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San Diego: A Brief History

  February 12, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Long before it officially became the “City in Motion” – really long before, as in 20,000 years or so – San Diego was indeed on the move, as it was first settled by hunting peoples of northeast Asia who initially crossed over the Bering Strait. Here’s a look at how it evolved from a scraper-maker culture into “America’s Finest City.”

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Vegas Uncork’d: April 28 to May 1

  February 10, 2016  |    David Abolafia

According to Eventbrite, Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing food-and-drink event cities in the country. One key ingredient in this recipe for culinary sophistication is Vegas Uncork’d, considered by many to be the nation’s top food and wine festival. This decade old event offers exclusive one-of-a-kind experiences over four days that capture the spirit of the Sin City and the imagination of any culinary enthusiast.

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The Sounds of San Diego

  February 9, 2016  |    David Abolafia

While not as well-known for its music scene as some other West Coast cities, San Diego has been the birthplace (literally and figuratively) of numerous music acts. Check out these popular artists who got their start in America’s Finest City:

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The Cinema of San Antonio

  February 5, 2016  |    David Abolafia

Remember “The Alamo” – the epic 1960 western directed by and starring John Wayne? Despite its subject, the movie wasn’t actually filmed in San Antonio. Fortunately for Mission City, there have been numerous Hollywood productions that went on location to use the Texas scenery as a backdrop. As you explore San Antonio, you’re likely to see reminders of some of these flicks:

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The Specialties of San Antonio

  February 2, 2016  |    David Abolafia

When you return home from a trip to San Antonio, you may remember the Alamo… but you certainly won’t forget the fabulous food. With an assortment of influences from Mexican to Southwest steakhouses, from South American to Italian, savoring the city’s cuisine is a mission all its own. Here’s a dozen of our favorites, listed alphabetically:

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The Rides of Your Life in Orlando

  January 21, 2016  |    David Abolafia

While there is much to enjoy about Orlando that doesn’t exist inside a theme park, these attractions remain a top draw to the area. Fortunately, the parks offer plenty of thrills for adrenaline junkies, with rides galore to get the heart racing and the blood pumping. Here’s our list of O-Town’s top coasters and other thrill rides:

  1. Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (Disney Animal Kingdom) – Careen through the Himalayan mountains on a speeding train while avoiding the clutches of the mythic Abominable Snowman. Listed in the 2011 edition of “Guinness World Records” as the most expensive roller coaster in the world – including sets and extras, the total cost of the ride exceeded $100 million, following six years of planning and construction. Expedition Everest (pictured above) was the winner of the 2006 Theme Park Insider Award for the “World’s Best New Theme Park Attraction.”
  2. The Incredible Hulk (Universal Islands of Adventure) — Enter the laboratories of Dr. Bruce Banner and marvel at the towering scientific machinery. As you approach his gamma-ray accelerator warning lights flash and sirens sound – something’s gone terribly wrong with the experiment. Accelerates to 40 miles per hour in approximately two seconds before speeding through seven inversions. Your surroundings go rushing by you in a blur as you feel yourself transformed into The Incredible Hulk. In 1999, the ride was voted the #1 roller coaster by Discovery Channel viewers. [Ride closed until Summer 2016.]
  3. Rock N Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (Disney Hollywood Studios) – Blast off in a super-stretch limousine through the darkened freeways of Los Angeles to the rockin’ tunes of Aerosmith. The coaster accelerates from zero to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, and riders experience 4.5 G as they enter the first inversion – more than an astronaut would on a Space Shuttle launch! The soundtrack for the ride depends on which car you ride in, with different Aerosmith hits played in each limo – with some lyrical changes created just for the attraction.
  4. Manta (SeaWorld) – Find out what it’s like to spin, glide, skim and fly like a giant ray when you experience Manta – the only flying roller coaster of its kind in the world. Riders are taunted by a head-first, face-down inverted nosedive… and that’s just the beginning. Experience the full force and power of riding the high seas – through four inversions: a pretzel loop, two inline twists and one corkscrew – all on one of the smoothest tracks in the world. Named “Best New Attraction” by in July 2009, Manta placed third in Amusement Today magazine’s poll for the Best New Ride of 2009. Check out a video of a ride on Manta below.
  5. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (Universal Studios) – Adrenaline pumping and music thumping, you start climbing straight up. A moment later, you’re screaming at 65 mph, 17 stories over Universal Studios. Gasping with excitement, you’ll rock out to the song YOU pick before strapping in. And, it’s all recorded on video. Edit your adventure into a music video, and you can buy a copy to take home or send to your friends. Features six near-miss moments and first-ever thrills, including a record-breaking loop as riders soar through such sections as “The Double Take,” “The Treble Clef” and “The Jump Cut.”
  6. Dragon Challenge (Universal Islands of Adventure) – You’ll need the courage of a Triwizard Tournament™ champion as you mount one of two dragons – an aggressive Chinese Fireball or a ferocious Hungarian Horntail – that twist and loop in an intertwining roller coaster chase across the sky. Dragon Challenge – part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – is actually two high-speed roller coasters; each “dragon” is a completely different ride. Dragon Challenge initially opened in 1999 (when it was known as Dueling Dragons), as one of Islands of Adventure’s original attractions. When the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010, the coaster was refurbished and renamed as part of this new section of the park.

Honorable mentions go to Revenge of the Mummy (Universal Studios), Kraken (SeaWorld), the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney Hollywood Studios) and the classic Space Mountain (Disney Magic Kingdom).

To plan your own thrilling vacation to Orlando (or any of our other exciting destinations), drop us a line at

Reno refers to itself as the “Biggest Little City in the World,” and it can certainly seem that way when compared to its rambling, gambling cousin down south (Las Vegas). But where Reno can certainly puff out its chest (and belly) and put on a big show of its own is in its fantastic (and fantastically varied) cuisine. Here’s a look at our favorite palate-pleasing stops (in alphabetical order) in The Neon Babylon:

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Family-Friendly Attractions in Branson

  January 12, 2016  |    David Abolafia

When planning a family vacation, it’s important to factor in the “family” part. Many travel destinations offer attractions for all ages, so it’s a good idea to do your research ahead of time – thereby making sure your itinerary has plenty for the littler ones to enjoy. For travelers to Branson, there’s an abundance of activities for the kids – and the kids at heart – to enjoy.

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Portland Rose Festival: May-June 2016

  January 7, 2016  |    David Abolafia

At the heart of Portland’s popular culture for more than a century, the Portland Rose Festival has its roots in tradition, with inspired programming that embraces both the contemporary and the nostalgic. Visionary city leaders started the festival during the first decade of the 20th century to put Portland on the map and brand it “the summer capital of the world.” Read More

Portland, Oregon, is a city known for many things, from its arts scene to its cuisine, from the major corporations headquartered there to the diverse culture of its residents. But whatever the combination, the city has had a great influence on people – both those who were born there, and those with some other connection to the city – many of whom have gone on to do amazing things.

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The Sporting Life in Phoenix

  December 29, 2015  |    David Abolafia

If you’re a sports fan, Phoenix can be a terrific place to visit. That’s because the city is home to franchises in each of the four major sports – a claim to fame that many more well-known “sports cities,” such as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston and Dallas, cannot make. Although in some cases, the teams that call the area home are relative newcomers to their leagues, this quartet has given residents (and visitors) plenty of reasons to cheer.

  • Phoenix Suns (NBA) – The first major professional sports franchise in the Phoenix market, the Suns were an expansion team that began play in the 1968-69 season. The team was originally owned by a group that included entertainers Andy Williams, Bobbie Gentry and Ed Ames. As of the end of the 2014-15 season, the Suns have the league’s fourth-best all-time winning percentage, and have made the playoffs 29 times in their first 47 seasons. They have reached the NBA finals twice, but hold the dubious honor of being the team with the best franchise win-loss record that has never won the NBA championship. The team currently plays its home games at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix.
  • Arizona Cardinals (NFL) – The oldest continuously run football franchise in the United States, the Cardinals were founded in Chicago in 1898. They were a charter member of the NFL in 1920 (and are one of only two of the original charter members still in operation). The club moved to St. Louis in 1960 and played in that city until 1987. Before the 1988 NFL season, the team moved to Tempe and played their home games at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium. Even with the move west, they played in the NFC East division until the league realigned before the 2002 season. The Cardinals reached Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2012, the Cardinals became the first NFL franchise to lose 700 games since its inception; however, they remain one of two NFL teams never to have lost a playoff game at home. And as of this writing, they have clinched their second consecutive NFC West division title. Since 2006, the Cardinals have played their home games at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
  • Arizona Coyotes (NHL) – The organization began as the Winnipeg Jets, the most successful team in the short-lived World Hockey Association (WHA), taking home the championship trophy in three of the league’s seven seasons. When the WHA folded in 1979, the Jets were one of four teams absorbed into the NHL. The club relocated to Phoenix in 1996, with “Coyotes” chosen in a “name the team” contest. The team made the playoffs in five of its first six seasons in its new home. Then, after a dry spell (which saw all-time great Wayne Gretzky step in as partial owner and, for a brief period, coach), they returned to the playoffs in 2010. After the 2013-14 season, the team – which plays its home games at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, outside the Phoenix city limits – changed its name to the Arizona Coyotes, to include all hockey fans in the state.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) – In 1995, Major League Baseball awarded Arizona an expansion franchise, to begin play for the 1998 season. The ownership group – led by Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo – was so confident that they would get the team that they held a name-the-team contest (with the winner receiving lifetime season tickets) several weeks before they actually got the bid (and paid the $130 million franchise fee). Initially coached by Buck Showalter, the Diamondbacks won the National League West division in just their second season (1999). However, following a disappointing 2000 campaign, Colangelo fired Showalter and replaced him with Bob Brenly, who had been working as an analyst on the team’s television broadcasts. In 2001, Brenly (along with ace pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling) led the Diamondbacks to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees. It was only the team’s fourth season of play, making them the youngest expansion franchise ever to win the World Series. It was also the first major professional sports championship for the state of Arizona. Since its inception the team has played its home games at Chase Field (formerly known as Bank One Ballpark).

To get to Phoenix to catch a game, or to explore one of our other terrific destinations – just for the sport of it – send us an email at

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