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    Waterloo,

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    Waterloo is a city in and the county seat of Black Hawk County, Iowa, United States. As of the 2020 United States Census the population was 67,314, making it the eighth-largest city in the state. The city is part of the Waterloo – Cedar Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the more populous of the two cities.
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    The Best Museums in Every State

    With so many amazing cultural, quirky, history-focused and art-centric attractions to visit across America, it’s nearly impossible to choose the one best museum in each and every state. However, these institutions continually rise to the top of must-see lists for good reason: Alabama A multi-faceted interpretive museum and research center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute takes visitors on a moving and important journey through the advent and progression of the Civil Rights movement. Alaska Inside its stunning glacier-like façade, the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North in Fairbanks offers an in-depth peek into the biodiversity, culture and geology of this intriguing northern terrain. Arizona Founded in 1929, The Heard Museum in Phoenix celebrates Native American culture and advances American Indian art through a remarkable collection of historic and modern items, textiles, jewelry, ceramics and Hopi katsina dolls. Arkansas Named for the natural spring that feeds the 120-acre grounds, the striking architecture of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville makes a memorable first impression; inside, view exhibitions housed within a linked series of pavilions for free. California The expansive views of the Los Angeles basin rival the art inside the uber-modern Getty Center; admire the European and American collections, then enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Central Garden and an al fresco café lunch or refreshment. Colorado On a 15-acre former rail yard, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden maintains more than 100 historic locomotives, passenger cars and cabooses to observe, along with a depot museum, a railroad reference library and a functioning roundhouse. Connecticut Experience adventure at sea without ever leaving dry land; the Mystic Seaport Museum pays homage to America’s seafaring heritage with more than 500 watercraft on display, a recreated coastal village, a research center and a working shipyard. Delaware The former childhood home of horticulturalist Henry Francis du Pont, the opulently restored Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library fills 175 rooms with American decorative art pieces and furnishings, some dating back as far as 1640. Florida With a thought-provoking permanent collection of original objets d’art, prints, photos, sculpture, paintings and illustrations, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg lends an immersive peek into the life of the eccentric artist and master of Surrealism. Georgia The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta traces the lineage of the iconic soft drink with a 4-D film presentation, a look at the bottling process, a pop culture gallery, and the opportunity to sample more than 100 different products from around the world. Hawaii The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in downtown Honolulu serves as a thoughtful repository for royal family heirlooms and also maintains a science adventure center, a planetarium and one of world’s largest collections of natural history specimens. Idaho The quirky Museum of Clean in Pocatello goes way beyond vacuum cleaners and washing machines to address the evolution of cleaning products and equipment and their effects on the environment; a gallery for kids actually makes chores fun. Illinois No Windy City visit is complete with a trip to the iconic Art Institute of Chicago to marvel at original masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Chagall and Picasso during a docent-led or self-guided tour. Indiana Dinosaurs crashing through The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis façade get visitors excited for the five floors of interactive fun they’ll discover inside, including areas that focus on science, global culture, archeology, space travel and extraordinary children. Iowa Part of the 30-acre TechWorks campus in Waterloo, the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum gives voice to Iowa’s farming history and heritage as interpreted by one of the industry’s most significant contributors. Kansas The Kansas Aviation Museum in the original Wichita Airport facility flies high with historical military and civil airplanes, flight simulators, exhibits on major aircraft manufacturers, a retired air control tower and the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame. Kentucky The stunning works of art on display in the National Quilt Museum’s three exhibition galleries make it easy to see at a glance why enchanting little Paducah is famous for its quilting, crafting and fiber arts heritage. Louisiana Let the good times roll at Mardi Gras World on the New Orleans riverfront with an insider glimpse at how extravagant parade floats take shape, in addition to the opportunity to learn about Mardi Gras history and try on costumes. Maine The Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park dates back to 1791, making it the oldest lighthouse in Maine; the museum in the former Lighthouse Keeper’s quarters holds maritime artifacts, documents, navigational tools and models. Maryland Both part of the Harriett Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge and the Harriett Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Center in Church Creek honor the life and legacy of the groundbreaking abolitionist. Massachusetts Inside a striking exterior designed by I.M. Pei, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library in Boston examines the life of America’s 35th Commander in Chief from childhood through his political career, marriage and assassination. Michigan Encompassing the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, the Greenfield Village living history site and the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, the comprehensive 250-acre Henry Ford campus in Dearborn merits several days of exploration to fully absorb. Minnesota Founded in 1883, the Minneapolis Institute of Art boasts a permanent collection of 90,000 objects spanning 20,000 years and six continents, in addition to gorgeous architecture, traveling exhibits and community-oriented programming. Mississippi Visitors can immerse themselves in the sounds and stories of legendary artists like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker at the Delta Blues Museum in the historic 1918 Clarksdale freight depot building. Missouri Crawling through colorful tunnels, scaling large-scale wire sculptures, playing amid indoor urban artscapes and riding the rooftop Ferris Wheel at the 600,000 square-foot City Museum in St. Louis is enough to make anyone feel like a kid again. Montana The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman honors its rugged roots with one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil collections, a Yellowstone National Park display, planetarium shows, a paleontology research facility and a seasonal living history farm. Nebraska Step back in time to the days of the Oregon Trail; the landmark Archway facility in Kearney retraces the steps of America’s settlers as they traveled the Great Platte River Road during Westward Expansion. Nevada Get a lesson in Las Vegas history with a walk through the Neon Museum to see flashy signage that once adorned the Strip’s extravagant casinos, hotels and tourist attractions, along with blueprints, photos and other memorabilia. New Hampshire The Mount Washington Observatory and Weather Discovery Center in North Conway offers a way to safely explore some of the planet’s most extreme climates and conditions through guided weather station tours and interactive science exhibits. New Jersey Experience the bells and whistles of the Jersey Shore at the Pinball Hall of Fame and Silverball Museum Arcade in Asbury Park by trying your luck on a rotating selection of 200-ish playable machines from the museum’s 600-item collection. New Mexico The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe imparts an inspiring look at the life and work of New Mexico’s most recognized 20th-century artist by inviting guests to experience her distinctive abstract, landscape and floral paintings in nine themed galleries. New York Rising from the ruins of the World Trade Center, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City honors the lives lost during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and pays tribute to the heroes that emerged. North Carolina With 8,000 acres, 250 preserved rooms, priceless works of art, a massive banquet hall, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool and bowling alley, the palatial French chateau-style Biltmore House and Gardens estate is Asheville’s crown jewel. North Dakota The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck takes a wide-ranging look at the state’s geologic evolution over 600 million years through four galleries filled with artifacts, art and interactive displays. Ohio Music fans make pilgrimages to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to learn about the legions of legends who’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame, catch live performances and even noodle on real instruments in the Garage. Oklahoma Experience the great American West at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City through exhibits and galleries that highlight Native American life, the American Cowboy, rodeo and other cultural touchpoints. Oregon One of the top science centers in the country, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland maintains 200 hands-on exhibits spread across five halls, a planetarium, six labs and a full-size US Navy submarine to discover. Pennsylvania The echoes of history ring through the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors Center; the museum offers a primer on one of America’s most significant Civil War battles before visitors embark on guided tours of the battlefield itself. Rhode Island The RISD Museum on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design holds its own against much bigger facilities thanks to an extensive collection of 100,000+ globally sourced paintings, sculpture, textiles and furniture. South Carolina On the actual site where slaves were auctioned back in the mid-1800s, the Old Slave Mart Museum educates visitors on the facts and realities of the most shameful chapter of American history through informative, emotionally moving content. South Dakota Currently closed for a massive architectural expansion with plans to reopen in 2021, the National Music Museum on the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion delights visitors with instruments on display from the facility’s 15,000+ piece collection. Tennessee A shrine fit for a King, Graceland in Memphis gives visitors the chance to tour the estate of Elvis Presley to see the rooms in which he lived, his racquetball court, personal family effects and final resting place in the meditation garden. Texas Retired spacecraft, astronaut spacesuits, an Independence shuttle replica, an International Space Station gallery, moon rocks, virtual reality experiences and motion simulators await at the Smithsonian-affiliated Space Center Houston. Utah Just west of Temple Square, the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City provides an overview of the religious history and foundations that inform the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Mormon faith. Vermont The Shelburne Museum serves up an all-inclusive sampler of history, art and culture through 39 New England–style buildings on a bucolic 45-acre site, all filled with materials and artifacts from the collections of founder Electra Havemeyer Webb. Virginia Colonial Williamsburg brings American history to life through costumed interpreters who populate a working 18th-century village, as well as museums dedicated to folk art and decorative arts, seasonal programming and historic dining opportunities. Washington Next to the Space Needle, Seattle’s long-term Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition sparkles and shines with eight galleries, three drawing walls, a Glasshouse and a garden filled with vibrant works by the renowned glass artist. West Virginia Veteran miners lead underground tours through the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine and Youth Museum, a recreated 20th-century Appalachian miner’s camp settlement and an authentic West Virginia mountain homestead. Wisconsin Get your motor running at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee while learning all about the history of America’s signature motorcycles and the culture they’ve inspired among their loyal customer base through the years. Wyoming The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody encapsulates the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indian Museum and the Cody Firearms Museum all under one expansive roof.

    Inspiration

    Dream Destinations Around the World

    What you'll find in this story: Dream vacations, International travel information, Victoria Falls tips, Grand Canyon travel, Great Wall of China details, Galapagos Islands travel, Stonehenge information We all have a list of the iconic places and adventures we hope to experience someday. Isn't it time to turn those daydreams into reality? Grand Canyon "Mountain Lying Down" is what the Paiute tribe called it. Teddy Roosevelt said it's "the one great sight every American should see." At 5,000 feet deep, an average of 10 miles across, and millennia in the making, the Grand Canyon is the earth's most famous scar. Getting there Phoenix and Las Vegas are less than five hours away by car. You can drive right up and gaze out over the rim, but some of the best experiences require months, even years, of planning. Camping permits (summer only) tend to sell out four months in advance, while bunks at Phantom Ranch, an eight-mile hike to the canyon floor, get snagged a year ahead (888/297-2757, grandcanyonlodges.com, $27). The same goes for guided rafting trips: A six-night trip through the entire canyon with meals and gear starts at $1,575 (800/525-0924, canyoneers.com). You made it Admission for a vehicle and its passengers costs $20 for a week (928/638-7888, nps.gov/grca). In peak months, you must use free shuttles to get around many areas. Stay at the Maswik Lodge, a quarter mile from the canyon's edge (grandcanyonlodges.com, $67). Or go for a log cabin at the quieter North Rim, which 90 percent of the park's 4 million annual visitors ignore (open mid-May to mid-October, grandcanyonnorthrim.com, from $92). An even smaller group--about 25,000 a year--makes the trek to Havasu Canyon, in the Havasupai Indian Reservation (928/448-2121, havasupaitribe.com, $20 entrance fee per person). Havasu Canyon's turquoise waters shoot out over three towering waterfalls. Supai, the reservation's only town, provides a base, with a café, store, camping ($10 per person), and a basic lodge ($80). Who knew? Campsites, bunks at Phantom Ranch, and spots on white-water trips can open up at the last minute, even in summer. For camping inside the canyon, show up at the Backcountry Information Center (across from the Maswik Lodge) before 8 a.m. and get on the waiting list. If you have no luck, repeat the next day. (By the third day, you should have a camping permit; find a campsite or hotel on top of the canyon or just outside the park while you're on the list.) Phantom Ranch also has cancellations, but don't just hike down and hope that something is available. Call two days before you arrive to see if anything has opened up. Scoring a last-minute seat on a rafting trip is a crapshoot, but it can work. There are 16 river outfitters officially approved by the park service, and you'll have to contact them one at a time (nps.gov/grca/river). For all of these possibilities, the smaller your group, the better your chances. Stonehenge Is it a prehistoric astronomical tool? The burial ground of chieftains and kings? A site for human sacrifices to vengeful pagan gods? Stonehenge is a peerless monument to 1,500 years of backbreaking dedication. Yet the exact purpose of these circles of massive rocks--which were dragged hundreds of miles here between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago--remains a mystery. Getting there Guided day tours from London start at $90 from Stonehenge Tour Company (011-44/700-078-1016, stonehengetours.com). But Stonehenge's location, in Wiltshire, is an easy 80 miles from London if you want to go it alone. Rent a car from $60 a day (EasyCar, 0906-333-3333 in the U.K., easycar.com). If you'd rather not drive, there's hourly rail service from Waterloo to Salisbury (90 minutes each way, $43). From there, a 10-mile taxi ride to Stonehenge costs roughly $30; the bus (route 3) is $11. You made it Visiting hours are longest in the late spring and summer (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.) and general access costs $10. Stonehenge consists of a number of ditches, banks, and stones arranged in concentric circles. Ropes went up around the inner circle in 1978, keeping visitors about 10 feet away. Splurge on a helicopter tour and you'll also get spectacular views of Old Sarum Castle and Salisbury Cathedral, a medieval jewel (WesseXplore, 011-44/172-232-6304, dmac.co.uk/wessexplore, half hour from $150). Stonehenge, which draws 850,000 visitors annually from around the world, is the centerpiece of a Wiltshire landscape studded with archaeological finds documenting 10,000 years of human history. The remains of Durrington Walls, Vespasian's Camp, the 1.8-mile-long parallel banks of the Cursus, as well as some 350 Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds are among the attractions. Don't miss Avebury, 25 miles from Stonehenge. It has its own group of impressive earthworks and megalithic monuments. In fact, the entire town--pub and all--sits within an ancient stone circle. Who knew? A $500 million refurbishment of Stonehenge is currently under way, including a new visitors center slated to open in 2006. (Check out the progress of architectural firm Denton Corker Marshall's eco-fabulous building and its state-of-the-art exhibitions at thestonehengeproject.org.) But the development isn't without controversy. Although no one is lobbying for a return to the days when tourists could rent hammers from a nearby blacksmith to chip off a souvenir, many weekend pagans and modern druids are upset about restricted access to the site. They're somewhat mollified by the Stone Circle Access policy, which allows small groups of people to enter the inner circle before or after regular visiting hours ($22). Permission is required in advance but, depending on the season, can be granted quickly. For dates, times, and an application (which asks that you "please give full details of ceremony proposed and equipment to be used"), call 011-44/198-062-6267 or log on to english-heritage.org.uk/stonehenge. Victoria Falls Over a mile wide, the falls spew up to 144 million gallons of water per minute. And the plume of spray is visible 30 miles away. The roaring Zambezi River plummets from a dry savanna plateau 350 feet into Batoka Gorge, a lush, palm-packed ravine that forms a natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Getting there Flights to Livingstone International Airport in Zambia (the gateway for Victoria Falls) are only available from Johannesburg, South Africa; British Airways flies thrice weekly (from $290 round trip), and Nationwide Airlines operates daily service (from $190 round trip). 2Afrika (2afrika.com) has a package priced from $465 that includes air from Jo'burg, two nights with breakfasts at the Zambezi Sun (where rooms are usually more than $200), unlimited entrance to view the falls, and a half-day cruise on the Zambezi River aboard the African Queen, a triple-decker catamaran. Another popular option is to combine a safari at the Chobe or Okavango game regions in Botswana, or the Luangwa or Kafue reserves in Zambia, with a day trip to Victoria Falls. Ask at your game lodge for a guide/driver who knows the roads and border protocol (about $100 per person). You Made It The entrance fee at Victoria Falls National Park starts at $15. Bring a change of shirt in case of spontaneous rainfall or a windblown blast of waterfall spray. The steep paths and metal bridges are slippery, so wear shoes with good treads. Don't be afraid of the baboons throughout the park--they're tame--but do keep any food hidden while on park paths unless you seek a very close encounter. For excitement, the bungee jump off of the Victoria Falls Bridge offers 340 feet of free fall (Zambezi Safari & Travel Co., zambezi.co.uk, single jump $75, tandem $105); or go white-water rafting--choose the Low Water option, which offers the best glimpses of the falls--on the grade V Batoka Rapids (Safari Par Excellence, safpar.com, full-day trip from $95). For something more civilized, take afternoon tea on the veranda at the Royal Livingstone Hotel (from $16), a short walk from the park entrance. Who knew? If you hire a driver, make sure he has third-party insurance--you're not allowed to cross the borders without it. Inspect his credentials closely; expired licenses can cause hours of delays and inflate the cost of the trip. Always carry U.S. dollars--they're widely accepted and preferred--but beware of scams. If you secured a visa prior to arrival (capitolvisa.com/tourist/zambia.htm), you shouldn't have to pay anything at the borders. If you're buying a visa on the spot, it should cost no more than $40. Galápagos Islands Each of the 13 major islands is a unique habitat overflowing with creatures that evolved independently--and spectacularly. Charles Darwin didn't discover the Galápagos, a volcanic archipelago 600 miles west of Ecuador, but when he honed his evolutionary theory after an 1835 visit, he gave the world the insight necessary to appreciate it. Getting there All-inclusive guided cruises are the way to go, but packages booked from home tend to be overpriced ($4,000 without airfare is common). G.A.P Adventures, a trustworthy operator based in Toronto, runs an eight-day trip that includes meals, air from Quito to the islands, a cabin aboard a 16-passenger ship, and two nights in a Quito hotel for $1,395 (800/465-5600, gapadventures.com). You'll find even lower prices by booking last-minute at one of the travel agents in Quito's New Town (fly to Quito from Miami for about $400 on American Airlines). In January, Safari Tours (Foch E5-39 at Av. Juan Leon Mera, 011-593/2-255-2505, safari.com.ec) sold weeklong trips on the Sulidae for $560, while American dealers charged up to $1,089 for the same cruise. If you're worried about your boat, do some research at the South American Explorers club in Quito (samexplo.org). The $50 membership grants access to a library full of honest reviews. With the cruise squared away, fly to the Galápagos on Tame for $389 round trip (tame.com.ec). Cruise prices don't cover the $100 entry fee (cash only; $20 bills work best). You made it The most popular and well-rounded cruise itineraries take in the eastern and southern islands, with chances to spot blue-footed boobies and red-throated frigate birds on North Seymour, as well as the waved albatross--which has an eight-foot wingspan--on Española. To ensure that your guide speaks English, check that he or she is registered as a "naturalist II" or higher. Bring your own mask, snorkel, and wet suit, too--the islands' animal show extends below the waterline, and most boats' loaner sets are in ragged shape. Sea lions are everywhere, and they love it when people swim in the surf with them. Don't forget to bring some extra cash ($50 or so) to tip your crew and guide at the end of the journey. Who knew? "The young tortoises make excellent soup," Darwin wrote. Nowadays, dining on the locals is frowned upon--as is even touching them. Many of the animals will let you get within arm's length, but don't make contact. Guides have the power to throw you off the islands. Tour de France Cheered on by crazed fans, rail-thin gladiators race for 2,000 miles up steep mountain roads and through pristine countrysides. It's France's favorite summer pastime: a three-week trek that snakes through the heart of the country every July. While six-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong has yet to decide whether he'll chase another victory this year, his much-heralded success has turned Americans on to the spectacle that has riveted Europeans for decades. Getting there Scores of bike-touring companies sell ride-and-watch packages, most quite expensive--a seven-day trip from VéloSport Vacations costs $4,395 (800/988-9833, velovacations.com). With prices like that, many spectators prefer to go the independent route. After all, the Tour de France is free. There are no tickets, no stadiums, no grandstands. The best way to follow the Tour's hopscotch route is by car. Try Auto Europe (autoeurope.com) or Kemwel (kemwel.com), which does short-term leases that can be cheaper than renting--a brand-new Peugeot with insurance starts at $740 for 17 days. You made it The Tour changes course each year, so check the route (letour.fr) and plot a plan of attack. It's too exhausting to try to watch all 21 stages. Instead, pick a few key spots and soak up the atmosphere of the race. During one of the longer, flat stages that dominate the first week of the 2005 Tour, follow the locals to any number of roadside cafés and sip a chilled Côtes du Rhône while you wait for the racers to roar past. There are seven mountain stages this year; summit finishes at Courchevel on July 12 and at Saint-Lary Soulan on July 17 will best capture the Tour's passion. Arrive early and stake out a spot on a twisting switchback or a hilltop with sweeping views of the road. Or cycle the race route yourself; you're allowed to ride on the road up to 90 minutes before the pros arrive. There's no charge on international flights for toting a bike, though it'll count as a checked bag. Or rent a bike locally for around $30 a day. With the Tour entourage topping 4,000 racers, journalists, and officials, hotels fill up early. Check the two- and three-star family-run hotels in the Logis de France network for doubles starting at $65 (logis-de-france.fr/uk). One hotel we can specifically recommend: Le Coin Fleuri, which is near stage 12 at Digne-les-Bains and has a large garden that's perfect for a relaxing déjeuner (011-33/492-310-451, from $52). Who Knew? Held since 1903, the race is now the world's largest annual sporting event. Last year's was watched--in person--by 15 million spectators. Sydney Opera House What is now an enduring symbol of the Harbour City was inspired by both Mayan temples and the tiled mosques of Iran. But the Sydney Opera House is not simply a whimsical palace to be admired from afar--there are endless ways to experience the beauty of Danish architect Jørn Utzon's 1973 creation. Getting there Flights to Sydney start at $1,000 from L.A., $1,300 from New York. Package deals are often the better value--from $1,399 including air from L.A. and eight nights' hotel split between Sydney and Melbourne (Qantas Airways, 888/505-6252, qantasusa.com). The Opera House sits on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour and is impossible to miss. You made it To have a look from every angle, board a ferry at Circular Quay's Wharf 4 (dial 131-500 in Sydney, sydneyferries.info, from $14), or walk over to the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens (rbgsyd.gov.au, free). To actually get inside the Opera House, pay $17.50 for the standard tour (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Christmas Day and Good Friday). A two-hour backstage tour takes you to usually off-limits areas like the orchestra pit, dressing rooms, and the stage, and includes breakfast (daily at 7 a.m., $107). There are performance packages available that combine a tour with dinner and a show in one of the opera house's five theaters (from $130). For details, call 011-61/2-9250-7250 or log on to sydneyoperahouse.com. Tickets to performances are rarely discounted (from $38). If you're desperate to see a sold-out show, hang around the box office that night and pester the attendants for any returned tickets. Inside the southern shell you'll find Guillaume at Bennelong, a superb restaurant where chef Guillaume Brahimi--trained in Paris by the famed Michelin chef Joel Robuchon--creates food worthy of the setting. Expect to pay about $70 each for a three-course meal, not including drinks, or $50 for a three-course pretheater prix fixe (011-61/2-9241-1999, guillaumeatbennelong.com.au). For something more casual, head downstairs to the lower concourse and try the popular indoor/outdoor Opera Bar (011-61/2-9247-1666, operabar.com.au, entrées from $13). Or have a cocktail at the Park Hyatt's Harbour Bar, overlooking the water on the opposite side of Circular Quay (7 Hickson Rd., 011-61/2-9256-1500, sydney.park.hyatt.com, drinks from $12). Who knew? Up close, you'll notice the tiles are a pale gray rather than the brilliant white they appear to be in photos. Depending on the light, they can look soft pink, even gold. Great Wall of China Originally built to keep foreigners out, it's now the very thing that draws tourists in. An astonishing testament to human ambition, ingenuity, and xenophobia, the Great Wall looks much like the scaly tail of a dragon. It drapes the mountains in sections for 1,500 miles, from the Yellow Sea to its curiously unceremonious and abrupt conclusion in the middle of the far-west Gobi Desert. Getting there Beijing is the best gateway. Airfare starts at $700 from L.A. or San Francisco; it's $100 more from Chicago or New York. All U.S. travelers need a visa (china-embassy.org/eng, from $50). If you want a guided tour, hire one of the touts in Tiananmen Square (from $25 a day). Though it sounds sexist, always buy from a man: Those seduced by the pretty saleswomen speaking English may end up with trips guided by men who don't speak it well, whereas salesmen usually lead their own tours. It's far more fun to explore without guides, though. You can reach several sections by taxi. You made it Like aerobics, the Great Wall offers the low-impact (Badaling), the high-impact (a trek from Jinshanling to Simatai), and the extreme (Huanghua Cheng). Badaling--a reconstructed portion with guardrails and a 360-degree amphitheater showing short documentaries on the landmark--is so popular and crowded that the entry fees doubled this year to $10 during peak summer months (it's a 40-minute cab ride from Beijing, from $50 round trip). Badaling's good for tourists with little time, but those wanting to see the ancient monument in its more authentic, decayed condition should consider the winding, rocky 6.2-mile Jinshanling-to-Simatai hike (90-minute cab ride, from $100 round trip). It'll take at least five hours, but it offers breathtaking views of the vast countryside from a series of parapets. Have the taxi drop you off at Jinshanling. It's easier to get a ride back to Beijing from Simatai, which is popular because there's a cable car to lift visitors to a higher perch. (Admission $3.75 at Jinshanling, $4 at Simatai.) For an even more unusual experience, head to Huanghua Cheng with some lightweight camping gear and sleep on the wall. There's no formal entrance for this section, but taxi drivers will know how to find it. (Ask your concierge to write Huanghua out in Chinese characters, and show it to the driver. One-hour ride, from $100 round trip with the cabbie waiting overnight.) Not comfortable trying that on your own? Hire William Lindesay, who leads hikes to more obscure parts of the wall (wildwall.com, weekends from $365 including transportation and lodging). Who knew? The party line for years was that the Great Wall was one of the only man-made objects visible from space. After the Chinese sent their first astronaut, Yang Liwei, into orbit in 2003, reporters asked if that was true. "No," Yang said without hesitation, it wasn't visible. Intriguingly, many wrote with certainty that the Chinese government would force him to retract the comment. But Yang wasn't silenced, further evidence that China is changing. In fact, articles appeared in the government's English-language China Daily newspaper discussing the debunking of the myth.

    Inspiration

    Southern U.S.: 'We're Moving to L.A. to Follow Our Dreams'

    For most people, moving to another city equals stress. For Lisa Levine and her boyfriend, John Craig, it means adventure. Before relocating from Boston to Los Angeles in April, they're going to see the country. John, a 30-year-old film school grad, is leaving his gig as a waiter at a fine restaurant to try and make a living doing what he loves best--acting--in L.A. Lisa, 32, is likewise following her dream of working with animals, as well as basking in southern California's great year-round weather. She's quitting her job in human resources to become a dog trainer, specializing in positive reinforcement. The couple met in Aspen seven years ago watching a local band. They have a shared passion for music, food, drink, the outdoors, and of course, travel--with trips to Moab, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, northern California, and the southeastern U.S. already under their belts. "We've driven cross-country before, but never the southern route," says Lisa. "We were hoping that you could point out some hidden gems along the way--a place we didn't know was there, the best local cuisine in Tennessee, or something like that." Some days they'll do nothing but drive; other days they'll put in six hours at the wheel and six hours having fun; still others, they'll simply kick back. They're interested in a few cities in particular--Memphis, Austin, and Santa Fe--which gives the trip a basic structure, but they're not locked into a specific itinerary. "I like the fact that it's not a tour we have to stick with," says Lisa. "We're up for whatever." If we planned out all the cool stops across the land, they might not get to California until June. So for their three-week trip, we're focusing on a few key places that they've never been, starting with Kentucky. John and Lisa can find inspiration for their big move and lifestyle change in Louisville at the brand-new Muhammad Ali Center, dedicated to the man known as much for following his ideals as he is for being a great athlete. For a true taste of the state, they could visit Louisville's Brown Hotel, where the gluttony-inducing "Hot Brown" was invented in 1923 ($11.50). Sure, the turkey sandwich smothered in Mornay sauce, cheese, and bacon makes fried chicken seem like a light repast, but in this case a full belly might be good. John's favorite drink is bourbon, and his favorite bourbon of all is Jim Beam. The distillery is but a half hour outside the city, and everyone knows about the perils of drinking on an empty stomach. "We're willing to drive a little out of the way for cool side trips," says Lisa. Bearing that in mind, as well as the fact that Lisa and John mentioned their interest in food time and again, they might not want to take the interstates straight to Memphis. Instead, they should drive along the Western Kentucky Parkway to Princeton, home of Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Hams--the best hams anywhere outside of Spain. John requests "great hikes with amazing views," and 20 miles north of Princeton, an easy walk leads to Mantle Rock, a 30-foot-high, 188-foot-long natural sandstone bridge. One big reason this trip is possible is because John and Lisa are selling most of their stuff, particularly furniture. If it doesn't fit into their two cars, it isn't leaving Massachusetts. "We're pretty much going to be traveling with books, CDs, clothes, only the important things," says John, a musician as well as an actor, whose prize possession is a Martin guitar. John should especially dig Memphis. To really put him in a Memphis state of mind, we recommend he read Peter Guralnick's book Sweet Soul Music and pick up a few Stax-Volt CDs for the car. Lisa likes museums that are "different or offbeat," so if Elvis's memorabilia-strewn racquetball court at Graceland doesn't completely fill the bill, the art, weaponry, and artifacts at the National Ornamental Metal Museum--a perfect picnic-and-sunset spot overlooking the mighty Mississippi--ought to do the trick. For John, the guitar factory at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase is a must. And for the required dose of Memphis barbecue, we suggest Cozy Corner, where they'll get not only the usual dry-rubbed ribs and falling-apart pork shoulder, but also Cornish game hen. There's enough to do in Memphis that they'll want to stay a night or two, and the spacious junior suites at French Quarter Suites come with a whirlpool tub for a mere $89. Last summer, while dreaming of their cross-country trip, Lisa and John checked off the places they wanted to see, and New Orleans was high on the list. "There has been so much devastation, but we still want to visit," says Lisa. "We're hoping that maybe we could volunteer for a couple of days and help in some way, with animals or people." On Wednesdays and Saturdays, grassroots group Katrina Krewe welcomes volunteers willing to put rubber gloves and garbage bags to use in various neighborhoods. Contacting the organization ahead of time is a good idea. The city's needs change from day to day, so John and Lisa should remain flexible and proactive in seeking out volunteer opportunities. Another contact is Best Friends Animal Society, an organization that links volunteers to local outfits helping pets left without homes after Katrina. Some of the Big Easy is ready for visitors, so John and Lisa can even be tourists, checking out the Rebirth Brass Band or Walter "Wolfman" Washington at the Maple Leaf Bar, and having a beignet--or three--at Café du Monde. When it comes to accommodations in New Orleans, the options certainly aren't as plentiful as they once were. Vacancy rates and prices are a bit unpredictable, so John and Lisa should absolutely book in advance and not be picky; neworleanscvb.com lists "rebuilding status" among the hotel features. "I don't necessarily need to spend a ton of time in Texas," says Lisa. "I'm curious about Austin and the desert and really good barbecue, but don't need to see Dallas or George Bush's ranch or anything." In that case, the bad news is that there are 800 miles of Lone Star State between Louisiana and New Mexico, so Lisa and John will have to spend a fair amount of time in Texas. The good news is there's tons to enjoy. Using the Austin Motel as their home base in the state capital, John and Lisa can try migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla chips, $5) next door at El Sol y La Luna and listen to blues or roots-rock across the street at The Continental Club. John says he's an "indie-rock guy," so he should also check the calendar for who's playing at Emo's. The shops at the corner of 6th and Lamar seem right for the couple: Waterloo Records (heard the latest Spoon album?), BookPeople (Karen Olsson's 2005 novel Waterloo defines contemporary Austin), and the flagship Whole Foods Market, where customers gorge on free samples and marvel at the chocolate enrobing station, where workers will cover almost anything requested in chocolate. Lisa enjoys yoga, and she can work out the kinks from too much time in the car at Yoga Yoga, which has four locations in the city, classes almost around the clock, and Yogi Tea so good she'll want the recipe. Highway 71 out of Austin means bluebonnets, brush, and yes, more barbecue. They'll have to decide between the huge pork chops at Cooper's, in Llano, or the brisket plate, which combines a choice of brisket and one other meat, beans, potato salad, peppers, onions, and bread, at Mac's, in Brady, because few stomachs could handle both. After a long drive through the austere landscape of West Texas, they can reward themselves with wine in...Lubbock? The truth is, there are more than 80 wineries in Texas, and the vintages aren't half-bad. "I always enjoy going to little vineyards and just checking them out," says John. "It doesn't matter if they're not in famous growing areas." Set on the wide-open plains, Llano Estacado is one of the area's most prominent wineries, with daily tours and free tastings. Continuing on, John and Lisa will head to one of those "hidden gems" that they'd never heard of: Palo Duro Canyon, just outside of Amarillo, is the second-largest canyon in the United States. The couple thought they'd wind up camping at some point on the road trip, and this is as good a place as any; a basic site is $12, and there are miles of hiking trails. After leaving the natural wonder, they should keep an eye out on the left side of I-40 for an unnatural wonder: Cadillac Ranch, built by local eccentric Stanley Marsh and made famous by Bruce Springsteen. "I love to cook, so a cooking class would be fun," says Lisa. "John, too--he likes to cook, but I usually hog the kitchen." Hopefully they'll be able to share space and work together at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, where the Chile Amor class introduces students to all things red and green, plus tortilla making. John should be able to fulfill Lisa's wish for "cute but not too expensive clothes" by getting her something in Santa Fe at Double Take, a hip consignment store. John and Lisa are intrigued by the groovy vibe surrounding Sedona, Ariz., though they're not sure they'll have time to visit. Just in case, we refer them to the comprehensive feature story on the town in last June's Budget Travel, available in our archives at BudgetTravelOnline.com. After a stop at Lisa's father's home near Kingman, Ariz.,the couple will be just five hours from Santa Monica. To finish the journey, we recommend a nice, long walk on the beach to stretch their legs. Surprise! After a long couple of weeks on the road, John and Lisa will certainly be ready to unwind. Thanks to a gift from Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs spa in New Mexico, they're being treated to one night's lodging and access to several hot springs, including a private, clothing-optional pool. Go on--nobody else can see. Lodging   French Quarter Suites 2144 Madison Ave., Memphis, 800/843-0353, memphisfrenchquarter.com, from $89   Austin Motel 1220 S. Congress Ave., 512/441-1157, austinmotel.com, from $57 Food   Brown Hotel 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, 502/583-1234   Cozy Corner 745 N. Parkway, Memphis, 901/527-9158   Maple Leaf Bar 8316 Oak St., New Orleans, 504/866-9359   Café du Monde 800 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504/525-4544   El Sol y La Luna 1224 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512/444-7770   Cooper's Barbecue 505 W. Dallas St., Llano, 325/247-5713   Mac's BBQ 1903 S. Bridge St., Brady, 325/597-2164   Llano Estacado Winery 3426 E. Farm-to-Market Road 1585, Lubbock, 806/745-2258 Activities   Muhammad Ali Center 144 N. Sixth St., Louisville, 502/584-9254, $9   Jim Beam Outpost 149 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, 502/543-9877   Mantle Rock Preserve 859/259-9655, nature.org   Graceland 800/238-2000, elvis.com/graceland, mansion tour $22   National Ornamental Metal Museum 374 Metal Museum Dr., Memphis, 901/774-6380, $4   Gibson Beale Street Showcase 145 Lt. George W. Lee Ave., Memphis, 901/543-0800, tour $10   Katrina Krewe New Orleans, 504/329-7908, cleanno.org   Best Friends Animal Society 435/644-2001, bestfriends.org   Continental Club 1315 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512/441-0202, continentalclub.com   Emo's 603 Red River, Austin, 512/477-3667, emosaustin.com   Yoga Yoga Austin, 512/490-1200, yogayoga.com, $16   Palo Duro Canyon State Park 806/488-2227, palodurocanyon.com   Santa Fe School of Cooking 116 W. San Francisco St., 505/983-4511, santafeschoolofcooking.com, $35   Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs 50 Los Baños Dr., Ojo Caliente, 800/222-9162, ojocalientespa.com, from $16 Shopping   Newsom's Old Mill Store 208 E. Main St., Princeton, 270/365-2482   Waterloo Records 600A N. Lamar, Austin, 512/474-2500   BookPeople 603 N. Lamar, Austin, 512/472-5050   Whole Foods Market 525 N. Lamar, Austin, 512/476-1206   Double Take 320 Aztec St., Santa Fe, 505/989-8886 How Was Your Trip? "Europe was brilliant!" says Beth Hicken, pictured in Tuscany with Sara Murdock; we coached the two Idaho firefighters in November. "We followed your advice and remained flexible, and everything turned out practically perfect."

    Inspiration

    29 Reasons We Love Belgium

    Belgium pops off the map, alive with modern, artistic lodgings, unconventional museums, and beloved regional food and beer. During a 10-day trip through Brussels and Wallonia, I made sure to hit the most popular travel sites, including Waterloo, Bastogne, and Brussels, but I also made a point to stray from the traditional spots…and I was glad I did. Ready for a grand tour? Here are 29-plus reasons you’ll love Belgium as much as I did. Brussels: Chocolate, waffles, and…beer! Brussels is the home of the European Union and a truly international city. The beautiful Grand-Place and infamous Manneken Pis are must-sees, but for a different perspective, take a bike tour with Pro Velo; it’s a unique way to admire the city’s diverse architecture and chat up a local (provelo.org). My guide, Riet Naessens, gave me a tour focused on the city’s art deco and art nouveau architecture through burgeoning and luxurious neighborhoods I might not have reached on my own. We passed by designs by some of art nouveau’s most famous architects, Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. Stunning glasswork by artist Ernest Delune at Rue du Lac 6, often seen in art history textbooks, was a highlight, as was the Horta Museum, a World Heritage Site. Pro Velo also offers a popular Beer and Breweries tour, which I’d warn beginning bikers against for obvious reasons. Ingesting and investing in some chocolate while touring Brussels is crucial for any visit. Laurent Gerbaud has some outstanding chocolates, many mixed with tart and sweet dried and candied fruits (chocolatsgerbaud.be). Gerbaud’s interactive workshops offer students the opportunity to make and taste their own concoctions. His shop also has a café, so take a seat and enjoy the full chocolate experience. It’s close enough to do some oh-so-convenient chocolate shop–hopping at Place du Grand Sablon, where many of Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores.  For another sweet Brussels fix, walk a few feet from the popular naked Manneken Pis statue to feast on a Brussels-style waffle with chocolate, whipped cream, and strawberries at the Waffle Factory (wafflefactory.com). When in Brussels… Next up: a trip to the Atomium, a bizarre remnant of the 1958 World’s Fair, which might be the very definition of interesting and offbeat. This structure symbolizes an iron crystal expanded 165 billion times and houses an exhibition space. Nearby is another weird find, Mini-Europe, where you can walk among famous European monuments in miniature, including Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower (minieurope.com). Kids are the perfect audience for Mini-Europe—as are adults on the hunt for funny Instagram photos.   Dinant: Paddle through town and discover a new way to make music. The fairytale-like setting that makes up Dinant is marked by a grand 13th-century church on the banks of the Meuse River, backed by an imposing high cliff where the Citadel rests. To take in nature, go kayaking on the nearby Lesse River with Olivier Pitance of Dinant Adventures (dinant-evasion.be). Small rapids turn to quiet currents and revert back again as you paddle and float by rock outcroppings, lush forests, and medieval castles.  In town, don’t miss the House of Pataphony, where you can expand your mind making music with everyday objects you wouldn’t normally think to “play,” from a chandelier made of cutlery to antique keys (pataphonie.be). The wildly inventive museum was dreamed up by instrument maker Max Vandervorst. It makes sense that it’s located in Dinant, the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. You can visit his home, now a small interactive museum (sax.dinant.be). Stay nearby in a castle at La Saisonneraie (from about $168 per night, lasaisonneraie.be), a former château in Falaën that tempts guests with exceptional croissants for breakfast. Liège: Forward-thinking art and cuisine, plus Belgium’s biggest market. If you’re looking to do all of this and still take a breath, you’ll want to stay in Brussels for few days. The chic Hilton Brussels Grand Place is well situated for guests to comfortably take on the city by foot (from about $245 per night, hilton.com). Start your morning trying Liège waffles at the best place in town, Maison Massin (Rue Puits-en-sock, 6-8- 4020 Liège). It’s where the locals get their waffles. Choose from traditional Liège waffles, sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped, or more embellished versions such as grilled strawberry or rhubarb. Sunday is market day in Liège, and whatever you’re craving or coveting, you’ll find it at La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium. Local produce, cheese, fish, clothing, and books are all ripe for the picking at this riverside shopping mecca (liege.be).  From the market, walk to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers (lacurtius.com). En route, you’ll want to snap a photo of the Mount Bueren stairs, an epic 374-step staircase located just beside “Brasserie C.” Once inside the beer hall, there’s an exciting energy. Started by young entrepreneurs, this Belgian brewery is housed in a former monastery. You can take a tour of the production area and pair cheese or meatballs with beer on the lovely outdoor terrace. Avant-garde art lovers, your new haunt is the Cité Miroir, an unusual cultural venue (citemiroir.be). Exhibitions are held in a 1930s building once home to public baths and a swimming pool: The remnants of still remain—works of art in themselves. Locals may tell you they learned to swim there. For dinner in Liège, you have to try boulet, a traditional beef-and-pork meatball that’s highly popular in the region. One of the best places to feast on boulet is Amon Nanesse, where large meatballs are served up in sweet sauce consisting of a mixture of pears and apple syrup, wine, onions, and peket, a local spirit (maisondupeket.be). Naturally, boulet is best complemented with a heaping helping of crispy fries. I had a boulet connoisseur introduce me to this filling dish: Sebastien Laviolette, from la Confrérie du Gay Boulet, is part of a guild of folks who make it their mission to secretly taste test meatballs at restaurants throughout the region and rate the best.  Many of these Liège attractions are reachable on foot from both the historical center and boutique Hotel Neuvice, where 10 contemporary rooms surround an open-air patio (from about $109 per night, hotelneuvice.be). Mons: This culture capital invites. Mons is a university town with cool street art, museums, restaurants, and European charm—so much of it, in fact, that it was named the 2015 European Culture Capital. In the lively Grand-Place, pet the somewhat-freaky brass monkey statue for good luck before entering the Town Hall, Hôtel de Ville. Ascend the stairs of the 15th-century structure to take in the views of the striking square with its myriad architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to neoclassical. Inside Town Hall, admire gilded carvings and ornate tapestries, a gift to the town from France’s Louis XIV. Climb up higher, past the city’s historic brick homes, to Parc du Château, Mons’s highest point, where the magnificent belfry is located. The only baroque-style belfry in Belgium, the belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exceptional place for photos. Next, walk down to the Saint Waudru Collegiate Church to see its exquisite stained glass windows and 18th-century golden carriage used in the annual celebration of the saint (waudru.be).  Mons has several museums worth seeing, including BAM, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the fascinatingly bizarre, recently renovated Mundaneum, which contains a massive collection of photos, newspapers, posters, and books from Belgian philanthropist Paul Otlet, who spent nearly 50 years compiling every noteworthy piece of human thought ever published or recorded (mundaneum.org). Talk about a huge undertaking. Called a printed precursor to the internet and social networking, the museum has a partnership with Google.  After all that cerebral reflection, grab a drink at La Cervoise, where there’s a dizzying array of more than 150 beers to choose from (32/65-35-15-25). Carnivores may stay to cook a steak on a stone, the most notable entrée at this Belgian beer hall. Others may wish to snag a table outside at Ces Belges et Vous, in Grand-Place, to take in the ambience of this historic square while feasting on traditional Belgian cuisine (cesbelges.be). One of my favorite hotels from my Belgium travels is Hotel Dream, in Mons. Nestled in the historic center, the hotel is in easy walking distance of Grand-Place—key since parking can be a hot commodity. The building is a former convent and chapel, so stained-glass windows and high ceilings are sprinkled in amid modern design and graffiti art (from about $103 per night, dream-mons.be). Durbuy: Europe’s coolest small city? You decide. One of Durbuy’s claims to fame is its title of “smallest city in the world”—or at least it used to be. The exact wording might be lost in translation, because they also had “smallest town” emblazoned in several spots. How it’s defined, I’m not so sure, but I’m chalking it up to another of the city’s endearing idiosyncrasies. Durbuy is a charming combination of cobblestoned medieval streets, historic sights, and lovely shops. There’s a local count here who still lives in a castle overlooking the town and the Durbuy Topiary Park (topiaires.durbuy.be). Billing itself as the “largest park in the world devoted to topiary that is accessible for the public” (that’s quite the moniker), there are more than 250 plants, some more than a century old. Stroll through these green sculptures, and you may recognize some of the shapelier box trees, including a larger-than-life topiary of Pamela Anderson on the beach, Manneken Pis from Brussels, jumping jockeys, ducklings, elephants, and several other creatures great and small.  Shop in La Vraie Confiture du Durbuy for local artisanal jams and sweets for your friends (and yourself), then grab a traditional unfiltered amber brew at Marckloff Brewery, where beer is produced in small batches on site (confitureriesaintamour.be). Stay one or more nights right in town at Le Sanglier des Ardennes, a modern hotel overlooking the Ourthe River that serves a fabulous breakfast (from about $90 per night, sanglier-des-ardennes.be).

    Inspiration

    London: Pop-up theater

    Attention, American visitors to London who are paying high prices to see Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in the large West End theaters: Are you crazy? The locals are far more excited about pop-up theater performances all over town. Abandoned warehouses and after hours subway stations now double as stages. Shows are inventive and inexpensive. The trend began a year ago, when Kevin Spacey, who runs the city's Old Vic Theatre, discovered spooky tunnels under Waterloo subway station. He organized a spontaneous series of stage performances there by the theater group Punchdrunk. The shows were a hit, and it became cool to think outside the black box. This summer, Spacey and his Old Vic colleagues created a 160-seat theater in the tunnel, with Art Deco cinema seats and The Bunker bar. Visiting in December? Book now to see a tunnel staging of Cart Macabre, a co-production by Old Vic and Living Structures. It's been described as "a restless exploration of isolation and disorientation, an act of faith on the part of the audience." I admit that sounds a little weird. But tickets are only 14 pounds each! And think of the stories you'll have to tell when you get back home. (December 4 to 22, livingstructures.co.uk and oldvictheatre.com.) Pop-up theater performances won't have a familiar Phantom score, but don't let that weaken your resolve to try something new during your vacation. MORE LONDON POP-UP THEATER… Fly Theatre is reviving the workplace satire Contractions in an empty office complex in the prime shopping district of Oxford Street. Audience is limited in size to 40 people for each performance of the comedy, a kind of twist on The Office. 26-30 October 2010. contractionsplc.co.uk, £9. Theatre Souk performs in an abandoned building off the popular Bond Street. Through Friday Oct. 16, it's hosting a set of performances. Future line-up of shows to be announced soon. theatredelicatessen.co.uk, £7 INSIDER TIP: To hear about future shows in the Old Vic Tunnels, fire off an email to oldvictunnels@oldvictheatre.com with "mailing list" in the subject line. LODGING: Find affordable and stylish places to stay in Budget Travel's easy-search London hotel database.

    Theme Parks

    France Plans a Napoleonland Theme Park

    A Napoleon Bonaparte-themed amusement park may be built at a location slightly south of Paris. The theme park, nicknamed Napoleonland, is set to cost about $280 million—'Mon Dieu!'—and vie with Disneyland Paris in size. Details on the project will be officially announced next month. Russian and Middle Eastern investors are interested, and the project has backing from state officials and Atout France, a tourism promotion organization. Attractions are still being decided, but there's talk of a museum saluting the life of the famous revolutionary turned emperor. Surprisingly, France has no national Napoleon museum, even though is he arguably the country's most famous figure in three centuries. It's possible that the park will hold costumed re-enactments of one of general's famous battles, such as Waterloo or Trafalgar, in the style of a Renaissance Fair. More fancifully, there is talk of simulations of major events in the life of Napoleon, such as the guillotining of France's last king, Louis XVI. Yves Jégo, mayor of Montereau, has blogged that he hopes the park will be opened by 2017 at a location about 45 miles from Disneyland and a one-hour drive south of Paris. The story was first reported in English by The Economist. The Times of London dug up additional details this morning. Once comedian David Letterman hears about it, he's sure to have some fun with this idea. Can you hear it already: "Top Ten Things to do at Napoleonland: Number 10: Lose your arm from untreated bullet wounds...." More seriously, France wants to retain its status as the world's most touristed nation by dominating the market in historical attractions and war memorials. In November, it opened the Museum of the Great War in Meaux, one of a series of new historically-themed attractions. War tourism is especially popular. In 2010 (the most recent data available), France's 155 war museums, memorials and historical sites that charge entry fees attracted 6 million visitors, reports The Guardian. Anyway, what do you think? Would you go to Napoleonland? Or do you think it will be a "cultural Chernobyl." Sound off in the comments! SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Disney Parks to Stay Open 24 Hours in a Row on February 29 SeaWorld's Expanding … to Antarctica? Is Legoland Florida Worth the Cost?

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    DESTINATION IN Iowa

    Cedar Rapids

    Cedar Rapids () is the second-largest city in Iowa, United States and is the county seat of Linn County. The city lies on both banks of the Cedar River, 20 miles (32 km) north of Iowa City and 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Des Moines, the state's capital and largest city. It is a part of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City region of Eastern Iowa, which includes Linn, Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones, Johnson, and Washington counties.As of the 2020 United States Census, the city population was 137,710. The estimated population of the three-county Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the nearby cities of Marion and Hiawatha, was 255,452 in 2008. Cedar Rapids is an economic hub of the state, located at the core of the Interstate 380 corridor. The Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is also a part of a Combined Statistical Area (CSA) with the Iowa City MSA. A flourishing center for arts and culture in Eastern Iowa, the city is home to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, the Paramount Theatre, Orchestra Iowa, Theatre Cedar Rapids, the African American Museum of Iowa, and the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance. In the 1990s and 2000s, several Cedar Rapidians became well-known actors, including Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood, Terry Farrell, and Ron Livingston. The city is the setting for the musical The Pajama Game and the comedy film Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids is nicknamed the "City of Five Seasons", for the so-called "fifth season," which is time to enjoy the other four. The symbol of the five seasons is the Tree of Five Seasons sculpture in downtown along the north river bank. The name "Five Seasons" and representations of the sculpture appear throughout the city in many forms.