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.

 

Why buy a Go Oahu Card instead of a iVenture Honolulu Card?

The Go Oahu Card and the iVenture Honolulu Card are two of the biggest multi-attraction passes in the Oahu tourism market. They both offer admission to the area’s best attractions at a discount, but they have important differences that you should consider when making your decision about which one to buy. Thinking about factors like included attractions, geographic breadth, and maximum savings, it’s clear that the Go Oahu Card comes out on top.

Included Attractions

GO_CARD_HIO-largeGo Oahu Card

Because the product offers admission to more than 30 attractions throughout all of Oahu, we can’t list them all here. Here are a few of their top attractions:

iVenture Honolulu Card

The iVenture Honolulu Card offers 16 attractions, all of which are located on the South Shore or in the immediate Honolulu vicinity.

  • Battleship Missouri
  • Iolani Palace
  • USS Bowfin Submarine
  • Hawaiian Style Rentals
  • Wet n’ Wild Hawaii
  • Bishop Museum
  • Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Hanauma Bay Snorkeling
  • Kualoa Ranch
  • Island Tours
  • Movie Sites Tour
  • Volcano Crater Tour
  • Honolulu City Tour
  • Catamaran Sail
  • Waikiki Trolley
  • Sea Life Park Hawaii

As is evident by these lists, there’s a lot of similarities in the attractions they offer, whether it’s the same museum or the essentially the same tour offered by a different company.

One thing that’s important to note about this comparison, however, is that the Go Oahu Card has a lot more to offer both in terms of available attractions in Honolulu (they have all the stuff the iVenture Honolulu Card does), but they also offer popular attractions elsewhere in Oahu. How many people realistically go to Oahu and stay only on the South Shore?

The Go Oahu Card also includes admission to one of the most popular attractions on the whole island that the iVenture Honolu Card simply leaves out – the Polynesian Cultural Center.

How You Save

The Go Oahu Card advertises that it can save you up to 55% on combined admission prices. Their website offers examples of real customer itineraries and how much they saved, with one family saving over $1,500 on admission with 5 day cards!

One of the best things about this product is the flexibility in planning your visit. You can explore Honolulu one day, head to the North Shore for some snorkeling and sunbathing the next, and then mix it up with a little trip to the center of the island.

There are also multiple combinations of attraction visits that can maximize your savings. With over 30 choices, you’re not restricted to a few of the most expensive attractions in order to get your money’s worth out of the pass.

The iVenture Honolulu Card advertises a savings of 50% (so not too different there), but they provide only sample itineraries that demonstrate potential savings. Their suggested itineraries with 5-day cards save only around $120 per adult based on their own calculations.

The real downside to this product is the limited selection of attractions. While they do offer a nice variety of options, you are a bit limited geographically with the one exception of Kualoa Ranch.

You also don’t have the option to visit attractions more than once (unlike the Go Oahu Card). If the kids really fell in love with Sea Life Park, for example, you simply can’t revisit favorite attractions.

How Do I Use Them?

Both products are smart cards (the size and shape of a credit card with an embedded computer chip) that serve as your admission ticket to the chosen attractions.

The iVenture Honolulu Card is purchased online and can be shipped or picked up in Honolulu with a voucher system (note: they don’t seem to ship everywhere in the US, so that may be a limiting factor for some of you). They offer one sales location in Honolulu.

The Go Oahu Card has a wider variety of options in how to get the pass. They do ship everywhere in the US and to many countries worldwide. You can buy the pass online, over the phone, or in Hawaii itself (also in places like Costco!).

Or you can choose instant delivery of the card – it’s the same exact product with the added convenience of being able to use it on your smartphone. Prefer a hard copy but like the instant part? Just print it out. It’s perfect for last-minute planners and many customers pick this option.

What’s the Real Difference?

The most important differences between these two products have to do with what style of travel you’re most interested in. If you want the flexibility and freedom to see what you want to see, the number of times you want to see it, then the Go Oahu Card is a great option.

If you’re only planning on staying in Honolulu and like the included attractions, then the iVenture Honolulu Card might be a good choice. However, in addition to the “no repeat attraction visits” limit, you’re also restricted to visiting attractions on consecutive days, meaning that there’s no flexibility to accommodate bad weather or the desire for a beach day.

Extra Details

The Go Oahu Card includes multiple North Shore attractions, providing you with a more comprehensive look at Oahu culture – in fact, some of the best beaches (with fewer tourists!) are found on the North Shore.

Both products come with guidebooks that contain area maps and essential details like directions and contact information.

The Go Oahu Card also includes admission to your choice of a premium bonus attraction, which includes exciting and authentic Hawaiian experiences like a real luau and a dolphin encounter at Sea Life Park.

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

The Go Oahu Card is purchased for a number of card days, but those days can be used over a 2-week period, so you’ve got plenty of wiggle room when it comes to weather or the need to take a break.

Last Thoughts

Trying to decide between a Go Oahu Card and the iVenture Honolulu Card? When taking into consideration product attributes like flexibility in attraction choice, the freedom to see what you want, when you want, and the ease of maximizing your savings, the Go Oahu Card is your best bet.

 

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

Smart Destinations’ Go Boston Card and the Boston CityPass are the two biggest all-inclusive products in the Boston market. They both have their pros and cons, and both are popular with visitors. Yet despite often being part of the same conversation, these products offer very different benefits. In fact, when you consider attributes like included attractions, ease of use, maximum potential savings, and flexibility, the Go Boston Card is a clear winner.

Let’s start with a few comparative points, then get into specifics about savings.

Included Attractions

Go Boston Card

There are simply too many to list them all here, but here’s a brief selection of the top tourist attractions available through the Go Boston Card program:

Boston CityPass

  • New England Aquarium
  • Museum of Science
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Skywalk Observatory OR Harvard Museum of Natural History

As you can see, the Go Boston Card includes all of the same attractions as the Boston CityPass, without the need for any exclusionary choices. You can see as much as you can fit into your schedule!

How You Save

The Go Boston Card advertises that it can save you up to 55% on combined admission prices, and their website offers several examples of real customer itineraries and how they saved on their vacations. If you want to maximize your savings, there are tons of attraction combinations that will really add up the savings.

In fact, one of the best things about this pass is the flexibility – you create so many personalized itineraries and still get your money’s worth out of this pass. You can save over $300 per couple!

Boston CityPass advertises that it can save you up to 47% on combined admission prices. Because there are only five options, they don’t offer any real customer experience on their site. In order to maximize your savings, you have to visit all of the included attractions and be sure to choose the more expensive one for your either/or choice.

The real downside here is how limited you are in personal attraction choices. You only have two possible itinerary combinations, and that’s with only one variable. The most you can possibly save is $85.90 per couple.

How Do I Use Them?

Both products work in similar ways, in that they serve as your admission ticket to the included attractions. The Boston CityPassis a booklet of paper tickets that can be shipped or picked up in person in Boston. Attractions tear off the paper ticket when you visit, and you hold onto the booklet for future admission to the other attractions.

The Go Boston Card comes with a variety of options. You can choose a physical card (the size and shape of a credit card) that can either be shipped or picked up in person in Boston, or you can choose to receive instant delivery of their digital pass. It’s the same pass with all the same benefits, but you can use it on your smartphone for admission to all of the included attractions. If you like the instant part but not the digital part, just print out the pass and present the paper copy to attractions. Many customers prefer the digital option because of its speed and convenience.

What’s the Real Difference?

The big difference here is going to be in your style of travel. If you prefer a kind of “do it all, see it all” attitude, then the Go Boston Card is best for you. You’ll get more value the more you do, and the longer increments you buy the card for, the more you can save on combined admission prices. You also get one free bonus attraction for 3-, 5-, and 7-Day cards, featuring premium activities like a Whale Watch, Red Sox tickets, and the Boston Duck Tours. The most popular card is the 3-Day Go Boston Card.

If you only want to see a very specific, limited set of attractions, then the Boston 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. You’re also out of luck if you want to see both the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Skywalk Observatory. There are no bonus attractions with CityPass. At the end of the day, this product just doesn’t offer the same flexibility, variety, and convenience that the Go Boston Card does.

Extra Details

The Go Boston Card also includes attractions in Cape Cod, Lexington, Concord, Salem, and more, so you’ll really get a feel for the whole Boston metro area and its rich historical heritage.

Both products come with additional coupons for savings on dining, shopping, and/or other attractions.  However CityPass only has discounts at a few of the museum shops as well as Macy’s. Go Boston Card gives you discounts at about 20 restaurants, shows and shops (including Macy’s).

Both products also come with basic details like directions and contact information. The Go Boston Card includes a free, full-color guidebook with your purchase. This includes information on the local mass transit system (the MBTA), details about local neighborhoods, and some facts about free points of interest and historical sites.

As mentioned above, the Go Boston Card offers your choice of 4 premium bonus attractions, including a Whale Watch, Red Sox Tickets, Gray Line Boston Tours, and the Boston Duck Tours.

Last Thoughts

Trying to decide between a Go Boston Card and Boston CityPass? Think about what you want out of a vacation, what your style of travel is, and what your budget is. Both products also have crucial differences in available attractions, the way the passes work, how much you save, and what’s included in your total experience. Ultimately, the Go Boston Card just seems like better value for your money.

Top 10 reasons to go to New York City

Art museums
Some of the world’s most famous art can be found within the numerous art museums in New York City. Some of the most famous New York museums include The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Two lesser-known but intriguing places to visit are The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCa) and The New York Tattoo Museum.

US history
One visit to New York City can teach you a great deal about the United States. Visit Ellis Island, the gateway to America for millions of 19th-century immigrants who arrived to its port seeking freedom and opportunity, and enjoy the same first view of the Statue of Liberty that the immigrants beheld when first arriving on America’s shores. You won’t want to visit NYC without viewing its impressive skyline from the astounding heights of the Empire State Building, once the tallest skyscraper in the world.

Unique shopping opportunities
Famous for opulent department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, New York City is a shopper’s dream: from couture fashions costing thousands of dollars to small vintage and thrift shops where you can find designer jeans for the price of a sandwich, New York is not only a fun place to shop, it is the place to shop…for just about everything!

Cultural diversity
A city of immigrants, New York retains its unique cultural flavor as much today as it did centuries ago. This unique blend of ethnicities and cultures has influenced every aspect of city life: you can find art, cuisine, clothing and literature in just about any language. Check out Little India, Chinatown and Borough Park (also called Boro Park), home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in the world.

Parks and Public Spaces
Central Park is a great first choice to take the family- you could spend hours, if not days enjoying the 873 acres of the park. Children will enjoy The Central Park Zoo, and there are no less than 21 children’s parks within the park! Athletic families will appreciate Central Park’s walking and bike tours, and everyone will enjoy concerts in the park. You could even take a cue from the locals and pack a picnic for a leisurely family lunch in the park. Other parks to visit include Bryant Park and Madison Square Park.

Festivals and concerts
Musicians have long flocked to New York City to become famous, or at least make a living playing music. Consequently, NYC is one of the best places for music lovers of all genres. Music is in the air in New York City. At any given time, you can find exuberant street musicians playing in parks, cafes and even in the subway station. There are always multiple concerts taking place in venues such as Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden.

Top-notch theatre performances
Broadway is the place to catch a live, world-class show. This thespian hotspot runs throughout Manhattan into Westchester Country, and it is considered the cultural axis of the American theatre industry.

Diverse dining opportunities
There are literally thousands of restaurants in New York City. You can sample foreign fare from around the globe. While some of New York’s most extravagant restaurants can cost over $200 per person, you can also enjoy the relatively inexpensive, famous New York take-out, as well as street vendor favorites like kosher hot dogs and tacos.

Great urban bicycling routes
There are five major urban bike route options in New York City, ranging from five to fifteen miles in distance. Try the scenic North Country and South County Trailways, located just outside city limits in Westchester County.

New York Nightlife
The late-night social scene starts well after 10:00pm in New York City. Famous clubs include the 40/40 Club, The Bowery Ballroom and Table 50. Most nightclubs charge a cover, and many have a dress code. It seems as though a new club is opening every other day in New York, so if you like to dance you can find everything from dubstep to salsa music on any given night of the week.

USS Iowa Now Open at the Port of Los Angeles

USS Iowa leaving San Francisco for LA

Dubbed the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” when it was commissioned in 1940, the former battleship the USS Iowa has now been converted to a state-of-the-art naval museum and found a permanent home at Berth 87 in San Pedro, CA at the Port of Los Angeles. The ship/museum officially opened to the public on July 7, 2012 to a week of fanfare. Now and in the future, it will open daily from 9am to 5pm each day of the year except Christmas and Thanksgiving. There are also plans to light up the ship each evening so that is stands as a beacon for the Port of Los Angeles.

The History of the USS Iowa

The USS Iowa was built in 1940. At the time, it was called the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” in part because of its large guns, fast speeds, heavy armor, modernization, and longevity. It served the United States Navy as a warship for the next 50 years, continuing to keep pace with newer ships for all of that time. This included serving tours in World War II and Korea, as well as conducting Cold War missions. The ship was officially and finally decommissioned on 26 October 1990.

Over its illustrious history, the Iowa served ten different presidents including transporting President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt on an overseas journey to a secret meeting with Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek at the Tehran Conference. In fact, a special bathtub, unheard of on a naval ship, was built for President Roosevelt for his journey across the Atlantic. In addition, Ronald Regan and his wife Nancy spent the weekend on the ship in 1986. Its relationship to these presidents and particularly its role in transporting FDR as earned the Iowa the additional nickname, “The Battleship of Presidents.”

Visiting the Museum

Tourists to the Los Angeles area this summer will be among the first to view the new battleship/museum which displays all the specifics of a Navy warship along with offering a series of virtual battle experiences. In addition, the Iowa will also sponsor a youth program which will include camps, overnight opportunities, and specialized programs for at-risk youth.

Entrance into the museum at the USS Iowa is reasonably priced at $18 for adults aged 18-61, $10 for youth ages 6-17, and $15 for seniors aged 62+ and active duty or retired military members with valid ID. Children under age 6 are admitted free of charge. Memberships are also available for purchase which will entitle holders to additional benefits such as guest passes, newsletters, and gift shop discounts.

Visiting the Los Angeles Area

One of the greatest benefits to visiting the Los Angeles area any time of the year is its weather. Travelling to L.A. in December is as pleasant as travelling in July. When there, numerous Los Angeles and San Diego area tourist passes can help travelers save money while visiting all of southern California’s best attractions. Though the Iowa is not currently on any tourist passes (it is too new) a trip to San Pedro can be combined with several other popular L.A. tourist opportunities.

Summer Is the Season…for Broadway!!

Visitors to New York City this summer will have a lot of activities on their lists. From the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the cultural wonders of the Big Apple could literally keep you busy for months. However, summertime is a special time in the City for one more reason: the end of the Broadway show season means discount tickets.

Why Everyone Should Go to Broadway at Least Once

You don’t need to be Rachel Barry or even know who she is to appreciate the cultural wonder that is the American Musical Theatre. Whether or not you can stand random breaks into song, it’s worth it just to see the storied theatre spaces themselves that grace the Great White Way.  This includes the Gershwin on West 51st Street, the Imperial on West 45th Street, and the Marquis Theatre on Broadway itself.

However, not all Broadway shows are musicals besides and going to Broadway in the summertime gives visitors the best opportunities to see some of last season’s hottest shows at a discount rate, before the new season begins in the fall.

A Special Hint

There is one, specific time when Broadway tickets are at their lowest: the first 10 days in July. For whatever reason (maybe Independence Day?) this period is the slowest every year. Theatre owners would rather fill seats than play to near-empty house, leaving ticket discounts of up to 50% for pre-purchases.

For an added bonus, those willing to go to a theatre on the day of a performance may be able to snag rush and standing room only tickets for as low as $25-$35 and still get decent seating because of the lull in audiences. Students (with a valid ID) are actually subject to more rush ticket opportunities – definitely a path worth considering.

What’s Hot This Summer

For the summer of 2012, there are many great shows playing in New York that are worth seeing. A personal favorite, Wicked, is currently at the Gershwin. For those less inclined to music Tennessee Williams’ perennial hit A Streetcar Named Desire is at the Broadhurst. Other favorites, both old and new, such as Phantom of the Opera (Majestic), Mama Mia! (Winter Garden) and The Book of Mormon (Eugene O’Neil) are all great bets as well.

Enjoy a Chicago Blues Tradition June 8-10

Grant Park at Night

The city of Chicago and the Blues go hand-in-hand. Starting in the beginning of the 20th century with the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the more prosperous and integrated cities of the north, Chicago has been seen as a haven for musicians and particularly those singing the blues. In 1984, Chicago’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Lois Weisberg, began the Chicago Blues Festival. One of the largest and most famous of Chicago cultural events, Weisberg dreamed the Chicago Blues Festival up following the death of McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters). The event was and still is a way to celebrate the rich contribution of the blues to the Chicago cultural landscape and the life of a man considered its father.

Today, the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world. It is held each June in Grant Park and offers visitors the chance to see popular blues acts on five different sponsored stages. This year, the festival will be held Friday, June 8th through Sunday, June 10th and will run from 11 am to 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday and 11 am to 9 pm Sunday.

Amazing Voices and Good Times, but Be Prepared

Past performances at the Chicago Blues Festival have included such storied acts as Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King and Ray Charles. On average, over 500,000 people will flock to Grant Park for the festivities over these three days, making this one of the most prosperous and busy weekends for the Chicagoland area. Therefore, anyone planning to go to the festival should be prepared.

Here are a few tips to make your trip to the Chicago Blues Festival the best it can be:

  • Know where you want to go: The set list for this year’s festival has already been finalized. Therefore, figuring out where you want to be and when should be determined before leaving for the festival. For set schedules, go to the Chicago Blues Festival homepage.
  • Bring your own seat: With the exception of performances at the Petrillo Music Shell, folding chairs can be brought along to provide seating. If you plan on going all day and staying through several acts, bringing a chair, or at least a picnic blanket, is a great plan.
  • Consider your food: Several famous Chicago eateries including Gold Coast Dogs, Reggie’s Bar & Grill, and Robinson’s #1 Ribs will be serving up refreshments at the festival. However, you can save time and money by bringing your own picnic lunch to the park. Just remember that alcoholic beverages and personal grills are not allowed on park grounds.
  • Look for fun elsewhere, too: The Chicago Blues Festival is a city-wide celebration. Though the free music is limited to Grant Park on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there are several other places throughout the city that will be offering free or low-cost blues themed entertainment throughout the week leading up to the festival. These venues can also be found on the main festival information page, here.

If you are planning on visiting the Chicago area the weekend of June 8-10 or if you live within driving distance of the city, the chance to visit the Chicago Blues Festival should not be passed by. In addition to hearing amazing, free music you will be participating in one of the most famous and memorable cultural events that this city has to offer.

New York in Summer: Go North to the Hudson Valley

Summertime vacations to the Big Apple are a rich time to explore all the many treasures that the City has to offer. From ferry rides to Broadway, a tourist could spend a year in New York and never get bored. However, even with all that action, there is plenty more entertainment and fun waiting for visitors due north of the City in New York’s acclaimed Hudson Valley. Whether merely a day trip on Metro North railroad or a weekend spent outside of the city limits, visitors to the New York metro area may be surprised with what memories they can make a little way north.

Shopping at The Commons

Though Fifth Avenue is known worldwide as the center of shopping in New York City, that center comes with a hefty price tag. Buying an outfit from Saks, for example, can run in the triple digits.

Hudson Valley in Autumn

If coming to New York means shopping, taking a short bus ride outside of the city to the Woodbury Commons Premium Outlets in Central Valley can mean more bang for the proverbial buck with all the style New York is known for. In addition, many tourist passes, such as the New York City Explorer Pass come with the option of a bus trip to the Commons in the purchase price.

While most outlet malls are staples for larger, cheaper brands like Gap and Columbia, Woodbury is also home to all the most sought-after designers from the City’s streets. Woodbury Commons offers shoppers over 220 outlet stores and features designer labels like Gucci, Dior, Jimmy Choo, and Lacoste. With its proximity to New York, many of the styles featured at the Woodbury outlets are far more current than other outlet stores in different parts of the country. However, the prices will match to bargain hunting anywhere else.

Shakespeare en plein air

Broadway is an amazing sight to see for anyone travelling to New York. Many people make annual pilgrimages to the Great White Wayfor the express purpose of enjoying their favorite modern stage productions. However, for fans of a more Renaissance version of the theatre, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival held each summer at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, NY is a must-see.

Each season for the past 25 years, the actors of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival present two different shows, one comedy and one tragedy, on the historic grounds of the Boscobel mansion, a restored Federal period home which was constructed between 1804 and 1808. The theatre is set up outdoors and visitors are invited to enjoy a picnic on the grounds overlooking the Hudson River prior to the show.

The 2012 season at the Boscobel will feature the timeless Romeo & Juliette along with the comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost. Each show runs on alternating days (except Mondays) from June 12 through September 2, 2012. Adult tickets start as low as $27 and children’s tickets begin at only $18.50 for performances during the week. Additionally, there are packages that include a picnic dinner, wine and cheese tastings, and family nights.

New York: Don’t Set Limits

When it comes to visiting, the sky is the limit. There are New York attractions, shows, and tours  enough to keep you busy long after your time to visit has expired. However, expanding your sights past the city itself can open additional doors for fun, adventure, and even a little shopping.