Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baltimore Orioles: Maryland Fancation in Baltimore

For this installment in the Fancations series of vacations, we’re heading to the city where crab cakes and baseball go hand-in-hand: Baltimore. Nicknamed Charm City, this vibrant city is home to the renowned Maryland crab cake and baseball’s most legendary baseball hero, Babe Ruth.

Baseball Stop:  Oriole Park at Camden Yards to visit the Baltimore Orioles
For a relatively new stadium, opened in 1992, Camden Yards is full of history. Standing a mere two blocks away from Babe Ruth’s birthplace, the attractive stadium was built on land where Babe Ruth’s father’s saloon once stood. Ruth’s legacy lives on through “Babe’s Dream,” a bronze statue of the great ball player, located at the northwest corner of the ballpark at Eutaw and Camden streets. Camden Yards sits on the former site of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad hub of the early 1900s, and the original B&O warehouse still stands beyond right field as a reminder of the area’s rich history.  An instant success, Oriole Park is a retro stadium that takes the best of legendary ballparks like Ebbets Field and Wrigley Field while building in modern conveniences. Note the brick design that hearken back to stadiums past.

Walk through the dugout during a stadium tour, with a stop at Sports Legends Museum to learn more about the greatest players in baseball history. Be sure to check out the small plaques along Eutaw Street that show where home runs have landed.

There are always special ticket promotions going on, and if you’re traveling with the family check out Kids’ Night, when all kids get free admission. Game tickets can be purchased here. If you’re lucky enough to score a club seat, you’ll have access to an inner BBQ buffet and bar area, especially welcoming when temperatures skyrocket at the park.

Where to eat in Camden Yards: Boog’s Barbeque serves up mouthwatering BBQ, a guaranteed crowd pleaser at the ballpark. Try one of Boog’s savory pit beef or turkey sandwiches, consistently ranked among Top Ten lists of signature ballpark food items. Stop by between innings for the chance to meet the man behind the grub, Boog Powell, a former first baseman.

After the game, plenty of sightseeing opportunities await you throughout Charm City.

Start at the Harbor:
Just a 12-minute walk from Camden Yards, the Inner Harbor Waterfront Promenade offers lots of shopping and sightseeing opportunities. At the Harborplace and The Gallery, you’ll find a wide range of well-known stores as well as local boutiques. The Harborplace also hosts various concerts and street performances year-round. Open Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm; 200 East Pratt Street.

Transformed from an industrial workplace into a cultural center in the 1970s, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has become increasingly tourist-friendly, and plans to make the water swimmable over the next few years will undoubtedly attract more visitors. Until then, visitors can rent a paddleboat at the harbor’s Pier 1 to explore the area. Keep an eye out for the giant neon Domino Sugar sign, a recognizable fixture in Baltimore’s skyline.

Celebrate national history:

From September 10-16, Baltimore will host the Star-Spangled Spectacular, to celebrate the national anthem’s 200th anniversary. This iconic piece of American history was written by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Festival highlights will include a 7000-person Star-Spangled Banner Living Flag, performances by the Blue Angels and the 200th March of the Defenders from Patterson Park to Battle Acre Park in Baltimore County.

A star-studded concert on September 13 will feature Kristen Chenoweth, Little Big Town, Pentatonix and a surprise guest. All events are free of charge and open to the public. The full event schedule can be found here.

Explore the museums:

For a “living” museum experience, visit the Historic Ships in Baltimore, an impressive collection of military vessels used from the mid-19th century to the mid-1980s. The museum consists of four docked historical ships and a lighthouse, which you can explore first-hand with the help of a complimentary audio tour wand. Various artifacts and personal effects left behind from crew members give a glimpse into life at sea aboard the well-preserved USS Constellation, US Submarine Torsk, US Coast Guard Cutter Taney and the Lightship Chesapeake. Also visit the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which marked the entrance to Baltimore Harbor for more than 130 years. Visitors can assume the role of a crew member by participating in a gun drill and may even meet a former crew member. Begin the tour at Pier 1, 301 East Pratt Street; 410-539-1797.

Located across the street from the Harbor, The American Visionary Art Museum houses quirky art exhibits from around the world and sponsors numerous family-friendly activities. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm; 800 Key Highway; 410-244-1900.

North of the harbor, in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, is the Walters Art Museum. Here you’ll find a dynamic collection of nearly 30,000 pieces of artwork, including treasures dating back to pre-dynastic Egypt. Exhibits including “Seeing Music in Medieval Manuscripts,” a collection of 20 objects that explore music’s influence and relationship to the arts during the Middle Ages are popular draws. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm; 600 N. Charles Street; 410-547-9000.

Discover Baltimore by boat:

Ride the Baltimore Water Taxi for a scenic transfer among several of Baltimore’s most popular attractions. Transporting passengers to the Aquarium, Science Center, Fells Point and Fort McHenry, the water taxi is a great way to sightsee while in transit to your next activity. For the most up-to-date schedule and hours of operation, visit hereClimb aboard the Annapolitan II for a narrated cruise around the harbor with Watermark Cruises. The 45-minute Inner Harbor cruise introduces you to the Inner Harbor’s most historic attractions. The National Anthem Tour by Sea gives an hour-long introduction to Maryland’s noteworthy role in the War of 1812 and how the state contributed to our nation’s independence. For gorgeous views of the illuminated Domino Sugar sign at twilight, hop on the Saturday City Lights Cruise.

Walk the Monuments:

Ten blocks north of the Inner Harbor is the Washington Monument, where visitors can climb 228 steps to the top to enjoy panoramic city views. Take a tour of the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and meander through the battleground that is credited as the birthplace of the National Anthem. The park is open daily from 8am-5pm; Star Fort and Visitor Center open daily from 8am-4:45pm; 2400 East Fort Avenue; 410-962-4290.


Check in at the Admiral Fell Inn for a cozy 
night in one of the Historic Hotels of America. The inn dates back to the 1770s and is located right in the heart of Baltimore’s picturesque Fells Point. There’s always something going on at the Inn, from historic ghost tours to the Admiral’s Tea and Historic Storytelling. The Inn’s two on-site restaurants, Meli Patisserie & Bistro and Tapas Adela, offer fine dining options perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up or a sit-down dinner. 888 South Broadway, 410-522-7380.

Catch some great deals during your stay at the Admiral Fell Inn. The hotel offers guests VIP entry and discounts at several of the area’s attractions, including the wonderful National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.

National Aquarium hours: Open Saturday-Thursday 9am-6:30pm, Friday 9am-9:30pm; 501 East Pratt Street; 410-576-3800;
Maryland Science Center hours: Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am-5pm; 601 Light Street; 410-685-2370.

During your stay, spend an afternoon in the Fells Point Historic District. Lining the cobblestone streets are refurbished and replicas of original 18th- and 19th-century homes and storefronts. A stroll through this quaint waterfront community will bring you to a plethora of shops, restaurants and bars.


Any trip to Baltimore would be incomplete without a hearty helping of the famous Maryland blue crabs. Founded in 1886 and still standing in its original Lexington Market location, Faidley Seafood is known for serving traditional seafood with a twist. The casual atmosphere and the award-winning crab cakes make Faidley’s the ideal place to grab a quick bite. Dozens of other vendors in Lexington Market provide sweet and savory meal options. Open Monday-Saturday 8:30am-6pm; 400 W. Lexington Street; 410-685-6169.

Or dine outdoors and admire the elegance of the Inner Harbor at the famous Phillip’s Seafood. You can buy a box of their famous Old Bay seasoning to recreate your Baltimore seafood memories at home. Open Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm; 301 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21202; 410- 685-6600.

In the historic Fells Point/Canton area, look no further than Mama’s on the Half Shell for an expansive seafood menu. Sit at Mama’s raw oyster bar or enjoy the festive décor of the upstairs dining room as you feast on jumbo lump crab cakes, shrimp, oysters and other seafood traditions. Visit on Sunday between 9am-2pm to experience Mama’s seafood take on Sunday brunch. Seafood omelets and lobster hash are just a few of the delicious meals served during brunch. A Bloody Mary served with pickled vegetables is an absolute must. 2901 O’Donnell Street, Baltimore, 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Waze: A Must- Have Social GPS for All Travelers

I've been on the road a lot this summer, so I feel I can speak with authority about this amazing (and free) app that saves me precious time every day.  If you haven't discovered Waze, you're truly missing out on one of the travel world's most brilliant tools. 

As long as you can get a good connection via your cellphone or tablet, Waze will help navigate you on the road, bypassing traffic jams, accidents, and police to speed you to your destination.  Based on real-time monitoring of fellow Wazers and their real-time reports of traffic snarls and "hazards," Waze determines the most expeditious route for you to take. In many occasions, I have had the navigation system of my car "arguing" with Waze about the correct turn to make. "Turn right," says Waze. "Turn left," demands my car's bossy Nav system. When in doubt, I'll always take Waze.  You can also get handy tips on where to find restaurants, gas stations, and other important travel needs. To induce you to participate, you receive points for alerting others about travel conditions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dancing through the Bronx Parks, August 13-16: Free Performances

Part of a collaborative effort sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts to introduce new audiences to contemporary dance, DANCING THROUGH THE BRONX is a site-specific dance festival in three green spaces of varying size and topography. The programs, some choreographed by Bronx artists, follow a format of three consecutive 12-minute dances and conclude with a cipher (a free-style dance circle with audience participation). The program is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Con Edison, the Metz Gilmore Foundation, and Bronx Pro Real Estate Management. 

Performed on all three evenings, with nuances varying by location, are works byJames “Cricket” Colter, featuring five hip hop dancers who will adapt a broad vocabulary of hip hop styles to each park’s terrain; and by Larry Keigwin, featuring 30 performers—six KEIGWIN + COMPANY members and 24 community members of all ages and abilities.

In addition, three artists will showcase their work on one evening each. Ni’Ja Whitson Adebanjo created and will perform a duet with a sound artist, integrating ritual performance with the contours and textures of one of Wave Hill’s exquisite gardens. At Hayden Lord Park, Toni Renee Johnson explores the relationship between passivity and aggression in a work that guides the audience to follow a trio of dancers through different sections of the intimate park. Arthur Aviles resurrects his popular Ritual Dance with 15 dancers who will spread out through Owen Dolen Park, performing simultaneous solos to the same beat, which they will create by clapping their hands and an occasional shout.

The program is part of the 30-year legacy of Dancing in the Streets to bring free dance and culture to unusual locales throughout the, 917-714-2221

Wednesday, August 13, 6:30pm
Choreographers:                Ni’Ja Whitson Adebanjo, James "Cricket" Colter, and Larry Keigwin
Location:                            Wave Hill, 675 West 252nd Street, Bronx (Riverdale)

Wave Hill, one of 33 New York City-owned cultural institutions, is a 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River. Historic Wave Hill House was built as a country home in 1843 by William Lewis Morris and has since been home to Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Arturo Toscanini, among others. Its spectacular grounds include lush lawns; aquatic, herb and wild gardens; vine-covered pergolas; woodland trails and a broad variety of perennial and annual flowers. 

Admission: The performance is free to all attendees. But if you’d like to visit Wave Hill starting at 4pm to enjoy the green space, a pre-performance picnic, or just chill, there is a small entrance fee of $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, and $4 for children 6-18 is required.

Thursday, August 14, 4:30pm
Choreographers:                James "Cricket" ColterToni Renee Johnson, andLarry Keigwin
Location:                            Hayden Lord Park, 1667 Andrews Avenue, Bronx (University Heights)

Hayden Lord Park is a small park that was inspired by Gaudi’s artwork in Barcelona’s Park Güell. Opened in September 2013, and located between two Bronx Pro buildings, the park has transformed a formerly under-utilized urban space into a colorful oasis for community gatherings, art making, and quiet contemplation.

Saturday, August 16, 2pm
Choreographers:                Arthur Aviles, James "Cricket" Colter, and Larry Keigwin
Location:                            Owen Dolen Park, 2551 Westchester Avenue, Bronx (Westchester Square)

Owen Dolen Park is the hub of Westchester Square. It is located on the site of the historic Village Green, which was the center of the thriving 17th-century Westchester Village. Rehabilitation of the park began in September 2011.


  • James “Cricket” Colter is a world-known, respected professional street dancer. He is a founding member of Rennie Harris Pure Movement, and he performs, choreographs, and teaches at dance festivals worldwide. Cricket danced in the film Step Up 2 the Streets and in music videos with Will Smith, Boys II Men, and KRS-1 among others. He recently formed his own company Crazy-Natives with the goal of pushing the limits of hip hop dance and integrating it with other contemporary dance forms.
  • Larry Keigwin is a native New Yorker and choreographer who has danced his way from the Metropolitan Opera to downtown clubs to Broadway and back. He founded KEIGWIN + COMPANY in 2003; and has since created dozens of works for K+C, as well as for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Vail International Dance Festival, Dancing in the Streets, and the Broadway musical If/Then.
  • Arthur Aviles is a Bessie Award-winning dance pioneer who rose to international acclaim when he danced with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Among his many awards, Aviles received the NYC Mayor’s Arts Award for his artistic leadership of BAAD! Bronx Arts Academy for Art and Dance.
  • Toni Renee Johnson is a performer, choreographer, educator and director. She is the Artistic Director of the Bronx-based Maverick Dance Experience and is currently the Program Director at Marquis Studios. Johnson creates bold work rooted in social commentary, blood memory and interpersonal relationships.
  • Ni’Ja Whitson Adebanjo is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and full-time lecturer at Lehman College who has performed and conducted research, residencies, and master classes in Africa, Brazil, Canada and the USA, including at the Apollo, Roulette, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Whitson Adebanjo is a Movement Research Artist in Residence and a performer in the national tour of River See written and conducted by Sharon Bridgforth.

    Hungry?  Make your way to Arthur Avenue for a selection of wonderful Italian restaurants or the Arthur Avenue Retail Market where you can put together your own Italian picnic.  Read here for some help in planning your meals.

Monday, August 4, 2014

July and August Activities in Downtown NYC: History, Culture, Music and Hikes

Downtown New York City is rocking with cultural and historical activities this summer.  Here are some choices to keep you thinking, exploring and moving.

Sunset Jam on the HudsonJoin a drumming circle every Friday through August 22 in Battery Park City's Wagner Park for Sunset Jam on the Hudson. Along with a master drummer, you can add your own rhythm to a mix of African, Caribbean and Latin pieces. Drums are provided. Wagner Park. 6:30-8pm.

Board the ferry to Governors Island for a day outdoors and a chance to see an exhibit featuring Trisha Brown’s early career as an artist and choreographer.  Located at the Manhattan Cultural Council's arts center, “Trisha Brown: Embodied Practice and Site-Specificity” includes videos, photographs and installations, all highlighting Brown's community of performers and artists, and the Lower Manhattan in which they lived and created. The exhibit shows Brown's investigation of movement and performance occurring in non-traditional spaces. Through September 28. Friday and Sunday, 12 Noon-5pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm. 

For adults and kids alike, “Hike through History” is a comprehensive tour of Governors Island. No tickets or reservations required. Wednesday and Friday. Meet at Soissons Dock, 2pm. 

Museum of the American IndianAnother favorite for all ages with no admission charge, theNational Museum of the American Indian is open daily from 10am – 5pm. The museum offers free films, docent-led tours of its exhibitions and premises, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House designed by Cass Gilbert. The 1907 building is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One Bowling Green. 212.514.3700.

South Street Seaport MuseumThe South Street Seaport Museum's lightship Ambrose and its sailing ship Peking welcome visitors Wednesdays – Sunday, 11am-pm on Pier 16 (on the East River at Fulton Street). The Ambrose, launched in 1908, was used to guide large ships through the Ambrose Channel into New York harbor. Peking was launched in Hamburg, Germany in 1911 to carry goods from Europe to South America. The museum's Visitors Services associates explain the importance of the ships to the history of New York as a port city. $12 (adults); $8 (students, 12-24 and seniors); $5 (children 2-11); under 2, free.

"Defining Lines: Maps from the 1700s and early 1800s" at the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Twenty-seven maps provide a perspective on the evolving nation's place in history. A map from 1804, never before exhibited, shows the U.S. postal routes. Noon to 5pm, daily. Admission fees: $7; $4 (seniors, students with ID, children, 6 to 8 years old); active military and children 5 and under, free. 54 Pearl Street, 2nd floor.