Google Street View Helps Visualize Cool Summer Attractions

As summer blazes on, travelers are looking for cool places to go. A quick escape from summer heat to a water park, beach or lake might be just what they have in mind too. But how about a look first? Google Street View can give us a panoramic view from positions along many streets in the world, including some major summer attractions.

A little warm where you are today? Click on one of these featured attractions for a taste of coolness and summer fun ahead.

Adventure Island is a water park located northeast of Tampa, Florida, across the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, featuring 30 acres of water rides, dining and other attractions.

Discovery Cove is a theme park in Greater Orlando, Florida. Guests can interact with a variety of marine animals, most notably bottlenose dolphins. The park is located adjacent to sister parks SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica. In addition to swimming with dolphins, Discovery Cove guests can interact with exotic birds, tropical fish, rays and land mammals.

Santa Monica Pier is a large double-jointed pier located at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, California, and home to Pacific Park and a family amusement park with a large Ferris wheel.

SeaWorld Orlando
is a theme park, and marine-life based zoological park, near Orlando, Florida, that when combined with its neighbor Discovery Cove and the Aquatica waterpark, it forms a larger entertainment complex devoted to Earth’s oceans and the array of life that inhabits them.

Google Street View was introduced in the United States but can now be seen in 48 countries around the world.

See more Google summer attractions in the U.S. through Street View imagery, and make plans to cool off today.

[Flickr photo by matheuslotero]

Summer Travel Trends: Experiential Travel, Weekend Getaways And Digital Tools

A lot has changed in the way people take summer vacations from last year. According to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, consumer behavior is shifting towards experiential travel, with 42 percent looking to learn about local culture. Furthermore, 22 percent of travelers are looking for more “soft adventures,” like cooking classes, spa retreats and trekking. Likewise, 36 percent wish to incorporate learning activities into their travels, like museum visits, historical sites and cultural monuments.

Using digital tools both before and during travel is also a growing summer travel trend. Fifty-six percent are doing online research before booking their trips. Additionally, 39 percent of travelers are using apps to learn more about their destination, find deals, make trip bookings and get recommendations. Travelers are also staying connected to work by checking their emails while away.

This summer, there will also be more travelers taking weekend getaways – 43 percent up from 36 percent. In fact, the average number of weekend getaways for the summer is three per month.

For more facts and figures on summer travel, click here.

Summer Travel Season Kicks Off Right Now

Summer travel season traditionally starts on Memorial Day then ends on Labor Day. Nothing new there. This year though, there are solid signs that the summer travel season could very well be back up to pre-recession levels with Americans traveling more than ever before.

Helped by a dip in gas prices in many areas, Memorial Day weekend travel should start the summer off with a bang as 34.8 million Americans are expected to travel 50 or more miles from home between Friday and Monday. But even in places where the price of gasoline is higher, summer travel is a big priority.

“High debt burdens, gasoline prices, and uncertainties regarding the strength of the current economic recovery have not deterred Californians from holiday travel,” said AAA spokesperson Cynthia Harris in the Newark Patch. “But many consumers intend to cut back on the distance they travel, as well on entertainment expenses, to compensate for reduced travel budgets.”

To make those cutbacks, travelers may book less expensive budget hotels rather than a resort-style property. Best Western International told Gadling that advance summer bookings at the chain’s hotels are up 21 percent this summer compared to summer 2011.”Early numbers not only show bookings are up, but travelers are staying longer with length of stay growing by 4 percent over last year,” said Best Western in an email. “In addition, data shows advance bookings are up throughout the U.S. at suburban properties by 20 percent; at in-town hotels by 19 percent; and at resort properties by 18 percent.”

How we get there is another matter. Airlines buzzing about an increase in fares has many travelers in the car for summer travel, and for good reason. Going forward, “the trend for gasoline prices continues to be down,” oil industry analyst Phil Flynn told the Chicago Sun-Times

Overall, AAA expects travel to be up about 1.5 percent.

“It’s not a huge increase but it is significant in the sense that we’re not having a decrease like we have shown in years past.”

[Flickr photo by Wubbo Sieger]

Travel Channel, National Parks Join For Summer Promo

Summer can mean a trip to one of America’s national parks for many. These adventure-packed and history-rich destinations offer travelers a wide variety of vacation options at hundreds of locations. To promote America’s national parks and help with planning a summer park vacation, the Travel Channel has joined with the National Park Foundation (NPF) in a summer-long partnership of initiatives.

“Through this summer partnership, the National Park Foundation and Travel Channel, will provide the Network’s passionate viewers with the best tools and information to plan the perfect national park adventures,” said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks.

Inspiring viewers to visit our 397 national parks as well as encourage volunteerism and monetary donations to NPF, the Travel Channel will support the NPF partnership via the network’s “Destination Summer” campaign.

Thirty hours of programming on America’s national parks will include celebrating “Get Outdoors Day” on Saturday, June 9.”Travel and tourism are big drivers of the U.S. economy, and this is one important way Travel Channel can make a very positive impact,” said Laureen Ong, president of Travel Channel. “We know our viewers are ready to lean in and experience life, and this partnership with the National Park Foundation will touch consumers on a very personal level, encouraging them to explore and appreciate the best destinations America has to offer.”

Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks, 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured landscapes, ecosystems and historic sites.

Flickr photo by jurvetson

Summer Hotspot: Baltimore, Maryland

If scenes from “The Wire” are the only images that come to mind when you think of Baltimore, it’s time to reevaluate. The city is a hodgepodge of distinct neighborhoods, including historic Fells Point, where you can take your pick from more than 120 pubs, and quirky Hampden, where you still might be able to spot a beehive hairdo straight out of a John Waters film. Although Baltimore is only a stone’s throw away from Washington, D.C., and a short drive from Philadelphia and New York, it’s a charming, comfortable city with its own culture and a lively arts scene. Plus, the city has several events happening this summer that are worth a trip.This summer, Baltimore will ring in a three-year celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with the Star-Spangled Sailabration, a maritime festival that will bring dozens of tall ships and warships to the city’s bustling Inner Harbor from June 13-19. The Inner Harbor is a pretty public space filled with shops, museums, ships and restaurants. It is overlooked by Federal Hill, a park that sits on a prominent hill that was a lookout during the Civil War and the War of 1812. Don’t miss the American Visionary Art Museum, just to the west of Federal Hill, which is filled with oddball outsider art. On Thursday nights during the summer, the museum plays movies on the side of the building facing Federal Hill, which turns into a makeshift amphitheater.

From August 31 to September 3, IndyCars will race around a 2.04-mile temporary circuit set up around the Inner Harbor for the Baltimore Grand Prix. The circuit passes many Baltimore landmarks – including Oriole Park at Camden Yards – and contains 12 turns, one of which is an adrenaline-pumping hairpin turn. Race fans from around the world are expected to descend on the city and the crowds are expected to surpass 150,000 people.

Also in the Inner Harbor, Phillips Seafood – known for creating the first ever crab shack in Ocean City – recently moved to a new space in a restored power plant along the water. When doing so, Phillips opened up a huge new crab deck that juts out in the water. Visitors shouldn’t miss the true Chesapeake Bay experience of ordering up a bucket of clams and cracking them open in the sunshine. Wash the crabs down with Baltimore’s most famous beer, National Bohemian (better known as “Natty Boh” to Baltimoreans – just look for the can or bottle with the mustachioed man), and you have a true Baltimore experience.

Don’t forget that there is a lot to do in Baltimore beyond the Inner Harbor, including Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the country that features funky art cars, musical performances and plenty of neat art to peruse.

[flickr image via sneakerdog]