Touring Dallas Cowboys Stadium during Super Bowl XLV Media Day

cowboys stadium

Super Bowl XLV. It was most certainly one for the record books. Well over 100,000 people flowed into Cowboys Stadium in the heart of North Texas to watch two of the NFL’s most storied teams do battle. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers put on an amazing spectacle, and I was able to take part in one small way. I made my way into Arlington for Super Bowl Media Day — a frenzied event that saw over 1,000 credentialed media crowd the field for their chance to interview their favorite players and coaches. Two of the league’s most historic teams, both on the field of the newest, most awe-inspiring stadium in the NFL. It was a spectacular scene, and a journey I won’t ever forget. The good news for you is that even though the Super Bowl is over, Cowboys Stadium remains open for business.

How so, you ask? The team has set up a program for tourists, locals and curious fans alike to actually take a tour of the new Cowboys Stadium. Tours are given seven days a week, with two primary options for entry. Of course, a general tour won’t involve speaking to players of the Packers or Steelers, but it will involve a thorough walkthrough of the NFL’s most astounding and technologically advanced venue. Read on to catch a glimpse of what you’ll see should you make the trip down (or up!).

%Gallery-116470%Aside from the fact that players were on the field and more willing than ever to sign an autograph rather than answer yet another question directly related to sports, a normal Cowboys Stadium tour isn’t too different than a Super Bowl Media Day tour. I was granted access to a special side entrance as well as a rear conference room, a look at the technology that powers the stadium (more on that angle here and here) and field-level access to the players, but other than that, my experience would pretty much mimic yours.

cowboys stadium

My first suggestion would be to splurge on the VIP Tour. If you make the trip over to Arlington, it’s worth the $10 per person upcharge to get a legitimate VIP experience. This runs $27.50 for adults (or $20 per person with a group of 20+ people), or $22.50 for children and seniors. The cheaper self-guided tour lacks the insider knowledge that the VIP Tour provides, giving you full access to the Pro Shop, field, locker rooms, Miller Lite Club and the post-game interview room. There are Tour Guides stations in each area to answer your questions, but the VIP Tour goes above and beyond. With that, you’ll begin at the Main club and then tour a private suite, the radio / print media press boxes, the Cotton Bowl offices, the Dr. Pepper Star Bar and the Ford Motor Company Fountain.

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Following those stops, a guide will take you down to the event level where you’ll see all of the stops on the Self-Guided Tours. Afterwards, you’ll end the tour in the Pro Shop where you’ll get a complimentary 6- x 8-inch photo to remember the experience. Like I said, the $10 upcharge seems justified.

cowboys stadium

As for my experience? It was outstanding. The 72- x 160-foot Mitsubishi Electric HD display hanging from the roof is truly a sight that has to be seen to be believed. It’s an expansive place — the roof can be opened up if the weather is nice, and it’s very obvious just how new this place is. Being able to get on the field holds even more meaning now that the Packers and Steelers have christened it with a Super Bowl, and for fans of the NFL (or sports in general), it’s a breathtaking experience. You really can’t judge just how huge the place is until you’re there. I kept wishing that I could actually return for a game after being on the field with legendary players, and there’s no doubt that this tour will get you hooked and hoping to come back for more. There looks to be hardly a bad seat in the house, and from a tech perspective, there’s plenty to appreciate. Over 800 wireless routers are there to provide reliable internet access through games (for those who like to tweet or upload images / videos of the action), and there have been improvements made in wireless cellphone coverage for similar reasons.

cowboys stadium

During my tour, I also learned of things to come from Cowboys CIO Pete Walsh and systems architects from CDW. The organization is hoping to tie a good deal of technology into future events. Things like iPhone apps for ordering food (and potentially having it delivered to your seat based on GPS), real-time statistics and on-demand replays on your phone or tablet. These guys are gunning for “the ultimate fan experience,” and it shows. They’ve got the perfect venue to provide that, and if you’re halfway through a cross-country road trip, why not make a day to tour the NFL’s most technologically advanced stadium? Have a look at my tour in the images throughout to get a feel for what you’d get to see, and then head here to book a time and day that fits your schedule.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Thailand Part 4: Muay Thai Boxing

Gadling TV’s Travel Talk, episode 34 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Travel Talk is back! After our fall hiatus we are excited to bring you our greatest adventure yet: Thailand.

From the vibrant heart of Bangkok to the remote countryside, we traveled by foot, car, boat, motorbike, ox cart and elephant to savor the the splendor of ancient temples, the energy of the muay thai ring, the serenity of rural life, and every single spicy bite of Thai cuisine. We’ll be bringing it all to you in the coming weeks as part of our special 12-part feature: Travel Talk Thailand.

Before leaving Bangkok, we decided to head to one of the city’s biggest boxing rings to catch some real Muay Thai in action. Thailand is famous for this aggressive, no holds barred sport, so we wanted to see just how intense it really is. Join as we get an introduction to more Thai snacks and speak with veteran fighter and gym owner Rob Cox about the basics of fighting and betting.

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.


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Hosts: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special guest: Joom!
Produced, Edited, and Directed by: Stephen Greenwood & Aaron Murphy-Crews
Special thanks: Tourism Authority of Thailand, Trikaya Tours

Travel Talk took Thailand by storm on invitation from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. No editorial content was guaranteed and Aaron & Stephen were free to openly share all adventures that they embarked upon.

Travel Photo Tips: Taking photos while skiing / snowmobiling, and keeping your camera dry

photos while skiing

I recently embarked on a trip to Montana’s northwestern corner, primarily concerned with a couple of things: enjoying a few days of skiing and snowmobiling, and keeping my shutter going all the while. Truth be told, it’s harder than you might think. Managing to capture photos — let alone ones that you’d be proud to show off — in wintry conditions is certainly a challenge, but it’s not completely impossible if you prepare well and allow a bit of extra composing time out on the hill.

Being the family photographer while out on the slopes (or on the trails) requires extra effort, but I’ve got a few tips to make things as painless as possible. If you’ve splurged on a winter vacation, you won’t want to return home without any images to prove it. Read on to see how I pulled off a few clutch shots while skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort and covering the trails in nearby Olney, MT.

%Gallery-114795%First, let’s start with the slopes. There’s a reason that many ski resorts offer professional packages costing hundreds of dollars to have someone follow you down the slopes snapping shots. It’s not exactly easy. But even if you don’t have a DSLR, it’s possible to capture key moments while keeping your precious camera dry and your loved ones back home in the know.

Here are a few tips for selecting a camera that’s fit for use on the mountain:

  • Choose a waterproof camera if at all possible. Canon’s PowerShot D10, Casio’s Exilim G EX-G1 and Fujifilm’s FinePix XP20 (or XP30 if you want integrated geotagging) all are great options. I’ll cover how to avoid drops in the snow, but accidents can happen.
  • Don’t lug a DSLR onto the slopes. Unless you’re shooting professionally, I’d highly recommend sticking with a point-and-shoot. DSLRs are too heavy, too bulky and too difficult to operate with gloves hands or frigid fingers.
  • Choose the smallest compact you can find. Ever tried to wrangle something large out of a ski jacket pocket with thick, stiff gloves on? It’s not easy. Keep things slim and you won’t grow frustrated with pulling your camera in and out.
  • Keep a spare battery handy. Frigid temperatures can zap a battery in no time. If you plan on taking more than a hundred or so shots, it may be wise to invest in a second battery.
  • Aim for a camera with a large shutter button. It sounds weird now, but the more surface area on that shutter button, the easier it is for a gloved hand to operate.
  • Avoid touchscreen-based cameras. Touching is good in normal circumstances, but covered fingers need physical buttons to wade through menus and selections.
  • Disable the flash. You won’t need it in broad daylight, and the reflections look terrible off of the snow.

photos while skiing

Now, a few tips on keeping your camera safe and dry:

  • Use a long, rugged strap. This is vital — you’ll want your camera to easily wrap around your wrist while using it, so you’ll need a long leash.
  • Zip your camera within an internal jacket pocket. Keeping a camera closer to your chest makes it less susceptible to breaking if you fall (the horror!), and the added warmth is a boon to battery life.
  • Never grab your camera with a snow-soaked gloved. It should go without saying, but mixing water — even cold water — with electronics is never a good idea.
  • Leave the strap dangling out as you zip the camera into your jacket pocket. Leaving that tether hanging out makes accessing your camera a breeze; if the entire unit falls into your pocket, it’s nearly impossible to drag out with a gloved hand.
  • Always handle the camera with an ungloved hand if you can. Don’t get frostbite, but on balmy days, using skin gives you more control and makes you less likely to lose grip on your camera.

Onto snowmobiling. I’d always recommend carrying a pack while hitting the trails, if only to lug around a first air kit, a SPOT GPS Messenger and a collapsable shovel. But there’s another reason: it’s perfect for holding your DSLR and a couple of your favorite lenses. Riding on a sled enables you to carry a lot more gear, and given the amazing sights you’re apt to see while riding in the backcountry of northern Montana or in Grand Teton National Park (just examples, of course), you’ll probably want to capture some of these landscapes with a bit more style. For this, I’d highly recommend a DSLR (and a pair of hand warmers to keep the feeling in your mitts).

photos while skiing

Here are a few basic pointers when hauling a rig via snowmobile:

  • Pack padding around your camera, and always keep it near the top of your pack in a separate compartment if possible. Less time digging means more time shooting.
  • If you own a wide-angle or fisheye lens, this is the time to pack it. Vast landscapes and pristine mountain shots are likely to find you, so be ready to capture all of it (or as much as possible) in a single frame.
  • If you’d prefer to go bagless, invest in a waterproof case to keep it dry from falling snow as it’s strapped around your back.
  • In most cases, you should be able to compose shots with your gloves on. Learning shortcuts to adjust settings within ‘Manual’ mode would probably be beneficial before heading out.
  • Watch the aperture. If you’re looking to capture vast landscapes, you’ll want a higher-than-average f/stop figure. On a bright, clear day, it’s not unusual to shoot between f/14 and f/22 or higher.
  • Watch your exposure. Snowy landscapes can confuse Matrix metering modes, and if you’re noticing that your shots are constantly turning out darker than you’d prefer, feel free to bump the exposure up a few steps to compensate.

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photos while skiing

I’ll close this one out by recommending a helmet cam if you’re the daredevil type. The ContourGPS, GoPro HD Hero and Drift Innovation HD170 can all be strapped around your helmet in order to record your wildest rides in high-definition. All without you lifting a finger while riding. These are certainly niche products, but there’s hardly a better excuse to buy one than to record your day on the trails.

Q & A with Grantourismo round-the-world slow travel bloggers

Lara Dunston Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersWith all the holiday travel madness just beginning, sometimes it’s nice to take a breath and think about taking travel more slowly. I recently had a chance to meet up with blogger Lara Dunston and her photographer-writer husband, Terence Carter, of the round-the-world travel project and blog, Grantourismo while they were traveling through Istanbul. Lara and Terence hosted me at their fabulous terraced apartment with glasses of Turkish wine, travel chat, and views of nearby Taksim Square and the nostalgic tram.

Grantourismo is a yearlong grand tour of the globe to explore more enriching and ‘authentic’ (and they get how those words have been debated and abused by travel bloggers!) ways of traveling, which began in Dubai this February and will wrap up in Scotland in January. In order to slow down and immerse themselves in each place, they are staying in vacation rentals (rather than hotels) in one place for two weeks at a time.

Read on for more about their slow travel philosophy, tips about renting a holiday apartment, and how they found Austin’s best tacos.

What’s the essence of Grantourismo?
We’re attempting to get beneath the skin of the places we’re visiting and to inspire other travelers to do the same. We’re doing very little sightseeing and if we’re taking tours, we’re doing small group tours with expert local guides ran by sustainable companies, such as Context. Mostly we’re experiencing places through their food, markets, music, culture, fashion, street art, sport, etc, and doing things that locals do in their own towns rather than things tourists travel to their towns to do. We’re trying and buying local produce and products, and seeking out artisanal practices we can promote. We’re also highlighting ways in which travellers can give something back to the places they’re visiting, from planting trees in Costa Rica to kicking a football with kids in a favela in Rio. And we’re blogging about this every day at Grantourismo!

How did you make it a reality?
Our initial idea was 12 places around the world in 12 months, learning things like the original grand tourists did. Terence, who is a great musician and a terrific cook, wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen and learn a musical instrument while I was going to enroll in language classes and learn something different in each place. But we couldn’t figure out how to fund such a project. We were lucky in that I saw an ad from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals (the UK arm of HomeAway) looking for a travel journalist-photographer team to stay in their vacation rentals and blog about their experiences for a year. I presented Grantourismo to them, they loved it, and here we are! We’re in the 10th month of our yearlong trip, we’ve stayed in 27 properties in 18 countries, and we have a ski town and five cities to go! We’ve written 369 stories on our website – and only 27 of those have been about the properties, the rest have been about everything from winetasting to walking – and we’ve done loads of interviews with locals we’ve met, from musicians and chefs to fashion designers and bookbinders.

Terence Carter Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersWhat’s the biggest difference about staying in an apartment vs. a hotel?
The biggest difference and best thing is that when you’re staying in a vacation rental you’re generally living in an everyday neighbourhood rather than a tourist area, which means you can meet people other than hotel cleaners and waiters. You can pop downstairs or down the road to a local café or pub that’s full of locals rather than other tourists. You can shop in local markets or supermarkets that are significantly cheaper. Sure if you’re staying in a hotel you can go and look at the markets, but your hotel mini-bar probably won’t hold much, whereas we go with a shopping list or we simply watch what the locals are buying, and we go home and cook.

You can generally get off the beaten track far easier than you can when you stay in a hotel. If you’re relying on the concierge for tips, you’re going to see other hotel guests eating at the restaurant he recommended. Then there’s the beauty of having lots of space, your own kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal, and a refrigerator you can fill that doesn’t have sensors going off when you open it. There might be shelves filled with books or a DVD library – in Cape Town we even had a piano, which Terence played every day! The privacy – we got tired of housekeeping ignoring DND signs, people coming to check the outrageously-priced mini-bar, and the phone always ringing with staff asking, when were we checking out, did we want a wake-up call, could they send a porter up. It became so tedious, especially as we were spending around 300 days a year in hotels on average. There are downsides to holiday rentals too of course. If something goes wrong the property owner/manager isn’t always around to fix it, whereas in a hotel, you phone the front desk to let them know the Internet isn’t working and they’ll send someone up.

What should travelers consider when renting a holiday apartment?
Location first. What kind of neighbourhood do you want to live in, how off the beaten track do you want to get, do you want to walk into the centre or are you happy to catch public transport or drive, what kind of facilities are in the area if you’re not hiring a car, and is there a supermarket, shops, restaurants, café, bars in walking distance? After that, the quality of accommodation – in the same way that people decide whether to opt for a budget hotel if they just want somewhere to lay their head, or a five-star if they want creature comforts, they need to think about how much time they intend spending at the property and the level of comfort they want. We stayed in a budget apartment in Manhattan, which was fine as we were out a lot. In Ceret, France and Sardinia, Italy we had big charming houses with terrific kitchens, which was perfect as we stayed in and cooked a lot. If it’s a family reunion or group of friends going away together and they want to enjoy meals in, then it’s important to ask detailed questions about the kitchen and facilities, as we’ve had some places that only had the bare basics, while others like our properties in Austin and Cape Town had dream kitchens.

Favorite destination/apartment?
We’ve been to some amazing places but my favourites have been Tokyo and Austin. We’d only visited Tokyo once before on a stopover, stayed in a cramped hotel and just did the tourist sights. This time we really saw how people lived by staying in an apartment, we discovered different corners of the city we didn’t know existed, and we made new friends. In Austin, it was all about the people, who must be the USA’s friendliest and coolest. We spent a lot of time seeing live music and met lots of musicians, and we also got into the food scene – locals take their food very seriously in Austin! We even hosted a dinner party there with Terence cooking up a multi-course tasting menu for our new friends. In terms of properties, I’m torn between the rustic traditional white trullo set amongst olive groves that we stayed at in Puglia where we had our own pizza oven and bikes to ride in the countryside, the penthouse in the historic centre of Mexico City, and the two houses in Costa Rica, one set in the jungle and the other on the beach, literally within splashing distance of the sea!

Funny story about one of your stays?
The funniest moments weren’t funny at the time but we look back at them and laugh now. At our the Puglia trullo we had terrible internet access. It barely worked in the house because the walls were so thick, yet internet is crucial to what we’re doing so we had to work outside, which wasn’t much fun in the rain. Terence discovered that he could get the best access in the middle of the olive grove next door; you can see him working here! The monkeys that visited us everyday in our houses in Costa Rica were also hilarious. One morning I was enjoying a rare moment reading in the sun when I saw a rare red-backed squirrel monkey run across the fence, and then another leapfrog that one, and then another join them! I quickly got up and raced into the kitchen to make sure there was no food left on the bench, turned around and there was a family of 30-40 monkeys trooping through the house. These guys are endangered, but it didn’t look like it from where I was standing in the kitchen in my bikinis and towel, trying to protect our food as the property manager had warned us that they know how to open the cupboards! The manager also told us to leave the lights on at night, because otherwise the bats will think the house is a cave. She wasn’t kidding.

How is social media playing a role in your travels?
We decided not to use guidebooks this Lara Dunston Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersyear and rely on advice from locals, many of which we come in contact with through social media. We’ve met many locals via their blogs or Twitter. We use Twitter every day, as a research and networking tool, to make contacts ahead of our visit and get tips from people when we’re there. We’ve had some amazing advice from our followers, from restaurant recommendations to suggestions on things we should do. When we were in Cape Town, loads of tweeps said we had to do the Township Tour offered by Cape Capers and we did and they were right, it was life-changing.

Terence learns how to make the quintessential dish of each place we visit and often asks tweeps what he should make. We’ve had great tips from food bloggers who use Twitter such as Eating Asia and Eat Mexico. We’ve ended up meeting loads of tweeps, including a bunch of New Yorkers – bloggers, writers and travelers – we met for drinks one night, including Gadling’s own Mike Barish and David Farley, while in Austin we had lunch with ‘the Taco Mafia‘ from the Taco Journalism blog and got the lowdown on Austin’s best tacos. We also use Twitter to share our own travel experiences and let people know when we have new stories on the site and we run a monthly travel blogging competition which we promote on Twitter (with very generous prizes donated by HomeAway Holiday Rentals, AFAR, Viator, Context, Trourist, and Our Explorer); the aim of that is to get other travelers to help spread our messages about the kind of traveling we’re doing.

What’s next?
As far as Grantourismo goes, we just left Istanbul (where we were delighted to meet another fascinating Gadling contributor!) and are in Budapest. After this it’s Austria for some fun in the snow, then Krakov for Christmas, Berlin for New Year’s Eve, and our last stop is Edinburgh end of January. After that? We’ve been invited to speak at an international wine tourism conference in Porto, Portugal, about Grantourismo and wine, as we’ve explored places through their wine as much as their food, doing wine courses, wine tastings, wine walks, and wine tours, and really trying to inspire people to drink local rather than imported wine. Then we’re going to write a book about Grantourismo and our year on the road, and later in the year – after we’re rested and energised – we’re going to take Grantourismo into a slightly different direction.

All photos courtesy of Terence Carter.

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk – Austin Mann @ the World Cup (part 2)

GadlingTV’s Travel Talk, episode 26 – Click above to watch video after the jump

Are you ready for some (ahem) football? In part two of travel photographer Austin Mann’s trip to the 2010 World Cup, we bring you a look at the intensity and passion of the world’s biggest sporting event.

Watch as Austin navigates his way through the games and experiences how far people will go to show their passion for soccer; including sleeping in tents, dressing in outlandish costumes, & of course mastering the vuvuzela.

If you missed part one of Austin’s World Cup series, check it out here, otherwise click on below for part two!

If you have any questions or comments about Travel Talk, you can email us at talk AT gadling DOT com.

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Links
What are some of Austin’s essentials as a travel photographer?
Surefire G2 LED flashlight
Garmin 60CSX GPS
Pac-Safe lock
Canon 5D MKII & Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II
Gitzo 15141T Mountaineering Series Tripod


Host: Austin Mann
Edited by: Jordan Bellamy