Archives for April 2012

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.

Yes, You Can Take the Kids to Hawai’i

As parents, most of us spend our days working for and worrying about the future of our children. We want to give them everything we can, which includes the ability to see the world and enjoy the best that life has to offer. However, the reality of this economy has made traveling even within the 48 contiguous states of the U.S. difficult for many. So, the dream of a family vacation to the Hawaiian Islands may simply seem out of grasp. Yet, there are ways to save money even on the trip-of-a-lifetime, all it takes is careful planning and a few tips.

Hapuna Bay Hawaii

Tip One: Save on Airfare

Though it should seem self-evident, when you travel to Hawaii is important if you want to save money getting there. The best times to travel are between January and the middle of April. During that time, the mild temperatures of this Pacific Paradise ensure that you will be warm and the vacation culture of the islands ensures there will be plenty to do. Typically, travelers from the West coast are doing well if they pay $325 for their tickets. Midwesterners should expect to pay about $550 and those on the East coast should top out at around $650 for the round-trip.

Tip Two: Look for Overnight Packages

Though Hawaii is hardly known for all-inclusive resorts – that’s more popular in the Caribbean – savvy travelers can still find good deals on packaged stays on the main islands of Oahu and Maui (where most U.S.-originating flights land). The Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore of Oahu, for example, offers guests a “fifth night free” that can save them a few hundred dollars. At other places, like the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, a family of four eats breakfast for free and children under 12 also enjoy free lunch and dinner. Never underestimate the savings that free meals can add up to!

Tip Three: Choose Meals Wisely

There are many great places to eat on the Hawaiian Islands, not the least of which are smaller places that offer so-called street food. Once such location, Diamond Head Market & Grill on Oahu serves sandwiches for on $6, that’s a deal in any state!

Tip Four: Look for Freebies

Hawaii generates most of its income as a state from its tourists. Therefore, they have a vested interest in keeping travelers happy. That means that there are plenty of opportunities to entertain yourself cost-free. Among the most popular of these options is free hula lessons and lei-making at the Whaler’s Village on Maui. Waikiki Beach on Oahu offers a free fireworks display every Friday night as well. Also, all of Hawaii’s beaches (other than those reserved by resorts) are free to use.

A Trip of a Lifetime

Though Hawaii has long been a destination lauded by honeymooners and those with money to burn, with the right planning families can enjoy all the benefits of this Gem of the Pacific. Consider the tips above along with the immense benefits of a tourist pass such as the Honolulu Power Pass or the Go Oahu Card which will allow you discounted entry to several of the islands’ most treasured attractions.

Vacationing in San Francisco? Make Sure You Dress the Part

As the school year begins to wind down, many families and individuals are focusing on their summer vacation plans. There are a lot of factors that go into planning a big trip, not the least of which is determining where to go and why. So, if you already know that going to San Francisco is in the plans for you this year, you’re one step closer already.

There is so much that San Francisco has to offer tourists, though, that your decision to visit is really only the beginning. In fact, according to About.com, San Francisco is one of the cities that tourists are least prepared to visit – many assuming that touring SF is as simple as getting up, getting dressed and driving over to Alcatraz or Fisherman’s Wharf. But, given the many historical, cultural, and entertainment options that the city and its surrounding areas, doing some basic homework before leave can save you time and money.

Tourist Facts

If you or someone you know is planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay area this summer, you will be in good company. In 2010, almost 16 million people from all over the world visited the Golden Gate City throughout the year. However, like most tourist destinations, the spring and summer time are hot for travelers, with peaks in July, August and September. This means that preparation for summer visits is even more imperative if you want to capitalize on your time in San Francisco.

Golden Gate in Fog

Climate Concerns

One important note about visiting in the summer months especially is the weather. Most people assume that the sweltering days of August heat exist across the country. In fact, San Francisco, due to its proximity to the sea (it is a peninsula after all) and hilly streets that catch a lot of shade from surrounding buildings, has peak temperatures only in the high 60s to low 70s throughout the year. September is actually the warmest month with an average high of 71 degrees.

The flip side is that the winter weather in San Francisco is similarly mild. The coldest month, January, has an average high around 58 degrees. Therefore, regardless of the time of year you choose to visit, packing layers of sweatshirts and windbreakers is essential. Otherwise, you will likely end up buying them.

Hoof It

Another big mistake that first-time visitors to San Francisco make is assuming that, like many West Coast cities, SF is spread out and will require the use of a rental car. Unlike Los Angeles and San Diego, however, San Francisco is quite small and very densely populated. This means that most of what you will want to do while there can be accessed on foot, by taxi or by cable car. Unless you plan on visiting outside of the city limits, say to the surrounding wine country of Sonoma and Napa Valleys, renting a car is a waste of money in San Francisco.

Make Reservations for Alcatraz

The final tip for San Francisco tourists is plan what attractions you want to visit and when. As I mentioned above, the weather is generally mild year-round and summers are characteristically dry. Therefore, taking the time to plan when you will visit popular attractions like Alcatraz can make a big difference in terms of waiting times, and you won’t be too likely to get rained out.

Tourist passes like the San Francisco City Pass and the Go San Francisco Card, which can save you a lot of money when traveling to San Francisco, do not include the Alcatraz tour; it’s that popular. However, brave holders of the Go San Francisco Card can receive a 50% discount on Alcatraz tickets if they have the time and inclination to get out to the island early in the day – the discount is only extended to same-day tickets.

Enjoy San Francisco

Clearly, there is a lot to look forward to if you plan a San Francisco vacation this summer, which can lead you to think it wise to “fly by the seat of your pants” while there. However, the basic time it takes to prepare now will pay back big time dividends in terms of time and money saved.

Get a Bite at Seattle’s Pike Place Market

Called the Emerald City of the Pacific Northwest, a visit to Seattle should include many famous staples such as the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, and one of the many available cruises on Elliot Bay. However, among those destinations, once of the most quintessentially Seattle-based attractions is Pike Place Market. Home of the original Starbucks store along with hundreds of stores, markets and eateries, this nine acre city staple is the perfect destination regardless of the time of year you visit the Emerald City.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place History

The original Pike Place Market opened for business in 1907 where eight local Washington State farmers gathered to sell their wares. The city’ population, reacting to the increased prices of onions and other produce at local stores where the “middle men” gouged prices, descended upon the corner of 1st Avenue and Pike Street in droves that numbered up to 10,000. When the farmers sold out by 11 am, the city knew it was on to something big.

Over the course of 1907, the market was built and the stalls were filled to capacity each week with eager farmers looking to sell directly to buyers and buyers looking for a deal on their produce. Over time, the offerings at Pike Place Market have grown to include retail stores, eateries and craft vendors. However, the heart of Pike Place, the farmers who grow the food and the people who consume it, still remain today. The market is called the “Soul of Seattle” and rightly so. It stands as one of the largest and most beloved Farmers’ Markets in America hosting more than 10 million visitors from around the world each year.

Must-See Attractions

Pike Place is open year-round from 9 am to 6 pm Monday thru Saturday and 9 am to 5 pm on Sundays. This makes it a great destination for families looking for a good meal or unique gift as well as individuals and couples interested in some of the best of Seattle cuisine, produce and entertainment. Regardless of your age or interests, however, the following must-see attractions should be included in your Pike Place stop:

  • The Original Starbucks – whether you’re hyper-caffeinated like us or a decaf kind of soul, the atmosphere of the original store that began the international coffee revolution is almost a history lesson. Starbucks is located on the north end of the market, right on the cobblestone.
  • Pike Place Fish – almost as quintessential as coffee, the fish-flinging workers at Pike Place Fish will not disappoint. These fishmongers still throw around their massive catches to the delight of the crowd and are happy to package your purchase for the flight home. Pike Place Fish is located in the Main Arcade, off of Western Avenue by the Bay.
  • The Tasting Room – while many people associate wines with Washington State’s neighbor to the south, the vintages and grapes from this fertile part of the country are actually quite impressive. The Tasting Room, located at 1924 Post Alley, is a cooperative of seven Washington State wineries.

Your Seattle Vacation

When travelling to the Pacific Northwest, the number of attractions that you can experience is quite great. From the soaring heights of the Space Needle to the beauty of Elliot Bay, there are many places to see and experience this “gem” of a city. But no trip to Seattle is complete if it does not include taking the time to visit Pike Place Market. You can shop, eat, and simply take in the amazing ambiance of Seattle, pack a bag of goodies for home and support local, boutique businesses all at once.