The Daily Traveler: Lunar New Year Around the World


Not only did I enjoy researching this article—and all the delicious dinners that accompanied it—but I turned it around in less than a week.

Lunar New Year: Cool Hotel Perks and Special Events Around the World

Start off the Year of the Snake at one of these festive destinations—then venture out for citywide celebrations.

Las Vegas

THE HOTEL: Bellagio Las Vegas

THE PACKAGE: From February 14 to February 17, you're invited to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse—China's equivalent to Camp David (and formerly the hotel's Tuscan Kitchen)—to dine on cuisine normally reserved for royalty, presidents, and prime ministers. Bellagio chef Hao Baoli—known for modernizing ancient menus from the library of the Forbidden City—leads a ten-course tasting menu, paired with wine and cognac, cooked and served by staff direct from the real Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, and presented on dishware from China. (Tickets are $500 per person and can be purchased via Bellagio’s concierge at 866-906-7171). For something a little more casual, the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are also decked out in a New Year theme through March 3.

VENTURE OUT: Las Vegas holds its CNY in the Desert Festival from February 8 to February 10, with cultural performances, a fun run, a lantern festival, and other events taking place throughout the area all weekend. The Chinese American Chamber of Commerce follows suit with the Chinese New Year Celebration and Asian Food Festival on February 17, with dragon and lion dances, martial arts demonstrations, Japanese taiko drummers, acrobats, and traditional dances from China, Japan, Polynesia, Vietnam, and Korea.

Click through to read the rest of the article at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photograph courtesy of The Bellagio

The Daily Traveler: Wacky Travel Accessories II

If you enjoyed my other article about the strangest travel gear, here is the addendum.

Even More Wacky Travel Accessories

The Walker's Path Illuminating Belt

When stumbling around in the near-dark, for obvious reasons it's best to be as unencumbered as possible. Flashlights tie up your hands, and headlamps mess up your hair (not to mention blind anyone you talk to). This LED belt provides 100 lumens of unhindered, crotch-level illumination, the angle of which can be adjusted from floodlight to spotlight. You do run the risk, however, of looking like a Care Bear in the midst of a Care Bear Stare. Available at Hammacher Schlemmer, $60.


Click through to see the rest of the slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Daily Traveler: Itineraries Inspired by Oscar's Best Picture Nominees

Where to Vacation: Travel Inspired by the Best Picture Nominees

The Oscar nominees for Best Picture were announced this morning—and not only do they tell some pretty amazing stories, but they also showcase some pretty amazing locations. Take a cue from the silver screen and plan one of these cinematic getaways in D.C., Paris, Los Angeles, and more.

Re-Create Life in "The Bathtub" of Beasts of the Southern Wild
Destination: New Orleans, Louisiana
Beasts of the Southern Wild centers on a fictional Louisiana Bayou community that calls itself "The Bathtub." And if there's one thing that the denizens of the Bathtub like to do—for better or for worse—it's drink. Celebrate in their style by taking our New Orleans bar crawl: We have nearly 40 suggestions of where to imbibe, including Bar Tonique for Sazeracs, Tujague's for grashoppers, and Liuzza's Restaurant and Bar for good ol' cold beer. Just don't try visiting all of them in one night, or you'll be so drunk that you'll see visions of the mythical aurox coming to get you. Better get some food to go with all that liquor. Hushpuppy (Oscar-nominated Quvenzhané Wallis), the heroine of Beasts, is taught by her father to fish with her bare hands, but we suggest trying something that's seen a little more culinary attention, such as the Creole innovations at R'evolution and the tasting menu at the soon-to-open Square Root. If you'd prefer to get a little closer to the spirit of the bathtub, visit Isle de Jean Charles, a small fishing village southwest of New Orleans, where the film was shot.

Click through to see the rest of the slide show at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo by Matthew D White/Getty Images

The Daily Traveler: Wacky Travel Accessories


Whenever you travel, you have your essentials: your passport, your carry-on, your in-flight distraction of choice (iPad, Kindle, magazine). Then you have items that are…not so necessary, like these 10 odd travel gadgets and gizmos I wrote about for the Condé Nast Traveler website.

Portable Infrared Sauna
If your hotel doesn't have its own spa, but you can't live without your daily schvitz, just bring the sauna with you. The system deploys 600-watt, infrared heaters to make you work up a sweat—you just have to be cool with looking like you're resting in the world's least comfortable sleeping bag., $400

Click through to read the rest at the Condé Nast Traveler.

The Daily Traveler: Apocalypse Tourism

I suggested seven end-of-times destinations for a slideshow tied to theories about a Mayan-predicted apocaylpse.

Where to Go for the Apocalypse, In Case the World Ends Next Month

Go to the Source
The Mayans are the ones causing the end-of-the-world speculation, so learn all you can about Mayan culture to get some perspective on the situation. First order of business: a visit to some Mayan ruins. Why choose just one? Tour D'Afrique, Ltd. is running La Ruta Maya: The Doomsday Ride, a 1,429-mile bicycling trip that'll take you throughout the heart of Mayan country. The full, six-week cycling experience kicked off November 17, but you can join for sections of the route, which traverses Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Along the way, you'll visit the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Copan, and Lamani. If you're not interested in all that exertion—the end of the world means you can let yourself go, after all—perhaps you'd prefer to make your Mayan adventure a side trip in an otherwise all-inclusive, screw-it-all-because-the-world-is-ending beach vacation. In that case, Best Day Tours runs trips to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, as well as Tulum and Xel-Ha from Mexico's Riviera Maya.

Live in Denial
Perhaps it'll make you feel better to think about other inaccurate apocalyptic predictions. William Miller, a figure who emerged during the Second Great Awakening in America, studied his "Book of Revelation" and decided that the Second Coming could be nailed to a specific date: October 22, 1844. When the day came and went with no sign of a prophecy fulfilled, it became known as the Great Disappointment. You can visit the William Miller House and Chapel, where he lived in Hampton, New York, close to the border of Vermont. The fact that they're both still standing, despite confident prognostications suggesting otherwise, should provide some comfort.

Head for the Hills
Book a flight to France: Some believe that the 200-person town of Bugarach will be spared when the apocalypse arrives. Why? You'd think its remoteness, being snuggled away in the Pyrénées, would insulate it from any harm. You'd be wrong. According to the Huffington Post, those who seek safety there believe that the aliens who will cause the end of times are storing their spaceships in the 1,230-meter-high Pic de Bugarach mountain, and they're planning to spare the locals when it's time to blast off. The mayor has even banned climbing the peak on December 21, fearing for the safety of apocalypse-minded tourists. The Guardian writes that Bugarach's infamy is because of "a prophecy/internet rumour, which no one has ever quite got to the bottom of," but it's as good a spot as any for bet-hedging.

Click through to read the rest of the slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo Courtesy Tour d'Afrique

The Daily Traveler: Floating Hotels/Boatels

The World's Coolest Boat Hotels—And They're Not All on Water

From small and scrappy vessels to big barges, boats of all stripes have inspired unique accommodations—and I did a round-up of some of the most interesting ones for the Condé Nast Traveler.

A Room for London

London, England

Who says that boats have to float on the water? A Room for London's boat is docked on top of London's Queen Elizabeth hall at the Southbank Centre, looking out onto the London Eye, the Thames, Big Ben, and St. Paul's Cathedral. And though the boat—the design of which was inspired by the Roi des Belges from Heart of Darkness, complete with crow's nest—only has one bedroom, it's big enough to house an octagonal library with a huge selection of books. A Room for London was meant to be a temporary installation, but it sold out its initial offering of bookings. Demand was so high that Living Architecture, which created the room, is looking to see if it has a life beyond 2012, possibly in other destinations.

Click through to see the rest of the slideshow at the website of the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photograph by Charles Hosea / Courtesy of Living Architecture

The Daily Traveler: Unique Plane Liveries


Airplane Art: Eye-Catching Liveries that Go Beyond the Logo

Planes are not usually the most visually distinct modes of transportation—most of them sport the airline's logo and nothing else. But some airlines put a little more thought into the planes' exteriors or add special liveries to their fleet. I created a slideshow for The Condé Nast Traveler's website. Here's an example:  


You don't need a flight lesson every time you get into a plane, but Kulula's Boeing 737-800 will give you one anyway. The plane is covered in helpful diagrams, such as an arrow that points to the captain's window and deferentially declares "captain, my captain," or one that points out the plane's black box before parenthetically noting that it's actually orange. (We'll let you figure out what "the mile-high club initiation chamber" refers to.) Get a closer look at

Click through to see the rest of the slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler .

Image Courtesy of Kulula 

The Daily Traveler: Where to See the Best Fall Foliage

Everything you need to know about Northeast fall foliage: where to find the longest season, the latest start, the most variety, the least crowded destinations, and the most intense color.

Where to See the Best Fall Foliage

The longest season:
New Hampshire's Lakes Region
When to go: Late September through late October
Why go: The secret to finding a lingering foliage season is steering clear of the weather that knocks leaves from their branches. "I would choose those locations away from the wind of the coast and at higher elevations," says Jerry Monkman, co-author of The Colors of Fall Road Trip Guide. This New Hampshire region—which encompasses Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Ossipee, Mirror Lake, Newfound Lake and Lake Winnisquam—is protected from the harsh winds of the coast and doesn’t rise more than 600 feet above sea level, giving you the best chance for a long leaf season.
Where to get the best view: Obviously, from the middle of a lake (pick one). Bring a kayak and tone your paddling arms. "You can see red maples along the waterways showing their bright colors on the trees, and then reflected down into the water as well," says Tai Freligh, communications manager for New Hampshire's Division of Travel and Tourism Development.
Insider tip: If boating and hiking feels like too much exertion for a good view, tour the lakes region from a fall foliage train. The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad (603-279-5253,, $11 to $15) runs through October 21, and a two-hour round-trip ticket entitles you to a lakeside tour along tracks that were once a part of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Daytime rides come with the option of adding on a "hobo picnic lunch" ($10).

Click through to read the rest at

Photo: NHDTTD/George Murphy

The Daily Traveler: Olympic Venues

Kudos to the brains behind London’s 2012 Olympic venues: Because the city won't need all the structures once the games end, many are temporary (and recyclable!). Of course, London has a long history, and some of the sporting grounds have been around for centuries. For the website of the Condé Nast Traveler, I took a look at the oldest and the newest Olympic venues in the city.

15 Things You Didn't Know About London's Olympic Venues

One from the newest:
Basketball Arena

Basketball, Handball
Though the Basketball Arena can seat 12,000 spectators, making it one of the largest and most-used in the games, the venue itself is entirely temporary. The steel frame is covered with a PVC fabric, and the whole thing will be entirely dismantled when the Olympics are over. New houses will be built in the space.

One from the oldest:
Hyde Park

Swimming, Triathlon
Open to the public since: 1637
Hyde Park was originally used as a private hunting ground for Henry VIII in 1536, and it wasn’t until more than a century later that Charles I opened it up to the public. The Serpentine Lake, where the Olympic swimming events will take place, was built under the orders of Queen Caroline in the 1730s. Casual bathers still swim in the lake every summer, and the Serpentine Swimming Club hosts an infamous race there every Christmas.

Click through to see the full slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photos courtesy of London 2012

The Daily Traveler: State Capitol Buildings

I did a slideshow featuring every state capitol building, the year it was completed, the architectural style (hint: most are neo-classical), when it is open to visitors, and an interesting fact.

50 Nifty United States Capitols

Rhode Island State House
Providence, Rhode Island

Year completed: 1904
Architectural style: Neo-Classical
FYI: The lobby of Rhode Island’s State House holds two Civil War-era cannons; one was used in the Battle of Gettysburg, the other in Bull Run. The Gettysburg Gun, as it’s called, still has an iron cannonball lodged into it, melted into place from the heat of a Confederate shot that hit it. (Until the 1960s, it also contained the gunpowder.)
Visit: Guided tours are available daily; schedule them through the Secretary of State’s office.


Photo Source