Archive for the ‘Art and Museums’ Category


Incredible Capture: Church of Livadia, Crete

On the island of Crete – the largest of Greece’s islands – stands the Church of Livadia. It has quite the colorful interior, reflecting Crete’s distinctive culture from the rest of Greece.

Livadia greece church

Image: Wolfgang Staudt/ Flickr

The island has its own poetry form, Mantinades, along with music and indigenous dancing. The people of Crete also often wear traditional dress in everyday settings, including knee-high black riding boots and black shirts. Most of the population is Greek Orthodox, and religious holidays play an important role in gathering the people of Crete together. (via NileGuide)

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Museum Day 2010: Plan your Free Trip to a Local Museum

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend, why not celebrate Museum Day 2010 and plan a trip to a local museum for FREE!

Over 1,200 museums across 50 states are taking part in Smithsonian magazine’s Sixth Annual Museum Day, on September 25, 2010. These institutions will follow the Smithsonian Institution’s free admission policy and open their doors gratis to visitors nationwide.

Smithsonian ticket

There are a wide range of museums to choose from. Here are some of our picks:

Check out the map to see what museums in your neighborhood have already signed on and easily print out an admission card, good for two people.

smithsonian museum map

If you love to plan trips to art galleries and museums, explore more options on TravelMuse.


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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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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With 8,000 thousand figures, 10,000 weapons, 670 horses, 130 chariots and three archaeological pits, it’s easy to see why the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang in Xi’an is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China. I spent a half-day at the site on my recent month-long trip to the country and pulled together the following visitor tips.

First, A Brief History

This life-size clay army was buried near the tomb of Qin Shi Huang in order to guard him into the afterlife, as well as perhaps entertain him since figures of acrobats and musicians were included along with warriors. Qin Shi Huang was a bit of a badass who declared himself the first emperor of China after conquering the warring states surrounding his Qin state, thereby unifying them into the vast Asian country intact today. He ruled from 221 B.C. until his death in 210 B.C. Discovered by local farmers in 1974, the archeological site remains active, with ongoing digs and restorations. Terracotta+Pit+1


(Photos: Donna M. Airoldi)

Sightseeing Tips

  • Decide whether to go by tour or on your own. If you go by tour, when reviewing prices, remember that the actual admission price to the museum is CNY90 (US$13).
  • Getting there by tour. Whether you’re a luxury traveler or backpacker, odds are your hotel or hostel will be selling a day package to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors museum. Often these trips are paired with other nearby attractions, and prices will vary significantly. Make sure you choose a tour that includes admission to all the sites, gives you enough time at each place to actually see and enjoy them, and picks you up and drops you off at your hotel.
  • Getting there independently. Save money and manage your own time by taking public bus No. 306 to the museum, which is the end point on the route. Cost is CNY7 (US$1) each way, with stops at the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang and Huaqing Hot Springs, and takes 30 minutes. Board at the Xi’an train station parking lot in the section to the right of the station as you face it.
  • Bring binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens. Except for a few figures enclosed in glass in Pit 2, you won’t get up close to any of the warriors in the three pits.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. The ticket office is a long way from the parking lot, and the actual entrance even farther. It’s about a half mile in total, so not bad, but be prepared if you have any kind of foot troubles. Mini bus transport was available for some groups from the ticket office to the museum entrance.
  • Audio guide. I enjoyed the self-guided audio tour, which includes about 90 minutes of information. Cost: CNY40 (US$4.85). As is the case in most museums in China, you need to leave a hefty deposit—CNY200 (US$30)—for the device, which you’ll get back when you return it. One drawback: Once you listen to a segment, you cannot go back and listen again.
  • Hiring a guide. If you’re not already on a tour, you’ll be approached near the ticket office by independent guides-for-hire. Prices vary, so be ready to bargain. If you want a private tour, say so, otherwise you might end up as part of a small group your guide has pulled together.
  • Be prepared for crowds. Bus loads of crowds. And these folks will not hesitate to push you out of the way for their perfect photo op. Busiest times are mornings and early afternoon. You can see the entire site in a couple of hours, so even if you don’t get there until 2 p.m., you’ll have plenty of time before the museum closes at 5.
  • Skip the introductory film. Unless you want to chuckle at the 1970s made-for-TV production values of this film, head right to the excavation pits.
  • View Pit 3 first, then Pit 2. The small Pit 3 has the lowest lighting and just 70 warriors and horses, but they were positioned face-to-face, suggesting this was the headquarters of the Terra Cotta Army. Pit 2 is larger, with more than 1,000 figures, including those kneeling while in a shooting position. Excavations are ongoing, and this is also the room where you can see five glass-enclosed warriors of differing ranks up close in order to appreciate the project’s craftsmanship and amazing level of detail.
  • Save Pit 1 for last. This room is the most imposing and the most impressive. There are estimated to be about 6,000 figures buried here, most of which still haven’t been unearthed. You walk the circumference of the large pit, taking in the row upon row of warriors and horses. This room also is the hardest to maneuver through when the crowds are at their peak.
  • Enjoy the surroundings. The area around the pits and other buildings is nicely landscaped with trees, flowers, paved paths, benches, and cafes and souvenir shops, for those needing a break or looking to take home a set of warrior miniatures.

Even if Xi’an isn’t on your travel radar, you can get an even better look at these impressive figures at the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor exhibit opening Nov. 19 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., with 15 soldiers on view until March 31, 2010. Read TravelMuse’s coverage of the show from when it was in Atlanta earlier this year.

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I’m the first to admit that every time I hear reference to Istanbul, that infectious song gets stuck in my head. But Turkey’s most populous city has left its footprint in the history of world civilization without help from some cheesy song.


Photo: HBarrison

In 2010, Istanbul will be celebrated as a capital of European culture with yearlong events, the opening of new exhibits and museums, renovations of landmarks and performances by artists from around the globe. In preparation, the city has renovated landmark attractions and even opened new museums. Renovations include the Ataturk Culture Center, the Topkapi Palace museum and the Hagia Sophia, one of the world’s most famous churches and mosques. Istanbul has also opened the Maslak Culture Center as a venue for performing arts and commenced a Frank Gehry-designed opera house.

The events will follow the theme “A City of Four Elements” to help the city organize the yearlong celebration. Jan. 1 through March 20 will represent the “Earth” period, where archaeological excavations will be showcased, exhibits illustrating the city’s historical development will be featured and the influence of Ottoman Istanbul is detailed. March 21 through June 21 will represent “Air” and will feature multicultural and inter-religious events. “Water” will take place from June 22 through Sept. 22 and boast two weeklong presentations of music, art and food from numerous European countries in waterfront districts of Istanbul. Ending the yearlong celebration “Fire,” which takes place Sept. 22 through Dec. 31, will focus on Turkey’s contemporary art scene.

For more information and a detailed calendar of events, visit or

Plan your 2010 trip to Istanbul on TravelMuse.

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Who says you have to be a geek to appreciate museum events? At the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Thursday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. (through Oct. 29, 2009) are now dedicated to NightLife, with music, food, cocktails and science presentations for adults 21 years and older.

For only $10 ($8 for members), you can shake your groove thang to hot DJ-supplied tunes or learn something scientific with your drink in hand. Each week, a different part of the Academy hosts the party, but you can still walk through the exhibits to your heart’s content (although some, like the Rainforest and Penguin exhibits, close early).

NightLife is the perfect event for those of us who love seeing kids excited about science, and who also prefer to get in close to see that cool-looking stingray, thankyouverymuch.

So, on your next San Francisco vacation, go to the Academy of Sciences at night—and you can check “spectacular new science museum” and “cool San Francisco nightlife” off your itinerary at once! For more information, visit

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