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.

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.

Two Great New Ways to Enjoy L.A. this Spring/Summer

A trip to Los Angeles can be a memorable occasion for almost any individual or family. The home of some of the world’s most famous television and movie stars, not to mention Disneyland boasts more attractions, events, and sights than most other U.S. cities combined. The ever-evolving City of Angels also likes to keep visitors and residents on their toes by offering new attractions and events on a fairly regular basis. Today, we want to highlight just two of these amazing new offerings that are worth a trip to L.A. whether for the first time or the fortieth!

Cirque du Soleil Presents: IRIS

Anyone who watched the 2012 Academy Awards was treated to a preview of the world-renown Cirque do Soleil’s newest U.S.-based show IRIS: A Journey through the World of Cinema, which has made L.A.’s Dolby Theatre its new permanent home since its debut in September of 2011. Back in 1987, the Canadian-founded performance group made its first U.S. appearance in Los Angeles at the annual Los Angeles Arts festival. Still struggling financially and yet to gain the massive appeal that the company currently enjoys, the choice to perform their Le Cirque Réinventé with only enough money for a one-way trip from Montreal was a turning point in the company’s history.

Last year, Cirque do Soleil introduced its new show at Dolby as homage to its first experiences in the States and will continue to run shows there daily for the foreseeable future. IRIS was developed exclusively for performances at the Dolby Theatre and its subject matter, which focuses on the marvels of film, seeks to celebrate its host city in that tradition.

The show is directed by Philippe Decouflé and features music from Academy Award-nominated composer Danny Elfman. It tells the story of two young people who experience the art of cinema for the first time. It features a troupe of 72 dancers who tell their story through music and expressive and acrobatic movement along with Cirque du Soleil’s iconic special effects.

The show is performed each evening Tuesday-Friday with a matinee as well as evening performance on Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on Mondays. Ticket prices range from $43-$253 on the Cirque do Soleil website, but are worth the indulgence as this show is one-of-a-kind and will not be performed in any other location.

Ancient Egypt Meets L.A. at the California Science Center

Those planning on travel to the Los Angeles area in the latter half of 2012 are in for a special treat if they plan on visiting the California Science Center. The largest hands-on science center on the West Coast also includes the largest IMAX screen in L.A. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., admission to the California Science Center’s main exhibition gallery is always free. However, beginning May 23rd and lasting through the end of the year, the center will play host to the 13,000 square foot Cleopatra Exhibition, which features the largest collection of artifacts from the historic time period of Cleopatra ever assembled.

Admission to the Cleopatra Exhibition will cost an additional amount. Adults ages 18-59 will pay $19.75, children 4-12 are only $12.75 however and Youth (13-17), Students (with ID) and Seniors (60+) are $16.75.

For fans of ancient Egypt and the Queen who ruled it from the tender age of 17, the collection of over 150 artifacts exhumed from the sands of that region is truly mesmerizing. The entire expanse of the exhibit is decorated to mirror that era, giving visitors the full experience of ancient Egyptian times.

The Science Center sells tickets to the Cleopatra Exhibit at the box office as well as online and over the phone for an additional fee. It is important to note that, due to the interest in this limited-engagement event, tickets are time stamped and curators recommend that you plan on spending at least 75 minutes touring the artifacts.

Enjoying the New Finds in L.A.

Though the permanent fixtures of Southern California afford visitors to the area plenty of activities to keep busy, the new additions to the rolls are worth a look as well. Travelling to L.A. is such a treat for people unused to having so many options available at their fingertips, taking time to plan out which attractions and events to visit is well worth it. Including additions like Cirque do Soleil and the Cleopatra Exhibit can be a little more expensive than other options. However, combining these events with a tourist pass such as the Go Los Angeles Card or Hollywood CityPass can save travelers a lot of money over the course of their trip.