Avoid Spring Break Crowds With a Late-Winter Trip to These Destinations
February may be the shortest month of the year, but there is still time left to plan a quick getaway. There's also the added bonus of special events for Black history month, Lunar New Year celebrations, and restaurant weeks that pop up around the country. Beat the spring break crowds, higher prices, and congested airports that come along with March and April, and head to the cities below for a quick romantic retreat, educational day trip, or a fun weekend getaway.
Meet Boston, the official destination marketing organization for the Greater Boston area, is partnering with Boston and Cambridge hotels this winter to offer visitors a $100 prepaid gift card and a $25 Legal Sea Foods gift card with bookings of two nights or more at participating hotels. This offer is valid for stays through March 15, 2024 (subject to availability).
“In Boston we embrace winter with a variety of activations – from strolling outdoor art installations to unrivaled dining experiences to ice skating across the city,” said Martha Sheridan, President and CEO of Meet Boston. “And, with a wide breadth of hotel offerings, we have experiences suitable for family adventures, friends getaways, wellness retreats and luxe escapes. This $100 pre-paid gift card is an added incentive for guests to get out and experience Boston for themselves.”
With the launch of Meet Boston’s new website, which includes a booking platform and itinerary builder, travelers can find all the resources they need in one place. They can book hotels, customize their stays and find information about upcoming events. Winter highlights in Boston include:
- Boston’s incredible food scene, including Dine Out Boston beginning March 10, in which participating restaurants will offer prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner at a special price.
- Celebrate Black History Month in February by following the Black Heritage Trail or by supporting one of Boston’s many Black-owned businesses.
- Visitors can also celebrate the Lunar New Year with events and offerings in Chinatown and beyond, including The Chinatown Main Street Flower Market with colorful decorations and flowers to honor The Year of the Dragon, the Lunar New Year Cultural Village with lion dances, performances, singing and more, and the annual Chinese New Year Lion Dance Parade.
- Embrace cozy season with cocktails or cocoa fireside at hotels with beautiful fireplaces like The Lenox Hotel, The Newbury Boston, Fairmont Copley Plaza, Mandarin Oriental, Boston, and more.
- Ice skating rinks also abound throughout the city; a full listing is available here.
- Snowport in the Seaport includes shopping, rooftop igloos, outdoor fun and games like curling, and more.
- Winteractive is a free and walkable art experience featuring 16 artworks and interactive play elements, presented by the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.
- Greenway winter activations are highlighted by whimsical Hatchling light displays and the Moki Sauna and Cold Plunge pop-up.
The U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a collection of churches, courthouses, schools, museums and other landmarks across 14 states that played a pivotal role in advancing social justice in the 1950s and 1960s, shifting the course of history. In Memphis, sites along the trail were pivotal in the movement and highlight legacy and the powerful reminder of the struggles and sacrifices made by activists to achieve equality and justice for all. These landmarks serve as a source of education and inspiration for future generations, ensuring the Civil Rights Movement is not forgotten and provides a space for reflection and remembrance.
This year, the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery is one of the newest sites along the trail. The new addition makes 15 Tennessee sites, including the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville and Green McAdoo Cultural Center in Clinton. Visitors can plan a Tennessee Civil Rights Trail road trip and explore the state's pivotal role in advancing social justice.
Ernest C. Withers was an acclaimed photographer. Some of his most famous shots are those taken during his coverage of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike in 1968, which culminated in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through the power of photographs and stories, the Withers' collection tells the story of Memphis and broader American history in the Civil Rights Movement.
“Having the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery on Beale Street added to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail is a significant honor for both the Withers family, and our destination,” said Kevin Kane, President and CEO of Memphis Tourism. “Ernest Withers' photography captured impactful moments during the civil rights movement, highlighting the bravery and determination of those fighting for equality. We are proud to have his legacy as part of the Memphis and Beale Street story, and the museum's collection recognized as essential to our city and nation's history. This inclusion also raises additional awareness of the historic Beale Street site, encouraging locals and visitors to engage and learn from the powerful stories that the Withers Museum preserves and shares."
The Withers Collection Museum & Gallery joins three other new sites along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, including The International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, The Fredericksburg Civil Rights Trail in Virginia, and Holt Street Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Chi Town has a number of incredible events happening in February this year. The Chicago Auto Show, taking place from February 10-19, 2024, is the largest auto show in North America and has been held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent. This year marks the 116th edition. Held in McCormick Place, the Chicago show features multiple world and North American introductions and the complete range of domestic and imported passenger cars, trucks, sport-utility vehicles, minivans, and experimental and concept cars. In total, the 2024 Chicago Auto Show boasts hundreds of different vehicles from more than two dozen different manufacturers. In addition, you'll find numerous automotive accessories and auto-related exhibits, competition vehicles, project cars, antique and collector vehicles, and interactive exhibits.
Chicago Theatre Week (February 8 - 18, 2024) features value-priced tickets to more than 100 performances at theaters across the city, from musicals to improv to dramas and beyond. Experience everything Chicago theatre has to offer for just $15 or $30 (or less!). Chicago Theatre Week is presented by the League of Chicago Theatres in partnership with Choose Chicago. Now in its 12th year, this highly anticipated event allows visitors and locals to sample the extraordinary range of theatrical offerings throughout the Chicago area.
Welcome the Year of the Dragon on February 18, 2024 with traditional lion dances, cultural performances, and more during this colorful celebration. The Lunar New Year Parade will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the intersection of 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue and travel north on Wentworth towards the viewing stand at Cermak and Wentworth. The parade will feature traditional dragon and lion dancing teams, colorful floats, marching bands and marching groups.
Finally, don't miss the Mac & Cheese Crawl, "Chicago's Cheesiest Crawl," on February 24, 2024. You definitely won't go hungry as you crawl through Wrigleyville's best bars eating mac and cheese while throwing back some drinks with friends.
St. Augustine, Florida
Florida's Historic Coast is well-known for its rich Spanish and British history, but it's becoming even more recognized for its significant place in African American history. It spans centuries, from the arrival of black Spanish soldiers in the 16th century and the country's original Underground Railroad in the 1700s to the birthplace of the first African American college graduate in 1824 to historic protests and sit-ins by Black activists including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s, paving the way for the Civil Rights Act. In February, Florida's Historic Coast recognizes Black History Month with a host of events, programs and historic spaces..
The Crisp-Ellert Art Museum at Flagler College hosts cultural and historical exhibitions to expand students' artistic knowledge. Through February 21, the gallery will host “Golden Thread” by New York artist Ilana Harris-Babou. Lectures, cultural events and museums offer an array of activities, from lectures to historical reenactments, for an immersive experience. Head to downtown St. Augustine for the moving “I Lived Here, As Well – Together,” at the Ximenez-Fatio House. This historical performance offers a first-person perspective of an enslaved man and woman, from enslavement to freedom. This program is offered every Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning beginning February 8 and continuing through the end of the month.
The Lincolnville neighborhood is the epicenter of Black history in St. Augustine. Visitors interested in its history can visit the Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center or walk the ACCORD Freedom Trail Project, which consists of 31 historic markers located at various sites significant to the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement. A cell phone audio tour is available by calling 904-335-3002.
The Fort Mose Jazz and Blues Series returns for two weekends, February 8 through February 17, and boasts performances by heavy hitters like Common, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Keb' Mo' and more. Live from the Waterworks, a series presented by the St. Johns Cultural Council and Gamble Rogers Music Festival, welcomes Grammy-nominated musician and songwriter Jontavious Willis on February 17 to the historic Waterworks venue.
Florida's Historic Coast is a playground for foodies looking for unique and delicious experiences. In the extensive culinary landscape, there are plenty of Black chefs making their mark on the food scene. Executive Chef Denzel Aponte creates exquisite seafood specialties at The Reef Restaurant; the menu of Prohibition Kitchen features Southern comfort and bar dishes with a twist, crafted by Executive Chef Lashunta Harris and her team. Beloved local chef Tyrone Bennett is known for his philanthropy as much as his killer soul food at his food truck and brick and mortar, Heart and Soul Food Eatery. Growers Alliance Café and Gift Shop sources fair trade, pesticide-free coffee from around the world, serving a selection of beverages, whole beans and health baked goods. And don't miss the food trucks! Chef Ibrahim Mahem churns out delicious Tanzanian cuisine at his African Love Kitchen, while The T.R.E.N. in West Augustine, with chef Natalya Axen at the helm, delivers fried specialties and soul food classics.
A Surprising "Dry Tripping" Destination: California Wine Country
"Dry January" may have come to a close, but if you have long-term resolutions to limit alcohol consumption, check out this unlikely destination: Sonoma County, California. From creative mocktails to inventive alcohol-free concoctions, the area is home to a burgeoning scene of expert mixologists and crafters. While you're in town, don't forget to take time to relax in other healthy ways by partaking in outdoor experiences in one of the most scenic regions on the West Coast. Enjoy ciders on tap Friends enjoy drinks by Giovanna Gomes - Unsplash Pomme Cider Shop & Taproom is introducing visitors to the emerging world of cider. Located just off the Sonoma Plaza, this bright and airy space exudes a charming French ambiance. Serving as both a taproom and a bottle shop, Pomme Cider Shop & Taproom boasts a diverse selection of local ciders and imports from Spain and France, complemented by a range of French rosés and champagnes. The venue offers an immersive experience with 18 ciders on tap, available by the glass or in flights, showcasing the best flavors from the West Coast and beyond. With over 100 bottled ciders sourced globally, patrons can explore a tapestry of cider varieties. Pomme goes beyond ciders, featuring pét-nats, grower Champagnes, orange wines, all available by the bottle. To enhance the tasting experience, the shop provides charcuterie and cheeseboards, creating the perfect pairing for noshing between sips. Try unique citrus shrub drinks Fresh citrus in Sonoma County by Arya Jalundhwala - Unsplash Gold Ridge Organic Farms offers a delightful range of Citrus Shrub Drinks, also known as drinking vinegars. Rooted in 17th-century England and Colonial America, shrubs were originally used as preservatives for fruit. Lavender Lemonade, crafted from hand-picked Meyer Lemons, apple cider vinegar, and True English Lavender, present a refreshingly bright and floral flavor with a subtle sweet-tart balance. Another standout is the Mandarin-Kumquat, a hybrid citrus grown on the West County farm. blending the tartness of kumquats with the sweetness of Satsuma mandarin for a perfectly balanced and refreshing taste. These unique shrubs, along with all Gold Ridge Organic Farms' apple cider vinegars, are handcrafted locally by Little Apple Treats in Sebastopol. Additionally, the orchards are proudly Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth, ensuring the highest quality standards. Visit an innovative brewery Rolling hills in Petaluma, California by Samuel Marsh - Unsplash Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma is known for its innovative and often irreverent approach to brewing, with a commitment to producing high-quality and flavorful beers. Their Petaluma brewery and taproom have a distinctive, laid-back atmosphere, and its beer labels often feature whimsical and humorous artwork. Lagunitas Brewing Company offers two options for those interested in alcohol-free or low ABV beverages: a Hoppy Refresher and an IPNA (non-alcoholic IPA). The Hoppy Refresher is a zero-alcohol, zero-calorie, zero-carbohydrate, extra-low-gluten beverage with all the flavor of a highly hopped beer. The IPNA is a full-bodied, hoppy IPA with herbal, tea-like notes, and the aroma of lemon zest and just 0.50% ABV. Take a taste of Sonoma home Want to take the taste of wine country home with you? Look for this Sonoma-made seltzer. H20 Sonoma Soft Seltzer 0.0% is a unique beverage that combines the purity of Sonoma County water with the essence of winegrapes. Infused with 100% California varietal winegrapes, premium dealcoholized wine, and natural flavor extracts, this refreshment is the first wine-infused drink with zero alcohol. Catering to those who enjoy the taste of wine but prefer an alcohol-free option, H2O contains potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B12, with only 30-60 calories per 16 oz. can. It is a sparkling soft seltzer crafted to showcase the fine wine varietals, offering a California wine-infused experience with 0.0% alcohol, no artificial flavors, no added sugar, and no detectable sulfites. Relax in nature Forest foliage in Sonoma County by David Singleton - Unsplash There are plenty of other ways to enjoy an endorphin rush in Sonoma County. From zip-lining between towering redwood trees to kayaking down the Russian River or whale watching from the headlands of Bodega Bay, where film director and screenwriter Alfred Hitchcock shot “The Birds” movie. Stop to smell the flowers in Jack London State History Park - Hikers, horseback riders, or nature lovers will delight in seeing blossoms along the trails of Jack London State Historic during peak wildflower season in February through August. To help visitors make the most of the natural splendor, the park provides a free online “Blooming Now” guide to the latest blossoms at the 1,570-acre park, with photos, names, and recently spotted locations. Visitors can seek out a variety of flowers, with names like California Buttercup, Pacific Hounds Tongue, and Checker Lily. The “Blooming Now” guide will be updated every two weeks through August 31, 2024. The guide is easy to print or follow online for walkers and hikers as they seek and identify the blooms found along the park's 29 miles of trails. In addition to admiring the wildflowers, visitors can enjoy the park's historic side and learn about the lives of famed author Jack London and his wife, Charmian, who made the place they called “Beauty Ranch” their home.Encounter the "living sculptures" of bonsai - Experience a world of serene beauty and intricate craftsmanship both indoors and outside, at Sonoma Botanical Garden's new The Art & Science of Bonsai exhibit. Take in a fusion of modern and classic forms, from graceful uprights to dramatic windswept styles with more than 20 amazing, tiny trees, meticulously nurtured and shaped by local artisans and each a testament to the patience and creativity involved in bonsai's contemplative art form. Then stroll the Garden's paths to see some of the full-sized species showcased in the exhibit (through March 22, 2024).
Tennessee is home to a number of landmarks, museums, and educational destinations focused on African-American history and culture. While February is an opportune time to visit and celebrate Black History Month, the destinations below are worth planning a vacation to during any time of the year. Bessie Smith Cultural Center (Chattanooga, Tennessee) The Bessie Smith Cultural Center, founded by empowering visionary leaders from Chattanooga, pays homage to the late “Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith. The center preserves and celebrates African American history and culture through art, education, research and entertainment. Exhibits incorporate technology, interactive kiosks and a children's education corner. The new exhibit “Chattanooga's Black Soundtrack” highlights local artists, like Usher Kane Brown and The Impressions. Visit black-owned businesses and restaurants in Chattanooga. Beck Cultural Exchange Center (Knoxville, Tennessee) Beck Cultural Exchange Center - courtesy of TN Department of Tourist Development The Beck Cultural Exchange Center is a historic community treasure dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting artifacts and evidence of contributions relating to history and culture of African Americans in East Tennessee and America. The center creates immersive educational experiences to promote learning for present and future generations. From arts and culture to attractions, restaurants, breweries and businesses, here are additional ways to celebrate Black history in Knoxville. Green McAdoo Cultural Center (Clinton, Tennessee) Green McAdoo Cultural Center - courtesy of TN Department of Tourist Development Learn about the courageous stories of the Clinton 12, who bravely fought for equal access to education. Green McAdoo Cultural Center shares he legacy of what happened in 1956 and how it shaped the students and the community. Step inside a 1950s classroom and follow the chronological story of desegregation at Clinton High School, the first integration of a public high school in the South, with life-size photographs and narratives. Listen to stories from the students in episode three of the TN Civil Rights Trail podcast. Travel Tennessee's stops on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail. Nearest Green Distillery and Humble Baron (Shelbyville, Tennessee) An unlikely friendship created maybe the greatest story you've never heard, told at Nearest Green Distillery. Tour the distillery and taste Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which honors the world's first-known African American master distiller, Nearest Green, who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. Be sure to stay for local cuisine, Sunday Brunch or a cocktail at Humble Baron, the world's longest bar, where everyone has a seat at the table. Ruby's Happy Farm (Cross Plains, Tennessee) Ruby's Happy Farm - courtesy of TN Department of Tourist Development Ruby's Happy Farm was built on family legacy land and named after the family matriarch. Ashley Brooks is the third generation of her family to farm this land and opened the property to the community in the inaugural Juneteenth Festival. 2024's event, “Ruby's Happy Farm Feel Good Festival,” is slated for June 22, 2024 and will include vendors, entertainment and presentations on agriculture, history and wellness, including beekeeping, self-care, small farm operations and a history of Juneteenth. Mclemore House Museum (Franklin, Tennessee) The McLemore House, purchased by former enslaved man Harvey McLemore in 1880, was a model of community development in Hard Bargain, the first African American middle class neighborhood in Franklin consisting of carpenters, teachers, masons and farmers. The house is now a museum promoting cultural and historical preservation, celebrating the rich African American heritage of Franklin and Williamson County. National Museum of African American Music (Nashville, Tennessee) The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville - courtesy of TN Department of Tourist Development The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in the heart of Music City is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the music genres created, inspired or influenced by African Americans. Interactive exhibits allow guests to write a blues song, sing with a gospel choir, learn dances, do a rap battle and learn about jazz, blues, rap, pop and stories of renowned artists like Isaac Hayes, Beyonce, Rihanna, Prince and others. NMAAM is located in Fifth + Broadway, where travelers should also get a taste of Slim & Husky's, an artisan pizza shop with a love for hip hop R&B culture. Here are ways to explore Black history in Nashville. Stax Museum of American Soul Music and Museum of Science & Industry (Memphis, Tennessee) Experience the story of Stax Records, one of the most famous recording studios in the world, through interactive exhibits, artifacts and hall of records at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The museum shares how creative individuals came together to write, record and produce some of the best soul music in Memphis. Separately, the Museum of Science & History (MoSH) has a new exhibit, Everyday People: Snapshots of the Black Experience, a photography journey showcasing Memphis artist Eric Echols' photo collection of twentieth century African Americans and Black culture. From attractions to restaurants to local businesses, here are additional trip ideas to celebrate Black history in Memphis. Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School (Brownsville, Tennessee) The Tina Turner Museum - courtesy of TN Department of Tourist Development The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, Tina Turner, was born in Nutbush, made famous with her hit song, “Nutbush City Limits.” Turner attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in Brownsville, one of the first schools built in the South for African Americans. Visitors to the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School, located on the grounds of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, explores the largest known collection of Tina memorabilia, costumes and stories. While visiting Brownsville, savor local favorite Black-owned business, Helen's Bar BQ, where Helen Turner works as one of the few female pitmasters in the country. Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center (Henning, Tennessee) The childhood home of author Alex Haley, who wrote the groundbreaking novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, is located in Henning. “Roots,” which was made into a landmark TV miniseries in 1977, was inspired by family stories young Alex heard on the porch of his home. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center's exhibits feature Haley's work, childhood memorabilia and references to people who inspired the characters in “Roots.” Virtual Black History Month Tour Can't plan a trip? Launching in February 2024, The Virtual Black History Month Tour in Historic Jonesborough, Tennessee's oldest town, is an interactive, app-based tour starts at the Jonesborough Visitors Center and takes guests on a walk up East Main Street and down West Main Street. Along the way, guests stop at spots in town that are pivotal to the history of the Black community and to the history of Jonesborough.
Head to this City for Futuristic, AI-augmented Cultural Experiences
San Francisco's cultural heart beats just a few blocks from 'Cerebral Valley,' a nickname coined last year for the Hayes Valley neighborhood following an influx of Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up activity. Civic Center is home to the city's most established performing arts institutions—America's oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet, the 101-year-old San Francisco Opera, and the 112-year-old San Francisco Symphony. A tech revolution unfolding outside the doorsteps of stately performing arts institutions may seem incongruent, but this is San Francisco, where innovation is the ethos. Artistic visionaries at those institutions, along with cultural leaders, curators, and artists throughout San Francisco, are at the forefront of leveraging AI and other technologies to push creative boundaries, forge new works, and enhance the audience experience. Often while exploring the profound implications of new technology. As San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen explained it, “We're in San Francisco, the hotbed of invention and imagination…The Symphony is over 100 years old, lots of inventions that shape our everyday lives are made here. We're trying to combine those things.” Premiering this winter and spring in San Francisco are a number of performances and exhibits incorporating technology or addressing its implications. Here are a few highlights to add to your next trip to the innovative, artistic city. See an AI-inspired ballet Performers in 'Mere Mortals' - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association When San Francisco-based OpenAI gave ChatGPT to the world in late 2022 and ushered in the modern Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution, was Pandora's box opened? The ethically complicated discovery and proliferation of AI was the inspiration for San Francisco Ballet's world-premiere commission, Mere Mortals, an immersive reimagining of the Pandora and Prometheus myths. “Artificial intelligence continues to grow and evolve, and Mere Mortals will tackle the complicated issues and feelings as well as the exciting creative promise that this new technology holds,” said Tamara Rojo, SF Ballet's new artistic director. This is the first season programmed by Rojo. The groundbreaking Mere Mortals viscerally explores the risks and opportunities of technological progress. Audience members can expect to be confronted with questions surrounding love, change, human connection, societal advancement, and more in the immersive experience. Marking many 'firsts' for the company, including SF Ballet's first full-length commission from a female choreographer (Aszure Barton), Mere Mortals has been brought to life by an international collective of artists across disciplines. Performed by a 43-member cast, Mere Mortals pushes new boundaries in ballet with gender-neutral principal pairing, AI-influenced stage design, and live mixing of electronic and classical instrumentation. The work marks the first-ever composition of a ballet score by Floating Points (a.k.a Sam Shepherd), an accomplished U.K.-based artist, composer, and producer who creates transportive sonic environments. He will be performing alongside the SF Ballet Orchestra on the Buchla, a synthesizer created in the Bay Area in 1963, which will interpret and loop the orchestra's instrumentation live each night. An after-party follows each evening's 75-minute performance. (Mere Mortals premieres on Jan. 26. Performances are scheduled through Feb. 1 at the War Memorial Opera House.) Experience a multi-sensory symphony Myth also takes the stage at the San Francisco Symphony, which premieres a multisensory performance of Alexander Scriabin's Prometheus, The Poem of Fire on March 1. Devised by SF Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Cartier in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, the dynamic musical and light performance and olfactory curation aim to realize Scriabin's unrealized vision of a genuinely synesthetic work. "Scriabin scored Prometheus for light and color as well as music, but one of his dreams was to add more senses to the score, including scent. This idea has always fascinated me, as somebody who has always loved working together with artists from a variety of disciplines," said Thibaudet. "I am excited that we now have the technology to bring Scriabin's dream to life, and to be a part of this project with Esa-Pekka and Mathilde. This project shows us what is possible when there is collaboration within the arts: how different art forms and different senses can enrich one another, and in doing so enrich our lives and our experiences both inside and outside of the concert hall.” (March 1-3 at Davies Symphony Hall.) In April, SF Symphony collaborative partner and roboticist Carol Reiley is curating a first-of-its-kind, human-machine interactive SoundBox program showcasing various Artificial Intelligence (AI) uses. Press Play: Carol Reiley and the Robots is designed as a fun, human-centered experience with audience participation. SF Symphony's experimental live music SoundBox series is a laboratory for the exploration of new musical ideas and immersive audience experiences that continuously push the envelope with adventurous programming and innovative design. (April 5 and 6 in SF Symphony's 7,600-square-foot warehouse-like rehearsal space adjacent to Davies Symphony Hall.) Encounter experimental fashion See unique fashion installations - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco teamed up with Snap Inc. to debut an interactive augmented reality installation at the de Young for its new major exhibition, Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style, which opened on Jan. 20. The de Young is the first museum in the U.S. to feature Snap's AR Mirrors, which let visitors “try on” three couture ensembles featured in the exhibit by the late French designer Yves Saint Lauren, Italian designer Valentino, and Chinese-American Bay Area-based designer Kaisik Wong. Fashioning San Francisco presents the work of more than 50 fashion designers, from Balmain to Miyake, Valentino to McQueen, with the majority of the over 90 ensembles on view for the first time. The exhibit chronicles how style in the Bay Area has evolved over generations and its role as a marker of social identity. Spanning a century of high fashion and haute couture worn by Bay Area women, fashions range from bohemian styles and power suits to LBDs (Little Black Dresses) and elegant evening wear. The Fine Arts Museums are home to one of the most significant holdings of 20th and 21st-century high fashion and haute couture in the U.S. San Franciscans have a long-standing history of being among the first to embrace the experimental in dress, both supporting and wearing designers with a knack for the radical. Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe, and Yohji Yamamoto are featured in a section that explores the avant-garde creatives who redefined conventional fashion. Fashioning San Francisco also explores the work of Western designers inspired by the aesthetics of Asian, African, and other international cultures to address cultural appropriation and its contemporary discourse. (On view at the de Young through Aug. 11.) Grab coffee with a robot Not far from the Museum of Craft and Design, guests of Mission Bay's LUMA Hotel San Francisco can receive their morning coffee delivery from new OG robotic team members Lumie and Lucy. The robotic duo is fitted with custom 3D-printed inserts that enable them to carry hot beverages ordered via QR code from guestrooms. But one day will these robots become collaborators? The Museum of Craft and Design's upcoming exhibition, Mr. Roboto, tests creative possibilities through a new showcase of design activities and experiments. “The work in Mr. Roboto expands the customary role of the robot… by inviting the robot to be a collaborator, not just an executor of repetitive or dangerous tasks, we create possibilities, discover ways of making, develop design innovation, experiment with materials, and forge a future that we could not build alone,” said Virginia San Fratello, who guest curated the exhibition along with Eleanor Pries. Featuring experiments conducted by approximately 60 San José State University students, the exhibition demonstrates how designers and robots can work together to generate new ways of creating the world around us. Over 100 objects, including 28 3-D printed textiles, 26 robotic letterform drawings, 36 robotic light paintings, and a robot-aided stop-motion animation, will be featured, highlighting how this type of education and experience can open the door to the future of craft and design for the next generation. (On view Feb. 24 through June 30 at the Museum of Craft and Design.) Watch a play about the ethics of a digital era The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) is staging the world premiere of Big Data, a play exploring questions of attention, connection, nourishment, and the dizzying possibilities of AI. Do our devices—tantalizingly incarnate in this funny, sexy, uncanny premiere—really know us best? Are our digital footprints predictive of our future choices, or are they choosing for us? The play explores these questions with a cast that includes Tony Award winner BD Wong. A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon, who will direct the play, said, “[Playwright] Kate Attwell has written a play so topical about how AI is rapidly and maybe forever changing how we interact and think about what we want…I am also grateful that while the Bay and the world wrestle with the fundamental ethics of where we are headed, that this play is in the wrestle too.” (Feb. 15 to March 10 at A.C.T.'s Toni Rembe Theater) Visit a thought-provoking museum Front of the Misalignment Museum - courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association The family-friendly Misalignment Museum opened last fall in Thrive City, the 11-acre plaza surrounding Chase Center. The pop-up installation showcases the capabilities of AI technology through thought-provoking, interactive art pieces. Through dynamic and playful art pieces such as Spambots and Paperclip Embrace, the museum is a space to learn about AI and reflect on its power for both destruction and good. (Free entry. Open Thursday and Friday from 4 to 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 pm.)
February is Black History Month, and if you're looking for an excellent destination to celebrate, head to the Sunshine State. Events in Orlando, Florida kick off in late January and continue throughout February with commemorations and celebrations of African American history and culture, available throughout 2024. With limited-time exhibitions and live performances – along with year-round cultural attractions, tours through historic towns and landmarks, and a robust collection of Black-owned businesses – the destination offers a range of opportunities for locals and visitors to experience the inspiring, rich culture of the African American community. Catch limited-time Black History Month events Amina Scott quartet - courtesy of Visit Orlando Central Florida locals and visitors can pay tribute to African American culture through exclusive musical performances, art exhibits and more. Some highlights include: The 35th Annual ZORA! Outdoor Festival of the Arts, (Jan. 26-28) featuring live performances, an international marketplace, arts and craft booths, and more, takes place in the historic town of Eatonville, the first African American incorporated municipality in the United States. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center is the permanent home for the Heritage Collection: Photographs and Oral Histories of Winter Park, which will unveil new images and oral histories collected by historian Peter Schreyer to depict life in Winter Park's Hannibal Square in the mid-1990s. The new additions will be on view Jan. 15 – June 1. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts presents two performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Jan. 30-31). The beloved modern dance company is celebrating its 65th season with special performances lovingly created by Amy Hall Garner, granddaughter of Alvin Ailey. The African Americans and the Arts Exhibition (Feb. 2 – March 31) at the Terrace Gallery at Orlando City Hall presents an opportunity for local artists to showcase African American history and celebrate the many lasting contributions Black Americans have had on visual arts, performing arts, literature, film, music and cultural movements.The Orange County Regional History Center's Black History Month commemoration will include History Alive: Bessie Coleman Aviation Adventure (Feb. 3), a special tribute to America's first Black and Native American woman pilot and her impact on Central Florida's aviation history. The Sanford Jazz Ensemble's Black History Month Concert (Feb. 11) at the historic Ritz Theater at Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford will showcase musical genres like Motown and classic jazz, and celebrate acclaimed African American musicians such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The 4 Tops, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and more. Timucua Amplifies Black Voices is a three-day event (Feb. 16 – 18) at the Timucua Arts Foundation in downtown Orlando's SoDo District that will offer performances by jazz musician Solomon Jaye, percussionist Britton Rene Collins, singer Jarred Amstrong Trio, The DeAndre Lettsome Quartet and singer Brandon Martin, and conclude with the Authentic Selves Poetry and Open Mic Night. Who's Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience (Feb. 16) comes to House of Blues Orlando. The musical act, performed by the longest-running Michael Jackson cover band, features songs from the expansive catalogue of the unrivaled King of Pop. Enjoy year-round African American cultural attractions Hannibal Square Heritage Center - courtesy of Visit Orlando Beyond Black History Month, Orlando offers opportunities to learn about African American culture and local history throughout the year. Just outside the tourism districts, the historic town of Eatonville – home to celebrated author Zora Neale Hurston – was one of the country's first self-governing African American communities. Today, it honors Hurston's memory with the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts (aka The Hurston) and the annual ZORA! Festival (Jan. 7 - Jan. 28) with other events throughout the year, including HATitude Cultural Flair (Oct. 19) and Gathering & Gabbing Zora Neale Hurston Book Club (Feb. 17, March 16 & May 18). The Hurston also displays work by legendary and emerging artists of African descent. The only Commercial National Registered Historic District in Orlando, Parramore is Orlando's oldest and largest African American neighborhood with a diverse collection of historic buildings like the Wells' Built Hotel, now the Wells' Built Museum of African American History and Culture, dedicated to preserving the memory of Orlando's African American heritage with Civil Rights artifacts and memorabilia. The Orange County Regional History Center features a permanent African American history exhibit highlighting the triumphs and tragedies of African Americans in Central Florida's past, along with luminous paintings of Florida's Highwaymen, a group of acclaimed African American landscape artists. A community founded for black families in 1881, Historic Hannibal Square is home to the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, which welcomes visitors to explore the district's origins and offers guided walking tours of the historic landmarks of “West Winter Park,” describing the hardships and the triumphs of the African American community from the 1900s to the present. Visitors can also experience small-business shopping, free yoga, food and music during the SOKO Marketplace every Saturday morning, where proceeds support the development of culturally relevant programming for the historic African American community of Hannibal Square.Visitors and locals can join Juneteenth (June 19) celebrations throughout Orlando, particularly in Eatonville and Hannibal Square. Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States. Dine and shop at Black-owned restaurants and businesses A mural in Eatonville - courtesy of Visit Orlando With an exploding food scene, Orlando is home to a multitude of Black-owned restaurants offering flavors across various cuisines – from traditional to contemporary and beyond, along with locally owned businesses with specialized services. BBQ and southern food fans can dine at Orlando Famous Pete's BBQ in Downtown Orlando on the weekends and Brick & Spoon in Maitland. For seafood or wings, visitors can support Big Lou's Single Wing Express in Downtown Orlando; Stonington's Fried Shrimp in Metro West and Altamonte Springs; and Mad Crab Seafood & Wings in Eatonville. Chicken Fire in Orlando specializes in Nashville-style hot chicken.For delicious Carribean-inspired eats, foodies can enjoy Mark's Jamaican Bar & Grill or Island Thyme Carribean Grille in East Orlando, or Oley's Kitchen & Smokehouse in Downtown Orlando.Those looking for soul food can visit Nikki's Place and P&D Soul Food Kitchen in Downtown Orlando, and Soul Food Fantasy in Eatonville. For a healthier kick, there's Vitality Bowls in the Dr. Phillips area. And for a sweeter option, head to downtown Orlando for custom flavors from the doughnut bar at Pattie Lou's Donuts or the award-winning Sister Honey's serving all kinds of sugary delights, including pies, cookies and pastries.Other Black-owned eateries include East Orlando's Streetwise Urban Food – serving urban favorites in a family-friendly, casual atmosphere – and Downtown Orlando's The District GastroBar – paying homage to old world American taste and cuisine – where legendary musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles and B.B. King performed at the South Street Casino that once stood nearby.The Pretty Peacock Paperie specializes in custom stationery and invitations in Winter Park, while the Naked Bar Soap Co. offers all-natural bath and body care products made from sustainable ingredients. Bloom in Glory is a full-service floral design company. —Additional information on Orlando's Black History Month and year-long events can be found at VisitOrlando.com.