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Giggles are muffled and eyebrows are raised when anyone mentions traveling to Amsterdam. After some perfunctory chit chat about the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House, a pregnant pause typically lingers until someone asks the question: “Did you smoke marijuana?” Since the 1970s, tourists have flocked to Amsterdam to legally get high. Now, however, the laws have changed and, come May 1, coffee shops in the southern half of the country will cater only to Dutch residents who are registered members and possess a “weed pass.”
Of course, lawyers for the coffee shops are fighting the ban on tourists and hope to prevent the law from going national come January 1, 2013. However, I think it’s high time that other cities followed the Dutch and made local customs available only to residents. Here are just a few treasured traditions that locals deserve to enjoy without having to share with tourists.
Today’s local deal earns you entry for two to the Columbus Circle museum – a $30 value – as well as 10 percent off purchases of unique craft and design items at The Store.
Enjoy MAD’s thoughtfully curated collections, in its charmingly intimate and light-filled galleries, independently or on a guided tour conducted by one of its knowledgeable docents. The museum features ever-changing thematic exhibitions of contemporary art and design, along with a dedicated jewelry gallery, with both temporary and permanent exhibitions of jewels on view, and Open Studios where artists work in residence. After your visit, stay for a meal at upscale Robert, which features modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist and overlooks Central Park. Read more
Realistically, Earth Day can be celebrated any day when dining out. It’s easy to find eco-friendly eateries around the country that serve sustainable food and embrace environmental business practices – online directories like the Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) even provide state-by-state listings.
But many of these restaurants and cafés step it up a notch on Earth Day itself by offering special menu items and discounts, and producing special events and entertainment. On April 22, dine out and do good at these eight locations nationwide.
Red Stag Supper Club: Start the day with breakfast at Minneapolis’ Red Stag Supperclub (www.redstagsupperclub.com), where all money raised from 8am to 12pm benefits the Land Stewardship Project (www.landstewardshipproject.org). Minnesota’s first LEED-certified restaurant will serve up locally-produced and organic ingredients, while the LSP will give brief presentations.
Eco-Cafe: Write your pledge to go green on the chalkboard in front of New Orleans’ Eco-Café (www.ecocafeno.com) and you’ll get a free cup of organic coffee. That Friday, featured menu items – like the soup and salad combo – will be made exclusively with ingredients from Holly Grove Farm, just three miles away.
Japan’s ryokan tradition has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Small, family-run inns, ryokans steep travelers in old-fashioned Japanese culture with an emphasis on cuisine. They’re commonly found in Kyoto or in the countryside and frequently feature onsen (hot springs). Staying at one – especially for foreigners – is like stepping into the consummate picture of Japan’s past: Austere rooms are arrayed with tatami mats and shoji screens, guests sleep on futons and dress in yukata (cotton kimonos), and the staff strives for pitch-perfect service.
Over the past decade, however, some travelers – Japanese and foreigners alike – have expressed a desire for more-modern creature comforts. Enter the rise of what I call the “neo-ryo”: luxury resorts with modern amenities that take their visual cues and ethos from the old-school inns. Read more
King Tutankhamun, the young famous Egyptian pharaoh who reigned for just nine years before dying unexpectedly, left a legacy that is still alive and well today – three thousand years later. For a limited time only, the de Young Museum in San Francisco is showcasing the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit – a magnificent collection of over 130 artifacts and works of art taken right out of the boy-king’s tomb. Amateur Egyptologists who don’t have the time or money to jet off to Africa might want to consider the excellent Mummy and Me package currently being offered by the Fairmont San Francisco. For $249/night, guests will receive overnight accommodations at the landmark hotel, two VIP tickets to the King Tut exhibition (a $65 value) which can be used any time – even on dates sold out to the public, as well as two Egyptian Sunrise cocktails in the hotel’s Laurel Court Restaurant and Lounge. This offer expires on March 28, 2010.
TOMS Shoes, a popular California-based nonprofit, sells linen espadrilles modeled after Argentinian alpargatas at stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Urban Outfitters. For every pair purchased, one pair of TOMS is donated to a needy child in Argentina, South Africa, Ethiopia, or the United States. This past fall, the company launched an initiative called TOMS Tours. Currently operating biweekly, the tours consist of eight-day volunteer trips to Argentina, where the project began back in 2006. Participants spend about half the time partaking in “shoe drops,” during which they visit local communities and hand out shoes to kids. The rest of the time, do-gooders take in the sites, including hikes in Iguazu National Park, wine tasting and horseback riding in Mendoza, and shopping in Buenos Aires. From $1,800/person, with accommodation, meals, activities, transportation (except for international airfare).
From the Feb/March issue of Sherman’s Travel magazine.
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