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

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.

Travel Back Thursday: Broadway, From Broome Street

Thursdays mark a new rendition of our Photo of the Day on Gadling. We’ll be traveling back in time to feature interesting memories of years past. We’re reaching far back in the archives this week. Countless people have walked down, driven on, or worked near Broadway in New York City. Ever stop to think what Broadway looked like, over 150 years ago? Now you don’t have to. Enjoy this photograph from (roughly) 1855.

We’d love to feature your photos and videos on Gadling, so please add them to our Flickr Pool (with Creative Commons licensing!), tag @GadlingTravel on Instagram or email us at OfTheDay@gadling.com.

YouTube Sensation: Real Actors Read Yelp

Possibly, I’ve been living under a rock, but I just discovered the hilarious YouTube series “Real Actors Read Yelp,” the brainchild of Gotta Kid to Feed Productions.

Broadway thespians and television bit players provide heart-wrenching (and sometimes downright terrifying) enactments of real reviews from across the country. There’s everything from the Times Square Olive Garden (“The waitresses-slash-waiters smile, and seem … nice, but it feels like they’re doing it just to increase their tips.”) to Crazy Horse Gentleman’s Club (“I’ve never been impressed with the dancers. They either look like they just had a kid, or they’re obviously on drugs.”).

It’s hard to choose a favorite, but I’m partial to this disembowelment of a PF Chang’s, as performed by Tony Award-winner Greg Hildreth.

Enjoy a free Broadway show in a retro New York diner

When visiting New York, a must on most peoples’ lists is to buy tickets to a Broadway show. If you want entertainment that’s a little more affordable, stop into Ellen’s Stardust Diner.

The eatery is a themed diner that takes you back to the 1950’s, with waitresses in poodle skirts and waiters in retro bowling shirts serving classic fare like meatloaf, burger platters, macaroni and cheese, Whoopie pie sundaes, and thick shakes. To add to the old-time ambiance, nostalgic memorabilia adorns the room, a model-train set circles teh tables, and 50’s videos play on the television sets and a “drive-in theatre” screen.

While the food and decor help to make the place lively and fun, the real draw is the Broadway-style singing. The talented servers break out in random song from shows like Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and other major hits. Many of the staff are aspiring performers (a few have even been American Idol participants) trying to make it big, so the singing is more than just a hobby.

Yes, this restaurant is touristy, but it’s a lot of fun. Also, the staff are actually extremely talented and could easily be on Broadway. Bonus: If you like dessert, they have the most enormous sundae I’ve ever seen, “Ellen’s ‘Everything But the Kitchen Sink'”, with homemade vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and strawberry ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, walnuts, cherries, strawberries, whipped cream, sprinkles, brownies, and Oreo cookies. Just make sure to wear loose pants.

Biking the car-less streets of New York City after Hurricane Irene

I’ve suddenly found myself stuck in New York City after my 3-day Rome trip canceled. Watching the news last night, it looked like Manhattan would be without power and struggling even to survive the ‘storm of a lifetime’ on Saturday.

Instead, after Hurricane Irene passed through the city earlier this morning there was an erie calm. As I woke up, I wondered if we were in the eye of the storm.

It turns out, Irene may have some strong winds on the back side, but for now, a little fun could be had by biking through the empty streets of the city.

Here’s what I found at 5th Avenue, Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the U.N. Building the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge and the East River. Wide open streets and unencumbered riding! A video is the best way for me to describe the morning:

There was a atmosphere in the city today. One biker told me he saw people playing Wiffle Ball in Times Square. Tourists, with nothing else to do, gathered on Broadway, umbrellas in hand, just to look at the streets.

New York is an amazing city, but after a snow storm or situation like we had today, the break in monotonous city life offers a chance look around them and see just how great this place is.

I thought I’d had enough of Irene after experiencing it from the air, but today Irene brought many of us a pleasant surprise, and some time to reflect on how thankful we are that it wasn’t worse.