Movie Locations You Can Check Out

Hollywood movies are magical because they take the viewers to amazing places without leaving their seats, spinning alternate realities for audiences of places that often don’t even exist.

But, there are some places that do exist in real life, and you can visit them all across the United States.

Rocky

The iconic 1976 movie of a nobody boxer turned hero who goes the distance against the tough Apollo Creed was a knockout hit and turned Sylvester Stallone into a movie star. It also turned the Philadelphia Museum of Art into an international sensation when Rocky, training hard for the fight, used the 72 steps to prove he could take on the challenge.

The steps are now often referred to as the “Rocky Steps” and visitors from around the world stop at the museum just to walk up the steps, never entering the museum itself.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (Birds Eye)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Thelma and Louise

This 1991 film features two housewives turned unintended outlaws who end it all in a dramatic drive over the edge of the Grand Canyon. In addition to earning both Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis Best Actress Oscar nominations, it was the breakout role for Brad Pitt.

The famous Grand Canyon scene was filmed at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, and park tourists can look up the exact location online and visit it, though there are no official markers, for various reasons.

Dead Horse Point State Park (StreetView)
Dead Horse Point State Park

Jaws

Just saying the name of the movie gets the adrenaline flowing. Steven Spielberg set the thriller in a fictional New England town where a great white shark is menacing the town. The film was largely filmed on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, a sleepy fishing and resort town in Massachusetts.

Since the filming, the island has had a significant and sustained increase in tourism, but guests of the island will immediately recognize sites from the movie, since little has changed in the more than forty years since the original film’s release.

Martha's Vineyard (Google Maps)
Martha's Vineyard

Ghostbusters

An instant sensation, Ghostbusters is a goofy supernatural comedy that takes place in New York City. As the trio of ghostbusters need a new business location, they take over an abandoned fire station. The station is the real life home to Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8, a part of the New York City Fire Department. The building’s exterior was used in the film but interior shots were done mostly in California. Nonetheless, the site is a quirky but popular tourist site in the city.

It is also known for its firefighters being among the first to respond to the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.

Ghostbuster Firehouse (Birds Eye)
Ghostbuster Firehouse

A Christmas Story

A cult Christmas classic, A Christmas Story tells the tale of a young boy who wants an air rifle for Christmas, but is told by every adult that “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid”. This film is a holiday tradition, largely because it provides an idealized view of Christmas through the eyes of children and portrays the dynamics of a realistic if not ridiculous American family.

The movie was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1983, and has the perfect home to portray an all-American family. The home, so integral to the movie’s plot, has been turned into a museum dedicated to the movie, and you can even buy souvenirs including a Major Award Leg Lamp and a full body bunny suit!

House From 'A Christmas Story' (StreetView)
House From 'A Christmas Story'

Hunger Games

The second installment of The Hunger Games focused on the tributes’ living quarters, which was an elaborate and breathtaking facility in Panem.

In real life, many of the scenes were shot at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis (StreetView)
Atrium of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis

The hotel’s breathtaking atrium and glass elevators were the perfect location for the pivotal scenes in the movie. Several other scenes were filmed in and around Atlanta, providing any fan days of touring and reliving the exiting scenes from the movie.

"Atlanta Marriott Marquis" by John Portman (Birds Eye)
"Atlanta Marriott Marquis" by John Portman

Field of Dreams

The 1989 tale of a man compelled to build a baseball field in his corn field in Iowa is now a sports classic, bringing back feelings of nostalgia for one’s youth, relationships with loved ones and memories of childhood dreams left unfulfilled.

The farms where much of the movie was filmed, including the house and baseball stadium, have been preserved as a tourist destination. Admission is free and guided tours are provided with a reservation. The local community is very involved in preserving the magic of the story and there are often interactive experiences available for visitors to the site.

Field of Dreams (Bing Maps)
Field of Dreams

Whether you’re a die hard movie fan or just happen to be in an area where any of these movies were filmed, you should take the time to visit the sites. It will be a fun experience, especially if you sit down to watch the movie again after seeing it in real life!

 

The Best Zoos in the World and around the Corner

June is known as the Great Outdoors Month. It’s the perfect time to have fun doing things outside, and going to a local zoo is one of the easiest, and most entertaining things to do. Nearly every town or city has a zoo, large or small, where people can check out cool animals and have a great time with friends and family. Here are some of the world’s best, and most popular zoos.

Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria

Operating since 1752, the Tiergarten Zoo within the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, is known as the longest-continually operating zoo in the world. In addition to the wide variety of animals from pandas to polar bears and penguins, it has a center for popular and endangered farm animals, highlighting the agricultural way of life so central to Austrian heritage.

Beyond the amazing wildlife, it is a beautiful zoo designed with landscapes and vistas that rival the animals in the enclosures.

Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Vienna Zoo) (Google Maps)
Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Vienna Zoo)

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

The San Diego Zoo constantly makes, or tops, lists of the best zoos in the world. It was a leading institution in open-air enclosures, modeling a more natural and healthy way to allow animals to live and thrive in captivity. The exhibits are divided by region, making it educational and more realistic for visitors. The huge zoo has a Skyfari Tram to make getting around easier.

The zoo focuses on breeding endangered animals, including koalas, pandas, Sumatran rhinos, and more. The zoo is also famous for being the site where Jawed Karim filmed the first video ever uploaded to YouTube, fundamentally altering social media and information sharing.

San Diego Zoo (Birds Eye)
San Diego Zoo

National Zoo, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is part of the Smithsonian Institution, and is a rare zoo in that is is free to visitors. The zoo has a reputation for helping endangered animals, and has successfully bred giant pandas several times.

The zoo has several fun activities for guests throughout the year, including Boo at the Zoo, Zoolights around the winter holidays, and Easter Monday, which was an Easter egg event created to counter segregated Easter egg rolls in the first half of the 1900s.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park main entrance (StreetView)
Smithsonian National Zoological Park main entrance

Singapore Zoo, Singapore

Relatively smaller compared to other zoos, the Singapore Zoo on the small island nation of Singapore, is nonetheless known as one of the best zoos in the world. It’s a newer zoo, and was designed in the more animal-friendly style of open, natural enclosures that allow the wildlife to enjoy a better quality of life.

The zoo uses moats, glass walls, trenches and other “hidden barriers” to create a more attractive experience for visitors and a better environment for animals.

Singapore Zoo (Google Maps)
Singapore Zoo

Bronx Zoo, New York, New York

One of the biggest and most visited zoos in the US is the Bronx Zoo.  The zoo was designed with stunning Beaux-Arts structures and ironwork. It is a stunning place to visit, in the heart of the biggest city in the US.

Since its inception in 1899, it has focused on animal conservation. Recently, the zoo helped breed three Chinese alligators, which were released into the wild. The zoo has also worked with endangered rhinos, flamingos, monkeys, and other animals that have been adversely impacted by humans.

Bronx Zoo (StreetView)
Bronx Zoo

Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s premier zoo has been around for close to 200 years. It has one of the most well-developed and varied collection of animals, and is said to have the most species and animals of any other major zoo.

It is one of the most-visited zoos in the world. The zoo focuses on breeding European animals, protecting species from extinction, and working to reintroduce animals to local habitats.

In 2005, the zoo gained international attention when a polar bear was born at the zoo and rejected by his mother. He was raised by zookeepers, and became an international celebrity. Sadly, he passed away in 2011 after drowning in the enclosure while suffering from a brain disease.

Berlin Zoo (entrance) (Birds Eye)
Berlin Zoo (entrance)

Beijing Zoo, Beijing, China

The Beijing Zoo was built on old dynastic grounds, and is the oldest zoo in China. It exhibits on Chinese and Asian wildlife. Giant pandas, red pandas, Chinese tigers and Chinese alligators are some of the rare and endangered species housed at the zoo.

The zoo has a beautiful design, modeled after Chinese gardens with natural growth, ponds and pools, and delicate structures. More than four million visitors walk through the distinctive front gate each year to see the land and marine life, as well as the flora and fauna on display at the Beijing Zoo.

Berlin Zoo (entrance) (Birds Eye)
Berlin Zoo (entrance)

Henry Doorley Zoo, Omaha, Nebraska

It may be a surprise, but the Henry Doorley Zoo in Omaha tops most lists for biggest and best zoo in the world. The city of barely 500,000 is regarded for the zoo, which has a stellar reputation for conservation, education, and research.

It has one of the world’s largest indoor rain forests, the world’s largest swamp and the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit. Just a few years ago, a renowned African grasslands exhibit opened to house several elephants that had been evacuated from southern Africa during an extensive drought. This is just one of many ways the zoo has developed an international reputation for conservation and safe-keeping of all sorts of animals.

Henry Doorly Zoo (Birds Eye)
Henry Doorly Zoo

From around the world to around the corner, these are some amazing zoos! Go check out your local zoo and enjoy nature, wildlife, and just being outside.

Let’s Celebrate Arbor Day!

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree…”

So begins the famous poem by Joyce Kilmer paying homage to the simple beauty of nature’s wonderful shade-giving, air-cleaning, botanical marvel. In honor of national Arbor Day in the US, let’s take a look at some of the most amazing forests and trees around the world.

Daintree Rain Forest, Queensland, Australia

The Daintree Rain Forest in Australia is the oldest tropical rain forest in the world, and part of the largest rain forest on the continent. The area is unique in that the canopy extends to bright white sandy beaches, or sometimes right to the water’s edge. It also has breathtaking peaks and valleys, making it an area of incredibly diverse geology as well as biology.

Daintree River National Park (StreetView)
Daintree River National Park

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

The baobab tree is a remarkable and unique tree, dominated by its thick trunk that swells with rainwater, and topped with short, leafy tops. These trees can live up to two or three thousand years After decades of being subjected to deforestation as humans take over more and more land, these trees are now protected and promoted in several countries where they are native.

Several species are unique to Madagascar, and the country has recently promoted ecotourism around the trees. The Avenue of the Baobabs is a long dirt road lined with the breathtaking and unique trees reaching 100 feet high. It’s a spectacle to behold, indeed.

Baobabs trees (StreetView)
Baobabs trees

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was named in part because of the challenging topography of the area, and because of the thick growth that makes it an ideal habitat for some of  the protected species in the forests, including the endangered mountain gorilla.

The forest has incredible biodiversity, from ancient plant life to butterfly species not seen anywhere else, to more than 300 types of birds. Those lucky enough to travel to this region will be richly rewarded for their efforts.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (StreetView)
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Angel Oak Tree, South Carolina, USA

The Angel Oak Tree in Charleston, South Carolina, is a famous tree estimated to be around 400-500 years old. It’s at least 65 feet tall, and the branches extend at least 200 feet, creating a breathtaking and peaceful atmosphere. The tree is protected under local ordinance, and is a major tourist attraction for the region.

As it has stood for centuries, it has witnessed much of the history that shaped America. Legends say that the spirits of former enslaved people stay in or near the tree, and appear around the tree as angels, hence the name.

Angel Oak (StreetView)
Angel Oak

Aokigahara, or Sea of Trees, Japan

The Sea of Trees on the northern side of Japan’s Mount Fuji, is one of the most famous forests in Japan. Fertilized by the ash from Mount Fuji, it has areas of dense, lush, and peaceful growth.

However, the forest is famous both for having a varied and beautiful forest landscape, and for being a popular place for people to go to attempt self-harm. The forest has such a strong reputation that there are signs at the entrance encouraging people to seek help, and crews regularly check for people in need of help.

In recent years, several movies and short films have been made about the forest, which unfortunately promotes the forest’s more unsavory reputation.

Aokigahara - Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees (StreetView)
Aokigahara - Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees

Black Forest, Germany

The Black Forest in Germany and Switzerland is so famous, there’s even a cake named after it! The forest is a favorite destination for hikers from all across Europe. Beautiful trees, mountain lakes, deep valleys, it’s a gorgeous landscape that leaves everyone who visits refreshed and renewed.

The region has a strong culture, with traditional dress, foods, and crafts related to life in the mountains and forests. The clock makers of the region are especially famous for their cuckoo clocks, which have been carved from wood from the nearby trees for hundreds of years.

Nordschwarzwaldturm (Google Maps)
Nordschwarzwaldturm

This day dedicated to trees gives us the perfect opportunity to appreciate the beauty and life-giving resources of trees from around the world. Happy Arbor Day!

 

Deep Dive into History: Apollo 13

After President Kennedy’s challenge to send Americans to the moon, the entire country was caught up in the space race, and Americans were the first to reach the moon on July 16, 1969. In less than a year, there was a second successful trip, and a third planned.

The Apollo 13 mission never made it to the moon, but the expedition that launched on April 11, 1970, captivated the attention of America as it suffered catastrophic damage and the crew and ground support worked to bring the spacecraft back to earth.

On the anniversary of the expedition, let’s look back at the events and locations of that heroic mission.

Mission Control, Houston, Texas

“Houston, we have a problem” is one of the most popular modern-day catchphrases. Jim Lovell was talking from outer space to Mission Control at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, when he uttered this phrase (actually he said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem” but it was slightly muffled on the intercom).

After a routine fuel test resulted in catastrophic damage to the spacecraft, Lovell, Fred Haise, and John Swigert had to abort their plans to walk on the moon and instead just hope they could return to earth. The three highly-trained astronauts worked with the ground crew to figure out exactly how the crew could use gravity, inertia, and the little remaining fuel they had to make it home to earth.

It was from this Mission Control building in Houston that countless engineers, scientists, and mathematicians worked tirelessly for five days to ensure the crew returned safely to earth. The building is still used for NASA and space-related work.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center (Birds Eye)
Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The mission launched from NASA’s Operational Launch site, which was later renamed the Kennedy Space Center for the man who inspired and supported the pursuit of spaceflight. Here, visitors could watch the launch from a safe distance, far from the massive heat and flames from the burning fuel that launched the craft into space.

Kennedy Space Center (StreetView)
Kennedy Space Center

Cape Kennedy Shuttle Launch Complex, Florida

It’s from this area that Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches took off. The complex has dozens of launch sites, and Apollo 13 was set up on LC 39-A. This launch site is still used. In fact, SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rockets regularly from the exact same pad that launched Apollo 13.

Visitors to the Kennedy Space Center can also see rocket launches. If you want to see a rocket up close (about seven miles away for safety), this is the place!

Cape Kennedy Shuttle Launch Complex (Google Maps)
Cape Kennedy Shuttle Launch Complex

Saturn V Rocket, Huntsville, Alabama

The astronauts were launched into space by the massive force of the Saturn V (five) rockets, the engineering marvel that changed the world. Much of the research and development for the rocket were conducted at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.

On the 30th anniversary of the project, a full-scale replica was put on display outside the Center. The 363-foot rocket is still on display, garnering visits from space history buffs from around the world.

Saturn V rocket (Google Maps)
Saturn V rocket

Saturn V Rocket, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

An original rocket, not a replica, is on display at the Kennedy Space Center. Visitors can walk under the massive rocket and get a feel for just how much work, and energy, went into getting astronauts safely to the moon and back.

Saturn V rocket (StreetView)
Saturn V rocket

Command and Service Module on Display, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

After the astronauts realized they had a problem, they worked with the ground crew at Mission Control to find a way to survive the unthinkable. They quickly moved from the larger command module into the tiny lunar module, which was designed only for two people to take a short trip to and from the moon. Instead, the three men spent five days in the cold, cramped container as they worked to come home.

Looking at this Apollo-designed module helps people visualize just how risky the endeavor was, and how much the men endured in outer space.

Apollo Command/Service Module (StreetView)
Apollo Command/Service Module

USS New Orleans

Before the days of space shuttles, astronauts were launched on top of rockets, situated in spacecraft. They had enough fuel and power to navigate in outer space and launch a return to earth. Using calculations and careful planning, the crew would be able to predict their landing location. Navy ships would wait in the area to retrieve the heroic space travelers. After flying more than half a million miles to the moon and back, they could predict their landing within two miles!

The Apollo 13 crew, after surviving a five-day ordeal, splashed down into the Pacific Ocean, and was picked up by the USS Iwo Jima. On site for support was the USS New Orleans. This ship picked up the crew from Apollo 14, and was used in the movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks.

USS New Orleans (LPH-11) amphibious assault ship (Birds Eye)
USS New Orleans (LPH-11) amphibious assault ship

Home of Astronaut Jim Lovell, Chicago, Illinois

Jim Lovell was already an experienced astronaut when he was assigned to command the Apollo 13 mission. He and two others were the first men to ever reach the moon. They circled the moon on the Apollo 8 mission, in preparation for the Apollo 11 space landing. He also flew on two Gemini missions.

Jim’s calm demeanor and ability to lead the crew helped them return safely to earth. After retiring from NASA, Jim and his family eventually moved to Lake Forest, on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois. Now 93, Jim still lives in Illinois, for at least part of the year.

In 1994, Jim wrote a book that was quickly turned into the captivating film Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton. This film helped revitalize interest in space exploration, and reminded people everywhere of what the astronauts went through on their harrowing journey through space.

Jim Lovell's House (Birds Eye)
Jim Lovell's House

Tonight, perhaps you can look at the moon and stars, and reflect on what a wonder it must be to leave earth. Take a moment to appreciate all that Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, as well as the countless men and women on the ground, went through, and how fortunate they were to make it back to tell their tale.

 

 

 

 

Best Places to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day, everybody is Irish, and everyone is celebrating. And this year, perhaps more than ever, people need a reason to celebrate. While many events are on hold or smaller than in the past, it’s still a day for fun.

Let’s look at some of the best places to be this March 17 as people around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And with a little Irish luck, we’ll all be out in the streets next year.

Dublin, Ireland

There’s nowhere better to celebrate than Dublin, Ireland, and this year the celebrations are back on. On St. Patrick’s Day, the city throws a parade of epic proportions. More than 50,000 people view the parade along its two mile route, which comes close to the new location of the iconic statue of the city’s favorite fishmonger, Molly Malone. It was on Grafton Street but is now even closer to the parade route at its new location on Suffolk Street.

Molly Malone Statue (Sufolk Street) (StreetView)
Molly Malone Statue (Sufolk Street)

Guinness Brewery

Is there a better place to spend St. Patrick’s Day than seeing the Guinness Brewery? A Dublin landmark since 1759, the Guinness Brewery first occupied a small area at St. James Gate.

Guinness Brewery St. James' Gate (StreetView)
Guinness Brewery St. James' Gate

The brewery now takes up several city blocks and is one of the most important landmarks in the city. Guinness is as Irish as four leaf clovers, or St. Patrick himself, and everyone should raise a pint on St. Patrick’s Day.

Guinness Brewery, Dublin (StreetView)
Guinness Brewery, Dublin

Blarney Stone

In the south of Ireland, in County Cork, is Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone. Legend has it the stone, which was built into the castle’s high tower wall in 1446, will give whoever kisses the stone the gift of gab, or eloquence. The stone has become a major tourist destination in Ireland, but you’d better bring a buddy to hold you as you pucker up, because the stone is hard to reach on your own.

Blarney Castle (Google Maps)
Blarney Castle

Boston, Massachusetts

Outside Ireland, there is no greater concentration of Irish people than in Boston, Massachusetts, and these folks know how to party! From parades to Irish rock concerts, to drinking with a hundred thousand of your closest friends, it’s the best place outside Dublin to be.

After a two-year hiatus, this year’s celebrations are back on! The parade will be held March 20, and the traditional Dropkick Murphy’s concert is on too! We’ll all be shipping up to Boston for these events!

Lots of visitors make a stop at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston to learn about the country’s most famous Irish-American.

'John F. Kennedy Presidential Library' by I. M. Pei (Birds Eye)
'John F. Kennedy Presidential Library' by I. M. Pei

One great place to gather for celebrations is historic Faneuil Hall, which always has a full schedule of events and entertainment for the Irish holiday.

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New York City, New York

New York City has a long and storied history with the Irish, and celebrates its Irish heritage in a big way. The city has a parade full of bagpipes, dancing and entertainment. The parade goes up 5th Avenue, past many major landmarks including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, of course.

The parade has been going since 1762, which makes it older than the United States itself. And after a Covid-induced break, we’ll all be happy to party on the streets of New York once more.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral - New York (StreetView)
Saint Patrick's Cathedral - New York

New York City was a major destination for Irish immigrants during years of hunger and famine. The Irish Hunger Memorial was constructed in 2002, to keep the memory of the Great Famine alive, and recognize the sacrifices of those who left Ireland, and the suffering of those left behind. Stones from every county in Ireland were included in the memorial.

'Irish Hunger Memorial' by Brian Tolle (Birds Eye)
'Irish Hunger Memorial' by Brian Tolle

Chicago, Illinois

Right up there with Boston and New York, Chicago celebrates like they mean it. On the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day, the city holds a huge parade and dyes the Chicago River green. Visitors can catch the parade at Grant Park, a destination for Chicago public entertainment and activities. This year, the parade was held on March 12, and it felt good to see all the green again.

One Grant Park under construction (Google Maps)
One Grant Park under construction

People often gather along the banks of the Chicago River early in the day to watch as it’s dyed green for the holiday. The green color only lasts about five hours so make sure you get a good spot  early. Lots of people gather on Wacker Drive and the surrounding bridges to get a great view of the river.

35 East Wacker Drive (Birds Eye)
35 East Wacker Drive

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Halfway around the globe, St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A huge expat community of Irish, as well as a city that loves to party, makes for a great St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Festivities include a large open air festival, near Reconquista Street.

The afternoon parade starts on Avenida de Maya and ends up at Plaza San Martin, where there are additional festivities, including food trucks, music, and, of course, beer.

Plaza San Martín (Google Maps)
Plaza San Martín

No matter where you are this March 17, don’t forget to wear green, kiss someone, and of course, have a beer or two. Because on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, and everyone deserves to party.

Cool Clocks from Around the World

For many in the United States, tonight is one of the roughest nights of the year as we set our clocks forward one hour, and we lose an hour of sleep. For the next week, we’re all going to be tired, a little bit cranky, and those who have kids will be cursing whoever thought it was a good idea to mess with time.

As we try to stay awake, or struggle to fall asleep, let’s take a look at some of the coolest, tallest, or most famous clocks in the world.

Big Ben, London, UK

Big Ben in London is the world’s most famous clock tower. It appears in movies, books, shows, and stories. But did you know that “Big Ben” actually refers to one of the bells, not the clock tower itself? Recently renamed the Elizabeth Tower, the iconic structure was completed in 1859. Since then it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the United Kingdom.

But if you come to London to climb the tower, you’ll be disappointed. Only UK citizens are allowed inside, and they must have reservations, be over 11, and be able to climb the entire structure without help.

Big Ben (StreetView)
Big Ben

Astronomical Clock, Prague, CZ

The Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Hall of Prague, in the Czech Republic, is oldest operating astronomical clock in the world, and probably the most famous. It is more than just a time-tracking device, it’s a work of art.

The bold blue and gold clock also has twelve apostles that show up hourly, as well as people representing Greed, Vanity, and Lust. A figure representing Death strikes time, which is an apt metaphor for life passing by.

Visitors to Prague can easily stop by and see the clock; a crowd often gathers on the hour to see the special effects that have been inspiring and entertaining people for hundreds of years.

Prague astronomical clock (1410) (StreetView)
Prague astronomical clock (1410)

Hilo Tsunami Clock, Hilo, Hawaii

Not all clocks tell current time; some show a moment when time stood still. On April 1, 1946, an earthquake off the coast of Alaska caused a tsunami wave that traveled all the way across the Pacific. Nearly five hours later, a 46-high wave came ashore at Hilo, on the island of Hawaii, killing about 160 people and destroying more than 1,300 homes and buildings.

The water washed into the city, and over a town clock, stopping time at 1:04 am. The town was rebuilt, and the people took that clock and turned it into a monument to remember those who perished, and honor those who survived.

Prague astronomical clock (1410) (StreetView)
Prague astronomical clock (1410)

Spasskaya Tower, Moscow, Russia

Spasskaya, or Savior, Tower in downtown Moscow, is a tower built in 1491, with a clock on the side that was added sometime before 1585. The face of the clock is 20 feet across, which helps people even far away tell time.

The tower is at the gate of a tower that surrounds the Kremlin. It has long been a very special place for citizens of Moscow, as it has been considered holy and to hold special powers. When Napoleon, upon taking the city in battle, entered the Kremlin through the gate, he refused to take off his hat or dismount his horse. Immediately, the wind knocked his hat off, and just a month later, it would be clear to the conquering leader that he could not take Russia. The clock tower marked the moment when Napoleon lost Russia.

Spasskaya Tower (Google Maps)
Spasskaya Tower

Biggest Cuckoo Clock in the World, Triberg, Germany

Everyone loves a cuckoo clock, and what could be cooler than a gigantic clock the size of a house? German and Swiss craftsmen have long made ornate and amazing cuckoo clocks, but this cuckoo clock the size of a real house in Triberg was completed in 1994, as part of a quaint park designed for hiking and touring on the outskirts of Triberg.

The clock was built based on actual cuckoo clock blueprints, and using traditional cuckoo clock techniques and weights to measure time. Twice an hour, the clock chimes and puts on a small show. If you’re interested in seeing the inside and mechanics of a cuckoo clock, you can tour the building.

Biggest cuckoo clock in the World (StreetView)
Biggest cuckoo clock in the World

Urania World Clock, Berlin, Germany

Alexanderplatz, an urban plaza in downtown Berlin, is one of the most dynamic and interesting areas of the city. The World Clock in the plaza actually tells the times of 148 cities in the world at the same time! Looking something like an atom or the universe, the clock is both a design and engineering marvel.

Built during the Cold War, the clock was a neat way to be reminded that there was a world beyond the borders of East Germany and the USSR. These days, it has an additional social significance, and is the site of protests and gatherings for people trying to change the world.

Urania-Weltzeituhr (StreetView)
Urania-Weltzeituhr

Flower Clock, Viña del Mar, Chile

The most unexpected, and beautiful, clock on this list is hands down the Flower Clock in Viña del Mar, Chile. Built in 1962 to celebrate the city hosting the World Cup, the clock is a fully-functional clock made out of flowers. Long after the games were over, the clock is still a landmark in the city. The hands are solid material, while the face of the clock, including the numbers, are made entirely of flowers and greenery.

The most recent design has more than 7,000 low-growing plants and flowers, and each number of the clock is made up of 100 or more flowers. The clock tells accurate time as it is set to a digital GPS, and is visible 24 hours a day.

Viña del Mar flower clock (Google Maps)
Viña del Mar flower clock

From a famous tower to a life-sized cuckoo clock to a clock made entirely of flowers, people around the world have found some really cool, and really memorable ways of telling time.

Mardi Gras: Let the Good Times Roll!

It’s Fat Tuesday, which means it’s the last, and craziest, celebration of Carnival or Mardi Gras. What originated as a Christian celebration of levity and indulgence leading up to Lent, Carnival season has morphed into celebrations of epic proportion that turn cities like New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and Venice, into outdoor festivals for days and even weeks.

Carnival season carries on the festivities of Christmas, starting on Twelfth Night in January and ramping up to Fat Tuesday or “Mardi Gras” in French, the last day of celebration before Ash Wednesday, ushering in 40 days of restraint and reflection.

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA

Many of the first residents of New Orleans were French, and established what is now called the French Quarter, with its old-world architecture and feel.  Along with their architecture and language, the French settlers also influenced many traditions in NOLA, including the Mardi Gras celebration. “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday” in French, which is the biggest day of celebrations before Lent.

The French Quarter’s buildings are recognizable by their colorful two-story brick structures with balconies of decorative wrought iron, and narrow streets. Many of the parades and festivities start or go through the French Quarter. Even after Mardi Gras, the French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans.

French Quarter (Google Maps)
French Quarter

Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA

Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is the center of the party year-round, and especially during Mardi Gras. The alcohol-fueled parties go late into the night and are definitely for grown-ups, and are what people think of when they imagine a Mardi Gras celebration.

Many parades and events take place on or near Bourbon Street, and people rent rooms and stand on balconies to party, throw beads and trinkets, and have a good time with friends and strangers alike.

Bourbon Street (StreetView)
Bourbon Street

Sambadrome, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Carnival celebrations in Brazil are among the most festive and unique in the world. Blending African, indigenous and European influences, the music, costumes, and celebrations are flashy, elaborate, and extravagant. While Carnival parades the world over include costumed dancers, the samba dancers in Rio are a step above the rest.

The twelve major samba schools have produced such elaborate and talented performances that the dancing is the highlight of the parades, and have even spawned their own Carnival tradition, and venue. The Sambadrome was built in 1984, and can hold 90,000 spectators. So now, in addition to the many block parties, samba dancers parade through the long venue as both celebration and competition.

Sambódromo (Google Maps)
Sambódromo

Samba School Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Samba, which is heavily influenced by indigenous and African dance styles, is a major part of Brazilian Carnival traditions. Dancers go to school to learn to dance, and there are at least twelve major dance schools in the capital city.

The Samba School Mangueira has one of the best reputations, and is one of the oldest. It is named after its neighborhood Mangueira. It is not a wealthy area, but is a favela, or poor area of improvised housing, where many urban Brazilians live in difficult situations.

GRES Estação Primeira de Mangueira (StreetView)
GRES Estação Primeira de Mangueira

St. Mark’s Square, Venice, Italy

Carnival originated in Venice, likely starting in 1168 to celebrate a military victory, with dancing in St. Mark’s Square. Parties quickly developed as celebration before Ash Wednesday and Lent, when people were expected to refrain from celebrations, eating meat, and other indulgences. Venetian celebrations often included elaborate masks and costumes, and the masks were such a popular part of the celebration that they extended on past Carnival into regular usage.

Carnival was outlawed when the Republic of Venice fell in 1797, and brought back in 1979. These days, nearly three million people come to Venice to celebrate Carnival each year.

Saint Mark's Square (Google Maps)
Saint Mark's Square

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

Current-day Carnival kicks off with a water parade, which is fitting for the city built on a lagoon. Led by a gondola decorated as a rat, homage to the city’s reputation of having many rats, hundreds of highly-decorated boats are guided down the Grand Canal. Some boats are decorated in elaborate themes, and others are simple boats with costumed passengers. Whether they go all out, or just dress up, it’s a chaotic but fun way to start a weeks-long party!

Rialto Bridge (StreetView)
Rialto Bridge

While the celebrations are all wrapping up this week, it’s fun to learn about the longstanding and important traditions that are celebrated worldwide as people prepare for the traditional forty days of restraint. While each locality does it their own way, we can see the fabulous traditions that tie them all together. As they say in New Orleans, “Let the good times roll!”

Paying Tribute to America’s National Parks Feb 26

Today in 1919, Congress established the Grand Canyon National Park, protecting the area from further development and preserving the incredible landscapes for future generations to visit and enjoy.

Let’s take a look at some of the incredible national parks across the United States.

Grand Canyon National Park

One of the most recognizable landscapes in the entire world, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is an amazing place to visit. The Colorado River carved the mile-deep canyon over millions of years. The gorgeous, multi-colored rocks and sediment left bare by the river are stunning, and the miles-wide gap from rim to rim are beautiful, breathtaking, and humbling for all those who visit.

People can hike, bike, and ride horses down into the basin of the Grand Canyon, or they can simply travel to the rim to enjoy the vistas and reflect on their place in the world. Either way, you’ll never forget your trip.

During the day in summertime, the area can get hot, but since it’s a desert, it still gets cold at night. And if you choose to venture onto one of the amazing trails, you must always be prepared. The weather can change within minutes, from sunny and dry to flash flood producing rainstorms that can be deadly.

Grand Canyon (Google Maps)
Grand Canyon

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Among the most famous national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks are side by side in the California Sierra Nevada mountain range. Sequoia National Park is named after the famous “giant” trees that are among the largest and oldest trees in the world.

They reach over 200 feet high, can be 25 feet in diameter, and some are estimated to be as much as 3,500-4,000 years old! These trees are truly something to behold, but the two national parks also boast some excellent hiking, beautiful vistas, and wonderful opportunities to commune with nature.

Sequoia National Park (Google Maps)
Sequoia National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon in Utah is a unique canyon full of beautiful and breathtaking outcroppings, shaped rocks and valleys. Most unique are the “hoodoos”, colorful limestone rocks that are shaped by wind, rain, snow melt and erosion over thousands of years. These rock formations, ranging from a few feet to several stories tall, can be viewed on various hikes, ranger tours, scenic drives and even overnight backpacking excursions.

Be prepared for any weather–even in the summer the nights at the high elevation of Bryce Canyon can be frigid and even dangerous if you’re not dressed right!

Bryce Canyon (Google Maps)
Bryce Canyon

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island, a lesser-known park located in Maryland and Virginia, is full of beautiful seascapes, ocean views and most famously, wild horses that roam the island. Visitors are able to bike, hike, camp, canoe and even drive on the beach in permitted areas.

Assateague Island National Seashore (Bing Maps)
Assateague Island National Seashore

The horses are beautiful and visitors can get very close to them and other wildlife, but it’s important to remember that they are wild! Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen when for your visit to this seashore park!

Dry Tortugas National Park

One of the most remote parks in the National Park system, Dry Tortugas National Park is a series of islands off the coast of Key West, Florida accessible only by boat or seaplane. It includes fun activities for everyone, including touring a lighthouse and an old military fort, camping, canoeing, snorkeling, hiking and relaxing on the beach.

Keep in mind that since it is a remote national park, you’ll need to bring everything you need for your stay, including water, food, sunscreen and anything else you might want on this remote island paradise park!

Dry Tortugas National Park (Google Maps)
Dry Tortugas National Park

Wherever you are, from the west to the east coast, from north to south across the United States, you are never far from one of the 58 national parks and 2022 will be a great year to start visiting these national treasures! Perhaps you’ll be inspired to dust off your hiking shoes and camping gear, and have a “grand” adventure of your own!

Ski Resorts Around the World

It’s the middle of winter, it’s cold outside, and it’s the perfect time to be outside. Outside skiing, that is! Let’s take a look at some of the best ski resorts, so you know where to go when you plan your next winter vacation.

Whistler Backcomb, British Columbia, CA

Whistler Backcomb is one of the busiest and biggest ski resorts in North America. It was the location for alpine ski events for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, for which the resort upgraded and expanded its facilities significantly. And even if you’re not an Olympian, you’ll have a spectacular time at the expansive resort.

Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort (Google Maps)
Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort

Aspen/Snowmass Ski Resort, Aspen, CO

The remote area of Colorado of Aspen is an unlikely place for the rich and famous to spend their free time, and money, but Aspen is one of the most popular areas for skiing, and being seen skiing, in the world.

Aspen Snowmass is a four-resort complex near Aspen, Colorado. One of the smaller resorts, Buttermilk, is often the host location for the Winter X Games. When it’s not being used as the location for intense sporting activities, it’s a great location for kids and new skiers learn their way around the slopes.

Aspen Ski Resort (Google Maps)
Aspen Ski Resort

Deer Valley, UT

Utah has some of the best skiing in the world. The high altitude and low humidity make for great snow, and the weather is so great, you can ski more than 300 days a year. The resort was one of the locations for the alpine events of the 2002 Winter Olympics hosted by Salt Lake City.

Talented and adventurous skiers love Deer Valley because of the back-country skiing, where snowmobiles and helicopters drop skiers to ski down crazy uncharted slopes until they reach civilization again.

Deer Valley Ski Resort (Google Maps)
Deer Valley Ski Resort

Heavenly Valley and Palisades, Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountain range is a short drive from Los Angeles and other California cities, so it’s become a popular getaway destination. Nestled in the mountains, year-round outdoor recreation has developed in the area.

Tahoe has multiple ski resorts, including Heavenly Valley, the largest. It’s also known as the location where singer and actor Sonny Bono died after crashing into a tree.

High Atop Heavenly Valley Ski Resort (StreetView)
High Atop Heavenly Valley Ski Resort

Palisades Tahoe Resort, formerly known as Squaw Valley, was host to the 1960 Winter Olympics, and is known for its difficult ski trails. It has 30 chairlifts and other ways to get skiers to the tops of the six peaks within the resort.

In 2021, the owners changed the name of the resort due to the offensive nature of the word “squaw” to both Native Americans and women in general.

Sundance, UT

Another great Utah resort, Sundance is one of the more popular resorts in the world; not least because it’s owned by celebrity of the ages Robert Redford. When it’s not ski season, the resort is home to the annual Sundance Film Festival, where films are screened, judged, sold, prepared for mass distribution, and given critical exposure.

Robert Redford's Sundance Resort (Google Maps)
Robert Redford's Sundance Resort

Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

While some of the most famous ski resorts are in west coast mountain ranges, good skiing can be found all across the United States. Bretton Woods in New Hampshire has been rated among the best resorts in the world.

The resort is also famous as the location of the 1944 international meetings that established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which govern internation

Bretton Woods Ski Resort (Google Maps)
Bretton Woods Ski Resort

Ski Dubai, Dubai, UAE

The last thing you’d expect to find in a desert is a ski resort, but wealthy Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has one of the coolest ski resorts around! Ski Dubai was once the largest indoor ski resort in the world, and while it no longer has that record, it’s got a 25-story ski lift, a toboggan area, and it even has penguins!

Ski Dubai is part of the world-renowned Mall of the Emirates, one of the premier shopping centers in the world. Along with the skis and penguins, visitors can also pick up designer goods, see live theater, or have an amazing dinner at one of the high-end restaurants in the mall.

Ski Resort in the Desert (Google Maps)
Ski Resort in the Desert

Innsbruck, Austria

Not once, but twice, Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics. There are nearly a dozen ski resorts within an hour of the city, all of which have amazing reputations for advanced runs, great snow, and easy access from the airport and city.

Many upgrades and new facilities were constructed for the Olympics, including a permanent bobsled, luge, and skeleton track that is still in use today.

Olympic Sliding Centre Innsbruck (Google Maps)
Olympic Sliding Centre Innsbruck

These are just a few fun places to visit, for skiing and outdoor activities in the winter, no matter where you find yourself!

Tallest Buildings in the World

Since man could build, there has been an obsession with building bigger, taller, grander structures.

As far back as the Biblical Tower of Babel, people have gone to great lengths to reach the heavens with their buildings. With the advent of steel and the use of advanced engineering in construction, buildings have rapidly grown taller and more massive. What started in the United States in the 20th century has spread throughout the world, and five of the six tallest skyscrapers are in Asia or the Middle East.

The competition to be among the tallest buildings in the world is surprisingly fierce, and definitions differ on what qualifies as part of the building. Some lists include unoccupied buildings, or spires or radio antenna, and others do not, so there are disagreements among the ranking. This list covers the tallest occupied buildings, which reach up to a quarter mile into the sky. Let’s take a look!

Burj Kalifa

Located in Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the Burj Kalifa is undoubtedly the tallest building in the world. It is 808 meters, or 2,651 feet, tall, excluding the antenna at the top. The building holds several records, including the longest working elevator, at 140 floors, and the highest outdoor observation deck.

In addition to its height, the building is remarkable in its green design. Among other things, it collects 15 million gallons of water each year, which is then used for irrigating the downtown landscape in the desert city.

Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world (Google Maps)
Burj Khalifa - Tallest building in the world

Shanghai Tower

The Shanghai Tower in Shanghai China is the world’s second tallest building, and holds the record for the highest observation deck, which is a cool feature for tourists. It stands at 632 meters, or 2,073 feet. This building claims to be the greenest superstructure. It was designed to reduce wind loads on the building, requiring about 25 percent less building material, which has a significant positive impact on the environment. It also has wind turbines built into the structure to provide about 10 percent of the building’s energy needs.

The city can certainly be proud of this super tall skyscraper!

Shanghai Tower (StreetView)
Shanghai Tower

Abraj Al Bait Clock Tower

The Abraj Al Bait Towers is a series of seven skyscrapers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with the complex’s Clock Tower coming in at 581 meters, or 1,906 feet tall.

The complex is just a few yards away from Islam’s holiest site, the Grand Mosque of Mecca, and it caters to the constant flow of international visitors to the site. It has a five-star hotel, as well as a five-story shopping mall. There are also residential penthouses at the top of the structure, which put new meaning to “living the high life”.

Abraj Al Bait Towers (tallest hotel in the world) (Google Maps)
Abraj Al Bait Towers (tallest hotel in the world)

Ping An Finance Center

The Ping An Financial Center in Shenzen China is currently the fourth tallest building in the world. It was commissioned by the Ping An Insurance Company, and completed in 2017. It stands at 599 meters, or 1,966 feet. Original plans intended to make it the tallest building in China, but it would have interfered with flight paths.

Several daredevils have successfully climbed the exterior of the building, and then posted their amazing and dangerous feats on the internet.

Ping An Finance Center (world's tallest office building) (Google Maps)
Ping An Finance Center (world's tallest office building)

Lotte World Tower

The Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea, stands at 555 meters, or 1,819 feet, and is the tallest building in South Korea and the fifth tallest in the world. The sleek building was designed as a slender cone, with gently curving sides. The structure houses retail space, office space, private residences, a luxury hotel, and several observation decks at the top.

Some of the observation decks have glass floors, which provide a breathtaking, if not fear-inducing, view of the surrounding skyline.

Lotte World Tower (tallest building in South Korea) (Google Maps)
Lotte World Tower (tallest building in South Korea)

One World Trade Center

For years, the Twin Towers at the New York City World Trade Center were the tallest buildings in the world. All that changed on September 11, 2001, when they collapsed as a result of a terrorist attack. But quickly, the people of New York and the United States committed to rebuilding something special as a way to heal from the attack.

Construction on One World Trade Center, nicknamed “Freedom Tower,” began in 2006, and the skyscraper opened in 2014. It tops out at 541 meters, or 1,776 feet, making it the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the sixth tallest building in the world. The building is part of the newly rebuilt World Trade Center Complex, and has significant features paying tribute to the events, victims and heroes of 9/11. Even if you don’t go inside the building, it is a breathtaking monument to resilience and determination.

One World Trade Center (StreetView)
One World Trade Center

The desire man has to reach for the sky has always burned within, and continues to do so. It will be fascinating to see what new marvels of steel, concrete and glass are created out of the curiosity, dedication and ambition of those dreamers in the future.