For those whose travel involves cultural pursuits, nothing beats a trip to a big city. And summertime often means big, splashy museum shows and hotels looking to nab visitors with special gifts at check-in, tote bags, admission, breakfast, free parking, and other amenities. We've looked at some museum shows that are making their way across the country this summer and the promotions that may make staying there a little easier.
No one quite captured working class life and American alienation the way artist Edward Hopper did, and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (tel. 617/369-3189; www.mfa.org) is running a Hopper exhibit through September 2007. The exhibit includes works executed during his most celebrated period, from 1925 through mid-century; fifty oil paintings, 30 watercolors and 12 prints are on display. In conjunction with this exhibition, nearly a dozen hotel packages are available. The Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers (tel. 800/225-2008; www.starwoodhotels.com) offers rates starting from $219 plus tax for one night's stay and two passes to the Hopper exhibition. Or check out the Eliot Hotel (tel. 617/267-1607; www.eliothotel.com), voted "Best Boutique Hotel" by Boston magazine in 2006. The package includes dinner at the hotel's French restaurant Clio, deluxe accommodations in a one-bedroom suite, two tickets to the exhibit, a choice of either overnight valet parking or continental breakfast for two. It's priced from $389-$429, subject to availability.
Plenty of other unique historic properties, such as the Fairmount Copley Plaza (tel. 800/441-1414; www.fairmont.com), the site of the original Museum of Fine Arts, has a simple package from $299, along with the Omni Parker House (tel. 617/227-8600; www.omnihotels.com), located on the Freedom Trail, with packages starting from $259 per night. Both of these hotel promotions simply include two tickets to the exhibit and overnight accommodations. You can view these packages by clicking on "tour planner" at the web site for Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 888/SEE-BOSTON; www.bostonusa.com) and then searching by category by setting your travel parameters accordingly.
In Philadelphia, there's an award-winning exhibit "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," at the Franklin Institute (tel. 877/TUT-TKTS; www.fi.edu) until September 30, and the city is the final stop of the North American tour. The show consists of more than 130 treasures that belonged to King Tut and his relatives. Fifty of the pieces on view were excavated from Tut's tomb, including his gold crown, or the royal diadem. The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (tel. 800/537-7676; www.gophila.com) has arranged for hotel packages, some fifteen of them, at hotels across the city, starting at $189. More information at the GPTMC's website.
Each package includes two un-timed VIP tickets to the show, which means you can go whenever you want during exhibition hours. Participating hotels include many of the city's mid-range chain brand names. Some properties are throwing in things like parking, breakfast, and some offer packages for more than one night, such as the Embassy Suites Center City, with rates starting at $207 per night; the Doubletree Hotel's package starts at $229 and includes buffet breakfast and parking; Sheraton City Center, starting from $195 for a one-night stay and $175 for two-night stays. For something more luxurious, the Ritz-Carlton is available on the weekend starting at $289 and the Four Seasons package starts at $365 per night for Friday and Saturday nights.
All the package information and much more can be found at www.gophila.com/tut but you must book through the hotels directly. As if the exhibit itself were not enough, there's also something called the King Tut Treasure Tour going on, a geo-caching trail and scavenger hunt of Philadelphia that employs GPS and other techie tricks and runs through September 30. While you're in the city, don't miss the special sand exhibit called "Egypt-a-delphia" in Franklin Park with renditions of King Tut in a sand city that you can walk through.
San Diego's Balboa Park (tel. 619/239-0512; www.balboapark.org) is home to performing arts centers, gardens, the San Diego Zoo and a number of museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art (tel. 619/232-7931; www.sdmart.org). Lovers of English Victorian culture might enjoy the museum's exhibit "Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum," which is on display May 19-July 29. The exhibit includes some of the most well known 19th century British art, with 130 paintings, watercolors, drawings, jewelry, ceramics and furniture. The Passport to Balboa Park, offered by San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 619/232-92101; www.sandiego.org) gives you the opportunity to experience 13 museums at a 50 percent off savings.
There are several hotels involved in the promotion, including the Holiday Inn San Diego Bayside, where a three night, mid-week stay in a traditional king room at the end of May costs about $380 per person. It's a new hotel, located on San Diego Bay and across the street from the city's fishing docks and marinas. The Days Inn Hotel Circle by SeaWorld also has a Balboa Park Passport package, priced from $334 per person for the same time period. The hotel is near Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, Qualcomm Stadium and the room included in the rate is a traditional one with two queen beds.
In St. Louis, there are many options for art museum/hotel packages, which can be booked right from the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau website (tel. 800/916-0040; www.explorestlouis.com) by clicking on "hotel specials." If you're interested in urban infrastructure, architecture, found objects, and city life in general, you might enjoy the City Museum (tel. 314/231-CITY; www.citymuseum.org), which opened in 1997 and has a package that includes one night at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, two tickets to the city museum and complimentary breakfast buffet for two. The hotel is located within walking distance from the Cardinals' Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch. A late-May stay for two nights for two people costs about $400. The package is valid through September 30.
Additionally, the Contemporary Art Museum (tel. 314/535-4660; www.contemporarystl.org) has a package with the Westin for $149 for single or double, valid for Friday and Saturday. Offer includes accommodations, admission to the museum, hotel parking and an exhibition catalog. From May 18-August 5 two new exhibits are up at the museum called "Shoot The Family," a collection that examines contemporary family life through photography, and "Katie Holden: Paths of Desire," which marks the first American solo show for this Irish artist with sculpture, drawings and performance. Both of the aforementioned specials can be booked through the visitors' bureau website. If you want more, St. Louis Art Museum (tel. 314/721-0072; www.slam.org) is running an exhibit called "Symbols of Power: Napoleon and the Art of the Empire Style, 1800-1815," from June 17-September 16, which includes more than 140 works of decorative art, furniture, bronze, silver, clothing, and textiles. You can add this to your travel package if you book through the visitors' website.
The Seattle Art Museum (tel. 206/654-3100; www.seattleartmuseum.org) just celebrated its grand re-opening in early May by staying open continuously for three whole days, just in time for its 75th anniversary. The museum had been closed for a two-part expansion project, including the Olympic Sculpture Park and the museum itself so it could add to its growing collection. A special exhibit is up through September 9 to commemorate the milestone, called "SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle." Thanks to its expansion, this exhibit has an additional 200 new works. Other concurrent exhibits include "Five Masterpieces of Asian Art: The Story of Their Conservation," which examines the process of repair and restoration of five of the museum's important Asian works.
The museum's hotel partners have some promotions running for guests. The Grand Hyatt, Seattle, on Pine Street (tel. 800/233-1234; http://grandseattle.hyatt.com) offers 15 percent off on hotel room rates if you refer to the Seattle Art Museum; so does the Mayflower Park Hotel (tel. 800/426-5100; www.mayflowerpark.com); remember to type "SAM" at the log-in section. The Inn at El Gaucho (tel. 206/728-1133; http://inn.elgaucho.com) offers an arts package for $500, which includes one night stay, a $200 gift certificate to the Waterfront Seafood Grill, two signature cocktails, a bottle of sparkling Brut from Northwest Cellars, a commemorative museum book, overnight valet parking at the hotel, and a continental breakfast for two at Sculpture Park. Other properties, such as the boutique property Inn at the Market (tel. 206/443-3600; www.innatthemarket.com), which is within footsteps of Pike Place Market, and Sorrento Hotel (tel. 206/386-0795; www.hotelsorrento.com) both offer discounts; just ask for the special museum rate.
At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (tel. 415/357-4000; www.sfmoma.org), the galleries will open an hour earlier at 10am between Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day to accommodate visitors (the museum is closed on Wednesdays). "Picasso and American Art" closes on May 28, but it's quickly followed by "Matisse, Painter as Sculptor" from June 9 until September 16. The exhibition consists of more than 150 works in a variety of media. Another special show, "California College of the Arts at 100," is on display through August 26, so there's plenty for visitors to see.
The St. Regis Hotel, located right next to the museum, offers a package that includes VIP admission for two, deluxe American breakfast for two with room rates starting from $389, valid for Thursday-Sunday stays (tel. 415/284-4000; www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis) through December 31; some blackout dates apply. The W San Francisco (tel. 877/822-0000; www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels), also nearby, has a show package, which gives you two one-day Go San Francisco cards, entitling you to access to more than 12 museums including SFMOMA and Cartoon Art Museum among others, breakfast or weekend brunch, and a "wonderful" room, starting at $300. You must book by September 9 for arrivals May 31-September 9. If you stay June 7-17 you can view a special Picasso exhibit and sale, with more than 16 original artworks on sale.
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