Sunday, June 2, 2013

Visit Key West

As the city that wanted to secede from Florida, Key West has been able to maintain its unique personality. Key West, Florida is the Southernmost City in the Continental United States. The city is at the end of U.S. Highway 1 and A-1-A, which travels along the eastern coast of Florida. The city is about 150 miles south of Miami and less than 90 miles north of Havana, Cuba. Even though the driving distance between Miami and Key West is about 150 miles, the drive between the cities can take between four and five hours because of the two lane road that traverse the Florida Keys.

Key West is a unique city because it seems like it is at the end of the world. Once visitors get to the island, the only way off is by turning around and driving back, or finding a boat that will take you elsewhere. Over the years, many artists have made Key West their home because of the continually pleasant weather, the hospitable attitude, and the inspirational attitudes of the city.

Many popular writers and musicians have lived in Key West. One of the most famous residents was the writer Ernest Hemingway. His home on Whitehead Street has become a tourist attraction where visitors line up each day to catch a glimpse of the lifestyle that lead Hemingway to write masterpieces like A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. His six-toed cats have become legends around the island and his favorite drinking spot, Sloppy Joe’s, is still one of the top attractions in the city. Visitors to the Hemingway House get to hear the story of Papa Hemingway complain about his then wife, Pauline, spending his last dime when she decided to install an extremely rare and expensive pool on the island made of rock-hard coral. To make fun of the story, Hemingway poured his ‘last penny’ into the concrete that surrounds the pool. Another special attraction in the home is the small Picasso sculpture that has inconspicuously sat on a little side table for hundreds of thousands of visitors to see.

Along the western side of Florida, sunsets are special occasions and the sunsets in Key West are no exception. Each night, hundreds of locals and residents find a spot in Mallory Square to watch the sunset. The locals often include street performers who dance on stilts, paint themselves gold, or make balloon animals for children. As the sunsets, everyone pauses to watch it set into the Gulf of Mexico and then everyone claps once the last ray sets into the Gulf.

Another popular celebrity resident of Key West is crooner, Jimmy Buffett. His popular song from the 1970’s, Margaritaville was inspired by the laidback lifestyle in Key West. Visitors and locals can enjoy the Key West vibe by visiting his restaurant and bar that he named after his song. Margaritaville is a place where guests can enjoy a big Cheeseburger in Paradise while listening to songs performed by local bands trying to make it big in the city.

Many of the visitors to Key West arrive on cruise ships. The cruise port brings in just under one million tourists each year as the town becomes more and more popular on the cruising scene.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas might not be your first choice for places to visit when you are planning a vacation, but there are plenty of great outdoor activities to do in this southern state. Arkansas is home to mountain ranges, rivers, and hot springs. The state might still have the reputation of being “backwoods,” but the state has been home to many successful people and it continues to be a place full of culture and enterprise.

Hot Springs: America’s First Resort

One of the most beautiful parts of the state is the area near Hot Springs. This area is named for the hot springs that make this city unique. This part of Arkansas is home to Hot Springs Mountain which feeds the hot water springs. This area has been a popular with tourists because of the hot baths that were built over the springs, where tourists would rest in the healing water of the hot baths. The baths are now closed and have become a part of the Hot Springs National Park where the buildings along Bathhouse Row from the 1800s and early 1900s have been preserved for history.

If you are interested in more than history, the Hot Springs area is also home to beautiful lakes that provide opportunity for water sports and activities. Lakes Hamilton, Catherine, and Ouachita have plenty of room for boating, waterskiing, fishing, and swimming. There are many relaxing resorts with lush green golf courses, horseback riding, and more. Along the lakes there are also plenty of areas with hiking trails that allow you to get safely lost in the woods for the day.

Dig for Diamonds

One of the most unique features of Arkansas is that it contains one of the largest diamond mines in the world. Crater of Diamonds State Park is in the middle of an extinct volcanic crater. Visitors can literally dig for diamonds in the huge plowed field. What sets this park apart from other diamond excavation sites is that visitors get to keep whatever they find. You are not guaranteed to find any diamonds, but people do find them every day. There is a small fee to begin digging and the park does rent a full digging kit for a low price.

Visiting Little Rock

If you prefer spending time in the city, Little Rock is a nice city with plenty of things to do. Those who love shopping for antiques have plenty of great shops to visit. There are also plenty of historic sites to visit, especially since Little Rock had a prominent role in  the Civil War and in the Civil Rights movement. The city is home to the Clinton Presidential Center which holds the library, foundation, and school of public service. The Clinton Presidential Center has regular daily activities and many special events for visitors of all ages and political inclinations.

The state also has other areas that provide opportunities to explore. Fayetteville is home to two theaters that tourists and locals enjoy visiting: TheaterSquared and the Walton Arts Center. Blanchard Springs Caverns provides a unique place to visit underground caves and the nearby Blanchard Springs Recreational Area has several outdoor activities available for visitors, too.

Who knew Arkansas would be a top vacation destination?

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Most Beautiful Place in the United States: Northern Michigan

In 2011, Good Morning, America took a poll from their viewers. The television program wanted to know what part of the country their viewers thought was the most beautiful place in the United States. The place that won was Sleeping Bear Dunes on the western side of Northern Michigan. 

Along the shores of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes is an amazing gem filled with natural beauty. The area was shaped by glaciers thousands of years of ago and now the area is protected by the National Parks Department so that visitors and locals can enjoy this truly unique area. The National Park is in both Leelanau and Benzie Counties stretching over 35 miles along the eastern coast of the lake. The National Park includes the huge dunes on the Lower Peninsula as well as two islands, called North and South Manitou.

There are other features that make this national shoreline even more amazing. There are small towns that dot the area called the Leelanau Peninsula including Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, Empire, and Suttons Bay. These small towns are home to outstanding restaurants, wineries, and unique stories. Empire is home to the dunes and the national park that is home to one of the cleanest campgrounds in the country. Suttons Bay was once the summer home town to Ernest Hemingway and his family; many writers visit Suttons Bay for inspiration and writing festivals each summer. Glen Arbor and Glen Haven are quaint towns full of personality and hospitality.

The Leelanau Peninsula is on the western coast of the Grand Traverse Bay. Traverse City rests at the southern end of the bay. Traverse City is not the largest town in Michigan, but it is one of the largest towns in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. One of the claims to fame for Traverse City is the Cherry Festival in early July where nearly a half-million visitors and locals enjoy festivities centered around the tart cherry crop. Traverse City is also a popular destination for shoppers who stroll the downtown area that is full of locally owned shops and restaurants. There are plenty hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts for visitors.

The best way to get to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Leelanau area is to drive. Anyone who drives into the area must find time to drive on one particular road. The must-drive highway is M-22, which is one of the most beautiful, scenic drives in the state. The two-lane road begins near Manistee and ends in Traverse City, but not before winding its way past beautiful views of lakes, near dunes and historical markers, and through small towns. The road is so popular with Michigan residents that many of them have M-22 stickers on their cars to show their love of this gorgeous drive.

The Traverse City, Leelanau, and Sleeping Bear Dunes area draws people who love to play outside in the sand and surf. There are several rivers that are populated with paddlers looking for a swift ride or a slow float. Hikers and bicyclists also have plenty of areas to travel. One of the most challenging hikes is up the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Bicyclists enjoy the ride along the Pierce-Stocking Scenic Drive, which is about seven and one-half miles.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

See Your Favorite Television Shows in Your Favorite Cities

With the growth of reality television, vacationers love to visit the settings of their favorite television shows. Many of the reality television shows take place in home or businesses that are easily accessible to the general public. In what seems like a pilgrimage, many tourists love to make plans to see the settings of the favorite shows. They also hope that they will be able to see the actors that they have come to recognize through their dedication to the show.

American Pickers

One enjoyable location to visit is either of the stores that belong to the American Pickers on the History Channel. Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz have two stores with one in Nashville and the other in LeClaire, Iowa. These stores are easy to find, with the Nashville store being right off of I-40 near downtown. The Nashville store is home to many of the special finds that duo discovered while picking the small towns of America. If you are lucky, you might catch them or Danielle arranging the antiques.

Duck Dynasty

Another popular destination for reality television fans is in Louisiana. The Robertson Family of West Monroe have become one of the most famous red neck families in existence today as Duck Dynasty is one of the top reality shows on television today. Many of the scenes were shot at their Duck Commander headquarters in West Monroe, Louisiana. Because of this, many tourists make it a point to stop at the Duck Commander warehouse in hopes to meet at least one of the Robertsons.

Celebrity Chefs

Fortunately for foodies, most of the restaurants that are owned by celebrity chefs are easy to find for dining experiences. Many of the top chefs from television make their homes in Chicago, Illinois. You might have to wait in line to enjoy their food, but chefs like Rick Bayless, Fabio Viviani, and Graham Eliot. Other foodies travel to Las Vegas for restaurants from Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Hubert Kelley.

Jersey Shore

Many other fans of reality television have made the Jersey Shore their vacation destination of choice. These tourists visit the shore to try to catch a glimpse of the celebrities like Snooki and JWow. Other tourists have come to towns to catch glimpses of the celebrity wives, whether they live in Los Angeles, Orange County, or Atlanta.

Reality TV and Cold Weather

Shows like Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch have sent tourists to some of the coldest places of the world. Believe it or not, tourists who do not mind vacationing in the cold travel to Alaska to check out the sights and sounds revolving around the fishing industry or to the Canadian tundra to experience the ice roads that have been so prominently displayed on television.

Storage Wars

In California and Texas, reality show fans and potential auction fans have been flocking to the storage facilities to try to see the stars from Storage Wars. Many bidders even try to outbid their favorite characters from the show. It can be challenging for fans to find exactly where the shoppers are trying to find goodies to fill their shops and eclectic personalities.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Famous Buildings: Architecture that Draws Attention

When you are looking for something fun to do while on vacation, visiting buildings with unique architectural details is a fun way to spend a few hours. It is inspirational to see what architects can design and what engineers can build. If you want to see a few of the most awe-inspiring buildings, these are a few of the best cities to visit:

Oak Park, Illinois: Most people think of the City of Chicago as one of the best places to see unique architecture. If you are planning on visiting Chicago, the suburb of Oak Park is a treat for the eyes. Architect-extraordinaire, Frank Lloyd Wright designed many homes in the area, including his own that included a large studio. The Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park is home of the museum and it is the starting point for tours of the area. Many of the homes are privately owned and have been restored with precision. 

Seattle, Washington: It might be better known for bringing grunge and coffee to the forefront of pop culture,
but Seattle also has buildings that are worth visiting. A few notable stops include the Experience Music Project designed by famous architect Frank Gehry along with the Olympic Sculpture Park designed by Weiss Manfredi. If you prefer to see homes, there are several to view, including the Mount Baker House, Lake Union Floating House, and the Queen Anne Mid-Modern.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Checking out the hotels and resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard is one way to see the architecture in Las Vegas, but there are several other places to go to see unique buildings. In Las Vegas, the Golden Gate Casino is the oldest hotel in the city and worth visiting. The historic area between Clark and Garces, Second and Fourth is the home of the railroad cottages that were built around 1910. Another unique stop is the Hammagren House which is full of historical artifacts from the city in the desert.

Columbus, Indiana: This town that you have probably never heard of is one of the cities in the United States with the best architecture. Some experts have called Columbus a Mecca of architecture. There are pieces
designed by I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, and Gunnar Birkets. The town may be a bit out of the way, the architecture is worth the trip.

Buffalo, New York: New York City is known for its tall buildings and its smaller buildings, but there was a time when Buffalo was a rather wealthy city – especially during the Industrial Revolution. This meant that there were fine architects building memorable homes and buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright has a few pieces in the city, including Graycliff and the Martin House Complex. Saarinen also designed a few homes and buildings that have remained important pieces today.

Miami, Florida: The Art Deco period was alive and well in Miami. While these older buildings are beginning to show their age, they are still worth seeing in person. The city is also home to several Mid-Century Modern pieces that can be seen on Biscayne Boulevard in the MiMO district. The city is also home to many celebrity homes that are uniquely designed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Great Bookstores in Great Cities

Some people go on vacation to the beach, some go to ski resorts. Some people same beers from cities all over the United States and some will go to taste the wine. If you love books and book stores, your ideal vacation might include visiting bookstores all over the country. Fortunately, there are phenomenal bookstores in big cities and little towns all over the country and each book store has its own personality. You will not be disappointed visiting some of the best bookstores in the United States.

The best bookstores in the United States do not include the big corporate book stores. While those large stores are great places to shop for books, they do not include the local flavor of the independently-owned, or “indie” book stores. These are a few of the “can’t miss” shops around the country:

Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon: This bookstore specializes in finding whatever book you need, whether it is out-of-print, rare, or autographed. There are six stores in the Portland area and the bookstore does a fair amount of business online, but it is the flagship store that is in an old car dealership that draws the most attention.

Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado: This tiny space has been the home of great books for sale for over forty years. The Tattered Cover has three locations in Metro Denver and an online home. The shop is unique because of its size, but the small 950-square-foot store is chock full of the best books on the market today. The store owners make wise choices when filling the shelves because there is no room for bad literature among the stars.

Schuler Books and Music in Grand Rapids, Michigan: This indie store is one big bookstore. Schuler’s can be found not just in Grand Rapids, but in East Lansing and a few other places in between. Their stores sell new and used books as well as online titles. Even though the bookseller is so busy managing the books and the plethora of stores, the owners are still able to offer great events to the communities that the stores serve. The shops are known in the area for also offering fun and unique gifts for children and adults. The Grand Rapids flagship store has an amazing collection of cookbooks as well as a tasty café that serves desserts, small sandwiches, and vegetarian fare.

The Faulkner House Books in New Orleans, LA: While there are plenty of other reasons to visit New Orleans, bibliophiles should stop by the Faulkner House Books while visiting. This store is located in Pirate’s Ally along the French Quarter. The home includes several artifacts from the prominent American author, including some first editions and signed pieces for the true book collector.

Politics and Prose in Washington, DC: Some of the smartest and busiest people in the country live in Washington, DC, so it is only appropriate that a top notch book store makes its home here. Politics and prose is in such a busy town, that the owners are able to host some of the best author events of any bookstore in the country. They have hosted controversial authors in order to keep literature relevant.

Best Pools in the United States

Whether you live in the perpetually warm southern states or you live in the four seasons of the northern state, you can appreciate a great pool all year long. There is no reason to take a dip in a plain old rectangular pool because there are so many pools that are just as wonderful to look at as they are for swimming. Here a few of the best pools in the United States:

The Joule in Dallas, Texas: The Joule Hotel in Dallas, Texas does not have the biggest pool in the state, but it certainly has the most memorable pool. This hotel that is designed with a mix of historic and modern design features a cantilevered pool that sticks out of the side of the building. You may not burn many calories swimming laps in this small pool; the pool is designed for style rather than function.

Sheraton in Waikiki, Hawaii: The Pacific Ocean is a great place to swim, but the salt water is not always a popular choice. When you need a great pool on Waikiki Beach, look no further than the Sheraton. It has an infinity pool that looks like it stops just before the water falls into the ocean.

Hilton Waikaloa Village in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: This is another Mecca of pools in the Hawaiian Islands. This resort is so focused on water that guests are driven to their home for their vacation via boat. There are three pools, some with water slides and lazy rivers. Some of the pools have swim-up bars and some are stocked with tropical fish for those who want to snorkel in a controlled environment.

The Viceroy in Miami, Florida: The Atlantic Ocean beckons, but the pools at the Viceroy call more loudly. This resort with both a hotel and residences has Florida’s longest infinity pool that overlooks Biscayne Bay. It also has a pool on the 15th floor so visitors can check out the views of downtown Miami.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Even though this city is set in the middle of the desert, there are plenty of pools to help people cool off from the temperatures that typically climb over 100 degrees. Some of these memorable pools are designed for parties and some are designed for relaxation. The Hard Rock Café’s pool is known for parties that take up the full three acres of outdoor space. For more partying, the pools at the Palms are also legendary. If you want a more relaxing experience in Vegas, the memorable pools include the Mandarin Oriental Pools, which only require a quick reservation, and the Bellagio Cypress Lounge Pools. The Golden Nugget has a completely redesigned water complex with a shark-filled aquarium at the pool called The Tank that includes a water slide that goes through the shark tank; guests also enjoy the peace and quiet at the The Hideout.

Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona: The desert is a popular place for amazing pools. In the middle of Arizona, the Enchantment Resort has a simple, geometric pool with the inspirational views of the surround Red Rocks. You will not be disappointed with the sites from this resort pool.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Best Pizza Cities

The debate is open about what cities have the best pizza. Over the years, Chicago and New York have duked it out, but there are many more cities that are adding their special crusts, sauces, and toppings to the battle. If you love a good pizza, you have many choices based the local flavors of cities around the United States.

Chicago Style – Go Deep

Anyone who knows anything about pizza knows that there is a big difference between Chicago-style pizza and New York City-style pizza. Chicago pizza is known for having the deepest crust, with rich sauce and a plethora of toppings. The deep crust pizza does have extremely thick crust, but the toppings then become extremely thick as some deep crust pizzas are prepared in a pan that is between two- or three-inches thick. The cheese is usually on the bottom of the pile of toppings and then the rest of the toppings are piled above the cheese. This pizza is so flavorful  and thick that it must be eaten with fork.

New Yorkers Like It Thin

On the flip side, the New York pizza is extremely thin. This type of pizza has a hand-tossed crust, just a small amount of sauce, but with a good coating of mozzarella cheese. Where Chicago-style pizza is meant to be enjoyed at a table, the New York-style pizza is meant to be eaten while walking down the street. New Yorkers will fold their pizza as they eat it, but Chicagoans cannot. Also, while the Chicago-style is purchased as a whole pie, New Yorkers only buy one slice at a time.

California Goes Its Own Way

Another type of popular pizza is the California-style pizza. Just like California itself, the California pizza is made with ingredients that are not typically found on pizza in traditional areas.  While the toppings are unique, California pizza crust is often traditional. It is not uncommon to see Thai pizzas, or veggie pizzas with avocados, or a BBQ chicken pizza.

Pizza in Hawaii – No Way

Like the Californians, the Hawaiians like to do things their own way. Hawaii is the land of the pineapple and of SPAM, so it is not unusual for the favorite dishes of Hawaii to include those two popular foods. The Hawaiian pizza has a traditional crust, but has bacon (instead of SPAM) and pineapple on mozzarella cheese. The interesting thing about Hawaiian pizza is that Hawaiians have no interest in eating it; so if you want to try it, you should go somewhere other than Hawaii.

St. Louis Makes Its Way

The up-and-coming pizza in the United States happens to be found just south of Chicago in St. Louis. This pizza has a thin crust prepared in a dish with a little bit of depth (nowhere near the depth of the Chicago-style), but it has an unusual concoction of cheeses that set it apart from the rest. The cheese concoction includes provolone, Swiss, and American cheeses. The pizza is smaller than other options around the United States and the slices are not cut into traditional triangles; they are cut into squares.

Pizza truly is a source of pride for cities all over the United States as well as around the world. Share your pride and enjoy a slice of your favorite!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Love Your Alma Mater: Support Your Favorite City

One of the best ways to support your alma mater is to support its home.  Whether you graduated from a small college in a large town or a big college in a small town, share your appreciation of the place that educated you. There are several ways to support your alma mater and its home, even if you live a long distance away.

You can support your college town by visiting the town and supporting the local businesses. If your college has a football team, you can always visit during the Homecoming season. Instead of staying in a chain hotel, you can choose a locally owned bed and breakfast.  If you eat at local restaurants and you shop at locally owned shops, your dollars will help keep those businesses open for the college kids and the other citizens in this town.

You can also support your college town by wearing clothes or accessories with the town’s name. You can also wear your alma mater’s tee shirts and sweatshirts. When you wear clothing and accessories with the name of the city or of your college, people notice the big words and the colorful clothing. Your clothes can be conversation starters and you can actually tell other people about how great the college is and how great the town is, too.

 Most alma maters will ask their graduates for donations and they also ask their graduates to attend alumni parties. Alumni organizations do good things for current students, like provide scholarships and help with fees. Alumni organizations also often do good things for the community, too. They might sponsor little league teams or art shows. When you donate to your alumni organization, you are not only supporting your college, but you are financially supporting the future of the town.

Attending the alumni organization events is just as important as making donations. Many of the alumni events might require you to pay a small amount to cover the cost of the event. Everything that is left over after the event goes back to the organization. When you attend the events, current students and future students are able to see the pride that you have and they will want to feel the same thing, too.  If you become a regular part of the alumni events, you will be asked to attend more and more events and you will be invited to talk to future students about how great your alma mater is.

When you share your appreciation and pride for your college and college town, you help your college grow. You also help send people to the town because of your enthusiasm. Your positive energy helps spread more positive energy and all of that positive energy will come back to you several times over. If you have a skill to offer to the college, you might even be able to become employed by your alma mater. Many colleges offer benefit packages that include free or very low cost tuition, even for employees’ children. You then can develop a legacy by sending your children to the city that started it all  - the home of your alma mater.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

See Your Hometown with Fresh Eyes

Whether you have lived in your hometown your entire life or you have just recently returned for a visit, looking at your hometown with fresh eyes can make it seem like a new and exciting place. When you take the time to really explore what your city has to offer, you can surprise yourself and learn more about the place that you call your home. All you need to do is visit places that are not a part of your normal routine and you will begin to see what makes your city special.

Visit Local Restaurants

One of the best ways to check out your city and the variety it offers is to spend a week eating local restaurants. Many people get into routines where they go to the same restaurants over and over again. Local restaurants tend to be dynamic places that offer the flavors of the city. If you can visit one local restaurant each night for one week, you have opened your eyes to new people and new places in your city. When you visit those local restaurants, try to only eat food that is grown locally so you really get to see what the urban and rural areas near your home have to offer.

See the Museums

Most cities have some type of museum. Whether you are blessed to live in a city with several museums or you just have a small heritage museum, set aside time to visit. You will be able to learn more about your city’s heritage and you will also see what the tourists who visit your city get to see. If you have children, bring them, too, so they can see what made your city the place that you decided to call home.

Visit the Green Spaces    

After you visit the museums, check out the parks, gardens, and zoos. Your city may not have a zoo, but even the smallest cities have public parks. Try to visit a park that is in a part of town that you normally do not visit, to make a point to see more of your town. If your city has public or private gardens, take time to visit them, especially when the gardens are offering special events. There is nothing wrong with becoming a tourist in your own city, so visit the gardens when they are populated by guests visiting to see the sites.

Find the Boutiques

If you normally do your shopping at malls and chain stores, it is time for you to visit the local boutiques and shops. When you shop locally, more money goes back into your city’s economy and you help create more local shops. You might spend a little bit more to buy locally, but you will also get more personal service that you cannot get in chain stores. The local boutique owners can often find special items that you did not even know existed. You can also get to know more people in your city, which will not happen at the local shopping mall.

When you step outside of your comfort zone, you can see all of the things that your city has to offer. Your city might become your new favorite city, just because you see how much other people love it.

Great Restaurants in

When you are out and about in your favorite cities, it is worth the time and money to visit great restaurants by famous local celebrity chefs. Whether you visit Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Miami, or any of the cities in between, there are plenty of phenomenal restaurants full of food that will tickle your senses. These are a few of the best restaurants in some of the best cities around the country:

In Chicago: Frontera Grill, XOCO, and Topolobampo. Master Chef Rick Bayless has three of his excellent restaurants located right next door to each other on North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. Frontera serves delicious Mexican fare with a menu that changes monthly based on food that is in season; the restaurant is casual and comfortable. Topolobampo also serves Bayless’s signature flavorful Mexican cuisine, but the restaurant is more refined and upscale. The little sister, XOCO, is the quick serve café that provides amazing street food to diners who are in more of a hurry, but still want the flavors of the sit-down restaurants.

In New York City: Per Se. This highly rated and extremely popular restaurant is the child of Thomas Keller. The restaurant chooses food that is in season in nine small courses that Keller and the chef-de-cuisine create each day. Frequent visitors are able to have different experiences each time that they visit. The nine courses consist of the choice of a vegetable tasting menu, a chef’s tasting-menu, or a salon menu prepared in unique and delicate ways so that the flavors will pop.

In Las Vegas: Craftsteak. Tom Colicchio has expanded his line of Craft restaurants all the way across the country with Craftsteak in both Las Vegas and Foxwoods. The Las Vegas restaurant makes its home in the MGM Grand Resort and the restaurant features a menu that focuses on the simple pleasures of well-prepared meat, grains, and desserts. Like many fine dining establishments, the menu changes regularly since Colicchio is devoted to serving only the best cuts of meat, the freshest seafood, and the healthiest grains.

In New Orleans: NOLA. No list of celebrity restaurants would be complete without Emeril Lagasse on the list. While he has many restaurants in top cities around the United States, Emeril and New Orleans are synonymous. His NOLA restaurant is casual and funky, just like he is and the food is just as fun. The food at NOLA is solidly Creole with great spices and enough flavor to make guests want to shout, “Bam!”

In Los Angeles: Café Firenze. Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani’s authentic Italian restaurant is a favorite of those who appreciate centuries old recipes served with love. The menu is full of comfort food inspired by his childhood in Florence. Whether you choose homemade pastas or well-flavored steaks, you will find something delicious to eat at Café Firenze.

In Washington, DC: Art and Soul. Comfort-food chef extraordinaire Art Smith is the chef and owner of Art and Soul in the nation’s capital city. This restaurant is full of southern flavor with hearty dishes that include staples like grits, hoecake, and tasty mac and cheese alongside elegant meats, cheeses, and salads.

Be Entertained on a Budget in Your Favorite City

Your favorite city may be the town you live in now or it could be your favorite vacation spot. Regardless of where your favorite city happens to be, there are usually a variety of different activities that you can do to keep yourself entertained without spending a fortune. Whether you prefer to get involved in nature or you prefer to watch a play or a sporting event, cities provide so much entertainment for people of all ages at a variety of low prices.

Inexpensive Musicals and Plays    

If you love to watch plays and musicals, most cities have a variety of different ways to see a show. Most people think of large theaters when they think of seeing a play or a musical, but one of the best places to watch a show is at local high schools. Most high schools have theater departments that have at least one production each year. If you are lucky, you might even be able to watch a middle school production, too.

The benefit of watching a school production is that the tickets are usually very inexpensive and the acting is often quite good. The ticket prices usually go to cover the cost of the license to produce the show and the rest goes to improving the budgets of these small theater groups.

Local Theaters with Historic Glory

Another fun way to be entertained is at your local movie theater. Most cities have large chain theaters that show the newest releases. However, many cities also have alternative theaters that show artistic films that do not usually make it to the large corporate theaters. These small theaters are often in revitalized areas and great care has been taken to restore these theaters to their original glory. Many of the shows have ticket prices that are lower than those of the large theaters. Many small theaters have special events, too.

Low Prices for Athletic Events

If you love to watch sporting events, most cities have at least a few options. Minor league baseball and minor league hockey are popular in cities of all sizes and the overlap each other to provide unending options. Minor league teams usually have great ticket prices for individual events and low season ticket prices, too. They often provide fun activities for kids with special giveaways or games during timeouts and transitions. If you have a major league team, look for local specials to get less expensive tickets. If you do not have minor or major league sports, high school sports can be just as entertaining.

Local Bands and Smaller Stages

Every city has musical acts for every style of music. With the high price of tickets to major acts, most people do not get the opportunity to enjoy good music. However, seeing a local band or musical act can easily fulfill any live music craving. Most cities have local restaurants with small stages for local bands and many cities have smaller stages for those who want to enjoy a concert in a smaller venue for a lower ticket price. You just never know what your city has to offer musically until you give it a try; if you do not like the act, you can rest assured that you did not spend much money on the ticket price.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Shop with

Giving gifts can be challenging, especially if you want to give a gift that is memorable. Our unique gift baskets are memorable for the right reasons. Because our gifts can be given to practically anyone, many corporations, educational institutions, and other professional organizations use as their first choice to fill their gift giving needs. Our easy online ordering system, corporate discount, and helpful customer service representatives make the gift buying task quick and easy. These are a few of the reasons why so many people and organizations buy from us:   

1.    Gifts for Everyone: Our gifts feature items from favorite cities and states as well as some major European cities. Our novelties, food items, and fan gear make great gifts for people who are difficult to shop for, especially clients who are visiting from out of town or for thank you gifts for people in your community.

2.    Special and Inventive Choices: We know you can choose your gifts and gift baskets from any store, but we offer more than the traditional gift company. Our gourmet food gifts, travel books, snow globes, magnets, and other fun novelties and souvenirs are created to showcase the city or state that they are from; so they the gift recipient that you are thinking about them and where they live.  Our stock frequently changes, so you can trust that our gift options will never get old.

3.    We Buy Locally: Even though we sell gifts from all over the country and world, many of our products are produced by small local businesses and manufacturers. So, if you are purchasing a gift to represent the great state of Texas, odds are that the product was actually made in Texas, too.

4.    Prefilled or Design Your Own: We know that some of our customers do not like to think too much about the gifts that they are buying and we also know that many of our customers love to put a lot of thought into the gifts they give. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of giving gifts, we have services that will meet your needs. You can order a predesigned, thematic gift basket or you can create your own from scratch. We have many customers who buy a prefilled gift basket, but then add a few personal touches, too.

5.    Convenient Ordering and Customized Shipping: Our website is available to for ordering 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. We also have many options available for shipping depending on your budget and speed needs. Most of our gift baskets are shipped the day after you have placed your order.

6.    Quality Products and Personal Service: We do not buy our products from just anyone. We make sure that our suppliers make a high quality product that pleases the senses. Our postcards have great colors, our food has great flavor, and our novelties are made of good materials. We also have actual people pick the gifts and wrap them so the products are turned the right way in the baskets, the cellophane is attractively gathered, and the gifts are securely packaged.

7.    Affordable Prices: We have many attractive gift baskets priced at or under $25 and we even have some gifts that are priced below $1.00. No matter what your budget is, we have something to meet it. 

Start Your Own Business with

In today’s economy, many people have to come up with unique ways to make money. Selling high quality souvenirs is a fun way to start your own business or to supplement your income. If you are looking for a supplier for your souvenir shop or you are interested in starting your own, has a wholesale division that is ready to meet your needs and fill your shelves and stock room.

Our wholesale program is not only appropriate for people who want to start their own business, but it also helps people who want to add a new line of products to a pre-existing business. Our products can help florists, gift shops, restaurants, or tourist stops generate more income. The only limit to the uses of our products at wholesale prices is your imagination. The fact that you can buy all of our city and state themed items in one place will save you time and energy as well as shipping costs. You will also be able to spend more time and money doing things you enjoy rather than worrying about making minimum orders or keeping track of paperwork from several different vendors; we really are a one stop shop!

Our line of wholesale products includes practically anything with a city or state name or theme. We have products in the following categories:

•    Fan Gear and Memorabilia: Can koozies, collectible balls, etc.
•    Gourmet Snacks and Beverages: Chocolate, mints, nuts, coffee, etc.
•    Souvenir Novelties: Plush animals, magnets, key chains, tumblers, shot glasses, etc.
•    Travel Gifts: Postcards, maps, trivia books, photo books, playing cards etc.
•    Gift Basket Necessities: Themed baskets, boxes, gift cards, cellophane, etc.

When you are ready to set up your wholesale account with us, we ask that you complete a few easy steps.

We ask that you fax us a copy of your license to resell. Please include your resale ID number so that we do not have add sales tax to your purchase. We also ask that you include your contact name, company address and name, along with contact information like phone number, email, and fax number. Please send all of that to 800-285-1889.      

When you are ready to place your first order, we also have a few simple requests. You can view our entire product line on our website; we do not send out catalogs. We ask that you call us for your first order. Once you have placed your first order, you will receive a special code that you will use to place your follow up orders online.

You will find that our prices are discounted anywhere from 10% to 40%. No matter how many times you order, you will receive discounts, especially if you buy higher quantities of our products. We also will add an even bigger discount of at least 10% more off of your order if you order over $500 worth of product.
We take pride in helping people grow their businesses and our wholesale program is a great deal for anyone who appreciates high quality, fun items. Gifts from states and cities are loved by everyone, so why not add a few of our products to your store.

Show Your Support for Boston

So many people have decided to show their support for the City of Boston. After the horrible events at the 2013 Boston Marathon, many people have decided to show their love for the city with gifts for themselves and for their friends. At, we are stocked full of great items that will show that you support and care about the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.

Add a Smile to Your Day                   

Whether you want to send a special client, family member, or friend a gift basket prefilled with a great assortment of Boston related gifts, or you simply want to send something small, we have the items that will make everyone smile. We even sell postcards with images from all over Boston individually or in bulk if you want to send a little message to show people how much you care about them.

Gifts for the Sports Fan

You can easily create a themed basket with our Boston gift items. The sports lover will appreciate items from the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox. One of our best sellers is the 100th Anniversary Baseball covered with artistic renderings of Fenway Park. You can pair that collectible baseball with other Fenway Park and Red Sox items like can koozies and magnets, too.

History Souvenirs

For the history fans in your life, our collection of historical souvenirs would make a fun gift. Your favorite history buff would appreciate Boston Tea along with a Boston coffee mug. Our Massachusetts patch of the USS Constitution would be a welcome addition, along with the historical trivia cards and a postcard book filled with pictures of Old Boston.
Lobster Novelties

The seafood lover would appreciate our collection of lobster-related Boston gifts. You could create a Boston food lover’s gift basket with our plush Boston lobster, clever candy set of lobster dropping (little jelly beans), a tin of Boston lobster mints, and a lobster shaped lollipop. The lobster gifts could be given individually or in a gift basket. The lobster gifts would also be a fun giveaway for anyone who owns a seafood restaurant or market in the Boston area.

If you do decide to give Boston gifts to your friends, family, or clients, you will find that our ordering process is quite simple. You can place your entire order online or you can call us if you have any special needs. We do not require anyone to place a minimum order, but our prices do drop if you order items in bulk quantities.
Gifts for Boston Food Lovers

If you want to send a Boston foodie basket, we have several delicious items that you can include. Our Boston chocolate bars are always big favorites, as well as the Dancing Deer Cookies and Wicked Walnuts. We also can include chocolate covered cranberries, fortune cookies, and coffee, too.

Send a Thank You Gift

No one can ever say thank you enough. Offering gratitude to people is one of the easiest ways to make a person feel great. When you are in need of a thank you gift, our customizable gift baskets at will make your recipient feel as appreciated and noticed. Whether you want to buy a food basket representing your favorite city or you want to fill your own basket,  our customer service representatives are available to help you or you can complete your order online.

We often forget to say thank you to people who give their time and energy to us and the community. Some of the people that would appreciate a favorite city gift basket include people like volunteer coaches, school crossing guards, and greeters at grocery stores. Another great person to thank is your local letter carrier. Leaving a little thank you gift basket in the mail box would truly make your letter carrier feel noticed. If you think about the people who are always smiling and always willing to help, it is easy to create a long list of gift recipients.

The next time that you travel and stay at someone’s house, bring along a gift basket filled with products from your city or from the city you are visiting. If you rent a vacation home or condo, a great way to say thank you is to leave a gift basket filled with the clever products from You could even thank the real estate agent who helped you find your last vacation rental.

If you are in need of fun gifts to give to your wedding guests or your wedding party, gift baskets filled with playing cards, coffee mugs, and key chains really do show them how much you appreciate them. You could also leave gift baskets for your guests who traveled a long distance to be with you on your special day.

Parents often have many people in their lives who could use a special thank you gift. Many families have favorite babysitters. What babysitter would not love a gift basket filled with special snacks and sweets from The next time you hire the sitter, leave the gift basket filled with sweets and treats out so she can enjoy it while you are out on the town. If your child goes to a child care center, you can easily thank the special people who care for your child by surprising them with a foodie gift basket. Child care providers can always use a thank you, and sending a gift basket would truly make their day.

At the other end of the spectrum, when your child graduates from high school and is ready to go to college, you can send a thank you gift basket to your child’s school. High school teachers rarely get thanked for what they do and sending a gift basket with special foods from the location of your child’s next educational adventure lets them know how much you appreciate what they did for your child. We can even send a collection of small gift baskets to individual teachers or support staff if you want to personalize the delivery.

It sure does feel good when someone takes the time to notice the work that you do, so why not reward the people in your life who make a difference, but are not always thanked for it.

Favorite City: Shopping for the Geography Fan

If you have a fan of geography in your life, is a perfect place to shop. We have gear from cities all over the United States and from every state. We have items from Canada and Europe, too. Whether you need a coffee mug, a key chain, or an entire gift set, our products are attractive and priced right. Our customer service department can help you when you know you need a gift, but you are not sure exactly what you need.

Favorite Gift Baskets
Some of our customers’ favorite products include our gift baskets called Basket Bonanza. We fill the basket with golf balls, plush toys, cookies, tumblers, books, and other souvenirs in our gift box covered with images from around your favorite state. Another of our customers’ favorite gift baskets is the Deluxe Food Basket from your favorite state. Our customers enjoy the tasty sweets and salty treats from around the United States. We include tumblers or coffee mugs in the Deluxe Food Basket as well as treats covered with logos and maps of the state or city that you choose.

Shipping and Special Deliveries

When you need a gift basket sent quickly, we usually ship our gift baskets out on the very next day. We offer a variety of shipping options to meet your delivery needs and budget, too. If you do need overnight or next day shipping, give us a call and we can figure out exactly what will work. We also frequently provide deals on shipping if you spend a certain amount on our products.

If you need to schedule a delivery for a birthday, anniversary, or moving-in day, let us know. We can hold an item to arrange for a personal delivery. We ask that you do not request a date more than 30 days in advance.

Prefilled or Fill With Your Favorites

At, we have prefilled gift baskets, but we also offer the opportunity to fill your own baskets. You can choose the theme of the basket you want to fill and then fill it with your favorite items. You can also choose a gift card to coordinate with the basket, too. If you know the recipient loves snow globes, we have snow globes from all over the country. Our plush toys are popular with individual gift baskets, and so are the photo cubes, mint tins, and playing cards. Teens love our key chains, sports fans love our bottle coolers and can koozies, and kids love our plush toys and chocolate bars.

Gift the USA not only has gifts and souvenirs from all 50 states, but we also offer a wide range of gifts that represent the United States as a whole. Your favorite democrats and republicans will love our plush donkeys and elephants. You can test your knowledge of the states and trivia with our US History Knowledge Cards. Chocolate lovers rejoice over our Ben Franklin $100 Chocolate Bars and foodies enjoy our sampler food baskets from the western and southern states.

Favorite City Beer Tours

If you are a lover of beer, one of the best experiences that you can plan for yourself is a tour of the best local breweries and microbreweries in the United States. A beer tour is more than just a way to taste beers from the source; it is also a way to meet the people who brew them and to become familiar with the way of life in the cities where the flavorful microbrews are imagined and brought to life.

Grand Rapids: Founders Brewery Co.        

It does not matter where you live in the United States, there is one city that has been at the top of the best beer cities for a few years: Grand Rapids, Michigan. The city formerly known for being the furniture capital of the world is now the city with the hottest breweries and was actually named Beer City, USA. The brewery that brings top honors year after year is called Founders Brewing Co. This hometown favorite has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years and many of their limited edition brews sell out in minutes. After tasting a Dirty Bastard, Breakfast Stout, or Pale Ale, you will see why this brewery is tops in the town. You will certainly feel like a rock star if you are able to get your hands on the highly acclaimed KBS beer that sells out in minutes when it goes on sale one time per year. Other top breweries in Grand Rapids include Grand Rapids Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, and Hopcat.

Philadelphia: Philadelphia Brewing Company

Not more than a day’s drive away from Grand Rapids is the City of Brotherly Love and really good beer: Philadelphia. This favorite city is loaded with great local brewers that offer great flavors in stylish pubs. One of the favorites in Philadelphia is the aptly named Philadelphia Brewing Company which produces yearly and seasonal favorites. Their beers are truly representative of the area with names like Walt Wit and Fleur de LeHigh. A few other popular choices in Philadelphia include Dock Street Brewing Company Restaurant, Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant, and Yards Brewing Company.

Bend, Oregon: Lots of Choices

A little farther from the New England and the Midwest is Bend, Oregon, where the Bend Ale Trail is a great way to get to know the unique brewers in this down-to-earth part of the country. You can choose to walk the trail of brewers or ride your bike for the The Cycle Pub of Bend. There are several brewers to visit while on your beer tour. The must-see brewers include Deschutes, where they have been brewing beer since before it was cool. Bend Brewing Company, or BBC, also makes tasty beer that customers can enjoy while sitting along the Deschutes River. Cascade Lakes and Silver Moon are two other great pubs to try out as well as Boneyard and Below Grade, which are two of the younger breweries in Bend, Oregon.

Whether you choose to visit a smaller city like Grand Rapids, Michigan or you want to stay in the larger metropolitan areas along the bustling east coast, like Philadelphia, there are many great, local brewers to include on a beer tour. Even visiting a hip area like Bend, Oregon will earn you a taste or two of the brewers in the area.

Creative Decorating

People are always looking for unique ways to decorate their living spaces and their work environments. One of the most unique ways to decorate a space is with memorabilia from the locations where you have traveled.
Educational Play Room

One of the most challenging rooms in the house to decorate is the children’s playroom. Parents find it challenging to keep the room easy to clean and full of brightness and light. Children can often be rough on the walls and flooring, so many parents do not want to spend too much money, but they want the room to look great. One way to make the room fun and educational at the same time is to cover the walls with maps and post cards. If you put the maps and post cards at or near eye-level, children will begin looking for the places they read about in books, see on television, or visit on family vacations.

Decorating with Postcards and Maps

When you are decorating with postcards and maps, you have plenty of options for presenting them.
Postcards can be from places that you have already traveled or places that you wish you could visit. They could be framed individually or you could create a collage for a big poster frame. Some families will use maps and postcards as actual wallpaper sticking them directly to the surface of the wall. Some families include puzzles of maps or skylines with the other travel related items.

Souvenir Showcases

If you are looking for a fun way to showcase the special places your family has visited, you can figure out a way to show off the souvenirs you have collected over the years. Many stores sell attractive shelving units that are easy to install and keep clean. The shelves could showcase items collected by year, by location, or by person. If you collect plates from locations that you have visited, you could easily purchase plate hangers that are easy to install on the walls. When you purchase items from your vacations, you do so to remember the special time that you spent with each other; showing off the collection is a great way to remember the vacation.

Alternatives to Tchotchkes

If you are someone who hates to dust the little tchotchkes that can accumulate quickly, there is something you can do about it. Instead of showing of the souvenirs and building clutter, you can photograph the souvenirs and make an interesting wall of things you have collected on your travels. You could photography souvenirs in the shops or you could create a themed wall of vacation photos. Some people love to pose in front of hotel signs, national park signs, or “welcome to” signs. Others might be sure to collect pictures of their loved ones at the beach or in the airport. If you do decide to build a collection of photographs, be sure to show them off. There are many products that make it easy to have photos enlarged without spending a fortune.

Decorate the Small Spaces

Bathrooms are other good choices for decoration with travel themed items. If you fill your bathroom with travel themed items, you give people something to look at while they are in that room. Basements and offices also make good showcases for your collection of items, too.

Buy By the Case

 At, we understand the need to buy gifts in bulk. Whether you are buying gifts for a large corporate event or you need prizes for a school carnival, we have a variety of options to meet your budget and gift giving needs. When you need to order gifts by the case or in larger quantities, give our customer service representatives a call so we can fill your order quickly and at the best price.

Great Prices on Bulk Purchases  

Corporate gift givers need to use their gift budget wisely. At, we sell many of our products by the case. By purchasing in bulk, you can maximize your gift dollars and have a collection of gifts on hand when you need them. We also have a corporate discount that you can apply to your order and every other order. All you have to do is contact us so we can give you your very own corporate discount code.

Education and Non-Profits

We also work with clients from non-profits and educational institutions. We understand that budgets at schools and community organizations are even more limited that our corporate clients’ budgets, so we have plenty of great gifts at lower prices. You can easily show your community pride with less expensive gifts like ink pens, key chains, or magnets.

When you order in bulk from, our prices get lower. Shopping for large quantities can save you up to 45% off of the price of buying an individual item. Our tiered prices are designed to help organizations that need to buy more gifts for more people.

Help with Special Events

We have helped many community organizations and corporations with their special event planning. If your organization needs to welcome a large group of people or give away gifts at a special event, we can create a collection of items that will help people remember the event and the community. Whether you are planning a parade, a charity run, or a community carnival, our prices and bulk specials make preparing for the event fun and affordable.

Corporate Clients Gifting Needs

We have worked with some of the biggest names in the corporate world. Our client list includes Fortune 500 companies from all over the United States and around the world. With our bulk pricing and corporate discounts, we have outfitted corporate events to thank top sales reps with special gifts from the corporate office. We have customized gifts with corporate logos to welcome the newest clients into the fold. We have even been able to provide incentives for direct mail programs, too. We would love to add your company to our list of satisfied customers and we appreciate any and all referrals.

College and Universities   

Besides the big corporations and local community organizations that buy gifts from us at our bulk rates, we also work closely with many colleges and universities. When incoming freshmen arrive for orientation, many schools will provide a small welcome gift as a thank you and congratulations prize. Some schools will also buy gifts in bulk as prizes for orientation competitions, too. Many schools will also give small prizes during sporting events, too. We can customize many of our products with your school name and logo, so give us a call for special pricing and delivery options.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Your Favorite City

With all of the great cities all around the country, how do people decide what city is their favorite? Does it depend on the people in the city? What about the architecture? Or the restaurants and cafes? There are many factors that go into being able to call a city a favorite.

Hometown Pride

Many people claim that their favorite city is the one that they consider to be their hometowns. People often consider cities their favorites because of the special memories that they had when they were growing up there. These cities hold a special place in their hearts because their experiences often depended on where they were and who they were with. For example, people who are from Miami, would have fond memories of hanging out at the beach with their friends. Someone from Denver, Colorado might have fond memories of skiing or hiking because those are popular activities for people who live there.

Spiritual Places

Other people consider towns to be their favorites because of the spirit of the city. For example, New York City is a favorite of so many people because there is always something happening. The streets are always buzzing with the people walking here and there. New restaurants pop up practically overnight and even though the buildings are old and worn, there is excitement happening inside of them. The people in the city seem to know how to survive, which makes the city feel like a proving ground of sorts. It is very obvious that people who are truly from New York City are proud of their origins. It is difficult to be bored when you are in a place like New York City.

Athletic Teams

Favorite cities are often selected because of athletic teams. Whether baseball, football, hockey, or basketball, people all over the United States pick their favorite cities based on who plays on the teams. Some people will pick their favorite teams based on what cities they play in, too. People may have never even visited Dallas, Texas, but because the Cowboys are “America’s Favorite Team” Dallas is a favorite city.

Popular Industries

There are also some people who designate a city as their favorite based on the industries that make that city their homes. For example, Atlanta is home to Coca-Cola, so that can make some people decide whether or not they love that city. For decades, Detroit was a favorite city because of the auto industry.

History and Culture

Other people are fascinated by the history behind American cities. This includes actual historical events that occurred in the cities as well as architecture, museums, government buildings, and famous people. Chicago is a city with a very interesting past, with gangsters, fires, and riots; and so many people consider Chicago to be their favorite city because there is so much to learn.

Wearing accessories and apparel with your favorite city’s name on it is one way to share your love of your favorite city. When you wear this kind of apparel, you will find that people will stop to talk to you to ask questions about the city and to show you what they know. Sharing amazing locations with other people develops a sense of community, even if it happens to be with complete strangers.

Bargain City: Washington D.C.

When you need a vacation and you want to keep your wallet full, Washington D.C. is the perfect choice. What is so amazing about the District of Columbia is that as a tourist, you really only need to pay for transportation, lodging, and food because once you arrive in the city, the majority of the attractions are completely free.

Low Cost Transportation

The capitol of the United States is a magical place that everyone who lives in the country should visit at some point in their lives. The city is home to a subway system that is well organized and easy to navigate. It also has a quality bus service for those who prefer to stay above ground or need to go somewhere the trains do not travel. The District offers low price passes for visitors, but even if you travel without a visitor pass, you will find that the transportation system is extremely affordable, even if you are travelling on a budget.

Advance Planning for Access to the Best Sites

As you are in the planning stages for your visit to Washington D.C., there are two things you should do before you leave. At least a few months in advance, you should register for a tour of the White House. There is no cost to tour the president’s home, but the Secret Service does do background checks on everyone who takes a tour. You simply need to visit the website to learn about the process of touring the remarkable home. The second thing to do in advance is contact your United States representative or senator to ask for passes to the House or Senate chamber. Again, there is no cost to visit, but you need a pass to see the lawmakers in action.

Must See the Mall

There are several sites that are must-see stops while you visit the capital. The first should be the National Mall, which is not a shopping mall, but a large expanse of grass. This is the land that is home to the Lincoln Memorial at one end and the Capital Building at the other. In the middle is the Washington Monument. These are all free to visit. There are other memorials tucked away in various places along the expanse of the Mall, like the Vietnam Wall, the World War II Memorial, the Roosevelt Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and more.

You will want to set aside at least two or three days to see everything along the Mall. While monuments and Capital are quite impressive, the Smithsonian Museums offer a different experience. These are some of the most popular places for tourists because they can learn about the growth of the American culture with the National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the art galleries, and so much more. Visitors could easily spend a day in each museum and still not see everything.

Visit the Cemetery in Arlington

Another must-see spot is Arlington Cemetery, which technically lies in Virginia. There is a subway stop at the gates of the cemetery and again, it is free to enter. You can walk to all of the sites in the cemetery and the notable ones include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where you can watch the regular changing of the guard ceremony; President Kennedy’s eternal flame; and the memorial to the astronauts in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in the 1980s. It is a peaceful place that is a nice balance between the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. proper.

Hit the Road Jack: Cities to Visit along Route 66

Route 66 may not be an official highway anymore, but the legendary road still has many great offerings for those who wish to see where the highway system got its start. The “Mother Road” begins in the great city of Chicago, Illinois and travels south and west to its ending point in Santa Monica, California. Along the way, the road takes several twists and turns through big cities and one-stop-light towns. Trekking along Route 66 will give you an idea of what the country was like in the early 1900s and how much it has changed to become what it is today.

Start in Chicago

Since the country developed from east to west, the best starting point is in Chicago, Illinois. The technical beginning spot is on Lakeshore Drive at Buckingham Fountain. Before you begin your expedition down the Mother Road, it is a good idea to check out the sites around Chicago. To get into the time period, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Chicago neighborhood known as Oak Park. If you tour some of the historic homes, you will see what life was like for those who drove the original Route 66.

Once you have gotten a feel for the era, you can begin your expedition. Due to the work of former President Bill Clinton, the historic Route 66 is marked quite well. This makes it easy to follow the signs and have fun along the way. Your drive from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois will include a drive by the first Steak and Shake restaurant. Once you reach Springfield, the capitol of Illinois, you can explore and learn about President Lincoln, the city’s most famous resident. Then, it is off to St. Louis, Missouri.

Missouri to Oklahoma, City

Route 66 through St. Louis promises some unique attractions, like the St. Louis Gateway Arch. But, there are some older attractions that have survived the decades since the road was decertified as an official highway. Check out Meramec Caverns, the Wagon Wheel Motel, Viva Cuba Mural, and the Largest Rocking Chair. The road then continues to Springfield, Missouri to Oklahoma City, OK, where you can enjoy the last arch bridge near Riverton, Kansas and the Blue Whale at Catoosa. Once you arrive in Oklahoma City, visitors enjoy seeing the capital building and the memorial to the victims in the Oklahoma City bombing in the 1990s.

Time in New Mexico

The drive from Oklahoma City to Albuquerque, New Mexico is also full of Route 66 memorabilia. The roads are long, but a good stopping point is at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK. Then, when you cross into Texas the roadside attractions include the U-Drop Inn, the Leaning Water Tower and World’s Largest Cross, and the Cadillac Ranch, with actual Cadillac cars decorating the ground. The town of Glenrio, which was a popular small town when the road was active, is now practically a ghost town, showing the signs of progress.

Longer Stay in Arizona

On your journey, the drive through Arizona is one worth taking slow. Route 66 takes drivers past the iconic Wigwam Village, Meteor Crater Park, Flagstaff, the Lowell Observatory, and of course, the Grand Canyon. The Mojave Desert comes up quickly, so it is best to be prepared for the infrequent rest stops and fuel stations along the way. Finally, your journey ends in California, where you should stop and enjoy a burger and fries at the first McDonald’s in the United States, which happens to lie on Route 66 in San Bernardino. Then, wrap up the journey in Santa Monica, California and check out the ocean views. Orlando

Orlando is one of the most memorable cities in the United States and it is one of the most visited. Even though most people visit Orlando for the theme park attractions, there are so many other fun things to do in the town and most of them do not require standing in line or buying entry tickets. Never Leave the Resort.

Orlando is home to several top notch resorts and many of them provide so many activities and amenities that visitors do not have to leave the resort to enjoy themselves in Chicago. Most of the resorts are along the International Drive area or in the Kissimmee area off of Hwy 192. Several of these resorts offer huge pools often accompanied by waterslides and lazy rivers. They often pools designed just for kids and some that are just for adults. Many of the resorts also have activities designed for the entire family or for children in certain age groups. Most of them also have game rooms stocked with the latest video games, spas for total relaxation, and restaurants with delicious food and festive drinks. Some of these destination resorts include the Liki Tiki Resort, Hilton Grand Vacation Club at Seaworld and Parc Soliel, Orange Lake Resort, and so many more.

Downtown Disney: It’s Free!

If you want to visit Orlando, but stay away from the long lines and expensive prices at the theme parks, there are other fun activities. Downtown Disney is a popular destination for people of all ages. This is a planned area with restaurants, shops, and bars. The nightlife is fun for those over 21 years of age and children also enjoy playing in the Lego Store, eating at Rainforest Café, and checking out all of the Disney goodies at many themed shops. You can also see a movie, play in the arcade, or catch a Cirque de Soleil show.

So Much Shopping

Since there are so many tourists that arrive in the area on a daily basis, shopping is a big deal in Orlando. Many families visit the many indoor shopping malls, expansive outlet malls, flea markets, and antique stores that pepper the area. The Mall at Millenia is the newest indoor, luxury shopping mall and there are several other popular large stores in the area of the Mall at Millenia. For those who prefer outlet shopping, there are two Orlando Premium Outlets in the area filled with top names in fashion, accessories, electronics, and items for your home. There are also several flea markets including FleaWorld and 192 Flea Market and both of these are indoors so you can shop regardless of the weather. Shoppers who love antiques just need to travel a short distance to Mt. Dora (which isn’t a mountain at all). Mt. Dora has a quaint downtown area with antique shops and restaurants selling homemade cupcakes, serving local beers, and other delicious fare.

Get Your Golf On

Another favorite pastime of visitors traveling to Orlando is golfing. There are several golf courses all over the Orlando vicinity. Some are attached to resorts, like the Orange Lake Resort, and others have low prices for early morning or late afternoon rounds. There is an Arnold Palmer course and many locals love the Grande Lakes resort, too.

When you decide to visit Orlando, it is important to realize that there are so many more activities besides the expensive and busy theme parks.

Las Vegas: More Than Just Casinos

When people think of Las Vegas, the first thing that usually comes to mind is gambling. Most people travel to Las Vegas because of the gaming industry and some of the most memorable casinos in the world are on the Las Vegas Strip in the heart of the city. While there are amazing places to win and lose significant amounts of money, Las Vegas and the nearby areas are home to many other activities that are even more memorable than those inside of the casinos.

Hiking at Red Rocks

Interestingly, Las Vegas is home to some amazing hiking. While it may seem like Las Vegas is built on a flat desert terrain, there are outcroppings of rocks and land forms that offer scenic views and challenging hikes. One of those areas is the Red Rocks Canyon on the outskirts of Vegas. The canyon is about 20 miles away from The Strip and it is well worth the drive and any traffic you may encounter along the way. Red Rocks has a scenic loop drive that is a favorite for cyclists. The loop also has several parking areas where visitors can hike into the canyon; some of the hikes are quick and take hikers right to the scenic spot, while others are several hours long and require advance planning. There is a small fee to get into the park and there is a useful visitors’ center.

Floating Black Canyon

Another amazing place to spend a day is in Black Canyon on the Colorado River. With advance planning, you can arrange to spend a day on a kayak or on a tour boat on the Black Canyon section of the Colorado River. Each day, a small number of kayakers are allowed to put their kayaks into the water at the base of the Hoover Dam. They then float down the river for several miles until they reach what is called Willow Beach. Kayakers are encouraged to stop at a few locations along the way to explore and enjoy the hot springs that dot the area. This memorable trip includes historic locations, like an old cat walk and gauging station. It also provides the opportunity to see wildlife like birds, fish, and few other canyon dwelling creatures.

Extraterrestrials and Nuclear Bombs

There are few other kitschy tourist sites to visit while in Vegas. They include Highway Route 375, which is legendary as a road with frequent extra-terrestrial sightings. There have been so many along this little two-lane highway that locals dubbed it Extraterrestrial Highway. If you are really in the market for 1950’s, Cold War “kitsch” then it would be worth your time to see the Atomic Testing Museum.

Hoover Dam and Boulder City

If you are amazed by what man can do, visit Hoover Dam. The view from the top is much different than the view from the bottom. There is also a new bridge called the Hoover Dam Bypass that was built because of the high demands to protect the Hoover Dam. People no longer can drive their cars across the dam. The bridge is impressive due to the feats of engineering that went into designing and building this large bridge. The nearby Boulder City is an interesting place to stop and learn about the men who lived there while they helped build the dam in the 1930s.

What about Detroit?

There is a city in the Midwestern part of the United States that has become forgotten by so many. The City of Detroit in the southeastern part of Michigan is a wonderful city with so much to offer to the tourist, business owner, and family. As a city, Detroit has one of the worst reputations in the United States. Interestingly, the city has so much to offer and once people visit the city, they see the why the city is still a treasure along the Detroit River and Lake Huron.

Professional Athletics and Amazing Stadiums

One of the best things about Detroit is the amount of high quality athletic teams. Detroit has four major athletic teams with some of the most memorable stadiums in the professional leagues. The Detroit Tigers are frequent contenders for playoffs and the Detroit Red Wings have won several Stanley Cup Championships in the last decade. The Detroit Tigers play at Comerica Park, which a beautiful new baseball stadium designed with the traditions of baseball in mind. The Red Wings play at the Joe Louis Arena, affectionately called “The Joe” by the locals. The Detroit Lions and Pistons play football and basketball, and while they have not been playoff contenders in recent years, the teams are still enjoyable to watch.

Top Notch Casinos

Downtown Detroit has been undergoing a revitalization process over the years. The city is home to three spectacular casinos in the downtown area. The Motor City Casino, MGM Grand, and Greektown Casino are favorite destination spots for those who visit and live in Detroit.

Visit Dearborn for Ford History

Detroit proper is a large city, but the suburbs around the city extend it even more. One of the most popular suburban towns is Dearborn, which is the home of Ford Motor Company. Being the home of the Ford, Dearborn is home to the historical programs that are related to Ford and the advent of the automobile. Anyone who visits Detroit should take the short drive to Dearborn to check out The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. The Henry Ford is a museum that shows how transportation has affected the modern world. Visitors see how automobiles, trains, and planes have changed over time. Greenfield Village is right next door, and visitors can see what the world was like when Henry Ford was alive.

Just a short walk away from these two attractions is the Ford proving ground where the manufacturer tests the performance capabilities of the latest Ford creations. It is exciting to see mysteriously undercover cars being driven through the curvy road. It is important to remember that Detroit was the place where the automobile began and Dearborn is the best place in the world to remember the past and hope for the future of the automobile.

Suburbs and the Joy of Woodward Avenue

There are many other exciting places to visit when visiting Detroit. The suburbs show their personalities with their unique downtowns, tasty restaurants, and special boutiques. Some of the most exciting suburbs include Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Birmingham, which are just a short drive away from each other with busy Woodward Avenue as their connecting street. The street is also host to the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise each summer where owners of vintage cars come together to cruise the streets like they did in the heyday of the automobile in Detroit.