New Zealand is a country of stark contrasts: it has glaciers and volcanoes, black sand beaches and boiling mud pools, cascading waterfalls and spouting geysers. It is otherworldly and fantastical enough here that director Peter Jackson adopted New Zealand as the filming location for Middle-earth, the mythical land found in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Nearly 2,000 miles northeast in the heart of the South Pacific are the pristine Cook Islands, awash in tropical scenery. Whether you want to sightsee or go on an adventure, you're in charge of your own itinerary on this 10-day, 8-night trip through New Zealand and the Cook Islands. To find out all the destination possibilities for your itinerary, click here. Thursday: Travelers take off from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on an Air New Zealand flight. On Friday, you’ll have your passport stamped by Father Time before he permits you to cross the International Date Line. Saturday–Thursday: Planes touch down in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday morning. After collecting baggage and going through customs, passengers board a shuttle bus that whisks them to the rental-car depot. From here, you have seven days on your own to explore New Zealand's North Island. The tour company can provide you with a self-drive itinerary based on your interests, or you can craft your own. The spewing geysers and bubbling mud pools of Rotorua are highlights of North Island. It’s also worth it to visit Mount Tarawera volcano, the mountain-framed Lake Taupo, and Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. To pump up the adrenaline, you can skydive, bungee jump, whitewater raft, and even zorb—an extreme sport invented in New Zealand in which a person rolls down a hill inside an inflatable ball. And at the southern tip of North Island lies Wellington, the country's capital and home to Te Papa, the country's national museum. Each night, travelers can flash the Golden Chain New Zealand motel pass to check in at one of the motel's locations for the night.Friday: After heading back to Auckland, you’ll drop off your rental car at the airport and catch an Air New Zealand flight to Rarotonga in the evening.Thursday–Friday: Because the plane crosses the International Date Line, travelers will gain a day back and will land on the Cook Islands for their second consecutive Thursday. This is the part of the trip to relax and unwind; you can spend the following two days snorkeling, kayaking, and exploring the tropical lagoon that surrounds the Muri Beach Club Hotel.Saturday: Air New Zealand flights depart from Rarotonga for Los Angeles or San Francisco. Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
The fun-loving founders of the Candy Crush Crawl are determined to correct a glaring oversight at most bar crawls: no candy. To remedy this, they gather revelers for a sweet-stuffed jaunt down Clark Street in Wrigleyville designed to celebrate local watering holes and loads of candies—10,000 pounds to be specific. The Valentine's crawl, themed "Find Your Crush", makes stops at various neighborhood institutions, including Old Crow Smokehouse, Rebel Bar & Grill, Vines on Clark, and the Cubby Bear throughout the day. Drink specials and awe-inspiring candy displays, from jelly-bean-filled swimming pools to gooey chocolate fountains, await guests at each bar. Nylon backpacks provided with each ticket help participants stow extra sweets such as chocolate bars, lemon heads, and gummy bears. Guests are encouraged to wear outlandish costumes, as prizes will be distributed at the end of the night.
A shark preserved in formaldehyde in a vitrine won't fit in your living room, but abstract loops dripping in brilliant colors and picture-perfect sketches of Old World streets from Ugallery.com's online art marketplace will. Choose works from more than 300 emerging artists, each handpicked by a committee of art experts. Only about 25% of applicants are deemed worthy by Ugallery.com's curator panel. The average age of the selected artists is 26, meaning they're experienced craftspeople who are just embarking on their careers. Ugallery.com also has a forum where buyers can speak directly with the artists, so you can demand explanations of enigmatic titles.
Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago introduces tourists and locals to the Windy City's thriving food scene via deep-dish pizzas, hot dogs, and ethnic cuisine. Two neighborhoods in particular brim with famous restaurants and hidden eateries: Wicker Park and River North.
On their streets, Sidewalk Food Tours of Chicago's local guides lead groups on walking explorations, pausing frequently to taste everything from cupcakes to Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless's Mexican cuisine. Food stands at the crossroads of each neighborhood's culture, and the guides use it as a jumping off point to discuss local history and architecture. They might spin tales of how Wicker Park was once a hotbed of European immigration or how River North accumulated a wealth that would make John D. Rockefeller's piggy bank tremble with envy.
At this month's multimedia "Groupon Presents" showcase, the Chicago Artists' Coalition's gleaming white rafters rumble to the galvanizing beats of Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross while mesmerizing artwork by Jason Brammer fuses with moves from an improvised dance trio. The aural brainchild of 24-year-old producer Dexter Tortoriello, Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross possesses a melancholy texture that pulses with danceable energy. On his latest EP, Blow, Tortoriello interweaves ethereal vocals and live instrumentation with the grind of old drum machines and broken synthesizers, adding an element of anachronism to modern style like a robot wearing a monocle. The performance will be complemented by a video of beautifully synchronized visuals, courtesy of artist Alan Jensen. Mixed-media canvases by Brammer further feed into the evening's connection of old and new, juxtaposing future worlds with salvaged hardware and antique fixtures from a time long forgotten. An interpretive dance trio led by improvisational artist JulieAnn Graham rounds out the jubilee with graceful movement and rousing choreography. Throughout the night, guests can venture to Aftermath, the current art exhibition featuring six Bolt residents' interpretations of life following a catastrophic event, or visit the open bar to fill their glasses or chain-mail gloves with bubbly pours of Blue Moon and Peroni provided by Miller/Coors and champagne provided by Wirtz Beverage. Valet parking is available for $10.
The Great Urban Race is a one-day event pitting teams of two against one another in a race combining physical challenges, scavenger hunts, and puzzles. Up to 700 twosomes will traverse 4 to 8 miles of Toronto terrain on foot and by public transportation as they solve 12 challenging clues in a fun quest to reach the finish line first. Sample clues and challenges from past Great Urban Races include charades, bubble-gum chewing, pig Latin deciphering, bicycle races, and word scrambles, making this race ideal for competitive eaters and cryptographers alike. Teams are encouraged to dress up in matching outfits, and prizes will be awarded for best costume. Prizes are also given for race results, with $300 going to first place, $200 to second place, and $100 to third place. The top 25 teams will qualify for the National Championship in New Orleans in November, with the top three teams receiving free entry. Each participant gets a T-shirt and postrace refreshments of fruit, granola bars, and a run through a Perrier sprinkler. Read over the rules and FAQs for more information.