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The City That Never Sleeps is a rather apt moniker for New York, given its constant activity. It’s also the perfect locale to observe the changing of the seasons in all their glory. Here’s a list of our favorite yearly events in New York – must-see items whether you’re here in the spirited spring, bright summer, golden-hued autumn or sparkling winter.

Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Spring Festival)

There’s no better way to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese calendar than in New York, home to the largest population of Chinese-Americans in the United States (sneak a peek at our guide to Chinatown here) Traditionally the merriment was established around the lunisolar Chinese calendar; with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in China, the Lunar New Year fell into late January or early February, changing annually. Initially a feast to honor customary Chinese values (ancestors, deities, duty to family) and prepare for the coming year, it now is a time to commemorate Chinese culture.

In New York, the free Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival (along main thoroughfares in Chinatown, from Mott Street to Forsyth Street) and the New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival (in Sara Roosevelt Park) are the biggest celebrations. The former mesmerizes parade-watchers with colorful floats, acrobatics, and larger-than-life dragon dances, while the latter sends firework displays into the sky. Don’t forget to wear red – the color symbolizes joy and good fortune in Chinese culture.

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Image of Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Celtic pride abounds at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in March

New York truly is a city of immigrants, and this is never more apparent than at the massive turnout for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, often cited as the largest in the Big Apple. Every year on March 17th (in the case of a Sunday, the event is moved to Saturday the 16th) thousands of spectators descend upon Fifth Avenue (from 44th Street to 79th Street) to enjoy the procession, which includes thousands of bagpipers, marching bands and dancers, often dressed in traditional Celtic garb. Read the entire story here…»

 

Considering its role as an intellectual epicenter, it should come as no surprise that New York abounds with world-famous museums. Whether your interests lie in art, history, or culture, you’ll find an exhibition to satisfy every curiosity. Why not start at the most prominent stretch of galleries in New York City, known as the Museum Mile?

A few blocks longer than its titular distance, the fabled Museum Mile runs from East 82nd to East 105th streets along 5th Avenue in the Upper East Side (take a closer look at the Upper East Side) and Spanish Harlem districts. Coined in the 1970s, the strip was rebranded to emphasize the cultural significance of its nine museums. Today, the Mile still is home to those nine institutions (a tenth, the Museum for African Art, opened in 2012 several streets north of the East 105th Street boundary) and is also popular for shopping and dining. Public transport, including bus lines and the 4, 5, and 6 subway trains, will get you to the various stops on the Museum Mile. There may be less than a dozen museums on the 5th Avenue stretch, but don’t let that fool you: it will take you more than a week to get through them all. Thankfully, our New York vacation rentals will have your NYC living space covered.

1) El Museo del Barrio

Image of El Museo del Barrio. Photo: Luis Camnitzer. El Museo del Barrio teaches visitors with centuries’ worth of Hispanic art. Photo: Luis Camnitzer.

With 6,500 permanent objects, El Museo del Barrio has made itself a preeminent museum, grown from the very community that championed its opening. A celebration of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art, El Museo houses everything from pan-Caribbean artifacts to contemporary Hispanic works. The gallery is notable for its compendium of Puerto Rican printmaking, inspired in part by Mexican and Chicano prints (another exhibit at the museum). Don’t miss the extensive Taíno collection, home to ceramics and stonework of the indigenous Caribbean natives, and the Latin American folk arts collection. Read the entire story here…»

 

It seems there’s never a bad time for ice cream. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices around New York to satisfy your taste buds for something cold, creamy and delicious!

Below is a list of our top 10 favorite New York ice cream spots (in no particular order)!

1) Melt Bakery

Image of Melt Bakery creamwiches Melt Bakery specializes in the aptly-titled “creamwich,” which combines an ice cream filling and cookie bun

Down in the historical Lower East Side you’ll find a sustainable bakery specializing in one unique treat: the creamwich. For the uninitiated, creamwiches combine a cookie bun with an ice cream patty. Co-owners Julian Plyter and Kareem Hamady began Melt Bakery at a street fair in 2010 before opening their Orchard Street store two years later. Regularly sized creamwiches will set you back $5, while miniature sized treats cost $3. The inside of the store is quite small and without seating, so think of the establishment as, essentially, a take-out spot; the signage is easy to miss, so pay attention as you pass by the shops on that branch of Orchard Street. The Melt bakers use local ingredients and dictate their menu based on the season – in other words, there’s always a new flavor (as of June 2014, there are six) for you to try! Why not spring for the “Classic,” a delicious combination of chocolate chip walnut cookies and vanilla ice cream? Or if you love red velvet, the “Lovelet” should hit the spot – melt-in-your-mouth cookies with a cream cheese filling.

Located at 123 Orchard Street, the bakery is open every day of the week, Sundays through Thursdays from noon to 8pm and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 10pm. Melt Bakery is easily accessed via subway: the Delancey-Essex Street station is only a few blocks away and served by the F and J lines. While you’re there, take a spin around the Lower East Side with our handy guide. Read the entire story here…»

 

Just like in any other big city, the streets of Paris are mixed with tourists and locals alike – so it’s important for everyone to get along! There is no need to be afraid of the French – they are very nice people! But keep in mind etiquette is important to keep peace, show respect and make friends. After all, the better you know the culture, the more rich and authentic your Parisian experience will be. Listed below are our tips on the most important etiquette in Paris.

1. Learn a few words in French

Locals really appreciate a tourist who tries to speak the language. It shows a love of French culture and a desire to learn more. Don’t worry if you can’t get the accent right – the locals will think it’s cute when you pronounce a word wrong! It’s the thought behind the language that counts, oui? This tip will likely work to your advantage while communicating with a native. He or she is likely to respond more thoroughly to a foreigner who speaks a bit of French! If the conversation gets to be too difficult to understand, ask the person if he or she speaks English. Most French people do speak English in addition to French, especially the younger generations.

2. Know the geography of the city

of the Eiffel Tower and Paris landscape. The Eiffel Tower in Paris.

In order to maximize your traveling experience it’s important to know the layout of the city. This way you won’t waste time getting lost – or asking strangers for help! Get familiar with the twenty arrondissements (districts) of the city. These arrondissements are divided by the Seine River in the center of the city, separating districts into “left bank” and “right bank”. The right bank includes the 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 arrondissements – the rest are on the left (south) bank! Looking for a tip to navigating the districts? Here’s a clue – the arrondissements are arranged in a spiral, starting at the center of the city near the Louvre. The higher the district number you are in, the further you are from the city center. Read the entire story here…»

 

of a lavender field in Provence, France A sunny lavender field in Provence

What makes something “French?” Simply originating from France isn’t quite enough. For most people, there’s an indescribable attitude to the idea, a certain quality of je-ne-sais-quoi suggesting perfection of the art of living. Many pilgrims in search of this quality find themselves on the doorstep of Paris. They’re dazzled by the art and glamour of the City of Lights. But when Parisians think of warmth and simple comforts – of living the “French” experience – they think of Provence

Provence is a province of southeastern France, bordered by the Rhone River, the Mediterranean Sea and Italy. It was the first Roman province beyond the Alps (hence the name) and formed the seat of the Languedoc region. For centuries it was self-governed by the Counts of Provence from their capitol in Aix-en-Provence before finally merging with the rest of France in 1481. As such, it has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity that makes it a popular destination for both national and international tourists. Not sure where to start? Check out the Top 10 Villages in Provence.

Sadly, every trip must end. But you can bring a little bit of Provence with you when you go, a few key items to inspire those quiet memories of the sun, air, and the sense that somewhere life’s secrets have been figured out.

Calissons & Other Sweets

Calissons are a traditional Provencal candy. They’re candied fruits and almonds, rather like melon-flavored marzipan. About two inches in length, they’re usually almond-shaped and topped with a thin layer of royal icing. Calissons are historically associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence, and as such that is where some of the best in the world can be found. While they can be stored at room temperature and preserve well, they are best served cold. Just driving through? See what else you can do in Aix-en-Provence in under 48 hours. Read the entire story here…»

 

Picture of the streets of London. The exciting cityscape of London.

1. Museum Donations

In London, most museums are free with a request for donation. In the excitement of learning something is free it’s easy to walk right past the lobby to the exhibits. However, stopping to make a donation is expected – and appreciated! It’s considered impolite to deny the museum a donation, and rightly so. Cultural institutions such as these require large sums of money to remain open to the public, and they can only do so with the money given to them by grateful visitors. The easy accessibility of museums to people of all classes is crucial for the betterment of society. If you have a spare pound in your pocket (that’s the British currency!), consider giving it to the educational space that allows you such a magical experience. Of course, in the same regard, visitors who do not have money should feel free to explore the museum grounds free of charge. If this is the case for you, consider making a small donation on your next visit! For more fun things to do on a budget, read our blog on the Top 10 Free Things to See and Do in London. Read the entire story here…»

 

Image of the Manhattan skyline The Manhattan skyline is one of the tallest and most breathtaking in the world

As any native New Yorker will tell you: once the heat arrives, so does a flurry of excitement. Summertime is a great season to reap all that New York has to offer – from musical performances to parades, from theatre to a day at the beach. Here are some events in the 2014 season to add to your New York summer to-do list!

Watch Outdoor Movies in NYC

Image of a Central Park film showing. Photo: Jason Kuffer. New Yorkers pack a picnic for a special Central Park movie screening. Photo: Jason Kuffer.

Warmer weather ensures lots of lovely evenings – perfect for outdoor movie screenings with friends, family or your beloved.

  • Bryant Park, centrally located between 40th and 42th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues in Midtown, hosts their annual movie screenings (this year entitled HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival) in May. Bring a blanket, come for a free showing and enjoy delicious food and movie magic underneath a New York sunset. Fan favorites including Saturday Night Fever, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Key Largo, The Karate Kid, and The Shining will be shown, among others. Read the entire story here…»
 

Picture of the Trocadero fountains and the Eiffel Tower in Paris during the summer. The Eiffel Tower and Trocadero fountains during the summer.

It’s that time of year again! The birds are singing, the sky is blue, and Paris is just opening its arms to the crop of tourists and lovers for this year’s summer season. Paris is one of those cities where it’s easy to be lucky in love – but whether you fall for tucked-away art cafés or swoon over watching the Eiffel Tower light up at dusk is up to you. If you’ve something a little more eclectic in mind, read on and let us know what you think about these outside-the-box popular seasonal events!

Watch Outdoor Movies in Paris

Why sit inside a dark, stuffy theater when it’s so pleasant outside? Every year Parisians and visitors alike look forward to summertime outdoor movie screenings throughout the city. Whether you bring a date or a picnic basket (or both!) it won’t take you long to figure out why this is one of Paris’s most eagerly-anticipated activities of the summer.

  • Sate your movie-watching cravings with a trip to the famous Cinema en Plein Air. The movie green is easily found in the Parc de la Vilette from July 23rd to August 27th. Tickets are €7 per show or €20 for five shows. There’s a new show every weeknight, drawing from French and American classics like Super 8, The Social Network, Ocean’s Eleven, and Hôtel Woodstock. Read the entire story here…»
 

Picture of the Tower Bridge in London. The Tower Bridge in London crossing the Thames River.

Ah, London in the summertime. Filled with warm breezes and cloudless skies, the city is most pleasing during this season – and there is no shortage of activities in which to revel! Whether it be kicking it in the shade or cheering on your favorite sports team in the open air, London offers a variety of fun and exciting events to make your summertime memories extra special.

Read on to discover all that London has to offer in the sunshine of the 2014 summer season– with this list of festivals, cultural events, movies and more!

Watch Outdoor Movies in London:

Image of the Film 4 Summer screening. View of the Film 4 Summer screen at the Somerset House.

  • Pop Up Screens: Looking for a romantic night out with your significant other? Perhaps you’d like to spend some down time with friends? This cult-classic movie night takes place all over London, and is usually outdoors. Film lovers can indulge in popcorn and a bar while watching a favorite flick. This summer will kick off with a showing of the hit-film Notting Hill at St. John’s Church in Notting Hill on May 4th. It will be indoors – rain or shine! Tickets cost £12 plus a £1.20 booking fee. If you’re interested in staying in the area, you may want to learn how to live like a local in Notting Hill. Read the entire story here…»
 

New York, a city whose reputation is legendary for the millions of visitors who pass through its streets each year — for the rest of us, is home. Like any other home, it can be frustrating, exhilarating and, at the most unexpected moments, magical. As with any metropolis, there are certain unspoken rules for getting around the city. Whether it’s your first, second, or twentieth visit to New York, here are some etiquette tips to remember when you are out and about in the Big Apple!

1. Know the difference between Express Subway Trains and Local Subway Trains. 

Image of the entrance to the Times Square at 42nd Street subway station The Times Square at 42nd Street subway station houses local and express trains with access to multiple districts across New York City

The MTA subway system in New York is perhaps the most efficient means of traveling through four of New York’s boroughs (sorry, Staten Island). It’s also the most complicated. Lines are either named by letters or numerically, and like many underground transport systems, it is color coded. Unlike other subways, however, multiple lines share the same color. For instance, the B and D trains are both labeled by an orange circle, though each runs differently. These two lines are perfect examples of an Express Subway Train and a Local Subway Train, the D representing the former and the B the latter. Express and Local trains may run along similar routes and perhaps even make the same stops, but make no mistake: they are not identical. Local lines will stop at every station along a particular route, while Express lines stop only at particular stations along the route; for example, while the B train (Local) pauses at each stop on the West Side of Manhattan, the D train (Express) skips the stations between 59th and 125th Streets. To add to the confusion, this schedule cannot be trusted to run 24/7. Route modifications are in place during construction, weekends, and rush hours. The one thing you can count on? The subway system remains open all hours of the day – it just might not be the train you’re hoping to catch. For up-to-date information, visit the official MTA website. Read the entire story here…»