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Skip the Hotel: 7 Lodging Options That are Anything but Boring

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It’s time to mix things up. Whether you choose a house, a castle, or even a converted jail, thinking outside the box will reward you with a trip you’ll be talking about long after you return home. Take a look at some of our picks for unique places to stay on your next vacation.

Live like the locals and rent a house

It should be clear by now that we think that one of the best ways to experience a new location is to live like the locals. To really experience the local life, skip the hotel and rent a house or apartment outside of town. It may be convenient to stay at a hotel on Main Street, close to the popular attractions, but staying in town often limits you to seeing the area as a tourist. When you stay in the residential areas, you will have the opportunity to chat with your neighbors, visit the local grocery store, and explore the quaint little cafes that only the locals know about. From your standard 3-bedroom house in the suburbs to a penthouse apartment in Asia, there’s something to please everyone. Head to Airbnb or VRBO to get started.

Camp in style in a Yurt

If you want to be outdoors but aren’t sold on the idea of sleeping in the standard tent, consider a yurt. The yurt has been around for thousands of years, originally used in Mongolia. The structure has many key features including portability, a cloth roof, and circular shape. If you want peace and seclusion in the Colorado mountains, consider a yurt where you’ll have a fireplace, kitchen, and the ability to ski and hike to your heart’s desire. Looking to try a yurt but still have some of the luxuries you would find at a hotel? Try the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls where you will have a private bathroom, hardwood floors, and of course access to a luxurious spa.

Embrace your inner child in a treehouse

Sleeping in a treehouse is no longer just a childhood dream, it’s an adult reality. But unlike the treehouse of your childhood, these treehouses are not small constructions nestled in the backyard oak tree. Instead, some of the most luxurious treehouses feature amenities like jetted tubs, king size beds, balconies, and fireplaces.
If you want to relax and immerse yourself in nature check out this remote treehouse on the Big Island of Hawaii. The floor to ceiling windows will surround you with the lush greens of the island. If you are looking for something with more of a funky vibe, head to Canada and rent a tree sphere. Free Spirit Spheres offers the tree house experience with a more sophisticated touch. These houses feature a unique spherical design and are suspended by heavy duty cables. Choose one of the three designs and fall asleep to the sound of the outdoors.

Live like royalty in an ancient castle

If you’re traveling abroad, consider staying in a castle, because let’s be honest, who hasn’t dreamt of living like royalty at least once in their life? If you are looking for a truly magical experience, visit the Ashford Castle. Located in Ireland, this 800-year-old castle was once the home to the Guinness family. It now features 83 rooms, a world-class spa, and dining in its 16th-century wine cellars. Guests can enjoy a wide range of activities on the 350-acre estate. Take in a movie at The Cinema, enjoy a round of golf, or go ziplining.

Choose a lighthouse and fall asleep to the crashing waves

Is there really any more soothing sound to fall asleep to than crashing waves? Sure you can rent a hotel room that is kind of close to the beach and vaguely hear the waves in the distance, but if you really want to experience the coast, look into renting a lighthouse.
There are many options available. Stay at a bed and breakfast in renovated keepers quarters or be the keeper and take on duties like raising the flag, doing minor maintenance, and keeping a log. From atop the lighthouse, you will experience breathtaking panoramic views and see the ocean in a way many others do not. From Oregon to New York, it’s easy to find a lighthouse that will welcome you as a guest. Just be sure to plan ahead as room is limited and the experience is in high demand.

Spend the night behind bars

Did you know that prison hotels are a thing? In fact, you can find these unique renovations all across the globe. But these upgraded clinks are far from dingy cells, hard mattress, and questionable food. On the contrary. Take the Lawyer Suite at the Het Arresthuis just outside of Amsterdam. Chic decor, top of the line amenities, and onsite world-class dining will make you forget that this hotel once housed dangerous criminals.
Traveling down under? Do some time at The Old Mount Gambier Gaol in Australia. The high brick walls and bars throughout the building will give you a more authentic experience. Most rooms have been converted from actual jail cells. The rooms are small, as the original cells were, but they do come with additional amenities like electric blankets and private bathrooms. If you are looking for more space, book The Cottage or The Lodge, former homes to the warden and his staff. Don’t worry, this visit won’t stay on your record.

Experience tiny living in a capsule hotel

If you’ve ever seen the movie, Ready Player One, the look of a capsule hotel will be somewhat reminiscent to “the stacks.” Rooms are lined up, one next to another, one on top of the other. The capsule hotel is not your typical hotel room. It’s not really a room at all. Instead, guests stay in small pods, or capsules. Each capsule typically contains a bed, electrical outlets, and possibly a tv or alarm clock. There is usually a communal bathroom area and often a shared kitchen, living space, and sauna. The design is minimalistic, providing a simple, affordable option for travelers.
Capsule hotels originated in Japan. Today the hotels are found most prominently throughout Asia, but locations are beginning to show up in areas like the US and Russia. Though the same basic design stays consistent throughout most hotels, many capsules are being decked out in unique and fun designs. Book and Bed in Tokyo will make you feel like you are sleeping in the middle of a bookstore with each capsule situated behind shelves of books. The books are available for guests to purchase and each pod has its own reading light. The City Hub in Amsterdam goes for the futuristic feel with sleek colors, high speed internet, touch screens throughout, and it’s very own app to help users check in.
Keep in mind, a capsule may not be the best choice if you are claustrophobic, are traveling with a large group, or are carrying a lot of luggage. However, these hotels are great for solo travelers, business travelers, or lodgers looking for a quick, cheap place to stay.
Shake things up on your next stay. Choose an adventure above or find something of your own. Bundle up in an igloo, or resist the temptation to eat a house made out of chocolate. Get creative and have fun. Adventure can be had inside the lodging you choose, just as much as it can be outside your accommodations.

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6 Festivals in The Netherlands You Can’t Miss

From windmills and wooden clogs to LED and firecrackers, the Netherlands embraces its history and welcomes the future in festivals that attract people of all ages and interests.

Light Festival, Amsterdam

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Light Festival

The seventh annual Light Festival will transform the historical city center into an open-air light museum this November. The festival issues a worldwide call for concepts and works with the 35 or so selected creators on their exhibits. Designed to showcase the abstract and figurative power of light as a visual art, the festival showcases a young art form boosted by the LED revolution.
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Light Festival

The 2017/2018 exhibit included a huge digital clock that sped up, slowed down, and disappeared; a wave of light that illustrates the consequences of rising sea levels; an illusion of traveling through time; and purple slime mold overtaking a large building.
The best way to see the exhibition is by boat as the exhibits are designed to be reflected in Amsterdam’s many waterways. Winter visitors also enjoy ice skating in Dam Square and special Dutch treats such as stroopwafels (delicious chewy cookies), bitterballen (deep-fried, crunchy meatballs), patatje oorlong (numerous Dutch fires in a hot paper cone served with peanut satay sauce, mayo and onions), and their vast variety of cheeses.

Keukenhof

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Keukenhof Gardens

The history of Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century when a countess used the castle grounds for her kitchen garden. It was redesigned in 1857 in the English landscape style. In 1949, a group of leading flower bulb growers was inspired to use the estate to exhibit their spring-flowering bulbs. Since then, the garden has become a world-famous attraction and a celebration of spring flowers, particularly tulips, and one of the world’s largest flower gardens.
Here, more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Gardens and four pavilions burst with a fantastic collection of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and more. The range of colors and aromas is overwhelming.
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Keukenhof Gardens

The flower parade typically includes 50 floats and lavishly decorated cars. Huge blossoms and traditional windmills are popular themes. This parade in full spring bloom follows a 26-mile route from Noordwijk to Haarlem and passes the Keukenhof. Women like to wear hats decked with fresh flowers.
The Garden is easily accessible from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Plaza. Take the Keukenhof Express (Bus 858).

New Herring Celebration, Scheveningen Harbor

This festival celebrates the arrival of the New Herring in the Netherlands the second week of June. Fishermen in traditional costume board two ships, and wives in traditional dresses and headscarves wave goodbye from the quay. The ladies enjoy a high tea that afternoon. When the ships return, the largest herring party of the Netherlands begins with feasts of raw herring followed by a sing-along. About 200,000 people celebrate the arrival of the New Herring and most eat it raw.
Along the docks of the Scheveningen Harbours, the celebrations involve about 30 activities including shanty choirs, traditional clothing, traditional crafts, Old Dutch children’s games, a naval review, and more. Food revolves around raw herring. Herring are harvested year-round in the North Sea. The older the fish get, the fishier they taste, so they’re typically harvested further into fall and winter. The June “new herring” has a fresher, much less fishy taste than herring harvested later in the year. New Herring is celebrated all over the Netherlands, but the epicenter of the festivities is Scheveningen Harbor, The Hague.

Zomer Carnaval, Rotterdam

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Carnaval

For the largest street party in the Netherlands, head to Rotterdam for the Zomer Carnaval. More than 2,500 dancers, 25 carnival groups, and 30 spectacular floats take to the streets in an explosion of joy, color, music, and creativity. Its mission is to make everyone dance, and it rivals Rio in costumes and revelry. A queen is elected and feted. The Queen has to look good, but above all, she must be a great Latin dancer! After the parade, bands battle it out on stage for the title of the Best Brass Band of the Netherlands. They can be heard from miles away. Carnaval participants are a melting pot of various cultures, but especially from the Netherlands Antilles and Cape Verde.
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Carnaval Parade

Besides dance and music, the carnival is all about tropical food and drinks. All kinds of exotic foods and beverages are sold from hundreds of food stalls. Go Latin and try a roti (flatbread sandwich) or bara (lentil dumpling.) The city hosts many other events, such as music and dance performances and poetry readings, during the week before the carnival. Festival highlights are the free concerts at Hofplein Square on Friday and Saturday evening.

Sinterklaas, Amsterdam

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Sinterklaas Cupcakes

Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) is welcomed to Amsterdam with more than a half mile of boats and floats. It is the largest St. Nicholas parade in the world and one of the few on the water. He sails into Amsterdam with 600 black-painted assistants, holding his white horse and sacks full of pepernoten, small, spiced biscuits. More than 400,000 people line the canals to welcome him. He tours the town on his horse Amerigo and stays in town until St. Nicholas Day, flying over rooftops to deliver gifts to good children and coal to naughty ones. He frequently appears at schools, shopping centers, and parties. Families celebrate Sinterklaas’ Feast by singing songs and filling up on sweets like marzipan, chocolate initials, ginger biscuits, and hot chocolate with whipped cream. He departs for Spain with little fanfare.

Chinese New Year, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hauge

Chinese New Year

The Netherlands has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe, and most live in large cities. In Amsterdam, there are dragon parades, lion dances, and fireworks in Dam Square and Nieuwmarkt. De Bijenkorf department store hosts calligraphy workshops, music performances, and tea ceremonies. Also in Amsterdam, street markets serve Chinese foods. Europe’s first floating Chinese restaurant, the Sea Palace, is festive for the season as are the many Chinese restaurants along the Stormsteeg and Geldersekade.
In the Hague, Chinese festivals are held in the city hall atrium and Chinatown. Events in Rotterdam leading up to the event are topped by a day of celebrations around Wijkpark het Oude Westen and West-Kruiskade Chinatown. It is tradition to eat yu sheng, raw fish salad, for good luck and fai-hai, seaweed, for financial good fortune.
Who knew that “going Dutch” could be so much fun!