Is There Such a Thing as an Eco-Conscious Trip to Dubai?

As a city built between the desert and the sea, Dubai is not known for being sustainable or very eco-friendly. For environmentally-conscious tourists, it can be a struggle to visit a culture that seemingly has little regard for the environment in which it was built. High temperatures and a lack of water made it difficult for centuries to build a large society in the United Arab Emirates. With new technology such as air conditioning and desalination plants, the ability to build a large, thriving city in the middle of the desert has gone from dream to reality. 

Dubai is better known for its luxury and grandiosity than for its focus on environmental sustainability. Until recently, most structures were built with little regard for how their use of water and electricity impacted the environment around them. Dubai is well known for its parks, beach resorts and golf courses which require large amounts of water to keep the grass green in the dry, arid climate. In fact, the UAE has the highest per capita water use in the world. 

As the city of Dubai continues to grow and build, the government is starting to take a closer look at creating a more sustainable environment. The government has recently started a program that includes a Green Tourism Award, which encourages businesses to focus on eco-tourism and creating a tourist industry that celebrates Dubai’s natural assets. 

There’s much to do in Dubai that will keep your tourist footprint small while visiting this amazing city. The natural assets of Dubai are numerous and greatly entertaining for tourists. When visiting Dubai as an eco-conscious tourist, be sure to visit the desert, taking a safari through the sand dunes, or snorkel in the reefs surrounding the city, taking in the magnificent underwater sights. While touring the natural landscape, be conscious of your waste. Be sure to throw things away in designated bins and to recycle whenever possible. It’s also important to wear coral-safe sunscreenwhen swimming in the reefs.

Though there is minimal structure for eco-tourism already built in Dubai, it’s possible to make individual choices that can do less damage to the environment. One of your first choices can start with your hotel. Look for hotels in Dubai that advertise themselves as green or eco-friendly. One easy practice you can follow as a tourist (anywhere!) is to bring your own water bottle when you travel. In many places in the world, the tap water is safe to drink, will save you money and will prevent those plastic water bottles from being used. You can ask hotel staff to not change your sheets and towels daily, saving the water and electricity used to wash and dry them. 

Though it may not seem like the most eco-friendly city, you can still be an eco-conscious tourist while traveling in Dubai. One of the best things you can do is spread knowledge about being cognizant of treating the environment properly and choosing tourism activities that promote the natural environment of the region. 

If you're thinking about visiting Dubai, check out this review that I wrote for Hipmunk.

Best Public Art in Chicago

Even though you’re unlikely to find street art in Chicago as there’s been a ban on spray paint since 1992, you will find lots of public art. Chicago is a fantastic city for art lovers, but if you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay the museum fees, you’re still in luck. There’s an entire collection of art on the streets of Chicago. Many of the statues are within The Loop and are in walking distance of one another.

  1. Flamingo by Alexander Calder. This 53-foot tall stabile is painted a bright vermilion which has become known as Calder Red and is located in the Federal Plaza.

  2. Large Interior Form by Sir Henry Moore. Located in the North Garden of The Chicago Art Institute, this sculpture doesn’t require an admission fee. The ergonomic shape of this bronze statue is reminiscent of a human form but is open for interpretation.

  3. Cube VII by David Smith. Also located in the North Garden, this statue is part of a 27 piece series that was the last completed by David Smith before his death in 1965. The sculptures range from figural to blocky and are exhibited around the world.

  4. Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa. Located in Millennium Park, this is a must see. These small skyscrapers include projected images of the faces of Chicagoans which occasionally spew water from their mouths into the central fountain. Be sure to take off your shoes and dip your toes in to cool off during the summer.

  5. Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor. More commonly known as “The Bean,” this wonderfully photographic statue is also located in Millennium Park. This is one of Chicago’s most famous and recognizable statues so be sure to get your goofy, distorted-reflection picture.

  6. Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry. This bandshell is all curves and shine in true Gehry style. Be sure to see this architectural wonder and if you’re lucky, maybe you can even catch a show!

  7. Sounding Sculptures by Henry Bertoia. This musical sculpture is located on the plaza at the Aon Center and is reminiscent of the midwestern wheat fields as the metallic pipes shift and make music in the ever-present breeze of the windy city.

  8. Monument with Standing Beast by Jean Dubuffet. Known affectionately by Chicagoans as Snoopy in a Blender, this sculpture is a fantastic place to let kids interact with art, running through the arches and around the fiberglass sculpture in the Thompson Center.

  9. The Chicago Picasso by Picasso. This untitled cubist work by Picasso is located in The Daley Center and is well-known for being used like a jungle gym and slide by locals.

  10. The Four Seasons by Marc Chagall. This 70 foot mosaic and mural was donated to the city of Chicago in 1974 and is located near Chase Tower.

  11. Agora by Magdalena Abakanowicz. This sculpture consists of 106 headless and armless forms that are situated in Grant Park and is named Agora in reference to the urban meeting places of the ancient Greeks.

If you’re interested in reading more about Chicago or just finding a place to stay while visiting, be sure to check out my hotel recommendation on Hipmunk.


Food Truck Summer in Austin

Austin is known for being weird. One of our favorite weird things to do here is eat great food out of trucks. Here’s a list of some of my favorite Austin food trucks. Feel free to comment on which one is your favorite or let me know if I missed one.


For something to cool you off:

  1. Casey’s New Orleans Snowballs: A tried and true family favorite, this is the place to cool off during Austin’s scorching summer. Their melt-in-your-mouth snow goes well with any flavor, but Casey’s is known for their Grandma’s Nectar Cream.

  2. Frozen Yogurt Inspirations: The only self-serve frozen yogurt truck in Austin, this is not to miss. Their yogurt is made with local, non-fat Bulgarian style yogurt and they also serve local coffees and teas.

  3. Cow Tipping Creamery: With soft serve ice cream made with fruit purees, fresh herbs, coffee and hand-chopped nuts, you can’t turn down this cold treat. Be sure to try one of their creative stackers, like their “From Texas, with love,” which includes Dr. Pepper cherry sauce, honeyed pecans and frito saltine toffee.


For a meal:

  1. Kebabalicious: If you’re thinking shish-kebabs, you’re wrong; at Kebabalicious you’ll find delicious Turkish-inspired street food. Try the classic beef & lamb kabob for your first visit, but you’ll be back for more.

  2. Biscuits & Groovy: For classic southern breakfast with buttermilk biscuits and gravy, you can’t miss The Aretha Franklin, The Donna Summer or The M. C. Hammer.

  3. Four Brothers: For some of the best Venezuelan food in Texas, stop here. You know it’s local when they’re only on Twitter. Try the traditional arepas and empanadas.


For a taco:

  1. Torchy’s: Damn good tacos. That says it all. Torchy’s started as a trailer in Austin and has moved on to Texas-wide fame with storefronts around the state. Try their fried avocado taco and be ready for your tastebuds to scream in joy.

  2. The Vegan Nom — Rockin’ Vegan Tacos: You’ll never even miss the meat at this all vegan trailer. Try the Gracias Madre with cilantro-lime crema sauce on top for a new definition of chorizo.

  3. The Peached Tortilla: Can’t decide if you want Southern comfort or Asian? No worries, just stop by the Peached Tortilla for Asian inspired tacos. The Banh Mi throws two cultures together with Vietnamese braised pork belly and spicy sriracha mayo inside a taco.


For something sweet:

  1. Gordough’s Big. Fat. Donuts: Prepare yourself to gorge on giant doughnuts. Gordough’s is known for filling doughnuts with a little bit of everything. Try the Flying Pig with maple syrup icing and bacon.

  2. The Holy Cacao: These divinely delicious cake balls are not to be passed up. Be sure to try their Brass Balls if you want to enter peanut butter heaven.

  3. Hey Cupcake!: Craving that classic cupcake? Look no further. You can’t go wrong with anything from The Standard to the Michael Jackson (chocolate with cream cheese icing) to the John Lemon.


If you’re looking for somewhere to stay while visiting, check out this review I wrote for Hipmunk. Enjoy your summer eating!