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Beach houses at sunrise on the Atlantic Coast at Wrightsville Beach. (Photograph by Alamy)

The Best of Intelligent Travel

We publish new articles and stories all the time on Intelligent Travel, but there are a few that really got your attention last year.

In case you missed them, here are the 14 most popular posts of 2014:

“A great beach town must have shores that are spacious, picturesque, relatively uncrowded, and clean. Beyond that, its local culture not only has to service tourism, but also transcend it.” Here author Bruce Schoenfeld highlights seven American classics that fit the bill. To complement the Traveler feature article, Nat Geo Travel staff weighed in on their own favorites. And our Facebook fans got us up to speed on sandy standouts around the globe.

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The Lyngen Lodge, located on the Lyngen Fjord, set off by the characteristic fluorescent green glow of the aurora borealis (Photograph by Graham Austick)

The aurora borealis—named, aptly, after the Roman goddess of dawn and the Greek word for the north wind—can appear from September through April, and is often at its most intense in February and March. If you’re looking to experience the spectacular light display for yourself this year, Traveler‘s got you covered with recommendations for lodging that outshines its competition in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland.

When Nat Geo photographer Catherine Karnow and Urban Insider Annie Fitzsimmons explored Oakland, they both left convinced that its ascent will have a long tail. Bolstered by a steady stream of colorful shop and restaurant openings and an influx of equally colorful characters seeking lower rents and less stress, Oakland is one city to watch—and love.

National Geographic’s sustainable tourism ace Costas Christ gets asked one question again and again: “What can I do to be a more responsible traveler?” So he decided to pen a primer. Here are seven things you can do to check your carbon footprint and leave a positive mark on the world while indulging your wanderlust.

With castles and legends, Old World hospitality and indulgent experiences, epic scenery and fairy trees, Ireland is a world of romantic mystique. From Kylemore Abbey to the Giant’s Causeway, Kathleen Mangan shares her picks for the dreamiest spots in the Emerald Isle.

“When we encounter the pheromone of the unfamiliar, we feel, see, touch, taste, and smell more keenly…We fall in love with the world.” If you agree with Nat Geo Travel’s resident #TripLit guru Don George that “those of us who follow the way of wanderlust are wild romantics,” read on.

One of Atlanta’s most desirable neighborhoods in the late 19th century before falling into disrepair in the 1960s, the Old Fourth Ward is also where Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up and honed his preaching style. In recent years, the “O4W” has become a place where abandoned warehouses are being converted to lofts and small businesses are thriving—while the authentic flavor of this historic area remains preserved. Discover ten reasons to love this ever-evolving neighborhood.

Yosemite National Park boasts deep valleys, a grove of ancient sequoia trees, waterfalls splashing into Yosemite Valley, and hundreds of wildlife species. Take a look at the iconic California park through the lens of one of the people who knows and loves it best, then check out the rest of our “I Heart My National Park” guides.

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When it comes to travel, quality should trump quantity, at least according to Robert Reid. (Photograph by Radius Images, Alamy)

Since the fateful first edition was published in 2003—a few years before that Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman dying-buddy film would lend the concept a buzz-worthy name—”bucket lists” have hijacked popular discourse on travel. Nat Geo digital reporter Robert Reid writes, “the problem with the bucket-list mentality is that it reduces travel to a pass/fail proposition.” Here he outlines a less clinical approach—where the aim is to find reward from unplanned, spontaneous encounters.

Beyond St. Petersburg’s dreamy beaches, writer Ceil Miller-Bouchet uncovers a “stiletto-free, thinking-person’s Florida where glassblowing is art, shuffleboard is cool, mid-century modern lives, local craft beer trumps $15 cocktails, and the sun shines an average of 361 days a year.”

Becoming a travel pro takes time—and lots of trial and error—but it’s not cheating to learn from the experiences of others. The folks at Nat Geo Travel know that as much as anyone. And while we have a lot of road miles under our belts, we’re students of the world, too. Hear what we’ve learned so far.

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Turn your children into fans of lifelong learning with these simple tricks. (Photograph by Gonzalo Azumendi, Alamy)

Something strange happens to us when we become parents: we forget how boring “adult thinking” can be. If you are met with eye rolls after suggesting a family visit to a museum, try these five tried-and-true tricks to turn your kids into lifelong learners from Nat Geo Travel’s resident family travel guru, Heather Greenwood Davis.

Photos can be a wonderful way of sharing meaningful experiences with others, but our attempts to document the moment can make being present in it a challenge. Does photography support awareness of our immediate experience, or detract from it? Writer Jared Gottlieb teases out renowned mediation expert and former photojournalist Jonathan Foust’s unique perspective on the relationship between two of the great passions of his life.

When you work at National Geographic, one of the first questions people ask is if you get to travel. The answer is often yes, but one of the best parts of the job is being surrounded by sharp, globe-trotting people, and getting to hear their stories. That’s why we asked folks on the Nat Geo Travel team to share a story about the best trip they’ve taken in the past year with our readers.

Leslie Trew Magraw is editor/producer for the Intelligent Travel blog network at National Geographic. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @leslietrew.

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