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January 22, 2015

What’s Touristy But Good In New York?

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If you look up New York on Tripadvisor you’ll see a list of nearly 800 attractions/things to do in NYC!  One thing’s for sure – you’ll never get bored in the Big Apple.  New York is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations so by definition most of it’s attractions would be deemed to be “touristy”. In New York you are unlikely to have a unique experience that no one else has had ( without spending ALOT of  money) but of course your attitude to and perception of any experience does make it unique to you.  It’s best to just except and embrace that NYC is a commercial and tourist mecca and enjoy the excitement and buzz  that it generates.  As we will see, many ‘touristy” attractions are actually a lot of fun.

Depending on how long you are there for and whether it is your first or 6th visit,  your priorities for what you want to see and experience will be different. If you are visiting New York for the first time it is an excellent idea to go on a hop on hop off double decker bus tour of Manhattan. Yes, hundreds of tourists are herded on and off these buses everyday, but it remains an excellent and affordable way to orientate yourself to the island, and it helps you prioritise where you want to go back to and explore further.

The first time I visited New York I did both a bus tour, and a circumnavigation of Manhattan by boat on the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise.  The boat cruise is a fantastic way to see the Manhattan skyline, the fabulous architecture of the old and new high rises, and the famous Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The banks of Hudson river are especially glorious in the Fall.  You get to experience some great leaf-peeping without having to leave the city! The Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise appears to be the most popular option amongst  tourists and they are very experienced operators.

Central Park is arguably my favourite place in New York. It is a huge park – 50 street long and 3 avenues wide and there is so many beautiful spots to visit and fun things to do. It really is too big to get around by foot if you only have time for one visit.  I would recommend renting a bike or taking a pedicab.  A pedicab is a great way to see the park without exhausting yourself.  Many of the drivers are quite knowledgeable and will tell you a lot of interesting facts about the park. The pedicabs cost between US$2-3:50/min but you can negotiate a fee for a certain time period. I don’t recommend the horse drawn carriages as there are concerns about the horses’ welfare. Other touristy but fun things you can do in Central Park include: having a caricature of yourself sketched by a local artist; renting a row boat on The Lake; skating on Wollman or Lasker rinks in the Winter; watching teams of shirtless athletic street buskers strut their stuff in the Summer.

Despite being jam packed with tourists,  noisy and frankly an assault on the senses, Times Square is a must see during any visit to New York. The lights are spectacular and the place always has a festive atmosphere. You might even join in the madness and get your photo taken with Elmo or one your favourite superhero (but don’t forget to tip them!).

The 9/11 memorial is a popular if somewhat morbid destination on the NYC tourist circuit and it is a sobering and poignant tribute to all the innocent people that lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attack.  I do think the concept and execution of the memorial  is extremely well done.  I personally don’t like to dwell on sad and tragic events repeatedly so I will probably visit it only one more time, when the museum is completed.

The High Line park was created from an abandoned elevated railway track and is a wonderful place to take a stroll in the Spring and Summer. The gardens are lovely and you get great views down over the neighbourhoods below.  Talking of views, if you want a view down over the city people usually recommend the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building as the queues are shorter, the view is just as good and you get to see a great view of the Empire State Building!

Finally, I know that Broadway shows are expensive but going to one or more shows really will make your New York vacation truly magical. If you can’t afford Broadway prices then go to something Off-Broadway like Peter and the Star Catcher (which happens to be ex-Broadway). They are usually smaller productions but are often just as good  as Broadway. As well as Peter, we’ve been to Pippen, Book of Mormon and Matilda which were great.

October 23, 2013

Options for Getting Around Australia

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Australia is a massive and ahh-mazing country. The size means that getting around takes some planning. Here are your options.

1. Ferry.

Huh? If you want to go to Tasmania, which is Australia’s most forgotten about state, then you can hop a ferry from Melbourne. There are lots of reasons to visit Tasmania, including great beaches and it’s not baking hot in the summer. Seriously you can fry an egg on the sidewalk on hot summer days in Australia.

Another popular ferry trip is the short hop from Perth to the spectacular Rottnest Island, off the West Coast of Australia.

2. Cruise Ship.

Another way to incorporate Tasmania is via a cruise that takes you down the East Coast of Australia. Not many people think of cruising when they think of Australia.

3. Sailing boat, jetboat, or helicopter. Choose your luxury!

The Whitsundays, which are an absolute must-see when visiting Australia, are accessed by some type of boat. Or, if you’ve got more money to spend, a helicopter trip!

You’ll also need to take boat trip if you want to snorkel or dive the Great Barrier Reef. It’s incredible and I only snorkeled.

4. Train.

Australia is famous for the “Indian Pacific” train trip which runs Sydney – Adelaide – Perth i.e., from the East Coast of AU to the West Coast. This is a spendy luxury. However, there are also some intercity train options that connect Sydney with Melbourne, Brisbane, and Canberra. Tickets cost $100-200, around the same as an equivalent flight. See all the details on the Man in Seat 61’s blog.

I would definitely consider this as an alternative to flying next time I’m in Australia even though I’m not a huge train nerd.

5. Hire car or campervan.

Car rentals in Australia are usually quoted with the insurance included. Typically there is a high excess (US equivalent of deductible). This might be around $3000, meaning if you have an accident you pay up to that amount.

A car rental is probably a great option for part of your trip but you won’t need it while you’re in inner city Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne.

Vans that have a converted sleeping space are a popular option in Australia and New Zealand. These setups have been featured in some consumer protection type TV shows and the results of their testing have suggested that the maintenance is often not the best. May still be a great option, if you don’t get car sick like I do…. see below.

6. Domestic flights.

Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin are the main domestic carriers. Curiously, the cheapest way to book is often through Expedia Japan (they don’t charge Australian sales tax). See Flashpacker Family’s post about this. Domestic flights are priced as one ways so you won’t pay more if you want to use a flight in one direction only.

7. Bus.

I’m mentioning this last because I’m not a bus fan. Even on city busses, I feel sick. On longer trips I load up on anti-nausea medications. Yup, you won’t catch me on a bus very often. I took a bus from Cairns to Townsville once. It wasn’t too bad. Comfortable and on-time.

Have you ever taken any of these options when traveling in Australia? What was your experience?

October 21, 2013

The End of One Era…… and Start of a New One

The End of One Era…… and Start of a New One

Today we say a fond farewell to Clark and Kim who were the founding bloggers and editors here at To Uncertainty and Beyond. New editors will now be updating the site with shiny, brand new travel stories and fun.

Clark and Kim’s big trip to Europe and Asia was completed in early 2011. They’re now back in the US. All their ahh-mazing blog posts, photos, and videos will remain available on the site.

Soon new travel stories will be added from travelers who are currently on the road. We hope to keep up Clark and Kim’s high standard. It’ll be a challenge!!

Let’s look back at some selected highlights from “the Clark and Kim era” here at To Uncertainty and Beyond.

Speed packing

Clark and Kim’s Budget and Detailed Record of Their Expenses Per Country

per diem travel budget

Full post – http://www.touncertaintyandbeyond.com/the-budget/

10 Must Try Drinks Around the World

beer drinking

Full post – http://www.touncertaintyandbeyond.com/2011/01/10-must-try-drinks-around-the-world/

Their Route and Highlights Reel

An awesome animation of their route starts at the 32 second mark.

Have fun Clark and Kim!

Hangin' in the Windy City

August 13, 2010

Welcome to the New Site Design!

Welcome to the New Site Design!

It feels like I’ve seen more CSS and HTML than Europe over the last few days, but at least the new site is up and running!

Our old theme had some severe limitations, and I’ve been wanting to redesign it for some time.  I think you’ll find this layout loads faster and is easier to navigate.  Take a look around and be sure to subscribe to RSS updates by email, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.  We have a bunch of posts in the works, and RSS will keep you up to speed.

Also, you’ll want to check out Kim’s Tips for Kicks.  You can find her peaking out on the top of the site.  She has Dresden, Stockholm, and Vienna posted to date with 20+ more on the way.  These guides are geared toward independent travelers planning a trip around the world.  Kim highlights her favorite sights as well as some off-beat spots the guidebooks miss.  She ranks each city based on three criteria– cost, sights, and quality of ice cream.  Hey, ice cream is important!  Even if you aren’t traveling, check them out for an idea what we like to see and do.

So, what do you think?


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