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.
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.
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.
Al “Blacky” Blackman has reached a milestone few can claim. He has worked for 70 years as a mechanic for American Airlines based in New York, starting when he was only 17 years old.
Surprisingly, he has no plans to retire. “I don’t consider this work. It’s being able to do what you like and getting paid for it.”
On Tuesday last week the folks at AA threw a party for Al, his friends and his co-workers arranged for a painting sufficient in size to make even Al blush, which covered the back wall of Hangar 10 at JFK.
The next day they arranged for a few fellow employees, along with representatives from the media, to join Al in what has to be the most fitting way to mark the occasion, a ride in an original AA DC-3 around Manhattan.
The DC-3, which is operated by the non-profit Flagship Detroit Foundation, is the oldest DC-3 still flying. It is an airplane that AA operated until 1947 – five years after Al started as a mechanic.
Members of the press gathered around and asked Al a few questions before we were led across the ramp for our chance to fly with Al in the vintage airliner.
After he had a slight misstep while boarding, someone offered to hold Al’s cup of water for him. Handing it off, he joked, “You know what they say, If you can’t hold your drink … “
Soon after the 20 passengers found their seats on the plane, some remarked about the lack of air flowing through the cabin. Zane Lemon, the president of the Flagship Detroit Foundation, and our flight attendant for the trip, pointed out the gasper vents that would only supply cool air as we gained some airspeed, and the narrower seats from the time period.
“You have to remember, in the mid ’30s, the average passenger weighed 136 pounds,” he said.
“What was the average temperature?” someone quipped.
I was thrilled to be embarking on such a time-warp, even if the temperature was 95 degrees that day. A flight up the Hudson right by the Freedom Tower in a DC-3? Sign me up.
But my enthusiasm couldn’t come close to that of my friend Sebastian Toovey, dressed in an AA hat and T-shirt, who saw this as the flight of a lifetime. Sebastian’s article will appear in the October issue of Airways magazine, and the assignment was destined for him, as I’m sure you couldn’t find a bigger fan of American Airlines.
As promised, shortly after liftoff the cool air flowed as the view of the New York skyline came into view. It was explained that the flight path would take us north up the Hudson River, giving those on the right side a good view of the city followed by a turn over the George Washington Bridge that would offer the left side passengers an equal view.
The cockpit door was open, allowing those who were interested a cockpit view of the city. We managed to fly past the Freedom Tower, still under construction, which dominated the copilot’s window since we were only at 1,500 feet. It felt surreal to be in an antique airplane while puttering by New York’s newest monument.
Al pointed out the area where he attended school, the Aviation High School in Manhattan. “It was a long time ago!” He shouted over the engine noise.
It was clear that Al was enjoying himself, occasionally talking with pilots over the intercom. Instead of a southerly flight back down the Hudson, air traffic control surprised us with a direct routing from the bridge over Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge before entering the pattern at JFK. The captain later told us that this was extremely rare, and a few of us wondered what it looked like from the streets of New York.
Passing by Central Park heading north
After we parked, Sebastian asked Al to sign an info sheet that described the senior most employee at AA’s career progression. By this time, it wasn’t clear who had enjoyed the event more, Sebastian or Al.
I have to offer Kudos to American for commemorating such an accomplishment, not only of an airline employee, but for anyone who works for a living. Seventy years is nearly three full careers for most people.
And congratulations to Al, who says, “if you enjoy what you do, why stop?”
I couldn’t agree more.
Photos by the author and Nicolas Mace.
“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.
Cruise vacations come in all sizes and shapes. Gigantic new ships have everything from gourmet cuisine created by celebrity chefs to amusement parks. Smaller ships get up-close and personal with destinations large ships can’t get to. On board, a new generation of cruise traveler is taking over, demanding more in the way of value and programming both on and off the ship. Let’s see how that is playing out in real life on the cruise lines of today.
The Base Experience is the Same For Everyone, But it Can Be Customized– Still, today we can go on a cruise vacation and spend not one dime more than the cruise fare with the possible exception of nearly mandatory gratuities for the crew. Those who want more in the way of dining options and an upgraded experience both on and off the ship have more options than ever to choose from.
Prices Go Up, Prices Go Down– A lot of what goes into cruise line pricing strategy is based on demand and demand almost always changes over time. There are a number of factors at work here including ship positioning, the economy, the effect of new ships just entering the marketplace on the sales of older ships and more. Best bet: consider the price at the time of booking as simply the starting price and use a travel agent to keep an eye on it.
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire– As our online world has developed with Internet-equipped tablets, faster connections, transparency and more rapid responses from all interested in cruise vacations, sites like CruiseCritic.com have become even more relevant and accurate. Clear example: CruiseCritic message boards are often the first source of breaking news when ships get into trouble at sea.
Celebrity Chef-Created Menu Items Sometimes Carry an Extra Fee– Royal Caribbean‘s 150 Central Park that is featured on Allure of the Seas has a fabulous menu created by celebrity chef Molly Brandt for $40 per person extra. The fee is well worth what would be priced easily at three times that much on land.
All Cruises are not Created Equal– There was a time when the onboard experience of a cruise vacation was about the same from cruise line to cruise line. That is not even remotely true anymore, as cruise lines have gone full speed ahead on branding and positioning themselves to be clearly different from each other.
Click-To-Buy is not the Smart Move– When cruise lines were very similar, it was simply a matter of choosing a sailing that worked with our travel window and an itinerary we liked. Buying online was arguably a viable option for booking. Now, with dynamic pricing strategies, differentiated onboard programming that varies widely from line to line and many more options, booking online is becoming more difficult all the time.
Travel Agents are Back and Better Than Ever– In the olden days, travel agents tried to be everything to everyone, selling any type of travel product. Most of them went broke. Today, more and more agents are becoming specialists in just cruise vacations and even specific cruise lines. That laser-sharp focus has brought better pricing, a better booking experience that often includes bonus amenities and this almost always equals a better value.
Cruises Have Something for Adventure Travelers Too– Previously turned off by the old stereotype of cruise vacations, adventure travelers are seeing cruise ships as an efficient way to see and sample destinations they may wish to explore more in depth on a later journey. The rising popularity of river cruising is testament to the destination immersion possible via cruise ship and how more travelers are demanding it.
Cruise Vacations are Safer Than Ever– A common and understandable if not warranted concern by cruise travelers after the grounding of Costa Concordia last January was safety. Cruise lines have bumped up the level of safety and security in an industry that already had good procedures in place. Now, even more emphasis has been placed on mandatory safety drills, security in port and at sea and crew training on everything from advanced fire prevention and response.
Celebrity Chef-Created Menu Items Sometimes do not Carry an Extra Fee– Guy’s Burger Joint created for Carnival Cruise Lines by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri has the best burger on the planet included in the price.
Still ranked as one of the most compelling reasons to cruise, dining has evolved from the stereotypical ‘belly-up-to-the-buffet’ feed fest to a variety of healthy options served in a growing number of onboard venues as we see in this video.
We at Gadling love a good time-lapsevideo. Whether it’s at a busy airport in Moldova or the many personalities on the streets of Laos, there’s something about seeing life pass by at fast (or slow) speeds that’s entrancing. With Christmas a few days away and Hanukkah in full swing, we especially love feeling festive without the crowds, the cold, and the hassle. Today’s Video of the Day is perfect for getting into the seasonal spirit of New York City without actually being there. Photographer Cris Magliozzi of health, fitness and happiness website Greatist shot the video on a walk from Central Park to Rockefeller Center, taking in some of the city’s best decorations, carolers, ice skaters, and other revelry. Bonus: no holiday music! Think of it as our gift to you.
Want to give us something for the holidays? Post a link in the comments below or add photos to our Flickr Group for our next Photo/Video of the Day.
Hat tip to our friends across the pond at BBC Travel for tweeting the link.