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Chicago Cultural Events: Chicago Polka Bands Festival

By Michael Cervin

Looking for some fun Chicago cultural events for an upcoming trip? Check the DealAngel Chicago hotel deals too!

January is National Polka Month…betcha didn’t know that.

So what is Polka? Is it a dance? Is it music? Is it sausage? Well, it’s both a type of dance and music (sorry, no meat products) and it originated among peasants of eastern Bohemia (now the Czech Republic, but Bohemia sounds better) and spread into Prague in the 1830s.

chicago polka festivala - chicago cultural activities - chicago hotel deals - deal angel.jpg

Well.. it does mean “Polish woman” after all…

It reached Paris (doesn’t everything?) then swept through Europe and the Americas. Typically polka couples circle the ballroom at fast speeds, using a simple step, close, step, and hop technique. The music is in 2/4 time and it’s a very social dance, wildly upbeat and not for heavy-footed people like me. The word polka simply means “Polish woman.”

With very little hoopla and almost no moshing, the far-too-happy polka bands keep the seemingly endlessly energetic all-ages crowd circulating around the dance floor at this event. You’ll hear bands with differing styles like the push, honky, nostalgic, fast and slow waltzes, traditional and modern.

Each band plays about a 40-minute set and with bands sharing two stages and the music and dance never stops, in fact it usually lasts over 10 hours. The large ballroom gets polka-packed, and the event feels more like my big fat Polka wedding than an actual concert. This year’s line-up will include Eddie Korosa Jr. & His Boys From Illinois, Freeze Dried, and Bill Gula & Chicago Image, among others.

In between dances you can check out the bar and kitchen which sells Polish food to keep you giddy and on your feet most of the day and into the night. And if you get tired of dancing you can browse the International Polka Association souvenir table, which features jewelry, T-shirts, CDs…you know, all things Polka!

There is the Polka Music Hall of Fame and Museum which serves as a historical and educational medium for polka music. The Hall of Fame and Museum provide a means for people to learn about the origins and development of polka music in all its styles and forms. So get your dancing shoes on and prep for a pretty powerful polka.

Festival of Polka Bands

Sunday, January 20th
10225 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago Ridge, IL

www.internationalpolka.com

1-800-To-Polka

11:30 a.m. to whenever the last Polka plays

Tickets $12

Since you’ve danced your shoes off, maybe it’s time to visit the funny guys at Second City to get a load off, and you’ve gotta get to Wrigley Field. I love the Shedd Aquarium, and the Architectural Foundation offers river cruises with views to the architectural skyline of Chicago.

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Balancing Act: A Segway Tour in Savannah

By Jan Ross

Taking a trip to Savannah? Check the DealAngel hotel deals for Savannah here.

You have seen them before. Those nutty people balancing on those crazy two-wheeled gizmos jetting around towns with their helmets on and grinning like loons. I’m going to tell you now just why they are all grinning. Because riding a Segway is an absolute blast.

Just because we can…

It’s not easy at first – not nearly as easy as it looks when you see them gliding along. It requires balance and leg muscles – you don’t realize how much muscle until you ride for a few hours, step off and feel the fact that you have been clenching those muscles all that time. But it only takes a few minutes until you begin to feel like a pro. You make a Segway move with movements of your body and pretty soon you are leaning and swaying with the rest of the group.

Savannah is one of the most perfect cities to take a Segway tour because there are no hills, most drivers are patient and considerate as this is a tourist-friendly town, and you are able to get really close to the gorgeous historic homes and squares in this lovely Southern city.

Segway of Savannah is a little difficult to find as it tucked in the back of the Visitor’s Center but if you don’t see it, just ask someone in the area and they will direct you right to it.

This is called Southern hospitality and you are going to find a lot of it in Savannah. Once you have watched a video about Segway safety, the guides will take you to a back alley where the Segways are lined up in a row leaning against the curb. They will carefully instruct you and even hold you up until you feel comfortable jetting around, which will not take very long at all.

Then you will set out in a group to see Savannah. One guide will go ahead and one will follow to make sure they don’t lose any of their riders and to keep an eye on traffic. You will sail past the City Market where there are some great shops and restaurants – go back when you have time and visit the Savannah Candy Kitchen for some freshly made pecan praline samples.

Then you will spend time visiting most of the over 20 squares located throughout the city. Each of the squares is more like a park with beautiful trees, statues and paths and each is unique. Forsythe Square is one of the most beautiful but each has its fans and admirers. You will pass by the lovely Juliet Gordon Lowe house, the founder of the Girl Scouts, and see the incredible Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

By the time you return to the Segway of Savannah office, you will be ready for a break and lunch at one of the wonderful restaurants that line River Street – I recommend Spanky’s. Try the grilled shrimp quesadilla and you will be in heaven.

Now you can safely say you are one of those people who are tooling along, grinning on their Segway. And now you know why they are grinning.

For more information, check here: http://www.segwayofsavannah.com/

And just for the fun of it, here’s 50 more seconds of Segway falls & crashes:

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Alternative London Attractions: PostSecret Live

By Katherine Bebo

Alternative London Attractions - London hotel deals - DealAngel

 ‘I am in love with my boyfriend’s cousin…’ ‘I came back to LA to be with your brother, not you…’ ‘He swore he’d shoot his head off if I left, so when I left I took his gun…’

These are just a few of the secrets that have been shared since 2005, when the inception of PostSecret took place.

PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project with a very simple concept – on a homemade postcard, people anonymously mail in their secrets, whatever they may be – silly, fun, dark, sinister… or something in-between.

Their secret may end up in an art gallery, on a website, in a music video, in a university lecture hall, in a museum, in a book or being shared amongst fellow secret tellers or curious voyeurs at the upcoming PostSecret presentations throughout the UK and Ireland.

If you’re looking for an alternative London attraction for your upcoming visit, PostSecret Live might be it.

“Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart,” says Frank Warren, founder of PostSecret. “If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” Frank asserts that the ‘secret postcards’ help to heal those who write them by releasing guilt, are inspirational to those who read them, give hope to people who identify with a stranger’s secret and create a community of acceptance.

He says that whether a person shares a secret by whispering it in a friend’s ear or they write it down on a postcard and send it to a stranger, the experience is transformative.

The PostSecret website has had over 500 million hits. Its appeal has reached far and wide – with a tour in Australia scheduled for 2013, and versions of PostSecret having sprung up in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, China, the UK, Norway, Korea and Kazakhstan. Yes, Kazakhstan! Frank has published five books, all consisting of secrets submitted to PostSecret.

If you’re reading this, scratching your head, wondering why seemingly the whole world has gone loopy for secrets, visit PostSecretArchive.com to browse the hundreds of submitted postcards. Before you know it, the cleaners will be asking you to lift up your feet and giving you pitying looks because you’re ‘working late’. Go on. You’ll see.

The London event on Dec 9th is sold out but there are still tickets available for the one on Dec 17th. Tickets cost £37.50 ($60). Visit PostSecret.com for more information.  Events are also taking place around the country throughout December.

And the other thing to check out… DealAngel hotel deals for London!

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Fun Things to do in Atlanta: Take a Bike Tour of Atlanta

By Jan Ross

Don’t forget to check the DealAngel hotel results for Atlanta before you travel!

Thank God riding a bike is one of those things you never forget because it had been a long time since my butt had met the seat of a bicycle.

We had done plenty of walking/bus/trolley/whatever kinds of city tours you can imagine in the past. Looking for something fun to do in Atlanta we decided to try something different, and so it was that I found myself back on two wheels after all these years.

Robyn Elliott, the owner of Bicycle Tours of Atlanta, is used to bike riders of all abilities, showing patience even when I found myself struggling up the very few (luckily) hills in the city.  A former construction inspector who watched the residential construction industry grind to a halt in 2008, Robyn knew she needed a new business and as an avid cyclist, she decided bike tours of the city would be the perfect idea. She had always enjoyed showing off her home town of Atlanta to visitors, so combining that with her love of biking was a natural fit.

The ten-mile, three hour Heart of the City tour shows you the signature and historic sites of this lovely Southern city, beautiful neighborhoods built during the Reconstruction Era and many other hidden jewels off the beaten path such as the historic Oakland Cemetery. We rode our bikes right through the gorgeous cemetery which is more like a park with its lush greenery and landscaping.

You can get an incredible, encompassing view of the city from there as well. Biking past the amazingly restored, historic neighborhoods with their mansions and cottages truly makes you appreciate the attention that has been paid to maintaining the vibrant history of Atlanta.

They offer several different tours for different areas of Atlanta and for different interests – they even offer a Progressive Dinner Bicycle Tour so you can bicycle off the calories you have just consumed! Our tour included some of the elements of the Atlanta Street Art Bicycle Tour as we stopped to admire some of the fascinating murals hidden away on parking lot walls and overpasses.

All of their tours include a bike, helmet, bottled water and a snack. Robyn personally fitted our bikes to us, based on our height, and carefully demonstrated how to change gears and brake before we ever left the office.

Be aware that the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta office might be a little difficult to find as it is tucked away in the middle of the Studioplex Lofts in one of the suites. Just look for the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta sign. Happy biking!

For more information: http://www.biketoursatl.com/

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What to do in London at Christmas: the Disney Boutique at Harrods

By Katherine Bebo

Taking a trip to London this Christmas? Check the DealAngel results for London here!

Disney. Love it or hate, you can’t escape it. So why bother trying? Instead, during this festive season, why not embrace all things magical and smiley (OK, maybe not Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana) and skip across the pond to the posh department store Harrods in London, where a Disney pop-up boutique will await you?

what to do in london at christmas - disney harrods - london hotel deals deal angel

Photo: Harrods

This 7,000 square foot retail dream/nightmare (depending on your tolerance for cheeriness and over-priced princess paraphernalia) houses an array of Disney products (obvs), along with bespoke limited-edition items and collectibles.

Single ladies, forget demanding that some guy ‘puts a ring on it’… if you want to find your Prince Charming, take matters into your own hands and pop to the Cinderella Slipper Salon to buy yourself a pair of glittery replica glass slippers – they come in sizes for babies all the way up to adults.

Then discard one at a location of your choice, depending on what you’re looking for in a man (arty: inside the Tate Modern; rich: in the lobby of the Chase offices; stubbly: outside Abercrombie & Fitch), and await your knight in shining armor arriving on your doorstep. Tip: get a pedicure in anticipation – you don’t want your chipped nail polish getting in the way of true love.

If you’re really in the mood to embrace the princess role (or you have a little girl in tow who loves all things enchanting), play dress-up at the Disney Princess Parlour. Always dreamed of being Snow White? Now’s your chance!

Then you can memorialize the moment forever with the photos you’ll take home from your 15-minute photo shoot. You can also take a load off during storytelling time in the special interactive area for all the family.

If you’re thirsty for more gender stereotyping, step away from the glitter and head towards the ‘boys’ area, complete with Toy Story and Cars toys, accessories and costumes like Buzz Lightyear. To infinity and beyond? Maybe if you’re a seven year old. To hell and back? We’ll let you decide…

The Disney pop-up boutique in Harrods will be around until January 2013. Visit http://www.harrods.com/content/the-store/news-events/2012/october/celebrate-a-disney-christmas-at-harrods/ for more information.

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Travel Tips & Hotels: New Years Eve in New York City

By Carrie Dow

New York City has no off switch. There is no quiet season. It never stops. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. But there is one day in the year that is unparalleled even for NYC: New Years Eve, the grandest New Years’ Eve party on the planet.

If you’re considering a trip to NYC for NYE you still have time to find a great hotel deal. Although rates are inevitably high, many rooms are still available at well below the average market rate. Check here for New York City hotel deals. (Alternatively if you’re not set on NYC check here for New Years Eve hotel deals in other cities.)

An estimated one million people will crowd into the few square blocks of the world famous Times Square on December 31. For you and the million other people descending on the Big Apple, here is what you need to know to join in the fun.

New Year’s Eve in NYC is a huge. Besides the one million people crammed into Times Square, it is estimated that another billion – that’s billion with a B – people around the world will watch the event on television.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is a star-studded event with live TV broadcasts, musical acts, pyrotechnics and the crowning event, the countdown to midnight when a giant crystal ball drops from the top of the One Times Square building.

While crowds have gathered to celebrate the New Year in Times Square since 1904, the ball drop began in 1907 when fireworks were forbidden and the idea of a shining “time ball” to count down the time was born. The first ball was made of incandescent light bulbs, iron and wood. Today the ball contains a computerized LED lighting system and is covered in 2,688 triangle-shaped Waterford crystal panels.

For those wanting to attend this crowded party, the Official Times Square website suggests getting there just before 3 p.m. on December 31. That is when the NYPD will begin closing off the streets to traffic and creating sections for people to stand in. The area is divided into sections to prevent overcrowding.

At 6 p.m. the ball will be lit and raised to its position atop One Times Square. At 6:30 are the opening ceremonies followed by the Times Square Alliance sanitation crew handing out 2013 hats, balloons and scarves to the crowd. The next several hours will be filled with TV broadcasts and concerts. The evening is capped at 11.59 p.m. when the ball starts to drop and the countdown to 2013 begins.

Watching the ball drop is not for the faint of heart. The Times Square Alliance suggests that revelers check and recheck the weather forecast and to dress appropriately as the temperatures on New Year’s Eve can drop below freezing. They suggest wearing layers that you can peel off or add back on as the temperature changes. There are also no portable public restrooms available and public drinking in NYC is illegal and will not be tolerated by police.

The Alliance also wants people to know the ball drop is free to the public and to avoid vendors who sell “All-Access” passes. Visitors do not need a pass to stand in Times Square so these tickets are rip offs. On the other hand, restaurants and hotels have special viewing parties that do require tickets.

For many people watching the Times Square ball drop in person is a once in a lifetime event and the memories and stories you’ll bring back with you will last a life time. Happy New Year!

 

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Don’t Get Ripped Off! Budget Travel Ideas for the Christmas Holidays

Budget Travel Ideas for the Christmas Holidays - Hotel Deals - DealAngel

By Jan Ross

You know the annual routine. You’ve practiced it well enough over the years: shop your heart out, decorate like crazy, slave away in the kitchen baking up a storm for the holidays. If you’re like me you’ll be wondering how on earth you’ll find the cash, let alone the time, to take that trip you’ve been thinking about. Visiting the family, taking that weekend getaway… it’s a nice idea but is it, well, worth it?

Well I guess we could just stop shopping, decorating, cooking, save every spare penny and every spare minute, but it just doesn’t sound very festive does it? Plus Christmas must be one of the most expensive times of year to travel, especially when traveling on a budget.

Well don’t worry, thankfully there are a few ways you can travel over the holidays without breaking the bank.

Budget Travel over the Christmas Holidays

Raffaello - New Years Eve hotel deals - DealAngel

Last Minute Frenzy

The first thing to check is for late offers, such as these last minute New Years Eve hotel deals. You might be surprised what you’ll find, including many rates that are significantly below the usual market rate in all classes, 3, 4 and 5 star.

The DealAngel data is showing that rates are dropping in numerous cities across the US and beyond, but prices and availability are volatile so be sure to snatch the best deal when you find it.

Within driving distance of Chicago? How about a stay at the 4* Raffaello for $123/night? That’s 50% below the expected rate!*

How about Boston, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza 5* for $210/night?*

Don’t Fly, Take A Staycation

Barton - New Years Eve hotel deals - DealAngel

Although it’s still easy to find great hotel rates for the holidays, finding a cheap flight is another matter entirely. This is one of the most expensive times of year to fly and prices will only continue to increase as the holidays get closer.

My advice is to avoid flying altogether. Even though the price of gas these days seems astronomical, filling your tank a few times is still way cheaper than buying a flight.

This gives you a new opportunity to really explore your own city or state. Think about all the places you could visit just a few hours drive from home and then check to find the best hotel deals.

For example, those within driving distance of Austin can still get a great deal at the Barton Creek Resort 4* for $142/night!*

Check Your Memberships

Dig out your membership cards, you might find that they come with a few discounts. Auto clubs, social groups, seniors associations, etc sometimes arrange for special discounts at hotels and restaurants. When you make your booking mention your membership with AARP or AAA and see if any discounts are offered. It never hurts to ask!

Stay Flexible

Be flexible. If you are not visiting family and don’t have a specific destination in mind, let the travel deals guide where you want to go. Want to go to the beach? Any beach? Just see where the best deals are available and head there for a few days.

Be even more flexible. Can you travel a day or two around the dates you are considering? You may find the day after you are considering is substantially cheaper, so check all your options.

Catch The Post-Holidays Deals

But no matter how hard you try, there’s no denying that traveling on a budget over the Christmas holidays is a tricky prospect. But for real bargain hunters, the time immediately after the holidays, even starting on January 1, is considered a dead travel period. If you can rearrange your schedule a little you might find some great deals once the holidays are over.

*Please note: all hotel rates are accurate at time of publication and are likely to change quickly – get in there quick!

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Are Last Minute New Years Eve Hotel Deals A Myth?

By Matthew Barker

Traveling over New Years Eve? Forget it right? Surely all the hotels in any place that you’d actually want to visit will have been booked up months ago? Either that or way too expensive, as in stupid money expensive? Right?

Nope. Turns out there is plenty of New Years Eve hotel availability, and what’s more: late New Years Eve hotel deals are certainly not a myth. After all, the DealAngel numbers don’t lie.

It’s True: Last Minute New Years Eve Hotel Deals DO Exist!

We’re not saying they’re easy to find. But then that’s what DealAngel is here for. By looking at the data for each hotel’s standard rates and comparing them to the best rate currently available, we can figure out which hotels in which cities are offering the best value deals. And guess what? There are still LOADS of late New Years Eve bargains to be had. It’s just a case of looking in the right place:

Note: all the following deals are quoted for three nights Dec 29 to Jan 1 and are accurate at time of publication. Deals and rates will fluctuate daily.

Raffaello - late New Years Eve hotels - DealAngelChicago

Rates are currently dropping in all categories.

Deal alert: Raffaello 4* at $123/night - 50% below expected rate

Check here for all Chicago hotel deals

Las Vegas

Rates in Vegas for 3* and 5* hotels are dropping steadily although rates for 4* hotels are starting to climb.

Deal alert: Club De Soleil Hotel Las Vegas 4* at $136/night

What’s going on in Las Vegas? If you want a place to bring in the New Year with plenty of parties, Las Vegas is the perfect place. Most of the fabulous hotels on the strip will be having celebrations as well as bars. Just make a schedule to visit as many as possible and end up in your favorite to ring in the New Year!

Check here for all Las Vegas hotel deals

Barton - last minute New Years Eve deals - DealAngelAustin

Rates for 3* and 4* hotels dropping. Zero availability for 5* hotels.

Deal alert: Barton Creek Resort 4* at $142/night - 49% below expected rate

Check here for all Austin hotel deals

San Francisco

Rates for 3* hotels have spiked and are now dropping. Rates for 4* and 5* hotels are stable, but availability for 5* hotels is dropping fast.

Deal alert: The Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa 4* at $241/night - 15% below expected rate

Check here for all San Francisco hotel deals

Grand Hyatt - new years eve deals - DealAngelWashington DC

Rates are currently dropping in all categories.

Deal alert: Grand Hyatt 4* at $111/night - $70 below expected rate

Check here for all Washington DC hotel deals

Boston

Rates are currently dropping in all categories.

Deal alert: Fairmont Copley Plaza 5* at $210/night

Check here for all Boston hotel deals

Deca - late minute deals - DealAngel

Seattle

Rates are stable in 3* and are dropping in 4* and 5* hotels.

Deal alert: Hotel Deca 3* at $116/night

Check here for all Seattle hotel deals

Orlando

Rates are currently dropping in all categories.

Deal alert: Rosen Shingle Creek Resort 4* at $87/night - 25% below expected rate

Check here for all Orlando hotel deals

Hyatt - late minute hotels for NYE - DealAngelSan Diego

Rates are rising in all categories but some great deals remaining.

Deal alert: Hyatt Regency La Jolla 4* at $121/night

Check here for all San Diego hotel deals

New Orleans

Rates are stable for 3* hotels and are dropping for 4* and 5* hotels. Very limited availability remaining.

Deal alert: JW Marriott 4* at $208/night

Check here for all New Orleans hotel deals

Kensington - hotel deals for new years - DealAngelLondon

Rates rising sharply for all hotel categories. Some deals remaining.

Deal alert: The Kensington Hotel 5* at $350/night

What’s going on in London?  Like the idea of fireworks to bring in the New Year? Then visit London at the foot of the London Eye (a giant Ferris wheel by the Thames) and see an hour-long display which lights up the sky for miles around. It’s great family fun – and it’s completely free!

Check here for all London hotel deals

Santa Barbara

Rates stable in all categories. Availability limited.

Deal alert: Fess Parkers Double Tree Resort 4* at $188 – 25% below expected rate

Check here for all Santa Barbara hotel deals

Meritage - NYE hotel deals - DealAngelNapa

Rates and availability dropping in all star categories.

Deal alert: The Meritage Resort & Spa 4* at $168/night – 27% below expected rate

What’s going on in Napa? If wild parties and fireworks are not your forte, head to lovely Napa for the Napa Valley Wine Train’s New Year’s Eve ball. From caviar, sparkling wine, a gourmet meal and a DJ and a fabulous ball, this is the place to be on New Year’s. A reception will be held in the train station, then guests will board the train for a gourmet dinner and train ride, then everyone will be transported back to the station for a fabulous party to welcome in the New Year.

Check here for all Napa hotel deals

Providence

Rates dropping in all star categories. Availability limited.

Deal alert: NYLO Providence/Warwick 3* at $94/night42% below expected rate

Check here for all Providence hotel deals

Lodge - late minute deals - DealAngelColorado Springs

Rates dropping steeply for 3* hotels. Rates for 4* hotels stable. Availability limited for 5*

Deal alert: The Lodge at Garden of the Gods Club 4* at $155/night

Check here for all Colorado Springs hotel deals

Sedona

Rates dropping steadily in 3* and 4* hotels.

Deal alert: suite rooms at Las Posadas of Sedona 4* at $193/night 

Check here for all Sedona hotel deals

St regis - last minute hotels NYE 2012/13 - DealAngelHouston

Rates dropping in 3* hotels, stable in 4*, dropping in 5*.

Deal alert: St. Regis 5* at $143/night – 50% below expected rate

What’s going on in Houston? Head to  Discovery Green and the George R. Brown Convention Center for the biggest countdown in Texas and a free, family-friendly celebration. An illuminated parade, live music performances, a light show and fireworks display make this a wonderful event.

Check here for all Houston hotel deals

Los Angeles

Rates are stable in 3* hotels and are dropping in 4* and 5* hotels.

Deal alert: Angeleno, Joie de Vivire, 4* at $144/night

Check here for all Los Angeles hotel deals

Atlanta marriott - how to fine late New Years Eve hotel deals - DealAngelAtlanta

Rates dropping in 3*, dropping steeply in 4*, stable in 5*.

Deal alert: Atlanta Marriott Northwest 3* at $62/night – 39% below expected rate

What’s going on in Atlanta? Underground Atlanta is the scene for the annual Peach Drop New Year’s Eve celebration. A full day of family fun and an evening of entertainment include live music performances and an 800 pound peach descending to mark the New Year.

Check here for all Atlanta hotel deals

Cabo San Lucas

Rates for 3* hotels dropping. Availability dropping rapidly.

Deal alert: Los Patios Hotel Cabo San Lucas 4* at $62/night

Check here for all Cabo San Lucas hotel deals

 

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Day Trip From Los Angeles: Pasadena’s Cheeseburger Week

By Michael Cervin

Taking a trip to LA? Check the DealAngel hotel results for Los Angeles here.

I grew up in Pasadena. I’ve eaten a lot of cheeseburgers. But never once in my formative years did anyone ever say that the cheeseburger was invented (Really? That had to be invented?) in Pasadena. Boy am I wrong! Apparently one of my favorite foods was crated not far from where I loved. So of course it makes perfect sense that there should be a week long celebration of eating cheeseburgers. I’m guessing this is followed by a week long fast.

Day trips from Los Angeles - Pasadena cheeseburger week

The original Rite Spot in west Pasadena: home of the cheeseburger circa 1924

Legend has it that teenage short-order cook named Lionel Clark Sternberger (love the irony) invented the cheeseburger one fateful day in the mid-1920s at his father’s restaurant called The Rite Spot.

Apparently the little dude “accidentally” dropped cheese on to a cooking burger, so he gets credit. Other cities lay claim that they invented the cheeseburger, but the overall historical info is with Lionel and The Rite Spot. If Sternberger flipped his first cheeseburger at age 16, as Time magazine wrote (yes, Time covered this) he would have done it in 1923 or early 1924, well before other peoples’ claims.

The Pasadena Museum of History has a menu for The Rite Spot that lists the “Aristocratic Burger: the Original Hamburger with Cheese,” for 15 cents. Trying paying 15 cents for anything today and you’ll get arrested.

Cheeseburger Week (part of the larger Restaurant Week) celebrates our obsession with burgers and cheese (and a little bacon never hurt either) and Pasadena hosts the Cheeseburger Challenge where you get to vote for your favorite cheeseburgers in a number of categories, from traditional lunch counter burgers and their Angus patties to white table cloth burgers made with fancy Kobe beef, and even turkey burgers but I ignore this category and so should you.

There’s also the Cheeseburger Crawl whereby you can taste samples of burgers of the restaurants competing along historic Colorado Blvd. Two dozen joints supply a variety of burgers – sorry our emaciated vegan friends, no garden burgers, or if there is one or two no one really cares. Where’s the beef? It’s in Pasadena!

Day Trip from Los Angeles: Pasadena Cheeseburger Week

January 13-18

Pasadena, California

http://www.pasadenarestaurantweek.com/home/cheeseburger-week/

Cost: Depends on how many cheeseburgers you eat

So Pasadena, just 15 minutes outside of Los Angeles, but a world away, has the cool under the radar Norton Simon Museum. Get incredible views from Mt. Wilson Observatory, see a play at the uber-historical Pasadena Playhouse, and visit the Gamble House, a classic Greene & Greene home.

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Going Gaga: Lady Gaga in Vegas!

By Michael Cervin

Vegas is high stakes (frankly I play the few remaining nickel slots on Fremont cause I’m cheap) and everything about this uber-flamboyant city does its very best to outshine everything else. Heck, even the buffets try and out-buffet one another (Caesars Palace has nine different kitchens making 500 different menu items).

So when it comes to singers, Lady Gaga, singer/artist/strange person, outperforms them all and she’s hitting the MGM Grand to prove it. The five-time Grammy Award winner, and 13 time MTV Video Music Award winner (yeah, like those are real awards) is bringing her Born This Way Ball World Tour to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which seats about 17,000 people so there are pretty good sight-lines. Not too bad for an Italian girl from New York.

Gaga fans are absolutely gaga over her (OK there, I’ve said it now we can move on), and she has some kind of primal energy to allure fans of all ages. In this brand-new tour, Gaga performs her latest album “Born This Way” as well as music from her two previous albums, “The Fame” (remember hits like Poker Face, and Just Dance?) and “The Fame Monster” (Bad Romance, and Telephone). Since Gaga is so insightful and provocative how about one song to encapsulate all the others? Something like:

“Just Dance with your Poker Face over the Telephone for a Bad Romance.” No?

Of course she’s sold 24 million albums and 64 million singles so perhaps my smart-ass comments are a pathetic attempt to make myself feel good. Regardless little Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta has hit the big time and there’s no bigger and better stage than Las Vegas for this biggest and best star.

Lady Gaga in Vegas

Deal Angel hotel results for Las Vegas

Jan. 25 & 26, 7 p.m.

3799 Las Vegas Blvd.

(877) 880-0880

www.mgmgrand.com

Cost: Tickets range from $60.75 (not including that pesky $9.10 “Handling Fee”) to $213 (plus a $16.70 “Handling Fee” and frankly at two Benjamin’s a pop, shouldn’t they waive the fee?)

Need other over the top thrills? Indoor Skydiving is awesome (I do this every time I head to Vegas and it’s more fun than actually falling out of a plane), and the Cirque du Soleil show O is also packed with thrills, as is Dig This (the only heavy equipment playground for adults – like a sandbox but with massive toys), and World Class Driving where, yes, you can finally drive a Ferrari!

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