New York City bike share program coming in Summer 2012

new york city bike shareAt last, an urban bike share program is coming to New York City, and planners are involving city residents through community workshops, bike demos, and an online map system for suggesting station locations.

Organized by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and Alta Bicycle Share, the program will be funded by private sponsorship and user fees. Though a fee schedule has not yet been released, organizers say that membership will cost less than a monthly public transportation Metrocard.

Coming off the success of networks like the Vélib in Paris and Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, the New York City bike share program also hopes to capitalize on the popularity of alternative transportation methods among the city’s active and socially conscious communities. According to NYC DOT, commuter cycling more than doubled between 2005 and 2009, and it continues to grow each year. To cope with the demand, NYC DOT doubled the mileage of on-street bike lanes between 2007 and 2011. By 2017, they hope to triple it.

The new system will include more than 10,000 bikes at over 600 stations, and is part of a larger effort to make New York a more cycle-friendly city. The program is scheduled to kick off in Summer 2012.

In the meantime, check out this video celebrating the joys of New York City biking from my friends over at Holstee… and start shopping for a helmet.

[via NYC DOT, Flickr image via nycstreets]

6 ways to crash New York Fashion Week

new york fashion week

Twice a year, Manhattan’s streets are flooded with high heels, red lips, and designer clothing as the world’s fashion community descends upon the city for New York Fashion Week.

The week-long event, officially called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (nod to sponsors), runs from February 9 to 16 and will feature presentations by some of the world’s most famous fashion designers of their Fall/Winter 2012 collections. The runway shows are invitation-only, with most seats reserved for press, buyers, and friends of the designer. The after-parties are equally exclusive, with tight guest lists and strict door policies.

But although it’s a mostly closed event, it is possible for New York visitors and residents to get in on the action. Here are six ways to “crash” Fashion Week from outside the industry.

1. Park yourself at Lincoln Center. Since 2010, the hub of New York Fashion Week has been Lincoln Center, after the organizers abandoned the traditional tents at Bryant Park. Throughout Fashion Week, the plaza outside the center is a flurry of activity, with a constant stream of people entering and exiting while paparazzi fight for photos of celebrities and socialites. Bundle up, grab a spot, and feel the energy.

2. Check out Fashion Week’s other venues. Milk Studios, in Chelsea, is the unofficial second main venue of Fashion Week, hosting shows for designers like Peter Som and Cushnie et Ochs throughout the week. Other designers choose to hold their shows at more off-beat (and open) locations. Victoria Beckham, for instance, will be showing her latest line at the New York Public Library, while the 3.1 Phillip Lim show will be held on the Highline. A full schedule, with locations, is available from NYMag.com.

3. Visit the FIT Museum’s new exhibit. The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology will host the first-ever exhibition celebrating the work of the Council for American Fashion Designers from February 10 to April 20. Titled Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA, the exhibit will feature more than 100 garments from the council’s most impactful designers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, and other fashion heavy-hitters. Admission to the museum is free.

4. Explore the Garment District. The Garment District, located right smack in midtown, is the historic center of New York’s fashion industry. A daytime stroll will find you in the midst of truck deliveries, rolling clothing racks, and anxious interns running errands, and the energy multiplies during Fashion Week. Stay alert, and you may even recognize a familiar face; I spotted designer Anna Sui during a recent visit.


5. Reserve a room at a stylish hotel. It used to be that New York’s most fashionable nightlife was centered around the Meatpacking District, but not any more. This season, Fashion Week’s notorious after-parties will be held in venues across Manhattan, and many of the most stylish hotspots are hidden in hotels. While reserving a room won’t guarantee entrance to the events, it might certainly help. Start with the Ace Hotel, the Hotel Gansevoort, the Gramercy Park Hotel, the brand new Dream Downtown Hotel, and the always risque Standard Hotel.

6. Watch on Facebook. The democratization of fashion continues on Facebook, where people around the world can snag front row seats to shows from designers like Michael Kors, Betsey Johnson, Narciso Rodriguez, Jill Stuart, and BCBGMAXAZRIA. Sure, it’s by live video stream, but until you’re a famous fashion blogger, it’ll have to do.

[Flickr images via Art Comments, Paul Lowry and Jimmy Baikovicius, other image via Fashion Institute of Technology]

Photo of the Day: Monday morning in Ho Chi Minh City

Each morning in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, mobile street vendors brave the city’s frenetic traffic to hawk breakfast specialties like banana patties, pho, and other popular Vietnamese street foods. A typical Monday morning scene is captured in today’s monochrome Photo of the Day from Flickr user Jeryc Garcia.

Does your photo belong here? Upload your favorite travel shots to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

The ultimate guide to Carnival in Rio: planning, packing and logistics

Attending Carnival in Rio de Janeiro tops many a bucket list, and for good reason. Not only is Rio Carnaval one of the world’s sexiest festivals, it’s also an important cultural event for the people of Brazil. Last year, more than 4.9 million people participated in the week-long festival of parades, parties, and carousing in the streets, and the number is expected to increase yet again this year.

In short, Carnival in Rio is an event of epic proportions, and trip preparation can be as much of an adventure as the festival itself. The hotels are overpriced, the tickets are sold out, and it’s tough to tell the real advice from the travel agents trying to sell you on a package. This guide, compiled from my research and paired with tips from Brazilian friends, will hopefully provide a starting point for planning your own Carnival adventure. If you think anything’s missing, please share your knowledge in the comments!


The Basics

Carnival is an annual festival that kicks off 46 days before Easter, in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday and the start of Christian Lent. In Rio, the main events take place across the city over five days, from Friday to Fat Tuesday, and include both organized and spontaneous parades, balls, concerts, performances, and general revelry. The 2012 festival will run from February 17 to 21; see this list for future dates.

Getting There

Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão International Airport is Brazil’s largest international airport, with non-stop flights from many cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. A round-trip ticket from a major U.S. city will usually cost you in the neighborhood of $1000.

Americans traveling to Brazil will need to obtain a tourist visa from the Brazilian embassy or one of its regional consulates. The process can take up to several weeks to complete, so start early! The fee is $140, payable only by U.S. Postal Service Money Order, and you’ll need a copy of your travel itinerary. Additional requirements vary by consulate, so double-check with yours to see what else you’ll need.

Sleeping


Locating affordable Carnival accommodations becomes more impossible the closer you get to the main event. Most hotels, hostels, and guesthouses inflate their rates by up to four or five times, and even then they book out quickly.

For hotels, expect to pay around $200 for a budget guesthouse, $500 for a mid-range hotel, and upwards of $1000 for a luxury property. A recent search for hostel dorm beds turned up average rates of $100 per night, and most places implement a minimum stay of up to a week.

Friends in Brazil recommended that I check out apartment sublet sites like Airbnb and RioApartmentRental.com for the best deals. While some savvy hosts offer “Carnival Packages” with minimum stays, for many, it’s business as usual. Plus, since most hosts are cariocas (Rio de Janeiro residents), you may be able to get the inside scoop on experiencing Carnival like a local.

Packing

February is the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so pack for high temperatures and lots of sunshine. On the streets, it’s perfectly acceptable for men to go shirtless and women to wear bikini tops. If you’re planning to attend a fancy ball, like the famed Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, you’ll need an elaborate costume or black tie attire. And if you’re feeling adventurous, throw some wacky stuff — feather boas, cowboy hats, oversized sunglasses — into your suitcase as well! You won’t need an excuse to don them.

Getting in the Spirit

One of my favorite parts of trip preparation is immersing myself in the destination’s culture. Music-wise, I’ve been enjoying the Brazilian samba mixes on 8tracks, especially songs like Ai Se Eu Te Pego by Michel Teló, Samba da Benção by Bebel Gilberto, and the original version of The Lambada (J-Lo‘s got nothing on Kaoma).

On the reading list is Carnival Under Fire, a portrait of Carnival-atmosphere Rio from Ruy Castro, one of Brazil’s best-known essayists. Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus), a 1959 Marcel Camus film set during Carnival, also came highly recommended. And let’s not forget the apps! To practice your Portuguese, try downloading a free Portuguese language learning iPhone app from MindSnacks and the powerful Portuguese Brazilian Traveler Pro translator from Odyssey. There’s even a Carnival bloccos app to track the best street parties.

In part 2 of this guide, I’ll dive a little deeper into Carnival itself: the blocos, the balls, and the highlight of the whole festival: the samba school parades in the Sambódromo!

Check out the second installment of The ultimate guide to Carnival in Rio: parties and parades. And stay tuned for on-the-ground coverage of Rio Carnival 2012 starting on February 17th!


[Flickr images via sfmission.com [2], Laszlo Ilyes]

5 student travel programs that are hiring this summer

student travel

Want to get out of town this summer? Leading a student travel program may just be your ticket. The requirements vary from program to program, but often include foreign language proficiency, in-country experience, previous work with adolescents, a keen sense of adventure, and a whole lot of patience.

There are dozens of programs out there, but this list is a good place to start. Plus, we know they’re looking for summer leaders.

People to People
The Program: Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1965, People to People’s mission is to promote cultural understanding and world peace among middle and high school students. Programs focus on cultural exploration, leadership, and sports.
Cool Itineraries: Road to the Himalayas in India, South African Adventure, Modern and Ancient Civilizations in Italy, Sicily, and Greece.
Leader Requirements: Teacher leaders must be 21 or older, with preference given to educators and students majoring in education.
How to Apply: Step one is to create an account on Compass, P2P’s leader hub. You’ll then need to complete an online application, which takes around 30 minutes.Putney Student Travel
The Program: Geared toward high school students, Putney Student Travel’s summer trip offerings emphasize education and cultural engagement. Trip themes include community service, cultural exploration, global awareness in action, language learning, and summer school. Putney also coordinates National Geographic Student Expeditions, which include explorational expeditions, field workshops in subjects like photography, and community service projects.
Cool Itineraries: Cultural Exploration at Kilimanjaro, Community Service in Ecuador and the Galapagos, Excel educational courses at Oxford and in Tuscany.
Leader Requirements: They vary from program to program, but generally include a college degree, relevant language proficiency, and travel experience in the target country/ies. The program is selective, and reading through former leader profiles can help you get a sense for whether you’d be a good fit.
How to Apply: Complete the online application and upload your cover letter and CV. Putney starts accepting leader applications for summer employment each December, and interviews are held between January and April.
Note: I previously led for this program, and it was awesome.

Travel for Teens
The Program: TFT offers a wide array of trips focusing on cultural exploration, language learning, and community service, as well as a number of “specialty” trips that involve activities like photography and surfing.
Cool Itineraries: Fiji Service and Adventure, Language in Paris and the South of France, Thailand Photography.
Leader Requirements: Leaders must be least 21 years of age; commit to at least two summers; have experience working with teenagers, particularly in a camp environment; have experience living, traveling, or working in the target country/ies; and possess foreign language fluency, particularly in Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin, Thai, and German.
How to Apply: Complete the online application and upload your CV and a photo.

Westcoast Connection
The Program: Specializing in “teen tours”, community service programs, language learning, pre-college enrichment, and family adventure trips, Westcoast Connection focuses on both personal and group experiences, with an emphasis on fun.
Cool Itineraries: Major League Baseball Madness Tour across the East Coast, Midwest, and California; Israel Experience; Global Adventure in China.
Leader Requirements: There aren’t any concrete requirements for employment, but Westcoast emphasizes teamwork as a key leader attribute. Available positions include Trip Director, Food Director, and Trip Leader/Specialist.
How to Apply: Complete the online application.

Where There Be Dragons
The Program: With longer itineraries than most of the other programs, Where There Be Dragons emphasizes immersion in physical and cultural landscapes through experiential education, active pursuits, service learning, and language programs. Youth Programs are focused in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Cool Itineraries: Cambodia: Studies in Development and Peace, Jordan: Arabic Languages and Cultures, Senegal: The Warm Embrace of West Africa
Leader Requirements: The ideal applicant has unique in-country experience, relevant foreign language skills, experience leading groups and/or working with teens, dedication to education, experience in a relevant field, and a Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician certification.
How to Apply: Complete the online application and upload your CV.

[image via Putney Student Travel]