Why You Should Visit Minneapolis Even after Super Bowl LII

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Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

I got sent to Minneapolis in early January to do a quick piece on the city before it would welcome in a ton of ticketholders for Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. While NFL fans are flocking here for the game, I found that Minneapolis can provide many other reasons for visiting year round (of course, their sports teams are valid ones).

Here is also why you should visit Minneapolis even way after Super Bowl II.

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Walking along the Skyway

Besides the usual ways of getting around a city, Minneapolis has one that’s pretty well connected. It’s the Minneapolis Skyway System, a network of enclosed bridges above street levels that is linked to various buildings and 80 city blocks and can be accessed through street-level entrances (in some cases, you can access certain parts via elevators). On a cold day or night, you definitely have the chance to stay warm by cutting through.

Prince

Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Remembering Prince

Sadly we lost this amazing musician in 2016, but Minneapolis keeps its native son’s memory in harmony. Yes, if you didn’t know, Prince is from this city and you can see where he did his best works such as murals of him like the one above in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. Within downtown Minneapolis, the nightclub First Avenue has its exterior walls adorned with silver-painted stars naming acts that have graced its stages – and of course Prince’s stands out in gold. If you’ve seen the film “Purple Rain,” then you’ve seen interior shots of this venue. Then go further by taking a half-hour ride to Paisley Park, Prince’s creative compound turned museum in Chanhassen.

Listening to a Ton of Music

While Prince will always have his place here, there are music clubs for hearing current and upcoming talent. The laidback Dakota Jazz Club in the downtown area provides a more intimate venue for its cabaret style seating and local nightly acts. Also within downtown, Fine Line Music Café can get a bit smushed in with music-goers at times, or so I’ve read, but it offers live music and a bite to eat. In an area known as Dinkytown, the Varsity Theater is a glowing concert hall with a well-planned event schedule.

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Photo Courtesy of Meet Minneapolis

Stepping Into Nature Easily

What might surprise you about Minneapolis is its close proximity to nature. The city’s got an extensive park system that encompasses regional and neighborhood parks with trails, paths, gardens and other outdoorsy highlights. Perhaps its most popular park is Minnehaha Regional Park, with its key attraction being an incredible 53-foot waterfall and limestone bluffs. Plus, the park has garden areas, walking and biking paths, and look out posts. Another prime spot is Lake Calhoun, also known as Bde Maka Ska, the largest lake in Minneapolis. Part of the city’s Chain of Lakes, it’s surrounded by city park land and circled by bike and walking trails.

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Learning about Its Flour Power

Did you that for about two centuries Minneapolis was a major flour milling city? You can still see remnants of this past near the city’s riverfront. The Mill City Museum is based inside what was once the largest flour mill in the world (Washburn A Mill). Its “Flour Tower” is an elevator ride that takes you on various floors of the mill while playing recorded interviews from workers. The upper levels offer great overhead views of the region, while the ground floor features flour-related exhibits and a bakery where you sample a sweet treat.

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Multi-Cultural Dining

The people who’ve come to make Minneapolis their home brought their cuisine to the plate. In the Northeast section, Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company is all about Eastern European foods, with sausages and breads made on the premise. House specialties include their cabbage roll or sandwiches stuffed with bratwurst or in Polish or Hungarian versions. Nordic cuisine is represented in places ranging from a FIKA at the American Swedish Institute to a The Bachelor Farmer, an eco-conscious eatery within the North Loop. Midtown Global Market is a culinary incubator for small business owners and restauranteurs with meal options extending to Moroccan, Mexican, Indian and Thai or American fare or pick up some coffee or baked goods.

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Many Museums

Along with the City Mill Museum, other museums in Minneapolis represent different cultures or collections. The Museum of Russian Art puts on exhibits on various mediums and perspectives involving religious icons, Soviet era works, or cultural symbols such as the matryoshka doll. Known also as Mia, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is a massive treasure trove with decorative arts, Asian architecture such as a Japanese teahouse, African and Native American craftsmanship, European art, and paintings/drawings— and general admission is free! Then there’s the Walker Art Center, a contemporary mixed media museum with free entry on the first Saturday of every month. Across the street, the Minneapolis Statue Garden holds pieces from the center’s collections with its centerpiece being “Spoonbridge and Cherry,” whose name reflects exactly what this sculpture looks like.

Have you been to Minneapolis too? What recommendations do you have?

 

12 Over-the-Counter Health Products for Traveling

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Creative Commons photo / Marco Verch

It’s always good to bring certain medicines or first-aid treatments with you when traveling. Aside from prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications and first aid products from chain drug stores and companies can help with relieving symptoms or sudden medical issues (however, always check with your doctor on any concerns you have or seek medical help within your location.)

Here are some products I suggest taking with you:

Pain-Relievers Like Aspirin or Ibuprofen

They’re best to have on hand the case of an injury or achiness or fever.

Antacids/Stomach Relievers

If you have to watch how certain foods react to your system, or you’re a risk-taking eater that might not know how you’ll handle the aftermath of perhaps a super-spicy dish.

Cough Drops

If you find your throat gets dry or feel a cough coming on, just unwrap and pop one in your mouth.

Anti-Diarrheal

Just in case.

Anti-Fungal Cream

If you’re prone to fungal infections, and going on a trek involving damp weather conditions, this suggestion is your call.

Melatonin/Sleep Aids

If you have trouble sleeping in a new bed or it takes a while for you to get some ZZZs.

Antihistamines

For combating known – or even unknown — allergies or rashes that come up. (Read labels to see drowsiness is a side effect.)

Motion Sickness Pills/Bands

If you’re on planes, trains or boats, and even the good old automobile for a long period of time, keep tabs on your system.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

I’ve been hearing a lot about these gastrointestinal aids keeping your gut healthy. Prebiotics are fiber-based, while probiotics are yeast centered; they both introduce good bacteria.

Condoms

I’m doing to leave this one up to you. If you’re going to a place where you think you might have a hookup, it’s best to be prepared. Note one other thing: learn how condoms are seen in your destination, in particular countries with very strict ties to religious beliefs and/or imposing laws.

Band-Aids/Plasters

Because cuts and scrapes can happen. Plasters can help with your feet.

Anti-Bacterial Wipes

To quickly clean a cut or your hands or even your in-flight tray table.

When bringing genetic meds, keep them inside their boxes or bottles in the case that customs officials need to check them. Also, confirm what and how much of an over-the-counter drug and/or prescription meds can be permitted to be brought into your destination.

 

 

2017 – My Year In Review

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Creative Commons photo / maf04

2017 was a good year. I had some ups and downs but I made some pretty neat accomplishments. At the same time, I’m realizing with every year literally flying by, that I’m starting to more and more figure out where I want to be heading, travel and otherwise.

Here’s how 2017 went for me with a few milestones.

Working at an awesome museum

In order to help keep a steady cash flow for my travel budget and overall livelihood, I took a part time job at one of NYC’s most popular museums. With having a “come and go” schedule, I was nervous about whether or not my manager would understand, or more so accept, my “other job.” Or the fact I maybe could only work certain days or be gone for periods of time. There were some rough patches at first, but so far I’ve been lucky to be able to balance both my museum job and my travel job at the same time.

Having More First-Time Destination Visits

One of my dream trips since childhood was to see China (I think I actually tried to dig a hole in my backyard but didn’t get far.). In May, I got to fulfill this wish with my visit to Suzhou, China, a city that resonates with Old China due to having canals, waterways and classic gardens. And I got to travel to destinations I probably never would have imagined: Israel, El Salvador, Guatemala, Croatia, and the Bahamas. I left prayer notes at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, tried surfing at a beach called El Tunco, toasted marshmallows over lava-generated heat at a volcano called Pacaya, and went on a Game of Thrones tour in Dubrovnik.  Not bad!

Staying at an Ice Hotel

A February snowstorm altered by plans for a work trip to Canada’s Quebec region, in that I completely missed the first day. But I still got to experience one major activity – spending the night in an ice hotel. Located outside of Quebec City, Hotel de Glace is a chilly location in which you can either go on a tour of this seasonal lodging (completely made from an ice and snow mixture) and/or pay to spend the night in one of its room. You have to get dressed well enough to handle an overnight stay (think winter gear that’s breathable while keeping you warm). I felt prepared and woke up once, maybe twice, but overall was glad to have tried it – and then to head back into a more warmer accommodation.

Seeing More of the US

I harp on this a lot but, in terms of travel, there is a lot more to the US than meets the eye. While the current political climate is pulling us in different directions, our nation’s cities and town have their respective offerings that can appeal to any traveler. I visited Montgomery, Alabama, which is the central point for major Civil Rights events such as where Rosa Parks’ arrest and the responding Montgomery Bus Boycott. Up north, Philadelphia has so many ties to the American Revolution, but it’s also got a major arts scene and a culinary assortment of everything from Israeli, to Southern, to German and Cuban eateries. For 2018, I’ve already booked a few trips to other US cities; can’t wait.

Choosing to Be More at Home

While I’ve been really grateful for all my 2017 travel opportunities, I’ve been trying to be better about exploring more of New York City. For the next two years, I’m viewing NYC as my homebase. Lately much of my exploring involves going around the neighborhood I stay in and going to and from work and meetings. So, I want to be sure in 2018 to see more of this city. I’ve tackled a lot – museums, landmarks, festivals – but I would love to discover more of its restaurants and districts. I’m also trying to expand my social circle more (most of my friends are married with children and others have moved on) so I want to get out there and meet new people. But if that next cool trip comes up…

What would you like to see or do in 2018? Let me know.

2017 Black Friday-Cyber Monday Travel Deals

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Besides gearing up for your Thanksgiving meal, get your laptop ready for browsing and buying the 2017 Black Friday-Cyber Monday travel deals. Here are some ones to consider.

Expedia‘s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale officially kicks off on November 24, with new deals on hotels, flights, cruises, rental cars and packages, beginning at 9 a.m. PST. Cyber Monday sales kick off at 9 a.m. PST and will refresh hourly until 3 p.m. PST. Deals booked on Black Friday have a travel window of November 24, 2017March 31, 2018 and Cyber Monday deals have a travel window from November 27, 2017March 31, 2018.

Gate 1 Travel‘s Black Friday sale takes place November 22-24, with discounts applied to all Gate 1 Travel, Discovery Tours and Signature Collection packages. Apply these romo codes:

  • Spend $500 or more and receive $50 off with the promo code BLKFRY50
  • Spend $1,000 or more and receive $100 off with the promo code BLKFRY100
  • Spend $2,000 or more and receive $250 off with the promo code BLKFRY250
  • Spend $4,000 or more and receive $500 off with the promo code BLKFRY500
  • Spend $10,000 or more and receive $1,000 off with the promo code BLKFRY1000
  • Spend $20,000 or more and receive $2,500 off with the promo code BLKFRY2500

Customers can book online through Gate1Travel’s website on November 23 or calling 1-800-682-3333 between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST on November 22 and 24.

Friendly Planet Travel is offering Cyber Monday savings of up to $1,400 off per person on 68 tours to over 40 international destinations. Packages include airfare, accommodations, most meals, transfers, English-speaking guides, and more. The sale starts at 12am ET Monday, November 27 and lasts through Tuesday, November 28.
On Cyber Monday, Contiki is offering savings of up to 30 percent off of select trips and to score $150 off all worldwide flights spanning from across six continents for travel booked by December 4. The tour company caters to travelers ages 18-35.
Trafalgar is offering discounted tours on sale from Black Friday through Cyber Monday,  with $750 off per couple on select bookings for over 20 trips – including the European Highlights, Best of Switzerland and Treasures of Thailand with the Golden Triangle.

G Adventures‘ four-day, online sale between Black Friday and Cyber Monday will feature more than 200 trips on six continents, with deals of up to 30 percent off of regular tour prices.

Southwest Vacations, of the Southwest Airlines, has a Cyber Week sale during Black Friday and Cyber Week with promo codes and daily deals. Book a flight + hotel package to any destination and save up to $250 when you use one of the promo codes below at the time of booking. They involve:

  • Save $125 on U.S. destinations with promo code SAVE125.*
  • Save $250 on international destinations with promo code SAVE250.**

Book now through December 4, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. CT, with travel now through August 6, 2018. One-day advance purchase is required. Restrictions and exclusions may apply.

 

How to Feel Comfortable Going Out Alone

 

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Creative Commons photo / Georgie Pauwels

 

For a while, I’ve been thinking about how to write a helpful post about being okay with traveling alone, particularly in mind for women.

Now it’s time to do so.

Recently, a trending hashtag called #metoo has highlighted how many women have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted at some point in their lives. While sadly as these incidents occur in common settings, from the workplace to any public venue, travel can also involve scenarios in which women might find themselves in uncomfortable situations involving unwanted advances from catcalling to sadly the unthinkable.

While my tips or advice might sound more general, I would like to think that they can at least ease your worries or assumptions about what others might think of you being by yourself. Whether it’s venturing out where you live or in another destination, here are some ways to help you feel more comfortable with being out alone.

Don’t make nice if it doesn’t feel right

In particular with women, there’s a common feeling that people have to maintain politeness even in circumstances we’re we might feel unease. While I’ve met some people who hesitate in being assertive or showing or speaking what they think, it’s a good reminder to remember that you don’t have to explain yourself, or be nice, to those who make you uncomfortable. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitant to leave or excuse yourself in doing so.

Go to afternoon showings

If you’re itching to see an exhibit, movie or play, but don’t want to feel awkward about being out at night, consider going in the afternoon. Matinee showings often attract different and smaller audiences where it’s easy to get into your seat and focus on what you came to see –and not worry about who’s noticing you.

Sit at the bar

Granted you might get hungry while being out, and heading into a crowded restaurant alone may make you want to loose your appetite. So do this: find a bar stool. Sitting in this part of a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to have an alcoholic drink; rather it helps make you not feel weird about being at a table. So order a meal with your beverage, and use this space to relax and maybe have some small talk with your bartender or those seated around you.

Go on a tour

One of the best ways for feeling not alone in a new location is by having a guide to go around with. Consider signing up for a visitor’s tour that gets you familiar with your location by having you walk around a certain area (and focusing on something that interests you). Once the tour is over, a good guide will ask if you need directions for what place you’re heading back to.

Read up on locations

While you would look up addresses of where you’re going, maybe delve a bit more about how to get around. Looking to use public transportation? Read up on everything from what type of tickets you need or if schedules can change (for example, New York City’s subway system can operate differently on weekends and holidays) on the day you plan to go. And if you’re driving, learn what you can do about parking; give yourself extra time in the case you might have to drive around to find a spot.

What tips would you offer to help women feel easier about traveling solo?

TWA Flight Center to Become a Hotel

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TWA Hotel Rendering (photo courtesy of MCR Development)

Do you remember TWA? Maybe you or someone you know has flown on this legendary airline. Either way, you’ll have the chance to connect with its legacy through its former terminal at JFK. Known as the TWA Flight Center, this landmark building is becoming a boutique hotel while also being restored to its grand splendor, set to finish construction in 2018.

This past week, I attended a media reception to announce design plans for this project. It was held at the One World Trade Center, which also ties into this news.

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Inside the TWA Flight Center / photo by Max Touhey

The event was held at the newly unveiled TWA lounge at 1WTC, a retro-themed sales office located on the 86th floor of the One World Trade Center.

A symbol of the Jet Age, the TWA Flight Center opened at Idlewild Airport – the original name for JFK Airport – in 1962. It was designed by architect Eero Saarinen, who is also noted for creations including the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the CBS (Black Rock) Building in New York City, and Dulles International Airport.

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Reception desk at TWA lounge at 1WTC / photo by Emily Gilbert

At the media reception, Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR Development, unveiled how this grand terminal for the former Trans World Airlines will become a 505-room hotel while also being reinstated to its original splendor.

“We’re bringing her back to life,” said Morse, whose New York-base hotel investment firm is responsible for this redevelopment project.

The year 1962 will also serve as the inspiration for the upcoming TWA Hotel, when all interior features of the original property will be restored to their heyday appearance such as its revered Ambassadors Club.

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The TWA lounge at 1WTC / photo by Jesse David Harris

An onsite museum will hold memorabilia relating to Trans World Airlines along with various objects connected to historic milestones in 1962.

The former terminal’s new structures housing the just over 500 rooms will actually be set back on either side of the terminal. Other additions include a 10,000-square-foot observation deck with runway views, six bars and eight restaurants, and 50,000-square-feet event space center. The hotel will be accessible via JFK’s AirTrain and the Saarinen passenger tubes connecting directly to JetBlue’s Terminal 5.

Closed to the public in 2001, and threatened with the possibility of demolition, the TWA Flight Center was designated as a NYC Landmark in 1994 and added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2005.

As for the TWA lounge at 1WTC, this sales center will have distance views of the 12-mile away JFK Airport, and look like as a timepiece with Saarinen’s noted white concrete and red chili pepper carpeting plus a front desk modeled after a TWA ticket counter. The location will be open to the general public by appointment only.

Coastal Splendors: Galveston Versus Corpus Christi

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Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

Your Pick: Galveston or Corpus Christi?

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Photo credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page

Along the Gulf Coast, the Texas cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi are blessed with natural wonders such as miles of beaches or a plethora of parks. And while man-made structures have come into the scene, they’re serving as an addition where visitors and locals can enjoy the sights and tastes of nature’s bounty.

Here’s where you can explore the coastal splendors of both Galveston and Corpus Christi.

Seawall Beach Expansion May 2017

Photo credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Beaches and Parks

With beaches, Galveston’s got quite the range, with them being doubling as state parks. On the island’s west end, Galveston Island State Park puts you right near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay and also near wildlife. It’s coastal refuge for birds, so birdwatchers can put their binoculars to good use, and it also provides opportunities for taking in its waters and lands. Visitors can swim and fish in certain areas, and also hike or bike along four trails encompassing different habitats.

The 10-mile Seawall Urban Park provides a leisurely stretch along its boulevard, along with much beach, restaurants and tourist attractions including the amusement park, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier.

Stewart Beach is quite family-friendly with amenities like restrooms and chair and umbrella rentals, while East Beach can draw a bit more of a livelier crowd.

Moody Garden Aquarium

Moody Gardens/Credit: Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

Galveston’s Waterside Spots

Galveston’s got some major waterside spots too. Its best known attraction of this kind is Moody Gardens, a part-amusement park and part-leisure/wellness stay with various restaurants and an on-site hotel. Its latest addition is the Aquarium Pyramid, which holds exhibits such as a Jellyfish Gallery and habitats encompassing locations ranging from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, to the South Pacific and North Pacific.

Based on Pelican Island, Seawolf Park has a fishing pier, picnic spots and a playground, but is most noted for being the home of a World War II submarine, USS Cavalla and a destroyer escort called USS Stewart.

Then there’s the Texas Seaport Museum, where visitors can climb aboard ELISSA, a preserved 19th-century tall ship and see an adjacent museum and theater. Plus, Galveston contains a concentration of Victorian homes within its downtown area; they date from the mid to late 1800s. Must-see houses include the Ashton Villa, an Italianate villa that was the first mansion built in Galveston, and the prominent Bishop’s Palace, which reminds you of a castle due to its stained-glass windows, bronze sculptures and exquisite fireplaces.

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Corpus Christi’s Beaches

As for Corpus Christi, this city in the South Texas Gulf Coast is also plentiful in sand and surf. Let’s start with beaches. Along the Corpus Christi bay, McBee Beach gets all ages of beachgoers but is still picturesque with calm and clear waters.

Locals appear to flock to Whitecap Beach, noted for its white sands and one entrance to the Padre Island Seawall, a mile-long pathway serving bikes, joggers, and walkers. Then the Padre Island National Seashore is cited as the world’s longest, undeveloped barrier, with its residents being a multitude of bird species.

Named after the wild horses that once roamed here, Mustang Island is 18 miles of beautiful coastlines, beach area, and various fish and waterfowl. It’s also the neighbor of Mustang Island State Park.

 

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USS Lexington / Photo Credit: Visit Corpus Christi’s Facebook page

 

Corpus Christi – Waterside Attractions

Located just across Corpus Christi’s Harbor Bridge, North Beach has two top city attractions: the Texas State Aquarium and the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier turned museum. North Beach also has a good variety of places to eat and drink and bayfront views, with the cities of Aransas Pass, Ingleside and Portland offering waterside opportunities like, fishing, boating, sailing, and kite surfing.

Corpus Christi’s Northwest side offers some of the best bird watching opportunities for bird lovers such as Hazel Bazemore Park, where each spring and fall people gather to watch thousands of hawks fly overhead. Labonte Park, at the city’s entrance, offers great views of the Nueces River as well as fishing and kayaking opportunities.

On Corpus Christi’s Southside, the South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center provides some urban serenity with floral exhibits and gardens and trails that could lead to birds and butterflies. And downtown’s Marina Arts District co-mingles boat slips, restaurants, and artisans together.

So, which Texas city would you like to see first: Galveston or Corpus Christi? To get your trip planning started, choose from these Trip.com recommended lists of Galveston and Corpus Christi hotels.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog Cities program.