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By Sandra Morgan,2014-07-11 10:40
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    - Top 50 Visited Sites

    - America's hottest hotels

- Travel blogs the Award Winners

Top 50 Visited Sites:

At first glance, the Forbes Traveler 50 Most Visited Attractions List confirms several

    tourist industry truisms: A) Americans love to travel, but they prefer to stick within

    their own borders. B) Wherever Mickey Mouse goes, he conquers. C) Paris is the

    unofficial cultural theme park of the world. And D) Niagara Falls isn’t just for lovers

    anymore.

But the list also contains several surprises. Since the Taj Mahalour fiftieth and final

    attractionreceives 2.4 million visitors a year, several popular favorites like the the Prado (2 million), the Uffizi (1.6 million), Angkor (1.5 million) and Stonehenge

    (850,000) didn’t make the cut. And while Western audiences may not be familiar with

    names like Everland and Lotte World, these South Korean mega-parks managed to

    rank 16th and 22nd on our list, respectively.

Not surprisingly, the French are out in force. How to account for the preponderance of

    attractions in Paris? According to the latest statistics report from the World Tourism

    Organization, France receives more foreign tourists per year than any other country --

    some 76 million in 2005. Spain followed with 55 million, the United States with 50

    million and China with 47 million. Italy rounded out the top five with 37 million (with

    the U.K. not far behind).

And given that we chose to include domestic tourism statistics, why wouldn’t India,

    China and the developing world have more attractions on the list? The three primary

    factors appear to be relative GDP (recall that significant majorities of the populations

    of China and India remain at subsistence level), the vast travel distances involved

    within those countries, and the lack of reliable visitor statistics. We were nevertheless

    surprised to learn that the Taj Mahal receives only 2.4 million visitors a year, given

    India’s population of over a billion. And while the Great Wall made the top 10, we

    couldn’t find any other Chinese domestic attraction that drew similar crowds. Expect

    that to change in the years ahead.

So where did the numbers for our ranking come from? They’re based on the most up-

    to-date, officially sanctioned tourism statistics available (there were several likely

    candidates for this list which we unfortunately couldn’t include, owing to a dearth of

    hard numbers). When we couldn’t find figures from national and municipal tourism

    bureaus, we relied on reputable media sources and tourism industry newsletters.

We excluded religious pilgrimage sites, such as Saudi Arabia’s Mecca, India’s

    Varanasi, and Tokyo’s Sensoji Temple, which according to the Japan Tourism

    Authority receives over 30 million visitors each year. We chose to include some

famous churches in Paris owing to their status as cultural attractions and the high

    numbers of foreign tourists they receive. St. Peter’s Square straddled the line, but

    there are no estimates for tourist traffic versus religious attendance, so we included

    only visitors to the Vatican museums.

And though the Mall of America in Minnesota, with all its myriad diversions,

    received a staggering 40 million visitors last year (and at last count China has roughly

    half a dozen equivalents in terms of size), we chose not to include shopping malls.

    Amusement parks did make the list (to our consternation and your tedium), but

    thankfully there are plenty of tourist attractions of genuine cultural and natural worth.

And finally, a hearty three cheers to Pleasure Beach Blackpool in Lancashire, England,

    which has been welcoming punters since 1896. After several decades of decline, this

    amusement park and its surrounding resort town now officially the most visited paid

    tourist attraction in the United Kingdom. Who’d have thought?

So who’s #1? The Eiffel tower? The Grand Canyon? The Great Wall? The Pyramids

    of Giza? Answer: none of the above.

The Top 10:

    1. Times Square, New York City

    2. National Mall & Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C. 3. Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

    4. Trafalgar Square, London, England 5. Disneyland Park, Anaheim, California 6. Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York 7. Fisherman’s Wharf/Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco

    8. Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea

    9. Notre Dame de Paris

    10. Disneyland Paris, Marne-La-Vallee

America's hottest hotels

    The world's coolest guidebook writers reveal their favorite hotels in America

    You won't find a Nota Bene guidebook in the travel section of your local WH Smith. They're

    far too exclusive for the open market. Investing in one of these reviews isn't so much buying a

    book as gaining entry to an elite club of the most discerning globetrotters with whom you can swap insider tips online.

    Nota Bene's destination guides are the little bibles that the likes of Jemima Khan, Tamara Mellon, P Diddy and Mick Jagger reach for before they go anywhere near their passports. These A-listers know that they can trust Nota Bene implicitly because its inspectors travel anonymously, pay their own way and are never blinded by the hype, leaving them free to express brutally honest opinions about the world's most talked-about properties. If you're sold on NB's impeccable credentials but regard the annual subscripton fee of ?350 as a little steep, the good news is that we've persuaded NB's founder Anthony Lassman to reveal the team's favourite USA hotels for a very reasonable price indeed absolutely

    nothing.

    THE PENINSULA Beverly Hills, Los Angeles - The Peninsula's general manager, Ali

    Kasikci, is one of the world's best hoteliers and his professionalism shows in the little things. I love the fact that the hotel operates a 24-hour room system, for example, so they don't chuck you out at 11am like most other hotels. You can keep your room until whatever time you need to leave for your flight. It's so civlised and illustrates an attitude that's about making guests feel important, not making housekeeping easier.

    The rooms are light and luxurious, the style is pared-down classic meets contemporary. They're very comfortable but, really, this place is about the ambience of the public areas. It's fun to be like the Angelenos and have an early-morning workout in its great gym, followed by breakfast on the rooftop patio by the pool, and look back over the Hollywood Hills, or hire a pool cabana for the morning. Ladies who lunch and movie moguls love its Belvedere restaurant; Sunday brunch here is an institution. Sly Stallone was sitting at the next table last time I was here. There's always an energy and intimacy about the place.

    Details: The Peninsula Beverly Hills (00 800 2828 3888, www.beverlyhills.peninsula.com),

    doubles from ?255, room-only. Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007, www.virgin-atlantic.com) flies from Heathrow, with fares from ?328.

    THE MERCER, NEW YORK - So many of the design hotels of the Nineties were all style over

    substance, but The Mercer has stood the test of time and weathered beautifully. It's one of the finest examples of Romanesque revival architecture in the city and walking into its loft-like lobby-cum-sitting-room is a bit like walking into an Edward Hopper painting though there isn't a painting in sight, just one entire wall of open bookcases. The crowd is very cool and edgey Kate Moss might stroll by, Marc Jacobs is always there, but it's not intimidating and staff don't have that dreadful gushing "Have a nice day" style.

    Rooms are mainly white, offset by baby-soft leathers in pale lavendaer or pistachio and dark wenge woods. They never try too hard, if anything they're a bit stark but there are lovely touches, like lots of candles in the bathrooms. They encapsulate that energetic New York vibe. Like its owner Andre Balazs, who's suave and good looking and dates Uma Thurman, it resonates with a natural glamour. And it's great to be downtown. I love the interesting little boutiques in Tribeca and Nolita and how restaurants spill on to the streets with al fresco tables in the summer.

    Details: The Mercer Hotel (00 1 212 966 6060, www.mercerhotel.com), doubles from ?260, room. BA (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Manchester from ?249, or

    Aer Lingus (0818 365000, www.aerlingus.com).

    POST RANCH INN, BIG SUR - One of the world's most iconic drives is the Pacific Coast

    Highway, which you wind your way along to reach this fabulous inn. It has the most

    spectacular location, perched up in the mountains, looking down on the Pacific. It's utterly

    peaceful and secluded. The style is as lavish as it can be while masquerading as rustic.

    Rooms are supremely posh log cabins, very Ralph Lauren meets hicksville. They're all

    scattered about the estate and so are very private. Some are cantilevered over the ocean,

    others are tucked under huge redwood trees.

    The restaurant serves fabulous northern Californian cuisine, with lots of seafood and lobster

     it's the kind of place where they don't go into a flap if you want to eat off-menu. And,

    there's a wonderfully indulgent spa. During the day, you take bracing hikes this is a real

    nature lover's paradise then you eat very well under the most enormous, wide-open, star-

    spangled skies and feel jolly happy. If you're going to San Francisco, this is the place to

    splurge for a night out that you'll never forget.

    Details: Post Ranch Inn (00 1 800 527 2200, www.postranchinn.com), doubles from ?295, room-only. United Airlines (0845 844 4777, www.ual.com) flies from Heathrow to San

    Francisco, from ?310. EasyCar (www.easycar.com) has car hire from ?15.50 a day; the inn is

    about a three-hour drive from the airport.

    THE LITTLE NELL, ASPEN, COLORADO - Aspen is the St Moritz of America. In the ski

    season, it's all about fur coats and celebrities but there's much more to it than that. It's got the

    Wheeler Opera House, great museums, the 500-seat Harris Concert Hall and fascinating

    architecture, as well as some of the most expensive real estate in the States. In the midst of

    this, right by the gondola, so you can ski in and out, is The Little Nell. It's one of the best ski

    lodges in America and very nearly on a par with the best Europe has to offer : and that's

    saying something. It has that elegant Alpine decor: lots of cosy settees and armchairs,

    decorated in a restrained palate of neutrals and muted golds.

    Rooms have big romantic fireplaces and some have balconies from which you can easily leap

    on to the slopes. The scenery is breathtaking year round. In the winter, you're guaranteed

    deep snow, but in summer, you have wonderful mountain walks and music festivals and the

    prices plummet so it's also a real bargain.

    Details: The Little Nell (00 1 970 920 4600, www.thelittlenell.com), doubles from ?155, room-only. British Airways (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow to Denver from ?442.

    Alamo (0870 400 4562, www.alamo.co.uk) has a week's car hire from ?125, Aspen is

    between four and six hours, depending on weather conditions.

    TWIN FARMS, VERMONT - Remember Peyton Place? This is it, that ideal of pastoral

    perfection. Vermont is everything you've ever imagined about New England, those gorgeous

    clapboard houses and thousands of acres of soft-focus mountains, forests and the lakes. It's

    beautiful any time of year but those amazing autumn colours make this indisputably the place

    to see the fall. It's an extraordinary experience and so is Twin Farms. It does the country-

    house thing better than anywhere in this country.

    The owners have furnished it with pieces collected over a lifetime. There are original Hockneys on the walls, beautiful French antiques, priceless rugs but these are exquisitely countered by genius touches of simplicity such as a stencilled wooden floor or, in one case, a carpet that has a dog-paw print. The mix feels natural, it's not trying too hard, it's not cynical, it just works brilliantly.

    Details: Twin Farms 00 1 800 894 6327, www.twinfarms.com), doubles from ?560, all-

    inclusive. Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com) flies from Gatwick via Atlanta to Burlington International Airport, from ?406. Budget (0870 153 9170, www.budget.co.uk) has a week's car hire from ?125. The hotel is a 90-minute drive from the airport.

    A friend in New York tipped me off about this lodge. It's like stepping on to the set of A River Runs Through It. Oregon is a beautiful state, quite different from the America most of us experience. The scenery is so rugged and wide open, it's perfect for outdoorsy types. You can fly fish in the Rogue River, go hiking or kayaking in the cold and bracing nearby ocean. The lodge isn't particularly sophisticated, it's a 1970s building but it absolutely maximises the splendour of its location by having masses of glass everywhere, vast glass walls overlooking the river. Decor is contemporary and quite plain. Rooms (with names such as Bony Point and Snag Patch) are predominantly pine with folksy fabrics, some have balconies, others patios. This place is about simple pleasures such as having the fish you caught that morning cooked perfectly for you at dinner. It's a real little gem.

    Details: Tu Tu' Tun Lodge (00 1 800 864 6357, www.tututun.com), doubles from ?56. British

    Airways (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow to Portland via Seattle from ?621. Holiday Autos (0870 400 4447; www.holidayautos.co.uk) has a week's car hire from ?120. Tu Tu' Tun is a six-hour drive from the airport.

    MAYFLOWER INN, CONNECTICUT - This is a magnet for stressed-out New Yorkers, they

    all come here for the weekend to recover from those endless power meetings. The hotel's all Victoriana deluxe, four-poster beds, chintz, lavish velvet cushions, heavy swags. In truth, it's actually a weeny bit over the top but it's all done so well that it doesn't feel sickly or overpowering.

    And then, as a complete contrast, there is this very serious, minimalist, all-white destination spa. The therapists are excellent, treatments are divine, there's yoga and an amazing indoor pool. It is so relaxing and, as staff here are used to those ever-so-demanding east-coast executives, the service is absolutely top-notch. There is spa cuisine - but there's also an excellent gourmet restaurant is your body need only be a temple on the massage table. It's basically the Chewton Glen of America but it does five-star pampering so much better than its British rival. For detoxing and destressing, this really is the business.

    Details: Mayflower Inn (00 860-868-9466, www.mayflowerinn.com), doubles from ?215. BA

    (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Manchester from ?249, or Aer Lingus (0818 365000, www.aerlingus.com). Avis (0844 581 0147, www.avis.co.uk) has a week's car hire from ?165, the hotel is a two-hour drive.

    BLACKBERRY FARM, TENNESSEE - Tennesse offers a superior Deep South experience,

    the pace of life is so slow here, people speak with that fabulous drawl, the land seems to go on forever, there are the Great Smoky Mountains and Blackberry, one of America's finest

hotels. It's set in 4,200 acres of peaceful countryside, the sense of space is awe-inspiring and

    it's so luxurious you'll feel utterly spoilt.

    A word of warning, this isn't the place for a diet. Nibble on a beansprout once you leave, while

    you're here make the most of it. Blackberry is a working farm so you'll eat home-grown

    organic lamb, chicken, cheeses there's something very special about that kind of culinary provenance. The selection at breakfast is jaw-dropping waffles, pancakes and so many

    egg dishes. Dinner is gourmet southern cooking and delicious, and there's a tremendous wine

    list. The rooms are lovely, floral and Frenchified, with four-posters with luxurious linens. You

    may take a walk, fish or horseride during the day but mainly you come here to eat damn well

    and sleep damn well.

    Details: Blackberry Farm (00 865-984-8166, www.blackberryfarm.com). doubles from ?395,

    full-board, minimum two-night stay. US Airways (0845 600 3300, www.usairways.com) flies

    from Gatwick to Knoxville via Philadelphia. The hotel is a 25-minute cab ride away.

    CASA TUA, MIAMI - South Beach is wonderful, but all those designer hotels along the ocean front are overhyped and overpriced and the service is underwhelming. Casa Tua is a

    couple of blocks behind Collins so you can have all that throbbing, SoBe vibe when you want

    it and can retreat to somewhere beautiful and private when you don't. Casa Tua is a lovely

    art-deco villa, more of a restaurant with rooms than a hotel really; and you can tell the owner

    Miky Grendene and the staff really love the place.

    The rooms are very 1950s Italianate (Miky is originally from Venice) so there are lots of dark

    woods and leather, ceramic lamps, tongue and groove walls and white wooden floors. They

    have a timeless chicness about them. The whole place has a lovely retro atmosphere,

    particularly at night when you can sit on the first-floor balcony surrounded by candle light and

    eat dinner. Also, guests can use the pools and beach of the very exclusive Setai hotel, where

    Madonna was photographed recently.

    Details: Casa Tua (00 1 305 673 0973; fax: 673 0974; www.casatualifetsyle.com). Doubles

    from ?450. Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007, www.virgin-atlantic.com) has flies from Heathrow;

    from ?298.

    MILLIKEN CREEK INN, Napa Valley, California - If you need a reason other than the

    charm of this unpretentious 1930s guesthouse to head out here, the French Laundry,

    widely regarded as the best restaurant in the entire world, is just up the road. But, actually,

    you don't need to stray from the hotel to eat very well indeed. Breakfast on its pretty wooden

    verandas is a glorious affair, with pastries from the famous local Bouchon Bakery and dozens

    of egg dishes. The hotel was once owned by a horticulturalist and has the most beautiful

    planting, perfectly manicured lawns and views down to the riverbank. Rooms don't offer any

    great style statement but are classy, with raftered ceilings, cheerful buttercup-coloured walls

    and open fireplaces. There's plenty of Victoriana, but the decor is quite eclectic with

    occasional touches of Asia. The Napa Valley is all about eating and drinking very well, so

    expect to put on a pound or two visiting the fabulous wineries and restaurants.

    Details: Milliken Creek Inn (00 1 888 622 5775, www.millikencreekinn.com); doubles from

    ?150, room-only. Gateway airport: San Francisco.

    A subscription to Nota Bene (0870 240 4089, www.nbreview.com) costs from ?350 and

    includes 10 destination guides and regular newsletters and bulletins.

Travel blogs the Award Winners

     We've had the Oscars now its time for the travvies the travel industry awards for the best travel blogs. Who's the Tom Hanks or the Halle Berry of the industry, its time to find out: A full list of the award winners can be found at:

    www.upgradetravel.blogspot.com

Here are some of the big winners, i.e., the best picture and actors of the travel world:

    The travel blog award goes to: www.nationalgeographic.com/traveller/extras/blog/blog.html

    An award winning blog from a trusted source.

Or try:

    www.travelpod.com

    This years Travelpod will be 10 years old. Its great because anyone can join in and it deftly

    edits such a wealth of contributions.

    Best destination blog goes to: www.newyorkology.com

Or try:

    www.berlinmetblogs.com

    Keeping track of the Berlin nightlife isn't easy the best bars and parties are covered here.

    Best practical blog goes to: www.crankyflyer.com

Or try:

    www.blogs.bootsnall.com/seafarer A family travel blog on how they cope with travelling with their kids to various destinations, full

    of great stories and links.

    Best group-written blog award goes to: www.lostgirlsworld.blogspot.com

Or try:

    www.wandalust.com

    Ticks all the boxes for being witty, newsy and trendy.

    Best single-author blog award goes to: www.crankyflier.blogspot .com

Or try:

    www.lonelyplanet.com/tonywheeler His years of experience have gone into his blogs, I think you will enjoy.

Best photography on a blog award goes to:

    www.exposedplanet.com

Or try:

    www.tokoshoes.com Started as a site for friends and family, and has spiralled into something much greater.

Let me know your suggestions and award winners by contacting me.

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