7 Underrated Places in the US the Whole Family Will Love

Family Vacation Summer 2019

Family Vacation Summer 2019

While classic summer vacations like Disney, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Wisconsin Dells, and Cedar Point might all be fun, the options below take a path less traveled. Your family will make memories they won’t soon forget and you’ll find something for everyone.

San Diego

This pretty city has perfect weather year-round. The whole family will enjoy manageable summer heat with zero humidity.

The award-winning San Diego Zoo is one of the largest and most reputable in the world, and is a must-stop for families. You’ll delight in seeing the giant pandas, but the fun doesn’t stop there. The northern frontier area boasts polar bears and arctic foxes while the African exhibit includes leopards, rare baboons, and lemurs.

Families can enjoy some of the nicest beaches in the country with activities like seal tours, snorkeling with sharks, and surf lessons. You can also do San Diego sand-free at the incredible Children’s Museum, Belmont Amusement Park, LEGOLand, Balboa Park, and countless other small attractions where your child can explore his or her interests.

Miami Beach

Florida beaches like Destin and Saint Petersburg are a hit with families. So are North Florida family hubs like Disney World and Cape Canaveral. But South Florida has something different to offer. Boasting the most tropical stateside beaches, the snorkeling in Miami Beach can’t be beat, as you’ll easily spot tons of colorful fish and aquatic life.

When the heat becomes too much at midday, head indoors for more fun. There’s an exceptional children’s museum between Miami and Miami Beach not far from Jungle Island – a great indoor spot to enjoy orangutans, lemurs, sloths, and other jungle creatures. They also feature indoor sky-diving simulation, escape rooms, and more. The Ritz-Carlton at Bal Harbor also has a well-loved children’s beach club experience, but there are many other family-friendly resorts and hotels to explore, too.

New Orleans

New Orleans =swathed in beads and feathers for Mardi Gras is not the only draw to this warm and diverse city. While your family will undoubtedly enjoy the delicious seafood, Creole cuisine and French pastries, the Big Easy boasts much more than great dining.

NOLA is loaded with historical museums, beautiful outdoor experiences, and family-friendly music experiences. Gator tours will thrill kids and adults of all ages, the enchanting train garden makes for a fun adventure inside the botanical gardens. No family vacation to New Orleans would be complete without a romp through Storyland Park, which brings your family’s favorite characters and fairytales to life. New Orleans also caters to families with kid-friendly book stores, kid-focused restaurants, and parks on every corner. Your crew might be begging to stay forever.

Anchorage

Alaska gets a bad rap as a freezing cold arctic experience featuring moose encounters. While the potential for moose encounters holds true all year round, Alaska can be downright springlike. It’s a solid choice for escaping the hight temps of July and August. Stay in Anchorage, and plan trips from there to Alaska’s many outdoor destinations.

At wildlife hubs like the Sea Life Center, the Wildlife Conservatory, and Denali National Park, your family will get the chance to see – and even interact with – tons of native wildlife. Sled dogs, sea otters and puffins are among the protected creatures you might meet and interact with on tours, while luckier travelers will see bison, moose, reindeer, and even bears. Tours of all kinds allow you to paddle, hike, or cruise through the various ecosystems that make up Alaska’s unique lands.

In Anchorage itself, your family will love exploring The Imaginarium Science Discovery Center at the Anchorage Museum or the Nancy Lake State Recreational Park. Grab a Discovery Duffel at the botanical gardens, stuffed with challenges and activities for kids, and relax at a cafe or poolside at your hotel.  

Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is an eastern Tennessee town you may or may not have ever heard of. For those in the know, the Smoky Mountains bring all of the enchantment and mystery of the western US mountains to the eastern hills.

If you’ve never been, one trip on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram will blow your mind. This tram will give you a bird’s eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is as incredible as it sounds. Even better, the end of the tram will drop you and your troops at a mountain-town amusement park. In nearby Anakeesta, you’ll enjoy mining for gems and traversing the treehouse park. By the way, mom and dad, the views are insane.

Other attractions in the area include Dollywood, exploring the Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not Museum and playing with penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium, entering a dessert dreamland at Crave Golf Club and more.   

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Lake Michigan is an attraction unto itself, with the usability and accessibility of a freshwater lake and the size and waves of a coastal beach vacation.

While America’s largest lake offers plenty of spots to stay and play, Sleeping Bear Dunes is among the most unique. This area boasts forests and dunes that invite adventurers to hike, bike, ride, tube, or buggy. The lake also offers constant entertainment from wading, swimming, and sandcastle building for little kiddos to jet skiing, hang-gliding, and learning to surf for older kids.

For the whole family, this area is spotted with old-town shops, ice cream parlors, and at night, the Lanphier Observatory is perfect for stargazing and forgetting to check your phone.

Olympic National Park

For an all-in-one outdoor excursion your family won’t soon forget, head to Washington state and the Olympic National Park. This national park is one of the most ecologically diverse as it includes mountains, lakes, ocean beaches, and temperate rainforests. Choose to camp in one of many pristine and remote campgrounds, opt for a lakeside resort like the Quinault lodge, or grab a hotel in a nearby staple city like Olympia, Shelton, or Port Angeles.

On the west side of the park, your crew can experience tidepools, whale watching, and sea otter spotting at the Kalaloch beaches. To the south, dip a kayak or canoe into Quinault lake, then hike out to see the world’s largest Sitka spruce tree. On the north side, from Port A, take a casual hike through the Hoh rainforest, where spots like the Hall of Mosses, bear-sightings along the salmon-filled Hoh River, or one of many gorgeous waterfalls will enchant you. From Port Angeles, you can also take a short drive to Hurricane Ridge to see acres and acres of wildflowers peppered with deer, foxes, and elk with a stunning mountain backdrop. (This is a great place to snowshoe, sled, and ski in the winter, too!)

If your family loves the water, take a dip in Lake Crescent – this lake is free of algae and is one of the deepest and cleanest in the country. You can also visit Sol Duc Hot Springs for an any-season soak. The Puget Sound, to the east, could round out your trip and, for families with time, nearby Olympia and Seattle offer tons of indoor excitement, too.

Where will you be traveling this summer?

Pythian Market in New Orleans: A New Foodie Mecca

Pythian Market is a European-style food market, with 14 different eateries and tables people can sit at and share, in downtown New Orleans, Lousiana. Pythian Market photos.
Pythian Market is a European-style food market, with 14 different eateries and tables people can sit at and share, in downtown New Orleans, Lousiana. Pythian Market photos.

A new foodie endeavor has opened its doors in New Orleans’ Pythian Building. The Pythian Market Food Collective has become a gathering space for anyone and everyone that features local food purveyors, a fast craft bar, and retail vendors.

Since its opening in May 2018, Pythian Market has made itself a one-stop destination with an impressive variety of cuisines and drinks to try that accurately represent the diverse culinary landscape of New Orleans.

The market is located in the historic Pythian Temple in New Orleans’ Central Business District at 234 Loyola Avenue.

The temple was originally commissioned by the Colored Knights of Pythias in 1908, and it has been an “integral role in New Orleans’ early civil rights movement and was a place where the African American community congregated and celebrated,” according to Lisa Brefere, founder of award-winning F&B consulting firm Gigachef and curator of Pythian Market.

Brefere’s, and staff’s goals were to recreate this early notion of a gathering place. They wanted to reuse the Pythian Temple for its original purpose, and they have done this by creating a centralized hub of food, culture, spirit, and community.

Food halls like this have been delighting people in Europe for decades, now you can visit Pythian Market in New Orleans for the same experience.
Food halls like this have been delighting people in Europe for decades, now you can visit Pythian Market in New Orleans for the same experience.

The food collective has a  wide assortment of different eating places that feature locally-sourced purveyors who strive to consistently incorporate fresher and lighter ingredients and flavors.

The 14 independent vendors range from local brands that have a following, to up-and-coming new food concepts that seek to push the envelope of comfort food.

The unique offerings at Pythian Market include crawfish poutine from a Southern-meets-Louisiana comfort food spot Fete au Fete, the Hanover – oxtails stewed in a rich brown gravy with carrots and potatoes – from 14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant, Eat Well’s Vietnamese banh mi and phoritos (pho burritos), and cachapas – Venezuelan stuffed corn pancakes from La Cocinita.

La Cocinita has also been featured on CNBC’s Restaurant Start-Up, Food Network’s Eat Street, and the Cooking Channel’s Taco Trip.

One chef is taking center stage at the new Pythian Market. Chef Marlon Alexander has brought two fresh ideas to the food collective: Cru – raw and cooked specialty seafood dishes including tempura fried Gulf oysters – paired with craft cocktails and wines, and Poulet – fresh sustainable cuisine with an emphasis on locally-sourced rotisserie chicken.

Even those who are a little more conservative with their food choices will find something at the Pythian Market. Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from Frencheeze, wood-fired pizzas from Meribo Pizza, and traditional Southern barbecue from Central City BBQ are sure to cover the bases for anyone who’s not looking to stray too far into the unusual.

Craft drinks can be found at various locales throughout the market. Bar 1908 is the perfect stop for fast craft cocktails, local beers, and seasonal frozen beverages.

The Pythian Market is 11,000 square feet with 140 seats and combines contemporary and rustic themes that are reminiscent of the history of the building.

Find the perfect New Orleans Hotel at Bonwi, and get points you can use for your next vacation or business trip!

New Orleans Gets a New Children’s Museum and a Four Seasons Too

The dramatic Four Seasons Hotel and Residences on Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans.
The dramatic Four Seasons Hotel and Residences on Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans.
The dramatic Four Seasons Hotel and Residences on Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans.

Exciting developments are coming to New Orleans, Louisiana in the next few years.

New Orleans is officially becoming home to a new Four Seasons Hotel and Residences. This renovation will be located in the former World Trade Center located in downtown New Orleans. The revived World Trade Center building at the foot of Canal street will include 335 hotel rooms and 92 residences, as well as a grand and junior ballroom, restaurant, fitness room, and rooftop pool.

The Four Seasons will also house a proposed museum and attraction that will highlight New Orleans culture with wings looking out onto the famed Spanish Plaza and the Mississippi River. Plans for construction are pointing towards the building of an observation deck that will be a major attraction for hotel guests and city goers who will be able to purchase a ticket for an elevator ride to the viewing deck.

The elegance of the Four Seasons is expected; however, an added touch of stylishness can be seen during the evening when the entire exterior of the building is lit up.

The new Louisiana Children's Museum in New Orleans is opening in 2019.
The new Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans is opening in 2019.

This soulful city will also be receiving a new Children’s Museum that is working to change the New Orleans landscape by creating a major educational and visitor attraction that will be placed in a natural park setting. The Louisiana Children’s Museum is planned to be child-centered, family-friendly, and it will become a part of New Orleans’ topography in 2019 with its location in City Park.

The museum will be spanning eight and one-half acres with indoor and outdoor environmental elements, which will include decks, bridges, sensory and edible gardens, a floating class, and a restored interpretive wetlands area overlooking one of the well-known Louisiana lagoons.

The construction of the new children’s museum kept families in mind with its 56,000 square foot facility that will house five indoor exhibit galleries, a literacy center, and a parent and teacher resource center.

The Louisiana Children’s Museum design for the new site in City Park “will offer families a wonderful way to play, learn, and build essential life skills through hands-on, everyday experiences,” according to Ellen Galinsky, chief science officer and executive director, Mind in the Making, Bezos Family Foundation and author of ‘Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs.’

Find your own favorite New Orleans Hotel and use Bonwi points for an even better deal.

See what else is happening in New Orleans here.

New Orlean’s Jazz Fest Is a Great Reason to Visit The Big Easy

Jazz musicians in New Orleans. Ann Banks photo.
Musicians on stage during the 2017 Jazz and Heritage Fest in New Orleans. Susan  J. Weiand photo.
Musicians on stage during the 2017 Jazz and Heritage Fest in New Orleans. Susan J. Weiand photo.

Time to start planning for Jazz and Heritage Fest which is just around the corner, so why not head down to the jazzy city of New Orleans, Louisiana?

This year’s fest includes Aerosmith, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, Beck and many many more. The spring is the perfect time to get a more relaxing experience of the city, after the wild celebrations of Mardi Gras in February are complete.

Start your trip off with a stroll around Jackson Square, a picturesque park in the French Quarter. Take in the local artists and performers, while you overlook the Mississippi River. Jackson square is full of history, from the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Cathedral in North America, to the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments, which are home to oldest apartment buildings in the United States.

Once you’re done seeing the sites, check out the shops, museums, and restaurants that line the square. Stay close to the square by booking the Andrew Jackson Hotel on bonwi.com, for an average of $169 per night, and get 2,782 points in return to spend toward your flight home.

With GuideAdvisor you can learn about your next destination from a passionate and knowledgable guide.
Explore the colorful streets of New Orleans.

It’s not a trip to New Orleans if you don’t visit Bourbon Street. The famous street is the ideal place for a fun night out, filled with burlesque clubs, cool bars, and great food. Aside from the nightlife, Bourbon Street, like Jackson Square, is filled with history. Head into Galatoire’s Restaurant, which was founded by Jean Galatoire in 1905, for lunch to enjoy a fusion of French Creole dishes.

Walk down the street to have your ears filled with foot-tapping tunes, what the city is famous for. In the almost 200-year-old Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, enjoy the old-school side of music, where you can dance to live traditional jazz music every day of the week.

End your night by plopping down on your bed at the elegant, 4-star Royal Sonesta Hotel. The site of the hotel dates back to 1721 when the city of New Orleans was first designed by Adrien de Pauger. Opening in 1969, the hotel’s architecture embodies New Orleans, having an exterior to replicate the feel of 1830s New Orleans’ houses.

Booking a $179 room now with Bonwi gets you 1,313 points to spend at your leisure.

Reward Points Battle: Hotels.com vs. Bonwi

Las Vegas hotel rewards

hotels.com rewards compared to Bonwi

If you use Bonwi to book your hotel stays, you’re probably going to earn a big reward payback much faster than with other services. How much faster? Let’s compare how long it would take to get a free hotel room night from Hotels.com compared to Bonwi.com.

We picked three cities in the USA and assumed you had a budget of less than $150 per night. Then we looked at how many nights you would have to book to get a free hotel stay in return.

How the Programs Work

With Hotels.com, the rules are easy to understand: stay 10 nights and get one free. “The value of your free night is the average price of the 10 nights you collect.” Once you have completed 10 hotel stays, you can book whatever hotel you want at any time with the credit based on the average stay amount.

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple but that’s because the points you earn are variable. The upside is much greater. Instead of having to stay 10 nights to earn an award, you could earn a free stay after just two or three nights. See some real examples in this video.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

What Would You Get From 10 Nights of Stays?

Let’s say you actually do stay 10 nights in hotels over the course of several months. To check out what would happen in a real case scenario, we looked at real booking options for December and January in three well-traveled cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans.

Las Vegas hotel rewards

If you booked three nights at the SLS Las Vegas, you would pay the same at either site: $391 for three nights with taxes, but really $488 once you factor in the rip-off $32 “resort fee” that really should be included in the rate. With Hotels.com you would earn 3 credits of your 10, or 30% of what you need for a free stay. With Bonwi you earn 9,641 points. That’s enough to actually book another hotel already in Las Vegas the following week: one night at Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood, MGM Grand, or many others.

In other words, 30% of the way to a free night vs. 100% of the way there.

If we then book four nights in Orlando at Holiday Inn Express Sea World we’ll pay $304 total with taxes/fees and earn 9,321 Bonwi points. The Ramada Plaza Resort would be $341 for four nights and earn just a shade less.

At Hotels.com you would be four credits closer to your free night, but the average comes down because these hotels are cheaper than the one in Vegas: $74 or $101 per night. At Bonwi, once again you’ve earned enough to cash in for a free night in most cities, or you can combine the points with what you earned in Vegas  and be at close to 19K–enough for two nights somewhere or one night in a luxury hotel instead.

Then let’s say we have to go to New Orleans in January for a trade show. The official hotel is out of our $150 budget range, but either of the choices pictured below will do the trick. For each of them we earn more than 7,200 Bonwi points for our stay. At Hotels.com we pay the same amount and would have finally gotten to our 10 nights.

New Orleans hotel rewards

Yippee—we get a free night’s stay! But hold on: that free night is based on the average of what we have spent per night, which comes out to $102 if we picked  the Hotel Modern for this last stay and the Holiday Inn Express for Orlando. Their formula would be $341+$304+$378 divided by 10. You can now book a hotel with them that is listed for $102 or less.

With Bonwi, in contrast, we are up to 26,525 points earned from those same 10 nights. What can you get for that? Here are some ideas:

  • 3 nights at most Las Vegas off-strip hotels or at MGM Grand
  • One glorious night at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans (dollar value of $349)
  • Any plane ticket valued at $265 or less
  • A $250 gift certificate to Target, Best Buy, Amazon, or the Apple Store.

Your rebate value from Bonwi ranges from 25% to 35% depending on how you use the points. Your rebate value from Hotels.com is always 10% and you can only use it for hotels. With Bonwi you can use your points at any time. With Hotels.com they are useless until you have spent 10 nights in hotel rooms booked with them.

The winner in this rewards program battle between Hotels.com and Bonwi.com? Well, that depends on whether you prefer to earn a little or a lot.

New Orleans, LA: What’s Going on Louisiana’s Biggest City?

Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!
Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!
Instead of lurching down Bourbon Street, discover the swamps outside of New Orleans on a night tour!

New Orleans has always been party central while at the same time, is loaded with historical significance. It may be fun to enjoy the insane Mardi Gras festivities or peruse the various ancient mansions, but there is so much more to see and do in the Big Easy.

Audubon Park is located on Magazine Street in New Orleans and has almost too many components to list. From jogging and bike paths to tennis courts, a golf course, playgrounds, and even a lagoon, this lengthy park will keep everyone and anyone occupied. Not to mention the 58-Acre Audubon Zoo is just down the road and is home to about 2,000 animals!

Why not try a swamp tour…at night. The Honey Island Swamp Night Tour gives tourists the chance to take a chilling flat-bottom boat ride at night. Whether you’re scanning your periphery for gators, listening for the sounds of wild boars or learning about the Honey Island Swamp Monster, this unique tour will have you on the edge of your seat!

Take a New Orleans Aerial tour and see the sweep of the Mississippi river and all of the sites of the city from above.
Take a New Orleans Aerial tour and see the sweep of the Mississippi River and all of the sites of the city from above.

Speaking of tours, if you’re not a fan of water or you would prefer not to be so close to snapping gators, try an aerial tour of the city. New Orleans Aerial Tours & Flight Training offers a Big Easy Aerial Tour which allows you to view New Orleans from the sky while simultaneously learning about the city.

Take a gander at the twists and turns of the Mississippi River, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Louisiana’s many bayous. The Big Easy couldn’t look any more beautiful than it does from a birds’ eye view!

Should you plan on visiting New Orleans, here are some cool hotels that you may want to consider using.

The Ace Hotel in New Orleans may not be the only Ace Hotel in the world, but it nonetheless is a stylish and unique lodging option. The Ace Hotel in New Orleans sits in a former department store and boasts a beautiful hand-painted floor as well as voodoo folklore references in each room!

The Catahoula Hotel, a 35-room Creole townhouse, makes for a luxurious and authentic stay in New Orleans. The hotel’s café, rooftop terrace, and boutique coffee program may make you forget that the building has been standing since 1845, and will also make you want to stay in the hotel forever! 

The best thing about booking a New Orleans Hotel on Bonwi is that you get more nights free, using your Bonwi Points!