In 2007, an international body polled more than 100 million people to name their favorite, man-made monument from a list of 200 nominees. After all the votes were counted, these were named the winners—aka the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” I’ve visited four so far and hope to see the others soon. Until then, here’s a summary of each.
Jimmy Buffett once sang, “Changes in latitudes change attitudes.” I mostly agree, although I’d include longitudes in the lyric if it rhymed. Here’s why.
Once while rafting through the Costa Rican jungle on the beautiful Pacuare River, my group rested halfway at this extraordinary lodge. On arrival, I beelined to the first hammock I saw overlooking the area. While swaying to and fro, I watched and heard the top-rated river do its thing. Enveloped in greenery, I spotted a hanging bridge off in the distance.
I’m rafting in the freaking jungle, I said to myself, not believing my luck. Moments later, my guide approached and commented on the impressive view as she had probably done a hundred times before. She asked where I was from. “Utah,” I replied, which excited her. “I just returned from Arches and Canyonlands National Park two weeks ago!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait to return to Zion and Bryce next year.”
Oh, the irony, I thought. The grass is always greener. Or in the case of my Costa Rican guide, the red rock desert is sometimes more appealing than the lush, green and mountainous rainforest I was enjoying at that very moment.
Green—Ireland’s been doing it since well before it was a buzzword. And not just for one day each spring in celebration of its patron saint. “In Ireland, everyday is bathed in green,” asserts the country’s visitor’s bureau. That’s no exaggeration. Thanks to heavy precipitation and its mild climate (caused by warming ocean currents), The Emerald Isle is a scientific fact.
It’s also a popular place to visit. When considering a trip to this photogenic and evergreen beauty, forget luck and consider these worthy itinerary entries. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “You need three primary ingredients to really see the Northern Lights: Proximity to the North Pole, maximum darkness, and clear skies. Fairbanks, Alaska has all three and more, making it one of the best places in America (if not world) to see the elusive Aurora Borealis.
“But Fairbanks features a lot more than just shimmering ribbons of light swathing across the northern night sky. On a recent bucket list trip with my wife, I braved the coldest city in America to delight in dog sledding, hot springing, arctic snowmobiling, and even reindeer walking.
My latest for Paste: “Sometimes a country is more defined by what it doesn’t have than what it does. Nicaragua is one of those countries.
“While it doesn’t have the shiny amenities, rave reputation, and tourism machine needed to attract a high volume of visitors, Nicaragua also doesn’t have the crowds, beaten paths, and routine experiences you’ll increasingly find elsewhere. Instead, it is refreshingly undeveloped. Because of this, Nicaragua is notably more affordable when compared to other Central American hot spots (including neighboring Costa Rica, which it definitely resembles).“
My latest for Paste: “How might travel change this year? Where are people going this year? And how can you save a buck on your next trip while moving about the planet?
“To find out, the folks at Expedia, the world’s largest travel company, surveyed 2000 people and paired their responses with the most recent booking data. Although not a foolproof way to predict the future, this approach offers an inside look at the purchasing behavior and changing tastes of travelers.
I wrote the song in the same hotel room I photographed for the cover art, while on assignment for Paste Magazine in Spain. It’s one of the darkest songs I’ve ever written. But since my optimistic self was the one writing it, the chorus is actually super uplifting. So I’m proud of the mixed feelings it captures, something all of us experience in our own headspace.
I’m also proud of the cover art, which is equally dark. But light is still beaming through the windows. Because there’s always hope. Lyrics after the break. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “It took a minute, but cruising is back. Although most liners halted their sailings over the last couple of years, all ships are now full steam ahead.
“The same is true of Celebrity Apex, the best-rated, recently launched ship from the ocean’s top-rated cruise line, according to passenger reviews. After being christened just before the pandemic, Apex basically sat unused for the better part of two years, before settling into its current Caribbean itinerary last fall.
“The week before Christmas, my family boarded Apex in fantastic Fort Lauderdale for a week of all-you-can-eat fun, island hopping (e.g. Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman), and sunny relaxation. Here’s what we liked most about the ship.”
My latest for Paste: “Since yearly records first began in the 1960s, no other continent welcomes more traveling Americans than Europe. Roughly half the size of the US with almost an equal number of countries as we have states, Europe is a convenient, safe, and diverse way to expose yourself to a lot of foreign cultures (and languages) in a short amount of time.
Thanks to a strong dollar, Europe is also a lot more affordable now than it’s traditionally been. As with all continents, however, Europe does a lot of things differently than we do here at home. Whether you’ve visited before or are planning your first transatlantic visit this year, here are some of the bigger dissimilarities you need to understand.”
It doesn’t make any sense. I’m looking at the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited on six different continents. That city, Rio de Janeiro, is a masterpiece of God, Mother Nature, or whatever force created it. Its lush mountains and iconic beaches are the crown jewel of Brazil, a country that includes two “Wonders of the World,” the world’s largest rainforest, and more natural and cultural diversity than any other country in Latin America.
Despite this, Brazil doesn’t even crack the list of the top 50 most-visited countries in the world. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: After years of traveling, not once have I heard the following: “I love Madrid!” A quick Google search confirms this consensus; the Spanish capital is notably absent from most “Europe’s best cities to visit” lists. In the two instances it was, the unassuming city barely cracked the top 40.
That’s not to say Madrid isn’t a great city. It’s rich, ornate, bright, pedestrian-friendly, and filled with some of the warmest locals and food on the continent. But not all great cities double as desirable tourist destinations.
Does Madrid? To find out, the generous folks at Land Rover recently invited me to drive their new electric Range Rovers through the city’s scenery, in between some of the top sights, and even on some outskirt off-road terrain. This is what I learned.
My latest for Paste Magazine: I recently read a quote that said, “I don’t want to leave vacation without knowing anything about the destination.” The implication was that travelers have some sort of moral responsibility to learn about the places they visit.
This rubbed me the wrong way. I say that as a lifelong student who usually devours foreign customs, culture, and ways of life while traveling. But sometimes you don’t want to do anything on vacation, and that’s totally okay. Sometimes you just want a break from daily routines, schedules, tasking, and commitments, and that’s wholly appropriate.
Whether you travel a lot or not, sometimes it’s refreshing to do absolutely nothing on vacation. No sightseeing. No local cooking classes. Just rest and relaxation. After a year of travel at nearly pre-pandemic levels, that’s exactly how I felt on a recent family holiday to Newport Beach, California.
The author at Badlands National Park (courtesy Lindsey Snow)
My latest for Paste Magazine: America invented the national park when it made Yellowstone the world’s first in 1873, introducing the idea that “extraordinary” land should be protected from public development and preserved for future generations. After visiting half of the country’s 63 National Parks, it’s obvious some are better than others. A handful of recent ones (Cuyahoga Valley, Indiana Dunes) seem downright ordinary, if not political, when compared to less prestigious but clearly superior state parks like Na Pali or Custer.
With nine total, California has the most National Parks, followed by Alaska with eight, and Utah with five. In fact, the western United States is home to over 80% of National Parks, even though just a quarter of the population lives there. This explains why The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee welcomes the most visitors, over 14 million annually, compared to Zion’s 5 million, the second most.
Wherever you go, if you only see 20 in your lifetime, make it these icons. Continue reading…
This thought came to my mind only moments before my first leap from the edge of a seaside cliff in Ireland. The fall was no more than six feet. But the swelling sea was angry, frothy, and splashing to and fro. Despite my mega-sized life vest, double wetsuit, protective gloves, and helmet, this massive tide pool surrounded by skin-cutting rock on all but one side looked like it would swallow me whole.
“Jump!” my expert guide commanded. Like many of you, I’ve been told to respect the ocean my entire life. Now some self-proclaimed authority was telling me to plunge into the worst of it. All in all, the conditions couldn’t have been any less inviting.
But like all good lemmings, I disregarded my instincts, trusted my equipment, and accepted the advice of my convincing leader. I jumped.
My latest for Expedia: “Everybody’s heard of haunted houses, but haunted National Parks? Surprisingly, these green, tranquil spaces are also often backdrops for gruesome ghost sightings and other petrifying paranormal activity. And we’re not talking about one-off stories or urban (or in this case, rural) legends. All of the below top the list of the most “haunted” National Parks in the United States – places with an unexpected dark side. We dare you to hike alone.”
My latest for Paste: I am drawn to canyons. Like the ocean, they make me feel small. Unlike the ocean, they show their age and literally wear their scars on their sleeves. This, of course, makes them who they are. But it also makes them interesting. So I travel to canyons a lot.
On a recent holiday weekend, I hauled my family to two of America’s most popular canyons—Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion Canyon in Utah. Given the rugged terrain, it’s smart to come prepared for more off-road conditions (I drove a Kia Telluride during our trip).
Transportation aside, these two massive canyons are only separated by a two-hour scenic drive, which makes them great for pairing. Before planning a similar getaway, here’s what you need to know. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “I’m lucky to have thru- and day-hiked some of the most remarkable outdoors on the planet: the Rockies and Appalachians in North America, Patagonia and the Inca Trail in South America, the Alps and Mont Blanc in Europe. I’ve even hiked the ancient Kumano Kodo in Asia, which is considered the oldest designated hiking trail in the world.
“But last month I hiked the most demanding (if not deadly) day hike in my life so far: Yosemite’s Half Dome, located in the soaring Sierra Nevadas of California. I stress soaring because, at nearly 5,000 feet tall, Half Dome is twice as tall as the Grand Canyon. In fact, at an average of 3,000 feet tall, Yosemite’s granite canyons are some of the most dramatic you’ll find anywhere in the world.”
My latest for Paste Magazine: “It’s amazing how colorful Cancun is on a sunny day, even if you’ve visited its beaches before. The ocean is a stunning combination of deep blues, cobalts, and teals—some of the most gorgeous you’ll ever see. What’s more, the celebrated city is home to more all-inclusives than anywhere else, which is partly why it’s such a popular vacation hop. (The other is Mexican affordability and American proximity.)
“With so many options to choose from, then, which resort stands out? As one of the very last a la carte hotels in Cancun to convert to an all-inclusive, Grand Fiesta Coral Beach is “new” in that it shuns the often pragmatic, systematized practices of traditional all-inclusives while staying true to its fancy heritage. Yes, the property is big and beautiful like other contenders. But the toothy staff are noticeably more attentive and personal, because they were “Hecho en Mexico” and clearly love their jobs.”
On Earth, 12,450 miles is the farthest anyone can get from home. Take one more step in any direction, and you will have started your return journey from the halfway point.
Until I visit one of these places (aka 45° meridian east), I came as close to that point as I ever have last month. The distance from my home in Provo to Durban is over 10,000 miles, where I began a life-changing journey through the motherland.
I should have grasped this impressive separation sooner than I did. Upon booking airfare, total flight time read over 22 hours across three flights. “That’s a long haul,” I passingly noted, before moving to other travel arrangements. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “This year I’m pretty sure I discovered the most convenient, if not affordable, way to island hop Hawaii. It’s called “inter-island” cruising and Norwegian is the only liner exclusively doing it. While other cruises incorporate a couple Hawaiian islands on larger South Pacific itineraries, Norwegian’s 7-day Inter Island Cruise aboard the Pride of America sets sail every week of the year from its home port in Honolulu.
“After port-hopping with my wife for seven days to Hawaii’s four most famous islands—Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and “The Big Island”—I’d use one word to sum up the experience: exceptional. As the only cruise ship in the world to fly a U.S. flag from its stern, Pride of America is a special, award-winning, and exotic journey into the heart of the country’s most fabled vacation destination. It’s like one big “Best of Hawaii” tour where you only unpack once while visiting five different ports and spending the majority of your time on land (no sea days here).”
My latest for Fodor’s Travel: “Utah does two things remarkably well. Its unique climate catches the driest, fluffiest snow in the world, which is terrible for snowballs. But it’s heavenly for skiing—like gliding on clouds. Secondly, it stars some of the most fascinating rock formations and canyons on the planet–the former is out of this world, the latter legitimately rivals the Grand Canyon. More than 60% of Utah lands are public, and about 100% (give or take) of those public lands are otherworldly, photogenic, recreational paradises.” Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “I adore John Denver’s “Country Road,” which is synonymous with West Virginia all over the world. But I never would have visited “The Mountain State” had New River Gorge not been named the nation’s newest National Park. Maybe I was a little prejudiced after learning about its coal mining mishaps, which left an enduring stain on the otherwise beautiful state and its unpretentious people.
“Whatever it was, I was wrong. West Virginia deserves your attention. Its newest and only national park is everything it’s cracked up to be; an outstanding place to river raft, mountain bike, hike, and rock climb.” Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “Know what the second biggest industry in D.C. is, after the federal government? It’s actually tourism—over 20 million people visit our nation’s capital each year. And it’s not just patriotic Americans and school buses filling the streets. Washington welcomes visitors from all over the world, which you’ll encounter as you walk the National Mall.
“I first visited D.C. as a junior in high school with a local youth group. Like most self-centered teenagers, I was disinterested by anything that wasn’t music related, a trip to D.C. very much included. But I left with a newfound appreciation for the arts, achievements, and history of America that week. “I will take my kids here someday,” I even uttered.
“That day arrived this year, after my wife and I booked our family for a weeklong visit over spring break, just in time to catch the last few cherry blossoms (while also skipping the swampy summer weather). In short, D.C. is a surprisingly quiet, clean, pedestrian-friendly city with arguably more free things to do than any other city on Earth.” Continue reading…
My latest travel column for Paste Magazine: As global travel restrictions all but disappear, the world’s largest hotelier expects pent up demand to finally pop. “An overwhelming number of people are going to travel this year,” one Marriott representative told me. “In fact, 77% of Americans plan to take at least one trip, domestic or international.” That’s a lot of people—hundreds of millions even. Because math.
In an effort to ease travelers back into the swing of things, Marriott is making a big push to promote their free Bonvoy rewards program, where guests can earn points anytime they stay at one of the company’s 7600 hotels across 30 total brands, which have made it the world’s largest hotel company by a wide margin over the last five years. To sweeten the deal, guests can earn points on Uber rides, car rentals, or while booking tours.
This month, my wife and I decided to use this program to book our first intercontinental trip since the world closed. Our only criteria: we wanted to travel to Europe, to someplace we’d never been, and we wanted it to be welcoming to foreigners, i.e. with few (if any) restrictions. After some Googling, we decided on Lisbon, Portugal, which has been trending for the last decade as a sunkissed, warm, and scenic city with a lot of history. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste: “The California Zephyr is known for being the most beautiful train ride in all of North America. Operated by Amtrak with daily service between Chicago and Oakland, the Zephyr crosses 2,400 miles and takes 52 hours to complete. Having enjoyed rail travel on other continents, this fabled route through my own backyard has been on my bucket list for years.” Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “Humans are so scared of dying, they’ll often go to excessive, if not extreme, measures to avoid that dreadful fate. In cases where death isn’t the biggest concern, the secondary worry is going hungry, being cold, getting stuck outdoors, or some combination of the three.
“I recently came across an old but still relevant rejoinder by comedian Jack Boot that perfectly sums up our often overstated fears: ‘Hey guy with hydration pack, two hiking sticks, and North Face vest; my 5 year-old walked the same trail in Crocs carrying a naked Barbie. Relax.’
“The great outdoors—and by close association, travel—can definitely be intimidating. But it is possible to actually over prepare, overthink, and over plan our adventures sometimes. Like this adorable man so comically demonstrates, sometimes our excessive gear, packing, and planning plays into our obsessive compulsive disorders instead of curing them.”
For nearly 10 years, I’ve written and published hundreds of travel articles for CNN, National Geographic, USA Today, LA Times, Washington Post, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Expedia, Orbitz, Frommers, and Travel Weekly. For that last six years, I’ve served as the monthly travel columnist for Paste Magazine (5 million readers), which has taken me to six continents and dozens of countries. For my most recent articles, click here. For some of my favorites, consider these:
Fritzel’s European Jazz Club is a French Quarter main- stay for over 50 years (Photo: Blake Snow)
My latest for Travel Weekly: As one of America’s most distinct cities, few places are more beloved by both travelers and the travel media than New Orleans. My wife and I recently visited the Crescent City and found it to be just as charming as ever, even with pandemic restrictions in place.
Like many people, my family is the ultimate joy. Although happiness and fulfillment are deeply personal, my wife and children inspire me to be better and make me feel like the luckiest man alive. I am forever grateful to them, and this year was no different. Same goes for the many friends that have stayed with me over the years.
But there are several new things that came into my life this year that I’d like to recognize. Some of them are simple. All of them make me even more grateful to be alive. While I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone still struggling with this moving goalpost of a pandemic, I can honestly say that I’m happier today than I was pre-COVID.
My latest for Orbitz: The holidays are back. And with them, a new kind of travel and family gathering stress that none of us have ever experienced. To help you make the most of this heartwarming and often trying time of year, consider the following pandemic strategies and proven travel advice. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “When I was nine, my father took me on an overnight trip to Kansas City. It was the first time I flew in an airplane or stayed at a fancy hotel. Even though I wasn’t allowed to leave the room while my dad attended a conference in the lobby, I felt like a VIP watching the “foreign” city just outside my high-rise window. That and cable television.
“Last month, I was finally able to “leave my room” and properly explore Kansas City for myself. Located at the epicenter of the lower 48, KC is known for many things, including its beautiful trees and Super Bowl champion Chiefs. But I followed my stomach there on a mission to identify the two-state city’s best barbecue joints.
“Known for its ubiquitous “burnt ends,” ribs, and signature thick sauce—which most Americans think of and buy when reaching for BBQ sauce (a la KC Masterpiece)—Kansas City is home to over 100 barbecue restaurants, many of which are nationally renowned. While I wasn’t able to visit all of them, I spent three full days eating slow-cooked meats and killer sauces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The things we do for science.”
My latest for Orbitz: “If you enjoy hiking but aren’t fond of heavy packs, dry food, or sleeping in tents on the hard ground, we’ve got something for you. It’s called hut hiking, and it combines remote wilderness with some modern “cabin” conveniences such as bathrooms, a roof over your head, the wonder of mattresses, and easily prepared hot meals.
Although big in Europe, hut hiking never really caught on in America. That’s not to say hikeable huts don’t exist here. But they are limited to only a few routes in the entire nation and are noticeably more primitive when compared to the often full-service, multi-course meals, and shower-powered huts found abroad.
Regardless of quality, hut hiking is a game-changer for people who like good food, better sleep, lighter packs, fixed shelter, and improved hygiene as they explore the great outdoors on foot.” Continue reading…
I’m incredibly biased and totally indoctrinated, but I admire America. Objectively speaking, it truly is one of the world’s most diverse playgrounds. Granted, I cherish my adventures abroad and look forward to future ones. But I treasure my own backyard as much as I do exotic soil.
So far I’ve managed to spend meaningful amounts of time in 35 states (excluding states I’ve driven or flown through without doing more than filling gas or eating a roadside meal). As you can see from the accompanying map, I’ve traveled through all of the West, much of the South, and the better part of the Northeast.
Which states have left the biggest impression on me so far? To keep things fair, I’m excluding my home state of Utah, although many would argue it’s an impressionable one. Also, I tend to value “great outdoors” over cities. That said, these are my favorites until further notice: Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: The first time I visited Flaming Gorge, I had no intention of boating it. After traveling through nearby Dinosaur National Monument, my family drove two hours north to Red Canyon Overlook to hike the rim and take in the 1400 foot cliffs.
Then we saw a handful of ski boats far below, enjoying “glass” conditions on the giant lake, in the middle of the afternoon. “We have to come back to boat this,” I said to my wife.
This summer we did. After years of enjoying Lake Powell on the opposite end of Utah, we now have a new favorite spot that’s a lot more “socially distant” but just as fun as the more popular Powell. Here’s why. Continue reading…
“Devil’s Mountain” in Berlin (Courtesy Berlin Tourism)
My latest dark tourism review for Orbitz: “Walking up from the parking lot, I was then greeted by a 1990s television set, ottoman, and office chair sitting in the middle of an overgrown courtyard… as if it belonged there. Beyond was a series of five rectangular buildings and four bulbous radome towers rising above. Not only are many of the windows busted out or partially broken, the buildings themselves are brightly colored, as if a giant toddler took a box of crayons and started filling in the shapes.” Continue reading…
Since mass tourism began in the late 1800s, humans have always needed encouragement when it comes to exploring the world. Today I believe humans need more travel encouragement than ever before.
Which brings me to my new travel column, Get Out There for Paste Magazine (7 million monthly readers). Here is the description: “Get Out There is a new column for itchy footed humans written by Paste contributor Blake Snow. Although weird now, travel is still worthwhile—especially to these open borders.” My first column on 5 “Southern” Cities That Never Get Old just published this week. I hope you like it.
Moving forward, I’ll focus on domestic profiles and roundups, including a review of America’s newest national park, Kansas City BBQ tour, and the next Lake Powell. After that, I hope to incorporate international destinations again as borders slowly reopen.
Whatever happens, I’m thrilled to be writing a column for Paste Magazine again. Thanks for reading.
The best time to go to Utah. With five national parks, more than two dozen national landmarks, and its award-winning skiing, Utah is one of the most beloved adventure states in America. With four distinct seasons, however, your mileage will vary depending on the timing of your visit. Whether hiking, off-roading, or playing in its snow or desert waters, these are the best times to go.
The 8 best road trips in Utah. Utah is world famous for its red-rock arches and deep canyons, but as with many things in life, the journey is often better than any singular landmark. The same is true for the Beehive state – to really get to know it, fuel up, roll down the windows and hit the road.
Thanks for reading (and sharing with someone who might appreciate these).
My latest for Fodor’s: “America is home to a glut of amazing lakes. Tahoe, Crater, Flathead, and Havasu just to name a few. But in terms of sheer adventure, nothing beats Lake Powell for its houseboats, water-skiing, cliff jumping, swimming, boat-hiking, extra elbow room, and limitless exploration. Here’s what makes Lake Powell the most fun-loving body of water in the country.” Continue reading…
My latest for Orbitz: “Depending on the trip, travel can be easy, hard, or somewhere in between. But it’s rarely (if ever) one of the below. Here are some of the most popular and enduring beliefs that do more harm than good when it comes to planning, navigating, and enjoying both domestic and international travel.” Continue reading…
Before pandemic closed international borders and decimated airline routes, I held the ridiculous job of getting paid to travel the world. I’d jetset to far-flung places (often with my family) and then write a review of what I liked most about the place, people, attractions, and/or food.
It was unreal.
Although I plan on taking up that job again, for now I can only dream. And when I look back on the dozens of places I’ve had the privilege of visiting, these are the ones I’ll return to in a heartbeat—one for every inhabited continent.
When daydreaming or adding places to your bucket list, few countries are more lovable than these:
Japan (Asia). Half of the food is amazing. The other half is gross. But the people are 100% adorable. And their contradictory culture is mesmerizing—everything from their language, customs, formality, architecture, tradition, and scenery. BONUS points for being one of the safest and cleanest countries on Earth—a place where kindergartners freely roam downtown late into the night, it’s so safe.
My latest for Travelocity: “Utah is well-known for its skiing, hiking, red rock, and welcoming residents. If you’ve already visited or are planning your first trip, consider the following statewide classics before finalizing your itinerary. While the below includes several city-based attractions, Utah is disproportionately known for its great outdoors, so plan on enjoying a few urban delights, as well as plenty of magnificent natural ones.” Continue reading…