Canada

10 Best National Parks Around the World

Posted October 18, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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National parks are kind of an American thing. After all, we established the first one (Yellowstone) in 1872. But it didn't take long for the idea to catch on overseas, and these days the international community can give even our most impressive parks a run for their money. If you love exotic wildlife, ancient ruins, and otherworldly scenery, you might want to add these 10 foreign national parks to your bucket list.

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Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Where else can you enjoy mountains, lakes, fjords, and rainforests in one park? Fiordland National Park, located on New Zealand's South Island, encompasses a massive almost 3 million acres (roughly 4,687 square miles) formed by glacial flows. The most famous of the park's 14 fjords is Milford Sound, which visitors can explore from all angles: Take a helicopter ride above it, cruise on the water, or go below (without getting wet) at the Milford Discovery Center's underwater viewing chamber, which offers 360-degree views of the ecosystem and rare black coral some 30 feet underwater.

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Tikal National Park, Guatemala

You'll feel like you've traveled back in time at Guatemala's Tikal National Park, where ruins of an ancient Maya city-state (which housed approximately 100,000 people from the 6th century BCE to the 10th century CE) lie deep in the heart of the jungle. Remains of more than 3,000 separate buildings (including temples, palaces, and tombs) are preserved here. The massive archaeological site feels even more otherworldly as it is surrounded by 54,610 acres (roughly 85 square miles) of rainforest, now inhabited by a wide variety of wild animals such as monkeys, jaguars, snakes, sloths, and armadillos.

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

Wildlife watchers, this is the park for you. Kruger National Park's almost 4.9 million acres (roughly 7,722 square miles) are home to an incredible variety of species: 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 mammals—and of course that includes the "Big Five" of African game (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo). There are numerous ways to traverse the park, from the wilderness walking trails (where you'll be accompanied by armed guards) to traditional safaris and 4WD trails.

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Galapagos National Park, Ecuador

An astonishing 97 percent of the land area of the Galapagos Islands is part of this national park (the other 3 percent is the inhabited islands, on which tourists can find overnight accommodations, if they don't choose to do a cruise). To visit the park, you'll need to pay a $100 entry fee, and you'll have to be part of a tour that is accompanied by a Galapagos National Park certified guide—there's no doing this park solo. You'll be rewarded with one-of-a-kind wildlife spotting, including the giant tortoise, Galapagos Penguin, marine iguana, and blue-footed booby.

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Kluane National Park and Reserve, Canada

Kluane National Park and Reserve is home to Canada's highest mountain (Mt. Logan), more than 100 species of birds (including golden and bald eagles), glaciers, and grizzly bears. Visit in the summer when this park, located in the southwestern corner of the Yukon, experiences up to 19 hours of continuous sunlight per day! Although more than 80 percent of the park's landscape is comprised of mountains and glaciers (more than 4,000 of them), the park still has plenty of greenery—there are meadows and forests that house wide ranges of wildlife, from mountain goats to Dall sheep.

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Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan

This national park consists of four different regions: The Mt. Fuji area (home to the highest mountain in Japan, fields formed by lava flows, and five volcanic lakes), the Hakone area (famous for its hot springs and botanical garden), the Izu Peninsula area (featuring the Mt. Amagi volcanic mountain range and Atagawa Tropical and Alligator Garden, which houses 29 reptile species), and the Izu Islands (a group of islands formed by submarine volcanoes).

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is one of the world's most visually arresting places. Its glaciers, lakes, green forests, and rivers are framed by mountains and towered over by the Torres del Paine (granite pillars that rise more than 9,000 feet above the Patagonian steppe). Amid the beautiful scenery, you'll find more than 100 species of exotic birds (including parakeets and flamingos), guanacos (similar to llamas), pumas, and the endangered Chilean huemul (a species of deer).

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Canaima National Park, Venezuela

The star attraction of Canaima National Park is Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall, which drops for more than half a mile before hitting the rapids. The park itself is roughly the size of Belgium (12,000 square miles) and about 65 percent of its terrain is tepuis—plateaus of rock that create the amazing cliffs and mountains that make this park so picturesque. This national park is actually inhabited—it's home to the indigenous Pemon Indians.

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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

If you want to experience some of Africa's best wildlife viewing, Serengeti National Park is the place to do it. Every year, more than a million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, and 300,000 Thomson's gazelles make their annual migrations from the northern hills to the southern plains, making for some amazing safari photo ops. Even if you come when the migration is not happening, you'll still likely see the Big Five, plus cheetahs, Nile crocodiles, monkeys, giraffes, and much more.

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Swiss National Park, Switzerland

Switzerland's only national park is one of Europe's best-protected natural environments—hunting, mowing, off-trail hiking, and tree cutting are all forbidden within the park's more than 42,000 acres. (You can't even bring your dog.) The park's landscape is classic Switzerland, with Alpine forests and meadows, The Sound of Music-esque scenery (including edelweiss flowers), and mountain lakes.

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Best National Parks Around the World.

Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.

 

A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Posted October 11, 2013 by SmarterTravel.com

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Breathe in the ocean air and let the welcoming smiles of St. Andrews' locals invite you into this charming seaside town. Whether strolling along quaint downtown streets, venturing out onto the ocean floor at low tide, or lingering over a meal of regional delicacies, there's no lack of beauty in this close-knit community. Here are some favorite discoveries from my summertime tour of St. Andrews.

Whale Watching

St. Andrews is set on the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the highest tides in the world—each day, the tidal cycle moves about 100 billion tons of water in and out of the bay. During the summer months, these waters are home to all types of whales, including minkes, humpbacks, and right whales, which some consider the world's rarest. Every year, they make their way to the Bay of Fundy to feed, fatten, and mate, and a visit to the region just isn't complete without venturing out for some face time with the majestic giants. Fundy Tide Runners, headed up by gregarious and knowledgeable captain David Welch, is the best game in town for thrilling, up-close animal sightings and even better storytelling. Welch spent his childhood summers on nearby Deer Island, and his intimate knowledge of the West Isles was on display during my excursion on the 24-foot Zodiac. We were miles from shore, yet Welch recognized every sailor and lobsterman who crossed our path; each time, he'd pull up alongside the neighboring boat and ask after their families, how the catch was that day, and whether they'd spotted the elusive minke that everyone was talking about. Each interaction was an illustration of the ties that bind this seaside community.

Kingsbrae Garden

Tear yourself away from the shops and restaurants along downtown St. Andrews' Water Street and you'll be richly rewarded with a vibrant display of plants, flowers, and sculptures in Kingsbrae Garden. Themed gardens, bridges crossing lily-pad-strewn ponds, pergolas draped with flowering vines, a working Dutch windmill, and a farm area with alpaca, pygmy goats, and peacocks are just some of the sights in this 27-acre horticultural masterpiece set on the grounds of a former estate. I could have spent all day taking in its serene beauty. Aside from the natural scenery, what struck me was its cheerful, beaming workers, each friendlier than the next: a gardener lovingly repotting herbs, another pushing a wheelbarrow filled with dirt and weeds, a craftsman painstakingly applying a fresh coat of paint to a life-sized metal horse in the sculpture garden. Maintaining the grounds is truly a labor of love, and it shows. The Algonquin Resort The pride of every St. Andrews resident, the iconic Algonquin Resort sits high on a hill like a grand guardian watching over town. During my visit, the resort was deep in the midst of a $30 million renovation, but I was lucky enough to get a private hard-hat tour of the site with the resort's general manager, Tim Ostrem. Although the grounds were host to construction vehicles rather than guests, it was easy to picture the elegant, historical property post-transformation. Ostrem's boundless enthusiasm helped; as we walked through room after room, he painted pictures of the grandeur that the Algonquin would reclaim when its now-skeletal rooms were brought back to life. The Algonquin Resort will officially reopen this fall, and recent photos show that it is well on its way to becoming the luxurious retreat Ostrem described. The hotel has preserved much-treasured architectural details, including Juliet balconies and a Tudor-style exterior, while expanding and improving existing offerings, such as the outdoor event spaces and spa. Don't miss locally sourced ingredients served up by executive chef Jasmin Kobajica at the on-site restaurant Braxton's, named after one of the Algonquin's original chefs who set the bar for uncompromising quality and inspired cuisine. The Rossmount Inn While taking advantage of a photo op—a breathtaking vista over the bay from the Algonquin golf course's signature 12th hole—I was asked by a couple of friendly golfers about my dinner plans. You would think I was meeting the Queen of England when I informed them of my reservations at the Rossmount Inn. One absolutely insisted I order the lobster cocktail, while another made sure to fill me in on Chef Chris Aerni's focus on honoring the freshest local ingredients. The Rossmount Inn is certainly St. Andrews' most buzzed-about restaurant, and for good reason. The setting typifies elegant fine dining, but the food speaks to a more rustic approach and features mainly local ingredients—often foraged for by chef Aerni that very morning to be reinvented for dinner. The lobster cocktail was as delicious as it was beautiful, and the soup of fiddleheads, a prized ingredient with a brief harvest, was a true taste of the region's food culture. Be sure to top off the creative meal with a hike; the Rossmount sits at the base of Chamcook Mountain, whose peak affords expansive views of Passamaquoddy Bay.

Local Seafood

In a cove around the corner from the famed Algonquin, I stumbled upon a mother and son digging for clams. Toes buried in the muck, they drove clam rakes into the soft mud and deposited their treasures in a wire basket. The beach was covered in a blanket of shells, and the ocean at low tide seemed to stretch on until forever. But this stark, gray beauty of sea and sky belied the rich world of marine life just below the surface; in fact, in 2013, New Brunswick was Canada's largest exporter of seafood. From kitchen to classroom, St. Andrews celebrates its seaside location, and every year, the town hosts the Bay of Fundy Seafood Week, which features renowned chefs from around the world leading cooking expos, forums, and classes, all focusing on local, sustainable seafood.

(Photos: Julianne Lowell)

 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title A Seaside Stay in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Follow Julianne Lowell on Google+ or email her at at editor@smartertravel.com.



Celebrate All Things Old, New, Fresh, and Sustainable in Quebec City

Posted March 23, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Quebec Quebec City is a modern city with a thoroughly Old World feel. Founded as a fur-trading post in 1608, this vibrant French-speaking city is celebrating its fourth centennial in style. Celebrez this grand history, and then head to St. Roch, the city's trendiest district, where you can stay at a sustainable fair-trade hotel, sip a beer at a cooperative microbrewery, or grab lunch at a French bistro featuring locally sourced ingredients.

Stay
L'Autre Jardin
: Indulge in the cozy comforts at l'Autre Jardin without an ounce of guilt. This charming boutique hotel is the first socially responsible hotel in Quebec City. It's owned and operated by Carrefour Tiers-Monde, a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote international cooperation and local development. Relax in the comfortably and tastefully furnished rooms knowing your room rate supports a good cause. Then wake up to a gratis breakfast buffet featuring fair-trade coffee, sugar, and locally made breads. Rooms start at $95 CAD.

Drink
La Barberie
: Support the local community by drinking a beer at La Barberie. This cooperatively owned microbrewery uses part of its profits to finance local projects. It has eight beers on tap and the selection changes daily. Order the carousal de 8 galopins to get five-ounce samples of each featured beer, and then order a pint of your favorite. Flavors include dark chocolate stout, white-blackberry beer, and seasonal sensations like raspberry lime pale ale.

Eat
Le Cafe du Clocher Penche
(this website in French only): This popular local cafe buzzes with a hip crowd enjoying the creations of its two artisan chefs and a wine list featuring nearly 200 wines, most of them organic. Duck confit, roasted veal, vegetarian chili, and wild boar are some of the featured French-fusion dishes. Save room to savor dessert.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Quebec City from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Claudel Huot/Quebec City Tourism)

Light the Way to Discounts in Montreal

Posted March 8, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Montreal Montreal celebrates its past with a flair unlike any other, which is evident in its tours, restaurants, and architectural preservation. And during the winter, the city glows with the spirit of the season and sweet hotel discounts. Spend the day learning about Montreal's history, and then enjoy a dinner-and-show that takes you back in time.

Stay
Montreal Tourism's Sweet Deal
: Get a sweet deal on lodging, with the help of Montreal's tourism board. You can save 50 percent off the second night at participating hotels, and some include extra perks, such as breakfast buffets, room upgrades, and free Internet. For instance, rooms at the Auberge de la Fontaine cost $139 CAD (about $135 U.S.; check XE.com for current exchange rates) for the first night, and $70 CAD the second night. Though this offer is good until May 31, Montreal tends to offer similar deals throughout the year.

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Stewart Museum
History buffs will rejoice in the authentic setting of the Stewart Museum, housed in original buildings of Montreal's only fort on Île Sainte-Hélène. The museum's collection of more than 30,000 man-made objects provides insight into the history of New France. Here, you will not only view artifacts from history, but walk in its footsteps, and quite possibly encounter a few costumed guides to help lead the way. Admission costs $10 CAD. (Editor's note: The museum is temporarily closed for renovations, but will reopen in May 2010)

Drink
Le Cabaret du Roy: Stepping through the doors of Le Cabaret du Roy is like stepping back in time to the 18th century. The lively, costumed entertainers add new meaning to dinner and a show, where most meals can last up to about three hours. The lively dinnersl come with the added bonus of comedy and musical acts. Each dish is prepared from native and regional produce to recreate Amerindian (Quebec's First Nation people) specialties.

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

(Photo: Le Cabaret du Roy, Martine Hebert)

Explore All Things Anne Shirley on Prince Edward Island

Posted March 4, 2010 by Sarah Pascarella

PrinceEdwardIsland-OrwellCo For the past 100 years, young girls have fallen in love with the adventures of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, and her home on Prince Edward Island (PEI). Beyond literary attractions, PEI lures in travelers with beautiful vistas, red-sand beaches, world-class golf, fresh seafood, and a laid-back atmosphere.

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Tourism PEI
, the official tourism website of Prince Edward Island, offers an encyclopedic guide to the area. Maps, lodging information, suggested itineraries, up-to-date events, and more are available with just a few clicks. Great choices include visiting all things Anne in Cavendish, taking in a show in Charlottetown, traversing the island by bicycle on the Confederation Trail, or just relaxing on a quiet beach.

Eat
St. Ann's Lobster Suppers
: PEI is famous for its lobster, potatoes, and other fresh local specialties. Enjoy the best of the island's harvest with an evening at St. Ann's Lobster Suppers. Open from June until late September, St. Ann's serves up five-course meals daily, including seafood chowder, steamed mussels, lobster, haddock, and more. There are also lobster rolls for the kids and a variety of other summer feast choices. The church/eatery is located on Route 224 near New Glasgow, not too far from Cavendish National Park. A five-course supper with a one-pound lobster costs $31.99 CAD.

Stay
The Country House Inn
: Located right in Cavendish National Park, The Country House Inn will make you feel like you've stepped into Green Gables. Rates range from $55 CAD to $65 CAD per night and include a daily breakfast buffet and free admission to the park. The inn's grounds have gardens, barbecue facilities, and a children's play area.

You can use our tool to compare airfares from multiple travel providers to Charlottetown.

(Photo: Tourism Prince Edward Island)

Forage Ahead to a Nature Vacation on Cape Breton Island

Posted March 3, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Cape Breton Cape Breton boasts one of the most scenic drives in North America along its Cabot Trail, and the island strives to preserve its natural and unspoiled beauty. Come get acquainted with the animals that live here, eat organic at an inn, and stay in a resort where you can forage for your own dinner.

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Whycocomagh Eco-Centre
: You can appreciate nature through hands-on activities at the Whycocomagh Eco-Centre year-round. By learning about the different species of animals and aquatic life that inhabit the area, as well as getting an up-close-and-personal view of starfish, crabs, and sea urchins in the touch tanks, you will become more aware of the need to preserve the surrounding land and waters. The center offers interactive nature hikes in the Whycocomagh Park and along the Bras d'Or Lakes shoreline.

Eat
Chanterelle Country Inn
: Located on the Artisan's Loop on the Cabot Trail, the Chanterelle Country Inn is the ideal spot to watch bald eagles soar or listen to the chickadees from the screened-in verandah while you dine. The restaurant serves fresh organic ingredients, including mushrooms collected on the property, and all dishes are prepared using Slow Food principles. The menu changes each night, and entrees cost $20 to $28 CAD. There is also a four-course prix fixe for $38 to $45 CAD.

Stay
Crown Jewel Resort Ranch
: Situated in the Baddeck River Valley, the Crown Jewel Resort grows all its own organic meats and produce, and takes great pride in conserving energy and reducing waste. Go on an eco-culinary foraging expedition, where you will pick your own edible wild plants and then create a four-course dinner from your discoveries. The eight suites are decorated with yellow birch furniture and sheepskin rugs that provide a comfortable place to unwind. Rates start at $345 CAD per couple, with three meals included.

To search for flights and compare prices to Halifax, the nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Denis Tangney)

More Than Potatoes

Posted June 15, 2009 by Katie Blais

PEI_formatted I have wanted to go to Prince Edward Island since I was 10 and read Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to go live on a farm with Miranda, wear braids, and attend a one-room school house with Gilbert.  Prince Edward Island seemed like a quaint little fairy tale isle. Taking a peek at what is happening on the island this summer inspires me to pack my bags and book a trip to PEI today!

First off, starting June 18 and going through September 26 there is The Charlottetown Festival, a three month event filled with theater productions (even an Anne of Green Gables musical number), live music, and other art related fun!  The week of August 13 to 22 is Old Home Week where you can check out livestock shows, concerts, and this year the 50th anniversary of the Gold and Saucer Harness race, which is a big deal on PEI.  Summer is also the time to check out the white sand beaches of Cavendish Beach and the amazing golf courses throughout the island.

Beaches, concerts, quaint seaside villages? Channel your inner Anne Shirley and head up for a memorable summer vacation!

(Photo: Virtual Tourist.com)

Enjoy the Finer Things in Niagara-on-the-Lake

Posted June 5, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Canada-ngraonlke-shawcfe-de Welcoming visitors like a breath of fresh wine-scented air, Niagara-on-the-Lake sits among rolling vineyards just a few miles from the neon lights and kitschy entertainment of Niagara Falls. This English-influenced town—with nods to British royalty on street and hotel names—is maturing into a proper getaway for wine, theater, and food. Come experience the finer things in life.

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Peller Estates: Peller Estates turns its tasting room into a classroom, and helps everyone become a valedictorian when it comes to wine. If you've ever wondered whether to serve a Cabernet or a Chardonnay, or which glass to serve which wine in, then the interactive Wine Experiences may be the answer. Classes covering subjects from entertaining to food pairings start at $15 CAD (about $13.50 U.S. dollars; see XE.com for current exchange rates). Tours of the wine-making facilities cost $10 CAD.

Eat
Shaw Café & Wine Bar: Bacchus would feel right at home in this European-style cafe in the heart of the town center. Guests are encouraged to sample regional wines from the extensive menu, while grabbing a gourmet bite to eat. Be sure to say hello to playwright George Bernard Shaw, the cafe's namesake, whose statue welcomes visitors on the patio out front. If the meal prices seem a bit too steep, then take in the Old-World ambiance with just a dessert—such as the Toblerone Cheesecake for $7.95 CAD—and a glass of wine.

Stay
Britaly Bed and Breakfast: Finding a place to curl up after a day of wine tasting may sound simple, but very few places exude the homey atmosphere, and price, of this three-bedroom B&B. Hosts Graham Hall, Aldo Petronelli, and Rufus the Lab treat guests like royalty. Visitors are instantly drawn to the impressive back garden, where they can relax by the pond. The cozy bedrooms, decorated to capture the spirit of England, Canada, and Italy, come en suite or with a private bathroom just steps away. Prices start at $110 CAD during high season, and include a homemade breakfast fit for a king. Note that weekend stays require a two-night minimum.

To search for flights and compare prices to Buffalo, which is home to Niagara-on-the-Lake’s nearest major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Shaw Cafe & Wine Bar)

Southwest and WestJet to Add Canada Codeshare Flights

Posted July 9, 2008 by Zak Patten

Westjet Southwest finally got its passport. Though the low-cost carrier cannot be accused of being a total homebody—its first non-Texas flight was almost 30 years ago—the airline has never flown abroad. Well, baby’s all grown up and ready to explore the wide world of international travel. And what does every first-time traveler appreciate more than a road buddy?

Enter  WestJet, the Louise to Southwest’s Thelma, (if the 1991 movie were set in Canada and starred airlines rather than women). The two airlines will be codesharing by late 2009, according to an announcement yesterday. WestJet is a Canadian carrier that flies not just across its huge home country, but also gets down to Florida, Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, and a few other sunny destinations likely to interest Albertans in their parkas come late February.

Which brings up what will be the central challenge for this deal: acclimatization. Yes, it ain’t easy going from one temperature extreme to another, as those on previous Calgary-Orlando flights can surely attest. WestJetters may be used to bundling up to go to the airport, only to strip off most of their layers upon arrival in more southerly climes. The problem is, the typical Southwest passenger just doesn’t know how to steer out of a skid, let alone how to dress for 40-below wind chills. “But what about Buffalo and Manchester?” you ask.  "Aren’t they Southwest cities with real winters?" To which I reply, “If you think Buffalo has real winters, try licking a Saskatoon stop sign in January!” Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So the key to success here is going to be how the codeshare flights are heated and cooled. Heading north, it’ll be necessary to pack extra clothing such as scarves and fleece pants, because the planes are going to be cranking the A/C every hundred miles or so in the attempt to get you used to the cold. By the time you deplane, you should look like a snowplow driver from Duluth. For trips flying south, the aircraft will need to install heated seats (these are pretty nice) and serve plenty of hot chocolate to bring passenger temps up to an appropriately tropical level. A palm tree or two wouldn’t hurt, but that might be overkill.

The bottom line is this is a risky venture. I have no doubt the tie-up between the two airlines is a good fit—they’re both low-cost carriers that have little route overlap. But you know they say the test of a relationship is how well people travel together. Maybe that’s true for airlines as well.

(Photo: airplane-pictures.net)

The World's Top 10 Vertigo-Inducing Attractions

Posted April 3, 2008 by Zak Patten

If you're a traveler like me, your typical vacation will include a trip up to a scenic lookout where you're likely to have the best view of the place you're visiting. And if you're a big wuss like me, as soon as you get to the most scenic vantage point, your knees will start wobbling and you'll grip the handrail with vise-like intensity/strength, thinking, "I could've gotten this view from a postcard in the lobby!" For those of you who like the idea (if not necessarily the reality) of a great view, I've put together the following list of 10 attractions, each of which is extremely nosebleed-friendly.

10. The CN Tower

The CN Tower is 553 meters tall, which is a Canadian way of saying 1,815 feet off the ground. Technically, it's the "tallest free-standing structure on land," but that just means it's not a place where people live or work. Which is just fine by me, because I have absolutely no interest in living or working anyplace higher than my third-floor bedroom or fourth-floor office. The CN Tower was completed in 1973 and is used primarily for TV and radio broadcasts, as well as tourism. Fans of 1940s music will be dismayed to learn that there is no AM antenna on the Tower.

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Overcompensate much?

9. The Jungfraujoch Railway Station

What do you get when you cross the Swiss Alps with Europe's love of passenger trains? The Jungfraujoch railway station, which is 11,333 feet above sea level. Okay, that's not much of a joke, but the Swiss aren't known for their sense of humor (kidding!). So once you've made this hair-raising train trip to the top of the world, what can you do besides gorging on Swiss chocolate and fondue? How about checking out an Ice Palace or a ski and snowboard park that's only open in the summer?

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om nom nom

8. Mt. Kilimanjaro

For number eight, let's take this a notch higher. It's true that Mt. Kilimanjaro makes the Alps look puny. But with a summit of 19,340 feet, Africa's tallest peak is actually accessible enough for real people to climb, sans oxygen tanks. Of course that's not to say it's an easy task, especially if you're the type who favors the escalator to the stairs.

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Floor 5895: Neon hiking gear and ridiculous hats

7. London Eye

Coming back a little closer to earth, the London Eye is essentially a big ol' Ferris wheel. If that doesn't wow you, consider that the 443-foot-tall ride was the tallest of its kind when it opened in 2000. If you want to make your visit more upscale, you can purchase a glass of Champagne for an additional £30. I think I'll pass on the pricey drink. I'll be happy just to hold down my lunch while in one of the pods.

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OH NOES!

6. Singapore Flyer

With about 100 more vertical feet than the London Eye, The Singapore Flyer took the role of world's highest Ferris wheel when it opened this month. One of the coolest things about the Flyer is its taxi-driver promotion, which currently awards all cabbies a free ride. I guess the idea is they'll be so taken with their trip that they won't be able to stop talking up the attraction to their customers. I'm assuming they're not trying to recruit the drivers to be "pod pilots." Just one warning to those who do take the Flyer: Don't write your name in your cabin. They're not big fans of graffiti in Singapore.

Singaporenightshopped4
Never Forget: Michael P. Fay

5. The Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building is great, but it's soooo 20th century. For the latest in Big Apple views, you gotta hit the Top of the Rock. The "Rock" in question is Rockefeller Center, and while its 850-foot-high observation deck doesn't reach the Empire State Building's height, , this deck affords a much better view of the ESB than you'll get when you're standing on the building itself. Oh, and our sister site TripAdvisor's users rank the Top of the Rock number one of 1,296 New York City attractions. 'Nuff said.

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Hey, is that Tina Fey? Let's not forget her either.

4. La Paz

Just about any spot in La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest capital city, can make the most grounded person feel as if his head is in the clouds. At 11,942 feet in elevation, La Paz is an attraction in itself. If you go, make sure you're prepared for the altitude. You can take a medicine such as Diamox, or just chew some coca leaves like the locals. La Paz's Museum of the Coca Plant is the place to learn more about the coca leaf and all its interesting uses.

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im in ur bolivia sniffin ur cokez

3. The Edge

It might be in Melbourne, Australia, but there is nothing "Down Under" about The Edge, a glass cube that juts out of the Eureka Tower, which at 975 feet is the world's tallest residential building. The worst … er, best part of it all is that The Edge doesn't just sit there like all the other observation decks. No, you get in and it physically moves outward until you're hanging out with nothing between you and a long fall but some chintzy glass panel. 

Vertigoskydecktheedgeweb_2shopped
Hello, Hello. I'm at a place called Vertigo.

2. Taipei 101

The Taipei 101 is currently the world's tallest building at a height of 1,670 feet, though the Burj Dubai is set to overtake that record when it officially opens. At that height, I'm really not interested in which one is taller, but rather how the hell I can get down safely. What I think is coolest about the 101 is not just its height, but how big it is relative to the buildings around it. It's as if former NBA big man Manute Bol decided to show up and play pickup hoops with you and your friends. Basically, the Taipei 101 doesn't care about its neighboring skyscrapers—it's going to dunk on their asses.

Vertigotaipei101webshopped
Manute enlarged to show texture.

1. Insanity, the Ride

Which brings us to number one. Yes, Insanity, the Ride, at Las Vegas' Stratosphere, is not only the most vertigo-inducing attraction in the world, it's probably the most wetting-your-pants/barfing-your-guts-out one as well. The casino-hotel stands 1,149 feet above The Strip, which is what you'll be gaping down at as you are spun at three-Gs by a "massive mechanical arm" extended 64 feet out from the building. I can barely even look at the picture below without feeling queasy.

Manutebucket
Serving suggestion, some assembly required, ManuteBucketTM not included.


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