Things to Do in St. Kitts in One Day — Historic Forts to White Sand Beaches

Though it’s just a wee island in the West Indies, there are plenty of great things to do in St. Kitts in one day.

 

With a population of just 50,000 people, St. Kitts is known for its vast sugar cane fields, warm, tropical climate, and white sand beaches. The capital city, Basseterre, is a popular cruise port for most major cruise lines sailing in the Caribbean. English is the official language of the island, and U.S. currency is widely accepted and expected from visitors.

things to do in St Kitts

Getting Started

Whether you cruise or sail to the island, a great way to get acquainted with St. Kitts is through a taxi tour. At only 18 miles long and 5 miles wide, it’s easy to tour the entire island in just a few hours. If you’re staying on the island for a few days, you’ll get a quick overview of the different things to do in St. Kitts, and you can select the best sites to return to later. Your hotel can help you arrange a taxi service. For cruisers, watch for the “Taxis and Tours” stand at the end of the dock before you pass through the terminal. They’ll have drivers waiting to whisk you away. Taxis may not be metered, so be sure to set a price before setting off on your journey.

things to do in st kitts things to do in st kitts

Pro tip: If you’re on a cruise, get off the ship as soon as you get clearance from the port authority. This way, you can catch an early tour and have all afternoon to lounge on the beach.

What to Expect

Islands tours cost about $20 per person and take you on a one-way road around the perimeter of the entire island, making a photo stop at a few local attractions along the way. You can choose to ride in an air-conditioned taxi or an open-air safari-style vehicle. While you’ll stay nice and cool in the taxi, you’ll get better pictures from the safari vehicle, so choose wisely depending on your end goals. Also, beware that the price of the tour does not include admission to any attractions. This can add up, so if you want to stop in at several of the sites, you may be better off taking an all-inclusive excursion through your cruise line or a tour operator.

things to do in st kitts

Most of the tour consists of driving around the island and taking pictures from the vehicle. However, you will make photo stops at a few locations, including the Black Rocks, where some locals also sell their wares to the visiting tourists. You’ll also drive through an area of rain forest on the way to Romney Manor, see the dormant volcano Mount Liamuiga in the distance, and drive up picturesque Timothy Hill. The driver will also point out other areas of historic and cultural significance as you drive.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Scheduling Your Stops

The entire journey takes about two-and-a-half hours if you don’t stop for more than a few minutes at each of the photo stops. The driver will take the lead from the group and make extended stops at places like Brimstone Hill Fortress and Caribelle Batik. This can extend your tour time considerably, and costs can quickly add up.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

At some sites, there is no convenient place to wait while other members of your group visit the attractions. Brimstone Hill Fortress, for example, will not even allow visitors to wait in the parking lot. You will be left on the side of the road in a secluded area outside the fort. There are no shops, restaurants, or shady places to take cover from the hot sun.

Pro tip: Unless you’re part of a large group, you will likely be paired with other people on your tour. Before getting in a car, ask the driver to confirm the length of the tour, where it stops, and for how long. You’ll want to be paired with people who have the same interests as you so that you’re on the same page about the places you want to visit and for how long. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting for a half hour or more in parking lots or on the side of the road.

Beach Visit

At the end of the tour, you can ask the driver to leave you at the beach for an extended stay. It will cost you a few extra dollars on top of the tour price to be dropped off here. The driver will ask you what time you want to be picked back up and will return at that time to get you—also for a small fee. The people in my group who chose this option were charged $4 extra dollars when they were dropped off, for a total of $24 for the tour. The driver charged $4 more to pick them back up.

The beach is only about 15 minutes from the port, and there are a host of duty-free shops to check out upon your return. In fact, it’s a lovely port with lots of great places to check out. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy a drink and pick up a few souvenirs. You can also make a pit stop at the National Museum of St. Kitts to check out the local history and culture.

things to do in St Kitts things to do in St Kitts

Tour Alternatives

With such a warm climate and beautiful natural landscapes, outdoor activities are extremely popular in St. Kitts. As soon as you arrive in port, you’ll see a sign pointing you in the direction of water sports and other fun things to do in St. Kitts in the great outdoors.

For something a little different, take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. Once used to transport sugar cane across the island, this train now takes tourists on an 18-mile journey through the countryside. Complete the three-hour tour with a 12-mile bus ride. Sadly, Hurricane Irma had just breezed by the island days before I was there, causing a number of trees and debris to make the rails impassable, but this is my top choice for an excursion on my next visit to St. Kitts.

things to do in St Kitts

If you’re looking for fun things to do in St. Kitts in one day, start with a quick taxi tour of the island to make the most of your time.

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things to do in st kitts

Things to do in Kuta, Bali, in One Day — Beaches, Barong, and Temples

Kuta, Bali, is known for its exciting nightlife and beautiful beaches.

 

If you love to shop, party, and surf, then Kuta is the perfect place for you. Located just a 15-minute drive from Bali’s only international airport, this former fishing village town was one of the first major tourist spots to crop up on the Indonesian island of Bali. Today, it’s part of a sprawling urban area that’s renowned for beautiful beach sunsets and party vibe. There are so many things to do in Kuta and the surrounding area that it’s hard to decide where to begin.

Things to do in Kuta

Tourradar

Where to Stay

If you want to be smack dab in the heart of the action, stay at one of the massive beachside resorts along Jalan Pantai Kuta, such as the luxurious Hard Rock Hotel Bali or Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. During the day, simply wander across the street and rent a lounge chair on the beach. If kicking back and soaking up the sun isn’t for you, perhaps stroll along the avenue to check out the vast variety of shops, including popular international name brands and local boutiques. At night, enjoy the rhythmic sounds of local bands as the street comes alive with energy.

For my short stay in Kuta, I chose to make my nest a little off the beaten path at the divine Grand Mega Resort & Spa. The four-star hotel offers spacious, modern rooms equipped with every comfort your heart could desire, including both a bathtub and separate shower, plush bathrobes, coffeemaker, and more. An expansive outdoor pool and bar, relaxing spa, and delicious restaurant round out the resort’s amenities.

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

The Grand Mega is just a 15-minute from the airport, and everything you need for an enjoyable stay is available on site, which is a good thing since there’s not much nearby aside from a small mall across the street. I didn’t plan on spending much time at the hotel, so it suited me just fine. And because of its location away from the beach hubbub, it was extremely affordable. How often can you find a four-star hotel for under $40 per night? Considering equivalent hotels along the beach cost more than three times as much, the Grand Mega is an ideal choice, especially if you plan to spend most of your time touring beyond Kuta.

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

things to do in kuta

Arranging a Ride

While tour companies offer many opportunities for things to do in Kuta, it’s just as easy to make your own tour. Most hotels will be happy to arrange a driver to take you around for the day. If you have only one day to take in the local sites, you’ll want to make the most of your day, so be sure to make arrangements the night before. My driver had a handy-dandy binder filled with pictures and descriptions of the main attractions. He made recommendations based on my personal tastes, and then we agreed on a price. This is key.

Always agree on the price in advance. Typically, a full day tour costs in the range of 700,000 to 800,000 Indonesian Rupiah, which equates to about $50 to $60. Most drivers allow two to three people in the vehicle for this rate, but keep in mind, there is no discount if you’re traveling alone. You will need to pay the full rate.

Pro tip: The rate you agree on with your driver does not include entrance to any attractions. You will need to pay for those separately upon arrival. This is just the fee for driving you around for the day. Also, you are expected to tip at the end of the day.

Starting Your Day

If you’re staying at the Grand Mega, the buffet breakfast is a lovely way to start the day. There is a wide selection of both hot and cold foods, as well as fresh fruit and an omelette station. It costs about $10 on its own, or it may come included with your room.

Things to do in Kuta

A great way to get a glimpse into the customs and heritage of a culture is to take in a traditional performance of some kind. Grab a buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then head to Sari Wisata Budaya to catch the 9:30 a.m. Barong and Kris show. The show costs about $8 and lasts about 45 minutes. As you enter the theater, you’ll be greeted by a stunning Balinese dancer dressed in colorful traditional clothing. It’s the perfect opportunity to pose for a quick picture. While you can use your own camera, a photographer will also snap a photograph, which you can purchase later for about $8.

One inside the performance area, you’ll immediately notice there are no actual seats. Instead, you’ll find stadium seating on an oversized concrete staircase. Simply sit wherever you like, and wait for the show to begin. Just before it does, the gamelan ensemble to the right of the stage begins playing vibrant music on instruments such as xylophones and bamboo flutes. The tunes are catchy and enchanting. And before you know if the performers take to the stage.

Things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Things to do in Kuta

As you enter the theater, you’ll be given a pamphlet explaining the story. Based on a twelfth-century tale of good versus evil, Barong, a mystical spirit in the form of a beast, must protect his village from the with queen Rangda. From Balinese dancing to comedy improv, the show has a little bit of everything. Though the entire show is performed in Balinese, you’ll get the gist of what’s going on. While the traditional dancing and music are beautiful, and the costumes are stunning, the show drags on a little long. And it’s a bit raunchy at times. Still, it’s worth the few bucks you shelled out to see something local.

Things to do in Kuta

Alternatively, if the Barong show simply isn’t your style, wake up early, and head down to Kuta Beach for a quiet stroll in the sand before the temperatures rise and the crowds arrive. Aside from the six-foot white sandstone fence built in the traditional Balinese style, there’s not a lot that makes this beach stand out from any other. Still, it’s a nice way to start the day.

things to do in Kuta

When you’re done, head over to one of the many streetside restaurants for a bite to eat. For a couple of bucks, you can get a hearty meal that will keep your stomach sated for hours. For less than $5, I got juice, tea, hash browns, pancakes, fruit, toast, and eggs at the Grand Istana Rama Hotel located just a block or so from the Beachwalk Shopping Center.

things to do in Kuta

After breakfast, head back toward the mall and check out the shops. Then, make your way down Jalan Pantai Kuta, and you’ll get a sense of just how busy Kuta Square gets later in the day. Check out a few more shops, or maybe get a foot massage for a few dollars. Spas are a dime a dozen in this part of the world. You can walk in at any time and expect the royal treatment.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Pro tip: Ask to be dropped off and picked up at the Beachwalk Shopping Center. It’s a solid landmark that’s easy to find and central to the action. Give yourself about two hours to grab a bite, dip your toes in the water, and wander through a few shops.

Mid-Day

After you’ve had a chance to see a show or walk along the beach, it’s time to hit the road en route to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, but not before a quick stop at a kopi Luwak coffee plantation. This is one of the most common things to do in Kuta and other parts of Bali. In fact, a stop at a coffee plantation will be on just about every tour itinerary you read. I don’t drink coffee, at all…ever…so I wasn’t super keen on the idea, but my driver was insistent on it and told me it wouldn’t take long. I figured he got kick backs on any sales, but I decided to do it anyway.

Coffee plantations are abundant in Bali, and once you know what to look for, you’ll see signs for them on many streets. The one we went to was designed to entice tourists. At the entrance, you’ll be greeted by a representative of the plantation who will take you on a short tour. At this particular plantation, from the moment you walk in, you feel as though you’ve found a lush oasis in the middle of a dusty desert. As you wind your way along the garden path, the tour guide explains that kopi Luwak is some of the most expensive coffee in the world, costing hundreds of dollars per pound.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Kopi, or coffee, Luwak is not a type of coffee but rather a method for processing it. First, Asian palm civets, nocturnal cat-like creatures known locally as Luwaks, roam through the fields of coffee beans at night, carefully selecting only the finest beans to eat. Their bodies digest the beans so quickly that they don’t have time to breakdown. When they come back out, they are nearly completely intact. From here, the beans are thoroughly washed and roasted.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

If you’re an animal advocate like me, your first concern will be for the animals. I was very happy to learn the plantation I was at allows the Luwaks plenty of free time outside of their cages to enjoy the outdoors. I had no idea was I was getting into when I went to the plantation and immediately began asking questions. While this particular plantation placed a high value on its animals, not all of them do. Knowing this, be sure to ask in advance if the plantation you’re going to have quality standards for the care of its Luwaks.

After you’re done the roasting demonstration, you’ll be taken to a tasting area. Here, you’ll be given the opportunity to sample no less than 12 varieties of teas and coffees made at the plantation. Tea flavors typically include mangosteen, ginseng, vanilla, and ginger to name a few. You can sample coconut, chocolate, and Bali coffees, among others. If you want to try the good stuff, you’ll have to shell out about $4. Once you’ve discovered your favorite flavors, you’ll be escorted to a small shop where you can make a purchase. There is absolutely no pressure to buy anything if you don’t want to. The entire experience takes about a half hour tops. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s an enjoyable experience, so just go with it.

things to do in Kuta

Once you’ve discovered your favorite flavors, you’ll be escorted to a small shop where you can make a purchase. There is absolutely no pressure to buy anything if you don’t want to. The entire experience takes about a half hour tops. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it’s an enjoyable experience, so just go with it.

Afternoon

Finally, you’ll be on your way to Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, or GWK as it’s known locally. This park wasn’t on my radar when I was looking for things to do in Kuta, but my driver suggested in, and I was glad he did. The sprawling 150-acre park is about a half-hour drive from central Kuta, but it feels like longer due to traffic congestion and sketchy driving conditions. Dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and Garuda, the bird-like creature that Vishnu rides, the park features an amphitheater, shops, restaurants, ATV rentals and more.

When you arrive at the park, your driver will likely drop you off at the ticket counter and leave to find parking. After you’ve paid your admission—about $8—you’ll be given a park map and someone will point you toward the entrance. Then you’ll be on your own. Simply follow the path and the other people, and you’ll be just fine (though I found the map a bit useless, and I’m quite adept at reading maps).

things to do in Kuta

Though still under construction, the main spectacle is the statue of Vishnu riding Garuda. When complete, it will stand nearly 500 feet tall, dwarfing the Statue of Liberty and making it one of the largest statues in the world. Currently, however, only the heads and shoulders of Vishnu and Garuda are in place…and they’re in place a little ways apart from each other. Even though they are only about a quarter complete, both are massive and incredibly impressive to see.  It’s nearly impossible to imagine how these two components will come together as one, but when they do it will be a formidable attraction, to say the least. When I was there, for a small donation, a local man would perform a blessing over you using holy water and rice.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

Be sure to take in one of the traditional dance performances or Balinese parade that takes place each day. In addition, you’ll want to walk through the Lotus Pond. At a capacity of more than 7,000 people, it’s the largest outdoor area in the park and has played host to a number of special events, including concerts by Iron Maiden and Paramore. Also, make a stop in at the shop and art market at the end of your visit. You’ll have a chance to purchase a greenscreen photo of you with Vishnu for about $10. Allow an hour or two for your visit to GWK Park, which is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. A schedule of events is posted on the park’s website.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

By now, it will be early afternoon and time to head for the final leg of your tour, Uluwatu. Located on the southwestern tip of the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is one of the top things to do in Kuta. This picturesque place is known across the globe as one of the world’s best surfing spots, as well as for its cliffside temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu. The drive from GWK takes less than half an hour.

things to do in Kuta

Once you’ve paid your entrance fee—about $2—you can walk all along the cliffside to the left or right to take in the spectacular views of waves crashing against the rocks. Be sure to walk both ways since the panorama is vastly different in each direction. The entire trip will take you about an hour, with plenty of time to take photos and enjoy the fresh air.

things to do in Kuta

things to do in Kuta

things to do in kuta

You’ll find a few local vendors on your trek selling handmade items. I picked up a hand-woven friendship bracelet for a little less than $1. It’s nothing fancy, but it serves as a reminder of my special day every time I look at my wrist.

things to do in kuta

If you happen to be visiting Uluwatu later in the day, consider staying for sunset and enjoying the Kecak show that takes place at 6 p.m. daily. Though I didn’t have a chance to check it out, I’ve heard from others who did that it was a wonderful experience.

Pro tip: When you arrive at Uluwatu, be sure to leave any loose items in the car. Uluwatu is famous for the Macaque monkeys that inhabit the temple and steal from tourists. Hold onto your phones, cameras, and sunglasses, or you’ll be brushing up on your bartering skills in an attempt to exchange a banana for your belongings.

Evening

After your visit to Uluwatu, you may want to drive over to nearby Jimbaran Bay for a seafood barbecue. I chose to head back to the hotel for a bite to eat at the restaurant and then an extensive spa treatment. I was told I could get a better deal outside the hotel, but I thought $25 for nearly three hours was a great price. I was treated to a full-body massage, an exfoliating green tea body scrub, a soothing facial, and a relaxing milk bath. It was the perfect way to cap off a long, lovely day.

Things to do in Kuta

If you’ve still got some extra energy to burn off, you can always check out the nightlife at Kuta Beach. A taxi will set you back only about $5 each way at most.

These are just a few of the many things to do in Kuta. With so many exciting area attractions, it’s hard to decide which ones to choose.

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things to do in kuta

Things to do in Drumheller, Alberta: Spend a Day With the Dinosaurs

If you're looking for things to do in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, look no further.

 

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Badlands in central Alberta, Drumheller is the ideal day trip from Calgary. It's rugged, desert landscape and rich history—which dates back to prehistoric times—provide a unique backdrop for an exciting adventure. 

things to do in drumheller

With a population of fewer than 8,000 people, the community is small, but it has some very big attractions. Also known as Dinosaur Valley, the Drumheller region is known as a hotbed for archaeological activity due to its abundant fossil finds. In fact, thousands of people flock here each year to spend a day walking where the dinosaurs once roamed.

There are a lot of sites to visit in Drumheller, so if you're planning a day trip to the area, you may want to spend the night in town rather than make the drive from Calgary. There are a handful of chain hotels, like the Ramada, Travelodge, and Quality Inn, that offer a decent place to rest your head for the night. You can also find a selection of bed and breakfasts in town if you like a cozier experience that lets you get to know the locals. It can also be fun to spend the night camping under the stars.

There are several campgrounds right in town, including Dinosaur RV Park and River Grove Campground and Cabins. The sites are located within walking distance of some of the main attractions, but they're small. If you don't mind a bit of a trek, Handhills High Country Hideaway offers spacious, well-treed sites, mini golf, fishing, and more. It's located in Delia, just a 25-minute drive from Drumheller.

things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller

Morning

From the moment you enter the area, you'll feel like you've taken a time machine to the Jurassic period. With the rocky cliffs rising up around you, you can almost envision a time when towering reptilians roamed the land. 

Start your day with a visit to the World's Largest Dinosaur. Standing nearly 90 feet tall, the Tyrannosaurus Rex looms over the Red Deer River valley like something out of a 1950s horror flick. You literally can't miss it. For a fee of $4, you can walk the 106 stairs to the top of the T-rex to take in the views of the vast expanse of the surrounding badlands.

things to do in drumheller

When you're done, head back downstairs to check out the souvenir shop and pick up some brochures at the tourist information center. When you're done, be sure to relax a while in the adjoining park and check out the fossil shop across the street. 

things to do in drumheller

Downtown Drumheller is just a five-minute walk from the dinosaur, and it seems to have been frozen in time. The houses, shops, and restaurants all have a mid-century vibe that's reminiscent of the Twilight Zone. Keeping with the town's theme, every business has at least one concrete dinosaur on the front lot—perfectly posed for a prehistoric selfie. 

If you're into antiques, you'll find several shops to suit your fancy. There are also a few clothing stores and gift shops, as well as at least four tattoo parlors. If you're thinking of getting some ink, this might be the time to do it. A triceratops, perhaps?

Grab a bite to eat in town or wait until your back on the road headed toward your next pit stop, the suspension bridge, to dine at one of the greasy spoons along the way, like Asteroid or Rosedale Cafe & Market. 

Afternoon

When you're exiting the parking lot of the World's Largest Dinosaur, you'll notice a street sign indicating the direction and distance to all of the areas major attractions. Make a left, and drive along South Dinosaur Trail toward the Star Mine Suspension Bridge.

Built in 1931 for local coal miners to get to work, the nearly 400-foot-long bridge is only a 10-minute drive from the T-Rex. Walk from one side to the other and back, if you dare, and enjoy the scenery as you cross over the Red Deer River.

Next, continue in the same direction along Dinosaur Trail for about 10 minutes, until you reach the Hoodoos Trail. Hoodoos are tall, thin rock spires that rise out of the rocky badlands terrain. Made of soft rock and ranging in size from 5 to 150 feet tall, hoodoos are typically capped by a harder rock that balances at the peak and helps protect the spire from erosion. Park your vehicle, and spend some time wandering around the unique rock formations. Climb up the man-made platforms to check out the area from a different angle. You can be in and out in 10 minutes, but it's also a great place to relax and have a picnic if you've got the time.

things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller

Once you're done hiking through history at the hoodoos, head south on Dinosaur Trail for another five minutes, and you'll find the Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site. Here, you can take a guided tour that gives you the opportunity to climb up the wooden tipple—the last of its kind in Alberta—and learn all about the history of the mine. There are a variety of tours you can take, and each one lasts about an hour.  

By now, it will be late afternoon, and though you've already put in a full day, you've yet to visit the pièce de résistance, the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Head north on Dinosaur Trail for about 25 minutes, and you'll reach the highly esteemed home of countless amazing archeological finds. Drumheller is said to be the dinosaur capital of the world, and it's at the museum that you'll find out why. 

things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller

Housing one of the world's largest collections of dinosaur bones, the Royal Tyrrell Museum is a premier destination for paleontology enthusiasts. Even if you're not a fan of museums, check this one out. The creative exhibits are fun, educational, and interactive. You won't be disappointed. 

The museum is open until 9 p.m. in the summer and 5 p.m. in the off season. If you're just breezing through, you'll need about one to one and a half hours to walk through the entire museum. There's also a cafeteria—and Starbucks—on site if you're feeling a bit peckish. The food is actually really good.

things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller things to do in drumheller

Evening

It will be five or six o'clock by the time you're done taking a trip back in time at the Royal Tyrrell. Drumheller is a pretty sleepy little town, so there's not much to do after the sun goes down. If you're camping, tune into one of those old-time radio shows while you roast marshmallows around the campfire. Or if you're staying at one of the local hotels, now might be a good time to relax in the hot tub after a long day of walking. Then, if you're up for something a little more, maybe check out a movie at the Napier Theatre in the heart of downtown. It may look like something from a bygone era, but it shows all the latest blockbuster hits.

things to do in drumheller

If you happen to be in Drumheller in July, you may want to consider buying tickets to the Canadian Badlands Passion Play. Considered one of the top 100 shows in North America, it tells the story of Jesus' life. The stage and surrounding seats are built into the surrounding Badlands, helping to immerse the audience into the story and lending it a greater sense of authenticity. Even if you're not a Christian, it's a unique experience you won't find anyplace else on Earth. 

Pro Tip: If you opt to take in the Passion Play, it shows at 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. Opt for the earlier showing and go there right after the coal mine tour. You'll have time to take in the museum after the play instead.

What are your favorite things to do in Drumheller? Leave a comment to let us know how you would spend a day with the dinosaurs. To catch a glimpse of my perfect day in Drumheller, check out my Facebook Live video from the base of the World's Largest Dinosaur, and be sure to "like" my page to experience more of my adventures live.

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Disneyland in One Day: Attractions to Entertainment

Think it's impossible to do Disneyland in one day? Think again.

  Who says Disneyland is just for kids? As much as I love to travel the world and immerse myself into new cultures, I also like to let loose and have fun sometimes. Disneyland is magical, no matter how old or young you are. In fact, there are so many things to do at Disneyland that it's hard to know where to begin. And if you only have a single day to take it all in, you'll want to be sure you choose wisely. Take it from someone who visits Disneyland for at least one weekend each year—you can pack in a lot of rides, food, shopping, and entertainment if you know how to plan your day properly. So if you're planning to do Disneyland in one day, and you're overwhelmed by the number of things to do, follow this handy guide to make the most of your fun-filled day.Disneyland in One DayPro Tip: If you've been thinking about trying a solo trip, it's the ideal location. It's safe, there are tons of things to do, and you're never really alone—simply strike up a conversation with the person next to you in line if you're feeling a little lonely. It was where I took my first solo trip back in 2000, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world. Since then, I have traveled solo to countless countries.
Getting Started
First, it's important to understand all of the different parks and attractions that make up the Disneyland Resort. Located in Anaheim, California, it's made up of two theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, as well as the Downtown Disney District and three Disney-themed hotels, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel, and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. For the purposes of this guide, we'll focus on Disneyland Park specifically.Disneyland in One DayPro Tip: If possible, spend an entire weekend in Anaheim, and purchase a Park Hopper Ticket. This allows you to "hop" back and forth between the two theme parks at will. Stay someplace close to the park. There's no shortage of hotels, ranging from the upscale and pricey Disney offerings to the Good Neighbor hotels. While these hotels are officially a part of the Disneyland Resort, they are all endorsed by Disney, within walking distance of the resort, and typically meet certain standards. Some, such as Super 8, are easy on the budget, while others, such as Marriott, come with a loftier price tag. Use Google Maps to check the walking distance from your hotel to the Disneyland Park entrance (not the resort or the Downtown District—it can be a fair distance to the park from here). I've stayed at half a dozen different hotels in the area over the years, ranging from budget to beautiful. Last time I was in Anaheim, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Anaheim in Walnut Street. The staff was extremely helpful, and the hotel as very clean. There is an onsite restaurant, swimming pool, and shuttle service to Disneyland. And it's about a 10-minute walk if you cut through the Downtown Disney District.Disneyland in One DayIf it's in your budget, head to a character breakfast early in the morning. These elaborate all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts include every kind of food you can imagine. Eggs, waffles (in the shape of Mickey's head), pancakes, breads, cakes, cereals, pastries, and fruit are just a few of the items on the menu. But the real treat is that your favorite characters interact with you while you eat. It's a blast and a great way to get pumped up for your day at the parks.Disneyland in One DayI like to book Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel for 7 a.m. By the time we're done eating, the park will be about ready to open, and we don't waste any time getting right to the rides. But beware...the breakfast doesn't come cheap. You'll pay a pretty penny for the privilege of partying with Goofy and his friends.
Main Street U.S.A.
When you first enter the park, take a few minutes to soak up the atmosphere. It truly is the happiest place on Earth, and the feeling of euphoria that washes over you the minute you walk through the gates is almost surreal. From the seasonal decorations and colorful building facades to the old-fashioned trolleys and barbershop quartets, the energy is infectious. It's like stepping into another dimension where you simply can't keep the smile off your face.Disneyland in One DayOnce you get past the inevitable gush of excitement, it's time to set your feet in motion. The first place you'll find yourself is Main Street U.S.A. Modeled after a typical mid-1900s American town, it's like taking a time machine to bygone days. Only there's a bit of a catch—aside from a few eateries, Main Street is mostly a shopping extravaganza. And all of the stores are open until one hour after the rides shut down. For this reason, skip the stores until the end of the day. This will test your will power. Even if you're not a big shopper, there's something about Mickey Mouse merchandise that reels you in. Not to mention they pump out sweet smells from the bakery to tempt your tummy. But you'll have plenty of time to take them in at the end of the night, I promise.Disneyland in One DayHowever, I recommend on an exception to this rule. If you're planning to purchase a pair of mouse ears, stop in at the first store on the right-hand side of the street if you're facing the castle. It's called the Mad Hatter, and you'll find all shapes styles, and sizes of hats, from mouse ears to ball caps and fascinators to replicas of the hats your favorite characters wear—like Goofy. They'll even embroider your name on the side (remember that when strangers mysteriously greet you later in the day). There will be other opportunities to purchase hats throughout the park, but if you buy it early in the day, you'll get the most bang for your buck. Trust me, the crazy Toy Story topper that seemed super cool in the park won't seem quite so nifty once you get back home. You'll really only wear it in the park, so you might as well wear it all day.Disneyland in One DayPro Tip: Depending on the type of ticket you purchase for the park or where you are staying, you may be entitled to enter the park one hour early on certain days of the week. Magic Mornings, as they're known, are a great way to capitalize on a limited timeline since the park is often fairly quiet in the early morning, and there are few—if any—lines for even the most popular rides. Next door to the Mad Hatter, there's a small theater that features Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. While there's no doubt that Honest Abe was a remarkable figure in US history and the animatronics Disney uses to create a lifelike representation of Abe are also remarkable, it's about 15 minutes long, and it gets stale after about five. Unless you're a huge history buff, keep walking. Before you get too far, take a few minutes to look at the brochure you received when you walked through the gates, and establish a game plan for the day. You can also view the current brochure and park maps online to prepare for your trip in advance.
Entertainment
Things to note are the times for parades that take place at various times throughout the day and the fireworks show that happens in front of the castle. Even if you're not traditionally a fan of parades or fireworks, Disney takes them to a whole new level. You'll want to make sure you make it back to Main Street U.S.A in time to catch these awesome spectacles and any other live shows that might be taking place throughout the day, such as character meet and greets, theater performances, and live bands.Disneyland in One DayAlso, note if the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic! is showing. It typically takes place two times a night on the Rivers of America in Frontierland. Live-action characters reliving scenes from their imaginations, movies playing on screens made from water fountains, and a battle between good and evil play out before your eyes. Words cannot describe this show. Don't miss it if you can help it. Once you've decided the shows you want to see for the rest of the day, you can start making your way around the park. Once you've decided the shows you want to see for the rest of the day, you can start making your way around the park.
Attractions
If you're going to do Disneyland in one day, you need to know which attractions—or rides—are most worthy of your time. Disney does an excellent job of describing each ride on its website, so rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I've put together a list of attractions throughout the park and ranked them by priority to help ensure you can do Disneyland in one day. Some are classics you simply can't miss, even if they aren't as exciting as other attractions. Others are an exhilarating experience you can't replicate anyplace else, while others aren't all their cracked up to be. The Disneyland website does a great job of describing each of the park's "lands" so you can read all about the rides in more detail. For whatever reasons, I always turn left when I get to the end of Main Street U.S.A. and start my day in Adventureland. So, I've listed the attraction sin order of how I typically encounter them. All rides have been ranked according to how classic, cute, thrilling, an unmissable they are up to a maximum of three in each category. If you plan accordingly and follow these recommendations it is possible to do Disneyland in one day. Of course, this itinerary assumes you don't have any young children visiting the park with you—in that case, you'll likely only get through a portion of this plan in one day. ❤️ = classic   🌟 = must see   🐭 = cute   🚀 = thrilling   🚫 = skipAdventureland
AttractionRating
Enchanted Tiki Room❤️
🐭
🚫
Jungle Cruise❤️
🐭🐭
🌟🌟🌟
Indiana Jones Adventure🌟🌟🌟
🚀🚀🚀
Tarzan's Treehouse🚫
The Tiki Room is cute and classic, but it's a lot of time for not a lot of reward. And the treehouse is nothing more than a steep climb up and awkward trek down. Jungle cruise is a classic that's both funny and cute. It's worth a trip. No matter how long the line, Indian Jones is worth the wait. It's an exhilarating thrill ride.Disneyland in One DayNew Orleans Square
AttractionRating
Pirate's of the Caribbean❤️❤️❤️
🌟🌟🌟
🚀
Disneyland Railroad❤️❤️❤️
🌟
Haunted Mansion🌟🌟🌟
🚀🚀
Pirate's of the Caribbean is one of the park's original attractions and still an all-time favorite. It lives up to the hype of its namesake movies, and don't be surprised if you find yourself back in line for a second, third, or even fourth ride. The same goes for the Haunted Mansion. Also one of the original attractions, it's ghoulish in a magical way, and its magic has stood the test of time. The railroad actually stops in several parts of the park and is a good way to rest your feet if you want to spend some time just kicking back.Disneyland in One DayDisneyland in One DayCritter Country
AttractionRating
Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes❤️
🚫🚫🚫
Splash Mountain
🌟🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
🚀🚀
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh🌟
🐭🐭🐭
You have to paddle the canoes yourself, and if you don't you won't get back to shore. It's a lot of work, especially if anyone if your canoe isn't pulling their weight. The Pooh ride is adorable, but if you have to wait more than five minutes to get on, move along to the next ride. But Splash Mountain is a must see. In fact, it's my laughing place (you'll get the reference after you go on the ride). From the outside, all you see is the two-story drop, but inside is an incredible and adorable world of animatronic critters singing, dancing, and telling the tale of Brer Rabbit. It's worth getting wet for!Disneyland in One DayPro Tip: Some rides have a single rider line. If you don't mind being split up from your traveling companions, this is a great way to get on rides faster. On a hot day, the line up for Splash Mountain can take hours, so head to the exit, where you'll find the line for single riders. Often, you'll walk right on the ride. Indian Jones typically has a single rider line as well.Disneyland in One DayFrontierland
AttractionRating
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad🌟🌟
🚀🚀
Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island❤️
🚫🚫🚫
Mark Twain Riverboat❤️
🚫🚫🚫
Sailing Ship Columbia❤️
🚫🚫🚫
Aside from the thrills and spills of the Big Thunder runaway train, you can skip past most of the other attractions in Frontierland. The Pirate's Lair is nothing more than a playground, and the two sailing ships simply sail around the lagoon. It's a slow journey that will keep you from experiencing some of the other more exciting rides.Fantasyland
AttractionRating
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough❤️
🌟
Snow White's Scary Adventures❤️
🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
Pinocchio's Daring Journey❤️
🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
Peter Pan's Flight❤️
🌟🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride❤️
🌟🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
King Arthur Carousel❤️
🚫🚫🚫
Storybook Land Canal Boats🌟
🐭🐭
Dumbo the Flying Elephant❤️
🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Casey Jr. Circus Train🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Mad Tea Party❤️
🚫🚫
Alice in Wonderland🌟🌟🌟
🐭🐭🐭
Matterhorn Bobsleds🌟🌟🌟
🚀🚀🚀
"it's a small world"❤️
🌟🌟
🐭🐭
So much of Fantasyland is adorable and classic, but it's also geared toward children. Aside from Matterhorn Bobsleds, Peter Pan's Flight, Alice and Wonderland, and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride are the only attractions truly worth the wait (and you will wait 20 to 60 minutes for them). If you have time, Snow White and Pinocchio are similar in style, and you can often walk right on them. Sometimes at night if we have time, we'll come back to ride the Storybook Land Canal Boats, and "it's a small world" is great if you need a few minutes off your feet or out of the sun. Much to most people's surprise, the castle is not a ride—you literally walk through it—so it just takes a few minutes. Disneyland in One DayPro Tip: FASTPASS is great...in theory. But it's not always all it's cracked up to be in reality. If you get a FASTPASS for a ride in Adventureland with a return time four hours later, you'll likely be on the other side of the park when your time comes around. It's not always practical to return. Since the number of FASTPASS tickets you can hold at any one time is restricted, be sure to choose wisely so you don't end up wasting opportunities.Mickey's Toontown
AttractionRating
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin🌟🌟
🚀
Gadget's Go Coaster🚀
🚫🚫
Donald's Boat🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Chip n' Dale Treehouse🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Goofy's Playhouse🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Mickey's House🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Minnie's House🐭🐭
🚫🚫🚫
Honestly, I don't typically spend a lot of time in Toontown. It's geared toward young children, so there's not a lot for adults to do. Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin is a blast and worth the trip to this part of the park.Tomorrowland
AttractionRating
Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage🐭🐭
🌟
Autopia🚫🚫🚫
Star Wars Launch Pad🌟🌟
Space Mountain🚀🚀🚀
🌟🌟🌟
Star Tours—The Adventure Continues🚀🚀
🌟🌟🌟
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters🐭🐭
🌟🌟
Astro Orbiter🚫🚫🚫
There's lots of fun stuff to keep you on your toes in Tomorrowland. Even if you're not a Star Wars buff, Star Tours is an amazing and immersive experience. If you are a fan of the movies, the Star Wars Launch Pad has lots of cool movie memorabilia and interactive activities. Space Mountain is notorious for being one of the biggest thrill rides in the park. Astro Orbiter is a lot like Dumbo, so choose one or the other if you've got some spare time or the line is short. Buzz Lightyear is actually an interactive ride that allows you to battle against the bad guys. It's super cute and a lot of fun. Nemo is pretty slow going but kind of cute. But skip Autopia—chances are you already have a license and can drive on real streets. The kids driving behind you likely do not, and you may get a bit of whiplash if they rear end you. disneyland in one dayPro Tip: On some rides, such as Splash Mountain, your picture will be taken while you're on the ride. When you get off, take a picture of your picture. It's almost as good as if you buy the real one. On other rides, such as Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, you can email the picture to yourself for free after the ride.
Eats
There are so many delicious treats at Disneyland. Some favorites include churros, Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream sandwiches, turkey legs, mint julep's, and pineapple dole whips. For a healthy snack, you can also get fresh fruit and dill pickles at various locations throughout the park.Disneyland in One DayIf you didn't fork out for breakfast with the characters, Carnation Cafe is a great place to grab a bite if you like table service. River Belle Terrace also has a decent, cafeteria-style breakfast selection. The Mary Poppins's themed Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe has plenty of pastries and sweet treats to fill your tummy. If you follow this guide, by lunchtime, you'll likely be someplace in the middle of the park. If so, you'll want to grab a bite to eat in Fantasyland. At Village Haus Restaurant, you can find burgers, flatbreads, and French fries. Walk a little farther in Fantasyland, and you'll find Troubadour Tavern just outside Mickey's Toontown. Here, you can grab grub with a German flair, including bratwurst with sauerkraut or pretzel bites. If you've been snacking all morning and want a later lunch, wait until you get to Tomorrowland. Galactic Grill is a space-themed eatery with a wide selection of fast food offerings. Or there's Red Rockett's Pizza Port, a cafeteria-style restaurant with all kinds of pasta, pizzas, and other Italian favorites. Side note...my personal favorite place for lunch or dinner (or both) is Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland. I'm a pesco pollo vegetarian, and I just love the Chieftan chicken skewer. But what I love even more is the tiger tail bread dipped in the Chieftan chicken sauce—so good that my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Be sure to ask for an extra side of Chieftan chicken sauce just for dipping. You won't be sorry. Of course, all of these places and others offer dinners as well as lunch, but if you're looking for something a little more special for dinner, Blue Bayou is an excellent choice. As you sail on Pirates of the Caribbean, you'll notice people dining under the stars right next to the bayou. Specializing in Cajun and Creole fare, Blue Bayou is a unique dining experience you won't find anyplace else. But be sure to reserve in advance—getting a seat at this exclusive restaurant is no easy feat.
Shopping
Throughout the day, you've likely popped in and out of the various shops in each of the lands and picked up a few souvenirs along the way. Some shops carry special items you won't find in other parts of the park, so it's a good idea to give them a quick once over. I recommend checking out the Adventureland Bazaar, the shops of Royal Street in New Orleans Square, Pooh Corner, Pioneer Mercantile, "it's a small world" Toy Shop, Gag Factory - Toontown Five and Dime, and The Star Trader. Each of these places has some unique and cool items you won't find anywhere else in the park. Now that the day is done, be sure to check out the shops of Main Street U.S.A. that you skipped past when you first arrived at the park to pick up some last-minute mementos of your visit to Disneyland. Most of the shops are connected on the interior, so you can pass right from one to the next without ever stepping foot outside. Some of my favorites include Crystal Arts, which has lots of affordable collectibles, including custom hand-blown glass creations and Christmas ornaments. If you've got a sweet tooth, you won't want to miss the Candy Palace and Candy Kitchen, where they serve up all sorts of tasty treats, including chocolates, lollipops, fudge, popcorn, and more. Emporium is the ultimate one-stop Disneyland shop. It sells just about eery type of Disneyland-themed merchandise you can imagine, such as clothes, hats, mugs, plush toys, trinkets, and more. You'll definitely want to stop here. And if you're a true Disney connoisseur, you absolutely must visit The Disney Gallery. Here, you'll find exquisite collectibles and one-of-a-kind works of art from some of Disney's most talented artists. It may sound like a lot, but it is possible to do Disneyland in one day. Expect to get up early and stay out late, but it will be worth every moment of fun you have. What are your favorite rides, shops, and places to eat? Leave a comment to share your ideas.

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One Day in Barcelona, Spain: From Gaudi to the Gothic Quarter

So you only have one day in Barcelona, and you want to see as much as possible.

Barcelona is a lively city with lots to see. But if you're ready to pull up your socks and put in a long day, you can pack in many of the main sights.

Be sure to stay someplace central so you can get off to an early start and be right in the heart of the action. We found the most adorable traditional Spanish apartment on Airbnb that was located right across the street from the Arc de Triomf and Parc Ciutadella. Situated in a trendy, Bohemian community in the heart of the Old Town, it was only about 1 10-minute walk to Las Ramblas and other popular attractions. Use this link for a discount on your booking.

One day in Barcelona

One day in Barcelona

One day in Barcelona

Now that you've found the perfect place to rest your head, let's take a look at how to spend one day in Barcelona so you can see plenty of what this exciting city has to offer.

Morning

Get up early so you can enjoy the energy of the morning rush as people sip their morning espresso before dashing off to work. There's an energy alive on the streets of Barcelona that simply isn't found in other parts of the world. You can literally feel it buzz through you as you wend your way through the city's streets. You simply have to experience it for yourself. It's incredible. You'll find plenty of pastry shops where you can grab a Danish or croissant. If you prefer a full meal in the morning, there are lots of curbside cafes that offer local delicacies or a traditional English breakfast of toast, eggs, and sausage or bacon. If you're staying by the Arc de Triomf, El Nostre Pa on Passeif de Luis Companys is a great place to grab a bite to eat. You can either enjoy your meal inside the shop or take it to go and walk across the street to eat in the green space surrounding the Arc de Triomf.

One day in Barcelona

Now that your stomach is sated, it's time to start your journey. If you enjoy walking, this one-day guide has plenty of it, but some sites are quite a distance apart. When you conjure up images of Barcelona in your mind, the one attraction that likely stands out most in Gaudi's infamous Sagrada Familia. A visit to this fair city simply wouldn't be complete without making a stop at this towering basilica. This is the first point of interest on our one-day tour.

one day in barcelona

One day in Barcelona

Construction of the UNESCO World Heritage site started in 1882 and is projected for completion in 2026—100 years after the death of its enlightened architect Antoni Gaudi. The site of La Sagrada Familia is perpetually under construction, with large cranes extending out at every angle—something you don't typically see in the online pictures promoting the basilica. Still, it's a sight to behold with its detailed sculptures and 18 sky-scraping spires that exude both Gothic and Art Nouveau styles. Each of the church's three facades is ornately decorated to highlight the story of Jesus's life, and the interior of the building is equally as impressive.

It will take you about 30 minutes to walk to La Sagrada from the Arc, and you'll want to spend an hour or so wandering around the site once you arrive. The details are so intricate that it's impossible to take it all in, but drink up as much as you can before starting off again, this time, in the direction of the Park Güell.

It's a 40-minute walk to the park from La Sagrada, so you may opt for a taxi to help keep your feet fresh since there's still a lot left to see later in the day. Spend an hour or so wandering around the public park, which is home to even more of Gaudi's masterpieces. In 1900, wealthy Spanish entrepreneur Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudi to build an estate for the elite. Gaudi adorned the area with his unique designs. A few years after Güell's death, his family gifted the area to the city as Park Güell.

One day in Barcelona

Much of the park is open to visitors to wander around at leisure. However, if you want to get up close and personal with Gaudi's designs, you'll need to purchase a ticket for an exclusive part of the park known as the Monumental Zone. Here, you'll find the serpent-inspired mosaic terrace, the infamous El Drac mosaic salamander and other mosaics, and the main park entrance. An additional ticket is required to visit Gaudi's house, la Torre Rosa.

Pro Tip: Get in line to purchase your ticket before you begin exploring the public parts of the park. You'll likely have to wait a while just to make your purchase, and once you do you'll be given a time to return for entry into the exclusive area. While you're waiting, you can check out the rest of the park, which includes Gaudi's colonnaded pathways and bird's nests. Alternatively, you can pre-purchase tickets that allow you to skip the line.

Afternoon

Once you've had a chance to wander around the park, it will be mid-day. By now, your stomach will be rumbling, so be sure to stop for lunch. You can either grab a bite nearby or head toward your next point of interest, where there'll be plenty of places to whet your whistle.

From Park Güell, you'll make your way to Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample area of Barcelona. It's about 40 minutes of walking, so once again, you may want to hail a taxi for this leg of the trip. Passeig de Gràcia is home to some of the city's finest shopping, including everything from Cartier and Hermes to H&M and Zara. Like the shopping, food vendors runs the gamut from takeout tapas joints to trendy and chic upscale restaurants.

One day in Barcelona

One day in Barcelona

In addition to all types of fashion-forward clothing chains and popular restaurants, you'll get to glimpse two more of Gaudi's masterpieces on Passeig de Gràcia: UNESCO World Heritage Sites Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Walk up one side of Passeig de Gràcia and back down the other until you reach Plaça Catalunya, the place where the Old Town and newer Eixample part of the city meet. If you don't dawdle, only stop into a few shops, and chow down on street food as you walk, you make your way from one end of Passeig de Gràcia to Plaça Catalunya in an hour or so.

One day in Barcelona

Considered the city center, Plaça Catalunya is a massive that square boasts a number of fountains and statues and is the gateway to many of the Barcelona's most important streets, including the popular pedestrian street known as La Rambla. Walk south from Plaça Catalunya to reach La Ramblas, the hub of tourist activity in Barcelona. The tree-lined street is approximately three quarters of a mile long and is completely free from vehicles. Here you'll find street artists entertaining the thousands of tourists that stroll this street every day. You'll also find dozens of street cafes and boutiques where you can buy all types of clothing, souvenirs, and gifts.

Pro Tip: Be sure to try the churros and chocolate. The local delicacy consists of fried pastry that is dusted in sugar and cinnamon and served with a cup of sweet, creamy chocolate. You can find the combination on the menu at just about every eatery in the area.

one day in barcelona

One day in Barcelona

At the southernmost tip of La Rambla, you'll reach the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. If it's still light out, you may want to make your way across the street and walk along the pier a ways. And if you're feeling really adventurous, from here, it's only about a 20-minute walk to the beach. Slip off your shoes and dip your toes in the sand for a short stroll along the water before the sun goes down.

Evening

Once darkness falls, it's time to head to Barri Gotic, or the Gothic Quarter. It's about a 20-munte walk from the beach, and the main attraction here is the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, or Barcelona Cathedral. Its soft lights cast an amazing aura over the area at night. After you've taken in this impressive sight, get lost in the narrow and winding streets of the Gothic Quarter. Take your time enjoying the one-of-a-kind offerings at the unique boutiques and pick up dessert at one of the tasty pastry shops.

One day in Barcelona

one day in barcelona

By the time the shops start to close, you'll be ready to call it a night. It's a short 20-minute walk from the Gothic Quarter to the Arc de Triomf, where you can kick off your shoes and give your feet a much-deserved rest.

If you only had one day in Barcelona, what would you add to this list? Leave a comment below with your suggestions. We'd love to hear from you.

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One Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: From Corcovado to Sugarloaf

So you only have one day in Rio de Janeiro and you want to make the most of it?

There are so many incredible things to do in Rio de Janeiro that it's almost overwhelming. But there are only a handful of must-see sites top the list, and the good news is that you can pack most of them into one very full day. You simply can't visit Rio without making a stop at places like  Sugarloaf Mountain, Ipanema and Copacabana, the Carnival parade route, Maracanã Stadium, and Corcovado Mountain, which is home to Christ the Redeemer.

It's fairly easy and inexpensive to take taxis or public transportation to most parts of Rio. However, there's a bit of risk involved—during peak season some of the best things to do in Rio de Janeiro can be extremely busy. Some people spend hours just standing in line to on the cable cars at Sugarloaf. For this reason, it's a good idea to opt for a guided tour.

Pro tip: If you do decide to head to some of the top attractions on your own, consider buying a skip-the-line pass. Depending on the time of year of your visit, it can be a real time saver.

rio de janeiro

At first glance, it may seem like the cost of city tours in Rio is outrageous—it's certainly much more than you would spend in other parts of the world. But once you start adding up the price of admission to the top sites, as well as cab fare to each one, you'll realize the price is pretty fair. And leaning on the experts to get you to all the right places is invaluable when you only have one day in Rio de Janeiro. They know the best times to visit each place to guarantee you can see as much as possible. Even if you have more than one day to check out the sights, a city tour is a great way to kick off your trip to give you a feel for the area. Normally, I would recommend a hop on hop off bus to get acquainted with a city, but Rio de Janeiro doesn't have one.

Pro tip: There are plenty of tour companies offering comprehensive city tours that you can pre-book, or you can ask your hotel for recommendations. At the end of the day, they're all about the same price and visit the same places, so it's often more convenient to buy your tour in advance of your trip.

If you're ready, let's begin looking at all of the things to do in Rio de Janeiro in just one day.

Morning

Since most city tours won't do much more than take you for a drive past the infamous Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches, try staying someplace close by so you can take a morning stroll in the sand. For affordable elegance, the Best Western Premier Arpoador Fashion Hotel is a perfect choice. Located on a side street just a five-minute walk from both Ipanema and Copacabana, it's ultra-contemporary and luxurious decor will make you feel like you've spent a fortune on a five-star hotel when you paid three-star rates. But if you're looking to truly splurge on your visit to Brazil, nothing compares to the ultimate indulgence of the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel.

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rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

The Best Western offers a delicious—and complimentary—breakfast spread of pastries, cereals, and made-to-order hot dishes that is sure to tickle your taste buds. Get up early to enjoy a quick bite at the hotel and then spend and hour in the soft white sand of Rio's premiere beaches. If you'd like to try a local eatery instead, you'll find plenty of full-service snack shacks beachside. You can watch the waves roll in as vendors set up stalls renting beach chairs and local "salesmen" peddle Brazilian sarongs called kangas.

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rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

Most tours offer hotel pick up and will likely arrive between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., and while you won't have a lot of time to take in both beaches, it's still worth taking the time to check them out. Once you're safely tucked into your seat on the open-top tour bus, you'll be whisked through the streets of Rio toward the number one tourist attraction in the city: Christ the Redeemer. I've written all about what to expect when you arrive at Corcovado Mountain and make your way up to the statue of Christ in a separate post since it's an experience in and of itself.

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rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

Depending on the type of tour you take, you can either take a bus, train, or car just about to the top of the mountain. For here, you'll need to climb about 200 steps to the top (there is an elevator if you need it, but if you're able, I recommend the walk). There are lots of great views on the way up. Regardless of your religion, Christ with his arms outstretched will take your breath away. When you're done taking pictures of the exceptional views from Corcorvado, you'll still have plenty of time to browse around the souvenir shops for a memento of your visit.

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rio de janeiro

As you drive through the streets, you'll catch a glimpse at the notorious and colorful favelas, or low-income shantytowns that take up a great deal of real estate in Brazil's urban and rural communities. You'll also drive by the massive Sambadrome where Rio Carnival takes place each year. As you stop at the side of the building for a closer look, you can almost hear the spicy samba beats and the thunderous roar of the 90,000-person crowd as the heavily adorned dancers and floats pass by. Well, maybe not quite since it's pretty much a big, concrete park without the glitter and shine of the Carnival, but you get the gist. Touted as the biggest stage on Earth, the tiered seats offer an unparalleled view of the electrifying Samba Parade.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

For sports enthusiasts, the tour makes a quick stop at Maracanã Sium, which was originally built to host the 1950 FIFA World Cup. At the time, it could hold nearly 200,000 people, making it the world's largest stadium. However, a renovation completed in 2013 decreased its capacity to fewer than 80,000. Still, as the largest stadium in Brazil, it's an impressive site. It's at about this point in the tour that the bus will pull up outside a recommended souvenir shop so you have a chance to pick up gifts for friends and family back home.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

Afternoon

By now, the better part of your morning will be over, and your tummy will be starting to grumble. What better wait to sate your stomach than to head to a Brazilian barbecue? And don't worry if you're not a meat-eater—I've been a pesco pollo vegetarian for more than 20 years—there are plenty of other foods on the menu, including a plethora of salads and side dishes. I promise you won't leave hungry.

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For the carnivores in the group, you will be treated to an experience like no other. From the moment you're seated, a revolving door of servers carrying ready-to-carve meats of every kind will start to approach from every angle, and they won't stop until you're walking out the door. Lamb, chicken, pork, beef—you name it, and they have it. And they are careful to also include vegetarians in the experience, bringing specially crafted cheesy buns and fried bananas for you to much on. Many tours include the cost of the meal in your ticket price. The only reason you'll have to pull out your wallet is if you want to buy a beverage.

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With your tummy taut from all the delicacies you enjoyed, it's time to get rolling. After all, there's no time to spare when you only have one day in Rio de Janeiro. For the next leg of the tour, you'll spend some time driving around the city and taking in the sights from inside the motorcoach.

Pro tip: There's often limited space on the top, or outdoor, part of the bus, which is the prime viewing location. At each stop, aim to get back to the bus a little bit earlier than prescribed so that you can be first in line to get one of the outdoor seats. It's dog-eat-dog when it comes to these things.

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From here, you'll head toward the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. Constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, the church looks like something out of an apocalyptic comic book. Inside, the floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows are a true work of art, lending a sense of beauty to the otherwise unusual structure that is almost reminiscent of a Mayan temple in its shape and design.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

The penultimate stop of the tour takes you for a drive past the Lapa Arches en route to the Selaron Steps. Not every tour includes this stop, but our thoughtful and knowledgeable guide, Julio, thought we might enjoy a quick pit stop here, and it turned into one of the highlights of the trip. Designed as a tribute to the people of Brazil by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, the 215 colorful steps are covered from top to bottom in a mosaic of tiles and mirrors. Street vendors and souvenir shops line the sides of the steps, which are abuzz with crowds of people. There's also a great souvenir shop where you can taste a local liqueur as well.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

After a short break at the cathedral, it's back on the bus for the final stop of the tour, the highly anticipated Sugarloaf Mountain and its high-speed cable cars. If you're afraid of heights, there's a lovely green space just before the entrance to the cable cars where you can wait for the rest of the party. You find a few kiosks offering kitschy souvenirs and churros, among other street food. You can even walk down to the nearby beach to watch the surfers ride the waves.

For the adventurers who choose to ride to the top of the mountain, you won't be disappointed. The views are incredible and well worth the whopping six-minute ride—that's right, I said six minutes. Honestly, no matter how severe your fear of heights is, you can do anything for six minutes. In the blink of an eye, you'll be there. And if you time it right, you'll get to see the sunset over Christ the Redeemer on the other side of Rio. It's majestic, and you can read all about the experience in a separate post I wrote on Sugarloaf Mountain and the cable car ride. There a plenty of places to eat and shop at Sugarloaf, so don't worry if you haven't found a special token to remind you of your time in Rio. You're bound to find something at Sugarloaf.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

Evening

The sun goes down fast in Rio de Janeiro, so by the time you get back on the bus, it will be just about nightfall. You'll get back to your hotel between 6:30 and 7 p.m. And if you're up for it, a fun way to spend the night is at the Plataforma Samba Show. Filled with music and dance, each night performers our their hearts and souls into a high-energy cultural performance. And for the icing on the cake, the performers showcase some of the recent Carnival costumes. It's a fun way to cap off your jam-packed day in Rio.

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

rio de janeiro

I've been to hundreds of cities and towns in more than 50 countries on 5 continents, and I can truly say that none compare to Rio de Janeiro. Its beauty is unrivaled. There are so many things to do in Rio de Janeiro that I can hardly wait to return and take in even more. But if you only have one day in Rio de Janeiro, this guide provides the perfect way to make the most of your time.

Have you been to Rio? What's your favorite thing about it? What other sights would you put on your must-see list? Leave a comment and let us know.

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One Day in Chicago: From Land to Water Activities

 
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Chicago
 
 
 

 

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One Day in London, England: From Soho to St. Paul’s Cathedral

There are so many things to do in London, England.

So what should you do when you only have one day to spare? It's a big city with lots of amazing sights to see. The good news is that if you don't dawdle, you can pack in many of them in fewer than 12 hours. Follow this comprehensive plan, and you won't miss out on anything.

Morning

Staying at a central hotel is key to seeing as much of London as possible in just one day. I stayed at a cozy and quirky boutique hotel in the heart of Soho. The upscale Hazlitt's Hotel is in an ideal location if you're planning to walk to London's main attractions. The staff is exceptional, and the beds are some of the comfiest I've ever slept in. And did I mention my room had a claw-foot tub? It was pure bliss.

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There's not much to do in London before 10 a.m., so sleep in a little and then make your way to the Covent Garden district for a traditional English breakfast. If you choose to stay at Hazlitt's or another nearby hotel, after about 10 to 15 minutes of walking, you'll be in the very heart of the Covent Garden district. London is such a great walking city that it's worth every step.

There're loads of shops along the way, and it's fun to do some window—or actual—shopping en route. You'll pass everything from trendy clothing stores like my personal favorite Anthropologie and future queen Kate Middleton's former employer Jigsaw to quirky, upscale jewelry shops like Les Nereides. So good...and don't even get me started on the number of cafes and bistros you'll see. If you're not too hangry, hang tight and wait until you get to Covent Garden Market before chowing down.

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You'll find plenty of casual restaurants offering affordable prices—by London standards—at Covent Garden Market. I chose to dine downstairs at The Crusting Pipe, where I got poached eggs and toast for just £6. That might sound like a lot, but it's a steal of a deal considering the prime location. If you sit outside, you'll likely be treated to live entertainment by one of the many talented street performers that are known to busk in the area. And if the mercury is low, they'll even leave a blanket on your chair to help keep you cozy.

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After breakfast, spend a bit of time strolling through the streets and stopping in at some of the market shops. Offerings range from handicrafts kiosks to gourmet tea boutiques (many of which have affordable afternoon teas). It's a real eclectic mix where you just might find a one-of-a-kind keepsake. My Pomeranian is the proud owner of a handmade Union Jack coat, for instance. But I digress...there are still so many things to do in London. The hands on Big Ben will be roundabout noon by now, and you've got a ways to walk before you'll get to see them.

London

Afternoon

Once you've had a good look around Covent Garden, make your way toward Henrietta Street and walk for half a block, until you reach Southampton Street. Take a right on Southampton and walk another block or so, until you hit Strand. From here, just keep on walking, and eventually you'll reach Trafalgar Square, where you'll find the National Gallery. Admission is free, so pop in and take a look around. The gallery even offers suggestions about must-see sites for people who are short on time, which you definitely are if you plan to see the best of London in one day.

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When you're done taking a quick look around the gallery, toss a few pennies in the Trafalgar Square fountains, and walk straight across the street to the traffic circle on Strand. Take a quick picture with Charles Statue at the roundabout, and then curve right toward Whitehall. After just a  few minutes, you'll be yourself snapping selfies with the poker faced guards at the Horse Guards Parade. The entire journey from Covent Garden to this point shouldn't take more than 15 minutes of total walking time if you don't stop anywhere along the way.

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From here, it's smooth sailing to some of the most popular sites in London. If you're facing the Horse Guards, turn left and start walking along Whitehall, which will eventually become Parliament Street. Soon, you'll be ticking off the boxes on your to do list like mad. Up first, 10 Downing where the prime minister resides. Across the street-ish, you'll see Big Ben and the parliament buildings, and up the road is Westminster Abbey...they're all along this route. Take your time, and breathe it all in.

Pro tip: You'll know you're heading in the right direction if you see lots of red, double-decker, tourist buses as you walk. Let the buses be your guide.

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Over the next hour or two, simply drink in your surroundings. Take pictures, walk around the Abbey, and soak it all up like the sponge that you are. Want an authentic souvenir? Check out the House of Parliament Shop on the corner of Great George Street and Parliament Square. Then, hone in on the London Eye and start walking in that direction. Crossover the Thames River via Westminster Bridge, and walk along the water until you reach the famed Ferris wheel that offers an unparalleled view of the city. Afraid of heights? Me, too. The only thing I'm more afraid of than heights is wasting money, so I bought a skip the line pass in advance and forced myself to take the plunge.

Pro Tip: Depending on the season, the line to get on the London Eye can be prohibitively long if you're on a tight schedule. Pre-purchasing a skip the line pass is a must to ensure you get right on the ride.

London

From here, a fun idea is to visit Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. And it's easy to get to from the London Eye—no map required. All you need to do is walk along the banks of the Thames until you come to a rustic, round building. According to Google maps, it should only take about 30 minutes, but I wandered in and out of shops along the way so it took an hour or two.

Pro Tip: By now your stomach may be starting to grumble. When it comes to seeing all you can in one day, eating on the go is a necessity. Grab a bite to eat from someplace on the street, something like a pastry or a burger that you can eat while you walk.

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It was about 2:30 p.m. when I arrived at the Globe, and the next guided tour was starting in a half hour. This gave me just enough time to check out about half of the exhibits in the museum portion of the theater before joining the rest of the group. The tour takes only a half hour, and if you're lucky, you'll get to see some of the actors rehearsing. When I was there, the girl next to me swore up and down that one of the actors was from "Game of Thrones" was onstage, but I'm not convinced.

London

At £16, the price of admission to the theater ain't cheap, but for a Shakespeare buff like me, it's well worth every penny, and it's a unique experience. The globe provides unparalleled insight into what life was like in Elizabethan times. After the tour, you may need another half hour or so to check out the rest of the exhibits. Then, be sure to check out the shop, which is filled with an abundance of merchandise featuring some of the most famous quotes from Shakespeare's infamous plays. You may even choose to dine at one of the cafes or bars located on the theater premises.

Evening

You'll already have put in a packed day at this point, but it's not quite over yet. When you leave the theater, walk out the doors and over Millennium Bridge toward St. Paul's Cathedral. This is where members Lady Diana and Prince Charles go married. I took a minute to pretend I was a princess and walked right down the center aisle. Located at the highest point in the city, St. Paul's is the home of the Anglican church in London and is a sight to behold with its enormous domed roof and other adornments. Stay for a service if you don't have any other plans for the evening. If not, spend 15 or 20 minutes taking a look around and then start of in search of your next attraction, which will likely be dinner.

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By now, it will be about 6 p.m., and you're bound to be hankering for something savory. Just about a block up the street from the cathedral on Ludgate Hill is a little bistro called Joe's Kitchen. Casual, trendy, and affordable, Joe's was the perfect place to kickback and enjoy some fish and chips. The generous portions came at an affordable price and truly hit the spot. And the service was fast and friendly, which suited my needs perfectly.

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Once your appetite is sated, it's decision time. How will you spend the rest of your night? I chose to make my way back to Soho to take in a Broadway-style production. If you've got the time and your feet aren't too tired from your earlier adventures, it's only about a half hour walk along Strand to Leicester Square. Here, you find half-price ticket booths just like the ones in Times Square, New York. If you're lucky, you might be able to snag yourself a deal at one of the hottest tickets. I happened to get a seat at the very final showing of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at a fraction of the regular rate. I also happened across the adorable Primrose Bakery along the way, where I grabbed a delicious cupcake to snack on after the show.

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Other options for the evening include heading back toward Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and catching a performance there. Or you may choose to simply take a stroll along Oxford Street to do a little shopping at the plethora of trendy boutiques and chain stores that line either side of this long and bustling street. Before you know it, the moon will be casting its cool glow over you, and your jam-packed day in London will be over.

I know, I know...what about Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London? You only have one day, so something's gotta give, right? That said, if this is your first time in London, you'll definitely want to take in these awesome sites. However, if you've been to London plenty of times, this offers you a fun alternative to get a little bit off the beaten path while still taking in some of the attractions that never get boring no matter how many times you see them.

Alternative Agenda

I wouldn't want to leave you hanging, so I've also included a few other options for your day in London. As an alternative, you could always skip the morning at Covent Garden to take in the palace instead. Then, substitute the afternoon visit to Shakespeare's Globe with a trek to the tower. Both are completely viable—and doable—alternatives. I love a good, long walk in a new city, but keep in mind you may need to hop onto the London Underground or hail an infamous black taxi to make it the extra miles in just one day.

The walk from Soho to Buckingham Palace takes a little over a half hour. Try to time your visit with the changing of the guard for a bit of extra fun, and be sure to check out the palace shop. You can even take a tour of the interior or enjoy afternoon tea if you've decided to hit the palace later in the day. When you're ready to continue with the rest of the tour, simply walk straight down the main road leading from the palace, called The Mall, and it will take you all the way to Trafalgar Square in just under half an hour. From here, you know what to do!

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If you are dying to see the crown jewels, you'll definitely want to skip Shakespeare's Globe and head straight for the Tower of London. If you're walking from the London Eye, you can still walk along the Thames past the Globe, but you'll want to cross back to the other side at some point. I recommend the Millennium Bridge so you can still stop at St. Paul's Cathedral en route. It'll take you just under an hour to make the journey if you don't stop anywhere along the way. If you're super short on time and only have a few hours to spend or simply aren't up for quite such a long walk, consider taking a hop on hop off tour instead.

Have I missed anything? Drop me a comment, and let me know. I would love to know what attractions you'd visit if you only had one day in London.

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One Day in Albufeira: From Old Town to the Strip

Albufeira, Portugal is a sight to behold.

With its rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, Albufeira is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle. Located in the Algarve, the southernmost part of Portugal, Albufeira is a hot tourist destination. In fact, the entire region sees about 10 million people pass through each year making it the most popular place to visit in Portugal. There are a dozen or so cities in the region, and each one has its perks, so it can be hard to decide where to set up your base. I settled on Albufeira because it's big enough to have plenty to do but not so big that you'll feel like you're in just another city. It's also a great home base if you want to venture to other cities in the region. Many tours take off from Albufeira, so there is always something to do here. Lagos and Silves have a similar vibe.

Regardless of where you stay in the Algarve, you'll fly into Faro, the region's capital. Despite the many tourists that fly through this region each year, there is no easy way to get from Faro to other parts of the Algarve. There is a train to Albufeira, but from everything I read, the service isn't great, and the train station is miles from the city center. And while there does seem to be a fairly frequent bus passing through, the station is about a mile from the city center. On this particular trip, I had been flying for 30 hours and couldn't fathom lugging my bags on and off buses and trains any longer. Before leaving home, I purchased a round-trip shuttle ticket for just 26 Euros.

Albufeira is a tourist town, so there are tons of hotels to choose from. Most are flashy resorts with lots of amenities, but there are a few boutique offerings and tons of rental apartments. There are a few key areas, including the marina, the Old Town, the Strip, and near the town hall. Each one caters to different interests. If you're looking to spend some time sailing or on boating excursions, the marina is the obvious choice. If you're all about the nightlife, then the Strip is the place to be. While the town hall area is known as more of a shopping district. I stayed in the Old Town, which is also close to the beach. It's quiet and quaint—the perfect location for a relaxing escape.

Morning

I stayed at the Sol e Mar Hotel, which is right on the beach—literally. You simply walk out the backdoor of the building and you're right on the beach. You can enjoy the sights and sounds from the hotel's two beachside restaurants and gelateria, or you relax on one of the lounge chairs set up in the sand. But that's not all...walk through the front door, and you're smack dab in the center of the Old Town. It's the best of both worlds.

There's no need to get an early start in Albufeira. Nothing—not even restaurants—open until at least 9:30 a.m. And that's pushing it. You can always eat the hotel restaurant if you're up early or head out for an early morning stroll before breakfast, which is exactly what I did. I walked out to the beach and turned right, toward the big rock. You can't miss it. Just past the rock, there is a rocky ledge where you can climb out and sit by the water. I brought along a book and read for a little while, taking in the morning sun.

Then, I walked back toward the Old Town and grabbed a curbside seat at one of the cafes on Rua 5 de Outubro, Tasca D'Alkhaz. I'm not great at relaxing, but the pace in Portugal is so slow, it's hard not to tune out the world and just relax.

By the time you're done eating, most boutiques should be open. Spend an hour or so walking through the white-stone cobbled streets, taking in the white-washed buildings and checking out the shops. If you're all about the shopping while on vacation, Albufeira isn't the best place for you to visit. There aren't a ton of shops and most are pretty kitschy. But it's still fun to check out. And if you're looking to purchase a local specialty, you'll find plenty of vendors selling cork jewelry, purses, shoes, hats, and more.

After you've finished wandering through the old town, head toward the escalators near the beach. It sounds strange, but you can't miss them. They are right at the edge of the Old Town. Ride to the top, and take a few snaps of the beautiful view. Then, wait on the corner of the street for the Albufeira Tourist Train. Albufeira is a lot bigger than it seems, and this adorable little train is a great way to get around to the major sites. For just 4 Euros, you can get a day pass to ride as much as you like. A round-trip tour takes about 40 minutes, and it stops at four convenient locations.

I got off at the Brisa Sol Hotel and walked around the area for an hour or so. Most of the storefronts at the Bellavista complex across the street are closed, though you will find a cute pet shop tucked in a corner on one of the upper levels. There are a few other shops and restaurants, but not much worth noting. When you come out of the complex make a left, and walk down Avenida dos Descobrimentos for a minute or two. Across the street, you'll find a little shopping center. Again, there's not much inside other than a food court and grocery store, but I always enjoy checking out where the locals shop. Aside from those two shopping centers, you won't find much more in this neighborhood. I hopped back on the bus and stayed on board for the next two stops, returning to my starting point at the top of the escalators.

Pro tip: You can expect a train every 20 minutes, until about 7 p.m., when the schedule switches to every 40 minutes.

Afternoon

A walk to the marina is a great way to spend the afternoon. Head back toward the Sol E Mar Hotel. If you are facing the doors, turn right and start walking down Rua Jose Bernardino de Sousa. After about a block, you'll come to a fork in the road. If you stay to the left, there is a waterfront path that takes allows you to take in the beach from above as you walk through some residential areas. Again, you'll encounter a few cat colonies as you make your way down the trail. And simply keep walking. But before embarking down that pathway, you may want to stop in at the Museum of Sacred Art. It's right smack dab in the center of the street in the former Chapel of San Sebastian. And though it's just wee, it'll only cost you 2 Euros to check out.

When you're done, continue you waterfront walk toward the marina. First, you'll come to the commercial port. There's no need to walk downhill to get a closer look, there's not much more to see than what you'll glimpse from up top. There's a little cafe where you can grab a smoothie or a coffee before continuing your journey. After a few minutes, you'll round a corner across from a restaurant called Castelo do Mar. On your left side, there will be a stairwell leading down to the marina. Climb down, and you'll be right along the water. Walk a little farther, and you'll find a series of kiosks where you can book a seaside adventure, such as dolphin viewing, parasailing, or a cave excursion. Most take off mid-day, so you may be too late to take one on the same day. Just ahead, you'll see a plethora of colorful buildings. Here, you'll find arcades and restaurants where you can relax and enjoy a bite to eat or play a few games. When you're done, simply follow the same route back to the Old Town.

After all this walking, you'll be ready for a bit of a rest. It's a great time to relax in a lounge chair by the beach or maybe take a late-afternoon nap. I opted to grab my book and sit by the water for a while. With the warm sun on my skin, it was a wonderful way to while away an hour or two. To cool down, I grabbed a vanilla gelato from the gelateria at my hotel. So yummy.

Evening

For dinner, there is no shortage of family-run restaurants in the Old Town. Everyone is friendly and welcoming, but they won't pester you to eat at their establishments. Instead, they'll gladly show you the menu and strike up a conversation. In a refreshing twist, there were plenty of vegetarian options at most restaurants. I enjoyed a delicious mushroom stroganoff at, ironically, Pampas Steakhouse. The wait staff were friendly and eager to please, the portion was sizable, and the meal was really good. I felt like I got great bang for my buck. Other delightful dinner options include Urban Pizza and La Locanda dei Segreti. To shake things up a bit, I decided to try a different restaurant for dessert. I had a hankering for cheesecake, and Doce Jardim had exactly what I was looking for. I spent an hour or so chatting with some fellow travelers while I enjoyed my tea and cake.

After dinner, I decided to take advantage of my all-day pass for the tourist train, and hopped back on board. I decided to take a ride down to the Strip. I was in Albufeira in the off-season, so most of the city closed down at sunset, which suited me fine. But from what I understand, it's a hopping little place in the summer. And while there wasn't much open on the Strip but the odd pub, the sheer number of bars, nightclubs, and peep shows in the area suggest the entertainment is as hot as the weather in the summer months.

I found a little bakeshop called Pao Da Aldeia one end of the strip and picked up a midnight snack. Then I headed back to the train stop to wait for my ride home. By the time I returned to the hotel, it was about 9 p.m. It was a full, and very fulfilling, day.

Have you been to Albufeira? How would you spend the perfect day there? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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One Day in the Algarve: From the Seaside to Castles

So you're in the Algarve region of Portugal for just one day, and you want to take in as much as you can.

No problem. Local touring companies offer amazing options for folks who want to pack in as much as they can in one quick trip. The best way to source the perfect tour is to simply ask at the reception desk at your hotel. Prior to my trip to the Algarve, I was so overwhelmed by the variety of tours offered in the area that I didn't book anything. Immediately upon arrival at the Sol e Mar Hotel in Albufeira, my home base for the next three days, I asked the woman who checked me in what she would do if she only had one day. She didn't even need a minute to think about her response—she quickly pulled out a brochure and told me her favorite tour. She then proceeded to call the tour company directly and had me booked in no time flat.

Pro tip: You will need to pay your hotel for the tour, and the payment will need to be in cash. Make sure you have a few extra Euros handy to cover the costs. Also, you can purchase tours from street vendors—they may even be a few dollars cheaper. But if you purchase through your hotel, you can rest assured your tickets will be valid.

Over the course of about 10 hours, the Historical Algarve Tour takes you on a whirlwind adventure through several small town and scenic sites. It's the perfect way to get a glimpse of some of the most popular attractions. Here's what to expect.

Morning

Your hotel will have a designated meeting time and spot for the tour. You'll be picked up promptly at this location and taken to another spot to meet with a larger motorcoach. But your journey hasn't started just yet...first, you need to journey to one more location, where you may need to transfer to another bus, depending on the tour you are taking. This may sound like a lot of work, but it all goes very quickly and smoothly. My pickup time was 8:30 a.m., and by 9 a.m. I was happily en route to my adventure.

The first stop is a traditional Portuguese town called Silves. After parking along a main road, your guide will take you on a brief walk through the narrow, winding streets. A steep climb up the cobbled roads brings you to Silves Cathedral. It will cost you 1 Euro to take a look inside this Gothic gem—a steal by today's standards. Afterward, a short walk brings you to Silves Castle, where, for just 3 Euros, you can get breathtaking views of the city from the sides of its towering walls. Though the castle is the best-preserved in the country, aside from the exterior walls, there is little else to see, unless you fancy a refreshment or two from the adorable cafe in the center of the castle ruins.

You'll have about an hour to spend in Silves. It's not a ton of time, but it will give you a taste of this charming community. If you're fast, you can take in both the castle and cathedral and still have time to roam one or two of the bustling side streets off the main road before returning to your bus. The shops don't have a ton to offer tourists, but it's a great way to peek inside the lives of the locals, even if only for a few minutes.

Once you're safely strapped back into your comfortable seat, your bus will make its way through the winding mountains toward the tiny hilltop town of Monchique. You'll pass through ancient towns, fields of fruit and nut trees, and rolling hills. The sights and stories are truly like something out of a fairy tale. Though you won't have a chance to exit the vehicle in Monchique, you will get to see the quaint cityscape before riding on to Foia, the highest point in the Algarve.

Unfortunately, when I visited Foia, it was very foggy and overcast, so I can't tell you much about what you should see from the top, but I'm told that the view is spectacular. There is a little shop selling souvenirs, including hand-painted tiles, cork purses and shoes, pottery, wool sweaters, and trinkets. But the main event is the tasting of a local liqueur. The line will be long, and you'll feel a little like cattle as you're shepherded through the narrow aisles of the shop to sample the special treat.

You'll have about a half hour to spend at this stop. There are public toilets available to use free of charge, and there is a small cafe where you can grab a quick bite to eat. If you have a few extra minutes to spare, consider spending them outdoors. One of the other travelers on my tour told me it was good luck to pile three rocks on top of each other at the top of Foia. So I did just that. They were the tiniest rocks in the world, but I don't think that has any impact on the outcome.

Afternoon

By this time, you'll likely be feeling tiny hunger pains in the pit of your stomach. Fear not—your coach will make a stop at a family-run restaurant for a hearty meal. But beware...there is a preset menu and the cost of the meal is not included in the price of your tour. For 13 Euros, you'll get your choice of beef, pork, chicken, or fish prepared in a traditional way.

Your tour operator will come around the bus and ask your preference as you make your way to the restaurant so that the meal will be ready when you arrive. In addition to the main course, your table will be set with lettuce and tomatoes, wine, juice, and bread. I had the fish, which was breaded and served with lemon and tartar. I'm not sure what kind of fish it was—I hadn't heard of it before, and the texture was...odd. So I chocked it up as an experience. For dessert, you'll be served traditional sweets made from almond paste, as well as a cup of espresso. The sweet treat was delightful.

I was traveling alone, and I enjoyed my meal with three other women who were also traveling solo. We laughed and shared stories of our travels—it was a highlight of the day for me. The time passed quickly, though I am sure we were there for at least an hour. Before we knew it, the restaurateur had come around to collect our payment, and we were on our way again.

Pro tip: It's a good idea to carry a bit of cash on this tour to cover all of the unexpected extras. About 20 or 30 Euros should do the trick.

Originally, I thought about opting out of  the meal but then realized there may not be another opportunity to eat on the trip, and I was right. If you don't plan to eat at the restaurant, be sure to pack a few snacks in your bag or pick something up that you can take with you at one of the other stops. And keep in mind, there is nothing else to do at the restaurant site. It's a little shop in the middle of nowhere, so there isn't much else you can do while the rest of your group eats.

Following your traditional Portuguese dining experience, you'll make your way to Sagres, Cape St. Vincent, which is the southernmost point in Europe. Here, you'll have about 30 minutes to walk out among the rocks overlooking the sea. If you're daring enough, you can even sit with you legs dangling over the edge of the rocky cliffs. I kept a good distance from the ledge, but many of my fellow travelers climbed across the rocks to get a closeup glimpse of the rough seas below. Here, at the end of the world, you'll also have a chance to visit the strongest lighthouse in Europe, Baleeira. It makes a beautiful backdrop for your already amazing photos of the area.

Evening

Just when you think the tour must be coming to a close, you make your way to one last stop: Lagos. And you'll have about an hour and a half to spend walking through its winding streets. By now, the sun will be low in the sky, but the streets will be alive with the hustle and bustle of busy people. From the picturesque marina to the bountiful boutiques, there's plenty to see and do in Lagos. In fact, the next time I visit Algarve, I'll make it my home base.

The main sites to visit here include the fort, St. Anthony's Golden Church, and the former slave market, which is now a museum. In the time I had, I managed to walk several streets, visit the church, and spend some of my hard-earned cash in the local shops. It was one of the most eventful stops of the day. By the time our visit in Lagos was over, night had fallen, and it was time to return to Albufeira.

The coach dropped me off at the same place it had picked me up that morning, which was just a short walk from my hotel. It was after 7 p.m., and most of the shops had shut their doors for the night, including the 7/11 where I had hoped to pick up a midnight snack. I roamed the quiet streets of the Old Town for a while before settling in at Urban Pizza, a popular restaurant that is always buzzing with activity. As the rain drizzled down outside, I sat next to a warm propane heater while enjoying a fungi pizza. It was a wonderful way to wrap up an amazing day.

Finally, about 12 hours after I left my hotel, I returned for a good night's rest. It was a packed day, and I felt like I had experienced so much of the best parts of the Algarve.

Have you been to the Algarve? What was your favorite part? Share your experience with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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