Out-of-the-Ordinary Travel Ideas

Find interesting roadside attractions, bargain hotels, and even a museum dedicated to baked beans.

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Photo by RealSimple.com

9 Roller Coasters That Will Scare You Absolutely Silly

Ted Cromwell, creator of Coasterfanatics.com, has personally hit more than 300 of these undulating heart-stoppers. Here are some of his favorites.



1. The Voyage, at Holiday World (holidayworld.com), in Santa Claus, Indiana. The be-all and end-all of wooden coasters, this 6,442-foot-long course serves up nearly every single element that makes a coaster great: tunnels, unrelenting speed, lateral forces, air time, and giant drops.

2. Goliath, at Six Flags Over Georgia (sixflags.com), in Atlanta. With a high point of 200 feet, this steel coaster has mammoth hills that seem to go on forever.

3. Nemesis, at the Alton Towers Theme Park (alton-towers.co.uk), in Alton, England. Local building-code limitations on height forced the park to build the coaster in a trench. The tight surrounds amplify the speed.

4. Phantom’s Revenge, at Kennywood (kennywood.com), in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. In 1991 Kennywood broke the speed and highest-drop records with the Steel Phantom. After 10 years, the ride was modified to extend the drop and replace the coaster’s inversions with bunny hops. The result? An intense collection of speed and negative-G moments that will thrill even the most jaded theme-park veteran.

5. Thunderhead, at Dollywood (dollywood.com), in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. A wooden twister harking back to the golden age of coasters on California’s beaches, this ride features more track crossovers than you can count, and it flies through the station halfway along the course.

6. Kumba, at Busch Gardens Africa (buschgardens.com), in Tampa Bay, Florida. Smooth-as-glass transitions, seven inversions, and an aggressive layout make this steel thrill machine the top of its class.

7. Millennium Force, at Cedar Point (cedarpoint.com), in Sandusky, Ohio. When Millennium Force was introduced in 2000, Cedar Point was the first park to build a ride higher than 300 feet. After the massive drop, this steel coaster stays close to the ground and covers 6,500 feet of track faster than you can blink.

8. SheiKra, at Busch Gardens Africa. Opened in 2005, SheiKra became the first vertical-dive coaster in the United States, with two giant hills that drop you 90 degrees to the tracks below.

9. Raven, at Holiday World. It may not be a giant wooden coaster, but this bird packs huge thrills. With the view completely hidden by surrounding trees, you won’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into until it’s too late!

10 Airports Where People Watching Is a Full-Time Sport

According to Airports Council International, the leading airport trade group, the following are the world’s busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic.

1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

2. O’Hare International Airport, Chicago

3. London Heathrow Airport

4. Haneda Airport, Tokyo

5. Los Angeles International Airport

6. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

7. Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport

8. Frankfurt Airport, Frankfurt, Germany

9. Beijing Capital International Airport

10. Denver International Airport

Source: Airports Council International, November 2006.

6 Museums Where You’ll Never Find the Mona Lisa

1. Baked Bean Museum of Excellence (bakedbeanmuseumofexcellence.org.uk), Port Talbot, South Wales. In 2003 a wacky Brit (whose real name is Barry Kirk, but he had it legally changed to Captain Beany) converted his two-bedroom flat into a museum where he displays more than 200 baked-bean artifacts.

2. The Museum of Bad Art (museumofbadart.org), Dedham, Massachusetts. Forget MoMA―check out MoBA, dedicated to the collection and the exhibition of questionable artwork. Most of the collection has been moved to the Dedham Community Theater’s basement, just outside the men’s room.

3. Mütter Museum, at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia (collphyphil.org). Housing Dr. Thomas Mütter’s astonishing personal collection of off-the-charts anatomical and pathological oddities, the Mütter Museum has the liver (preserved in a jar) belonging to the famous Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker.

4. London’s Fan Museum (fan-museum.org), Greenwich, England. Set in two 1721 buildings, this jewel box of a museum is, in a word, fan-tastic. The only museum in the world devoted entirely to the art of fan making, it houses more than 3,500 mostly antique artifacts, some dating from the 11th century.

5. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets (sulabhtoiletmuseum.org), New Delhi. Bindeshwar Pathak, who considers himself a “sanitation crusader,” has traveled the world gathering key information on the history and the evolution of the toilet.

6. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (pharmacymuseum.org). Enter this French Quarter museum and discover the world of antiquated medical devices and the art of voodoo. Keep an eye out for jars of leeches. The tonsil guillotine will leave you, well, speechless.

8 Museums Where You Will See Classic Canvases

1. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Louvre (louvre.fr), Paris.

2. Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, Museum of Modern Art (moma.org), New York City.

3. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (museoreinasofia.es), Madrid.

4. Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery (uffizi.com), Florence.

5. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere (belvedere.at), Vienna, Austria.

6. Edvard Munch’s The Scream exists in different versions. The Munch Museum (munch.museum.no) and the National Gallery (nationalmuseum.no), both in Oslo, Norway, each own one.

7. Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers series: Among the many museums that display one of these masterpieces are the Neue Pinakothek Museum (pinakothek.de), in Munich, Germany, and the National Gallery (nationalgallery.org.uk), in London.

8. Grant Wood’s American Gothic, the Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu).

5 Entirely Free, Must-See Sights in the United States

1. The National Mall, Washington, D.C. Stroll the nearly two miles from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Even the most stoic tend to be touched by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which rises from the ground in a way that is both unnerving and uplifting. Visit during the Cherry Blossom Festival and enjoy the famous cherry trees in bloom.

2. Staten Island Ferry, New York City. Primarily used by commuters traveling between Staten Island and Manhattan, this ferry is a budget traveler’s dream. Take in the dramatic sights of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Ellis Island. And, oh, yes, that little thing called the Manhattan skyline.

3. Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles. Measure your hands and feet against those of cinema greats from Katharine Hepburn to Kermit the Frog.

4. J. Paul Getty Museum (getty.edu), Los Angeles. Although Los Angeles is known almost as much for its smog as its celebrities, the view from the Getty Museum is spectacular and reaches from the ocean to the valley, even on the haziest days. (Note: Museum parking costs $10.)

5. Multnomah Falls, Multnomah County, Oregon. Just 30 minutes east of Portland, Multnomah Falls is the second-highest year-round waterfall in the United States. It’s worth the effort to make the quarter-mile trek almost halfway up the waterfall to the bridge. Once there, you can pose for an unforgettable photo with the falls as your backdrop.

9 U.S. Roadside Attractions Worth Braking For

1. World’s Largest Twine Ball, Darwin, Minnesota.

2. World’s Largest Chair, Anniston, Alabama.

3. World’s Largest Pecan, Brunswick, Missouri.

4. World’s Third-Largest Cherry Pie, Charlevoix, Michigan.

5. World’s Largest Baseball Bat, Louisville, Kentucky.

6. America’s Smallest Church, South Newport, Georgia.

7. World’s Largest Basket (which is also a seven-story corporate building), Newark, Ohio.

8. Smallest U.S. Post Office, Ochopee, Florida.

9. Georgia Guidestones (also known as “America’s Stonehenge”), Nuberg, Georgia.


Courtesy of roadsideamerica.com.

5 Brilliant Bargain Beds

Chic, clean design at affordable prices. If Target opened a hotel chain, it might look like one of these five.

1. Nitenite, Birmingham, England. A 1½-hour train ride from London, in Birmingham’s city center, this cool hotel offers double beds, 42-inch plasma TVs, and luxury finishes. From about $83 a night, nitenite.com.

2. Qbic Hotels. This trendy hotel chainlet with locations in Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Maastricht, Netherlands, will reward early birds with the best rates. From about $94 a night, qbichotels.com.

3. Cube Hotels. If you want to hit the slopes in Austria and Switzerland without breaking the bank, check out this unique chain dedicated to sporty, active getaways. From about $88 a night in the summer and $130 a night in the winter, cube-hotels.com.

4. EasyHotel. With locations in London; Basel, Switzerland; Budapest, Hungary; and Larnaka, Cyprus, among others, this offshoot of low-cost European airline EasyJet offers bright orange rooms for rock-bottom prices (book early for the best rates). From about $40 a night, easyhotel.com.

5. Yotel. Open inside the terminals of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Yotel features tiny rooms with double beds, pull-down desks, flat-screen televisions, Wi-Fi, and downloadable movies. From about $110 a night, yotel.com.

4 Tips for Taking Album-Worthy Photos

1. Fill the frame. Take a step or two closer to fill your frame with the subject. A picture of your kids skiing shouldn’t include another skier wiping out in the background. Also, position the subject of the picture a little off center. “Putting the frame right in the middle automatically gives you a boring composition,” says Richard L’Anson, a photographer and the author of Travel Photography: A Guide to Taking Better Pictures (Lonely Planet, $18, amazon.com). Placing the subject away from the center creates a more dynamic picture.

2. Watch the light. For the most flattering light, take pictures in the first or last few hours of sunlight, says L’Anson.

3. Trade cameras. How many times have you returned from vacation only to realize your photos include everyone else? If you’re traveling with others, consider trading cameras for half the trip. That way, both you and the other person will get plenty of candid shots of yourselves.

4. Bookmark locations. Ever scroll through your vacation photos and come across a building you can no longer identify? Take a picture of the signage of a monument, museum, or historical setting before you take the shot. Then, when you scroll through your photos months later, you’ll have a record of what that important-looking building actually is.