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Philadelphia: The City of Murals

By A. Christine Maxfield
October 3, 2012
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Jack Ramsdale for Mural Arts Program (c) City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

On the buildings along the Schuylkill River, vibrant murals welcome visitors into Philadelphia. They've been peeking out from underneath bridges and along cement walls since 1984, when the city established the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, to redirect graffiti artists' energies toward enhancing their community. Over time, the nation's largest mural effort, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, sprung up.

Now, in collaboration with local photographer Jacques-Jean "JJ" Tiziou, the mural has been elevated to an all-new level—seven-stories high. At Philly's airport, a nearly 50,000-square-foot piece will cover one side of the parking garage stretching from Terminal A to Terminal F, with roughly 18 images of community dancers narrowed down from thousands. The City of Brotherly Love has a history of dance, and JJ Tiziou has been right alongside the movement to document it. The project will employ 35 artists and take 18 months to complete before its final dedication in June 2011. The energy of the design, entitled How Philly Moves, will be palpable at 60 MPH while driving past it on Interstate 95, and it will be clear why Philadelphia could as easily earn a new nickname—the City of Murals.

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San Francisco: 5 best May values

Bay to Breakers Marathon The annual Bay to Breakers 12K race* is a quintessential "only in San Francisco" experience. More mobile party than sporting event, the marathon draws more than 50,000 participants (some runners, mostly walkers) who start at the Embarcadero and head through Golden Gate Park out to the beach. Costumes are a must and range from Elvis impersonators to superheroes to Star Wars storm troopers—and some people wear nothing at all (don't say we didn't warn you!) Last year more than 100,000 people showed up to watch the show. While corporate sponsor ING has more recently tried to put an end to the public drinking—no more kegs on wheels—revelry is guaranteed. Top places to watch include Alamo Square, the front of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, and the Finish Line on the Great Highway on the beach. May 16, 8 a.m.-11 a.m, *Whoops, we originally said "marathon." Yerba Buena Outdoor Concert Series The free weekend outdoor concerts at Yerba Buena Garden's grassy lawn in downtown kick off this month. The series showcases an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and world music, plus traditional and modern dance performances from cultures around the world. This month includes shows by renowned Arabic musician Bassam Saba (May 22, 1-2:30 pm) and a Taiwanese dance performance (May 9, 1-2:30 pm.) Come June, Yerba Buena offers lunchtime (12:30-1:30 p.m.) concerts as well, drawing gaggles of office workers looking for an outdoor mid-day break. Mission, Folsom, 3rd and 4th streets. Capsule SF Design Festival This street fair of independent designers in Hayes Valley features clothing, house wares, jewelry, kids clothes, and more by 130 local designers, many of which you might know from etsy.com. Check out these gold arrow necklaces by Oakland artist Nous Savon, vintage-inspired house wares by India Rose, and 1.by.liz clocks made from recycled bicycle parts. This is definitely not your mother's arts and crafts fair. Hayes Street and Octavia, Sunday May 23rd, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., free. A New Taco Truck Wake up your taste buds with Curry Up Now's new food truck featuring a rotating menu of Indian street food with a California-Mexican twist (up for a chicken tikka masala burrito, anyone?). You can find the truck during lunchtime rounds in the Financial District. For current locations, follow Curry Up Now on Twitter. From $4.25. Half-priced Tickets to Wicked During the month of May, you can get half-priced tickets to Wicked, the Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway musical. The show ends September 5, 2010, so act fast. Purchase through shnsf.com, ticketmaster.com, and Ticketmaster Charge-By-Phone and use the promo code 4WEST. You can also get tickets in person at the Orpheum Theater Box Office 1192 Market Street, 415/ 551-2000, tickets start at $44.

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London: It's Robin Hood month

This month's debut of the Hollywood epic "Robin Hood"—starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett—has spawned a bunch of Robin Hood-themed events in England. While we don't know if Robin Hood truly existed or was merely a creation of medieval poets, we're certain that Sherwood Forest (where he supposedly lived) is one of the oldest and most majestic forests in Britain. It covers 450 acres of protected beech and birch woodland dotted with more than 1,000 magnificent oaks, most of which are over 500 years old. There are exhibitions devoted to the history of Robin Hood at the Sherwood Forest visitors' center, which is just outside of the village of Edwinstowe. Also worth a visit is Nottingham Castle in the city of Nottingham itself. A one-off exhibition by Sonja Klaus, the set designer for the movie, showcases the film's props, weaponry and costumes worn by Crowe (Robin) and Blanchett (Marian). And medieval jousts and archery competitions will be taking place in the castle grounds throughout May. Other Nottingham attractions include the Galleries of Justice history museum, Byron's former home of Newstead Abbey and the Caves of Nottingham Museum—showcasing caverns under the city which have been used as dwelling places since Saxon times. The highlight of the area remains the forest, though, which is magical to walk through. The largest tree is the Major Oak, which was a big even in the Middle Ages when Robin Hood was supposedly firing his arrows. Today it is more than 800 years old and weighs more than 23 tons. You can easily imagine Robin Hood hanging out behind the trees, after having poached the king's deer and robbed from the rich to give to the poor. National Rail from London to Nottingham with East Midlands trains take 1 hour 45 minutes. The Sherwood Arrow bus service 33 between Nottingham and Worksop calls at Edwinstowe. MORE Surfacing: Nottingham's Soulful Side? Ask for trip planning help on Budget Travel's London City Page

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London: 4 Top Jogging Paths

The recent London Marathon has inspired Londoners with an urge to shed their winter beer bellies and work on their six-pack abs. You see lycra-clad joggers everywhere. New arrivals looking to keep up the fitness regime during their stay will find that London's a great place for urban running. Here's the best of three routes. The Thames Path, location: central London to the eastern and western suburbs This pedestrian path fringes both banks of the river Thames for 180 miles, cutting through the heart of London and offering the chance to enjoy one of Europe's most scenic jogs. Runs vary from stretches along one bank to loops taking in both banks and two bridges. To take in the most famous sights as you run begin at Tower Bridge (subway: Tower Hill) and jog to Westminster Bridge finishing up at the Houses of Parliament (subway: Westminster), a run of five-and-a-half miles. The Hampstead Loop, location: north London You never leave the city on this hilly run, yet with the muddy footpaths, extensive stretches woodland and welly boots and Labradors you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the heart of rural England. The run begins at urban Kentish town subway or prettier Hampstead. From either location it climbs up onto Hampstead Heath, a huge hilly park covered in woodland and offering sweeping views out over London. Either option gives a run of four to five miles. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, location: Central London Central London's biggest green space is criss-crossed with running tracks. The longest is the outer circuit, a long oblong loop taking in the entire park and adjacent Kensington Gardens and passing Kensington Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial. The total distance is four-and-a-quarter miles and the park can be reached via the following subway stations: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Notting Hill or Bayswater. Richmond Park location: south London In the far south of the city is one of the largest urban green spaces in Europe, so much so that it is home to herds of wild deer. Hampstead Heath in the north has wonderful views out across the city, whilst Battersea Park a mile south of Victoria rail station across the Thames is the only large park in Central London which abuts onto the river. MORE There are many more jogging route options in London, with maps on run.com. Budget Travel's picks for hotels in London

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New York City: 5 best May values

2-for-1 museum admission It's not easy to compete with the likes of the Met and MoMA. But New York City supports dozens of fascinating, less crowded museums worth a look, especially this month. Through May 31, the Museum Discovery Pass offers unlimited 2-for-1 admission to the following: the American Folk Art Museum ($9); the Asia Society Museum ($10); the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island ($5); the recently expanded and relocated Museum of Chinese in America ($7); the Noguchi Museum in Queens, whose collection encircles a sculpture garden ($10); the Rubin Museum of Art devoted to Himalayan works ($10); and the Studio Museum in Harlem ($7 suggested donation). Print out the pass from a museum website before you go. One more deal worth flagging: the Museum of the City of New York is free on all Mondays in May. The return of Water Taxi Beaches Get your Memorial Day beach-and-burgers fix without the traffic by heading to one of these free urban beaches accessible by public transportation, including water taxi. The original Water Taxi Beach—a sandy stretch of Long Island City, Queens, facing midtown Manhattan—reopens for its fifth season on May 1. The South Street Seaport outpost at Pier 17, in view of the Brooklyn Bridge, is re-branding as Water Taxi Beach & Beer Garden as of opening day April 30. So you can expect a more expansive beer list and lots of communal tables set up near the Fish Shack. Guest DJs get the party vibe going on nights throughout the summer (mostly free, $10 cover for Turntables on the Hudson series, ages 21+ at night). The third beach location, on Governors Island, won't open until June 5. A botanical garden's tribute to Emily Dickinson For its ambitious new show, the New York Botanical Garden filled its Haupt Conservatory with daisies, tulips, roses, jasmine, and other varieties that the 19th-century poet so lovingly tended at her Massachusetts home. Thirty-five of her poems, full of floral imagery, are placed near corresponding plants and act as a guide as you stroll through the show (free audio tours are also available). Gardening demos and poetry readings continue through the closing weekend of June 13, with special plans for Mother's Day Weekend, May 8-9, and Ballet and Poetry Weekend, May 15-16. The All-Garden Pass isn't cheap, but its $20 cost covers the Emily Dickinson show, all other exhibits and garden areas, events, activities, and tram tours. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, the Bronx. Free theater before it's famous Earn some bragging rights by attending a free reading at York Theatre Company; these in-the-works musicals sometimes go on to win awards and sell out theaters on and off Broadway. Two of the three developmental readings slated for May are New York-centric. Trav'lin recounts the romantic ups and downs of three couples in 1930s Harlem with a fitting jazz soundtrack (May 20, 7 p.m.), while The Age of Innocence takes on Edith Wharton's tale of repressed love in the insular high-society world of 1870s Manhattan (May 27, 7 p.m.). Reserve in advance, and stick around for a post-reading discussion. The Theatre at Saint Peters, 619 Lexington Ave., 212/935-5824, ext. 524. Food vendors take over Ninth Avenue Dime-a-dozen street fairs shut down city streets frequently in summer, filling the air with music and the smells from sizzling food stalls. The Ninth Avenue International Food Festival is one of the standouts and comes early in the circuit, when the weather is just getting gorgeous and before street-fair fatigue sets in. This year, the festival takes place the weekend of May 15-16, 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., with folk performances on the 16th. Come hungry so that you can sample treats supplied by neighborhood businesses, for instance, pork with mole sauce from Tacocina, phyllo pastries from Poseidon Greek Bakery, and gumbo from Chantale's Cajun Kitchen. Proceeds go to support community programs. Ninth Ave., 42nd to 57th Sts., rain or shine.

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