See the Workshop Where Mardi Gras Parade Floats Are Born

Eldon Baldwin Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Eldon Baldwin Follow, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) means king cake, colorful beads, and elaborate parade floats rolling through the French Quarter. If you can't make it to New Orleans on carnival day, there are still ways to celebrate Mardi Gras in the Big Easy the other 364 days of the year—you just have to know where to look. At Mardi Gras World, visitors can tour the warehouse where Mardi Gras sculptures are built and get a sneak peak at upcoming parade floats, Smithsonian reports.

Mardi Gras World invites the public into Kern Studios, the workshop where the most elaborate and iconic displays are built for the New Orleans's parades. Open since 1984, about 200,000 visitors explore the site each year to learn about the history of the Mardi Gras celebration, see floats from years past, and see sculptures in the process of being made for upcoming parades. The 30-minute guided tour includes a video presentation, a photo op with Mardi Gras costumes and props, and a slice of king cake.

With the theme of the Mardi Gras festival changing year to year, Mardi Gras World has produced a diverse array of sculptures, including Day of the Dead skeletons and the Incredible Hulk. The workshop also builds statue props that have ended up in a Mobile, Alabama art installation, at the stadium where the Atlanta Braves play, and on the Las Vegas strip.

Mardi Gras World holds tours seven days a week with tickets costing $22 for adults. Check out the pictures below for a sneak peek inside the studio.

Float in Mardis Gras World.
Richard Martin, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Statues at Mardis Gras World.
Bob Jagendorf, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Mardis Gras float at Mardis Gras World.
Erin Pawlicki, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Gorilla statue at Mardi Gras World.
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

[h/t Smithsonian]

Disney's Most Magical Destinations Have Been Reimagined as Vintage Travel Posters

UpgradedPoints.com
UpgradedPoints.com

Many of the iconic settings of animated Disney movies were modeled after real places around the world. Ussé Castle in France’s Loire Valley, for example, is widely rumored to have been the inspiration behind the original Sleeping Beauty story. (Although the castle in the movie more closely resembles Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle.) Likewise, the fictional island in Moana was made to look like Samoa, and the Sultan’s palace in Aladdin shares some similarities with India's Taj Mahal.

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring Agrabah or Neverland, then you’ll probably enjoy getting lost in these Disney-inspired travel posters from the designers at UpgradedPoints.com, an online resource that helps individuals maximize their credit card travel rewards. Only one of the posters features a real destination ("Beautiful France"), but these illustrations let you get one step closer to scaling Pride Rock or plumbing the depths of Atlantica.

All of the images are rendered in a vintage style with enticing slogans attached—much like the exotic travel posters that were prevalent in the 1930s.

“A few of our designers wanted to capture that longing to experience the true locations of these fantastic films, and the inner child in all of us couldn’t resist seeing how they interpreted the locations of their favorite films,” UpgradedPoints.com writes. “The results are breathtaking and make us wish we could fall into our favorite Disney movies.”

Keep scrolling to see the posters, and for more travel inspiration, read up on eight real-life locations that inspired Disney places (plus one that didn't).

A Disney-inspired poster of France
UpgradedPoints.com

An Atlantica travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Disney-inspired poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Lion King travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

A Neverland travel poster
UpgradedPoints.com

Australian Accounting Firm Offers Employees 12 Weeks of ‘Life Leave’ to Strike the Perfect Work-Life Balance

iStock.com/karenfoleyphotography
iStock.com/karenfoleyphotography

What would you do if you could take a three-month vacation each year? Would you book a flight to Hawaii, catch up on your favorite Netflix shows, or simply spend some quality time with your partner, kids, or dogs? The employees at one Australian accounting firm undoubtedly have a few ideas about how to spend the six to 12 weeks of “life leave” they will soon be granted.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Ernst & Young Oceania decided to introduce more flexible work hours in an attempt to attract and retain top talent. “We’re innovating so we don’t lose these people while they pursue passions outside of work,” company official Kate Hillman told The Independent. Hillman went on to cite volunteer experiences, training programs, and even a trekking trip to Nepal as different ways that employees might take advantage of the new policy, which goes into effect April 1.

Employees can either use their leave all at once or split it into two smaller vacations. The only catch is that the leave is self-funded—so it’s essentially an unpaid vacation. Still, if someone has the burning desire to backpack through Europe for a couple of months, or work on a project, it’s a safer option than quitting their job only to return unemployed and broke.

In addition to this policy, employees can choose to reduce their hours to a part-time schedule for up to three months each year. Parents may also choose to take advantage of a term-time arrangement, which lets them work regular hours when school is in session, then take time off during school holidays.

According to the firm’s research, flexibility at work boosts employee engagement by 11 percent. There are plenty of other reasons to take a vacation, too—not the least of which is evidence that time off may help you lead a longer, healthier, and happier life. Plus, you’ll come back refreshed and motivated, so your boss will be happy, too.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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