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The Top Winter Vacation Destinations for 2014
Itching to get away and experience a new destination this winter? Here are 10 cities that discount travel site Hotwire says will be the top winter vacation spots for 2014.
Spain’s capital has much to offer for tourists of all kinds and its climate makes it one of the top winter vacation destinations. Visit the “aristocratic centre”, located near the Plaza Mayor, where you’ll find the Royal Palace, an imposing building dating from the 17th century that features a mixture of Baroque and classicist styles. Madrid has over 60 museums including the Prado Museum, one of the world’s most important art galleries, and the Reina Sofía National Art Centre, dedicated to contemporary Spanish art and containing works by prominent artists such as Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí and Juan Gris. You’ll also have opportunities to see concerts, ballets, theatrical shows, as well as sample the best of Spanish cuisine in the city’s charming restaurants, bars and taverns. Madrid’s extensive and beautifully maintained parks and gardens make it one of the greenest capitals in Europe, so take a stroll in Buen Retiro Park, formerly the recreational estate to the Spanish monarchs, the Casa de Campo and the Juan Carlos I Park.
Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
The largest city in the state of Virginia, Virginia Beach is a premier resort town that is fondly known as a “Beach Lovers’ Beach” due to its 28 miles of public beach area. Families will enjoy checking out the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Cape Henry Lighthouses, and the Ocean Breeze Waterpark. If you love the outdoors, a number of activities will appeal to you including sportfishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and sailing, as well as biking or walking along the three-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk, camping or hiking at First Landing State Park, or simply hanging out oceanside.
Known as the creative workshop of Germany, this world-class city is a trendsetter for fashion, design and music, bursting with art, culture and creativity at every corner. Explore Old Berlin’s courtyards with their vibrant mix of art galleries, cinemas, theatres, variety venues, restaurants and bars, as well as small boutiques and big-name flagship stores. Art lovers will want to visit Museum Island, a district that got its name due to the complex of five Berlin State Museums located there, including the Bode Museum. Other highlights not to be missed are the elegant shopping street of Kurfürstendamm, the Kaufhaus des Westens department store, as well as wandering along the city’s beautiful residential streets.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, nicknamed the “City of a Hundred Spires” is a UNESCO monument and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Though each of Prague’s districts has its own character and charm, the city is very cosmopolitan and used to welcoming foreigners. Popular attractions worth visiting include the Old Town Hall where the famous Prague astronomical clock is located, the winding lanes of the Jewish Quarter, the Gothic Charles Bridge, and Church of St. Nicholas in the Lesser Town, which is heralded as the most beautiful Baroque church in Prague. Take a sightseeing cruise on the Vltava and also be sure to visit the unique Nationale-Nederlanden (ING Bank) building. Commonly known as the “Dancing House” the building was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry and consists of two parts, static and dynamic, which, according to Milunić, is meant to symbolize the transition of Czechoslovakia from a communist regime to a parliamentary democracy.
The diverse and exciting capital of England has some of the world’s best sights and attractions, including the London Eye, Thames River, Big Ben (officially called the Elizabeth Tower) and the Tate Modern, just to name a few. No matter how many times you visit, London is one of those cities where you just never seem to see it all. And what better time to visit than at the height of the British Monarchy’s popularity? Stroll by Buckingham Palace and take in the glorious site where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared not one, but two, kisses on the balcony after their wedding at Westminster Abbey in April 2011. Perhaps you’ll even be lucky enough to spot the new royal parents out and about town with their son Prince George.
This Mediterranean city is full of cultural activities. Visitors can check out museums, exhibitions, open-air sculptures, concerts, plays and dances. With urban beaches, marine resorts, and golf courses on the seashore, Barcelona also caters to outdoor enthusiasts. And of course, what’s a trip without experiencing the finest of the city’s gastronomic culture? Try traditional and modern Spanish fare including dishes made with fresh fish, a wide variety of sausages and olive oil, as well as handmade cakes and pastries and sparkling wines.
The City of Light is one of the most magical and romantic cities in the world so it’s no wonder it’s a popular bucket list travel destination. How does one spend a day in Paris? Start with a coffee and croissant at a quaint café on the Champs-Elysées, then stroll over to the Eiffel Tower along the avenue Marceau. Enjoy the unparalleled view over Paris from the top of the Tower, then hop onto one of the riverboats and glide down the Seine to admire Notre-Dame Cathedral. Next, visit the Louvre for some major art appreciation. As evening approaches, cross over the river and make your way to Odéon metro station, which leads you straight to the Montmartre hill where you can enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view of the city at nightfall. We dare you not to fall in love with the city after a day such as this.
Sure, the Dutch capital is notorious for De Wallen, the racy red-light district where peep shows and sex shops are innumerable, but Amsterdam is also the country’s cultural capital where you’ll find Het Muziektheater, the city’s principal opera house, the Concertgebouw concert hall, home of the world-class symphony orchestra Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and letters. So, whether you’re looking for modern architecture, a cultural hot spot, or an immersion into a place with a rich history, this lovely canal-side city has it all.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA
One of the greatest assets of the Myrtle Beach area, also known as the Grand Strand, is the weather. Mild winters and bearable summer temperatures (the average high is 14° C in the coldest month of January while the average high is 32° C in the hottest month of July) make it an ideal vacation destination all year round. White sand beaches, superb golf courses, excellent shopping, and tourist attractions galore, like the popular Ripley’s Aquarium and upside-down house WonderWorks, means there’s something for every type of traveller. Don’t forget to take a ride on the 57-metre-tall SkyWheel, which is located on the Boardwalk and offers a beautiful view of the city’s skyline and the Atlantic Ocean.
Chicago, Illinois, USA
There’s plenty to do in the largest and most-visited city in the United States’ Midwest. Check out popular sights including the John Hancock Observatory, the Willis Tower Skydeck and the Art Institute of Chicago, shop along the Magnificent Mile, and snap a photo in front of Cloud Gate (better known as “The Bean”), the famous sculpture that’s the centerpiece of Millennium Park. If you go when the temperatures are mild or warm, taking a riverboat tour to see the city’s architectural beauty is a must.