Day of the Dead in Mexico Caribbean

Day of the Dead in Mexico Caribbean

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A Rare Super Blood Wolf Moon Will Be Visible Over America This Weekend

Mark your calendars: On Sunday, January 20, a “Super Blood Wolf Moon” is happening and will be visible from both North and South America (if the weather cooperates where you live). Here’s everything you need to know about this rare astronomical event and where you should travel to see it.

6 Celestial Events Worth Traveling for in 2019

What does “Super Blood Wolf Moon” mean?

It’s quite a mouthful, but all those names essentially refer to two different lunar events—a total lunar eclipse and a super moon—happening at the same time. The “blood” part comes from the total lunar eclipse (the only one happening in 2019, by the way). As Earth passes directly between the sun and the moon, Earth casts its shadow on the moon’s surface, turning it a deep blood-red color during the length of the eclipse.

The “super” part comes from the fact that the moon will appear larger in the sky on Sunday night because it will be at its closest distance to Earth—just 222,274 miles away—during its orbit. The last part of the name comes from the Wolf Moon, the nickname some American Indian groups give the full moon in January, according to Farmers’ Almanac, because wolves would howl hungrily outside villages during this time of winter.

Where can you see it?

If the weather is clear, anyone in North America and South America and parts of western Europe and Africa should be able to see the Super Blood Wolf Moon on Sunday night. Totality—or when the moon will turn completely red—will begin on Sunday, January 20 at 11:41 p.m. EST and last until 12:43 a.m. EST on Monday, January 21, according to Unlike solar eclipses, you can view lunar eclipses safely with the naked eye.

However, due to Winter Storm Harper, people in the northeast from Washington, D.C. up through Canada might be looking at snow instead on Sunday night. Rain and cloudy weather could also affect views in the western half of the country.

According to Accuweather, those living in the southern parts of the United States will have the best chance of seeing the eclipse this weekend. Clear weather is expected on Sunday night from Texas up to Kentucky and over to the South Carolina coast, so if you wanted to take a last-minute trip down south for the long weekend, this is another reason to go.

If you were thinking about heading even further south, the eclipse can also be seen throughout Central and South America. But on Thursday, January 17, the Accuweather forecasts predict that there will only be clear weather for viewing in Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as parts of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

When will the next super moon or total lunar eclipse happen?

Super moons and total lunar eclipses only coincide about 20 times per century, Harvard University astronomy educator Patricia Udomprasert told the Wall Street Journal. But these celestial events do happen more often separately. In fact, there are several more super moons this year, starting with February 19 and March 21, 2019. However, if you want to see another total lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait a lot longer for the next one, which doesn’t occur until May 26, 2021.

>> Next: 9 Best Stargazing Destinations in the World

AFAR Travel

The Art of Eating Crawfish in New Orleans

The first time I ate boiled crawfish, I was in a living room that, oddly enough, I’d soon see depicted on television. It was April of 2010, and I was visiting New Orleans with my then boyfriend (now husband).

The house, in the Treme neighborhood, belonged to his friend Davis Rogan, a native musician and local radio DJ personality whose life would soon become the basis of a central character in Treme, the former HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans. Davis also wrote and consulted for the show, appeared as himself frequently, and eventually found himself sipping Sazeracs with Anthony Bourdain on his travel-and-food TV show, The Layover. But that afternoon, before all that, Davis was teaching me to eat crawfish.

Crawfish consumption: The technique
I watched as our friend plucked from a metal mixing bowl what resembled—and tasted much like—a tiny red lobster. He held it between his index fingers and thumbs; twisted the head off and sucked the juice from it; unwrapped the top of the shell; pinched the tail; and squeezed the seasoned, spicy meat into his mouth—all in one fluid movement.

Honestly, it seemed like a lot of work for something so small. But then he and my boyfriend dug in, and I was awestruck: The shells of the boiled crawfish accumulated at a dizzying rate—with a standard serving counting about 50 of the tasty little crustaceans, I’d rarely seen anything consumed so fast.

In Mid-City, the family-run Clesi’s eatery is a go-to spot for its patio seating and spot-on boils spice blend.

The history of crawfish as cuisine in NOLA
People travel from around the world to savor New Orleans’s distinctive cuisine, but nothing says “Welcome to Louisiana” like a mountain of freshwater-sourced mudbugs (local lingo that’s interchangeably used for crawfish).

Although the act of eating them predates colonization (Native Americans harvested them long before Europeans arrived), Cajuns sometimes spin a different tale: When their shellfish-loving Acadian ancestors were exiled from Canada in 1755, lobsters followed them. The journey south was long and arduous, however, so by the time they reached Louisiana, they’d shrunk to crawfish size.

Local crawfish culture
In New Orleans, this particular crustacean means so much more than just food. In spring and early summer (aka crawfish season), the culture of locals’-hosted backyard boils not only fills stomachs but also cultivates community.

Neighbors and friends gather elbow-to-elbow around newspaper-covered picnic tables, endlessly peeling (and drinking beer). Steam rises, hands get dirty, shirts get spice-splattered, mouths burn, and just when you’re about to throw in the paper-towel roll, someone dumps another mound of mudbugs on the table (plus, corn on the cob, lemons, garlic, onions, potatoes, and sometimes even sausage), and you stay, and remember why you live in New Orleans—or discover why you’d want to.

Uptown Asian restaurant Luvi offers fried wontons with fresh crawfish tail, sweet corn, leeks, and Mala chili soy sauce.

Where to eat crawfish in the Crescent City
That said, you needn’t move to Louisiana or score a backyard invite to enjoy crawfish—you just have to visit. Local New Orleans restaurants sell mudbugs year-round in gumbo, étouffée, and po’boys and during peak season (April and May), in omelets and enchiladas, ravioli and risotto, bisque and beignets, mac-n-cheese and cheesecake. During Mardi Gras, you can (and should) buy crawfish bread from vendors selling it out of their coolers along the parade route: It might just be the perfect street food.

With the Crescent City’s culinary scene ever evolving, local chefs are also finding new and innovative ways to prepare crawfish, beyond the beloved boils.

At Marjie’s Grill, a Mid-City newcomer blending Southern and Southeast Asian flavors, chef-owner Marcus Jacobs’s sublime boil combines curry, toasted lemongrass, sambal, and butter. If there’s crawfish left at day’s end, he transforms it into a mouthwatering triumph of tastes: gingery, garlicky étouffée with house-made turmeric noodles.

Meanwhile, at Uptown Asian restaurant Luvi (opened in April 2018 and already renowned for transcendent dumplings, noodles, and raw-bar delicacies), chef-owner Hao Gong plans to add to his springtime menu fried wontons with fresh crawfish tail, sweet corn, leeks, and Mala chili soy sauce—a perfect balance of heat, sweet, salt, and crunch.

And at brand-new Southern eatery Gris Gris in the Lower Garden District (opened in August 2018), chef-owner Eric Cook serves, in season, a creamy, decadent, Creole-spiced dish of chargrilled crawfish on crispy fried green tomatoes with smoked tomato butter.

New Southern eatery Gris Gris, in the Lower Garden District, will offer seasonal crawfish specials.

But don’t worry: You’ll still get your fill of good, old-fashioned boils, too. Many top-rated crawfish feasts require a drive to Cajun Country, a region set west of New Orleans, along the Gulf of Mexico (Hawk’s in Rayne being the prime example), or at least to the West Bank, a section of NOLA set across the Mississippi River (try Harbor in Kenner, Salvo’s in Belle Chasse, MiMi in Gretna). But plenty of establishments closer to the city center (mostly unfussy neighborhood joints) have earned dedicated followings. Just keep in mind that it’s like religion: Everyone has their own church.

Bevi Seafood Co., for example, with a new location in Mid-City, is highly respected for its careful sourcing and sorting. Also in Mid-City, family-run Clesi’s offers patio seating and a spot-on spice blend. Cajun Seafood has cheap and flavorful crawfish in four locations around town, and 76-year-old Frankie and Johnnie’s is a solid Uptown institution (but call first to ask if crawfish are available). And ever-popular Deanie’s, with its tasty amuse-bouche of boiled potatoes, recently opened a third restaurant in the Garden District (you’ll also find it in Metairie and the Quarter).

Can’t decide? Buy a to-go bag from Big Fisherman on Magazine Street or Zimmer’s in Gentilly, and have yourself a picnic in the park.

 Pick up a to-go bag of boils from Zimmer’s in Gentilly, and you can indulge in mudbugs anywhere you’d like.

Or—it’s New Orleans, after all—hit the bars. During peak season, you’ll find a bar dishing out boils for every night of the week: In the French Quarter, there’s Three-Legged Dog, which offers them several nights weekly. Or head to Mid-City Yacht Club on Fridays (no yachts, but plenty of beer and bugs in Mid-City), and definitely check out Carrollton’s Maple Leaf on Sundays. Catered by Seither’s Seafood, the Leaf’s boils include ingredients unseen elsewhere (think whole clams, boudin, blackened chicken, quail, rabbit, and alligator). There, you simply pay the cover for the live music show, grab a drink at the bar, belly up to the table for the included-in-the-cover boils, and make new friends while you savor a delicious local tradition.

That’s what I do. Six years after trying my first crawfish in that Treme living room, I moved to New Orleans with my husband. And while I still can’t speed-eat like he can, I hold my own at boils. As does our three-year-old son, who devours mudbugs quicker than we can peel them. He has no idea he’s participating in a cherished, time-honored tradition. He just knows they’re delicious.

>> Next: Why You Should Go to New Orleans This Winter

AFAR Travel

How to Pack a Suitcase

My mother has always been a packing ninja. Watching her organize a move, tackle a mountain of paperwork or—say—jenga four preteens, two adults, and two weeks’ worth of camping supplies into a minivan is the packing equivalent of watching a martial arts expert do this. So when she started working as a flight attendant for a regional airline we’ll call Borizon over 11 years ago, we knew it was only a matter of time before she mastered the art of living out of a suitcase. Here are a handful of the lessons she’s learned after packing and unpacking her suitcase more than 4,000 times over the past decade (oh yes, she counted).

Pro tips for effective packing

To stay organized and maximize space . . .

Outline a packing list. Then edit, edit, edit.

“Editing down the contents of your suitcase can be difficult, but it’s almost always best to avoid overpacking. If the process of creating a packing list overwhelms you, try laying out what you think you’ll need. Then be realistic about what you’ll actually need—and pull the unneccessary items from the pile.”

Find your perfect bag.

“After more than 10 years as a flight attendant, I’ve learned to cherish bags with 360° rotating wheels and external pouches. Whether you’re looking for sleek carry-on luggage or a larger suitcase you can check, I’ve found that compartmentalized rolling bags are the best way to save space and travel with ease.”

Rolling clothes is the only way to . . . roll (of course).  

“If you pack folded clothes flat in your suitcase, you don’t fully use the space you’re given. Rolled clothes can fit right down into the crevices of your luggage, and arranging them in packing cubes or compression bags can help you stay organized and save an incredible amount of space. Plus, rolling—as opposed to folding—is even better for wrinkle-prone items.”

Develop a toiletry bag taxonomy.

“I always pack three different pouches for toiletries: One holds my major shower and grooming stuff (deodorant, razor, face lotion), one holds my toothbrush and toothpaste, and one holds my makeup. This way, I can find what I need easily and pack things away as I’m done with them in the morning.”

The Best Luggage for 2019

To avoid leaving belongings behind . . .

Create a mental checklist. 

“My first five years in this job, I literally didn’t leave home—or my hotel—without going through my packing list. But now I just ask myself, What are the things I can’t replace or live without? For me, the necessities are my work ID, my passport, my glasses, my phone, my laptop, and my jewelry. Everything else is expendable, as much as I would hate to lose it.”

Establish a packing and unpacking routine.

“When I get to my hotel room—it doesn’t matter if it’s midnight or two in the afternoon—I always unpack and repack in exactly the same way. For example, I keep a small dish in the external pockets of my suitcase so I can immediately take off my jewelry. I also take out my toiletry bags and my phone chargers and anything I’ll need for the next day.

“Then, when I get up in the morning, I do the reverse. As soon as I get out of bed, I unplug my phone, put my phone cord away, and clear off my nightstand so that I don’t have to revisit that part of the room again. I put my pajamas away before I take a shower, not after. Following this system means that I can avoid having to scrounge through my bag to ensure that I’m not leaving any belongings. I’ve left one shirt behind over the years because I threw it back on the bed and I forgot to check the covers—never again.”

Establish visual reminders.

“I carry a specific bag for my cords and chargers. When I unpack, I take out all the chargers I need, then leave this bag on my dresser with my room key so in the morning when I’m packing up again, I have a visual reminder: Don’t forget your phone cord.

The Best Packing Cubes for Every Budget

To protect items from damage . . .

Play packing Tetris.

“I keep toiletry bags on the left, top side of my suitcase so that I can take them out right when I get to the hotel. No matter how much you protect liquids, every once in a while the cabin pressure gets weird and the tops pop off. Packing this way ensures that nothing gets wet that I don’t want to get wet. Heavy things also go on the left to keep my bag from getting top-heavy. And, of course, securing liquids inside a plastic or resealable bag is always a good idea.”

To avoid lost or stolen luggage . . .

ID your bag, even if you never, ever plan to check it. 

“So many bags look alike, so I use a seasonal ribbon system to identify mine. I just buy ribbon at the fabric store or cut up an old scarf and tie it on. Sure, you can buy really neat luggage tags, but many of those even look similar! It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, somebody does walk off with the wrong bag.”

What Does Your Packing Style Say About You?

My three must-have travel items

1. “I always bring a reusable water bottle with me to stay hydrated on the go. Bocco Leak Proof Squeezable Travel Bottles ($19) have a nice wide mouth so that you can fill them quickly and easily. They come in two sizes, and they’re really soft and squishy so they get smaller as you use them. They also have a twist label on top so that you can ID what’s inside—and change it if you fill it with something else later.”

2. “My mophie Powerstation ($40) portable battery charger is the best thing ever. You can charge it from your laptop with your phone cord and it holds a charge for a week or two if you don’t use it. It’s small, it’s compact, and it charges your phone so quickly.”

3. “I always, always, always have my Tide To Go Instant Stain Remover ($13) pens with me—I’ve actually been able to clean red wine out of a passenger’s white coat with it. They’re amazing.”

AFAR participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you purchase an item featured in this story. All products and services listed here are independently selected by AFAR journalists.

This article originally appeared online in December 2016; it was updated on January 17, 2019, to include current information.

>>Next: Travel Gear and Gadgets AFAR Staffers Don’t Leave Home Without

AFAR Travel

Places Where Your U.S. Dollar Will Go Far in Spring

You could sit around waiting for summer to set off on your next big trip, but you’ll be bumping elbows and racking up peak-season-priced receipts the whole way. Springtime, however, affords a more laid-back, wallet-friendly appeal, as much of the Northern Hemisphere awakes from its winter slumber, with flowers—and deals—abloom.

It’s also a good time to look at fall finds below the equator, where cities like Sydney pair a full cultural calendar with the vestiges of beach season. Here are five top spots where terrific value, pleasant temps, and crowd-free atmospheres converge this spring.

Stop and smell the flowers (or go to a baseball game, or see art, or hang out in the park) in Chicago this spring.

Giddy up to Chicago

With a world-class cultural and culinary scene bursting at the seams year-round, there’s never a truly bad time to be in Chicago. But wedged in between the bitter chilliness of winter and summer-season spikes in hotel rates, spring puts forth an especially perfect time to dig in on Chi-town’s treasures (plus, Southwest’s New Year flight sale has airfare from U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Boston, and NYC starting at less than $100 one-way if you book before January 24). See the city come out of hibernation as winter subsides and flowers come into bloom. The Chicago Botanic Garden has free admission, and from February 9-March 24, catch the Orchid show (only $12 for adults). While weather can be moody, warm spells invite (free!) frolicking in Grant Park or along the Lake Michigan shoreline; cooler/wet ones can be ridden out while dipping into the Art Institute or shops along the Magnificent Mile. Bonus: Baseball season picks up at Wrigley Field in spring, and it just doesn’t get more Chicago than catching a hometown Cubs game, tickets for which start at $20.

See opera (or theater, or comedy, or something else!) at the Sydney Opera House this spring.

Sashay to Sydney

As autumn arrives to this Southern Hemisphere city, rates on hotels and airfare (as well as tourist numbers) take a dip, although warm daytime temps average in the comfortable 70s. Use those savings to explore Sydney’s world-class cultural and culinary scene: There’s programming aplenty at the iconic, white-sailed Sydney Opera House (catch Turandot before March 30), and life outdoors remains very much in full swing. In fact, you can still take a dip at the beach and spend your evenings (Thursday through Sunday until March 31, at least) watching new and classic movies under the stars at Moonlight, one of Sydney’s outdoor theaters. And if you’re there in May, you might catch the start of the humpback whale migration season offshore.

If you don't mind a bit of chill, try Alaska in the shoulder season.

Enjoy Alaska’s atmosphere

Summertime sees the bulk of Alaska’s annual visitors turn up by both land and sea, crowding national parks and tourist sites—and jacking up prices, too. Savvy travelers willing to brave slightly cooler temps (averaging highs in the mid-50s in the southern portions of the state) can enjoy Alaska’s vast wilderness and wildlife in relative solitude by planning a late spring trip here in May. All the major natural attractions are as awe-inspiring in spring, whether you’re looking for lush rain forests, soaring mountain vistas, or dramatic calving glaciers.

Over the Fjords and Far Away: A Remote Alaskan Lodge Takes You Deep Into the Wild

While nature is blossoming, skies are dry, days are wonderfully long (counting from 17 to 23 hours of daylight, depending on how far north you are), and hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators are ripe with “shoulder season” discounts. Keep in mind that access to the colder northern tundra regions might be hindered by yet-to-melt snow and ice this time of year, and Denali National Park’s tourist season doesn’t fully pick up until early June.

Portugal’s delightful capital attracts travelers with its history, music, and cuisine.

Fall in love with Lisbon

Portugal is the current darling of the travel world, packing loads of appeal for adventurers, given its relative affordability compared to other European nations. And Lisbon is all the more tempting as a destination when you opt to dip in before the summer hordes arrive to enjoy the city’s many attractions. Plus, spring means discounts on hotels and airfare, too. Enjoy cooler temps (with highs hovering in the 60s and 70s) to set about surmounting the city’s storied seven hills, featuring stately plazas, domed churches, terra-cotta-roofed buildings, rattling trams, and historic sites like St. George’s Castle.

A Literary Trip to Lisbon Is the Best Way to Uncover Portugal’s Hidden Beauty

But don’t rush: Part of Lisbon’s appeal is its unhurried pace. Allow plenty of time to lose yourself in the winding alleyways of the Moorish Alfama quarter; in the melancholic fado sung at many of Lisbon’s restaurants; over a bica (espresso) on a sidewalk café; or while indulging in the city’s rich seafood-centric culinary tradition. Other springtime bonuses include flowering purple jacaranda trees and the return of lively street festivals—just avoid Holy Week (April 14-20, 2019), when rates spike as travelers from around Europe pour in.

View the Caribbean Sea through the Portal Maya sculpture.

Play in Playa del Carmen

The appeal of a raucous Cancun spring break may be in your rearview, but springtime in more sophisticated Playa del Carmen? Now, that’s something we can all get on board with. Situated on the Caribbean coast, “Playa” is blessed with white sands and beach-ready temps year-round—but spring puts forth a particular sweet spot between the winter high season and summer/fall hurricane season, when the beaches are pleasantly unbusy, lodging is discounted, and dry skies are a surer bet. Conditions are prime for sunbathing, diving, shopping, dining, and imbibing; if you time it right, you might be able to tack on a day trip to the fascinating spring equinox festival at the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, too (about a two-hour drive away). Again, keep an eye on the calendar to avoid spring break and Holy Week crowds from April 14-20, 2019.

>>Next: Where to Travel in 2019 According to Your Astrological Sign

AFAR Travel

Why You Should Go to Los Angeles This Winter

It’s not just about the weather. Sure, the average high never drops below 67 degrees Fahrenheit in Los Angeles in January and February, but there are so many more reasons to go there this winter beyond avoiding blizzards and bomb cyclones. From the nation’s largest restaurant week to three art fairs over Presidents Day weekend alone, here is AFAR’s selection of the most exciting things to do in L.A. this season.

Openaire replaced the LINE Hotel’s Commissary restaurant at the end of 2018.

Reserve a table for Winter dineL.A. or Off Menu Week

With 430 participating restaurants in 65 neighborhoods across the city, the Winter dineL.A. program is the largest restaurant week in the United States. If you need help narrowing your choices, consider booking a table at two of L.A.’s most exciting new restaurants. Openaire, the new seasonally driven restaurant at the LINE Hotel run by chef Josiah Citrin, is offering $25 two-course lunch menus and $59 three-course dinners during dineL.A. Over in Silver Lake, Ma’am Sir was named to the Los Angeles Times’s list of 101 best restaurants in L.A. even though it’s only been open since June 2018. During dineL.A., guests get a three-course dinner for $39 with a complimentary glass of wine at this buzzy Filipino spot. Through January 25, 2019;

The following month, Resy is hosting its own spin on restaurant week with its first-ever Off Menu Week in L.A. For one week, diners can get exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at upcoming menu items at restaurants, including exciting new spots like Freedman’s Jewish deli in Silver Lake and Ronan, a wood-fired pizza joint on Melrose Avenue. February 25-March 3, 2019;

A New Spin on Restaurant Week Focuses on Behind-the-Scenes Experiences

Paramount Pictures Studios will host the first-ever Frieze Los Angeles art fair.

Experience a weekend full of art
Over Presidents Day weekend, three art fairs are coming to town, including the inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures Studios. As with the annual Frieze fairs in New York and London, expect contemporary art from both local and international galleries along with a series of talks and site-specific projects from such artists as Cayetano Ferrer and Lisa Anne Auerbach centered around the studio’s New York Street backlot. February 15-17, 2019; 5515 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, from $22,

stARTup L.A. takes place the same weekend at The Kinney Venice Beach hotel. Instead of relying on traditional gallery spaces, the hotel rooms will serve as the backdrop for 60 artists—including Tang Wei Hsu, Patricia Rubio, and Amy Ahlstrom—to transform. February 15-17, 2019; 737 West Washington Boulevard, Venice, $20,

The 10th edition of Art Los Angeles Contemporary is taking place once again at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Recognized as the international contemporary art fair of the West Coast, it will bring together work from more than 60 galleries from the United States as well as Asia, Europe, and Latin America. February 13-17, 2019; 3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, from $25,

The Desert X installation of Doug Aitken’s Mirage in 2017

Head east for Desert X 2019
Desert X, the exhibition that brought Insta-famous installations like Doug Aitken’s Mirage and Phillip K Smith III’s The Circle of Land and Sky to the Coachella Valley in 2017, is returning for the second time this February. While the lineup of artists won’t be announced until late January, expect more site-specific installations that play off the surrounding desert landscape. Stay tuned for more updates here. February 9-April 21, 2019; Coachella Valley, Free,

The record-lined walls at Gold Line in Highland Park

Drink at LA’s new hi-fi bars

The newest nightlife trend in Los Angeles takes its cues from Tokyo’s vinyl bars, where sipping craft beer and cocktails and listening to the owner’s record collection on hi-fi stereo systems takes precedence over socializing. In Sheep’s Clothing opened in August 2018 behind an unassuming door inside Lupetti Pizza in the Arts District, while Gold Line’s October opening underneath Stones Throw Records’s headquarters made Highland Park an even more desirable destination to drive out to the next time you’re in L.A.

A sneak peek of the rooms at the upcoming Hoxton Hotel in Downtown L.A.

Hotels to keep an eye out for . . .

The last few years saw everything from the opening of the NoMad Hotel Los Angeles to the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, but the city’s hotel boom isn’t slowing down anytime soon. While you can’t check into these new properties yet, look forward to a Hoxton Hotel in Downtown L.A., Proper Hotels coming to both Santa Monica and Downtown L.A., and a 1 Hotel West Hollywoodall opening in the spring and summer of 2019.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Los Angeles

AFAR Travel