Newly Opened Museum of Broadway Celebrates Artistry, Legacy of Theater

A ticket for admission to one of George M. Cohan’s shows © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are actual top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line. You step into Doc’s drugstore from West Side Story. See costumes from Phantom of the Opera. There are scores of artifacts, music sheets, props, director notes, rehearsal photos. You see the original Playbills of iconic shows and theater posters going back to the very beginning of American (that is New York and ultimately Broadway) theater. And then you go “backstage” to see how all the creative and technical processes all come together, that speaks to you not so much as star-struck audience member but as a person yearning to be in theater. “Hey gang, let’s put on a show!”

This is the Museum of Broadway, newly opened in November, 2022.

Top hat and dance shoes from A Chorus Line, on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rather than burst any star-studied illusions or theater magic, this opportunity to go behind the curtain is tremendously exciting – you get to see (and appreciate) what goes into such show-stoppers, cultural icons as Show Boat, Oklahoma, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Company, Rent, A Chorus Line, Lion King, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Hamilton, several offering immersive experiences.

In all (believe it or not), the Museum limelights more than 500 individual productions from the 1700s to what is on stage now.

And you get insights into such theater luminaries as Ziegfeld, Sondheim, Webber, Fosse. You come away even more awestruck and under theater’s spell than when you entered.

The Museum features work from Emmy Award winning illustrator I. Javier Ameijeiras (Rent Live!), neon artist Dani B, Tony Award nominated dancer Robert Fairchild (An American in Paris, former NYCB principal), Drama Desk Award winning scenic designer David Korins (Hamilton, Beetlejuice), choreographer Julio Monge (West Side Story), and dancer Tanairi Vazquez (West Side Story, Hamilton). (Find a full list of the artists featured in the Museum at https://www.themuseumofbroadway.com/artists)

A Museum of Broadway homage to “Cats,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s landmark musical based on the 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Broadway is an immersive and interactive theatrical experience devoted to musicals, plays, and the people who make them. Featuring the work of dozens of designers, artists, and theatre historians, you are taken on a journey along the timeline of Broadway, from its birth to present day.

You travel through a visual history of Broadway, highlighting groundbreaking moments in a series of exhibits that showcase – and show off – dazzling costumes, props, renderings, rare photos, videos, artifacts, awards. Stops along the way highlight the pivotal shows or “game changers” that transformed the landscape of Broadway – the moments that pushed creative boundaries, challenged social norms, and paved the way for those who would follow.

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Your visit to the Museum of Broadway starts back stage (actually on the back stairs of the building, next door to historic Lyceum theater),  with sound effects, photos, that show how typical it would be for the Broadway performers to use the back stairs for warm ups.

Walk up three flights, where you hear “warm-ups” as you climb the stairs and go past rooms to show where hair, make-up would have been (performers are taught how to apply their own); the dressing rooms (one labeled “dressing room” is actually the bathroom) and get introduced to the traditions (even superstitions) of Broadway performers. (There is an elevator for those who cannot climb the stairs.)

You are brought into a waiting room before the introductory video – showcasing the Playbills and synopsis of shows currently on Broadway (can point to a QR code and purchase tickets right there), as the music for “Company” plays.

Then you are taken into a small screening room to see a video packing 250 years of history of New York theater into just four minutes. (It is surprising to learn the first actual public performance was in 1732 at the Playhouse, way downtown.)

The history of Broadway theater, told in a four-minute video at the Museum of Broadway dates back to 1732 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York Theater at first was centered in lower Manhattan – where Financial District and Chinatown are today, then, as rents moved up, theaters moved uptown along Broadway to Union Square, Herald Square and finally to Times Square (renamed for the New York Times newspaper, which took up residence in 1904).

Oscar Hammerstein I (grandfather of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II) was instrumental in opening a number of theater houses, beginning 1895 with the Olympia; the Schubert Brothers (Sam, Lee and JJ) soon followed, becoming a major powerhouse among theater owners.

Times Square became known as the Great White Way because of the lamps and electric white lights on marquees.

The Great Depression hit the theater industry hard – many theaters were converted to other purposes. But the end of World War II led to a Golden Age of Broadway, and Jujamcyn and Nederlander emerged as theater behemoths. Then, with the decline of New York City in the 1960s – crime, deteriorating condition – theaters were empty.

The city was desperate to revitalize the Times Square area and allowed the Marriott Marquis to build its new hotel (with a theater inside) to spur a renaissance. But that resulted in the destruction of five Broadway theaters – the so-called “Great Theater Massacre” of 1982. The outcry led to a new landmark preservation law to protect Broadway theaters.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking, longest-running “Phantom of the Opera,” has been seen by more than 19 million people over 35 years on Broadway. It is due to close in 2023 to make room for Webber’s new musical, “Bad Cinderella” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The revitalization really was spurred in the mid-1990s, when Disney signed a 99-year lease for the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street and the city cleaned up Times Square. Broadway was back and “family friendly”, to the point there was a waiting list for incoming shows.

Then COVID hit in March 2020, shutting down the theaters -“the heartbeat of the city” – for 18 months, the longest period in theater history. Since Broadway is one of the top reasons visitors come to the city, and one of its top revenue-makers as well as employers, shutting down theater took its toll on the city’s finances.

After the video (I sit through it twice), you are brought into a sequence of rooms in a Timeline, showcasing the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater.

Timeline panels at the Museum of Broadway showcase the people and key productions – plays and musicals – that shaped the past, present and point to the future of Broadway theater, going back to the earliest days with historic posters and photos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The first panels are really interesting, featuring posters of plays starring Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, and (ironically) a production of “An American Cousin,” starring Laura Keene at the New American Theater in March 3, 1859 – the play Abraham Lincoln was watching at Ford Theater in Washington DC when John Wilkes Booth assassinated him. There is also, an interesting discussion of censorship – when Olga Nethersole, who played Sapho, was arrested for corrupting public morals (indecency). The scandal, first unleashed by the producer to generate audience interest and then played up by newspapers to sell papers (Yellow Journalism), backfired on the show, which though actually quite tame, was censored, but Nethersole was ultimately acquitted.

The panels also highlight the contribution and breakthroughs of Black Americans in American theater and breakthroughs by women. But it is odd that the contribution by Jewish creators is hardly a footnote, while incorporating photos and hard-to-read photo captions of the Marx Brothers, Irving Berlin, showcasing Showboat without mentioning Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, and Porgy and Bess without bothering to mention the Gershwins who wrote them.  

The influence of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Kurt Weill, Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Bock, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, Jule Styne is undeniable throughout the museum because of the productions that are highlighted, but unremarked. The only mention of Yiddish Theater comes in a tiny reference in a panel for a 1990 show, “Those Were the Days”) (For this part of history, see “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy” from Great Performances on pbs.org (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/broadway-musicals-a-jewish-legacy-about-the-film/1476/)

There is a showcase of Ziegfeld Follies, as if you are in the (very pink and feathery) dressing room, with stunning costumes. There’s a photo but much information about Fanny Brice and a photo of Irving Berlin at the piano, but the notes emphasize how Ziegfeld reacted “when a few Follies cast members complained about sharing the stage with Black comedian Bert Williams, Ziegfeld’s reply was ‘The stage door is that way. I can do this show without any of you, but I cannot do it without Bert.’ And that was that.”

There is a whole set up for Showboat and how the musical changed the course of theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot (but only passing mention of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Jerome Kern who wrote the breakthrough musical based on Edna Ferber’s 1926 novel).

Hammerstein lambasted racial prejudice again in South Pacific:

 You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear/You’ve got to be taught from year to year/It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid/Of people whose eyes are oddly made/And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade/You’ve got to be carefully taught.

Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II based on Edna Ferber’s best-selling 1926 novel, changed the course of musical theater, redirecting the emphasis from the heavy operettas and the superficial music comedies which had dominated Broadway, providing complex, realistic characters, and integrating music and plot © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It isn’t until the 1990s panel that there is any mention of Yiddish Theater – arguably the progenitor if not the incubator of Broadway theater – when we learn that “Those Were the Days” in 1990 brought “the Shteltl” and “The Music Hall” to Broadway in an intimate two-part review performed in both English and Yiddish. “The show evokes a period,” director Eleanor Reissa explained. “Created by Zalmen Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld, the musical honored the legacy of a vibrant and influential Yiddish stage that flourished on New York’s Lower East Side in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the district’s most formidable figures was Boris Thomashefsky, who opened a Yiddish theater on Broadway in 1923.”

A room is devoted to the coveted Tony Awards and its namesake, Antoinette Perry, an actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing who had recently passed away when The Tony Awards made their official debut at a dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947.

You walk through rooms devoted to Oklahoma and a set for Doc’s drugstore in the homage to “West Side Story” (there’s a Jets jacket on display as well). A small room crams together Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly, Neil Simon’s comedies before getting to the rock musicals – Jesus Christ Superstar – that led a new era on the Broadway stage.

Walk through the West Side Story set for Doc’s drugstore © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Thankfully, a major exhibit is devoted to Sondheim and you walk through what appears to be the set for Company.

The Wiz, we learn, got bad reviews, but the audience gave it a standing ovation and four curtain calls (the musical used a new marketing strategy of television commercials) – and you ease down yellow stairs.

A Chorus Line – one of the longest-running shows and the first to use computerized light board – features original costumes, marvelous 8×10 photos of the cast, plus I loved seeing original creative notes.

Notes for the opening song for A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Notes for “Handful of Keys” from A Chorus Line © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(There is so much information crammed into a small space and the captions and notes are so small and hard to read (bring glasses), but you are encouraged to download an app where you can listen or read the notes.)

Honoring Broadway’s longest-running musical, “Phantom of the Opera”: a chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you come to Phantom of the Opera – with some sensational costumes (from 1986) and artifacts from the show. Phantom is now the longest-running production in Broadway history (it was scheduled to close in 2023, when a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Bad Cinderella” is due to open). Among Phantom’s plaudits: it is the largest generator of money and jobs in Broadway history and has been seen by 19.5 million people over 35 years. There is an amazing chandelier made of 13,917 glass beads – for the number of Broadway performances – and if you look at it to an angle, the Phantom’s mask emerges.

Along the way, staff people offer their own anecdotes or point you to artifacts or parts of the exhibit you might not have seen. And there are various interactive and videos, as Broadway tunes play in each exhibit.

The innovative costume/props for The Lion King on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The setting for “Rent” was designed for the museum by the original set designer. I love seeing some of the innovative props/costumes that turn human actors into animals for Lion King. You walk through the “office” for Producers” (a Tony is in the bookcase), costumes from Hamilton, and there is a whole line of costumes representing the shows currently playing.

Costumes from “Hamilton” on display at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Then you go down the stairs to the first floor where you are really treated to the back-stage, “let’s put on a show” tutorial.

This part of the Museum celebrates the behind-the-scenes of this dazzling American art form with a special exhibit, “The Making of a Broadway Show,” justifiably honoring the entirety of the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.

This section features multiple videos of directors of lighting, sound, music, as well as costumers and set designers discussing their craft. (Here, they should have given way more space and separated the sections of the exhibit better because the videos and sound overlap – even three and four at once – and the room is dark.)

Hey gang! Let’s put on a show: An entire floor Museum of Broadway is devoted to how a theater production comes together. Computerized lighting board © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But if you put in some effort – and time – you are treated to absolutely fascinating information about producing, designing the music, the lights, the sound, costumes (and tricks of “distressing” costumes), direction, choreography. This whole section – most of an entire floor – is a goldmine for anyone who harbors any interest in pursuing a career in theater production. There are even time sheets for what a costumer’s day is like, and a timeline from conception to opening night of a production.

Techniques of a costumer at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Want to be a costume designer? Check out what a day looks like at the Museum of Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the end, I follow an arrow and found myself in a fantastic exhibit of Al Hirschfeld – the extraordinary cartoonist/caricaturist who was synonymous with every Broadway opening. We see many of his illustrations – from newspapers, posters, the originals, and I love the display of his sketchbooks that give a glimpse into his creative process – and learn about the origin of his iconic “Nina” embedded into his illustration (that became an obsession, much like Wordle is today, for New York Times readers). There is even a photo of him with his daughter, Nina, and a caricature of Nina, herself.

The origin of the famous Nina’s in Al Hirschfeld’s caricatures that so defined Broadway productions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of Broadway is founded by entrepreneur and two-time Tony Award-winning producer Julie Boardman and founder of the award-winning experiential agency, Rubik Marketing,Diane Nicoletti. Elie Landauis the general manager.

The team of expert curators for The Museum of Broadway is headed by Ben West (Resident Historian and Curator, Timeline & Special Exhibits) and includes Jennifer Ashley Tepper (Curator, Historical Buildings), John Kenrick (Curator, Game Changer History), Faye Armon-Troncoso (Set Decorator & Props Supervisor, Making of a Broadway Show), Lisa Zinni (Costume & Props Curator) and Michael McDonald (Historical Assets Manager).

The Museum of Broadway is founded in collaboration with Playbill, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Goodspeed Musicals, Creative Goods, and Concord Theatricals.

There is so much to delight anyone who enjoys, appreciates theater – you don’t have to be an avid theatergoer or aficionado or maven.

The artifacts, costumes, inside (backstage) info, and insights throughout the Museum of Broadway are fabulous. You need at least two to three hours to go through. And bring reading eyeglasses or magnifying glass to read the tiny captions and notes. Open 7 days a week, 10 am – 10 pm.

Indeed, the Museum of Broadway seems to be very much a hit – the museum had a steady stream of visitors.

The Museum of Broadway, 145 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036, 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400, www.themuseumofbroadway.com, follow @museumofbroadway on social channels.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Top Things to Do to Celebrate the Holidays in New York City

Rockefeller Center, NYC © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Santa has arrived on his sleigh to close out the 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  The tree is alight at Rockefeller Center. Saks has its sound-and-light show and decorated windows. Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman have their windows decorated. People flock into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stop to hear a choral concert at St. Thomas. Cartier and Tiffany’s come gift wrapped. Fifth Avenue is decked out for the holiday. It’s Christmas time in the city. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the city:

Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As one of the most iconic holiday destinations in the world, New York City once again hosts a potpourri of festive experiences, attractions and events across dining, shopping, culture and entertainment throughout the five boros.

Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Macy’s windows theme for Holidays 2022: Give Love © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the past few years, Bryant Park has emerged as the quintessential holiday destination in New York City – crammed with the most picturesque holiday market (actually marvelous items) in the city, a skating rink (free skating; skate rentals available) below a Christmas tree, an enchanting carousel, lovely eateries and snack places. It is the synthesis of the holiday.

Holidays in New York City: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are more highlights of Holidays in the City:

HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES

A New York City holiday staple: Radio City Rockettes performing Christmas Spectacular Wooden Soldiers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • DREAM BIG: Big Apple Circus Returns to Lincoln Center for 45th Anniversary, through Jan. 1. For eight weeks, Big Top at Lincoln Center will be home to astonishing wonders and daring acrobatics, setting imaginations soaring to the most astounding, awe-inspiring heights.
  • Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Nov. 18–Jan. 2 has dazzled audiences of all ages for nearly a century with incredible costumes, festive songs, synchronized high kicks, new acts and several shows daily.
  • A Christmas Carola one-man show on Broadway, Nov. 21–Jan. 1. In this astonishing Broadway adaptation, Tony Award–winning actor Jefferson Mays tackles more than 50 roles in this season’s limited run of A Christmas Carol at the Nederlander Theatre. The beloved Dickens story featuring notable characters—Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the four ghosts—is making its return for the first time since 2019 and will enchant theatergoers with its redemptive story.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, Nov. 25–Dec. 31 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center returns for its annual performance featuring exquisite costumes, magnificent sets and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that transports audiences to a land of twirling snowflakes, leaping candy canes, waltzing flowers and more. On November 27, TDF Autism Friendly Performances will present the first-ever Autism-Friendly Performance of New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, Nov. 30–Dec. 24, returns to New York City Center for a season that has become a joyous winter tradition. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will move audiences with world and company premieres by Kyle Abraham, Jamar Roberts, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. In addition to repertory favorites, founder Alvin Ailey’s choreography is spotlighted with a new production of Survivors and the staging of over a half dozen classic works, including the must-see American masterpiece Revelations.
  • The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Met Opera, Dec. 16–Jan. 6. The Met Opera’s abridged, English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale is a classic holiday treat for audiences of all ages, bringing the charming story and enchanting music to life. This year’s series features Maestro Duncan Ward, making his company debut conducting Julie Taymor’s irresistible production.

CULTURAL EVENTS

Fifth Avenue, decked out for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Holidays in New York City: St. Patrick’s Cathedral © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Amaze Light Festival is the newest holiday attraction in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, throughout the holidays, Hudson Yards, Manhattan. Featuring over 2 million twinkling lights, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, presented by Wells Fargo, adorns the neighborhood with 115-miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees dressed and 16-foot-tall illuminated set pieces in the shape of hot air balloons arranged through the Public Square and Gardens with a 32-foot hot air balloon centerpiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops and Restaurants.
  • Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Nov. 16–Jan. 8, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Explore the garden after dark at the illuminated Lightscape, celebrating the beauty of nature with an enchanting one-mile trail through BBG’s 52-acre landscape. Sold out in its first season, this year’s after-dark, illuminated spectacular features new works of art alongside returning favorites. Enjoy the Winter Cathedral tunnel, Fire Garden and Sea of Light, as well as new site-specific light works by local artists, accompanied by a curated soundtrack.
  • Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, Nov. 18–Jan. 8, Bronx Park, The Bronx. With more than 360 lanterns representing nearly 90 animal and plant species, Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns (with some life-size, some larger-than-life-size) and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music and other festive entertainment. The beloved tradition is sure to enchant visitors of all ages, making it the perfect way to kick off the holidays this year.
  • NYBG GLOW, Select dates from November 18–January 14, Bedford Park, The Bronx. Discover the beauty of New York Botanical Garden through NYBG GLOW, which will illuminate the garden’s landmark landscape and historic buildings after dark with a newly expanded 1.5-mile colorful experience. Building upon sold-out evenings the past two years, the event is expanded across more of the garden’s collections.
  • Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field, Select dates from Nov. 20–Jan. 8, Flushing, Queens. Guests are greeted by the lovable characters Zing and Sparky from the Amaze storybook, who bring the stage dancers, singers and light show to life with their magic powers. Visit the holiday market and grab a treat at Sparky’s Sweet Spot. Enjoy culinary treats, specialty drinks and cocktails. Zip down Zing’s icy Thrill Hill, take in the wonder on a train ride, and write a letter to Santa.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East, Oct. 21–Jan. 8, St. George, Staten Island. The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back for its fourth year to transform a new venue, SIUH Community Park in Staten Island, into an immersive world of light. Enjoy over eight acres of luminescence, live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm at Queens County Farm Museum, Nov. 11–Jan. 8, Glen Oaks, Queens. Back for its second year, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival transforms Queens County Farm into an immersive and radiant oasis with festive lights and handmade lanterns in the shape of flowers, tractors, farm animals.
  • Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights from A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Dec. 1–31 (except 24 & 25), Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Experience the extravagant Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, also known as “Dyker Lights.” This guided bus tour, departing from Manhattan, offers visitors a special experience to view the uniquely decorated homes, learn about the history and stories of the neighborhood tradition.
Holidays in New York City: Bergdorf Goodman’s stunning window displays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

ICE-SKATING, OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:

Holidays in New York City: Ice skating at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Skate under the iconic Christmas tree, a quintessential NYC experience on the world-famous rink. In collaboration with Coach, Rockefeller Center will unveil this year’s activations, including a bespoke holiday gift shop, custom hospitality cart serving special treats, and live onsite patch customization for a curated line of Coach products. Santa will join visitors on the ice in December.
  • The Rink at Bryant Park, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy NYC’s free 17,000-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Visitors can also enjoy the Holiday Shops, free shows, events, activities, and eats and drinks at The Lodge.
  • Wollman Rink in Central Park, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy skating in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background. This year, Wollman Rink is partnering with Culture Pass.
  •  Classic Harbor Line Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan. Enjoy four-course holiday brunch cruises, a Cocoa and Carols cruise and more holiday themes, while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers with views of the NYC skyline and Lady Liberty.
  • City Cruises Holiday-Themed Cruises, Manhattan. Enjoy a NYC dining cruise (available Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s) featuring festive decor, meals and stunning views of the City while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers from the glass-enclosed deck.
Holidays in New York City: Watching Saks’ light show at Rockefeller Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

FESTIVE HOLIDAY SHOPPING

Holidays in New York City: Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Bryant Park, Manhattan.
  • Shop at Grand Central Terminal, through Dec. 24, Midtown Manhattan. Grand Central Terminal welcomes back its famous indoor Holiday Fair to the splendor of Vanderbilt Hall after a two-year hiatus. The Grand Central Holiday Fair is one of New York City’s most coveted attractions, welcoming thousands of locals, commuters and visitors for a curated holiday shopping and gifting experience. This year’s event features 36 vendors, including Ekologic, Garden of Silver and Rebel Designs.
  • Union Square Holiday Market, throughDec. 24, Union Square, Manhattan. Urbanspace’s longest running holiday market returns with over 160 vendors featuring unique gifts created by local craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs.
  • Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market, Sundays, through Dec. 24, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Come to Pearl Street for Dumbo’s iconic Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market. One of the borough’s most popular attractions, shoppers support local vendors and cross off holiday shopping with vintage and antique items, crafts and gourmet food stands.
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market, through Dec. 24, Upper West Side, Manhattan. Known as one of the most elegant places for holiday shopping, visitors will lose themselves in aisles of art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers, with the backdrop of NYC’s iconic Central Park.
Strolling Fifth Avenue is one of the highlights of Holidays in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Strolling Fifth Avenue is one of the highlights of Holidays in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YEAR’S  

Gotta do it at least once in a lifetime: Watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve in Times Square © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, Times Square, Manhattan: The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will sparkle in Times Square all season, but watching its descent in person on New Year’s Eve is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Guests can also stop by the New Year’s Eve Confetti Wishing Wall from December 1 on to submit (in person and online herefor nye wishing wall) a wish for the New Year on a piece of official NYE confetti that will be dropped at midnight as the ball drops. 
  •  NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park, Midtown Manhattan: Start the new year off on the right—and left—foot at the NYRR Midnight Run. Join the fun and celebrate as 2022 comes to a close; the countdown to 2023 begins at 11:59pm, and at the stroke of midnight, a fireworks display will light up the night sky and kick off the start of the 4-mile race.
  • Coney Island Polar Plunge, January 1, Coney Island, Brooklyn: Each year on January 1, members of the Polar Bear Club and anyone else brave enough to participate venture into the frigid waters at Coney Island. Watch hundreds of daring souls plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, where the temperature of the water hovers right above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature can be well below freezing. The event is free, but in lieu of admission, participants are encouraged to donate to community organizations.

For additional holiday celebrations and itineraries, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

For the official source on all there is to see and do in New York City, go to nycgo.com

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New-York Historical’s ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ Examines How Jewish Delicatessens Became a Cornerstone of American Food Culture

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli exhibit at New-York Historical Society tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society’s exhibition “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, is a fascinating exploration of the rich history of the Jewish immigrant experience that made the delicatessen so integral to New York and American culture. On view through April 2, 2023, the mouth-watering and culturally significant exhibition, organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (where it is on view through September 18), examines how Jewish immigrants, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, imported and adapted traditions to create a cuisine that became a cornerstone of popular culture with worldwide influence.

The exhibition explores the food of immigrants; the heyday of the deli in the interwar period; delis in the New York Theater District; stories of Holocaust survivors and war refugees who found community in delis; the shifting and shrinking landscapes of delis across the country; and delis in popular culture. You get to see iconic neon signs, menus, advertisements, and deli workers’ uniforms alongside film clips depicting delis in popular culture and video documentaries.

Laura Mart, co-curator of I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, now at the New-York Historical Society, explains the transition from pushcart to delicatessen, along with the fortunes of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some 2 million Jews came from Eastern and Central Europe to the United States between 1880 and 1924, when nativist anti-immigrant furor shut down immigration (there is a display showing some of the anti-immigrant propaganda). New York was a stopover but also a destination for millions and they brought with them their food culture, which, of necessity, was adapted.

“Why make a museum show out of the Jewish deli – which is a specific and unusual topic? The ‘deli’ allowed us to explore themes of how people of different backgrounds relate to one another” in such a melting pot as New York, said Laura Mart, one of the curators. “It shows how Jewish-American culture was created and maintained through generations. And it is also about joy, more important than ever. Museums are a place for joyful learning.”

“It’s a story of tradition and change, adaptation and resilience,” said Lara Rabinovitch.

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical, herself waxing nostalgic. I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions. I hope visitors come away with a newfound appreciation for the Jewish deli, and, with it, the story of the United States.”

“Whether you grew up eating matzo ball soup or are learning about lox for the first time, this exhibition demonstrates how Jewish food became a cultural touchstone, familiar to Americans across ethnic backgrounds,” said co-curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart. “This exhibition reveals facets of the lives of Central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that echo in contemporary immigrant experiences. It shows how people adapt and transform their own cultural traditions over time, resulting in a living style of cooking, eating, and sharing community that is at once deeply rooted in their own heritage and continuously changing.”

I’ll Have What She’s Having is co-curated by Skirball curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart along with Lara Rabinovitch, renowned writer, producer, and specialist in immigrant food cultures. It is coordinated at New-York Historical by Cristian Petru Panaite, curator of exhibitions. The exhibition explores topics including deli culture, the proliferation of delis alongside the expansion of New York’s Jewish communities, kosher meat manufacturing, shortages during World War II, and advertising campaigns that helped popularize Jewish foods throughout the city.

As is typical of New-York Historical’s exhibits, expanded presentation from its own collection and local twist includes additional artwork, artifacts, photographs of local establishments, and objects from deli owners, as well as costumes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a mouthwatering interactive, and a Bloomberg Connects audio tour.

A soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writes to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent, a confirmation of the success of the “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Highlights include a letter in New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library collection from a soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writing to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent—confirmation of the success of a famous “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign. (Panaite painstakingly poured over a huge collection of World War II letters, one by one, to find it.) 

There are photos of politicians and other notable figures eating and campaigning in delis, including then-US Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at Ben’s delicatessen in Greenvale, Long Island. Movie clips and film stills include the iconic scene in Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally…, which inspired the exhibition title. This and other movie scenes underscore the prominent role of Jewish delis in American popular culture.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation is a closer look at the expansion of Jewish communities at the turn of the 20th century, not just on the Lower East Side but also in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. In the 1930s, some 3,000 delis operated in the city; today, only about a dozen remain. 

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society will evoke nostalgia in native New Yorkers, as well as a craving for a pastrami sandwich on rye © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibition gives special attention to dairy restaurants, which offered a safe meatless eating experience; a portion of the neon sign from the Famous Dairy Restaurant on the Upper West Side is on display. Salvaged artifacts, like the 2nd Avenue Delicatessen storefront sign and vintage meat slicers and scales from other delis, are also on view, along with costumes by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska from the popular Prime Video series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Visitors are invited to build their own sandwiches named after celebrities, such as Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker, Frank Sinatra,  Ethel Merman, and Sammy Davis Jr., in a digital interactive inspired by menu items from Reuben’s Deli and Stage Deli (the menus are on display). 

On the Bloomberg Connects app, exhibition goers can enjoy popular songs like “Hot Dogs and Knishes” from the 1920s, along with clips of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia discussing kosher meat pricing, 1950s radio ads, and interviews with deli owners forced  to close during the pandemic lockdown.  

It’s a trip down memory lane for so many of us native New Yorkers – with the neon signs from popular delis and suppliers (Hebrew National), menus (there is one from Reubens, the home of the Reubens sandwich, which was a very popular venue for my family).

The roots for Jewish Deli cuisine were the fermentation, the types of foods, the technology of food, that originated in Europe, but the hallmarks of the Jewish Deli culture go beyond the food – to the booths, the waiters, the zeitgeist of the deli. We learn that that ambiance evolved – first from pushcarts on the streets of the Lower East Side (street food), to stools, to counter-style take-away shops, to finally having seating in full-fledged restaurants.

Case in point: Joel Russ founded his appetizing store out of a barrel in 1907 in Manhattan. He moved up to selling herring and other salt-cured and smoked fish out of a pushcart and finally opened a brick-and-mortar store in 1914.His daughters, Hattie, Ida, and Anne, worked in the store from the time they were 11 and 12. In 1935, he renamed the store Russ & Daughters, and are known as the “Sturgeon Queens.”

The delis introduced Americans to borscht (Slavic), gefilte fish, kishke (Slavic), vereniki (Ukrainian), kasha varnishkes (Russian), herring and chopped liver (“What am I, chopped liver?”). Also latkes (Ashkenazi), blintzes, knishes, rugelach and babka. Cheesecake is actually an American innovation.

The industrialization of beef production and processing actually made Kosher beef more desirable, hence Hebrew National’s slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Interestingly, the rise of industrial food processing and cattle production (which mass produced beef and discouraged pork consumption) actually increased the desirability of Kosher food – certified as meeting religious standards, hence the Hebrew National slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.”

Jewish entrepreneurs in Chicago capitalized on the opportunity to produce kosher beef, but ultimately, what became the Jewish Delicatessen was American.

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society traces how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

“Meat was expensive in Europe. Jews couldn’t own land and meat was a luxury. But in the United States, meat became central to deli food.” At first, there was strict separation between deli restaurants like Katz’ and dairy restaurants, like Ratner’s – because Koshruth forbids the mixing of meat and milk – but over time, and with assimilation, even delis would offer items like cheesecake as dessert after a corned beef sandwich.

We learn about the Vienna Beef factory, founded in 1893 by Jewish Austro-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany. They first sold frankfurters at the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, then expanded to include Vienna sausages, pastrami, corned beef and salami.

A photo of Katz’ Delicatessen, circa 1900, one of the artifacts on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society tracing how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Katz’s Delicatessen, likely the oldest continuously operating deli in the US, was founded in 1888 by two brothers named Iceland. The Katz family became business partners and by 1917, bought out the brothers. At a time when most deli food was being sold from carts and barrels on the street, Katz’s was a brick-and-mortar delicatessen.

In 1916 on Coney Island, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker began building his empire by selling franks for five cents and undercutting his competition, Feltman’s.

And then there is this intrigue: fraud and corruption became pervasive in the kosher meat industry. In 1925, an estimated 40 percent of meat sold as “kosher” was non-kosher. In 1933, the NYC Department of Health and US Department of Agriculture raided Jacob Branfman & Son, one of the city’s main kosher delicatessen manufacturers, and seized over 1,400 pounds of nonkosher beef briskets. The owner was sentenced to 30 days in the infamous city workhouse.

A sign from Katz Delicatessen from the World War II-era campaign © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During World War II, Jewish delis promoted a campaign to “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army” (the slogan was developed by Sixth Avenue Delicatessen waiter Louis Schwartz) and used by delis including Katz’s. The slogan became so popular that comedian Jerry Lewis used it in the film, “At War with the Army” (1950).

Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds – that paid for 66 P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes, each which bore the moniker, “Louie the Waiter.” Schwartz developed a rhyme to inspire patrons to buy the bonds, “you’ll buy war bonds sooner or later, so get them from Louis the Waiter!”

Al Hirschfeld’s caricature of Sixth Avenue Deli’s Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds and created the slogan, “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army”.

Most interesting is to learn about some of the people who found refuge in the delis – as owners or workers. Paula Weissman, born in present-day Ukraine, survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She arrived in New York in 1948 with two dollars. After working in a Brooklyn girdle factory, she was hired as a temporary waitress at Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen on West 72nd Street. The 7-day temp job turned into 30 years.”In her black uniform and white shoes, Paula took the orders of Zero Mostel, Molly Picon, Rita Moreno and many other Broadway stars.”

Rena Drexler was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945 and moved to Munich, Germany, where she and her husband, Harry, began their new lives working in a deli. The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and opened Drexler’s Deli on Burbank Boulevard in 1957, selling kosher meals and products for the Orthodox Jews who settled in the neighborhood.

Paula Weissman, one of the Holocaust survivors who made a new life at Jewish delicatessens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The original owner of the Second Avenue Deli, Abe Lebewohl, was a Holocaust refugee. Upon arriving in America and not even speaking the language, he took his first job in a Coney Island deli as a soda jerk, graduating to counterman and over the next few years, learning the secrets of superb pastrami and other traditional Jewish delicacies. In 1954, with a few thousand dollars he managed to set aside, Abe took over a tiny 10-seat luncheonette on East Tenth Street—the nucleus of the 2nd Ave Deli. Working around the clock for years—often filling in as cook, counterman, waiter, and even busboy—he put all his time and energy into making a success of his tiny establishment. “He never turned anyone away for lack of funds, he fed striking workers, homeless.” In 1996, he was robbed and murdered when making a bank deposit; the case unsolved.

In a nostalgic tribute to departed delis that continue to hold a place in the hearts of many New Yorkers, photographs show restaurants that closed in recent years. Eateries include the Upper West Side’s Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, and Loeser’s Kosher Deli in the Bronx. An exuberant hot dog-shaped sign from Jay & Lloyds Delicatessen, which closed in May 2020, and folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens, also pay tribute to beloved establishments. The exhibition concludes on a hopeful note, highlighting new delis that have opened their doors in the past decade, such as Mile End and Frankel’s, both in Brooklyn, and USA Brooklyn Delicatessen, located steps from the site of the former Carnegie and Stage Delis in Manhattan.

Ben’s, still a force on Long Island and Manhattan is illustrative of the changes in the Jewish Deli that followed changes in the lives of American Jews. To be blunt, in the mid-20th century, restrictive covenants that barred Jews (and Blacks) from living in certain neighborhoods were lifted, and American Jews were flocking to the suburbs. The delis followed.

What I found fascinating was that the Jewish deli grew up as the American industrialized cattle industry grew – displacing home-grown pork – making beef plentiful and giving rise to the sky-high thick pastrami and corned beef sandwiches that would never have been available to Jews in their European shtetls, where meat would have been a cherished rarity.

Folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens is on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deliat the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit ponders how it was, why it was that Jewish deli became so much a part of American pop culture.

“There is no definitive answer as to why the deli has inspired generations of Jewish filmmakers, comedians, musicians and writers. Perhaps it is because so many Jewish creatives got their start in New York City, where they frequented Jewish delis and later infused these experiences into their work. Or maybe it is because the Jewish deli is one of the most public secular environments in Jewish American life. It is a place where characters can demonstrate or celebrate their Jewish identity outside of private or religious spheres. Whatever the reason, the deli continues to have significant influence on Jewish artists.”

The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, alongside a model of his family’s delicatessen and a video of the famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” movie which provides the title for the New-York Historical Society’s exhibit, at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The better question has to do with how Jewish cuisine has become as integrated into in American culture as bagels (with or without lox). And that’s because so many of the creatives – in Broadway theater, film – were Jewish.

But Jewish delis, themselves, are struggling today, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic, but also because of changing economics – the cost of that two-inch high pastrami on rye, the rent. The sandwich that used to cost $1.95 (see the Reubens menu), now costs $25. The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, on hand at the press preview, spoke of the changing economics, he said that they don’t even make a profit on a $25 pastrami sandwich. “The profit is in the soup.”

Programming: Private group tours can be arranged throughout the run of “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish DeliFamily programming includes a food-focused family day celebrating foodways brought to New York City by immigrants from around the world. Living History programs bring to life the stories of proprietors, patrons, and staff of New York City’s Jewish delis. Visit nyhistory.org for dates and details.

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952”

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952” exhibit at New-York Historical Society documents the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After enjoying the joyful “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” go up to the second floor of the historical society for another, more serious, exhibition that is so timely in the here and now: “Confronting Hate 1937-1952” about the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry. To reach as many Americans as possible in the period leading up to the Holocaust, World War II and the aftermath, the agency embraced new mass communication technologies and partnered with talented allies – artists, writers, political leaders, church groups, politicians, magazine and newspaper editors. They produced comic books, ads, articles. Among the celebrities who joined a “Speaking for America” poster campaign in 1946: Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Danny Kaye, plus President Harry Truman and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

New-York Historical Society, New York’s First Museum

At the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, you experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History.

Digital exhibitions, apps, and For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history. Connect at nyhistory.org or at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Great Gifts for Travelers to Spark that Wanderlust, Check Off that Bucket List, Set Out on a Life-Enhancing Experience

So many ways to give the gift of travel that makes such a bucket-list family experience like a Galapagos Cruise possible, from forming a registry for many to contribute to a fund, to arranging for special experiences along the way, to clothes, gear, photography equipment © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin,Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What could be a better than giving someone a part of the world, some memorable, life-enhancing, life-changing experience, something from their bucket-list, perhaps? Give the gift of travel.

A gift of travel can be anything from the trip itself (even create a registry so that lots of friends and family can contribute), to pre-arranging some experience or activity to enhance a trip: a dining experience, a spa visit, visits to a museum or attraction, a cooking, baking or jewelry making class; a hot-air balloon ride (champagne!); rock-climbing adventure; walking tour; bike rental.  And what adventure, journey, expedition, voyage or trip doesn’t require some special gear?

You can pre-purchase a city-sightseeing pass that provides admissions to the most popular sights in cities like Prague (PragueCoolPass.com), Amsterdam, Berlin, Dresden, Paris (parispass.com), New York City. Check out Go City, which sells passes in over 30 destinations from major metropolises like London and New York to oceanfront oases like Sydney and Oahu (GoCity.com, 800 887 9103).

A city-sightseeing pass like the Prague Cool Pass which provides admissions to leading museums, attractions and experiences makes a great gift for a traveler © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

More and more travel companies – hotels and accommodations, cruises, tours, theme parks, sightseeing, spa visits, restaurants and dining, and even transportation companies from airlines to Amtrak to Uber to a Maine Windjammer Cruise – now offer gift cards, e-gift cards or vouchers. And the beauty is you can give the amount that works best for you and they can be spent in the way your giftee wants.

Gift cards can open up doors to travel, or take the sting out of the pinch to a traveler’s, couple’s or family’s wallet. Gift cards can be that extra spark that gets your loved one to finally depart on their bucket-list experience.

Here are some examples:

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, is not to be missed. A Xanterra Travel Collection gift card can be used toward a stay at The Oasis in Death Valley © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

A yacht-style cruise to the Mediterranean. A historic stay at the new Maswik Lodge South in the middle of Grand Canyon National Park. A VBT Bicycling Vacations guided tour to New Zealand. These are but a few of the experiences that can be acquired with Xanterra Travel Collection gift cards toward Xanterra’s operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Also the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in Williams, Ariz., The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., The Oasis at Death Valley in Death Valley Calif., Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls, Mont., Windstar Cruises, Holiday Vacations, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, and Country Walkers. Xanterra is also affiliated with two Forbes Five-Star Resorts, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO and Sea Island on the coast of Georgia. (https://www.xanterra.com/gift-cards/)

Globus family of brands Gift Certificates, redeemable for tours and cruises, come in denominations of $50, $200 & $500. Gift Certificates may be used in conjunction with any promotion offered at time of booking and they are transferable up until time of application of payment to an existing booking. https://www.globusjourneys.com/tour-gift-certificate/

Tauck Tours eGift Cards, available in any amount, are valid for any Tauck land journey, river or small ship cruise and Tauck Bridges family adventures. They can be redeemed by phone or online at Tauck.com. https://www.tauck.com/guest-travel/egiftcard.

Contiki also offers a travel gift card that can be used on any Contiki trip; the voucher certificates include a personalized message, can be sent electronically or printed, and does not expire.  https://www.contiki.com/en-us/resources/travel-gift-card 866-266 8454.

Lodging

Historic Hotels of Europe, an exclusive collection of independent and unique hotels, castles, palaces, country houses and other properties handpicked for historic importance, quality and unique story, throughout Europe, offers a gift voucher, valid for five years, in amounts from 50-1500 Euros. vouc[email protected], https://gifts.historichotelsofeurope.com/.

Mohonk Mountain House in New York State’s Hudson Valley is a member of Historic Hotels of America, which has a gift-card program © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can purchase gift cards for stays or amenities at Historic Hotels of America (as well as with individual member properties). In addition, Historic Hotels of America has partnered with National Trust Tours, https://www.historichotels.org/us/national-trust-tours.php (both are programs of the National Preservation Trust) to promote exciting travel offers and opportunities. When booking a tour, mention Historic Hotels of America and receive three $100 gift certificates for a two-night stay at a Historic Hotel. Also check the individual member historic hotels and resorts.

New England Inns & Resorts Association gift cards can be redeemed at 300 lodging properties all over New England and can be purchased in any amount you choose. The cards never expire.  Make a reservation directly with the property of your choice and let them know you will be using a New England Inns & Resort Gift Card.  Present the card at check-in.  https://www.newenglandinnsandresorts.com/gift-cards

With a Gift Card from Historic Inns of Savannah, choose from six award-winning boutique hotels in Savannah’s famed historic district https://www.historicinnsofsavannah.com/

Booked on Hotels.com: Riad el Yacout, Fez, Morocco. Hotels.com offers gift cards. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Want more choices: Hotels.com gift cards unlock hundreds of thousands of places to stay worldwide, including major hotel chains. The gift cards are available in denominations from $10 up to $2,000 and there are no expiration dates or fees. Also, Hotels.com has a secure gift registry where friends and family can contribute toward a Hotels.com eGift Card – great for honeymoons, babymoons, graduation, or any other group-gifting occasion. What is more, you can trade-in select gift cards (from coffee companies, clothing companies, etc) for Hotels.com Gift Cards. https://www.hotels.com/page/giftcards/

Just steps away from our campsite at Watkins Glen State Park. You can purchase gift cards for New York State campgrounds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Who knew you could also get a Camping Gift Card to New York State’s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation sites, providing access to 8,500 campsites, 850 cabins, 135 cottages and 18 golf courses throughout the state. Camping Gift Cards can be used for fees associated with camping walk-ups, golf reservations and greens fees, camping supplies, boat rentals provided by NYS Parks (not for vehicle entrance fee, concessionaires, or Department of Environmental Conservation facilities). Purchase online at https://shop.parks.ny.gov/store/gift-cards/ for any dollar amount and have no expiration date. They can be used with the NYS camping reservation system (Reserve America, https://www.reserveamerica.com, 800-456-2267).

Royal Caribbean is one of the cruise companies that makes gift cards available, on its own site as well as through Amazon.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cruiselines also make it easy to purchase gift cards, and even gift registries so that family and friends can contribute to purchasing the cruise: Norwegian Cruise Line makes it possible to gift onboard credit, wine, gourmet treats, spa visits. Or create a registry so that bunches of family and friends can contribute to a cruise (https://www.ncl.com/onboard-gifts). Also: Disney Cruise Lines (https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/featured/holiday-gift-cruise/); Carnival Cruise Lines (https://carnival.ourgiftcards.com/); Princess Cruises (https://www.princess.com/gift-cards); Royal Caribbean (https://www.royalcaribbeanincentives.com/royal-caribbean-gift-card-program/); and Holland America (https://www.hollandamerica.com/en_US/giftcard.html).

You can actually buy e-gift cards for Celebrity Cruises, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, even AirbnB from amazon.com.

Maine Windjammers compete in the Great Schooner Race. The historic sailing vessels offer a full complement of voyages. The Maine Windjammer Association now offers gift certificates that can be used on any of its member vessels © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Maine Windjammer Association is now offering gift certificates toward cruises on any of its member vessels. They can be purchased in any amount and don’t expire. (Save 10% on purchases on Dec. 14, use code MWAWind22). They will send a packet of brochures as well. (800-807-9463, [email protected], www.sailmainecoast.com/windjammer-sailing-gift-certificates/)

Gift of Experience

Give experiences that turn a trip into a wonder that lasts a lifetime.

Gift certificates from Broadway.com can be redeemed for tickets to any Broadway or Off-Broadway show currently playing in New York City (https://www.broadway.com/gift-certificates/).

Drive an exotic car, learn to fly, rock climb, skydive, bungee jump. Virgin Experience lists some 3000 different experiences in 122 regions from 600 “best in class” partners that their gift card can be applied to (bioluminescent kayak adventure in Tomales Bay, CA; drive a stock car on Thompson Speedway, CT; learn to fly in Mesa, AZ. Easy return, no expiration, free exchange (https://www.virginexperiencegifts.com/action-and-adventure, https://www.virginexperiencegifts.com/gift-certificates)

A Context Walking tour in Athens, Greece. Give the gift of experience, the gift of learning © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whether retracing the Revolution in Paris, diving into the ecology of Venetian canals, or exploring Kyoto’s teahouses at twilight, Context Travel offers tours with experts who weave history, art, and culture into stories that inspire the inquisitive. Context offers personal walking tours in 60 cities across 6 continents.  Skip the line and off-hours access to popular sites in the world’s cultural and historical capitals. Tours range from half-day to 7-days plus.  Context Travel also offers the “gift of learning” – virtual and in-person sessions with top experts– you can explore the Colosseum with an archaeologist, uncover masterpieces of the Louvre with an art historian, or explore the palaces of Istanbul with an architect — from home, or in person (https://www.contexttravel.com/gift-cards).

TripAdvisor offers gift cards and e-certificates that can be purchased online or over the phone. You can pre-load the card with a set amount of money and then give it as a gift for someone to utilize when making reservations. For more information, visit TripAdvisor.com and chat with a live agent for assistance.

Spafinder, a compendium of resorts, wellness centers and day spas, makes it easy to purchase giftcards.  Take 25% off $200+ with promo code VIP25; get $20 off $80, Spafinder.com

Theme parks can be a very, very pricey vacation for families. Gift cards can enhance the experience. Disney’s gift cards can be used for “practically” all things Disney – theme park tickets, resort stays, merchandise, dining and experiences at Disney destinations.  https://www.disneygiftcard.com/

There are any number of adult fantasy camps to satisfy, well, every fantasy. If you can fantasize it, there is likely a fantasy camp to realize it.

Want to play baseball like a major leaguer? There are baseball fantasy camps with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Atlanta Braves (mlb.com).  Basketball: 76ers Fantasy Camp is the inaugural team in the NBA’s first and only fantasy camp of its kind (Aug. 25-27, 2023, www.76ersfantasycamps.com). Hockey (Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, Apr 30-May 4, 2023, https://lakeplacidlegacysites.com ),

Also: Broadway theater (Broadway Fantasy Camp, broadwayfancamp.com), Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, an interactive musical event that takes place in various locations worldwide involving various Rock Stars on various dates.(rockcamp.com)

Space Camp, an educational camp in Huntsville, Alabama, on the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. It provides residential and educational programs for children and adults on themes such as space exploration, aviation and robotics (spacecamp.com).

For many, being able to participate in major science research is also a fantasy. Earthwatch makes it possible to support research that responds to global challenges – from climate change to human-wildlife coexistence to sustainability – while engaging local communities, and offers more than 40 field research expeditions around the world, with opportunities for teens and adults and no prior experience needed (Earthwatch.org).

Ski Heavenly. So many kinds of gifts to enhance a ski holiday, from lift ticket to rental to lesson to dining experience to gear © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

For the skier/snowboarder, consider purchasing lift tickets, lessons, rentals, perhaps even a multi-day, regional or local pass (EpicPass.com, IKONPass.com, snow.com, ski.com). Get Ski Tickets is an online marketplace where skiers/riders have access to purchase date-specific discounted lift tickets, lessons, rentals, group lift tickets and season passes. https://www.getskitickets.com/, 970-233-7040, [email protected]. They also sell gift certificates (https://www.getskitickets.com/gift-certificates/)

Getting There

The Delta Gift Card is redeemable for any Delta Air Lines flight worldwide and for any Delta Vacations package that includes airfare, delivered to inbox or mailbox. No expiration date. With the purchase of $250 or more on Delta Gift Cards, get a $20 Starbucks eGift. https://www.delta.com/us/en/gift-cards/overview

Gift a getaway of a portion of it with Southwest Airlines gift card © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Gift a getaway or a portion of it with Southwest Airlines gift card. Personalize the gift card and send by e-card or by mail. No expiration date, fully transferrable. Only usable for passenger travel on Southwest (https://www.southwest.com/gift-card/).

Prefer riding the rails to boarding flights? Amtrak gift cards are available from $25 to $250 for booking a train journey anywhere in the US and select destinations in Canada. Redeem for travel online, in the app, by phone or in staffed stations; never expires. (May not be used for onboard purchases.)  https://www.amtrak.com/giftcards

Memberships Have Benefits

Gifting family memberships in a favorite museum, zoo, aquarium, preserve, historic site or attraction gives a sense of “ownership” and encourages multiple or multi-day visits as well as giving access to benefits – from special access to events and openings, discounts and promotions, magazines. Every visit is like traveling to some exotic place.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Use your gift-giving to support important institutions, encourage visits © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Support important institutions – with gift memberships or unique gifts – from the American Museum of Natural History (members enjoy free admission, special access and previews of new exhibitions, and discounts on purchases with member ID (get $20 off membership with code MEM22, www.amnh.org); the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chicago Museum of Art, any and every important museum, hall of fame, science center, attraction, zoo such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (www.wcs.org) or the Palm Beach Zoo (palmbeachzoo.org). Also check out the memberships and gift possibilities at PBS.org (thirteen.org, WLIW.org). Also consider gifting some of the really special programs available, like Zookeeper for a Day at Busch Gardens (www.buschgardens.com).

Also, Sierra Club (produces an excellent catalog of trips, sierraclub.org); Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (also check out the trail shop for gear like jerseys, trail guides and such, railstotrails.org), Parks & Trails NY (starts taking reservations for the annual Cycle the Erie eight-day, 400-mile supported biking/camping trip in January, pkny.org). Also Audubon Society; Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation; World Wildlife Federation. Among the benefits are marvelous magazines, as well as discounts, access to trips and events, gift items.

Smithsonian Institution, not only has an excellent store and catalog of expeditionary trips, (Smithsonianstore.com), but I treasure the Smithsonian Magazine, which also provides membership benefits, access to gifts; subscribe to the magazine and get gift subscriptions to share with someone else, smithsonianmag.com).

Not able to visit? Many of the great museums, iconic institutions and organizations offer some of the most interesting, innovative and creative items in their gift shops and you can support their mission by shopping online or through catalogs (check out holiday specials, discounts). It can be the way you bring home a NASA astronaut’s outfit from Kennedy Space Center but it’s way better to be there in person (www.kennedyspacecenter.com).

Travel Gear

A four-day/three-night trek to Machu Picchu is a great reason to buy all sorts of special gear, from headlamps to wicking wardrobe to power bank to extra batteries for cameras.

Also appreciated – the gear, special clothing (wick), camera stuff, that a trip (expedition, voyage, journey) entails, but the traveler may feel guilty about purchasing or simply tapped out.

There are clothes, jackets and specialized gear and equipment for every interest and style of travel imaginable: camping, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, fishing, outdoor stuff. Among our favorites (especially when you catch sales and closeouts): REI (top trending gifts, gifts by activity, by price, https://www.rei.com/h/gifts; www.rei.com/s/gifts-for-travelers, 800-426-4840) LL Bean, 888-610-2326, llbean.com; Sun & Ski, sunandski.com, 866-786-3869 (gift cards available, https://www.sunandski.com/p/DGC-0001/sun-ski-sports-gift-card; gift guide by price); Eastern Mountain Sports, 888-463-6367, ems.com; Tennis Express (gift guide online, TennisExpress.com), Bass Pro Shopswww.basspro.com; Patagonia (Patagonia.com); Paragon Sports (paragonsports.com) And of course, luggage – one great site Luggageonline.com (Save 15%, 888-958-4424).

Great stocking stuffer and you would be amazed at how important good socks are to a great travel experience ! My kids loved the Bombas socks I sent them one year – Merino wool all-season, everyday socks; hiking, skiing socks. Bombas socks, t-shirts, underwear, come with a promise to donate a pair for every pair purchased, and now, a specially designed donation clothing item for every Bombas clothing item purchased – so far 75 million items donated. (Get 20% off, https://bombas.com/). Also, Darn Tough which offers Made in America socks for just about every purpose – hiking, running, endurance, skiing, biking, hunting, work and lifestyle – that come with a lifetime guarantee and the benefits of Merino wool (no odor; when hot, it wicks away moisture, when cold, it keeps you warm) (www.darntough.com).

With limits on luggage, it’s great to have clothes that travel well and do multiple duty. This holiday, give her a custom-made piece, created just for her, from two photos. You can gift custom tailored ankle and straight leg pants, “the essential black dress” and the snap jacket from Red Thread (they come with a lifetime fit guarantee). Save 30% on  gift cards. 775-384-9681, [email protected].

So fun to have the shock-proof, waterproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera to snap this photo snorkeling in the Galapagos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

What trip doesn’t involve photos! Yes, everyone has their cell phones, but phones don’t do for safaris, kayaking, biking, wildlife, sports etc. (though there are lens kits for cell phones which would make great gifts). There are endless opportunities on a photographer’s wishlist, from compact point-and-shoot cameras (the shock-proof, waterproof Olympus Tough TG-6 Digital Camera, with 25-100mm zoom lens, macro feature is fabulous for active travelers), memory cards, to backpacks to lenses, lighting, etc. B&H consistently has best inventory, prices and holiday specials, efficient delivery, excellent customer service, delivery and return policies, www.bhphotovideo.com, 800-606-6969212-444-6615).

A subscription to a travel magazine like Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com) is also a great gift to inspire and inform. National Geographic, the premier magazine to inspire wanderlust, offers a gift subscription starting at $39, that includes 12 monthly issues, plus the Pictures of the Year issue, access to the digital archive going back to 1888 and ad-free mobile app. There is also a National Geo Kids edition. (https://ngmdomsubs.nationalgeographic.com/).

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Long Island Has New Destination Attraction: Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame Opens in Stony Brook

Guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra perform under a vintage poster from way back when, at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Your eyes open wide as you enter the new, permanent location of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, housed in a former Ward Melville Historical Organization building in historic Stony Brook Village, and realize the prominent musicians who grew up, got their start, built their careers on Long Island. That is, the whole of Long Island, from Queens and Brooklyn through Nassau and Suffolk.

While the Hall of Fame has been inducting honorees since 2004, this is its first permanent home, so is the first opportunity to really see the breadth and depth of the talent nurtured on the island. And it is so much fun to see the original posters, costumes, musical instruments, memorabilia from inductees including Twisted Sister, Zebra, Blue Oyster, Public Enemy, Vanilla Fudge, even Billy Joel’s actual motorcycle and Joan Jett’s 1983 Jaguar.

Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister, donated 12 costumes that hadn’t been seen in years, designed by Suzette Snyder © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jay Jay French, founding member and bassist of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister, manager and record producer, went so far as to declare, “Without Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, you got nothing.  The circuit never existed before, and will never exist again.”

Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister; Kevin O’Callahan, Hall of Fame creative director and board member;  and Ernie Canadeo, LIMEHoF chairman © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

That might be hyperbole, but he can be forgiven when you go up to the second floor, where there is the “Hall of Fame” with plaques and exhibits that recognize over 120 inductees, displayed across the walls the inductees year by year. In fact, you can easily imagine they will soon run out of wall space entirely when beginning next year, they also induct people from television and film. There are also cases chock full of memorabilia such as Perry Como’s Emmy (you have to really search – it’s like an attic).

An eclectic assemblage of memorabilia from Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Famers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are also areas for a library, classrooms for educational programs, and master classes, a surround sound theater, and a gift shop with music and entertainment-themed memorabilia.

Having an actual space means that the Hall of Fame also can present special exhibits.

Created by renowned designer Kevin o’Callaghan, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene – 1960s-1980s” is laid out to be like a club crawl, sparking those pangs of nostalgia for those places © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Its first exhibit now on display re-creates those cherished clubs. Created by renowned designer Kevin o’Callaghan, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene – 1960s-1980s” is laid out to be like a club crawl, sparking those pangs of nostalgia for those places. The exhibit features replicas of clubs – My Father’s Place, The Mad Hatter in Stony Brook, Oak Beach Inn, Malibu in Lido Beach, Speaks in Island Park and Pips Comedy Club in Brooklyn -with videos of artists performing, ads, posters, instruments. There is also a replica of a typical 1960s stage, complete with vintage equipment and sound system (donated by Zebra).

At the opening, guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra performed on that stage with the very sound equipment they used at clubs in the 1970s and donated to the museum (in order to better re-create the sound), and below a poster which showed their 1970s selves. Surreal time warp.

Blue Öyster Cult perform at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also performing, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry Chapin.

The newest honoree in the Hall of Fame, Wayne Robins, had to wait two years (because of COVID) to officially be inducted. At the official opening, Robins, who for more than 50 years has been a leading music and pop culture journalist, waxed nostalgic as he recalled being at Shea stadium for the Beatles Concert, Diana Ross sitting in his lap at her concert at Westbury Music Fair, using fake ID to get into music venues before he was 18. He began his career in 1972 at CBS Records, then writing for Rolling Stone, the New Musical Express, Melody Maker, the Village Voice and Creem Magazine before joining Newsday in 1975 as its pop music writer, where he worked for the next 20 years.

The 2020 inductee to the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame is Wayne Robins, a longtime music and culture journalist, who was presented with his award by Norm Prusslin and Chairman Ernie Canadeo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Throughout, there are compelling visual elements and artifacts on display. Among the inducted artists who have donated memorabilia, are Billy Joel, Joan Jett, Debbie Gibson, Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, and the families and estates of Harry Chapin, Guy Lombardo, John Coltraine. Donations include various musical instruments, performance outfits, vintage automobiles and motorcycles, rare posters and photos, and handwritten lyrics.

Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry Chapin, performs at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister, donated 12 costumes that hadn’t been seen in years, designed by Suzette Snyder. Suzette was 15 years old when she first met Dee, having borrowed her cousin’s ID to sneak into a show. She designed an outfit – pink with fringes – and created the ‘Twisted Sisters look’.”

Suzette was 15 years old when she first met Dee Snider. She designed an outfit – pink with fringes – and created the “Twisted Sisters look” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The opening night event included performances by guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin.

Rich L’Hommedieu, one of the co-founders of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rich L’Hommedieu, one of the co-founders, said, “The music industry started on Long Island – song sheet sellers came from Manhattan, Jazz musicians who couldn’t afford Manhattan had homes in Queens. Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong. Then there were the street corner doo wop groups, the hip hop. Garages in suburbia incubated rock bands.

It’s mind-bending to realize how many music groups and musicians have ties to Long Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In fact, every musical genre is represented among the122  honorees (so far) – there’s Aaron Copland, Brooklyn (2008), Barbra Streisand, Brooklyn (2008), Beverly Sills, Brooklyn (2008), Eddie Palmieri, Queens (2010, George Gershwin, Brooklyn (2006), George M. Cohan, Kings Point (2006), Carole King, Brooklyn (2008), Ervin Drake, Great Neck (2012), Cyndi Lauper, Brooklyn/Queens, (2006), Guy Lombardo, Freeport (2008), Marvin Hamlisch, Westhampton Beach (2008), Morton Gould, Queens/Great Neck (2010, Oscar Brand, Brooklyn/Great Neck (2010), Perry Como, Port Washington (2006), Simon & Garfunkel, Queens (2008), Steve Martin, Long island (2010), Tony Bennett, Queens (2006), Vince Giordano, Brooklyn/Hauppauge (2016), William “Count” Basie, Queens (2008), and Cousin Brucie Morrow, Brooklyn (2018), Arlo Guthrie, Coney Island (2008), LL Cool J, Bayshore (2008) (The full list is mind-blowing.)

It’s mind-bending to realize how many music groups and musicians have ties to Long Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the groups with roots on Long Island: Gary U.S. Bonds; the Lovin’ Spponful; Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge; Public Enemy; Salt-N-Pepa; The Ramones; The Shangri-las; The Tokens; Twisted Sister, Vanilla Fudge, Zebra, Blue Oyster Cult, little Anthony and the Imperials

Also among the honorees: My Father’s Place, Dream Theater, WALK 97-5 FM, Westbury Music Fair, Jones Beach theater, Stony Brook University, CSS Security Service.

The idea for the Hall of Fame originated with co-founders Jim Faith, Rich L’Hommedieu and Norm Prusslin, who met at Stony Brook University in the fall of 2003 and by January 2004, launched the nonprofit without any government assistance at all, but with lots of volunteer help.

It was created as a place of community that inspires and explores Long Island music in all its forms. In addition to the Hall of Fame, the organization also offers education programs and scholarships to Long Island students, sponsors the Long Island Sound Award, and features traveling educational exhibits, including a state-of-the-art mobile museum.

Billy Joel’s motorcycle is on view at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In 2014, when the Billy Joel Band was inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, Billy Joel said this in a statement: “After The Stranger was released, people began to recognize that the ‘Long Island Sound’ wasn’t just a body of water.” Indeed, it isn’t. Over the years, Long Island has produced some of the most talented and accomplished musicians and has become a respected music scene.

But, according to the museum’s history, it didn’t start off that way.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Long Island music landscape was rather barren and more of a stepchild to that of New York City, which had become a focal point of the music industry, with recording sudios and iconic music venues such as Max’s Kansas City, Fillmore East, and Electric Circus. Beside some local bars, schools and Westbury Music Fair (which had sporadic star performances, such as Judy Barland in 1967, The Who in 1968 and Bruce Springsteen in 1975), there were few live venues on Long Island.

Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden” at the opening of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

According to Norm Prusslin, music historian and a founding member of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, in the late 1960s Stony Brook University, emerged as an important venue to bring music to Long Island.

FM radio stations began popping up on Long Island, giving national recording artists Long Island airplay, and college radio stations began to showcase Long Island’s burgeoning musicians.

 “Long Island college radio stations were important in bringing to the airwaves local musicians of all genres, and that certainly contributed to Long Island artists getting heard and getting spoken about,” Prusslin stated.

Joan Jett’s jaguar is on view at the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame and Museum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the same time,  Long Island-based publications, such as Good Times magazine, began pioneering local music coverage and talking up Long Island artists. And venues, such as My Father’s Place in Roslyn, brought in a lot of local bands who didn’t have the opportunity for commercial exposure before.

By the early 1980s, some of the commercial radio stations, particularly WLIR and WBAB, began to follow Long Island college radio’s lead, focusing on Long Island artists.

An eclectic assemblage of memorabilia from Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Famers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By the early 2000s, Long Island had become a hotbed for upcoming musicians as well as a sophisticated music scene. It now had its own music festivals, such as the Great South Bay Music Festival (established in 2006) and the Long Island Bluegrass Festival (which premiered in 2002), as well as the establishment of music-specific societies and organizations such as the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Traditional Music Society.

Co-founder Norm Prusslin reflects on how the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame came to be © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In August 2003, Prusslin had been reading an editorial in a local music magazine written by Richard L’Hommedieu—who would go on to become the founding chairman of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame—about the new Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which had opened in 1996. L’Hommedieu wrote that it would be great if Long Island had its own music hall of fame.

In January 2004, this enterprising group of founding members including Prusslin, L’Hommedieu, and other music educators, held an event at the Patchogue Theater announcing the creation of “a nonprofit organization that would recognize, honor, and preserve Long Island’s longstanding and diverse music heritage—a heritage that fought its way out of the shadow of New York City and would go on to inspire generations of music lovers.”

The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame was born.

“This is your home, your place, personal space, when can come and remember where great music came from on Long Island,” Jay Jay French said. “It’s your legacy.”

LIMEHoF is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 pm. Tickets are $19.50/adult, $17/seniors (65+)/Veterans; $15/students with id, 12 and under free.

Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, 97 Main Street, Stony Brook Village, https://www.limusichalloffame.org/.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

All that Glitters, Shimmers and Glows this Holiday Season

Amaze Light Festival is the newest holiday attraction in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Traveling this holiday season? There are so many special activities and attractions to enjoy. Here are some of our favorites:

Shimmering Solstice at Old Westbury Gardens

Shimmering Solstice at Old Westbury Gardens, a Long Island landmark, returns for its second year.  You are enchanted by a series of magical light displays as you walk along the beautiful meandering paths through Old Westbury Gardens’ Walled Garden, Rose Garden, South Lawn, and Allée.

The enchantment of Shimmering Solstice returns to Old Westbury Gardens to enchant this holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This walk-through light show is uniquely designed specifically for Old Westbury Gardens, a beautiful Long Island landmark” said Nancy Costopulos, President and CEO of Old Westbury Gardens.

This year, even more beautiful visuals have been added including a re-designed interactive area featuring three new exhibits that will engage adults and children alike; seasonal music throughout the expanded illuminated event path, a new illuminated water feature on the West Pond, and the Garden of Appreciation will be turned into a lively warming area with a concession stand for seasonal snacks and
drinks.

The enchantment of Shimmering Solstice returns to Old Westbury Gardens to enchant this holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Shimmering Solstice is a completely custom-built show by Lightswitch, a collective of internationally recognized lighting, media, and visual designers that has been uniquely designed to highlight the features of Old Westbury Gardens. The goal was to turn the gardens into a visitor location that can be enjoyed during the fall and winter holiday season and that would remain consistent with the mission of Old Westbury Gardens.

The magical Shimmering Solstice returns to Old Westbury Gardens to enchant this holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Shimmering Solstice was designed to be a celebration of our space,” said Maura Brush, Director of Horticulture at Old Westbury Gardens. “The features that define Old Westbury Gardens such as the formal allées, ponds, and statuary are all illuminated so visitors can view them in a completely different light.”

This walk-through show is a family friendly experience people of all ages can enjoy and is designed to explore at your own pace. For the exciting finale, you are again be dazzled to see the south facade of Westbury House come alive with magical lights and seasonal sounds—this year with an exciting twist!

See the finale of Old Westbury Gardens’ Shimmering Solstice, projected on the historic mansion, Westbury House © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets are $34.95/adults, $19.95/kids 2-13, $26.95/Senior Sundays (65+), $80/Anytime, Any Day.

The show runs on select dates through January 1, 2023. The admission time starts at 5:30 p.m. Check website for available dates and times.

Old Westbury Gardens, 71 Old Westbury Rd., Old Westbury, NY 11568, https://shimmeringsolstice.com/.

Amaze Light Festival, NYC’s Newest Holiday Attraction, Dazzles at Citifield

A million lights fashioned into fanciful characters and iconic symbols of the holiday season – so big you can walk or climb through, sit inside a train locomotive, a gigantic teddy bear, a Christmas tree, Santa’s hat, a giant Frosty the Snowman. Teams of reindeer. A Castle of lights.  This is the Amaze Light Festival – a new immersive, interactive holiday attraction for New York City, taking up a sprawling 50,000 square feet of outdoor space at Queens’ Citifield where this is plenty of space to run around in the winter night air (bundle up).

Amaze Light Festival, New York City’s newest holiday attraction, offers umptium opportunities for photos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Amaze Light Festival is produced by Artistic Holiday Designs, a holiday decoration design firm known for designing interactive experiences, in partnership with Leblanc Illuminations. Debuting  last year at Rosemont in Chicago, Amaze Light Festival has expanded this year to two new sites, running simultaneously in New York City’s iconic Citi Field and Chicagoland’s Odyssey Fun World in Tinley Park, Wednesdays through Sundays through January 8.

Amaze Light Festival, designed as an ‘immersive” storybook experience, takes you on an “illuminous holiday adventure” inspired by storybook characters Zing and Sparky through five thematic displays, each one offering dazzling photo opportunities.

Ride the Arctic Express Train at Amaze Light Festival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are also a couple of optional rides available: a cute Arctic Express Train ride through a light display headlined by a giant Frosty the Snowman ($10 pp) that takes about four minutes, and a tubing experience down Zing’s Thrill Hill ($5/per ride or $10 for 3 rides) that lasts about 10 seconds.

There are also live performances every two-hours and a light show every 30-minutes.  Throughout, classic holiday music plays, weaving together the experience.

Storybook characters Zing and Sparky make live appearances at the Amaze Light Festival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

German-styled cottages housing goodies and featuring local small business offering special gifts fill the Amaze Market, a version of a Christmas market. You can also find an array of sweet and savory dishes and festive beverages including: baked goods, hot cocoa, savory plates, sweet dishes, and crafted cocktails, plus various items from food trucks.

Additional highlights include the candy-fueled Sparky’s Sweet Spot, an enclosed candy emporium, and Zing’s Toyporium, selling a selection of educational-style toys, where you also find Zing’s Buddy Builder, a toy machine which provides the opportunity to donate to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, Hurricane Ian Relief (American Red Cross) or Toys for Tots (simply press a button and watching the magic happen). Participants can choose the charity and Amaze Light Festival will donate $1 for each participant. 

With one million lights, Amaze Light Festival boasts being the nation’s largest holiday light show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Amaze Light Festival is open Wednesdays through Sundays, 4-10 p.m (you choose your time slot, but VIPs can stay as long as they like), with the last ticket sold at 9 p.m. In Chicago, ticket prices start at $30 for children and $36 for adults while in the New York City location, adult ticket prices start at $44 and $36 for children.

A castle made of lights at the Amaze Light Festival © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is the option of a VIP upgrade ($50 more) that provides reserved seating during the live performances and light shows; exclusive access to mingle with the Masters of Light, Zing and Sparky; enjoy complimentary holiday themed food items (it was Greek souvlaki from a truck when I visited), in a heated indoor lounge where you can purchase hot chocolate ($5 and $6) and premium craft cocktails.

An Amaze App provides pre-arrival information including festival maps, venue details, food and beverage menus and Frequently Asked Questions. Customers are able to purchase festival tickets and buy add-ons in real time, such as to Zing’s Thrill Hill and the Arctic Express Train Ride and use the Amaze Pay mobile wallet, a completely contactless method of payment. 

The Amaze Light Festival illuminations are large enough, sturdy enough to climb on, walk through, and sit in © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

If you drive, there is parking at the Southfield lot and Stadium View lot, which costs $30 per car (credit or debit card only, no cash accepted); or you can take the 7 train or the Long Island Railroad to Mets-Willetts Point.

Amaze Light Festival runs through January 8, 2023. Tickets for Chicago are available at amazelightfestival.com/chicago-tickets/and tickets for New York City are available for purchase at amazelightfestival.com/newyork-tickets/. There are limited tickets for peak time slots and guests are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance for this limited season run. Additional information for New York City can be found in the NYC FAQ and for more information on Chicago see the FAQs

Polar Express at B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore

An enchanted meeting with the conductor on the Polar Express at the B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore (Dave E. Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com)

Our kids, 5 and 8, were so excited about the prospect of riding the Polar Express at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, they purchased special pajamas for the trip. This wasn’t just a hop on a train through some holiday scenery. We were amazed by how closely to the story/movie (really recommended to see the Tom Hanks movie before you go), the event tracks – down to the golden ticket (exactly like the movie), the conductor, the flush of steam and blow of the train whistle of the vintage train, where you meet the Hero Boy and the Conductor from the classic tale.

The event starts with a DJ and dance party (reminiscent of the scene in the movie with the kids dancing as the boy gets on).  Then you get on an actual train (not vintage)- its windows frosted just like in the story – for a 45 minute train ride. Chefs dance to the “Hot chocolate” song, delivering the sweet beverage and a sugar cookie.  At the end, the kids come into the North Pole – the historic Roundhouse (just like in the movie), decorated for Christmas, with a 35-foot tree, and get to meet Santa.

Then there are activities (spend as long as you like) – making tree ornaments, and holiday crafts, see model train layouts and enjoy the museum exhibits. All the participants receive the “first gift of Christmas” – an actual sleigh bell (just like in the movie). With such high expectations, I was worried the event would fall flat, but the kids came home more excited than they left. (Purchase timed tickets in advance at https://www.borail.org/events/polar-express-4/)

(B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21223, 410-752-2490, www.BORail.org

Zoo Lights Returns to the Maryland Zoo

Zoo Lights returns to the Maryland Zoo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Zoo Lights has returned to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore through January 1, with seasonal lights, including displays shaped like the Zoo’s animals and a full roster of special events like BRRR Fest (which includes unlimited beer and wine sampling), food truck rallies, ice sculptures, holiday choruses, crafts, Santa Saturdays, and Hanukkah readings provided by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. 

Ride the carousel at the Maryland Zoo during the Zoo Lights holiday happening © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Free rides on the popular carousel and train are included in the admission price. Proceeds directly benefit the Zoo’s animal care and conservation programs. All event information, including times, entry prices, and the event schedule is available at: Marylandzoo.org/events (1876 Mansion House Drive, Baltimore MD 21217, www.marylandzoo.org ).

Ride Vintage Train, Trolley Car in a Hidden Valley in Pennsylvania

The East Broad Top Railroad, a small narrow-gauge railroad, and the adjacent Rockhill Trolley Museum in Rockhill Furnace (Orbisonia), PA are celebrating the holidays in true retro style with a one-ticket/two-ride event themed “Christmas in Coal Country” through December. Enjoy a one-hour train ride aboard a selection of heated cars. The train departs from the historic Orbisonia Station and travels north, where you encounter Santa who gives every child a special gift. Trains leave at 5p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Each “Christmas in Coal Country” ticket includes a ride on a vintage trolley car through the Blacklog Narrows, decked out in holiday lights. Trolley rides depart frequently throughout the evening and can be enjoyed before or after your train ride. Tickets also include writing letters to Santa. Every passenger enjoys a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie and each child takes home a gift. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children. If you want to ride in the caboose, the cost is $30 for adults and $25 for children. For more information visit www.eastbroadtop.com

Newport Mansions Add More Sparkle to Holidays

Sparkling Lights at The Breakers (photo by Dave Hansen for the Preservation Society of Newport County)

Holidays at the Newport Mansions, in Newport, Rhode Island, returns to The Breakers, Marble House and The Elms, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.daily, through January 1. Beautiful seasonal decorations, including themed Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands and fresh floral arrangements, add a festive holiday décor to these spectacular Gilded Age houses.  

Once again, the 15-foot-tall poinsettia tree in the Great Hall of The Breakers – made up of 150 individual poinsettia plants – provides a wonderful holiday photo opportunity. New this year, the Music Room of The Breakers – prominently showcased in Season 1 of Julian Fellowes’ “The Gilded Age” series on HBO – will feature a vignette of mannequins dressed in elegant Gilded Age fashions.

New at this year’s “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers” visitors can stroll in a complete loop around the property, enjoying a half-mile-long path glittering with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights while music fills the air. Highlights include a dazzling 50-foot-long tunnel of light and illuminated snowmen and reindeer. Guests will also want to stop by the Van“deer”bilt selfie station, or pause to watch the tree of lights change colors above the illuminated façade of the mansion. Also new this year, five fire pits light the way and help visitors stay warm. The back terrace has warming stations and adult beverages. holiday sweets and treats including s’mores kits to cook over the fire pit, are available to purchase. The Breakers Welcome Center also has snacks and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase.

Now in its third year, “Sparkling Lights at The Breakers is open Thursdays through Sundays, 4:30-6:30 p.m. through December 23, and every evening from December 26-January 1, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Tickets are for a specific date and time and include admission to the interior tour of The Breakers.

Visit www.newportmansions.org/events/holidays-at-the-newport-mansions to learn more.

Zoo Lights at Palm Beach Zoo

Zoo Lights at the Palm Beach Zoo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Zoo Lights presented by Florida Power & Light Company’s FPL SolarNow™ is illuminating Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society for the holidays on select nights through January 1, 2023 for the fourth year. New this year and to add a little extra icing to the night, “snow” will fall periodically in the Fountain Plaza. Each evening of Zoo Lights features a WILD holiday celebration including photos with Santa, decadent treats, snowfall, a DJ dance party and plenty of holiday charm. The Zoo’s Winter Wonderland Pavilion will include a special holiday visual experience, not to be missed. Zoo Lights attendees can select from two specific times for entry; 6:00 PM and 6:45 PM. Tickets are limited each evening to allow for plenty of room to move about the Zoo.

Visit www.palmbeachzoo.org/zoolights to purchase your tickets in advance.

The Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride

The Grand Canyon Railway turns into the Polar Express for the holiday season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel’s perennially popular Polar Express onboard holiday experience brings the pages of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book to life, with chefs offering hot chocolate and cookies, and, of course, Santa Claus himself. Now in its 22nd season, The Polar Express runs on select dates through December 30, departing the Railway’s historic depot in Williams, Arizona, to the North Pole, leaving at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The train rides and visits with Santa at the North Pole last 90 minutes.  Tickets are available Sunday through Thursday for $57 (adults) and $38 (children); Friday and Saturday for $69 (adults) and $52 (children); and The Christmas Eve Limited for $95 (adults) and $64 (children). The Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel also offers the POLAR EXPRESS™ Package, which features overnight accommodations and POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride tickets for guests. Included in this package is the POLAR EXPRESS™ train excursion, a one-night stay at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, and breakfast and dinner at the Fred Harvey Restaurant. 

Book online at www.thetrain.com/polarexpress or call 1-888-848-3511. 

Holiday Happenings in the Wilmington/Brandywine

Yuletide at Winterthur: Through January 8, Henry du Pont’s mansion is transformed into a magical holiday spectacle, with food, music, exhibits, a gingerbread house, holiday programs and activities, and a Christmas tree display featuring decorations inspired by past First Ladies.  Reservations are recommended for the Yuletide exhibits, and it’s your last chance to see Jacqueline Kennedy and Henry Francis du Pont: From Winterthur to the White House before it closes on January 8.

Holidays at Hagley Step back in time to 1803 as you visit the du Pont ancestral home Eleutherian Mills decorated in vintage holiday charm. There is also an “All Creatures Great and Small” exhibit celebrating stories of pets, wildlife, and other animals which made their habitat at Hagley over the last 200 years, both in the historic home and outdoors. “Holidays at Hagley: All Creatures Great and Small” features Holiday Home and Garden Tours, the fifth-annual Gingerbread House Competition, Santa Days, evening Twilight Tours, and more. 

Choral singers in the Conservatory during “A Longwood Christmas” at Longwood Gardens in the Brandywine © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A Longwood Christmas: Through January 8, stroll past poinsettias, pinecones, snowflakes as you tour the special holiday gardens. As the sun sets, you see thousands of dazzling lights strung across miles of trees; warm up in the four-acre Conservatory with holiday sing-alongs sung to a 10,010 pipe Aeolian organ – the largest organ ever constructed in a residential setting. You can also grab a hot chocolate and cozy up to one of the many fire pits.

Brandywine Christmas at Brandywine Museum of ArtRenowned for its collection from three generations of Wyeth family artists, during the holiday season the museum is famous for showcasing the region’s most impressive model train display, this year, celebrating its 50th anniversary. Throughout the season they display festive trees and have crafts, live musical performances, and imaginative “Critter” ornaments made by local volunteers. 

Holiday Light Express: In Wilmington, throughout the month of December you can take a 45-minute ride in 100-year old (heated) coaches and experience thousands of holiday lights of decorated homes along the route.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Candlelight Theatre’s performance of White Christmas.  Filled with laughter, romance, spectacular dance numbers and the unforgettable songs of Irving Berlin.

More information and planning tools from Visit Wilmington, www.visitwilmingtonde.com, 800-489-6664.

Washington, DC is that Shining Holiday Beacon on a Hill

Washington DC offers many delightful ways to enjoy the winter holidays in ournation’s capital, like ice skating in the shadow of the National Archives © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Destination DC (Washington.org) offers up a score of holiday happenings including the 100th annual National Christmas Tree. Highlights include:

Dazzling Light Displays

  • Season’s Greenings” returns to the U.S. Botanic Garden. Model trains run each day in the gated outdoor gardens and the Conservatory features poinsettias, holiday decor, and D.C. landmarks made from plants (through Jan. 2, 2023).
  • Explore the world’s largest light maze, Enchant at Nationals Park through Jan. 1, plus ice skating, holiday beverages, a holiday market and a chance to meet Santa Claus.
  • Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform the National Zoo into a winter wonderland with ZooLights, through Friday, December 30, 5-9 pm
  • SPECTACULAR FACTORY at Artechouse invites visitors inside an enchanting and experiential multiverse world filled with candy canes, nutcrackers, and more.
  • Georgetown Park transforms to a holiday wonderland with multicolored lights, holiday décor and photo perfect visuals.
  • Capitol Hill lights up Sunny, its prized tree, on Nov. 26 at Eastern Market Metro Park.
  • The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, chosen from Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, glows nightly on the West Front Lawn through New Year’s Day.
  • Celebrate 100 years of American tradition with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree (on CBS on Dec. 11).
  • CityCenterDC’s  75-foot tree is decked with over 155,000 lights
  • The National Menorah is lit on the Ellipse on Dec. 18 through Hanukkah.

Holiday Events and Performances

  • Experience Charles Dickens’ beloved Yuletide story of transformation and redemption, “A Christmas Carol,” at Ford’s Theatre, through Dec. 31.
  • The Washington Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” through Dec. 30.
  • Bells of Bethlehem at Museum of the Bible showcases six bells from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the first time any of the bells is on display in the United States.

Winter activities include ice skating at Washington Harbour Ice Rink and in the shadow of the National Gallery of Art (through March 5, 2023).

More information and planning help at Destination DC,  washington.org/winter.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Machu Picchu, Galapagos are Models for Responsible, Sustainable Tourism Essential for Preservation of Heritage, Environment

Getting to know you: Alpaca Expeditions’ “Green Machine” and trekkers on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Machu Picchu, Peru’s jewel, along with the Galapagos, Ecuador’s treasure, are both national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites. And both are models for the risks of overtourism and the rewards of responsible tourism.

Without tourism, Ecuador would not have the funds to protect the animals or the habitat of the Galapagos.

The Galapagos, Ecuador’s treasure, is a model of responsible, sustainable tourism. Without tourists, the government would not have the money to preserve, conserve and protect the animals, plant life or habitat, but without limits and regulations, the area would be destroyed  © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Without tourism to Machu Picchu, there would not be a Machu Picchu to visit, nor any of the other Incan sites along the Inca Trail, resurrected from 400 years of overgrowth. Without tourism, these porters who come from mountain villages would not have the income to supplement subsistence farming to provide a better life for their family. That was clear during the COVID pandemic lockdown.

Both Galapagos and Machu Picchu limit the numbers of visitors, require visitors to visit with a licensed tour company and be guided (otherwise they muck up the place) and, similarly, put constraints on the tour companies, as well as development. In the Galapagos, ships are limited to 100 passengers; in Machu Picchu, trekking companies are limited to groups with a maximum of 16 trekkers, two guides and 22 porters, with each porter carrying a maximum of 25 kilos.

Without tourists and trekkers coming to Machu Picchu, the Peruvian government would not have the incentive to reclaim the Incan sites from their 400-year overgrowth, and would not have the resources to preserve and conserve them. Tourism also creates new job opportunities for locals and the means to improve the quality of life © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The reality of the benefits of tourism is harshly apparent when it is taken away – as during the COVID pandemic lockdowns, or conflict, or natural disaster –  when so many lose their livelihoods and agencies and organizations lose the capital to maintain and preserve the historic, heritage and natural sites.

Tourism goes even further than that.  I believe tourism the greatest force for peace, understanding , cooperation and progress that humanity has ever devised. Tourism has provided the funding – and the demand – to unearth these Incan sites, and in the process, sparked a renewed desire for Peruvians to appreciate their heritage.

Tourism has not only provided new career paths for people like our Alpaca Expeditions guide, Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman who explains how the Inca did not have written language but used a system of string and knots, called quipu, but enabled locals to re-discover and appreciate their own heritage © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But yes, tourism has to be kept in balance, to avoid exploitation and the negative impacts overtourism can have. That is what Sustainable, Responsible Tourism is about.

Many travelers these days have Responsible Travel in mind when they choose destinations, experiences and travel companies – down to the airlines, cruiselines, hotels and tour operators. Indeed, Alpaca Expeditions highlights its Sustainability bona fides at its website (alpacaexpeditions.com).

And on this four-day, three-day Inca Trail trek, I could really assess how well  Alpaca Expeditions’ fulfilled its lofty promise of being a “sustainable and responsible” tour company, with a “unique service philosophy dedicated to our porter welfare equally to our client services, fair and kind travel, equal employer with a focus on women’s rights in tourism.”

In fact, all of these promises were confirmed during our visit. Alpaca Expeditions can stand as a model of the importance of responsible, sustainable tourism – both in preserving Machu Picchu and the historic sites along the Inca Trail and as a model for other travel enterprises. You can see it in the comparative prosperity of Cuzco, once the capital of the Incan Empire and the epicenter of the Incan world.

Introducing ourselves to each other – the trekkers and Alpaca Expeditions “Green Machine” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So, on the third day of the four-day Inca Trail trek – in the morning before we head out and again this evening – our Alpaca Expeditions guide, Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman, creates opportunities for us to get to know who our porters, chefs and staff are who are making this experience possible, and they to know us. This is what Responsible Tourism is all about – a connection, appreciation and an opportunity to improve the lives of the local community, and, similarly, an appreciation for the guests whose tourism dollars provide them a better quality of life as well as the funds to preserve and protect their heritage.

Alpaca Expeditions is proud of its efforts to hire women for its staff © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The porters, chefs and guides – 22 of them to 15 of us (there is actually one fellow who is the “sanitation engineer” charged with maintaining the private portable potty; two of the porters are brothers, aged 62 and 68, and one is a woman, which is still unusual) – come mostly from the same mountain village and leave their families for weeks on end in order to do these treks, but at least they have the camaraderie of their friends.

Lizandro’s own story is illustrative. On our first day of the four-day Inca Trail trek, as we walk through one of the mountain villages, he tells us that village was where he grew up – his family is among 96 who still live there. He used to lead a pack horse on the trail since he was 4.

Lizandro tells us he grew up in the mountain village we trek through on the Inca Trail, and at the age of 4, would lead a pack horse on the trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“In my community there was no school. My parents sent me for education –I stayed with an uncle for three years until my parents couldn’t pay for school. I met a chef and became a porter at 18 years old, 15 years ago.“ He learned English from the trekkers .  His first word, he tells us, was “baby spoon” when he was 18.

Lizandro tells us he grew up in the mountain village we trek through on the Inca Trail, and at the age of 4, would lead a pack horse on the trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Fifteen years ago, porters were exploited by companies – they hired fewer to make more profit,” Lizandro tells us. “Then, they carried 40-45 kilos; companies didn’t provide uniforms, equipment, back support, not even food. They had to carry their own blanket and did not have a tent. Salaries were 50 Soles for a four-day hike – not even $15.

“My first hike was so difficult, a porter made me take coca leaves. I got 50 Soles for a tip. 15 years ago in Peru, 50 Soles was a lot – 1 sole could buy 20 breads, now it only buys 2 breads.”

Alpaca Expeditions takes care to limit the weight that its porters carry to 25 kilos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, 15 years ago, the porters organized with the help of the Cuzco government, and got regulations to provide better conditions. Now the porters carry a maximum of 28 Kilos (the first 2 days are still heavier because they are carrying food supplies, and the packs are heavier when it rains, but lighten as we consume food) and guests are restricted to bringing 7 kilos including a sleeping bag in the duffel which is supplied.

Alpaca Expeditions takes care to limit the weight that its porters carry to 25 kilos © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“It’s difficult for porters (from mountain village) to be away from family for these periods of time, but typically they come from the same community so have friends. Some commute six hours by bus/train and then 2-3 hours walk back to home, so many prefer to do 5-6 groups and then go home for 5-6 days, do some farming and then come back to hike. Normally, they do 6-7 trips a month.”

When the COVID pandemic forced a lockdown and there were no tourists coming (one Japanese tourist actually had to stay in Peru a full year before he could go back to Japan, which was closed to the outside, and was the first visitor back to Machu Picchu), Lizandro had to go back to his village and do farming.

The government has yet to restore the full numbers of visitors to Machu Picchu after reopening from the pandemic – before, 7,000 were allowed per day; the number had just been increased to 5,000 from 4,000 (only 200 trekkers per day on the Inca Trail). “We thought it would take a couple of years but recovery has been quick,” he said.

Now, even though the porters are protected, some companies still make them carry heavier packs and do not provide hiking boots; some porters still hike in sandals instead of boots, Lizandro says.

Raul Ccolque who founded Alpaca Expeditions, grew up in a small town in the Sacred Valley and while he was studying tourism, worked as a porter (from 2000-2003) and later as a tour guide. Ccolque witnessed firsthand how companies exploited their porters – not only were they poorly paid, but they would also be badly bruised or injured due to carrying heavier loads than necessary, without proper hiking boots or uniforms, sleeping bags. They even had to supply their own food.

Raul set out to create a company that would remedy this inhumane situation.

Inca Trail porters have to travel far distances from their homes, so tend to do back-to-back treks. Alpaca Expeditions has built Porters House for them to have a place to stay © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Most of our porters live in a village outside of Cusco – typically 2 to 4 hours away. We cover all entrance fees (45 soles – $15 US per porter) and transportation to and from the trek for our porters, separate from their salary,” the website says. “They are paid directly after the trek, which prevents them from traveling back to Cusco before heading home. Unfortunately, this is an uncommon practice. They receive better wages, health insurance [not a given in Peru] and all of their equipment for free. This includes hiking boots, pants, jerseys, fleeces, jackets, hats, flashlights, sleeping bags, and amazing food to eat. We make sure they have a comfortable bed in a lovely room to sleep before (and after if needed) the trek instead of crashing on a floor like others.” Alpaca Expeditions built Porters House where they stay between trips.

Whenever the Alpaca Expeditions porters pass us (!!) on the Inca Trail with their heavy loads, we step aside and say “gracias.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“While the government allows each porter to carry up to 25kg, we keep our limit at 20kg. Each porter will carry up to 15kg from the company and 5kg of their own personal stuff. This is why it’s so important to keep your personal duffel within weight restrictions and not exceed our allowed 7kg. You will see other companies carrying more than the allotted weight, but we will not allow our porters to carry this burden. Every year Alpaca Expeditions provides new sleeping bags and sleeping pads for each porter. We provide them all the gear they need along the hike, our jackets, for example, are all lined and warm, and our boots are all waterproof. Our porters eat the same food as the guests; the chef cooks enough for all the trekkers and porters [that’s why our platters are so enormous and there are so many dishes made]. Of course, the porters are carrying the food supplies, so with each day, at least that load gets lighter.”

Alpaca Expeditions’ chefs make a huge amount of food because they are cooking for the 15 trekkers as well as the staff of 22 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Also, “In keeping with the Andean concept of ‘ayni’, or giving back to the community, Alpaca Expeditions has numerous social projects,” the company states. “Our pride and joy has been ‘adopting’ the highland villages where our porters’ families have lived for centuries as subsistence farmers. Several times a year we go to these villages to help supply their schools with books, computers and basic hygiene supplies. We have even provided the funds necessary to employ a teacher. We have also started a tree planting project that reintroduced 3,000 of the indigenous, but rapidly disappearing Queuña tree. Alpaca Expeditions is dedicated to improving our community and sharing these social projects.” The company is also working with a local clinic in Cusco to provide dental care and skin examinations for the children of each of its porters’ villages.

Our guide, Lizandro, tells us that most of the porters and their families have never actually seen Machu Picchu for themselves; Alpaca Expeditions offers them the opportunity © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lizandro tells us that most of the porters, even though they have done the trek umptium times, along with their families in the mountain villages, have never actually visited Machu Picchu themselves – the porters leave our group early on the last morning to make a 6 am train back to Ollantaytambo. But among the programs that Alpaca Expeditions offers is an opportunity for the porters to visit Machu Picchu with their families.

The company says it has bought land in Cusco to build dormitories, classrooms and teaching kitchens for its team. “We will have English classes, computer classes and cooking classes here for any member of our team and their family to use, free of charge. This is a huge project for us that we are really excited about.”

The Alpaca Expeditions ‘Green Machine” of porters makes it possible for us to do the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, a trip of a lifetime © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

People used to be able to do the Inca Trail trek on their own, doing their own camping. But they left such a mess, the government now requires every person going to Machu Picchu to obtain a permit and go with a licensed tour company. Still, Alpaca Expeditions has found the need to extend its “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” values beyond its own staff and guests. “Not only do we clean up after ourselves, but we even have campaigns where our staff cleans up the messes others have left behind. There is a key concept in the Andean cosmovision known as ‘ayni’. It means ‘reciprocity’ – that as you take, you must give back. We are dedicated to treating our beautiful Mother Earth, known as Pachamama in Peru, with respect and honor in exchange for all the abundance she gives to us.”

When it comes to my turn to introduce myself, I can’t help but reveal that I turned 71 this day, and this “trip of a lifetime” could only be possible because of them. (Later that evening, the chef presents me with the most magnificent, decorated birthday cake, which took three hours to prepare with the camping-style equipment he uses.)

Alpaca Expeditions Chef Mario shows us how to cook a popular Peruvian dish, lomas latudo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the evening gathering, the night before we will reach Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, Lizandro suggests that if there is anything that we would leave behind, that we donate it to the porters. Sarah and Eric compile a bunch of their stuff (the Inca Trail trek was the grand finale to six months of their travel odyssey) and bring it to the Alpaca Expeditions office the next day when we are back in Cuzco.

Alpaca Expeditions is clearly on the same page in appreciating the importance of responsible, sustainable tourism. But I would suggest there is still more to do, and perhaps Alpaca Expeditions, because it has become such a leader, could persuade the government to make some changes.

Alpaca Expeditions porters cheer us on as we head out for the day’s trek to the challenge of Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The trekking companies used to only hire uneducated men from the mountain villages – just as Lizandro was – whose opportunities were limited (considering how smart and articulate he is – basically learning English from the trekkers, one can only imagine all the opportunities he might have had if public education was available to him growing up). But not that long ago, the government made public education universal. And as a result, fewer are coming forward to be the porters because other opportunities are open to them. Now I wonder, whether a shortage of porters will inhibit the increase in tourism and trekking, which provides most of the dollars necessary to support the preservation and conservation, and the economic activity and jobs. In fact, all of us trekkers are not just appreciative of the porters, but feel somewhat guilty as we make way for them to pass us (!!) on the trail, thanking them as they go by.

So here’s an idea: the government, which already has campsites with public restrooms, and facilities for the Park Rangers, that they build storage sheds at the campsites so the operators can store the tents, tables and infrastructure for the season. In this way, they can reduce the loads that the porters have to carry. Then, more young people would probably sign up for the experience – if not a career – and in this way, the companies would have enough porters to support the number of trekkers, whose dollars fuel this virtuous cycle. That’s human ecology.

The permits to do the Inca Trail trek are limited to 500 a day for all the trekking companies (which includes 200 for trekkers and 300 for porters and staff) and get booked up months in advance.

More information: Alpaca Expeditions, USA Phone: (202)-550-8534, [email protected], [email protected], https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/

See also:

VISIT TO PERU’S SACRED VALLEY IS BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU

INCAN SITES OF PISAC, OLLANTAYTAMBO IN PERU’S SACRED VALLEY ARE PREVIEW TO MACHU PICCHU

ALPACA EXPEDITIONS’ INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU IS PERSONAL TEST OF MIND OVER MATTER

DAY 1 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: A TEST

DAY 2 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: DUAL CHALLENGES OF DEAD WOMAN´S PASS, RUNCURACCAY

DAY 3 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: TOWN IN THE CLOUDS, TERRACES OF THE SUN & FOREVER YOUNG

DAY 4 ON THE INCA TRAIL: SUN GATE TO MACHU PICCHU, THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Day 4 on the Inca Trail: Sun Gate to Machu Picchu, The Lost City Of The Incas

Machu Picchu, The Lost City of the Inca, reached on Day 4 of the Alpaca Expeditions 26-mile Inca Trail trek © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Eric Leiberman and Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are awakened at 3 am when the Alpaca Expeditions staff bring hot coffee to our tents. We have everything ready for leaving the Wiñaywayna campsite by 3:15 am (I had packed everything the night before and only kept out what I would be taking on the trail), and set out, our bagged breakfast in hand, wearing our headlamps in the dark for the surprisingly short distance walk to the check-in point for Machu Picchu where we wait until it opens at 5:30 am.

Our guide Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman wants us to get up so early to be first on line (he claims to have a 98% success rate) and also to get to the Sun Gate as the sun rises, and to Machu Picchu in time for the first rays to illuminate the scene. In fact, there is only a group of six ahead of us and something like 200 behind us, checking our passport against the list of permits granted for the day.

Somehow, I wind up leading our pack of 15 trekkers and I surprise myself at the pace I set for the one-hour hike on this mostly flat portion of the trail to the Sun Gate. I am in the lead until we get to what Lizandro calls the “Gringo killer”- 50 of the steepest steps – more like a rock climbing wall – where you need to use your hands to crawl up like cat.

Lizandro has prepared us for the fact that the sun only comes through the Sun Gate (Inti Punku) at sunrise on the solstice. But from here, we get our first view of Machu Picchu in the distance (it’s still an hour’s hike away).

One of the many nice aspects of our guides, Lizandro and Georgio, is that they have been patiently  taking individual and group photos of us with our phones and cameras at each of the key spots along the trail, and so we stop at the Sun Gate to take our turn posing for those shots. (Everyone wants to be at this small point for the sunrise, which is why Lizandro wanted us first.)

The first view of Machu Picchu from the famed Sun Gate on the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And then we continue (downhill!), from the Sun Gate at 8956 ft. elevation, an hour more to Machu Picchu, descending to 7,873 elevation over the course of three miles from the Wiñaywayna campsite. At the same time, the temperature which had been cold at the highest elevations, becomes warm, even balmy, so we are actually sweating (need sunscreen and hat!) at the site.

The first view of Machu Picchu from the famed Sun Gate on the Inca Trail as dawn breaks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This part of the Inca trail gives us views that show how Machu Picchu is positioned – we see the entirety of the Lost City (I can only imagine what it was like before it was excavated) and how it is etched amid the contours of the mountain peaks – which is how it was kept hidden from the Spanish when they invaded in 1538 and for 400 years.

The first view of Machu Picchu from the famed Sun Gate on the Inca Trail as dawn breaks © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Literally 10 seconds after I pass a scenic overlook, the sun pokes out. (These views and so much more, are why we take the Inca Trail trek.)

At about 7:40 am, we walk in what seems to be a back entrance into the city, where we are perched on high terraces and the views are the iconic ones of magazines and postcards (and I suspect are not available to the day-trippers who come in from the bottom entrance for the tour). How lucky we are because the sun breaks through, highlighting the structures, for exquisite scenes.

Only 40% of Machu Picchu has been excavated so far, which means that 60% is still underground and hidden from view © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We actually walk down and out of Machu Picchu site to wait for our ticketed time to re-enter (you can only stay 2 ½ hours and can only come in with a guide). While we wait, we have to use the bathroom before we reenter and check bigger backpacks and hiking poles.

We made it! Karen, Sarah and Eric at Machu Picchu at the end of the Alpaca Expeditions four-day, 26-mile Inca Trail trek (photo by Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman)

Our scheduled time to enter Machu Picchu to begin our 2 hour private guided tour with Lizandro is 8:30 am, who leads us on Circuit #4 (there are four different circuits to control crowds) to the highlights: the terraces, Sun Temple, Royal Mausoleum, Palace, Plaza, Sacred Rock.

Machu means “old, ancient, big). Picchu means peak , so Machu Picchu actually means “Ancient Mountain,” but that was not its indigenous name.

Lizandro tells us that it was built in the mid-1400s by Pachacuti, the 9th Incan king but its first emperor, who was the “Alexander the Great” of the Inca, the Empire Builder. Beginning in 1438, he and his son Tupac Yupanqui began a far-reaching expansion that brought much of the modern-day territory of Peru under the ruling Inca family control. He rebuilt Cuzco, built Pisac, Ollantaytambo  and Machu Picchu. He built Machu Picchu up in the mountains, instead of the valley, to be closer to sun, to connect the sky and the earth in one place, as well as for protection.  “Mountains were gods that protected the villages and the animals,” he relates. Almost all of the construction faces east to catch the sunrise – the Inca rulers claimed to be the children of Inti, the Sun God.

The archaeologist Hiram Bingham didn’t discover Machu Picchu (it was discovered in 1902 by Bolivian fortune hunters looking for Incan treasure), but came on an expedition in 1911 in search of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold of the Inca after the Spanish conquest. But Bingham is credited with bringing Machu Picchu to the attention of the world. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Over the next 100 years, the Empire ultimately expanded to what are today six South American countries, connected by 25,000 miles of roads, suspension bridges and trails, and controlling a population as many as 18 million.

The Sun Gate was built as a check point to enter Machu Picchu, but positioned so that on December 22, the summer solstice, the sun beam would come through gate; and on June 21, it comes through the other window.  

Only when you are actually at Machu Picchu can you begin to comprehend what an astonishing construction it is, why it is worthy of being called one of the Seven Wonders of the World and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Machu Picchu is built in two sections – an urban sector has some 200 units of which 172 were homes, and the rest were temples, and a sun dial.

There would have been 700-800 people living here full time – 60% were nobles, the rest were farmers and workers.

Only when you are actually at Machu Picchu can you begin to comprehend the scale of the construction, why it is worthy of being called one of the Seven Wonders of the World and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How did they build Machu Picchu without slaves, without animals to carry, without a wheel, iron tools, or written language? Consider that China’s Great Wall and the Egyptian pyramids were built with slave labor, draft animals, a wheel, iron tools and written language.

What they had was a culture and a labor system based on principles: Ani – reciprocity – one for all, all for one; Minka – community benefit – vulnerable – collectivity (how the Peruvians got through Covid despite a poor health care system); and Mita – paying taxes by work, labor (not cash) to benefit the whole.

Only when you are actually at Machu Picchu can you begin to comprehend what an astonishing construction it is, why it is worthy of being called one of the Seven Wonders of the World and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It took 50-60 years to build Machu Picchu for Pachacuti, the first Incan Emperor,  who ruled from 1432-1472, but it was never finished. I can’t help but wonder how many men were impressed to build this enormous complex of structures in that amount of time.

When the Spanish invaded in 1538, Machu Picchu was abandoned before it was finished and the Incan forces fell back to arm Vilcabamba, the Inca’s last stronghold. “They promised to come back but didn’t,” Lizandro says.

Our Alpaca Expeditions guide Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman relates the background to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Inca © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is mindboggling to contemplate that as complex a construction as what we see, the scale, and the fact that more than 60% is still unexcavated, under 400 years of overgrowth.

The archaeologist Hiram Bingham didn’t discover Machu Picchu (it was discovered in 1902 by Bolivian fortune hunters looking for Incan treasure), but came on an expedition in 1911 in search of Vilcabamba, the last stronghold of the Inca after the Spanish conquest.

“He set up tents at base, met a local to ask where Vilcabamba might be. The man didn’t know, but on July 24 1911, with machete in hand, Bingham had a big surprise: the sight of Machu Picchu took his breath away. Two families were living here, cultivating the terraces two years before Bingham arrived. They were running away from paying taxes to the government.” [Off the grid?]

Only 40% of Machu Picchu has been excavated so far, which means that 60% is still underground and hidden from view © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bingham returned for a second, then a third expedition. He uncovered eight Inca trails (the Inca destroyed many of the trails to prevent the Spanish from reaching Machu Picchu) and took away artifacts, he claimed, for two years. “More than 100 years later, Yale still has the artifacts and is requiring Peru to build a museum to hold artifacts near Machu Picchu. But Peru wants it by the river. In 2015, the United States sent 11 percent of the artifacts back – but not all were real, some were replicas that they returned. The Peru government wants all of it back.”

The photos Bingham published brought international attention to Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Inca” – and tourists. The first tourist following the Inca trail came in 1954 and this Incan Citadel has become the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. The site was named among the New Seven Wonders of the World and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

Machu Picchu, reached on Day 4 of the Alpaca Expeditions 26-mile Inca Trail trek © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We trekkers follow Circuit 4 (there are four circuits, to spread out the crowds): starting at the Main Gate (where we must present our passports and permit), to the Sun Temple, House of the Inka, the water foundation; Granitic Chaos; Sacred Plaza; Intiwatana Pyramid; Sacred Rock; Three Gates; Water Mirrors; and Condor Temple.

Our Alpaca Expeditions guide Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman points to the astonishing construction of Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We climb the steep stone steps and come to the Sun Temple. It was built as a royal tomb to contain the mummified remains of the king.  Lizandro points to how a temple would have the highest quality building stones and most precise placement and its architecture emphasizes the “harmony between people and nature. They always incorporate the natural bedrock. The windows are aligned for summer and winter solstice – a solar observatory. There are three steps – the Inca triology. The mummified body was placed in the tomb in fetal position.” There are no mummies left in the tomb, but there would have been mummies of the 12 Inca kings (others were buried). On the day of Ayamaki, the mummies would have been paraded from the mausoleum.

The Royal Tomb at Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lizandro notes that the word ‘jerky” – the dehydrated meat snack – comes from the indigenous Quechua word, “jakky charky” (related to mummification).

We come to the Royal Inca Palace, where we can see that instead of windows (too cold), there would have been shelves for idols. “Bingham got here in time to see some.”

Only when you are actually at Machu Picchu can you begin to comprehend what an astonishing construction it is © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How would they have set the weighty keystone in place? With ramps, aloe vera to make it slick, he says. The enormous stone building blocks, weighing tons, are trapezoid shape and set at a slight incline angle, for stability against earthquakes. Indeed, Peru suffered two big earthquakes – in 1650 and 1950 – when the colonial buildings collapsed, the great cathedral in Cuzco collapsed, but these structures remained (in fact, the 1950 earthquake in Cuzco unearthed Incan structures). We see under one massive block a roller-shaped stone – a precursor to the wheel.

You only appreciate the scale of Machu Picchu as you haul yourself up the high steep stone steps © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You only appreciate the scale of Machu Picchu as you haul yourself up the high steep stone steps. The straight lines and perfect angles, the precision, the sheer size and bulk of the stones, and how this entire city is nestled on a plateau amid these sheer mountain peaks.

You only appreciate the scale of Machu Picchu as you haul yourself up the high steep stone steps © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a large open area, like a field, which would have been used for festivals, activities, an amphitheater. And in the middle, is what would have been a sundial. In 1978, the then president invited the Spanish King and Queen to visit, and their helicopter landing in the field, broke the sundial. (I find it ironic that the Spanish were still destroying Incan heritage.)

In this small plaza, Lizandro points out a huge section of bedrock cut to mimic the shape of the mountain behind – mountains were considered sacred.

Our Alpaca Expeditions guide Lizandro Aranzabal Huaman points to the precision of the placement of the stone boulders for the temple at Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He explains a bit of the Incan society hierarchy – the Inca were the royal family and nobles – perhaps 20,000 who ruled over a population of dozens of different tribes totaling as many as 18 million across much of South America. Professionals could become nobles (rise to that privileged class) because of their expertise, skill and function. Teenagers could show a talent and go into a profession.

Can’t help but thinking of architect Antoni Gaudi’s style at Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We sit around for a bit of a rest, and Lizandro explains some of the contemporary politics. Apparently, in the 1990s, President Alberto Fujimori [a fixture in Peru’s politics from 1990 to 2003] wanted to privatize Machu Picchu – selling it off to Chilean investors, drawing an outcry of protests from the people. “The president did well his first five years – investing in industrial farming – but after he was reelected, he sold off or privatized without people knowing.” Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, wound up being investigated for corruption. He tried to flee to Japan and was captured enroute in Santiago with eight suitcases of cash. He was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.”

Lizandro says the Peruvian constitution (which I subsequently read has been rewritten and set aside multiple times since the country’s independence, while the government has undergone a series of coups back and forth from dictatorship to democracy, socialism to capitalism) favors foreign companies (they don’t pay tax). Because 50 percent of Peru’s population lives in Lima, he tells us, the people who live in rural areas, in the mountains, have little say.

The view of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Several of our group have obtained permits in advance to climb Huayna Picchu – that famous nub of a mountain, like an overlord, in the iconic Machu Picchu images – and Sarah has obtained one, while the rest of us continue touring Machu Picchu with Lizandro.

The steep stone trail to the top of Huayna Picchu © Sarah Falter/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sarah reports back that the 45-minute hike is extremely arduous – much harder than the Inca Trail hike – almost straight up to a tiny perch at the top, at 8,835 ft., 850 ft. higher than Machu Picchu, where everyone has to take turns for the photo, but you get a famous view of Machu Picchu. The trail was built by the Inca who also built temples and terraces at the top.  “I would definitely recommend it to fitter hikers looking for one last challenge. It’s not super long and being able to see the scale of Machu Picchu from above was really impressive.”

Sarah with other members of our Alpaca Expeditions trek celebrate reaching the Huayna Picchu summit.

We finally come back down to the entrance/exit to Machu Picchu and Lizandro hands us a ticket for the bus that takes us down an extremely winding road to the village of Aguas Calientes. We meet for a last lunch together in a local restaurant – kind of a celebratory meal ( optional and not included). Lizandro gives us our train ticket, departing Aguas Calientes 3:20 pm (you need to take seriously the notice to be on the platform at least 30 minutes ahead of time, which is when the train loads) to Ollantaytambo.

The train is wonderfully vintage, with roof-windows, and very comfortable for the two-hour trip (which for some reason takes us much longer). At Ollantaytambo, we are met by the Alpaca Expeditions bus for the two-hour drive back to Cuzco and drop off back at our hotel.

The train from Aguas Calientes is wonderfully vintage, with roof-windows, and very comfortable for the relaxing two-hour trip to Ollantaytambo © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Candidly, I had been so obsessed about getting passed Day 2, Machu Picchu was more of an end-goal of a quest than the prime attraction – being here means I had gotten over the Dead Woman’s Pass, completed the 26 miles, going as high as nearly 14,000 feet – much as it would have been for the pilgrims who undertook this journey of a lifetime. It is personal.

For me, it is not just a trip of a lifetime but a now or never proposition.

I am not the only one celebrating an important milestone. Indeed, this is the sort of bucket-list trip that warrants a milestone – Peter timed reaching Machu Picchu for his 35th birthday; a couple had just gotten engaged at the start of the hike; another 30-something couple (he’s Italian, she’s Dutch) is on their honeymoon .That’s how special this trek is, embodying physical, spiritual – just as it did for the Inca, a triumph of will and willpower. A test of character then as now.

Eric and Sarah relax on the train after our four-day trek and two-hour tour of Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You are at the same time amazed by the ability of these people to construct these sites at all, but then wonder at the level of control exerted, the role of religion in maintaining that control and how authoritarians throughout human history use religion (the divine right). No surprise: the Inca kings claimed to be the son of the Sun God, Inti. And yet, you can’t help but marvel at the accomplishment of that government capable of building the 25,000 miles of roads, in producing the amount of food to sustain the population, and unifying a population of 18 million into a society.

You appreciate the social structure that produced these extraordinary mountain villages in a society that did not have slaves nor currency, did not have the wheel or beasts of burden, did not have compass, ruler, alphabet or written language.

Most astonishing, these structures were built within 20, 40 or 60 years’ time – apparently, each chief would select a project to be completed within his own lifetime.

Photos do not do justice, you have to stand next to the rock walls, trace how the boulders link to perfectly together, see the curve at the edge, the inclined angle (for stability against earthquake) with such exquisite precision, hoist yourself up the steep stone steps, look beyond to the distance these boulders would have had to be transported from their quarry.

You stand perched on these terraced structures built into the side of a mountain and simply cannot fathom what it took to build.

All these thoughts come to me as I step, climb, step, climb the trail.

Our Alpaca Expeditions group, at Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At each site, Lizandro tells us more of the story of the Inca and the society they created – but unlike the sturdy bedrock that these sites were built on, the Inca’s hold on the people was really not that strong because it was not a bond. At a certain point, their hold was by force. “The Inca weren’t very nice people,” he says softly.

What was unexpected was to come away with an understanding of the limits of authoritarian control. Indeed, the Inca ruled for less than 400 years, but the empire existed only for a century before it was toppled, too weak and lacking support of the people, to withstand the Spanish invaders. There are lessons for day.  And as we learn, Peru is still going through these cycles of economic struggle, political ping-pong between dictatorship and democracy, socialism and capitalism, since becoming independent from Spain in 1821. The more things change, the more they stay the same, may well be the lasting lesson.

Alpaca Expeditions offers many ways to get to experience Machu Picchu – the trek is its own experience, and when you think about it, is very inexpensive (from $650); it’s not even that difficult or expensive an airfare to reach (at this stage, you fly through Lima or Quito to Cuzco, but a new international airport is being built closer to Cuzco). The tour company also offers many different programs – like the Sacred Valley excursions – to different areas.

The permits to do the Inca Trail trek are limited to 500 a day for all the trekking companies (which includes 200 for trekkers and 300 for porters and staff) and get booked up months in advance.

More information: Alpaca Expeditions, USA Phone: (202)-550-8534, [email protected], [email protected], https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/

See also:

VISIT TO PERU’S SACRED VALLEY IS BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU

INCAN SITES OF PISAC, OLLANTAYTAMBO IN PERU’S SACRED VALLEY ARE PREVIEW TO MACHU PICCHU

ALPACA EXPEDITIONS’ INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU IS PERSONAL TEST OF MIND OVER MATTER

DAY 1 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: A TEST

DAY 2 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: DUAL CHALLENGES OF DEAD WOMAN´S PASS,
RUNCURACCAY

DAY 3 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: TOWN IN THE CLOUDS, TERRACES OF THE SUN
& FOREVER YOUNG

DAY 4 ON THE INCA TRAIL: SUN GATE TO MACHU PICCHU, THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Day 3 on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Town in the Clouds, Terraces of the Sun & Forever Young

Wiñaywayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Eric Leiberman and Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

On our third morning on the Inca Trail, we are wakened at 5 am at our tents in the Chaquiccocha campsite to be packed up, have breakfast at 5:30 am and out by 6:30 am to begin what is generally considered the most relaxed day of the four-day trek, when our Alpaca Expeditions group will hike 6.2 miles mostly downhill, and visit two Incan sites, Phuyupatamarka (Town in the Clouds) and Intipata (Terraces of the Sun), before reaching the campsite, where, we are told, a special activity awaits.

I’m still on a high from surviving Day 2 and the dual challenges of Dead Woman’s Pass and Runkuracay Pass, so I feel I can handle anything (and not just on this trek).

It’s a foggy morning and before setting out, Lizandro organizes all of us in a great circle with the porters and staff and guests (Giorgio calls “family” and Lizandro calls “team” and both are true in the way we have bonded) so we meet each other. We learn that the porters all come from one mountain village, that two are brothers, 62 and 68 years old, that one of the porters is a woman (very unusual, but Alpaca Expeditions has made an effort to recruit women).

Getting to know you: Alpaca Expeditions porters and staff and trekkers introduce ourselves © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each of the trekkers introduce ourselves, as well, and I mention that today is my 71st birthday – mentioning it because I am pretty pleased with the achievement (and our guide, Giorgio, at one point guessed I was 55 – perhaps just being polite) – to emphasize that they have made this an experience of a lifetime possible for me.

Alpaca Expeditions’ “Green Machine” porters and staff who make our Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu – a trip of a lifetime for many – possible © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We hike for 2 hours along what they call “Inca flat” (gradual inclines) and begin to enter the jungle, known as the Cloud Forest. As we walk, we have the opportunity to see Salkantay, the second highest snow-capped mountain in the Sacred Valley, and get glimpses of a fantastic panoramic view of the Vilcabamba mountain range through mist and clouds.

One of the fun sections of the Inca Trail goes through a small cave © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Towards the end of the Inca flats, we begin to make our way up to the last peak and our third pass, Phuyupatamarka (Temple Above the Clouds) at 12,073 ft. from where we have great views overlooking the Urubamba River.  Down the valley, we get our first view of Machu Picchu Mountain, but the famous “Lost City” itself is still hidden from view.

From Phuyupatamarka it´s a 3-hour walk down a flight of steps to our last campsite and the grand finale for this day, exploring the Incan site of Wiñaywayna (Forever Young).

On the descent, we stop in a small cave, and just as the pilgrims did 600 years ago as they came closer to Machu Picchu, the religious center, Lizandro uses this site, the Temple Above the Clouds, to discuss religious beliefs and practices at the time of the Inca.

Exploring the Incan site of Phuyupatamarka © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This would have been one of the religious sites where pilgrims would be able to show their devotion and purify themselves before they reached Machu Picchu. It could have been a place of offerings, a ritual shower, of sacrifice (animals, Lizandro says, not humans, which he says would happen only rarely).

At the time of the Inca and thousands of years before, the many different tribes were polytheists, worshipping many gods mostly associated with Nature. They believed that nature, man and the Pachamama (Mother Earth), lived in harmony and perpetual interrelationship. The Inca state promoted the worship of a creator god (Wiracocha), sun god (Inti), Moon Goddess (Mamaquilla), thunder god (Illapa) and Earth Mother (Pachamama), and a host of other supernatural entities. But the ruling Inca established Inti, the sun god, as the most important (the first Incan king declared himself to be the son of Inti, to establish his divine power and authority).

Eric takes in the dramatic landscape along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lizandro points to a trinity that organizes the belief system: “The Inca thought three lives (past, present and future) ran parallel – one underneath (past), one above (future). They divided the world in three dimensions, three stages of life, which they depicted with animals – the condor (the heavens), the puma (the middle world of earth), and the snake (the underworld).

The snake represents knowledge, wisdom; because everything known is from past; the puma represents strength, energy; the condor connects this world to next world because it could touch heaven and carry heavy things, he says. “The Inca saw life as a circle, not a line, so life never ends. They believed life is reborn and when they were buried, they were placed in fetal position pointing to the sun and mountains; rulers were mummified and their mummified remains taken and paraded around one day a year. Children didn’t inherit property – people were buried with their belongings (for next life). Machu Picchu would have taken more than a lifetime to build, but the Emperor Pachacuti believed he wouldn’t enjoy it in this world, but the next.”

And the linchpin to it all, the basis for the Inca emperor’s power and authority, was religious faith.

So, while the Inca did not have slaves, they had a system of labor, whereby the men would give two to three months of service to the rulers (the first Incan Emperor, Pachacútec, the Alexander the Great of the Inca, had them build Machu Picchu, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and the various palaces and temples, and gave 50 percent of what they harvested to the nobles and the priests out of religious devotion.  And the people were kept ignorant – only the nobles and priests were educated.

He says there would have been six water fountains here – so people could take a ritual shower “to purify mind and body before going to Machu Picchu.” He also points to a sacrificial rock.

There appears to be an altar carved into the bedrock facing sunrise.

We have about 45 minutes of a steep downward hike before it levels off again.

The Incan site of Intipata, Terraces of the Sun, one of the sites that would have served the pilgrims and nobles on their way to Machu Picchu and were abandoned for 400 years before being discovered by archaeologists © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We come to an Incan site, Intipata (Terraces of the Sun) that interestingly, overlooks our final campsite waaaay down the mountain. Lizandro points out what would have been a platform for sacrifice. “Not for human. That would be rare” indicating that it would take place only in extreme circumstances, like a famine and would be mainly girls 11 and 13 years old who belonged to Cuzco noble families who were told they were born to be sacrificed as offerings to stop a national disaster. He describes one instance when the king sacrificed his daughter. (I’ll bet it was a period of famine, because they needed to reduce population to keep in balance.) The sacrificed were given fresh vegetable hallucinogenic flower to eat. “They offered them not death, but life.”

Llama at Intipata. “The Llama represents spiritual life and the black llama, a symbol of material life, would be sacrificed,” our Alpaca Expeditions guide, Lizandro, tells us © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

More typically, it was a llama that would be sacrificed. “The Llama represents spiritual life and the black llama, a symbol of material life, would be sacrificed.”

At Intipata, a boulder that would have been used as a platform for ritual sacrifice © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Inca did not have a written alphabet, yet they had to figure ways to communicate across distances – to alert the villages along the Inca Trail when the king was coming, when enemies approached. They did it using runners – sometimes in relays (they could do the 26 mile distance we did in four days’ hike in four hours), using conch trumpets. Also, the patterns and colors of their clothing would identify who they were, what tribe, and so, whether friend or foe.

Terraces at Intipata. The scale is mind-blowing © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But they also had a system of colored strings and knots, called quipu, that recorded and relayed information, which he shows us as an example. Lizandro says (not disguising a sense of resentment) that only a few of these quipu have survived but some 1500 of them have been taken to foreign museums (in fact, most of what the archeologists have taken from the Incan sites have yet to be returned).

(I imagine that the quipu could be read like Morse code and while they did not have an alphabet, the code was probably based on mathematics- perhaps a computer could decipher?)

Getting set for our Alpaca Expeditions cooking class activity © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the end of our third day hike – relatively short and easy (it doesn’t feel like five hours!), we get into camp at 1 pm and Lizandro tells us to look forward to an “activity” – a cooking class, where Chef Mario shows us how to cook a popular Peruvian dish, lomas latudo. We get chef’s hats and aprons and the platters of ingredients – beef, red pepper, tomatoes, onions, yellow pepper, ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, pepper, cilantro, oil to fry potato (served with French fries and rice) – which we learn how to properly cut, dice, stir and sauté – before enjoying our handiwork for lunch.

Chef Mario leads a cooking demonstration © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Later in the afternoon, after time to relax, we walk a surprisingly short distance (less than 10 minutes) along a trail from our campsite to one of the most impressive Incan villages of all, Wiñaywayna, and (unlike when we go to Machu Picchu the next day) we have it almost to ourselves to explore.

Eric demonstrates the tossing technique during our Alpaca Expeditions cooking class © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Wiñaywayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu and the most popular campsite because of its proximity to Machu Picchu.

Winawayna, one of the most impressive archaeological sites along the Inca Trail, was named ”Forever Young” because of the blooming orchids found there © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Winawayna was discovered by a local archaeologist in 1942 who was there excavating different site, Chamchabamba, and found it hidden under dense vegetation and cloud forest and amazingly, they found orchid flowers growing on the wall. Lizandro explains that Peru has 435 species orchids, but they mostly bloom early or at the end rainy season, some bloom only  every 4-5 years or for only one day year, opening at sunrise and dying at sunset, but the ones found here bloom year round, which is why they named the site, Winawayna  – Forever Young – for the orchid. (If Dead Woman’s Pass, thankfully, did not prove prescient for me, perhaps Forever Young on this, my birthday?)

Wiñaywayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We explore the site, climbing up and down the steep stone steps, walking through the corridors, really getting into the architecture and engineering, the logistics, as if the people left only yesterday. You realize these ruins were buried under overgrowth for 400 years and can only marvel at what was involved in the archeological excavation so that we can appreciate it today.

Wiñaywayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most of the Inca sites have yet to be uncovered and are still buried, and the ones that we do see have only been partially excavated. Indeed, only about 40 percent of Machu Picchu has been excavated.

We go through a room with three walls and big windows which, Lizandro tells us, means it was a storage room – the windows provided ventilation for better preservation of the supplies, while homes had no windows because it would be too cold; instead, there are spaces in the walls where they would put idols for decoration.

Wiñaywayna is remarkably intact so you can see how the homes, storage rooms and temple were constructed © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We see what would have been a watch tower. There would have been guards with weapons at the ready to protect Machu Picchu – like sling shots (a rope of wool with a bag in the middle with rocks),  arrows, lances, spears, hatchets – fine for use against another tribe, but fairly useless against the weapons the Spanish invaders wielded. The guard would have been able to recognize if someone coming was friend or foe by the colors and design of their clothes.

Seven windows arranged on a curve in the temple at Winawayna © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The temple here has three different architectural styles, which Lizandro says shows it was built by different generations and different engineers. A wall of this temple has seven windows that look out to the peak, arranged in a curve. The round shape was to reflect the sun, to provide different places to observe sun, like a sun dial. The seven windows are homage to the Seven Sister stars of the Pleiades.

Appreciating the terraces – an agricultural laboratory to determine the best methods at different levels of elevation – and how Winawayna was built into these steep cliffs of the Andes Mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The terraces here at Wiñaywayna were Inca laboratories – narrow and concave to follow the curves of the mountain, every seven levels is a different ecology, using granite and quartz to absorb heat from the sun to keep plants from freezing overnight. “The Inca realized that elevations produced better potato and corn adapted to altitude.”

This site, along with the others purposely abandoned in 1538 with the Spanish conquest.

The first Spanish expedition, in 1532, had only 167. “They were invaders, not explorers.  They came to destroy the culture, the civilization. They took gold and silver and brought disease,” Lizandro says. The population at the time of the Inca was as high as 18 million before the Spanish.

Appreciating the terraces – an agricultural laboratory to determine the best methods at different levels of elevation – and how Winawayna was built into these steep cliffs of the Andes Mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Machu Picchu and the other sites were built at the same time in the mid 1400s, over a period of about 60 years. Less than 100 years later, the population started decreasing– the human ecologist in me can’t help but wonder if the massive building projects and empire building didn’t take its toll on the population.

“European diseases came even before the Spaniards came. Cortez brought disease to the Mayans, and the Mayans, trying to flee the Spaniards by going south, carried the diseases to Inca along the same network of roads the Inca used to conquer and unify its empire. The 12th Incan king, Huayna Cápac (it is believed) died in 1525 from smallpox and there was no king to follow.”

He says that it is wrong to think of an Incan civilization, rather than an Incan ruler and ruling family of perhaps 20,000 that dominated a population that ranged in size from 10 to 20 million.  “When he passed away, he was mummified to continue guiding.” Because the Incan ruler could have as many concubines as he wanted, Huayna Cápac likely had 500 children throughout the kingdom, but only three who were sons of the Queen, were in line to be king. Two of the brothers were fighting a civil war for control at the time the Spanish came to Cuzco in 1533.

They saw amazing gold, silver – a city of gold – buildings covered in gold, a temple that had life-sized animals of gold. The Spaniards melted them to make coins. Then the Spanish king sent more soldiers.”

The view through the temple at Winawayna © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Incan kingdom, weakened by civil war and not exactly supported by the masses they had subjugated for a century, abandoned this place to protect Machu Picchu, which was holy to them, like the Vatican. Machu Picchu was hidden amid the mountain peaks. To protect it from the Spanish invaders, the Inca destroyed the trails that led to Machu Picchu, and ultimately, abandoned Machu Picchu as well, making a last stand at Vilcabamba.

“The Inca weren’t the nicest to build such a civilization. For 100 years, they had to kill to control, so not all people were happy, so they didn’t help the Inca against the Spanish,” Lizandro says.

None of these grand projects were ever finished, which is more understandable than if they were completed.

We have as much time as we want to explore until darkness begins to fall because we can just stroll back to the campsite.

When we sit down to dinner, Chef Mario presents me with the most amazing birthday cake I have ever had in my life – completely decorated. It took him three hours to prepare it with the camping equipment he cooks with. I share the cake with Peter who timed his Machu Picchu ascent for his 35th birthday the next morning.

Lizandro then asks us what time we would like to wake up in order to get to the check point to Machu Picchu before the other 200 trekkers who will be on line: “3 am? No? Then 3:01,” he says, noting that he has a 98% success rate in being first in line for the checkpoint when it opens at 5:30 am. The check point is only about 10 minutes walk from the campsite. Why so important to be first? Well, to get to the Sun Gate by sunrise, and before the small space gets jammed crammed with people all elbowing to get the best views and photos.

Tomorrow is the day we will reach the goal of our trek: Machu Picchu.

The permits to do the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu are limited to 500 a day for all the trekking companies (which includes 200 for trekkers and 300 for porters and staff) and get booked up months in advance.

More information: Alpaca Expeditions, USA Phone: (202)-550-8534, [email protected], [email protected], https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/

Next: Day 4 on the Inca Trail – Machu Picchu!

See also:

VISIT TO PERU’S SACRED VALLEY IS BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU

INCAN SITES OF PISAC, OLLANTAYTAMBO IN PERU’S SACRED VALLEY ARE PREVIEW TO MACHU PICCHU

ALPACA EXPEDITIONS’ INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU IS PERSONAL TEST OF MIND OVER MATTER

DAY 1 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: A TEST

DAY 2 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: DUAL CHALLENGES OF DEAD WOMAN´S PASS, RUNCURACCAY

DAY 3 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: TOWN IN THE CLOUDS, TERRACES OF THE SUN & FOREVER YOUNG

DAY 4 ON THE INCA TRAIL: SUN GATE TO MACHU PICCHU, THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS

__________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Day 2 on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: Dual Challenges of Dead Woman´s Pass, Runcuraccay

Eric and Sarah celebrate having reached Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2 of Alpaca Expeditions’ four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Eric Leiberman and Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is the day I have been dreading for weeks. This is the day of reckoning. Dead Woman’s Pass.

Everyone  – and not just my about to turn 71-year old self, some 25 to 40 years older than the other 14 in our pack – it seems had the same anxiety over Day 2, which is the longest, most challenging day, when we will hike for four hours up to 13,829 ft over what I hope is not presciently named Dead Woman’s Pass (the name comes from its shape, not an event).

In fact, the climb up to Dead Woman’s Pass is only the first four hours of the full day’s hike, followed by two hours down, then rest and lunch. But then (and this is what could have done me in), another hike up another mountain, to Runcuraccay Pass at 13,020 ft albeit not quite as high, but steeper, 1,378 ft in elevation, more like a stadium staircase times 100 that I had imagined the whole way up to Dead Woman’s Pass would be, and then a steeper (1,220 ft), challenging decline to our campsite at Choquicocha. Indeed, it is the Runcuraccay Pass that proves the more fearsome, as I soon discover, but actually unfolds to some of the most dramatic and interesting views and sites of the entire four-day, 26-mile Inca Trail trek. In all, we will hike a total of 10 miles, which includes a mile’s worth of up and downs.

One of my fears is that I won’t make it into camp before dark (there are 12 hours of daylight) so I keep my headlamp handy in my day pack.

(I used Day 1, the second hardest of the four day-hike, as a test, fully well expecting that our guide would politely tap me on the shoulder and suggest I walk back down the way I came, which also was my strategy if I decided the trek was too hard. But he didn’t. And I didn’t. But pressed on.)

Our Alpaca Expeditions group up at 5 am for breakfast before tackling the most challenging day on the Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu: hiking over Dead Woman’s Pass at an altitude of 13,779 ft. above sealevel, followed by Runkuracay Pass at 13,020 ft. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s 5 am when we are wakened in our tents with basins of hot water and soap and hot coca tea (to help with the altitude).

Breakfast is sensational, providing excellent energy food (porridge is especially good). Indeed, breakfast typically offers some combination of scrambled eggs or omelette, pancakes, porridge, cereal, fruit salad, toast, orange juice, milk, tea, coffee, hot chocolate. We are always supplied enough drinking water – tap water that is boiled for us.

Alpaca Expeditions’ Green Machine team of porters cheer us on as we leave for Day 2 on the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As we leave camp at just about 6 am with the first light, the porters line up and applaud for us, giving us that extra boost of encouragement.

As we get higher, Lizandro stops to tell us little stories – a clever ploy so that we rest and acclimate to the higher altitude (in fact, I hear that older people such as myself do better with the altitude precisely because we go slower and stop more often).

Hiking up to Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2 of Alpaca Expeditions’ four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hiking up to Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2 of Alpaca Expeditions’ four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At another point, he distributes coca leaves and instructs us how to stuff it into a cheek and let the liquid blend with saliva to get its benefit of countering altitude sickness. Then, at another stop, he distributes a kind of plant oil (like eucalyptus) and shows us how to clap three times, then breath in the vapor, which opens up our air passages so we can breathe better.

Alpaca Expeditions guide Lizandro gives us an oil and shows us how to inhale it to breathe more efficiently as we climb the last stage to Dead Woman’s Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Hiking up to Dead Woman’s Pass on Day 2 of Alpaca Expeditions’ four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before the last ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass, there is a rest stop at Llulluchampampa (the best public restrooms on the trail!) and a stand where locals sell snacks and such. There are llamas with a baby grazing and hummingbirds. We see snow on the peaks.

Llama graze along the Inca Trail at Llulluchapampa, happy at an altitude of 12460 ft. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 
A rest stop and snack stand at Llulluchapampa, before the final ascent to Dead Woman’s Pass © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Actually, I make it up to Dead Woman’s Pass by 9:15 am – coming in not at the end of the pack as I expected, but more towards the middle, Eric tells me. Everyone cheers. I honestly don’t remember feeling pain or discomfort, though I know I stopped several times along the way.

A rest break at Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, at 13020 ft. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Group photo! Our Alpaca Expeditions pack celebrates reaching Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest point on the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, at 13020 ft. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On reaching the pass, we stop for a short break to enjoy the views and take photos (our guide, Lizandro, patiently takes each of our photos and a group photo), and we each indulge in the self-satisfaction of the accomplishment before setting off again to descend to Pacaymayu Valley, Hidden River. It’s another hour and a half down the side of the valley – to our lunch spot.

Beginning the descent from Dead Woman’s Pass 13,020 ft. to Pacaymayu at 11,700 ft. on the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I get in at 11:15 am to the cheers of the porters and fellow trekkers, where I find mats have been laid out for us to rest, but Mary Kate (who is part of the group of six women who are friends or friends of friends or friends of friends of friends of Caroline), is leading yoga stretches.

Mary Kate leads our Alpaca Expeditions trekkers in yoga stretches © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We enjoy a snack and then a fantastic and welcome lunch served in the dining tent (delectable chicken salad appetizer; Sara Lawa soup which is a kind of egg-drop soup made with corn flour, eggs, ginger) and I am struck by how really excellent the food is, I mean as good as the finest restaurant in Peru. Alpaca Expeditions boasts the best chefs in the mountains, and I am inclined to agree.

Alpaca Expeditions sets out basin of warm water and soap before lunch in the dining tent © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chef Mario seems to use spices, flavors, textures (hot soups, energizing carbs, reinforcing proteins) that are medicinal or at least appropriate to the activity, whether to hike, rest, sleep or wake. All the food is prepared from fresh ingredients purchased in the Cusco local market and carried up for us by the porters, then prepared by the chef (no canned or rehydrated food) who also caters to vegetarians, lactose intolerant and food allergies with heaping platters.

Lunch typically includes a delicious soup (like corn or mushroom) and some combination of chicken and rice, sausage, fried fish, ceviche, steak, beans, fried rice, french fries, boiled potatoes, vegetables, salad.

Tea time snack when we make it into camp for lunch © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is such a lot of food but it is not just for us – the porters and staff eat the same food as we do (which, we learn, was not always the case for the trekking companies and a feature of Alpaca Expeditions that we really appreciate).

 After this delightful lunch, the realization sets in: this is only the half-way mark of this challenging day. We actually have another mountain to climb and descend.

Alpaca Expeditions porters hike up to Runkuracay Pass on the four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In fact, the two-hour climb up the next mountain to Runcuraccay Pass is steeper though shorter and really what I had envisioned (and feared) the Dead Woman’s Pass would be like and altogether more challenging.

We stop at a small Inca site (Runcu Raccay) and see two huge waterfalls cascading down the opposite side of the valley.

Our Alpaca Expeditions guide, Lizandro, explain that while the Inca did not have written language, they communicated with quipu – a system of colored strings and knots – that so far have not been deciphered © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After the second pass, it’s another hour of a steep downhill hike to reach the magnificent Inca site, Sayacmarca (an otherwise inaccessible village).

The second half of the Day 2 Inca Trail trek proves the more challenging, but also the most scenic © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This part of the trek has actually been the hardest. Eric and Sarah, who had just 10 days before hiked Rainbow Mountain, a 6.2-mile out-and-back trail near Pitumarca, Cusco, where they hiked 1,627 ft  in elevation up to 16,000 feet (and suffered altitude sickness), are skipping up and down these peaks like a mountain goat. I’m a tortoise, taking my sweet time, going slow and steady, stopping for the views.

Eric and Sarah, on the “grand finale” of a six-month travel odyssey, having already hiked Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, literally skip up and down the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The descent from Runkuracay Pass proves the more challenging © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The trail disappears as a thin line hugging the mountainside, the people are mere dots of color, and then, in the distance, this amazing and improbable fortress, Sayacmarca, appears. This is an astonishing view as we descend (it is steep), with the mountain mist – even more astonishing because you are not prepared for it as you are for Machu Picchu. And to realize that this construction was basically to protect Machu Picchu. (Here, though, as Lizandro warned, we encounter the meanest mosquitoes.)

Those tiny dots of color are members of our Alpaca Expeditions pack on the Inca Trail toward Sayacamaka, the “inaccessible village” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In 1941, an archeaologist came upon Sayacamaka, which was completely buried under the overgrowth and named it “inaccessible village.” The site is strategic – on top of mountain, surrounded by valleys, and protected. We see what would have been a watch tower. These structures were used for resting places, like a hostel, for the pilgrims, nobles and travelers, spaced 20-25 km apart, they could be reached in a day’s hike and knew there would be food and drink ready, Lizandro tells us.

Sayacamaka, which was completely buried under the overgrowth and named by archaeologist “inaccessible village” emerges out of the mist along the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Incans would build a temple just for storing idols (gold), but worshipped in open area – more important than temple, because they were in contact with nature, which was the essence of their religion.

Some 16 small rooms have been excavated – the ones with windows were storage rooms; homes did not have windows (too cold). There were no farming terraces here; food came from other places, supplied by other community people.

Sayacamaka, which was completely buried under the overgrowth and named by archaeologist “inaccessible village” emerges out of the mist along the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a huge rock in the middle of house that was natural, part of mountain, in the same shape as mountain. “The Inca made a replica to be closer to mountain (it was considered a god).”

Sayacamaka is one of the most intriguing and dramatic sites along the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How did they get the building stones there? Lizandro points to where a quarry would have been on the other side of the mountain, that would have been brought up the steep trail using only human power. How many would have built the village, and over what period of time, I wonder.

They also engineered canals to bring drinking water – we see three small, square constructions that served as water fountains.

Peru’s Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Environment is responsible for these sites; rangers protect. While they excavate and can restore, they cannot rebuild any of the structures.

Sayacamaka is one of the most intriguing and dramatic sites along the Inca Trail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In 1915, the archeologist Hiram Bingham, who is most responsible for uncovering Machu Picchu, 1915 found 8 of these Incan trails – portions have been revived. One of the trails led to Vilcambaba, the last refuge of the Inca. In 1538, these sites along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu were abandoned by order of Manco Inca, the last Incan king to protect them from the invading Spaniards.

After exploring Sayacamaka, it’s only 20 minutes further to our second campsite, Chaquicocha (Dry Lake) at 11,808 ft. altitude, as the sun sets over the Vilcabamba mountain range. 

Chaquicocha campsite is described as a recently restored Inca settlement at the gateway to the jungle, nestled between two eco-systems – high ground and cloud forest © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We reach the Chaquicoche campsite at around 6:30 pm, just as darkness descends, having met the toughest challenge of the trip (and my life).

The Chaquicocha campsite is described as a recently restored Inca settlement at the gateway to the jungle, nestled between two eco-systems – high ground and cloud forest. It has one of the most picturesque settings with a fantastic view of the night sky to observe the stars, except it is cloudy tonight. It is also quite cold, and I am so happy with my $4 purchase of knee-high alpaca wool socks.

Chaquicocha campsite is described as a recently restored Inca settlement at the gateway to the jungle, nestled between two eco-systems – high ground and cloud forest © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Happy Hour” ( tea time) before dinner consists of popcorn, fried wontons, tea, coffee, followed by another superb dinner (the menu might consist of some combination of stuffed chicken, vegetable tortillas, pizza, spaghetti, pork cutlet, sauteed vegetables, salad).

The permits to do the Inca Trail trek are limited to 500 a day for all the trekking companies (which includes 200 for trekkers and 300 for porters and staff) and get booked up months in advance.

More information: Alpaca Expeditions, USA Phone: (202)-550-8534, [email protected], [email protected], https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/

Next: Day 3 on the Inca Trail

See also:

VISIT TO PERU’S SACRED VALLEY IS BEST WAY TO PREPARE FOR INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU

INCAN SITES OF PISAC, OLLANTAYTAMBO IN PERU’S SACRED VALLEY ARE PREVIEW TO MACHU PICCHU

ALPACA EXPEDITIONS’ INCA TRAIL TREK TO MACHU PICCHU IS PERSONAL TEST OF MIND OVER MATTER

DAY 1 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: A TEST

DAY 2 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: DUAL CHALLENGES OF DEAD WOMAN´S PASS, RUNCURACCAY

DAY 3 ON THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU: TOWN IN THE CLOUDS, TERRACES OF THE SUN & FOREVER YOUNG

DAY 4 ON THE INCA TRAIL: SUN GATE TO MACHU PICCHU, THE LOST CITY OF THE INCAS

__________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected] Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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