The art of sightseeing while on a tight schedule

If you’re anything like my husband, you’ll have a business meeting in Chicago and then have a few hours to kill before boarding your next flight and jet setting to another meeting in San Diego, where you’ll then maybe get to sleep the night and have another few hours before you get right back on that plane and, if you’re lucky, head home. According to Linda Vaughn from the Business Traveler magazine, the average reader of BT takes about 30 round trip flights a year, rarely taking advantage of the little time he or she has in between meetings. Which is why the folks at BT have created the 4-Hour Guides, a great resource that directs busy business travelers to the must-see sites in a manageable between meetings/flights time span. But these plans are also good for all us regular people who want to have some efficient, fun, site seeing while our husbands/wives/parents are at their meetings and we’re bored of sitting around in the hotel waiting for them to get back and take us down to the lobby for dinner.

This month’s 4-Hour Guide is on Boston and since it has not yet been published online (we get the actual paper magazine) I thought I’d share it with you all! This article is by Alison Stein Wellner and I’ve taken her recommendations of the places, but have used my own experiences as explanation.

1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum – I love Boston and this is one of my favorite places in Boston. This museum is actually Isabella Stewart Gardner’s former residence, complete with her personal art collection. The building is a magnificent Venetian-style home with a garden and courtyard filled with beautiful flowers, art, and music. Works of Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler and Sargent are organized not according to era or style, but are placed aesthetically in a manner that Gardner had thought was beautiful to admire. In the summer months the Gardner Café is open. And, if your name is Isabella, you get in for free! Also, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is right near Fenway Park, so you should pop in there while you’re in the area.
2. The Backbay Fens – Beautiful urban parks that connect the Boston Common, to Franklin Park (where you can then take the kids to the Franklin Park Zoo). The park was established in 1879 and offers great respite from city noise.
3. Harvard Square and Harvard Book Store – I lived in Cambridge for a year and loved every second of it. Just walk around and enjoy the cobblestone roads, bookshops, cafes, and street performers. You can take the T here from The Fens, by taking the E train to Park Street and then switching to the red line. You’ll come out right by Harvard University. While you’re in the area, head over to Davis Square (2 more T stops away or a nice 20 minute walk) and get some ice cream at J.P. Licks. (Get the Oreo or the peanut butter yogurt.)
4. Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers – Wellner recommends this Harvard Square hot spot, and I’d have to agree with her choice. She suggests getting the onion rings, which I’ve never had, and the malted milk shake, which I have had and which is amazing.
5. The Prudential Center Skywalk Observatory – Take the T back to Park Street and then take the Green Line back to Copley Square. Besides for another J.P. Licks in the area, you should stop by the Pru for some great views, and some great food and shopping.

Have fun in Boston!
P.S. For more on Boston, check out this post that I wrote a few months ago.
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Summer Trip is announced!

Two or three times a year, my parents take me and the kids on a fantastic vacation, all expenses paid. I have a brother and sister-in-law and a niece who either get their own vacation with mom and dad or join us. This year it’ll be the whole family. Obviously we all get input into the destination, but m&d get the final say. And this year, we’ll all be going to…SAN FRANCISCO!

I am really excited. I have never been to San Fran and have always wanted to. Sometimes the trips are small, like 2-3 nights in the mountains nearby, but it seems like this is going to be a biggie. We’ll be going for 8 days and they already have quite an itinerary.

Here are the definites, and of course, if anyone has any MUST DO’S, please let me know so I can pass on the advice to my parents:

  1. Basic Brown Bear Factory – This will obviously be a winner with the kids, but I’ve always loved factory tours, so I’m looking forward to this as well. And my mother actually collects teddy bears, so that’s probably the real reason why we’re going.
  2. Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf – None of us (except my sister-in-law) have ever been to a wax museum. I, of course, am most looking forward to Elvis Presley. Alexandra says she can’t wait to see Leonardo DiCaprio – how does she even know who that is?
  3. Alcatraz Island – This one is really my dad’s top choice, so he says “it ain’t gettin’ moved off any list.” So here ya go, dad.

It’s a small list so far, but they only just decided on a location this morning and we don’t leave till mid-July. So we’ve got plenty of time. I only wanted to share because I was so excited about the announcement and I have friends who keep asking where we’re going this summer!

Anyways, as always, please feel free to offer advice! Like what are the best beaches? Is it worth it to go to the zoo up there (Oakland Zoo or the San Francisco Zoological Gardens) if we have such a good zoo (Zoo Atlanta) right near our new home?

Thanks for your help!


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Top Ten National Parks for Kids

The girls and I came across a page for kids on the National Park Service website. They spent hours exploring the Web Rangers activities, so we got to talking about national parks in general and different geographic and geologic features. We came across this list of kid-friendly national parks and we used it as a jumping off point to discuss U.S. national parks and earth science, geology and geography, and it ended up being quite a nice unit. The great thing about using these national parks as learning models is that each one really highlights a unique feature, whether it be glaciers, volcanoes, canyons, caverns, mountains, plateaus, or mesas. We looked at breathtaking pictures of these famous spots and gave examples of mountains or canyons, etc., that we’d all been to (for example, we’ve been to Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park).

Anyways, here’s the list of the Top 10 National Parks:

  1. Glacier National Park, Montana
  2. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
  3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  4. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, California
  5. Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
  6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  7. Everglades National Park, Florida
  8. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  9. Olympic National Park, Washington
  10. Mesa Verde, Colorado

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Top 10 East Coast Beaches (not including Florida)

I just got back from a WHIRLWIND of a vacation! As a graduation present to ourselves, 2 of my best friends and I packed a car with plenty of bathing suits and went on an East Coast tour of all the beaches we can find. We brought a tent and sometimes camped out by the water and sometimes were lucky enough to know friends in the area who let us crash on their couches. Occasionally we splurged on cheap motels. Needless to say, we had an amazing time. Here are some of our highlights:

Hampton Beach in New Hampshire was one of our top picks. The Hampton Beach pier has great food and games. The beach is wide. The waters are clear. And we caught a great concert at the Seashell Amphitheater. Before heading out of New England, we stopped at one of Rhode Island’s greatest beaches, Misquamicut State Beach We went for a quick swim, boogie boarded, and then continued on our way. It was a short visit, but somehow won us over with its clean waters and pretty sands.

Further down the coast is Manhattan Beach on Coney Island in Brooklyn New York. Coney Island as a whole is packed and kinda kitschy, but Manhattan Beach is a bit more remote, affordable, and quiet. It’s also just a quick subway ride away from Manhattan, so we counted that as a huge perk. Before we left New York, we swung by South Beach on Staten Island and did some fishing—and caught a few fish!

A few hours drive down the coast brought us to Ocean City Beach, an extremely lively place where we tried our luck (successfully!) at windsurfing. And then an even longer drive down to Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina. This one was actually my favorite, which came as a shock since I had never even heard of it before. It was just so serene and so beautiful. As was Hatteras Island Beach, a magical little place that just screamed relaxation! Another North Carolina island beach we loved was Ocracoke Island Beach, a quaint place that requires a lovely ferry ride to reach it’s pretty banks.

Next was everyone else’s favorite, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, which for me ranks at a close second. It was just FUN. First of all, we ran into people we knew and ended up staying at this HUGE beach house. The nightlife at Myrtle Beach is fantastic and the weather was perfect. We spent 4 days here which was longer than our stays at any of our other stops.

Before heading back up the coast, we decided to dip into Georgia to catch a Gulf Coast beach, our favorite being Tybee Island Beach, an oasis in that Georgia heat.

We stretched our 3 week trip into 4 and came back home feeling relaxed, looking great, and ready to face the real world! We all agree that these beaches sort of changed our lives—helped us make that transition from one stage of life to another. Anyone who says that a beach is a just beach, needs to check out these 10—who knows, maybe your life will change too!

Take a look at this lovely video I found on YouTube
It shows the beuty of Coney Island Beach:

The Vacationer presents : Video by Rpenni

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