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Government shutdown, whatever!: The Statue of Liberty joins the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and national park sites in Colorado and Utah in reopening.

Give me your poor, your tired, your shutdown masses yearning to travel free. On Sunday morning, the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of American resilience, not to mention beaucoup bucks for New York’s travel industry, reopened her doors to the public for the first time since the partial government shutdown began 12 days before. But don’t thank Congress — New York State will foot the bill of $61,600 a day over the next several days to keep Lady Liberty’s doors open.

The news comes amid some partially hopeful news for travelers and national parks lovers everywhere: On Saturday, Grand Canyon National Park reopened its doors as well, with the state of Arizona forking over $651,000 for the next 7 days to keep the Grand Canyon open. (That amounts to $93,000 a day — less than the $112,000 the feds say is needed to fund park operations each day.)

However, moves by both states – as well as South Dakota, which sees Mount Rushmore reopen beginning Monday, along with national parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, and Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments) and Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) – are the exception. Yellowstone, America’s first national park, remains closed. “Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” says a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead.

In the case of New York State, a lot is riding on the Statue of Liberty’s reopening: The iconic landmark sees 3.7 million visitors a year, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity and supporting over 2,000 jobs. Already Lady Liberty had seen a tough year and a half, suffering extensive damage, along with nearby Ellis Island, from Superstorm Standy. It took a year of extensive rehabilitation before the Statue of Liberty reopened, in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony just in time for July 4 celebrations. Then came the government shutdown, just what everyone needed.

Since the shutdown, roughly 400 jobs have been lost at the Statue of Liberty and nearby park sites, reports CNN. And while the Statue of Liberty just reopened yesterday morning, with state funds temporarily allowing visitors to take the ferry over to the monument on Liberty Island, the state budget is only a temporary fix. While New York has given the green light to fund Lady Liberty for the next few days, it will then assess its financial commitment every 2 days if the federal shutdown continues, says Cuomo.

No no telling what will happen after next week. So if you’re looking to see these great American landmarks, and you’re within traveling distance, now’s the time to visit.

Photo Courtesy of Thinkstock

Most tourists visit Paris because there are so many amazing things to do and see like the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles and Sacre Coeur Basilica. But if you’re a friend of felines, then you may want to stop by Le Café des Chats.

Customers can grab a simple breakfast — freshly squeezed orange juice and scrambled eggs with mushrooms — and admire the 12 cats that are usually wandering through the café, perched on their cat condos, or watching passersby from the front window. With more than 11 million cat owners in France, this new cat café might be a new trend.

According to BBC travel, the café’s owner, Margaux Gandelon, took her cue from the 150 cat cafes that have become extremely popular in Japan. Margaux has worked with animal welfare and the health department to ensure proper standards for both the cats and the customers.

Don’t worry — there’s much more to see and do in the City of Light if cats aren’t your thing. Get inspired by our photos of the amazing tourist attractions you can’t leave Paris without seeing. And don’t stop there; enter to win an amazing trip for 2 to Paris. Your perfect Paris getaway awaits!


Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Tell cancer to take a hike

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month now in full swing, dozens of organizations nationwide are sponsoring events for survivors and supporters to get out there, have fun … and become a little more courageous. What better way than through travel?

It’s important to participate in an annual Race for the Cure — find one here – but why stop there? Adventures can come in simple treks, even a hiking trip near your home.

Diane Mapes, DoubleWhammied.com blogger, on a Seattle-area hike last October

That’s what Diane Mapes (pictured, left) found. In the weeks before this Seattle-based writer, and blogger of the very fearless (and funny) Double Whammied blog, underwent a double mastectomy in April 2011, she hiked up Tiger Mountain, a small peak just east of Seattle. After surgery, and before chemo, Mapes went to Dungeness Spit, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca (a few hours west of Seattle), and walked all the way to the end and back — 13 miles, in all, that felt pretty good.

“Getting out in nature makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger and that challenges aren’t insurmountable,” says Mapes, speaking from her Seattle home just 2 weeks after undergoing reconstructive surgery. “Travel has been really important to me,” she adds, “even the small trips.”

Beat Cancer, Have an Adventure

Dozens of organizations nationwide promote adventure travel on the road to beating cancer – and both survivors and supporters can participate. Every year, Climb Against the Odds supporters climb the nearly 15,000-foot-high Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County, CA – sign up for the 2014 climb here. For climbing adventures abroad, check out Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

Or grab an oar, the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission sponsors dragon boat teams. Bike up for Tour de Pink, which sponsors rides from coast to coast – next one up is in Southern California, Oct. 18-20. Love to fish? Join Casting for Recovery on a fly-fishing retreat in the great outdoors. Or catch a wave with Boarding for Breast Cancer.

Check out There is Life After Breast Cancer for more travel adventure ideas.

Courtesy of Ballpark Boathouse

A week into the government shutdown, tourists and furloughed employees alike in Washington, DC, are asking, “What do we do now?” While we don’t have the answers for when the shutdown will end or what’s going to be the state of our country after, we do have some ideas to take our mind off the shutdown while it’s happening.

So for those who find yourself in DC with some time on your hands, here are a few things to do:

Churchkey

Enjoy Happy Hour … All Day Long
Drink your debt-ceiling worries away at the numerous bars and restaurants in the district that are offering shutdown specials. Nothing like a little comfort food or cocktails to ease stress and put a smile on your face. Check out Washington Post’s growing list of places to eat and drink for less during the shutdown.

See DC From the Water
Tourists and locals should take a chance to see the city from another angle  — from the water.  Ballpark Boathouse, the only public boat rental open during the shutdown, is extending their kayak rental season by staying open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as long as the government shutdown continues (and until the water temperature hits 55 degrees).

Photo by Kathleen Rellihan

Check Out Other Neighborhoods
Tourists might normally stick to the Mall and downtown, but the shutdown of the National Monuments is the perfect excuse to see less tourist-trodden territory. Escape downtown and head to the eclectic U Street neighborhood for a taste of African-American history, indie shopping and inventive restaurants. And on Saturdays, you can check out the new District Flea for some wallet-friendly shopping.

Take Up a New Hobby
Out of work? Put those idle hands to use by learning a new craft. Fibre Space in Old Town, Alexandria, is offering free knitting lessons for federal workers on any day the government is closed. Or perhaps you have always wanted to try yoga, but didn’t have the time. STROGA yoga studio in DC is offering free noon classes to those with a government ID.

Get Snap Happy Outside of DC
While there might not be any photo snapping of national monuments for the time being, tourists and locals can see a different side of the area by taking a photo safari outside of the city. Shoot the barns and bridges in nearby Frederick, MD, or capture the morning light in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, just an hour’s drive away. Or head out on a leaf-peeping adventure outside DC now that fall foliage is starting to peak in the area.

No matter where you are in the US, don’t let the government shut down your vacation.  Here are travel alternatives outside DC during the shutdown.

You May Also Like:

DC’s Hottest New Restaurants
Best Bars in Washington, DC
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Lake Natron

Photo by Thinkstock

It’s not exactly the vacation capital of the world due to its isolated location, but Lake Natron in Tanzania, Africa, is turning heads for what’s appearing from the depths of its alkaline concentrated water.

Almost everything that goes into the lake comes out dead and mummified, appearing to have “turned into stone.” Ash from volcano Ol Doinyo contaminated the lake, creating high concentrations of soda and magnesite that make it impossible for animals diving into the lake to survive.

Photographer Nick Brandt came across “calcified” birds and bats during a trip to the area. He captured images of the animals that he placed in poses as if they were still alive and published them in a new book titled “Across the Ravaged Land.”

Scientists suggest that the animals are confused by the “glassy” reflection of the water and enter the surface, causing them to get trapped and slowly calcify. The only creatures that survive this concoction are alkaline tilapia; fish that have adapted to the lake’s extreme conditions. Flamingos in the area can also survive standing in the water because of the protective skin or “shell” on their legs.

While the views and images from the area are striking, most travel sites say the lake is most appreciated from above as getting to the lake itself can be treacherous. It’s a 5-hour drive from the safari camps of the Serengeti’s Loliondo area and the accommodations at Lake Natron consist of tarp covered tent areas.

Also, with lake surface temperatures soaring above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a water PH level equal to pure ammonia, and an evaporation rate that is ten times that of the region’s rainfall, it’s not exactly an ideal swimming or fishing hole.

But for the intrepid traveler, the views and science behind the area can make for an unforgettable experience.

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

Starting Tuesday, Oct. 8, Londoners will get a first glimpse at the future of the Tube in London. The lnspiro — a full-size model of a futuristic train created by Siemens, the company behind the idea — will be on display at The Crystal exhibition center in Royal Victoria Dock to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.

The world’s first underground railway opened in 1863 between Paddington, in central London, and Farringdon, just north of the city, using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. Today, the Underground is a public rapid transit system serving 270 stations, including a large part of Greater London and parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex counties.

Siemens sees the Inspiro as the Tube’s future. And it’s probably no coincidence that the news of this futuristic prototype comes at a time when the government just awarded funding to the Transport for London to improve the tube service across the capital.

So in a nutshell, here’s quick rundown of the new train’s perks:

  • 30% more space on the train by adding dividing doors between carriages
  • 30% more energy efficient than current models
  • Full air-conditioning across all of its spacious carriages
  • 20% brighter with use of LED lights

Courtesy of Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin

The train can be operated without a driver, which may ruffle feathers at the trade unions if London were to use them in the future. And no word yet on whether the city will make a bid to use the prototype across London. So until then, locals will have to deal with overcrowded trains.

Austin City Limits is here. The annual 3-day music fest kicked off Friday morning in Austin’s Zilker Park, and will draw an anticipated crowd of 6,500 music fans over the coming days.

Just in case you can’t make it to the Lone Star State capital this weekend, though, the event has something new in store for attendees this year: For the first time ever, Austin City Limits will unfold over 2 consecutive weekends. That means if Oct. 4-6 doesn’t work for you, you still have Oct. 11-13 to head on down to Austin. Between now and then, there’s a whole lot in store — here’s a roundup of highlights of Austin City Limits 2013.

The beer alone makes a trip to Austin worth it. This year, Austin City Limits has opened a beer lover’s dream — the brand new, 20,000-square-foot Barton Springs Beer Hall. This playground for beer lovers features 15 brews, from local drinks like Hill Country’s own Real Ale, to brews from around the country. Kick back, drink up and enjoy a game of football on big screen TVs in the hall.

And, of course, there’s food, lots and lots of food. Austin Eats Food Tours will be on-hand, featuring local restaurant delicacies, as well as plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Expect to find foodie favorites such as chef Tim Love’s Love Shack, Austin’s Pizza and Second Bar + Kitchen by chef David Bull, alongside new culinary favorites such as La Condesa, Frank and mmmpanadas.

The good part about the money you spend: A portion of funds raised will go toward supporting the Hill Country’s Conservancy’s Violet Crown Trail, a 30-mile hike and bike trail in Austin; additional support will go toward a carbon offset project spearheaded by the Texas Climate & Carbon Exchange.

For tips on staying in and getting around the city that keeps it weird, check out our Austin City Guide. Plus, if you love music as much as food, you’ll want to take an Austin Foodie Foray. And once you pack up and leave, send us a postcard from Austin — we’ll want to know how it goes!

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. When we compiled our list of Things to Do in October, we sure were betting on Acadia National Park and the Grand Canyon as 2 great spots to spend quality travel time this month. Then a little matter called the government shutdown occurred, and soon enough what seemed like 2 really cool travel ideas turned into one big letdown.

We’re sorry, guys, and for what it’s worth, we’re as bummed as you as we watch the news reports. Since Tuesday’s shutdown, Grand Canyon visitors have been turned away en masse, ditto for Acadia National Park. In fact, all national parks, which “belong to the American people, and the American people should have the right to come in,” are now closed until further notice. We can’t even check out their websites, including the adorable panda cam at DC’s National Zoo.

You don’t have to plan a big trip out West or along the East Coast to realize the impact of this shutdown. Something as simple as a jog around a favorite local park is now off-limits, if it’s under National Park Service stewardship – and lest you think of even trying to set foot on NPS ground, you could face arrest. We wouldn’t want that. But we don’t want you to idle your month away, either.

So in the spirit of American resilience — and because, well, we can’t let the good ole boys and gals in our nation’s capital get us down — we propose these travel alternatives. You will have fun this month – government shutdown or not!

Let’s start with the Grand Canyon. As you drive away, grumbling under your breath that the great off-season trip you were hoping for won’t happen as planned, take heart: The Hualapai people have you covered. This Native American tribe oversees a swath of land to the west of the Grand Canyon – and that includes the part where you’ll find the Grand Canyon Skywalk. Check out Hualapai Tourism (yep, their site is up!) and get Skywalk info.

As for Acadia, well, we’re not going to lie: Its closure is a major blow to leaf-peepers everywhere. But Main’s office of tourism suggests that visitors enjoy the fall colors other ways. “While Acadia National Park is one of our featured attractions, there are so many other things to enjoy in Bar Harbor and on Mount Desert Island,” says Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “The area’s brilliant fall foliage will be at its peak over the next few weeks, businesses are open, and there are many ways to enjoy some of Maine’s most beautiful coastline,” he adds.

And let’s not forget the state parks – they’re all open, coast to coast, and they could help save your vacation. Everything from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Red Rock State Park, are open to visitors – check out Wiki’s full list of state parks.

Government shutdown or not, let’s make this a month to remember!

The Standard New York

The Standard, New York in our Extreme Bathrooms slideshow.

Last week, Slate reported on a hotel trend I’ve experienced first hand: “The Fall of the Bathroom Wall.” Opting for open-plan bedroom/bathroom suites, luxury hotels like NYC’s Standard hotels and Paris’ Hotel Particulier Montmartre are knocking down bathroom walls and replacing them with glass, modesty shades -– or sometimes nothing at all.

What these rooms lack in privacy they more then make up for in natural light, space and certainly, sex appeal. But as Slate points out, they also bring “logistical awkwardness when sharing a room with people who were never meant to see you naked.”

I found this out for myself while on a girls’ spa weekend in Florida. Our suite at The W was upgraded thanks to my best friend’s enviable Starwood preferred guest status. However, when we realized the better view and bigger floor plan also came with an all-glass “peek-a-boo” shower, we politely asked to move back to a standard double. We knew we’d be seeing a lot of each other that weekend -– but not that much.

While glass showers and exposed soaking tubs may come as a sexy surprise on a couple’s weekend, they aren’t for every guest. Tell us in the comments: Do you think open-plan hotel bathrooms are a fad or here to stay?

Were you planning on pitching a tent in a national park, taking in the beauty of the national seashore, or examining the art and artifacts housed in any of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries this week?

If so, you’d better make other plans.

In addition to the 800,000 government employees who face unpaid days off now that the federal government has ceased operation, a shutdown spells a number of consequences for travelers, too. In his speech yesterday afternoon, President Obama put it bluntly, “Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed.”

While air travel and Amtrak service is not expected to be impacted by the shutdown, a number of popular tourist attractions have begun closing their gates, locking their doors and barricading their entrances. Here’s a rundown of just some the locations that are currently affected by the government shutdown.

National Parks

All of the National Park Service’s more than 400 parks, national monuments and historic sites are currently closed as a result of the government shutdown. On the National Mall in Washington, DC, monuments have begun to be barricaded and fountains turned off — a huge disappointment not only to expectant travelers but also to the 24 couples who were scheduled to get married on the National Mall during the month of October. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Alcatraz Island, Independence Hall, the Cape Cod National Seashore, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park are all be among the temporarily closed sites, which collectively average about 715,000 visitors per day in October.

As a result of the shutdown, all the parks have been closed today to visitors effective immediately, but travelers already camping in the parks have 2 days to pack up and leave.

Smithsonian Museums and Galleries

Visitors to Washington, DC, hoping to take advantage of the capital’s incredible array of free museums are out of luck today. Don’t count on seeing the Hope Diamond or Dorothy’s ruby slippers — all 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries have shut their doors, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History. This also includes the National Zoo, leaving many upset at the new reality that the “panda cam” has gone dark.

So what should visitors to Washington, DC, do today? There are a number of museums not affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution – visit the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Building Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Geographic Museum or the Phillips Collection.

American Military Cemeteries Abroad

Twenty-four American military cemeteries spread throughout the world have also been forced to close as a result of the shutdown. Anyone looking to pay their respects at any cemetery operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission will have to reschedule their visit.

What Else?

Be sure to check with your local passport agency before showing up today – while agencies will remain open, those located in federal buildings have been forced to close their doors.

While you wait for some of America’s most popular tourist attractions to re-open, explore (virtually, of course, since you can’t actually visit) the incredible natural landscapes and historic monuments that make up our country’s National Park sites. Then, test your knowledge with our National Parks Quiz – you’ll be an expert by the time congress gets their act together.

 

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