The REBEL Guide to Berlin on a Budget

Rebel Editorial

More than a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the German capital is experiencing a cultural renaissance. But the new energy hasn’t eclipsed the city’s tumultuous past, and monuments to both are accessible to visitors on a budget.

Attractions

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With its modern glass dome meant to symbolize transparency in government, the Reichstag is home to the Bundestag (German Parliament) and one of Berlin’s most recognizable landmarks. Climb the winding walkway for a 360-degree view of the city and a peek at the legislative body chamber below. Admission is free but registration (online or at the building’s visitor service center at least two hours in advance) is required.

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Inspired by the Propylaeum of Athens's Acropolis, the 18th-century Brandenburg Gate is a masterpiece of German classicism but is best known for its role separating East and West Berlin. It was here that President Ronald Reagan in 1987 implored then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Today, it’s regarded as a symbol of unity.

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The striking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is an expanse of more than 2,500 concrete pillars, or stelae, of varying heights commemorating the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The Field of Stelae is accessible 24 hours a day. Free guided tours in English are offered on Saturdays at 3 p.m.

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After the neo-Romanesque Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was leveled in a bombing raid in 1945 Berliners rallied to save what was left of it. Today, the ruins are incorporated into a structure designed by Egon Eiermann and completed in 1961. Notice the glass blocks inside the nave, which reflect a blue light into the church. Free guided tours are offered in German several times a week; group tours in English are available for four euros per person.

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The outdoor Topography of Terror exhibit spans a preserved section of the Berlin Wall and tells the story of the site—the onetime headquarters of the Gestapo (the secret state police)—through photos, documents, and 3-D graphics.

Culture

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Head to the northern end of Spree Island to marvel at the cluster of architectural masterpieces known as Museum Island. Built between 1824 and 1930, the Altes Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Bode, Neues, and Pergamon were each designed to reflect the art they house, earning the ensemble a UNESCO World Heritage site designation. Want to explore the treasures within? Spring for a Museumspass Berlin (24 euros), which buys you entry to some 50 attractions, including all national museums, for three consecutive days.

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Some of the city’s top museums have free days, including the first Wednesday of the month at the Bröhan-Museum, which uses decorative arts, such as porcelain, and paintings to show the progression from art nouveau to art deco and functionalism.

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Several lesser known museums in Berlin are gratis every day, such as the Greek and Roman Plaster Cast Collection—with some 2,000 Greek and Roman plaster cast sculptures and the occasional modern art exhibition—and Daimler Contemporary Berlin in the Haus Huth on Potsdamer Platz. 

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After the Berlin Wall was breached, artists from 21 countries transformed the longest stretch still standing into the East Side Gallery, which includes murals like “The Kiss,” depicting Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker locking lips.

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Galleries abound in Berlin. Many charge admission, but a few are free, such as Johann König and Carlier Gebauer, the latter known for past exhibitions featuring visual artist Rosa Barba and installation artist Aernout Mik. Both are in Kochstrasse’s gallery district.

Families

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Admission to the interactive German Museum of Technology is free to children under the age of 18 every day starting at 3 p.m. During September, the museum hosts Sunday Open Days at the Transport Depot, when visitors get a glimpse of dozens of vehicles covering 150 years of history, such as one of Berlin’s first electric trains, bull-nosed double-decker buses, and classic cars. Transport to the depot via the museum train is free.

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Berlin is full of inventive playgrounds for children. At the Dragon Playground in Berlin-Friedrichshain, tots climb on the large wooden dragon and build sand castles. The Forest Playground Plaenterwald features boats, tractors, and climbing walls made from tree branches. And kids can traverse the Sherwood Forest playground on hanging cables.

Food and Drink

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Since it began in 2013, Street Food Thursdays at the 19-century Markethall Neun in the Kreuzberg neighborhood has been a huge hit. Starting at 5 p.m., 20-odd vendors hawk everything from spaetzle to pork-belly buns. Find garlicky dips and kebabs at the open-air Turkish Market, also in Kreuzberg, open Tuesdays and Fridays. Most food options are wallet-friendly.

Explore the hot spots of Berlin’s exploding culinary scene on a guided walk with Free Tours on Foot, which asks customers at the end of the tour to pay what they think it was worth.

Outdoors

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A former hunting reserve for Prussian kings, Tiergarten was designed as an English-style park in the 19th century and is today considered the green lung of Berlin. Don’t miss the Open Air Glass Lantern Museum, a collection of some 90 historical gas lanterns from Germany and across Europe. Go at dusk when the lanterns are aglow.

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Stroll the leafy boulevard Unter Den Linden, or “under the linden trees,” which runs east to west, from the Brandenburg Gate to the Schlossbrücke bridge. Linger in front of the 18th-century State Opera, the Karl Friedrich Schinkel-designed war memorial Neue Wache, and the circa 1810 Humboldt University, home to 29 Nobel Prize winners and the model for several European and American universities.

Peruse the weekends-only Art Market at Zeughaus for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, from fine art to fashion.

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Wake up early on Sunday if you want to beat the crowds at the Mauerpark flea market in Prenzlauer Berg. Roam hundreds of stands peddling vintage clothing, vinyl, GDR memorabilia, and more. Karaoke enthusiasts: Stick around for the afternoon Bearpit Karaoke show at the amphitheater next door.

The REBEL Guide to Dubai on a Budget

With a reputation for over-the-top luxury (to wit: the towering, gold leaf-burnished Burj Al Arab hotel), the flashy emirate may seem out of reach to anyone who isn’t Beyoncé or Jay-Z, but vestiges of the old city and a handful of only-in-Dubai spectacles keep frugal travelers entertained.

Attractions

Some 20 percent of the world’s gold reportedly passes through Dubai’s Gold Souk in Deira. Even if you’re not in the market for bling, this labyrinth of jewelry vendors is worth a meander just to gawk at all that glitters. If a piece does strike your fancy, be sure to haggle: Prices are based on the market rate for an item’s weight, plus a charge for workmanship (where the bargaining comes in). You have more leverage if you plan to pay in cash. The souk is open daily until 10 p.m., except for the hottest part of the day, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

For less than a buck, the Dubai Museum offers visitors insight into the city’s transformation from sleepy port to oil-rich metropolis through dioramas of life before the discovery of oil and artifacts from excavations in the emirate. Short on time? Beeline to the exhibit on the city’s pearl-diving heritage.

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about camels and more at Beit Al-Rekkab, or House of the Camels, where admission is always free. The small museum explores the role of dromedaries in the Emirates, including their apparently myriad uses in traditional medicine (e.g., camel scat is purported to have curative powers for nosebleeds).

Culture

The landmark Jumeirah Mosque welcomes non-Muslims for a small entrance fee (about $2.50). Free guided tours of the elaborate interior are offered by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., followed by a question-and-answer session. No booking is required, but you must arrive at the main entrance by 9:45 a.m. Women are encouraged to cover their heads with a scarf (available to borrow at the mosque) and wear long sleeves and long pants or skirts.

Named for Bastak, a town in southern Iran from which many of its Persian settlers hailed in the late 19th century, the Bastakia Quarter (also known as the Al Fahidi Historic District) in Bur Dubai is the historic heart of the city. Today, its narrow lanes, many of them closed to vehicle traffic, are lined with restored homes—note their wind towers, an early form of air-conditioning—cafés, and galleries. Stop in at the Majlis gallery to peruse Asian oil paintings and watercolors of desert landscapes or at XVA for contemporary art, and take a breather in the garden of the Arabian Tea House.

The best way to take in all the iconic sites on the cheap is to hop on bus line 8 starting at the station near the Gold Souk. The route tunnels under Dubai Creek, parallels the beach along Jumeirah Road, and winds up near the Mall of the Emirates—known for its indoor ski hill—if you're in the mood for window-shopping or those downhill lessons you’ve been saving for.

Families

With 1,200 retail stores, an Olympic-size ice rink, and a massive aquarium where one can cage snorkel and shark dive, the Dubai Mall offers plenty of opportunities to blow your budget. It does have one feature, however, that won’t cost you a dirham: The world’s largest dancing fountain in the middle of the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake shoots water jets as high as 500 feet. The spectacle is accompanied by a music repertoire that includes Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, and, in the evenings, a light show so bright, say mall publicists, that it’s visible from space. Performances Monday-Thursday and Saturday-Sunday at 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. (Fridays at 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.) and every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

While not free, the minimal entrance fee for Creekside Park (about £1 per person) may seem well worth it for the opportunity to let your kids go wild in the green space. If that’s not going to cut it, splurge on a family ticket to Children's City, a sort of interactive kid-centric museum and play zone within the park (cost is about £7 for two adults and two children ages 2 to 15; tots under 2 get in free; separately, kids ages 2 to 15 are less than £2, adults £3). There’s a hundred-seat planetarium and a new special toddler area featuring some 30 exhibits and games, like a slide and a mini-carousel.

Food & Drink

Prepare for sensory overload when you visit the Spice Souk, a maze of narrow passageways lined with hawkers of saffron, turmeric, cloves, and all manner of other exotic spices and dried fruits. Brace yourself for some pushy merchants. Open daily until 10 p.m., except for between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Dubai has its share of outrageously priced restaurants (the tasting menu at Al Mahara in the Burj Al Arab hotel will set you back about £250, without wine), but there are still plenty of options on the opposite end of the spectrum. For inexpensive and authentic Arabic and Asian food, head to Al Diyafah Street, where a satisfying lamb or chicken shawarma at Al Mallah costs about a buck.

Outdoors

The best way to see the city skyline is from the water. Hop aboard an abra, a traditional wooden boat modernized with a diesel engine, to ferry across Dubai Creek. The ride from Deira to Bur Dubai, for instance, takes about five minutes and costs less than 25p. The boats on this route operate daily from 6 a.m. till midnight.

Some of the swankier hotels on the Jumeirah strip have called dibs on the patches of sand in front of their properties, reserving their beachfronts for guests and those willing to fork over a fairly hefty day rate. Still, there are several public beaches accessible for free or a small entrance fee. The nicest stretch, Al Mamzar Beach Park, features playgrounds, barbeques, two swimming pools, changing rooms, and showers for about £1 per person or roughly £7 per car. Get there early if you want to nab an umbrella. Mondays and Wednesdays are women-only days. Or head to Umm Suqeim (also known as Kite or Woollongong Beach) to watch the kite surfers in the shadow of Burj Al Arab; entrance is free, but there are limited facilities.

The REBEL Guide to Florence on a Budget

The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence boasts a wealth of museum masterpieces, most famously Michelangelo’s "David" and Botticelli’s "The Birth of Venus," but there’s plenty of culture to experience that doesn’t involve pricey admission or epic waits.

The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence boasts a wealth of museum masterpieces, most famously Michelangelo’s "David" and Botticelli’s "The Birth of Venus," but there’s plenty of culture to experience that doesn’t involve pricey admission or epic waits.

Attractions

Towering over the cityscape, the Duomo—officially, Santa Maria del Fiore (known as the Virgin of the Flower, an allusion to the lily, the symbol of Florence)—as it appears today took centuries to complete. The first stone was laid in 1296, and the new façade by Emilio De Fabris was completed in 1884. Today it's one of the largest churches in the world. Admission is free (open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Saturday; and 1:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Sundays and religious holidays). Mass is held on Sundays at 7:30 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m. Lines can be long, but they move quickly. A more intimate look at the dome—an architectural feat built without scaffolding—requires climbing 463 steps and will set you back 10 euros (£8), a price that includes access to the bell tower, the baptistery, and the crypt within the Duomo complex. You also get to bask in Giorgio Vasari's "Last Judgment" frescoes and get a bird’s-eye peek at Florence.

Until the 19th century, all Catholic Florentines were baptized at the Baptistery of St. John. The octagonal monument is distinguished by its geometric, colored-marble exterior and detailed interior mosaics. Admission is 5 euros (£4.50) but admiring its famous bronze doors (with replica panels), carved with scenes from the Bible, is free.

Follow the main street from Piazzale Michelangelo to the steps of the Abbey San Miniato al Monte, which is one of the highest points in Florence. Michelozzo’s Cappella del Crocifisso (1448) is the centerpiece of the Romanesque basilica. Frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi decorate the crypt behind it. Wander the abbey’s cemetery (Carlo Collodi, author of Pinocchio, is buried here) and stay for sunset, when the golden light reflects off the terra-cotta roofs of the city below. Admission is free (open from 7 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; 3:30 to 7 p.m. on weekdays in winter; and 7 a.m. to sunset in summer). Masses are throughout the day on Sunday and holidays; 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. masses are in Gregorian chant.

Culture

It’s hard to put a price on a Botticelli, but at about £25 a pop, tickets to the Uffizi Gallery can hit your wallet hard, especially if you’ve got kids in tow. Fortunately, a new national policy now allows all minors under 18 (with valid ID) free admission to state museums, including the Uffizi, Accademia Gallery (hello, "David"!), the Pitti Palace (arguably the best value at about £7 for full admission; don’t miss the Boboli Gardens), the Bargello National Museum, and the Museum of the Medici Chapels. Previously restricted to E.U. minors under six, the freebies can soften the blow for families. Prebook reservations online to avoid lines.

Florence is full of public art. Whether the real "David" is in the cards or not, you can’t miss the Piazza della Signoria—the city’s historic hub—where a replica of Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece presides over the main entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. Keeping the outdoor "David" company is Cellini’s sculpture of Perseus holding the head of Medusa and Bartolomeo Ammannati’s "Fountain of Neptune," among others.

This may be Renaissance central, but the contemporary art scene is thriving. Biagiotti Art Project is a nonprofit space that promotes young, emerging artists who work in everything from painting to installations (Via delle Belle Donne 39r). Galleria Alessandro Bagnairepresents more established artists like Florence native Sandro Chia(Palazzo Ricasoli, Piazza Goldoni 2).

Families

Like Paris and London, Florence now has its own urban beach. In nice weather, the wide swath of sand on the Arno River, near San Niccolò, teems with bikini-clad locals playing volleyball or lounging barside. A playground, Ping-Pong tables, and umbrellas make it family-friendly.

The antique wooden carousel on the Piazza della Repubblica isn’t free, but it's darn close. £1.60 will buy your tot a ride on one of the 20 horses or two gilded king’s carriages—and priceless snapshots. Open November through May from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A former game reserve and farm that belonged to a member of the Medici family, Cascine Park is the largest park in Florence, with acres of sprawling grounds along the Arno. There are playgrounds for kids, a small zoo, and a public swimming pool open in the summer.

Food and Drink

Florentines take their happy hour snacks seriously. Forget beer nuts: Here, wine bars lay out generous aperitivi (also called apericena locally)—from cured meats and grilled vegetables to cold pasta and risotto dishes—to nibble as you sip your vino. It’s feasible to make a small meal of these spreads for the cost of a glass of wine or negroni and sometimes a small surcharge. The romantic Fuori Porta in San Niccolò is a cozy enotecaspecializing in local wines. Kitsch in Piazza Beccaria is famous for its expansive buffet. In the summer, some hotels welcome nonguests to their rooftop terraces. Try the Grand Hotel Minerva for a lovely view of the city.

Outdoors

The best free activity in Florence may well be people-watching. Once you peruse the jewelry and souvenir shops along the Ponte Vecchio (the medieval stone bridge over the Arno River), get off the beaten path and head to Oltrarno, a neighborhood on the left—and less touristy—side of the Arno. Get lost in the warren of narrow cobblestone streets, wandering in and out of artisan workshops. Rub shoulders with local arty types at the daily morning market (closed the second and third Sundays of the month, when artisan and antique markets are held) in the Piazza Santo Spirito.

Even if you’re not in the market for, say, tripe or pig ears, the imposing central market in Piazza del Mercato Centrale (Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)—obscured by the San Lorenzo flea market that surrounds it—is a cultural experience. Outside of the main building is a large tent with fruit and vegetable stands but inside is the real show, with butchers showing off their wares, from rabbits and wild boar to cured meats and local cheeses. Here’s where you can provision a picnic or pick up a reasonably priced bottle of local olive oil to bring home

The REBEL Guide to Washington DC On A Budget

Washington, D.C., is full of memorials and museums to visit, many of which are free to explore. But dig a little deeper, and you'll find even more activities and sites that don't cost a thing. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Attractions

The National Building Museum, acclaimed for its architectural splendor, celebrates the history and methods of architecture, design, and engineering through exhibitions and hands-on activities. There is a fee to see the exhibitions ($8 for adults; $5 for those under the age of 17, seniors, and students), but access to the Great Hall is free, as are tours of the historic building, offered every day at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:30 p.m., based on docent availability. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Prearranged guided tours of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the Department of State are conducted Monday to Friday at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 2:45 p.m. While touring the rooms used for official functions hosted by the secretary of state and other government officials, visitors learn about the 18th-century American furniture, paintings, and other decorative arts housed in the rooms. Reservations must be made at least 90 days in advance.

The U.S. Supreme Court offers public lectures every hour beginning on the half hour, Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on days when the Court is not sitting. On certain Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from October to April, visitors may listen to an oral argument heard by the Supreme Court. Seating is available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Refer to the calendars posted online for a schedule of arguments and court sessions.

The National Mall and Memorial Parks are some of the most famous free attractions in D.C. Try visiting the monuments—such as the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the FDR Memorial—at night to enjoy dramatic lighting and smaller crowds. The monuments are open 24 hours a day; rangers are on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. to answer questions.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is a great place to visit, rain or shine. Find permanent exhibits such as the primeval landscape of ferns inside the Conservatory, walk through the home landscape demonstration garden of Bartholdi Park, or experience the National Garden, which focuses on mid-Atlantic plants. Check the website for a list of free events, including tours and lectures. Some preregistration is required. The Conservatory and National Garden are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Bartholdi Park opens at 10 a.m. and closes at dusk.

The National Geographic Society headquarters is home to the National Geographic Museum at Explorers Hall. View changing photography exhibitions on a variety of scientific, geographic, and cultural themes daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The full gallery spaces are ticketed and charge admission for entry.

Visitors are welcome to tour the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., which includes a library and mosque. The center offers free Arabic classes and courses on Islam. Contact the center through its website for details and schedules.

The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum offers free tours and lectures about the role of African-American troops in the Civil War. Reservations are suggested for groups of 20 or more. Open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Admission is free at the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, which exhibits collections of American historical objects and more than 30 period rooms displaying antique furniture from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. The museum gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Docent-led tours are every hour and half hour Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The period rooms are accessible for self-guided tours Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the Kennedy Center, take a free guided tour of the Hall of States and Hall of Nations, the main theaters, and view the artwork and sculptures donated to the center by foreign countries. Tours depart approximately every ten minutes from the tour desk on the A level and are available Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On the first Sunday of every month, the National Museum of Women in the Arts offers Free Community Days. View the museum's diverse permanent collection of art by women from the 16th century to the present and see rotating special exhibitions, such as a recent show that explored womanhood through Renaissance and baroque-era works depicting the Virgin Mary. Admission is always free to anyone age 18 and under. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Eastern Market, located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, welcomes visitors to browse a flea market, farmers market, and arts-and-crafts market. The farmers market is open Tuesday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The flea market is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Culture

At the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, see free performances of all types, from the National Symphony Orchestra to Afghan music and dance, daily at 6 p.m. A free shuttle bus transports guests from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to the Kennedy Center. After the show, take the elevator up to the roof for a free 360-degree view of the city lit up at night.

The Smithsonian Institution provides free admission to most of its 19 museums and the National Zoo. Many of the following also offer films, workshops, craft demonstrations, special tours, gallery talks, lectures, seminars, and/or performances (check each museum's website for details and schedules): the Anacostia Community Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African Art, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Postal Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institution Buildingalso known as the Castle.

Take a guided tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library building, including a glimpse of Shakespeare's First Folio. The Folger is open to the public Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Docents lead tours Monday to Friday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. The reading room is open to the public every Saturday from noon to 1 p.m. At 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. every first and third Saturday of the month from April to October, docents lead tours of the Elizabethan Garden, the design of which was inspired by the Bard's plays.

The Library of Congress offers guided tours of the Thomas Jefferson Building Monday to Friday starting on every half hour from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and Saturday at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Visitors should arrive at least 15 minutes early for a security check.

Walk along the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue between Dupont Circle and the National Cathedral known as Embassy Row, and pass by many of the foreign embassies located in the District. Kids can go trick-or-treating at most of the embassies on Halloween.

The Carnegie Institute of Washington hosts free monthly lectures on timely scientific topics. These Capital Science Evenings were launched in 1990 to make science more accessible to the general public (and are now also available via webcast). Check the website for details and schedules; registration is recommended.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Happenings Happy Hour at the Harman Center for the Arts presents free monthly performances featuring local musicians, dancers, actors, and puppeteers, including the Washington Balalaika Society and Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. No reservations required; check the website for details.

Admittance to the National Gallery of Art Sunday Evening Concerts is on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating begins at 6 p.m.; concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sunday of every month from May to October.

Explore Mexican culture and art at the Mexican Cultural Institute, a mansion turned art gallery. Open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. (only during exhibitions).

During the week, admission to the permanent collection at the Phillips Collection is by donation only (Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The cost of admission to a ticketed exhibition is $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. (The museum has extended hours every Thursday from 5 to 8:30 p.m.)

A dozen or so art galleries in Dupont Circle hold open houses on the first Friday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m.

Experience the song, dance, performance, crafts, and food of diverse cultural traditions at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held on the National Mall for two weeks every summer (overlapping the Fourth of July holiday).

The Folger Shakespeare Library celebrates Shakespeare's birthday on a Sunday in April from noon to 4 p.m. A variety of entertainment is offered, including performances, lectures, poetry readings, sword-fighting lessons for kids and, of course, birthday cake. Check the website for the date and full schedule of events.

The ethnically diverse Adams Morgan neighborhood hosts the Adams Morgan Day Festival on the second Sunday in September, offering food, crafts, and entertainment to celebrate the multicultural area.

Food/Drink

Enjoy complimentary wine tasting every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bistrot Lepic's wine bar on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.

Check out Bar DC for a comprehensive listing of drink and food specials throughout the city.

Kids

The National Theatre hosts free performances for children Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Past shows include an interactive presentation of the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson by Bright Star Touring Theatre. Seats are limited; tickets are distributed 30 minutes before each show.

Part of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo charges no admission. Giant pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian and their cub Bao Bao are the big attractions. The grounds are open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and exhibits are open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The National Building Museum hosts free annual family festivals featuring hands-on activities and performances. Check the website for the dates of the Discover Engineering Family Day, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day, and the Big Build.

D.C.'s beloved Politics & Prose Bookstore holds occasional readings for children, as well as author talks for adults and other events that are free and open to the public.

The Smithsonian Institution offers many programs for children and families, including storytelling, special tours, family days, arts and crafts, and other hands-on activities. At the Imaginasia Family Program at the Freer and Sackler Gallery, children and adults view an exhibition and then make a craft related to the exhibit.

See an active beehive, a "water-wise garden," and other environmental exhibits at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, open Wednesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center's planetarium presents shows exploring the solar system and galaxy on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Free tickets are available at the nature center's information desk a half hour before the show. Monthly evening stargazing sessions are hosted from April to November.

Outdoors

Walk, bike, or cycle the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile stretch that runs from Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island and borders the Potomac River on the Virginia side, offering a great view of the D.C. skyline.

Dedicated to the 26th president—an avowed naturalist who loved to hike in the region's "wild" areas—Theodore Roosevelt Island offers roughly two and a half miles of peaceful pathways on boardwalk and gravel. Check the website for free ranger-led programs.

Explore 446 acres of gardens at the National Arboretum, including the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum (open Friday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the National Herb Garden, and the National Grove of State Trees. The arboretum grounds are open Friday to Monday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At Arlington National Cemetery, watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guard changes every half hour from April 1 to September 30 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. and every hour for the rest of the year between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Explore the many offerings of Rock Creek Park, including the historic Peirce Mill and Barn, open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. See a demonstration of corn grinding on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The park also offers free ranger-led programs through different trails and sites.

Dumbarton Oaks, a research institute run by Harvard University, includes ten acres of formal gardens. Although admission is charged from March 15 to October 31, you can visit for free from November 1 to March 14 between 2 and 5 p.m. The museum is open from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and is always free. Closed Mondays.

Experience the famous National Cherry Blossom Festival in late March and early April. Highlights of the festival include a parade (grandstand tickets are $20, but viewing along the route between 9th and 15th Streets NW is free) and the Blossom Kite Festival, which showcases kites from around the country. Didn't bring one? Kids can make their own kites at an activity station. Some events are ticketed; check the website for details.

During the summer, bring your blanket and picnic supper to the National Mall and view classic films at the outdoor Screen on the Green. These free film screenings are shown at sunset every Monday from July to August.

Further Reading :

Lonely Planet Washington, DC

The Rough Guide to Washington, DC

AMSTERDAM CAFES - Coffee and "Other Things"!

Cafes...different than Cafes here in the UK....form an undeniablely large part of Amsterdam's Culture. Here are some of the best!

Barney’s Coffeeshop

 Haarlemmerstraat 102, 1013 EW Amsterdam
 0031 20 4206655
 wwww.barneys.biz
 Daily 7am -10pm

Barney’s is located in a 500-year-old building and is one of the the most popular Amsterdam coffee shops on Haarlemmerstraat.  Barney’s is the renowned winner of multiple “High Times Cup” awards. It is a good coffeeshop where they serve a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. They have a friendly and knowledgeable service that’s made Barney’s famous among both travelers and locals

Barney’s is located in a 500-year-old building and is one of the the most popular Amsterdam coffee shops on Haarlemmerstraat.  Barney’s is the renowned winner of multiple “High Times Cup” awards. It is a good coffeeshop where they serve a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. They have a friendly and knowledgeable service that’s made Barney’s famous among both travelers and locals

Dampkring

 Handboogstraat 29, 1012 XM Amsterdam
 0031 20 6380705
 www.dampkring.nl
 Daily 10am – 1am

Great coffeeshop and world famous because the crew of the famous movie “ocean’s 12′ spend time in this coffeeshop while filming in Amsterdam. It’s a coffeeshop both for first timers and long cannabis professionals, tourists and locals make it feel like everyone is welcome. What makes Dampkring Coffeeshop different is its spacious feel and gorgeous interior. Good drinks and good weed are served here at standard prices.

Great coffeeshop and world famous because the crew of the famous movie “ocean’s 12′ spend time in this coffeeshop while filming in Amsterdam. It’s a coffeeshop both for first timers and long cannabis professionals, tourists and locals make it feel like everyone is welcome. What makes Dampkring Coffeeshop different is its spacious feel and gorgeous interior. Good drinks and good weed are served here at standard prices.

Green House Centrum

 Oudezijds Voorburgwal 191, 1012 EW Amsterdam
 0031 20 6271739
 www.greenhouse.org
 Daily 9am – 1am

This small little coffeeshop has good quality herbs and a great atmosphere. The Green House is winner of 38 High Times Cannabis Cups. It delivers some of the best cannabis in Amsterdam and it is a great hangout for a traveler in Amsterdam. You can find many interesting pictures on the wall of celebs that visited the Green House. The coffee shop is situated nicely in the red light district next to a canal.

This small little coffeeshop has good quality herbs and a great atmosphere. The Green House is winner of 38 High Times Cannabis Cups. It delivers some of the best cannabis in Amsterdam and it is a great hangout for a traveler in Amsterdam. You can find many interesting pictures on the wall of celebs that visited the Green House. The coffee shop is situated nicely in the red light district next to a canal.

Amnesia

 Herengracht 133, 1015 BG Amsterdam
 0031 20 4277874
 Daily 10am – 1am

Previously known as “Whootsie Tootsie”, Amnesia is a small coffee shop with dark red interior, nice hanging red lights and mellow music that sets the mood.  On a sunny day it’s a great spot to sit outside and watch the boats on the Herengracht. Interesting menu with some lesser known varieties (some of them 100% organic) and friendly staff who will take time to explain.

Previously known as “Whootsie Tootsie”, Amnesia is a small coffee shop with dark red interior, nice hanging red lights and mellow music that sets the mood.  On a sunny day it’s a great spot to sit outside and watch the boats on the Herengracht. Interesting menu with some lesser known varieties (some of them 100% organic) and friendly staff who will take time to explain.

Bluebird

 Sint Antoniesbreestraat 71, 1011 HB Amsterdam
 0031 20 6225232
 www.coffeeshopbluebird.nl
 Daily 9.30am – 1.00am

This coffee shop is located in a quite modern building in a street that’s very different to those in the nearby Red Light District. Bluebird was founded in 1982 and has a good name for its range of hash and grass, its food and its multi-lingual staff.

This coffee shop is located in a quite modern building in a street that’s very different to those in the nearby Red Light District. Bluebird was founded in 1982 and has a good name for its range of hash and grass, its food and its multi-lingual staff.

Grey Area

 Oude Leliestraat 2, 1015 AW Amsterdam
 0031 20 4204301
 www.greyarea.nl
 Daily 12am-8pm

Grey Area is a tiny place with a big reputation. It has some of the finest weed. The place is an American favorite. Not a whole lot of seating, but really friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff. It’s a celebrity hotspot.  Some of the coolest guys has been to this coffeeshop over the years like Snoop Dogg, Bush, B-Real, Deftones, Lou Reed, and many many more.

Grey Area is a tiny place with a big reputation. It has some of the finest weed. The place is an American favorite. Not a whole lot of seating, but really friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff. It’s a celebrity hotspot.  Some of the coolest guys has been to this coffeeshop over the years like Snoop Dogg, Bush, B-Real, Deftones, Lou Reed, and many many more.

Abraxas

 Jonge Roelensteeg 12- 14, 1012 PL Amsterdam
 0031 20 6255763
 www.abraxas.tv
 Daily 10am – 1am

This Amsterdam coffee shop is tucked away in a small alley, the Jonge Roelensteeg. Abraxas is a very clean, cozy, and welcoming coffeeshop, with a hint of Mystic & Middle Eastern flavor. The shop and its staff obviously have a keen eye for detail. Offering free internet it is one of the best tourist-friendly coffeeshops in Amsterdam.

This Amsterdam coffee shop is tucked away in a small alley, the Jonge Roelensteeg. Abraxas is a very clean, cozy, and welcoming coffeeshop, with a hint of Mystic & Middle Eastern flavor. The shop and its staff obviously have a keen eye for detail. Offering free internet it is one of the best tourist-friendly coffeeshops in Amsterdam.

The Bulldog

 The Bulldog Palace, Leidseplein 15, 1017 PS Amsterdam
  0031 20 625 9864
 www.thebulldog.com
 Thu: 10am – 1am | Fri & Sat: 10am – 3am | Sun: 10am – 2am

Probably the most well-known coffeeshop in Amsterdam thanks to the central location at Leidseplein (ironically, the building is a former Amsterdam police station). The Bulldog is actually a chain of Bulldogs spread around the city centre. The Bulldog No. 90 (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 88) was the first coffee shop in Amsterdam and laid the benchmark for the existing coffee shops in Amsterdam. Visiting Amsterdam for a few days and looking for a hotel near Amsterdam coffeeshops? The Bulldog Hotel Amsterdam is located along a canal, you find it at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220.

Probably the most well-known coffeeshop in Amsterdam thanks to the central location at Leidseplein (ironically, the building is a former Amsterdam police station). The Bulldog is actually a chain of Bulldogs spread around the city centre. The Bulldog No. 90 (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 88) was the first coffee shop in Amsterdam and laid the benchmark for the existing coffee shops in Amsterdam. Visiting Amsterdam for a few days and looking for a hotel near Amsterdam coffeeshops? The Bulldog Hotel Amsterdam is located along a canal, you find it at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 220.

Baba

 Warmoesstraat 64, 1012 JH Amsterdam
 0031 20 6241409
 www.babashops.com
 Mon-Thu: 8.30am – 1am | Fri-Sun: 8am – 1am

Baba is one of the best located Amsterdam coffee shops. This place is styled with an Eastern-theme surrounded by sex shops and adult theatres in the Red Light District. Enjoy the beauty of the various statues around the shop, deities in realistically created stone with mystical robes. Other than the decorations, the atmosphere is one of friendliness and is great for socializing.

Baba is one of the best located Amsterdam coffee shops. This place is styled with an Eastern-theme surrounded by sex shops and adult theatres in the Red Light District. Enjoy the beauty of the various statues around the shop, deities in realistically created stone with mystical robes. Other than the decorations, the atmosphere is one of friendliness and is great for socializing.

Smoke Palace

 Linnaeusstraat 83HS, 1093 EK Amsterdam
 0031 20 463 2580
 www.smokepalace.nl
 Daily 9am – 1am

Smoke Palace (previously ‘New York’) is a coffeeshop with a very homey atmosphere near Oosterpark in the east district of Amsterdam. It’s just has a really relaxed laid back vibe. Smoke Palace has been renovated since a few months and they now have a cozy terrace outside. Great and friendly staff.

Smoke Palace (previously ‘New York’) is a coffeeshop with a very homey atmosphere near Oosterpark in the east district of Amsterdam. It’s just has a really relaxed laid back vibe. Smoke Palace has been renovated since a few months and they now have a cozy terrace outside. Great and friendly staff.

The REBEL Guide to Amsterdam on a Budget

Let's be honest, you're going to Amsterdam for the "Cafes and Windows".... and tulips I guess. Money's tight, but you want to enjoy the city. Here's our guide to Amsterdam on a budget (by the way, we'll tackle Amsterdam Cafes in a seperate article later this week!).

The Dutch capital brims with art and culture, some of it pricey to experience, but much of it not, including the veritable living architectural museum that is the city center. Start by walking along the 400-year-old canals to marvel at the elegant, gabled townhouses lining them—or better yet, splurge on a bike rental (from around $9 at MacBike) to blend in with the locals.

Attractions

You’ll pay admission at historical churches Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerkbut not at Westerkerk, whose signature bell tower has become a symbol of the city. Recently restored to its golden-age glory, the Protestant church on Prinsengracht is the largest in the Netherlands. Anne Frank, who lived nearby, wrote in her diary that she was reassured by the ringing of its church bells. Another claim to fame: Dutch master Rembrandt is buried here. Come on Fridays at 1 p.m. from May to October for free organ concerts.

You could easily miss the wooden door that leads from bustling Spui Square to the Begijnhof, a secluded courtyard surrounded by medieval buildings that for several centuries housed Beguines—unmarried religious women who banded together to form communities. Tour the oldest home in Amsterdam, and don’t miss the chapel, where paintings and stained-glass windows tell the story of the eucharistic miracle of Amsterdam. Admission is free.

From a 16th-century woodcut map of the city to photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 “bed-in” at the Amsterdam Hilton, the Amsterdam Treasures collection in the basement of the (free) City Archives is a chronicle of early denizens, distinguished visitors, and more.

Visit the mod flagship of the Amsterdam Public Library (OBA), a ten-minute walk from Central Station. Peruse the books and music, lounge on comfy chairs to skim the papers, and take in a spectacular view of the city from the balcony on the top floor.

Instagram alert: A riot of colorful tulips and lilies beckons from barges on the Singel canal at the Bloemenmarkt, a floating market that harks back to the days when flowers were shipped from the countryside by boat.

Culture

Known for its rich trove of paintings from the Dutch golden age, including Vermeer’s “The Milk Maid,” the newly restored Rijksmuseum—and its brand-new Philips Wing—is well worth the admission price of around $22. Nonetheless, there are ways to experience the museum sans the steep cost: Roam its free gardens, which display sculpture exhibitions (past shows have featured works by Henry Moore and Alexander Calder) and architectural fragments, or check out the mini-Rijksmuseum at Schiphol Airport, which reopens in mid-2015 and features rotating exhibitions from the mother ship, gratis.

The Netherlands’ civilian militias have been the subject of countless paintings (the most famous, Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” hangs in the Rijksmuseum). The Civic Guards Gallery (Schuttersgalerij), a free section of the Amsterdam Museum, is an enclosed alleyway dedicated to such portraits, which date from 1530 and include Matthieu van Bree’s newly restored “The Entry of Napoleon in Amsterdam.”

Catch a free lunchtime performance (chamber music, orchestra rehearsals) at the Concertgebouw each week (usually on Wednesdays) from September to June. Pipj district nightclub Badcuyp hosts the occasional free show, including Sunday night jazz sessions. And the Bimhuis jazz hall invites the public to an improvisation workshop on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

Visit the indie art galleries in and around the Jordaan neighborhood, including the architecturally focused Radar and the contemporary KochxBos, where past exhibitions have featured works by illustrator Femke Hiemstra, known for her creepy fairy-tale aesthetic.

Families

Families with young kids love Vondelpark for its imaginative playgrounds, duck ponds, and free children’s shows at the open-air theater in summer. At the largest play area, near Groot Melkhuis café, parents can sip coffee while keeping an eye out as tots climb, swing, and dig in the sandpit.

Children ages 18 and under get in free at the Rijksmuseum, which offers a multimedia tour with a kid-centric game in which participants must solve eight museum mysteries. Pick up an audio device at the museum’s multimedia desk (about $3) or better yet, download the game for free from iTunes or Google Play.

The IJ channel commuter ferry is the ideal family diversion: scenic (get a great view of the waterfront), action-packed (watch cyclists rushing to make the boat), short (about five minutes), and free. Hop aboard behind Central Station.

Food & Drink

Amsterdam is crawling with street markets. The largest, Albert Cuyp(Monday to Saturday), sells everything from leather goods to syrup waffles. The Nieuwmarkt (Monday to Saturday) features an organics-only market on Saturdays. And the Sunday Market at Westergasfabriek—a former industrial plant—offers free food and drink samples in a lively atmosphere (open the first Sunday of the month).

You could fork over about $22 for a slick tour of the historic Heineken brewery or, for a fraction of the price, enjoy a pint fresh from the tanks at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, near the De Gooyer windmill in East Amsterdam. Tours in English, offered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3:30 p.m., are about $6 but come with complimentary beer.

Outdoors

When the sun makes an appearance, locals vie for seats at the outdoor cafes in Dam Square to people-watch and enjoy the street performers.

Free guided walks leave from the National Monument in Dam Square at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. daily. Reserve your spot by prebooking online for about $4 or just show up early. The three-hour tour takes in the Royal Palace, the Red Light District, the Anne Frank House, and more. Tips are welcome.

The Amsterdam Forest (or Amsterdam Bos) is the city’s Central Park—three times the size of New York’s—and features swimming pools for kids, a goat farm, an outdoor theater offering a full slate of performances in the summer months, and prime picnicking spots for watching planes take off and land at Schiphol Airport.

Recommeded Reading : "Pocket Rough Guide Amsterdam" Published by Rough Guide

The REBEL Guide to New York

REBEL Editorial || March 17th

Here at REBEL we have never known a time when so many people are travelling on City Breaks. So, it appears to be a perfect opportunity to release some City Guides to help you on your way....must visit sites from city to city THAT ARE FREE (or almost Free!). 

To begin, it's the Big Apple - New York City!

1. Central Park (1/2 - full day. Free)

This part-park, part-museum, part-concert hall swallows central Manhattan, and many of the city's most notable attractions are situated next to it or within its limits (the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, to name a few). But travellers insist that you shouldn't just pass through Central Park on your way to another place. This 843-acre Eden is a favourite of New Yorkers and tourists; you can come here to exercise, dine, go to the zoo and more.

Almost everyone has a positive impression of the park, but no one has quite the same experience, or recommends that you do quite the same thing. There's an almost impossible amount of sights to see here (including 20 playgrounds, 48 fountains, monuments or sculptures and 36 bridges), but here's a shortlist:

Alice in Wonderland: This 11-foot tall statue sits upon a magic mushroom off 75th Street in the lower east side of the park. She's surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire cat and plenty of fascinated little kids.

Bethesda Fountain: This romantic fountain's name refers to a pool in Jerusalem with healing powers. While you're there, be sure to snap a few photos of the Angel of the Waters sculpture that tops this mid-park sight. 

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: New Yorkers love to jog by this beautiful 106-acre body of water located mid-park. It's especially scenic in autumn, when the surrounding trees are ablaze with seasonal colours.

Loeb Boathouse: During the warm weather months you can rent a boat, bike or gondola from this Victorian-style boathouse and restaurant, located around East Park Drive next to the Bethesda Fountain.

Strawberry Fields: Named after John Lennon's song, this lower west park area (at West Park Drive and West 72nd Street) sits across the street from where the singer was assassinated in 1980. Visitors like to come here to eat lunch, admire the landscaping, or pay tribute to the Beatle.

Wollman Memorial Rink: This lower-east side spot is particularly popular with young families. In winter it's a popular ice skating rink; come summer, it's where you'll find the Victorian Gardens Amusement Park.

2. The American Museum of Natural History (1/2-1 day. Donation)

Visitors are thrilled with the American Museum of Natural History off Central Park West. Whether you're exploring the interactive exhibits on the land, the sea or outer space; user reviews take on a common theme. This museum is incredible. Even the cafeteria and gift shop are worth your notice.

There are approximately 32 million artefacts inside, spread across four city blocks, 25 buildings and through 45 exhibition halls, so don't even plan on seeing all there is to see in one day. The Rose Centre for Earth and Space is a particular favourite, but you should also plan on visiting the dinosaurs, the Hall of the Universe and the Butterfly Conservatory (on display from October through May).

The American Museum of Natural History is perpetually crowded, but you'll face fewer people if you visit during a weekday in the late winter or spring. It's open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:45 p.m., and famous for its "suggested" admission prices: $22 for adults, $17 for seniors and students with an ID and $12.50 for children age 2 through 12. Take the B or C train to 81st Street or the 1 to 79th Street to get there.

3. Rockefeller Center (2-3 hours. Free)

This iconic plaza has it all — beautiful sculptures, an enormous skating rink, a fishbowl view of NBC Studios, plus hordes of stores and restaurants. Though undoubtedly there will be intense crowds, this is a big-city experience that's worth having at least once. During the wintertime holidays, the plaza sparkles with an illuminated Christmas tree and frolicking skaters gliding across the ice rink. But don't fret if your New York adventure doesn't take place during the cold months. There's plenty to do year-round. If you plan ahead, you can spend a morning watching a taping of the "Today" show, an afternoon observing the city from the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and an evening catching a performance at Radio City Music Hall.

Rockefeller Center is located in Midtown Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth avenues. To get to Rockefeller Center, take the B, D, F or M train. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open from 8 a.m. to midnight each day (the last elevator is at 11 p.m.). While there you can participate in the deck's Art and Observation Tour, but note there's a $27 fee. There are also free tours of the Rockefeller Center and NBC Studios. 

4. Bryant Park (1-2hours. Free) (Richard's favourite place in NY)

Just south of Times Square lies some of the most beautiful 4 acres in Manhattan — Bryant Park. Though its lush green space has existed for more than 150 years, Bryant Park was a revitalization project of the 1990s that made it a sanctuary for locals and tourists alike. This is the preferred place for Midtown Manhattan professionals to come eat lunch, for fashionistas to strut during fashion week and for performers to showcase their talents during Broadway in Bryant ParkPiano in the Park and the "Good Morning America" Summer Concert Series.

You don't need a preplanned event to enjoy Bryant Park — you could simply come here to enjoy the scenery or to use the free Wi-Fi. Recent visitors do offer a few suggestions though, like stopping in the New York Public Library (which sits facing the park's Great Lawn), ice skating around the Pond, or riding on the French-style carousel. The list of activities doesn't stop there. Bryant Park also hosts yoga and tai chi classes, knitting circles, chess tournaments and literary events. Unsure of where to start? Mull over your choices in the park's eateries: Bryant Park Grill, Bryant Park Café and the wichcraft sandwich stand.

You'll find Bryant Park at Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Street; take the B, D, F or M train to 42nd street or the 7 train to Fifth Avenue. Hours change dependent on season and activity.

5. Metropolitan Museum of Art (1/2 day. Donation)

No museum in the United States is as celebrated as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Spilling over with masterpieces from all over the world, including notable collections from Ancient Egypt and classical antiquity, "the Met" is an art experience unlike any other, and like much in New York, it's impossible to see all the museum has to offer in one day (or even two days, for that matter). If you've never been there, then you should definitely visit its permanent collections (the first floor's Greek and Roman art, Egyptian art and the second floor's Islamic art exhibits are especially popular with travelers). If you've already visited the Met a time or two, then plan your next trip around the semiannual exhibits by the Costume Institute, or head to Cloisters, an offshoot museum of the Met that's dedicated to medieval Europe's art and architecture located in Fort Tyron Park.

You can take the 4, 5 or 6 train to the 86th St. station; the museum is located at 1000 Fifth Ave., on the eastern perimeter of Central Park. You can visit the museum from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday you can stay and browse until 9 p.m. (You can also patron the museum's Great Hall Balcony Bar or Petri Court Café and Wine Bar for a quick cocktail.) Admission to the Main Building and The Cloisters Museum and Gardens costs up to $25.

6. National September 11 Memorial & Museum (1/2 day. Free)

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum serves as the primary tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as the six lost in the 1993 bombing. The Memorial's twin reflecting pools and manmade waterfalls rest as eerie footprints where the World Trade Center's Twin Towers once stood. The 1-acre-sized pools are enclosed in bronze panels on which the names of every victim are inscribed.

Recent visitors cite the overall ambiance of the National September 11 Memorial as somber but moving. "It is a beautiful place for people to gather and remember that even in the midst of tragedy, there can be beauty and peace," explained one TripAdvisor user. You must book your visitor passes, preferably at least two to four weeks in advance, as only a limited number of tickets are distributed per month. Admission is free, but you'll be required to pay a $2 service fee for reservations made online or by phone.

The National September 11 Museum spans across 110,000 square feet and relays the narrative of the attacks through a series of multimedia displays, real-time recordings, authentic artifacts, and an interactive table.  General admission costs $24; family members of the victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks as well as 9/11 rescue and recovery workers may enter for free. There are also discounted rates for seniors, veterans, students and children; on Tuesdays, admission is free for all visitors between 5 and 8 p.m. 

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is accessible via the Fulton Street subway stops, which are serviced by the A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, or 5 lines. The memorial welcomes visitors daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m; the museum opens its doors from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with last entry at 7 p.m.

7. Grand Central Terminal (2 hours. Free)

At this beautiful train station, you can eat some lunch, or shop till you drop, but recent travellers most enjoyed just taking in the scenery. According to one TripAdvisor user, "Grand Central Station is breathtaking. It is a shining example of the amazing, vast, grand, 'old New York' architecture."

Before you enter, be sure to snap a few shots of the ornate Beaux-Arts neoclassical architecture outside. Inside the celebrated main concourse, you're treated to glimmering marble floors, gold and nickel-plated chandeliers and a sky-themed ceiling. Food options range from the upscale (Michael Jordan's The Steak House N.Y.C. or The Campbell Apartment) to the legendary (the Oyster Bar or the gourmet kiosks at the Grand Central Market) to the fast and easy (Starbucks) and shoestring cheap (a bag of potato chips from the Rite Aid is always an option). As mentioned, there are also plenty of shopping options, though most travellers suggest you leave most of Grand Central's pricey merchandise in the store. If you want a train-themed souvenir, visit The New York Transit Museum Store in the shuttle passage.

Grand Central Terminal is another prominent attraction located in Midtown Manhattan. You can reach the station on the 4,5,6,7 or S trains. If you just want to take a quick peek, note the station is free to enjoy from 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. The website offers suggested itineraries for self-guided tours, but most travellers recommend you take a free guided tour on Wednesdays and Fridays.

8. New York Public Library (2 hours. Free)

This main branch, officially called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, attracts plenty of book lovers, history junkies and architecture aficionados. Most people swing by the Bryant Park landmark to say hello to Patience and Fortitude (the famous stone lions guarding the entrance) and to admire the lovely Beaux-Art design.

If you're in the mood to read, you'll find an exhaustive collection of maps, in addition to special collections of English and American Literature, English Romanticism and rare books. This library is also the site of several lecture programs and a newly minted children's section.

To get there, take the B, D, F or M subway train to the 42nd Street-Bryant Park stop or take the 7 train to the Fifth Avenue station. Different branches of the public library have different hours, but the main branch is open daily. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the branch stays open until 8 p.m. On Sundays, visitors are welcome from 1 to 5 p.m.

9. Times Square (2 hours. Free)

Some say that Times Square is like a five-block metaphor for New York City itself — it's exciting, colorful and always jumping. Others describe this area of Midtown Manhattan as artless, overpriced and congested. Perhaps this commercial stretch from West 42nd to West 47th Street is a little of both, and though locals would advise you to avoid it, you should at least catch a glimpse of its neon lights. Most travelers recommend visiting the area after dark. "I love Times Square, especially at midnight when it's brightly lit and the place is a hive of activity. It's quite a sight," exclaimed one TripAdvisor user.

Times Square's biggest tourist draw is the annual New Year's Eve ball drop. Revelers jam-pack the area to see New York's famous Waterford Crystal ball descend 77 feet from a pole on the One Times Square building. If you're feeling brave, take a trip to New York and Times Square at this time of year and watch the ball drop for free! Just plan on coming in the early morning and staying all day, and note that the area is super crowded — even by New York standards.

Times Square's constant activity makes it easy to find (take any train that stops at 42nd Street and Times Square or Port Authority).

10. The High Line

Set on an abandoned rail track on Manhattan's West Side, this sprawling nearly 1½-mile-long landscaped park stretches over three of the city's most lively neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen. Standing 30 feet above street level, the High Line offers sweeping views of the Hudson River and Manhattan's cityscape. But the vista isn't the only reason visitors and Manhattanites flock to this manicured green space. Here, you'll find continually changing public art installations, a handful of food vendors and a sprawling picnic and sunbathing area (known as the 23rd Street Lawn).

Recent visitors recommend escaping to the High Line when you need a break from the city's hustle and bustle. "This park is great — you feel a little closer to the beautiful NYC skyline, all while enjoying the beautiful flowers and landscaping," wrote one TripAdvisor user.

The High Line is split into three sections, with nine easily accessible entrance points. The first section extends from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street. The following section stretches all the way to West 30th Street. And the third installment runs from West 30th to West 34th Street. You can reach the High Line via the L, A, C or E trains to 14th Street and 8th Avenue, the 1, 2 or 3 train to 14th Street and 7th Avenue, or the 1 train to 18th or 23rd street. Access to the High Line is free.

Other honourable mentions for Free Attractions go to....The Chrysler Buiding, Coney Island and Brooklyn Bridge.

Have a great time!

Autumn Day's Out In Staffordshire

The nights are starting to become darker earlier and the coats & scarfs have been dug out from the backs of wardrobes, Autumn is here. The weather a little colder, its great to have a plan of what to do and where to go. Here are a few Autumnal tips to leave you feeling seasonal. Brookfields Farm shop for a morning Pumpkin picking Brookfields farm located on Stone rd, Blackbrook is a great destination to go pumpkin picking. The farm shop is located opposite the Barbour factory outlet and has onsite parking. When you pull into the farm shop you are instantly hit by the orange round wonder of pumpkins. From the big, the round, the ugly and the cute, there is a pumpkin for everyone and you can even find some very unique looking ones to create a spooky display at home. 

The nights are starting to become darker earlier and the coats & scarfs have been dug out from the backs of wardrobes, Autumn is here. The weather a little colder, its great to have a plan of what to do and where to go. Here are a few Autumnal tips to leave you feeling seasonal.

Brookfields Farm shop for a morning Pumpkin picking

Brookfields farm located on Stone rd, Blackbrook is a great destination to go pumpkin picking. The farm shop is located opposite the Barbour factory outlet and has onsite parking. When you pull into the farm shop you are instantly hit by the orange round wonder of pumpkins. From the big, the round, the ugly and the cute, there is a pumpkin for everyone and you can even find some very unique looking ones to create a spooky display at home. 

As well as having a great selection of pumpkins at a great price the farm shop offers up eggs, fruit, veg, jam and so much more! You can fill up a basket support a local business and enjoy a great day out with the whole family.  I recommend taking a good strong bag to pop all your chosen Pumpkins in, it really is great fun and its wonderful to see how big these veggies can grow. 

As well as having a great selection of pumpkins at a great price the farm shop offers up eggs, fruit, veg, jam and so much more! You can fill up a basket support a local business and enjoy a great day out with the whole family. 

I recommend taking a good strong bag to pop all your chosen Pumpkins in, it really is great fun and its wonderful to see how big these veggies can grow. 

The farm is full of quirky items so be sure to take your phone so you can fill up your Instagram feed with all the wonders you see.  Once you have all explored all Brookfields farm has to offer a much needed warm up and a nice cup of tea is a must. Middleport Pottery cafe is a great spot to relax by a wood fire with a giant slice of cake & a lovely cup of tea. The cafe is situated alongside the canal so if you are feeling brave and can sit outside it offers great views. Tea is served in china mugs that you can purchase from the pottery shop above. 

The farm is full of quirky items so be sure to take your phone so you can fill up your Instagram feed with all the wonders you see. 

Once you have all explored all Brookfields farm has to offer a much needed warm up and a nice cup of tea is a must. Middleport Pottery cafe is a great spot to relax by a wood fire with a giant slice of cake & a lovely cup of tea. The cafe is situated alongside the canal so if you are feeling brave and can sit outside it offers great views. Tea is served in china mugs that you can purchase from the pottery shop above. 

All the tea & cake may leave you feeling sluggish so why not take a lovely Autumnal walk along Trentham Gardens, you can even take the dog along with you as it's incredibly dog friendly. The gardens offer beautiful flowers, seating areas and a lake full of wildlife. throught the gardens are hidden sculptures created by local artists.  You really can spend hours roaming the gardens and enjoying the natural beauty but when you do start to feel the chill you do not have to walk much further for a warm as Trentham Gardens shopping village offers an array of shops, cafes & bars.

All the tea & cake may leave you feeling sluggish so why not take a lovely Autumnal walk along Trentham Gardens, you can even take the dog along with you as it's incredibly dog friendly. The gardens offer beautiful flowers, seating areas and a lake full of wildlife. throught the gardens are hidden sculptures created by local artists. 

You really can spend hours roaming the gardens and enjoying the natural beauty but when you do start to feel the chill you do not have to walk much further for a warm as Trentham Gardens shopping village offers an array of shops, cafes & bars.

For me I enjoy visiting Pie Minister for a seasonal pie and warm dose of caffeine. Pie Minister have a great selection of different flavoured pies everyone can enjoy.

For me I enjoy visiting Pie Minister for a seasonal pie and warm dose of caffeine. Pie Minister have a great selection of different flavoured pies everyone can enjoy.

If walks & cake are not your thing however and you fancy something a little more Spooky then Screamfest at national forest adventure farm is just the scare your looking for. Walk the maze if you dare and who knows what frights you will find. The scary fun starts from 14th October and runs until Hallowe'en. Tickets can be purchased online from http://www.screamfest.co.uk/prices/

Screamfest offers 5 terrifying attractions along with DJ sets and performers along with a Zombie shoot out.

Whimsy In The Jar - The High Line

'The High Line is a must do for anyone visiting the city.'

Amelia Buxton || USA || August 28th

What was once a railway for trains to carry goods to and from Manhattan’s largest industrial district, became a public park 25 years later, elevated above the ground for people to enjoy.

The park, which opened in 2009, has gone from strength to strength, developing both artistically and in size, introducing the third and Northern section of the park at the Rail Yards in 2014.

The High Line was reinvented based on images taken by Joel Sternfeld, highlighting the fierce beauty of the nature landscape which grew amongst the tracks where trains once ran. The park emphasises that photography has taken lead in telling the story of the High Line, and it’s clear why.

Everywhere you turn there is another piece of charm to capture.

Luckily for us we walked along the line during sunset, and the lighting was spectacular!

The best thing is to expect the unexpected throughout your walk…

Whilst we didn’t see any nudists laying in the sun, amongst the blooming flowers and lush trees, we came across eccentric pieces of art, such as this guy:

The piece, designed by Tony Matelli, portrayed a man sleep walking, and made absolutely no sense to the rest of the park. But it definitely stopped people on their stroll for long periods of time so they could try to interpret it.

About halfway down the line, we peered over the edge to look down on the pleasant Chelsea streets and spotted this place:

Based on 17th and 10th, the pizzeria is widely known as serving up the best pie in Chelsea, so it would’ve been rude not to stop for a bite.

I wanted to get the full experience, so I ordered the 17th Street Sampler, which gave me the chance to taste three different types of pizza. The idea that these slices would be easily consumed was naive, as one slice was bigger than my head, let alone three…

Meanwhile, the rest of the family ordered an 18” half Margherita, half Pepperoni.

In hindsight, it probably would have been better to share, but we still consumed it all with a little for leftovers and got a huge range of flavours to sample. The crust was midway between thick and thin, the cheese and tomato ratio was perfectly baked, whilst the rest of the toppings weren’t too overpowering.

Returning to the High Line we continued the rest of our stroll and made our descent back to the ground towards the end. It took around about 2 hours or so for us to get through – that was with many stops for photo ops included.

I recommend this to anyone, even if you’re not a walker, there are many points to hop-on/hop-off. The area surrounding the line is alluring, whilst the nature aspect is also impressive.

Whimsy In The Jar - New York

REBEL contributor hits up the Big Apple. Here's the first part of her New York diary.

Amelia Buxton || USA || August 16th

 

Day one of exploring Manhattan consisted of knocking out many children with the lens of my camera, having my belly squeezed by a guy who wanted to emphasise how much I love food, and eating a scoop of ‘free’ ice cream topped with meal worms.

But without a doubt, I have fallen in love with the city that never sleeps.

The people, the smells and the atmosphere are both bittersweet and immersive, and after some apprehension that I would not be able to handle flying solo out here, I already feel at home.

By recommendation of a friend, I sent myself to 85th Street on Columbus Avenue in the Upper West Side for breakfast at Good Enough To Eat.

This place has a farmhouse-communal vibe to it with many customers coming through the doors who were clearly regulars in the joint.

I was told to try what my friend described as ‘the best corned beef hash’ he’d ever had. Despite never trying the dish before, I ordered it without looking at the menu, and after a swift arrival of the food, I dug in.

What I appreciated about the meal is the fact that it looked like a beautiful mess, filled with colours and varied flavours. You see that little pot next to the ketchup? That was a strawberry moose – completely out of place from the rest of the food, but added in that American sweetness that I’d been longing for.

Once my tummy was full I headed over to the American Museum of Natural History and was blown away with the heaps of history to read about. It took me around 4-5 hours to amble around the whole attraction and I still found myself missing little bits out – the place is huge.

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Walking myself down towards the Time Warner Centre I started to get a little peckish again, at which point I saw the holy grail to all food markets.

Home to overpriced infused bottled water, kale EVERYTHING, and the most beautiful metres of pizza, Whole Foods Market is a chain exclusively selling foods containing no artificial colours, sweeteners, flavours, fats and so on.

There’s a couple in the UK, but you see them everywhere here. It’s impossible to pick just one ‘snack’ to feast on, which is why I bought both sushi for my main meal, treating myself to a slice of pepperoni for late night snacking.

I had a few more hours to spare so I head over to The Plaza Hotel; best known as Kevin McCallister’s accommodation in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.

I was getting close to meeting my tio at the Lincoln Centre so I strolled up and sat by the glorious fountain, wrote in my journal and reflected on the day.

Whilst I did so much in one day, I never felt rushed or worried that I had missed something out. But I guess that’s the beauty of being able to stay in this city for a month.

Travel Thailand

Amelia Buxton || July 2016

 

When choosing your first big travelling location, many people turn to South-East Asia to visit, in my case, Thailand. This was down to the beautiful culture, low costs, breath-taking views, flavoursome foods and so on… Importantly, I chose Thailand because it was entirely out of my comfort zone: I had only ever made recurring visits to the States, with a few European city breaks here and there.

Needless to say I was nervous, somewhat apprehensive, but excited beyond belief to head out to this country by myself last summer. After returning to the gloomy weather in England, I decided to put together some of my highlights to pass over to any other prospective travellers. Keeping in mind I only explored half of the country, the list of things I did was endless…

THE TEMPLES

An obvious one for a tourist but the intricately detailed structures we visited were incredible. Paired with the colours of the temples and the huge golden Buddha’s it made for some pretty eye opening sights. The pictures will never do them justice!

ISLAND HOPPING

Hands down one of the best days I’ve ever had was taking our groups private boat to navigate through some of the most beautiful islands:

The best moment of this day was when we stopped in one of the gorgeous lagoons and one by one jumped into the clearest blue water and just floated around for a little while. The water was warm and the atmosphere was peaceful amongst other island hoppers. If you don’t believe me, look at the photos!

Along with this, when we made our stop in Koh Phi Phi, a few of us decided to make the ascent to the island’s view point… with about 40 minutes to do it in. “It’s only steps, it won’t take us long!” said Annika, who had already made the climb days before. Little did we know Annika was an absolute machine at making her way up whilst we slowly crawled along! Nevertheless, we made it up there with a little time to spare and seriously, look at the view: So worth it.

ERAWAN NATIONAL PARK

When we were told that we would be camping in Thailand I was pretty against it because of the thought of the boiling, sticky heat in the morning and spread of bugs crawling up to spoon me in the middle of the night. But arriving to this national park and seeing this on the doorstep of our tent left me stunned to silence: S and our ever-so-awesome bus drivers cooked us some yummy chicken and pork kebabs before we had our own mini party in the middle of the campsite, coaxing in other travellers! Journeying through Erawan Waterfalls was tough, we’d freak ourselves out at the little fish who were insistent on sucking our legs, we constantly fell against the ridiculously slippery rocks and we each yelled obscenities during our climb up to the highest waterfall. Most of us made it up there and it was worth the trek; if anything the descent was worse! But I loved this day.

KHAO SOK

Probably the weirdest sleeping experience of my life. We arrived in Khao Sok after the night train and made our way into the middle of nowhere to get to our accommodation for the evening. When I use the term ‘floating bungalows’ I literally mean, these huts were floating on water, all attached together of course. They were all part of a large raft with no electricity and no real sign of life. But surprisingly it was one of my favourite stays throughout the trip. It took us away from civilisation for the night and gave us the freedom to jump in the water and forget the world existed.

THE NIGHT TRAIN

My fellow travellers may be shocked/completely disagree with this one but I made a plan before getting on the overnight train that I would make myself extremely tired beforehand so it would be easy to sleep on these tiny beds. Aside from the sticky heat and constant feeling that another train is crashing into you as we went past one, I slept rather well on here! The toilets were grim, as expected, but I would choose this over our night bus back to Bangkok from Krabi, any day.

THE CATURDAY CAT CAFÉ

My dreams came true in this little cafe.

A few days after my tour had ended, I said goodbye to my lovely group and ventured off to the last hostel of my trip, On my final day here I met Myriam and Rebecca, both beginning their travels. We decided to make our way to the Caturday Cat Café to feast on treats surrounded by the furry felines. It was exactly how you’d expect it; purfect. (Sorry, I had to.)

SPENT NOTHING

Okay so this isn’t technically true, but bare with me. To put this into perspective, 50B (Thai Baht) is equal to about £1. On average, we would spend around £1 for an alcoholic drink, £3 for a meal and £4 on an item of clothing, so it was pretty ideal. I came home with a huge heap of clothes which would’ve been worth hundreds if they’d been bought on the high street, but I’d only spent up to £50 on them. I now find myself bargaining in Topshop before buying clothes. Needless to say it wasn’t hard to get drunk in Thailand, especially when one of the bars we went to was called a 10Baht Bar – meaning everything was virtually 25p to drink. You could easily spend £300 in Thailand over the course of a month and maybe less if you’re a more experienced traveller!

ATE EVERYTHING

Okay so after a week, eating curry and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner became a little too excessive. But nonetheless, the food was absolutely delicious, especially Thailand’s famous Pad Thai dish. Surprisingly one of my favourite things to eat there was this beauty: Looks can be deceiving as this big guy contained some of the tastiest and freshest fish I’ve ever eaten. Bonus: this among many meals I devoured in Thailand didn’t send any of us running to the toilet the next day either!

MEETING PEOPLE

For 3 weeks, 15 people became my extended – travelling – family and got me through our Thai adventure with a constantly fun and super friendly atmosphere. When I came home people asked if there were any fallouts or bad people, and I can honestly say that the group couldn’t have been more perfect. We got each other through the grim hangovers, not-to-be-proud-of drunken mishaps, the constant conversations regarding toilet breaks etc… I’ve said since coming back that the group you stick with throughout your travels you get to know quicker than anyone in your life; purely because you have to get used to everyone’s quirks faster than you would with people at home. So I thank everyone I came across during my trip to Thailand for making the journey extra special.

GOING WITH AN ORGANISED TOUR

Okay so this option is completely based on what you yourself feel comfortable doing. When my sister initially travelled to South-East Asia, she bravely did it completely solo with no help from a tour. However, I decided to choose backpacking through Thailand as I really knew nothing about the country enough to confidently head out alone. It was the best decision on my behalf as most people journeying with me were in the same boat: first time travellers out to have the time of their lives. Additionally, my tour guide S was brilliant, and the trip would not have been what it was without his energetic personality and willingness to give us all the greatest experience. By the end of the trip, it was sad to say goodbye to my group but we can all agree that it was a little more emotional bidding farewell to someone we all now class as a close friend.

On the other hand, Thailand is completely doable to do alone or with a group of friends without an organised tour to help you along. Just plan each day well in advance and you should be fine!

Those who are reading this having already been to Thailand I’m sure have plenty more experiences that should be added to this list, but hopefully this gave some of you an informed guide of what NOT to miss when travelling to this gorgeous land.