Friday, May 30, 2014

Top 5 Things to Do in June 2014

Summer vacation is upon us. Where do you plan to travel? If you rent a timeshare be sure to check out one of these great events happening around our country.

1. Disney World Star Wars Weekends (June 1, 6-8, 13-15): Let the force be with you at Star Wars Weekends this June at Disney World. Fans flock to see their favorite Star Wars characters. Throw on your favorite costumes and have some sci-fi fun.
Web: Star Wars Weekends
Location: Hollywood Studious, Walt Disney World, Orland, FL

2. Nashville Country Music Association Festival (June 5-8): Since 1972, Country Music fans have joined together for a festival full of country music that benefits music education in Nashiville's Public Schools. Be sure to have a pen on hand to snag some autographs of your favorite artists. Otherwise, enjoy the music shows!
Web: Nashville Country Music Festival
Location: Multiple Locations, Nashville, TN

3. Chicago Blues Festival (June 13-15): Welcome to the world's largest free event: The Chicago Blues Festival. Blues legends from around the globe perform on five different stages. Over half a million people attend each year so be sure to arrive early.
Web: Chicago Blues Festival
Location: Grant Park, Chicago, IL

4. Luling Watermelon Thump (June 26-29): Luling's annual Watermelon Thump is just that, a four-day celebration of seed spitting, melon eating, and melon weighing. There's even a queen's pageant, a parade, concerts, and a carnival with kiddie rides.
Web: Watermelon Thump
Location: Watermelon Thump Pavilion on Davis Street, Luling, TX

5. Brooklyn Flea (Outdoors starting in June, every Saturday): This June the famous Brooklyn Flea will head outdoors at their flagship Fort Greene location. The Saturday flea is known for great prices, eclectic pieces, and vintage wares. Insider tip: Don't miss the great food vendors in the area.
Web: Brooklyn Flea
Location: Outdoors at Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY

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Photo Credit: Star Wars Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Timeshare and Share Alike: Our Introduction to Timeshare Living

My husband and I just returned from our first timeshare vacation in beautiful Gatlinburg in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We vacationed with two other couples due to the generosity of one couple who traded their two bedroom timeshare for a three bedroom unit so that there was enough room for all of us. Although we don't own a timeshare, I've been intrigued with them for some time now so I was anxious to actually vacation in one.

Gatlinburg Town Square

We stayed at Gatlinburg Town Square, a Summer Bay Resort, with check-in just down the street at Gatlinburg Town Village. Within minutes, we each had a room key to call our own and we were off to the free underground parking. The thought of getting luggage, two duffle bags, a laundry basket, and various other bags up to our fifth floor unit was daunting, we were pleased to see many luggage carts conveniently parked close to the elevators. On a side note, we would not have needed to bring as much clothing as we did because there is a laundry room for guests. I didn't check out the prices, but it was conveniently located and empty.

Functional Layout

The pictures we had seen of Gatlinburg Town Square didn't do it justice. Our unit had a small, but very functional kitchen on the left as you walked in the front door. It was very clean and updated with nice cabinets and marble countertops and breakfast bar. On the other side of the bar, a dining table seated six. The spiral staircase separated the dining area from the living room with its comfortable barrel chairs, sofa and coffee table. There was a 32" flat screen television and the stone fireplace was built all the way up to the vaulted ceiling. The second floor bedroom overlooked the living room, but was large enough to afford plenty of privacy. A large master bedroom on the main level, as well as a secondary bedroom, completed the setup. The master and upstairs bedrooms had ensuite bathrooms; the secondary bedroom had its own bathroom that was able to be accessed from the living room, but also had a door to close it off to create a private suite.

Beautiful Grounds and Great Amenities

The grounds are very beautiful and nicely landscaped. The property backs up to a spring fed creek, serenading those fortunate enough to have a nearby balcony. The outdoor pool, hot tub, and a patio are also near the creek. Families with children will appreciate the small playground. There was also an indoor pool. While our unit didn't have a creek view, we thoroughly enjoyed our view of the mountains. The elevators have glass fronts so that you get a good view of the beautiful water feature at the front of the complex. The units are accessed via outside walkways, but all are covered. Strolling the walkways is a pleasant experience and can make for a good workout if you utilize the stairs, but there is a workout room as well.

Practical Advantages of Timeshares

We ate most of our meals at restaurants, but staying in a timeshare would make it easy to cook some meals there and save some money that might be better spent on attractions and souvenirs, although it's hard to resist the abundance of barbeque, Mexican food, hamburgers, foot long corndogs, fudge and ice cream. You could easily eat two meals in and one special meal out each day to stretch the budget. Families with children might enjoy being able to put the kids down for a nap and not be stuck all together in a hotel room.

Where We Go From Here

Our friends can't get enough of Gatlinburg and the Smokies so they have two timeshare weeks there every year. My husband and I, on the other hand, didn't take many vacations when the kids were growing up (translation: none) so we're exploring these days to find a forever spot that we want to visit annually. Last year we visited Mackinac Island and this year was Gatlinburg. Next year we may go to the Grand Canyon or Cape Cod. The destinations are endless. While I'm intrigued by timeshare ownership, at this point in our lives we will probably rent a timeshare through and take advantage of the great benefits of timeshare vacationing. Let the planning begin!

Leslie Winey is a RedWeek user, and freelance writer who lives in Indiana and works full time on the side. She enjoys writing web content, devotionals, and editing her company's newsletter. Her latest project is an inspirational novel. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Unforgettable Father's Day Travel Ideas!

This Father's Day, forgo the tie and greeting card and give Dad something he really wants for Father's Day! A week away at one of these top dad-approved destinations will be sure to net you some
brownie points and cement memories as the very best Father's Day yet.

For the Adventurous Dad...

How about a trip to the state of Wyoming? Wyoming is all about the untamed wilds and majestic mountains, and nature-loving dads will feel right at home exploring Yellowstone or marveling at the Teton Range. After a long day of hiking, consider taking him for a relaxing soak at Hot Springs State Park - the natural springs are home to a free bath house for that's ideal for unwinding.

For the Foodie Dad...

Napa Valley, California is the foodie dad's destination of choice! The Culinary Institute of America offers two to five day culinary "boot camp" classes in cooking styles ranging from grilling to pastry making. If he prefers the dining to creating his own dishes, there's not shortage of five-star restaurants in the area to sate any craving. And of course, what's Napa without stunning local wines to complement your meal!

For the Fisherman Dad...

It's basically a given that dads love fishing, and there's no better place to indulge that passion than the Florida Keys. There's fishing tournaments abound, and the unique environment of the Keys makes them ideal for all sorts of fishing methods. Flats, light tackle, deep sea, wreck, reef, harbor and bridge fishing are all practiced in the region. 

For the Sporty Dad...

Take a trip to New York City and surprise Dad with a tour of Yankee Stadium! Visitors have the choice between a classic group tour as well as the more exclusive gold and platinum pre-game tours that are held just before the game starts. For an extra fee, you can also add lunch or dinner to your tour at Hard Rock Cafe - the perfect cool atmosphere for a Father's Day meal!

For the Daredevil Dad...

Any dad with a wild side will have a blast in Las Vegas, Nevada! The glitzy nightlife and omnipresent energy are certainly a draw, but we recommend something a little more unique for the thrill-seeking dad - how about a ride in a fighter jet? Sky Combat Ace offers a multitude of packages for the aspiring pilot that will get adrenaline racing and crate memories that will last a lifetime.

Photo credit:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Top 5 Places to Dine with Your Dog

Take the guess work out of dining with your pet. On your next timeshare rental checkout out one of these fun and Fido-approved places.

1. Park Chow: Have your pet sniff its way toward Golden Gate Park. Destination: Park Chow. This dog friendly restaurant in San Francisco's Sunset District is known for affordable and locally sourced eats and sustainable treats.
Web: Park Chow
Location: 1240 9th Avenue, San Francisco, CA

2. Barking Dog Restaurant: Nestled on the Upper East Side this is a fun spot for you and your four-legged best friend to share a meal. The prices are affordable (for New York standards) and your dog is welcome at the outdoor tables.
Web: Barking Dog Restaurant
Location: 1678 3rd Ave., New York, NY

3. Norm's Eatery & Ale House: The Emerald City hosts mutts in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. The laid-back atmosphere at Norm's (named after the dog whose photos hang on its walls) is a hit with pooches. And the full bar and comfort food menu is sure to hit the spot. Insider tip: The beer chili is very good!
Web: Norms Eatery & Ale House
Location: 460 N 36th St, Seattle, WA

4. Lucky Lab Brewery: Centrally located in Portland, Oregon, the Lucky Lab Brewery is dedicated to canines and their loving companions. Twenty picnic tables outside under a covered roof offer a perfect back drop for your dog to mingle with others and for you to enjoy a pint.
Web: Lucky Lab Brewery
Location: 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Portland, OR

5. Lazy Dog Cafe: This dog-themed eatery in Los Angeles features pet-friendly seating in a cozy fire pit environment (pictured) and a fun Asian and Hawaiian-inspired menu. The Lazy Dog Cafe knows how to truly relax canine style.
Web: Lazy Dog Cafe
Location: 16310 Beach St. Los Angeles, CA

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Photo Credit: Lazy Dog Cafe

Monday, May 19, 2014

Family-Friendly Resorts for the Best Summer Vacation Yet! - Part 2

Last week, we covered some of the best kid-friendly resorts for family vacations. This week, we're wrapping up that countdown with more ideas for your family vacation this summer!

Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort

Orlando remains a classic go-to destination for families, and Wyndham Bonnet Creek adapts to meet the needs of these travelers. All of Orlando's theme parks are just a quick drive away, and on-site transportation to Walt Disney World is offered. The resort itself is also absolutely packed with plenty to keep kids busy when you feel like staying in - think five pools, two lazy rivers and two dedicated children's pools!

What kid wouldn't spend hours in a water
playground like this?
Wyndham Bonnet Creek goes the extra mile to engage younger guests. The Play Day's activity program includes games, contests, themed events and movie nights on a massive, outdoor screen. Larger events are also scheduled a few times a week. Ice cream socials are always a hit and scavenger hunts keep the kids busy while parents unwind.

Sheraton Broadway Plantation

Beaches are notoriously fantastic family destinations not only due to the beach itself, but the wide variety of activities and things to do in the direct area. Sheraton Broadway Plantation at Myrtle Beach is perfectly adapted for families. Location is the key - the resort is situation right across the street from Broadway on the Beach; 305 acres of entertainment. There's plenty of dining and shopping, as well as kid-friendly attractions like NASCAR Speedpark, Myrtle Waves Water Park and Ripley's Aquarium.

A fantastic location plus engaging on-site activities
makes Sheraton Broadway Plantation shine!
If you don't feel like hitting the beach, the on-site water playground Splash Cove is perfect for kids to cool off. Built around a massive sailing ship, this pool-playground hybrid is equipped with tunnels, slides, a plunge pool, lookouts and interactive water guns to spray one another. The pool complex also features a full-size pool, bubbling whirlpools and lazy river with both indoor and outdoor components. 

Split Rock Resort

Split Rock Resort might not be the biggest or newest resort in the Pocono Mountains, but it certainly knows how to appeal to the entire family. Housed inside the resort itself is the First Run Movie Theater (playing popular movies at select times throughout the day) as well as an eight-lane bowling alley. Split Rock also is home to the indoor H20ooohh! Water Park, which features flow riding (think controlled indoor surfing), water slides and play areas for younger kids!

This is only one shot of the massive water playground!
However, the focus of Split Rock Resort lies in outdoor recreation. An eighteen-hole minigolf course is plenty of fun for an entire family and sports-lovers will find dedicated areas and courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball, softball, archery, badminton and shuffleboard. If that's not enough, how about some water sports on nearby lake Harmony? Barracuda Joes Watersports offers tubing, wake boarding, waterskiing, kayaking, canoeing and lake cruises that are equally fun for adults and older kids alike!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Top 5 Places to Snorkel in the US

The best part of late spring and pretty much all of summer is playing in the water. On your next timeshare rental visit one of these perfect snorkeling locations around our great United States.

1. Crystal River, Florida: Home of the West Indian manatee. Guides can assist you on manatee etiquette. When you snorkel at Crystal River you have a better chance of encountering a sociable manatee when you swim slowly and stay calm.
Best time to go: Winter
Web: American Pro Dive

2. Lover’s Cove, Catalina Island, California: This protected spot boasts kelp, rock reef, and tame cool-water fish (they aren’t shy, be careful if you feed them). Guides can take you to the best snorkel spots by boat. You can also head out on your own through the Pebbly Beach access stairs just don’t forget your flag marker. Look for sea stars, eels, anemones, octopuses, and if your lucky the orange Garibaldi fish.
Best time to go: Summer
Web: Catalina Dive Shop

3. Papalaua Wayside Park, Maui, Hawaii: Just off the Honoapiilani Highway is a snorkeling mecca in Hawaii’s crystal blue waters. At the eastern end of the park is Coral Gardens. Snorkel there and discover shallow corals, butterfly fish, green turtles (pictured) and maybe you’ll see a humuhumunukunukuapuaa, a reef triggerfish.
Best time to go: Year-round
Web: Maui Dive Shop

4. Coral Reef, Key Largo, Florida: Key Largo is known for having the first underwater state park: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The Key Largo area is dubbed the “Diving Capital of the World” and the area is great for beginning snorkelers. The region is home to 323 different species of fish including parrotfish, angelfish, blue tangs, groupers, and yellowtail snappers.
Best time to go: Spring
Web: Captain Slate Dive Center

5. Cape Ann, Gloucester, Massachusetts: Just off the rocky shores of Gloucester is the perfect spot to snorkel. Keep an eye out for sea stars, anemones, blackfish, striped bass, pollock, and bluefish. You can also take a kayak and snorkel tour through Discovery Adventures.
Best time to go: Summer
Web: Cape Ann Divers

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Photo Credit: Pride of Maui

Monday, May 12, 2014

Family-Friendly Resorts for the Best Summer Vacation Yet!

May has finally arrived, and it won't be too long before the kids are out of school. And we all know what that means - it's time to start thinking about this summer's family vacation. Unless you have a tried-and-true "go-to" destination, family vacations present a unique dilemma - keeping both the kids and adults entertained can be tricky. A resort with solid activities for children can go a long way in smoothing out the inevitable conflict when the kids want to play and the adults want to relax. We've rounded up a list of some of the best resorts to consider when planning your next family vacation!

Smuggler's Notch Resort

Smuggler's Notch Resort in Vermont heads up the list as one of the most family-friendly resorts that can balance both adult and kid interest. The property is packed full of kid-friendly activities - eight heated pools reside on the property, as well as the dedicated children's pool Little Smugglers' Lagoon.  Rum Runner's Hideaway is located on nearby Morse Mountain and includes a 25 ft diameter water trampoline, water slide bridges and rope swings to catapult into the water. 

Smuggler's Notch Resort is perfect for
outdoor-loving families!
At Smuggler's Notch, outdoor fun goes far beyond just the pool scene. A zip line canopy tour, treetop obstacle course and tree climbing challenges are some of the more exciting offerings, while canoeing, kayaking, llama rides and hiking are more relaxed family activities. If the adults are looking to spend a day to themselves, rest assured that the resorts' children's and teen's camps will keep younger members of the group occupied - the on-site Treasures child care center is regarded as one of the best in the industry!

Hilton Grand Vacation Club at Hilton Hawaiian Village

Our next favorite family resort brings us to the sandy beach of Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii. As one might expect from sun-soaked Hawaii, pools are the focus! With one children's pool and five full-size and lushly themed swimming pools, the family has no shortage of ways to keep cool. Paradise pool is 5,000 square feet with a waterslide and daily activities, while Super Pool is a mind-blowing 10,000 square feet and lies flush against the beach!

Kid or adult - no one can resist beaches like this!
For when the kids need a day to themselves, Club Penguin is there. HGVC's camp program provides fun activities throughout the day as well as Club Penguin t-shirt and lunch. Participants also have the option to enroll in field trips to some of the area's best attractions - Honolulu Zoo, Waikiki Aquarium, Bishop Museum and the Children's Discovery Center. The club draws its name from the penguins that wander the grounds; an unintended favorite attraction for younger visitors!

The Grand Mayan - Nuevo Vallarta

Mexico might not seem like the ideal family destination, but The Grand Mayan in Nuevo Vallarta is perfectly suited to younger travelers. The Kids Club accommodates children ages five to twelve and is packed with a full schedule of varied activities ranging from pool games to arts and crafts to educational tours around the grounds . Kids also have access to their own turf - there's a separate pool-playground hybrid complete with a jungle gym, waterslides and a wading pool.

The Grand Mayan's pools are nothing short of
a dream for kids!
There's certainly no shortage of unique experiences available to kids - where else can you rock climb right on the beachfront? A massive beach trampoline lets them burn off some of that energy, and on-sit humpback whale and sea turtle viewing will appeal to kids and adults alike. For when the family needs a break from all the sun and sand, cool off in thatched-roof canopies that offer Mexican crafts geared towards children.

Grand Pacific Palisades Resort

Carlsbad is a natural draw for families - plenty of attractions for kids and beachside serenity for adults, and no one does it better than the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort! The Flower Fields, the San Diego Zoo and LegoLand are all within relatively quick access (the latter being just a short walk away!), and LegoLand ticket packages are available. 

What kid wouldn't be enticed by a splashpad like this?
The resort itself is accommodating to families of all ages - kids will enamored with activities like s'mores night and scavenger hunts while adults can look forward to unique dining options, a full spa as well as golfing. The pools follow suit; there's a fantastic splashpad and play pool for children while adults can keep watch from nearby whirlpool hot tubs.

Haven't found your perfect summer family destination yet? Sign up for our blog updates now - we'll have even more recommendations next week!

Friday, May 09, 2014

America's Top 5 Romantic Cities

As the months start to get warmer and it's lighter later the sun tempts us to spend time outdoors with our loved ones. On your next timeshare rental slow down your pace with someone special and share in exploring one of these romantic cities:

1. Southern Love in Charleston: The South makes you feel at home. Stroll down Charleston's stately streets and mingle among centuries-old mansions. Walk arm-in-arm down cobbled roads (pictured) draped in Spanish-moss. Snap photos of the gas lamp-lit streets and share a kiss under the moonlight before heading to the best Southern food restaurant in town: Hominy Grill.

2. Wine Love in Napa: Take a romantic bike ride through the sunlit vineyards of Napa, stop off at different vineyards and sip on local wine while you enjoy the scenic rolling terrain with tiered hillsides and sun drenched vines. Afterward head into town for a gourmet sourced local dinner at Solbar

3. Latin Love in Miami: Miami is known for beautiful people. With heavy Latin influences the area is rich with love. Pack a swimsuit and head to the beach for a day of fun in the sun. In the evening you can go dancing at one of the many hot nightlife spots in the city. Be sure to dine at romantically lit Hakkasan.

4. Exclusive Love in Lanai: Lanai island is a relaxing retreat. Only a one-hour ferry ride from Maui. Be sure to watch for whale spotting opportunities. Head to a remote beach on Lanai for a day of snorkeling. Or rent an off-road vehicle and visit Shipwreck Beach or the Munro Trail. Finish the day off with a lovely meal at Azul.

5. Heart-Filled Love in San Francisco: Stroll down the famous winding street a top Russian Hill (Lombard Street). Admire San Francisco's views from Twin Peaks. Head to the bay and watch the fog roll in. Or go for a bike ride through Golden Gate park. Top off your romantic day with a candle lit meal at Frascati.

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Photo Credit: CopyStrands

Monday, May 05, 2014

Looking for a Wild Vacation Idea? Try a Zoo!

We've all been through the standard vacation activities - shopping, dining, beaches and theme parks. If you're looking to try something a little different this spring, why not take a trip to a zoo? We're not talking about your local neighborhood zoo... These are the biggest and the best, the tried-and-true family favorites. Springtime, especially, is perfect for zoogoing - not-too-warm and not-too-cold temperatures ensure the local critters will be at their most awake and spirited.

San Diego Zoo

Kicking off our list is a favorite of guests across the country - San Diego Zoo. At 100 acres and boasting over 3,700 animals in ten themed environments, San Diego Zoo certainly sets the bar high. There are plenty of unique experiences offered as well - six separate tours and eight different activities (including the Skyfari Aerial Tram and daily animal encounters!) will keep your visit fresh and exciting for the whole family. Admission is $46.00 for adults and $36.00 for children.

Where to stay: Carlsbad resorts are a moderate drive away from the San Diego Zoo and other San Diego attractions! 

Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo comes in at 256 acres and is undoubtedly America's largest urban zoo. Snow leopards, red pandas, Magellenic penguins and Nile crocodiles are just a few of the exotic residents of Bronx Zoo that add a touch of the wild to the big city. Don't forget to check out the attractions - a 4-D sensory movie theater and a Bug Carousel are sure to be hits with the kids. Admission is $33.95 for adults, $23.95 for children and $28.95 for seniors.

Where to stay: Many New York City resorts are situated in Manhattan, making for quick travel to Bronx Zoo.

Lowry Park Zoo

Tampa's Lowry Park brings the mystery of Florida's diverse ecosystems before guests' eyes. Florida panthers, American alligators, river otters and several stingray species capture the spirit of the region, while African, Asian and Australian-themed regions provide for a more exotic experience. Lowry Park's focus definitely lies in education and conservation, so be sure to check out one of the many shows and keeper talks, and kids will have a blast at one-day camps and workshops! Admission is $24.95 for adults, $19.95 for children and $22.95 for seniors.

Where to stay: The Greater Tampa Area is home to a wide array of resort options, although which you pick partly depends upon any other local attractions you might want to check out.

Audubon Zoo

Based in New Orleans, the Audubon Zoo transcends the standard zoo experience. With a mix of educational ventures, hands-on activity and the classic zoo experience, Audubon Zoo sines at offering a diverse mix of activities to appeal to any visitor. The Safari Simulator Ride and Audubon's Dinosaur Adventures lend an almost theme park-like vibe to this zoo, while attractions like Discovery Walk and Reptile Encounter bring you face-to-face with resident animals. Admission is $17.50 for adults, $12.00 for children and $13.00 for seniors.

Where to stay: New Orleans Resorts are a quick drive away from the Audubon Zoo.

Photo credit:

Friday, May 02, 2014

Top 5 Aquariums

One of the best places to get lost is in an aquarium. Millions of visitors travel to our wondrous aquariums each year. Discover what lives beneath the surface of our world’s waters. On your next timeshare rental explore an aquarium in the area. Here are our top 5 picks for must-see aquariums.

1. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Nestled along the Pacific Coast is one of America’s favorite aquariums and it’s a huge hit with kids. The Monterey Bay Aquarium features giant octopi, playful sea otters, and the largest collection of seahorse species. And the best part is it’s just minutes from Pebble Beach.
Web: Monterey Bay Aquarium
Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA

2. National Aquarium: Known for its sustainable practices, Baltimore’s National Aquarium features open areas for visitors to interact with the animals and the dolphin show teaches visitors the hand signals used by trainers. Inside you will also find puffins, two-toed sloths, and even sharks.
Web: National Aquarium
Address: 501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD

3. Shedd Aquarium: Kids love the Polar Play Zone at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium where they get to suit up as penguins or ride a submarine. The aquarium also features anacondas, piranhas, and sharks. Don’t miss the spectacular dolphin and beluga whale shows.
Web: Shedd Aquarium
Address: 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL

4. Georgia Aquarium: The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world. The aquarium features an award-winning dolphin exhibit (pictured). They also have on display the only whale sharks in the United States as well as belugas, sea otters, African penguins, and manta rays.
Web: Georgia Aquarium
Address: 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA

5. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas: This reconstructed aquarium in New Orleans features a Caribbean reef with a walk-through tunnel displaying sharks and tarpon. The aquarium also features white crocodiles and black-footed penguins. Be sure to check out the Amazon exhibit with piranhas, anaconda, and sting rays.
Web: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Address: 1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA

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Photo Credit: Access Atlanta