MapQuest Unveils 10 Top Destinations of 2013

B3BA9T Las Vegas Strip at Dusk, Paradise, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Alamy

Las Vegas, Nashville and Orlando were the top three searched for cities on MapQuest in 2013. The results are a compilation of destinations searched for on both MapQuest’s website and its recently updated-and critically acclaimed-iPhone and Android apps. [Full disclosure: AOL owns both MapQuest and Gadling.]

Texas was the only state with two cities in MapQuest’s top 10 list: Houston was eighth and Dallas was ninth. Feel free to criticize these travelers for not going to Austin instead in the comments.
Here are MapQuest’s top 10 most-searched for destinations of 2013:

  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. Nashville, Tennessee
  3. Orlando, Florida
  4. Atlanta, Georgia
  5. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  6. Chicago, Illinois
  7. Denver, Colorado
  8. Houston, Texas
  9. Dallas, Texas
  10. St. Louis, Missouri

Faux Cityscapes: 5 Fake Places To Snap A Tourist Photo

Steve Jurvetson, Flickr

What are the main reasons people travel? To see the world, gain new perspective, learn about other cultures, get a photo of themselves in front of a famous destination. Let’s be honest, in the world of social media, the latter is of the utmost importance, so important that some people will take a fake background rather than the real thing.

Five places you can snap a fake tourist shot:

1. Hong Kong with a bright blue sky
When it’s too smoggy in Hong Kong for a blue sky (and most of the time it is) you can still get your photo taken in front of the city’s skyline, thanks to a fabric backdrop. Because nothing says “I’ve been there” than taking your photo in front of a colored sheet.

2. Paris… in China
Can’t make it to the real Paris? There’s always Vegas. Or in China, where a remade version of Paris outside of Hangzhou isn’t the City of Light, it’s more of a creepy deserted ghost town. There’s even a 108-meter replica of the Eiffel Tower, which is perfect for when newlyweds want a romantic backdrop without traveling to Europe.

3. Afghanistan… in California
Given the US military’s presence in the Middle East, it’s no surprise that they would work hard to train soldiers on the ins and outs of where they will be based. And what better way than with a mock Afghan village? Actors on the Fort Irwin base in California create a fake Afghan village, selling plastic loaves of bread and fake meat to provide some sort of cultural context for military personnel soon to deploy. Even civilians can visit, checking out the village and chatting with soldiers afterwards. Obviously much more less complicated than traveling to Afghanistan.

4. The Taj Mahal… in Bangladesh
Local wealthy Bangladeshi filmmaker Asanullah Moni was apparently tired of traveling to India to see one of the new seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, so he built one himself. The structure cost $58 million to construct, and took only five years to build; lightspeed compared to the original building’s construction, which was built over two decades in the 17th century. So thanks to Moni, Bangladeshis can snap their picture in front of the iconic architecture without ever leaving their home country.

5. The Titanic… in the Southern United States
Just because the real boat sank, doesn’t mean you can’t get your photo taken in front of it. Just plan a trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Branson, Missouri where you’ll find 30,000-square-foot replicas of the ship that sank in 1912. Welcome aboard.

Bottle With Travel-Loving Tennessee Man’s Ashes Bobbing Along Florida Keys

Smith holding husband's ashes
Courtesy of 13WMAZ.com

We all have our own ideas of what happens after we die. For the late Gordon Scott Smith of Tennessee, his goal was to ensure that his lifelong love of travel carried on into the afterlife. Or, you know, at least ensured his cremated remains saw some scenic places. Scott’s widow, Beverly Smith, carried out her husband of 27 years wishes by putting his ashes, two dollars, and a note in a bottle, and setting it afloat off of Big Pine Key, Florida, in March, 2012, reports WCVB. The money was so recipients could make phone calls to Smith with updates on Scott’s whereabouts.The bottle washed ashore further south in the Florida Keys, in Islamorada. It was discovered by a man named Ross, who called a delighted Smith to give her an update. He also left a note of his own.

Ross then took Smith’s ashes six miles out to sea, and set the bottle afloat. Over the weekend, Judi Glunz Sidney, co-owner of a resort in Key Colony Beach, 28 miles south, found it onshore. She also called Smith, and transferred Scott’s ashes to a rum bottle (“You know, added a little fun to his trip.”). The bottle was then launched off of Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, so Scott can resume his travels. Here’s to going out in style.

Can’t Make It To The Tour De France Next Year? Here Are 5 Alternatives

Rob Annis

So you want to go to the Tour de France, but don’t have the vacation time for a multiple-week excursion or the money for a round-trip ticket?

Despite all three of the major Grand Tours taking place in Europe, you can still find top-notch bike racing – and the accompanying fan experience – in the U.S. Here are five of America’s biggest road cycling races.

Silver City Tour of the Gila Powered by SRAM (April 30 – May 4, 2014)
The five-day Tour of the Gila is a bit different than most of these events, because it gives amateur riders the opportunity to race themselves (albeit not with the pros). The race features not only some of the beautiful scenery New Mexico is known for, but also winds its way through ghost towns and steep mountain passes. You won’t see any of the famous European teams represented here, but the domestic pros – including UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team’s Philip Deignan, who won the overall earlier this year – can definitely put on a show.

Amgen Tour of California (May 2014)
Probably America’s most similar race to the Tour de France, the eight-day tour features the world’s top pro teams and travels through the mountains and countryside of the Sunshine State. There’s enough variety of terrain that virtually anyone can ride and feel like a pro racer for a day or two. For $1,000 and up, fans can pay to ride in the team car or get a bird’s-eye view of the finish and behind-the-scenes access to riders.U.S. Pro Road and Time Trial Championships (late May 2014)
Typically held Memorial Day weekend, this race features some of the country’s best male and female cyclists battling for the honor of wearing the stars-and-stripes jersey for the year. The road course around Chattanooga, Tenn., prominently features the 2,000-foot Lookout Mountain climb – difficult, but doable for most amateur riders.

Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (Aug. 6-11)
The Tour of Utah bills itself as “America’s Toughest Stage Race,” featuring 43,000 vertical feet of climbing over 586 miles. If you don’t like riding up mountains, this probably isn’t the tour for you – this year’s one-day amateur race was 112 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing. Of America’s three top multi-day stage races, this event attracts the least amount of attention, so you can expect the same amount of excitement as the Tour, but with smaller crowds.

U.S. Pro Challenge (Aug. 19-25)
This seven-day stage race features both the world’s top cycling teams and scenery. While there are several stages to test your climbing legs, riders who prefer fast, flat routes won’t be disappointed. Bike racing is a huge deal in Colorado, so expect a massive turnout of fans to cheer on the pros and the amateur riders pre-riding the course.

Territorial Disputes Over Tourist Attractions

Gibnews.net, Wikimedia Commons

Spain is being accused of intentionally holding tourists in long lines as they make their way back from day tripping in Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory claims the traffic jam — which has so far affected more than 10,000 vehicles — has been deliberately orchestrated because of a disagreement over a creation of an artificial reef in territorial waters. Of course, this isn’t the only territory in the middle of a tug-of-war match by two — or sometimes more — countries. Here are just a few of the dozens of places with disputed borders where you may find yourself stuck:

  • Mont Blanc Summit (France vs. Italy): Both countries have had a long but peaceful dispute over ownership of the summit of the highest mountain in the Alps.
  • Liancourt Rocks (Japan vs. South Korea): this group of small, craggy islets has become a tourist attraction in recent years, but its sovereignty is still being disputed.
  • East Jerusalem (Israel vs. Palestinian Authority): Jerusalem’s Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are just a few of the attractions that lie in this hotly debated territory.
  • Ceuta (Spain vs. Morocco): the majority of this city’s population are ethnic Spanish who are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.
  • Tennessee River (Tennessee vs. Georgia): Georgia lawmakers claim surveyors who mapped out the border between these two states in 1818 got it wrong, and part of the Tennessee River should actually belong to Georgia.
  • Paracel Islands (China vs. Taiwan vs. Vietnam): three countries lay claim to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The islands have the potential to become a popular tourist attraction because of their large reef system, but currently tensions between the countries are too high.
  • Southern Half of Belize (Belize vs. Guatemala): All of Belize was formerly part of Guatemala, and today the debate still continues over who is the rightful owner.