Great Comeback Cities For Travel

Recently, the former automotive boomtown of Detroit made history by filing for bankruptcy, making it an easy butt of jokes on Twitter and in the news. However, Motown has also been making strides to become America’s great comeback city, with artists and entrepreneurs lured by cheap rents, and innovative projects happening all over town (disclosure: I’m a big fan of the city, and so is the New York TimesFrank Bruni). Detroit has more than a few great things going for it, including architecture, museums and sports, and tourist dollars could go a long way in helping the city recover. Can it become a tourist destination again?

Some of the top tourist destinations in the world were once no-go zones for travelers, suffering from financial crises, war, natural disasters and rampant crime. Here are a few of our favorite comeback cities:Berlin: One of the world’s most resilient cities, Berlin has been through war, occupation and one gigantic divide, and come back to thrive. In the decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, East Berlin in particular has become a hipster mecca, due to some of the lowest prices in western Europe for nightlife and a vibrant art and design scene. While not everyone welcomes the gentrification, the German capital is continuing to gain millions of foreign tourists each year.

Buenos Aires: A mix of hyperinflation, government corruption and mounting debt led to riots and an economic crisis in Argentina in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The country has stabilized and the peso value has risen, but it’s affordability has made it increasingly attractive to travelers in the last ten years, making it the No. 1 tourism destination in South America. Buenos Aires is opening more boutique hotels each year, ensuring a place every year on lists such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List of new hotels.

New Orleans: A longtime favorite for the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, along with events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, New Orleans was profoundly affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism is the biggest source of employment in the city and a major factor to its economy, and the disaster made visitor numbers plummet. Louisiana’s recovery has been slow but steady, and major infrastructure improvements brought on by this year’s “Super Gras” have helped the Big Easy come back.

New York City: Visitors to the Big Apple have topped 50 million, spending billions of dollars in the city annually. While New York has never suffered from lack of tourists, the 1980s crack epidemic and surge in crime gave it an image of being a violent, dirty and dangerous city and visitor numbers dipped. Like Detroit, it also faced possible bankruptcy in 1975 and President Ford was infamously (mis)quoted to tell NYC to “drop dead.” The terrorist attacks in 2001 caused another slowdown in visitors, but it’s now one of the safest, most visited cities in the world.

Tokyo: While Tokyo was not as devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami as other parts of Japan, it definitely felt the hurt with a sharp decline in tourism, major damage to national infrastructure, and radiation concerns. Foreign visitors are now exceeding the pre-disaster levels, though seismologists worry that an even bigger earthquake is due to hit Tokyo.

An honorable mention must go to the countries in the former Yugoslavia, especially Croatia and the cities of Belgrade and Sarajevo. Twenty years ago, who could have predicted the popularity of the Dalmatian coast as a beach destination, or the battle-scarred Serbian capital as a nightlife hotspot? They aren’t quite seeing the same tourism numbers as the destinations above, but they should be on your travel radar. Istanbul and Beirut are also favorites for their many comebacks and reinventions, though the effects from current events are already being seen in the local tourism industries.

What are your favorite “comeback cities”?

NYC Tourism Campaign Spotlights The City’s Lesser-Known Attractions

More than 52 million people visit New York City each year but the vast majority of visitors never stray far from the well-trodden streets of Manhattan. Now, a new tourism initiative is encouraging travelers to take a bigger bite out of the Big Apple by venturing out of the typical tourist hotspots and deep into the city’s five boroughs.

Neighborhood X Neighborhood” will give visitors a list of suggestions on things to do and see ranging from popular tourist activities to hidden gems that only the locals know about. The city’s vast array of restaurants, shops and cultural venues will all be spotlighted in the campaign.

The city’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says previous efforts to widen the tourist circuit have stimulated development in the neighborhoods. In recent years, more than 70 hotels have sprung up outside Manhattan, catering to visitors who want to get off the beaten path.”We’ve focused on bringing more tourists to neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, and it’s paid off with more hotels being built and tourism-related economic activity happening in those boroughs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Our neighborhoods are what make New York City unique, and visitors who explore the boroughs beyond the beaten path are sure to be rewarded with unforgettable, only-in-New-York experiences.”

NYC’s neighborhoods are all easily accessible via the city’s extensive transit system and campaign organizers say travelers who veer out of Manhattan and into the more obscure neighborhoods will be rewarded with a more affordable stay.

Bushwick, Fort Greene and Williamsburg are the first neighborhoods to be featured in the tourism initiative, which kicks off today. You can check out the neighborhood highlights here.

[Photo credit: NYC & Company]

Photo Of The Day: New York Pizza

There’s lots of good food to be had in New York City So much good food, in fact, that visitors must not forget to try one of NYC’s cheapest (and tastiest) culinary offerings: the pizza slice. Today’s photo, taken by Flickr user Mike GL, gives us a “behind the counter” look at your typical New York pizza joint. I liked the angle of the shot behind the glass, lending the shot a “slice of life” perspective. Wondering where to get some great pizza in New York? Check out this list of some of our favorites.

Taken any great travel photos lately? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mike GL]

11 things to do on 11-11-11

Tomorrow is a unique day on the calendar and one that should not go by without some sort of memorable event. For those who do not have anything planned on the palindromic date, consider our list of 11 things to do on 11-11-11.

  1. Propose– Getting close to asking the big question? This is the perfect day to ask. Decades from now you will thank us for suggesting this.
  2. Your first_____. Anything not yet tried that might turn into something you like to do later works. Skydiving, Surfing, Sushi come to mind.
  3. Private Tour of Manhattan by helicopter– This romantic excursion could very well be the backdrop for a romantic proposal soaring over the Big Apple.
  4. Niagara Falls Day Trip from New York– It’s a tour you can take where travelers explore the falls on both the US and Canadian sides including a ride on the historic ferry “Maid of the Mist.”
  1. Play the lottery/Be brave – Number freaks are all over this date. Buying a ticket at 11:11AM on 11-11-11 has got to be the best luck. In a bar at 11:11PM? The pick-up line options are endless. You too could be lucky.
  2. Quit Smoking– Obvious choice. Just had to throw that in. Better yet: travel someplace cool to do it.
  3. Fly to Vegas- No matter where you are, there always seems to be a flight available to Las Vegas. Maybe just fly there for dinner and come back. Maybe get married or re-married while there. MSNBC reports that over 3500 couples have applied to be married in Vegas on 11-11-11.
  4. Grand Canyon All American Helicopter Tour– Take off from Las Vegas Airport on an helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon. It’s a 45-minute helicopter flight each way, land deep in the canyon for a champagne picnic, and fly low over the Las Vegas neon Strip on your return.
  5. Take a hike– 11-11-11 is a great day to begin a new hobby or passion or dig up an old one you’ve not done in a while. OneDayOnEarth has plans similar to their hike on 10-10-10, so does RandomGroupOfHikers.
  6. Think about a veteran– 11-11-11 is also Veterans Day. Take a minute to think about someone you might know or know of who served in the military. Better yet, travel to where they are and thank them for their service.
  7. Meditate– Join others from around the world. “When the forces of Eleven become fully activated on earth, they have the power to change history in the making.” says, hosting a world-wide meditation on 11-11-11.

Flickr photo by Cryo Mariena

The New York Comedy Festival comes to town this month

The 8th annual New York Comedy Festival will be coming to town from November 9-13, 2011. Comedians like Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman, Louis C.K., Tracy Morgan, Wanda Sykes, and more will be putting on hilarious shows for the public during this five day event. There will also be a collaborative tribute in honor of the late comedian, Mike DeStefano, on Wednesday, November 9th, with the proceeds going towards the Mike DeStefano Foundation.

Some other acts to watch for include:

These are just a few of the many acts the New York Comedy Festival has to offer. To see a full schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.