On September 6, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:Vacationing in Newport isn’t just a favorite pastime of New Englanders, it’s a sought-after destination among travelers from around the world because of the Rhode Island city’s iconic East Coast small-town charm. Forbes Travel Guide editors found that picnicking is a popular past time for visitors and locals alike — consider these the best spots to unpack a lunch and enjoy the view:
1. Easton’s Beach. Also called First Beach by locals, this beach is where you’ll find most of the action during the summer months — you’ll also find plenty of picnic tables to host your impromptu picnic parties. Cop a squat in the sand or just find an open space along the beach’s first-come-first-seated picnic areas.
2. Brenton Point State Park. If you want something with less people and more views, head to Brenton Point State Park. This park offers great, sweeping views of the ocean and Newport’s famous rocky coastline. (Bonus: you can also fish here.) Bring a kite on a windy day and join the others kite flying along the coast.
3. Fort Adams State Park. This spot is an ideal picnic place for boat enthusiasts. Find a spot on the hill, lay out a blanket and watch the boats come in and out of the bay all day long.
On September 6, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:At its heart, Newport is a sailing and yachting town. Home to the America’s World Cup, as well as various sailing and catamaran events throughout the year, Newport has a sailing opportunity for every level sailor. Whether you prefer to hoist your own sail or hire a crew to cater to you on the open sea, Forbes Travel Guide editors discovered some of the best sailing in New England in this coast Rhode Island town.
A perennially popular sailing boat is the Weatherly Sailboat. As one of the three surviving wooden America’s Cup Defenders from the 1960s, the Weatherly today offers sailing tours and private charters to guests. Cruises on the Weatherly aren’t easy to come by — those who have sailed this beauty say it’s an experience you’ll never forget — so plan ahead and make reservations if you want to take the turn on this historic boat.
If a traditional sail suits you, there are endless sailing options in Newport. If you’re staying overnight in Newport, your hotel will likely have a charter company they work with or a boat of their own that is available for guest rentals. Sailing charters are typically open to guests from Memorial Day to Labor Day, though some sailing companies do allow off-season sailing, based on the weather. We like Classic Cruises of Newport located on Bannister’s Wharf — they’ll take you on a leisurely trip of the Narragansett Bay in either a Bermuda-style schooner or speed motor yacht.
On September 6, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:There are three things Newport is known for: The Newport Mansions, top-notch sailing, and seemingly endless beaches. Unlike the rocky shores that typically grace much of Rhode Island — and New England — Newport beaches are lined with soft sand and some of them even have calm waves, great for families with young kids.
While each beach has its own unique personality, our Forbes Travel Guide editors chose the top three in Newport — pick the one that best suits your needs best and hit the sand:
1. Easton’s Beach. The most popular beach in Newport, Easton’s Beach (also known as First Beach) is located at the start of the Newport Cliff Walk. You’ll find loads of activities here, including carnivals, a carousel, snack bars, beach volleyball, picnic pavilions, a skateboard park and a playground. This beach is frequented by all travel types, from college kids to families, thanks to its extended offerings.
2. Sachuest Beach. Located just a few miles from Easton’s Beach, Sachuest Beach (also known as Second Beach), is a bit more peaceful than Easton’s and is a favorite of surfers. The waves here are stronger than elsewhere in Newport, so if you’re looking to hang ten, this is the beach for you.
3. Third Beach. The smallest of the three most popular Newport beaches, Third Beach is known for its peaceful water and relaxing atmosphere. Families like it here because the water is calm, but you’ll also find couples and solo sun seekers due to its secluded and quiet location.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and a favored destination for both traveling couples and families seeking some beachy rest and relaxation. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have four basic travel tips to help ensure your visit goes smoothly:
1. The currency in Thailand is the Thai baht. While you can change your money ahead of time at the airport, ATMs dispensing baht are widely available — just be sure to check if your bank charges any international withdrawal fees, and be sure to inform your bank and credit card providers that you’ll be traveling in Thailand. Most resorts accept credit cards, as do some restaurants, shops and bars, but some only accept cash.
2. Request a transfer from the airport to the hotel to avoid any confusion when you arrive. There will be plenty of harmless “gypsy drivers” offering you rides from the airport, but to skip the hassle simply have a representative from your resort pick you up — he or she will likely be waving a sign with your name on it near the main exit.
3. US citizens are granted a free 30-day visa on arrival in Thailand, but you will need a passport that is valid for at least six months past your date of entry into the country. If you’re staying longer than 30 days you will need a visa, which can be arranged with your local consulate.
4. Most of the hotel staff will speak English, but once you venture further out and into Phuket’s more rural areas you won’t find as many English-speaking residents, though most road, store and restaurant signs will have English. If it’s your first trip to Thailand and you’re uncomfortable with the language barrier — remember, smiling, pantomiming and patience can go a long way — consider hiring a tour guide if you plan to head out for a day of sightseeing, particularly if you’re going to do some shopping since negotiating the price for many goods is common.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:The best thing to bring home from Phuket and pretty much anywhere in Thailand is silk — and you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to get it. Old Phuket Town is a good first stop. Here you’ll find the streets packed with shops offering various types of silk either by the yard or woven into scarves, shirts, pants, lingerie and more.
For a more luxurious shopping experience, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend heading straight to a tailor for a professionally made-to-measure suit, jacket, evening dress or shirt. You’ll first choose your cloth, with options typically including cashmere, wool, cotton and silk, then work with the tailor to create your desired style. We suggest making your appointment early in your visit so you’ll have plenty of time for fittings and alterations.
One of the nice things about these shops is that you can make repeat orders whenever you’d like and have it shipped back home, as long as your measurements don’t change, of course. Tailor shops are typically found in the main resort areas, and some are even located in the resorts — ask the staff at your hotel for recommendations.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:The spicier the food the better in Phuket, where even eating the salads can make you feel like steam is shooting from your ears. Those with a low spice tolerance will be happy to know, however, that our Forbes Travel Guide recommend a few food experiences here that aren’t necessarily spicy at all.
First, the local market in Old Phuket Town is a great place to sample local specialties such as chicken satay and fried fruit. It’s all prepared on the spot and is often served in plastic bags sealed with rubber bands, which is handy for walking and eating without making a mess.
Coconut milk is a staple in Phuket and, indeed, in much of Thailand and Southeast Asia at large, so you’ll definitely want to sip some from a freshly hacked-open coconut.
Finally, make sure to try a plate of pad thai. One of our favorite places to get it at is Takieng, the Thai restaurant at Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa that serves it omelet-style. The only bad thing is that the pad thai back home will never taste the same again.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:If you’re only passing through Phuket on a whirlwind trip around Thailand, or simply want to see as much of the island as possible in one day so you can dedicate the rest of your stay to lounging on the beach, our Forbes Travel Guide editors think organized public or private tours are the best way to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
One recommended option is the Phuket Island & City Tour, a standard tour provided through a local company that works directly with the island’s hotels and resorts on Phuket. They’ll pick you up at your hotel early in the morning — around 8 a.m. — then whisk you away for about five hours of fast and furious sightseeing, including a cruise past the island’s popular beaches on the western coast and a stop at the picturesque Kata-Karon Viewpoint. You’ll also drive through Phuket Town, stop at gem and cashew factories, and visit Phuket’s most-famous Buddhist monastery, among other things. You can also work with the tour company to ensure there’s enough time to see the Big Buddha and to stop for snacks and shopping.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:Tourist-friendly Phuket has an abundance of shopping opportunities, but our Forbes Travel Guide editors feel some of the best shopping is within Old Phuket Town, where you’ll get great prices on original Thai handicrafts such as hand-carved elephants, bronze statues and unique ceramics. You’ll also find a number of boutiques selling scarves, shirts, pants and tapestries made from Thailand’s famous silk.
A visit to the Phuket Weekend Market, located just outside Phuket Town, is quite an experience. Here you can browse stalls overflowing with souvenirs, secondhand goods, pirated films, local foods and even live animals. While we certainly don’t advocate purchasing anything questionable (or illegal), we do think it’s worth checking out.
If you’re looking for something unique — and stylish — to take home, consider visiting one of the tailors in Phuket Town to get a well-priced, custom suit or dress made from cashmere, silk or cotton. Most of the tailor shops are found in the main resort areas and some are even located in hotels — feel free to ask your hotel for recommendations and help setting up an appointment.
On July 16, 2012Melanie Nayer answered the question:Though Phuket is a popular pick for honeymooners and couples seeking a romantic getaway, Thailand’s largest island is well suited to family vacations, too — especially given the relative low costs of traveling here. If you’re bringing the kids along with you, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend making time for these five sites and activities:
1. Elephant Rides. This is one trek your kids will never forget. After meeting your elephants and learning about their history, you’ll hop on an elephant’s back and enjoy a ride through the jungle — and get spectacular views of the island from the elephant camp’s hilltop location.
2. Phuket Aquarium. Kids will love ogling razorfish, eels, crabs and other exotic sea life at the Phuket Aquarium, which houses more than 30 tanks populated by freshwater and saltwater creatures.
3. Big Buddha. Standing — well, actually sitting — 45 meters high at the top of the Nakkered Hills, Phuket’s Big Buddha has become one of the most iconic attractions on the island. Around the base you’ll see Buddhas for every day of the week, along with their story and meaning — find the one that represents the day your child was born for an impromptu educational lesson on Buddhist beliefs.
4. Splash Jungle Water Park. What kid doesn’t love a water park? Located on Mai Khao Beach, the Splash Jungle Water Park has everything from a lazy river to a giant wave pool and endless water slides and activities.
5. Jungle Safari. You’ll be gone for the entire day, but a visit to Khao Sok National Park is well worth your time. During a safari here you can canoe down a peaceful river surrounded by lush jungle vegetation as you keep your eyes and ears peeled for birds, monkeys and other wildlife. Ask your hotel for help booking this increasingly popular day trip.