Unveils Gift Card

Card copy

Recently, I went to a media event for, to reveal new offerings for holiday savings and insights on travel trends for 2016. Here are some highlights.

Perhaps’s big news is the release of a gift card that can be used toward its various participating hotels within the U.S. and Canada. What seems neat about the gift card is that it goes beyond specific brands, so for the most part you get to pick – and apply – from multiple options for where you want to stay. It only goes toward new hotel reservations.

The gift cards are said to have no application fees or exploration dates; just apply the balance when you’re making your booking. They can be sent electronically or as a plastic card. Amounts can start from $10 and go up to $500.

At the breakfast,’s North American VP and GM Josh Belkin shared some info about the company’s Cyber Monday sale. For Cyber Monday, is encouraging travelers to supply their email address and in return get sent a discount range that is said to give savings that can range from $250 to $1,000. Reservations have to be booked that day.

As for 2016, had various predictions for destinations on everything from stays to visits. They include:

  1. Queens will surpass Brooklyn as the most popular destination for NY visitors staying in the outer boroughs. If Lonely Planet was right about picking this borough as a must-see location, its diverse food scene and hotel offerings will be enticing.
  2. Buffalo will emerge as a top travel destination, as data finds Rust Belt cities like Buffalo (as well as Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh) have gotten an upswing in visitors for the past two years.
  3. Milwaukee is also on the upswing for visitors, and is projected to become a’s Top 50 Domestic Destination. It’s due to the Midwestern city’s  brewery and culinary scene and other attractions.
  4. Mexico will gather more international visitors beyond its traditional places of Cancun and Maya Rivera, and Canada will continue to shine as an under-the-radar destination.



Win Trip to The New York Times Travel Show from Allianz Global Assistance

453847425This week, I received some news about a contest held by Allianz Global Assistance, a travel insurance company, that is now under way until December 4, 2015. This contest will give consumers and bloggers an opportunity to win an all-expenses paid trip to NYC to attend The New York Times Travel Show (January 8 – 10, 2016 at the Jacob Javits Center) and meet some leading travel personalities.

Called the VIP Allianz Global Assistance “Concierge” experience, the featured offerings are some pretty nifty perks. They include:

  • A special guided tour of Lower Manhattan;
  • Lunch with renowned travel author Pauline Frommer of Frommer’s Travel;
  • Breakfast with travel personality Mark Murphy;
  • Dinner with the “Travel Trifecta” or also known as leading travel bloggers Johnny Jet, Gary Arndt, and Lee Abbamonte.

The three-night package also has airfare, accommodation at Ink 48 – a Kimpton Hotel, access to The New York Times Travel Show, a travel itinerary curated by Pauline Frommer, and a NYC City Pass for VIP admission to iconic NYC landmarks, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Winners will also receive an Allianz Travel Insurance “Go Bag,” comprising of a GoPro, Portable Power Pack, Passport Holder with RFID Protection, and a personally-autographed edition of “Frommer’s EasyGuide to New York City.”

Consumer travelers can manually enter through a custom Facebook app on the Allianz Travel Insurance USA Facebook page. As for bloggers, they can enter by embedding the Allianz “Content Capsule” – an easily imbedded microsite with engaging videos, infographics and travel tips – onto their websites. The blogger who drives the most traffic from their readers to the contest entry through the Content Capsule will win the trip.

The official rules for this contest are listed here. It officially ends on December 4, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Rolling in Reno and Northern Nevada

photo 2(91)There’s far more to Nevada than Las Vegas, especially in the northern portion of the state. It’s good to go beyond the buzz and bright lights of Sin City to really see Nevada, especially its history with the Old West, the regions of the Sierra Nevada, and alpine lakes with surrounding forests. Plus, there is still a bit of glitz to be found.

Recently, I got to visit Reno and parts of Northern Nevada. Here is where I went and what I suggest.

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Dubbed as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” Reno gives off more of a local feel but still has its own glitz with casinos/hotels like Circus Circus and Eldorado (where I stayed). You can do a lot in one day, and that was that I did. One area that is good to check out is The Riverwalk District, a river/public park in Reno’s downtown area that lines along near movie theaters, restaurants, bar galleries, and various shops plus the Truckee River. One section of it takes around the merchant area, while other is more tree-lined.

Like Las Vegas, Reno has its own landmark sign, but is technically called the Reno Arch. It’s on Virginia Street, adjacent to Eldorado, which is fun to walk under it as well as wander down the street. Along your way, you’ll see older casino style buildings and a mix of stores. Some of these casinos are getting repurposed as apartment buildings or fittingly hotels.

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In getting a sense of Nevada’s history and culture, the best place to go is the Nevada Art Museum. Also located in Reno’s downtown area, this visual arts museum presents exhibits relating to different subjects and artist’s themes. During my visit, there was an exhibit relating to neighboring Lake Tahoe and featuring various paintings and art projects on the lake’s past, present and future. If you’re hungry, the museum’s restaurant, Chez Louie, is touted as a French-style eatery. Unfortunately, I got there right after the lunch hour ended, but managed to get some good blueberry muffins paired with a hearty Malbec.

With dining, I made a stop at Reno Provisions, a café/marketplace/bar. If you walk near the back of this place, you’ll find a butchery/grocery/kitchen demo section with fine and regional based goods like gourmet chocolates, specialty juices and soft drinks, and other edibles. Still I craved something, so at the counter I stared intently at the apple tart in the dessert case and decided to succumb to having one.

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I also got to trek a bit outside of downtown Reno to head to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park. On a former ranch, this spacious public park has a lot of neat finds plus scenic loop trails graced with sage brush and landscape views – you can even see private homes in the distance. There’s also a center here named for Reno resident William May, an adventurous philanthropist. It has an arboretum and a museum. It’s a bit of a walk from downtown to get to the park, so I ended up getting a cab and also his cellphone number for the ride back.

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Virginia City and Carson City
The next day, I ended up renting a car to head out of Reno and explore nearby Virginia City and Carson City, which the latter is actually Nevada’s capital. Founded a mining town, Virginia City was claimed as the richest city in America due to its silver in its heyday. Now it’s more about tourism and focus on the Old West with various museums and buildings depicted from the mid-1800s. Ironically, when I was passing through I had to reroute due to a race happening, so I ended up heading further west to Carson City. There I made a stop at the Nevada Railroad Museum (I like trains) to see displays of locomotives marking the state’s railroad heritage. Some of the trains you can step into and imagine what it would be like to ride in.

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Lake Tahoe
In heading onward down US Highway 50, I made my way to the southern section of Lake Tahoe. It’s about 50 miles from Reno, and driving up I could see the sky blue water up ahead. En route of just following what I saw, I stopped at Logan Shoals Vista Point. There is a paved walkway that takes you to a lookout area, where if you are a good climber, you can head up the rocks for a different viewpoint. Back in the car, I kept going past the developed roads and lined sections of restaurants and hotels to turn into parking for South Lake Tahoe Beach. There is public parking adjacent from the beach, where you just cross the street and then you’re there. Bring some food with you to snack on at the various picnic tables and then head down the steps to hit the sand.

Disclosure: I won a trip to Reno at a media night organized by Travel Nevada/Visit Reno Tahoe.

What’s New in Fort Worth, Texas

photo 1(78)I’m originally from Fort Worth, Texas, but I left the state before I really got to chance to explore it. So recently when I got invited to attend a media event put on by Fort Worth CVB, I was excited to learn what was there to see and do in this city. Plus, with hearing what my parents remembered from their time there (as more of a rural area), how much Fort Worth has changed (and boomed).

Here is a sample of what’s happening in this city:

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. The ladies of the Western frontier get to shine here, and they’ll have even more room to do so in fall of 2016. Renovations of the museum’s second floor are underway, as part of an extensive plan that kicked off this past May, but you’re still able to visit. There is an art gallery that displays a rotating showing of 100 moving pieces of photos and videos of noted cowgirls – publicly well known or not but still worthy – on view. For example, did you know that the Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court judge, has some nifty ranching credentials under her belt? This museum is located in the Fort Worth Cultural District, where it’s joined alongside other noteworthy art museums and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.

JFK The Opera. Before JFK’s fateful trip to Dallas, the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrived at Texas in Forth Worth. Air Force One landed at Fort Worth Carswell air force base (where my dad was stationed and got to see the plane come in). Now, the Fort Worth Opera is marking this presidential visit through commissioning of a new opera that focuses on one night during Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy’s visit here. JFK The Opera makes its world premiere on April 23, 2016.

Trinity River Vision Project. This expansion project involving Texas’ longest river is set to connect various neighborhoods directly to the Trinity River to introduce a recreational/public gathering area. Another neat idea is Panther Island Pavilion, a planned outdoor entertainment venue that will feature a waterfront stage for performances. A sand beach is also to be added to give public access to Trinity River for waterside activities like boating.

Near Southside District. Next to the downtown area, this district has been becoming a restaurant row with more than 20 new dining establishments and bars in the past year and a half. Specialty shops are featured as well. There is also a distillery here called TreyMark Black-Eyed Vodka, which is said to hold tastings of their vodka made from black-eyed peas – apparently a first of its kind.

Lonesome Dove Reunion and Trail. If you’re a fan of mini-series, you might want to make a trek to Fort Worth next year. Along with a major gala called the Lonesome Dove Reunion featuring cast members like Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall on March 31, 2016, at River Ranch in the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Lonesome Dove Trail features various exhibits at a number of museums on everything from cattle to costumes over the course of the early part of next year.

Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel Present ‘Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine’ in Flushing

Set B (with fish congee)

This October, discover Taiwanese dishes like fish congee at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” in Flushing.

Taiwan has been making some headlines lately, as a rising culinary destination. Recently CNN featured stories about 40 must-try Taiwanese foods and especially on street food in the city of Tainan. But don’t worry if you can’t get to Taiwan right away. This month, you can get a taste of the country’s cuisine in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens.

From Friday, October 16 through Tuesday, October 20, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing are presenting “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine,” a five-day culinary extravaganza, inside the hotel’s Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant. It’s open to the public, so they can learn more about Taiwan through a fun way – the food! “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will feature daily lunch and dinner servings with a choice of different types of Taiwanese street food prepared in partnership with award-winning Taiwanese chefs.

Chefs from Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Well-respected Taiwanese chefs will prepare an elaborate menu at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine.”

Wondering what you’ll find on your plate? Here’s a cooking lesson about Taiwanese food.

This cuisine is a melting pot of China’s regional culinary styles mixed with foreign influences served establishments ranging from fine restaurants to night markets. Another big and tasty aspect of Taiwanese culture is what’s known as snacking. Often happening at night markets, snacking centers on handheld bites, sips of a beverage, or a plate that just needs an accompanying fork or spoon.

Common snack or street foods in Taiwan include bubble (or pearl) milk tea; danzai noodles; oyster omelets; meat rice dumplings; coffin bread; and a sweetly flavored crushed ice. Other local specialties include candied fruits, Taiwanese style meatballs, rice noodles, and various breads and cakes.

Chou's Shrimp Rolls

Guests at “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” will get to try the popular Chou’s Shrimp Rolls.

As for the “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” event, a must-have will be the main entrée: Chou’s Shrimp Rolls. Chef Chou, who was from Tainan, created his specialty shrimp rolls in 1965. This dish quickly earned him fame throughout his home country. In the 1980s, Chef Chou updated his recipe by making the rolls out of fresh and juicy shrimp. Now made mixed with high-quality ground pork, fish paste, celery and green onion, the shrimp rolls have won over the taste buds of gourmands from all over Taiwan and the world.

Set B (with fish congee)

Taiwanese cuisine has embraced flavors and traditions from China and foreign influences.

The menu for “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” is as follows:

A Welcome Drink
Ancient Plum Juice, made with roselle, preserved plum, osmanthus, umezuke, and prunus mume.

Hors D’oeuvres
Preserved Fruit or Chou’s Shrimp Crisps

Handmade Milkfish and Shrimp Balls in Bone Soup

Grilled Mullet Roe, served with radishes and great garlic, or Tainan Coffin Toast, filled with seafood chowder.

Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, made with fire shrimp, celery, scallions, onion, fish paste, minced pork, and pig stomach membrane.
Stir Fried Shredded Eel Noodles

Milkfish Congee, made with milkfish, oyster, celery, congee with bone soup, and topped with crisp fried garlic.
Danzai Noodles, made with minced pork, fire shrimp, and noodles in a bone soup.

Almond Tofu Pudding or Fresh Fruit

The cost of admission to “Savoring Taiwan’s Cuisine” gives you a memorable experience without needing a passport or airfare. It is at $39.95 per person, with an added 15% service charge and 8.875% sales tax. There is an 18% service charge for parties of six or more. Lunch will be served from noon to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 718-670-7400 or through Open Table (Brasserie Du Dragon Restaurant). The Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel is located at 135-20 39th Avenue in Flushing. Visit the hotel’s website or the Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s website here.

Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was brought to you by Taiwan Tourism Bureau via Cooperatize.;page=91241-31701;title=91241-31701;brand=;

Experience Macau in Grand Central Terminal


Do you know where Macau is geographically based? Or have you even heard of this destination? If your answer to both questions is no, don’t fret. If you’re near New York City from Thursday through Sunday, October 1-4, go to Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall to learn about this small peninsula in mainland China.

A four-day event called “Experience Macau” will showcase the destination’s cuisine, customs, and history through ongoing or scheduled presentations. One fact to get you started is that Macau was governed by Portugal for over 400 years (It was a Portuguese territory until 1999).

At Grand Central Terminal, “Experience Macau” will feature daily hands-on activities. These ongoing offerings include:

Lantern Painting
Learn more about Macau’s art of traditional lantern decoration by creating your own souvenir.

Head into a Photobooth
Snap a photo with Macau backdrops and accessories, then have it sent straight to your phone.

Macau Gallery
Take in Macau’s culture and beauty, as depicted in fine artworks displayed in an exhibit.

Trading Post
Discover spices and other cooking essentials while learning about Macau’s history of maritime trade.

Design an Azulejo
Create your very own azulejo — a Portuguese tile — to take home.

Each day of “Experience Macau” will feature various dance performances and cultural presentations. For more information, visit this website. The event is free and open to the public during these hours:

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, noon – 7 p.m.

Portuguese Dancers Performance from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 2, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Macanese Drummers Performance from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Portuguese Dancers Performance from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 3, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Dragon Dancers Performance at noon
Portuguese Dancers Performance at 2 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dragon Dancers Performance at noon
Portuguese Dancers at 2 p.m.

Your SingaporeNYC Events


Photo credit: YourSingapore

Singapore marketed its 50th year of nationhood in August, but its Golden Jubilee is carrying over into September with a variety of events put on by Singapore Tourism Board and held throughout New York City. It’s an opportunity to learn more about this Malaysian city without needing a passport and plane ticket. But hurry, it wraps up this Sunday!


Various restaurants have put together special menus or add-on menu items of Singaporean dishes or drinks worth trying. From now through September 27,  Singapore Restaurant Week has participating eateries offering everything from fish and chicken dishes to cocktails. They include Andaz 5th Avenue, The Meatball Shop, The Red Cat, and Delicatessen. At its Madison Square Park location, Shake Shack is serving up a special beverage called Onde Onde Shake now through September 27. Its recipe takes traditional Malaysian sweet rice dumplings and turns them in to a shake format. And in NYC’s Flatiron District, now September 27, a pop-up venue called Singapore Hawker Pop-up will dispense Singapore style street food by K.F Seetoh.

Visual Arts
One big feature is Singapore: Inside Out, an artistic exhibition on view in Madison Square Park now through September 27. It’s a showcase of multi-sensory creative experiences designed by various Singaporean artists and performers. And if you walk along Fifth Avenue toward Bergdorf Goodman, find in the luxury department store’s windows, pieces by Singaporean photographer, John Clang until October 6. There is also a number of theatrical and musical performances as well.