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I was standing, suspended in midair on a red-carpeted gangplank in the dead center of the new TWA Hotel’s cavernous hub, the newly reanimated version of architect Eero Saarinen’s 1962 midcentury aeronautic wonderland, when the full force of his design hit me: The vertigo kicked in.
The sensation of peering down from the uppermost peak of the catwalk, high above other travelers relaxing in the glamorous, oft-photographed rouge-carpeted Sunken Lounge, transmits a godlike feeling to anyone who dares perch there. It’s best described as a cross between “I can’t believe they let me up here” awe and healthy “I should come down now” fear.
It’s dizzying. And therein lies the genius of Eero Saarinen.
What Was the TWA Hotel Originally?
Designed to resemble a winged bird, Saarinen’s majestic, blinding-white, red-accented, super-’60s love letter to aviation wasn’t just for show: From 1962 to 2001, this modernist palace was wholly functional, as an airport terminal for Trans World Airlines at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport (originally called Idlewild Airport until it was renamed in 1963). After TWA shuttered the building in 2001, the whole cantilevered clamshell-like landmark structure was in danger of falling into neglect, but a series of preservation and repair measures prevented that from happening.
Almost two decades later, after a joint Herculean effort from MCR/Morse Development hotel owner/operators, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JetBlue, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, the Gerber Group, and many others, Saarinen’s Jet Age masterpiece has been brought back to life—this time as an airport hotel, with a rooftop infinity pool and a mall-like, commerce-and-cocktails-heavy “hub” in place of a working airline terminal.
To he left of the entrance, former TWA ticket counters now function as hotel reservation desks, with several of them dedicated to renting out Blade helicopter rides to Manhattan. To the right, the ticket counters are food hall stands. Restaurants, sleek shops, coffee bars, and cocktail lounges—along with several amusing touches, such as replicas of Howard Hughes’ and Saarinen’s offices—populate the rest of the structure.
Courtesy TWA Hotel
Eero Saarinen’s Original TWA Design
Say what you will about the changes, but the new TWA Hotel’s near-slavish deference to the past is alive and well. So evident is the painstaking restoration of Saarinen’s boundary-pushing architecture that you can feel the Jet Age energy in your bones. On opening day, I certainly did.
Making your way through the flight tubes and mezzanine landings of Saarinen’s designs involves letting your body rise and fall, dip and soar. The low ceilings of the Saarinen and Hughes wings to the left and right of the entrance give way to the main cavernous, skylit hub with multiple sinewy levels connected by grand staircases. A catwalk slashes precariously through the center, the whole beautiful architecture sundae topped with an analog clock as the cherry.
Ascending a flight of stairs next to a constantly chattering wooden split-flap departures board — housed in a Jetsons-style oval, flashing red and green, and flip-flip-flipping to dream destinations like Basel and Nairobi — brings you closer to descending into the famous Sunken Lounge, where a sheet of towering black-framed windows leans away from the iconic curvy red banquettes.
Ducking into eggshell-textured tunnels and following the smooth perimeter of the massive structure can induce nerve-jangling disequilibrium. There are no right angles in this space, which makes every vignette look as though it was shot through a fish-eye lens.
In other words, skyscrapers, in all their cloud-busting glass-and-steel pomposity, have nothing on Eero Saarinen’s vision of flight.
Courtesy TWA Hotel
Who Can Go Inside the TWA Building? Everyone, Basically.
Despite the not-exactly-cheap hotel rooms, from which one can see planes taking off through soundproof windows; the prices of the TWA swizzle stick–festooned cocktails, which include riffs on oldies but goodies, including a classic Aviation; and the numerous shops, which hawk everything from Shinola watches to Warby Parker glasses to TWA-branded merch, the best part about the newly refurbished TWA Hotel is how egalitarian the structure itself is.
Anyone who flies into New York City’s JFK Airport or hops on the subway and forks over the mere $5 for an Airtrain ticket can go up and stand at the very point that I did and play god—or Saarinen, as it were. But if you’re an aviation geek or if you really like being on time for your flights, staying in the hotel couldn’t be more convenient to JFK, and the allure of watching the planes ascend from the comfort of your room is a draw that might be worth the price.
Viewing the vintage TWA air hostess uniforms displayed on mannequins on the mezzanine level costs nothing. Making a call on the throwback rotary pay phones will run you a dime (if that). Unabashedly geeking out about aviation, design, or how the space compares with Mad Men’s Season 7 TWA-themed promo images is always free of charge.
Are there $16 cocktails? Yes. Is the Jean-Georges Paris Café guarded by three employees ready to bounce you out if you don’t have a reservation, like they did me? Yes.
But the travelers sitting on tulip stools and banquettes in the Sunken Lounge and above it, on the balconies, aren’t all partaking in witty repartee over $20 Sunken Lounge Martinis (served with TWA flight wings). Some are eating plastic-bagged halal food they bought in the Hughes Wing, which is really just a long tunnel filled with decent takeout. Some are JetBlue customers killing time in Terminal 5.
Technically, as with every airport terminal, everyone is just waiting.
What Will Aviation Geeks Like About the TWA Hotel?
Before the original TWA Flight Center was built, Saarinen and one of his employees, architect Kevin Roche, made a 3-D model out of cardboard and tape — a structure fashioned after extensive, meticulous research on airports and airplanes.
“He was interested in the pragmatic aspects: how long it took a plane to taxi; where passengers arrived; how long they spent at the ticket counter,” Roche told Metropolis magazine. “When we traveled, Eero went around with a stopwatch, measuring everything: ‘This took four seconds more than last time.’ Of course, I was just waiting for the goddamn plane to take off so I could get a martini.”
There is perhaps no better metaphor for the new TWA Hotel, an oasis of majestic design with an ocean of booze lapping at its edges. A total of five bars are on property. There’s even a wet bar retrofitted into the back of a (stationary) 1958 Lockheed Constellation L-1649A directly outside, the cockpit left intact so you can “fly” the plane tipsy. As viewed from the mezzanine balconies, two circular bars rising up from the floor look like life preservers.
Depending on one’s perspective, the hotel’s entire concept could be art or commerce: an ode to architecture and a great excuse to make a Don Draper reference (yes, there are old fashioneds on the menu, but the ashtrays of yore are long gone), or a bastardization of the space’s intended utility—a ghost in the shell.
But, as a wise person on the internet once wrote: Why can’t we have both?
The evening that the TWA Hotel opened, I spoke to Roxane Hartfield, a former TWA flight attendant and gate agent who worked at the company for 33 years, from 1988 to the day the Flight Center closed in 2001, when the employees were told to leave the building.
“It’s like coming to see an old friend,” she said of the newly refurbished space while gazing at a vintage TWA photograph and holding a full martini with lemon twist. “It’s like coming to a part of life that’s in a particular corner that you never thought you’d see again, and here I am.”
Whatever this place is — or is not — walking through the white space and feeling the Saarinen design close in, open up, shrink, and expand again is worth a visit all on its own.
And if the vertigo or the waiting gets to be too much, well, there’s a deluge of booze to quell the sensation. But I recommend feeling your feelings instead.
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Ohio’s state capital might have a serious case of college-football fever, but thanks to a deep-rooted artistic community, it’s also home to a thriving creative scene. From art schools and museums to galleries, collectives, and events galore, the city offers a warm welcome to artistically inclined visitors—especially during the annual Columbus Arts Festival (columbusartsfestival.org), when the downtown riverfront becomes a beacon for hundreds of artists and the crowds that follow. Now in its 58th year, 2019's celebration runs June 7 to 9 and features a full slate of activities, demonstrations, performances, and more. Here’s what to see and do during the city’s premiere summer event.
Augment Your Reality
Ever wanted to jump right into a work of art, a la Dick Van Dyke’s chalk-wielding chimney sweep in Mary Poppins? Well, now’s your chance. Making its debut this year, the White Castle presents VR at the Fest tent will allow curious onlookers to step into paintings and check out venues on the opposite side of the globe, via multiple virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Meet and Greet
In the Big Local Art Tent, Columbus artists and collectives sell their works, demonstrate techniques, and lead workshops where budding creatives can make their own masterpieces—and take them home with them. Look for booths from emerging central-Ohio artists, selected by the festival’s jury and given an extra hand with marketing and presentation to help them launch their careers. Festival mascot the Art Shark will also be on hand to say hello to his adoring young fans.
Get Your Groove On
This year's entertainment takes place on five stages boasting local and regional talent—musicians, dancers, thespians, poets, and storytellers among them. Columbus troupe BalletMet kicks things off on Friday night, and a huge array of acts are on deck to keep the party rolling. The Big Local Music Stage hosts everything from hip hop and R&B to folk, rock, and Americana, while Sunday’s main stage features an a capella performance by the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, the big-band stylings of the Capital Pride Band of Columbus, and a drag show starring Virginia West with Flaggots Ohio, a LGBTA colorguard. Check out the flamenco ensemble, watch the clog dancers go at it, or take in the Celtic steppers; there’s also spoken-word, comedy, and an acoustic lounge.
Summer is approaching at a rapid clip, which means vacation-planning is in full force. And when it comes to booking hotels, flights, and the rest, value-hunting is the name of the game. According to TripAdvisor’s newly released 2019 Summer Vacation Value Report, you can score excellent hotel deals in the most popular destinations in the U.S. But those serious about saving will appreciate the study’s key finding: alternative options to the summer’s hotspots.
The Most Popular Destinations from Coast to Coast
The top picks will come as no surprise: Orlando, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach nabbed the highest three spots, followed by Maui, New York City, Key West, and New Orleans. Ocean City, San Diego and Virginia Beach finished off the list. The destinations were determined by a survey of more than 3,500 travelers, conducted in May. According to a TripAdvisor spokesperson, 92% of members are planning summer trips, up 12 percent from last year.
According to the survey, straying just a little—but not too much—off the crowded paths can save you up to 38 percent on hotel prices. Orlando, the number-one summer destination, has hotel rooms averaging about $216 per night, but prices in Kissimmee, located about 23 miles south, clock in around $137. Las Vegas, which boasts some of America’s lowest hotel rates at an average of $167, is bested by Reno, where rooms can be had for about $144. Myrtle Beach prices hover around $250 while rooms in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a cool $200. Thinking about Maui? Try Oahu instead, where seasonal hotel prices are about $200 lower than the Hawaiian hotspot’s $533. And if New York City has your heart but your wallet calls the shots, check out Philly, where prices average $258, a great deal compared to NYC’s $329.
To round out the list, Key Largo is cited as the alternative to Key West, Miami is a good second-choice to New Orleans; Nags Head, North Carolina, should be your go-to if Ocean City rates are too high; hotel prices in Mammoth Lakes top San Diego's; and Williamsburg, Virginia is more affordable in the summertime than Virginia Beach.
The first thing that comes to mind when anyone thinks of Los Angeles is sunshine. The second is traffic. But the West 3rd Street neighborhood (six connecting blocks between La Cienega and Fairfax) offers visitors the unique opportunity to experience some of the best of California without setting foot inside an automobile.
Eat Your Heart Out
With endless delicious options, you could plan your entire West 3rd Street visit around the meals. Start your day with a coffee amid the beautiful decor (I loved the airplane chandelier!) at the Bluestone Café or, if you are looking to hang out with the ‘in’ crowd, you may spot a celebrity at Toast. For the gluten-free crowd, grab a treat at Fonuts - baker Nancy Truman creates spectacular baked donuts (never fried!) low in sugar but high in flavor. A great lunch option is Jaffa, where you feel that you’ve somehow been teleported to the Middle East. The dishes are colorful and truly a delight to the palate. Don’t miss their house-baked desserts or the opportunity to sip the ginger elixir!
Explore & More
With shopping, spas, wine tasting, and more, West 3rd Street will keep you busy. Live like a Los Angeleno, including exercise and beauty care: Start your day upside down with aerial yoga, then wash that sweat away to reveal your inner glow with a facial at MudBum. Not sure what to wear now that you feel like a native Southern Californian? Step into Polka Dots and Moonbeams for classic vintage and contemporary options. Only thing left to do after that is learn something—but don’t worry, it’s fun and you do it over mouthfuls of your own custom wine blend when you take a winemaking workshop at The Blending Lab.
Hotel We Love
After living like a local on West 3rd Street all day, walk “home” to the family-owned Orlando Hotel. If you are too tuckered at the end of this busy day to go out for dinner, enjoy the middle eastern delights available at Cleo, their hotel restaurant. And be sure to stop in to their beautiful bar for a nightcap; the Cassis and Desist is delicious!
Tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, and especially tacos for late-night snacks. There’s no bad time to eat tacos and no bad place either. A versatile crowd-pleaser, it can be celebrated anywhere – even at its own hotel. Yes, you can soon live out your delicious little fast food fantasies 24/7 when The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort launches in Palm Springs, CA, on August 9.
What to Expect From The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort
“Get ready for ‘Bell’ hops and Baja Blasts, fire sauce and sauce packet floaties, because the Taco Bell Hotel is coming and will give fans an unexpected and unforgettable trip of a lifetime,” a Taco Bell spokesperson said. “From check-in to check-out, The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort reimagines what a hotel stay can be, unveiling a destination inspired by tacos and fueled by fans.”
Taco-Themed Rooms and Menu Surprises
The Bell will open for a limited time of three nights and is an adults-only resort with a minimum age limit of 18. It will feature taco-themed rooms, a poolside cocktail bar and an on-site salon for Taco Bell-inspired nail art and unisex beauty treatments. Naturally, it will feature a Taco Bell restaurant but with some new menu surprises that the restaurant promises you won’t find anywhere else.
“It will be fun, colourful, flavorful and filled with more than what our fans might expect,” said Taco Bell’s chief global brand officer Marisa Thalberg. “Also, just like some of our most sought-after food innovation, this hotel brings something entirely new for lucky fans to experience and enjoy.”
The exact location is still under wraps but reservations will open in June and you can stay up-to-date with announcements here.
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Looking for a little culture with your breakfast? For a limited time only, visitors to San Francisco can take part in a special hotel package that includes early exclusive access to Monet: The Late Years, the first exhibition in over 20 years dedicated to the final phase of the artist’s career.
Book Through the Stanford Court Hotel
Available to book through the Stanford Court Hotel, the Monet in the Morning package includes accommodation, two early bird tickets to the exhibition at the de Young Museum’s Herbst gallery, a Claude Monet Water Lilies eco-tote bag, and breakfast for two. Taking place every weekend in May from 8.30am to 9.30am (before the museum has officially opened to the general public), the morning event is capped at just 150, allowing for a more relaxed and intimate experience of the showcase that attracts thousands of people during regular opening hours.
Monet's Late Work, in Focus
Focusing on the last years of the painter’s life in Giverny, France in the early 1900s, where he produced dozens of works inspired by the landscape of his five-acre property, the exhibition brings together pieces from museums and galleries all over the world. Visitors can see variations of some of his most beautiful and well-known works, including the famous Water Lilies, Weeping Willow, Rose Garden, and The Japanese Footbridge. The exhibition includes several rooms, and after guests have viewed the works, they can take an elevator to the top of the de Young for a 360-degree view of San Francisco.
“Guests can expect an illuminating experience. Monet: The Late Years features almost 50 masterpieces, and this exhibition continues to define the artist’s lasting legacy. In the final years of his prolific career, his experimental and creative energies took artistic liberties that reflected a path toward modernism. After Monet, guests have the rare opportunity to see another French master in Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey as well as the renowned permanent collection of the de Young,” Patrick Buijten, Group and Tourism Manager for de Young Museum told Lonely Planet Travel News.
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Thomas Jefferson, America’s founding oenophile, was onto something when he tried to plant vitis vinifera—the European grape vines of which he was so fond—in Virginia. But he wasn’t the only one to make a go of grape-growing in the United States. While today, you can find producers growing grapes and making vino in every single state of the union, there are a few that have been doing it as far back as the early 19th century. Next time you’re thirsty for a little history, pop into one of these seven wineries where they pour out the past as well as the pinot.
1. Brotherhood Winery: Washingtonville, New York
Although it didn’t start labeling wines under the Brotherhood name until the 1890s, original owner, Jean Jacques, first began producing wine from vines on his duo of Hudson Valley estates in 1839. Brotherhood marks that date as its launch into the world, making it the oldest continuously operating winery in the U.S., a designation that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historical Places. Book a tour through the hand-excavated cellars—some of the largest and most elaborate in the country—to hear about all the underground secrets stashed away here. Learn more about Jacques and the second owners, the Emersons, who kept the winery alive during Prohibition via sacramental wine. Or simply sip a glass of Brotherhood bubbly on the stone patio and take in the stately old stone buildings and beauty of the Hudson Valley.
2. Wente Vineyards: Livermore, California
If Brotherhood gets the nod for oldest continuously operated winery, Wente wins for being the oldest continuously operated winery owned by the same family, now in its 5th generation. Carl Heinrich Wente came to America seeking his fortune in 1880, got a job working for another vine-minded German immigrant, Charles Krug (see below), and by 1883 bought land in Livermore, establishing the Wente Bros. Winery. Like Brotherhood, the family kept the operation going with sacramental wine during Prohibition. But what you really need to know about Wente is that they make spectacular chardonnay—so good that in the early 20th century, the vineyard cultivated its own award-winning clone (that is, a vine re-created over and over from the cuttings of grapevines that have particularly alluring qualities, be they anything from hardiness to aromatics). In 1936, Wente became the first winery in the United States to put the name of a grape variety on its labels—meaning that today, when you buy a bottle of sauvignon blanc or cabernet at your local store, you have Wente to thank because before that, it was just “wine”—which is not so conducive to figuring out what goes best with your wild-caught salmon or Tomahawk steak.
3. Charles Krug, St. Helena, California
(Courtesy Charles Krug)
Napa Valley is famed for its highfalutin wineries (and equally nose-bleed inducing prices), but once upon a time it was just lots of land and acres upon acres of pioneering spirit. Like that of Charles Krug, a German-born newspaper man who became so entranced by California’s “purple gold” (you know, grapes) that he founded his eponymous winery here in 1861 on land from the dowry of his American wife, Carolina Bale. His much-renowned Bordeaux-inspired reds earned him an unofficial but well-deserved title, the Father of Napa Wine, and he was a marketing visionary as well, establishing the first tasting room in California wine country. Today, Krug is owned by the Napa wine giant, C. Mondavi & Family, and it’s become a posh and popular stop on the Napa wine circuit. The original buildings that Krug constructed are listed with the National Register of Historical Places, and well worth a visit.
4. Val Verde Winery, Del Rio, Texas
(Courtesy Val Verde Winery)
Frank Qualia didn’t mean to stay in Del Rio, Texas, a few miles from the border of Mexico. But in 1881, as he made his way from Milan, Italy, he happened upon a plot of land where some Lenoir grapes were growing by the San Felipe Springs-fed creek. By 1883, Qualia officially established his 14-acre Val Verde Winery, marked by its foot-deep adobe walls and strong Italian winemaking traditions. Now, some 130 years later, his original plot of land is still the site of Val Verde’s Texas-grown (they never substitute grapes from out-of-state places) winery and tasting room. Today, the spot is run by Frank’s grandson, Thomas, whose own son, Michael, has learned the trade himself, and is primed to take on the family mantel. Be sure to pay close attention to the cool photos and heirlooms, like Frank’s passport and naturalization papers, and even some old winemaking gear. (Serious wine geeks will want to pop into to the nearby Whitehead Memorial Museum to see some of Qualia’s original equipment). For a taste of the past, check out the Val Verde Sweet Red, a blend similar to the sacramental wine that got the company through Prohibition.
5. Renault Winery: Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Necessity is the mother of invention, or certainly the father of New Jersey “champagne.” Hailing from the famed Reims area of the Champagne region of France, Joseph Renault fled the storied home of bubbly in the mid-19th century after a nasty little aphid known as phylloxera wiped out almost all of Europe’s vineyards. Precious vine clippings in tow, he sought out the warm, sunny growing conditions of California, but phylloxera was there, too. Word of problem-resistant native vines on the East Coast lured him 3,000 miles back to the Garden State, where the winery he established in 1864 would go on to become the largest distributor of American sparkling wine in the country. Although it’s remained in business continuously, Renault has been bought and sold numerous times over the years, and now the winery has become a resort destination complete with a hotel, spa, 18-hole golf course, and 5-mile hiking trail through the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
6. Buena Vista, Sonoma, California
(Courtesy Buena Vista)
If you can make it in Sonoma, you can make it anywhere—even if you have to embellish your family's ties to aristocracy to do so. “Count” Agoston Haraszthy immigrated from Hungary in the 1840s, seeking thrills and fortune in the great American West, and though he had no real claims to royalty, his fake-it-‘til-you-make-it attitude landed him a multitude of diverse roles, among them: self-titled Count (he actually had no ties to royalty); founder of Wisconsin’s Sauk City, the state’s first official town; sheriff of San Diego; ore analyst for the U.S. Mint. He also pioneered Sonoma winemaking with the establishment of Buena Vista Winery in 1857, which quickly became one of California’s largest land-owning wineries. But grander and grander ambitions, trouble with the law, money-making schemes, and financial issues infused Haraszthy’s life in Sonoma with such turmoil, that he left (some say fled) to Nicaragua with his family in tow, apparently in search of prosperity in the rum business, before disappearing without a trace. The mark he left on Buena Vista, one of California’s most important wineries, however, endures. And what a tour it makes for.
7. Adam Puchta Winery: Hermann, Missouri
Hailing from the Bavarian city of Oberkotzau, Adam Puchta was only 7-years-old when he and his family emigrated to Missouri in 1839, dreaming of fertile lands and Gold Rush riches. Fourteen years later, thanks to a stint in California, the latter helped Adam earn enough to get serious about winemaking. He returned to Missouri and bought a portion of the family’s then 80-acre farm and get serious about winemaking, establishing his namesake winery in 1855, and growing wine grapes and other crops to keep the money flowing. His kids managed to keep the winery in the black after Puchta died in 1904, but they couldn’t withstand the pressures of Prohibition, which put the Show Me State’s prolific producer out of business—but not for good. In 1990, Adam’s grandson and great-grandson re-established the Adam Putcha Winery, adding a tasting room for visitors, and realizing Puchta’s dream of becoming one of the most important wineries in Missouri.
Gatlinburg’s SkyBridge, which opened today, is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the U.S., spanning 680 feet over a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains. An impressive feat indeed, but it's not the first of its ilk—from coast to coast, the United States is full of show-stopping structures just waiting to be explored. Offering epic views of manmade skylines and natural wonders alike, here are six awesome American bridges perfect for a stroll.
1. Skylift Bridge: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
(Courtesy SkyLift Park)
At the top of Crockett Mountain, on the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, SkyLift Park (gatlinburgskylift.com) is home to that brand-new record-breaking suspension bridge. At its highest point, it's 140 feet off the ground, but you don’t have to make the climb on your own. Take the chairlift, an iconic Gatlinburg attraction dating to 1954, and get off at the top, where you can hang out on the deck to nurse a pint, snap the perfect selfie, and oh yes, conquer the bridge. The walking path is five feet wide, so you shouldn’t have to worry about navigating the right-of-way in tight environs (when in doubt, single file!), but don’t look down if you’re squeamish—especially in the middle, where glass panels let you see past your toes and straight into the depths below. Tickets, $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for kids ages 4-11, ages 3 and under free. The lift is accessible for passengers who are able to stand up to load on and off, and wheelchairs can be rented for free at the top, but the bridge itself is not wheelchair accessible.
2. Navajo Bridge: Glen Canyon, Arizona and Utah
The first direct route between Utah and Arizona, the Navajo Bridge (nps.gov/glca) opened to cars in 1929, and for nearly 70 years, drivers on highway 89A took that route to cross the Colorado River. But the area’s transportation needs eventually overwhelmed the historic structure, and its 18-foot-wide road became too much for the heavier cars and trucks of the late 20th century. Construction began on a new bridge that would run parallel to the old one, and upon its completion in 1995, the original bridge was opened to foot traffic. Today, the steel-and-concrete trestle looms 467 feet above the river, with a visitors center and a bookstore on the west side. On the Navajo Nation side to the east, Native American craftspeople set up shop, and the Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center offers outdoor exhibits and self-guided walks across the bridge. Park entry, $30 per car or $15 per person on foot or bike. The historic bridge is wheelchair accessible.
3. BP Pedestrian Bridge: Chicago
The BP Pedestrian Bridge (millenniumparkfoundation.org), Frank Gehry’s first and, to date, only bridge, can be found in downtown Chicago, where it wends its way over Columbus Drive, connecting Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park over lane upon lane of urban traffic. Completed in 2004, the undulating overpass is covered with the famed architect’s signature sculptural stainless-steel panels and spans nearly two-tenths of a mile, providing both skyline and park views along the way. It’s also a companion piece to Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion—though the outdoor amphitheater has an impressive aerial sound system, the bridge contributes to the experience, serving as an acoustic barrier for free performances and festivals of all stripes. Free. The bridge is accessible, with gently sloping wheelchair-friendly ramps at each entrance.
4. Tilikum Crossing: Portland, Oregon
With a Native American name symbolic of connection and friendship that nods to the region’s early people, Portland’s Tilikum Crossing (trimet.org/tilikum) opened in 2015, becoming the area's first new bridge across the Willamette River in 40-plus years. Roughly 1,700 feet long and utilizing more than three miles of cable, the cable-stayed bridge has lanes for buses and trains and separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians—no cars allowed—with a design takes its cues from the surrounding landscape. The sloping angle of the top cable mimics the slope of Mt. Hood in the distance, while the 180-foot-tall towers at the bridge's center have angled tops that blend with the tree line. Taking it to the next level, aesthetic lighting works in direct synthesis with the environment: LED lights on the cables and towers change color based on the flow of the river, with the water’s temperature affecting the shifting hues and its speed setting the pace for the colors' movement across the bridge. Free. The bridge is wheelchair-accessible, with extra-wide pullouts around the towers where visitors can pause to take in the views.
5. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge: Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa
At 3,000 feet, including its landings, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (visitomaha.com/bob) is the longest footbridge connecting two states, stretching over the Missouri River between Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Since its official opening in 2008, the walkway has become so integral to the communities it links that it’s taken on a life of its own: Named for the former Nebraska governor and state senator who championed the project, it’s now known simply as Bob, an anthropomorphic structure with an active social-media presence and a few thousand followers. The cable-stayed bridge features 210-foot LED-lit pylons and a curving pathway that echoes the winding river beneath, hovering 60 feet above the Missouri at its midway point and connecting to 150 miles of nature trails and family-friendly public spaces on either side. Free. The bridge is wheelchair accessible and ADA-compliant.
6. Walkway Over the Hudson: Poughkeepsie, New York
(Liz Van Steenburgh/Dreamstime)
Opened in 1889 as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and transformed into a pedestrian trail in 2009, New York’s Walkway Over the Hudson (walkway.org) is a state park with a storied history. Originally introduced as an industrial line, the bridge was transporting passengers between major east coast cities within a year of its debut; during World War II, it was painted black to prevent against attacks, and in 1974 its tracks were destroyed by a fire likely sparked by a train’s brakes. Today, some half a million people travel the 1.28-mile footpath from Poughkeepsie to the town of Lloyd in Ulster County, soaking up gorgeous, 360-degree views of the Catskills and the Hudson Highlands from 212 feet above the river. For even more natural splendor, the linear park connects with two rail-trail networks, the Hudson Valley and the Dutchess, to offer 18 miles of walking and cycling in verdant environs. Free, except during special events. Both entrances are wheelchair accessible and ADA-compliant, and a 21-story glass elevator operates seasonally on the Poughkeepsie side.
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As professional travelers, we put in lots of hours on the road, and with that much time on our hands, we get to know our gear pretty well. The little quirks that don’t seem like a big deal up front can become full-blown annoyances after a week of travel, and likewise, the nerdy details that might not merit more than a shrug at first glance can easily become an obsession once we realize how handy they can be in practice. We put another round of carry-on backpacks through their paces to find our favorites—all of which will fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you on most jets, and cost less than $200.
1. For the Weekend Road Trip
(Courtesy Topo Designs)
Topo Designs makes some of our favorite accessory bags and Dopp kits, so it’s not surprising they make one of our favorite backpacks too—the brand’s bags and accessories are designed to work together as part of a modular system, and the 30-liter Travel Bag is no exception. Pack bags, Topo’s answer to packing cubes, cost a little extra, but they nest inside for a tidy fit, and the Dopp kit does too—no cramming necessary. (If you need more room, clip a smaller bag onto the outside of the pack, or go for the 40-liter version.) But enough about the accessories—the backpack itself earns rave reviews. It has organizational pockets galore: On the front, a large zippered compartment with two internal zippered mesh pockets, plus another section with two open pockets for snacks and chargers and a deep zippered one as well. The main compartment holds three or four outfits, with two big mesh pockets for additional storage. At the back of the pack, there’s a padded laptop compartment, and an external pass-through sleeve to stack the bag on top of your rolling suitcase; it also comes with a removable crossbody strap, so the shoulder and hip straps tuck away if you choose to use it. The zippers even have security loops to protect against sticky fingers, and the stiff nylon material is water-repellant in addition to being practically tear-proof. All in all, our number-one pick. Travel Bag - 30L, $189; topodesigns.com.
2. For the Urban Excursion
(Courtesy Knack Inc.)
Launched in late 2018 by a team of former Tumi execs, Knack makes a good case for ditching the luggage and carrying just a single backpack. With a slim profile, clean lines, and crisp suiting-inspired fabric, the expandable Knack Pack displays the attention to detail you’d expect from a contingent of industry pros. Unexpanded, the medium version holds just 17 liters; expanded, that capacity nearly doubles. The packing compartment unzips to lay flat, holding a few days’ worth of clothes with compression straps to lock it all down, with a zippered mesh pocket covering the facing side. One of its savvier highlights is the built-in sunglasses case, lined with fleece and conveniently placed at the top of the pack, but other travel-minded touches include a rain flap that covers the expansion zipper; a zip-away side pocket that hides a water bottle; and padded shoulder straps, reinforced with sternum straps, that tuck into the back panel. Two minor complaints: There isn’t a side handle, and the front pocket is a bit of a head-scratcher, a triangular flap that folds down to reveal pen loops, one strangely shallow pocket, and a row of small slots big enough to hold business cards...and not much else. But for a nice-looking bag with a deceptively generous capacity, we'll allow it. Medium Expandable Knack Pack, $175; knackbags.com.
3. For the Long Haul
(Courtesy Rick Steves' Europe)
This convertible carry-on from Rick Steves' Europe came on our radar by way of a reader's comment—and we have to say, it was a solid suggestion. At about 40 liters, it’s the roomiest of the bunch (and at 3 pounds, the heaviest too), a no-frills pack that excels in its simplicity. The main compartment is nearly suitcase-size, with compression straps, an elasticized pocket running the length of the lid, two loose mesh bags for laundry or smalls, and a document pouch that clips into place so important papers are always within reach. On the front, there are three pockets of varying sizes: a square one for a cardigan or a neck pillow, a small one for glasses, lip balm, and the like, and a really deep one for magazines, tablets, tech gear, and more. The pack can expand a couple of inches if need be, but beware of overstuffing if you want to use it as a carry-on. Though there isn’t a dedicated compartment for a laptop, the side pocket will accommodate one, albeit without any cushioning; additional features include a mesh water-bottle sleeve, handles on the top and side, outer compression straps, and shoulder and waist straps that tuck away as needed. This is the most old-school model we tried—those shoulder straps are only slightly padded, and the floppy nylon fabric gives it the feel of a classic gym bag—and while we tend to prefer more structure and more organizational components, you won't find many travel packs this size at a comparable cost. Convertible Carry-On, $100; ricksteves.com.
4. For the Outdoorsy Overnight
If outdoor adventures are on the agenda—with some work on the side—try Mammut’s Seon Transporter X. In something of a reverse mullet, it's business in the back—think: a padded, fleece-lined section for a laptop, tablet, paperwork, and reading materials, plus two orange-zippered mesh compartments and pockets for pens—and a party in the front, with a main compartment housing a ventilated, zippered section for hiking boots, with space leftover for toiletries and a change of clothes or two. (Though the bag technically has a 26-liter capacity, it's definitely for those who travel light—that shoe compartment claims quite a bit of real estate.) As for access points, the big pocket at the front is basically the height and width of the pack itself, with a zippered mesh pocket inside, and the small compartment at the bag's top is good for valuables, with two fleecy open pockets and yet another zippered mesh one. Smart elements include well-padded, ergonomic shoulder straps, top and side handles for ease of carry, and big looped zippers that pull without a hitch, all under the cover of a sturdy, weather-repellent material, in a camouflage print that makes it stand out from the crowd. Seon Transporter X, $190; mammut.com.
5. For a Few Days Away
(Courtesy Solo New York)
With a spacious main compartment that opens like a suitcase, incorporating a built-in bag for shoes or laundry and four small stash pockets (two mesh and two solid nylon) in the lining around its frame, Solo New York’s 22.6-liter All-Star provides the capacity of a duffel—minus the duffel’s tendency to turn into a black hole, thanks to its organizational touches. On the front, a zippered pocket holds the necessities you'll want to reach on the fly, like sunglasses, tickets, and chargers. The front is padded to protect the laptop section, which also has a sleeve that fits a tablet, so you’ll only have to dig through one pocket for your electronics when you hit the security scanners. Two side handles and one on top make for easy stowing on planes or trains, and the cushy straps tuck away when they're not in use. (It also comes with a long shoulder strap, in case you get tired of hauling it around on your back.) As a whole, the pack is lightweight and inexpensive—in fact, the lightest, least expensive one we tried. At this price point, and considering its five-year limited warranty, it’s a great option for a short trip. All-Star Backpack Duffel, $87; solo-ny.com.
Fans of astronomy and beautiful night vistas have a new option for observing the Milky Way. The Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado has been officially designated as an International Dark Sky Park. It has more than 149,164 acres of dunes, wetlands, grasslands, forests and alpine tundra, which offer an array of opportunities to view the night sky and to explore the park after dark by moonlight.
What Is a Dark Sky Park?
The International Dark-Sky Association is a recognized authority on combating light pollution worldwide. Its designation recognizes Great Sand Dunes for the exceptional quality of its dark night skies and for the park’s commitment to preserving and educating about the night sky. It now joins three other national park sites in Colorado and approximately two dozen national parks around the U.S. that have been designated as International Dark Sky Parks.
Great Sand Dunes: A Magnet for Astronomers
Great Sand Dunes National Monument was established in 1932 to protect the tallest dunes in North America. In the late 1990s, it was expanded into a national park and preserved to protect the greater dunes ecosystem that was under threat at that time. It has served as an astronomy destination for decades, thanks to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which shelter the park from much of the sky glow created by Colorado’s Front Range cities.
According to Great Sand Dunes superintendent Pamela Rice, the dry air, high elevation and lack of light pollution all make the park an ideal dark-sky destination. It offers a variety of night sky programs on summer weekends as well as a Junior Ranger Night Explorer program, and it will host a celebration of its new designation in late summer.
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