Sunday, April 09, 2006

It's been a pleasure

Last year when we began this blog, we saw it as a means to augment our travel and tourism Web site,

It was a good idea at the time.

Right now, needs the time that we have been dedicating to the blog, however.

So, we're going to let this little puppy rest ... for at least a while.

Thanks for reading. Check in on

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April edition now online

New surrounds us this month.

New blades of grass poke through terra firma; new buds sprout from tree branches everywhere. There's even the whiff of social newness in the air, with protests across North America and France. We're rarely as excited about all the new things emerging in locations across the continent as we are this month.

Over at — our business travel and cultural consumer Web site — we have posted six new things (and their respective cities) that most piqued our interest this month.

For the entire month of April, these six cities will be on public pages you and your friends can access for free, giving you a dandy list of 36 new things to see and do this month (six new things in each of six destinations).

Subscribers, of course, can access the other 64 cities we cover (and the other 384 new things we write about this month) . You can
become a subscriber for just $24 a year. Since we'll uncover 5,040 new things for you to explore in North America over the next 12 months, don't think of a subscription as $2 per month ... just think of it as ½¢ per thing.

Here are some highlights from this month's edition of

One of the most fascinating new hotels to appear in some time, 21c, has just opened in - of all places - downtown Louisville. It's a hotel with valets on Segways and no check-in desk whatsoever.

For a contemporary look at art and architecture you may want to travel to Milwaukee/Madison to explore the new Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Leave it to a city as savvy as Chicago to think of Bodies of Work, the inaugural festival exclusively showcasing artists with disabilities.

And leave it to a metropolis as cool as San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley to design a series of events to commemorate the Great Earthquake and Fire with dignity.

On a more lighthearted vein, it's baseball season and the baseball fans in St. Louis cannot wait to clamber into their seats in the New Busch Stadium, premiering this month.

Even the nosebleed seats have great views, but you're nowhere near as high there as you will be if you ride the new Expedition Everest ride debuting this month at Disney World in Orlando.

May your April 2006 blossom into one of your best months ever! And be sure to check out this month's edition of

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ah, April in Branson...

To 7.2 million travelers each year, Branson (Missouri) is a destination of choice.

Having not been to the town since it was still a sleepy little place with a great swimming hole, we can't testify — we're more inclined to see something at Seattle's
On the Boards than to take in the Shoji Tabuchi Show, anyway. And — as much as we think she's got it goin' on beneath all the make-up, boobs and wigs — we'd much prefer a meal at an eatery like Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul than and evening at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner & Show.

But you cannot deny the Ozark Mountain entertainment anomaly that is packin' 'em in by the busloads.

Plus, there are a couple of "new things" are happening in Branson next month that cannot ignore:

Silver Dollar City. Since who knows when, travelers across the heartland of America have seen the roadside signs urging us to stop at Silver Dollar City. The 61-acre attraction is part theme park and part 1880s Ozark heritage center with craftsmen, restaurants and family-friendly shows. This month, they open all-new $8 million development called "The Grand Exposition".

The Silver Dollar City Web site says, "Steeped in the glory and rich traditions of its predecessors, like the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, The Grand Exposition is a celebration of American ingenuity and mechanical wonders. The Gateway to growth and opportunity for a young nation, it showcases for all the world to see the most amazing inventions of the 19th Century, including 10 New Family Rides that soar, whirl and fly!"

Also new will be "World-Fest", a show featuring: acrobatics, trapeze, gymnastics and clowning from the world-renowned Moscow Circus; the Zunyi Acrobats of China (in their first U.S. performance); musicians from the Czech Republic; mariachi performers from Mexico; a show with Irish dancers, musicians and storytellers; German stiltwalkers of Zebra Stiltzentheater; Swiss alpenhorn musicians; a steel drum band from Trinidad; and pan flute musicians from Ecuador.

The Grand Exposition will be unveiled when Silver Dollar City opens on April 6. World-Fest runs from April 6 through May 7. Silver Dollar City is located just West of Branson, south of Missouri State Highway 76. Just follow the signs. You won't miss it. +1.800.475.9370.

Branson Landing. The next time developers tell you they can't build a major mixed-used development in your part of the country because there aren't enough roof-tops, look 'em square in the eye and ask, "If they can do it in Branson, Missouri, why can't they do it here?"

Situated on a 95-acre site, Branson Landing is a new development positioned between U.S. Route 65 and Lake Taneycomo in downtown Branson, Missouri. A HCW Development Company and City of Branson project, Branson Landing will blend retail, hotel, convention center, condominium, and theater space in a master-planned complex, complemented by the Ozark Mountains nearby lakes.

The opening of $300 million master-planned project will also introduce the area's only traditional shopping district to Branson residents and visitors. When completed, within walking distance from the edge of Branson's existing tourist district will be: 450,000 square-feet of retail shopping; a water show from the same folks that designed The Bellagio's water display in Las Vegas; a new town square at the culminating point of Branson's Main Street; the Midwest's only Bass Pro Shops located on a lake with the ability to offer shoppers an opportunity for live-test boating and fishing equipment; a 68,000-square-foot Belk Department Store; a Hilton hotel; plus a slew of restaurants and condos.

The amazing new Ozark waterside development, Branson Landing on Lake Taneycomo, is scheduled to open next month.

Shoji who?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Named after the airfield where Lindbergh landed

When something "new" and intriguing pops up that was completely off the radar here at, our response is usually, "Dang! We wish we had known about that."

Le Bourget Aero Suites in Minneapolis provoked a big "Dang!" around here.

Part of our challenge has to do with our own definition of what's new. Our readers expect "new" to mean "opening within the next four weeks" or "no older than 6 to 8 weeks" for restaurants and other permanent things to see or do...even newer for temporary but long-running exhibitions and performances.

Like us, you may have encountered a "new restaurant" that turns out to be, well...old. We did that yesterday with a restaurant in Montréal that positioned itself as new. Turns out it really opened in 2000 and was, by now, deep in a restaurant's lifecycle...especially for a city that is as culinarily vibrant as Montréal.

Le Bourget Aero Suites, however, opened last December. Dang! Not new by our book, but you can still smell the fresh paint.

The residential-like hotel is located in Bloomington, not far from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and (ack!) Mall of America. It's also ten minutes from downtown Minneapolis and about 15 minutes away from the heart of St. Paul.

Le Bourget offers 160 cozy suites with custom beds, high-speed wireless internet, L’Occitane bath products, and shuttle service to both the airport and "the country's largest shopping mall".

It's also a good-looking hotel that touts its business traveler-friendly service and amenities.

O.K., so it's not the posher Grand Hotel Minneapolis, Hilton Minneapolis, or The Marquette.

But, at the much more affordable Le Bourget room rates, it certainly makes the hotel a nice place to touch down. Le Bourget Aero Suites is located at 7770 Johnson Ave. S., Bloomington, Minnesota, 952.893.9999.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pittsburgh Roars

As if winning the Super Bowl weren't enough to instill some, er...pride.

Pittsburghers have now been invited to make a lot more noise on Sunday during the launch of Pittsburgh Roars.

This time, however, the crowd roar is being fueled by more than 65 cultural, sports and entertainment venues, civic, community and economic development organizations, corporations, and foundations. These civic and community partners have joined together to launch months of public events, attractions and activities as part of Pittsburgh Roars.

Organizers even offer Pittsburgh Roars Pass key chains that will provide Roar-ers discounted tickets to all sorts of cultural and community activities through November and offer a "What's Happening" Web page so supporters can keep up.

Pittsburgh Roars begins this weekend — outside the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History — with bands, entertainers, drumming, and the debut of the Pittsburgh Roars public art project — giant inflatables, 20 to 30 feet high, that have been designed by local artists.

The celebration then continues inside the Carnegie Museum of Art with the opening of "Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals, 1750-1900" — an acclaimed exhibition created in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and one of the banner Pittsburgh Roars' events. (It's also one of the six new things for Pittsburgh featured this month at

There will also be a showcase of performances, activities and exhibits from Pittsburgh Roars partners throughout the day, teasing visitors with what's in store over the months ahead. The festivities get underway at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 26 at the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Serving the men and women who serve the U.S.

The lingering image of USOs that many of us have in our minds is the one that was shaped for us in black-and-white by Hollywood, or perhaps the lingering color images of USO-sponsored entertainment tours that dodged un-friendly fire and made the evening news regularly in the 1970s.

The United Service Operations celebrates its 65th year this year and is more than the "donut dollies" our fathers and grandfathers remember during World War II...when a pretty face and a cup of coffee meant more than any of us can imagine.

In 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt determined it would be best if private organizations handled the on-leave recreation of the rapidly-growing U.S. armed forces. Roosevelt's call to action led six civilian agencies to coordinate their civilian war efforts and resources to form a new organization — the USO. The six civilian agencies were the Salvation Army, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association and the National Jewish Welfare Board.

The USO is a private, nonprofit organization, supported entirely by private citizens and not part of the U.S. government.

Since 1941, during times of peace, the USO's role has sometimes shifted gears, its peace-time value has even been challenged. However, if there is one sure thing it is that — unless you're Switzerland — there will always be recurring international conflicts and there will always be a need for the USO.

The entertainment industry that is sometimes so reviled by the political Right knows this. Impressively, it has been supportive and involved with the USO all along. They still are today.

Recent USO tours have featured entertainers such as Wayne Newton, Robin Williams, Drew Carey, Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, Ben Affleck, James Avery, Kid Rock, Henry Rollins, Howie Long, Montgomery Gentry, Terry Bradshaw, Rascal Flatts, David Letterman, and "The Sopranos" stars James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico.

Domestic shows were added to the longstanding international tour list, featuring Sugar Ray Leonard, Emeril, "JAG" stars Karri Turner and John Jackson, and Rachel Proctor. Longtime USO entertainers, such as the Dallas Cowboys' Cheerleaders and Joan Jett, continue to donate their time and talents to entertain the troops.

Kid Rock, Emeril and David Letterman... God bless America.

Today, more than 10 years after it closed its doors on Guam, the Service Organization returns. With the help of volunteers and businesses — including the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association and the Royal Orchid Guam Hotel — the new USO facilities in the Royal Orchid open today to military service members and their guests, 626 Pale San Vitores Rd., Tumon, Guam, 671.649.2000.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Moving forward at a turtle's pace

The first thing that struck us about the new Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro, Arkansas, was its Web site. Its banner uses video footage of a turtle waddling around, like in some old, bad nature movie from the 1960s.

You can almost hear the announcer intone, "Here we see the common North American box turtles, or terrapene, forage for his diet of insects and berries..."

One might hope that that the mall's developers would have a little zippier image for its Jonesboro-area shopping clientele. Or maybe not...

Students at nearby Arkansas State University are excited about the new regional mall and its more-than 50 tenants (including Hollister, Aeropostale, Victoria's Secret, American Eagle, Barnes & Noble, Chico's, Gap, JC Penney). For them, the shopping center means fewer road trips to Memphis or Little Rock (probably a safer option for us all).

For students and others, The Mall at Turtle Creek also means employment and economic impact.
The center will bring 1,500 jobs to Jonesboro and is predicted to generate $22.5 million in retail sales.

What strikes us is the retail center's design, a throwback to 1970s development trends: an enclosed mall with big-box anchors and outparcels. With a "Main Street" design theme that wants to emulate current village-style retail center trends, the majority of the mall's offerings will still be under one, sprawling, one-story roof. You can already see the morning fitness walkers making their rounds.

But progress does not come without pushback. Some locals are concerned (of course) about the traffic and how the mall will change the character and, um... turtle's pace of the town of 55,000. The Jonesboro Sun quoted one ASU student as saying "I don't like the location though because the new traffic light does not change that often."

Which brings us back to that turtle video. Perhaps there are places that want to move slowly and perhaps there are people who want to live in slower-paced places.

So be it.

Here's a nice, smooth stone to sun yourself: The Mall at Turtle Creek has its grand opening on March 29, at the corner of Highland Dr. and Stadium Blvd., Jonesboro, Arkansas, 870.932.1400.