Any town or city can hang up a few lights in the city centre and call it a Christmas festival but there are places in the world that put the rest to shame. If you’re fed up of shoddy lights and a sad-looking tree take a look at these places that really know how to put on a show and offer the best alternative places for holidays at Christmas.
If you’ve got enough holiday to extend your holidays until the 5th of January (Three King’s Day) then there’s no place than Barcelona to spend it with Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar. On Januray 4th the three king’s touch down at the city’s port on their very own ship – Santa Eulalia and completely kitted up in velvet. Canons are fired, fireworks are let of and as the mayor of the city hands over the keys of the city to the kings, the magic of Magi officially starts. The kings are paraded through the streets in an extravagant procession of floats comprising of camels, elephants and giraffes.
We may be the only country to celebrate the fact that a king survived an attempt on his life by lighting bonfires and fireworks, and continue to celebrate this over 400 years later, but we aren’t the only ones to commemorate a historical event using fireworks. Guy Fawkes Night is fast approaching and while you’re probably prepping for a big bonfire and making sure you have plenty of sparklers to go round, let’s take a lot at some fireworks festivals throughout the world which could provide you with inspiration for your next holiday.
Fourth of July Celebrations – U.S.A.
Fourth of July is a holiday that celebrates the founding of America, therefore it’s fitting that some of the best fireworks displays happen in the capital, Washington, D.C. There are also many, many superb displays in New York. Grab a free view of fireworks from Brooklyn Bridge Park, or book yourself on a cruise and see the firworks from the water. Let’s not forget the family firm favourite that is Disney World, Florida. Fourth of July celebrations there capture the true spirit of America, their fireworks celebration is not simply a fireworks display but is hailed as a “concert in the sky”.
Lebowski Fest, 11-12th July 2014, Louisville, Kentucky Dedicated to all things Dude, Lebowski Fest’s been running for a whopping 12 years and offers White Russians, unlimited bowling, costume contests and special guests. The Dude abides at Lebowski Fest and we couldn’t think of a better summer festival.
Full Moon Party, 13thJuly, 08th September 2014, Koh Phangan, Thailand If we could choose one word to describe the Full Moon Parties of Koh Phangan it would be: epic. Shirtless, shoeless tourists dance all night at the biggest beach party in the world, where you’ll find plastic buckets that hold a litre of vodka and Red Bull. Told you it was epic.
Who doesn’t love slip-sliding about and releasing your inner child? Is there a better place to do that than in a them park or water park? We don’t think so. Impress your kids this year with all the facts about these extremely cool water parks for 2014 and don’t forget to tell us if we’ve missed one of your favourite water parks in the comments below.
1. Tropical Islands Resort, Krausnick, Germany. The largest indoor water park in the world, Tropical Islands is in a former zeppelin hangar, complete with rainforest, palm trees, birdsong and artificial sun.
2. Siam Park, Tenerife. Perhaps one of the best known water parks in Europe, Siam Park, the Water Kingdom is home to a Tower of Power which is a 28 metre plunge, the zero gravity Dragon experience, the 200 metre mega slide the Kinnaree and the Sawasdee, a great choice for families: it’s a mini version of the grown up rides especially for kids.
Our weekly series: A Night Less Ordinary is all about finding the most weird and wonderful hotels all over the world. From a James Bond hotel room, to sleeping underwater expect the unexpected. This week, we take a step back in time for a night on a cabin in the Jane Hotel New York.
What’s the gimmick? Lovingly renovated, the Jane Hotel’s rooms are themed around the cabins on a ship, complete with galley style bunk bed rooms, brass fittings, warm colours and big mirrors, storage under over beds and buckets of bohemian history. A stay in the Jane Hotel, with its retro-uniformed staff and period design is filled with character and one that makes the most of the NYC experience.
Give your holiday a boost this year by combining it with an amazing festival. Whether you want to knock back pints of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day or fancy giving the air guitar world championship a go, you won’t miss out with our guide to some amazing festivals 2014.
Venice Carnival In the days leading up to Ash Wednesday the Venice Carnival is in full swing. Carnevale di Venezia is an elegant throwback to 18th century opulence. The bright and beautiful of the Italian city’s social scene arrive cloaked and masked for energetic, but pricey parties. Ideal for a luxurious weekend away. Venice Carnival happens between February 14th and March 4th 2014.
Venice Carnival via @ Heatherbroster
St Patrick’s Day There is no better place to celebrate St Patrick’s Day than the Irish capital city of Dublin. It’s not limited to drinking pints, (although you can if you want!) the city pulls out all the stops for a wonderful festival with live music, dancing, parades and free events all over the place. It’s a top choice for a very quick city break, Dublin is just a hop, skip and a jump from the UK. St Patrick’s Say is celebrated on March 17th 2014.
#1 Budapest The Hungarian capital is set to have a busy year amongst hipsters thanks to the release of Wes Anderson’s film The Grand Budapest Hotel (even though it was mostly filmed in Germany!) The city’s filled with architecture, baths, boutique hotels and laid-back cafes. It’s a must-do value city break. Makes a nice addition to our 2014 travel bucket list.
#2 The Greek Islands We especially love Ikaria, where your holiday can make you live longer and eternal favourite Crete, where you can visit the hippie village of Matala or go family friendly in Heraklion.
#6 Brazil Book cheap holidays to Brazil right now because cities like Rio and Sao Paolo are set to see a huge influx of visitors thanks to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Instead of watching from your armchair, make 2014 the year you go there in person.
#8 Havana, Cuba It’s always been said, Cuba is a place to visit before it changes! Choose it for 2014 and get in there now before it’s too late and see the 50s cars, the old-time atmosphere and the eclectic accommodations on offer.
#9 Cork, Ireland Not only is the city of Cork a hive of activity, but the surrounding countryside has some of the most spectacular scenery Ireland has to offer. Go to Clonakilty for black pudding, Inchydoney for the beach and island hop to Sherkin.
#10 Gulet Cruise, Turkey Fed up with the idea of hitting the bars of Kusadasi or Bodrum? You could opt for a traditional wooden boat cruise instead on your holiday in Turkey. The boat takes you to tiny, hidden beaches, deserted bays and well away from the crowds.
#12 Balearic Islands With new routes from Heathrow and London City Airports in particular, the sun-drenched islands of Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca play host to perfect 2014 summer holidays. There are stylish hotels, boutique farmhouses-turned-villas and an incredible choice of things to do to suit any budget and of course, Ibiza is always a top 2014 party holiday destination.
#13 Mexico If you really fancy Mexico, but you’ve already been to Cancun, try Puerto Vallarta. Once a spring breakers paradise, the resort is now more famous for its boutique hotels, great beaches and variety of diving spots.
#14 Cape Verde The former Portuguese colony is a beaut. It’s got Latin spirit by the bucket load thanks to its close proximity to West Africa. Go to Boa Vista for stunning beaches and loggerhead turtles for an unforgettable addition to your 2014 travel bucket list.
GambiaAverage temps 24 degrees Gambia is a great value choice for January Holidays. Easy on the pocket and easy on the eye, there are tonnes of beach side hotels or villas to choose from and no time difference, so you can feel at home on holidays!
CubaAverage temps 21 degrees Within nine hours of the UK, the Caribbean offers warm waters, soft sandy beaches and an incredible range of hotels. It’s just a matter of where to choose! We love Cuba for its laidback atmosphere, perfect for a post-Christmas break. Choose an all inclusive resort like the Playa Costa Verde All Inclusive resort where your every whim is catered to.
Hurghada Average temps 22 degrees release your inner scuba diving with a mostly underwater holiday in the Red Sea. Float through a tropical landscape by day as you discover coral reefs and the beauty of nature. At night there are nightclubs, bars and a huge range of range of entertainment from the traditional to the modern in Hurghada’s bustling resort. Hurghada is a fantastic choice for January Holidays.
DubaiAverage temps 20 degrees A shopping lovers dream, although post Christmas, it might not be the first thing that springs to mind. The hot, dry weather in Dubai in January is just the balm to chase away those winter blues. Jumeirah Beach is a purpose built holiday haven, with its own souks, malls, clubs and pools… actually we could go on, but isn’t it better to see for yourself?!
Swiss AlpsAverage temps -1 St Moritz is a ski Mecca in January. It is slap, bang in the middle of full winter season, with skiing and snowboarding, cross country and hiking on offer as well as electric après-ski. Book now for great ski deals in January with Purple Travel.
Cape VerdeAverage temps 24 A string of islands floating in the Atlantic, Cape Verde is a wonderful melting pot of cultures, from its Portuguese influences to its proximity to the African coast. It’s not exactly mainstream so offers an eclectic holiday for sports lovers, surfers and great food and is still cheap enough for a great January deal.
Canary IslandsAverage temps 22 degrees The Canaries are renowned as winter sunshine holiday destination. And at just four hours flight time from the UK, they offer a cheap, cheerful and close holiday. Family friendly in Lanzarote sunshine is just the ticket after a long winter. Book self-catering or all inclusive budget accommodation in Lanzarote now with Purple Travel.
FloridaAverage temps 23 degrees Holidays in Florida are a great choice for two reasons: 1. you can beat the queues at the Theme Parks and 2. You can do it minus any sunstroke. Disneyworld and Orlando are still busy but not at summer levels, while Sarasota and St Petersburg beaches are still warm enough for bathing. Of course, if it’s endless parties you’d prefer, you could do worse than a quick road trip to Miami.
For more on cheap January Holidays talk to Purple Travel on 02079939228.
This one’s for anyone who wants to combine the thrill of visiting a city with lazing on the beach. Urban beaches are the perfect place to catch a tan without having to go to an island resort and are still in close proximity to restaurants, nightclubs and other attractions. Check out some of the top urban beaches across the globe and dive into a holiday that offers the best of both worlds!
Rio offers some of the world’s best urban beaches, all of which are surrounded by breathtaking scenery and urban pleasures. Ipanema is without a doubt the best of the lot, but Copacabana and Leblon are also stunning. These beaches are the place to be and are filled with visitor’s tanning, swimming in the Atlantic or enjoying cocktails and local cuisine from one of the many beach side bars and restaurants.
Venice beach, Los Angeles
Possibly the coolest beach in the world, Venice beach is also one of the most beautiful. This bohemian beach is packed with gorgeous bronzed bodies and you’ll find rolling green lawns, art galleries, surf shops, restaurants and more on the Ocean Front Walk. Rollerblade, take to the waves, chill at a bar or hang out on the beach and indulge in some people watching.
Taylet, Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is Israel’s second most populous city and home to a sandy Mediterranean coastline that’s filled with beach cafes and hotels. Taylet has become a hot and happening destination for anyone who wants to spend the day in the sun and party the night away. Its close proximity to the seafront Port Promenade, where the best nightclubs and live music venues are found, makes it popular with visitors and locals.
Tamariz beach in Estoril is a hidden gem that’s fast becoming a tourist favourite. Laze between the locals and watch the activity at Europe’s largest casino, or soak up the old world glamour of a castle belonging to Monaco royalty, both of which are located beachside. The numerous bars and restaurants are perfect for sundowners and in summer months the beach turns into a nightclub with visiting international DJs and other live acts. Tamariz is the perfect urban party beach with the charm of a small coastal town.
This one’s for all the guys and girls who want something a little bit more off-the-beaten track than your average beach. Hen parties and stag parties these days tend to be over the top but some grooms and brides just want to have a relaxing getaway to keep calm and carry on ahead of their big day. If you think sunbathing in California or Hawaii is too obvious or if you, can’t stand tourists, why not take the road less travelled? There are plenty of secret and unexpected beaches around the world, hidden gems reserved strictly for locals or connoisseurs.
Blijburg aan Zee, the beach in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is the proud owner of 165 canals, but, did you know it also has an achingly hip beach set on an artificial island in the middle of the city lake? Blijburg aan Zee is the place to be during the summer, with DJs playing day and night, regular art events and lots of beach activities like campfires and sandcastle building competitions making it the real deal. Perfect for a lively hen or stag do that’s pretty close to home.
This funky destination is located in Queens, New York and it’s the only official surfing destination in the Big Apple. It’s a great find if you’re looking for that bohemian beach destination in New York, making it a great addition to the city’s assets. It’s the newest hipster destination, but don’t let that put you off, it has great food and plenty of atmosphere. This is for the cosmopolitan hens who want the best of city break with a bit of beach thrown in.
Spain is a pretty obvious choice for travellers. But, there’s a reason tourists queue to visit Barcelona, Madrid and the Balearic Islands. If you’re in love with the Spanish way of life, but feel tired just thinking of tourists crowding your every move, try Cadaqués. This Catalonian town was an artist resort and inspired brilliant minds, especially surrealist painter Salvador Dali. You can even visit his house or learn more about him at a really good museum dedicated to his genius in Port Lligat, a neighbouring town. Perfect for a stag or hen with an artistic streak.
Tourists in Southern Asia have been known to ignore this beautiful island and choose more popular destinations like Phuket or Koh Samui. Phu Quoc is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand and it boasts pristine beaches, fascinating reefs and hard–to-forget authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Get it while it’s still fresh and untouched by popular tour guide books. This is a long-haul stag or hen destination that you’ll never forget.
Capo Sant’Andrea, the island within an island in Elba
The Mediterranean island is where Napoleon famously was famously exiled. Fishing villages, ancient castles and green hills are just a few sightseeing gems for you and your friends in Capo Sant’Andrea. If you’re looking for serious beaches and serious partying, then this little island has exactly what you need.
No matter if you’re looking for a city escape or a secret beach on a dream island for your hen or stag party, there are more choices than you’d think. New York, Amsterdam Copenhagen, and Barcelona are just a few cities where local beaches are a perfect destination for an all-boys/all-girls vacation, while splendid islands and fishing towns in Vietnam, Spain, Estonia or Tasmania will give you the perfect holiday without transporting you to Touristville.
Amber Kingsley is a travel writer and has contributed to several travel sites and blogs. She loves spending time at the beach with her puppy Charlie and is always looking for the hidden gems of a city on her travels. She would loves finding out about more secret spots through her readers!