With so many boat tour companies, each with a variety of cruise options, there is no short list for how one can see the city by water. Although making a decision was an initial challenge, we eventually decided that a sunset cruise of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan would be the perfect way to spend a Saturday summer evening. Purchasing advance tickets online was a breeze and we were set to go.
That is, until monsoon-like conditions surprisingly assaulted the city late in the afternoon and figuratively and literally dampened our mood. But, have no fear, Wendella will allow you to transfer your tickets to another cruise on another day, free of charge, which is what we did with a simple phone call to company. I couldn't believe it. Win!
So, 24 hours later we boarded one of their boats under sunny blue skies, thankful for such a convenient change of plans. Between the rear benches and central chairs, there was plenty of seating for all of the guests. We started the architectural tour by heading up the Chicago river, listening to the thoroughly informative and entertaining tour guide explain the history and significance of numerous historical buildings and modern skyscrapers. I had no idea Chicago was such an architectural hub of activity in the past century.
We turned around near Willis Tower and then headed back down the river toward Lake Michigan. After a brief wait in the busy lock, which gave everyone an opportunity to take photos or grab a drink down below, we were on our way out onto the lake. We navigated our way around the Navy Pier and sailed north while oooing and awwing over the perfectly timed sunset dropping behind the Chicago skyline. We eventually turned around and headed south before returning back to the river lock, enjoying the evening air and view of the lit-up city.
Two hours after boarding, we returned to the river dock and disembarked, thoroughly satisfied with the entire experience. By combining a warm evening, an engaging and entertaining guide, beautiful sites and an amazing sunset, I'm not sure how you can possibly plan a better way to see the city. A+
The most accurate trail name I've experienced in a long time!
No doubt about it, you'll feel like a frickin' billy goat hiking on the thin path and, even better, scrambling along the rocks of this Great Falls trail. With varied and numerous views, there was no shortage of Mother's Nature's beauty along the Potomac River, especially on such a sunny, Fall day.
The trail itself was a ton of fun, allowing me to get my hiking legs back under me after a few years of hibernation. I would certainly not classify this as a "Beginner" trail, but it's not extremely difficult either, as long as you pace, watch your step and follow the blue blazes. Also, take plenty of water! You'll need it.
Normally, this is a four-mile loop hike, starting south from the Great Falls Visitor Center and looping off the canal trail. Unfortunately, due to the recent government shutdown, our walk was increased by an additional three miles due to having to walk nearly 1.5 miles from the closed gate on MacArthur Blvd. It didn't seem that bad walking down the hill on the paved road, but it wasn't necessarily fun walking back up it after the moderate hike, despite not having to pay the normal $5/car entrance fee.
I was surprised how many people were entering the park, either on foot or on bikes, after parking along the main road. But like I already mentioned, it was a beautiful day and we all would not be denied. I'll definitely be back again to see what other fun stuff this local park has to offer.
How does one rate a bridge, exactly? Hmmm.
Well, if it's as old and iconic as this historic landmark connecting New York City, then I suppose five Stars should be the default. But as many reviewers have already mentioned, don't just drive across it. Walk the long (a little over a mile) pedestrian path above traffic from one side to the next, as millions of people before you have. Yes, it's touristy, but who cares? It's a beautiful stroll, day or night. Your camera will thank you.
Happy 130th Birthday...and many more!
Take heed, this review is bias (as if they all aren't). There's part of me that easily wants to give Stone Mountain Park five stars, but there's the green part of me that won't allow it. Here's the thing: I really hate the over-commercialization of state and national parks. Listen, I get it. Funding is limited and these places must do all they can to cover costs....necessary evil and all that. But I still hate it.
So, here's the deal with SM. It's $10 for a day-pass entrance into the park. I've been here a few times over the years and I always enjoy hiking the trail to the summit. It's only about a mile long, but with about 600 ft. of elevation gain it should get your heart pumping, depending on your pace. The trail is clearly marked the whole way to the top and you'll find a variety of people going up and down: families, tourists, locals, runners, etc.
What if you don't want the exercise but still want to go to the top? Here's where my first paragraph kicks in. You can ride a large cable car from the other side of the park to the summit...and to a constructed building. Blah. If you have physical limitations, hey, no problem. Kids? Got it. But if you're just too lazy to do it, then boo to you. To me, there's no better feeling than earning the summit on a beautiful day while getting some fresh air and enjoying the sun. Kudos to those that seize the opportunity!
What else? You can pay to take a train around the entire mountain. You can stay here overnight at one of the park inns. You can visit the Plantation House. But if you do nothing else, at least go to the Stone Mountain memorial and visitor center to see and learn about the huge carving of the three Confederate heroes (remember, this IS Georgia). It is pretty spectacular, regardless of where you're from.
Of course when I was there, the entire sloped lawn was temporarily off-limits to the public, as they were in the midst of creating "Snow Mountain" for the upcoming holiday season. Somewhere in that massive amount of fake snow is where the fifth star of this review is buried.
What an absolutely beautiful park!
Boston Common is the more recognizable name and adjoining neighbor, but Public Garden is much more attractive. I had the opportunity to leisurely stroll along its winding paths on a beautiful Spring morning, capturing plenty of colorful pics along the way. The park is filled with numerous varieties of trees, flowers, statues, a large pond and even swans, making you completely forget you're right in the middle of a large city.
When I think of Queens, a large, unique park isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Well, maybe it does now, especially since there's so much here, including plenty of open space.
Of course you have the old World's Fair Observation Towers and the famous Unisphere, which is much bigger than I imagined. But there are also a ton of fields for various sports, playgrounds, walking paths and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (home of the U.S. Open). Citi Field is also right across the street if you want to catch a Mets game.
We racked up a couple of miles walking around a large portion of the park, seeing all of the above and just enjoying the nice, Spring day. I'm sure the Summer brings out a ton of people, all ready to enjoy everything the park has to offer.
I've wanted to visit here for a long time and wasn't sure what to expect once I did. Certainly not the in-depth process it takes just to get in, which has already been well documented on here.
Yes, you need a designated time ticket (preregister on-line) to enter.
Yes, tickets are free, but you have to pick them up at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site a few blocks away.
Yes, you must go through an "airport security" type of screening process.
Yes, you must walk through a maze of construction paths to get to the memorial.
But, once you're FINALLY there, it is a very surreal, yet serene site right in the middle of downtown Manhattan. There were plenty of people visiting, but the flow of visitors in and out is barely noticeable throughout the few acres of the memorial. Both of the flowing memorial pools, outlining the original twin towers and inscribed with all the names of 9/11 victims, are beautiful and peaceful.
I personally could have done without some of the loud conversations, laughter, picture posing and other behavior by some of the guests (mostly foreigners). It's basic honor and respect, people!
As mentioned previously, there is still a ton of construction going on all around (as of Jan 2013) on both the 9/11 museum, as well as the four new WTC towers. Once completed, I imagine this entire area will be even better, yet still a permanent reminder of one of the worst days in our nation's history. God Bless America!
Needing a break from the beach, we decided to go check out the Tybee Island Lighthouse and museum. Tickets are $9.00 for adults and $7.00 for children and members of the military (Nice!). Also, you must enter and exit in through their gift shop, so you have two chances to spend some of your moolah on practically anything lighthouse related.
Since there was no line or wait (apparently a rarity), we decided to first walk up the 178 spiraling stairs to the top of the lighthouse, a very nice workout for the legs! Once we arrived at the top, we were met by Gus, who highlighted some history of the surrounding area, pointed out some of the major sights and gave us some recommendations on local restaurants to try. He was so friendly and interesting and we really enjoyed talking with him for awhile. Naturally, the view of the ocean and surrounding residential areas was amazing.
After descending back down to the bottom of the lighthouse, we walked through a couple of the historic lighthouse keeper cottages and actually witnessed a marriage proposal (yeah, fo real) before leaving to get some lunch. The lighthouse is definitely a must-see if you're visiting the island. Just make sure you park in their lot for free and don't go on a Tuesday (closed).
I probably picked one of the best times to visit Temple Square. Well, minus the frigid Winter temperatures.
But being it was only a couple of weeks before Christmas, the entire area was decorated and filled with colorful lights brightening the SLC evening. Even the massive Salt Lake Temple was illuminated with white spotlights, highlighting is neck-craning presence in the center of the the square. I definitely took advantage of the numerous photo ops while briskly walking around the entire area.
Although I have conflicting feelings regarding LDS beliefs, I'll have to admit, the Mormons definitely know how to decorate for the holidays! Merry Christmas!
Very good, Carnival.
Not horrible, not extraordinary, but "very good" sums up a week of travels on the Carnival Legend. It's not their fanciest ship, but it provided a very pleasant and relaxing time of cruising from Tampa to Cozumel, Costa Maya, Isla Roatan and Grand Cayman over the holidays. Fortunately, the weather was warm and sunny every day, which was a wonderful bonus.
There were plenty of things to do on cruising/non-port days, including two deck pools/hot tubs, gym, casino, spa, mini-golf course and various, fun competitions and shows. I particularly liked the Adults Only "Serenity" pool and lounging area on the aft desk to relax and read a book away from the foreword noise. Of course, there are plenty of lounges and bar areas on various levels to grab your drink of choice, any time of day.
Naturally, like any getaway cruise, food needs to be discussed. As usual, the best came out with the scheduled evening dinners (including two formal) with plenty of variety each day. Once again, it wasn't the very best I've eaten on a ship, but it was very good all around. Breakfast and lunch were also decent with a variety of options throughout the 9th deck and pool area grill.
The service was superb! From the waitstaff (props to Miroslav, George and Corinne) to the stateroom stewards (Antonio), we were continually impressed with the professional and personal efficiency displayed on a daily basis. They work hard and earn every dime of the gratuities they're paid.
The port excursions were tremendous fun, although a little pricey, depending on how you decided to spend your day. Exploring Mayan ruins, riding dune buggies and snorkeling in Mexico, zip lining in Honduras and being beach bums in Grand Cayman were all fun and exciting ways to close out 2013!
'Til next time...
I had no idea this park was here! Actually, most people probably don't either. Okay, it's no Niagara Falls, but if you have a chance to stop by, it's quite a magnificent sight.
There's plenty of parking, but just avoid the pot hold crater upon entering the lot. You can also wander around the park museum on McBride Ave (Bonus Points!) to the walkway and bridges that take you closer to the water for all your photo op needs.
Once again, the falls are very impressive, especially for being in northern New Jersey, which is not a place I would have previously associated with massive flowing 77 ft high waterfalls. Mad props to Alexander Hamilton for appreciating and harnessing its energy potential back in the day and to the NPS for continually maintaining the national landmark. 4.5 Stars.
I visited Lucky Shoals Park on a beautiful November morning to get in a little pre-Thanksgiving exercise (as if that was going to make a big difference). Regardless, I wanted to enjoy the warm southern sun and check out what I've been told are "some of the best parks in the country (Gwinnett County)."
I grabbed my iPod and hit the 1.14 mile paved trail, which loops around the perimeter of the park. I liked the variety of uphill and downhill twists and turns through the surrounding woods. I couldn't help but stop a couple of times to take some pictures of the nice trail and colorful foliage. There are also outdoor basketball courts, baseball fields, tennis courts and picnic pavilions, which I imagine are busy during the summer.
After three laps, I left the trail went into the main complex building, which houses basketball and volleyball courts. Definitely a spacious and well maintained facility. I wish more municipalities put the time, effort and money into community gems like this.
3.5 Stars. Penn's Landing is fun gathering spot on the edge of the Delaware River. You can pay $7.00 to take the ferry over to the Jersey side if you're going to check out the aquarium, catch a ball game at Campbell's Field or jam out to your favorite band at the Susquehanna Bank Center.
However, they also host a number of varying events and concerts during the year, obviously concentrated around the nicer weather months. We had a ball viewing the crazies participating in the Redbull Flutag on the water last September. In the winter, you can enjoy testing out your leg muscles you forgot existed by skating around the seasonally constructed ice rink with friends/family.
So, check out the calendar and find a reason to stop by Philly's waterfront.
"WTF is that?"
That was a question I asked myself a lot here. My personal experience is very limited when it comes to art/sculpture, but I actually had a lot of fun seeing all of the unique and obscure exhibits this place offers. The weather was absolutely perfect for a stroll around the park and we took our time looking at everything (indoors and out) while taking a lot pictures. I love the random and expansive layout with paths zig-zagging around sculptures, through bamboo and around the lake. Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded and pleasantly quiet, minus the couple groups of annoying students and wandering peacocks.
We stopped by Rat's Restaurant for lunch (separate review) before finishing our self-guided tour. You can easily spent a couple of hours here if you really want to wander all around and see everything, which is all part of the experience.
$12 admission for adults
Park is closed Mondays and most Federal Holidays. Gates open at 10:00 a.m.
Stop by the visitor center for a map and brief video, if interested
Take your time and enjoy!
Forsyth is a large, beautiful park south of Savannah's Historic District. Almost every tour bus, including ours, circles around the mile perimeter of the park, passing all of the historic homes along the way. We made sure to come back here afterwards to walk on the winding paths, admire the Spanish moss covered trees and see the large, flowing fountain. I can just imagine this place being packed with tourists and locals during the long, warm days of summer. Stop by and enjoy.
A visit to Pier A Park wasn't a planned stop, but after parking along Sinatra Drive with some time to kill, I thought, "Why not?" Jutting out into the Hudson River near the Hoboken train station, the park is simple, yet serene. I walked around the entire perimeter, taking everything in...joggers hustling along the brick walkway, fishermen casting lines off the pier, guys playing a game of touch football on the grass field, a couple staring across the river into NYC. Although it was hard to see anything at a distance on such a foggy morning, I enjoyed the short, relaxing stroll along the edge of the city.
Six Flags Great Adventure (4.5 stars) is great fun if you're an adrenaline junkie like me. Having been to my fair share of amusement parks over the years, I wasn't sure what to expect, especially with the roller coasters, but my expectations were exceeded. Fortunately, we visited on a Friday when it wasn't extremely busy and the weather was temperate and cloudy; perfect for a full day outside.
New for 2012 is the Sky Screamer, which is an extreme variation of the old swings ride that all parks used to have, except this one takes you up 240 ft and goes 40 mph. Good fun from above. As far as the roller coasters, my favorites were Nitro (long and fast steel coaster), Green Lantern (stand-up coaster) and El Toro (fast wooden coaster). Batman (suspended steel coaster) and Bizarro were also good fun, but Superman (lay down steel coaster) wasn't as fun as I expected to be and Dark Knight (indoor, in-the-dark coaster) beat me up. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ride Kingda Ka, which looked pretty fun and intense.
Of course, you also have a variety of twist, turn and spin rides that most parks have, as well as the endless waste-of-money carnival games which make winners drag oversized stuffed animals around the park all day. There are also a variety of overpriced food stands and restaurants so you can get your weekly dose of fat and cholesterol. Yea for corndogs and bacon cheese fries!
- If you plan on visiting more than once a season, your best bet financially is to buy a season pass. You'll spend about the same but get unlimited visits from spring until fall. If you don't buy a season pass, at least buy and print your park/parking passes from their website ahead of time for about $20-30 less. Basically, don't pay for parking or buy your tickets at the gate!
- Use your Discover Card to buy almost anything in the park and get 5% off your purchase. Not a ton of savings, but take what you can get.
4.5 Stars. I had no idea there was a winery in New Egypt, but when I saw signs posted along the road on my way to work advertising a weekend Harvest Festival, I was intrigued. Intrigue turned into awe as I pulled into the busy parking lot. This place is beautiful as it is expansive.
The main building sits atop of a small hill as the vineyard stretches out across the fields below. For the weekend activities, they had numerous vendors lined up along the road, vineyard tours, music and plenty of space on the surrounding grass for visitors to spread out blankets, relax in stadium chairs and enjoy their numerous selections of wine.
Venturing inside, I decided to try their advertised wine sampler, which was only $7 for six individual tastings, which included Tailgate White, Windswept White, Chardonnay Naked 2010, Chardonnay Reserve 2010, Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and Bistro. Three of them were really good, while three of them were just alright. To close out all the sampling: two mini shots of their Chocolate Therapy wine. Delicious! I was tempted to buy a bottle of it ($15, 14% ABV) but didn't. Thinking about it, I sort of regret that decision, but now have a great excuse to go back.
There's a first time for everything and it looks like that now includes rating a mini-golf course. But if you're going to do it, Ocean City is a great place to start with numerous courses lined up and down Philadelphia Ave, including a few Old Pro Golf ones. This is where we found ourselves after dinner one evening, ready for some friendly competition and occasional smack-talking (not from me though...never).
First off, it's 27 holes, not the standard 18, which extends the fun. You feel like you're really getting your money's worth ($8/person) putting along through Camelot, including inside and outside of a two story "castle." Some of the holes are a bit simplistic, but most of them are pretty fun.
It does get rather busy, so you will probably find yourself waiting for people in front of you or trying to dust the people behind you. This is why I found it easiest just to shoot three hole-in-ones and keep the pace moving. Ya know, whatever I can do to help.
Blocked off streets...food...beer...concessions...food...beer...local business vendors...food...beer...sumo wrestling...food...beer...mechanical bull...food...beer...Zumba...food...beer...music...food...beer...people having a great time.
Plus, there was plenty of food and beer! Yeah, that was awesome.
My first DC Snallygaster! I read that last year's event was awesome and I was excited to see what they had up their sleeve for this year's festival.
First, I was relieved to be able to get tickets on-line the day before, since attending was sorta a last minute decision. I thought the $30/person entrance fee was fair, which included a souvenir Snallygaster mug, as well as 25 drink tickets. For $50, you could start sampling an hour earlier, at noon, but I really didn't see the value in that, even knowing it would be a busy day with plenty of people.
And busy it was! We arrived via the Metro a little after 1pm, following the line of attendees into the outdoor venue at Union Market. I was happy with how well the ID check, ticket scans and mug/wristband distribution was organized. I've definitely experienced worse elsewhere.
Once inside, I felt happily overwhelmed by the number of beers available, either for tastings (3-4 tickets) or full pours (7-9 tickets). With a limited number of initial tickets, we had to choose wisely, trying to find some unique and new (at least to me) local flavors, including some really good seasonals and pumpkin brews. Naturally, they had some tables scattered throughout the yard where you could by additional drink tickets (Smart!) if you wanted to extend your afternoon further.
There were also a number of food trucks and merchandise vendors set up along the perimeter and among the beer tents, as well as a couple of DJs playing music for the masses. There were even some kids activities near the back corner bleachers for those parents who were stupid enough to bring them along to this kind of event.
Even though the outdoor venue was completely packed with a ton of people, I still thought it was a fun event and great way to spend a decent Fall afternoon, trying some new and tasty brews. Plus, the name of this is just too damn cool. 3.5 Stars.
3.5 stars. This festival easily has the potential to rate 5 Stars, not because of the vast vendors and excellent beer selection, but improved logistics. This was the first year I attended the event and had high hopes based on what I saw on the website from previous years.
Apparently, this was the first year it was held in tents at the Navy Yard. Although it was a nice big open location near the water, it also led to some minor problems, mainly adequate 'elbow room' and poor foot traffic flow. During the VIP session, I quickly realized this was going to be a problem with the vast number of attendees even before the General Session started at 1:30. Fortunately, I was able to sample a good number of beers during the first hour with no issues. Lucky for me because it got worse after I ate lunch. The tents became completely packed to capacity, making me feel like I was trapped in Saturday night club...with no music (which also would've been nice).
Then the issue of the number of Porta Pots drew it's ugly head, as lines began growing longer and longer as the afternoon drew on. Waiting 20-30 min. to use the restroom during a four hour event is ridiculous, considering this is beer festival which obviously requires proper facilities.
However, I didn't allow either of these issues (which should be addressed next year with a larger event area and more restrooms) deter me from having a really fun afternoon of sampling some of the best beers in the area. The weather was beautiful, the beer/vendors were great and the attendees were jovial and polite...at least those who weren't ready to wet themselves in line.
See ya next year!
Okay, it's New York City, so you should figure something like this is going to be a logistical clusterf*#%.
Notice I used the word "should." Please keep that in mind before diving in and you won't be surprised. Being a rookie, I made that mistake and probably didn't get to enjoy the full experience of the "Spectacular." This is mostly because by the time I got there, (which was no problem via the subway)...well, "there" is a relative term.
I felt like a rat in a maze with some streets closed off and others already filled with people sweating, bumping into each other, waiting and sweating some more. Oh, I was in Hell's Kitchen? Most accurate description of the night.
Not knowing specifically where the sky would be illuminated, I just picked a spot on some random intersection on 11th Ave, faced west and hoped for the best. This was actually not the worst decision because I ended up having a partial view of the fireworks between the buildings in front of the masses.
From what I could see, the show was pretty impressive, with synchronized launch points along the Hudson River causing ongoing oohing and ahhing and elevated camera phone holding for nearly 25 minutes. With all the pretty colors and loud noises complete, another Independence Day was in the books. Happy 4th!
Now that I got my morning ankle transplant out of the way, I thought I'd chime in about this event. Actually, having not ice skated in several years, I seriously thought I'd wake up this morning sore in places I didn't even know existed. But thankfully that was not the case.
Located at the edge of the river in Penn's Landing, Blue Cross River Rink is a great outdoor ice skating rink and facility I didn't know anything about previously. However, I liked the concept of this event, especially the thought of getting to do something outside during the winter.
Aside from fighting to not fall on my face (I didn't) as I ungracefully sputtered around the ice, I was happy hanging out with some of the usual suspects and also meeting some new people, who all decided to venture out into the chilly evening for some fun. The free skate rentals and hot chocolate/cookies were nice surprises as well.
Oh, and I can't forget to mention my new pair of Yelp Life gloves! Thank you Michelle and Brie! Another job well done.
While walking along River Street, my dad suggested we take a boat cruise on the Savannah River. It sounded interesting, so we found Savannah Riverboat Cruises selling tickets on the street for around $21 per adult. It seemed a little steep for an afternoon tour, but we all went with it.
We boarded the riverboat about 15 min early and got seats near the back of the upper deck. After the boat pulled away from the dock, we slowly headed up river as the captain gave us an overview of the city and history of the surrounding area. We eventually turned around and headed back down river for awhile before heading back to the dock.
Being a general fan of history, I mostly enjoyed the hour-long tour, although it was dry and a bit boring at times, especially near the end. Although it was fun trying something new and a unique way to see the edge of Savannah, I doubt I'd do it again, especially for the price. Barely three stars.
Yep, Boston was calling and we felt obligated to answer with a two-day showing at the relatively newer music festival to kick off the summer. (I believe this is the third iteration after two shows in 2013. There is also a Friday night set.)
Aside from the weekend musical lineups, I had no idea what to expect, especially with the City Hall location. Although spacious, it was not necessarily ear-pleasing if you weren't directly in front of either the Red or Blue stages. So, find a good spot and don't move! Oh, and the VIP area seemed to have little additional value for the cost, especially being so far from the stages. In the end, I think sticking to GA tickets was a good decision.
We arrived after lunchtime to walk the grounds, check out the vendors and, of course, scout out the restroom (porta potty) locations. Plenty of pricey drink and food options for the weekend. But, if you didn't want to eat/drink there, you could also wander across the street to a restaurant/bar and reenter at your convenience with your festival wristband.
Once the music kicked off, we already had drinks in hand, ready for a great day of music. Indeed it was with quality acts like Walk Off the Earth, Magic Man, The Neighbourhood, Frank Turner, The Head & The Heart and Death Cab for Cutie. I was genuinely impressed how precise they kept the band's sets to the published schedule on the alternating stages, with little downtime in between. Thumbs up!
The next day was mostly the same (minus the late rain) with Tegen & Sara, Bastille, etc. However, after two straight days of standing on the hard concrete, I was definitely ready to wrap it up. (I'm getting too old for this $#*!)
Overall, it was a great time and maybe we'll check it our again sometime down the line. For now, I'm resting my aching feet and back.