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Travel and Art: Museums from Massachusetts to Manhattan

Even though Manhattan’s museums are open all summer, for art-saturated New Yorkers, the hot and sticky Frelinghuysenseason is an excuse for an opportunity to travel and…well, see more art. Just a few hours north of the city, the Berkshires and western Massachusetts contain world-class theater, dance, music and art.

Even if one has visited the area for years, there are always places that one has never gotten to before.

Read more: Travel and Art: Museums from...

Cityscape: Memphis, Elvis. Rock & Roll and Plenty More

elvisLocated on the banks of the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee, the city of Memphis proudly calls itself the birthplace of rock & roll. It certainly can back up that claim.

Although it has been 35 years since his untimely death, it’s still impossible to think of Memphis without thinking of Elvis Presley. Elvis’s home, Graceland (3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard), was opened to the public in 1982, five years after his death, as a way of generating revenue for his estate. 

While the merchandising can be a bit much, Graceland is certainly worth visiting because of its beautiful grounds and because you get a full understanding of why this charismatic entertainer became an American icon.

Yes, there are the walls of gold records, the fancy cars, his personal jet, the Lisa Marie, which he purchased from Delta Air Lines after the birth of his daughter, and of course, the signature white jumpsuits. More importantly however are the exhibits that showcase Presley the performer such as his 1968 NBC Comeback special. 

In fact, Memphis is so entwined with the Elvis legend that they support his presence by turning the city over to the King during August 10 - 18th. Thousands of Elvis fans make their annual pilgrimage to Graceland over that week to honor the master.

Marking the 35th anniversary in 2012, more than 25 events are planned for Elvis Week including concerts, a daylong music festival spotlighting young Memphis musicians, an art exhibition, movie screenings, panel discussions, autograph sessions and sporting events.

Some of the signature events include:

  • The annual Candlelight Vigil on August 15 with a night sky filled with Elvis’ music and warm candle light as thousands make their way to Meditation Garden to pay their respects to the King.
  • FedExForum will be taking care of business on August 16 for the much-anticipated Elvis 35th Anniversary Concert complete with iconic performances from rockabilly to gospel. Elvis will be front-and-center on large screens surrounded by his original band members and back-up vocalists as well a an A-list of guests including Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley.
  • Panel discussions will be featured throughout the week from those who knew him best including his movie co-host Mary Ann Mobley and photographer Al Wertheimer.
  • The week concludes with the annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest where some of the best performers will be showcased. The 2012 king will be crowned on August 18.

And while in town, take a mini Elvis tour which takes one to Sun Studio (where he recorded his first song), Elvis’ personal booth at the Arcade Restaurant (his favorite eatery), and the Lauderdale Courts where Elvis lived as a child. Don’t forget to have a picture made with his life-sized statue as well.

Visit the website for times and ticket info:

As noted, Elvis made his first recordings at Sun Recording Studios which was owned by the legendary Memphis music impresario Sam Phillips. The current Broadway musical, Million Dollar Quartet, is a fictionalized account of the goings-on there in its 1956 heyday when artists as Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were getting their starts. Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich would later pass through its doors located at 706 Union Avenue where tours are still given daily.

Stax Records was one of the premier soul music labels in the 1960s and early 1970s thanks to a roster that included Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Booker T & The MG’s, Johnnie Taylor, and the Staple Singers. The company defied the social norms of the South at the time as black and white musicians always played alongside each other and the same could be said for the entire Stax workforce. Sadly, bad luck and some bad business decisions forced the company into bankruptcy in 1976.

The Stax Museum, which opened in May 2003, celebrates the aforementioned Stax artists as well as those from Memphis’s other famous soul label, Hi, which was the recording home of Ann Peebles, Willie Mitchell, and most famous of all, Al Green.

Located two blocks from Beale Street (the best known thoroughfare in downtown Memphis with its barbecue restaurants, nightclubs, and Times Square-like neon), The Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum tends to get overlooked because of Memphis’s other musical expositions. The Rock ‘N’ Soul does have plenty of exhibits on Elvis, the Sun Records gang, as well as Stax and Hi’s stars, but the museum also remembers one of my favorite bands of all-time, the Box Tops, as well as behind the scenes movers and shakers as record producer Chips Moman and influential disc jockey Dewey Phillips who was the inspiration for the current Broadway show, Memphis.

The most traumatic event in Memphis’s history was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4th, 1968. The Lorraine Motel (450 Mulberry Street), site of the tragedy, is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum complex which opened to the public in 1991. The complex is owned by the nonprofit Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation and is located on the south edge of Downtown Memphis in what is now called the South Main Arts District -- about six blocks east of the Mississippi River.

It also includes the Young and Morrow Building at 422 Main Street, the site where James Earl Ray initially confessed (and later recanted) to shooting King. The complex additionally incorporates the Canipe’s Amusement Store (418 Main Street) which is next door to the rooming house where the alleged murder weapon, with Ray's fingerprints, was found. On the grounds is also the brushy lot that stood between the rooming house and the motel.

The Museum traces the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 17th century to the present and contains videos of remembrances by surviving civil rights leaders and clips of 1960s newscasts that featured legendary anchors Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith and the TV journalist tag team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. It also features Ernest Withers’ classic photos of both marches and confrontations with bigoted authority figures.

Withers’ photographs can also be found at the gallery that bears his name on Beale Street and at the prestigious Brooks Museum of Art in leafy Overton Park.

On a lighter note, the Brooks Museum also has a collection of Elvis pictures taken in 1956 by famous New York photographer Alfred Wertheimer.

Now with all this in mind, don't forget there is still much more to Memphis than rock & roll. See the accompanying story for other attractions one can enjoy on any trip to this city in the heart of Tennessee.

Elvis Week 2012

Graceland, - Home of Elvis Presley

Aug 10 - Aug 18, 2012

3734 Elvis Presley Boulevard

Memphis, TN 38116

Tel: 901-332-3322

Sun Recording Studios
706 Union Avenue

The Stax Museum
926 E. McLemore Ave.

Memphis, TN 38106
Ph: 901-942-SOUL

The Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum
191 Beale Street

The National Civil Rights Museum

Lorraine Motel
450 Mulberry Street

Brooks Museum of Art
1934 Poplar Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104

Travel Suggestions for Father's Day

Hamilton Bermuda

Everyone needs a change of scenery from time to time so why not dad -- especially with Father's Day pending? If he likes to golf, then he will enjoy a long weekend on the island of Bermuda off the coast of North Carolina.

If fishing is pop’s passion then he’ll love a weekend in Maine. While in Freeport, Maine he can hit the LL Bean Outlet Store for his fishing and clothing needs. Long Island City-based JetBlue serves both Hamilton, Bermuda, and Portland, Maine.

Since casinos are now in most municipalities including as close to Manhattan as one in South Ozone Park, Queens, out-of-town casinos are offering great deals to get your business.

The Mohegan Sun in UncasvilleConnecticut, offers some of New England’s best dining and there is name entertainment nearly every weekend. The WNBA’s Connecticut Sun play there home games there.

Atlantic City, New Jersey, has been facing stiff casino competition from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a mere 50 miles away from its famed boardwalk. They are answering back with a huge “Do AC” ad campaign and nearly all of its hotels are offering deals even during their high summer season.


The Taj Mahal, located at the north end of the boardwalk has great restaurants, spas, and nightlife. Even the chic Borgata is feeling some heat from the new kid on the boardwalk, Revel, and is offering great packages. The Borgata generally gets the best in name entertainment of all the AC hotels.

If you are a Mets fan, then there is a very high probability that your father helped shape your baseball allegiance. San Diego, California, is a great place to escape the August heat andhumidity of New York and the 

Mets will be at beautiful Petco Park, located in the city’s downtown, from August 3 - 5, 2012.

You can’t go wrong staying at the La Jolla Hyatt Regency or the historic Grade Colonial Hotel located in La Jolla Village one block from the PacificJetBlue has two daily flights to San Diego.

Of course you can’t enjoy a vacation unless you have decent luggage. Lands End’s Flight Time is perfect for long trips as is Briggs & Riley’s (they were the first company to put wheels on a suitcase back in 1970) Expandable Uprights and Spinners.

Water4 Brings Aid to Ethiopia -- And A Unique Travel Experience

ethiopia-workerThere are many ways to experience other countries, especially ones such as the east African country of Ethiopia. But one of the best ways to have a fascinating and meaningful travel experience is to go somewhere and do good as well as interact with the people -- and not just the agents to promote tourism.

Since 2008, the Oklahoma-based charity organization, Water4, has traversed the globe to bring water to at-risk, impoverished areas, and to teach and provide employment opportunities through inexpensive pumps and drilling methods. 

One country Water4 has traveled to in recent years has been Ethiopia.

Read more: Water4 Brings Aid to Ethiopia --...

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