Monday, May 18, 2009
Always Turned On!
By Barbara Barton Sloane
Known for fun, Atlantic City is a relative bargain get-away at this challenging financial time. Of course, visitors still come primarily to gamble, but today Atlantic City offers a growing number of options for a get-away, whether it’s relaxation you seek, great dining, or shopping its sprawling retail outlets.
Miss America’s Gone but So What?
Calling itself “The city that’s always turned on,” Atlantic City definitely lives up to this claim. From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep sea fishing and everything in between, this place is full of fun things to do. On a recent visit, I chose to spend my weekend quietly relaxing at two of the city’s premier spas, The Water Club at the Borgata Hotel and the Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Atlantic City.
The Qua Spa, which opened a year ago and is modeled after the famous Qua Spa in Las Vegas, offers an alluring and artful oasis guided by the healing and calming powers of water. Here I found lavish Roman Baths, beautifully appointed rooms and a range of treatments from Chakra Balancing, Crystal Body Art and a beguiling treatment called Dieci Mani, which means “ten hands” and features the touch of five therapists. Opting for something slightly more intime, I went for the Chakra Balancing treatment. Everyone needs their chakras balanced sooner or later, right? That evening I enjoyed Asian Fusion at the Buddakan Restaurant where both the food and the décor are authentic and inspired. (www.quabathsandspa.com).
The next day I wandered over to the Water Club at the Borgata Hotel. This is the city’s first boutique/lifestyle hotel, and offers a distinctive cosmopolitan setting while just steps away from entertainment, nightlife, gambling and dining at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. Checking out the Immersion Spa, grand at 36,000 square feet, I was welcomed into a soothing world as I passed through a river rock archway with cascading water, lush indoor greenery and an interior of slate, green marble, stone and glass. I took a plunge in its 80 foot long, two lane infinity-edge lap pool and then rested on a lounge by floor- to- 42 foot ceiling windows. For romantic interludes, Immersion offers a Japanese-style room with Hanoki soaking tubs and ensemble massages. I tried the funky-sounding soft-pack flotation device table and I must say that my body treatment on this watery platform was enhanced by a feeling of literally floating away. That evening I had dinner at Bobby Flay Steak, a restaurant at the Bogata. I had the Surf & Turf Skewers (lobster and steak), sweet potato soup with smoked chilies and baked Alaska for dessert. Friends, haute cuisine has come to Atlantic City. (www.TheWaterClubatBorgata.com).
The Fab Four Are Back!
The Beatles “Live” Tour opened here in 2007 at the Tropicana Casino and Hotel’s Liverpool Club. Called “The British are Coming!” this clever production depicts the Beatles “Live” US performances, beginning with their unforgettable appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show through their historic Shea Stadium concert. This is a show the whole family will enjoy
On June 4, Harrah’s Resort Hotel & Casino is hosting a beauty pageant slightly different from the Bert Parks’ kind. It’s the Ms. New Jersey Senior America Pageant in which fifteen elegant ladies, 60 years and
older, will compete for the coveted title of Ms. New Jersey Senior America
(www.msnewjerseysenioramerica.blogspot.com). John Edward, famed for channeling those who have gone up, up and away….appears at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino on June 9 (www.trumpplaza.com) .The ageless Tony Bennett enchants one and all at Caesars Atlantic City on July 10 & 11 (www.caesarsatlanticcity.com). Jimmy Buffett will continue looking for his lost shaker of salt on August 23 at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall (www.boardwalkhall.com) and, as a fitting end to summer, on September 13-17, Trini Lopez (yes, he’s still alive) appears at the Hilton Casino Resort (www.hiltonac.com). Lots to do, lots to see. It’s Atlantic City and its better than ever.
If You Go:
Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Boston: A Five-Star Get-Away
by Barbara Barton Sloane
If you’re suffering from lingering cabin fever, a sure-fire cure awaits. Boston is one of America’s favorite cities and an appealing get-away just a few hours drive away. This town is distinguished by its 21 vibrant neighborhoods where pride and cultures from all over the world are celebrated and cherished, making it truly world-class. In Boston’s Downtown Crossing neighborhood, you’ll find great shopping with all of the top department stores represented. In the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, there are over 40 push cart eateries and 17 restaurants. Newbury Street offers world-renowned shopping in some of Boston’s most chic and fashionable stores. The Prudential Center is a glamorous, sky-high mall with an endless array of restaurants, shops and more.
America’s Walking City – Freedom Trail
One of America’s first walking tours, The Freedom Trail is a perfect introduction to Colonial Revolutionary Boston. The Trail takes you to 16 historical sites in the course of two or three hours and covers two and a half centuries of America’s most significant past. There’s also a Boston Harbor Walk, a Walk to the Sea and a North End (Italian restaurants! Yum!) Walk.
If you prefer to do your walking indoors, Boston is Museum City with art from Ancient Egyptian to Contemporary. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is modeled after a 15th century Venetian palazzo surrounding an interior courtyard garden, and housing one of the most remarkable art collections in the world, including works by Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, Degas and Sergeant. The Historic New England Museum is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive regional preservation organization in the country. The Museum of Fine Arts has ground-breaking exhibits, and has one of the world’s largest Asian art collections
What’s Going On
The Transatlantic Volvo Ocean Challenge Race will berth in Boston for 10 days, April 27-May 16, 2009, and will offer visitors a spectacular international dockside “village” at Faneuil Pier. The Tall Ships Sail, July 8-13, 2009, is one of America’s Top 100 events. The tall ship the U.S. Coast Guard Barque Eagle will lead the Parade of Sails on Wednesday, July 8, and other tall ships from all over the world will participate in this event.
Bedding Down in Bean Town
Boston overflows with top-of-the-line luxury hotels. The Liberty is just a year old and your stay here will be a comfortable and singular experience, to say the least. You see, The Liberty was, in its former life, the storied Charles Street Jail. It’s been converted into a 300 room luxury hotel located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Dining at this hotel is quite special, as one of the 3 on-site restaurants is The Clink where bars have been left on the walls. This will hopefully be the closest you’ll ever come to dining in a jail. The food is good and the atmosphere is unique. (www.libertyhotel.com).
For an intimate and very inviting sanctuary, there’s none better than The Four Seasons Hotel Boston. Situated just opposite the Public Garden and historic Beacon Hill, it is the only New England hotel to be the recipient of both the Mobil Five-Star Award and the AAA Five Diamond Award. The hotel continues to rank in Zagat Survey as No.1 in Boston, and one of the top 50 US hotels. Its Restaurant Aujourd’hui is one of only two AAA Five Diamond restaurants in Massachusetts and dining here is a truly five-star experience. Walking through its high glass doors and entering the sleek new black granite lobby, you just know you’ve found a luxurious and restorative retreat. (www.fourseasons.com).
On a recent trip to Boston, I also visited the modernist 60-room Fifteen Beacon Hotel located, naturally, on Beacon Hill. The artwork throughout the hotel includes works by some of the country’s most renowned artists, and each room is individually designed so that no two rooms are alike. A fine feature: the building’s original cage elevator and its cast-brass railing dominate the hotel’s lobby and provide guests with a taste of “Old Boston.” The lobby’s walls are mahogany and sitting besides its cozy fireplace radiates a very warm welcome, indeed. Fifteen Beacon’s restaurant is called Moo and is a modern steakhouse. (www.xvbeacon.com).
Boston has much to offer if you have children in tow. There’s the Boston Children’s Museum with something to keep kids of every age interested and engaged. For small tots, they have a Play with Clay and Messy Activity programs, for older ones, Music and Movement and Orgami making. The Museum of Science offers, for kids grades 1-6, an Overnight Program with interactive activities, a Theatre of Electricity and a Lightening Show.
Renowned for culture, world-class educational institutions, and championship sports as well as enjoying its place at the very forefront of American history, Boston can accommodate and entertain you as few other cities can! (www.BostonUSA.com).
There’s a Reason it’s called The Wild West
by Barbara Barton Sloane
Hang on to your Stetson, Pardner! Get ready for excitement, tension and exceptional drama. There’s a rootin’, tootin’, rip-roaring, down-and-dusty rodeo that takes place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada every July - the famous Calgary Stampede known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth - and yep, it’s happening again – July 3-12, ten days of bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, saddle broc riding, tie-down roping and more fun than should be legally allowed! Calgary, located in the heart of the Canadian West, one hour from Banff and the Rocky Mountains, is a vibrant, bustling city of over one million inhabitants and the proud host of the Calgary Stampede since 1912.
How the West Was Once
Because of the unique origin of rodeo, it has a fascinating history. From the vaqueros to the American cowboy, rodeo history is filled with interesting characters and a multi-cultural mix of customs and practices. At the heart of rodeo, however, is a sport which arose out of cattle herding and was based on the skills required of working ranch hands. A highlight of the Calgary Stampede and one of the most exciting events unique to this rodeo – Chuck Wagon Racing. It is nothing short of heart-stopping! Also, the Stampede’s bucking stock is a rare and highly respected breed; their bulls are a hard-hitting, no-nonsense bunch that challenge the best cowboys in the world.
I had the fun-filled pleasure of attending the Calgary Stampede last year. It was the most memorable western experience I could ever have wished for. A ten-day citywide celebration welcomed over 1.5 million visitors and more than 2 million are expected to attend this July. .
The moment I de-planed, I just knew that this experience was going to be something really special. The airport was filled with happy, partying people and live, loud, good western music with songs like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and that perennial Hank Williams’ favorite, “There’s a Tear in my Beer.”
Cowboy Gear Par Exellence
Before the Stampede kicked off, my colleagues and I had the chance to visit a couple of true Calgary institutions. Smithbilt Hats is a company that’s been around since 1919. They are the only full line hat manufacturer in Western Canada and their hats, made of felt, wool, fur and beaver are sheer works of art. Bryce Nimmo, president of the company, allowed our group to try on some spectacular styles. It was fascinating to see what a simple piece of felt goes through to become a cool Smithbilt cowboy hat, selling for up to $1,000!
On to the Alberta Boot Company. Tim Gerwing, the General Manager, explained that for 30 years this company has outfitted royalty, movie stars, the Royal Canadian Mounties and ordinary people from all over the world who are smitten with the Wild West. Several of our group were fitted for their very own pair of custom cowboy boots which, considering the way they’re made, will probably last forever.
We lunched at the colorful restaurant Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine. A live band was playing “I’m a Good-Hearted Woman in Love with a Good-Timin’ Man” which set the mood for a party. Here, steaks and burgers rule as does their authentic Buckaroo BBQ Buffet. They also serve a most exotic dish, a little deep-fried part of our friend, the bull. I won’t describe it here, just suffice it to say I did not try the dish, but if you’re at Buzzards and curious, hey, you’re braver than I!
Early morning of the next day, we began our adventure at Rope Square, where hundreds had already gathered to line dance, enjoy the flap jack flip and play a traditional game called the “Hat Stomp”. You can probably imagine what this involves. Oh well. Retrieving our flattened and dusty cowboy hats, we hit the Stampede Midway at the fairgrounds. This place has enough to impress even the biggest thrill seekers, from hair-raising rides to challenging games, live music, agriculture shows and hundreds of shopping and food experiences - something here for the whole family.
The Wow Factor
Soon, the reason we were here – the rodeo! We witnessed amazing events: bronc riders exploding out of their chutes and being shaken like Margaritas in a blender, calf roping done in seconds and with no harm to the animal, and bulls roaring into the arena, their riders twisting, turning, flipping sky high and trying to stay on for the required 8 seconds. Eight short seconds, piece of cake, right? Not if you’re on a flinging, jumping 2,000 pound crazed creature who wants nothing more than to get you off his back! But stay on and ride the bulls the cowboys did, and with élan and class.
Grandstand Show Spectacular
As the sun set, magic filled the night and the 90 minute outdoor musical extravaganza began. It was nonstop entertainment by internationally acclaimed guest artists (this year Kenny Chesney will perform) at once dazzling and explosive, as the show concluded with an amazing award-winning fireworks finale! It was fitting end to a spectacular event. So, all you cowboy and cowgirl wanna-bes, pull on some boots, put on a Stetson and come on up! The Calgary Stampede is sure to transport you from the world as you now know it!
If You Go:
Calgary Stampede Ticket Information (www.calgarystampede.com)
Buzzards Cowboy Cuisine (www.cowboycuisine.com)
Murrieta’s Bar & Grill (www.murrietas.ca)
Heritage Park - Canada’s largest living historical village (www.HeritagePark.ca)
Hotel Arts – Home of Calgary’s best martini, “The Derelict”, (www.hotelarts.ca)
Brewster’s Kananaskis Guest Ranch (www.brewstersadventures.com)
White Water Rafting (www.raftandride.ca)
Calgary Olympic Park – for the fastest zipline in the world (www.winsportcanada.ca)
Tourism Calgary (www.tourismcalgary.com)
Travel Alberta Canada (www.TravelAlberta.com)