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CityPASS - A Great Gift For the Holidays

CityPASS Holiday GiftCityPASS Makes a Great Holiday Gift

Being frugal these days is a lifestyle choice for many. And what exactly is living frugally? It’s up to you to decide!

It could mean buying quality, used clothes from a thrift store. Or maybe it means shoving those extra napkins from fast food into your glove box. Perhaps it means not ordering drinks and appetizers at dinner. Maybe it entails buying a thoughtful and classy gift at a discounted price. Christmas will be here before you know it. Be prepared this year.

This is where CityPASS comes in. Because savvy savers know a thing or two about penny pinching, they probably already know about CityPASS. A CityPASS booklet contains 5-6 admission tickets to the top attractions in a city at up to half off regular prices. CityPASS currently offers ticket booklets in 10 big cities and a ticket card to theme parks in Southern California. The booklets are valid for 9 days and the card for 14 days.

CityPASS is a nice gift that will never go out of style. An urban vacation probably won’t lose its allure any time soon. Visiting the Statue of Liberty will never not be cool. Might as well get that pocket-sized booklet to a destination you and your family have always wanted to visit.

And don’t forget, frugal doesn’t mean cheap! Making wise and thoughtful decisions with the money you do have is living frugally.

Also, you can’t put a dollar amount on the time you save by skipping lines at many CityPASS attractions. You might even feel like a VIP because you get to bypass the main ticket lines!

For more than 15 years, CityPASS ticket booklets have been a premier product for travelers who want to visit a destination’s top attractions while enjoying significant savings of up to 50 percent. CityPASS ticket booklets, which have a 95 percent customer recommendation rating, are available for New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay and Toronto. For more information, visit CityPASS.com.

Haunted Houston Attractions

Houston, Texas, is an exciting mix of old and new where history meets innovation. The most heavily populated city in Texas and fourth-largest U.S. city in terms of residents, Houston started as a humble railroad hub in the 1860s. Today, it’s home to oil fields, NASA, a thriving finance industry, and a flourishing arts scene.

As Halloween looms closer, it brings to light Houston’s haunted side. This Southwest metropolis is home to a number of legitimately haunted houses and hotels. If you’re Texas-bound and in the mood for some haunted happenings, check out a few of our picks for haunted things to do in Houston.

Haunted History: The Rice Lofts (formerly the Rice Hotel)

In a former life, the Houston apartment high-rise known as the Rice Lofts was once the Rice Hotel, infamously known as the hotel where former President John F. Kennedy spent his last night before his assassination in 1963. Before it was converted into apartment buildings, guests of the hotel claimed to hear the rattling of objects, feel chills, see lights, and feel a ghostly presence in the room where JFK once slept.

The supernatural activity in this hotel was not limited to the former President’s room, however. The ghosts of couples on a dance floor were also said to have tripped the light phantasmic in the hotel ballroom. Since the hotel’s renovations, these ghostly dancers now perform their danse macabre on the Rice Lofts rooftop.

Rice HotelImage Source: Wikimedia Commons

Putting the “Fun” in Funeral: National Museum of Funeral History

Located at 415 Barren Springs Drive in Houston, the National Museum of Funeral History boasts the mission statement that “any day above ground is a good one.” Founded in 1992, the museum harbors a collection of funeral service memorabilia designed to educate visitors and keep the traditions of the funeral industry’s practices and history “alive.”

Among some of the exhibits at the National Museum of Funeral History are a restored, hand-carved wooden hearse from the 1920s that once transported coffins to their final place of rest. Another exhibit (in conjunction with the Vatican) focuses on the burial rituals of popes. Yet another display focuses on a retrospective of the work of Dr. Thomas Holmes, a prominent Civil War-era embalmer. And in a strangely whimsical exhibit, the Museum houses 12 colorful, customized “fantasy coffins” designed by sculptor Kane Quaye of Ghana to depict the life’s interests of their inhabitants – including coffins designed to resemble an airliner, leopard, lobster, and even a Mercedes Benz. This unique museum is not to be missed on your tour of haunted Houston!

Fantasy CoffinsImage Source: Wikimedia Commons

High Spirits: The Brewery Tap

Tired of walking around and want to grab a drink – and maybe do a little spirit-spotting? Check out The Brewery Tap, located at 717 Franklin Street (at the corner of Louisiana). This historic brewery building has an enormous selection of 35 beers on tap, an upbeat staff, games of darts for patrons to play, and (oh, yeah) its very own ghost.

From time to time, a friendly, otherworldly visitor named “William” materializes to chat with patrons at The Brewery Tap. According to bar lore, William is the ghost of a former brewery worker in the 1920s who died on the job. The owner even has a photo of this mysterious character and will show it to you if you ask nicely. Down a brew or two and find yourself in good “spirits” at this happily haunted Houston attraction.

The Brewery TapImage Source: Brewery Tap Houston

A Haunting Walk in the Park: Glenwood Cemetery

Houston’s Glenwood Cemetery is among one of the most beautifully landscaped graveyards in the country. Designed around the ravines that trail to Houston’s historic Buffalo Bayou, the gently curving walkways of this 19th century cemetery makes it feel more like an extraordinary park than a place of eternal rest.

Visitors can stop by the gravesites of some famous folks interred at Glenwood Cemetery, such as eccentric billionaire and aviator Howard Hughes, actress Gene Tierney (who, ironically, starred in the film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir), and the remarkable Sarah Emma Edmondson (married name: Seyle) – a Civil War-era nurse and spy who dressed as a man to join the Union army. The cemetery is a popular spot for ghost hunters to congregate due to its high electromagnetic fields generated within its iron gates, and the legend that its owner – the victim of an unsolved murder – haunts this beautiful cemetery.

Glenwood CemeteryImage Source: Wikimedia Commons

These are just a few haunted Houston attractions you can check out if you’re “plot”ting a trip to this fascinating city. Depending on how much additional (grave) digging you may want to do, you can unearth a number of haunted happenings throughout the city of Houston in time for Halloween – or any time you wish to visit the city and explore some spine-tingling spots.

Golden Gate Park Surrounded By Restaurant Variety

If Central Park is New York’s heart, Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s soul. A 1,000-acre rectangle wedged between Richmond and Sunset, the providentially engineered expanse of green stretches from The Haight to the sea. Flowers, lakes, museums and elbow room make Golden Gate a favorite haunt among residents and a must-do destination for city visitors. Any patch of grass in the park could serve as a leisurely picnic location, but with so many notable restaurants in close proximity, we suggest that you work up your appetite with a short walk and experience San Francisco’s stimulating culinary scene.

Photo credit: Yun Huang Yong at Axum Café

The Haight

Haight-Ashbury abuts Golden Gate on the east end, just south of the park’s narrow panhandle. Shops full of vintage ’60s clothing allude to the district’s hippie history, but little else remains of that storied era – unless you make a beeline to the park’s Hippie Hill. If your idea of sensory pleasure tends toward the gustatory, you can still enjoy the “anything goes” attitude in The Haight’s profusion of restaurants.

Axum Café transports the heady aroma of East Africa to its airy dining room at 698 Haight Street. Meat, poultry and fish simmered in tomatoes, onions and jalapeno peppers share menu space with vegetarian entrees of chickpeas, lentils, potatoes, spinach and mushrooms livened with classic Ethiopian spices.

The Zagat-recommended Magnolia Pub & Brewery at 1398 Haight Street serves bistro-style fare on steroids alongside its cask-conditioned ales. You may actually volunteer for a knuckle sandwich here: beef knuckle on a roll delivers a punch of flavor with giardiniera and charred onion aioli. Or snack on such morsels as goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped with bacon and drizzled with a kolsch gastrique, Scotch quail eggs and Monterey Bay sardines.

Photo credit: rick House-made Toulouse Sausage Sandwich - Magnolia Pub & Brewery

If an inexplicable force seems to draw you out of the park, it’s probably the Latin beat coming from Cha Cha Cha. This Caribbean-fusion eatery and its altars to the saint-gods of Santeria is worthy of a detour, though its location on Haight Street – at 1801, just one block from the attractions-dense east end of the park – make it an easy diversion. You can put together a tapas-style lunch – try chicken wings glazed in a guava-chipotle chile sauce, fried platanos with black beans and sour cream, and a chicken curry or ricotta-spinach empanada – or opt for a sandwich, such as the Cubano Clasico.

When the flavor diversity (or other influences) leaves you jonesing for a good ole American standby, visit The Pork Store Café at 1451 Haight Street, where homestyle favorites such as a club sandwich, BLT and grilled cheese command the table.

Richmond

The park’s northern boundary stretches along Richmond, a district known for its multicultural atmosphere. Clement Street, as you head toward the Presidio, is a sort of unofficial food court of Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thai and Korean cuisine. For samusa soup like your “imaginary Burmese grandma used to make,” Brandon Kleinman, writing for The Blog at Huff Post, recommends Burma Superstar at 309 Clement Street.

Photo credit: Karen at Cha Cha Cha

The Asian character continues as you head west, but plenty of other cultures represent with a sprinkling of French, Spanish, Jewish, Japanese, Egyptian, Moroccan, Indian, Russian, Mexican, and yes, American, restaurants in the mix. If the thought of more than a momentary slow-down puts you on edge, grab a pork bao (or three) at Jook Time at 3398 Balboa and keep on going. This typical Chinese street food wraps barbecue pork and veggies in a tender steamed bun. SF Weekly’s SFoodie recommends this as one of the top 10 dim sum restaurants in the city. Soup sounds good at any time of the year in San Francisco, where average high temperatures rarely climb above 70 degrees. When the fog descends, you should immediately go find warmth in a bowl of ramen at Miki’s. Lauren Sloss at Serious Eats calls this restaurant at 3639 Balboa Street “a cozy respite from the cold.”

Sunset

It’s easy to forget that San Francisco is, technically, a beach town. But on the ocean side of the Sunset District, a laidback surfer vibe cuts through the ever-present fog. Take advantage of the time warp and head to 4001 Judah Street, where carbs are still very much in vogue. Alissa Merksamer of Serious Eats recommends making the trek to Outerlands on a Sunday, when you can order the “much-ballyhooed restaurant’s best treat,” a Dutch Pancake. The maple syrup-drizzled popover/pancake cross comes with built-in bacon.

Photo credit: Outerlands

Harkening back to the glory days of worker’s cooperatives, Arizmendi Bakery at 1331 9th Avenue is a darling of the crowd-sourced reviews. The owner and staff turn out daily pizza specials according to a monthly menu. This isn’t the place for pepperoni or personal opinions, but if you like to take chances with sourdough crust and toppings such as marinated artichoke hearts, arugula, caramelized onions, goat cheese and sugar-plum tomatoes, grab a slice or two to go.

It’s a straight sight from San Francisco to Japan, and Yum Yum Fish at 2181 Irving Street may leave you wondering if you’ve been teleported to Tokyo. The fish market-style counter service adds to the authenticity, though Yelp reviews overwhelmingly recommend ordering your sushi and sashimi to go.

Picnic Pickups

Let’s say you catch a slice of sunshine and want to eat lunch outdoors. Since you can’t go two blocks in San Francisco without passing some place selling food, you should have no trouble rounding up provisions. For the quintessential picnic fare – a sandwich – stop into Arguello Super Market for a turkey and avocado sandwich on Dutch crunch bread (which Lauren Sloss wants to make the National Sandwich of San Francisco).

Or try the meat-packed subs at The Yellow Submarine, which practically define American excess. You’ll find this Sunset institution at 503 Irving Street. For a Middle Eastern take on the sandwich, visit Sunrise Deli and order a falafel to go. You can visit either of two locations near Golden Gate Park, one in Sunset at 2115 Irving Street or the newer shop at 1671 Haight Street.

Photo credit: eric molina Steak and cheese sandwich from Yellow Submarine Deli

 

Rainbow Room Welcomes New Era at Rockefeller Center

The Rainbow Room is shining brightly once again, high above New York City on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Doors of the famed restaurant and dance hall reopened in early October for brunch, dinner and entertainment. After being closed several years for renovations, the legendary Rainbow Room is back with the same spirit, style and sophistication. read more »

A Quaint Paradise Only a Short Ferry Ride from Seattle

Driving through Tacoma, WA, to catch the ferry (the only way onto Vashon Island without an airplane), I absent-mindedly hurried through a yellow-but-actually-red light. Few things will force you to slow down like a moving infraction. But, even if a ticket from Tacoma’s finest doesn’t do it, the 30-minute ferry ride to the Puget Sound’s largest island gives you time to pause and enjoy the feeling of the wind in your face as the boat slides across the water. read more »

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