Activities

3 Cool Theme Parks in France
(You’ve Probably Never Heard of)

Okay, so you’ve already purchased your Paris Disneyland tickets online and are mentally preparing yourself for an overdose of le Mouse de Mickey. Chances are your kids begged you to take them, enchanted by attractions like Big Thunder Mountain, the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and what’s arguably the best castle of any of the Disney properties: Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant.

But chances, too, are that your kids haven’t heard of all the other cool theme parks in France. There are some great ones. And some of them have creative features that will delight parents every bit as much as their children.

Here’s a rundown of Spot Cool Stuff’s three favorites:

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The Ski Resort That Disappears Every Year

Whitepod is an eco-resort in the truest sense of the term

Visit the site of the Whitepod ski resort in the Swiss Alps between April and November and what you’ll see of it is . . . nothing.

You’ll see no roads. No electrical wires. No place to stay. Just a 19th century farmhouse. And a pristine alpine meadow that’s begging for some von Trapp kids to twirl around in Sound Of Music style. And an amazing view. The vista of the snow peaks from this virtually untouched place 1,700 meters (5,600 feet) above the oceans is among the grandest in Europe. “Untouched” being the key word.

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12 Divine Chocolate Shops

Is chocolate good for you? Researchers, conducting highly scientific studies, have found chocolate beneficial in preventing a plethora of ailments including cancer, stroke and heart disease. But Spot Cool Stuff has a more simple theory:

If it makes you smile, it’s health food.

In honor of National Smile Month—and to the dismay of dentists everywhere—here’s our look at 12 wonderful chocolate shops. We hesitate calling them the “best” chocolate shops given how there are easily 60 or more stores that we could have included on this list. All the shops we did include are superlative in some way.

Note that this overview is a companion piece to our equally dentist-horrifying review of the world’s best candy shops.

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Have Wood Burning Spa Will Travel

Spot Cool Stuff adores glamping travel. Glamorous camping can get you out into a natural environment in the same way tent camping does. But it combines that with touches of luxury like you might find at a high-end hotel. After spending much of our youth backpacking on a rock-bottom budget, we think we’ve earned a bit of luxury.

Much of what we write about glamping on this travel blog concerns resorts that combine aspects of roughing it with aspects of being pampered. (Our review of these 5 especially wondering glamping spots is a good place to start reading about those). We also appreciate products that let travelers create their own glamping experience. Our favorite of those might be this:

The Dutchtub.

It’s like a personal hot-springs-to-go. If you have a tub-sized patch of flat ground, wood and 200 gallons (750 liters) worth of water or snow you can have your own spa virtually anywhere.

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Rolling Huts of the Methow Valley

The Methow Valley is as picturesque as any in the world. Nestled in a high pocket of the North Cascades of Washington State, the valley is all forests and flower fields, ravines and rivers, snow peaks and sunshine1. And it’s all crisscrossed by biking, hiking and running paths — and by one of the longest cross country skiing trails in the world.

Until recently, one of the few blights on the Methow Valley was a particularly unattractive RV park northwest of the town of Winthrop. Happily, the Winnebagos there have given way to a wild meadow that’s mostly untouched except for the unusual, low-impact accommodations offered by Rolling Huts. It is a fantastically cool place to stay.

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The Luxurious, Remote Amazon River Cruise

You’re on a cruise ship that features an outdoor jacuzzi and exercise room. Your meals are cooked by a gourmet chef. And your cabin is the equivalent of a five-star hotel room. But you aren’t sailing the Mediterranean. And you aren’t cruising the Caribbean. You are in Peru, on the Amazon River, deep in the heart of darkness, aboard the M/V Aria, on a luxury experience from Aqua Expeditions.

There’s something amazing—and perhaps a little unsettling — about being able to experience this much luxury in such a remote location.

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The World’s Largest Underwater Sculpture Park

The collection of life-sized human casts resemble an underwater Pompeii

Ah, Cancun. The sun. The beaches. The shopping. The tequila shots. The drunken college kids on spring break. The massive underwater sculpture park?

Even some of those familiar with the attractions Cancun offers above sea level are surprised at what they can find underneath it: a museum. The Museo Subacuatico de Arte, to be specific.

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5 Temples & Monasteries
on Perilous Cliff Sides

To monks, the monastery represents the victory of good over evil. To travelers, it represents the victory of architecture over gravity.

Spot Cool Stuff previously reviewed five towns on cliff sides — villages where drinking and driving . . . or drinking and walking . . . or simply walking could be especially perilous.

Following up on that, here are five religious buildings—a shrine, temple, church and two monasteries—built at a cliff’s edge. Gaze down the rocky drops from these structures, and out upon the magnificent vistas they offer, and perhaps one can’t help but believe in God.

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