This year’s vacation had me wanting to save money on travel so I could stay in a nicer hotel and have more to spend on entertainment and activities. But I still wanted to be far enough away from home to feel like I was really on vacation, and not just day-tripping.
Philadelphia fit that bill quite nicely.
Being the place where the United States was born (both times, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the creation and signing of the Constitution), it’s loaded with history. However, I decided to avoid the obvious. I deliberately avoided Independence Hall and the national icon of the Liberty Bell. I’d visited them on a family trip in my childhood. Instead, I went to museums in that neighborhood that hadn’t existed back then.
Some years ago I was summoned to perform a civic duty at the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan. As it turned out, my judgment was not needed on a jury that day. So around lunchtime, I found myself in the oldest part of New York City on a lovely summer day. What else could I do but stroll around and explore? There’s quite a bit of interest there, if you know where to look.
Should you find yourself in Manhattan with half a day to kill….
Of course, there are other reasons to visit New Orleans than museums and Halloween. Food, drink, and music, for example.
I didn’t visit any jazz clubs. In a way, it’s not really necessary. At least in the French Quarter, street musicians are allowed to play without licenses/permits as long as they don’t interfere with traffic – either vehicular or pedestrian. And more than a few of the bars and restaurants there have live music anyway.
If you have any interest at all in anything that can possibly be related to military history, then you want to go to the National World War 2 Museum. It’s huge (with tons of exhibits and artifacts), it’s new (using all the latest in interactive display techniques and exhibit design), and it’s conveniently located near the Superdome, interstate highways, and one of the trolley lines. It’s very highly rated by the travel sites. Mostly, I suspect, because WW2 is in that historical “sweet spot” of being far back enough that there are very few people around with any first-hand experience of the era, but not so far back that there *aren’t* ant of those people, the era isn’t completely alien to us, and there are still a buttload of artifacts around.
As I mentioned, my intent in going to New Orleans was to experience Halloween in the land of Mardi Gras and “Laissez les bons temps rouler”. Whenever one travels a significant distance, for either business or pleasure, it behooves one to inspect the weather prognostication for one’s destination. Things didn’t look good for me. The morning of my departure, the forecast was for rain all weekend. I brought my umbrella with me, of course. Friday before Halloween, the local newscasters were noting that a large number of planned Trick-or-Treat activities had been moved up to that night, since heavy rains were predicted for Saturday night.
It started raining around 5 pm. By dusk, the rain was heavy and blowing. After Game 4 of the World Series ended, I resolved to at least take a stroll along Bourbon Street to see what was what.
I saw a lot of people in costume who looked decidedly uncomfortable as they hurried along their way to wherever they were going. Not much partying in sight. And then I stepped in an ankle-deep puddle. I had already had to change clothes after venturing out for dinner; this was too much. I went back to my hotel and called it a night.
Fortunately, there’s enough to see and do in the Big Easy so that if one of your planned activities gets washed out, you can still have fun.
Having been advised at work that I really should start using more vacation days (they don’t carry over from year to year, and not using them messes up the accounting), I looked over the calendar to see when would be a good time to use some of them. I noted that this year (2015), Halloween fell on a Saturday. “So,” I said to myself. “Where would be a cool place to spend Halloween? Especially when you can take the Monday after it off, too, and because the next day after that is Election Day and your office is closed, so you won’t have to leave first thing Sunday morning?”
A few moments of pondering, and the answer came to me. “New Orleans! They do a great Halloween! Home of Mardi Gras, parades, costumes, and Bourbon Street! It will be a blast!”
But before I can get to New Orleans, I must get to New Orleans…
A few more things to see and do that I can recommend, having done them at some point during my visits to Las Vegas.
Of course, there are many, many fine restaurants in Las Vegas. It will be hard to go wrong with your choice. However, when you get right down to it, there really isn’t much difference between four-star steakhouses. Or sushi bars. So try and get to a place that’s really different; a place you cannot find anywhere else….
So you’re in Las Vegas, and you’re wondering what to do during the daytime. Or at least in the afternoon, since you’re most likely sleeping it off until noon. You could go strolling through the upscale malls or wander through the casinos. But there are such malls in every large city, and frankly, one casino floor filled with slot machines looks like any other one. There are the usual group tours to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, plus ones to Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon, which are indeed worthwhile (wear hiking boots if you’re going to any of the “wilderness” areas).
As I mentioned last time, the thing to do is get the heck off The Strip and check out the more “off the beaten path” places.
I’ve recently returned from a vacation in Las Vegas. It was my fourth visit there in several years. That’s often enough to qualify me as an Expert on tourism in that fine city.
So of course, I am now going to spew all manner of unsolicited advice at you.
The first and most important thing that I have to tell you is…
On Thursday the 31st, I drove down to D.C. to see the Nationals host the Phillies. Not giveaway day, but another first-place team (the Nats). A fairly straight drive down Route 295. ON the way down, you pass a lot of exits for government and military facilities. Including – maybe (grin) – the “Employees Only” exit for the NSA.
Unlike Camden Yards, Nationals Park is off in the fringes of D.C., on the Anacostia River waterfront. Despite the stadium’s presence there for six years, there hasn’t yet been any significant development in the area. Still a lot of vacant lots and miscellaneous industry. One hopes that will change in the future.