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Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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Find Your Balance

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

by Malori


If travel provides a respite from daily responsibilities, then nature re-balances the soul. Spending time in the outdoors is uplifting and provides an energy seldom found in day-to-day life. Having just returned from a trekking adventure in Argentina, the goal I set was to create a special opportunity where we could explore the beauty of the land as well as some self discovery along the way.

After gathering the group in Buenos Aries and learning a bit about several of the neighborhoods that make up this energetic city, the next morning we got on a plane and headed south – three and a half hours south – to the bottom of the globe. We landed in El Calafate where the sun was bright in the sky for long hours each day and didn’t set until 11:00 pm. After all, it’s summer here in the Southern Hemisphere. Snow covered mountains, glaciers and lakes filled with flamingos were but a few of the many surprises awaiting us.


We spent our time in this amazing region visiting the Estancia Christina, reachable only by a 3 hour boat ride, passing icebergs and glaciers and highlighted by a pristine turquoise blue (we call it “amazing” blue) moraine lake. It truly took our breath away. The next day we were treated to the Pertido Moraino Glacier where we stood under absolute perfectly blue skies (a rarity here) and watched as this spectacular glacier calved, losing large chunks, the size of buildings. I call this “natures fireworks” and as we stood silently waiting, we’d hear a thunderous roar and then gaze giddily as we heard the cracking as we experienced parts of the glacier crashing into the water. We all clapped as if seeing a live theater performance. Although this glacier is neither shrinking nor expanding, this is the normal growth cycle of a glacier. We were happy to know that it was not a shrinking glacier as so many of the earths glaciers are. We hiked the trails from below and above with a picnic lunch along the way, and happily enjoyed the views from each angle.

With a three hour drive across the beautiful and stark Patagonian landscape, seeing little else but guanacos along the way (a cousin of the llama), we arrived in the trekkers town of El Chalten. It was here we experienced the heart and soul of our adventure and our most challenging trekking of our entire journey. Over the next three days, we embarked three different hikes within Los Glaciares National Park. On our arrival day, we set out into a beautiful landscape enveloped by meandering rivers, snow capped mountains and several different rock types including red rocks, granite, sandstone and basalt, a combination generally not found together. The windswept valleys were covered with clouds that have formations unlike those we had ever seen anywhere. Most were long flowing cloud formations in the shape of ribbons across the big sky. Others were wispy yet round taking on the shape of a spaceship. Under these skies, our journey began. We walked six miles through and beside the mountain valley to a waterfall. It was really lovely.


The next day was our most demanding. We set out early in the morning for our 11-13 mile trek. Backpacks filled with water, layers of clothing and snacks, our walking sticks in hand and hiking boots laced, we began our walk on the Fitz Roy Footbath to the Glacier of the Three, one of the most breathtaking hikes in the world.  Those who wanted the longer hike were challenged not only with an additional two miles of trekking, but going nearly straight up the side of the mountain, climbing 1,200 feet in only half of mile.  That means on the way down, heading nearly straight down.  The view from the top was amazing and described by one of our passengers upon reaching the summit, “it was as if a curtain opened and the most incredible scenery on earth stood before us.”


The following day we were supposed to climb another 10 – 12 miles, but the unpredictable Patagonian winds and rain were starting to form so on this day, some of the group walked six miles while others did about eight.

It wouldn’t have been an adventure in Argentina without a visit to the wine growing region of Mendoza where Malbec wines are produced. Winding our way through the vineyards at the base of the Andes Mountain which form the border between Chile and Argentina, we visited three different wineries, tasting 12 different wines.  By the end of the day, we couldn’t tell which wine was which, but then again, it didn’t matter much.  Our wine pairing lunch was an amazing combination of gourmet food, freshly baked breads and desserts that were as tasty as they were spectacular to look at.  This was paired with a late-harvest dessert wine.


Finally, our last stop brought us back to nature where we visited one of my favorite spots on earth, Iguaçu Falls.  Imagine you’re at the center of an IMAX movie, and you are surrounded by water on all sides – and above you, and below you, and you hear the sound of the rushing water all around you – that’s the feeling you get in Iguaçu Falls. Visiting both the Brazilian and the Argentinean side of the falls, you get the full scope of just how massive these 275 waterfalls are, and how in touch with nature you are at that moment in time.  The feeling stays with you for a lifetime and the memories never fade.  Iguaçu Falls touches you in a way few places can.

I recommend treating yourself to a getaway in nature.  Reset your mind. Invigorate your body. Balance your soul.  And then be thankful for all the treasures we have on this earth.

Surprises at Every Turn

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

by Malori

Turning travel logistics into dreams: that’s what I do. Thousands of moving parts turn into a vacation of a lifetime through creativity, attention to detail plus a bit of magic.

Recently, I had the opportunity to create and lead a group to the exotic destinations of India and the United Arab Emirates.  These two countries offered unique experiences for the traveler and are, in fact, polar opposites. They are diametrically opposed in so many ways and the differences are apparent.

I love India! Its a feeling you walk away with. And it’s not just me. I’ve planned 7 trips to India for our Amazing Journeys groups. I’ve seen the faces and gleaned the reactions of over 130 travelers who came away from the experience with the same feelings. It’s just amazing! Even if you’re super well-traveled, until you’ve seen India, in my opinion, you have not checked off the world. You can’t complete your “world jigsaw puzzle” without having experienced India.


India has an ancient history. The architecture and history date back thousands of years. Palaces, ancient forts, art and treasures plus stories of the Raj and the Taj bring to light the history lessons learned. The collective favorite day of all of our groups is a visit to the incomprable Taj Mahal – it never disappoints! The culture is one of the oldest, the religion, too. Locals think a lot more deeply, bringing a religious base of Hinduism and rebirth to the surface. Every action has a reaction. Karma is a top of mind thought.

The population is one of the largest in the world at 1.3 billion. It’s one of only two countries who have populations over a billion. There is poverty.


India appears to be in a state of organized chaos. I didn’t make that up, many feel the same. Cars are driving on the opposite side of the street, elephants and camels may be next to you at a stoplight, babies and chickens and dogs may be sauntering across the road as your bus is about to meet them head on. And then there are the cows… you see livestock everywhere, including a goat wearing a sweater! In India, there is an explosion of colors in the beautiful traditional sarees.

Not so in the UAE.  The UAE was established as a country in 1971. Sure, the culture and civilization are old, but being there you see that it’s as if there isn’t a building older than that, with most being built in the last few years. Do you know that 25% of the worlds active cranes are currently working in Dubai?

The population is small, with only about 1.4 million Emirati citizens. The rest of the population is made up by foreigners who come over as workers.  This is an very organized country with lots of rules. The traffic is organized. There is a calm in the streets. The traditional clothing is very monochromatic with crisp white for the men and stark black for the women. The Sheiks Palace in Abu Dhabi sits in the center of the city and is quite impressive in its size and architecture, including its gold-leaf domes and private airport.

The opulence is inexplicable. You just have to experience it. And that we did. You can get a cappuccino with gold-leaf.  They boast the worlds largest mosque housing the worlds largest chandelier (12 tons) and largest area rug (over 60,000 square feet), the worlds tallest building, worlds fastest accelerating roller coaster, an indoor ski resort , a mall with a separate gold mall and shoe mall attached. Dubai hosts one of the largest New Years Eve gatherings.


Two countries, dissimilar yet each amazing in their own ways. And isn’t that what travel is all about? World travel allows you to see for yourself the beautiful differences each country offers and to embrace a world of memories long after the journey has ended. That’s why I travel.

9 Reasons to Travel to Antarctica

Thursday, January 10th, 2019

What do you most look forward to when getting ready for a vacation? Is it the sites you’ll see, or the fun and exciting things you’ll do? Do you long to explore a new place, or wish to get away from the noise of your day-to-day life? Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s no better destination to visit than Antarctica. It may seem like a long time away, but for those who have already signed up for our upcoming trip to Antarctica, the countdown to 2020 has already begun! We are looking forward to another amazing expedition to Antarctica and we still have a few spaces for those who want to join us on a truly amazing journey!  All of the trip details for our adventure can be found by clicking here and below are nine reasons you should join us on an Antarctic expedition.


1. The Cold

You probably weren’t expecting this to be first on this list, but there’s something about being in a truly cold environment that wakes up your brain. As long as you’re dressed for the weather (hint: layers), you’ll be fine; in fact, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you adjust to the temperature!


2. Adventure

Adventure is the very nature of an expedition to Antarctica. After all, you certainly don’t go to the Great White Continent to lay out in the sun! Traveling to Antarctica means kayaking, hiking, and exploring one of the most untouched destinations on the planet. When you visit Antarctica, you’re sure to have an experience you’ll never forget.


3. Part of History

Because Antarctica is so far away and has such extreme weather, few people have even visited the continent; which means, when you do visit the southernmost realm, you’re a part of history! Instead of traveling to established destinations, you’re discovering a remote region. Here, you’re part of the story.


4. The Most Remote Destination

The vast emptiness of Antarctica cannot be exaggerated. When you travel to the region, it’s just you and your shipmates; occasionally, you may meet scientists staying for an extended period of time. You’re not even in a location people used to live—not only has Antarctica never had an indigenous population, there’s no evidence to suggest anyone ever stepped foot there until the last few centuries.

5. Another World

Gabrielle Walker, an environmental scientist who has visited Antarctica to study the effects of climate change, describes the continent as being almost alien.

“The first time I went there,” she says in a video about her travels, “It was like walking on another planet. It’s just ice and rock—no trees, no plants, nothing else. No humans have ever lived there, so it really was like walking on the moon…”

Anyone who has ever been fascinated by the thought of traveling through space to an uninhabited world can find that experience right here on Earth, no spaceship required. Antarctica is your alien landscape right at home.


6. Wildlife

That uninhabited quality means the wildlife, particularly the penguins, have no fear of humans at all. They’ve never had predators on land, so they’re confident—and extremely curious. Traveling to Antarctica is your chance to get up close and personal with everyone’s favorite flightless bird.

In addition to penguins, there are also many whales and seals that live in the southernmost part of the world. If you travel to their feeding and breeding grounds, you’ll get a glimpse into their lives in the wild—something no zoo or aquarium can ever truly replicate.


7. Science

From a scientific perspective, Antarctica is one of the most exciting places in the world. It likely comes as no surprise that this is a prime destination for those studying climate change, but it’s also a favorite spot for astronomers. The clear air, stable weather, and absence of light pollution make the South Pole one of the best places in the world to look at the sky, which means scientists can take a better look at what’s happening in the universe around us. It also gives even casual stargazers visiting Antarctica a chance to see the night sky like no other place on Earth.


8. Icebergs

Even if you’ve seen icebergs before, you’ve never seen ones like those in Antarctica. As your ship draws nearer to the Great White Continent, the concentration of icebergs increases. These floating structures come in all shapes and sizes, and no two are alike—you’ll be amazed at the sight of dozens of icebergs surrounding you on all sides.


9. Photography

Whether you’re a casual hobbyist, or hoping to become the world’s next great nature photographer, Antarctica presents the opportunity of a lifetime. From the utterly un-shy creatures to the foreign and captivating landscapes, this continent will give you the chance to take some absolutely incredible pictures. The images you capture here will be unlike any you’ve shot before.

With such incredible beauty, awe-inspiring landscapes, playful wildlife and an amazing group to travel with, this is truly a trip of a lifetime!  We hope you will join us as we travel to this unbelievable destination!

Edited from Hurtigruten

Screenshot Your Travel Documents

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

 

Your mobile boarding pass should always be a tap or two away from your home screen. You’ve got a link to it in your email or your texts, or you’re sure you put it into Apple Wallet. But should isn’t always good enough when you get up to the TSA desk and the airport’s wifi is flaking out. Always take a screenshot.

Screenshotting everything is an indispensable travel hack. (On iPhone, hold down the power and home buttons at the same time; on Android, it’s usually the power and volume-down buttons.) This way, the information you should have available will always be in your photos app. That said, your photos aren’t super private, say if you were to hand your phone over to somebody, so consider whether you want to keep that information in your camera roll long-term.

While you’re traveling, consider screenshotting:

– Any emails with a confirmation number (like your hotel booking)
– The addresses and phone numbers of any person or place you plan to visit
– Maps and directions, even if your map app should have that data available offline – you know better than to rely on should.
– Any important information that came to you in an email or text, or that requires a special app (even something as simple as a PDF reader) to view.

This is, of course, in addition to taking snapshots of street maps, signs, and any important piece of paper that crosses your path. Have everything in your photos app, and it will be right there when you need it.

 

Edited from lifehacker

Tips on Saving Money When Traveling Abroad

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

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Did you know that over 72 million Americans traveled outside the country in 2016, where they spent more than $140 billion? While much of that money was used to create memories that will last a lifetime, a portion of it went to financial fees that might well have been avoided.

Here are five tips for keeping costs low and managing your money during your next trip abroad.

Steer clear of transaction costs

Most credit and debit card issuers charge foreign-transaction fees, which typically run between 2% and 3% of the purchase price, as well as ATM fees. That might seem like a minor expense per transaction, but all those extra charges can really add up.

Look into the fees imposed by your banks and credit card companies. (The overall fee is often a combination of two fees, one from the issuing bank and one from the card company.) And note that even if you have a fee-free card, there may still be circumstances in which ATMs or merchants themselves charge a fee. Always check your card’s terms and conditions to find out exactly what fees you’re responsible for.

Find the best exchange rate

Airport currency kiosks may be convenient, but they also tend to be pricey, often charging as much as $10 for exchanging any amount under $500. Even so-called no-fee exchanges tend to make a profit off their highly unfavorable exchange rates. All told, Fodor’s estimates that travelers pay an extra 4% to 9% when exchanging currencies at such convenient but costly locations.

Cash withdrawals from ATMs are generally the best choice for day-to-day funds—but, again, beware transaction fees. Some banks impose a flat fee per withdrawal, while others do not and may even refund those levied by others.

money 1Watch out for “dynamic currency conversion”

Many travelers are enticed by the convenience and familiarity of receiving bills – at restaurants, for instance – in U.S. dollars. But this new trend, called dynamic currency conversion, often comes with an unfavorable exchange rate, transaction fees or both. So when asked if you want to pay a bill in the local currency or in dollars, go with the local option – unless you can verify that the cost is negligible and worth it, to you, for the familiarity factor.

Secure your information

Nothing ruins a trip like a lost or stolen wallet, so take a picture of the contents of your wallet, including the fronts and backs of credit and insurance cards so you can find all those important phone numbers to call in case of emergency. Keep a copy on your phone – or better yet, in the cloud – along with pictures of your passport and any other important documentation.

Also, be sure to activate fraud alerts for all accounts that offer them so you’re notified right away of suspicious activity. Sophisticated cybercriminals are often able to capture your financial information even if your cards stay in your possession.

Take advantage of built-in benefits

Before you book your trip, see if your credit or debit cards offer travel-related perks that can save you money or ease your journey. For example, many offer help with hotel and restaurant reservations, free Wi-Fi access on eligible flights, and even discounts on certain types of accommodation and transportation. Review your cards’ benefit terms or call your providers for full details.

 

Edited from Charles Schwab

Ask AJ

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

We get questions all the time about our travel preferences, our favorite places and what we like to do in certain countries, so we thought we would answer some of the questions here.  Take a look at the Q&A’s below and feel free to send other questions our way for the next edition of Ask AJ!

When packing for a trip, I can’t leave without my __________
Stacey:  Snacks and my camera.
Michele: AJ windbreaker and a bathing suit!  Rain or shine, always be prepared!
Erin:  A camera and comfortable walking shoes.  If I don’t have either of those, it will be a rough trip!
Malori:  Packing cubes! Especially for land trips, it organizes your suitcase so well. It’s like having a set of drawers inside your suitcase!
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My ideal vacation spot is ___________
Erin:  Anywhere that I get to experience a new culture.  Being able to interact with people from different countries and finding our similarities is so interesting.
Michele: Anywhere where I can have sand between my toes!  White sand in the Keys, black sand in Costa Rica, pink sand in Bermuda … it’s all welcome!
Malori:  Hiking in a majestic mountain setting dotted with lakes.  Take me to the Canadian Rockies, Patagonia, Switzerland, Alaska or Colorado and I will be beyond happy!
Stacey:  Anywhere with intriguing architecture and patterns to photograph – ancient columns in Greece, cobblestone streets in Ireland, intricate arches in India, lanterns in Vietnam, pebbled beaches in Argentina – always keep your eye out for a great shot!

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My favorite travel experience is ____________
Malori:  I call it my favorite day of travel and it’s in Cairns, Australia: hot air ballooning in the morning with kangaroos hoping below and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef in the afternoon.
Erin:  The day in India where we were driving to Jaipur.  First, we came across a roadside dance party, so we hopped out of the bus and joined in.  The same night, we were dressed in saris and henna for dinner and randomly joined in a wedding procession in the streets, complete with the groom riding an elephant and a 12-piece band marching us down the street!
Michele: Meeting new people and finding new adventure.  There is nothing quite like creating new friendships across the globe.  Travel provides unbreakable bonds with people you otherwise may have never met, embrace it!
Stacey:  Hiking the Inca Trail in Peru with an active group of travelers.  Hiking for four days, through countless different ecosystems (in the rain) and ending at Machu Picchu was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Although I am a professional traveler, I am still guilty of ____________
Michele:  Triple checking my packing list to make sure I didn’t forget anything!
Erin:  Leaving behind my “dress up” layers.  I assume that if I am going to Italy in July, it will be hot – I forget that if I am on a cruise, it will be chilly on the ship at night.
Stacey: Forgetting to pack pajamas.
Malori:  Leaving hotel frequent flyer points behind. I know I should be more fastidious, but sometimes I just don’t think about it like I do my airline miles.

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When I am in a new city, the first thing I do is __________
Stacey:  Drop my bags off at my hotel and explore the area!  I like to check out fun things to do, cool places to visit and the bar and restaurant scene.
Michele: Hit the ground running!  I love to check out the area and find a local café where I can sit and take it all in.  I enjoy meeting locals and hearing what they like to do most and go off the beaten path.
Malori:  Walk around and notice the daily life of the people in the neighborhoods. I notice the differentiation in architecture which sets one city apart from others in my mind.
Erin:  Stroll through town and get my bearings.  I usually explore the area, pop into a grocery store to pick up some snacks and learn what is around.

 

Highlights of Scandinavia and Russia

Monday, August 28th, 2017

Experience Adventure at Every Turn

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

 

Getting Back to Nature

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Do you ever feel the need to get back to nature?  Leaving the city behind and heading to the Canadian Rockies is a destination filled with more scenic beauty than most people see in a lifetime.  The majestic grandeur of the granite mountains on view before us had our group of 40 travelers in constant wonderment, enjoying one amazing view followed by another.

We began in Calgary, a metropolitan “cowboy town” that has flourished into a laid back city of about a million residents. What our group loved about being in Calgary was shimmery glass towers defining unique architecture with lots and lots of sculpture everywhere.  The rivers surrounded the town dotting it with lots of parks, gardens and green space, balancing out the cityscape.

Our next stop was to Montana and Glacier National Park.  On the way, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, once belonging to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe.  A fascinating look at how this society once survived using buffalo for food, clothing, housing and a variety of other uses, we gained insight into how these first inhabitants to the area lived.

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Soon the mountains and lakes started appearing and the scenery became vastly enhanced.  Looking out of the window of our coach, we gazed upon what we had come to see… snow covered mountains, set in the background of farmland and fields of green.  Once inside Glacier National Park, our full day tour in “red touring cars”, once known as Jammer Cars took us around the amazing sights inside of the parklands.  Waterfalls, long-horned sheep, the bluest lakes and streams and glaciers were what we had come to see and no one in our group was disappointed!  If you go, there are some cool places to stay within the park, and a few cute nearby towns such as Whitefish, or Columbia Falls (which has no waterfall, they just liked the name when the town was built!). A cowboy style barbecue (with real cowboys) on a lakeside setting was one of the highlights of our stay in Montana.  We loved taking photos of one of the most beautiful sunsets we have ever seen.

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Traveling back up north to Canada through BC and Kootenay National Park, crossing over into the province of Alberta and Banff National Park, the scenery was amazing!  We “ohhhh-ed” and “ahhhh-ed” our way through the drive until we reached Banff and our famous hotel, the incomparable Banff Springs Hotel, also known as the “Castle on the Hill.”  Built in 1907 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, hoping to get more people to take the train by building magnificent hotels in scenic destinations along the train route, this hotel is the original and has lived up to the high standards it was built for all these years later.  We all gasped when we saw the magnificent hotel waiting for us to explore for the next three days.  Evening entertainment, sitting on the patio with drinks in hand watching a late night sunset over the granite Rockies, walking to Bow Falls and the Bow River, and dining on yummy treats for dinner and breakfast were just a few of the things we loved about the property.  We all agreed it would be wonderful to stay longer.

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With Banff as a base, we spent the next two days discovering what we had come to see.  We took the Sulphur Springs Gondola high up into the mountains and had 360 degree views of the Rockies, Banff and the surrounds.  With breakfast at the top of the hill to start, we then climbed our way up and down platforms to see all that we could see, taking pictures all along the way,  Next, we were off to Lake Louise with the beautiful Victoria Glacier as the backdrop to this famous turquoise lake.  With the Chateau Lake Louise at one end, and the glacier at the other, there were miles and miles of hiking paths and trails in-between.  We hiked, we walked, we sat in the garden and drank beer or ate ice cream… everyone had an amazing day.

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On our last day together, we set out on the Icefields Parkway to take in what Mother Nature was offering up.  We stopped at Mirror Lake which was so serene and reflective, our photos are just spectacular!  Continuing down that road, we stopped for a visit to Maligne Lake where you will find the bluest waters in the world.  Imagine the blue on our Amazing Journeys logo.  That is the blue of the lake we saw!  Continuing into Jasper National Park, the piece de resistance was the Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier, where some rode on an Ice Explorer and played on the face of the glacier, while others walked on the Skywalk and walked out over the ice fields.  We all sipped on glacial waters.

A visit to the Canadian Rockies is always very special.  To experience such scenic beauty is something that sets you straight and lets you know that all is right in the world.

Close to Home Summer Getaways

Monday, July 24th, 2017

There’s nothing like a weekend spent in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  For our family, it had always meant the beginning of summer.  A few happy June days were spent at the hotel pool, HersheyPark amusement park and gorging on chocolate.  In Hershey, chocolate is available everywhere.  Upon arrival at the Mediterranean style 1930’s designed Hotel Hershey, you are checked in and greeted with one large chocolate bar for each member of your family.  Being handed five chocolate bars upon check in is a kid’s dream come true.  OK, I confess, it was a dream come true for me as well.

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The stunning pink resort sits proudly upon the highest hill in the otherwise mostly flat farmland surrounding this city.  It can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city.  It boasts one of the finest restaurant in the state, the Circular Dining Room, which serves an amazing Sunday Brunch with all of the yummy items that make up for best brunches, but what’s different here is that the waffles have chocolate chips, the pancakes are served with chocolate syrup, pancakes topped with chocolate shavings and there are chocolate desserts galore!

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Did I mention the spa at the resort?  Have you ever had a chocolate facial?  What about an almond scrub?  They’re not only delicious but so relaxing as well.

The town of Hershey is adorable with “kisses” for street lamps and wonderful little cafes and restaurants lining the main street.

The town of Hershey is about four hours from New York City, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.  It’s only 1.5 hours from Philadelphia and Washington, DC making it an ideal location for weekend travel.  If you’re looking for something to do this summer (or any weekend year round), this should be on your short list.  It’s one of my top picks for quick summer getaways!