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There’s Never Been a Better Time for a Rock-Music Vacation

June 28, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

There are some cities in the US that just seem to live and breathe great music. Sometimes the popular press and major record labels get excited about these towns, but the great music seems never to go away. It just changes a bit from year to year. And that’s a good thing. That keeps it from getting stale and boring. You could write a great book driving around the country and visiting all these towns that are so rich in musical heritage and contemporary music—both the well-known and the not-so-well-known ones. And anything that would make for a great book would make for an equally great vacation. Why spend this summer experiencing the world through books when you can get out there and live it?

Athens, Georgia

Athens burst onto the scene in the ‘80s through the irresistible bands The B-52s and R.E.M. There’s a great, obscure documentary from this period called Athens, GA: Inside Out where you can see the folks in R.E.M. and The B-52s before their rock-star days, just being fun-loving kids. In the late ‘90s and the first decade of the 2000s, it was the music of bands associated with the indie-rock collective known as the Elephant 6 and the DJ experimentation of Danger Mouse that characterized the Athens scene. This period was all about experimenting with well-known rock styles. Elephant 6 groups like Olivia Tremor Control and The Apples in Stereo did new and intriguing things with styles created and honed by The Beatles and The Beach Boys, while Danger Mouse put his name on the map by creating The Grey Album, which wittily mashes together The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album. The town is still all about re-imaginings and remixes of old musical formulas. And some of the trailblazing bands are still blazing. This year will see the long-anticipated reunion of Neutral Milk Hotel (whose second album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Pitchfork named the fourth best album of the ‘90s). The shows at the 40 Watt Club (one with Elf Power and the other with Circulatory System) in Athens should be the most memorable ones of the whole tour.

San Francisco, California

In recent years, a vibrant retro-rock scene has sprung up in San Francisco. It’s not wear-some-flowers-in-your-hair retro-rock. It’s not that obviously derivative. The music draws on a variety of rock influences. The ‘60s and ‘70s are the most obvious decades in the mix, but the ‘80s and ‘90s are there as well. Psychedelic dance-rock diva Ash Reiter, fresh from organizing and playing the rock festival Hickey Fest, is on a hot streak. She’s probably the hardest working woman in rock-and-roll. If she’s not on tour, she’s playing shows in the Bay Area. And if you go see her, you’re guaranteed to have a great time and take home some souvenirs—that is, get some of her songs stuck in your head. The Family Folk Explosion is a Bay-Area/Los Angeles collective that involves a number of talented, exciting musicians who have bands of their own. The most notable members are Mark Matos, who also fronts the spiritually-inclined rock band Os Beaches, and Annie Girl, a very talented singer-songwriter who is making a big name for herself with her group Annie Girl and the Flight.

After you have rocked to your heart’s content, you’ll be ready for some world-class R&R—at an affordable price, of course. There’s only one hotel that fits that description—Extended Stay America

Summertime is a Great Time for Sports Fans

June 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Summertime is a great time for sports. People everywhere are getting out there for the love of the game. The recent NBA and NHL championships proved to be nail-bitingly exciting, and while the NFL season may not have started up yet, but baseball is in full swing. Summertime is the perfect time for living out your gridiron, court, and baseball-diamond fantasies. There’s no reason to leave playing make-believe, pretending that you are your favorite sports stars, in childhood. Why not trot onto the driveway b-ball court as Kobe Bryant to the adoring screams of the crowd or into your backyard as Eli Manning to a spirited New York cheer? Dreaming is the first step in accomplishing anything—whether it is becoming a professional athlete or having a perfect day playing the game you love with your friends. There are a number of destinations where you can get inspiration for your dreams.

 The Sports Museum: Boston, Massachusetts

You would be hard-pressed to find a town that takes its sports more seriously than Boston. This amazing city is both quite refined and tougher-than-nails, like that memorable fictional Bostonian, Will Hunting. Bostonians can wax philosophical about the games they love and then pummel you on the field without mercy. The Sports Museum is Boston-centric. Would you expect anything else from a city that cherishes its character so much that even public figures with national profiles speak in thick, almost affected-sounding local accents? Boston is a world-class city, and it is a world unto itself.

At the museum, you can see the Bruins’ penalty box from the Boston Garden, which was torn down a few years ago. This is an appropriate object to have on display. The Bruins have traditionally been one of the most bruising teams in the NHL, and they have made ample use of the penalty box—hanging out there joyfully, like high school delinquents in detention. Boston so loves its Celtics that there is an exhibit for every era in which a championship was won. The highlight is Larry Bird’s locker. Bird is not a Boston native. He is from French Lick, Indiana. But he was adopted by the city and made an honorary Bostonian upon his arrival because of his blue-collar attitude and his no-frills work ethic. The reason he had to retire from the NBA prematurely was not a basketball injury, as one would assume, but a driveway-asphalting injury. Bird is so blue-collar that he wouldn’t hire someone to re-do his driveway. And that was music to the ears of the true-blue Boston fans.

Newport Sports Museum: Newport Beach, California

On the other side of the country from New England, in expansive Orange County, is the Newport Sports Museum. This collection is both erudite and exciting. On view is Babe Ruth’s last homerun ball, which is autographed by the Bambino himself. Looking at this now aged and cracked ball, you get a feeling for the vast history and life of the game. There is a great exhibit on hometown heroes the Los Angeles Dodges. You will learn of the team’s interesting history. They were, of course, not always the LA Dodgers. They started out in Brooklyn, where they were affectionately nicknamed “the Bums” and sometimes gave Babe Ruth’s Yankees a run for their money.

When the sun sets on your sports-filled day, you’ll likely be ready to retire to your hotel and trade stories of the day. There’s no better hotel for doing this than Extended Stay America, where you can chat over a meal prepared in your suite’s kitchen and enjoy free Wi-Fi. 

An Ice Cream Soda Dream Vacation

June 20, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20th is National Ice Cream Soda Day. A simple concoction—just ice-cream scoops plopped in soda pop—the ice cream soda packs a lot of happiness into a small package. Robert Green invented the ice cream soda in 1874 in Philadelphia during the celebration of the city’s sesquicentennial—so this tasty beverage has patriotic associations. When Green ran out of ice for his soda, he had to think fast. The only cold stuff on hand was fresh ice cream. He must have thought to himself, Can one drink handle all that sweet, delicious flavor? I guess I’ll just have to take my chances. And, taking his chances, another great discovery was made in the city of Benjamin Franklin.

Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum: Columbus, Indiana

For a truly genuine, old-timey ice cream soda experience, Zaharakos is the place to go. Opened in 1900, not long after the birth of the ice cream soda, this ice cream parlor has been serving up the good stuff to residents of Columbus for many, many years—through good times and bad. When a little kid in Columbus says, “Let’s go get ice cream,” his parents don’t have to ask him where he wants to go. They know he wants to go to Zaharakos. Little changed in looks and charm since its early days, Zaharakos is a time machine that takes you back to a simpler time when a night’s entertainment was ice cream soda and a concert in the town park. In the museum section of the shop, you will see artifacts from an earlier era. There is an orchestrion, the precursor to the jukebox. This machine is effectively an orchestra in a box. You put in your coins, and it comes alive—the piano, marimba, percussion, and the other instruments playing their little mechanical hearts out. You will also see a video in the museum of the restoration of Zaharakos, the most beloved institution in Columbus.

Wilton Candy Kitchen: Wilton, Iowa

This ice cream shop is super-historic. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s so old that it actually predates the ice cream soda. Opened in 1860 when the world was a much different place than it is today, the Candy Kitchen is the oldest ice cream parlor in the world. This place is so old that the owners, George and Thelma Nopoulos, are still talking about that time Gregory Peck stopped in for an ice cream cone as if it was yesterday. Indeed, there isn’t much difference between today and yesterday at this lovely little soda fountain. The soda jerks here still dress formally—as soda jerks did in days gone by. The women wear all white, and the men wear white jackets and black bow ties. That means they’re careful not to spill any of your precious ice cream soda—because they don’t want to get any on their white clothes. Fresh from celebrating their 150th anniversary in business in 2009, the mood is still celebratory at the Candy Kitchen. Stop by and join the party!

After you get your fill of ice cream sodas (and I know it takes me a long time to get my fill), you’ll probably want to head back to the hotel and take a nap. The perfect hotel for kicking back like you do at home is Extended Stay Hotels. 

Take a Tech-Savvy Road Trip

June 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The future is now! People have been saying that for a long time—at least since the fifties—but now it’s really true. All sorts of technological innovations that were once just material for science fiction are now day-to-day realities. Remember Dick Tracy’s super futuristic video-chat wristwatch? We could totally have that now. We just don’t like wearing watches on our wrists anymore. But smartphones do everything Tracy’s watch did and more. Have you heard of the remote-controlled, cyborg-insect surveillance drones? If cyborgs aren’t futuristic, I don’t know what is. One could even make the argument that we are easing into being cyborgs of a sort, since we are becoming dependent on technology for absolutely everything we do. Who needs science fiction anymore? Science fact is just as boundary pushing now.

MIT Museum: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Much of our gee-whiz technology can be traced back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So you can bet they have the coolest tech museum around. It was at MIT that research into artificial intelligence (AI) really got its start—in 1959. The school is still all about AI and robotics. Its largest laboratory is the one dedicated to AI. The exhibition Robots and Beyond: Exploring Artificial Intelligence at MIT at the MIT Museum opens up the results of decades of research to the public and makes it understandable to them. You’ll get an inside view of the cutting edge of robotics and see that all those apocalyptic robot attack movies miss the mark. The robots at MIT are forces for good. There are robots that perform surgery (reducing the invasiveness of surgical procedures), robotic legs (giving amputees the opportunity to be mobile like never before), and robots that know how to obey social cues in order not to be culturally offensive.

The Tech Museum of Innovation: San Jose, California

Appropriately enough, the Tech Museum of Innovation is in California’s Silicon Valley, the region that gave birth to the personal computer—which is responsible for the character of our technological age. In the Tech Silicon Valley Innovation Gallery, visitors get to explore how the technological innovations of the Valley are reconceptualizing our world. We live in a world where fusion is more possible than ever before, and it’s largely because of the minds of the Valley. The program Reface typifies the inclination toward fusion in the Valley. This computer program allows you to fuse disparate images into one. Have you ever wanted to see what a kid who has your eyes and your significant other’s mouth might look like? Then give Reface a whirl. Do you want to make a musical composition without putting in the time it takes to learn a traditional instrument? Then give the program known as Reactable a try. Just by moving cubes into unique positions, you can collaboratively create a composition with anyone else using the program. This software allows non-musicians located anywhere in the world to socially connect through musical composition. You can make a new song as you make a new friend. Now that’s music to my ears!

When your tech-filled day is through, you’ll probably want to take it easy with your family away from the hustle and bustle—but not somewhere that you’ll be cut off from technology. That’s why Extended Stay Hotels is perfect. You get the comfiest of on-the-road retreats, plus free Wi-Fi.   

Rocking with The Rolling Stones This Spring

June 7, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This June, The Rolling Stones, the road warriors of rock-n-roll, celebrate their fiftieth anniversary with a tour of the country that gave them much of their musical inspiration—the USA. They’re bringing their legendary riffs and struts from coast to coast—starting out in Los Angeles and ending up in Boston. The Stones still bring the no-frills true rock-n-roll. And you can tell they have a good time doing it. Mick still struts around like a male Tina Turner, and Keith still seems to get high on his own playing. The old songs, like “Street Fighting Man” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” don’t sound old at all when they play them. And the band, despite grey hair and wrinkles, doesn’t seem old, either. That fountain-of-youth effect is contagious. Everybody in a Stones audience feels young and a bit rebellious.

The Rolling Stones at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland, Ohio

If any band deserves a full-blown exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s the mighty Rolling Stones, keepers of the rock-n-roll flame for many a year. The exhibition Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction gives you the inside story—the tales of excess and success. This will be a very special exhibit. It’s a shock, but the Hall of Fame has never mounted a Stones exhibition before. The band that introduced the United States to its own blues and rock-n-roll continues to be so vital that they haven’t seemed ready for a museum exhibit. But now that the band has been around for fifty years, this landmark must be memorialized. The two-floor exhibit chronicles every important stage of the band—the early days living hand to mouth playing R&B clubs in England, the years of breakthrough singles and records, and the blow-out years of stadium tours. 50 Years of Satisfaction is guaranteed to make the Stones a lot of new fans. A whole new generation can discover some of rock’s founding fathers through this interactive, child-friendly show.

 The Beatles at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Cleveland, Ohio

 The Beatles vs. Stones debate is an old and hoary one. But it is revived anew with each new generation of rock fans. While you’re at the Hall of Fame checking out the Stones exhibit, pay the permanent Beatles exhibit a visit and rekindle this old, beloved debate. This is hands-down the best Beatles exhibit in the world. As the Hall of Fame is on very good terms with Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and the estate of George Harrison, they were able to secure a great many original artifacts. You will see many of the Beatles’ legendary clothes. From the mop-top days to the Sgt. Pepper days, the Beatles were almost as well known for the clothes they wore and the styles they started as for the music they played. There are, of course, also loads of audio and visual aspects of this exhibit, which are fun and educational for the old and the young.

 After your rock-n-roll experience, you’ll be ready to kick back like rock stars do backstage. The perfect hotel for this is an Extended Stay Hotel, where every convenience of home is provided for you.  

Get Happy: How to Keep That Vacation Happiness Going

June 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We know from an article in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life that the only kind of vacation that will give you continued happiness after the trip is over is one that involves very, very little stress. Seems simple enough, right? Sure, if you have a well planned out vacation, you should be able to have a low-stress trip and maximize that happiness. This means you probably don’t want to be trying to see everything it is possible to see or filling your itinerary to the max. Just see the things that are most important to you, and allow plenty of time for reflecting, resting, and hanging out with your loved ones. The following are some tips for keeping your time away from home low-stress and relaxing.

 Don’t Leave Your Trip to Chance

 As fun as it can be to shoot from the hip and improvise, these are not activities you want to indulge in if you are looking to relax on your vacation. Flying by the seat of your pants can make for some high highs and some low lows. If you don’t want high highs or low lows, but rather desire low stress, make sure to plan out your trip, day by day, in detail. By the same token, though, you don’t want to get overly nitpicky about your itinerary. It’s enough just to plan to go out for breakfast. You don’t need to find the restaurant and decide what you’ll order before you even leave home on your trip. Overplanning can stress you out before you go on your trip, making you feel overworked and underappreciated. And if it turns out that restaurant you had your heart set on is booked or they have run out of the meal you planned to have, you are all the more disappointed because of your high level of anticipation.

 Be Realistic—Don’t Expect Miracles

While you should expect to have a really good time on your vacation (as it is likely to become a positive self-fulfilling prophecy), you should not expect that there will be zero glitches or that your family or your romantic relationship will emerge from the vacation totally transformed. Don’t expect the highly improbable. Set you expectations at a realistic level. That way, if something disappointing happens, you won’t be totally crushed; and if something unexpectedly wonderful happens, you will be super-jubilant.

 Leave Your Work at Work  

Easier said than done, I know. But this one is really key. If you take your work on vacation, you will never really be on vacation. You will have be half with you family and half away from your family, back in the office. They will notice that you’re not really there with them. It will be hard for you to relax and hard for them to relax if it is not 100% obvious that the family is your focus and top priority while away from home.

 Enjoy Being Together    

 While on vacation, you will likely have to sleep in the same room with family members you are not accustomed to sharing a bedroom with. Make sure that you think of this not as an inconvenience but as an opportunity to bond. The difference between stress and relaxation is in how you perceive things.

The perfect hotel for a stress-free vacation is Extended Stay Hotels. With all of the on-site amenities, you won’t have to stress about details like where to do your laundry, how to surf the web, or how to get a home-cooked meal.