Three of the best ski areas in New York are actually owned by New York State and operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority – Whiteface and Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills. (Among the improvements ORDA has made is new RFID technology for direct-to-lift access and online purchasing so you can go directly from your car to the slopes; the ticket can be renewed online.)
Top of the list for ski areas with a world-class reputation is Whiteface, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, where in addition to skiing, you can visit Olympic venues and even participate (biathalon, anyone? skate on the Olympic Oval, drive a coaster down the bobsled track).
Whiteface offers the greatest vertical, 3430 ft. from the summit at 4867 ft, of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. This is a serious mountain – actually three mountains, Whiteface summit is a 4,867 ft.; Lookout Mountain tops at 4,000 ft.; Little Whiteface at 3,676 ft. – with more expert terrain, more long, rolling groomers (including the longest single intermediate run in the Northeast, the 2.1 mile-long Wilmington Trail) in the East. It offers 300 skiable acres: 89 runs (24% beginner, 44% intermediate, 33% advanced) and 53 acres of glades and 5 terrain parks, serviced by 13 lifts, including the gorgeous Cloudsplitter Gondola Ride that cuts an aerial path through the Adirondack Mountains on its way to the peak of Little Whiteface.
Whiteface is my favorite ski destination in New York, largely because of Lake Placid, the ambiance and the extraordinary activities.
Experience the thrill of what it was like to be an Olympic Bobsledder during the 1980 Winter Games on the new Cliffside Mountain Coaster at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, which boasts being the longest year-round mountain coaster in the USA. You control the ride – you have the ability to go as slow or as fast as you’d like. Race your family & friends alongside the 1980 bobsled track to the bottom. During the scenic ride to the top of the Cliffside Coaster you learn about the inspiring Olympic history of the Lake Placid Sliding Center.
Other attractions and recent upgrades to the Olympic Sites include the new Sky Flyer Zipline at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex, the new SkyRide Experience, an 8-person gondola that brings guests from the Olympic Jumping Complex’s base lodge to the 90-meter and 120-meter ski jump towers, a new glass-enclosed elevator ride to the top of the ski jumps for a panoramic vista of the Adirondack High Peaks (and to experience what the jumpers see as they start to accelerate towards the end of the ramp!), new Nordic trails at Mt. Van Hovenberg (where you can try your hand at the biathalon).
In Lake Placid village, visit the Olympic Center, skate at the Herb Brooks Arena and on the Olympic oval, and visit the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.
There is no lodging on the mountain (it’s a wilderness area, after all), but many lovely inns, bnbs, hotels and resorts nearby, including the Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa and Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, conveniently located in Lake Placid village, walking distance to everything, and accessible to a convenient shuttle bus to the mountain (www.golden-arrow.com).
Also High Peaks Resortwhich offers three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondacks: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 guest rooms and suites (newly renovated in March 2020); the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. Amenities available to all guests include the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully-equipped fitness center, and a full-service restaurant, Dancing Bears, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of skates, along with admission to Lake Placid’s full-service Nordic Center, Cascade Ski Center, with more than 12 miles of groomed trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing (complimentary use of showshoes). Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. (High Peaks Resort, 2384 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY 12946, 518-523-4411, 800-755-5598, www.highpeaksresort.com)
The newest additions are The Lake Placid Inn (opened July 2020) and the Saranac Waterfront Lodge, an eco-luxe independent boutique hotel that opened Nov. 1, 2020.
As a perennial blue-trail/intermediate skier, Gore Mountain is one of my favorite places to ski. Nestled in the Adirondacks, it offers expansive views of a real wilderness. You actually feel as if you were in the Rockies.
Gore Mountain is New York State’s largest ski and ride resort with. 439 skiable acres, it spans four mountains, including Gore, Bear Mountain, Burnt Ridge Mountain and Little Gore Mountain, a vertical drop of 2,537 feet from the summit at 3,600 ft, 121 trails (10% beginner, 50% intermediate and 40% advanced), including 110 alpine trails (longest is 4.4 miles), with 28 glades, 8 freestyle areas and 11 cross-country and snowshoe trails, all serviced by 14 lifts.
This season, Gore is unveiling two new lifts: a new quad replaces the High Peaks chair to deliver skiers toGore’s true summit, opening up fresh access to all four peaks and the entire Straight Brook Valley; and the Sunway Chair has been upgraded to a quad. The Cutoff trail in the Northwoods Area has been lengthened and redesigned to become an easier-rated trail. “Pete’s Paradise” now is an additional beginner option. There is also a significant increase in snowmaking capacity.
There is no on-mountain lodging, but there is the delightful Copperfield Inn (www.copperfieldinn.com/) in nearby North Creek which we enjoyed one Christmas; for a grand, luxurious stay, The Sagamore, in Bolton Landing on Lake George is 45 minutes away (www.thesagamore.com).
In addition to skiing and snowboarding at Whiteface in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek, there are plenty of other ways to embrace the cold in the Adirondacks: hiking (including five fire tower trails in Hamilton County that travelers can visit and climb even in the winter!), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, pond hockey, ice skating and ice fishing.
Mirror Lake has plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy on the ice, including skating, cross country skiing, toboggan rides, dog sledding and skating on the Olympic Oval, just as the Olympians did. The Wild Center in Tupper Lake transforms into a winter playground once the snow hits – Winter Wild Walk, a learn-to ice-fish program, snowshoeing, and some other outdoor winter programming and activities. Oak Mountain (about 2 hours from Lake Placid) is a small family-friendly ski resort ideal for avoiding crowds and offers skiing, snowboarding and tubing along with disc golf and free snowshoeing. Ausable Chasm, the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks, offers winter tours of frozen waterfalls and spectacular sights, less than an hour from Lake Placid. And at the end of the day, Main Street Lake Placid has plenty of boutique shops and restaurants to welcome visitors in from the cold.
The Adirondack Wayfinder, a new virtual service that showcases the park through thematic road trip itineraries, takes the guesswork out of planning where to go by allowing users to search through a variety of curated itineraries that appeal to different interests, from outdoor recreation, wide-open spaces and family-friendly itineraries to dining, brewery tours, and more. (www.adirondackwayfinder.com)
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
In a weirdly awful bad news/good news way, this year is probably the best ever to visit one of America’s iconic national parks and the national parks have never been more important to revitalize our national and personal spirit. But if ever you wanted to get some sense of how it was back-in-the-day, this is it, precisely because capacity in accommodations are limited and the millions of international visitors who come each year are not coming. The National Park Service received more than 327.5 million visit in 2019, and there will be a clamoring for Americans with a renewed vigor to See America and leave the cities for the great outdoors, which means getting a place to stay will be problematic.
“The benefits of getting into nature for a few days are just what the doctor ordered – especially now,” said Cort Wright, Manager of the Moab Adventure Center, which operates programs into Arches National Park, Utah, and on the Colorado River. “As depression and anxiety diminish, our renewed vitality gains a foothold and positive attitudes surface. It will be a joy for us this summer and fall to see our guests transformed by the activities we provide.”
According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, “being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.” (For the full report see: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing.)
Here are some vacation ideas:
Hike & Bike North Rim of the Grand Canyon: Providing gently rolling terrain of lung-expanding dimensions, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon has been long-held as sacred ground to hikers and cyclists. Escape Adventures offers an amazing 5-day tour of the North Rim that includes mountain biking, trekking and camping. Trails brimming with wildflowers lead guests to exhilarating hikes along the rim. Crossing over to the west side of the plateau, guests camp alongside one of the most scenic mountain bike paths in the world, the Rainbow Rim Trail. (https://escapeadventures.com/tour/grand-canyon-north-rim-mountain-bike-tour/)
Remote Dude Ranch Getaway: Red Reflet Ranch is a 28,000-acre luxury resort and working ranch on the west slope of the Bighorn Mountains, just minutes from the Bighorn National Forest. It is a scenic three hour drive from Yellowstone National Park. The closest sign of civilization is Ten Sleep, Wyoming, with a population of about 260. Guests stay in their own private chalets, and family-friendly activities include horseback riding, ATVing, ziplining, swimming, fishing, shooting, and indulging in gourmet farm-to-table cuisine. The ranch is open for business now. (https://red-reflet-ranch.net/)
Grand Teton Tiny House Retreat: Just minutes from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fireside Resort capitalizes on the tiny house craze and the classic appeal of rustic cottages by offering 25 pint-size, luxuriously outfitted tiny house rental units designed by Wheelhaus. The resort is located a stone’s throw from Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole ski slopes. It is a great place to post up for a ski trip or a summer getaway. (https://www.firesidejacksonhole.com/)
Big Sky Base Camp: If outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing are your style, look to visit Big Sky, Montana and stay at The Wilson Hotel. Located on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, the town is home to Big Sky Resort and its 5,850 acres of ski terrain, as well as shaded forests, wildflower-filled meadows, rocky mountaintops and clear, cool rivers and streams. (bigskyresort.com)
Bryce & Zion by MTB: Soaring red stone spires and ancient citadels of rich Navajo sandstone give way to haunting hoodoos and curving arches of rock — a geologist’s dream and a mountain biker’s paradise. The rides on this 6-day Escape Adventures tour offer swift lines that wind and wend through deep Alpine meadows and Aspen forests only to spill out onto yawning mesas and buttes. The world-famous trails of Red Canyon’s Thunder Mountain, Cassidy, and Casto Canyon, are but a few of this tour’s many highlights. (https://escapeadventures.com/tour/bryce-and-zion-mountain-bike-tour/)
Xanterra Travel Collection Outlines Re-Opening Plan for Lodging, Dining, Services in Yellowstone National Park
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (MONTANA & WYOMING) – Xanterra Travel Collection today announced that operations in Yellowstone National Park including lodges, campgrounds, dining and tours will begin a phased re-opening on a limited basis starting June 1.
The decision to re-open was made after closely monitoring the guidance and recommendations of public health agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) as well as federal, state and local governments.
The current schedule for Xanterra operations in Yellowstone National Park has cabins with private baths, campgrounds, take-out food service, gift shops and select tours and activities available as part of a phased approach to opening beginning on June 8. Opening and closing dates are subject to change based on future conditions and public health guidance as well as the ability to maintain a safe environment for visitors, employees and NPS staff.
Visitors should come prepared and follow all CDC and local health guidance including practicing good hygiene and social distancing, wearing facial coverings in public spaces, and staying home and not visiting the park while sick.
LODGING: At this time, only cabins with private baths are scheduled to open at these locations: Old Faithful Inn, Grant Village and Roosevelt Lodge are currently closed but may reopen in 2020 if conditions allow.
Old Faithful Lodge (June 8-Oct. 4)
Old Faithful Snow Lodge (June 8-Oct. 25)
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel (June 1-Nov. 1)
Lake Yellowstone Hotel (June 17-Oct. 4)
Lake Lodge (June 17-Sept. 2)
Canyon Lodge (June 19-Oct. 12)
CAMPGROUNDS: Xanterra campgrounds are currently scheduled to open on this schedule:
Madison (June 15-Oct. 18)
Bridge Bay (June 17-Sept. 7)
Grant Village (June 17-Sept. 13)
Canyon (June 19-Sept. 20)
Fishing Bridge RV Park will remain closed through fall of 2021
DINING: Select dining outlets will be open with “take out” options only. Based on current public health guidelines, dining room seating and dinner reservations are not available.
Mammoth Hot Springs Area: Terrace Grill (June 1-Oct. 12)
Old Faithful Area: Geyser Grill at Snow Lodge (May 22-Oct. 25); Old Faithful Lodge Bake Shop (June 8-Oct. 4); Old Faithful Lodge Cafeteria (June 8-Oct. 3)
Canyon Area: The Eatery at Canyon Lodge (June 19-Oct. 12)
Yellowstone Lake Area: Wiley’s Canteen at Lake Lodge (June 17-Oct. 4); Lake Lodge Lobby Bar (June 17-Oct. 3)
Grant Village Area: Grant Village Dining Room (June 17-Sept. 13)
LIMITED GUIDED ACTIVITIES AND TOURS: Tours and activities will be limited to guide boats, boat rentals, backcountry shuttle, and dock slips at the marina, horseback rides at Canyon Lodge Corral, and bike rentals at Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Road-based tours, Scenicruise tours, Stagecoach rides, or the Old West Cookout will not be offered. Pricing and other details can be found online (https://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/adventures/)
Bike Rentals at Old Faithful Snow Lodge (June 8-Sept. 7 or as weather permits, reservations not accepted)
Bridge Bay Marina/Dock Slips (June 17-Sept. 13)
Boat Rentals (June 17-Sept. 6, first come, first served, reservations not accepted)
Private Tours: Yellowstone Forever is the official nonprofit educational and fund-raising partner of Yellowstone National Park. Information about their private tours can be found here or by calling 406-848-2400.
SHOPPING: Select Xanterra gift stores will be open, but with controlled access to comply with distancing standards:
With nine unique lodging options, including the renowned historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park Lodges allows you to have the ultimate park experience. Staying in the park is the best way for visitors to experience all it has to offer, including the exciting wildlife watching. Once the day-visitors leave, Yellowstone remains for the in-park overnight guests alone. Yellowstone National Park Lodges offer tours and activities guided by Certified Interpretive Guides that help create memorable experiences. For more information on lodging, tours, and vacation packages visit, yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
Known for its “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint,” Xanterra Travel Collection provides unforgettable experiences through its operations in national parks, including lodges, restaurants, tours, and activities, as well as through its ownership of resorts, a cruise line, a railway, and tour companies. Xanterra has operations in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Zion, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Xanterra Travel Collection also owns and operates the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel in Williams, Ariz., The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz., The Oasis at Death Valley in Death Valley Calif., Windstar Cruises, Holiday Vacations, VBT Bicycling Vacations, and Country Walkers. Xanterra is also affiliated with two Forbes Five-Star Resorts, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO and Sea Island on the coast of Georgia.
With Reopening of Arches National Park, Moab Adventure Center Counts on Nature to Restore the Pandemic Weary
MOAB, UT– Arches National Park in the world’s favorite red rock playground of Moab, Utah, has reopened to visitors. Guided tours of this iconic park have resumed, along with a variety of half-day, full-day and overnight river rafting programs along the Colorado River.
Guided Tours of Arches National Park: Daily morning and sunset tours of Arches National Park help interpret the 150 million years of geology and nature that have created this masterpiece of more than 2,000 arches – the highest concentration on the planet. Tour rates are $89 for adults and $79 for ages 5 to 12. See: https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/arches-national-park-tours
A third tour offers a breathtaking aerial tour of the park. Departing mid-morning, the half-hour flyover views formations such as Courthouse Towers, North and South Window Arches, Delicate Arch, Devil’s Garden, the Colorado River, Fisher Towers, and Castle Valley. Youth two and under fly free on a parent’s lap. Tour rates are $109 for adults and $55 for youth 3 to 12. For details see: https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/arches-national-park-air-tours
Colorado River Tours: Full and half-day rafting adventures on the Colorado River along the southern border of Arches National Park can also be arranged through the Moab Adventure Center. A half-day morning tour showcases the mild to moderate rapids under a background of red rock cliffs, spires and buttes. Rates are $74 for adults and $64 for ages 5 to 12. Another half-day option comes with a BBQ lunch. Rates are $89 for adults and $79 ages 5 to 12. A full day on the river, with lunch, is a memorable seven-hour excursion. Rates are $109 for adults and $79 for age 5 to 12. (For details see: https://www.moabadventurecenter.com/moab-river-tours.)
As of May 1, 2020, the Southeast Utah Health Department authorized a phased reopening of businesses in and around Moab. Lodging, commercial campgrounds, restaurants and activities are now available and operating within recommended guidelines. The town is seeing quite an influx of visitors as so many now are choosing an outdoor vacation as the best escape with loved ones.
Moab Adventure Center is offering most of its regularly scheduled activities along with new private tours (www.moabadventurecenter.com/private-tours). These include exclusive Hummer Safari outings for up to nine people; private canyoneering adventures; exclusive Arches National Park morning tours; private stand-up paddle boarding lessons for up to six people; and private Moab rock climbing outings for up to four people.
Moab Adventure Center is a division of Western River Expeditions (http://www.westernriver.com/) an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab and Fredonia, AZ. The company is the largest single tour provider in Moab, Utah. The Moab Adventure Center is located at 225 South Main St., Moab, UT 84532. For information and reservations call (435) 259-7019 or (866) 904-1163. The center also has a 2,000-square-foot retail space selling adventure related gear, clothing, maps and souvenirs.
Moterra Luxury Camper Vans
You’ve probably now heard of glamping – luxury camping. Now there is a novel way to experience the national parks and wilderness by luxury camper van.
With all the luxury of a 50-foot long RV, but, at 19-foot long, the size of an SUV, without the cumbersome size that makes it difficult to drive and park, and even the need to plug into electricity (the vans are powered with rooftop solar panels) or water (they hold 24-gallons of fresh water), their own sink, cooking facility, refrigerator and even their own bathroom facilities (a couple actually have its own shower and toilet, but others have port-o-potty), these camper vans give a new level of mobility. The vans can be used in tent camping spots in National Parks, so you can stay away from the noisy RV parks.
Founded by Gabe Aufderheide and Trevor James who were formerly with Backroads, the company offers these are specially outfitted Mercedes Benz Sprinters, built out by Sportsmobile, in Yellowstone, Wyoming; the Grand Tetons; Utah; Glacier National Park (Montana); and California.
These camper vans come with bluetooth audio, cruise-control and touch-screen navigation. A backup camera, blind spot sensors and lane assist technology make maneuvering a breeze. You don’t have to stay in an RV park, but can go wherever tents are allowed.
The vans come equipped with absolutely everything you need for camping, from sleeping stuff (memory foam pillow!), to cooking (marshmallow skewers) and dining, cleaning supplies, amenities like chairs and table, inflatable solar lights, even bear spray.
There are two models to choose from: The High Roof is perfect for couples- it includes a queen sized bed in the back, as well as a kitchen, sink, indoor shower and portable toilet. The Pop Top, which sleeps four, is perfect for families- it has both a double bed down below, and a double bed up top in the Pop Top! While the Pop Top does not have an Indoor Shower, it offers a solar shower that can be used outside, and it also includes a sink and stove. Both models are rented for $319 a night.
Add-ons available include hammocks & bike racks, services such as pre-bought groceries and airport pick-ups, and packaged and customized tour itineraries.
All-inclusive packages consist of:
Moterra Campervan Rental and cleaning fee
Day-by-day personalized Itinerary with directions and destination info.
Pre-booked campsites, handpicked and booked in advance where possible, or GPS locations for off-the-grid dispersed camping spots.
Scenic Routes that take you to the heart of the action while minimizing road traffic.
Individualized suggestions depending on your preferences for hiking, scenic attractions, restaurants and activities.
A wide range of activities to make the trip your own, like white-water rafting, wildlife safaris, road biking, horseback-riding, kayaking and scenic floats.
For example, a 10-day/9-night Mighty 5: Utah’s Desert National Parks is priced from $5499, providing two-days each in Zion National Park, Bryce National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.
A six-night/seven-day package offers the highlights of Yellowstone National Park and The Grand Tetons National Park (from $3699).
Moterra operates out of Jackson, WY, Whitefish, MT, Salt Lake City, UT and San Francisco, CA.
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Memorial Day typically is the start of the summer vacation season. But this Memorial Day and this summer season is anything but typical. Still, because of the opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and explore uncrowded areas, summer may be the best time over the next many months to escape neighborhood boundaries and travel. Face it, some destinations, some travel experiences are better suited than others in this time of coronavirus pandemic, and travelers need to have confidence that travel providers, authorities and communities have taken all precautions to provide a safe, healthy environment where they are traveling.
Travelers, too, bear responsibility to not become infected or inadvertently carry infection to other places: wearing masks, washing hands frequently with soap, socially distancing, and self-quarantining when not feeling well. Some localities even have 14-day quarantine periods imposed on any visitor (check), and some communities may be less than welcoming to tourists from areas known to have had high infection rates. New Yorkers, for example, may be welcomed with less than open arms, but the good news is that New York has made it exceptionally easy to get tested, so travelers can move about with a sense of confidence (recognizing that a test only reflects that moment in time).
Indeed, instead of shutting down tourism altogether – punishing local economies that depend on tourism – places that impose a 14-day quarantine might instead take a result of a test that either affirms the traveler is not carrying COVID-19 infection or has the antibodies to indicate they have already had the infection; some might even set up their own testing stations at the “border” – the toll booths on the highway or the airports – where a tourist can immediately be tested and stay over a night, rather than 14 days, for the result – much as nations require proof of vaccines. Such measures would also inspire confidence in other travelers that they won’t become exposed.
Very possibly, the most difficult part of organizing a summer vacation will be access in light of limits on capacity. For this reason, going through an experienced, well-respected tour company which can provide services with the heightened attention to wellness, has permits and accommodations, will be key.
Here are some suggestions for your summer vacation:
Austin Adventures Responds to Renewed Interest With Custom, Small-Group Programs
Austin Adventures is “definitely seeing an uptick in domestic travel requests as the national parks of the west express their opening plans,” says Dan Austin, founder and CEO of the travel company. “Many want exclusive departures. We have a new program to accommodate these requests. We are using private cabins and estates and providing full service guided adventures using these properties as a base camp.
“Guides will pick up guests at the airport and provide full services by day, tucking the guests into their private retreats by night. All vans and equipment are sanitized daily per CDC guidelines and following the lead set by airline carriers. Strict social distancing guidelines will be followed in all public areas. Guest will enjoy getting out on the trails and into the backcountry away from crowds. Activities like rafting and horseback riding will all be done in a private group setting.”
Austin is setting up scheduled small group departures, adding an extra vehicle – two vans for 12 guests – to keep group size small even while transporting guests.
Planning is made a bit more complicated because the various national parks are opening with different timelines and new regulations, each set by the individual park superintendent all based on what’s best for their park and guests, Austin says.
“Yellowstone is our top seller and while there will be limited accommodations in the park opening and lots of new COVID rules, we will be back running tours June 14.” A key advantage is that Austin is fully permitted and capable of following the strict COVID-19 guidelines.
The company also expects to operate in the Grand Tetons, Wyoming, and Bryce and Zion in Utah, as well as Alaska.
“All starting a bit later but running in some capacity A couple of casualties of COVID is our Canadian Rockies adventure – because of strict quarantine rules [still not allowing nonessential travel from the United States across its border] and our Glacier National Park trip because of the uncertainty as to when and how it will open. Hotel openings are key and often alternates must be found outside the parks.”
Western River Expeditions Draws on 60 Years Experience to Devise Protocols to Keep Families Adventuring this Summer
Where in the world – and how – will families vacation this summer?
“Given months of pandemic-driven lock-down orders, what will be attractive will be vacations that embrace fresh air and the healing powers of nature that can work wonders on family spirits and recovery,” says Western River Expeditions.
The company is drawing on its nearly 60 years operating top-quality river rafting vacations for individuals, families and friends to address pandemic-related challenges. Here are some of many steps the company is taking to counter COVID-19 fears.
Screening Employees:Every day before work, each employee must pass both a temperature and pulse oximeter screen, and then answer a detailed questionnaire.
Screening Guests at Check-in:Guests exhibiting temperatures of 100.4 or higher will not be allowed to travel with Western River Expeditions at the time they planned; instead, they will receive an “Adventure Credit” which allows the guest and any members of the group who were currently living at the same physical address during any of the 7 days prior to the trip to use the full paid value of their trip as a credit for a future trip at a later date.
Screening while on Multi-Day Trips: All trip participants and guides will have a daily temperature and pulse oximeter checks and fill out a daily review of symptoms questionnaire.
New protocols have been put in place should someone experience COVID-19 symptoms during a trip. In such case, steps will be taken to protect other guests from exposure during the remainder of that trip. There also will be protocols for toilet facilities, hand washing stations and social distancing (when feasible) as well as reduced number of guests per raft.
The company will also implement specific guidelines that address everything from life-jacket use and sanitation, to meal prep and service, use of shuttle vans, number of people per shuttle vehicle, sanitation of rafts, dry bags, cots, sleeping bags and all associated equipment. For more details on Western River Expeditions’ specific protocols see www.westernriver.com/covid-19
Western River Expeditions is expecting to operate late spring and summer 2020 trips, subject to the easing of government-mandated closures. Three trips in particular are ideal for families:
Desolation Canyon, a five-day trip through breathtaking Desolation Canyon and Gray Canyon on the Green River in central Utah. Trips are scheduled to depart June 7 through Aug. 12 with a minimum age of five years old (see www.westernriver.com/desolation-canyon
Southwest Sampler, a four-day adventure that includes an off-road Hummer Safari, Arches National Park tour and overnight rafting trip as well as a stay at Moab’s Marriott SpringHill Suites. Departures are scheduled May 26 through Aug. 26. If National Park closures affect the operation of the Arches National Park tour, guests will explore another stunning location in Moab (see https://www.westernriver.com/moab-utah-vacation-sampler)
Grand Canyon, the three-day option still has some limited space on certain dates from June 21st through September. Conveniently departing and returning to Las Vegas, NV, this 100-mile journey is suitable for families with kids as young as nine (see https://www.westernriver.com/grand-canyon-river-trip)
Other adventures from Western River Expeditions include:
Utah’s Cataract Canyon Classic 4 Day: These should operate June 2 through August 25. This spectacular 4-Day Colorado River trip runs 100 miles from Moab to Lake Powell through Canyonlands National Park. A flight returns guests to Moab over Canyonlands.
Cataract Canyon Express 2 Day: This faster-paced 2-Day Colorado River trip runs 100 miles from Moab to Lake Powell through Canyonlands National Park. Large whitewater rapids are a big part of this adventure!
Upper Grand Canyon 6 or 7 Day: Trips starting June 14 and later are currently scheduled to operate. Select trips June through September have limited availability. The upper 188 miles of the Grand Canyon offer some of the largest whitewater rapids in North America and a plethora of side canyon attractions.
Lower Grand Canyon 4 Day with Bar Ten Ranch: All 4 day departures from June 21sthrough September are expected to operate; limited space is available on select departures in 2020.
Western River Expeditions is an adventure travel company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with operations and offices in Moab, Utah and Fredonia, Arizona. From March through October, the company guides more people down rivers in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company. It is the one of largest licensed outfitters in the Grand Canyon and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, through its Moab Adventure Center division (http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/).
Luxury Active Vacations from Butterfield & Robinson
Butterfield & Robinson Experience Designers have been diligently researching, collaborating with long-trusted partners to offer programs with increased safety measures, mindful activities and more flexible booking policies.
The result is a curated selection of experiences in remote locations—from rustic-chic cabins to island-perched hotels—that, when combined with wide-open spaces, create the perfect setting to start exploring again.
The luxury active vacations company is focusing on private groups of family and friends who are looking for exclusive experiences at remote high end properties or luxury camping. The price point is around $700-1000 per person, per day. The options range from guided biking and walking experiences to lodge- based single stay experiences. For example:
Venture to the Wild West for private cabin stays or full takeovers of luxury ranches like Wyoming’s Brush Creek and The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana. Or head to Colorado and settle into a cottage at Dunton Hot Springs, where you can gallop on horseback through the San Juan Mountains and let your stress melt away in a natural outdoor pool.
In California’s wine country, innovative winemaking techniques fuse with fresh, farm-to-table food. Pair with properties like the sophisticated SingleThread or the dreamy Auberge du Soleil.
In the rust-colored desert expanses of Utah, choose how you interact with the landscape, whether it’s a stay at the sleek and restorative Amangiri resort or a private houseboat charter (complete with a private chef!) on Lake Powell. Elevate the experience with luxury camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a secluded moment in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Say aloha to paradisiacal beaches, active volcanoes and sky-high waterfalls for some adventure further afield in Hawaii. Check in at the Mauna Lani on the Kohala coast and fill your days with water sports, epic hikes or a round of golf before kicking back in the evening with Mai Tais.
Discovery Bicycle Tours: Yes You Can Bike This Summer
Discovery Bicycle Tours, operating from Woodstock, Vermont, is resuming operations in destinations that have reopened for outdoor adventures, with important new health precautions in place. The company is also highlighting its small-group active vacations and can customize private tours (https://discoverybicycletours.com/private-tours)
The trips are organized to bike through rural places where you can leave the crowds behind and bike freely, and with fewer inn transfers.
“Our small tours are carefully crafted to provide personal choices for your comfort. You have options to dine with a small group, outside or in your own room. Each inn and restaurant on tour has new protocols to comply with local health rules,” writes Chief Customer Officer Thistle Cone, who recently bought the bike tour company with Scott Cone.
“Our leaders are adding extra cleanings of vans and bikes and will provide more social distancing for van transfers. Bring a comfy mask — and we will have extras.”
Among the July and August six-day tour offerings now booking:
Crater Lake & Scenic Bikeways: July 26-31, Aug. 9-14 Lake Champlain Islands: Aug. 16-21, Aug. 30-Sept. 4 Coast of Maine: July 19-24, Aug. 16-21, Aug. 23-28 Idaho Trails: July 5-10, Aug. 22-27 Great Allegheny Passage: Aug. 30-Sept. 4
“Looking for an East Coast getaway that’s a short drive from the major metro areas? Stay tuned to our website for more Vermont tours to be added soon … most in August through October.”
The Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement & Development Authority (GWTIDA) has been tirelessly working with the Greater Wildwood Hotel and Motel Association, Wildwood Business Improvement District (WBID), the Wildwood Special Improvement District (WSID), the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce and area businesses to set up initiatives such as enhanced sanitizing protocols, as well as expanding seating in restaurants out onto the sidewalks and adjacent parking lots for al fresco dining, enhanced sanitizing and spacing on amusement rides and all surfaces, social distancing procedures in ride queue lines, sanitizing of rental bikes, boats, jet skis, kayaks and of course promoting the wide spacious beaches where visitors can stretch out and relax with plenty of room to practice social distancing.
“We are pleased to report that the Wildwoods are open for business for the 2020 summer season,” said Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority (GWTIDA) Executive Director/CFO John Siciliano. “Health and safety is a top priority for the Wildwoods, and every precaution is being taken to assure that all who visit feel safe and comfortable,” he added.
North Wildwood and Wildwood beaches and boardwalk has reopened to limited activity; the cities’ parks and bike paths are reopened and Wildwood Crest beaches, parks, bike paths, and sport courts for non-group play are open. In addition, hotels, motels and short-term rental properties are scheduled to begin reopening in Wildwood and North Wildwood on May 26 and Wildwood Crest properties will reopen on June 1.
Short-term rental properties, like all aspects of reopening the Wildwoods for the summer, will take measures to meet social distancing guidelines by initially opening at 60 percent capacity. Increased sanitizing and cleaning protocols, especially in high-touch areas, will be encouraged to ensure an optimal visitor experience. Additional measures may include having later check-in times to allow additional time for guest room preparation and enhanced sanitizing.
The Wildwoods offer 11,000 room accommodations – including 8,000 hotel and motel rooms, and 3,000 vacation rentals. The mid-century themed hotels/motels throughout the five-mile island developed during the era of burgeoning automotive travel of the 1950s – which is making a comeback in this New Normal.
“The designs and architectural features pay tribute to the post-war pop culture. Their architecture continues to memorialize the bold spirit of a newly restless society, while motel names conjure up tropical paradises and other exotic destinations.”
Visitors must adhere to the social distancing guidelines set forth by Governor Phil Murphy; all activities are subject to the orders of the Governor.
Walking, running, fishing and sunbathing are welcomed on the beaches. Physical activities such as biking, walking and running may take place on the boardwalk. Boardwalk establishments offering takeout-only food, will also be open for business. Municipal parks and playgrounds will be open; however, playground equipment will remain closed. Everyone is encouraged to use best practices for social distancing, including wearing masks while enjoying the beach and boardwalk. Sitting and gathering in groups is prohibited.
The Wildwoods’ five-miles of free white-sand beaches serve as the ideal location for visitors to clear their minds and enjoy the calming benefits of ‘Beach Therapy’. The beaches offer an award-winning and spacious stretch of sand to relax, recharge, and reunite with friends and family. In addition to being the perfect place for relaxation, the beach gives visitors a wonderful opportunity to exercise freely and spend quality time with family.
Another way to recharge, get physical exercise and enjoy the beautiful summer air – all while keeping a safe distance from fellow visitors – is taking part in the Wildwoods’ ‘bikeability’. Take in the breathtaking views of the Wildwoods, starting at the far southern end of the island along the Dunes Bike Path in Wildwood Crest, up onto the Wildwoods’ 2.5-mile Boardwalk, and through North Wildwood’s Muhlbury Bike Path to the North Wildwood Sea Wall – a scenic, leisurely 12-mile round trip route. You can also ride bikes-only lanes through downtowns and around the entire island.
Golf courses can be found all across Cape May County – from Cape May National to the south to Shore Gate Golf Club to the north – and offer a variety of playing levels from beginner to scratch golfer.
Known as the ‘two miles of smiles,’ the iconic Wildwoods Boardwalk is pure sensory overload with three amusement piers with 100 rides and attractions, carnival-style games, flashing arcades, shops and irresistible food. The Wildwoods food & beverage establishments are doing their part in abiding to safe distancing guidelines by offering curbside pick-up, delivery, and al fresco dining options.
For additional information about The Wildwoods, New Jersey, call 800-992-9732 or visit www.WildwoodsNJ.com.
by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
This time last year I was getting set for an around-the-world Global Scavenger Hunt which took me to places that I had always hoped to see – Petra, Jordan; Myanmar; Vietnam; Morocco, just to list a few. The coronavirus pandemic has made that experience impossible this year. But it just goes to show: Don’t put off experiences, especially not a trip of a lifetime.
These are uncharted waters for the travel industry, and for travelers.
With the worst of the crisis appearing to be coming under control, state governments are looking to gradually reopen and lift their lockdowns. The same is true for people venturing out of doors. People are burning with cabin fever but may be cautious.
Here is the antidote to cabin fever: I’m thinking outdoors, great open vistas, clean air. This is a great time for a throwback to the 1950s family road trip to enjoy the Great Outdoors. Instead of a station wagon, pack up the SUV and set an itinerary that revolves around national and state parks, wildlife areas, nature preserves. I’m thinking camping (koa.com) or glamping (glampinghub.com). I’m thinking hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking.
“It’s vital that people find ways to engage in physical activity during this time; the benefits to our immune systems and our mental health are significant. But it is critical that we do so in ways that will keep us safe and minimize the spread of the pandemic,” writes Ryan Chao, President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Rails-to-Trails’ Conservancy has compiled resources, provides information on the latest on trails, walking and biking and the COVID-19 pandemic (Visit railstotrails.org/COVID19), and provides a trail-finder website and app, TrailLink.com, which is free for anyone to use to find particulars on more than 37,000 miles of multi-use trails nationwide, including trail maps, walking and biking directions to get to the trail, and contact information for local trail management organizations (visit railstotrails.org).
Here are more ambitious ideas:
An ideal trip (and also one of my favorite bike tours ever) which hits all of these criteria (driving distance, biking, camping) is the Cycle the Erie, an eight-day 400-mile, fully supported biking/camping trip, from Buffalo to Albany, operated by Parks & Trails NY. At this writing, the 22nd Annual Cycle the Erie was still taking place July 12-19, 2020. (they expect to make a decision on May 12; they have eased the cancellation policy and would transfer the registration at this year’s fee next year if they have to cancel.) For information on Cycle the Erie Canal, call Parks & Trails New York, 518-434-1583, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal.
Hopefully, other supported biking/camping rides that also support nonprofit organizations will also run, such as the BikeMaine 2020: Katahdin Frontier – a seven-night ride 340 mile-loop (17,455 feet of climbing), from Old Town, September 12-19, 2020 (www.bikemaine.org)
The next best thing is an organized bike tour – self-guided trips obviously have the fewest people to interact with, and guided – that utilize inn-style accommodations are our favorites. We have enjoyed trips around the world – the Danube Bike Trail, Greek islands bike/boat trip, Venice-Croatia, Slovenia, and Albania (Biketours.com is a great source), and I’m still hoping to take my family on a self-guided bike trip of northern Portugal in late summer – but there are fabulous trips within driving distance that can be done on rail-trails with camping, inns and airbnb.com, such as the Delaware-Lehigh trail in Pennsylvania and the Great Allegheny Passage which can be linked with the C&O trail that can take you from Washington DC all the way to Pittsburgh, PA, and the Erie Canalway.
Wilderness Voyageurs, a wide-ranging outdoors company with an extensive catalog of biking, rafting, fishing and outdoor adventures throughout the US and even Cuba, offers many guided and self-guided bike itineraries built around rail trails like the Eric Canal in New York, Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania and Katy Trail in Missouri. Last year we thoroughly enjoyed the six-day “Badlands and Mickelson Trail” bike tour of South Dakota. Wilderness Voyageurs, 103 Garrett St., Ohiopyle, PA 15470, 800-272-4141, bike@Wilderness-Voyageurs.com, Wilderness-Voyageurs.com.
Bicycle Adventures is offering 6-day bike tours of Oregon Columbia (riding and hiking); South Dakota’s Mickelson Trail; and Washington San Juan Islands. Bicycle Adventures, 18047 NE 68th St, Ste B140, Redmond, WA 9805 (425-250-5540, bicycleadventures.com).
Tour Operators to the Great Outdoors
Tour operators are in a position not only to have access to permits and accommodations in places that are likely to be overrun this year, but are better plugged in to what is happening on the ground, can move passengers around, adapt itineraries. Wilderness adventure travel companies so far are still offering trips this summer.
Based in Billings, Montana, Austin Adventures has spent over 35 years building an international reputation as a top provider of luxury, small group, multisport tours for adults and families to the world’s most captivating destinations. Austin Adventures has perfected the art of creating itineraries featuring exceptional regional dining, distinctive accommodations, incredible guides and exhilarating activities, all while keeping all-inclusive rates and services the norm. In addition to scheduled group departures on all seven continents, Austin Adventures has developed a reputation as the leader in customized trip planning and execution, all backed by the industry’s best money-back satisfaction guarantee. For information on Austin Adventures’ trips, cruises and distinctive accommodations on seven continents:800-575-1540, email@example.com, www.austinadventures.com.
Western River Expeditions escorts more people down rivers on professionally guided rafting trips in Utah, Idaho and Arizona than any other company and is the largest licensed outfitter in the Grand Canyon. (866-904-1160, 801-942-6669, www.westernriver.com).
Moab Adventure Center, a division of Western River Expeditions and the largest single tour provider in Moab, UT, is a one-stop resource for a myriad of outdoor adventures that take you to Arches National Park and Canyonlands and river rafting. (435-259-7019 or 866-904-1163, www.moabadventurecenter.com)
Holiday River Expeditions hopes to be offering its river rafting trips from the end of June through the end of the season in October. The company, operating out of Green River Utah, offers trips on the Colorado, Green River, San Juan and out of Vernal, on the Yampa, in heart of Dinosaur National monument.
Holiday River has just put out The Complete Guide to Whitewater Rafting Trips in Utah, for do-it-yourselfers as well as people who are more than happy to use a commercial outfitter. This new resource for every kind of adventurer is offered free and online.
Here are the seven river trips chosen for inclusion in this new resource:
“Oar power is the most natural way to experience the river and the absence of motors makes high water trips as exciting as it gets. Rafters experience the rush of wind, a chatty raven or a churning rapid absent the drone and smell of a motorized raft,” said Tim Gaylord, Director of Operations and Holiday employee since 1978. (For information, availability, reservations or the catalog, 800-624-6323, Holiday@BikeRaft.com, www.bikeraft.com)
A perfect corollary for any sojourn into the wilderness, instead of staying in a hotel, consider glamping – basically luxury camping that brings you into the most gorgeous and distinctive places, close to nature, in comfort but affording very distinctive experiences.
With the popularity of glamping surging, an array of glamping destinations have popped up around the world in recent years, offering everything from geodesic domes to Airstream RVs to tiny homes. For example:
Fireside Resort: By combining the amenities of a luxury boutique hotel with the atmosphere of a wooded campground, Fireside Resort offers Wyoming’s best glamping experience. The lodging options reflect the heritage of the valley’s original homesteader cabins, with cozy fireplaces, full kitchens, private furnished decks, and outdoor fire pits. Situated on wildlife-filled acres where moose, elk, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles and deer roam, Fireside Resort is just seven miles from Jackson’s bustling town square.
Kestrel Camp: The American Prairie Reserve in Montana is piecing together what will be the largest nature reserve in the lower 48 states, totaling 3.5 million acres, and restoring habitat and species in the process. APR’s Kestrel Camp offers five yurt-style luxury suites set around a central lounge and dining room serving chef-prepared meals, as well as a safari-style experience with special access to tour the reserve’s ecosystem with personal naturalists.
A great source to finding glamping accommodations is GlampingHub.com, an online booking platform for unique outdoor accommodations across the globe. With over 35,000 accommodations in over 120 countries, Glamping Hub’s mission is to connect travelers with nature in order to create authentic experiences in which travelers can stay in the great outdoors without having to sacrifice creature comforts—camping with added luxuries and five-star amenities. Guests can find over 27 different types of glamping accommodations to choose from on Glamping Hub from safari tents, tree houses, and cabins to tipis, villas, and domes. (glampinghub.com)
Or, think cottage on a beach (Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard are my favorites).
I’m thinking dude ranch: Duderanch.orglists 100 in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and such, but there are also dude ranches as close as the Catskills and Adirondacks in the wilds of New York State, like the Pine Ridge Dude Ranch (30 Cherrytown Road, Kerhonkson, NY 12446, pineridgeranch.com), Ridin’ Hy, year-round inclusive ranch resort in the Adirondacks Preserve near Lake George, Warrensburg, NY 12885, 518-494-2742, www.ridinhy.com); and the ever-popular Rocking Horse Ranch (reopening June 12, 600 State Route 44/55, Highland, NY 12528, 877-605-6062, 845-691-2927, www.rockinghorseranch.com).
And while many will choose to venture within driving distance – biking, hiking (check out the Hudson River School Art Trail in the Catskills and camping at the North-South Campground, for example) – I will pretty much bet that traveling by air will be absolutely safe because of the regimen that every airline has imposed (going as far as to leave middle seats empty; sanitizing surfaces and utilizing hospital-grade ventilation/air purification systems). I would bet that the most dicey part of an airline trip will be getting through airport security.
Airlines are doing their best to allay passengers’ concerns – both from the point of view of health as well as easing up cancellation, change and refund policies. This from Delta is fairly typical of the major carriers:
“In the current environment, it’s important for all of us to travel smarter and more consciously. That’s why I want to personally update you on the situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and the steps we are taking to ensure your health and safety in your travels,” writes Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
“For more than a decade, Delta has been preparing for such a scenario. As a global airline, we have strong relationships in place with health experts including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local health authorities worldwide. We are in constant contact with them to make sure our policies and procedures meet or exceed their guidelines.
“Operations are our lifeblood. We’ve learned from past experience with outbreaks like H1N1 and Ebola, and have continually refined and improved our ability to protect our customers. That includes the way we circulate clean and fresh air in our aircraft with highly advanced HEPA filters, the new fogging procedures in our cleaning process, how we sanitize aircraft between flights and how we respond if a customer is displaying symptoms.
“A full report on the measures Delta is taking to help you have a healthy flying experience..outlines our expanded cleaning and disinfecting at our airports and on board our aircraft; distribution of hand sanitizer and amenity kits to help customers stay clean; and the technology on our aircraft to filter and replace cabin air.
“A command center in Atlanta has been stood up to guide our response, leading our global team of thousands of Delta professionals dedicated to this effort. That includes our reservations specialists handling thousands of incoming calls, our flight crews and Airport Customer Service (ACS) agents taking extra care of our customers, and our TechOps and operations coordination teams keeping the airline moving. This world-class group of airline employees has your back, and I have never been prouder of the women and men of Delta.
“To ensure you always have access to the latest information and guidance, we have a website on the COVID-19 situation that is continually being updated with cleaning policies and actions we’re implementing to keep you safe, ways you can stay healthy while flying, and changes to our flight schedules and waiver information. Transparency is one of our core values, and we are committed to keeping you fully informed as the situation evolves.
“While we’re committed to providing you with information you need to make informed decisions around your travel, we also understand the need for flexibility based on your individual circumstances. To make sure you can travel with confidence, we’re offering flexible waivers, and we’ve also adjusted our network in response to guidance from the State Department.
“We understand that in today’s world, travel is fundamental to our business and our lives, which is why it can’t – and shouldn’t – simply stop. I believe Delta’s mission of connecting the world and creating opportunities is never more important than at times like this.”
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia, a city
proud of being where the United States was invented, where history, culture and
art and entertainment ring out everywhere, a city which boasts being the “City
of Brotherly Love,” is particularly warm, welcoming and filled with good cheer
during the winter holidays.
During the course of a holiday
weekend in Philadelphia I devoted one day to reveling in the special events and
festivities – all within a 15 minute walk of my hotel, the newly opened
apartment hotel, The Roost East Market.
set out at 3 pm from The Roost, walking through City Hall – this most
magnificent of structures which becomes Holiday Central, with a carousel in the
center, Christmas markets, street musicians playing in each of the four
corridors. Outside, in Dilworth Park, is an outdoor skating rink, snack bars,
more markets. And each night, beginning at 5:30 pm, every hour on the half
hour, there is a light show in which the entire building façade becomes
head to Comcast Center (17th & JFK), which features an
extraordinary 20-minute Holiday Spectacular light show in the lobby (you just
walk in, no tickets needed), that happens on the hour, from 10 am to 8 pm.
I’m about 30 minutes
early and the guard suggests I go over to the Universal Sphere at the Comcast
Tech Center. You have to register for a time and I sign up for 4:30 pm. With
time still before the light show, I go to Comcast’s lower level where families
(and others) are lining up for a kindly
photographer to take photos (free) you can use for your Christmas card photo (I
can’t resist: I get to take a holiday
photo with E.T.), take in the pop-up Christmas market, and go back to the
Comcast Center for the holiday show.
A Philly holiday tradition, the Comcast Center’s annual Holiday Spectaculartransforms otherwise innocuous walls transform into a super high-res LED, 27-million pixel display so detailed that the figures – an orchestra
conductor, dancers – almost seem three-dimensional, that is to say, real. There
are delightful scenes: the Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker,
scenes that are reminiscent of Disney’s Fantasia or Dumbo, a magical sleigh
ride over the city (with a bird’s-eye view of the new Comcast Technology
Center) and a sing-along. More than 2 million people have seen the show since
its debut in 2008. The 15- minute show (free) runs daily through New Year’s
Day, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (every hour on the hour except 5 p.m. on weekdays;
Comcast Center, 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard.)
return to the Comcast Tech Center just in time for my “trip” in the Universal Sphere – this is a permanent
installation that was introduced last spring. You enter a sphere (it looks like
a giant golf ball), that becomes a space capsule (like in “Contact”, you
actually move and feel like you are traveling, but thankfully, it doesn’t make
you motion sick) to explore where ideas come from. In just 7 minutes, this
multi-media work of genius produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks is an inspirational,
heart-warming, optimistic exploration
into what is an idea, where ideas come from, and where the next idea will come
(it doesn’t have to be a big idea; even small ideas can change lives.). “Ideas
start with nothing, become an intuition, a
notion, a thought, a concept. Ideas build upon each other, evolving and
changing to make new ideas.” The essential message is this: “Ideas are our
superpower, the very thing that makes us human.” Spielberg said of the project. “I want
everybody who experiences this to feel that they matter, that they count,” The
experience is enlightening, inspirational, absolutely fantastic and free and
You can reserve a time online and get a ticket; same day reservations open at 9 am. (Extended holiday hours, Nov 29-Dec. 31, daily 10 am-8 pm; Christmas Day & New Year’s noon-5 pm, 1800 Arch Street, Comcast Technology Center, Upper Lobby) More background info: https://comcastcentercampus.com/universal-sphere/. (Comcast Center Campus, 1701 John F. Kennedy Blvd., www.comcastcentercampus.com)
I still have time before my next holiday stop, so even though it is foggy, I ride up 57 stories (883 feet) to the One Liberty Observation, the highest point in Philadelphia, that normally provides a 360-view of the entire city. (1650 Market Street, PhillyFromTheTop.com, 215-561-3325.)
I’m back at Dilworth Park, in front of City Hall, in time for the Deck the Hall Light Show, featuring. technicolor projections synchronized to holiday music that animate the western façade of City Hall over Dilworth Park. Created by Klip Collective, a new feature for 2019 is that visitors can deck the hall themselves on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings using an interactive keyboard that projects lights onto City Hall. (Nightly every hour on the half hour from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, see dilworthpark.org)
Skating on the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink set underneath City Hall’s lights at City Hall while
listening to a mix of holiday tunes and bouncing beats, creates its own festive
vibe and also affords perfect views of the Deck The Hall Light Show from the
ice. ($5/skate, $1-0/rental, thru Feb. 23, Dilworth Park, 1S 15th
In the new Wawa Holiday Plaza at City Hall’s
North Apron (a first for Philly this year), is a 65-foot tall Christmas Village Ferris Wheel and a Holiday Train and holiday shops. ($4 to
ride the ferris wheel, $3 to ride the holiday train. (Thru Dec. 24, 1400 John
F. Kennedy Blvd.)
Wawa holiday plaza also hosts the Visit Philadelphia Holiday Tree— a 50-foot-tall white fir covered in
4,000 feet of multi-color LED lights, ornaments and a base that reflects
Philly’s 22 diverse neighborhoods around the city.
I walk back through City Hall’s beautiful courtyard featuring ACME Winter Memories, Christmas Village vendors and a fanciful
carousel ($3 a ride, but free on ACME Family Wednesdays, when each visitor also
gets a complimentary Santa hat).
A few steps away, at LOVE Park, is a mega-popular Christmas
Village in Philadelphia, featuring a traditional German Christmas
market with more than 80 vendors to check out.
timed my next stop at Macy’s, housed
in the former, historic Wanamaker’s Department Store – grand doesn’t even begin
to describe the interior. For the holidays, there is a giant light show
displayed three-stories high in the appropriately named Grand Court, an atrium
that soars four-stories, with balconies around, preceded by an organ recital on
what is called “The King of Organs.” At the center is a famous brass eagle.
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show, starring the 40-foot tall “Magic Christmas tree,” is a traditional favorite that generations have enjoyed since 1956. Narrated by Julie Andrews, it features “The Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Frosty the Snowman” with an enchanting nod to Julie Andrews’ “Sound of Music” and the wistful “good bye, good bye.” (Through Dec. 31; every two hours, from 10 am to 8 pm). Macy’s also hosts Santa visits through Dec 24, and there is a Dickens Village open until Dec. 31, where you watch as a Christmas Carol comes to life (photos with Santa packages start at $18.99, macys.com/santaland). (See macys.com/events.)
organ is actually a notable attraction. It boasts being the “world’s largest
pipe organ” and was first played in the Wanamaker soaring atrium at the exact moment
King George V was crowned in Westminster Abbey.
the crowd clears out (the store is open for holiday shopping until 11 pm), it’s
also an opportunity to become familiarized with the enormous Grand Court Eagle, which was created for the
1904 St Louis World’s Fair by sculptor August Gaul. Wanamaker purchased the
brass eagle for his flagship store and it became a catchphrase for shoppers,
“Meet me at the eagle.” The floor beneath is reinforced with extra girders to
accommodate its 2500 pounds; its 5,000 feathers (including 1600 on the head)
were wrought by hand.
A historic marker (one
of Philly’s many fascinating markers) outside Macy’s notes that John
Wanamaker (1838-1922) was a Philadelphia merchant famed for the department
stores that bore his name. He opened his first store in 1861, and built his
“new kind of store” in Philly in 1876, implementing new concepts including
one-price system and money-back guarantee. He also built schools and churches
and as US Postmaster General (1889-93), he fostered rural free delivery and
introduced the commemorative stamp.
I’m not done! I find out that one of Philly’s newest holiday festivals, East Market Snow Walk, happens in the plaza next door to The Roost East Market hotel, a nightly light show featuring the giant Christmas tree throughout December (6:30, 7:30, 8:30 pm) with live entertainment on Saturday nights (tonight’s is a sensational 1920s-style swing band, Parlour Noir) (get schedule, EastMarket.com).
There are more holiday happenings through the city that
I couldn’t fit in during my all-too-brief stay:
The annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival features a free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show
presented by PECO that makes this historic square twinkle with more than 80,000 LED lights dancing to a
soundtrack of seasonal tunes from The Philly POPS. A 12-foot-tall kite serves
as an ode to Philadelphia’s favorite son, Benjamin Franklin’s famous
kite-and-lightning experiment, hovering 20 feet above the square’s centerpiece
fountain. Light shows begin every day of the week at 4:30 p.m. and light up
every 30 minutes until 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 9 p.m. on Fridays
and Saturdays. Other festivities include
Saturdays with Santa; rides on the holiday train and carousel; comfort foods,
local beer and hot beverages at Ben’s Sweets & Treats and holiday fare at
SquareBurger; and mini-golf. (Through Dec. 31, Franklin Square, 200 N. 6th
Deck the District – Fashion District Philadelphia, the retail and entertainment space which opened in September in the city’s Market East neighborhood, celebrates its first holiday season with an inaugural light show. The destination boasts a 45-foot-tall floating tree with giant stainless steel mirror ornaments and a light show timed to music by The Philly POPS. The five-minute show, by designer Matthew Schwam, known for putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city buildings, is best viewed from in front of Candytopia, located near the entrance at 9th Street and Market Street. The show runs every 30 minutes from 4 p.m. until closing. (Thru Dec. 31, 901 Market Street, 215-925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com)
LumiNature at Philadelphia Zoo – Two years in the making, a new, immersive
display transforms the zoo’s day-scape into a nighttime multimedia light and
music spectacle. Dancing lights, sounds (even talking trees) throughout furnish
illusions of animals coming to life. A flock of flamingos forms a 25-foot-tall
tree; an enormous polar bear broadcasts the magnificence of our planet; all
four seasons host their very own party. Seasonal fare, live performers, hot
chocolate and adult beverages promise to spark the winter spirit. (Timed
tickets through Jan.5. 3400 W. Girard Avenue, 215-243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org.
Photo Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland – The ultimate selfie station, located inside
the historic Bourse building (now a modern food hall), invites ticketed guests
through a series of artist-envisioned, purposefully Instagram-able rooms
featuring virtual reality, a photo booth and lots of snow-filled
backdrops. (Select days through Jan. 5. 111 S. Independence Mall East,
Staying at The Roost
East Market apartment hotel really enabled us to be part of the city. It’s
not hyperbole to say the comfort of a fully-equipped, gorgeously furnished
apartment meets luxury amenities of a boutique hotel. All of the apartments
feature full-size kitchens with cookware and utensils (I especially love not
having to go out for breakfast) and king size beds. A
third-floor is devoted to guest amenities including a well-equipped 24-hour
fitness center, magnificent and comfortable lounge areas and library, a huge
demo kitchen, a private screening room, an outside, 20-meter heated lap pool,
barbecue area, landscaped terrace, community vegetable garden; and bike-share program. There is also 24-hour
front desk and concierge, security (you need your card to access the elevator
and public areas); and direct access to a parking garage. They even arrange dog-walking and grocery
The Roost East Market is
wonderfully situated on the edge of Philadelphia’s Midtown Village neighborhood
(aka Gayborhood), a short walk away from City Hall, Reading Terminal Market,
the Pennsylvania Convention Center and the shopping destination Fashion
District Philadelphia. It is a 15-minute walk to Independence Hall and all the
attractions in that area. (The Roost East Market, 1199 Ludlow
Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, 844-697-6678, https://myroost.com/philadelphia/east-market/).
This is the third location of the Philadelphia-based extended-stay brand (though there is no minimum length of stay). The others are the ROOST Rittenhouse (1831 Chestnut St. Philadelphia) and ROOST Midtown (111 S. 15th St. Philadelphia). The brand is also expanding to other cities including Washington DC, which will also have a restaurant; Charleston, and Tampa.
My holiday happenings are bookended by visits to several of Philadelphia’s incomparable sites and attractions: Barnes Museum (2025 Ben Franklin Pkwy, barnesfoundation.org); Independence Hall (you need to get a timed ticket, either walk up for free or in advance online for $1 fee, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm); a fabulous exhibit devoted to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG) at the National Museum of American Jewish History, located within the Independence Hall area (thru Jan. 12, at 5th & Market, mnajh.org, 215-923-3811); Philadelphia Magic Gardens (doesn’t need any holiday embellishments, 1020 South St., 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org);and Franklin Institute (222 North 20th St., 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu), before having to pull myself away from Philadelphia. (See story)
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and perks, and is bookable at Greater
Philadelphia’s official visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where you can explore things to do, upcoming
events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
My criteria for great destination places to spend the winter holidays starts with charm, offers plenty to do indoors as well as outdoors that interests everyone in the family, is walkable to get around or at least offers great public transportation, perhaps even a cutesy trolley or something that is fun, has great decorations, and a festive feel. Here are more of our favorite places, where the spirit glows bright throughout the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. (See also: Favorite Places to Go Where the Holiday Spirit Glows Brightest)
Philadelphia’s Winter Wonderland
is well known for its wintertime holiday traditions. The season begins with
America’s oldest Thanksgiving Day Parade—enjoying its momentous 100th running this year. But this year, three
newcomers get an early start on the holidays. These include a vast, immersive,
evening light display—LumiNature at the Philadelphia Zoo—a seasonal
selfie station at The Bourse—Photo Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland—and a
massive floating tree, with a sound and light show, at the center of the
just-opened Fashion District Philadelphia.
is what’s new for the 2019 winter holidays in Philadelphia:
Holiday pop-ups abound around City Hall in
the heart of Center City, including the dazzling nightly Deck the Hall Light Show (November 25, 2019 – January 1, 2020),
projected on to the side of City Hall. The outdoor Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink & Cabin (November
8, 2019 – February 23, 2020) offer ice skating, skate rentals, twinkling lights
and indoor space to warm up and fill up on snacks, cocktails, seasonal beer and
hot drinks. The charming, stroll-worthy Wintergarden (November 8, 2019 – February 23,
2020) is aglow with seasonal plants and lights. Also, the Made In Philadelphia Holiday
Market (November 23, 2019 – January 1, 2020) returns with
dozens of independent local vendors selling their wares. (Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street).
During the annual Franklin Square Holiday Festival, the Electrical
Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO makes this historic square twinkle
with free shows every night. Among the 75,000 bulbs set to music is a giant,
illuminated kite. Other festivities include Saturdays with Santa; rides on the
holiday train and carousel; comfort foods, local beer and hot beverages at
Ben’s Sweets & Treats and holiday fare at SquareBurger; and mini-golf.
the District – The
Fashion District Philadelphia offers great local art, amazing bargains,
delicious drinks and a holiday light show. Designer Matthew Schwam, known for
putting big, bright red bows and dazzling lit-up snowflakes on significant city
buildings, has promised a magical, 45-foot tall floating tree featuring 600
mirrored, stainless steel orbs for the center of the complex. Every half hour
from 4 p.m. until closing, the tree will host a free light show featuring the
festive sounds of the Philadelphia POPS. November 14-December 31, 2019.901 Market Street,
(215) 925-7162, fashiondistrictphiladelphia.com
Pop Philly: Winter Wonderland – The ultimate selfie station, located
inside the historic Bourse building (now a modern food hall), invites ticketed
guests through a series of artist-envisioned, purposefully Instagram-able rooms
featuring virtual reality, a photo booth and lots of snow-filled backdrops,
just in time for holiday card-making. Select days, November
15, 2019-January 5, 2020.111 S. Independence Mall East,
(215) 925-7900, photopopphilly.com
at Philadelphia Zoo – Two years in the making, a new, immersive display
transforms the zoo’s day-scape into a nighttime multimedia light and music
spectacle. Dancing lights, sounds (even talking trees) throughout furnish
illusions of animals coming to life. A flock of flamingos forms a 25-foot-tall
tree; an enormous polar bear broadcasts the magnificence of our planet; all
four seasons host their very own party. Seasonal fare, live performers, hot
chocolate and adult beverages promise to spark the winter spirit. Timed
tickets. November 20, 2019-January
5, 2020.3400 W. Girard Avenue, (215) 243-1100, philadelphiazoo.org
Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes overnight free parking and more
perks, and is bookable at Greater Philadelphia’s official
visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where
you can explore things
to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
Festive Holiday Traditions
on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket
Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket bring the classic
spirit of the season to life Thanksgiving through New Year’s, each putting
their special stamp on beloved holiday traditions.
Nantucket Island’s month-long (November 29, 2019 to January 1,
2020), Nantucket Noel, is a venerable tradition. This year’s theme is Winter
Nights & Holiday Nights — a reminder that, on Nantucket, the
winter holidays commence with the Tree Lighting and continue for 33 days
through The New Nantucket New Year’s Event and The Nantucket Hotel’s Anchor
Drop on New Year’s Eve. Nantucket Noel 2019’s festivities
— including the signature event Christmas Stroll Weekend (December
6-8, 2019) features more than 150 majestically attired balsam Christmas trees
lining the side perimeters of cobblestoned Main Street and adjoining byways. (Book
your ferry reservations online at www.SteamshipAuthority.com or
Edgartown: Downtown Edgartown comes alive December 12-15 for the 38th
Annual Christmas in Edgartown. Twinkle-lit
architecture sets the scene for cookie contests, wreath making, amazing store
promotions, The Great Chowder Contest, and a parade down Main Street.
Family Fun: Take a guided ride along a winter
wonderland route in an over-sand vehicle to the remote Cape Poge Lighthouse
for Christmas at the Lighthouse on Martha’s
Vineyard (December 7-8). The Nantucket Whaling Museum is ablaze with color
during the Nantucket Historical Association Festival of Trees
(December 6-31), featuring creatively decorated trees by local merchants,
artists and children. And nine miles of twinkling lights greet visitors to
Heritage Museums & Gardens’ Gardens Aglow, where you can visit with Santa
in a 1913 Model T Ford, roast marshmallows over outdoor fire pits and stroll
through the grounds on a reindeer scavenger hunt (November 29-December 29,
Shop Local: Quaint
boutiques, charming bookstores and eclectic galleries adorn downtown areas,
making it easy to tackle your holiday shopping list. One-of-a-kind gifts by
local artisans can be found at Featherstone’s Holiday Gift Show(November
15-December 15), the Vineyard Artisans’ Annual Holiday Fair(December 21) and the Holiday LoveLocal Fest in Hyannis
(December 7-8). Peruse the beautiful glass-blown ornaments at Sandwich Glass
Museum’s Glassblowers’ Christmas, featuring handmade
ornaments available for purchase (November 15-December 30). And if you shop on
Nantucket between November 1 and December 24, you can earn red tickets and
enter for a chance to win up to $11,000 through the Holiday Red Ticket Program.
Yuletide Cheer in Greater Williamsburg,
What a holiday
combination! Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a living-history museum, the
Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, offering a
glimpse of 17th and 18th century holiday traditions and Busch Gardens
colonial past can be seen through the Illuminations taking
place throughout Colonial Williamsburg.
Between December 10 and 15, stroll through the Palace Green, the Capitol,
Market Square or the taverns to enjoy an 18th century seasonal celebration as
candles and cressets illuminate these sites, and the firing of muskets and a
musical performance by the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drums whisk us back
Jamestown: Military history
aficionados may take delight in Christmastide in
Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown between December 20 and 31. 17th and 18th-century
holiday traditions are recalled through special interpretive programs and musical
entertainment of the period. At the American Revolution
Museum at Yorktown, hear accounts of Christmas and winter in
military encampments during the American Revolution and relive holiday
preparations on a Revolution-era farm. At Jamestown Settlement,
English Christmas customs of the period can be compared and contrasted with how
the season may have been observed in the difficult early years of the Jamestown
Busch Gardens—Christmas Town 2019 offers
one of the largest lights displays in North America with more than 10 million
tiny globes making all merry and bright. Between November 16 and January
5, 2020, the season rejuvenates with festive food and drink, lighted Christmas
train rides, holiday shopping and heart-warming shows in Busch Gardens –
Christmas Town 2019. New for 2019, the Traditions Tree Maze presented by Coca-Cola features
500 fresh-cut Christmas trees creating a spectacular maze that allows
park-goers to take a stroll around the world and explore holiday traditions
celebrated in places like Japan, South Africa and Mexico. Country of origin
themed craft-making stations for the kids, picture-taking moments, music and
lights make this immersive experience like no other. Also debuting this
year, Believe lets
guests dine while enjoying inspirational holiday music performed by a solo
pianist in the Italy’s San Marco Theatre. Not for the faint at heart, the
new Finnegan’s Flyer tests
the bravest of riders as they swing at speeds of 45 mph and 80 feet above the
cliffs of the Celtic Coast, taking in the festive sights of Ireland.
Here are some essentials that epitomize a
lovely winter holiday in the City by the Bay.
Park at Civic Center: Now in its second
year, the Civic Center Plaza is converted into a pop-up winter park to
celebrate the holiday season. From Nov. 30 to Jan. 5, you can skate the night
away or participate in Learn to Curl sessions. https://winterparkicerinksf.com/
Contraptions: Flights of Fancy”: For
indoor holiday fun, head to the Exploratorium at Pier 15 for an exhibition of whimsical
mechanical sculptures, also known as automata. Brought to life by simple
mechanisms and handmade pieces, each automata performs an entertaining drama.
Understand the inner workings of these automata in “Curious
Contraptions” from Nov. 21, 2019 to Jan. 26, 2020. www.exploratorium.edu
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar: Off the Grid (OTG), the
quintessential champion of the mobile food movement in the Bay Area and beyond,
is debuting Emperor Norton’s Holiday Bazaar Nov. 29 to Dec. 24, 2019. Inspired
by the tradition of European Holiday Markets, the Bazaar will take place at the
iconic Salesforce Transit Center and Salesforce Tower Plaza. Emperor
Norton’s Holiday Bazaar will deliver a magical experience with classic holiday
décor, cozy spots to relax and connect, and opportunities to shop for unique,
handmade gifts – all paired with the soul-warming food and drink for which Off
the Grid is famous. https://offthegrid.com/emperor-nortons-holiday-bazaar/
Great Dickens Christmas Fair: A
treasured Bay Area tradition since 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is takes place Nov.
23 – Dec. 22, 2019 at the Cow Palace. The Fair’s 20th season features over
800 performers in over 120,000 square feet of theatrically-lit music halls,
dance floors, and Christmas shops. https://dickensfair.com/
Tuk Tuk Tour: This might just be the most holiday fun you
can have on wheels. Lucky Tuk Tuk’s vibrant vehicles are eco-friendly and
colorfully decorated with holiday lights to tour you through the city with
holiday cheer. Lucky Tuk Tuk can fit up to six riders, perfect for a family
outing. While on board, you can enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, candy canes and even
sing-along karaoke. www.lucky-tuk-tuk.com/
For information on reservations, activities and more, visit www.sftravel.com or call
WINTER WOODS SPECTACULAR: Experience the twinkling of millions of lights at this new event from the producers of the popular Jack O’ Lantern Spectacular. Held in scenic Iroquois Park, the event features a half-mile drive of lighting and artistry exploring and celebrating the holiday season. (Nov. 30 through Dec. 31)
FÊTE DE NOËL: Louisville’s Paristown neighborhood is the site of this inaugural event. A six-week Winter Village features Louisville’s only authentic outdoor ice-skating rink, along with the return of Louisville’s award-winning Holiday Laser Dome, Stoneware & Co. ornament decorating, holiday family movies and more.
LIGHTS UNDER LOUISVILLE: At this holiday favorite, Louisville Mega Cavern is transformed into a festive underground light spectacular. Enjoy a 30-minute ride through part of 17 miles of underground passageways. Featuring more than 850 lit characters with three million points of lights. ( Open through Jan. 4)
For more information, Louisville Tourism,gotolouisville.com
Christmas on the Beach in St. Petersburg
St Petersburg, Florida affords a marvelous opportunity to combine arts, culture, heritage with white sand beach. St. Petersburg/Clearwater offers scores of special activities – lighted boat parades that take place at various times in small villages; outdoor carolers at the holiday market. The very special Clearwater Marine Aquarium (home of the Dolphin’s Tale stories) transforms into Winter’s Wonderland. The annual Holiday Lights in the Gardens has a million LED lights shining throughout the Botanical Gardens (from 5:30 p.m.; $5 suggested donation). Head to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens for some great thrill rides and to see the park transform into a holiday wonderland of Christmastime entertainment, holiday shopping and a million twinkling lights!. Stay at the glamorous, historic and grand beach resort, the DonCesar Resort, known as “the Pink Lady” (www.doncesar.com) or the Vinoy Renaissance, both members of Historic Hotels of America (historichotels.org, 800-678-8946).
offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret
underground ice cave and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a
nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million twinkling lights high atop Lookout
Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas
carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers;
build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas
presents when you visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee
Chattanooga’s Holiday Trail of Lights Nov. 15, 2019 – Jan. 17, 2020: Now in its third
year, the ChattanoogaHoliday Trail of Lights showcases
12 major holiday activities featuring millions of twinkling lights, holiday
meals on a river cruise, live holiday music and entertainment, animal
encounters, ice skating, Santa sightings and train excursions to the North
Pole! Throughout the trail there are an array of
festivals, gingerbread-house making workshops, special holiday meals, live
music, theater performances, shopping deals, artist demonstrations, fireworks
and plenty of ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers an
absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic
Hotels of America) is literally created out of the legendary railroad station
dating back to 1909, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars
converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces
(but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access), and the
station serves as the hotel lobby (you can also tour some of the historic
trains and meet the engineer). A free electric shuttle from the bus terminal
next door takes you downtown. I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and
enchanted stay. (Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402,
800-TRACK-29 (872-2529, www.choochoo.com.)
You always make
fascinating discoveries at the New-York Historical Society, but the nexus of
exhibits and experiences that are being showcased through the holidays makes
this particularly prime time for a visit: flesh out who Paul Revere was beyond
his mythic Midnight Ride; see why Mark Twain, featured on the 150th
anniversary of the publication of his seminal book, “Innocents Abroad, or The
New Pilgrims’ Progress” was our first travel blogger; learn about the Baroness artist
in exile who made a visual diary, and, of course, become enchanted at the “Holiday
Express,” re-imagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author
and illustrator Richard Scarry.
Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere
Paul Revere is most famous for his
midnight ride warning people of Massachusetts “the British are
coming,” but the larger than life legend is not the focus of this
first-ever exhibit now on view at the New-York Historical Society. And while
his prowess as a silversmith and artisan is very much displayed, we are
surprised to learn about Revere as a printer, an engraver, an entrepreneur and innovator,
a savvy businessman, a Mason, a “proto-industrialist” – all of which figured
into his role as a patriot.
Beyond Midnight: Paul Revere separates fact
from fiction, revealing Revere as a complex, multifaceted figure at the
intersection of America’s social, economic, artistic, and political life in
Revolutionary War-era Boston as it re-examines his life as an artisan,
activist, and entrepreneur. The exhibition, featuring more than 140 objects, most
never before exhibited in public, highlights aspects of Revere’s versatile
career as an artisan, including engravings, such as his well-known depiction of
the Boston Massacre; glimmering silver tea services made for prominent clients;
everyday objects such as thimbles, tankards, and teapots; and important public
commissions, such as a bronze courthouse bell. There are personal items, as
well – most touching is the
gold wedding ring Paul Revere made for his second wife, Rachel, in a case below
portraits of the two of them, a thin band engraved inside with the words, “Live
Organized by the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester,
curated by Nan Wolverton and Lauren Hewes, Beyond
Midnight debuts at New-York Historical through January 12, 2020, before
traveling to the Worcester Art Museum and the Concord Museum in Massachusetts
for a two-venue display (February 13 – June 7, 2020) and to Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (July 4 – October 11, 2020). At New-York Historical, Beyond Midnight is
coordinated by Debra Schmidt Bach, New-York Historical’s curator of decorative
“When many of us think of Paul Revere, we instantly think of Longfellow’s lines,
‘One if by land, and two if by sea’, but there is much more to Revere’s story,”
said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.
“This exhibition looks beyond the myth of Paul Revere
to better understand the man as a revolutionary, an artisan, and an
entrepreneur, who would go on to become a legend. There is much more to the
Revere story than the famous ride. We are proud to partner with the American
Antiquarian Society to debut this exhibition in New York.”
The New-York Historical
Society partnered with the American Antiquarian Society (of Boston) which holds
one of the most encompassing collections of Paul Revere’s documents, largely
due to the society being founded by Isaiah Thomas in 1812, an “omnivorous
collector,” who was a printer, publisher, patriot, colleague and customer of
Paul Revere’s as well as a fellow patriot advocating for a break from Great
The Antiquarian Society,
the oldest national historical society, is a research library and not a museum,
so its collection is not publicly exhibited. That’s why this collaboration with
the New-York Historical Society is so extraordinary.
A Revolutionary activist, Paul Revere was a member of the Sons of
Liberty, a secret group opposed to British colonial policy including taxation
that kept track of British troop movements and war ships in the harbor. The
exhibition displays Revere’s 1770 engraving of the landing of British forces at
Boston’s Long Wharf.
Four versions of Revere’s provocative engraving of the 1770 Boston Massacre are also reunited in the exhibition. The engravings capture the moment when British soldiers fired upon a crowd of unruly colonists in front of the Custom House. The print inflamed anti-British sentiment, and different versions of it were widely disseminated as Patriot propaganda.
The only known copy of a
broadside that still exists is on display under canvas.
But the print that most
fascinated me was the one that depicted the first casualty of the American
Revolution, a black man, Crispice Attucks, at the center. It was used to
advance the cause of abolition before the Civil War.
Paul Revere was a master craftsman specializing in metalwork,
including copperplate engravings and fashionable and functional objects made
from silver, gold, brass, bronze, and copper. An innovative businessman, Revere
expanded his successful silver shop in the years after the war to produce goods
that took advantage of new machinery. His fluted oval teapot, made from
machine-rolled sheet silver, became an icon of American Federal silver design.
You see marvelous
examples of Revere’s artistry as a silversmith – a skill he learned from his father.
There is a Revere tea service that had belonged to John Templeman, on loan from
the Minnesota Institute of Art, the most complete tea service by Revere in
existence, which he made toward the end of long career that lasted until he was
in his 70s.
Among the silver objects on view are two rare wine goblets
possibly used as Kiddush cups made by Revere for Moses Michael Hays—his only
known Jewish client—as well as grand tea services, teapots, tankards,
teaspoons, and toy whistles created in Revere’s shop.
But Revere, a genius at working with metals, also worked in brass and copper. He produced bells and cannon. Featured in the exhibit is a 1796 cast-bronze courthouse bell made for the Norfolk County Courthouse in Dedham, Massachusetts (about 100 Revere-created bells are still in existence and one, in Cambridge is still rung). The exhibition also explores how Revere’s trade networks reached well beyond Boston, even aboard ships bound for China. He frequently bought and sold raw and finished copper from New Yorker Harmon Hendricks and supplied copper for Robert Fulton’s famous steamship.
We learn that the silver that Revere
and the colonial silversmiths would have used came from South America, from
mines run by the Spanish with African slave and Indian labor. “Spanish coin was
the currency of colonial America. Revere
would melt old objects and coin for the silver.”
Meticulous account books
that are in the collection show that Revere had customers in and around Boston-
they are never shown except on microfilm, so it is very special to see these
originals. In one, we see where Revere made notations and sketches.
What we learn is that
Revere, who had 16 children, would create new businesses, set up new workshops
and put a son in charge as he went on to create a new one. “He had a drive to keep changing technology,
but he built on what he learned as a silversmith.”
Revere was a proto-industrialist
of the nascent nation; he changed from a workshop model that would employ two
to four people, to more of an industrial model, with six to eight people paid
The connection between
being an artisan, an entrepreneur and an innovator plays into his role as a
As you enter the exhibit, you see a nine-foot-tall re-creation of
the grand obelisk made for a 1766 Boston Common celebration of the repeal of
the Stamp Act, the first tax levied on the American colonies by England.
Originally made of wood and oiled paper, and decorated with painted scenes,
portraits, and text praising King George while also mocking British
legislators, the obelisk was illuminated from inside and eventually consumed by
flames at the Boston event. Local newspapers of the time described huge event.
The only remaining visual evidence is Revere’s 1766 engraving of the design
which was used to make the reproduction.
was a member of the Sons of Liberty and helped plan and execute the Boston Tea
Party in 1773, hurling tea into Boston Harbor. You get to see a vial of tea
from the Boston Tea Party that was collected from Dorchester Beach (the water
was cold so the bales of tea didn’t dissolve). One of the vials was given to
the Antiquarian Society in 1840.
place where the Sons of Liberty met to discuss their plans for the Tea Party,
the Green Dragon Tavern, was also where the Masons met. Revere was a member of
this secret society as well. The Masons were humanists, a clique and seen as
anti-Christian, inspiring anti-Masonic societies, because all religions,
including Jews like Hays, could join.
Thomas, a Masonic brother, was a patriot and like many of the merchants saw
America as independent of Great Britain, with its own ability to make
(manufacture), sell and distribute goods and not rely on Europe. Thomas
published a newspaper and hired Revere, who was a printer as well as an artist,
to do the book plate and masthead for his newspapers.
Isaiah Thomas, a Masonic brother, was a patriot and like many of the merchants saw America as independent of Great Britain, with its own ability to make (manufacture), sell and distribute goods and not rely on Europe. Thomas published a newspaper and hired Revere, who was a printer as well as an artist, to do the book plate and masthead for his newspapers.
Paul Revere was born in
America in 1735. His father was a French Huguenot who came as a young man from
Bordeaux France, emigrating first to the Isle of Jersey, and then to Boston as
a goldsmith. Revere’s father dies young and Paul, having finished his
apprenticeship, takes over at 19.
Revere belonged to an economic class called “mechanics,” ranked below merchants, lawyers, and clergymen. But Revere was a savvy networker, and what he lacked in social status, he made up for by cultivating influential connections. Membership in the Sons of Liberty led to commissions from fellow Patriots, but he also welcomed Loyalist clients, setting aside politics for profit. On view are nine elements from a grand, 45-piece beverage service that Revere created in 1773 for prominent Loyalist Dr. William Paine—the largest commission of his career—just two months before the Boston Tea Party.
A key associate was Isaiah
Thomas who, like Revere, exemplifies an American success story. Thomas was
poor but taught himself how to read, write and set type and became one of
wealthiest Americans as a printer, employing 150 people. It was the same with
Paul Revere and Ben Franklin – they all started from nothing, but became
successful – each of them had the ability in America to rise up, each was a
printer, and each was a great innovator and thinker. The exhibit makes clear
that a big part of Revere’s story is his importance as a printer.
The end of exhibit
focuses on the Revere legend and the reality.
Paul Revere died in 1818, at the age of 83 (he worked until his
70s), but his fame endured, initially for his metalwork and then for his
patriotism. In the 1830s, Revere’s engravings were rediscovered as Americans
explored their Revolutionary past, and his view of the Boston Massacre appeared
in children’s history books.
In 1860, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after visiting the Old
North Church and hearing the story about the lanterns, was inspired to write
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” romanticizing (and somewhat embellishing) the story of
Revere’s journey to Lexington. The poem first appeared in the Atlantic
Monthly in January 1861 (an original copy of the magazine is on view
in the exhibition).
“Listen my children and you shall
hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,” Longfellow wrote 85 years after the event,
April 18, 1775. It was the eve of another revolution, the Civil War. Longfellow’s intention was not to promote the
idea of revolution but to remind Americans of our common foundation, our roots,
our unifying experience.
Before the Longfellow poem was
published, a new print of the famous Revere print of the Boston massacre was
published that put the black man, Crispice Attucks, the first man to die for
Revolution, America’s first martyr, in the center.
“The Civil War started in 1861. Longfellow was
an abolitionist and Boston was a hotbed of abolition. He wanted to remind the country
of its shared past. That is why he brought Revere back to life, but his life was
stripped down to one event,” curator Debra Schmidt Bach explains.
The exhibit is timely
now for much the same reason: with such intense partisanship, there is the
sense of needing to remind people of our common foundation.
In reality, Revere, who was 40 years old when he undertook his
famous ride, was on foot until he crossed the Charles River to Cambridge and
then rode a borrowed horse to Lexington. He was
also one of three riders and was stopped briefly by British officers and then
released when Revere talked his way out of being arrested. A map of the actual
ride is on display.
Works like the Longfellow poem, artist Grant Wood’s 1931 painting Midnight Ride of Paul Revere depicting a dramatic scene of Revere riding past Boston’s Old North Church (also an embellishment) and others enshrined Paul Revere at the heart of the nation’s founding story. By the turn of the 20th century, the tale of Paul Revere and his midnight ride was firmly established in the nation’s psyche as truth, not fiction, and Revere’s contributions as a metalsmith and artisan were overshadowed.
The Revere exhibit, and
the people who we are introduced to like Isaiah Thomas, reveals the DNA that
propelled the American Revolution: how Americans had become their own culture,
their own society, where an individual was not limited by birth, but could rise
up. The Stamp Tax and the Tea Tax imposed by Britain clarified the limitations
placed on the Americans’ economic development. More than a political
revolution, the American Revolution was an economic and social revolution.
In piercing the bubble
of the Revere legend, the exhibit exposes an even more interesting and
“Paul Revere” exhibit on view in NY until January
12, 2020 before
traveling to the Worcester Art Museum and the Concord Museum in Massachusetts
for a two-venue display (February 13 – June 7, 2020) and to Crystal Bridges
Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas (July 4 – October 11, 2020). Special
programming is offered in conjunction with the exhibit, check the website, www.nyhistory.org.
Mark Twain and
the Holy Land
This small alcove within
the New-York Historical Society is hallowed ground for a travel writer,
consisting of artifacts, leaves from journals, letters, stereotypes, photos
that re-create Mark Twain’s journey through the Holy Land in 1867. Twain’s
cruise aboard the Quaker City was a first – the first organized tour in
American history – and Twain was the first travel writer, sending back
dispatches of his impressions that were published in a San Francisco newspaper,
two years before his subsequent 1869 book, The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress, one of the best-selling travelogues of all
Historical Society celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of Innocents Abroad with Mark Twain
and the Holy Land, on view through February 2, 2020. This new
exhibition traces the legendary American humorist’s 1867 voyage to the Mediterranean
and his subsequent book through original documents, photographs, artwork, and
costumes, as well as an interactive media experience.
by New-York Historical in partnership with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation,
it is curated by Michael Ryan, vice president and director of the Patricia D.
Klingenstein Library, and Cristian Petru Panaite, associate curator of
sail from New York for a great adventure abroad, Mark Twain captured the
feelings and reactions of many Americans exploring beyond their borders,
inspiring generations of travelers to document their voyages,” said Dr. Louise
Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “We are pleased
to partner with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation to present the history behind
this influential book by Twain, a uniquely American writer whose work helped to
define American culture in the postbellum era.”
What I delighted in most
was an interactive display where you can summon up a specific site Twain
visited, like the Holy Sepulchre, and read Twain’s notes and observations,
adjacent to a historic photo, that read like today’s travel blogs.
“We spurred up hill
after hill, and usually began to stretch our necks minutes before we got to the
top-but disappointment always followed – more stupid hills beyond – more unsightly
landscape – no Holy City. At last, away in the middle of the day, ancient bite
of wall and crumbling arches began to line the way-we toiled up one more hill,
and every pilgrim and every sinner swung his hat on high! Jerusalem!”
“Just after noon we
entered these narrow, crooked streets, by the ancient and the famed Damascus
Gate, and now for several hours I have been trying to comprehend that I am
actually in the illustrious old city where Solomon dwelt, where Abraham held
converse with the Deity, and where walls still stand that witnessed the
spectacle of the Crucifixion.”
“The great feature of
the Mosque of Omar is the Prodigious rock in the centre of its rotunda. It was
upon this rock that Abraham came so near offering up his son Isaac – this, at
least, is authentic – it is very much more to be relied on than most of the
traditions, at any rate. On this rock, also, the angel stood and threatened
Jerusalem, and David persuaded him to spare the city.”
expressed disgust at the way his fellow travelers treated hallowed sites. “Pilgrims
have come in with their pockets full of specimens broken from the ruins. I wish
this vandalism could be stopped.” But Twain himself carried back items (a list is
provided) including marble from the Parthenon in Athens, mummies from Egyptian
pyramids, a letter opener made from Abraham’s oak and olive wood from Jerusalem.
Artist in Exile:
The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville
Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville introduces visitors to a little-known artist whose work documented the people and scenes of early America. The exhibit, on view November 1, 2019 – January 26, 2020 in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery of the Center for Women’s History, presents 115 watercolors, drawings, and other works by Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849). Self-taught and ahead of her time, Neuville’s art celebrates the young country’s history, culture, and diverse population, ranging from Indigenous Americans to political leaders.
All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown
holiday favorite returns to the New-York Historical Society this
season—reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and
illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard
Scarry’s Busytown (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020) showcases
artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from
publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from
the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using
Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the
railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and
goods moving. An assortment of kid-friendly activities, story times, and crafts
accompany the exhibition throughout its run, welcoming families into the world
of classic toys and trains. Richard “Huck” Scarry Jr., the son of Richard
Scarry, will make a special appearance on December 14 and 15. Holiday
Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown is supported by
Bloomberg Philanthropies. Additional support provided by Random House
Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY
The countdown clock in the lobby of the Cradle of Aviation Museum showed 43 days to July 20, the 50th anniversary of the first man to walk on the moon, on the night of the museum’s grand gala at which seven former astronauts and flight directors were feted – Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 7), Rusty Schweickart(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9), Fred Haise(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 13). Charlie Duke (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16), Harrison Schmitt(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17) and Apollo Flight Directors, Gerry Griffin and Milt Windler – along with Grumman employees who built the lunar module and the equipment which put them there.
Throughout this year, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, Long Island, not far from where the lunar module was designed and built by Grumman engineers in Bethpage and a stone’s throw from Roosevelt Field where Charles Lindbergh took off for his historic transatlantic flight to Paris, has been hosting special events to mark the anniversary, use it for STEM education and inspire a new generation eager to reach for the stars.
The events climax on July 20, when at the exact same moment as Neil Armstrong made his “giant leap for mankind”, a replica lunar module will descend from the ceiling. Museum goers also can see an actual lunar module, one of the six that Grumman built (three are still on the moon, and the other three are in the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and here at the Cradle of Aviation Museum).
One of the extraordinary exhibits on view at the museum now is“Space: A Journey to Our Future,” which is on view through August 18, 2019, an absolutely thrilling, immersive exhibit which takes you from the dawn of man’s earliest visions of space exploration to the heroic achievements of the past, the unfolding discoveries of today, and the frontiers of the universe that lie ahead. You get to touch actual rocks from the lunar surface and the red planet, explore a futuristic Lunar Base Camp while walking through a full-size space habitat and work pod, get an up-close look at a wide range of artifacts from the space program and experience the past, present and future of space through these and dozens of other displays, interactive (try your hand at landing the space shuttle!) and experiences.
Also, as part of this special celebration, the museumis showing Todd Douglas Miller’s new documentary film, “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition,” a special giant-screen edition created exclusively for science centers and museum theaters, like Cradle’s Dome Theater. With a newly-discovered trove of never-before-seen 70mm footage and audio recordings, APOLLO 11: First Steps Edition joins Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Mission Control team and millions of spectators around the world, during those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
at 50: Moon Fest,” on July 20 will be a family festival (9:30-5 pm, with
activities 12-4pm) with visits from Long Island Space Shuttle Astronauts
including Bill Shepherd (Babylon) and Charlie Carmada (Ozone Park). All day
activities include virtual reality experiences, model rocket launches, and a countdown
at 4:18 pm to collectively watch, re-experience, and honor as a community, the
historic “The Eagle has Landed” Lunar Module landing on the moon. As a special
bonus, all museum attendees will get a free showing of the new highly-acclaimed
documentary, Apollo 11 First Steps Edition in the immersive
Dome Theater. (Tickets: $20)
Then, in the evening, there will be a Countdown Celebration, a lively dinner and champagne toast with 1960s music and dancing, as the community watches and re-experiences the unforgettable first steps on the moon at 10:56 pm with a special moon landing viewing and countdown. There will also be photo opportunities in a re-created 1969 living room. (The dinner event ticket includes admission to Apollo Moon Fest events during the day; tickets: $125).
Island: The Nation’s Cradle of Aviation
Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is home to over 75 planes and
spacecraft representing over 100 years
of aviation history, from hot air balloons to the lunar module, in eight
galleries, a planetarium and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum commemorates and
celebrates Long Island’s part in the history of aviation and space
exploration. It is set on land once part of Mitchel Air Force
Base which, together with nearby Roosevelt Field and other
airfields on the Hempstead Plains, was the site of many historic flights.
In fact, so many seminal flights occurred in the area, that by the mid-1920s
the cluster of airfields was already dubbed the “Cradle of Aviation”, the
origin of the museum’s name. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New
York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of
The museum originally opened with just a handful of aircraft
in the un-restored hangars in 1980. A major renovation and expansion program in
the late 1990s allowed the museum to re-open in a state-of-the-art facility in
2002. The museum is undergoing a major fund-raising campaign for a future
It is remarkable to
contemplate that within a century, aviation went from the Wright Brothers to
the moon, from a dangerous sport to mass transportation and commercial
enterprise, and Long Island played a significant part.
It starts with Long Island’s geography: a natural airfield,
on the eastern edge of the United States, the western edge of the Atlantic
Ocean, adjacent to a major population center, and Hempstead Plains, the only
natural prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains, writes Joshua Stoff, Curator,
Cradle of Aviation Museum.
We trace flying back to the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, NC
in 1903, lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet but Stoff notes that the
first recorded aircraft flight took place on Long Island, in 1896 when a
Lilienthal-type glider was flown from the bluffs along Nassau County’s north
shore. By 1902 gasoline-powered airships were flown over Brooklyn (why doesn’t
Long Island get more credit?). By 1910, there were three airfields operating on
the Hempstead Plains, Long Islanders were building their own planes, and there
were several flying schools and aircraft factories that made Long Island “the
center of the aviation world.” Exhibits show artifacts of these early pursuits.
Belmont Park hosted the 1910 International Aviation Meet of
the greatest aviators from America and Europe.
“The period between 1918
and 1939 is considered the ‘Golden Age of Aviation’ when flying went from being
a dangerous sport to a major commercial industry,” Stoff writes. Most famous of
all was Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo transatlantic flight, from Roosevelt
Field to Paris, in 1927. “This single event revolutionized aviation as nothing
else before or since…
“By the early 1930s Roosevelt Field was the largest and
busiest civilian airfield in America with over 150 aviation businesses and 450
planes based there. In 1937 the first regular commercial transatlantic airline
service in America was begun at Port Washington as huge Pan American Martin and
Boeing flying boats departed and arrived regularly at Manhasset Bay.”
World War II sparked aviation and demand for aircraft. The two
biggest aircraft companies, Grumman, was founded in Long island in 1930;
Republic in 1931. They produced most of the military aircraft; other companies,
Sperry, Brewster, Ranger, and Columbia, also contributed to the war effort. By
1945, 100,000 Long Islanders were employed in the aircraft industry.
Though aircraft are no longer manufactured on Long Island
(the Grumman plant in Bethpage is now a movie and television studio), it is
surprising to realize that there are still 240 Long Island producing parts for
virtually every American aircraft that flies.
Long Island’s important
contribution to aviation is brilliant displayed in exhibits throughout the
Long Island in Space
Thomas J. Kelly, of
Cutchogue, retired president of the Grumman Space Station Integration Division
and formerly lunar module engineering director, writes that there is still some
Long Island left on the moon – six spacecraft built on Long Island remain on
Designing and building those craft, as part of the greater
challenge of beating the Russians to the moon by 1969, was a monumental
endeavor. Writing on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the
moon landing, Kelly reflected, “For some 7,000 Grumman employees, however, it
was far more intimate than an issue of national prestige. We felt personally
empowered to put Americans at the edge of a frontier that even today seems
incomprehensible. Yet not only did we succeed in meeting the mission; the
efforts of our nation’s commitment to lunar exploration also inspired people
around the world and showed the finest possibilities of human achievement and
of creating technology that now helps to power our society…
“Nobody at Grumman who worked on the LM will ever forget it.
Even the 12-and 14-hour weekdays, the frustrating paperwork and the sheer
complexity of designing, building and testing the module could not dim our
dedication. From the sweeper to the chief engineer, we all knew that we were
part of a majestic endeavor, that we were making history happen.”
At the gala, I meet Richard A. Hoffman sitting in front of the museum’s own actual lunar module, built by Grumman in Bethpage. He was a metallurgist who determined what the different parts should be made of aluminum for the struts, titanium for the propellant tanks, stainless steel propellant lines, high output silver and silver oxide batteries. He had to figure the pyrotechnics that would cause the four bolts that secured the module on the descent, to burst at just the right time with guillotine cutters for lift off from the moon. Hoffman told me he came to Grumman in the summer of 1963, and got a job there right after graduating Brooklyn Polytech in 1964. He was in just the right place at the right time, when Grumman started working on the Apollo program and he was transferred to engineering.
It’s officially the start of the summer
family vacation season! Getting out and experiencing things first hand is the
best way to cultivate learning, open minds and hearts. Travel experiences
engage children, forge bonds and build lifelong memories. Here are some “get
out there and do it” summer family vacation ideas:
Looking for adventure, for
discovery, for immersion in culture, heritage or the natural world? Many of the
most respected ecotourism and adventure operators offer special itineraries
tailored for families:
Planet Adventures has family-focused departures in
Costa Rica, Africa, Borneo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Galapagos, India, Laos, Nepal,
Panama, Peru, Thailand and Zambia. “If your kid lives for
Animal Planet, then their eyes will light up when you bring them to visit the
same world famous Sloth Sanctuary they saw on the Discovery Channel, where baby
sloths are being fed with an eye-dropper at their breakfast table. They’ll go
crazy for our hands-on wildlife rescue center in Costa Rica, our treehouses,
ziplines, tiger sanctuary and floating aqua-lodge in Thailand, the penguins and
mating and courtship rituals of the wildlife in the Galapagos, and the cowboy
adventure activities in Brazil’s Pantanal, culminating with sightings of
jaguars. The mix of wildlife and cultural experiences in India is particularly
suited to parents who want to ignite their family’s passion to make a
difference in the world. It will instill a genuine sense of gratitude and
appreciation for life, for the opportunities we have, and for the things we
take for granted.” Wild Planet customizes family departures with a minimum of 4
travelers and often puts families with similar age kids together on the same
trip which means new friends for the kids.
Austin Adventures is offering 40 family adventures across the globe, among them itineraries to the most popular national parks including Grand Canyon, Alaska-Kenai Fjords National Park, Bryce & Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite, Glacier, the Black Hills of South Dakota (Mount Rushmore), and Banff to Jasper national parks (austinadventures.com, 800-575-1540). To assist in vacation planning, Austin Adventures also offers a free Insider’s Guide to Planning the Perfect Family Adventure (www.austinadventures.com/free-family-travel-guide/).
National Geographic Family Journeys, in partnership with G Adventures, is a new line of small-group trips designed for adventurous, multigenerational families in search of a meaningful way to discover the world together. Each itinerary features interactive activities inspired by National Geographic’s expertise in photography and storytelling, wildlife, culture, and history to encourage kids and adults alike to connect with the world around them. Among the destinations: Alaska, Costa Rica, National Parks, Japan, Southern Africa, Tanzania: A Serengeti Safari, France, Iceland, Italy, Morocco, Peru, Vietnam to Cambodia. (www.nationalgeographic.com/expeditions/trip-types/family-journeys)
Thomson Family Adventures, Watertown, MA, has new family itineraries in Iceland, Scotland, Morocco, Brazil, Egypt and Vietnam (familyadventures.com, 800-262-6255).
Adventures, Seattle, WA, offers specially
tailored family adventures to South America, Asia, Central America,
Mediterranean, North America, as well as Africa family safaris (www.wildland.com/travel-styles/family-travel, 800-345-4453)
Biketours.com, Chattanooga, TN which specializes in Europe, has recommended itineraries for families; I can personally recommend the Danube Bike Trail, Passau to Vienna, which I did with my sons – one of the best trips of my life. You can do it as a self-guided tour – it is very easy to follow, and that gives you more control over your schedule, as well as excellent value. BikeTours.com also offers an itinerary specially tailored for families with children (1222 Tremont Street, Chattanooga, TN 37377, 877-462-2423, 423-756-8907, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.biketours.com/family-friendly).
Trek Travel has family
itineraries that include biking, hiking, kayaking and ziplining in places like
Zion National Park, the San Juan Islands, Vermont and Prague-to-Vienna. (866.464.8735, https://trektravel.com/trip-type/family/)
have also recommended outstanding biketours close to home that do good
while giving everybody a fantastic experience: Parks & Trails NY offers its annual 8-day 400-mile Cycle the
Erie camping and biking adventure (400 miles and 400 years of history!) that
draws families of all configurations (grandparents with grandchildren,
multi-generations, father-daughter, mother-son) and ages, some with tiny tots
in tow, as well as self-pedalers as young as 10 years old. A major highlight is
camping out at Fort Stanwix, Rome NY, an 18th century living-history
experience. This year’s trip is July 7-14 (518-434-1583, www.ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal/annual-bike-tour)
Camping has really changed over time, frequently offering a range of experiences from rustic adventures to resort-style all in the same venue. Kampgrounds of America, with 485 locations in North America, makes it easy to find camping resorts by destination, amenities and programming (www.koa.com/Campgrounds). We have a personal favorite: the Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA is a true camping resort, set along a creek (tubing, fishing) and close by the Erie Canal (cruises, biking), and most unique of all, a chance to mine for Herkimer diamonds! The Herkimer KOA offers unbelievably delightful themed cabins (would you believe a cabin with its own star observatory?), fabulous activities. Choose a cabin, cottage or RV or tent site. (Herkimer Diamond KOA, 4626 State Route 28, Herkimer, NY 13350, 315-891-7355, www.herkimerdiamond.com.)
The most intriguing in my book is the full-service Lion Country Safari’s award winning KOA campground located adjacent to the 320 acre drive through wild animal preserve and theme park, yet secluded enough for a restful campout (though you are apt to hear the lions roaring), offering RV sites, tent sites and rustic cabins (www.lioncountrysafari.com/koa/, 561-793-1084).
One of the best family experiences (a nonstop giggle) is on a dude ranch. New York State actually has several of them, such as Rocking Horse Ranch Resort, Highland, Hudson Valley, (845-691-2927, www.rockinghorseranch.com), which has been delighting generations of families with its all-inclusive fun (meals, entertainment, activities and riding). Pine Ridge Dude Ranch (the new owners of the venerable Pinegrove Ranch), 30 Cherrytown Rd, Kerhonkson, NY 12446-2148, 866-600-0859, www.pineridgeduderanch.com). Ridin’ Hy, an absolutely delightful guest ranch in the Adirondack State Park, near Lake George, Warrensburg, NY, Warrensburg, NY 12885, 518-494-2742, www.ridinhy.com.
Check out the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association members (www.coloradoranch.com, 866-942-3472), like the luxurious C Lazy U Ranch which since 1919 has provided highest level of personalized service, professional horsemanship programs, first-class amenities, enriching children’s programs, gourmet meals and upscale accommodations; or the Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch, which opened in 1912 and considered the oldest continuously operating guest ranch in Colorado, is also ideally located just southwest of Rocky Mountain National Park and nestled in a peaceful valley along the Colorado River.
with a Twist
Harbor Resort, Mid-Coast, Maine: This resort
(“Pure Maine”) manages to be a delightful cross between fine resort and a camp,
with plenty of opportunity to be outdoors, while still enjoying such
refinements as golf, full-service waterfront Fairwinds Spa, plus marvelous activities
like kayaking (do the moonlight kayak trip, it is beyond fabulous), boating.
Actually, you can imagine Sebasco being the kind of “camp” that the Gilded Age
moguls would have for one of their holiday homes. Nestled among whispering
pines on the rugged coast Sebasco spans 550 acres with breathtaking views and a
wealth of activities the entire family can enjoy. We stayed in the converted
Lighthouse for the most magical experience. Check out special deals. (Sebasco
Harbor Resort, 29 Kenyon Rd., Sebasco Estates, ME, 04565, 877-389-1161, www.sebasco.com).
Among our favorite grand, historic
resorts for families for facilities, activities programs, destination, sense of
heritage and “place,” and overall aahhh experience:
Harbor Club, Vergennes, Vermont on 700 acres of
Lake Champlain shoreline is about the best family-friendly luxury resort you
can imagine. Just about every activity you would want is on hand: golf, hiking,
biking, kayaking, cruises on Lake Champlain, fishing, watersports, tennis,
outdoor pool children’s activities program (4800 Basin Harbor Road Vergennes,
VT 05491 email@example.com, 800.622.4000 or 802.475.2311, www.basinharbor.com).
Top Inn & Resort, tucked in a Courier & Ives
landscape in Chittenden, Vermont, near Killington, has all the charm, the
warmth, the cozy, intimate hospitality of a country inn, and all the luxury,
amenities, activities and quality dining of a resort. It offers just about
every outdoors activity you can imagine, even an equestrian center, private
lakeside beach, children’s adventure camp, tennis, disc golf, clay-bird
shooting, and hiking, biking, golf nearby. (195 Mountain Top Road, Chittenden,
Vermont 05737, 802-483-2311, www.MountainTopInn.com)
A real novelty in historic hotels (and a fantastic city to visit) is the Choo Choo Train Hotel in Chattanooga, TN, where you actually stay in a historic train car (motel rooms also available), and the station is the restaurant and lobby. So fun! (1400 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, 423-266-5000, 800-Track29, choochoo.com)
Other favorites: Mohonk Mountain House (gorgeous setting, water sports, horseback riding, fantastic hiking, climbing, Victorian elegance); Equinox, Manchester, Vt. (all sports including falcon training, world-class spa,); The Sagamore, Bolton Landing on Lake George NY (Gilded Age ambiance); The Hotel Hershey, Hershey, Pennsylvania (added benefit: proximity to Hershey theme park); Cranwell Resorts, Spa and Golf Club, Lenox, MA (proximity to all the culture of Lenox, including Tanglewood, plus historic sites like Melville’s home, Arrowwood);The Boulders, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Skytop Lodge, Skytop, Pennsylvania. (Many more ideas at historichotels.org, 800-678-8946.)
Also, many of the mountain resorts known for skiing transform into summer destinations with mountain biking, hiking, ziplines, children’s activity programs and scores of outdoor pursuits, and significantly, typically offer great rates and package deals for summer: Smugglers Notch is renowned for having the best children and family activities program anywhere, smuggs.com); Stowe, Vt. (stowe.com), famous for its Topnotch Resort (find specials at www.topnotchresort.com/packages-specials); Hunter Mountain (huntermtn.com); the Vail resorts (www.snow.com/info/lodging-sale.aspx).
you lucky enough to be visiting Yosemite National Park? You couldn’t ask for a
more spectacular accommodation than Tenaya Lodge,
a full-service luxury resort hotel, closest to entrance to the park, now
offering guests to receive a
free 7-Day Yosemite Park Pass and up to 25% off select activities at the time
of booking. (My Yosemite Offer
valid through Sept. 21, 2019, based on
availability, 866-467-0874, use Promo
Code: MYYOSEMITE, TenayaLodge.com).
Cruising is always a great choice
for families – a way to see lots of different places with minimal hassle. Best
itineraries (and cruiselines that have best family programs) are to Alaska, the
Galapagos (really a favorite for grandparents to take their grandkids). I would
also suggest Bermuda as a fantastic cruising destination, easy to reach from
the New York metro area, that is so rich in culture, history and nature
(beaches!) (Royal Caribbean sails from Bayonne; Norwegian from New York)
For those who want a floating resort with rock walls, ropes course, ziplines, glitzy Broadway and Las Vegas-style entertainment and great supervised children’s activity programs, the most acclaimed lines are Royal Caribbean; Norwegian Cruise Line; Carnival Cruise Line; Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. (See more at www.cruisecritic.com; booking help at cruisecompete.com).
But here is a novel choice: Maine Windjammer Cruises – these are
historic sailing vessels repurposed for passengers, that ply the waters around
Rockland and Camden, Maine in the Penobscot Bay. The experience is more rustic
(part of the fun!), where passengers can help raise and lower sails, even
steer, help serve and gather plates for meals served in the galley or on deck.
You can even choose to sleep out under the stars instead of in the cabin, which
is outfitted more like you would expect of summer camp, with bunk beds and
shared bathroom facilities (hot showers are available). All the cruises
typically include a lobster bake on a secluded beach.
Many of the cruises have
special-interest themes, and some are very dramatic that include a Schooner
Gam, where all the historic schooners gather in one place and tie up and
passengers can go and visit; there is also an annual Schooner Race which is
tremendous fun. Visit the Maine Windjammer Association for a list of the eight
ships in the fleet and description of age-appropriate sailings (usually 10
years old) and themed cruises (music, storytelling, whaling, wellness,
seamanship, among them). In the past, we have sailed on the Victory Chimes (the
largest in the fleet) and the American Eagle (www.sailmainecoast.com, 800-807-9463).
Another novel experience is renting a canalboat on the Erie Canal (like a floating RV), tying up where whimsy takes you and exploring the canaltowns on foot and by bike on the tow-path that has been turned into a bikeway. It’s an amazing way to immerse yourself in history, and terrific fun to go through the locks, and have the bridges lift just for you. Mid-Lakes Navigation, Skaneateles, has these specially designed Lockmaster canalboats that are easy to maneuver, very comfortable, and oh so charming. (800-545-4318, firstname.lastname@example.org, midlakesnav.com).
with Living History, Immersive Experiences
And what about immersing in today’s headlines? One of the best family destinations in the world is the nation’s capital, Washington DC, where you can visit the Capital, the National Archives, Museums of the Smithsonian Institution (19 of them) including the National Air & Space Museum, Museum of American History, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution Building (the castle), the National Zoological Park (National Zoo); as well as private museums including the Newseum and International Spy Museum. Plan a visit at Washington.org.
Are you Bond or Bourne? Once
you leave Spyscape, you will learn there are many more roles to play in the
complex and ever more ubiquitous world of intelligence. After going through
eight “tests” and many stations which do their best to insert you into the
realm of espionage and profile you to figure out what job you are best suited
to, I would make a
sorry spy. I knew from the start I wasn’t either Bond or Bourne. But I
found a new calling.
I was expecting a museum, even as
museums have become more interactive and engaging and multimedia. But Spyscape,
one of the newest attractions in New York City, is not a museum. It is an
interactive experience more than anything else, designed to inform you, yes,
about the world of espionage and surveillance which, it turns out, is ubiquitous
today, but put you in the picture so that you see yourself in the complex
enterprise that is intelligence.
Spyscape is modern, state of the
art, interactive, pulse-pounding, engaging, immersive experience that lets you
peek into the world of espionage, spycraft, intelligence and
counterintelligence today from the inside.
don’t just get taken on a journey through the history of espionage from World
War II and on, but become immersed in up-to-the-minute, ripped from the
headlines events. Edward Snowdon. Wikileaks. Stuxnet. Black hat hackers. Anonymous. “You might be persuaded not to vote.”
has truly been let out of her box.
There is a feeling of intensity from the moment you arrive – intended to give you that sense of tension and excitement that must be omnipresent in espionage, and visitors will enjoy as much as the adrenaline rush of skiing down a double-black trail. But is there a place for me?
I am risk adverse. I’m not a gamer.
I don’t do puzzles. I’m frightened of going into small dark rooms when I don’t
know what is there. I frighten easily.
As you arrive, you are given a
bracelet that identifies you at scanning machines that basically track your
progress as you go about the exhibit – you complete a series of tasks and
quizzes and at the end, are assessed as to what role you might play in the spy
apparatus – it turns out there are many, many different functions.
entrée into the world of spycraft is the largest passenger elevator in New York
City, escorted by a very professional person with a
clipboard – it turns out that the ride up is also a multi-media orientation
(think “Mission Impossible”).
mission: What kind of spy will you be? Or put another way: Where do you fit in
the pantheon that is the world of espionage.
experience is constructed as if a job interview, to immerse you and personalize
what would otherwise be technical machines and bios. But it turns out that not
all spies work for governments – corporations engage in some of the same
techniques, so do journalists, and so do hackers and criminals. And it turns out that the profile you wind up with at the
end of all the tasks and quizzes is authentic and serious – not tongue-in-cheek
or hokey. I can see some young people seeing new career paths in intelligence
(most of the CIA are analysts, not cloak-and-dagger operatives) or even
outside, since, as is noted, the skills of a spy are broadly applicable.
The layout (Spyscape takes up a
massive amount of space) is purposefully cold, grey, institutional, with
constant pulsing sounds – sometimes electronic music, sometimes sound effects,
I am quite unprepared for the experience, expecting a more conventional exhibit, so am put off stride when all of a sudden confronted with quizzes and tasks. It would have been completely different if I were primed and in a game mode.
One of the tasks I find more engaging (once I got the hang of it), was in the room about coding/decoding, the German’s Enigma machine and the Bombe that British mathematician Alan Turing and colleagues at Benchley developed to break the Enigma code. Here the task is to organize a spy’s escape, but you only have 3 minutes before the Germans will cut off communication to her, and you have to convert a message to code and then decode the response. I do this for the “Limping Lady”, who turns out to be a real person (I later realize she is the spy Virginia Hall) and this was a real scenario.
get personal insights into Alan Turing, the mathematician who developed a
program to break the German “Enigma” machine code. (A fascinating artifact is a
copy of Turing’s notes, as a teenager, summarizing Einstein’s Theory of
Relativity as a gift for his mother). There is also a brief bio of Joan Clark, one
of the Enigma codebreakers who rose to become Deputy Head of the Hut eight. You
get to type code on a replica Enigma machine.
After one “test”, in which I fail to figure out patterns, I am given these words of encouragement: “You didn’t do too well today, but you are obviously better in other things.”
Another that is sure to delight is a
room of laser beams where the timed task is to shut off lights without piercing
the beams – very Oceans 11. (This task gauges your agility.)
All through, the exhibits personalize
the serious issue being raised – the history, technology, impact on society – with
real people, real events and real artifacts. This is serious business after all
with real life and death consequences. Double agents have been exposed and
executed; moles have exposed agents who were executed. Wars declared or
averted, extended or curtailed, won or lost.
you weave through, taking your own quizzes and tasks, the exhibits tell stories
about real spies, double agents, like Robert Hansen and how he was discovered.
Hansen’s treachery led to the unmasking of three soviets who spied for the US,
two of whom were executed. – how he was discovered and trapped. Would you have
detected Hansen’s deceit?
I have all sorts of trepidation about going into a small dark room which turned out to be the test of how well I could detect Deception (I think I do well at that one, probably by accident).
“Gadgets of defiance” describes the
devices that British and American operatives used to carry out perilous
missions in Nazi-occupied Europe – forged documents to support their cover
identifies; one-time encryption pads and miniature radios to communicate with
handlers. They supplied downed Allied pilots with escape maps and compasses and
targeted the enemy with weapons and explosives.
I learn about Virginia Hall, an
American special operations officer who, as a girl, had dreamed of joining the
US foreign service and became fluent in foreign languages, but after she lost
part of her left leg in an accident, her dream was cut off as well. When Hitler
invaded Paris in 1940, Hall was working for a French ambulance service. She
made her way to Britain and joined British special operations. She worked
as a journalist for the New York Post in occupied France, and the Germans
nicknamed Artemis;the Gestapo considered her “the most
dangerous of all Allied spies”. Virginia Hall was the “Limping Lady” of
the code scenario.
about Oleg Penkovsky, known as “HERO” who was a Soviet military intelligence
(GRU) colonel who was responsible for informing the United Kingdom about Soviet
installing missiles in Cuba. The information he provided helped Kennedy through
the Cuban Missile Crisis because he realized that a naval blockade could force
the Soviet Union to stand down. Penkovsky, the highest ranking Soviet official
to provide intelligence for the UK up until that time, is credited with
altering the course of the Cold War. He was executed six months after being
I learn about the British couple, Ruari and Janet
Chisholm, who were his handlers in Moscow. Ruari was Moscow Station Chief for
M16, the British secret intelligence service. Janet collected much of
Pankovsky’s intelligence. During one “brush contact” he walked casually over to
her in a park and offered her children a tin of Vitamin C pills. Janet quickly
swapped the tin which contained military secrets for another identical one
hidden in her baby stroller. The thought of exposing children like that was
chilling. (There’s a photo of Janet with her children on a park bench.)
We meet the real life “Q” gadget wizard,
Charles Fraser Smith, who was Ian Fleming’s inspiration for the character he
used in James Bond. The
new multi-sensory James Bond experience explores the creative process behind
the 007 movies while revealing the secrets of James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin
DB5. You get to peek at gadgets in Q’s lab, examine original concept art in
Oscar®-winning Production Designer Sir Ken Adam’s studio and look behind the
scenes of Skyfall’s explosive finale.
At another section, you go through a
dark curtain and find yourself in this dark round room, illuminated only by
giant screens,that give you some sense of the state of surveillance (it is all
area showcases whistleblower Edward Snowden who exposed the NSA’s surveillance
programs and the reporters who have unmasked government secrets – Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, the
journalists who exposed modern day slavery(old
school pad and pen, videocamera and computer are the weapons of choice).
This is where you see the message
blazing out of a giant screen: “You might be persuaded not to vote.” This is
the brave new world of intelligence – not extracting secrets, but in distorting
and implanting messages to shape, disrupt or derail society.
One of the last stations is actually
the most chilling: Hacktivism discusses hacking, hackers – by anarchists,
profiteers as well as nation states. Stuxnet, which was used to disrupt Iran’s
nuclear program (a centrifuge is on view). After Iran realized
what had been done, it called for the hackers to join in an army.
We learn that Stuxnet is now open
source, sold on the blck market, and could be used by any number of actors to
shut down electric grids, water systems or air traffic control or remotely give
instructions to launch a nuclear attack. And no one knows who has it.
And now, I am really to go into my “debrief –
encryption, deception, surveillance, special ops, brainpower (7/18), which
comes up with my spy role: Agent Handler (I suspect they give that one to all
those who don’t measure up as real spies).
But it isn’t done flippantly or
tongue-in-cheek. The authentic personal spy profile is based on psychologists
and a former Head of Training at British Intelligence, and sounds pretty
authentic (as were the short tests for which I was totally unprepared):
“Your Spy Profile is your unique (and
ever evolving) combination of attributes. When compared to others, it allows us
to determine the Spy Role you are best suited to.”
My profile – “empathetic, inquisitive, composed” – turns out
to be fairly accurate and also serious, developed with real psychologists.
Later in the day, I am sent a comprehensive
profile to my email and a
Welcome letter. “Your Spy Skills can be valuable in everyday life. We’ve evaluated
your Core Attributes and Spy Skills to determine your Spy Profile. Top
psychologists and spymasters helped us build our Spy Profile system. We hope
the self-knowledge in your Spy Profile will empower you, and inspire you to
further develop your Spy Skills.”
The missive gives me more detail about my role as Agent
manager of agents who provide secret intelligence or operational support, and
an insider view from General David Petreus.
In the real life example, I am given the bio of
the agent handler for my new spy hero, Oleg Penkovsky (his code name was Hero)
and the background that I found so compelling in the exhibit, about his
handler, Ruari Chisholm, and an example of a typical operation, procuring cover
material for an agent in the Iranian government who wants to provide info on
Iran’s potential to develop nuclear weapons.
(This makes me think of important omissions in
Spyscape: Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover agent who was infiltrating the Iran
nuclear program until Plame’s
identity as covert officer of the CIA working in counter proliferation was leaked to the press by members of George W Bush administration and
subsequently made public as
retribution for her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s reveal about the false
information that led to the US invasion of Iraq; she also had knowledge to
disprove Bush’s contention that the aluminum tubes that Iraq had could be used
as centrifuges for nuclear material. Also, how Andrew McCabe, the foremost
counter-intelligence expert on Russia, was drummed out of the FBI by Trump to
short-circuit the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign
and the 2016 election).
Spyscape will excite and thrill as
it informs and intrigues. It helps to be prepared in advance for what you will
encounter – I think I would have done considerably better and had better
And like skiing, it is an experience
that adults and older children will relish doing together.
There is a continuing relationship – they send you the profile, and follow up with articles, stories, spy challenges, sharing news about factual and fictional worlds of spying and hacking “and helping you develop your own spy skills. We will be adding content from top hackers and spies to spyscape.com/academy so check in regularly to see what’s new.”
I think I’m being groomed. I’m
From Spyscape, I walk down to the KGB Museum in
Chelsea. It is an interesting Spy v Spy counterpoint that enhances the
experience of each one separately.
is optimized for adults and teens, but children are welcome. Bringing
pre-school-age kids is not recommended. You
need about two hours. There is a pleasant café and the gift shop is loaded with
spy-related merch. Open Monday-Friday,
10 am-9 pm and Saturday-Sunday, 9am-9 pm, last entry at 7:30 pm. (Adult, $39;
child 3-12 $32).