Could 'Marijuana Tourism' Be Next For Colorado and Washington?
With new legislation effectively legalizing marijuana for recreational use in two U.S. states, Amsterdam-style entertainment could be right around the corner. Under the new state measures in Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal to use if you are at least 21 years old and possess no more than one ounce (or 28.5 grams) for recreational use. Similar to alcohol, the recreational marijuana would be taxed and sold only at state-licensed specialty retail stores. Public use is still forbidden in both states, and residents would now be permitted to grow up to six plants at home in Colorado (though home growing is not allowed in Washington).
So what could this mean for tourism? According to an article by the Associated Press, tourism officials in Colorado are downplaying a pot-tourism spike while ski resort directors are "watching closely." The head of tourism for Denver, Richard Scharf, was quoted as being concerned that legalizing marijuana would actually lead to a decline in travel, since the state's "brand will be damaged." On the other hand, being able to tax marijuana use will bring in some much-needed money for each of the states. It should be noted that visitors to Colorado and Washington must purchase and use the substance while in the state—no pot-related souvenirs allowed. And keep in mind that marijuana is still technically illegal in the U.S. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, an opponent of the new measures, recently told the The Denver Post, "the voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."
In other pot-related news, those of you still planning trips to Amsterdam for psychedelic purposes you will be happy to know that the Netherlands recently killed their plans for a national "weed pass" that would have only allowed access to marijuana cafés to Dutch residents, effectively blocking tourists from visiting them. According to an article by USA Today, a new provisional government pact does allow cities in the Netherlands to ban foreigners from their cannibis cafés, but the authority to enforce this is left up to the cities themselves, a move Amsterdam, which relies heavily on tourism, is not willing to make just yet.
Travelers' Top 20 Rants And Raves About Hotels
We recently asked our Budget Travel audience to tell us about their biggest hotel pet peeves, a question that sparked 39 comments on our blog post and 31 more on our Facebook page. Conversely, this got us wondering what your favorite things about staying in a hotel are—is it the fluffly towels, comfy beds, or friendly service? It turns out we aren't the only ones thinking about the best and worst parts of the hotel experience. The site TrustYou recently released a study revealing travelers' 20 biggest complaints and 20 compliments about hotels around the world. The lists rank customer complaints and compliments by the number of mentions they received in one million online comments and hotel reviews written on more than 200 websites or on various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The results show that customer service is number one for travelers, taking up multiple spots on both lists—it ranked higher than clean rooms or affordable prices. The top 20 things hotel guests like about hotels:1. Friendly, professional, efficient service 2. Great, well-situated location3. Good room 4. Great food 5. Great breakfast 6. Clean room and hotel7. Large room8. Good, affordable price9. Good bed10. Nice view11. Good pool12. Good bathroom13. Easy, available parking14. New room15. Free internet16. Good sauna and wellness facilities17. Quiet room18. New hotel19. Free parking20. Efficient reception The top 20 things hotel guests complain about:1. Unprofessional and incompetent service2. Small room3. Expensive or overpriced hotel4. Tasteless, bad breakfast5. Bad food6. Dirty room7. Unfriendly service8. Bad bathroom9. Bad service10. Loud, noisy room11. Tasteless food12. Bad bed13. Small bathroom14. Hard to find or the hotel was in an isolated location15. Internet not available or scarce service16. Old room17. Bad location18. Dirty bathroom19. Expensive or overpriced breakfast20. Bad parkingDo you agree with the placement of the items on the list? What factors are most important to you when you stay in a hotel?
Which States Have The Most Passport Holders?
Are you part of the more than one-third of Americans that have a passport? According to an article by Forbes, almost 110 million people now hold a U.S. passport. That's a huge jump from 48 million Americans that had one in 2000, and the just 7 million Americans with passports back in 1989. People are traveling more than ever—how else do you expect to get those passport stamps worth bragging about? Travel blogger C.G.P. Grey recently published an infographic breaking down U.S. passport ownership state-by-state based on figures from passport statistics on the Data.gov website. Grey found that the states with the highest number of passport holders (more than 60 percent of residents) included Alaska, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. What about the states with the lowest number of U.S. passport holders? About 20 percent of residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia have one, while less than 20 percent of Mississippians are passport holders. Still don't have a passport? Apply through the U.S. Department of State. As of right now, fees are $135 for an adult passport book or $110 to renew your current passport. A U.S. Passport Card is also available (and necessary if you don't have a regular passport) for Americans planning to visit Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea—these cannot be used for international travel by air—and fees are $55 for adults or $30 to renew.
Is the Golden Age of Ground Transportation Near?
In the past decade, a wealth of new bus lines such as Megabus, Vamoose, and Bolt Bus have made it easier and cheaper to travel by ground (here are six of our favorite budget bus companies). Bus travel has increased accordingly (you may remember the DePaul University study Sean O'Neill quoted last year showing that bus travel had risen by 13% in 2011). Train travel is looking good too. President Obama has a vision to increase the speed on our railways-a goal that we took a baby step toward last month when the Amtrak line between Chicago and St. Louis reached 111mph, 30 mph faster than our nation's fastest train (yes, we still have a ways to go before we catch up to those European trains that blast through the continent at 150mph). All of this bodes well for ground transportation in the coming years. And now, a new website is poised to make it easier to search these options and identify the most efficient and affordable combination. The site is called Wanderu and they are calling themselves the "kayak of ground travel." It's not the first website to try to combine ground travel options (there is also BusJunction.com, which is a bus ticket search engine that makes it easy to search schedules and fares from bus carriers across the country), but it is the first metasearch site that I have seen that takes train schedules into consideration. It's about time. We have more options for ground travel than we ever had before, but we still have the problem of identifying the best possible combination to get from point A to point B. The downside, unfortunately, is that the Boston-based start-up is still in private beta and there is no word on when they will officially launch. I have my fingers crossed that Wanderu will succeed as it's a service that an avid ground traveler like myself could benefit from. If not Wanderu, however, I'm sure another company will step in to try their hand at coordinating ground transport. In the meantime, the very existence of sites like Wanderu and BusJunction suggest that we're getting closer to an era when ground transportation will be easier for Americans. I certainly look forward to that day and am thrilled to think that it may be close at hand.
Top Chef: Seattle "Chef-testant" Restaurant Guide
It's not just voters who are celebrating in Washington state today—the tenth season of Top Chef, Bravo's culinary Olympics reality show, is headed to Seattle and is doing its part to build the foodie buzz both in the Emerald City and across the Pacific Northwest. Premiering tonight on Bravo at 10 EST, Top Chef: Seattle will introduce viewers to 21 "chef-testants" hailing from acclaimed restaurants, nonprofit programs, and culinary schools all over the country. If Top Chef anticipation has your mouth watering, don't fret-you can sample the fare fresh from the kitchens where this season's contenders honed their skills. See photos of the contestants here, and check out our list of their restaurants (with a couple menu highlights) below. (Entrée price guide: $ = $15 and under; $$ = $15-30; $$$ = $30 and up). Anthony Gray, Executive Chef, Southern Art Bourbon Bar, Atlanta, Ga. (Southern, $$): Try an elegant spin on homestyle southern classics like shrimp and grits and cornmeal-dusted catfish. Bart Vandaele, Belga Café, Washington, D.C. (Belgian, $$): Try the Belgian steak with "real" Belgian fries, or the mussels with garlic butter, curry crème, or white beer. Brooke Williamson Hudson House, Redondo Beach, Calif. (Gastropub, $): Enjoy an avocado and fennel salad or grilled shrimp tacos with one of the pub's 50 beers. The Tripel, Playa del Rey, Calif. (Gastropub, $): Sip one of the funky bar's "libations" while snacking on coconut and red curry dumplings or a calamari po'boy. Carla Pellegrino Bacio, Las Vegas, Nev. (Italian, $$): The menu at the revamped Tropicana's upscale Italian restaurant includes classics like risotto al gamberi (shrimp risotto) and scaloppini alla romana (veal with artichoke and prosciutto). Bratalian, Henderson, Nev. (Italian, $$): Or try the traditional family-style dishes at this "Neapolitan cantina," such as penne alla vodka or salsicceand pepperoni (sausage and peppers). Danyele McPherson, Sous Chef, The Grape, Dallas, Tex. (New American, $$): The eatery, a Dallas standby for 40 years, offers coffee-rubbed pork chop and olive and mustard braised rabbit. Eliza Gavin, 221 South Oak, Telluride, Colo. (New American, $$$): Locally-sourced options include Rocky Mountain trout dusted with truffle oil and mushroom-crusted Colorado lamb shank. Elizabeth Binder, Bar Bambino, San Francisco, Calif. (Italian, $$): Try the bigolli with local sardines and zesty Pantalleria capers, or the goat cheese and savory fig-pear preserve panino from the restaurant's café-style Pronto menu. John Tesar, Spoon Bar & Kitchen, Dallas, Tex. (Seafood, $$$): Inventive seafood dishes include fusilli with braised octopus and monkfish "osso bucco." Jorel Pierce, Chef de Cuisine, Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, Denver, Colo. (Gastropub, $): Take your pick from an extensive menu of beers and playful eats like "fries with eyes" (smelt, vinegar aioli, and tarragon-doused fries) and a chicken schnitzel sandwich. Joshua Valentine, Pastry Chef, FT33, Dallas, Tex. (New American, $$-$$$): highlights on the simple yet elegant menu include pork loin with Carolina gold rice and scallop with piquillo chile, grapes, and capers. Micah Fields, The Standard Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif. (New American, $$): The 24/7 eatery at the trendy downtown LA hotel offers chicken 'n waffles and a customizable mac and cheese mini-menu. Sheldon Simeon, Executive Chef, Star Noodle, Lahaina, Hawaii (Asian Fusion, $): Classics from East and Southeast Asia get a Hawaiian twist: a Big Island rib eye with shiitake and negi, or "Hapa ramen" with roast pork, baby bok choy, and kamabako. Stephanie Cmar, Rounds Cook, No. 9 Park, Boston, Mass. (French, Italian, $$$): Menu offerings include Vermont quail with chestnut milk and slow-roasted elk loin. Tyler Wiard, Executive Chef and Culinary Director, Elway's, Denver, Colo. (Steakhouse, $$$): The "Classics" section of the menu includes a Colorado rack of lamb with a rosemary crust and parmesan-crusted Pacific grouper with Louisiana Creole sauce and andouille sausage. Tina Bourbeau, Executive Chef/ Senior Director of Research and Development, FreshDirect : many readers may already be familiar with FreshDirect, which delivers, fresh, high-quality ingredients and pre-prepared meals to doorsteps nationwide. Gina Keatley, Dietitian and Founder, Nourishing USA, Harlem, NY: The New York City-based non-profit is dedicated to fighting hunger with a network of food pantries and soup kitchens across the nation. Kristen Kish, Chef de Cuisine, Stir, Boston, Mass.: This Beantown school of fine cooking offers classes from $100 a session. Daniel O'Brien, Seasonal Pantry, Washington D.C.: foodies can sign up for cooking classes or seasonal "supper club" menus available through advance reservations. Rounding out the chef-testant lineup: Chrissy Camba of Chicago's soon-to-open Bar Pastoral; Kuniko Yagi, Executive Chef of an upcoming David Myers restaurant in Los Angeles; and personal chef Jeffrey Jew, who has worked at restaurants in London and Washington, D.C.