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New Museums, New Hotels, and New Flights around the World: The View from AFAR

Flying Etihad-style and getting from L.A. to Vegas in no time

This week’s installment of “The View from AFAR” is fresh and shiny, as it spotlights a host of new travel attractions, accommodations, and transportation options. Speaking of things that are new and fresh: next week, I (and AFAR Executive Editor Jeremy Saum) will be flying to Montana to attend the kick-off summit for the Family Travel Association, a new group devoted to raising awareness of issues surrounding family travel. As usual, if you have any questions about what you read in this column, Tweet them to us at @AFARmedia.

Museum Madness in Los Angeles
Now is a great time to hit the museum scene in L.A. Earlier this week, the much-anticipated new contemporary art museum, The Broad, opened downtown. This venue, named after philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, will be home to the nearly 2,000 works of art from the Broads’ personal collection, among the most prominent holdings of postwar and contemporary art worldwide. (AFAR covered the opening in the October issue.) Admission to the Broad is free, but visitors can take advantage of everything in the bustling L.A. art scene by using a promotion from the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LATCB), through which visitors who book a minimum of two nights at a Los Angeles hotel will get two vouchers for adult admissions or gift store discounts at participating museums. To take advantage of the “L.A. Museum Season” deal, visitors must book on Hotels.com.

New East Coast hotels
Boston’s newest hotel opens next week, and it just so happens to be the city’s first foray into The Autograph Collection, Marriott International’s upscale, limited-edition brand. The hotel, named The Envoy, sits on the waterfront in the emerging Innovation District. Notable amenities include a 4,000-square-foot rooftop bar, original art installations, hand-crafted furniture, locally made uniforms, and EcoSmart TVs (to name a few). The other East Coast hotel news comes out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, where JetBlue announced this week that it has struck a deal with MCR Development to open a hotel in the old TWA terminal. The project is so new that specific plans for the hotel are still in flux. Still, at this point, two things is certain: MCR would operate the hotel and JetBlue would be a minority investor. Stay tuned.

New planes; new plane routes
This was a great week for planes. First, Etihad Airways unveiled a new partnership with aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn, to complement its exclusive The Residence and First Apartment cabins, available on the airline’s Airbus A380 fleet. Effectively Etihad will be chartering jets from Chapman Freeborn; the deal is a move to promote and market the luxurious living spaces to pre-existing Chapman Freeborn clientele, giving these well-heeled travelers the opportunity to receive the levels of luxury, discretion, and technology on Etihad they expect from private jets. Second, Copa Airlines this week announced new plane service to Panama City, Panama, from San Francisco. Copa will operate the daily flight with a Boeing 737-800.

All aboard a speedy trip to Vegas (to visit Wayne Newton’s house)
Sure, the ultimate price tag likely will be somewhere around $7 billion, but the proposed bullet train connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas received a much-needed push this week when XpressWest, the company behind the train, announced it was partnering with China Railway International to make it all come to life. The partnership—and associated dollars—means XpressWest can start project prep within 100 days, and initiate formal buildout next year. At this point, none of the parties involved was willing to speculate about when the project would be complete. The one thing they do know: at maximum speed, the train will reach about 150 mph, which should turn what is typically a four-hour commute into something far more manageable. But don’t wait until next year to go: Wayne Newton fans (like moi) hummed “Danke Schoen,” last weekend when the Las Vegas showman opened his former personal ranch, the 52-acre Casa de Shenendoah, to the public for the first time. Newton has owned the property since 1966. Visitors to the attraction can marvel at his 60 Arabian horses, artesian ponds, and exotic animal farm. They also can get an up-close look at some of Newton’s Rolls Royces, and his treasure-trove of memorabilia. 

Cruise liner leans in
It certainly took long enough. Earlier this summer, for the first time in American history, an American woman was selected to head up a mega-cruise ship, thanks to Celebrity Cruises. The cruise liner announced in July that 37-year-old Katie McCue would take the helm of the Celebrity Summit, which sails to Bermuda from the East Coast and has a capacity of more than 2,100 passengers. So far, she has a number of trips under her belt—all without incident. This column wasn’t around when the announcement was made, but considering what a milestone the news really is, we wanted to share it here. The bottom line: More women among the ranks of male-dominated profession of cruise captains is never a bad thing.

Good Reads
The headline is jarring even for galeophobics: “More people die from selfies than sharks.” Yet something about this (hilarious) article in The Telegraph is appealing in a rubbernecking sort of way. Sift through the data and you'll come to see that the numbers aren’t that compelling; we’re not talking about too many people on either side of the equation. Still, the point is valid: If people are dying to take selfies, we’re all taking our selves (and our selfies) a little too seriously.

Travel fans love the mellifluous prose of Don George, the writer who quite literally has written the book on travel writing repeatedly over the years. Naturally, then, George’s latest piece for the Intelligent Travel blog, from National Geographic Traveler, is a gem. The piece is a paean to Paris; in it, George compares and contrasts his love for the city upon experiencing it for the first time with his love for it now, 40 years hence. You don’t have to be a Francophile to be moved by this one.

The canal system in the United Kingdom is the stuff of daydreams—many wanderlusters (again, myself included) have spent weeks fantasizing about exploring the area this way. In a detailed piece for The Guardian, author Kevin Rushby does. Rushby’s piece chronicles a journey along the new Desmond Family Canoe Trail, which spans 150 miles of England from Liverpool in the west to the Humber estuary in the east. His colorful anecdotes and history work together to weave quite a narrative.

Portable bunk beds
Hotels have a lot of nerve charging $10 or $15 for cots in which to put the kids on a family vacation. A cheaper and more efficient alternative: the Kid-O-Bunk, from a company named Disc-O-Bed. In a nutshell, the Kid-O-Bunk is a portable hammock-like bunk bed comprising two separate portable cots that can be stacked on top of each other. The $290 beds disassemble completely and fit into supplied carry bags. What’s more, the sleeping “decks” are made of machine-washable polyester. The Kid-O-Bunk is perfect for family trips—especially those that will require the whole gang to squeeze into a tiny hotel room. At least with this device, everyone has his or her own space.

Tracking lost luggage in seconds
With the new HomingPIN solution, lost luggage can be tracked and located in seconds. The solution consists of baggage loops with tags, key rings, and stickers that have a unique tracking number—a number that is activated with the traveler’s mobile phone number and email address. On the back-end, HomingPIN is integrated into the WorldTracer baggage tracing systems in 2,200 airports worldwide, and reduces the time it takes to match a found bag to its owner from up to 6 days to seconds. Once a bag is located with the HomingPIN, a text message is sent instantly to the owner. HomingPIN labels also can be attached to cell phones, laptops, cameras, and passports. Packages start at $20.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In more than 18 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Alaska Airlines, and more. He is a senior editor for the Expedia Viewfinder blog from Expedia, and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association, and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.