Archive for the ‘We Recommend’ Category

Vote for Smithsonian Journeys

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Polls are now open for Travel + Leisure’s 2010 Excellence in Travel Awards. Please cast your vote for Smithsonian Journeys as the best tour operator. If you have traveled with us, click here and choose the “tour operator” category, where you will find Smithsonian Journeys. Thank you for voting by March 31!

We’re One Year Old!

Thursday, January 28th, 2010


A baby mountain gorilla celebrates his birthday in his own way.

It’s the 1st birthday of our Smithsonian Journeys blog! In honor of our big day, here’s an anthropological look at birthday traditions in the United States and around the world.

  • In Russia, children receive a birthday pie instead of an what we know as a birthday cake.
  • In Canada, the birthday kid’s nose is greased with butter. As a result, the child is too slippery for bad luck to catch him.
  • In Vietnam, everyone celebrates at the dawn of the New Year, but the actual day of birth is not celebrated. Each child receives a red envelope with “Lucky Money” to celebrate their aging, and when they are asked their age they respond by using the appropriate symbol to the lunar birth year.

Then there is the United States, where we have parties where the birthday girl or boy receive a cake with candles, gifts, and there is the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday.” This tradition actually started in Europe many centuries ago, when people believed that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthday.  To protect the person, friends and family would visit to bring good wishes, which evolved into today’s birthday party. Giving gifts chased off evil spirits even more effectively.

We want to thank you for reading our blog and commenting this past year! There’s always something to write about when you travel as much as we do.

What cultures do you want to see us write about on the blog? Share below.

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at our Around the World by Private Jet tour.

Check This Out – Architecture for Our New Museum

Monday, January 18th, 2010

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture  (NMAAHC) is scheduled to begin construction in 2012 and open in 2015. Meanwhile, a virtual museum is already open online.

In 2009, the Smithsonian began evaluating possible architects and selected the firm Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup to design the museum.

Now, a video taking you through the architecture, structure, and design of this innovative new museum is available for your viewing pleasure. Watch below and start counting the minutes until 2015, when you can experience it all live.

Did you know that we’re offering a trip to the Gullah Festival in Beaufort, SC? More information here.

What would you put in the new NMAACH?

Best of the Blog: 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

We’re celebrating our first year of the Smithsonian Journeys blog! We love traveling, but we love sharing our stories even more. Take a look at some of our favorites from 2009.

From all of us here at Smithsonian Journeys, we wish you a Happy New Year!

Self portrait: Petra  Photo by Richard Kurin

Self portrait: Petra Photo by Richard Kurin

Richard Kurin, Under Secretary of Art, History, and Culture here at the Smithsonian, blogged his entries from our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey around the World tour. Read his testimony that cultural diversity is alive and well in what seems like an increasingly globalized world.

A boy in Bhutan

A boy in Bhutan

Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys, has been around the world several times over. But traveling from the National Mall to Bhutan had a few surprises. People in Bhutan speak… English?

The tomb of Ramses II on the West Bank

The tomb of Ramses II on the West Bank

Senior Program Manager Jean Glock will never tire of traveling to Egypt, home of some of the greatest archaeological finds the world has ever known. Here’s why.

Mont -St-Michel sits dramatically off the coast of Normandy

Mont -St-Michel sits dramatically off the coast of Normandy

Explore Mont-St-Michel with Sadie McVicker, Education Manager, who beautifully illustrates walking through the gates of the abbey as strolling back in time.

Future Racer   Photo by Alyssa Bobst

Future Racer Photo by Alyssa Bobst

If you adore animals, you’ll love Alyssa Bobst’s personal experience with the dogs and mushers from the Iditarod in Alaska. As our Program Support Coordinator, she’s amazing juggling multiple projects. With 16 dogs on each team and 67 teams competing, she found her calling assisting mushers with their dogs as a volunteer right before the competition.

Our commitment to World Heritage sites is serious business, but traveling to them is so much fun. Here are some of our favorite sites from around the world.

Which World Heritage site will you visit in 2010?

Holiday Greetings from Journeys Director, Amy Kotkin

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys

Amy Kotkin, Director of Smithsonian Journeys

I spent Thanksgiving with my family in Connecticut — chilly, rainy, slate gray until it turned dark at 4:30 pm — in other words — perfect for that cocooning instinct that overtakes us this time of year. But besides the gut-busting foodfest, football, and scrabble games, what do you think the family wanted to talk about? Travel!

My brother and his wife are savoring their plans to travel with Smithsonian on their first-ever small ship cruise in June.  My 20 year-old niece, already an accomplished adventurer with serious stays in Tbilisi and Kathmandu under her belt, imagined herself in Dakar. My husband and I talked eagerly about Spain and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef  – our next planned destinations.

It struck me once again how often families plan their next year’s travels during the holidays. After all the anticipation of getting together, gift-giving, delicious dining, and story-telling subsides, our thoughts turn to “What’s next? Why lies ahead? What will we see, touch, savor, and learn during the coming year?”

If destination planning is part of your holiday ritual, Smithsonian Journeys is happy to provide you with lots of tools and options for choosing what’s best for you. Are you thinking about introducing your children and grandchildren to the pleasures of travel and discovery in 2010? Join us in the Galápagos, Tanzania, or Greece for memorable adventures in these spectacular regions.

Will you celebrate a milestone birthday this year?  Check out our cruises  — they offer great opportunities to celebrate! Are you an opera fan?  We’re offering special opera tours to Italy and the Metropolitan Opera  in New York featuring the finest performers and top productions.

Of course, if you’d like to do a little pre-holiday travel planning be sure to contact us. We’d be happy to provide you with a customized gift certificate for the trip of your choice, the perfect gift for anyone in your family!

I’ll spend the upcoming holidays here in Washington, catching up on Smithsonian museum exhibits, enjoying the city lights, talking with you about your 2010 travel plans, and cooking up a few of my own! I’m hopeful that our paths will cross somewhere in this vast and glorious world in 2010, on a Smithsonian Journey that will offer all of us insight, access, and understanding.

All my warmest wishes for the holidays, and for the year ahead!