Get Behind-the-Scenes Access to New York City’s Off-Limits Architectural Gems
The weekend of October 15-16 marks the ninth annual Open House New York Weekend, when regular Joes and Janes can get guided tours of some of New York City’s most famous buildings and monuments, as well as special reservations-only access to city spots normally off-limits to visitors. There’s a $5 fee for these top-secret spots, but all other tours are free.
So what’s on the list? Anything you can imagine. Spread across all five boroughs, locations include the catacombs of Brooklyn’s famed Green-Wood Cemetery, the closed-to-the-public third phase of Manhattan’s High Line Park, Louis Armstrong’s home in Queens, the azalea gardens at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, and even a Tibetan art museum in Staten Island.
How can you get involved? Check out the full list here. For those sites requiring reservations, act fast, as spots tend to sell out quickly. As of press time, there are still dozens of destinations with openings. And many museums and historical sites will be offering first-come, first-served tours—no reservations required.
If you could get behind-the-scenes access to any space in New York City, where would you go?
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Poll: Are Tours Passé?
Escorted touring — that age-old form of travel by which you hop onto a bus for a mostly inclusive sightseeing vacation — is in the midst of a bit of an identity crisis. And that's partly because it's not quite clear whether you, the traveler, still want to travel on the same type of tour your parents and grandparents traveled on. Consequently, travel companies are torn between pushing the classic benefits and appeal of an escorted tour — the ease, efficiency and educational aspects — or creating and marketing a whole new generation of touring, one which caters to travelers' increasing desire to globe-trot on their own with a small group of friends, family or other like-minded individuals. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('28bb6bbb-80f7-4b5e-b469-762700a91058');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)Consequently, two iconic tour brands, Globus and Trafalgar, have just launched their marketing campaigns for 2012 with two completely different takes on touring. "The tour can have a complete rebirth," said Jennifer Halboth, director of marketing at Globus. "People understand what a tour is. So we're calling it a tour because that's what it is … And it's pretty damn good the way it is." The campaign revolves around the concept of the "world’s great misconceptions," explained Halboth, ticking off notions such as that Napolean was short (Halboth points out that at five feet and seven inches, he wasn't actually that short for his time). It uses that to segue into misconceptions about touring, including that tours aren't for baby boomers, they're for older passengers, and that tour goers spend the majority of their time on a motorcoach ("less than 20 percent of your time on tour is on a coach," said Halboth). Combating other misconceptions, Globus points out that 80 percent of its travelers are boomers or younger, based on a survey of past passengers. And the brand's most popular multi-country tour, European Tapestry, has an average passenger age of 44. Trafalgar is taking a slightly different approach to the evolving perception of touring. An escorted tour, said Trafalgar President Paul Wiseman, "does not represent the enhanced experiences that we're representing … we're transforming the product." As part of that transformation, some of the new features of Trafalgar's 2012 tours include a "Be My Guest" culinary experience, in which a local family hosts tour guests for a meal. Additionally, Trafalgar is doubling the size of its At Leisure program, which launched two years ago as trips with more free time built-in for travelers to go off and explore on their own. Wiseman said that Trafalgar is actively removing the term "escorted tour" from all the brochure and marketing materials and replacing it with terms like "vacation" and "experiences." What about you? What are your perceptions of an escorted tour? Have you been on one? Would you take one? Why or why not? Let us know by voting in our poll or commenting below. More from Budget Travel: Has your trip ever been saved by a stranger? 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2011 Fresh-Air Fun in Europe: 3 New Outdoor Sights
How to Get in Better Shape While Backpacking Around the World
You almost never see articles about fitness and diet for travelers because of two reasons, one of which turns out to be bogus: The first reason is that people don't want to exercise or watch their diet while on vacation because vacation is supposed to be a carefree time. Fair enough. The other reason why you never see articles about travel and health is that many people think you can't travel and stay healthy. Travel involves eating out constantly, having limited access to decent gyms or parks, and other unhealthy aspects. But ">budget-consicous traveler Steve Kamb proved last winter that this belief isn't true, according to a talk he gave this summer at Google headquarters, to inspire the company's employees to get healthier. Few people will change their attitudes toward their vacations by listening to the story of a twenty-something backpacker. But Kamb's story is worth telling just to let the record show that, yes, you can actually get more fit while still having a fun budget trip. Here's the gist of Kamb's "epic adventure": Having never been outside of North America before, Kamb decided to take a three-month, round-the-world trip last November. He managed to improve his strength and diet at the same time, while sticking to a tight travel budget and not visiting any gyms. He claims he put on ten pounds of muscle, not fat, during the three months, and has before-and-after photos and videos on his personal website to prove it. Three key lessons: He made specific goals and shared them with friends. Being specific with fitness and diet goals (such as "not gain a single pound") made the goals more real. Being accountable to other people not going on the vacation with him helped him harness the power of shame to keep him on track with his plans. He skipped the gym equipment. He instead performed "body-weight" exercises, such as push-ups and planks, and calisthenics, such as lunges and squats. When those exercises became easy for him, he "leveled up" to more advanced exercises, such as by using objects in his hotel room as makeshift weights (lifting them like dumbbells). He also put together a hotel room workout that didn't require any fancy equipment and took only 20 minutes, from warm-up to cool-down. He packed appropriate workout clothing. You might prefer nylon clothes you can wash in your hotel sink because they dry faster than cotton. Bring gallon-size Ziplock bags to seal smelly clothes in and keep them separate from your other items. To hear Kamb talk about his adventure, check out his Google Talk (but skip ahead to the 39-minute mark to get to the part about the trip). Have you ever tried to keep off the pounds while still enjoying your vacation? Share your stories in the comments! SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Which Travel Rewards Program Has the Most Valuable Points? Southwest Waters Down Its Rapid Rewards Program Expedia Reveals Rewards Program Details
European Lodging: 3 Cool Options for Fall
Planning a trip to Europe? There are countless fantastic places to stay. Here are three places that caught our eye for this fall. Stylish Spanish Seclusion A rustic farmhouse has travelers running for the hills. Córdoba and Granada are less than 60 miles away, but try not to dwell on Casa Olea’s high-profile neighbors. In this pocket of Andalucía, it’s all about the blissful isolation of the Sierra Subbéticas, an untouristed swath of rugged limestone hills and dusty olive groves. British owners Tim and Claire Murray-Walker visited over 50 farmhouses before stumbling on the ruins of this 150-year-old olive farm. Inspired by area villages, the duo turned to local carpenters to restore the six-room guesthouse’s whitewashed walls, exposed beams, and cobblestone floors. They’ve spruced the place up with “green” additions, such as solar panels and a boiler that uses leftovers from a local olive mill to heat the property. But they never let these elements intrude on traditional design: tinajas (earthenware jugs), colored-glass Granadino lights, and a dining-room table made from a trillo, a donkey-drawn threshing board once used to separate wheat from chaff. — Nicholas DeRenzo Casa Olea On Carretera CO-7204 Priego de Córdoba casaolea.com From $139 for a double, including breakfast A Room of One’s Own A legendary British estate opens its doors—and gardens. Virginia Woolf fans, take note. It’s hard to believe that Priest’s House once served as a simple eat-in kitchen. The 500-year-old house in southern Kent, England, has long been something of a satellite to its glamorous neighbor: Sissinghurst Castle, home to flamboyant novelist (and Virginia Woolf paramour) Vita Sackville-West. In 1967, Sackville-West’s family passed the entire estate to Britain’s National Trust, but it wasn’t until last year that Priest’s House was opened to the public as a holiday cottage. The building is a wonderful example of Elizabethan architecture: original wood beams, glorious windows, a huge central fireplace. Its three bedrooms are designed to reflect the pastoral surroundings, with walls in soft blues, greens, and lavenders, while the Victorian antiques from Lincolnshire and the occasional touch of whimsy (a pear green claw-foot bathtub) keep it all from feeling as stodgy as the Queen’s handbag collection. And then there’s what’s outside. The surrounding landscaped grounds, among the most visited gardens in all of the U.K., close to the public each day at 5 p.m. But renters can take in the yew hedges and rose bushes for as long as they fancy. — Rachel Mosely Priest’s House Biddenden Rd., near Cranbrook, Kent nationaltrustcottages.co.uk From $1,790 for four nights, sleeps six Luxury Across the Lagoon A vineyard inn brings a dose of calm to Venice visitors. Venice is always beautiful, but with all the art shows, the churches, the crowds, the gondolas, the Carnevale craziness, and the pigeons, it can be as restful as a triple espresso. At the Venissa Ristorante Ostello, you can still absorb the city’s energy—then unplug. The inn is actually located 45 minutes by vaporetto (water taxi) from the bustle of St. Mark’s Square, amid the artichoke fields and pastel villages of Mazzorbo, one of Venice’s 100-plus outlying islands. Opened last year by the prosecco-producing Bisol family in a converted 19th-century walled vineyard, the inn’s six rooms pair antique, hand-painted Venetian armoires with fanciful modern touches like jewel-tone paisley rugs and bathroom mirrors cut in the shape of songbirds. The on-site restaurant keeps it local, too, with seafood from the Adriatic, rare Alpago lamb from Veneto, and organically farmed produce such as sweet peas and wild garlic straight from the hotel’s gardens. — Nicholas DeRenzo Venissa Ristorante Ostello Fondamenta Santa Caterina, 3 Mazzorbo venissa.it From $85 per double with shared bath MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Affordable Europe: In Italy, Bargain Lodging Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2011 World's Best New Boutique Hotels Under $150
Book Europe Like a Local: 3 Super Sites for Reservations
For the best search results (and deals), swap your favorite U.S.-based booking site for a European counterpart. For Hotel Rooms lastminute.com While sites like Kayak and Hotwire do cover Europe, lastminute.com taps into a broader range of properties across nine European countries—with room rates up to half off. The site also features discounted day trips, spa packages, event tickets, and more. For Dining Out toptable.com Making a dinner reservation in another language (and another time zone) can be tricky. Not so with Toptable: The site books seats in thousands of restaurants across 15 European countries, and you can sort by cuisine, price, ratings, and special offers. For Rental Cars europcar.com As the largest rental-car consolidator on the Continent—with stations at 229 European airports alone—Europcar can afford to let vehicles go for as little as $32 per day. Bonus: Its no-fee membership program, called Privilege, earns drivers up to 30% off the leisure rate. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Hotels: New App for Last-Minute Deals 6 Foreign Car-Rental Fees to Watch for on Vacation Is a restaurant reservation a firm commitment?