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Modern myth has it that these days everyone in Los Angeles has written a screenplay, is writing a screenplay or is just visiting. For those in the latter category we offer a road map of ideas to help make a trip to this ultra-hip, ultra-happening haven easy, fun and exciting. While LA will always be associated with movies and movie stars, it is also a culturally vibrant city that boasts a range of interesting attractions from prestigious art museums and galleries to fabulous theatre, both well-known productions and smaller fringe shows. Art enthusiasts will be stunned by the extensive collections at the J. Paul Getty Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Visit the La Brea Tar Pits on Museum Row, then investigate the trendy shops on Melrose Avenue. Families will not want to miss the zoo or the action at Universal Studios Hollywood. Of course, no trip to LA would be complete without a stop at the Venice Beach Boardwalk or a visit to Mann's Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame.
San Diego embodies laid-back California culture, complete with a Boardwalk, surfing communities, and outstanding Mexican food. Breathe in the fresh ocean air at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, then gobble down a fresh fish taco at a La Jolla seafood joint. The naval aircrafts at the USS Midway Museum will have you standing at attention. A free Sunday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion is the perfect way to unwind after a Saturday night bar-hop in the thumping Gaslamp Quarter.
A few years ago San Francisco was riding high on the wealth of the dot com explosion. And it showed in outrageously high-priced hotels, restaurants and real estate. When the bubble burst, the city was forced to adjust. In fact, now is a great time to visit the somewhat humbler, but just as fabulous, cultural mecca of the Left Coast. Hotels and restaurants have lowered their prices, making it easier to enjoy a weekend here. One of the best things about San Francisco is that you can be in a museum in the morning and on a mountain in the afternoon. Mind-expanding cultural attractions exist alongside invigorating outdoor activities. Gaze at the work of Jackson Pollock at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the morning and then head to Muir Woods to peer up at gigantic redwoods in the afternoon. From the hippie haunts of Haight-Ashbury to the colourful Victorian architecture of the predominantly gay Castro District, and from Japantown to Chinatown, San Francisco is all about neighbourhoods. Each has a distinct look and vibe; you could easily spend a day in each or hop on a streetcar to sample a few.
Blessed with a spectacular Pacific Rim location, Vancouver is a study in contrasts and cohesion. Set between the mountains and the sea, the city blends cultures and landscapes, allowing visitors to enjoy a modern, cosmopolitan city alongside the great outdoors. You could spend all weekend exploring Stanley Park, but you don't want to miss the panoramic vistas from the Capilano Bridge or the Sea to Sky Highway, or the opportunity to ski or explore a mountain trail. A temperate year-round climate makes Vancouver enjoyable in any season, though the winter months do bring a string of rainy days.
With attractions and activities galore, Chicago is everyone's kind of town. See all the famous sights, then go to a show in the theatre district or a Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field, followed by a late-night visit to a blues club or jazz bar. Culture hounds will delight in the multitude of museums, including the prestigious Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society. Families will find plenty to do at Navy Pier and plenty to explore at the Field Museum and the Lincoln Park Zoo. You could spend all day strolling through Hyde Park or shopping along the Magnificent Mile. Discover vibrant ethnic neighbourhoods, architectural landmarks, delicious food and world-class hotels. From the top of the Sears Tower to the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago offers so much to do, visitors keep coming back for more.
One of Canada's best-kept secrets, Toronto is on par with New York City, San Francisco and Chicago when it comes to cultural attractions and urban activities. The best place to start is at the top, and in this city there's no mistaking where that is. The landmark CN Tower is the tallest structure in the world and also an important telecommunications hub. Take the lift to the top for a breathtaking view of the city and its surrounding areas. Right next door at the SkyDome you can see a Blue Jays baseball game or just walk around the massive stadium. Visit the Royal Ontario Museum, the largest in Canada, with fascinating archeology and natural-history exhibits, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, with a fine collection of European and Canadian works. Don't miss the funky stores and ethnic restaurants on Queen Street West, or the elegant boutiques and fine eateries of Yorkville. Also head down to Harbourfront, a complex of unique shops and restaurants right on beautiful Lake Ontario. From Harbourfront you can hop on a ferry to the Toronto Islands for a picnic and outdoor recreation. Toronto is an especially great destination for families as most attractions are child-friendly. Plus, it is an incredibly clean, safe and easy city to get around either on foot or by public transport.
From the Magic Kingdom to magical spa treatments, Orlando sparkles with the promise of adventure. Spend a day exploring the world-famous Disney theme parks or screaming your head off on a Universal Studios roller coaster. For a less adrenaline-pumping afternoon, enjoy the quiet natural beauty of the Harry P. Leu Gardens or enjoy a seaweed scrub at a luxury day spa. Savor fresh and local ingredients at one of Orlando’s James Beard-nominated restaurants.
At the shore in Miami Beach, visitors can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters. You can also nap on the white sands, work on a tan or simply watch the beautiful people, especially at South Beach, a favourite of models and celebrities.
Whether it's your first visit or your 50th, New York City is a great destination for a weekend trip. See the landmark sights, catch a Broadway show or explore small, off-the-beaten-path museums like the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Just as it has activities to suit every interest, New York City has hotel options to suit every pocket. Whether you're looking for a hip new hotel, an old standard or a budget inn, you'll have plenty of options.
Famous for everything from the Red Sox and Paul Revere to Cheers and clam "chowdah", Boston is a popular destination for so many reasons. Part history lesson, part modern metropolis, the Hub offers attractions to suit every taste and interest. It's also incredibly easy to get around, either on foot or on the user-friendly public transport system, called the T. The Freedom Trail, a well-preserved pedestrian path, weaves in and out of historic neighbourhoods, from the lively Boston Common and Public Garden to the gold-domed State House and Fenway Park. Between landmarks, you can shop in the fabulous stores on Newbury Street, have a delicious Italian meal in the North End or browse the antique shops and distinctive red-brick buildings of Beacon Hill. The more culturally inclined will not want to miss the city's world-class museums, theatres and music venues. Family friendly to the core, Boston also boasts a renowned aquarium, children's museum and science museum, making it a great break destination for all.