When exploring a new country, you can always take the traditional approach of bouncing from town to town, schlepping your stuff from hotel to hotel in the process. Or, if you're in India, you can simply take your hotel with you. The Maharajas' Express is a luxurious train that offers five different itineraries — ranging in length from three to seven nights — as well as 43 guest rooms that go from cabins all the way up to a Presidential Suite. In addition to the luxury accommodations, you'll also find two restaurants, a bar and lounge, and a high-end boutique on board, leaving you little reason to get off the train at all.
Winter Olympics got you in a sporting mood? Here's your chance to earn your own gold (participation) medal. The Bobsleigh Ride Experience at the Whistler Sliding Centre gives you and a few friends/strangers the opportunity to rocket down the former Olympic track. The day begins with an orientation, helment fitting, etiquette discussion — no inappropriate touching inside the sled — and safety walkthrough. You'll then meet the track crew and be secured into the professionally-piloted sled for a run down the ice at speeds approaching 80mph. All of which sounds like way more fun than another night of Ice Dancing.
And you thought your neighbor's Christmas lights were impressive. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is home to one of the world's most spectacular displays of wintertime outdoor illumination. Located in the Heilongjiang province — not all that far from Siberia — the temps at this month-long event are typically well under 0º C, but make possible the massive snow sculptures at Sun Island, and the main attraction, Zhaolin Park's Ice and Snow World, with huge ice and snow buildings that are lit up using everything from ice lanterns to lasers.
Think you need to cross the Atlantic to play authentic links-style golf? Think again. Located in the center of the state, Streamsong offers two courses — Red, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and Blue, created by Tom Doak — that bring a true links experience stateside. Built on a former mining site, both courses offer far more rolls and elevation changes than you'd expect from the surrounding (flat) topography, and the fantastic Alberto Alfonso-designed Clubhouse — packing a full-service restaurant, a golf shop, an outdoor terrace, and 12 guest rooms — means you don't have to leave until you're good and ready.
No, it's not part of the Smithsonian, but that doesn't mean that the National Museum of Crime and Punishment isn't worth a visit during your next DC trip. Located in Penn Quarter, this three-floor, 25,000 square foot attraction is host to hundreds of interactive exhibits and displays which let you try out everything from CSI-style forensics to high-speed chases, as well as a unique collection of crime-related artifacts and memorabilia, including a recreation of Wild Bill Hickok's revolver, John Gacy's artbox, and John Dillinger's 1933 Hudson.
You don't have to be a fan of opera to enjoy a trip to the Winspear Opera House — although it certainly doesn't hurt. Located in the heart of downtown's Arts District, this horseshoe-shaped venue sports a stunning design from Norman Foster that features a bright red core that reflects wonderfully off the water features outside thanks to a glass facade that lets the color shine through. Inside, you'll find 2,200 seats in the main Margaret McDermott Performance Hall, as well as a grand lobby, cafe, and Box Circle-level restaurant.
Sure, you can take a cable car to the top — and it's a hair-raising ride, climbing nearly 4,200 feet in roughly 4.5 miles, with a peak gradient of 37 degrees — but you enjoy motoring, there's only one way to get to the top of Tianmen Mountain. Driving up to the top requires traversing 11 km (nearly 7 miles) of road that climbs steadily from the valley floor, turning 99 times along the way, making for an exhilarating drive. And unlike some famous stretches of road with nothing on the end but more road, this drive terminates at stairs leading to a natural, 431-foot-tall hole in the mountain and a host of terrifying trails set into the cliff face around the mountain.
Most venues consist of a big room, a stage, some restrooms (or porta-johns), and, if you're lucky, a bar. Hence why Brooklyn Bowl is such a terrific place to catch a show. In addition to functioning as a venue for performances, this Williamsburg spot takes its "Bowl" designnation seriously, with 16 lanes available, all within earshot of the stage. The LEED-certified space — the first bowling alley in the world to earn the honor — is also home to multiple bars serving up local craft brews and a restaurant serving up food by Blue Ribbon.
The Middle East might not be the first place you think of when it comes to board sports, but the combination of winds and plenty of coastline makes it a pretty ideal spot. Kiteboarding Oman takes advantage of the conditions to teach people about kiteboarding. The first VDWS-certified school in the region, they operate kite camps on Sawadi Beach and Masirah Island, and are able to have you up, fully licensed, and ready to board pretty much anywhere on your own in just 3-5 days. [Scouted by Eric]
Times Square might be more famous, but Rio puts on one helluva New Years show too. Enjoy it from the best vantage possible with tickets to Réveillon Do Morro on Sugarloaf Mountain. This insane party begins around 9:30 — with cocktails, of course — and ends when the sun's coming up, with breakfast served until 4:30 am. But beyond the terrific food, drinks, samba, and soul music, the party also offers the best possible view of a fireworks display that heralds the New Year. In other words, it's like watching the Times Square party from the top of the Empire State.
You might have had more than your fair share of Hormel's legendary canned pork product over the years, but you won't know the whole story behind it without a visit to The Spam Museum. Located on Hormel's main campus, this 16,500 square foot ode to Spam features trivia, vintage Spam advertising, displays depicting its use during war time, a tribute to Monty Python, whose "Spam" sketch actually led to the term being used in referral to unwanted electronic communication, and, of course, a Spam store full of Spam collectibles. And while Spam might not be free, admission is.
Even though it's not considered one of the world's more difficult ascents, climbing Mont Blanc isn't for everyone. Fortunately, nearly every can enjoy views that are almost as impressive — and in some cases more so — by heading to Aiguille du Midi. Situated atop of a peak 3842 meters in the air — that's over 12,600 feet — this attraction offers fantastic views of Europe's highest peak and the surrounding mountains, a restaurant, a cafeteria, and two terraces. For the truly brave, the spot just opened a five-sided glass box that hangs over the side, giving you perhaps the best views in the Alps. The best part? Instead of a grueling two-day climb in the snow, you can get there in just 20 minutes from the warmth of a cable car.