Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

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Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

“America ….. is the land of the richness of life, of the fullness of every hour in the day, the country which gives you the sense of carrying out a huge amount of activity, even though in fact you achieve very little, the country where solitude is impossible.” Italo Calvino

America is big and there is so much to see in the land of the free and home of the brave. The geography, climate, wildlife and people are extremely diverse. We have a brief history compared to Europe and the UK but it is interesting. Here are ten places in no particular order that I love to visit.

Washington DC is the capital of the country and our political center. That might not sound like the place to be be right now but it’s beautiful in the spring with the cherry blossoms in bloom, and in the fall with the leaves changing color. DC is a walkable city if you stay downtown.You have to do the basics. First there are the monuments – Lincoln, Washington, Martin Luther King, Jefferson and WWll. You can see them at night as well. Get your Capitol and White House Tour tickets before you come. It’s fun to just walk down the National Mall and see all the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums all over the city. I also like Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Portrait Gallery and my favorite the National Gallery Of Art. Union Market has an amazing food scene and the food in DC is eclectic and delicious. If you have kids, the FBI and the Mint are fun to see.

People from Los Angeles love San Francisco. Their rich people are techies not Hollywood types. It is geographically tiny and you can walk everywhere.  Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is cool.  Riding the cable car is an excellent way to see the city.  Taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island is interesting.  You can walk along Fisherman’s Wharf which is really touristy. I dont recommend eating there.  Swan Oyster Depot is better for seafood. San Francisco is a foodie city so there are many  great restaurants. Go to the largest Chinatown in the US for dim sum and Japantown for sushi. The Ferry Building which has been converted to a market and food court is a great place for lunch. I love the newly renovated San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. There are many interesting neighborhoods with walking tours. Bring a jacket- even in summer.

Amelia Island is a quiet barrier island, located in the Northernmost portion of Florida, not too far from the Georgia border. The island is one of the Sea Islands, a chain of coastal barrier islands stretching from Northeast Florida to South Carolina. It is great place to relax with southern hospitality. Amelia Island offers 13 miles of quiet, secluded beaches. The setting is quaint and beautiful, with many historical inns, beautiful seaside homes, hiking trails and a few resorts.The weather is mild year-round with an average winter temperature in the 60’s. You will find that the area is not overdeveloped, but rather reminiscent of the old days in Florida.

Chicago, Illinois has the the hospitality of a midwestern city with the  famous architecture and multiculturalism of New York. The food in Chicago is first class and the Art Institute is one of my favorite museums. The elevated Bloomingdale Trail and the Lake Michigan bike paths are fun when the weather is nice. I also liked the Architecture Cruise given by the Architectural Foundation which is a fun way to see the famous buildings. Chicago is home to the comedy club Second City (think SNL) and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (think Broadway). The best time to visit is spring and fall. 

The Big Island is also called Hawaii. I love the Kona side with its volcanic landscape and black sand beaches. The Hilo side has a lush tropical landscape and is definitely a day trip. Yes Hawaii is expensive because it is an island and everything has to be shipped in. If you have never seen an active volcano, go to Hawaii Volcano National Park. Stay after dark to see the glow from the Caldera. I usually never leave the black sand beach.

 As an ex New Yorker, when I visit New York City, I want to see and do it all. It’s a frantic schedule even for a New Yorker. It’s impossible to see it in one visit and you have to resign yourself to see and do what you can. The lines for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building are long so get there early. If you are interested in the World Trade Memorial, get your tickets before you go.Times Square is always crowded with tourists. Get tickets for you shows in advance or go to TKTS booth in Times Square for discount tickets to day of shows. See a concert or ballet at Lincoln Center. There are walking tours in every neighborhood so pick neighborhoods that interest you. I grew up in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn and recommend both as a way to relax in the city. The HIghline is an urban walking park which runs from 34th Street to the Meatpacking District, built on old elevated train tracks, is lovely on a nice day. NY is filled with excellent museums so budget some time for those. The Met is one of the biggest museums in the world and  has something for everyone so I recommend that. I love the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Food is a whole blog. NYC is filled with amazing restaurants and many different immigrant cultures who bring along great food. When I return, I must have pizza and egg rolls from any family run place, cannoli from Venero’s, bagels from Ess A Bagel and a hot dog from Grey’s Papaya . NYC was my last plane trip in the old world so I am particularly nostalgic. 

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Plan to be amazed by the intense color of the red rocks and the night skies filled with stars. There is a magical , spiritual quality to Sedona, Arizona . Sedona has a moderate climate and though it is hotter in summer and snowy in winter, you can really visit anytime. The natural beauty and energy vortexes make hiking, dining, spa and  personal growth experiences even better.

Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. I have been there many times and love the food, museums and the fact that is a slower paced city than New York.The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through historic Boston. It takes you through all the major sites and monuments relating to the city’s founding and the Revolutionary War. The trail passes through Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall so plan to stop for lunch.There are beautiful neighborhoods with their own vibe and history to walk through. I love the North End which is the heart of Boston’s Italian community. It involves waiting on a line for cannoli at MIke’s Pastry. You might also want to see a Red Sox game or visit Harvard. Museums in Boston are free to students which is another thing I love about the city.

A new England summer vacation had never occurred to me until my daughter went to camp in Maine. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is not actually a place to lie out on the beach for eight hours with a drink in hand.The weather can be iffy. There are great restaurants especially if you are a fan of lobster and sea food. The Vineyard is divided into six towns each with their personal vibe, so explore them all, by foot, bike or if it’s raining –  car. If you bring a car, make sure to have a car reservation for the ferry in advance or purchased from a resident. 

I love skiing in Park City, Utah. Growing up as an East Coast skier, the incredible Utah powder is so wonderful. Whatever your level of skiing, you will find runs in Park City. I love Deer Valley. The resort is consistently ranked at the top when it comes to grooming, service, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, and kid friendliness. Park City was founded in 1884 after the silver boom of the 1860s, and its mining heritage plays a strong role in defining the Western flavor of the charming little downtown scene. There is an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. It is also the host of the world famous Sundance Film Festival which takes place in January every year. 

Sty safe,

JAZ

Things To Do With A Four Year Old At Christmas In NYC

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Things To Do With A Four Year Old At Christmas In NYC

“These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our livesJohnny Mathis, Sleigh Ride

I’m babysitting for my four year old god daughter in NYC for a week during Christmas. Her mom is performing in a Tap Nutcracker at the Joyce Theatre to the music arranged by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn Dec 17-January 5. It looks great if you happen to be in New York.

She lives in Tel Aviv so she is a tourist as well. I grew up in New York so  I want to do the things I’ve done as a kid and taken my kids to do. There are so many new things as well. Here is my plan. 

See Frozen the Musical. Frozen is a phenomena. My favorite Frozen story is the one about Idina Menzel’s son (she is the voice of Elsa in the movie). He says, “My mom sings “Let It Go”. “So does mine,” his friend replies.  Elsa, the slightly flawed, princess is everyone’s favorite including my goddaughter who is into robots  and vintage Ninja  Turtles. 

 I loved  going to the Central Park Children’s Zoo. There weren’t a lot of places that were just for kids back then but this one was. It had a castle to climb and a blue whale to go inside.  The zoo was redone by the time I took my kids there and I’m sure it is even better now.

FAO Schwartz opened its doors in 1862. It was the oldest and largest toy store in NY specializing in unique well made toys.There was only the Fifth Avenue store. My mother called it Schwartz’s Toy Store and told us that it was like a museum. Everything was very expensive for us but we could go and play on the five floors of toys for hours. It has reopened in Rockefeller Plaza and though now owned by Toys R Us still hopefully has some innovative and iconic toys.  

As someone who is not so good in math (huge understatement), I am a little nervous about seeing the National Museum Of Mathematics. Will I be able to answer the questions of a four year  old? I look at the website.There are robots, square wheeled tricycles, motion detector activities, digital painting etc.  It looks really cool. 

 Going to see the Nutcracker Ballet is always a great way to kick off the holiday season. I know it is ambitious to take a four year old. You forget how long the Waltz of the Flowers can be. But I think she  is up to the challenge.

  I was visiting with my god daughter when she was a year and half. We were sitting outside looking at the lights around the pool in the desert in Eilat. “Mapita” she said . I assumed she was speaking Hebrew. She kept repeating it. We went back in the room and she put a piece of the now cold pizza in her mouth. More pizza are words I have heard often from her. I cant wait for her to taste NY Pizza. Im hoping someone still throws the pies up in the air. I will also introduce her to a hot dog from Grey’s Papaya and a pretzel from a street vendor. 

Childrens Museum Of The Arts has a drop in morning art class for three to five year olds. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is a 38,000 sq.ft facility full of fun and learning experiences. it will be perfect for cold weather.  Sugar Hill Children’s Museum Of Art And Storytelling focuses  on children three to eight with art and story telling workshops.We will do at least one of these.

When I was a kid in NY we went  ice skating every Saturday in the winter. It was either the rink in Prospect Park or Central Park. There is also Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park. Hopefully it will be like riding a bicycle and not super cold. 

The Big Apple Circus has been in New York for forty years. My kids have seen it on their many visits to New York to see their grandparents. The circus tent is set up at Lincoln Center. It’s good for the whole family and children of all ages.

The Sloomoo Institute is a pop up slime museum that with be in NYC for six months before moving on to another city. It is all things slime. That’s all I know and with a four year old- that’s all I need to know.

NYC during the holidays is filed with timeless traditions, festivities on every corner and lots of lights and memories. The magical feeling of the city reminds me to live in optimistic expectation. – especially if is snowing. 

Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,

JAZ

How To Tell The Difference Between Someone Who Grew Up In Brooklyn And A Brooklyn Hipster

How To Tell The Difference Between Someone Who Grew Up In Brooklyn And A Brooklyn Hipster

“Brooklyn was a dream. All the things that happened there just couldn’t happen. It was all dream stuff. Or was it all real and true and was it that she, Francie, was the dreamer?” Betty Smith

Between the time that I was born there and now, Brooklyn became an overnight celebrity. Brooklyn became synonymous with cool.

But what is a hipster? I’ve never actually heard anyone describe themselves as a hipster. They hurl the term at other people who look and live like them in a derogatory manner.   The word Hipsters seems to be used for people who are putting on an act or have a trust fund.

People who grew up in Brooklyn had a stoop in front of their house and hung out there with their friends.

Brooklyn Hipsters are usually at an awkward stage in their beard growth and have sustainable rooftop gardens.

People who grew up in Brooklyn have an accent – sort of like the one they are trying to have in Newsies or mine if you know me.

Brooklyn Hipsters can work at hedge funds but have a Mumford and Sons look on the weekends.

People who grew up in Brooklyn went on school trips to the Coney Island Aquarium and Nathans. If you were like me, you rode your bike there on Sundays.

Brooklyn Hipsters dress like hipsters. They love anything vintage or “ironic.” It’s old school all the way. They have cool shoes. Hipsters wear eyewear even if they don’t need it – Ray Bans or Buddy Holly style works. They are usually carrying reading material to validate the glasses.

The big sneakers in Brooklyn when I was growing up were Converse, PF flyers and Keds. Clothes were better if they were from Manhattan.

Hipsters are on trend when it comes to technology. What? You don’t have the Iphone 6 yet?

Growing up in Brooklyn, the more “Good Fellas” the neighborhood, the better the Italian food. It was all about the “gravy” (sauce).

Brooklyn Hipsters are not generally meat eaters but if they do it is grass-fed and free range. Coffee, Small Plates, Asian Food and Gourmet Vegetarian are Hipster foods. They love food co–ops, cooking classes and trendy organic restaurants that serve seasonal food.

We had delis and Chinese food. The more preservatives and MSG, the better.

People who grew up in Brooklyn wish they bought up all the real estate around Prospect Park that they thought no one would ever want.

As Brooklyn becomes more unaffordable, yuppie – hipsters are becoming more prevalent. Fancy strollers and cool kid classes are everywhere.

Sports were big in Brooklyn. There was baseball, basketball, stickball, dodgeball,  stoopball and punchball. There was roller skating (not blading) and  ice skating Friday night at Prospect Park (if you did not get mugged on the way from the train station). There was the ocean at Brighton Beach and Coney Island  for swimming in the summer.

Brooklyn Hipsters love alternative music and they have shelves of vinyls.

Brooklynites had records and small closet like neighborhood record stores.

We used to go to the Brooklyn Academy Of Music for local theatre events.  Now it is the larger and trendier BAM.

Gentrified Hipster Brooklyn has outdoor cafes, designer dogs everywhere, expensive baby strollers, sushi bars, health food stores, trendy restaurants, bars and clubs, galleries and coffee shops where you can sip your five dollar lattes among others just like you. Gone are the delis – Italian, German and Jewish, bodegas, ethnic groceries, real butcher shops and poultry markets (the kind with blood on the floor), fish stores, hair braiding salons, bargain stores, check cashing stores, cheap bars, diners,  restaurants and affordable housing.

Most people in Brooklyn grew up on the block. You had everything you needed in a few block radius. The drug store, the bank, the pizza parlor, the candy store, the Chinese restaurant the Italian restaurant, the delis, the newsstand, the market, the bakery, the fruit store, the butcher, the shoe store, the record store, the coffee shop (which was more like a diner but smaller), the movie theatre and the library were all within walking distance.

I could not leave Brooklyn fast enough when I grew up.  But as I get older, the past is never where you leave it, and writing about it, it all seemed pretty great.

Fly Safe,

JAZ