100,000 free Megabus tickets
Starting today, Megabus is offering 100,000 free seats on 28 bus routes for travel between January 6 and March 20, 2010.
Here's the breakdown: 40,000 of those seats are for travel to New York City, the rest reserved for other routes in the Northeast and Midwest. Use promo code GETAWAY to get a ticket.
As always, this offer is subject to availability, and a 50-cent booking fee applies. If your dates are flexible, you're more likely to get a free seat; there are only a certain number available on each route and each travel day.
The free seats are a joint venture with NYC & Company, the Big Apple's official marketing and tourism organization. Check out their website for a listing of winter events and promotions. For instance, Restaurant Week starts on January 25.
Megabus operates double-decker buses with free WiFi, power outlets, and reclining seats. Budget Travel gave Megabus an Extra Mile Award in 2008.
D.C.: Baby panda Tai Shan is leaving town
Since his birth on July 9, 2005, panda bear Tai Shan has become the tourism symbol of Washington, D.C. He appears on the city's subway fare cards and tourism posters. He's boosted attendance at the National Zoo, and drawn tens of millions of fans to the "panda cams" on the zoo's website. But officials announced today that the four year old bear is heading to back to China. I'll be wearing black and white in mourning. The exact date of Tai Shan's departure has not been set yet. He needs to get his visas approved, I guess. Panda details and photos at DCist. MORE Zoo Babies 2009
Sexy or Sexist? "The Girls of Ryanair" calendar
The low cost Irish airline Ryanair gives the word "take-off" new meaning with its racy annual 2010 "Girls of Ryanair Calendar, for about $15 via ryanaircalendar.com. About 800 of the 4,000 employees "volunteered" to put forth their sexiest poses to be among "the girls of Ryanair." All sales benefit a children's nonprofit. If your girlfriend gets angry, say it's for charity. MORE How Americans can fly Ryanair "10 Awesome Foreign Airports That Make Ours Look Awful"
Craft & Design museum turns 5
San Francisco is home to plenty of fantastic museums—SFMOMA and the deYoung immediately spring to mind. But next time you're in town, consider the San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design, located at 550 Sutter Street, less than two blocks from Union Square. The museum, which just celebrated its 5th-birthday, focuses on commercial art and design. Past exhibitions have featured 12 local graphic designers, a retrospective of wine labels, a collection of toys designed by artists, and the latest modern pieces from West Coast furniture designers. SFMC+D caught my eye because of its current exhibition, Michael Peterson's Evolution/Revolution. Peterson is a Pacific Northwest artist who uses wood to make beautiful, unexpected sculptures and objects. He emulates natural elements and their effect on wood; for example, he sometimes uses bleach to react with the surface of the wood, just like sun would "bleach" it over time. SFMC+D is open every day but Monday, and admission is a suggested donation of $3 for adults; kids 18 and under are free. Read the Seattle Times review of the exhibition. Check out all 26 of our hotel reviews in San Francisco, or fantastic reader photos in my Budget Travel.
Death in Venice: Residents plan the city's funeral
Three gondolas will escort a red coffin through Venice's famed canals this Saturday, November 14, in a symbolic funeral organized to highlight the disastrously shrinking population—which dropped below 60,000 at the end of October. There won't be a single full-time resident left in Venice by 2030, according to demographic predictions cited in Newsweek. The primary cause of death isn't the much-publicized acqua alta that floods St. Mark's Square and city streets annually, but rather the flood of tourists. Of the 55,000 average daily visitors, more than half are now daytrippers who drop in as part of a guided tour or choose to stay in nearby towns like Padua or Verona, where hotels and restaurants are cheaper. Venetian business owners used to charge higher prices to tourists, but now are charging those tourist prices to locals, too, in the struggle to get by. Wealthy outsiders who've purchased second or third homes in Venice have driven up property prices, while the recession and a dwindling tax base have led to service cuts, in what has become a vicious cycle prompting many to abandon the city. Twenty-five percent of residents are over 64, compared to an Italian average of 19 percent [via italymag.co.uk]. Andrea Morelli, who has an electronic population ticker in the window of his pharmacy off the Rialto Bridge, helped organize the funeral to draw attention to the mixed blessings of tourism. Newsweek's Barbie Nadeau reports: "Maybe this funeral doesn't have to be the end," he says. "It might be the beginning; it could even spur a rebirth." In fact, the weekend after Venice's population dipped below 60,000, 11 babies were born at a local hospital. "Now we just have to create a Venice [those new natives] will want to stay in," says Morelli. "We have to give them a reason not to leave."