Archive for April, 2013

Courtesy of Turtle Bay Resort

A far cry from Honolulu and Waikiki, this rugged section of Oahu — home to the Banzai Pipeline and the Polynesian Cultural Center — holds Turtle Bay Resort, a touristic compound that encompasses 5 miles of beachfront. More »

Photo by Getty Images

The Hollywood buzz has started for the new movie 42, a look into the life of American baseball player Jackie Robinson — the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. And in just a few days, April 15 will mark the 64th anniversary of Jackie’s first MLB game at Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, breaking the color barrier.

Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, GA, but he lived most of his childhood in Pasadena, CA, at 121 Pepper Street. At an early age, Jackie was a competitive athlete, achieving 4-letterman status in football, basketball, baseball and track at John Muir Technical High School and later, at UCLA, where he won the NCAA broad jump title at 25′ 6 1/2 “.

In 1941, Jackie moved to Honolulu, where he played football for the semi-professional Honolulu Bears. Shortly after, he was drafted into the US Army during World War II. Jackie was stationed at Fort Riley, KS, and then Fort Hood, TX. He became a second lieutenant, but his military career took a sharp turn when he was court-martialed in connection to his objections to incidents involving racial discrimination.

Photography by Ronny Jaques/Library and Archives Canada

After a dishonorable discharge from the military, Jackie dived back into the sports, accepting a position as athletic director and basketball coach at Samuel Huston College in Austin, TX, and playing one season in the Negro Baseball League for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945. It was this same year that Branch Rickey, club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, scouted the Negro leagues for a possible addition to the Dodgers. Branch chose Jackie and soon after, in 1946, the young player was signed to play for the all-white Montreal Royals of the Class AAA International League, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The very next year  Jackie was suited up as a Dodger, becoming the first African-American player since the league’s inception in 1875 to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier. African-American fans flocked to see the Dodgers play, finding, for the first time, a chance to root for more than just Negro league teams.

Although he struggled with racial discrimination throughout his career (he routinely faced racial slurs shouted from the stands), Jackie would be named the National League Rookie of the Year (1947) and National League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year (1949). He would also win the 1949 batting title, with a .342 average — a great percentage for any pro baseball player.

During the mid-1950s, Jackie’s batting average was on the decline, but oddly enough, it was one of the “highs” in his career. In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the New York Yankees to clinch the 1955 World Series championship. In all, Jackie had a career batting average of .311 with the Dodgers, and in 1962, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, becoming the first African-American player to achieve such distinction.

Photo by Getty Images

After his baseball career, Jackie starred as himself in The Jackie Robinson Story, continued as a civil rights activist, and took a new career as a successful businessman and sports commentator. In addition to these career achievements and changes, he remained a devoted husband to his wife Rachel and a hands-on father to his 3 children.

In 1972, Jackie Robinson died of a heart attack in Stamford, CT, but his legacy lives on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation and at popular attractions, including the Jackie Robinson Field in Pasadena’s Brookside Park, the Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, located at the main entrance to the New York Mets Citi Field.

Photo by Getty Images

In 1997, 9-foot busts were erected across from Pasadena City Hall to commemorate Jackie and his older brother Matthew “Mack” Robinson, who set the world record for broad jump and won a silver medal at the 1936 Olympic Summer Games.  And today, every few years, MLB players remember Jackie Robinson in special ceremonies and by wearing his jersey number 42, which was retired from Major League Baseball on April 15, 1997.

Plans are underway to open a Jackie Robinson Museum and Learning Center at One Hudson Square in Manhattan in 2015.

Spring Fling Playlist

The soundtrack of your vacation can be just as memorable as the scenery, whether you’re listening on the road with the windows down, passing time in the airport security line, or on the beach with one earbud in so you can still hear the waves crashing on the shore. The point is, a good playlist can start a party or remind you of an epic one.

Sit back, relax and listen to Travel Channel’s inaugural playlist, handpicked for your enjoyment by our staff. Much like our editors, these 14 tracks are an eclectic mix — full of infectious beats, relaxing melodies and good vibes perfect for any spring fling.

1. It’s a Beautiful Day –- U2
2. Feeling Good — Michael Bublé
3. April in Paris –- Ella Fitzgerald
4. King and Lionheart — Of Monsters and Men
5. All of Me — Tanlines
6. Santeria — Sublime
7. Box of Rain — Grateful Dead
8. Take a Little Ride — Jason Aldean
9. Sink or Swim — Tyrone Wells
10. With a Little Help From my Friends — Joe Cocker
11. I Love It — Icona Pop
12. Pocketful of Rainbows — Elvis Presley
13. And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind — Neil Diamond
14. Who Knows Who Cares — Local Natives

Courtesy of Banyan Tree Seychelles

Craving some much-needed R&R time? Look no further than the remote, romantic and rejuvenating resort Banyan Tree Seychelles, situated amid a rocky hill along the white-sand shores of Mahé island in the Indian Ocean. More »

Everglades

Photo By Valerie Conners

While the hordes of Spring Breakers flock — understandably — to South Florida’s golden shores, consider a trip down the not-so-beaten path, to Everglades National Park, the heart of which lies just an hour’s drive west of Miami, along the Tamiami Trail. A drive into the heart of the Everglades grants visitors glimpses of the diverse wildlife roaming the region, including loads of alligator sightings (stand back, and keep you hands to yourself!), great blue herons, colorful roseate spoonbills and ever-present white herons and ibises. If you weren’t a bird watcher, much less bird lover, before entering the Everglades, you will be when you depart.

“Everglades” literally translates to “river of grass,” and that’s exactly what you’ll find here: a subtropical wetland that begins in Central Florida at Lake Okeechobee as water leaves the lake and flows south, forming a slow moving river. The so-called river of grass is an astonishing 50 miles wide and 100 miles long, running all the way to the tip of South Florida and into the sea. Of that vast expanse, 1.5 million acres have been designated a National Park, protecting 20 percent of the Everglades and the extraordinary wildlife contained within.

Everglades National Park is split into 2 main entrances, Shark Valley in the north central section of the park and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in the West. Start your foray into the Everglades in Shark Valley. This entrance has the most amenities for visitors, including a museum, bike rentals and tram tours, as well as an observation tower in the thick of the glades that affords striking views of the grassland. A 15-mile loop road winds through Shark Valley, and is popular for bikers and a few apparently cold-blooded walkers undaunted by the region’s high temperatures. If you’re not prone to exert yourself for the duration of a 15-mile bike ride, hop aboard a tram tour, where knowledgeable guides point out and explain in detail the Everglades’ flora and fauna — with frequent stops for photos.

From Shark Valley, make your way toward the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This entrance lies tucked into the far western reaches of the park, where you’ll see a much different topography, chiefly mangrove islands and winding waterways. As you make drive west, you’ll have the choice to continue along the well-trodden Tamiami Trail, or pop off onto a Scenic Loop Road, and as I highly recommend, and great poets will agree, always — always — take the road less traveled.

The loop road is partially unpaved, though easily driveable, and winds through what may well be the region’s most spectacular and wildest scenery: a cypress forest, part of the Big Cypress National Preserve. These monstrous trees drip with Spanish Moss, and you’ll pass by alligators lounging at their bases, as well as countless birds — herons, ibises, purple gallinules and pelicans galore. The best part? In what turned into an hour and a half foray along the road (I stopped for lots of pictures), I passed a mere 4 other cars. This is as remote a space as you’ll find anywhere in Florida.

Everglades

Photo By Valerie Conners

You’ll leave the Preserve and arrive in Everglades City late-afternoon or early evening. To get the most out of an Everglades National Park road trip from South Florida’s east coast, spend an overnight in Everglades City, just south of Naples, on the western edge of the park. The town is incredibly small, just a few hundred residents, and lies amidst winding waterways. Book a room at the Everglades City Motel, where the old-fashioned exterior belies the beautifully remodeled rooms inside. Grab a sunset cocktail and a platter of smoked fish dip at the iconic Rod and Gun Club, which sits along a scenic curve of the river. For dinner, meander a mile or so down the road to Camellia Street Grill, a true local’s hangout along the river. You’ll find kitschy decor, a welcoming outdoor deck, twinkling lights strung from trees, and if you’re lucky — live music and dancing.

The following day, head into the park’s western entrance, and book yourself on a boat tour of either the mangrove isles or Ten Thousand Islands. You can choose from a larger boat that winds through the islands or a smaller, 6-person tour that heads into the depths of the mangroves. After your boat tour, pay a visit to Chokoloskee Island, just a few minutes down the road. Here you’ll find the Smallwood Store and Ole Indian Trading Post, a former general store established in 1906 that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been turned into a museum featuring artifacts from the era, including newspaper clippings, medicine bottles, and furnishings.

Before you head back toward the 2-hour drive to Miami, refuel with lunch at the Havana Cafe, a Chokoloskee restaurant dishing up tasty Cuban food. Try the pork plate, traditional-style Cuban pork shoulder, serve with black beans, rice and a small salad. Ask to try the homemade hot sauce — you’ll thank me later.

- Valerie Conners

Valerie Conners is a New York-based freelance writer who has worked in various roles at the Travel Channel for more than 10 years. She has written for digital and print publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe, Frommer’s Travel Guides and Discovery.com. She’s happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets.

Courtesy of LEGOLand Hotel

Think you can make an impressive LEGO home? Try building a hotel made of LEGOs. Now that the Ice Hotel has melted, take a spring fling with the family to America’s first LEGOLAND Hotel that just opened this month. Located right at the main entrance of LEGOLAND California Resort, guests can stay and play a LEGO’s throw away from the park’s attractions designed for the young and the young at heart.

Now, we should mention that the entire hotel isn’t made of LEGOs (this is earthquake-plagued California, after all), but the iconic plastic-building block is imaginatively integrated throughout this kiddie hotel heaven. Children and parents alike will be wowed by this novel hotel: approximately 3,422 LEGO models have been built throughout the hotel out of more than 3 million LEGO bricks (don’t worry, parents, you won’t have to clean up any of this). Everything comes to life here with 7 large-scale LEGO models that are animated, like a bubble-blowing LEGO dragon taking a bath on the patio that speaks to children passing by.

Guests can choose between 3 themed-rooms modeled after the most popular LEGOLAND areas: Pirate, Kingdom and Adventure. There’s plenty of room for the entire family, with 2 separate sleeping areas — a queen-size bed for grown-ups, and a separate area for up to 3 little ones, complete with a bunk bed, pull-out trundle bed and their very own TV. And each room has LEGO blocks ready for you to build your own architectural wonders.

Designed with imagination in every detail, the hotel’s fun features include secret whoopee cushions, disco-themed elevators, treasure trails and exploding toy boxes.  Dining is even kid-focused at LEGOLAND Hotel. Bricks Family Restaurant serves a breakfast and dinner buffet with a station specifically designed for kids at a height they can reach, while the Skyline Café features a LEGO city skyline with 35 kid-pleasing scenes.

With a fun place to rest and exclusive early-morning access to select rides and attractions at the park, families will be on a 24-hour fun-filled ride. While this is the only LEGOLAND where you can spend a night, there are LEGOLAND theme parks all over the world — from Florida to Germany to Malaysia. And while the parks will amaze any age, they are designed specifically for children 2 to 12.

 

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Calling all toy fans — Jordan Hembrough is back with an all-new season of Toy Hunter. Tonight starting at 9|8c, catch 2 brand-new back-to-back episodes as Jordan continues to travel America buying and selling iconic toys.

In the first episode, Jordan is approached by his biggest client to date: Gene Simmons, the bass player from the legendary rock band, KISS. After taking a tour of Gene’s Los Angeles home, Jordan is tasked with going on the road to find the rocker the rarest KISS collectibles around.

Next, Jordan and his sidekick, Steve, head to Virginia in search of some expensive toys to add to their inventory. Things heat up when Jordan and Steve decide to make the trip into a contest to see who can find the most expensive toy in the state.

Will Jordan be able to make Gene Simmons proud and present him with a collectible he doesn’t already own? Who will be crowned King of Toy Collectibles —  Jordan or Steve? Find out during all-new episodes tonight at 9|8c and again at 9:30|8:30c.

Also, when you tune in for tonight’s premiere, make sure to follow @TravelChannel on Twitter! At the end of each episode, we’ll post a question about the show from the @TravelChannel handle. Tweet us your answer with hashtag #THsweeps to enter to win a Toy Hunter prize pack from Jordan Hembrough! Official Rules

Photography by GunnerVV, flickr

Replicating the imaginary world from the J.K. Rowling books, and drawing from the popular Harry Potter film series, the park artfully turns Harry Potter’s world into something of a reality. More »

Thinkstock

The once-isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar didn’t always go by its current name. In 1989, the name “Myanmar” replaced the more commonly known “Burma” by order of the government, and this fascinating nation is now commonly referenced by either of these monikers. It is truly a land of 2 names.

After decades of isolation, Myanmar has now opened their ports to tourism, allowing the curious and adventurous alike to visit a country virtually unchanged by Western influence. A feast for the senses, Myanmar prides itself on ancient temples, unspoiled rainforests and the charm of the people who have inhabited this great land for thousands of years. Sitting on the Andaman Sea, Myanmar has several ports of entry. However, the most popular way to visit is on a river cruise.

Why a river cruise? Imagine winding your way through dense rainforests with a new and amazing discovery waiting around each bend. Visualize silently sailing up a tropical river, and seeing an ancient Buddhist temple appear through the mist.

A Viking river cruise, one of the first lines to serve this emerging tourist destination, starts in the busy international port of Bangkok, Thailand. Here you’ll get the chance to shake off your flight and explore some of Thailand’s most wondrous sites, like the Grand Palace (residence of the Emperor), jewel markets and the famous floating market. Next, you are whisked away to Yangon (Rangoon), the former capital of Myanmar, for the starting point of your river voyage into the interior of the country.

Before sailing on, you’ll see some of Southeast Asia’s most fascinating temples, such as Shwedagon Pagoda, where Buddhist monks move about this storied stupa thought to be over 2,500 years old. Your voyage continues up the Irrawaddy River to Pyay to see an archeological site marking the center of the Pyu civilization and Thayetmyo, famous for the British colonial post that was once there. You’ll also visit Minhla and enjoy views from Gwechaung Hill before sailing to the fascinating cities of Magway, Bagan, Yandabo andAmarapura, which holds claim to the world’s longest teak bridge.

Your cruise ends in Myanmar’s most central city, Mandalay, where you can visit Mahamuni Pagoda and its famous gold-leaf statue of the Buddha. Along the way, you’ll experience all aspects of life in Myanmar, taste local cuisine prepared by master chefs onboard and learn about the rich history and culture of this magical and largely undiscovered part of Asia.

Myanmar, or “Burma,” as many still call it, is the perfect destination for someone looking for an enriching and unique pin to put on their map. Years of isolation have preserved one of the most unique and historically rich cultures in Asia. Now, thanks to the popularity of river cruising, you can see this wondrous place yourself.

By Karolina Shenton, The Cruise Web

Karolina Shenton has been in the travel industry for over a decade as The Cruise Web’s marketing and operations manager.  In her free time she climbs Mount Kilimanjaro, dives with hammerhead sharks around Cocos Island or cruises with her family.

 

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Travel Channel’s office is in Washington, DC, where springtime means one thing: cherry blossoms. For weeks leading up to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, speculation about when the thousands of trees would erupt in pale pink blooms lead all the local newscasts. Would it be the last week of March? The first week of April? Would unseasonably warm weather cause them to bloom early and then fall when a cold snap hit? They are, literally, the talk of the town. We’re well aware, however, that these gorgeous trees aren’t only in DC, so last week we asked our Instagram followers to send us their cherry blossom photos. Check out this explosion of spring! Here are some of our favorites:

Cherry Blossom Instagrams

Top Row, Left to Right: love2travel, fromaway, tinarima
Second Row, Left to Right: maydaymays, juleigh2000, nortonandco
Third Row, Left to Right: Toeinoi, kaostheory206, absolutetraveladdict
Fourth Row, Left to Right: Dercarler, bowtiesrfancy, ray2thero
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Dayangheimy, laura_1over, christinassi

 

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