Luxe Adventure Traveler http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Thu, 30 Oct 2014 13:01:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 5 Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade http://jdombstravels.com/tips-for-viewing-the-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/ http://jdombstravels.com/tips-for-viewing-the-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:06:17 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=3451 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by …

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Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by on the rink below. But something we hadn’t ever done was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a New York City Tradition since 1924. So when my mom suggested we make our annual trip to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was thrilled! We’d be joining the other 3.5 million people that flock to the streets of Manhattan to see the more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, 1,000 clowns, and 30 parade floats entertain people of all ages. Most likely, visiting NYC to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a once in a lifetime experience, like it was for us. So here are my tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
1. See the balloons being blown up.

It is far less crowded and you have a much better chance of seeing the balloons up close by attending the free viewing of the famous big balloon inflation. It is available to the public on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from 3 – 10pm the night before the Parade.

2. Get up very early and dress in layers. 

The Parade begins at 9am but approximately 3.5 million parade-goers take to the streets wanting the perfect view. Plan to arrive to claim your spot along the parade route by 6am and don’t plan moving from that spot. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and games or books to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin. And remember that NYC wind can have quite the bite, so dress warmly in layers.

2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

3. Know the Parade route.

The Parade route has changed in the last couple of years, so be sure to verify the current Parade route. The 2014 Parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9am and marches south on Central Park West. At Columbus Circle, the Parade then turns East onto Central Park South instead of heading down Broadway as it has in past years. When the Parade reaches 6th Avenue, it turns south at the corner of Central Park South and marches south from 59th Street to 34th Street. From 6th (Avenue of the Americas), it heads west on 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square and ends there at around 12pm.

Tip: Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for your iPhone for route maps, subway maps, where to find wifi, and more.

Many agree that the best spot to watch the parade from is Columbus Circle and this is precisely where my mom and I watched the Parade from. Also note that there is no viewing access on 6th Avenue between 34th Street and 38th Street; this is the official telecast area.

4. Splurge

The most stress-free way to view the Parade is to splurge on a parade view hotel room along the Parade route. The Trump International Tower at Broadway and Columbus Circle was the perfect way for us to stay comfortable and warm while viewing the Parade. We knew which balloons were coming by having the Parade on tv and had a terrific view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Trump International Tower also had a guest-only VIP viewing area on the street in front of the hotel where we would watch the action without fear of losing our spot of pushing through massive crowds. We alternated between the room and street throughout the 3-hour Parade.

It is also nearly impossible to see the performances by Broadway musicals and famous musicians since they take place in the over-crowded official viewing area. You’ll be able to catch the stars as they go by on floats and then watch the performances from the comfort of your room.

A room at the Trump International Tower for Parade viewing books up nearly one year in advance and you’ll need to be prepared to spend around $1000 per night for this prime location.

5. Find and book a reservation at NYC restaurant nearby for lunch.

Once the Parade ends, 3.5 million people are pushing their way to subways and out of the areas closed off to traffic to try to hail taxis. Instead of joining the stampede, find a nearby restaurant that is open on Thanksgiving and make a reservation for lunch. You can wait out the crowds while warming up over a hot meal.

Have you been to NYC during Thanksgiving? What other tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade do you have?

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Climbing the Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable http://jdombstravels.com/via-ferrata-du-pont-du-diable/ http://jdombstravels.com/via-ferrata-du-pont-du-diable/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 15:11:34 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=61353 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I was about to trust my life to some metal cables anchored to a cliff face high above the Ardeche River. I don’t have a fear of heights – I’ve flown a stunt plane and mastered a knee hang on the flying trapeze this year, after all – but I’d be lying if I didn’t …

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I was about to trust my life to some metal cables anchored to a cliff face high above the Ardeche River. I don’t have a fear of heights – I’ve flown a stunt plane and mastered a knee hang on the flying trapeze this year, after all – but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the opening scenes from Cliffhanger weren’t flashing through my mind. I clipped my double carabiners to the cable and took my first steps. There was no turning back now; no chickening out of the Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable.

Via Ferrata is Italian for “Iron Road” and though not much translates literally when it comes to Italian, a Via Ferrata is literally a “road” made on mountains from fixed cables, ladders, and bridges. They were originally built to aid the Alpini, a branch of the Italian Army, in WWI to traverse the Dolomites. After the war, the Via Ferrata were maintained and became a popular attraction. Today the high-altitude adventure routes can be found in several European countries like Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France. There are even a handful now in the US and Canada.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableAnyone can climb a Via Ferrata with no experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a fear of heights. Each climber wears a harness with a pair of carabiners. A safety cable runs along and is bolted to the rock-face as you cross cables and climb up. It’s essentially aided climbing and as you come to the point where the cable is bolted to the rock, you must un-clip and clip on to the next section of cable. This is where the double carabiner, or Y-configuration, comes in to play. You un-clip only one at a time so that you are always connected to a safety cable.

Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable

Don’t look down…

Ardeche River

…but it sure is gorgeous if you do!

We got the hang of using the cables and carabiners on a small training section. And then we dove right in with crossing a high wire cable across a section. Clank, clank, clank. It was the only sound as I inched my way across that first cable, the carabiners reassuringly clanking together with each step. I reached the other side and let out the breath that I’d been holding.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du DiableEach section was a different challenge. Some sections we’d simply have to make our way around corners; those were the easy sections. I’d even clip in my third safety clip and felt comfortable enough to pull out my iPhone and snap some photos. Other sections were a series of rungs spaced for climbing up a sheer vertical cliff face. Thankfully our instructor had the patience of a saint. I was leading the way and I’ve never ascended anything more than a 30-foot rock climbing wall…and that was four years ago. Sometimes I’d misstep and have to move down before ascending again on a route that worked for me.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableAfter about an hour of climbing, we reached the zipline that would carry us each one by one across the Ardeche River. On the other side, we would have the option of an escape route that leads back to the car park or to continue on for about another hour of climbing on the “challenging” section. Challenging section? What had I just climbed, then?! (Officially, the route is marked a D on the Via Ferrata difficulty level scale, which means difficult and for those familiar with Via Ferrata.)

That was what was particularly great about this Via Ferrata in Ardèche, France – a first timer like me could challenge myself without getting in over my head and someone more experience like Tim could continue on. I clipped my pulley on the cable and went soaring across the zipline, proud I’d just completed the section that I did.

Pont du Diable

Ending the Via Ferrata with a beautiful view of Pont du Diable

With shaking legs, I hiked back toward the car park while keeping an eye on Tim. He looked like an ant from my perspective down below. He said it was pretty difficult to take photos on the next section that he did as sometimes the climb was nearly inverted. I definitely wasn’t quite ready for that, so I’m glad I chose the escape route. The Via Ferrata was definitely an awesome heart pumping adventure and we can’t wait to tackle some of the ones at home in the Dolomites now.

Know Before You Go

  • First timers may want to go with a guide as we did. The Via Ferrata including equipment is €40 per person.
  • Equipment can also be hired if you would like to go on your own.
  • Pont du Diable can be reached from Vallon in around 1 hour. We recommend staying at Hotel Berneron and renting a car to travel around the area.

This post was brought to you by Tourisme Ardeche in collaboration with Geo Adventure and the support of Hotel Berneron. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Toronto Snow Show | Win a Sony Action Cam #SnowShow14 http://jdombstravels.com/toronto-snow-show-2014/ http://jdombstravels.com/toronto-snow-show-2014/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 13:24:06 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=61286 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Winter is coming and we couldn’t be more excited! Tim can’t wait to hit the slopes and I’m planning to be a bunny hill newbie after some snowboarding lessons. And who doesn’t love après-ski? Those breathtaking views, sipping cocktails in a slope side sun lounger, and mountain top dance parties. I’m totally ready to break …

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Winter is coming and we couldn’t be more excited! Tim can’t wait to hit the slopes and I’m planning to be a bunny hill newbie after some snowboarding lessons. And who doesn’t love après-ski? Those breathtaking views, sipping cocktails in a slope side sun lounger, and mountain top dance parties. I’m totally ready to break out my Moon Boots, but I’m going to need some gear and Tim’s ready for some upgrades. We wish we could hit up the Toronto Snow Show 2014, Canada’s largest ski, snowboard and travel show!

It’s one of those times where I wish I could jet off home and hop in the car. My hometown of Erie, PA is an easy 3 hour drive. Though we can’t make it this year, we’re super excited to be Toronto Snow Show 2014 Ambassadors and give away tickets, plus an awesome Sony Action Cam with waterproof housing so you can capture your best moments on the slopes this ski season.

Toronto Snow ShowAbout the Toronto Snow Show

No matter whether you’re a black diamond skier, a boarder looking to improve your aerials or a newbie, there’s something for everyone at the Toronto Snow Show 2014. It’s taking place October 16 – 19 at the International Centre and I promise you’ll want to be there!

With over 100 exhibitors, you can check out the latest gear to get outfitted to hit the slopes. “This year, we’re seeing some of the most exciting innovations in ski and snowboard gear that we’ve seen in a long time. High-tech materials, aerodynamic design, even digital technology all offer tremendous advantage to skiers and snowboarders of all ages. It’s going to be a really exciting season at the slopes,” says Tara Diaczyk, Show Manager, Toronto Snow Show.

Not only will skiers’ and snowboarders’ favorite brands like Roxy, Burton, Nordica, and Blizzard be there, but you can check out the Amphibio 82 XTI Fusion ski by Elan. A representative from Elan tells us it’s an expert ski designed with the advantage of rocker and camber profiles on both the left and the right skis, making turns easier while improving edge hold. These skis are at the top of their game offering extreme speed and stability.

Lib Tech has teamed up with Travis Rice, one of the world’s most influential snowboarders, to craft the Gold Member, an ultra lightweight board that offers an effortless ride with excellent maneuverability. Boarders will definitely want to stop by and check it out.

Tim loves his Oakley’s and their new Prizm line offers lenses crafted to deliver maximum contrast specifically for snow environments. Guess what’s on his Christmas list this year?

If you’re more interested in where to ski or board, over 125 resort operators from across North America will be there to chat about their destinations, pistes, dining, nightlife, attractions and more. You’ll be guaranteed to leave with a list of ski resorts to get away to this season.

When:          Thursday, October 16, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday, October 17, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, October 18, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, October 19, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Where:         The International Centre, Hall 5, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga
Parking:       FREE
Tickets:        General Admission: Adults: $18; Juniors: $10 (Ages 11 to 17); Seniors: $10 (Age 65+); Children
(10 years and under): Free when accompanied by an adult. Family Pass: $45 (includes two adults and two juniors)

Toronto Snow Show Highlights

Burton Riglet Park at Toronto Snow ShowBurton Riglet Park

Got a little one at home? Get them in skis or a snowboard and ready to hit to the slopes at Burton Riglet Park. Instructors are on hand to give your kiddo lessons at the miniature terrain based snowboard park. It’s fun for the whole family!

Ski and gear swap at Toronto Snow ShowToronto Ski Swap

Want some new gear, but don’t want to break the bank? Hit the Toronto Ski Swap for both brand new and pre-owned skis, boards, and gear at discounted prices. You can register your own gear for resale or just shop. And most awesome of all, the proceeds from registration and selling fees goes to the Canadian Ski Patrol to be used for upgrading their equipment and funding their programs which keep you safe on the slopes.

Rail Jam at Toronto Snow ShowRail Jam

Check out some of Canada’s top pro boarders and skiers at Rail Jam as they entertain visitors with stunts at Rail Jam. This sporting event is FREE and runs at various times throughout the show. Check the event listing on the Toronto Snow Show Website.

Sony Action CamToronto Snow Show Twitter Chat and Giveaway

So are you as pumped up about hitting the slopes this winter as we are? Even if you can’t make it to Toronto, join us on Tuesday, October 14th from 8 – 9pm EST for the #SnowShow14 Twitter chat. We’ll be talking about favorite ski and snowboard destinations, gear, and more. Plus, one lucky participant will be awarded a Sony Action Cam (value $450) at the end of the chat. There are only two requirements for entry: 1) participation in the #SnowShow14 Twitter Chat, and 2) following @TorontoSnowShow on Twitter.

Be sure to follow us (@jdomb) and the the other #SnowShow14 ambassadors on Twitter: @xpatmatt, @TorontoSnowShow, @GoAwesomePlaces, @Back2Ski and @LilMissKateCo.

Enter to win tickets to the Toronto Snow Show 2014 using the widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Hiking Iceland’s Smoky Valley http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-reykjadalur/ http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-reykjadalur/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:06:22 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60898 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Plumes of steam rise up around me like smoke rising from a fire. One step in the wrong bubbling pool, and the soles of your shoes could literally melt. But not to worry; the dangerous pools are marked with signs and so long as you stick to the well-trodden trail, Reykjadalur is a beautiful spot …

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Plumes of steam rise up around me like smoke rising from a fire. One step in the wrong bubbling pool, and the soles of your shoes could literally melt. But not to worry; the dangerous pools are marked with signs and so long as you stick to the well-trodden trail, Reykjadalur is a beautiful spot to hike.

Reykjadalur hikeReykjadalur, which literally means Smoky Valley, is just a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik and a popular spot for the locals to head out for a half day trek. It’s located near Hengill, an active volcano, though it last erupted over 2000 years ago. The steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots are a reminder that hot lava is flowing somewhere beneath our feet. A local even tells me of a family in the area that has a new hot spring that erupted right through their kitchen. You’d think it’s a bit scary, especially with Bardarbunga currently rumbling and spewing lava in the center of the island nation, but I’m fascinated.

Hiking at ReykjadalurThe hike can be done in just 2.5 hours and ascends past bubbling mud pools that are clearly just short of reaching boiling. As we ascend, we have to use chains drilled in to the rock to help us up the narrow and slippery ledges. But the bit of scrambling is worth the effort just for the views alone. Even though the clouds look like they are about to burst at any second, we can still see all the way to Lake Þingvallavatn.

Reykjadalur ValleyThe descent leads to the Reykjadalur valley where a hot, steaming stream has warning signs that the water is 100°C (212°F). I watch it gurgle, spurt and steam while wishing I’d brought an egg. How often can you boil an egg in nature?

Reykjadalur ValleyThis water is too hot, but as we head downstream a cold river merges with the hot, creating the perfect temperature for a natural hot pool. You’ll want to wear your swimsuit on this hike and take a dip. It’s otherworldly with the steam from the fumaroles rising around and the scent of sulfur floating on the air.

The hike then ascends again out of the valley, creating a loop back to the gravel road near the power plant where you can park. After, head to the nearby Sundlaugin Laugaskarði swimming pool for a shower and a soak in the hot tub with electronic massage. There is also a natural sauna, lap pool, and a shallow sitting pool. Trust me – it’s like heaven after the muddy Reykjadalur hike!

Know Before You Go

  • The Reykjadalur hike takes about 2 – 2.5 hours. There is a slight elevation gain, but this is an easy hike.
  • To find the trailhead: From Hveragerði, head north on the main street, Breiðamörk. At a division in the road, bear left onto the gravel road marked Reykjadalur. The road ends at a parking area next to the Varmá River.

This post was brought to you by Society of American Travel Writers Iceland Convention in collaboration with Iceland Travel and the support of Icelandair. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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The Best Adventures on Australia’s East Coast http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:28:06 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60337 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream. In June this …

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Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream.

In June this year, Arianwen Morris, who blogs at Beyond Blighty, traveled from Sydney to Cairns with Contiki Holidays. In this article, she highlights some of the most exciting activities on offer in the area.

Surf lessons in AustraliaSurf Lessons

Visit any Australian beach on this stretch of coastline and you’re almost guaranteed to see some surfers. Aussies are crazy for the sport and most tourist beaches have outfitters offering lessons. Close to Coffs Harbour is a place called Spot X where you can stay at surf camp for as many days as you need. The instructors are very helpful and it’s a really sociable setting.

Sea kayaking in AustraliaSea Kayaking

Further north in Byron Bay, you can go dolphin spotting in a kayak. While this might sound relaxing, the waves get pretty big, making for some interesting entrances and exits from and to the beach. Even further out to sea, the swells can be huge and not many people avoid capsizing at least once.

JetpackingJetpacking

A relatively new sport, jetpacking allows you to fly through the water and even a few metres into the air. Jetpack Adventures in Surfer’s Paradise also provide the chance to try flyboarding. Ten minutes with each is enough to get a feel for it and to start looking like a pro.

Scuba diving in AustraliaScuba Diving

Australia’s east coast has a number of fantastic dive sites. Other than the obvious – the Great Barrier Reef – you can swim through a cave of nurse sharks at South West Rocks, drift alongside manta rays, turtles, leopard sharks and wobbegongs at Julian Rocks, or check out the famous Yongala ship wreck close to Townsville. Consider a liveaboard if you want to access the best dive spots on the reef and stay away from the crowds.

Fraser IslandFraser Island

Bombing along a deserted beach in a 4WD watching the occasional whale breach on the horizon is a great experience. Combine that with a dip in the clear and spa-like waters of Lake Mckenzie, followed by dolphin watching during the most impressive sunset you’ll ever see and you will no doubt include Fraser Island among the most beautiful places you’ve ever visited.

Sailing in AustraliaSailing

The Whitsunday Islands are situated on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. This makes them a fantastic spot for sailing and snorkelling trips. Most will take you out for a couple of nights where you sleep on the boat and visit the white sands of Whitehaven Beach. When the wind picks up, the boat tips to an impossible angle, and the adrenaline kicks in. Hook your legs over the top side of the boat and hold onto the railing for an exhilarating ride, but don’t forget to race over to the opposite deck when the boat changes direction.

Bungy jumping in AustraliaBungy Jumping

Cairns is the best-known location for bungy jumping in Australia and the AJ Hackett team have gone to town making sure that even the most experienced bungy jumper won’t get bored. There’s a jump menu with styles requiring varying levels of skill and bravery. You can get into a fancy dress outfit or even cycle off the roof of the bungy tower. The Minjin Swing right beside it is a less intense option, but if you’re really not in the mood, you can sit on the viewing platform with a beer and watch everyone else’s torment.

Uncle Brian's TourUncle Brian’s Tour

While not strictly an adventure tour, Uncle Brian’s day trip to the waterfalls and forests of the Atherton Tablelands is one of the best on offer anywhere in the world. From start to finish, it’s a mad assortment of interactive entertainment, and they haven’t missed a trick. As well as taking on natural rock slides and flicking your hair at the waterfall where the Herbal Essences advert was filmed, you’ll enjoy games and karaoke on the bus, and much, much more.

Of course, your options don’t stop there. If you’re a fan of heights, why not check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb or the SkyPoint climb at Surfer’s Paradise. Surfer’s is also a popular spot for skydiving. The Tully river, south of Cairns is one of the best white water rafting rivers in Australia, and up in Cape Tribulation you can horseback ride and zipline through the jungle.

With a fantastic climate, friendly people, gorgeous scenery and so much fun to be had, a journey up the east coast of Australia is pretty much guaranteed to be memorable for all the right reasons.

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The Non-Gamblers Guide to Las Vegas http://jdombstravels.com/non-gamblers-guide-to-las-vegas/ http://jdombstravels.com/non-gamblers-guide-to-las-vegas/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 08:26:50 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57302 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Vegas is synonymous with blackjack, scantily clad women, and nights out clubbing that evoke the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” A go-to destination for the girlfriend getaway and the ultimate bachelor party, it’s easy to forget (or not even discover) that there’s more to Sin City than gaming tables, drinking, and neon. …

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Vegas is synonymous with blackjack, scantily clad women, and nights out clubbing that evoke the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” A go-to destination for the girlfriend getaway and the ultimate bachelor party, it’s easy to forget (or not even discover) that there’s more to Sin City than gaming tables, drinking, and neon. We’ve put together this non-gamblers guide to Las Vegas with some of our favorite things to on and off The Strip:

Sky Combat AceExperienceFly an open cockpit bi-plane over Hoover Dam

If you think a spin of the roulette wheel is a thrill, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Just wait until you pilot either an open cockpit bi-plane and do barrel rolls and loops over Hoover Dam. You may not forget losing than $100 you placed on black anytime soon, but you’ll definitely remember your flight with Sky Combat Ace. And let’s face it, it’s a way better story to tell to all your friends back home. Not everything that happens in Vegas has to stay in Vegas.

Sky Combat Ace
The Waco Hoover Dam Tour is $499 per person with aerobatics. The Top Gun Experience is $599 per person. Video and photos are available for purchase from your experience. Complimentary transportation from/to your hotel is available.
Dig This Las VegasExperienceOperate an excavator

Do you remember when you used to play with toy bulldozers and excavators in your sandbox as a kid? Well, a company in Las Vegas has embraced the saying that Vegas is just a huge sandbox for adults and let’s you (so long as you’re not inebriated) get behind the controls of real life bulldozers and excavators. I chose the excavator hoping I might get famous for digging up Jimmy Hoffa. No such luck with finding the famous missing mobster, but I did school the guys in a game of excavator basketball.

Dig This
The Big Dig lets you choose the bulldozer or the excavator for your 90 minute session. You’ll learn how to operate the controls, drive it, dig trenches, move tires, and play some basketball. It’s $249 per person.
Downtown Las Vegas Art DistrictExperienceCheck out the Downtown art scene

As a Las Vegas resident in the early 2000s, I would have told you to avoid Downtown Las Vegas like the plague. The only reason you had to go down there was if you were getting a marriage license from the courthouse. But like much of Las Vegas, Downtown has re-invented itself and is now a cool mix of eclectic one-of-a-kind stores, galleries, bars, and restaurants.

First Friday art festivals now draw some 20,000 people every month. But even if you aren’t in Vegas on the first Friday of the month, you can still head downtown to check out the art scene. It’s officially called 18b, which referred to the original 18 blocks that made up the arts district. It’s now expanded far beyond those 18 blocks.

Slotzilla Zipline Las VegasExperienceZipline over Freemont Street

The art scene is cool and hip, but while you’re downtown you can be a little daring too. Head over to Freemont Street Experience to check out some of Las Vegas’ classic hotels still brandishing their neon signs, watch the light show, and soar over all the pedestrians below from 77 feet high on Freemont Street’s zipline. Just look for the 12-story tall slot machine, called SlotZilla, where you can get harnessed up for your 850 feet long zipline. And be sure to smile, because photographers are snapping away for your keepsake photo (and some less daring tourists below are probably snapping your photo too).

SlotZilla
SlotZilla is open 12pm – 12am Sunday through Thursday and 12pm – 2am Friday and Saturday. It is $20 per person and photos are extra. Flyers are given a bag to place belongings like handbags in and attach to your harness.
Jersey Boys Paris Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of Jersey Boys

ExperienceSee a Broadway hit

Las Vegas theater used to mean risqué productions that might even make the Moulin Rouge crowd blush. But these days Las Vegas theater is taken seriously and you can find top-shelf musicals off and on The Strip. The Smith Center for Performing Arts is located Downtown and hosts an impressive Broadway line-up each season.

Though, you don’t have to head Downtown; Paris Las Vegas packs musical lovers in each night for their showing of Jersey Boys. Telling the rags to riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the music will have your toes tapping and wanting to sing along to songs like Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Jersey Boys
Jersey Boys curtain time is at 7pm Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday; 6:30pm and 9:30pm Tuesdays; and 5pm and 8:15pm Saturdays. There are no performances on Mondays. Tickets start from $53.
Wet'n'Wild Las Vegas The Rattler

Photo courtesy of Wet’n’Wild

ExperienceGet Wet’n’Wild

Las Vegas’ many pools are a whole scene, but if you’re up for good ‘ol fashioned fun in the sun head to Wet’n’Wild. Once located right on The Strip, the water park closed back in 2004 and re-opened in Spring Valley in 2013 with bigger and better slides.

Thrill seekers will want to try out the Tornado, a funnel slide that catapults you through a 45-foot wide funnel. Though my favorite slide was the Rattler, the first of its kind in North America. It sends multi-person tubes down over 360 feet through twists and turns and some “midnight” enclosed tunnels before launching you and your friends out into the splash pool.

You can still get a tan lazing on tubes as you float along the Lazy River or ride the waves in the 400,000 gallon wave pool. There’s plenty of shaded areas to escape the sun and Wet’n’Wild even provides free sunscreen at stations around the park.

Wet'n'Wild
Wet’n’Wild is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $39.99 per adult, $29.99 per person under 42″ tall, and free for children under 2. There is also a twilight admission after 4pm. Parking, locker rental, and cabana rental are additional.
Hoover Dam

ExperienceTake the dam tour

Named after Herbert Hoover, the US’ 31st president, Hoover Dam is said to be an engineering marvel. It supplies water to Nevada, California, and Arizona and is visited by more than a million visitors each year. Even Clark Griswold took the Dam Tour in Vegas Vacation and though the jokes are just as bad and cheesy as in the movie, it’s fascinating to see the inner workings of the dam 530 deep in Black Canyon.

The tour starts with a short film in the visitor center before an elevator whisks you deep into the canyon. Once below, the guided tour takes you to a viewing platform where you can observe one of the four huge pipes that transports 90,000 gallons of water every second from Lake Mead to the generators. You’ll also get to check out the generators and some views tourists that only traipse over the top of Hoover Dam ever see.

The Dam Tour
The Dam Tour runs every 30 minutes starting at 9:30am with the last tour of the day starting at 3:30pm. Only 20 people are allowed per tour and it is on a first come, first serve basis. Admission is $30 per person and children under 8 are not permitted. There is also not access for wheelchairs or crutches and the tour requires over 1 mile of walking.
Las Vegas Sunset

Las Vegas Sunset from Frenchman Mountain

ExperienceHike at sunset

Want a Vegas view that few get to see?  Go for a hike up Frenchman mountain for the sunset. Frenchman mountain is also referred to locally as Sunrise mountain in Northeast Las Vegas, although Sunrise mountain is actually the shorter adjacent mountain. The hike starts just right off of Lake Mead Blvd 8.5 miles east of I-15. From the parking area you will see a gravel road heading up the mountain. It will climb steeply for 1600′ to the summit, but you also lose 300′ in between the saddle and peak so just over the 1.5 miles to the summit you gain almost 2000′ which makes it a heck of a workout. My advice is to bring a headlamp and stay for the sunset from the peak. Watching Las Vegas transform and turn on the lights at night is a sight to see. Be careful on the way down as it is quite steep, but still just a gravel road. While parking is fairily safe at the trailhead be sure not to leave any valuables in site in your car.

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Secret Iceland South Coast Attractions You Shouldn’t Miss http://jdombstravels.com/iceland-south-coast-attractions/ http://jdombstravels.com/iceland-south-coast-attractions/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:51:13 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60212 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Many of Iceland’s most visited attractions lie on what is known as the Golden Circle and on the South Coast. Any number or tour companies take tourists by the busload out to attractions like the popular Seljalandsfoss that you can walk behind, the mysterious Skógafoss said to be hiding a treasure chest of gold, and …

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Many of Iceland’s most visited attractions lie on what is known as the Golden Circle and on the South Coast. Any number or tour companies take tourists by the busload out to attractions like the popular Seljalandsfoss that you can walk behind, the mysterious Skógafoss said to be hiding a treasure chest of gold, and Jökulsárlón where you can get up-close with icebergs. But bus tours miss the best parts – the secret Iceland South Coast attractions – like that waterfall tucked just behind a canyon or that swimming pool where only the locals go.

Renting a car is more than just freedom; it’s like going on an expedition of discovery. Heard about that hike with amazing views at breakfast? A rental let’s you hop in the car and go. Want to see where this road leads to? You can. And until the bus tours start stopping at these secret Iceland South Coast attractions, a rental is your only chance to discover them.

Gljúfrabúi WaterfallGljúfrabúi Waterfall

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is easily the secret Iceland South Coast attraction most likely to be missed. That’s because only a couple hundred meters away its more popular neighbor, Seljalandsfoss, is tumbling over the cliff and alluring visitors to go behind it. But follow the path a short ten minute walk behind the campsite just down the road, and you’ll find this beauty hidden in the Trollagil (Troll Gorge) Canyon.

Gljúfrabúi WaterfallGljúfrabúi makes you work to get to it by climbing up the steep, and often muddy, cliff face. But the short hike, which involves pulling yourself up the most dangerous parts with chains anchored into the rocks, is worth it for an up-close look at the waterfall.

It’s less voluminous than its more popular neighbor Seljalandsfoss and is spring fed. From the road, only the very top is visible because of a boulder that blocks it. The boulder, named Franskanef, is said to be the residence of hidden people (or elves).

Turnoff Road 1 for Seljalandsfoss. Either walk from Seljalandsfoss or drive past the parking lot for Seljalandsfoss and continue down the road to the camp ground about 1 kilometer away.

KeldurKeldur Turf House, The Oldest House in Iceland

Keldur is said to be the oldest surviving turf house in Iceland as it was mentioned in the Sagas in the Middle Ages. Though improvements have been made as it was lived in up until 1946, when the house was then given to the National Museum of Iceland. The family still owns and operates the farm that the turf houses are on, but each summer visitors can take a look at what life was like in these houses.

According to the Saga Njálusaga, Ingjaldur Höskuldsson lived here from 974 and in the 12th – 13th centuries, the powerful Oddi clan took up residence, and their chieftain, Jón Loftsson, lived at Keldur until the end of his life. Skúli Guðmundsson was the last resident, who lived in the house from 1862 – 1946. Skúli’s grandson and his wife now live on the farm and proudly show me around, kindly opening for a special visit.

KeldurThe house is just one of a group of buildings. There is also a storehouse, a smithy, a millhouse, a cattle shed, a stable, a sheep corral, and an escape tunnel. We have a look around the house and though many items have been removed to be on display in the National Museum, there are still pots and pans in the kitchen, beds, a crib, and some of the other furniture in the house. It’s much larger than it would appear from outside and quite interesting. Definitely worth a visit.

Keldur is open June 15 – August 15. Turn on Road 264 from Road 1; the turnoff is almost directly across the road from Hotel Ranga.

SeljavallalaugSeljavallalaug

Nestled in a narrow valley beneath Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that famously shut down air traffic for 10 days in 2010, Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Now abandoned, it was built in 1923 and was considered an engineering marvel at its time. Its designers were clever and utilized the natural rock of the mountain as one of the four walls of the pool and the geothermal water from the area trickles down the rock and right in to the pool, keeping it a warm 38°C.

Seljavallalaug fell into disuse when a swimming pool was built 2 kilometers closer to the small community in 1990. Volunteers generously keep it clean and it is perfectly suitable for swimming. There are even the changing rooms still standing from when the pool was thriving, though don’t expect much from them.

Seljavallalaug

Are you sure there’s a swimming pool back here?

The pool is no roadside attraction. A small gravel road takes you several kilometers into the back of a valley and you’ll pass another abandoned swimming pool on the drive. Don’t let that swimming pool fool you! Drive until the road ends and this is where you’ll begin a 20-minute hike to the pool. You have to cross a river several times and if it feels like you can’t possibly be going the right way, just trust that you are. The pool is tucked into a hidden corner of the valley and you won’t see it until you are about 50 meters away.

To find Seljavallalaug, turn on Road 242 (marked Raufarfell) from Road 1 just past the small Þorvaldseyri exhibition.

US Navy plane crash IcelandThe Abandoned DC3 Plane Crash

On November 24, 1973 a US Navy DC3 crash landed on the black sand beach Sólheimasandur on the South Coast of Iceland when the plane ran out of fuel…or so the pilot though. Everyone survived the crash and it turned out that the pilot simply needed to flip a switch to the other fuel tank. For whatever reason, the plane was abandoned – left to forever rot on the black sand dunes.

The Navy officers must have thought they landed on the moon on that November day. The black sand dunes are surreal and the landscape is completely desolate. It’s no wonder this site is a favorite of photographers and many filmmakers and advertisers have shot here.

If you have a 4×4, you can actually drive right out to the plane crash. Note that you are just driving on black sand and that there is not a “road”, so just try to drive straight out toward the ocean. It’s about 4 kilometers from the turn off and because the crash is below a sand dune, it suddenly appears like a mirage when you are about 100 meters away.

If you don’t have a 4×4, you can hike from Road 1 and it should take around an hour each way. Again, just try to walk straight out toward the ocean. Keep in mind that no matter whether hiking or driving, the winds are often much stronger at the shore and the area is prone to sand storms, so just use caution when visiting the plane crash site.

To find the plane crash, look for a small gravel parking area and opening in the fence about 2 kilometers from the Sólheimajökull turnoff (Road 221). If you pass the turnoff for Mýrdalsjökull (Road 222), you’ve gone too far. The plane crash is on the beach side (on the right if headed in the direction from Reykjavik to Vik) and you cannot see the crash from the road. The GPS coordinates are N 63 27.572, W 019 21.969

Disclosure: Our trip to Iceland was sponsored in part by Go Iceland, who provided us with a 4×4 Dacia Duster in order to bring you this story. All opinions about places visited are entirely our own.

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Exploring the Glaciers and Icebergs of Kulusuk http://jdombstravels.com/kulusuk-icebergs-and-glaciers-tour/ http://jdombstravels.com/kulusuk-icebergs-and-glaciers-tour/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:02:13 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=59909 Luxe Adventure Traveler

As our flight took off from the small airport, I took my last look at the colorful houses dwarfed by the towering icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean. Unspoiled by time. I jotted those three words down as there is no better way to describe the tiny settlement of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland. …

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Kulusuk Airport, East GreenlandAs our flight took off from the small airport, I took my last look at the colorful houses dwarfed by the towering icebergs floating in the Arctic Ocean. Unspoiled by time. I jotted those three words down as there is no better way to describe the tiny settlement of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland.

Kulusuk was permanently settled in 1909, little more than 100 years ago. We walked along the gravel road from the airport toward the village about three kilometers away, as that is the only way to get there. The one or two cars belong to the lone hotel. As we walked, our guide told us about life in the tiny settlement of barely 300 residents. Here fishing and hunting are the way of life, supplemented by the bit of tourism the airport brings to the settlement.

Hotel Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe hotel has two luxuries: running water and flushing toilets. Most families living in Kulusuk draw their water from the centrally located lake of potable water all year round. The shipment of gas had just been delivered and was likely the last before the harsh winter sets in. The families will come to get their gas for heating and cooking from the tank, purchasing it by the liter.

The cemetery in KulusukA sea of white crosses and plastic flowers dot the cemetery on the jagged coastline. Keeping with Inuit tradition, the crosses lack any names; the names are passed on in death to live on to the next generation.

Kulusuk, East GreenlandAs we carry on, we start to notice dead seals bobbing at the shore. The Inuit people live mostly off the land and this includes eating seals, which is considered the most important meat in their diet. The water is cold enough to preserve the seals until they are ready to be eaten and this method allows some of the proteins to ferment into carbohydrates. And no part will go unused: the skins are used for clothing, some seal meat is used for dog food, the fat can be rendered into an oil used for heat, and the bones can be made into tools.

Dogs in Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe dogs are a companion in survival, so it’s no surprise that we would encounter some in the settlement. The adult dogs are napping and chained to their houses or the rocks; the puppies are in napping in a box but as soon as they hear us, they’re climbing over one another and vying for our attention. We give them belly rubs before moving on.

Kulusuk, East GreenlandThe settlement has one grocery store and we stop there for a look around and to pick up some snacks for lunch. Now the little market is stocked up, but as the winter wears on the supplies on the shelves will dwindle while the residents of Kulusuk wait for the sea ice to break up enough so that ships can bring fresh supplies again.

Fisherman boat near Apusiaajik GlacierNow that we’ve walked the village, we board a small boat to get an up close look at the glittering icebergs that almost always dot the Angmassalik Fjord. They calve off the Apusiaajik Glacier and float through the fjord before drifting out to the sea. As we weave amongst the massive floating ice sculptures, I remind myself that what we see is actually only about 10% of the iceberg that is visible above the water.

Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland Icebergs in Kulusuk, East Greenland“That one looks like a Viking ship,” I point out to Tim. Each is unique and form different shapes as they go through phases of melting and freezing. This is also why parts of icebergs, or sometimes entire icebergs, are blue. One in particularly has a striking blue section of ice and if it weren’t for the wind stinging our cheeks, this wouldn’t feel real.

On a fishing boat near Kulusuk, East GreenlandAs the boat bounces over the water back toward shore, we gaze out over the fjord with chunks of old glacier floating beneath jagged saw-toothed mountains. Life might be harsh here, but with such unspoiled beauty surrounding them, we can see why the Inuit have made this place home.

Our day tour to Kulusuk was an excellent introduction to East Greenland, but at the same time it was like an amuse-bouche that left us wanting more. You can bet we’ll be back someday.

Know Before You Go

  • The Kulusuk Icebergs and Glaciers Day Tour operates from June 15 – the first week of September daily except on Sundays.
  • The tour includes round trip flights Reykjavik – Kulusuk – Reykjavik, airport taxes, guided tour, and boat excursion. The tour is 115,930 ISK (about $967 US) per person.
  • Wear good walking shoes or hiking boots. There is about 6 kilometers of walking required for this tour.

Disclosure: Our Kulusuk Day Tour was provided by Air Iceland in cooperation with Nordic Visitor in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

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Kayaking in Iceland’s Westfjords http://jdombstravels.com/kayaking-in-iceland-westfjords/ http://jdombstravels.com/kayaking-in-iceland-westfjords/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:46:26 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=58835 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Remote. Unspoiled. Breathtaking. With words like that used to describe Iceland’s north-west corner, known as the Iceland Westfjords, how could we not spend time in this true Icelandic wilderness? The Westfjords are teeming with wildlife – seabirds, seals, whales, and other marine mammals. There couldn’t be a better way to get up close to the …

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Remote. Unspoiled. Breathtaking. With words like that used to describe Iceland’s north-west corner, known as the Iceland Westfjords, how could we not spend time in this true Icelandic wilderness? The Westfjords are teeming with wildlife – seabirds, seals, whales, and other marine mammals. There couldn’t be a better way to get up close to the wildlife than to do some paddling.

Seals in Iceland Westfjords

How many seals do you count?

Locals always know the best spots and the team at the family run Borea Adventures were happy to share a few of Iceland’s best kept secrets with us as we tried out a new kayaking day tour they’ll be adding to their offerings for the upcoming season. Borea Adventures is located in the heart of Ísafjörður and we met our guide, Örvar, there. We’d be driving out to Hestfjörður, the narrow steep-walled fjords known as the Horse Fjord. It’s one of the best places in Iceland where you’re almost guaranteed to see seals.


As we launched our kayaks out in to the water, the seals all took a dive. Curious critters that they are, at least 20 heads would pop up craning for a better look at us. The seals were just as interested in us as we were in them and as we paddled out, they’d pop up right next to us to see what we were up to.

The seals continued to pop-up and dive around us as we paddled out toward Vigur Island. The water was nearly like glass, making it easy to spot them. We kept our eyes peeled for any whale spouts or fins. Though we never did spot any whales, like the humpbacks that like to come in to the fjord, some harbour porpoise did give us a show. They are the smallest marine mammal and look a bit like dolphins.

Kayaking to Vigur IslandVigur Island is a small island in the Westfjords known as the “Spear Island” because of its shape. Once upon a time, four families lived and farmed there. Now just one farmer remains. He is the fourth generation to inherit and live on Vigur Island and once we paddled  ashore, we could immediately see why he enjoys living there so much. The 360-degree views are simply spectacular!

All that paddling makes even the heartiest explorer famished. Örvar’s family also runs a small cafe and his brother had packed each of us a lunch bag. Everything is homemade and is both organic and local. The cafe bakes the bread for the sandwiches and the tomatoes and cheese come from a farmer in town. We also enjoyed fresh baked muffins and granola bars. Seriously the best granola bars we’ve ever had! His mother keeps the recipe a secret, even from Örvar. He joked with us that to work in the cafe you must sign a non-disclosure agreement before you get to help make the granola bars.

Eider ducks on Vigur Island

Eider ducks hanging out on shore

Fueled up on a healthy and delicious lunch, we set out to explore Vigur Island. In July and August all sorts of sea birds, like puffin, come to the island to nest and raise their young. We’d missed them leaving by only about two weeks, but the Eider ducks call the island home year round. The farmer makes a nice nesting area for them and slowly “steals” their feathers all summer long. He produces the expensive and luxe Eiderdown from the feathers collected in the small factory on the island. But not to worry, he replaces what he steals with hay and the Eider ducks are perfectly happy. Bring your credit card and you can go home with a very nice Eiderdown quilt, though it might cost you more than your flight to Iceland.

Iceland's only windmill

Iceland’s only windmill

Vigur Island is also home to Iceland’s only windmill. It was built in 1840 and used to grind grains. It was really ingenious when it was built – the whole thing turns so that it could always catch the wind no matter which direction it was blowing. It’s no longer used, but it is quite picturesque.

You can even mail a postcard with a special stamp made only for Vigur Island from the tiny Post Office. It’s the smallest Post Office in Europe.

Vigur IslandThe island is home to around 30 sheep, though the main livelihood is the production of the Eiderdown. Stroll around the “highlands” of the island and you’ll run into the sheep munching away on the grass. You can also walk down to the beach and have a look at the “face” rocks. Icelanders believe in trolls and elves and Örvar points out that this rock looks like a head with a big nose sticking out, eyes, and like the troll even has hair.

The walk around the island is perfect to stretch your legs before hopping back in to the kayak to paddle back across to the fjord.

Know Before You Go

  • The Vigur Island and Seals kayak tour is available from May – September. Inquire with Borea Adventures and check out their other tours from kayaking to skiing.
  • Paddling to Vigur Island is 10km (6.2 miles) round trip.
  • Wear warm water repellant clothing and socks. A dry suit and life jacket are provided to go over your clothing.

Disclosure: Our Vigur Island kayak tour was hosted by Borea Adventures in order to bring you this story. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.

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Beach Bummin’ at The Shores Resort & Spa http://jdombstravels.com/the-shores-resort-and-spa/ http://jdombstravels.com/the-shores-resort-and-spa/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:43:42 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=57700 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I was happy to end an extremely busy 4-city trip through the US at Daytona’s The Shores Resort & Spa. And aside from literally getting my heart – and the NASCAR I was driving – racing at the Daytona International Speedway, I was more than happy to do nothing more than plant my bum on …

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I was happy to end an extremely busy 4-city trip through the US at Daytona’s The Shores Resort & Spa. And aside from literally getting my heart – and the NASCAR I was driving – racing at the Daytona International Speedway, I was more than happy to do nothing more than plant my bum on the beach and relax. *Gasp* I even put away the camera and mostly put down my phone to just enjoy lounging on the beach.

Just 3 miles from the beach shops and historic district, The Shores Resort & Spa sits on a beautiful (and quiet) strand of the barrier island. The boutique beachfront luxury hotel offers a menu of luxe amenities from an un-crowded beach to four-poster feather beds you’ll hardly want to pull yourself out of.

S'mores at The Shores Resort & Spa

Guests get a s’more making kit with all the essentials for making the ooey-gooey treats

As I checked in, the friendly staff handed over my S’mores kit and I knew I was going to love this hotel. Every night from sunset on, you can toast up marshmallows in The Shores’ fire pits to enjoy beachfront S’mores. My kind of place!

The Shores Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of The Shores Resort & Spa

The rooms are spacious and decorated in a beachy chic theme, though the four-poster feather bed is the pièce de résistance. The bathroom is on the small side, but a separate vanity area outside the bathroom makes up for the lack of space.

The white sand beach, outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzi, tiki bar, and spa beckon you to actually leave the otherwise cozy room and experience the rest of what the resort has to offer. Can’t choose between beach and pool? Private access to the beach for resort guests makes it easy to alternate between the oasis of the resort’s sun deck and the gorgeous beach. There were chair and umbrellas rentals on the beach or just put your towel down in the sand.

Azure restaurant at The Shores Resort & SpaAfter working up an appetite swimming around in the couldn’t-be-a-more-perfect-temperature Atlantic Ocean, the on-site restaurant Azure’s menu tempted me with plenty of fish and seafood. Since I couldn’t choose just one dish for lunch and since I was indulging, I had the coconut mussels and a fried oyster po’boy. You can dine outside on the elevated terrace or indoors in the elegant restaurant. But who would want to be indoors when the weather was so gorgeous?

S'mores at The Shores Resort & Spa

Photo courtesy of The Shores Resort & Spa

As sun sets, which unfortunately is behind you as the beach faces east, the lovely blue of dusk sets in and the fire pits are lit. Grab an Adirondack and have your S’more kit ready. It’s the perfect way to end a day of relaxation in Daytona!

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