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 all-encompassing as India, or as snobby as France. But it most certainly is there. American culture is diverse and interesting; we’d argue it is 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. 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 . . .
Want to see Cirque du Soleil? A single ticket to a live performance of the impossibly acrobatic dancers will set you back as much as £85 in London. You’ll have to part with S$148 in Singapore. In Las Vegas, you’ll pay $359 for a center seat vaguely close to the front of the stage. But in Quebec City, Canada you’ll pay C$0. At current exchange rates, that works out to US$0, €0 or ¥0.
And there’s no gimmick. You don’t have to win a contest, hear a sales pitch for a timeshare or creatively acquire someone else’s ticket. Anyone can show up at a Cirque du Soleil performance in Quebec City and watch it—for free.
Spot Cool Stuff has been to many restaurants that are next to a waterfall. We’ve even been a few that are above a waterfall. But we’ve only seen one restaurant that’s in a waterfall.
At the uncreatively-named Waterfalls Restaurant near the city of San Pablo in the Philippines, the Labasin Falls literally flows through the eating area. The water tumbles down nearly on top of the diners, passes below the (strongly bolted down) tables and then continues flowing on its way down a river.
The cupcake ATM has its own Twitter account with over 1,800 followers
In the Los Angeles area, there’s something even better than money that you can get out of an automated teller machine: cupcakes!
At the Sprinkles Cupcake shop in Beverly Hills, California there’s a public, street-side ATM that provides access to gourmet cupcakes 24 hours a day.
Supposedly, Seattle as a travel destination embodies the funky and artsy. Yet, surprisingly, there are only a handful of hotels that match that reputation. The majority of high-end hotels in Seattle seem stale, corporate, and predictable.
Those adjectives are light years away from the Hotel Max. This downtown, Seattle boutique hotel is all about being fun and trendy.
The world’s highest tower is now in Japan. The recently-completed Tokyo Skytree rockets up a breathtaking 634 meters† (2,080 ft) above the Japanese capital. And now visitors can go up and check out the view.
How high is 634 meters? It’s twice the height of the Eiffel Tower. On a clear, day you can have lunch in the Skytree’s lower observation area and gaze out—way out—to Mt. Fuji on the horizon. From the upper observation deck you can distinctly see the curvature of the planet!
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:
If you’re shying away from booking a cheap hotel in Barcelona because you’re concerned about landing in a travel nightmare, worry no more. The following three hotels, hostels and apartments in Spain’s capital of fun are quite classy. They’re also quite affordable.