While there are many styles of vacations you can take your family on, many still favor the tried and true family road trip to destinations important to the history and culture of our country.
While many coastal cities, east and west, are significant to the birth and growth of America, Boston stands out as particularly significant to the early struggles of our great nation. Beacon Hill in Boston was home to the descendants of early English colonialists whose elegant, gas-lit streets are well worth wandering through. And of course no trip to Boston would be complete without a visit to the famous Boston Harbor which includes a fantastic interactive museum and two replica 18th century vessels. Boston is also home to America’s first college, Harvard, which was established in 1636, student lead walking tours are available.
While the Big Apple has so much to offer one couldn’t possibly see it all in one trip, the historically minded will want to visit some particular locations: Ellis Island, landing spot of some 12 million immigrants is as fascinating as any place you might visit in the city and features a stunning museum; the Brooklyn Bridge is a must see landmark—it took 600 some workers 14 years to construct one of the world’s first steel wire suspension bridges which was the longest of its kind at completion in 1883; architectural buffs won’t want to miss Brooklyn Heights, one of the first areas of the city to be deemed a historic district.
While the Alamo is certainly a main point of interest, the entire city is a treasure trove of Spanish colonialism. The Alamo itself is one of only five missions that have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site (i.e., don’t miss!). The new River Walk Mission Reach Trail will allow you to explore the grounds and buildings in which priests and Native Americans worked and lived together.
Bubble tea, the popular Taiwanese drink—if you haven’t at least heard of it perhaps you’ve been vacationing under a rock as it has recently taken the world over. It was created in the 1980’s and is also known as “black pearl tea” and “boba tea” and is now beloved not only in Taiwan and around the world.
While there are no dozens of variations, it is basically a combination of tea, milk and of course the bubbles. These can be anything from large tapioca pearls to balls of fruit jelly.
Bubble tea has risen in the ranks of the food kingdom. It is a new official emoji in 2020. And recently has become a pizza topping and can even be found inside cheesecakes. But perhaps most telling is the fact that it is has been considered a star item of Taiwan state banquets for three years running.
But where did it come from? The story dates back to the 1940s.
In 1949 Chang Fan Shu, a mixologist and bartender who worked in Taiwan under the Japanese in WWII opened a tea shop. This was shou yao shop, the tea all made with cocktail shakers.
This resulted in a cold, clean tasting tea with a foamy top. They called foam tea in Taiwan. And not only was the foamy element new, but the idea of eating and drinking for pleasure was not yet quite part of the culture yet. And cold beverages were a rare treat.
It wasn’t until later on in the 1980’s in Taiwan during their economic boom when tea houses and tea and food restaurants became more popular that modern Bubble Tea was created.
Taiwanese artist and entrepreneur Tu Tsong He decided to open a tea house and ride the trend. While walking in a wet market one day he saw tapioca pearls, a favorite childhood treat of his. He decided to try some in his green tea and took off experimenting.
As these things do, it took off until we have the international phenomenon we have today.
Hanami or “flower viewing” is a traditional Japanese practice in which people enjoy the transient beauty of flowers. Typically, the flowers are sukura or cherry blossoms less popular are the ume or plum blossoms.
As this activity and the related festivals or parties are reliant on nature the few weeks when the flowers are in bloom varies from year to year. The Japanese weather bureau has traditional published a blossom forecast which is watched carefully by those who plan hanami.
In Japan today, hanami are typically outdoor parties that take place under sakura during the day and at night. At night they are called yozakura, this term is typically used by the larger festivals. At these yozakura paper lanterns or lights are strung near and weaved into the blossoms so revelers can view them in the darkness.
Often the sakura parties are crowded and noisy, typically filled with younger people. Older crowds sometimes enjoy the more ancient hanami, ume, or plum blossom viewing.
Although these gatherings have been canceled this year in Japan, traveling there to view the sakura and witness the festivals is worth the trip. If Japan is a little too far many places in the United States also celebrate cherry blossom festivals such as Washington D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival and Brooklyn New York’s Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
Wildlife organizations including the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganada and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Sarambwe Nature Reserve report that the mountain gorilla population in their forests has grown to 459. The confirmed global number of mountain gorillas can now be reported as 1063. This good news demonstrates that the conservation efforts to protect these great apes have been working. Their prospects are improving. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has changed their status from critical to just endangered.
It was not all good news unfortunately.
Illegal activity in the Bwindi-Sarambwe forest have not declined as the gorilla population increased. Even though there has been a serious effort put towards official enforcement and community efforts to stop illegal activity. Anti-poaching teams destroyed only 88 traps during the 2018 survey which was the same number as the last survey in 2011. Experts agree this ecosystem is still in danger of being destroyed by human activity.
Overall these organizations see the news as good, they do however caution that mountain gorillas remain threatened by extinction by human activity whether that is poaching, climate change or a lack of conservation effort.
Combine the power of social media with popular culture phenomena and you’ve got a recipe for over-tourism. Whether it is Instagram users seeking the perfect selfie at a tulip farm in California or the actual beach that inspired The Beach, the attention created by this combo is more bust than boom for many destinations.
An Alpine village named Hallstatt is the latest victim. Seated in Austria’s Salzkammergut mountains in Gmunden district. It is a quaint collection of classic Swiss style surrounded by snowy mountains and kissed by crystal water. It is literally something straight out of a fairytale. But dumped right onto your social media feed.
The population of the town is a mere 780 persons, but tourist numbers reportedly reach ten thousand visitors a day sometimes. Beyond Hallstatt generally being a place a selfie-obsessed traveler would want to indulge their vanity it is also rumored to have inspired Arendelle, the name of the setting to Disney’s incredibly popular Frozen movies.
Tourism has so interrupted life in the village that some churches have even hired bouncers to stop visitors from interrupting the village’s religious services.
The Department of Transportation released figure stating that passengers paid 1.2 billion dollars in baggage fees just between July and December. Which is up about 10% from last year during the same period. Between April and June baggage fees reached their highest ever at $1.18 billion.
Some experts believe this is at least partially due to the popular rise of very basic economy fares. These fliers can’t use overhead bins, so if they show up and can’t stash their carry-on under the seat they get stuck with a fee.
American Airlines and United Airlines both have very basic fairs which allow only one small personal item on board. In addition to this, there have just been more fliers generally speaking, hopefully due to a healthy economy and lower fares overall.