Sunday, February 28, 2010

Costa Rica -- Arenal, La Fortuna

I've visited the rainforest in Costa Rica twice, and this video captures what it's all about better than any words I could write (well, almost). Here's a shout out to michael alan and D'Angelo!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Last Day for the New York Times Travel Show -- Sunday, February 28

Travel lovers, you still have one more day to attend the New York Times Travel Show. The seventh annual show at the Javits Center on Sunday is the place to be for exclusive travel discounts, packages, and chances to win fabulous prizes on Sunday February 28. The show features nearly 500 exhibitors, representing more than 150 countries. There’s also a full program of travel-related seminars with experts like Val D’Elia of NY1 and Patricia Schultz, author of “100 Places to See before You Die,” from 10:30am – 3:30pm.

Here are some of the booths that I suggest you check out for some really wonderful specials and contests.

Booth 1155/Tanzania Tourist Board: Sign up for a chance to win a Tanzanian safari for two, courtesy of Nanuri Safari Co.

Booth 107/Cruise Planners: Book a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation and receive up to $300 onboard credit, an onboard coupon booklet valued at $400 in savings, and up to six category upgrades on select ships. Or do the same with Princess and you’ll get a $100 reduced deposit per person and an onboard coupon booklet valued at $325 in savings. Holland America’s automatic deal is a reduced deposit and a coupon booklet valued at $354 in savings.

Booth 935/American Express: Arrange and pay for your trip right here, and you'll get a host of discounts. Three that were especially appealing were Las Vegas’s Mirage offering up to 30% on your next reservation plus a $50 dining credit valid at any Mirage restaurant; a $500 reduction per suite on all Seabourn Sojourn sailings throughout Northern Europe when booking with an American Express card; and 20% off on Mexicana Airlines when using your American Express card.

Booth 157/Japan National Tourism Organization: Sign up to win a special package tour to Japan with one roundtrip air ticket, hotel accommodations, and a one-day sightseeing tour.

Admission to the show is $15 for adults and is free for children 18 and under. Hours are 10am-4pm. Pay with your American Express Card and receive a $5 discount

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Deal a Week: Riviera Maya "Green Escape" at Grand Velas

Grand Velas Riviera Maya encourages families to explore the lush jungle and beach setting of Mexico's Riviera Maya and "go green" this spring with its Green Escape package. The beautiful all-inclusive resort actively participates in many green initiatives such as using biodegradable products for cleaning, reforesting the surrounding areas with over 18,000 trees, and operating its own co-generation electricity plants to reduce energy dependency. The landscape and beachfront are a tribute to its commitment to preserving the environment for generations to come.

Grand Velas' Green Escape package includes accommodations in the Master Suite; a guided tour to the Mayan sacred wells including an opportunity for the family to plant a tree together; and a meeting with an expert from the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative followed by a guided snorkel tour of the Moc-Che Reef. Each adult may also choose on of three additional tours: Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Isla Contoy (home to the second largest coral reef in the world), or Xcaret Natural Park. After you plant your tree, you'll receive a certificate with map coordinates so you can watch it grow via Google Earth. How cool is that!

All meals, beverages, and private transportation to and from Cancun airport are included. The package is priced starting at $435/person per night and is valid through April 30, 2010. Children under 16 are free. A minimum stay of 3 nights is required and the maximum occupancy is two adults, two children under 16, and one child under 2 years per room. You'll take your experience home with you, as well. For more information or reservations, click here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Dutch this February on an NYC Subway

  • Summer's street bikes came in orange colors, courtesy of Holland. Now February is cheered up à la Dutch with one of the kookiest promos I've seen in the city. Courtesy of The Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions, you can ride one of three subway cars on Track 1 of the S shuttle and feel like you’re in Holland. Painted and outfitted inside and out with graphics designed to transport you to tulips and canals, the subway cars zip you from Grand Central or Times Square to Holland for at least a few minutes. You can practically taste the Stroopwafels as you gaze at museum paintings or float along a canal.

    Street teams will also be at Grand Central and Times Squares stations to distribute giveaways. Visit, where you can answer a piece of Holland trivia and enter to win a different prize each week:

    • February 11-17 contest: Bling yourself out by winning a Gassan 121 diamond.
    • February 18-24 contest: Welcome spring with a bike ride through the park on a traditional Batavus Dutch bicycle.
    • February 25-March 3 contest: Upgrade any room in your home with a modern Carbon chair designed by Marcel Wanders and Betjan Pot.

    One lucky winner will also win the ultimate Holland experience: two round-trip business class tickets on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, with a four-night stay at the luxurious Sofitel Amsterdam The Grand.

    Enter each contest by uploading a photo of how you would “Just be. In Holland” from now until March 4, 2010. Succes! (Good luck)

P.S. All MTA trains should look this good all the time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympics Schedule

Here's a great URL to the full schedule of all Olympics events -- I'm particularly partial to the curling and figure skating, but everyone has their favorites, and this makes it easy to find them all by event, by day, by hour.

Friday, February 12, 2010

February 20 and 21 -- Harlem Fine Arts Show

The historic 369th Armory, 2366 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan (212-281-9474) celebrates Black History Month with the First Annual Harlem Fine Arts Show. Contemporary works created by some of the world’s most celebrated African-American artists will be showcased. Featured artists include Andrew Nichols, the curator of the show and well-known for his realistic canvas portraits and life scenes done in pencil and paint; Anthony Armstrong, master of Realism, Cubism, and Afrocentric Iconography; and Sherry Shine, an artist known for her beautiful quilts.

Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. All art work is for sale, with prices starting as low as $100. The show runs on Saturday February 20 , 11AM-9PM and Sunday February 21, 11AM-7PM. Tickets can be purchased at or 866-388-4TIX.

We Love to Eat! Restaurant Week Extended through February

Just as we were lamenting the return to normal pre-recession pricing. Click here to read all the details on NYC Go's Web site.

Love it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Last Chance to Take Your Kids to See "Dear Edwina"

Oh, how I wish I had daughters to take to this lovely, lovely play about girls. At the DR2 Theater, beloved heroine Edwina Spoonapple shows her stuff at a talent show assisted by a quirky ensemble of friends and neighbors. Edwina is like the Dear Abby for the junior set, advising her peers on everything imaginable. Girls will relate -- perhaps they are really Edwina at heart. Hurry! The play closes February 15.

Tickets are priced at $39 and are available at or through Telecharge, 212-239-6200. You can also buy them at the DR2 box office, 103 East 15th Street. Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Last-Minute Valentine's Day Restaurant Specials -- NYC

It’s the week before Valentine’s Day. You’ve called the babysitter, picked out the perfect gift, and bought the chocolates at Godiva. If the only missing part of your plans is a special place to eat, take your date to any of these NYC restaurants where the “specials of the day” are deals and romance with a little sugar on top.

Benoit. Nicely positioned to complement a culture-filled evening at Carnegie Hall or City Center, Alain Ducasse’s French brasserie will make you feel like you're celebrating Valentine’s Day in Paris. Chef Pierre Schaedelin’s three-course meal features seafood vol au vent and the restaurant’s signature profiteroles for $55. Make sure to have one of the pastry chef’s red candy apples. 60 W 55th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, (646) 943-7373

Bao Noodles. Celebrate Chinese New Year AND Valentine’s Day, Vietnamese style! Start the day with a Chinese New Year brunch from 12 noon-4pm with an authentic Southeast Asian-inspired special for only $9.99. Return for your Valentine’s Day dinner and enjoy a five-course tasting menu paired with Prosecco, sake, and a cocktail for $40. 391 Second Ave between 22nd and 23rd streets, (212) 725-7770

Puttanesca. Show your amore and bring your date to midtown West's Puttanesca for its three-course dinner at $39.95. Start with octopus carpaccio or sea scallops as your first course; then enjoy a grilled pork chop, heart-shaped ravioli, or filet of red snapper for your main. End on a sweet note with the mixed berry tart (with lemon sorbet) or the strawberry panna cotta. Ladies get a complimentary glass of Prosecco. 859 9th Avenue, (212) 581-4177

Gus & Gabriel. Chef Michael Psilakis’s G&G lets couples try the best of his Upper West Side gastropub menu with a Lonely Hearts Pub Valentine’s tasting for $34.95. This menu has all of my favorites, from the bone marrow and riblet starters to hearty pork shank or steak frites, and chocolate cake. For an additional $14.95, you can add beer pairings to stoke the Valentine’s warmth. 222 W. 79th Street, (212) 362-7470

Mari Vanna. For the perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail, take your sweetheart to this Russian Flatiron District gem for a chocolate-covered strawberry-infused vodka. Really treat her like a tsarina with a caviar presentation set in a Russian nesting doll. 41 E. 20th Street between Broadway & Park Avenue, (212) 777-1955

Nick & Stef's Steakhouse. Are you going to the afternoon Ranger's game? Have an early dinner at Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse. Chef Stephen Rosenbluth’s $59 three-course special includes chilled Beau Soleil oysters or wild mushroom risotto, followed by a 42-ounce Porterhouse for two or a two-pound lobster, and a Valrhona molten chocolate cake or a dessert tasting for two. 9 Penn Plaza, (212) 563-4444

Pampano. Make your evening sizzle at Placido Domingo’s midtown Modern Mexican restaurant with a six-course tasting menu for $70 featuring signature ceviches, tempura shrimp with Hawaiian papaya and mango, lobster tacos, seared scallops with flan, seared striped bass, grilled duck breast, and caramelized banana empanadas. 209 E. 49th between 2nd and 3rd avenues, (212) 751-4545

Mercadito. Mercadito will fire up the night with its spicy Mexican cuisine in the East Village. Until 10pm, you can enjoy a five-course menu for $45 with a guacamole tasting, two botanos or ceviches, four tacos, two side dishes, and dessert. Spice up your meal with either the Poción #9 cocktail Shot de la Passión. 179 Avenue B between 11th and 12th streets, (212) 529-6490

Geisha. After you’ve finished buying gifts at Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s or Bergdorf’s, indulge at the Franco-Japanese Geisha for a four-course lovers’ meal with wine pairing for $59. The special menu includes a black truffle tuna sandwich and mackerel tartare, miso-marinated Atlantic salmon with shitake mushrooms, miso-glazed or Korean barbeque organic chicken with Thai basil fried rice, and mochi ice cream. 33 E. 61st Street between Madison & Park avenues, (212) 813-1113

Bondi Road. It may be snowing outside, but inside this Aussie-style Lower East Sider, you’ll feel like you’re sitting on Bondi Beach. Between 11am and 5pm you can chow down at Cupid’s Brunch while enjoying their $20 all-you-can-drink happy hour special for two hours. 153 Rivington Street between Suffolk and Clinton streets, (212) 253-5311

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Day! Students, Go See "Hair" on Broadway for only $40 - February 10

There are definite benefits to having a no-school "snow" day in NYC: sleeping late, sledding in Central Park, and now a chance to go see the joyous musical Hair on Broadway for only $40. For tomorrow's performances (Wednesday, February 10), students need only show up at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre box office, 302 West 45th Street, for either the 2pm matinee or the 8pm performance with a valid student i.d., and they'll get up to four tickets for $40 apiece, depending on availability.

It may be a "snow day" outside, but it will definitely be a sunshine-y rockfest indoors with songs like "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine," and "Manchester England." Wear snow boots that are good for dancing -- you might just find yourself onstage with the cast at the end of the show.

I wish I were a student again!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl Ads for Non-Football Fans

Thank you to USA Today for this link so I can watch the ads from last night's game. If you're one of the few people like me who has minimal interest in football (unless my team is in the Super Bowl), then this link is for you so you can see the entertainment that you missed last night. Personally, I'm focusing on basketball now and am off to the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas next week. I can't wait for basketball and baseball (my two sports obsessions) to overlap: April is a wonderful month when I can go to the Celtics-Cavaliers game in the afternoon and opening day at Fenway Park to see Boston play the Yankees that evening.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Did You Miss Restaurant Week in NYC? You Can Still Get the Deals.

Restaurant Week ended yesterday, but the good news is that some of Manhattan's best restaurants are keeping the discount love going. Two of my favorites, Fishtail by David Burke and Osteria del Circo have menus with recession pricing throughout the week.

At Fishtail, if you want to splurge, try the dover sole with pineapple, an interesting and unusual combination; or one of the shellfish towers. Or you can order the reasonably priced trio of fish tacos along with a perfect appetizer-portion crab cake and have a great meal. Otherwise, the prix fixe menu gives you lots of choices from the five "dressed" oysters (dressed with pickled vegetables), to grilled trout and scallops and, of course, David Burke's famous cheesecake lollipops.

Osteria del Circo offers two sizes of their antipasti and pastas to put together a grazing meal that won't break the bank. You can also try their changing "set" menu with favorites like their wonderful pumpkin cappellacci with amaretto cookie dusting; a perfectly grilled branzino; and a fluffy, almost whipped lemon sorbetto that is a perfect finish to any meal.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Off-Broadway on Sale: 2 for 1 in February

January's been all about restaurant deals. February is Kids' Night on Broadway time. And now it's time to scoop up those amazing deals off-Broadway. Choose from fabulous shows like Avenue Q, Stomp, Naked Boys Singing, and the Gazillion Bubble Show. There's something for everyone (really!). So... now that you've saved lots of money AND tried something away from the Great White Way, go out to dinner! Try some of my theater area faves like Five Napkin Burger, Marseille, or go luxe with your savings at Benoit or Osteria del Circo. Click here for more details. Stay warm!

Give a Day. Get a Disney Day -- Volunteer!

I've been writing a lot about volunteering and donating lately. It really is important, and it's one of the most rewarding things you can do. Disney has just made it even happier with its “Give A Day. Get A Disney Day” program. Head to the program’s site to search for a volunteer opportunity that interests you, and you'll get a free one-day ticket to one of the theme parks at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Whether helping out at your local soup kitchen or building a house with Habitat for Humanity, the opportunities to get involved are endless. Only thing is that the opportunity here isn't: tickets are limited, there are some blackout dates, you only get one ticket per person, and the program lasts only until all tickets are distributed. You'll need to read all the rules on the Web site.

Note, also, that you must be 18 years old to sign up, and children 6-17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian while volunteering.