A Guide to the Smithsonian in 2 Hours or Less

Got less than 2 hours to spend at the Smithsonian? Don’t gnash your teeth. We’ve got a list of must-sees for a quick trip! (Photo of the T-Rex skeleton at the National Museum of Natural History courtesy of {link url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/sonofgroucho/2418337512/}SonofGroucho{/link})

Like the more than 15 million people that visit Washington D.C. each year, you may find yourself in a bit of a quandary: with a tightly-packed itinerary, you may only have an hour or two to spend at the Smithsonian. It’s understandable: with only a few days in the city, and a nation’s capital that is stuffed to the gills with things to see, it’s hard to justify spending an entire day in a museum (especially in weather like this.) What to do?

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A Good Lobster is Hard to Find

Lobster Dinner
Lobster: it’s what’s for dinner in New England {link url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/dennis/3979994919/}(photo courtesy of Dennis Yang){/link}

Lobster. Mmm, mmm, mmm. It’s one of the quintessential foods of New England, particularly during the summer, and a trip to the Northeast just wouldn’t be the same without this tasty seafood. It’s a very versatile protein; you can boil it, bake it, fry it, bisque it, stuff it, put it in a casserole, ravioli, salad, or the ever-popular roll. But most lobster enthusiasts (and who isn’t a lobster enthusiast?) will tell you that it’s best fresh from the ocean, steamed until has turned bright red and can be eaten from the shell. Just get yourself a bib, a lobster cracker to break open the claws, and a little tub of melted butter and you’re good to go.

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TakeTours’ Top 10 Tips for Outlet Shopping

Shopping at Premium Outlets

by Emma Gifford

Admit it: like many consumers, you’re a sucker for a good brand name. Sometimes it’s worth paying that little bit (or maybe more than a little bit) extra for a certain logo or designer brand; especially if you’re loyal to that company’s merchandise, fit, or style. But in this kind of economy, you also want a bargain. What to do?

It’s an easy answer: visit factory outlets and outlet malls.

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I met Marilyn Monroe at Madame Tussauds

Marilyn Monroe{link url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/popculturegeek/5475476854/in/photostream/}(Photo by popculturegeek){/link}

By Andrew Lin

I visited Madame Tussauds when I was still a twenty-year-old, in New York City with a friend, looking for something touristy to do. We happened upon Times Square, just following the crowd and our sense of the busyness of the city. She had pretty much been to everything in New York but Tussauds, so Tussauds it was. And, I must admit, I was curious. Something about seeing a wax Marilyn Monroe fascinated me–even though I had fears of the whole experience being a bit of a bore. (I imagined it would be like shopping for clothes, just with more interesting mannequins.)

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The Best Wine You’ve Never Tasted: the Great Grapes of the Finger Lakes

A selection of Finger Lakes wine
“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Row after row of vines stretching down gentle slopes to the water. Miles of road dotted with wineries as far as the eye can see, parking lots filled with vinophiles eager to sample the latest seasonal offerings. Restaurants led by locavore chefs keen to pair their creations with regional vintages. Casual street conversations which often include words such as “bouquet”, “nose”, “varietal” and “terroir”. Where are we? In Napa? Sonoma? The Pacific Northwest? Somewhere in Australia or New Zealand? Nope. Would you believe it if we said upstate New York?

The latest wine region starting to garner more attention both nationally and internationally is the scenic Finger Lakes area, tucked up in the northwest corner of New York state, just below Lake Ontario. Here, certain varietal vines thrive near the long, thin bodies of water such as Seneca, Canandaigua, Keuka, and Cayuga lakes which act as temperature regulators during bouts of extreme weather: keeping things cool in summer, and protecting vines from the worst of the frost in winter. (No wonder the region has more than 100 wineries!) Known principally for the strength of its German cool weather grapes such as Riesling and Gewurtztraminer, the Finger Lakes are also becoming famous for their sparkling wines and other varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Several Blanc de Blancs have won regional and national recognition, and most of the local ice and dessert wines are spectacular.

This summer, the Finger Lakes will feature its annual Finger Lakes Wine Festival from July 15-17, which draws wineries and food and craft vendors from throughout New York State. Held on the grounds of the Watkins Glen International Speedway, the popular event is an opportunity to taste the best work of more than 90 local and state wineries and food artisans, as well as enjoy rituals like the Friday night blessing of Bacchus (attendees are urged to wear togas), cooking classes, and wine seminars. And if you’re there, be sure to get a taste of some of the TakeTours staff’s favorite labels: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Swedish Hill, Red Newt Cellars, and Hermann J. Wiemer, to name a few.

But you don’t need a festival to experience the wonderful vintages of the area: wineries are open throughout the summer and year-round. So if you’re interested in exploring the beautiful and bountiful Finger Lakes region of New York, why not let TakeTours help you find the right trip? Click here to explore the many tours offered by our affiliated vendors.