Category: New York

Most Decadent Desserts: Crazy Shakes at Black Tap

Most Decadent Desserts: Crazy Shakes at Black Tap

I love having special treats for special occasions, so I am constantly in search of the most decadent desserts. When I treated my daughter to a trip to NYC for her sixteenth birthday party this past June, we intended to celebrate by getting Crazy Shakes at Black Tap. Sadly, our time between other activities was in short segments that would not have sufficed. We went to Black Tap twice and both times the line was so long outside the door that we would not have gotten inside and ordered in time to move on to the next activity. So when we went to NYC again this month, we were determined to get those Crazy Shakes.

Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer

I know, their name doesn’t even mention their Crazy Shakes. But trust me, these Insta-worthy, most decadent desserts are what’s drawing the crowds to their three New York locations. (They also have a location inside The Venetian in Las Vegas, and one in Singapore. More restaurants will soon be opening in Downtown Disney Anaheim and NYC’s Herald Square.) We dined at their midtown Manhattan location (136 W 55th St).

There’s no doubt about it – Black Tap is a fun place to eat. The decor is a cross between old fashioned soda fountain, 1980s retro, and street art grafitti. Our booth was next to this bit of artwork:

Decadent Desserts (and Decor) at Black Tap in NYC

Also, the music was awesome!  Just the right mix of my old 1980s favorites and some more modern songs. All of it was upbeat… the kind of music that you find yourself bopping along to in your seat even if you haven’t heard the song before.

The Burgers

They describe their restaurants as a new take on the classic burger joint. The menu is fairly simplistic at first glance – offering burgers, salads, fries, and shakes. But when you look a little more closely, you realize that these are not your average run-of-the-mill burgers. Black Tap’s “Greg Norman” burger won the People’s Choice Award three years in a row at the New York City Wine & Food Festival’s annual Burger Bash. Ranging from $16 to $20 per burger, you can choose from the classic All-American, a falafel or vegan burger, pizza burger, or a Carolina BBQ pulled pork burger.

We decided that for the four of us (Hubs and my daughters friend were also there) would split two burgers and two crazy shakes. We did this not only to save money, but also to keep us from leaving there looking like engorged ticks and feeling even worse. I selected the Bison Burger (bison burger, fresh mozzarella, pesto mayo, arugula, shaved Parmesan, roasted tomatoes, $19), and my daughter chose the Pizza Burger (prime burger, zesty tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, $17). Both came with a side of fries.

The burgers and the fries were very good. I’d never eaten bison before, but it honestly didn’t taste much different to me than a beef burger would have.

The Crazy Shakes

Black Tap serves classic milkshakes ($9) in nine different flavors, from standard chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, to the more exotic caramel, Nutella, and coffee. But it’s the Crazy Shakes ($15) that grab the glory.

The Most Decadent Desserts: Crazy Shakes at Black Tap in NYC

If these Crazy Shakes aren’t the most decadent desserts you’ve ever seen, then please tell me what is!

On the left is the Cookie Shake: vanilla frosted rim with cookie crumbles topped with a ‘cookiewich’, crumbled cookies, chocolate chips, whipped cream & chocolate drizzle. And that’s on top of a vanilla milkshake! On the right is the Cookie & Creme Supreme: vanilla frosted rim with crushed Oreos topped with a ‘cookies ’n cream’ sandwich, crumbled Oreo, whipped cream & chocolate drizzle, served on top of a cookies & creme milkshake.

Here’s a closer look at each one.

Most Decadent Desserts - the Cookie Crazy Shake at Black Tap in NYC

Most Decadent Desserts - the Cookie & Cream Supreme Crazy Shake at Black Tap in NYC

And when the description mentions a frosted rim, they don’t mean it in the sense of frosted glass, or a coating of sugar. No, they mean frosted as in cake frosting. So essentially you have a milkshake with a couple tablespoons of cake frosting, cookies, an ice cream sandwich, and whipped cream. Thank goodness they don’t publish calorie counts on the menu!!

Other Crazy Shakes at the midtown Manhattan location include:

  • Sweet & Salty (peanut butter/chocolate/pretzel)
  • Cotton Candy (strawberry shake with cotton candy and other candies)
  • Sour Power (black cherry shake with sour candies)
  • Brooklyn Blackout (chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate)
  • Bam Bam (Fruity Pebbles, Pop Tart, candy)
  • Cake Shake (cake batter shake with a slice of cake and lots of sprinkles)

Honesty, you can’t go wrong here. It was difficult (but obviously very necessary) to pick just one!

If You Go

Get there plenty early, because lines do form outside the restaurant (even when it’s ridiculously cold outside, as it was when we were there). You may have to wait about an hour for a table, possibly more in nicer weather.

Consider sharing an entree and/or dessert with a friend, so as not to overdo. You don’t want to end your euphoric dining experience feeling like you’re going to be ill.

 

New York City’s Interactive Spy Museum

New York City’s Interactive Spy Museum

Spyscape Review: Espionage in NYC

When Spyscape opened its doors in midtown Manhattan earlier this year, it was publicized as an interactive museum. Now, there are varying degrees of interactive, and in my experience, in most instances it means that you can push buttons on a video display. Happily, Spyscape is very different. From the moment you walk in you feel as if you have entered another world… the secretive world of covert operations and espionage. It’s not only interactive, it’s immersive. Read on for my Spyscape review.

Welcome to the World of Spies, Double Agents, and Hackers

From the minute you enter the building, you can’t help but feel like you’re about to go into a secret place. It’s sleek and modern, yet eerily quiet. (I arrived there shortly after opening. It might not be as quiet at other times of day.)

At the lobby welcome desk, you receive a ribbon wristband with a small cardboard tag on it. It’s more than just a cheap souvenir – it’s your ticket to unlocking some of the most interesting interactive features of the museum. But more on that later…

The museum has a free locker area, so you can stow any items you won’t need and retrieve them at the end of your visit. What a great feature! After we stashed our stuff, we headed to a really big (room-size) elevator that played a video as we ascended to the upper level of the museum. I honestly can’t tell you what they said in the video because I’ve forgotten, but it really set the stage for our entrance into the museum proper. We were so overcome by the creepy-cool ambiance that we were almost afraid to go to the rest rooms, located past the gift shop and down a long, empty corridor.

And speaking of the gift shop… it was really cool and sleek too.

Spyscape Review: Even the gift shop was sleek, modern, and secretive-looking.

Encryption

Spyscape Review: The Encryption area of the museum explored ways to encode (and decode) messages.

The first area of the museum we explored was the Encryption area. We got to see the costumes that Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley wore in The Imitation Game, a movie about Alan Turing’s efforts to crack Nazi codes during Word War II.  Among the other displays relating to the movie was an actual Enigma machine:

Spyscape Review: The Enigma section of the spy museum included an actual Enigma machine from World War II.

We also had a few encryption exercises at a large illuminated table. We were given a statement in code that we had to decipher, and then a response that we had to put into code. At the time, I didn’t realize that there were actually several different tasks, so I only completed the first one and then moved on.

The encryption area led into a corridor that examined the life and espionage activities of double agent Robert Hanssen, who worked for the FBI and the KGB simultaneously over a period of 22 years.

Spyscape Review: Robert Hanssen was a double agent of the KGB and FBI for 22 years before he was caught.

Hanssen’s story made for the perfect segue into the next section:

Deception

Here we learned the nuances of lying. We learned about body language and certain “tells” that might indicate someone was not speaking the truth. Touching the nose, looking up and to the side, pursing their lips, and other subtle clues can help you discern if someone is telling the truth. But the question is, how observant are you?

Time to put our new knowledge to the test! We went into small dark booths, and watched short videos of people making statements. We decided whether they were telling the truth or lying. Happy to say that I aced this one with a perfect score!

Surveillance

Our next stop was the Surveillance room, a huge circular area surrounded by video screens. Visitors wore special head sets and were prompted to answer questions about people and activities on the screens. It was surreal, standing in that area and spinning around to look for specific details. I decided I definitely do not want to work as a security guard, ever.

Spyscape review: The Surveillance Room tests how quickly you can make observations from camera monitors.

We saw a lot of Edward Snowden items in this room. My daughter didn’t know who he was (she was 11 when he became a household name), so I filled her in on the basics and we watched the Snowden movie a month or so later. What followed were some thought-provoking discussions about personal privacy and government surveillance of its citizens.

Spyscape Review: Edward Snowden-related items were on display in the Surveillance room.

Special Ops

The next area was one that got our blood pumping. In Special Ops, we individually entered another small dark room. This one had light up discs from floor to ceiling on both walls, and green lasers criss-crossed paths from one side to the other. The object was to turn off as many of the discs as possible without bumping into one of the laser beams. It was surprisingly difficult! Here’s my daughter in action – I was watching on the monitor outside the rooms.

After the lasers were turned off, you had your second test, which was turning off as many discs as you could in a set period of time. Again, more challenging than you might think!

Hacking

In this day and age, espionage and technology go hand in hand. So naturally, hacking and cyber-security were a component of Spyscape. According to one exhibit in this section, the development of a computer virus called Stuxnet to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons program in 2005 was the beginning of the cyber warfare era.

Spyscape Review: This infograph implies that Stuxnet opened the Pandora's box of cyber warfare which we continue to battle today.
Stuxnet opened a Pandora’s box of computer hacking that continues to evolve even today. There are white hat hackers, who look for weaknesses in computer systems so they can be fixed, and black hat hackers, who look for weaknesses in order to exploit them.

A display case of smirking Guy Fawkes masks worn by the hacking group Anonymous was an eerie reminder of how many people are actively working to hack into computer systems around the world.

Spyscape Review: Anonymous' Guy Fawkes masks, some of which were signed by hackers in the infamous group.

Testing Stations

This was not a specific room or exhibit of the museum. Throughout the building, visitors can test their skills in three areas: personality, brain power, and risk. All we had to do was step up to any kiosk and wave our wristband in front of the reader. Once it registered who we were, our name appeared on the screen and we could choose which assessment to take.

Spyscape Review: Visitors receive personalized test results.

Debrief

A former Head of Training at British Intelligence helped develop Spyscape’s profiling system, which takes the results of your activities and compiles them. From those results, it chooses your most likely espionage-related career.

My Spyscape Review

Our adventure at Spyscape was nothing short of fantastic! We had so much fun, and I couldn’t help but notice that it really could appeal to many groups. Since I’m a history geek, I found the evolution of espionage fascinating. Kids of any age will love the interactive, high tech elements. Even the two teenagers I traveled with (one of whom is staunchly anti-museum) loved it there.

My final word is that Spyscape is a great attraction for families who want to do something that everyone will enjoy. That’s quite a rarity, so be sure to check it out the next time you’re in New York City!

NB: This is not a sponsored post; I received no compensation. All of the opinions expressed above are my own.

Spyscape Review: Travelasmuch.com's review of Spyscape, the new spy museum in New York City
Gulliver’s Gate Review: A Miniature World to Explore in NYC

Gulliver’s Gate Review: A Miniature World to Explore in NYC

Size Does Matter –

Regular readers know that I love miniatures – dollhouses have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. So when I heard about Gulliver’s Gate opening in New York City, I knew I had to go. If you’re curious about what this world-in-miniature is like, read on for my Gulliver’s Gate review.

About Gulliver’s Gate

The attraction draws its name from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The classic story features the title character entering fantastical, hidden places. In each of those places, he discovered his expectations challenged and his sense of wonder expanded. Gulliver’s Gate seeks to do the same for its visitors.

The exhibit includes miniature scale models of well-known places from all over the world, and a few fictional worlds. These worlds are connected by train tracks and highways featuring all manners of transportation known to mankind – from horses and elephants to hot air balloons, jet planes and space shuttles. Gulliver’s Gate is done in HO scale, which is 1:87 (1 foot = 3.5 mm). A six-foot tall person would be .8 inches high in the Gulliver’s Gate world.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Big Attraction with the Tiny World in NYC

Upon arriving at Gulliver’s Gate, you will receive a lanyard with a silver key. The key, they tell you, unlocks some of the special features of this miniature world. All you have to do is look for the kiosk (key-osk? hahaha), insert your key, and turn it.

First stop: New York City

Not surprisingly, New York City is the first stop on your journey through Gulliver’s Gate. It has all the major landmarks: the Empire State Building, Central Park, Staten Island Ferry Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and more. Here is the 9/11 memorial:

Gulliver's Gate Review: The 1:87 miniature depiction of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC.

The miniature version of Grand Central Station is sliced open to allow you to see three levels of transit at the same time – cars, commuter trains, and the subway system, as well as the main concourse.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Visitors are treated to a cross section view inside the miniature Grand Central Station.

Just like the real life city, in Gulliver’s Gate there are so many people – in cars, on the streets, going about their business and seeking fun. And just like the real city, model NYC is pretty big and complex.  It took a team of 16 builders almost a full year to complete!

A Slight Detour Before Crossing the Atlantic

Other areas of the United States represented in Gulliver’s Gate don’t get as much attention as NYC . There is a large display portraying New England in the fall, but I found it to be disappointing, and I wasn’t sure why that area of the US got special attention when no other area did. The bright autumn foliage was too sparse, and the display is inexplicably full of different businesses, including a prominently displayed, overly large Citgo sign. I wondered if there was some corporate sponsorship of Gulliver’s Gate.

Gulliver's Gate Review: New England received a dedicated display, but no other region of the US did.

The section also included a stunning depiction of Niagara Falls. Visitors could have their face projected into the falls by standing in a designated spot off to the side, but I liked it just as it was. The famed Maid of the Mist boat moved around at the base of the falls.

Then on to Europe

I thoroughly enjoyed the Europe section of Gulliver’s Gate, and lingered there longer than any other area. There was just so much to take in!  Countries blended seamlessly together, and iconic landmarks loomed over the tiny European people.

The British Isles

Naturally, I gravitated toward the Britain side of the exhibit first. There was a great Scottish castle, Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben. Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, and Tower Bridge, featured prominently against a backdrop of the London skyline.

I tried out the key in the Scotland exhibit and the Loch Ness Monster popped up, looked around, then disappeared beneath the waters again. But not before I got her picture!

Gulliver's Gate Review: Turn your key in the Scotland section of the British Isles display, and the Loch Ness Monster will pop up to greet you.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the London display, particularly the long road that led up to Buckingham Palace, flanked my light posts with Union Jack flags hanging from them.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Buckingham Palace in the British Isles display.

Another interactive opportunity arose at the outdoor concert arena.  By turning my key in a particular direction, I could choose who performed on stage. On my first try, I accidentally choose the Beatles.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Beatles are one of four performers at the outdoor concert venue.

Then I got the one I really wanted: Adele.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Adele is one of four performers you can see on the outdoor stage

Depending on who you choose, the stage will rotate around to show miniature figures of them. The music plays in full audio (not miniaturized squeaky chipmunk tones as you might expect), accompanied by video clips of their performances on the small screen above the stage.

It wasn’t until I began looking through my photos to decide if I needed any more that I noticed something decidedly out of place at the miniature Stonehenge. Can you see it?

Gulliver's Gate Review: Stonehenge at the British Isles Display.

Wait a minute, I thought. Is that what I think it is? No way! I backtracked to the miniature Stonehenge and confirmed that my eyes had not been playing tricks on me.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The TARDIS from Doctor Who is just one of many hidden surprises in the miniature world.

The TARDIS from Doctor Who was right there in the middle of Stonehenge – how funny! Well, needless to say, I had to look for more little surprises like this. I headed off to go through the exhibit a second time.

When I did, I found a few more interesting items in the British Isles section. For instance, Peter Pan stands atop the palace at Westminster. Elsewhere, you will find the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. And back in New York, there is a tightrope walker balancing between the chandeliers in Grand Central Station (it’s in the photo above – see if you can spot her!).

Italy

Italy, like the British Isles, had all of the major landmarks represented. St Mark’s Square in Venice, the Colosseum of Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, even the Cinque Terre for avid travelers.

I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t until my second pass through that I noticed the humorous touch they had added.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Trying to set the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight.

The van is marked Servizio Torri and all of those people are attempting to straighten out the famously leaning tower. This picture was taken at an angle from the side, not from the front where most people would stand and look. In fact, from the front you may only notice the string, but I didn’t.

If you’re looking hard enough, you might spot the Ghostbusters’ car in Italy, too. They must have left it there and flown home, because you can find them on one of the streets in New York, chasing after some ghosts.

France

The Arc de Triomphe was replicated in miniature. You can’t see it in this photo, but the Moulin Rouge is located behind the Arc.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The miniature Arc de Triomphe dominates the French section of the European display.

Off to the left of the Arc is something I didn’t notice until my second pass through. It isn’t funny, but it is one of the excellent details that made touring the exhibit such a joy:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Look to the left of the Arc de Triomphe and you will see the European Giant Pumpkin competition.

Spain

Then there was Spain, and another opportunity to use the key.  When I turned it, Don Quixote came out charging at the windmill as he did in Miguel de Cervantes’ classic story.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Use your key to make Don Quixote charge at the windmill in Spain.

Portugal

In Portugal, this was not a hidden scene, but it certainly was an eye catching one:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Why was there a rhinoceros in Portugal?

Figures dressed in medieval garb, and a rhinoceros wearing a garland of flowers around its neck. The rhinoceros presented a mystery, as I had no frame of reference for this. As it turns out, this is a significant bit of Portuguese history.

India sent the rhino to Portugal in 1515 as a gift. It survived the 120-day sea voyage to Portugal. Unfortunately, once it arrived, it was kept shackled and on display at king Manuel I’s Ribiera Palace. Efforts to make the rhino fight an elephant for entertainment failed (the elephant wasn’t interested, and walked away). Lacking any entertainment value, King Manuel grew tired of the rhino and decided to re-gift it to Pope Leo X, whom he was schmoozing. Unfortunately, the rhinoceros died when the boat carrying him to Rome wrecked.

Yet despite its short life and even shorter time in Portugal, this rhinoceros was the inspiration for a fantastical illustration. Famed Renaissance wood cutter Albrecht Dürer never saw the animal in person, but based on descriptions and a sketch someone else had done, he recreated the rhinoceros. Dürer’s Rhinoceros depicted the animal with hard plates that covered its body like armor – including a gorget around its throat and a breastplate. The armor even appears to have rivets! Despite the fact that Dürer’s rhino was not what an actual rhino looked like, it went on to inspire dozens of paintings and sculptures across Europe.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Find out the origins of Durer's Rhinoceros in the Europe section.
Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons.

So, there you go.  History can pop up and surprise you in the most unusual places!

From there, I wandered along the path and arrived in the Scandinavian section of Europe – a snow covered land of quaint buildings. The Northern Lights make a guest appearance if you stand there long enough.

Gulliver's Gate Review - Look for the Northern Lights when you get to the Scandinavian section of Europe.

I used my key here too, and when I did, Santa Claus and his reindeer flew across the sky.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Use your key to make Santa fly across the northern sky.

Russia

From one frozen landscape to another, Scandinavia seamlessly blended into Russia. I took a lot of photos in the Russian section because there were so many wonderful details. They had a movie theater that was actually showing a movie, a carousel, ice skaters, and so much more.  It was a lot to take in!  But it was here that I got the best photo illustrating the attention to detail in Gulliver’s Gate:

Gulliver's Gate Review: The attention to detail, like the reverse lights on this car being illuminated, is astounding.

The architectural decoration on the house, the dog in the lane, and the illumination of the back up lights on the car – it was just stunning. Elsewhere, I found a pack of sled dogs, which was also a great scene to stumble upon:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Sled dogs resting in the Russian countryside.

And, of course, you couldn’t have Russia without Saint Basil’s Cathedral.

Gulliver's Gate Review: St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

That was the end of the European section. Next up:

Asia

Full disclosure: I did not spend a lot of time here. I’ve never been to Asia and I’m not particularly interested in exploring that region. However, there were some impressive mini-masterpieces:

 

Gulliver's Gate Review: A celebration outside the Forbidden City in China.
A celebration outside the Forbidden City in China.

 

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Taj Mahal is equally inspiring in miniature.
The Taj Mahal of India

And, for my fellow travel junkies, here’s the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. I couldn’t get close enough to it to look for the infinity pool on the rooftop. I’m sure it was there, though.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel of Singapore

Latin America

The Latin American section was appropriately full of music and color. In the miniature Rio to Janeiro, it was Carnival season.

Gulliver's Gate Review: It's Carnival time in Rio!

If you turn the key here, the parade kicks off with music and dancing. Just watch the figures on the street:

Miniature Latin America included Machu Picchu, I could not get a good photo of it. What I could see of it was not very impressive. Other Latin America highlights include a volcano that emits steam and looks like it will erupt at any moment.

Middle East

In the Middle East, the highlight was seeing the holy city of Jerusalem, including the Dome of the Rock.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The holy city of Jerusalem, and it's many historically significant religious sites.

Away from the historic center of Jerusalem, I spotted a terrifyingly ugly children’s playground. I was surprised to learn that it is, in fact, a real place called the Monster Playground. Alrighty then. Sweet dreams, kiddos!

Gulliver's Gate Review: Jerusalem's Monster Playground

Airport

The exhibit ends with a massive airport.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Airport has over 2000 feet of wire underneath it, and uover 2500 miniature figures in the gate building.

Rumor has it that Yoda is in there somewhere, but I was running short on time and didn’t get to explore much.  The airport has 2000 feet of wires running under it and over 2500 miniature figures in the gate building.

My Two Cents

In summary, I think that Gulliver’s Gate is an excellent attraction for families with kids, model train enthusiasts, and travel nuts like me.  It’s extremely well done, the attention to detail is fascinating, and visitors will enjoy discovering the little extras that are hidden in plain sight. Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in New York!

 

Gulliver's Gate Review at Travelasmuch.com

Why You Should Visit the Empire State Building the Next Time You’re in NYC

Why You Should Visit the Empire State Building the Next Time You’re in NYC

The Empire State Building: A History

There are many places in New York City that will provide you with a bird’s eye view of the Big Apple. None, however, is as iconic or has as rich a history as the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building History - Why you need to visit this iconic landmark.

For starters, it’s very tall. For the first 40 years or so of its existence, it was the tallest building in the world. By the numbers: it has 102 stories, 6500 windows, 1860 steps, and 72 elevators. The building measures 1250 feet, and is 1454 feet tall if you include its antenna. The building is so big that it has its own zip code! (It’s 10118, if you want to fact check me.)

Today, 34 buildings are taller than the Empire State Building, but it is still in the top five for the USA.

One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the building was erected in 1931. Its architectural firm produced the building drawings in just two weeks. The firm used its earlier designs for the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati as a basis to work from when designing the Empire State. Don’t assume for a moment, however, that the designs were even close to being identical.

The Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem has only 21 floors.

Empire State Building History: The Empire State Building was preceded by the RJ Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, NC, which has just 21 floors.
The RJ Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, NC. (Photo via Flickr by Paul Sableman.)

The Carew Tower in Cincinnati has 49 floors.

Empire State Building History: The Empire State Building was preceded by the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, which is less than half its height.
Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo via Flicker by Hannaford.)

Every year the staff of the Empire State Building sends a Father’s Day card to the staff at the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, paying homage to its role as predecessor to the Empire State Building.

Bad Timing

It took 3,400 people 410 days to build the Empire State Building, beginning in January 1930. On average, they complete one floor per day.

On May 1, 1931, President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C. and it was officially open. Unfortunately, the opening coincided with the United States’ descent into the Great Depression. In that economic climate, there was not much of a demand for office space. With so many vacant spaces in the giant building, it earned the nickname Empty State Building.

Fortunately for the owners, the observation deck provided financial compensation for the lack of rental income. The first year, visitors to the observation deck spent $2 million to get a great view of the city, almost the same amount of income received in rent payments. The building did not make a profit, however, until the early 1950s.

Empire State Building History: The building opened just as America sank into the Great Depression. If it weren't for the observation deck, it would have been a huge financial loss.
Photo via Flickr by Johannes Martin

Notable Moments

The building first appeared on the silver screen in 1933’s King Kong movie. Since that time, it has been a featured location in more than 250 other movies.

In 1945, a B-25 bomber hit the north side of the Empire State Building between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine shot through the side and traveled a block away, while the other engine and landing gear went down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people were killed in the incident, but the building was not severely damaged or structurally compromised.

Just prior to Christmas in 1931 – less than eight months after the building’s opening – NBC and RCA began transmitting experimental television broadcasts from the Empire State Building. Today, there are 12 television stations and 19 radio stations transmitting from the site.

The Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue in New York City.  For exceptional views of teh city, visitors can go to either the open-air main deck on the 86th floor or the enclosed top deck on the 102nd floor. Main deck tickets start at $36 per adult.  Top deck tickets, which include the main deck, start at $56 per adult.

Empire State Building History & Architecture at their finest
A Road Trip for the Hamilton Fan

A Road Trip for the Hamilton Fan

Hamilton

Are you a fan of the wildly popular Broadway musical, Hamilton? I certainly am, so I figured it might be fun to do a Hamilton road trip visiting all of the places connected to this founding father. I’m listing them in chronological order; however, I will have a list at the end that organizes the sites by state, and a map to guide you in planning your Hamilton road trip.

In New York you can be a new man

In the first year or two after his arrival on the mainland, Alexander focused on his education. During this time, he came under the influence of William Livingston, a leading intellectual and revolutionary. Hamilton even lived at the Livingston residence for about a year. Livingston’s house, known as Liberty Hall, is now the Liberty Hall Museum of Union, NJ.

Hamilton entered King’s College in New York City (now Columbia University) in the autumn of 1773 as a private student and officially matriculated in May 1774. As a result, if you visit the college today, you will see Hamilton Hall and a large statue of Hamilton in front of it.

alexander hamilton road trip columbia university hall statue
Hamilton Hall at Columbia University (source)

After his education, Alexander Hamilton joined a New York volunteer militia company. He drilled with the company in the graveyard of nearby St. Paul’s Chapel.

You walked in and my heart went BOOM

Hamilton met Elizabeth Schuyler while stationed in Morristown, New Jersey in the winter of December 1779-March 1780.

They were married on December 14, 1780, at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, New York. The Schuyler Mansion still stands, and it is a New York State Historic Site. Between 1763 and 1804, this mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. You can tour of the mansion for $5 (students and seniors $4 and children under 12 receive free admission).

alexander hamilton roadt trip albany ny schuyler mansion
The Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY (source)

The Battle of Yorktown … 1781 …

Hamilton was there, and you can be, too.

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (Virginia) tells the story of the nation’s founding, from the colonial period to the Revolution and beyond. Indoor galleries feature period artifacts, immersive environments, interactive exhibits and films. One film, “The Siege of Yorktown,” has a 180-degree surround screen and special effects. The museum also has outdoor living-history areas, in which visitors can witness artillery demonstrations, or drill with wooden muskets at a re-created Continental Army encampment.

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The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (source)

After the war, I went back to New York

In July 1782, Hamilton passed the bar and set up law practice in Albany after six months of self-directed education. Unfortunately, I could not find any reference to the location of his law practice.

Back in Manhattan, in 1784, he founded the Bank of New York. The bank opened for business at 326 Pearl Street only a few months after the departure of British troops from American soil. Sadly, that building has not stood since 1881. It is interesting to note, however, that the Bank of New York became one of the longest operating banks in American history. It stayed in business for over 220 years before it merged with another bank in 2007.

I was chosen for the constitutional convention

The Annapolis Convention of September 1786, held at Mann’s Tavern, consisted of twelve delegates from five states. Hamilton played a major leadership role at the convention, where he drafted a resolution for a constitutional convention. As a result, he came one step closer to achieving his longtime desire to have a more powerful, financially independent federal government.

The Constitutional Convention took place in Philadelphia the following year from May 25 to September 17. Delegates met at the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. After months of work in defining and improving our fledgling nation’s government, they emerged with the Constitution of the United States of America.  Alexander Hamilton was the sole signer from the state of New York.  Today, you can see the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington DC.

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Independence Hall, Philadelphia  (source)

The New York state Ratifying Convention took place in Poughkeepsie in June 1788. Most delegates to the ratifying convention were anti-Federalists, and they opposed ratification.  However, Hamilton led the Federalist minority in a tenacious and persevering fight for ratification. The original Dutchess County Courthouse where the convention was held later burned down, and a new courthouse was built on the same site. Outside the courthouse, signs mark the historic site of the New York Ratifying Convention. Inside the US Post Office at the end of the street, you can view a large mural of the New York Ratification Convention.

We’ll get a little place in Harlem

Alexander Hamilton owned just one home in his lifetime: a Federal style mansion known as The Grange. Originally built on Hamilton’s 32-acre country estate in upper Manhattan, the home was moved twice, and is now located in St. Nicholas Park in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan. It is maintained by the National Park Service, who restored it to its original 1802 appearance.  The Park Service also provides guided tours daily.

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The Grange (source)

Weehawken, dawn.  Guns drawn.

After decades of insults and provocations between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, they met to duel at dawn on July 11, 1804 in Weehawken, NJ. The dueling grounds, located along the west bank of the Hudson River, have a historic marker and a bronze bust of Alexander Hamilton… in Hamilton Park, adjacent to Hamilton Street. Also on Hamilton Street is a large boulder upon which Alexander Hamilton rested after being shot.

Paralyzed by a bullet that struck his spine, Hamilton was ferried to the Greenwich Village home of his friend William Bayard Jr., who had been waiting on the dock. Hamilton died the following afternoon, July 12, at Bayard’s home. According to Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow, “A large bloodstain soaked into the Bayard’s floor where Hamilton expired, and for many years the family refused to expunge this sacred spot.” The house currently at this address is not the one in which Hamilton passed away, but there is a marker to commemorate the place of Hamilton’s demise.

Hamilton’s tomb lies near the southern fence of Trinity churchyard in New York. Eliza is buried next to him, but she outlived him by 50 years.  Also buried in the cemetery are Angelica Schuyler Church and Hercules Mulligan.

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Hamilton’s grave site at Trinity Church

Who tells your story

Numerous locations in the United States pay tribute to Alexander Hamilton and his legacy. To name a few:

Hamilton served as one of the first trustees of the Hamilton-Oneida Academy in Clinton, New York. After receiving a college charter in 1812, it became Hamilton College.

It isn’t mentioned in the play, but Alexander Hamilton envisioned using the Great Falls of the Passaic River in New Jersey to power new factories.  While Secretary of Treasury, Hamilton selected the site of the nation’s first planned industrial city. Then, in 1791, Hamilton helped found the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures (SUM), a state-chartered private corporation to fulfill this vision. SUM founded the town of Paterson and today, there is a statue of Hamilton overlooking the falls in Paterson, New Jersey.

The United States Capitol in Washington DC has a statue of Hamilton in the southwest portion of its rotunda.

In 1790, Hamilton created the United States Revenue Cutter Service to help with customs enforcement. In 1915, the service combined with the United States Life Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard.  So it’s no surprise that the main administration building of the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, is named Hamilton Hall.

In 1880, Hamilton’s son, John Church Hamilton, commissioned Carl Conrads to sculpt a granite statue of his father, now located in Central Park, New York City.

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The statue of Alexander Hamilton in Central Park, New York. (source)

In 1990, the U.S. Custom House in New York City was renamed after Alexander Hamilton.

The U.S. Army’s Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn is named after Hamilton.

In Washington, DC, the south terrace of the Treasury Building features a statue of Hamilton by James Earle Fraser, dedicated on May 17, 1923.

In Chicago, a thirteen-foot tall statue of Hamilton by sculptor John Angel was cast in 1939. Installation at Lincoln Park did not occur until 1952, however, due to issues with the accompanying structure. The statue underwent restoration work in 2016 and now gleams shiny gold.

A bronze sculpture of Hamilton titled The American Cape was unveiled at Journal Square in downtown Hamilton, Ohio, in October 2004. (That link will take you to a site with multiple images – it’s really cool looking, so check it out!)

The Road Trip

Because most of these sites are close together, I think it makes an ideal road trip.  The road trip itinerary below does not include all of the spots, just the most important ones.  I tried to keep it semi-practical, so you wouldn’t be driving an hour out of your way just to see a statue.

  1. Start at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia.  I would allow at least half a day for seeing that.  From there, head toward Washington DC. However, if you want to shorten your tip, you can make Washington your starting point – I included Yorktown because I’ve been to its sister site, the Jamestown Settlement, which is excellent.
  2. In Washington, go first to the Capitol building, then the National Archives, and then the US Treasury. From there, head to Philadelphia.
  3. In Philadelphia, tour Independence Hall.  Again, I would allow at least half a day for this.  Then head to New York City.
  4. In Manhattan, go to Trinity Church and look for the graves of Alexander & Eliza Hamilton, Hercules Mulligan, and Angelica Schuyler Church
  5. As you head north in New York, stop by 82 Jane Street, the site where Hamilton died at William Bayard’s home.
  6. Visit Central Park and look for the statue of Hamilton, located east of The Great Lawn between 82nd and 83rd Streets
  7. Go see Hamilton Hall at Columbia University.  Visit nearby St. Paul’s Chapel, where Hamilton and his fellow militiamen did drills in the cemetery.
  8. Make your last stop in the Big Apple the Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
  9. Leave New York and head to the Weehawken Dueling Grounds and Hamilton Memorial in Weehawken NJ. Be sure to look for the boulder.
  10. Visit the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park in Paterson NJ and look for the statue of Hamilton there.
  11. Head north and stop in Poughkeepsie to see the Dutchess County Courthouse. While you’re there, you can also get a look at the mural in the nearby Post Office.
  12. Finally, you reach the end of the trip at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY, site of Alexander and Eliza’s wedding.

Of course, this is just a suggestion.  You could adapt this trip to include more sites, or shorten it by removing some. I created a custom Google map with these twelve sites pinned to it, and you can see it here. A full list of all the sites mentioned in this article, and their addresses, follows.

New Jersey

  • Liberty Hall Museum – 1003 Morris Avenue, Union NJ
  • Morristown, NJ – Hamilton was stationed there in 1779/1780
  • Weehawken, NJ – Hamilton Street dueling grounds
  • Paterson, NJ Statue – 72 McBride Ave ExtensionPaterson, NJ

New York

  • Columbia University – 1130 Amsterdam Avenue, New York NY
  • St. Paul’s Chapel – 1160 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY
  • Schuyler Mansion – 32 Catherine Street, Albany, NY
  • Dutchess County Courthouse – 10 Market St, Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Hamilton Grange National Memorial – 414 West 141st Street, New York, NY
  • William Bayard’s home Marker – 82 Jane Street, New York, NY
  • Trinity Churchyard Cemetery – Broadway and Wall Street, New York, NY
  • Hamilton College – 198 College Hill Rd, Clinton, NY
  • Central Park Statue – Mid-Park east of The Great Lawn between 82nd and 83rd Streets
  • Alexander Hamilton US Custom House – 1 Bowling Green, New York, NY
  • Fort Hamilton – 101st Street, Brooklyn, NY

Virginia

  • American Revolution Museum at Yorktown – 200 Water Street, Route 1020, Yorktown, VA

Maryland

  • Mann’s Tavern Marker – 162 Conduit St, Annapolis MD

Pennsylvania

  • Independence Hall – 520 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia

Washington, DC

  • National Archives – 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
  • Capitol Building – East Capitol St NE & First St SE, Washington, DC
  • US Treasury Building – 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C.

Connecticut

  • US Coast Guard Academy – 31 Mohegan Ave, New London, CT

Thank you for joining me on this tour of Alexander Hamilton’s life!  Please let me know if you take a Hamilton road trip and/or visit any of these places.  I would love to hear what you thought of them!

Hamilton US Road Trip

The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

The 50 Most Romantic Places in the US

the most romantic places in each state

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you may be trying to choose the perfect place to celebrate.  If you’re about to get engaged, or if you’re married with children and looking for a child-free getaway, read on!  Here are my picks for the 50 most romantic places – one  in each of our glorious 50 states.

Alabama

Gorham’s Bluff in Pisgah is a luxurious inn that offers spectacular mountaintop views of the Tennessee River Valley.

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View from the gazebo at Gorham’s Bluff

The lodge has six suites, each with a massive stone fireplace, soft down pillows, and whirlpool tubs. There are also five cottages if you’d like something bigger. If a stay isn’t in your budget, you may want to consider just dining there. Gorham’s Bluff also boasts an outstanding restaurant that offers everything from boxed lunches to four course dinners. The surrounding area boasts many places of natural beauty, including caverns, waterfalls, and forests. Gorham’s Bluff‘s address is 101 Gorham Drive, Pisgah, AL 35765.  Telephone 256-451-8439.

Alaska

Denali National Park offers stunning views that look like they just might have inspired a Bob Ross painting. Can you think of a better backdrop to declare your love?

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Denali National Park, Alaska

If you’re the adventurous type, you can enjoy a snowmobiling trip, take a guided dog sled trip. With its extreme northern location, you can also spend a great evening of stargazing… perhaps even catch the aurora borealis if you’re lucky. What could be more romantic than that?  Denali National Park is about four hours north of Anchorage and two hours south of Fairbanks. Telephone 907-683-9532.

Arizona

The Desert Botanical Garden features beautiful trails of colorful desert plants.

Desert Botanical Garden - most romantic place in ARIZONA
Sunset at he Desert Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden occasionally offers themed dinners. Sip wine and dine al fresco on customized menus from talented chefs while taking in the desert scenery.  The Desert Botanical Garden‘s address is 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, AZ 85008.  Telephone 480-941-1225.

Arkansas

The Bell of Hot Springs is a riverboat on which you can take a lunch or dinner cruise around Lake Hamilton, including a sunset dinner & dance cruise.

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The Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat

As you cruise around the lake, you will see million dollar mansions, natural islands, quaint resorts, and panoramic views of the Ouachita Mountains. The Belle of Hot Springs‘s address is 5200 Central Avenue, Hot Springs, AR, 71913. Telephone 501-525-4438.

California

In the Marina district of San Francisco, there is a temple-like building known as the Palace of Fine Arts. It was built in 1915 as one of ten buildings for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, and was supposed to be demolished after the event. People found it so beautiful, though, that it stayed.  You can certainly see why:

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The Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

The Palace of Fine Arts’ address is 3601 Lyon St & Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94123.

Colorado

If you’re looking to be pampered with your love, look no farther than The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

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The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

Not only do they offer beautiful, richly decorated rooms and cottages, but they also have a lake on premises, a full service spa, a top notch golf course, and a dozen or so dining options. You and your love can enjoy horseback riding, scenic mountain trails, rock climbing, fly fishing, golf, tennis, zip lining over waterfalls, and more. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Broadmoor. The Broadmoor address is 1 Lake Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. Telephone 855-634-7711.

Connecticut

The historic village of Stonington Borough (simply called “The Village” by locals) is a postcard perfect New England small town. The Inn at Stonington is a beautiful waterfront 18-room inn that would be ideal for a romantic getaway.

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The Inn at Stonington

Just a short stroll from the lovely Dubois beach, several excellent restaurants, antique shops and galleries, the Inn offers uniquely decorated spacious rooms with balconies, fireplaces, and scenic views of the village or Fisher’s Island Sound. The Inn at Stonington’s address is 60 Water Street, Stonington, Connecticut 06378.  Telephone 860-535-2000.

Delaware

If you like your romance with a dash of intrigue, you can step back in time for a cocktail at the speakeasy-themed Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington.

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Speakeasy-themed bar – CR Hummingbird to Mars in Wilmington, DE

You can only access the bar from outside, and you will need a password.  (Check their Facebook page to find out what the current password is.) The speakeasy is decked out with Victorian furniture, including an antique bathtub filled with champagne bottles. The lights are dim, the cocktails are intriguing, and the patrons are dressed to the nines.  Well worth a visit for a history-loving couple. The address for CR Hummingbird to Mars is 1616 Delaware Ave – Trolley Square, Wilmington, DE 19806.  Telephone 302-654-9700.

Florida

The appropriately named Lovers Key is a state park near Ft Myers that is renowned for its pristine white beach and wildlife viewing opportunities.

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Lighthouse at Lovers Key Florida

The park features five miles of hiking and biking trails through a shady maritime hammock ecosystem. Visitors can see manatee, gopher tortoises and wading birds along the trails. You may even see dolphins swimming in the distance. Lovers Key State Park’s address is 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.  Telephone 239-463-4588.

Georgia

The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort is perfect for wine aficionados or anyone who likes a bit of luxury. The resorts is a castle surrounded by rolling vineyards… you will think your’re in the French countryside.

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France?  or Georgia?

In addition to a 275-room inn, there is a European spa, championship golf course, award-winning wine and food, and plenty of opportunities to relax in luxury. The Chateau Elan Winery & Resort‘s address is 100 Rue Charlemagne, Braselton, Georgia 30517. Telephone: 678-425-0900.

Hawaii

Seriously? Like just about anywhere!  But if I have to pick just one romantic destination in the island paradise – and I promised myself I would – my choice would be Hulopoe Bay on the island of Lanai’s southern coast.

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Hulopoe Bay, Lanai

It’s a great place for snorkeling and swimming, and there are large tide pools located at the eastern side of the bay. Carved out of volcanic rock, these tide pools are well protected, keeping the waters calm for exploring. Many hermit crabs, sea stars, opihi (limpet) and small fish dwell there. Dolphins can often be seen in Hulopoe Bay, while the winter months bring visits from humpback whales. Also, if you hike about 15-20 minutes from the bay, you will see Puu Pehe, a large rock rising from the sea.  It’s name is Sweetheart Rock.  How appropriate!  (Actually, the legend that goes with the rock is more along the Romeo & Juliet lines, with both of the lovers dead at the end.)

Idaho

Some may consider it cheesy, but I love places that have themed decor.  The Anniversary Inn bed and breakfast in Boise is one such place, with many different themes to choose from.  My favorite is the Lighthouse #19, but there are so many others I would like too.

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Lighthouse #19 Suite at the Anniversary Inn in Boise

Other suites include the Hawaiian, the Presidential, Mysteries of Egypt, Biker Road House, Jungle Safari, Hollywood Romance and so many others. Really, if you’re in Idaho, you should check this place out!  The Anniversary Inn’s address is 1575 South Lusk Avenue, Boise, ID 83706. Telephone 1.800.324.4152.

Illinois

In Chicago, the most romantic restaurant is widely considered to be Geja’s Cafe, which has a low-lit dining room filled with small booths and tables with curtains draped throughout to give an even more intimate feel.

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The dining room of Geja’s Cafe in Chicago

Premiere fondue dinners are a four-course meal, including cheese fondue appetizer, salad, assorted fresh vegetables, eight dipping sauces, flaming chocolate dessert fondue and freshly brewed coffee. The fondue dining experience lets you cook your food at the table. Live classical and flamenco guitar add to the romantic ambiance. Geja’s Cafe’s address is 340 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614.  Telephone 773-281-9101.

Indiana

How about a romantic train ride?  The Spirit of Jasper offers a Chocolate, Wine & Dine ride that couples are sure to enjoy.

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All aboard!  Take a romantic train ride on The Spirit of Jasper

Featuring chocolate from Jasper’s locally-owned Chocolate Bliss, the Chocolate, Wine & Dine combines taste-tempting treats while you ride the rails in luxurious comfort: scrumptious chocolate, wine tasting, and Schnitzelbank meal with dessert.  The Spirit of Jasper operates seasonally in summer and fall.  The address is 201 Mill Street, Jasper, IN 47546. Telephone: 812-482-5959.

Iowa

The Mont Rest Inn in Bellevue is not only a great bed & breakfast with a rooftop hot tub (!), it also features regular special events, such as murder mystery dinners and other themed evenings.

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The rooftop hot tub at Mont Rest Inn

In addition to their theme dinners, the Inn has several other packages, from winery tours to eagle watching excursions.  There is something for everyone to enjoy here!  The Mont Rest Inn’s address is 300 Spring Street Bellevue, Iowa.  Telephone: 563-872-4220.

Kansas

Surround yourself with natural beauty at Botanica Wichita, a collection of garden landscapes that are the perfect backdrop for a romantic outing.  Botanica features a butterfly garden, aquatic garden, rose garden, and a rock garden.

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The Shakespeare Garden at Botanica

Fans of Shakespeare will find the Shakespeare Garden – a perfect spot to sit and read sonnets to each other.  (I recommend #116.) The address for Botanica Wichita is 701 Amidon St, Wichita, KS 67203-3199. Telephone: 316-264-0448.

Kentucky

Couples who enjoy adventure travel will love Cumberland, Kentucky. At Cumberland Falls Resort Park, you’ll see the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi and, if you’re there at the right time, a rare lunar rainbow.

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A lunar rainbow, also called a moonbow, at Cumberland Falls KY

There are also 1,200 miles of shoreline to explore, and 70 miles of wilderness trails. Often, the park offers special romance package, which may include dinner theater, dancing and resort lodging. Cumberland Falls State Resort Park‘s address is 7351 Hwy. 90, Corbin, KY 40701. Telephone: (606) 528-4121.

Louisiana

Nothing evokes the romantic antebellum south like Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Can you imagine how lovely it would be to stroll up to this house, holding hands with your loved one?

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Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana

Those oak trees are 300 years old, buy the way.  The plantation features a variety of exhibits on the Civil War era, including a tour of the house and a self-guided tour of the grounds. Oak Alley Plantation‘s address is 3645 Highway 18 (Great River Road), Vacherie, Louisiana 70090.  Telephone 800-44-ALLEY.

Maine

The Norumbega Inn is a beautiful stone mansion in Camden that has a fancy-yet-unpretentious vibe.

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The Norumbega Inn of Camden Maine

Whether you choose a room that has a view of Penobscot Bay, or the Library Suite for bibliophiles like me, you will enjoy your stay at the Norumbega.  And you will definitely eat well while you’re there!  Co-owner and executive chef Phil Crispo is a classically trained chef who loves to use his creative finesse in the kitchen. Prior to moving to Maine, he was a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America and succeeded in scoring a ‘win’ on the Food Network’s “Chopped”. (His credentials prior to that are noteworthy, as well.) Hi partner Sue is “a business exec who screwed up making mashed potatoes in a ‘Boot Camp’ class she took at the CIA a while back. Phil fixed her mashed potatoes and love ensued.” The address for The Norumbega Inn is 63 High Street, Camden, Maine, 04843.  Telephone: 877-363-4646.

Maryland

The Grammercy Mansion bed and breakfast in Stevenson is the most romantic place I have ever stayed. I think the Tudor Room is probably my favorite, but each room is luxurious and well-appointed.

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Grammercy Mansion’s Tudor Room

If you feel like venturing out (but, seriously, why would you?), there are plenty of museums, restaurants, and shops in Baltimore, just a short drive away.  Grammercy Mansion‘s address is 1400 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21153.  Telephone 410-486-2405.

Massachusetts

Sweet Brook Farm offers horse drawn sleigh rides in the winter and hay rides in the fall.

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Over the river and through the woods…

Nothing could be more romantic than snuggling up with your loved one on a sleigh for 45 minutes or so and taking a break for hot cocoa in “The Old Sap Bucket Inn,” a cozy cabin in the woods. Sweet Brook Farm‘s address is 580 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA 01267.  Telephone: 413-884-4246.

Michigan

Nothing says romance like the majestic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, with its extended waterfront porch and uniquely decorated rooms – none of the 300+ rooms are alike!

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The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

You will never forget the spectacular views from a rocking chair overlooking the Straits of Mackinac from the world’s longest porch. Here, meals are an event and traditions such as Afternoon Tea in the Parlor and nightly dancing remain a noteworthy part of the guest experience. And while you’re on Mackinac Island, you can enjoy horse & carriage rides – no cars are allowed.  The Grand Hotel’s address is 286 Grand Ave, Mackinac Island, MI 49757.  Telephone 800-334-7263.

Minnesota

For literary-minded couples, The Rivertown Inn in Stillwater offers exquisitely decorated rooms based on famous world authors. I’ve tried to pick a favorite but the truth is they are all so romantic and luxurious!

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The Oscar Wilde Suite at the Rivertown Inn

Other rooms/suites offer tributes to Lord Byron, Agatha Christie, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, and other notable authors. If you can bear to leave your literary accommodations, you  can spend a day with your loved one exploring the unique shops and galleries of Stillwater, taking an old-fashioned trolley for an architectural tour, or enjoying any of the cafes and fine dining restaurants in town. The Rivertown Inn’s address is 306 Olive Street West, Stillwater, MN 55082. Telephone: 651-430-2955.

Mississippi

There are not many activities that have as sultry a sizzle as Latin salsa dancing.  If you’re in Jackson on a Saturday night, stop by Salsa Mississippi for a quick lesson at 9:00, followed by a Salsa Dance Party from 10:00 pm – 2:00 am.

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Couples dancing at Salsa Mississippi

If you like it, sign up for some classes! The address for Salsa Mississippi is 605 Duling Ave, Jackson, MS 39216.  Telephone: 601-213-6355.

Missouri

Who needs Paris when you have the Old Red Bridge in Minor Park, Kansas City? Couples in Missouri are celebrating their love just like so many visitors to Paris have done – placing a lock on the bridge and throwing the key in the water below as a symbol of their enduring, unbreakable love.

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Love locks on the Old Red Bridge

Locks can be purchased at the Minor Park Golf Pro Shop, or ordered online with custom engraving. Click on the link for details: The Old Red Bridge runs between Holmes and Blue River Road on Red Bridge Road in Kansas City, MO.  

Montana

Located near the beautiful Glacier National Park, the Izaak Walton Inn has a variety of unique and romantic lodgings to offer couples.  Guests can stay in a railroad caboose or a luxury train car.  Or, if you prefer more traditional digs, a room in the lodge.

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The lodge and one of the luxury rail cars at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT

(I do not recommend renting a cabin for a romantic outing here as the cabins are very close together.)  Because of the location and the age of the property, rooms do not have televisions or telephones, and cell phone service is not available within a 30 mile radius. You will be blissfully cut off from the world and able to focus entirely on your mate.  The Izaak Walton Inn’s address is 290 Izaak Walton Inn Rd. Essex, MT 59916.  Telephone: 406-888-5700.

Nebraska

If your love is too big for just one state, be sure to walk hand-in-hand across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha.

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The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge cross the Missouri River between Nebraska and Iowa.

When you stand in the center of it, you’re half in Nebraska, half in Iowa. Share a kiss, gaze out at the river, and plan your next adventure together. The address for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is 705 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE 68102.

Nevada

There is a restaurant at the top of Las Vegas’ version of the Eiffel Tower, and not only does it have great food, it also provides an outstanding view of the fountain show at the Bellagio.

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The Bellagio Fountains, as seen from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

My goodness, the only way it could be more romantic is if you could get there via the gondolas from The Venetian!  The Eiffel Tower Restaurant’s address is 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109.  Telephone: 702-948-6937.

New Hampshire

Look no further in New Hampshire than the historic hotel Wentworth by the Sea on the island of New Castle, one of New Hampshire’s oldest settlements.

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Wentworth by the Sea

This luxury Marriott-owned hotel blends historic elegance with 21st century convenience. It features 161 rooms and suites,many of which have ocean views. In addition to attractions in the surrounding area, the hotel has intimate restaurants with imaginative cuisine, pampering spa services, indoor and outdoor pools, and fitness centers.  Wentworth by the Sea‘s address is 588 Wentworth Rd, New Castle, NJ 03854.  Telephone: 866-384-0709.

New Jersey

Creating things together can be one of the most romantic things a couple can do.  If you’re in your relationship for the long haul, why not try your hand at making wine together at The Grape Escape?

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The Grape Escape offers couples a chance to custom make their own wine

Your and your love will choose the region, grape type, barrel type, and the amount of aging it receives. You actively participate in the four key steps of wine making. You personally crush the grapes, press the must, rack the wine and, finally, bottle your own premium wine!  To finish, each bottle is customized with a label you create yourself. It’s a lengthy process, but at the end of it you will have a one-of-a-kind creation that you made with your partner, and that’s very romantic, indeed!  The Grape Escape’s address is 12 Stults Road, Suite 101, Dayton, NJ 08810.  Telephone: 609-409-WINE.

New Mexico

A trip on the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway will take you along nearly three miles, soaring above canyons and breathtaking terrain.

sandia-tramway new mexico most romantic places
The Sandia Tramway offers stunning views of the wilderness.

See some of nature’s more dramatic beauty unfold before you, and visit the observation deck atop 10,378 foot Sandia Peak in the Cibola National Forest. Try to time your visit so that you will be there at sunset, when the desert skies produce a spectacular array of color. Sandia Tramway is on the eastern edge of Albuquerque in the Sandia Foothills at the end of Tramway Road. Telephone: 505-856-7325.

New York

Decades ago, it was considered THE honeymoon destination on the East Coast.  Niagara Falls is amazing to see in person, especially at night when the falls are lit up in different colors.

niagra-falls-night most romantic places new york
Night time view of Niagara Falls

In the warmer months (May-October), they also have fireworks several times a week.  The best address to use for GPS purposes is 24 Buffalo Avenue Niagara Falls, NY, 14303.  Telephone the state park visitor center for more information at 716-278-1796.

North Carolina

Treehouse Vineyards is a North Carolina family owned Vineyard and Winery.  It also has, as you might have guessed, treehouses.  But the really cool thing here is that you can actually rent/stay in the treehouses.

vineyard-treehouse north carolina most romantic places
Papa’s Dream Treehouse at Treehouse Vineyards

Papa’s Dream Treehouse is tiny (only 100 sq. ft. living space), but it has all the necessities you might need – plumbing, electricity, heat and air conditioning, efficiency kitchen and even a deck with a grill. Cozy, unique, and romantic!  Treehouse Vineyards’ address is 301 Bay St, Monroe, NC 28112. Telephone: 704-283-4208.

North Dakota

The International Peace Garden is over 2300 acres spanning the US-Canada border. There are sunken gardens, a peace chapel, a 9/11 memorial, conservatory, Westminster chimes bell tower, a floral clock, and more.

international-peace-garden north dakota most romantic places
International Peace Garden

The park also offers picturesque picnic areas,  modern campgrounds, hiking trails, and bike paths. There is a wildlife refuge, too, where you are sure to spot deer, moose and other animals in the natural environment. The International Peace Garden is north of Dunseith, North Dakota, at the northern terminus of U.S. Highway 281 in Rolette County. A passport is not required, but recommended to speed the re-entry process when you leave the garden. Telephone: 888-432-6733

Ohio

The Marblehead Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. Visitors can take in panoramic views of Lake Erie from the tower, and it’s a popular spot to take in a sunrise or sunset.

marblehead-lighthouse ohio most romantic places
Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio

The grounds surrounding the lighthouse offer excellent picnic spots when weather permits. The Marblehead Lighthouse‘s address 110 Lighthouse Drive, Marblehead, Ohio 43440.  Telephone for park office: 419-734-4424

Oklahoma

Visit the tiny town of Medicine Park, known as America’s cobblestone community. The round red cobblestones – an abundant, native geological phenomenon of the area – are found in most structures and give the town with a distinctive look.

medicine-park-oklahoma most romantic places
Medicine Park, Oklahoma

You can take a stroll on scenic trails by Medicine Creek or Bath Lake, dine in fine restaurants, or bask in the glow of the sun setting over the surrounding Wichita Mountains. Make a weekend of it by booking a place to stay, and visiting the shops that sell all manner of arts, crafts and gift wares. Medicine Park is near the cities of Lawton and Fort Sill.

Oregon

Snuggle up and watch a movie together at Cinetopia.  This theater chain offers stadium seating in all of their theaters, but the type of seating varies on which theater you visit. The Living Room, for adults only, offers the most romantic seating with couches and oversized chairs you can share to sit in.

cinetopia-living-room-theater oregon most romantic places
The Living Room theater at Cinetopia

Not only can you lounge on an oversized couch, but you can also order food right from your seat. Cinetopia is in Progress Ridge Townsquare, 12345 SW Horizon Blvd #231, Beaverton, OR 97007. Telephone: 503-597-6900.

Pennsylvania

Proclaim your love at the Smith Memorial Arch’s whispering benches in Philadelphia.

Smith-Memorial-Arch-Fairmount park philadelphia pennsylvania most romantic places
Smith Memorial Arch, Fairmount Park

One sweetheart takes a seat on the stone bench in the curve of the Smith Memorial Arch while the other sits on the bench across the street. When you whisper into the monument, you will be able to clearly hear each other, despite the distance. The Whispering Benches are located in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

Rhode Island

Block Island is located 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, in the Atlantic Ocean.  It has 17 miles of beach, a gorgeous red brick lighthouse, a few sites of historic significance, and many lodging and dining options.

Southeast Lighthouse, Block Island, Rhode Island most romantic places
Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island

If you’re lucky, you might find one of the 550 glass floats hidden on the island – a perfect souvenir from your romantic day.  Block Island can be reached via ferry boat in Point Judith, Rhode Island.

South Carolina

SkyScapes of America, based in Anderson, provides romantic sunrise balloon rides. Trips are available in spring, summer and fall, and include champagne.

sunset hot air balloon south carolina most romantic places
Fly off into the sunset in a hot air balloon.

The company requires a minimum of four people to make the tour, so if you want to book a private flight – for example, to propose to your partner – be prepared to pay extra. Skyscapes of America operates their balloon rides in Anderson, SC.  Telephone: 864-221-0552.

South Dakota

Book yourself a stay at Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast in Rapid City.  Audrie’s has cozy cabins with all the comforts of home in a tranquil setting.  Most are log cabins, some have hot tubs, and all of them have big comfy beds you won’t want to leave.

audries august haus south dakota most romantic places
August Haus at Audries B&B

What could be more romantic than snuggling under the covers in a tiny log cabin?  Audrie’s Bed & Breakfast’s address is 23029 Thunderhead Falls Road, Rapid City, SD 57702. Telephone: 605-593-9361.

Tennessee

Beautiful caverns, sculpted by nature, and a charming underground lake are yours to explore at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater.

Lost sea sweetwater tennessee most romantic places
The underground lake at The Lost Sea in Sweetwater, TN

Your visit will begin with a guided tour of the caverns in which you will learn about the cavern’s exciting and colorful history.  At the bottom of the cave you will board a glass-bottom boat for an exciting trip on the Lost Sea, America’s Largest underground lake. The address for The Lost Sea is 140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 37874.  Telephone: 423-337-6616.

Texas

The Riverwalk in San Antonio is not just shops and restaurants, although those are great places to begin a romantic evening.

San Antonio Riverwalk Texas most romantic places
One of the waterfalls tucked away along San Antonio’s Riverwalk

If you walk the length of the Riverwalk, you will find many semi-secluded spots with hidden waterfalls, artwork, or other beautiful settings.  Where better to steal a kiss? The San Antonio Riverwalk is one story below the vehicle-traveled streets of downtown San Antonio.  

Utah

Watch the colors of Bryce Canyon come alive as the sun appears above the horizon at Sunrise Point.  Grab a blanket and some snacks, get up really early, and wait for sunrise to happen.

Bryce Canyon Sunrise Point Utah most romantic places
The view of Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point (at sunrise)

Bryce Canyon National Park is about 210 miles south of Provo. Telephone: 435-834-5322.

Vermont

The Inn at Round Barn Farm is a beautiful scenic weekend getaway in the Mad River Valley, a unique Vermont destination. The property features ponds, meadows and its own organic garden.

round-barn-inn-vermont most romantic places
The Richardson Room at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm

Each guest room is unique and has views of the surrounding trees, gardens, meadows and mountains. For some extra romance on your weekend vacation, request a room with a gas fireplace and a whirlpool tub. The Inn at Round Barn Farm‘s address is 1661 East Warren Road, Waitsfield, VT  05673. Telephone: 802-496-2276.

Virginia

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was voted one of the 50 most beautiful college campuses in the country.  One of the reasons why is the romantic Crim Dell Bridge.

crim-dell-bridge williamsburg virginia most romantic places
The Crim Dell Bridge on the campus of the College of William and Mary

Legend says that if two lovers cross the bridge together and kiss at the crest of it, they will be together forever. If that couple separates at any point thereafter, however, the lady must throw her ex-lover off of the bridge and into the water to break the curse of being forever single.  Choose wisely!  The Crim Dell Bridge is on the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Washington

Nothing says romance like Victorian ginger-bread style architecture, and Port Townsend Washington has got plenty of it.

Port-Townsend washington most romantic places
Port Townsend, Washington

The town is a “Victorian Seaport and Arts Community,” which not only has many beautiful buildings, but also several festivals held throughout the year.  Boating and maritime life are central elements in this port town, with regattas, weekly races and a multitude of recreational opportunities.  And you’ll enjoy all of it against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. Port Townsend is about 75 miles southwest of Bellingham.

West Virginia

A getaway to the romantic Hillbrook Inn has everything from lodge rooms to cozy cabins and luxury suites.

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The Hillbrook Inn in West Virginia

The on-site restaurant offers four- and five-course gourmet dinners.  Your stay includes a gourmet breakfast at no extra charge.  The inn also has a spa, offering facials, massages, and an array of services to pamper and relax you. The inn even offers a proposal package with roses and champagne for couples who get engaged there!  The Hillbrook Inn’s address is 4490 Summit Point Rd Charles Town, WV 25414-4682.  Telephone: 800-304-4223.

Wisconsin

The historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee originally opened in 1893 and continues to operate today.  It has a grand interior with one of the largest Victorian art collections found in any hotel in the world, sweeping staircases, painted ceilings, twinkling chandeliers… you will feel like a royal couple!

pfister-hotel-lobby milwaukee wisconsin most romantic places
The lobby of the Pfister

Be sure to get access to the Pfister Club lounge, which is located on the 23rd floor of the hotel’s expansion tower.  There, you will find views of the city, hot breakfasts, and snacks/drinks throughout the day. The Pfister‘s address is 424 East Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202.  Telephone: 800-558-8222.

Wyoming

In Jackson Hole, you and your love can ride an aerial tram 10,500 feet up to Rendezvous Peak and enjoy waffles at Corbet’s Cabin.

corbets-cabin
Corbet’s Cabin at Rendezvous Peak near Jackson Hole.

Their waffles are famous, and include such gourmet flavor combinations as peanut butter and bacon or Nutella and strawberries. Although the interior of the restaurant lacks romantic ambiance, the tram ride and breathtaking mountain views offer great opportunities to snuggle close and be romantic.  Corbet’s Cabin is atop Rendezvous Peak, Teton County, WY.  Telephone: 307-739-2688.

So, there you have it: one romantic place in each state. I could have included so many others! However, I’d be remiss to end this post without saying that romance is, first and foremost, a state of mind. You don’t need a fancy hotel or a breathtaking view in order to create a romantic moment with your loved one. (But it does help!)  😉

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

50 of the Strangest Place Names in America… and How They Came to Be

I love looking at maps and checking out the names of places.  Some of them are unique, while others are funny and a few are just downright weird.  Here are some of my favorites, including how they got their names.

Scratch Ankle, Alabama got its name from train workers who always saw the locals scratching their ankles from mosquito bites.

Mary’s Igloo, Alaska took its name from an Inupiat woman named Mary, who welcomed miners, trappers and others into her home for coffee. During that period, Mary’s Igloo was a transfer point for supplies for the gold fields upriver.

Why, Arizona derives its name from the fact that two major highways, State Routes 85 and 86, originally intersected in a Y shape. As a result of Arizona law that required city names to have at least three letters, the town’s founders named the town “Why” as opposed to simply calling it “Y.”

strange town names why arizona

Smackover, Arkansas comes from the name that French settlers gave the town in 1686: “sumac couvert,” which translates to “covered in sumac bushes.”

Weed, California has nothing to do with marijuana or poor landscaping.  Rather, the town gets its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer Abner Weed, who discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber. The town motto is “Weed like to welcome you.” (ha ha ha!)

Troublesome, Colorado takes its name from nearby Troublesome Creek.  The creeek got its name because soldiers had difficulty crossing it.

Yeehaw Junction, Florida got its name in the 1950s. Some say the community’s name comes from how locals would yell “Yeehaw!”  Others believe the name is close to the Seminole language word meaning “wolf”. According to town historians and several original newspaper articles, the town’s original name was either “Jackass Junction” or “Jackass Crossing.” That strange town name stemmed from local ranchers ring burros to visit the Desert Inn (the local brothel).

Experiment, Georgia took its name from the University of Georgia’s Agricultural Experiment Station, which is located there.

Dickshooter, Idaho received its name from Dick Shooter, a man who “established a homestead there.”

Goofy Ridge, Illinois was a camp near the river bank where moonshiners and other carousers met weekly to do their drinking. One night, a local game warden declared his relative sobriety by vowing that he could shoot a walnut off the head of a volunteer. The game warden placed the target on the volunteer’s head, aimed his .22 rifle, and shot the nut right off. A witness described the incident as “one damned goofy thing to do,” and the camp was consequently known as Goofy Ridge.

French Lick, Indiana (also hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird) was originally a French trading post built near a spring and salt lick.

strange town names french lick indiana

Fertile, Iowa got its name due to the quality of the soil in the valley there.

Protection, Kansas received its name from a political issue in the 1884 presidential selection.  There was a lot of popular support for a protective tariff, and the town drew its name from that.

Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky got its name because when looking at a map of Ballard County, it resembles a monkey’s head. The town Monkey’s Eyebrow is, of course, where the monkey’s eyebrow would be.

Boring, Maryland‘s name was not chosen for the pace of life, but for postmaster David Boring.

Hell, Michigan offers multiple theories for the origin of its name. My favorite: the original settler, George Reeves, was asked what to name the town when Michigan achieved statehood. His response was a surly, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell for all I care.”

strange town names hell michigan

Sleepy Eye, Minnesota took its name from Sleepy Eye Lake, which was named after Chief Sleepy Eye of the Sioux. Chief Sleepy Eye was known as a compassionate person with droopy eyelids.

Tightwad, Missouri got its name when a store owner cheated a customer, who was a postman, by charging him an extra 50 cents for a better watermelon. (Some sources claim the transaction involved a rooster rather than a watermelon.)

Two Dot, Montana got its name from the cattle brand of George R. Wilson, who donated the land for the town. “Two Dot Wilson” had a cattle brand of two dots, placed side by side on the hip of his cattle.

Searchlight, Nevada (hometown of US Senator Harry Reid) received its when George Frederick Colton was looking for gold in the area in 1897. He supposedly said that it would take a searchlight to find gold ore there.

Loveladies, New Jersey began as a small, 10-acre island in the bay adjacent to a US Life-Saving Station was owned by a man named Thomas Lovelady. The area was called Lovelady’s, which eventually evolved to Loveladies.

strange town names loveladies new jersey

Rush, New York was either named after the rushes growing along the creek, or after Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father of the United States.

Whynot, North Carolina came from residents debating a title for their community. A man asked, “Why not name the town Whynot and let’s go home?” Nearby towns at the time with equally interesting names include Erect, Hemp, and Lonely.

Zap, North Dakota got its name because of a coal mine at the edge of town. The railroad company official in charge of naming new villages knew a coal-mining town in Scotland called Zapp, and thought that would be a good name here. However, he chose to Americanize the name and spelled it with only one “p”.

Pee Pee Township, Ohio took its name from Pee Pee Creek.  The creek got its name when an early settler inscribed his initials (P. P.) on a tree along its banks.

Okay, Oklahoma took its name from the OK Truck Manufacturing Company. Okay? OK.

Idiotville, Oregon got its name because of its remote location.  People said that only an idiot would work there.

Intercourse, Pennsylvania in Amish country, received its name in 1814. In those days, the word ‘intercourse’ meant the social interaction and support shared in the community of faith.

Ninetysix, South Carolina has several different theories for the origin of its name. My favorite is that it is an interpretation of a Welsh expression, “nant-sych,” meaning “dry gulch.”

strange town names ninety-seix south carolina

 

Two Strike, South Dakota received its name in honor of Lakota Chief Two Strike, whose native name was “Nomkahpa,” meaning “Knocks Two Off.” The chief’s claim to fame was that, in a battle with the Utes, he knocked two warriors off their horses with a single blow of his war club.

Sweet Lips, Tennessee received its name from settlers who declared water from a creek to be “sweet to the lips.”  Alternative versions of the story say it was wandering hobos or thirsty Civil War soldiers.

Uncertain, Texas derives its name from surveyors who were attempting to delineate the border between Texas and Louisiana.  They were uncertain as to which side of the line they were on, hence the name.

Humptulips, Washington comes from a local Native American language, meaning ‘hard to pole’, referring to the difficulty local Native Americans had poling their canoes along the Humptulips River.

War, West Virginia took its name from the nearby War Creek.  The creek got its name from the frequent battles between Native Americans near the stream.

strange town names war west virginia

Spread Eagle, Wisconsin got its name from the Spread Eagle chain of lakes. When seen from above, the lakes resemble an eagle with its wings spread.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Wizard of Oz Road Trip

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Wizard of Oz Road Trip

Are you a fan of the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz? Well, have I got a road trip for you! (Technically, it may be more of a bucket list than a road trip.  These sites are on both coasts of the USA and a few places in between. It really isn’t practical for driving unless you have a lot of time.)

Start in the northeast with Chittenango, New York.  This town is the birthplace of The Wizard of Oz author Frank Baum, and also the home of the All Things Oz Museum. According to the museum staff, “All Things Oz is more than a tribute to a book series; it is a fascinating trip through the life of its author, his wife, Maud Gage, and all the many experiences that shaped his imagination and his world.” The museum also coordinates a yearly Oz-stravaganza festival.

wizard of oz road trip All Things Oz Museum
All Things Oz Museum, Chittenango, NY

From New York, head south to our nation’s capital and visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC.  There you will see one of the four original pairs of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the movie. (Size 5!)

wizard of oz road trip dorothy's Ruby Slippers judy garland
Ruby Slippers, National Museum of American History, Washington DC

From DC, keep heading south. If you’ve scrolled through Pinterest, you may have seen an abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park in North Carolina. Well, it was a theme park, and it is in North Carolina, but it is not abandoned. The Land of Oz is a privately owned property that is under 24 hour surveillance, and trespassers are prosecuted. Fortunately, however, the site is open to the public at various times throughout the year.

Wizard of oz road trip Land of Oz NC
Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, NC

In Chicago, visit Oz Park.  Take a stroll through the park and you’ll be greeted by statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and everyone’s favorite, Dorothy & Toto.

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Scarecrow Statue, Oz Park, Chicago

In Wamego, Kansas, there is the Oz Museum, which features a collection of over 25,000 Oz artifacts. Since the founding of the Museum in April 2004, other small businesses with the Oz theme have opened, including the Oz Winery and Toto’s Tacoz. In addition, on the first weekend of October, Wamego holds its Annual OZtoberFEST, an Oktoberfest-type celebration with an Oz theme. OZfest typically features Hot Air Balloon Rides, Tallgrass Brewery Beer Garden, the Yellow Brick Road Bike Ride, and a local stage or music production.

Wizard of oz road trip Oz Museum Wamego Kansas
The Oz Museum, Wamego KS

And now, head west to the California coast.  We’re going to Hollywood!

Visit the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, and look for the stars of Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bloger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), Frank Morgan (The Wizard), and Billie Burke (Glinda). The Munchkins’ star, added in 2007, is the most recent Wizard of Oz addition to the Walk of Fame.

Wizard of oz road trip Munchkins Star walk of fame hollywood
Hollywood Walk of Fame

After visiting the Walk of Fame, head over to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  The cemetery contains a memorial to Terry the Cairn Terrier, also known as Dorothy’s dog, Toto.

wizard of oz road trip Toto Memorial hollywood
Toto Memorial in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

And when you’ve finished touring all of these great locations, remember to click your heels three times and say, “There’s no place like home…”

Trivia: The Statue of Liberty, NY

Trivia: The Statue of Liberty, NY

A New York Icon

The Statue of Liberty has graced New York Harbor since 1886.  Most people know that it was a gift to the United States from the people of France.  Some (those who have seen National Treasure: Book of Secrets, for instance) know that there is a smaller version of the same statue in France.  Some may know that the date July 4, 1776 is inscribed on the tablet she holds.  But here are some things that most people might not know at all:

Statue of Liberty Trivia
Photo via Flickr by aherrero.

What You Probably Don’t Know About Her

  1. The statue’s full name is Liberty Enlightening the World.
  2. The female figure is Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.
  3. To climb up into the crown on her head, you must ascend 354 stairs.
  4. Once there, you can look out at the harbor through 25 windows.
  5. Approximately 4 million people visit the statue each year.
  6. Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower, also designed Liberty’s ‘spine’ – four iron columns supporting a metal framework.
  7. Three hundred different types of hammers were used to create the sculpture.  Not 300 hammers, mind you, but 300 types of hammers.
  8. Although you cannot see Lady Liberty’s feet clearly, she is in fact standing among a broken shackle and chains, with her right foot raised.  This is to depict forward movement away from oppression and slavery.
  9. The statue has been destroyed on the big screen in at least three movies – The Planet of the Apes, Independence Day, and The Day After Tomorrow.
  10. Since 1984, the statue has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  11. In high winds (50 mph), the statue can sway up to three inches.  Her upraised arm can sway up to five inches.
  12. Several people have attempted suicide by jumping off the statue.  However, only two were successful.
  13. In 1944 the lights in the crown flashed “dot-dot-dot-dash” which in the Morse code means V, for Victory in Europe.
  14. In 1982, it was discovered that the head had been installed two feet off center.
  15. From the time of its installation until 1902, the statue also served as a lighthouse, with visibility up to 24 miles away.

The Statue of Liberty National Monument is located on Liberty Island near New York City. Telephone 212-363-3200.  Liberty Island is open every day from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM, except December 25 (closed). Hours change seasonally.  To assist you in planning your visit, there is a free app for the Statue of Liberty & the nearby Ellis Island Museum of Immigration.

Photo Credit: The image used in the Pinterest graphic for this post is via Flickr by Ramanathan Kathiresan.

Statue of Liberty trivia
Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine, NYC

Peace Fountain at St. John the Divine, NYC

The plaque at the base of the Peace Fountain outside the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine in New York City reads:

Peace Fountain celebrates the triumph of Good over Evil, and sets before us the world’s opposing forces—violence and harmony, light and darkness, life and death—which God reconciles in his peace.When the fountain operates, four courses of water cascade down the freedom pedestal into a maelstrom evoking the primordial chaos of Earth. Foursquare around the base, flames of freedom rise in witness to the future. Ascending from the pool, the freedom pedestal is shaped like the double helix of DNA, the key molecule of life. Atop the pedestal a giant crab reminds us of life’s origins in sea and struggle. Facing West, a somnolent Moon reflects tranquility from a joyous Sun smiling to the East. The swirls encircling the heavenly bodies bespeak the larger movements of the cosmos with which earthly life is continuous.

Nine giraffes—among the most peaceable of animals—nestle and prance about the center. One rests its head on the bosom of the winged Archangel Michael, described in the bible as the leader of the heavenly host against the forces of Evil. St. Michael’s sword is vanquishing his chief opponent, Satan, whose decapitated figure plunges into the depths, his head dangling beneath the crab’s claw. Tucked away next to the Sun, a lion and lamb relax together in the peace of God’s kingdom, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

I’ve admitted it before: I’m an art bigot. I just don’t get modern art, and I didn’t get this statue, either. But it was interesting to look at, and impressive in size. But as for offering commentary and analysis, I’ll leave that to the description quoted above.

cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain

I just kept walking around it because every time I made a circle I saw new things that I had completely missed before. There’s a lot to take in.

cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain new york city nyc

cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain new york nyc

cathedral church of st john the divine peace fountain new york nyc

The Peace Fountain is located outside the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, at 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025.