Do you like to travel? Do you enjoy visiting different cities and countries around the world? If you do, you should have been at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show held at the Convention Center a few weeks ago. I went to the show for the first time and really enjoyed it. As I shared previously in “Exploring and Observing: Fun City Tours,” I believe that traveling is an absolute-must for planners. It is very important for us to see other cities and countries, and observe how they are and how they function. This is because there are always lessons to be learned, there is nothing like seeing new and different places, and there are opportunities to be inspired and encouraged. The travel show was very informative and prompted me to think about the destinations that I want to experience in the next few years. Summarized below are places of particular interest to me:
Whenever Alaska is mentioned, many people immediately think of cruise ships because that seems to be the most popular way to get there. The idea of spending a lot of time at sea in tight quarters does not appeal to me, but I am very interested in visiting Alaska in the near future. As a park planner, I find Alaska particularly intriguing. Did you know that over half of the parklands (in acreage) in the U.S. are located in Alaska? In total, Alaska contains 332 million acres of public lands, which are managed by federal, state, and local agencies. Alaska is home to 23 national parks, including seven of America’s ten largest. These national parks offer diverse experiences like glacier and wildlife viewing, and opportunities to learn about wildlife, geography, traditional Native lifestyles, and park histories. I learned that although many of these parks can be reached by road, some are accessible only by air or water taxi service. Alaska also has the largest state park system in the country, covering 3.3 million acres of majestic mountains, remote valleys, pristine rivers, alpine tundra, glaciers and marine environments. Managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, there are 123 park units ranging in size from half an acre to 1.6 million acres. As a fan of museums, I am interested in visiting the Alaska State Museum in Juneau which interprets the knowledge of the history of the state, its people and resources, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center in downtown Anchorage which informs visitors about the traditions and history of Alaska’s 11 Native cultures. As a train lover, I also hope to tour the state by train operated by Alaska Railroad which offers three trains daily in the summer. Train destinations include Anchorage, Seward, Whittier, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, and Denali National Park.
Yes, I am referring to Oakland, California. I have only been there once before, but will be visiting soon as I will be in the Bay Area for the Frederick Law Olmsted Jr: A Vision for the American West symposium in March. While the city is often overshadowed by San Francisco, I learned that there is actually much to see and do in Oakland. I look forward to visiting Jack London Square which is a historic destination that showcases the city’s waterfront. In terms of architecture, the city offers examples of Victorian, Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, and Millennial Modern architectural styles. Walking tours are available through the City of Oakland and the Oakland Heritage Alliance. I want to visit a few of the parks landscape architect Walter Hood worked on, including Splash Pad Park and Lafayette Square Park. (Please refer to my previous article on Walter Hood and hybrid landscapes.) Also, the East Bay Regional Park District which spans Alameda and Contra Costa counties east of San Francisco offers over 100,000 acres in 65 parks, including 1,200 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and nature study. In addition, I plan to visit Oakland’s Chinatown which is a working class business district filled with a variety of shops, restaurants, banks, and other services.
I have always been curious about Singapore, having heard so much and seen numerous pictures of this world class city in Southeast Asia. Singapore may be small in size, but it has much to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, and architecture. Known as the “Little Red Dot,” this cosmopolitan city is characterized by its high-rise buildings, heritage sites, a highly efficient public transportation system, and natural landscapes. Singapore is also a green city, with well-planned and designed national parks, gardens, and clean public spaces well integrated into the built environment. In particular, I am eager to check out the world-famous Gardens by the Bay, a state-of-the-art park with over a quarter of a million rare plants. Other top destinations include River Safari, a river-themed wildlife park; Universal Studios Singapore; Sentosa, a resort island; and Marina Bay Sands, an entertainment, shopping and dining destination. In addition, Singapore has been recognized for its Changi Airport which sounds like a destination in itself and easily puts Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to shame. Changi Airport offers a wide range of services and facilities to visitors including: the Skytrain which connects terminals; a 24-hour movie theatre; a butterfly garden containing 1,000 butterflies; baby care room; luxury boutiques; restaurants serving a mix of international cuisines; and tours to the city for passengers with at least a five-hour transit time between flights.
My parents took me to Tokyo when I was young, but I cannot remember that experience since it was so long ago. This is definitely a city that I would like to revisit now as an adult and a planner. Tokyo is an ultramodern metropolis with over 13 million residents. It is home to Tokyo Skytree, the tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the world that was designed to be “a magnificent tree that reaches out to the sky”. Opened in May 2012, the tower reaches 2,080 feet (634 meters), and offers an observation deck providing a panoramic view, an aquarium, planetarium, and Tokyo Solamachi, a complex including more than 300 shops and restaurants. Other attractions of interest to me are the Tokyo Station, a historic landmark; Akihabara, the well-known electronics district; and Ueno Park, a famous spot for viewing spring cherry blossoms. While Tokyo is best known for its skyscrapers, the city has traditional gardens and parks where visitors can surround themselves with lush greenery. Examples include The Imperial Palace Gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, Hama-rikyu Gardens, and Rikugien Gardens. Many of these places were the property of feudal lords. Tokyo also has much to offer in terms of museums and galleries. I am particularly interested in the Edo-Tokyo Open-air Architectural Museum in western Tokyo where visitors can explore 30 buildings that highlight the city’s architectural heritage, including a thatched-roof farmhouse, a period flower shop, a public bath, and various private residences from the 18th to 20th century.
Overall, the L.A. Times Travel Show was a very family-friendly, informative event. Due to time and space constraints, I have only highlighted a few places that I learned about at the show. There are certainly other destinations well worth visiting, depending on one’s preferences, desires, and budgets. I hope I can check some, if not all, of the above places off my list in the next few years. As I have shared, there are many attractions in Alaska, Oakland, Singapore, and Tokyo, especially parks and museums, that I am anxious to see and experience as a planner. And when I do go, I am confident that I will bring back knowledge and insights that would be helpful to me personally and professionally. Safe and happy travels as you explore different cities and countries around the globe!
L.A. Times Travel Show photos by author
Juneau, Alaska from Wikipedia, Author Alan Wu
Oakland from Wikipedia, The Fox Oakland Theatre — Telegraph Avenue facade with marquee. Built 1928, on the National Register of Historic, Photographed by Paul Stokstad, August 2002.
Gardens by the Bay, Singapore from Wikipedia, The “supertrees” tower over Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. The tallest one even has a restaurant in it. An elevated walkway spans around the trees for visitors, Source Flickr: Supertree Forest, Author Shiny Things.
Skytree, Tokyo from Wikipedia, Author Jordy Meow