Shopping on-line makes holiday gift-choices COVID safe and fun. Just try to do the shopping now while orders have a good chance to make it to their destinations by Christmas. You also are likely to find some things you would like. Hey, give yourself a gift.
For the traveler or travel wannabe National Geographic has a holiday special – for $39/year that includes immediate digital access, 12 print issues, and a tote bag. Find the details at NationalGeographicHolidayGift.
Check out the giftshop on-line at a favorite museum such as the Art Institute of Chicago. The shop has great scarves, books, calendars, jewelry and home décor items. Look for gifts at MuseumShopartic.
Share your love of fine foods. Order from a favorite coffee or candy store. A couple of examples are Door County Coffee and Tea which is the go-to place in a Wisconsin vacation spot and Long Grove Confectionery in a historic Chicago suburb.
This July 4th, toast our country’s Independence Day with family and friends or just your pet who hates firecracker sounds to watch “A Capital Fourth” from Washington D.C.
Hosted and broadcasted by PBS, the show starts at 8 p.m. ET with a star spangled list of performers, the National Symphony Orchestra and members of the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, “Pershing’s Own” U.S. Army Band, the Joint Armed forces Chorus and the Armed forces color Guard.
It ends with spectacular fireworks filling the Capitol sky to the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s ” 1812 Overture.
Hosted by recording artist/Broadway/TV star Vanessa Williams, top names in pop, R&B, country, Broadway and classical entertainment will perform from their pre-taped locations across the country. World-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming opens the show in Washington DC with the national anthem.
Also watch Gammy-winning country star Jennifer Nettles from the famed Town Hall in NYC’s Town Hall with the Broadway Inspirational Voices; actress/singer Auli’i Cravalho from the Unisphere; the multi-Grammy Award-winning band Train from near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Entertainers recorded in Washington, DC include the “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight; country music star Mickey Guyton; Tony Award-winning Broadway and television personality Ali Stroker; ACM New Male Artist of the Year, multi-platinum country music singer-songwriter Jimmie Allen and Broadway star Laura Osnes
The National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by top pops conductor Jack Everly, will play John Williams’ “Olympic Fanfare” in tribute to the members of Team USA who are getting ready for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The concert also honors members of the military and their families for their contributions and dedication to service.
When and How
The 41st annual broadcast of A Capitol Fourth airs on PBS Sunday, July 4, 2021 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET, as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The program can also be heard in stereo over NPR member stations nationwide, and will be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and at A Capitol Fourth.
With so many events canceled and people staying home to be safe, we may barely note that Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. But some places such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon have procedures in place to again allow visitors and other destinations are planning to reopen. So with that in mind think of where you might want to go to recognize the meaning of Memorial Day.
The following article is a reprint of one I did for the Chicago Tribune when I was a regular contributor to Features and Travel. It is “Military Museums: Fit one into a long weekend or summer destination.”
Heads up vacationers, you know that Memorial Day, May 25 (in 2015), and not the Summer Solstice, June 21, marks the start of summer vacations. But Memorial Day really is a time to honor people who lost their life while serving in the United States armed forces.
As a long weekend or the start of a summer journey it’s a perfect time to visit military museums to find out more about wars in which the US was engaged, their eras, battle conditions, leaders and places. And it’s simpler than you may guess because military museums dot the US from California to Florida. They range from huge displays of lifelike dioramas to small gems of plane and vehicle-filled hangers. And they often are near vacation destinations. Here are just some of the places to put on your do now list.
If you have watched in wonder as the Navy’s Blue Angels have zoomed overhead during the Chicago Air and Water Show, you can see them up close inside a hanger at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL and practicing outside.
But that wouldn’t be the only or even main reason to go there. Walk under and around a combat F-14D Tomkcat or a rare SBD Dauntless Bureau No. 2106 from the Battle of Midway. Glimpse the Western Front in a World War I diorama. Or see the replica of the WW II USS Cabot aircraft carrier’s Island and flight deck and go to its main deck to try the ship’s anti-aircraft gun battery. Memorial Day is also about people so look for vintage uniforms and memorabilia such as flight logs.
But don’t miss the Cubi Bar Café. Way more than a place to relax while touring the museum, the café replicates the mid-twentieth-century Cubi Point Officers’ Club that was in the Philippines. Known for its bar lined with squadron plaques started during the Vietnam War, the plaques here are the real ones sent to the museum when the Officers’ Club closed.
You will want a place to rest tired feet. The museum has 350,000 square feet of exhibits and covers 37 acres. NAS, as the base is known, dates from 1914. It handles Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard flight personnel. As museum historian Hill Goodspeed pointed out during a recent phone interview, it is an aviation museum but the people who serve are important. “You will see more than flying machines. Look beyond the machines and focus on the individuals in the cockpit. We have memorabilia, but really it’s about those who served of various ages, including those in their teens, who were and are willing to fly into a dangerous situation and serve in the military to protect our freedom,” Goodspeed said.
In contrast, the Lyon Air Museum, tucked into the Martin Aviation corner of John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA is tiny. At a mere 30,000 square feet, its planes, jeeps and memorabilia, mostly from WWII, are easy to slip in a sightseeing jaunt when visiting Orange County, CA’s Irvine area.
“Visitors who come here don’t feel rushed. They see how small we are so they feel they can take their time to really see what’s here,” said Museum President Mark Foster.
However, finding the museum is a challenge on the airport’s winding back roads unless you are persistent and the GPS is working. But once there you find a gem.
It’s not hard to find the B-17 Flying fortress used in the Pacific, a Douglas A-26 “Invader” or the B-25 “Mitchell,” named for General “Billy” Mitchell. The museum isn’t just a good place to visit for its machines and memorabilia, it’s the docents. Many of them are military retirees
“We get letters from visitors who say they spoke to someone who served in the same squadron or area as a grandfather,” Foster said. He added, “Talking with our docents is like finding old letters from a family member. You hear their stories.”
Retired USAF Major General William Lyon who flew during WWII and Korea founded the museum so current generations would have some idea of WWII era vehicles and battles and stories. lyonairmuseum.org/
Tourists coming to Fredericksburg, Texas for its very western look and shops, its nearby wine region and its abundant flower and peach fields will arguably be surprised to find a museum dedicated to the Pacific War and its veterans while walking down Main Street.
But Fredericksburg was where Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in 1885 and the congressional district that appointed him to the U.S. Naval Academy. A career naval officer, Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and of the Pacific Ocean Areas for U.S. and Allied sea, land and air forces during WW II.
The background is important because it was the Admiral Nimitz Foundation that set up a museum in the former Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg in 1971.
Today, that museum is one of several stunning places to visit on the National Museum of the Pacific War’s six acres. Stop in the Nimitz Museum to learn of the Admiral’s career and see the historic hotel.
Iin the 33,000 square foot George H. W. Bush Gallery, follow the battles and America’s involvement on the Pacific Front beginning with Japan’s mindset that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Walk outside to the Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the Japanese military to the U.S. in honor of Nimitz. Also outside, see plaques honoring Pacific War heroes that line the Memorial Courtyard’s limestone walls.
Be sure to visit the Plaza of Presidents made up of stone and bronze monuments to the 10 U.S. presidents who served during WWII. A separate program, the Pacific Combat Zone, re-enacts engagements in a field two blocks east of the museum campus.
When looking for a fascinating way to work off at least some of New Orleans’ famed cuisine, check out the National WW2 Museum, a 220,500 square foot campus in the former Warehouse District known now as the Arts District.
Opened on the 56th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2000 and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the building was called the D-Day Museum until the U.S. Congress officially designated it America’s National World War II Museum in 2003.
As with the Lyon Air Museum, the volunteers you encounter are likely to be war veterans. But you will need a good half day to experience this museum. Its galleries and movies cover all the fronts, from Home to Europe to the Pacific Islands in several pavilions and theaters.
The feeling of awe starts in the museum’ s multi-level atrium where you see a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and SBD Dauntless, a Supermarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt BF 109 hanging from the ceiling.
You are in the US Freedom Center: The Boeing Pavilion. While exploring the Boeing Pavilion do the “Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience.” Similarly to major Titanic exhibits, it assigns participants an actual name of someone on board. Learn at the end if your person was lost or captured by the Japanese.
You can see the planes from an observation deck on the third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The original museum, the Louisiana Pavilion is the place to learn about Normandy and other beach landings.
Be sure to go to the new Campaigns of Courage Pavilion. Its “Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries” opened early 2015 with fantastic dioramas such as a blown-out German bunker and the forested “Battle of the Bulge” in the “Breaching the German Frontier” section.
Also look for a village and other scenes as the armed forces marched up the Italian boot. They are battle sites that have been recreated with bombed out roofs backed by the sounds of war and newsreels.
The remaining Courage Pavilion build out, “Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries,” opens in late 2015.
“It’s amazing,” said Owen Glendenning, associate vice president of education and access. “It’s immersive. It’s realistic and environmental. You can believe you are there,” said Glendenning.
Save time to see “Beyond All Boundaries, a 45 minute 4D film in the Solomon Victory Theater narrated by its executive producer, Tom Hanks. The movie takes you from battles to the Home Front using a variety of animation and sound effects. Personal accounts are read by Brad Pit, Gary Sinise and other celebrities.
For a recreation of USO style entertainment, think Bob Hope or the Andrew Sisters, try to catch a show at the Stage Door Canteen.
Perhaps the most forceful feature of the National WW2 Museum is the personal connection to people, places and time. Glendenning pointed out that the museum has four-full-time historians who are finding and recording personal stories of WWII veterans and their families. “It’s the compelling way we tell the story. It’s through personal narratives from citizen soldiers,” he said. www.nationalww2museum.org
A visit to Cantigny Park, the estate that Robert R. McCormick’s will decreed as a public space after he died in 1955, is a delightful Chicago area destination. Its gardens and museums are particularly fun to browse from late spring to early fall. What Chicagoans, and indeed, out of town visitors are likely not to know is that Cantigny (pronounced Canteeny (silent g), is home to a terrific museum that honors the Big Red One, the nickname of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division. BTW, the 1st Division celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017.
Talk about you-are-there dioramas, at the First Division Museum you don’t walk by them, you enter them and are fully enveloped by sight and sound as you connect from trenches and beaches to jungles and sand while going from World War I to Desert Storm. The museum plans to add a section depicting contemporary conflicts.
“It’s very powerful and compelling,” said Exec Director Paul Herbert, discussing the museum’s depictions.
What he hopes visitors will take away though, is an appreciation for the high price paid by people who serve in the military.
“It’s not just Division One, but all who serve our country. “Our soldiers have paid a high price for our freedom over the years. We’re telling the story of everyone who serves to defend our democracy,” said Herbert.
Don’t wait for the first robin or crocus to pop up to plan what to do or where to go for a spring vacation. Hotels and good B and B’s may already be booked and airlines will have few seats at the price you want. Make plans now
Good as Washington DC is, student groups may already have plane seats and hotel rooms so consider that destination for another time. Instead, Spring Break is a good chance to splash in a pool, visit and cross off a presidential museum or find an unusual children’s museum in a town not yet visited.
The suggestions listed here are Midwest destinations within a day’s drive of Chicago. The city’s schools are out April 6-10 and most suburban districts are out March 23-27 in 2020.
Arguably among the best indoor water parks are the ones at the Kalahari Resorts. If living in the Midwest, consider the African-themed one at the Wisconsin Dells. The resort really is a combination amusement park, movie and dining destination and games emporium.
I like the Dells as a summer or fall escape when the weather is predictable but spring is a good time to enjoy a resort that has so much to offer, guests might not feel the need to leave. Also check out other Wisconsin Waterparks for a spring Break.
Across the road is the Grand Rapids Public Museum which has fun explorations and a merry go round ride. From American Indian displays to inventions, an old-time streetscape and a giant clock, there is enough here to spend the day.
Where a dinosaur and orangutans hang out
People outside of Indianapolis may not know the city has a remarkable Children’s Museum charmingly guarded by a huge dinosaur and that the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the few places in the country that boasts a specialized orangutan center where visitors can watch these intelligent animals play and practice their cognitive game skills.
I love the Childeren’s Museum’s Take Me There exhibits. When I visited it was to China. Currently it is to Greece. And there really is a simulated flight there. And I was fascinated by everything the orangutans could do.
Ask a friend, ask a lover or ask a few people to join you to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine Feb. 14. It’s just nice to have a fun day in the middle of winter. Since Feb/ 14 comes on a Friday in 2020, celebrate the end of the week or the beginning of a fun weekend.
The ideas listed here are for Chicago but they could be adapted anywhere by substituting a local cooking class for No. 1, a decadent chocolate dessert for No. 2 and a different activity for No. 3. They range from pricey but yummy to free.
The Peninsula Chicago’s Shanghai Terrace is doing a Dim Sum for Lovebirds cooking class and dinner from Feb. 10 through Feb. 16. It includes a Chinese tea degustation, a class led by Chef de Cuisine Elmo Han and ends with a three-course dinner. The cost per couple is $888 but there is a less expensive option Feb. 15 only. It’s the two-hour Valentine’s Day Cooking Experience. At $480 a couple it includes tortellini making and a three-course lunch of oysters, pasta and dessert in The Lobby. (Gratuity and tax not included).
Peninsula Chicago is on Superior Street at Michigan Avenue. To make reservations or for more information call (312) 573 6620, toll-free at 1 866 288 8889, visit Peninsula Chicago or email reservations
The restaurant is not just among Chicagoan’s fave when it comes to hot dogs or Italian beef. It’s chocolate cake ranks among the town’s top dessert choices. So Portillo’s is shaping it famous cake into a heart for Valentine’s Day. A the single-layer chocolate iced cake, the treat will be available at Chicago area locations Feb. 7-16, but can be pre-ordered beginning Jan. 14, 2020 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
In addition, 100% of the purchase price of each Portillo’s Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake sold between January 14 and February 16 (capped at $25,000) will be donated to the American Red Cross. Portillo’s is supporting the American Red Cross Biomedical Services to ensure a safe and reliable blood supply is available for patients in need.
Heart-Shaped cakes will be available for purchase in-store February 7-16. Guests are encouraged to pre-order the cakes beginning on January 14 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.
Skate against the Chicago skyline or skate under the stars. Ice skating at Chicago’s Millennium Park below Cloud Gate (The Bean) is a popular winter activity encouraged by background music and a concession stand of hot chocolate. The skating is free. Visitors can bring their skates or rent, or use the rental free of charge if staying at a Hilton.
The historic Palmer House at Wabash and Monroe Streets, just west of the Art institute and Millenium Park is a Hilton. So is The Wit, a popular millennial hotel by Doubletree at State and Lake, a couple of blocks west.
Up the experience by doing lunch at Terao Piano which is a short walk up the bridge from the park to the third floor of the Art Institute of Chicago or an elevator ride up from the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Those entrances to the restaurant don’t have a museum charge. Or do dinner in the Park Grill right there at the skating rink.
Shopping, shows, sights and lights, Chicago’s festival markets and moments seem to be descending at express-train speed. But instead of shouting “stop the train,” take control of the season with a “staycation” that balances shopping with spa time, festival watching with fitness-center wellness and special exhibits with special cocktails.
Several Chicago hotels are putting together packages that make staying downtown a fun alternative to insanely commuting to catch events. Because holiday gifts and sights stretch from Macy’s on State and the Art Institute of Chicago to Magnificent Mile and the Lincoln Park Zoo, a good plan is to make your holiday headquarters a hotel near Michigan Avenue. Continue reading “Staycation for the holidays”
Make London your December holiday trip. The city is always bustling but during the holiday season stores go all out with spectacular windows, sparkling lights that line buildings and crisscross streets and music everywhere.
Pack comfortable shoes, warm scarf, hat and fly off to Heathrow (great shopping airport for last minute gifts before flying back). Take the Heathrow –London Express for the fastest way in (reserve ahead) or the Underground (Tube) or taxi to your hotel after checking options at Heathrow transport.
You are likely to find a place near where you want to be within your budget at Visit London. I like Marriott Hotel Marble Arch because it feels like a boutique hotel but is on a main tube stop and within easy walking distance to gaily decorated Oxford Street’s shops.
Once unpacked and ready to go, forget taxis. Traffic is so bad above ground that the meter runs while you wait through three lights to proceed through one intersection. Pick up a map of the Underground stations but wear those walking shoes.
London loves its Harrods for luxury items and Fortnum & Mason for gourmet foods but also likes the trendy stuff in the Sloan and Chelsea areas and the fun of shopping its famous markets
OK, have at it.
Knightsbridge: Take the Tube, get off to shop the Knightsbridgbe-Brompton Road-Sloane Street District where you can wander Harrods. I like the Food Hall. Then, go into Harvey Nichols and Sloan’s other high-end designers, even if just to look.
Snap photos of the Harvey Nichols Christmas windows (like Macy’s windows). They often tell a story like Cinderella. Tip: At Harrods and other London department stores you’ll see fun “crackers” which are good stocking-stuffers but airports started disallowing them after 9-11 so get one just for yourself to pop in your hotel room.
King’s Road: Another Underground stop would be Sloan Square for King’s Road and the Chelsea neighborhood filled with designer and trendy shops and Duke of York Square. Browse fun boutiques, cafés and the Chelsea Antiques Market.
Oxford Street: You’ll love the lights overhead if shopping at night and the windows any time of day. They all definitely set the holiday mood for stopping at Selfridges and Marks & Spencer.
If you didn’t get chocolates at Harrods, look for a Thorton’s across from the department stores. It’s a chain with really good candy. You can also find the Debenhams Department Store (founded in London in the 18th century) and several good clothing shops on the street. Which Tube stop that accesses Oxford Street depends on what stores you want to visit. The Bond Street station is closest to Selfridges.
Regent Street: Famous for its holiday lights and shops the street maintains a retreat area where you can relax during the holiday season. If you don’t mind walking, you can use the Piccadilly Circus Tube stop to pop into Fortnum & Mason and go over to Hamleys, an amazing toy store to visit even if you don’t have to buy a kid’s present. Dating to 1760, Hamleys is among the world’s largest toy stores. There is also Liberty, a high-end store in an elegant Tudor building that offers cutting-edge and clever accessories.
Or use the Oxford Circus station to hit Liberty and Hamley on Regent and then Fortnum & Mason at Piccadilly.
Opened in 1707 Fortnum & Mason has served the Royals since Queen Charlotte. You have to go here for the old atmosphere and to pick up something to take home.
While in the area of Piccadilly Circus or Bond Street walk down Savile Row if interested in a hand-tailored suit. Among shops to visit there are Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store, Henry Poole & company and Gieves & Hawkes. Also, go to the boutique filled Carnaby Street.
Covent Garden: You’ll find three unique markets here. Look for arts and crafts in the North Hall’s Apple Market. The East Colonnade Market has jewelry and handmade soap. Products in the Jubilee Market in the South Piazza vary by day from antiques on Monday to general items other weekdays and crafts on the weekend.
Camden Markets: Save time to explore the markets in Camden Town at the Camden Town or Chalk Farm Tube Stations. There’s the Camden Lock Market at the canal which was the original craft-stall place in the mid 1970s. The Camden Stables Market has fashions. Other markets including Inverness Street and Buck Street spread out across the area with clothes and other items. It’s a fun place to browse. https://www.camdenmarket.com/
You don’t have to load up the suitcase because the stores are happy to ship. But a good idea if you want to take presents back is to bring an extra bag. Remember airports don’t like wrapped boxes so plan to gift wrap at home.
Have fun shopping, browsing and seeing London during the holidays.