Sep
05

The US Open is held in Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs and home to the most culturally and ethnically diverse communities in the United States. If you’re attending the US Open and you’re not from New York, you might wonder what there is to see and do in the neighborhoods that whiz past you as you take the 7 train to the Mets-Willets Point station.

Though few tourists and visitors venture into Queens, favoring Manhattan and Brooklyn over the other boroughs, there are lots of “only in New York” experiences you can have in this under-visited borough.

Here are five things to do in Queens while you’re in town for the US Open, or really any time when you want to check out the cool attractions in this region of NYC:

1. Time travel in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

You won’t have to wander from the US Open grounds to act on this tip, as the tennis stadiums are located in the park’s boundaries. The park–New York City’s second largest–was host of two New York World’s Fairs (1939-1940 and 1964-1965); several relics from those fairs remain on display today. The large Unisphere sculpture is the most visible and photogenic of these relics, but the most interesting (and the ones that are closest to the US Open venue) are the mosaics and time capsule that serve as snapshots of mid-century pop culture.

And those snapshots aren’t without controversy. Read this interesting article from local radio station, WNYC, to learn about the “mosaic mystery.”

Time Capsule Mosaic

Time Capsule Mosaic

Image: calestyo

2. Eat your way through Flushing’s Chinatown.

One stop beyond the US Open on the 7 train is Flushing, home to New York City’s lesser-known Chinatown. As busy and bustling as Manhattan’s Chinatown, Flushing is, well, flush with Chinese restaurants specializing in most regional cuisines, though locals in the know tend to visit Flushing for dim sum.

Get off the 7 train at Main Street, come to street level, close your eyes, spin around, and wherever you’re facing when your eyes open, head in that direction to find an authentic Chinese restaurant.

Flushing's Chinatown

Flushing's Chinatown

Image: Terry Ballard

3. Walk Flushing’s Freedom Trail.

Barely familiar even to New Yorkers who consider themselves connoisseurs of the little-known, Flushing’s Freedom Trail is a walking path with historically significant sites that offer important insights into both New York’s and America’s past.

Along the path, you’ll find the home of the man who invented the carbon filament light bulb and New York City’s first public high school, as well as the oldest house of worship in the city.

A stop on Flushing's Freedom Trail

A stop on Flushing's Freedom Trail

Image: Francisco Collazo

4. Visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

Harlem and Greenwich Village are more famous for their roles in musical history, but Queens is a surprisingly rich repository, too. For almost 30 years, Louis Armstrong lived in a modest house in the Corona neighborhood; today, the house is a museum that is open to the public.

Though it’s a bit out of the way, it’s a must-visit for serious Armstrong fans, as the house has been preserved as it was when he and his wife lived there.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Louis Armstrong House Museum

Image: Paul Lowry

5. Watch the sunset from Gantry Plaza State Park.

Long Island City, one of Queens’ neighborhoods and the closest one to Manhattan, sits on the East River and has perfect, unobstructed views of Manhattan, best seen at sunset. Take the 7 train to Vernon-Jackson, walk west on 50th Avenue all the way to the water, and enjoy the view from the end of one of the piers or from your own hammock at the northern end of the park.

Gantry Plaza State Park

Gantry Plaza State Park

Image: Francisco Collazo

Aug
10

It begins in early June–my obsessive tracking of the quality of sweet corn.

At that point in the season, it’s early–far too early–for the kernels to burst with juicy, sunny, sweetness, but every week I buy half a dozen ears, roast them in the oven, and offer my estimate of how many more weeks we have to wait for the corn to hit its peak. That high point lasts two weeks at most, but I enjoy every minute of it.

I’m fortunate to live in New York City, which has year-round farmers’ markets, but I asked around the office and among TravelMuse followers on twitter and Facebook: What are YOUR favorite farmers’ markets?

Here are some of their answers:

1. Pearl Farmers’ Market, San Antonio, Texas

The Pearl Farmers’ Market is located along the banks of the San Antonio River and features the goods of producers whose farms are within 150 miles. Typical Texas fruits and veggies–like the variety of peppers shown here–aren’t the only items on offer; there’s also grass-fed bison, heritage pork, and charcuterie.

San Antonio

Image: Gruenemann

2. Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, Santa Monica, California

This farmers’ market, considered one of the largest and most diverse growers-only farmers’ markets in the U.S., was a top pick among staffers and TravelMuse twitter followers. Its website reports an average of 9,000 shoppers at its weekly Wednesday market.
Santa Monica

Image: Sharon Mollerus

3. Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, Cold Spring, New York

This farmers’ market in the Hudson River Valley is open year-round, but it’s best in the summer, when it’s held on the grounds of Boscobel, a historic house-turned-museum with this view of the Hudson River. Bonus? You can picnic on the Boscobel grounds after you do your shopping.

Cold Spring

Image: ScubaBear68

4. Mountain View Farmers’ Market, Mountain View, California

Mountain View is one of the five biggest farmers’ markets in California and a regular winner of “favorite farmers’ markets” contests. The variety of vendors and the market’s proximity to the Salinas Valley (aka: “America’s Salad Bowl”) make this market a top pick.

Mountain View

Image: IrisDragon

5. Nicollet Mall Market, Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Nicollet Mall Market is convenient for people who live and work in downtown Minneapolis, and it’s an ideal place to pick up lunch during the summer. It’s also close to public transportation. And the eggplant! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Minneapolis

Image: Cultivate Landscapes

6. Ballard Sunday Farmers’ Market, Seattle, Washington

As its name suggests, the Ballard Sunday Farmers’ Market is open on Sunday only. Year-round, through sun, snow, wind, and rain, Ballard says it’s “more reliable than the post office.” Other reasons to visit? Hard cider, honey-smoked albacore, and other Pacific Northwest-inspired treats.

Ballard

Image: Brian Glanz

7. Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington

Yes, another market in Seattle, but how could we leave Pike Place off our list? It’s probably one of the most-visited markets in the United States. Plus, it’s not strictly a farmers’ market; open “19-1/2 hours a day, 362 days a year,” Pike Place is known for its fish and seafood, too.
PIke
Image: angelan.

8. Aptos Farmers’ Market, Monterey Bay, California

Any farmers’ market worth its salt should have live entertainment, and Aptos does. In addition to what looks like some absolutely delicious corn, Aptos serves up live bluegrass and accordion music, and it offers a variety of classes, including pickling and canning.

Aptos

Image: DavidDennisPhotos

Aug
02

What becomes of an Olympic venue once the Games have ended? We take a look at Olympic sites from the 1968 Games, hosted by Mexico City, and the 2010 Games, hosted by Vancouver.

Mexico City

Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, hosted the Olympic Games in 1968. The selection of Mexico City was significant for a number of reasons: it was the first time the Games had been held in a Spanish-speaking country, the first time they had been held in Latin America, and the first time they had been held in what was considered a “developing” country.

UNAM

Photo: Julie Schwietert Collazo

For a brief moment, it looked like the International Olympic Committee would cancel the Games, as a massacre of student and civilian protesters occurred just 10 days before the Games’ Opening Ceremony. The IOC decided not to cancel the Games; however, the world’s biggest sporting event was definitely politically charged that year and Mexican officials were relieved that the Games concluded without significant incidents.

Today, many of the venues that hosted athletic competitions during the 1968 Olympics remain active sporting sites for Mexican athletes, and are open to the public. Arena Mexico, not far from the city’s main square, the Zocalo, hosted wrestling matches in 1968 and continues to do so today. Popular lucha libre spectacles are held here regularly, drawing massive crowds eager to watch this beloved and uniquely Mexican sport in which masked and costumed wrestlers try to best one another.

Another Olympic venue you can visit for both a sense of the past and a dose of local culture is the Estadio Olimpico Universitario (University Olympic Stadium) at UNAM, Mexico’s largest and most prestigious university, located in the south of the city. The site of the Opening and Closing Ceremony of the 1968 Games, as well as many track and field events, today’s it’s the home field for the popular Pumas soccer team.

Vancouver

Vancouver was one of the most recent Olympic hosts, so it’s hardly a surprise that many of its venues are in excellent condition and are open to the public for recreational purposes. One of the most popular spots for locals in Vancouver is the Richmond Olympic Oval, which was the site for speed skating competitions in the 2010 Winter Olympics. After the Games, the entire complex was converted into a 23,000 square foot fitness and recreation center that’s open to the public on a membership basis. There’s a 31 route climbing wall, a paddling center, two Olympic size skating rinks, and dozens of courts for badminton, basketball, and volleyball. Don’t feel like working out? You can take a guided tour of the venue instead.

Vancouver

Photo: tgreyfox

One of the most popular Olympic sites in Vancouver–and one of the most accessible, too– is the Olympic cauldron, which remains in its original location near the convention center. It’s ideal for a photo opp. Besides the Cauldron itself, the natural views here are spectacular, with the North Shore Mountains visible in the distance.

To learn more about other Olympic sites you can visit in North America, check out our feature article, “Destinations of Champions”.

Jul
25

Cancun isn’t just for Spring Breakers hoping to escape Mom’s and Dad’s watchful eyes. Though high schoolers and college students descend upon Cancun for one party-hardy week each spring, the rest of the year tends to be much more mellow. But maybe you don’t know what Cancun has to offer beyond the ubiquitous souvenir t-shirt from Senor Frogs. If that’s the case, here are six things to do in Cancun this summer.

1. Swim With Whale Sharks

Whale sharks, the largest animal in the seas, spend four months of the year (May-September) off the coast of Cancun, and visitors can see them—and even swim with them—by taking an excursion with a licensed tour operator. The whale sharks are gentle giants, gliding slowly through the water as they feed. You can watch them from your tour boat or swim alongside them with a guide; this activity is recommended for travelers ages 10 and up.

Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun. Photo: CollazoProjects.com.

Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun. Photo: CollazoProjects.com.

2. Swim With Dolphins

If whale sharks seem too overwhelming or if you’re prone to seasickness, you can stay on land and swim with dolphins in the Cancun Interactive Aquarium’s pool. You’ll be introduced to the animals by a professional trainer, who will stay with you in the pool throughout your session. During your time with the dolphins, you’ll see how they’re trained and watch the commands they can fulfill. This option is also better for younger children, as there is no minimum age limit to participate. Before or after your swim, you can also visit the aquarium’s museum, which features touch tanks and other displays.

Swimming with dolphins at the Interactive Aquarium. Photo: CollazoProjects.com

Swimming with dolphins at the Interactive Aquarium. Photo: CollazoProjects.com

3. Go to the Zoo

Cancun isn’t just about marine animals; at CrocoCun Zoo, you can also have one-on-one encounters with land mammals and reptiles, including parrots, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, and more. A professional guide leads you on an hour-long tour through the well-kept, humane zoo; during the tour, you are invited to touch, hold, or feed most of the animals.

Kids touch a crocodile at CrocoCun Zoo. Photo: CollazoProjects.com

Kids touch a crocodile at CrocoCun Zoo. Photo: CollazoProjects.com

4. Explore Mayan History

2012 is a particularly important year in Mayan history, as the Mayans’ long-calendar reaches its end. Travelers with a particular interest in archaeology and indigenous history have been visiting Cancun’s and the Riviera Maya’s Mayan sites in large numbers this year; why not join them? You can take a day trip drive to the most-renowned site, Chichen Itza, which is 60 miles from Cancun proper, or you can stay closer to the city and visit El Rey, a 47-structure site in Cancun. Other sites within 60-80 miles’ driving distance include Tulum, Xcaret, Xel-Ha, and Ek-Balam.

The main temple at Ek-Balam, a Mayan site. Photo: Donna Arioldi.

The main temple at Ek-Balam, a Mayan site an hour outside of Cancun. Photo: Donna M. Airoldi

5. Take a Day Trip to an Isla

Cancun has several islands—Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, and Isla Contoy—off its coast that are increasingly gaining the attention of visitors. Mujeres and Holbox are known for their laid-back, takin’-it-easy pace, while Contoy is a national park that invites supervised eco-tourism visits limited to 200 people per day. Ferries run from Cancun’s Puerto Morelos to the islands; though you could easily do a day trip to Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy, it’s recommended that you stay at least overnight to have time to enjoy Isla Holbox, which requires a longer trip from Cancun. Once there, you can relax on the beach, snorkel, fish, or kiteboard.

Limiting visitors to Isla Contoy means you're likely to find a stretch of beach to yourself. Photo: Alaskan Dude.

Limiting visitors to Isla Contoy means you're likely to find a stretch of beach to yourself. Photo: Alaskan Dude

Jun
28

Though Norway may be better known for Vikings and salmon, Pulpit Rock is one of its most famous attractions. Located in western Norway, visitors must hike about two and a half miles, climbing about 1,982 feet along the way, to reach the gorgeous views afforded at the edge of this cliff. See the original post on the NileGuide blog

pulpit rockImage: Today is a Good Day/Flickr