Mark your calendar: Museum Day means free admission
Tickets are available now. All you have to do is go to the Museum Day site and fill out the form, and your ticket will be e-mailed to you. Print it out and bring it to your museum of choice; it's good for free general admission for two people at any one participating museum. (Note: You have to designate which museum you'll be visiting when you sign up for the ticket. And only one ticket per household is allowed.)
As of right now, 940 museums have signed on, with an expected 1,500 to be taking part by the actual day of the event. Last year, over 300,000 museumgoers visited the 1,300 participating institutions. To decide where to spend your time that day, use the site's museum finder.
And for the first time, this year's sponsor, Toyota, is providing on-site activities, including docent tours, interactive trivia contests, and giveaways, at five of the museums: the Dallas Museum of Art (normal admission $10); the Adler Planetarium in Chicago ($10); the Autry National Center in L.A. ($9); the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Mass. ($10); and the Tampa Museum of Art ($10).
A few others you may want to check out:
• The OZ Museum, in Wamego, Kans. ($7). "There's no place like" this tribute to all things Dorothy and friends.
• Scotchtown, in Beaverdam, Va. ($8). No, this isn't a liquor-lover's paradise; it's the home of founding father Patrick Henry, of "Give me liberty, or give me death!" fame.
• The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio ($20). Museum Day falls as the NFL season is just getting started, and on the heels of the August 7 enshrinement of the Hall's Class of 2010, which includes Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.
• The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, in New York City ($22). Renovated just two years ago, the historic aircraft carrier is one of the best values, saving you $22!
• The Atomic Testing Museum, in Las Vegas ($12). The once top-secret nuclear test site, just a mile from the Strip, offers a radiation-free simulation of what it was like to watch an atomic explosion, complete with vibrating seats and a blast of air.
Bonus: If you're feeling a little more like the great outdoors, September 25 is also Public Lands Day, one of the few days during the year when nearly 150 of the country's national parks that normally charge admission ($3-$25) are free.
The Opry celebrates a grand ole birthday
Heading to Nashville, Tenn., this year? You may notice a couple of abnormally large guitars beckoning you through the entrance of the Grand Ole Opry House—guitars reaching 20 feet high and made up of 3,000 pounds of steel and aluminum, to be exact. This new memorial honors the country music venue's 85th birthday, a bash that will draw participation from such classic legends as Loretta Lynn and Charley Pride to relative newcomers like Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley. Leading up to the grand finale on Oct. 8th and 9th, venues all around the city will be featuring additional concerts and special gallery exhibits throughout the summer. Grand Ole Opry House: In a strange turn of events last month, the Opry House was hit with the worst Middle Tennessee floods in more than 100 years, with water rising nearly four feet above the stage. While renovations are frantically underway, various area locations—the Ryman Auditorium, Allen Arena at Lipscomb University, and War Memorial Auditorium—are housing the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Country Classics shows until they return to their digs in October. Don't be surprised if you spot celebrities about town as they accept the duties of "guest announcer" from now until the party in Oct. (2804 Opryland Dr., 800/733-6779, ticket prices vary) Grand Ole Opry Museum: Due to reopen the first week of October and located just steps away from the Opry House, three new exhibits will allow a behind-the-scenes peek into Opry secrets, including images captured by the official show photographers Chris Hollo and Les Leverett, artifacts from young country performers rapidly rising to stardom, and memorabilia from the late Opry icon Porter Wagoner. (Grand Ole Opry Plaza, 2802 Opryland Dr., 800/733-6779, $5) Acuff Theatre: The venue for the grand finale Opry Birthday Concert is guaranteed to be full of surprises yet to be announced, and will bring out every who's who of country music entertainment. If you can only attend one event this year, this would be the one that you shouldn't miss. (2804 Opryland Dr., 800/733-6779, tickets and tour packages from $95) EARLIER Trip Coach: Dreamin' of Nashville
London: The Museum of London re-opens with a new look
The world's largest urban museum, the Museum of London re-opened today with five new galleries. The museum has long been a London highlight. It tells the story of the city from the Great Fire of London in 1666 to the present day, using state of the art interactive displays, re-creations of period urban scenes, and cleverly designed neighborhood maps. The five new "Galleries of Modern London" sit in a stunning glass cube perched over the street. Rooms are decorated with models, posters, paintings and artifacts. There's a lavish gilt Lord Mayor's coach, gritty displays showcasing the troubled 1970s and 1980s (with the rise of the fascist National Front and the Poll tax riots) and cutesier items like an old two-penny red phone box, which was once as much a London icon as the black cab and bowler hat. There's also an 18th-century "pleasure garden" and an interactive map of the Thames showing how London is changing with new high rise buildings and modernist architecture. Browse on your own or take a guided tour with Cockney "Pearly King" John Walters, who gives colorful running commentary dressed from head to toe in traditional East End pearly buttons and a black cap. museumoflondon.org.uk, free.
Your next vacation is on us
As if saving money on checked-bag fees weren't incentive enough, Budget Travel is giving away a 6-night trip to Egypt (courtesy of Foreign Independent Tours) to the winner of our Ultimate Packing Smackdown—the search for the World's Best Packer. You have until June 14 to tell us why you deserve the title—in photo, video, essay, or poem form—and on July 1, the top ten finalists will be named and voting will commence. Your entry could include a packing list for a two-week trip, your most clever space-saving solution, your pick for the best assortment of luggage to pack, the items you'd never leave home without (or have learned never to bring with you again), or a diagram showing your own unique layering strategy. Send all entries to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check back in July to see if you've made the first cut! The best strategies will be featured online and in the November issue of Budget Travel.
Virgin Atlantic fights jet lag...and you win!
We've all been there. Your plane has touched down, and you're ready for your whirlwind international adventure. The Eiffel Tower beckons. The Great Pyramids await. The Coliseum is calling your name. And all you want to do is curl up in a ball and tuck yourself in for a long nap. Jet lag is no joke. That terrible combination of fatigue, insomnia, and irritability can derail any vacation right from the start. Well, starting this week, there's an app for that. Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Dr. Chris Idzikowski, director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, to release the Jet Lag Fighter ($1.99), an app that promises to get you and your sleep schedule back on track after a grueling long haul. The concept is simple. Punch in basic info, like flight details, age, sex, and usual sleep patterns. The app then generates a specialized game plan to keep your eyes open without that tenth cup of espresso. Your personalized regiment will tell you precisely when to sleep, when to exercise, and when to seek or avoid light. A nifty graph even illustrates how long it will take to overcome those jet lag blues—with and without the program. Compatible with iPhones and iPads, sold in the iTunes App Store. Now we turn to you: got any great jet lag fighting tips that keep you active and ready to go? [Fun Fact for Travel Geeks: Dr. Idzikowski worked on a jet-lag project for Virgin Atlantic's rival, British Airways, three years ago.]