person holding mug filled with snow

Forget Snow Birds, Snow Babies are the Newest Trend in Real Estate

For better or worse, real estate is an industry ruled by trends. Whether you’re considering moving from the cities to the Leave It to Beaver suburbs (1950s) or from your McMansion(1990s) to a tiny home (2010s), it’s possible that you’re part of the current real estate trend.

As we near the end of a decade, a decade of gallery walls, Moroccan Poufs, reclaimed wood, and gray interior walls we’re seeing a new trend in real estate: a northern migration.

While people of a certain age (and those who don’t like the cold) have been long partaking in what is known as “Snowbird” behavior, spending the summer months in the northern states and the winter months in southern states, we’re beginning to see this trend reverse. Rather than chase a life of 70 degree days throughout the year, some adventurous and hearty souls are enjoying the most extreme weather the United States has to offer by spending the winters in the northern states.

The Great Northern Migration

Why would someone choose to live in a land aptly named “The Frozen Tundra”? In addition to the great people and healthy cheesy, delicious foods there are some real advantages to making the northern migration!

snow covered cars
1. Plenty of Exercise

When those who don’t regularly get weather below 32F think of winter, they mostly think of being cooped up indoors because it’s just too cold to do anything else. Northerners? 32 degrees sounds like a great day! But while you won’t see many runners or other typical “exercises” going on, living in an area with large volumes of snow means each morning can be an impromptu workout! As any hardened snow bunny will tell you, there are many kinds of snow. Looking for a light workout? Hope for small flurries with light, fluffy snow. Need to train for your Crossfit competition? Fingers-crossed for some dense, wet snow. Want to drive your car? Grab a shovel! Want to open your door? Grab a shovel! After one session of shoveling you’ll realize how much of a total-body workout you can really get!

snowy road

2. Adrenaline Junkies Unite

Have you ever driven to work and thought, “Wow! That was really boring!” or “Man, I wish there was something strong than coffee to get me going today!” Northerners have found the perfect solution to this issue–winter driving! Whether the roads look perfectly clear (usually black ice) or terribly sloppy (good ol’ fashioned snow) you’re sure to have an adventure! Pair this with the fact that most northern states have an extremely difficult time keeping up with road work–those seasons are tough on pavement!–and you’ve got yourself a fun little obstacle course of potholes and bumps!

snow house

3. Low Maintenance Yards

While the residents of some states have year-round accessibility and use of their yards, the Northerners get a break from October to April. Sure, it would be great to grill out on the patio, but you’d also have to cut the grass, clean the pool, or otherwise make your yard presentable. Northerners put yard work out of sight, out of mind, and buried under a foot of snow–at least for part of the year. The exception to this rule may be Green Bay, Wisconsin where locals will shovel and plow the yards of their home for parking, proving there’s no maintenance like snow-maintenance for a Packer fan!

Want to get in on this burgeoning trend? Ready to make the northern migration? Find your perfect snow baby palace here!

baseball field from above home plate

Home Field Advantage: The Best MLB Cities in the US

America’s favorite pastime officially kicks off the 2018 season today with all 30 teams playing on the same day–for the first time in 50 years! While other major league sports have relatively short seasons, basketball and hockey each have 82 games in the regular season. While the NFL has a paltry 16 per team, baseball takes it to another level with a seven-month, 162-game regular season. Each year, baseball fans can expect to see their favorite team play approximately 81 games in their home field, making these cities the perfect place for superfans to call home.

If you’re a fan of the sport, but not a particular team, there are many cities where you’ll find your own home field advantage. Looking for a great deal? Try Detroit. Want to cheer for the most-winningest team in MLB history? You’ll be headed to the Bronx, New York to cheer on the New York Yankees. Want to enjoy great weather from spring training to Game 7? Cheering on the Padres in San Diego is right up your alley. Here’s where you can find the right home base to cheer on a major league baseball team!

Looking for a home team where you can afford a home? Check out these teams!
 

above view of oriole park stadium

 

Team City Median Home Price
Detroit Tigers Detroit, Michigan $44,500
Cleveland Indians Cleveland, Ohio $71,396
Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee, Wisconsin $114,900
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, Missouri $129,990
Baltimore Orioles Baltimore, Maryland $135,000

 

Is price no object when it comes to root, root, rooting for the home team? What about one of these great cities?
 

 san francisco baseball field

 

Team City Median Home Price
San Francisco Giants San Francisco, California $1,195,000
Toronto Blue Jays Toronto, Canada $825,000
Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles, California $750,000
Boston Red Sox Boston, Massachusetts $749,000
New York Mets Flushing, New York $720,000

 
Want to cheer on the home team with a large crowd? You’re sure to find other fans in these major league-sized cities.
 

packed baseball field

 

Team City City Population
New York Mets Flushing, New York 8,175,133
Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles, California 3,971,883
Chicago White Sox &
Chicago Cubs
Chicago, Illinois 2,720,546
Toronto Blue Jays Toronto, Canada 2,600,000
Houston Astros Houston, Texas 2,296,224

 
Wanting to streamline your roster? These are the smallest cities with MLB teams.
 

pittsburgh baseball field

 

Team City City Population
Tampa Bay Rays Tampa Bay, Florida 257,083
Cincinnati Reds Cincinnati, Ohio 296,943
Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 304,391
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, Missouri 315,685
Los Angeles Angels
of Anaheim
Anaheim, California 350,742

 

atlanta braves baseball field

 
If baseball is a way of life for you and your crew, these are the cities with the right weather to keep the games rolling all year long.

Team City Average Temp Opening Day Average Temp Last Day Regular Season
Kansas City Royals Kansas City, Missouri 58 72
Washington Nationals Washington D.C. 58 73
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, Missouri 59 74
San Francisco Giants San Francisco, California 62 71
Oakland Athletics Oakland, California 63 73

 
Love baseball, but want your off-season weather make you long for spring training? Check out one of these cold weather teams.
 

little boy cleveland baseball uniform

 

Team City Average Temp Opening Day Average Temp Last Day Regular Season
Cleveland Indians Cleveland, Ohio 45 66
Toronto Blue Jays Toronto, Canada 42 61
Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee, Wisconsin 44 63
Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs
Chicago, Illinois 47 66
Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers
Boston, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
48 66

 
If what you’re really after, though is a city with history of being world series champs, these are the most winningest teams and cities.
 

yankees alex rodriguez

 

Team City Number of World Series Winds
New York Yankees Bronx, New York 27
St. Louis Cardinals St. Louis, Missouri 11
Oakland Athletics Oakland, California 9
Boston Red Sox
San Francisco Giants
Boston, Massachusetts
San Francisco, California
8
Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles, California 6

 
However, if you’re a fan of underdog victories and long shots, you might just find your Cinderella story in one of these cities. None of these teams has ever won a World Series Championship.
 

empty seats in baseball field

 

Team City
Milwaukee Brewers Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Colorado Rockies Denver, Colorado
Washington Nationals Washington D.C.
Texas Rangers Arlington, Texas
Seattle Mariners Seattle, Washington
Tampa Bay Rays St. Petersburg, Florida
San Diego Padres San Diego, California

 

Ready to play ball and purchase your own home-field advantage? Check out some of the great homes available here.

Shenanigans Galore! Where to have the best St. Patrick’s Day EVER!

Only 11% of US residents claim Irish ancestry (the second highest motherland after Germany), but on St. Patrick’s Day everyone’s Irish! Whether you’re planning to celebrate with some corned beef and cabbage or a pint of Guinness, there are plenty of ways sham-rock this St. Paddy’s Day! Looking for the best place to find a little slice of the Emerald Isle right here in the US? We’ve got the 5 P’s to find the perfect Paddy’s Day party spot!
 

People
 
st patrick's day party person
 
More than 30.5 million people in the United States claim Irish ancestry–that’s more than 6 times the current population of Ireland. If you’re hoping to spot a leprechaun, these may be the best US states to look!
 
States with Most Irish Descendents (as percentage of the population)

Massachusetts 22.5%
New Hampshire 19.5%
Rhode Island 18.4%
Connecticut & Delaware 16.6%
Vermont 16.5%
Pennsylvania 16.1%
New Jersey 15.9%
Maine 15.1%
Montana 14.9%
 

States with Most Irish Descendants (total number of people)

California 2.62 million
New York 2.45 million
Pennsylvania 1.98 million
Florida 1.65 million
Illinois & Texas 1.51 million
Ohio 1.45 million
Massachusetts 1.43 million
New Jersey 1.34 million
Michigan 1.07 million

 

Potatoes
 
french fries with greens
 
While Ireland is famous for potatoes, thanks to the Great Potato Famine, it isn’t the home of the potato (that would be Peru) nor is it a top global producer. If spuds are your St. Patrick’s Day food of choice, there are 30 US states that grow potatoes. Idaho is the largest producer by far followed by Washington, Wisconsin, and Ohio.

Countries with Highest Potato Yields (2016) (in hectogramme/hectare)
United States 490203
New Zealand 489883
Germany 444210
Denmark 424786
Netherlands 419961
Australia 404096
Jordan 400507
Ireland 391111
France 390052
United Kingdom 386547

 
Provisions
 
pints of beer for st pat's day
 
What would St Patrick’s Day be without a bit of beer or whiskey? While the Irish may cringe at the American custom of green beer, they will definitely “sláinte“ over a pint of Guinness or a pour of Jameson. On average, an Irish person will consume 25.76 gallons (97.5 liters) of beer per year.
 
Average Gallons of Beer Consumed per Person per Year
North Dakota 43.3
New Hampshire 42.2
Montana 40.5
South Dakota: 38.1
Vermont 35.9
Wisconsin 35.8
Nevada 34.9
Maine 34.8
Nebraska 34.2
Iowa 33.2
 
Parties
 
girls dressed for st patrick's day party
 
Planning to go “out on the lash” for St. Patty’s Day? These cities have some of the best festivities around to celebrate, but make sure you get there early–these events are sure to be jammers!

NYC: World’s largest St Patrick’s Day celebration– more than 2 million people come to watch the parade which lasts about 6 hours! This parade has no floats or cars, but about 150,000-250,000 people participate as bands, bagpipes, and dancers. This parade dates back to 1762 making the parade older than the US!

Chicago: The Windy City gets in on the St. Patty’s Day action by dyeing the Chicago River green! It only takes about 45 pounds of environmentally safe vegetable dye to turn the otherwise murky river a vibrate shade of green. After the dye ceremony, a parade kicks off at noon for about 400,000 spectators.

Savannah, GA: With a crowd of more than 300,000 people, Savannah gets into the Irish spirit with a parade featuring horses and a variety of floats. Other attractions for the day include a celebration on River Street with vendors, music, storytellers, and more!
 

Parks
 
green space and field in park
 
Ireland is known for having tons of beautiful green landscapes. Since most Americans live in the city, some of the best places to recreate that fresh field feeling is in public green spaces. If your idea of a great St. Patrick’s Day celebration is a little less “pubs” and a little more “parks” here are the US cities with the most parks per capita.
 
Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Paul, Minnesota
San Francisco, California
Washington D.C.
Portland, Oregon
Arlington, Virginia
Irvine, California
New York, New York
Madison, Wisconsin
Cincinnati, Ohio

A 25 foot tall house of cards and other crazy records held by Texas

From beauty queens (the most Miss USA titleholders) to chili con carne dreams (4,800lb–the world’s largest serving!), it really does seem that everything is bigger in Texas. Check out some of the other Guinness World Records set by Texans!
 

 
Largest Frito Pie
Snackmaker Frito-Lay calls Plano, Texas home so it’s no surprise that Texas is the home of the Guinness-certified World’s Largest Frito Pie. Created in 2012 at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, the pie was assembled in a U-shaped chaffing dish measuring 133sq ft, produced 5,000 individual servings, and weighed 1,325 pounds!

For non-Texans, a Frito Pie is a meal comprised of Fritos corn chips, bean-less chili (in this case, Hormel brand), and shredded cheddar cheese. This record-setting pie required 635 bags of Fritos, 660 cans of chili, and 580 bags of shredded cheese!
 
Largest Pecan Pie

The El Paso Diablos Baseball Club set the world record for largest pecan pie in 1999, shattering the record previously held by Okmulgee, Oklahoma. The Texan pie weighed just under 19 tons, was 50 feet in diameter and was produced using 1,500lbs of pecans, 13,350 lbs of sugar, 9,700lbs of corn syrup, among many other (large quantities of) ingredients.
 

 
Tallest Free-Standing House of Cards
Set by Texan Bryan Berg in 2007 during the annual State Fair of Texas, the structure measured 25 feet, 9 7/16 inches at its tallest point. As the record name implies, the structure contained no glue, adhesives, or other bonding or support agents. Berg also holds the Guinness World Record for largest playing card structure.
 
Largest YMCA Dance
During the Sun Bowl, a college football matchup featuring teams from the ACC and Pac-12, the world’s largest “YMCA” dance was achieved by 40,148 participants on December 31, 2008. The dance lasted for 5 minutes and 34 seconds and the accompanying music was sung live.
 

 
Largest Gingerbread House
Traditions Club, a private golf club in Bryan Texas, is the holder of the world’s largest gingerbread house! Created in 2013, the house was 60 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 10.1 feet tall at its highest point. The house was created as a fundraiser to build a new trauma center at St Joseph’s Hospital and visitors were able to meet Santa Claus inside the gingerbread house with a donation.
 
Oldest adoption
This is a heartwarming two-part record, both set by Texans. The oldest person to ever be adopted was Mary Banks Smith who was 76 years and 96 days old when she was adopted by Muriel Banks Clayton aged 92 years, 322 days. Mary, Muriel’s first cousin by birth, had been raised by Muriel, but was officially adopted on June 9, 2015 in Dallas.
 

 
Most Tennis Balls Held in the Mouth – Dog
Augie, a golden retriever from Dallas, Texas, holds the world record for most tennis balls held in the mouth at one time by a dog with five regulation sized balls.
 
Tallest Donkey
Romulus, an American Mammoth Jackstock owned by Cara and Phil Yellott of Red Oak, Texas holds this record. The Yellott’s confirmed the record in Waxahachie, TX on February 8, 2013.
 

 
Largest Makeup Painting
Texas is the land of sky-high hair and pageant queens, so it’s no surprise that Mary Kay cosmetics calls the Lone Star State home. In honor of the company’s 50th anniversary in 2013 a mural was commissioned in Dallas, Texas measuring 76 feet long by 8 feet high and was created entirely out of Mary Kay makeup using only makeup brushes and sponges.

Sip on something awesome: Coffee in the Caribbean

 

“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” -Edward Abbey

While Americans have enjoyed coffee from airtight tins since the early 1900s, many have not experienced the joy of truly fresh coffee. In 1907, 97% of the world’s coffee came from Brazil, but today many countries, from Ethiopia to Hawaii export these delicious and highly coveted beans. If you’re looking for the best cuppa Joe, here’s what you need to know

 
coffee being poured into mug
 
Costa Rica

Costa Rican coffee is known for having a full and rich body with bright acidity and a clean, crisp taste. Costa Rica uses an Arabica bean which is grown at higher altitudes and harvested in winter between December and February. The aroma profile is an intense and fragrant coffee smell with hints of brown sugar, while the flavor leans more toward citrus, tropical fruit, and apricots. The high quality brews these beans create means Costa Rican coffee has gotten a reputation as some of the best in Central/South American and has led to its introduction into Starbucks’ “reserve” program.


 
beans in coffee cup
 
Jamaica

Jamaica produces multiple types of coffee, but the most well-known is its Blue Mountain variety. Grown in the region of the same name north of Kingston and south of Port Maria at an elevation of between 3,000-5,500 feet, this coffee has virtually no bitterness, despite the fact that it has an excellently full body and a vibrant, yet smooth, acidity. This brew is also very complex with an unusually sweet flavor that teeters on chocolaty and an aroma filled with sweet herbal and floral notes with nutty undertones. One of the more notable facts about Jamaican coffee cultivation is that nearly all of Jamaica’s coffee plants are direct descendants of the plants the French brought to Martinique in 1723.
 


hands holding coffee in mug
 
Honduras

Historically coffee in Honduras was fairly standard and unremarkable, but in recent years has been receiving more acclaim. Grown at an elevation of between 3,600-5,400 feet, this bean exhibits a round, medium body with a soft acidity and a vanilla/hazelnut aroma. Like the coffee of the nearby Costa Rica, the harvest time in Honduras is from November to April. While the country was slow to take to coffee production, it has been a primary cash crop (along with bananas) since the early 2000s.
 
coffee with flower drizzle

Guatemala

Known as a “true Central American coffee”, Guatemalan coffee has a full body, rich cocoa-like flavor, and a toffee-esque flavor. The beans here are washed and sun dried and give off citrusy, floral notes when brewed. One of the truly unique properties of Guatemalan coffee is its ability to retain its flavor, even through dark and even espresso roasts. Guatemala’s location between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, consistent climate (it averages 72F year-round!), and volcanic soil makes this an ideal spot for cultivation.
 
coffee in white cup
 
While you can buy these varieties of coffee (and many, many) more at your local grocery store or online, experts will tell you to consult a local coffee roaster to obtain green coffee beans which can then be roasted to your specification right before you pick them up. You will then want to leave the beans whole until you are ready to brew a cup and ground coffee goes stale much faster than whole beans. Enjoy!

us bank stadium football nfl infographic

Touchdown in the Twin Cities: A Look at U.S. Bank Stadium

Minnesota is known for its cold weather, friendly residents, and love of hotdishes, but this weekend football takes over the Land of 10,000 lakes. The North Star State will be host Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in its newly designed US Bank Stadium. Here are some of the more interesting facts about arena, known as The People’s Stadium.

The Basics

  • Opened in 2016, the stadium took 16 years from concept to completion–12 years to get funding and 4 years to design and build.
  • Total Cost: $1 Billion+
  • Total Size: 1.8 Million Square Feet

Fan Facts

  • Seats more than 66,000 fans
  • Included 23 Turf Suites–located on the field!
  • Need snacks, but don’t want to miss the action? No problem! Concourse has 12,000 HD flat screens!

Design Feats

  • Has largest operable doors in the world-55ft wide and up to 95ft tall!
  • Asymmetric design is reminiscent of Viking boats–also helps shed snow.
  • 1st ETFE roof in a US stadium

Upcoming Events

The stadium has already hosted acts like Metallica, U2, and Guns N’ Roses

  • ESPN’s 2018 Summer X Games
  • American Ninja Warrior
  • 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four

City Stats

  • 150,000 visitors will come to city for event
  • Estimated to contribute $343 Million to area economy
wisconsin, farm, view, land

Lights, Camera, Wisconsin! A Look at the Badger State in TV and Movies

Wisconsin is best known for it’s cheese-munching, Packers-loving residents and while that’s a relatively fair (and accurate!) depiction, Wisconsin is so much more. Here’s how the Badger state stacks up to its Hollywood depictions.

Young and the Restless (1973-Present)

According to Nielsen ratings, this daytime soap opera was the leading daytime drama for more than 25 years as of December 2013. This show follows the dramatic and sometimes scandalous lives some of the prominent families in Genoa City, Wisconsin.

The Verdict: In true soap opera fashion, not much about this show is true to life. Genoa City, Wisconsin does actually exist, but that’s where the similarities end. While in the show the town is portrayed to be a bustling metropolis filled with corporate headquarters, the real Genoa City is a rural village with a population of about 3,000.

Happy Days (1974-1984)

Set in an idealized version of the mid-1950s to mid-1960s USA, Happy Days followed “innocent teenager” Richie Cunningham and “cool” biker and high school dropout Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli and became one of the most popular US sitcoms of all time and spun off other Wisconsin-based shows such as Laverne & Shirley.

The Verdict: While times certainly have changed, those of us who didn’t get to experience the golden era of Happy Days first hand can still delight in the sugary-sweet storylines of Happy Days. While the design for the fiction Arnold’s Drive-in was modeled after two real-life Milwaukee diners–the exterior of Pig’n’Whistle and the interior of The Milky Way (both since closed and reopened under different names), all it takes is hearing Richie pronounce it “Wes-consin” (around 3:40) to know that the show wasn’t actually filmed here.

Wayne’s World (1992)

After a “Laverne and Shirley”-esque intro, which includes shots of the Milwaukee city hall, the “party dudes” duo of Wayne and Garth get backstage access to Alice Cooper’s dressing room. Here Cooper reveals an intimate knowledge of the city’s history from it’s supposed French-name origins to its political past of socialist mayors.

The Verdict: Actually, Cooper isn’t too far off in this clip! There’s some debate as to the tribal origin of the name, with some believing it is a Potawatomi name meaning “Gathering place [by the water]”. His reference to socialist mayors is also accurate as the town was presided over by Mayors Seidel (1910-1912), Hoan (1916-1940), and Zeidler (1948-1960)–still the only major American city to do so.

Dogma (1999)

In this Kevin Smith movie, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two fallen angels condemned to spend eternity at an airport in Milwaukee. After Damon tries to “convert” a nun to the dark side, the angels are able to escape Milwaukee.

The Verdict: While Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport is not the type of place you want to spend a long layover (like eternity), it’s not a terrible spot to hang out for a few hours while you’re waiting for your next flight out. P.S. the scene was actually shot at the Pittsburgh International Airport indicating they needed to find someplace worse than the real MKE…

That 70’s Show (1998-2006)

This sitcom follows Eric Foreman and his friends and family during the mid to late 1970s in their industrial Wisconsin hometown. In addition to being set in Point Place, Wisconsin the cast often mentions visiting Kenosha or driving to Chicago for a party and even go to Packer game!

The Verdict: The setting is supposed to be somewhere near Green Bay, Wisconsin, but the geography laid out in the show doesn’t quite add up–like the crew going to Canada to buy beer or to Chicago to party. Point Place isn’t a real Wisconsin town, but Wisconsinites will recognize names like Kenosha or references made throughout the run of the show like Donna having to decide between Marquette University and a UW school. Oh and the excitement about going to a Packers game at Lambeau? Accurate. Perfectly accurate.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Lars Lindstrom, a socially awkward man, lives a relatively secluded life in his small Wisconsin town. One day Lars introduces “Bianca” his new girlfriend to his brother and sister-in-law, the catch is that Bianca is a lifelike doll whom Lars, suffering what appears to be a lucid delusion, treats as his human companion. Under direction of the local doctor, Lars’ family (and the townspeople) go along with this until Lars is mentally capable of letting Bianca go.

The Verdict: The movie depicts the state fairly well. There are references to the cold and how layering clothes helps Lars avoid physical contact with others which is too true for anyone who lives in the frozen tundra. While Wisconsin isn’t known for it’s open-minded, anything goes culture (like say, NYC or California) it’s easy enough to believe that the small town residents would set aside their prejudices to help one of their own overcoming the issues he’s struggling with, even if they still gossip.

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

This supernatural thriller follows three college students attending a Wisconsin university who accidentally summon a psychic serial killer while staying in a creepy, rented house in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

The Verdict: The movie is based on an allegedly true story by author Robert Damon Schneck. According to Schneck the events of the book are based on supernatural experiences by a friend in Sun Prairie, a Madison suburb in the 1990s, but there were no real murders or appearances by the Bye Bye Man.

trees on a lake half fall half spring colors

Similar, but Not the Same: All About Twin Countries

They say some of the greatest things come in pairs. Mickey and Minnie, Lucy and Ethel, peanut butter and jelly– you get the idea. Since two seems to be better than one, maybe that’s why these countries have teamed up, but with that twinning reputation comes a loss of individuality. If you tell someone you’re vacationing in Trinidad and Tobago, are you going to two islands? One? Will they know? Do you? Here are some things you may not know about these dual countries.

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua und Barbuda - panoramio - georama (30)
georama [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A sovereign state in the Americas, Antigua and Barbuda lay between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles southeast of the US Virgin Islands. The country is comprised of Antigua, the largest island, Barbuda, the second largest island, and other small islands with a permanent population of around 82,000 with about 80,000 of people residing in Antigua. As a member of the English Commonwealth, English is the official language, however, the Barbudan accent is slightly different than the Antiguan.

In Fall 2017 Hurricane Irma destroyed or damaged 95% of the buildings on Barbuda and all inhabitants were evacuated to Antigua.

Famous for: Antigua Black Pineapples–known to be the sweetest around. These fruits have a more golden color than what Americans are typically used to and a richer, more complex flavor profile.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo twilight
BloodSaric at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After the fall of the former Yugoslavian republic in the late 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina, known informally as just Bosnia, was formed. While the name implies a two-in-one country system, Bosnia and Herzegovina is, in fact, one country covering one piece of land. Residents of this country will refer to themselves as Bosnians if they are visiting another country, although someone from the Herzegovina region would probably identify themselves as Herzegovian (Hercegovac) if you are in Bosnia. This is a little like how a person from Alabama would identify themselves as from the United States when not in the US, but as from “the South” when they are. These two regions (Bosnia and Herezgovina) also have different cultural elements, but the biggest difference is in climate with Bosnia having more mountains and getting some snow, whereas Herzegovina has a Mediterranean climate and gets more sunshine.

Famous for: Coffee. Coffee is the backbone of the Bosnian’s social life and while it may resemble Turkish coffee to an outsider, locals will insist they are completely different.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

view from st.kitts and nevis, citizenship by investment

Another dual island country, St Kitts & Nevis lies directly west of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean Sea. Home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean and officially known as Saint Christopher and Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis are only about two miles apart, separated by a shallow channel called “The Narrows”. The country has gone through a lot of political changes throughout its history, at one time including modern-day Anguilla as a dependency and having multiple governments, but has been unified (and without Anguilla) since the 1980s.

Famous for: Citizen by investment program. If you’re looking to acquire citizenship in another country, and a passport that allows visa-free travel to 130 countries, St. Kitts & Nevis is a great place to be. With an investment of $400,000USD in a designated real estate purchase or a $250,000USD donation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (a local charity) and some paperwork, you and your descendants are able to obtain full citizenship rights.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

water view, sea, svg, st vincent and the grenadines

Known simply as St Vincent, this small nation of islands is spread over 150 square miles in the Caribbean and is comprised of the largest island, St. Vincent, and 32 islands and cays that make up the Grenadines, nine of which are inhabited. The country has been fought over and claimed by both the French and British (most recently) with full independence being granted in 1979 while retaining its status as a Commonwealth.

Famous for: Beaches. Celebrities and royalty flock to the island of Mustique (one of the islands of the Grenadines), while Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was shot on other islands in the chain due to the quiet and privacy. Also of note is that 95% of the beaches on St Vincent have black sand while most of the Grenadines contain white sand.

Sao Tome and Principe

sao tome and principe sea jungle view
www.afrotourism.com

This Portuguese-speaking country, located off the west coast of Africa about 150 miles from Gabon gained peaceful independence in 1975 and continues to be one of Africa’s more stable and democratic countries. Sao Tome is the larger of the two islands and is about 30 miles long by 20 miles wide, while Principe, laying about 90 miles north, is just 53 square miles. Discovered by Portugal and granted use by the Crown around 1470, the country is essentially one nation because of its remote location and shared history.

Famous for: Africa’s second smallest nation, Sao Tome and Principe were once the global center of cocoa production, but the country is having a renaissance as the Galapagos of Africa. There are many species of birds and other animals that can only be found here and a responsible eco-tourism industry is beginning to take shape. Principe is also where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was experimentally demonstrated during the total solar eclipse in 1919.

Trinidad and Tobago

trinidad and tobago bay view

The southernmost nation in the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago is situated on the continental shelf of South America and is only 11 miles from Venezuela at its closest point. Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 until it changed hands to the British in 1797. During this same time, Tobago was transferred among the Spanish, British, French, Dutch, and Courlander colonizers more times than any other island in the Caribbean. In 1802 control of both islands was given to Britain who unified the country in 1889. This twin island nation has two distinct personalities! Trinidad is more tourist-focused, while Tobago is more industrial. Tobago is renowned for its sparkling, sandy beaches, while Trinidad provides world-class opportunities for eco-tourism and turtle watching. Trinidad is where the party and nightlife happens, Tobago is where you go to relax. Travellers say when it comes to twin islands, these two are definitely fraternal!

Famous for: A nation this diverse has many claims to fame, from the world’s hottest pepper to the world’s largest deposit of asphalt, to it’s Carnival celebration, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. This two-day festival typically takes place in February or early March and consistently ranks as one of the top ten Carnival celebrations in the world.

With travel (usually) inexpensive between the two regions, twin countries are a great way to get high value for your money when on vacation. You get twice the adventure, twice the fun, and double to explore with two countries in one!

plan, vacation, map, wanderlust,trip,planning,travel

Central American & Caribbean Vacation Spots

While all-inclusive mega resorts have their time and place, sometimes you want your trips to be a little farther off the tourist path. Whether you’re looking for a less-than-conventional vacation spot, a location for a vacation or retirement home, or are considering an expatriate lifestyle these are some of the best places to check out in 2018.

Belize

While the beachy Ambergris Caye gets all the attention — and a lot of tourism — the Cayo District, home to the capital city of Belmopan, is where an adventure vacation awaits you. This jungle-covered landscape is home to many eco-activities and adventures and is dotted with Mayan ruins. San Ignacio, a town with a population of nearly 18,000 serves as the perfect point to launch your trip as all roads and activities branch out from this hub. Here you can find waterfalls, cave exploring expeditions, Mayan ruins and so much more!
Must Try Activity: Explore the hidden depths and crystal clear waters at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a natural wonder featured in National Geographic. From here you can swim into a mysterious cave known as Xibalba, which the ancient Mayans considered to be a portal to the underworld. You’ll have to hike, climb, and possibly even swim, but the history and beauty can’t be beaten.

Costa Rica

If your ideal vacation involves fewer beaches and more jungles, you must check out El Castillo in the Alajuela province. Getting there can be quite the trip as it’s about a 2.5 hour trek by car or bus through Costa Rican jungle roads, but once you make it, you’ll know the trip was worth it.
Must Try Activity: There are a ton of great things to do using El Castillo as a jumping off point, but visiting the hot springs of the Arenal Volcano tops the list. While there are numerous hot springs in the area, those looking for a more intimate and natural experience will enjoy Eco Termales Fortuna, where the number guests is limited per day.
Coming in close behind are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and the Sky Adventures Arenal Park (both offer a great view, neither are for those who are afraid of heights!) and the Arenal Ecozoo.

Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago

Scarborough, the capital of the island of Tobago lays outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean. The population of around 17,000 gives off the smalltown vibes while having a deep-sea port allows for an influx of cruise tourists and a nearby rainforest preserve will make you believe you are in a much more remote locale. English is the official language of the island which makes it easy for Americans to travel around, although tourists should be aware that prices can be quoted in either USD or Trinidad & Tobago (TT) dollars, so make sure to ask which one your purchase is in!
Must Try Activity: Take a glass bottom boat out to Nylon Pool. It’s a shallow area in the ocean that you can bathe in! The “sand” is pulverized coral (so exfoliating!) and people who bathe here are said to return looking 10 years younger! Along the way there are beautiful, tropical fish to see and is very inexpensive with many tours under USD 10. Other notable attractions include Argyle Falls, a three-tiered waterfall with natural rock tubs (great for relaxing!) and swimmable areas and Fort King George, a military outpost from the 1700s with gorgeous sunset views.

Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

Gasparillo, a small town near Upper Santa Cruz in the San Juan/Laventille region (not to be confused with the town of about 16,000 on the southeastern side of Trinidad), located 5 miles (8 km) from the capital city of Port of Spain.
Must Try Activity: Spend your day lounging on the nearby Maracas Beach, the best place for sun, sand, and surf on the island of Trinidad. When you get hungry, head over to Richard’s Shark and Bake where they sell deep fried shark sandwiches with all the fixings. There are other shark and bake shops, but this is the local favorite!

Jamaica

Jamaica is known for beautiful, turquoise beaches, but almost as well known as the beauty are the hustlers and vendors that crowd the tourist areas trying to vend their goods. Looking for a more unadulterated paradise experience? Set up camp in the town of Green Island, located in the Hanover Parish on the northwestern side of the island.
Must Try Activity: Half Moon Beach is a private beach with a small entrance fee and provides the peace and serenity vacationers are looking for while having an onsite bar and restaurant for those whose version of paradise still includes a well-cooked meal. The beach also offers a nearby healthy reef for snorkeling and a bamboo rafting tour–the only of its kind on the open sea! Other fun vacation activities nearby include the Crocodile Reserve and Bird Sanctuary as well as the Kool Runnings Adventure Park, a theme park based off the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.

outdoor kitchen with overhang and ceiling fans in tropical setting

Breakfast with a View

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty mama–it’s time for breakfast! They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but breakfast with a view is the ultimate way to start your day off right. If you can’t enjoy an authentic Caribbean spread in Jamaica, Montserrat, or The Bahamas, the next best thing might be a tropical breakfast spread!

Agua Frescas
tropical agua fresca beach breakfast drink
Agua Fresca, literally Refreshing Water in Spanish, are simply unfiltered fresh juices. These tasty beverages can be easily made with any type of fruit, although seedless varieties work well. Popular in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean, Agua Fresca makes a great way to start your breakfast time.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1 cup peeled fruit (seedless work best– pineapple, mango, papaya, and watermelon are favorites!)
  • 1 cup water (more or less, adjust to desired consistency)
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp sugar, honey, or agave — to taste

Place all ingredients and blend until smooth. If using fruit with seeds (or you really don’t like pulp), strain before serving. Serve cold, without ice.

Tropical Smoothie Bowl

breakfast smoothie bowl with berries and dragonfruit

When you live in a tropical climate, smoothies are year-round fare. While the traditional American breakfast calls for eggs, meat, and potatoes, a tropical breakfast needs to be light and refreshing. After all, you don’t want to be too full when the temps start rising! A smoothie bowl makes a great, light breakfast to start your day off right!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp- 1tbsp sugar, agave, or honey (to taste)
  • Fresh berries/fruit/granola/nuts (to top)

Blend the strawberries, coconut milk, and sweetener until smooth. Top with desired ingredients and enjoy!

Bonus: Feeling especially tropical? Try adding Pitaya (Dragonfruit) to your smoothie bowl. This fruit is indigenous to the Americas and has a soft texture and sweet strawberry-kiwi taste!