Why buy a Las Vegas Explorer Pass instead of a Las Vegas PowerPass?

The Las Vegas Explorer Pass (a brand new product!) and the Las Vegas PowerPass are two of the leading multi-attraction products in the Vegas market. They both provide admission to top attractions on the Strip, but further consideration reveals some pretty substantial differences between these two products. Taking into consideration ease of use, flexibility, and how you save, it seems clear that the Las Vegas Explorer Pass is a clear winner.

How You Save 

The Las Vegas Explorer Pass advertises a savings of up to 55% on combined admission prices, and comes at a pretty low price point (only $65/adult for a 3-Choice Pass).

One of the most valuable things about this product is the flexibility you have in choosing attractions and visiting them at your own pace. No need to cram things into a limited number of days – you’ve got 30 days to use the pass after your first visit.

There are also multiple ways to save with this product – you can visit a variety of attraction combinations to maximize your savings without worrying about seeing only the most expensive sites. In fact, even the most inexpensive attractions will still have you coming out on top.

The Las Vegas PowerPass doesn’t advertise a specific savings percentage, but they do give you an example of how much you save when visiting 10 attractions (about $100 dollars on admission costs). That sounds great, but the problem? You have to fit all 10 visits into just three days!

While this product does give you the option of choosing a card that’s valid for 1, 2, 3, or 5 days, that’s a bit restrictive when it comes to time management. To make the most of your savings, you have to be visiting attractions all day long – no time to break for a visit to one of Vegas’ famed buffets or some casino play.

That also basically rules out their Grand Canyon West Legacy Tour – a 2.5-hour drive away from downtown Las Vegas (not the mention the $8 impact fee that isn’t covered by your pass). So there are some attractions you realistically won’t be able to visit if you want to make the most of the product.

Because of this product’s pricing scheme (around $85 for a 1 Day Pass), you have to visit at minimum three attractions per day – something that can be tricky to do if you want to take a long tour, for example. It also may make you feel rushed.

How Do I Use Them?

The Las Vegas PowerPass is purchased for the number of card days you want to visit attractions. You purchase the cards online and then pick them up in a specified location once you get to Vegas.

The Las Vegas Explorer Pass is purchased by the number of attractions (3 or 5). This pass is delivered instantly to your e-mail, and you can use it on a smartphone or print it out for admission. No need to pick anything up at a separate location, which is a big stress reduction when in town. You have 30 full days to use the product after the first attraction visit, so you can use it all on one vacation or spread it out over multiple visits if you live in the area.

What’s the Real Difference?

The most substantial difference between these two products has to do with your style of travel. If you prefer the flexibility and freedom of seeing what you want on your schedule – no time crunch, no pressure to see it all – then the Las Vegas Explorer Pass is a good option for you.

If you want to spend your entire Vegas visit running around between attractions – without pausing to spend a day at the casino – then the Las Vegas PowerPass may be a good choice. Keep in mind, however, that it requires some serious dedication to touring and exploring in order to get your money’s worth out of the product.

Extra Details

The Las Vegas Explorer Pass is available for convenient, eco-friendly instant delivery. No need to pick anything up or wait for the mail.

Both products offer basic information like maps and contact information (although for some reason the Las Vegas PowerPass asks you to download it separately).

The Las Vegas Explorer Pass comes with a free, full-color guidebook that not only includes maps and directions, but also includes important info about each neighborhood, hours of operation, and other valuable attraction details.

Last Thoughts

If you’re trying to decide between a Las Vegas Explorer Pass and a Las Vegas PowerPass, the biggest thing you need to take into consideration is your style of travel.  How much flexibility do you want in your attraction visits, and how much do you realistically want to visit attractions (possibly at the cost of some of Vegas’s other great pleasures)? How much do you want to spend before you see any real savings? In the final deliberation, it seems like the Las Vegas Explorer Pass is the best deal for your money.

Why buy a New York City Explorer Pass instead of a New York CityPass?

The New York City Explorer Pass and the New York CityPASS are two of the biggest multi-attraction passes in New York. Both products offer discounted admission to some of the city’s top attractions, but they’re in fact quite different. Taking into account factors like available attractions, flexibility of use, and savings potential, the New York City Explorer Pass comes out on top.

We’ll begin with a comparison of the two products and then get into specifics about how you save.

Included New York Tourist Attractions 

New York City Explorer Pass 

Because the product includes more than 50 attractions, it’s impractical to list them all here. Instead, check out a selection of their most popular offerings.

New York CityPass

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Rock OR the Guggenheim Museum
  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Museum

The New York City Explorer Pass includes all of the same attractions (or comparable attractions) as the New York CityPass without any either/or choices. This is especially a big bonus in a market like New York, where some of the biggest attractions are positioned as exclusionary choices with the CityPass, including the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Top of the Rock. It’s also unlikely that visitors will want to see both the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock (the more popular of the two), but you’d want to choose the Top of the Rock anyway to maximize your savings.

How You Save 

The New York City Explorer Pass can save you up to 45% on combined admission prices, and their website offers real customer savings testimonials that often exceed that percentage. Customers saved hundreds of dollars per family!

One of the most popular aspects of this pass is the flexibility in attraction choice. You can select what you want to see as you go along, with your choice of 3, 5, 7, or 10 attractions, no need for either/or decisions. See what you want over the course of 30 full days!

There are also simply more ways to save with this product. Dozens of attraction combinations will save you the maximum advertised value, or even more!

The New York CityPass advertises that it can save you up to 42% on combined admission prices (so no real difference there), but your savings percentage is heavily dependent upon which attractions you choose.

You’re also more limited in attraction choice, taking into account the exclusions and the much narrower selection to begin with. You only have 9 consecutive days to visit each attraction, which doesn’t end up being a lot of time when you’re interested in making multiple trips to NYC.

In order to make the most of the pass, you have to choose certain attractions. If you want to maximize your savings, you have to see both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building, something that most visitors to NYC don’t choose to do. You also need to opt for the sightseeing cruise over the Statue of Liberty – and who wants to do that?

How Do I Use Them?

Both products serve as your admission ticket to the included attractions, but they otherwise work in different ways with different benefits.

The New York CityPass is a booklet of paper tickets that you order online or buy in person. You bring the booklet to each attraction, they tear off the appropriate ticket, and then you dispose of the book when you’re done.

The New York City Explorer Pass offers more delivery and usage options. If you choose a physical card (it looks like a credit card), it can be shipped or picked up in person in New York. Many customers choose to keep the card as a souvenir after their trip!

Or, if you prefer to be a little more high tech (or are a last-minute planner), the instant delivery option is a big win. Get the pass e-mailed directly to you immediately after purchase, and display it on a smartphone for admission. If you don’t have or don’t want to use a smartphone, you could also just print it out. This is a really popular option with customers.

What’s the Real Difference? 

The major difference between these two passes has to do with your preferred style of travel. If you like more flexibility and freedom in planning your itinerary, you’ll likely prefer the wider range of attraction choices and greater duration of the New York City Explorer Pass. You also don’t have to deal with exclusionary choices or a more restrictive path to greater savings.

If you only have a few specific attractions in mind, then New York CityPass may be a decent option. However, this also limits you in terms of choosing between those few attractions, in which attractions you need to choose to max out your savings, and flexibility in purchasing.

Extra Details

The New York City Explorer Pass features a number of diverse walking tours and bus tours, providing better opportunities to really get to know NYC culture. From food tours to T.V. and movie tours and beyond, you’ll find plenty to enjoy.

Both products come with additional discounts on things like dining, shopping, and entertainment. They also both come with a free area map.

The New York City Explorer Pass also includes a free, full-color guidebook that’s packed with useful info about each attraction, various neighborhoods you may encounter, and even free attractions.

Both products offer skip-the-line benefits at selected attractions.

The New York City Explorer Pass even includes a number of attractions in Brooklyn and the Bronx, allowing you to more fully explore all that NYC has to offer.

Last Thoughts

Deciding between a New York City Explorer Pass and a New York CityPass? Taking into account factors like flexibility, convenience, and ways to save, the answer seems clear. The New York City Explorer Pass is truly the best way to maximize your fun and your savings on your next vacation.

Why Buy a Go Chicago Card Instead of a Chicago CityPass?

The Go Chicago Card and the Chicago CityPASS are the top contenders in the attractions pass game in Chicago.  Both products have some pros and cons, and both are popular with visitors from around the world. Nonetheless, these products are quite different from one another, and in many cases, offer distinctly different benefits. When you take into account attributes like flexibility, availability of attractions, and maximum savings potential, the Go Chicago Card emerges as the clear winner.

We’ll begin with a few basic points of comparison and then switch to discussing concrete savings available with each product.

Included Attractions

Go Chicago Card

There are far too many to list them all here, but here’s a few selected attractions offered through the Go Chicago Card program:

Chicago CityPass

  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Skydeck Chicago
  • The Field Museum
  • Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 CHICAGO
  • Adler Planetarium OR The Art Institute of Chicago 

As you can see, the Go Chicago Card includes all of the same attractions as the Chicago CityPass, without the need for any exclusionary choices. This is an especially tricky situation with regards to the Adler Planetarium and The Art Institute of Chicago, which are both tremendously popular attractions.

How You Save

The Go Chicago Card can save you up to 55% on combined admission prices, and their website offers several examples of real customer itineraries and how much they saved on their trips. If you want to maximize your savings, there are multiple combinations of Chicago tourist attractions that will save you far more than you paid for the pass.

It’s clear that one of the best things about this pass is the flexibility and freedom – you can create personalized itineraries and still get your money’s worth out of this pass. According to real travelers, you can save over $300 per couple!

Chicago CityPass advertises that it can save you up to 52% on combined admission prices.  Given that there are only six options, they don’t offer any real customer savings examples on their site, just vague reviews. Plus, in order to maximize your savings, you have to visit all of the included attractions (which can be really hard to do in a weekend) and you have to choose the more expensive one for both of your either/or choices.

The most significant downside to this product is how limited you are in choosing the attractions you want to see. You only have a few possible itinerary combinations, and you’re forced to choose between attractions that you might want to see. The most you can possibly save is $206.90 per couple. While that’s still a significant amount, it doesn’t match up to what you save with the Go Chicago Card.

How Do I Use Them?

Both products serve as your admission tickets to each of the included attractions without the need for additional purchases.

The Chicago CityPass is a collection of paper tickets that can be shipped or picked up in person in Chicago. Attractions tear off the paper ticket when you visit, and you hold onto the booklet for future admission to the other attractions. The booklet is disposable once you’ve used all your tickets.

The Go Chicago Card has a wider variety of delivery and usage options. You can choose a physical card (the size and shape of a credit card – much more durable than a booklet, and it can be kept a souvenir later!) that can either be shipped or picked up in person in Chicago.

Or you can opt for instant delivery of their digital pass. It’s the exact same pass with all the same benefits, but it allows you to use your smartphone as your pass the same way you can with airline tickets. If you like the instant delivery option, but prefer not to use the pass digitally, just print out the pass and present the paper copy to attractions. A majority of customers prefer the digital option because of its speed and convenience.

What’s the Real Difference?

The most significant difference between the two products lies in your style of travel.

If you want the flexibility to see what you want and as much as you want without the pressure of either/or choices and pre-selected attractions, the Go Chicago Card is the best choice. You’ll get a wider selection of attractions to choose from, a greater variety in attraction combinations that can save you significant money, and more freedom in how you use the pass.

If you only want to see a very specific, restricted set of attractions, then the Chicago CityPass might be a good choice. However, you have a lot fewer options, which don’t even include some of the most significant historical sites in the city, any tours, or architecture related sites (something Chicago is famous for!). You also don’t have the option to see both the Adler Planetarium and the Art Institute of Chicago, both of which are incredibly popular attractions. Ultimately, this product just doesn’t offer the same flexibility, variety, and convenience that the Go Chicago Card does.

Extra Details

The Go Chicago Card also includes smaller attractions that really give you a feel for Chicago’s history and heritage, like the Chicago History Museum, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.

Both products come with additional coupons for savings on dining, shopping, and/or other attractions.  Both products also come with area maps and essential details like directions and contact information.

The Go Chicago Card includes a free, full-color guidebook with your purchase. This includes need-to-know info on the local mass transit system (the CTA), interesting and useful details about local neighborhoods, and some relevant info on free points of interest and historical sites.

Both products offer additional benefits like “skip-the-line” privileges at certain attractions.

The Go Chicago Card also includes a number of sightseeing tours and cruises that simply aren’t available through CityPass, an option that gives you a real advantage when exploring Chicago and learning all about its diverse neighborhoods and cultures.

Last Thoughts

Trying to decide between a Go Chicago Card and Chicago CityPass? Sit down and make a list of what you want out of your vacation, what your budget is, what you want to see, and what your style of travel is. If you’re the kind of traveler that wants to make the most of your trip and maximize your savings, it seems evident that the Go Chicago Card is simply the better option.

Why buy a Go San Diego card over a San Diego 3 for 1 Pass?

The Go San Diego Card and the San Diego 3-for-1 Pass are two popular attraction passes with San Diego travelers. They both offer admission to three of the most popular San Diego attractions in the area for a discounted price, but they also have significant differences. When you take into consideration product attributes like flexibility, attraction choice, and maximum savings, the Go San Diego Card seems like a better value.

Let’s start with a comparison of what each product offers, then get into details about savings.

Included San Diego Attractions

Go San Diego Card

There are simply too many attractions available through the Go San Diego Card to list them here, but this is a selection of the most popular.

San Diego 3-for-1 Pass

  • San Diego Zoo
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park
  • SeaWorld San Diego

There’s clearly a big difference between these two products. You get admission to over 40 area attractions – including the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and SeaWorld – with the Go San Diego Card, with the option for multiple visits on separate card days. The San Diego 3-for-1 Pass only includes those attractions, but offers the same option for multiple visits on separate days..

How You Save

The Go San Diego Card advertises that it can save you up to 55% on combined admission prices, and some of their real customer savings even exceeded that number! Customers literally saved hundreds on admission with this product.

The real value of this product is the freedom of attraction choice. You can see the same big three attractions as the San Diego 3-for-1 Pass, plus tons of other attractions, tours, museums, and more.

Another important aspect is the flexibility in how you save. You can visit a wide variety of attraction combinations and still maximize the value you get out of the product – no need to visit only the most expensive attractions.

The San Diego 3-for-1 Pass saves you between 10-18% on combined admission. That’s a significant difference in your savings percentage! Unless you visit all three attractions multiple times, your savings are minimal.

You also have to visit all three attractions in order to actually get your money’s worth, leaving you no flexibility to change your mind if the kids have had their fill of animals at one of the attractions.

How Do I Use Them?

These products actually function in similar ways, with a few exceptions.

The San Diego 3-for-1 Pass is available for purchase online from a number of different travel product sites, but they don’t have their own website. You can have the pass shipped to you or print it out at home.

The Go San Diego Card is available through multiple options. Purchase the card online or over the phone and have it shipped to you, or purchase it in market. You can also opt for instant delivery, and receive a digital pass directly to your e-mail. You can then display the pass on your smartphone for admission – ecofriendly and convenient! – or print it out.

What’s the Real Difference?

The Go San Diego Card is ideal for those of you who want a little bit more freedom in your attraction visits. You can still see the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and SeaWorld, but you also have the option to see other top attractions like LEGOLAND®, the USS Midway, the many museums of Balboa Park, and much more. You still have the option for repeat visits to those three attractions on the number of card days you purchased.

If all you want to see is these big three attractions, then the San Diego 3-for-1 Pass might be a good idea for you. That said, you have no flexibility to shift gears if the kids get bored or tired of animals, and no option for indoor attractions if the weather’s bad. So if you’re unlucky enough to hit a week of bad weather in San Diego, you’ve got no option but to trudge through the rain or skip the attraction visits altogether.

Extra Details

The Go San Diego Card also features several other major theme parks that the kids will love, including LEGOLAND®, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Belmont Park.

Both products offer admission to SeaWorld, Safari Park, and the San Diego Zoo.

The Go San Diego Card also includes a free, full-color guidebook with maps, directions, important contact information, info about transit options, and much more.

The Go San Diego Card also offers extra benefits like skip-the-line options at several top attractions.

The Go San Diego Card even includes attractions in La Jolla, Coronado, Mission Beach, Chula Vista, and beyond, giving you the flexibility explore the greater San Diego metropolitan area, the beaches, and even Los Angeles area attractions.

Last Thoughts

Trying to decide between a Go San Diego Card and a San Diego 3-for-1 Pass? Assuming you definitely want to see those big three attractions, you need to then expand your consideration to the way the passes work. If you want to see more than just those attractions, if you want to save more on admission, and if you want the flexibility to change your mind, then the Go San Diego Card is best for you.

 

How to get the most bang for your vacation buck in San Francisco

Traveling in San Francisco can be expensive…exceptionally expensive. In fact, WorldAtlas.com recently ranked the city No. 1 for most expensive places in the US to take a vacation. But you don’t have to let San Francisco’s high price reputation ruin your travel plans. There are plenty of smart ways to save when you’re aching for a little Northern California getaway.

Don’t Drive: Car rentals are pricy, gas is expensive and paying for parking will make a serious dent in your vacation budget. Simply opting out of driving can save you hundreds in a week’s vacation, plus you will avoid frustrating traffic jams and endless hunts for open parking spaces. Lucky for us, most of San Francisco is very walker friendly, and public transit is extremely reasonable. The BART will connect you to a few points in the city, but it’s best for transportation to and from the airports and in and out of the suburbs. Get acquainted with the Muni for hopping from point to point in the city. The SF CityPass gives visitors extremely valuable access to a 7-day Muni and Cable Car Passport.

Shop the markets: Like most cities, the highest priced restaurants are usually concentrated in the areas with the highest tourist traffic. While there are a number of cheap eats, like the cash-only Vietnamese hole in the wall Saigon Sandwich, the city also has a myriad of fresh farmers markets to choose from. Compile your own menu of fresh fruits, veggies, breads, cheeses and snacks for a fraction of what you could pay one of San Francisco’s finest chefs to put together for you. One blogger has compiled a very helpful list of all the markets in the city here.

Take a free walking tour: San Francisco City Guides offers free walking tours of nearly every neighborhood in San Francisco. Whether you’re looking to be educated on architecture, history, art or ghost stories, San Francisco City Guides has you covered. The tours are free, but donations are always appreciated. Group tours can be scheduled ahead of time for a small fee, and the Go San Francisco card can help with that too.

Visit museums on free days: Use your Go Card or San Francisco CityPass to walk through some of the city’s most prestigious museums. Stroll through the four-story rainforest or wander around the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Or stretch your art appreciation muscles at the de Young Museum. After you’ve used up your museum discounts, check out this calendar of free museum admission days. Hint: most of these freebies are offered up at the beginning of each month.

Stay away from hotels: Hotels in the Bay Area can easily run in the $250-$350 range with high-end hotels blowing those numbers out of the water. Prices can also spike around peak times of year or near special events. If you take advantage of San Francisco’s hospitality, you can stay for much less. Rent a great room or apartment on Airbnb for well under $100 a night- many of them have loads of great reviews. There is also a very active couch surfing community in San Francisco that will offer up a bed or room for free. If you’re not into staying on someone else’s couch, at least check out their groups that meet up for social events around the city. It’s a great way to get insider tips from locals. Finally, European style hostels are spread out around the city, offering up prime location for between $20 and $50 per night.

Enjoy the outdoors: San Francisco is chock full of parks, scenic vistas, and rocky beaches. Explore the Japanese Tea Garden or play disc golf at Golden Gate Park. Climb to the top of Twin Peaks for one of the best views in the city. Search for sea lions on the beach or poke around an old Victorian bathhouse. People living here have figured out that life is better when you go outside, you should too.

Find a free festival: People look for excuses to gather in San Francisco. There is almost always a reason to clear a street for a parade or start a dance party. Costumes are often involved, people sometimes get weird, but it’s always a good time. Find a festival that celebrates something you love, Earth Day perhaps, or street art. Or pick a festival based on what it offers, like live Bluegrass music or hundreds of food trucks. Once you’ve arrived there will be plenty to spend your dollars on, but people watching is always free!

Invest in a San Francisco City Pass or Go San Francisco Card:

Hands down, the best way to experience major savings on your trip to San Francisco is to invest upfront in a San Francisco City Pass or Go San Francisco Card. These cards give you discounted access to some of the city’s biggest attractions. The City Pass highlights seven of the city’s most popular sites, while the Go Pass adds attractions out in wine country, plus restaurant and shopping savings. Compare the two cards here to see which one is better tailored to your vacation itinerary.

Why 2016 is the year you should get to the San Diego Zoo

Some sharks can live to be 400 years old. The world’s oldest tortoise got to see its 250th birthday. Many African elephants achieve a ripe old age of 70. This year, a different member of the animal kingdom is celebrating a major milestone: the San Diego Zoo is turning 100.

In 1916, San Diego physician Dr. Harry Wegeforth gathered a couple colleagues together to care for a handful of animals that had been left behind from a temporary animal exhibit. Many people in the city thought he had gone crazy, but he had a vision. Pretty soon, the San Diego Zoo was born.

In the 100 years that have followed, the zoo has seen significant transformation. Today, 3,700 “rare and endangered animals” call the 100-acre park home, while more than 3,000 animals roam the Safari Park that opened as an extension to the zoo in 1972. The park touts a long legacy of preserving and protecting animal and plant species from all over the world. Now, it’s teaching a generation of young people to care about wildlife and inspiring them to devout their lives and careers to continuing the Zoo’s mission.

Despite its worldwide fame as a champion for wildlife and highly sought after tourist destination, there are still a lot of things about the San Diego Zoo that many people never realize. Here are a few zoo-facts about this southern California staple that just may sway you to plan your next vacation to sunny San Diego.

San Diego Zoo Panda

  • Big game animals roam freely in the Safari Park
    About 30 miles away from the original San Diego Zoo lies a wide open safari park where big game animals from Africa and Asia roam in a much more expansive environment. Visitors can choose their own safari adventure from a list of one-of-a-kind animal experiences. Take a caravan ride to see where giraffes, rhinoceroses and a variety of African antelope co-exist together. Witness a cheetah run 70 miles per hour. Or get a behind the scenes tour of where the tigers live. You can even go on safari in a hot air balloon, or from high above the grounds through a ropes course challenge!
  • You can get up close and personal with furry friends
    In addition to close-up encounters at the Safari Park, the zoo makes it very easy for visitors to get up close and personal with all kinds of animals. You can help a zoo keeper wake the pandas up in the morning, watch an elephant paint a picture, or see how koalas are cared for behind the scenes. Check out the “Special Experiences” and “Activities” sections on the zoo’s website to see which bonus adventures cost extra and how you can book tickets ahead of time.
  • There’s a new baby rhinoceros to ogle at
    In another step toward preserving an endangered species, one of the Zoo’s White Rhinos gave birth at the beginning of April. Rhino mom Holly is doing a great job caring for her calf, according to zoo staff. Also fairly new to the park are six cheetah cubs born in November last year, a baby pygmy hippo, and another rhino calf just a few months old. Not to mention the brand new adult African penguins that now call the zoo their home!
  • Entire species have been saved because of the zoo
    Conservation teams at the San Diego Zoo have aided in bringing back some of the planet’s most endangered species. California condors were down to 22 birds left. Now 200 fly in the wild and another 200 are thriving in breeding facilities thanks to the zoo’s efforts. The zoo has had similar successes with lemurs from Madagascar, douc langers from Vietnam and cheetahs from sub-Saharan Africa. One of the zoo’s top conservation projects right now is the Rhino Rescue. Without the San Diego Zoo and its partners, these animals might soon be extinct. But the zoo’s efforts don’t stop there. Its mission is to end extinction entirely!
  • Online sneak peeks reveal what you’re missing
    If you’re still not convinced that the Zoo is worth the trip to San Diego, get a sneak peek of what you’re missing on its immersive website. Informative videos show off the inner workings of the zoo and the daily lives of its most interesting animals. Live feeds let visitors see what’s happening any time of day with the polar bears, elephants, tigers, pandas and more!
  • 2016 is full of celebration surprises
    This is a big year for the zoo. As it celebrates its centennial, the zoo is inviting all of San Diego and every animal lover in the world to join along in the party. Throughout the year, new exhibits, special events and limited time programs will launch to mark this special occasion. The main event will take place on May 14 at 6 p.m. For a complete list of this year’s special events, visit the zoo’s calendar here.
  • Save money on admission to the Zoo and Safari Park. Try a San Diego Tourist Pass to get discounted. They are great if you are visiting more than one tourist attraction. The most popular at the three for one pass and the Go San Diego Card.

San Diego Zoo Birds

Things are changing in Las Vegas, and it’s a great thing

The Las Vegas of five years ago looks a lot different than the Las Vegas of today, and that’s a great thing. The changes are putting Sin City back on the map for travelers looking for more in a destination than casinos and night clubs.

Las Vegas was hit hard by the 2008 recession, but instead of giving up and allowing the iconic American city to fall to ruin, Las Vegas is working to redefine itself. Now, it’s appealing to many different demographics in a new age of travel. Sure, there are still plenty of slot machines and buffets to choose from, but Las Vegas has seen plenty of positive changes over the last few years and there are still a lot to come.

Here’s a quick peek at how Las Vegas has been evolving and is becoming a great destination option even for those who are terrible at Black Jack.

The food scene is getting a makeover

Las Vegas’ food scene has a tendency to conjure up images of not so fresh seafood sitting under the warming lights of an all you can eat buffet, or celebrity chef-owned fine dining restaurants with prices out of reach for your typical traveler. The good news is, Las Vegas is generally on the cutting edge of new food trends, and in 2016 a lot of those trends are lending themselves to fantastic food coupled with unforgettable experiences. You can check out the Harry Potter themed coffee shop, or a “food incubator” shack helping rising chefs try out new food concepts. For more splurge-worthy experiences, order table-side cut veal parmesan at the new Carbone restaurant at Aria, tour the snack carts at Harvest in the Bellagio, or dine with champagne at the recently opened Mr. Chow in Caesars Palace. The extra-brave can fork over $150 for a three-hour dining experience that includes “live food” at Kame. No matter where you eat while you’re in Vegas, head chef Anthony Amoroso of Aria told Travel Pulse that fresh food is one of the biggest trends sweeping the city this year (that, and chicken sandwiches).

Adventure is heating up

Situated in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas has long been a hub for helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon and sight-seeing excursions to Hoover Dam. Speed demons have been racing high-end cars at Exotics Racing Las Vegas since 2009, SpeedVegas is opening up the city’s longest exotic car track this March, and the bravest daredevils can see what it’s like to be a fighter pilot with Sky Combat Ace. A few other attractions have been added to the Strip recently that won’t put such a dent in your vacation budget. The High Roller observation wheel, SlotZilla zip line over Fremont Street and Voodoo Zip Line between the Rio towers all opened in Vegas in 2014, calling adventure enthusiasts seeking a view of Las Vegas from high above. 

Vegas High Roller

Vegas High Roller

New construction is underway

After several construction projects came to a quick halt at the first signs of recession around 2008, Las Vegas is starting to see construction pick up again. The Killers are on the schedule to christen the brand new T-Mobile Arena on April 6, and two more resorts are underway on the Strip. Both resorts are Asian-themed, with PENTA Building Group’s Lucky Dragon on pace to open August this year, while Resorts World Las Vegas will hopefully be completed by 2018.

Not everything is about gambling

As you can see, Las Vegas is about a lot more than just gambling and fist pumping these days. It’s about experiencing innovative food and drinks. It’s about seeing the Strip from high in the sky, and venturing out to the surrounding scenic areas. It’s a place where people are testing out new business concepts and starting up companies. Las Vegas is still an entertainment Mecca, chock full of theaters and music venues. It’s still a destination for trying your hand at Texas Hold’em or hedging your bets on slots. But the Vegas that is out there in Nevada’s desert today has undergone a major facelift since the Vegas of five years ago, and tourists ought not miss the changes.

10 reasons Chicago should be on your summer vacation radar

Enduring long, bone chilling winters may be a fact of life for the people of Chicago. But also a fact of life is fully embracing the warm weather when it arrives. Spring and summer in Chicago means a city buzzing with outdoor festivals, boats dotting the lake and people swarming to the beaches. Restaurants throw their patio doors open and city parks transform into stunning green spaces.

When the cold goes away, Chicago knows how to come out and play.

Here are 10 reasons Chicago should be on your summer vacation radar this year.

Navy Pier comes to life

Chicago Navy Pier Swings at Dusk

Chicago Navy Pier Swings at Dusk

Navy Pier is a hotspot for activity all year long, but there’s something about summer that fills it with life. In 2016, the lakeside attraction will turn 100-years-old, giving Chicago something extra special to celebrate. The city is set to open a brand new 196-foot Ferris wheel, replacing the 147-foot ride that has been a Pier staple since 1995. Lake cruises that set sail from the Pier pick up this time of year and people flock to take part in all the outdoor seasonal activities that take over the area. If there were no other reasons to visit Chicago during the summer months, Navy Pier would be reason enough!

Bicycles become a viable (and enjoyable) form of transportation

Forget crowding onto public transit or fighting downtown traffic, spring and summer provide the perfect opportunity to explore Chicago by bicycle (or Segway!) Make a reservation on www.bikechicago.com and build your own adventure, or sign up for one of their group tours. This company is great at accommodating groups of all sizes and they’re kid friendly.

Zoo animals come out of hibernation

Chicago’s beautiful Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos keep their doors open year round, but many animals are just more apt to come out and play when the sun is shining! Each zoo has a ton to offer this spring and summer, including Lincoln Park’s Spring Break Camps and the launch of Brookfield’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters. Where else do you get the opportunity to interact up-close with red pandas and wallabies?

You can get schooled on architecture from a double decker boat

Dubbed the “Birthplace of the skyscraper,” Chicago has plenty of impressive architecture to ogle over. Instead of craning your neck from the sidewalks between buildings and wondering about the history behind each tower, Shoreline offers guided architecture tours via double decker riverboat. Catch the cruise at the right time and your tour just may end with watching fireworks over Navy Pier.

Parks are in bloom on the Gray Line tour

Gray Line gives visitors the opportunity to dig deeper into particular Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, with about a half dozen tours to choose from. There’s even one tour that includes a personal pizza. Gray Line is happy to show tourists around the city all year long, but several of the points of interest just happen to be outdoor parks. To avoid missing out on all of the blooms and blossoms, take advantage of this opportunity during the warm weather months!

Theater goes outside

Professional stage productions head outdoors starting in the spring. Oak Park Festival Theatre and First Folio’s outdoor stage entertain audiences with acts from Shakespeare to modern productions. Breathe in fresh air while you take in a top-notch play from some of Chicago’s most renowned theatre companies. However, if you’re dying to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of the city’s “movie palace” built in 1921, then sign up for the Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour. This attraction may be indoors, but it’s worth seeing even if the weather is to die for.

Views from the 1,353-foot glass box get clearer

Step out into a glass box suspended 1,353 feet above Chicago. Located in the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the Skydeck at Willis Tower touts views that can extend into four different states on a clear day. For competing views, head up to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center and stand in the “TILT” windows that fold out in a 30-degree angle for another unique view from above Chicago’s skyline. Either way, chances of a crystal clear view are much better this time of year than under the frequent cloud cover that seems to constantly hover over the city throughout the winter.

Kids can go to Dino-Camp

The Field Museum of Natural History has been a place of scientific discovery for people of all ages for more than a century. Among a slew of other events and exhibitions that the museum hosts during the summer, one of the highlights is Dino Camp, a day camp that lets young kids put on their paleontologist caps and dig for dinosaur fossils. Older kids can try out the Summer Explore Studio, which this year fuses dinosaur survival tactics with video game development in a mash-up kids are sure to love.

Baseball is in full swing

Wrigley Field GameEnjoying a day out at the diamond in Chicago is one of the best ways to get a taste of real Chicago culture. Chicagoans have been rooting for their beloved Cubs since 1870, and Wrigley Field stands as the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. The White Sox have been swinging bats since 1901, and have also established a loyal fan base. Whether you choose to enjoy your hotdog from the stands at Wrigley or U.S. Cellular Field, indulging in America’s pastime in one of the country’s most die-hard baseball cities is truly an all-star experience.

You can try your hand at pirate life

“Chicago’s Official Tall Ship” sets sail out of Navy Pier starting in May every year. Marked by giant, billowing sails, the four-mast schooner offers educational tours, relaxing cruises, and even haunted trips out to sea. Learn a little bit about pirate life, maritime history and more from one of the “Windy’s” official guides, and actively participate in adjusting the sails or setting off one of the ship’s cannons.

Options abound for summer-time fun in and around Chicago. The city has a way of welcoming people of all ages, interests and backgrounds and delivering a one of a kind experience worth traveling for.

 

 

 

 

 

Boston’s Freedom Trail: Tips, tricks and hidden secrets

An old city in the new world, Boston is a place chock full of historical landmarks and layered with centuries of well-kept secrets and hidden gems. From 17th century graves to a 20th century covert steakhouse, mystery is around every corner, waiting to be discovered by tourists and locals alike.

The good news is, Boston’s biggest historical attractions like Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s House and Quincy Market are strung together along a red brick and painted path dubbed the Freedom Trail. Many tour companies are available with knowledgeable guides ready to walk visitors from site to site, explaining the who’s and what’s behind the Patriots’ road to revolution.

Whether following a guide or traveling the Trail alone, here are a few tips and tricks to add to your adventure.

Rest your feet on the Charlestown Ferry

While the Freedom Trail is completely walkable, it can make for a long day. To cut down on steps AND get a great view of the city, catch the Charlestown Ferry at Long Wharf after you hit all of the stops from Boston Common to Old North Church in the North End. The ferry leaves every 15 minutes and costs less than $2 to ride each way. Passengers can sit inside or out, but either way, they get a stunning view of the Boston skyline from the water! The ferry stops off at the Charlestown Navy Yard and from there it’s a short walk to Bunker Hill and the rest of the stops on this side of the bay.

View of Boston from a Ferry

Search for Mother Goose

Lay a penny on Paul Revere’s headstone, pay respect to John Hancock and look up at the towering Franklin Monument at the Old Granary Burying Ground, but don’t forget to visit Mother Goose. Walk up the center trail of the burying ground to the short dead end path located between the Franklin Monument and the back of the cemetery. Here lies the first wife of Isaac Goose, Mary, and his second wife, Elizabeth in an unmarked grave nearby. Mary gave birth to 10 children before passing away. Elizabeth raised all 10 kids and added 10 of her own to the clan. Elizabeth may have never penned a nursery rhyme, but she’s certainly earned the title “Mother Goose.“

Find your Saint in an alleyway

Stop by to see if Peter Baldassari has the wooden gate to All Saints Way alley open at Hanover and Battery Street in Boston’s oldest neighborhood, the North End. Baldassari is sometimes on hand to talk all about his passion project, collecting saints and building out his sanctuary to them. He will even help visitors find their Saint based on their birthday. It’s a beautiful place that mashes up art, history and religion in a homemade alleyway museum. If the gate is closed, take a peek through the slats to check out Baldassari’s collection. 

See where Benjamin Franklin was born

This unassuming landmark is just steps off the Freedom Trail between the Old Corner Bookstore and the Old South Meeting House, but many people miss it! The birthplace of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin at 1 Milk Street is marked by a small white bust of Franklin himself. The original building where Franklin was born burned down in 1810.

Dine in a secret steakhouse

Just 2.5 blocks from the Park Street Church stop on the Freedom Trail is a hidden 20-seat steakhouse where patrons can order hand crafted cocktails, caviar, foie gras and a 28-ounce bone-in Porterhouse. Walk through the casual JM Curley burger joint and look for the “Adults Only” sign. Turn off your cell phone and enter Bogie’s Place, a private dining experience of a lifetime. Main course prices range from $23 to $75 with add-on sides for $7 to $14. Make sure to call ahead and make reservations.

Take note of the 10-foot wide house

Directly across the Hull Street entrance to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End stands 4-story house touted as the narrowest house in Boston, measuring only 10 feet wide. Urban legend holds the house was built by a bitter brother to block the sunlight to his sibling’s larger home on land the two inherited from their father. The Civil War era house is still occupied today.

Step carefully over the dead

Four cemeteries are located on Boston’s Freedom Trail, including the city’s three oldest. Visitors may notice that the faded headstones that in some cases date back to the 1660’s, are all organized in fairly neat rows. That was not always the case. In fact, it’s likely that not many of the headstones still mark the resting place of those who were buried there, and the remains of bodies probably extend underneath surrounding streets and structures.

Boston Cemetary

Grab a bite at Paul Revere’s old haunt

Hob nob where Paul Revere used to hang out, at the Green Dragon Tavern not far off the Freedom Trail at 11 Marshall Street, just behind Union Oyster House. The history of the pub is disputed, but it’s said that Paul Revere launched his famous midnight ride from here to warn the patriots of the British march toward Lexington and Concord. The current standing restaurant is proud of its history that extends at least back to the 1770’s, if not back to 1654 like the pub claims. Regardless, it’s a great place to take a load off and grab a bite to eat at a historic landmark!

 

24-Hour Guide to Manhattan

Historic landmarks, world-renowned museums, the flashing lights of Broadway- New York has a few things to offer its 50-plus million tourists each year. But it could take a lifetime to uncover all the sights sounds, smells and tastes of America’s biggest city. Just ask one of its 8.5 million residents, New York is a tough nut to crack.

Some travelers just do not have that kind of time. They need to experience the highlights of New York in a quick, jam-packed trip of a lifetime.

For those who have an extra-long layover or find themselves just driving through, here’s a 24-hour guide to conquering (or at least beginning to experience) New York’s glitziest borough: Manhattan.

Grand Central Terminal Audio Tour
Travelers taking the train in from one of the region’s nearby cities should take it all the way to Grand Central Station, New York’s transit mecca and the largest train station in the world. Unbeknownst to many New Yorkers who pass through every day, the terminal is over a century old and packed with juicy secrets. Grab a headset from a GCT Tour window located on the main concourse for an audio-guided trek through the station. Those who are short on time can opt for the 30-minute express version.

Bagel Time
It’s breakfast time, which in New York means it’s bagel time. Head west on 42nd Street from Grand Central and south on Fifth Avenue to walk through part of New York’s famed high-end shopping district. Turn west again on 35th and walk 2.5 city blocks to Best Bagel & Coffee. Fuel up here or grab some lox to go and get to Penn Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue. Hop on the IRT Broadway-Seventh Avenue Line 1 Train going north. Next stop: Columbus Circle.

Central Park Bicycle rentals
Welcome to Central Park. Several bicycle rental companies are waiting near Columbus Circle at the corner of 59th Street and Central Park West. Snag an hourly rental and head deep into the trees or follow the trails to the zoo on the east side of the park near 65th Street. Take in a Zen moment at the Strawberry Fields memorial honoring Beatles legend John Lennon at the Columbus Circle corner of the park when it’s time to return the bikes.

Empire State Building
Get back on the same subway line, this time headed south to 34th Street Herald Square. Look up and find the Empire State Building. Now book it! It’s almost 11:30 a.m. and that’s when the lines start to get really long here! Take the elevator up 1,250 feet for the highest view of New York City (the radio antenna sits at a city-high 1,467-feet).

Empire State Building

Grub Time
That bagel and coffee are wearing off and it’s time to eat again. A 12-minute walk or 7-minute subway ride on the M1 or M2 south will bring visitors to the heart of the Flatiron District with several lunch options. For pastrami and sour pickle fans out to see where Harry Met Sally, head back to the subway at Herald Square and take a 15-minute ride on the F line to 2nd Avenue. Five blocks east on Houston Street, enter Katz’s Delicatessen. Take a ticket and DON’T LOSE IT until lunch is OVER. For foodies who are looking to spend their 24-hours eating and drinking through Manhattan, check out the Food on Foot tours instead.

9/11 Tribute Center
If there is any place during this 24-hour, non-stop day of sight-seeing to really slow down and take everything in, it’s here. Visit the Gallery or take the 1-hour 15-minute guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial, led by survivors, first responders, and family members of loved ones lost on that tragic day in American history. Gallery visits are $15 per adult and $5 for children ages 8-12 and guided tours are $25 for adults, $10 for children. Tours are often booked out days or weeks in advance, so book ahead of time.

Staten Island Ferry
From the 9/11 Tribute Center, take the 1 Train south to the tip of Manhattan, South Ferry Station. For those with time and energy to walk, there is a photo opportunity with the Charging Bull on Wall Street between the two stops. Ferries depart from the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan every half hour. No tickets are necessary, but there may be lines to board. Ferry-goers will get great views of the Statue of Liberty and of the Manhattan skyline. Passengers must get off the ferry on Staten Island but are generally allowed right back on the same boat headed back.

Grab a Slice
It’s time for dinner and this 24-hour guide has yet to stop anywhere near a slice of New York style pizza. A short walk from South Ferry Station toward Hanover Square is Adrienne’s Pizza Shop at 54 Stone Street. Since there’s nowhere to go but north, there are a string of places to grab a slice on the way up to New York’s iconic Times Square.

Times Square, Broadway
After a full day of stuffy subway cars and walking long city blocks, it’s time to take a load off. First, snap a few photos in Times Square to properly mark this 24-hour trip that has flown by. Then head over to one of the city’s top Broadway shows. Whether it’s a long-time favorite like the Lion King or Fiddler on the Roof, or one of the popular, newer additions to the theater scene like Book of Mormon or Finding Neverland, finishing the day at the theatre will be the perfect ending to 24-hours of non-stop, Big Apple fun.

 

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but after this quick trip, you will be happy you still do.