7 Things You Must do at The Chicago Auto Show

Chicago Auto Show

Travel consideration provided.

Last week, I headed to Illinois for the kickoff off the Chicago Auto Show. This is my second time at the show, and like last year, I had a fantastic time. This auto show is the nation’s largest, covering 1 million square feet; two days before the show opened to the public, it had already sold 250,000 tickets. The atmosphere is like none other and truly an event that is not to be missed – and because there is so much to do, it’s a good idea to make a plan for what you want to see and do before you get there. Here are 7 family-friendly activities that you can’t miss while you’re there:

See The Cars:

Porsche
Well, duh. But if this is your first time at the auto show, you might be surprised by the variety of cars on offer. This isn’t just walking into a room and staring at a bunch of standard vehicles – even if you’re not a big “Car person”, I think you’ll be fascinated by what’s on display.

2.6 million Bugatti
SpongeBob Minivan

From vehicles you might want to buy to concept cars, there is a little bit of everything here. Where else could you find a 2.6 million dollar Bugatti and a SpongeBob minivan in the same building?

Pink car, pink hair

Pink cars, blue cars, old cars, new cars – no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss rhyme, it’s the Chicago Auto Show!

Check Out The Giveaways & Goodies:

Edmunds.com

I’m all about contests and swag, and the Chicago Auto Show has plenty of opportunity to find both. You can provide app feedback at the Edmunds.com booth and pick a prize, Instagram a photo to claim goodies from the Scion Swag Machine, pick up tote bags from different car manufacturers, spin the Nissan and Shell prize wheels, and much more.

Shell prize wheel

If you’re into entering contests like I am, you’ll also have your pick of giveaways: From Ford’s raffle for giant stuffed penguins to car giveaways, there are plenty of opportunities to test your luck!

Play a Game:

Mustang pinball

From pinball to video games, there are a number of fun diversions for the young and young-at-heart!

Take a Ride:

There multiple exciting test drive and track opportunities available at the Chicago Auto Show, such as the exciting Camp Jeep course shown above, where a professional driver takes you through a course that has more in common with a roller coaster than your typical driving track! Several car manufacturers have test tracks at the show – there is even a special Ford Power Wheels F-150 course just for kids.

Create a Souvenir:

Subaru Adventure

All through the auto show, you’ll see opportunities to take fun souvenir videos and photos. Want to create your own Kia hamster dance video, or take refuge from a dinosaur and bigfoot in a Subaru? You can do all of these things and more to commemorate your visit!

Catch an Appearance:

Haley Reinhart

During First Look For Charity, the Chicago Auto Show’s opening night charity gala, we were treated to a performance from American Idol alum Haley Reinhart. During the show, there are several appearances and autograph sessions from athletes, actors and even cartoon characters – click here to view the event schedule for information on appearance times.

Relax:

Infiniti Lounge

The Chicago Auto Show draws a huge crowd, which creates an exciting atmosphere – but it can get a little overwhelming, so make sure you plan breaks to sit down, rest your feet, and grab a bite to eat or something to drink. The Infiniti Lounge provides an oasis from the crowd with a nice place to sit down and take 5!

Experience the Chicago Auto Show

There really is so much to see at the Chicago Auto Show – I highly recommend checking out their list of interactive displays before you go, so that you can make a general plan of what you’d like to hit up while you’re there.

Ticket Information:

Adults: $12
Children ages 7 through 12 & seniors ages 62+: $6
Children under 6: Free when accompanied by an adult family member.
For information about discounts, this year’s food drive, and special reduced price days, click here.
Tickets can be purchased at the show or ordered online here.

Hours & Dates:

Show runs from February 14th through February 22nd – open 9 AM to 10 PM except for Sunday the 22nd, when the show closes at 8 PM.
Event schedule available here.

Location:

McCormick Place
2301 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60616

Follow the Chicago Auto Show on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest and get more info at ChicagoAutoShow.com.

Four Romantic Getaway Spots From Wyndham

 

Wyndham Hotel Group, the world’s largest hotel company, is playing cupid and has rounded up the best romantic getaways to get cozy with your special someone this Valentine’s Day.  Check out a few of Wyndham Hotel Group properties in a few romantic destinations below.

· Savannah, GA – When you need a break from your hectic schedule and want to slow things down, head south to Savannah to enjoy some R&R at Days Hotel Savannah at Ellis Square. Check out the four-block area of shops and restaurants of City Market where you can stroll among galleries, horse-drawn carriages and outdoor cafes. Need a date idea? Enjoy dinner and an unforgettable tour of the city on a Savannah Riverboat Cruise!

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· Chicago, IL – Head to the Windy City and get swept away with love! You’ll want to cozy up with your special someone at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront to see breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline. Plus, with ideal location just steps from The Loop – Chicago’s theatre and cultural district – there are endless date night possibilities!

· Boston, MA – Walk the charming cobblestone streets hand in hand as you make your way to Wyndham Boston Beacon Hill. Visit the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library with your sweetheart and peruse the artwork on display, admire the beauty of the architecture, and then warm up over tea at the library’s Courtyard Restaurant.

· Napa, CA –  Located in scenic Napa and just minutes from California’s famous world-class wineries, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Napa Valley hotel is the perfect choice for a romantic getaway. Take the Napa Valley Wine Train, less than a mile away, for a meal, gorgeous views of February mustard blooms and a one-of-a-kind experience.

The Family Friendly Malta

 

The small island nation of Malta offers visitors endless days of sunshine combined with rich culture and beautiful beaches. People who are looking for activities that the whole family can enjoy during their Malta holidays will really be spoiled for choice, kids will be amused and entertained while their parents unwind in style.

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Mellieha Bay

This stunning area of Malta is a great place for families to use as a base while exploring. Mellieha Bay boasts a beautiful beach where you take part in a range of water sports. The town offers plenty of family friendly accommodation options, while nearby Popeye Village was the set of the 1980 film and offers lots of activities that little ones will love.

Comino

Take a day trip to explore this tiny island, which has an enchanting sleepy feel. There is just one hotel on the island, so if you’re planning on spending the night you’ll want to make sure to book in advance. Children and adults can have fun together snorkelling in the island’s sheltered bays before taking a trip to Mosta to explore the enormous Roman church that features an impressive unsupported dome.

Cottonera

Kids will love this atmospheric island and parents will be impressed by the Folk Museum. It is housed in the fascinating Inquisitor’s Palace—one of the few of its kind that has survived—and features dungeons and torture chambers and a look into the religious history of Malta. The Hypogeum is the perfect place to really let your imagination run wild, as it features an ancient underground network of tunnels, rooms and caves, all of which have been carved out of the natural rock and are just waiting to be explored.

Valletta

Head to the tip of the northeast coast of Malta to explore this 16th century walled city. There are plenty of surprises just waiting to be discovered in the narrow winding streets that run through the city centre, including magnificent buildings such as the Auberge de Castille and the Fort St Elmo where the guides are dressed as knights. The kids can then let off a little steam in the Upper Barrakka Gardens, which offer magnificent views of the Cottonera and Grand Harbour.

Of course, these are just a few of the things that you can enjoy during when visiting. If you have young children, hiring a car is an excellent option here, as it will give you a chance to explore the island at your own pace. Malta is a beautiful country that shares the relaxed attitude to life that most countries off of the Mediterranean are known for, it is a perfect destination for a family wanting to spend some time together.

Oscar Nominated Movies & Their Travel Destination

The nominees are out! It’s Awards season again, and everyone is booking their favorite spot on the couch for a front-row seat to watch.  While it may be one thing to watch your favorite movies and celebs at the awards, what if you could actually experience some of this year’s nominees firsthand?

Before the big night on February 22nd, Booking.com is back at it, showing their respects in the best way they can – with a list of the greatest nominated movie-inspired accommodations. From Whiplash’s instrumental theme on the nightstand, to The Grand Budapest Hotel’s International destinations, Planet Earth’s number one accommodation site has scoured their database of over 580,000 properties to find the best room for this year’s blockbuster hits.

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Whiplash

Hotel da Música (Porto, Portugal)

Damien Chazelle’s drama follows the story of Andrew Neiman, a 19-year-old jazz drummer who is living his dream at Shaffer Conservatory, the best music school in the U.S. Portugal’s Hotel da Música is adorned from entrance to bed with musical notes and classical instruments. Even the lamps in this 4-star hotel will have you thinking soft melodies. So, while you can’t learn a new instrument overnight, there are hotels that will give visitors sweet sounding dreams.

· Part of Mercado do Bom Sucesso building, the design Hotel da Música offers a 24-hour reception 400 metres from Casa da Música Metro Station.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Emmerich Hotel Görlitz (Görlitz, Germany)

The drama, set between the first and second World Wars, follows the adventures of legendary concierge, Gustave H, and lobby boy, Zero Moustafa, at the famous Grand Budapest Hotel. While the movie is set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, much of the filming took place in Görlitz, Germany.  Located in the charming Görlitz Old Town, the Emmerich Hotel Görlitz will provide visitors with an authentic Zubrowka experience. 

· The hotel is just 200 metres from the Altstadtbrücke, which crosses the Polish border to the town of Zgorzelec.

The Theory of Everything

Hotel Maison Boutique (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

The romantic drama tells the life story of Physicist Stephen Hawking, from his whirlwind relationship with Jane Wilde, to his theories of black holes, and his debilitating ALS diagnosis. The Hotel Maison Boutique’s “Mission to the Mars” room allows visitors to feel as if they’re floating through space and time – maybe this is exactly what they need to understand the space-time continuum!

· The hotel is within a 20-minute walk of shopping malls Pavilion and Fahrenheit 88.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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The Pearl hotel (New York City, United States)

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s dark comedy stars Michael Keaton playing Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor trying to reinvent himself as the lead in a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story. NYC’s The Pearl hotel provides visitors with the true NYC, Times Square experience, similar to Riggan’s. 

· Public transportation is 2 blocks away at the 49th Street Subway Station which offers easy access to area attractions.

· South Central Park and Rockefeller Center are within a 10-minute walk from the New York Pearl Hotel.

What You Need To Know About Gold Coast Car Rental

The great coastal city that is located in the southeastern part of Queensland, the Gold Coast, is based on the eastern Australian coast. It is about 94km from Brisbane, and is a very elegant city. Besides the beautiful city, The Gold Coast also has a number of opportunities. You might be visiting for business reasons, and would like to explore the area in your free time, or maybe you are in town just to have some fun, explore somewhere new and partake in a few different activities, such as exploring the area, visiting the beach and perhaps even trying some water sports. With such a huge city, you will need to have a reliable transport system in order to get around. Here is a guide on Gold Coast car rental to ensure that you get exactly what you need;

Insured Cars

The most recommended, and flexible means of transport are Gold Coast car rentals. When you are choosing a car for renting, you will need to keep in mind that it must be insured. The insurance will be charged differently, according to the car rental provider. All in all, ensure that you pick a car that is insured, and ensure you look at local road rules too, to make sure you don’t get in any trouble.

Dual Transmission

In the Gold Coast, and Australia in general, you will find cars with different transmissions, and surprisingly you will find most of the automatic cars will be slightly cheaper than the manual cars. However, in some cases, they will be about the same price. Consider what sort of driving you’re likely to do, and how you feel most comfortable driving before you choose.

The Age Limit

In Australia, there are different companies that offer cars for rentals. DifferentGold Coast car rentalcompanies have varied age limits. Some will have the age limit of 25, while others will have an age limit of between 21 and 25. But for the age limit of 21 years, the cars offered are the smaller ones, with less power. The type and size of the car are what determines the age limit. You will rarely find a 21 year old with a heavy car like a Campervan. However, having a smaller car does have advantages. This is because most of the cars under this age limit are cheaper to rent.

One-way Car Hire

Gold Coast car rentals sometimes allow for the one-way system. Here, you will be able to pick a car from one location, then drop it off to a different location. However, these services must be confirmed before you drop the car off at a different location. Since this service is extremely convenient for travelers, it might require that they pay a little more for it but it is well worth considering. It also comes in handy when you need to hire a car when you are heading to the airport. You can pick them from the company’s office, and leave it at the airport, then the company will take it back to the premises.

There are multiple Gold Coast car rental cars available, and they range from big cars to normal saloon cars. They also have different specs- some are the four-wheel-drives, some are campervans and there are many different cars in between Whichever car you decide to go for, considering the insurance, the return of the car once you’ve finished with it and the different charges that car rental providers charge, will ensure you plan your car hire well and get the best car for your own individual needs. Enjoy your trip!

Eating Like Elvis: Dining at The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis

Arcade Restaurant

Travel & dining provided.

While I was in Memphis, Tennessee touring St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I had a chance to eat at the oldest restaurant in town: The Arcade Restaurant. The establishment, which is just a short walk from The Lorraine Motel, has been around since 1919 and now has a historical marker in front of it. Elvis was apparently a regular, and you can even order his favorite Fried Peanut Butter ‘N Banana sandwich:

Fried Peanut Butter 'N Banana Sandwich

I seriously considered ordering this so that I could say that I ate what Elvis got, but we were there for breakfast and for some reason, eating peanut butter first thing in the morning just makes me feel gross – I guess that’s a culinary quirk of mine! Fortunately, one of my pals ordered this and let me take a photo of hers! You know you’re dining with bloggers when several people are standing around taking photos of a sandwich. ;)

Eggs Redneck

I ended up ordered the “Eggs Redneck”, because I love biscuits and gravy. It did not disappoint!

Beignets

Another friend shared her Beignets and they, too, were delicious! If you’re going to Memphis, you won’t want to miss eating here.

Montgomery, Alabama: Historic Landmarks & Filming of “Selma”

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I’m reflecting on another trip I took last year. A month after I visited The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, I traveled to Montgomery, Alabama for an event with Hyundai. Because of the timing with my flight arrival, I was lucky enough to have almost an entire day to myself before my work event began. My hotel was within walking distance of so many important historical sites and museums, so I took full advantage of my opportunity to see all that I could.

My hotel happened to be right across the street from the Montgomery Visitor Center, so I popped over there first to catch the trolley. There, they mentioned to me that some roads were closed that day because Oprah was in town filming the movie Selma, which is now finished and hit theaters earlier this month:

Sure enough, when I got to the Alabama State Capitol, the road was closed to traffic and looked a little like a ghost town. I later heard rumors that Oprah and Niecy Nash were staying the same hotel I was at, but no, I didn’t run into either of them while I was there. ;)

Alabama State Capitol

These steps are where the third Selma to Montgomery March ended.

I got some snapshots of the Capitol building and began walking down the street – the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church is located right down from the Capitol.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

I was promptly caught in a downpour of rain, so I stood under the eaves of a building across the street for a minute until it passed.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church closeup

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church Sign

Dr. King was the pastor of this church and organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott from his office in the basement.

Rosa Parks landmark

I had intended to visit the Rosa Parks Library & Museum, but it was also closed in connection with the movie filming. However, there is a landmark sign right in front of the museum, denoting the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, and it’s pretty incredible to think about standing on the same spot. History comes alive in a special way when you get the opportunity to explore landmarks in person, so I was very fortunate to have this opportunity to visit Montgomery!

Remembering Dr. King: A Visit to The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel

National Civil Rights Museum

Travel consideration provided.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I wanted to share my experience visiting The National Civil Rights Museum at The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee last year. I was in Memphis to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and as part of our experience, we were brought to this museum.

St. Jude played its own role in the civil rights movement. Founder Danny Thomas was motivated to create the hospital after hearing of a senseless tragedy: A young boy was hit by a car in Mississippi, and when the driver picked up the boy in order to get him help, he took him to three different hospitals and was turned away from each one because the boy was African American. By the time he arrived at a hospital that would treat him, the boy had already died. Danny Thomas was so heartbroken to hear this story that he vowed to create a hospital where no child would ever be refused for their race, religion, or ability to pay. When St. Jude was opened in 1962, it was groundbreaking in many ways: By admitting patients of all races, they became the first integrated hospital in the region, and were also an inspiration for integration in many Memphis hotels, as anyone working with St. Jude to provide patient housing were not allowed to discriminate. Noted African American architect Paul Revere Williams donated his services in designing the original St. Jude hospital building.

By touring the National Civil Rights Museum, we were able to further explore this history. The museum is housed in The Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. The museum begins by exploring the start of slavery in the US and winds through time, taking us through Jim Crow law and onwards to the modern-day civil rights movement.

Standing up by Sitting Down

Standing up by Sitting Down

I Am a Man

I Am a Man

The museum is hands-on and full of interactive exhibits, such as a replica of the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. As you sit on the bus looking at her statue, an angry recorded voice shouts, “Move to the back”.

Rosa Parks Statue

I really appreciated how the museum pulled no punches, nor attempted to “Gloss over” the atrocities of racism. As you wind through the museum and watch Dr. King’s historic final speech, you feel a sense of dread knowing what comes next.

Room 306

There are many differing opinions on whether or not the site of Dr. King’s assassination should be up for public consumption in this way, and it is certainly understandable. As I did my own research for this piece and read more of the origin of how the Lorraine Motel became a museum, I have even more to think about.

One thing I can say is that I, personally, feel it is important that we do not forget the horrific parts of history. I feel there is a tendency for many to think back to all of the inspiring moments of the civil rights movement, while skimming over the fact that Dr. King was brutally murdered for his work and the fact that racism is still a huge problem in the world. As we reflect on the past, we can’t forget what was given up by those who stood their ground for what was right.

The Lorraine Motel

Volunteering at Dogtown

Puppies

Travel consideration provided.

In October, I had the opportunity to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Best Friends is the largest no-kill shelter in the country, and from its breathtaking location to its values and approach, it quickly becomes clear that this is a special place. Many people plan trips to the area so that they can volunteer with the animals:

I experienced a slice of “Voluntourism” during my trip to the Sanctuary, where I was assigned to the Dogtown portion of this huge facility.

Puppy Preschool

More puppies!

First up, I was given a tour of Puppy Preschool, where volunteers work with the youngest residents to socialize and train them. They work on building good habits and also acclimating puppies to common household objects, such as vacuums, that might give them a scare otherwise. Puppy Preschool is a good example of Best Friends’ overall approach working to “Save Them All”, by working to ensure that their puppies will have good behaviors instilled at a young age, making it less likely that their owners will run into problems and become overwhelmed later.

Puppies in preschool

To experience Preschool in action, my group was asked to sit on the floor at puppy level, at which point they released a group of curious puppies into the room to meet us. We played with and hugged the puppies, and watched a demonstration of some of the common household items that can unnerve dogs and how they can be carefully introduced to these things early on to prevent future behavior issues.

Curious pups

Skateboarding puppy

For the volunteer portion of my day, I was assigned to “Old Friends”, the area of Dogtown that houses older pooches. One of my jobs was cleaning down the dog doors inside their enclosures – a dog run that leads to a fenced in outdoor area with ample room for the dogs to run around and be dogs.

Dog run

I also had a chance to take one of the dogs, Captain, for a walk. Kanab is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in America, so every opportunity to take in the natural beauty was a special one for me; I can see why this is such a popular travel destination for those who want to take a vacation and give back at the same time.

Walking Captain

Some of the most well-known cases that Dogtown has taken in are the Vicktory Dogs, from the infamous Michael Vick dog fighting case. This was a landmark case for Best Friends, who lobbied for the dogs to be turned over to their Sanctuary. These dogs were at risk of euthanization due to public safety concerns; as I talked to one of the founders of Best Friends about this case, he told me, Everyone was outraged that these dogs had been forced into this inhumane activity – so the solution is to euthanize them? They were essentially being victimized twice. Due to their efforts, the dogs were spared, and 22 were sent to Best Friends. Some were court-ordered to stay at Best Friends for life, where they can live out the rest of their days enjoying the wonderful facilities provided to them; but many others were so rehabilitated to the point where they were able to pass a Canine Good Citizen test and, with the court’s permission, be adopted out to loving homes. It’s a pretty incredible story, and I got to meet one of these rehabilitated Vicktory dogs while I was there:

Vicktory dog

If you are planning to adopt a dog, this may be “The most wonderful time of the year” to do it. Through December 31st, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is offering an adoption fee of just $25 for dogs and cats. If you don’t live near Utah, you should know that some animals actually qualify for a free flight to anywhere in the US and Canada – it’s all part of Best Friends’ goal to get animals into permanent, loving, capable homes. Learn more about this offer by visiting BestFriends.com/HolidayAdoption, and don’t miss the “Happy Holi-dogs” video!

Belize Bucket List: 10 Things to do in this Beautiful Country #Travel

The Central American country of Belize has become a prominent travel destination in recent years, and for good reason. Besides the fact that it’s fun to say “Belize,” this country boasts some magnetic culture, breathtaking scenery and many activities for the true tourist to the club-hopper and social butterfly to the outdoor enthusiast and the historical adventurer. No matter what your taste, this hidden gem is not so hidden but it has what you need to sate your appetite.GaiaRiver

If hitting Belize is your idea of an exotic vacation, here are 10 places and activities to consider while you are there – because we’d hate to see anyone have any regrets of something they missed! Consider yourself informed.

1. Blue Hole. This is a world-renown diving and snorkeling site located in Lighthouse Reef and is about 1,000 feet long and more than 400 feet deep. This area got its 15 minutes of fame more than 40 years ago when Jacques Cousteau brought it to TV viewers on his popular marine exploration show. Some Belize resorts are actually located near the coral reef barrier, you might want to pick these!

2. Xunantunich. A very popular Mayan ruin which was known as a major ceremonial site for the Maya people. El Castillo Pyramid is located here, which is among the country’s tallest buildings at about 130 feet.

3. Altun Ha Ruins. This Mayan “city” located less than an hour from Belize’s international airport is one of the most popular due to its proximity. This city at one point housed 10,000 people and had as many as 500 different structures. The largest jade object found in Mayan ruins was located in a tomb here.

4. Belize Zoo. Started as a home for animals used in documentaries, it grew into an educational site when many natives knew little about the animals in their country (which makes sense, since most of the 125 native animals at the zoo are nocturnal creatures). This site is about half an hour from Belize City and near Xunantunich, so you could make a full day of two activities on this list.

5. Caracol Ruins. The largest Maya ruin, this one houses the largest building in the country, the pyramid known as Ca’ana, which rises 140 feet into the air and allows for stunning views above the jungle surrounding the site. And yes, you can climb to the top of Ca’ana.

6. Caves Branch River. You can either take a short tubing trip or ride a raft or kayak through a river that spends a good amount of its path underground! It begins in a cave and flows through several limestone hills amidst a dense forest for about 25 miles. A great all-day tour!

7. Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. This is something for bird enthusiasts to enjoy, and also those who wish to see species that have been globally endangered, such as the Mexican black howler monkey, American river turtle and Morelet’s crocodile, among others.

8. Dangriga-Hopkins. If you have interest in really seeing Belizean life and culture, head to this urban landscape and small village. This is known as the world’s largest settlement for the Garifuna – a people of West African and Caribbean Indian heritage.

9. Glover’s Reef Atoll. A very remote group of islands 70 miles away from the coastal Belize City, this is one of the world’s best diving and snorkeling areas because of the reefs, pristine water and great preserve of more than 100 species of marine life. It’s so remote, charter boats only make trips twice a week, so expect to spend a couple nights on one of the islands.

10. Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave. Located in the Roaring Creek Valley, this 3-mile-long cave has a stream that runs through it continually and it features a large chamber that contains intact human remains – including those of what is called the Crystal Maiden, an intact skeleton of a young woman who was sacrificed.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but no matter when you go, you should always make a point to put these 10 activities or place