Friday, October 28, 2011

Top 50 World's Most Visited Tourist Attractions by Travel + Leisure

This month Travel + Leisure Magazine published a ranking of the 50 most visited tourist attractions in the world. Forbes published a similar list in 2007 and at the time many agreed that the attractions listed deserved a ranking in the top 50. When the two lists are compared there are some surprises and omissions.

One obvious difference between the two rankings is the preponderance of attractions in the United States on the Travel + Leisure list. There are 28 compared to the Forbes ranking which listed only 19. Left off the T+L list were Pyramids of Giza (Egypt) 4 million and the Taj Mahal (Agra, India) 3 million. While others like Stonehenge (England) at 1 million visitors did not have the attendance to make either list.

Times Square (photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
Trafalgar Square in London which ranked number four on the Forbes list is excluded from the Travel + Leisure because of the methodology to determine the list. The local tourism bureau could not provide estimates that distinguished between visitors and locals. Similar to the Forbes ranking, Travel + Leisure defined "tourist attractions" as cultural and historical sites, landmarks and officially designated spaces. So Minnesota's Mall of American with 40 million visitors is exempt. Also excluded are sights that draw exclusively religious pilgrims.

Some things remained constant on the Travel + Leisure ranking, France contains the most popular attractions after the United States and that visitors have a continued fondness for Mickey Mouse.

Click on the name of an attraction for a link to a related website. Where an official website could not be found, the link is to an information or ticketing website. Count how many you have visited. I have a feeling this list will be much debated.

1) Times Square (New York City, NY) annual visitors 39.2 million
2) Central Park (New York City, NY) 38 million
3) Union Station (Washington, DC) 37 million
4) Las Vegas Strip (Las Vegas, NV) 29.5 million
5) Niagara Falls (New York State and Ontario, Canada) 22.5 million
6) Grand Central Terminal (New York City, NY) 21.6 million
7) Faneuil Hall Marketplace (Boston, MA) 18 million
8) Disney World's Magic Kingdom (Orlando, FL) 17 million
9) Disneyland Park & Disney's California Adventure (Anaheim, CA) 16 million
10) Grand Bazaar (Istanbul, Turkey) 15 million

Grand Bazaar (photo: SteveButler/flickr)
11) Tokyo Disneyland (Tokyo, Japan) 14.5 million
12) Pier 39 (San Francisco, CA) 14 million
13) Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris, France) 13.7 million
14) Golden Gate Park (San Francisco, CA) 13 million
15) Forbidden City (Beijing, China) 12.8 million
16) Epcot (Lake Buena Visa, FL) 10.8 million
17) Disneyland Paris Resort (Marne-la-Valee, France) 10.5 million
18) Sacre Coeur Basilica (Paris, France) 10.5 million
19) Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront (Hong Kong) 10.1 million
20) Victoria Peak (Hong Kong) 10.1 million

View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak (photo: hanneorla/flickr)
21) Pike Place Market (Seattle, WA) 10 million
22) The Zocalo (Mexico City) 10 million
23) Disney's Animal Kingdom (Lake Buena Vista, FL) 9.7 million
24) Disney's Hollywood Studios (Lake Buena Vista, FL) 9.6 million
25) Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina) 9.4 million
26) Great Wall of China (China) 9 million
27) South Street Seaport (New York City, NY) 9 million
28) Navy Pier (Chicago, IL) 8.7 million
29) Musee du Louvre (Paris, France) 8.5 million
30) National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC) 8.3 million

National Air and Space Musuem (photo: ChadBendall/flickr)
31) Universal Studios Japan (Osaka, Japan) 8.2 million
32) Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia) 7.4 million
33) Everland (Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea) 6.9 million
34) National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC) 6.8 million
35) Eiffel Tower (Paris, France) 6.7 million
36) Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC) 6 million
37) Bourbon Street (New Orleans, LA) 6 million
38) Universal Orlando / Islands of Adventure (Orlando, FL) 5.9 million
39) Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France) 5.9 million
40) British Museum (London, England) 5.8 million

Lotte World (photo: krispyfreak/flickr)
41) Lotte World (Seoul, South Korea) 5.6 million
42) Grauman's Chinese Theatre / Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood, CA) 5.5 million
43) French Market (New Orleans, LA) 5.4 million
44) Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, NY) 5.2 million
45) Hong Kong Disneyland (Hong Kong) 5.2 million
46) The Colosseum (Rome, Italy) 5.1 million
47) Ocean Park (Hong Kong) 5.1 million
48) Sea World (Orlando, FL) 5.1 million
49) Tate Modern (London, England) 5.1 million
50) Universal Studios Hollywood (Universal City, CA) 5.0 million

Universal Studios Hollywood (photo: crabers.crab/flickr)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Souvenir Brochure: 'The Phantom of the Opera' at the Royal Albert Hall In Celebration of 25 Years

Some of the poster art advertising the London production of 'The Phantom
of the Opera' over 25 years.
Souvenir brochure cover
One of the must have keepsakes from the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'The Phantom of the Opera' live at Royal Albert Hall is the souvenir brochure made for this special event.

The glossy 72-page softcover brochure measures 13.5x9.5" and features much more than biographies of the creators and 25th anniversary celebration cast. Among the highlights include a loving tribute to 'Phantom' set and costume Maria Bjornson with photos of her costume sketches and a feature about adapting her designs for the Royal Albert Hall. A list reveals the thirteen actors who have played the most performances as the Phantom. Topping the list are Howard McGillin (New York) and Peter Karrie (London, UK Tour, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore) who each has played over 2,500 performances as of October 1, 2011.

Also included is a complete list of the original cast recordings and a sample of the cover art of these CDs. Another section features the facades of theatres worldwide where 'Phantom' has played and a full-list of 145 cities across 27 counties that have hosted the show

The brochure serves as a companion piece to the out-of-print book 'The Complete Phantom of the Opera' by George Perry which documented the making of the original London production.

This very special souvenir is available from the Really Useful website for £10 (US$16) or London's Dress Circle musical theatre shop for £12 (US$19).

Click HERE to read a review of the cinema presentation of the this special event. This was not a 25th anniversary concert but a fully staged presentation complete with sets, costumes and choreography featuring a cast of over 200 actors and musicians.

Main cast: Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom), Sierra Boggess (Christine),
Hadley Fraser (Raoul), Keira Duffy (Carlotta), Barry James (Monsieur Firmin),
Gareth Snook (Monsier Andres), Liz Roberson (Madame Giry) and Wynne Evans
 (Ubaldo). Due to the illness of Keira Duffy, Wendy Ferguson played the role of
Carlotta at each of the three celebration performances.
The 'Phantom' on various brochures, playbills and merchandise.
Feature about the design for the 25th anniversary shows.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Note from Housekeeping

Finally finished unpacking my bag from my trip to Philadelphia. I found this note I kept that housekeeping had left on the desk in my hotel room at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Even though I was tipping them for the good work they do, it was nice to know they appreciated the tip as well. It was another reason why I have say that Philadelphia is one the most friendliest cities I have ever visited. I'm actually a bit embarrassed that the Aloha Spirit of Hawaii of my home state may be challenged by the City of Brotherly Love in the hospitality department.

Where & Official Visitors Guide Philadelphia

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
If you don't have a guidebook these two magazines Where Philadelphia and Philadelphia Official Visitors Guide are the the perfect substitute. Best of all each offers up to date information of special and current events as well as all the basic information about visitor attractions and dining options. These two magazines were in my room at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

Visit and for their online versions. Click HERE for the Philadelphia Official Visitors Guide iPad app. Where is also available for other cities in the U.S. and foreign destinations.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: Common Areas

Front Desk
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

With the Reading Terminal Market nearby offering convenient and reasonable meals from multiple vendors, it appears that most of the guests staying at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown take their meals outside of the hotel. Besides with the hotel's central location there are several restaurants in the area.

There are only two dining rooms: Circ, which is open only dinner offering cocktails and snacks, and the 13 Restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves contemporary American cuisine. Although I didn't dine at either, I did relax in the Circ dining room which is open for guests to lounge in before the restaurant opens.

The lobby itself is very spacious with various corners with chairs and coffee tables for relaxing or to meet up with friends. The perquisite concierge desk is located just off the front desk in addition to a car rental counter and a few retailers. Always popular is the onsite Starbucks.

For guests attending a conference, the hotel does boast several floors of meeting rooms. The lobby of each meeting floor is flooded with light from a glass-enclosed atrium which offers a view of Market Street. Those with engagements at the Pennsylvania Convention Center are afforded access via a skywalk.

The skywalk also leads to Marriott's Headhouse Tower which holds the hotel's grand ballroom as well as additional meeting and hotel rooms.

Circ Restaurant dining room.
Circ Restaurant is elevated with views of the main lobby.
Circ Restaurant just steps of the main lobby is open for dinner.
Entrance to 13 Restaurant in the main lobby.
Floors of meeting rooms.
Glass atrium along Market Street lights up the floors or meeting rooms.
The skywalk leading from the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown main tower
to its Headhouse Tower and Pennsylvania Convention Center.
View from the skywalk to Market Street.
View from skywalk of the Reading Terminal Market.
After exiting the skywalk is entrance to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Main entrance to Headhouse Tower and Convention Center.

In Other Words, Do Not Disturb

(photo: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

My small fascination with "do not disturb" signs that do not use those words continues at the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott. This hotel uses the wording: "Shhh. I'm listening intently for that pin." Unlike most signs which hang on the door handle or knob, this sign slides into the key card slot.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: Amenities & Wi-Fi

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

It appears that Marriott has trademarked names for use on their in-room coffee service. This past summer when I stayed at the Renaissance, one of Marriott's family of brands, in New York City the coffee was called Urbanista. Here at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown it is called Pure Elevation Pure Coffee. I'm not a coffee expert so I would be hard pressed to tell you the difference in taste between either brands though Pure Elevation is advertised as 100% Columbian Supreme and Urbanista is a Columbian, Nicaraguan and Sumatran blend. The service includes decaffeinated coffee.

I love these single serve coffee makers and disposable packets. If one read the horror stories about unclean coffee pots these machines seem safer. However the overall cleanliness of the machines is up for debate. It was disappointment that the cups did not include covers to make them portable.

The large bottle of water costs $3.50 but the two smaller bottles are complimentary and were only given on the second day of housekeeping.

The electronic safe is placed in the closet and is simply programmed with a unique security code of your choice. The digital clock includes a cord to plug into your MP3 player, iPhone or iPad should you want to pump up the volume on your personal playlist. The lamps on the nightstands include outlets so that you can charge your phone bedside.

In today's world of being wired, Wi-Fi is still not complimentary in many hotels including this one. For $12.95 per day the wired-for-business package includes standard high-speed internet, unlimited local and domestic long-distance. For $16.95 the premium package includes internet speeds that is 4x faster. In lieu of purchasing either package, the 3G access on my iPhone and iPad was perfect for the purposes of my trip to check emails and browse the internet for info about attractions.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: The View

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

Although my room on the 14th floor of the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown was located along the inner perimeter of the U-shaped hotels floors, I sort of had a view. Directly across and to the left were hotel room windows but to the right was view of the neighboring buildings. At least the view was not of the back wall of another building or a service street down below. Obviously during the evening it's best to use the sheer shades or black-out curtains to avoid neighboring guests from seeing into your room.

The roof of the conference rooms could be seen below decorative with a graphic design. Below is a photo as viewed through a window from a 14th floor hallway at the southeast corner of the building. Down below is the Hard Rock Cafe and its huge neon guitar sign located across the street.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: The Bathroom

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

The square-shape of the bathroom in this room at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown made it feel spacious. I'm starting to expect that hotels begin upgrading their tub/showers with glass rather than a shower curtain. But this hotel room had the latter and and in the end it really was a non-issue. The large rain-like shower head was a plus but it lacked an intensity control.

The counter had ample space for your personal needs while the energy conscious times limits the bathroom to what is becoming a standard to three of each kind of towel (bath, hand and washcloth). The bath toiletries are provided by Bath & Body Works. The set includes citrus aloe bath soap and hand soap; mint mouthwash; and orange ginger conditioner, shampoo and body lotion.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: The Room

(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

Standard rooms at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown are 208-384 square feet (19-35 square meters). This room number 1491 included a king bed, sitting area with ottoman and small side table, spacious desk with ergonomic chair, two night stands with drawers and television stand which held the coffee bar and three drawers.

Light is always an issue in hotel rooms since their is no ceiling light fixture. But four lamps (two on the nightstands, one floor lamp and one desk lamp) gave ample light to the room in the evening. During the day the large window provided added light. The spacious desk is an attraction for those having to work in the room or if one has to enjoy some in-room dining.

The bed itself was fitted with a firm mattress and soft bedding. Black-and-white photographic art decorated the walls next to the bathroom and above the desk. In all the room was clean, comfortable and served the purpose for my three-night visit to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown: Overview

The corner of Market Street and 13th Street.
The main entrance on Filbert Street. 
The north side of the hotel shows the U-shape hotel floors.
(photos: TheHopefulTraveler)
This is one in a series of posts about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

The next few posts will be about the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown where I stayed during my three-night visit to the city. Like other properties in the area, the hotel is located walking distance to shopping, the convention center, museums, theaters and restaurants (the Reading Terminal Market is adjacent to the hotel) and eight block west of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

If you are a member of the Marriott Rewards program, three other hotels in its family of brands are located within three blocks: Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown, Residence Inn Philadelphia Center and the Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. Ultimately I chose the Marriott because of room availability and price. The Courtyard and Residence Inn had no rooms available during my stay and the Ritz-Carlton cost more than I was willing to pay for a room. Although I chose a $179 advance purchase rate for three nights, the hotel did not charge my credit card until I checked out. Added to this cost was a 8.2% hotel room tax or $14.68 to the room rate and a 7% sales tax or $12.53 added to the room rate.

Although I would have preferred a more intimate property, my choice to continue earning points in the Marriott Rewards program limited my choices. The hotel does have 1,332 rooms including 76 suites on 23 floors. In addition the hotel boasts 72 meeting room that total 92,000 square feet that occupy the first few floors of the building above the lobby. It's location adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center make it popular with business travelers.

The hotel floors are in a U-shape and after checking-in guests must know which bank of elevators are closest to their rooms. The elevators are not located next to the front desk which is located on the north side of the lobby. The elevators are located on the southwest and southeast corners. The front desk associate was very friendly and quickly checked me in and I was off to room 1491.

The hotel occupies an entire city block surrounded by Filbert Street on the north (where the main entrance to the lobby is located), Market Street on the south, 12th Street on its east side and 13th street on its west side.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

End of a Visit to Phildelphia, Pennsylvania

The line begins before before the American Airlines check-in
counter opens.
(photo: TheHopefulTraveler).
As is usual with flying to Honolulu, Hawaii from the East Coast is the very early departure times. My flight on American Airlines from Philadelphia (PHL) left at 6:10am and then a connection at Dallas-Ft. Worth (10:50am) and arrival in Honolulu (HNL) 2pm. Again I really didn't get much sleep knowing I had to leave my hotel by at least 4am.

Since the airport just opened and several flight ready to depart, the line to pass through security was rather long. But the security agents pulled passengers with airline elite levels like myself and fortunately we were sent to a much shorter line.

The flight from Philly was oversold so with luck the gate agent upgraded my economy ticket to first class which afforded me a larger seat allowing me to get some rest and a second breakfast. I had already eaten in the terminal since I knew there was no meal service in economy class. I wasn't about to pass the opportunity since I knew I would likely want to eat something again upon arriving at DFW.

The flight from DFW from HNL was uneventful. I am so happy with the invention of the iPad. It's my all-in-one entertainment center to help pass the time on the long flight. Combined with my exit row on this 767 jet, I had enough leg room to stretch in my seat. The only downside is the tray table in the armrest. This table is smaller and opens closer to the seat than those that unfold from the seat backs.

This would be my second and final trip this year. It is the least number of trips I've taken since 2005 when I only traveled to New York and Orlando during one trip. This does not include the fifteen trips I make a year traveling to the neighbor islands of Maui, Kauai and the Big Island from Oahu for business. I would normally plan a third trip but ultimately the purpose for such a trip did not present itself and as readers of this blog know, the purpose is the goal of any trip. Traveling is not for the sake of just traveling.

Breakfast at Philadelphia International Airport.

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