Vacation in Atlanta

Atlanta has come a long way since the city burned to the ground during the Civil War. The city has the insignia of the phoenix. The phoenix, as all Harry Potter fans know, is a mythical bird that burns to death and then rises every more beautiful and powerful from its own ashes. Atlanta has done just that, and if you are looking for a great city to spend your time, then you should consider hopping down.

Atlanta gets a bad reputation for its traffic, but the truth is that there are a lot of people who just drive too slowly. Avoid I-285. Stay on I-75, and you will be better off. Watch the street signs above you as well so that you know where you are going. If you are aware of your surroundings, you will be just fine.

You can start your day with a trip to Centennial Park. This park is beautiful and was built in the years before Atlanta was the site of the 1996 summer Olympics. The park today has flags of the world as well as a really neat fountain. You can walk around the Centennial Park area and see all types of shops and people.

When you are ready for lunch, head over to The Varsity. There are two of these restaurants, one in Atlanta by Georgia Tech and one in Athens by the University of Georgia. The Tech restaurant is the original, and the food is greasy and delicious! Their chilidogs are their specialty but watch out for heartburn. Also try their shakes as they are yummy as well. While you are there, you can look at the newspaper clippings along the walls and on the tabletops and find out all about sports in Georgia.

Wash down The Varsity with a shot of coke from around the world at the World of Coca-Cola museum. If you get bad vibes when you hear the word museum, you will not anymore. The Coke museum is amazing! You can see how coke is made and watch it flow through the tubes. You can participate in interactive exhibits and see videos. Find out all about the history of the soft drink. Then, in what is probably the most interesting attraction there, you can go into a huge room and get fountain drinks from around the world. While you might have thought Coke was Coke, it is not. There are special drinks from different parts of the globe, and you can try them all.

After the Coke museum, try some shopping in Little Five Points. This once eclectic, gothic part of town has become a haven for young professionals as well. The Junkman’s Daughter is one of the shops you can visit and see all types of interesting items from 12-inch heels to hanging beads.

For dinner, head to The Westin. This hotel sits right smack in downtown Atlanta. It is on the top floor of a circular building that rotates. From this restaurant, you will get a beautiful view of all parts of the city.

When nighttime hits, you can head over to Underground Atlanta. During the day this part of the city is full of people shopping and spending time together. While you will still find some shopping at night, people are there to party! This part of town has great nightlife, and you will never find a dull moment.

Whatever you enjoy, Atlanta has something to offer you. They have amusement parks, water locales, and even the beginnings of the Appalachian mountain range. The zoo is amazing, and the new aquarium is the largest in the world. You can catch baseball, football, basketball, and even hockey among the major league sports in this fun town. Take some time to enjoy the sights. Plan to stay at least a few days. Otherwise you will never find enough time do everything.

The best part is that despite the sprawling metropolis that Atlanta has become, deep down it is still a small Southern town. Most people did not grow up in the South, but they have embraced the warmth and hospitality of its culture. The next time you are looking for a place to visit, consider the big city of Atlanta.

By Julia Mercer

Travel Guide to Knoebel’s Amusement Resort

When Pennsylvanians think of amusement parks in the state, huge places like Six Flags or Hershey come to mind. If you’re one of these people, and aren’t ready to spend that kind of money, you’ll be glad to know there is an alternative. Knoebel’s Amusement Resort near Elysburg in central Pennsylvania is a great choice for family fun. Though not as massive as “those other parks,” you will find lots to do here that will keep you (and your little ones) happy and excited. The setting itself is lovely; rides, restaurants, and games are tucked in the mountains and the shade trees make for a great walk around the grounds.

Knoebel’s best feature is its admission-free policy. Unlike other amusement resorts that charge an arm and a leg to get in (and then have you spending more on food, rides and entertainment) Knoebel’s is a friendly operation that lets you park for free. If you park too far out in the field, you can wait for a trolley to come and take you to the entrance of the park.

For the rides, visitors can either buy tickets or get a hand stamp for unlimited riding. Remember to check ahead for days and times when there are special prices for the hand stamps.

Let’s start with the rides. For the smallest children, you will find bumper cars, a calming boat ride, rides that fly up high, and a ferris wheel. Of course, with many children, the merry-go-rounds are always a hit. I must admit that even when I was much past the age of carousels, I still enjoyed going for a spin. There’s a kid in all of us; maybe you want to accompany your child and rediscover the excitement of your past! You’ll have to remember that some rides may be too scary for little kids. If you have older children or want some adult rides, there are many to consider.

The Haunted Mansion is a must-see for those who like adventure. A dark and spooky cart ride takes you through mystery unseen. Very small children probably won’t appreciate the sudden scares; unless they like to be terrified, it might not be the best choice. Many older kids, however, will think it is neat. For a tamer attraction, visit the antique cars. While many people might call this a boring ride, I believe it is one of the best because it winds under the Phoenix roller coaster at numerous places.

The Sklooosh is a great summer ride; even if you’re only a bystander. I still enjoy waiting by the wall for the huge passenger boat to come down the ramp; if you’re within a few feet of the splash, you *will* get wet. Those daring enough to stand up on the closer platform are really asking for the soaking they will receive! On a hot steamy day, this is a great feeling, but if your kids are planning to do this, I suggest dry clothing.

The train excursion is a calming attraction that both kids and parents will approve of. The train winds its way through peaceful woodland where you can almost always see squirrels partaking of the corn cobs they’ve been provided. Kids will enjoy watching for squirrels and other wildlife.

Now onto the food. Knoebel’s has no shortage of great park food. From ice cream to pizza to a sit-down meal in a Mexican restaurant, it’s available here. Knoebel’s pizza has won awards, and little wonder! There are neat alcoves and benches on which to sit while you eat. In one restaurant you will find tree trunks placed right in the walls; you could see a lot of action from here but it was still secluded enough to enjoy your meal. Beside the water-wheel you can find a great ice cream parlor with many choices.

And games! Knoebel’s has plenty of these at their game rooms. You can win tickets to purchase baubles, stuffed animals, special collectibles, and (if you have about a bajillion tickets) something you might actually consider sitting around your home! Even if you don’t rack up a ton of tickets, kids and adults will have fun playing all kinds of arcade, racing and skill games.

Don’t forget to see if there is any entertainment scheduled for the day you plan to visit. You can often catch shows and musical specials at Knoebel’s. I’ve seen magic shows and musical performances, just to name a few. These shows are good for at least half an hour without the dreaded “I’m bored.”

Ponies and Pirates: Visiting Assateague Island

There is something in most of us that thrills at the idea of pirates who sailed the seven seas. It’s a built-in thirst for adventure and daring. Most people looking for a vacation spot may not know that tiny Assateague Island, Maryland (just a few miles from Ocean City) is known for its supposed pirate encounters. It’s easy to believe; there are countless dunes, woodland and swampland that have likely changed very little since pirate days, and they would make great hidey-holes for these men of the sea.

Even if the pirate story is sprinkled with myth, one thing is for sure; Assateague Island is a beautiful place. As you drive or bicycle along, you will see beautiful natural scenery like streams, flora and fauna, and of course the famous Assateague ponies. Legend has it that a shipwreck many centuries ago “marooned” these magnificent creatures and they took up residence here. While that may or may not be true, the ponies have been a major island appeal for decades.

One thing that it’s important to remember (especially if you are traveling with small children) is these ponies are not as cuddly as they look. It’s always dangerous for humans to have too much contact with these wild ponies and accidents do happen. It doesn’t need to be provoked; I happen to remember being stopped alongside the road and having a pony amble over so close that he almost stuck his head in the car window.

Watching for ponies can be a fun activity for kids; sometimes they are hard to spot, hiding behind bushes, down by marshes, or in a clump of trees. There is something wild and beautiful about the sight. As long as you don’t get too close, most of Assateague’s ponies are extremely photogenic; they will make some photo memories you won’t soon forget. Remember that luring them onto the road to get pictures of them is dangerous; both to oncoming traffic and to the ponies, who don’t know how to protect themselves.

Some families choose to camp here, and the island is certainly a lovely place to do so with numerous campsites. It is secluded and quiet with little activity. Every time we have visited, we have seen numerous people taking advantage of this vacation experience. Be warned that although you will be able to “sleep in the wild,” so to speak, there is nothing prohibiting a pony (or any other kind of animal) from coming right up to the camper or tent as you sleep. So don’t be surprised to have furry visitors! If you plan to take your camper, you will want to check on the admission fee and general rules of thumb for when you visit.

The Assateague Island visitor center is a great little place to go in and brush up on the history and ecology of the area. There’s also a gift shop where you can buy things like patches, coloring books, and bookmarks. Watch for the exhibits on undersea life. If you are curious about something regarding the park or surrounding areas, this is a good place to talk to someone who will most likely be able to answer your questions.

One of the best times to visit Assateague Island is in the early evening, preferably at sunset. I remember one vacation where we bought supper and drinks and drove out to Assateague to dine. This is one of my best memories of the island and is a super idea, especially for kids who love take-out food. You can also sit out at one of the picnic tables at the section of the island that tapers down to the water; but unless you want to share your food with wildlife, it’s probably a better idea to eat in the car!

The path down to the water is a peaceful place. Try walking down here when the island isn’t full of people; perhaps morning or early evening. Once you get off the path and walk along the water’s edge, you will find a completely different Assateague. Don’t forget to look for shells. Although I remember mostly broken shells, I’m sure there are still some beauties to be found. Letting warm water lap over your bare feet is one of the best feelings in the world. Kids will be sure to enjoy this exploration of the water’s edge. Look out for snakes and other pests, but other than that, there should be nothing to stop your fun.

Ocean City, Maryland: A Family Vacation Mecca

Ask many people about a beach trip they remember fondly and a number of them will most assuredly answer Ocean City, Maryland. It may not be the biggest or ritziest Atlantic resort town, but that gives it a homey quality and makes it more appealing to vacationing families. You certainly won’t have to worry about boredom during your trip to Ocean City; from kids and teenagers to adults, there is something that everyone will want to write home about. This family-oriented atmosphere has helped make “OC” the wonderful oceanside city that it is today.

Let’s start with the most striking attraction: The Atlantic Ocean. It is a fascinating thought to walk along the shore and know that the same body of water we are looking at today was here thousands of years ago. It is a calming, peaceful experience when we are able to catch the sunrise over the water; be prepared to have many identical photos of this magnificent orange ball slowly stretching up over the horizon.

The ocean isn’t just to look at, however. In all kinds of weather you will find surfers, swimmers, fishermen (and fisherwomen!) as well as beach-dwellers and boaters. One of the best activities for those who don’t like the “wild” attractions of the ocean is using a metal detector at the ocean’s edge, especially after a big storm or huge waves. If you’re lucky you might find something actually worth keeping (and if not, at least pick up some fantastic seashells).

On to the Boardwalk. This path is a must-see for all Ocean City visitors. On one side you will find an endless array of shops selling everything from tie dyed t-shirts to old fashioned photographs where you can pose in Victorian garb. Neat little restaurants and huge buffets sit side by side, and the windblown architecture of the oceanfront hotels is pleasing to the eye as well. You certainly won’t go hungry on the Boardwalk (unless you choose to!) You can get boardwalk fries, pizza, sandwiches, fudge, or even ice cream for dinner. Anything goes. You can pick up something to munch as you walk along, or sit down to a huge dinner like Paul Revere’s Smorgasbord.

Of course there is more to Ocean City than the beach and the Boardwalk, though they are the main attractions. Say you want to go shopping but aren’t in the mood to trek all over the neighborhood looking for a particular store. Ocean City’s shopping centers will help eliminate that problem. Ocean City Factory Outlets is the place to do your finer shopping, away from the cheap souvenirs that seem to run roughshod over some local stores. You can find some great apparel here as well as home decor and other beautiful items. This isn’t your kind of mall? Fear not. A short distance away from Ocean City, over the Delaware state line, you can find the Rehoboth Outlets, featuring even more shopping choices.

Most families are afraid of children whining about being “bored.” It isn’t a family vacation unless there are things to keep little ones happy as well. There are lots of choices for families to “break loose” in Ocean City. For some tame but still exciting rides and attractions, try Baja Amusements, located along Route 50. This park features what many people would call “kiddie rides,” but is still fun for adults and older kids. There are various miniature golf places around town, too.

Another great idea for a family adventure is a cruise. There are few things more relaxing than a cruise along the Atlantic Ocean or the bay on the other side of town. To get a little history into your kids, try the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum on the end of the Boardwalk. This is a two-story museum with everything from pictures of Ocean City’s first days to shipwreck artifacts. One of the most interesting attractions is the huge boat you can visit on the first floor (you might want to warn kids not to climb inside, though; security would not appreciate their enthusiasm!)

You certainly don’t have to be afraid that there aren’t enough hotels from which to choose. Be assured that there is a hotel to suit your needs. All along the Boardwalk and along the shopping district of Coastal Highway, there are hotels and motels from the small to the huge. There are inexpensive oceanfront hotels and massive accommodations and condos on the more upscale end of the city. You shouldn’t have trouble finding an ocean-front room. If you don’t want to stay oceanfront and would like a hotel or motel along the Bay, however, you can find many choices there as well.

Destination: Nombre de Dios

It is located in one of America’s most beloved tourist cities where traffic, tour buses and pedestrians compete for attention in the nation’s oldest city. To most visitors, the Spanish Mission of Nombre de Dios (also known as the chapel of Our Lady of La Leche) and its grounds might seem as if they do not belong in St. Augustine, Florida. The truth is that, after a full day of sightseeing and eclectic attractions, this is the best possible place you could ever come to unwind.

Beauty is found quite suddenly as you approach the sloping bridge that covers the lagoon. You can already see the grassy grounds stretching out before you, and as you look down over the lagoon, you might feel a warm breeze. St. Augustine’s weather is normally very enjoyable, and even “cold” days rarely dip below the comfort level. At the end of the bridge you will find a statue commemorating the first priest to initiate a Catholic Mass in this country. His name is Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales; this is one of the most impressive statues on the grounds.

The chapel of Our Lady of La Leche is the crowning jewel of the mission grounds. Created to resemble a 16th century Spanish mission, plain yet graceful, the current chapel was built in the early 20th century. A mission has stood on or near this spot since the beginning of the colony’s occupation. The successive chapels were either destroyed or became decayed, but the current reproduction is faithful to the early forms. Come inside, preferably on a Sunday morning or a time when tourists aren’t flooding the grounds, and contemplate how important faith was to the Spanish settlers. The wooden benches and magnificently simple altar, complete with a statue of the Virgin Mary after whom the mission is named, make a beautiful place to relax and find peace. You will agree that there is an aura of tranquility inside the chapel that is not experienced in the rest of the city.

There are many other things to visit as you walk through the Nombre de Dios grounds. The Stations of the Cross are represented in huge mossy monuments, and benches, fountains and statues of Catholic saints adorn the rustic pathways. Underneath the canopy of trees you will also find a gazebo, an antique bell, a Byzantine-style pavilion and much more. The colorful tile statue of Mary (known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe) is a must-see, as well as the 18th century graves of nuns who once lived and worked in St. Augustine. The stones have been lovingly kept, and they rest inside a picturesque walled space when travelers can pay their respects.

One of the most noticeable things you will see on the grounds is a huge bronze plaque showing where all the missions in America were once located. The plaque was created fairly recently and dedicated ten years ago by St. Augustine’s Bishop Snyder. It is a sort of raised relief on bronze and is like touching Braille. It is quite interesting to see.

You cannot visit Nombre de Dios without visiting the striking Matanzas Bay that winds peacefully around the land. Although the bay is beautifully idyllic, its history is not so gentle: In 1565, at a place known as Matanzas Inlet from which the bay flows, French settlers were martyred by the Spanish soldiers who brought their culture and religion to the New World. Despite this gory history, the bay is now serene. If you’re lucky enough to come to Nombre de Dios on a breezy day, you may be able to smell the salt breeze that seems to invigorate non-native Floridians.

Stretching out over the Matanzas Bay is an even more inspiring sight: The 208-foott-tall Great Cross, commissioned in 1965 for the 400th anniversary, is one of St. Augustine’s most striking sights. It can be seen from many places throughout the town and from the water, and is an important reminder of the Catholic faith’s history in “San Agustin.” Standing on the platform beneath the Cross makes even the tallest person feel small; but this is a good place to find some humility! If you’re wondering how to capture special photos of the Cross, try framing it through bushes or making sure to include one of the sailboats that sometimes wander by.

Kid-Friendly Activities in Florida

Planning a trip to Florida but not sure how to keep those little ones happy and whine-free? It’s a daunting task. After all, things we find fascinating may be the last things on children’s minds. A historical adventure or museum side-trip might be fine with some kids, but others will find it boring to the max. The adults won’t have a very good time either with the constant complaints of “This is soooo boring . . . are we done yet?”

What your children find interesting all depends on their personalities. Some little girls will love the idea of visiting a botanical garden and others will detest the idea. Some boys will like to get wet on a water ride, and others won’t. After your children’s personalities, likes and dislikes have been established, it’s time to move on.

There are some Florida attractions that kids (and adults) of every age are sure to give a high thumbs-up. Cypress Gardens, located near Winter Haven, is sure to fascinate your children of all ages, and thrill you quite a bit as well. Since the park has grown and reopened, now including rides and more shows, there is much more to see, but the main attraction is still the beautiful exotic gardens, bridges, and unique plants as far as the eye can see.

Even kids, especially those who appreciate art or nature, won’t find much time to be bored here. There are waterfalls, photo op spots, a beautiful gazebo where you can take some memorable photos, and other sights of wonder. Keep in mind that some of the attractions in Cypress Gardens, such as floor shows and exhibit areas, might not interest younger kids. (Of course don’t forget to do some things you enjoy too, and not just what kids find interesting!)

Disney World is the quintessential “kid-friendly” Florida attraction. For decades it’s been a symbol of family fun and excitement. How much fun your child gets out of Disney World really depends on age. If he or she is past the age of enjoying Mickey and other animated characters, then character greetings and kiddy rides may not interest them as much. Fear not! Older kids will be delighted here as well. There are “big-kid” rides like Splash Mountain and the Haunted House to keep them busy.

Haunted House is a spooky attraction that isn’t very scary – it still has an aura of mystery, but aside from things popping out once and again there probably isn’t anything very questionable. If your child doesn’t like dark places or spooky encounters, it’s probably not the best choice. Splash Mountain’s action-packed ride carries a good guarantee of getting soaked, and if you’re traveling to Florida on a hot day (which is almost every day) this will feel wonderful. Make sure kids bring extra clothes if you’re going to be trying out this ride.

Children will also enjoy a ride known as Pirates of the Caribbean, especially if they are fans of the hit movie. It is a common parental note that some of the animatronic figures like skeletons that are shown throughout the ride may not appeal to some kids. If you think this is a concern, you can either skip the ride or conduct the child’s attention to another scene along the ride. Don’t forget to let kids spend some of their allowance at Disney’s many great stores, from the main gift shop called the Emporium, to little places along the way like pirate’s bazaars.

There is a historical city in Florida where even kids who aren’t enamored of history or culture will have no choice but to enjoy time there. St. Augustine, Florida is not a stuffy history-oriented attraction with no color or excitement; it’s just the opposite, bringing history to life in a fun and believable way.

There are many historical attractions that can help make children appreciate the past. A few examples are Old Florida Museum, an outside museum where three different time periods are represented and kids can play games, pump water, and do other farm work; Spanish Quarter Village, where a cluster of homes have been restored both inside and out to look as they did in 1740; the Castillo de San Marcos, a great 300+ year-old stone fortress with plenty of nooks and crannies for kids to explore; and Fort Matanzas, a fort from the 1740s where there isn’t too much to see and do, but kids will enjoy the ferry ride to reach the fort.

Experience the Mystique of Morocco

It seems like the other side of the world. Muezzins calling Muslim followers to prayer, huge mosques and minarets reaching to the sky, bazaars that glint with gold as they did a thousand years ago; it truly is a magical world. For those of us who have always been fascinated with tales of Aladdin and Ali Baba, we don’t need to go to Baghdad or Moorish Spain to experience the ancient culture (unfortunately there are very few hints anywhere in the world of that medieval Islamic culture). You just need to visit North Africa and soak in the ambiance of Morocco.

Marrakesh is one of the most famous and most well-visited cities in this vibrant country. You will probably notice the minaret (tower) of Koutoubia Mosque soon after you arrive. The minaret has an impressive history dating from the 1100s. A striking amount of detail and architectural grandeur was used to create the Koutoubia minaret and mosque. Nearby you will also find an Almoravid Palace (the Almoravids were one of many dynasties who ruled the Islamic world) which makes for a great visit. Keep in mind that if you are not of the Islamic faith, your entrance to the grounds will be restricted, but you can still tour the exterior.

You can’t go to Marrakesh without being immersed in the spirituality of the country’s population, and another place where religion holds high court is the Ali Ben Youssef Madrasa (also spelled Medersa). Madrasas were schools that were famous throughout Islam in the Middle Ages and were considered even by Europeans to be places of learning and high prestige. Keep in mind to pay the proper respect to these places that were once held in high regard by people all across the medieval world. Take time to stop and examine a wall or ceiling; notice small patches of artwork instead of trying to soak in the big picture.

For another glimpse of the how the “important” people lived in Marrakesh, visit Bahia Palace. Although it isn’t as old as many of Marrakesh’s historical attractions (being built during the last turn of the century) it is still worthy of a visit and many memories. Some of the most striking artwork is contained within the bright tiles and wall decorations that characterize Islamic art. Stop by and be awed by the details that helped to bring the whole picture together.

Another famous Moroccan city, Casablanca, is next on our agenda. The Spanish name, meaning “white house,” doesn’t seem to fit this Middle Eastern city. You will find that religion permeates daily life here as well. If you want to soak in this peaceful atmosphere, try the Hassan II Mosque. It is unique because anyone can go inside the complex, regardless of religious conviction. Take advantage of this and you won’t regret it. You will find plenty of the interior beauty that Islamic culture is famous for. Hassan II Mosque’s striking tower is a photographic wonder waiting to be explored.

Like in Marrakesh, mosques often sit side by side with royal residences and fancy hideaways for Marrakesh VIPs. Casablanca’s Royal Palace is one of these places. You will find a high level of security here, so you may be content with gazing at the outside architecture. After all, no one wants to be deported back to America because they were “peeking!” You’ll discover there is quite enough that you are allowed to visit in Casablanca that will keep you content.

Come to Fez to experience yet another aspect of amazing Morocco. This is a place that words can’t describe, where old meets new in a striking and fascinating way. Rather than rushing around visiting attraction after attraction, take time to notice what you are seeing. Gaze through gilded archways; find unique angles for pictures. In many ways, life hasn’t changed since the days of Aladdin. It is still a simple struggle to live day to day. In many ways, Fez is more of a visual treat than a place crawling with tourist attractions. Even the huge palm trees that sprout over the city give the place a romantic air.

For those who want to experience Morocco in the United States, there is actually a way to do this! Hop on down to Orlando, Florida, to EPCOT’s “World Showcase.” The Morocco pavilion is a beautifully detailed, faithful reconstruction of this venerable country. The artwork was actually created by Moroccans and the Koutoubia prayer minaret is a great reproduction. The ambiance of the pavilion is enough to make you think you truly have landed in Morocco.

Carry-on Allowances and Rules for Flight Travel

By Christina VanGinkel

With many new regulations in air travel having been put into place in the last few years, and notice of old restrictions being put under much more scrutiny than in times past, to help protect both the traveler and those working the airlines, knowing what you can and cannot take with you on an airplane can be a daunting task. With my youngest son traveling by air this upcoming spring, and not being familiar with air travel otherwise; we decided we should find out as much as we could before the day of his flight. What we found was both pleasantly surprising, and reassuring at the same time.

For the flight he will be taking, he is allowed to have with him one carry-on piece of luggage that weighs up to forty pounds and does not exceed a size limit of 45 linear inches. A friend reminded me that this is a guideline which someone should not try to exceed, as it is not only a space issue, with the items needing to fit either overhead, or under the seat, but a safety issue, as weight on a plane and items bumping around in the chance that rough weather is hit, is a serious issue, and you should be considerate of yourself and fellow passengers. With rules being carefully examined, over exceeding this limit could also result in you not being able to take your bag on board the plane. He is also allowed to carry on one personal item. Personal items are listed as laptops, small book-style bags, or a purse. This is in addition to his one carry-on piece of luggage.

We also inquired about his taking his cell phone and a small handheld game, such as a PSP, and we were told by a representative of the airline that he was allowed to have both of these with him. However, he would need to have them shut off at certain times, such as during taxiing to takeoff, the actual takeoff, and landing, along with any other times the flight staff informed travelers that they needed to be shut off.

He is also allowed to take with him one small bag of consumables for the flight. The airline he is flying on does sell food on board, but after reviewing what would be available via their Website, he has decided that he would pack a small bag his self. I thought the selections were ok, but I could see how they would not appeal to a teenager. The prices on the selections were also very reasonable, much less than what I would have imagined an airline would charge, with most packs costing a mere $4.00, and some individual sandwiches and such costing just $2.00 to $3.00 a selection. The airline he is flying with only takes cash for these services though, so if you plan on purchasing food on any airline, this might be something you want to keep in mind.

While not an issue for my son, if you are flying with a toddler or infant, there are specific rules in place for baby seats. The rules will vary depending on whether you have purchased a ticket for the child, or if the child is under a certain age and flying free on your lap. Discounts can be had for a child if you prefer to have your child in their safety seat instead of flying free on your lap. There are also rules in place as to how many children can fly free per adult (one) and what additional carry-on items are allowed for children, such as diaper bags. If there are any questions about specifics, I highly recommend contacting the airline you will be flying, as there were many different rules in regards to infants and toddlers.

Certain electronic devices are not even allowed on an airplane, for obvious safety reasons such as interfering with the controls of the plane. Some that were listed on the site we checked out included AM-FM radios, remote control vehicles, remote controls, and cordless computer mice.

There are also special rules in place for medical equipment and items such as musical instruments, so be sure to check with your particular airline for any special rules and regulations that may pertain to something you need to take with you. Also, keep in mind that there are reasons behind all of these rules, most specifically the safety of the passengers. Follow the rules and have a safe flight!

Planning a Visit to Niagara Falls, New York

Whether you are planning a family vacation, a weekend getaway, or a spectacular honeymoon, chances are that you will sometime end up researching Niagara Falls. For decades the town has been known as one of the honeymoon capitals of the world, but there are plenty of things to see and do to keep whole families busy with activities.

If you will be traveling with children, be sure to have them research the history of the area and how the falls were formed. It is a fascinating story involving “cool” things that excite kids including bits of Ice Age history and glaciers.

If you like to be physically active for your vacations, the Niagara Falls area is home to a number of state parks that offer everything from hiking, biking, and fishing to water sports to cross country skiing. An added bonus is the gorgeous scenery found in this part of the state.

One thing to keep in mind is that the New York winters, especially in this part of the state can, and usually do, get brutally cold. This trip is generally better for a spring, summer, or fall vacation agenda unless you do indeed want to visit off-season for the skiing or to see the falls in its winter glory. If you want to visit during a time that is not extreme at either end of the spectrum, July is generally the warmest month with January and February being the coldest (not to mention the great amount of lake effect snow that falls in this area each winter).

If you are a gamer, be sure to visit one of the numerous casinos found on either the American or Canadian side of the falls. There are thousands of slots and other games available and casino complexes that have hotels, fabulous restaurants, and so on.

So what will you be able to find to do in town other than actually seeing the magnificent falls? If the weather is warm enough, you may want to take the Maid of the Mist boat ride that allows you to get up close and personal with “The Great Falls” which means that you will be getting wet, too. The operation usually begins in April sometime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be warm enough for getting wet to feel good to everyone.

If you enjoy spelunking or even if you want to try it for the first time, try the Cave of the Winds tour. Again, remember that caves are generally always cooler than the surface, and always damp.

There are many museums of various types in the area, especially if you want to take a day trip to Buffalo. You will be able to find cultural activities there as well, and many of them are found in Niagara Falls, Ontario, too. One museum is even dedicated to the daredevils who have tried a variety of stunts concerning the falls.

One thing that should definitely be on your agenda no matter what kind of group you are traveling with, or if you are traveling solo, is the Aquarium of Niagara. It is found at 701 Whirlpool Street and houses about 1,500 animals, fish, etc. One of their most unique offerings is the Peruvian Penguins exhibit. It is one of more than 40 exhibits that are found at the aquarium.

Be sure to see Niagara Falls Wintergarden found on Rainbow Boulevard especially if you are visiting during a cooler time of year. This botanical garden is enclosed in glass and also has an observation deck to see the falls. Thousands of trees and flowers are found here along with gorgeous settings for them.

No matter what your original reason was for spending some time in Niagara Falls, the view of the falls itself and the activities make the trip a memorable one. There are all kinds of dining experiences available from fast food to upscale eateries. If you have enough time in the area (and have the necessary documents) travel the three miles or so to see Niagara Falls, Ontario, on the Canadian side of the falls.

If you are traveling by car, you will be using Interstate 190 to get to Niagara Falls. Flying in will take you to the Buffalo Niagara Airport (Buffalo is 20 miles away) and if you wish to use Amtrak, there is a station found in town.

Visiting Mexico, Land of the Aztecs

Our colorful Hispanic neighbors have a lot to offer in the way of tourism. Mexico is a prime travel destination for many Americans who don’t particularly enjoy the idea of flying or taking long, tedious cruises. Be warned that trying to visit this huge and wonderful country in the span of a few days will leave you longing for more. If you never get any further than Mexico City you will sorely regret it!

Mexico’s vibrant clash of cultures and ethnicities helped to make it the bright, beautiful and exotic land it is today. Thousands of years ago, when Europeans had not yet dreamed of colonizing the continent now known as North America, many different highly advanced Native American cultures carved out what was to become a great nation. The Aztecs were one of these indigenous groups, and their presence can still be felt in the traditions (and many ancient ruins) of Mexico. Many Mexican words (such as the name Mexico itself) are thought to have come from Native American terms.

So many places to visit, so few days to experience it all! By all means start at Mexico City, a modern, vibrant city with centuries of history hidden deep underneath. A few decades ago, the remains of a huge Aztec temple were uncovered by Mexico City’s archaeologists. It is a strange feeling, wondering what ancient Indian ruins might lie beneath your feet as you walk the modern streets, but Mexico City is full of parallels, old and new, Spanish and Indian.

For a view of grandeur, you might decide to visit the Castillo de Chapultapec. Built in the 1700s, the palace has many things to see and do and the history is enough to draw you in. The Castillo’s gardens are reason enough to visit if just to stop and admire their beauty. Until the late 1930s, the Mexican president lived here, but now you can find a museum of natural history to occupy your time.

A trip to Mexico, which because of its Spanish conquerors became a bastion of the Catholic faith, would not be complete without seeing the church of Nuestra Senora (Our Lady) de Guadalupe. The story tells of a man who viewed the Virgin Mary herself in the 16th century, and from this spot a magnificent church soon sprang. During your visit to the church you can see the shawl where the face of Mary was said to be imprinted.

Be warned that thousands of other people will wish to visit the church as well. Millions have visited each year and the number shows no sign of dropping. You will want to either arrive early or stay in the background until the crowd thins enough for you to properly enjoy your visit. The trick is to let other tourists hustle and bustle and rush through their tour; they are a hurry and won’t see much, but if you are patient, you will get more time to stand and appreciate what you’re seeing.

After you’ve spent your sightseeing time in Mexico City, another destination option is Guadalajara. Although not as well-known as some of its Mexican neighbors, the city still offers many things that may be of interest.

Guadalajara’s Parque Mirador Independencia, an awe-inspiring park lookout, provides views of the beautiful canyon known as Barranca de Oblatos. You can find terrific scenery here in the canyon, such as a waterfall, walking paths and many other places of interest. It is always a refreshing idea to leave the big city atmosphere for awhile and see something that will make your heart flutter and your jaw drop.

You will find museums, historic buildings, an opera house and many other “tame” attractions in Guadalajara if hiking isn’t to your liking. Los Arcos, an arch commissioned in the 1940s, was created for the city’s founding (1542). One of the most historic buildings is a chapel known as Capilla de Calvario; it is said to be the site where Mass was first celebrated in this part of the country. The year was 1530. For a reverent and peaceful attraction without the fuss of the big city, come here to unwind.

After you’re quite sure you’ve had enough of the “big city” traffic, hop over to the Yucatan peninsula to Chichen Itza and check out one of the most amazing wonders of Mexican engineering. El Castillo, a temple dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl, has stood on this site since the 900s and is beautifully preserved. Many people don’t consider a visit to Mexico worthwhile unless they visit one of the country’s romantic Aztec or Mayan pyramids. It is amazing to look up the seemingly endless steps to the top of the temple and imagine life in Mexico before the first Spanish invaders ever arrived.