Warm Summer Nights, Hot Summer Jams
While you’re out on the road this summer, why not spice up your nights with some awesome music? This is shaping up to be one of the best years to catch live shows. Since artists and bands can’t make their living just selling albums anymore (thank the Internet), touring is their bread and butter. They’ve got to get on the road and come into real contact with their fans in order to keep on living the rock-star dream. Now you can sing along in person with all your favorites. No musician can stay at a distance from his fans anymore if he wants to continue living the life.
JT, America’s sweetheart crooner, and Jay-Z, the CEO of the hip-hop game, join forces this summer for a tour with the gravitational pull of a supernova. Timberlake is promoting The 20/20 Experience—an album that has made him the undisputed American king of blue-eyed soul. Jay-Z is promoting his new joint, Magna Carta Holy Grail. Jay, always the game changer, prompted the Recording Industry Association of America to alter the way it’s been charting album sales for the past fifty-plus years with his innovative, cross-marketing release of his new record. We can, of course, expect the stage show that Jay-Z and Timberlake put on to be just as innovative, charming, and classy (yes, classy—they wear tuxes when they perform together) as their records.
The Americanarama tour is all about classic American sounds and innovative songwriting. Bob Dylan pretty much created the folk-rock genre that made alt-country-rock outfits like Wilco and My Morning Jacket possible. This could be called the Fathers and Sons Tour—if that title wasn’t already taken by a Muddy Waters record. Dylan, whose voice has aged into a raspy, declarative instrument, has a new album out—Tempest—that shows he’s just as deft at writing great narrative, propulsive songs as ever. And Wilco continues to evolve, just like Bob. Jeff Tweedy, the heart of the group, just produced a record by the legendary Mavis Staples, which is guaranteed to add some soul to Wilco’s set. Wilco, gloriously showing off its folk-rock bona fides, has just released (with Billy Bragg) their third album of adaptations of Woody Guthrie lyrics he never set to music—Mermaid Avenue, Vol. III.
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James just released a solo album called Regions of Light and Sound of God—spiritual rock songs that are an indication of how seriously James takes his role as a rock musician. All three of these acts take their roles as bearers and innovators of the flame of classic American music quite seriously. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a good time doing it, though.
When the show is over, that doesn’t mean your night has to end. If you’ve got a deluxe hotel suite to return to, you can make dinner and have some quality time back at the hotel. If you’re looking for this sort of luxury for a very reasonable price (and, really, who isn’t?) I recommend Extended Stay Hotels.
A Fun Trip for You and the Kids
The summertime is the right time to take the kids on a vacation. They’re out of school, and they’re tired of the same old, same old. And, of course, you are, too. Kids love travel. Not at all set in their ways yet, they are endlessly entertained by novelty. There are a number of vacation options that will make you and your kids very happy. Parents, of course, still enjoy a lot of the things they did when they were kids. Let loose from the strictures of the workaday life, it isn’t too hard to find that inner kid inside of us and have some good, old-fashioned fun.
Dr. Seuss is on the Loose
The idea that a hat is more than a hat is not unique to Sigmund Freud. Another doctor had the idea (Dr. Seuss), and his take on it is much more fun and innocent. Dr. Seuss thought the hat could make the man—and that hats could give people that special magic that makes them storybook worthy. One need only glance at his oeuvre to notice his fascination with hats. From The Cat in the Hat to The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Seuss’s love of the hat was on public display, along with his his moral code and sense of humor. Seuss surrounded himself with hats both inside and out of the fantasy world of his books. He had a collection of hats that ran into the hundreds—hats from every corner of the Earth. The exhibit Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! will be on tour throughout the year. In Celebration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, 26 of the 500 (at least) hats of Ted Geisel (that was Dr. Seuss’s real-world name) will be on tour—stopping in San Diego, Sausalito, and Denver this summer.
The Young and the Old Alike Love Ice Cream
Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month? I bet your kids do. That’s the kind of presidential act kids can really get behind—something that makes them glad to live in the good old U. S. of A. It’s a fact that President Ronald Reagan made July National Ice Cream Month in 1984 (a year that turned out to be far happier than predicted by George Orwell). Some of the best small-batch ice cream around is in the western United States. There is a real ice cream renaissance going on there. Three Twins Ice Cream is a super-cool, small-time ice cream shop chain in Northern California—kind of like Ben & Jerry’s was during its really early days in Vermont. Three Twins is keeping the community connection and social responsibility of the early Ben & Jerry’s going. All of their ingredients are 100% organic and they donate money from every purchase to save endangered rainforest land. It’s called the Ice Cream for Acres program. Buying some Three Twins Ice Cream makes you happy in a couple ways—your taste buds jump for joy, and so does you conscience.
After your day of indulging your kids and yourself, you’ll be ready to keep on indulging back at the hotel. The best hotel for indulgence at a reasonable rate is Extended Stay America.
A Couple Hammock-Ready Destinations
On July 22, we celebrate Hammock Day. Believe it or not, there is an observed holiday known as Hammock Day. In celebration of hammock day, I will discuss some hammock-worthy destinations—some places that are just perfect for hanging out in a hammock sipping on a drink in a coconut shell. Paradise isn’t hard to find. All you need is a little space to clear your mind, relax, and feel some simple pleasure. So pack up your family, file your hassles away, and don’t forget to pack some hammocks. Next stop: paradise!
Nantucket is like a town out of a children’s book illustration. The colors are so simple and so charming. The striking blue of the Atlantic Ocean and the Nantucket Bay is complemented perfectly by the subtle white of the weather-beaten wooden houses and the radiant red and white of the town’s many rose bushes. If you’re in the mood for placid waters, take to the bay. Children’s Beach and Surfside Beach are perfect places to wile away the day and work on your tan. If you’re in the mood for some mighty surf, check out the ocean. Poseidon kicks up some gnarly waves in Nantucket. This town, which was known for its whalers for quite some time, boasts some fantastic seafood restaurants. The Straight Wharf Restaurant is the favorite of locals and visitors alike. This restaurant is all about localism. What you see is what you taste. The food is an expression of the old, venerable culture of Nantucket and, of course, of the sea. Combine this with the best international wines, and you’ve got a four-star combination!
Coronado (which, appropriately, means “crowned” in Spanish) is a well-to-do island community just across the bay from the city of San Diego. It is full of riches both natural and manmade. The magnificent centerpiece of the town, Coronado Central Beach, is a whole two miles of pristine Pacific Ocean sand and surf. If you’re a surfer, cruise over to North Beach in the morning for some of the most awesome surfing on the west coast. If you travel with dogs, then check out Dog Beach, where canine pals are welcome to go leashless and dogpaddle and bodysurf to their hearts’ content.
Coronado is California all the way. The climate is arguably the most temperate and pleasant in the world, and the beautiful beach turns into rolling hills not far from shore. For world-class nightlife, you’re only minutes away from San Diego. The city’s Gaslamp Quarter, a beautiful combination of historic Victorian buildings and modern architecture, has something for everyone. You can easily find the casual, the classy, the cultural, the indulgent, or some combinations of these—all set against placid and beautiful San Diego Bay. After a fun-filled night, there’s nothing as nice as taking a walk along the bay and listening to the wavelets lap calmingly against the shore.
After a day of sun-filled relaxation and a night of fun, fun, fun, you’ll be ready for some well-deserved rest, and maybe a little light entertainment and a midnight snack. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay at a hotel that provides you with free Wi-Fi, a TV and an in-suite kitchen.
Explore the Apollo 11 Mission on an Out-of-This-World Vacation
July 20th marks Moon Landing Day, in commemoration of the day in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission touched down on the Earth’s rocky, luminous neighbor. Moon Landing Day is not yet an official holiday, but there is a concerted effort afoot to make it so. The reason that Americans are so intent to commemorate this event officially is that the landing changed our idea of ourselves—of who we are as Americans and who we are as humans in the universe. We are all familiar with Neil Armstrong’s iconic words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These words, both humble and lofty, will live on for a long time to come, along with the words of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other inspiring public figures, because they express the American spirit—in all of its elevatedness and groundedness.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Washington, DC
The National Air and Space Museum houses many artifacts from the Apollo missions. By seeing the objects that rocketed into space with the astronauts, you get the feeling of what it was like in that small capsule zooming toward a region of space never before reached by humans. In the museum’s collection of Apollo 11 objects is quite a lot of gear dedicated to documentation. This mission of exploration was quite a bit different from those of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries undertaken by ship. The space explorers were looking for information, while the earlier explorers were looking for property. In addition to collecting many moon rocks to be studied, the astronauts photographed and filmed the surface of the moon—serving to inform and inspire us back home. The mission continues to inspire. Whenever I visit the Apollo 11 artifacts, I feel like the sky’s not even the limit. I feel like there is no limit to what we can do when we band together and give it a try.
The Cold War Museum: Vint Hill, Virginia
The Cold War Museum has a different, equally informative slant on the Apollo 11 mission. The Cold War Museum looks at the mission in the context of the space race with the Soviet Union, which was sparked when the Soviets successfully launched the first man-made satellite, called Sputnik 1, in 1957. America was ahead in the realm of weaponry. But Sputnik meant that America was behind in the realm of space travel and exploration. There was a mad dash to catch up with the Soviets, which eventually resulted in the manned missions to the moon—the first of which was Apollo 11. When JFK declared early in the ‘60s that we would land a man on the moon by the decade’s close, it was a pep talk for fellow Americans and a challenge to the Soviets. He was saying that the Soviets may have gotten to space first, but Americans would be the first to land on the moon. When Apollo 11 launched from what was appropriately known during the decade 1963-1973 as Cape Kennedy (now known as Cape Canaveral), the United States was trying to be its best, but it was also trying to best an adversary. That is the story told at the Cold War Museum.
After a day exploring space exploration, you’ll probably want to take it easy and just enjoy the simpler things in life—like good food, good company, and good entertainment. That’s why you’ll want to stay at a hotel where every out-of-this-world suite has a fully equipped kitchen, free Wi-Fi and a flat-screen television.
An Indulgent, Affordable Trip Down the California Coast
The days of the staycation are past, but you’re still looking to do things economically. Assuming you choose the right hotel, you can splurge a bit on location and activities. It’s the summer. The days are long, and the sun is smiling down on you. You want to hit the beach and eat in nice restaurants. You should do what makes you happy. And studies have shown that experiences make us happier than objects. So get out there and live it up. You’ll have stories and great memories for years. Possessions eventually get old and shabby. But vacation memories stay forever young. California’s coastal Highway 1 is the prettiest, most pleasurable route in the country, bar none. You really can’t beat the ocean vistas and small-town charm anywhere.
Start in San Francisco and head down south for a trip you won’t forget. I recommend spending a few days here. For one, there’s a lot to do in SF. If there’s time, I recommend checking out the North Beach, the Castro, the Mission, and the Haight-Ashbury. San Francisco is really like a bunch of towns all corralled together. Every neighborhood has its own distinct character and charm. Another reason to stick around for a few days is that you want to start your trip when the weather at the beach in San Francisco is sunny, since the highway is at the beach. And, believe it or not, the beach is the most overcast part of the city.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, not far from downtown Santa Cruz, is one of the most fun places on earth. Every Friday night, they put on a free concert, with big-name bands of yesteryear (like the Gin Blossoms, Cracker, and War) performing their hits and making you feel all nostalgic. Santa Cruz also has some great restaurants. Lillian’s Italian Kitchen is a family-style Italian restaurant, run by two generations of the Moreno family, which features old family recipes prepared with tons of love.
Home of the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium (located on Cannery Row, which was made famous in John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name), Monterey has the charm of a small town and the cosmopolitanism of a city. There’s so much to see at the aquarium that I recommend spending a couple days there. Just seeing the presentations the aquarium puts on can take a whole day. Whales to Windmills: Inventions Inspired By the Sea is a wonderful, hopeful presentation. Inventors are turning to the most ingenious inventor of them all, Mother Earth, for inspiration in creating new, green technology.
The best place for seafood in Monterey (and you really must eat seafood in Monterey) is The Fish Hopper. You can walk from the aquarium to The Fish Hopper in order to work up an appetite. It’s not a far walk. Really, the bigger the appetite, the better at this place. You surely want to have some bread-bowl clam chowder and maybe a shrimp or jumbo prawn cocktail before dinner. And when it comes to dinner, you won’t believe the choices. It seems like they have as many kinds of fish on the menu as the aquarium has in its tanks. Unbelievable!
After a day spent California coasting, you’ll be ready to kick back at a low-stress, high-value hotel—one with all the conveniences of home but none of the worries. An Extended Stay Hotel fits the bill to a T.
Have a Blast: Go on Vacation for the Fourth of July
Independence Day—the holiday that celebrates the birth of our country and is one of our biggest parties—is almost here. The Fourth of July is the perfect time for a getaway. Why stay at home, where you’ll have to clean up after the party, when you can take to the road and party in somebody else’s backyard? Some parts of the country really know how to throw a Fourth of July party—sparing no spectacle and no effort. And that’s what you want on the holiday commemorating the start of our country—an all-in affair. If the thirteen colonies hadn’t been all-in, we wouldn’t be here today.
New York City, New York
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks show, which explodes radiantly over the Hudson River, is the biggest fireworks show in the country. The biggest city has the biggest fireworks display, and this year they are teaming up with a big star to make it an even bigger deal. Usher, musical superstar, is branching out into new artistic fields. He is responsible for both the music accompanying the fireworks and for the design of the fireworks display. He is calling his incendiary/musical piece “It Begins with a Spark”—as every great idea does.
Fort Worth, Texas
This year is the fortieth anniversary of Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic—a rip-roaring musical party with a thousand or so friends. There is something so undeniably American about Willie Nelson. He is one of the heroes of outlaw country—a type of country music that broke away from the top-down, decidedly undemocratic way that Nashville was run in the ‘60s and the slickly produced product that resulted from this way of running things. Also, Willie Nelson is a hero to the common man, the everyman American. Nelson was a driving force behind organizing Farm Aid in 1985, an annual concert to help farming families struggling to keep their farms, which is still going strong. Nelson’s Fourth of July party is still going strong, too. This year’s lineup is the strongest yet. Nelson is joined by his fellow outlaw country legends Kris Kristofferson and David Allan Coe. Also performing will be longtime Nelson associate Leon Russell—a man who was himself, deservedly, a really big star in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Russell is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a reason. He is one of the great musicians and songwriters. This festival’s got everything you need for a great Independence Day—great food, great music, and great folks.
Stone Mountain, Georgia
Stone Mountain Park, an outdoor adventure park, is throwing its forty-sixth Fantastic Fourth Celebration this year, which takes place from the 4th to the 6th. The celebration is the perfect blend of natural splendor and manmade spectacle. There are a number of exciting things to do during the day. You can explore the mountain on foot or by sightseeing train, watch Journey 2: The Mysterious Island in 4-D (which means you will feel the movie), or play min-golf—and that’s just the beginning. Then at night, enjoy a spine-tinglingly good laser show followed by a mind-blowing fireworks display. It really doesn’t get much more awesome than this!
After a day and night of fun, spectacle, and fellow feeling, you’ll be ready to take a load off like you do at home. Extended Stay Hotels is considered by many regular guests to be their go-to home on the road.