The Top 10 Most Walkable Cities in The World

I have always been a proponent of exploring cities by walking. By taking guided walking tours with locals, you get to see many of the hidden sights, hear about the cities’ secrets, and learn about the non-touristy places to eat at.

When was the last time you walked around a new place without a map, GPS or smart phone? Walking alone can also be therapeutic. Not having a plan or being in a rush to get to your next destination, means that you can take the time to be in the moment. It allows you to observe your surroundings more keenly, and exercises your brain muscles too.

Now, that we are looking to travel safely again, get more exercise, and save money, walking is the most practical way to explore. But where in the world do you start?

According to a recent study published by Luggage Hero, here are the top 10 most walkable cities in the world. These are scored based on 5 different walkability markers – climate, air quality and CO2 emissions, safety, walking trails, nature and parks, as well as hours of sunshine. 

most walkable cities in the world
Ranking of most walkable cities by Luggage Hero.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna topped the charts as the most pedestrian-friendly capital city, making it the ideal city break location to explore solely on foot. Walking in Vienna meant you could stroll through history without a fuss. At every corner, you can find a cafe where as a matter of factly Mozart wrote a legendary piece of music or Kent got inspired to paint his masterpiece! Take breaks at one of the hundreds of cafes around Vienna where you are likely to find the Viennese simply sitting with coffee and pastries for hours.

Another way to discover the history and culture of Vienna is with my charming friend, Ina Hauer. I met Ina on a trip to Senegal and The Gambia, and her perfect English, world knowledge and witty humor, sparked an instant friendship. No matter what your interests, make sure to check out Lila Tilla’s Tours when you visit Vienna.

no 2 walkable city in the world Lisbon
Lisbon is rated as no 2 most walkable city in the world.

Lisbon, Portugal

The capital of Portugal ranked the second-highest in walking infrastructure. Make sure to bring some good walking shoes to trek the steep cobblestone streets around town. I only spent a day in Lisbon, a stop on my 2-weeks long Royal Caribbean Mediterranean Cruise, but I walked that entire day!

walking in New York City central park
Discover fall colors at Central Park in New York City.

New York City, USA

Tall skyscraper, busy streets, neon lights – those are the first impressions of New York City. But a spontaneous walk around the quieter neighborhoods of SoHo, Lower East Side or Central Park, and you will see why New York City is rated one of the top walking cities in the world.

Why not tour the city with a native New Yorker? My friend and colleague, Bruce Northam is a travel journalist, award-winning author, and a New York City resident, who offers walking tours to the public. You will be delighted by his storytelling skills and will surely get to learn about the city.

Tokyo, Japan

You may not think of the biggest city in the world to be ideal for walking, but like New York, Tokyo too has lots of green spaces, as well as quirky neighborhoods. Out of the 28 cities included in the study, Tokyo had the highest number of nature and parks, at 652. Tokyo also scored highly for city safety.

Temple at Niko Japan
Walking tours in Japan are popular among locals and tourists.

One of my favorite memories of Japan was on a 10-day walking tour across smaller Japan’s towns with Walk Japan. Each day we would start with an authentic Japanese breakfast, walk through villages and mountains, and in the evening, returning to our cozy family-run ryokans for a omakase feast. I learned so much about the Japanese culture and got to see the Japanese countryside, often overlooked by tourists.

Walking in China Town London
Feels like Beijing in China Town London.

Beijing, China

Now, I haven’t been to mainland China. But I can only imagine the colorful and bustling streets, dotted with street food vendors to high-end fashion boutiques. In Hong Kong, the street signs and subway stations were all marked in Chinese letters making it hard to navigate. Still, if your objective is to wander aimlessly, this would be an easy place to get lost! Just watch for street peddlers and con artists, and leave big cameras and expensive jewelry at home.

people walking in Seoul
Make sure to walk through traditional residential neighborhoods in Seoul.

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is actually a very safe city where I traveled solo, mainly on foot. There are numerous markets, historic sights, Buddhist temples, and palaces that you can see by simply walking through the city. Seoul is quite hilly and gets bitter cold in the winter, so make sure to dress in layers. Of course, every good walk deserves a stop at a Korean bakery!

You can also hire a volunteer guide to take you around Seoul, as well as other cities in Korea. Read more about it below…

Madrid, Spain

My last international trip was to Spain, just before the world shut down due to COVID-19. I love the relaxed energy, Bohemian vibe and strong culture of Madrid. You can see people enjoy good food and wine at artistic buildings and courtyards throughout the day and night.

Churros after a walk in Madrid
Reward yourself with fresh churros and chocolate after a nice walk in Madrid.

One of my favorite walks takes you through the heart of the city. Start in Plaza Mayor, to Plaza de la Armenia, Puerto de Toledo, Retiro Park, and end at Mercado San Miguel for wine and tapas. If your heart still desires, stop at Chocolateria San Gines for my favorite churros con chocolate in the world!

walking in Prague
Prague is one of the most romantic cities in the world.

Prague, Czech Republic

With historic castles, bridges, gardens, rivers, and museums, Prague is the quintessential European city where one can walk for hours and days without getting bored. The survey revealed Prague as the third safest city for walking, which makes sense given the city never really sleeps. See the most important sights of Prague Old Town, admire the Baroque architecture, and stroll through some of the most romantic bridges in the world.

Hop on FreeWalkingTours.com to find a walking tour near you. I have taken several of their free tours, which offer an inexpensive way to learn about the city, meet locals, as well as other travelers. It also helps the guides (usually college students and stay at home moms) gain side income. Often, groups sizes are from 1-15, though I have often had a private tour. At the end, you simply pay whatever you feel the tour was worth to you.

where to walk in London
The diverse neighborhoods of London makes it one of the most interesting cities to walk.

London, U.K.

Though you may think of the best ways to travel in London would be in a black cab or the Tube (underground railway), the survey landed London in the top most walkable cities in the world. There are 277 nature and parks dotted across the city.

I find London to be fascinating during any season, as there is architecture, culture, food and lots of history around each bend. On my last trip to London, I took a few walking tours with London Food Lovers in SOHO, and with Eating Europe in East End where we sampled the best bread and butter pudding, fried fish and chips with homemade peas, and British hard cider at old-fashioned neighborhood pubs.

Paris at night
You can’t skip this view when walking through Paris at night.

Paris, France

Movies and books based in Paris have helped further its image as the dreamy city that offers perfect Instagram moments. The new comedy “Emily in Paris” also confirms that even heartbreaks, souvenir store fashions, and dog poop look fancier in Paris!

There are good and great neighborhoods in Paris to walk, and I believe you should explore them all – from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, Latin Quarter and the Luxembourg gardens, and most definitely along the Seine, and the Eiffel tower at night. Grab a baguette, stop at one of the park benches to people watch, practice your French, and keep exploring!

Refugees in New York Raise Awareness Through Fashion

Comments and photos provided by the Refugee Center in upstate New York…

The Heart of a Community

Refugee Welcome Center in Albany New York
Refugee Welcome Center

Albany, New York is both the center of the capital region and home to a number of diverse communities. Organizations like the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center (RWC) work tirelessly to create opportunities for its members, as well as an accepting atmosphere for those who are looking for a collaborative space to make lasting connections. 

Building Lasting Connections

The RWC works toward building a sustainable community that is supportive of its more established members as it is welcoming of newcomers. The center is known for its efforts in helping refugees polish their skills and tools they need to thrive as newcomers in the United States. They achieve this by organizing youth activities such as movie nights; mentorship programs; as well as safe and affordable housing. They also offer English and civics classes, and space to grow their gardens.

Local Partnerships

This summer, the RWC partnered with two local professors, Dr. Vera Eccarius-Kelly and Dr. Alison Schaeffing, with the purpose of creating a community museum with refugees living in the underserved West Hill neighborhood. A group of 12 Americorp fellows, students, many of whom are refugees themselves, were also involved in the program, which was facilitated by the Siena Project Incubator (SPIn), hosted by Siena College.

Unforeseen Obstacles

The supervisors and their fellows had originally hoped to engage with the RWC by developing a museum exhibit that showcased the voices of refugees. However, the spread of the coronavirus created several obstacles for the group.

They instead started a virtual fashion series, titled “For Us By Us.” The series features West Hill community members who showcase thee refugee community through fashion. 

Learn how men and women dress across different cultures.

For Us, By Us: A Fashion Series

The “For Us By Us” project highlights more than just beautiful clothing. Descriptions of the outfits written by the models tells you more about the history of the garment and its use.

The project strives to provide a space for refugees to share their experiences, stories, and needs with the wider Albany community. The SPIn fellows hope that the future will allow them to use the images and their descriptions from the series as a feature in a new museum exhibit that will eventually be created through this initiative.

Meet the Models

Jeanne Sinzinkayo is not only a curator of the “For Us, By Us” Series, she is also a model for the fashion show. Along with another member of the AmeriCorps team, she is researching the Banyamulenge struggle for recognition, with the long term goal of publication of digital information for a virtual museum exhibit. With both projects, she hopes to serve as a record keeper for the unheard voices and experiences of the diverse communities, along with developing a comprehensive case study to publish.

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an iribaya and ipantaro
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an iribaya and ipantaro

Jeanne Sinzinkayo: This blue outfit is a two-piece set in African clothing. The top is called iribaya (shirt) and the bottom part is called ipantaro. This is the most common for everyone of all ages. Usually, younger women would wear this as is or pair the iribaya (shirt) with a skirt (ijipo). Older married women would wear the iribaya (shirt) with another piece of igitange as their skirt. It is handmade and it is very versatile. It can be used interchangeably. For example, the top could be worn with jeans, and the pants could be worn with t-shirts. To save money and time, there are extra stitches so if one gains weight, one can take out some of the stitches to make the clothes lose to fit. The cloth itself is high-quality so it can sustain longer. 

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Banyamulenge Ibubu
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Ibubu

This yellow dress is called ibubu. This is commonly worn by older women in the Banyamulenge community of Congo. It is loose and it gives you room to be able to move around. It is typically worn with a headpiece because older women from the Banyamulenge community cover their heads as a sign of respect. When it is worn by younger women, they usually wear it without the headpiece. 

Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Igitange
Jeanne Sinzinkayo in an Igitange

This green outfit is made out of a fabric called igitange. It is a set with pants and a long blazer, the blazer is called ikoti (jacket) and the pants are called ipantaro (pants). This is usually worn by younger women and it can be made for men as well. After selecting the fabric you can take it to the tailor with a design and they will make the outfit for you. 

Ethnic tunics have become part of mainstream fashion globally.

Balqees Sayed is also a SPIns Fellow, a model, and a local resident of the West Hill community.  She is a recent graduate of Russell Sage College. She has been volunteering at the RWC for the past two years. Balqees is working as a part-time Program Coordinator at the RWC after graduation.

 Balqees Sayed in an Afghani Kamees
 Balqees Sayed in an Afghani Kamees

Balqees Sayed: I love wearing my Afghani Kamees (ethnic Pashtun dress). For me, this is an opportunity to show another part of who I am. I am not just a girl from a developing country. I am not oppressed. I am not controlled by men. This is a vintage dress worn by Kuchi women (Pashtun nomads). My ancestors were nomads. Traveling to colder areas in summer and warmer areas in winter. These dresses are perfect for colder weather in summer. It is very loose and has a huge pocket where you can store many things. And this is all handmade!

When I bought it, my mom sewed some torn parts of the dress. This is more than just a dress. This is a part of who I am. This is the beauty of my culture. This is what the media fails to see. We are humans. We have cultures. We have insights. We are smart. This is an Afghani kamees, to all the white people out there appropriating our culture. This is not a “boho” dress. This is a handmade Kochani kamees (nomadic dress). 

Handmade Dress by Balqees Sayed
Handmade Dress by Balqees Sayed

The second dress was designed by me and my mother. Then it was sewn by my aunt. In Afghanistan, people who know how to make clothes, sew their own clothes. It is a very traditional way of wearing clothes. This dress was made from scratch, except the chest part which I bought from a vintage shop. This dress is usually worn in parties and different formal and informal occasions. 

Model Ishaque Ismail in a traditional Afghan

Ishaque Ismail: Men’s fashion is a way to express yourself. People can tell a lot about you just by looking at your outfit. This is a traditional Afghan male dress. It is called shalwar kameez. I wear it on Eid and to weddings.

Muzzamil Khiljee continually strives to spread love and acceptance throughout all of his lyrics. He has persistently fought for his work and message throughout his changing environments. Sip has continued to drop high-quality music with top-notch production to attract a mainstream crowd, all the while fostering the same message that culture is not necessarily just black and white. Music is unity; music is the culture that brings everyone together.

Muzzamil Khiljee in a handmade logo outfit

Muzzamil Khiljee: As a Hip-Hop fan, this handmade “culture” logo that you see on the back of my jacket is an international brand by one of the most talented Afghan hip hop/rap recording artists called Sip.

Continue Spreading Awareness

Looking for ways to become a part of the cause? Consider donating to the West Hill Refugee Welcome Center today, or, if you are a local of the Capital Region in Albany, consider volunteering at the Center and make a difference in a fellow community member’s life.

Hidden Gems to Visit Across America

How can you make ordinary trips across America more unique and fun? Look for hidden gems scattered around each state! Though tourist spots like museums, bustling cities, landmarks, theme parks, or national monuments are often highlights of a destination, hidden gems like the ones listed below, can turn your traveling experience from memorable to unforgettable!

When you search for activities on your vacation, try to find hole-in-the-wall places, often times located in between attraction hotspots. You’ll find yourself learning something new while getting away from the crowds.

The easiest thing to do is Google search “unique places around me,” or “unusual things to do at ____” to look for interesting wonders to visit. You’ll also be inspired to go searching for secret spots to venture to in your own backyard. Here are some suggestions on where to get started…

California: Downtown Los Angeles Underground Tunnels 

Explore these hidden tunnels in Los Angeles
Image courtesy of Alissa Walker

What comes to mind when you think of California? Disneyland, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier – I bet you it’s not this! Most people don’t realize there are a network of tunnels underneath the city. As Los Angeles began to grow a century ago, underground tunnels were carved out for transportation needs. However, the 11-mile hidden passage became even more of a hotspot during the prohibition period. Such tunnels became the meeting place for basement speakeasies and a method for people to transport liquor. But now, they have been abandoned.

To explore this hidden gem, you can slip into an elevator behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street, or you can schedule a guided tour.

Louisiana: New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

This cultural gem is only a three-minute walk from the St. Louis Cathedral
Image courtesy of The Captain’s Ramblings

Connected to nature, spirits and ancestors, Voodoo is a historic religion in “Big Easy” city. With its mix of African, Haitian and Catholic spiritual practices, it became widespread among the slave population of New Orleans during the 18th century. Inspired by the Voodoo culture, local artist Charles Massicot Gandolfo founded the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in 1972. This hidden gem offers interesting items for sale such as potions, books and fortune-telling. Also, you will find artifacts, antique dolls and recollections of the famous Voodoo Priestess Maria Laveau.

As the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Laveau was a black priestess who wielded tremendous power and magical abilities. Such beliefs continue today as visitors still visit her grave and make their wishes. If you want to spice up your usual trip to the French Quarter, check out this enriching culture spot.

Colorado: Paint Mines Interpretive Park

hidden gem
Capture these gorgeous colors in person on your next hiking trip
Image courtesy of El Paso County

After hiking the famous Rocky Mountains, journey on over to El Paso County, where beautiful, brightly colored rock formations will inspire you. Unlike other national parks, orange, purple and white clay bands decorate this geological formation. It’s said that ancient Native Americans collected sediments from this area 9,000 years ago to create colorful pottery and even war paint.

For anyone wanting a hiking spot that is more intimate and has a historical background, Paint Mines Interpretive Park is definitely a hidden gem to visit.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia’s Magic Garden

A maze of various art will blow your mind
Image courtesy of Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Wanting to add a little magic to your vacation? Make some time to visit Philadelphia’s Magic Garden. Don’t let the name fool you. Instead of flowers, mosaic tiles, antique objects and other artistic knick-knacks entirely make up this garden.

Isaiah Zagar, a local artist in the 1960s, began tiling South Street and never stopped. In addition, a wide range of Latin-American to Chinese art fills the Magic Gardens encompassing half a city block. Also, don’t forget to check out the neighborhood of indoor galleries and an outdoor labyrinth. On your next trip to Philadelphia, let yourself get lost in this gorgeous work of art!

A great way to capture all your hidden gem moments in a unique way is with a Polaroid! Make sure to check out this item to save all of your travel memories!

~By Virtual Marketing & Communications Intern, Laura Vo. Laura’s a Public Relations Major at Kennesaw State University and has a passion for supporting great causes like Go Eat Give.

New York City’s Best Subway Art Guide

As a native New Yorker or a tourist looking to explore the city, you’ll no doubt take the subway. While crazy New York City subway stories make you crave a cab, New York’s underground can be a great experience, too. This is especially true is you’re into colorful creativity, as art in the subway abounds!

NYC takes its title as one of the world’s art capitals seriously, so expect to come across some of the finest art in the city just taking the subway. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for the various gems you’re sure to come across —  especially when it comes to the five installations listed below!

1. Life Underground

art in the subway
Where: 14 St @ Eighth Avenue Station

This 16-year-old installation captures “life in New York,” and is one of the city’s best pieces of art in the subway. Artist Tom Otterness used over a dozen bronze sculptures to depict everything from the homeless being watched over by police to New York’s famous sewer gators chomping on the head of a wealthy citizen. It’s easy to rush through the city when it comes to a commute, but these playful figures are worth slowing down for! Stop by the 14th ST/Eight Avenue Station to see Life Underground.

2. Happy World

art in the subway
Where: Flushing/Main Street

Flushing is often noted as one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city — a fact that Ik-Joong Kang made a point of celebrating with this art piece. Happy World uses over two thousand hand-painted ceramic tiles to depict various aspects of the large world Kang saw in Flushing and beyond. This includes many different people, events and views of NYC. With so much happening all at once, it can be comforting to see it condensed into a single installation (even if condensed refers to over two-thousand tiles!).

3. REACH

Where: 34th St/Herald Sqaure

Suspended above the N/R platforms of this station, there is a green bar with sensors that run along its side. While this horizontal rack has a tendency to go unnoticed by commuters, it’s actually a brilliant piece of interactive art in the subway that encourages New Yorkers to communicate with one another, even at their busiest. Waving your hands in front of the sensors causes a light to flicker on, and a sound to come from the rack on the opposite platform. With this unique musical instrument, those on the downtown and uptown platforms can interact without a single word!

4. My Coney Island Baby

Where: Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue

There are a number of creative reasons to make your way down to Brooklyn’s Coney Island. NYC street art is one, while the other is the artwork of Robert Wilson. Showcasing Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and other famous attractions, this installation features a wall of glass bricks showcasing silkscreened images. The format of this unusual, yet unique, exhibit makes the pictures especially alluring on sunny days when light streams in, illuminating the images. While adding whimsical fun to your commute, it’s one reason to plan your Coney Island trip for a sunny day!

5. Elevated

Where: Lexington Avenue/63rd St

With the Second Avenue Station nearly a decade in the making, artist Jean Shin had to pull out all the stops when planning her contribution. Sure enough, her mural “Elevated” is a standout even among the world-class art of this brand new subway line. In addition, this piece spans over three levels of the station. It depicts the construction done to dismantle the Second and Third Avenue line, along with stills of commuters. Furthermore, all levels are composed of ceramic tile, glass mosaic and laminated glass. This piece works to connect the past of New York to the present. And this is something you can be a part of for yourself, now that this new subway line is open!

~ By guest blogger, Shania Russell, a senior at Bronx Academy of Letters with a passion for writing. She has used programs such as Young Playwrights Inc., The Moth and Girls Write Now to channel these passions. Russell is the managing editor of her school’s literary magazine, One Pen. When not busied, she can be found with her nose in a book or humming the tune of whatever musical soundtrack she is obsessed with that week. THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON NYC TOURS & PHOTO SAFARIS. 

Highlights From The New York Times Travel Show 2017

We are back from The New York Times Travel Show where I spoke, signed copies of my books, and networked with dozens of travel companies from around the world. This year, it was a record breaking show with 30,099 participants and 560 companies representing over 170 countries!

On Saturday, I spoke on a panel called Global Travel Tips for Women moderated by April Merenda, owner of Gutsy Women Travel, along with Cheryl Benton of The Three Tomatoes, and Lea Lane, author of “Travel Tales I Couldn’t Put in the Guidebooks. We discussed best-practices for women traveling solo, including popular destinations (Cuba, Morocco, Bali), safety and money saving tips.

Later that afternoon, I spoke to over 50 people interested in volunteer traveling at Meet The Experts area. It was amazing to see so many people were interested in more meaningful travel rather than pure vacations. I hope they will turn up at one of our Go Eat Give trips soon!

I also signed copies of Beato Goes To Greenland and Beato Goes To Indonesia at the New York Times Bookstore. It was a humbling experience sitting next to travel legends Arthur and Pauline Frommer with my own books.

Some of our travel partners you may already know of were also there at the show. In 2016, Amanda and I traveled to Chile with family-run Vermont based company Yampu Tours and Philippines Tourism.

In the Travel for the Mind, Body and Soul section, we ran into our friends at the Art of Living Center in Boone, NC where we organized a yoga retreat last spring for Go Eat Give.  

Indian Tourism got the award for the most creative booth. They were giving out free samosas and mehndi (henna tattoo). What’s not to love?

Travel to India with Go Eat Give in 2017

This year, we are looking to partner with more tourism departments and tour operators and have plans to bring you stories from South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Georgia, Croatia, New Zealand, Russia, Uzbekistan Puerto Rico, St Lucia, British Virgin Islands, Arizona and more. Stay tuned by subscribing to the blog.

10 Reasons to Visit Dutchess County, New York

A trip to downstate New York can offer a quick escape; with beautiful natural surroundings, charming towns, farm to table dining, wineries, and more.
 
If you plan your trip in advance, you can also catch some of the local festivals and concerts that happen in New York’s Dutchess County.

Here are the top 10 Events in Dutchess County:

1. March – St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Held on first Saturday in March, each year the Committee selects an outstanding community person to lead the parade who is the Grand Marshal.
 
2. April – Wappinger Creek Water Derby. Who says you need to get to the Caribbean to scuba dive? Take lessons, compete in canoe races, and more, right here in New York.
 
3. May – Rhinebeck 2016 Antique Car Show & Swap Meet. Check out antique and classic cars on display at this 3-days long car show.
 
4. MayWW II Living History, USO Show, Bivouac, and Memorial Day Events include the 75th Anniversary of FDR Presidential Library & Museum and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, and 100th NPS anniversary.
 
5. June – Country Living Fair, Rhinebeck. This weekend-long fair includes art displays, live concerts,  food tastings, and dozens of themed gardens to keep the entire family entertained.
Dutchess County Fair
Dutchess County Fair
6. June – Discover Hudson Valley Bike Ride. Explore forests, waterfalls, hills, and gorgeous surroundings of the Hudson Valley on a guided bike tour.
 
7. July – DCRCOC Balloon Festival, Poughkeepsie. Over 100 hot air balloons are launched from the banks of the Hudson River, against the backdrop of a picture-perfect sunset.
 
Dutchess County Balloon Festival
Dutchess County Balloon Festival
 
8. August – Jazz in the Valley, Poughkeepsie. An annual festival, showcasing music performed by world-class musicians, fittingly complemented by breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley as a backdrop.
 
new york jazz festival
 
9. September – Hudson Valley Wine and Food Festival & HV Craft Beer Festival. Taste local products including beer, cider, spirits, wine, and food at this weekend-long gastronomic festival.
 
10. October – New York State Sheep and Wool Festival. Features livestock displays, competitions, art display, cooking demonstrations, and lots of kid’s activities.
 
Dutchess County festivals
Dutchess County Festivals

To learn more about spending a weekend in downstate New York, read this post by GoEatGive.

~ Information sourced from Dutchess County Tourism. 

How To Spend a Weekend in Westchester, New York

If you have made it up to Hudson Valley on your weekend getaway from New York City, also check out a precious gem in the area – Westchester County. There is an easily accessible train ride or quick road trip that will get you away from the city in just a few hours. If you need some inspiration to get out and explore your own backyard, here are some stops that will help in designing your perfect weekend getaway in the New York state.

Taste The Freshest Maple Syrup

Taste some of the best maple in the world at Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Their certified-organic maple products are so pure, you can taste the woods! Take a tour of the technologically advanced facility and learn how maple is harvested. Sample different kinds of syrups and homemade pastries freshly made on the premise. The 800-acres property of Madava Farms is open to the public for picnicking and hiking too. It’s a great place to enjoy the peaceful and scenic outdoors, located only 80 miles from the city.

visit a maple farm in new york
Maple syrups, rubs and coffee at Madava Farms

Drink Hudson Valley Wines

There are over 35 wineries in the Hudson Valley. If you have limited time and can only pick one to visit, go to award-winning Millbrook Vineyards and Winery’s 30 acres of vines plantations growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and an Italian grape varietal called Tocai Friulano. The winery officially opened for tours and tastings in 1988 and today, it produces between 10-12,000 cases of wine annually.

wine tasting in new york
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery

Grab a Gourmet Lunch

For lunch, stop at Babette’s Kitchen, offering gourmet salads, pastas, sandwiches, and entrees, cooked using local and seasonal ingredients. They pride themselves in having long lasting relationships with local farmers who supply them with the best produce that the Hudson Valley has to offer. You can also get boxed lunches to-go and hop on a scenic train ride or road trip.

Admire the Local Art

Contemporary art lovers would want to include a stop at Dia: Beacon art gallery. Occupying a former Nabisco box printing factory that is located on the banks of the Hudson River, Dia:Beacon presents Dia’s collection of unusual art installations and spaces, such as white on white, homepage to the square, fluorescent lights and more. Since its opening in May 2003, Dia:Beacon has helped transform the city of Beacon into a vibrant art destination for visitors from the region, New York City, and beyond.

Step Back in History

Thereafter, take a tour of Lyndhurst Mansion, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions. Overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, the architectural brilliance of the residence, is complemented by the park-like landscape of the estate and a comprehensive collection of original decorative arts. It was designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis and its noteworthy occupants include former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.

visit historic Mansion in new york
Lyndhurst Mansion

Dinner on The River

Dinner at Rivermarket Bar and Kitchen is a must! The restaurant and market showcases producers located throughout the Hudson Valley. Menu includes a variety of fresh seafood, poultry and meat, paired with local wines. The rustic decor of the restaurant with its restored wood ceiling, brings the outdoors inside, and gives a subtle reminder of the restaurants’ sustainable initiates.

Visit Happy Farm Animals

Those interested in learning about where their food comes from, can visit the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown. Here you can meet some happy chicken, pigs and sheep, who are treated humanely. The center also offers educational day camps for kids to learn about farming, livestock and sustainable eating.

animal farm visit in new york
Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Take a Tran Ride to Yonkers

Yonkers is an interesting suburb, where many New York City commuters also reside. Here you can visit the Hudson River Museum to see six art galleries, the Andrus Planetarium, and Glenview Mansion, which is a historic house museum of 1876. Taste local brews at Yonkers Brewery and enjoy a delicious meal at award-winning chef Peter Kelly’s restaurant, Xaviar X20 on the Hudson. A ride back to Grand Central is only 30 minutes aboard Metro-North Railroad.

This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Read Part 1 of my upstate New York experience in Duchess County.

Weekend in Hudson Valley Region, New York

Hudson Valley Region, not often is this what comes to mind when I think of New York. When I think of New York, images of the city’s bustling streets, neon lights, Broadway musicals, top chef restaurants, and shopping at 5th Avenue fill up my head.

However, The State of New York is actually incredibly vast and has a lot more to offer than Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. For the first time, I took a train starting at Grand Central Station to explore the surrounding areas of downstate, New York.

Hudson Valley Region, NY

Hudson River Bridge, Poughkeepsie, Hudson Valley Region, NY
Hudson River Bridge

The Hudson Valley area is roughly 150 miles long and covers various counties. It is easily connected to New York City by train and makes for fun weekend getaways. 

Poughkeepsie, NY

A 2-hour ride on Metro-North Railroad took me along the Hudson River to the city of Poughkeepsie in Dutchess county. A short walk from the train station to the elevator led to the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, spanning 212′ above the Hudson River and 1.28 miles across. This is a great place to get a good view of the river and the surrounding foliage, especially during spring and fall. During the season, there are concerts, open-air movies, marathons, and festivals taking place in the historic state park.

Vanderbilt Mansion in the Hudson Valley Region, NY
Vanderbilt Mansion

Poughkeepsie has several restaurants, hotels, and shops that sustain tourism in the area. Shadows restaurant offers a great view of the Hudson and is often used for large events, such as wedding receptions. Also, nearby is the Franklin D Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park.

Here, you can visit the Roosevelt family home, burial site, see the president’s personal library, and an interactive museum. Just a few minutes drives away is the Vanderbilt Mansion, one of the smaller homes owned by the family. After spending an afternoon in the area, you begin to picture what affluence and stature the neighborhood had up until only a few decades ago.

Vanderbilt Mansion Interior, Hudson Valley Region, NY
Vanderbilt Mansion Interior

Food lovers can take a break at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for dinner. The oldest and most well known culinary school in the country offers four student-run restaurants. Here when you dine, you will become part of their classroom experience. The CIA’s new 800-seat, state-of-the-art Ecolab Auditorium in the Marriott Pavilion makes it possible for visitors to experience one of Half Moon Theatre’s New York-style theatrical productions after enjoying a meal at The Bocuse RestaurantAmerican Bounty, or Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici.

Rhinebeck, NY

Rhinebeck is a charming city to stay overnight. Check into America’s oldest continuously operated hotel, Beekman Arms, for luxurious accommodations in a historic setting. Next day, stroll around the downtown area, shopping for antiques, clothes, and local products, as well as boutiques and dining at historic taverns. Not to miss is Oliver Kita Confectionaries for hot chocolate, cupcakes, and handmade chocolate truffles. Terrapin Restaurant features farm-fresh organic cuisine under the guidance of award-winning Chef Josh Kroner. There are over 30 wineries in this area and many of them are offered on the menu, paired with locally raised duck, venison, and chicken.

Oliver Kita in Rhinebeck NY, Hudson Valley Region
Oliver Kita in Rhinebeck

Early December is a good time to visit Rhinebeck for the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, where a local resident dresses up in a Santa-bishop like attire, accompanied by his long-time sidekick, the Grumpus, as well as the entire town parading through the town.

Overall, the Hudson Valley Region is a historical and culturally intriguing place to explore, just a short way outside of the city!

~This trip was coordinated by I Love New York, the state’s official tourism board.

Read Part 2 of my upstate New York experience in Westchester.

Highlights of the New York Times Travel Show

The New York Times Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, and an interactive Exhibition including more than 500 exhibitors from Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Mexico and the United States. In addition to discounts and special offers for travel, the show provides educational seminars and live entertainment for families, individuals, couples and seniors.

I attended the 13th New York Times Travel Show at the Jacob K. Javits Center last weekend. There were more than 500 exhibitors, representing 150 countries, which was great but also overwhelming. Entire rows representing geographic areas were set up, featuring different tourism boards, travel agencies, resorts and more. This year, there was a section on wellness travel as well, featuring one of our partners, The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina.

art of living boone

The winners and their categories were:

  • Best in Show: Turkish Culture and Tourism Office
  • Rookie of the Year: Go Touch Down Travel and Tours
  • Most Interactive: Destination Canada
  • Best 10′ x 10′ Booth: Flight 001
  • The People’s Choice: Mexico Tourism Board
  • Most Imaginative: Curaçao Tourist Board
  • Best Show Service: It’s Easy Passport Visa Services

Here are some of the vendors that stood out the most to me…don’t be surprised if you catch me at these locations in 2016!

Voyage Unique Mongolie organizes trips across Mongolia, the most popular being the Gobi Desert. They own two hotels – Dream Gobi Lodge and Dream Terelj Lodge. Both are yurt style camps with private bathrooms and luxury accommodations.

TimesTravel mongolia

Eco Sicily is a project to promote tours to the small towns in Sicily. The area has access to beaches, hills and villages. Old traditions are still followed when it comes to art, cuisine, agriculture, etc.

Yampu Tours offers unique tours across the world, focusing on local interactions, learning and adventure. You can design a custom itinerary choosing your own date, location and a theme that fits your interest.

Lernidee is a Germany based company that offers rain and river tours to remote parts of the world. The ones that caught my attention were the Silk Road tour across Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the Trans-Siberian railroad.

Valdez, Alaska is a destination that encompasses the best of everything Alaska has to offer. Closed to cruise ships, this small town is most enjoyable by driving or ferry. It has access to glaciers, wildlife, fishing, hiking and more. The representative told me I can find myself standing fishing right next to the bears!

Seychelles are beautiful islands off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, which are frequented by European tourists. If you have had your fill of the Caribbean, this would be a great destination to combine with your African safari.

Times Travel seychelles

There were also workshops, seminars, cooking demonstrations, cultural performances and book signings taking place during the show. Celebrity personalities included Madhur Jaffrey (Indian actress, food writer, author), Ruth Reichl (chef, food critic, author), Arthur and Pauline Frommers (travel writers), and many others.Times Travel 2016

If you are in New York City or surrounding area in January 2017, make sure to add The New York Times Travel Show to your upcoming calendar.

Book your stay at the Art of Living Retreat Center through TripAdvisor

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Top 5 Meals of 2015

It has become an annual tradition. Each year, I write a blog about the 5 best meals I ate. This is very hard to do since my job involves eating and traveling “for a living.” This year, I traveled to 14 countries and 5 states in the US. Needless to say, I ate a lot of good food!

After considerable thought, these memorable meals made it to my top 5 picks of 2015:

Machneyuda Restaurant in Jerusalem – This concept restaurant is run by three genius chefs – Yosef “Pappy” Elad, Assaf Granite, and Uri Navon. They run the business like a party. The quirky website and non-descript menu that offer dishes like “Entrecôte Django Unchained Style,” and “Lamb with lot of tasty stuff,” with pairings like “yummy stuff, some sauce” offer some clues. The waiters are not just friendly, they are singing, dancing and even doing shots in the kitchen…at work! The food is served in unpretentious sharing plates and is absolutely to die for. Ingredients are sourced from the surrounding Machneyuda market.

The biggest surprise for me was the dessert. Our server cleared out our table (we were 5) and laid out aluminum foil to cover it. On it, was orchestrated a symphony of cake, chocolate sauce, caramel, candies, nougats, cookies, ice cream and whipped cream – spread around the entire table within matter of minutes. It looked very haphazard as it was happening, but then appeared to be a delicious pile of artful looking happiness. We dug in with our spoons feeling like kids, and started dancing to the Israeli pop tunes.

Catalina Rose Bay in Sydney – Located on the world-famous Sydney Harbour, this family run restaurant is known for serving the highest quality meat and poultry sourced from all over Australia. Sydney Seaplane Highlights Flight Fly/Dine experience, included lunch at Catalina overlooking the Rose Bay. We start by enjoying fresh oysters on the shell paired with an Australia white that is produced not too far from the bay. The warm Sydney sun refreshed us as we watched the Seaplanes go by. I had the Poached Western Australian Marron Tail (something I had not had before), and the small sushi plate with delicious fresh tuna, salmon, prawn, kingfish, tataki tuna and Catalina roll. Dessert was caramelized fig with bitter caramel mousse, brik pastry and sugared pistachio. It was a memorable dessert, though the others I took bites off were pretty good too.

best seafood in Sydney

Boulanger Patissier Le Fournil Notre Dame in Marseille, France – My husband and I got to this bakery in the South of France early Sunday morning when the aroma of fresh baked goodies were oozing out of this tiny neighborhood bakery. There were sleepy residents, some still wearing pajamas, lined up to get bread, croissants, pastries, macrons, and Tropezian cakes. We got a few assortments to share with our cappuccinos. Till this day, we still talk about how the croissants flaked into a thousand pieces and melted the moment it touched our tongues. It was so good, that we had to eat another. Though so simple, it was by far the best breakfast I had this year!
best croissants in France
Marea in New York City – My close friend know that I am a big snob when it comes to Italian food. I can just about dismiss majority of the Italian restaurants in the U.S., but when I find a good ones, my heart melts into clarified butter. This is what happened at Marea, 2 Michelin star restaurant located on Central Park South. My friend and I had to wait for a long time to a spot at the bar (reservations few days in advance are highly recommended), but it was great people watching too. Everything at this high end Italian eatery boasted freshness of ingredients, integrity of flavors, and perfection in cooking. Some of my favorites were the tender Noca Scotia lobster and burro found in Astice; al dante and earthy Funghi Risotto; flaky and dressed Branzino: as well as the fried doughnuts dipped in lemon ricotta and dark chocolate Bomboloni. The portions are not small and you may end up eating 10k calories, but now you can die and go to heaven on earth.
best Italian in New York
Yachiyo Ryokan at Himeshima Island in Japan – It’s hard to imagine that one of my top 5 meals was at a 1-lady run Bed and Breakfast in a sleepy island off the coast of Kunisaki. I stayed at this beautiful family run 8-room inn surrounded by gardens, where we were served a delicious seafood dinner with ingredients that were probably swimming just a few hours ago. I had eaten a lot of good sushi throughout my stay in countryside Japan, but this was an unbelievable spread. Every inch of the table was covered with a fresh piece of fish or vegetable that was delicately prepared and artful served. The Japanese chefs take great effort in presentation as you can see from this picture. Unfortunately, this place doesn’t have a website and the manager, Michuri-San, speaks limited English, so good luck finding it.
best sushi in Japan