New Travel Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Chicago

April 13, 2011 on 10:04 pm | In Chicago travel, ThereArePlaces.com, United States travel, things travelers need to know, travel guides, travel news, vacation travel | 3 Comments

Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park along the Lakeshore in Chicago

Late yesterday we launched our new guide to the best places to visit in Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect, once said, “Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful city left in the word.” We think Chicago is gorgeous and full of fun attractions. While creating the ThereArePlaces guide we revisited many of the places we used to frequent when we lived in Chicago and decided that the city is better than ever.

Chicago’s geographical setting is sublimely beautiful. Chicago’s planners clearly have spent a lot of time figuring out how to make the city work and they have created a masterpiece. Chicago is a wonderful place for a family vacation, offering every age group a variety of attractions that they will find appealing.

Take a look, and book your tickets, as our Chicago guide is waiting for you.

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ThereArePlaces Launches New York City Travel Guide

March 19, 2011 on 5:29 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, United States travel, new york travel, things travelers need to know, travel guides, travel new york city, travel news | Comments Off

On Saturday,March 19, 2011 ThereArePlaces launched its new, concise but multi-paged guide to the Best Places to Visit in New York. In addition, we are working on guides to Chicago and San Francisco and have another two U.S.city-guides in planning. All will be released in the first half of this year.

Our New York Guide covers our recommendations for the thirty best places to visit in New York City. We provide details on each attraction and link to the official website, when there is one (in case you have an interest in learning additional information). In addition, we show the location of each attraction with a marker on a custom built map utilizing a map base from Google, and have sprinkled the Guide with some excellent photographs showing what you can expect to see when you visit New York.

            The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor

New York is a phenomenal place to visit and often produces a wide range of emotions in each visitor. Americans are justifiably proud of the values represented by the Statue of Liberty and immensely saddened the loss of life at nearby Ground-Zero, soon to be the home of the National 9/11 Memorial. Times Square, Central Park and the Empire State Building are just the beginning of an exploration of some of the most famous structures and attractions in the United States, and, perhaps, the world. New York has something for everyone and we think you will find that the ThereArePlaces Guide to New York is a great way to explore the Big Apple in preparation for your next visit.

Let us know what you think of our Guide to the best places to visit in New York. Leave a comment and help us make a better website for you.

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TSA Security Checkpoints – And Now For The Numbers

October 1, 2010 on 1:21 pm | In TSA, Terrorism and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Transportation Security Administration, Travel Safety, United States travel, air travel security, amazing travel facts, things travelers need to know, travel news | 1 Comment

Similar to most travelers, we have an interest in the activities of the Transportation Security Administration. We subscribe to their newsletter so we can find out when new items are published on the TSA websitehere. One item that we look at each week is the titled “TSA Week At A Glance” that reports three statistics of interest to us (because our team is composed of frequent flyers who spend a lot of time going through security checkpoints, just like the rest of you). These reports by the TSA cover travel during previous week and include the following categories of information reported from the TSA Security Checkpoints at airports around the nation:

1) Number of artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
2) Number of firearms found at Checkpoints
3) Number of passengers who were arrested after investigation of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents

We tracked these data from the first week in May, 2010 to the second week in September, 2010 in an attempt of measure the number of “problems” encountered by the TSA during a time period that reflects the “summer travel season. During May, 2010, a total of approximately 62 million flyers passed through the TSA security checkpoints at the airports scattered throughout the United States. We were unable to find a report on the actual passenger totals for each of these months and, instead, made the assumption that if we could use the May total as a reasonable average for the number of passengers flying each month of the summer, then we could conclude that approximately 280 million travelers passed through the TSA checkpoints for the period.

During that 140 day period, 322 firearms were found at checkpoints, 139 passengers were arrested at checkpoints for suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents and 71 travelers were arrested for artfully concealed prohibited items. The good news is that only 0.00000115 percent of the travelers were carrying firearms when they entered the security checkpoints. Of course, the number of guns is also the bad news. The distribution of the categories, by week, is shown in the graph below.

TSA and Problem Passengers in the summer of 2010

We did not attempt to subject the data to a statistical analysis, but it appears that firearms and the number of flyers are linearly related. In other words, you will find more guns at airports when more people are flying. So, if you look at the chart you will see that firearm carrying at airports peaks during the holidays associated with Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Somewhat curiously, the data seems to show that an unusual number of people were apprehended for attempting to carry firearms through the TSA security checkpoints during the week that included … Mother’s Day. What a nice present!

Our graph is the stuff of further conversation. Just how many people are there in the United States who have not yet heard that there are security checkpoints at airports? Were the people attempting to carry firearms through security checkpoints terrorists or just plain forgetful? What prohibited items are we talking about here – bombs or bottles of water? And who doesn’t know their travel documents are fraudulent? Next, what about geography? We like to think of things geographically and wonder about the geographical distribution of these statistics? Which airports? What regions? Hopefully someone is paying attention the “where” of these numbers. However, we doubt that the spatial aspects of these numbers will ever see the light of day, since we had such difficulty in gathering the simple data presented.

How These Data Were Obtained

We think it is important that you know that these data are published weekly by the TSA on their website. When we first became interested in these reports earlier this spring, we contacted TSA to see if they would provide us the statistics that they had openly published over the last calendar year. To be honest, we did not know where to start and were directed to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request Page at the TSA website and filed a simple request for the last year of the statistics published on the TSA website for the TSA Week At A Glance section. We received a speedy reply telling us that we had failed to reasonably describe the information and our request was denied.

Not to be deterred, on May 24, we tried sending an email to the “contact us” section of the TSA website requesting that they provide us the last year’s data that appeared in the TSA Week At A Glance section of their website. After all, why would you need a Freedom Of Information Act request for information that is published on the TSA website every week? We added that we published the blog that you are reading and that we thought these data would help the public appreciate the need for security checkpoints at airports.

Almost a month later on June 23, we received a note indicating that our request had been forwarded to the appropriate group for a response. On July 7, we received a note sent to us on behalf of Sterling Payne (how appropriate, and we are not making up the name) Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, indicating that he felt that the best way for us to receive the most accurate information would be by filling out (you guessed it) a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Come on guys, this is information published on your citizen-facing website! There is nothing secret about it, or if there is, we suggest you stop publishing it each week. And anyway, if you don’t have the data, just who does?

As you might have guessed by now, we went the TSA website every week during the summer travel period and faithfully recorded the data in an Excel spreadsheet that allowed us to create the graph displayed above. Don’t ever say we are not determined to find the facts on your behalf.

Be sure to visit ThereArePlaces for information on the Best Places to visit around the world, as well as for information on travel planning, including travel safety.

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Avoid JFK Airport During 2010 Travel Season

November 30, 2009 on 12:37 pm | In United States travel, air travel, international travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings, vacation travel | Comments Off

An item in the Federal Register in October was missed the major news wires, but anyone planning travel using JFK Airport in New York in 2010 should reconsider their routing. The Port Authority will remove and, then construct a runway to completley replace current runway 13R/31L. Unfortunately, this is the airport’s main runway and handles 30 percent of the facility’s traffic and will be unavailable for use during this period. The rehab job will run from March 1 through Novemeber 15 of 2010 (if it stays on schedule), although the travel flow may improve later in the reconstruction. Read more about it here or just scan the paragraph below for an overview.

If you are planning international travel through JFK next year, consider taking another route. If you cannot avoid another route, make sure your have a significant amount of time between connections.

Beginning in March 2010, there will be runway and airfield
construction at JFK that will temporarily affect operations at the
airport. Runway 13R/31L is the airport’s most frequently used and
longest runway. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port
Authority) indicates the runway historically accommodates a significant
percentage of the annual air traffic operations at JFK, particularly
departures. The Port Authority plans to resurface the runway with
concrete and widen it to accommodate new large aircraft and to help
prevent ice ingestion. In addition, the Port Authority will install new
runway lighting, electrical infrastructure, and a new electrical feeder
system to the runway. The Port Authority opted for a more extensive
rehabilitation project to provide for a 40-year design life by
surfacing with concrete instead of an 8-year design life with asphalt;
however, the project will render Runway 13R/31L unavailable from March
1 until June 30, 2010. The western two-thirds of the runway will reopen
July 1, but its use will be limited under some weather and operating
conditions, primarily because some high-speed runway turnoffs and
navigational aids (NAVAIDS) will be unavailable until later in the
construction period. On September 15, Runway 4L/22R will close until
September 30 to resurface its intersection with Runway 13R/31L. The
entire Runway 13R/31L and its associated NAVAIDS will be fully
functional on November 15, 2010.

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Bats and Bat Caves

August 30, 2009 on 11:35 am | In United States travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel news | Comments Off

As many of you know, ThereArePlaces recently added a new section to its website on the Best National Parks in the American Southwest. One of the parks mentioned is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. In our coverage we noted that there is a Bat Program at Carlsbad Caverns as over a million bats make the caverns their home.

Today we were cruising the news and saw an excellent piece from CNN (video) on the Bracken Bat Cave in Texas. Approximately 20 million Mexican fre-tailed bats make this cave their home and when they exit the cave for their nightly hunting it is an astounding sight. Take a look at the CNN Video of Bracken Bat Cave.

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Best National Parks in the American Southwest

August 26, 2009 on 8:17 pm | In United States travel, travel news, vacation travel | Comments Off

This evening we published the latest addition to our ThereArePlaces website. We have always enjoyed traveling the National Parks in the American Southwest and decided to share our wanderings and recommendations on the best parks to visit in this unique area. We cover Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in Utah. We recommend the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest in Arizona and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We think that everyone who has a chance should visit Death Valley National Park on the California-Nevada border. In Colorado, we have always been inspired by the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and, more recently, by the incredible dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The Grand Canyon National Park is stunning in any season.

If you think you might like to know more about these parks, we suggest you start here. Our guide includes a one-page overview describing each park and why you might want to visit. In addition, we provide detail pages for each park we cover and these pages include some great photography and handy advice for planning a visit.

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EU Health Chief – Restrict Travel to Mexico and U.S.

April 27, 2009 on 7:34 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, United States travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | Comments Off

Just a quick note following-up on our blog of yesterday regarding the deadly outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico and a related, but not yet deadly, outbreak of the Swine Flu in the United States.  Today Androulla Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner for the EU recommended that all travelers postpone non-essential travel to Mexico and the United States   For more information, see this AP article at MSNBC.com, or this more detailed article by the BBC.

The acting director fo the Centers for Disease Control in the US felt that the inclusion of the US in the travel warning was unreasonable, since only 20 cases had surfaced in the US and only one of those required hospitalization.  See this article in the New York Times for more detail

A case of the Swine Flu has been detected in Spain, while others are being tested in New Zealand, Brazil, the UK and Israel, all of whom had traveled to Mexico.

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