Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category


Architecture is a great way to get to know a city’s culture and history. From monuments to houses to office buildings and everything in between, architecture is an integral part of our day-to-day existence. If you plan on visiting any of these cities on your next vacation, be sure to check out their architecture museums.

The National Building Museum. Photo: BAR Photography

The National Building Museum. Photo: BAR Photography

Skyscraper Museum, New York

Even the most jaded Manhattanite can’t resist staring upward sometimes. The city is a vertical metropolis, and it has a museum dedicated to that subject. New York City’s Skyscraper Museum explores the design, technology and culture of tall buildings. Permanent displays include miniature models of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan, historical photos of skyscrapers under construction and a section devoted to the Word Trade Center and rebuilding at Ground Zero. Through 2009 the exhibition “China Prophecy” examines booming Shanghai as a model for future urbanism. The museum offers frequent free talks by architects and authors.

39 Battery Place. Tel. 212-968-1961.

National Building Museum, Washington, D.C.

It’s fitting that Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum, created by Congress, should concern itself as much with the future of our built environment as with its past. Exhibitions have addressed new visions for affordable housing, sustainable buildings and cities, concepts for rebuilding New Orleans—as well as the work of master architects like Wright and Saarinen and other historic themes. Through 2011, “Washington: Symbol and City” reveals the tension between the capital’s role as national landmark and metaphor, and its everyday functioning as a place where regular people live. The “Building Zone” is a hands-on exploration space for kids up to 6 years old. The museum occupies one of D.C.’s most spectacular 19th-century structures, modeled after a 16th-century Roman palace designed by Michelangelo.

401 F St., NW. Tel. 202-272-2448.

Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal

The provocative exhibitions here change often and range widely. Recent ones have explored the history of skylights, actions individuals can take to affect the city, and the architectural innovations spurred by the 1973 oil crisis. The Centre for Architecture occupies a striking post-modern building that wraps around an important 19th-century mansion. It sits in a garden that evokes historical periods of landscape design. Tours of the building (and garden, in summer) are offered daily. On Thursday evenings, there are lectures, screenings and gallery talks.

1920 rue Baile. Tel. 514-939-7000.

Architecture+Design Museum, Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a fertile incubator of modernism, in both its urban form and its buildings. And this ultra-creative California  metropolis—its evolution, seminal architects, and possible futures—are frequent topics for exhibitions here. Graphic and product design are also explored. Exhibitions change frequently.

6032 Wilshire Blvd. Tel. 323-932-9393.

The Heinz Architectural Center, Pittsburgh

This section of the Carnegie Museum of Art has an extensive collection of architectural drawings, prints and models from which its changing exhibitions are drawn. The museum also incorporates the monumental Hall of Architecture, opened in 1907, where more than 140 plaster casts of doorways, columns and other architectural details are displayed. These casts were taken from significant buildings dating from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance.

4400 Forbes Ave. Tel. 412-622-3131.

Post based on “The World’s Top Architecture Museums” by Jonathan Lerner.

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I’m taking a mini road trip to Los Angeles with my younger brother next weekend. Between gas money, hotel costs and feeding ourselves, I was worried that we were going to be stuck with no money to see any of the the City of Angels’ infamous attractions. But Los Angeles is not just for the rich and the famous to enjoy. There are many incredible free activities to partake, much to my relief. Vacation saved! Here are five free top attractions that I plan to check out on my trip. What are you favorite things to do in Los Angeles for free?

The Getty Villa. Photo: brewbooks

The Getty Villa. Photo: brewbooks

1. Home of the Oscars

If you’re a movie buff (or even if you’re not), be sure to check out the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Grand Lobby and Fourth Floor Galleries. The Academy’s headquarters is located in the heart of Beverly Hills and its galleries feature impressive exhibitions that highlight the best of Hollywood’s movie magic and history. 8949 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tel. 310-247-3000.

2. The Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Trust is one of the largest supporters of visual arts in the world, and its two Los Angeles locations, the Getty Center Los Angeles and the Getty Villa Malibu, feature an incredible collection of European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illustrated manuscripts and photography, all housed in breathtaking indoor and outdoor settings. Although reservations aren’t needed at the Getty Center, visitors to the Getty Villa Malibu must have advance, timed tickets to gain entry, and only a limited number of tickets are offered daily. Getty Center. 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles. Getty Villa Malibu, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades. Tel. 310-440-7300.

3. South Bay Bicycle Path

Taking a ride or stroll down the South Bay Bicycle Path is probably the best way to sample Los Angeles’ beaches. Despite its name, this 22-mile bike path is frequented by movers of all types and passes through must-see beach community highlights such as the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach’s ever-present alternative culture and Redondo Beach’s Pier Avenue. To get the most out of your coastal stroll start at the bike path’s northernmost point, Will Rogers State Beach, where Temescal Canyon Road meets Pacific Coast Highway.,,

4. Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park

Located within Los Angeles’ famous Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory has been a highlight of Los Angeles for nearly 75 years. After recently undergoing an extensive six-year renovation and expansion, the observatory offers visitors a state-of-the-art planetarium, presentation theatre, public telescopes and multiple indoor and outdoor exhibits. Griffith Park is packed with attractions aside from the observatory, so consider spending a day on the park’s grounds. Griffith Park. 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles. Tel. 323-913-4688. Griffith Observatory. 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles. Tel. 213-473-0800.

5. The Grove and Farmers Market

Looking for a true L.A. shopping experience without the fuss of Rodeo Drive? Then head to The Grove and Farmers Market located in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District. This outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex is riddled with SoCal ambiance, which means you’ll love it whether you splurge on souvenirs or just window shop. For an “organic” experience spend your time at the historic Farmers Market, where you’ll find fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as restaurants and a wide variety of clothing, gadgets and other service vendors. 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. Tel. 323-900-8080, Farmers Market. 6333 West 3rd St. Tel. 323-933-9211,

Plan your trip to Los Angeles on TravelMuse.

Post derived from “5 Free Los Angeles Attractions” by Teresa Basich.



I just got back from my first-ever excursion to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I am still in awe. Few U.S. cities have the character, history and uniqueness that the City Different does. So in honor of my trip (and to prolong my vacation high), I present you with eight amazing attractions you must check out while visiting Santa Fe.

The view from the top of Tent Rocks. Photo: Jessica Skelton

The view from the top of Tent Rocks. Photo: Jessica Skelton

This open-air international marketplace is a blast to stroll around in. You can pick out unique Santa Fe souvenirs (pottery, turquoise jewelry, art), grab a bite at the café or visit the animal barn. My favorite part of Jackalope? The prairie dog village—amazing.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Hiking at Tent Rocks was easily one of my favorite parts of going Santa Fe. It is an extremely easy hike and the scenery is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. It’s called Tent Rocks because the rock formations are shaped like cones—a product of volcanic eruptions and severe wind and rain.

The Lensic
I was lucky enough to catch a three-minute film festival at the Lensic while I was in Santa Fe. Originally opened in 1931 as a vaudeville stage, the Lensic is a non-profit performing arts center that features both national and local acts. If you can’t manage to sneak in a play or a film, it’s still worth poking around this historic and gorgeous venue.

The Santa Fe Plaza

At the center of the historic Plaza there is an incredible tree-lined park. It’s a great place to people watch and first-rate shops and restaurants are just steps away. I really enjoyed strolling through the Plaza at night, when the tress are adorned with lights.

St. Francis Cathedral. Photo: Jessica Skelton

St. Francis Cathedral. Photo: Jessica Skelton

Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The Georgia O’Keeffe museum opened in 1997 and has quickly become one of the dearest treasures to the City Different. The museum’s permanent collection of O’Keeffe’s work is larger than any other in the world. It also features art work from many other established artists.

Canyon Road

Once a residential area for early Spanish settlers, Canyon Road features some of Santa Fe’s most upscale shops, galleries and restaurants. Being a frugal traveler,  I didn’t buy anything while I was there, but I enjoyed the walk and looking at all of the art galleries.

Palace of the Governors

The Palace of the Governors is registered national historic landmark that features an extensive collection of Santa Fe and Southwest history. Outside, Native Americans line the walkway selling arts and crafts-a tradition 400 years in the making. This is a great place to pick up unique gifts for everyone back at home.

Saint Francis Cathedral
I’ve always been captivated by a city’s churches. They possess a timeless quality that really allows you to a deeper look into culture and tradition. Erected in the late 19th century, the St. Francis Cathedral was built in a Romanesque revival style. Past the beautifully sculpted doors, there are vast stained glass windows, beautiful arts and an alter like I’ve never seen.

Plan a trip to Santa Fe On TravelMuse.

Check out my trip plan to Santa Fe.

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With London playing host to the next Olympic Games in 2012, we noticed a few great photos that were recently added to our TravelMuse Flickr group that we wanted to share. London is modern yet still retains it’s antiquated charm. From The London Eye, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the world, to the timeless red telephone booths, London is a crossroads of history and innovation. The city has already made great strides in constructing its venues for the Olympics in 2012.
Photo: Leonardo, easthastings

The London Eye at Night. Photo: Leonardo, easthastings

Typical London Weather! Photo: Leonardo, easthastings

Typical London Weather! Photo: Leonardo, easthastings

Photo: Cheryl Lynn (sunnysideup79)

An aerial view from The London Eye. Photo: Cheryl Lynn (sunnysideup79)

Photo: echiner1

Classic red telephone booths provide a perfect photo op. Photo: echiner1

Plan a trip to London on TravelMuse.

Want to have your photos featured on TravelMusings? Add your vacation photos to our TravelMuse Flickr group or TravelMuse Facebook page, and we’ll publish our favorites.

Be sure to visit the London Olympics 2012 official Web site for up-to-the-minute news and details.

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Also called “Lunar New Year,” Chinese New Year is the most significant holiday in Chinese culture. Although China has been using the Gregorian (or solar) calendar since 1912, the country still follows the lunar calendar for traditional holidays. Traditionally, the festival begins on first day of the month of the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th. From scrumptious food such as jau gok (the main Chinese New Year dumpling) to customary red packets filled with money, this holiday is just a small window into China’s rich and fascinating culture.

If the events of Chinese New Year spark your interest in the customs, traditions and history of China, why not plan a trip to explore the country for yourself.

Sunset at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Photo: Robert Prior

Sunset at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Photo: Robert Prior

Top 5 Beijing Sights

The Forbidden City
Home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the massive Imperial Palace, better known as the Forbidden City, still stands as a shrine to China’s imperial past. Plan two full days if you want to see the entire complex, but the major highlights such as the great halls and the imperial gardens can be seen in one day.

Tiananmen Square
Flanked by the main gate of the Forbidden City (which is emblazoned with an enormous portrait of Mao) at one end and the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (his mausoleum) at the other, Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest public square, is a monument to communist rule and architecture.

The Summer Palace
Starting as a quiet garden, this expansive palace on the outskirts of Beijing was completely rebuilt by the Empress Dowager Cixi after a ransacking by the Anglo-French forces during the Second Opium Wars. The Summer Palace’s serene, lakeside complex offers innumerable walkways, gardens, and temples for visitors to see. Keep your strength for the trek to the monumental Tower of Buddhist Incense which offers a stunning view of Kunming Lake and the distant Beijing skyline.

The Great Wall
Originally built to keep out the invading Mongol forces, the Great Wall has come to symbolize China itself. There are eight portions of the wall open to the public, ranging from the rugged at Simatai to the tourist friendly at Badaling. Kids will love the roller coaster like system to get up and down the mountainside at Badaling, as well as the opportunity to feed the bears in the bear exhibit at the entrance.

Lama Temple
I’ve seen many temples during my travels but this one blew them all away. Said to be the most important Buddhist temple outside of Tibet, this collection of temples offers shrine after shrine, with each more impressive than the last. The Lama Temple culminates with the towering Maitreya Buddha, which is registered in the Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest Buddha.

* Adapted from Miranda Young’s “Beijing’s Top 10 Sights.”

For more tips and advice, read related articles on TravelMuse:

Plan a trip to China on TravelMuse.

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Miami: Home to Super Bowl XLIV

For those lucky enough to be able to attend the Super Bowl on February 7, 2010, there are a lot of great attractions, hotels and restaurants to visit on your Super Bowl extravaganza. Hosted in Miami Gardens, Fla., Super Bowl XLIV couldn’t be experienced in a more mild-weathered climate, especially considering the deep freeze plaguing the majority of the United States. For those who can’t afford a ticket (the cheapest I found was priced at $1,731 each on StubHub!) but are still interested in visiting Miami, TravelMuse has the best travel-planning information on the home of Super Bowl XLIV.

miami 2

Photo: Sarah Ackerman

The Basics


Prior to being claimed by the Spanish in 1566, Miami was inhabited by the Tequesta Indians and was better known as Biscayne Bay Country. After a local citrus grower convinced railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to Miami, the city was officially born in 1896.

How Long to Stay
A Miami vacation makes for a great weekend getaway, especially if you’re looking for a romantic escape. If you plan on bringing the family, allow at least a week to give you time to visit all the attractions and sample Miami’s great hospitality.

Getting Around
If you are staying on the beach, you don’t need to rent a car as it’s easy to get around via taxi, scooter or GoCar. If you’re staying down south or intend on visiting any of the major tourist attractions, it’s advisable to rent a car during your stay.

Transportation from the airport is pretty inexpensive, either by taxi or shuttle. The majority of visitors fly into Miami International Airport (MIA), however Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) is only about 40 minutes from South Beach. For the most part, flights into Fort Lauderdale are a lot cheaper if you’re flying domestically.

Miami Neighborhoods

Miami Beach & SoBe (South Beach)
South Beach is famous for its architecturally preserved, historic Art Deco buildings dating back to the 1930s and 40s. Also, nightlife is most prominent here, playing host to world-renowned celebrity hangouts, clubs, bars, resorts, boutique hotels and of course, the beach.

Classified as North Miami Beach, Aventura is an elegant mix of high-rise apartments, family homes and stylish residents. Located on the mainland, the views along the intercoastals are extraordinary. Affluent and modern, Aventura offers stylish restaurants, Founders Park, the Aventura Mall, a country club, golf course and several great resorts and spas.

Coral Gables & Coconut Grove
From its conception, Coconut Grove has been a haven for the creative, attracting musicians, artists, authors and many a free spirit. Situated on the bay, it boasts gorgeous scenery, a marina, a waterfront park, a host of art galleries, sidewalk cafés, boutiques, open-air shopping mall and numerous excellent restaurants.

Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is an island located six miles off the coast of Miami and linked to the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway. A resort community, Key Biscayne has it all, including the Miami Seaquarium and a wide variety of water sports and outdoor activities.

Downtown Miami and the Brickell Area
Brickell, the center of Miami’s financial district, lies just south of Downtown and the Miami River. Originally more of a business area, Brickell is fast becoming a trendy, vibrant neighborhood filled with sidewalk cafés, restaurants and prestigious hotels catering to business travelers and banking professionals.

Miami Design District

This 18-square block area situated just north of Downtown Miami is filled with a collection of chic and stylish galleries, trendy restaurants and contemporary furniture stores.

Cultural Districts
From Little Haiti and Little Havana, to Liberty City, Hialeah and South Miami-Dade, each district is so culturally diverse, they might as well be countries unto themselves.

Miami 1Photo: Mr. Thomas


Being a world-renowned tourist destination, Miami offers plenty of accommodation options. The beaches are lined with boutique hotels, resorts and hotel chains, while downtown Miami and Brickell cater more to the business traveler. However, more options are available than just your average hotel.
An increasingly popular trend, especially on the beach, is condo-hotels, providing visitors with the luxury of a hotel and the convenience of a condo. Generally a fraction of the price of hotels, this option is ideal for longer stays. Read more in our Miami Hotels article.

Additional Information

To read more about Miami’s neighborhoods, find the perfect hotel or decide on the best attractions to visit (including museums, beaches, water activities, restaurants and more), read our full article on Miami, “Miami: The Beaches and Beyond” on TravelMuse.

Plan a trip to Miami on TravelMuse.

Other Miami articles to read on TravelMuse:
Get Your Dough On
Miami’s Top Events and Festivals
So Many Miami Hotels, So Little Time
Best of Miami’s Nightlife Dining
Best Meals in Miami
Hot Miami Wine Bars

* All information on Miami adapted from “Miami: The Beaches and Beyond” by Kim Michele.

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NYC Walking Tour: The Wall Street Experience Financial Crisis Tour

For my final post on TravelMusings, I leave you with information about a great new walking tour company in New York City—The Wall Street Experience.

Andrew Luan is your guide on this journey through the canyons of New York’s financial district, arguably the most important financial center in the world. And he’s a tour participant’s dream—an inside expert. He has lived and worked on Wall Street for years, most recently at Deutsche Bank (until he was one of thousands laid off due to the financial crisis), where he was a vice president trading structured credit bonds and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), a type of asset-backed security that has been blamed for the industry’s troubles.


In front of Federal Hall, looking at the original J.P. Morgan building. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)

Luan offers four types of tours, but the signature Financial Crisis Tour ($45, 2 hours) is the one to take if you’re interested in insider information about what factors led to the financial collapse; how and when those on The Street realized it was imminent (months before it actually happened); perspective on the culture inside a large investment house; and how the industry and area might look in the future.

You’ll also get easy-to-understand explanations of CDOs and tranches, securities, ratings—Luan says Standard & Poor’s gets paid by the very companies it rates, making for a conflict of interest—asset, credit and equity markets and more, with copies of actual reports, charts and graphs, and bond sales sheets used by traders and analysts.

The tour starts at 15 Broad St., in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Today only 10 percent of the floor is now used for trading, with the remaining 90 percent taking place online. Our group also learned that the equity asset class traded at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) represents just $10 percent of the $100 trillion financial market industry.

You’ll see several of the area’s other key financial sites—including the Merchant’s Exchange, Bank of the United States (the first bank to collapse during the Great Depression), J.P. Morgan & Co., Deutsche Bank, AIG, Goldman Sachs and, of course, the Federal Reserve—as well as many historical attractions. Be sure to check out the marks on the original J.P. Morgan location, made from dynamite when the building was bombed in 1920, and I learned that Maiden Lane was so named because it used to be a stream where young women came to wash clothes.


Andrew Luan showing equity market charts used by analysts and traders. (Photo: D.M. Airoldi)

Luan is a font of knowledge—not just about the finance industry and historical attractions, but also of architecture—and he clearly enjoys sharing his insights to help people better understand the finance industry, Wall Street and human behavior, at least when it comes to investing. He even hands out laminated cards to remind participants of the lessons learned on the tour. “My goal is to give visitors a real understanding and sense of Wall Street, while also providing a historical context,” says Luan, who developed the tour after having given an informal one to visiting friends and family members who kept recommending it to others.

One thing I would like to see added to the tour is the ability to enter some of the buildings we learn about, not just view them from outside. But I know that’s a tall order for an industry and area of New York City that requires high levels of security. Otherwise, the Financial Crisis Tour exceeded my expectations, with Luan sharing more insider info than I thought would have been possible, taking us to an extra site that isn’t typically included and sticking around for any additional questions from participants.

“This is just about the best walking tour I’ve ever taken,” said Harriette Shakes of Palo Alto, Calif., who was in my group. I have to agree.

The Wall Street Experience, Financial Crisis Tour. Cost: $45 per person + tax, 2 person or $90 minimum; children under 15 free. Hours: Mon., Wed., Fri. at 10 a.m.; Sat. at 1 p.m.

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