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Incredible Sights to See, Nationwide

  August 18, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Anyone can go sightseeing, any time. If you think about it, as long as your eyes are open (and you’re not in total darkness), you’re seeing something. Of course, certain spots on Earth – including the United States – provide much more amazing sights to see.

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While avid readers appreciate the art form of the written word, the buildings that hold so many words – and the books that contain them – can be marvels in and of themselves. Here’s a look at some of the most architecturally astonishing libraries around the country.

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America’s Most Unusual Museums

  July 18, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Today, people tend to associate the word “museum” with a stodgy assortment of paintings, sculpture, dinosaurs or historic artifacts. However, strictly speaking, a museum is defined as “a building or place where works of art, scientific specimens or other objects of permanent value are kept and displayed.” And in playing upon on the idea of “one man’s trash” being “another man’s treasure,” there are many unique items that are considered valuable to the people who collect them. Hence, America is filled with museums with far-flung subjects and unique inventory. Here are some of our favorites, listed alphabetically.

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For three weeks each October, the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix transforms into a spectacular community celebration with all the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors you crave. From grandstand events to concerts, entries competitions to livestock, and all the thrills of the midway, make the fair the backdrop of your most vibrant memories.

A popular family event, the Arizona State Fair is one of the Top 20 Arizona USA Events and Festivals and one of the top five state fairs in the country. It attracts over 1 million residents from all over the “Grand Canyon State” and beyond, who come to enjoy the traditional and new entertainment including national concerts, as well as rodeos, racing, livestock, homemaking arts, rides, and tasty treats at numerous food booths. Popular regular and new events are the Arizona State Fair 5k Fun Run/Walk, United States Armwrestling Championships, and more.

The Fair was first held in 1884 (back when Arizona was still a territory), when residents organized the Arizona Territorial Fair to provide family entertainment. The fair was held near the banks of the Salt River; entertainment included horse, pony and mule races, while agriculture, cattle and home economics were the common exhibits. Due to flooding, the Great Depression, World War II and other events, it didn’t become a regular annual event until 1946.

Today, the fair typically has roughly 75 amusement rides – including La Grande Wheel, the largest transportable Ferris wheel in the World – 110 food booths and 300 commercial sales booths. In addition, the Fair will also host an impressive array of concerts, featuring chart-topping artists across various musical genres.

The Arizona State Fair runs Wednesdays through Sundays, October 7-30. For information on planning a trip to Phoenix to take part in the festivities, drop us a line at info@taketwonights.com or visit www.taketwonights.com. To learn more about our other destinations and various travel deals, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For the differently abled, travel can be a challenge. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped make many businesses and attractions more accessible, it’s important to know before you go – so that you can choose destinations that can accommodate special needs, and make the most of your vacation. Here are some of our top spots for travelers with disabilities:

  • Orlando – This Central Florida city is great for the disabled because of its mild weather. The modern wheelchair accessible construction, combined with its wonderful transit system, make Orlando one of the most disability friendly cities around. Plus, there is virtually an unlimited amount of entertainment in the area. Every hotel and motel in Florida is required by law to have a special room or rooms equipped for wheelchairs, often with wheel-in showers. Many attractions at the parks, especially the newer ones, are designed to be accessible to a wide variety of guests. People with wheelchairs and their parties are often given preferential treatment so they can avoid lines. The assistance available is outlined in the guide maps you get as you enter the parks. Wheelchair and electric cart rentals are available at most major attractions, but you’ll be most comfortable in your chair or cart from home if you can bring it. Keep in mind, however, that wheelchairs wider than two feet may be difficult to navigate through some attractions.
  • Portland – The city has many different transit options including, bus, light rail and even streetcars – all of which accommodate wheelchairs. However, the TriMet’s transportation system has a Lift service that provides riders with more than 250 minibuses and over a dozen cars that will take them anywhere in the city. Many of the area’s attractions are either accessible, or make appropriate accommodations. These include Rex Hill Vineyards, Argyle Winery, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail and, in the Columbia River Gorge, the Skamania Lodge Zip Tour and the Vista House.
  • Reno – This vibrant city has wheelchair-accessible buses and rapid transit systems that offer discounted fares for those with a disability. The access to a quality transit systems helps to make the city feel small. Plus they provide paratransit services within the city and to some outlying areas as well. Most of the casinos, shows and restaurants are wheelchair accessible because the city has many tourists from all over the world. This is a place where one will never get bored, and besides the great nightlife, the city has many handicapped accessible parks to enjoy.
  • Seattle – Even with boatloads of rain and numerous hilly areas, Seattle makes this list because of its modern transit system. The city offers handicap-accessible buses and light rail lines that are discounted to wheelchair users. There is also a paratransit van service that will take a user anywhere within the large city. There is a rideshare program for the handicapped and maps that show downtown routes that are accessible to those with disabilities. This helps to make a notoriously tough city easy to access. (Key reasons Seattle is ranked #1 by WheelchairTravel.org as the most wheelchair accessible city in the United States.) While some of the older parts of the city present obstacles – including steeply angled sidewalks and ineffective curb cuts – most people find the city’s culture and overall livability are worth a few challenges. Most modern buildings and facilities are readily navigable, including the Space Needle observation deck, Boeing airplane factory, Puget Sound harbor cruise, Seattle Aquarium and the Experience Music Project Museum.
  • Madison – Madison has been investing heavily in good mass transit for 25 years, and its ridership per capita almost rivals big cities. All the fixed-route buses are 100 percent accessible on weekends and holidays, and mostly accessible during the week, depending on what routes you use. All of Madison’s parks have accessible parking and paved pathways. Numerous area attraction, including the Kenosha Civil War Museum, Bristol Renaissance Faire and the Jelly Belly Center have received positive reviews on JJ’s List, a website devoted to meeting the needs of consumers with disabilities.
  • San Antonio – Though known for its history, the Texas city is ultra-modern in its accessibility. For instance, it’s home to Morgan’s Wonderland – the only large-scale theme park in the world dedicated to those with special needs (and their families). The “ultra-accessible” park offers numerous rides and attractions… and entry is free for special-needs children and adults. Meanwhile, Six Flags Fiesta is considered one of the most ADA-accessible theme parks in the nation. Sea World is also plenty inclusive for the wheelchair set, with rides like Shamu Express and Journey to Atlantis. River Walk – the state’s top tourist attraction – is brimming with shops, bar, restaurants, museums and special events, and there are plenty of elevators and ramps to transport people down, one story below the heart of the city. Finally, San Antonio Missions Historical Park, which preserves four of the city’s five Spanish frontier missions, offers several activities for people with disabilities.

To learn more about all of our accessible destinations, drop us a line at info@takethreenights.com or visit www.takethreenights.com. To receive additional information, including travel specials, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Seattle is a city that’s long been recognized for its rich musical legacy – a history that is constantly being rewritten with continued contributions to the artistic canon. And for much of the time that Seattle’s been on the musical map, there’s been an annual event that’s helped the city stake its claim on the soundscape.

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When searching for a vacation destination that’s right for every member of your family – including the tail-wagging types – it can help to make sure you’re barking up the right tree. Some cities go out of their way to provide an inviting atmosphere for man’s best friend; here are a few of our favorites, in alphabetical order.

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Visitors to Kennebunk and nearby Kennebunkport, Maine, quickly discover what New Englanders have known for ages: This coastal community is one of the most charming year-round travel destinations, with a rich history, scenic landscape and fascinating attractions that make it an ideal spot for a quintessential family vacation.

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Great Places to Stay Up Late

  June 3, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Are you a night owl? Do you enjoy burning the midnight oil and venturing out into a city that never sleeps? While much of the world is tucked into bed before the witching hour, the dedicated corps of insomniacs and party people knows where to go for fun, food and excitement. Here are a few of our favorite “up late” places, listed alphabetically.

  • Austin – Got a song in your heart that can’t be contained? Austin Karaoke is open nightly ‘til 4 a.m. (Fridays and Saturdays ‘til 5). Up for gawking at some architecture? The grounds of the state capitol are well-lit and secure, or eyeball the skyline off the Pfluger pedestrian bridge. Two of the city’s most beloved breakfast-friendly restaurants—Magnolia Café and Kerbey Lane Café—stay open all night. Even when it’s after midnight, you can still find a whole world of possibilities, including French (Justine’s Brasserie), burgers (Casino El Camino), hot dogs (Frank), Vietnames (888), sandwiches (Easy Tiger), baked goods (Mrs. Johnson’s), Thai (East Side King), Tex-Mex (Las Cazuelas) and Texas chili (Texas Chili Parlor). On Fridays and Saturdays, even more eateries cater to the late-night crowd.
  • Las Vegas – More and more, the only sin in Sin City is going to bed early! Thanks to the never-closed action of the city’s casinos (in itself enough to sustain many overnighters), more bars and restaurants are doing “reverse happy hours.” For example, SushiSamba at the Palazzo has a discounted Samba Hour, starting at 11 p.m.! Vegas is also the perfect place to go people-watching, whether you’re sipping the bubbly at Fizz – the champagne lounge at Caesars Palace, open until 4 a.m. – or chowing down on steak and eggs at The Peppermill, a 24-hour, Rat Pack-era diner.
  • New Orleans – No matter what day the calendar claims it is, the Crescent City (pictured) offers a wild weekend atmosphere. A great example: HUSTLE, the legendary no-cover dance party, every Saturday night at Hi-Ho Lounge. DJ Soul Sister spins underground disco, rare groove, true school hip-hop, fusion jazz movers and more until 3:30 a.m. Movie mavens can get their midnight fix at the Prytania Theatre, which does the tradition proud with BYOB showings on Friday and Saturday nights. For live music that’s in concert with the city’s rich heritage, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse does midnight shows on weekends.
  • Portland – Leave it to Portland to kick karaoke up a notch or three. For instance, every Monday night at Dante’s, Karaoke from Hell gives you the opportunity to sing from its 500+ song list, backed by a live band, until 2 a.m. Ambassador Restaurant & Lounge, meanwhile, lets you perform karaoke until 2:30, with a fog machine to provide an ‘80s music video vibe. Plenty of the city’s great food carts stay open late, too, such as sandwich truck Pressed – open on weekends ‘til 2:30 a.m.. And if you’re jonesing for a Cap’n Crunch-encrusted pastry at 5 a.m., just head on over to the 24-hour pastry paradise that is Voodoo Doughnut.
  • San Diego – In a beach town like San Diego, surfers often find that the best way to hit the waves early is to simply not go to sleep! So while you’re waiting for dawn to break, you can bowl a few frames at the East Village Tavern and Bowl, which does their own version of a reverse happy hour, with bowling just $3 a game from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Meanwhile, the Tavern is a terrific spot to savor the city’s acclaimed craft beer scene.) And to fuel up before searching for swells, La Posta de Acapulco – a 24-hour taqueria – starts serving huevos rancheros and other breakfast items at 2 a.m.
  • Savannah – In the cloak of darkness, Savannah gets spooky… and fun! Savannah Ghost Walks offers a late-night walking tour of the city’s most notable ghosts, hidden burial grounds, and exorcisms. Meanwhile, many of the local haunts stay open until 3 a.m. If it’s vittles you crave, Waffle House is open 24 hours, or you can stock up on everything from cheese grits to European chocolate at the open-all-night Parker’s Market Urban Gourmet. After all, as Johnny Mercer wrote, you’ve got to “ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive.”
  • Seattle – In the city where coffee culture was forever changed, people are often up past a sensible bedtime. Bauhaus Books and Coffee keeps its espresso machines cranking until 1 a.m., while Anchors Down serves java-infused cocktails—like a Stumptown-and-stout martini—until 2 a.m. on weekends. For a classic snack, head to one of the Dick’s Drive-Ins, where burgers start at $1.35 and doors stay open until 2 a.m.

For an after-hours glimpse at any of our caffeine-fueled destinations, visit our website at www.taketwonights.com. If you have questions, drop us a line at info@taketwonights.com. To explore and get additional information about all of late-night spots, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

It has often been said that “getting there is half the fun.” While that old adage may be true, it does leave out a key distinction: The journey doesn’t necessarily stop once you arrive. If you’re a fan of road trips and hitting the highway, then your destination is just another starting point — for an adventure on wheels. America is criss-crossed by an amazing tapestry of paved roads; some traverse the distance between cities, others seem to follow a dreamer’s path – one where scenic marvels are more important than miles. It is on these beautiful byways where you can get wonderfully lost, even if you know exactly where you are. Here are a few spots that, with their proximity to romantic ribbons of asphalt, will definitely get your motor running:

  • Bluebonnet Trail (Austin/Houston). Between the two lies the Lone Star State’s most beautiful scenery, especially from March to May when the wild bluebonnets are in bloom. From Austin, you’ll pass a chain of seven interconnected lakes on the Colorado River, including Lake Buchanan, a wilderness resort area popular with fishermen and artists. To admire even more of the state’s native flowers, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, named for the First Lady who made national beautification a priority.
  • Olympic Peninsula Loop (Seattle). Highway 101 loops around the largest road-free area in the continental U.S. Starting in Seattle, head northwest to climb into the Hoh River rainforest, dominated by ancient Sitka spruce and western hemlock. You can spy the San Juan Islands from the top of Hurricane Ridge, and at low tide, the pools on Olympic beaches are rife with starfish, sand dollars, and crabs. While out this way, you can take a break at the spooky logging town of Forks, a must for fans of the “Twilight” books and movies.
  • Great River Road (New Orleans). There are tons of entry and exit points along the Great River Road, which follows both sides of the Mississippi through 10 states. But when it hits Louisiana, the road offers a special peek into the world of antebellum southern living. Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, drive under broad oak canopies and forests dripping with kudzu to view the colonnaded, plantation-era “Big Houses.” On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can take a tour of Oak Alley to hear “The Colonel” recount the effects of the Civil War on the lives of plantation families.
  • Cades Cove Drive (Gatlinburg). An 11-mile, one-lane scenic loop around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Free and open to the public, from sunrise through sunset, the drive brings riders deep into a region where bears and deer roam free. Along the paved road, you’ll pass deserted yet well-preserved cabins, stores, barns and mills that dot the way. Pick up the guidebook at the beginning of the loop for an informed tour as you cruise along. As you go through the loop, keep your speed in check – somewhere around 10 mph is recommended – to optimize wildlife sightings.
  • Red Rock Scenic Byway (Sedona). This highly acclaimed National Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 179, earned the distinction as Arizona’s first All-American Road. It begins shortly after you exit off Interstate 17 and winds through the evergreen pinion-covered Coconino National Forest, with several scenic pullouts. You can also discover the extraordinary, prehistoric Red Rocks with nearby parking and all levels of hiking and biking trails. Although it’s only 7.5 miles long, the byway is home to three public golf courses, as well as the largest petroglyph site in the Verde Valley. So much to see and do!
  • Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas). A different kind of beauty can be seen in the neon phenomenon that lights up the night. The Strip – which, technically, isn’t in Las Vegas, but rather the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester – is a 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South. Most of it has been designated an All-American Road, and it is considered a scenic route at night. One of the most visible aspects of Las Vegas’ cityscape is its use of dramatic architecture and lights. The rapidly evolving skyline and constant modernization of hotels, casinos, restaurants, residential high-rises and entertainment offerings have established the Strip as one of the most popular travel destinations in the United States.

To educate yourself on the many picturesque destinations – around which you can create your own road trips, visit our website at www.taketwonights.com. If you have questions, drop us a line at info@taketwonights.com. To explore and get additional information about all of our road-worthy vacation spots, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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