Cultural Differences between US and Japan

As the globe’s most populous city, Tokyo, Japan is a world leader in commerce, technology, and culture. Japan has one of the world’s strongest economies and has positioned itself as an international culture hub by hosting global events like the 2020 Summer Games. But despite the massive mutual influence between Japan and the West, there exist stark and unmistakable cultural differences. While western visitors to Tokyo are certain to notice some of the familiar hallmarks of globalization during their travels, Japan’s capital city is a place where many cultural differences come to light. These fascinating differences are part of what makes Tokyo a bucket list destination for travelers around the world.

Sometimes in traveling, the biggest, most noticeable differences between people and places fade into the backdrop of our experience abroad. Geography, nature, architecture, cuisine, appearance, language – we can acclimate to these differences quickly enough that we would hardly name any of these factors as contributing to culture-shock. It’s the tiny cultural differences that tend to make for the best stories and most exciting realizations abroad. Since these subtle differences are so closely tied to our seldom-questioned assumptions about what is normal and universal, they are often some of the most eye-opening. There are many ways in which comparing Japan vs. America yields similarities: GDP, quality of life, literacy, birthrate, etc. But then there are the little things that make a world of difference.

If you’re planning to travel to fabulous and futuristic Tokyo in 2020, you are probably prepared for towering buildings, massive crowds, foreign language, and amazing seafood. But here are seven cultural differences between US and Japan that you may not have known about:

 

1. No eating or drinking on-the-go

If part of your daily routine is grabbing a coffee to-go in the morning, this is a habit you shouldn’t expect to keep up with while in Japan. The Japanese find it rude to eat or drink while walking or using public transportation, and it will be difficult to find food or drink vendors that are equipped to give you your order with disposable to-go-ware. While convenience and speediness is paramount in the US, the country that invented fast-food, the Japanese consider a meal to be something that requires adequate time and comfort. From the carefulness with which they steep their tea to the 24-hour simmering of ramen broth, the Japanese are prepared to wait to enjoy food and drink properly. Plus, in a city where you are constantly in such close proximity to so many people, eating greasy food in a train can be interpreted as inconsiderate to those around you.

cultural differences between us and japan

With gorgeous tea houses like this, why would you want to take your drink to go? Source.

 

2. PDA is highly frowned upon

Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the international PDA spectrum. US travelers are often shocked by how openly and aggressively teenagers in Moscow will make out in public, but find the Japanese disapproval of outward displays of intimacy a bit stuffy. Some countries officially outlaw public displays of affection, but Japan has no written rules about physical intimacy when out and about. Rather, they rely on public pressure and disapproving glares to keep people in check. For the Japanese, it is in bad taste to show physical affection where others can see you.

Holding hands in Japan is often seen as a friendly gesture more than a romantic one. Source.

If you are traveling to Japan with your significant other, be prepared to keep the touching to a minimum. Holding hands is common among friends, and younger couples often do this as well. But long hugs, sitting on laps, cuddling, or kissing in public could make people around you incredibly uncomfortable. And if you are parting from a group of new Japanese friends, don’t go in for a standard friendly goodbye hug. Though many younger people are beginning to adopt this form of greeting and goodbye, a majority finds this far too close for comfort and would rather bow.

 

3. Hygiene is key!

Cultural conceptions of cleanliness provide some of the starkest contrasts when traveling abroad. And in such a densely-populated country where space is so precious, hygiene customs are incredibly important. Moist towelettes will be provided at most restaurants, as well as many other locations such as arcades where you’ll be handling things touched by many others. In many grocery or drug stores, you can expect a whole aisle to be dedicated to various kinds of wet wipes likes these.

cultural differences in us and japan

The moist towelette industry in Japan in booming. Source.

You’ll also see many face masks on the street or in public transportation, and if you have a cold, you’ll be expected to wear one as well. When paying, don’t hand the money directly to the cashier – look for the money tray instead, which will help keep the skin-to-skin contact to a minimum. And remember to take your shoes off before entering someone’s home!

 

4. Punctuality down to the second

Seeing a businessman in a three-piece suit with a briefcase sprinting down the street is not something you see very often in the States, but this is rather common in Tokyo. Punctuality is incredibly important in Japan, and showing up even a few seconds late can be interpreted as very disrespectful. So locals will hardly even notice those who are literally running around them, though it may be a bit shocking for western visitors.

Tokyo may just be the fastest-paced city in the world.

This fixation with being on time manifests itself in other ways in Tokyo as well. When a train pulls into the station, you don’t have long to hurry on board before the doors shut, violently slamming any limbs that didn’t fully cross the threshold in the process. Elevators will rush you in the same way. Dawdling in line will make you everyone’s least favorite person. In a city of 18 million people, these fractions of a second truly add up, so do your best to keep pace with those around you.

 

5. Few trash cans in public

Whatever you leave the house with or purchase while out and about is exactly what you’ll need to take home with you. Compared to the West, there are very few trash cans in public in Tokyo. If you purchase something that comes wrapped in packaging, you will probably need to carry it around with you until you get back home. And when you do get back to your hotel, you will notice that disposing of this packaging is a bit more complicated than in the US. Instead of having just trash and recycling, there are many more classifications for how to divide waste.

Cultural differences us and japan

Don’t just mindlessly throw your garbage away! Read this guide to trash separation and disposal in Japan.

As inconvenient as this may seem to many Westerners, the Japanese relationship to trash actually helps the country stay one of the cleanest in the world. Littering is simply unthinkable for most Japanese, and these behaviors make people much more conscientious about what they consume.

 

6. Shokunin: Japanese service and business culture

One of the most important concepts in Japanese work ethic has no direct English translation. Shokunin, roughly translated as “pride and mastery in one’s profession” is one of the cornerstones of Japanese service and Japanese business culture. The word is so difficult to translate because it conveys an entire philosophy that highlights some of the starkest cultural differences between the US and Japan in business. Shokunin means that every worker in every task is engaging with social consciousness, civic duty, and craftsmanship all at once. Shokunin unironically applies to workers on every social echelon, from a CEO to a sushi chef to a dishwasher.

Westerners visiting Japan may notice how meditatively engrossed in their work the Japanese can often be. Where it is not uncommon in the States to leave an encounter with a service person and think to yourself, “That person obviously hates their job,” this is not an attitude you will see on display in Japan. Concentrating on the task at hand and taking your job seriously are paramount in Japanese business culture. So much so that there is another untranslatable Japanese word for overdoing it at work. Karoshi roughly means “death from overwork.”

 

7. Complicated toilets

While there are many Western style toilets in Japan, you are likely to encounter some facilities during your stay that are unfamiliar. And culture shock is just about the last thing you want to be dealing with when nature calls. As funny as it may sound, you won’t regret watching a few YouTube videos about Japanese toilets before traveling to Japan. Not only can some pre-trip potty training prevent possible confusion, accidents, or even injury, it can also prepare you to enjoy the full range of delightful functions that many Japanese toilets are equipped with. That means ambient noise machines, seat warmers, and bidets.

culture shock american in japan toilet

Photo by J. Pellgen

But these luxury, high-tech robo-toilets aren’t the only unfamiliar bathroom facilities you may encounter in Japan. Squat toilets are also common throughout the country, especially in public facilities. Westerners tend to neglect the hip and inner-thigh strength and flexibility that enables people from eastern countries to comfortably squat for extended periods of time. So if you’re planning a trip to Japan, it can’t hurt to practice your yoga squat.

 


Is fascinating Tokyo a city on your bucket list? Take advantage of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo for an incredible chance to visit. Not only will you get to see the world’s greatest athletes competing for the ultimate honor, you will also have the chance to experience life in the world’s largest and most technologically exciting city.

Tokyo 2020 Travel Brochure

Seize the Off-Season: The Best Places to Travel in February

February is sort of the ugly stepchild of the Julian calendar. It’s the shortest month of the year, even with the quadrennial occurrence of leap year. For the northern hemisphere, February is often the dreariest winter month. Sandwiched between the bustle of the winter holidays and the excitement of spring break, February is so uneventful that many believe greeting-card companies banded together to invent a consumer holiday for its 14th day. And as if February didn’t have it bad enough already, it’s even the most commonly misspelled month of the year.

But as professional travelers and international event experts, February holds a special place in our hearts. In our opinions, February is the most underrated month for travel. There are plenty of action-packed events and international festivals during February’s 28 days. And, being the off-season, February travel is often worlds cheaper than in the summer or during the holidays.

Fall is the perfect time to start planning for a February vacation. Whether you’re looking to explore a winter wonderland, sun yourself on a beach, or attend a massive sporting event, here are our top February vacation ideas:

 

Sporting Events in February

Think nothing ever happens in February? Think again! The top places to travel in February host some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.

 

1. The Winter Games

Every four years, the international community comes together to watch the world’s greatest athletes compete for the gold. The Winter Games always take place over several weeks in February and proves to be one of the most riveting events on the world stage. The only thing better than curling up with a blanket and hot chocolate at home while cheering on your favorite athletes? Witnessing the spectacle first-hand.

best places to travel in february beijing china

Bustling Beijing is the perfect February vacation destination… especially for the 2022 Winter Games!

Traveling to the Winter Games is not only an amazing opportunity to take part in one of the world’s premiere sporting events, but it is also an incredible chance to travel to distant cities, like Beijing, China in 2022. The Winter Games make for an unforgettable February vacation for snow sporting enthusiasts.

 

2. The Super Bowl

You know what’s a lot more fun than a Super Bowl watch party? Being in the stands for the Super Bowl itself. Held on Sunday every February, the Superbowl is the largest sporting event in the USA, and is now televised in over 200 countries.

superbowl best places to travel in february

Photo by Caleb T. Gomez

Going to the Super Bowl means the world’s best tailgating, a top-dollar concert, celebrity spectators, media everywhere, and the excitement of highest-stakes game of the season. Plus, you’ll get a chance to see one of the country’s most impressive football stadiums, with the host city changing each year. Not only is the Super Bowl one of the best events to travel to in February, it’s also an event you’ll remember for a lifetime.

3. The World Ski Championships

Snowbunnies rejoice! Every two years, the world’s fittest alpine skiers assemble in a different elite resort town to compete for the gold at the World Ski Championships. Set for the February 5th-17th, 2019 in Åre, Sweden and then again from February 9th-21st, 2021 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, visiting the World Ski Championships is truly like stepping into a Winter Wonderland.

best places to travel in february world ski championships

Åre, Sweden. Photo by David Castor.

Not only are the host locations home to some of the world’s most incredible ski resorts, but you’ll also get a chance to explore the quaint European mountain towns in which they’re found. And with bustling European metropolises nearby, the World Ski Championships make for the perfect mix of action, relaxation, and sight-seeing for an excellent February vacation.

 

Festivals in February

Hoping to use this February to experience foreign cultures? You’re in luck, because February is filled with exciting festivals beloved by locals and tourists alike. Here are the best places to travel in February to experience an amazing festival first-hand:

4. Carnival & Mardis Gras

All throughout the Christian world, February offers the biggest parties of the year. In the weeks preceding Lent, revelers prepare for months of moderation with elaborate parades and festivals centered on excessive eating, drinking, and merry-making. Some

carnival-in-rio-brazil

A Samba School passes by during the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The best part of Carnival? You could theoretically party in a different country every February. Each city offers its own unique flavors, customs, and regional advantages. For a Euro-tour, incredible wine, and elaborate artisan masks, head to Venice, Italy or Cologne, Germany. For cajun cuisine, sparkling beads, and a seriously mild winter, make your way to New Orleans for Mardis Gras. Stuff your face with pancakes, watch a burning effigy, and storm a gigantic snow fort at Maslenitsa in Russia. Or witness the glittering extravaganza of Carnival in Rio and take advantage of the southern-hemisphere summer with a drink in hand on a legendary beach. No matter what kind of February vacation you are after, there is a Carnival celebration somewhere to match your style.

 

5. Chinese New Year

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in China, and typically falls in February. Though its origins are in Chinese Daoism, many other east Asian cultures observe this day with their own celebrations as well. Regional customs vary widely, but you can count on New Year celebrations anywhere where a sizable Chinese population can be found.

Chinese New Year- Dragon

A gigantic dragon float for a Lunar New Year parade in China in 2012.

The Chinese celebrate both privately and at official festivals with plentiful red and gold banners and lanterns, fire crackers and sparklers, elaborate feasts, and giant parade in honor of the year’s astrological sign. According to belief, Chinese New Year is the day that can make or break your luck and wealth for the year ahead, so don’t let it pass on the couch at home! Take a February vacation to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, or Beijing for an incredible Bucket List spectacle. Looking for a February vacation a bit closer to home? Head to the nearest big city with a significant China Town! China Towns from Paris to Sydney to New York celebrate the Lunar New Year in style with brilliant parades and parties.

 

6. Adelaide Fringe Festival

The largest open-access art festival in the southern hemisphere, Fringe Festival in Adelaide, Australia is a month long mash-up of everything having to do with creativity and culture. The entire city transforms into a gigantic art venue. Normal local businesses transform into galleries, public spaces fill with performances and art installations, parks become elaborate sets, and performers spill out onto the streets displaying their crafts.

best places to travel in February adelaide

Fringe Festival in Adelaide. Photo by Peter Tea.

But Fringe Festival isn’t the only reason you’ll want to head to Adelaide in February. If winter in the northern hemisphere has you down, then you’ll love Adelaide. Summer is in full swing in February, the sun is shining, the beaches are calling, and the entire city is abuzz with art. With such glorious weather and such an expansive art festival, there is truly no better city to wander about in during February than Adelaide, Australia.

 


Need inspiration for the bucket list trip of a lifetime? Browse our blog for plenty of international and domestic travel ideas! To get your heart racing, check out these 17 Crazy Bucket List Ideas for Travelers & Adrenaline Junkies. To witness some of the most incredible international spectacles, browse these 77 International Events & Festivals for Your Bucket List. For more insider recommendations on the top places to travel, check out our full collection of posts on the best places to travel by month!

7 Incredible Things to do in Doha, Qatar

With the FIFA World Cup set for Qatar in 2022, the city of Doha is about to become an international hotspot. But truth be told, it already is. This cosmopolitan capital is home to over 1.2 million expats from around the world and boasts incredible art, architecture, food, shopping, and beaches. From its impossibly tall buildings to its breath-taking desert sunsets, Doha attractions are certainly a sight to behold.

Soccer fans will find plenty of things to do in Doha in 2022. Here are seven Doha attractions that you won’t want to miss:

1. Shop at the Souq Waqif Market

Souq Waqif means “standing market” in Arabic. Dating back over a hundred years, this bustling pedestrian area and open-air market is truly a delight for the senses.

things to do in doha souq waqif

Photo by Diego Delso

It’s winding narrow streets are lined with stands that sell spices, crafts, traditional garments, and fresh produce as well as fragrant restaurants and Shisha lounges. Street performers dancing and playing traditional music enhance the cultural and historic ambiance. A beloved destination for locals, expats, and tourists alike , the Souq is the ultimate place to go in Doha for people watching.

 

2. Visit the Museum of Islamic Art

If you love museums, the Museum of Islamic Art houses one the world’s greatest collections of middle eastern art and artifacts, some of which dates back over 1400 years. But if you don’t love museums, you will still want to make the trip out to MIA, located on a peninsula overlooking Doha bay. Adjacent to the museum is a sprawling garden space with interactive landscapes and amazing views of the Doha skyline.

museum of islamic art doha

Photo by Mohamod Fasil

This five-story museum is itself an incredible work of art. Drawing from ancient Islamic tradition but still decidedly modern, its design includes stunning geometric patterns. Its exhibits feature priceless works of art and handicraft from three continents and spanning the 7th to 19th century.

When you’re done browsing the collections, stroll around the MIA park. Attractions include fountains, sculptures, a carousel, cycling tracks, cafes, and boat rentals. Not to mention, this is the perfect place to watch the sunset.

 

3. Eat Street Food

Only 20 percent of Doha’s 1.5 million residents are actually Qatari. Home to expats from the world over, Doha is incredibly diverse. In addition to hearing multiple languages around the city, this diversity means mouthwatering ethnic food all over.

things to do in doha shawarma

Photo by Edsel Little

One of the best things to do in Doha is eat. Not only will you have an incredible selection of middle eastern favorites like shawarma, hummus, tabouli, and falafel, but you can also find authentic cuisine from distant lands. Indian chapati and cardamom tea, for instance, are so loved in Doha that they have practically become Qatari specialities.

 

4. Smoke Shisha

Looking for a way to wind down after a long day of sightseeing in Doha? Pay a visit to one of Doha’s many shisha bars to take part in a beloved arab social custom.

shisha doha

Because alcohol is forbidden in much of the arabic world, shisha is in many ways the middle eastern equivalent of pub culture. But you have never been to a pub that smells this good! In addition to an incredible atmosphere and impeccable service, Doha shisha bars offer wide ranges of delicious flavors. Regional classics include anis, mint, watermelon, guava, and lemon.

 

5. Watch sea turtle hatchlings at Fuwairit beach

Doha has many sprawling, white sand beaches with sparkling temperate beaches. Especially in the fall and winter months, the weather is ideal for a dip in the warm waters. But September is one of the greatest times to visit Fuwairit beach in particular.

fuwairit beach

Over the summer, about 100 critically-endangered hawksbill sea turtles clamber onto Doha’s Fuwairit beach to lay thousands of eggs. The beach is generally closed to the public during nesting, but come September visitors are allowed to watch from a distance as the hatchlings emerge from the sand and race for the ocean.

 

6. Wander the dunes around Khor Al Adaid

Doha is surrounded by desert, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to be seen in all that sand. About an hour outside of Doha lies Khor Al Adaid, a vast inland sea.

things to do in doha

Photo by Mohamad Nuski

Khor Al Adaid is a UNESCO natural reserve and home several protected varieties of crabs, fish, and turtles. The sea is surrounded by wind-swept dunes and spotless skies, making it one of the greatest views in the region. Several companies rent 4WD cars that you can zip around the dunes in. Or if you prefer to move at a slower pace, rent a camel for a leisurely afternoon.

 

7. Ascend Doha Tower

Doha has many stunning skyscrapers, but none are quite as striking as Burj, also known as Doha Tower. This 46 story cylindrical tower is not only famous for its unusual shape and giant stature, but also for the intricate geometric patterns that encase its facade.

doha tower

Photo by Fransisco Anzola

These patterned screens draw from ancient islamic patterns, like those you’ll find in mosques. But they serve more than a decorative purpose in that they also shield the rooms from the harsh desert sun. Ascending to the top floor of this tower will give you a breathtaking view of the city, but the dome itself is also an incredible sight in its own right:

burj doha tower

Photo by Jean Nouvel


Ready to explore captivating Doha in 2022? Travel with Bucket List Events to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar for the best hotels, exclusive events and access, seamless transportation, city tours and more!

The 6 Best Places to Travel in September

As many students head back to the classroom and the very beginnings of fall quietly announce themselves, September is a great time to travel. Since many locations are just past their time travel season, they are usually less crowded. This gives you plenty of space and time to relax and really enjoy some of the world’s most incredible destinations.

Furthermore, there are many festivals and events taking place in September that make this month among the most action-packed in the calendar year. Some of the best places to travel in September are those hosting international events.

Additionally, you may discover that prices have dropped for some of your favorite travel destinations. In most locations, you will discover that the roads are less busy and airfare gets cheaper as families start their school routine until the winter holidays arrive. You are likely to find that lodging costs have also dropped from summer highs, and even some of the world’s most famous restaurants may be running specials to attract the last visitors before closing until next spring.

There are literally thousands of September vacation ideas, but here are our favorites for you to consider.

 

1. Voga alla Veneta – Venice, Italy

Is there any image more classically Venetian than the Italian city’s canals filled with gondolas? If you have ever dreamed of being rowed through the waterways of Venice by an Italian man in a striped shirt, there is simply no better time to make it happen than during September at the Voga alla Veneta festival.

best places to travel in september venice

Gondola racing through the canals of Venice? Definitely one of the greatest things you can see during September. Source.

Since the mid-13th century, Italians have gathered in Venice for Voga alla Veneta, a famous gondola race. The afternoon’s festivities kick off with a large boat parade along the city’s canals with historical boats oared by expert oarsmen dressed in historical costumes. Then, it’s off to the races with several different age group competitions over courses of different lengths. While these events often quite often throughout the year, the Voga alla Veneta that is normally held on the first Saturday in September is the one that everyone looks forward to the most and is usually the largest of these races.

Before or after the races, there is plenty to do in Venice. If you are interested in giving a gondola a go, there are many places that will teach you to row in the Venetian style. Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon described as Europe’s drawing room, is one of the best places to visit in September because there will be fewer tourists at Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace and at Torre dell’Orologio, than during the summer months. Climb the Campanile to see amazing views of the city. Of course, you will not want to leave this city without trying some of its legendary gelato! Between the race, the festivities, the food, and the stunning sites, Venice is truly one of the best places to travel in September.

best places to visit in september venice

 

2. The Highland Games – Braemar, Scotland

While Highland Games are held across Scotland all year long, the Braemar Games are the most famous of. Held on the first weekend of the month, these games give spectators the opportunity to watch some very Gaelic traditions. First, men parade around in kilts during the opening ceremony carrying flags blowing gently in the breeze. During the games, athletes participate in a range of bronze-age sports like the throwing of hammers, putting the stone, and tossing the caber. You may even feel your own muscles tighten as you cheer on your favorite team during the tug-of-war. Held on a grass course, the track and field events were originally organized in 1865 to find the fittest athletes in Scotland. Even though the games look seriously old school, you will still be amazed at the athletic prowess unfurling before your eyes as men try to prove that they are the fastest athlete in Scotland. You may even spot the Queen of England in the crowd!

september vacation ideas.

More than a playground game, Tug of War is one of the main attractions at the annual Highland Games in Scotland each September. Source.

Outside of the day-long Braemar Games, the incredible, untouched nature of the Scottish highlands make Braemer one of the best places to visit in September. Hiking in the Grampian Mountains will allow you to see many types of wildlife including red- and white-tail deer. Consider renting a bike to enjoy the many cycling routes. Tour the Braemar Castle constructed in 1628 as the family home for the Earl of Mar.

scottish highlands best places to visit in september

 

3. Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany

Are you ready to experience the merriest festival on the planet? Munich’s Oktoberfest is a contagiously good time filled with hearty foods, freely-flowing beer, traditional Bavarian outfits, and a lot of German drinking songs. It is also the largest folk festival in the entire world. While Oktoberfest in Munich will last through early October, you really need to make it a point to put it on your list as one of the places to visit in September. First of all, the days in September are longer and warmer. Secondly, the opening of the festival with its cries of “O’zapft is!” is arguably the very best time to go.

Revellers salute with beer after the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich September 22, 2012. Millions of beer drinkers from around the world will come to the Bavarian capital over two weeks. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Most events center around the Theresienwiese, a gigantic fairground where you will find many wonderful German foods to sample including bratwurst, salted pretzels and currywurst. The main reason to go to Oktoberfest is the beer, which is consumed in large tents filled with wooden tables. Since most breweries have their own tents, consider moving from one tent to another allowing you to sample many different products. You will also find a variety of carnival-style games. Join in the singing even if you just mumble the words. And don’t forget to pick up a Dirndl or Lederhose! You’ll definitely feel out of place without one.

Oktoberfest aside, there are many reasons that Munich is one of the best places to travel in September. The Bavarian capital is a bustling, cosmopolitan city filled with museums, palaces, parks, fine dining, and excellent nightlife. Some of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions are located nearby, from the breath-taking Neuschwanstein Castle, to the haunting memorial at the former Dachau concentration camp. And with the Bavarian Alps right in Munich’s backyard, outdoor enthusiasts will have plenty to keep them busy.

best places to travel in september

 

4. Hermanus Whale Festival – Cape Town, South Africa

Incredible nature has a way of reminding us how small we humans actually are. If there is one experience that encapsulates this humility better than the rest, it is seeing the gigantic, gentle creatures known as whales. This weeklong event at the end of each September gives over 150,000 visitors each year the chance to see the migration of the Southern Wright Whale up close and personal off the western cape of South Africa. Hermanus, located outside of Cape Town, offers the best land-based whale watching in the world, and this yearly celebration is the single best time to see this magnificent creatures.

cape town whale watching

Whale watching in Hermanus is possible from the shore, especially during September’s peak migration season. Source.

The Hermanus Whale Festival is a delightful and moving event appropriate for the whole family. With games, environmentalist exhibits, marine-life education, music, and incredible seafood, the program leaves nothing to be desired.

But it’s not just the whales that make Cape Town one of the best places to visit in September. This South African city is absolutely breathtaking. Its landscape is a fantastical mix of mountains, sea, wine country, and jungle. Table Mountain National Park is located within the city limits, giving hikers incredible views of the sprawling city from above. And with incredible food and wine, a raucous night life, dozens of world-class museums, Cape Town is a city worthy of anyone’s bucket list.

cape town september

 

5. The Singapore Grand Prix – Singapore

Imagine the world’s most elite, futuristic sport in the world’s most elite, futuristic city – that’s the Singapore Grand Prix. Held in the middle of September, this race is one of the most difficult circuits in the entire sport of F1, with 90 degree turns, narrow walls, and countless twists and turns. But after watching a race constructed to be so deliberately difficult, visitors can retreat into a city that is truly a wonder of civil engineering. Not only is the tiny city-state of of Singapore modern, clean, and beautiful, but its nature, food, and cultural attractions make it one of the best places to travel in September.

singapore september

Singapore may be small, but they put on a big show for the Grand Prix. Source.

F1 is a sport for the rich and famous, playing with some seriously fast and expensive toys. The Singapore Grand Prix dates back to 1961 and was the first-ever street circuit in Asia. With attendance fluctuating between 200 and 300K visitors, the Singapore Grand Prix is just the right size to get you pumped without feeling overcrowded. Furthermore, it’s hard to imagine a better setting for all the glitz, glamour, and graining of F1 than Singapore – the closest thing to a modern utopian city. Not only is Singapore home to luxury brands of all industries and world class dining and hospitality, but it also has dozens of brilliant white sand beaches, opportunities for island hopping, and even urban hiking. For a luxury trip you’ll never forget, Singapore is a September destination for the books with a Grand Prix that could rival Monaco’s.

singapore september travel

Singapore’s Marina Bay is a must-see for September travel.

 

6. La Mercè – Barcelona, Spain

An official holiday in the Catalan capital since 1871, Barcelona’s annnual la Mercè has its origins in the Roman Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy. Today, this festival is a four-day long extravaganza that engulfs the entire city with elaborate lights, giant puppets, towering acrobatics, open-air concerts, traditional dancing, and Catalan cuisine. Spain has its fair share of wild, colorful, and relatively dangerous cultural festivals, but la Mercè is truly something special. Beginning on September 21st each year, la Mercè is considered by locals to be Barcelona’s greatest party.

la merce barcelona best places to travel in september

Programming for la Mercè takes place throughout the entire city, and the vast majority of  events are free to enter. And what you can see truly runs the gamut. One iconic, not-to-be-missed event is the Correfocs, in which people dressed as devils will wield burning pitchforks and march through the streets to an ominous drum beat as spectators run through a tunnel of fireworks. Another event you should make sure to see is the Castellers, a human tower that can be as tall as 10 layers high, acrobatically erected in busy city squares.

la merce barceona best places to travel in september

With such an action-packed roster during the festival, September is an excellent time for a trip to beautiful Barcelona. La Mercè is beloved by locals and tourists alike, offers events suitable for everyone from families to party-goers to history buffs, and is guaranteed to make you fall in love with the Catalan capital.


Need more insider recommendations on the top places to travel? Check out our full collection of posts on the best places to travel by month!

Looking for the perfect place to travel in September? Join Bucket List Events at Oktoberfest in Munich. From excellent accommodations to exclusive beer tent reservations to excursions and city tours, our seasoned revelers have planned an exciting and seamless itinerary to give you the ultimate Oktoberfest experience.



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The Ultimate Tokyo Bucket List

With 37.8 million residents, Tokyo is the single largest metropolitan area on this earth. It is often said that big cities offer something for everyone, and Tokyo is perhaps the world’s most exemplary city in this regard. Characterized by a distinct mix of ancient and ultra-modern, there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Tokyo.

But it is easy to get overwhelmed in such a gigantic city. And as tempting as it is to do it all, Tokyo natives will be the first to tell you that even a lifetime in Tokyo is not enough time to experience everything. But if you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, perhaps to see the Summer Games in 2020, rest assured that it is possible to get a little taste of everything. When you’re not watching the world’s greatest athletes in state-of-the-art stadiums and venues, use this guide to for what to do in Tokyo.

The top things to do in Tokyo are hard to name, precisely because they are so diverse and plentiful. In an effort to help you experience as much of this amazing Japanese city as possible, we’ve written this Tokyo Bucket List to ensure that you get to experience a wide range of what Tokyo has to offer. We avoid being too specific here and instead approach this Tokyo Bucket List in categories. Not everything is to everyone’s taste, but if you manage to check off at least one thing from every category on this list, rest assured that you’ll feel you’ve covered a ton of ground.

If you’re starting to plan what to do in Tokyo, make sure you include at least one activity for every category here:

 

Things to Eat and Drink in Tokyo

After a long international flight, our first thoughts are almost always with about food. Lucky for Tokyo travelers, this city is a veritable paradise for eating and drinking. Naturally, our list of suggestions for what to do in Tokyo includes four types of food and drink. Here are the things you should not leave Japan without imbibing:

Sushi

We begin our Tokyo Bucket List with the most well-known tradition of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, sushi is not just delicious – it is a culture institution and revered artform. If you have only ever had California rolls, wipe its memory from your mind before stepping off the plane. If you think of rice as a boring white starch, a trip to Tokyo may just blow your mind. Incredibly fresh fish is abundant in Tokyo, and the highly competitive nature of the restaurant industry in this city makes it such that it is difficult to find bad sushi (though the price spectrum can vary hugely). Keep in mind that sushi is an honored tradition in Japan, and therefore there is a lot of ritual importance in its ordering, preparation, and consuming. Check out this guide to sushi in Japan to get a feel for the tradition.

 

Tea

Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in Japan, and the national love for it is abundantly clear in Tokyo. Not only will tea come complimentary with most restaurant meals, but there are also plenty of tea houses all over Tokyo. The Japanese approach tea very differently from how Americans tend to consume hot beverages – a distinct cultural difference between Japan and America. While Americans often consume hot beverages on-the-go (while commuting, for example), the Japanese don’t walk while eating or drinking. This is part of the reason why tea houses are such institutions, and why you should take the time to properly enjoy a fragrant cup of Japanese tea in a comfortable setting. Plus, in many places you’ll be served colorful Wagashi, traditional Japanese confections, alongside your teacup. Experiencing Japanese tea house culture is one of those cool things to do in Tokyo that you won’t want to miss.

cool things to do in tokyo tea houses

Wagashi and Matcha Green Tea (Source)

Ramen

You won’t even be able to look at Cup-O-Noodle ever again after eating traditional ramen – a particularly delicious and cool thing to do in Tokyo. Just as the Japanese take their time when it comes to enjoying tea, you’ll quickly find that the Japanese approach ramen with the same kind of ritual patience. The rich and fragrant bone broth is the most important part of ramen soup, and most traditional ramen restaurants will simmer their broth from anywhere between 15-60 hours. Think about that the next time you tear open a packet of instant noodles.

 

Sake

Sake is the national drink of Japan, and the most beloved alcoholic beverage in Tokyo. This fermented rice drink is served at a variety of temperatures (from hot to room temperature to chilled) and in a variety of forms (raw, sparkling, cloudy, sweet, etc.). Sake is most commonly consumed alongside a meal, so you are sure to find at least a modest selection in most any restaurant in Tokyo that serves both alcohol and Japanese cuisine. But for the beverage aficionado, Tokyo boasts a bunch of lauded sake tasting bars where one can sample rare and exclusive sakes. If your list of things to do in Tokyo includes a night out on the town, touring Tokyo’s sake bars is a great way to take care of that item.

 

What to do in Tokyo: Sites to Visit

Now that your belly is full, it’s time to truly look around you. There are all sorts of ultra-modern feats in futuristic Tokyo. But don’t think there is only the bustle of the big city to be seen. Tokyo has plenty of ancient and natural wonders to behold as well. Here are suggestions for what to do in Tokyo in order to get a feel for the gigantic scope of this mega metropolis:

Life in the Big(gest) City

You don’t really need to go out of your way to see just how technologically impressive Tokyo is. But our advice is that you visit at least one site that gives you in insight into the sheer volume of people in the city.

The city of Tokyo is home to 46 skyscrapers as well as the tallest standing tower in the world – the Skytree whose look out perch will give you a breathtaking glimpse of just how gigantic this sprawling metropolis is. Another site is the Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection, whose impressive lights give New York’s Times Square a run for its money. But you will also develop a feel for the enormous population of Tokyo simply by riding public transit. The Tokyo Metro is also among the busiest and most extensive in the world. So busy, in fact, that during peak hours Metro employees are sometimes needed to stuff passengers into the trains. Busy sites like these are a must for those looking for cool things to do in Tokyo!

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo Bucket List

Shibuya Crossing (Source)

 

The Ancient Sites of Tokyo

If the fast pace of city life gets overwhelming, there is plenty of quiet and refuge to be had in Tokyo’s ancient cultural sites, which also constitute as some of the best things to do in Tokyo. Palaces, shrines, and temples from the shogun era of Japanese history are plentiful and are incredibly well-maintained. Leave a prayer at the Meiji Shrine, or take a tour of the Imperial Palace grounds. These rich cultural sites offer a distinctive glimpse into Japanese history.

what to do in tokyo temples

Sensoji Temple at night.

 

Nature in Tokyo

If you thought you wouldn’t be seeing much greenery in a city as large as Tokyo, think again. Not only does Tokyo proper feature incredible urban gardens, but just 60 miles southwest of Tokyo is Mount Fuji – one of the world’s most unique geological features and active volcanos. From the blooming cherry blossoms in Ueno Park to the traditional Japanese gardens featuring bonsai trees and lotus flowers, Tokyo offers dozens of public gardens that offer peace and quiet amidst the buzz of the big city. For the more intrepid travelers, Mount Fuji has several ascent trails that will give you views that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Whether you’re looking for extreme hiking or a relaxing stroll, there are plenty of things to do in Tokyo that will bring you back to nature.

nature things to do in tokyo

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens

 

 

Cool Things to Do in Tokyo

With some typical touristy sight-seeing out of the way, now it’s time to embark into Tokyo in search of adventure. Here are some experiences that need to make it to your Tokyo Bucket List:

Shopping in Tokyo

Even if you don’t buy a single thing, browsing stores in Tokyo is an adventure in and of itself. From bustling street markets to luxury designers, zen- and minimalist-inspired housewares to wacky Harajuku style, just about anything under the sun can be purchased in Tokyo.  Those with special interests in anything from records to anime to sex toys will find mind-blowing selections. And if you need to buy any gifts or souvenirs, rest assured that you will find something unique. Shopping in this city is a wild experience, and one of those cool things to do in Tokyo that you’ll remember for years to come.

 

Theme Parks in Tokyo

Don’t know what to do in Tokyo with family in tow? Modern Japan is fascinated by immersive entertainment and for this reason offers some of the greatest theme parks in the world. Not only are there two Disney theme parks in Tokyo (Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea) but there are also Manga theme parks abound. While visitation rates to Theme Parks in the States have been growing by a steady 3% each year, Japanese parks blow that number out of the water with an average 10% growth rate in visitation each year. This extra capital means top notch facilities, amazing rides, and lots of fun for the whole family.

what to do in tokyo theme parks

Tokyo’s DisneySea (Source)

 

Sing Karaoke

It doesn’t matter if you’re any good. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know any Japanese songs. The Japanese love karaoke and if you truly want to do as the locals do, throw back a few glasses of Sake in one of Tokyo’s many karaoke bars, pick a tune you love, and belt your heart out. No Tokyo Bucket List is complete without at least one night filled with off-key singing.

 


Does your Tokyo Bucket List include the 2020 Summer Games? Visit one of the world’s most incredible cities and watch the world’s greatest athletic competitions all in one trip! With so many cool things to do in Tokyo, the Games are sure to be a legendary travel experience. Inquire about our 2020 Summer Games Tokyo Travel Packages today.

The History of Monaco and its Grand Prix

Monaco is a city-state, microstate, and country located in what is commonly known as the French Riviera. It’s famous for its lavish casino, the Grand Prix, not requiring its citizens to pay income tax, and for being a playground for the rich and famous.

How did this tiny, luxurious country come to be? We dive into the history of Monaco and its world-famous Grand Prix.

The History of Monaco in a Nutshell

Monaco history begins in ancient Greece. An ancient myth has implied that Hercules built a passage way from Spain to Italy, using the Rock of Monaco as a strategic port. The settlement was named Monoikos, from which the name Monaco derives. The Hercule Port is to this day still decorated with many statues and artworks venerating the mythological hero.

rock of monaco

The Rock of Monaco – the city’s most famous geographical feature and a strategic point for trade and defense for thousands of years.

1297 was a turning point in the history of Monaco, when Francesco Grimaldi and his men captured the rival Italian stronghold that protected the Rock of Monaco. This began a centuries-long dynasty that is still in place today. The last 700 years have seen the Grimaldi rule of Monaco, with the exception of a short period during the French Revolution.

As a French protectorate, Monaco was briefly occupied by French revolutionary forces from 1793 to 1814. Naturally, the revolutionaries were not fans of monarchy. After the Grimaldis once again ascended to the throne, Monaco was designated as a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia until 1860 when it became a protectorate of France again.

The Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861 recognized the transfer of 4,100,000 French francs and Monaco’s sovereignty. In 1869, income tax was no longer collected by the residents of Monaco. The success of the casino allowed the Grimaldi family the ability to afford to do this. By doing so, it allowed the rich and famous a great place to live and to play.

history of monaco

1910 – the Monaco Mayer announces to the people that Prince Albert I will make concessions to the people.

The history of Monaco continued into the 20th century with the Monegasque Revolution of 1910 and the 1911 constitution. It named the princes of Monaco as the absolute rulers. However, in 1943, Monaco was invaded by the Italian army and became a fascist administration. With the collapse of Mussolini, the Germans began their occupation.

Prince Rainier III inherited the throne from his grandfather’s death, Louis II in 1949. He married Grace Kelly in 1956 which caused a great deal of attention due to the popularity of the American actress. Monaco history continued with a new treaty in 2002 between Monaco and France. It stipulated if there were no Grimaldi heirs to carry on the dynasty, that Monaco would remain independent. France does, however, provide Monaco’s defense.

history of monaco

Grace Kelly marries Ranier III in 1956.

In 2005, Prince Rainier III gave up his title to his son, Prince Albert II. The ceremony took place in the Prince’s Palace in Monaco-Ville. Prince Albert II has begun his part in Monaco history by expanding Monaco’s parks, marina, office buildings, and shops.

The History of the Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco Grand Prix winners have evolved dramatically since the early days. The first race took place in 1929 by the Automobile Club of Monaco and Antony Noghès. The only way the race could be held was in the streets of Monte Carlo. It began as an enthusiast’s car rally and was won by a Bugatti with an average speed of 48 mph driven by William Grover-Williams. The event was by invitation only. By 1933, the race had gained a prestigious reputation, along with French, Italian, Belgium, and Spanish Grands Prix. The races ended in 1938 due to World War II.

William Grover-Williams wins the first ever Monaco Grand Prix in 1929 driving a Bugatti.

Racing started again in Paris in 1945 and in 1946, the Grand Prix premier racing category was begun. In 1948, the Monaco Grand Prix was won by Nino Farina in a Maserati 4CLT. The race was skipped in 1949 due to the death of Prince Louis II, but was included in the new Formula One World Drivers’ Championship in 1950.

The race was halted from 1951 to 1954, but began again in 1955 as part of the Formula One World Championship. One of the race’s earliest winners was Graham Hill from Britain. He won the race five times in the 60s, thus becoming known as “Mr. Monaco” and “King of Monaco”.

The Monaco Grand Prix track proved to be very treacherous. Due to the track’s safety issues, a few events were cancelled. The 1969 event saw the use of Amco barriers placed at certain points. Before then, there was little or nothing to prevent a car from crashing into what was next to the track. That could be trees, lamp posts, buildings, glass windows, the train station or the harbor water. The course was altered a few times during the next few years with the pits being moved and the construction of the new Ranier III Nautical Stadium, which can be found directly beside the track.

monaco grand prix history

The Nautical Stadium along the Monaco Grand Prix track

Out of all the Monaco Grand Prix winners, Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian, has had the most with six, including five consecutive years between 1989 and 1993. He broke Graham Hill’s previous record.

The course includes the streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine, and, of course, the famous harbor. It has quite a few tight corners, elevation changes, a tunnel, and has short straightaways, which makes it a very demanding race. Even though the track has had small changes, it remains as the ultimate test in driving skills in the Formula One.

monaco grand prix history

The Circuit de Monaco is filled with tight turns like this one.

If you’ve been to Monaco, but haven’t made it to the Grand Prix, then add it to your bucket list. There are several places to view the race, including the deck of yachts, balconies of hotels and buildings, and grandstands. You’ll experience first-hand how the rich and famous live. Join in with the yacht parties, the gala event, and dine in some of the best restaurants in Europe. If you haven’t yet made it to Monaco, then mark your calendar for the Monaco Grand Prix. It’ll be the most exciting 78 laps of racing you’ll ever see!

The History of the Masters Tournament

Looking forward to watching the Masters this year? For four days each April, the world of golf is riveted watching the sport’s greatest athletes compete in the most exclusive tournament. The Masters began over 80 years ago, and though much has certainly changed across the sport and the globe, this is a tournament that remains as true to its roots as it possibly can.

History is of utmost importance at the Masters. So that you can fully appreciate the significance of this tournament and its many traditions, here is a detailed history of the Masters Golf Tournament, from founding to present day.

What is the Masters?

The Masters is one of four major championships in international golf. It is the first tournament of the year, it is also the only tournament in the circuit that is held at the same location every year: the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The tournament lasts four days, but also includes three days of pre-tournament programming. In 2018, the purse is a whopping $11 million.

the masters waterhole pond augusta georgia

 

 

Building the Augusta National Golf Club

The man who founded the Masters, Bobby Jones, had been in retirement for over 3 years, and he decided to make his comeback at his new golf course he had crafted at Fruitland Nurseries. He built the course in about two years, and thus one of the four major championships was born. Construction on Augusta began in 1931, when Jones and his co-founder Clifford Roberts bought the Fruitland property in Augusta, Georgia for the price of $70,000. Dr. Alister Mackenzie was chosen to help put together the design for this illustrious golf course, who worked with Jones’ vision but also scrapped some of his wilder ideas, such as an obstacle-like 19th hole. Once the course was put together, the first Masters was ready to be held.

masters facts history

Bobby Jones circa 1921, twelve years before the founding of the Augusta National.

 

When Was the First Masters Golf Tournament Played?

On March 22, 1934, the first shot was taken at the brand new Augusta National Golf Club.  The first winner of the tournament was Horton Smith, who beat out Craig Wood by one stroke to win the $1,500 final prize. The tournament was originally called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, and was later changed to the Masters in 1939.

 

The Shot Heard ’round the World

One of the most iconic moments in golf history occurred on the par-5 15th hole at Augusta in 1935. Gene Sarazen hit a coveted double eagle shot to get back into a tie for the lead, and would later go on to win the Masters that year. This shot put the Masters in the forefront of the golfing world, and came to be called “the shot heard ‘round the world”.

history of the masters

Gene Sarazen shooting “the Shot Heard ’round the World” at the 1935 Masters

Unbeknownst to most, that 15th hole was originally the 6th hole when the gold course was built. This meant that what was originally the front nine became the back nine. There were a few good reasons for this change, including several bodies of water surrounding the 15th and 16th greens that give the course an exciting finish. It is hard to imagine what might have been if Sarazen did not have the opportunity to hit his double eagle on the back half of the course.

 

The Early Years

In 1936, Horton Smith became the first two time winner of the Masters by edging out Craig Wood once again by one stroke. A year later, in 1937, Byron Nelson added his own piece to Masters history by making a 6 stroke comeback on Ralph Guldahl in the final round. Guldahl would get his turn later on in 1939, when he shot 3 under on the back 9 to win by a stroke. This was the year the tournament was officially named the Masters.

Ralph Guldahl was known for his relaxed playing style, always pausing to comb his hair before every hole.

World War II paused the tournament for a span of 3 years, and the Augusta National green was actually used to raise cattle and turkey for the war efforts. When the war was over and the green had been repaired, the Masters came back with the same lore and appeal as before.

 

The ’50s

In 1950, Jimmy Demaret became the first 3 time Masters winner by beating out Jim Ferrier. Two years later, Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, and the members at Augusta National built Ike’s Cabin in 1953 near the tee on the 10th hole.

The next year, Sam Snead locked up his third and final Masters win the 1954 tournament over Ben Hogan in a playoff round. The first TV broadcast of the Masters followed two years later, televising Jack Burke Jr.’s 1956 victory Ken Venturi after trailing by 8 strokes.

Sam Snead gets a handshake from Ben Hogan after winning the Masters during the 1954 Masters Tournament (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

In 1958, golf writer Herbert Warren Wind used the term “Amen Corner” to describe holes 11, 12, and 13, and the name stuck. Arnold Palmer also took his first Masters victory, winning a purse that had risen by then to $11,250. The charming and eccentric Palmer would do much for the sport’s public image, as well as for the Master’s tournament.

 

The ’60s

In 1960, the first par-3 contest was held at Augusta. Sam Snead won the event on the specially designed short course. In the same year, Arnold Palmer won his second Masters by birdying the last two holes.

With the purse now reaching $20,000, South African Gary Player became the first foreign player to win the Masters in 1961. This win set off a series of unique first timers and records.  Two years later, Jack Nicklaus became the youngest player to win the Masters at the age of 23 in the year 1963. The next year, Palmer was the first player to win the Masters 4 times. Nicklaus bounced back in 1965 by setting the new course record for a 72-hole performance. He would follow that up with another victory in 1966 to become the first back-to-back champion.

Among the most frustrating losses in the history of the sport was Roberto De Vicenzo’s disastrous blunder in 1968. He signed an incorrect scorecard and thus crowned would-be runner-up Bob Goalby the champion.

Roberto di Vicenzo graciously accepts his mistake and the loss that comes with it.

 

The ’70s & ’80s

During the ’70s, founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts passed away and were met with adoration from golf fans at their memorials.

In 1975, Jack Nicklaus earned his 5th green jacket, a Masters record. He went on to win a 6th jacket in 1986, becoming the oldest golfer to grab the title.

On a day that had spectators on the edge of their seats, the first sudden-death playoff was won by Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Up until this point, the playoff was another 18 or 36 holes of golf the next day.

history of the masters

Fuzzy Zoeller accepts his green jacket in 1979.

The first Masters victory by a European was achieved by Spaniard Seve Ballesteros in 1980, and 4 more were soon to come.

The ’90s

Englishman Nick Faldo won back-to-back Masters in ’89 and ’90, and the purse was then at $225,000. Over the next few years, stars like Woosnam, Couples, Langer, and Olazabal walked away victorious.

Ben Crenshaw and Nick Faldo took the jackets in ‘95 and ‘96, and then began a new era of golf. 1997 was the year Tiger Woods burst onto the scene. He was the youngest player to win, as well as the first non-white player, and he crushed the competition by shooting a course record 18 under par.

history of the masters

Woods 18-under-par victory is still a Masters record, though Jordan Spieth matched it in 2015.

The 2000s

At the beginning of the new millenium, the Masters became the first golf tournament to be broadcasted live on network television with HDTV.

Vijay Singh won the Masters in 2000, followed by two consecutive wins by Tiger. This made Tiger the first golfer to hold all 4 major championship titles during the same year in 2001. He also became only the 3rd golfer in Masters history to win back-to-back titles. His closet was beginning to fill with green.

Weir and Mickelson took the next two titles, followed by Tiger’s 4th green jacket. The purse had now rose to $1.26 million.

Mickelson took another win in 2006, followed by Zach Johnson and then Trevor Immelman. Angel Cabrera would win the Masters in 2009 in a two-hole sudden death playoff.

Modern Day

In 2010, Mickelson captured a resounding 3rd green jacket by shooting 16-under-par. The following year Charl Schwartzel takes the Masters by surprise by becoming the first golfer to birdy the last 4 consecutive holes on his way to victory.

Despite Louis Oosthuizen sinking a double eagle to make a playoff with Bubba Watson in 2012, Watson was able to capture his first major victory with a spectacular hook shot from the trees. Adam Scott became the first Australian victor the following year.

In 2015, Jordan Speith tied Wood’s record of 18-under-par and won his first green jacket. Speith had an opportunity to repeat the following year, but Danny Willet was able to capitalize on Jordan’s back nine mistakes and win the green jacket.

history of the masters

Jordan Spieth celebrates a par-saving final putt for the 16th hole in 2015.

Last year’s Masters was as exciting as any, as Sergio Garcia edged out Justin Rose to win the 81st Masters tournament.

What will the 2018 Masters have in store for us?


Now that you know the Masters history, you need to see the action for yourself. Explore our Masters Tournament Packages for an exclusive trip to this prestigious tournament. The Masters is a tournament like no other that all serious golf fans should experience first hand.

8 Fun Moscow Facts You Never Knew

With Russia set to host the upcoming FIFA World Cup, many travelers around the world are seizing this unique opportunity to travel to the planet’s geographically largest country. Several of the most important matches will be held in Russia’s bustling capital city of Moscow, with other games spread throughout 10 other cities in the western most part of the country.

For many westerners, the country of Russia remains clouded in mystique. But Russia’s capital city is among the most modern and fascinating places to visit in the world. Traveling in Moscow is not just a whirlwind through history, it’s also an incredible opportunity to witness life in one of the world’s largest and diverse cities. Here are 8 Moscow facts that make Russia’s capital one of the most interesting and unique destinations on the globe:

Moscow Fact #1: Moscow is the largest city in Europe

With more than 19 million people living in Moscow’s metropolitan area, the Russian capital is the single most populous city on the European continent. This statistic is even more impressive when you consider how huge Russia is – space is a resource they have plenty of. Yet the Moscow Oblast, comprising only 0.25% of Russia’s landmass, is home to more than 13.5% of its residents!

moscow facts population

 

Moscow Fact #2: Moscow real estate is among the most expensive in the world

With so many people competing for so little space in the Moscow metropolitan area, it should be no surprise that Moscow is among the world’s most expensive cities to buy or rent real estate. Moscow consistently ranks among the top 10 most expensive cities worldwide for real estate. Furthermore, the city is a magnet for wealthy elite. With more than 68,000 millionaires and billionaires living within the city limits, Moscow offers plenty of high-class entertainment for those with big budgets.

moscow fact real estate

 

Moscow Fact #3: The Soviet-built Metro system is among the most efficient and beautiful in the world

While New York’s Subway system just experienced a record-setting year for delays, the Moscow Metro continues to enjoy its status as one of the busiest and most efficient public transportation systems in the world. Originally built by the Soviets in 1935, today the Moscow Metro transports over 9 million daily passengers each weekday with some trains running as often as every 90 seconds. The only city transport systems that carry more people are Tokyo and Seoul! But the Moscow Metro isn’t just busy, it is also incredibly beautiful. Because an important part of Soviet policy was to integrate ideological art into public spaces, Moscow Metro stations are like underground art and history museums.

moscow metro facts

Another fun fact about the Moscow Metro has to do with the announcements made in the trains, a tip that can be particularly useful for tourists navigating Moscow. If you hear a male voice announce the next station, you are on a train bound for the city. If you hear a female voice, then you are headed out of the city.

 

Moscow Fact #4: The city has a very high concentration of museums, parks, and monuments

Part of the Soviet legacy that is still plainly evident in Moscow today is the fact that there are seemingly endless cultural sites and landmarks. In fact, there are more than 400 museums in Moscow. From statues celebrating Soviet accomplishments to historical buildings to world-class art galleries to sprawling urban parks – Moscow has an attraction on every corner. Education and leisure were two areas of public life in which the Soviet state was heavily involved, and their efforts to these ends are all over the city.

moscow sites and landmarks

 

Moscow Fact #5: The first ever McDonald’s in the USSR opened in Moscow in 1990 and is still in operation

More than any other event that lead up to the fall of the Soviet Union, the opening of the country’s very first McDonald’s in Moscow seems to be the most symbolic. The fast food corporation had been in discussion with Soviet officials since 1976 about potentially opening one of their restaurants in the country. After nearly 15 years of negotiations, the USSR’s very first McDonald’s opened on a bitter cold January day in 1990 to a crowd of over 30,000 customers who waited in line for over 6 hours. Today there are dozens of McDonald’s (and Wendy’s, and Burger Kings…) in Moscow, but the original restaurant is still in operation near Pushkin Square.

first mcdonalds in moscow

The line on opening day stretched for over a mile.

 

Moscow Fact #6: Normal drivers will stop if you try to hail a cab

If you stand on the street in New York and raise your arm, a yellow taxi will pull up. Do this in Moscow, and don’t be surprised if any regular driver stops and asks where you want to go. Because of the ability to haggle on the price upfront, many Muscovites prefer this “black market” taxi method to official ones. Though the practice has technically been illegal since 2011, these unofficial cabs are still incredibly common in Moscow. But due to scammers who prey on tourists, we strongly discourage visitors from taking any unofficial means of transport.

moscow facts gypsy cabs

 

Moscow Fact #7: Stray dogs have learned how to navigate the Metro system

One thing that generally sticks out to Westerners when they travel in non-western countries is the amount of stray dogs and cats they notice. Moscow does in fact have many stray dogs, but there is something pretty special about some of them. For the past few decades, a small number of stray dogs have been known to be regular commuters on the Moscow Metro. Several generations of strays have learned to enter the stations, elude capture, and take the trains to specific destinations. Most Muscovites hardly bat an eye when they see these dogs riding the Metro, but one terrified passenger stabbed a stray to death in 2001. The city was so upset by this incident the stray was posthumously named Malchik and memorialized with a statue in the Mendelevskaya station.

 

Moscow Fact #8: There is a restaurant where you can eat in complete darkness

Certainly a trip for the senses, Moscow restaurant V Temnote (Russian for “in darkness”) offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience in which patrons are served without any lighting. Dining at V Temnote requires relinquishing a lot of control: you don’t get to order your food, you only specify meat, fish, or vegan; you are lead blindly to your table; you cannot see the food that is served to you, so many find utensils too cumbersome and choose to eat with their hands. Fans of the concept claim that the experience heightens your sense of taste and makes you realize how atmosphere can influence our perceptions of food.

moscow v temnote


World Cup Russia 2018

6 Unique Facts You Didn’t Know About The Masters Tournament

The Masters Tournament, hosted on the pristine greens of the Augusta National Golf Club, is a one-of-a-kind athletic event that is steeped in tradition and history. Built in 1933 and having hosted the Masters since 1943, the Augusta National Golf Club and its annual tournament have their fair share of quirks. Here are six little-known Masters facts that contribute to the mystique of this highly prestigious tournament:

 

1. The Augusta National almost had 19 holes

Traditional golf courses typically have 9 or 18 holes. The Augusta National belongs to the second category, but it was almost in a category entirely its own. Club founder and legendary patron of the sport of golf Bobby Jones initially intended for the Augusta National course to have a 19th hole. His reasoning was that losing golfers would have an opportunity to win their money back through a last-ditch double or nothing round.

 

masters facts history

Bobby Jones circa 1921, twelve years before the founding of the Augusta National.

But the 19th hole envisioned by Jones was anything but an easy one: it was to be 90 yards long and uphill. The plan was eventually scrapped both for being too expensive and for disturbing the view of the 18th hole.

 

2. The map in the Masters logo is geographically inaccurate

There is no question that the map in the official logo for the Masters Tournament is meant to represent the continental United States. But its proportions are conspicuously wrong, as if hand-drawn by a child who is failing geography class. So how exactly did the most prestigious golf tournament in the world, one that is so concerned with details and decorum, come to have such a wonky logo?

Masters logo map

The Masters logo appears to be taken from a time when the world was believed to be flat. Photo by Curiouser*Curiouser on Flickr.

One theory speculates that printing technology in the 1930s, during the time that the Augusta National was constructed, was simply not precise enough to replicate the the sharp angles and narrow off-hangings that an accurate map of the continental U.S. would entail. So this more abstract, soft-edged and free-hand rendition simply worked better given the available tools. As to why the original logo is still used to this day, the answer is something that is used to explain many facets of the Masters: tradition.

 

3. An authentic Masters Green Jacket was once purchased at a thrift shop for $5

One of the most beloved traditions of the Masters tournament is the bequeathing of a famed Green Jacket to the new champion from the previous year’s winner. These Green Jackets are among the most iconic pieces of clothing in the sporting world because they are custom-made and exclusive to tournament winners. Yet somehow, in 1994 a lucky and unsuspecting golf fan came across one in a Toronto thrift shop and paid a whopping $5 to take it home.

green jacket masters auction

The authentic Masters Green Jacket found by a lucky thrifter in Toronto in 1994. Source

The Augusta National confirmed the authenticity of the piece and determined that the Green Jacket in question was from the 1950s. The lucky thrifter went on to sell the jacket at auction for nearly $140,000 in 2017. Talk about return on investment!

 

4. The Augusta National was used to raise cattle and turkey during WWII

The Augusta National is a shining example of incredible grounds keeping. With such impeccably manicured greens where not a leaf falls without being promptly swept up, it is terribly difficult to imagine that the Augusta National was once used to raise beef and turkey.

masters tournament facts

Today, cows and turkeys are certainly not permitted on Club grounds.

Despite the club owners’ best efforts to keep the Augusta National operating during WWII, it didn’t take long after the beginning of U.S. involvement in the war for the club to temporarily shut down. Between 1943 to 1946, there was no golfing to be had at the club. But the land was put to good use! The greens were used for agriculture, at one time housing more than 200 cattle and 1,400 turkeys. This endeavor was not particularly profitable, especially considering the cost to repair the grass after the war.

 

5. Arnold Palmer once ordered an Arnold Palmer at the Masters

The quirky and charismatic golf legend and tournament winner is the namesake for the sweet and refreshing ice tea and lemonade drink that we know as an Arnold Palmer. Before the drink had a name, Palmer would make it at home and order it whenever he golfed. As he became one of the biggest names in the sport, his drink concoction caught on and became known across the country.

unique masters facts

The late Arnold Palmer cheersing a glass of Arnold Palmer. Source.

This begs the interesting question: how does one go about ordering a drink known by their own name? When Palmer visited the Masters tournament in 2013, the waitress who served him reported that he ordered his favorite drink in this manner: “He leaned over and said, ‘I’ll have a Mr. Palmer.’ Then he winked.”

 

6. Even though CBS has held broadcasting rights for the Masters since 1956, the contract is renewed each year

Even though the 2018 Masters will mark the 62nd consecutive that CBS has broadcast the Tournament, the Augusta National has hardly sold the broadcasting rights.  Broadcasting negotiations are renewed each and every single year, so the Tournament could theoretically switch to a different broadcaster at anytime. While the broadcasting rights for Summer and Winter Games were sold to NBC for nearly $4.4 billion on a ten year basis, the Augusta National’s year-by-year contract ensures that they have more flexibility.

watch masters cbs

What the CBS broadcast for the Masters looked like in 1986. CBS may have aired the last 61 Masters Tournaments, but this contract isn’t set in stone. Source.

 


With decades of rich history and tradition and an unwavering passion for the sport of golf, the Augusta National hosts a truly unforgettable tournament. To experience this historic and one-of-a-kind event for yourself, start planing your trip to the Masters in 2018!

Inspirational Stories to Watch at the PyeongChang Winter Games

The 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea are right around the corner, and boy could the world use a few weeks of sportsmanship and international camaraderie to distract us from simmering political tensions all around the globe.

In spite of the turbulent times in which we live, the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang are set to be a historic and inspirational event. From incredible athletic journeys to striking international precedents to increasing environmental sustainability, PyeongChang could be the glittering example of progress and perseverance that the the world needs.

Take a break from the constant stream of doomsday coverage for two weeks this February, and be sure not to miss these inspirational aspects of the 2018 Winter Games:

Three Nigerian women will be Africa’s first bobsled team

No African nation has ever won a medal at the Winter Games, but three Nigerian sprinters are determined to change this. Seun Adigun (who sprinted for Nigeria in London in 2012), Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga decided to apply their athletic talents to a sport without any following in their home country – bob sledding. After a successful GoFundMe campaign and months of training on a hand-made wooden sled, these three women have qualified to compete among bobsledders from icy northern nations.

nigerian bobsledders

Akuoma Omeoga, Seun Adigun and Ngozi Onwumere are paving the way for winter sports in Africa. Source.

“This is a huge milestone for sports in Nigeria,” Adigun told KweséESPN after qualifying to compete in PyeongChang. “Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria. Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”

 

PyeongChang will be among the greenest Games yet

With each passing year, cities bidding to host the Summer or Winter Games are subject to increasingly strict environmental and energy regulations. A successful bid requires that the event includes measures to offset carbon emissions from the intensive construction and spike in international travel to the region. After the Vancouver  Winter Games achieved net-0 with their carbon emissions, PyeongChang is following their example.

pyeongchang sustainability

The Gangwon Wind Farm, the largest wind farm in East Asia. Source.

PyeongChang is striving to be the most sustainable Winter Games on record and the first to adhere to ISO-2012 regulations, an international standard for environmentally stable events. The 2018 Games will be entirely wind powered, with wind farms in the Gangwon province already producing more megawatts than is anticipated to be necessary for the event. Six of the newly constructed venues, including the largest venue, will be either solar or geothermal powered. These sustainable buildings alongside PyeongChang’s fundraisers for carbon trading should help the event achieve their goal of zero carbon emissions, further cementing this standard for future host cities.

Two sisters will compete in Ice Hockey – for different nations

Sibling duos are nothing new in the world of sports, but rarely has the world ever seen a scenario like that of the Hannah and Marissa Brandt. Hannah will be playing in PyeongChang for the U.S. women’s team, and Marissa for the South Korean team.

hannah and marissa brandt

Big wins deserve big smiles. Photo source.

Marissa was adopted from Korea as a baby by Greg and Robin Brandt, with little sister Hannah arriving as a surprise pregnancy shortly after. Both girls grew up playing hockey, and Hannah always dreamed of playing on the national level. Soon after Hannah qualified to play in PyeongChang, Marissa was fielded by South Korean officials. As the host country for the Winter Games, South Korea actively sought out hockey players of Korean heritage from around the globe in order to build a stronger team.

“Unlike my sister, I never really dreamed about going to the Olympics when I was a kid,” Marissa said. “It’s an amazing opportunity, though, and I’m excited to be able to enjoy this experience with her. I’m also lucky it’s in my home country, because then my family can experience where I came from. It couldn’t have worked out much better.”

Read more about the Brandt family (who happen to be Bucket List Events clients!) in one of our earlier blog posts.

 

North Korea is likely to send athletes to compete, as well as cheerleaders and a pop group

The world has held its breath wondering how South Korea’s reclusive northern neighbors would react to PyeongChang’s successful Winter Games bid. The fraught relationship between the two countries, who were once one nation, has piqued international curiosity as well as safety concerns. But the world has breathed a sigh of relief with the news that North Korea is likely to send two figure skaters to compete in PyeongChang.

After a selfie taken by one North and one South Korean gymnast at the Rio Summer Games went viral, the photo became a symbol of hopes for reunification and peace between the tragically separated countries.

North Korea has performed historically very well in the Summer and Winter Games, especially compared to other countries of its size, having taken home 54 medals to date. As is typical of communist countries, athleticism is hugely emphasized in North Korean education and public life, and sport stars are considered patriotic heroes.

It is still unconfirmed whether North Korea will indeed send its athletes to PyeongChang, but they are indeed planning to send two of the nation’s most popular entertainment groups: the “Army of Beauties” cheerleading squad, and pop-group Moranbong.

These entertainment groups will not be permitted to perform any propaganda numbers while on South Korean soil. But the hospitable gesture will not go unnoticed by the world over.

 


We can’t wait to watch these intriguing and inspirational stories unfold at the PyeongChang Winter Games. If you can’t make it this year, it’s never too early to start planning for the Tokyo Summer Games in 2020 or the Beijing Winter Games in 2022.  To stay updated on travel packages to these and other exciting international events, subscribe to our newsletter in the sidebar.

New Years’ Traditions from Around the World to Bring You Luck

A ball drop, fireworks, a kiss at midnight, and resolutions. In the United States, we celebrate the New Year with these traditions, meant to bring us love and luck in the year ahead. But if you have big plans for the coming year, it certainly can’t hurt to be a little extra superstitious as the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Why not try out some foreign New Years’ customs said to bring happiness and success, just to be on the safe side?

Eat Right

You are what you eat, and different cultures around the world consider different foods as having the potential to bring luck in the New Year. In Spain, twelve grapes are consumed at the stroke of midnight – one for each toll of the clock and for each calendar month. In Italy, lentils are eaten on New Years Eve since their coin-like shape symbolizes wealth. Filipinos take the money symbolism even further, eating any and all round-shaped foods on New Year’s.

estonian new years meal

A typical Estonian New Year’s spread.

If you’re starting the new year with a diet, perhaps you’ll enjoy celebrating the last day of the year in Estonia, where  7, 9, or 12 meals are consumed over the course of the day. These are lucky numbers, and promise that you won’t go hungry in the coming year.

 

Dress for Success

It is often said that you should dress for the job you want, and the same can be said for the New Year you envision for yourself. If you’re hoping to make it rich, try wearing polka dots (again, to symbolize coins) on New Year’s Eve like they do in the Philippines. Trying to stay positive? Brazilians wear white to reflect good energy on the first day of the year.  Looking for lasting love? Those hoping for romance in the New Year wear red undies in Italy and pink undies in Argentina. Resolved to start fresh? In Romania, revelers dress up as bears and perform a special dance to symbolize death and rebirth.

new years customs

Brazilians in white celebrating the New Year in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Play with Fire

As humans, we are all fascinated by the beauty, warmth, and danger of fire. New Year’s Eve around the world is a testament to this. While we relish the opportunity for fireworks in the USA, other countries burn more than just rockets. In parts of Scotland, there is an entire festival dedicated to fire on the New Year called Hogmanay. The festival includes a parade of fireball spinners whose burning spheres are meant to ward off evil spirits. In Ecuador and Colombia, people sew scarecrows or dummies (often resembling rivals or enemies) then burn them in the streets as a way to signal leaving old grudges in the past. In Russia it is custom to write your wishes for the coming year on a sheet of paper, set it on fire, and then dump the ashes in a glass of champagne before drinking it as quickly as you can. Cheers!

new years traditions

Fireballs at a New Year’s Parade in Stonehaven, Scottland. Picture by COLIN RENNIE

 

A Fresh Start

The desire to shed baggage and clean house for the New Year is common in many cultures around the world, but not every country approaches this task the same way. In Denmark, it is custom to smash your chipped or unused plates and cups on New Year’s Eve. After collecting broken dishware all year, the Danes go around on the last day of the year shattering these dishes on their friends’ and neighbor’s doorsteps. The larger the pile of shards on your door, the more popular you are. In some parts of South Africa, it is custom to toss old furniture out of the windows (though many cities have outright banned this practice due to threat of falling sofas crushing passersby). But it’s not just your home that needs cleansing! In Russian Siberia, the end of the year and Christmas season is celebrated by taking a dip in frozen lakes as a means to cleanse the body and soul.

russian soul ice bath

Ice baths to ring in the New Year in Siberian Russia.

 

Prepare for a Year of Adventure

If you resolved to travel more in the New Year, perhaps you should try out this Ecuadorian New Year’s tradition: take your empty suitcase on a walk around the block or on your daily jog. This practice is said to bring about many exciting voyages in the year to come.

new years traditions

 


Have you resolved to travel more in the New Year? Explore Bucket List Event’s extensive roster of international sporting events and festivals, and make sure that you have a year full of adventure ahead of you.

How Far in Advance Should I Plan a Trip to an International Event?

So you have your heart set on attending a huge, famous, international event. The kind of event that you’ve always dreamed of crossing off your bucket list. You’ve researched the location, figured out the sights you want to see, and are starting to get really excited… until you remember that there are dozens of details that need to be sorted out before you depart: flights, tickets, hotels, transportation, all with the added stress of knowing that thousands of other travelers will be headed to the same locale at the same time.

Travel is great and all, but does anyone actually like organizing this stuff?

As professional tour organizers for international events, we can honestly say that we do enjoy the nuts and bolts of this planning process. And with nearly two decades of experience leading travelers to some of the largest events in the world, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to plan these trips so that you can get the cheapest flights, the best hotels, and your first pick for tickets.

Something we love about quadrennial sporting events is that the excitement builds over the course of several years. Once the host city or country for the Summer Games, the Winter Games, or the World Cup, is announced, we have plenty of time to dream of traveling to these cosmopolitan locations, cheering for our favorite teams, and touring exciting cities. But don’t dream the whole four years away! Stay on your toes for these important timeframes so that you can have the best trip possible:

 

When to buy tickets

Purchasing official tickets depends on the event, but as a general rule of thumb, start keeping tabs on ticket sales a year ahead of time. Each event releases a special schedule with different rounds of ticket sales, and the best prices are always during the first round. FIFA, for instance, usually sells the first round of tickets ten months before the World Cup, the second round six months before, and the final round up until the matches begin. The cheapest tickets for the Winter Games are generally available six months out. The first information about ticketing for the Summer Games is generally released about a year and a half prior. To make sure you don’t miss the announcements, we recommend following the official Olympics and FIFA World Cup Twitter accounts.

fifa world cup tours

Pretty good seats, right? To get a view like this, be on the look out for tickets about a year in advance.

 

When to book flights

Since the official dates of these events are available years ahead of time, you could theoretically book your flights as soon as they are available with your favorite carrier. However, we recommend waiting until you have your tickets secured. We find the sweet spot for booking international flights for February is in September and October, and flights for the summer in February and March. During these times, most carriers will have fairly competitive pricing and you’ll have the most options. Cheap flights can also be scored a bit closer to the departure date, but you may have to opt for long layovers and inconvenient connections.

Tokyo Bucket List

View of the Tokyo skyline.

In our experience, we find it best to plan the trip around the game that you most want to attend, and to give yourself at least one full day in the country before this event in order to acclimate. This day in between isn’t just so that you get a chance to get over the jetlag and explore a bit – it is also an important safety net in case your flight is for some reason delayed. If you went through the pains to obtain such a coveted ticket so many months in advance, the last thing you want is to miss the game you most wanted to see due to a flight delay.

 

When to book hotels

Lodging is without a doubt the trickiest part of the equation when planning a trip to the Summer Games, Winter Games, or World Cup. The reason is, it depends mostly on the city. Some simply have more hotels than others.

For the Summer Games, these events happen in huge cosmopolitan cities during the peak summer traveling months. London, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo – metropoles like these are well prepared to house plenty of international tourists during any summer. In fact, it is not unusual that hosting the Summer Games actually means that the city receives less tourists than usual in that time (as was the case with London in 2012). For summer events in large cities, we recommend shopping around for hotels about four months in advance. This will give you the widest range of choice as to location, and the prices should be standard for the time of year. While last-minute deals on empty rooms certainly exist, keep in mind that it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to find a hotel in a good location if you wait too long. All the rooms near the official venues will be long gone.

london wimbledon tour packages

Summer Games cities, like London in 2012, know a thing or two about taking good care of their visitors.

The Winter Games tend to be held in smaller mountain cities whose winter tourist populations are hugely dependent on the seasonal snowfall. Especially for more off-the-grid cities like PyeongChang, many hotels are built specifically for the event. Even though visitor numbers are generally lower for the Winter Games vs. the Summer Games, hotels are usually harder to come by because these locations do not see as many tourists in general and therefore do not have as extensive of a tourist infrastructure. We recommend booking a hotel room as soon as you can, ideally at the same time you buy your event tickets. Distance from the venue and transportation are important to consider when you make your choice, so try to book no later than six months out in order to have the widest selection.

PyeongChang Mountain Resort for Winter Games

Winter Games cities like PyeongChang build more hotels in preparation to host the event.

For the World Cup, hotels are a whole different story since a whole country hosts the event, and not just one city. You certainly have the option to stay put in the biggest city where most of the action will be; for the 2018 World Cup, Moscow is hosting several of the major matches. But if you plan to follow a team through the tournament, you are bound to end up in smaller cities and will have to make lodging plans accordingly. If you are staying put in a major metropolis like Moscow, we recommend booking your hotel about four months ahead of time. Large cities like this have extensive tourist infrastructures, and their hotels shouldn’t be too overburdened during the World Cup. But if following your favorite team takes you to the likes of Volgograd or Saransk, it’s advisable to do your research as early as six to eight months out. Since the hotel landscape is highly variable across mid-size cities like these, and in many cases under construction specifically for the World Cup, you will want to be informed as soon as possible about your lodging options.

Ekaterinburg Russia world cup

The World Cup offers a unique opportunity to travel to smaller cities you may not have otherwise visited, like Ekaterinburg, Russia.

When to book travel packages

If keeping tabs on flights, ticket sales, and hotel options isn’t your thing, you can always opt for an all-inclusive travel experience with expert tour operators. When you travel to international sporting events with Bucket List Events, we have lodging and transportation all sorted out for you, so you won’t have to sweat the details. Furthermore, we can advise you about the latest on flight costs and ticket sales so that you’re ready to strike when the iron is hot.

We start planning our travel experiences for the Summer Games, Winter Games, and World Cup four years before the event – that’s four years of scouting the best hotels, organizing special dinners and parties, working out transportation solutions, and creating an action-packed itinerary for our guests. You can book your travel experiences with us several years in advance, giving yourself plenty of time to get excited for your trip. Or if you’ve decided to make this trip spontaneously, booking with Bucket List Events means no last-minute scrambling to find a hotel.

How far in advance you should book your trip to huge events is not a question easily answered. But there is an easy solution, and that’s to leave the details to the professionals.

 

 

How the Most Unique Winter Games Sports Work

If you grew up in a region known more for its sun than its snow, chances are that many events that are part of the quadrennial Winter Games just don’t make a lot of sense to you. Skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, hockey – we can all wrap our heads around those. But skeleton? Curling? Who came up with such sports, and how exactly are they athletic?

To get you ramped up to enjoy the full spectrum of events at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, the Bucket List Events team is here to explain the ins-and-outs of six of the most unique winter sports.

Biathlon

The biathlon is a cross-country skiing race combined with rifle-shooting. If that sounds like something out of a James Bond film, that’s probably because both The Spy Who Loved Me and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service feature chase scenes reminiscent of this sport.

Biathlon was born out of Scandinavia, where the sport was invented as an alternate exercise course for military training. The sport first joined the official Winter Games roster in 1924, but has enjoyed a consistent slot since the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley. The 1992 Games in Albertville were the first to feature a women’s competition as well as a men’s. The 2006 Games in Turin even featured an event where men and women competed side-by-side.

The military origins of this sport are immediately clear: biathlon is a huge test of endurance, form, and accuracy. Participants ski a course with their rifles on their back, pausing at intermittent shooting stations where they need to load their rifles and hit a target five times before resuming the race.

how does biathlon work

Photo by Ludovic Péron.

It’s not surprising that countries that are known for harsh winters and dominating the Winter Games are in the top model earning spots for this event. Germany has won the most medals (45), beating out Norway (35), Russia (24), and France (20). These medal counts are all accurate as of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

The Luge

Imagine laying atop a sled and plummeting down a steep, icy hill at 90mph, with only a helmet for protection. Certainly one of the most adrenaline-pumping events at the Winter Games, the Luge is also among the most dangerous of all winter sports.

Athletes are strapped into a small sled that is generally no longer than the distance between their mid-back and knees. In the case of doubles, one athlete lays on top of the other. They lay flat and rigid to achieve optimal aerodynamics, adjusting their body weight ever so slightly to steer the sled. Luge courses generally begin with a steep hill before they level out slightly and begin to wind and curve. Hitting the walls of the course can slow a luger down, or even injure them, and results in a penalty that adds to their run time.

The term luge comes from a Swiss dialect of the French language that refers to a small coasting sled. The Innsbruck Games in 1964 were the first to feature the sport. As of 1976, this game has taken place on the same track as the bobsled. Americans weren’t always completely sold on this game, never built an official run for athletes to practice on until the 70s. Although Team USA competed in the event in several Winter Games before this, it wasn’t until 1979 that a United States Luge Association was formed. Since becoming an official part of the Winter Games, two athletes have died during practice luges as part of the Games.

Germany is the top contender in luge with 75 medals in all, far outranking other countries: Austria has 19, Italy has 17, and Russia has 9.

Bobsleigh (or Bobsled)

The bobsleigh (also known as ‘bobsled’ in some countries) is a heavier-duty version of the luge. As both a single-athlete and a team sport, bobsleigh features a large, covered sled with a steering apparatus that can fit up to four athletes. The athletes push the sled from the outside to give it momentum, then hop inside before shooting down a narrow, icy chute at high speeds, steering themselves through the banked and twisting tracks to get the fastest time.

Bobsleigh has been part of the Winter Games since 1924, with its first women’s competition held in 2002. The name bobsleigh is said to come from the technique that bobsledders use to increase the speed of the sleigh. They will bob back and forth inside of it to go faster. In the early years of this race, the bobsleigh itself was very heavy, and this was believed to take out the athleticism of the game, so now the sleds are lighter.

As of the 2014 Games, the country with the most medals is Switzerland at 31 total. The United States comes in second with 24 total medals, followed closely by Germany with 21 medals. But while Germany may only come in third with their total medal count, 10 of their medals are gold medals – that ranks them even higher than Switzerland, who holds only nine gold medals for bobsleigh.

Like luge, this Winter Games sport is not for the faint of heart as it has taken the life of many competitors in fatal accidents during practice runs and training sessions. On the lighter side of this event, you may have heard of Cool Runnings, the Disney movie about the real-life Jamaican bobsled team that competed at the 1988 Alberta Games.

Skeleton

Skeleton is everything that is terrifying about luge, but face-first. Luge and skeleton are incredibly similar, but the main differences are that 1) skeleton sleds are heavier and thinner and 2) skeleton athletes lay face-first on their stomachs, while luge athletes lay feet-first on their backs. This may sound even scarier than luge, but it is actually considered to be the safer of the two sports. Because the athletes’ heads are at the front of the sled, their reaction time is generally quicker and their muscle control more precise.

how does skeleton work

Photo by Divulgação.

Skeleton was even replaced by luge at one time during the Winter Games, and it’s not hard to see why considering they are so similar. But the sport has since enjoyed a regular come back since the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. This event is done as both a men’s and women’s event in modern times, but as of yet, there have not been any mixed gender races taking place during the Winter Games.

As the Winter Games’ history of this event is rather small, so are the medal counts when compared to the other winter sporting events that have been covered. The United States is in the lead with eight total medals, followed by Great Britain with six and Canada with four. Russia is tied with Switzerland for fourth place with three medals apiece.

Nordic Combined

Nordic Combined is a mash-up of two of the most well-known Winter Games sports: ski jumping and cross-country skiing. Athletes first perform a ski jump, and their performance determines their starting time in a cross-country ski race that follows.

how does nordic combined work

Photo by Jim Hegan.

Nordic combined first appeared at the Holmenkollen ski jump competition in 1892 in Oslo, Norway. The event was so popular that even the King of Norway, Olav V, competed in the 1920s during the Holmenkollen Ski Festival. Nordic Combined was first added to the Winter Games in 1924, and has been a part of it ever since. Previously, the race was held first and followed by the jump, but the order was changed after the 1950s. This event is currently only open to men, but women’s teams are assembling for the 2022 Games.

It’s not surprising that Norway leads the medal count for this event with 30 total medals. The next closest runners up are Finland and Austria with 14 and 13 medals respectively, and Germany has 9.

Curling

Can you name a sport that uses brooms? If your answer was Quidditch, you probably aren’t Canadian. Curling is yet another winter sport that has much of the world scratching their heads every four years. But as silly as it may look to people who’ve never played, curling is actually very grueling and strategic.

how does curling work

Photo by Daniel Haug.

The object of curling is to slide a teapot-shaped granite stone across a 150 ft sheet of ice to guide it to a circular target called the house. There are two teams, each made up of four players. Each team has eight stones, and they gather points by sliding the stones into the center of the house. The teams alternate sliding the stones, and can sweep along the ice with special brooms to help guide the stone in the desired direction. They can knock their own teams stones closer to the target, or knock the opposing team’s stones out. Because of the distance that the stone must travel and the possibility that the opposing team will knock out your stones, curling requires huge amounts of team work and strategy. This strategic element has won the sport the nickname of “Chess on Ice.”

Curling debuted at the Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924, but was only considered a demonstration sport during the 1932, 1988, and 1992 games. The Nagano Games in 1998 was when it was officially added as a part of the program for the Winter Games, featuring both men’s and women’s competitions. A mixed event between the genders was considered briefly back in 2010, but it was rejected. However, there will be a mixed event in the upcoming games.

Since it’s short history in the Winter Games, there is only one country with a double digit medal count. That is Canada, with 10 medals. Sweden has seven, with two Swedish teams having won medals in the 1924 games. Switzerland follows next with five medals.


Want to watch the world’s greatest athletes compete in these and other exciting sports in the beautiful resort town of PyeongChang, South Korea? Check out our 2018 Winter Games packages today.

What Makes the Masters so Special?

I have made a career out of enabling people to cross items off of their bucket lists, and am often asked which international event I consider the best. The answer to this question is easy for me.

The Masters is quite simply the best event to attend in the world. The Masters is perhaps the only international event I can think of that is completely untouched by the commercial forces that make people say, “Yeah it was fun, but it’s not like it used to be.”

Have you have ever returned to place or event where you have great memories only to be disappointed to see it brimming with tourists, cheap gimmicks, and opportunistic price-gouging? This is a feeling many of us know. I am pleased to report that the Masters, however, remains pristine.

From the gorgeous setting in Augusta, Georgia, to the reverence for the sport of golf and its traditions, to the event’s ban on marketing on the green: the Masters is truly a stand-alone example of an event whose priorities remain steadfast and wholesome.

 

Is the Masters like the Super Bowl, but with golf?

Because the Masters is America’s most important annual tournament in the sport of golf, many people compare the Masters to the Super Bowl. But this easy comparison couldn’t be further from the truth. For one thing, more than half of the folks in the stands the Super Bowl are not even fans of the final teams: they are instead there for the crowds, the halftime concert, the celebrity sightings, the media hype, the potential selfies.

Consider for a moment that one of the most talked about aspects of the Super Bowl each year is the commercials. Now consider that, at the Masters, absolutely no sponsor advertisements are allowed on the course. The tone is so different between these two events that there is just no comparison to be had.

is the masters like the super bowl

Does this look like the Super Bowl to you? Photo by Torrey Wiley.

 

What is the Masters location like?

The Masters takes place in Augusta, Georgia, the state’s second most populous city behind Atlanta. Though the city offers a worthwhile portion of historic architecture and scenic views in its downtown area, Augusta also has many of the features of your typical American sprawl. Especially on its outskirts, you can expect to see lots of fast food chains and stripmalls along the highways. The drive out to the Augusta National Golf Club isn’t a scenic one: as you approach the golf course on Washington Road, prepare to be bombarded with billboards and advertisements for Krispy Kreme Donuts, Outback Steakhouse, Walgreens, Hooters, Olive Garden, and Waffle House, among others.

Then, you turn into the Augusta National parking area and immediately leave it all behind.

what makes the masters so special?

Not a advertisement or push notification in sight. Photo by Ryan Schreiber.

When you step foot on Augusta National, all the stresses of our fast-paced modern world melt away. There is not an advertisement in sight. Everything is immaculate. The grass is trimmed so perfectly that it looks more like Astroturf. Every fallen leaf is raked up. Every fallen pine needle is swept away.

The grounds of the golf course were formerly a nursery before club founder Bobby Jones built the course in the 1930s. This horticultural legacy is still visible on the course today. Many of the trees, which are huge and magnificent, predate the Civil War. For example, one iconic oak tree behind the Clubhouse and the 60 magnolia trees that line the road approaching it were all planted in the 1850s. 

A great game of golf is determined as much by athletic talent as it is by great gardening. The Masters does both of things better than anywhere else.

 

Is the Masters venue the same every year?

The other major golf tournaments all rotate cities and venues with every year. This is also true of countless other big sporting events. The Masters, however, is the only major golf tournament that is played on the same course every year, and always during the first full week of April.  

Is the masters always in the same location

Photo by Rory McIlroy.

This is a good thing in my opinion for several reasons. First, this means the event is free from the flashy bidding circus that comes with events that are held in a different city every year. In order to host the Super Bowl, the World Cup, or the Summer or Winter Games, hopeful host cities dump millions if not billions into winning the bid, bringing their venues up to par, and outdoing the previous host. Oftentimes the infrastructure built for the event stands empty once the games are over. In that the Masters is always held in the same location, the event is much more economically and environmentally sustainable.

Second, holding the tournament in the same place every year grounds the event in the sport itself. Rising stars and unknown hopefuls compete on the very same pitch that hundreds of legends before them did. And as the first major tournament of the year, there is a ceremonial importance to holding it in the same place. The Masters represents the first step of each golfer’s dream of winning the Grand Slam. Only the winner of the Masters has that opportunity going forward.

 

What are some traditions upheld at the Masters?

Augusta National Country Club has done an amazing job of lovingly maintaining their many traditions through the years. Their insistence on doing things by the book adds an element of nostalgia to the tournament that is sorely lacking in other sports. Even as the game of golf has progressed with new technology and new stars, the Masters never loses sight of the history and traditions of the sport. Here are some of my favorite Masters traditions:

Ceremonial First Tee Shot

On Thursday morning, the tournament is opened with the first tee shot being taken by one of the greats of the game. Perhaps more than any other tradition, this one exemplifies how Augusta National respects and honors the history of this great game.

The Par-3 Tournament

par 3 contest masters

Viewers watch the Par-3 Contest in 2015. Photo by Ryan Schreiber.

Wednesday of Masters week is my favorite day of the year. Most players participate in the nine-hole Par-3 contest on Wednesday afternoon. The holes are relatively short, between 160 and 190 yards in length, allowing you to get closer to the action (and the players) than during regular competition. The atmosphere is light-hearted and festive, with many players using their spouses or children as caddies.  Interestingly, no player has ever won both the Par-3 Tournament and the Masters in the same year, which has led to many players purposely losing the Par-3.

Champions Dinner

On Tuesday of the Masters week, all of the previous winners of the tournament gather for a seated dinner in the Clubhouse. The previous winner is responsible for choosing the menu, and they often select dishes representative of their homeland.

The Green Jacket

Adam Scott presents Bubba Watson with the green jacket in 2014. Photo by Andrew Reddington, Getty Images.

Arguably the most coveted prize in all of sports is a sport coat from the Augusta National Golf Club.  Each year the Green Jacket is presented to the winner of the tournament by the previous year’s winner.  Players are allowed to keep their jacket for one year, then must return them to the Club and can then only wear it on the grounds. Gestures like these are brimming with nostalgia, and a huge part of the reason why the Masters are so unique.

Skipping Balls on Number 16

Is there any other event in all of sports where some of the most exciting action is watching the participants just practice? The first three days of the Masters are filled with practice rounds, and perhaps the most interesting place to spend your day is by hole Number 16. This par-3 hole has a large pond between the tee box and the green. After taking a normal practice shot, players are encouraged by the crowd to attempt to skip a ball across the water and onto the green.

 

Are there any rules that first timers at the Masters should be aware of?

Much like tennis, golf is a game that is imbued with etiquette. But aside from the common standards for player and audience behavior during the game, there are a few notable rules at the Masters that make the world’s most prestigious golf tournament also its most formal.

1. No sponsors on the course

The Masters, like all major golf tournaments, is limited to five sponsors every year. And though these sponsors each pay more than six million dollars, they are not permitted to have any branding present on the course. No t-shirts, no koozies, no banners, no blimps – nothing on the green. Even the athletes keep logos on their clothing and gear to a subtle minimum.

2. No autographs

The Club wants the athletes to be able to feel relaxed while at the tournament, as if they were playing at their own home club. For this reason, fans are not permitted to approach the golfers for autographs on game day.

3. No cell phones, cameras, or electronic devices

Don’t even think about it. Security will confiscate your devices before you can even extend your selfie stick. As anxiety-inducing as the thought of watching an entire round of golf without your phone may be, this rule actually makes the game so much better. Everyone is actually paying attention.

 


Are you ready to see the most prestigious tournament in the golf world? Take part in the tradition and witness the greats of past and present in Augusta, Georgia. Check out our Masters Travel Packages and get ready to experience a bucket list sporting event unlike any other.

20 Futuristic Things to See and Do in Tokyo in 2020

If any city on the planet resembles last-century fictional representations of the future, Tokyo is it.

A sprawling metropolis? Check. Tokyo is the world’s most populous city (with more than 38 million residents in the metropolitan area) and its second largest by geographical area.

Towering buildings and bright lights? Check. The Tokyo skyline boasts 143 skyscrapers and is one of the brightest locations on the globe as seen from space.

Robot friends and flying cars? Half check. Tokyo is setting up a robotic village at the site of the Atheletes’ Village, and if all goes well, a flying car will light the torch in 2020.

As the host city of the globe’s most prestigious international athletic competition, futuristic Tokyo is preparing to showcase its world-renowned technology and hospitality at the 2020 Summer Games. But the Summer Games venues certainly aren’t the only places in Tokyo where travelers can experience futuristic architecture and technology. Tokyo is filled with cuttiolyng edge design and incredible feats of civil engineering.

Here are 20 futuristic sites and activities in Tokyo that travelers to the 2020 Summer Games visit for a glimpse forward in time.

1. Miraikan, the Future Museum

Miraikan is Japan’s National Museum of Engineering Science and Innovation. Located on the man-made island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay and features interactive exhibits filled with robots, apocalyptic scenarios, and incredible feats in human engineering.

 

2. Tokyo Skytree, the Tallest Tower

The tallest tower in the world as of 2011, Tokyo Skytree looms 2,080 ft over the city. The primary radio and television broadcast tower for Tokyo, Skytree also has a restaurant and observation deck. There is no better place in the city to get 360 degree view of futuristic Tokyo.

 

3. Capsule Hotels

With more than 2.5 million daily commuters and 425 million annual tourists making the trek into Tokyo, there isn’t always enough space for traditional lodging. Capsule Hotels are a no-frills overnight solution for tourists and business people who aren’t claustrophobic.  Tokyo’s selection of these sleeping pods range from oven-like to minimalist-chic.

 

4. Aman Hotel Spa

tokyo futuristic spa

Photo by Aman Hotels.

If you opt to save money by sleeping in a pod, then perhaps you can allocate some extra cash and treat yourself to a day at the spa in the Aman Hotel. Spanning six-floors, filled with natural light, and boasting incredible views of the city, this spa offers a full range of classic treatments in a serene and modern setting. But if the thought of walking barefoot across elegant, cold, slated floors sends shivers up your spine, there’s no need to worry. The slate floors are heated.

 

5. Shinkansen Bullet Train

Photo by Ryan Kilpatrick.

Shinkansen was first debuted in 1964 at the first Summer Games to be hosted in Tokyo. With historically unprecedented speeds of up to 200 mph, the world had never seen anything quite like it before. The line continues to expand to this day, and there are now Shinkansen tracks that can take you between most of the major cities in Japan. The line has transported more than 10 billion passengers to date.

 

6. Pasona 02 Underground Farm

pasona underground farm tokyo

An underground rice field. Image by PASONA 02.

Is large-scale agriculture even possible in a metropolis like Tokyo? The Pasona 02 Underground Farm endeavors to say yes. Through hydroponics, a controlled climate, and artificial lighting, more than 100 different crops are cultivated beneath the surface of bustling Tokyo. Touring the farm is a glimpse into potential answers to the pressing global questions of the future.

 

7. Odaiba’s Gundam Statue

gundam tokyo Shuichi Aizawa

Photo by Shuichi Aizawa.

On the man-made island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, something a bit ominous towers over the waterfront district. Remodeled and replaced in September 2017 in anticipation of the 2020 Summer Games, this 60 ft and completely proportionate Unicorn Gundam statue can robotically switch between Unicorn Mode and Destroy Mode.

 

8. Kindergartens of the Future

futuristic tokyo kindergarten

Fuji Kindergarten. Photo by DeZeen.

Children are the future, and this is a concept that the Japanese architects behinds Tokyo schools and kindergartens fully embrace. Making innovative use of space with rooftop playgrounds and gardens, Tokyo’s school children enjoy futuristic learning facilities.

 

9. Robot Restaurant

robot restaurant tokyo

Photo by Nick Turner.

Have you ever enjoyed a meal while metallic bikini-clad women roll by on a LED-illuminated tank and a panda rides an armored robotic dragon? Book a reservation at Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant for an indescribable dinner theater experience.

 

10. Kanda Myojin Shrine

The Kanda Myojin shrine is definitely not new – it dates back to the 13th century. But it certainly serves a very modern purpose as the shrine to which people pray in times of technological hardship. From IT experts hoping for luck with an upcoming project to pedestrians despairing over needing to empty their camera rolls, Kanda is the place to bring your electronic woes. Talk about old solutions to new problems.

 

11. Yodobashi Akiba Electronics Department Store

yodobashi akiba department store tokyo

Photo by Kojach.

This 9-story department store in Akihabara is famous for selling any and all gadgets one could possibly be looking to buy. From printer parts to kitchen gadgets, the latest iPhone to electronic sex toys, if requires electricity – Yodobashi Akiba sells it. But don’t forget to make it up to the top level to hit a few golf-balls on their rooftop driving range.

 

12. Vending Machines for Everything

tokyo vending machines

Photo by MsSaraKelly.

Super convenient and anonymous, there are vending machines all over Tokyo that can get you most anything you need instantly: from fermented bean drinks to fully cooked meals to used panties.

 

13. Nagakin Capsule Tower

Constructed over just 30 days in 1972, the Nagakin Capsule tower was the first example of capsule architecture intended for permanent, practical use. 30 of the 140 pods today are still inhabited as apartments. Each self-contained capsule measures about 107 square feet and is outfitted with living utilities such as toilets and kitchens.

 

14. Futuristic Cemeteries

futuristic cemetery tokyo

Photo by Emiko Jozuka.

There is hardly room for the 38 million living inhabitants of Tokyo – so what happens when people die? With traditional cemetery plots skyrocketing to prohibitively expensive prices, Tokyo residents are opting for a more economical and futuristic final resting place: cremation, a small storage locker, and a glowing LED Buddha statue.

 

15. Tokyo Street Style

tokyo street style

Photo by Istolethetv.

Tokyo isn’t just on the cutting edge of architecture and technology. As one of the fashion capitals of the world, street clothing in Tokyo is a wonder to behold all itself. From subdued and super-chic to outlandish and wacky, you can see the full spectrum of futuristic clothing styles just walking around the streets of Tokyo.

 

16. Curated Shopping Experience – the Good Design Store

good design store tokyo

Photo by Spoon Tomago.

Since 1957, Japan has held the Good Design Awards to honor products that enhance quality of life through their beauty and simplicity. The Good Design Store in the Kitte shopping complex is a highly curated shopping experience where you can browse and purchase prize-winning products, both from recent years and decades before.

 

17. Fuji Television Building

This hyper-modern lattice building is the headquarters for Fuji TV, one of Japan’s most prominent television stations and broadcasting companies. The building features a spherical observation deck that offers an amazing view of the Odaiba waterfront as well as Mount Fuji at dusk.

 

18. Prada Flagship Store

prada flagship store

Photo by Forgemind.

The Italian couture label constructed one of Tokyo’s most striking buildings as its Japan flagship store. With a green glass facade and diagonal grid frame, the structure houses an ultra-modern space filled with tube hallways and angular rooms.

 

19. Saryo Minimalist Tea Shop

saryo tea shop tokyo

Photo by Saryo.

Between four white walls without any adornments in Sangen-Jaya sits Saryo tea shop. Utterly minimalist and serene in design, this tea house takes a modern and simple approach to the ancient Japanese art of brewing tea. They use pour over drippers constructed from a copper base, a ceramic dripper, and a wooden holder to achieve the perfect cup of tea.

 

20. High-Tech Toilets

Some times futurism is totally mundane. Tokyo’s proclivity for remote-controlled toilets is one such example. In both private residences and public spaces, toilets with a variety of settings and functions can be found. When nature calls during your trip to Tokyo, you can look forward to seat warmers, bidets, massages. Experiment with the multitude of functions at your own risk.

 


Don’t miss out on the world’s most futuristic Summer Games ever! Reserve your place at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo Japan.

Guide to the 2018 Russia World Cup Stadiums

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be the first of its kind. Never has the world’s largest and most prestigious international football event taken place over such a vast amount of space.

Spanning two continents, Russia is, after all, the world’s geographically largest country. With matches to be held in 11 cities in the western regions of Russia, the Russia World Cup stadiums span an area about as large as all of western Europe. The area between the furthest four points (Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Sochi) totals to more than 931,000 square miles.

Though this vast amount of space is causing something of a logistical headache for teams who need to travel long distances between matches, the Russia World Cup stadiums layout offers some pretty unique travel opportunities for visitors looking to attend. With the lift on travel visas and complementary train travel between host cities for ticket holders, Russia has never been more accessible to westerners. Traveling between host cities during the World Cup can be a once in a lifetime chance to see some of the vast and fascinating diversity that Russia has to offer.

And after their impressive hospitality during the Sochi Winter Games in 2014, Russia won’t disappoint with their World Cup stadiums and travel infrastructure in 2018. Not only are the building six brand-spanking-new stadiums, but there are extensive renovations under way in preparation for the tournament. Here are the 12 Russia World Cup stadiums that you could be sitting in in the summer of 2018:

Russia world cup stadiums 2018

 

The 2018 Russia World Cup Stadiums

Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

russia world cup stadiums 2018 luzhniki moscow

The Moscow State University building is visible from the other side of the river. The university building is one of 7 gothic-style skyscrapers built during the Stalin-era. Image source.

Capacity: 81,000 

Currently undergoing renovations to build out a roof that will completely cover the seating area of the arena, the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow will be the largest and most impressive of the 2018 World Cup. Luzhniki is one of the few major European stadiums that uses an artificial pitch, due to the fact that grass cannot typically withstand the harsh Russian winters. The stadium is scenically located on the banks of the Moskva River on the edges of downtown Moscow.

Luzhniki Stadium Scheduled Matches:

June 14 – Russia vs A2 (Group A)
June 17  – F1 vs F2 (Group F)
June 20 – B1 vs B3 (Group B)
June 26 – C4 vs C1 (Group C)
July 1 – 1B vs 2A (Round of 16)
July 11 – W59 vs W60 (Semi Final)
July 15 – W61 vs W62 (Final)

 

Spartak Stadium (Otkrytiye Arena), Moscow

Spartak Russia world cup stadiums

Originally built in 1922, Otkrytiye Arena was the first stadium erected in the Soviet Union. Image source.

Capacity: 42,000

Also known as Otkrytiye Arena (Otkrytiye means “open” in Russian), Spartak Stadium is the home of Spartak Moscow, Russia’s most successful football club. Located to the northwest of Moscow, the arena sports the red and white colors of its home team.

Spartak Stadium Scheduled Matches:

June 16 – D1 vs D2 (Group D)
June 19 – H1 vs H2 (Group H)
June 23 – B1 vs B3 (Group B)
June 26 – C4 vs C1 (Group C)
July 3 – 1H vs 2G (Round of 16)

 

St. Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg

russia world cup stadiums st petersburg

When the weather is nice, the stadium roof is fully retractable. Image source.

Capacity: 68,000

Home to FC Zenit, the St. Petersburg Stadium features a fully retractable roof. It sits on its own island where the Neva River meets the Gulf of Finland.

St. Petersburg Stadium Scheduled Matches:

June 15 – B3 vs B4 (Group B)
June 19 – Russia vs A3 (Group A)
June 22 – E1 vs E3 (Group E)
June 26 – D4 vs D1 (Group D)
July 3 – 1F vs 2E (Round of 16)
July 10 – W57 vs W58 (Semi Final)
July 14 – L61 vs L62 (Third Place)

 

World Cup Russia 2018

 

Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

Sochi Russia World Cup Stadiums Fisht

The swooping white roof of the stadium is meant to resemble snow peaks. Image source.

Capacity: 47,700

Originally built as an enclosed stadium for the Sochi Winter Games, the stadium has since been renovated to be an open-air football stadium. From the north side of the stadium, the Krasnaya Polyana mountain range is visible. From the south side, you get a great view of the Black Sea.

Fisht Stadium Scheduled Matches:

June 15 – B1 vs B2 (Group B)
June 18 – G1 vs G2 (Group G)
June 23 – F1 vs F3 (Group F)
June 26 – C2 vs C3 (Group C)
June 30 – 1A vs 2B (Round of 16)
July 7 – W51 vs W52 (Quarter Final)

 

Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg

yekaterinburg central stadium russia world cup

Yekaterinburg Central Stadium. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

Originally built in 1956, the Yekaterinburg Central Stadium has hosted thousands of sporting events in its tenure, most notably speed skating. Its newest revamp will expand seating capacity and stadium technology.

Central Stadium Scheduled Matches:

June 15 – A3 vs A4 (Group A)
June 21 – C1 vs C3 (Group C)
June 24 – H4 vs H2 (Group H)
June 27 – F2 vs F3 (Group F)

 

Kazan Arena, Kazan

Kazan Russia world cup stadium

The Kazan Stadium is one of the most modern of the Russia World Cup. Image Source.

Capacity: 45,000

First built in 2013, the Kazan arena is one of the newer Russia World Cup stadiums. The arena is the home stadium for FC Kazan Rubin. It’s outside LED screen is the largest of its kind in Europe.

Kazan Arena Scheduled Matches:

June 16 – C1 vs C2 (Group C)
June 20 – B4 vs B2 (Group B)
June 24 – H1 vs H3 (Group H)
June 27 – F4 vs F1 (Group F)
June 30 – 1C vs 2D (Round of 16)
July 6 – W53 vs W54 (Quarter Final)

 

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Nizhny Novgorod russia world cup stadiums

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is visible in the background. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

The Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is a completely new venture build specifically for the World Cup. Located on the banks of the Volga River, the Nizhny Novogorod Kremlin wall as well as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral will be visible in the east.

Nizhny Novgorod Scheduled Matches:

June 18 – F3 vs F4 (Group F)
June 21 – D1 vs D3 (Group D)
June 24 – G4 vs G2 (Group G)
June 27 – E2 vs E3 (Group E)
July 1 – 1D vs 2C (Round of 16)
July 6 – W49 vs W50 (Quarter Final)

 

Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

rostov on don russia world cup stadiums

With the Rostov Nature Reserve in the nearby region, the Rostov Arena offers the greenest of the World Cup Stadiums. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

With ground broken in 2013, the Rostov arena is among the brand-new stadiums built for the Russia World Cup. It is the first major development on the southern bank of the Don river, meaning that there remains extensive greenery in the surrounding area.

Rostov Arena Scheduled Matches:

June 17 – E1 vs E2 (Group E)
June 20 – A4 vs A2 (Group A)
June 23 – F4 vs F2 (Group F)
June 26 – D2 vs D3 (Group D)
July 2 – 1G vs 2H (Round of 16)

 

Cosmos Arena, Samara

cosmos stadium samara world cup russia

Extensive construction is taking place in this area of Samara, for both this stadium and a planned tower. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

Another brand new stadium built in anticipation of the World Cup, the Cosmos Stadium in Samara is one of the most visually striking projects. The dome will be made of glass panels that are angled to make the stadium resemble a gemstone.

Cosmos Arena Scheduled Matches:

June 17 – E3 vs E4 (Group E)
June 21 – C4 vs C2 (Group C)
June 25 – A4 vs Russia (Group A)
June 28 – H2 vs H3 (Group H)
July 2 – 1E vs 2F (Round of 16)
July 7 – W55 vs W56 (Quarter Final)

 

Mordovia Arena, Saransk

Mordovia Arena Saransk russia world cup

This stadium will be the new home of FC Mordovia Saransk and the Russian Premiere League. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

This brand new stadium is currently underway in the south eastern region of Saransk. It is located just east of the city’s most famous cathedral, the Cathedral Fyodor Ushakov.

Mordovia Arena Scheduled Matches:

June 16 – C3 vs C4 (Group C)
June 19 – H3 vs H4 (Group H)
June 25 – B4 vs B1 (Group B)
June 28 – G2 vs G3 (Group G)

 

Central Stadium, Volgograd

volgograd russia world cup stadiums

“Motherland Calls” is the statue overlooking the stadium. Image source.

Capacity: 45,000

An old stadium was demolished and a new is on the way. The stadium is located just down hill of Friendship Park and is overlooked by the statue “Motherland Calls,” the city’s most prominent monument.

Volgograd Scheduled Matches:

June 18 – G3 vs G4 (Group G)
June 22 – D4 vs D2 (Group D)
June 25 – A2 vs A3 (Group A)
June 28 – H4 vs H1 (Group H)

 

Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad

kaliningrad stadiums russia world cup

Previously called the Baltic Arena, the Kaliningrad Stadium is undergoing a complete renovation for the World Cup. Image source.

Capacity: 35,000

Built on Oktyabrsky Island in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, the Kaliningrad Stadium is the smallest of the Russia World Cup stadiums. The stadium will be accessible by public transport, and is just 3k from the city’s centrail railway station.

Kaliningrad Scheduled Matches:

June 16 – D3 vs D4 (Group D)
June 22 – E4 vs E2 (Group E)
June 25 – B2 vs B3 (Group B)
June 28 – G4 vs G1 (Group G)


Learn more about each of the 11 Russian World Cup host cities. For an unforgettable trip to Russia in 2018, inquire about our FIFA World Cup 2018 Travel Packages today.

Guide to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games Stadiums & Venues

Hosting the Summer or Winter Games is one of the most prestigious honors and responsibilities a nation and city can take on. With more than 10,000 athletes and 500,000 foreign travelers estimated to attend the 2020 games in Tokyo, officials in the world’s most populous city are currently doing all they can to build out sufficient stadiums, venues, hotels, infrastructure, and transportation in time for the event.

Famed for incredible feats of technology and civil engineering, Tokyo may just be the most qualified city in the world to accommodate such a huge influx of foreigners. After all, Tokyo’s metropolitan area is home to more than 37.8 million people and is visited by nearly 5 million tourists annually – this is a city that knows a thing or two about crowd control.

Already home to some of the most remarkable architectural accomplishments on the planet, from ancient temples to urban green spaces to modern skyscrapers, the city of Tokyo is sure to impress with their newly-built and -renovated stadiums and venues for the 2020 Summer Games. Here are some of the incredible buildings travelers to Tokyo in 2020 can look forward to seeing:

Tokyo Skyline

In a city of 38 million residents, what’s a measly 500,000 foreign visitors? Source.

The Japan National Stadium

Unsurprisingly, investing billions of dollars into a completely new stadium that can comfortably seat 80,000 spectators is not without its complications. The changed plans of the Japanese Summer Games council for the event’s architectural center piece, the Japan National Stadium, are a testament to this.

In 2012, while still bidding to host the Summer Games, Tokyo officials selected UK Architect Zaha Hadid to build the Japan National Stadium, a futuristic and sprawling complex originally budgeted at around one billion USD. But by the summer of 2015, projected costs had risen to two billion dollars and, among mounting dissent from the Japanese public who found the building to be gawdy, too expensive, and bicycle helmet-like, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrapped the plan altogether.

Zaha Hadid Japan Stadium

A simulation of Zaha Hadid’s proposal for the Japan National Stadium. After rising costs and public ridicule referring to the building as a “bike helmet,” the plan was scrapped. Source.

Shortly after halting development, Japan relaunched their competition to find a new architect for the Japan National Stadium. In December 2015, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma was announced as the winner. Kuma’s design was lauded for its use of natural materials like wood and its echos of ancient Japanese temples. A year later, the ground was officially broke in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo as construction on the new stadium began.

Kengo Kuma’s winning redesign for the Japan National Stadium (The Japan Sports Council via AP)

The new proposal for the Japan National Stadium features lattice from larch (a Japanese timber), steel canopies, and plants and trees circulating each layer of the building so as to blend in with the surrounding park area. Once completed, the Japan National Stadium will host the main events of the 2020 Summer Games including the opening and closing ceremonies.

Tokyo Big Sight – Broadcasting, Press & Media Center

Tokyo Big Sight Summer Games

Big Sight, Tokyo’s largest convention center, will host all press, media, and broadcasting activities during the 2020 Summer Games. Source.

Located on Tokyo Bay, the striking Big Sight convention center will be the 2020 Summer Games venue for all press, media, and broadcasting activities. Construction was completed in 1996, making this water-front facing building one of the most unique features of the Tokyo skyline.

 

Harumi, Chuo-ku Athletes’ Village

The Tokyo Athletes’ village needs to be able to host about 17,000 athletes and family members. Source.

Construction for the Tokyo Athletes’ Village began in 2015 in the district of Harumi. The project includes 21 residential buildings, each with 14 to 18 stories. This 134,000 sqm site will be the home of the athletes and their families during the games, who will get to enjoy these brand-spanking-new facilities for the month. Given the notoriously competitive real estate market in Tokyo, residents welcome what will be the addition of more than 5,600 apartments to their city once the athletes move out.

2020 Summer Games Venues & Zoning

Tokyo 2020 Venues

The two main zones for 2020 Summer Games venues. Source.

The events of the Summer Games will be held in 33 venues, the majority of which are located in one of two Zones in Tokyo proper. A handful of events will take place in neighboring areas like Yokohama, Saitama, Sendai, Ibaraki, and Sapporo.

While all venues will be updated and decked out in official style in time for the games, 11 will be built completely from scratch. Here is a tentative list of venues by region as of July 2017:

Tokyo Heritage Zone

Tokyo Tower Heritage Zone

Tokyo Tower, one of the most iconic parts of the city’s skyline, is located in the Heritage Zone, Tokyo’s downtown area. Source.

  • Japan National Stadium – Opening & Closing Ceremonies, Athletics, Football (final)
  • Yoyogi National Gymnasium – Handball
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium – Table Tennis
  • Nippon Budokan – Judo, Karate
  • Tokyo International Forum – Weightlifting
  • Imperial Palace Garden – Cycling (road)
  • Kokugikan Arena – Boxing

 

Tokyo Bay Zone

Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge. This area will host the majority of events during the Summer Games. Source.

  • Kasai Rinkai ParkCanoe, Kayak (slalom)
  • Oi Seaside Park – Hockey
  • Aquatics Center – Swimming, Diving, Synchronized Swimming
  • Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center – Water Polo
  • Yumenoshima Stadium – Archery
  • Ariake Arena – Volleyball
  • BMX Course – Cycling
  • Gymnastic Center – Gymnastics
  • Ariake Coliseum – Tennis
  • Odaiba Marine Park – Triathlon, Marathon Swimming
  • Shiokaze Park – Beach Volleyball
  • Central Breakwater – Equestrian, Canoe, Kayak (sprint)
  • Wakasu – Golf
  • Aomi Urban Sports Venue – Skateboarding, Climbing

 

More distant venues

Enoshima Olympic Sailing Surfing

A quick trip outside of Tokyo, the resort town of Enoshima will host the surfing and sailing events for the Summer Games. Mount Fuji is often visible in the distance. Source.

  • Camp Asaka – Shooting
  • Musashino Forest Sport Center – Pentathlon, Badminton
  • Ajinomoto Stadium – Football, Pentathlon, Rugby
  • Saitama Super Arena – Basketball
  • Enoshima – Sailing, Surfing
  • Makuhari Messe – Fencing, Taekwondo, Wrestling
  • Baji Koen – Equestrian
  • Izu Velodrome – Cycling (track)
  • Japan Cycle Sports Center – Mountain Biking
  • Yokohama Stadium – Baseball, Softball
  • Fukushima Zuma Baseball Stadium – Baseball, Softball

Want to watch the world’s greatest athletes and explore the world’s largest city all in one trip? Start planning your Bucket List adventure to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games

A Viewer’s Guide to the Monaco Grand Prix Track

The Monaco Grand Prix is considered one of the most prestigious and unique automobile races in the world. Located in the tiny and scenic city-state of Monaco, the Monaco Grand Prix track winds through the entire city and its coastline and features some of the tightest turns and elevation changes of any Formula 1 race. While the average speed of this race is considerably lower than any other F1 Circuit, the Circuit de Monaco remains one of the toughest and most exciting tracks in the world. Here is why:

Monaco Grand Prix

Monaco from Above. Source.

 

Famous Sites Along the Monaco F1 Track

Since the Monaco F1 track runs through an entire city, the best way to break down some of the most famous sites you will see around the track is to highlight a few of the turns.

Monaco F1 Track Course Map

The Monaco F1 Track as seen on GoogleMaps.

At turn one, there is a small chapel built in honor of Saint Devota. Unfortunately for TV viewers, this site doesn’t usually get camera time due to the way the course is barricaded. Grand Prix travelers can, however, get a great view.

Sights Monaco Grand Prix

Eglise Sainte-Devote in Monaco. Source.

The third turn of the Monaco Grand Prix track goes right by the Monaco Opera House. The main hall of this Opera House is called the Salle Garnier, and though relatively small compared to some of Europe’s most famous opera houses, is incredibly ornate and much more intimate. Plus, it faces the sea.

Sites along the Circuit de Monaco

Opera House de Monte Carlo. Source.

The fourth turn of the Circuit de Monaco features the Monte Carlo Casino, which is one of the most famous buildings in Monaco and the hub for the city’s tourism. The race whizzes right by the casino’s famous gardens. A fun thing to know about this site is that citizens of Monaco are not permitted to gamble in this casino, but tourists are free to do so. The casino is a favorite spot to watch the race from.

Circuit de Monaco and Casino

The Monaco Grand Prix track runs right by the Casino. Source.

 

Monaco Grand Prix Track Speed, Turns, and Elevation 

The Monaco Grand Prix track is incredibly unique for an F1 circuit. For one thing, it features tighter turns and quicker elevation changes than any other track. Secondly, the trickiness of the circuit means that the average speed of the race is much slower than any other F1 event. Since completing the track takes longer at a slower speed, this is the only Grand Prix that does not meet he FIA minimum of a 305 km (190 mile), measuring instead at 260 km (162 miles).

Additionally, you will find that the Circuit de Monaco is one of the more dangerous courses you will witness and you will frequently see the need for a safety car throughout. While there are several contributing factors to the dangerous nature of the track, the tight turns are the main cause. But as automotive and safety technology has improved since the inception of the event, the race has become considerably less fatal over the years. The last fatality in the Monaco Grand Prix was in 1962, when Italian driver Lorenzo Bandini died from burns that resulted from crashing his vehicle.

 

Where Do Spectators Watch the Monaco Grand Prix?

Since the race takes place throughout the whole city of Monaco, there are a lot of great areas to watch this race that range from private residences, to swanky venues, to the designated bleachers. Typically, there are plenty of grandstands built to accommodate spectators and many of them are in the harbor area where you have amazing people watching as the rich and famous from all over the world park their yachts. Many hotels have strategically built their room balconies to look over the Monaco F1 track, which is a great way to watch in a relaxed and private setting. In general, the best view of the race was voted to be the Ermanno Palace Penthouse in Monaco.

Balcony views at Monaco Grand Prix

Balcony views from a private residence. Source.

 

Laps, Time, & Speed on the Monaco F1 Track

Each race on the Circuit de Monaco consists of 78 laps and the fastest speed ever on the track was in 2007 when it was won with an average speed of 96.654 MPH. The slowest winning speed ever recorded on the Monaco F1 track was just 61.329 MPH and that came at the very first race in 1950. Overall, the average speed that you will see on any given race is around 80 to 90 MPH and you can expect a race to last somewhere in the three-hour range.

View of the Harbor. Source.

 

Circuit de Monaco Records

There are a lot of records that have been set over the course of the race. The fastest lap time for the Monaco Grand Prix track was set in 2004 by German racer Michael Schumacher, who finished with a time of 1:14.439. The driver who has the most Monaco wins under his belt is Brazilian Ayrton Senna, who has won the race a record six times. If you’re placing bets based on the model of the car, you should know that McLaren has carried the most winners across the finish line with 15 to date. However, Mercedes has won the last four straight races and is looking for a fifth straight win.

Circuit de Monaco records

Michael Schumacher of Germany, racing for Ferarri. Source.

 


Don’t let the slower speeds fool you. The Monaco Grand Prix is every bit as exciting as it is glamorous. Are you ready to live it up at one of the world’s most prestigious and luxurious international sporting events? Start planning your Bucket List trip to the Monaco Grand Prix today.

 

 

The Beginner’s Guide to the French Open

The 2017 French Open kicked off yesterday, and with it the City of Love is glowing with excitement for the sport of tennis. The second of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open (or Roland Garros, as the French call it) is the smallest tournament in this international league, and yet is widely considered the most grueling. This may come as a surprise to first-time French Open spectators, especially given the romantic Parisian background. Watching Roland Garros from your TV is one thing; witnessing the tournament first hand and feeling the excitement in Paris is another entirely. If the French Open isn’t already on your Bucket List, here is everything you need to know about travelling to see this intimate and exciting tournament. This French Open guide will introduce you to all of the basics of this two-week long event.

 

The French Open Location & History

2017 marks the 126th birthday of the tennis tournament and the 89th birthday of its stadium, the Stade Roland-Garros. This stadium was constructed in 1928 and named in honor of a famed WWI pilot. Garros was not only the first man to successfully fly a plane across the Mediterranean, but he was also well known for contribution during the war. His nickname, “the Ace,” originated after he shot down five enemy planes in a row. Garros was a a tennis fan himself, and so the stadium is part of his memory.

French Open History

A statue of Roland Garros, legendary fighter pilot and tennis enthusiast. Source.

Located in the southern part of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris’s 16th arrondissement, the Stade Roland-Garros is comprised of 20 courts on 21 acres, the largest of which seats 15,000 spectators. Despite this sprawling size, the tournament feels incredibly intimate. The bleachers are stacked steeply, giving everyone a great view and lending the event a very close-knit vibe. Another distinctive feature of this stadium and tournament are its iconic red clay courts.

French Open Location

Stade Roland-Garros, as seen from above during the 2013 French Open. Source.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on clay, something that makes the aesthetic and the physics of the matches incredibly unique. Where Wimbledon is played on grass and the U.S. and Australian opens are played on hard courts, the relatively soft and absorbent clay of the French Open slows the ball down. That means that players have to run faster and hit harder, something that has made this tournament notoriously difficult. By the end of a match, players have a layer of red dust on them, a look that highlights the intensity of the game play.

 

 

L’esprit de Roland-Garros: French Open Traditions

It’s not just the terracotta courts that distinguish the French Open from the other Grand Slam tournaments. There is a lot of symbolism packed into this event, something that its host city of Paris is incredibly proud of.

French Open regulars beam with pride when speaking about the humble brooms used to sweep the dust from the courts, something conspicuously absent from the meticulous grass courts of Wimbledon. At Roland-Garros court sweepers are as iconic as the ball boys.

As is only natural in Paris, crepes are plentiful at Roland-Garros. The smell of Nutella floats through the air, and Americans may be surprised to see that it is stocked in buckets and even barrels.

Nutella Crepes at French Open

You can smell these all over the stadium. Source.

The French Open location makes for some of the best people watching in the international sporting scene. Paris is one of the world’s fashion capitals, and the tournament itself has no dress code (at Wimbledon, players must wear all white). Panama hats are popular among men and women in attendance, something that you might want to pick up as a memory of your time in Paris. Players and spectators alike tend to be effortlessly chic and well-dressed at Roland-Garros, so make sure you put some thought into your outfit before you go!

 

Historic Matches at the French Open

In the 1989 French Open, 17-year-old American Michael Chang pulled off a massive fourth-round upset over Ivan Lendl, who was currently the number one player in the world. Chang’s success featured a massive comeback, overcoming painful leg cramps, underhand serves and complaints on the officiating of the games. He went on to win the French Open that year, making Chang the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam tournament.

In the 1999 Finals, Steffi Graf defeated Martina Hingis one day before her husband, Andre Agassi, would make a remarkable comeback to win his respective match. This match was filled with controversy, as the 19-year-old Hingis was heavily favored to beat the 30-year-old Graff. Coming off a remarkable season, Hingis behaved petulantly towards the refs, turning the crowd against her, and bolstering support for Graf. Graf won the match as much as Hingis lost it, but the involvement of the crowd played a powerful role in the drama that unfolded.

Tennis is an intense sport, both mentally and physically. But against the backdrop of the terracotta courts, the drama is taken to a new level.

 

French Open Tips

If you are planning well in advance to head to Paris for the French Open, make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time. They tend to go on sale in mid-March, and the prices are at their best during pre-order. But should you just happen to find yourself in Paris during the tournament, it is possible to buy French Open tickets on site – whether for a single match or a week-long pass. Just keep in mind that prices steepen after the tournament has already begun, at it may be very difficult to get tickets for coveted matches like the Finals.

Paris tends to be beautifully warm and sunny in late May and early June. This is good news, but after a whole day in the stands, things can get uncomfortable. Make sure you wear light, breathable clothing, and that you bring a hat and sunglasses. Take your queues from the locals.

Panama Hats French Open Tips

Panama Hats are the unofficial uniform for spectators at the French Open. Source.

While tennis enthusiasts agree that the French Open location offers better food than any of the other Grand Slams (Croque Monsieur, anyone?), Stadium fare is typically expensive and probably won’t be satisfying should you be eating it every day of your stay. The good news is that spectators can bring their own food (and even wine!). So grab a freshly baked baguette, your favorite variety of French cheese, and a bottle of Burgundy when heading to the Stadium. Otherwise, Paris is famed for its food, and there is plenty of amazing eating to be done all over the city.

 


Is the French Open on your Bucket List? Start planning the trip of a lifetime. Inquire about our Roland Garros Travel Packages today.

 

 

Things to do in Louisville, KY: One of America’s Most Underrated Cities

The state of Kentucky and its largest city Louisville aren’t usually on the top of many travel bucket lists. If Louisville makes it to this list, it’s probably due to the famed Kentucky Derby. To be sure, the Kentucky Derby is an exhilarating event that is not to be missed. But Louisville nightlife, museums, food, and parks are all truly excellent in their own right. Big-city action with small-town charm, world-class booze and dining, rich historical sites and gorgeous nature areas, there is no shortage of things to do in Louisville for couples, families, and single travelers alike.

Whether you’re looking to visit Louisville for the Derby or a quick getaway, here is a list of things to do in Louisville, KY that will impart you with appreciation for this hugely underrated American city.

 

Museums in Louisville

Louisville probably isn’t the first city that leaps to mind when you think of museums and high-brow culture. But this underrated city actually has a ton to offer history, sports, art, and pop-culture buffs. If you don’t know what to do in Louisville during a free afternoon, check out these museums that can appeal to a wide range of interests:

 

Kentucky Derby Museum

Whether you’re attending the race or visiting in the off season, the Kentucky Derby museum is a must-see homage to the event that put Louisville on the map.  At the museum, you can take a fun walking tour that will help to illustrate the history of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs. Everyone raves about the movie that’s shown on a 360-degree screen. This tour can take up a few hours of your time, but is highly informative and perfect for everyone’s budget.  This is a great experience for kids and adults alike. The kids will love the hands-on installations, display of cool derby hats, and the two horses on display at the museum.

Things to Do in Louisville: The Kentucky Derby Museum

the Kentucky Derby Museum (Source)

 

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory

Baseball fans are going to want to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.  You’ll get a chance to see the museum where you’ll learn about the history of the world’s most famous baseball bat, and you’ll also be able to view the factory to see how they are made. Sports fans and history buffs alike will find plenty trivia tidbits in this factory tour and museum.

Things to do in Louisville: The Louisville Slugger Museum

The Louisville Slugger Museum (Source)

 

Muhammad Ali Center

Boxing fan or not, the cultural significance and humanitarian contributions of Muhammad Ali have reached millions. The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville is dedicated to his entire life, and you can learn about his boxing exploits along with the good things that he did for the world.  There’s a documentary to watch when you first arrive and other exhibits to view.  You can expect to enjoy this center for several hours learning about the life of this very interesting man.

Things to Do in Louisville: The Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center (Source)

Louisville Speed Art Museum

Many of the world’s best museums are works of art in and of themselves. The same holds true for Lousiville’s Speed Museum, which underwent a $50mil renovation and reopened its doors in 2016. The facilities and exhibitions are truly world-class, offering a compelling mixture of modern and classical art, world and regional artifacts, and ongoing programming. The ultra-modern building is immediately recognizable in downtown Louisville and offers gorgeous natural lighting and a mix of architectural styles from neo-classical to minimalist.

Things to do in Louisville: The Speed Art Museum

The Speed Art Museum (Source)

 

 

Eating and Drinking in Louisville

Surrounded by fertile farmland and with a rich tradition of barbeque, bourbon, and baked goods, Louisville has a thriving food and drink scene that is sure to leave your belly happy. Here are some highlights that are not to be missed:

 

Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company

Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, and Louisville residents are damn proud of this fact. If you want to see and taste the real thing, the Peerless Distillery is the place to see. This is just one distillery that you can visit during your time in Louisville (nearly a third of all bourbon in the States comes from Louisville), but it’s one of the most popular tours. This company typically makes bourbon or moonshine and has been operating since the 1880s. Take a walking tour of the building that including includes getting up close and personal with the machinery, both old and new. You might even learn a thing or two about how to make your own boozey home brew. Most importantly, this tour includes free samples.

Things to do in Louisville: Bourbon Tours

The Kentucky Peerless Distillery (Source)

 

Broad Run Vineyards

There are a lot of distilleries that you can visit in Louisville, but did you know that Kentucky also has its own wine regions? Near Louisville are vineyards like Broad Run. This estate has been handed down for three generations and practices old-world techniques. A neat twist however, is that many of their wines are aged in Kentucky oak barrels – much like bourbon!

Things to do in Louisville KY: Wine

Broad Run Vineyards (Source)

 

Farm-to-Table is the Norm

Farm-to-Table isn’t just a hip dining catchphrase in Louisville, it’s just the way things are. Farmers and butchers are highly likely to also be restauranteurs in Louisville, where the tradition of barbeque and farming runs as deep as the bourbon. Within a 100-mile radius of Louisville there is enough fresh produce grown and happy livestock raised that a huge portion of the restaurant scene in town can build their menus around locally-sourced ingredients. But don’t think you’re in for just southern fare with a trip to Louisville. This city is teeming with diversity, and that shows in its ethnic cuisine: Ethiopian, Malaysian, Iranian, and Neuvo Pan Latino, among others.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Farm to Table Food Scene

Farm to Table Dining in Louisville (Source)

 

Louisville Nightlife: Party til 4am

Unlike in many southern states, bars are open in Louisville until 4am. And from dive bars to cocktail lounges, Louisville has something to offer barflies of all kinds. With a thriving craft beer scene as well as a cult-like devotion to bourbon, you can bet that Louisville nightlife is filled with hand-crafted drinks of all sorts. Bourbon cocktails, of course, feature heavily and rank among the most inventive and delicious in the world. The Fourth Street district includes plentiful bars and live music venues. Check out this list of some of the best nightlife spots in town.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Louisville Nightlife

Louisville Nightlife (Source)

 

 

Hiking and Exploring in Louisville

Louisville is one of those magical cities that strikes the perfect balance between urban development and plenty of nature. With both modern and historical architecture as well as plenty of natural and urban green space, Louisville is one of the prettier American cities you’ve never thought of visiting.  Here are some unique places you won’t want to miss:

 

Louisville Mega Cavern

Built in a former limestone mine, the MEGA Cavern is a sight to behold. This cavern features an exciting ziplining adventure, underground bike course, concerts, and also annual events like holiday light shows.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Mega Cavern

the Louisville Mega Cavern (Source)

 

Conrad’s Castle

People that love old homes, architecture or history shouldn’t miss seeing Conrad’s Castle, also known as the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Tours of the castle are filled with great historical and autobiographical tidbits about the era and the house’s residents.  You’ll love the beautiful inlay floors, the stained glass windows, and all of those Victorian-era touches. And if you believe in the supernatural, rumor has it the building is haunted.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Conrad's Castle

Conrad Caldwell House in Louisville (Source)

 

Cave Hill Cemetery

You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy a visit to the Cave Hill Cemetery.  This is the final resting place of several famous individuals including Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali. Some of the graves in this cemetery go all the way back to the 1800’s. The tombstones and other cemetery art are interesting, and visiting this cemetery can be a pleasant way to spend the day. Make sure that you have your walking shoes on as this cemetery spans  nearly 300 acres.

Things to do in Louisville: Cave Hill Cemetery

The Cave Hill Cemetery (Source)

 

Louisville Waterfront Park

The Waterfront Park is one of the most romantic things to do in Louisville for couples, and also one of the best places to go as a family. This amazing park is right on the banks of the Ohio river, so you’ll have a beautiful view no matter which way you turn. If your timing is right, you might spot the Louisville University rowing team practicing on the water, or even catch an open-air concert. The Waterfront Park is also the site of Louisville’s public fireworks displays.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Waterfront Park

The Louisville Waterfront Park (Source)

 

Hiking Near Louisville

The Louisville area is filled with hiking trails, forests, creeks, and preserves, all within an hour of the city. State Parks, Memorial Forests, and Nature Preserve areas are abound and offer trails that range from strenuous to easy strolls. Check out this list of 12 different wilderness areas that are all less than an hour drive from the city center.

Things to do in Louisville KY: Hiking

Mahan Nature Preserve near Louisville (Source)

 

 


The Kentucky Derby may be the most exciting two minutes of your trip to Louisville, but there is plenty more to do and see while you’re there! Check out our Kentucky Derby Travel Packages, and start planning your bucket list adventure to one of America’s coolest and most underrated cities.

 

 

2sq km of Pure Glamour: A Guide to Monaco & the Grand Prix

Those looking to vacation in style will find no greater scene of luxury and glamour than the Monaco Grand Prix. The tiny city-state of Monaco is the home of some seriously big fish and fast cars, making it the perfect location for the world’s elite to gather and watch one of F1’s most exciting races. One of the most exclusive events of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix is a true Bucket List experience that few can boast having ever attended. But what is it about this micro-state that makes it such a playground for the rich and fabulous? Here’s what you need to know:

 

What is Monaco?

Monaco is a 2km long sovereign city-state on the Mediterranean Sea. Because it is bordered by France on three sides, Monaco is frequently referred to as the French Riviera. But Monaco is its own country, and geographically the second smallest in the world at that (Vatican City is the smallest). Its tiny size makes it possible to see the entire country in a weekend, including a gorgeous coast line of both sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, Belle Epoque architecture, and the winding streets that make up the Monaco F1 track.

 

 

The principality is governed by a constitutional monarchy, with the Grimaldi family having comfortably ruled since the thirteenth century making them the oldest monarchy in the world. Monaco’s current monarch is Prince Albert II, the son of Prince Ranier III and American actress Grace Kelly. With a net worth estimated at $1 billion, Albert is one of the wealthiest royals in the world.

 

Princess Charlene of Monaco and Prince Albert II. Source.

Who lives in Monaco?

With a population of 36,000, Monaco is the most densely populated country in the world. And though the state does not release any statistics as to its GDP, it is estimated that nearly 2,000 of its residents are millionaires. While that number itself is impressive, there are also nearly 50 billionaires residing within Monaco. It’s not just the scenery that makes Monaco so desirable for the wealth, but also the fact that Monagasques don’t pay any income taxes. Instead, the city-state is capable of running nearly entirely off of the income generated by its famous casino. Living in such a wealthy and well-kept principality certainly has its longterm perks: the literacy rate of the country is a neat 100% and its citizens have an average life expectancy of 90 years.

 

Expect to see tons of nice rides in Monaco, both at the Grand Prix and on the streets. Source.

 

Who vacations in Monaco?

While anyone can visit Monaco, its appeal is certainly most potent (and accessible) for the rich and famous. F1 tends to draw the elite from Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, as well as many worldwide celebrities. F1 drivers like David Coulthard and Olivier Beretta have properties in Monaco, and actors and musicians like Ringo Starr, Jay Z, Roger Moore, Rhianna, and Leonardo DiCaprio frequently park their yachts in Monaco’s Port Hercule.

 

 

What is there to do in Monaco?

Despite its small size, Monaco has no shortage of sites to see and things to do. The Monte Carlo district is home to Monaco’s famous Casino, whose terrace boasts breath-taking views. The Monte Carlo is Monaco’s wealthiest district, so this area offers world class shopping, people watching, and Ferrari-admiring. When the Prince and his family are away, the royal apartments are open to tour for those who are interested in seeing how modern royalty lives. The Musée Oceanographique is a stunning building built into an ocean-facing cliffside that houses three aquariums. There are numerous outdoor gardens of exotic plants and flowers, entire neighborhoods built upon terraces, and a striking Roman-Byzantine cathedral that is the home of Grace Kelly’s tomb.

 

The Musée Oceanographique is built into a cliffside.  Source.

 

What can you eat?

Monaco’s geographical proximity to both France and Italy has led to delicious influences from both cuisines. And given the city’s attractiveness to those who enjoy and can afford life’s finest pleasures, there is no shortage of world-class fine dining in Monaco. This tiny country contains four Michelin-star restaurants, as well as countless other establishments. In Monaco, one can enjoy excellent seafood, cheeses, wines, and the freshest imported produce from around the world. Just be prepared to pay fine-dining prices for everything.

Joel Rubechon is one of four Michelin-Star restaurants in Monaco. Source.

 

Where is the Monaco F1 track?

Every May since 1929, the whole city of Monaco turns into a race track. The track loops through the entire city district, and as early as a month in advance, barricades will appear along the city streets. But just because Monaco is small doesn’t mean that the race track isn’t long or challenging. The Monaco F1 track loops through the city’s hills and around many tight turns, doubling back on itself frequently. The track is narrow and includes many elevation changes.  The course has changed drastically through the years, and can sometimes feature slightly different turns from year to year.

 

Thousands attend the Monaco Grand Prix every year, most of them watching in style in luxury. Villas overlooking the track will have balcony viewing parties. Yachts will line up in the harbor so spectators can watch from the sea. Many hotels and restaurants will host parties on their terraces. There are also public stands and viewing areas decked out with all sorts of luxury services, like massage chairs, food booths, and of course, lots of champagne.

 

 


The Monaco Grand Prix is an incredible spectacle of elite sport and cosmopolitanism. Such a dense gathering of the rich and famous is usually just reserved for award ceremonies, but the Monaco Grand Prix provides the unique opportunity to see how the rich and beautiful spend their downtime. A treacherous track in a breath-taking setting replete with spas, casinos, and world class dining makes a trip to the Grand Prix the perfect mixture of exciting and utterly luxurious. If you’re ready to experience the most fabulous vacation of your lifetime, inquire about our Monaco Grand Prix travel packages today.

Un Match Parfait: Why Paris is the Perfect Location for the World’s Most Romantic Sport

Couples from around the world flock to Paris to propose, to wed, to honeymoon, and to generally celebrate their love. Between the art, the food, the wine, the fashion, and the irresistible French language, the city of Paris possesses every ingredient necessary to spark chemistry as well as a magical quality of elevating life’s simple pleasures into the realm of romance.

One such pleasure is sport, an activity or event that in other contexts can sometimes appear brutish. However Paris’s French Open, one of the world’s four tennis Grand Slam tournaments, is anything but coarse. Both exciting and grueling, chic and sweaty, the French Open certainly makes a case for tennis as the world’s most romantic sport. If not tennis in general, then Paris tennis at the very least.

Is it the intimate and highly emotional play of the game, or the breathtaking French Open location of Paris that makes this tournament so seductively enthralling? We say, it takes two. Like all lasting loves, tennis and Paris have several things in common that make them perfect romantic compliments.

 

Tennis is a sport historically for the elite and upper-class, yet has many inspiring underdog stories. Paris is a city historically favored by aristocracy and nobility, yet was the site of Europe’s most important class revolution.

 

The earliest documented tennis player known to historians was none other than French ruler Louis X. This 14th century king was so fond of the sport that he requested a court be built inside his palace so that he needn’t exert himself in the heat of the summer. This style of enclosed courts soon spread to palaces all over Europe – Charles V of France and Henry VIII of England are two later rulers who also played tennis on their palace grounds.

 

Versailles Court Paris Tennis

Louis X’s indoor tennis court in the Versailles Palace. Source.

 

Given the obvious currents of aristocracy from which the sport of tennis got its start, it’s easy to see why tenni

s carries something of an exclusionary reputation. Even to this day, well-maintained tennis courts can be found almost exclusively in private clubs, the membership fees for which the average person can’t afford. Furthermore, tennis is not a team sport, but is rather played 1-on-1 or 2-on-2. Where team sports tend to stir feelings of community identity, the play of tennis focuses more on the performance of the individual or pair.

But in spite of this history of wealth and luxury, tennis hosts some of the greatest upsets and underdog stories of any sport. Marcus Willis went from ranking #778 in the world and making only $345 out of professional tennis in the first half of 2016, to playing against Rodger Federer at Wimbledon.  Venus and Serena Williams trained as children in the rundown Compton Municipal Tennis Courts, having to duck to avoid stray gunfire due to the gang violence that plagued the city. Still going strong in their careers, the sisters have dozens of Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold medals between the two of them. There is also the famed match known as “The Battle of the Sexes,” in which male tennis superstar and vocal detractor of female athletics Bobby Riggs was publicly defeated by Billie Jean King, who went on to found several associations in support of women in sports.

 

French Open in Paris

Billie Jean King makes quite an entrance at the Battle of the Sexes against Bobby Riggs. Source.

 

These inspiring stories of struggling against the odds and social climates are especially fitting in historical Paris, the site of one of the most influential revolutions throughout the history of mankind. This 10-year long revolution profoundly changed the course of human history, triggering the decline of monarchies across the globe and setting the precedent for modern democracies and republics. The French Open location of Paris is no stranger to the turbulence of change, and the French Open itself is fabulous event to experience some of that revolutionary spirit.

 

Paris is a fashion capital of the world. Tennis is the most fashion-conscious sport in the world.

 

Paris and tennis make for one seriously fashionable couple. One plus of individual-based over team-based sports is that the players have the opportunity to show off their style. Without the restrictions of team jerseys, tennis pros are known for sporting some seriously chic (and sometimes wacky) outfits on the courts. While Wimbledon requires that players adhere to an all-white dress code, fashion at the French Open is especially bold and colorful.

A fashion-conscious French Open makes sense given the prominence of the fashion industry in Paris, but a key distinction between runway fashion and tennis court fashion is the clothing’s functionality. If you’re a fan of grocery shopping in yoga pants and tennis shoes, you can thank the sport of tennis for being probably the most influential sport in the phenomenon of athleisure fashion. Sure, many tennis players put a lot of thought into looking good on the court. But when you consider how the pros can often be downright superstitious about everything from their balls to their rackets, you can bet that clothing that gets in the way of play is a no-go, no matter how fashionable. Athleisure has risen to find harmony between the two.

 

Fashion at the French Open

Alizé Lim was widely considered the best dressed player at the 2016 French Open. Source.

 

Tennis fashion is at its peak at the French Open, and spectators who can appreciate the unity of fashion and functionality will find lots to admire. But the players aren’t the only ones making statements with fashion at the French Open! Everyone is at their best dressed when they visit Paris, so you can expect lots of excellent people watching and celebrity spotting from the stands.

The French Open is widely considered the most mentally and physically grueling tournament in tennis. Paris is the setting of some of history’s and literature’s most tumultuous love affairs.

 

Napoleon and Josephine. Anais Nin and Henry Miller. Christine and the Phantom of the Opera. Marie Antoinette and Axel de Fersen. There is something about Paris that elevates love affairs to legendary romances. But from a cynic’s point of view, there is little to be romanticized about the relationships listed above: all were colored by infidelity, jealousy, and tragedy.

For all the country-club aesthetics of tennis, the sport is deceptively demanding on the players’ bodies and emotions. Players pitted against each other across the court, the pressure of the serve, the intimidation tactics; any tennis pro will tell you that the game is equal parts mental and physical. The French Open in particular is considered to be the single most grueling tournament in the entire sport. Because the French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament to be played on a clay court, the mental pressure and physical demands are even higher.

Clay courts slow the ball down considerably when compared to grass or hard courts, meaning that players have to hit harder and move faster. Well-ranked players who haven’t trained adequately on clay courts may find themselves completely unable to keep pace with players they’ve beaten on hard courts. Unknowns can rise from the ranks to beat out favorites to win. And the physical and mental toils of the players look even more intensified against the clay-red backdrop of the court.

 

 

In love and sport, anything can happen. Sometimes, the more one must suffer its name, the sweeter the victory and the more legendary the tale. One shouldn’t underestimate the power of a romantic backdrop to intensify all feelings, from anguish to bliss. In this sense, Paris and the French Open are an ideal pair.

 


Tickets for the 2017 French Open become available to the general public on March 22! To get started on booking your trip to this athletic spectacle in the heart of beautiful Paris, inquire about our French Open travel packages today.