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 . . .
For adults of a certain age, those two words can evoke powerful memories of innocence and coming-of-age.
Perhaps those memories are of sleeping in cabins or learning archery. Perhaps they are memories of canoeing rivers, roasting marshmallows, participating in camp talent shows or playing games of capture the flag.
Perhaps summer camp is where you had your first kiss. Perhaps that kiss happened while you were sitting on a huge tree trunk that had fallen across a creek — you know, the one that’s behind the arts and crafts cabin — where perhaps Bridget Aubrey agreed to meet you after the camp dance and where she totally kissed you back but then told Hannah Laguna that she didn’t really like you, after which maybe Hannah told that to Damian Simmons who for some unknown reason felt compelled to share what he heard with everyone in your cabin, all of whom made you worried that you were a bad kisser and left you feeling desperate to avoid Bridget for the rest of your life. Um, you know, hypothetically speaking.
At Spot Cool Stuff, we were reminiscing about summer camps when a question popped in our heads: Are there camps where adults can relive, at least in part, the kid-like experience of being away at summer camp?
The difference between driving a Lamborghini and, say, a Toyota Corolla is something like the difference between flying on a jumbo jet and taking the bus.
Chances are that, at one time or another, you’ve walked past a parked Ferrari or seen a Lamborghini zoom by and thought to yourself “I wonder what it would be like to drive that thing?” The Exotic Driving Experience is your chance to find out — without the hassle of following speed limits and fighting off grand theft auto charges in court. That’s because the Exotic Driving Experience is at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida. And the exotic car you are driving is a rental.
If you are planning a vacation to Central Florida with young Muggles, odds are high that they’ve tugged on your arm begging you to take them to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The attraction, a part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, has been Orlando’s hottest attraction since it opened in June of 2010.
Nearly any kid who’s a fan of the J.K. Rowling books will eat up everything about the Wizarding World like so many Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. But what about the parents?
The good news for adults is that, while the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is far from mind blowingly amazing, it does have cool elements to it. There’s also one piece of advice that in itself can make your visit there turn out somewhere between tolerable and fun. For that, Dear Reader, continue on . . .
It seems unlikely that a 60-year-old ship of war would end up as the home of a surreal art gallery. Which is an example of exactly why Spot Cool Stuff so loves to travel:
The world is full of unlikely attractions in unlikely places. And some of those places aren’t even on land.
So it is with Vandenberg: Life Below the Surface, an underwater art exhibit off the coast of Key West, Florida.
One of Spot Cool Stuff’s biggest travel peeves: Hotels that charge for in-room wireless internet. We somewhat understand budget no-frills hotels adding an optional internet fee, but it is usually those very hotels that don’t. The hotels that typically charge the most for internet access are those that already charge the highest room rates. What sort of luxury experience is that? To Spot Cool Stuff it is the equivalent of a hotel putting an electricity meter outside every room and charging their guests extra for their power usage.
For whatever reason, hotels and resorts in Orlando are especially prone to charging for internet access. We’ve found hotels in Central Florida that charge up to $30 per day! Fortunately we’ve always found a few hotels that offer an upmarket experience, that are convenient to Orlando’s theme parks and attractions and that provide free wifi.
Here are the three best:
Update: Amen! The Walt Disney World Resort has recently announced that it will start offering free wifi. Hopefully this means that other Orlando-area resorts will follow their lead.
When a beach-side hotel is part owned by Madonna it's got to have a stylish pool.
Water views. Frozen drinks. The smell of sunscreen. Celebrities and scantily clad socialites mixing it up. The hotel swimming pools of South Beach do indeed offer all that. But did you know you can also find the world’s largest hot tub and the world’s shallowest swimming pool shallow end? For a scene like no other hop a flight to Miami and check out this selection of the city’s best hotel swimming pools:
A vacation to Central Florida often leaves people feeling like they need another vacation. That’s especially true after traveling with children to Orlando’s crowded, mayhem-filled, nickle-and-dime squeezing theme parks.
Spot Cool Stuff’s suggested remedy: Spend a day chilling out at Discovery Cove.
At Discovery Cove won’t find yourself standing in line for rides. There are no rides.
You won’t find yourself amongst a mob of other vacationers. There is no mob — Discovery Cove requires reservations and the number of guests allowed in is strictly limited.
And you won’t pay again and again for extra fees, incidentals or even food. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive park.