Four great Kentucky Derby events

Whether you’re headed to Louisville to celebrate this year’s Kentucky Derby or simply want to gather your friends for an excuse to don fancy hats and drink mint juleps, we’ve got a party for you.

Barnstable Brown Party
For more than two decades, the most elite of all Derby events has been the Friday evening Barnstable Brown Party. Co-hosted by twin sisters – and famed Doublemint twins – Patricia (“Tricia”) Barnstable Brown and Priscilla (“Cyb”) Barnstable, their mother, Wilma (“Willie”) Barnstable, and Tricia’s son, Chris Brown. The black-tie gala raises money for programs supporting diabetes research, treatment and education at the sisters’ alma mater, the University of Kentucky. You’ll find numerous celebrities at the party – The Jonas Brothers and Miranda Lambert are among confirmed attendees for this year. Tickets are $1,000+, and available here.

Night of Silk Party
Derby Evening, party with the jockey’s themselves at the first-ever Night of Silk Derby Party at the Galt House Hotel. The first ever Night of Silk will feature signature cocktails, full open bar, a decadent menu and indulgent desserts including dry-ice chocolate and a life-sized chocolate horse. Tickets are $375 per person (buy tickets here) and will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund.

Los Angeles Soiree
West Coastsers can celebrate the “Greatest 2 Minutes In Sports” with a unique Kentucky Derby Viewing Party called “Hold Your Horses” at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Taking place in the LAAC’s main game room, the races will be shown on multiple TV, live music will take place from Gypsy Jazz band Icy Hot Club, equine-inspired games such as indoor Horse Shoes there will even be a room where guests can log onto the Kentucky Derby site and place bets on the races. For the Derby guests who hedge their bets more on the fashion of the event than the horses, designer Charlie Altuna will be onsite showcasing some of his original hat creations. There will also be a whisky tasting hosted by Maker’s Mark and a specialty Kentucky-inspired cocktail menu. The party will take place from 1 – 4 PM and is $25 per person, including food. The first 50 reservations will get a complimentary Maker’s Mark glass to take home. To make reservations, call 213-630-5200.

Derby Day in DC
The Willard InterContinental’s historic Round Robin Bar host an “Afternoon at the Races” event on Saturday with its annual Bonnets and Bow Ties Kentucky Derby Party. Join the fun at the Round Robin Bar, a favorite of locals, celebrities, and politicos. The $75 entry fee includes a southern-style buffet featuring country baked ham with baby soft rolls, Kentucky coleslaw and potato salad, a display of international cheeses and Derby pies, including a thematic variation on the pecan pie with a healthy measure of Maker’s Mark and two of the bar’s famous Henry Clay Southern-Style Mint Juleps. Each drink is individually handcrafted and served in the official keepsake 137th Kentucky Derby glassware. To make a reservation, visit the hotel website.

[Flickr via Velo Steve]

Kentucky Kingdom plans for life after Six Flags

Back in February, Six Flags rejected its lease with its Louisville, Kentucky theme park Kentucky Kingdom. The park remained closed for all of 2010. Now, a redevelopment company has been actively posting plans to revitalize the troubled park on their new Kentucky Kingdom website and YouTube Channel.

Since I have been a roller coaster enthusiast, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has had the dubious distinction as the black sheep in the Six Flags chain. In the last decade, there were very few new rides. And, with the exception of one roller coaster which will now be Green Lantern at Great Adventure, there was no real draw for theme park travelers like myself. In addition, park operations and maintenance were subpar. Maintenance becomes glaringly important when horrifying accidents gain national attention. Anyone remember the girl whose feet were severed by the drop ride at the park?Ed Hart operated Kentucky Kingdom in its pre-Six Flags days of steady growth and has now once again taken the reins in its post-Six Flags era. He puts the blame for the park’s attendance and investment decline squarely on Six Flags. A new video charts the park’s attendance growth as new rides were opened in nearly every year of Kentucky Kingdom’s first 9 years. And then, it details the attendance decline as Six Flags removed rides and added very little.

With $50 million dollars of state-funded bonds going towards rehab and new rides, Hart plans to re-open Kentucky Kingdom in 2012. His plans were recently discussed during an interview with ParkThoughts. They include moving the park’s entrance, an expanded water park, and free parking. The most notable announcement for coaster fans was the mention of a new marquee Bolliger & Mabillard-designed roller coaster. Details of the new roller coaster are forthcoming.

10 U.S. Cities where profanity prevails

He, we’re all prone to a bit of profanity every now and then – some of us more than others. I’ve had my ass butt handed to me by the Gadling editors over my (finally) occasional use of some foul language, though I’ve taken steps to (as they say) improve myself. Well, I was happy to see when flipping through my RSS feed that I’m not the only person who likes to drop an f-bomb every now and then. In fact, there are entire cities engaging in such behavior, according to a recent article on Business Insider.

So, how am I going to pick my next home? Well, I’ll start by looking at the 10 most obscene cities it the United States. Strangely, New York isn’t on the list, probably because we have a small vocal minority that engages in the sorts of foul phrasing, while the rest of the city tends to be squeaky clean.

So, who’s on the list? These are the 10 cities and towns where you’re most likely to find mouths washed out with soap.1. Ashburn, Virginia
There are only 90,000 people here, but they know how to cuss! The Washington, DC suburb made its first time on the list a big one, coming in at the top spot.

2. Tampa, Florida
Tampa found a way to climb from #8 in 2009 to #2 in 2010, something of an accomplishment, according to a handful of people.

3. Herndon, Virginia
What is it about Virginia? Is there something in the water? A problem with the schools’ vocabulary lessons?

4. Rochester, New York
Who cares?

5. Irvine, California
The fourth-best place to live in the United States has achieved this distinction because you can say whatever the fuck you want.

6. Newark, New Jersey

7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Someone must have brought Miss Manners to the largest city in Pennsylvania – it ranked third the past two years, according to Business Insider.

8. Louisville, Kentucky
It ranked #10 last year and #1 the year before. So, there’s a bit of a backslide here, but it hasn’t been too bad.

9. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Like Virginia (and California), Pennsylvania makes the list twice.

10. Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada (tie)
Did you really think these two wouldn’t make it?

Curious about how Business Insider came up with the results? Check out the “methodology”:

To find the most obscene cities in America, we plugged the “seven dirty words you can never say on television” — made popular by George Carlin — into Google Trends. We gave each city a score for each of the seven words, assigning more points to cities ranking higher up on each list.

If there’s a better use for the internet, I have yet to see it!

[photo by DanCentury via Flickr]

‘Tombstone Tourism’ on the rise, allows you to get close to your favorite celebs

Strapped for vacation cash? Spend a day with the dead. “Tombstone tourism” is on the rise. See fabulous artwork, enjoy nature and get within six feet of some of your favorite celebrities. Better yet, admission is always free. It’s a grave-cation!

Did you know that before Disneyland opened in 1955, Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale was the number one tourist destination in the Los Angeles area? Or that the popularity of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn as a recreation site led to the establishment of Central Park in Manhattan in 1858?

Cemeteries, those places most of us strive to stay out of, are once again popular tourist destinations. Why? Part of the reason is that cemeteries, and historic cemeteries in particular, have become more “tourist-friendly.” With the rise in cremation (ashes and urns take a fraction of the space of a traditional burial plot) older cemeteries, many of which are essentially filled up, now have room for thousands more permanent residents. And they want us to visit. They’ve got free maps, ice cream socials, trolley tours, hayrack rides, lantern tours, outdoor movies, plays, concerts and more. Of course, they’d like us to consider staying there… forever. Not to worry; there aren’t any high-pressure sales tactics. Cemetery administrators are very patient people.

Whether you’re on a star search, looking for a place for a pleasant stroll or want to view and touch fabulous art, you’ll find it all in America’s historic cemeteries. Here are a few top tourist-friendly cemetery picks. Even if you don’t plan to be in these locales in the near future, you can always fly there by plugging the GPS coordinates into Google Earth.

WESTWOOD VILLAGE MEMORIAL PARK (34 3’31.07″N 118 26’30.47″W)
You won’t need a map for this postage-stamp-size cemetery just a stone’s throw from Rodeo Drive. There are hundreds of celebrities at your feet and in crypts. Of course, the most visited celebrity is Marilyn Monroe. And the empty crypt next to her? Reserved for the man who first exposed her in all her glory to the public: Hugh Hefner.FOREST LAWN GLENDALE (34 7’30.65″N 118 15’11.15″W)
This is the cemetery that started the trend of vast rolling lawns and flat markers. They have free maps that show you where to find full-scale replicas of Michelangelo’s David, the Labyrinth at Chartes, France, the Paradise Gates in Florence, Italy and much more. Forest Lawn is famously reticent about disclosing the location of celebrity graves, but you can find many of them in the recent book, Forever L. A..

Forest Lawn’s most recent A-list celebrity is Michael Jackson, who’s in the Holly Terrace mausoleum (34 7’23.95″N 118 14’51.83″W). You can even get married in one of Forest Lawn’s chapels, often for a fraction of the cost of a traditional chapel. Indeed, in 1940 Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather chapel.

29 57’32.89″N 90 4’15.89″W)
Urban legend has it that burials in New Orleans are above ground because of the high water table (from time to time people who were buried in the traditional way would percolate up to the surface). While that’s not the real reason for above ground burial in New Orleans, there is a long tradition of placing bodies in tombs and mausoleums rather than in the waterlogged earth.

Begin your tomb tour just off the French Quarter at St. Louis #1, New Orleans’ first permanent cemetery. It’s easy to spot the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau: it has dozens of X’s scratched into the surface.

CAVE HILL CEMETERY, LOUISVILLE (38 14’36.91″N 85 43’35.36″W)
Pick up a box of fried chicken and make your way to this very tourist-friendly cemetery. Cave Hill rightly touts itself as an arboretum and has long been popular with Louisvillians as a place to stroll or jog. Thanks to a thriving artistic community, there’s a bonanza of fabulous sculptures dotting its immaculate grounds.

And don’t forget to pay your respects to Colonel Sanders. There’s often an empty red and white box or two reverentially laying beneath his bust. The cemetery staff will be happy to give you directions and a free map.

40 39’29.23″N 73 59’40.56″W)
Green-Wood Cemetery, which was founded in 1838, was modeled on Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. It’s one of America’s most tourist-friendly cemeteries: just ask and they’ll give you a large foldout map, which pinpoints locations of famous residents. They also have a bookstore, conduct docent-directed trolley tours and sponsor lectures.

In the fall, Green-Wood participates in Open House New York and always opens some of their private mausoleums. Green-Wood is the last known address of many of New York’s late nineteenth century movers and shakers including Horace Greeley (“Go west young man”) and master designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Douglas R. Keister is a graveyard guru, who Sunset magazine said “has done for cemetery exploration what Audubon did for birding.” His 39 books include four books on cemeteries such as Stories in the Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography. Read his blog on Red Room. The photos above are all courtesy Douglas R. Keister.

Lebowski Fest really “Ties the Fans Together”

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

No matter what part of the country you live in, chances are you can roll your way to one of many cities that hosting an annual Lebowski Fest this year. The festival(s) celebrate the Coen Brother’s 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, and Steve Buscemi. Organizers Scott Shuffitt and Will Russell started the first Lebowski fest in 2002 in Louisville, Kentucky. It was such a success that there are now multiple festivals a year in select cities across the country. (If you’ve never seen the movie, I recommend reading this quick synopsis to familiarize yourself with how the below activities cleverly tie the film and festival together.)

I became a huge fan of the film in college, so I made the two hour trip from Nashville to the Louisville festival last July. I followed the advice on the Lebowski Fest site and rented a discounted room at the suggested hotel, which is within walking distance to the bowling alley where all festivities take place. Make sure you book your reservation early as the rooms tend to go quickly.

The first night’s events include a screening of the film, followed by live music or a special appearance from a comedian or actor. The organizers try to bring in a well-known act and you will be pleasantly surprised with whom they are able to round up.

As fun as the official events can be, don’t forget to check out the pre-fest activities are also good fun. Upon arriving to the field outside the bowling alley, you can try your hand at the “ringer toss” where participants throw a suitcase full of the dirty white laundry over the Dude’s car to hit a target on the other side. This is your chance to meet other die-hard Lebowski fans, strike up conversations, and make new friends over a few oat sodas. Some festival-goers even dress the part, donning costumes and personifying their favorite characters from the film. These costumes serve a greater purpose later on in the festival, so be sure to bring a camera.The second night is when the real magic happens. If you’ve purchased your festival tickets in advance and arrive to the bowling alley early you can reserve a lane for unlimited bowling. Lanes are given up on a first come, first served basis.

Even if you don’t get a chance to bowl, this night serves as a social hour and you might even run into certain actors from the film who played minor roles. For a Lebowski fan, this is still an exciting run-in. Sharing a White Russian (or a caucasian) with Malibu’s Chief of Police is something to write home about!

The highlight of the festival is the costume contest which takes place in the bowling alley. Participants are judged by the audience based on originality and quality of costume. There are so many “Dudes” they have to award a prize just for the best Jeffrey Lebowski look-a-like. If you feel confident and can whip out your best Walter Sobchak aviator shades, I say enter that contest and go for it.

Overall, the best part of any Lebowski Fest is meeting new people and interacting with fans from all corners of the world. Sure, you might wake up the next morning with a headache from all the White Russians, but sharing a few laughs, and a few burgers with like-minded people really ties the whole thing together.

In 2010, Little Lebowski Urban Achievers can spend two days in Orlando (May 21-22), Louisville (July 16-17), Chicago (September 17-18), Seattle (October 15-16) or one in New York (November 4). Los Angeles already celebrated this year on April 2-3. Ticket prices can vary from city to city so check The Lebowski Fest website for updated pricing info.