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Pro travel writers offer 2014 vacation tips

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So your New Year's resolution was to find someplace a little different for your vacation in 2014. Perhaps you'd opt for a spot off the beaten track (but still with plenty to see and do). Or maybe a place topping the bucket lists of folks living elsewhere, but hardly known in your neck of the woods.

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The editors of WatchBoom, a monthly travel magazine for baby boomers, offer this smörgåsbord of five destinations they say are bound to fit your bill:

How about visiting a moon base – in Spain? In Valencia, yes, the city known for its namesake oranges and paella (tasty rice dishes), there's a mile-long project looking much like a set for Star Wars. Among a half-dozen jaw-droppers in the “City of the Arts and Sciences” there is an immense opera house shaped like a spaceship on a launch pad...and a giant aquarium with 20 acres of pod-like viewports and underwater tunnels made of glass...and a five-story-high, eye-shaped theater as long as a football field.

Chances are you'll find all this pretty cool for a 2,000-year-old seaport on the Mediterranean.

For a change of pace, how about flaking out on the powdery sands of a chain of Caribbean islands with local folks who've perfected the fine art of doing as little as possible. It's called “liming,” and you find it on the 32 islands and cays of the southern Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They've even got a Liming Appreciation Society, dedicated to“encouraging people to take a lot more relaxation time provided that the activity has no explicit purpose beyond itself.”

On the other side of the world there's a spot with the sizzle of Las Vegas, big-name casinos and all, looking oddly out of place on the South China coast. On the territory of Macau, to be exact. Dotting its peninsula and a nearby island are no less than three dozen fabulous casino-resorts, several with familiar names like MGM, Wynn and Venetian. No wonder they call this glamorous getaway “The Las Vegas of the Orient.”

It's hard to imagine that this glittering wonderland of steel, glass and flashing lights was once a tiny Portuguese colony (the first European settlement in Asia, actually). Some reminders of the past are still around, such as the cannons sharp-eyed Portuguese gunners used to fight off Dutch invasion fleets.

Closer to home, you can get a hefty serving of Mexican history down on the Gulf of Mexico at Veracruz. Far from the glamor of the super-resorts at Cancun, Los Cabos and the like, Veracruz basks in a kind of colonial splendor -- having been the spot where Hernan Cortes and his 500 conquistadores came ashore in 1519 to begin the conquest of the country.

Around Veracruz, if it's a Spanish relic, it's the oldest of its kind. Like the oldest Spanish church in Mexico, the oldest Spanish fort, and so on. Even the house where Cortes lived with Marina, his “interpreter,” is still there in a nearby city called La Antigua.

Alamos, another colonial gem in Mexico, is so far out in the boonies of the state of Sonora (below Arizona) that the road ends there. True, it's hard to get to Alamos, but it's well worth the long drive – because the town is a jump back in time to an era when the silver mines of the nearby Sierras made it one of the richest places on Earth.

Wandering around Alamos' cobbled lanes and porticoed walkways you half expect to see mining barons in silk shirts, velvet breeches and knee-high leather boots strutting off to count the day’s take. You can imagine ladies in hooped skirts and white petticoats heading to afternoon teas. Silver-plated carriages, it’s said, once lined Alamos’ lanes like Rolls-Royces along Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive.

So what's your pleasure? A Valencian fantasy? China's answer to the green felt tables of Las Vegas? Snoozing on an idyllic Caribbean island? Walking in the footsteps of conquistadores and silver barons in Mexico? Whichever trip you pick, the WatchBoom editors say you'll come back with plenty of amazing memories.

Denver-based WatchBoom features travel articles on global destinations written by more than a dozen of the nation's leading travel journalists. Launched in early 2009, the free e-magazine is principally written for baby boomers but is a popular resource for vacation planners of all ages.



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