry and Key Lime in summer to Salted Caramel Apple and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan for the holidays. There are savory options, too.

The Pie Hole has five Southern California locations, and also one in Tokyo, Japan. Because S'mores Pie is a universal language. Credit The Pie Hole.

The Pie Hole has five Southern California locations, and also one in Tokyo, Japan (because S’mores Pie is a universal language). | Credit The Pie Hole.

The Pie Hole: Los Angeles, CA

Open up your mouth hole to devour these desserts as they change with the seasons; winter offerings include Pear Cranberry Crumble and Mexican Chocolate. The LA spot offers plenty of savory options, too, like Chorizo Breakfast Hand Pie and Chicken ‘n’ Cornbread Pie. This place takes its java nearly as seriously as its desserts, so be sure to wash yours down with a cup of Pie Hole Blend coffee.

Order pies by the slice, or get a whole one. Credit Emporium Pies.

Order pies by the slice, or get a whole one. | Credit Emporium Pies.

Emporium Pies: Dallas, TX

The pie names at this Dallas spot are as fun to say as they are to eat: Drop Dead Gorgeous (pumpkin custard on gingerbread crust), Smooth Operator (French silk custard on pretzel crust), Lord of the Pies (apple with cinnamon streusel)… and the list goes on. The bakery has three Dallas-area locations, including one that opened in September 2016 in the burgeoning foodie scene of the Deep Ellum neighborhood.

ALSO: Get your just desserts when it comes to travel rewards—join Orbitz Rewards today!

Cranberry Sage pie. Works for us. Credit Four & Twenty Blackbrids.

Cranberry Sage pie is a slice of heaven. | Credit Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Brooklyn, NY

Food trends come and go all the time in the Big Apple (cronut, anyone?), but the pies at this popular spot with locations in Brooklyn, Orient Village and even inside the Brooklyn Public Library always satisfy. (Go ahead. Check out War and Peace. There’s pie.) The bakery gets props for inventive offerings like Chocolate Julep, Salty Honey and Cranberry Sage. Can’t decide? Grab a few ready-to-bake frozen crusts and a copy of the Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, and try some recipes at home.

Hoosier Mama's Roasted Tomato Pie can hardly contain itself, and neither can we. Credit Daniel Zemans/Flickr.

Hoosier Mama’s Roasted Tomato Pie can hardly contain itself, and neither can we. | Credit Daniel Zemans/Flickr.

Hoosier Mama Pie Company: Chicago, IL

Deep dish pizza ain’t the only Windy City pie that deserves respect. This retro, diner-style bake shop puts a modern touch on comfort food, with sweet and savory offerings like Sour Cream Dutch Pear, Zucchini Goat Quiche and Red Line Espresso—a nod to the city’s public transportation system.

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Tagged: California Vacation, Florida Vacation, Foodie vacations, Holidays & Events, Orlando vacation

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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If you think that you’ve seen all that Orlando has to offer … think again. With more than 66 million visitors last year (an all-time high), Orlando is the country’s most-visited destination and wants to keep that top spot by evolving and expanding each year, giving kids big and small new reasons to come for a first visit, or a fifteenth.

RELATED: Not sure which Disney is for you? This Disney World vs. Disneyland infographic should help

So it should come as no surprise that this Florida mecca—home to theme park titans such as Disney, Universal and SeaWorld—will unveil a bevy of new highlights in 2017 certain to inspire a trip. Below are some of our favorites.

Avatar inspired Navi River Journey | Concept art, Walt Disney Imagineering

Avatar inspired Navi River Journey | Concept art, Walt Disney Imagineering

Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Step into Pandora, the otherworldly setting from James Cameron’s popular sci-fi film. The largest expansion in Animal Kingdom’s history (also five years in the making), it will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests, alien wildlife, after-dark entertainment and a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey.

Volcano Bay Rendering | Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Volcano Bay Rendering | Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park

Add another water park to Orlando’s splish-splash of offerings. Set to open in June of 2017, this one within Universal Orlando Resort is tropical themed. A towering “fire-and-water volcano” called Krakatau, which streams waterfalls during the day and fiery lava effects at night, looms over a lush landscape of heart-pounding water slides, lazy rivers and other water-themed attractions.

Ninjago Ride at Legoland California | Photo courtesy of Sandy Huffaker/Legoland

Ninjago Ride at Legoland California | Photo courtesy of Sandy Huffaker/Legoland

LEGO NINJAGO World at LEGOLAND Florida Resort

Inspired by the wildly popular LEGO building sets and the “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu” TV show, this new attraction is set to open in January. Fans will experience an immersive land to live out ninja adventures, including an interactive dark ride that boasts groundbreaking technology and animation that allows guests to blast fire, lightning and ice with their hands.

Kraken rendering | Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Kraken rendering | Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

VR Kraken Roller Coaster at SeaWorld Orlando

With SeaWorld phasing out its live orca shows by 2019, its turned its attention to boosting other areas of the theme park. Among the highlights for 2017: The Kraken roller coaster will be transformed into a virtual reality (VR) roller coaster experience, the only one of its kind in Florida. The coaster will be retrofitted with VR headsets to give riders the sensation of traveling through the sea amid mythical and prehistoric creatures. This summer the park will also unveil an updated Dolphin Nursery, where guests can get an up-close experience with mother and baby dolphins, as well as a new end-of-day spectacle called Electric Ocean.

american-football

NFL Pro Bowl Week 

The NFL will celebrate its brightest stars of today and tomorrow with new Pro Bowl week festivities in Orlando, culminating in the all-star game at Camping World Stadium on January 29, 2017. Activities around this newly created week include accessible team practices at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World; a Pro Bowl-themed 5k run; a parade of Pro Bowl players in the Magic Kingdom; Pro Bowl-themed elements throughout Disney Springs; and a variety of other youth football and family activities across Orlando to celebrate football at all levels.

ALSO: Feel like a princess (or prince) when you reap big travel perks with Orbitz Rewards!

Disney world's Epcot Center

Epcot Center| Flickr CC: Anthony Quintano

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

For six weekends over January 13 through February 20, 2017, Epcot will host its first-ever Epcot International Festival of the Arts. Taking a creative cue from the park’s popular Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (August 31 through November 13), this new fest instead spotlights visual and performing arts from around the world. Highlights will include getting to watch Disney artists work live, hands-on arts experiences and Broadway performances. The festival is included with regular Epcot admission.

miss-fortune-falls

Miss Fortune Falls Attraction at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Go on a water-soaked journey aboard treasure rafts that climb high before plunging into a white-water adventure. With a tide time of two minutes, this family-style raft ride will be among the lengthiest attractions at both Disney water parks. It’s set to open this spring.

soccer-ball

Orlando’s Multipurpose Soccer Stadium

Enjoy the thrill of the “goooooaaaaaal” at Orlando’s newest stadium devoted to the planet’s most popular sport, soccer (football to the rest of the world). Scheduled to open prior to the 2017 Major League Soccer season, this stadium in downtown Orlando will seat 25,500 and serve as home to the Orlando City Lions and Orlando Pride soccer teams.

Photo courtesy of Andretti Indoor Carting

Photo courtesy of Andretti Indoor Carting

Andretti Indoor Karting & Games

Channel your inner Mario Andretti (vroom-vroom!) at this entertainment complex, set to open in spring 2017. It features high-speed electric superkarts on a two-level track, more than 120 arcade games, a rock wall, a zip line and more. In other words: heaven for the thrill-seeker kid hyped up on sugar.

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

Universal Orlando Resort’s “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon”

One thing is certain with this ride: Expect to laugh. Universal’s new 3-D ride invites guests to join “The Tonight Show” studio audience on a crazy race through the streets and skies of New York City, with Jimmy Fallon leading the way. Fallon has compared his ride to the popular Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios, saying that “instead of Harry Potter, it’s me … and instead of Hogwarts, it’s New York City.”

Starbright Holidays | Photo courtesy of David Roark, photographer, for Disney

Starbright Holidays | Photo courtesy of David Roark/ Disney

Drone Illumination at Disney Springs

This. Is. So. Cool. Disney has partnered with Intel to create a dazzling technological wonder in the sky called “Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration.” It’s the first time in the United States that 300 show drones have flown at one time to produce a choreographed nighttime show. While this aerial show at Disney Springs only lasts twice nightly through January 8, we hope to see more (free) tech-savvy attractions like this in the future.

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Tagged: Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Orlando vacation

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.
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A common phrase is that the world is getting smaller, but for the queer community it’s only getting bigger. That’s because LGBT rights are only expanding around the world and destinations that were off limits only 10 years ago are now opening their arms to our community. Sure there are parts of the world where history sometimes takes a step backwards, but 2017 will no doubt shape up to be a big travel year for gays and lesbians. Pack your bags (and plenty of sunscreen), here’s where you should travel right now.

RELATED: 26 LGBT vacations you must take before you die

Todos Santos

Todos Santos | Flickr photos by J Kehoe

Todos Santos, Mexico

Out hotelier Liz Lambert has a magic touch. Her Hotel San Jose in Austin is hipster ground zero and since opening that crash pad more than a decade ago her company Bunkhouse Group has taken over management of the classic Austin Motel and also owns properties in Marfa, Texas and San Antonio. Her next project will be new digs in Todos Santos, a coastal town in Baja California. Although one lesbian-owned hotel does not a queer mecca make, Lambert is no doubt betting that Todos Santos—an artist’s haven that’s laid-back, beautiful and chock full of galleries—is just waiting to be “discovered” by dreamers, drifters and creative types of all sexual orientations. Look out Tulum, the next great Mexican resort town is on its way. Please don’t tell anyone.

Palm Springs, desert, midcentury, Coachella, California, SoCal

Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs, CA

A perennial gay favorite, sleepy Palm Springs had long been resting on its laurels as a sun-drenched haven for retirees, golfers and the gay community. But a funny thing has recently happened to this desert city—its become cool again. It got a boost when Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival planted roots not far away and since that time all of young Hollywood is rushing to hipster resorts like the Avalon Hotel and Bungalows, the Ace Hotel and Swim Club and the nearby Saguaro. Food options have likewise improved (check out the Rooster and the Pig, Birba and Workshop + Kitchen and Bar among others). For queer visitors this means a ton of new options on top of what’s already great about the city including its two dozen gay, clothing optional resorts and annual bashes like the Dinah and the White Party. Even the nightlife has gotten a little better over the past ten years.

Montevideo, gay, LGBT, Uruguay

Montevideo | Photo courtesy of Jimmy Baikovic

Montevideo, Uruguay

If this South American city isn’t yet on your gaydar, you haven’t been doing your homework. Think stunning Art Deco and neoclassical architecture + a fierce love of the arts plus + beach side bliss + a thriving queer scene and it all adds up to same-sex heaven. As for its LGBT outreach, Uruguay is a South American leader in human rights. Homosexuality has been legal here since 1934 and it conferred full marriage equality as of 2013. Last year it hosted the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference and both Montevideo and nearby Punta del Este host annual Pride events. Also, the beach and bar scenes are loud and swinging. Oh, and the city is a 2-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires which means you can combine gaycations and get two superb destinations for the price of one plane ticket. Done!

punta-cana

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

There’s a fixed hostility toward LGBT rights in many Caribbean nations that’s been tough to shake loose and even as recently as 2010 the D.R. amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex couples from marriage. Yet Punta Cana remains an island (so to speak) unto itself. This honeymooner’s paradise, famed for its beaches, outdoor activities and all-inclusive resorts, maintains a welcoming and laid-back attitude toward same-sex couples that’s as breezy as its gentle, tropical winds. So why go now? Recently opened Mares, an all-welcoming gay bar and cocktail lounge signals a planting of the rainbow flag. Plus, numerous resorts like the Hard Rock Hotel and adults only Secrets Royal Beach and Breathless Punta Cana (which will host hundreds of queer women in October 2017 via an Olivia Travel resort experience) welcome queer travelers with open arms.

colorado

Colorado in autumn

Colorado

Wait a minute, you mean not every gaycation has to revolve around a swimming pool and a circuit party? Colorado is a fantastic destination for queers of every stripe and boasts a nationwide historic first: In 1975, Clela Rorex of Boulder County became the first county clerk in the nation to hand out marriage licenses. These days high times abound everywhere in live-and-let-live Colorado including gay ski weeks in premier winter towns like Aspen and Telluride, a lively bar and nightlife scene in once-sleepy Denver and low-key good times inside Boulder’s liberal bubble. But we love that Colorado also provides great escapes from big city living including four national parks, eight national monuments, nine national forests and 42 state parks. In fact, half the state belongs to public lands and the opportunities for the perfect gaycation are limitless. Did we mention there’s a lot of sunshine?

Taiwan, gay, travel, LGBT

Taiwan | Flicker photo courtesy of Sese_87

Taiwan

A rumble is happening off the coast of mainland China as the independent island nation of Taiwan begins a fierce debate over same-sex marriage. While feelings over the issue are almost evenly split, the country is nevertheless considered a bastion of LGBT tolerance in East Asia and it laws and attitudes toward the queer community are among the regions most progressive. If the marriage bill passes, it would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex unions, but regardless the capital city of Taipei is a gay-friendly mecca boasting the biggest annual Pride celebration in Asia and a nightlife scene that includes a dozen queer bars and numerous saunas. Beyond queer life there are enchanting night markets, ancient temples, luxury hotels and the super tall skyscraper Taipei 101. And who knows, in 2017, any one of these attractions may just become a place where couples exchange wedding vows.

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil | Flickr photo by Francisco Anzola

Florianópolis, Brazil

Brazil is big. So much so in fact that most of its citizens would forgive their North American counterparts for not being able to name its cities beyond Rio de Janeiro and maybe São Paulo. Perhaps that’s why Floripa (for short), the sunny and artsy island capital of Santa Catarina has been off-radar for so long. Yet it’s somewhat of a gay mecca boasting not only a thriving nightlife, amazing beaches and several restaurants helmed by gay women, but also South America’s first lesbian (but gay male and trans welcoming) surf camp which opened in 2015 under the name Gay Surf Brazil and is offered by lesbian-owned Brazil Ecojourneys. Additionally, there’s a bumping Carnival and Pride Week. No wonder Floripa is considered the Provincetown of South America.

Brighton Pride

Brighton Pride | Flickr photo by Andy Walker

Brighton, England

How many cities with a population of 150,000 can say they’ll be hosting their fifth annual Trans Pride weekend in 2017? We’re not talking an offshoot of Brighton Pride, but rather a full-fledged weekend boasting a talent competition, film night, picnic, after parties, art installations, a march and more. Coastal Brighton can make just such a claim. A seaside city that has long held the distinction of having the highest concentration of same-sex couples in Britain, queer-friendly Brighton and nearby Hove are bursting with gay-owned businesses and bars especially around Kemptown, although the boho vibe is everywhere. With the pound dropping to historic lows against the U.S. dollar, the time to visit is now. Bonus: London is only a half hour away via train.

Orlando, gay, LGBT, Pulse, Pride

Orlando Pride | Flickr photo by Grow by Love

Orlando, Fl

In the early hours of June 12, 2016 a status update appeared on the Facebook page of Orlando-based Pulse Nightclub that read, “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.” The message was in response to a lone gunman who shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others. It was the worst mass shooting in American history and happened in a city that is famously known for being a vacation paradise. It also brought out the best in people as both gay and straight communities rushed to donate blood to the victims, offer monetary support to the families and man crisis hotlines. But for queer visitors the city is still a mecca for good times including its promise of endless sunshine, a happening downtown and its ubiquitous theme parks which of course includes Gay Days at Disney World which attracts more than 150,000 LGBT visitors annually.  The city deserves our love and the time to offer it is now.

Gay Pride Madrid

Gay Pride Madrid | Flickr photo by Antonio Tajuelo

Madrid, Spain

Spain is the Europe of our dreams. Between elegant Barcelona, heady Ibiza, gay happening Gran Canaria, a gay cruise ship in every port city and a nonstop calendar of annual queer events like Bear Week in Sitges and Ella International Lesbian Festival in Mallorca, it may in fact be the overall queerest country on the continent. Yet in 2017 all eyes will be fixed on Madrid. The madcap capital and home to filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is also a city of endless siestas, a tapas restaurant on every corner and a backroom in every bar. In May it will host Mr. Gay World 2017 and in late June it will host World Pride Madrid 2017 which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the city’s first Pride March. Come summer 2017, the city may just be the gayest place on planet earth.

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, California Vacation, Caribbean Vacation, Europe Vacation, International vacation, LGBT travel, Orlando vacation

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.
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Portland, Oregon is a coffee town, and its airport reflects that obsession with caffeine.

Local favorites Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Portland Roasting Coffee share real estate along the concourses with Peets and Starbucks.

Going local is one of the ways Portland’s airport distinguishes itself from other airports around the continent, and clearly it’s working: Portland was ranked the top large North American airport in the J.D. Power 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released Thursday.

Thanks to airports “going local” and technological improvements, an increased number of travelers are actually happy with their airports.

Overall satisfaction with large airports is 724 on a 1,000-point scale, a 5-point increase from 2015, while satisfaction with medium airports is 760, an 8-point increase, according to the J.D. Power study.

The 2016 study was is based on responses from more than 38,000 North American travelers who traveled through at least one domestic or international airport with both departure and arrival experiences during the past three months. Thirty-one large airports and 33 medium airports were ranked in the study.

All this satisfaction comes as airports are facing annual 5-6% increases in traveler numbers.

Airports are going local

The Portland airport doesn’t look exactly like the Indianapolis (Indiana) International Airport, the top medium-sized airport.

“Top performing airports are offering passengers unique experiences that reflect their locale,” said Michael Taylor, director of J.D. Power’s airline practice.

“Portland International (786 points) provides a ‘sense of place’ by incorporating Great Northwest design themes into the airport, even into the flooring itself. Indianapolis (794 points) has rotating displays of antique Indy race cars. You won’t see that at the next airport.”

How airports are getting better

Airports weren’t necessarily built for the numbers of travelers and flights they are currently handling.

They’re adapting, says Taylor, using technology to improve check-in, security screening, and dining and retail options.

Construction dampens satisfaction

Construction, while necessary to bring improvements, is one factor that’s likely to cause a dip in airport satisfaction.

A multibillion dollar redesign of New York’s last-place LaGuardia Airport (649 points) has likely contributed to a 6-point drop in overall satisfaction this year, while completion of the redesign of Terminal 2 at Los Angeles International in February is “partly responsible for a hefty 32-point jump in overall satisfaction” to 702 points, said Taylor. LAX is still in 26th space, though, just six spots from the bottom.

At the same time, mild weather has contributed to a 9-point increase in satisfaction at O’Hare International Airport (689 points, 28th place), which can face weather-related delays beyond its control.

Top five large airports

1. Portland (Ore.) International Airport

2. Tampa International Airport

3. Las Vegas McCarran Airport

4. Orlando International Airport

5. Miami International Airport

Top five medium airports

1. Indianapolis International Airport

2. Buffalo Niagara International Airport

3. Fort Myers/Southwest Florida International Airport

4. Jacksonville International Airport

5. Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

This article was written by Katia Hetter from CNN and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Tagged: Flights, Florida Vacation, Gambling Vacation, Las Vegas vacation, Top 10 Lists

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Orlando feels festive regardless of the time of year, and things get only merrier during the holidays. For an extra dose of holiday cheer—or if you’re skipping the holidays entirely—venture out to one of these Orlando places that are open for business on December 25.

ALSO: 10 great Orlando attractions that aren’t Disney

ATTRACTIONS

Disney characters dressed in their holiday finest parade down Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom during "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade." The festive processional is one of the happy highlights of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a night of holiday splendor with lively stage shows, a unique holiday parade, Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime fireworks, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A. The special-ticket event takes place on select nights in November and December in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Ryan Wendler, photographer)

Disney characters parade down Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom during “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” | Photo courtesy of Ryan Wendler

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party transforms Disney’s Magic Kingdom, into a winter fairytale complete with an ice-covered Cinderella’s Castle, lively stage shows and a parade that brings snow flurries to Main Street, U.S.A. Visitors can even score free cookies and hot chocolate throughout the park.

New this year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!, a nightly event that brightens the darkness with fireworks, special effects and holiday music.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without the Macy’s Holiday Parade, which fills the streets of Universal Orlando Resort with the same balloons you saw at the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, plus additional floats and entertainment.

At Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure, the popular Dr. Seuss book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is brought to life in the heartwarming live stage show, “Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular,” starring The Grinch and the Whos from Whoville. Grinchmas is part of Universal Orlando Resort’s Holidays celebration, running fromDec. 3 to Jan. 1 and featuring live entertainment that the whole family can enjoy.

The live stage show, “Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular,” is part of Universal Orlando Resort’s Holidays celebration.

Experience a dazzling retelling of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The theme park’s Seuss Landing presents the Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, featuring original music by Mannheim Steamroller through January 1.

You could buy your kids a LEGO set for Christmas (and curse as you step on them in the middle of the night) or you could bring them to LEGOLand Florida’s Christmas Bricktacular, featuring a life-sized Christmas tree, Santa, reindeer and sleigh all made out of, well, you know.

SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration’s makes a splash with its live shows. This year’s theme is Rudolph, so be on the lookout for the red-nosed fella and his friends around the park.

RESTAURANTS

The luxurious Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando is serving up a Christmas lunch buffet and a four-course sampler dinner at its Boheme Restaurant.

Get your entertainment and food in one place when you make reservations for Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Orlando Resort. The hotel’s casual Trattoria del Porto offers a holiday buffet with carving stations, pasta, seafood, desserts and second buffet just for kids.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World

Even if you don’t splurge on a room at the swanky Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, treat yourself to a mealat the resort’s restaurant Ravello. The Italian-inspired Christmas Day buffet includes carved meats, roasted duck, pasta, a kids’ buffet and more.

The Columbia Restaurant in Celebration (the Disney planned community just south of the parks) will offer a selection of Christmas features in addition to its usual Cuban and Mediterranean fare.

Dig into the holiday buffet at Rosen Centre Hotel, featuring everything from turkey and ham to seafood and desserts.

HOTELS

Photo courtesy of the Dolphin Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Dolphin Hotel

Linger in the lobbies of Disney’s side-by-side Swan and Dolphin hotels for in instant happiness boost. The Swan features a life-sized Santa scene made from 2,000 pounds of chocolate. Not to be outdone, the Dolphin’s lobby boasts a 45-foot-tall Christmas tree with falling snow.

Get your cold-weather fix during ICE! at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, an incredible display of hand-carved ice sculptures. This year’s theme is Charlie Brown; also look for the traditional Nativity scene.

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Tagged: Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Holidays & Events

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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We’re all familiar with the iconic ball drop in New York City on New Year’s Eve. Flipping on the TV just before midnight to countdown the final moments of the year has become appointment viewing for generations of people, but Times Square isn’t the only US city to have a great time in on New Year’s Eve. Try something new this year and start 2017 with an adventure of your own.

RELATED: Add “travel more” to your resolutions list—we’ll destroy your every excuse not to here!

Fireworks at MGM Studios | Flickr CC: Chris Murray

Fireworks at MGM Studios | Flickr CC: Chris Murray

Orlando

This one’s especially fun for families, though Disney World on New Year’s Eve should be on everyone’s bucket list. Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios all stay open until midnight with special fireworks and celebrations centered around the holiday. A countdown clock at Epcot is even illuminated on the iconic ball attraction, and the evening is capped off with a pyrotechnic display. Spend the day eating your way through the World Showcase and enjoying the warm weather.

Nashville

Nashville

Nashville

Music City celebrates New Year’s Eve in the most fitting way possible—with a huge, over-the-top night of live music from top country stars. This year Keith Urban is scheduled to headline the Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville. Thousands of people attend this event every year and this year the fireworks display will be against a breathtaking view of the Nashville skyline. If all that doesn’t leave you too starstruck, be sure to check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Portland

Portland

Portland, Oregon

Portland is known for its active nightlife and bar scene, which makes this hip city a perfect New Year’s Eve destination. There are parties going on all over the city, including the 26th Annual Champagne Ball, which features three dance floors and 17 bars. For something less party and more playful check out Vote for Dancing at the Roseland Theater, an event that aims to bring people from across the community together through dance. Kick off your trip with a walk through Washington Park to admire the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

ALSO: Pop the champagne—Orbitz Rewards earns you free hotels faster!

New Orlean's Jackson Square | Flickr CC: Michael Tutton

New Orlean’s Jackson Square | Flickr CC: Michael Tutton

New Orleans

The famous French Quarter and epicenter of New Orlean’s party scene is always a fun time, and even more so on New Year’s Eve. People fill the streets and head to Jackson Square to celebrate the new year with music, drinks and fireworks. If partying gets the best of you, indulge in a hearty breakfast at The Ruby Slipper the next morning – you’ve earned it.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the ultimate party town, so it’s no surprise they put together a great night on New Year’s Eve. The city’s closes down the iconic Strip, transforming the area into one big block party with more than 300,000 expected attendees. Nearby casinos choreograph an amazing fireworks display at midnight. If you have some extra time to enjoy Sin City, check out The Mob Museum to learn about Las Vegas’ history of organized crime.

Chicago's Navy Pier | Flickr CC: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Chicago’s Navy Pier | Flickr CC: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Chicago

This Midwestern city has something on New Year’s Eve for everyone. If you are celebrating with children, catch the beautiful fireworks display at the Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. Last year Chicago started a new tradition, Chi-Town Rising, along the riverfront. The city illuminates an ascending star downtown that climbs higher as midnight approaches to symbolize rising to challenges in the New Year. Want to get fit in the New Year? Get a jump on your resolutions with a morning run on the Lakefront Trail.

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Tagged: Chicago Vacation, Florida Vacation, Holidays & Events, Las Vegas vacation, Orlando vacation, Top 10 Lists

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen is a writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida
Kristen Mitchell

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You’ll want to move into these gingerbread masterpieces that adorn some hotel lobbies. And when it’s time to settle into your room, you’re sure to have sweet dreams.

RELATED: Check out Europe’s most charming Christmas markets

Christmas 2015 at The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes was pretty sweet. Credit The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes.

Christmas 2015 at The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes was pretty sweet | Credit The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes.

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes: Orlando, FL

This posh hotel’s swanky gingerbread house sets the scene for a holiday season full of sweet events. This year’s calendar includes a tree-lighting ceremony, Santa’s Teddy Bear Tea, and Bubbles and Ginger—an adults-only (i.e. booze is served) gingerbread workshop that’s sure to get you into the holiday spirit.

This was the 2015 creation at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. What will those genius pastry chefs dream up this year? Credit Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

This was the 2015 creation at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. What will those genius pastry chefs dream up this year? | Credit Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta: Atlanta, GA

When it comes to creating the annual life-sized lobby creation, the luxehotel’s culinary team isn’t afraid to dream big. The pastry chefs have been known to enlist the help of Atlanta bakery staffers to complete their mouthwatering masterpieces.

This masterpiece won first place in the teen category in 2015 at hte The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Annual National Gingerbread House Competition in The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Annual National Gingerbread House Competition. Courtesy of Hawkins International Public Relations.

This masterpiece won first place in the teen category in 2015 at the The Omni Grove Park Inn’s Annual National Gingerbread House Competition | Courtesy of Hawkins International Public Relations.

The Omni Grove Park Inn: Asheville, NC

Southern hospitality is at its finest when this charming hotel invites amateurs from across the country to enter its Annual National Gingerbread House Competition. Hundreds of hopefuls compete to win more than $20,000 in cash and prizes, judged by a panel of pastry chefs and other creative types on overall appearance, originality/creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme. Grab a pint of Ol’ Snap beer (or hot chocolate, if you prefer) and check out the candy creations.

Take a stroll down Gingerbread Lane. Credit GoToVan/Flickr Creative Commons.

Take a stroll down Gingerbread Lane | Credit GoToVan/Flickr Creative Commons

Hyatt Regency Vancouver: Vancouver, BC

Maple syrup isn’t the only thing that’s sweet in Canada. This hotel’s lobby showcases more than 30 gingerbread creations designed by high school students, professionals and amateur pastry chefs.

Willy Wonka's factory ain't got nothin' on the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Credit m01229/Flickr Creative Commons.

Willy Wonka’s factory ain’t got nothin’ on the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront | Credit m01229/Flickr Creative Commons

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront: Baltimore, MD

Tootsie Rolls and candy canes and vanilla wafers and gum drops and… We’re getting a sugar high just thinking about it. The hotel’s proximity to shopping, restaurants and attractions makes spending the holidays there a sweet idea.

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Tagged: Christmas Travel Ideas, Family time, Florida Vacation, Foodie vacations, Holidays & Events

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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I’m a 30-something woman who still adores the Disney princesses. There, I said it. Whatever you think about some of the storylines, the outfits and how it all may conflict with modern-day feminism, these twinkle-toed gals provide sweet nostalgia for me. Besides, some of the more recent princesses are fiercely independent females who aren’t waiting around for a Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet. (Looking at you, Mulan, Elsa and Merida.)

RELATED: 5 great Disney experiences — outside the parks

But Jiminy Crickets! It can be tough to land an appointment with these gals when visiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Unless you schedule your appointment months in advance of your Orlando vacation, locking in your visit for the Princess Fairytale Hall or any of the other popular “meet-and-greet” attractions at the Magic Kingdom – which you can do via My Disney Experience app once you purchase your tickets – the lines can be a Bibbidi-Bobbidi-bummer. That’s what happened to me on a recent visit to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom: The line to meet thegals at Princess Fairytale Hall was nearly two hours long.

Disney world's Epcot Center

Epcot Center| Flickr CC: Anthony Quintano

But I discovered another way to get some 1:1 time with the princesses. It involved heading to Epcot Center, one of the other theme parks under the Disney World umbrella. The World Showcase at Epcot, which is where 11 countries are represented, has scheduled meet-and-greets with Disney Princesses that hail from a handful of its represented nations.

It’s first come, first served. Which means if you learn the start times and queue up at least 15 minutes in advance, it’ll save you the torture of having to endure one- or two-hour waits at Magic Kingdom.

Below is who you’ll find and where. All times noted are subject to change, so be sure to download the My Disney Experience app the morning of your visit for the latest information. (Seriously, having this technology, literally, at your fingertips makes navigating the Disney parks leaps and bounds easier than circa 1985, when my parents were ferrying around wide-eyed me from princess to princess without a guide updating in real-time.)

ALSO: Feel like a princess, or prince, or with Orbitz Rewards’ VIP perks!

With some strategic planning, you could meet all eight princesses featured at Epcot Center.

Mulan | Flickr CC: Ashley

Mulan: China

This courageous female warrior greets guests in China’s formal gardens, beside the temple.

1:00 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.

2:00 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.

3:50 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

4:50 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Snow White and Dopey

Snow White and Dopey | Flickr CC: Ashley

Snow White: Germany

The “fairest of them all” greets her guests in front of the magic wishing well.

12:30 p.m. – 1:05 p.m.

1:30 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.

2:30 p.m. – 3:10 p.m.

3:30 p.m. – 4:10 p.m.

5:20 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

6:20 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Jasmine | Flickr CC: Jasmine

Jasmine | Flickr CC: Jasmine

Princess Jasmine: Morocco

Jasmine and Aladin greet guests in the Morocco pavilion in a small room on the right side

called the “Lamps of Wonder.”

12”45 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

1:45 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

2:45 p.m.– 3:25 p.m.

4:35 p.m. – 5:20 p.m.

5:35 p.m. – 6:20 p.m.

belle

Belle | Flickr CC: Ashley

Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”: France

Belle greets guests on the France promenade, near the water, dressed in her classic blue smock.

1:00 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.

2:50 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

3:50 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

4:50 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

Photo courtesy of Erica Bray

Alice of “Alice in Wonderland”: United Kingdom

The curious girl who followed a White Rabbit all the way to Wonderland (and became an “honorary” princess by doing so) greets guests at the Tea Caddy Gardens.

12:30 p.m. – 1:10 p.m.

1:30 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.

2:30 p.m. – 3:10 p.m.

4:20 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

5:20 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Mary Poppins | Flickr CC: JeffChristiansen

Mary Poppins | Flickr CC: JeffChristiansen

Mary Poppins: United Kingdom

We dare you to sing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with this iconic Disney female who greets guests along the United Kingdom promenade. Although not technically a princess, her massive white bonnet and umbrella give the air of royalty.

1 p.m. – 1:40 p.m.

2:00 p.m. – 2:40 p.m.

Royal Sommerhus in Norway Pavilion at Epcot

Guests can meet Princess Anna & Queen Elsa from “Frozen” inside Royal Sommerhus | Photo courtesy of Disney World and Ryan Wendler, photographer

Queen Elsa and Princess Anna of “Frozen”: Norway

These are the “It” girls of the Disney right now. This year they’ve found a new home at Epcot in Norway’sRoyal Sommerhus, a restaurant where reservations are strongly encouraged as soon as you make your park plans. You can book up to 180 days in advance—which is a wise idea considering how in-demand these gals are. (Cinderella and Ariel also make cameos at this Storybook Dining experience.)

Featured image courtesy of Monica Pedraja

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Tagged: Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Orlando vacation

Erica Bray

Erica Bray

Erica is a practical free spirit who loves travel, yoga and ice cream. A Northwestern University-trained journalist with more than 15 years of experience straddling digital and broadcast media, Erica can be found doing handstands everywhere she travels -- even risking arrest in some cases. Learn about her at www.erica.media.
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In the spirit of all things wicked and wonderful (it’s Halloween somewhere, right?), we brushed the dust off the map to find the world’s creepiest destinations. These 6 places are the stuff that horror movies are made of, literally.

RELATED: The 7 most spooktacular Halloween celebrations in the U.S.

A dark secert lie beneath the picturesque facde of this Italian island - Photo by tedlum

A dark secret lie beneath the picturesque facade of this Italian island – Photo by tedlum

1. Poveglia, Italy

Known as the haunted hospital island, Poveglia Island is Venice’s dark side. Barely visible when standing on the southern edges of beautiful Venice, Poveglia is far enough out of sight for lots of terrible things to happen here. In the 1700s the island housed a quarantine station for those with infectious diseases as the plague ripped through Europe. The locals believe that more than half the island’ssoil is made up from the remains of plague victims.

Over the centuries the island remained a hospital and in the early part of the 20th century it took on mentally ill patients. The hospital director at the time was a cruel and possibly mentally ill himself who is said to have performed horrific experiments and lobotomies on his patients. Many of the procedures were carried out with simple tools like hand drills and chisels and killed many. Legend says that the ghosts of his victims finally put an end to the hospital director’s tortures by driving him to leap to his death from the hospital tower. The hospital closed for good in 1968. With the sheer number of people who have taken their final breath on this tiny island, there’s no wonder why it’s considered one of the world’s most haunted places.

creepiest-places-in-the-world-flickr-1

This hotel is in need of some ghost busters for sure – Photo by Paul Sableman

2. Hotel Monteleone: New Orleans, LA

With hundreds of years of Cajun, African, and Spanish history sprinkled with a little voodoo, the Big Easy can give off some very creepy vibes. Among the city’s most creepiest are its old hotels, cemeteries, and historic mansions. Hotel Monteleone is famously haunted by the spirits of little children. The 14th floor (which is actually the 13th floor) is said to be the epicenter of the hotel’s paranormal activity. In the late 1800s a young boy named Maurice Begere died of a fever while his parents were at the theater on the 14th floor of this hotel.

His grief-stricken parents returned to the hotel many times trying to reconnect with the boy and finally one night the boy returned and told his mother “Mommy, don’t cry. I’m fine.” Guests regularly report seeing a young boy about 3 years old (The age Maurice was when he died) playing in the halls or even entering their rooms only to disappear. Other guests have reported the elevator stopping on a floor that wasn’t requested and the doors opening to ghostly children playing the halls. Surprisingly, the 14th floor is the most requested room in the hotel and especially around Halloween time.

creepiest-places-in-the-world-gettingstamped-1

All that’s missing is a hand reaching up out of the grave – Photo by GettingStamped.com

3. Salgótarjáni út cemetery: Budapest, Hungary

On the far outskirts of Budapest lies a forgotten cemetery straight out of a horror movie. The tall, imposing stone gates now face an outlying set of train tracks with an eerie silence only broken a few times and hour by a passing train. A knock on the gates results in two large guard dogs rushing to the iron bars jaws slapping as they attempt to ward off any unwelcome visitors. Inside, the giant walls of the once magnificent cemetery are rows of impressive tombs of certainly important people of their time.

Salgótarjáni út cemetery is the oldest Jewish burial ground on the Pest side of the city but fell into ruins after most of the Jewish population was forced out of the area during WWII. After a short stint as a Soviet Military hangout, the forest is slowly trying to take back the land growing around the massive stone and marble burial chambers. Over the years many of the tombs have been opened and looted of anything of value. The disturbed and derelict cemetery is sure to have at least a few angered spirits still hanging around making it a place you may not want to visit after sunset. Not open to the public, tours can be arranged through Budapest 101.

RELATED: 3 Perfect Days in Budapest

creepiest-places-in-the-world-flickr-3

Dark pasts always make for the best ghost stories – Photo by Franx’

4. Castle of Good Hope Cape Town South Africa

As with any good haunted building, this castle comes complete with unexplained footsteps and mysterious light flickers, but the castle’s dark past holds even creepier secrets. The castle in Cape Town was one of the first colonial buildings in South Africa and was the site of many horrors of early colonization. In the bowels of the castle, there are cells that were regularly filled with escaped slaves, rebellious natives and even Zulu kings. Records claim that one winter, rapid floods filled the cells drowning the prisoners left shackled to the walls.

The castle grounds were the site of terrible deaths and tortures. One of the most notorious parts of the castle was the Donker Gat (or dark hole in English) which was a windowless dungeon used as a torture chamber. The castle grounds were also the site of countless hangings of up-risers. However, the most famously haunted hanging was of a castle guard who ended his own life by means of the bell rope. The bell is still said to mysteriously ring by itself. To add to the terror, multiple visitors have reported a large black hound roaming the grounds who leaps at them but vanishes before striking. Restoration of the castle occasionally unearths abandoned rooms that have been sealed by brick forcenturies and experts agree that there are more mysteries of the castle left to be discovered.

RELATED: 3 Perfect Days in Cape Town

creepiest-places-in-the-world-cover-gettingstamped-5

The people behind the costumes at HHN Orlando get so into their characters it’s scary – Photo by GettingStamped.com

5. Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights

Halloween Horror Nights is where the scariest movies transform from film into real life. Some of the greatest minds in horror film come together to scare the crap out of you, but it seems some real life spirits may have been conjured in the process. Every year a few films are selected to be brought to life with complex sets and highly calculated scares. Among this year’s spooks are American Horror Story, Halloween 2, The Exorcist, and HHN’s homespun Harley Quinn-esque character Chance. The 2016 Exorcist haunted house in Universal Orlando must have done too good of a job of channeling the spirit of Pazuzu as many things in the house seem to move and change on their own. Universal Studios Orlando is a perennial winner for scariest haunted house and is definitely worth a visit if you enjoy a good scare.

creepiest-places-in-the-world-cover-gettingstamped-4

Who knew the creepiest part of Prague is also one of the most beautiful – Photo by GettingStamped.com

6. Old Town Prague, Czech Republic 

With more than 1,200 years of history, the central European capital is sure to have a few haunted spots. What’s surprising about Prague‘s most haunted sights is that they are also some of its most popular things to do. One of the city’s most paranormal structures is the picturesque Charles Bridge. Once the site of public executions, the bridge is said to be frequented by the ghost of the men killed here.

Second on the list of creepiest places is the Old Jewish Cemetery with more than 100,000 people buried in a tiny plot. The city refused to allow the cemetery to be expanded and according to Jewish beliefs, the remains of the deceased can’t be removed so they were forced to bury people on top of existing plots and just moving all the headstones to the top. According to the Kabbalah, if a burial is not properly performed the soul of the dead is stuck in a state of turmoil and cannot find rest. So, there’s a chance you may encounter some souls at unrest while walking the grounds.

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Tagged: Do Disney, Europe Vacation, Florida Vacation, Holidays & Events, International vacation, Orlando vacation

Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog GettingStamped.com.
Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers

Latest posts by Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers (see all)

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In many parts of the country, a crisp October chill gives the air an edge, seasonal autumn ciders join on-tap offerings and bright orange pumpkin patches dot street corners. The month is a flagship for all things fall and brings the arrival of Halloween, a.k.a. one of the best holidays of the year. But what to do when you have easily frightened little ones in tow, or just prefer your Halloween festivities of the kitten-peeping-out-of-a-pumpkin variety rather than a gory zombie chase? Here are 5 non-scary, all ages events to try this Halloween season:

RELATED: 19 trips to put on your fall bucket list

halloween-at-disney-world

Flickr CC: Loren Javier

Disney Parks: Anaheim, CA and Orlando, FL

As you can guess, Disney’s Anaheim and Orlando theme parks are all about catering to families and when it comes to Halloween parties, they deliver with large doses of cuteness, fun and sugar. Both Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom host special evening gatherings throughout October with themed parades, fireworks and trick-or-treat stations. If you can’t make it to the party, stop by the parks anytime throughout the month to enjoy colorful Halloween decorations, meet Mickey and Friends in their Halloween apparel (FACT: vampire Pluto is the cutest), and sample seasonal, pumpkin-flavored treats without having to worry about someone jumping out at you from behind a corner.

ALSO: Don’t be frightened of the scary savings you’ll get with Orbitz Rewards!

Pumpkin People in the Park: Chatham, MA

Visit Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod anytime between October 14–31 and gaze upon dozens of examples of pumpkin art. Residents and local business pour creative energy into transforming pumpkins into so much more (we can only presume their artistic endeavors are fueled by pumpkin spice lattes). The finished pumpkin masterpieces depict everything from historic scenes to lobsters. Attend during the city’s Oktoberfest (Saturday, October 22) for an entire day’s worth of charming Halloween amusement in Kate Gould Park.

Spooky Pooch Parade

Spooky Pooch Parade | Photo courtesy of @chicagobotanic

Spooky Pooch Parade: Chicago, IL

Pets in costumes are adorable and the Chicago Botanic Garden, 24 miles north of downtown Chicago in suburban Glencoe, embraces this precious quotient and the dressing up aspects of Halloween with their Spooky Pooch Parade. Pups and owners alike are encouraged to don costumes during their stroll through the gardens for the Halloween celebration. Dogs usually aren’t allowed, so it’s a special treat for all. Viewing the October 29 parade is free, so bring the family and stake a spot—or if you have a canine companion, make a costume and join the show.

legoland-cruise-ship

Flickr CC: Chris

LEGOLAND: Carlsbad, CA and Winter Haven, FL

Why trick or treat when you can Brick-or-Treat? (#SeeWhatWeDidThere) LEGOLAND’s California and Florida locations play host to special blocky gatherings throughout the month of October. Each location has candy stations, character meet-and-greets, and craft opportunities, plus offerings likea Ghost Cruise and street shows that embrace the spirit of scares without actually frightening attendees.

Hayride to the Witches’ House: Media, PA

Halloween usually portrays witches with sinister intentions. (Just think of how many fairy tales involve witches eating children.) You can flip the narrative by taking Linvilla Orchard’s Hayride to the Witches’ House from October 7-30 in the charming Delaware County town of Media. A cozy hayride takes children and their parents to visit a kind, storytelling witch in the woods. Her jokes and tales come with a treat, and kids also get to stop by a campfire and roast marshmallows while sampling apple cider.

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Tagged: California Vacation, Chicago Vacation, Do Disney, Family time, Florida Vacation, Holidays & Events

Amy Ratcliffe

Amy Ratcliffe

Amy is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers all things pop culture and is constantly afflicted with wanderlust. Follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek.
Amy Ratcliffe

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If you think the Orlando food scene is all giant pretzels and mouse-shaped ice cream bars, then autumn is the perfect time to taste what you’ve been missing. Fall 2016 brings a bounty of food-related events. Here are 10 foodie happenings that are positively delicious:

RELATED: 7 great Orlando attractions that aren’t Disney.

Grand Bohemian Hotel

Boheme Restaurant | Photo courtesy of Grand Bohemian Hotel

Orlando Magical Dining Month
(Aug. 29–Oct. 2)

With dozens of eateries across the city offering prix fixe dinners for just $33, this annual event affords the perfect opportunity to try a buzz-worthy restaurant. Participants range from Boheme Restaurant inside the fancy-schmancy Grand Bohemian Hotel to Restaurant Row’s Seito Sushi to Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
(Sept. 14–Nov. 14)

Eat your way around the world as you get an actual culinary passport stamped and enjoy celeb chef meet-and-greets and more at this annual event that brings grownups to the theme park. The stars come out for this grandiose gastronomic gathering as do plenty of adults sans children. Proof? This year’s accompanying Eat to the Beat concert series includes acts like David Cook, Chaka Khan, Wilson Phillips and other groups your kids have never heard of. Park admission is required.

Waldorf Astoria Food & Wine Weekends
(weekends Sept. 16–Nov. 13)

If the Epcot festival is too mainstream for you, take your epicurean obsession to the next level during this complementary event spread over two hotels: the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. Take a hands-on cocktail class, make reservations for high tea, linger over a curated four course meal with wine pairings and more. Prices include free transportation to Epcot and the other Disney parks.

orlando oktoberfest

Orlando Oktoberfest
(Oct. 1 and 22)

Spread evenly over two (oddly nonconsecutive) days, this event organized bythe German American Society of Central Florida sells out. Buy tickets well in advance and bring cash so you can skip the ATM line and head straight for the biergarten. Lederhosen encouraged.

Latin Food & Wine Festival
(Oct. 16)

Spice things up during this celebration of Central Florida’s Latin American restaurants in the plaza in front of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to food and libations, enjoy live Latin jazz performances, cooking demos, art for sale and more.

Cows ‘n’ Cabs
(Oct. 22)

Leave the kids with a sitter during this adults only fundraiser in Orlando’s tony Winter Park neighborhood. Enjoy food from a deep bench of local chefs, wine, craft beers and more including live music under the stars in the city’s Central Park. Tickets are pricey (general admission is $110), but that includes all food and drinks plus a free cigar.

RELATED: Taste big savings by signing up for Orbitz Rewards.

Central Florida Veg Fest
(Oct. 22)

Not into food events with cows in the title? Spend a day vegging out at Orlando Festival Park, near downtown, during this 10th annual celebration of all things vegetarian and vegan. There’ll be cooking demos, a kids’ zone and workshops on topics like health, the environment and animal rights.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
(Oct. 28–29)

Get a crash course in everything from pasta-making to sushi-and-sake pairing during this weekend of daytime seminars and tastings at the Disney resort. Overnight packages are available, so stick around on Oct.30 for the afterparty—the inaugural Sunday Bubbles Brunch at the resort’s Il Mulino New York Trattoria.

baklava

Greek Fest
(Nov. 4–6)

Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s annual festival is a Hellas-good time. The fest includes live music, dancing, tours of the ornate interior and yasssss—all that great food. Purchase items a la carte, like spanakopita, chicken souvlaki, mousaka and all the rest. Save room for dessert (baklava is just the beginning) and a cup of Greek coffee.

Taste of Sanford
(Nov. 14)

The Central Florida city throws down during this 10th annual foodie fest at its civic center. The ticketed event includes access to local foods, beverages and wines. RSVPis required.

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Tagged: Foodie vacations, Orlando vacation

Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
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Looking to steal in one last vacation before the leaves start falling and the little ones start heading back to school? August may be your best bet as destinations, particularly Gulf Coast states, drop prices for summer travelers:

Also: The best restaurants to eat at during Miami Spice

San Antonio, Riverwalk, Texas

San Antonio Riverwalk

Peak summer travel season may be reaching its end but that doesn’t mean one last vacation isn’t in order. According to new date from the Orbitz® Insider Index, air and hotel rates to several U.S. hot spots are dropping. Traveling to top destinations in Florida, Louisiana and Texas in August can save travelers approximately 7 percent on air and another 10 percent on hotels, on average, compared to June and July travel.

Air and hotel travel to Panama City, Florida and Gatlinburg, Tennessee are particularly high, but big savings can also be had at larger cities including New Orleans, San Antonio and Orlando. For deeper discounts, books at orbitz.com through August 28th for up to 50% off participating hotels plus an additional 15% discount using promotion code SUMMERTIME.

Orbitz Insider Index: August Wins for Best of Summer Deals

SummerSavings

For great August sales and deals, visit www.orbitz.com/deals.

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Tagged: Hotels, Summer vacations, Travel Deals, Travel news

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.
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It’s a big, rainbow planet we live on, but if you squirrel away all your pennies, max out your credit cards and use every long weekend as an excuse to travel, one lifetime may be enough to do it all. We sat down and dreamed up a list of queer experiences every LGBT person should have in their lifetime including essential queer experiences as well as a few novel ones that might not be on your gaydar yet, but are sure to tickle you, um pink. While a few are geared toward girls and a couple are just for the boys, most of the list is open to all. Grab your passport, call in sick and go do as many of these as possible right now!

Also: 8 LGBT-friendly destinations based on the colors of the Pride Flag

1. Have a cocktail at the Stonewall Inn: New York, NY
Nearly 50 years ago this Village taproom became the catalyst for a nationwide movement when its patrons, a group of drag queens, street kids and trangendered folk, fought back against police harassment. In June, President Obama made it a National Monument. Have a drink, hang with friends, soak up the moment and just try not to shed a tear.

Castro, gay, lgbt, California, San Francisco

The Castro Theater | Photo courtesy of Jason Heidemann

2. See a movie at the Castro Theater: San Francisco, CA
As the queer community assimilates, gayborhoods are becoming scarce, but the Castro district in San Francisco is still a rainbow-colored beacon and its best feature is its movie palace of the same name which opened in 1922 and whose sign is a city icon. See a camp classic, check out the leatherette ceiling and tap your feet along with the Mighty Wurlitzer organ.

mykonos-greece

3. Live likea Greek God:Mykonos, Greece
Ibiza, Sitges and Gran Canaria attract queer sun seekers by the thousands, but none quite touch the eternal fascination with the island of Mykonos thanks in part to the Ancient Greeks and their societal acceptance of homosexuality. Not that any of them enjoyed the hedonism of modern day Mykonos, a dizzying cornucopia of nightclubs, resorts and sun bathing in teensy swimsuits at famed Super Paradise Beach.

4. Play Twister with a porn star at Northalsted Market Days: Chicago, IL
Never mind Chicago Pride and forget about International Mr. Leather. Everybody knows that Northalsted Market Days in August, the largest street fair in the Midwest, is the city’s signature queer event. It’s a two-day festival geared toward al fresco schmoozing and boozing and, yes, there is a booth (hosted by upscale bathhouse Steamworks) where revelers can play Twister with actual porn stars.

5. Get soaking wet with 20,000 gay women at the Dinah: Palm Springs, CA
This sun-drenched desert metropolis belongs to many including Hollywood A-listers, mid-century design fanatics and gay male sun seekers, but for one week annually the city turns Sapphic as party promoters Club Skirts turn the town into a nonstop party and music fest that is bar none the largest gathering of lesbians in the United States and has attracted the likes of Lea DeLaria and Lady Gaga among others.

Ipanemabeach-rio de janeiro-brazil

6. Soak up the sun with the girls and boys of Ipanema: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Captivating Rio is the place of every LGBT person’s dreams. This sunny city by the sea is hardly Brazil’s biggest (that distinction belongs to São Paulo), but LGBT Cariocans dance to the beat of their own Samba-infused rhythm day and night especially at Farme de Amoedo, an inviting stretch of gay beach in Ipanema. Pick up either a bikini or sunga and join the fun. You won’t be sorry.

7. Float away on on a queer cruise: Multiple locations
Whether you’re sailing the Sapphic seas, looking for a hot ship mate or gathering the kids for a getaway, at least once in your lifetime get your rainbow hands on deck and set sail on an Olivia, Atlantis or R FamilyVacations queer cruise. For one week these floating gayborhoods deliver our community to the most exotic places on earth—no homophobes allowed!

8. “Earn” a beaded necklace at Southern Decadence: New Orleans, LA
We’re not recommending anyone drop trou or lift their shirts in exchange for beads, but we are saying that shenanigans like these and lots more (way more, actually) go down at this legendary Labor Day weekend party in the Big Easy. Watch the French Quarter get overtaken by debaucherous steamy good times washed down with a hurricane or two (or five or six).

9. Harness your inner kink at Folsom Street Fair: San Francisco, CA
Shed your inhibitions (and just about every layer of clothing while you’re at it) and hit up this legendarystreet fair, the largest BDSM and leather fetish event of its kind in the world. It’s a spectacle unlike any other, but also one of the friendliest and most affirming displays of body positivity in the U.S. If you bump into a friend or co-worker getting whipped by a dominatrix, just smile or look the other way.

orbitz_paris-cafe de flore

Cafe de Flore | Flickr CC: Karen Corby

10. Follow in the footsteps of James Baldwin: Paris, France
One of the most eloquent and provocative queer writers of all time, American novelist turned expat James Baldwin left quite a foot print on gay Paree and visitors to the City of Lights who trace his steps will take in numerous legendary haunts including café Les Deux Magots, Café Tournon, Le Select, Brasserie Lipp, Le Montana and Café de Flore among others. 

11. Pose for a selfie with Mickey Mouse at Gay Days: Orlando, FL
Gay Days started as a one-day event in which several thousand LGBT Floridians showed up at the beloved Orlando theme park wearing red shirts as a mark of visibility. Twenty-five years laters (and still not sanctioned by Disney) it draws together an estimated 150,000 people for a weeklong gathering that includes pool parties, A Taste of Gay Days and Miss Gay Days Pageant and is beloved by both a party crowd and same-sex families. 

paddle boarding, Key West, Florida Keys, naturism, lgbt

Nomadic SUP in Key West | Photo by Juan Pisani/I.c.e. Photography

12. Stand-up paddle board in the buff: Key West, FL
Just when you thought the Conch Republic was losing its quirky, queer charms (most gay resorts are long gone), along comes Nomadic SUP, a tour company led by out guide Cody White who leads private, naked standup paddle boarding tours for gay men and women (and even straight people!) deep in the heart of the secluded Florida mangroves. The hard part it turns out isn’t stripping down, it’s staying upright.

13. Drag out your night at the Dreamgirls Revue: Los Angeles, CA
Drag Race runner up and All Stars winner Chad Michaels plays mother hen to emerging queens in his native San Diego, but it’s mostly in Los Angeles where he produces and performs the Dreamgirls Revue, the longest running drag show in Southern California and a highly-entertaining one at that thanks to frequent appearances by other Drag Race alum and a newfound audience appreciation for the art form.

14. Find a dungeon with your name on it: Berlin, Germany
If you want to let your hair down, as in all the way down, look no further than Germany’s loose and libidinous capital city where bodies literally go bump in the night. No sexual fetish is too extreme and people of every gender identity and expression will find their desires catered to, especially at queer spaces like Lab.oratory—perhaps the most adventurous bar and sex club on earth at the moment. Isherwood is smiling in his grave.

Diana

15. Sail around Bahía de Banderas with lady Diana: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Sunbathing at Blue Chairs, joining the queue at Pancho’s Takos and strolling the Zona Romantica are all requisite PV experiences, but so is sailing the high seas with out tour operator Diana DeCoste who’s been setting the standard in cruising (of the maritime kind) for the past 17 years with a weekly excursion that includes snorkeling, secluded beach time and sunset cocktails—and always sells out well in advance.

16. Have a moment of silence at the Homomonument: Amsterdam, Netherlands
We can think of many ways to kill time in Amsterdam. The Dutch capital is deserving of its reputation as a breezy and tolerant mecca for people of all kinds as evidenced by its tolerance for sexual pleasure and drug use, but between cruising the canals and the bars, save a moment for reflection at the Homomonument, a canal side trio of triangles that commemorates people who have been persecuted due to their homosexuality.

gay, resort, lgbt, florida, fort lauderdale

Pineapple Point | Photo by Jason Heidemann

17. Stay at a gay resort: Fort Lauderdale, FL
Who would’ve imagined a sun-drenched canal town best known for launching thegaudy, libidinous tradition known as spring break would reinvent itself as a high-end destination for gays and lesbians? Boasting some 15 LGBT-exclusive resorts (most clothing optional), laid-back Fort Lauderdale remains the quintessential quickie escape that demands only swimming, sunning, boozing and relaxing.

18. Idyll away the summer at IDA: Middle Tennessee
Imagine a 200-acre farm—in rural Tennessee of all places—that ebulliently wraps its arms around a community of queer, transgendered and gender non-conforming people in the form of work projects, art making and community building and that’s IDA (aka Idyll Dandy Arts). Come during summer and be treated to Idapalooza, a festival of music that brings in hundreds and helps pay for and maintain this vital safe space.

19. Time share a summer home with a half dozen besties: Fire Island, NY
Scorching summer heat sends New Yorkers fleeing their city in droves come June and it just so happens they have a quick getaway in the form of an idyllic sand bar where queers have gathered openly for more than 50 years. The Pines is geared toward the monied while Cherry Grove is funkier and more inclusive, but to experience either most folks cobble together big bucks for a summer time share—and it’s worth it.

Calypso Cabaret

Calypso Cabaret | Flickr CC: ecodallaluna

20. See a ladyboy cabaret: Bangkok, Thailand
Between gay karaoke and go-go bars, 24 hour saunas, sweaty nightclubs and friendly (wink, wink) massage parlors, rowdy Bangkok is Southeast Asia’s undisputed queer capital and famous among nightlife offerings are ladyboy cabarets in which  transgendered women (katoey in Thai) perform gender illusions to the tunes of popular gay divas. Check out the Vegas-style revues at legendary Calypso Cabaret.

21. Revel in the dark at the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade: Sydney, Australia
The Aussie sun is famously intense, but for one night annually it pales in comparison to the rainbow-tinged parade that is the high watermark for the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian MardiGras. Watch as some 8,500 participants march proudly, ebulliently and often scantily down Oxford Street in a blur of glitter, sequins and breezy self-expression that epitomizes everything we love about the land Down Under.

22. Break a sweat at Atlanta Black Pride: Atlanta, GA
Summers in Georgia are notoriously sticky, but the heat brought at Atlanta Pride Weekend is thanks to the thousands of men and women of color who converge every Labor Day weekend to celebrate the largest Black Pride event in the United States. A mashing together of daytime activism and nighttime celebration, events are neatly divided by gender, but all come together for Sunday’s Pure Heat Community Festival.

britney spears-vegas show

Britney Spears in Vegas | Flickr CC: ADRIANOVIAJANTE007

23. Mouth the words to every Britney Spears song: Las Vegas, NV
Credit Canadian superstar Celine Deon for planting herself in Vegas and turning the city into a destination hot spot for entertainers in their prime—not long past it. Elton John, Cher and others have stopped here for long residencies in the past decade, but today’s superstar du jour is Britney Spears and many a Sin City vacation is booked exclusively for a chanceto clamor for a piece of the blonde chart topper.

24. Discover your P-spot: Provincetown, MA
This teensy New England hamlet at the dangling end of Cape Cod is the very definition of queer paradise and is so inclusive that it devotes themed weeks to women, women of color, same-sex families, bears, party boys, leather folk and more. Stay at one of dozens of gay guesthouses, see a cabaret show (as in Miss Richfield 1981 or Dina Martina), hit up Herring Cove Beach and do at least one Tea Dance at the world famous Boatslip.

Sidetrack in Chicago

Sidetrack in Chicago | Photo courtesy of Monica Pedraja

25. Sing along to show tunes at Sidetrack: Chicago, IL
Bid adieu to the passengers aboard the Titanic with the launch of a thousand cocktail napkins, heckle Madonna’s Eva Peron or just sing your heart out at this legendary Monday night fixture where devotees of the Great White Way and up-and-coming talents alike gather with fanatical devotion to watch clips from Broadway shows both past and present. A more enjoyable night in a gay bar you will not have.

26. Meet Le Village people in the ultimate gayborhood: Montreal, Canada
The era of the gay ghetto is endingand that’s probably a good thing, but oh what joy it still is to walk down a street where gay businesses abound and hand holding is the norm. Although cities like Toronto and San Francisco boast enviable queer ‘hoods, there’s nothing quite like strolling Montreal‘s Rue Sainte-Catherine, a.k.a. the Village, in summer.

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Tagged: Beach Vacation, California Vacation, International vacation

Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is an associate editor at Orbitz, a social media marketing consultant and a freelance cultural reporter for numerous publications. His works has been featured in the Huffington Post, Time Out, Passport, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and many others.
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Watching movies inside the confines of your hotel room is a thing of the past. Hotels across the United States are combining the appeal of a balmy summer evening in an outdoor pool with a cinematic experience. In other words, you can make viewing a movie while floating on a raft a reality, and why wouldn’t you? Pack your swimsuit and check out these dive-in movie experiences:

Pearl Hotel

Photo courtesy of the Pearl Hotel

The Pearl Hotel: San Diego, CA

Enjoy titles such as Top Gun or Point Break in a retro setting at The Pearl Hotel in San Diego. They project movies onto a 10′ x 13′ screen with full sound every Wednesday through September. As the entertainment unfolds, enjoy food and drinks from the adjacent hotel restaurant. Limited seating (including cabanas!) is available for those who don’t want to take the plunge. The pool is completely free to hotel guests and free with the cost of a drink to everyone else.

Photo courtesy of the Cosmopolitan Hotel

Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan: Las Vegas, NV

Mondays aren’t the worst part of the week if you’re at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The hotel screen various films on a 65′ backdrop above the Strip at the Boulevard Pool Monday nights until Labor Day. Hotel guests enjoy complimentary viewing and floating, while non-guests can fork over $5 to see movies like CluelessThe Devil Wears Prada and The Big Lebowski.

Arizona Biltmore

Photo courtesy of Arizona Biltmore

Arizona Biltmore: Phoenix, AZ

Check out of the summer sun and into the Paradise Pool at Arizona Biltmore to watch movie screenings every Friday and Saturday evening. with an emphasis on films appropriate for all ages each. Bonus: Three pools combine to create the oasis of the luxury Paradise Pool, so there’s plenty of space and a swim-up bar.

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay: Cambridge, MD

If you want to be immersed but remain inside while watching your stories, the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay has you covered – literally. Their Dive-In Movie program for guests showcases family friendly features like Megamind and happens year round at 8pm nightly in their climate-controlled indoor pool.

Mondrian Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of Mondrian Los Angeles

Skybar at Mondrian: Los Angeles, CA

Start the week by visiting the Dive-In Theater at the Mondrian Los Angeles. Happening at Skybar, the rooftop bar and pool at the West Hollywood hotel, the Monday night screenings put the spotlight on films like That Thing You Do and Romeo and Juliet until August 22. You can reserve seating, including a bed, or try for the first come, first serve option.

Fairmont Dallas

Photo courtesy of the Fairmont Dallas

Fairmont Dallas: Dallax, TX

Kick back with floats or noodles in Fairmont Dallas‘ rooftop pool every Saturday to gaze upon stars on both the big screen and the sky. Hotel guests can take in a variety of family-friendly movies, including Jumanji and Inside Out, until September 3. Pair cocktails with classic movie snack fare like popcorn, hot dogs and burgers.

Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Orlando

Four Seasons Resort Orlando: Orlando, FL

The family pool is the place to be on Thursday and Saturday nights at the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando. They show G and PG movies on their over 15′ Starstruck Dive-In screen to guests floating on rafts or kicking back on chaise lounges. The resorts also provides complimentary popcorn (maybe don’t take it into the pool) and have additional food and beverages available for purchase. Ask the front desk about which films will be shown during yourstay.

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Tagged: California Vacation, Family time, Hotels

Amy Ratcliffe

Amy Ratcliffe

Amy is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers all things pop culture and is constantly afflicted with wanderlust. Follow her on Twitter at @amy_geek.
Amy Ratcliffe

Latest posts by Amy Ratcliffe (see all)