Our very own Sales & Marketing Administrator, Allyson C. took an adventure on Contiki's Rock n' Soul itinerary! Check out the first part of her grand adventure traveling through the heart of rock n' soul in the United States.
Employee Guest Post by: Allyson C.
Many Americans are focused on exploring the wonders of the world on other continents and unintentionally overlook the fantastic travel destinations available within the United States. Traveling within the United States stretches your vacation dollar since you save money on airfare and exchange rates, and this summer I chose to take advantage! Wanting to stretch my travel buck coupled with my love affair with food and music led me to book Rock N' Soul, an exclusive Summer 2011 Contiki. Starting in Chicago and winding its way through the Midwest to the Deep South, this 12-day itinerary is comprised of Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. With so many wonderful cities and their experiences to share, I’ve decided to make this a two-part blog.
“Chicago, Chicago that toddlin’ town”- Frank Sinatra
Known for architecture, world-class museums, deep dish pizza, Chicago dogs, and distinct forms of blues and modern jazz, Chicago is abuzz with summer energy. My tour kicked off in true Chicago-style with deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria and a night at Buddy Guy’s Legends for live blues music. Be sure to try the “Lou”—thick, buttery, flaky crust topped with fresh spinach, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, and covered in a three cheese blend. Yumm-o! The bands at Buddy’s that night performed both delta style (originating in the Mississippi delta) blues and Chicago blues, priming my ears for the next 11 days of live music.
The next day we experienced Chicago’s architecture from different heights—cruising the river, biking along the lakefront, and sipping drinks at the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center (I highly recommend the Hibiscus Tea cocktail). Our Tour Manager, just like the locals, knows that even with the price of cocktails, the Signature Lounge is a better deal than the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower).
Another Chicago find is Sluggers. Ranked the #1 sports bar in Chicago by ESPN, and there is no doubt to why. With batting cages, dueling pianos bar, and plenty of Cubbie lovin' locals ready to party, Sluggers is the place to be pre- and post-baseball games in Wrigleyville. My group had a blast and we were honorary Chicagoans for the night.
With a free afternoon, stroll the Navy Pier, window shop on the Magnificent Mile, capture artsy photos of “the bean” in Millennium Park, visit a top-notch museum, lay out on the beach, or get lost in one of the ethnic neighborhoods.
“I’m from the Lou and I’m proud.”- Nelly
On our way to St. Louis, we stopped in Springfield, IL, at the pre-presidential home of Abraham Lincoln and paid respects at his tomb. Take a moment to contemplate what the United States would be like today if his efforts to reunite the United States during our Civil War failed, and it is easy to see why he is one of our most honored and respected Presidents.
Blueberry Hill is the St. Louis institution for good music and good food. This hotspot has an eclectic mix of pop culture memorabilia and an extensive dining menu. The included dinner here is passenger choice. That’s right! Order whatever you want off the menu and peruse the diverse collections through the joint while you wait.
The Gateway Arch, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, curves above the City of St. Louis skyline, marking what use to be the edge of the Western Frontier. We were transported to the observation at the top of the arch in a tram capsule, which seemed to be part 1960s spaceship pod and part Lady Gaga egg. Spend your extra time looking around the Museum of Western Expansion or taking the ultimate arch photo before moving on to the Budweiser factory.
We learned about the science of beer brewing at the Budweiser factory from young beer enthusiasts. The Beermaster Tour blends brewing heritage, state-of-the-art technology, unique architecture, and the iconic Clydesdale horses. The tour ends in the Hospitality Room where you can sample several Bud products. Free beer, anyone?
“Put me in coach! I’m ready to play today.” John Fogerty
Baseball and horse racing fans flock to Louisville to pay homage to Louisville Sluggers and the Kentucky Derby. We took a tour of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum for a deeper understanding of how the most exclusive and most sought-after baseball bats are made. Step up to the plate and pose with one of the several baseball legends’ bats housed in the museum.
The world renowned “Race for the Roses” was inaugurated in 1875 and culminating event of the two week Kentucky Derby Festival. Visit the immaculate grounds of Churchill Downs and catch the ponies in training.
Another highlight of the city is the Muhammad Ali Center. Not only does it tell the life story of one of the most famous heavyweight boxers, but gives insight on how Civil Rights Movement redefined the lives for Americans of minorities. Think you’ve got what it takes to go head to head with the heavyweight champ? Check out the shadowboxing, speed bag, or boxing rink interactive exhibits.
to be continued....
Stay tuned next week for the second part of Allyson's Rock n' Soul! Interested in enjoying this itinerary? There's one more departure leaving on August 20 and if you're a last-minute planner, check out a great deal for you here!