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Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014

Posted April 23, 2014 by SmarterTravel.com

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Turn up the heat on your vacation plans this summer in a destination that beckons with new and standout reasons to visit. Even the chilliest spots on this list will be hot this summer with new traveler-friendly events, openings, and airline service. Whether you're looking for some natural splendor, a 24-hour urban scene, or a simple patch of white-sand bliss, you'll be able to find it in these dazzling destinations.

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Brazil

Brazil is set to be the center of the sports universe this summer as host of the FIFA World Cup, which will welcome teams from 32 countries around the world. With more than 2.5 million tickets already in circulation for matches in cities around the country, the world will be cheering in Brazil between June 12 and July 13.

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Jamaica

Domestic low-cost giant Southwest has gotten its passport and is heading to the beach. This summer, it will launch its first international flights, with service to Jamaica from Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando starting in July. JetBlue is also expanding its Jamaica service just in time for summer, with new flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Montego Bay.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Heat rises, and this summer, you can survey already-smoking-hot Las Vegas from on high in the city's latest supersized novelty, the High Roller Ferris wheel. Staking a claim as the world's tallest, the 550-foot-tall observation wheel supports 28 individual pods that can each hold up to 40 people. The views are most spectacular at night, when the Strip sparkles below. And, this being Vegas, you can buy your drinks at the bottom and bring them with you on your journey to the sky and back.

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Belgium

Last December, we named Belgium a destination to watch in 2014. And this August, it will become clear why, as the country—and the world—marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. More than 2 million travelers are expected to pay tribute at Belgium's many battle sites. The new Bastogne War Museum just opened last month and will host a variety of centennial events in the coming years.

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

In these ancient mountains that teem with constant springs of new life, a hundred years seems like both a blip and an eternity. This year, Rocky Mountain National Park turns 100 years old, and visitors can celebrate nature and conservation at its finest by taking part in picnics, night hikes, art exhibits, and more. Centennial events kick off in early September and stretch into 2015, so even if you miss the opening festivities, you'll still have plenty of time to join the celebration.

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Umea, Sweden

Umea brings a new twist to its Capital of Culture designation this summer with hundreds of cultural events and nearly 24-hour daylight around the summer solstice. Highlights of the summer season include U x U, a crowd-funded music festival, as well as an outdoor staging of Strauss' opera Elektra.

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Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta is looking to the future by celebrating the past this summer. Its modern reimagining of the classic streetcar will debut in late spring or early summer, with 12 stops connecting Centennial Olympic Park, downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University, and the historic Sweet Auburn District. And in May, downtown Atlanta's new National Center for Civil and Human Rights museum will welcome the public for the first time.

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Aruba

Along with Jamaica, Aruba will be one of Southwest's first international destinations. In July, the domestic-until-now low-cost carrier will kick off service between Aruba and Atlanta, Baltimore, and Orlando. And the timing is perfect—since Aruba sits outside the traditional "hurricane belt," Caribbean summer travel to this island is unlikely to be hampered by challenging weather.

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Glasgow, Scotland

Brazil isn't the only country that's got game this summer. Glasgow is gearing up to host the XX Commonwealth Games, an event that draws participants and spectators from a number of countries around the world. Featuring 17 events, including aquatics, gymnastics, triathlon, and table tennis, the XX Commonwealth Games kicks off on July 23 and runs through August 3.

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Panama

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama! The engineering marvel that inspired the palindrome turns 100 on August 15, and Panama is gearing up to celebrate. Throughout the year, a number of cruise lines are offering special canal crossings or partial crossings, and day tours by providers such as Panama Canal Tours will be offered all summer. The Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, which is visible from the entrance to the canal, will also likely open this summer. And the expansion project continues: By 2015, larger ships may be able to access the canal.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Hottest Summer Destinations for 2014. 

 Follow Christine Sarkis on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars

Posted October 19, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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Bordello murders, fatal wedding-day accidents, hate-fueled arson attacks, and other tragedies have left behind unsettled spirits in historic restaurants and bars across the country. For the spine-chilling chance to see the resident apparitions and experience their antics, sit down to a filet mignon in Michigan or hit the slot machines at a Nevada saloon. Here are some of America's most haunted restaurants and bars—ones that have given employees, patrons, and even ghost hunters more than what they ordered.

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Mission Table, Traverse City, Michigan

The unhappy ghost of Genevive Stickney, an obese and jealous woman, still frequents her former residence, now Mission Table restaurant. As the story goes, Genevive and her Chicago lumber-baron husband built the home in the late 1800s. Succumbing to the excesses of good food and fruit brandies, the attractive Genevive became quite stout. She had a special gilt-edged mirror installed that made her appear thinner than she was, but eventually she became so large that she needed an elevator to transport her to the second floor. When her philandering husband took up with a mistress and left the mistress all his money, Genevive took her own life.

Haunted Encounters: In Genevive's mirror, restaurant guests have seen the reflection of a woman dressed in 19th-century clothing with hair pulled into a tight bun, the way Genevive wore hers. Lights turn themselves on and off, objects are mysteriously hurled through the air at people, hands on the grandfather clock are moved ahead, and candles are found burning in the morning.

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The Brass Rail, Hoboken, New Jersey

A ghost bride is said to haunt the historical Brass Rail restaurant in downtown Hoboken. Legend has it that on her wedding day in 1904, she tripped at the top of the staircase, fell, broke her neck, and died. Later that night, her distraught husband, who was drinking heavily, wrote a suicide note and hung himself in a room near the stairs.

Haunted Encounters: Restaurant staff and patrons have spotted spirits of the bride and groom wandering up and down the stairs. A photo taken by the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society revealed a white wisp of smoke hovering above the stairs when no one was smoking in the room. Others say they have heard walking in the upstairs dining room when it was empty and seen the ghost of a woman wearing white in the back alley.

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The UpStairs Lounge, New Orleans, Louisiana

Forty years ago, one of the deadliest crimes against the LGBT community in U.S. history took place at this French Quarter gay bar above The Jimani Lounge & Restaurant when an arsonist set it on fire, killing 32 men. The UpStairs Lounge had only one entrance—the door at the bottom of the stairwell, where the fire originated. While the fire blazed, patrons tried desperately to climb out the windows but couldn't escape, since windows were mostly barred or blocked completely. Several bodies were unclaimed by embarrassed family members, and the arsonist was never caught. The UpStairs Lounge area is now the kitchen of the first-floor Jimani Lounge & Restaurant.

Haunted Encounters: The building's current owner, who witnessed the event as a child when his father was owner, has seen apparitions of charred bodies, dark shadows, white orbs, and flashes of light in the building. When Syfy's Ghost Hunters crew visited last year, detectors picked up screeching noises in the stairwell.

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The Masquerade, Atlanta, Georgia

This concert venue in Atlanta's historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood was originally a mill that produced wood shavings. Since the mill property's opening at the turn of the 20th century, it has seen its share of fires, structural collapses, and the gruesome accidental death of mill worker Hubert Neal in 1899. But the grisly stories that circulate at The Masquerade only add to the appeal for the goths, metalheads, and punk rockers who converge here for shows.

Haunted Encounters: Staff and concertgoers repeatedly report sightings of an apparition of a tall black man and say they've heard voices, screaming, and heavy phantom footsteps. An investigation by the Georgia Society for the Paranormal Sciences gathered accounts from multiple employees who described the feeling of being watched. The group recorded several unexplained noises and encountered a dark human-shaped mass. In the middle of the night, the group watched as a mysterious dense white fog appeared and dissipated on the club's second level, called "Heaven."

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Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings, Nevada

The paranormal activity at this 100-year-old Wild West saloon just outside Las Vegas kicked off the 2013 season of Ghost Adventures on The Travel Channel. Reportedly haunted by an elderly miner and a cheating gambler who was killed at a card table in 1915, the Pioneer Saloon hasn't changed much since the days of the town's mining boom. Bullet holes from the gambler's murder can still be seen in the wall.

Haunted Encounters: Nearly every bar employee has seen the ghost of the elderly miner, a short man who wears a cowboy hat, standing behind people at the slot machines or hanging out by the potbellied stove. The spirit of the gambler makes an occasional appearance at a card table at the back of the bar. Visitors and staff have also been known to hear disembodied voices and see mysterious trails of cigarette smoke materialize.

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The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro, Little River, South Carolina

Drawing paranormal-research conferences, A&E's My Ghost Story crew, and numerous investigation groups, The Brentwood Restaurant & Wine Bistro has been called the most haunted location on the Grand Strand. It's just north of Myrtle Beach's main drag in a 103-year-old Victorian home. The restaurant owners have embraced the supernatural, saying they've never felt threatened. They regularly plan special-event dinners with psychics and talk openly about the restaurant's spook factor.

Haunted Encounters: Guests often get "locked" in the second-floor bathroom. Strange voices, unexplained movement of equipment, and shadowy figures have been reported by even the most skeptical guests and employees. When one of the restaurant owners asked the spirit who was there, the reply—captured in a recording—was "Clarence." Clarence and Essie Bessent-McCorsley were the original owners of the Victorian home.

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Jean Bonnet Tavern, Bedford, Pennsylvania

Built in the 1760s at a major junction of the only road connecting eastern Pennsylvania with the Ohio River, the Jean Bonnet was an important trading post and watering hole for early settlers. If the tavern's original stone walls could talk, they'd tell of rowdy trappers and traders, Whiskey Rebellion farmers' meetings, and encampments of troops summoned here by George Washington. Stories of the spirits at the Jean Bonnet Tavern are captured in The Pennsylvania Ghost Guide, Vol. II by Patty A. Wilson.

Haunted Encounters: Guests and staff describe a strange man in the bar after-hours, doors being opened and closed, and the sensation of being touched when no one is around. When members of the Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Association spent the night, a group of apparitions in frontier-type clothing appeared in a doorway and watched a man playing the piano at the other end of the bar.

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Catfish Plantation, Waxahachie, Texas

In the south Dallas suburb of Waxahachie, Catfish Plantation restaurant occupies an 1895 Victorian home where three former residents are believed to have died. The apparition of Elizabeth, murdered here on her wedding day in the 1920s, appears in her wedding gown. A Depression-era farmer named Will walks around the lobby and front porch in his overalls. Caroline, a strict religious woman who detested alcohol, passed away here in 1970, and now she sends wine glasses flying into the wall. The Travel Channel's Extreme Restaurants show, NBC News, and several paranormal groups have reported on the Catfish Plantation's strange occurrences.

Haunted Encounters: Besides seeing the resident ghosts, the restaurant's guests and staff have felt cold spots that move around. Clocks with missing parts chime. Doors, lights, and faucets all operate at will. And several knives go missing every night.

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The Jury Room, Columbus, Ohio

One of the oldest continually operating restaurants in Columbus, opened in 1831, this downtown mainstay has plenty of stories to fuel its ghostly reputation. It was built on Native American burial ground and lost its third floor to a fire in the late 1800s. The original tin ceiling and historical photos are a throwback to The Jury Room's days as a bordello. At the bar, you can order a "Hung Jury," a "Bordello Bubbly," or a "Lorenzo's Revenge," all nods to the prostitute who shot a man on the bordello's front doorstep in the 1850s and her subsequent trial for murder.

Haunted Encounters: A tall, shadowy man has been seen roaming around the bar and appearing behind bartenders. Objects move at will and women describe being attacked by unseen forces. There have been so many occurrences that the staff now keeps a ghost log and The Travel Channel's The Dead Files has come to investigate.

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High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In Albuquerque's Old Town, two different spirits are believed to haunt High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, housed in one of the historic district's oldest structures. Constructed in 1785, the building has served as both a casino and a successful brothel. According to Ken Hudnall's book Spirits of the Border IV: The History and Mystery of New Mexico, some say High Noon is haunted by the ghost of a trapper. The female spirit, investigated by the Southwest Ghost Hunter's Association, wears an old-fashioned white formal dress.

Haunted Encounters: Hudnall says the male ghost may be responsible for the unseen tapping that customers and employees feel on their shoulders, the smell of burning when the fireplace isn't lit, and the calling out of employees' names. Several customers and staff members have reported supernatural sightings, including the female spirit, who haunts the Santos Room lounge. High Noon is one of many restaurants and bars on the lantern-lit Ghost Tour of Old Town.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title America's Most Haunted Restaurants and Bars.

Listen Up!

Posted April 17, 2009 by Katie Blais

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Do you remember that Saved by The Bell episode in which Zack uses subliminal messaging over the PA system to get a date to the Sadie Hawkins dance? Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport seems to be taking a page from Mr. Morris’ handbook by revamping some old school R&B hits.
Buying the rights for three popular (by early 80’s standards at least) dance songs, The City of Atlanta Department of Aviation tweaked the lyrics to send messages that encouraged listeners to keep the airport clean and advertised the airport's new food and retail options.

Fantastic Voyage (yes, it was a song before being covered by Coolio) by Lakeside becomes Our New ConcessionsShake Your Groove Thing and Bustin’ Loose  morph into Opening Day Fresh and We’re Steady Cleaning Up, respectively.  The “updated lyrics” remind passengers about keeping things tidy in a less intrusive manner than signage or that horrible robotic voice that comes on to warn you of dangers in so many transportation portals.

On top of the secret squirrel music tactics, the airport is also testing the pumping of scents through the airport, with hopes that the mixture of lavender and vanilla will aid in keeping passengers relaxed before boarding their flights, assuming there are no screaming kids, delays, lost baggage, or the any other typical flying nightmares.

So the next time you are waiting for your last-minute flight from Hot-lanta and you think you are humming along to Peaches and Herb, listen closer, and then notice the strange craving you get for a snack at the new concession stand.

Live Large at Small Prices in Atlanta

Posted February 13, 2009 by Kate Hamman

GA-Atlanta-GeorgiaAquariumTunnel-DEF Everything's just peachy in Atlanta, especially with so many options, such as off-the-wall burger joints, hotel specials, and a larger-than-life aquarium. Though the city may be best known for the world of Coke and its underground area, there's much more going on above ground than soda pop.

Play
The Georgia Aquarium: The Georgia Aquarium, one of the world's largests, houses more aquatic life than it can count in over eight million gallons of salt and fresh water. During a visit, you can say hello to the beluga whales or walk along the 100-foot underwater tunnel while whale sharks swim close by. General admission costs $26, but the premium day pass goes for $29.50, and includes general admission plus entrance to the 4D theater.

Eat
Flip Burger Boutique: When the craving hits for a juicy hamburger with all the fixins'—or for that matter, when any craving hits—Flip is the place to be. Alongside the standard burger, this cutting-edge joint offers innovative hamburgers like the "Corned Beef" served with buttered cabbage, fried egg, and beer mustard as well as the "Lamburger" topped with green olive relish, cucumber yogurt, raisin ketchup, and mint. However, the menu doesn't stop there, and you can order sides such as typical fries or vodka battered onion rings. Plus, the liquid nitrogen milkshakes made with innovative flavors such as the Krispy Kreme are not to be missed. Burgers start at $6.50.

Stay
The Ellis Hotel: Located in the heart of Atlanta, the recently renovated Ellis Hotel is an elegant escape from the ordinary. The boutique-style hotel's rooms include luxurious baths with Kohler rain-shower heads, modern conveniences such as high-definition TV, wireless Internet, and pillow-top bedding with personal pillow choices. An entire floor is dedicated to women, with a secured entry and thoughtful grooming amenities. Rooms start at $159.

To search for flights and compare prices to Atlanta, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Georgia Aquarium)


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