Category Archives: General

Niagara Falls – Which is the best side to visit – USA or Canada

One of the most common questions asked be people wanting to or planning to visit Niagara Falls is which side is it best viewed from, USA or Canada.

Whilst we are not going to directly tell you which side you should visit, as each has its merits, we will do our best to list the pros and cons of both to help you make an informed choice. We do have our own favorite but that’s our own personal opinion and it would be wrong to tell you outright one way or the other. We will explain the facts and hopefully all your questions will be answered.

So lets get some statements out there to begin with:

The view most commonly seen in photos and on the media looking across the Niagara river at the falls is the view from the Canadian side, other than looking at Horseshoe falls ( one of the three falls that make up Niagara Falls ) you will only ever see the falls side on from the American side. Now of course this is only true if you are planning on staying on dry land. If your not that bothered about looking across at the falls but you are planning on going on the Maid of the Mist then arguably the American side is better as the Maid is Based here, although she does pick up from the Canadian side also.

Goat island is within US territory and is only accessible from the American side. Whilst not on every visitors list, if its on the wishlist then accessibility should be noted. The Island is very much different from the Canadian park offering in that once on the island there is a selection of shop, restaurants and the Cave of the Winds Tour. Just like the Canadian counter part, it is free to access and take in the views of the falls.

Niagara Falls From Below - TravelammoBehind and down to the falls is something which both sides offer although they do have slight differences. The Canadian tour branded Journey Behind the falls offers trips down to viewing platforms emerging from the rock faces very close to the edge of horseshoe falls, the standard tour does not as you might think allow you to walk about freely behind the falls. The american offering, Cave of the winds begins with a similar elevator trip down inside the rock but the remainder of the tour leads you along many exposed platforms.

So whats the cost of all these attractions, well the most comparable multi attraction ticket at the time of this being published is $38 US and $55 CAD. Both get you similar entrances and privileges, the Canadian being Journey behind the falls, Hornblower Niagara cruise, Niagara’s Fury Experience,  White water walk and a WEGO buss pass. The American ticket includes the Cave of the Winds, Maid of the Mist, Aquarium of Niagara, Niagara adventure theater, Niagara Gorge Discovery center and a Niagara Trolley Pass.

What about viewing platforms. Well the Canadian side does not have one simple. It does however have the whole side of the Niagara river looking onto the falls so you cant get much better than that but the American side does have a dedicated viewing platform which extends out over the edge between American falls and the Rainbow Bridge.

Niagara Falls Clifton Hill - TravelammoThe towns on each side provide very different experiences. The Canadian Niagara falls is pretty much a giant tourist resort whilst the American side is pretty much like and other american city. Both sides have restaurants, hotels and plenty of souvenir shops. However, Mall shopping is most easily available on the American side.

So in summery both sides have about the same to offer, it will come down to what side you like the sound of the most, which country you are already in and maybe even where you can get the best hotel deal. It must be mentioned that which ever country you are already in, traveling from one side to the other is relatively hassle free for most nationalities, although please do bare in mind if you are a national or traveling from a country that does not participate in the various visa waiver plans you may need visas which will need to be applied for in advance.

Helpful Links:

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Ideas away from Disney when visiting Orlando

Vacationing in Orlando spending two weeks in the theme parks may on the face of it seem like the perfect holiday, often more so for the children in the group than the adults. What most people fail to do is take that rental car they spent so much on and explore further afield.

With so much in reach within a short drive it really is a must to get out of the city. The kids will never forget a day at one of the nearby beaches or a blast though the water looking out for alligators with an air boat ride. Of course this is also the perfect excuse for the adults in the group to relax a little.

Our personal recommendation is to at least hit one of the larger state parks like Fort De Soto located 2hrs away just south of Clearwater. State parks often are extremely inexpensive days out with fabulous amenities, the best beaches and what can beat kayaking around the mangroves then back to the shade of the trees to have a BBQ.

Lets not forget, the chances are you have spent a decent amount of your hard earned money on this trip, probably spent many hours travelling here and to not spend a few days exploring some of the great beaches, sights and city’s that Florida has to offer is a waste of an opportunity.

So lets list some ideas of whats within various drives of Orlando:

Within 30 to 60 minutes drive of Orlando:

  • Boggy Creek Airboat rides. – One of the most popular Air Boat tours within easy reach of Orlando’s theme parks.
  • NASA Visitor Center – Who wants to be an astronaut? everybody were sure. The NASA visitor center at Cape Canaveral offers the ultimate space experience on the planet, at least without leaving earth.
  • Cocoa Beach – Right at the end of the beach-line express way, this is the easiest of beaches to get to if you do not fancy a long drive.
  • Kissimmiee Rodeo – A great evening out soaking up the atmosphere of the rodeo in the open air, always a great show.

Within 1hr – 2hrs drive of Orlando:

  • Fort De Soto State Park – Vast state park south of Clearwater with miles of white sand beaches, clear waters, kayak rentals and more.
  • Clearwater Beach – Everyone has heard of Clearwater Beach, with good reason, not only is the place one of Florida’s best but its also super family friendly.
  • Cyrstal River State Park – State park with as the name suggests gin clear spring water streams offer tubing adventures and more.
  • Daytona Beach – Another of Florida’s famous beaches and the best bit, you park on the beach, perfect for a family beach day.
  • Daytona Speedway – One of Americas most famous Opal speedway tracks, hosts tours and check out race dates for the ultimate day out.

For a little longer adventure or an over night stay away from Orlando you could try the following:

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Ski in Scotland this winter – A guide to where

A Skiing holiday may seem like an extremely expensive idea but for folks in the UK there is somewhere close to home without the expense of travelling abroad that is often over looked. Yes, Skiing and Snowboarding in Scotland is a big thing and believe it or not it offers the same services and facilities as all of the large Ski resorts in Europe or North America.

Why not have a Ski lesson with the children next half term

So the Scotland`s Mountains are not as large and the season sometimes not as long but many would not know that there are seasons where Skiing in Scotland is possible right through to May. It has to be mentioned though that Scotland’s landscape is equally as amazing and picturesque and you will be guaranteed that with much smaller resorts you will be afforded more space and often a more relaxed time on piste.

So where can i Ski and Snowboard in Scotland ?

The Lecth Ski Area: Located to the east of the Cairngorm National Park along the A939 the Lecth is in a rather remote location by comparison to other ski resorts on Scotland although at an elevation of over 600m the season can be relatively long. Set in a valley the lifts and slopes run down to the road where you will find the Ski lodge, Shop and Ski school. With lift pass in hand you can go park and get on a lift only meters from your car.

The Nevis Range: On the northern side of Ben Nevis the Nevis Range is located off the A82 just north of Fort William. Set in the sights of the highest peak in the UK the Ski resort offers full facilities with a spectacular back drop.

Glencoe Mountain Ski Area: The Oldest of the UKs Ski resorts Glencoe is also one of the smaller ski areas with 8 lifts and 20 runs. Located just off the A82 it is relatively close to the Nevis range so it is possible to enjoy both if you are staying in the area for a few days. Full facilities are available and the season is somewhat similar to the Nevis range.

Glenshee Ski Area: The Largest of all of Scotlands Ski resorts with 22 lifts and 36 runs ranging from beginner to extreme. Glenshee is located on the southern edge of the Cairngorm National park and is the closest resort to the cities of Perth and Dundee. Extensive facilities, Mountain lodge, rentals and Ski school are all available on site.

ski-scotland-travelammoCairngorm Mountain Ski Area: With 38 runs, 11 lifts and the Funicular Railway the Ski area is accessed via Avimore. Cairngome is probably one of the most popular Ski Centers in Scotland. Set among the beautiful peaks of the Cairngorm National park the well equipped area is the closest to you will probably get to experiencing the Alpine feel. Avimore itself has almost an alpine resort feel with trendy skate and ski shops, restaurants and cabins.

How long and when is Scotland Ski season ?

In general the season starts between early to mid November and December, however when the season starts at each location will vary from one another and of course shall be dependent on the weather. All locations have all the modern snow grooming equipment that any piste in the world has and even more. With snow makers on hand to top up the snow should it be needed you can be assured, as soon as a few runs can be opened they will get them open even if not all of them. Obviously prevailing weather dependent the season often comes to a close towards the end of march however they have been known to extend right through to may on the higher runs.

Is there Ski Schools in Scotland ?

There certainly is, and like their larger foreign counterparts, Scotland’s Ski Schools are extremely well equipped and recruit some of the best ski instructors in the world. All Ski schools have lessons available from a few hours right up to a full weeks and most will offer private lessons for families should you all wish to learn together.

How do the Costs compare ?

Obviously as with anywhere the costs associated with Skiing can vary greatly depending on lots of factors like do you need to hire equipment, do you need instruction and if you wish to by a days lift pass or a weeks. As an example at the Lecth an Adult Single day lift pass and equipment hire is just £52, Lift pass only is £30.

Where is best to stay when Skiing in Scotland:

Accommodation around the Lecth Ski Area is fairly remote an although the local area offers a few B&Bs and Pubs with rooms, if your looking for a hotel you will have to stay around 20-30 miles away in either Speybridge or even Avimore. Of course there are many Holiday parks around offer log cabins for rent but again these will at least be a 30 minute drive away.

Cairngorm Mountain Ski Area Is extremely close to Avimore which has everything from Large Log Cabin resorts to full service hotels from Hilton. By far the most popular area during the winter months there are plenty of rentals and hotel rooms on offer but it is advisable to get booking during school holidays in early.

Fort William is the closest town to The Nevis Range and has several hotels although for a wider choice travelling a few miles away there are many hotels, hostels and B&Bs located throughout the area.

Glenshee Ski Area is popular with holiday makers basing themselves in either Perth or Dundee where almost ever type of accommodation is available.

The Glencoe Mountain Ski Area is located not to far from Fort William and of course Glencoe where larger hotel type accommodation can be found. Being on one of the main roads north on the west coast many of the small villages have excellent pubs with rooms, hostels and B&Bs available.

Check out the latest Scotland Ski conditions at the official Visit Scotland website.

Remember, most of these areas are open for summer sports also including hill climbing and Mountain Biking.

External Links:

Looking for other holiday ideas whilst in Scotland or accommodation? see our main Scotland page for more great ideas.

Whats the best beach in Key West – Florida

With a over a million tourists visiting Key West every year one of the most common questions is which is the best beach to visit whilst in Key West. As the majority of visitors to Key west are only in town for a few days it is important to know where to go to maximize your time. Key west can be busy and although small you can easily spend a few hours in a car trying to find the perfect location.

So where are the beaches in Key West FL ?

Well firstly lets start by saying there as not as many as you may think, well in terms of public beaches. There are several hotels with private beaches and we will mention these but first we list Key Wests public beaches.

key-west-jet-skis-travelammoAll of Key Wests main public beaches are along the south coast predominantly located along the A1A. When arriving in Key west via the Overseas Highway US 1 turn left onto the A1A S Roosevelt Blvd and after a few miles and opposite Key West Airport you will find Key Wests first and longest of beaches.

Smathers Beach – Key West: By far the largest of Key Wests beaches, Smathers is often the most practical to visit in terms of ease of access and space. The beach is directly next to the road and on Street parking is available along the see front although this does fill up early in the morning. The Beach itself is mostly soft white sand and lined with palms,  the waters are clear and shallow although there are the occasional sea weed issue after a big storm. Smathers beach is also home to Sunset Water sports beach club where you can participate in Paddle boarding, Parasailing, kayaking and various other water sports. Vendors are often available selling drinks and snacks and washroom facilities are available at the western end of the beach.

Continuing along the A1A turning left into Atlantic avenue will lead you onto the second of the popular public beaches in Key West.

higgs-beach-pier-key-west-travelammoHiggs Beach – Key West: A medium sized beach but one that is extremely popular due to its location close to the old town and its beautiful white soft sand beaches and gently slopping clear waters. Higgs beach attracts a young crowd but is equally well suited to family’s looking for a lively beach suitable for children with good facilities. The beach has onsite restaurants, washrooms, vending machines as well as children’s play area and tennis courts. Behind Higgs beach is a large Dog park with ample facilities for both dog and owner.

Again further along the A1A at the Junction with Duval St there is one of Key Wests smallest but very popular beaches.

Southernmost Beach – Key West: By far the smallest of Key Wests beachs southernmost is probably not the best beach if you are looking to relax and sunbath. Although it has a small beach and clear waters it is best suited to a short visit and a drink at the southernmost bar to get away from the hustle and bustle of Duval st.

For the next and probably regarded as the best beach in Key West by most you will need to venture into town and head towards the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor State park. The Entrance to the park is well sign posted but can be found at the following Southard St westwards until you find the park entrance. If you come across the guard house in the middle of the street and think you may have taken a wrong turn, do not worry, your on the right track, just proceed a little further and you will see the entrance.

fort-zachary-beach-2-key-west-travelammoThe Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – Key West: Our top pick of Key Wests beaches and for a small entrance fee you will gain entrance to the stunning and relaxed beaches, some of Key Wests best beach facilities and entrance to the whole of the state park. The Beach itself is accessed a short walk through the beautiful wooded area featuring picnic bench’s and grills available for free use. All this is only a short walk from the parking area where you will always find a space. The beach itself is a relatively steep slopping coral sand which leads into the clear waters which in general are protected by breakwaters and therefore calm when other beaches can have a surf. Fort Zachary beach also offers some excellent snorkeling opportunities around the breakwater rocks which are located about 40 yards from the beach. Around the breakwaters large colorful fish, sea turtles and a large selection of sea creatures await your discovery. If your lucky you may see large rays and small sharks on calm days.

Hotels with private beaches in Key West FL:

  • The Reach Resort Waldorf Astoria
  • Coconut Beach Resort
  • Casa Marina Resort Waldorf Astoria
  • 1800 Atlantic
  • Key West Marriot Beachside Hotel
  • Courtyard by Marriot Key West Waterfront
  • Galleon Resort and Marina
  • The Pier House Resort and Spa

Popular Tourist Attractions in Key West:

  • Southernmost Point Monument.
  • Mallory Square.
  • Duval St.
  • Ernest Hemingway House.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
  • The Little White House.

Nearby Areas of Interest:

Barcelona Beach Guide

There are several beaches that line the coastal sea front of the city of Barcelona, all of which have a very different feel although all are excellent in terms of quality and services and amenities on offer. To the northern end there is even a dedicated spacious dog beach with excellent facilities for dogs and owners alike.

llevant-beach-barcelona-travelammoAll of the beaches are generally of a coarse golden sand which is impeccably clean as is the water. The individual beaches are separated with rock sea defenses and beaches at the northern end near Diagonal mar also have under water man made rock formations which dampen the surf, obviously these are often frequented with families with younger children and the water around the groins is usually calmer and of a shallower nature.

Parking is available along most of the beach front although this fills up extremely quickly. When these are full there are several underground Car parks along the main road, just look out for the large green P signs.

Sant Sabastia: Starting in the south next to the W hotel is the first of the Barcelona’s beaches which is almost certainly the busiest with a youngish vibe to the visitors. Located next to the W hotel is the water sports area offering parasailing, jet ski rentals, paddle boards and kayaks etc.

Sant Miquel: Again attracts more of a young tourist although as with most of the southern Barcelona’s beaches the areas are very well suited to families looking for a more lively beach day.

Barceloneta: Much the same as the previous two beaches however being further north it is starting to get quieter by comparison to the nearby beaches.

Somorrostro: One of Barcelona’s smallest and often quietest beaches the beach is popular with outdoor fitness pursuits. Visitors are often a mix of locals and tourists of all ages. The water also acts as the entrance to port olympic so be advise to be cautious when swimming

Nova Icaria: Another small beach located to the northern side of port Olympic where many restaurants can be found both on the beach and in the port. This is one of the first beaches where the water is slightly calmer sue to the extended break water.

Bogatell: Being close to the Parque del Poblenou this beach offers the best sports facilities view beach volleyball courts, running tracks and skate parks. There are also various bars available.

La Mar Bella: This is Barcelona’s official nudist beach. If this is what you are looking for then it is recommended to pursue you bathing here and here only. The beach is lined with a large man made sand dune to prevent accidental offense to any passers by. The area is clearly marked as a nudist beach. La Mar Bella is also a common hang out for the local gay community, if fact the restaurant on the beach is called Chiringuito BeGay.

La Nova Mar Bella: Generally a family beach with calmer waters than the others. Users with young children may wish to remember the Barcelona’s nudist beach is next door when choosing a area to lay the picnic blanket.

Llevant: This is one of the smaller and quieter beaches, often frequented by Barcelona’s locals it is more of a place to relax and swim. Llevant is also the location of Barcelona’s dog beach which has its own perimeter fence, dog showers and bathing stations and from spring through to autumn there is often a health and safety tent.

Finally there it’s what’s know locally as the family beach. Technically speaking it is not a beach as it inside the marina. However it is a man made lagoon with pontoons and ladders so if your not a fan of sand this may be the place for you. This is located with in the Forum Park or Parc Del Forum and access is by  entering the park next to the Natural History Museum.

Facilities, Services, First Aid and Restaurants:

sant-sebastia-beach-barcelona-travelammoToilets and Showers: All of Barcelona`s beaches have showering and bathroom facilities which in general are well maintained however, we would advise taking your own loo roll and some hand gel in with you if you can so you are not caught without. Toilets are also available at the restaurants but it is not taken to kindly if you try to use them without making a purchase.

First Aid: Life guards are on duty most of the year round during daylight hours and there are first aid patrols on ATV`s with almost everything that could be needed. First Aid areas are well sign posted.

Restaurants and Bars: These are to be found all along Barcelona’s beach front although they are more common towards the northern beaches. The southern end tends to be more frequented by mobile vendors. You will generally find that beach sellers will pass you frequently offering drinks both soft and alcoholic.

Most of Barcelona’s beaches can have a relatively steep entry which can vary with the recent weather and tides however, the waters are extremely safe and most of the beaches have beach patrols by lifeguards and warning flags view able from all areas to notify visitors to the current conditions. A tannoy system will also warm of any immediate dangers or recommendations.

Safety and Crime: As with most large city`s crime is present and Barcelona is no exception. The area is well know for pick pockets and sellers with fake and imitation goods, for which there is a fine for purchasing from. The general rule is be sensible, do not take or leave valuables to the beach and certainly do not leave anything unattended. Crime is more prevalent on the southern beaches as these are in general the busiest with the youngest crowds of tourists. That does not by any means you can let your guard down if you are at a quieter beach. Police patrol all of Barcelona’s beaches often in large numbers.

Visit our Main Barcelona Page Here

Looking for Somewhere to eat in Barcelona, View our Eating out in Barcelona guide Here