Superlative

5 In-America-Only Cultural Travel Activities

A joke we overheard in a coffee shop in Italy:

Question: What’s the difference between yogurt and the United States of America?

Answer: Yogurt has culture.

Okay, maybe that’s a little funny. The problem is, it isn’t true. The United States is full of culture. It isn’t as gourmet as, say, Italy. Nor is it as old as China or as enveloping as India, or as snobby as France. But it most certainly is there. American culture is diverse, interesting, and, we’d argue, it’s one of the most fun national cultures on the planet.

Want proof? Below is our recommendation for five distinctly American cultural experiences that you are unlikely to find written up in any guidebook.

Note: For this post we only considered experiences that are available across the country. Anything that’s exclusive to a specific ethnic group or region — attending Burning Man in Nevada or eating gumbo in New Orleans or getting yelled at by a taxi driver in New York City, for instance — was disqualified. We also nixed holiday events, like the 4th of July American Independence Day.

While this post was written with non-American travelers in mind, those from the United States may also gain some travel tips by reading on . . .

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See, Swim With Penguins
(Not in Antarctica)

Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand

Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.

Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:

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3 Cool & Affordable Places To Stay In London

Yes, there really are low cost hotels in London. The English capital might be one of the world’s most expensive cities, but savvy travelers can still find centrally-located London lodgings with genuinely cool en-suite rooms for under £70, perfectly comfortable and clean rooms with a shared bathroom for under £30 and non-skeevy dorm beds for under £12.

Here’s a look at our favorite three hotels and hostels that offer a hip vibe, fun location and accommodations with a level of luxury that exceeds its price tag:

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3 Hilltop Hotels with Wonderful Views Upon Jamaica

For most travelers heading to Jamaica the beach is, understandably, the prime attraction. But those who limit their trip to the country’s coastline will miss out. The hilly and lush interior of Jamaica provides its own kind of special vibe. More than that, it is where true quiet and peace is found on the island. And if you are heading to the Caribbean in the summer months you’ll also find the climate in Jamaica’s scenic hills more agreeable.

Here’s a rundown of our three favorite hilltop hotels in Jamaica. At each a swimming pool, a peaceful environment and an amazing view awaits you.

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The World’s Most Amazing Swimming Holes

Technically, a “swimming hole” is any deep place for swimming in a stream, lake or river. But for this post — where are share our picks for the world’s best, coolest and most picturesque swimming holes — Spot Cool Stuff’s travel editors decided on a more ridged set of criteria:

First, we considered only swimming spots that were inside some sort of hole in the earth. That is, our swimming holes had to be substantially surrounded by rock. So somewhere like Idaho’s Redfish Lake, which a popular travel magazine named as one of their best swimming holes, wouldn’t count for us because, really, it’s just a regular lake.

Second, we decided to count only naturally occurring swimming holes. Sadly, this eliminated a very cool hidden swimming spot in Mexico that was created by a giant bomb — check back for our post on that later.

Finally, we only considered swimming holes that offered temperate waters. Because, well, we are cold water wimps. Spain’s wonderful, meadow-surrounded Playa del Gulpiyuri is unfortunately ruled out of contention on this count.

So what swimming holes made the cut? Read on . . . .

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The Best View from a Hotel Room in the Austrian Alps

There are few countries with more scenically situated hotels per square mile than Austria. So for this post — part of Spot Cool Stuff’s series reviewing the best hotel room views in various locations — we had to bend our own rules a little:

First, instead of considering hotels across the whole of Austria, we decided to limit our search to countryside. (In the future, we’ll write-up the hotel with the best room views of Vienna — follow us on Facebook, Twitter or email to be updated on that.)

Second, instead of only reviewing one hotel, we’ve chosen two. The Berghotel Schafbergspitze is our choice as the best views from a hotel room, but the quality of rooms (as well as the hotel in general) is otherwise rather bland. Those who want their amazing room view to come along with some amazing luxury should check out the Ferienhotel Fernblick instead.

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Sky High Swimming

It gives a whole new meaning to the term “high dive.”

It brings the experience of swimming to the edge.

It combines the fear of drowning with the fear of heights.

It is the infinity swimming pool atop the Marina Bay Sands Resort & Casino. And from it you can gaze out upon an amazing view of the Singapore skyline — and straight down a 55-story plunge to the ground.

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Literally Cool Music

Incredibly fragile, many of the instruments hang from the ceiling during concerts so as not to be melted by their musician’s body heat.

Ice and music. Depending on your age, those two words might conjure up the infamous 80s band Vanilla Ice and their hit “Ice Ice Baby” or the more recent rendition of the song by North Carolina school administrators announcing a snow day. But what’s really too cool (too cool) is the Swedish musical group aptly named Ice Music, whose instruments are carved out of ice.

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