Fun Things to See and Do in Billings, Montana

Last summer, my husband, my son, and I traveled to the beautiful Billings, Montana for my husband’s work. We were quite surprised to find the city not only breathtakingly beautiful, but there was also a ton of different things to do. When we found out that we would be traveling all the way from Wisconsin, where we currently live, to Montana, I was thinking that I would be dead bored for the whole trip. Boy was I ever wrong.

The first thing we saw when we were driving to Billings was The Little Bighorn Battlefield, where Custer took his last stand. Although it is not located in Billings, it is still a great piece of history that you should check out if you are ever near Billings. The first things that our young son noticed were the large mountains. Billings is surrounded by many different mountain ranges.

When we arrived in Billings, we stayed at the Holiday Inn where we picked up a small newsletter where we learned some of the history of Billings, Montana. Billings was established in the year 1882 by the President of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Frederick Billings. Thousands of years before, the area was populated by many different Native American tribes who left their history by making pictographs and petroglyphs. You can go into any gift store in Billings to buy Native American novelties. Billings gained the nickname The Magic City, because people say that is grew like magic when the railroad expanded westward.

When you think of Billings, Montana, or anywhere in Montana in fact, you probably think of small, desolate towns with nothing to do. At least, that is what I thought before I visited Billings. One of the best things about Billings is all of the great stores and popular restaurants. I was scared that there would not even be a Burger King, but there were so many different restaurants that we did not get to eat at them all before we left back home. Besides all of the stores, malls, and restaurants, there are also many hotels in the city of Billings. The nightlife is also very exciting in Billings. Any night of the week, you can drive down the main street and see tons of people out having fun, eating, shopping, and spending time with their family and friends. Billings holds a party called Alive After Five, which is where they close down a few streets, and there are street dances, live bands, great food, and an all around great time!

Since my husband went to Billings to work, we tried to do as many things as a family that we could on the weekends. My son had a great time when we took him to the zoo located in Billings. Although the zoo is somewhat small, my son had a great time. When we walked through the bird barn, one bird actually landed on my husbands arm while he was holding our son! Talk about up close and personal! My son got to pet the bird and talk to him. My husband had to take the bird off his arm and set him on top of a barrel. Our son’s favorite animal there was the goose. The animals and the people at the zoo are very friendly. When we were finished walking through the zoo and looking at the animals, my son played on the playground, and crawled through cement tunnels. We all had a great time!

The weekend after we went to the zoo, my husband and I took our son to the Yellowstone River. We walked down a hiking trail and saw many wildlife animals. When we were walking, I almost stepped on a snake! Although I like animals, that did not make me very happy. We got to take many great scenic pictures, and a lot of pictures of our son with a beautiful background. The weather was great, and there were not a lot of other people around.

If you ever get a chance to visit Billings, Montana, do not pass it up. It is a beautiful city with many fun things to do. You can do everything from going to the zoo to going to see Professional Bull Riders, which our family did. If you do visit, try to do and see as many fun things as you can!

Travel Guide to Lancaster: Pennsylvania’s Amish

Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County is famous for many things. Some of them include great Pennsylvania Dutch food, the peaceful serenity of Amish farms and buggies, history and culture museums, and great kid-oriented attractions. There are many different things to experience and explore that will make your trip to this bustling Pennsylvania county a vacation you will always remember.

First, a little bit about the Amish farmers whose properties make up a huge part of the area: Centuries ago, a strict religious group arrived from Germany around the same time as many other Pennsylvania German immigrants. The Amish people were Christians of a very strict order; their every activity, article of clothing, and action was regulated by the scriptures. Even today, the Amish do not favor electricity, modern amenities or popular dress. Visiting an Amish farm (you can even tour the grounds in some instances) is a great way to experience a life very different (and much calmer) than the one you’re used to living.

For another up close and personal glimpse of Amish life, take an actual buggy ride operated by an Amish family. This is a great way to see the countryside, experience transportation from a different viewpoint, and chat with some friendly and knowledgeable members of the faith. For children, especially, this would make a great introduction to “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” as Lancaster County is known. Some of these tours drive on the back roads and farmlands without actually going into heavy traffic; if you want to get out on the open road, perhaps a vehicle tour would be a better option. Abe’s Buggy Rides and AAA Buggy Rides are two companies you may want to check into before your trip.

If you plan to visit Lancaster County you should not miss Ephrata Cloister, especially if you’re traveling with school-age children. These small wood buildings have been kept in good condition since the 18th century when a pious community of Pennsylvania Germans built and occupied the complex. The men and women who each had quarters here were not unlike the Catholic monks and nuns, but were German Protestants of a very strict religious organization. You will be able to enter some of these modest buildings like the Meetinghouse, the Academy, and many other restored buildings. You will even find a farm and an old cemetery nearby; here Conrad Beissel, the founder of the Ephrata Cloister, is buried.

Remember to spend at least a few hours here; there is much to see. Very small children may find the endless array of old homes boring and uneventful, but older children should appreciate the history and reverence of what they are seeing. Make it more interesting by reading to them what each place is, what the building represents, and how people lived there very long ago. The buildings themselves are graceful works of art, built to resemble medieval German structures.

Landis Valley, a living history museum, is also located in Lancaster. Here you can learn even more about the Pennsylvania German immigrants who made this place their home in the 18th century and later. Landis Valley is an outdoor reconstructed village, complete with a tavern, an elegant home, and many other buildings. Tour guides dressed in period garb will be happy to help you find your way. Children might enjoy the schoolhouse to compare how their modern schools differ from this older model. Remember to stop at the visitor center to find out anything you may have wanted to know about Landis Valley.

For a more lighthearted approach to Lancaster County (and one for which the kids would probably give a high thumps-up) try Dutch Wonderland. This name also alludes to the Germans who helped make the area famous (strangely enough, the name “Lancaster” is unmistakably British). Just a few of the things kids (and parents) can do here include golfing, riding the carousel, getting great food, and hanging around with themed characters from time to time.

Dutch Wonderland offers many reading and entertainment programs for children, but all in all, parents might find these activities to be worthy of a yawn. Having kids *and* parents happy is what family vacations are about, so you might want to steer clear and find a more “exciting” activity like the Pipeline Plunge or the Flying Trapeze. Don’t forget to try some park food, of course. Consider some funnel cake! Not only is it an extremely popular German food, but the taste is enough to keep you coming back for more!

NYC: The Big Apple for Beginners

Glitzy, glamorous New York City has been a national icon since before any of us were even born. The city is ranked in popularity with Paris and London, and it may be of interest to know that it had humble beginnings as an outpost for Dutch colonists. How did New York City go from a province of the Netherlands to the hip city it is today? Luck and just the right amount of wealthy residents, that’s how!

New York City is one of the most famous cities of America, and rightly so. There is simply no way you can travel to the “Big Apple” and not find something that amazes you. Traveling as a romantic couple? Or perhaps for a family excursion? Not a problem! Sit back and find out exactly what you can find to explore in New York City. However, you may want to take into account that this is a *HUGE* place and it is not recommended you try to find your own way around unless you are an expert on the city. A tour guide always helps, along with pamphlets, brochures, maps, or, if you happen to know such a person, a friend who is familiar with the area.

If you’re taking a ferry, the first landmark you will see is the graceful Statue of Liberty. It is probably a good idea to read up on the history of the monument. It’s an amazing travel experience, being able to stand beside the statue and admire the fine craftsmanship. If you studied about the Statue of Liberty in the classroom, you may remember that it was France who gave us this great monument in the late 19th century.

Many people would consider it a shame to visit New York City and not take the chance to visit the Empire State Building. This is one of the country’s most famous landmarks as well, and for good reason. Take a ride to the top of the building for a thrilling views of the Big Apple. Take your camera, movie camera, and any other media you may possess, because you *will* want to take advantage of the view. The Empire State Building is located in the posh district forever known as “Fifth Avenue.”

If you are lucky enough to visit the Empire State Building at night when the building is illuminated with colored lights, you will definitely be glad you took the time to stop by. Check the official website to see when this will be happening. There are few more beautiful sights in New York City, so you may want to work it into your vacation.

Who could come to New York City without stopping by Times Square? The famous place is an integral part of the city’s past. Seeing the flashy advertisements and old structures may throw you back about 70 years to a simpler (but much more dangerous) time, the era of gangsters and Model-T’s. You will find lots of places to eat and browse the boutiques, but be warned; New York City is not known for cheap gifts. If you have money to spend, you may want to check out the boutiques, but if your budget is less than perfect, you will most likely find souvenirs that are easier on your wallet.

For an exotic ethnic side-trip, check out Chinatown. You should be able to get some great gifts and food here; the atmosphere will also make you forget you are in this modern American city. The wafting smells alone should draw you to this Asian haven! When you’re finished exploring Chinatown, you may be interested to know that there is also a Jewish section and a section of town known as “Little Italy.” For some ethnic cuisine while you are in the city, you may want to try sampling a little bit of each!

You will be entranced with New York City’s “Broadway.” Even if prices are a bit high and foot traffic (not to mention vehicle traffic) seems a bit daunting, you’ll be glad you came. There is something magical about strolling along Broadway and imagining the days when the rich and famous traversed these sidewalks. If you can catch a show, good for you! “Theater-going” on Broadway is an experience you will never forget!

Last Minute Weekend Getaways

By Christina VanGinkel

Taking a last minute, unplanned excursion for the weekend can be a great way to get in some much needed relaxation. Because you have not spent a lot of time planning, some of you might feel like these quick getaways are not all that they are cracked up to be, but I would disagree. Especially if you can keep it simple, and just go with the flow. They can be a way to recharge your personal batteries with little effort on your part. By simply giving yourself a view that is different from your day in and day out routine, life can seem to provide you with that breather you have been in search of. These quick getaways can include your children, if you have any, or just your significant other. If you are single, then what are you waiting for? Get going no matter who is or who is not going with you. Be warned though, that once you take one of these quick weekend trips, you will soon be trying to fit in another one as soon as you can! As a woman who is married, and a mother and grandmother, my excursions usually include my spouse and at least one or two children, yet I love my weekends that we sneak off unplanned as much as any well planned vacation we take, maybe even more so, because nothing is expected during these trips except kicking back and doing nothing!

Maybe you suddenly realize that you are really in need of a break. At the same time, you might also have a weekend where you honestly have nothing planned, at least not anything that cannot be set aside. In order to clear a weekend quickly, learn to rate your weekend priorities. Ask yourself if you have any plans that involve a major event with the primary people in your life. This includes children and bosses (not co-workers, just bosses). Significant others are not to be considered, as they will of course be going with you. Housework is also not an excuse. The floors were not mopped all week, and the beds were left unmade, so what if they stay that way over one weekend. If you are the sort that just cannot stand leaving your house when it is a wreck, set a timer for one hour before you leave and do a speed clean so when you do arrive home, all of your stress does not come rolling back at you full force because of the stack of dishes in the sink. Remember to clean only for the hour though, and just the most obvious mess so your senses are not offended upon arriving home.

Then, get in the car and drive to wherever your senses tell you to go. We live rurally, so we usually head to the nearest large city, which is Green Bay, Wisconsin. If you live in a city, maybe your drive will be taking you in the opposite direction, into the countryside. Do make a hotel reservation before you head out the door, or at least take your cell phone with you, and call a hotel to book a room for your arrival on the way.

Once you arrive. Do whatever you want, even if that is nothing. You are paying for the room, so take advantage of it. My favorite is ordering room service, even if the room service order is a pizza! We usually book a room at a hotel that has at least a hot tub, and usually a pool. I love to swim, but my husband does not. He will just sit poolside with a drink, and people watch, or read a newspaper. I might lie on a float in the pool, while our thirteen year old usually heads for a game room or the water slide if there is one. My point being, you should keep in mind that a getaway means not having to do anything you do not want to do, even what others in the family might want. I would never ask my husband to swim with me, as A, I know how much he enjoys just chilling out, and B, I like my bit of solitude on the float in the middle of the pool.

Quebec – Canada’s Romantic French Province

There are a few places “close to home” that we can visit if we want to experience a culture different from our own. Canada’s famous French province of Quebec is one such place; and we can keep the money in our pockets that would have been used to pay airline fees to France! True, Quebec is much more anglicized now than it was centuries ago, but if you look closely you can still pick out many remnants of its French past. You have to know where to find these hints of culture, and it’s easy with a tour guide, a guide book, or a friend who happens to know the area!

The colony’s first settlers arrived in 1608, led by a daring French explorer many schoolchildren learned about in their formative years: Samuel de Champlain. This man helped to make Quebec the place it is today. Were it not for him, Spanish or English colonists would have likely made their way upstream to what was to become Canada, and would have given the city an entirely different look than it has. Religious tradition, brought from the devout, mostly Catholic settlers, also helped to found the churches, convents and faith-based institutions that Quebec’s cities now boast.

When researching things to do in Quebec, you will most likely want to start at the beautiful city of Montreal, which still retains much of its French heritage. In your research, you will probably come across a church called Notre Dame. Yes, there is a Notre Dame Cathedral in North America. It may not be as old as the medieval structure by the same name in Paris, but it is still well worth a visit. Known as a basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame) the church was built in the mid 17th century, prior to many churches in North America. The interior of Notre Dame is strikingly beautiful, gilded, arched and decorated.

For a beautiful excursion that will take up the greater part of the day, try out Old Montreal, known much more romantically as Vieux-Montreal. Many people believe it bears a striking resemblance to its sister city Paris (which is a wonderful thing to know if you don’t want to travel the world to eat at a French cafe). In Old Montreal you will find great places to dine, fabulous (though a bit pricey) shops and lots of things to see and do, including some museums well worth your time. You can find everything in Montreal, from historic buildings to churches to old ruins. At Champs-de-Mars, you can see the remains of the old walls that once guarded and strengthened the city. They were constructed in the early 18th century and have been preserved in part as a reminder of the city’s past.

Many of the streets in Montreal have retained their French names. Rue (meaning Street) is a common street name, usually followed by the name of a Catholic saint. For some examples, a few of Montreal’s streets are called Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue Notre-Dame (Our Lady). The places called Place d’Youville, Champs-de-Mars and Bonsecoeurs also vividly remind visitors of Montreal’s European heritage.

In Quebec City, there are also a ton of things to experience. For a history lesson, visit the Plains of Abraham. The year was 1759: Frenchmen longed for Quebec to belong only to the French, as it had once been, and tried to oust the British soldiers who were all too eager to meet the challenge. The Plains of Abraham could be considered one of North America’s most important battles because it was only after this battle that England felt confident enough to commandeer the French provinces. Were it not for the Plains of Abraham, Quebec might only be open to French immigrants to this day, and we could not enjoy the attractions that can be found here.

Strangely enough, Quebec City also has a Notre Dame Cathedral! The Basilique Cathedrale was originally built in the 1600s but has endured renovations since that time. Unlike Montreal’s cathedral, huge and blocky with little exterior ornamentation at some places, Quebec City’s Notre Dame boasts a beautiful and graceful facade. The inside of the church is even more beautiful. It is impossible to compare the interior of Montreal’s church to Quebec City’s because each interior is wonderfully constructed, full of gold accents, angelic statuary, vaults, and amazingly detailed altars. You don’t want to visit Quebec City without stopping in to see the Basilique Cathedrale.

History and Fun at Yorktown Battlefield

The Civil War battlefields of this great nation are often visited, but the fighting fields of the American Revolution seem to be largely ignored. In every way you look at it, the Revolutionary War was a huge part of America’s history; indeed, our country would not exist were it not for this conflict. If we did exist at all, we would be an English principality with little freedoms. The United States of America has beautifully preserved many of its hallowed fields, and the battlefield of Yorktown in Virginia is one of these places.

Yorktown’s advantageous location makes it close to Jamestown and Williamsburg for families planning to visit the “Historic Triangle.” Visiting Yorktown as a family vacation rather than a field trip is a great choice because unlike field trips, which often just last a day and ferry kids back to waiting parents, you can get a hotel, eat a colonial dinner and have more time to experience history. Don’t let the kids be the only ones having fun. It never hurts to throw yourself into the historical fun.

You might want to start out at the Yorktown Victory Center. There are countless exhibits here and the average family might expect to spend at least two hours to take in everything fully. For kids who may not have known much of Yorktown’s history to begin with, this is a great way for them to discover the story behind what they will be seeing.

Presentations and a movie are just part of the allure. Stop by the 1780 farm, a recreated rural American residence. Outside you can usually see “American soldiers” camped out. This would be a great time for kids to ask questions, take pictures, and learn about the past. At certain times reenactments such as cannon firings are held, so be sure to check out the schedule ahead of time.

Also at Yorktown Victory Center you’ll find something called the Discovery Room. Kids can try on colonial clothes, and technology offers parents and kids to chance to use computers to learn about subjects concerning the Siege of Yorktown and the lives of colonial Americans. Don’t forget to dress up your little one in colonial garb if this activity is offered when you visit. It will make many great photos and help immerse children more fully in the time period they are studying.

Now you’re ready to visit the field and town. Yorktown proper is a quaint little town where modern amenities blend quite nicely with historic homes and other buildings. You will find old brick homes scattered about, buildings that witnessed the famous siege. The Nelson House is a beautiful colonial structure that’s both crammed with history and pleasing to the eye. If you time your visit right, you may be able to catch a guided tour of the old home. Within the Yorktown area you can find Cornwallis’ Cave; the place received that name because of the tales of British General Cornwallis hiding in this very cave. Whether or not the stories are completely true, kids should enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of colonial Yorktown.

On the battlefield you will find cannons and embankments set up just as they were during the 1781 siege. You can choose to drive the tour and read about each stop as you go along, or you may wish to walk the field. Passing by cannons and monuments slowly enough to stop and read about them is always a great learning experience, and children may enjoy it more. Make sure to tell kids about the importance of what they’re seeing. If they like “playing war,” this is the perfect place for them. Surrender Field is an awe-inspiring place where American soldiers won the days-long siege and helped to end the Revolution. It could be argued that it is one of the all-important spots that helped us win our independence from England. Take a moment to reflect on our nation’s great history.

The most important thing to remember when introducing kids to history is that to “reenact it” makes it more interesting. Yorktown has special things just for “little soldiers” that include learning about colonial life and participating in 18th century activities. The Junior Ranger program, offered at many National Park Service sites, allows you to purchase a book that kids fill in as they go along. If they finish all the activities in the book, they are presented with a “badge” of honor and a paper stating they finished the course. If you have the time, this would be a great way to involve your children in Yorktown’s exciting history.

Let a Teen Help Plan your Vacation

By Christina VanGinkel

Traveling with a teenager can be an experience all in itself. We sometimes get so wrapped up with dealing with the younger kids, or just figuring that our teens are old enough to just go with the flow of things, that we do not really give them any thought whatsoever when traveling with them. This is at the least a disservice to them, but also to us. Teenagers are often knowledgeable about the current trends of everything, so to take advantage of this, inquiring of them as to what they would like to do, see, where they would like to eat, etc. It can give your travel time a completely new twist. Besides, letting them have a hand in the travel plans are sure to take some of the stress of having to accomplish it all off yourself.

If you are traveling to a completely new destination that no one in the travel party really has any experience with, turning over the task of finding out about the destination to a teen can be the best idea you will come up with. It will not only assure them that they will end up getting to actually participate in some activities that they want, but it will also take the pressure off of you from having to listen to the time honored ‘I am bored’ phrase. If they have a hand in the planning, they have nobody to tell they are bored but themselves.

This does not mean you have to give them free reign, so do not panic that you will end up having to skydive from a prop plane when what you really wanted to do was sit in the sand and enjoy a drink filled with umbrellas! Sit down with them and ask them first if they would like to help plan the vacation. If they are agreeable, and most teens seem to be, give them a rundown on any specifics that you already have. If you know you are going to Hawaii, for example, tell them. If you really do not have a destination in mind yet, ask them for suggestions even on that aspect. Once the destination ahs been decided upon, then give them an approximate broken down budget of what you have available to spend on items such as lodging, meals, and activities. Ask them to come up with at least two or three ideas for each. For example, under activities, maybe they really do want to try hang gliding. If so, have them also list at least one or two more activities. Then, have them research the cost of each activity, and any requirements needed to participate, such as age limits.

If this sounds like just too much to let a teen handle, then start small, and ask them to plan one aspect of the vacation, such as choosing the hotels you will stay in, or having them choose one activity, even if it ends up riding the biggest rollercoaster at a theme park along the way, or heading to a concert that is playing in a venue close to your destination.

In order to better allow them to accomplish all of this, be sure they have access to the information, such as Internet searches and a telephone. Explain to them about travel brochures, and tell them that if something even sounds like something they feel the family might be interested in, then to call or email for a brochure or further information. Be upfront from the start and tell them that you might not agree to do everything they ask, but if something is reasonable, you are willing to try it.

Even younger teens can have a hand in the planning. We have been letting our now thirteen year old choose the restaurants we eat in when we travel for as long as I can remember. Part of the fun of travel is trying new things, and he seems to have a knack for choosing restaurants and eateries that we might not normally choose, but they sure are fun to try! We have also been letting him have a say in our destinations for about as long. We will normally choose two or three places, which are within our budget, and have him do the final choosing. A teen or preteen, who has some say in where you are all heading off too, always seems to be a better travel companion than one who has simply been ordered to pack their bags because you said so!

The Myth and Beauty of Jamestown, Virginia

As schoolchildren, many of us learned the romantic (though perhaps a bit fabricated) story of how a famous Indian maiden saved Captain John Smith’s life. We can almost hear the frantic pleas of a young girl begging her father not to kill the man she loves. It’s a sad story, with an even sadder realization: Pocahontas never married John Smith. She married a tobacco planter named John Rolfe, went on a trip to England with her baby son, and never returned. But the public never turned away from the idea of an adventurous captain falling in love with a beautiful Indian maiden.

It’s this story that has helped to make Virginia’s ancient city of Jamestown famous. The popularity of Disney’s animated movies concerning Pocahontas have kept the legend alive and given more children a feel for the area’s history. What better way to get your family excited about history than to visit a place that is literally bursting with it?

Jamestown, Virginia, founded in the early years of the 17th century, is England’s oldest lasting colony in America. The Native American inhabitants made their home here for countless years before the English settlers arrived and provided an interesting culture clash. There are two parts to the Jamestown complex; the Old Town, and the New Town.

Old Town is where the actual colony was located and where traces can still be found. Start at the visitor’s center (which is also a gift shop, a good thing to keep in mind for when your tour is over!) and pick up some helpful information. You’ll begin your journey over a quaint bridge that covers seemingly endless swampland. Be warned that bugs literally swarm here during hot months. Up ahead you will see many monuments scattered throughout the grounds.

A great stop-off for a treasured family photo is the Pocahontas statue that sits across from the old church. Although we can never be sure how much the statue might actually resemble her (very few people could afford portraits in those days) it’s still a stunning sculpture. A trip to Jamestown wouldn’t be complete without a reminder of the young woman whose story has spawned so much mystery and legend.

The old church, built on the ruins of much more ancient edifices, is the most beautiful sight in Old Town and personally my favorite stop. There is something hallowed and beautiful about the stately brick church, which is entered through an ornate wrought-iron gate. Once you’ve admired the exterior, you can step inside and feel the damp old church’s allure. You will notice an ancient tomb belonging to a knight named George Yeardley. You can find other 17th century gravestones outside the church.

The John Smith statue is another great stop-off. His name is also widely known as being one of the most famous characters of Jamestown and you might picture him as a tall, handsome, blond-haired sailor if you’ve seen Disney’s animated adventures. This statue will give you more of an idea of what John Smith probably looked like. The attention to detail is stunning and will make some great photo ops.

At the various small gift shops at Old Town, you can find books, models, figurines, postcards and much more. As a collector of small historical models, my daughter purchased a figurine of an English soldier firing his musket and a figurine of a Powhatan Indian warrior for a decent price.

On to New Town. This is the more interactive part of the Jamestown complex and the part where children will find a whole lot more to see and do. In New Town you can find a model of the original Jamestown fort, cannon, an Indian village and replicas of the three ships that once sailed these shores: the Godspeed, the Susan Constant, and the Discovery. These beautiful replicas can be boarded, explored, photographed and admired. Children will love walking around the decks of these famous ships and no Jamestown vacation is complete without spending at least an hour in exploration.

In the Native American section you will find a reproduction village that shows what life was like for Pocahontas and the other members of the Powhatan Indian tribe. Costumed guides will help transport you back four hundred years and make you feel as if you are truly experiencing the past. There are activities for kids to do here as well (and don’t be afraid to throw yourself into the adventure!) Who says adults can’t experience history with the same reverence and excitement as their kids?

Travel Guide to Exciting Auckland

If you are traveling to the opposite hemisphere and New Zealand in particular, think about making Auckland your destination. Many travelers make a special point of vacationing to places with contrasting weather to what they experience “at home.” If you are a cool weather lover, New Zealand when the states are steamy and hot is delightful. At the other end of the spectrum, New Zealand will offer some warmth when the snow and ice are getting depressing in many parts of the United States.

Over a million permanent residents call Auckland (New Zealand’s most populated city) home. Many visitors make the city a prime destination for enjoying the nightlife that is popular here. If you have other vacation agendas than nightlife, however, there is an abundance of activities for you no matter what you want to see and do.

For something different to do, check out the Victoria Park Market. This is the place to visit at meal times because you will find a number of restaurants and cafes. The best part to many visitors is the international food court where you will be able to choose from various ethnic cuisines. The Park Market is open every day of the week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. In addition to being able to get some fabulous food, this is a good place to do a lot of the shopping that you will want to do in Auckland.

If you are staying in Auckland, there will be no way that you could miss seeing the Sky Tower. You won’t be able to miss it because it is the tallest tower building found in all of the Southern Hemisphere. You may want to stay at a hotel in the tower (yes, there are some there, as well as a theater) or perhaps you want to try out one of the restaurants in the Sky Tower. For still more entertainment, there are casinos in the tower also.

Take a moment while you are visiting the Sky Tower to peek at the spectacular views offered from the heights of this incredible structure. If it is a clear day, you will be able to see about 50 miles in any direction that you care to look. There is another activity at the tower that is not for the timid. If you are absolutely sure that you can handle it, there is a wire jump (base-jump) that you can do. It is not like bungee because you will not be bouncing but the height of the jump is more than six hundred feet, so be very sure that it will be something you will enjoy. There is no turning back once you take that plunge.

If you enjoy spending time with animals or if you are traveling with children, you may want to plan part of a day to visit the Auckland Zoo. The zoo is divided into sections that include (1) the Pridelands, (2) the Wetlands, (3) the Rainforest, (4) the Aviary, (5) the Asian Elephants, and other areas. You will be able to see customary zoo animals such as zebras, giraffes, lions, etc. as well as monkeys big and small, penguins, sea lions, and many other animals and birds.

If the zoo doesn’t offer enough wildlife for you, try Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter to see underwater creatures, penguins, and huge tanks filled with thousands of underwater inhabitants.

One area of Auckland that shouldn’t be missed is the Volcanic Field. There are about fifty volcanoes here that are now inactive. One of them, Mount Eden lies directly inside of Auckland so if you think you are snapping a picture of “just a mountain” it may surprise you to know that it is actually one of the volcanic peaks.

If you are interested in the galaxies and outer space topics, one of the volcano areas (One Tree Hill volcano) is where to find the Stardome Observatory. This is a planetarium that is very interesting to see with its 360 degree construction.

A few other things to do in and near Auckland include taking a ferry to one of the islands that are found rather close to the city (research these offerings, though, to make sure you know what you will be doing, when you will be picked up, etc.); one of the various museums; or a drive to Howick Historical Village which is found about half an hour away from the city.

Traveling by Airplane, Boat, or Car

When you decide to take a trip somewhere, the first thing to think about is how you are going to get where you want to go. Are you going to travel by airplane, boat, or automobile? Which would be the fastest, and which one would be the most inexpensive for you? There are a few things to think about as you plan your trip.

First, when you decide where you are going, you have to know if you can even reach it by train or car. If it is overseas, the only way you can go is by boat or airplane. If you want to bring your car alone overseas, you will have to travel by boat. If that is the case, you will need to do research, either by computer or telephone, to find out what company travels to where you are going, and which companies allow you to travel with your car on their boat. If you find more than one company that fits your needs, you will want to start comparing prices. A few things you will want to look at are travel time, meal costs, extra passenger cost, and animal cost, if you plan on bringing a pet onboard with you. You may also want to look and see if they offer a package deal that includes dining or rooms on board also.

If you decide to travel by airplane, weather in the United States, or outside the United States, there are some things you will want to research also. First of all, you will want to find out what airport nearest you will be the cheapest to fly from. If you have to park your car at the airport, you will also want to research the parking fees and costs for however long your car will be sitting there. Another thing you will want to find out is how many layovers and delays you will have with each flight. If you are in a hurry and want a flight that goes straight through, you will most likely have to pay more than if you have time to sit in other airports for layovers. Whenever you are traveling by airplane, add extra time for delays. Delays can be caused by bad weather in other cities and airports, and also by accidents or airplane malfunctions. Another thing you want to add time for is luggage pick up. Sometimes your luggage will arrive at the airport later than you, and sometimes it gets lost altogether. If this happens, you will have to ask security or a flight attendant to help you. If you go on-ine to book a flight, you can also book a hotel or motel, and even rental cars. If you do this, you usually get a large discount. It is sometimes cheaper to buy a whole package than just your regular flight ticket.

If you decide to drive to your trip destination, you will have to plan and make a few important decisions ahead of time. One of the most important things to think about is if you want to take your own car or rent a car from a company. If you are traveling for a long distance, and you do not want the wear and tear put on your vehicle, your best option will be to rent a car. If you have auto insurance on your own vehicle, you can transfer it to your rental car, and if you do not have auto insurance, you can buy it through the rental company for however long you rent your car. You will have to sit down and figure out how much it will cost from a rental company. A car rental company charges you cents per mile, plus charges you each day you have the car. Most give you some kind of free miles, and if you are renting for a business purpose you may get a better deal. Another thing to think about when traveling by car is hotel fees. If you can drive wherever you are going in less than twelve hours, you probably will not need a motel, but if it is over that amount of time, you will. Look on-ine to see where you will be stopping and when, then call and make a reservation at a motel in that city. If you make your reservation ahead, you might get a discount.

When you are traveling by plane, boat, or car, there are a lot of things to think ahead about. Always plan ahead and your trip will go smooth, and you will have more fun. Most of all, be safe and have fun!