Category Archives: New York City travel

Holidays in New York, The Most Enchanting Time of the Year

Rockefeller Center decked out for the holidays © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York City’s most magical time of the year, the winter holiday season, is already underway with the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, continues with the iconic Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, and constantly delights with festivals, special events and attractions, and all the dazzle of holiday decorations right through New Year’s Day.

Throughout the season, each of the city’s five boroughs welcome multicultural guests to participate in local observances of diverse holidays. Secular activities include unforgettable department store windows, artisanal markets to explore, plus attractions and cultural draws. The season concludes by welcoming in the New Year with lesser-known fireworks at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and, of course, the unforgettable New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square.

“New York City is a sight to behold during the festive annual holiday season—it’s a time of year when world-class hotels, attractions and shops sparkle and shine brighter, offering six million global visitors a truly memorable travel experience,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company, the official destination marketing organization for the City of New York.

Here’s an overview of what to see and do by borough:

MANHATTAN

The 91st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, performances by the casts of Broadway musicals, select marching bands from across the nation and celebrity appearances—kicks off the holiday season on November 23. (macys.com). (Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Parade that kicks off the winter holiday season actually starts the night before, with a gigantic blow-up event that has become a major festival experience, drawing tens of thousands of onlookers on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park West. This year, the event takes place from 1-8 pm; entrance is at 74th Street.)

Macy’s iconic Thanksgiving Parade that kicks off the winter holiday season actually starts the night before, with a gigantic blow-up event that has become a major festival experience, drawing tens of thousands of onlookers. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony, an iconic symbol of the holidays in New York City, takes place on November 29. The tree remains lit through January 7. (rockefellercenter.com).

The Rockettes high-kick their way into the festive season, as the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns November 10–January 1. The production dazzles audiences with extravagant costumes and fan favorites. Of note, families should mark their calendars for November 26, the inaugural Party City Kid’s Day, featuring pre-show activities to enthrall kids of all ages (rockettes.com).

November 30–January 5, the annual Brookfield Luminaries experience in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place is reimagined. From 8am–10pm daily, visitors can “send” a wish from one of three stations to the canopy of hundreds of lanterns above, transforming the wish into a mesmerizing display of colors (brookfieldplaceny.com).

The City’s famed window displays are a must-see over the holidays.  WindowsWear operates daily tours, which begin at Macy’s in Herald Square and journey up Fifth Avenue, passing the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and more. In previous years, holiday tours have taken place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve (windowswear.com). Our favorite walking route starts with Macy’s at 34th Street, moves to Fifth Avenue for Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman on 57th Street. (Barneys and Bloomingdale’s also have window displays).

A child’s delight enjoying the decorated windows at Macy’s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal is back with its 16th Annual Holiday Train Show. Lionel trains travel through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection travel to the diorama’s North Pole from November 16 to February 4 (grandcentralterminal.com).

At Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, the 11th annual Kwanzaa Celebration, Regeneration Night, is December 30. The Apollo’s celebration honors family, community and culture through a joyful evening of dance and music (apollotheater.org).

Also on December 30, the American Museum of Natural History holds its 39th annual Kwanzaa celebration, honoring the seven guiding principles of the holiday and featuring an international market (amnh.org). Also check out the newly opened exhibit, “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience.” (See: American Museum of Natural History Creates Immersive Experience for Understanding ‘Our Senses’)

Visit a museum over the holidays. The American Museum of Natural History just opened “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday engagement at New York City Center takes place from November 29 to December 31. Artistic Director Robert Battle leads the company of 32 in more than two dozen dynamic works and a series of special performances. Unique to the season are world premieres of Members Don’t Get Weary and Victoria, plus a New Year’s Eve Season Finale (alvinailey.org).

Louis Vuitton presents Volez, Voguez, Voyagez – Louis Vuitton October 27–January 7 at the former American Stock Exchange building in Lower Manhattan. Curated by Olivier Saillard and designed by Robert Carsen, the free exhibit retraces the adventure of the House of Louis Vuitton from 1854 to the present. One of the show’s 10 chapters is entirely devoted to the United States and New York City. (vvv-new-york-louisvuitton.com)

Holiday favorite ELF The Musical is in performance at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for a limited engagement. Back by popular demand, the production runs December 13–29 (theateratmsg.com).

Radio City Rockettes performing Christmas Spectacular Wooden Soldiers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Metropolitan Opera presents a family-friendly holiday extravaganza, The Magic Flute. Directed by Julie Taymor (The Lion King), the abridged English language presentation is a great introduction to opera for children. Additionally, those attending the December 29 and 30 performances will be invited to participate in activities, including opera-themed “dress-up” and “show-and-tell” (metopera.org).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art once again lights a 20-foot blue spruce above an 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scene, in the museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall. The Exhibit of the Crèche is a long-standing holiday highlight for New Yorkers and global visitors and is available to view November 21–January 7 (metmuseum.org).

Bryant Park has become one of New York’s most festive holiday venues with ice skating, holiday markets, cafes, the carousel and the lighted tree © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Visitors can enjoy one of the City’s many outdoor skating rinks that open in October through the holiday season, such as the Rink at Rockefeller Center (therinkatrockcenter.com), Wollman Rink in Central Park (wollmanskatingrink.com) and Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park (wintervillage.org). The Rink at Brookfield Place opens November 1 (gpice.com).

The New York City Ballet presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcrackerone of the most beloved and anticipated holiday classics, November 24–December 31 at Lincoln Center (nycballet.com).

Other favorite venues to get into the Christmas Spirit: Bryant Park, with its massive Christmas tree, ice skating rink, festive holiday markets, cafes, and carousel (wintervillage.org) has become one of the city’s iconic holiday places.

Besides Bryant Park, there are holiday markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Grand Central Terminal.

Central Park is magical in any season, but particularly for the holidays. In addition to the Wollman Rink (wollmanskatingrink.com), there is The Swedish Cottage, an enchanting place that is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country. The cottage was originally constructed as a model pre-fabricated schoolhouse, and became Sweden’s entry in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. After the exhibit, Central Park’s co-designer Frederick Law Olmsted had it placed in Central Park, where it has been headquarters for the Marionette Theater since 1939 (West Side at 79th Street). Currently playing is The Three Bears Holiday Bash, through Dec. 30 (purchase tickets, www.cityparksfoundation.org/arts/swedish-cottage-marionette-theatre). Ticket packages are available that include holiday workshops (geared to 3-8 year olds accompanied by adult): Monday, December 11 – Decorate a Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel; Friday, December 15 – Christmas Elf Stick Puppets; Friday, December 29 – Kwanzaa Stick Puppets.

Christmas at St. Patrick’s Cathedral © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue is a highlight of the holidays and it is remarkable that you can just walk in and enjoy an inspirational service, but a particularly favorite place is St. Thomas Church (5th Avenue and 53rd Street, www.saintthomaschurch.org), which is famous for the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys, and its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah (Dec. 5, 7). Also this year, “A Ceremony of Carols” by Benjamin Britten (Dec. 14). (Purchase tickets, www.saintthomaschurch.org/music/concerts); also take a tour of this magnificent edifice, built in 1913 in the French High Gothic style.

There are also wonderful holiday concerts at historic Town Hall (123 W. 43 St., thetownhall.org).

THE BRONX

The New York Botanical Garden’s cherished Holiday Train Show is a twinkling display of model trains traveling through a miniature landscape of 150+ iconic city structures. The 26th annual iteration spotlights Midtown Manhattan, with new versions of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building and St. Bartholomew’s Church, on view November 22–January 15 (nybg.org).

Families can enjoy making special holiday-themed crafts during the Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 9–10 and can take home their very own natural wreaths, treasure boxes and other great keepsakes (wavehill.org).

BROOKLYN

In Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker is an iteration of the holiday classic. It fuses ballet, hip-hop and various dance genres, plus reimagines Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent Brooklyn neighborhoods, such as Old Dutch Brooklyn and Flatbush Avenue. Performances are December 7–9, 11 and 13–16 (brooklynballet.org).

In Park Slope, Grand Army Plaza hosts nightly lightings of the Largest Menorah (32 feet tall) from December 12 to 19 during Hanukkah. A must-see in this location since 1984, there are concerts, gifts for children and celebrations each day through the festival of lights (largestmenorah.com).

Rounding out the season in Brooklyn, the Prospect Park Alliance presents annual fireworks at Grand Army Plaza to start the New Year. The best places for viewing are along Prospect Park’s West Drive and between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street (prospectpark.org).

A horse-drawn carriage ride down Fifth Avenue © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

QUEENS

The Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science is open from November 11 to January 14. Hopeful for the fifth straight title of Largest Gingerbread Village from Guinness World Records, over 1,000 handmade gingerbread houses and structures are on display (nysci.org).

Astoria Market Bohemian Hall offers holiday shopping December 3, 10 and 17. Featuring vintage finds, plus local artisanal wares and crafts, it’s the perfect destination for sourcing eclectic presents. The venue also offers delicious desserts and pastries from local bakers (astoriamarket.com).

The tradition continues with A Christmas Carol at Queen’s Theatre. Scrooge and the Spirits of Christmas past, present and future are in residence in the borough December 8–22, thanks to Charles Dickens and Titan Theatre Company (queenstheatre.org).

Saks Fifth Avenue turns its entire building into a light-and-sound show for the holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

STATEN ISLAND

The first ever Winter Wonderland SI at Richmond County Bank Ballparkwill feature ice-skating, rides, games, a 34-vendor holiday market and more. Conveniently located steps from the Staten Island Ferry. At dusk each evening, there is a holiday light and sound show, and the Igloo Bar is a draw for adult attendees, featuring holiday cocktails and live entertainment (winterwonderlandsi.com).

A classic holiday tradition continues with the 14th Annual St. George Theatre Christmas Show December 8–10. Just steps from the Staten Island Ferry, this historic theater’s two-hour production features over 100 actors, a live orchestra and numerous holiday standards set in locales from the North Pole to Staten Island (stgeorgetheatre.com).

Midtown NYC Showcases ‘New’ NYC

Midtown NYC showcases the “new” NYC and this holiday season is an ideal time to experience new attractions:

Gulliver’s Gate, housed in the former New York Times building on West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, features over 300 miniature buildings and models of iconic global landmarks. A full city block wide, the attraction is a technologically advanced, interactive and immersive world that ignites the imagination of visitors young and old (gulliversgate.com).

Midtown NYC showcases the “new” NYC with new attractions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey , which opened in October, is an immersive experience in Times Square (West 44th Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues) that uses ground-breaking technology to transport guests on an incredible underwater journey across the Pacific Ocean (natgeoencounter.com).

Beginning in November, NFL Experience Times Square, a new attraction on the corner of 47th Street and Seventh Avenue, immerses visitors in the physical challenges of professional NFL athletes. Visitors enter as a fan, become a player and leave a champion on this hero’s journey (nflexperience.com).

New Broadway musicals will entertain guests over the holiday season. Visitors can see all current and upcoming shows at nycgo.com/broadway. Highlights include SpongeBob, sure to be a hit with families and nostalgic millennials alike, and The Band’s Visit, an artistic new work starring Tony Shalhoub, among others (spongebobbroadway.comthebandsvisitmusical.com).

In celebration of the holiday season, this short video produced by NYC & Company captures the City’s festive essence. For a full holiday guide to NYC and more information about booking a trip to NYC this holiday season, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

Broadway Theater Presents Holiday Performance Schedule

The holidays are a perfect time to see a show. Broadway performs every day of the week at multiple curtain times to accommodate every schedule, including holidays. During Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks, some shows are changing their performance schedules.

Broadway theaters offer holiday schedule of performances; 14 shows even have performances on Christmas Day © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“During the most wonderful time of the year, theatergoers can rely on Broadway to help them celebrate by fitting a show into their holiday plans,” says Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League. “With special matinees and evening performances, Broadway provides many additional opportunities to see a production. From comedies to dramas, old favorites and new, there are so many choices that there’s something for everyone throughout the Thanksgiving and holiday weeks.”

During Thanksgiving week, some shows will play on Thanksgiving Day, and many will play Friday matinees. Fourteen shows will be playing on Christmas Day! During Christmas week, alternate curtain times will also include Friday matinees and evening performances. Check Broadway.org to see the holiday performance schedules and easily find out where and when shows are playing.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

American Museum of Natural History Creates Immersive Experience for Understanding ‘Our Senses’

Looks like a flat 2-dimensional image but the image is made up of separate three-dimensional blocks, one of the illusions at ‘Our Senses: An Immersive Experience’ at American Museum of Natural History © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

You are in a room. There’s a mural on the wall with drawings of animals. There is red light and you see a set of animals; then the light turns blue and you see a different set of animals.

In another room, you try to build blocks looking through glasses that turn them upside down. It’s disorienting, and that’s the point.

In another room, you are tricked into thinking two squares on a checkerboard are different shades of grey, when in fact, they are the same.

In another room, you feel off balance by the swiggles of black lines on the walls that don’t equate with the flat floor you are standing on.

In another, you push a button to see the vivid, fluorescent colors of a flower as a bee would see them.

In the new, highly experiential exhibition  Our Senses: An Immersive Experience opening at the American Museum of Natural History, a series of 11 funhouse-like galleries dare visitors to rely on their senses—and then reveal how and why what we perceive is not all, or exactly, what’s actually occuring around us. Inspired by extraordinary diversity of sensory “super powers” in species, including humans, across the natural world, Our Senses takes experiential exhibition to a new level. Our Senses opens for a weekend of Member previews beginning on Friday, November 17, and will be on view to the public from Monday, November 20, 2017, through Sunday, January 6, 2019.

New science: it was known that insects see in ultraviolet but only a few years ago, did scientists understand just how vividly they could see. At a push of a button, “Our Senses” let’s you see a flower the way a bee would © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Our senses are essential to how we live and make sense of the world around us. They provide pleasure, warn us of danger, and allow us to interact with one another,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “But how exactly do they work, why did they evolve the way they did, and what things are we not able to sense or perceive accurately? In a kind of ‘sequel’ to our 2010 exhibition about the brain, Our Senses: An Immersive Experience will explore the intriguing power of our sensory perceptions, offering our visitors not only highly enjoyable learning experiences, but an enriched perspective on what makes us human.”

She adds, “Spoiler alert: we have way more than five senses.”

“In a way, this exhibit is a sequel and extension of the 2010 exhibit about The Brain and cognition [which also was curated by Rob Desalle who curated “Our Senses: Am Immersive Experience.”]. While senses gather information and are highly evolved capacities, we can’t make sense of our world without the brain.” That is the role of prior learning, prior experience, culture, which prime our senses, focus our attention, and trigger the brain to interpret and perceive and combine the different stimuli into a message, idea, concept, action.

Human senses, and human brains, adapted over millennia to help our ancestors survive by shaping and enhancing their perceptions of everyday encounters. Our Senses reveals how until recently in our evolutionary history, humans have been oblivious to some of nature’s ubiquitous signals, including UV and infrared light, very high- and very low-frequency sounds, and electric fields. With the advent of new technologies, scientists now know those signals are all around us—whether or  not perceptible to us through our senses alone. But detecting things is not enough, because our  ears and eyes alone cannot create a conscious perception—that  requires a human brain.  Human sensory perceptions may seem like windows into the outside world, but actual perceptions are created in the brain.

“How we sense the outside world has been on humans’ minds probably since our species could think about thinking,” said Our Senses curator Rob Desalle, who is a curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. “The evolutionary nature of how and why we sense our surroundings the way we do made this a perfect topic for our museum to explore. This exhibition will immerse visitors in galleries that test their senses, and give them some tools to approach the age-old human question of how we sense the world.”

Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President & Provost of Science and Curator of the Division of Paleontology at AMNH talks with Rob Desalle (right), Curator in AMNH’s division of Invertebrate Zoology and Curator of “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience” about the interconnection between evolution and senses and senses and the brain © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

DeSalle has overseen several major exhibitions, including Brain: The Inside Story, which explored how the human brain uses molecular, chemical, and electrical signals to interpret information and learn at every stage of life, which carry into this exhibition.

Visitors walk through 11 interactive galleries designed to test perceptions and illuminate the complex relationships between sensing and perceiving. A musical soundtrack customized for each space enhances the immersive experience. In addition, a live presenter in the exhibition gallery will invite visitors to discover why humans have senses and what’s unique about human perception—including why human beings are the only species that creates imaginary sensory experiences and shares them with others through language.

Sixth graders from MS247 become immersed in puzzles, illusions and interactive experiences to better understand “Our Senses” at the American Museum of Natural History © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit is laid out in a way that will particularly appeal to younger people – they will particularly love the puzzles and illusions – providing an understanding of how they perceive the world that will be foundational to learning. But adults, giving more intense look, will find some up-to-the-minute research: for example, that birds can regenerate the cilia in the ear that if humans lose it, lose their hearing, so scientists are studying if cilia can also be regenerated in humans; that male peacocks don’t just use their stunning plumage to visually attract a mate, they move it so it produces a sound, imperceptible to humans, but that is attractive to females.

There is a 20-minute live presentation that really brings home the message: we have more than five senses, the ones that we use to navigate the outer world and let us know where we are in space. We also have inner senses that monitor when we are hungry, thirsty, tired, oxygen-deprived and need to breathe. Every animal – even single-cell animals – have some senses and many animals have senses that are superior to humans, humans are the only animal (that we know of) that can imagine and communicate.

“No other animal can conjure up whole scene using complex signals. Only humans can create imaginary sensory perception and share through language. For example, only humans can make up a story and share it,” the presenter tells us.

“Humans don’t’ just take information into the brain, we can send information out. We can imagine a sensory experience and make it real: create food, fashion, art, architecture, machines, melody and manuscripts.

“Most sensory experiences we have are products of our imagination. We don’t just experience what is – we create what we imagine, then share it with others.”

“Nothing makes sense in absence of evolution,” DeSalle says. He points to the fact that single-cell animals have a primordial sense of touch, they can determine where they are in space. “Our senses go back 3.5 billion years, to the origin of life.” 

“Our brain and senses have evolved so that the brain can process what the senses take in with rapid response,” he says. “Because of the way brain evolved, we have some wild ways of dealing with information… Sometimes there is conflict between the brain and signals the senses receive (there are examples in the exhibit) – where we are primed to see something else, but interpret based on what we already sense. That is Evolution: to deal with rapid response.”

What happens when visual cues conflict with other senses? Swiggly lines on the walls conflicting with a flat floor, put you off-balance © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

For example, the exhibit shows how we are primed to focus – based on internal needs, experience or habit or prompts– in order to break through the clutter of sights and sounds.

Senses are our source of information about the world, without which, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Take the sense of smell, for example, which helps us determine which food is edible, and which is rotten and could cause disease.

There is an incredible spectrum of the capabilities of senses – many animals exceed our own; humans have a particular space on the spectrum. For example, humans see only a narrow range of light compared to other animals and do not have very sensitive touch. But humans build machines that allow us to sense beyond our range – think of microscopes, telescopes, night-vision glasses, hearing aids, cochlea implants.

What you see changes with the changing colors of light © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

You need at least 1 ½ hours to go through – even more if you want to do the immersive activities. And it is helpful to go through once, but then go back and spend more time reading the explanations.

Entrance is by a timed ticket (free with admission), which you can obtain online before you come, or when you arrive at the museum.

Our Senses is open from Monday, November 20, 2017, through Sunday, January 6, 2019. (Members will be able to preview the exhibition starting on Friday, November 17, through Sunday, November 19.) In conjunction with the exhibition, OLogy, the Museum’s science website for kids, has an exhibition-related feature about optical illusions and what they reveal about the human brain and our species’ evolutionary past.  Also, Our Senses Curator Rob Desalle explains the human brain for kids in a video: Why is the brain so wrinkly? What does the brain do while we sleep? DeSalle, curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, answers these questions and more about one of our most vital organs. (Click goo.gl/UMQw7B)

The exhibition is designed and produced by the American Museum of Natural History’s award-winning Exhibition Department under the direction of Lauri Halderman, vice president for exhibition.

Our Senses is supported by Dana and Virginia Randt.

The new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History is constructed so you learn about our senses through various immersive experiences © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A program, “The Neuroscience of Illusion,” with master illusionist Apollo Robbins and neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde will be offered Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 pm ($15, Seniors and Students $13.50, members $12); special access to the Senses exhibition available to ticket holders one hour prior, 6-7 pm; tickets at amnh.org.

There’s still time to take in the extraordinary “Mummies” exhibit, on view until Jan. 7, 2018 (admission by timed ticket; need the General Admission Plus 1).

Visiting the Museum 

The American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions. The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including those in the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation.

The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary research centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 34 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree, and, beginning in 2015, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree, the only such freestanding museum program. Annual visitation has grown to approximately 5 million, and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows are seen by millions more in venues on five continents.

The Museum’s website, mobile apps, and MOOCs (massive open online courses) extend its scientific research and collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to additional audiences around the globe. Visit amnh.org for more information. 

Museum admission is free to all New York City school and camp groups.

Pay-what-you-wish admission is available only at ticket counters, where the amount you pay is up to you.

General Admission, which includes admission to all 45 Museum halls and the Rose Center for Earth and Space but does not include special exhibitions, giant-screen 2D or 3D film, or Space Show, is $23 (adults), $18 (students/seniors), and $13 (children ages 2–12). All prices are subject to change.

General Admission Plus One includes general admission plus one special exhibition, giant-screen 2D or 3D film, or Space Show: $28 (adults), $22.50 (students/seniors), $16.50 (children ages 2–12).

General Admission Plus All includes general admission plus all special exhibitions, giant-screen 2D or 3D film, and Space Show: $33 (adults), $27 (students/seniors), $20 (children ages 2–12).

American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas), 10 am–5:45 pm. For additional information, call 212-769-5100 or visit the Museum’s website at amnh.org. Become a fan of the American Museum of Natural History on Facebook at facebook.com/naturalhistory, follow on Instagram at @AMNH, Tumblr at amnhnyc, or Twitter at twitter.com/AMNH.

See also:

New ‘Mummies’ Exhibit at American Museum of Natural History Lets You Peer Through Wrappings, Peel Away Layers of Time

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

44th Annual Village Halloween Parade: ‘Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie’ Goes on in Act of Defiance by New Yorkers

44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 goes on without a hitch, drawing hundreds of thousands of marchers and watchers © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Village Halloween Parade, normally an expression of exuberant creativity, this year had an added dimension of courage and defiance. The 44th annual parade went on, on schedule despite a terror attack that took place mere hours before and less than a mile from where tens of thousands of marchers and parade goers were gathering.

In what is New York City’s version of Carnival, the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue was transformed into a bestiary of fantastic hybrids, culled from the hallowed halls of Cryptozoology, fitting in with this year’s theme, “Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie”.

The theme was inspired by the likes of PT Barnum’s carnival-esque museum which featured “The Fiji Mermaid,” created with the head of a monkey on a taxidermied fish, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – the real and imagined curiosities, made all the more plausible by leading edge technology like CRISPR gene-splicing technology promises to unleash “a host of unholy hybrids into our midst,” said Jeanne Fleming, long-time
Artistic and Producing Director of the Village Halloween Parade.

“Halloween, of course, revels in hybrids, mash-ups and the frisson of crossed identities. So, as we approach Frankenstein’s bicentennial, we are building our own Cabinet of Wonders, the Parade itself!”

Many of the marchers, though, abandoned the theme in favor of subtle (and not subtle) protest, another element of the traditionally irreverent display, with lots of pot-shots at Donald Trump, his administration, and his policies.

Despite the tragic event earlier in the day when eight people were killed and 11 injured when a lone-wolf, self-proclaimed terrorist careened at high speed in a pickup truck one mile down the Hudson River Conservancy bikeway on the Westside Highway, the irreverent, devil-may-care attitude that is hallmark of the Village Parade was still paramount, even with the legions of police with assault weapons – they blended right in.

Political issues come to fore at 2017 Village Halloween Parade, NYCJust a few hours after a terror attack in Lower Manhattan, Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill DiBlasio join hundreds of thousands of marchers and onlookers at the Village Halloween Parade: “An attack won’t stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers,” Cuomo declared. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This year’s parade was also distinguished by two of the marchers: Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DiBlasio, who joined the parade to show solidarity and hammer home the message: Go on with your lives.

The terrorist, Cuomo said, “did not stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers.” (See also: Village Halloween Parade Goes on Despite Act of Terror, With a Few Messages for Trump)

One of the parade regulars put it more directly, as he embraced the parade’s artistic director Jeanne Fleming, “This is a giant F-U to the terrorists.”

A regular of the Village Halloween Parade with the Parade’s long-time Artistic and Producing Director Jeanne Fleming. The 44th annual parade going on just hours after a horrific terror attack just a mile away, he said, “is a giant F-U to the terrorists.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nothing could stifle was has been appropriately hailed as the “Greatest Event on Earth” by Festival International for October 31st and a top event in NYC by Events International, Citysearch and Biz Bash, the Village Halloween Parade is still the nation’s largest public Halloween celebration, with thousands of costumed marchers, hundreds of Halloween characters, giant masks and puppets, dozens of marching bands playing music from around the world stilt walkers, and street performers that turn the avenue into a mile-long stage.

Village Halloween Parade grand marshal Angelica Vox rides on a float designed by Alexei Kazantsev © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The NYC Village Halloween Parade, which has always encouraged young and upcoming artists, this year selected as grand marshal an up-and-comer, Angelica Vox, who rode up the avenue on a float designed by Alexei Kazantsev, its first ever done in a New Orleans style.

Here are some of the highlights:

44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, New York City, 2017 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

See also:

Village Halloween Parade Goes on Despite Act of Terror, With a Few Messages for Trump

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Photos Show Intensity of Action Underway at 2017 US Open Tennis Championships

Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, defeats Jeremy Chardy of France 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some 87 matches were contested on Wednesday, August 30, to complete Round 1 after a largely rained out Tuesday. Fans were treated to an amazing array of tennis champions.

Here are highlights in photos:

Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, in action against Jeremy Chardy of France during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, in action against Jeremy Chardy of France during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jeremy Chardy of France tries to stave off fellow countryman Gael Monfils, seeded 16, in Round One match during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, seeded 8, in action against left-hander Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic, triumphs after losing the first set and going to a tie-break in the third, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, at the 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic in action against 8-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia at 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/ news-photos-features.com
Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia serves to Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic, at the 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
David Goffin of Belgium, seeded 9 in action against Julien Benneteau of France, beating him in Round 1 in four sets, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Julien Benneteau tries to stave off 9-seed David Goffin of Belgium at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, seeded 10, brought a precision game to defeat Petra Martic of Croatia in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 in first-round play at the 2017 US Open Tennis championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Petra Martic of Croatia in first-round action against 10-seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland at the 2017 US Open Tennis championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lucas Pouille of France, seeded 16, prevails over Jared Donaldson of the USA after five sets (7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4) in Round 2 action against during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
One of the most exciting contests of the day, Jared Donaldson of USA brought 16-seeded Lucas Pouille of France to a five-setter in Round 2 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lucas Pouille of France, seeded 16, prevails over Jared Donaldson of the USA after five sets in Round 2 action against during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jared Donaldson who came back from two sets down to win the next two sets, was ultimately broken at 5-4 in the 5th set against 16-seed Lucas Pouille of France in Round 2 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shuai Zhang of China, seeded 27, defeated Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 to move to the second round of the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
After winning the first set in a tie-breaker, Sabine Lisicki of Germany lost her first-round match to 27-seed Shuai Zhang of China at the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shuai Zhang of China, seeded 27, in action against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded 5, easily dispatched Florian Mayer of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to move on to the third round at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Florian Mayer of Germany was no match for Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded 5, at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, seeded 7, easily dispatches Vaclav Safranek of Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, on the Grandstand courts at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Vaclav Safranek of Czech Republic in action against 7-seed Grigor Dimotrov of Bulgaria Round One match during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shelby Rogers of Charleston SC, defeated fellow American Kayla Day of Santa Barbara, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to her second round at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kayla Day of Santa Barbara in action against fellow American Shelby Rogers of Charleston SC at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Icing on the cake: watching tennis great Venus Williams, seeded 9 in the US Open, warming up before her night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium against Oceane Dodin of France, who she went on to defeat in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4 to move on to the third round of the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Venus Williams, who won the US Open Singles title in 2000 and 2001 and Doubles title in 1999 and 2009, has played in 18 US Opens. She holds 49 career singles titles and 22 career doubles titles © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also:

32 Qualifiers Win Their Spot in 2017 US Open Tennis Championships

Festive Atmosphere as US Open Tennis Championship Opens Gates to All for Qualifying Matches

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

12th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island Ends on High Note

Dancing to the “hot jazz” of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra at the 12th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 12th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island nestled between the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn ended on a high note, Sunday, August 27.

People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s in flapper dresses and glad rags, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream from the ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn, onto the island with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. Mere minutes from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.

Dancing the exuberant Peabody © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

A celebration of the “hot jazz” and joie de vie of the Roaring ‘20s, the festive event never fails to inspire sheer carefree happiness.  It offers the full complexion, tapestry and vibrancy of New York – people of all ages and stripes turn out and for this all-too-brief time, help turn back the clock.

Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenalla and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated, personally transcribed songbook of the 1920s and 30s.

Michael Arenella comes onto the dance floor © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; the Gelber & Manning Band delight with their spirited music.

Roddy Carravella and wife Gretchen Fenston (wearing her own dress and hat creations) demonstrate how to dance The Peabody © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The event on Sunday, August 27, starts with Roddy Caravella and his wife Gretchen Fenston (who is also a milliner and costume designer in addition to being a ballroom dancer) giving a marvelous lesson in dancing The Peabody (which Caravella notes was created in 1915 by William Frank Peabody, a New York police lieutenant, who was a rather portly gent, who nonetheless loved a spirited, fast-paced dance; the innovation is in holding his partner on his right side to accommodate his girth. Caravella walks an enthusiastic group through the various movements: “The steps start and finish toe to toe,” (Caravella refers to gender-neutral “leaders” and “followers”), coming to the part of swirling the partner, “delicately flowering air” and the dipping motion.

A family affair: learning to dance The Peabody © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dancing the Peabody © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The afternoon is interspersed with fun activities as well which you can join: Peabody Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age; The High Court of Pie Contest.

Shannon Axelrod of New Jersey and James LaFarge of NYC (right) are declared winners of the Peabody Dance Contest, edging out prior years’ winners Milo Saidl of Czechoslovakia and Michael Mooney of NYC © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Presenting the winner of the Bathing Beauties Promenade © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The second stage features The Great Dubini and Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society.

You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; Antique Gramophones reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.

The only thing that bursts the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones, but being captured in photos and videos streamed to Instagram seems as important to the happening as the music.

Adrienne Smith and Chrissie Capobianco of NYC at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the end, a rather sentimental Michael Arenella, showing his appreciation to his audience and fans, notes that when he originated the Jazz Age Lawn Party 12 years ago on Governors Island, it was just a small gathering of 50 friends and fans. The event has grown in popularity over the years “because of you,” who do so much to fulfill the look and feel of the 1920s and 30s. Some 20,000 fans come from all over during the course of the two weekends, in June and August.

 

Michael Arenella, who founded the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island 12 years ago, leading his Dreamland Orchestra © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Michael Arenella comes onto the dance floor © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here are highlights of the Jazz Age Lawn Party in photos:

“Paddlin Maddlin” by the Dreamland Follies © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
“Varsity Drag” by Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers© 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Dreamland Follies dance “Temptation” choreographed by Jordana Toback © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers dance “Baltimore Number 2” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Emcee Robert Ross announces winners of the High Court of Pie contest © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Peter Mintun, “world’s greatest piano man” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Bathing Beauties at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Enjoying the atmosphere of the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Pauline Coley of Connecticut and sister Nicola Coley of Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of the Bathing Beauties © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alison Kelley & Willow the poodle of NYC on the Jazz Age Lawn Party dancefloor © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Can’t wait until next year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party? Michael Arenella also performs at The Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge and the Red Room. Visit www.DreamLandOrchestra.com.

See also: Gatsby-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party is Joyful Escape on Governors Island

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Alan Gilbert, in His Final Season Leading NY Philharmonic, Conducts Big Hug-and-Kiss to New Yorkers in Free Parks Concerts

Alan Gilbert, in his final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducts the orchestra in the free summer Concerts in the Parks series in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

This year’s New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks – its 52nd summer – provided a way to say farewell to Music Director Alan Gilbert. The series, presented for the past 11 years by Didi and Oscar Schafer, was a hug and a kiss to the 100,000 music lovers who come out to the free summer concerts (“priceless music, absolutely free”), at the Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan; Cunningham Park, Queens; Prospect Park, Brooklyn and Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx. This season’s program was also the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season celebration of its hometown, featuring masterworks by Dvořák (Symphony No. 9, From the New World), Leonard Bernstein (Symphonic Dances from West Side Story), and George Gershwin (An American in Paris) — all written in New York and premiered by the Philharmonic  – and was the culmination of its season-long “The New World Initiative”.

Throughout the 2016–17 season, The New World Initiative has explored the New World Symphony’s theme of home and honors New York City and its role as an adopted home. The Philharmonic gave the World Premiere of the New World Symphony in 1893, marking the Orchestra’s first World Premiere of a work written in New York City that would become part of the standard repertoire. The Largo theme was later set to the words “Goin’ Home” by Dvořák’s student William Arms Fisher.

New York Philharmonic conductor Alan Gilbert conducts a community sing-along of “Goin Home” them from Dvořák’s New World Symphony, all part of The New World Initiative and the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season celebration of its hometown © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Philharmonic’s free parks concerts have become an iconic New York summer experience since they began in 1965, transforming parks throughout the New York area into a patchwork of picnickers, and providing music lovers with an opportunity to hear the best classical music under the stars. More than 14 million listeners have been delighted by the performances since their inception.

Before the New York Philharmonic takes the stage, it has become a new custom to “Share the Stage” with local musicians. This year, that included BombaYo (Van Cortlandt Park); The Ebony Hillbillies and Zulal (Central Park), The queen’s Cartoonists and Slum Suit (Cunningham Park) and The Side Project (Prospect Park).

And at this year’s concerts in the parks series, audiences joined the Orchestra in community performances of the “Goin’ Home” theme from Dvořák’s New World Symphony, all part of The New World Initiative and the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season celebration of its hometown. (Dvořák’s  symphony also incorporates the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.”)

We caught the concert at Cunningham Park, in Queens, which also featured fireworks display.

Alan Gilbert, in his final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducts the orchestra in the free summer Concerts in the Parks series in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The program was a crowd-pleaser – the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story were simply transporting – and Gilbert looked extremely relaxed and joyful.

Alan Gilbert, who has stepped down as music director of NY Philharmonic, just revealed that he will be trading New York for Hamburg, Germany, leading the Elbphilharmonie Orchestra in the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall as chief conductor.

Alan Gilbert, in his final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducts the orchestra in the free summer Concerts in the Parks series in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Gilbert, a frequent guest conductor in Hamburg, said that the Elbphilharmonie’s vision aligned perfectly with his own paradigm for successful 21st-century orchestras. “It’s about how they connect to the cities they serve,” he said. “And one condition for that is the existence of a perfectly appropriate physical space. What’s going on there is related to what’s potentially going to happen here in New York with the idea of redoing David Geffen Hall.”

Gilbert bids farewell to New York in the parks concert program, writing, “It has been a privilege to stand upon this august platform and make decisions that have altered and enhanced New York City’s cultural landscape. When this Orchestra does artistic things, they are noticed, and they inspire others, far and wide. Ultimately, I know my tenure is just one chapter in the Philharmonic’s long story, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.”

Alan Gilbert, in his final season as music director of the New York Philharmonic, conducts the orchestra in the free summer Concerts in the Parks series in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

As Music Director of the New York Philharmonic since 2009, Alan Gilbert has introduced the positions of The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence, The Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, and Artist-in-Association; CONTACT!, the new-music series; the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, an exploration of today’s music; and the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, partnerships with cultural institutions to offer training of pre-professional musicians, often alongside performance residencies. The Financial Times called him “the imaginative maestro-impresario in residence.”

Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Alan Gilbert concludes his final season as Music Director with four programs that reflect themes, works, and musicians that hold particular meaning for him, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony alongside Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw, Wagner’s complete Das Rheingold in concert, and an exploration of how music can effect positive change in the world. Other highlights include four World Premieres, Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabre, and Manhattan, performed live to film. He also leads the Orchestra on the EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour and in performance residencies in Shanghai and Santa Barbara. Past highlights include acclaimed stagings of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre, Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd starring Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson (2015 Emmy nomination), and Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake starring Marion Cotillard; 28 World Premieres; a tribute to Boulez and Stucky during the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL; The Nielsen Project; the Verdi Requiem and Bach’s B-minor Mass; the score from 2001: A Space Odyssey, performed live to film; Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony on the tenth anniversary of 9/11; performing violin in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time; and ten tours around the world.

Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic take bow at the end of the concert in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and former principal guest conductor of Hamburg’s NDR Symphony Orchestra, Alan Gilbert regularly conducts leading orchestras around the world. This season he returns to the foremost European orchestras, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He will record Beethoven’s complete piano concertos with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Inon Barnatan, and conduct Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, his first time leading a staged opera there. He made his acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut conducting John Adams’s Doctor Atomic in 2008, the DVD of which received a Grammy Award, and he conducted Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles on a recent album recorded live at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Gilbert is Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School, where he holds the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies. His honors include Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from The Curtis Institute of Music (2010) and Westminster Choir College (2016), Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award (2011), election to The American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2014), a Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy (2015), Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2015), and New York University’s Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City (2016).

Here are some parting shots of the meistro.

Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic take bow at the end of the concert in Cunningham Park, Queens © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Fifth Avenue Museum Mile Festival Showcases Exhibits Not to Be Missed This Summer in NYC

The Metropolitan Museum of Art at night © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Even if you were unable to get to the once-a-year Museum Mile Festival along Fifth Avenue on June 13, when six museums (some of them with pricey admissions) throw their doors open to one and all for free, it provided a marvelous preview of some spectacular exhibits that are on through the summer or fall.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at the southern “border” of Museum Mile, I visited the Irving Penn Centennial, a marvelous survey of this brilliant photographer’s career and an opportunity to see the museum quality prints that would have been seen in the pages of important magazines like Vogue; the exhibit is on through July 30, 2017.

Met Museum-goers viewing the “Irving Penn Centennial” exhibit © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I went from Irving Penn Centennial to the “Age of Empires” exhibit of breathtaking sculpture and artifacts from the Qin and Han dynasties, spanning 221 BC to 220 AD, including near life-size but extraordinarily realistic statues of terracotta warriors from Xian (so life-like they appear to breathe) that I had seen for the first time when I visited what was at the time newly uncovered site in 1978 in China. This important exhibit is on view through July 16, 2017.

One of the terracotta warriors on view in the “Age of Empires” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, I couldn’t resist, I luxuriated in the galleries devoted to Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

Outside, the Met Museum hosted performance art – a troupe of dancers whose movements formed artistic poses. (My favorite time to visit is on a Friday or Saturday evening when the Met is open late, has music on the mezzanine; favorite place to eat is in the American Café in the sculpture garden; also, take a docent-led “Highlights” tour, which brings you all around the museum.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 535-7710 http://www.metmuseum.org/. 

Performance of Sidra Bell Dance New York outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the Museum Mile Festival © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

(My clever strategy was to start at the Met at 5 pm, giving me an extra hour of the Museum Mile Festival in order to cover more territory.)

I next visit the Neue Galerie New York and get my annual “fix” of the breathtaking “Woman in Gold” and other Gustav Klint paintings (Klint has become one of my favorite artists).  The Austrian Masterworks exhibit is a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the museum’s founding, highlighting Gustav Klint, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin and Egon Schiele.

Neue Galerie New York, 1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street), New York, NY 10028, (212) 628-6200, http://www.neuegalerie.org/. 

The Solomon R.Guggenheim Museum, which always gets an enormous crowd for the Museum Mile festival, is featuring “Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim,” “Hugo Boss Prize 2016: Anicka Yi, Life is Cheap” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 88th Street) New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3500, https://www.guggenheim.org/

You get to try your hand at design, at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum housed in an exquisite Fifth Avenue mansion © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institutions, a collection established by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt as the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration in 1897, housed in an exquisite mansion, is presenting a marvelous exhibit, “The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s” – bringing together the design elements of the era through a range of furnishings, architecture, clothing, paintings and music, and what made the designs so distinctive and reflective of cultural trends of the time. For example, “Bending the Rules,” the cross-pollination of American and European artists (“A Smaller World”), the infatuation with technology and machines. One of the special delights of the Cooper Hewitt is their interactive opportunities to create designs.

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street (off Fifth Avenue) New York, NY 10128, 212-849-8400, http://www.cooperhewitt.org/ 

Painting of the Stettheimer sisters and mother by Jazz Age, avant-garde artist and poet Florine Stettheimer, on view at the Jewish Museum © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Jewish Museum’s special exhibit this season also focuses on the 1920s, featuring the painter and poet and exemplar of the avant-garde, Florine Stettheimer. This was all new to me – I had never heard of her, or her incredible sisters, before (their independence, feminism and stunning range of creativity reminded me of the Bronte sisters, except these ladies did not keep their creative output a secret).

The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue, (between 92nd & 93rd Streets), New York, NY 10128, (212) 423-3200, www.thejewishmuseum.org.

The two exhibits – at the Cooper Hewitt and the Jewish Museum – are that much more inspiring to see contiguously, to have this extraordinary in-depth insight into the Jazz Age, a time of tumultuous change in culture, social mores and political currents on a scale that only recurred 40 years later, in the 1960s, and now.  I became intrigued when I heard of the Jewish Museum’s exhibit at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island in June (you have another opportunity to enjoy this fantastic festival August 26 & 27, jazzagelawnparty.com; see story)

From there I walked further north, to just about the top of the Museum Mile with only about an hour to go of the festival.

Dancing in the street, outside the Museum of the City of New York, during the Museum Mile Festival © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of the City of New York always has smart, clever exhibits. The not-to-be missed exhibit, “New York at its Core,” that is on now is in three parts, in three different galleries. It explores the essential question, “What makes New York New York?” (Answer: Money, Diversity, Density, Creativity) and takes the city from its very beginnings (room-sized images of neighborhoods morph from centuries ago into today), to its development as a melting pot for cultures, and then lets viewers imagine what the city of the future should look like (“Future City Lab”) and how it should solve the challenges of affordable housing, greenspace, environment, transit, and so forth. One of the most interesting parts is a computer-generated animation that puts you into the scene.

Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029 (212) 534-1672, http://www.mcny.org/  

See yourself in the city of the future and have a crack at solving urban challenges, at the Museum of the City of New York © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, at the end of the Museum Mile, El Museo Del Barrio is featuring “Belkis Ayon: Nkame” and “A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayon” El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), New York, NY 10029, (212) 831-7272 (http://www.elmuseo.org/)

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

 

Gatsby-esque Jazz Age Lawn Party is Joyful Escape on Governors Island

 

Heidi Rosenau & Joe McGlynn, regulars at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, dance to Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

New Yorkers love to dress up – any excuse to don a costume will do, but in the case of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, now in its 12th year on Governors Island, it is a chance to push back the clock and create your own community, a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy.

For an entire afternoon on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of June 10 and 11, and again on August  26 and 27, you are transported – quite literally by ferry – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. A stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.

Flappers at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.

There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera. Little boys are there with their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows. Interlude music is provided on vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.

Michael Arenella leads his Dreamland Orchestra, faithfully re-creating the Roaring ‘20s sound and spirit © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At one point, Michael Arenella, who throughout the afternoon gives these wonderful asides about the music, says his trombone “is so old I have to use a string to keep the slide on- that’s how authentic we are, folks.”

The only thing marring the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones.

Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.

The Dreamland Follies at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together.

Nick Pankuch of Astoria demonstrates the exuberance that won him the Charleston contest at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are fun activities as well which you can join: Charleston Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: bluevoon@aol.com), The High Court of Pie Contest (categories include “Mom’s Best” “Best Savory ”, “Most Original” and “Hobo’s Choice”; for entry email: govislandpie@gmail.com).

Glenn Hanna and Jared McNabb have come to the Jazz Age Lawn Party from Boston for the third year © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.

Bride-to-be Melissa Colabraro brought her Bachelorette party to the Jazz Age Lawn Party from Boston © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island creates a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Barbara Tito and daughter Kim Tito from Connecticut celebrate Barbara’s 75th birthday at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. In addition, refreshing summer cocktails feature Lejay, the official liqueur sponsor which created crème de cassis in 1841, and Bootlegger 21 NY Distilleries, crafted in Roscoe, NY, which is this year’s the official gin and vodka of Jazz Age Lawn Party,. Libations available also include ice cold beer, lemonade and soft drinks. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages.)

The Jazz Age Lawn Party draws many families © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

New for 2017, Dreamland Gourmet Picnic Totes, featuring freshly prepared, custom ordered lunches that you receive when you enter, complete with a chilled bottle of VieVité Rosé, and other treats! (included in all “Bee’s Knees and “Bonnie & Clyde” ticket packages).

Jim & Yoko from Japan join in the dance © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

People also took advantage of the Gourmet Picnic Market’s fancy picnicking fare, treats and snacks including ice cream, cotton candy, hot popped corn; the Dreamland General Store, offering picnic blankets, parasols, hand fans and assorted sundries; vintage clothing vendors and artisans who create a veritable village of timeless treasures.

Roddy Caravella & the Canarsie Wobblers at the Jazz Age Lawn Party © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

This event sells out and this year, for the first time, tickets are only available for purchase in advance. For tickets and information, visit, http://jazzagelawnparty.com/. Purchase tickets at http://jazzagelawnparty.ticketfly.com/.

Queen Esther pays tribute to the jazz greats © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

32,000 Cyclists Take over NYC Streets for 40th Anniversary of TD Five Boro Bike Tour

32,000 riders at the starting line for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. This year celebrates 40 years since the first ride, when 250 participated.© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is so special about New York City’s TD Five Boro Bike Tour is how, for one day, you and 32,000 of your closest friends, feel like you own the city. The streets, bridges and highways – like Sixth Avenue, the FDR Drive, the Queensborough Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Verrazano are your domain. It makes you giddy. Neighborhoods ring with sound and spirit – Greenwich Village, Harlem, Astoria, Greenpoint, DUMBO. Central Park’s blossoms seem to burst just for us.

TD Five Boro Bike Tour riders head up 6th Ave .© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ride this year marked the 40th anniversary of this event, which is the largest noncompetitive bike tour in North America. The ride has come quite a long way from that first one, in 1977, when just 250 people participated.

Riders, who race to get a spot as soon as registrations open (participation is limited to 32,000 but could easily be thousands more), came from every state in the nation (yes, Hawaii and Alaska), and 1300 riders came from 43 countries, as far as Australia.

Bill Nye, the Science Guy, tells TD Five Boro Bike riders, “The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to humankind”.© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bill Nye the Science Guy greeted the crowd as they lined up in downtown Manhattan, extending a mile, saying, “The bicycle is the most efficient machine known to humankind.” The ride, he says, brings the joy of movement, of being part of the city. Strong hearts. Free minds. Together we can change the world.”

New York City has really embraced biking, and now offers miles and miles of dedicated bike lanes – dozens more this year.

Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer said that 750,000 New Yorkers now bike regularly, 50 percent more since 2012. “Thank you for your bike lane advocacy, for being healthy, for being part of the city’s future.”

TD Five Boro Bike Tour group at Radio City Music Hall, 6th Avenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The annual event raises money for bike education – 17,000 people a year learn how to ride, the largest free biking education program in the country. Bike New York operates bike education centers, after school programs, summer camps, and this year launched a Women’s Initiative, as well as its first membership program. “Alums” from the bike education program are joining the ride this year as “Student Ambassadors.”

The surreal scene riding through the underpass on the FDR © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Numerous charities such as Doctors Without Borders, also use the event for fundraising, purchasing registrations which participants then raise money against.

One of the charities is the Lighthouse Guild, a not-for-profit vision and healthcare organization with a long history of addressing the needs of people who are blind or visually impaired, and will have several cyclists who are blind riding tandem bikes including a former triathlete, Charles-Edward, who became blind five years ago.

Spiraling down the ramp from the Queensboro Bridge passed Silvercup gives a dramatic view of Manhattan skyline .© Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The bike tour is also a model of sustainability, promoting recycling, water conservation, becoming the largest sporting event to be certified for sustainability by the Council for Responsible Sport 3 years ago and this year, earning gold level. Each rest stop featured “zero waste” recepticals.

The ride is designed to be a family friendly tour, not a competition, appealing to  all abilities, ages – a pace car keeps the speed down, and keep it safe.

“Diversity is what makes the ride,” says Sam Polcer, who handles communications for Bike New York.

Indeed, everyone marvels at how well organized the ride is and all the precautions that are taken to make the ride safe. The route has also been improved to unplug some of the bottlenecks of years ago, so there is a nice flow.

And there is such a sense of liberation to take over New York City’s streets.

The Rusty Guns, one of the many bands that keep riders’ spirits up as they travel through all five boroughs of New York City © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The ride embraces all five boroughs – and each shows off with street entertainment. In all, there were some 25 bands raising the spirits of the riders along the route, and at rest stops (Clif Bar sponsored a DJ and entertainment at the Con Ed rest area) and at the Finish Festival on Staten Island, where, for the first time, all the finishers received a commemorative 40th anniversary medal.

My favorite scene along the 40-mile TD Five Boro Bike tour: Empire State Building framed in the base of Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

As in recent years, the  event is preceded by a two-day Bike Expo, when cyclists can take advantage of discounts and giveaways by scores of bike, biking gear, and bike tour companies and destinations from the New York State’s Erie Canalway, to the Laurentians in Canada, to Taiwan, and special biking events like the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma,  October 6-8, 2017, through the World Association of Cycling Events, along with Granfondo Campagnolo Roma.

Messages of encouragement to get over the 1 mile climb on the Verrazano, the last challenge before the Finish Festival on Staten Island, at the 40 mile mark of the TD Five Boro Bike tour © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a first for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour’s 40th anniversary year, friends and family were able to follow their rider’s progress along the 40 mile route, by virtue of a chip embedded in the number card on each bike.

Riders could sign up to have their progress posted automatically on their Facebook or Twitter pages, or enter the phone numbers of up to three people to keep them updated via SMS (text), so that folks can know when they start the Tour, reach several rest areas along the route and finish.

For the first time, the Tour was also broadcast live by NTD.TV. It could be viewed at http://www.ntd.tv/live; https://www.facebook.com/NTDTelevision/ and http://youtube.com/user/ntdtv

Bike New York, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY, Suite 1300, New York, NY 10115, www.bikenewyork.org, Follow @bikenewyork on Facebook and Instagram.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

New ‘Mummies’ Exhibit at American Museum of Natural History Lets You Peer Through Wrappings, Peel Away Layers of Time

Haunting images: the coffin that still harbor the thousands-year old mummified remains of a teenage boy who lived in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago, and his scanned image reflected in his glass case. © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Gilded Lady seems to be resting peacefully, her painted visage staring up to the sky. But inside this container are the remains of a real woman who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and for the first time, the ancient coalesces with 21st century scientific techniques: we actually get to peer inside, probing down layer by layer to her mortal remains, and then, at a digitally reconstructed, 3-D image of her as she lived: this middle-aged woman was beautiful.

She has already traveled from Chicago where she lives at the Field Museum, to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and now she is reposing here in New York as part of Mummies, an extraordinary exhibit featuring one of the largest collections of mummies housed in North America that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History through January 7, 2018.

The Gilded Lady, the gold-masked coffin of a middle-aged woman who was mummified during the Roman Period (30BC-AD 395) © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit provides an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and traditions of people from ancient cultures. It puts us face to face, head to head with people who lived their lives thousands of years ago, in Egypt and in Peru – two of the many cultures that practiced mummification. The contrasts and the similarities are striking, and just as their similarities speak to a unity of humanity, this extraordinary way of connecting past to present connects us as human beings. (And to bring about an even broader connection, increasing the span from thousands to 100s of thousands of years ago, be sure to visit the AMNH’s Human Evolution wing.)

Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Mummies have long been fascinating, and now the intersection of these ancient relics and cutting-edge technology is revealing new and intriguing secrets,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “For generations, the Museum has studied and presented the diverse cultures of humanity, past and present, to help us better understand one another and ourselves. Today, when such understanding is more important than ever, Mummies invites us all to consider both what may be distinct among cultures and what is universal in the human condition.”

On a special, limited tour from the collections of The Field Museum in Chicago — and presented for the first time on the East Coast (the traveling exhibition has already been on view in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Denver), Mummies showcases the ritually preserved remains of 18 individuals from ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru. The Peruvian mummies that are on display have not been seen since they were exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Significantly, you get to discover how modern imaging techniques have transformed the study of mummification by letting researchers peer inside centuries-old mummies without disturbing or damaging them. Digital touchscreens let you “virtually” peer into Peruvian mummy bundles, layer by layer from the skin to the bones, as well as animal mummies buried as offerings to Egyptian gods. You also get to handle 3D-printed figurines of burial goods that were encased within mummy wrappings for millennia and only recently revealed.

“You may think you know mummies,” Futter said at a press preview, pointing to the most popular representations in horror movies. “That’s not what this show is about. This is serious business that simultaneously offers a window to the past – two different ancient worlds – and into the latest technology and study. You get a glimpse of actual people entombed – who they were, what their lives were like, what they looked like.”

“They are like messages from a different time – they are our sisters and brothers in a shared humanity. It may not be as sensational as a [horror] movie, but more amazing than you would have imagined.”

Scan of a bundle from Peru reveals a woman in her 20s with two children, around six and two years old who died of unknown causes © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, most people – especially  young people – have never actually seen a dead body before. The most profound experience in the exhibit is seeing the remains of a woman who lived 5500 years ago, whose bundled body was left in the Egyptian desert where it naturally mummified.

Indeed, it wasn’t just pharaohs and their spouses and other royal figures who were mummified, though their tombs and the possessions that were left with them reflected their station. This was the common practice – as people were lower and lower down the economic totem pole, the possessions that they would have been buried with were more and more modest.

In Egyptian society, it was also common for animals to be mummified and buried – there is a baboon and a crocodile in the exhibit. Cats were actually popular and David Hurst Thomas, the co-curator of the exhibit, said that archaeologists found cemeteries of a million mummified cats, manufactured  for sale to be entombed with the loved one.

Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President, Provost of Science and Curator, division of Paleontology and David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology and co-curator of Mummies, American Museum of Natural History © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is fascinating to have this view to contrast the Peruvian mummies (I’m betting few people have even realized that pre-Colombian Peruvian peoples practiced mummification), with the Egyptian burial practices. The two civilizations never interacted – mummification developed independently, indeed, on every continent but Antarctica, Dr. David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, division of Anthropology and co-Curator of the Mummies exhibit, said at a press preview of the exhibit.

In Peru, mummification was intended to enable the living to stay connected with their loved ones. The body was carefully prepared and wrapped and then a mask was placed on top the canvas.

One of the scans of a bundle reveals that it is a woman with two children. The scans also show artifacts that have been buried with the individual.

The ancient Egyptians, in contrast, mummified their dead so that they could live on – their limbs intact – in the next world. The earliest mummies, like the 5500-year old woman, were not buried in elaborate pyramids or tombs, but were put into a pit grave. Over the centuries, the mummification process became more and more elaborate – organs were preserved in canopic jars and bodies placed in magnificently painted coffins with gilded masks.

By using these new technologies – most that have come from medicine – the scientists have been able to see artifacts that were buried with them, how a mother is buried with her two children (how did they die?).

“They have so much to teach us – medical infirmities, migration, interaction of societies,”

The Gilded Lady, for example, is utterly fascinating – you see her in her magnificently decorated coffin, and on the wall are the slides that show how her hair was curled, had a damaged spine, possibly as a result  of tuberculosis. Based on the scan of her skull, they made a 3-D reconstruction using a 3-D printer, and from that, like a forensic scientist, re-created what she likely looked like in life – all of this in one view.

Gilded Lady with the scans that show what she likely looked like © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The gilded mask that we see was not meant to illustrate how the woman looked in life, but was an idealized portrait that had a purpose: the Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife, the dead would need their faculties – eyesight, hearing, taste and smell. The masks allowed them to maintain these senses. The golden skin was used to show divinity: after death, the dead would be transformed into the god Osiris, who, like most gods, had skin of gold.

The Gilded Lady lays across the room from another mummy, named Minirdis according to the hieroglyphs on the coffin. The coffin was opened for the first time in a century for this exhibition. In examining the remains, researchers discovered the teenaged boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, construction of the coffin, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, and confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled (though might not the inscription have been added when the boy was buried?)

The hieroglyphs on the coffin say the name of the mummy who is supposed to go inside it – Minirdis, son of a priest. Preserving the person’s name was essential for their soul to reach the afterlife. Minirdis means “Min is the one who gave him,” and Min was a god of fertility. The inscription also says that Minirdis’ father, Inaros was a priest, in charge of purifying and clothing the god’s statue. The only problem was that the boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, but also confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled.

The scans of the body show that the coffin was too large for the body inside and the bones hadn’t fused, indicating that the body was a teenage boy.

Ancient culture meets Modern science: A mummy as it would go through the CT scanner, on view at the American Museum of Natural History © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The CT scans enabled scientists to generate 3D-printed skull reconstructions of both the “Gilded Lady” and Minirdis. Then, artist Elisabeth Daynès studied the replicas and built facial muscles and skin layer by layer. The hyper-realistic portraits in 3D. we meet at the end of the exhibit let us come face-to-face with these ancient people, seeing them as they may have looked in life —while their mummified remains sleep peacefully.

Peruvian Mummies On View for the First Time in a Century

We are much more familiar with Egyptian mummies, particularly with the sensational exhibits of King Tut and the artifacts uncovered from his tomb in the Valley of Kings, as well as the scientific analysis of his mummified remains. But this exhibit goes much further in its exploration of the cultural significance of the burial practice.

The first part of the exhibit focuses on the collection of Peruvian Mummies, which had not been seen in public since they were on display in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

People living along the Pacific coast of South America in what is now Peru began to mummify their dead more than 5,000 years ago. Scholars think that the Chinchorro culture (5,000–2,000 BC)—the world’s first practitioners of mummification—prepared the bodies of their loved ones personally, removing the deceased’s skin, de-fleshing the bones, and removing the organs before reinforcing the skeleton with reeds and clay and reattaching the skin. The mummy was then painted black or red and given a wig and an individualized clay portrait of the deceased.

In addition to the Chinchorro, dozens of societies in the region mummified their dead to remember and remain connected with the departed.

As we walk through the  Mummies exhibit, we encounter a number of Peruvian mummy bundles, including the mummified remains of three children from the Chancay culture (AD 1000–1400), which placed their dead into a sitting position and wrapped them in layers of cloth.

The exhibit is very much hands-on, interactive, if you can believe it, because you get to do what scientists do, in penetrating the layers of scans to reveal the body contained in the wrappings, through the skin layer, to the bones.

There are digital touchscreens, where you can examine composite CT scans of these mummies and virtually “unwrap” them to reveal figurines and other burial offerings that are contained within, becoming surprised as surely the scientists were, when a scan reveals a mother with two children bundled together, or seeing the objects that were personal or prized which reveal so much about who they were in life.

A life-sized diorama of a Chancay pit burial demonstrates the common practice of interring members of an extended family together © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

A life-sized diorama of a Chancay pit burial demonstrates the common practice of interring members of an extended family together. These burial pits were accessible to living family members, allowing relatives to bring food or drink to their loved ones’ graves, or even to remove mummies to take them to festivals or other special events. We see examples of real burial offerings such as chicha (corn beer) pots.

Jim Phillips, curator of The Field Museum, tells me that the Peruvian mummies were uncovered on expeditions in the 1880s and 1890. This means they would have been recent finds – the most modern discoveries – when they were displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Jim Phillips, curator of The Field Museum, with the Gilded Lady and the scan that shows how imaging techniques helped reconstruct her face © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Egyptian Mummies of the Nile Valley 

Unlike people in Peru, ancient Egyptians believed the dead could live on in the next world if provided with a physical home, preferably within the body itself. This belief made it essential to preserve the corpse, and Egyptians used an elaborate process of mummification to halt the natural process of decay. Scholars posit that natural mummification—an example of which can be seen in the remains of a woman whose preservation occurred naturally in the hot, dry sand about 5,500 years ago—gave Egyptians the idea for artificial mummification.

Mummies invites visitors to compare and contrast burial practices of Egypt (statue of Osiris on left) and Peru © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Within centuries, ritual burial in Egypt evolved into a complex practice that included elaborate embalming, brilliantly decorated sarcophagi, and grandiose tombs designed to deter grave-robbers (we see magnificent limestone busts from sarcophagi that were an added layer of security to those who could afford this extra protection and would have weighed thousands of pounds). Organs that would hasten decay—the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach—were removed, preserved, wrapped, and housed in separate containers. The heart—thought to be the source of emotion and intellect—often stayed in place, since it would be necessary in the afterlife, while the brain, thought to have no use, was removed through the nose. Forty days in salt desiccated the body, and embalmers then used resins, oils, and padding to restore its appearance before wrapping it in linen. Artifacts on view include a Ptolemaic Period mummy (332-30 BC) along with canopic jars containing the person’s organs. Here, there are stations where you can handle 3D-printed burial figurines that depict ancient Egyptian gods provide visitors with an opportunity to explore the hidden artifacts within its wrappings.

Students get to discover burial practices of ancient peoples. The exhibit is designed to be “family friendly”; the notes that accompany the exhibit are easy to understand © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The objects found in Egyptian tombs were meant to provide for the deceased in the afterlife. Burials of wealthy Egyptians include their servants, represented by figurines called shawabti; ideally there would be 365 of these, one for each day of the year, with 36 overseers, one for each week in the Egyptian calendar. Even mummified animals were included in tombs, and archaeologists have uncovered cemeteries containing millions of animal mummies, including cats, baboons, gazelles, birds and even crocodiles, some of which are on view. Grave-robbing was rampant in ancient Egypt, and an Egyptian tomb diorama represents a type of crypt that Egyptians with rank or wealth constructed to guard against such thefts. Within the tomb, a plain stone sarcophagus contains a smaller stone sarcophagus and a wooden coffin from the Late Period (525-343 BC) covered in hieroglyphs. Most of the imagery on the coffin was inspired by scenes in The Book of the Dead, a collection of funerary texts believed to assist a person’s journey into the afterlife.

Dr. Thomas says the Gilded Lady steals the show, and indeed she does. She was mummified during the Roman Period (30 BC-AD 395), a period when we see in the exhibit the most magnificently painted coffins. There is one of a woman whose coffin is a stunning piece of artwork – it has a magnificent gilded mask and the body had pronounced breasts. Why? The anthropologists could not say, showing that there is still so much more to be learned.

Magnificently decorated coffin from Egypt’s Roman Period (30 BC-AD 395) © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mummies is on view in New York through January 7, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated at the American Museum of Natural History by David Hurst Thomas, Curator of North American Archaeology in the Division of Anthropology, and John J. Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Division of Paleontology. 

Mummies was developed by The Field Museum, Chicago, and will go back there for an exhibition after its New York showing.

Explorer

Mummies is featured in the Museum’s recently re-launched Explorer app, developed with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which lets visitors think like an explorer by personalizing their onsite experience using cutting-edge location-aware technology that provides unique journeys through the Museum’s 45 permanent halls.

More information about the exhibit is available at amnh.org/mummies.

A Major Scientific Research Institution

When we see these fantastic exhibits, we don’t necessarily see behind them, to the fact that the American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, whose research has contributed not only to their discovery, but to the understanding of what is displayed.

Indeed, the press tour takes us behind the scenes to the institution’s Microscopy and Imaging Facility – the technology that would have been used to scan the mummies. The equipment is shared by all five departments of the institution, whether AMNH scientists are studying fossils, cultural artifacts, planets or solar systems, the cutting-edge imaging technologies in the facility make it possible to examine details that were previously unobservable. While earlier studies often required unwrapping mummies – which could have damaged them – tools like high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanner provide scientists with non-invasive methods to examine them. MIF technician Morgan Hill walked us through the process, along with Zachary Calamari, a Ph.D. student in comparative biology program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, who showed us how the scans help in research of two naturally-mummified newborn wooly mammoths – one who was mummified by being frozen and the other who was “pickled.”

Zachary Calamari, Ph.D. student at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, shows scan of a naturally mummified newborn wooley mammoth © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

During our visit, the CT scanner is doing an image of a rabbit. It is this ability to understand the internal aspects of dinosaurs and fossils that have led scientists to rejigger Evolution’s schema, to redefine who is related to who and what is connected to what.

The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree and the Master of Arts in Teaching degree.

The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation.

The museum gets 5 million visitors a year and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls.

American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100. Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit amnh.org for more information. 

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