Why Newcastle (UK) is perfect for a Weekend Getaway

Did you know that Newcastle ranks as the 15th UK city most visited by visitors from overseas? The city is home to countless bars, pubs and clubs – so many that I’d be here forever if I tried to name them all.

Image by Geoff Duke from Pixabay

Famous for its Geordie accent and nightlife, this vibrant city is one of the top stag party destinations in the UK and one I would highly recommend.

While its party persona needs no introduction, here are a few reasons Why Newcastle is perfect for a weekend getaway.

Best of The Beaten Track

When most people think of Geordieland, they probably picture its most obvious landmark, the world famous Tyne Bridge. But, there are other impressive buildings and landmarks to discover in the city.

For example, the Victoria Tunnel offers the opportunity to discover the city’s historical underground tunnel. Newcastle’s 12th-century castle offers splendid views over the city, while the magnificent Sage Gateshead, a truly unique music venue, is one of the best places to hear live music.  

Image via Pixabay

No trip to Newcastle is complete without a visit to the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art that offers stunning views from the top floor. Housed in a former flour mill, Baltic is the best place to spend hours, enjoying the acclaimed modern art.

The Scintillating Nightlife

The infamous Newcastle’s nightlife isn’t just for the weekends, with two universities in town – the bars and clubs are jumping most nights.

Diamond Strip, the area between Central Station and the bottom of Grey Street, is perfect for a stag do in Newcastle. All the bars here attract party lovers who aren’t afraid to splash out on their drinks. Most of them end their night in clubs such as Digital or Livello or perhaps Tup Tup Palace – Newcastle’s World Famous Boutique Nightclub.

For a much cheesy night out, the infamous Bigg Market is worth checking out. It is filled with bars and clubs, located close together in the city centre.

The Bridge Tavern – the jewel in the Quayside’s crown has its own on-site micro-brewery where you can enjoy your pint under its secret roof terrace.

Restaurants in Newcastle

Newcastle houses many restaurants that have happy hour in the early evening, so you certainly won’t go hungry. Eating out on a budget is a doodle for frugal foodies as the city has the highest ratio of restaurants per resident of any city in Northern England.

The Grainger Market in the heart of the city offers everything from pizzas to tasty and filling burritos at a very affordable price. For food on the go, you can’t beat the tasty chicken and sides from “COOP Chicken House”.

The city’s revered chefs take advantage of the abundance of high-quality local produce.

You will find sensational seasonal menus at Newcastle’s Michelin star restaurant, House Of Tides run by none other than Kenny Atkinson.

The Aspers Casino of Newcastle

Newcastle is full of surprises for the curious crowd who come to the city all year-around. The Aspers casino of Newcastle is one of them.

Located close to the main shopping area, it is one of the 3 casinos of the city. It has 70 electronic terminals and 20 slot machines, along with many types of table games like Blackjack, Roulette, Punto Banco, Three Card Poker, Casino War and the Wheel of Fortune in a luxurious red and grey decor.

This leisure destination in Newcastle offers packages, gifts and special events to entertain everyone.

Getting There and Around

Tyne and Wear Metro is the best way to get around Newcastle-Gateshead. Connecting the city centre with Newcastle International Airport and coast, the metro has been rated as one of the UK’s most efficient rapid transport systems.

Being close to the coast means you can easily get to Newcastle-Gateshead by boat.

Newcastle is extremely easy to get to from London by local train, it takes around two hours, and scenery along the way isn’t bad, either.




5 Things to Do When Visiting Miami

Beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, a wonderfully chic ambiance – Miami. The area is full of unexpected gems! 

Attractions, arts, shopping, spas, dining, dancing – the list of things to do in Miami is endless.

When I was a kid, we visited Miami many times. I remember the beautiful hotels along the beach, the great food and friendly, lively atmosphere. I’m in the midst of planning a Miami adventure now and found lots of things to add to my Visit Miami Bucket List!

Although I have been to Miami, it’s been many years so it’s almost like visiting for the first time. When I visit a new area I firmly believe in taking tours to see the area quickly so that I can then plan to go back and really explore certain things.

Here’s just a few of what I found that are must do’s for me!

Photo: James and Karla Murray Photography

Little Havana Food and Walking Tour

I would love to visit Cuba. It’s on my travel bucket list. The Little Havana area of Miami is the next best thing. Little Havana is the heart of Cuban Miami’s social, cultural, and political scene.

The Little Havana Food and Walking Tour is small group tours so that you feel as if you are getting a personal tour. You’ll visit artist studios and cigar makers and enjoy tastings at five restaurants in the area.

You’ll get to taste everything from Cuban coffee to home-style Cuban cooking, with plenty of tastings for a full lunch. Cost is around $60.

South Beach Cultural Food and Walking Tour

Are we seeing a theme here? I love food tours when I visit a new area. 

This tour visits five different restaurants for you to taste your way through South Beach. The guide will point out all of the architectural gems of South Beach’s art deco district. You’ll also learn about the mixed culture of South Beach – culture, history and cuisine all in one tour. Plus you can’t beat the shopping in South Beach!

This tour is also reasonably priced at around $60.

Big Bus Miami Hop On Hop Off Tour

Definitely well worth $40! You can make your own itinerary as you hop on and off to visit more than 40 of Miami’s best attractions. Ride the full route to decide what you want to see and where you want to go. You can also upgrade your ticket to a two day ticket or a ticket that includes a boat tour.

On board you’ll hear everything you need to know about each spot. You can get off at whatever attraction you choose and hop back on later to see others.

Hop on Hop Off tours are definitely the way to go in whatever city you visit.

City Half Day Tour of Miami by Bus with Sightseeing Cruise

This is a 2-hour bus tour that explores Miami Beach, downtown, the financial district, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, and Little Havana and ends at the Bayside Marketplace where you can have lunch and do a little shopping before the next step of the tour.

After lunch and some shopping you will board the boat for a 90-minute tour of Millionaire’s Row, Star Island, Hibiscus Island, Palm Island, Venetian Island, and Fischer Island. The narrated boat tour cruises by the islands and past the homes of celebrities. Light snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board.

The tour ends with drop-off at your Miami hotel.

Miami to the Max Tour

This is an excellent tour for first-time visitors or for anyone that wants a good overview of the city.

The highlights of Miami are the focus of this guided city tour. Visit Wynwood Walls, Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. You will make lots of photo stops along the way.

This tour is great for first-time visitors and provides tons of ideas for places to explore later.

Hotel pickup and drop-off and a souvenir map are included, as well as unlimited bottled water.

 




7 Things You Need To Check When Finding An Ideal Accommodation

When it comes to choosing accommodations for your vacation, the location, facilities and security are just as important as the price you’re paying for it.

Whether you’re planning on staying at a hotel, bed & breakfast, or renting out a place through AirBnB, there are a few things you’ll need to watch out for to ensure that your vacation vacation doesn’t go awry.

Photo Credit: OverwaterBungalows.net

If you need help deciding whether a place is good for you or not, I’ve compiled a few things you need to look out for.

Here are just 7 things you need to check when booking an ideal accommodation:

Location, location, location

In order for you and your family to have a good stay, make sure that your hotel, or whatever room you’ve booked is ideal for your planned vacation experience.

It’s a good idea to pick a place that’s close to iconic locations in whatever city you plan on visiting. This way, you won’t need to travel far to experience what the city has to offer. Choosing a good location also has the potential to help you with travel costs.

Security

Choosing a place with a good security system, or one that is situated in a more secured part of town is vital if you want to make sure your belongings and your family remain safe.

Before choosing any accommodation, make sure that the access to the lobby and the individual rooms are secure.

Pick an establishment that has a secure access system accessible only by guests or the staff. You don’t want just about anybody to be able to access where you sleep.

Facilities and the items provided

Before you check into an establishment, make sure that they offer everything that you’ll need to have a comfortable stay, or at least the bare minimum.

It wouldn’t do, for example, that your room doesn’t have a good bed to sleep on, or cabinets where you can keep your stuff in. Ensure that your room has great mattresses to sleep on, or good places for storing your clothes, and that the facilities you need to stay comfortable are operational.

Safety Measures

Much like external security, it’s also important for an establishment to have measures to keep you safe from internal emergencies, like fires, sudden flooding, or earthquakes.

Do a bit of research before you book a place, and make sure that they have the necessary amenities to keep you safe if the worst becomes a reality.

Check the pricing

It wouldn’t do for you to run out of money just on your accommodations alone.

Check for places that fit your budget or find a place where all you might need during your stay is within reach, without the need to pay exorbitant fares just to go from one place to another.

Nowadays, it’s also pretty easy to find good deals online for places to stay. If you’re lucky, you might get a bargain on some pretty luxurious rooms, which will definitely add to your vacation experience.

Check the reviews online

With the advent of social media and online review sites, it’s pretty easy to gauge whether a place has everything you’re looking for long before you even check in.

While good reviews generally mean that the facility itself is top notch, it’s still a good idea to check the reviews on places that have average ratings. What might be a deal-breaker to some people, you might find to be okay with.

Not every review is the same, so it’s always a good idea to compare ratings between one another to see any discrepancies or similarities.

More reviews mean a more informed choice when the time comes.

Pet-friendly establishments

If your family has a pet, and you’d like to take it with you, make sure that the place you’re staying at has pet-friendly facilities. Some places don’t allow pets and realizing that you can’t have Fido around at the place you’re staying at in the last minute is a huge hassle.

Some hotels have places where you can keep your pets, and they will be taken care of. If the place your staying at doesn’t have such facilities, the city you’re visiting may have pet hotels you can drop your pet at. These places tend to have good amenities, much like the hotels for their human counterparts.

The past few decades have seen the rise of a wider range of accommodations for people to stay in, ranging from 5-star hotels to room and house rentals. While the higher number of options does make it easier to find convenience when it’s needed, you still need to pay attention if you’re getting what you paid for.

Now that you have the above 7 tips, that endeavor is much easier.




Luxury Dude Ranches for Your Next Vacation

The family wants adventure and activity. You want luxury. You want a spot where the kids can get tired out from all their fun while you get a massage. Where do you go? A luxury dude ranch of course!

You can relax and rejuvenate in the comfort of these dude ranch vacations – Are you looking for a fun and entertaining vacation for your family, but also want a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway at the same time?

Luxury dude ranches are the vacation you have been searching for! Luxury dude ranches offer a great atmosphere of entertainment and relaxation all at the same time. You can go out for a horseback ride through beautiful landscapes and scenery in the morning, enjoy a wonderful afternoon at the spa or retreat peacefully to your room to read a book. It really is all up to you!

But what will the kids do you may ask? Most luxury dude ranches have a great kid’s program where the kids can interact with other children their age and make memories to last a lifetime. There is no doubt that the kids will talk about this vacation for years to come and that large amounts of fun will be had!

Most families that have vacationed at dude ranches agree that kids sleep well while on a ranch vacation, they wear themselves out with all of the excitement, activities and fun!

Whatever activities you are looking to mark off the list, these luxury dude ranches, members of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, will fit the bill of a fantastic vacation for the whole family.

Photo Credit: Smith Fork Ranch

Smith Fork Ranch – Colorado

Nestled in the valley of the West Elk Wilderness lies the Smith Fork Ranch, truly a hidden gem of Colorado.

Smith Fork is a beautiful private luxury dude ranch that offers traditional western adventures, gracious hospitality, unique farm to table cuisine along with an award-winning wine list!

If you are looking for a great family vacation and a highly rated luxurious, relaxing getaway you should definitely consider Smith Fork Ranch. Their farm to table cuisine program is like none other in the area and their spa is really fantastic. This ranch is rated at the top of many luxury dude ranch articles, so do not miss out on a wonderful ranch vacation at Smith Fork!

Photo Credit: Lost Valley Ranch

Lost Valley Ranch – Colorado

An authentic Colorado dude ranch vacation with a little luxury mixed in waits for you at the Lost Valley Ranch.

With an abundance of activities for the kids to enjoy, beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery on horseback rides and the option of an in-cabin massage after a fun-filled day, what else could you ask for in a dude ranch experience!

Lost Valley is a very historic ranch with a special kind of charm, it holds qualities of a high-class resort, but also a family and kid friendly atmosphere. If you are searching for the perfect luxury dude ranch for a large family, take a look at Lost Valley Ranch.

Photo Credit: Mountain Sky Guest Ranch

Mountain Sky Guest Ranch – Montana

Located just 30 miles from Yellowstone National Park makes the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Montana a prime luxury dude ranch destination for families and couples.

There is literally something for everyone to do at Mountain Sky. Whether you are an avid horseback rider, enjoy fly-fishing or hiking, want to play a round of golf at the on-site golf course or spend an incredible day in the ranch’s world renowned spa, you will not be bored on this vacation!

The kids will not be bored either, Mountain Sky has a truly unique and impressive kids’ program that is suitable for all ages. There will not be a thing you have to worry about while on this luxury dude ranch vacation; book the trip, pack your bags and prepare yourself for a vacation filled with excitement, relaxation and memories no one will soon forget!

Photo Credit: Broadmoors Ranch at Emerald Valley

The Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley – Colorado

You may not get much more luxurious than the Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley.

Just a short ride up the mountain from the Broadmoor sits the beautiful Ranch at Emerald Valley, a distinct western experience. This ranch is definitely in the high-end rustic retreat category. So, if you are in search of an extremely highly-rated luxury dude ranch for a romantic getaway or family vacation, don’t overlook this ranch.

Here you can experience a variety of high-class activities along with a full-service spa. Your vacation to the Ranch at Emerald Valley will be the perfect mix of western charm and a fine resort.

Tons of activities and great memories await you and your chosen travel partners at the Broadmoor’s Ranch at Emerald Valley.

Photo Credit: Lone Mountain Ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch – Montana

Lone Mountain Ranch is big enough for any family reunion and will appeal to all families, traditional or luxury! It is also the perfect romantic getaway for couples too.

With high quality luxurious food options, beautiful western furnished cabins and activities for every guest, big or small, Lone Mountain has it all. Relax in your cabin or on the porch listening to the sounds of nature and the stream that flows right
through the ranch.

Maybe you would like to go for a long refreshing hike into the incredible surrounding Gallatin Mountains, take a horseback ride to the mountain tops and gaze over the stunning Gallatin canyon, or maybe you would like to sit and watch the kids laugh and play on the big front lawn.

Whatever your definition of relaxation and rejuvenation may be, the luxury of Lone Mountain Ranch will help you escape reality and help you to truly enjoy your vacation and time away.

Photo Credit: High Lonesome Ranch

The High Lonesome Ranch – Colorado

A high-class dude ranch that offers many activities including working cattle; luxury mixed with a true western cowboy experience can be found at the High Lonesome Ranch in Colorado.

With an upscale rustic charm, the High Lonesome provides a unique atmosphere perfect for both families and couples with their accommodations, exquisite food provided by a local farm-to-table program and many different activities, including cattle drives.

Spa services are available on the ranch for those who are looking to reach full relaxation. Yoga and a swimming pool are also available so you can get a workout
too! High in the mountains of Colorado lies this little slice of serenity. No matter the type of vacation you are looking for, you will not want to miss out on the High Lonesome Ranch.

Photo Credit: A Bar A Ranch

A Bar A Ranch – Wyoming

Experience a piece of history and luxury at the A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming! This ranch has been in operation since 1926 and is nearly 100,000 acres in size, all of these acres are available for you to explore and enjoy!

With incredible cuisine, beautiful cabins and guest houses and so many activities for you to experience, you may have a hard time picking which ones to participate in. A Bar A is the perfect family vacation, the kids will have several ways to burn off that stored up energy, and mom and dad can kick back and relax.

Play a round of golf, check out what the spa has to offer or lounge by the pool and hot tub. The amount of ways to relish in your vacation are endless at A Bar A.

This Wyoming luxury dude ranch may just check all of the boxes on your wish list for the perfect vacation!

Photo Credit: 4UR Ranch

4UR Ranch – Colorado

Can you imagine a place more luxurious than a vacation with a natural hot spring right on location?

The 4UR Ranch in Colorado is home to two historical natural hot springs that supply the warm water for their hot tub and other pools. These natural wonders were first discovered by Ute tribe and the ranch was constructed around them to make sure no damage was made and to preserve history. The healing waters provide serene relaxation and many people believe they are a natural healer.

The 4UR has much more to offer than just their top-notch spa, they have horseback rides, incredible cuisine for all ages, great fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking and much more! So, while mom and dad relax by the water, the kids will be entertained all day!

Make it a wonderful family vacation and have luxury meet you at the door at the 4UR Ranch.

Photo Credit: The Home Ranch

The Home Ranch – Colorado

Colorado’s only Relais & Chateaux affiliated luxury dude ranch awaits you! The Home Ranch is nestled at the end of the valley where the Elk River flows from the Sawtooth Mountain Range.

This is the perfect destination for your family to enjoy time together and to unwind from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Relax by the ranch’s outdoor heated pool, read a book, work on your tan or take in the clean mountain air. The kids will have plenty to keep them busy while being involved in the children’s program and making new friends around the ranch.

Of course, there will be time for you to connect as a family, but when you want to truly relax there is an activity for everyone. Do not worry about the food either, the chefs at the Home Ranch are phenomenal and will provide great meals for everyone.

Experience a high-class luxury dude ranch vacation and a trip the kids will always remember at the Home Ranch!




Greenville SC – Yeah, THAT Greenville!

Southern hospitality, outstanding and delicious food and drink, perfectly quaint Main Street, parks, festivals and art – a place that is ideal to live in and a place that is ideal for a family vacation, a girlfriend getaway or even a solo trip – Yeah, THAT Greenville!

I recently spent a few days in Greenville, SC courtesy of Discover South Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina in partnership with Travel South USA. I received an all expense paid visit, however, all opinions are my own.

I can’t wait to go back! Why? Because Greenville, SC was named in the Top Ten Hottest Foodie Cities in the U.S. by People Magazine – one of the Best Cities in the United States by National Geographic Traveler – #3 Top Small City in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler – and, One of the 50 Best Places in the World to Visit in 2018 by Travel & Leisure. Even with being named all these things, Greenville feels like small southern town American when you stroll down Main Street.

If your time is limited, the best way to see Greenville is definitely through Greenville History Tours. Don’t be fooled by the name. It’s not all about history. You can combine a tour with a culinary tasting. 

The creator of the laser pointer was a Greenville guy!

The tours offered highlight the best sites, historic buildings, public artwork, historic homes and neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants. Their tours create unique and memorable experiences for everyone. Greenville History Tours is a perfect way to get a feel for the area before exploring on your own.

The Food

Main Street in Greenville has over 120 restaurants. Almost all are locally owned. Greenville has over 1,000 restaurants in total which has made the area a foodie paradise.

With so many choices you are sure to find just what your taste buds are craving. You are sure to have a hard time deciding where to dine.

My favorite dining spot when I was there – Pomegranate on Main; not just because of the absolutely delicious Persian food I enjoyed but also because of the owner and his story.

The restaurant serves traditional Persian recipes prepared using fresh ingredients and healthy cooking methods. Visitors can enjoy beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, rice and vegetables – prepared in a unique way with saffron, mint and pomegranate.

Pomegranate on Main opened in 2007 as a way for the owner, Ali Saifi to share the culture and heritage of his homeland with visitors to Greenville. 

Ali was born and raised in Iran and through his restaurant he is able to share the easygoing, hospitable and friendly nature of the people of the southern area of Iran – “southern hospitality.”

He says customers often ask him about Iran and about the culture, and are surprised to learn it’s different than what they perceive from watching the news. Saifi learned his restaurant was a way of introducing people to a culture that was important to him and one that many people didn’t understand. “We’re all human beings. We’re all friends. Just our governments don’t seem to get along, which I can’t help that out,” he says.

Ali came to the United States in 1973 and became a US citizen in 1980. He moved to South Carolina in 1982, bringing the very first Subway to the area. He has a strong love of family and a value system that dictates philanthropic giving.

Those values motivated the former Shiraz, Iran resident to create a project in his hometown of Shiraz that has the potential to change hundreds of lives. He has set about to restore orphaned teenagers with their biological families. Orphaned children in Iran are released from care at around 15 years old. Those children are frequently given to an orphanage as babies because the family can’t afford to care for them, but the family is still living. When Saifi saw this firsthand while visiting his family, he immediately began looking for a way to help give these teens. He wanted an alternative to the street lifestyle to which they will often succumb.

He now runs a service that will assess orphans, locate their biological families, determine whether or not it is a viable living option, and then a trust fund is set up that will support the entire family and the child’s education through college so that the child can stay with their family.

Tea is an end to Persian meals. Silver tea service sets made by Ali’s sister are used in the restaurant.

His story, along with his food, touched me deeply. Not only does he help his home country in such an unbelievable way, he also gives back to the Greenville community that has been so generous to him.

 I loved the cranberry rice so much, Ali kindly emailed me the recipe – I have yet to be able to get it to taste as good as his!

Accommodations

No matter how you like to stay, you’ll be able to find the perfect spot in Greenville. From luxury accommodations to campgrounds and cabins, there is a place to stay for every visitor.

Travel with a furry friend, no problem! Pet-friendly accommodations can be found in the area that will welcome your pet with open arms.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Springhill Suites by Marriott Downtown Greenville. The location is ideal – in easy walking distance to all there is to do along Main Street and downtown Greenville – restaurants, boutique shopping, and entertainment.

The lobby is a great spot to “hang around” with friends!

When I stayed the hotel had only been open for approximately 3 weeks so needless to say was beautiful, brand new, immaculate and comfortable.

It’s a beautiful hotel that has you feeling like you are staying at a resort in the middle of the city. The amenities include free high speed internet service, a 24/7 state of the art techno gym facility, an outdoor seasonal pool and sundeck, and a complimentary breakfast every morning. Top of the line toiletries are in each room as well as coffee, coffee maker and mini-refrigerator.

The hotel offers one restaurant, Oak & Honey, as well as a free hot breakfast buffet and a convenience store. The menu at Oak & Honey offers something for everyone and their bar menu has a large selection to choose from.

Things to do

There is so much to see and do in Greenville that you won’t be able to visit just once!

The Greenville Zoo, the BMW Performance Center, Carolina Music Museum and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate are just a few of the many things for the family to do together.

Wineries, breweries, distilleries and spas can be added on for the adults. The list of things to do, places to see and attractions to enjoy is huge. You can make your list as long as you like depending on how long you’ll be visiting.

You can create a visit that focuses on outdoor activities, museums, food or just about anything else you can think of. I know I can’t wait to go back!