Eastern USA travel - Lonely Planet (2022)

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    (Video) Introducing Eastern USA

    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    The story of the Smoky Mountains began in primordial times when clashing supersized continents created a chain of mountains that are today among the oldest on the planet. Some of the rock here formed at the bottom of an ancient sea over a billion years ago, which were later uplifted when the African tectonic plate slammed into the side of North America.The human history here is ancient, too – Indigenous peoples have lived in the region of the Smoky Mountains since prehistoric times, an archeologists have found 10,000 year old hunting projectiles and ceramics from 700BCE.When European settlers arrived in the 17th century, they encountered the Cherokee, who lived in settlements along the river valleys. The Smokies lay at the center of their vast territory until they were forced out of the region on the Trail of Tears. In the 1900s lumber companies arrived, nearly wiping out the forests. Luckily, in the 1920s a few visionary locals fought for the park’s creation, which finally became a reality in 1934.Today, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the United States. That's in part thanks to its easy access from numerous major metros, including North Carolina's research triangle, Knoxville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; and Washington, DC. It's also thanks to the early decision to make the park very drivable, with a mixture of roads and hiking trails that appeal to a variety of nature lovers from casual history buffs and wildlife watchers to seasoned backpackers and thru-hikers. The cherry on top is that this national park is free to access, with no entrance fees or America the Beautiful pass required.If that piques your interest, we have information on how and when to visit, what to see, where to camp, and which trails should be on your Smoky Mountains bucket list. Whether it's your first time in the Smokies or you're a long-term regular, just read on.Hiking in Smoky Mountains National ParkThe Smokies are part of the vast Appalachian chain, among the oldest mountains on the planet. Formed more than 200 million years ago, these ancient peaks were once much higher – perhaps as high as the Himalayas – but have been worn down by the ages. You can contemplate that remote past while huffing your way up to the top of a 6000ft peak overlooking the seemingly endless expanse of undulating ridges that stretch off into the distance. There are mesmerizing viewpoints all across the park, as well as one mountaintop lodge that can only be reached by foot.Home to more than 800 miles of walking trails, the national park has no shortage of great hikes, from short waterfall jaunts to multiday treks across the breadth of the mountains. Here are a few highlights:Clingmans DomeNo matter when you visit, the highest peak in the national park offers dazzling views. From the circular, flying-saucer-like viewing platform, you'll have a sweeping 360-degree panorama of the undulating waves of forested peaks that stretch off into the distance. While it's an easy but steep uphill walk along the paved half-mile path to the observation tower, there are many outstanding trails that cross through here – including the Appalachian Trail and the Alum Cave Bluffs trail. And if you come in winter, when the access road is closed, you'll have those grand views all to yourself.The Appalachian TrailAmerica's most fabledwalkin the woods stretches for nearly 2200 miles across 14 states. Some 71 miles of the challenging trail runs along the spine of the Smoky Mountains, taking you to soaring overlooks, through misty coniferous forests and past old-fashioned fire towers offering staggering views over the park's verdant expanse. Even if you don't have a week to spare (much less six months to hike the whole Appalachian Trail), you can still enjoy some marvelous day or overnight hikes along this legendary trail.Mt LeConteOne of the most challenging and rewarding day hikes in the park is the ascent up Mt LeConte, the third-highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. Several trails wind their way up, passing rushing rivers, waterfalls, log bridges and precipitous views before reaching the summit at 6593ft. At the top, you can pay a visit to the rustic lodge that's been in operation since before the creation of the national park in 1934. Book a cabin (well in advance) to make the most of this extraordinary Smoky Mountain experience.Alum Cave BluffsOne of the 10 most popular trails in the Smoky Mountains, Alum Cave Bluffs often draws a crowd. It's a fantastic walk crossing log bridges, spying old-growth forest and enjoying fine views, though you should try to be on the trail before 9am to enjoy the scenery without the maddening crowds. Highlights includeArch Rock, where handcrafted stone steps ascend steeply through the portal of an impressive stone arch that looks like something Frodo was compelled to climb. Beyond this interesting formation, the trail crosses the Styx Branch and begins a steep ascent.The forest gives way to open sky at the next point of interest, a large heath bald where mountain laurel and blueberry bushes grow in a dense mass. After some huffing and puffing, you’ll be repaid for your efforts at a scenic vista calledInspiration Point. From here, it’s a short climb to Alum Cave Bluffs. As it turns out, the name is a misnomer. Waiting for you is not a cave, but rather a rock overhang. Moreover, the rocks contain not alum, but sulfur and rare minerals, some not known to occur elsewhere. If you’re game for more delightful punishment, you can continue on from Alum Cave Bluffs to the summit of Mt LeConte, 2.7 miles up the trail.Ramsey CascadesOne of our favorite hikes in the park, the trail to Ramsey Cascades travels through old-growth forest dotted with massive tulip trees to one spectacular waterfall. You'll need to work hard to make it here – it's tough going, with an elevation gain of 2280ft. The hike's start is deceptively easy, along a wide, packed trail beside the rushing Middle Prong of the Pigeon River. At mile 1.5 things get interesting (hard, rather) as the path narrows and winds its way uphill over spidery roots and past scenic overlooks of the rushing river below.Around mile 2.6 you'll pass massive old-growth trees that have loomed over the forest canopy for centuries. The final half-mile steepens even more before you finally reach the refreshing falls, which plunge 100ft over chiseled ledges of gray stone. Congratulations, you've made it to the highest waterfall in the park. Don't ruin the moment by trying to climb up the waterfall, as a few people have died falling from the slippery rocks up top. Instead, keep an eye out for well-camouflaged salamanders on the periphery of the pool at the base of the cascades.Camping in the SmokiesGreat Smoky Mountains National Park provides varied camping options. LeConte Lodge is the only place where you can get a room, however, and you have to hike to the top of a mountain to enjoy the privilege. Gatlinburg has the most sleeping options of any gateway town, though prices are high. Nearby Pigeon Forge, 10 miles north of Sugarlands Visitor Center, and Sevierville, 17 miles north, have cheaper options.The National Park Service maintains developed campgrounds at nine locations in the park (a 10th remains closed indefinitely). Each campground has restrooms with cold running water and flush toilets, but there are no showers or electrical or water hookups in the park (though some campgrounds do have electricity for emergency situations). Each individual campsite has a fire grate and picnic table. Many sites can be reserved in advance, and several campgrounds (Cataloochee, Abrams Creek, Big Creek and Balsam Mountain) require advance reservations.With nine developed campgrounds offering more than 900 campsites, you'd think finding a place to pitch would be easy. Not so in the busy summer season, so plan ahead. You can make reservations for most sites; others are first-come, first-served. Cades Cove and Smokemont campgrounds are open year-round; others are open March to October.Backcountry camping is an excellent option, which is only chargeable up to five nights ($4 per night; after that, it's free). A permit is required. You can make reservations online, and get permits at the ranger stations or visitor centers. Be sure to know thecampground regulations.Driving the Smoky MountainsAs Philip D'Anieri explains in The Appalachian Trail: A Biography, building scenic byways into national parks was a controversial idea at the time parks like Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains were first established. Did they give the American public well-deserved access to natural spaces where they could find recreation and spiritual contemplation, or did they represent the intrusion of the urban world into pristine natural spaces best experienced on foot?That's a debate that still grips the outdoor community today, but in the end, roads are part of what make the Great Smoky Mountains experience what it is today. A slow ride along stretches of Little River Road, Cades Cove Loop Road, through the Cataloochee Valley, or Upper Tremont Road is the perfect way to take it easy – and with 384 miles of road in the Smokies, you can keep coming back for more. Here are some highlights:Newfound Gap RoadThe only paved route that bisects the park, the Newfound Gap Road offers fabulous scenery of the mountain forests as it curves its way for 33 miles between Cherokee, NC, and Gatlinburg, TN. While you could make the north–south traverse in an hour or two, it's well worth taking it slow, stopping at scenic overlooks, having a picnic lunch beside a rushing mountain stream and going for a hike or two along one of the many memorable trails that intersect this iconic motorway.Roaring Fork Motor Nature TrailAlthough it's just 5.5 miles long, this scenic road holds a treasure chest of natural wonders. Named after the fast-flowing mountain stream that courses beside it, the Roaring Fork takes you to lookouts with panoramic views over the mountains, past pockets of old-growth forest and right beside shimmering waterfalls tumbling over moss-covered stones. You'll also see vestiges of human settlement in the area, including an old farmstead that sheds light on the area's early inhabitants. Several excellent hiking trails start from this road, including to the lovely Grotto Falls.Foothills ParkwayAfter years of construction and tens of millions of dollars in investment, a new 16-mile stretch of the Foothills Parkway was slated to open in late 2018. Visitors can now enjoy a 33-mile stretch of magnificent views on the newly extended parkway.More things to doThe sun-dappled forests of the Great Smoky Mountains are a four-season wonderland. Rich blooms of springtime wildflowers come in all colors and sizes, while flame azaleas light up the high-elevation meadows in summer. Autumn brings its own fiery rewards with quilted hues of orange, burgundy and saffron blanketing the mountain slopes. In winter, snow-covered fields and ice-fringed cascades transform the Smokies into a serene, cold-weather retreat. This mesmerizing backdrop is also a World Heritage Site, harboring more biodiversity than any other national park in America. Here are a few activities that will get you in on the fun:See the firefliesEach year in late spring or early summer, parts of the national park light up with synchronous fireflies, a mesmerizing display where thousands of insects flash their lanterns (aka abdominal light organs) in perfect unison. The event draws huge crowds of people to the Elkmont Campground, one of the best places in the Smokies to see it. Dates of the event change every year, but it can happen anytime between late May and late June.Viewing dates are typically announced in April. All those who want to see the event must obtain a parking pass through a lottery system, and then take a shuttle to the site.The service runs from the Sugarlands Visitor Center for eight days of predicted peak activity during the fireflies’ two-week mating period.Wildlife watching in CataloocheeTucked into the eastern reaches of the national park, Cataloochee is one of the top wildlife-watching spots in the Smokies. You can watch massive elk grazing, see wild turkeys strutting about and perhaps even spy a bear or two. Hiking paths crisscross the valley, including the Boogerman Trail, which leads through old-growth forest. Cataloochee was also home to one of the largest settlements in the Smokies, and you can delve into the past while wandering through log cabins, a one-room schoolhouse and a photogenic church, all dating back to the early 1900s.Rafting the Pigeon RiverMany winding creaks and crystal-clear streams rushing through the Smokies find their way into the Big Pigeon River. When they converge, they create a fantastic setting for white-water adventures on churning rapids amid a gorgeous forest backdrop. Families with small kids can enjoy a peaceful paddle on the Little Pigeon, while those seeking a bit more adventure should opt for the Upper Pigeon with its class III and IV rapids. It all makes for a fun day's outing with some of the best rafting in the southeast.History at Cades CoveSurrounded by mountains, the lush valley of Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the national park. The draw: great opportunities for wildlife-watching, access to some fantastic hiking trails, and remnants of buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, on an easy tour of the area, you can visit old churches, barns, log houses and a working gristmill, most of which date back to the first European settlement in the 1820s.When to visitThe park is open year-round, but summer and fall are the most popular seasons, lush with wildflowers and colorful fall foliage. Some facilities are closed late fall through early spring, and roads may be closed in winter due to inclement weather.In April, spring makes its appearance with wildflowers, bigger crowds (during spring break) and the reopening of most campgrounds and roads. Nights can still dip below freezing (take note campers), but days can be delightfully sunny and warm. May is one of the best months to see spring wildflowers and flowering trees such as dogwoods and redwoods in the forests. Warm days mix with rainfall (a year-round possibility), and lodging prices are still lower than peak summer rates.June and July are some of the most popular months in the park with school out for the summer, the synchronous fireflies putting on their show, and the Independence Day Midnight Parade in Gatlinburg. The fall leaf-peeping peak kicks in around October, when campgrounds fill up and roads slow to a crawl on weekends. By November,the crowdsthin as the blazing autumn colors now litter the floor (rather than the treetops). Some roads and campgrounds close for the season. You can score good deals on lodging.Christmas is a big production in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Bryson City, with plenty of colorful lights and family-friendly events. Grab your snowshoes and see the park free of crowds in January and February, when the waterfalls turn into ice sculptures and roaring fires at your rental cabin are peak hygge.Planning your tripThe closest airports to the national park areMcGhee Tyson Airportnear Knoxville (40 miles northwest of Sugarlands Visitor Center) andAsheville Regional Airport, 58 miles east of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Further afield you'll find Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, 140 miles southwest of the park, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 170 miles east, andHartsfield-Jackson International Airportin Atlanta, 175 miles south of the park. After you fly in, you'll need a car as there's no public transportation to the park. There's a wide variety of car-rental outfits at each of the airports, however.Unlike other national parks, Great Smoky Mountains is free to enter. The only fees you'll be charged are for camping or if you rent a picnic pavilion. There are four visitors centers inside the park itself at Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, Sugarlands and Clingmans Dome, as well as three info centers outside the park in "gateway" towns of Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend, Tennessee.The number one thing to be aware of during your visit is the Smoky Mountains' beloved bear population. A number of regulations are in place specifically to reduce the chances you might have the wrong kind of bear encounter. To wit, dogs must be on a leash at all times within the park and are not allowed on hiking trails. Food and cooking equipment must be kept in your vehicle whenever they aren't in immediate use, along with water containers and anything with a strong scent, like candles or your favorite body wash. Food storage lockers are available at several campgrounds, and garbage disposal units are specially designed to deter bears.History of Smoky Mountains National ParkSpanish explorer Hernando de Soto was probably the first European to reach the Smokies, when he arrived in the southern Appalachian mountains in 1540.De Soto led an expedition of 600 men on a long, wandering journey from which only half of them would return. On their march west along the southern edge of the Smoky Mountains, the Spaniards stopped to camp alongside the Oconaluftee River.There they encountered Cherokee, who had long since established seasonal hunting camps, as well as trails through the mountains that connected various settlements. Cades Cove likely once housed a permanent Cherokee village, called Tsiyahi or ‘Place of the Otters,’ which was located along the banks of Abrams Creek. The other permanent Cherokee settlement within today’s park boundaries was Oconaluftee village, set along the river near the present-day Oconaluftee Visitor Center.The Smokies remained largely unexplored by Europeans for the next two centuries. Then in 1775 the American naturalist and Quaker William Bartram spent several months in southern Appalachia during his four-year journey through the southeast. He became one of the first to accurately write about the region – both about its wildlife and its native people. The German immigrant John Jacob Mingus and his family were among the first Europeans to set up homesteads in the Oconaluftee River Valley when they arrived in 1798 (their descendants would remain in the region, and later set up the Mingus Mill). Over the next few decades, other homesteaders put down roots in Cades Cove and the Cataloochee Valley, too.Although the settlers were generally on good terms with the Cherokee, Indigenous people were nearly entirely gone from the area by 1819 after the Cherokee nation and other tribes were forced to cede all of their lands in the Smoky Mountains in the 1819 Treaty of Calhoun. In the decades following the Civil War, a new threat soon faced the Smokies: logging. At first, it started out small, with selective timber cutting carried out by local landowners throughout the Smokies. By 1900, however, industrialists saw enormous financial opportunities in the large stands of old-growth forest in the mountains and began buying up properties and commencing large-scale operations.While huge swaths of the forest were being felled by lumber companies, more and more locals were beginning to notice the devastation left by clear-cutting. In the early 1920s a few key figures from Knoxville, TN, and Asheville, NC, began to advocate for the conservation of the Smokies.Ann Davis was one of the first to put forth the idea of creating a national park in the Smokies. After visiting several national parks out west in 1923, she and her husband, Willis Davis, worked tirelessly to recruit allies towards the goal of creating the park. She even entered politics, and in 1924 became the first woman elected in Knox County to serve in the Tennessee State House of Representatives.Negotiations began in 1925 and were complex – given there were more than 6000 property owners involved. In 1926 President Calvin Coolidge signed legislation creating Great Smoky Mountains National Park (along with two other national parks). Once signed it was up to the park boosters to secure the funds to purchase the 150,000 acres before the Department of the Interior would assume responsibility. Even with cash in hand, purchases of the small farms and miscellaneous parcels (some of which had yet to be surveyed and appraised) was a cumbersome and lengthy process. Many landowners were reluctant to leave the only home they’d ever known, and some people – such as John Oliver of the Cades Cove community – fought the park commission through the Tennessee court system.In 1930 the first superintendent of the park arrived, and he formally oversaw the first transfer of land – 158,876 acres deeded to the US government. At long last the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a reality, though it wasn’t until 1934 that the park was officially established. A few years later, in 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the national park for the ‘permanent enjoyment of the people’ at the newly created Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap.As the Great Depression swept across the nation in the early 1930s, President Roosevelt came up with an innovative solution to put people back to work. He created the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which would serve two purposes: it would create jobs and it would help in the nation’s reforestation. CCC camps were set up across the country, with 22 created inside the national park. Around 4000 men, mostly aged 18 to 20, would work for the corps, which ran from 1933 to 1942. The men worked a variety of jobs: planting trees, building bridges and footpaths, erecting fire towers and clearing fire roads. Their handwork is still all over Great Smoky Mountains, including shelters built along the AT where hikers still overnight.Buy the Great Smoky Mountains National Park guide ahead of your trip.

  • Museum

    Metropolitan Museum of Art

    What started with a handful of paintings brought over from Europe or donated by a coterie of philanthropically minded robber barons in the 19th century has since become a massive collection oftwo million works of art representing5000 years of history. It's also become one of the most beloved corners of New York City. The Met (as it's affectionately known) has been memorialized in the verses of Leonard Cohen andJorge Luis Borges, featured prominently on Gossip Girl, and was sorely missed when it closed its doors as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked New York City.The Metropolitan Museum of Art's 17 acres of exhibit space are full of treasures that have captivated visitors since 1870. You can see everything from ancient Sasanian textiles to Henry VIII’s armor, from the oldest piano in existence to works by Dutch masters like Vermeer, from remarkable quilts out of Gee's Bend, Alabama to Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's classic portrait Washington Crossing the Delaware . That's not to mention all the perennially popular exhibits on fashion, too, ranging from embroidered kimono to pieces fromcontemporary designers like Marc Jacobs and Comme des Garçons.What to see at the MetWhen the Metwas founded 151 years ago, it was intended not as an emblem of empire like the British Museum or of revolution like the Musée du Louvre. Instead, it was designed to educateand edify a teaming city of immigrants, and underscore the uniquely global culture of 19th century New York City. Whether that stated purpose has been meet bymodern, post-colonial standards is up for debate in recent years – a conversation many museums are reckoning with worldwide.Still, the Met is an ever-evolving classic. As the 2021 PBS documentary Inside the Met notes, what should have been a blockbuster birthday year for the museum's 150th anniversary turned into a reassessment of its approach to both inclusivity and accessibility, including the Met's use of digital space. Newly reopened as of March 13, 2021, the Met is showcasing its global collection in new contexts and inviting fresh discussion about some of its oldest works from contemporary artists.There's certainly too much to list in its entirety, but here are some of the best highlights:The Egyptian CollectionThe 1st-floor ancient Egyptian collection is unrivaled; packed with26,000 objects spanning six centuries. Absolutely don't miss theTemple of Dendur, built around 10 BCE and relocated to New York in 1978 as a gift from Egypt to the United States for their efforts to help save priceless antiquities like the Temple from the Aswan High Dam project.Arms and ArmorThe Arms and Armor Department became part of the Met in 1912 thanks to a private donor, but the collection grew immensely when British culture shiftedas the Edwardian Age gave way to world wars, inspiring many families to sell off their collections. But it isn't only European suits of armorexamples on display – the thousand pieces set out for the public include 16th and 18th century samurai armor from Japan, Turkish swords forged during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, and artifacts from Tibet.Islamic Art and ArtifactsA special collection of Islamic art showcases the profoundly influential motifs found in a variety of artistic works from carpets, cast metal objects, illustrated folios, tiled prayer niches, and even caskets. The collection is comprised of unique pieces from throughout the Muslim world, from Iranian mosaics to an intricate gold container made in Goa to contain abezoars (talismanic gallstones, essentially) that blend Islamic arabesques with Portuguese colonial influences. Travel buffs shouldn't miss theAstrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari, a Yemeni prince.Near Eastern ArtFifteen incredible rooms of the Met are devoted to an extensive collection of art and artifacts from the Middle East. Objects range from Assyrian stone reliefs to cuneiform tablets toancient Iranian pottery which was made nearly four thousand years before the Common Era. There are tiny incense burners and drinking vessels and massive installations like the iconic human-headed winged bull (technically called a lamassu) statues from theAssyrian city of Nimrud.European PaintingsThe Met started with a handful of Roman sarcophagi and 174 paintings purchased in Europe to kick-start the museum's collections – you've come a long way, baby. On the 2nd floor, the museum now houses numerousmasterworks from the 13th through 20th centuries. There's a Duccio di Buoninsegna Madonna painted around 1290CE, the famous Juan de Pareja portrait painted by Velázquez in 1650, andGustav Klimpt's 1912 Mäda Primavesi.Some are OG members of the Met collection like The Meeting of Alexander the Great and Diogenes by Gaspar de Crayer, sold to the Met by co-founder John Taylor Johnson. Others are newcomers like Virgin and Child Enthroned – bought by the Met before COVID-induced acquisition freezes – and the1636 van Dyck portrait of English Queen Henrietta Maria, bequeathed to the Met byJayne Wrightsman in 2019. One thing's for sure – there's no shortage of characters, stories, and techniques to absorb.Asian ArtSome of the oldest works of art on display at the Met are in the Asian Art galleries, which hold35,000 objects dating back as far as 5000 years. They're also some of the oldest pieces of non-European art in the Met's collection, joining the museum thanks to its earliest patrons.Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian and Tibetan paintings, woodcuts, textiles, pottery, decorative objects, lacquers, calligraphy and metalwork await, including Ming vases, Edo-era kimono embroidered with scenes from The Tale of Genji, Buddhist sutras illustrated in gold and silver byKorean master artists, and golden crowns from India.TheAmerican WingTheAmerican Wingfeatures decorative and fine art from throughout the long, diverse history of the United States, with 20,000 works by artists of Indigenous,Latin American, African American, Euro American descent. From intricately carved and inlaid Tsimshian head dresses to crisp Victorian portraits to fancy Federal furniture, there's a little bit of everything.Increasingly the Met has grappled with the legacy of colonialism and imperialism inherent in such global collections that were started in eras where standards for respectful acquisitions were much different. But the American Wing is one area where the Met's fresh commitment to changing conversations about its collections and including more diverse voices is on full display. Recent exhibitions have included Indigenous responses toEuro-American works in the collection, while some of the more recent acquisitions in the American wing have showcased an emerging dedication to correcting the museum's track record on including Black artists.The CloistersThe Met Cloisters are one of the best-beloved parts of the museum, but they aren't actually on the Fifth Ave campus with the rest of the sprawling collection. Instead, they sit ona hilltop overlooking the Hudson River, filled with the Met'smedieval treasures, including frescoes, paintings, and the famous tapestry series The Hunt of the Unicorn (1495–1505). It's a little sanctuary within the bustling city, and is a fitting setting for the often sacred context of these artworks.Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasThe breadth and depth of works from Africa, Oceania, South and Central America, and Caribbean works are on full display in theNelson A. Rockefeller wing of the museum. The expansion of this collection makes it feelrelatively new compared to other portions of the museum (it only opened in the 1960s) despite the ancient nature of theceramics, textiles, jewelry, garments, and other archeological finds on display.That said, this wing will be undergoing renovation through 2024 to better give these gorgeous works their due. One goal, for example, is to let more natural light in to the galleries, showcasing how colorful and bold many of these artworks can be in contrast to, as one docent put it in Inside the Met, the current, moremuted vibe that might evokepainfulcolonial tropes of "darkest Africa."As Long as the Sun Lasts was designed by the artist Alex Da Corte as the Met's 2021 Roof Garden Commission © Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Anna-Marie Kellen" data-embed-button="images" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-embed-display-settings="{"image_style":"","image_link":""}" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="d4de934f-c501-4a82-80e7-14dde53a1b24" data-langcode="en" title="Alex Da Corte 1.jpg">Visiting the MetThe Met is located on the Upper East Side and is easily accessible by bus, subway or on foot. Drivers can park in the garage atthe parking garage at Fifth Ave and 80th St, where rates range from $23 for an hour to$55 for the day (New York City prices, natch). The parking garage is also home to the Met's bike racks.Cyclists can also use the museum's bike valet service from May 29 to September 6 at the Fifth Ave plaza near 83rd St. Bicycle valet is available from on weekends from 10:30am - 5:30pm and on select holidays including May 31, July 5 and September 6 during the same hours.Starting in 2018, the Met changed its admissions policies from a long-standing pay-as-you-wish model to one that charges an entrance fee for those who are not residents of New York State, New Jersey or Connecticut. Visitors from further afield must pay $25 for adults, $17 for seniors 65 and over, and $12 for students. Children under 12 are free.Due to the COVID-19 pandemic,the Met continues to require timed, ticketed entry, and it's best to make your reservations well in advance to suit your schedule. The Met is open Thursday through Monday from10am - 5pm and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you dislike crowds, avoid weekends.Self-guidedaudio tours(adult/child $7/5) are available in 10 languages; download the Met's free smartphone app for excerpts.Guided toursof specific galleries are free with admission. Tickets are good for three consecutive days, and also give admission to the Met Breuer and Cloisters.If visiting April through October, head up to the excellentroof garden, which features rotating sculpture installations by contemporary and 20th-century artists – though the grand city and park views are the real draw. Enjoy a sundowner cocktail from its on-site bar, the Cantor Roof Garden Bar.Accessibility at the MetEntrances located at the Fifth Ave and 81st St and through the parking garage at Fifth Ave and 80th St are accessible for visitors with disabilities. The Met is accessible for those who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices, with elevators available if you need to avoid stairs or slopes.Wheelchairs for use during your visitare available on a first-come, first-served basis fromthe coat check at the 81st St entrance.For those attending with a caregiver or assistive interpreter, admission for your companion is free and arrangements can be made at the front desk. The availability of assistive devices and printed materials for visitors who are deaf, heard of hearing, or visually impaired are limited at this time due to COVID-19 sanitation protocols.

  • Park


    Central Park

    One of the world’s most renowned green spaces, Central Park comprises 843 acres of rolling meadows, boulder-studded outcroppings, elm-lined walkways, manicured European-style gardens, a lake and a reservoir — not to mention an outdoor theater, a memorial to John Lennon, an idyllic waterside eatery and a famous Alice in Wonderland statue.Highlights include the 15-acreSheep Meadow, where thousands of people lounge and play on warm days; Central Park Zoo; and the forest-like paths of the Ramble, popular with birdwatchers. In warm weather there arefree outdoor concerts on the Great Lawn and top-notch drama at the annual Shakespeare in the Park productions held each summer at the open-air Delacorte Theater. Other recommended stops includetheShakespeare Garden, on the west side between 79th and 80th Sts, with its lush plantings and excellent skyline view.The history of Central ParkLike the city’s subway system, the vast and majestic Central Park, a rectangle of open space in the middle of Manhattan, is a great class leveler – exactly as it was envisioned. Created in the 1860s and ’70s by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on the marshy northern fringe of the city, the immense park was designed as a leisure space for all New Yorkers regardless of color, class or creed.Central Park is actually only the fifth largest park in New York City, trailing behind other local greenspaces likePelham Bay and Van Cortlandt parksin the Bronx, the Greenbelt on Staten Island, and Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. But over 800 acres is nothing to sneeze at in tony, dense upper Manhattan – even in the mid-19th century when New York City was just a fraction of its present size, much of the land had to be acquired by eminent domain.Ironically, what is now Central Park was commandeered from settlements like Seneca Village, home to the very immigrants and freeBlack community members the park was ostensibly supposed to benefit. From that raw, swampy material Olmsted and Vaux were tasked with creating a place where the rich could see and be seen in their carriages and promenading in fine clothing, and later where the middle and lower classes could gather away from pubs and in lieu of garden cemeteries.Olmsted was inspired by Birkenhead Park near Liverpool – the first taxpayer funded public park in England – during a trip he later recounter in his travel memoir Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England. The trick, of course, would be to create what felt like a natural American landscape where once there had been pig mucks and and urban detritus.The result was, after many years, huge sums of money, thousands of laborers, and slow progress during the Civil War,a sprawling green space thatfelt distinct from the city bordering it in both its democratic vision and pastoral expanse. It was also a triumph of engineering.Olmsted and Vaux (who also created Prospect Park in Brooklyn) were determined to keep foot and road traffic separated and cleverly designed the crosstown transverses under elevated roads to do so. It’s alsoan oasis from the urban crush: the lush lawns, cool forests, flowering gardens, glassy bodies of water and meandering, wooded paths provide the dose of serene nature that New Yorkers crave.The legacy of Central ParkThe success of Olmsted's vision – and his first major project –went on to launch his career (and influence generations of landscape architecture) with commissions from Buffalo to San Francisco, from the manicured grounds of the Biltmore Estate to the trailing parks of Atlanta.It's no wonder it's one of the most popular film locations in cinematic history, cropping up not just as a background but a character in movies like Hair, When Harry Met Sally, Enchanted and The Muppets Take Manhattan. It's also no wonder that Central Park quickly became a nexus of New York architecture, fringed by buildings that both benefit from proximity to the city's back yard and try to live up to its larger-than-life legacy.From penthouse apartments of the Dakota Building whereLauren Bacall, John Lennon and other luminaries lived to recent additions like the tall, skinnyCentral Park Tower that climbs to1,550 feet over its namesake, the skyline rimming Olmsted's creation is almost as iconic as downtown treasures like the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, or the Brooklyn Bridge.Things to do in Central ParkToday, this ‘people’s park’ is still one of the city’s most popular attractions, beckoning throngs of New Yorkers year round. While parts of the park swarm with joggers, inline skaters, musicians and tourists on warm weekends, it’s quieter on weekday afternoons, especially in the less-trodden spots above 72nd St, such as theHarlem Meerand theNorth Meadow(north of 97th St).During summer in Central Park, you can try activities from fishing to camping without once leaving Manhattan, or make like countless movie characters and head tothe Victorian Bow Bridge, which spansCentral Park Lake and connects Cherry Hill and the Ramble. Nearby, ornate Bethesda Fountain edges the lake, and its Loeb Boathouse is a beloved attraction where you can rent rowboats or enjoy lunch.Speaking of eats, Central Park's designers may have intentionally included few buildings in their landscape, but Tavern on the Green is a New York classic for a reason. Designed by Vaux himself in 1870 as an actual sheep paddock, the structure was turned into a restaurant in 1934 by Robert Moses, and it eventually earned a landmark reputation in the city's already competitive, legendary food scene.Former New York Times restaurant critical Ruth Reichl once observed in the pre-smartphone 1990s, "To thousands of visitors, Tavern on the Green is New York.They are so happy to be here that you see them all around the room, videotaping one another as they eat their meals." Though it closed in 2009 for a few years, Tavern on the Green has been open again since 2014.Folks flock to the park even in winter, when snowstorms inspire cross-country skiing and sledding or just a simple stroll through the white wonderland, and crowds turn out every New Year’s Eve for a midnight run. Also very popular is skating on one of two stretches of ice in Central Park – Wollman Rink, located in the southeast part of the park, and Lasker Rink in the north.The Central Park Conservancy offers ever-changingguided toursof the park, including ones that focus on public art, wildlife and places of interest to kids (check online for dates and times; most tours are free or $15. To get the lay of the land at a faster clip, there's numerous running routes through Central Park, too.Getting to Central ParkCentral Park is accessible by numerous forms of transit, including theN, R, Q trains with service to 57th Street & 7th Avenue;the 1, 2, 3, A, B, C, and Dtrains with service to 59th and Columbus Circleand Broadwayat 72nd, 96th, & 110th Streets; and the B and C trains with stops along Central Park's west flank.As for bus routes, there are over a dozen to choose from, but some of the most accessible include theM10 the runs up the Central Park West side, theM20 from Penn Station, and theQ32 from Grand Central.Free and metered street parking exists around Central Park, though you'll want to be sure to check signage to make sure you won't run afoul of the meter maids. There are numerous paid lots and garages, too, where you can park for an hour or for the day.Central Park accessibilityCentral Park's rolling topography was created well before the ADA became the law of the land, so you might be curious how it holds up for visitors with disabilities. The Central Park Conservancy publishes an accessibility map to help visitors plan ahead for use of a wheelchair, rollator, cane, or other mobility aids.The accessibility map has marked and color coded different degrees of incline throughout the park, as well as where you may find obstacles like stairs, oraccessible features from restrooms to trails to subway stations.Central Park is also home to theRobert Bendheim Playground, which was redesigned in 1996 to accommodate children of all abilities. It features ramps, a wheelchair accessible water feature, an elevated sandbox, and play structures with auditory features for Deaf and hard-of-hearing kids and their caregivers.

  • Landmark

    Ellis Island

    Located in New York Harbor, Ellis Island is the US's most famous and historically important gateway and is home to one of the country’s most moving museums. It pays tribute to the indelible courage of more than 12 million immigrants who passed through this processing station between 1892 and 1924, after journeys that often took weeks and were spent under difficult conditions.More than 100 million living Americans are the descendants of these arrivals hoping to attain the American dream for themselves and their children. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration delivers a poignant tribute to their experiences. Housed inside the restored Main Building of the former immigration complex, you'll find narratives from historians, immigrants themselves and other sources that animate a fascinating collection of personal objects, official documents, photographs and film footage. Visitors keen to trace their ancestors’ details can avail of searchable historic records.Ellis Island has featured in many movies, including The Godfather: Part II and Brooklyn and is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. It is only accessible to the public by ferry, and purchasing tickets online in advance can help to avoid long queues.HistoryEllis Island is named after one of its previous owners, Samuel Ellis, but was previously known as Little Oyster Island, while the original native Mohegan name for the island was "Kioshk," meaning "Gull Island.” Ellis Island was used by the military for much of the 19th century and house batteries and naval magazines.Prior to 1890, individual states regulated immigration into the US, but around that time, rising political instability, economic distress and religious persecution in Europe fueled one of the largest mass human migration in history. The US Government decided to construct a new immigration station on Ellis Island, and opened its doors onJanuary 1, 1892.A teenage girl from Ireland called Annie Moore was the first immigrant to be processed there,accompanied by her two younger brothers. Over the next 62 years, more than 12 million immigrants arrived to the US via Ellis Island. First and second class passengers arriving by steamship in New York Harbor were not required to undergo the inspection process as they were considered 'affluent', but third class or steerage passengers or those with legal or health problems were sent to Ellis Island to be processed.The inspections took place in the Registry Room (now known as the Great Hall) and they lasted several hours. As well as a legal inspection carried out with the help of interpreters, doctors scanned every individual for physical ailments and medical conditions. Only 2% of people were excluded from entry; reasons for denial included having a contagious diseaseor concerns they wouldn't find legal employment.In 1897, a fire on Ellis Island burned the immigration station completely to the ground, andfederal and state immigration records dating back to 1855 were lost. While ship manifests were burned, customs lists were kept in the US Customs Office and are available to view. A new fireproof facility was built after that and it opened in 1900.As increased restrictions were introduced to limit the numbers entering the US, Ellis Island experienced a decline in usage from the early 1920s. US embassies were established all over the world and paperwork and medical inspections were completed there. By 1924, only war refugees, displaced persons needing assistance and those with problems with their paperwork were brought to Ellis Island for the inspection process. It served various purposes since, including being a World War II detention center for enemy merchants, until it was officially closed in 1954.What to see at Ellis IslandThe Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration is located in the Main Building, and it has exhibits, theaters, a gift shop, café and visitor facilities. When you arrive, stop in the museum lobby to pick up your free audioguide, which offers rich insights into the exhibits and is also available in a version aimed at children. Check at the Information Desk for guided tours, programs and the documentary film schedule.The museum has three floors of exhibits documenting immigrants’ experiences at Ellis Island, as well as the general history of immigration to the US. If you're very short on time, consider focusingon the 2nd floor, where you'll find the two most fascinating exhibits.The first, Through America's Gate, examines the step-by-step process faced by the newly arrived – including the chalk-marking of those suspected of illness, a wince-inducing eye examination, and 29 questions – in the beautiful, vaulted Registry Room. The second, Peak Immigration Years: 1880–1924, explores the motives behind the immigrants' journeys and the challenges they faced in beginning their new American lives.For a history of the rise, fall and resurrection of the building itself, make time for the Restoring a Landmark exhibition on the 3rd floor; its tableaux of trashed desks, chairs and other abandoned possessions are strangely haunting. If you don't feel like carrying around an audioguide, you can always pick up one of the phones in each display area and listen to the affecting recorded memories of actual people who came through Ellis Island, taped in the 1980s.Another option is the free 35-minute guided tour with a park ranger or volunteer, best booked in advance and also available in American Sign Language. For the complete experience, catch the 35-minute film, Island of Hope, Island of Tears, shown throughout the day in one of two theaters. And if you have ancestors who came through Ellis Island, you can look up their ship manifests and immigration records in the American Family Immigration History Center on the 1st floor and get them printed out for display for a fee.The rest of Ellis Island’s buildings — the 1930s’ ferry building, hospital, morgue, contagious disease wards, offices, housing and maintenance facilities — can be viewed only on a guided tour that must be booked in advance.Tickets and other practicalitiesStatue Cruises is the only ferry company authorized to provide tickets and transportation to Ellis Island. Ferry tickets can be purchased online here or by calling 1-877-LADY-TIX. They are also available at the Statue Cruises ticket booths in Castle Clinton in Battery Park in New York City or at the ferry departure point in Liberty State Park in New Jersey.Ferry tickets for visitors aged 13-61 cost $23.50, children aged 4-12 pay $12 and senior tickets are $18. There are no additional costs to visit the National Museum of Immigration.Hard Hat tours are open to visitors over the age of 13, and adult tickets cost €68.50, including the ferry trip. The tour offers a 90-minute guided tour of the unrestored hospital complex on the south side of Ellis Island, and includes the art exhibit Unframed – Ellis Island by French artist JR.Self-guided audio tours are included with every ferry ticket purchase and content is available in 12 languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. A family-friendly tour is also available, as are an American Sign Language version and an Audio Descriptive version.Ferry schedules change seasonally and during periods of high tourism. Up-to-date schedules are posted on the Statue Cruises website. For updates on island openings, please visit the National Park Service website.

  • Observatory

    (Video) Eastern USA: Top 13 Travel Experiences

    Empire State Building

    The Chrysler Building may be prettier, and One World Trade Center taller, but the queen bee of the New York skyline remains the Empire State Building. NYC's former tallest star has enjoyed close-ups in around a hundred films and countless skyline snapshots. Heading up to the top is as quintessentially New York as pastrami, rye and pickles.It's been scaled by King Kong, drawn lovers together in films like Sleepless in Seattle, and survived a 1945 plane crash. It was lit up in tribute to front-line workers as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the boroughs, just ninety years after construction began and it became an instant icon of a rapidly growing city. It's recognizable to Manhattanites and visitors from all over the world, and to many it's synonymous with the Big Apple itself.The history of the Empire State BuildingThe statistics are astounding: 10 million bricks, 60,000 tons of steel, 6400 windows and 328,000 sq ft of marble. Built on the original site of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, construction took a record-setting 410 days, using seven million hours of labor and costing a mere $41 million.It might sound like a lot, but it fell well below its $50 million budget (just as well, given it went up during the Great Depression).The Empire State Building was designed by the prolific architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon. According to legend, the skyscraper's conception began with a meeting between William Lamb and building co-financier John Jakob Raskob, during which Raskob propped up a No 2 pencil and asked, 'Bill, how high can you make it so that it won't fall down?'Coming in at 102 stories,the towering building would have been impossible with the engineering of the electric elevator – can you imagine having to walk up all those stairs? Prefabricated I-beams, columns, and other components manufactured in Pittsburgh were also crucial to ensuring quality and speed of construction.Steelworkers assembled the parts on site, sometimes high up in the sky – a site captured in iconic photos of riveters on the high iron. Many of the workers were members of the Mohawk nation and came to New York from the Kahnawake reservation near Montréal to ply their trade. Their affinity for heights earned them the nickname "skywalkers," and is a tradition that continues today.The Art Deco limestone tower officially opened for business on May 1, 1931, just after the Great Depression had halted the white-hot race to build ever-taller sky scrapers (including Empire State's early rival, the Chrysler Building), with the Empire State Building reigning supreme.Generations later, Deborah Kerr's words to Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember still ring true: 'It's the nearest thing to heaven we have in New York.'How tall is the Empire State Building?The Empire State Building stands 1454ft from top to bottom. Though it's no longer the tallest building in New York's skyline by a long shot, theviews remain sublime.Unless you're Ann Darrow (the unfortunate woman caught in King Kong's grip), heading to the top of the Empire State Building should leave you beaming.There are two observation decks. The open-air 86th-floor deck offers an alfresco experience, with telescopes (previously coin operated; now free) for close-up glimpses of the metropolis in action. Further up, at the top of the spire, the enclosed 102nd floor is New York's second-highest observation deck, trumped only by the observation deck at One World Trade Center.Needless to say, the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows over the city's five boroughs (and four neighboring states, weather permitting) are quite simply exquisite. On a clear day you can see as much as 80 miles in the distance. The views from both decks are especially spectacular at sunset, when the city dons its nighttime cloak in dusk’s afterglow.Plan your visitAs one of NYC 's most popular sights, it can see long queues, though a new entrance redesign has eased some of the bottlenecks. Getting here early (like 8AM) or late will help avoid delays, as will buying tickets in advance online (worth the $2 convenience fee).Your first stop is the Story of an Icon museum on the 2nd floor, which was completely redesigned in 2019 with multimedia exhibits on the building's history and its place in the United States' cultural imagination. The path through the displays leads you to the observatory elevators.As one would expect, the views from both decks are especially spectacular at sunset. For a little of that 'Arthur's Theme' magic, head to the 86th floor between 10pm and 1am Thursday to Saturday, when the twinkling sea of lights is accompanied by a soundtrack of live saxophone (requests are welcome).Since 1976, the building’s top 30 floors have been floodlit in a spectrum of colors each night, reflecting seasonal and holiday hues, or for local sports teams or charitable organizations. Famous combos include orange, white and green for St Patrick’s Day; blue and white for Chanukah; red, white and green for Christmas; and rainbow colors for Gay Pride weekend in June. For a full rundown of color schemes and the schedule, check the website.A tour app is available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean.Getting thereThe Empire State Building can be accessed by public transit using a number of lines. Take theSubway6 to 33rd St or theB,D,F, M, N,Q,R, or W trains to 34th St-Herald Sq. You can also take theM1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M34, or M55 bus routes to the Empire State.Did you know?A locked, unmarked door on the 102nd-floor observation deck leads to one of New York's most outrageous pie-in-the-sky projects to date: a narrow terrace intended to dock zeppelins. Spearheading the dream was former New York governor Alfred E Smith, who went from failed presidential candidate in 1928 to head honcho of the Empire State Building project. When architect William Van Alen revealed the secret spire of his competing Chrysler Building, Smith went one better, declaring that the top of the Empire State Building would sport an even taller mooring mast for transatlantic airships.While the plan looked good on paper, there were two (major) oversights: dirigibles require anchoring at both ends (not just at the nose, as planned) and passengers (who travel in the zeppelin's gondola) cannot exit the craft through the giant helium-filled balloon. Regardless, it didn't stop them from trying. In September 1931, the New York Evening Journal threw sanity to the wind, managing to moor a zeppelin and deliver a pile of newspapers fresh out of Lower Manhattan.The famous antenna was originally meant to be a mooring mast for zeppelins, but the Hindenburg disaster slammed the brakes on that plan. Though the ambitious plan for docking airships never got off the ground, years later an aircraft met up with the building with tragic consequences: a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor on a foggy day in 1945, killing 14 people.

  • Historic Site

    Mount Vernon

    If George Washington showed up today at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, he would find things essentially as he left them when he died in 1799. The mansion’s rooms have been meticulously preserved with his own furnishings or period likenesses, including his study, his bedchamber and the New Room, one of the grandest rooms in colonial America.But above all, Washington was a farmer at heart. On 500 hilly acres surrounding the mansion, you’ll find four gardens, a working farm and the restored quarters of enslaved people who worked the plantation.A not-to-be-missed education center offers interactive exhibits and videos that trace Washington’s life and legacy.HistoryGeorge Washington’s father, Augustine Washington, built a small house on the property in 1734. The future president’s half-brother, Lawrence, lived there until his death from tuberculosis in 1752, when his widow leased the house to the young Washington (and he inherited it upon her death). Washington renovated the house to what we see today, including raising the roof to make it two-and-a-half stories, and adding the north and south wings, the cupola and the piazza. At nearly 11,000 square feet, the mansion was 10 times the size of an average home in colonial Virginia. As much as he loved it, Washington barely saw the estate between 1775 and 1783, when he was serving as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. After the war, he returned to Mount Vernon, expanding the plantation to nearly 8000 acres. His home life was interrupted again while he served as the United States’ first president (1789-97). At the end of his service, he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died.The house fell into shambles until 1858, when the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association bought the estate and about 200 acres for $200,000. The association continues to own and operate the estate.Highlights of Mount VernonFord Orientation CenterJust beyond the main entrance, the Ford Orientation Center offers resources to help plan your visit. A variety of short films provide background, including Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River, challenges he faced in building a new nation and how Mount Vernon was saved from dereliction. Allow at least three hours for a property visit.The mansionFrom the orientation center, follow a tree-shaded pathway to the mansion, where you’ll line up on the Bowling Green (front lawn) for your visit. As you make your way through the rooms, guides describe highlights. Look for family portraits, the Washington coat of arms and the key to the Bastille that Washington received from the Marquis de Lafayette in 1790. You’ll end on the terrace overlooking the Potomac River, where you’ll want to pull up a rocking chair and take in the splendid view.Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education CenterTwenty-three state-of-the-art galleries and theaters delve into George Washington’s life and legacy at this relatively new museum and education center. You’ll watch his progress from being a surveyor, learning to lead in the French and Indian War and expanding his plantation at Mount Vernon before he went on to head the ragtag Continental Army, win the Revolutionary War and become the first president of the United States. You’ll learn about his marriage to Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759 (and see a display of her gold silk damask wedding dress). One fascinating gallery uses futuristic forensics to create three life-size figures of Washington, at ages 19, 45 and 57. The Revolutionary War Theater takes you into the throes of war with 4D effects, including falling snow, fog, flashing lights and a rumbling cannon. Another gallery explores Washington’s dependence on enslaved people for Mount Vernon’s success, including personal stories of several residents. And this is where you’ll find Washington’s famous false teeth—in reality they were not made from wood but ivory, gold, lead and human teeth (which may have been pulled from enslaved people).Allow at least an hour to see all the exhibits.GardensFour gardens serve different purposes, including a formal garden used to entertain the Washingtons’ guests; the greenhouse, where Washington cultivated tropical plants (including limes and lemons for fancy dinners); a kitchen garden; and a small botanical garden, where he experimented with new plant varieties.FarmA four-acre farm demonstrates what life was like on Washington’s one-time 8000-acre plantation. People in costume work in the fields and harvest crops. Farm animals run around including Hog Island sheep, Dominique Chickens and Red Devon cattle. There’s also a replica of a cabin where enslaved people would have lived.The tombsGeorge Washington died on December 14, 1799, and, although Congress wanted him laid to rest within the newly built U.S. Capitol, he was buried at his request at Mount Vernon. A brick tomb in a woodsy enclosure holds him, Martha and other family members. It’s a quiet place to contemplate the life and times of the father of the US.Other practicalitiesThere’s a food court, colonial-style restaurant and gift shop near the entrance.Several companies offer seasonal boat trips to Mount Vernon, including the City Cruises Mount Vernon Sightseeing Cruise, departing from Washington, DC’s Wharf and from Alexandria, Virginia.You can also hop on a bike and pedal along the scenic Mount Vernon Trail (10 miles from Alexandria).George Washington’s DistilleryWashington also was a whisky distiller, boasting one of the nation’s largest distilleries at the time. Located 2.7 miles from the estate’s main entrance, it burned down in the 1800s but was faithfully recreated in 2007 and is open to visitors.Did you know?Although the mansion looks like it’s made of stone, it’s not. Washington “rusticated” the exterior, a less expensive method of producing a stone look by using yellow pine siding sprinkled with sand.Tickets and other practicalities· 15 miles south of Washington, D.C.· Public transportation: Metro (yellow line) to Huntington, then hop on the Fairfax Connector bus 101· Price: $28 adults, $15 youth (6-11), children under 5 free. General admission includes audio tour. Buy tickets online in advance to save time (and money).· Separate reservation must be made for a mansion tour· Variety of other tours offered daily, including an in-depth mansion tour· Distillery open Sat-Sun Apr-Oct by tour only; adm $10

  • Museum

    (Video) Introducing the USA

    National Air and Space Museum

    The legendary exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum include the Wright brothers' flyer, Chuck Yeager's Bell X-1, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis, Howard Hughes' H-1 Racer and Amelia Earhart's natty Vega 5B.The hugely popular Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC, maintains the world's largest and most significant collection of aviation and space artifacts, encompassing all aspects of human flight.It presents programs, educational activities, lectures and performances that reflect the American spirit and the innovation, courage and optimism that have led to triumphs in the history, science and technology of flight. Children and adults alike love walking through the Skylab Orbital Workshop and viewing the Apollo to the Moon exhibit.History of the museumThe Smithsonian Institute's connection to flight began in 1861 when its first secretary, Joseph Henry, invited Thaddeus S.C. Lowe to inflate his hot air balloon on its grounds. In 1876, a group of 20 kites was acquired from the Chinese Imperial Commission, seeding what would later become the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world.The collections were first housed in the institute's Arts and Industries building, and were expanded after World War I to a Quonset hut erected by the War Department behind the Smithsonian Castle. Affectionately known as the "Tin Shed," the new building opened to the public in 1920 and remained in use for the next 55 years.President Harry Truman signed a bill in 1946 establishing the Smithsonian's National Air Museum to memorialize the development of aviation; collect, preserve and display aeronautical equipment; and provide educational material for the study of aviation.As the technology continued to advance and the collection expanded to include artifacts related to rocketry and spaceflight, it became clear that the museum was entering a new phase. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a law that changed the name to the National Air and Space Museum to memorialize the development of both aviation and spaceflight. The museum's collection on display expanded to include missiles and rockets.Funding to construct a new building was approved in 1971, and the National Air and Space Museum's new building was inaugurated with great fanfare on July 1, 1976. The collection that started in 1876 with a group of 20 kites has grown to nearly 60,000 objects now, and more avionic pieces reside in Virginia at the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center, an annex that holds more of this museum's extraordinary collection. Both buildings combine to welcome more than eight million visitors per year.What to do at the museumThe Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall is the museum's entrance gallery, and it will appeal to aviation enthusiasts as it showcases the Spirit of St. Louis, the North American X-15A-1, John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, the Viking Lander, Pioneer 10, SpaceShipOne and a touchable lunar sample.How Things Fly is a fun, interactive gallery allowing children and adults to explore the principles of flight through hands-on activities. It features a Cessna 150, a section of a Boeing 757 fuselage, a model of the International Space Station and more than 50 interactives, including a visitor-operated supersonic wind tunnel.Space-lovers will enjoy Exploring the Planets, which takes visitors on a tour of the solar system and imparts some of the knowledge scientists have acquired by exploring the planets via space missions and observations from Earth. The largest single artifact in this gallery is a full-scale replica of a Voyager spacecraft.And of course, the full-scale mock-up of the Hubble Space Telescope is always a popular attraction and is on display in the Space Race exhibition.Tickets and other practicalitiesThe National Air and Space Museum is located on the National Mall at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue SW. It is near Metrorail stops on the blue, orange, yellow and green lines, and the closest Metrorail stop is at L'Enfant Plaza. Metrobus stops are located on Independence Avenue SW and along 7th Street SW.Admission is free, although there are charges for immersive experiences including the IMAX theater planetarium and flight simulators. The museum often observes extended hours during the spring and summer - check the website for details.Note: In late 2018, the museum began a seven-year complete renovation so the west wing of the building is currently closed for the first phase of the renovation. In 2022, the first new galleries will begin to open to the public and the east wing of the building will close for renovation.Accessibility at the museumThe Central Smithsonian Accessibility Office has an accessibility map that depicts accessible entrances, curb cuts and designated parking for Smithsonian facilities on the National Mall. There are seven National Park Service designated accessible parking spaces located on Jefferson Drive across from the museum. Visitors with disability hang tags or license plates can park for free at metered spaces controlled by the DC government along Independence Avenue SW.The museum has two wheelchair-accessible exterior ramps, and an elevator is available at the entrance to the How Things Fly gallery on the first level and The Wright Brothers gallery on the second level. Standard and bariatric wheelchairs are available on loan from the security desk. All restrooms are accessible, and there are two family/companion care restrooms inside the Flight Line Café entrance on the first level.Braille and tactile guides are available at the Southwest Airlines Welcome Center. The museum can be navigated with Aira, a free app that connects users with sighted agents who provide visual descriptions on-demand. Audio-described, docent-led tours and discovery stations with models and tactile components are provided, and sign language interpreters can be made available for tours, public programs or evening lectures with advance notice.A pre-visit social narrative is available to help prepare visitors with cognitive and sensory processing disabilities for the situations they might encounter when visiting the museum, and address what to expect, museum rules and other safety information. Further information on accessibility can be found here.

  • Viewpoint

    One World Observatory

    Spanning three levels at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, One World Observatory offers dazzling panoramic views over Manhattan's crystal garden of skyscrapers. On a clear day you'll be able to see all five boroughs and parts of surrounding states, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty – both looking as small as children's toys from this lofty perch atop the One World Trade Center.The awesome vista of New York is only revealed after the screens showing an introductory video abruptly disappear, revealing the view through immense picture windows. Admiring the city from above is a great way to get a feel for how everything fits together and plan the rest of your New York sightseeing.The location has a powerful resonance. The footprints of the original World Trade Center towers – preserved today as the National September 11 Memorial Museum – are visible in the shadow of the current One World Trade Center, which stands 408 feet (124m) taller than the original towers.Highlights of the viewOnce the intro video ends and the screens slide back, everyone rushes for the windows to gaze out over an astonishing bird's-eye view of New York. The first thing to look for is the Brooklyn Bridge – the first fixed crossing over the East River, still standing proud after 150 years – lined up alongside the newer Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Looking southwest, you'll spot the Statue of Liberty floating on her green island off the Jersey shore; there's a reason the statue looks tiny from this height – at a modest 93m tall, it's almost half a kilometer shorter than One World Trade Center.Facing north, the Empire State Building is instantly recognizable amongst the cluster of first generation skyscrapers in the center of Manhattan. Peer closely and you may also spot the Chrysler Building and the Flatiron Building amidst the taller towers. Note the piers lined up along the Hudson River, where transatlantic steamships docked during New York's golden age. To make the skyscraper-spotting easier, the tower's iPad-based guide – the One World Explorer – allows you to zoom in on the view to highlight individual buildings.History & ArchitectureNew York's highest observation deck sits on top of the 94-storey One World Trade Center, built to replace the two World Trade Center towers destroyed during the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The original plans were drafted in 2002 by Daniel Libeskind, the architect behind the Jewish Museum in Berlin, but the structure was redesigned by David M Childs, the brains behind Singapore 's Changi airport terminal.Construction started in 2006 and the tower topped out on 10 May 2013. As well as being the tallest building in America, this tapered tower is currently the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth tallest building in the world by pinnacle height. The height isn't accidental – the antenna takes the building to 1776 feet (541m), a tribute to the year the American Declaration of Independence was signed.Architecturally, the tower resembles a rectangular prism twisted through 90° – an optical illusion created by its chamfered edges, which split the facade into a series of opposing isosceles triangles. It was the first major building constructed using the Building Information Model, a digital platform created to manage all the phases of planning, design and construction in a single virtual space.The experienceReaching the observation deck, 386.5m above street level, is almost as much fun as admiring the view. Starting on the ground floor, you'll pass a giant electronic world map highlighting the homelands of visitors to the tower (with data obtained from ticket scans) and the multiscreen installation, Voices, which tells the story of the people behind the One World Trade Center.But the real show begins when you board the Sky Pod elevators, whose LED wall panels provide a virtual journey through the evolution of the Manhattan skyline over the past five centuries. These hi-tech elevators zip visitors to the top in just 47 seconds at a speed of 36.5 kmph – one of the fastest elevator rides in the world.Out of interest, the first tourist to climb the tower was New Jersey free climber, Justin Casquejo, who wriggled through a hole in the security fence while the tower was under construction and reached the top of the antenna aged just 16. He was promptly arrested and sentenced to 23 days community service; he also had to write a 1200-word essay explaining what he had learned from the experience.Once you reach the observation levels, the first step is the introductory video show before the views are unveiled, but you can also look down on the vista directly from above at the Portal – a circular glass porthole which shows real-time footage of the street below. As you might expect, there are various places to eat and plenty of stands selling souvenirs.Tickets & other practicalitiesThe One World Observatory gets busy, particularly at weekends and during the peak tourist season, so it pays to book ahead and skip the line. In summer and during some holiday periods, hours are extended as late as 10pm (with last ticket sales at 8:45pm), but it's best to check the website in advance if you want tickets at a specific time of day. If you don't have a ticket ahead of time, come as soon as they open to avoid a queue.If you're pressed for time, for $53 you can buy a priority-admission ticket that will let you skip all the lines, plus let you use the digital iPad One World Explorer guides, which automatically identify the skyline sights. Various train and subway lines meet at World Trade Center station but it's worth exiting the subway a stop early at Park Place station so you can approach the tower on foot at street level and get a full sense of its scale.There are meal options on site, all charging a premium; you're better off going over the road to the Le District and Hudson Eats food courts in the Brookfield Place complex.Hotels near One World ObservatoryIf you want to stay in Lower Manhattan, you'll pay a premium, but there are some good choices in the neighborhood.Frederick HotelClub Quarters World Trade CenterAKA TribecaConrad New York

  • Historic Site

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    Colonial Williamsburg

    Image by Thomas Faull/Getty Images RFThe restored capital of England’s largest colony in the New World is a must-see attraction for visitors of all ages. Colonial Williamsburg is a living, breathing, working history museum in Virginia, with a painstakingly-researched environment that brilliantly evokes 1700s America.It contains 88 original 18th-century buildings and several hundred faithful reproductions, as well as an impressive museum complex. Townsfolk and ‘interpreters’ in period dress go about their colonial jobs, emulating daily life. Laudably, the park doesn't gloss over America's less glorious moments. Today's re-enactors debate and question slavery (52% of the population of 18th-century Williamsburg were slaves), women’s suffrage, the rights of indigenous Americans and whether or not it is even moral to engage in revolution.You can even stay in colonial houses at the center of the Historic Area for a fully-immersive experience.History of Colonial WilliamsburgWilliamsburg was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699 and was Britain’s largest settlement in the New World. It was named after England's reigning monarch, King William III, and was the center of the religious, economic and social life of the state. It was also a center of political activity during the American Revolution. The capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond following the Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776, and Williamsburg entered a long period of stagnation and decay.The Reverend William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin began the preservation and restoration effort that resulted in the creation of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s. The Episcopal priest and historian did so by obtaining the support and major financial commitment of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the wealthy son of the founder of the Standard Oil monopoly. The restoration and recreation of Colonial Williamsburg was seen by the city as a way to celebrate rebel patriots and the early history of the US.What to do at Colonial WilliamsburgYou’ll feel as if you've traveled back in time in the Historic Area, where most original buildings, homes and shops have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Prominent buildings include the Capitol, the Governor's Palace, the Courthouse, the Raleigh Tavern and the Magazine.You’ll see rare animal breeds and lovingly-restored gardens that add to the authenticity of the experience. You can also take a leisurely carriage-ride ride through the area by horse-drawn carriage.The Art Museums are well worth a visit, with colorful and whimsical folk art made by amateur artisans on display at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, and objects that are both useful and beautiful in The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.The Arboretum will appeal to nature-lovers as it features 25 period species of oak trees and more than 30 historic gardens. As well as the regular attractions, Colonial Williamsburg puts on special programming for holidays and commemorative seasons throughout the year.Tickets and other practicalitiesColonial Williamsburg is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is part of Virginia's Historic Triangle, which includes Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. Amtrak serves the Williamsburg Transportation Center with a connecting train from Washington, DC. The center is just blocks from the Historic Area and offers car rentals and taxi service.Park for free at the Visitor Center and take the complimentary shuttle to the Historic Area or walk along the tree-lined footpath. There is also free parking at the Art Museums. A program detailing the day’s events will be given to you with your ticket, which helps when planning your time at the site.Walking around the historic district and patronizing the shops and taverns is free, but entry to building tours and most exhibits is restricted to ticket holders. Single-day tickets cost $44.99 and children aged 6-12 pay $24.99, and they allow visitors to access a selection of guided sites, historic trades and gardens, as well as staged performances on the Charlton Stage and in the Hennage Auditorium and Art Museums. Three-day tickets cost $54.99 with children aged 6-12 paying $29.99 and all tickets can be booked online here.Expect crowds and lines, especially in summer. There are a number of taverns and a bakery where visitors can dine, and there's also a bakery in the Art Museums.Where to stayColonial Williamsburg has several options for on-site accommodation, including four hotels - Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel & Suites and Griffin Hotel. Visitors can also stay at Colonial Homes in the heart of the Historic Area, which have been reproduced to be true to the time period of Colonial America.Accessibility at Colonial WilliamsburgDiscounted admission tickets are available at on-site ticketing centers, and the Visitor Center, hotels, restaurants, museums and shops are largely accessible. Interpreters in the Historic Area can provide directions to accessible areas, and special parking arrangements can be made, as needed. Colonial Williamsburg’s shuttle buses are wheelchair accessible.Folding wheelchairs may be rented from the Visitor Center. While ramps and wheelchair lifts are available at selected exhibitions, many of the historic buildings require at least a few steps. Visitors with disabilities may request reasonable accommodations or modifications to assist them in accessing Colonial Williamsburg’s programs, services and facilities.Headsets with adjustable volume control are available for programs in the Hennage Auditorium of the Art Museums. Colonial Williamsburg will contract a signing interpreter to accompany hearing-impaired guests through the Historic Area, and requests for this service must be made at least two weeks in advance. Further information on accessibility can be found here.

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