Posts Tagged ‘Miami’

Rollin’ Along

September 7, 2012

On my way home, I frequently see people participating in the Segway Tour of West Seattle.  While that wouldn’t be my first choice of a “tour” I do love riding Segways and think they are a great way to see an area.  I bought the Segway Tour of the downtown Seattle waterfront on GroupOn as a gift for one of my stepsons and his girlfriend.  It would also be fun as something to do with visiting relatives.

Never ridden a Segway?  It’s easy and fun!  You have to be able to stand.  You need to be tall enough to comfortably rest your hands on the handlebars and stable enough to lean slightly forward and backward.  That’s how they go, with a slight lean forward to move forward – backward to go in reverse – stand up straight to stop.  The tour operator will give you a helmet and you should wear flat shoes.

We did our first Segway tour in California as a tour of the stars homes in Beverly Hills.  Because of the agility and quiet ride, we literally were in the driveway of Tom Cruise’s home peering through the gate.  Next we took the family and did the tour offered that goes up to the Hollywood sign.  Also very cool and one I highly recommend!

You can do Segway tours of all sorts of places.  There’s one I plan to do in Miami.  It focuses on the Art Deco architecture and even the Versace mansion. How about a sunset on the beach tour in Hawaii? There are Segway tours in Washington D.C.,  Chicago, Dallas – most major cities.    When you get some experience, there’s even a “Hills and Thrills” tour in San Francisco  in addition to the “tamer” versions they offer!

Even international cities such as Berlin, Budapest and Paris have Segway tours! I think the Paris at night tour would be beautiful!

When should I Segway rather than just walk?  Ever walked all the monuments in Washington D.C.?  The hills of San Francisco?  Hiked to the Hollywood Sign?  I have done all of the above and while great – it can be exhausting!

Segways are a great way to cover a lot of ground effortlessly!  The guides also give interesting information and there is an audio system so no one is shouting or straining to hear.  Like architecture?  Fancy houses?  Segways are great ways to see both.

Is there a city you’ve been to a lot?  One you “have to go to” but don’t really want to?  See if there is a Segway tour.  They often offer more “neighborhood” tours in addition to key attractions so give you a new look at a city PLUS, the experience of riding a Segway is fun enough and cool enough to make even a routine trip more interesting!

Hate groups?  Most Segway tours are about 6-8 people but many also offer private tours for just your group.  Once you are Segway friendly, you will also find many cities where you can rent a Segway to tour yourself.  Safer, no license required and they burn NO FUEL!

Next thing you know you’ll be rollin’ along, singin’ a song…

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Water, Water Everywhere

January 14, 2012

A trip to South Florida is a great way to escape the winter blues. It’s one of the few places in the USA with consistently warm temperatures throughout the first quarter and it’s more affordable than an island destination since you don’t have to fly to get there.  There are also hotels and other rentals in any price range – from budget to luxury.

An important fact to know about South Florida (Palm Beach to Miami) is – it’s all about the water.  Not only are there miles of sandy beach coastline, but there is a large channel known as the Intercoastal Waterway and hundreds, if not thousands, of small canals that connect to it.  There are a few inlets connecting the Intercoastal with the Atlantic Ocean and it is more common than not to see a boat – or yacht – docked in the sheltered waters of these canals behind some VERY impressive homes.

In order to fully appreciate the South Florida lifestyle, it’s necessary to venture out onto the water – not just swim into it.  To do so, you will need a boat.  There are a number of boat tour options and here is my take on 3 of them:

Palm BeachDiva Ducks:  The “Ducks” are unusual vehicles because they are able to use both land AND water, in fact, part way through the tour, the “Duck” drives down a ramp and takes to the water.  The vessel is campy, the tour peppered with quacky jokes making it not right for everyone.

Palm Beach is the home of some of the rich and famous with the mansions to prove it.  Nearly all are tucked away behind tall hedges and fancy gates.  The only way to get a glimpse is from the water.  In reality, there’s not much more to see in this area besides a couple of landmark hotels and these multi-million dollar estates and the Diva Duck is the only tour boat option.  There is a water taxi, but no other water based tour operators.

On the plus side, it’s not expensive and if you check on line, there may even be a discount coupon.  It’s easy to book on line and as long as you either write down or save the tour details (including your confirmation code) you don’t even have to hassle with printing out your ticket.  The guide was appropriately quirky, the themed music was fun and it is a unique adventure. You see about a dozen impressive homes and the guide gives insights into the owners, most of which are names you will know.

On the negative side, it’s only 75 minutes and given the speed – or lack thereof – the Duck achieves in water, you don’t get to see as much from the water as we would have liked. Much of the time in the water is spent crossing from the boat ramp across “Worth Lake” to the homes and back.  You don’t get close enough to Peanut Island to say you saw it and at no time do you venture out into the ocean so the ocean front mansions can still only be seen on the Travel Channel.

Final word:  As far as a tour, it’s better than nothing and the land to water experience is unique.

Fort Lauderdale –  Carrie B. Cruises:  The website touts their investment in their sound system and it is impressive!  If you have ever endured crackling microphones and garbled narrative – you will appreciate the difference.  There are several water based tour options in Fort Lauderdale but as an experienced tourer, we opted for Carrie due to this factor.  We saw a couple of the other boats while out on tour which only reinforced the wisdom of our choice.

They use the same online ticketing agent and also may have a promo code for a discount so be sure to check the website before you click through to purchase your ticket.  As with Diva Ducks, this process was easy and efficient and a good value for the money.

It’s all plus for Carrie B. Cruises.  The vessel is nice and you can even spend the entire 1.5 hour tour on the bow of the boat as we did.  The ride is quiet, smooth and we were pleasantly surprised the paddleboat covers a LOT of territory.  The guide was informative and easy to understand.

If there is a negative, it’s that it was ONLY 1.5 hour tour.  I could have spent the entire afternoon onboard!

Final word:  There are countless mega-mansions, mega-yachts and cruise ships (Fort Lauderdale is the busiest US cruise ship port) making this a “must see” in Fort Lauderdale.

 

MiamiThriller:  My husband likes to go fast on the water – jet skis, ocean catamarans – more adrenaline than tour.  In choosing Thriller speed boat tour, we got both!  Reservations are available online or at the ticket booth in Bayside.  Discounts are often offered for online booking.

On the plus side,  the boat is sleek and fast.  The ride is remarkably smooth but the speed, the wakes of other boats and venturing out into actual OCEAN waters offers an adventure ride unlike any other!

There is some “tour”, a few homes of the rich and famous – cruise ships – impressive skylines views of Miami and a distant look at famous South Beach but this this is as much about the “Miami Vice” style ride as it is the “tour”.  The crew is laid back and great about taking photos using your camera including one that lets you sit in the co-pilot seat!

The only negative, the sound system.  It was great when playing music but was temperamental when it came to the narrative.  The crew did their best and it was fine but certainly made the Carrie B.’s sound system seem even more stellar.

Final word:  We did the sunset tour and it was amazing – definitely a high point to end our trip to South Florida.  Put this on your “must see” when in Miami!

Both Carrie B. and Thriller offer the cruise ship style boarding photo with no obligation to buy. Each tour website offers suggestions for parking but you may need to factor in the cost of parking as well as the time it takes to find a spot then walk to the boarding area.  Lastly a sunset tour is beautiful but by the time you get back to the dock the sun will have set so a light jacket or sweater is a good idea.

If you are planning a trip to South Florida, be sure to include one or more of these tours.

Art in Bloom

July 15, 2011

From Memorial Day through the end of September, communities all across the country put up tents in parks, turn thoroughfares into walking streets and encourage artists of all disciplines to show their work.  A summer day is perfect for strolling tent to tent appreciating the talents of artists from painters to sculptures to weavers to carvers to jewelers – and some things you probably never thought could be art.

Here are just a few links to some annual art festivals both around the Puget Sound and around the country.  This is by no means a complete list – locally or nationally!  Search the internet for an art fair near you or in a city were you will be visiting.  Admission is usually FREE.  Typically there is a stage for local musical artists and even if you don’t buy art for your home or office, there are always vendors selling cold drinks, ice cream and other tasty treats.

Around Seattle: (only a sampling – there are dozens)
Edmonds Arts Festival:  Mid-June (put on your calendar for next year)
Summer Art Festival:  Gig Harbor July 16 & 17
Alki Art Fair:  July 23 and 24
Bellevue Festival of the Arts:  July 29-31st
Anacortes Arts Festival:  August 5-7th

Other destinations:  (Just a taste – there are literally thousands!)
Park City, Utah:  August 5-7th on historic Main Street
Dallas, Texas:  Memorial Day weekend (plan for next year)
Aspen Arts Festival:  July 23 & 24
Atlanta Arts Festival:  September 17-18th
Steamboat Springs, CO Arts Festival:  August 18th-21st
San Diego – Art Walk on the Bay:  September 10th & 11th
Kansas City – Country Club Plaza Art Fair:  September 23, 24 & 25th

Rather than an annual event, some popular artist communities offer weekly events such as Santa Barbara, California.  Every Sunday and designated holidays you can stroll along the beach and enjoy the work of local artists, often meeting the artist themselves.

Warmer communities offer art fairs and festivals throughout the fall, winter and early spring so be sure to do an internet search if you will be visiting Palm Springs, Miami or Scottsdale from January through March.

In areas where there are clusters of art galleries, they often will hold art walk events.  The galleries are open special hours, usually have artists in house to meet visitors and offer snacks and wine as you stroll from gallery to gallery.  In Seattle, the galleries in Pioneer Square jointly participate in “First Thursday”.

Portland, Maine does theirs on “First Friday”, Portland, Oregon does one each “First Thursday”.  Again, do an internet search for your community or any place you are planning to visit using the name of the town + the words “art walk”.

Even if you aren’t the type to visit art museums as you travel, you will likely find these more casual, largely outdoor festivals fun and lively.  Try one in your own city and if you like it, you may want to try to catch ones in other cities you visit.


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