Urban Camping: Pitch A Tent In Central Park

urban camping in Manhattan
Flickr, Sarah Ackerman

High Manhattan hotel prices ruining your summer travel plans? If you’d like to try urban camping — sleeping under the skyscrapers of New York City — you can try your luck for a spot at one of the city’s summer Family Camping sessions. The Urban Park Rangers lead programs in more than a dozen city parks in all five boroughs, including Manhattan’s Central Park (August 24) and Prospect Park (September 21) in Brooklyn. The campouts are all free, starting with an early evening hike, cookout with food provided (don’t expect anything fancy, but you might be surprised with s’mores) and even a tent — you need only bring sleeping bags. The catch? There’s a lot of competition to join, with only 30 tents available for each night. Each event is open to online registration for 24 hours, with the “winners” chosen by lottery and notified about two weeks in advance. Find all the details and get lucky here.

Where else can you pitch a tent without leaving the city? Here are a few other urban areas with camping options.Austin: Emma Long Park offers campsites for $10-25 per night, depending on utilities, in addition to the $5-10 park entrance fee charged to all visitors. Set beside Lake Austin, the Texas city park is less than a half-hour from downtown. Check out the our adventure guide to Austin for more ideas.

Berlin: An innovative use of “fallow” urban space, the Tentstation project is unfortunately not open this season, but you’ll find other options in and around Berlin to pitch a tent or park an RV, even with a group. In typical German efficiency, some are within a few minutes’ walk to public transportation.

Honolulu: The Hawaiian capital has over a dozen campsites, many on the beach with fishing and surfing opportunities and views to rival expensive Waikiki resorts. Camping permits are issued for 3 or 5 days, and cost $32 and $52, respectively. Interesting note: several of the campsites warn that “houseless encounters are likely,” so look out for beach bums.

Japan: One of the most notoriously pricey countries also has a strong tradition of urban camping. While not officially sanctioned, it’s tolerated and generally quite safe in public parks. It might be hard to actually pitch a tent in downtown Tokyo, but you’ll find many guides online to finding a place to sleep al fresco.

Would you want to camp in a city? Have you done any urban camping?

Outdoor Rise Festival Brings Adventure To New York City

Outdoor Rise comes to New York City
Outdoor Rise

Residents of New York City who are looking to put a little outdoor adventure into their lives will be pleased to learn of an upcoming event that aims to help them do just that. The first ever Outdoor Rise festival is scheduled to take place June 17-23 and will offer a full week of competitions, classes, lectures, films and more. Best off all, the event is scheduled to take place across all five boroughs and will be absolutely free.

Outdoor Rise is sponsored by Discover Outdoors, an organization that is dedicated to improving the “quality of life through meaningful outdoor experiences.” With that in mind, there are some big plans for the upcoming festival with events such as daily yoga classes, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding opportunities on the Hudson River, bouldering in Central Park and organized hikes along a variety of trails. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There will also be photography workshops, guest speakers, adventure films and more. For a full schedule be sure to check out the events calendar on the Outdoor Rise website.

The hope is that that this event will not only provide a rare opportunity for outdoor adventure to the very metropolitan New York crowd, but also give someone the chance to connect with the outdoors in ways that they never have before. Many people who live in NYC might not even know that these opportunities exist right outside their door, and the dedicated team at Discover Outdoors wants to remind them of this fact. Along the way, they might even inspire them to bigger adventures.

Big City Scavenger Hunt A Fun And Informative Quest

scavenger hunt

Remember scavenger hunts? The game where individuals or teams go out into the world to gather the items on predetermined list? Whoever gets them all first wins? Great.

In a unique twist on the game, UrbanQuest is a scavenger hunt in a great city that ends at a restaurant where reservations have been made. Along the way, “Questers” learn their way around the city in a fun and challenging way and everyone is a winner.

Held Amazing-Race style, groups of Questers download their clue package online then hit the streets to solve interesting puzzles that force teams to be resourceful. The final destination is a mystery restaurant where UrbanQuest has made a reservation for you. Timed to take about an hour and a half to complete, reservations are made for two hours after starting to allow some extra time for slow teams.

After buying a Quest online, it can be launched from your My Quests pages anytime. While the exact restaurant will be a surprise, you’ll pick a general category, just to be sure it is the kind of food the team will enjoy. Get stuck on a clue, see hints and answers on the included clue package that you printed off before starting.

In New York, for example, two Quests are offered. A Walk In The Park is a Quest in Central Park and another one sends Questers around Rockefeller Center. Each is priced at $28.99 per person + tax and the meal.

UrbanQuest is currently available in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Indianpolis, Louisville, Baltimore, Boston, Princeton, Cincinnati, Portland, Philadelphia, Nashville and Seattle plus a number of Canadian cities and some international destinations with more cities on the way. UrbanQuest customers who have successfully completed a Quest are invited to be QuestTesters, trying out new Quests before they become available to the public

UrbanQuest looks to be great for dates, groups of friends, family outings or office team building and can be gifted via e-gift cards.



[Flickr photo by krandolph]

An Exclusive Look At The View From America’s Tallest Hotel Building

Last year, Marriott International made waves with the announcement that its latest New York City property would be the tallest stand-alone hotel building in Manhattan. But now, about 17 months into construction, it has become clear that the new Nobutaka Ashihara-designed skyscraper will not just be the city’s tallest hotel, but the tallest stand-alone hotel building in the entire United States.

The new property, located at 1717 Broadway and 54th Street, consists of 68 stories extending nearly 753 feet into the midtown Manhattan skyline. It will house the new Courtyard by Marriott-Central Park on floors six through 32 and the new Residence Inn by Marriott-Central Park on floors 36 through 64. Earlier this week, we were able to get a sneak peek at the construction of the new property, including the jaw-dropping, 360-degree view from the top.

%Gallery-163059%

At elevations that high, the city is quite literally at your feet. To the west, you can see straight across the Hudson River to New Jersey. To the south, you have the heart of midtown Manhattan, including a clear view of Times Square, and to the east, you can look down at iconic structures like Carnegie Hall and the Hearst Tower. Northbound, you can see the whole of Central Park spread straight up through the tip of Manhattan. It’s a sight that will take your breath away (if your breath wasn’t already suffering from the high altitude).On the bottom chunk of the building, the Courtyard will contain 378 rooms, each providing the brand’s trademark “refreshing business” environment to help guests stay connected, productive and balanced. Up top, the 261 Residence Inn suites will provide comfort to guests on longer stays, offering full kitchens and home-style comforts. The 34th floor will house a shared fitness center, while common spaces, restaurants and retail space will take up the five-floor “pillar” of the building.

The building owners, Granite Broadway Development, and building contractor, CNY Builders, will celebrate the completion of the skyscraper’s structure this morning with a commemorative topping out ceremony, followed by the hauling of the final bucket of concrete to the top floor. From here, contractors will work on building out the interior of the hotel to Marriott specifications. An opening is slated for the end of 2013.

Cheesey Street Foods Of Latin America

With the possible exception of Argentina, most people don’t associate Central or South America with cheese. Like all of Latin America, these countries are a mix of indigenous cultures, colonizing forces, immigrant influences, and varied terroir, climatic extremes, and levels of industrialization. They possess some of the most biologically and geographically diverse habitats on earth. As a result, the cuisine and agricultural practices of each country have developed accordingly.

The use of dairy may not be particularly diverse in this part of the world, especially when it comes to styles of cheese, but it’s an important source of nutrition and income in rural areas, and a part of nearly every meal.

While writing a book on cheese during the course of this past year, I tapped into my rather obsessive love of both street food and South America for inspiration. As I learned during my research, the sheer variety of cheesey street snacks from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego are as varied as the ethnic influences responsible for their creation. Read on for a tasty tribute to queso.

Arepas: These flat little corn or flour cakes from Colombia, Venezuela and Panama may be grilled, baked, boiled, or fried. They’re usually stuffed or topped with a melting cheese, but may also feature meat, chicken, seafood, egg, or vegetables.

Anafres: Essentially Honduran nachos, composed of giant tortilla chips, refried beans and melted cheese. Named for an anafre, the coal-fired clay pot the dish is served in.

Pupusas: This Salvadorean staple is similar to an arepa: a thick, griddled corn cake stuffed with meat, cheese–usually a mild melting variety known as quesillo–chicarrones (pork cracklings), or queso con loroco (cheese with the buds or flowers of a vine native to Central America).street food vendorChoclo con queso: Boiled corn with slices or a chunk of mild, milky, fresh white cheese may not sound like much, but this roadside and market staple of Peru and Ecuador is irresistible. The secret is the corn, which is an indigenous Andean variety with large, white, nutty, starchy kernels. It’s satisfying as a snack all by itself, but it’s even better between bites of slightly salty queso.

Empanadas (empadinhas in Brazil): Perhaps the most ubiquitous Latin American street food, riffs on these baked or fried, stuffed pastries can be found from Argentina (where they’re practically a religion) and Chile to Costa Rica and El Salvador. The dough, which is usually lard-based, may be made from wheat, corn or plantain, with fillings ranging from melted, mild white cheese to meat, seafood, corn, or vegetables. In Ecuador, empanadas de viento (“wind”) are everywhere; they’re fried until airy,filled with sweetened queso fresco and dusted with powdered sugar.

Quesadillas: Nearly everyone loves these crisp little tortilla and cheese “sandwiches.” Traditionally cooked on a comal (a flat, cast-iron pan used as a griddle), they’re a popular street food and equally beloved Stateside.

Provoleta: This Argentinean and Uruguayan favorite is made from a domestic provolone cheese. It’s often seasoned with oregano or crushed chile, and grilled or placed on hot stones until caramelized and crispy on the exterior, and melted on the inside. It’s often served at asados (barbecues) as an appetizer, and accompanied by chimmichuri (an oil, herb, and spice sauce).
provoleta
Queijo coaljo: A firm, white, salty, squeaky cheese from Brazil; it’s most commonly sold on the beach on a stick, after being cooked over coals or in handheld charcoal ovens; also known as queijo assado.

Croquettes de Queijo: Cheese croquettes, a favorite appetizer or street food in Brazil.

Coxinhas: A type of Brazilian salgado (snack), these are popular late-night fare. Typically, coxinhas are shredded chicken coated in wheat or manioc flour that have been shaped into a drumstick, and fried. A variation is stuffed with catupiry, a gooey white melting cheese reminiscent of Laughing Cow. Like crack. Crack.

Queijadinhas: These irresistable little cheese custards are a popular snack in Brazil. Like Pringles, stopping at just one is nearly impossible.

Pão de queijo: Made with tapioca or wheat flour, these light, cheesy rolls are among the most popular breads in Brazil.

[Photo credit: Empanada, Flickr user ci_polla; food vendor, Provoleta, Laurel Miller]