Obscura Day, “an international celebration of wondrous, curious, and esoteric places,” is March 20. Find offbeat treasures in your own hometown, or wherever you plan to be that day.
There’s something for everyone:
Tours for the science nerd
+ In Palo Alto, CA, visit one of the world’s largest working pneumatic tube systems, a 4-mile network through Stanford University Hospital that works to “shuttle specimens and paperwork around at 18 miles per hour”
+ Head to Dunedin, New Zealand to see the Beverly Clock, a 146-year old science experiment, powered solely by atmospheric changes
+ Tour Reed College’s nuclear reactor in Portland, OR (controlled by undergraduates, God help us)
+ Take a tram ride 65 stories below street level through the Kansas Underground Salt Museum built on an actively mined vein of salt that stretches from Kansas to New Mexico. (The world’s oldest organism was found here!)
+ Stroll the poison garden at Northumberland, England’s Alnwick Castle
If fear of your own mortality and the prevalence of rainbow-colored Lycra get-ups hasn’t dampened your chronic need for speed, test your mettle with an icy joyride down one of the four combined tracks for bobsled, luge, and skeleton in the U.S.
+ Olympic Center, Lake Placid, New York: Plonk down $75 at the track built for the 1980 Winter Olympics, wedge yourself into a bobsled between a professional driver and a brakeman and shriek the half-mile length of iced track. For a mere $60, you can go it alone on a tiny skeleton sled, face-down and teeth rattling, your chin bouncing a heart-stopping few inches above the ice.
So, own your own piece of the Snowpocalypse (or, D.C. residents, wait out the approaching storm in luxury, no snow shovels required). Call the Jefferson directly at (202) 448-2300 and ask for the Winter Storm Special. Pack your snowpants and mittens.
Are you a wealthy philanderer or disgraced politician looking to woo back your spouse? When compared to the alimony and lawyers’ fees you could be served with, the over-the-top Valentines packages below may seem like a cautious investment. For the rest of us, don your Holly Golightly sunglasses and look through the windows at Tiffany & Co. to see how the rich can opt to show their affection. (Honestly, when you factor in the fancy dinners and multiple night stays of some of these packages, they don’t seem quite so out of reach even for those of us without guilty consciences or fat wallets.)
Back in mid-December, Tyler Thompson, creative director at New York web-hosting site, SquareSpace, took a Delta flight from New York’s JFK airport to Seattle, on which he apparently didn’t have adequate reading material. Thompson cast a professional eye at his boarding pass and found it lacking not only visual punch, but also clarity of information.
In-flight, Thompson sketched out a few different ways to better communicate the pertinent information, and then back at his computer he created some mock-ups. Next, he opened up the redesign project to the design community through a web site: Boarding Pass/Fail. What has transpired since the site went live in early January is an entertaining public conversation about everything wrong with this small, disposable necessity of air travel. Here’s hoping the airline industry takes notice.
On my wish list for Thompson and his fellow designers to tackle next? The ground transportation signage at JFK airport, please. Any travel-related designs you love to hate?
Ann Shields is an online senior editor at Travel + Leisure.
The video is noteworthy because Ms. Love is calmly applying makeup and blandly rehearsing a Replacements cover song with a guitarist for her performance that evening in the hotel's Boom Boom Room. No one takes drugs (although a hotel employee comes in to see if anyone needs anything from the pharmacy! That never happens when I stay in hotels...). No one shrieks or weeps. Nothing is thrown from the window. Even when Ms. Love reports that some fans knocked on the door looking for her and the hotel employee asks if she'd like to talk to security, she demurs, "No. They were children."
Hit the ground running. CityGoRound.com, a remarkably useful new website, has compiled tools that can help you get around wherever it is you’re heading. Just type in your destination city for up a list of websites and easily-downloaded apps for mobile phones (not just iPhones) that can get you up real-time help in navigating the mean streets.
Some of the available tools are tried-and-true favorites like Google Maps, but others possess that tingly magic of future must-haves:
If you’re traveling more than 1,000 miles, hopping on a carbon-squandering jet is actually the greenest choice for lone travelers or couples. (Well, honestly, bus travel is a more conscientious choice, but traveling by bus for 1,000 miles sounds like the plot of the most boring yet frightening horror movie ever.) Air travel even beats out trains for this distance, though the carbon equation shifts for trips shorter than 500 miles, when train trumps plane travel.
The Union of Concerned Scientists,
which bills itself as “the leading science-based nonprofit working for
a healthy environment and a safer world,” knows you’re not going to
give up travel and they don’t think you should.
Everyone has a Thanksgiving travel horror story, don’t they? Heading “over the river and through the woods” takes longer and involves more encounters with the surly and stressed hoi polloi than it did when we traveled by sleigh with lap blankets.
In the mood for a thrill ride? Mapquest has modified its maps for Halloween. Go to the map for your destination city, then click the shrieking ghost icon on the right-hand tool bar to display all the haunted houses, creepy corn mazes, and ‘screamparks’ open for business through Halloween. You’ll find happenings like Austin House of Torment, Cleveland’s 7 Floors of Hell, or the haunted house at Pennsylvania’s de-commissioned and ultra-skeevy Eastern State Penitentiary.