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How To Friend-Source Advice For Your Next Vacation #Travel

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How To Friend-Source Advice For Your Next Vacation #Travel

As I journey through the process of building and growing a community of travelers in Chicago for Gogobot, I am excited to share some of the bells and whistles I am trying out with this new and forward-thinking travel app.

As you can tell by my perfectly crafted title, Gogobot has the functionality to ask your friends for suggestions when traveling or exploring your home city.  For instance, I asked my friends and the Gogobot community for advice on Las Vegas and used that list of suggestions while I was there.

So go ahead, check it out.  Ask a question.  Real travelers love to help.

PS: Friend me on Gogobot here!

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Lake Travis Zipline Adventures in Volente, TX #Austin

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To say that I seek adventure would be a fair statement.  I’ve been skydiving, free-falling, cliff-jumping, wake-boarding and now, ziplining.  I know.  I am so cool right now.

Jason and I had a fabulous time thanks to Lake Travis ZipLine Adventures in Volente, TX.  When planning your zipline adventure, here are 3 tips to consider:

  1. Bring a camera with a strap.  Watching the video of Jason and me has brought us hours of enjoyment and laughter.  We took turns taking video, and I think it was well worth the extra effort.  Go with your friends and take turns being cameraman.  As each other questions.  You’ll come up with some gold, I promise.
  2. Wear sneakers.  There is hiking uphill involved.  No flipie flopies.
  3. Bring a picnic.  You can make a day of it on Lake Travis Zipline Adventure’s private beaches.  Hammocks and picnic tables abound on the lakefront, so stick around for some Texas-style R&R.

PS: Shout-out to to our guides Jesse, Liz and Captain Nick.  Thanks for keeping us safe, Y’all.  Much obliged.

To book your own zipline adventure, make reservations here.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

 

Things To Do In Chicago If You Are Frank Sinatra

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He immortalized the song “My Kind Of Town” and it was… his kind of town.  So much so that it often feels like Frank Sinatra is still hanging around Chicago.  As if he always “just left” but could pop up back up almost anywhere.  From the faded framed pictures in bars and restaurants to the urban legends and hearsay of walking tours, here is your guide to enjoying Chicago, Sinatra-style.

SING

Well, if you are Frank, you always want to be asked to sing.  But, because you are not Frank, your best bet for belting out your rendition of Chicago, Chicago is at karaoke.  Blue Frog Bar & Grill downtown is affectionately known for it’s raucous but friendly crowd.  A little further south in The Loop, is Brando’s Speakeasy which hosts karaoke Wednesday through Saturday beginning at 7PM. Expect a wait on busy nights or reserve your own private karaoke room at Lincoln Karaoke.

If you’d rather perform at an outdoor venue, why not sing Sinatra’s Love and Marriage at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park?  The fountain was in the opening credits of the 90’s sitcom “Married with Children” while Sinatra’s Love and Marriage was its theme song.

DRINK, DANCE & GIVE A TOAST

It was well known that Sinatra only wanted to hang at a bar that had Jack Daniels and a piano.  “This is a gentlemen’s drink.”, he’d say.  He could be so easy to please… at times.  The Joynt in River North is where I met Stan Wozniak, who had been Frank Sinatra’s road manager for 9 years, when Frank was older and Stan was… em, younger.  This is one of my absolute favorite spots in Chicago, not only because I get to see my friends, but because they have LIVE music every night of the week.  And I’m a sucker for live music and a dance floor. The Joynt attracts a professional, down-to-earth crowd of locals and travelers- Frank woulda liked it. If you are craving to hear some Sinatra-type crooning call to see which nights “Dakota” sings.  He sang for Ol’ Blue Eyes as a child star and got Sinatra’s blessing, “You got it, Kid.”  [Watch my video of The Joynt here!]

With all this music and drinking a celebratory Rat Pack toast seems apropos, but what to say?  The toast below is worth memorizing from “The Voice” himself via The Way You Wear Your Hat by Bill Zehme

“I wish you an abundance of health and goodness and sweet things and sweet dreams, no nightmares, and I wish you lemonade in the shade in July and all that other jazz, and huggin’ and kissin’ and peace forever in your time, and for your children, and their children, and their children and God bless us all!  Cheers!  Salud! Cent’anni!”

SHOP

Depending on your budget, you can buy lots of gifts for you and friends just like Francis would have.  If you, like Frank, don’t concern yourself with little things like money, you can surprise your best friends (like Sammy Davis Jr.) with a Cartier watch from Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.

Not quite there yet?  Spend time looking for the perfect orange (Frank’s favorite color) handkerchief to tuck in your suit pocket.  Hermes in Gold Coast is known for their exquisite scarfs and accessories while boutiques like Mr. & Mrs. Digz carries both new and vintage designer options.

Another fun option is soap shopping.  Yep.  Never one to like copious amounts of cologne or perfume, Blue Eyes simply enjoyed the smell of soap.  Yardley’s English Lavender to be specific.  Sniff away and find your favorite soap flavor at Sabon in Gold Coast or Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Square.

EAT

Hey.  You’re Frank Sinatra.  You’re Italian.  You love food.  You specifically love Italian food made by Joey and Armando at La Scarola near Grand and Halstead.  One step inside and you “get it”.  [Watch my video review of La Scarola here!]

In a rush?  Want something more casual?  How about some barbecue ribs?  Twin Anchors in Lincoln Park has been serving up some of the best for decades now.

And of course, like any man’s man, this gentleman enjoys a prime cut of beef, grilled to perfection at one of Chicago’s famed steakhouses.  Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse has a Sinatra-esque ambiance in Gold Coast and Mastro’s Chicago bar has long been my “go-to” spot when I want to get dressed up, and meet interesting people.

HANG WITH MOBSTERS, FIGHT & PRAY

Not only did he break hearts, he broke legs.  Even at 5’7″ tall, Frank was never one to back down from a fight.  “When a guy bothers me, I belt him” he’d say.  Whoa.  Brush up on your jab and duck at a boxing gym like LA Boxing in Wrigleyville and go out feeling like you have Security, but you don’t need Security.

Besides, it’s not like you don’t know people.  You know a guy if things get… er… sticky.  This is, after all, Chicago.  Oh, and speaking of The Family- don’t forget about Johnny Boy’s Graduation this weekend.  Capeesh?  Ok, ok… maybe they won’t be real mobsters, but the actors of this interactive dinner theater, will have you laughing so hard you won’t care.  [Watch my video for Johnny Boy’s Graduation here!]

When you and/or Frank get enough carousing and are ready to return to alter boy roots,  Holy Name Cathedral is a beautiful Catholic church Near North Side. Mr. Sinatra played hard and prayed hard.

BUFF, POOL & SLEEP

He’s been known to give the advice of slipping your Mary Janes (shoes) in between couch cushions for one final buff, but I couldn’t find a venue in Chicago that wants to promote cushion shoe buffing, so you are on your own finding a willing couch.

Fortunately, you don’t need shoes at all, at the pool. Sinatra would say that his idea of a vacation is to put the watch in a drawer and sit by the pool for a few days.  Not a bad idea, Frank.  East Bank Club in downtown Chicago is known for both its indoor and outdoor pools and sells guest passes for visitor access.  However, you may not need to pay extra for a guest pass elswhere, if you choose to sleep at a swanky hotel, the way Sinatra did.

Though very often out all night, Frank still appreciated the value and customer service of a fine hotel.  Though many of the originals have been replaced or upgraded, Public ChicagoMillennium Knickerbocker Hotel ChicagoThe Drake and Palmer House all claim Ol’ Blue Eyes as a valued guest.

So.  He sleeps after all.

Do you use Foursquare?  Check out the list I made: Things Frank Sinatra Would Do In Chicago

Wanna print this article out?

Special thanks to Stan Wozniak and Bill Zehme for instilling a love and appreciation in me for Frank Sinatra.

All Day Happy Hours in Austin

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Don’t worry about getting there at a certain time.  Don’t worry about long lines.  And don’t worry about paying full price when you hit up these awesome Austin All-Day Happy Hours.

SUNDAY

MONDAY

TUESDAY

  • Cover 3: Sports bar off Anderson Lane
  • Gloria’s Restaurant: Latin food.  Happy hour includes $4-$5 margaritas, sangrias and mojitos in The Domain.

WEDNESDAY

THURSDAY

  • Gloria’s Restaurant: Latin food.  Happy hour includes $4-$5 margaritas, sangrias and mojitos in The Domain.

Help me, help us!  Did I miss some great all-day happy hours in Austin?  Do I need to update a link?  Let me know!

Quotes About Travel To Inspire & Motivate

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Even as a child I knew I wanted to see the world.  (Who doesn’t, I guess.)  But I never knew how to make it an important goal.  I didn’t travel much growing up, so it just wasn’t in my frame of reference.  As an adult, I find that quotes about travel serve me as useful reminders of my goal to see the world.  Thought y’all might like them too.

These are some of my favorites.  If you have some I should add, please comment in the box below.

“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Augustine of Hippo

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
Aldous Huxley

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
G.K. Chesterton

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
Gustave Flaubert

“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.”
Tennessee Williams

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life”
~ Michael Palin

“Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.”
~ Helen Keller

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life. ”
Agnes Repplier

“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned. I don’t want to know what people are talking about. I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
~ Bill Bryson

Active Activities & Things To Do in Austin, TX

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“Come on…  Let’s go do something.”

Yes, I think I’ve said (or whined) that phrase more than once in my life because- although I do enjoy twirling my hair at fancy bars for hours on end, I usually prefer to be doing something active.

I want to take walks and see things and explore and maybe even sweat a little.  A little side of fear is usually a bonus too.

So, if you are like me, and are always up for some action- here’s your list when in the ATX.

SWIM   #BartonSprings

[[Watch my Barton Springs video here!]]

There’s a lot of swimming to do in this city and the yahoos that live here will do it year ’round, if you let ’em.  One of my favorite spots will always be Barton Springs.  They run a pretty tight ship which keeps the health of the water in check.  And the people-watching here is THE best.  (see attached video)  **Bonus that it’s a hippie (and cheap) outing at $3 per person or free after 9pm..

SWING IN THE AIR    #Zipline  #Trapeze

[[Watch my zipline travel video here!]]

Zipping through the air on cables isn’t just for the rain forests.  Lake Travis Zipline takes adventurers across the  longest zipline in Texas.  The 2.5 hour adventure includes park access where picnics and coolers are welcomed.

But if backflips are more your style, learn the art of the trapeze with a 1 or 2 hour lesson at Trapeze Austin in South Austin.  Make your circus dreams come true.  Group pricing is also available.

SPIKE IT   #Volleyball
Aussie's Volleybar
Oh, how I love to play volleyball.  You wouldn’t know it by how often I play these days (must change that) but  when you (and I) get the urge to go “Maverick and Goose” on the city of Austin we can.  Depending on the day of week and time of year, there is usually a free court, or team rotations at Zilker Volleyball Courts.  People here range in skill level but most everyone is patient and nice to beginners.  Here’s a Map of Zilker Park in Austin, Texas

There is usually a buzz of people at the local volleybar, Aussie’s Grill and Beach Bar.  Here, you can grab a drink, rent a court and spike your little heart out.

GIDDY UP   #Horseback
Horseback
Ya ain’t really been to Texas until you ride a horse.  I’m just gonna say that because it sounds like something that a Texan would say AND I know you won’t be disappointed with the gallon-hat of fun you’ll have riding a horse.  Ranches like Texas Trail Rides let you explore their acreage with all levels of private guided tours.  Find a comprehensive list of places to go horseback riding at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

WALK IT OUT  #Park #Run #Trails

There are so many places to walk in Austin, but none more quintessential than Lady Bird Lake, or “Town Lake” to locals.  The trail has loop options for 1.6 miles and 3.2 miles and the best part of this activity is the people-watching.  Be entertained (for free) by some of Austin’s weirdest, buffest and finest all along the trail.

Or, if you’d rather see more plants than people, use Austin Park Foundation‘s park finder to search by name or zipcode.  There are little hidden park treasures all over town.

Other places to walk?  Try exploring the UT Campus and The Drag.  There are plenty of “walking tours” as well.

TWO-STEP with a COWBOY or COWGIRL   #Country  #Dance  #Music

You’re in the capital of the Lone Star State, Darlin’.  You really should get your boot-scootin’ on.  For an old school vibe, live band, and strong drinks- head just west of downtown to Don’s Depot.  People of all ages have scuffed their boots on the dance floor as others sit and enjoy the show.  Then, take a break from the music and wax hippie-ish-ly about what it really means to “be cool”.  

Gruene Dance Hall

And when you know you want cheap drinks, girls in little outfits, a mechanical bull, with a side of cowboy, check out Rebels Honky Tonk downtown.  Ladies, if you want to dance- these guys are ready.  The venue tends to draw a younger crowd, but people of all ages are welcome to scoot boots, shoot shots and ride the bull in a bikini.

SWING AT A BALL   #Golf
Zilker Peter Pan Mini-Golf
On a date, with a group or just hanging with the family, Peter-Pan MiniGolf has been a “Keep Austin Weird” staple for years, now.  If you’re over 21, the BYOB policy of this quaint golf course makes it a smooth way to keep the ol’ budget in check.  Speaking of checks, only cash and checks are accepted.  ATM is $4.

So, I don’t do a lot of “real golfing” currently, but I’d like to…  Does that count?  If you’re ahead of me in this arena, check out GolfAustin for all the things I don’t even know that I don’t even know, about golf.  Don’t forget your plaid socks.

ROLL   #Bowl
The High Ball
My new favorite place to go bowling in Austin is The Highball.  You can bowl right away if you manage to snag one of 8 lanes.  If not, put your name on the list and enjoy the other aspects of this adult playground.  Rent a karaoke room with your friends and/or grab a drink at the bar while you check to see what’s shaking on the live band stage.  **Date night tip:  The Highball is also the perfect accompaniment to a movie at Alamo Drafthouse around the corner.

If you’re looking for a more traditional kind of bowling, you got it at Westgate Lanes.  Though the alley has been open for decades (I went here as a kid), the venue is still well-maintained with a friendly staff and free parking.  Special prices on Sundays and Mondays.

PADDLE   #Paddleboard  #Kayak  #Canoe

Having a lake and/or river in the middle of a hot city means that a lot of people are gonna want to be on it, without being in it.  And that means, they’re gonna need a paddle.  Whether you want to stand, as in paddleboarding or sit down to kayak, Austin has some great ways for you to float and play on the water.   Rent canoes and kayaks from the long-standing Zilker Park Boat Rentals or go for paddle boards and paddle boats a little further down the trail at Rowing Dock.

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Clearly, this is not an exhaustive list, so if you think there’s an active activity that belongs on this list, please chime in the comments below.  I’d love that.

Keep Austin Weird, Y’all!

Austin - Texas State Capitol

Austin – Texas State Capitol (Photo credit: adam79)

Austin Texas Lake Front

Austin Texas Lake Front (Photo credit: StuSeeger)

Video

Tour of Pilsen with CitySwarm Events in Chicago

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Tour of Pilsen with CitySwarm Events in Chicago. Alex Morales of The Resurrection Project guides us through the neighborhood.

For more videos about Chicago, go to JenChicago.com.

Video

Gogobot: iPhone Travel App Review

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iphone travel app gogobot
APPLICATION NAME & WEBSITE:  Gogobot  http://www.gogobot.com/

DOWNLOAD FROM iTUNES here –> Gogobot

DESCRIPTION:  Plan your next travel adventure with recommendations and tips from people you know and trust.  Share check-ins, tips, ratings and postcards with your network.

CATEGORY:  Travel
PRICE:  Free

SOCIAL SPECS:  Lets you add friends from Facebook and Twitter, plus you may “push” your activities to your Facebook Timeline and/or Twitter feed.

LOCATION SERVICES:  Has “Explore” function to search by location and/or category
iphone travel app gogobot
FUN FACTOR:  You can create and share online postcards with filters and text, like Instagram for travel photos.  You also acquire points as you share and engage in the community.  These points can take you a tourist to an expert on your “Passport”.

DESIGN & INTERFACE:  Clean, intuitive, easy to use.  Loads quickly.

HIGHLIGHTS & TIPS:  I had an issue and tweeted @Gogobot.  They were quick to respond and resolve my issue.

 

Think there’s an iPhone Travel App that I should review?  Email or tweet me!

 

 

Video

Dance Like You’re on Vacation and No One Knows You

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Last night I met some people visiting from London and we became instant friends.  One of the guys told me “You’ve got good banter…  We call what we’re doing here “banter”.”  But he said it more like “baanta”.  They were adorable.  And drunk.  And on vacation.

skeeball

We decided to merge our international groups and head over to Kung Fu Saloon for a little more action.  Skeeball action, that is.  Inside the bar, it’s like a Chuck E Cheese for adults but without the ball pitt or those groundhogs you smash with a puffy mallet.  Too bad, I know, but at least that dumb coin push game wasn’t there- the one that’s supposed to push off the other coins but yet the ones on the edge are magically suspended and won’t fall.  Grr.

Digression.  Back to the Kung Fu.

It’s a nice little set up.  There are a variety of games and arcades to play around the bar in the center of the room and the crowd is predominately hipsters and impressionable college girls.  The point I’m trying to make is that it was not a “dance club” and many are just standing around looking at other people.

So as I’m talking to my local friends, I see the two guys from London start dancing while the girl of their group was mesmerized with rolling the wooden sphere into the 100 point hole.  The London guys don’t seem to notice a group of guys snickering at them.  And I can’t have that.  Not with my new friends.  Not on my watch.

So of course, I go dance with the London guys and kick the whole thing up a notch.  This is why I should wear a cape at all times.

Well the next thing you know, a few other random, though mostly wasted, people join in.  Though not everyone on the new dance floor has mastered the drinking/dancing balance thing- it’s now officially a party.

I look over my shoulder and invite my cousin and her friend to join us dancing but they squirmishly declined by emphatically shaking their head “no”.  Boo.  I knew they wanted to.  Dancing is good clean fun.  Duh.

“Why not?!” I ask. “Who do you know here?!”

They admit they don’t know anyone.  But, the potential was there that someone they know could come in, and see them… *gasp* having fun.

Pffft!  “Life is short, Man.  Just dance.” Dance Club - Prauge

And though we often hear the cliche “dance like no one is watching”, I think that’s dumb.  They are watching.  Oh, they’re watching all right.  You are being brave, and vulnerable, and living in the moment.  And that’s magnetic.

So instead, I say “Dance like you’re on vacation and no one knows you.”   If it helps, pretend you are traveling through a city you don’t know, with people you don’t know.  You have a tough day job and you’re ready to blow off some steam in a new place.  Like when you danced on top of the bar in Cancun.

Ok, maybe not that extreme.  But cut loose a little.  The only thing keeping you from having a good time is you thinking about what other people are thinking about.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.

Another key to your “dance vacation” is to commit to it and “own it”.  This is most easily accomplished with a simple smile while moving and grooving.  Anyone that takes cheap shots at someone having a good time is a jerk, and we all innately know it.  Shame on them.

Remember, you’re having a good time, not performing for the Queen.  Get over yourself and shake what your Momma gave ya.

In closing, I say, the next time you find yourself tapping your feet and bouncing your shoulders, just go ahead and break out into dance.  Why not?  You can be on vacation whenever you decide.  Most people regret the fun they didn’t have and the chances they didn’t take.  Don’t be that guy.  Be the London guys who could care less ’cause they don’t know anyone in the room.

Forget the blonde/brunette fun war.  Travelers have more fun.  

And you know thisss…

PS: Have a cocktail if you need the extra push, but don’t forget to have some water in there too.  Equilibrium is “in”.  Stay in your lane.  No one wants to dance with or near a weeble wobble.

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Yelp: iPhone Travel App Review

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iphone travel app: yelp
APPLICATION NAME & WEBSITE:  Yelp  http://www.yelp.com

DOWNLOAD FROM iTUNES here –> YELP

DESCRIPTION:  Search for places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play then read reviews from an active community of locals in the know

CATEGORY:  Travel
PRICE:  Free

SOCIAL SPECS:  Huge social community in itself.  Lets you add friends from Facebook and Twitter, plus you may “push” your activities to your Facebook Timeline and/or Twitter feed.  Post a lot of reviews and get nominated to becoming an “ELITE”.  Sponsored Yelp Elite parties are the bomb.  Trust.
iphone travel app: yelp

LOCATION SERVICES:  Has “Nearby” function to search by location and/or category.  Bonus– you can check which venues are open at 2am, dog-friendly or within walking distance.

FUN FACTOR:  You can make comments and give compliments to those Yelpers writing fantastic, fun or funk reviews.  Start following people that have your taste in venues.

DESIGN & INTERFACE:  Clean, intuitive, easy to use.  Loads quickly.

HIGHLIGHTS & TIPS:  Create “bookmarks” for venues with great reviews, so that you remember to check it out next time you’re scouting for a new spot.  You can’t write reviews from the app, but your check-in serves as a reminder when you get back to your computer.

Think there’s an iPhone Travel App that I should review?  Email or tweet me!

 
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