Celebrites as Tourist Attractions: Jackie Chan, Britney Spears, and More

Celebrity tourist attractions - star maps
Flickr, Donna Grayson

Millions of tourists visit Los Angeles every year in hopes of spotting a celebrity, but rarely see anything more than gated homes and unemployed actors in character costumes on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some enterprising celebrities are finding ways to become tourist attractions in their own right, with live performances and theme parks for fans to see their favorites (or at least their stuff) live in person.

-Britney Spears just announced a two-year residency at Las Vegas‘ Planet Hollywood starting in December. Over 1,000 fans gathered in the Nevada desert for her helicopter arrival and performance on GMA. Tickets for the pop star’s first 16 shows this winter go on sale tomorrow.

-Action star Jackie Chan is opening his collection of historic sandalwood houses to the public in Beijing with a new theme park. The proposed park will show different cultural experiences with no admission, with some ticketed attractions to help maintain the antique buildings.

-Film and TV actors on Broadway have become de rigueur in recent years, a way to prove their serious talent and break away from roles they’ve become famous for. This season, you can catch Orlando Bloom, Daniel Craig and Patrick Stewart on stage in New York City.

-Fans of Michael Jackson have been hoping that his Neverland Ranch in California might be turned into a park or pilgrimage spot like Elvis Presley’s Graceland, but part of the property was sold off in 2008 and has since fallen into disrepair. Hearing that his children would like to buy it back, Lady Gaga was rumored to offer to help with costs or open it to the public.

Hot Travel Trend: K-Pop Style Wedding Photography in South Korea

korean wedding photo shoot
one-11, Flickr

We’ve all heard of destination weddings, but would you travel to another country just to have your wedding photos taken? That’s the latest travel trend in Asia as increasing numbers of well-to-do Chinese couples head to South Korea to have their marriage immortalized on film.

Some Chinese feel that South Korea is more sophisticated when it comes to things like fashion, makeup and urban style, and believe that getting their photos taken there will result in a more glamorous finished product — not to mention give them bragging rights among friends and family back home. The idea of South Korea as a chic destination has been growing in China thanks to Korean pop videos, such as Psy’s “Gangnam Style” as well as South Korean TV shows.Newlywed couples take part in glamorous photo shoots in the city’s upscale neighborhoods, hoping to mimic the lifestyles of their favorite South Korean celebrities. However, it’s not just real locales that provide the backdrop for the wedding snaps — interestingly, many Chinese also get their bridal portraits taken in front of facades that resemble the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and other European destinations. Apparently, the Western sets look better when you’re ditching the traditional Chinese wedding attire for a white ball gown.

The whole concept has been a big boon for South Korean photographers, some of whom see 50 to 60 Chinese couples a month. But South Korean glamour photography doesn’t come cheap — wedding travel packages that include transportation, assistants and hotels can set a couple back $2000-$4000.

Cockpit Chronicles: A Landing Fit For A King

Harriet Baskas from StuckatTheAirport.com asked a few of us to identify the “scariest airports” as seen through the eyes of pilots. I gave her a list of “challenging” airports instead. I told her about New York’s LaGuardia and Washington, D.C.’s Reagan airports but I wondered if I should have mentioned Eek or Nightmute, two of my personal favorites from flying in Alaska, that attract only a few local travelers.

In the end, LaGuardia, Reagan and Orange County, in Santa Ana, California, made the cut in her article. I couldn’t really disagree with the choices. All three are short runways and each one has at least one unique departure or arrival procedure that requires a bit of piloting skill.

But do pilots worry, or get scared when flying into these places? I haven’t seen any evidence to support that. Do we feel some pressure? Sure.

A recent LaGuardia landing is a good example. Since finishing my initial operating experience (IOE) as a new captain on the MD-80, I hadn’t flown into LaGuardia for over a month. I managed to get two or three landings there with the instructor giving me the IOE training, but most of my subsequent trips had been out of Newark, another airport that’s part of my home base.

Finally, after finishing a three-day trip with layovers in Cleveland and Albuquerque, I’d get my first landing back at the USS LaGuardia. We joke about its short length, but it really isn’t much worse than the shortest runway in Boston, Chicago or San Diego. And as a co-pilot, I had flown into LGA many times. So why the pressure?

It might come as a surprise to some, but most pilots don’t constantly think about the responsibility that comes with flying a planeload of passengers while they’re flying. I suppose it’s because, in a selfish way, a passenger’s safety is no more important than my own, and this tends to be enough to ensure that the airplane and its occupants are flown in a safe way.

But I do have one recurring thought that goes through my mind during the more challenging times. Because of the hundreds of accident reports we’ve read that never fail to leave an impression, a little voice in my head can often be heard critiquing every decision or action.

And especially when things begin to go wrong on a flight, either mechanically, or because of weather or poor decision-making, that little voice in your head begins to craft your own accident report. And when you start hearing excerpts in your head, such as “captain elected to take off from the shorter, ice-covered runway to save time as the flight had been delayed” you tend to step back and re-think your decisions.

During my first LaGuardia landing as a captain, these type of thoughts were going through my head. Nothing was out of the ordinary – the weather was clear and while it was dark, the visibility was excellent.

But this time, it wasn’t an NTSB accident report that I was hearing; it was a newspaper headline because that night I had royalty aboard the flight.Jerry Lewis was flying in seat 2F. I could already hear not only the accident report, but the newspaper headlines. “The King of Comedy, involved in airline accident – new captain making his first landing into short New York runway.”

A double-blink and a glance over at my co-pilot, Mark, quickly brought me back into the present situation. I had briefed Mark on the turn-off point I intended to use, the approach we’d be flying, and the final flaps we’d select (all of them, or 40 degrees). In my mind the touchdown point was visualized, and we were now slowed to our approach speed. Really, what could go wrong?

“Lewis, who was returning from a performance in Las Vegas, had connected in Chicago for the doomed flight back to LaGuardia.”

Oh, stop it. This is just another landing. OK, so yes, there was a bit of a crosswind at 14 knots, but that’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

“50, 40, 30, 20, 10 …” The electronic radio altimeter called out as we crossed over from water to runway, punctuated by a nice ‘thunk.’ It wasn’t a roll-it-on-greaser, but the landing was on speed and right at the touchdown point at about 1,000 feet down the 7,000-foot runway, leaving more than a mile to slow down smoothly.

After the flight, I smiled at how easy it was to think up dreadful headlines on the approach, which was especially ironic, since I struggle to put a title on my “Cockpit Chronicles” posts for Gadling.

As we were finishing up the parking checklist, Mr. Lewis poked his head inside the door and said, “Thanks for the great flight, guys.”

Some landings you’ll never forget, and this was just one of them.

[Photo credit: Kent Wien]

Related: Kent’s favorite and least favorite runways.

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a captain on the MD-80 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Video: ‘No Kitchen Required’ In New Zealand, ‘When Maori Attack’

Here at Gadling, we’ve been keeping tabs on the new BBC America reality show “No Kitchen Required,” which is taking cooking competitions to new highs (and lows). Battling for fame and glory are award-winning chef Michael Psilakis of New York’s Fish Tag and Kefi; private executive chef Kayne Raymond; and former “Chopped” champ Madison Cowan.

The chefs hunt and gather ingredients to prepare regional cuisine in various locations, including Dominica, Belize, Fiji, Thailand, South Africa, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana. The show is a cross between “Survivor” and “Top Chef,” with a dash of over-the-top, Bear Grylls-style drama thrown in, but it’s all in good fun and provides a fascinating cultural and culinary tour of little known destinations and cuisines.

Here, we have a teaser clip from New Zealand that features the chefs watching a haka, or traditional Maori warrior dance, prior to having the local community judge their respective meals. Here’s hoping they didn’t give anyone food poisoning.


Grill your own dinner on new cruise ship, get free apron

Grill your own dinnerCelebrity Cruises new 2,886-guest Celebrity Silhouette will debut soon with all the bells and whistles of her previous 122,000 ton Solstice-class sister-ships. Look for iPad art tours, a “trendsetting onboard experience and larger than normal staterooms. Sailing from New York, a whole lot of New Yorkers and tri-state area residents will be on board, starting their vacation without taking a flight, maximizing their vacation time. Also on board will be something new and unique to this vessel; the industry’s first interactive, open-air grilling restaurant The Lawn Club Grill.

“People tend to associate grilling with the relaxing, carefree mood of summer – exactly what a Celebrity vacation is all about,” said Jacques Van Staden, Vice President, Culinary Operations. “What can be better than experiencing something that’s popular among so many cultures around the world, while relaxing near a lawn of growing grass, surrounded by an endless view of the sea?”

The highlight of the dining experience at the 58-seat Lawn Club Grill will be the opportunity for guests to serve as their party’s “Grill Master,” by being paired with a Celebrity Cruises chef to assist in preparing the menu for their table over custom-built, ventilated grills. This unique, one-on-one interaction will give the Grill Master a one-of-a-kind, firsthand lesson in proper grilling techniques and other tricks of the grilling trade.
“Our guests consistently tell us that fresh, exciting culinary experiences are essential to their enjoyment of their vacation, and we are always looking for new ways to deliver that to them,” said Van Staden.

All guests will have the opportunity to choose from a gourmet salad bar, a la carte “build your own” pizzas and more than 12 grilled specialties. “Grill Masters” will receive a complimentary apron as a memento.

“Just as we introduced the ‘uniquely unordinary’ experience of using iPad-based menus to design individual culinary journeys featuring dishes presented in unexpected ways in Qsine on Celebrity Eclipse, we are introducing customized, open-air grills to the cruise vacation dining experience.”

By combining a premium culinary experience with the sensation of relaxing on the top deck of a ship, surrounded by live grass and cool ocean breezes, Celebrity’s aim is to celebrate the passion people have for grilling, as they enjoy their precious vacation time.

I think they might just get that done when guests grill their own dinner at The Lawn Club Grill.