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The True Philadelphia

For many, the name “Philadelphia” brings to mind gooey cheesesteaks, devout sports fans, and a sweaty Sylvester Stallone running up a flight of steps. But the truth is, the city’s name should have endless associations. It has all the features and offerings of any great city, not to mention a potential argument that it should be as synonymous with America as Washington D.C itself.

Having served as the former U.S. Capital from 1790-1800, the city is rich with American history. In past centuries, “Philly” institutions saw some of the earliest American trials and Congressional meetings. A city of innovators, it was also home to the nation’s first bank, zoo, and public library.  Inhabitants often greatly impacted the rest of the country, including the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross. Mr. Franklin was an innovator in every field he entered, and Ms. Ross is credited with creating the first American Flag, versions of which are still flown all over the country today.

In present day, centuries-old buildings still stand. Philadelphia City Hall, once the tallest building in the world, has existed since 1901. Independence Hall, completed in 1753, is still visited by thousands. Philadelphia is also boasts one of the most recognizable icons of American history. The legend of the Liberty Bell tells of its fateful cracking the first time it rang back in 1751, and two million people flock to see it each year. Situated on the Delaware river, the Philadelphia skyline is also full of more modern, eye-catching architectural achievements. One Liberty Place with its tall spire and the glossy Comcast Center are two of the most prominent skyscrapers.

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Like other East Coast cities, Philadelphia is a culturally diverse one, and this diversity extends into its museums and attractions. The African American Museum in Philadelphia can be found here, along with the National Museum of American Jewish History and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Major art museums include the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Rodin Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, site of the most famous steps in film since the Battleship Potemkin. For the sciences, the interactive Franklin Institute is one of the most fun, family-friendly places in the city. Guests are able to enter and explore a giant replica of the human heart, or be turned upside down during a flight simulation ride.

Fans of the city’s athletics possess a voracious loyalty towards their franchises. Each Big Four sport is represented by the Phillies of the MLB, the Eagles of the NFL, the 76ers of the NBA, and the Flyers of the NHL, whose brash style garnered them the nickname “the Broad Street Bullies.” Despite any reputations, though, the most popular nickname to date is the “City of Brotherly Love.” And being full of history, culture, and the arts, Philadelphia’s significance and appeal make it well worthy of a visit.

-Amy Eiferman
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Greenwich Village Through the Centuries

16th Century: The site of Greenwich Village was inhabited by Native Americans during this time. The Village was merely a marshland named Sapokanican, used for camping and fishing.

17th and 18th Century: By the early 1600’s, Dutch settlers had cleared pastures and planted crops in this area, which they called Noortwyck. After the English conquest of New Amsterdam in 1664, the settlement became a country hamlet, first referred to Grin’wich in 1713 Common Council records. Greenwich Village survived the American Revolution as a pastoral suburb and in the 1780s the city bought a parcel of eight acres for use as a potter’s field and public gallows, at what is now Washington Square Park.

19th Century: Outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera caused flocks of people to flee north which contributed to a time of seclusion of the area. From 1820 a more affluent residential development emerged to the east near Broadway and Washington Square Park, at the foot of Fifth Avenue.

Religious denominations commissioned buildings with elaborate decorative schemes, New York University grew on the east side of Washington Square beginning in 1836, and the neighborhood soon became the site of art clubs, , literary salons, fine hotels, and theaters. The character of the neighborhood changed markedly at the close of the century when German, Irish, and Italian immigrants found work in industries in the area.

20th Century: By the start of World War I it was widely known as a bohemian enclave with secluded side streets, low rents, and a tolerance for radicalism and nonconformity. Artists and writers received more attention for their innovative work and decrepit row houses were remodeled into “artistic flats.” The Village had become a center for the “beat movement” by the 1950s, with galleries, coffee houses, and street front theaters. During the 1960s a homosexual community formed around Christopher Street and was the site of the Stonewall Rebellion, regarded as the beginning of the movement for gay and lesbian rights. In the 1940s, urban renewal efforts on Washington Square South had altered the physical character of the neighborhood by demolishing many 19th century structures, but local resentment inspired a preservation movement.

Recent Years: The extension of the Greenwich Village Historic District and the creation of the Weehawken Street Historic District in 2006 were the results of the goal to preserve the waterfront. These recent landmarking victories were successful because of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation. The Society continues to work in close connection with the community to uphold the goals and protect the undesignated neighborhoods. Tourists and locals flock to the Village to live the history of the neighborhood and enjoy the artsy feel. Coffee shops, restaurants, and bars are always packed in this area mostly by a younger, hip crowd.

For more information, check out The Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation.

Now YOU can experience what Greenwich Village is all about by taking the Edgar Allen Poe Greenwich Village Tour.

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Fit for a King: a case for a return to concierge service

By Samuel P.N. Cook

          In my life, I have lived in five different countries on three continents, and I have traveled to over 20 countries in my travels.  I consider myself a well traveled person – I sort of fancied myself an expert.  Then I decided I was so good at traveling that I would start a travel company to give back to travelers some of the great experiences that I had during my own travels.  Simply put, I wanted to create in New York City the magic of some of the experiences I have had while traveling.  But as I look back on my traveling life, I am kicking myself for how little I used the tools around me to help plan my trips.
            In 2001, when I graduated from West Point, I moved to Germany where I served 3 years as an Officer in the U.S. Army.  I used travel as a release, and I quickly found myself taking trips almost every weekend to the great cities, big and small, across Europe.  Being a product of a West Point education, I always realized the value of planning a trip.  I approached my trips like a campaign.  I would do my research on the internet, buy a guide book, and I would read all about the city before I arrived.  So I thought that I was doing the best possible job I could planning for a trip. 
But I have now realized that I left out one tool that could have made my trips so much better – concierges.  I think the reason I did not use concierges before was because I was too proud to do so – like men when they are lost, they hate to ask for directions.  Instead we read a map and drive in circles endlessly.  Looking back, that is a bit like my travel experiences.  While guide books and the internet gave me great ideas, I did not really get all of the information I should have about the local cities.   You see, there is only so much information you can put in a guide book.  On the internet, you have the opposite problem – there is too much information and it is chaotic to read it all, even on the best online travel review sites. 
To this day, my favorite travel experience was a magic night I spent in Seville Spain with a  girl that I met who was from Sweden, but she had spent a year studying in Seville.  We were walking down the street and I asked her for directions because she had a guide book, and we ended up meeting for dinner that night.  She took me to a restaurant I never could have found in a guide book, and then she showed me the best venue for Flamenco dancing in the city.  These were things I never could have found in a book, and it would have taken me years to stumble across on the internet.  I look back on my other travel experiences that were less memorable, and I ask myself “What if I had met someone like this during every trip?”  It wasn’t until started this travel company that I realized I could have met someone like this every trip to get me the local knowledge and flavor if I would have found a concierge!
The word Concierge comes from the French language in the middle ages.  As the French monarchy developed during this period as the most powerful monarchy in Europe, the kings began to employ a chief officer, which he named the concierge.  The concierge was literally his right hand man, who would help him write and enact laws.  As monarchies across Europe developed, they too employed deputies and their most trusted advisor was their “concierge.”  As the noble land owning aristocracy emerged in Europe, they emulated their kings, and they all employed “concierges.”  In the 19th century, as Europe industrialized and people moved to the cities, a new rich class developed and moved into luxury apartment buildings, and here they employed a team of “concierges” that they shared to take care of their every need.  As commercial travel developed during the age of the steam engine, with luxury travel now widely available, concierges became a staple of the modern hotel, with five star properties turning this into an art form. 
See the magic of a concierge is that they have read all the books so that you don’t have to.  They have not only read the books, but they have actually been to the places in the book.  They can describe for you the feelings and emotions of a show, or the intimate details of a restaurant.  More importantly, they are experts at reading you as a guest, your budgets, your needs, your dreams.  This kind of interaction you can never get with a book or with the internet.  See a concierge’s worst nightmare is to see you have a bad experience.  They get emotionally upset over this.  They worry when they send you somewhere like a mother or a father – they hope you have a great time, they look forward to the smile on your face when you come back.  They dread the thought of your being disappointed.  I am glad it only took me twelve years into my adult life what I have been missing in not using a concierge.  Too bad I had to start my own company to realize it!

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Exploring Harlem

By Samantha Nicholson

The Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem is the epicenter of the Harlem Gospel tradition.

If you’ve traveled to New York at least once, you’re probably familiar with all of the regular attractions: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and Central Park. But as a visitor to NYC, you probably haven’t ventured above 96th street to the area known as Harlem. Harlem is a largely residential neighborhood and has a different atmosphere than downtown and midtown Manhattan. You’ll enjoy the break from the hustle-and-bustle of the typical tourist traps.

Harlem was the site of the famous “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920s and 30s. There was an outpouring of artistic and professional works from the black community that resided in the area. Intellectuals, poets, visual artists, musicians and writers all made a major impact during this time period.  Novels such as Claude Mckay’s Home to Harlem and Langston Hughes’ Not Without Laughter were published during the Renaissance.  Even though the Renaissance is over, Harlem is still home to countless artists and intellectuals. Former President Bill Clinton even has an office on 125th street. While Harlem is largely residential, there are countless attractions that will make your trip uptown worthwhile.

One of the most famous places in Harlem is the Apollo Theatre (253 W. 125th st). The original Apollo Hall was founded in the mid-1860s by former Civil War general Edward Ferrero as a dance hall and ballroom. Since then, it has transformed into arguably the most popular tourist attraction in Harlem. The theater is currently being renovated. The total renovation is going to cost an estimated $25 million, making it the most expensive renovation of a landmark theater in America’s history.

While you’re on 125th street, check out the Studio Museum (144 W 125 st). The Studio features a wealth of African-American art and culture that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll especially want to visit the Studio this summer, when the outdoor patio turns into a dance floor. Hip locals and artists from all over come to enjoy the atmosphere. You’ll hear all kinds of different music from many different time periods.

If you’re into architecture, you’ll want to see the Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 Odell Clark Place). The church traces its root to 1808, when parishioners left the First Baptist Church in the City of New York in protest of the racially segregated seating. The church is the epicenter of the Harlem gospel tradition.

One of the most notable restaurants in Harlem is Sylvia’s Restaurant (328 Malcolm X Boulevard). Sylvia’s is the kind of establishment that brings international tourists to Harlem. Locals walk by the restaurant unfazed, but tourist are mesmerized by Sylvia’s. If you’re only into quiet dinners, this is not the place for you. There is live gospel music in the main dining room. With all of the performances and flamboyant atmosphere, you would think this restaurant was in Times Square, not in the middle of the otherwise quiet Harlem. The highlight of the week is the gospel brunch service. Make sure you come early in the morning as the place gets packed by the afternoon. The menu is very affordable, but you’d be willing to pay the price of the food just for the entertainment provided. The walls are lined with pictures of celebrity visitors. While I didn’t spot any celebrities on my visit, the dozens of celebrities that have visited can’t be wrong. Sylvia’s is the one restaurant you must visit on your trip to Harlem.

Harlem is only a few minutes away from Times Square by subway, but it feels like it is a while different world. If you feel like you are always doing the same things in NYC, try visiting Harlem for something new.

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Majestic Theatre on Broadway

The Majestic Theatre is one one of the largest Broadway theatres in New York City, with 1607 seats at its 245 West 44th Street location. Herbert J. Krapp designed the theatre in 1927 for Irwin Chanin, but was soon taken over by the present owners, the Shuberts, during the Great Depression. The interior of the theatre is a beautiful neo-classical design and has remained one of Broadway’s premier musical houses.

The most notorious shows that have premiered at the Majestic include

Carousel (1945),
South Pacific (1949),
The Music Man (1957),
Camelot (1960),
A Little Night Music (1973),
The Wiz (1975).

It was also the second home of 42nd Street and the third home of 1776. The theatre has shown The Phantom of the Opera since it opened onJanuary 26,1988, the longest-running production in Broadway history with more than 8,000 performances! In 1987, both the interior and exterior of the theatre were designated as New York City Landmarks and people from all over the world stop by to take in how “majestic” this theatre really is.

Learn more about the Majestic Theatre by checking out an in depth timeline from the official site here.

You can experience this Theatre along with several other historic ones when you take the George M. Cohan Theatre District Tour…Book Now!

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Exploring Hell’s Kitchen

By Samantha Nicholson

Every non-native resident of New York City remembers their first visit to Times Square. You will notice the flashing neon lights, mobs of people, huge megastores, and often the Naked Cowboy standing in the middle of the street.  After this initial visit, you will most likely try to avoid Times Square at all costs. But don’t discount the neighborhood surrounding it. There is a wealth of activities to do and things to see in the area surrounding Times Square. This neighborhood is known as Hell’s Kitchen.

Despite its name, Hell’s Kitchen is not some slum in the middle of Manhattan. In fact, it is a hotspot with tons of restaurants, bars, and theaters. It generally refers to the area between 34th and 57th street.   If you’re into celebrity-spotting, many actors call Hell’s Kitchen home due to its proximity to the Broadway theaters and Actors Studio training school.  Former residents include Madonna, Bob Hope, Jerry Seinfeld, and Sylvester Stallone. Countless novels have been based in the neighborhood; such as Sleepers, Sinners’ Ball, and Old Flame. Exploring Hell’s Kitchen should definitely be on your to-do list during your visit to NYC.

You’ll want to visit the historic Radio City Music Hall (1260 Avenue of the Americas). Its nickname isThe Showplace of the Nation, and this couldn’t be more accurate. For a long time, it was the leading tourist destination in New York City. The venue’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the annual holiday show featuring the Rockettes, attracts thousands of audience members for year. But the venue is busy all year long, as it is a frequent site for awards shows, concerts, and even sports events. Movies premiers also have occasionally taken place there. Even if you don’t go inside Radio City Music Hall, you’ll want to take a picture in front of its famous neon-light sign.

If TV is more your thing than live Broadway performances, try getting free tickets to see The Colbert Report, which films at 513 W 54th street. The live taping isn’t limited to what you actually see on television. There is a hilarious warm-up comic that takes the stage before Colbert goes on. If you’re the shy type, you might not want to sit front row; the comic tends to pick on certain people relentlessly. Colbert then comes out and does a short question-and-answer session before the taping begins. He does this out of character, and the difference between his television personality and real-life persona is somewhat shocking. I watch the show on a regular basis, but seeing it live is a completely different experience that all Colbert fans should try to do at some point.

The B.B. King Blues Club and Grill (237 W 42nd st) is a huge venue (550 seats!) which features big-name acts on a regular basis. Despite its name, you’ll find a lot more than blues at this restaurant. B.B. King features pop, rock, and funk acts regularly. But beware: the tourist-targeted pricing makes this an expensive night out. However, you’ll get to watch some amazing talent and enjoy high-quality food.

A personal favorite is Johnny Utah’s (25 W 51st street). This restaurant/bar features Manhattan’s first mechanical bull, which always has a long line of eager riders waiting to hop on. Its location makes it a great place for happy hour, as many large office buildings surround the venue. Mixed drinks start at $5, and beers start at an amazingly cheap (for Manhattan) $2. The food isn’t anything spectacular, but Johnny Utah’s relaxed western vibe will have you ordering BBQ wings and curly fries. They even offer fried pickles! But make sure you head here early for the most fun; the place empties out around 11 or so.

The famous play “West Side Story” depicted Hell’s Kitchen as a turbulent neighborhood. After a tour of Hell’s Kitchen, you will realize that its historic gritty reputation is no longer true. The neighborhood’s history may be tied to the criminal underworld, but today it is known for its luxury condos, hip restaurants, and trendy boutiques.

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Exploring the Upper East Side

By Samantha Nicholson

Caption for under the picture: The New York University Institute of the Fine Arts (originally the James B. and Nanline Duke house) is located on East 78th Street.

The Upper East Side is usually viewed as an upperclass residential neighborhood without much going on. Many people view it as a Gossip Girl-esque place, where the people are snobby and tourists aren’t exactly welcome. This couldn’t be further from the truth. On your first visit to the Upper East Side, you might only notice the gorgeous apartment buildings and proximity to Central Park. However, there is actually a thriving nightlife scene in the UES, as well as many exciting things to do during the day.

You’ll want to check out Museum Mile, which runs from 82nd street to 105th street.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue), known colloquially as the Met, is located on the Eastern edge of Central Park. It contains more than two million works of art. The museum features an extensive permanent collection, featuring everything from ancient Egyptian art to modern art to the fantastic Costume Institute. Due to the delicate nature of the collection, the Costume Institute is only open twice a year. However, you don’t want to miss it.

You’ll also want to check out the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Ave). This museum houses arguably the finest collection of 20th century American art in the city. The Whitney is known for not getting a lot of tourists because its name is not as recognizable as the Met or the MoMa.

Most people head below 14th street for nightlife attractions. Don’t discount the Upper East Side yet though. There are a variety of place to go to when night falls. Check out the bar and restaurant at the Mark Hotel (25 E 77thstreet).  Since its opening in 1927, the Mark Hotel has been New York’s premier landmark hotel. The hotel just recently re-opened since renovating. The newly finished restaurant has an elegant yet understated ambiance. This is a great place to grab drinks before heading to the clubs for the night.

The Upper East Side nightspots might be fewer and far between than their downtown compatriots, but there is still plenty to discover in the neighborhood. One casual place to get a drink is Uptown Lounge (1576 3rd Ave). It feature a spectacular dining area with a separate lounge. During the summer, their sidewalk café opens. They have a happy hour special everyday, and their food selections range from chicken fingers to filet mignon.  The crowd is mostly locals, but you’ll find that the placed is packed with revelers even on a Tuesday night.

Another hip lounge/restaurant is Bruno Jamais (24 E 81st st). The outside of this exquisite French restaurant simply looks like a townhouse in the Upper East Side, but inside you will find a dimly lit dining area and a full bar. This place is quintessential NYC, and the people watching is almost as good as the duo foie gras.

While most New Yorkers and tourists will continue to head downtown for some fun, there is plenty to discover uptown. The Upper East Side has something for everyone.

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