by Jimmy Im
When it comes to Belfast, more Americans remember its dark political history and forget that the New York-bound Titanic ship was built and made its maiden voyage from there 100 years ago this month. Belfast is hot on its heels of erasing the repercussions of its late civil war (the city is known as the safest city in all of Europe based on nationwide crime figures), and the Titanic is luring travelers the world over to check out the new and improved Belfast.
This month, the $156 million Titanic Building opened its doors, providing the world’s largest Titanic memorial. The museum center stands the same height as the original Titanic — about 10 stories high — and is designed to look like the hull of the ship. And don’t expect tributes to Jack and Rose. The Titanic Building is the real deal, with 9 informative galleries that start with Boomtown Belfast (when the city was at the forefront of shipbuilding) and the launch of the Titanic, ending with the Oceanic Exploration Center. So visitors can explore the wreckage discovered 2 1/2 miles on the ocean floor in 1985. Interactive features allow visitors to feel like they were actually on the ship. READ MORE
On April 17, visitors milling about on the National Mall in Washington, DC, got to snap some quick photos of a once-in-a-lifetime event –Space Shuttle Discovery’s very last flight. It wasn’t flying solo though; the space shuttle was mounted to a 747 carrier aircraft as it was transported to its final resting place at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Now that’s an awesome photo-op! Discovery replaced Space Shuttle Enterprise, which has now been loaded onto a 747 to be flown to JFK International Airport on Monday, April 23. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City will become the new home for the Enterprise.
This week also marked the start of the 100-day countdown to the 2012 London Olympic Games, sparking celebrations around the world. BMX Riders got air at the “100 Days Out” event held in Times Square; torch bearers unveiled a garden planted to resemble the Olympic rings — made out of over 20,000 flowers and plants — at London’s Kew Gardens; and Coca-Cola hosted a giant celebration in front of the famed Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Only 98 day left to go! READ MORE
What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a trip to one of America’s stunning national parks? Explore the awe-inspiring rock formations of the Grand Canyon, wander through the spindly cartoon-like Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park, get inspired at FDR’s Hudson River estate and presidential library, go gator-spotting in the Florida Everglades or watch the waves crash against the national seashore. All of these incredible historic sites and natural wonders have been lovingly preserved by the National Park Service, often called “America’s Best Idea.”
Starting Saturday (and ending Sunday, April 29), more than 100 of the national parks that typically charge an admission fee will be completely free to enter, and a visit to any one of them will inspire you to help preserve all 84 million acres of them. If you’d like to get involved and help out with a project, visit Saturday for Volunteer Day. Or take your kids on April 28 to participate in National Junior Ranger Day, when kids will be taught to “explore, learn and protect” the parks and landmarks that we have inherited. READ MORE
Each year, half a million spectators line the streets of 8 consecutive Massachusetts towns to cheer on the 25,000 runners attempting to finish the winding, hilly 26.2 miles that make up the Boston Marathon. Held on Patriots’ Day — a Massachusetts holiday commemorating the beginning of the American Revolution — Boston’s marathon is the oldest and one of the most famous in the world.
But the marathon, in recent years, has obscured some other – much older – Patriots’ Day traditions.
Get a free dose of history this weekend at one of the many battle reenactments and demonstrations going on in the picturesque towns of Lexington and Concord. This Saturday, watch as 300 British and Colonial troops demonstrate the “Bloody Angle Battle.” Or get an up-close look at Parker’s Revenge when the Lexington militia company ambushes a group of British soldiers. Hartwell Tavern and the Captain William Smith House –2 historic sites that have been restored to revolutionary-era glory — will also be free and open to the public this weekend. READ MORE
There’s no better time to visit San Francisco than in April, after the rainy season has ended and before the summer fog settles over the city. You don’t have to be religious to have a hippity hoppin’ good time this weekend at the city’s annual Spring Celebration and Easter Parade.
Now in its 21st year, the event runs from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. this Sunday, April 8. Not only will kids get to meet the Easter bunny himself (you’d think he’d be too tired after all those basket deliveries!), but they’ll also get to ride ponies, play with all kinds of adorable furry creatures at the petting zoo, bounce around in inflatable houses and test their climbing skills on the rock wall. READ MORE
Just because your bracket is totally shot, doesn’t mean you can’t get in on some Final Four fun this weekend. If you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans, but not quite lucky enough to actually have tickets to the semifinals, fear not! You still have the opportunity to see the teams in real life, inside the Superdome, and for free!
From 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. today, drop by the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to watch the Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky and Kansas players practice for the last time before facing off in the semifinals. The best part? You’ll also have the chance to win tickets to the games. Add in local entertainment and interviews with all 4 head coaches and you’ve got yourself a seriously awesome Final Four Friday.
If you can’t quite get enough basketball, stick around to watch the Reese’s College All-Star Game. The best collegiate senior student-athletes in the country, hand-picked and split up onto 2 teams, will face off at 4:30 p.m. READ MORE
Few spring scenes inspire instant happiness like the cherry blossoms in full bloom on a sunny day on the National Mall. You’ve got to see them. A stroll around the Tidal Basin (despite the number of tourists) is absolutely necessary if you’re in DC over the next few weeks. Those pinky-white blooms scream “spring is here!” like nothing else. This year is particularly special because it’s the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States.
If you’re in DC this weekend, you’ll find a surprising number of free events that coincide with the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and will feature Grammy-nominated singer Sara Bareilles, plus other local and Japanese performers. While the event is free, you still need to register online for a ticket. READ MORE
There’s no better place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than Boston (well, OK, besides Ireland). Boston has one of the highest concentrations of Irish pubs (and people of Irish descent) in the US, and St. Paddy’s Day celebrations date back to the days before the American Revolution. But if you’re not interested in fighting through the throngs of people day-drinking along the parade route in “Southie,” put on all the green clothes you can find and head to Faneuil Hall for some family fun.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at Faneuil Hall will feature free live entertainment on the West End Stage. Performers will include bagpipers, Irish step dancers and other Irish musical groups. We know you’ve been practicing your jig for just this occasion! READ MORE
by Amanda DiGiondomenico
To celebrate that extra day we’ve been granted this leap year, many travel destinations — from Orlando to South Africa – are trying to make those extra 24 hours worth your while. Instead of wasting away your leap day, let these 5 travel ideas inspire you to make the day something to remember.
One More Disney Day
For starters, Disney wants your leap day to be extra magical, so they are officially calling leap day, “One More Disney Day.” To commemorate the day, Magic Kingdom Park in Orlando’s Disney World and Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, will be open 24 hours straight. Once the gates open at 6 a.m. on Feb. 29, Mickey fans can have the run of the park until the rides shut down at 6 a.m. on March 1. The lines will probably be short in the wee hours of the morning, offering maximum opportunities to ride.
Leap at Martha’s Vineyard
If peace and quiet are more your speed, then head to Martha’s Vineyard for a little rest and relaxation. But don’t take yourself too seriously there; at the Vineyard Square Hotel you can score a free bottle of wine if you bring a photograph of yourself leaping over something. So let loose, find the closest leap-able object and bring someone who has a camera.
As our country’s history of racial inequality and segregation recedes slowly into the past, generations of future Washington, DC visitors will find it hard to fathom a time when African-Americans did not have the same rights as white Americans. But the civil rights movement isn’t just history. It’s part of the recent past, especially for those who can still recall a time when they had to move to the back of the bus, attend different schools and drink from separate water fountains.
We all learn about Lincoln and Jefferson in school, but none of us were alive to witness their accomplishments. That’s what makes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial so unique. For many visitors, the struggle for racial equality is an all-too-recent memory. It’s deeply personal, especially for those who lived through the marches and heard the speeches of the civil rights movement.
Jim Abercrombie, a DC resident who has visited the memorial many times since it officially opened this past August, says, “[The memorial] means more to us because of the struggle we saw [MLK] go through to try to bring people together and have peace, and he finally got recognized for it.”