San Francisco Tours San Francisco Tours San Francisco Tours
San Francisco Tours San Francisco Tours Book Your Tour Online San Francisco Tours
Book Now Daily Tours Muir Woods Tours Wine Country Tours Private Tours Monterey Tours FAQ Customer Comments Shuttles
  Previous Posts


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

West Coast Green arrives in San Francisco

West Coast Green, detained last year in San Jose, is at Fort Mason in San Francisco for its fourth year. "The biggest conference on green innovation for the built environment", as it's called, is expected to be at least bigger than ever.

Last year's meeting boasted 10,000 attendees and 380 exhibitors. Show organizers expect 14,000 attendees this year. Any development actually achieved will be inspiring, given the impact of the recession on the construction industry and business travel. Registration is still available.

There's no one speaker as well-known as a few of those in previous years, when Al Gore, Jerry Brown and others attracted attention. Among those featured are:

* Andrew Winston, author of Green Recovery;
* Dan Kammen, Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley;
* Architect Michelle Kaufmann.

A packed conference schedule includes tracks on building communities, clean tech, and social innovation. A new Green Jobs Pavilion may get a lot of attention from attendees, with US unemployment having recently reached a post-World War II high.

The conference will close Saturday with an after-party at the California Academy of Sciences, the largest LEED Platinum-rated public building in the world.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sept. 29th day in history

On Sept. 29, 1758, Horatio Nelson, who became an admiral and naval hero, was born in Burn ham Thorpe, England.

In 1829 London's reorganized police force, which became known as Scotland Yard, went on duty.

In 1901 Enrico Fermi, the physicist who helped develop America's first atomic weapons, was born in Rome.

In 1918 Allied forces scored a decisive breakthrough of the Hindenburg Line during World War I.

In 1943 Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio signed an armistice aboard the British ship Nelson off Malta.

In 1957 the New York Giants played their last game at the Polo Grounds, losing to Pittsburgh 9-1, before moving to San Francisco Tour.

In 1988 the space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., marking America's return to manned space flight following the Challenger disaster.

In 1995 three U.S. servicemen were indicted in the rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl and handed over to Japanese authorities. (They were later convicted.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tour bus stops to show off new Kenny Chesney clothing line at Maryville's Boyd Thomas

A Kenny Chesney tour bus rolled through Maryville and parked in front of Boyd Thomas clothing recently but the East Tennessee native wasn't on board.

What visitors found on board the 39-foot AirStream SkyDeck bus was a new line of clothing inspired by the country music superstar.

Blue Chair Bay is a new line of clothing inspired by Chesney. The name of the line comes from song Chesney wrote about an old blue chair he often sees when vacationing in St. John, United States Virgin Islands, said Eric Dickson, the director of sales for the new company.

"It's called Blue Chair Bay clothing, a brand new collection of casual apparel for men and women inspired by the lifestyle Kenny lives," Dickson said. "He's a genuine person, and it comes through in his concerts and translates through in his apparel."

Dickson said the new collection debuted in Las Vegas at an apparel trade show. "I haven't met a person who hasn't liked it. We really had a heck of a show. We were able to show the line to buyers there who were excited. I attribute that to Kenny's popularity. The bus also drew a lot of folks."

Steve and Susan Marra are partners with Chesney in the venture. It was the Marras who conceived the idea of a tour bus to promote the new Chesney clothing line, Dickson said.

"They found the bus. It seemed so natural to have a sanfran tour bus for apparel shows," he said.

The bus, a 39-foot Airstream Skydeck, is set up so that apparel buyers can work at four stations set up on the bus - inside the bus at the front and back and two on top of the roof, which is set up with seating and a large umbrella, which gave the appearance a party would break out any minutes.

The bus is built to impress, with a deck on top, a vinyl wrap reminiscent of an album on the exterior sides and monitors situated throughout the interior and a large-screen television that opens up.

Womac toured the bus and checked out the men's and women's apparel and also took time to look at the different features of the bus. The monitors feature Chesney music video's that served as the clothing line's inspiration. Womac appeared impressed with both the line, and the bus that carried the samples. "I think I'm going with them," he said.

Dickson said the time was right for a new line of clothing. "The apparel industry is ready for a new brand, something based on a positive lifestyle."

After Las Vegas, they took the retrofitted tour bus to shows in Texas and then into the Southeast. "We had a big event in L.A. - Lower Alabama in Gulf Shores," he joked.

From there it was on to Charleston, S.C., where they met up with Chesney and his family for a concert. They then stopped in Charlotte before they came to Maryville.

The stop at Boyd Thomas came about because Dickson and Womac previously worked together at Indigo Blue Jeans Co., a subsidiary of Tommy Bahama.

The bus was then set to San Francisco Travel on to Nashville and Memphis before wrapping up in Springfield, Missouri.

Dickson said the clothing will be moderately priced. Cut off Bermuda shorts will run about $55, artisan jean will run between $108 and $128, knit shirts will retail at between $32 and $49, woven shirts will be from $62 to $79 and khaki shorts will retail at $79.

Dickson said the women's apparel will also be appealing. "There are super cute tank dresses, T-shirts, and jeans that really fit," he said.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't miss: Slavic Soul Party

Steeped in the raucous brass band tradition of the Balkans, Slavic Soul Party has forged a slamming sound that credits a far-flung array of influences. Led by drummer Matt Moran, the 10-piece group anchors a lively Brooklyn scene that includes hip-hop Slavophiles Balkan Beat Box and Lower East Side neighbors Gogol Bordello. The commanding 25-year-old Santa Cruz-raised vocalist Eva Salina Primack, a former member of Kitka, joins SSP on the West Coast sanfran tour celebrating the release of the torrid new album "Taketron." On Friday, SSP performs at the Elbo Room on a double bill with Bay Area Balkan blasters Brass Mena{zcaron}eri.

7 tonight. $20-$23. All ages. Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. (831) 427-2227. 8:30 and 11:30 p.m. Fri. $12.50-$15. Elbo Room. 21+. 647 Valencia St., S.F. (415) 552-7788.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rail Europe Launches Enhanced Travel Agent Booking Site Adding Amtrak USA Passenger Rail Booking Capability

Rail Europe, already the leading distributor of European rail products in North America, is proud to announce an upgraded travel agent booking site, that now includes Amtrak USA Passenger Rail products in addition to the broad range of European rail passes and tickets previously available on the site.

With Rail Europe's 75 years of experience selling European rail products, the enhanced website offers dynamic new features that allow travel agents to book train tickets in Europe & North America, explore detailed train and train station information, as well as access order history status and easily view agent commissions.

Rail Europe's President and CEO, Frederic Langlois states "In response to the major resurgence in popularity that train travel is experiencing, we recognized the need to offer sophisticated online booking technology. Our new website provides SF travel agents the tools to easily and efficiently research, plan and book European and American rail vacations for their clients. Furthermore, we are thrilled to offer access to the American train market through our new partnership with Amtrak."

"The ability to reach rail centric sanfran travel agents through Rail Europe is vital to increasing the number of international passengers on board Amtrak trains," said Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak's vice president of marketing and product management. "We welcome the opportunity to work with Rail Europe to offer our products to even more travelers."

The addition of the new Amtrak booking function allows agents who offer rail products, one stop shopping for both domestic and European route ticketing, thanks to Rail Europe's fast, easy and efficient online booking process. Booking functions on allow for planning rail travel itineraries throughout America, in all classes of service. Amtrak tickets can be printed and picked up from any Quik-Trak, Amtrak's self-service ticketing kiosks located in many stations across the U.S. In addition, Rail Europe will offer the USA Rail Pass which has a variety of options to provide travelers with significant savings on train travel.

Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network, serving more than 500 destinations in 46 states on over 21,000 miles of routes. Some of Amtrak's most well-known trains include the Acela Express (Washington, DC - New York - Boston), the Auto Train (Lorton, Va. - Sanford, Fla.), the California Zephyr (Chicago - Denver - San Francisco Bay area), and the Coast Starlight (Seattle – Los Angeles). Amtrak's Northeast Corridor is the busiest railroad in North America, with more than 2,600 trains operating each day. The Acela Express is the fastest train in North America, with a top speed of 150mph, and two classes of service: First and Business Class. Food service is available on most Amtrak trains with passengers on long distance trains enjoying sit-down meals in a dining car.

Rail Europe believes that the spirit of SF train travel is about enjoying the simple pleasures, respecting the environment and connecting with people, places and cultures. To book any of Rail Europe's wide range of economical railpasses and point-to-point tickets on trains throughout Europe & North America, log on to Rail Europe's web site for travel agents at or call Rail Europe at 1-888-382-7245 (U.S.) or 1-800-361-7245 (Canada).

To book European rail for groups of 10 or more, please contact our Group Department at

Monday, September 21, 2009

SamTrans announces schedule cuts, fare increases

SamTans has cut service in half to the express bus from downtown San Francisco to San Francisco International Airport. As mentioned in this column previously, the KX bus is the fastest and cheapest way to get to SFO. Fortunately, the other airport buses, 292 & 397, have not been cutback. Below are the details from SamTrans. The cuts go into effect on December 20. Fare increases also go into effect on December 20.

The San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors voted unanimously today to implement a 7.5 percent reduction in bus service and a fare increase to aid in reducing a $28.4 million SamTrans operating budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1.
The service reductions will result in layoffs of operations and administrative personnel and will be effective on December 20. The reductions will result in cost savings of more than $6.3 million annually. There will be no changes to the District's paratransit service.

Board Chair Zoe Kersteen-Tucker called the service reductions "frustrating" but credited the community for an "amazing outpouring" of engagement and involvement in this decision. More than 800 people submitted comments, either at the meetings, by telephone, in letters or by e-mail. The comments also included three petitions.

Seven routes, including six express routes, will be eliminated. Other adjustments, including reductions in the frequency of service, will be made to six routes. A new route with six daily round trips will connect Foster City with the Millbrae Intermodal Station.Details on the service reductions follow.

Service Change Reductions - Effective Dec. 20

Route KX: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, to SFO and San Francisco Tour

  • Reduce headways from 30 minutes to 60 minutes.

  • Eliminate the segment serving Page Mill Road.

  • Route 280: Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto Caltrain Station, East Palo Alto, Ravenswood Shopping Center

  • Reduce headways from 30 minutes to 60 minutes.
    Route 14: Linda Mar, Oddstad Park, Casa Pacific

  • Operate service in one direction before 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
    Route 141: Downtown San Bruno, San Bruno BART, San Bruno Senior Center

  • Reduce headways from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, except during school hours.
    Route 390: Daly City BART, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto

  • On weekends only, reduce headways from 30 minutes to 40 minutes.
    Route 391: Serving San Francisco (limited), Daly City, Colma BART, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Millbrae, Burlingame, San Mateo, Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City

  • On weekends only, reduce headways from 30 minutes to 40 minutes.

  • Elimination of the following routes:

  • Route 342 - Millbrae Intermodal Station, Downtown Millbrae, Mills Estate, Millbrae Highlands

  • Route DX - Pacifica to San Francisco Tour

  • Route FX - Foster City, Mariners Island, 3rd Ave & Hwy. 101 to Downtown San Francisco

  • Route MX - San Mateo, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Bruno to SF Civic Center and SF Transbay Terminal

  • Route NX - Redwood Shores, San Mateo 101/92 Park & Ride to Downtown San Francisco

  • Route PX - Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo to San Francisco

  • Route RX - Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo to San Francisco

Friday, September 18, 2009

San Francisco Int'l Airport is first in U.S. to offer carbon-offset kiosk program

The San Francisco International Airport has been announced the debut of its "Climate Passport" kiosks, which present travelers a way to calculate the carbon footprint of the flights and purchase carbon offsets to benefit environmental efforts in San Francisco and California.

According to a news release from the airport, it is working with 3Degrees, a San Francisco Travel-based carbon and renewable energy marketing firm that will manage the sourcing of the purchased carbon offsets and ensure the corresponding reduction of greenhouse gases.

San Francisco Tour mayor Gavin Newsom says the initiative, which is the first of its kind in the United States, also will have an economic impact on the city:

We created a program that enables travelers to voluntarily offset the emissions from their trip through supporting local projects that reduce greenhouse gases. The Climate Passport kiosks are good for the climate and good for San Francisco's economy.

In addition to the on-site kiosks, which are located in the airport's international terminal and terminal three, travelers can access the Climate Passport program through the facility's Web site,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

San Francisco city tours and sightseeing

If this is your first time to San Francisco Tour, you're probably going to want to visit Alcatraz. Be warned, this bay cruise and prison tour is mega-popular, so you'll want to reserve a seat a few weeks in advance to ensure a spot. To do so, visit

San Francisco's melting pot of cultures and cool coastal climate has made it a fantastic spot for food. The main reason why Ghiradelli chocolates, which was founded here in 1852, is so prominent is that in the days before air conditioning, you could store chocolate in San Francisco year round without fear of melting.

Beyond just sweets, one company that specializes in food tours is Local Taste of the City Tours, which offer a variety of ways to taste San Francisco Sightseeing . They serve up local samplings of food with a history lesson, from Chinatown and historic North Beach and Little Italy, where you'll visit a bakery that dates back over 130 years and get a strong espresso from a sidewalk cafe that roasts its own beans. For more, check out

San Francisco City Pass

If you plan on visiting a lot of museums, the San Francisco City Pass ($59) is a valuable asset that grants you entry to five of the city's top attractions, from the Museum of Modern Art to Bay Cruises. The pass also gets you seven-day access to the Muni Passport, which gets you on all local buses and cable cars. In total, it's a $115 value. For a full list of participants visit

You don't have to spend much time in San Francisco to realize they're quite serious about being "eco-friendly" around here. One such green city tour is with GoCar, a tiny, two-seat, open-top car equipped with GPS that talks to you the whole way, offering historical information, and, more importantly, it won't get you lost. Se for more.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Orioles Announce 2010 Schedule

The Orioles will begin their 2010 season on the road in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, April 6 against the Rays, the 17th time in 57 years the Orioles will have opened their schedule away from Baltimore. After two more games in Tampa, the 2010 team will make their debut at Camden Yards on Friday, April 9 against the Toronto Blue Jays. A weekend series with the Jays is followed by a three-game set with the Rays to conclude the opening homestand.

The Orioles will play each of their AL East rivals three times at Oriole Park. The New York Yankees will make their first visit to Baltimore April 27-29, followed by a trip in June (8-10) and a weekend series in September (17-19). The Red Sox will make two weekend trips to Baltimore, April 30-May 2 and June 4-6, along with a final mid-week series at Camden Yards, Aug. 31-Sept. 2. In addition to the opening homestand, Tampa Bay and Toronto will make two additional trips to Baltimore, in July and September.

The Orioles will face the National League East at home and the NL West on the road in interleague play in 2010. The New York Mets (June 11-13) and Florida Marlins (June 22-24) will visit Camden Yards, and the Birds will continue their rivalry with Washington in a home-and-home series against the Nationals. Baltimore will play in Washington, May 21-23, then host a three-game series against the Nationals, June 25-27. The Birds will travel to San Francisco (June 14-16) and San Diego (June 18-20) for three-game series against the Giants and Padres.

All of the American League Central teams will make one visit each to Oriole Park. In the AL West, the Seattle Mariners (May 11-13 and Aug. 16-18) and Oakland Athletics (May 25-27 and June 29-July 1) will make two trips to Baltimore, and the Los Angeles Angels (Aug. 3-5) and Texas Rangers (Aug. 19-22) will each make one visit to Camden Yards.

Baltimore will play 17 home games in June, their busiest month at Oriole Park. Overall, the Orioles will play 41 of the 88 games prior to the All-Star break at Camden Yards. Their longest homestand of the season is a 10-game set immediately following the Midsummer Classic, July 16-25 against Toronto, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

The Orioles have two 10-game road trips in 2010 - April 15-25 to Oakland, Seattle and Boston and July 2-11 to Boston, Detroit and Texas. Baltimore's busiest san Francisco travel month is July, when they play 16 of 27 games away from Camden Yards.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You can see Pacquiao, Cotto on Sunday in S.F. after Giants' game

Manny Pacquiao is inveterate to AT&T Park on Sunday, and this time he'll be fielding question in a forum that fans willpower be allowed to listen.

Miguel Cot to spirits exists by him, as Sunday's appearance in San Francisco Tour is part of a media tour building up their Nov. 14 bout. Promoter Bob Arum will also be on hand.

Alas, I won't be. I have a family commitment involving my niece and her husband visiting from Okinawa. I missed Pacquiao's April visit to a San Francisco Tours Giants game, where he threw out the first pitch, because I was taking a computer class.

This time, Pacquiao and his entourage will be on hand after the Giants' afternoon game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and "the stadium will be open to the public," the Giants have announced. We media types will have further access to Pacquiao and Cotto after that, so I'm pretty frustrated by my prior commitment, even though I did visit Pacquiao's training camp in Los Angeles last fall as he prepared for his upset of Oscar De La Hoya.

Source: examiner

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Night: Glay at the Fillmore

Better than: Flying all the way to Japan to see them like fans would have had to do a few years ago.

It doesn't seem like a year since Glay last played The Fillmore.

The Japanese pop/rock juggernaut returned last night for a second round of what looks like a regular yearly jaunt to California. The results - same as last year, part two.

Glay is the kind of band that doesn't really exist in America, at least not any more. A good third of the group's set consisted of sweet and arguably rather sappy ballads, with the remaining two thirds split evenly between upbeat pop songs and faster, more rock-influenced numbers. That's always been the question with Glay - is it a pop band or a rock band? Where does it fit?

The musical diversity was also reflected in the band's visual presentation. While singer Teru and guitarist Takuro looked like the music industry elder statesman that they are, with a rather understated personal style, bassist Jiro had a distinctly more punk look, and guitarist Hisashi looked like he belonged in a visual kei band. And then there was the fact that Jiro's outfit wasn't just shiny, it was actually reflective - the front row of the audience could have chosen between seeing their own images in his bass or in his shiny silver pants. It was interesting to note that the band's massive success doesn't seem to have forced the individual members to abandon their differences in favor of a more unified image.

Glay ran through a setlist that combined old favorites with some newer material. The songs seemed to have been arranged in sort of mini sets - first the pop block, then the ballads, then a quick run through several faster, heavier numbers. From a critical point of view they were really at their best when edging into the rock camp, but there was no denying that the audience loved those ballads.

Glay fans really do adore their band's disconcertingly baby-faced bassist (Seriously, does this man never age? Does he have a painting withering in his attic a la Dorian Grey?) and "Shutter Speed" was his moment to shine and to temporarily take over the microphone-- although vocalist Teru took it back after the first verse. Hey, bands have to have some order to them, right?

Regardless of whether Glay's music is your cup of tea, there's no denying that its members are pros, and they put on a good show. Frontman Teru did a great job of keeping the crowd happy and engaged, encouraging fans to sing along and frequently kneeling down to hand the microphone to people in the front row - he even got one fan to announce a song for him. Perhaps more bands should try that - in this case the interactivity yielded an excited fangirl squeal of the "I love you!" variety that seemed to greatly amuse the whole band--before Teru reassured the fan in question that yes, he loved her too.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Glay's performance was that, unlike a lot of other Japanese bands who've played San Francisco Tour recently, the group managed once again to draw in a wide cross section of the local Japanese American community. There were plenty of American fans, too, but Glay's core audience here remains predominantly Japanese. It's a cool thing to see, an example of the way the world seems to be shrinking perhaps, that a little slice of mainstream Japanese pop culture can find a home in a part of America that's been home to a large Japanese community for a long time. The Fillmore is so close to Japantown, it seems fitting for the venue to be Glay's San Francisco home away from home.

Source: sfweekly

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Architecture bike tours: See the city

While a brief moment of inattention on any bike path in the this town can send you flying right into an exquisite Victorian confection or sleek modernist slab, this weekend you can make your two-wheeled interaction with San Francisco's architectural gems more systematic and less painful, and earn a discount on tickets to boot, by riding your bike to the American Institute of Architects' San Francisco Tour Living: Home Tours. Then again, you are really on your own tour of the city's diverse urban design anytime you cross it on a bicycle.

Biking the city really lends itself to a constant awareness of the cityscape, according to architect David Baker of David Baker + Partners - a firm specializing in sustainable, affordable, high-density projects - who leads regular architecture tours of his own with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

"You have a better spatial sense of the city when you traverse it by bike," he says. "This is mainly due to being able to look around freely, without the distractions of being trapped inside a little metal box."

And, though you can cover a lot more scenic ground with the aid of pedals and gears than you can by foot alone, you still remain your own engine, which makes a difference. It allows a rider to "experience distance in a very different way, because one earns it," Baker says. "You're more engaged with the topography as well, especially in districts like Russian Hill and Presidio Heights."

Which also means you might be going a little slower at times, but that's not a bad thing as far as paying attention to you surroundings goes. "I ride pretty slow," he admits. "This is not about being an athlete, just a healthy, mobile human."

Going the distance

Luckily, plenty of the city's structural landmarks are easily accessible within a fairly non-strenuous downtown circuit, which encompasses the cream of the Top 25 San Francisco buildings as named by The Chronicle. A self-guided route, available as a map on the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's Web site (, proceeds from the historic Hallidie Building in the Financial District, through SoMa and the Civic Center, past the Curran House in the Tenderloin and back to the Xanadu Gallery by Frank Lloyd Wright off Union Square.

But the traditional street grid of San Francisco makes almost any part of the city a great place to explore. "The car-accommodating engineering of the last century was only able to mess up small parts of the city - most is still oriented to the pedestrian and the cyclist," explains Baker. "That's why it's such a great place to live."

And as it gets better for riding, he insists, it gets better for everyone. Citing the Danish urban designer Jan Gehl, he says, "A city that is sweet to its cyclists is sweet to its people. There is a reason people pay more for a place that's great for humans unencumbered by 6,000 pounds of machine, even if it is hard to park sometimes."

This is part of the reason that the AIA is encouraging people to take this weekend's house tour by bike. Not only does it let participants view the city from a different perspective, according to the AIA's Helen Wong, but "sustainability is also a concept we're promoting."

You'll also be saving $10-$15 off the ticket price and be designer cool. "A lot of architects are also urban cyclists," according to Baker. "It's a better way to look at architecture than driving."

Mostly modest

AIA San Francisco's San Francisco Living: Home Tours takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and features homes in a variety of styles and neighborhoods but mostly modest-size contemporary constructions and remodelings of 860 to 1,000 square feet, in keeping with this year's theme of Everyday Design.

Bicyclists must arrive by bike at Home Tours Headquarters at Stable Cafe (2128 Folsom St.) to purchase same-day tickets and pick up bike-route directions provided by the SFBC. Be prepared for some robust riding, as breathtaking views come with breath-sucking climbs. Bicycle tickets are $60 for AIA or SFBC members and $70 for nonmembers. More information is available at

Or join Baker the following Sunday, Sept. 20, for his Second Bay Traditions Bicycle Ride, a tour of San Francisco modern architecture, featuring the vernacular style of modernism prevalent in the region from the 1920s through 1960s, and stopping by houses by William Wurster, Erich Mendelsohn, John Dinwiddie, Gardiner Dailey, Richard Neutra and Joseph Esherick. The ride meets at Justin Herman Plaza at 11 a.m. and costs $20 for AIA or SFBC members and $30 for nonmembers. For more information and to register, go to

Bike About Town is presented by the San Francisco Tour Bicycle Coalition, a 10,000-member nonprofit dedicated to creating safer streets and more livable communities by promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation.

Source: sfgate

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

New York Fights Off Tourism Plunge in Big Summer

Record attendance at the Museum of Modern Art and a "big summer" for out-of-towners at Nobu, where a plate of sashimi tacos costs $21, show New York City is fighting off forecasts of plunging tourism during the deepest U.S. recession in six decades.

Historically low crime, a 26 percent decline in hotel-room charges and the dollar's 13 percent drop in value against the euro since March will attract 44.7 million visitors in 2009, according to NYC & Co., the city's marketing office. That represents a 5 percent drop from last year's record, half the fall-off tourism officials feared in January.

The No. 1 U.S. destination measured by san fran tourist spending has attracted corporate meetings, while Las Vegas and Orlando have seen conference attendance decline at least 15 percent after members of Congress and Barack Obama, during his presidential campaign last year, criticized companies such as American International Group Inc., for holding events in resorts while accepting government bailouts.

"We're sold out for 11 of the next 14 days with corporate business, on top of the leisure visitors we've seen all summer," said George Kurth, manager of two Manhattan outposts of the Dublin-based Fitzpatrick Hotel Group in an interview yesterday. "Shoppers are out in force and while rates remain lower than last year, they're going higher."

Shopping Bags

Guests, particularly from Ireland and the U.K., where the pound has climbed 19 percent against the dollar since March 9, continue to walk into the hotels' lobbies toting shopping bags from Barneys New York, the chic Madison Avenue department store, and discounter Century 21 across from the World Trade Center site, Kurth said.

While NYC & Co. predicts tourists may spend about 10 percent less in 2009 than last year's $32 billion, the industry hasn't suffered the bust experienced by financial, real estate, fashion and media companies since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. last September.

"If you didn't have fairly robust tourism, the consequences would be layoffs at hotels and restaurants, and dark theaters," said Rae Rosen, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "It's a significant offset in an economy where other sectors aren't performing as well."

The influx of visitors has kept 314,600 working in the leisure and hospital industries, an increase of 600 in 12 months, according to the state Labor Department. The city has lost 173,000 jobs since July 2008, including 37,400 at financial companies.

10 Percent Drop

Tourists account for 38 percent of entertainment spending and 22 percent of shopping in a city where sales taxes provide 12 percent of revenue, according to the municipal comptroller's office.

Even with travelers' spending, city sales tax revenue decreased 10 percent, or $285 million in the first seven months of 2008, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported Aug. 31. Yet enough visitors arrived to exceed budget officials' May 1 forecast that hotel rooms would be 72 percent full for the year after a 2008 record of 87 percent.

From April through August, average monthly occupancy rebounded to 86 percent from 63 percent in January, according to NYC & Co. Lodgings will be 80 percent full, on average, for 2009, spokesman Christopher Heywood said.

Fewer Rebukes

To fill rooms, Manhattan hoteliers slashed rates to an average $212 a night from January through August, compared with $286 during that span a year ago, according to PKF Consulting Corp., a San Francisco-based travel-industry research firm.

While lower prices attracted visitors, they also reduced the city's share of room spending. Budget analysts forecast New York would collect $344 million in hotel-tax revenue in the fiscal 12 months ended June 30. That is 9.2 percent less than the previous year's $378.9 million and about 5 percent short of the $361 million forecast by Mayor Michael Bloomberg's May 1 budget message. He is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Travel promoters and meeting planners say New York's status as a financial center makes it less likely companies would draw rebukes of the sort AIG received last fall from Obama for an executive gathering at a California spa weeks after an $85 billion federal bailout.

'Limp Along'

Bank of America Corp., which got $45 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Program, decided in February to move a health-care conference to New York from Las Vegas, citing the "current business environment." Goldman Sachs Group Inc. also cited "the current environment" as the reason for switching an annual hedge-fund meeting from Miami.

"Companies fear they'll be perceived as being wasteful or flaunting their money," said Brenda Anderson, chief executive officer of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, a Chicago-based industry group for corporate-meeting planners.

While Orlando, near Walt Disney Co.'s Disney World theme park, saw room occupancy on International Drive, the Florida city's hotel strip, fall 10 percentage points over 12 months to about 66 percent in July, Manhattan lodgings filled 82 percent of their rooms during the same period, 7 percentage points under the previous year, according to NYC & Co.

"Room rates being lowered hasn't counteracted the trend," said Brian Martin, spokesman for the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

‘Limp Along'

Las Vegas airport passenger traffic fell 12 percent in the seven months through July, and the city received fewer year-to- year visits for 13 consecutive months, including 6.3 percent less in June 2009 than a year ago, William Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation, said in an Aug. 21 report.

The decline pushed unemployment in tourism-dependent Clark County to 13.1 percent in July from 6.9 percent of a year ago, he said.

"The leisure and hospitality sector continues to limp along," Anderson wrote.

In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Statue of Liberty each reported more visits through June than last year.

Broadway theaters, where tourists comprise 65 percent of audiences, enjoyed record revenue of $943 million last season, a 0.6 percent increase.

The gain came even as attendance of 12.15 million was 12,000 less than in 2007, according to Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, which represents theater operators, producers and managers.
'Historic High'

"When people feel constrained and pinched, they look for satisfying experiences that feel rewarding," said Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art.

Attendance at the institution hit "a historic high" of 2.8 million in the fiscal 12 months ended June 30, beating last year's previous record of 2.67 million, said spokeswoman Kim Mitchell.

The American Museum of Natural History, with a suggested $16 admission price, has attracted 13,000 visitors a day since the July 1 start of its fiscal year through Sept. 4, a pace 9 percent ahead of 2007's 4-million record attendance, said Charles McClean, senior vice president of marketing.

"About six months ago, we were nervous our numbers would drop off a cliff, so we're pleasantly surprised," McClean said. "This summer, the numbers have soared off the charts." Foreigners account for 38 percent of business, he said.

The tourist trade is helping support luxury-goods retailers and restaurants even as the Russell 3000 Retail Industry index fell 11 percent in the past year.

Carrie's Manolos

At Manolo Blahnik on West 54th Street, the shoe retailer made famous by Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City" where a pair of pumps costs $500 or more, tourists make up about 25 percent of the store's business, said George Malkemus, the brand's chief executive officer for the Americas. He declined to disclose sales figures.

"There's certainly been a fall-off, but they're still coming in to buy," Malkemus said. "We see a lot of spillover from the Museum of Modern Art across the street."

Half the diners at lower Manhattan restaurants, including Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Corton, come from out of town, said owner Drew Nieporent. "Visitors have made this a big summer for us," he said.

City officials helped persuade Continental Airlines Inc. to offer 400-euro ($574) round-trip flights from Amsterdam to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Manhattan.
Henry Hudson

The promotion celebrates explorer Henry Hudson's arrival 400 years ago, with some fares discounted about 40 percent, according to David Messing, the Houston-based airline's communications director.

NY400, a six-day observance of the 400th anniversary of Hudson's arrival featuring music, sailing races, free bike rentals and museum exhibitions began today with an international parade of vessels and visits from U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima Zorreguieta of the Netherlands at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

"The value story is what we've been selling," said George Fertitta, the city's chief marketing officer. "Last year, with the dollar so much weaker than the pound and euro, the value was in shopping. Now the value is in experience."

Adele Sloan, who arrived in New York from Tyrone County, Northern Ireland with her husband and two sons in mid-August, walked through lower Manhattan, viewing the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, Wall Street and New York harbor from the Staten Island Ferry.

Sloan, 48, a high-school principal who last visited the city in 1987, said she'd been so leery of crime she booked her family's room in Weehawken, New Jersey, a 15-minute bus ride away.

"I'm shocked at how safe I feel and how clean everything is," she said upon emerging from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. "We're not really shoppers. We want to experience the feel of the city."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Bay Bridge reopening remains in limbo

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - North state residents planning a trip to the Bay Area early this week may want to rethink their travel plans.

Transit officials are advising drivers who use the San Francisco Tour-Oakland Bay Bridge to begin preparing alternate plans for their morning commute, saying they still don't know if the span will reopen as scheduled at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

California Department of Transportation spokesman Bart Ney said Monday repair work on an unexpected crack in the span had begun. But he called completing the work before the Tuesday 5 a.m. deadline a "monumental challenge."

Officials have scheduled an update at 5 p.m. Monday, when they are expected to say for certain whether the bridge will reopen.

The bridge was shut down over the holiday weekend so a section of the eastern span could be cut out and replaced with a new double deck section. Crews used the closure to inspect the bridge, discovering the crack Saturday.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Travel blog: San Fran and Hollywood

Hatty James has embarked on a gap year adventure, travelling by plane, train and automobile around the globe for before heading to university to study social anthropology.

She is back-packing from Shanghai to New York via Bali, Australia and Los Angeles and sharing her experience with the readers of Here is her eighth blog entry:

After a lazy day, on Friday we set off on a road trip to San Francisco Tour with my travel companion, friend and her room-mate. We set off at 2pm and we arrived eight hours later at 10:30pm. Traffic on the 101. Fun!

We stayed the night in Santa Cruz with relatives of one of the girls and enjoyed the company of a crazy cat named Darwin. The next morning we set out for San Francisco Travel and once again hit traffic, trying to find the Golden Gate Bridge.

An hour of detouring finally found us at the bridge, but as our luck was going, it was foggy once again, and the bridge was obscured. We did have a nice drive over it.

Back into San Francisco, we visited Fishermans' Wharf and Chinatown, before going back to Santa Cruz driving past Height-Ashbury, where the hippy movement started.

We had Mexican food - a must when in LA - and headed back. I'd got my traveling companion hooked on the Twilight series so we'd spent several hours both nights reading it.

The next day we had to get back in the car to go all the way back to LA. This time we were taking a prettier route along the coast, which would take more time but had better views.

Another ten-hour journey ensued, with several traffic jams and an accident involving a motorcycle and car only a few metres ahead of us. We arrived back in LA exhausted after our day in the car, and ready to go to bed early, for we had t