Top Winter Travel Destinations in the US

Top Winter travel destinations in the US by Ari KellenMost people associate vacations with the summer, but winter travel is an awful bit of fun.  Whether it’s a ski trip or a tropical getaway, there are some phenomenal winter travel destinations in the US.  Here are a few of them:

Puerto Rico: A combination of sunshine and stellar deals have drawn visitors to Puerto Rico for years now.  It’s affordable, has great beaches, good drinking and excellent food.  Whether you want to visit a celebrity chef or head into the backcountry’s “Lechon highway” for authentic roast pork, it’s great food you can’t get anywhere else.  

Hawaii: Even before Elvis made “Rock-a-Hula”, Hawaii has been attracting Americans with its stellar beaches, great weather and fabulous outdoor activities.  And the best part is that it stays fun and happening all year round.

New Orleans: New Orleans in the summer is humid and disgusting, but in the winter the weather is actually tolerable!  In addition to Mardi Gras, there are other festive activities in the city: lower hotel rates, great Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations and fewer tourists.  

California: The beaches and sunshine of southern California make both Los Angeles and San Diego an idea winter getaway.  The colder months are also a great time to find cheap hotel deals.  

Florida: One of America’s most well-known and timeless snowbird destinations is the Sunshine State.  Whether you want to visit the Gulf beaches of Fort Myers and Tampa, take in the vibrant nightlife of Miami or go on rides in Orlando, it’s hard to go wrong here.

Salt Lake City: If you’d rather be skiing this season, then no worries, Salt Lake City is the place for you.  You can easily stay downtown and then drive just half an hour to the slopes, a winning combination.  

Savannah: Arguably the epitome of southern charm, Savannah is one of the most romantic cities in the country.  Apart from Valentine’s Day, winter is the low season here, giving you plenty of room to check out this charming historic city.  

Santa Fe: Yes, it’s a bit off the beaten path, but Santa Fe is wonderful to visit in the winter, with mild temperatures and access to ski slopes.  

Memphis: There isn’t much to do in Memphis, but there’s certainly enough to make for a phenomenal long weekend for anybody who loves food and music.  You can listen to live music on one of the many blues bars in Beale Street, get barbecue at Central (Rendezvous isn’t that good if we’re being honest) and visit Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley first recorded.

Anchorage: Most people would prefer to visit Alaska during the warmer months, but this is the prime season to see the Northern Lights, a natural phenomena as beautiful as it is unusual.  It’s tough to get there, but hotel rates are at an all-time low this time of the year.  

from Ari Kellen| Travel Page


NYC New Year’s Resolutions (We’ll Never Keep)

NYC New year's resolutions by Ari KellenThis is the time of year to make New Year’s resolutions.  2016 has been a long and rough year, and now it’s time to focus on how we can all make 2017 better.  Yet the sad fact of New Year’s resolutions is that they’re almost always doomed to fail.  That gym membership you started in the start of the year?  Probably won’t make it past February.  Your desire to cook more?  After a couple failed dinners you’ll start eating Kraft mac and cheese and then be back to Seamless in a month.  There are many great temptations surrounding us in New York City, which make for great New Year’s resolutions that are astoundingly hard to follow.  I recently read an article that shared some of them, and a lot of them struck a chord with me:

Take less cabs and Ubers: It’s the coldest time of the year, and even if you live close to the subway, you probably can’t afford to live close enough to make your ride home after a night hanging out with your friend across town any bit convenient.  So it’s time to call an Uber.

Eat out less and cook more: New York has some of the best food in the world, and I hate to break it to you, but the meals you make at home, good as they are, probably don’t even make the top 50 list.  And you want to take advantage of living in New York, don’t you?

Keep a detailed track of my finances: Did you know that one out of nineteen New Yorkers is a millionaire?  You can join their ranks by keeping track of your finances; get a spreadsheet set up on Google docs, but after a while it becomes a chore, and you realize you aren’t actually listening to what it has to say, so what’s the point?

Be nicer to strangers: This one make sense, and nobody likes to be part of the whole “rude New Yorker” stereotype.  But when you’re having a long day, it’s right before dinner and you’re full-on hangry, that Midwestern couple who can’t swipe their subway card the right way just pushes you over the edge.  

Start a gym membership: This sounds good in theory, then you think of logistics.  You often have things to do after work, and by the time you get ready to gym, nine times out of ten you’re in no mood to do so.  You can of course hit the gym in the morning, but who wants to wake up a whole hour earlier?  That’s awful.

Call and visit home more often: Unless your family lives off the Metro North, visiting them is going to be tough.  And even if they do, it’s hard to find the time to visit with all of the crazy things happening in New York.

Explore outside your neighborhood: I love to explore outside of my neighborhood, but thinking of all the times I’ve tried to get my friends to go on New York City explorations with me, I know that I’m well in the minority.  Even if Ben’s Best does better pastrami than Katz’s, few friends will want to join you on the trek out to Rego Park.  

Wash your own clothes: Once you realize that you don’t have enough quarters for a full wash and dry, and the nearby ATM is one of those sketchy ones that charges fees, you’ll just pay somebody to do your laundry for you.

Eat healthier: What are some of the more popular (and delicious) food options in New York?  Names like pizza, bagels, pastrami and bottomless brunch will most likely come to mind.  You notice how none of those are healthy.  Going to Just Salad is a great idea, and they make great salads, but then you realize that the amount you spend on one salad can get you eight dollar slices.  

Stop drinking as much: Few people have cars in New York, meaning that you can drink all you want at company happy hour and not have to pay for a cab.  Sure, drinks are expensive when you break them down, but it’s such a major part of New York’s social culture that giving up drinking is easier said than done.  


from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration

NYC Travel Tips For First-Time Visitors

NYC travel tips for first-time visitors by Ari KellenAs a New Yorker, it’s hard for me to realize that many people have never been here, and don’t know about everything that it has to offer.  It’s a city that everybody from the Congo to Nebraska has heard about, it’s been in countless movies, so visiting can feel a bit overwhelming.  To make sure that you get the most out of your visit, however, here are some great tips that I found from a blog post by the excellent Tracy Kaler:

Don’t spend all your time looking at the tourist stuff: The touristy stuff in New York is so popular because it’s so great: Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center, Central Park, etc.  But that doesn’t show you how unique New York truly is.  Try picking several big sights, scheduling them into your itinerary and then spend the rest of your time shopping, eating, wandering and visiting more off-the-beaten path places.  There are plenty of fun, unique places in New York that aren’t too out of the way.  Fun, easy-to-reach neighborhoods with lots to do include Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side, East Village/Alphabet City, Williamsburg and Greenpoint (more on those last two later).

Avoid Times Square: Times Square is one of those things you do once in your life, but then never again.  It’s incredibly touristy, expensive and unbelievably crowded.  While a lot of hotels are located around there, you want to avoid the most congested area (on the 40s near Broadway and 7th Avenue), where you won’t be able to walk down the street, but rather shuffle and get pushed while people ask you for money, which isn’t fun for anybody.

See a show: Theater is just one aspect of the entertainment that you can get in New York City.  If you’re a theater buff, go to a couple performances, but you don’t want to center your entire visit around it.  There are all other kinds of performances you can check out: comedy shows, concerts of all kinds, improv shows, etc.

Explore the outer boroughs: While Manhattan has got so much to offer, the outer boroughs, particularly Brooklyn and Queens, do as well.  If you’re planning on more than a couple days, you’ll want to check them out.  Just east of Manhattan in Brooklyn is Williamsburg and Greenpoint, home to amazing bars, fun things to do and some pretty great parks.  In Queens you’ll want to visit Astoria, home to the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the oldest beer gardens in the country and all sorts of excellent restaurants.

Be comfortable: New York’s a fashionable place, so you want to look good, but you also want to be comfortable!  Think practically: you’ll be walking a lot, so wearing stilettos isn’t a great idea.  Dress for the temperatures as well: New York gets cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, and the weather in the spring and fall is unpredictable to say the least.

Cut costs: It’s very easy to spend a lot of money in New York, and it’s certainly a very expensive city, but there are still ways to save money.  By simply skipping the taxis and riding the subway, you’ll save a ton of cash.  There are also plenty of free things to do around the city: museums, parks, ferry rides, etc.

from Ari Kellen | New York City Exploration