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Marvelous New Sights in Grand Old Cities

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Maybe you think that you’ve experienced all the great sightseeing destinations in the country’s major cities. But, in fact, there are brand-new, must-see sights around the country that are justifiably attracting crowds of tourists and residents. Don’t miss these…

TWO NEW MARVELS
CHICAGO

Chicago has a double whammy to offer visitors this year — a new Modern Wing of the highly respected Art Institute of Chicago and The Ledge, the spectacular glass viewing ledges cantilevered from the side of the 103rd floor of North America’s tallest building, the Willis Tower (formerly called the Sears Tower).

The Art Institute’s Modern Wing, which opened in May, increases the museum’s size to more than a million square feet, making it the second-largest art museum in the US after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It is devoted to art and design of the 20th and 21st centuries. The wing includes three floors of new gallery space, an interior garden, an open-air sculpture terrace, a café, a pedestrian bridge to the city’s famed Millennium Park, a restaurant and an education center. A canopy, or “flying carpet,” of aluminum blades hovers above the top-floor skylights to allow northern light to enter and at the same time shield the art from intense southern light.

Information: Art Institute of Chicago, 312-443-3626, www.artinstituteofchicago.org. Open daily except major holidays.

Cost: $18, adults… $12, children age 14 and older, students and seniors… children under 14 free. Free admission after 5 pm on Thursdays in winter, after 5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays in summer.

The Ledge, a series of fully enclosed glass boxes that extend 4.3 feet from the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, was designed to give visitors an exhilarating unobstructed view of Chicago — including 1,353 feet straight down to the street. Each viewing platform, with all sides and the floor made of clear glass, is cantilevered from the tower. Each box accommodates up to five people at a time. Visitors are treated to interactive educational exhibits about the city as they ride the speedy elevator to the skyscraper’s Skydeck to venture onto the glass viewing platforms.

Information: The Ledge, 877-759-3325, www.theskydeck.com. Open daily from 9 am to 10 pm April through September… 10 am to 8 pm October through March.

Cost: $14.95, adults age 12 and older… $10.50, children age three to 11. Children under three, free.

HIGH LINE PARK
NEW YORK CITY

A walk in the park is a unique experience in New York’s newest park because it’s built 30 feet above the street along the tracks of an abandoned elevated railroad bed. You stroll on a meandering planked and concrete path gazing out over buildings, streets and the occasional view of the Hudson River.

Landscaped with native plants to resemble a wild meadow, the High Line will eventually be a mile and a half long, running through the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking district, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen, from Gansevoort Street north to 34th Street. At the moment, it is open to the public for half a mile from the Gansevoort Street entrance, where a new downtown branch of the Whitney Museum of American Art will eventually be located, up to 20th Street. Visitors stroll along the path leading them through an old factory, under a new hotel and around a luxury apartment building. You can rest up on wooden chaises on the sundeck or on rows of benches in the suspended “amphitheater” with its huge glass window overlooking 10th Avenue at 17th Street. The park, which opened in June, is already one of the city’s most visited sightseeing destinations for visitors from around the world — more than 500,000 visitors in the first two months alone.

Information: High Line Park, 212-500-6035, www.thehighline.org. Open 7 am to 10 pm daily. Volunteer greeters are in the park Thursday and Friday afternoons and weekends to answer questions. Free.

PLEASE TOUCH MUSEUM
PHILADELPHIA

The first museum in the country designed for children ages seven and younger, Please Touch, founded 30 years ago in a tiny, obscure space in downtown Philadelphia, moved last October to 157,000 square feet of space in the beautiful domed Memorial Hall, one of America’s first examples of beaux arts architecture, built as the Art Gallery of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

The exhibit space at Memorial Hall now houses themed zones that offer learning opportunities through play, including sections just for toddlers… a large model of the 1876 Exhibition fairgrounds… a working 1924-vintage carousel with 52 hand-carved animals… the “Alice in Wonderland” maze where kids find their way through doors and mirrors and stop for tea with the Mad Hatter… a child-sized supermarket, shoe store, medical center and baby nursery, all with props for industrious tots… a “flying machine” that lets kids launch paper planes into the air… a pretend automobile repair shop… a 60-foot water table for learning about water and weather, and plenty more.

Information: Please Touch Museum, 215-581-3181, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org. Open daily, Monday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm, Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Cost: $15. Children under one are free.

bob kerrey PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
OMAHA

The graceful new Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River, joining Nebraska with Iowa. Nearly 3,000 feet long, the gently curving Cable Stay bridge that opened in 2008 is one of the longest walking bridges ever built and lights up the river at night, visible for miles around. Its twin towers rise 210 feet, each with cables that stretch down diagonally to the bridge deck. Its 15-foot-wide walkway, rising about 60 feet above the river at the center, accommodates strollers, bikers and skaters, who can reach the bridge at either end by car or public buses (complete with bike racks). Omaha’s bridge landing holds a fiber-optic wave sculpture, a dancing waters display with 26 water jets shooting into the air, a mini-amphitheater for concerts and other performances, and a play area with sculptures of wildlife native to the area.

Information: Omaha Convention & Visitors’ Bureau, 866-937-6624, www.visitomaha.com. Always open. Free.

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Source: Joan Rattner Heilman, an award-wining travel writer based in New York. She is author of Unbelievably Good Deals and Great Adventures That You Absolutely Can’t Get Unless You’re Over 50, 2009–2010 edition (McGraw-Hill).
Date: October 1, 2009 Publication: Bottom Line Personal
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