Skiing: Whistler and Jackson Hole gondolas and trams go to new heights
The first peak-to-peak gondola in North America opens at Whistler Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia, Canada, on December 12. Its 28-person cabins will zip 2.73 miles from Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain in 11 minutes—saving skiers valuable time that they can use to tackle over 8,000 acres on both mountain faces.
The aptly named Peak 2 Peak gondola operates at a record breaking white-knuckle height; it's suspended 1,427 feet above the valley floor. Daily lift tickets, which include rides on the gondola, start at $66 (U.S. dollars), depending on the time of year.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has also been thinking big and will unveil a faster, spiffier aerial tram (the TramFormation, nicknamed the "Big Red Box") on December 20. It will transport 100 people from Teton Village to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain in nine minutes. That's 50 people and one-and-a-half minutes better than the original tram, which closed for renovations in 2006.
From the top, a staggering 10,450 feet above sea level, thrill-seekers can ski one of the largest vertical drops in the United States: 4,139 feet down snaking black-diamond trails.
The tram is imprinted with Wyoming's iconic silhouette of a bucking bronco, and it has large glass walls on all sides that offer dramatic views of neighboring Grand Teton National Park. An $82 lift ticket gives skiers unlimited access to the new tram, all the slopes and lifts for the day, while a $20 sightseeing tram ticket lets non-skiers scope out the magnificent views.
—Helen I. Hwang
Photo tour: Slum dwellers open their homes
The more staggering a number, the more it can lose resonance. Where to begin getting your head around the fact that a billion people are jammed into the world’s slums? With Norwegian photojournalist Jonas Bendiksen, who zeroes in on a few families in Caracas, Jakarta, Mumbai, and Nairobi. Get to know them through engrossing 360-degree photos and audio clips posted at his site, The Places We Live. Bendiksen makes the world seem not only crowded, but smaller. I found out about The Places We Live through the VSL: Web newsletter, and I've had the topic of overcrowding on my mind lately. I blogged about how cities are grappling with its environmental challenges, and I’ve been caught up in the sweeping, largely autobiographical novel Shantaram, in which the narrator—an escaped Australian convict with a tendency to philosophize—winds up living in an illegal yet thriving Mumbai slum. Are Bendiksen’s photos a close enough look at slum life, or would you consider taking a “poverty tour” on your next trip? We wrote about the trend here and whether it helps or exploits poor communities.
Orlando: Free walking tours beyond the theme parks
Orlando receives nearly 50 million visitors a year. Many travel to the theme parks, of course. But Disney World alone can cost up to $75 per person per day. Here are a few tours that will show you what else the city has to offer—for free. The City of Orlando offers a free self-guided walking tour and map of the downtown historic district. The 11-page downloadable tour itinerary describes 28 historic buildings across 2.5 miles of downtown. From the 1927 Beaux Arts courthouse to the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church with bricks made by the congregation, there's plenty of local history to absorb. For some exercise, the local chapter of the Florida Trail Association offers free walking tours as well as some bike and paddle excursions. One of the most popular activities is a moonlight tour of the 1880 Greenwood Cemetery. The Winter Park Historical Association and Museum offers self-guided walking tours of 20 sites in this quaint suburb north of downtown. The neighborhood is home to Rollins College and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, with an extensive collection of Tiffany glass. First founded as an artist colony in 1938, The Maitland Art Center has hosted a number artists over the years including painter Milton Avery. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, its grounds feature Mayan and Aztec motifs on five acres of gardens. Admission to the gallery is $3, but the gardens are free. Come on the third Monday of each month at 3 p.m. (when many other local museums are closed) if you'd like to take an hour-long guided tour of the grounds ($3). A reservation for the tour is required. EARLIER Coming soon: Free admission to Disney on your birthday /theme_parks_get_the_lowdown_fr.html"> Interview with a theme-park insider
This weekend: Watch bucking bulls in Kansas City
Some bulls lunge when you ride them. Others airwalk. Still other buckle like an earthquake. To appreciate the fine differences, you need to attend a bull riding competition. And I highly recommend the American Royal Pro Rodeo Dodge Prairie Circuit Finals, taking place this weekend as part of the American Royal, which is a five-week long celebration of the pioneer spirit at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. Allow me to wax poetic for a moment: As a born-and-bred KC girl (go Royals!), I've spent many a fall day over the years attending the Royal with my grandparents. I think nothing says "fall" like a good old-fashioned rodeo, especially for a kid (or the young at heart). This weekend, in particular, is a great time to visit the American Royal. Bull riders, cowboys, cowgirls, and 4-H kids will descend upon Kansas City to watch regular Joes mainly from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska compete in seven events—two that will get your heart racing are bull riding and barrel racing. This Saturday is also one of two Family Fun Days. There are activities for agriculture enthusiasts: the American Royal Rodeo University (where your kids can learn to rope!), a piglet birthing clinic, and a colt-raising area. There's also the Western Marketplace, for those of you more inclined to shop. There are events at the Royal scheduled into November—including more bull riding. Kemper Arena, 1800 Genessee. Rodeo tickets start at $22; you can buy tickets online. Admission to Family Fun Days is $5 per person or free with any rodeo ticket. MORE TO DO IN KANSAS CITY The new $800 million, nine-block pedestrian cultural district The Truman Library in the Kansas City suburb of Independence offers a large collection of presidential memorabilia Check out the great blogger Kansas City Kitty for more ideas MORE TRAVEL BLOGS Visit travel.alltop.com
New in Boston*: The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
For the past 15 years, a trip to Beantown has meant maneuvering around the Big Dig: the massive public-works project that replaced the city's elevated highway with tunnels. With the Dig finally finished, people can now stroll where they once sat in traffic. The new Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (rosekennedygreenway.org) is a mile-long park that follows the path of the former highway all the way to the Charles River. —Alison Lobron *CORRECTION 12:31 p.m.: A typo in this headline has been corrected.