Monthly Archives: September 2017

Coastal Splendors: Galveston Versus Corpus Christi

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Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Your Pick: Galveston or Corpus Christi?

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Photo credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page

Along the Gulf Coast, the Texas cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi are blessed with natural wonders such as miles of beaches or a plethora of parks. And while man-made structures have come into the scene, they’re serving as an addition where visitors and locals can enjoy the sights and tastes of nature’s bounty.

Here’s where you can explore the coastal splendors of both Galveston and Corpus Christi.

Seawall Beach Expansion May 2017

Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Beaches and Parks

With beaches, Galveston’s got quite the range, with them being doubling as state parks. On the island’s west end, Galveston Island State Park puts you right near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay and also near wildlife. It’s coastal refuge for birds, so birdwatchers can put their binoculars to good use, and it also provides opportunities for taking in its waters and lands. Visitors can swim and fish in certain areas, and also hike or bike along four trails encompassing different habitats.

The 10-mile Seawall Urban Park provides a leisurely stretch along its boulevard, along with much beach, restaurants and tourist attractions including the amusement park, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Stewart Beach is quite family-friendly with amenities like restrooms and chair and umbrella rentals, while East Beach can draw a bit more of a livelier crowd.

Moody Garden Aquarium

Moody Gardens/Credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Waterside Spots

Galveston’s got some major waterside spots too. Its best known attraction of this kind is Moody Gardens, a part-amusement park and part-leisure/wellness stay with various restaurants and an on-site hotel. Its latest addition is the Aquarium Pyramid, which holds exhibits such as a Jellyfish Gallery and habitats encompassing locations ranging from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, to the South Pacific and North Pacific.

Based on Pelican Island, Seawolf Park has a fishing pier, picnic spots and a playground, but is most noted for being the home of a World War II submarine, USS Cavalla and a destroyer escort called USS Stewart.

Then there’s the Texas Seaport Museum, where visitors can climb aboard ELISSA, a preserved 19th-century tall ship and see an adjacent museum and theater. Plus, Galveston contains a concentration of Victorian homes within its downtown area; they date from the mid to late 1800s. Must-see houses include the Ashton Villa, an Italianate villa that was the first mansion built in Galveston, and the prominent Bishop’s Palace, which reminds you of a castle due to its stained-glass windows, bronze sculptures and exquisite fireplaces.

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Corpus Christi’s Beaches

As for Corpus Christi, this city in the South Texas Gulf Coast is also plentiful in sand and surf. Let’s start with beaches. Along the Corpus Christi bay, McBee Beach gets all ages of beachgoers but is still picturesque with calm and clear waters.

Locals appear to flock to Whitecap Beach, noted for its white sands and one entrance to the Padre Island Seawall, a mile-long pathway serving bikes, joggers, and walkers. Then the Padre Island National Seashore is cited as the world’s longest, undeveloped barrier, with its residents being a multitude of bird species.

Named after the wild horses that once roamed here, Mustang Island is 18 miles of beautiful coastlines, beach area, and various fish and waterfowl. It’s also the neighbor of Mustang Island State Park.

 

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USS Lexington / Photo Credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page

 

Corpus Christi – Waterside Attractions

Located just across Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge, North Beach has two top city attractions: the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier turned museum. North Beach also has a good variety of places to eat and drink and bayfront views, with the cities of Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Portland offering waterside opportunities like, fishing, boating, sailing, and kite surfing.

Corpus Christi’s Northwest side offers some of the best bird watching opportunities for bird lovers such as Hazel Bazemore Park, where each spring and fall people gather to watch thousands of hawks fly overhead. Labonte Park, at the city’s entrance, offers great views of the Nueces River as well as fishing and kayaking opportunities.

On Corpus Christi’s Southside, the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center provides some urban serenity with floral exhibits and gardens and trails that could lead to birds and butterflies. And downtown’s Marina Arts District co-mingles boat slips, restaurants, and artisans together.

So, which Texas city would you like to see first: Galveston or Corpus Christi? To get your trip planning started, choose from these Trip.com recommended lists of Galveston and Corpus Christi hotels.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities program.

2017 Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship NYC

Official Travel Blogger Logo

I first heard about studying abroad during college when I went to interview the director of my school’s program for the student newspaper. While I don’t remember much of what we talked about, I do recall getting excited over the places as a student I could go to – Ireland, England, Spain, and Italy. And leaving with some flyers to peruse when I got home.

But I ended up not studying abroad. I never signed up.

Maybe I was hesitant, worried about the money aspect or missing out on what was happening with friends at home. Nonetheless, my travel years since college have made up for it. However, the opportunity could have taken me in directions I can only “what if” about.

Nowadays, studying abroad is becoming more the norm. It’s also getting help from travel experts and bloggers – with many having studied abroad themselves – in telling how transformative this experience can be. This Friday, I’m going to the Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship at Hostelling International NYC to see how.

Presented by Hostelling International USA and Partners of the Americas, this three-day summit (which started today) is a sequel to an inaugural event at the White House in 2014. This initiative was established to encourage young people to set out and see the world through educational experiences. To help foster this push, many well-respected travel experts and bloggers were invited to Washington, D.C. to learn more and become involved in this project.

Many of them I will see tomorrow in NYC.

 

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Creative Commons photo/ Andreas Mortonus

 

 

Why Study Abroad?

So why promote studying abroad? Well, here’s some data. A 2016 Open Doors Report released by the Institute of International Education found that during the 2014-2015 academic year found that:

  • Reported 313,415 U.S. students studied aboard. As for where they went, Europe received the most U.S. students, with 170,879 of them participating in undergrad programs there. Outside of North America, the Middle East and North Africa hosted the lowest number of these students, with a combined total of 6,844.
  • What are they learning? The report found that these top five fields of study are attracting U.S. students to study abroad: STEM, business, social sciences, foreign language and international studies and fine arts. As for how long they’re gone, it’s short-term, with 63% of them going abroad for eight weeks.
  • As for who specifically is studying abroad, the report found that the largest ethnic group of U.S. students was white (at 72.9%). Students who identify as multi-racial, American Indian or Alaska Native are rarely doing so (at only a combined 4.6% for the 2014-15 academic year).

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Creative Commons photo / Kenneth Lu

 

Breaking Down Barriers

Another focus of this summit is to determine how to break down barriers that prevent students of diversity from studying abroad. A 2017 presentation on Diversity Abroad for a grant by Partners of the Americas found reasons such as:

  • Awareness of its value – misconception that it’s a vacation
  • Cultural restraints – since study abroad is not a traditional part of higher education experience, families are not likely to support the student either morally or financially
  • Finances – it’s too costly or students cannot afford the loss of income for the time period abroad

Even high education might also hinder opportunities for their students to study abroad due to issues such as map out courses for credits transfer and count toward graduation, lack of funding for new programs, and engaging with faculty and adminstrations to see the value of having a study abroad component.

What Can Be Done

Along with raising awareness, there are initiatives in making study abroad more accessible such as grants. Adminstered through Hostelling International USA, Explore the World scholarships help selected applicants in financing an international trip that includes an educational or service component.

Besides money, studying abroad is also noted for its non-tangible value: learning a new language, understanding of different cultures,and building skills that can serve an ever-global growing economy.

Another cool aspect of this NYC travel summit is that it’s happening during NYC’s Global Citizen Week, which will cumulate with Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival, a separate, ticketed event on Central Park’s Great Lawn. If you’re on Twitter, follow along with the discussion on Friday (Sept. 22) at 3 p.m. via the hashtag #studyabroadbecause.

Have you studied abroad? If so, share with me your experience.

 

 

 

 

Foodie Travel: What to Eat in Charlotte versus Raleigh

 

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Photo: Charlotte’s got a lot Facebook page

 

Your Pick: Charlotte or Raleigh?

 

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Photo: visitRaleigh Facebook page

 

While Durham has been getting buzz as a foodie destination, two other North Carolina cities also have much on their plates to offer – Charlotte and Raleigh. These Southern metropolises are spooning out different tastes and dining perspectives that will leave visitors satisfying. Perhaps even stuffed. From food to drink, here is a culinary comparison of the best of what Charlotte and Raleigh are serving up.

First, let’s start with Charlotte.

Charlotte’s Eateries

 

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Photo: The King’s Kitchen & Bakery / The Plaid Penguin

 

Nicknamed “The Queen City,” Charlotte has traditional Southern specialties but also cuisines representative of cultures from around the globe plus some fun infusions.

With an adjoining bakery and breakfast café, The King’s Kitchen & Bakery is a non-profit eatery that not only provides lunch and supper picks like gumbo, catfish and baked or fried chicken, and healthy fare, but also gives their workers a fresh start and helps to feed those within the local community. With locations in Charlotte’s Uptown and Southpark districts, Rooster’s Wood Fired-Kitchen puts a European twist on scratch cooking this cuisine.

In also what’s described as “Southern-leaning American fare,” 204 North Kitchen and Cocktails in Uptown gets a little spiffy but also has a drinks list featuring fun and unique pairings and classic mixed drinks. Or go for Lowcountry cooking at Mert’s Heart and Soul, a couple-owned, colorful and soul food eatery in Uptown Charlotte. Zada Jane’s in Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood neighborhood gives vegetarians some love, with choices that could include their non-meaty “Kool Kips” nachos and a selection of salads and sandwiches (plus some options for carnivores).

 

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Photo: McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon Facebook page

 

Of course, Charlotte’s barbecue joints hold their own within North Carolina, tenderly. South Charlotte’s McKoy’s Smokehouse and Saloon offers smoked meats like their pecan-smoked wings and perfected seasoned pork. Since 1963, the no-frills Bill Spoon’s Barbecue in Starmount focuses on its food with cooking up Eastern North Carolina style barbecue (with the whole pig being prepared and served with a mustary and vinegary slaw). Then, there’s Midwood Smokehouse, with three locations throughout Charlotte, whose brisket got high rankings in The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.

Other interesting dining opportunities in Charlotte range from The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, an infusion minded eatery in South Park, to Aria Tuscan Grill bringing refined Italian fare to Center City, to Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub, a Euro gastropub noted for its savory crepes.

 

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Photo: The Old Mecklenburg Brewery Facebook page

 

Charlotte’s Breweries

As for the beer scene, Charlotte is also has raising the glass on breweries with some new or recent additions or long-time spots. Described as a Belgian brew pub, Heist Brewery in NoDa neighborhood is placed within an industrial setting with craft beers and pub fare.

There are German beer halls too. The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has an eight-acre beer garden and pub, and VBGB Beer Hall and Garden puts a contemporary take on this tradition with 30 craft and import beers on top. Other noteworthy places include Birdsong Brewing Co., with lively scene serving flights, pints, and growlers; Sycamore Brewing, which also offers international eats, and the Growlers Pourhouse, with a curated beer program that rotates taps and prime bar food such as their award-winning Rueben sandwich. In NoDa, Free Range Brewing lets their

Other noteworthy places include Birdsong Brewing Co., with lively scene serving flights, pints, and growlers, and Sycamore Brewing, which also offers international eats. Growlers Pourhouse has a curated beer program that rotates taps and prime bar food such as their award-winning Rueben sandwich. Free Range Brewing lets their ingredidents determine what type of beer will be produced, in brewing small batch beers in various styles.

Now, let’s see what Raleigh has to offer food-minded travelers.

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Photo: Little City Brewing and Provisions Co. Facebook page

Raleigh’s Breweries and Distilleries

Raleigh’s more than 25 breweries are as diverse as their sudsy creations. In the Warehouse District of Downtown Raleigh, Crank Arm Brewing Company produces three flagship brews and rotates seasonal beer styles and works with local vendors and farmers in obtaining specialty ingredients for unique flavors. With a focus on creating a place for community, Oak & Dagger Public House serves up its draft beers and an “elevated pub” lunch and dinner menu. Another neat feature: a research library where experimental, small batch brews are being concocted. Then there’s Little City Brewing and  Provisions Co., described as an industry chic bar that not only serves beers but also unique cocktails and wines.

As for distilleries, Oak City Amaretto locally handcrafts this sweet Italian liqueur, and Raleigh Rum Company produces small batches of this distilled beverage. Plus, Pinetop Distillery – with its title coming from an old nickname for moonshine – offers tours of, and tastings at, their facility on Saturdays.

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Photo credit: Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant Facebook page

Raleigh’s Shops and Eateries

From Southern cooking to in North Carolina is essential. One popular place to go for breakfast or lunch in downtown Raleigh’s Moore Square District is Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, noted for its funky ceiling fixtures and southern classics on the menu (there’s also a sister site called Big Ed’s North, located in North Raleigh). Big Ed’s also holds a Hot Cake challenge, consisting of eating a total of three large servings, and provides all-day breakfast offerings. Explore its location include the Historic City Market, with other tenants such as restaurants, cafes and bars. Best picks include Treat, an ice cream shop, and Woody’s At City Market, a long-time watering hole.

Trying BBQ is a must head to The Pit, a Warehouse District eatery serving a whole hog, pit-cooked barbecue, or Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, a Carolina-style barbecue fixture in downtown Raleigh since 1938, or fellow long-timer Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which opened three years later!

 

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Photo: Escazu Artisan Chocolates Facebook page

 

Raleigh’s Chocolate Shops

Got a sweet tooth? In Raleigh, chocolate has quite a decadent place with a good amount of shops and factories. Azurelise Chocolate Truffles creates orders of this decadent treat and other sinfully good sweets, while Escazu Artisan Chocolates additionally prepares bars and other confections, and Videri Chocolate Factory holds tours of its facility.

So which city’s culinary scene has your mouth watering, or making you thirsty for more? To get your food-centered trip started, check out these suggested hotels in Charlotte and in Raleigh, respectively.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities program.

South Africa Tourism and Citi Bike NYC Host TriBeCa Block Party

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During the month of September 2017, Citi Bike NYC riders might want to check in at the TriBeCa docking station – at Franklin Street and West Broadway – to get a glimpse into South African art and culture.

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South African Tourism and Citi Bike officials with Imani Shanklin Roberts and Esther Mahlangu

On Wednesday, September 13, representatives from South African Tourism, South African Airways, and Citi Bike NYC held a ceremony unveiling of a street mural at this station. The event was to announce a month-long partnership between Citi Bike NYC and South African Tourism, to encourage New Yorkers to be inspired to see South Africa.

The mural was designed by New York City resident and visual art Imani Shanklin Roberts. At the Wednesday event, Shanklin Roberts said her Afrocentric piece was created in honor of Esther Mahlangu, a South African artist. Mahlangu, who was also at the ceremony, is recognized for her colorful and geometric paintings. In her comments, Shanklin Roberts noted that she had a piece of Mahlangu’s and was inspired by Mahlangu’s artistic methods.

The general public can join in the celebration this Saturday, September 16, with a South-African themed block party organized by Citi Bike and South African Tourism. Held in the vicinity of the Franklin Street and West Broadway docking station, this block party will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will feature South African food and music plus the opportunity to talk travel with ambassadors from South Africa.

Other aspects of this partnership involve 30 South African branded Citi Bike docking stations across the city and a special vacation package offer from South African Airways Vacations.