San Francisco: The new Exploratorium breaks ground
San Francisco's innovative hands-on science museum the Exploratorium will get a new home in 2013. Construction has just started on nine acres of waterfront at Pier 15 and 17, on the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and Fisherman's Wharf.
The museum is known for its original educational programs and explore-for-yourself exhibits that explain science and technology. There's even a program where artists and scientists work together.
The new building will offer gorgeous bay views, not to mention twice as much exhibition space, a new restaurant, a glass observatory building, and two acres of outdoor space. The construction itself is a feat, involving the repair, replacement, and installation of pilings that extend 160 feet into the sea floor. The sustainable design also includes green elements, like a heating and cooling system that uses bay water.
In the meantime, you can still visit the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon Street. admission $15, but free on the first Wednesday of the month.
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Deals to Escape Winter!
Despite all the fun we had last weekend sledding and sipping cocoa, I'm getting a little weary of winter. So, I was psyched to see some luxe-for-less deals come our way. They can drop you on a warm, sunny beach, pronto: PUERTO RICO. You don't need a passport to visit this U.S. territory, but in all other respects you’ll be a world away from home. Stroll the old-world streets of Old San Juan, kayak in the eerily beautiful Bioluminescent Bay, and taste local favorites like arepas and spicy Asian-fusion dishes that juxtapose noodles with Latin-flavored meat and vegetables. Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa is located on a secluded beach with 20 acres of tropical gardens and nearby diving opportunities from $145/night. OAHU. From the iconic beachfront of Waikiki to dramatic Diamond Head and amazing beaches, authentic luaus, hula dances, and traditional art demonstration, the Hawaiian Island of Oahu is one of our very favorite winter escapes. Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the island’s most famous hotels and they’re offering an incredible discount of 20 percent off, with rooms from $177/night. COSTA RICA. Want your winter escape to include beaches, rain forest, and a volcano? Budget Travel editors, readers, and even many of our friends and family have been raving about how Costa Rica is the ultimate getaway. TripMasters is offering flexible, customizable tours starting at 6 nights from under $1,000, including air and hotel.
Rome: What to eat in winter
The chilly breeze that signals winter arrived earlier than expected this year, but Romans are more than happy to welcome the season's hearty vegetables. Pumpkins have been piling up at markets like Campo de' Fiori, and the aroma of roasted chestnuts now fills the air. Early winter also brings a rare type of chicory called puntarelle, found primarily in the central region of Lazio and the northern Italian region of Veneto. Puntarelle are prepared by peeling off the green leaves to expose the juicy upper stem. The stems are then soaked in cold water for about a half hour, during which they naturally curl. They don't look like anything more than fancy lettuce, but puntarelle pack a lot of distinctive flavor when paired with the traditional mix of anchovies, garlic, salt, vinegar and oil. Puntarelle will be in season until around March, depending, naturally, on the weather. Staff at La Campana restaurant say that this winter's menu will feature insalata di puntarelle for €7 ($9.72), plus porcini mushrooms and artichokes from surrounding areas of Rome for dishes such as tagliatelle ai funghi porcini for €12 ($16.67), roasted funghi porcini for €18 ($25), and carciofi alla giudia for €6 ($8.34). Truffles or tartufi are a national delight. They are sniffed out by dogs under cool soil and classified as a type of fungi even though they look like hard stones. They hail most famously from the northern region of Piedmont. Truffles can be preserved, but taste best in wintertime, when you'll often find them in creamy sauces. White truffles are more expensive and harder to find than black truffles. Salumeria Roscioli is a Roman gem of a restaurant that serves a memorable tagliatelle al tartufo bianco. The price is about €25 ($34.74), but it's definitely worth the splurge. Head past the upscale deli area to the seating in the back, where the trappings make for a nice romantic dinner. Since seating is limited, my advice is to book in advance. MORE FOOD COVERAGE IN ROME 5 quintessential Roman trattorias Roman snacks for any craving Where to eat when you need a pasta break
Spring Trips to Book NOW
Sure, the snow is still falling, but that doesn’t mean you can only dream about your spring getaway. We've lined up some great deals that you have to jump on right away: TULUM, MEXICO is the “quiet side” of the popular Riviera Maya, a tranquil Caribbean beach town that’s more affordable and less crowded than its rowdy neighbor Cancun mid-March through April. Hit the warm spring beaches, tropical forests, and the ancient Mayan pyramids. BedandBreakfast.com has rentals starting at under $100. PARIS & AMSTERDAM are within reach with a package tour from TripMasters that includes three nights in the City of Light (springtime in Paris is legendary for public gardens, flowering trees, and romantic strolls), three nights in the city of canals and tulips (Amsterdam is a Technicolor wonderland in spring!), and airfare -- all starting around $1,300. BLUE HARBOR RESORT, WISCONSIN on Lake Michigan is an affordable road-trip option for Midwestern families, a drive from Chicago, Milwaukee, or Green Bay. Breaker Bay Waterpark with rides and a wave pool is the attraction for kids, and the resort also offers fine dining, a luxurious spa, and even glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. Save 30 percent on the Blue Harbor Resort "Spring Splashdown” with rooms starting under $150 if you book now.
A Train Lovers' Guide To Thailand
I was one of a dozen westerners waiting for the Chiang Mai midnight sleeper, along with 500 uniformed school kids noisily waiting for their train. Their frantic teachers invented amusements like group charades and spelling contests, but still most of the kids wandered around looking for trouble. A dozen 13-year-olds blocked my path. Their bold leader, a chubby pony-tailed girl, demanded to know where I come from. They all giggled and elbowed each other chattering hysterically in Thai after I told them I was from Canada. A fellow passenger, a British woman said (loudly over the din), "These kids were already here when I arrived at 7:30." She looked peevishly at her wristwatch. It was 10 p.m. I had been told Thai rail is usually reliable, so this was not a good sign. I went in search of the station master who spoke just enough English to tell me the entire system was backed-up due to a landslide in the highlands up north, but, "Not to worry all trains still arriving, just a little slow." Two hours later the kids' train to Pai came and went, leaving the platform strangely silent. The midnight train arrived at 1:45 a.m. with my bunk bed ready for me. The car's air conditioning was working—too well. After an attendant gave me a second blanket, I slept soundly, lulled by the swaying of the car and the clacking rhythm of the tracks. I awoke an hour before we reached Chiang Mai. At the end of the corridor several sinks were ready for the passengers' morning ablutions. When I returned to my bunk the rail company's slogan "Service Mind" was demonstrated as an attendant worked with remarkable speed, efficiently converting my bunk bed into a comfortable seat and table. For about $20 (600 baht), I had a Second Class sleeper ticket, but the service was First Class. My berth was aboard a reasonably modern car, pulled by a clean diesel/electric engine. My rail journey had begun at Ubon in Thailand's northeast. At Ayutthuya near Bangkok I had transferred to the night train to the last stop on the Northern Line. Thailand's rail system was launched in 1890, named the Royal State Railways of Siam. The first line was the 71-kilometer span from Bangkok to Ayutthuya. Today it's called State Railways of Thailand, has over 4,000-kilometers of track, and carries 50 million people annually. Here's what you need to know. TICKETSFirst Class tickets are available on most long distance routes. These compartments are air conditioned and include private two-passenger sleeper rooms complete with wash basins (but shared bathrooms). Second Class sleepers have convertible bunks in a dorm arrangement. Privacy is maintained with curtains for each bed. Third Class tickets sometimes have upholstered seats, though on most lines, only wooden benches. There are no sleeping accommodations in Third Class, and no air conditioning, though many trains have fans. POPULAR LINESThere are four principle lines of track in Thailand. The Eastern Line connects Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos, and a second train ends at Nai Mueang near the borders of Laos and Cambodia. The Northern Line starts in Bangkok and terminates in Chiang Mai, near the border of Burma. The North-Eastern Railway ends on the Laotian border at Nong Khai. The Southern Line links Bangkok to Malaysia. This route connects many towns near some of Thailand's most popular beach resorts and terminates at the Sungai Kolok Station on the border. In the past, this train went all to the way into Kuala Lumpur. The line now runs down the Malay Peninsula's eastern shore along the Gulf of Thailand. INTERESTING ROUTESTrue train aficionados shouldn't miss The Death Railway (Thailand-Burma Railway), built by Asian and Allied prisoners of war of the occupying Japanese forces during WWII. Thousands of prisoners died from the brutal forced labor. Along the route is the famous Bridge on the River Kwai, immortalized by the eponymous 1957 film starring Alec Guinness. The Death Railway originates at Thorburi Station in Bangkok and terminates at Lang Suan, no longer reaching Burma. For luxury rail fans, the Eastern and Oriental Express runs through Thailand into Malaysia ending in Singapore. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel. Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season, traveling the world looking for a story.