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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Top 5 Things to do in Rio de Janeiro

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With a city so full of culture and a location filled with beauty, it’s hard to narrow down what you should do in Rio de Janeiro.  That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things for you to consider on your holiday, whether you’re looking to relax, party, explore, or all three!

Ipanema
Whether you’re looking for some leisure time in the sun, or a shopping excursion, the neighborhood of Ipanema is the perfect place to unwind after a long day exploring in Rio De Janeiro. The beautiful beach unfolds displaying people enjoying the sun in all different ways. If you’re looking to nap in the sun, surf and play in the water, or have a friendly game of volleyball, you’ll have company in whatever you choose to do. The locals are known for being as beautiful as they are friendly, and with what seems like endless supplies of beer and the traditional cachaça, you might want to become a local yourself.
ipanema-beach
Once you get off the beach, there’s streets upon streets of trendy shopping, and since Ipanema is known for being one of the most expensive places to live, these stores are top of the line. If you’re a bargain hunter or looking for something more unique, fear not–on Sundays they hold a “Hippie Fair”, which is a market proudly displaying homemade crafts, clothing, and souvenirs. Also on Sundays, the roadway closest to the beach is closed to motor vehicles allowing visitors and residents alike to enjoy an open area for jogging, roller blading, skateboarding, or however else they choose to get out and enjoy the town!

Copacabana
copacabana The first thing I think of when I hear “Copacabana” is, unfortunately, the Barry Manilow song. Don’t worry though, there’s much much more to the name.  Most recognizably, the southern area of Brazil, home to a beach community that’s as beautiful as it is famous. Attracting the best looking beach-goers, Copacabana is a perfect spot for unashamedly people-watching. Although many people assume that Copacabana and Ipanema are similar, they have their distinctive features. While Ipanema is known more for being a sexy, young, lively, and high end atmosphere, Copacabana holds similar values but proves to be a little less ritzy for those who want to enjoy the local culture in a more laid-back fashion.

Another amazing feature of this area is the promenade. Spread over four kilometers and housing endless restaurants, bars, shops, and clubs, this strip has also hosted numerous concerts. One of the most noteworthy being the New Years Eve Rod Stewart concert garnering 3.5 million, making it the largest concert crowd ever.

Rio de Janeiro has a specifically laid back lifestyle, and if you’re looking for a beach area to enjoy the sunset and a drink, no place is more appropriate than Copacabana.

Carnival
Held 46 days before Easter and traditionally being seen as a way to indulge in some crazy behavior before the start of Lent, Carnival is known as Brazil’s biggest party, and why wouldn’t you want to attend?  Carnival is four days and four nights of partying, dancing, drinking, and parades. Most importantly, the Samba parades, which feature shows and competitions of numerous Rio Samba schools. Often with preparations starting months in advance to impress the judges and spectators, this is no ordinary street parade, and definitely recommended as a must-see during Carnival. All regions are brought together for this parade, not only increasing competition but also displaying a wide variety of costumes, techniques, and design of their parade.

carnival After watching such talent through the streets, you won’t have to be just a spectator for long. Another great event of Carnival are the numerous Balls that you are able to purchase tickets to.  There is samba dancing all night, and if you’re feeling up to the challenge of meeting the high standards for Carnival costumes, you can dress up and become truly immersed in the culture.

The Balls and the Parades are just two of the many events that express the vibe of extravagant glamour, but no matter which events you choose to see, they’re guaranteed to blow you away. It is said that Carnival accounts for 70% of the annual tourism and 80% of the annual beer consumption, so if you’re looking for a good way to party like a local, Carnival is something you shouldn’t miss.

Corcovado
This mountain that lies west of the city, is so spectacular that it is still visible from miles away. However this is not just another mountain gracing Rio de Janeiro’s geography, it is also topped at the peak by a thirty-eight meter statue of Jesus, known as Cristo Rendenter. The homage to religion portrays this statue of Christ with open arms, which is a symbol of peace representing the local culture and their religious values.

corcovado The peak of the mountain and the base of the statue is accessible on a narrow path if you’re driving, or you can opt for the Corcovado Rack Railway. When you reach the top, you then need to ascend to the very top via the 223 stairs, also available are elevators and escalators if you’d rather preserve your energy.

Religious or not, this is an attraction that is popular for a reason. Whether you know it from the appearances it made in the Twilight films, or because you want to see one of the “New” seven wonders of the world, Corcovado is a moving way to appreciate natural beauty. The view from the peak looking out on the city and surrounding area is just as breathtaking as the inspirational view looking up at the statue from sea level.

Sugar Loaf Mountain
sugar-loaf-cable-car 396 meters high, Sugar Loaf mountain towers above the Atlantic Ocean on the beautiful coast of Rio de Janeiro. In history, it was seen as a landmark to travelers as the entrance to the Guanabara Bay, today however it gives tourists endless amounts of spectacular views of the surrounding city.  Although it is similar to Corcovado in how it overlooks Rio, visitors to Sugar Loaf can experience the glass enclosed cable cars which bring them to the peak of the mountain offering an even more unique aspect to this experience. At the top there are souvenir and refreshment booths so you can both relax, and browse some of the shops before returning to sea level.

For all you explorers out there, hiking is an option, but it is highly discouraged as the trails are rugged and extreme. If you do choose to hike however, it is encouraged to buy a one way ticket before you ascend so that you can take the cable cars on the way down – hiking down the steep granite exterior is more dangerous than you’re trip up.

There is no doubt that Rio de Janeiro is graced with beautiful geography.  Mountains like Sugar Loaf let you look down on the beaches you may have been laying out on the previous day, and allow you to appreciate the beauty of the city.

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Boredom at the Beach

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Summer is finally here!  This means one thing…its time to hit the beach!  I know a vacation in the sun and sand sounds relaxing, yet this relaxation can soon turn to boredom.  This is why whenever I head to the beach for a break I try to find things to keep me busy.  The typical beach activities are always nice;  reading, swimming, sun bathing, and just simply strolling the beach.  Even with all the classic activities, I sill get jaded by the second day.  This is why I like to spend one day doing something a bit more stimulating.

The white sands of Longboat Key (Flickr by RTC1)

The white sands of Longboat Key (Flickr by RTC1)

Florida Beaches

Having grown up in Florida, heading to the beach for a family vacation was always a yearly tradition.  Every Labor Day my family and I head to Longboat Key on the Gulf of Mexico.  Every year we look forward to lounging about in the sun, however it gets too hot to sunbath for hours on end.  So, one of our favorite things to do is collect seashells.  In Longboat Key there is a sand bar close to shore and every year we snorkel for sand dollars.  One year we found hundreds of dead sand dollars on the sand bar!  I enjoy shelling so much, that one time on a trip to Clearwater we actually took a tour that took us to an island to hunt for seashells.  It was a fun way to mix up the usual humdrum at the beach. continue reading

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There Might Even Be Funnel Cakes: Checking Out the UK’s Seaside Scene

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It’s raining outside, and we’re missing the California beaches! Spurred by a long discussion about deep-fried snickers and hot dogs at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I’ve decided to investigate the UK’s beach scene (hey, we’re surrounded by miles and miles of coastline here too!). And, luckily, the UK turns out to have quite the selection of coastal spots for us sun-hungry Californians to choose from as the weather heats up this summer.

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

Blackpool's Pleasure Beach - Jon's Pics

It may not be Coney Island or the Boardwalk, but it looks pretty close! The Pleasure Beach Amusement Park in Blackpool, England features over 125 rides and attractions with some beautiful coastline views. And for you thrill seekers, twelve roller coasters, (woohoo!) including the one of the last “Wild Mouse” rides in operation, a neck-bending series of bunny hops and flat turns. Accessible via the Blackpool Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour, I can’t wait for an afternoon of sun and fun here (I just hope they have funnel cakes!) continue reading

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