ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
Although in many ways, there couldn’t be a better time for international travel — The US dollar is kicking it, and once costly European destinations, like Paris, are very affordable. Despite these golden opportunities, many travel-lovers are skittish about traveling to Europe after a spate of terror attacks. If you are among this cohort, we’ve got some local destination alternatives that may satiate your appetite for some far off culture, color, and cuisine.
In a recent interview, Jessica Norah, part of a travel blogging duo at Independent Travel Cats, tells us how we can experience a bit of Europe and Asia right here in the US.
WATCH our interview with Jessica Norah, IndependentTravelCats.com
Tell us about your blog, independenttravelcats.com, and the type of readers you attract?
Independent Travel Cats is a travel blog about international travel for independent travels, with a focus on couples travel, history, and mid to luxury range travelers. I attract readers who really want to know a lot of information about a destination as I write very detailed posts. Our readers are sophisticated and tend to have more disposable income than the “average” reader. I also co-run another travel blog with my husband, Laurence Norah called Finding the Universe, which is more focused on travel photography and adventure travel.
Many people would love to travel abroad this year, particularly since the dollar is so strong. But terrorism looms large and families are hesitant about leaving the US. Can you give us some domestic alternatives to Europe and Asia that offer the feel, flavor, and flair of far reaching destinations?
The U.S. has some obvious more “exotic” locations like Hawaii which has wonderful beaches, volcano parks, and tropical plants. You also have Alaska where you can see glaciers, whales and polar bears. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is another place where it is easy to feel like you are in a foreign country.
In terms of places that feel like Europe. You can also take a “trip to Denmark” by spending a weekend in the little town of Solvang, California. It was founded by a group of Danes as a Danish colony and much of the architecture is Danish. You can eat Danish food, buy Danish dress, and appreciate the Danish history and architecture here.
For a taste of Spain, consider St. Augustine in Florida, it is the oldest city in the country and still has a lot of its Spanish colonial architecture. Or head to New Mexico. Santa Fe has a strong Spanish heritage as does the Old Town of Albuquerque. The central Plaza area of Santa Fe still retains a very European vibe and the city has some of the oldest architecture in the country.
Looking for a castle or stately home, plan a visit to the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, Monticello in Virginia, Hearst Castle in California, or Stan Hwet Hall in Ohio. There is also a Tuscan style castle winery called Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley.
Looking for a long rail trip but don’t want to head to Europe, you can book an epic train journey on Amtrak and go across the entire country, discovering new places along the way.
Can’t fly to Switzerland, visit Vail, Aspen, Mammoth Lakes, and Tahoe all have great skiing and snowboarding.
Want to go on safari, The Wilds in central Ohio is a private, non-profit safari park where visitors can see rhinos, giraffes, camels, and other animals in open air enclosures in jeeps.
Experience the desert at the Great Sands Dunes National Park in Colorado.
For a good taste of Asia, you’ll want to head to larger cities like New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. They all have large Asian American communities and you can find areas like Chinatown and Japantown in these cities where you can eat Asian food, buy Asia products, and be in an atmosphere that can transport you to China or Japan.
For those willing to visit our northern neighbor, Canada has retained more of a European connection than the U.S. and places like Vancouver and Montreal have a strong Euro vibe. This year happens to be Canada’s 150th anniversary so visitors can expect many special events and festivities for an unforgettable stay.
If you were to suggest some exotic vacation destinations in the US specifically for couples, what would you suggest?
It depends on the couple of course, but I’d recommend winter holiday lovers head to Vail or Aspen Colorado, beach and tropical vacation lovers head to Hawaii, art lovers to Santa Fe, city trippers to NYC or San Francisco, and those looking for a bit of Tuscany head to Napa Valley.
Hawaii is always a great destination for families. Hearst Castle is a fun family-friendly visitor attraction, large cities like NYC have tons of family-friendly activities, and there are also safari parks in Ohio and California.
Maybe an Alaska cruises, a trip to Santa Fe, wine tasting in Napa Valley or Sonoma, or a weekend in Solvang for a taste of Denmark.
Any special hints or tips for making these trips extra special or for getting a better deal?
Go some place that you are excited to visit, not to a place that feels like a second choice. Also, remember that exotic just means some place different so don’t just consider places that feel like Europe or Asia, but places where you’ll experience new things. Sometimes these places are much closer to home than we expect. As with any trip, plan ahead well in advance and book early for best deals.