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Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Takes Cyclists on Sojourn on Great Allegheny Passage

 

 

A highlight of this section of the Great Allegheny Passage ride is going through the Pinkerton Tunnel, only recently rebuilt and reopened © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A highlight of this section of the Great Allegheny Passage ride is going through the Pinkerton Tunnel, only recently rebuilt and reopened © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I’m the first to arrive at the appointed spot beside the tall brick smokestacks that border the parking field of a shopping mill, where once one of Pittsburgh’s mighty steel mills had been. It’s 6:30 am, but one of the leaders of the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Great Allegheny Passage Spring Sojourn is already here. Gradually over the next half hour, our group of 85 riders comes together. We bring our bikes, now with our “license plate” to a truck, load our luggage and camping gear, board the two buses, and drive about 1 ½ hours to where the start of our three-day, 120 mile ride begins, in Meyersdale.

Meyersdale is just nine miles down from the Eastern Divide – the equivalent of the Continental Divide, a highpoint in the Allegheny Mountains. The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a relatively new, dedicated rail-trail completed in 2013, actually starts in Cumberland, 32 miles from where we begin our sojourn. The GAP links to the 184.5-mile C&O Canal trail that comes out of Washington DC, and extends 150 miles westward to Pittsburgh, creating a 335-mile non-motorized route between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. (AMTRAK offers a walk on bicycle service; https://gaptrail.org/, 888-282-BIKE).

We are starting our ride below the Divide, so our trip today, 27 miles, will be a gentle decline totaling 600 feet. Had I been cleverer, I would have done what a few others did, and go back the nine miles up to the Divide, which would have added about 1 ½ hours to the ride. (

We are greeted at the Meyersdale train station, now converted into a delightful café and shop, by representatives of the Meyersdale Merchants Association. We are part of the repurposed, renewed, sustainable economy, now that the rail line, steel and coal extraction have shut down. The rail-trail has brought new visitors, and new vitality, to these small villages and towns all along the Great Allegheny Passage.

This is Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s first spring sojourn, and it takes place over Mothers Day, no less, which accounts for our group being smaller than a typical sojourn – just 85 riders instead of over 200 which is more typical of the annual sojourn. But this year, RTC is for the first time offering a series of four sojourn rides. The first, in Florida, had already taken place. The third one will be in West Virginia (June19-22); and the last is four-days/three nights from Cleveland to Columbus on the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, Ohio in (Sept. 23-26, 4 days/three nights)..

Riding over the historic Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage trail, wind turbines on the hillside © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Riding over the historic Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage trail, wind turbines on the hillside © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These rides showcase the progress of rail lines that are no longer used converted to biking and multi-use trails, and where there are gaps in the trails that need the support of advocates, communities and government to complete. The Great Allegheny Passage rail trail is on what was the Western Pennsylvania line, which closed in 1975, because it couldn’t compete with the C&O line (that still operates on the other side of the river, and, as it happens, right beside our campsites).

This ride, as it turns out, showcases a success story – the Great Allegheny Passage trail we ride over these three days is exquisite, a testament to the enthusiastic participation and pride of the communities it crosses – wide, with crushed limestone, lovely sitting areas along the way with views to the river, wonderful bridges and tunnels, some bathroom facilities, excellent signage, even “stations” where there are bike repair tools and an air pump. Since its opening, GAP (as it is known) has become one of the most popular trails and was the first inductee in RTC’s Rail-Trail “Hall of Fame.”

Our ride features gorgeous mountain vistas and relaxing river scenes, historic bridges and tunnels that showcase the GAP’s railway heritage. Highlights include Salisbury Viaduct, Casselman River Valley, the Historic Pump House (Homestead) and Great Allegheny Passage Trail towns: Meyersdale, West Newton, Confluence and Ohiopyle.

Offering these supported bike rides is not RTC’s main mission, but the rides are invaluable to raising consciousness and commitment, not just of the riders, but of the communities which are essential. We become ambassadors for the concept of rail-trails,

The Rails-to-Trails Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage is a supported ride © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Rails-to-Trails Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage is a supported ride © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love these supported rides. RTC’s sojourns are professionally organized by an Ohiopyle-based tour company, Wilderness Voyageurs, which lays out the route, arranges for our camping sites, the trucks, the meals (breakfast and dinner), the support stops.

This ride takes place over Mothers Day, as well as over a work/school day. Nonetheless, there are a number of us who have come on our own, leaving spouse and/or children at home (one mother left her five kids, age 8 to 16 at home with her husband as her Mothers Day gift). These rides are ideal for couples, for families (the ages on this ride range from 8 years old to 82 and a 10-year old can manage the ride), and particularly for single travelers because we become not just a community, but a tribe – a nomadic tribe in fact that picks up stakes and moves on each day. It’s a supported ride which means that our luggage is ferried by truck to the next  designated campground where they have arranged dinner and breakfast, a place to charge our phones, bathrooms and showers, provide support stops (with snacks) along the way, leader/volunteers who ride with us and behind, and support vehicle if anyone can’t complete the day’s ride.

Day 1: Meyersdale to Harnedsville, 27.3 Miles

The first day’s ride starts in Meyersdale in the Casselman River Valley, near Pennsylvania’s highest point, Mount Davis (mile 32 from the start of the Great Allegheny Passage trail).

The area was first occupied by the Monongahela Indians, who harvested the sap from maple trees to make maple syrup – and representatives of the Meyersdale Merchants Association greet us with maple candy samples. Known as “Maple City,” Meyersdale has hosted the Pennsylvania Maple Festival every March for more than 60 years.

The town itself is experiencing a renaissance with rail-trail and the completion of a streetscape project. At the trail access, the Western Maryland Railway Station has been turned into a visitor center, with local history exhibits and a retail store. A mural on Main Street (one of several along the Great Allegheny Passage) pays homage to Meyersdale’s roots as a bustling transportation hub for local agriculture, coal and timber. (www.visitmeyersdale.com).

There is a bit of fan-fare as we set out, going through a blow-up arch.

Countryside just passed the Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage outside Meyersdale © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Countryside just passed the Salisbury Viaduct on the Great Allegheny Passage outside Meyersdale © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is clear, sunny day as we set out, but the weather forecast is for clouds and rain. But we soon come to one of the highlights of the GAP: going over the Salisbury Viaduct,: 1,912’ long, built in 1908, it is our first crossing of the Casselman River (this turns out to be one of the top 10 photo views). At the other end, we see a line of wind turbines on stretched out over the hilltops – a fitting testament to what is old is new again. I also come upon an old cemetery – a stone there memorializes Peter G. Meyers who died in 1891, and I wonder if he is the founder of Meyersdale.

Our cue sheets (very well done) also point us to the Wymps Gap Fossil Quarry, at 9.0 miles into the ride. During the Mississippian Period (330 million years ago), Western Pennsylvania was the hsore of a shallow sea. The exposed limestone layers are a fairly thin band of fossil bearing rock sandwiched between layers of shale. It’s marked with a wooden post, labeled GR5 (unfortunately, I miss it)..

At 11.9 miles, we pass Rockwood, where we are recommended for lunch options.

Rockwood is described as a tightly knit rural community, with roots in industry and railroading. The town was laid out in 1857 but boomed after the end of the Civil War, with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. By 1884, the town had several mils and shops, four general stores, two grocery stores and four hotels.

Playful public art pays homage to Rockwood’s heritage and its new commitment to the bike trail © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Playful public art pays homage to Rockwood’s heritage and its new commitment to the bike trail © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A locomotive sculpture at the Rockwood trailhead is a link between the town’s rail history and its present-day “investment” in biking and recreation. You cross the Casselman River to get into the town. There is public art, including a mural that honors trail ambassador Maynard Sembower, who died in 2009 at the age of 100 – a reminder that these improvements are the result of sweat and activism of committed individuals.

The most interesting structure is the Rockwood Mill Shops & Opera House, with a performance space. Lumber and feed were processed in the building for nearly a century, while the opera house hosted visiting and local performers above the mill. The building was restored in 2000 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (www.somersetcountychamber.com).

The highlight of today’s ride for me comes at 19.9 miles: riding through the 849‘ long Pinkerton Tunnel. The tunnel was originally built in 1911, collapsed and was rebuilt in a kind of a kwansit hut at a cost of $1.8 million and only reopened in 2015. It is very surreal going through it: Inside, a dizzying array of concentric metallic circles – long, dark, with proverbial light at the end of it.

Shortly after, we cross High Bridge over the Casselman River (our third crossing on the GAP today).

The Great Allegheny Passage reclaims a former rail line into a stunning 150-mile non-motorized trail returned to nature © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Great Allegheny Passage reclaims a former rail line into a stunning 150-mile non-motorized trail returned to nature © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At 27.1 miles, we leave the GAP and follow the signs they have placed for us, for a couple of turns that bring us just a 2/10 of a mile beyond to the grounds of the Turkey Foot High School (which has been on the USA Today’s list of top high schools) where we will camp.

It’s Friday and school is in session, so we aren’t able to enter the school until after 3:30 pm – a little disconcerting because rain is threatening.

I opt to continue down the trail another two miles to the town of Confluence, so named because it is set where three rivers converge. It’s the shape of the three peninsulas that looks just like a turkey’s foot.

A highlight of this section of the Great Allegheny Passage ride is going through the Pinkerton Tunnel, only recently rebuilt and reopened © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A highlight of this section of the Great Allegheny Passage ride is going through the Pinkerton Tunnel, only recently rebuilt and reopened © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, in George Washington’s day, this area was called Turkeyfoot by natives and settlers. George Washington, himself, came to the confluence of the rivers in 1754 during the French & Indian War, as he and his soldiers were on their way to the forks of the Ohio River. As we travel the trail in the woods, revitalized and full now that the steel mills and coal mining have shut down, I can easily imagine the wilderness that he saw and the how the Indians would have used the rivers.

The skies have been threatening rain and I return to the campsite.

If we don’t want to set up our own tents, we can use the Comfy Camper service or stay in nearby bed-and-breakfast accommodations. This trip I treat myself to the Comfy Camper service ($118 for the two nights, comfycampers.info, 315-283-0220) and it adds a measure of luxury to the trip: When I arrive, the tent – roomy, comfortable, wonderfully waterproof, with an air mattress, chair and towel – are all ready for me. Shawn Stewart, owner/director, has just finished blowing up the air mattress and I am cozy inside, just as the rain comes down in earnest.

Our dinner is provided by the Turkey Foot Fire Department – another way the Sojourn supports local communities.

Ambassadors for Rail-Trails

Indeed, this is the theme for the Sojourn rides.

During the evening’s presentation, Tom Sexton, Northeast Regional Director of Rails to Trails Conservancy, tells us about the plans to finish the gaps on the trails, and ultimately connect a network of trails stretching through most of the Mid Atlantic.

RTC, in its 30th year, helps finds money and means to build rail-trails. Since 1991, $1 billion spent. Certain amount of transportation money (from fed) has to be spent on things other than highways, airports, bridges, but “other transit.” RTC helps communities, nonprofits, governments come together on how to build rail trail – negotiate with railroad, what surface to use, how to maintain. RTC also offers its members TrailLink – an online tool that helps you find trails and map your ride.

These Sojourns are a means of engaging interest in the rail trials – spotlighting gaps in trails, showcasing successes, and inspiring communities to get involved. The riders become ambassadors – especially with our “license” plates and shirts that announce who we are.

The sojourn also helps show a community (and funding agencies) the economic benefits of trails, as well as its social benefits, building camaraderie, community, and quality of life benefits.

“Towns (like Dunbar) which have fallen on hard times since the railroad left, find the trails revitalize, become the main street. In 15 years since RTC started sojourn rides, we’ve hosted 3400 riders, brought $2.1 billion in spin off to the corridors we ride through.

“We show that an economy built around the rail-trail is sustainable. The money spent stays here, it has low impact. The trail benefits environment and the local people who benefit from trails.”

Indeed, as we ride over the weekend, you see families out and about – the trails provide a healthy, active outdoor activity that families can share together.

RTC has big plans to create a regional network of interconnected trails.

For example, connecting Parkersburg West Virginia, the access for the North Bend Trail (the start of the third Sojourn of this year’s series) to Pittsburgh and the GAP rail trail, which already connects to the 34-mile long Sheepskin Trail out of Dunbar.

Then the idea is to continue on to Clarksburg-Parkersburg trail, which will be 260 miles when finished. At that point, you could start in DC, go to Pittsburgh (on C&O, 183 miles and GAP 150 miles), altogether about 600 miles.

“This is the epicenter of trails in the US,” Sexton says.

But this is only a piece of what is an even bigger grand plan. 

Eric Oberg, Director of Trail Development, Midwest Regional Office, speaks of a “Trails Manifest Destiny”:in describing a sprawling network of 1,450 miles of interconnected multiuse trails that will be called “The Industrial Heartland Trail” which together, would be the largest in the country – from DC to Pittsburgh, to Cleveland –Cleveland-Cincinnati-Dayton, Parkersburg, Indianapolis, up to Erie and Buffalo (where you can then connect to the 400-mile long Erie Canalway). Some 48% of these multi-use trails are done, and the hope is to have it completed by 2035.

“It won’t take 80 years, but it will be more than five years” before the manifest destiny is realized, Eric says.

Comfy Campers sets up comfortable tents with air mattress, chair and towel for those who don’t want that extra luxury © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Comfy Campers sets up comfortable tents with air mattress, chair and towel for those who don’t want that extra luxury © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sojourn Bike Tours

For the first time in the 14 years of hosting a Sojourn bike tour showcasing a rail-trail, the Rail-Trails Conservancy expanded the series to four rides: the first, in Florida, was held in February; the second on the popular Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania, was May 6-8. The third was a four-day/three-night North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg, West Virginia (June 19-22; and the last was four-days/three nights from Cleveland to Columbus on the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, Ohio in September.

“The Sojourn Series is much more than just a bike ride. It’s a trail building tool for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and allows us to pull advocacy into participants’ trail use experience.”

The Sojourn rides are crafted to weave experiences that go beyond simply riding from point A to point B. Each sojourn aims to transform trail users into advocates and create the economic case for trail networks nationwide.

The West Virginia Sojourn showcases the North Bend Rail Trail out of Parkersburg, West Virginia. “It is an incredible trail but does not yet connect to the two communities on either end, Parkersburg and Clarksburg.” This ride serves to bring attention to those gaps and advocate for their completion. The corridor is also part of a much larger trail development effort being undertaken by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition.

“The West Virginia ride will allow you to get on a new trail and take part in some of the advocacy that our organization is known for.”

Since 2001, more than 3,000 riders have joined RTC’s sojourns. These rides not only highlight incredible trails, but they also help empower communities to complete trail networks that will benefit the entire region.

Equally importantly, they highlight the economic benefit to communities, particularly those who have seen older industries shut down, along with the rail lines.

RTC’s 2015 Pennsylvania Rail-Trail Sojourn brought visitors from 35 states and had an economic impact of more than $245,000 – something significant for a town like Dunbar, Pennsylvania, which once depended upon coal and railroads.

The rail-trail could be an engine for a new economy fueled by lodging, restaurants and gear shops. RTC estimates that the GAP would generate more than $40 million in direct spending from trail users annually.

“The Sojourn Series is a real-world example that show how trails can provide an economic boon to local economies,” says Liz Thorstensen, vice president of trail development for RTC. “By providing these rides, we’re creating more opportunities for people to experience and advocate for these trail networks.”

For more information about the rides and to register, visit railstotrails.org/sojourn.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with more than 160,000 members and supporters, is the nation’s largest trails organization dedicated to connecting people and communities by creating a nationwide network of public trails, many from former rail lines. Founded in 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.railstotrails.org. 

These rides are organized by Wilderness Voyageurs which offers many different biking and rafting trips including inn to inn biking trips, across the US and international: 800-272-4141, Wilderness-Voyageurs.com.

Next: Great Allegheny Passage Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn Continues

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Strip District Exemplifies City’s Past, Future

Two Nights, One Day in Pittsburgh: Historic Omni William Penn Hotel Connects to City’s Proud Heritage

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

 

Two Nights, One Day in Pittsburgh: Historic Omni William Penn Hotel Connects to City’s Proud Heritage

The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Palm Court of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(I have come to Pittsburgh to join the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn three-day, 120-mile bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage. I only have two nights and one full day in the city, so I focus on what is uniquely Pittsburgh’s heritage. This is fifth in the series.) 

My purpose for this all-too-brief visit to Pittsburgh is to immerse myself in the city’s proud heritage at the epicenter of the nation’s founding, settlement, industrialization and emergence as a world power, but a heritage that came at a terrible cost to its environment. The city has undertaken a fantastic revitalization, emerging from grey to green, and becoming one of America’s most liveable cities.

And so for my two-nights stay, I seek out the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – a member of Historic Hotels of America – which celebrated its centennial in 2016 the same year as the city celebrated its bicentennial, and is so much a part of Pittsburgh’s story.

I love wandering around, immersing myself in the taking in the ambiance, admiring its stunning architectural features and Art Deco-style appointments, and, as if these walls could talk, hearing its stories as if whispered in my ear. There are historic displays, photos, artifacts and artwork in various places that convey the story. Indeed, in its award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916, there is an enormous mural that pays homage to the city’s history depicting “The Taking of Fort Pitt”.

"The Taking of Fort Pitt" mural hangs in The Omni William Penn Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916 © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“The Taking of Fort Pitt” mural hangs in The Omni William Penn Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916 © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whenever I travel, I first seek out members of Historic Hotels of America, a collection of properties. Historic hotels are so much more than mere structures. They embody the heritage and history and sense of place, and are also very much creations of their builders. Owners take on the role of steward, with a responsibility of passing it along to the next.

This is true of The William Penn, whose history parallels that of the city and the nation, as I learn from a wonderful pamphlet, “A Grand Dame Named William Penn,” by Marianne Lee.

Stunning decoration in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s interior. Built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, when it was first opened, in 1916, it was hailed as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Stunning decoration in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s interior. Built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, when it was first opened, in 1916, it was hailed as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The William Penn Hotel was the last building venture of Henry Clay Frick, one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest industrialists. Frick envisioned the William Penn as Pittsburgh’s showplace, and it was designed by renowned architects Benno Janssen, and Franklin Abbott to rival the great hotels of Europe in Old World style but with what was then the state-of-the-art, sophisticated, 20th century technology. Guests were dazzled by such modern amenities including iced drinking water on top, “certified” lighting, electrically operated clocks, a telephone in every room connected to a master switchboard with 30 operators at the ready, and a private bathroom in an age when most Americans still used outdoor privies and most hotels offered only shared facilities.

Built at a cost of $6 million, when it opened, newspapers proclaimed The William Penn as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation.” Its first night featured the annual Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Gala, the largest gala in city history up to that time, which was hosted by US Secretary of State Philander Knox.

When the hotel was first built, it had 1,000 guestrooms (interesting to contemplate since it only has 597 today), and an elegant two-tier Grand Ballroom on the 17th floor. In 1928, the hotel was acquired by the Eppley Hotel Company and Eugene Eppley, a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches figure, financed a major expansion, the Grant Street Annex. That added 600 more guestrooms as well as the hotel’s crowning jewel, the Urban Room, designed by Joseph Urban, when it was finished in 1929. With this addition, The William Penn became the largest hotel between Pittsburgh and Chicago, and the major convention facility for Pittsburgh.

But Eppley, who was the vanguard of a new breed of professional hotelier who saw his patrons not as customers but as guests, lost control of the hotel in the Great Depression, and new owners brought in the Statler Hotels company to manage it 1940-1951. Eppley briefly regained control, but over the years, this Grand Dame was held by Sheraton, then a group of local investors, then Alcoa, which invested $20 million in a substantial renovation, and finally Omni Hotels & Resorts, in 2001.

A photo of Lawrence Welk recalls the bandleader’s connection to the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – his famous bubble machine was invented by the hotel’s engineer  © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A photo of Lawrence Welk recalls the bandleader’s connection to the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – his famous bubble machine was invented by the hotel’s engineer © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Throughout its storied past and many owners, The Omni William Penn Hotel has hosted many of the 20th century’s movers, shakers and celebrities.  A young bandleader named Lawrence Welk, who would later gain fame for his television show, performed in the hotel’s ballrooms; the hotel’s  engineers actually devised Welk’s iconic bubble machine – a connection commemorated by naming a ballroom for him, and in large photographic murals.

In 1934, a young vocalist named Dolores DeFina accepted a marriage proposal at The William Penn from the inimitable Bob Hope. The hotel remains celebrated as a wedding venue (including being named to the “Best of Weddings 2009” list by The Knot ).

A popular campaign spot as well as for presidential appearances, The Omni William Penn Hotel has received every president since Theodore Roosevelt (who visited in 1917 to attend a Moose Convention), including John Kennedy and Barack Obama.

The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, as now, The William Penn combines every modern amenity with timeless elegance: 597 beautifully appointed guestrooms including 38 suites, 52,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and five dining venues including its fine dining room, The Terrace Room, the Palm Court, a pub-style Tap Room, Starbucks Coffee Café, The Speakeasy (in 1920s tradition tucked beneath the hotel lobby), plus 24-hour room service. The hotel boasts two self-contained conference centers, a 24-hour fitness center, beauty salon, gift shop, and a jewelry store.

There is every amenity, nicety and graciousness, beginning with fresh apples at reception and a concierge available to help with every situation. My room is outfitted with plush robe, refrigerator, bottled water, coffee maker, big screen TV, hair dryer, ironing board/iron, safe, WiFi (free if you enroll in Omni Hotels loyalty program).

I take advantage of the opportunity to order two beverages (at no charge) plus other items at modest cost for the morning ($3 for an English muffin; $3 for a toasted bagel with cream cheese, $2.75 for a muffin, $3.75 for Greek yogurt, etc.), especially when I have to leave at 5:15 am to get to the start of my Rails-to-Trails biking trip on the Great Allegheny Passage. You tell them a 15-minute window when you want it to be delivered, and sure enough, it arrives right on time. So does my car, waiting for me when I depart.

The Omni William Penn Hotel marked its centennial in 2016 the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial. Located downtown, it is walking distance to many of the city’s attractions © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Omni William Penn Hotel marked its centennial in 2016 the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial. Located downtown, it is walking distance to many of the city’s attractions © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The hotel is smack in the middle of the city, walking distance to all the downtown attractions, restaurants, cultural and financial center. Here’s a recap of my Day in Pittsburgh Walking Tour: Omni William Penn Hotel, Monongahela Incline, Duquesne Incline, Point State Park, Fort Pitt Museum, National Aviary, Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz History Center, Strip District. But one full day in Pittsburgh is simply not enough.

Omni William Penn Pittsburgh, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh PA 15219, 412-281-7100, omnihotels.com/Pittsburgh. 

Historic Hotels of America

Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with 32 charter members. Today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 290 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org, 800-678-8946. 

Visit Pittsburgh

For all the right reasons, Pittsburgh is a sensational travel destination no matter what season or weather, whether it is business, academia or leisure pursuits that bring you into the city. I can’t wait to come back.

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com.

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Strip District Exemplifies City’s Past, Future

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Strip District Exemplifies City’s Past, Future

Pittsburgh’s Strip District has an artful, playful vibe © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pittsburgh’s Strip District has an artful, playful vibe © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(With only one full day to explore Pittsburgh, I specifically seek out attractions that define the city, all walkable within the downtown, getting advice from the Omni William Penn Hotel concierge. I start on its two remaining funiculars, going up the Monongahela Incline and down the Duquesne Incline, dating from the 1870s, and stroll Grandview Avenue that links the two, and continue on to Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum, then on to the National Aviary and the Andy Warhol Museum. This is fourth in series.)

I walk back over the 7th Street Bridge (The Andy Warhol Bridge, as it happens), into Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, where there is a cluster of theaters and galleries, including one named for another native son of Pittsburgh, playwright August Wilson (there is an August Wilson Center / African American Cultural Center, 980 Liberty Avenue, in the Cultural District).

I take it all in, but I am en route to the interestingly named Strip District, where literally in front of your eyes, you can see gentrification unfold – factories converted to apartments and lofts. This has become an amazing restaurant district, capitalizing on the diverse immigrant experience in Pittsburgh. Within a few blocks, there is a United Nations-worth of dining traditions and markets.

Pittsburgh’s Strip District shows off the city’s past, present and future © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pittsburgh’s Strip District shows off the city’s past, present and future © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Strip District is described as “authentic Pittsburgh,” where the locals go for great goods at low prices. The streets along the half-mile long district are linked with restaurants, ethnic grocers, produce stands, sidewalk vendors, meat and fish markets – a haven for foodies. It is so colorful, artful, playful.

Pittsburgh’s Strip District offers trendy restaurants © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pittsburgh’s Strip District offers trendy restaurants © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fabric store in Pittsburgh’s Strip District © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fabric store in Pittsburgh’s Strip District © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A sign over a restaurant, Gaucho, an Argentinian Grill, which has a line of people outside waiting their turn, reads Home Improvement, Lifestyle, Dining & Entertainment. I pass Vietnamese, Korean, Thai restaurants, markets like Robert Wholey Co. purveying live Maine lobster, whole farm raised rabbits and whole duckling; a Middle Eastern grocery, Stamoolis Bros. Co, since 1909; the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (fresh handmade mozzarella, Pennmac.com); a Mexican grocery; Pittsburgh Popcorn, next door to La Prima Espresso Corp, across the street from Chocolat; an Asian supermarket across from the Brooklyn Brewery; the S&D Polish Deli, Grandpa Joe’s Candy Shop, a textile shop selling fabrics, thread and button; and Mike Feinberg & Co’s sports store.

And trendy restaurants like Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grill (probably related to the market); Jade 99, Chicken Latino (Peruvian); Casa Rena (Mexican),

Smoke billowing from a processing plant © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Smoke billowing from a processing plant © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking back, I see smoke emanating from a factory with the Heinz name on it, and pass a red-brick building with a giant neon Heinz Ketchup display (above the Heinz History Center building), diagonally across from United States Steel Corporation offices (while downtown is the United Steelworkers Union building).

Senator John Heinz History Center 

I am too late to visit the Senator John Heinz History Center, but it is on my list to visit when I return.

Devoted to the history and heritage of Western Pennsylvania, the 370,000 sq. ft. Senator John Heinz History Center (more formally known as the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania) is Pennsylvania’s largest history museum and, since 2000, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

Ketchup Bottle in neon above the Heinz History Center © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Ketchup Bottle in neon above the Heinz History Center © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition to the Fort Pitt Museum which I have visited, the Senator John Heinz History Center family of museums and programs includes:

The Senator John Heinz History Center presents compelling stories from American history with a Western Pennsylvania connection in an interactive environment; the museum’s Smallman Street home combines the former Chautauqua Lake Ice Company building with a five-story Smithsonian wing.

The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, a museum-within-a-museum located on the History Center’s second and third floors, celebrates the region’s passion for amateur and professional sports, from football to baseball and hockey to golf.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, the oldest site of human habitation in North America, is located in Avella, Washington County, Pa. Meadowcroft Rockshelter, a National Historic Landmark, showcases 16,000-year-old evidence of the region’s earliest inhabitants under a massive rock overhang. In addition to the Rockshelter, the site is also home to three outdoor historic areas, including a 16th century Indian village, 18th century Frontier Trading Post, and 19th century village that help visitors experience life over the past 500 years.

More than 250 years of Western Pennsylvania’s history is preserved at the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library & Archives. Founded in 1879, the Library & Archives’ collections, located on the History Center’s sixth floor, are accessible to researchers, students, and the general public.

The new Museum Conservation Center provides visitors with professional services and expert advice on how to properly preserve and care for family heirlooms.

Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222, 412-454-6000, www.heinzhistorycenter.org (10-5 daily)

Biking on a dedicated lane in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Biking on a dedicated lane in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other important Pittsburgh attractions which I have on my list for my next visit:

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, the nation’s only military memorial dedicated to honoring all branches of service – exhibits cover all of America’s conflicts and include a face casting done of Abraham Lincoln the month he died; the Frick Art & Historical Center, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History (from fine art to fossils, masterpieces to minerals, CMOA.org;  the Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers 5 billion years of Earth’s history, and the world’s third largest dinosaur repository (carnegiemnh.org). Also, the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com. 

Next: The Omni William Penn Hotel is Part of Pittsburgh Heritage 

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

The Andy Warhol Museum pays homage to a native son of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Andy Warhol Museum pays homage to a native son of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I have come to Pittsburgh for the three-day, 120-mile Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Spring Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage, and used it as an opportunity to explore Pittsburgh, a city that once was known for steel mills, but which now has won accolades as “America’s most livable city.” 

I am fascinated to see how it made such a transition from grey to green. 

With only one full day to explore, I specifically seek out attractions that define Pittsburgh, all walkable within the downtown, getting advice from the Omni William Penn Hotel concierge. 

I start on its two remaining funiculars, going up the Monongahela Incline and down the Duquesne Incline, dating from the 1870s, and stroll Grandview Avenue that links the two, and continue on to Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum. (This is third in a series) 

The National Aviary

I continue my walk from the Fort Pitt Museum, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge toward the National Aviary (it was the “national” that got my attention), fascinated how city planners  managed to turn a city designed for industry and machines into one that can be so walkable and bikeable.

Children delight at the exhibits at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Children delight at the exhibits at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The National Aviary, America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds, offers a lovely exhibit of birds, including being able to walk through massive habitat-style exhibits, where the birds – like the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (amazing headdress), Golden Breasted Starling (nesting) fly freely about you, often landing very close by.

Bats at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bats at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is also a bat exhibit (you can watch bat feeding), poke your head up into the penguin pen, As I walk about, I am surprised to read a marker that states this was the site of the Western Penitentiary (1826-1880) and held confederate prisoners here 1863-64.

The National Aviary (www.aviary.org), which was designated  “national” by President Clinton, would certainly be a highlight for family travelers and am having such an amazing time taking pictures, seeing some birds that I had never seen before in such close proximity without cages, I lose all sense of time (which is why I didn’t have enough time to visit the Heinz History Center).

The National Aviary in Pittsburgh lets you see up close, without any caging between you, such exotic birds as the Victoria Crowned Pigeon © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh lets you see up close, without any caging between you, such exotic birds as the Victoria Crowned Pigeon © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Warhol Museum

The National Aviary is also just a short walk to my next stop: the Warhol Museum. I had not realized that Andy Warhol was a native son of Pittsburgh (born to a Slovakian family of modest means, he attended Carnegie Mellon which was Carnegie Technical at the time) – this museum is in the tradition of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, totally extolling the life of one artist. It basically continues what Andy Warhol did most successfully his whole life: market his art to inflate prices. The best part, for me, was learning more about his biography – what made him “tick”, his creative process and about his techniques.

The Andy Warhol Museum, a 7-story temple to the artist which opened in 1994, was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Andy Warhol Museum, a 7-story temple to the artist which opened in 1994, was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My own belief is that Warhol was more of a marketing genius than an artistic one (at least Salvador Dali was both a marketing genius and an artistic one), but I am willing to be convinced otherwise as I roam the museum.

Indeed, as a placard notes, since the seven-story museum opened in 1994, there has been a steady increasing level of recognition of Warhol’s “singular contribution to 20th century art and his extraordinary influence on contemporary art internationally. The museum is on the forefront of research into Warhol’s work.”

There is a timeline along the massive walls that document in excruciating detail Warhol’s life and learn such tidbits as: Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 to immigrants from Mikona in Slovakia; he graduated Carnegie Tech (which became Carnegie Mellon); in 1956 he met Edmond Walloaitch who used photography in his own works; most of Warhol’s early endeavors were self-published; he was inspired by popular culture and enlarged images from magazines and photographs with a projector, then painted the projection on canvas; he used a rubber stamp, then the silk screen process; the first silkscreen painting based on a photograph was a baseball, in 1962; he “replicated the look of commercial advertising, giving Warhol faithful duplication of his appropriated source image, while also allowing him to experiment with over-painting, off-register and endless chance combinations”.

After graduating Carnegie Tech, he took a “risk” and came to New York City where he got his big break, illustrating a story “What is Success” for Glamour Magazine. “He became one of the most successful commercial illustrators.” A particularly noteworthy item on the timeline: 1972- after publication of his “Vote McGovern,” the IRS audited Warhol annually until his death.” Warhol died in 1987, at the age of 58.

He created the “blotted line technique” – where he could trace or copy and an image “appropriating images from popular culture” – and reproduce any number of them, factory-style.

Warhol, we learn, made a fortune from portraits, once again, getting a giant commercial boost after an exhibit at the Whitney in 1979, curated by his close friend David Whitney consisting of 56 double portraits of artists, fashion designers, collectors, art dealers, which showcased an aspect of his painting “that he characterized as ‘business art’.”

After the 1979 show, his private portraits business hit heights- early 80s – he produced did 50 a year at $40K for 2-panel, or $2 million in annual profits.

“He was unapologetic in his imposition of lucrative business model as part of his art practice.”

I notice a prominently displayed portrait of Prince from 1984, which is up just after the musician’s death.

Andy Warhol was known for his passion as a collector – very possibly an outgrowth of his impoverished childhood and his expropriation of others’ art and design. Over his lifetime, he collected some 500,000 artifacts. There is an immense room, called the “Vault” that is filled with “time capsules” – 610 flimsy cartons, each with 500 objects.

I found it totally ironic, though, that you are not allowed to take any photos since Warhol’s art was based on expropriating the images and designs created by others (ie. Campbell Soup Can, Marilyn Monroe photo). You can take part in workshops to learn the silkscreening techniques he used. The museum is a must-see for anyone who is a fan.

The Andy Warhol Museum was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum. It is one of four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of National History and Carnegie Science Center are the others, www.carnegiemuseums.org).

The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, 412-237-8300, www.warhol.org ($20/adults, $10/students and children 3-18, half price on Fridays, 5-10 pm; closed Mondays). 

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com.

Next: Pittsburgh Walking Tour Continues to Strip District 

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

Costumed docent sends school kids off on a scavenger hunt at the Fort Pitt Museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Costumed docent sends school kids off on a scavenger hunt at the Fort Pitt Museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(I have come to Pittsburgh to join the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn three-day, 120-mile bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage. I only have one full day in the city, so I set out on a walking tour aimed at focusing on what is uniquely Pittsburgh’s heritage. In the first part of the series, I experienced the Monongahela Incline, Mount Washington, Grandview Avenue, and the Duquesne Incline. I continue my walking tour at Point State Park.)

Biking around Point State Park © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Biking around Point State Park © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What a jewel Pittsburgh’s Point State Park is, literally at the confluence of three rivers:  the Monongahela River at one side and where the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers meet on the other. Its location made it critical to control over this territory and later, the industrial and economic development of the nation.

The Point offers beautiful park land as well as some of Pittsburgh’s most significant heritage sites.

You first come upon the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, built in 1764, the oldest building in Pittsburgh and the only remaining structure from colonial times. Inside this small, dark space, it gives you a glimpse of western Pennsylvania’s role during the French & Indian War and the American Revolution (admission is free).

What proves to be the highlight of my visit to Pittsburgh is the Fort Pitt Museum (the newest member of the Senator John Heinz History Center, in association with the Smithsonian Institution), a modern, two-story, 12,000 square foot museum built on the site of Fort Pitt.

“From 1754 to today, Fort Pitt has shaped the course of American and world history as the birthplace of Pittsburgh.

Fort Pitt Blockhouse, built in 1764, is the oldest building in Pittsburgh and the only remaining structure from colonial times © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fort Pitt Blockhouse, built in 1764, is the oldest building in Pittsburgh and the only remaining structure from colonial times © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The presentations are absolutely thrilling in conveying how at a critical point in the settlement of the New World, this point was the epicenter of world-changing events.

The museum tells the story of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role during the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, and as the birthplace of Pittsburgh (William Pitt never actually visited). It offers extremely well crafted interactive exhibits, life-like historical figures, rare artifacts that let you come away with a new appreciation for the strategic role the region played.

Known as The Point, this was once one of the most strategic areas in North America, controlling access to Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and much of interior of North America; it was the intersection of cultural exchange with native people, and a departure point for settlers moving west.

I appreciated the balance in the presentations between points of view – the colonists (actually split between the British and the French) and the Indian tribes. There is a sensational video that presents the different perspectives (the Indians still come up short) – the different perspectives that the British and French brought, and the Indians whose culture did not acknowledge that a person could own land, but by this point, the Indian tribes had already had already become dependent economically on imported European goods.

British and French clashed for control of the New World colonies constantly from 1689-1748:  The French, most interested in trade, saw the Ohio River as a way to connect Canada and Louisiana and leverage their relations with Indians. The British, determined to control territory, also realized the strategic importance of this artery, “the Keystone of the Frontier.”

This becomes clear in a superbly produced video, “Whose Land?”: “The French couldn’t stand the British and the British wouldn’t rest until they owned [the territory].” Native Americans, were fully aware that they could not allow the Europeans to control the land, but they were caught in the middle – by this point, Indians were dependent upon trading for manufactured goods.

“The Indians negotiated with weight and authority. They had a powerful confederacy

Iroquois – Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida. They had sophisticated government, freedom, a rich culture, complex trading relations. Agriculture was central but they did not have private ownership. They took a cue from nature. They enjoyed trade – and were heavily dependent on some European goods, and even took up the European religion, but kept their own ways.”

“God created all people but different,” an Indian chief said in 1742.

With French dominion on one side of the river and English on the other, where does the Indian claim lie?

Indians became dependent upon European traders © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Indians became dependent upon European traders © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

George Washington, a 21-year old major in 1753 with experience as a surveyor, was given a mission to explore to Fort LeBoeuf and recommended the site for Fort Prince George.

Washington “had no diplomatic experience, and couldn’t speak French yet he was selected to bring message to French. He was selected because of his close connection with Ohio corporations and other Virginian land speculators in land. He knew ‘the West’.”

In 1754, Fort Duquesne (which was renamed Fort Pitt when the British took over), was the largest French military installation in Ohio, and evicted the Virginians.

William Pitt, for which the fort is named, never came to the colonies. The city originally was called “Pittsboro”. The Fort – perhaps because it was so foreboding, was attacked only once, during Pontiac’s War of 1763.

Its location made Pittsburgh a boom town. The Ohio River carried 18,000 settlers through in 1788. The population of Pittsburgh, just 150 in 1780, grew to 4,800 by 1810, making it the third largest in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Lancaster.

Its economy developed from coal mining, glass making, and boat building, fueling the nation’s industrial and physical expansion. The city was incorporated in 1816.

Illustration of Indians on what is now Mount Washington, with Fort Pitt below.
Illustration of Indians on what is now Mount Washington, with Fort Pitt below.

When I visit the museum, there are a number of school groups coming through. The school kids are sent out in teams on a scavenger hunt by a docent in period dress. What surprises the kids the most? That the Indians were not as primitive as they expected, she tells me. Indeed, many are pictured wearing European-style clothes and served in the military. By this point, the Indians were part of the world economy – the Indians traded their furs for items from as far away as China; the European traders were like Walmart to them. For the first time, I understand why the Indians did not kick the Europeans out when it was clear they were setting up outposts.

As I explore the exhibits, I learn of what may have been the first incidence of germ warfare: in 1763, an Indian trader, on orders from Ft. Pitt, is alleged to have given Indians two blankets and a handkerchief from the fort’s smallpox hospital.

I am most excited when I am introduced to an idea or a topic that I knew nothing about before, , that makes you really think.

‘Captured by Indians’ 

That experience happened at the Fort Pitt Museum, which happened to be presenting a fascinating exhibit, “Captured by Indians,” about European (white) colonists who were kidnapped by Indian tribes. The exhibit did not disguise the brutality, but most fascinating is that the individuals (who often were young when they were taken captive), particularly women, once they survived the arduous journey and a literal gauntlet (to weed out the weak), were adopted into the tribe, treated as equals, and generally had a better life than the colonial settlements they came from, especially if they were indentured servants or slaves or women, to the extent that when they had the chance to be “freed” and be returned to their community – such as in a hostage exchange – they would refuse and even escape back to the tribe.

The presentation, the artifacts and the connection to people living today, descendants of those people, was utterly fascinating.

“During the turbulent decades of the mid-18th century, thousands of European and African settlers were captured by American Indians whose dwindling numbers forced them to adopt non-Indians in an effort to survive. The subsequent experience of captivity and adoption forever altered both the captives and their captors as identities shifted, allegiances were tested, and once-rigid lines between cultures became forever blurred.”

The exhibit draws upon documentary evidence gleaned from 18th and early 19th century primary sources, dozens of rare artifacts, and a wide array of imagery, to examine the practice of captivity from its prehistoric roots to its impact on modern American Indians and other ethnicities.

The exhibit notes that the many of the wave of European settlers who came in the 18th century  sold their freedom to come as indentured servants. Most who came were poor. The borderlands were already bitterly contested by rival Europeans and native tribes. These settlers were viewed by colonial legislators as buffers against the Indians.

The captives taken in brutal raids, massacres and abductions were mainly of young who were physically fit and could assimilate and women who would be married off and bear children. They would size people up in a raid, and decide who to take.

The exhibit tells the story through the experiences of real-life captives, and in stunning displays including three life-like vignettes that portray John Brickell, a local boy captured just a few miles from Fort Pitt at age 10; Massy Harbison, who heroically saved the life of her child after escaping from her captors; and the Kincade family, who were reunited on the Bouquet Expedition in 1764.

‘Captured by Indians’: A life-like vignette portrays the capture of 10-year old John Brickell, taken just a few miles from Fort Pitt © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
‘Captured by Indians’: A life-like vignette portrays the capture of 10-year old John Brickell, taken just a few miles from Fort Pitt © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit, which does an outstanding view of making this rarely discussed history, makes it personal, presenting biographies and stories, draws upon artifacts borrowed from descendants of the captives, which make it all the more real and present:

There are personal artifacts on display that make this rarely discussed history all the more real:

  • A bullet-ridden 18th century door from a cabin near Ligonier, Pa., that was attacked by Indians during the American Revolution;
  • A Logan war club which was left at the site of a brutal Indian raid in southwest Virginia in 1774 which belonged to John Smith
  • A rare prisoner cord, used to bind captives taken during raids on frontier settlements;
  • An American Indian horn spoon given to Catharine Bard by her Delaware captors in 1758 (the owner who provided it to the exhibit is in her 90s)
  • An original pencil sketch of Mary Jemison, who was captured during the French & Indian War and lived out the rest of her days among her adoptive people; and
  • The hat and waistcoat of Jacob Miller, a frontier settler who was killed during a raid on Miller’s Blockhouse in Washington County in 1782.

I am amazed to learn that many of the captives preferred Indian society: Colonial society could be brutal, especially for those at the bottom (like slaves and indentured servants and poor), women were property of husband. But in native society, they had equality. “Many adopted captives lived and died among chosen people.”

At the end is a large wall of photos of people today who trace their origins to these captives.

“While many captives were returned to the society of their birth after months or years among the Indians, many others lived out the remainder of their lives with their adoptive people. Today, the descendants of captives represent a wonderfully diverse cross section of American society. In many cases they are alive today because of crucial decisions made in an instant, two centuries ago. They represent the living legacy of captivity, reminding us not only of our connection to the past, but also to the future.”

The exhibit engendered controversy when it first opened, but was so well appreciated, they extended viewing to October 2016.

Fort Pitt Museum tells the story of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role during the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, and as the birthplace of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Fort Pitt Museum tells the story of Western Pennsylvania’s pivotal role during the French & Indian War, the American Revolution, and as the birthplace of Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The school children now are gathered around a massive, detailed model of early Pittsburgh and the docent urges them to spot the tiny, anachronistic motorcycle (to make you more observant).

In summer, the museum offers living history programs and reenactments –with staff dressed in period costumes, firing off cannons, playing fife and drum, doing carpentry.

Fort Pitt Museum (open daily, 10 am – 5 pm, $5/adults, $4/seniors/ $3 students and children 4-17), 101 Commonwealth Place, Pittsburgh, PA, 15222, 412-281-9285, www.heinzhistorycenter.org/fort-pitt/ 

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com. 

Next: Pittsburgh Walking Tour Continues to National Aviary, Andy Warhol Museum

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

Pittsburgh’s skyline and rivers, as seen from Grandview Avenue at the Duquesne Incline © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pittsburgh’s skyline and rivers, as seen from Grandview Avenue at the Duquesne Incline © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pittsburgh was at the crossroads, commanding a literal pivotal position in the struggle for control of New World colonies by France and England – the Keystone of the Frontier. George Washington surveyed from a point now known as Mount Washington and picked the location for what became known as Fort Pitt, for who controlled this confluence of the rivers, would control the Colonial empire. Meriwether Lewis embarked on his historic westward Lewis & Clark Expedition from Pittsburgh.

The city grew and prospered and was blighted under the control of Industrial titans like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick whose steel mills controlled almost one-third of US output that built America’s infrastructure and turned the nation into an economic world power.

Most of those steel mills, the coal mines, the rail lines, the glass factories are shuttered, and the city went through a dismal time. But today, the city has been reborn.

One of the best reasons to visit Pittsburgh is to see how a city reclaims itself, how it can rise like a phoenix quite literally from ashes and turn itself into a city that embraces and nurtures its people.

The most fascinating discovery about Pittsburgh is how a city built for commerce and industry, built upon steel and machines, has become such a walkable, bikeable, liveable place – from grey to green.

Biking across one of Pittsburgh’s 445 bridges (more than any city in the world) © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Biking across one of Pittsburgh’s 445 bridges (more than any city in the world) © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You still see coal on barges on the river, railroads carrying freight on the bank below Mount Washington, the skyscrapers housing US Steel Corporation and the United Steelworkers Union, but you can actually see the city from Grandview Avenue, where once, the smokestacks would billow such thick particulates as to choke the city.

There is such richness in culture and heritage that abounds here, but the best reason to visit is to feel the vibe.

Old juxtaposed with new in Pittsburgh’s downtown © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Old juxtaposed with new in Pittsburgh’s downtown © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You feel it as you walk about, going from neighborhood to neighborhood, taking in the stunning juxtaposition of centuries-old architecture against modern structures. Pittsburgh is becoming an example of a “best of both worlds”, though old and new doesn’t necessarily mesh seamlessly, but rather with an exciting creative tension.

I have come to Pittsburgh to join the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn three-day, 120-mile bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage – a trail reclaimed from a former rail line that was used to carry the coal from the mines to the steel mills. It is the foremost example of the transition of an economy and the society that it supports. But I only have one full day, so I want my time to be as productive as possible.

And as authentic as possible, so I choose the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – a member of Historic Hotels of America – which celebrated its centennial in 2016 the same year as the city celebrated its bicentennial.

I start with the hotel’s concierge to get some ideas of how to organize my day in order to pack enough highlights that give me a real sense of this place – the things that are unique to the city.

She, in fact, epitomizes the story of Pittsburgh:

You see, her father worked in those steel mills of Andrew Carnegie and Frick, suffering the intense heat of a firey hell. There used to be steel mills lining the riverfront. She remembers how the pollution in the city was so thick, that you could not see the city below Grandview Avenue on Mount Washington ridge where I will be heading soon to take in the view. Her father died at an early age.

Today, the city’s main industries include academia, robotics, banking and finance and his daughter is now a concierge in a luxury hotel.

Entrance to the Omni William Penn Hotel, which celebrated its centennial in 2016, the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Entrance to the Omni William Penn Hotel, which celebrated its centennial in 2016, the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At its bicentennial in 2016, Pittsburgh boasted a population of 305,704; 2781 acres of city parks; 300 downtown restaurants; 31 skyscrapers; 90 neighborhoods; 24 miles of riverfront trails; 500 bicycle rentals through 50 stations of Pittsburgh  Bike Share (download app); 445 bridges (more than any city in the world) across three rivers.

Several Pittsburgh’s unique attractions are associated with people that I had not realized were native sons: August Wilson, Andy Warhol. Indeed, the special history of Pittsburgh is preserved in the institutions associated with the Senator John Heinz History Center (yes, the ketchup company family), as I discover.

She loads me up with handy lists and maps, and draws a route for me, and I am on my way.

Walk with me…

Old reflected in new in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Old reflected in new in Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Around the Omni William Penn Hotel, a complete renaissance is still underway: modern skyscrapers in glass and steel reflect back on restored brick Victorians – not exactly a seamless melding of past and present, nor is history accurately reflected.

I head toward the Southfield Street Bridge, a jewel of a steel bridge with a walking/biking lane, that takes me over the Monongahela River, where on the shore, a lovely indoor Station Square mall has developed around what would have been a factory, and there is a lovely bike path. Across the street, is the entrance to the Monongahela Incline, a funicular that takes you up to the Grandview Avenue, aptly named for the grand view of the city from its heights, on Mount Washington, named for George Washington who surveyed the area from this place, choosing the location at the Point below for a fort.

The Monongahela Incline originally opened in 1870 (refurbished in 2015) and is the nation’s oldest cable car operation © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Monongahela Incline originally opened in 1870 (refurbished in 2015) and is the nation’s oldest cable car operation © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is one of two remaining of the original 19 that used to run.

The Monongahela Incline originally opened in 1870 (refurbished in 2015) and is the nation’s oldest cable car operation. Its 35-degree grade makes it the steepest incline in the US; it travels the 635-foot length at 6 mph. It is operated by the Port Authority (so your bus pass works). Though the ride takes but a few minutes, it is so much fun. (portauthority.org).

The story of Pittsburgh is encapsulated from Mount Washington, named for George Washington who as a young man surveyed the area from this perch to choose a location for a fort. You gaze down at the expanse from viewing perches – how the rivers merge together, the skyscrapers and landscape. There are fascinating historical markers along Grandview Avenue that tell the story of steel and the critical role Pittsburgh played in the industrialization of the United States and its emergence, really, as a world economic power, and ultimately, “the Greening of Pittsburgh.”

Historical markers along Grandview Avenue make it easy to visualize Pittsburgh’s past © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Historical markers along Grandview Avenue make it easy to visualize Pittsburgh’s past © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mount Washington was once called Coal Hill, the spot where the nation’s coal industry was born around 1760.  “Here the Pittsburgh coal bed was mined to supply Fort Pitt. This was eventually to be judged the most valuable individual mineral deposit in the U.S.”

Another marker: “With its steel mills belching fire and smoke, Boston writer James Parton described the city as ‘hell with the lid off.’ Streetlights were often needed in the middle of the day to combat the haze of industrial smoke and grime. As recently as the late 1940s, visitors to Grandview Avenue had to strain to see the skyline through the haze.” Today, despite the clouds casting a grey pallor, I can still see the striking skyscape, and follow the outline of the rivers a long distance.

I stroll the avenue toward the next incline, the Duquesne, passing lovely Victorian homes and a library.

Riding down the Duquesne Incline © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Riding down the Duquesne Incline © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Duquesne Incline opened in 1877 – it has quite an interesting display of historical photos and artifacts. It is operated by the Society for the Preservation of Duquesne Heights Incline. It travels the 793 length at a speed of 6 mph, bringing me back down to the riverfront and I walk across the Fort Pitt Bridge down into Point State Park.

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com. 

Next: Pittsburgh Walking Tour Continues to Fort Pitt Museum

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Cruise Lines International, Cruise Critic Answer Top Five Cruising FAQs

Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas moored at its private island © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas moored at its private island © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(WASHINGTON, DC)— As part of Plan a Cruise Month, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community, has partnered with Cruise Critic, the world’s leading cruise review site and online cruise community, to answer five of the most frequently asked questions about cruising.

“For travelers considering a cruise for the first time, the unknown can sometimes be a bit overwhelming,” said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor, CruiseCritic.com.  “The beauty of cruising is that there truly is a cruise for every traveler. Whether you’re looking for an intimate experience focused on destinations, or a bustling ship with all the bells and whistles, there’s a cruise to meet every travel style and interest. The most important thing is to make note of what’s essential to you, and read reviews and ask a cruise specialist to find the perfect match.”

Top Five Cruise FAQs…Answered!

Question 1: How can I keep busy on days at sea?

With cruise lines unveiling entertainment and amenities that rival – and often times exceed – those found on land, travelers have an almost endless amount of activities to keep them entertained while at sea. Whether it’s a surf or skydive simulator, zip lines or cooking demonstrations, cruise lines have plenty onboard for just about any interest.

Question 2: Is it possible to really experience new cultures on a cruise?

The interest in experiential travel has continued to grow over the years, and cruise lines have jumped onboard to offer guests authentic opportunities to truly experience the destinations they visit. Cruisers can join chefs at local markets, book home visits with locals or volunteer to make a difference while in port. To cater to those looking for even more immersive experiences, some cruise lines offer overnights in port for more time to explore.

Question 3: Is cruising fun for all age groups?

With a wide and flexible range of dining, entertainment, excursion and even Internet options, cruising is the perfect travel option to satisfy all age groups. Working with a travel agent ensures travelers of all ages will find the best cruise for every personality. From bumper cars and water parks, to Broadway-style shows and farm-to-table dinners, the options are endless for cruisers of various ages and interests  for a variety of age groups.

Question 4: Can cruising be a healthy vacation?

The variety of cruise dining options is vast – from sushi and seafood, to Italian and French, cruise line cuisine leaves little to be craved. In addition to the multitude of dining choices, cruise lines cater to cruisers with various dietary restrictions and preferences including vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb and more. Onboard gyms, running tracks and fitness classes can help travelers stay on target with their workout regimens, even while at sea. Additionally, cruises offer abundant opportunities to meditate surrounded by ocean air and fun ways to stay active like rock climbing.

Question 5: Will I get seasick?

Today, ships are built with stabilizers that help keep vessels on as smooth a journey as possible, therefore motion on the ship is minimal. For those extra sensitive to motion, there are other ways to combat seasickness – booking an outside cabin in the middle of the ship can help, as can over-the-counter drug remedies, or non-drug remedies like ginger candy or acupressure bracelets. River cruises can also be a fantastic option for those worried about seasickness.

For more information about cruise travel or how you could enter to win a cruise of choice from October 1- October 31, 2016, please visit www.cruisesmile.org. Cruisers can find a CLIA cruise specialist travel agent at http://cruising.org/cruise-vacationer/cruise-travel-guide/clia-agent-finder.

About Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic® is an online cruise guide, offering a comprehensive resource for cruise travelers, from first-time cruisers to avid cruise enthusiasts. The site features more than 150,000 cruise reviews and hosts the world’s largest online cruise community where travelers share experiences and opinions with fellow cruisers. Cruise Critic was the first consumer cruise site on the Internet, launched in October 1995 by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.

About Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – One Industry, One Voice
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, providing a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community. The association has 15 offices globally with representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. CLIA supports policies and practices that foster a safe, secure, healthy and sustainable cruise ship environment for the more than 23 million passengers who cruise annually and is dedicated to promote the cruise travel experience. Members are comprised of the world’s most prestigious ocean, river and specialty cruise lines; a highly trained and certified travel agent community; and cruise line suppliers and partners, including ports & destinations, ship development, suppliers and business services. The organization’s mission is to be the unified global organization that helps its members succeed by advocating, educating and promoting for the common interests of the cruise community. For more information, visit www.cruising.org or follow Cruise Lines International Association on CLIA Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Historic Hotels of America to Select 2016 Awards of Excellence Winners from Among Finalists

Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), the famous “Pink Lady” of  St. Pete Beach, Florida, is a finalist for Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), the famous “Pink Lady” of St. Pete Beach, Florida, is a finalist for Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Historic Hotels of America® and Historic Hotels Worldwide®  will be announcing winners of the 2016 Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence at a Gala Dinner at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 3.  These Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence recognize and celebrate the finest historic hotels and hoteliers across the nation and around the world.

Award recipients are selected from nominees received from historic hotels, historic preservation supporters, prior award recipients, and leadership from Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. As official programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide provide the recognition to travelers, civic leaders, and the global cultural, heritage, and historic travel market that member hotels are among the finest historic hotels across America and around the world. The Historic Hotels Annual Awards of Excellence program recognizes the pinnacle of this distinct group of nominees in a range of categories.

From over 200 nominations, the awards committee evaluated, and after careful consideration selected the following 2016 award nominee finalists:

Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year

  • Woodstock Inn & Resort (1793) Woodstock, Vermont
  • The Inn at Diamond Cove (1890) Portland, Maine
  • The Redbury New York (1903) New York, New York
  • XV Beacon (1903) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Hotel Warner (1930) West Chester, Pennsylvania

Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel

  • Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California
  • The Jefferson, Washington, DC (1923) Washington, DC
  • The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928) St. Pete Beach, Florida
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), St. Pete Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), St. Pete Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sustainability Champion

  • Hanover Inn Dartmouth (1780) Hanover, New Hampshire
  • The Boar’s Head (1834) Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (1847) Point Clear, Alabama
  • The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins (1903) Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Hilton Chicago (1927) Chicago, Illinois

Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (Under 75 Guestrooms)

  • Concord’s Colonial Inn (1716) Concord, Massachusetts
  • Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn (1766) Rhinebeck, New York
  • Inn at the Presidio (1776) San Francisco, California
  • Inn at Leola Village, Est. 1867 (1867) Leola, Pennsylvania
  • The Chanler at Cliff Walk (1873) Newport, Rhode Island
  • The Wort Hotel (1941) Jackson, Wyoming

Best Historic Hotel (75-200 Guestrooms)

  • The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn (1909) Cooperstown, New York
  • The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee
  • Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection (1915) Davenport, Iowa
  • Historic Hotel Bethlehem (1922) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • La Fonda on the Plaza™ (1922) Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Hawthorne Hotel (1925) Salem, Massachusetts
Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee, a historic hotel
The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee, is nominated for Best Historic Hotel (75-200 guestrooms) © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Best Historic Hotel (201-400 Guestrooms)

  • The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California
  • The Plaza (1907) New York, New York
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown (1912) Portland, Oregon
  • Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center (1927) Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • The Edgewater (1948) Madison, Wisconsin
The lobby of The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC, from which the term “lobbyist” derived © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The lobby of The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC, from which the term “lobbyist” derived © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Best Historic Hotel (Over 400 Guestrooms)

  • Palace Hotel (1875) San Francisco, California
  • Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901) Honolulu, Hawaii
  • The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California
  • The Drake Hotel (1920) Chicago, Illinois
  • Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (1931) Cincinnati, Ohio

Best City Center Historic Hotel

  • The Pfister Hotel (1893) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square (1893) San Francisco, California
  • Le Pavillon Hotel (1907) New Orleans, Louisana
  • The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection (1925) Washington, DC
  • Boston Park Plaza (1927) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Hilton Chicago (1927) Chicago, Illinois

Best Historic Resort

  • The Omni Homestead Resort (1766) Hot Springs, Virginia
  • Keswick Hall (1912) Charlottesville, Virginia
  • The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Spring, Colorado
  • The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin
  • Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (1923) Ojai, California
  • The Hotel Hershey® (1933) Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hotel Historian of the Year

  • Susan Wilson at the Omni Parker House, Boston (1855) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tom Vickstrom at The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tina Malasics at The Gasparilla Inn & Club (1913) Boca Grande, Florida
  • Beth Davis at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Spring, Colorado
  • Teresa Porter at the Benbow Historic Inn (1926) Garberville, California
  • Lora Gallagher at the Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort (1955) Honolulu, Hawaii

Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel

  • Chez Philippe at The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee
  • The Spiced Pear at The Chanler at Cliff Walk (1873) Newport, Rhode Island
  • Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion (1886) Charleston, South Carolina
  • Woods Restaurant at Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • Penrose Room at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • The Wisconsin Room at The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin

Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year

  • The Widman Family at Wentworth Mansion (1886) in Charleston, South Carolina
  • The Monteleone Family at Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • The Smiley Family at Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York
  • The Kohler Family at The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin
  • The Melius Family at OHEKA CASTLE (1919) Huntington, New York
  • The Genzlinger Family at The Settlers Inn at Bingham Park (1927) Hawley, Pennsylvania
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York, still owned and managed by the Smiley Family, is a finalist for Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York, still owned and managed by the Smiley Family, is a finalist for Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ambassador of the Year (Quarter Century Service)

  • Shirley St. Peter at the Hanover Inn Dartmouth (1780) Hanover, New Hampshire
  • Steve Blum at The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • Doug Weatherford at The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee
  • Ken Price at The Palmer House®, A Hilton Hotel (1871) Chicago, Illinois
  • Anna Alba at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Linda Shoe at The Hotel Viking (1926) Newport, Rhode Island

Historic Hotelier of the Year

  • Terry Haney at the Inn at the Presidio (1776) San Francisco, California
  • Doug Browne at The Peabody Memphis (1861) Memphis, Tennessee
  • Randy Howat at the Inns of Distinction, LLC (1867) Pennsylvania
  • Duane and Kelly Roberts at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California
  • Kathy Faulk at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC (1930) Washington, DC
  • Jim Waldrop at The Wort Hotel (1941) Jackson, Wyoming

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Europe

  • NH Collection Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi (1212) Amalfi, Italy
  • Bernini Palace Hotel (15th Century) Florence, Italy
  • Pulitzer Amsterdam (17th Century) Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Antica Dimora Suites (1820) Crete, Greece
  • Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (1845) Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Ciragan Palace Kempinski (1867) Istanbul, Turkey

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Asia/Pacific

  • Fort Seengh Sagar (1670) Rajasthan, India
  • Alsisar Haveli (1892) Jaipur, India
  • Hotel New Grand (1927) Yokohama, Japan
  • Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (1901) Hanoi, Vietnam
  • The Fullerton Hotel Singapore (1928) Singapore
  • Mansion Hotel (1932) Shanghai, China

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in the Americas

  • Alfiz Hotel (17th Century) Cartagena, Colombia
  • Hacienda Xcanatún (1789) Merida, Mexico
  • Quinta Real Puebla (1893) Puebla, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (1893) Québec City, Canada
  • The Omni King Edward Hotel (1903) Toronto, Canada
  • Alvear Palace Hotel (1932) Buenos Aires, Argentina

 Historic Hotels of America

Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating historic hotels, was founded in 1989 with 32 charter members and today has more than 290 historic hotel members. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

Historic Hotels Worldwide

Historic Hotels Worldwide®, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,  is a prestigious collection of historic treasures, including historic hotels, castles, chateaus, palaces, academies, haciendas, villas, monasteries, and other historic lodging spanning more than ten centuries. Historic Hotels Worldwide recognizes authentic cultural treasures that demonstrate historic preservation and their inspired architecture, cultural traditions, and authentic cuisine. HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com allows travelers to book their next getaway from more than 3,000 historic and cultural experiences, and view special offers at participating historic hotels from 30 countries. To be nominated and selected to be featured on this supplemental marketing program website, historic lodging must be at least 75 years old; utilize historic accommodations; serve as the former home or be located on the grounds of the former home of famous persons or significant location for an event in history; be located in or within walking distance to a historic district, historically significant landmark, place of historic event, or a historic city center; be recognized by a local preservation organization or national trust; and display historic memorabilia, artwork, photography, and other examples of its historic significance. To be selected in the United States for inclusion in Historic Hotels Worldwide, a hotel must meet the above criteria plus be a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, visit HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com.

Click here to see the Historic Hotels of America video. To receive special offers, including the monthly enewsletter,Discover & Explore, which includes hotel specials, offers and historic fun facts, click here. View the Historic Hotels of America 2016 Annual Directory ebook or download the free app on iTunesAmazonGoogle play, and the Windows Store.

 

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Vail Resorts Looks to 2016-17 Season With $100M in Improvements, Acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb

Keystone Mountain Resort is the ultimate family resort destination, offering more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, night skiing, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities and is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Keystone Mountain Resort is the ultimate family resort destination, offering more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, night skiing, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities and is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman, Dave E Leiberman

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each year, Vail Resorts has something sensational to announce and this year is no different: the company, already the largest collection of major mountain resorts, is acquiring the iconic Whistler Blackcomb, in British Columbia. That would give Vail Resorts the largest resort in North America as well as the largest ski resort in the United States, with its acquisition and merger last year of Park City with Canyons in Utah.

“Whistler Blackcomb is one of the most iconic mountain resorts in the world with an incredible history, passionate employees and a strong community. With our combined experience and expertise, together we will build upon the guest experience at Whistler Blackcomb while preserving the unique brand and character of the resort as an iconic Canadian destination for guests around the world. We are delighted to add such a renowned resort to Vail Resorts and look forward to expanding our relationships in the Sea-to-Sky community, British Columbia and Canada,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

Whistler Blackcomb is the largest resort in North America, with 8,100 acres. It is famous for hosting major alpine skiing events like the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics, and for its Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the longest and highest lift in the world (2.7 miles, it takes 11 minutes to ride).

Dave Brownlie, Whistler Blackcomb’s chief executive officer added, “As the number one ranked and most visited resort in North America, Whistler Blackcomb has enjoyed tremendous success by delivering an exceptional mountain experience for our passionate and loyal guests — both locally and from around the world.  That’s going to continue as we work with our new colleagues at Vail Resorts as well as our employees, local businesses, community and government stakeholders to make Whistler Blackcomb better than ever. We will also continue our discussions with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, on whose traditional lands we operate, regarding a business partnership that will benefit our communities, our province and our company for decades to come. Our board of directors has also been monitoring the unique challenges facing the broader ski industry due to the unpredictability of year-to-year regional weather patterns. Whistler Blackcomb, with its unprecedented acreage of high alpine terrain and Glacier bowls, is well positioned, but by no means immune to these challenges. Partnering with the geographically diversified Vail Resorts and extending its successful Epic Pass products to Whistler Blackcomb are customer-focused ways of securing the long-term future of our resort, our industry and our community.”

Whistler Blackcomb won’t be fully integrated into Vail Resorts’ EpicPass until next year, but through acquisitions and collaborations, EpicPass already gives its passholders global reach, with unlimited and unrestricted access to VailBeaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City in Utah; HeavenlyNorthstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe, Afton Alps near Minneapolis, Mt. Brighton near Detroit, Wilmot Mountain near Chicago and the 2017 Perisher season in Australia. New for the 2016-2017 season, Epic Pass holders can now ski or snowboard for specified number of days in Europe including resorts in Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy (Europe is Epic details at EuropeIsEpic.com). It means that avid skiers can go wherever the snow seems best. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days, while also saving more than 45 percent versus tickets purchased at a resort lift ticket window. The Epic pass also provides other discounts, including 20% off lodging, even off already discounted specials. Multiple pass options are on sale now at EpicPass.com.

Vail Resorts continues to raise the bar for skiers and riders investing $100 million in the guest experience for the upcoming winter across its resorts, bringing its five-year, industry-leading resort investment total to more than $500 million across the company. The most significant improvements include a new restaurant on Peak 7 at Breckenridge, an upgraded high-speed chairlift accessing Vail’s Back Bowls, significant renovations to the guest rooms of The Pines Lodge, A RockResort at Beaver Creek, and $13 million to completely re-imagine the guest experience at Wilmot Mountain, located near Chicago, Ill.

“Guests expect a premium experience when they visit one of our resorts, including the highest levels of guest service as well as the cutting edge in lifts, restaurants, lodging and other elements of their vacation,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “This year’s resort improvement plan reflects our goal to continue to deliver an Experience of a Lifetime for all of our guests.”

Here is a summary of new developments:

Skiing at Northstar California, with a view of Lake Tahoe. New this year: EpicMix Time guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Skiing at Northstar California, with a view of Lake Tahoe. New this year: EpicMix Time guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

EpicMix Time expands to Park City and Lake Tahoe to provide crowd-sourced lift line wait times to guests – EpicMix™ Time – an expansion of the award-winning ski and snowboard app, EpicMix – will debut at Park City in Utah, and Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe during the 2016-17 season, allowing guests to access real-time lift line wait times enabling them to better navigate the mountain and make the most out of their ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time uses proprietary technology to calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times. This innovative application of crowd-sourcing technology debuted last year at the Company’s four Colorado resorts.

Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

The Heavenly gondola with views to Lake Tahoe. Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years, steps from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Heavenly gondola with views to Lake Tahoe. Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years, steps from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vail Resorts is assuming management of Zalanta Resort at the Village, a new luxury condominium property, South Lake Tahoe’s first whole-ownership luxury condominium development in more than 30 years,  just steps away from the Heavenly Mountain Gondola, shops, dining, and in close proximity to showrooms, casinos, beaches and world-class golf. The first phase of the project – slated for completion in late-January 2017 – will include 30 luxury whole ownership residences, year-round heated outdoor swimming pool and hot tubs, a fire pit, fitness center and complimentary access for owners and guests to Lake Tahoe’s semi-private Lakeshore Beach. The development will also include more than 19,000-square-feet of retail space, which may include a 6,500-square-foot restaurant.

A second phase of development at Zalanta is proposed to include 60 additional whole ownership residences, cabanas, rooftop terrace and private underground parking garage. If approved, construction would begin as early as mid-2017 with completion following in mid- to late-2018.

Northstar California

Enjoying Tost, the 2 pm champagne toast ritual at Northstar California © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enjoying Tost, the 2 pm champagne toast ritual at Northstar California © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our favorite activities are back at Northstar California: Tost, a 2 pm ritual of a champagne (or apple cider) toast on the mountain, and this year, select dates will feature live music; Mountain Table Dinner series, featuring a mountaintop gourmet meal paired with wines from a local winery on the mountain in the Zephyr Lodge with stunning panoramic views of the sunset behind the Sierra Nevada’s Pacific Crest.

Park City, Utah

Vail Resorts’ EpicMix Time, the ski and snowboard app, is debuting at Park City Mountain, allowing guests to access real-time lift line wait times, better navigate the mountain across 7,300 acres of skiable terrain.

Guests will reap the benefits of Vail Resorts’ $50 million investment in the merger of Park City Mountain Resort with Canyons, including a new eight-passenger Quicksilver Gondola connection, new restaurant (Miners Camp) and new King Con Express six-person chairlife and MOtherlode Express four-person chairlift. The resort, now the largest in the US, offers over 300 trails, 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, one super pipe and one mini-pipe. “The mountain is as big as you want to make it.”

Special features: Night skiing at Park City base area, free Mining Tour with a mountain host; sleigh rides  in the evening, an alpine coaster at Park City base, ice skating rink, snowshoeing, music in the base area, a robust après-ski scene on Main Street (you can ski in/out to Main Street and take a free bus back).

Events are big in Park City: Snowbound Celebration, a 16-day festival with musical acts, entertainers, torchlight parade, visit from Santa; Spring Gruv Celebration, a 16-day fest in March with free concerts and Pond Skimming Contest.

Vail Mountain

Four-Passenger Sun Up Express opens – Vail Mountain’s ninth new chairlift in the last 10 years will debut this winter, replacing the Sun Up Lift with a four-passenger, high-speed chairlift, now called the Sun Up Express. The new express chairlift will increase capacity of the former lift by 65 percent and reduce the average ride time from eight minutes to four minutes. The new lift will be a primary lift on the Back Bowls of Vail Mountain, serving intermediate and advanced terrain and dispersing skiers and snowboarders into this legendary terrain. More importantly, this makes 19 of Vail’s 22 chairlifts, and all of its core lifts, high speed. “If you haven’t skied Vail in 10 years, it will be a completely different experience.”

In other news, The Arrabelle at Vail Square, a RockResort just steps from The Eagle Bahn Gondola, has gotten a refresh (www.arrabelle.rockresorts.com).

Highlights of winter events include: Vail Snow Daze (Dec. 9-11), Vail Holidaze (Dec. 16-18, 31); CarniVail (Feb. 25-28), and the BurtonUS Open Snowboarding championships (Feb. 27-March 4).

Visit vail.com/lodging to find the best vacation deals.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek is known for the ultimate in luxury and traditions including afternoon cookies © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Beaver Creek is known for the ultimate in luxury and traditions including afternoon cookies © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Beaver Creek, famous for luxury, takes that to an extreme with its white Glove Winter Package – travel in style with first-class airfare into Vail/Beaver Creek’s Eagle Airport (EGE), private helicopter transportation to the base of Beaver Creek Mountain, and private car to the excusive Trappers Cabin. Nestled among aspen groves at 9,500 ft, Trappers Cabin is the ultimate in luxury, with your own gourmet chef and private Ski School Ambassador, Epic Passes, Helly Hansen gear and other lux perks (valued at $50,000, BeaverCreek.com/White Glove).

And that’s not all: Beaver Creek’s White Carpet Club, an exclusive private retreat within Beaver Creek Village, is available for the duration. It hosts spacious lockers, continental service island, on-site concierge, priority access to SaddleRidge Restaurant, preferred parking and slope-side equipment check.

White Glove First Tracks provides exclusive access to the pristine slopes at sunrise, a five-star gourmet breakfast on the mountain at Allie’s Cabin.  Gusts board the centennial Express l ift at 7:30 am, enjoy a private guided tour of the mountain and relax over breakfast, all before the resort opens (select dates, reserve 866-250-1679).

Allie’s Cabin is offering special Wine Dinners on select Thursday evenings, organized with celebrated wineries, accompanied by fireworks display over Beaver Creek Village. Guests arrive via open-air sleigh for a gourmet culinary experience in the cabin.  New this winter and offered during select weekends, Allie’s Cabin Family Dinners.

Gourmet Snowshoe Adventures and Wine Tasting –Three versions are available, each combining wellness-promoting 90-minute guided snowshoeing tour, scenic gondola ride, followed by gourmet decadence for which Beaver Creek is renowned at the Osprey Fireside Grill. Guests can choose among Women’s Wednesday Walk & Wine, Winter Wine Excursions (Thursdays), and Fonduye + Shoe (Fridays).

The Pines Lodge, A RockResort in Beaver Creek has undergone a significant renovation of its 60 hotel rooms, keeping the unique European charm that the ski-in hotel has always offered while introducing a modern mountain luxury theme, enhancing the guest’s experience and comfort.

Beaver Creek Signature Winter Events include the Audi Birds of Prey Men’s World Cup and EverBank America’s Winter Opening (Nov. 29-Dec. 7), and Beaver Creek Winter Culinary Weekend (Jan. 19-22).

Breckenridge Ski Resort

Dog sledding is one of the non-skiing activities at Breckenridge, where you can also get a free Mining Tour with a mountain ski ambassador © 2016 Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dog sledding is one of the non-skiing activities at Breckenridge, where you can also get a free Mining Tour with a mountain ski ambassador © 2016 Eric Leiberman/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Breckenridge Ski Resort will open Pioneer Crossing, a new, 490-seat restaurant just steps from Independence SuperChair on Peak 7, one of the resort’s five iconic peaks with dramatic views of Summit County. The restaurant will highlight Breckenridge’s mining history. Also Breckenridge Distrillery,  offering farm-to-table experience and new distilled flavors, is being expanded.

Classic Peak 9 Village Base area is getting a face lift, and is the scene for Breckenridge’s signature events which this year includes the Dew Tour (Dec. 8-11), returning for its 10th anniversary, when world-class winter athlete4s compete; Ullr Fest (Jan. 11-14), a 50-year tradition for the Breck community to pay tribute to the Norse god of snow; and 27th annual International Snow Sculpture Championships (Jan. 24-28).

Keystone Mountain Resort

Keystone Mountain Resort offers night skiing and a charming village at the base © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Keystone Mountain Resort offers night skiing and a charming village at the base © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Keystone Mountain Resort, one of the easiest major resorts to reach from Denver International Airport, one of the few that offers night skiing, as well as combined access to Arapahoe Basin with its lift ticket, is famous for its family-oriented programs.

Keystone’s Kids Ski Free Program Turns 5: Keystone has long been the place where kids rule, and this year the resort’s unmatched Kids Ski Free program turns 5 (which just so happens to be the same age that kids can officially become a part of this awesome program). More than 100,000 free kids’ lift tickets have been provided to families since the program began in 2012. This year guests can look forward to free Kidtopia events and parties, including a special weekly birthday bash with Ripperoo, plus free skiing. Every day, all season long, kids 12 and younger ski for free at Keystone with no blackout dates when parents book two or more nights in one of Keystone’s accommodation options, ranging from affordable hotel rooms to family-sized condominiums.

The world’s largest snowfort is a hallmark of Keystone’s Kidtopia festival © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The world’s largest snowfort is a hallmark of Keystone’s Kidtopia festival © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular – Dec. 16-18, 2016: Keystone’s Kidtopia continues to redefine the family resort experience with free activities and events on and off the snow every day of the week starting Friday, Nov. 25. This winter Keystone presents the inaugural Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular, a weekend of festive on-mountain fun for the entire family. This free event will showcase a variety of activities and Kidtopia programs that make the resort a top destination for families, including nightly firework displays, a torchlight ski parade led by Keystone’s Ski & Ride School, and a mountaintop celebration where guests can enjoy free snow tubing, snowcat photo opportunities, live music, hot cocoa and fireside stories with Santa. Kidtopia will animate the mountaintop with Bigfoot adventure walks and a ski patrol-dog meet and greet, plus a special lighting ceremony of the world’s largest Snow Fort to create an unforgettable weekend.

The Kidtopia Experience March 5-11, 2017: With the addition of the Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular, this winter season is bookended by two awesome Kidtopia events as the Kidtopia Experience returns for an extended week-long celebration. Start your family spring break early and be a part of all the kid-centric festivities and live outdoor music at the Kidtopia Experience, March 5-11.

Behind-the-Scenes Chocolate Tours with Keystone’s Very Own “Willy Wonka”: Keystone Resort’s executive pastry chef Ned Archibald welcomes guests for a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse into his world of decadent desserts and chocolate making at the resort. Take a break from the slopes one morning to experience these can’t-miss tours designed for kids (and parents), and meet the man himself, tour his chef’s workshop and make delicious treats of your own to take home. No golden ticket required; these Chocolate Tours are free to attend. Offered on select dates throughout the season. Schedule TBD.

Bavarian Night at Der Fondue atop Keystone Mountain © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bavarian Night at Der Fondue atop Keystone Mountain © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On-Mountain Family Adventures: With Keystone’s enclosed River Run Gondola, mountaintop adventures like snowcat tours, snow tubing and fondue dinners are accessible to the whole family regardless of skiing ability. The Mountaintop Snowcat Tour is a popular family activity that brings you to Keystone’s high-alpine bowls for breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and surrounding mountain ranges. Adventure Point, just steps away from the Kidtopia Snow Fort, features up to eight lanes of high-speed tubing action for kids and kids at heart. To cap off an evening of mountaintop adventure, guests can enjoy two gondola rides en route to Keystone’s North Peak, where Der Fondue Chessel offers an exciting and interactive dining experience for the whole family, complete with accordion-wielding musicians in lederhosen, all at 11,640-feet elevation.

Experience the Mountain Together with a Family Private Lesson: Whether your family is new to skiing and snowboarding or you’re seasoned snow veterans, those looking to develop new skills, improve technique or explore the mountain like never before can enjoy the Keystone Ski & Ride School’s Family Private Lesson together. Taking advantage of shared on-snow time, bonding is just an added bonus to these specially designed lessons. Private lessons can be reserved for up to six family members (or friends) of similar ability, and with instructors who specialize in working with the whole family.

Riding the gondola to dinner atop Keystone Mountain 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Riding the gondola to dinner atop Keystone Mountain 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Keystone Resort’s more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, average of 300 days of sun a year, convenient lodging and variety of on- and off-snow activities all combine to provide the ideal location for winter vacations. As one of the closest ski resorts to Denver, Keystone is the ultimate family resort destination. Convenient touches like free parking, including front-row family parking, and complimentary red wagons to help parents tote gear and kiddos to and from the slopes help make a winter family visit to Keystone easy and hassle-free. For more information visit keystoneresort.com.

For more information or to book trips at any of the Vail Resorts mountains, visit snow.com. 

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

 

 

New Era of Luxury American River Cruising Opens with Launch of French America Line’s Louisiane

Louisiane, an intimate riverboat for just 150 guests, has begun her inaugural year sailing America’s rivers; 2017 cruise tours start March 4, 2017
Louisiane, an intimate riverboat for just 150 guests, has begun her inaugural year sailing America’s rivers; 2017 cruise tours start March 4, 2017

NEW ORLEANS – A new era of boutique American river cruising has opened with the launch of French America Line’s 75-stateroom flagship, Louisiane.

Formerly the Columbia Queen, riverboat has undergone a multimillion dollar refurbishment to reflect a subtle but elegant French-inspired ambience to embrace the rich history of the areas she sails that were once known as French America. The ship brims with exquisite French style and the romantic joie de vivre of her home port of New Orleans. Inaugural sailings have already commenced.

The ship accommodates a maximum of 150 guests in 75 suites and staterooms and a crew of 64 for sailings that celebrate regional cultural influences in food, music and history. The Lousiane’s small size allows her to access historic river ports on five American rivers that larger ships cannot navigate. This creates an opportunity to see and experience ports that haven’t been accessed by a U.S. river ship in more than a decade.

“We designed Louisiane to embody superb river experiences, including exploring many diverse traditions on our country’s waterways that were influenced by la belle France during the colonization of America. It’s a wonderful narrative and quite unique to what’s currently available, offering the highest level of service and amenities comparable to that found on the rivers of Europe,” said Christopher Kyte, Chairman, French America Line.

“We also believe that the integrity of the company to whom you trust your vacation should be reflected in our fare structure. Therefore, we guarantee that we will not artificially inflate our prices and then lower prices as the sailing date approaches. You can book early with utmost confidence that you are receiving the best price available, as our fares remain the same from the moment they are created until the moment the vessel sails. That is the French America Line promise,” said Kyte.

“To set a new standard for sophisticated travelers, we offer a variety of cruise lengths to suit any schedule with inspired itineraries that visit a waterfront tapestry of charming towns, villages and grand cities. We hope to capture your heart with the finest regional French, Southern and continental cuisine afloat by Regina Charboneau, our award-winning Chef de Cuisine, and set your spirits soaring with the best-of-America onboard entertainment each night. We have also added some delicious and luxurious surprises, from Hermès bath amenities in the Richelieu Suites and L’Occitaine en Provence in all staterooms to fresh marcarons from the House of Ladurée upon embarkation and nightly gourmet Vosges chocolates at turndown,” he said.

Innovative Experiences

French America Line’s flagship, Louisiane.
French America Line’s flagship, Louisiane.

Itineraries on America’s most iconic rivers and waterways – Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and Red rivers = range from five to 10 days. Pricing is virtually all-inclusive, with one-night pre-embarkation deluxe hotel stay in some of America’s most legendary hotels, all meals, free-flowing hand-selected beverages, wines, beer and spirits, nightly live entertainment, informative cultural and historical talks by onboard Illuminators, and memorable Traveler Collection shore excursions in every port of call included in the tariff.

Bicycles, helmets and maps are also available for independent explorations in every port of call. For more in-depth experiences during the cruise tour, optional private Curator Collection guided experiences may be added. Optional Prelude and Encore packages are also available for extended pre- and post-cruise experiences.

To enhance experiences onboard and in port, hand-selected expert Illuminators will bring to life surprising facets of regional culture, history, politics, music and more. Lively sessions might delve into the nuances of barbecue styles, the history of classic American cocktails, the origins of Zydeco, the blues or bluegrass music traditions, the religious underpinnings of Mardi Gras, the socio-economic impact of changing agricultural practices on the Mississippi or Native American history in the Upper Midwest.

Signature features on Louisiane include:

  • Complimentary one-night pre-cruise stay in deluxe luxury hotel and next day breakfast and transfer to the riverboat on sailing day
  • Complimentary daily Traveler Collection shore excursions in every port of call, inclusive of any admission fees
  • All meals are included in the tariff, featuring open seating in two dining venues offering inventive regional, French and Continental favorites as well as healthy Currents Cuisine selections under 400 calories for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 24-hour room service
  • Complimentary free-flowing hand-selected wines, spirits, beers, soft drinks, artisanal coffees, tea and choice of still or sparkling Natura brand water in suites and staterooms, replenished daily
  • Full-service Currents Spa with relaxing body treatments and salon nail and hair services with L’Occitaine en Provence products
  • Complimentary WiFi in all public areas
  • Complimentary onboard enrichment talks with noted regional historian Illuminators and live evening musical entertainment celebrating the best of the river and coastal regional America
  • Famed House of Ladurée Parisian-style macarons fresh from its New York City boutique upon embarkation, followed by nightly turndown service of gourmet Vosges chocolates
  • French America Line is also the only American river cruise line to offer in-room iPads pre-loaded with e-books, daily shore excursion programs and menus for onboard dining and entertainment

75 Suites + Staterooms for Just 150 Guests

  • Guests have a choice of 75 suites and staterooms in seven categories, many with private verandas or French balconies for optimal river viewing, all situated on the top three of the intimate ship’s four decks
  • All staterooms feature individual climate control, makeup mirror, deluxe mattresses clad in luxurious linens and duvets, private bathroom with plush towels and L’Occitane en Provence bath amenities, spa-quality bathrobes and slippers, in-room safe, ample storage space, 24-hour room service, flat screen LED television with satellite programming, direct-dial telephones and complimentary 24-hour room service
  • Richelieu Suite: The most lavish accommodations onboard are these two spacious suites on the uppermost Champlain Deck, with panoramic windows and wraparound outdoor promenade seating area, a queen bed, double armoire with built-in drawer storage, chest of drawers, desk and exclusive extras, including Hermès bath amenities, evening canapés, complimentary laundry, fresh fruit and flowers upon arrival, complimentary Curator Collection experiences and private car transfers to/from the airport

Dining + Entertainment  

  • Culinary delights are available around the clock and reflect the regional French, Southern and continental favorites of celebrated Chef de Cuisine Regina Charboneau
  • Convivial Welcome Reception and Farewell Dinner on every voyage
  • The Crescent Room the main dining room on the first level La Salle Deck is a plush jewel box designed for distinctive gourmet dining with open seating, featuring skilled tableside service for breakfast, lunch, and multi-course dinner, and then it transforms into a lively venue for an evening cabaret show
  • Veranda, a casual French Quarter-style bistro with indoor and outdoor open seating, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, and savory and sweet crepes, beignets and specialty coffees and tea throughout the day, complete with an ever-changing backdrop of charming river town views from its aft perch atop the Champlain Deck
  • The French Quarter Lounge is just the first of three lounges, overlooking the bow on the Joliet Deck, featuring soft jazz nightly
  • The Great River Room is forward on the Marquette Deck and the location for quiet card games as well as private receptions and events
  • Bar Royale adjoining The Orleans Room is ideal for stylish pre-dinner aperitifs

2017 U.S. River Cruise Tour Itineraries

The 2016 Louisiane catalog, with detailed descriptions of itineraries that visit the Deep South, the Heart of America, River Crossroads and Wilderness Rivers, as well as highlights in all ports of call, is now available.

Bookings have also opened for 2017 itineraries, offered from March 4, 2017 to January 6, 2018, featuring 48 five- to 14-day experiential cruise tours New in 2017 are itineraries that also sail along the rarely visited Illinois and Arkansas rivers, and new 2017 destination ports that include Chattanooga, TN; Louisville, KY and Pittsburgh, PA, with pre-cruise one-night deluxe hotel stays prior to embarkation included in the tariff.

Sixteen 2017 itineraries offer the opportunity to spend the night onboard prior to disembarkation in four engaging ports of call, Louisville, KY; Memphis, TN; Natchez, MS, and St. Louis, MO, to permit personal explorations. Discover the allure of thoroughbred racing and aged bourbon; the beats of Beale Street; the charms of antebellum homes and southern entertaining, or the sights and tastes of Music City USA.

DEEP SOUTH™ itineraries will sail the Lower Mississippi and rarely-visited Red River beginning March 4, 2017, departing from New Orleans, LA and Memphis, TN.

MISSISSIPPI HEADWATERS™ itineraries will sail the Ohio, Mississippi and the rarely traveled Illinois River, departing from St. Louis, MO; St. Paul, MN and Chicago, IL.

RIVER CROSSROADS™ itineraries will sail the Ohio and Mississippi rivers beginning in St. Louis, MO; Louisville, KY, and Pittsburgh, PA.

WILDERNESS RIVERS™ itineraries will sail the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers beginning in Louisville, KY and Chattanooga, TN.

Partnership with French Heritage Society

French America Line has a newly formed partnership with the French Heritage Society.  Established in 1982, the French Heritage Society includes 12 chapters in the U.S. and France. Through various activities and educational programs, they facilitate the preservation, restoration and promotion of French heritage throughout France and the U.S. Their central mission of is to ensure that the treasures of our shared French architectural and cultural heritage survive to inspire future generations. This is done through restoration, preservation and cultural grants, educational programs, lectures and conferences. A portion of the sale of French America Line’s Curator Collection experiences will benefit the Society’s efforts along the Louisiane’s river routes.

To reserve or learn more, visit www.frenchamericaline.com or call 888-387-1140.

Preferred Partner with Journese 

French America Line has been named a preferred partner with Journese, the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays, one of the country’s largest tour operators.

“French America Line is a great fit for Journese, as the new cruise line offers diverse and rarely sailed river cruises visiting charming American destinations with a wealth of amenities, enriching excursions and superb dining and entertainment that Journese guests are seeking. We’re proud to include Journese among the unique lifetime experiences our travel agency partners can offer their clients,” said Amy Comparato, Brand Director, Journese.

Journese is the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays, offering fully customized four-and five-star journeys across the globe, including Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Cook Islands, Europe, Fiji, Mexico, New Zealand, The Hawaiian Islands, The Islands of Tahiti, United Arab Emirates and the United States. Serving vacationers since 1977, Journese provides boutique service, expert knowledge, private transportation options and upscale activities. Journese is a member of the United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA) and participates in the $1 million travelers’ assistance program. CST 1007939-10.

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