New York City: Ride in a vintage subway car this December
If you happen to be in New York City this holiday season, consider a ride on a vintage subway car as part of your experience.
Every Sunday in December, the MTA, New York's transportation authority, busts out a subway car from yesteryearthe cars are pre-WWII, usually from the 1930sand runs it along the V line, which goes from Manhattan's Lower East Side neighborhood to the borough of Queens. The trains have vintage ads, rattan seats, and porcelain-covered hand straps. A ride back in the 30s would have set you back a nickel. This nostalgia-fueled trip is $2 per ride (the regular fare for a single ride on the subway).
Not planning a trip? You can see subway cars from all eras at the New York Transit Museum, open year-round. In addition to the old cars, some highlights are the token machines and turnstiles from the past 100 years. There's one turnstile, meant to inhibit fare jumpers, that looks like some kind of large, Iron-Maidenlike bird-cage (locals used to get stuck in them). The museum used to be a working subway station, and it's neat to see how the space is repurposedthe old subway cars are on real track. There are also exhibits on the construction of the subway and the city's bridges and tunnels; this is an ideal stop for the transportation gurus out there.
Houston airport now a hotbed of karaoke
Belting out "Jingle Bells" or "I Think We're Alone Now" may or may not be your idea of appropriate airline behavior, but if it is, then Houston's Bush Intercontinental has you covered, according to the Houston Chronicle. Today the airport set up the first of some karaoke booths, ushering in entertainment that will likely range from the profoundly irritating to the transcendent. I'd love to find out what songs become karaoke hits for the Texas travelers….
This weekend: Colonial Williamsburg kicks off the holiday season
Colonial Williamsburg will celebrate its Grand Illumination this Sunday, with the Fifes and Drums Corps celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Fifes and Drums Corps is a throwback to the early days of American history—traditionally, musicians belonged to the military and traveled with the troops playing flute-like instruments (called fifes), drums, and occasionally other instruments. Nowadays, the Fifes and Drums Corps is made up of kids between the ages of 10 and 18. The group performs nearly 500 times a year at Colonial Williamsburg. The Grand Illumination event, in addition to showcasing the corps, also signals the beginning of Colonial Williamsburg's holiday season—candles are lit in public buildings, shops, and homes, and then fireworks are shot into the sky at three locations. There's also live entertainment on four stages. And in case you were wondering, the use of fireworks is completely appropriate for a historical reenactment. "Illuminations" (or fireworks displays) are as old as our nation. It might be hard to believe, but before professional sporting events, fireworks were used to celebrate war victories and other official holidays. There are lots of events in December at Colonial Williamsburg, including more Fifes and Drums marches, family events, and a Thomas Jefferson Wine Dinner. The colonial capital also offers hotel packages. 113 Visitor Center Dr. The Grand Illumination begins at 4:45 p.m. this Sunday (fireworks are around 6:15 p.m.) and is free to the public. See history.org for more info. PREVIOUSLY George Washington's boyhood home uncovered A new way to explore Jamestown MORE Read Thomas Jefferson's "blog" at history.org For more travel blogs, visit Alltop.com
D.C.: The Capitol gets a new visitor center
The old treasure of the Capitol building has been rejuvenated with a new visitor center. The most practical improvement is the center's enormous size. The public area is nearly half the size of the Capitol's dimensions—made possible by the fact that the structure is underground. Under the old system, visitors stood in long lines outdoors. Now citizens can stand indoors in a temperature-controlled climate. The center's 530-seat cafeteria is also a welcome addition because the National Mall is notoriously short on affordable places for families to eat. Additional security is another plus. Visitors are screened at a safe remove from the center itself. The process for getting tickets for a Capitol tour should also become more straightforward. Starting tomorrow, a new online reservations system is supposed to allow visitors to obtain free tickets. You no longer have to contact the office of your member of Congress, though that method will still work. A tip from the Washington Post: A small number of same-day passes will be handed out on what seems like a first-come, first-served basis at the information desk on the lower level of the center. It's free to visit the Capitol Visitor Center or to take a 45-minute Capitol tour. Located on the side of the Capitol facing away from the National Mall, the center has its public entrance on First Street, roughly between the Union Station and Capitol subway stops. It's open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Monday through Saturday, except for major holidays. Tours can be reserved via visitthecapitol.gov.
This weekend: Downtown Indianapolis lights up
For the 46th year, Indianapolis will celebrate the Circle of Lights this Friday. The entire lighting ceremony and display is centered around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown, a late-19th century structure. Fifty-two garland strands of lights (that's 4,784 colored lights total) hang from the top of the monument to its base. Monument Circle is also adorned with 26 toy soldiers and sailors, huge peppermint sticks, and a Santa's workshop scene. With 56,700 more lights in the surrounding area's trees, it's quite the sight. The flipping of the switch happens at about 7:45 p.m., but live entertainment, chosen from open auditions around the state, starts at 6 p.m. Indy leaves it to the pros for this spectacle: Circle of Lights is sponsored by Contractors of Quality Connection and Electrical Workers of IBEW 481. Are you going to a lighting ceremony in your city? Leave a shout-out in the comments! Free, Monument Circle, Indianapolis. Editor's note: If you Google map Monument Circle, you can easily get directions. MORE Indianapolis' new, $1.1 billion airportFind local bloggers at Indianapolis Bloggers PREVIOUSLY How To Travel During the Holidays