5 Best Roller Coasters In The United States

Recently we announced the addition of Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina to our list of destinations that we serve, and we look forward to helping thrill-seekers visit the 400-acre amusement park. With 13 different rides, Carowinds ranks 5th in the world for having the most roller coasters in one park, so it’s a must-visit destination for anyone who loves world-class attractions and heart-pumping adventure. If you’re the type of person who can’t get enough of the adrenaline-fueled excitement that a good roller coaster provides, we wanted to share our picks for the top five best roller coasters in the United States.

Fury 325

Carowinds, Charlotte, NC

Fury 325 Roller Coaster

You don’t have to go far to ride the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, because it’s right here at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina! Fury 325 lifts riders to a peak height of 325 feet, then sends them down a dramatic 81-degree drop, into a massive 190-foot tall barrel turn, and a high-speed S-curve reaching speeds of up to 95 mph. You’ll also experience an astonishing 91-degree overbanked horseshoe turn, and the “Hive Dive” that takes riders underneath a pedestrian bridge at the entrance to the park, so that every park visitor can see what’s ahead of them. Fury 325 is North America’s longest steel coaster, at over 1.25 miles long, and you’ll get plenty of time to enjoy it, since the average ride time is 3 minutes and 15 seconds. You’ll even cross the North and South Carolina state line in the middle of the ride, for an interstate travel experience you won’t soon forget!

Lightning Rod

Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN

Lightning Rod Roller Coaster

Another top roller coaster in the Western North Carolina area, the Lightning Rod at Dollywood is the world’s first wooden roller coaster with a magnetic launch system. That means that unlike other wooden coasters, which clackety-clack climb up an initial hill and then use gravity to gain speed, Lightning Rod launches riders from zero to 45 mph, and actually gains speed as it climbs up the first 20-story-tall lift hill, and then sends riders over twin summit airtime hills before sending them back down the main 165-foot drop. With 3,800 feet of track and top speeds of 73 mph, it’s also one of the fastest wooden roller coasters in the world. And unlike a lot of coasters that weave through asphalt jungles, Lightning Rod was designed to weave through the trees and over the hills and valleys surrounding Dollywood, so you’ll feel like you’re on an adventure through the wilderness.

Steel Vengeance

Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH

Steel Vengeance Roller Coaster

Regularly named the best roller coaster in the United States by riders at CoasterBuzz, Steel Vengeance is the world’s first steel-on-wood hybrid roller coaster to stand over 200 feet tall, creating an entirely new category of thrill ride they call the hyper-hybrid. With 10 world records, it’s the world’s tallest, fastest, steepest, and longest hybrid roller coaster, and has the most airtime of any roller coaster in the world! You’ll climb to a height of 205 feet, before flying down the 90-degree initial drop at up to 74 miles per hour. There are 4 inversions, almost 30 seconds of airtime (the most on any roller coaster on Earth) and countless ricocheting movements left-to-right, up-to-down, and side-to-side.

El Toro

Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ

El Toro Roller Coaster

Rated the best roller coaster in the United States by CoasterCritic.com, El Toro is easily one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world. The ride begins with a climb to 176 feet, followed by a 76 degree drop, which is the steepest drop of any wooden roller coaster in the country. As you will race through the coaster at up to 70 miles per hour, El Toro sends you over a series of nine insane hills designed to give you maximum airtime, with ‘ejector’ airtime that launches you out of your seat and makes you feel like you’d fly away if the restraints weren’t holding you back. Unlike other wooden roller coasters that are built on-site, El Toro was built using prefabricated track, which makes it smoother, faster, and more exciting than any wooden coaster you’ve ridden before.

Twisted Colossus

Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA

Twisted Colossus Roller Coaster

When it debuted in 1978, the twin-track Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain was the world’s tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster. However, as other rides continued to evolve, Colossus was no longer thrilling riders like it used to, so the designers re-imagined the whole ride and turned it into a steel-wood hybrid coaster called Twisted Colossus that made it one of the best coasters in the world yet again. By turning the twin-track coaster into a single track, Colossus riders get to race through twice as many thrills along the massive 5,000-foot-long track, including two 80-degree drops and almost four minutes of ride time. Best of all, if operators time it right, two trains can “race” each other through the track, including one of the most unique features of any roller coaster in the world: A “Top Gun Stall” where the two trains spin around either other, one directly over the top of the other.

Attending The World Equestrian Games In Tryon? Here Are The Best Day Trips, Tours, And Activities In Western North Carolina

Tryon International Equestrian Center

The World Equestrian Games are coming to Tryon, North Carolina, just south of Asheville. This two-week event is the major international championship for the eight core equestrian disciplines of show jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting, and reining.

More than 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the games, which gives people a chance to explore the surrounding areas and see what makes Western North Carolina so special. If you’re attending the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, here are a few ideas for what you can do when you’re not watching ‘The Greatest Equestrian Show On Earth’.

NOTE: During the World Equestrian Games, we’re offering transportation to and from the Asheville Airport, transportation to and from hotels and the games, and tours in the Asheville area. We can also customize any of our transpiration options to fit your needs. For more information, please call us at: (828) 595-9691

Hike To A Waterfall
There are thousands of waterfalls in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and sometimes it can feel like a challenge to find a hiking trail that doesn’t have a waterfall on it. For a great list of the most popular waterfalls, visit WNCWaterfalls.info, and make sure to check our our favorites, including Linville Falls, the most photographed falls in North Carolina, Looking Glass Falls, a popular swimming spot, Sliding Rock, where you can slide down the natural waterslide, and Skinny Dip Falls, where you can jump off a rock into the cool mountain waters – with your bathing suit on, of course!

WNC Cheese Trail

Follow The Cheese Trail
Spend the day exploring the country roads of Western North Carolina on the WNC Cheese Trail, and sample some of the south’s best cheeses, directly from the cheesemakers themselves. You can try cow and goat milk cheese, fresh to aged, pasteurized and raw, from artisan and farmstead producers. These are small businesses, so it’s good to contact the farms before visiting to make sure they are open and accepting visitors at the time you plan to visit, but the cheesemaking community in WNC is vibrant and growing, so it’s a delicious way to check out the local area.

Zip Through The Trees
There are a few zip line tours in Western North Carolina, but our recommendation would be Navitat Canopy Adventures, a world-class eco-adventure with huge zip lines that criss-cross through a secluded 242-acre mountain cove with 1,200 feet of elevation change. Navitat has been named one of the best zip line tours in the country, and features zip lines up to 350 feet high, from 360 feet to 3,600 feet long, and speeds up to 65 mph! There’s even a side-by-side zip line where you can zip alongside friends or family to share the experience together. In addition to the zip line tour, your day includes rappeling, suspended sky bridges, and panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Stop By A Brewery
Western North Carolina is known for having more breweries per capita than any place in the country, so it’s no surprise that people love their beer here! You can start the Asheville Ale Trail with a brewery tour to get up close and personal with the entire brewing process, then sample tastings of a wide variety of local beer styles. If you’re ready for something a little different, there are also a few local cider companies that have recently opened up and are making some amazing ciders! If you’re looking to visit a few different breweries, give us a call and schedule one of our Brewery Tours, where you can leave the driving up to us, and we’ll make sure you get there and back safely and comfortably.

Mount Mitchell

Summit the East’s Highest Peak
There are plenty of amazing hikes in the Western North Carolina area, but if you want to bag a mountaintop, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the East, at 6,684 feet. You can park near the summit and walk up if you just want to check out the views, or hike the three-quarter-mile Balsam Nature Trail for a more involved experience. If you want to add a little extra difficulty, you can also hike the 4.3-mile Deep Gap Trail nearby, which rewards you with panoramic views atop the neighboring Mount Craig, the East’s second highest peak. For more hiking options, check out AshevilleTrails.com, where you’ll find details on some of our other favorite hikes, like Craggy Gardens, Graveyard Fields, and Max Patch, where you’ll cross paths with the famous Appalachian Trail.

Gift Guide: Travel Gifts A Frequent Traveler Will Love

Gift Guide: Travel Gifts

Giving a gift to someone who travels frequently can be tricky, since they probably have a lot of travel gear and gadgets already.

There are plenty of useful, fun, and convenient travel gifts that can surprise even the most seasoned globe-trotter though, so here’s a list of eight gifts that we think are perfect for any traveler in your life:

Trtl Travel Pillow

A New Kind Of Travel Pillow
Everyone knows what the typical travel pillow looks like, with an inflatable or memory foam ring that locks around your neck and keeps your head in place. The Trtl Pillow is nothing like that, and looks more like a scarf than a donut. With an internal support system and soft fleece wrap, it’s scientifically proven to hold your neck in a better position than a standard travel pillow, and it’s also lighter, machine washable, and takes up less room in a bag than a standard travel pillow.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Brush Pen Set

A Water Color Set That Fits In A Pocket
The Winsor & Newton Cotman Brush Pen Set is perfect for the traveling artist, with 12 high quality pigments in a variety of colors, an ergonomic brush with its own water reservoir, and a slim, curved case that’s designed to easily slip into a pocket for art on the go.

I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded

A Travel Journal To Inspire Creativity
Scribbling memories into a beautiful journal is the goal of many travelers, but for the non-artistic, it’s usually easier said than done. I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded makes it easier for everyone to capture their memories in a fun and exciting way, thanks to unique and fulfilling journeys that can be undertaken in any city, and prompts to record every whimsical discovery along the way. It’s sure to bring out the creative adventurer in every traveler.

Scratch Off World Map Poster

A Fun Way To Remember Adventures
With the Scratch Off World Map Poster, travel memories become a beautiful mix of shapes and colors, showing what destinations have been visited, and making it easy to pick out the next place to go. With scratch-off country flags, stickers, and even accurate cartographic details on the foil, it’s perfect for sharing stories and dreaming about new adventures. (For something similar but with a different aesthetic, check out this Cork Globe.)

DJI Mavic Air Drone

A Drone That Fits In A Day Bag
If you really want to spoil someone, get them the DJI Mavic Air. This drone packs maximum features into a minimum size, with arms that fold in to make the Mavic Air the size of a water bottle when it’s not in use. It’s the perfect gift for an adventurous traveler, and will allow them to take photos from places they never thought possible.

TuffTaag Luggage Tag

A New Bag Tag
Luggage tags are a necessity to help identify bags and make sure they get returned in case they get lost, but many luggage tags are made from flimsy vinyl or other materials that don’t stand up to the rigors of travel, and they don’t do much good if they fall off the bag! The TuffTaag from ProudGuy is made from reinforced aluminum with a steel cable to withstand even the harshest conditions.

Amazon Kindle

A Bottomless Book
Everyone loves to read when they travel, but bringing along paperbacks isn’t always convenient. Giving someone an Amazon Kindle allows them to bring their entire library with them in a device that can fit in their pocket, and read whenever and wherever they want, thanks to convenient features like all-day battery, a built-in front light, and instant translations.

Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle

A Water Bottle The Fits Anywhere
The Vapur Eclipse is the perfect water bottle for traveling. It rolls up into a clip that’s attached to the cap, it has a wide mouth opening that’s easy to fill and clean, and it’s light, flexible, freezeable, reuseable, and dishwasher-safe. Best of all, it’s made in the USA!

For more gift ideas, check out our list of 10 Travel Accessories To Make Your Next Trip A Breeze.

14 Instagram Accounts To Follow For Beautiful Travel Photos

14 Travel Photographers To Follow On Instagram

Instagram is a great source of travel inspiration. You can easily fill up your bucket list with new destinations, new experiences, and new sights to see when you follow people that are traveling the world and posting beautiful travel photos and telling amazing stories on Instagram. If you’re looking for your next adventure, these are a few of our favorite accounts to follow for travel photography:

Alex Strohl – @AlexStrohl
Alex is one of the most followed travel photographers on Instagram, and it’s easy to see why with a feed that’s filled with amazing locations and beautiful sights. With a mix of colors and styles, his photos are as beautiful as they are inspiring.

Renee Hahne – @ReneeRoaming
Renee travels with her husband Matthew, often in an old VW van, and they explore the world from their home in Seattle. With breathtaking scenery and photos that would look equally at home in a fashion magazine, her Instagram account will inspire you to visit new places and travel together with people you love.

Chris Burkard – @ChrisBurkard
Chris is equal parts travel and adventure photographer, and his Instagram feed will jump from stunning landscapes to surfing, skiing, and rock climbing. If you’re looking for a little adrenaline with your travel photography, check out his feed.

Emilie Ristevski – @HelloEmilie
Emilie (and her hats) travel all around the world from her home base in Australia, and her photos have a softness and a color palette that make every place she visits look like a magical wonderland.

Matt Cherubino – @MattCherub
Matt is another Instagram travel photographer that mixes incredible landscapes with extreme sports and adventure, and his feed will make you want to grab skies, hop in a kayak, pilot a snowmobile, or put on a snorkel and explore the world.

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Above and below, Tongan cave style.

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Jason Charles Hill – @JasonCharlesHill
If you ever want to feel like a small speck on a massive world, check out Jason’s photography. He captures the grand scale of nature’s beauty that will make you wonder how some of these places exist in real life and not just a fantastical movie world.

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Mountain bound, Patagonia..

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Andrew Ling – @AndrewLing
Andrew’s work focuses on light and the way it interacts with the world. From snow-covered mountaintops kissed by the last light of a sunset, to early morning rays shooting through Monument Valley, to the glow of wildfires burning in Glacier National Park, he’s a master of color and lighting, and uses that skill to show the beauty of his travels.

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Wish you were here

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Jarrad Seng – @JarradSeng
Jarrad has a unique style that shines through his travel photography, and his photos tell stories that show how travel can be as much about adventure as a chance to see new places.

Nick Cooper – @CoopsFrootLoops
Nick’s photography often focuses on water, from the warm and sunny beaches at his hometown of Perth, Australia, to the waterfalls of Yosemite, to the bay waters of San Francisco. If you’re the type of traveler that loves the feeling of sand between your toes, or a quick dip in the ocean, you’ll love Nick’s travel photography.

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we could, forever

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Benjamin Everett – @Bejamin
Benjamin is a master of composition, with each photo a perfectly framed look into a unique place in the world. His feed will make you want to stand in every place he’s stood, and see every sight he’s seen, so be prepared for an overflowing travel bucket list!

Annapurna Mellor – @Annapurnauna
Annapurna’s photography focuses on the people she meets when she travels to new places, and it brings the stories of untold people to life in a beautiful and humanizing way. Her photos remind us that we’re all just people sharing the same world, and making the most of what we have.

Natalia Horinkova – @_Nata_
Natalia is a travel photographer that focuses on the people who live in the places she visits, and the smiles on the faces of the stories she’s sharing will bring a smile to your face as well. Her photos will inspire you to visit new places and meet new people whoever you go.

Theron Humphrey – @ThisWildIdea
Theron travels everywhere with his coonhound Maddie, so if you’re the type of person who loves animals as much as you love travel photography, definitely check out his feed. Together they explore places near and far, while Maddie enjoys the scenery just as much as Theron does.

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I'd drive down any backroad with her

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Donal James Boyd – @DonalBoyd
Donal is a wildlife photographer that travels the world to document nature and the amazing animals that inhabit this planet, and his feed is filled with up close and personal looks at these unique creatures. His goal is to promote conservation, and it’s easy to see why we should work to protect the environments that these animals rely on to survive.

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Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of Orlando, FL

Ask anyone about traveling to Orlando, FL and they’ll probably talk about Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Legoland, or any one of the dozen other theme parks in the area. But if roller coasters and Mickey Mouse ears aren’t your idea of a perfect vacation, there are still plenty of things to do in Orlando. Here are a few of our favorite secret spots and hidden gems that you won’t find in every guidebook and “must do” list.

(To plan your visit, check our our Orlando, FL trips. And for more city travel tips, check our our Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of Washington, DC.)

Hanson's Shoe Repair

Hanson’s Shoe Repair27 E Pine St.
No, you can’t get your shoes repaired here, but if you know the password (Hint: Check their Twitter) you can get into the only speakeasy in Orlando and enjoy some of the best cocktails you’ll find anywhere. Located in what may be the oldest building still standing in downtown Orlando, acquired by Andrew Hanson in 1894 for his “Hanson Shoe Repair Shop”, Hanson’s Shoe Repair is really like stepping back in time to a classic speakeasy, and you can grab a drink and relax with friends on the rooftop patio.

Jack Kerouac Project

Jack Kerouac Project1418 Clouser Ave.
This otherwise nondescript home is where Jack Kerouac typed the original manuscript of Dharma Bums, his sequel to On The Road. It’s now a writer’s retreat, and though it’s technically not open to the public, Kerouac fans who ask nicely can probably get in for a quick tour of the home.

The Thirsty Topher

The Thirsty Topher601 Virginia Dr.
Located in what they specifically call “Not The Shitty Tourist Part” of Orlando, The Thirsty Toper is a beer & wine bar that was built by bartenders and run by beer nerds. With 24 taps, Cicerone certified servers, no TVs, no WiFi, and no distractions, it’s a place that focuses on enjoying tasty beer, meeting your neighbors, and having a good time.

Epic McDonald’s6875 Sand Lake Rd.
No, it’s not a fancy restaurant masquerading as the fast food giant. BUT, this McDonald’s is something special: It’s the world’s largest ‘entertainment-style’ McDonald’s, and a perfect travel destination for McFoodies! This 19,000-square-foot McDonald’s features a two-story play area with slides, tunnels, and climbing features, an arcade, a 30-ft tall illuminated Ronald McDonald, and a singing animatronic of the chain’s 1980s moon-headed Mac Tonight spokesman. In addition to the McDonald’s classics, which you can customize with a “Create Your Taste” menu, there are also waffles, paninis, pizzas, pastas, and even breakfast omelets available to order.

Player 1 Video Game Bar

Player 1 Video Game Bar8562 Palm Pkwy.
This beer bar features a rotating selection of classic arcade cabinets, as well as a large variety of consoles from every era, and you can play them all for a small $5 cover charge. In addition to arcade games, they feature a great selection of craft beers, sakes, meads, and wines, and on some nights the staff even cosplays their favorite video game and pop culture characters.

Wallaby Ranch

Wallaby Ranch1805 Deen Still Rd.
Since 1991, Wallaby Ranch has been the first and largest aerotow hang gliding flight park in the world. Instead of running down the side of a mountain to launch your hang glider, they use a system called aerotowing, where hang gliders are towed into the air with specially designed ultralight towplanes. You and an instructor are towed 2,000 feet in the air, and then set free to glide around for 15 minutes on your way back down to Earth. It’s a great way to see Florida from new heights, and you can even control the glider if you want the chance to “fly” yourself.

Presidents Hall Of Fame

Presidents Hall of Fame123 S. Highway 27
This roadside attraction started life in the 1960s as a wax museum, but now includes animatronics, White House replicas, and Americana miniatures. The highlight of the museum is the miniature White House, a hand-made model that stretches 60 feet across, and features working televisions, crystal chandeliers, and an updated Oval Office to match the decor of each new administration. It took more than 500,000 man hours to research, design, and construct, and Ronald Reagan once called it, “a national treasure.”

Ready to join us on one of our trips to Orlando, FL? We can take you to all the secret spots and hidden gems, and make sure it’s a vacation you never forget! To book your trip with WNC Travels, click here or give us a call at (828) 595-9691

Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of Washington, DC

As the home of our nation’s capital, Washington, DC is a city that’s filled with secrets, spies, and untold stories. Even if you’re not a visiting dignitary or foreign leader, there are quite a few things that you can do that won’t show up on every guidebook and “must do” list. Here are a few of our favorite secret spots and hidden gems.

(To plan your visit to the capital, check our our Washington, DC trips. And for more travel tips, check out our Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of New Orleans, LA.)

Blind Whino - Washington DC

Blind Whino700 Delaware Ave SW
Built in 1886, this former church was home to the Friendship Baptist Congregation for almost a century, but more recently has been turned into a community art gallery and performance space. With an exterior that’s covered in colorful murals by HENSE, a graffiti-covered interior that features a gallery of rotating art exhibits, and a community garden on the grounds, it’s a multi-use building that’s guaranteed to be a great background for all of your travel Instagram pics.

The Gibson - Washington DC

The Gibson2009 14th St NW
As one of the city’s most famous speakeasies, The Gibson hides behind an unmarked door, but offers a wide range of seasonal cocktails, as well as old-time favorites.

Heurich House Museum - The Brewmaster’s Castle - Washington DC

The Brewmaster’s Castle1307 New Hampshire Ave NW
Christian Heurich founded the Christian Heurich Brewing Company in the mid-1800s, and was at one point making more than 500,000 barrels of beer per year, making him the second largest employer in DC, behind only the US government! He used his beer-making fortune to build a Victorian inspired home with stone arches and a tall tower on one side. To get an inside look at the house, you can attend one of their regular beer events, like Oktoberfest or the monthly beer tasting called “History and Hops” where you can have a beer while taking a tour of the house.

Space Window at the Washington National Cathedral - Washington DC

Space Window at the Washington National Cathedral3101 Wisconsin Ave NW
Look up at the stained glass of the ‘Space Window’ on the south side of the Washington National Cathedral, and you’ll see stars and orbiting planets in hues of blue, green, white, orange, and red. Look closely at the middle of the red planet, and you might see a small stone. That rock, estimated to be around 3.6 billion years old, was collected from the moon’s Sea of Tranquility and presented to the Washington National Cathedral by Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. (Eagle-eyed visitors can also check out the cathedral’s West Tower, where a Darth Vader grotesque can be spotted on the outside, staring down at visitors.)

The Exorcist Stairs - Washington DC

The Exorcist Stairs – 3600 Prospect St NW (ExxonMobile Parking Lot)
Film geeks will recognize these stairs from the 1973 movie The Exorcist, where the self-sacrificing priest and the demon who possesses twelve-year-old Regan have their final showdown. Now a popular exercise destination for locals, it’s a unique place to pay a visit.

The Capitol Stones - Washington DC

Photograph by Bill Lebovich

The Capitol Stones5100 Glover Rd NW
200 yards down an unmarked trail, behind a maintenance shed in Rock Creek Park, sits a huge pile of stones that were taken off of the Capital. While it sounds like an urban legend, it’s absolutely true, as the stones were taken off the Capital during a 1958 renovation, and since they couldn’t be sold or destroyed, the Architect just piled them in the woods and left them there. The government neither encourages nor discourages visitors, and neither the Architect of the Capitol nor the National Park Service maintains the site, so it’s kind of become an unofficial monument for those that know where to look.

East Potomac Park Mini Golf - Washington DC

East Potomac Park Mini Golf972 Ohio Dr SW
In addition to being the only mini-golf course in all of DC, the East Potomac Park Mini Golf Course is also the country’s oldest continually-operated mini golf course, hosting mini-golfers since it was initially built in 1931.

Maine Avenue Fish Market - Washington DC

Maine Avenue Fish Market1100 Maine Ave SW
It doesn’t get much fresher than the Maine Avenue Fish Market, which also happens to be the oldest continuously operating fish market in the United States. Many of the vendors have been selling seafood for decades, and the market has been in operation since 1805. In addition to local favorites like blue crabs, oysters, and shrimp, you can also find exotic offerings like Chinese octopus and Chilean sea bass. The best part about the Maine Avenue Fish Market is that it’s full-service, so you can order seafood and have it cooked right there, or “seasoned” with a giant helping of Old Bay seasoning.

Panda Gourmet - Washington DC

Photo by Azucena H

Panda Gourmet2700 New York Ave NE
Tucked into the side of a Days Inn motel is what one reviewer called, “The best Chinese restaurant Washington, D.C. has had, ever.” Featuring authentic Szechuan style Chinese cuisine, the Panda Gourmet restaurant is the place to grab a bite if you want a great meal from somewhere that stands out for being off the beaten path.

U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock - Washington DC

Photo by Elliot Carter

U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock3450 Massachusetts Ave NW
If you ever wanted to make sure your watch time was set really, really, really accurately, then stop by the U.S. Naval Observatory and set your time by the Master Clock’s digital display. Though the Master Clock is contained inside the U.S. Naval Observatory, and is actually made up of dozens of independently operating cesium atomic clocks and a dozen hydrogen maser clocks, the end result is time that’s accurate to 10 one-billionths of a second, and shown publicly outside the front gate.

Ready to join us on one of our trips to Washington, DC? We can take you to all the secret spots and hidden gems, and make sure it’s a trip you never forget! To book your trip with WNC Travels, click here or give us a call at (828) 595-9691

8 Travel Apps Guaranteed To Improve Your Vacation

For many travelers, the smartphone has become their go-to resource for everything vacation related. It can compare prices, make reservations, pull up maps, take photos, hold digital tickets, and more.

While many people are familiar with popular travel apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor, there are a number of up-and-coming apps that can help improve your travel experience in new and unique ways.

To help you make the most of your vacation, here are 8 travel apps that you need to check out:

Cool Cousin Travel App

Cool Cousin
Ever wish you had a ‘cool cousin’ you could call on for travel advice? Maybe a craft bartender in Dallas, a screenwriter in New York, or a photographer in Portland? Well with Cool Cousin, you can!

Cool Cousin finds ‘cool’ people in cities all around the world, and has them put together a guide with their favorite city spots, and personalized advice about how to spend your time and your dime in their town.

Once you’ve connected with a Cousin, you can even contact them directly for advice on timing your visit, where you should stay, how to get tickets for special occasions, any current events happening there, customized itineraries, and more.

Sidekix is an app that provides curated recommendations that have been specially chosen by local bloggers. Tell the app what you want to experience in a city, and it will tailor itself to your needs.

But what really sets Sidekix apart is its ability to create personalized walking routes that are based on interest, not just distance. Whether you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, pub crawl, or gallery hop, Sidekix can put together a route that takes you through the places and events you want to see and do along the way.

It’s an exploration tool, travel planner, and tour guide all in one. Sidekix takes the idea of getting lost in a new city so you can stumble upon cool and unexpected places, and gives it a modern twist that will guarantee you find those hidden gems you’re always looking for.

Foursquare Travel App

Foursquare started out as an app that let people ‘check-in’ to places they were visiting, but now it’s using that data and advanced location intelligence to build meaningful recommendations for experiences that are catered to your specific tastes.

With over 75 million tips from local experts, it helps uncover off-the-menu items, speakeasy entrances, wi-fi passwords, and much more.

A quick search helps you find what you’re looking for, and you can use Foursquare to build up a running to-do list of the neighborhood hot spots and places you want to try while traveling. Or check out the curated lists that are built by friends, brands, and influencers to help you find the best of the best in any city you want to visit.

Localeur Travel App

According to their motto, if it’s not local, it’s not on Localeur. With over 13,000 authentic recommendations from folks who live in the places you want to visit, Localeur is bursting with tips and know-how on everything from bars and restaurants to well-loved bookshops, boutiques, and other hidden gems.

If you’re searching for authenticity over syndication, unforgettable experiences over tourist traps, then check out Localeur!

Walc Travel App

Walking is one of the best ways to explore a new destination, but navigating a new city when you’re not familiar with the road names, street layouts, and landmarks can be difficult.

To help you to explore and discover cities on foot, Walc gives you directions based on visual cues. Instead of ‘Head North on Main St.’ or ‘Turn right at Virginia Ave.’ Walc gives you directions like ‘Walk towards Starbucks, then make a right at Lululemon.’ to help you get where you want to go.

When you walk around a town, you’ll feel like a local, and you’ll get an up close and personal view that you just can’t get in a taxi or Uber.

Trip by Skyscanner Travel App

Trip by Skyscanner
Every time you open Trip by Skyscanner, it automatically offers intelligent suggestions for what to do, based on signals like the time of day, weather, location, and your personal travel style, like Foodies, Family Travelers, or Nightlife Lovers.

Make the most of a sunny day, stay dry when it’s raining, or plan the perfect weekend getaway with Trip by Skyscanner.

Detour Travel App

What if Ken Burns could take you on a tour of the Brooklyn Bridge? Or you could explore Haight-Ashbury with actor Peter Coyote?

With Detour, you can explore the world’s most fascinating places with the people who know them best, through guided audio tours that sync to your location.

If you’re traveling with friends, you can even sync your Detour audio tours together so you can turn exploration into a shared experience, as you learn about your surroundings together.

The Outbound Travel App

The Outbound
Sometimes you just want to get outdoors and explore, and whether you’re looking for local hikes, campsites, waterfalls, or swimming holes, The Outbound has you covered with expert tips, insider travel recommendations, and thoughtful personal accounts.

To make sure you find an activity that’s right for you, you can filter by skill level, season, and features, like dog-friendly, family-friendly, romantic, etc.

Then use the app to navigate to the starting point of your next great adventure, and you’re on your way!

6 Reasons To Consider A Charter Bus For Your Wedding Transportation

Wedding Transportation Charter Bus

Venue, dress, cake, and flowers might be at the top of your wedding planner to-do list, but wedding transportation is just as important if you want to make sure everyone has an amazing time (and to make sure everyone is on time!) on your big day.

A wedding bus can keep the party going all day long without worrying about your wedding party getting lost, guests getting behind the wheel after they’ve had a little too much to drink, or friends and family arriving late because they couldn’t find a place to park. When you let a company like WNC Travels handle your wedding transportation needs, you can relax, enjoy the big day, and know that a team of professionals is working hard to make sure everyone gets where they need to be, safely and on time.

If you’re planning a wedding and thinking about transportation, here are a few reasons to consider hiring a charter bus to get your guests from place to place:

Wedding Transportation Charter BusYour Guests Are Coming In From Out Of Town
Your family and friends are probably spread out all across the United States, and if you invite them to your wedding, they’re going to have to rent a car, navigate an unfamiliar city, find and pay for parking, and stress out over their own transportation needs. Instead of causing them extra headache, just rent a charter coach to transport everyone to and from the wedding. Not only does this give you peace of mind that your guests are safe, looked after, and not lost, but it shows them that you really appreciate their attendance at your wedding, and went the extra mile to look out for their needs.

Your Wedding Party Has A Lot Of People
You’re putting together the list of close friends and family that you want included in the wedding party, and suddenly you realize that coordinating a dozen or more people to photoshoots, makeup and hair appointments, champaign brunches, and celebration dinners is a tough task! Having a lot of people in your wedding party can be fun, but it can also be a hassle if you have to coordinate the travel of a big group. How are you going to get everyone where they need to go, on time, and safely? Answer: Hire a charter bus! By letting a charter bus company handle your wedding party transportation, you can surround yourselves with the people who matter most, while you focus on having a good time and leaving the driving, and the logistics, to a professional.

Your Ceremony and Reception Are In Two Different Locations
Many brides have the perfect location picked out for their wedding ceremony, and another perfect location for their wedding reception, but having two different locations can cause issues when guests have to find ways to get from one location to another without getting lost, tired, or annoyed along the way. Save everyone the drive, and keep the party going by transporting everyone together in a chartered wedding bus. It’s convenient for your guests and it allows you to plan events in locations that don’t have a lot of parking or clear directions.

You Want Everyone To Arrive On Time
The last thing you want on your big day is a huge delay while guests try to navigate confusing GPS directions, find parking, work their way around road construction, or deal with unexpected car troubles. Imagine having to wait while someone runs out to fix grandpa’s flat tire! To make sure everyone arrives on time, hire a charter bus for your wedding and rest easy knowing that all of your guests will arrive together, ready to start celebrating.

You Want To Keep The Party Going
Weddings are a time for celebration, but nothing kills the mood like having to put everyone in separate cars and making them find their way from one location to the next. When you rent a bus for your wedding, you can keep the drinks flowing, the music bumping, and the party going while everyone gets safely to the next destination. The maid of honor and best man can stand up and tell funny stories about the bride and groom, parents can share their excitement with friends and family, and guests can mix and mingle with one another while they celebrate your union.

You Want To Make Sure Everyone Gets Home Safely
If you’re going to serve alcohol at your wedding, you may run into problems if some guests celebrate your wedding a little more than they should. Rather than worrying about who’s getting into a car and trying to drive themselves home, hire a charter bus company and let them take care of the driving for you. Guests are free to celebrate as much as they want, and the party can continue on the bus while everyone heads back together to the hotel or the next venue.

Planning A Wedding In North Carolina?
If you’re planning a wedding in the North Carolina area, at one of the beautiful venues in Asheville like the Biltmore Estate or the Omni Grove Park Inn, or at one of the amazing locations sprinkled throughout Western North Carolina, then give WNC Travels a call and let us handle all of your wedding transportation needs. We work with weddings of all sizes, and our experienced team will make sure no detail is overlooked.

We serve all of Western North Carolina and the surrounding areas, including weddings in Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greenville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Knoxville, Weaverville, Hot Springs, Candler, Waynesville, and Hendersonville.

For more information, visit our Wedding Transportation page, or give us a call at: (828) 595-9691

10 Travel Accessories To Make Your Next Trip A Breeze

Traveling can be fun and exciting, and filled with memories that will last a lifetime! What’s better than exploring new places, having new experiences, and meeting new people from all around the world? But it can also be frustrating and stressful if you’re not prepared for the unexpected. Thankfully, with the right travel accessories, you can minimize any potential inconveniences, and maximize the amount of time you’ll spend enjoying your trip.

To highlight some of the travel accessories that you might not have considered for your next trip, we put together this list of gear and gadgets that will help you stay organized, relaxed, comfortable, and ready to hit the ground running when you arrive at your destination.

PackIt Cubes Eagle Creek

Packing Cubes
Packing cubes like these Pack-It Cubes from Eagle Creek are a lifesaver when it comes to organizing and optimizing your travel bag. When you pack for a trip, they help compress clothing to make the most out of every inch of your bag, and the different colors and different sizes can help keep similar outfits together and organized so you can easily grab and go when you need to. Plus they come with a lifetime warranty so you’ll never have to worry about breaking a zipper when you’re trying to fit that one last item into your bag before the trip.

Anker PowerCore 10000

Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
Frequent travelers swear by their Bose noise cancelling headphones, and for good reason! Being in a new place with new noises can make it hard to sleep, and loud environments can make it hard to hear your music, or an audio tour guide you downloaded to your smartphone. These Bose QuietControl Wireless Headphones won’t take up a lot of space in your bag, but they can quiet the noises around you (even without music playing!) and then quickly switch to “Aware Mode” if you need to hear something, like an announcement or a conversation. Since they connect with bluetooth they will work with any phone, including Apple and Android, and the lithium-ion battery lasts for 10 hours per charge, so you get plenty of audio in between stops.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX80

Compact Camera
While many modern smartphones can take impressive photos, if you really want to make sure you capture your travel memories in the best way possible, it’s hard to beat a compact camera like this Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX80. The large sensor allows it to capture amazing low-light photos when you’re out at night or touring the inside of a dark building, and the large image-stabilized 30x superzoom lens allows you to optically zoom in to a far away scene without sacrificing quality. In addition to stunning photos, it can also take amazing 1080p high definition videos when you want to capture the sights and sounds that are around you in full motion. Plus the large screen makes it easy to see what you’ve captured, and share your photos with the people around you.

Anker SoundCore 2

Bluetooth Speaker
If you’ve got a little extra room in your bag (one big advantage of traveling by motorcoach is that you don’t have to cram everything into a tiny carry-on!) then a bluetooth speaker is a great addition to your travel bag. You can use it in the hotel room when you’re getting ready to go out, or bring it to the beach with you and relax with some tunes. Many bluetooth speakers, like this Anker SoundCore 2, have durable water resistant designs, so you don’t have to worry about damaging them if you bring your speaker out to the pool with you or toss it in your day bag.

Vumos Leak Proof Travel Bottle Set

Leak-Proof Travel Bottles
It can be hard to find a good set of TSA-approved travel bottles, but this Vumos Leak Proof Travel Bottle Set is made of squeezable silicone so they’re easy to clean, and won’t explode all over your bag if they get sandwiched between two hard objects. Each bottle is a different color, and comes with an easy-to-adjust label that makes it easy to identify what’s inside.

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag

Anti-Theft Bag
When you’re in a new place, it can be stressful to carry around your important possessions and documentation while also trying to stay aware of your surroundings. This Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag is designed just for travelers, with a cross-body strap to keep it close to your body, adjustable cut-proof strap and slash-proof construction to prevent theft, an RFID-blocking pocket to keep credit cards and ID cards safe, and an easy to access pocket to keep a water bottle handy so you can easily stay hydrated when you’re walking around and exploring a new city.

BUBM Travel Organizer

Portable Battery
It’s nice to have your smartphone with you when you travel, but constantly checking maps, consulting online travel guides, and taking photos and videos can quickly drain your battery. With a portable battery like this Anker PowerCore 10000, you can charger your gadgets on the go, so you’ll never have to worry about a dead battery when you need it most.

Bose QuietControl Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Electronics Organizer
Many travelers carry a lot of gadgets with them, like smartphones, cameras, and tablets that all require special cables, charging bricks, memory cards, and other accessories. Instead of just throwing all those gadget accessories into a bag and arriving to your destination with a tangled mess, get an electronics organizer like this BUBM Travel Organizer and keep everything in a specific place. Mesh zippered pockets and elastic straps help hold small items in place, and the waterproof exterior provides an additional layer of protection from the elements.

Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella

Travel Umbrella
Everyone hopes for a clear and sunny trip, but sometimes mother nature has other ideas. With this Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella with Teflon Coating, you can be ready for any adventure, rain or shine, thanks to a compact design that folds up into a tiny pouch, so you can toss it in your bag and have it ready when you need it.

NeatPack Hanging Toiletry Bag

Hanging Toiletry Bag
Another travel accessory that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without, this NeatPack Hanging Toiletry Bag is the best way to keep your toiletries organized and easy to access. You’ll be surprised by how much it can store, with padded compartments and pockets for everything from your makeup to your toothpaste, so you’ll never have to hunt around in your bag for a missing brush. Plus you can simply hang it up in the hotel bathroom when you get to your destination, to speed up your unpacking process and get on with your travels.

Secret Spots and Hidden Gems of New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana is a popular tourist destination, but you can still find some secret spots and hidden gems if you look hard enough. Since New Orleans is also one of our favorite trips that we offer, we thought we’d share a few places that don’t show up on every guidebook and “must see” list. Here are some of our favorites:

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop941 Bourbon St.
Looking for a unique place to grab a drink in the French Quarter? Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop was built between 1722 and 1732 (and may or may not have actually been a blacksmith shop) and claims to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. Plus it’s outside of the part of Bourbon Street where most tourists spend their time, so it’s usually much less crowded.

The Singing Oak

The Singing Oak1701 Wisner Blvd.
Hiding in plain sight in City Park, The Singing Oak (or Chime Tree) is a large oak tree that has been strung with a set of wind chimes that ring a pentatonic (five notes per octave) scale by Louisiana artist Jim Hart. You can sit underneath The Singing Oak and listen to the relaxing symphony while enjoying the shade on a hot sunny day.

Nicolas Cage's Pyramid Tomb

Photo By: Britt Reints

Nicolas Cage Pyramid Tomb425 Basin St.
Established in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, with many of the above-ground burial sites now crumbling. Sitting amongst the crumbling mausoleums however is a brand-new looking, nine-foot-tall stone pyramid, with the Latin phrase “Omni Ab Uno” meaning “Everything From One” etched on the front. When he dies, this tomb will become the final resting place for Nicolas Cage, which makes it a popular tourist attraction for many visitors and fans of Nic Cage.

Bacchanal Courtyard

Bacchanal Courtyard600 Poland Ave.
While it looks like a store from the front, just walk through the Bacchanal Wine Shop into the courtyard within and you’ll find yourself in NOLA’s backyard party. Featuring live music seven days a week (weather permitting) Bacchanal is a great place to grab a bite, enjoy a drink, and listen to some of the best original jazz in New Orleans.

Brennan's Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster at Brennan’s417 Royal St.
Everyone knows about the beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but there’s another food item that was invented in New Orleans that gets much less publicity: Bananas Foster at Brennan’s Restaurant. Invented in 1951, this mixture of bananas, rum sauce, and vanilla ice cream is still the most popular item on Brennan’s menu, with many people stopping by just for a taste of the delicious desert.

Prytania Theatre

Prytania Theatre5339 Prytania St.
If you’re looking for a fun way to relax for a few hours, then stop in and catch a movie at The Prytania Theatre. This single-screen neighborhood theatre has been open for more than 100 years, and a step inside will instantly transport you back in time to Old Hollywood. (But retrofitted with state of the art projection and sound systems.)

City Putt New Orleans

City Putt8 Victory Dr.
City Putt is a 36-hole mini golf complex that’s located in City Park, with two courses to choose from: The Louisiana Course highlights cultural themes and cities from around the state, while the New Orleans Course showcases streets and iconic themes from around the city.

Hansen's Sno Bliz

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz4801 Tchoupitoulas St.
When Ernest Hansen invented the first ice shaving machine in 1939, Mary Hansen added her own flavored syrups and the snoball was born! Today you can still sample that historic treat, since Hansen’s makes its own flavors every day from Mary’s secret recipes, and creates snoballs from the original machine. The combination of fluffy ice and homemade syrups are made in layers – ice, syrup, ice, syrup, etc. – so that the final product is fully saturated, and is unlike any snow cone you’ve had before.

Ready to join us on one of our trips to New Orleans, LA? We can take you to all the secret spots and hidden gems, and make sure it’s a trip you never forget! To book your trip with WNC Travels, click here or give us a call at (828) 595-9691

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