Best Things to See in Oxford

During my three week visit in the UK, I took the opportunity to explore the beautiful university town of Oxford on my way to the Cotswolds. I took a train from London to the city, which took less than two hours, and stayed at lovely Cotswold Lodge Hotel.

Teeming with amazing architecture and structures worth photographing, you’d need at least a week to truly explore Oxford. But with so many places to visit in England and not enough time to do so, I only stayed there for a couple of days. That was enough, though, to see some of the highlights. Also, not having a car and being forced to explore it on foot helped as that allowed me to end up in places I wouldn’t have thought to visit.

Here are some of the best things to see in Oxford.


Saint Giles Church Grounds – Only a few blocks away from my hotel, Saint Giles Church is located at the intersection of St. Giles and Woodstock Rd. It’s a small church completed in 1120, and certainly not one of Oxford’s most impressive. But it has a small graveyard, one of my favorite places to explore and photograph, a consecration cross, and a small park where you can sit for lunch and people watch, which incidentally is one of the best things to do in Oxford.


Martyrs Memorial – Directly in front of Saint Giles consecration cross is the towering Martyrs Memorial. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the monument was completed in 1843 in honor of the 16th-century Oxford Martyrs. It’s an intricate landmark worth photographing, and definitely one of the best things to see in Oxford. It’s also surrounded by steps where you can take a quick break in. And behind it is Saint Mary Magdalen, which also has its own little graveyard.


Balliol College – Founded around 1263, this beautiful college on Broad Street is certainly worth walking around in thanks to its hidden garden, courtyards, and beautiful architecture. There’s a small visitor’s fee to get in, but you can spend as much time in there and even take a quick peek at some of the interiors, including its Great Hall. It’s not as impressive as Hogwarts, but it’s still pretty cool.


Trinity College – Known for its long standing rivalry with Balliol College and for having produced three British prime ministers, neighboring Trinity College is also worth ticking off your Oxford list. It was founded in 1555, and boasts a few interesting landmarks like its beautiful chapel.


Bodleian Library – Bodleian Library is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and that fact alone makes one of the best places to see in Oxford. However, it also has some of the most impressive architecture in town, in my humble opinion. If I had the enough time and better access, I would have photographed every nook and cranny of this place.


Sheldonian Theatre – Designed by Christopher Wren himself, the Sheldonian Theater is another photography must stop. It’s very famous, not just for its architecture but also for the music recitals, lectures, conferences, and various ceremonies held by the University of Oxford.


Radcliffe Camera and Square – Didn’t I tell you that Oxford is so full of spectacular architecture to photograph? Out of all of them, it’s the neo-classical Radcliffe Camera and Radcliffe Square, also home to University Church of St Mary the Virgin, that are by far my most favorite.


Bridge of Sighs – Reminiscent of the famous Bridge of Sighs in Venice, this skyway near Radcliffe Square connects the Old and New Quadrangles of Hertford College. It has no historical significance that I know of, but it’s pretty to look at and also photograph!


Oxford University Parks – I didn’t really intend to visit the parks, thinking I wouldn’t have time. But while venturing off High Street, I got lost and ended up in one of the parks. So I decided to stay and explore. The university parks aren’t as impressive as say, Central Park, but it’s a nice, sprawling space to find some peace and quiet away from the tourists. There are some cute spots to photograph too, but more importantly, it’s great for running or doing yoga. If you’re staying in town for more than a few days, the parks are definitely a great place to workout in.


Turf Tavern Oxford – While hidden, Turn Tavern is a very busy place probably owing to the fact that many dignitaries have dined and consumed many pints of beer here. These would include Former Aussie Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Former US President Bill Clinton, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Blair, Stephen Hawking, and the cast and crew of Harry Potter during their Oxford filming. Come here before you’re actually hungry as you might have a long wait to find a table, and they won’t let you order unless you secure one.


Oxford High Street – Lastly, wander about along High Street for more photo ops and if you’re looking to shop or dine. And don’t hesitate to walk into any buildings that are open to the public. Who knows? You might walk into a pretty garden or more Instagramable spots!


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Hotel Review: Boca Raton Resort & Club

Why Go: It’s a timeless beauty that exudes elegance and grace as well as comfort and, of course, fun – the perfect resort for a Florida family vacation nestled away from the hectic hum of theme parks and cities.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club is a sprawling 356-acre property in lovely Boca Raton, Florida, with a year-round tropical climate and a grand, romantic architecture that features the Spanish-Mediterranean, Moorish, Gothic and contemporary styles, that feels very much like the quintessential Southern retreat.

The family-friendly Waldorf Astoria resort has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings as the Cloister Inn, earning its place as one of the top south Florida luxury resorts today. It now features five great properties, each with its own character, modern amenities, quiet gardens, seven pools, a private beach, a luxurious, award-winning spa, 16 unique restaurants and lounges, and a plethora of land and water activities including the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator to accommodate the more active guests.

Getting There: The resort is an easy 30-minute drive from the Fort Lauderdale International Airport and about an hour away from Miami so whether you rent a car, hail a cab or request for private car to come pick you up, the choice is yours.

Getting Oriented: The resort is split into two properties – the Boca Raton Resort & Club and the Boca Beach Club. Boca Raton Resort & Club is nestled on the southwestern edge of Lake Boca Raton where the Gulf Stream meets the lake while Boca Beach Club is situated on an Eastern peninsula on the Atlantic side. Guests of either property can easily access both with the resort’s complimentary shuttle service, which runs every 15 minutes.

A Boca Beach Club SuiteA Boca Beach Club Suite (Courtesy Hilton)

Room Options: Boca Raton Resort & Club has 1,047 deluxe guestrooms, housed in its five properties – the Cloister, the Yacht Club, the Tower, the recently renovated Boca Beach Club, and the Bungalows. Each room features the usual modern and family-friendly amenities like flat screen TVs, cable, WiFi, coffee maker, mini bar and bathrobes, as well as beautiful furnishings and accents, which vary depending on the property.

In-room highlights in the Cloister include rainfall showers, winged rattan and leather headboards, and mahogany-topped desk while rooms and suites at the Tower (the tallest building in Boca Raton) offer expansive views of the Intracoastal Waterway or the golf course and Atlantic Ocean. Luxurious guest rooms at the Boca Beach Club feature granite counter tops and vanities, separate tub and shower, and black-out curtains.

Best of all, large and multi-generational families can spend some quality time together but still spread out and enjoy the space, thanks to the resort’s connecting rooms and 187 suites.

Just for Kids: The award-winning resort, voted as one of the “Greatest Hotels in the World” by Travel + Leisure, is not just a place to relax and unwind. It’s also a great place to stay active, thanks to its family-friendly recreational offerings, particularly South Florida’s first Flow House that features the dual-sided FLOWRIDER.

FLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club's new and popular attractionFLOWRIDER, Boca Raton Resort & Club’s new and popular attraction (Courtesy Hilton)

Since its launch in December 2014, the FLOWRIDER wave simulator has been a big hit with kids (and adults too!), providing a safe and fun environment for surfing and body surfing beginners as well as a place for non-beginners to practice their skills when surfing conditions aren’t optimal. Surf and private lessons are available, should you and the kids wish to learn from the experts while night surfing and Glow Flow Black-Light Surfing (Saturdays from 6-9 pm) are available for night owls.

Take advantage of the resort’s “Live Like a Floridian” package for unlimited use of the new FLOWRIDER wave simulator and a $25 food & beverage credit. Valid through December 31, 2015.

Another kid-friendly feature of the resort is the super cool Mizner’s Quest Club, which not only provides a safe place for kids ages 3 and up to learn, play and discover while the adults squeeze in some R&R, but also keeps them busy and entertained. Depending on your preference as well as your kid’s age, your child can take advantage of the Quest Clubhouse & Arcade, the Quest Club Camp, the Golf Camp, the Tennis Camp, the Aquatics Program for the kids, and many more!

What to Do: A nice cool dip at one of the resort’s seven family-friendly pools, bodysurfing on FLOWRIDER, a round of golf, a game of croquet and biking are a few of the great options for those wanting to stay on land. Collaborating with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the resort also offers a Sea Turtle Hatching Program for animal lovers and future marine biologists.

Waldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & ClubWaldorf Astoria Spa at Boca Raton Resort & Club (Courtesy Hilton)

Moms and daughters will truly enjoy spending half a day luxuriating at the Waldorf Astoria Spa, considered one of the best spas in the world. The Ritual Bath at the spa, which treats guests to a glorious 50-minute relaxation ritual involving a variety of water treatments in an elegant balneum-type room, is an unforgettable experience. A soothing signature massage after is also ideal.

With Boca Beach Club’s private beach and its clear blue waters, water lovers have access to a number of activities and facilities, including a full-service marina, a Surf School that accommodates all ages and skill levels, a PADI Bubble Maker for kids who want to learn scuba diving, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, and snorkeling, to name a few. Swimming is, of course, essential for a complete experience.

Where to Eat: Foodie families will revel in the many fantastic dining options on-site (12 to be exact), and since there are offerings from breakfast to late-night snacking, guests wouldn’t have to venture far for nourishment.

For full breakfasts, Palm Court at the Cloister and SeaGrille Restaurant at the Beach Club offer hearty starts to the day. Don’t miss out on the fresh orange juice that’s to die for!

For lunch, take the kids to the Beach Club, order some terrific fish tacos or sandwiches and fruity drinks at Beaches Restaurant and Bar, and have a nice and laid-back lunch on the beach under the cool shelter of your complimentary beach umbrellas.

For dinner, try delicious Italian creations at Lucca, great sushi at Morimoto’s Sushi Bar, or meat dishes at 501 East Kitchen.

the bluethe blue (Courtesy Hilton)

During your stay, take the whole family up to the 27th floor of the Tower for an unforgettable feast at the blue where they combine superb cooking with a lovely ambience and sweeping views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Reserve a table just before sunset. Try the claw bar or the Oven-Roasted Maine Lobster. Not a seafood lover? Their Cider Bone-In Pork Chop is perfection and their Creamed Spinach is addictive! The service? Excellent!

For coffee, snacks and pastries, head to Serendipity. Cool down with their signature Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

Insider Tips:

  • Have some time before your next engagement or just looking to get to know the property better? Go on an interactive Mizner’s Quest and uncover the resort’s history, quirks and secrets.
  • SeaGrille Restaurant has more breakfast items for those looking for a good variety. Try their omelet station and smother that Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with cream cheese with chives.
  • With sommelier Roberto Colombi at the helm, the blue’s wine selection is nothing short of exceptional. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations based on your taste and preference!
  • Take a self-guided tour and see the many interesting sculptures across the property. Can’t afford to purchase and ship one home? The Baker Sponder Gallery near the resort lobby has smaller models.
  • Go for a night swim. All the pools on-site are heated to a very comfortable temperature, especially at night!

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

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Four Reasons to Take the Kids to Disneyland This Summer

When the days are longer and the temperatures are higher, many families make that journey out west to Southern California where the weather is always perfect, the beaches are glorious, and there’s unforgettable, assorted fun to be had everywhere you turn. This summer, spend a day or two at the Disneyland Resort with the kids during your family vacation to complete the experience. Here are a few great reasons why.

1) The Fun Doesn’t Stop at Nightfall

Just because the sun has set, it doesn’t mean the fun has to end. In fact, at Disneyland, family fun’s only beginning. After spending the entire day running around from ride to ride, it’s time to set-up shop on Main Street U.S.A. (or in front of the Ferris Wheel at California Adventure) to see the three new spectaculars that will dazzle both kids and adults.

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Paint the Night. Disneyland lights up with a river of some 1.5 million LED lights streaming down Main Street U.S.A from the new Paint the Night Parade. As part of the park’s 60th anniversary celebration, this parade of colors and lights is a one big moving musical party, featuring our favorite Disney characters – including Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Belle, Anna and Elsa, and Mickey – glittering and glowing from atop their illuminated floats. Kids aren’t likely to forget when a Disney princess blows them a kiss and will wonder how the performers seemingly control the lights on their costumes with their dance movements.

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Disneyland Forever Fireworks. A visit to Disneyland is never complete without the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but with the Disneyland Forever Fireworks, you’ll go beyond just watching the sky light up. Also a part of the Diamond Celebration, this nighttime spectacular transports you and your kids to familiar but faraway worlds without having to leave the park. One minute you’re standing on Main Street U.S.A. watching Tinker Bell start off the firework show, the next you’re in Ariel’s colorful world under the sea, in the middle of an animal migration in Africa, and in Arendelle with snow falling on your heads. After your magical journey, you’re transported back on Main Street for a perfect kiss goodnight.

World of Color – Celebrate! The Diamond Celebration extends to California Adventure and to one of its most popular attractions. During your visit, make sure to grab a FASTPASS for the nighttime showing of the bigger and better World of Color, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse. The new and improved attraction will take you on a nostalgic experience as it showcases Walt Disney’s artistic journey, featuring his early creations and his very first visions for the Happiest Place on Earth.

2) Your Favorite Rides Have Reopened… With Swanky Upgrades

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Haunted Mansion. Over in New Orleans Square, the kids’ favorite “scary” ride has reopened so families can once again experience the supernatural happenings in this ghoulish mansion. During your haunted tour, keep an eye out for the Hatbox Ghost as rumor has it that he’s back with a vengeance after a long absence!

Soarin’ Over California. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing California’s beautiful lands from up above? This family-favorite ride showcases everything the Golden State has to offer, from its irresistible Pacific coast to its rolling vineyards to its awe-inspiring High Sierra forests. And with updates to its screen and projection system, the ride feels even more real than before.

Matterhorn Bobsleds. Go on a bumpy ride, staggering down the famous Alps mountain, at the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which has also reopened for the Diamond Celebration. Watch out for the Abominable Snowman – he’s more ferocious than ever, especially after you come upon his stolen treasure.

3) Star in a Disney Musical

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

We all love to sing and dance along our favorite Disney movies, and secretly, we all want to part of those movies. At both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, you can let go of your inhibitions and just let your inner princes and princesses take over. Kids and kids at heart will have plenty of opportunities to partake in a Disney musical with events like the Diamond March-Along, which lets guests join a Disney parade, the Diamond Sing-Alongs, the Diamond Dance-Alongs,Dream-Along and the Diamond Mad T Party.

4) There Are New Collectibles to Be Had

One of the best things about visiting a Disney park is you can take home that magic with you in the form of Disney merchandise. Whether you love collecting Disney pins, ear hats or shirts, enjoy decorating your home with Disney home accessories, or the kids want to spend their “park allowance” on a huggable plush toy, there are Diamond Celebration merchandise and souvenirs all over the park to splurge on and remember your visit by. Additionally, you also grab some Diamond Celebration cupcakes at both parks to satisfy your sweet craving during your visit.

For a family-friendly hotel on-site, consider staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which features that famous Californian rustic and outdoorsy décor, themed pools with waterslide, special direct access to the California Adventure park, and early admission to the parks. For an off-site luxurious option, splurge at the beautiful and kid-friendly St. Regis Monarch Beach, which currently offers the “Monarch Magic” Disney package that includes chauffeured transportation to and from the Disney parks, four 1-day base tickets, a Mickey Mouse pancake breakfast for four and two 60th anniversary ear hats, as well as easy access to the beach for a taste of that irresistable California coast.

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

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Irresistible Reasons to Visit Jamaica This Summer

Yes, there are the serene beaches lined with colorful reefs, the lush forests, that nice tropical island vibe, those British colonial historical sites, and that unbelievable Jamaican cuisine that make Jamaica every bit irresistible to families looking for that relaxing and unassuming Caribbean getaway. But here are even more reasons for you to stop putting off your Jamaican vacation and scratch it off your family bucket list this summer.

Courtesy Visit Jamaica
Courtesy Visit Jamaica

Awesome Activities for the Whole Family… Including the Grandparents

From cultural tours to interacting with marine life to horseback riding, Jamaica has an assortment of offerings to suite every member of the family! Hire a tour operator to guide you on a hiking, bicycling or ATV tour, go horseback riding or water tubing, or go on a catamaran cruise around the island. Visit marine park Dolphin Cove and interact with friendly dolphins, stingrays and even sharks! Explore the island’s beautiful natural attractions like the cascading Dunn’s River Falls or the dense rainforest of Mystic Mountain. Then later, learn about the island’s history by visiting sites like the Green Grotto Caves and the Historic Falmouth.

Courtesy Hilton Rose Hall
Courtesy Hilton Rose Hall

Cool Down and Splash Around in a Water Park

Handy when you have kids in tow, water parks are among the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the Caribbean. And in Jamaica, it’s no different. Cool down and splash around with the kids at one of the island’s several water parks, including the Sugar Mill Falls Water Park, the largest one in Jamaica. Located at Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Sugar Mill Falls is great for both kids and adults, featuring waterfalls, lagoons, a 280-foot water slide, a jungle garden, terraced pools and a lazy river. And when you’re ready to relax, do it in style in a private cabana with your very own butler.

Courtesy Half Moon Resort
Courtesy Half Moon Resort

Accommodations to Fit Big Families

Multigenerational groups can rest easy and quite comfortably, with Jamaica’s fantastic selection of hotels and resorts that can accommodate large groups effortlessly. Several properties on the island have villas, manors and suites that feature several bedrooms to allow families to spread out. Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay has private villas with up to 7 bedrooms – kids can have their own rooms too, while Beaches Negril has suites that can accommodate up to 12 people! For an even more luxurious all-inclusive stay, Sea Island Villa is a 6,000-square-foot, six bedroom property that comes with its own staff (cook, butler, housekeepers, and night watchman) so you won’t have to worry about a thing!

Courtesy Visit Jamaica
Courtesy Visit Jamaica

“Meet the People” Program

For an educational and cultural experience that allows travelers, especially kids, to really immerse themselves in the island’s tradition, customs and way of life, Jamaica’s “Meet the People” program is a once in a lifetime opportunity that every visitor needs to take advantage of. The program allows individuals or families to meet and spend time with as well as engage in different local activities such as hiking and visiting a school or church with a local who shares their interests, making their Jamaican experience a more unique one. Best of all, it’s completely free!

(Originally published on

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Why Touristy Riviera Maya is a Must-See Paradise

First, head to the beach, the glistening beach, with its fine sand and its lapping, deliciously warm, blue-green waves and the occasional half-buried boulder that hides a massive iguana blissfully unconcerned with all the foot traffic around him. The beaches here, every bit as “Caribbean” as their Caribbean neighbors, almost single-handedly makes the trip worth every penny and every hour sitting in an enclosed space thousands of feet above ground.

Later, spread out and explore – the beach will be there when you get back. Upon closer look, you’ll realize there’s more to this popular vacation destination than its beaches and the overwhelming number of resorts.

Photo by Michelle Rae
Photo by Michelle Rae

Mysterious cenotes – some too deep to reach the bottom, inlets, and lagoons offer unique swimming opportunities. Well-preserved Mayan ruins, built around 1200 A.D. atop a cliff in Tulum, transport visitors back to a once glorious time. Exotic wildlife, both on land and underwater, present a chance to interact with nature. Aquatic and cultural theme parks like Xel-Ha and Xcaret provide fun recreation for both kids and adults.

And then there are the vibrant and ever friendly locals who greet you like an old friend coming home after a long absence.

Even beyond that, there’s more to experience. Venture away from the tourist spots and walk the local streets of Playa del Carmen. Have your fill of the best tacos you’ll ever have in your life. Try off-the-beaten-path eateries that serve cheap delicacies like authentic tlayudas and delicious kastacan. And, of course, brush up on your tongue-rolling Spanish.

Photo by Michelle Rae
Photo by Michelle Rae

There’s a good reason – or rather, many wonderful reasons – why families, couples, and singles, the young and the old, from many parts of the world, are drawn to this strip on the eastern shore of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. From its beautiful shores to its incredible Mayan ruins to its local haunts, the Riviera Maya is every bit a paradise.

Touristy, yes, but a paradise nonetheless.

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.


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