Tag Archives: Eco-Tourism

Jelly Beans – A Flavor For Everyone

Elizabeth, our conductor, is standing proud, smiling, and wearing an old train uniform from days past that touches the heart of my inner-child.

“You can sit anywhere you want,” she says greeting everyone in our group.

Stepping on the light blue colored section of the train, I don the paper hat given to me, clip the black seat belt and settle in. As the factory sensors detect the train’s motion, overhead lights illuminate the area at station one.  I take notice of the mosaic Jelly Belly art and I hear a child’s excitement as he points at the wall monitor.

Kendall and Reagan (left-right) happily waiting for the Jelly Belly factory tour to begin. Kendall’s favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor is banana while Reagan enjoys the cotton candy jelly bean.
Kendall and Reagan (left-right) happily waiting for the Jelly Belly factory tour to begin. Kendall’s favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor is banana while Reagan enjoys the cotton candy jelly bean.

“Look,” he says as he briefly grabs the black train handle in front of him. Wearing a long sleeve shirt, sitting low and placing his hand on his party hat, I’m absorbing his enthusiasm.

The train stops with the Jelly Belly CEO appearing on the screen at station one. Feeling excitement from a handsome lad behind me, I start to wonder what flavor jelly bean pleases the taste buds of everyone on board.  I imagine, with deep fervor, what the new beer flavored jelly bean tastes like. Is it possible that a jelly bean can actually taste like beer is the question on my mind. Then I think wine. Is there a wine flavored jelly bean – a cab franc or a Shiraz?

After tuning out the video due to being lost in my child-like trance fantasizing of a Shiraz flavored jelly bean, we arrive at station two.  The story behind conception of the mosaic art by artist Pete Rocha comes on the screen. Childhood nostalgia is flowing through my body while we watch a segment on Rocha and his Jelly Belly mosaic of former President Reagan. “Reagan used to always have a jar of jelly beans within his reach,” I say softly as we take off for station three.

Over the next fifteen minutes we learn about the infusion process of Jelly Belly’s unique flavors – from mixing the center of a jelly bean to a bean taking shape – from the engrossing process to polishing. Along the way employees wave with smiles on their faces as they move around boxes and shrink-wrap pallets for delivery. The train makes a right turn and pulls up to the exit door leading into the gift shop.

Sam the “Sample Man” handing samples of jelly beans to Isaiah, Elise and Everett.
Sam the “Sample Man” handing samples of jelly beans to Isaiah, Elise and Everett.

Walking through the door I pass the floor display with bags of “Belly Flops – Irregular Jelly Beans.” These poor little guys didn’t make the cut of being an authentic Jelly Belly yet still taste delicious. I happily walk up to the sample counter and ask Sam for the beer flavored jelly bean. He hands two jelly beans a piece to two women in line and then me. We toss them in our mouths.

“They taste just like beer,” says the shorter woman.

“I feel like I’m sitting at a ballpark,” I say wide-eyed with amazement.

The Civil War Museum

For a brief second, the room went dark and quiet. Gunfire started popping above me. From my peripheral vision I saw rifles take aim then fire across the battlefield. Explosions of cannon fire found my backside, and as I caught my bearings, a soldier pointed his musket in my direction. With a loud crack, smoke billowed from the barrel of his weapon and a burst of cold air shot down on my head.

The Upper Middle West troops from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana were engaged in battle, and we were surrounded in every direction. Was I dreaming of being in the middle of war or experiencing it firsthand? No. I was watching the new ten minute movie “Seeing the Elephant” on the 360 degree screen at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Civil War Museum, Kenosha WI
Civil War Museum, Kenosha WI

Lying close to the shores of Lake Michigan, this 57,000 square foot museum won an architectural award for its design that resonates with its theme. The exterior structure was built to resemble a fort from the East Coast with the main hallway being designed to model the old railroad trestles of 1800’s. The six states that were in the Upper Middle West during the Civil War are represented with their state flags hanging from the ceiling along the main entryway.

Travel back in time by walking through “The Fiery Trial” – the main exhibit in the museum. State-of-the-art museum technology allows visitors to experience firsthand the political, economic and social climate starting from the 1850’s leading up to the Union in crisis and eventual war with the Confederacy.

Through the eyes of the soldiers, nurses, countrymen, children and slaves, visitors will learn about the Upper Middle West’s role in supplying resources to the war effort. With rare artifacts on display from the six different states that participated, guests will be able to see and learn about the many contributions and sacrifices every man, women and child made to support their loved ones.

Young visitors posing with the Model 1841 6 Pounder Gun. The 6 pounders were used during the beginning of the war only to be replaced by newer models with increased range and firepower.
Young visitors posing with the Model 1841 6 Pounder Gun. The 6 pounders were used during the beginning of the war only to be replaced by newer models with increased range and firepower.

On the second floor, the John M. Antaramian Gallery hosts changing exhibits that explore various aspects of the war. From the “Gettysburg and Vicksburg” exhibit that highlights the two major victories that helped secure the Union’s victory in the war, to the upcoming “A House Divided – Illinois and the Civil War,” visitors will have many reasons to revisit the museum to gain a deeper appreciation of what many families went through during this turbulent time in U.S.history.

Throughout the year, the Civil War museum hosts various reenactments where the actors dress in full uniform and walk around in character. Some reenactments are of battles while others are interactive presentations. This award-winning museum has something for everyone to enjoy.

Friends of the Museum members – Free
Youth ages 15 and under, accompanied by adult – Free
Adults $7.00 – Kenosha/Somers Residents $5.00

Hipmunk City Love: 12 Fun Activities in Houston for Those on a Budget

Blog Post Type: Planning a Trip to a City

If you’re visiting Houston and you need to stick to a tight budget, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a wonderful time. A number of destinations in Houston are free or low-cost.

1. Spend an evening under the stars watching classical music, ballet, dance, film, and more at Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park. The events are free of charge, and BYOB is welcome.

2. Art enthusiasts can check out the Menil Collection. This art collection by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil is a local treasure and one of the top free destinations in Houston. If eclectic, eccentric and surrealism captures your interest, the Menil Collection will satisfy your cravings.

Houston1

Photo by Scott Roth Events via Trover.com

3. Go on a walk and talk while shopping for fresh produce at the Green Market in Discovery Green Park. If you are visiting in the spring or fall, come back in the evening to listen to live music in the amphitheater.

4. Enjoy a history lesson of the Port of Houston with a 90-minute boat tour. Visitors will see freighters and barges leave and arrive along the 50-mile channel. Reservations are required, but the tour is free.

5. Tour Houston using Houston Greeters. This unique tour offers insights from local residents as they take travelers to local attractions and cultural destinations. Do you need someone to jog with or play a round of golf? You may join a Houston Greeter to take part in various activities.

6. Do you love museums and the great outdoors? The Heritage Society is an outdoor interactive museum and park in Sam Houston Park. The Heritage Society educates and preserves Houston’s rich history through collections and exhibits.

Houston2

Photo by Albert Nurick via Trover.com

7. If the summer heat is getting to you while you explore Houston, make your way over to Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park and cool off with the park’s architectural fountain, which pumps 78,500 gallons of water every three hours. This 3-acre park, surrounded by 186 oak trees, is perfect for an afternoon break.

8. If you’re hungry and don’t want to wait in lines for a meal, go to Doozo Dumplings and Noodles. The line moves quickly, so have your cash ready. Doozo’s is takeout only, so you’ll be in and out in no time to enjoy a classic Japanese meal.

9. Enjoy a $1 afternoon espresso Monday through Friday (4 to 7 p.m.) at Antidote Coffee House. Exposed brick walls, motley groupings of furniture and artwork, and rubberized concrete floors gives this coffee-house a homey feel for those seeking an eclectic getaway and a caffeine rush.

10. Houston will fulfill your sweet tooth with a variety of gourmet bakeries including The Chocolate Bar, Dessert Gallery, Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, and more. Don’t deny yourself a tasty sweet treat, especially when you know you’ll burn it off as you continue your city tour.

Houston3

Photo by Julia Anuras via Trover.com

11. To save money on Houston’s popular attractions, buy a CityPASS. This booklet of tickets costs $51 for adults or $41 for children. Each booklet has tickets for five attractions. Overall, the CityPASS will save you about half the regular prices you would normally spend.

12. Start your budget savings by staying in cheap hotels in Houston. Hotels are more expensive during the week, but rates go down over the weekend. Plan your travels right, and you’ll save a lot of money in America’s fourth-largest city.

Feature photo by Alonzo Williams Jr via Trover.com

About the Writer

Tony is a freelance travel writer and photographer, roller coaster enthusiast and self-proclaimed Sudoku master. He’s based in the Midwest U.S. and blogs at The Walking Traveler. He is working with Hipmunk on their #HipmunkCityLove Project.

Hipmunk City Love-ing Everything About Munich

“Blog Post Type: Expert Opinion Piece”

Beer for breakfast. Wait?!? A cup of coffee? Cappuccino or espresso instead? Which drink pairs best with a Munchner Weisswurst? Munchner Weisswurst is a traditional Bavarian breakfast consisting of a veal-based sausage served with sweet mustard, a Brezn prezel, and accompanied by a Weissbier (‘white beer’). When in Rome do as the…wait…this is Munich, where beer flows like water and Bavarian cuisine is prominent in everyday meals. A Weissbier is usually served with this traditional breakfast so…when in Munich, do as the Germans do.

Munich beer

Photo by Yasmin via Trover.com

Munich is the capital city of Bavaria in Germany. It’s rich beer culture is second to none and celebrated year round in beer halls and beer gardens throughout the State with the Oktoberfest as the main event. With nearly 7 million people attending a festival this large in 2011 and replicated throughout the world, there is no doubt beer is the national beverage. Drink a Weissbier with the munchner weisswurst? When in Munich, do as the locals do.

For those who are not beer drinkers, you’re in luck. Munich has a strong coffee culture with cafés spread throughout the city. Locals love sitting outside in the sun drinking coffee and watching the crowds go by. Drink coffee and people watch with the locals or take the high-powered drink and go wandering. Tough choice, but easily solvable. Do both. Start the morning at a local café. Sip your espresso and watch how Germans greet and interact with each other. With many English-speaking Bavarians in Munich, a traveler may find a new friend, guide, or travel companion for company while walking the city.

Munich cafe

Photo by Sofia N via Trover.com

Whether one finds a local for a guide or tramping solo, there are plenty of places to see that represent Munich’s art culture, architecture, and history. In the 1800’s, Bavarian Kings made Munich the art capital of Germany and today, Bavaria’s capital city is home to 6 museums, 40 galleries, and 7 art schools. World-class collections are found throughout these buildings showcasing a rich history so deep and expansive, it will take several trips to see everything. I recommend a specific itinerary.

Briennerstraße, Ludwigstraße, Maximilianstraße, and Prinzregentenstraße are the four Royal Avenues and Squares that run through the inner city. Briennerstraße, lined with neo-classical buildings has shops, restaurants, and galleries on its eastern end. Named after King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Ludwigstraße avenue displays Italian romanesque buildings and is the grandest avenue of the four Royal Avenues showing a very uniform look. Maximilianstraße is in the center of town with upscale shops and boutiques. The Haus der Kunst, Schachgalerie, and the Bavarian National Museum are several museums seen along Prinzregentenstraße Avenue. Prinzregentenstraße is rich in history including alterations made along this avenue by the Nazi’s during WWII.

Munich

Photo by At the end of the Rainbow via Trover.com

Palaces, castles, museums, churches, historic buildings, and landmarks are in abundance. I recommend researching Munich and writing specific itineraries before arrival. I also recommend staying as close to the center of the city as possible as it is a good hub for exploring. Hotels in Munich are close to public transportation when you are ready to venture further from the heart of Munichen – “by the monks.”

About the Writer

Tony is a freelance travel writer and photographer, roller coaster enthusiast and self-proclaimed Sudoku master. He’s based in the Midwest U.S. and blogs at The Walking Traveler. He is working with Hipmunk on their #HipmunkCityLove Project.

Feature Photo by Travel Notes & Beyond via Trover.com

13 Eco-Friendly Hotels in Chicago

Blog Post Type: Best of List

The hotel industry operates 24 hours a day and incorporating eco-friendly practices is important to clients. Here is a list of 13 hotels in Chicago that have gone green.

Chicago Skyline Night

Photo by Andy Arana via Trover.com

1. Hotel Allegro, a Kimpton Hotel, is a Green Seal certified hotel. Hotel Allegro takes peace of mind a step further by providing a yoga mat in every room. Sustainable mind, body, and amenities are in full circle at this boutique hotel.

2. A Historic National Landmark, Hotel Burnham enjoys connecting with its guests providing four-star service and “all-about-you” care. Hotel Burnham is a Kimpton Hotel property, so expect eco-friendly practices and the all-important yoga mat.

3. Travelers, look no further for a “whisper-quiet” downtown hotel in the heart of Chicago. Hotel Felix uses behind-the-scenes technologies to balance natural elements. Silence granted after a long day in bustling Chicago.

John Hancock

Photo by Lawrence Wilburn via Trover.com

4. A “Best Hotels in the USA, 2014” winner – USA News & World Report, Hotel Monaco is a Green Seal certified hotel. This hotel uses nontoxic cleaning supplies, recycles habitually, minimizes water usage, and serves organic coffee.

5. Guests who are eco-friendly minded on the road by driving electric cars will enjoy a stay at the Intercontinental Chicago. This luxury hotel on The Magnificent Mile offers vehicle charging stations free of charge to guests.

6. The Talbott Hotel sustainable highlights include: 100% use of wind power for electricity, donation of unused soap and shampoo to charity for the needy, and uses an extensive recycling program using only recycled paper.

7. The Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago is one of seven hotels downtown to receive a Silver Certificate from Green Seal. This hotel’s linen/towel reuse, water conservation, and energy consumption and efficiency programs helped this hotel receive its distinguished certification.

Chicago JH

Photo by Erin… via Trover.com

8. Chicago’s Essex Inn is a Green Seal hotel and takes part in the Illinois Hotel and Lodging StayGreen Program. This program includes “green” roofs, linen and towel reuse, water conservation equipment, and a strict recycling program.

9. The Ritz-Carlton Hotels commit to environmental responsibility, including partnering with local farmers for organic food and using environmentally preferred products. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is no exception having been Green Seal certified.

10. Water conserving fixtures, alternatives to plastic water bottles, low emitting materials including paints, flooring and furniture, and environmentally conserving suppliers are among Sheraton Chicago Hotels & Towers commitment to sound environmental practices.

11. The Fairmont Chicago at Millennium Park takes meeting spaces in hotels to the next level with its Eco-Meet Program. The four key components of this program include carbon neutral meetings, recycled and biodegradable meeting setups, seasonal organic menus, and a linen reuse program.

Bean

Photo by Chole Albin via Trover.com

12. The roof atop of The Palmer House Hilton has a garden that grows vegetables and herbs and produces and harvests fresh produce. The roof also has a bee hive producing fresh honey.

13. LaQuinta Inn & Suites participates in Chicago’s Green Roof Program. Green roofs clean rainwater and improves air quality. This initiative also conserves energy reducing “urban heat island effect.”

Hotels have gone green in a big way. Reducing carbon footprints and being mindful of Earth’s fragile ecosystem has become a priority for hotel design and renovation. When staying at a hotel, ask for a hotel’s environmental sustainable practices and help cut energy and waste consumption.

About the Writer

Tony is a freelance travel writer and photographer, roller coaster enthusiast and self-proclaimed Sudoku master. He is based in the Midwest U.S. and blogs at The Walking Traveler. He is working with Hipmunk on their #HipmunkCityLove Project.

Photo feature by Martijn Sceepers via Trover.com

Where The Locals Go – Providence, Rhode Island

Today I welcome Tamara Gruber from Providence, Rhode Island.  Located at the head of the Narragansett Bay with The Providence River running through the center of the city, Providence, once known as the “Beehive of Industry” has in recent years rebranded itself as the “Creative Capital” due to the many institutions of higher learning and arts community.  Tamara, share with my readers – where do the locals go?TWT: Every destination has a local hot spot. What is the local hot spot in your area and would you please describe the atmosphere?  Why do locals go there?

TG: I’d have to say that Providence’s Downtown is where to be (and it was just named America’s #2 Downtown by Livability.com.) During Waterfire, which is an open air exhibit consisting of over 80 bonfires on the river running through the heart of downtown, thousands of locals and visitors alike gather to see street performers, listen to the haunting music, walk along the river front, enjoy jazz and salsa bands, sample local foods, and even do some fresh air ballroom dancing. While it is reminiscent of Venice with its candlebra-lit arched bridges and gondolas gliding through the river, there really is nothing like it. You just never know what you’ll find happening downtown. My nephew recently visited during a FirstWorks festival and we witnessed the Bandaloops “dancing” and twirling down the face of a eight story building while flashmobs, roller derby, and graffiti artists were performing elsewhere.

TWT: Your friend is flying into town for the first time and wants to experience the local food scene, where would you take him/her?  What are some of the dishes you would recommend?  How is the ambiance?

TG: My favorite restaurant in Providence is Bacaro, which is an Italian restaurant and salumeria. It is a lively, two-story restaurant right on the Waterfront in an old, classic brick building in the historic part of town. Downstairs is the bar and deli case showcasing their cased meats and cheeses. Upstairs it is a little quieter with a view of the open kitchen and the river. The wood-grilled, paper thin-crusted Margherita pizza qualifies in the “best thing I ever ate” category but you really can’t go wrong with anything. In addition to the menu, they offer a wide selection of charcturie and hot and cold small plates, making it a perfect place for sharing with a group. I highly recommend the pork belly from the hot tapas menu and the Pasta con i funghi, which is a homemade tagliatelle pasta with mushrooms, butter and a truffle-egg on top. Delicious! For dessert, plan ahead and order the fruit crisp at the beginning of the meal because it takes 20 to 40 minutes to make.

TWT: Travelers enjoy learning about the local art scene when they arrive in new locations.  Are there local artists (musicians, painters, poetry writers, etc.) in your area that perform or feature their work?  Where can travelers go for these experiences? 

TG: Providence is the home of Rhode Island School of Design so you will have ample opportunity to see the very vibrant art scene. On the third Thursday of every month galleries across the city open their doors for a free “Gallery Night” event. You can also see thousands of pieces of fine art every day at the RISD museum. There are a variety of theater choices including Trinity Rep, the Gamm Theater, Providence Performing Arts Center (which hosts touring Broadway shows) and Vets Memorial, home to the RI Philharmonic Orchestra. For more live music, you can check out the schedule of Lupos Heartbreak Hotel or any number of other clubs in the area.

TWT: What are some of the more popular festivals in town?  Are they held annually, several times a year, once a month?  What time of the year do they take place?  Where can travelers go to find out more information?

TG: The most popular festival is certainly Waterfire, which takes place on various evenings (mostly weekends) from May to October. In addition, there is the FirstWorks Festival (which doesn’t take place at any regular times), and other neighborhood street fairs and festivals. For more information, travelers should look at goprovidence.com or Waterfire.org.

TWT: If travelers want to experience recreational activities during their stay, what can they do and where can they go?

TG: Providence offers an excellent bike path that goes along the East Bay down to Bristol, RI (home of the nation’s oldest 4th of July celebration) with excellent water views.  People also enjoy running or walking along the Blackstone Boulevard in Providence’s East Side, a two lane street with a greenway in the middle. Families might enjoy the playground at Lippitt Park or picking up some fresh produce at the Saturday Farmer’s Market located there. Nearby there is also rock climbing (indoor at RockSpot Gym or outdoor at Lincoln Woods), kayaking along the Blackstone River, or visiting one of the many beaches that give Rhode Island the name of Ocean State.

Caffe Dolce Vita
Caffe Dolce Vita

TWT: Many travelers pick destinations that offer voluntourism / eco-tourism / activism / volunteer opportunities.  What types of opportunities exist in your area?

TG: Save the Bay is an organization geared to cleaning up the Narragansett Bay and shoreline. They offer volunteer opportunities for beach clean ups and also Seal Watch tours that educate people about the wildlife in the Bay.

TWT: I know travelers like certain forms of transportation.  Some like to walk and/or bike while others prefer to get around at a quicker pace.   What is the best way for travelers to get around town? 

TG: Providence is a really easy city to get around. If you are up to a few hills, it is very walkable. In fact, it was named a Top 10 Most Walkable City by The Huffington Post. If you are coming from out of town, it is very easy to drive in the city and many restaurants offer valet parking. The Amtrak and MBTA trains come right into downtown Providence, which is then walkable to the local bus depot. Lyft, a car service startup, also just began operating in Providence. Finally, if you are flying into TF Green Airport or taking the train, there are Zipcars around the city if you needs wheels for just a short period of time.

TWT: For those who want to get away for a day for some peace and quiet, yet still take in the scenery, where are some areas that travelers can go to “get away from it all” and still enjoy the outdoors?

TG: My suggestion would  be to get out of downtown and visit Roger Williams Park, which is a 427-acre park in Providence that houses a zoo, natural history museum, botanical gardens, boathouse, carousel, and much more. If they want to go further afield, I would recommend biking either the East Bay Bikepath or the Blackstone Valley Bikeway. Lastly, I’d head to the beach, probably Charlestown State Beach after the crowds have gone and walk along the beach looking for driftwood.

TWT: Travelers can get a sense of culture by observing their surroundings and people watch.  Where can travelers go in your area to engage in this popular activity?

TG: Everywhere! Rhode Island was founded on principles of diversity and religious freedom. It is an up and coming city with strong racial, ethnic and social-economic diversity. Plus the addition of Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University adds that funky, college town feel to it. I’d check out the Providence Flea — a flea market that takes place on the grass near the river on South Water Street and is more artsy/craftsy/antiques than junk, one of the outdoor farmer’s markets, go to a Brown or Providence Bruins hockey game, take in a Pawtucket Red Sox game, walk around Providence Place Mall, or hang out in DePasquale Square on Federal Hill, Providence’s Little Italy.

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Claimed to be founded on seven hills, geographically compact and easily accessible by foot, travelers have an opportunity to experience Providence’s culture, arts and food scene all within a 20 mile radius.  With the downtown area being the main attraction that offers an abundance of waterfront activities to heightening your senses with its vibrant art scene, travelers will experience modern day Providence while walking through the richness of one of the oldest cities in the United States.

Tamara is a family travel blogger at We3Travel.com (link http://www.we3travel.com). A NJ-native, she moved from NYC to RI with her husband in 2002 and can’t believe they are still there!

You can contact Tony Toto a.k.a. The Walking Traveler at thewalkingtraveler@gmail.com

 

Where The Locals Go – Innsbruck, Austria

The next spotlight in my series is with Irene and Stefano from Innsbruck, Austria.  Located in the Inn Valley, Innsbruck is the capital city of the federal state of Tyrol and is internationally known for its winter sports.  If you are an adventurer who enjoys outdoor sports and recreation, Innsbruck has many opportunities for you to experience thrills of all sorts.  Where do the locals go in Innsbruck?

TWT: Every destination has a local hot spot. What is the local hot spot in your area and would you please describe the atmosphere?  Why do locals go there?

I & S: Innsbruck’s town centre is its hot spot! The old town and Maria-Theresien-Straße are closed for traffic and boast countless cafés and restaurants. The atmosphere is relaxed and it is a great place to enjoy the sun and a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.

TWT: Your friend is flying into town for the first time and wants to experience the local food scene, where would you take him/her?  What are some of the dishes you would recommend?  How is the ambiance? 

I & S: Innsbruck has an incredible number of traditional Tyrolean restaurants where you can enjoy authentic cuisine. Our recommendations for a rustic ambiance are the Kranebitterhof (on the outskirts of Innsbruck), Theresienbräu (in Maria-Theresien-Straße), which even brews its own beer, and the Tiroler Bauernkeller (in Meinhardstraße).

Must-try dishes include Schnitzel (breaded veal or pork butterfly cut), Gröstl (roasted potatoes with ham or meat) and Käsespätzle (dough “noodles” with cheese and roasted onions).

TWT: Travelers enjoy learning about the local art scene when they arrive in new locations.  Are there local artists (musicians, painters, poetry writers, etc.) in your area that perform or feature their work?  Where can travelers go for these experiences? 

I & S: We can recommend the (mostly alternative) concerts at the Treibhaus and the iconic Weekender club. High-quality theatre productions can be enjoyed at the Landestheater.

TWT: What are some of the more popular festivals in town?  Are they held annually, several times a year, once a month?  What time of the year do they take place?  Where can travelers go to find out more information?

I & S: Innsbruck hosts a series of sports events, including an annual ski jumping World Cup (January 4) – the atmosphere in the ski jumping stadium is amazing! We can also recommend the Golden Roof Challenge (in June) an athletics competition right in front of the famous Golden Roof in the old town. The Tanzsommer (summer months) brings world-class dance productions to Innsbruck. If you are visiting in December don’t miss the famous Christmas markets. More information can be found on the Innsbruck Tourism website (innsbruck.info).

TWT: If travelers want to experience recreational activities during their stay, what can they do and where can they go?

I & S: Innsbruck is THE destination for adventure travellers. Head up the mountains to ski, snowboard, hike or paraglide or get your adrenaline kick while river rafting or canyoning. If thermal baths are your thing, head to the Aqua Dome in Längenfeld (1 hour drive from Innsbruck). The popular Area 47 (half an hour drive) offers countless outdoor adventures in one spot.

Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria

TWT: Many travelers pick destinations that offer voluntourism / eco-tourism / activism / volunteer opportunities.  What types of opportunities exist in your area?

I & S: The Tyrol region is very eco-friendly and unspoilt nature can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere. If you would like to explore the magnificent Austrian countryside, check out the Nature Watch programme.

TWT: I know travelers like certain forms of transportation.  Some like to walk and/or bike while others prefer to get around at a quicker pace.   What is the best way for travelers to get around town? 

I & S: The best way to get around Innsbruck is by (rental) bicycle or bus. The town centre is very walkable and therefore best explored by foot, especially as the old town is a pedestrian zone.

TWT: For those who want to get away for a day for some peace and quiet, yet still take in the scenery, where are some areas that travelers can go to “get away from it all” and still enjoy the outdoors? 

I & S: The great outdoors start right in town! Just hop onto the cable railway, head up the Nordkette mountain range and enjoy breathtaking views. Other options include the Achensee lake region or a trip to the Stubai valley. The Hofgarten park in the town centre is also a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet.

TWT: Travelers can get a sense of culture by observing their surroundings and people watch.  Where can travelers go in your area to engage in this popular activity?

I & S: Just choose an outdoor table at any of the cafés in Maria-Theresien-Straße or Innsbruck’s scenic old town and enjoy!

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Surrounded by the Alps, Innsbruck is the economic and cultural center of western Austria.  Due to the feasibility and popularity of its location, Innsbruck is a high tourist location bringing in many visitors from around the world.  Whether you are going there for adventure or relaxing in the beauty of Mother Nature’s surroundings, Innsbruck will be sure to provide whatever suits your delight.

To learn more about Irene and Stefano, you can follow them on their blog:  Freelancers On The Road

You can contact Tony Toto a.k.a. The Walking Traveler at thewalkingtraveler@gmail.com

Where The Locals Go – Bangalore, India

Over the last 5 years I have connected with amazing people from all over the globe on my Facebook page and I am proud to call them friends.  I wanted to hear stories about their hometown.  We as travelers go to experience new cultures, foods and festivals while on the road.  It would take a lifetime, if not longer to experience every location and everything that destination has to offer.  This prompted me to start a series called “Where The Locals Go.”

The next interview in my series is Tanya Raj who lives in Bangalore, India.  Bangalore is the capital city of the Indian state Karnataka and is known as the “Garden City of India” due to its pleasant climate, greenery and many parks.  Located on the Deccan Plateau in the southeastern part of Karnataka, Bangalore offers an abundance of activities for travelers to experience.  What can travelers experience in Bangalore that the locals engage in?

TWT:  Every destination has a local hot spot. What is the local hot spot in your area and would you please describe the atmosphere? Why do locals go there?

TR:  Hands down this has to be the tri-area of Brigade Road, MG Road and Commercial Street.  These areas, in immediate vicinity to each other, are the shopping hub of Bangalore, where you can find shops selling antiques to High-Street brands.  The general atmosphere is kind of a dichotomy – chaotic yet vibrant.  Be it wedding shopping or casual everyday items, people flock here for good deals and bargaining.

TWT:  Your friend is flying into town for the first time and wants to experience the local food scene, where would you take him/her? What are some of the dishes you would recommend? How is the ambience?

TR:  To experience the local food scene, I would take them to the Russell Market.  This is one of the oldest open air market that sells a plethora of farm fresh produces and on-the-go street food.  Try out the famous mouth-watering Shawarmas here.

For a more traditional meal, head over to MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) for a sumptuous meal of dosas and idils, dipped in sambar and coconut chutney.

TWT:  Travelers enjoy learning about the local art scene when they arrive in new locations. Are there local artists (musicians, painters, poetry writers, etc.) in your area that perform or feature their work? Where can travelers go for these experiences?

TR:  Bangalore is a great place to be for people with artistic inclinations.  Known as the cultural capital of India, this city is host to the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat – a state of the art college that offers long and short term courses along with exhibitions of traditional and international artists.

Ravindra Kalakshetra is another place to check out.  Built as a commemorative to Rabindranath Tagore, it hosts the works of many renowned artists from across the globe.  While in Bangalore, a must do is attending a play in one of the many theaters like Ranga Shankara and Jagriti.

TWT:  What are some of the more popular festivals in town? Are they held annually, several times a year, once a month? What time of the year do they take place? Where can travelers go to find out more information?

TR:  The two annual festivals of Bangalore that are celebrated with full pomp and show are – Bengaluru Habba and Bangalore Karaga Festival.

The Bengaluru Habba, a 10 day cultural event, is a melting pot of artists from across the state who showcase their talents at the various designated venues.  Celebrated in the months of chilly November-December, this festival attracts 2,000+ artists from the state of Karnataka along with 250+ artists from all over India.  The events held include music, dance, street theater, film festivals, sporting tournaments and the renowned vintage car rally!

The Bangalore Karaga is a religious festival held at the Dharmaraya Temple in the months of March-April.  This festival includes a chariot procession with performers dressed in ancient attire, that starts at midnight and ends with the break of the dawn.

TWT:  If travelers want to experience recreational activities during their stay, what can they do and where can they go?

TR:  For recreational activities within the city, travelers should visit Lalbagh.  This 240 acre park is home to approximately 1,000 exotic and endemic species of flora of the region.  The annual flower show along with the 3,000 million years old Lalbagh Rock, attracts numerous visitors all year round.

There are many historic attractions too that the visitors can explore, like Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, the 400 years old Big Banyan Tree, Bangalore Fort and Bangalore Palace.

Bangalore Palace
Bangalore Palace

TWT:  Many travelers pick destinations that offer volunteerism / eco-tourism / activism / volunteer opportunities. What types of opportunities exist in your area?

TR:  The Karnataka Forest Department is in-charge of the maintenance and sustenance of the numerous forest reserves that surround the city.  Travelers looking for eco-tourism and volunteerism should pick destinations around Bangalore like the Bannerghatta National Park or Bandipur National Park among many more.  There are a lot conservation efforts for flora and fauna and visitors can look for opportunities in the sanctuaries and reserves around the city.  To find more information see this link: Karnataka Forest Department

TWT:  I know travelers like certain forms of transportation. Some like to walk and/or bike while others prefer to get around at a quicker pace. What is the best way for travellers to get around town?

TR:  The best way to get from one place to another is by three-wheeler auto rickshaws (beware of the “one and a half”, “double meter” and “Rs. 20 extra” terms used by the drivers to fleece the passengers).  A metro rail link is under construction and at the moment connects a small section of the city.  Apart from these, state run Volvo buses are a cheaper and more comfortable option (although time consuming).  Taxis are also available on a pre-booking basis.

TWT:  For those who want to get away for a day for some peace and quiet, yet still take in the scenery, where are some areas that travelers can go to “get away from it all” and still enjoy the outdoors?

TR:  An hour’s drive from the city is the Nandi Hills, one of the best spots to get a bird’s eye view of the city and leave it all behind.  Along with a 1,000 year old temple located at the peak, visitors can also visit a small summer palace of Tipu Sultan here.  Apart from this, there are numerous hillocks around Bangalore known for trekking and climbing.

TWT:  Travelers can get a sense of culture by observing their surroundings and people watch. Where can travelers go in your area to engage in this popular activity?

TR:  To get a root level feel of the traditional and ancient culture of Bangalore, travelers should visit the residential area of Malleshwaram.  One of the oldest settlements of Bangalore, this area is still inhabited by the old time natives (unlike the rest of the city which has seen a tremendous growth in population from other states).  The lifestyle, culture and traditions here are still intact and this area is also home to the oldest temples, some dating back 7,000 years.

Apart from this, Bangalore is known as the Garden city of India and almost 55% of the city is covered with gardens and lakes.  Take a leisurely stroll along Cubbon Park – the largest green space in the city – or along Ulsoor Lake, to observe the surroundings and mingle with the locals.

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Travelers, if you don’t have an opportunity to stay in Bangalore for an extended period of time, Tanya has provided wonderful insights for you to engage in that will allow you to experience the people, culture and beauty of the “Garden City of India.”  History is well established in India and as you travel through Bangalore and the outlining region, let your mind relax to welcome in the mastery of her traditions.

To learn more about India and Tanya Raj, follow her on her blog: Wandering Ruminations

You can contact Tony Toto a.k.a. The Walking Traveler at thewalkingtraveler@gmail.com     

Where The Locals Go – Virovitica, Croatia

Over the last 5 years I have connected with amazing people from all over the globe on my Facebook page and I am proud to call them friends.  I wanted to hear stories about their hometown.  We as travelers go to experience new cultures, foods and festivals while on the road.  It would take a lifetime, if not longer to experience every location and everything that destination has to offer.  This prompted me to start a series called “Where The Locals Go.”

To start off this series, I interviewed my friend Marinel who lives in Virovitica, Croatia.  Virovitica is a small town located on the northern slopes of the Bilogora Mountain near the Croatian-Hungarian border.   Virovitica is a transit hub for tourists due to the intersection of several roadways and a railway that can take travelers north to Hungary, Northwest into Slovenia, further south into Croatia and Boznia-Herzegovina and east into Serbia.  What can travelers experience while in Virovitica, Croatia?

TWT:  Every destination has a local hotspot. What is the local hot spot in your area and would you please describe the atmosphere?  Why do locals go there?

MS:  Here in Virovitica, we love drinking coffee.  We don’t have one single coffee hotspot, but all coffee houses are where the locals go.  Friends and couples go to to coffee houses to talk about everything and anything.  These are great places to exchange information and vibrations.  The atmosphere is friendly and down to earth.

TWT:  Your friend is flying into town for the first time and wants to experience the local food scene, where would you take him/her?  What are some of the dishes you would recommend?  How is the ambiance?  

MS:  I would drive them to the countryside where we would go to a small village with gardens.  Almost every farm house has a garden in these small villages and we would pick organic food to prepare our meal.  Organic vegetables, chicken and eggs are popular and we can make a quality meal from these gardens.  There is no specific dish, we would experiment.

TWT:  Travelers enjoy learning about the local art scene when they arrive in new locations.  Are there local artists (musicians, painters, poetry writers, etc.) in your area that perform or feature their work?  Where can travelers go for these experiences? 

MS:  Yes.  I have friends who are artists and they can display their artwork in castle Pejacevic.  Castle Pejacevic is owned by members of the Pejacevic noble family.  You can go there to experience the castle and see art from the locals.  It is also a museum from the 11th century.  Travelers who visit will be able to experience local art and gain a sense of our history.

Castle Pejacevic is owned by the noble family Pejacevic. The castle hosts a museum and local art.
Castle Pejacevic is owned by the noble family Pejacevic. The castle hosts a museum and local art.

TWT:  What are some of the more popular festivals in town?  Are they held annually, several times a year, once a month?  What time of the year do they take place?  Where can travelers go to find out more information?

MS:  In August, Virovitica celebrates to mark the founding of our city.  We have a celebration with music, food and singers in town.  We’ve had jugglers from Macedonia come to town to perform for the celebration along with other performers from around Europe.  It is a fun way for travelers to experience our local pride and culture.

TWT:  If travelers want to experience recreational activities during their stay, what can they do and where can they go?

MS:  Fishing is big in our area.  We have carp in our lakes but you need a license to fish.  You can go with someone who has a license and watch them fish.  If you fish without a license and catch something, you have to throw it back.  We have jogging and walking paths where we can walk/run for exercise.  Locals enjoy going to Drava River.  You can swim but be careful because some places are fast.  We have picnics, cookouts and BBQ’s around the river and lakes.  This is always a good time for everyone, especially being in the outdoors.

TWT:  Many travelers pick destinations that offer voluntourism / eco-tourism / activism / volunteer opportunities.  What types of opportunities exist in your area? 

MS:  We are a small town of 20,000 people so we don’t have a big opportunity for this.  However, If someone is traveling through town and stays for a day or two and wanted to help out, he/she can volunteer in the local gardens in the small villages.  Ask first before you do so.  If you are staying with a family or in a hotel, you can always ask around to see who would like some volunteer work.  Check out the Mozart hotel in the forest, it is a beautiful place.

TWT:  I know travelers like certain forms of transportation.  Some like to walk and/or bike while others prefer to get around at a quicker pace.   What is the best way for travelers to get around town? 

MS:   By foot and car.  Everything in our town is accessible by foot.  We have two major roadways that intersect in our town.  This is a good way for people to get here.  Once they are here, park your car, walk around and enjoy our little community.

TWT:  For those who want to get away for a day for some peace and quiet, yet still take in the scenery, where are some areas that travelers can go to “get away from it all” and still enjoy the outdoors?

MS:  There is a place called “Brana” near Virovitica in a place called Špišić Bukovica.  It is a 20 minute bike ride from Virovitica.  There is a beautiful forest, a park and a place to fish.  There is also a park all around castle Pejačević here in town.  All of these places are good for relaxing and enjoying the outdoors.

TWT:  Travelers can get a sense of culture by observing their surroundings and people watch.  Where can travelers go in your area to engage in this popular activity?  

MS:  You can sit on a bench and observe people walking by, but the best way to get to know our culture is go to a coffee shop.  Sit and listen then start engaging with the locals.  We like engaging in conversations so if you come to one of our coffee shops, you will get to know us better while enjoying a nice cup of coffee.

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If you are traveling in the Balkan countries and are close to the Croatian-Hungarian border needing a place to stay for the night or rest for a few days, Virovitica is a small quiet community for any traveler to rest and recharge their energy. Depending on where you are headed next after resting, you can easily access the major roadways that intersect through town to experience the rest of Croatia or the surrounding Balkan countries.

You can contact Tony Toto a.k.a. The Walking Traveler at thewalkingtraveler@gmail.com