I Love Los Angeles!
When most people think of Los Angeles, they think of the things that Woody Allen focuses on in his film Annie Hall—the weather and the stars. But LA has so much more going for it than that. Which is not to discount the weather and the stars—or Annie Hall. The weather is consistently comfy, just to Goldilocks’ liking—rarely too hot or too cold. And if you find it thrilling to see famous people doing regular-people stuff, LA is the place for you. You might see Ashton Kutcher buying a cucumber or Miley Cyrus rocking out to her iPod. But the stuff to do in the City of Angels doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot!
Hermosa Beach is the best place in the country for singles, according to Money magazine. So if you’re looking for love, or you’re just looking to soak up some rays on a beach that is not packed with families, this is the place for you. There is a classic beach-boy/beach-girl vibe here. There are enough shaggy surfers and fun-loving volleyball players to make it feel like you’re hanging out in a Saved By the Bell episode. Indeed, hanging out in Hermosa Beach, you begin to feel like you’re in a TV show. As on a lot of TV shows, many people seem like they don’t have jobs. Despite the fact that a lot of Hermosa Beach residents have high-pressure finance careers, they seem to be living the good life without a care in the world. That’s how powerful the laid-back vibe is here.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, is a space that is stunning both inside and out. Outside, the building looks, in typical Gehry fashion, like something you’d see on the horizon in a dream. Inside, the Yasuhisa Toyota-designed acoustics are truly cathedral-like. Angelinos hope and pray that when their favorite musicians come through town, they play this venue, because it is here that musicians can realize their full live potential. Just as Walt Disney was a perfectionist about the look and sound of his animated films (famously drawing far more frames than his competitors or experimenting with stereophonic sound not long after the invention of talkies), there is an obvious perfectionism about the Walt Disney Concert Hall—which was built with money donated by Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife. The young and exciting music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, will be conducting a program of Tchaikovsky and Carl Nielsen, played by the much-praised pianist Lang Lang.
LA Loves Food!
If you’re looking for great food at a casual LA restaurant, I recommend Food. Their no-nonsense name is indicative of the seriousness with which they take their craft. If you’re looking for upscale dining, look no further than Patina—the last word in fine French dining in LA. Conveniently located in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Patina offers the finest wines, cheeses, chocolates, meats, vegetables, fruit, and caviar in Los Angeles. It is appropriate that the restaurant is in the building where the Philharmonic plays, as its plates are simply symphonic.
At the end of your wonderful LA day, you’ll be ready to kick back. I recommend a hotel with everything you’ll need on-site (like a kitchen and laundry), so you won’t have to run out for anything.
Take a Tasty Vacation for National Hamburger Month
May is National Hamburger Month. What a tasty idea! The hamburger, while it may have originated in Germany, like the hot dog (or frankfurter), is as American as apple pie. We eat hamburgers on every occasion and in many forms. They charm kids in their Happy Meals, and they are a welcome reward to adults for a hard day’s work. The burger has the unique distinction of being both extremely efficient and extremely satisfying. You don’t need silverware to eat one, or even a plate; and they can be eaten very quickly. Eating a great burger can make you feel like you just spent the day at a beach resort being pampered. You get that kind of endorphin rush. A great burger experience that nearly all Americans have shared is the fast-food burger experience.
McDonald’s First Store Museum: Des Plaines, Illinois
In 1955, Ray Kroc opened a little restaurant called McDonald’s in Des Plaines, Illinois. This was not the very first McDonald’s. That distinction belongs to a long-gone hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California, opened by the McDonald brothers, Dick and Mac, in 1940. It’s not even the oldest McDonald’s still open for business. That McDonald’s is in Downey, California—and I will tell you about it shortly. The McDonald’s First Store Museum is a re-creation (as the original restaurant was demolished in 1984) of the first McDonald’s to open after Kroc, who took the company global and made it what it is today, took over. McDonald’s represented a streamlining of the popular drive-in restaurant theme when it opened. The difference at a McDonald’s was that you carried your food to your car yourself, and you got it much faster. This waiter-less form of fast-food restaurant thrived, and the traditional drive-in faded away. The McDonald’s First Store Museum has the original sign, adorned with the “Speedee” mascot, which represented the company’s game-changing assembly-line process of food preparation. All the original food-prep tools are inside, tended to by mannequins wearing 1955 uniforms. If you find yourself hungry after checking out the museum (a definite possibility), just head across the street to an operating McDonald’s and enjoy a burger or two—or three or four.
Downey, California’s, McDonald’s looks just like the First Store Museum from the outside, except it’s a still-operating McDonald’s. The reason for the old-time look at this location is that this restaurant was a rebel of sorts. It did not affiliate with the mother corporation until 1990, by which time it had already established its retro identity. It has been said that the burgers at this location just taste better and more authentic. And I don’t doubt it. True to tradition, they only serve burgers, fries, shakes, and sodas here.
Kansas Museum of History (Fast Food Exhibit): Topeka, Kansas
Kansas is responsible for a fair amount of hamburger history. The very first chain to specialize in this wonderful food, White Castle, began in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. The fast-food ball got rolling with White Castle (which had uniform restaurants and cooking methods 20 years before McDonald’s was the dream of the McDonald brothers). You’ll learn quite a lot at this exhibit about Kansas’ outsized role in the fast-food revolution and work up quite an appetite.
After investigating the hamburger (and eating one or two, of course!) and the interesting history of fast food in the US, you’ll be ready to experience another modern innovation—the convenient, amenity-rich, inexpensive hotel. The best example of this American innovation is Extended Stay Hotels.
Philadelphia Is an All-American City
Philadelphia is foundational for our country. It was a center of learning and progress before the Revolution—largely because of the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, who founded the country’s first lending library and fire department in Philadelphia, as well as societies for the promotion of civic and intellectual virtues. There is a staggering amount of history and culture in Philadelphia—a city whose grid layout provided the blueprint for a number of other great American cities. Its historical charms, though plentiful, are not its only features. You can really feel the love in Philadelphia. There is a lot of hometown pride, and Philadelphians love to show their city off to visitors. It is not for nothing that Philadelphia translates to “the city of brotherly love.”
Philadelphia is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation, with a sizable African American community. Forty-three percent of the residents of the city are black. Philly has a long history of vibrant black culture—particularly music. From John Coltrane and Sun Ra to the Philly soul of the 1970s through the Philly neo-soul of the ‘90s and 2000s and the city’s vibrant hip-hop scene spearheaded by The Roots, Philadelphia has contributed to black music as much as any American city. Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection is an exhibition that concerns the importance of African American music in American culture at large. Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, has curated this exhibit—making it a very personal exploration of a very public phenomenon. Somewhat like the film The Runaways (which was about the band The Runaways and about the coming of age of a member of that band, Cherie Currie), this exhibit chronicles both the rise of The Supremes (notable for hits like “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love”) and Wilson’s coming into her own. Through The Supremes’ clothing (which is stunning), photographs, 1960s news articles, and obscure film footage, the story unfolds with the grace of a top-notch biopic.
You’ve got to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the “Rocky Steps”—the iconic steps that Rocky Balboa runs up in Rocky, the song “Gonna Fly Now” seemingly impelling him. The metal likeness of Rocky that was featured at the top of the steps in Rocky III, to symbolize the fact that Rocky was no longer an underdog, is now located at their bottom (perhaps symbolizing the fact that Rocky will forever be our underdog hero). After you pose for a photo with the brazen Rocky and run up the stairs singing “Gonna Fly Now” to yourself, it’s worth checking out the museum.
The exhibit The Art of Golf is timely and unique. Timed to coincide with the U.S. Open, which takes place in Ardmore, Pennsylvania this year, this exhibition can only benefit from the excitement over the return of Tiger Woods to the top of the game. The central work of art in the exhibition is Charles Lees’ painting The Golfers, which depicts the sport as it was played in the mid-nineteenth century in Scotland (which is the land of the sport’s birth and development).
After a day soaking up all of Philadelphia’s cultural and historical wonders, you’ll likely be ready to indulge in some family time. The ideal place for that is an Extended Stay Hotel—where every suite has, free of charge, a kitchen, a flatscreen TV, and Wi-Fi.
Nashville, Tennessee: The Country Music Capital of the World
Country music is music of the world now. What started out as the favorite sounds of rural Southerners is now loved the globe over. No matter how far and wide country music roams, though, its heart will always live in Nashville, Tennessee. Country music’s 1927 birth (nicknamed its “big bang”)—the first recording sessions for both Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family—took place in Bristol, Tennessee, 300 miles west of Nashville (and there is a museum being built there to commemorate country’s very early years). While country music was not born in Nashville, it most certainly did grow up and learn the facts of life there. Just as aspiring actors go to Hollywood, aspiring country musicians go to Nashville. It is the heartbeat and lodestar of American country music.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
This is not just your average, moldy museum. It’s the living record of a music that is very much alive and kicking (in its cowboy boots). There is currently an exciting exhibit on Patsy Cline’s brief but quite popular and influential career called Patsy Cline: Crazy for Loving You. Rocketing to fame on the strength of now-legendary recordings like “I Fall to Pieces” and “Crazy,” Patsy Cline was a glamorous country star who had it all—gracefully balancing the fast-paced world of recording and touring with married life and motherhood. This exhibit takes you into Cline’s world through her letters, her clothes, photographs of her, and—of course—her amazing songs.
Another exhibit not to be passed by is The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country. In the 1950s and ‘60s, a vibrant country music scene sprung up in California’s Central Valley—the result of the influx of migrants from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas during the Dust Bowl years. The Bakersfield country sound was raw and propulsive—akin to the music of Johnny Cash and the “outlaw” country sound of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. This exhibit tells the story of how Merle Haggard and Buck Owens turned their lives around with music. Haggard’s troubled youth ended in a stretch in San Quentin Prison. While in prison, he saw Johnny Cash perform, and he made a pledge to turn his life around. Buck Owens grew up in a poor sharecropping family but determined that he would not stay poor long. Jumping into the Bakersfield country scene in 1951, he quickly achieved success—first as a session guitarist then as a solo artist.
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is the most venerable, legendary country venue in the country. The weekly radio shows that were broadcast from the venue starting all the way back in the late ‘20s documented the beginnings and evolution of country music. Everybody who’s anybody in country music history has played at the Opry—Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Brad Paisley, and on and on and on.
After your day deep in the heart of country music is through, you’ll likely want to head back to a casual, comfortable hotel where you can discuss the day’s events. At Extended Stay Hotels, you get a world-class suite with kitchen, flatscreen TV, Wi-Fi, and a grab-and-go breakfast all for an affordable price.
Phoenix Is a Great Museum Town!
I’m just guessing that if I conducted a survey and asked people what comes to mind when they think of Phoenix, Arizona, lots of folks would tell me that they associate the city with stuff like nightlife, sports, and desert hikes. It’s true that Phoenix has all of that in spades. It’s a great town for eating, drinking, and dancing, for watching and playing sports, and for experiencing the arid wonders of the Sonoran Desert. What I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t hear in response to my survey question is that Phoenix and world-class museums go together. People generally don’t find out what a great museum town Phoenix is till they are drawn there by other extracurriculars.
The Musical Instrument Museum pays tribute to the long and venerable history of the musical instrument craft, as well as the new and exciting history of pop stardom. In the museum’s five geographical galleries, the visitor can travel the globe via the world’s instruments and music. Hear Chinese music played on a variety of stringed instruments, and see the instruments (one of which is quite similar to the guitar). Hear the music of West Africa, and marvel at its similarities to American blues. These exhibits are not all about difference and exoticism. The discerning listener will notice similarities between different music of the world.
The Artist Gallery is all about our modern-day mania for musical superstars. The newest exhibit is dedicated to Taylor Swift, a superstar who became a superstar by singing about how big a fan she is of another superstar—Tim McGraw. Her exhibit features the guitar and boots she wore in the “Tim McGraw” video, as well as her handwritten lyrics for the song. Also featured in the Artist Gallery is the piano that John Lennon composed “Imagine” on. Here’s a surprise: It’s not the iconic white grand piano made by Steinway you’re imagining right now. Lennon actually wrote “Imagine” on a much humbler, more workaday instrument than the one featured in the song’s video—still a Steinway, but a brown upright model rather than the majestic white grand piano. You’ll learn quite a lot at the Musical Instrument Museum, but you won’t realize you are—since you’ll be having so much fun.
Any museum town worth its salt has something for the little ones in the family. At the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, kids learn in a hands-on, playful way. Children are encouraged to relate to the exhibits however they would like to. The folks at the Children’s Museum trust that kids’ intuition and curiosity will guide them right. In the Art Studio: Creative Expression exhibit, children learn about the how the art world works by making art. There are “Playologists” and studio assistants who will help your kids have the most rich and fun learning experience they can. In the exhibit Market: Role-Play Paradise, children get to do one of their favorite things: play make-believe. Parents rarely stop to think that children are actually learning quite a lot when they are acting out the roles of grownups and experimenting with social situations. This role-play is in a food market and will exercise your children’s minds and bodies.
After a day experiencing the riches of Phoenix’s museums, you’ll be ready to head back to a hotel that measures up to the museums. There’s only one hotel that is as family-friendly as Phoenix’s museums—Extended Stay Hotels. Every suite has a kitchen, a TV and free Wi-Fi.
City Bike Touring is Fun, Fun, Fun!
Nothing combines action and leisure quite like a bicycle tour around a city. If you want to unhurriedly pedal by the sights, and maybe hop off to smell the flowers, see a landmark, or stop in a café occasionally, you can. And if you want to barrel down the boulevard, feeling the wind rush through your hair, experiencing the city as an invigorating blur, you can do that, too. Biking is quite possibly the perfect way to experience a new city, or to experience an old city in a new way. And it’s as green as you can get!
New York City, New York
The bad old days of fighting your way through taxicabs and buses as a bicyclist on New York City’s streets are over. New York is now one of the most bike-friendly cities around. Bicycling in New York has never been easier or prettier. The bike path through Hudson River Park runs all the way from Battery Place down at Manhattan’s southern end to West 59th St., where it hooks up with Riverside Park South’s lovely bike path. This route is really picture perfect. You’ve got the best of both worlds. On one side is bustling, frenzied, exciting Manhattan, and on the other side is the Hudson River patiently, placidly rolling along, and the tree-lined New Jersey coast.
If you’re looking for a less touristy ride, I suggest cruising north all the way into the Bronx. You’ll find a paved bike path that will take you under the majestic George Washington Bridge and into Inwood Hill Park, New York City’s most untouched natural location and home to its only remaining salt marsh. From there, you head into the Bronx across the Harlem River. If you stay on the bike path till the end, you’ll find yourself in City Island, a charming little village in the very urban borough of the Bronx. It’s the sort of little settlement you’d expect to find on Cape Cod or the end of Long Island. If you’re hungry, and I don’t doubt you will be after such a long ride, I recommend heading to Sammy’s Fish Box—the locals’ favorite joint for seafood. And you can bet these locals know their seafood!
San Francisco, California
There are bike lanes in San Francisco now pretty much clear from the über-hip neighborhood known as the Mission to Ocean Beach, which is in the neighborhood called the Sunset. One of the most fun and useful bike routes in the city is the Wiggle, so called because it wiggles in between San Francisco’s many steep hills between Duboce Triangle and the Panhandle to ensure the cyclist a relatively flat ride. The Duboce Park Café is a great pit stop on this route. There, you can refuel in style. Have a high-calorie meal or a cold lemonade while sitting just across the street from picturesque Duboce Park, which is generally full of folks strolling and sunbathing.
When you’re through with your exerting bike-riding outing, you’ll surely be looking for some relaxation. And nothing’s more relaxing than a hotel with all the charms and amenities of home—like a kitchen and free in-room Wi-Fi. If you treat yourself to the comforts of home while you’re on the road, you’ll wake up with a smile on your face—trust me!
Niagara Falls: It’s Not Just for Honeymooners
Niagara Falls has long been considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is truly awe-inspiring. The reason people traditionally go to Niagara Falls on their honeymoons is to be in the presence of something whose power conquers all, something that won’t let anything stop it—in the hopes that that power will rub off on their unions. But you don’t have to be in love to appreciate the awesome power and beauty of the falls. Just as anyone who jumps into the falls is bound to be pulled over, anyone who lays eyes on them is bound to be transfixed.
Feel the Falls
Going back to the 1840s, there have been steamboats taking people to the base of the falls. Taking one of these traditional coal-fired boats, which are run by Maid of the Mist, is a great way to do something historical and absolutely thrilling. These boats come very near to cruising right under the massively strong downpour that is the falls. You’re going to get wet. That’s part of the fun. The folks at Maid of the Mist will equip you with rain gear.
Get Inside the Falls
It’s one thing to see the falls from the outside, but quite another to see them from the inside. Journey Behind the Falls takes you, via an elevator that drops one hundred and fifty feet down, into the caverns that lie behind the roaring curtain of water. The water, which falls from thirteen stories above, shoots by your face and makes a storm-like sound as it crashes into the mighty Niagara River below. You access Journey Behind the Falls on the Canadian side of the river, from the Table Rock Welcome Centre.
Skylon Tower rises a stunning 775 ft. above the falls, making it 160 feet taller than Seattle’s Space Needle (which it looks rather like a sturdier version of). At the top of the tower, where you will find a revolving restaurant and an observation deck, you get a perfect view of all the surrounding falls on the American and the Canadian sides of the Niagara River. The revolving restaurant offers a continental dining experience in a relaxing, convivial atmosphere. The turning of the room is not at all vertiginous. Its once-an-hour rotation is so gradual as to be hardly noticeable. It is quite charming that every course of your meal is paired with a new view of the falls.
If you want to get some history and a beautiful view, stop by Old Fort Niagara—a fort that dates back to the 1600s and changed hands a number of times between the Americans, the French, and the English. The fort commands a wonderful view of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. In the old days, that view was good for spotting enemy ships. Now that you won’t see any enemies sailing up the Niagara River, the fort’s perch is good for gazing at painting-perfect vistas.
After a day in Niagara Falls, you’ll likely have worked up an appetite. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay in a hotel with in-room kitchens. Nothing’s better on the road than a home-cooked meal!
Small Cities That Are a Big Deal
There are a few cities in the US that hog all the attention. All the songs are written about them. All the movies are set there. They are the superstar cities. And these cities—New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago—deserve all the attention they get. They are some of the most culturally and financially important, beautiful cities in the country. But these superstar cities shine so brightly that they obscure some of the country’s great smaller cities. Just as it takes a whole team of valuable players to make a great baseball or football team, it takes a whole team of valuable cities to make a great country. And our country is certainly great!
For a while, the only person talking about how great Baltimore is was John Waters. But ever since the new Baltimore Orioles stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards (a park with a retro look but all the modern conveniences), opened in 1992, Baltimore has been getting attention from all sorts of people in the know. The stadium serves as the anchor for the neighborhood known as Inner Harbor. This neighborhood, which has been the centerpiece of the city since the eighteenth century, is just loaded with family-friendly activities. The National Aquarium, one of the city’s most popular attractions, is smack dab in the center of Inner Harbor. At the National Aquarium, you can experience what it is like to be circled by sharks—without getting wet or being in any danger. The aquarium has a donut-shaped tank that you can stand in the center of (in the “donut hole”), staring predator sharks right in the jaws. If you didn’t get enough fright at the aquarium, why not head over to the Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum? I’m just kidding. The house isn’t scary. But Poe did write some scary stories there; you can see the desk he wrote them on, as well as some other items of his—such as the only portrait of his wife, Virginia Clemm Poe.
Probably the most iconic phrase associated with Houston is “Houston, do you read me?” That’s because of NASA’s importance to the city. NASA’s mission control center is based in Houston, housed in the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. You can experience the wonders of space exploration yourself at the Johnson Space Center’s visitors’ wing, called Space Center Houston. On the NASA Tram Tour, you get to see actual engineers and astronauts hard at work on the next chapter of space exploration. On the tour, you will get to visit the Apollo Mission Control Center—the brain center for all US manned space travel. It is here that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were guided to the moon and back and here that the last space shuttle flight was directed. This room has known greatness and trying situations. You can feel the energy. When you get hungry, I recommend heading over to Peli Peli, where you can get South-African fusion cuisine, made with distinctive South African chili peppers. The food is not the only thing that’s hot at Peli Peli. The restaurant also serves up smoking jazz.
When the day’s small-city adventure is done, there’s nothing like heading back to a hotel where you feel at home. That’s what you get at Extended Stay Hotels, where you’re equipped with your own kitchen and free in-room Wi-Fi.
Toronto: A World-Class City Not Far from the US
Toronto, Canada, the US’s metropolitan, cosmopolitan neighbor just to the north of Niagara Falls, is a great introduction to Canada. While the city in many ways has an American feel (Hollywood frequently shoots movies set in the US there), it is also very much Canadian. It is, after all, Canada’s largest city—its flagship. In order to come into contact with Torontonians’ love of country and countrymen, all you have to do it look down. Canada’s Walk of Fame (plaques in the sidewalk, à la the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except with maple-leaf-shaped emblems) honors prominent and important Canadians—such as Nelly Furtado and Sarah Polley.
The Distillery District
Toronto’s Distillery District has a historical look and a modern flavor. It is a cozy neighborhood of Victorian-era brick, industrial buildings, minus the coal smoke and soot. The buildings have all been beautifully cleaned up and restored, and they now house charming shops, cafes, art galleries, restaurants, and theatres. This wonderful example of preservation is a very popular destination for those visiting Toronto for the first time and for those who come often. The Mill Street Brewpub really has the flavor of the neighborhood. The Mill Street Brewery, the brewing arm of the brewpub, is the first brewery to set up shop in east Toronto in more than 100 years. It is ideal that it opened up in the Distillery District, a neighborhood once known for its liquor distilleries and breweries. The wait staff is very knowledgeable and will gladly suggest beer pairings for your meal from the brewpub’s extensive list of artisanal beers. David Brown’s gallery is another unique feature of the Distillery District. Like the Mill Street Brewpub, Brown practices a traditional craft (in Brown’s case, painting with the encaustic medium) in a new way. Encaustic painting, which is the application of pigmented hot wax to a surface with a brush, is a technique that dates to the fifth century B.C.E. Brown takes a technique developed by the ancient Greeks and modernizes it—making postmodernist collages. He and his method of updating tradition are great symbols of what this neighborhood is all about.
Shoes are generally looked upon as only important for as long as they are fashionable. Not so at the Bata Shoe Museum. The folks at the Bata understand the true depth of meaning of the phrase “The clothes make the man.” The clothes that people wear tell you a lot about their social position and the values of their society. All you have to do is compare the sabatons (shoes of armor) from the late fifteenth century and the high-heeled, high-topped, many-buttoned shoes from the turn of the twentieth century (both in the museum’s All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages exhibit) to get a feel for the people who wore them and the world that they lived in. Another important exhibit is Beauty, Identity, Pride: Native North American Footwear. There is far more than just the standard moccasin in this collection. There is a significant Native population in and around Toronto. It is fitting that the shoe museum features these finely crafted, beautiful shoes of Native North Americans.
When your day in Toronto is done, and you’re ready to relax, why not kick back at a hotel that is both amenity-rich and reasonably priced? That’s the right call!
Vegas Is More Than Gambling—You Can Bet on It
Las Vegas is the sort of town it is because of gambling. It was built up in 1950s because gambling was legal there. But the town that resulted from the gambling boom has much more going for it than just gambling. Many non-gamblers shy away from visiting Vegas because of its reputation. This reputation is well-earned. True to form, gambling is in your face immediately when you come into the city. There are even slots in the airport terminals.
If you don’t gamble, though, you can just treat things like slot machines as decoration. After all, a slot machine is considerably more attractive than a blank wall. Vegas really is a must see for everyone who wants to experience America—the home of pop culture for the world.
Cruise the Strip
Many travelers are disappointed when they get to Hollywood. They expect non-stop spectacle, and what they get is a neighborhood going about its business. The showbiz spectacle that they were expecting can be found on Las Vegas Boulevard—nicknamed the Strip. The Strip has its own scaled down Eiffel Tower, its own mini-Brooklyn Bridge, and a sea of luscious palm trees. I recommend ascending the Paris Hotel and Casino’s aforementioned Eiffel Tower after the sun’s gone down. The city lights twinkle like stars—which is appropriate, since they largely blot out the actual stars.
The Bellagio’s Dancing Fountains
Time magazine declared the Bellagio fountain show the only free one worth checking out in Las Vegas—and that’s saying a lot. There are a lot of free shows in Vegas. This one is really quite remarkable. The fountaining water, which dances to the songs of standard Vegas crooners, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, is as tightly choreographed as an expert dancer—only a bit more fluid. You won’t find this many people staring at water outside Niagara.
The Cirque du Soleil, a very humane circus, does not use animals at all—earning it an endorsement from PETA.The show does not suffer for its lack of animal entertainment at all—far from it. The performers at this very theatrical showperform acrobatic, stunning, rather risky tricks that will have you holding your breath from excitement. A friend of mine once told me a story that demonstrates how dedicated the performers are: visiting Cirque du Soleil’s offices, he noticed that a number of the performers were wearing casts from circus injuries and making light of them. You would never know, watching the show, though, that anything ever goes a little wrong.
Soar Over Las Vegas’ New York-New York
Vegas’ New York-New York Hotel and Casino, which recreates Manhattan in miniature, is legendary. There’s no better, or more thrilling, way to experience it than by flying around its Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building on a world-class roller coaster—complete with intense drops and thrilling loops. It’s like Manhattan and Coney Island all in one.
After a day experiencing all the many, many thrills Las Vegas has to offer, you’ll want to take it easy. There’s no better hotel for kicking back than Extended Stay—where you can fix yourself a meal in your room’s kitchen and enjoy free in-room Wi-Fi.