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Urban Adventure

Great activities in cities around the world.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Skywalk Saint John Set to Open This Month

While in New Brunswick several weeks back, I was fortunate to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the new skywalk set to make its debut this summer. Saint John will now be the third spot in North America to open a skywalk, in addition to the Grand Canyon and Jasper National Park. Unlike those two skywalks, which are designed as semi-circles, the Skywalk Saint John is more like a long plank extending more than 25 feet out from the building. Look down through the glass flooring and you get an exhilarating view of the cliffs, bridge, and a unique tidal shift called a reversing falls. A series of rapids in the Saint John River can be seen switching direction in the churning whirlpool below. A 10-minute film will explain this unique phenomenon caused by the tidal shifts on the nearby Bay of Fundy. Below the skywalk, the Reversing Falls restaurant offers those same glorious vistas thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Expect freshly caught yellowfin tuna, halibut, lobster, oysters, and provisions from local farms once it opens. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/10/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Miami Transformed

Vertical gardens barricade the Perez Art Museum, providing much needed shade and heat absorption during Miami’s sweltering summers. The massive windows that line the exterior of the building are the largest hurricane resistant windows in the world. It’s as if current-day architects took a good look at the storied Vizcaya estate that edges the water in the southern part of the city and learned how a century of wear-and-tear transformed Tuscan idealism into tropical overgrowth. 
 
The arrival of the Perez Art Museum not only signals a shift in sustainability but also has put downtown Miami back on the map. Three decades after Miami Vice turned this city core into a bloody graveyard at night, museums, hotels, high-rise condominiums, and James Beard-nominated restaurants have arrived on the scene to lure the Miami Beach and Coral Gables crowd back to urbanity. Miami’s Design District and the surprising success of developer Tony Goldman’s vision of a graffiti-saturated Wynwood Walls helped build the foundation for a Miami resurrection. The Perez Art Museum pays homage to the local contemporary art scene by offering exhibitions on design, minimalist art, geometric abstraction, and works by artists of Latin descent. Yet, this is merely the forefront of the recent surge of development. In fact, everywhere you look along the shores of Biscayne Bay are tall cranes and construction.
 
My entire story on the gentrification of downtown Miami can be found in the latest issue of Everett Potter’s Travel Report
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/18/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Philadelphia Freedom

Washington, DC, garners its fair share of travel press this time of year because of soon-to-bud cherry blossoms. But don’t forget about that other East Coast history hot spot, Philadelphia. Home to one of two U.S. Mint facilities open to the public (Denver is the other; http://www.usmint.gov/mint_tours), families can take an hour-long self-guided tour of this money manufacturing plant. Unfortunately, they don’t give out freebies. Diagonally across the street is the home of the Liberty Bell, set in a $12.9 million glass pavilion. This tour is also self-guided and free, but guides are on hand to answer all of the children’s questions about that crack. Stay at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill Hotel and you can walk to other Old City attractions like Franklin Fountain, an early 20th-century soda shop that makes the best root beer float I ever had, and Shane Candies, the oldest continuously operating candy story in America. Save room for dinner at City Tavern.  A reconstruction of an 18th-century tavern where Ben Franklin and other Founding Fathers dined, waiters dress up in Colonial garb and serve recipes from that period. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

San Antonio Is a Great Option for Spring Break

While we dig out of the foot of snow in Boston from yesterday’s nor’easter, my thoughts turn to the warmth of San Antonio, where temperatures reach the low 80s the next 10 days. Lisa and I were actually thinking of renting an apartment in San Antonio this February/March and wished we followed through on our actions. The city offers two world class art museums, San Antonio Museum of Art and the McNay, sublime dining which I’ve written about for The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, great neighborhoods to roam like King William and Pearl Brewery, and, of course, all the restaurants and bars that line the renowned River Walk.  But the reason I really love San Antonio is that it’s one of the best biking cities in America. Grab a bike from the B-cycle station (the city’s bike sharing program) at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and pedal on the 10-mile long bike trail called the Mission Reach. It's not uncommon to find herons, egrets, families of ducks, and turtles lounging in the waters, and colorful wildflowers in full bloom. When the trail ends at Mission Road, you can turn right to visit Mission Concepcion or left to visit Mission San Jose. These early 18th-century Spanish colonial missions are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of a national historic park. I always bring my camera to poke around these impressive buildings and get great shots of the light and shadows reflecting off the walls. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Luang Prabang: City of the Royal Buddha

The host of Tha Heua Me Guesthouse greets me with a smile on the porch and points to the simple meal prepared on the teak table beside her: sticky rice in a woven bamboo basket. I nod to her in ‘thanks’ – neither of us speaking the others’ language – take the rice, slip on my shoes, and begin my walk towards Sakkaline Road. The first rays of sunlight seep through the thick morning fog as I pass stately brick buildings adorned with plaited bamboo panels and balconies, the architectural vestiges of France’s colonial rule over Laos. Upon arriving at Luang Prabang’s main avenue, I am met by a long procession of barefoot monks in plain orange garb making their way through throngs of locals and tourists, all gathered at the crack of dawn to partake in a tradition that stretches back centuries. I kneel at the curbside with rice in hand waiting for an empty-handed monk to accept my offering. A few moments later, I am locking eyes with a young bareheaded man; his expression is at once one of gratitude and of poise. This will be the only meal he eats all day.
 
Later in the day, my college buddy and I, en route to one of Luang Prabang’s French bistros, stop by Wat Xieng Thong, a glittering monument honoring the twin pillars of ancient Lao society: the King and the Buddha. Upon wresting power from the French in 1945, the victorious communist party moved Laos’ political capitol to Vientiane. Nonetheless, Luang Prabang remains the spiritual beating heart of the nation. Though the princes of Laos languish in exile, the royal family may be consoled that the memory of their ancestors endures in the gilded funeral urns of the stupa inside this splendid monument. It is not just Wat Xieng Thong that dazzles. On each cobblestone corner of town, another enigmatic Wat awaits discovery. No sign of the communist regime. It’s as if this Buddhist kingdom never left its royal capital. 
 
Guest Post by Ted Shabecoff 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/14/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, February 03, 2017

Head to Quebec’s Winter Carnival This Week

Now that Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow, it’s time to savor those next 6 weeks of winter. To get the party started right, head to the best winter carnival in North America in Quebec City. Quebec’s Winter Carnival (which runs through February 12) is the largest in the world, attracting more than one million people. I was one of the lucky people to arrive in this fortified city on the first day of the 2015 Winter Carnival. I spent the morning sledding down an ice chute, viewing the impressive ice castle, made from 1600 blocks of ice, eating maple syrup on snow, and playing a human game of foosball. Top DJs from Montreal and Toronto played a mesmerizing mix of hip-hop and electronica, while locals carried cane-like red sticks filled with a potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup, adding to the dancing frenzy. When Bonhomme, the popular snowman and revered host of the festivities started to boogie, the crowd went wild. For those of us who choose to embrace winter in all its snowy charm, there’s no better event than a Winter Carnival.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 30, 2016

Last Thoughts on Cape Town

I could easily fill this column with content from Africa over the next two weeks, but you’ll have to read my magazine articles to see more. It’s time to move on to other regions of the world, like fall foliage in my native New England. Before I leave the continent, I want to touch on some of the highlights from Cape Town that I have not yet discussed. Loved the small plates at Pot Luck Club atop a former silo in the trendy neighborhood of Woodstock. Tea at Belmond Mount Nelson is a must. It takes you back to the Teddy Roosevelt era. Three locals all suggested the best biltong in the city is at Continental Butchery on Kloof Street and who am I to disagree. I wish I was digging into a bag of this chewy beef right now. The protea in bloom at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden was amazing as were the grounds. Enjoyed visiting the 19th-century synagogue on the Company's Garden and the gift shop afterwards, which merges African beadwork with Judaica. If you’re fortunate to be in Cape Town during First Thursday Art Walk, take full advantage of this opportunity to see the galleries with a glass of Stellenbosch pinotage in hand.
 
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence, so if you see a Botswana flag flying from our house, you know what we’re celebrating. 
 
I’m off Monday for Rosh Hashanah. L’shanah tovah! May this year be filled with joy, health, and prosperity! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/30/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Boston’s Emerging Seaport District

Peering at the sailboats slicing through the harbor from the sixth-floor roof-deck bar of the new Envoy Hotel, it finally dawns on you that, yes, Boston really does rest on the shores of the Atlantic. For some silly reason, Boston has never taken proper advantage of its ocean setting. When the Institute of Contemporary Art opened in a gem of a building on the edge of the harbor in December 2006, publicists started to dub the evolving neighborhood the Seaport District. Yet, five years after the ICA opening, not much changed. A sea of parking lots continued to surround the ICA and wharves still lined the harbor of this industrial port.

Then, in 2013, Vertex Pharmaceuticals made the bold initiative to move the company’s global headquarters to twin 18-story buildings featuring 1.1 million square feet of research labs and office space. Other companies joined them, including Manulife Financial, Fidelity Investments, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. At last, the late Mayor Menino’s dream of a burgeoning Seaport District has taken root. Everywhere you look along the waterfront today, new condominiums and office buildings are being constructed. 
 
To read more about visiting the Boston Waterfront, including my hotel and restaurant picks, check out my latest story for Global Traveler
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/25/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Warsaw Rebuilds And Reclaims Its Former Glory

“Before World War II, Warsaw was more beautiful than Prague, than Budapest,” said Joanna Maria Olejek, a translator living in the heart of the city. But then, of course, the Nazis came in and destroyed 85 percent of the city, pinpointing the most important cultural attractions. Stalin swiftly followed Hitler to clean up the mess and give the city a nice communist sheen. Look at the expanse of multistoried apartments, sprinkled with high-rise hotels, and you yearn for a more compelling skyline.

 
Seeing the city with my brother, Jim, last April after he had screened his latest movie at a film festival, I quickly learned the vitality of this city is best found at street level. Classy restaurants and bars beckon the growing number of international visitors who come to the city to make a buck. Property development looms everywhere, as evidenced by the number of cranes perching above high-rise condos and office buildings, some designed by world-class architects like Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind. Best of all, Poland still uses the local currency, the zloty, and won’t change over to the euro anytime soon. So Warsaw remains far more affordable for Americans than Paris and other cities in the Eurozone.
 
To read my latest story for Global Traveler, please click here
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Designer of New York’s High Line Hired to Create Miami’s Underline

Last week it was announced that James Corner Field Operations, the firm known for designing the popular High Line linear park in Manhattan, as the master planner for Miami’s proposed Underline. The Underline would be a 10-mile corridor underneath the Metrorail from the Miami River to Dadeland South. It would have space for pedestrians and bike riders. It’s a wonderful concept. Many of these elevated railways and roadways severed communities and split up cities. Instead of paying for a decade-long billion-dollar project like the Big Dig here in Boston to convert the roadway underground, simply make the space underneath usable. If successful, be on the lookout for more Underlines in the future. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/11/15 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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