Monday, October 17, 2016

It's an All-Year Fancation When You're in a Sports Town Like Boston -- Visit Fenway

It might have been David Ortiz's last hurrah in Boston, but the Red Sox are still a red hot team to visit. And building a vacation around a trip to Beantown is worth every culinary, historical and New England second. While Opening Day isn't until April 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, you might want to schedule a vacation to combine both a Red Sox game and a viewing of the Boston Marathon on April 17.Or, why wait that long? There's plenty to do in fall and winter as well.

Boston Red Sox
Baseball Stop: Fenway Park

This is the team that broke the Curse of the Bambino in spectacular fashion, coming from behind to smash their arch-rivals the New York Yankees and win the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918. And they did it two more times after that in the new century. This year's dream team was one for the records and witnessed a sentimental sendoff to a Boston legend, Big Papi. Little Fenway is a true, historic park. It's virtually unchanged, without high-tech anything, really. The major changes over time have been the addition of more seating to accommodate the sell-out crowds. If you're lucky, you'll snag a seat on the Green Monster, giving you a true birds-eye view of the game. There's much tradition at the park, like Wally, the team's mascot named after the Green Monster itself, the left field wall. To the right of the bleachers and the red painted seat where Ted Williams hit his 502-foot home run is Pesky Pole, a yellow landmark and the right field foul pole.  Food at the park is great. At what other baseball stadium could you get a New England lobster roll, a cup of clam chowder, or a Dunkin' Donuts coffee? Giving a nod to the city's Irish heritage, there's even an Irish beer stand, that's, without a doubt, the most popular in the stadium. If you want the true Fenway experience, however, order a perfectly salted Fenway frank with mustard and relish.

Tickets are a bit hard to score, so plan ahead, as the games really do sell out although there are SRO tickets. New projects at the park include Fenway Farms, a 5,000-square-foot organic garden on the roof that provides produce to the many food outlets at Fenway. But back to the Fenway, old and dear: there are traditions that you must adhere to at the park. For one, you''ll need to refresh your knowledge of the team's signature song, Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," reputedly written in honor of Caroline Kennedy. Plan to sing along with the fans in the 8th inning. If the Red Sox win, you're going to hear the Standells' "Dirty Water."

Getting to the park is easy. Take the Green Line trolley to Kenmore Square and walk a block and a half to Yawkey Way. Once you pass through, you're in a sort of enclosed food court/party scene, with lots of choices for buying Red Sox merch. The Team Store is one of the largest in the Major League. Take a tour of the park any time year-round -- it's well worth it.


The Copley Square Farmers Market: Boston has, of late, taken a serious interest in the organic riches of the area.  From Vermont to Massachusetts, farmers, fishermen, and bakers bring their wares to this open-air market set up in front of the Fairmont Copley Plaza.  Changing seasonally, the items can range from pumpkins and squash in the fall to juicy Maine blueberries and watermelon in the summer, with fresh New England seafood available all year long. Other goods like essential oils and soaps are also sold.

Sit Down, John:  Well, not really. Although U.S. President John Adams was originally from Massachusetts, and a major player in the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- hence, this line from the play "1776" -- we'd rather that you walk the talk and follow the Freedom Trail, a painted red line hat traces a historical path along 2.5 miles through Boston. Along the way, stop off to visit Paul Revere's house, the grave of Mother Goose, Faneuil Hall where you can do some souvenir shopping at Quincy Market. There are 16 stops in total, so you might want to break this trip into two days with food and rest stops in-between. Another way to see the city is to walk to the recently named Fort Point area, the city's burgeoning residential and business nabe by the formerly decaying waterfront. You'll pass the Children's Museum and can take a well-earned break sitting on the stairs behind the dramatic ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art. From new Fort Point Pier, rent a rowboat or kayak for a languid exploration of Boston Harbor.

Art for Art's Sake:  The Museum of Fine Arts has one of the country's premier art collections, ranging from ancient Egyptian and American notables to European and Asian works. You'll need to allot at least three hours, as this is the fourth largest museum in the United States. Tale the Green Line E trolley along Huntington Avenue to the museum.  Have the kids in tow?  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a gem on the Fenway, has a scavenger hunt that will keep the little ones entertained and possibly engender an interest in the world of art.

Sleep:  Two of the city's best hotels offer Red Sox-themed packages. The newly expanded and renovated Hotel Commonwealth is the perfect choice if you want to eat, drink, and breathe Red Sox. Just a quick walk from the park and located with a commanding view of Fenway itself, and noted as the "official hotel of the Boston Red Sox," this hotel is a beauty. Baseball game packages are available like the Green Monster Package and the Ultimate "Bucket List" Baseball Package with accommodations, on-the-field access to batting package, a photo memory, and more.  Call 617-532-5019 for all package details and inclusions. The hotel even has two baseball-themed suites, one filled with Red Sox memorabilia, and the new balcony suite, with a room and outdoor balcony directly facing Fenway Park.

With two superb restaurants, the Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard, you can plan your non-hot dog eats around the hotel restaurants' menus of top-notch seafood and local brews. Eastern Standard's roasted oysters make a nice appetizer before heading to Island Oyster Creek, where you check off your oyster selection on a sheet of paper. Try the Maine versions from Damariscotta or any from Cape Cod. If you're still hungry, the restaurant's signature lobster roll is  as fresh as you can get. Even carnivores should try some of the seafood or shellfish here -- this is the heartland for one of the best raw bars you'll find anywhere. Take the T, the subway, to the Copley Square stop, literally across the street from the hotel. 500 Commonwealth Avenue. 617-933-5000.

A couple of T stops away from Fenway, the Lenox Hotel sits in Copley Square, near the Boston Public Library. A member of Historic Hotels of America, this boutique hotel with a lively bar and restaurant has a tony location if you want to be in the midst of the Boston Marathon or near the fabulous shopping on Newbury Street. If you're arriving from out of town, the Back Bay Amtrak station is a ten-minute walk away, and if you're in need of a car, the concierge will arrange to have a rental brought directly to the hotel. Call the hotel closer to baseball season to inquire about their Red Sox packages. Be sure to visit neighboring BPL, as it's known here, to see one of the more exquisite readings rooms in the country. 61 Exeter Street, 617-536-5300.

Eat:  Seafood reigns supreme in Boston, but there are steakhouses, too, that warrant consideration.  Try Post 360 for a pub-like setting for top chops, steaks, and, of course, seafood. The attractive restaurant focuses on "Farm to Post,"with Chef Nick Deutmeyer serving only the freshest ingredients from the region. Harvest in the center of Harvard Square. The restaurant is especially appealing with its interior "outdoor" court along with a rotating, seasonal menu of produce-influenced dishes under the direction of Chef Tyler Kinnett You can even travel there by foot from the Boston side, walking along the Esplanade along Storrow Drive to the Mass Ave. bridge. Meander through Cambridge's historic streets as you listen to street musicians, watch students hustling from class to dorm, or stop to visit a Harvard shopping institution, the Harvard Coop.

Sister-city Cambridge, across the Charles River, offers much in the way of history and dining as well. You probably know that Harvard University and MIT are located there, but there are also music clubs and fine dining experiences.

Shop: If you can drag yourself away from the hippie-student vibe of Harvard Square, Boston has some serious shopping. Newbury Street is the city's version of Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue. All the major players are here including Alexis Bittar, for fabulously eclectic jewelry, Intermix, and Vince. Stop at Stephanie's for a quick pick-me-up iced coffee and continue your shopping frenzy. For more mom-and-pop, funky shops, head to Charles Street at the foot of Beacon Hill for both Boston-ish souvenirs and coffees.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Prepare for Baseball 2017: Plan a Fancation to Citi Field to See the Mets

Here's another Fancation to tempt your travel planning for the year ahead. Plan to visit New York City starting in April to see the Amazins' continue the momentum started this year.

New York Mets:
Baseball Stop: Citi Field, Queens, New York

Be one with your favorite firecracker-hot Mets players at Citi Field where you can really feel like you’re a part of the action. The Mets’ newish stadium seats 41,800 and provides a little something for every single fan. The seats are positioned inward to provide an enhanced view of the field, there’s the 2K Sports FanFest area complete with batting cage, dunk tank and video and of course an abundance of food stands serving the best hot dogs, pretzels, Italian heroes and other baseball-friendly snacks. The food court in the back takes baseball cuisine a step further with Danny Meyers' Shake Shack and Blue Smoke,along with Pressed by Josh Capon of Lure Fishbar fame. Very much made with the customer in mind, tickets are reasonably priced, compared to the other New York team’s.. Located in the busy and diverse Flushing Meadows section of Queens there is so much culture and energy surrounding the stadium in the form of interesting museums, ethnic restaurants and beautiful architecture. Getting to the stadium is easy— whether you prefer by subway, rail, water or road. The 7 train takes you directly to the park. Check online to find out about seasonal water taxis, often leaving from downtown Manhattan.


Anti-Booze Cruises: Take a break from all-you-can-drink nighttime sailing adventures and give Classic Harbor Line cruises a try. Sail around New York while renowned restaurateurs and architects entertain and enlighten you with their fare. Learn some New York City architectural history aboard a classy 1920’s style yacht where you glide along the East, Harlem and Hudson Rivers, under each of Manhattan’s 18 bridges (who knew there were so many) and past many other notable buildings and memorials. Cruises set sail from easily accessible Chelsea Piers, Pier 62 at West 22nd Street. You can also enjoy the new cruise-dining experience on Fish Bar from Pier 81, where you can choose to sit on top at the bar on lounge furniture, or inside as you enjoy fine dining while sailing along the Hudson River. Time your dinner to coincide with a sunset viewing of the Statue of Liberty. The boat and restaurant operate year-round.

Not Your Mom’s Science Fair:  Perfect for ages 6 months to 70 years, the New York Hall of Science  takes the science beyond generic science-fair level. There’s a Science Playground with slides, sound machines and more that are perfect for the little ones who are discovering the use of their senses. There are more than 450 permanent exhibits that are all hands-on and mentally stimulating. Explore some of the most powerful and historical spacecrafts at Rocket Park, discover unknown worlds beneath the microscope at Hidden Kingdoms and put your body to work at Sports Challenge where you participate in fun and physical activities. Rocket Park Mini Golf is a way to incorporate all you learned about physics, mathematics and good old fun. General admission tickets are priced reasonably, based on age of guest, and don’t miss the opportunity for complimentary admission September-June on Fridays, 2-5pm; Sundays, 10-11am and Fridays when school is out for students. The Museum hours change with the seasons.

Bird’s Eye View:  In order to take in all the beauty of New York City from above either take a helicopter ride with New York Helicopter  or opt for the economical route and head to Queens Museum to see the renowned Panorama. The 50-year-old model is 9,335 square feet and includes an accurate model of every New York City building that was ever built before 1992. Robert Moses’1964 World Fair entry celebrates the city’s diverse and beautiful architecture and infrastructure, shining light on each of the 895,000 structures. The model’s upgrade in 2009 was to make a crucial addition, the Met’s Citi Field. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday 12-6pm and the admission is a suggested donation. New York City Building Flushing Meadows Corona Park; Queens, NY 11368; 718-592-9700

De-stress :  Sweat the stress and pounds away at an authentic Russian Bath, Wall Street Bath and Spa. Offered is the Russian Sauna, the Old American Shvitz that’s temperature and vapor ingredients can be adjusted to your liking, a near-Olympic-sized swimming pool, tanning beds, and Jacuzzi.  For $32.50 per day you can de-robe and relax in one of the busiest districts in the city, Wall Street. There’s a restaurant onsite with a few options to help replenish your appetite after a day of sweating off toxins and unwanted fat. Ride the New York Waterway Ferry for another fun experience. Open Monday through Friday 11am-11pm or Saturday and Sunday 9am-11pm.
88 Fulton Street; New York, NY 10038; 212-766-8600

Sleep:  Skip staying in Queens and head instead to Manhattan for greater choice and comfort. A boutique in a quieter section of the city is the Hotel Giraffe. Comfort, elegance and style are personified in the spacious guest rooms, with afternoon snacks, and music in the lobby. The complimentary European-style breakfast buffet and rooftop lounge area are sure to provide the much-needed boost of energy or bit of relaxation to get you through your day as well as the high-speed Wi-Fi Internet for researching your next move. Though there is no gym onsite, guests receive a complimentary pass to the nearby NY Sports Club. Located at 365 Park Avenue South; New York, NY 10016; 212-685-7700 you are within a short walking or public transportation-distance from many of the city’s major shopping areas, landmarks and museums.

Hotel Elysée is a boutique hotel that entices with its simplicity without sacrificing its amenities. It’s very much like a home away from home feel with the charming and thoughtfully styled guestrooms and suites and the care with which they treat guest, offering complimentary Wi-Fi Internet throughout the hotel as well as a hearty breakfast. For a delicious meal at a world-renowned eatery, head right out to Monkey Bar or order into your room.  The stylish restaurant that has been around since the Great Depression serves up banana daiquiris, famous NY Strip ‘Delmonico’ and enough oysters and clams to satisfy your crustacean cravings. The Hotel is located at 60 East 54th Street; New York, NY 10022; 212-753-1066.

Eat:  You’ve had a long day of sitting in sporty clothing, cheering loudly to represent your team and possibly weathering the storm of beer raining from the cups of fellow fans. A day at the baseball field is always fun and exciting but sometimes after all the casual fun sometimes a little upgrade to grownup sexy is the perfect way to end the night. DiWine is exactly the place to go. The eclectic menu reflects the diverse Astoria neighborhood in which it resides. There’s a delicious array of brunch Brick Oven Pizzas—“The Gigi” with smoked beef, capers, portabella and mushrooms sounds amazing, Pecan Buttermilk Waffles and Banana Bread French Toast to start you off. Then the Dinner Menu sets things off offering 12 Tasting Plates—Dates and Devils, Bistro Mussels and Truffled Mac-n-Cheese are just a few that scream to be tasted. The creative and tasty libations are in abundance and they pair nicely with the gorgeous interior that’s intimate and chic. The plush lounge couches and extra long bar draw people in and keep them satisfied while there.
Open Sunday through Thursday 5pm-2am; Friday & Saturday 5pm-4am; Weekend brunch begins at 11am.
4115 31st Avenue; Astoria, NY 11103; 718-777-1355

Shop: You know the drill. Manhattan and Brooklyn are where the shopping's at. Depending on your style preferences, you might enjoy perusing the high-fashion Pucci and Prada shops along Madison Avenue in Manhattan or subway downtown to SoHo for trendier boutiques or big-name magnets like Moncler and Intermix.  Brooklyn is the place for the independents, with each neighborhood touting its own. Take the subway, pick a neighborhood, and shop. There are more stores in NYC than in most cities in the country and you're sure to find something distinctive along the way. And, of course, there's always the Fan Store at the stadium for your Mets flatbrim hat.