Travel Chicago - Tour The Must See Sites Even Local Chicagoans Visit!

Sunday, July 29, 2012 0 comments

The allure of Chicago is completely understandable. Located in the middle of the country amongst corn fields and pressed up against Lake Michigan, this fast paced action packed city is full of excitement. The winters are cold, but the summers are hot and fun-filled. There is more to do in Chicago, than someone could possibly complete in a lifetime.
But, for those travelers interested in seeing some of Chicago’s favorite sites through its residents’ eyes, please read on.
Signature Room at Hancock Tower - The top of the Hancock Tower provides one of the most amazing views of Chicago around. The Sears Tower may be taller, but the Hancock is closer to the lake and offers views of the Sears Tower itself. Skip the observation deck and instead make a trip to the Signature Room. You might run into local Chicagoans during brunch when prices are quite reasonable. Drinks are similarly priced to other lounges, so a nightcap is always a fun option, but dinner will set you back quite a bit. The restaurant is actually one floor above the viewing deck so you can enjoy an amazing view while eating and drinking. Location: Michigan Ave
Chicago Blues and Jazz - Chicago has long been well known as home to some of the world’s best Blues and Jazz musicians. This fact became evident even to non-music lovers in the 70s and 80s with classic movies such as the Blues Brothers and Adventure in Babysitting. For music fans, a trip to Chicago is not complete without experiencing some good blues or jazz. There are a wide variety of blues clubs located on the South Side and Jazz clubs such as the Green Mill in uptown, which has said to be frequented by Al Capone and other Chicago notables. But, if you are in town, check out the Chicago Blues Fest held in early June. Other summer music festivals include the Chicago Jazz Festival, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, and more. Location: The Green Mill is located at 4802 N. Broadway Ave.
Tru Restaurant - Charlie Trotter’s restaurant has made a name for itself throughout the United States and the world as the best place for a multi-course tasting menu. But locals know that the knew up and coming restaurant to beat is Tru’s restaurant. A four party visit will involve up to 12 courses, with each member of the party receiving different selections. Wow! One imagines how the cooks can possibly keep up, but throughout your 3 hour meal, you will never be disappointed by the wait staff or the chef. Location: 696 N. St. Clair St.
Chicago Museum Tour - Chicago has some of the best museums in the country. The Art Institute has one of the most amazing and large collections in the world. Take a walk through the museum on a Tuesday, when admission is free (although donations are always recommended) and if you are a movie fan remember the walk by Ferris Bueller. But, the Art Institute isn’t the only great museum in Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is a great museum where you can actually walk through a sub, and of course the FieldMuseum home to the Sue the largest T-Rex skeleton in the world.
Chicago Architecture Tour - Chicago’s name in architecture, began in the 1800s and continues today. If you want to take a walk and see the great architecture of Chicago, there is more than a day’s worth of sites. You can begin with famous buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright (check out the Unity Temple at 875 Lake St) and Louis Sullivan (Visit his famous Carson Pirie Scott flagship on State St). The Monadnock, and Mies van der Rohe’s Post office are also well worth a visit. For some modern masterpieces, visit the Illinois Institute of Technology’s campus to see Mies’ Crown Hall, Rem Koolhaas’ Campus Center, and Helmut Jahn’s new Dorms. A visit to Millennium Park is also worth a trip, where you can see one of Gehry’s latest and soon Renzo Piano’s addition to the Art Institute.
Chicago is home to some of the most city proud residents. And there is no wonder why- there is so much to see and do in Chicago! Check out the favorite tourist sites, but if you are interested in seeing some of the local’s favorite Chicago sites, check out the list above and see some of what truly makes Chicago special.

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Detroit Travel: A Bicycle Tour Through Corktown and Mexicantown

Sunday, July 22, 2012 0 comments

My discoveries of Detroit were slowly but surely coming to an end, and I had seen so many interesting places already in my whirlwind tour over the last four days. Just before I was ready to hop across the border to Windsor again, I had one more adventure on my schedule: a biking tour of Southwest Detroit to cover Corktown and Mexicantown.
After a filling breakfast at the Inn on Ferry Street I took their complimentary shuttle downtown to Rivard Plaza, right next to the Detroit Riverwalk. At 10 am I met Kelly Kavanaugh, co-owner ofWheelhouse Detroit, Downtown Detroit’s first bike rental facility for more than 30 years. Wheelhouse also provides bicycle repairs and service and offers a variety of tours of different Detroit neighbourhoods.
Wheelhouse Detroit was founded by friends Kelli Kavanaugh and Karen Gage, two young women who have been active in the Detroit non-profit and urban planning scene for years. Equipped with advice from fellow entrepreneurs, start-up funding from the city’s micro-credit program and their own savings they embarked on their entrepreneurial venture and bought 30 bicycles which includes comfortable cruisers, city mountain bikes, kids bikes, trailers and even a tandem.
Their bikes are made by Kona, a philanthropically inclined manufacturer that donates bicycles to non-profit organizations in Africa. Along with other people I have met over the last four days, Kelli and Karen are an example of the new breed of Detroit entrepreneurs who combine their love for the city with hard work and entrepreneurial creativity.
On a brilliant but rather cool and windy October day Kelli and I headed off westwards along the the Detroit Riverwalk and quickly passed the General Motor Renaissance Centre and Hart Plaza, the civic centre of Detroit. The Detroit International Riverfront covers an area stretching from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle and encompasses numerous parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers and residential areas along the Detroit River. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in the last few years to revitalize this extensive area.
The Detroit Riverwalk is a recreational multipurpose path that stretches 5.5 miles (almost 9 km) along Detroit’s riverfront and provides separate lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists or inline skaters. Wheelhouse Detroit is located inside Rivard Plaza, an outdoor space that features the Cullen Family Carousel, an inlaid granite map of the Detroit River, fountains and gardens. Rivard Plaza was opened in June of 2007 and also features the Riverwalk CafĂ©.
Cycling west on the Riverwalk, Kelli started to tell me about her venture and about her passion for cycling in Detroit. As the city is quite spread out and a lot of the traffic concentrates on the city’s characteristic sunken expressways, the downtown area is surprisingly free of traffic congestion and cycling-friendly. In my past four days in Detroit I did not encounter any traffic jams downtown, a surprising experience when you come from a congested place like Toronto.
As we pedaled against the wind we passed by several more Detroit landmarks - Cobo Arena, the Cobo Convention Centre and the Joe Louis Arena - home of the Detroit Red Wings. Leaving the downtown area behind we headed into southwest Detroit.
The first neighbourhood that greeted us was Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, so named after the Irish immigrants from County Cork that settled here. The houses in this area date back to 1834 and feature nicely restored Victorian homes, many of them brightly painted. Corktown also has many cool gathering spots and eateries, including the funky Zeitgeist Gallery, a bar called Nemo’s which was voted No. 3 “perfect sports bar in the US by Sports Illustrated , and LJ.’s – a hip karaoke place, as well as a wide range of other diverse restaurants.
We snaked our way through this pleasant neighbourhood and crossed over a railway bridge that provided a perfect view of one of Detroit’s most stunning architectural structures: the Michigan Central Depot, also called the Michigan Central Station. Although now abandoned and in poor condition, the Michigan Central Station is a railroad station that was built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad. Its main Beaux-Arts train station is flanked by an 18 storey office tower, a monumental building whose outline dominates South-West Detroit’s skyline. Due to its sheer size and its magnificent architectural detailing, the Michigan Central Depot is still one of Detroit’s most impressive buildings, despite its sad current state.
Past the railroad bridge we arrived in Mexicantown, a vibrant neighbourhood that has undergone significant economic growth in the last few years. Kelly showed me the Michigan International Welcome Centre, a brand-new commercial development in close proximity to the Ambassador Bridge. 85 businesses will welcome visitors in The Mercado, and they will cater to locals and out-of-towners alike with a broad assortment of merchandise.
Further west we cycled by a long strip of Mexican restaurants that include popular eateries such as Mexican Village, El Zocalo, Evie’s Tamales, Lupita’s and Xochimilco. A ride through this neighbourhood revealed an extensive collection of late Victorian homes fronted by large trees. The main streets in the area are Bagley Street and Vernor Street which are flanked by numerous storefronts and eateries.
Away from the main thoroughfares and tucked into the neighbourhood is St. Anne De Detroit Catholic Church, the eighth church in this location whose cornerstone was laid in 1886. The church was originally founded on July 26, 1701, two days after Antoine Mothe de la Cadillac (the founder of Detroit) and his French settlers arrived. Today it is the second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States. Nowadays the congregation includes many Hispanic parishioners who come together to worship in this impressive Gothic Revival structure.
One stop on our bicycling tour included the Hotel Yorba, which inspired the hit single by Detroit garage rock band “The White Stripes”. Today this former hotel provides subsidized housing. We started cycling back to the main road and passed by Clark Park, a large public park on Detroit’s southwest side. Cycling back east on Vernor we saw another strip of Mexican-owned businesses.
On the way back we made a stop in front of the Michigan Central Station where Kelly explained that this is the departure point for the annual “Tour de Troit” event, a 40-mile cycling tour of Detroit that has been attracting biking enthusiasts since 2001. Both Kelli and her business partner Karen have been actively involved in helping to organize this popular biking event. Attendance increased from 650 participants in 2007 to 1100 participants in 2008. Kelly explained that biking is definitely taking off in Detroit. The Tour de Troit event also raises funds for dedicated bicycle trails.
We now turned onto Michigan Avenue, one of Detroit’s main thoroughfares. Stopping regularly we had a look at various bars, cafes and galleries that populate this stretch of the road. One of our final stops was at the Old Tiger Stadium, the former home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The stadium was originally opened in 1912 and unfortunately partially demolished in 2008. A group of dedicated local citizens is fighting to keep the remaining portions of the stadium intact.
Our tour concluded with a ride through Detroit’s downtown business district and ended back atWheelhouse's location on Rivard Plaza. Given that I am an avid bicycling enthusiast myself, exploring Detroit on two wheels was a real highlight of my five-day stint in this city. Bicycling is simply the best way of discovering a city – allowing you to cover great ground at manageable speeds while getting much needed exercise. Being able to easily stop anywhere is a great added benefit for an avid travel photographer like me.
Now thoroughly invigorated I thanked Kelli for introducing me to a completely different side of Detroit and set off to have lunch in the open outdoor space in front of the Wintergarden at the Renaissance Centre. The “RenCen”, the international headquarters of General Motors, consists of seven skyscrapers centered around the 73-story central tower that holds the Detroit Marriot Hotel. This structure has also been the highest building in Michigan since 1977.
The top of the hotel holds Coach Insignia, a fine dining restaurant with the most fabulous views of the city. In 2003 GM renovated the entire complex at a cost of $500 million which added the five-story Wintergarden, a light-flooded glass-enclosed atrium that overlooks the Detroit River. I grabbed my lunch, went outside and enjoyed the fall sun and the magnificent view across the river to Windsor while reflecting on my five action-packed days in Detroit.
Shortly after I called the shuttle service of the Inn on Ferry Street and minutes later I got whisked away. I made a final stop in Greektown, one of Detroit’s most popular entertainment districts. Most of the houses along Monroe Street date back to the Victorian era and today feature restaurants and cafes on the main level. The Greektown Casino is a major attraction in the area.
This exciting morning had concluded my visit to Detroit. I picked up my suitcase, hopped in my car and took the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel back to Canada. On the way back to Toronto I reflected on what an exciting and fascinating destination Detroit had been. During these past few days I got to see so many different facets of Detroit, and I had a chance to meet several people who are truly passionate about their city. It’s always great to get to know a city from the perspective of an insider.
I had had a thoroughly great time in Detroit and over the past five days I had seen so many things I had never expected. And I realized there were so many more places I didn’t get to see.

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Adventure Travel Tour Guiding Among Best Summer Jobs

Sunday, July 15, 2012 0 comments
Adventure travel companies are similar to land tour companies. Guides give guests the time of their lives while they are in Alaska for vacation. Seasonal work with adventure companies is available for people wanting to see the country from a slightly different angle.

College students and other adventure seekers can come to Alaska and work their way across the country. Adventure travel is popular for those people that are looking for a more active type of vacation. Guests no longer want to sit on the sidelines and just observe the happenings. They want to get involved. This is where adventure touring comes into play.
Adventure tours allow guests to view the unspoiled nature of Alaska. They can take a wildlife excursion to view Alaskan bears, caribou, moose, and Dall sheep. Seeing the land from a zipline is breathtaking and fun for the younger visitors to Alaska.

Some adventure travel is associated with wilderness lodges. Guides lead guests on bicycle tours, hiking trips, and river rafting tours. A guide needs to be able to troubleshoot problems with equipment and medical situations during the adventure. You may be called on to take fishermen out for a day on the lake or guide a hunting party.

Adventure travel companies lead all sorts of tours. Eco-friendly tours are conducted to national parks and preserves in Alaska. These tours allow guests to see the country but are more for learning about nature and its components. Tours are conducted on land and along bodies of water.
Adventure travel jobs are varied. Workers can choose from several guide positions: jeep guides, nature guides, kayak guides, white water rafting guides, bus escort, bus driver, canoe guides, bicycle leader, backpacking guide, fishing guides, rock climbing, walking guides, and wildlife jobs. Depending on where you work in Alaska, you could be a skiing guide.

Travel companies also need to fill office positions within the company. Tours have to be organized and the logistics of travel worked out before guests arrive for their adventure. People in these support positions work hard to see that the jobs of the others are a bit less hectic. These positions include bookkeepers, administrative assistants, and booking agents. Adventure companies associated with lodges need administrative help at the sites. These positions give seasonal workers a chance to see Alaska as well.
Room and board are provided by the adventure travel company for their workers. Toru guides travel with the guests from place to place. Guides associated with adventure lodges are housed in staff quarters and provided with gourmet meals like those enjoyed by the guests. Workers can also use the facilities available to guests and enjoy adventures as a perk of their employment.

When applying for job openings with an adventure travel company, play to your strengths if you can. Any experience that you have in a particular area, say fishing, white water rafting, and mountain biking, will help to acquire a guide job with an adventure company. This is not a requirement but it helps.
Let's look at a job as a canopy guide for example. The position requires that guides lead guests through the zip course. They are responsible for the safety and training of the guests while they are in their care. Guides also keep up with inspections of the equipment used and the course followed.

It sounds like a lot, but most employers are willing to train guides for the job. Generally, they are looking for people who are outgoing, possessing customer service skills, and are willing to work hard. Many tour guide training programs are punctuated by skills assessments and tests before the worker is allowed to guide a group. Interviews allow employers to size up workers to see if they possess the skills to make it in a position with the company.

Sometimes certifications are needed for various positions. You can learn this ahead of time by studying job descriptions. If you have narrowed down the position you want, take steps to fulfill the certification requirements after you apply for the job. This shows how serious you are about working and will impress the employer during an interview.

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Expert Travel And Tour Tips For The Napa Valley

Sunday, July 8, 2012 0 comments

Traveling to the Napa Valley? Here are some important travel tips to keep in mind as you prepare your trip.
The Napa Valley is Northeast of San Francisco and about the same distance from SFO airport, Oakland airport and Sacramento airport.

Speaking of distances, here are some travel times to other Northern California destinations:
• Napa to San Francisco about an hour and a half to two hours.
• Napa to Carmel/Monterey about three and a half hours.
• Napa to Yosemite Valley about 4 hours.
• Napa to Mendocino about 3 hours or so.
• Napa to Reno about 4 hours but more in the Winter.
• Napa to Los Angeles about 6 and a half hours.

Sacramento Airport – This is definitely your airport of choice if you are flying in AND your local airport has flights that go there. It is so much easier to exit the terminal, get a rental car, be on your way and drive to Napa (about one hour door to door).

If you arrive early on a weekday, you will encounter some commute traffic as you head toward Napa – so, your drive will take more than an hour.
If you are leaving Napa mid-afternoon on a weekday, ADD extra time to your travel plans to make sure you are able to get to the airport on time.
Can’t avoid San Francisco or Oakland airports?
Here are some travel tips.
These airports are on major commute corridors.
SFO – Unless you are arriving around noon or leaving about 3:00 PM or traveling after about 6:00 PM you will be DEEP in the middle of commute traffic. On a good day the trip will be about an hour and 15 minutes. On a bad day it can be over 3 hours of travel time. Plan according to your arrival time.
Oakland Airport – Unless you are arriving around noon or leaving about 3:00 PM or traveling after about 6:00 PM you will be DEEP in the middle of commute traffic. On a good day the trip will be about an hour and 15 minutes. On a bad day it can be over 3 hours of travel time.

No, that’s not a typo, both airports are about the same distance from the Napa Valley and use the same freeways. So, plan according to your arrival time. Or, better yet, use the Sacramento Airport.
Other considerations include whether a major sports game is being played on the day you are arriving or leaving or whether there is major earthquake retrofit work going on one of the bridges you are crossing.
Speaking of bridges, tolls are $5 on the Golden Gate, $3 on the Bay Bridge and the Carquinez Bridge. Both the Bay and Carquinez toll rates are currently under review and will likely go up.

Some freeways allow you to use a commute lane if you have two or more and sometimes three or more people in your vehicle. Watch for the sign to tell you if you have to have two or three total occupants in your vehicle. The ticket costs a minumum of $271 if you are pulled over by the Highway Patrol.
If you have more time or are already in San Francisco or neighboring towns, another beautiful drive is to travel over the Golden Gate bridge.

It is typical urban traffic in town, can be congested during weekday commute times, but is a nice scenic drive once you head East on Hwy 37 and turn North on to Hwy 121. This route is about 10 miles longer but can be about the same time or even less than the other routes because of less commute congestion.
The Napa Valley is a gorgeous international destination to visit.
With a little thought and preparation, you will have a wonderful visit.
Have a great trip.

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South India Tour Travel Holidays

Sunday, July 1, 2012 8 comments

South India tour that a trip to India makes you with beach tour, wildlife tour South India, Monuments, temples, cultural and art gallery tour, South India sightseeing tour, ayurveda and backwater tour that provides beautiful scenic views and stay in luxury beach resorts in South India.

South India Tour includes Enchanting Kerala tour that includes tour to Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady, Kumarakom, Allepey, Trivandrum, Kanyakumari, Trivandrum while South India tour accommodation consists in 5, 4, 3 star hotels that you can select as per your budget. Apart from enchanting Kerala tour a trip to India offers you with Culture & Heritage exotic South India tour and South India Pilgrimage Tour that includes tour to Bombay, Goa, Belgaum, Badami, Aihole, Hospet, Hassan, Madikeri, Mysore, Bangalore, Chennai, Kanchipuram, Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Trichy, Thanjavur, Madurai, Rameshwaram, Coimbatore, Ooty, Nagarhole.

India Tour packages includes adventure tour where you have chance to experience mountaineering, camping and rock climbing on the various mountain ranges in India along with adventure sports. Apart from this it also includes Wildlife tours that takes you to wildlife safaris and visit the wildlife sanctuaries of India. India is also known for cultural diversity which you can experience during classical India tours, fair and festival tours and arts and crafts tours which offer you the scope to experience the cultural diversity of India.

India is a vast country with different states and tourist destinations and sightseeing places. Golden Triangle tours under India tour take you to renowned tourist destinations in north India and central India where you can visit to tourists places at Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan, and Varanasi, Khajuraho, Amritsar, Mandawa, Sarnath, Mumbai and other tourist spots. It also includes South India tour to visit Bangalore, Mysore and Ooty under south golden triangle tour.

While South India tour you also get chance to Visits to the Holy Saints of South India that takes you to tour to Puttaputhy, Tirupati, Chennai, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Trivandrum, Delhi. This tour is starts from Delhi where you visit to red fort, Raj Ghat, Jama Masjid, Humayun's Tomb, Safdarjung's Tomb and Qutab Minar. After Delhi tour you get chance to visit to Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram at Puttaparthi. After Puttaparthi South India tour takes you to Tirupati where you visit to Lord Balaji Temple. After this India tours get its way to Mahabalipuram where you visit to Kanchipuram and Kamakshi Temple. After mahabalipuram you visit to Kanchipuram which is the most famous of the 'temple cities' of Tamil Nadu. Here you get chance to visit kanyakumari and Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram at Trivandrum.

A trip to India also provide complete tour to palms and backwaters Kerala that include tour to Cochin, Periyar, Munnar, Kumarakom, Alappuzha, Kovalam, Trivandrum. This tour consists scenic route filled with plantations of rubber, cardamom, cocoa, green pepper and areca nut, to the wildlife reserve at Periyar together with Spice & Handicraft shops and shopping at Ernakulam. Visitors can also go for famous hill station at Kerala and visit to Kumarakom near Kottayam and stay in one of the backwater resorts. Tour to South India takes tourists to Kovalam that is famous for beach of Kerala, with three adjacent crescent beaches and international beach Resort with full of Coconut trees. You can also take your way to Trivandrum that provides most scenic views, Ayurvedic Massage, Water Sports, Kathakali dance performance and backwaters, is among the most beautiful states of India.

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