My second hot air balloon ride involved gorgeous views of Napa Valley – and luckily, no trees.
Hot air balloons above Napa Valley

This week, I’m serving as a paid spokesperson for Hilton HHonors’ Seven Tickets to Paradise Sweepstakes. The contest, open to Hilton HHonors members through Aug. 31, features seven prize packages to destinations ranging from Bali to Palm Springs to a location of your choice. I previewed one of the prizes, the “Your Ticket To Dine,” in Napa […]


Tops on my art bucket list: Visiting the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, home not only to a multitude of masterworks, but the incredibly elaborate Winter Palace where Catherine the Great once lived.
The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg Russia

This is the third in my series on things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia. As I said in my post on visiting St. Petersburg, a trip to the Hermitage Museum – the second largest in the world, after the Louvre in Paris – has long been on my bucket list. And I’m happy to report […]


Riding the subway might not be a normal tourist activity. But in the St. Petersburg Metro, where stations such as Kirovsky Zavod and Avtovo boast original examples of Stalinist-era art and architecture, you wouldn’t want to miss it.
Avtovo, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

This is second in my series on things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia. One of the most interesting things I saw in my few brief days in Russia were the elaborate St. Petersburg Metro stations, decked out with marble, chandeliers and Soviet-era art. Plans for an underground had been in place in the Soviet Union […]


A look at some things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia, including information on hotels, restaurants, churches, shopping and other sights.
Things to do in St. Petersburg

This is the first in my series on things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia. One of the highlights of my travels last year included three days in St. Petersburg, Russia (known as Leningrad during Soviet times). While I’ve written about the bureaucratic ins and outs of applying for a Russian visa, I haven’t put […]


First stop on my girlfriend getaway trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A visit to the Biltmore Estate, America’s version of Downton Abbey, built by the Vanderbilt family.
Girlfriend Getaway, Biltmore

This is the first in my series about my girlfriend getaway to North Carolina. What’s one of the best ways to save money on a vacation? Add in something fun to a work-related trip. So while I went to North Carolina last weekend to speak at a tourism conference about how to pitch bloggers, I […]


Japan in Jan: Snow Monkeys

by Chris on January 12, 2012

All my life, I’ve wanted to see a snow monkey. The saga of how we found them, in the mountains near Nagano, Japan.
snow monkey in a pool, Japan

Every once in a while, you come upon something in your travels that goes beyond the ordinary, something that makes you grab your camera and thank whatever deity you believe in for the life that you get to live. For me, that moment came in Jigokudani monkey park in the Japanese Alps, when I stood […]


Shelling Sanibel: The Sanibel Stoop

by Chris on January 5, 2012

Sanibel Island has long been known for shelling. In honor of the Sanibel Shell Fair and Show’s 75th anniversary, the island will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records with its “Sanibel Stoop.”
Shelling Sanibel Stoop

Every professional travel writer, it seems, has a happy place, a destination where they return not so much to gather new material, but to unwind and relax. For me, that place is Sanibel Island, Florida.  My parents started taking us to Sanibel when I was a teenager. Eventually, they bought a condo there and now […]


Florida’s Harry Potter theme Park, Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World, isn’t just for kids. Read how the park casts its spell over four adult Muggles.
Entrance to Harry Potter theme park

By Natalie Pompilio, Contributing Writer When my sister and I were making our plans to visit the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Orlando Resort (the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) in Florida, the question we got most frequently was, “How many kids are in your party?” To which we answered, “None.” Because we grown-ups […]


Fascinating Finland: The Cult of the Sauna

by Chris on October 24, 2011

No one loves a sauna like the Finns. A look at Finnish sauna culture.
Finnish sauna

In September, I made my first trip to Scandinavia when I took the train throughout Finland, hitting Helsinki, Lapland and a few other towns. In a way, though, it seemed quite familiar; the result of growing up in Minnesota. All throughout my trip, people kept mistaking me for a native Finn, even though I never […]


Howdy, partner. A visit to the home of John Wayne birth in Winterset, Iowa, smack dab in the center of Madison County.
John Wayne birthplace, Winterset Iowa

Proof that you can find fun things to do almost where you travel: On a recent trip to Iowa to visit my husband’s parents, we discovered Madison County, which not only has the famed bridges from the Robert James Waller book/Meryl Streep-Clint Eastwood movie, it also contains Winterset, the town where John Wayne was born […]